Edward Irving, The Orthodox and Catholic Doctrine Of Our Lord’s Human Nature (London: Printed by Ellerton and Henderson For Baldwin and Cradock, 1830)
I. Statement Of The Doctrine From Scripture,
II. Confirmation Of It, From The Creeds Of The Primitive Church And Of The Church Of Scotland,
III. Objections To The True Doctrine Considered,
The Miraculous Conception Considered 80
The True Nature Of Atonement 88
The Value Of Christ’s Sufferings 100
IV. The Doctrines Of The Faith Which Stand Or Fall With It
The Bearing Upon The Work Of The Father 108
Upon The Work Of The Son 114
Upon The Work Of The Holy Ghost 118
Upon The Scriptures 122
Upon Faith And Union With Christ 128
Upon Regeneration And Holiness 132
It is necessary to inform the reader, before entering upon the perusal of this tract, that whenever I attribute sinful properties and dispositions and inclinations to our Lord’s human nature, I am speaking of it considered as apart from Him, in itself; I am defining the qualities of that nature which he took upon him, and demonstrating it to be the very same in substance with that which we possess. To understand the work which he did, you must understand the materials with which he did it. The work which he did was, to reconcile, sanctify, quicken, and glorify this nature of ours, which is full of sin, and death, and rebellion, and dishonour unto God. The most part of those who are opposed to the truth agree in this; but differ from us in maintaining that the substance of human nature underwent a change in the miraculous conception. We maintain that it underwent no change, but was full of fellowship and community with us all his life long, and was not changed but by the resurrection. We hold that it received a Holy-Ghost life, a regenerate life, in the conception: in kind the same which we receive in regeneration, but in measure greater, because of His perfect faith: which perfect faith he was enabled to give by being a Divine Person, one of substance with the Father. The thing, therefore, which we maintain is, That as
Adam was the perfect man of creation, Jesus was the perfect man of regeneration: perfect in holiness, by being perfect in faith; perfect in faith, though all the created universe strove to alienate him from God; and prevailing to believe in the Father, against the universe, through the Divinity of his person; which was thereby proved to be uncreated, and above creation, by prevailing against a rebellious creation, with which he clothed himself, and under whose load he came. And we further maintain, that there is no other way of seeing his Divinity in action save by this only, That his union with the Father by faith stood good against the whole creation, and prevailed to draw creation out of the hands of its oppressors back again, and to reconcile it unto God. All which is a dead letter a fiction, a folly, if so be that his creature nature was not part and parcel of the fallen and rebellious creation, in reconciling which he reconciled all. This is the substance of our argument, - that his human nature was holy in the only way in which holiness under the Fall exists or can exist, is spoken of or can be spoken of in Scripture, namely, through inworking or energizing of the Holy Ghost: not from the Holy Ghost’s mixed up with either the substance of body or soul - which is to confound Godhead and manhood - but by the Holy Ghost, under the direction of the Son, enforcing his human nature, inclining it, uniting it to God; even as the devil, likewise a spirit, without mixing in it, did enforce it away from God. And this doth Christ in the salvation of every sinner resist, overcome, and destroy the devil’s power and work.
2. There is a metaphysical point which greatly
affects the understanding of this tract, upon which it is necessary that I should say a word in this Preface. It is concerning that which constitutes a man’s personality, or individuality. The common thing created by God in Adam, was created in his own image, after his own likeness; and is, therefore, our complete being, visible and invisible, flesh and reason, or, as it is commonly denominated, body and soul This is what man was created; this hath not been added to, for creation never hath been added to; it was completed in the six days. The community of man is therefore his compound nature, body and soul, flesh and reason. God hath formed our hearts alike, as well as our bodies. Now, where lies the individuality, the personality, that which we denominate I myself; that which God regards as responsible? I had not proposed this to myself as a question when I wrote my book upon the Incarnation, and when I wrote the earlier part of this tract: which are therefore both written under the common notion that the community is in the flesh, and the personality is in the soul: while yet I perceived all along, that if there is not a community in Christ's soul with us, the community in his flesh is really nothing but an appearance: that is to say, if his flesh was not united to his mind by the same laws as ours is, he had no community with us whatever: and for this I have always stood mainly: so that, however the metaphysical point of a man’s personality be held by my reader, the doctrine which I maintain is not affected by it. At present, from what study I have been able to give this subject, I incline to believe that the personality is a property superinduced by God upon that community of body and soul which we inherit, being that which con-
nects every man with Himself, as responsible to him for that common endowment of body and soul and estate which he entrusts us with. For certain, Christ had a body and soul of man’s substance, without thereby having a human person: and therefore we can assert the sinfulness of the whole, the complete, the perfect human nature, which he took, without in the least implicating him with sin: yea, verily, seeing he subdued those properties which it had in itself, and made it holy, we assert him to be the only Redeemer of man from sin. I wish it to be steadily borne in mind in reading this tract, that whenever I speak of the flesh of Christ, I mead, except when the contrary is expressed, the whole creature part; which is not a person, but a substance; a substance which we must describe by its properties of sinfulness and darkness and deadness, in order to understand the wonderful work of redemption which Christ wrought in it. What was holy, was his Person; and from that came redemption into the nature: what was powerful, was the Person; and from that came strength into the nature. Sin, in a nature, is its disposition to lead the person away from God; sin in a person, is the yielding thereto. All creation is sinful, being in a state of alienation from God: it has one law in it, the law of sin; and through all its parts this law binds it in one great sinful operation. The Person of the Son of God was born into it; he restrained, withstood, overcame this co-operation of a sinful creation, conquered the conqueror, and won it back to God; obtained power over all flesh. This is the great theme which we maintain.
3. The great point between us, the precious truth
for which we contend, is, not whether Christ's flesh was holy - for surely the man who saith we deny this blasphemeth against the manifest truth - but whether during his life it was one with us in all its infirmities and liabilities to temptation, or whether, by the miraculous, generation it underwent a change so as to make it a different body from the rest of the brethren. They argue for an identity of origin merely; we argue for an identity of life also. They argue for an inherent holiness; we argue for a holiness maintained by the Person of the Son, through the operation of the Holy Ghost. They say, that though his body was changed in the generation, he was still our fellow in all temptations and sympathies: we deny that it could be so; for change is change; and if his body was changed in the conception, it was not in its life as ours is. In one word, we present believers with a real life; a suffering, mortal flesh; a real death and a real resurrection of this flesh of ours: they present the life, death, and resurrection of a changed flesh: and so create a chasm between Him and us which no knowledge, nor even imagination, can overleap. And in so doing, they subvert all foundations: there is nothing left standing in our faith of Godhead, in our hopes of manhood.
Finally. Though I have been assailed with all manner of personal abuse, both by anonymous writers in all sorts of religious magazines, and likewise by ministers and doctors of the church who have been honest enough to give their names, I have not once retaliated in that kind. It is the fashion to accuse me of being abusive and personal It is not true of me either as a man or a writer.
I defy them to produce out of my writings one word of uncharitableness towards the person of any one: and I am resolved to abide by the Lord’s rule, never to tell my grievance or offence against any person to the church, until I have first sought to gain my brother by private and friendly intercourse: and I tell all mine enemies, that, until they learn to walk by the same rule of love, they shall flounder on in error, and never come to see or love the truth. Very different, however, hath been, and ever shall be, my carriage towards error in doctrine and schism in the church. These I shall always call by their proper names. I will not spare them: oh never! As I love the souls of men, I will expose the errors in doctrine and schisms in practice by which they are holden far off from God. God right his own truth! Amen.
National Scotch Church, London,
10th Jan. 1830.
It grieves me every day to find how unsound is the faith of many, how insecure and unsteady the faith of almost all, in the true humanity of Christ: I mean humanity of the substance of the blessed Virgin; humanity, body and soul, under all the conditions of the Fall, tempted in all points, inward and outward, as we are tempted, and at all points triumphant over the temptation; humanity holy, yea, most holy, both in flesh and soul, and this not through any difference in itself, its properties, its instincts, or its propensities, but from the person of the Son of God who informed it, and the power of the Holy Ghost with which he anointed it, ever upheld it under temptation, ever kept it from sinning, and ever made it subservient to the will of God. This I call the true humanity; this I assert to be the meaning of the word true, prefixed to the word body in the Shorter Catechism, when it is said that “Christ became man by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul We know indeed that humanity both hath existed and shall exist under a different condition than that in which it now is, and in all persons hath hitherto been found, yet are such states and conditions of it true only as objects of faith and hope; not at all as objects of knowledge or experience. If it be said, that our Lord’s human nature differed in any of its properties from ours - that it was as Adam’s before it fell; or as ours shall be in the resurrection, immortal and incorruptible; or in any condition intermediate between these two, different from this fallen condition in which flesh
ever hath been found, from the first man down to this present generation of men - then that may be called a supposititious, or hypothetical, or imaginary humanity; but the humanity which I understand and know, it is not. It is something different from any thing which now existeth. It is a thing of whose existence I have not the knowledge or the experience. It is something new, strange, and unknown. A good enough subject, haply, for speculation and fancy; a subject also for faith, if it be the resurrection-humanity; but even in that case no subject for knowledge, because it is distinctly said, “We know not what we shall be.”
Now, believing beyond a doubt that the Eternal Son of God, in taking human nature, did as truly and literally take it of the Virgin’s substance as he took his Divine nature before all worlds of the Father’s substance, - and that the properties of his mother’s substance, body and soul, were as much the properties of Christ's human nature, considered in itself, without reference to the work wrought in it by the Holy Ghost, as the properties of his Divine nature were the same with the properties of the Eternal Father, - I am, in the first place, grieved and cut to the heart to see the foundation of the orthodox faith overthrown; and I would rather die many times, than not testify against such a subversion. If, indeed we made Christ a sinner, then all creeds were at an end, and all churches; and we were worthy to die the death of blasphemers, to be stoned by the multitude in the open face of day. But that is out of the question: only railers, can utter it, only ignorant persons an take it in. - In the next place, I believe that my Lord did come down, and toil and sweat, and travail, in exceeding great sorrow, in this mass of temptation with which I and every sinful man are oppressed; did bring his Divine person into death-possessed humanity, into the one substance of manhood created in Adam, and by the Fall brought into a state of resistance to and alienation from God, of condemnation and proclivity to evil, of subjection to the
devil; and bearing it all upon his shoulders, in that very state into which God put it after Adam had sinned, did suffer its sorrows and pains and swimming anguish, its darkness, wastenenss, disconsolateness, and hiddenness from the countenance of God: and by his faith and patience did earn for himself the name of “the man of sorrows,” and the “author and finisher of our faith.” Men understand not this from their not understanding, that human nature is one thing, which Adam possessed complete, which hath not been added to, for creation hath not been added to. It is a commonwealth of flesh and reason, or, in one word, of manhood, into which many persons are sent to prove its innate vileness and irresistible violence against God, until He came, whose power is the Son of God; whim it could not overcome, though it assailed him as it doth us; but he overcame it and redeemed it from its oppressions. Now, for the end of preventing all mistake, and if possible, all misrepresentation, I count it food thus early to take an important distinction between sinful flesh in the regenerate and in the unregenerate state; and while I assert that Christ's flesh or human nature was in the former, utterly to deny that it was in the latter condition. I maintain that from his generation, his life was the Holy-Ghost life, and not the natural life of flesh and blood. There were in him no motions of the unregenerate man; but always motions of the regenerate. Yet, as a man’s nature after regeneration is the same sinful nature as before, through restrained from power by the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, so was Christ's substance after his generation of the Holy Ghost the same as before, very substance of his mother, without change or alteration, without defect, and without addition to any creature part; a perfect or complete humanity, a true body and a reasonable soul; a personable substance, though not a human person; the person being the person of the Son of God. It is of the essence of the truth, it is all that the truth is worth, to maintain that regeneration, or impartation
of the Holy Ghost addeth nothing, withdraweth nothing, changeth nothing of our created substance, but by an invisible person of Godhead controlleth and overcometh it: so necessary is it to believe likewise of Christ's human nature, that its generation of the Holy Ghost added and altered nothing of its creature-substance, but ever operated by Godhead-power to restrain and subdue, and sanctify and uphold all its motions and actions. This was his great work of humiliation and suffering: and, believing this, I were found a most unworthy and unfaithful witness to what he did for me, and for all the world, did I not repudiate and resist those who cut his work short, and exhibit it as some holiday enjoyment, or incomprehensible action, instead of a comprehensible self-inflicted degradation, for the end of meeting sin in its own strong-hold, and redeeming both soul and body from its dominion.
Weighing with myself what I hear, and diligently perusing what is written, against this great head of orthodox doctrine, and being most desirous to convince the wavering, it seems to me that the best method of viewing the subject is, First, to begin with some explanation or exposition of the true doctrine derived from the Scriptures, and these only: Secondly, to confirm the same from the creeds of the primitive church, and from the standards of the Church of Scotland, of which I am a minister: Thirdly, to meet the two objections commonly drawn from the miraculous conception and the atonement, which are thought to be injured by the orthodox view of the subject: Fourthly, to open the great points of the catholic and orthodox faith, which depend upon this great truth, and so endeavour to restore those who have been brought into a wavering state, by the violent and indiscriminate attacks which the truth hath been assailed with in these most ignorant days. And now, may the Lord, whose perilous work in flesh I am defending; and that God, the glory of whose grace I am maintaining, help me with all gravity and love to unfold this matter to the church!
I.The doctrine of our Lord’s humanity, as the same is stated in Scripture, is contained in such passages as these: - Rom. 1. 3, “Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to [the] flesh;” I Tim. iii. 16, “God was manifest in flesh;” Heb. v. 7, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to deliver him from death;” I Pet. iii. 18, “Being put to death indeed in [the] flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Now of what kind this flesh was which he took, if there were no passage of Scripture expressly to determine, all sound interpretation would say, Surely natural flesh of man and woman, seeing there is no specialty ever mentioned: just as from the constant declaration, that he was Man, and the Son of man, we ever infer, that he was a man such as we are, of a reasonable soul and a true body subsisting. But this question, whether his flesh was flesh of the same properties with outs, is not left to the determination of conclusions and inferences from the constant use of words, but is expressly declared by the Holy Ghost in various parts of Scripture. Three times in the ii d chap. of the Hebrews is this great point of orthodox doctrine expressly asserted: Ver. 14, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers (in common) of flesh and blood, he himself also took part of the same (he himself also, kinsmanlike, shared with them of the very same). In the face of this passage, the man who will put a difference between the flesh of Christ, in its natural constitution and laws, and the flesh of other men, doth, I think, directly gainsay the word of God. The same truth is asserted in the 11th verse: “For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” I ask, How of one? Not in respect to Divine nature, but in respect to human nature; and that too suffering human nature, mortal human
nature, and therefore human nature in the fallen state; for this is the subject of the Apostle’s discourse. We have unity of substance with the fallen Adam, through the inheritance of his guilty soul and sinful flesh. We have no community of substance or of condition with Adam unfallen. If Christ be common with Adam unfallen, he is not common with us. For Adam unfallen differeth from me in the same way, and perhaps in as far as I differ from the risen Son of Man; or from what I myself shall bee, by God’s mercy and grace, in the resurrection of the just. There is a continuity of substance between the worm and the butterfly, between the seed and the stalk: a oneness of substance there is not. But in the passage before us the Apostle argueth, that as all things which are to be subjected to Christ had been brought into a state of suffering, and especially the elect sons of glory, there was therefore a fitness that the Captain who was to lead them out of suffering unto glory, should himself by suffering be perfected: to bring about which, he was made of one substance with the sufferers; and therefore as being one in suffering and tribulation with them, he calls them brethren, and likewise children, names which express the closest unity of substance. And not only so, but he came into the condition of living by trust in God as we do. To make all which more firm and fast, he addeth (ver. 16), “For at no rate apprehended he angels, but seed of Abraham he apprehended.” And whether seed of Abraham be flesh ordinary, or flesh extraordinary; be human nature fallen, or unfallen, judge all men. But further to put this great matter beyond all question, it is added (ver. 17), “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like (likened, assimilated) to the brethren.” How far this likening went the Apostle limiteth not, but carryeth it to the utmost, to all things. In Rom. i. 3, the likeness is made to consist in the sinfulness of his flesh; in Phil. ii. 7, it is made to consist in his entire manhood: and in no one of these places is an exception of any kind taken.
Being instructed by these, and all other passages of Scripture whatever, the orthodox catholic church hath never dreamt of any thing else, than that the Son of God took in his incarnation a reasonable soul of properties and faculties like ours, a true body of properties and faculties like ours; that the constitution of his human nature was as the constitution of our human nature in all respects, and in all conditions. We speak at present of it as he took and bore it; not of it as he made it, by incarnation, to become. We are speaking merely as to that which the Son of God apprehended and added to his person when he was made of a woman, made under the law; and we speak not at present as to the effects which his taking of it, and uniting it to his person, did produce upon it. But for the weakness of many, (alas, how many!) and to remove the uncharitable suspicion of almost all, we do assert it to be of the orthodox creed as essential a part, that this reasonable soul and true body which he took, should be in all their actings sinless, without meditation of evil, without indulgence of concupiscence, without guile; as it is to the same orthodox creed essential to believe, that in the state in which he took them, they were obnoxious and inclined unto evil, and would have brought unto perdition any other person but the eternal Son of God. I mean to say, without shrinking from the consequence of saying it, that through his human nature the weight of all sin, all devils, all death, all corruption lay upon him, and yet prevailed not to incline his human will once to dissent from his Divine will: so mighty a work of God is Incarnation. Wherefore not according to their glosses, but according to the truth of words, as it is written, 2 Cor. v. 21, “God hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin.” And again: Gal. iii. 13, “He was made a curse for us.” And again: I Pet. ii. 22, “He who had no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth…. his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” And again: Col. i. 21, 22, “You that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the
body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight.” All this effect of the taking away of sin and of reconciliation between God and man, and of removal of carnal ordinances which attempted to cleanse the flesh, but only kept up the memorial of its sinfulness; all this effect of uniting Jew and Gentile unto God, and unto one another, which is ascribed to Christ's body, to the sacrifice of his body without spot upon the cross, is derived from this very truth, that he took sinful flesh, or fallen human nature, and upheld it holy against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and the influence of all these upon the mind. He stood immovable, always abounding in the work and will of his Father; and so having met all sin, and all weakness, and all mortality, and all corruption, and all devils, and all creature-oppression, and all creature-rebellion in his flesh; in his body, he strangled them there, he did judgment upon them there, he resisted, he overcame, he capture them. They are no more valid, they are no more potent, they are no more valiant in the region of creation; the voice, the will, the act of him who heretofore withstood them in weak flesh, and expelled then out of sinful flesh, and destroyed their works of disease, of death, of temptation of every kind, shall do his pleasure with them in the judgment, and cast them into the lake of fire which the Father hath prepared for the devil and his angels.
Furthermore, it is declared in all the Scriptures, that Christ was made under the law. This great head of doctrine rests upon all the Scriptures, but especially upon that express declaration of the Apostle, Gal. iv. 4, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Now, what is meant by being made under the law? The law was added because of transgression, and by the law is the knowledge of sin; and sin is not imputed where there is no law. The object of the law therefore is, by its own holi-
ness, justice, and goodness, to make manifest and condemn the unholiness which is in us. For, as the Scripture saith, the law is not for a righteous man. The law therefore presupposeth a sinful condition, and doth address itself thereto. Adam was not under the law: the law of righteousness was in him, and not out of him. The very constitution of the Ten Commandments, the manner of their wording, doth teach us, that they are addressed to one who is by nature inclined to rebel. The interdict, “Thou shalt not,” with which they almost all set out, doth address an inclination in us the other way. Besides, the substance of the commandments doth apply to man in the fallen, and not in the unfallen state of his being. The first, against idolatry, presupposeth idolatry; the second, against image worship, presupposeth image worship, and so on throughout them all; conditions which by no means belonged to the world or to man, until the devil had brought in all manner of evils consequent upon the Fall. Besides, it is expressly declared by the Apostle, that Abraham was not under the law, but under the promise, and that the law was four hundred and thirty years posterior to the promise which Abraham received. It may not be permitted therefore, for any person, in order to serve a system, to say, that Adam was under the law, or even that Abraham was under the law. If this liberty be allowed, then I can give no interpretation whatever of the expression “Christ made under the law.” But if I be allowed to use Scripture language, as the Holy Ghost doth, and to say that Adam was made perfect and good, sovereign of all, and therefore to no theft inclined, his God his only worship, his wife his only companion; murder unheard of and unthought of, for there was no death; and, in one word, the whole Ten Commandments inapplicable to him; then to be made under the law, must mean to be put into the conditions of a fallen creature. The law helped man to the knowledge of that evil which was not in him, and in all things around him: it was made, not for
the righteous, but for the unrighteous; to teach them the unrighteousness which was in them, to the end that, knowing their sinfulness, they might believe in the righteousness of another which was for to come. If then Christ was made under the law, he must have been made by his human nature liable to, yea, and inclined to, all those things which the law interdicted. When I say inclined to, I speak of his human nature in itself, as contemplated apart from that Divine nature which upheld it; from that person of the Son of god who wrought in it, and by it, the victory over all sin. Now, let no man attempt to evade the Scriptures, which say that Christ was made under the law, by saying that he was so constituted by substitution merely, by imputation merely; for the word made under the law is in the original generated; generated out of a woman, generated under law. It is the same word which is used to the virgin, in that passage, “therefore that holy thing born of thee (generated) shall be called the Son of God.” If they say he was not really and literally generated under the law, they must say really and literally he was not generated of a woman, of Mar. If we are to allow a fiction of words in the one case, we must allow a fiction of fact in the other. If he was generated under the law, only by substitution, and not by reality, but by some substitution of appearance. Moreover doth not the Apostle declare, that he who is circumcised is a debtor to keep the whole law; and was not Christ circumcised, and is he not therefore a debtor to keep the whole law? Now, if any one still allege that he might be under the law, and yet not come in fallen human nature, or in flesh of sin, but in flesh of Adam unfallen, then I must just say to that person, that either he denies that Christ was generated under law, or he holds that Adam unfallen was under law; of which tow error I know not whether be the greater.
