Thursday, January 13, 2011


και χαρακτήρ της υποστασις αυτου. And the character of his substance: we translate it,
"The express image of his person,"—Heb. i. 3.
THE term character, is a metaphor taken from the Image, figure, or impression of a seal, representing the proto-type, or first pattern, in everything. The word is derived of χαρακτήρ, which signifies to engrave; the Father having (as it were) most indelibly engraven his whole essence and majesty upon this his eternal Son, and drawn his own effigies upon him from everlasting, being his substantial Image and exact representation. Which explication fairly agrees with this mystery, leading our mind to such discoveries, as will stir us up to desire the gracious participation of its fruit and efficacy; for it opens the secret of eternal generation, and the love of the heavenly Father. A seal is more highly valued, and more closely kept, than other things. See Isa. xlii. 1, Matt. iii. 17, and xvii. 3, John iii. 35, and xvii. 24. Through a union with this blessed Image, the lost Image of God is restored in believers; now inchoatively, or with respect to beginning; after death, consummatively, or with respect to perfection, Col. iii. 10, 1 Pet. i. 4, not by essential transmutation, but by a mystical union.

I. AN Image is the likeness of, or doth represent and express the person whose it is.
I. CHRIST is the likeness of the Father, the true form, figure, character, or representation of him.* This similitude (saith a reverend divine) relates to the Persons of the Godhead; it is borrowed from the impression of a signet. The Son in himself is ευ μορφη θεός, in the likeness of God.†

*See Ark of the covenant, p. 164.
† Dr. Owen on Heb. vii. 3, p. 55.

II. An express Image represent a person unto others.
II. Christ is εικων θεου, the Image of God, representing him unto men; he manifesteth God unto us. He is said to be εικων του θεου του αορατου, "the Image of the invisible God," Col. i. 15, because partaking of the nature of the Father, the goodness, power, holiness, grace, and all other glorious properties of God, do shine forth, or are represented, declared, and expressed to us.
III. An express Image represents a person unto us, whom we many times cannot see personally, because absent, and at a great distance from us.
III. Christ represents God the Father to believers, in his true form, character, or likeness, whom we see not as he is in himself, nor can see, he dwelling in inaccessible light, at an infinite distance of divine nature, and manner of being, from our apprehensions and conceptions. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," John i. 18.
IV. An Image, and the person it represents, are not the same.
IV. Christ respecting his essence, is the same God with the Father; but the subsistences or Persons of the Father and Son are different, and so not the same.
V. An express Image brings him, who is held forth or represented by it, into our mind, whereby we call to remembrance what manner of person he is, and thereby contemplate upon his beauty, and excellent accomplishments, which before, probably might be forgotten.
V. Christ being the express Image of the Father; brings into our minds what kind of manner of God the Almighty is; his excellencies, and glorious perfections, are hereby presented as it were to our view: 2 Cor. iii. 18, 2 Cor. iv. 4, 6. By which means we are taken up into holy meditations and contemplations of him, whom by reason of sin, we had forgotten, and lost the true knowledge of.
VI. An express Image, if it represents some noble or renowned person, one that hath an endeared love and affection to him or her to whom it is sent, their great and only Benefactor, or a dear relation, is exceedingly prized and valued by the receiver.
VI. Christ being the express Image of God the Father, who is the blessed and only potentate, and the glorious King of heaven and earth, who hath dear and tender love to us his poor creatures, who is our Friend, Husband, Father, gracious and chief Benefactor, causes all true believers greatly to prize, love, and esteem the Lord Jesus, not only for his own sake, but for the sake of him whom he doth resemble and represent.
VII. An express Image of a person is curiously drawn, and is a most rare and admirable piece of workmanship; it is viewed and commended by all skillful and discerning persons in that art.
VII. Christ, God-man in one Person, or "God manifested in the flesh," 1 Tim. iii. 16, the glorious representation of the Father to sinners, is the admiration of saints and angels; 'tis a great mystery, and comprehends the depths of God. That the glory of God should shine forth in the nature of man, is, and will be the wonder of both worlds; it is judged by all the godly, to be the master-piece of divine wisdom.

