Characters and Names of Messiah
Extract of a sermon preached by
“Unto us a child is born;” in our nature, born of a woman: “Unto us a Son is given,” not merely a man-child, but, emphatically, a Son, the Son of God. This was the most precious gift, the highest proof and testimony of Divine love. The distinction and union of these widely-distant natures, which constitute the person of Christ, the God-man, the Mediator, is, in the judgment and language of the Apostle, the “great mystery of godliness,” the pillar and ground of truth….It is the central truth of revelation, which, like the sun, diffuses a light upon the whole system, no part of which can be rightly understood without it. Thus, the Lord of all humbled Himself, to appear in the form of a servant, for the sake of sinners.
“The government shall be upon His shoulder.” In our nature He suffered and in the same nature He reigns. When He had overcome the sharpness, the sting of death, He took possession of the Kingdom of Glory as His own – and opened it to all who believe in Him. Now we can say, He who governs in Heaven and on earth, and whom all things obey, is “the child who was born, the Son who was given for us”… [Those united to Him by faith] have, in one respect, an appropriate honour, in which the angels cannot share. Their best friend, related to them in the same nature, is seated upon the throne of glory. Since He is “for them, who can be against them?” What may they not expect, when He who has so loved them as to redeem them with His own blood “has all power committed unto Him, both in Heaven and on earth!”<
“His Name shall be called Wonderful.” In another place the word is rendered ‘Secret’. It is true of Him in both senses. He is Wonderful in His person, obedience and sufferings; in His grace, government and glory. So far as we understand His Name, the revelation by which, as by a name, He is made known, we may, we must believe, admire and adore; but how limited and defective is our knowledge! His name is Secret. Who can “by searching find Him out?” His greatness is incomprehensible, His wisdom untraceable, His fulness inexhaustible, His power infinite. “No one knoweth the Son, but the Father.” But they have a true, though not an adequate knowledge of Him, who trust, love, and serve Him; and in their view He is Wonderful!
Another of His names is “Counsellor.” The great councils of redemption, in which every concern respecting the glory of God and the salvation of sinners was adjusted, were established with Him, and in Him, before the foundation of the world. And He is our Counsellor or Advocate with the Father, who pleads our cause – and manages all our affairs in perfect righteousness and with infallible success; so that no suit can possibly miscarry which He is pleased to undertake. To Him likewise we must apply (and we shall not apply in vain) for wisdom and direction, in all that belongs to our duty and the honour of our profession in the present life. In all our difficulties, dangers and cares, we must look to Him for guidance and support. This is to be wise unto salvation. His secret is with them that consult Him; so that, though the world may deem them weak and ignorant as babes (and He teaches them to think thus of themselves), they have a cheering and practical knowledge of many important subjects which are entirely hidden from those who are wise and prudent in their own eyes.
He is “the Mighty God.” Though in the office of Mediator, He acts in the character of a servant, His perfections and attributes are truly Divine. Only the Mighty God could make a provision capable of answering the demands of the holy law, which we had transgressed. Only the Mighty God could be a suitable Shepherd to lead millions of weak helpless creatures to glory, through the many difficulties, dangers and enemies they are exposed to in their passage. In addition, the honour, dependence and obedience, which this great Shepherd claims from His sheep, are absolute and supreme; and they would be guilty of idolatry, if they did not know that He is the Mighty God. Though real Christians, who are enlightened and taught by the Holy Spirit, may, and do, differ in their views and explanations of some revealed truths, I conceive they must be all agreed in this point. It is not only necessary to be known as the only solid foundation of a sinner’s hope, but it immediately respects the object of Divine worship. For if the Redeemer is not possessed of the incommunicable perfections of Deity, the New Testament, in its most obvious and literal signification, would be chargeable, not only with countenancing, but with expressly teaching and enjoining idolatry.