But if possible to convince the gainsayers, if peradventure God may lead them to the acknowledgment of
the truth, I will take another passage of Scripture, wherein the two things are brought together; namely, Christ’ honouring the law, and his doing it in sinful flesh. It is the passage in the viii th of the Romans, where the Apostle having held, in the vii th chapter, much discourse concerning the incurable opposition between the holy law of God and the law of the flesh, and having ascribed his victory over the law of the flesh to Christ, doth, in the beginning of the viii th chapter, shew how Christ gained that victory over the law of the flesh in his own person, from which, by the Spirit, he doth communicate of it unto others, saying (verse 3), “What the law could not do;” that is, it could not get its own righteousness fulfilled. And wherefore could it not? “In that it was weak through the flesh?” The flesh was ordained to life, for concupiscence and death. This sinfulness of the flesh the law could not eradicate, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. This death in the flesh, the law could not eradicate; “ for verily if there had been a law which could have given life,” or if righteousness could come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Now, while this power of evil was in the flesh, the law could do nothing but testify of God. It was weak and powerless unto the production of righteousness. If the righteousness of the law therefore, is ever to be produced in flesh, it can only be by casting out that antagonist of the law, which is in flesh; and to do this very work, namely, to condemn the sin in the flesh, to apprehend it, arraign it, judge it, condemn it, and kill it, that it might no more have power in the flesh to prevent a man’s keeping the law; this, the Apostle says, was the reason for which God sent his own Son, his own eternal Son, by whom he had created all things, and for whom he had created them. Now, the infinite Godhead in the Son, being commissioned of God the Father to come on this errand of destroying and condemning the power of sin in the flesh of man, must take some
form or likeness; and what is that likeness which he taketh? Is it of an angel? No - because an angel hath nothing to do with flesh: that form of being, that person, intelligent and responsible, is not weakened and prevented from obedience by sinful flesh, and therefore to have apprehended angels, would have brought him no nearer to the end and object of his mission. Was it sinless flesh, whose likeness he, the eternal Son, must conform himself to? No - that also is not acquainted with the evil, being holy, just and good, and in every way consenting unto the law. That would have been like going to seek and destroy an enemy there, where no enemy was, avoiding the citadel which he held, and making a fashion of seeking him in the plain, which he held not. Therefore, saith the Apostle, because the law, which is holy, just, and good, could not attain its object of making men holy, and just, and good, because of the enemy of goodness; to wit, sin, which was in the flesh; therefore God, sending his son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh, to the end that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. He sent his Son, in likeness of flesh of sin; not in likeness of flesh without sin, nor yet in flesh without sin; neither in the thing itself, nor yet in the likeness of it, but in likeness of flesh of sin.
Let no one suppose that because likeness is used, it was not very flesh of sin; because when the same word is used in other parts of Scripture, as in Rom. i. 23, “Changed the glory of the uncorruptible God in likeness of image of corruptible flesh” and Phil. ii. 7, “Was made in likeness of men,” it signifies the reality of the thing likened to, Christ being generated very man, and the heathen looking upon the image as very God, for therein is the guilt of image-worship. So in the passage before us, Christ's being sent in likeness of flesh of sin, doth from the very words imply the identity of the substance; as Cain’s being born in his father’s likeness implies the identity of
nature in the diversity of persons. When God said “Let us make man in our own likeness,” he expressed the same thing as when he said “I will send my Son in the likeness of flesh of sin.” The word “likeness” in both cases must be used; because Adam, though in his goodness, and his beauty, and his perfectness, he was the exemplar of God, yet was he not god, and therefore but a likeness. So the Son of God, though generated a very man of flesh of sin, was still God, of God’s substance notwithstanding; and therefore, though it be truly said that he was very man, and very man in sinful flesh subsisting, yet is he not that only, but something far greater beyond, even the eternal Godhead; and consequently, the work likeness is properly, yea, and necessarily used: but to conclude, that thence it was not flesh of sin he came in, is neither to interpret the words faithfully, nor yet o understand the errand on which he came, nor yet to know the thing which he accomplished. For what was the errand on which he came? It is said God sent him about sin: sin was the thing that brought him. He came to put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself; and if for sin, and nothing else but sin, he came, where was he to find it but in our flesh, where its head-quarter are. Could he find it in Adam’s flesh, oh ye empty ones? Would ye go above the Fall to look for sin, oh ye idle ones? He came about sin, and nothing else; and where found he it? In flesh, and no where else. For the devil, great sin-originator, had taken his position up in flesh, and was to be defeated by man, by whom he had thought to have defeated God. And the world was suspended from flesh, both in its creation and in its fall; and therefore in its redemption also. If devil, if world, are to be overcome; if sin is to be met at all, it must be met in flesh. to seek it elsewhere is to seek to no purpose; for fight it elsewhere is to beat the wind. As surely as you expect to find an usurper at the head of his army, or in his strong hold shut up, so must you expect to find sin in flesh. Here the devil had wrought his work; and to destroy the works of the
devil the Son of God was manifested. So much is flesh looked upon as the strength of sin, that the law of sin and death, in the second verse, is put in contrast with the spirit of life; just as in the first verse the flesh is put in contrast with the same, where flesh and the law of sin and death are used as synonymous. Again, in the same context, the flesh is said to have no good thing in it; that is, to be a lump of wickedness; and the law in the members is called the law of sin; and for this reason it is that in the 21st verse of the v th chapter of the Second Corinthians, it is written, “Him not knowing sin, for us he made sin.” And in another place, “The Word was generated flesh.” I say, therefore, that he came into the world in flesh, to seek and to find the sin that was there; and having found it, to do what with it? - To bear with it? No: that were sin. To yield to it? No: that were greater sin. To be overcome of it? No: that were sin and weakness both. What then? - Let the Apostle answer: “He condemned sin in the flesh, not judged it merely, but passed sentence upon it, led it lout to execution, and inflicted condign punishment upon it.” It is the same word which is used in the first verse: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” And why? Because the condemner is condemned. Sin, the condemner, hath been condemned in the flesh of Christ, and no condemned person can be an accuser. The condemnation of sin in the flesh by Christ, therefore, is in all respects the declaration of his righteousness in the flesh. His holiness overcame the unholiness of flesh; his power strengthened its weakness; and in one word, he took sinful flesh, he upheld it holy from its conception, he resisted all its inherent inclinations unto evil. he permitted the human will to go with none of them. Ever coming out of the Divine will into the creature will, he did hold the creature will up in its integrity, in its holiness, in its conformity to the law, in thought, in word, in deed, in every thing; and he that asketh for more to constitute a holy human nature, knoweth not what he asketh;
and asketh what he cannot receive. - Such is the true end of Christ's being put under the law; and the consummation is, that sin having been condemned in flesh by Christ, Christ hath received power over all flesh to give eternal life unto as many as the Father shall give him. And accordingly, when the Father giveth any one to Christ, which he doth by conferring faith through the means of preaching, then such an one is without delay baptized into the crucifixion and burial of Christ. Sin is washed out of him; he is pronounced a cleansed, crucified, buried, and raised man. And from that time forth, this man is expected by God and Christ evermore to believe that his flesh is not under sin any longer, but under Christ always; and that Christ in him formed by regeneration of the Spirit is mighty to use those fleshly members, heretofore instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, and to make them instruments of righteousness unto God. And sin shall not have dominion over such, for they are not under law but under grace (Rom. vi. 14). Wherefore not by any power in the law to produce righteousness, but by the power which Christ in flesh of sin put forth to condemn the sin in the flesh, we are enabled to fulfil the righteousness of the law; and, what is far higher, the righteousness of faith, which is not according to the law of carnal commandments, but according to the law of the spirit of life, even the royal law of liberty, even the new commandment of love. Such is the doctrine of Christ's being under the law, as it hath been taught by the church from the beginning, and is confirmed by all the Scriptures; which doctrine is thus expressed in the iv th section of the viii th chapter of the Westminster Confession: “This office (that is, of Mediator) the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil, it.” And in the Larger Catechism, it is thus answered, (Question xxxix.) “It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer, and make intercession for us in our
nature; have a fellow feeling of our infirmities, that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the Throne of Grace.” This head of our doctrine I shall conclude by a quotation from my work on the Incarnation, where these things are largely set forth.
‘The second great head of our Lord’s humiliation, was his contest with sin in the flesh, which brings us properly into the regions of humanity; and to understand which, it is necessary to have a sufficient and worthy idea of the Divine law: for the strength of sin is the law; which holy, and just, and venerable law, is become very terrible to a fallen creature meeting him on every side, and engirdling him with a thousand deaths. Every commandment saith, Do this or die; and nature replies, But I cannot do it. Die then, saith the inexorable law. Dost thou love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and soul, and strength, and mind? No: then die thou must. Dost thou love thy neighbour as thyself? No: then thou must die. What! for one sin death? Yea, death for the least transgression. And, moreover, if thou keep the whole law, and offend but in one point, thou art guilty of all. “The law revived, and I died.” Oh, fearful condition into which the Fall hath brought mankind! an estate truly of sin and misery. Now, brethren, this law, this inexorable law, stood around the Son of Man, with its fiery points of death, as it standeth around every one of us. For he had come into humanity’s accursed region; and his flesh, his human nature, was as assailable on every side, as is ours: otherwise, it had not been human nature. “Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he himself also took part of the same.” “In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren.” “In that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” “For we have not an high priest that cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but as in all points tempted like as we are.” Wherefore I believe that the Son of
Man was assailable on the side of his flesh or human nature, with every temptation, with every infirmity to which I, or any one now hearing me, is obnoxious. Did not Satan address the sense by its strongest sternest craving, when he tempted the hungered Son of Man to turn the stones of the wilderness into bread? Did he not tempt the lust of the eye, when he shewed him all the kingdoms of the earth, for the guerdon of which, to worship him? And with what craftiness and mystery of arch-angelic deceit wrought he upon the faith of the son of Man, when he quoted Scripture, and dared him to put it to the proof! Did I not say, that I believed the Son of Man was proved and tried with all the proofs and trials which my human nature, and the human nature of every one hearing me, is or hath been tried withal? I should have said, that he was tried with every trial with which it is possible for human nature to be tried, by the putting forth of all the subtilty and power of Satan. For how were he able to succour all them that have been, that are, or that shall be tempted, if he had not undergone the sum and substance of all possible temptation? Therefore is it most true that he bore our sicknesses, and carried our sins, that “He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”
‘Behold then the Son of Man compressing, within the short period of his prophetic office, the total of all mankind’s liability to be tempted unto sin! conceive every variety of human passion, every variety of human affection, every variety of human error, every variety of human wickedness, which hath ever been realized, inherent in the humanity, and combined against the holiness of him who was not only a man, but the Son of Man, the heir of all the infirmities which man entaileth upon his children, which he took freely and fully upon him; all to bear, and bearing all, to annihilate all, and to bring in a righteousness universal, as the Fall and the temptation were universal; and then shall you have an idea of the Son of Man’s temptation and load, against whom, thus
on every side beset, behind and before, stood up the law, as widely comprehensive as the temptation, and said to him, Thou art man, very man, though thou be very God: as very man receive thou these continual assaults, and yield to one of them, and thou shalt die. The Son of God die? The Life die? Brethren, I know it could not be, it hath not been: but I am shewing you the proof to which the Son of God was put; the hideous and enormous proof to which he was put: for otherwise you shall neither have an adequate idea of the truth, the comfortable, the all-comforting truth, of his manhood, nor an adequate idea of the Almighty power and infinite love of his Godhead. Sin had its fullest range against the Son of God, by virtue of his being the Son of Man. The law laid its full curse upon him. His Divinity screened him not a jot: it bore him through it, but it saved him not a jot. We had not known the power of the Divinity to contend with sin, otherwise than by the Incarnation. Sin would have seemed omnipotent, and death inevitable, and Satan invincible, having an indefeasible right, an undeniable claim, and a power never to be gainsayed not to be cast out, where once they had got a footing. It is thus that God is glorified y the Godhead contending against sin in flesh, overcoming it, and proving it to be weaker than God, in its own region; not capable of resisting God, not capable of holding those whom he would redeem. - Incarnation, pp. 162-165.
We maintain, therefore, that to know and to understand how the Son of God took sinful flesh, and yet was sinless, is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the ending, of orthodox theology. There is not a hint in scripture of any change that passed upon Christ’s flesh in its conception, or at any other time anterior to the resurrection, so as that it should not be flesh of our flesh – flesh of the same kind with that of the brethren – and, therefore, there is not the shadow of a reason in all Scripture for such a supposition. As we have seen, it is worse than idle to quote to this effect Rom. viii, 3,
where it is said, “ In the likeness of sinful flesh;” when, in Phil. ii, 7, it is said, “He was made in the likeness of men;” and in Heb. iii, 17 it is said, “In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren;” and in Gen. v, 3 it is said, “Adam beget a son in his own likeness;” and I may say everywhere in Scripture the same word is used in the same sense. I say then, it is worse than idle, it is dishonest, to make Rom. viii, 3 speak the very opposite of what the words of the Apostle bear. His words are, That the Law, which in itself is holy and just and good, could not work in us holiness, because of the weakness of the flesh, which weakness is its essential nature as under the Law; therefore God sent his own Son in the likeness of it ( - As Cain was in Adam’s likeness, and as Adam was originally in God’s likeness, so the Son of God came in likeness of sinful flesh) - and for sin (about sin; sin was the object he came about namely, to put it away out of flesh altogether; and having met it, and encountered it in flesh, he did extirpate it and exclude it thence,) he condemned sin in the flesh. And having done this in his life, he entered into glory in flesh free from sin, and consequently free from death and free from corruption; and, being endued with the Spirit of the life, he sheds life abroad into his people, and constitutes in them a law of the Spirit, which makes them free from the law of the flesh, which is the law of sin and death. - This passage being taken out of injurious hands, I ask in all Scripture for a hint, of the shadow of a reason, to induce us to believe that Christ’s flesh was different from ours. What is alleged from the expression, “ the holy thing born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” has nothing to do with the question; for we assert him to be holy in the same sense in which holiness is used in all the Scriptures; -- namely, through the energizing of the Holy Ghost. And, on the other hand, I say, that every passage of Scripture which declares Christ to have come in the flesh, which declareth the Word to be made flesh, which declareth God to be manifested
in the flesh, is a proof total and complete that he came in sinful flesh. For what is the meaning of flesh in Scripture ? Is it not the sinful, mortal, corruptible, fleeting thing, of which it is said, “ all flesh is grass ;” of which it is said, “ the flesh warreth against the Spirit ;” of which it is said, “ in it (in the flesh) dwelleth no good thing ?” If, then, it be said that Christ came in flesh, who shall dare to interpret that word, “ flash,” otherwise than all Scripture doth interpret it ? who shall interpret it otherwise than sinful flesh ? that is, flesh of that kind and property which betrayeth and tempteth all other persons unto sin, and with equal force wrought against the Person of the Son of God, but never prevailed by reason of the Holy unction with which the Father continually supplied his believing Son, and which the obedient Son ever used to restrain and constrain the creature-substance unto the will of the Godhead. If a thing must be named by those properties, which it ever hath in itself, and not by those which it derives from another thing most widely different and distinct from itself, then must Christ’s flesh be called sinful, and not sinless; for its sinlessness came not from the creature, nor from creation at all, but from the Godhead, which is more widely separate from the creature than are any two creature substances from one another. Yea, though Christ’ flesh was by the upholding power of the Divine nature ever preserved most holy, it is a thing most necessary to assert of it, that in itself it was sinful; for these ends, - (1) Of continually suggesting the question, Whence had it its holiness? (2) Of teaching the fellowship of our temptations, whereof flesh is one principal source; and (3) Of resisting that host of heresies which are not overspreading us. And with respect to the sensitive shrinkings and misgivings of ignorant alarmists, they must be taught to stand the fire of the Christian battle before they will be of any service. These men, I suppose, will not deny that the church yields the fruit of holiness; that the child of God in every regenerate person cannot sin; that in this life we both can do righteousness, and actually do righte-
ousness, and ought to do nothing but righteousness: and yet all righteousness which the Holy Ghost hath wrought in the church, is wrought in sinful flesh; and Christ is not ashamed to present it, nor the Father unwilling to receive it on that account. And when we say that Christ did ever and always present such a righteousness notwithstanding the natural sinfulness of his flesh, methinks the Pharisaical or foolish men might not so fearfully shake and tremble, nor so loudly cry blasphemy as they do. I once told a doctor when he was indulging in this vein, They should keep their hard names for hard occasions, lest they should be worn out of them when the true occasion comes. What would they say if I were to allege, that because it is merely said Christ came into the world, and not into the sinful world, it was not a sinful world into which he came ? But, with what constancy the world and the earth are represented as full of sin, with that constancy is flesh also so represented. And if it be said, that “ every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God;” and “ this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now is already in the world ;” what shall we say of those hordes of sectaries (I wish I had not to add unlearned churchmen, I trust only a few, and for a few months till they learn their creed better,) who have risen up around us, and proclaim, in their several slanderous publications, that it is a heresy that Jesus Christ took sinful flesh? I say of them, what St. John saith in his Second Epistle, ver. 7: “Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a deceiver, and an antichrist.” And the rule which, by the blessing of God, I will observe towards all such men, is contained in the 10th and 11th verses of the same chapter: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds.” This injunction I consider as laid upon all Christians, towards all preachers who will not confess that Jesus
Christ is come in flesh; or will make the doctrine void, under vain pretences of denying the consubstantiality of his flesh with this of ours: or by asserting that some change passed upon it in the act of its generation; or will set light by the whole matter, as not worthy of a Christian’s consideration; whereas, truth here is the radiating point of truth, and error here the radiating point of error.
I cannot find even the shadow of a reason for this fearful delusion. Certain it is he was “made of a woman “ (Gal. iv. 7) : his substance, then, was woman’s flesh, and that is sinful. Certainly he was made of the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom. i. 3), and the seed of David is sinful. Certainly he apprehended not the angels, hut the seed of Abraham he apprehended (Heb. ii. 16); and the seed of Abraham is sinful. Certainly he was “ made under the law “ (Gal. iv. 4); and the law is not for a righteous thing, but for a sinful thing : “ By the law is the knowledge of sin.” Certainly he was in the state of knowing both good and evil ; and that is the state under the Fall, and not above it. Certainly he was mortal ; for to this end took he flesh and blood with the brethren, “ that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death; “ and mortality doth not belong to a sinless, hut a sinful substance. Certainly “he was made sin for us, who knew no sin.” Certainly he bare our sins, and carried our diseases ; which belong not to the human nature above the Fall, but under the Fall. Certainly “ he was tempted in all points like as we are,” which Adam verily was not. Certainly there was a will in him which he contradistinguisheth from the will of the Father ; and which, I say, was the will of the flesh; which in itself is contrary to the will of the Father, but which he ever overruled to the obedience of the Father’s will. Certainly he suffered; certainly he was agonized ; certainly he was made perfect by suffering; certainly he lifted up supplications, with strong cryings and tears, to be delivered from death. Certainly he hath shewn us an ensample, that we should follow his steps. Certainly the crucifixion of
his flesh was the crucifixion of our flesh : “ we are crucified with him.” Certainly the resurrection of his flesh was the resurrection of our flesh : “ we are quickened together with him.” And in the face of all these certainties, if a man will say, that his flesh was not sinful flesh as ours is, with the same dispositions and propensities and wants and afflictions, then I say, God hath sent that man strong delusion, that he should believe a lie.
