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ON THE NAMES AND TITLES OF THE MESSIAH. *
ISAIAH, IX. 6.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
HERE are many things mysterious in the natural world : no wonder, then, that there are mysteries in things that are spiritual and heavenly. Of this kind is the contrivance and execution of the plan of our redemption. The apostle calls this a mystery of godliness. God manifest in the flesh is purely a matter of revelation, and of so sublime a nature, that a modest inspection of it is our wisest and safest course. It is incumbent on us to trace this grand object in the light of revelation, but an over curious search would only perplex and bewilder us. It is not necessary for our present
* This was the first Discourse Dr. Ross delivered, after he was licensed, which many of the hearers will recollect.
purpose to examine the context, and to enquire into the situation and circumstances of the kingdom of Judah, and of the house of David, when these words were addressed to them by the Spirit of God. The intention of the prophecy has been cleared up by the event. It is our duty to enquire into the characters here ascribed to the Messiah ; and, under the direction of the Spirit which uttered these words, and with all the light which the revelation of the Son of God has thrown upon them, we proceed to contemplate them with holy reverence and admiration.
The words, which are to be the ground of our present meditations, and of which I intend, with divine assistance, to give a doctrinal exposition, consist of several entire propositions, which we shall consider in their order : and may God, through Christ, and by the influences of his Spirit, make this subject profitable unto you, for doctrine, for reproof, and for instruction in righteousness.
I. The first description that is here given of the Redeemer is in these words--UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN.
may denote either the infancy of his state, when he appeared in our world, or the reality of his human nature.
With regard to the infancy of his state, the apostle says, it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren : and accordingly we find, that, though the conception of our Lord was miraculous, yet his human nature was gradually perfected in the womb of his virgin mother. He was born in a helpless, an infant state, wrapt in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And with regard to the reality of our Lord's human nature, the scripture assures us, that it was of the same kind with ours, consisting of a human body and a human soul. He was one of the posterity of Adam, a child of Abraham, a son of David. He took not on him the nature of angels, but of men. In all things he was made like unto his brethren, sin only excepted. The manner of his conception, by the power of the Holy Ghost, rendered him free from that corruption and depravity which we derive from our common parent. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners.
The next description of our Redeemer is in these words
II. UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN. The former title respects our Lord's human nature; this is spoken of his divine nature. He is often called in scripture the Son of God, his own Son, his only begotten and well-beloved Son, and as such is said to be given to us. In the epistle to the Hebrews, we find Christ as a Son, opposed to Moses as a servant-Moses truly was faithful in all his house, as a servant; but Christ, as a Son, over his own house : which evidently shews, that this is a title which denotes his divine nature, and not his office as Mediator; for, in this sense, he is called the Father's servant: Behold, says the prophet, my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. When Christ is spoken of as the Son of God, we are then to understand it as referring to his divine nature, as God equal with the Father. A son always means one, not of an inferior, but of the same nature as his father; and accordingly it is said of the Son of God, in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily ; and elsewhere, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: and he himself says, I and the Father
It is added,
III. THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER. Taken in its most extensive sense, the government of our Lord extends over all. The whole universe is under his dominion. All power is given unto him, not only in earth, but in heaven. Angels, and authorities, and powers, are made subject to him. But what we are chiefly to understand here is the kingdom of grace, the administration of mercy, the government of which in a peculiar manner is entrusted to him. The weighty affairs of this administration rest upon him. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven were phrases familiar to the Jews, by which they always understood the Messiah's kingdom. The prophet Daniel, after having foretold the rise and fall of several great empires, has these remarkable words: And in the days of these kings (that is, of the Romans) shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, but shall stand for ever : and the person whom the Ancient of Days (that is, the eternal and ever blessed God) should