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Ethan Smith
Character of Christ
(1st ed., Boston, 1814)

  • 2nd. ed. (1824)
  • Title Page   Contents   Preface

  • Sections I-III
  • Sections IV-IX

  • Transcriber's Comments
  • More on Ethan Smith

  • Dissertation on Prophecies (1811)   |   Key to Figurative Language (1814)
    Pamphlets (1814-7)  |  View of Hebrews (1823)  |  Key to Revelation (1833)

    (this page is still under construction)



    ON  THE




    AND  ON  THE





    But whom say ye that I am? -- Thou art the Christ.
    Immanuel -- God with us
    In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
    That ye should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints
    Because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.





    [ iv ]

    District of Massachusetts, to wit:
                                    District Clerk's office.

    BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the nineteenth day of April, A. D. 1814, and in the thirty-eighth year of the Independence of the United States of America, Nathaniel Willis of the said district, has deposited in this office the title of a book the right whereof he claims as Proprietor, in the words following, to wit: -- "A Treatise on the Character of Jesus Christ: -- and on the Trinity in Unity of the Godhead, with Quotations from the Primitive Fathers. By Ethan Smith, A. M. Pastor of a Church in Hopkinton, N. H. " But whom say ye that I am ? Thou art the Christ. Immanuel, -- God with us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, & of the Holy Ghost. That ye should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. Because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son." -- In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, intitled, "An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;" and also to an act intitled "An Act supplementary to an act, intitled, An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving and etching historical and other prints."

    WM. S. SHAW,            
    Clerk of the District of Massachusetts.   


    [ v ]


    Rev. Dr. Emmons. -- "The Rev. E. Smith read to me, some time ago his Treatise on the Character of Jesus Christ, and on the Trinity. I much approved of his sentiments; and am very desirous that his piece should be published; because I think it is ably executed, and directly calculated to refute some dangerous errors, which are at the present day industriously propagated.
                                        NATHANAEL EMMONS.
    Franklin, March 30, 1814."

    Rev. Dr. Griffin's. -- "I have had the pleasure of hearing the Rev. E. Smith read a considerable part of his Treatise on the Character of Jesus Christ, and on the Trinity; and am one of those, who have urged him to lay this work before the public. In my opinion it is the most ample, consistent and satisfactory exhibition of the Filiation of Christ, that I have seen. The author has evinced an extensive acquaintance with the holy scriptures, and indefatigable industry in collecting their testimony. In this age of error, I cannot but think that the publication of this work may be of essential service to the cause of truth; and do heartily wish it a general circulation, and the most distinguished success.
                                        E. D. GRIFFIN.
    Boston, March 23, 1814."


    [ vi ]


    Rev. Dr. Morse's. -- "I have examined with attention the Rev. E. Smith's work, entitled A Treatise on the Character of Jesus Christ, and on the Trinity.

    In view of the errors of the times, of those particularly which have been spreading for some time past in this region, I consider this little volume, as an excellent and very seasonable antidote to the poison of these errors. It is a work honorable to the talents, the industry, the piety, and candor of its author. Regardless of the ornaments of style, his object appears to be to exhibit in simplicity, and in a manner adapted to every capacity, what the Scriptures declare, concerning the grand, sublime, and glorious mysteries of our holy Religion, of which he treats.

    The first section in this Treatise would seem a superfluous labor, proving an obvious, self evident truth, to those who do not know, that there has lately sprung up among us men, ministers of the gospel, who in their publications on "the Filiation of Christ," have adduced the testimonies of Christ himself, and the confessions of others, that he was the Son of God, as going to prove the strange opinion which they have adopted, viz. that the person of Christ was derived from God, in the same manner, that the person of a son, is derived from a human father. As shewing very clearly that this opinion is unscriptural and absurd, this section is important.

    In this publication, I consider Mr. Smith as having rendered essential service to the Christian public, and that he has merited their thanks and patronage. I earnestly wish it may be read by all on either side, who feel an interest in the existing controversy on these great and fundamental doctrines of the gospel of Christ.
                                        JEDEDIAH MORSE.
    Charlestown, April 18, 1814."


    [ vii ]



    13   What was the great question concerning Jesus Christ,
    after he entered his public ministry?


    22   On the Sonship of Christ,


    40   Further remarks relative to the Sonship of Christ,


    56   No benefit results from a supposed derivation of Christ s Divinity.


    60   Proper Divinity is infinitely incapable of dervation.


    [ viii ]


    70   Jesus Christ is God underived.


    141   Jesus Christ has a human soul as well as body.


    156   The Godhead consists of Trinity in Unity.


    202   Testimonies of the primitive Fathers, in favor of the doctrine of a
    Trinity in Unity in the Godhead, and of the proper Divinity of Christ.