I have some pity, yea, I have much pity, for the ignorant multitude, whom blind guides are deceiving unto their destruction; and for their sakes I would endeavour to explain this matter, how Christ, taking sinful flesh, was yet sinless. We shall see, in a future part of this essay, how the miraculous conception doth avoid from him the imputation of personal guilt, and the constitution of being born in dependence upon a Redeemer. Now, from his conception every acting of his mind was holy, and every acting also of his flesh; but this not in its proper nature, but through the constraining and enforcing power of his Person, acting Godhead, by the Holy Ghost, I suppose every man doth allow that the will is necessary to an act of sin. The flesh by tyrannical force may be used to tempt the will, through the infliction of suffering; through the presentation of objects which it naturally desireth, as food when it is hungry; but if the will consent not, thought the flesh be inclined, there is no sin. Christ's will endured these temptations exactly as mine doth; “he was tempted in all points, like as I am;” but he yielded not to the temptations, and was therefore without sin. Hunger in the flesh, was that by which the devil tempted him to make the stones of the wilderness into bread: desire of the eye, and pride of life, and love of power and dominion in the flesh and in the mind, was that with which the devil tempted him when he shewed him the kingdoms of the world, and proffered him them all if he would but fall down and worship him: familiarity with God, and idle challenge of his help, and unwarrantable use of his word, and spiritual delusion, was what the devil ap-
plied himself to, when he tempted him from the pinnacle of the temple. But in all these instances his will, never consenting, abode in its integrity and righteousness. Now, if there had not been in Christ’s nature, appetites and ambitions, and spiritual darkenings, how, I ask, could the devil addresses these several temptations to his will? The devil did not surely both tempt him and make him temptable: the devil knew already wherein he was temptable, and, addressing himself thereto, was utterly foiled. Now, will any one say, that if these liabilities to temptation were in Christ at one time, they were not in him at all times? And were the objects not before him at all times? were not his appetites of the body craving their natural food? was not the world spread before him in all its attractiveness? did not the flesh hide from him, as it doth hide from us, the sight of God, and bring him into the condition of living by faith, even as we do? Will any one say that Adam’s appetite of hunger caused him pain, or that his lips were parched with thirst, or that his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth, or that his heart was melted like wax within him? Will any one say that Adam, lord of all, could be tempted with kingdoms and dominions, which were his own? or that any doubt, darkness, or difficulty could hide from him the sight and knowledge of God? Then is the distinction between unfallen and fallen creature wholly done away with; and God is made the Creator of a weak, impotent, unhappy creature. But, while Christ's flesh, being liable to temptation - not as Adam’s, but as Abraham’s and David’s and Mary’s - was tortured by the devil, and the world, and wicked men, in all possible ways in which He could be swayed from perfect unity with the divine mind, he never consented unto the evil, but always preferred the good; and by the power of his will constrained tongue, hand, foot, eye, ear, and every member, to do the very will of God.
Moreover, there is far more in the flesh, and the power of the flesh, and the law of the flesh, than men do generally in these days suppose. It is thought to include only the grosser crimes of sense,
which are enumerated Gal. v. 19 - namely, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness; but in the same place are also enumerated idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, editions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings; - to all these sins a man is tempted through the flesh; otherwise they would not be called “fruits of the flesh:” and the will of the flesh is to do all these things; and when we consent to that will of the flesh, we commit sin. But if we consent not, we commit not sin. If any one say, that by being merely tempted and temptable through the flesh we commit sin, then doth he destroy all distinction between a saint, who overcomes the flesh, and a sinner who is overcome of the flesh: for I suppose no one will allege that the flesh of a saint differeth in any thing from the flesh of a sinner; - at least, I know Paul doth not allege so, who saith, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Well, then, if sin consisteth not in having temptable flesh, but in yielding to the temptation, our Lord sinned not, though ever tempted through the flesh, because he yielded not to the temptation; and being so, that in the constitution of his person original sin was avoided, and that in the whole of his life actual sin was avoided: he was in all things sinless, though laden with sinful flesh. “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.”
Finally, for the exposition of this great matter, be it diligently considered, that though the flesh of Christ was in all points liable to temptation, as our flesh is, and did carry up to Him every form of seduction; yet left it no sediment of evil, no taint of pollution ; yet found it there no response, no inclination, but abhorrence and detestation of the deepest, powerfullest kind. And if ye would know how that abhorrence expressed itself, read every Psalm where Christ's sufferings are by the Holy Ghost recounted. There was no concupiscence, no thought or meditation of evil, no indwelling of lust, not abiding of anger or malice or hatred; but all
was holy, lovely, beautiful, and perfect, as the will of God; and from that purest fountain of light, life and love, came forth evermore streams of Divine goodness, righteousness, and truth. Every member of his body he constrained to obey the great behests of God. He took the prey out of the hands of the might. He gave Satan no lodgment or residence; he gave sin no quarters within his being.
But these men, with whom we argue this great point of orthodox faith, do teach, that in the act of conception his flesh underwent a change, which put it altogether out of the category of sinful flesh, into that of sinless flesh ; so that it should be under another law, And whence had it this infusion ? They dare not say from the Divine nature, which they have learnt from the Catechism must be kept distinct - although wherefore I believe it would puzzle them to assign a reason : at least they never shew any disposition thereto. Whence then ? from Holy Ghost, from the act of the Holy Ghost’s generation. And so it became through the miraculous conception a substance of new conditions; and yet, behold, it grows in his mother’s womb, and it is fed upon his mother’s milk - strange amalgamation ! And it is vulnerable and passible, and hath every other property of my flesh - strange accordance ! And there is no symptom of any difference whatever - strange essential difference, of which there should be no symptom ! strange essence, without an attribute ! But anon they say, Oh ! but his soul was holy, and the flesh is nothing but as the handle of the soul. Then, if it he nothing, why trouble thyself to argue that it is not of the nature of our flesh, but of some other nature ? So far from being nothing, I believe, with the Fathers, that the great mystery or God is in bringing the flesh and the material world into subjection to the spiritual. Is it nothing, that, by eating, sin entered at first ? Is it nothing, that even involuntary acts of the flesh were required under the Law to be atoned for ? Is it nothing, that Baptism is a washing of the flesh with water ? Is it nothing, that the
Supper is given in the flesh and blood of Christ? Is it nothing, that the Gospel preached by the Apostles is continually called the resurrection? Is it nothing, that the glory of Christ is hidden till the first resurrection ? The flesh nothing! 0 thou philosophist! Go to thy Bible, and study the purposes of creation. Or if thou wilt not learn from that word, of which thou art ever talking, then learn from experience. How doth the world affect thee but through the flesh? The devils can and do tempt the mind directly, but the world doth not. And is flesh such a lumpish thing? hath it no relations to the soul? Who can tell how they are bound together? If I were asked whether of the two had the greater stroke in sin, I should certainly say, the flesh: I mean, living, conscious flesh; which seems to have the power of burying the soul into the oblivion of its own being, always lapping it into the oblivion of its own dignity. And if, upon their material system, the flesh be but as it were a coating over the soul, a dungeon to darken it, why are they so fond to work a change upon it by the Holy Ghost? Would they make the Holy Ghost’s active energy inhere in that which they regard as next to a dead thing? These notions about the flesh of man are, I think, the root of all their errors; their Gnostic contempt for it; their heathenish, stoical mockery of it? But that the upholders of this novelty may have something positive to try it by, I will enumerate a few of the consequences which flow from it.
If Christ’s flesh was in the conception or generation changed, so as to be in a different condition from man’s, either as it stands related to its susceptibility of temptation from the world, or handing up temptation to the mind, then I see these consequences; which I will not here undertake to open, but shall be content with simply stating: -
First, He is not tempted in all points as I am.
Secondly, He is not capable of being a high priest to me, which standeth in this very thing, that in all things he was likened to the brethren. Heb. v.
Thirdly, He had only two of my enemies to contend with, the devil and the world; and I have no proof that he can overcome the third, which is the flesh.
Fourthly, He never was one with me, and I know not how I can ever be one with Him.
Fifthly, I have no evidence either of the Holy Ghost’s willingness to wrestle with wicked flesh, nor yet of his ability to overcome it.
Sixthly, As Christ’s life is no prototype of the Holy Ghost’s power over sinful flesh, so is Christ’s resurrection no assurance of my resurrection. It is most likely a peculiarity of flesh in that new condition in which he had it.
Seventhly, The whole Gospels are an appearance, and not a reality. They are written as if he was passive to a temptation and inclination as man is; but you say he was not: therefore you put the lie upon the whole testimony of the Scriptures.
I could extend this list very much: but when the maintainers of this new hypothesis will fairly meet these, its legitimate consequences, I shall engage to supply them with as many more.
Perceiving these things clearly and distinctly in my own mind, I have reflected much within myself to discover why with many there should be so much puzzle and perplexity, not to say positive error, upon this subject: and I will continue still more to reflect upon it, that, by God’s blessing, I may do my part for the health and well-being of Christ’s church. Now it seems to me, that the root of their error is in mistaking Christ’s human nature for his person, or supposing it to be another person; or so making two persons in him, instead of one person with two natures. Indeed, I have been amazed to find both minister and elders in the church so ignorant and uninformed in this matter, as never to have thought of it at all, and not to know the orthodox doctrine, nor the importance of it. And while this confusion of ignorance exists, there is no possibility of delivering them from vain and idle fears, not about this
point of orthodox doctrine only, but about any other point which you enunciate distinctly. Such persons as have not reflected upon this subject must bear in mind, that the only person Christ is the person of the Son of God ; whose identity doth not change by his becoming man, as our identity doth not change by our becoming sons of God. He hath existed from eternity one of the subsistences in the ever-blessed and adorable Trinity ; and in the fulness of time, for the end of manifesting the Godhead’s love, grace, mercy, and power towards fallen and sinful creatures, he doth, by that power of self-contraction - which belongeth not to a finite, but to an Infinite Being; not to a creature, that hath a law and bound of its being, but to the Creator, who is not restricted, but may take unto himself what form he pleaseth - in virtue of this self-contracting power, belonging only to a Divine Person, he doth condescend out of the Godhead into the bounds and condition of fallen manhood, to act unto the redemption of that form of creation and all creatures dependent upon it ; to overcome the sin which oppresseth it, to destroy the potentate of death, and to bring in an eternal redemption of the creation of God. He, the Person who thus condescendeth, is the same as he was before, the Son of God. In parting with his glory, he doth not surely do an evil thing, but the best of all things; for shewing God’s goodness, for working man’s well-being. That he, then, who hath contracted no stain from this act, but covered himself with infinite grace and love, should he assailed with all the infirmities and temptations incident to the nature which he hath taken ; this surely is not sin, unless they prevail against him : if they do not prevail, but he prevaileth over them, surely that is righteousness, and not sin. If any one say, it is sin to be tempted as we are tempted; then I ask, what is the difference between the regenerate and the unregenerate man, for they are tempted alike ? what is the difference between sanctification and wickedness ; between the work of the Spirit and the work of the
flesh; between the child of God and the child of the devil ; between that which is born of God, and sinneth not, and that which is not born of God, and cannot cease from sin ? There must be a yielding to the temptation, in order to constitute sin ; and there must be an overcoming of the temptation, in order to constitute righteousness. There cannot be righteousness without temptation, in our present state; and Christ wrought out an everlasting and universal righteousness, by overcoming universal temptation, and for ever destroying the tempters.
This may be further illustrated by looking at it in relation to the regenerated man. The condition of a regenerate man, is one who is possessed with the Holy Ghost, but whose flesh or nature is still under the law of the flesh; and in whom the power of the invisible God is shewn forth in enabling him to overcome the devil and the world and the flesh - that is, all visible creation, under the dominion of all rebel spirits. This is the true glory of Christ in the regenerate; that, though absent and invisible, he doth prevail in their will, and in their word, and in their acting, over the flesh and the fleshly mind, over the world and the devil. It is Christ pitched against all creation: and Christ is proved more powerful than they all; inasmuch as the will of such a regenerate one overcometh the flesh, the world, and the devil. Now, if any one ask me, Was the manner of Christ's being in the flesh thus? was His life the complete and unfailing accomplishment of this triumph? I answer, Yea, verily, I believe it was. The person of the Son of God took a reasonable soul and corruptible flesh joined together after the constitution of a man, as men are found to subsist: he, the person of the Son of God, for his condescension to take that substance, and therein to honour his Father, did receive the Holy Ghost, which ever receiving and ever using, he did sustain his human will against the law of the flesh, in its largest and most comprehensive activity, and presented fallen human nature subdued unto holiness, made obedient to the law of God; presented his creature will, sus
tained against all visible, sensible oppositions, in perfect harmony with the will of God. And is this all? This is all. He was a Holy One, in spite of unholy creation. God comes and joins himself to his own sunken, ruined creation, and redeems it. He sets his shoulder beneath the rushing ruin, and lifts it into its eternal rest. But the, if Christ's body and mind were after the same manner of existence with a regenerate man, how can we pronounce him holy, when we cannot say the same of any regenerate man, whose flesh we declare to be sinful, whatever we may say of his mind or will? I answer, The resurrection of his flesh without seeing corruption proved it to have never sinned; the relief of his soul from hell (Hades) proved it to be without sin; and the exaltation of his whole man to the right hand of the Father on high, declared him to be both Christ and Lord. That it was corruptible, proved it to be fallen flesh to the last ; that it did not see corruption, proved it to have been sinless. That his soul descended into hell (Hades), proved it to be a fallen soul ; that it came forth thence, proved it to be holy. That the whole man should ascend to the right hand of God, and thence dispense the Holy Ghost, proved him to be God as well as man; the eternal Son of God, as well as the mortal Son of the virgin. The only difference, therefore, between Christ’s human nature and the human nature of a regenerated man standeth in these two things : first, that Christ was in the condition of a regenerated man from the very first of his existence as a man ; and, secondly, He had the Spirit without measure, and therefore his regeneration was always effectual unto the perfecting of his faith and holiness, and the complete subjection of the natural inclinations of the fallen manhood. In his humiliation he was the perfect believer(Heb. xii. l) : he was the chosen one; he was the saved one (Ps. xxii. 20; 21 ; lxix. 18). After his ascension he became the Head of all believers, the Head of all the elect, the Saviour of the saved. He was first the thing in his humiliation which afterwards in his exaltation he performeth.
Such I hold to be the true Scriptural doctrine of Christ's humanity, as the same is set forth to us in the inspired word of God, whereof every jot and tittle is fixed, immovable. And now I proceed to examine what the Church hath declared upon the same subject in her ancient catholic creeds, and what the Church of Scotland hath declared in her several symbols. But this I would do with one proviso: That nothing is true because the church hath said it, unless the same should be found confirmed by the Holy Scriptures. I perceive a short-hand way of settling questions to be coming into use in the church, which is to bring a truth to the standards at once: this is neither like divines nor yet like churchmen; at least like Scottish churchmen, or churchmen of any Reformed church. It is not to honour the word of God in its proper place, nor yet to keep the standards of the church in theirs. It never hath been so practised in the church, and I trust never will; for it is a far different question, What is truth? and, What doth the Church of Scotland declare to be her view of truth? The former question can only be answered from the word of God: the latter from the standards of the church. In thus speaking I am speaking the words of the Scottish Reformers, whose words in their Confession are as follows: -
“If any man will note in this our Confession any article or sentence repugning to God’s holy word, that it would please him of his gentleness, and for Christian charity’s sake, admonish us of the same in writing; and we, upon our honour and fidelity, do promise unto him satisfaction from the mouth of God (that is, from his holy Scriptures) or else reformation of that which he shall prove to be amiss.” - Preface, p. 4.
“In these books we mean, which of the ancients have been reputed canonical, in the which we affirm, that all things necessary to be believed for the salvation of mankind, are sufficiently expressed. The interpretation whereof, we confess, neither appertaineth to private nor public person; neither yet to
any kirk for any pre-eminence, or prerogative, personally or locally, which one hath above another, but appertaineth to the Spirit of God, by whom also the Scripture was written. When controversy, the, happeneth, for the right understanding of any place or sentence in Scripture, or for the reformation of any abuse within the church of God, we ought not so much to look what men before us have said or done, as unto that which the Holy Ghost uniformly speaketh, within the body of the Scripture; and unto that which Jesus Christ himself did, and commanded to be done. For this is a things universally granted, that the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of unity, is nothing contrarious unto himself. If, then, the interpretation, determination, or sentence, of any doctor, church, or council, be repugnant to the plain word of God, written in any other place of Scripture, it is a thing most certain, that there is not the true understanding and meaning of the Holy Ghost, although that councils, and realms, and nations have approved and received the same. For we dare not admit any interpretation, which repugneth to any principal point of our faith, or to any other plain text of Scripture, or yet unto the rule of charity.” Of the Church.
Nevertheless, because I am under the orders of the Church of Scotland, I hold it to be my duty to shew from her books, that the doctrine above stated is the doctrine of her standards, and the only doctrine thereof. But first I will take up the three ancient and most universally received symbols of the primitive church; and afterwards, what is contained in the standards and acts of the Church of Scotland. In the Apostle’s Creed it is thus written of Jesus Christ: “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell, the third day he rose against from the dead.” To the Holy Ghost is here given the virtue of his conception; - a most important point of doctrine, as we shall see in the sequel of this tract;
to define his pre-existent glory brought into humiliation and limitation by act of Godhead; as also to clear him from being a human person, whereof ordinary conception is the only proof and demonstration. But while this office of his conception is ascribed to the virtue of the Holy Ghost, all besides connected with his birth is to the virgin Mary ascribed, as to any other woman in the case of any other child. The power causing conception is of the Holy Ghost; and all that follows upon conception is of the virgin Mary. In one word, it was a Holy-Ghost life in a sinful nature. Next it is declared, that his flesh was under the law of suffering, which no one will say that Adam’s was before he fell. He suffered, he was crucified, he was dead, he was buried. Do these belong to sinful flesh, or to sinless flesh? to human nature fallen or unfallen? Why I think these erring brethren will in their haste make no difference between an unfallen and a fallen creature; and will make God to create a creature in the condition of sin. Can any one believe, upon reading the apostles’ Creed, that the primitive church believed that Christ was not mortal and corruptible both, when it is said that he was dead and buried. For what then would have been the use of laying it down that he rose again the third day from the dead, and ascended into heaven without seeing corruption, if so be that he were not both mortal and corruptible. Now observe that in the Apostles’ Creed, there is not a word concerning the reason for which he suffered, and died, and was buried. They assert the facts and leave the reasonings to the preacher, s every creed ought to do. But I have no question upon this subject with the moderns. I believe that it was for our sins, and for ours only, because he did no sin. But I will not suffer any casuist or sophist, reasoning from this, by cunning and self-deluding art, to bring out a conclusion against the fact of his mortality and corruption: even though I could not refute his reasoning, which I think it not worth my while to attempt, I would say, that he was both heretical and schismatical in gainsaying one of the
strongest, dearest, and best defended positions of the catholic faith.
Let us now proceed to the Nicene Creed, in which it is thus expressed concerning the Lord Jesus Christ's incarnation: “Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate: he suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven.” Here we have the truth more fully and cautiously stated, because in the mean time various heresies had arisen, concerning the flesh of Christ, whether it was real or apparent; whether it was of the virgin made and taken. or had descended from heaven through her as a channel of conveyance, without suffering any change in the transmission; in one word, whether it was perfect humanity or not: all which errors the church, have assembled in the Nicene Council to excommunicate, do declare that Christ was incarnate (that is, according to Johnson’s definition of the English word, and according to the original Greek, “clothed with flesh, embodied with flesh,”) by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary, whose flesh it was; and what kind of flesh it was is therefore determined by the church: it was flesh of the virgin, sinful flesh. It is moreover added, “and was made man,” to signify, that besides the flesh of his mother, the rational part of a man was taken into the person of God’s eternal Son. Upon the other parts of this creed, which are the same as the Apostles’, I have nothing to add.
Now hear what is said in that noblest of all the ancient symbols, commonly called the Creed of St. Athanasius, where it is thus written concerning the Incarnation: “Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation, that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ; for the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; God of the substance of the Father begotten
before the world, and man of the substance of his mother born in the world; perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting; equal to the Father as touching his Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching his manhood. Who although he be God and man, he is not two, but one Christ: one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God; one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.” From this creed, in all its parts, I would make no abatement; and I can lay my hand upon my heart and say, It is my faith. - Now observe how fully the great doctrine in question is here stated: “Man of the substance of his mother,” in the same sense in which he was “God of the substance of his Father.” Let the word substance here interpret itself; let it be understood of the manhood as it is understood of the Godhead. No orthodox man will permit that the substance of Christ's Godhead should not include every attribute whatsoever which pertaineth to the Father’s Godhead, neither more nor less, but co-essential, consubstantial, in all respects. Well, then, fair and right interpretation will conclude the same thing, when it is dais, Man of the substance of his mother - namely, that his human nature, his manhood in all its attributes, was consubstantial with the human nature of his mother, having no property or attribute which it had not, and wanting none which it possessed. What new actings it was capable of, and likewise, what new sufferings after it was taken up into God, we say not; but the thing taken up, the Athanasian Creed declareth, was manhood, of the substance of his mother. Now I ask, was it not an essential attribute of the human nature of his mother, to be under the law of sin and death? not indeed necessarily to continue so for ever, but certainly for ever to have continued so but for the incarnation of the Son of God: and therefore I assert the same of Christ's human nature, that, but for its assumption into the
person of the Son by incarnation, which, be it observed, includes the miraculous conception, it would have been under the law of sin and death; for never till then was a soul or a body united in a man under any other law since the Fall.