I. Among men, the substance of a thing hath the precedency, or is before the sign or Image of it; the person, and then the picture or emblem of it.
I. THAT which is said of Christ, ευ μορφη θεός υπαρχω, being or existing and subsisting in the form of God, that is, being so essentially; for there is no μορφη form in the Deity, but what is essential unto it: this Christ was absolutely, antecedently to his incarnation, the whole nature of God being in him, and consequently he being in the Son of God.
II. An Image, figure, or character among men, cannot fully and perfectly, in everything express or represent the person it is made for; it duffers in matter, life, and motion.
II. Christ is a lively, perfect, and complete Image, character, and representation of all the glorious attributes, excellencies, and perfections of the Father; "The fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him," Col. ii. 9. Were it not so, he could not gloriously represent unto us the Person of the Father; nor could we, by contemplation of him, be led to an acquaintance with the Person of the Father.
1. The Father is from everlasting; so is the Son.
2. The Father is perfect and Divine Person, or subsistence; so is the Son.
3. The Father hath life in himself: so hath the Son life in himself.
4. The Father created the world; so did the Son.
5. The Father upholds all things by the word of his power; so doth the Son.
6. All things were made for the Father; so all things were made for the Son.
7. The Father is to be worshipped; so is the Son.
8. The Father knows all things and searches the heart; so doth the Son.
9. The Father is in the Son; so is the Son in the Father: "The Father is in me, and I in him," John x. 38. The Father being thus in the Son, and the Son in the Father, all the glorious properties of the one shine forth in the other. The order and economy of the blessed Trinity in subsistence and operation, requires, that the manifestation and communication of the Father to us, be through the Son.
10. All other perfections of the Father shine forth in Christ; it is he that makes them manifest to us, according to that of the apostle: "For God who commanded the Light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 6. The wisdom of the Father is great and infinite many ways; but, wherein doth it shine more gloriously, than in the Son's working about our redemption, in reconciling justice and mercy, in punishing sin, and pardoning the sinner? "To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God," Eph. iii. 10.
11. The Father is full of goodness and love to man; this appears in his making of him supreme over all creatures on earth. But what is this favour and goodness, to that which is manifested in and by Christ? in raiding him up (when a rebel and vile traitor) to the honour and dignity of a Son, and to accomplish this, to give his only begotten Son to die in his stead! "He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v. 21. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," Gal. iii. 13. There was much favour and love in the blessings and privileges of Creation; but in redemption, mercy is magnified likewise to admiration, and shines in equal glory.
12. God the Father is infinitely holy, just, and righteous. His holiness and justice appeared in casting off the fallen angels, and by executing his severity upon our first parents, and by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, and in several other respects: Yet, how much more abundantly doth his holiness and justice shine forth in the Son, the Image of the Father, when he came forth to redeem mankind? in that "he made his soul an offering for sin," Isa. liii. 10. "God letting out his wrath upon him, "sparing him not," Rom. viii. 32, when he stood in the place of the sinner: "For the transgressions of my people was he stricken," Isa. liii. 8. As Mr. Burroughs observes, there is nothing sets out God's justice , holiness, and infinite hatred of sin, like this, &c. Our nature is united to the divine nature of God, that so by that mystical union, grace and holiness might be communicated in a glorious manner unto us.
13. The power and condescension of God is wonderful, many ways demonstrated, but nothing like what it is in Christ, in taking our nature into personal union with himself; that the Son of God should become man! The Ancient of days become a child! He that made the world, born of a woman! When Satan had done his worst that he might destroy man, man is by the power of God advanced to greater glory and happiness than he had before he fell.
14. Moreover, I might speak of the patience, forbearance, and faithfulness of God; all which, and many more of the glorious attributes of the Father, shine forth most lively in Jesus Christ. Besides, the Persons or subsistences of the blessed Trinity are more clearly discovered by Jesus Christ, than ever before.
First, in his own Person.
Secondly, in his doctrine.
Thirdly, in his baptism, or when he was baptized.
Fourthly, in his commission, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
Fifthly, in their distinct offices, operations, and workings.
Lastly, the will of God, and his holy laws and institutions, are only made known by the Son.
III. It is gross idolatry to worship Images, or the likeness of any thing in heaven above, or the earth beneath.
III. Christ, who is the Image of God, ought to be adored and worshipped by men and angels. "And when he brings in the First-begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him," Heb. i. 6.
IV. Other Images are soon marred and pass away.
IV. Christ, the Image of God, abides for ever; time, nay, eternity, will not alter or change him, nor mar his beauty.

1. WE may from hence perceive the wonderful love, goodness, and condescension of God to mankind, who seeing how unable we are to understand, comprehend, conceive, or take in the knowledge of himself, (who is so infinite and inaccessible in his being, glory, and majesty) is pleased to stoop so low as to afford us a figure, Image, and lively representation of himself, that so we might not frame false ideas of God, or entertain any vain or unworthy apprehensions of him in our minds.
2. This also abundantly demonstrates, how exceedingly willing the blessed God is to reveal, or make known himself unto his creatures.
3. This discovers the necessity of coming unto God by Christ, and what advantage the Christian world have above the heathen nations: for though he hath in the visible creation implanted some resemblances or characters of his excellencies, and left some footsteps of his blessed and sacred properties, that by the contemplation of them, men might come to have some acquaintance with him, as Creator, which might encourage them to fear and love him, and make him their last end; yet, all expressions of God, besides this is of Christ Jesus, are partial, short, and insufficient to discover all that is necessary to be known, that we may live to him here, and enjoy him hereafter.
4. It may caution all men to take heed they do not imagine to come to the true knowledge of God any other way but by the Lord Jesus: "For no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him," Matt. xi. 27. All miss of happiness, that seek it not by Jesus Christ. We must seek the Father in the Son, and by him; labour to believe in, or come to God by Jesus Christ. This is for direction to us in all religious worship.
5. The godly may from hence also see, what reason they have to love and delight themselves in Jesus Christ. Brethren, study the knowledge of Christ, look often upon this glorious and blessed Image. Many are taken with pictures and representations of things and persons; but how vain is that? Here is the Image you should delight yourselves in; look to Jesus; much profit, as well as joy and comfort, will redound to you hereby. This is an Image that abides for ever, which God allows you to worship and adore him by.
6. Prize Christ, value him above all things in this world; can you too highly esteem him, who is the express image of the Father's Person?
Lastly, Let all take heed how they slight Jesus Christ, or contemn the knowledge of him; because this mystery is above their reach. and shallow apprehensions; and indeed it may caution all not to seek too curiously into these great mysteries and depths, lest they be drowned: the best of men know but in part.
—Benjamin Keach, Tropologia