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But mark our Saviour's reply; to which the Jews, had not "blindness in part happened unto Israel;" must have rejoined in the words, subsequently used by the Apostle Thomas; 66 My Lord and my God!"-" Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham, was I am." He thus, at once, claimed the name and attributes of Jehovah.
For God had called himself, "I am that I am," when Moses asked what was his Name; and "God said unto Moses, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you :" and David said in the Psalms, of God; Praise him in his Name Jah," or "I Am ;" and rejoice before Him.
The marked significance of the words "I Am," meaning thereby a Being self-existent, and Everlasting; and such a Being cannot be man, but God alone; was well known to every descendant of Abraham. And because it was a crime in their law, to blaspheme the Name of Jehovah, of which Jah is merely the diminutive; being the I am of I am that I am the Jews sought to inflict the usual punishment upon Jesus of Nazareth for his
astonishing assertion of his Divinity. "Then took they up stones to cast at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the Temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."
Now, mark earnestly, I beseech you, brethren, these emphatic expressions of St. Luke the Evangelist; for this last quotation corroborates the words of Jesus, and proves him to be God. For God shroudeth himself in darkness from the sons of men; and that very cloud, or darkness, was always in Scripture a sure proof of His immediate presence.
There was Jesus of Nazareth standing in the midst of the Jews, " in the Treasury, as he taught in the Temple." Irritated against him by the whole course of his arguments; and enraged at his appealing to the consciences of those who were about to have stoned the woman taken in adultery: their insatiate malice seemed to demand a victim.
And, still more mortified by his telling them "I know that ye are Abraham's seed ; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.-If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham,” -their anger rose against Jesus exceedingly.
Nor was it diminished when our Lord said unto those Jews; "Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do:" thereby contrasting the faith by works of Abraham, with the degenerate unbelief of these wicked descendants of that Patriarch.
And when their anger arose to its highest pitch, at Jesus so explicitly calling himself "I Am;" he hid himself, as St. Luke tells us. But the Evangelist adds, " and went out of the Temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."
Had Jesus merely fled from their intended. violence, and concealed himself in the various places of the Temple until the people were gone away; there were nothing miraculous in it, however surprising his escape from the enraged multitude. But he went through the midst of them, and so passed by unseen.
He, therefore, who had at that very moment asserted that He was God; as evidently proved his Divinity, by this miraculous concealment of his person from his enemies for his "time was not yet come.
We have, therefore, in seeking through the Scriptures from the time of Abraham; nay, even from the Creation of the World; obtained
the clear meaning of the awful words of our text, "Before Abraham was I am."
And when we remember the proof of Abraham's integrity, in his belief of a Redeemer, given in his son Isaac; and the immortal honour conferred upon the Father of the faithful by making that sacrifice a Type of our Lord Christ's atonement; we cannot hesitate to believe the other part of our Saviour's words. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad."
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report." Of whom St. Paul enumerating Abraham, and many others; plainly proves our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth to have been the object of their faith, and hope.
And it is of Him St. Paul writes thus to the Hebrews or Jews: "God who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets; Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things; by whom also he made the worlds; Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the
express image of his Person; and upholding all things by the word of his power; when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: being made so much better than the Angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the Angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son?"
St. John also corroborates this testimony of Jesus being that Eternal Son by whom God made the worlds; for his Gospel opens with the declaration of this sublime truth: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of his Father, full of grace, and truth."
Here the Evangelist speaks of the Incarnation of that Son of God, who took upon him the form of man; and, as Jesus of Nazareth,