I observe further upon this Creed, that it is said, he was “perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul, and human flesh subsisting.” Now, if any one were called upon to define a reasonable soul, would he not reflect upon his own soul, and endeavour to express all its properties And in like manner, if any one were called on to define human flesh, would he not define it by reflecting upon his own body, expressing its liabilities to pain, and suffering, and death; its inclinations to evil, and the temptations under which the soul is thereby brought? In such a reasonable soul, liable to temptations through the flesh, and in such a flesh loving the temptation, and ever conversing with the tempter, doth the Athanasian Creed declare that Christ subsisted. And observe how careful it is further to state, that in the act of uniting Godhead and Manhood, no change whatever was undergone by either; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God; one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. No change passeth upon either. The Godhead doth not alter itself in uniting with flesh, the Manhood doth not alter itself in uniting with God, in the Christ. The Godhead is one of substance with the Father still, the Manhood is one of substance with the virgin still. And if it put not forth the same sinful or infirm actings, this is owing, not to its being different in its inclinations and liabilities of every kind, but to its being joined and united unto the person of the Son. And in a Manhood thus unchanged by union with the Godhead, the Athanasian Creed doth declare, that Christ subsisted, suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, and rose again the third day from the dead, wherein I do agree with the catholic church, and so hope to be saved.
Now, let us proceed to the doctrine promulgated by the Reformers as their faith, and as such received by the churches. And here, as being a member and a minister of the Protestant Church of Scotland, which is yet a true sister of all the orthodox Reformed churches, I shall open from her symbolic books what it hat pleased her to set forth upon this subject. In her first symbol of faith, which she charitably adopted from the English congregation at Geneva, are found these words: “I believe also and confess Jesus Christ the only Saviour and Messias, who, being equal with God, made himself of no reputation, but took on him the shape of a servant, and became man, in all things like unto us, sin excepted, to assure us of mercy and forgiveness.” - Now it will be necessary to pause a moment here; for the adversaries of the truth lay great stress upon this word, “sin excepted.” Now, what is sin in a person? Let the Church of Scotland explain the word with her own lips: “Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God.” What therefore is asserted above in the Creed, is, that Jesus Christ became man in all things like unto us, except that he lacked no conformity to, neither transgressed the law of God. And who that hopeth to be saved by him, will not die, rather than suffer his Lord to be called a transgressor of, or defaulter from, God’s law. I am not made a sinner by being passive in the hands of wicked men, and forced through violence and ravish men, into an act to which my will consenteth not. Such an one, neither man’s law, nor God’s law condemneth, but pitieth and avengeth. Christ was not a sinner, because his Father prepared for him a body liable to all sinful temptation, as ours is. It was the Father’s pleasure he should take such a body; it was his great act of love to man, and obedience to his Gather to take it, and to redeem it from the hand of Satan, and from the power of sin, and from the curse of death: he did so endure its vileness, withstand its sinfulness, retrain its propensities, and present it free from an unholy action upon the cross,
to his Father, and there left it in his Father’s hand, who straightway glorified it for ever. Did he sin in this? Sin! he undid sin, he condemned sin, he made it impotent. Blind men, what are ye, that ye cannot distinguish between overcoming sin, and being overcome of sin? the one the act of God incarnate by generation, the other the act of the creature made; the one the act of the creature united to the person of the Son of God, the other the act of the creature separated from that person. there is a strange confusion about these men with whom we have to do in this controversy, who will ever be confusing the meditation of sin, which is concupiscence, irregular desires, libidinous wishes, with temptations addressed to the will, but not entertained by it, resisted by it, overcome by it. It was a question much agitated in the Council of Trent, when treating of original sin, and of sin after baptism, whether concupiscence be sin; of this the Protestant churches have never entertained a doubt, as saith the judicious Hooker: “We know even secret concupiscence to be sin, and are made fearful to offend, though it be only in a wandering cogitation.” Such concupiscence, such wandering cogitations had not Christ. His mind, his will, was all holy, because it was all believing. He spake not of himself, he willed not of himself, he thought not of himself, but as the Father willed, thought, and spake. Hear what one hath written upon this subject, of whom it is wickedly reported that he maketh Christ a sinner: -
‘It now remaineth to examine, how the Holy Ghost bringeth the body into this harmony with God. This difficulty again must be met, and not avoided. A sinful world, sinners such as those around me, want to know how they are to be reconciled, how their reconciliation hath been accomplished in Christ. We are in earnest, and we are not to be shuffled out of our salvation by any subterfuges: therefore tell us plainly, how this great work was accomplished. By the grace of God I will tell you. The Holy Ghost took up his residence in the soul of Christ; God had
given the world unto the devil, and the devil had his residence in the fallen world around. The flesh of Christ was the middle space on which the powers of the world contended with the Holy Spirit dwelling in his soul. His flesh is the fit medium between the powers of darkness and the powers of light. And why fit? Because it is linked unto all material things devil-possessed, while it is joined in closest, nearest union unto the soul, which in Christ was God-possessed, in the person of the Holy Ghost. His flesh is the fit field of contention, because it is the same on which Satan hath triumphed ever since the Fall. Here then, in the flesh of Christ, is the great controversy waged. Through this Satan presented his temptations of appetite, of sight, of pride, trying him with all the lust (desire) of the flesh, with the desire of the eye, with the pride of life. This did he, at the very outset of his ministry, not that he had not done it before, or was not to do it after, or did not do it ever, but that it was then done in a manifest and notorious manner, that it might be capable of record and of tradition; and that such dreams might be prevented, as I am now reproving, and that it might be for ever manifest and indubitable, that the Son had no favour, and that Satan had no let or hindrance in this great and terrible conflict. And when, at the end of his ministry, he said, “The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in me,” he solemnly declareth that during the whole of the fiery conflict which he had endured, and unto which he alone was conscious, Satan had never been able to make a lodgment or gain a hold in his flesh; that though free to come in all his might, he had ever been repelled, as he was repelled in the wilderness; that his flesh thus oppressed, thus hideously oppressed, had never been able to sway his will, upholden in its stedfastness by the Holy Ghost; that the might of the Holy Ghost in his soul had been able to reconcile unto God the inveterate obstinacy and stubborn rebellion of flesh and blood; that for once the law of the flesh had
not been able to drag down a soul into perdition; that for once a soul had been able to draw up the flesh into reconciliation with the will of God; that all his life long the will of the flesh had been successfully withstood by the will of the Spirit; yea, that the will of the Spirit had enforced the flesh to do it willing service. All this is signified by the expression which he used immediately before his agony, “Satan cometh, but findeth nothing in me.” And it is signified moreover that Satan was then coming with an assault of a more dreadful and terrible kind, which is emphatically called the hour and power of darkness, and which, beginning from his agony, continued till his resurrection, partly without and partly within the veil, partly in the body and partly in the separate soul, partly upon earth and partly, as the Creed saith, in hell; understanding thereby the place of separate spirits; which conflict being over, it was pronounced not merely by word of man, “Satan hath nothing in me,” but it was pronounced by the word of God, and that not by the word of God syllabling airy sounds in the vault of heaven, but by the word of God, working through the Spirit, that change of state which his body underwent in the hollow tomb. Then indeed when the Spirit had taken hold of the body also, when the Divine glory and holiness struck its beams through the body also; then, when matter stood purified by the Spirit; then, when sinfulness, and corruption, and defectability forsook flesh and blood, and incorruption, and immortality, and infallibility, and holiness untemptible, and strength almighty inhering and inhabiting, shone forth in that which heretofore had been mortal, fallible, temptible flesh, it was demonstrated by the finger of God, that reconciliation was accomplished between the Creator and the creature. And now was the body prepared, and not till now was the preparation of the body accomplished; and through that body, with harmony ever perfect, with variety of harmony infinite, with indubitable certainty shall the Godhead, in the person
of the Son, express through the redeemed, risen, glorified Manhood, all its purposes, and accomplish all its effects. So that the reconciliation, begun in the virgin’s womb, between God and creation, is perfected in the womb of the earth, is acknowledged in the height of heaven is honoured of the father as his chiefest work, with the chief place of the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high. And thus do you behold in the resurrection, the reconciliation or at-one-ment accomplished between God and man, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the union of the Godhead to fallen humanity.’ - Incarnation, lxiv (140) - lxvii (140).
I thus shew that those who hold the catholic doctrine of Christ's human nature are perfectly consistent with that most important article of our Confession which excepteth sin from the constitution of his person. Except sin? we make his life the antagonist of sin, the vanquishment of sin; only we shew how all sin was in the field against him, where he met it, where he resisted it, where he overcame it, where he condemned it. Now having set this charge to a side, let us proceed quietly with our work.
The point which we are endeavouring to establish is, that the miraculous conception of Christ did not alter in any thing the constitution of his flesh as a subject of temptation to sin, but that his human nature was organized upon exactly the same principles on which we find human nature organized in us; the body standing in all respects related to the world without, as ours is; and related to the mind within, as ours is; and working upon his mind with the same purchase, power, and effect, with which it worketh upon ours: albeit, through God’s might and power by incarnation, this body so conditioned did never sway his human will to any act of discordancy with they will of God. And we are now proceeding to shew from the standards of the Scottish Church, that this is her doctrine. In the same confession to which we have referred above, we find it thus further written: “Who when the fulness of time was come, was
conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary according to the flesh.” Now I ask, what is meant by this expression “according to the flesh,” if it be not that his flesh was of his mother’s; and, as his mother’s, passive to every temptation to which her’s was passive, and acting upon the soul with the same inducement to evil with which her’s acted upon her soul? - One other passage I shall quote from this Confession: “Forasmuch as he being only God could not feel death, neither only man could overcome death; he joined both together, and suffered his humanity to be punished with most cruel death, feeling in himself the anger and severe judgment of God, even as if he had been in the extreme torments of hell, and therefore cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’” Now, I ask, is not this to speak of his manhood exactly in what manner our manhood is spoken of? It could not overcome death; therefore it was mortal. It was punished with most cruel death; therefore it was concluded under sin, being made a curse for us, being made sin for us.
But let us advance to that which is properly and peculiarly the confession of the Church of Scotland, the symbol of the Reformed Church of Scotland; in the sixth article whereof it is thus written concerning the incarnation of Christ Jesus: “When the fulness of time came, God sent his Son, his eternal Wisdom, the substance of his own glory, into this world, who took the nature of manhood of the substance of a woman - to wit, of the virgin, and that by operation of the Holy Ghost, and so was born the just seed of David, the angel of the great council of God, the very Messias promised, whom we confess and acknowledge; Immanuel - very God, and very man; two perfect natures untied and joined in one person, by which our confession we condemn the damnable and pestilent heresies of Arius, Marcion, Eutyches, Nestorius, and such others as either did deny the eternity of his Godhead, or the verity of his human nature, or confounded them, or yet divided them.”
Now here, as in the Athanasian Creed, the word “substance,” which is used to express the identity of his Divine nature with the Godhead, is also used to express the identity of is human nature with the virgin. Moreover he is called the just seed of David; that is, the seed of David complete, without superfluity or defect. If there be any thing in his human nature, therefore, which doth difference him from David, that expression, the just seed of David, is made void. Now with respect to these four heresies condemned by our church, I do see the ignorance of our adversaries sometimes symbolizing with one, and sometimes with another. When, for example, they say, If Christ took human nature in the fallen state, then was he a sinner; they are speaking the language of Nestorius, for that which sinneth is a person. Now, if I err not, this is the great cause of that outcry which is now making against the apprehending of the seed of Abraham. If, say they, his flesh was constituted as our flesh, and his mind as our mind, then must he have been a sinner as we are. But they forget the while that this thing apprehended was not a person, but a nature, and cannot be called a sinner, unless it succeed in swaying the person who hath taken it. - So little enlightened is the church at present upon this point, that lately one of its office bearers, of no mean report, having charged me with heresy for saying that the human nature which Christ apprehended was human nature in the fallen state, after I had meekly explained to him the difference between a nature and a person, he roundly replied to me, that he saw not any difference between Christ’s raking a human nature and Christ’s taking a human person; and yet would sit in judgment upon me, his superior in the church. - I find another part of the opponents of the truth, who are Eutychean in their notion, reasoning as if there were only one nature, or one will in Christ; who say, how could he be tempted who was the Son of God? how could he be in a strait or difficulty who was the eternal Son of God? how could he need such aids and supports of the Holy
Ghost as you speak of? And even very orthodox men I find to be in a perplexity upon this head. Now this perplexity all arises from want of clearness upon the heresy of Eutyches, and the Monothelites, who held only one will or nature to be in Christ; a sort of compound, confused, and mixed nature, of the human and the Divine; against whom the orthodox Church of Scotland, and indeed of all lands, maintain that there was a will in the human nature, a creature-will conditioned as is ours, I itself; but which being taken into the unity of the person of the son of god, did receive such teaching, faith, and sustentation from the person who had taken it, acting as he always doth through the Holy Spirit, that I did in ever thing consent and agree with the will of the Godhead or Divine nature. And herein lay the stress of conflict - namely, in the region of the human will of Christ, which to swerve from harmony with the divine will, all nature wrought amain, but prevailed not in any one effort. Now if this class of objectors were a little more enlightened upon that great Eutychean heresy which coast the primitive church centuries to put down, and of which no member of the Scottish church should be ignorant, seeing she hath lifted a testimony against it, then would they not be perplexed upon the subject of Christ’s temptations, because it is no strange thing for a human will to be tempted, though indeed it is a strange thing, aye, and a thing impossible, for God to be tempted with evil. And here again I must be permitted to make another extract from my Sermons on the Incarnation, in order both to explain this truth, and to justify a book which Satan is endeavouring by his against to hide from the knowledge of the church, because he knows that it containeth truth most necessary to preserve the church in these evil days.
‘Those who say there is but one will in Christ, either make him only God or only man. there is the absolute will of the godhead, and there is the limited will of the creature. These two, may be
consentaneous with one another, which is holiness: or they may be dissentient from one another, which is unholiness in the creature. But the one cannot be the other without confounding two most opposite things, the Creator and the creature, and introducing the doctrine of Spinosa, the doctrine of Eastern Sophists, and Western Savans, That God is the soul of the world; that he is diffused through the creatures, and that the creature is of him a part. If again you say with Sergius, that the operation in Christ is neither Divine nor human, but a mixture of both, as he called it, Theandric or Godmanly, you do confuse the two natures of Christ, and make one between them, which is neither
God’s nature nor man’s nature, but an unknown something lying between them both, with which man hath no sympathy, or rather no consubstantiality; with which God hath no consubstantiality, and therefore which cannot be Mediator between God and man. This also leads directly to the confusing the Creator with the creature, in the person of Christ, and therefore to every thing evil besides; and again bringeth out God, to be the soul of he world, and the world a part of God. It is therefore, however little apprehended by our debtor-and-creditor divines, no less than to confuse and confound all things, thus to permit such points of doctrine as this to remain in error or even under silence.
‘Now the orthodox doctrine is, that there were two wills in Christ; the one, the absolute will of the Godhead which went on working in its infinite circles; the other a man’s will, which was bounded by the limited knowledge, the limited desires, the limited affections, and the limited actions of manhood, - a divine nature and a human nature, God and man. The orthodox doctrine holdeth, moreover, that from he Incarnation, onwards and for ever, the Son of God never thought, felt, or acted, but by condescending out of the infinitude of the Divine will, into the finiteness of the human will; in which condescension the self-sacrifice, and humiliation, and
grace, and goodness of the Godhead are revealed; without which these attributes of the Godhead could never have been known unto the creatures. This condescension it is, which gives an infinite value to every act of Christ, in the Father’s sight, inasmuch as it makes him known, and obtains his great purpose of self-manifestation in the creature’s sight, inasmuch as it shews unto the creature the great free-will condescension of the son, by which the father is made known, and the Holy Spirit communicated. Moreover the attributes of thought, feeling, and action, under which the Godhead is represented to us, in the Old Testament before the Incarnation, appertain not to the absolute will of the godhead which hath no limitation of space or time, no creature-mind, nor creature-will; but appertain to the Godhead contemplating itself as about to be united to the manhood by Incarnation of the Son; so that all revelation is truly an anticipation by word, like as all creation is an anticipation by act, of the great thing which was accomplished by the union of two wills or operations in Christ, - or, to express this truth in Scripture language, “the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.” It is not to tell out the truth fully to say that such expressions as, “God changeth, God repenteth,” are accommodations to man’s way of speaking; they are anticipations of God’s way of shewing himself, by taking the nature of man into the personality of the son, and through that nature actin the purposes of the Godhead by the creatures. And human language itself is a great, and, next to creation, the greatest, work of God unto the same great end; and Christ the Creator is only worthy to be expressed by Christ the Word. be it so, them, that unto every thought, word, and act of Christ, there concurreth two operations; an operation in the infinite Godhead, and an operation in the finite manhood; and that these two operations are not the operations of two persons but of one person only; and what result and inference have you, but this most sublime, most perfect one, that the actings of the godhead are con-
sentaneous with, are one with, all the volitions, all the actings of the manhood of Christ? For the Godhead never acteth but by the Son, and the Son never acteth unto the creatures, but by the manhood which with his Godhead formeth one person. Wherefore, this sublime, this perfect truth, is for ever incorporated in the person of Christ, That Godhead and manhood are not in amity merely, and in sympathy merely, not in harmony and consociation merely; but in union, unity, and unition personal or hypostatical. I would not give the truth expressed in these words of the Catechism, “Two distinct natures, and one person for ever,: for all the truths that by human language have ever been expressed. I would rather have been the humblest defender of this truth, in the four ecumenical councils of the church than have been the greatest reformer of the church, the father of the covenant, of the procurer of the British constitution. But we must bridle our spirit, and yoke our strength again unto the argument.
‘At-one-ment, or reconciliation, is a mere notion, figure of speech, or similitude, until it be seen effected in the constitution of the person of Christ, under these two wills or operations. I object not to the similitude taken from paying debts, nor to the similitude taken from redeeming captives, not to the similitude taken from one man’s dying in the room of another, nor to any of the infinite similitudes which St. Paul useth most eloquently and most fitly for illustrating and enforcing this most precious truth, of the at-one-ment, or reconciliation; but the similitudes are, to my mind, only poor helps for expressing the largeness, fulness, and completeness of the thing which is done by the Word’s being made flesh, and which is exhibited as done, by the placing of the Godman on the right hand of the Majesty on high, visible Head, effective Ruler of the created worlds, and of the intelligent creatures which possess them. This Head Actor of all things enacted, this Being comprehensive of all things created, great
fountain of life, full ocean of animation, is in every thought, in every act, God and man, God’s will and man’s will, in one person united. Every thing, therefore, thence flowing circling wide as creation’s utmost bound; every occurrence, every accident, every attribute, every act, every relation, every change, every position which together constitute the variety of life in the creation redeemed and ruled by Christ, is in very truth a demonstration of manhood at one with Godhead, because it is all thought, spoken, and done by the person, the one person, who in all his thoughts, words, and doings, is God and man. What reconciliation like this reconciliation? what at-one-ment like this at-one-ment? - Incarnation, pp. lxx (140) - lxxiv (140).