    230   Conclusion.


    [ ix ]

    P R E F A C E.

    IT is the remark of an eminent man, that "Divinity consists in speaking with the scripture; and in going no further." By this rule I hope I shall strictly proceed, in discussing the deep and interesting subject of this treatise. The subject is a matter of mere Revelation. To this then, we ought to repair, and to abide by the decision there found. The mode of the divine existence is, of all things, the most mysterious and sublime. And of all subjects, it demands the most solemn awe, self-diffidence, and humble reliance on the dictates of Revelation. Learn what the Bible says upon that subject, and the point is gained. This is all that man can do. It is not only vain, but impious to object to the point thus decided, because unfathomable depths of mystery attend it.

    The universe is full of mystery. Man is of yesterday, and knows nothing. If he have learned enough to take an intelligent survey of God's works, he is confounded wherever he turns his eyes. He looks



    at immensity of space, and is lost in wonder. He contemplates the planetary system, and the starry heavens, with amazement. On earth he finds a world of objects, each one of which is attended with insolvable questions; not excepting the smallest insect. After man's highest improvements in philosophy and science, he has learned only to feel, most exquisitely, that his knowledge is as nothing. Unexplored regions of wonder glimmer upon his astonished sight.

    Many objections occur to men, less informed, relative to subjects proposed, which they deem unanswerable, or conclusive against the proposed point; but which objections, on better information, they find to be of no weight. Let many persons be informed, that there are thousands of people on the other side of the earth, directly opposite to us, with their feet towards ours, and their heads directly the other way; who yet feel themselves on the top of the globe, and think we are beneath them; and the account appears to these illiterate hearers impossible. They will make objections against it, which appear to them unanswerable; but at which the man of real information smiles.

    How vain then, are the objections, made by worms of the dust, against what God has revealed of himself! Who can comprehend the infinite, eternal independent Jehovah? "Canst thou by searching find out God? -- It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know?" "The world by wisdom knew not God." "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." We are confounded, when we think of rational,



    spiritual essences. How infinitely more so, when we think of the eternal, independent, omnipotent, omniscient Spirit! We are lost in an ocean, without a bottom, or a shore! What shall direct our faith in such a case? The Word, the unerring Word of God! This is the only compass, the only polar star, on such an ocean. What God informs of himself is to be received with humble, adoring, faith; though the subject exceed our comprehension, as far as God is above man. Not a word of cavil, or unbelief should escape the lip, or be conceived in the heart.

    Man is blessed with three sources of information; his senses, reason, and faith, or Revelation. Those rise above each other. The senses furnish materials for reason; and reason discovers the need and evidence of Revelation. But faith alone embraces the sublime dictates of Revelation. Reason judges, where the senses cannot perceive. And faith embraces what reason cannot suggest, much less comprehend. Sense and reason read the language of Revelation; and then must wait for faith adoringly to embrace what God suggests. Reason is never to be impertinent in her objections, or questions, when God speaks. This is leaving her province, and committing herself to the ocean of infidelity. Here is the fatal charybdis, which has ingulfed millions in skepticism and ruin.

    Relative to the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ, of his Sonship, and of the Trinity in Unity of the Godhead, Revelation is our only guide. Find the plainest language of the Bible upon these points, and there we will hold; let whatever objections or



    difficulties seem to attend. Where reason fails, let faith adore! My object in this Treatise is to ascertain the true sense of the sacred Oracles upon the subjects proposed; compaing spiritual things with spiritual.

    THE AUTHOR.    

    Hopkinton, Feb. 12th, 1812.


    [ 13 ]

    S E C T I O N  I.

    WHAT was the great question concerning Jesus Christ, after he entered his public ministry on earth?

    WE read of Christ's being "declared to be the Son of God with power, -- by his resurrection from the dead." Here is one decision of the great question of that day; and it is, that Christ was the Son of God. No doubt this implies all the great truths involved in his mediatorial name and character. But it looks more immediately at one point, which was now ascertained. This point was the great question of that day concerning him. And what was this? Was it, whether Christ's highest nature was actually derived from God, as a son from a father, and thus began to exist, and is totally dependent? Or was this the great question concerning Christ? Was Jesus of Nazareth the true Messiah? Or was he an impostor?

    Do we find at that day any such question as the following? In what sense is the promised


    14                                     QUESTION  CONCERNING                                   

    Messiah the Son of God? What is the mode of his divine existence? Was his Divinity derived? Or was it underived? Is it dependent? Or is independent? Is it eternal? Or had it a beginning?