Further, He shall be called the “Everlasting Father.” He is not ashamed to call them brethren, having condescended to assume their human nature; but they are also His children. They are born into His family by the efficacy of His own word and Spirit. From Him they derive their spiritual life, being united to Him by faith and receiving from first to last out of His fulness; and He is an “Everlasting Father.” Our fathers, according to the flesh, are subject to death; but His relation to them subsists unchangeably and therefore they cannot be destitute; and He is thus equally to them all. They live upon the earth and are removed from it, in a long succession of ages; but He is the Father of the everlasting age, “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” “All generations shall call Him blessed.” To Him, therefore, the Apostle teaches us to apply that sublime passage of the Psalmist: “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the Heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed, but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.”
Lastly, He shall be called “the Prince of Peace,” whose sovereign prerogative it is, to “speak peace to His people;” and there is no peace deserving the name, but that which He bestows. The Scripture expressly declares, “There is no peace to the wicked.” By whatever name we call that thoughtless security and insensibility, in which mankind generally live, while ignorant of God and of themselves, we cannot allow it to be peace. It is the effect of blindness and hardness of heart; it will neither bear reflection nor examination. Can they be said to possess peace, however fatally regardless they may be of futurity, who are at present under the dominion of restless, insatiable and inconsistent passions and appetites? But the Kingdom of MESSIAH is a Kingdom of peace – and in Him His happy subjects enjoy “a peace which passeth all understanding,” such as the world can neither give nor take away. He has made “peace by the blood of His cross,” for all that come unto God by Him. Until they are in trouble and distress, until they feel the bitterness and fear the consequences of their sins – and see the impossibility of helping themselves – they will not apply to Him; but whenever they do seek Him, thus “weary and heavy laden,” He hears their prayer. Their minds, for a season, are like the sea in a storm; they are distressed with guilt, fears and temptations; but when He reveals His mighty Name and boundless grace to their hearts and says, “Peace, be still,” there is a great calm. “Being justified by faith, they have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He gives them peace likewise in a changing troublesome world, by inviting and enabling them to cast all their cares upon Him and to trust all their concerns in His hands, upon the assurance His Word gives them, that He careth for them and will manage and over-rule everything for their good. In proportion as their faith realises His promises, they feel a composure and satisfaction. Knowing “that “the hairs of their head are all numbered,” that their afflictions, no less than their comforts, are tokens of His love, “that He will give them strength according to their day; that He will be their guide and their guard even unto death,” they are not greatly moved by any events, or disturbed by apprehensions, because their hearts are fixed, trusting in the Lord.
Further, He teaches them (what can only be learnt of Him) how to seek and maintain peace among men. His love subdues the power of self and forms them to a spirit of philanthropy and benevolence, which has often such an effect, that they who dislike them for their attachment to Him and to His precepts – and would willingly speak evil of them – are ashamed and put to silence by their perseverance in well-doing. Thus, their peace increases as a river, which runs with a deeper and a broader stream as it approaches the ocean. For their peace is then strongest and most unshaken, when they draw near to death and are upon the point of resigning their souls into His hands. This is the time, when, if not before, the false peace of the worldling will give way to terror and dismay. “But mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” It must be allowed, that many of His people, through the power of temptation and remaining unbelief, have, at some seasons, uncomfortable fears concerning a dying hour; but when the time of their dismission actually arrives, we seldom see them afraid of the summons. There is a strength necessary to support the soul at the approach of death, which is usually withheld until the time of need. But then it is vouchsafed…
Such is the character of MESSIAH! This is the God whom we adore, our Almighty unchangeable Friend! His greatness and goodness, His glory and His grace, when once known, fix the heart, no more to rove and fill it with admiration, gratitude and desire. From hence spring a cheerful unreserved obedience to His commands and a deliberate voluntary submission to His holy will. For His people do not serve Him, or yield to Him by constraint; at least, it is only the pleasing constraint of love, which makes their duty their delight; and their burden and grief is that they can serve Him no better.
From: The Works of John Newton, Vol. 4