I am glad that I cannot find in the Church of Scotland any misgiving with respect to the reality of Christ's flesh, which was the heresy of Marcion; but I do perceive its existence amongst various of the dissenters and Evangelicals, who do not scruple to use the very language which Marcion used, that his flesh came through the Virgin from God; never the least affected by its transmission. However, let me give my brethren of the Church of Scotland warning, that if they will not hold stedfastly as I am doing, and as their fathers did, to the consubstantiality of Christ's manhood with our manhood, as to its nature, as to its temptations, as to its native inclinations, they will soon be lead of Satan into some of those wild delusions which are now springing up in the less retrained, worse disciplined, realm of England. Now that our fathers were most positive and resolute, upon this identity of Christ’s flesh with ours, take these passages, quoted from the same Reformation Articles. -
Article 8. “Because that the enmity between the justice of our God and our sins was such, that no flesh by itself could or might have attained unto God, it behoved that the Son of god should descend unto us, and take to himself flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone, and so become the Mediator between God and man….. Because the only Godhead could not suffer
death, neither yet could the only manhood overcome the same, he joined both together in one person, that the imbecility of the one should suffer, and be subject to death which we had deserved, and the infinite and invincible power of the other, to wit of the Godhead, should triumph and purchase to us life, liberty and perpetual victory.” And again, in the article upon the Sacraments, it is thus written: “So that we confess and undoubtedly believe that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s table, do so eat the body, and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus, that he remaineth in them, and they in him, yea, they are so made flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, that as the eternal Godhead hath given to the flesh of Christ Jesus, which of its own nature was mortal and corruptible, life and immortality, so doth Christ Jesus his fleshy and blood, eaten and drunk by us, give us the same prerogative,” After these expressions, I will seek no others, because no stronger can be conceived or indited by man. The flesh of Christ is declared to have been mortal and corruptible, until at the resurrection it received immortality and incorruption: it is declared to be flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone: it is declared not to have been of itself capable of attaining unto God: it is declared to have the imbecility and weakness of flesh, and subjection to death: and by what other terms to define fallen flesh I know not; certainly I can find none more strong. If it be asked, But why is the word ‘sinful’ not introduced? I answer, in order to guard against the error, the fatal error that it ever sinned; and I would not introduce it, were it not denied that his flesh was liable, as ours is, to all temptation. And wherever I think there may be a chance even of a single person being under this delusion, I will use it always, and always guard it from misconception, as I have hitherto always done. But what honest man, using the word “flesh,” would understand of it something different from our flesh, or would imagine that something different could be understood? - There are three modes in which flesh
hath existed or shall exist: The first, as it was in Adam before it fell; the second, as it now is, and hath been since the Fall; the third, as it is to be in the resurrection, when it is immortal and spiritual. Now, I say that in Scripture, and in the symbolical books of the church, which are spoken to men in flesh of sin, the word flesh invariably signifies flesh existing in the second mode of its being: for example, “the law of the flesh, the will of the flesh, the works of the flesh, the fleshly mind, the fleshly man, he that is in the flesh, he that walketh after the flesh, all flesh is as grass,” and an innumerable host of passages and expresions, rise before my mind; nay, this mode of its existence is often taken for the whole substance of it, as “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, nor corruption inherit incorruption.” But when to this word ‘flesh” is added the epithets ‘mortal and corruptible, of the virgin, of our flesh,’ &c., what man that is not either a deluder or deluded can say, that flesh under any other mode of being than that it is now under can be signified?
Now, before passing from these, the original standards of the Scottish Church, to those afterwards adopted from the Westminster Assembly, I have one remark to make with respect to the relative importance unto our church of these two sets of symbolical books; for I find a notion prevailing amongst some, as if the Westminster books were adopted for their greater excellence, and the others removed from their place. But so far is this from being the true state of the case, that it is the very reverse; the Westminster standards were adopted for the sake of bringing about uniformity of religion in the three kingdoms. But they were not adopted until, to quote from the very act approving them, "“he said Confession was, upon due examination thereof, found by the assembly (that is, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland,) to be most agreeable to the word of God, and in nothing contrary to the received doctrine, government, and discipline of this kirk.” And then the act proceedeth to guard the Westminster
Confession against being in some points interpreted contrary to the pre-existent doctrine and discipline of the church. It is ignorance, therefore, however solemnly and doctorally it may be announced, to say that the Westminster Confession added any thing or detracted any thing from the original constitutions of the church. This remark I make to set things upon their proper footing, from which the ecclesiastical ignorance of these times maketh it an easy matter for men who have gotten a name to remove them. But for my own part, I have no objection whatever to derive my authority from the Westminster Confession, though, as a Scottish churchman, I will never be prevented from going higher if I please. - Now let us hear what is declared in these latter symbolical books of the church. In the viii th chapter it is thus written: “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of the time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” So far the Westminster Confession exactly coincideth with all the symbols of doctrine which have been already quoted. Mark the expression it useth: “Man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin.” And how that nature was without sin I leave the Westminster Confession itself to declare: which also it doth in the very next section of this chapter, thus: “The Lord Jesus, in his human nature, thus united to the Divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure; having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in whom it
pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell, to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety.” This is a noble testimony; it passeth beyond any that we have already quoted; and I give God glory that it is emblasoned upon the standard of oru church. The wisdom, the knowledge, the fulness, that dwell in the human nature, are attributed to the sanctification and anointing of the Holy Ghost, as are also its holiness, harmlessness, undefiledness, and fulness of grace and truth; all in it by which it is different from our nature is ascribed to the work of the Holy Ghost, sanctifying and anointing him, and preserving him so. Now this is the very point for which I have entered the field of controversy; and whether or not I be at one with the Church of Scotland, let this article of the Westminster Confession determine; and in evidence, I make another quotation from the book which I have written on the Incarnation. -
‘The point at issue is simply this; Whether Christ's flesh had the grace of sinfulness and incorruption from its proper nature, or from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. I say the latter. I assert that in its proper nature it was the flesh of his mother: but by the Holy Ghost’s quickening and inhabiting of it, it was preserved sinless and incorruptible. This work of the Holy Ghost, I further assert, was done in consequence of the Son’s humbling himself to be made flesh. The Son said, “I come;” the Father said, “I prepare thee a body to come in;” and the Holy Ghost prepared that body out of the Virgin’s substance. And so, by the threefold acting of the Trinity, was the Christ constituted a Divine and human nature, joined in personal union for ever. This I hold to have been the orthodox faith of the Christian church, expressed in these words of our twenty-first Article: “As the eternal Godhead hath given to the flesh of Jesus Christ, which of its own nature was mortal and corruptible, life and immor-
tality, &c.” And, moreover, I assert, that the opposite of this doctrine, which affirmeth Christ's flesh to have been in itself immortal and incorruptible, or in any way diverse from this flesh of mine, without respect had to the Holy Ghost, is a pestilent heresy, which coming in will root out atonement, redemption, regeneration, the work of the Sprit, and the human nature of Christ altogether. Now I glory that God hath accounted me worthy to appear in this ancient controversy, which I hold to be the foundation-stone of the edifice of orthodox truth. With all this I hold the human will of Christ to have been perfectly holy, and to have acted, spoken, or wished nothing but in perfect harmony with the will of the Godhead; which, to distinguish it from the creature will, he calleth the will of the Father; for that there were two wills in Christ, the one the absolute will of the Godhead, the other the limited will of the manhood, the church hath ever maintained as resolutely as that there were two nature. These two wills, I maintain, were always concentric or harmonious with each other; and the work achieved by the Godhead, through the incarnation of Christ, was neither more nor less than this, to bring the will of the creature, which had erred from the Divine will, back again to be harmonious with the divine will, and there to fix it for ever. This is the redemption, this is the at-one-ment which was brought in Christ, to redeem the will of a creature from the oppression of sin, and bring it to be at one with the will of the Creator. All divinity, all Divine operation, all God’s purpose from the beginning to the ending of time, and throughout eternal ages resteth upon this one truth, that every acting of the human nature of Christ was responsive to, and harmonious wit, he actings of the Divine will of the Godhead.’ - Incarnation, Preface, p. v.
Having thus opened out of the Scriptures, and the standards of the Scottish Church, the true doctrine of Christ's human nature, I may pause here to consider the testimony which the Church of Scotland hath
given against the heresy of Bourignon, which found its way into Scotland about the beginning of the last century, and was solemnly condemned by the General Assembly of the Church in the year 1701: for, strange to tell, I find that the doctrine , the only orthodox catholic doctrine of the church, which I have stated above and expressed more fully in my work on the Incarnation, is confounded with this condemned doctrine of Antoinette Bourignon: and I go into this discussion with the more good will on this very account, that I may undeceive those of the Church of Scotland who have judged rashly and unwarrantable of the true doctrine in this respect; for I love the brethren, and if it be possible would stand well and live peaceably with all men. Besides that, in an apology for the true doctrine, it is as well to shew the errors which lie on either side of it. This Bourignon was an enthusiastic woman, who propagated, in Holland and the Low Countries, certain wild and heterodox tenets, about the middle of the seventeenth century, claiming to herself the gift of prophecy. These heterodox opinions are thus enumerated and condemned as impious, pernicious, and damnable, by the eleventh act of the General Assembly, 1701: - “First, the denying the permission of sin, and the infliction of damnation and vengeance for it: Secondly, the ascribing to Christ a twofold human nature, one of which was produced of Adam before the woman was formed, and the other born of the Virgin Mary: Thirdly, the denying of the decrees of election and reprobation, and the loading of these acts of grace and sovereignty with a multitude of odious and blasphemous expressions; particularly wickedness, cruelty, and respect of persons: Fourthly, that there is a good spirit and an evil spirit in the souls of all men before they are born: Fifthly, that the will of man is unlimited, and that there must be in man some infinite quality, whereby he may unite himself to God: Sixthly, the denying of the doctrine of Divine prescience: Seventhly, the assertion of the sinful corruption of Christ's human nature, and a rebellion in Christ's natural will to the will of God:
Eighthly, the asserting a state of perfection in this life, and a state of purification in the life to come; that generation takes place in heaven, that there are no true Christians in the world, and several other errors contained in the same book.” For holding which impious, blasphemous, and damnable errors, a doctor in the church was deposed from the ministry by that very act of the church. Now these eight propositions are very distinctly and clearly stated, and I think most justly condemned as impious, pernicious, blasphemous, and damnable doctrines: and as in mine ordination vows I have solemnly renounced, or rather denounced, for one can hardly renounce what they have never held, Bourignonism; so again, I do solemnly denounce it in all its parts as a system of folly and falsehood. How any man in his sober senses could confound the doctrine which, with all the orthodox, I do maintain concerning Christ's human nature, made holy by the incarnation of the Godhead, with this woman’s frantic possessions and utterances of folly, I do marvel much; but seeing the attempt hath been made to fix and fasten this charge not upon me, but upon the truth, I, who have undertaken to apologize for the truth, shall enter a little into this question also.
Of these eight articles, I find two only, the second and the seventh, which can be any possibility bear upon the subject of Christ's human nature; the first of which ascribeth to Christ a humanity pre-existent before his raking flesh of the virgin. The doctrine of a pre-existent humanity is an old heresy in the church, being in truth the root of Marcionism; which asserted that his humanity came down from heaven into the virgin, and through her into the world without partaking at all of her substance; and it is an error which still exists in the church, though in a latent form, yet not so latent but that I have had before me several tracts or short treatises written to maintain it, within the last few years, and likewise have conversed and argued with some men who are inclined to hold it. But this Bourignon is the only
one that I have heard of who doth maintain this pre-existent humanity to have been formed of Adam. The greater part seem to conceive of it as the form really existing which the Son took unto himself before the world was; quoting in support of it such passages as these: Prov. viii. 22, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the world was.” Col. i. 15: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.” Rev. iii. 14: “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” These, and such other passages as set forth the constitution in Christ as the Word, as the Logos, these people interpret of a created humanity of a more refined order than that which he took of the virgin. they err by making no difference between word and deed, fiat and fact. They err by overlooking the difference between the purpose of God, included all in Christ and foreordained in him; and that purpose, beginning to be effected in outward substance when Christ took flesh of the virgin, to be completed in the dispensation of the fulness of the time when he shall have recapitulated into himself all things both which are in heaven and on earth. There is no doubt, at least I have none, that the root of this error is in the pride of the natural man, which will not stoop to believe that the Son of God, that the Word should be generated flesh; but would interpose a filmy something, a celestial essence of humanity, between the Godhead and the vile substance of the virgin: so that, while there was an appearance of one thing to us, there might be the reality of another thing to him; that in this pre-existent humanity invested, he might not soil himself with sinful flesh; - poor shifts and substitutes of carnal reason, for true spiritual reason, whose action is faith: and while I do not doubt that this pride of carnal reason, which will not admit that the eternal Son of God should become “a worm and no man,: is the cause of all such error, I feel assured that though no hypothesis
be yet matured, at least within the church, at no distance of time we shall see an hypothesis like that of Marcion and Bourignon and the Anabaptists, matured among those calling themselves Evangelical who do so nauseate and repudiate the true doctrine, that Christ took his manhood of the substance of the virgin. Now I do give thanks to God that, amongst other things, he hath enabled me to bear testimony against this error of a pre-existent humanity, in my work on the Incarnation; and not only so, but what is of more importance, to unfold the true idea, of which this is the falsification. First, then, let me quote the passage in which I have borne testimony against the error. -
‘Now concerning the time and manner of our Lord’s receiving this reasonable soul, I believe it to have been at the same time, and after the same manner in which the rest of the children receive it; in opposition to those who hold the pre-existence of Christ’s human soul, or that it was made before the creatures for the Son of God to possess and unite himself to, and with it, and by it to create all things visible and invisible, and afterwards to come in it and join himself to the substance of the virgin Mary. I hold with the orthodox church, that this is a pestilent error, which hath its origin in the confounding of a divine purpose with a Divine act, and endeth in various evil consequences, which I shall in a few words expose. With respect to its origin; That the Creator had himself, and his own appearing in creature-form, fully and mainly in his eye, from the first beginning and through the several actings of creation, there is and can be no question among those who meditate such matters or read the Holy Scriptures: for example, the first chapter of Colossians, the first chapter of Hebrews, and the eighth chapter of the Proverbs. Every thing that hath been done by God out of himself, was done in the contemplation and to the end of himself becoming unto creatures manifest in creature-form; and that creature-form was the form of risen God-manhood. But to suppose that, to the effecting of this purpose, it was necessary that the Creator
should first create a human soul, in which and by which to create all things, is a gratuitous hypothesis, to represent a purpose by an act, and to destroy altogether the beauty, harmony, and order of the Divine idea, developing itself by slow and sure progression, and at length manifesting itself in the birth of Immanuel, the virgin’s Son. Moreover, if the human soul of Christ was thus before creation hypothetically united with the Divinity of the So, we have an in-spiritual before we have an incarnate God; we have God in union with flesh subsisting. Now this is to destroy the whole tenor of the Scriptures and scheme of God, which represent the angels and all creation hanging upon the lips of promise, and looking with faith unto the symbols of the man about to be, and travailing with hope until the great end of all things should appear. Besides it wholly destroys the continuity of things, and casts them back again upon themselves, to say that a soul which had known and effected the creation should pass into infantine ignorance and childhood simplicity, and ascend through all the stages of a human life. Moreover, then, creation hath not fallen wholly, for the pre-existent soul hath never found a fall: and, being united with the body of Christ, is still the creature in the unfallen state: and so the better half of the man Christ is unfallen, and the other half of him is fallen! Strange conjunction! and heterogeneous mixture! Believing therefore, and holding it to be a point of great importance to believe, that the human soul of Christ came unto him just as the human soul of another man, we proceed a little further to open the nature of the person thus constituted.’ - Incarnation, pp. viii(140) - x (140).
And the true idea or doctrine of Scripture, whereof this is the corruption, I have expressed in various parts of that work, of which I shall quote the following.-
‘First, then, in the work of the creation we have maintained these heads of doctrine concerning the Trinity. First, That the infinite God, who is also
invisible and incomprehensible, cannot communicate himself, or the knowledge of himself, unto his creatures, without assuming to himself a finite form. In order to be visible and comprehensible; nay, we may go a step higher, and say, that in order to fashion finite creatures, in order to do a finite action, it is necessary the actor should assume a finite form. But, without doing more than mention this great principle of divine operation, we observe, that if the end of God in creation be to manifest himself unto the creatures, which is indeed the only end that he hath declared; and if his method of doing this be by bringing in his own Son, and setting him up for ever in the form of the Lamb slain and risen from the dead, or in the form of risen God-man; and in that form to shew himself for ever and ever unto the creatures which he proposed to create; then is it never to be doubted, that he who worketh all things to the praise of his own glory, and who leaveth no loose or open parts in his purpose, but maketh it to be altogether harmonious, and consenting unto the great end, would from the beginning of creation bring himself into action under that form which he was afterwards to assume: that is to say, every thing would have an eye and aim to the risen God-man, every thing would tell and foretell of him, every things would have its origin in that idea or purpose, and have the definition of its being thereby determined. And this is what I understand by all things being made for Christ, as well as by Christ. the Christ-form of being, God and man, in one person, was only an idea and a purpose till the Incarnation, when it became a fact. The person of the eternal Son, I mean, did not become the Christ in very deed, until he took human substance of the virgin. Therefore, the only meaning that can be assigned to such expressions as that all things were made by him and for him, is, that the person of the Son - not in his absolute infinity, which I have said I even believe to be impossible, but in the finite creature-form which he was in the fulness of time to assume and to retain for ever and ever - did create
all things visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or principalities, or powers: wherefore also he is called First-begotten from the dead, First-born of every creature. This, then, is the only ground of revelation anterior to Christ, that God might testify unto him that it is to come; and creation, till he came, is but that same testimony, from the strongest archangel down to the worm that crawleth on the ground. I believe there is no sportiveness, playfulness, idleness, extravagance, or waste of creative power, but one concatenated systematic testimony unto the Christ; into whom, as all the disjected members, are to be gathered up again as their head; so believe I, that in their present disjected state, the only and sole purpose of their being is, to testify to him of whom man is the only image, and Adam before his fall the only perfect type. Now the counterpart of revelation is faith; and if the end of creation is to reveal Christ, then the object of all faith must be Christ. And all knowledge in the creature subsisting, whether of itself or of other creatures, or of god, is no true knowledge until it hath turned to a testimony; is either incomplete or is false, until it hath revealed something concerning Christ, who is the end of all created things: and therefore faith comes in where knowledge endeth; or, I should say, knowledge is but as the needle that pointeth unto Christ, in whom I must believe; and the rivers of knowledge pour themselves into the ocean of faith; for the end of knowledge is not itself, but something which is to be. And the World, being the communication of knowledge, doth therefore no more than set out Christ that I may believe upon him; and the preaching of the Word is the testimony of Jesus. But we have not yet arrived at the root of the matter, which is deeper still.’ - Incarnation, pp. (328) iii - (328) v.
With respect, therefore, to this point of doctrine, we do hope and trust that no honest man will impeach our orthodoxy, seeing in our writings we have directly contended against the error condemned by the church. We think a man who takes the field against
an enemy of his sovereign should have more credit for being a good subject, than one who remains idle in his own house: and surely I ought, least of all, to be accounted as tainted with Bourignonism, who, of all living at present in the Scottish Church, am perhaps the only one who have contended against it. But let us examine the other article of this damnatory act, that it may be seen how groundless is this wicked charge, brought in most instances, I believe in almost all, without having either heard my discourse or read m writings: but self-sufficiency needeth little occasion against a brother. The article is this: “The assertion of the sinful corruption of Christ's human nature, and a rebellion in Christ's natural will to the will of God.” I should have thought that the following passage, in my book on the Incarnation, expressly written against this error, would have protected me against such a wicked and unfounded charge. -
‘From this great head of orthodox doctrine, that there were two wills or operations; the one the absolute Divine, the other the limited creature will, between which perfect unity in one person was preserved; and so reconciliation between God and the creatures established, not upon the conditions of a covenant merely, or by the commutation of suffering merely, but by the very being of Christ, and in his being, and in every one of his actions, and in all his eternal government of all creation; - from this only fit and only sufficient demonstration of that atonement and reconciliation which the creature languisheth, dieth to know and be assured of, even from this truth of truths, the two distinct natures of God and man, in one person, Satan, as his custom is, hath deduced one of the foulest and most culpable heresies; which he hath ever at hand, to hinder fearful and ignorant people from listening to the subject, and so to remove them away from the knowledge of the hidden mystery and most blessed consolation of the truth in Christ. The heresy to which I allude is part of the Bourignian heresy, against which our church beareth continual testimony in the questions which she putteth to every
preacher before giving him licence, and again before ordaining him over a flock. The heresy is, that the human will of Christ was unholy or contradictive of the Divine will, which is an abomination so much to be abhorred, as the truth of their harmony and unity, set forth above, is to be prized. For the at-one-ment or reconciliation effected by the two harmonious consenting wills, Divine and human, in the one person of Christ, would be distinctly and flatly denied, avoided and destroyed, if it could ever be said that the human will abode not in, and assented not to, and set not forth, the will Divine. The atonement, the redemption, the reconciliation standeth or falleth with the personal unity of the two distinct natures of Christ. Now this error cometh from the Nestorian stem, which maintained two persons to be joined together in the Christ, harmonizing with each other by friendship, consociation, and sympathy, and not united by personality: but by what manner of misconception, by what blindness of error, dare they to affix such a tenet upon the orthodox, who maintain the very contrary, and rest all Christian doctrine upon the contradiction of it? It is, for I know it well, because we say, and will maintain unto death, that Christ's flesh was in every respect as ours. But what then? Is Christ's flesh the whole of his creature being? No, it is his humanity inhabited by the Holy Ghost, which maketh up his creature-being. And through the power of the Holy Ghost, acting powerfully and with effect, to the resisting, to the staying, to the overcoming of the evil propensity of the fallen man, it is, that the fallen manhood of Christ is made mighty, and holy, and good, and every way fit to express the will of the Divinity. Be it known unto these gainsayers, that in Christ, and in the soul redeemed by Christ, and in the world redeemed by Christ, we can do as ill without the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, as we can without the Divinity of the Son. We have a fallen world to redeem, - we have the Son of God to redeem it; but these two must not intermingle or be confused with each other; and
therefore, in order to make that fallen creature harmonious with the Godhead of the Son, and so to obtain one person, we must also have in it the life of the Holy Ghost, overcoming the death of sin. Ye may be able to state out the redemption, without a Trinity of persons in the Godhead: I lay claim to no such ability. Your Trinity is an idle letter in your creed; but it is the soul, the life of mine. Your Christ is a suffering God; I know it well: my Christ is a gracious condescending God, but a suffering man. In your Christ you see but one person in a body; in my Christ I see the fulness of the Godhead in a body. My Christ is the Trinity manifested; not merely the Trinity told of, but the Trinity manifested. I have the Father manifested in every thing that he doth; for he did not his own will, but the will of his Father. I have the Son manifested in uniting his Divinity to a humanity prepared for him by the Father, and in making the two most contrary things to meet and kiss each other, in all the actings of his widest, most comprehensive being. I have the Holy Ghost manifested in subduing, restraining, conquering the evil propensities of the fallen manhood, and making it an apt organ for expressing the will of the Father; a fit and holy substance to enter into personal union with the untempted and untemptable Godhead. And who is he that dares stand up and impugn these eternal truths? Be he whom he may, the devil himself, with all his legions, I will uphold them against him for ever; and I will say, moreover, that in upholding these, I am upholding the atonement, the regeneration, the kingdom, and the glory of God.’ - Incarnation, pp. (140) lxxiv - (140) lxxvii.