    Was not this the great question of that day? Was he, who was born of Mary, and who was reputed to be the carpenter's son, who preached and wrought miracles, was rejected by the Jews, as an impostor; but was received by many, as the Messiah; was this the Saviour of the world? Was he indeed that wonderful Person, so long foretold, and promised under various titles; and among the rest, was to be known as the Son of God? Or was he an impostor?

    Let this question be decided, and we at once determine what was the most literal sense of the texts, which speak of Christ's being declared to be the Son of God; of man's believing, or disbelieving that Jesus was the Son of God. If the great question was not concerning a literal Sonship of the Divinity of the Messiah; but concerning the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth; then what was said at that period, concerning his being the Son of God, decides nothing relative to their views of the ground of his Sonship; or of literal derivation of his Divinity from God, as from a father.

    But this was the great point of contest at that day; Is this Jesus of Nazareth the Christ of God? The Jews denied; Jesus


                                              JESUS  CHRIST                                         15

    affirmed; and his miracles, doctrines, life, death, resurrection, and ascension to glory, all united to evince the truth of his affirmation. When they asked Christ, "Art thou the Son of God? and he said, I am;" this was the meaning: Art thou the promised Messiah? and he said, I am.

    John the Baptist from the prison proposed the very question of that day: "Art thou he, that should come? Or do we look for another?" The woman of Samaria says, "Come see a man, that told me all that ever I did: Is not this the Christ?" Let the Jews themselves decide this point. "Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him. How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." And the Jews had agreed, that if any did confess him to be Christ, they should be put out of the synagogue. The high priest said to Christ, "I 'adjure thee, by the living God, that thou tell us, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." Christ said to his disciples, `' "But whom do ye say that I am? And Peter answereth --Thou art the Christ." No question relative to a literal Sonship of Christ's Divinity appears to be contained in these testimonies. But the question then in agitation was, relative to his being the Christ, and not an impostor. In Matt. xvi. 2O, the disciples were exhorted to "tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ." It was because Jesus laid claim to this high character, that


    16                                     QUESTION  CONCERNING                                   

    (pages 16-55 are under construction)


    56                                       NO  BENEFIT  FROM  A                                      

    S E C T I O N  IV.

    No benefit results from a supposed derivation of Christ's Divinity.

    AMONG arguments which have been adduced, in favour of a derivation of the Divinity of Christ from God, are found such as the following, either expressed, or implied: -- That such a derivation would be most congenial to the idea of the divine paternal affection toward his Son; and most congenial to the idea of Christ's filial affection toward his Father: -- And that this scheme must magnify the love of God toward our fallen world; in that he would send a Son whose Divinity was derived from him, the Father, and therefore the most dear possible. That herein we may form a due estimate of the love of God to our sinful race: -- And that we can have no medium so suitable and striking, on any other plan, to lead us to form a suitable estimation of the love and grace of God, in the scheme of gospel salvation.

    To creatures like men cloathed in flesh, circumscribed, and most sensibly impressed with the feelings of parental and filial affections, arguments like the above, ably expressed, may appear forcible. But in this thing we must not judge after the outward appearance; but must judge righteous judgment.


                                  DERIVATION OF CHRIST'S DIVINITY                              57

    On reading, and attempting to weigh such arguments, -- questions like the following have occurred with force to my mind. I will just express them as the only refutation, which I shall attempt, of the above arguments. If they strike others as they do me, they will afford all the refutation necessary. Relative to this, the reader will make up his own opinion.

    Why should a derivation of the Divinity of Christ be deemed necessary? Must Christ be unable to feel in the best possible manner, that affection toward God the Father, which is most becoming the mediatorial character, unless he is in his divine nature actually derived and dependent? Or must the Mediator, if he be of underived Divinity, be less capable of feeling that tender affection toward mankind, which if derived and dependent he might possess? Is the Father incapable of feeling, in the best possible manner, the most suitable parental affection toward the Person of the Mediator, unless he be literally a Father to the Divinity of Christ? It is said among men, people do not know the parental affection, till they learn it from experience. Can the same thing be applicable to the Most High? "He that formed the eye, shall he not see," unless he have material eyes? He that made the ear, shall he not hear, though he have no organ of hearing like our's? And he that implanted the parental affection, shall he not know what it is, even if he have not learned it, as


    58                                       NO  BENEFIT  FROM  A                                      

    (pages 58-235 are under construction)


    Transcriber's Comments

    Ethan Smith's Character of Christ

    (under construction)


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    last revised Mar. 2, 2008