Seeing that this hath not been sufficient, as I am given to understand, to defend the advocates of the orthodox doctrine from the malice of unlearned clerks and evil speaking men, I undertake, with somewhat more of care and diligence, to expose the error condemned in this article , and to divide between it and the truth. I have looked into the acts of Assembly (1701), to find, if possible, some explana-
tion of the eight condemned articles, but without success; nor have I been able to get a sight of the condemned work from which these articles are taken, and therefore I must content myself with the very words of the act, as they are quoted above, which are sufficiently explicit and distinct for our purpose. The erroneous doctrine is divided into two parts: first, the assertion of the sinful corruption of Christ's human nature; and secondly, of a rebellion in Christ’ natural will to the will of God. Of these two, I shall speak separately. It is manifest, from the words sinful corruption, that the quality in Christ's human nature condemned, is a moral quality. It is not concerning the mortality and corruptibility of his flesh, which, as we have shewn above, the church in all ages, and none more strongly than the Church of Scotland, hath asserted; but it is a question concerning his human nature, whether there was in it a sinful corruption. To his Bourignon seems to have been led by the second of her condemned errors, which ascribed to Christ a twofold human nature; one, of Adam unfallen, - the other, of the Virgin, of which two I suppose she would think she could afford to say, that the one was sinfully corrupt, because she had the other sinless one in reserve: wherein methinks she was more honest than some of this generation, who join her in believing that his human nature was of Adam before he fell, but are not so honest as she, in adhering to Scripture, that he was made of a woman, that he was the Son of the virgin. Poor Antoinette Bourignon seems to have been distressed between these two things, which are both true, That he should be, according to his manhood, of the substance of his mother, and yet that this substance should be presented holy. And to reconcile the matter, he took up the false hypothesis of a pre-existent humanity, which might restrain and overcome the actings of the woman’s humanity. Now I say, that, false and erroneous as this is, it is much more honest than the hypothesis now current amongst our opponents, which flatly denies or avoids all the
Scripture, declaring him to have taken substance of his sinful mother, and boldly asserts that he took the nature of Adam before he fell, though there had been no such nature in existence four thousand years. Poor bewildered Bourignon was both a more honest interpreter of Scripture, and a better logician, woman though she was, than you, O ye self-sufficient leaders and guides of the religious world! a more honest interpreter, inasmuch as she understood the New Testament to say that Christ came in flesh, temptable and tempted in all points as ours is; and a better logician, inasmuch as she preserves the law of continuity, deriving Christ's better human nature from Adam, and preserving it somewhere until it should pass through the Virgin, and co-exist with sinful flesh. But ye, breaking the law of continuity, do, four thousand years after unfallen nature hath ceased to exist, impart it unto the Son of God, without any ground of Scripture for its creation again, or for its existence again; - yea, though every thing in Christ, as respecteth death, disease, want, temptation, and corruptibility, contradicts the nature of Adam before he fell. Methinks if the venerable Assembly of 1701 was so faithful against the errors of Bourignon, as to depose one of the doctors of the church for holding them, it would have had a far better plea against another, whom I shall not name, who delights exceedingly to commend a book in which the doctrine of Christ's immortal and incorruptible body is flatly asserted, and “demonstrated (says he) with the cogency of a mathematical demonstration!” But to return - Bourignon and her adherents are justly condemned for asserting the sinful corruption of Christ's human nature, which was not sinful, but was ever upholden holy. What he took to work upon was sinful, sinful flesh and blood: what he wrought it into was sinless. The flesh he took underwent no change in its conception, in its life, or in its death, but in its resurrection it was altogether changed; and by this oneness of flesh and blood with us, he was one with us in all our temptation, in all our limitations, in all our humiliations. But
he was not one with us in sin; he was one with God in holiness. He, the person of the Son of God, acting faith upon his Father through those temptations and limitations of sinful flesh, and receiving from the Father, the Holy Ghost, in answer to his prayer, did inform his human nature with such strength, light, life, and sanctity, as to overcome with its weakness and penury the utmost might of the devil. Such power of holiness hath God, that with the weak instruments of fallen humanity he did combat and cast the devil out. His humanity, though in itself and of itself like ours in all respects, was therefore not chargeable with any sin, with any moral corruption, was holy, blameless, without spot; and it is a most capital error to believe otherwise, Otherwise I have never believed, otherwise I have never thought of believing, otherwise I have never spoken, otherwise I have never been tempted to speak. Never, blessed be the Lord, from my childhood have I had any misgivings concerning this, That Christ took our fallen nature; nor concerning this, That, taking it, he upheld it holy and presented it holy. The boy which God had prepared for him of David’s seed he took; and though of David’s seed compact, he did the will of God in it, he did the will of God with it; and by this will of God which he did, we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all. For if his body were not presented holy upon the cross, how should his flesh and blood offered for us there be the nourishment of the saints in the Lord’s supper? If his flesh and blood had not ever been upholden holy, how should he have said in the days of his flesh, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me?” The holiness
of his flesh, from the time it was upholden by union with the Godhead, is a point of doctrine never, never to be gainsayed. Our communion-table without it hath no holiness whatever; at which table we receive the same power of God to sanctify, or rather to nourish in us a holy nature, and to resist and overcome the flesh, and to uphold it in holiness, of our faith fell not short; and afterwards to raise it from the grave, and fashion it like his glorious body. That work, I say, of Godhead, which redeemed and sanctified the flesh of Christ, we, who believe upon him, do receive in the supper of the Lord, and are enabled thereby to crucify the flesh, and to yield every member thereof a servant of righteousness unto holiness. But if, as these disputers of this world say, the Godhead becoming incarnate did not in flesh of our infirmities, but in flesh without them, or at least without some of them, enact that holy life of body and of soul which we believe and trust in; then is there no proof whatever “that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s table, do so eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus, that he remaineth in them, and they in him; yea, they are so made flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, that as the eternal Godhead hath given to the flesh of Jesus Christ, which of its own nature was mortal and corruptible, life and immortality, so doth Christ Jesus, his flesh and blood eaten and drunken by us, give unto us the same prerogatives.” This noble sentence of our Church Confession, most full of sound doctrine and true to every letter, is completely made foolish if either of these things be denied; that Christ's flesh was in its nature such as ours, or that Christ's flesh was, by incarnation, otherwise than always upholden holy. If you deny the first, then how can I, in the Lord’s supper, participate in his flesh and blood? All who deny transubstantiation believe that the work in the supper is purely the work of the Holy Ghost; but how shall a work of the Holy Ghost upon my flesh make me one with Christ, unless Christ's flesh, upon which the Holy Ghost wrought, was one with mine? If Christ's
flesh was in its substance better than mine, or other than mine, then I must receive that better flesh in the supper, or else I am not one with Christ; and so these disputers for a better flesh than ours, in Christ, must borrow transubstantiation from the mother of harlots, in order to complete their system. But taking Christ's flesh to be flesh of his mother, and so flesh of mine, which the power of God in incarnation made holy, then I, receiving that same power of God in Christ, am brought into oneness with him, and made to live upon his flesh and blood; there needeth neither in the one case nor in the other a change of substance, but only in both a power in godhead, which during Christ's life proceeded from the Father upon his faith, which now, since Christ's resurrection, proceedeth from the Son upon our faith; - in both, a new power and act of Godhead put forth upon the same substance of fallen flesh. In Christ, this work was perfect through the perfectness of his faith; in us, it is imperfect, through the imperfectness of our faith. We have therefore reason to confess a continual sin, which he had never reason to confess in himself and of himself, but only through imputation from others, for in himself and of himself he had only to rejoice in a continual victory, saying evermore, “Yet not my will, but thine be done.”
Now this leads me to expose the second error of this condemned article, which is, that there was a rebellion in Christ's natural will to the will of God. Rebellion here I understand to be the state of rebelliousness, or the act of rebellion, or, as it is defined by our great lexicographer, “insurrection against lawful authority.” It referreth to a moral act, as doth the first proposition. And the object in condemning both propositions is, (if indeed they be two, and not one,) to save Christ's human nature from the charge of actual sin. The propositions go not to the assertion of any thing concerning the properties of that which Christ took, but concerning the actings of it, when taken by him. Now I may say, that all in my book on the Incarnation which concerneth atonement
rests upon this basis that Christ's human nature was in all respects at one with the Divine nature. Be it what it may be, in its proper and separate actings in other persons, I have shewn that when in the person of Christ, it came to act, its actings were ever holy, and that this really is the only meaning of atonement; the two things which had to be brought at one, were these, - the will of human nature, and the will of God, which, since the Fall, had been ever at variance. This great work was done by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ And how is it exhibited as done, how is it known to be done? It is exhibited as done, and known to be done, by this very thing, That two natures should act together in one person. Oneness of personality is the assurance that the two natures are not contradictory. No act is the act of either nature, but of the person, including both natures; and every act being holy, therefore the two natures are at one. To say with Bourignon that the will of the human nature is at variance with the will of God, is to say that Christ was a sinner, and that he failed to bring about atonement; for what is sin, but a transgression of the will of God? Christ's person is in his human nature as much as in his Divine; and if his human nature contradicted his Divine, he is a sinner: therefore this second proposition, extracted from the condemned book, is as justly condemned as is the other.
I know well from what source this error springs; and it hath been with me the subject both of deep and patient study to reach the bottom of it, and get my foundation upon the rock of truth. Our Lord continually saith in the Gospels, “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. The word which I speak, I speak not of myself: if I speak of myself, my witness is not true.” And this controversy which he himself continually suggesteth, arose to its height in the agony of the garden, where he three times prayed that the cup might pass from him, but always under the pious submission, “Yet not my will, but thine be done.”
And perhaps a still more striking instance of this is to be found in John xii. 27; where he suggesteth one form of prayer, and instantly declineth it, thinking as it were aloud, or feeling aloud, or enduring aloud, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour, but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” And as if the Father saw, and marked the agony which his Son was enduring, he strengthened him with an audible voice, saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Now it is such passages as this which call for explanation: in the explanation of which a man will either stand or stumble, according as he abideth in the truth, or abideth not therein. Those who say that Christ's life was not a struggle, or that he was not temptable as we are, though never as we overcome, do not explain, but simply deny, contradict, or avoid all such passages of Scripture: and they likewise deprive of all end and meaning that estate of privation, cruelty, and ignominy into which Christ was cast by his Father, from the manger to the cross. It is all a mere shew of suffering, if so be that he endured not like other men. It is a gathering of honour to his Son where nothing was endured. Whether they will receive it or not, I say it is in sum and substance the error of Marcion, who denied that he had a true humanity. The Question remaineth, therefore, From whence arose this contention and contradiction in the Saviour’s breast? Our opponents say, from natural horror of suffering: well, let them have it so, that there was nothing more to move such agony than this, which the commonest and wickedest of men meet every day without the shrinking of a nerve or the shedding of a tear; I ask then, how became his flesh capable of suffering if it was not flesh under the Fall, or how became it capable of dying: And let them reduce the scale of his temptations to what meanness they please, still the difficulty stand before them, to explain how so small a matter, or how so great a matter, be it small
or be it great, should be able to act upon Christ's will. Surely there was something by which flesh and blood took hold upon his will to sway it from God’s will, and to suggest to his mind forms of prayer which he either rejected on the instant, or put up under the holy caveat of its being accordant with his Father’s will. The prayer, “Save me from this hour,” he rejected upon the instant, recollecting that “for this cause he came unto this hour;” and instead thereof he puts up this other petition, “Father, glorify they name.” In the other case of the garden, he doth actually present the prayer, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not my will but thine be done.” Did I ever think, did I ever say as one who should know better seems to allege, that our Lord sinned in this? Verily not, verily not. I believe that it was an act of passing holiness, in which he preferred God’s will to overwhelm him with darkness, and anguish incomparable, to becoming the Prince and Potentate of the world. Nevertheless, while I thus believe I will not be prevented by stern authority from meditating what it was, that thus overwhelmed all but the piety and faithfulness of the Lord. And what was it? It was the weakness of the nature into which he had come. Its veil upon vision, its openness to temptation, its impotence to good; all this assailableness from without and weakness from within acted upon the person of Christ in human nature tempted, and constituted that contradiction to the will of God which it was the excellent work of his life to resist and overcome. But that it was resisted and overcome, and that the will of his human nature was strengthened to preserve its holiness unsullied, always and without intermission, must ever be maintained as one of the most capital doctrines, yea the fundamental doctrine, of the Christian religion. And so much have I to say with respect to Bourignonism, which I abominate and detest with the rest of my brethren, and which I have meditated much more upon, and written much more against than any of them. And here, I count it good to
conclude this digression with another extract from my Sermons on the Incarnation, to shew how constantly I have maintained this doctrine. -
‘Furthermore, I confess myself unable to perceive how it is possible for suffering to reach an unfallen creature, without subverting the fundamental principles of the Divine purpose and administration. I do not mean the principle, how the eternal Son should consent and condescend to the suffering and humiliation; for this indeed he doth, in the plenitude of his own Divine freedom; but the difficulty and impossibility, as I think, is, how the suffering should reach him otherwise than by a fallen body. This is the very end of the Fall, that Christ might come at suffering. The Godhead cannot suffer, because it cannot change. Those sufferings which Christ underwent reached him through his creature part. Now, if that creature part of Christ was in the unfallen state, how could it suffer? If the unfallen creature can suffer, then there is no difference between the unfallen and the fallen, for suffering and death are the signs and wages of the Fall. The answer which they make to this question is, He suffered for the sins of others. That I say also, because he had no sin of his own wherefore to suffer. On this we are agreed. But my question is, How can suffering for another reach an unfallen creature? I know of no way by which suffering can reach an unfallen creature, but by the way in which it reached Adam - namely, by his committing sin; and if it be said, that without committing sin, suffering can reach an unfallen creature, then the only difference between the unfallen and fallen is taken away, and the very nature of sin as an act of the will is abrogated. But that suffering can come to a fallen creature without any sinful act of his own, is manifest in every child that is born; and that death can come to a fallen creature, without any sinful act of its own, is manifest in every child that dies. And therefore there is no difficulty whatever in believing, that without any sinful act of the will, Christ, in a fallen nature, should both suffer and die; because
this very thing is the universal experience of every fallen creature. But there is not such a thing in the records of being, as that an unfallen creature should suffer. The will must fall first by sinning, before suffering can be felt. But that in the fallen state the just should suffer for the unjust, and the innocent for the guilty, is the great truth experienced of all; seeing God visits the sins of the fathers, and the sin of Adam especially, upon those who have as yet no power of will whereby to commit a sin; so that I may truly say, the whole history and constitution of man’s estate, under the Fall, is to the very end of schooling us into the method of the Incarnation; of teaching us how, without evil actings of the will, suffering and death may be experienced by a creature in the fallen state. If Christ therefore took our fallen nature; if the eternal Godhead, being purposed to extirpate sin and death from flesh for ever, and to bear up through his Almighty and Divine strength the lapsed creation, it is easy to perceive how, by taking part of flesh and blood with the fallen children, he might do so; but if by taking an unfallen nature, he could do so, then I have no demonstration whatsoever that I myself am fallen. For what proveth me to be fallen? Suffering and death. If it be added, Positive transgression of my will? I answer, No; that should not enter into the definition of a fallen creature; because it applieth not to all fallen creatures, nor indeed to any fallen creature in all its being. Children, and all men while children, are incapable of acting good or evil by the will, and yet they are fallen. And how know we them to be fallen? Because they suffer, and die. But if an unfallen creature can likewise suffer and die, then the only definition and the only proof of a fallen creature is taken away; and if this be taken away, redemption is likewise taken away. Now it only makes this conclusion stronger, if they say that the difference between an unfallen creature suffering and a fallen creature suffering is, that the one suffereth by imputation, and the other suffereth not by imputation but for his own sin. Then I say, That by this defini-
tion children are unfallen; for they suffer not for any sin of their own, but by imputation of the sin of their fathers, and most especially the sin of Adam. Here, then, is another great foundation subverted - to wit, the difference between the unfallen and fallen creatures; and Socinianism marches strait in at the breach, which says, that we are just in as good and perfect a state as Adam, and as able to keep the law as he was; and then, where is the redemption when there is no fall? It is completely avoided, and made of no effect.
‘Oh it relieveth my heart in the midst of these painful studies and deep meditations, to find that I am fighting the battle which the Apostle John began, and which the holy fathers of the church for seven centuries ceased not to wage. This heresy of the immortal, incorruptible body of Christ, of his supernatural humanity, was broached by Cerdon, the disciple of that Simon Magus who is mentioned in the Acts. From him it passed to Marcion, and Valentine, and Manes, all great heresiarchs: in Eutyches it took a more generic form, which was condemned in the fourth general council at Chalcedon. It revived in the Emperor Justinian, who held that Jesus Christ had not a corruptible body, but was resisted by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Patriarch of Antioch, and all the orthodox church, who said, “It cannot be called incorruptible in any other sense than as it was always unpolluted with any defilement, and was not corrupted in the grave.” It revived again under the new name of Monothelites, concerning whom it is written in a former head of this discourse; and after surviving for nearly a century, it was condemned again in a general council at Constantinople, held in the year 680. And now again, behold it is upon the field; and here am I a poor despised minister, contending day by day for the faith, for which holy Martyrs and Apostles contended; of whom it is reported that one, even Polycarp the disciple of John, when he met one of these heresiarchs (I think Marcion) on the streets of Rome, and being asked of him, “Knowest thou me?” the martyr answered,
“Yes, I know thee to be the eldest born of the devil.”’ - Incarnation, pp. (140) cxxxv - (140) cxxxviii.
Here I had intended to conclude what I had to say upon Bourignonism: but, hearing so much said about it, and perceiving what a handle the adversary was making of it to pervert the faith of my mother church; when I found that no further light was to be found in the books of the church, I was at pains to search about for a copy of the condemned book, and count it a kind providence which brought it to my hand: and now I am able to justify the orthodox faith from the evil insinuation of such company, to approve the General Assembly in the condemnation of it, and likewise, I well believe, to give some information to those who have rashly stigmatized the true doctrine with that odious name. The second article condemned above rests upon this passage of the Apology to be found in p. 47, extracted from her book, entitled L’Etoile du Matin (The Morning Star): “Man, when he was created at first, was endued with a principle of fecundity, with a power to produce his like without the help of another, having within his body the principles of both natures, and in that respect being a complete and perfect man, which power was actuated upon ardent acts of love to God, and a desire to produce a creature like himself, to love and enjoy his Maker.
“Adam, while he was in perfect innocence, did thus produce one like himself, who was the first-born of every creature, the second Adam, and the Son of Man. And God being desirous to give to man a full and perfect contentment in body and spirit, and to dwell with him bodily and visibly, so that he might converse with man as a friend with his friend; he therefore not only made man after his own image, but he became like to man; he unites himself to the human nature in the second Adam, that he might converse familiarly with man y an organ, to be seen, heard, and felt by him, conformable to his nature: This is Jesus Christ, eternal God, and true man.”
Upon this passage I have nothing to say than that
I detest its doctrine, and pity all who have any fellowship with it. How much I differ from it, and have argued against it, I refer to all my writings, and draw the reader’s attention to the extracts given above from my work on the Incarnation.
But there is never an error so utterly false, but that I have been able to find some truth in it; and even in this I can see the truth which that fond enthusiast and mystic was contemplating. It is, that the fist man in his days of innocency, had for his contemplation and love the Lord God, who walked and talked with him in the garden; whom all sound divines believe to have been the person of the Son assuming that form of glorious manhood in which it had been predetermined that he should be embodied for ever. That they should become such if they would eat the forbidden tree, was the temptation which the devil presented to Eve. To become such, it is reasonable to believe, was the hope set before them, as it is the hope set before us. The devil anticipated the time, and falsified the way, as his manner still is; and Eve, listening to his temptations, fell; and Adam, loving his wife more than God, fell also. Upon this great truth musing, the mystic has fallen into the error that Adam produced the human nature of the second Adam by much love and meditation; of which nature indeed he was the type, and ought to have been the worshipper and the devoted admirer: but to have produced it by his hope and desire, is truly more like a woman’s love-sick fancy, than a real belief of a sober mind. Out of this unsober fancy, however, hath come great mischief; for, clinging to this idea of a human nature, produced out of Adam before the Fall, she supposes that he received an inferior nature from the blessed virgin; of which two the superior communicated with God continually, and the latter communicated with sinful men, of which it was the exact counterpart. She seems to have held orthodox doctrines upon the godhead of Christ, but confused herself in speaking of his manhood so erroneously. The Adamic nature, the nature before the Fall, (for
therein she agreed with many of our Evangelicals, who are the only Bourignians that I can find in the world at present,) she conceives had continual communion with the Divine nature, by which being strengthened, it bore sway over the fallen nature, which lay ever absorbed in its carnality. This was truly to maintain a part of Christ to be unholy; it is exactly what they would have men to believe that we maintain: but they may not, for we maintain the clean contrary, that every part of Christ was, in all its actings, Most Holy, yea and in all its thoughts, yea and in all its inclinations; and this not through any operation of its own, but through the operation of the Holy Ghost, which the Father gave to Him without measure, and with which he the Son, by his wisdom, and might, and holiness, ever prevailed to defeat the innate propensities of the fallen creature. We deny that the mere taking of our nature changed it in any thing; we deny that the bearing of it about with him changed it in any thing; we deny that it was changed before the resurrection: and we maintain withal, that it never was permitted to think an evil thought, nor to will an evil wish, nor to do an evil act; that it was entirely and wholly regenerate of the Holy Ghost, and therefore holy, in that sense in which alone the word holy is used in Scripture of the creature after the Fall.
On the other hand, Antoinette Bourignon and her apologist seem to have held, that there was in his human nature an unsubdued part, which they call his inferior will, which was not so closely connected with the Divinity, not so mightily supported of it, as was another part, which they term his superior will. This schism in his human nature evidently comes out of the doctrine contained in the extract given above, that he had two human natures, one derived from Adam before he fell, the other derived from the virgin; against which we have argued at large in many places of our work on the Incarnation, and in this tract also. Take the following extracts from her work, as quoted by her apologist, as an
example: - “That Jesus Christ was united always to his heavenly Father, in his superior part, is most true. I have written that he never contracted sin, though he contracted all the maledictions of sin, after he clothed himself with our mortality. But he, resolving to become a mortal man, subjected himself to all the miseries both of body and mind which sin had brought into human nature: and according to this he felt in his natural will a rebellion to the will of god in sentiment, but never in consent, and resisted this rebellion which he felt in his corruption, saying, I came not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. Now, if his own natural will had been so inseparably united to the will of his Father, to what purpose would he have distinguished these two wills, since they were but one. For he gives us sufficiently to understand thereby that his own will was evil, since he would not follow it…. could he say in truth that he was forsaken by his Father, if he had not found in his inferior part, the separation of his will from that of God; he could not believe, nor say that he was forsaken of his eternal Father, since his superior part was never divided from him one moment…. And of necessity, this Divinity of Jesus Christ behoved to be in some way separated from his humanity, for to work our redemption: for, abiding in this perfect union with the Divinity, he could not satisfy for man, since man himself owes this satisfaction to the Divinity…. The will of Jesus Christ himself, his Apostles, and all person living in the world, even though they were regenerated in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, have all of them their natural evil wills,” &c. _ Apology, pp. 139-142.
Now, what less can we say of these words, but that which the General Assembly hath said, that they are fraught with great errors. They aim at great truths, but miss the right and just expression of them. I utterly reject the notion of a superior and inferior part of Christ's nature; the one joined to the Divinity by one bond, and the other by an inferior bond. I utterly reject the notion that there
was any part of Christ's nature unholy. It was all holy by sanctification of the Spirit, and without that sanctification it never existed in him. He was conscious to the native and natural unholiness, alienation, and, rebellion of it, and in that consciousness entered on the perilous work of redeeming and reclaiming it. This was his humiliation, this was his incarnation, this was his labour, this was his triumph; and as his reward, he received that very nature transformed by resurrection-power into that glory in which it now abideth, and shall ever abide, the foundation stone, the basis of an immortal, undefiled, and incorruptible creation. And so much have I to say with respect to the testimony of the church upon this great subject.
III.We now come to the head of objections.
The only objections to this doctrine which I can give a form to are these: - first, And to what then served the miraculous conception of Christ? the second, How could he render an atonement for others, if so be that his flesh was sinful? the third, And how are we saved by his death and suffering? - The first of these, And to what then served the miraculous conception? I shall now explain. Conception by natural means is that which declares another human person to be brought into existence. We are persons composed of a soul immortal and a body mortal, from the instant of our conception by natural means; and had Christ been conceived by natural means, he must have been a human person: and then we should have had, not two natures in Christ, but two persons; which is the Nestorian heresy, that hath proved so fatal to the Greek Church. - I do not remember to have seen this matter much opened in the writings of the moderns; and therefore, as it is of the utmost importance, I think it good to open it a little. All Adam’s posterity come into being in his likeness, body and soul; having community with him in all respects of a sinful fallen substance, visible and invisible. Our personality therein I regard as that part which God hath
in our generation ; which is his ordinance to plant a new person, another individual creature, In that nature and in that world which bath fallen into sin. Every person hath a predestinative existence in the purpose of God ; and in the fulness of time God brings him into being, in that very condition into which Adam was brought by the Fall. He gives the ordinance into the hands of his creatures, and that ordinance is ordinary generation; but the personality is his own gift; and of the responsible person he will require an account of his occupation. When, therefore, by conception he hath blessed his own. appointed ordinance, then, from that instant of time, a human person, destined to eternal glory or to eternal misery, according to the account which it giveth of its actings, is constituted by God. Ordinary conception, therefore, I say, is the method and act by which God manifests the existence of a responsible person. If Christ, therefore, had come by ordinary generation, he must have been concluded a human person. Nothing could have prevented such a conclusion ; and the union herewith or the person of the Son of God would not have destroyed the personality of the man : the two must have remained two persons, as distinct and separate as Adam was distinct and separate from the person of the Son of God, or from the persons of any of his posterity : and there would have been no personal union between God and man in Christ, but merely a fraternal consociation, which might have fitted the man to be a prophet or a sage, but could never have made him a sacrifice or propitiation, either for his own sin or for the sin of any other. This is the fatal conclusion to which the doctrine of two persons in Christ brings the church ; destroying incarnation, reconciliation, atonement, and every thing else proper and peculiar to the Christian faith. Now, to avoid the very supposition of human personality, ordinary conception, that standing, unbroken, inviolable sign of a personality communicated, was in the case of Christ wholly avoided, dispensed with, and negatived. And whoso saith that
he was a human person, speaketh without the shadow of reason, speaketh against all reason, against all experience, against God’s ordinance for mankind, that a human person shall not be constituted otherwise than by ordinary conception. If any one ask, And why should a responsible personality depend upon ordinary conception? I answer, Because God willeth it to be so. And if it be further asked, And what is the end or purpose of such Divine ordination? I answer, That every human person might be brought into the world under those same conditions of sin and mortality under which Adam had brought himself by the Fall; and, being thus brought into being under the conditions of sin and mortality, might all thereby honour, not themselves, nor the creatures from whom they descend, but the Redeemer promised by God to redeem and to sustain the creation, when through its infirmity and wickedness, in itself engendered, it should have fallen into sin and misery. Every human person, therefore, is connected with Adam by generation, to signify his complete participation in the guilt and in the misery of Adam’s estate: so that, of every child in the womb conceived, as of every child that sees the light, and of every man that arrives at mature estate, and of all persons from Adam descended, it might be the only hope of salvation from sin, of resurrection from death, of immortality and blessedness, that God is gracious to the sinful; which grace he hath exhibited unto all in the hope of his Son’s coming into the world as a Redeemer.
From this cometh the second great end served by the miraculous conception - to wit, That Christ might be excepted from that dependence upon a Redeemer and a Saviour, and an Intercessor, into the necessity of which all by ordinary generation descended are conceived and born. Let me open this also a little, and guard it from abuse. It is the pleasure of God that every human person should come into being under those same conditions of sin and misery into which Adam was brought by the Fall. God would have the experiment made upon Adam, to serve and
satisfy for all persons in Adam’s likeness formed. Therefore Adam was placed in the best condition possible for standing, that there might remain no doubt upon the mind of all persons in his likeness created, that, had they in his place stood, they would in like wise have fallen. God would not give every creature the anguish of tasting and drinking such a cup as fell to Adam’s share; but, having justified himself, his own holiness, his own goodness, in Adam’s person, he did mercifully - I say, most mercifully - bring the rest of the family into being under the condition of soul, body, and estate, under which Adam was placed after Adam fell. And with the hope of revenge upon the adversary, and of redemption from the adversary’s hold, with which God did instantly address the faith of Adam, he doth address the faith of all Adam’s children whatsoever; who, as they are concluded with Adam in his fall, so are they also concluded with Adam in his promise of redemption. And to this common hope of Adamhood, which to all was preached when it was preached to Adam in the garden, is added a personal seal to every believer, and to the child of every believer, in the sacrament of Baptism, which sealeth upon the person what before had been preached to the race. Be it so, the, that all mankind are thus introduced into being dependent for their salvation and immortality upon another than themselves; then the question is, What is the sign of such dependence? what is the sign of being concluded under such guilt? what is the sign of being beholden to such purgation? I answer, That sigh is not, That we should have actually sinned, for the babe who is baptized into it hath not actually sinned; nor is that sign The having been born; but it is The having been conceived by ordinary generation. This is the link which connecteth us all with Adam; this is the symbol of our being one: we are thereby one flesh outwardly and manifestly; and this oneness of flesh is with God the outward and visible sign, to teach us that we are one in guilt, in misery, in damnation, and do need, all of us, unborn and born, the salvation and justification of the promised Seed of the woman. I do not
say that conception by natural means is the cause of our original guiltiness in God’s sight: I merely say, that it is the sign and seal of God’s will and purpose - good will and gracious purpose - that we should be so concluded sinful and helpless in ourselves, to the end we might be introduced into the knowledge of his grace, and hope of his salvation, as it is in Jesus Christ. But, as to a cause for the constitution of man’s being, or the constitution of any creature’s being, I hold that cause to be no where save in the good pleasure of God himself: but to us he doth reveal what is the goodness of that pleasure by various signs and symbols, which are constructed so as to hit the apprehension and comfort the heart of the children of men. And being so that God did intend ordinary generation, ordinary conception, and birth, to be the sign of the constitution of persons under a guilty nature; he did from the beginning, and especially under the law, evermore stigmatize with severe exactions every thing connected, either voluntary or involuntary, with these actings of his creatures. Hence the offerings upon the purification of mothers, and upon many other occasions connected with propagation of our kind, which it is not necessary nor convenient to particularize; all proving, that these were the signs of a guilt continued and communicated from parent to child, not in the way of cause and effect, but in the way of God’s ordinance, according to the pleasure of his own will. The same great truth, so great indeed as to be the key of man’s being, and therefore the key of redemption also, is taught without the law by nature, in this, that conception and birth are always with pain and anguish. Now pain and anguish, and sorrow of every kind, are the standing monuments and eternal signs of a sinful and fallen creature; and seeing that these signs do invariably attend conception and birth of children, it is made manifest, to every one that reflects, that therein lies shrouded up and contained the mystery of the communication of a guilty nature; which again, as we have said, is signified to the individual, as soon as he is born, by the act of baptism; which, whatever more
it signifies, bears this at least upon its forehead, that it is a washing away of guilt which cannot have been contracted by act, and must therefore be involved in the constitution of the being. Let this suffice to shew that the sign of a person constituted guilty and infirm in itself, innocent and guiltless only in another - the sign, I say, of such a constitution as we are all under - is ordinary generation and ordinary conception. Then straightway, by the extraordinary generation and extraordinary conception of Christ, this, all this, was avoided, and it was not declared that he was dependent for his holiness and his stability upon another: yea, he was declared to be that Seed of woman upon whom the others were all constituted dependent for righteousness and for strength. Thus did the miraculous conception not only declare him not to be a human person, but it likewise declared him not to have imputation of guilt, or a constitution of dependence upon the work of another, not needing an atonement, not needing a Redeemer.
The miraculous conception depriveth him of human personality, and it also depriveth him of original sin and guilt needing to be atoned for by another; but it doth not deprive him of the substance of sinful flesh and blood - that is, flesh and blood the same with the flesh and blood of the brethren: “Forasmuch as the brethren were partakers of flesh and blood, he himself also took part of the same.” These misguided and misguiding men would have it that his flesh and blood underwent a substantial change in the act of conception; wherefore it is not to be called sinful, but sinless: and in support of this error they quote these words of the angel; “The Holy Thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God:” and fain would they have us to believe that this, called The Holy Thing, is his flesh, and not the holy child. And grant them their wish, and what would be expressed? ‘The holy flesh shall be called the Son of God.’ The thing called the Holy is the same as that called the Son of God; and therefore it is not his flesh, but his whole being, his whole
person, consisting of both natures, human and Divine. Now I have already shewn that there is here no human personality which could be chargeable with the guilt of Adam, and there is no such charge lying against him: he is therefore born free from the imputation of sin, truly The Holy Thing. If, then, there be no original guilt, is there any actual sin? I answer, No; he was without spot, and blameless; and besides these two, original and actual sin, I know no other forms of guilt. And what an ignorance it is then, not to say wicked slander and abominable calumny, in those hordes of sectaries and schismatics, who stick at nothing which may discredit a churchman, to open their throat and tell the world the lie, that we make Christ a sinner! He was the Holy thing born, and he was presented without spot unto God in death upon the cross. It doth not make him a sinner that he took sinful flesh, any more than that he came into a sinful world, and departed into death. I say he took sinful flesh, and yet was sinless; and , moreover, I say that he died, and yet was sinless. If any man say that this is a mere matter of words, I tell him that he hath yet to learn the alphabet of his theology.
I have shewn that God doth teach us by the manner of his son’s generation that he was not a human person, not a person implicated with Adam’s transgression in any way; not one of those multitudinous persons whom it pleased God to bring into being cast in sinful Adam’s mould with sinful Adam’s die. He was a person of another Family; a Son of another Father. Who, the, shall charge him with sin; coming, as he came, from the fountain-head of Divinity, where he had a personal subsistence in the light of holiness for ever and ever? He had no sin when he came into our substance to atone for, and he gat none while he was in the flesh: whence then should he have it? Is it sin for God to come in the person of the Son into what estate he pleaseth? Is it sin for him to overcome all sin in that estate? What would they have more to make him sinless, than that when he
came he should have no sin, and that when he dwelt among us he should overcome all sin? If they turn again and say, But, though he was not personally a sinner, he made atonement for that nature which he took; I answer, first, Thou saidst not personally a sinner, as if there was some way by which personal sin could be otherwise than in a person. Dost thou make the brute a sinner, or the earth, though both be in a state of sin? And if to be a sinner be the condition of a person, how speakest thou of his making atonement for his nature? Thou blunderest in making his nature a person. It is an old blunder: it is the heresy of Nestorius, with which thou art taking thyself up. Remember that he is one person in two natures; and that this person was the Son of God before he became men, and afterwards the conqueror of sin; and then blunder no longer about his making atonement for the nature. If thy question, being rendered into orthodox language, be, Did he redeem the human will from the bondage of a nature which drew it away from God, and was of itself rebellious against God? I answer thee, Yea, verily; this was what he did; and this was the whole of what he did in flesh. The application of this work to others is another question, which is not now before us. I know not which way to turn myself, in order to convince these gainsayers. They set up nothing to contend against. There is nothing positive about their position; they are merely negative: and so one knows not what more to say or do. than repeat the proposition and the proof, and stand upon it. They are kept from enunciating the old heresies by the dogmatism of ignorance: in principle, all the old heresies are involved in what they write. Branding the truth with the name of heresy, they dare not but seem to be orthodox, and so they quote the Shorter Catechism, “Born of the Virgin Mary, yet without sin:” and they give men to wit, that we say he was born with sin. I have sufficiently rebutted this charge, by shewing the exact bearing of the miraculous conception.
2. Another objection which is now taken against the doctrine of Christ's true humanity is, “How could he offer an atonement for sin, who himself took that which needed to be atoned for,” if so be, as we say, he took sinful flesh? This objection requires that we should first consider what is the meaning of atonement. If it be, as the English word plainly imports, the condition of being at one with God; then is there no such atonement wrought, or procured, or exhibited as done in Christ, unless he did join in personal union and harmony and oneness, for ever, the two several and separated and discordant things; namely, the nature of God, and the nature of the apostate sinful creature. If his human nature differed, by however little, from ours, in its alienation and guiltiness, then the work of reducing it into eternal harmony with God hath no bearing whatever upon our nature, with which it is not the same. If his human will did not withstand the same temptations and withdrawments from God which our will doth, the, in bringing his human will into oneness with the Divine will, he did not redeem our will from its bondages, but only from those which it pleased the Father he should lie under. And as to his having an unfallen nature to bring into oneness or reconciliation, the thing is nonsensical; for an unfallen nature, a will in the state of creation, is at no variance nor enmity with God, but his own good and peasant workmanship. This, which is the natural idea of atonement, or reconciliation, hath not only no reality, but even not so much as a meaning, upon any other supposition than that Christ took our fallen nature, with all its natural and inherent propensities; and overcame these, and brought it into union with Godhead, and hath fixed it there for ever by the resurrection. This is the view of atonement, or reconciliation, which in my book on the Incarnation I have deduced rather as a corollary from the doctrine of the Incarnation, than handled as a distinct subject. It is true, that this view of atonement looks at the thing accomplished, and
not the means by which it was accomplished; for the word “atonement” expresses the state attained, not the transition to that state: and the same of the word “reconciliation.” But of the price, or sacrifice, we shall speak by and bye.
Again: if by atonement they understand redemption, which is the word commonly used in Scripture (for atonement, or reconciliation, is of very rare occurrence), then, as the word means purchase from bondage, three subjects are involved in it: first, Who is the captive? secondly, What is the bondage? and, thirdly, How is the redemption effected? The answer to the first of these questions is, The will of man is the bondsman: to the second, The bondage is the oppression of the devil, the world, and the flesh; and the redemption consisteth in delivering the human will out of this bondage. And these things not being denied, the answer to the third question is very sort and simple: The Person of the Word did take a human will under those very bondages into union with himself; and, acting therein, did deliver it completely out of all those oppressions of the devil, the world, and the flesh. He came into the captivity, that he might lead the captivity captive. Now, as there is no question with respect to the bondsman and the bondage, I wonder there should be any with respect to the method of the redemption. The adversaries of the truth agree with us, that the will of man hath to be redeemed out of the bondage of the devil, world, and flesh; and they agree that to effect this the Son of God took a human will; but they deny that this will was a bond-will. And what need, then, had it of redemption? And how is Christ's work in flesh a redemption of our will, if so be his will was not lying under our bondage? Or how is it a redemption at all? Or how can incarnation be put forth and used as the ground of our redemption? Whatever use God may make of Christ's work, it is manifest that this work is no work of redemption, if the will he took was not a will in bondage. There is no aptitude in it for redemption of others, or for redemption
at all. It is mere arbitrary connection, if it bring redemption to us; for redemption in itself hath it none. And if it is to be an arbitrary work of God’s will, why does the son make a fashion of becoming Redeemer? why not do it out of sight altogether, and merely let us know that it has been done? And truly this seems to me nine-tenths of the theology which is current, at least in my beloved Scotland: “God says he is reconciled, and that it is by his son: therefore take it on his word, and inquire no further about it.” I say that this is mere verbalism; it is no theology. Theology is not the knowledge of the word, but of GOD: or if it be of the Word, it is of THE WORD MADE FLESH. They speak now-a-days as if truth were still merely in a book, and not realized in a Person. Such teachers should have lived under the Old Testament, when God’s truth stood only in word; not under the New Testament, when it standeth in the person of Christ, in that Word made flesh. I must be taught God, therefore, in flesh; otherwise I can know nothing of the freedom of the New-Testament Christianity, about which they talk so much, and think so little.
It only remains that we speak of the atonement with relation to the price, the ransom, or sacrifice, by which it was purchased. And this I say, with all orthodox divines, standeth in the death of the Son of God: by which I believe that sin was abolished and an everlasting righteousness brought in; as it is written: “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.” (Heb. x.) This act of dying, and in death offering a spotless body, I believe to be the great and principal act of Christ's work in the flesh; as it is written, “Therefore the Father loveth me because I give my life for the sheep.” I believe that out of this death cometh the life of all who shall for ever live; and I obtrude these points of faith as it may seem out of place in our argument, on purpose to disabuse honest-hearted people, who may have been led astray by the wicked surmises of evil tongues, that I lean to Socinian views
on the subject of the atonement. Malicious men! wicked railers! when will ye learn charity and love? - Seeing, then, we be agreed together that by the death of the clean and innocent Lamb of God, atonement or redemption is to be effected, the inquiry ariseth, How is this death to be attained unto? We answer, By his coming in that nature which sinned, and which for sinning was accursed to death. Death being the proper penalty of sin, the sign of God’s holiness and justice upon a sinning man, is not to be reached or come at, by any person, otherwise than through the way of sin. If a sinless person could die, then death would not be the sign of God’s hatred of sin; for in that case it would without sin be inflicted. Now, that Christ is a sinless person we all admit, and how then could he reach death? He could not reach it by coming in a sinless and unfallen nature, such as Adam’s: for such a nature, not having sinned, could not die, without making death void as the great sign of God’s holiness. To reach death, there is no other way but by coming in the nature of a sinful creature; in that nature which, having sinned, did underlie the curse of death. If with his holy person he inform this nature, he may die; nay, he must die: for when human nature was sentenced in the person of Adam to death, it was all sentenced, every particle of it whatever; and the death of it is the grand demonstration of God’s holy hatred and final justice against sin. And therefore, agreeing that death of the clean and innocent Lamb of God is the means unto our redemption or atonement, I say it could not otherwise be reached but through his taking humanity, fallen, sinful, and under the sentence of death.
This is the argument of all divines, and of all confessions and creeds whatsoever, for the necessity of Christ’s being, as to his total and complete manhood, of the substance of his mother; and it is the reason for which the church hath ever rejected with abhorrence the heretical tenet that he was not mortal, and his flesh not corruptible. But because I do
find, I must confess to my horror, that a Doctor in Divinity in my own church, and one of whose orthodoxy and learning I thought better, hath countenanced, yea, and I may say avowed, that tenet of ancient heretics, I think it good to make a remark upon the only passage of Scripture which seems to give it support, and which from other quarters I hear quoted in its favour. It is John x. 17, 18: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” This was spoken to shew the reason of his Father’s love to him: and the reason is, that to his Father’s commandment he was obedient to the giving up of his life. And to shew that it was a pure act of doing his Father’s will, he declareth that no one could take it away from him. Does this mean that he was not capable of dying? that his flesh could not be wounded to death? that no weapon could slay it? Why then did he hide himself from the people of Nazareth? why say, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death?” why even speak of his being put to death? why the Apostles accuse the Jews of slaying him? and a thousand other contradictory things. The meaning of the words, “No one taketh it from me,” will be best explained by another passage (Matt. xxvi. 53, 54): “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures by fulfilled, that thus it must be?” This lets us into a mystery of our Lord’s life, that he was in poverty and want and desertion and oppression, not through defect of power, which even as a man he had over all things through the perfectness of his faith; but that he preferred to be so, because in the Scriptures the Father had written it as his will that he should be so. This, which was true in all things - for surely he that could command the elements to serve others could have commanded
them to serve himself - was true also of the giving up of his life: of which he saith, “I have power (liberty) to lay it down, and power to take it up again.” This, again, will receive its explanation from another passage of Scripture (John v. 26): “For, as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” This shews us whence he derived that power of having life in himself, eve from the Father. And that his life was supported from the same fountain, take this testimony (John vi. 57): “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” These two passages teach me that the power of holding his life in his own hands, which Christ speaketh of in the passage in question, is one given to him in virtue of his perfect faith; just as in virtue of our faith we derive from him the gift of everlasting life. Take this passage, in the same discourse, where it is as strongly affirmed of a believer (John viii. 51): “Verily, verily I say unto you, I f a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” So also xi. 26: “And whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never die.” See also John v. 24, and various other passages. Now what do these passages signify? Not, surely, that the believer is immortal; nor yet that he hath power against natural death; but that his faith implanteth in him a new life, over which death hath no power, though it retain its power of dissolving soul and body: which dissolution, also, shall be undergone by believers to prove death’s weakness, and to give them the victory over death, in that day of the first resurrection, when death shall be swallowed up in victory. For, in the parallel passages of the vi th of John, it is three times said, in these words, or words equivalent: “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (verses 39, 40, 44). In life, therefore, the believer hath an everlasting life - that is, a life indestructible by death - and yet he dies: but, being dead, his body still reposeth in
Christ, and shall in due time live also. Its lying in the grave vindicates God’s holiness: its rising again vindicates his grace, mercy, love, and power. These are illustrations of this manner of speaking. But the true meaning of our Lord, when he saith “I have liberty to lay down my life, and liberty to take it up again,” is, that he, having faith in the promises made to him by God, knew that he would be enabled to lay down his life at the time God required it of him - that is, “when all things were accomplished” (John xix. 28); - and that when he had done so, he would have liberty to take it up again by the resurrection. We have seen from the passage above, that he could have prevented his life from being taken if he had pleased; just as he could have made the stones of the wilderness bread if he had pleased; but how then would the Scriptures have been fulfilled? how would he fulfil the revealed will of his Father? He had a baptism to be baptized with: it was written for him, “It pleased the Father to bruise him and to put him to grief:” it pleased the Father to “make his soul an offering for sin:” he had received the commandment from his Father, and therefore he did it; not under compulsion, but under obedience. This is the plain, straight-forward meaning of the passage. Now, if I were to argue upon it, I would say, That because he was in fallen humanity, and liable to death, he could thus speak: and otherwise he could not have spoken it. For otherwise than in obedience to the commandment of God, which imposed death on fallen manhood, could he not have died. The commandment of his Father to die, was spoken in paradise upon Adam, and upon all Adam’s seed; and to the obedience thereof Christ willingly submitted himself when he took flesh; and so he found power to lay down his life. But where, I ask, is the commandment of God that a person in unfallen humanity should die? It existeth not in the written word of God; but the contrary of it existeth implicitly, in making disobedience the condition unto death. I
have myself expressed the notion, that if a man could keep the law perfectly he would not die; and that on this account Christ might have claimed exemption from death. I begin to doubt the premises, and am at a loss for the proof. We die not for any sin of our own, but for Adam’s sin; else why do children die? And thus doth this passage not only admit an easy explanation, but recoileth upon the head of the adversaries of the truth.
But how, it may be said, is this an atonement for me? It seems to be no more than a bearing of the infirmities of his own human nature; it seems to be no more than a righteousness wrought in his own human nature, for it. I answer, There is but one human nature: it is not thine, it is not mine, it is not his; it is the common unity of our being. Bare he the sins of human nature? he bare the sins of all men. Bare he the infirmities of human nature? he bare the infirmities of all men. Overcame he the enemies of human nature, sin, death, and the devil? he overcame the enemies of all men. Took he them captive? they are at large no more; they are impotent, they are as nothing, and ought so to be preached of. He hath abolished death; he hath taken away sin; “He hath judged the prince of this world.” Whether this be new doctrine or not, I appeal to the Epistles of Paul; whether it be new in the Reformed church, I appeal to the writings of Martin Luther.
I know how far wide of the mark these views of Christ's act in the flesh will be viewed by those who are working with the stock-jobbing theology of the religious world, - that God wanted punishment, and an infinite amount of it; which Christ gave for so many; and so he is satisfied, and they escape from his anger, which flames as hot as ever against all beyond this pale. And this you call preaching the free grace of God, the justice of God, the work of Christ, the doctrine of election, atonement, &c.! But I will not be tempted into this field at present. Yet one word with respect to suffering. The atonement, upon this popular scheme, is made to consist
in suffering; and the amount of suffering is cried up to infinity. Now I utterly deny that any thing suffered but the human nature of Christ; and that could only suffer according to the measure of a man: more, no doubt, than unholy men like us suffer, because He was perfectly holy, and so his soul felt the smart of every pang manifold of what we do; but still it was only according to the measure of a holy man. If more, whence came it? from the Divine nature? But this is contrary to all sound doctrine, that the Godhead should be capable of passions. Well, let these preachers - for I will not call them divines or theologians - broker-like, cry up their article, it will not do: it is but the sufferings of a perfectly holy man, treated by God and by men as if he were a transgressor. And, being hindered and hampered here, they have not another refuge to betake themselves to; for of atonement they have no other notion but stripe for stripe, suffering for suffering. There is indeed an infinite meritoriousness in every act of Christ, if you knew how to look at it; but it does not consist in the act itself, which hath the finite limitations of a man’s act, but in the coming out of the infinite plenitude and blessedness of the Godhead to do that act. Here is the infinite meritoriousness of his actings, in taking to himself a body, and in that body for ever acting. And in whose sight is it meritorious? In the sight of God. And how so? Not to make him placable, as you say, for he is Love already, and always hath been; not to drain off his rage, as you represent it, for he is merciful already. How then? In order to shew that love, that grace, that mercy; how far it can condescend, even to sinners like us. But if Christ came not verily into the condition of the sinner, but only supposititiously and fictitiously, there is no love, there is no grace, there is no mercy shewn to our condition of sinners, but only to that condition he came into.
In what I say, think not that I undervalue the sufferings of Christ: on the other hand, I stand up for their true dimensions, when I insist that he was
brought into the bounds of a fallen man’s affection; linked to the world in bonds as close and tender as those in which we are linked to it; open at every pore and drawn by every heart-string of our much beset and besieged nature; “a worm, and no man;” so despised and mocked and trodden on, as never man was; reproached of men; heart-broken with their reproachers; craving for comforters, and finding none; feeling the wound of betrayed friendship and violated hospitality; and destined to be wounded to the quick in this and in every other point. His sufferings I do not under-estimate. I believe that “no sorrow was ever like to his sorrow;” that “he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Yea, more, I believe that his perfect holiness did not prevent him one jot from being treated as the greatest sinner by his Father: the Father hid his countenance from him; forsook him, stood afar off, and heard him not (Psal. xxii.); bruised him, and put him to grief. All that man could suffer in body and soul buy natural occasions, he suffered: all that man can suffer by being deserted of God, he suffered. He knew not remorse; but what abjectness remorse brings, he knew: he knew not sin; but what darkening sin brings on, he know. There is not a sinner, be he who he may, that ever was brought into deep waters, but Christ was brought into deeper: there never was a saint who hath known the sweetness of God’s bosom, the light of his countenance, and afterwards, from whatever cause, been put afar off from God, but Christ was put away further. Wherefore? for any sin he had done? Verily, verily, No. Because the Father loved to see his Son suffer, and was satisfied therewith? Oh! verily No. Why then? Because the Father would prove how far down the grace of God can go: that there is not an abject, miserable wretch whose condition it will not reach down unto; whose very being it will not embrace; whom he loveth not; whom he doth not very greatly love; so very much love, that Godhead in the person of the Son consented to prove the fellowship of his evil case,
and the Father to raise him thus abased unto the right hand of the Majesty on high. When Christ took human nature he took it fallen, with all its ills, with all its griefs, with all its darkness, with all its wretchedness, with all its punishments; the complete orb of its action and its passion took he, all-inclusive, all-continent; of free-will, asking no favour, preferring the worst, that to the worst his Father’s grace and love might be manifested: all this he did, and in all this consisteth his humiliation and his suffering.
But a very poor wit have they, and a most barbarous idea of God, who will represent this sublime, stupendous action of Godhead as taking place in order to appease the wrath of Godhead, which verily takes place to manifest the love and grace and mercy of Godhead. Why, what mean they? It is God who doth the thing. And why doth he it, but because it is godly so to do? Love and grace are in him; of his essence, of his ancient, eternal essence, which is unchangeable. If they are of him and in him now, they have been of him and in him for ever. And out of the fountain of his love cometh that stream, hiding its head in darkness for a while, that it may wash the very foundations of the base world, and appear in light and glory unpolluted, the life, the beauty of this redeemed world. But what a system of theology is that which representeth God as in himself implacable to the sinner, until his son, by bearing the sinner’s strokes, doth draw off the revenge of God? Then, God is changed in his being with respect to a few; but with respect to the many, his implacable nature worketh on in its natural course. Such a God cannot be the object of love; and upon such a system the object of love he never is. And all this they represent as needful for the glory of his holiness and justice! I ask, whether, to illustrate the holiness and justice of a judge, it be necessary that he hate the culprit at the bar, and therefore punish him; or whether it is not more illustrated if it be known that he loves him, and yet punishes him; if it is not most
of all illustrated when the culprit is his own son, whom nature teaches he must love? So God, in the first place, by the death of Christ for all men, gives to all men, to all angels, and every intelligent creature, to know how much he loves mankind, and every one of the family. And then indeed the hatefulness of sin is shewn out tremendously, the nature of holiness and justice most awfully, when, notwithstanding this love, he judgeth them to eternal wrath for the guilt of their sins. From this basis of universal love election also takes its glorious elevation: for now indeed, when all have been shewn to be eligible, by all being shewn to be beloved, yet all justly worthy of condemnation, the choice truly appeareth of whom he pleaseth to choose; and God’s free will, unhampered by creation, and his glory to save, are also illustrated by the same act of election.
In whatever light these remarks may appear to others, to myself they have brought this solid conviction. That while the present views of atonement continue to be doated on by the church, it is vain to attempt to carry any point of sound doctrine. Atonement and redemption are the names for the bearing of Christ's work upon the sinner; and have no respect to its bearing upon the Godhead, nor upon the Christ, the God-man: and on that account, instead of occupying the first and highest place in theology, they should occupy the third only; being preceded by the glory of God, and the glory of Christ. But, from having come to occupy the first, the only place in theology, God and Christ are postponed to my own person safety; and a system of sanctified selfishness is the result. This began to appear in the Church of Scotland so early as the beginning of the last century, and was partly the ground of the first process against Professor Simpson, and chiefly of the process against Professor Campbell: and in both cases it was censured by the General Assembly of the Church; but now this selfish view of religion, as it concerns my personal safety, having become triumphant over the glory of
God and the glory of Christ, men’s minds are blinded to the importance of every question which hath respect to the actings of the Trinity, to the work of Christ, to the constitution and ordinances of the church, which is the body of Christ; and as might be expected from putting the last first, and making the conclusion stand both for the premises and the demonstration, that very selfish view of religion is supported upon errors and fictions, of which they should be ashamed. And so this great question, which we have been handling, is looked upon by them as unnecessary, as an idle speculation, or a gross indecency. It is this pure ignorance and entire emptiness of all principles which make so many fall into the snare of the devil; from which, O God! bless this endeavour to set them free.
Thus have I shewn, that, looking at atonement how you please, it not only doth not fall, but standeth, in the fact that Christ took human nature in the fallen state. The particular views which we hold with respect to the part which God the Father hath in the atonement, and the extent of the atonement made, come not at present into question. I differ very widely indeed from views held by many, otherwise orthodox men, upon these subjects; and may, perhaps, in another way, set forth my own views upon it; but it is entirely a different question from this which we now handle - namely, the consistency, nay, the necessity, of Christ's being in fallen flesh, in order to give that atonement, which we all agree consisteth in his dying, and in death offering a body and a soul without stain and without a spot.
3.There is a third objection, which is generally put in this form: And wherein then lay the great meritoriousness of Christ's sufferings? To which question, the answer generally given is, That they procured God’s favour, pacified him, and made him placable. This goes exactly upon the notion of the heathen, that God wanteth and will have suffering, wanteth and will have compensation, standeth to his point, and will not abate one iota of suffering to any one. And as
he had a mind to save so many, Christ came and bore the sufferings which they ought to have borne: every jot of it, but not one jot more; for if he had borne one jot more, the Father would have been unjust, and if he had borne one jot less, the Father would have abated of his sternest rectitude. And therefore it is they have such an abhorrence of the idea, that Christ died for all, that he was a propitiation for all, and bore the sin of the world. Such is the system of theology, or rather the one false view of a great truth, which hath swallowed up all theology, and upon which are constructed the greater part of the sermons with which the Evangelical part of the church are nourished, or rather poisoned. Of all errors, an error concerning the nature of God is the most fatal; and such an error is involved in these representations, which set forth only one attribute of his being; namely, his holy severity against, and hatred of sin; and wholly obscureth another, which is his love to his creatures, and his mercy to his sinful creatures. Moreover, it representeth God as changeable and being changed, as having a different disposition towards me after the Incarnation than before it, in prospect of the Incarnation than not in prospect of it. And then the question is, What moved him to the Incarnation? it must have been to change himself, to bring himself into another state than he was in before, which are hideous blasphemies. Yet are they the practical ideas of God, which are too often served out to the people by preaching. Surely this systematic divinity is becoming as noxious a thing as the scholastic divinity ever was. It may do very well as a convenient logical form, to speak of God being different out of Christ than he is in Christ; and for very good ends such language may be held: to teach the Deist and the Socinian, and all who deny Christ's Divinity, what they have to expect, even a consuming fire: but it is no more than the expression of an unreal and imaginary opposite to the truth: it is an accommodation to their falsehood, who are looking to a God out of Christ. We tell them what
that God they are looking to will prove. But having done this , we surely do not adopt their error into our creed, and feign to ourselves a god out of Christ, which is at once to deny the Divinity and mediation of Christ. A man may be out of Christ, and in such a case must experience destruction from the presence of the Lord, who is Christ is only seen, known, and felt: but God is never out of Christ; in Christ he dwells, and is known; and as Christ is, so is God. Christ doth not change God, but only reveal him; he shews him as he is, and ever hath been, and shall for ever be. And how appeareth God in Christ? holy and merciful; justice and mercy kissing one another, holiness and truth mutually embracing?
The meritoriousness of Christ's action and passion, of his life and death, standeth in another thing than the amount of his suffering, even in his condescension out of the Godhead to become a sufferer. This, which is a part of every act, for in every act Godhead acteth and manhood acteth, is the preciousness in God’s sight and in the sight of the creation; namely, that Godhead should love the creation so as to unite himself with it in a personal union, that Godhead should love the sinful creation so as not to despise the Virgin’s womb, the manger and the stable, the cross, and the tomb, with all the lowly sorrowful conditions which are contained between these extremes. God is not added to, God is not changed, but he is shewn in action towards the fallen miserable sinner. And because suffering and death are with God the eternal sign of the sinner’s estate, the sufferings and death of Christ are spoken of in Scripture so continually, to express God’s satisfaction with this work of his Son in condescending not to the unfallen but to the fallen, not to the sinless but sinful condition of the creature. I do from my heart pity those who are wrapped up in the poisonous garment of the popular theology, that God loveth suffering, and will have it out of some one or other without abatement. This God must be a sore and painful contemplation to them; dark and gloomy must be their thoughts of him; fear and
trembling must be their habitual moods! It is the God of the nature man, whether in ancient times worshipping Moloch or now worshipping the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The natural man is ever the same, conscious of enmity to God, and conceiving God at enmity with him; and out of his dark cruelty he constructs a god for himself. He will not be taught better; he cannot be, until the Holy spirit work in him a new mind to know, and a new heart to love, and a new man to believe upon the God of all grace and consolation, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I desire nothing less than the subversion of all such notions root and branch. with respect to the sufferings of Christ, I think the answer to the objection is contained in these paragraphs of my Fifth Lecture on the Revelation, which I here transcribe. -
‘The awful manifestation given in Christ of God’s fixed love, and of the creature’s fixed faith upon God’s unchangeable love, is the basis of all joy in suffering, of all patience in tribulation, of all victory in persecution; yea, is the basis of all righteousness whatsoever. And I cannot help both feeling and saying, that the continual presentation of Christ's sufferings, as the price of God’s love, has done a world of mischief in obscuring this truth, as well as every other. That our salvation comes out of those sufferings, is a truth never to be gainsayed. But how? I do not press the question, How? but if the ministers of the church be working upon a false answer, I will answer the question rightly, in order to disabuse the church. How then do the sufferings of Christ procure out salvation? By shewing that God’s love is not weakened by the darkness of our mind, nor the mortality of our flesh; that there is a love in God to be trusted in by human nature in its last and lowest ebbs, and in its dying perplexities, and in its dead condition, and in all its estates, from the womb unto the grave; for in all those conditions was Christ the beloved one, and in them all and under them all was he equally be-
loved. But if they say (for they have said, and they will say, and let them say, yet for all their sayings the word of the Lord is stedfast; if they say), that he was not a sinner: True; but he was treated as a sinner, as the greatest sinner, as the only sinner. “He bare our sins in his own body on the tree; he was made sin for us who knew no sin; he was made a curse for us;” and there is not one mood of despondency, and of grief, and of desperate sorrow, in which a sinner was ever found, for which the most appropriate language is not to be found in those Psalms which the Holy Ghost wrote for Jesus, and which Jesus in the days of his flesh appropriated to himself. And what is the end and meaning of Christ’s coming into all the sinless conditions of sinful man, and having laid upon him all the sins of all sinful men, save to exhibit and manifest God’s love, unchangeable and unchanged, by all these the fatal consequences of the Fall. This is one part of the answer to the question, How do the sufferings of Christ procure our salvation? They give us in God’s love the object of faith. Now observe that this comes not to those who either disbelieve Christ's true Divinity consubstantial with the Father’s, or his true humanity consubstantial with ours. Deny the first, and there is no proof of the unchanging love of God to Christ: for, to outward appearance, he is not god, but the most marred of men. It is not of sight, but of faith, to believe that all the while he is one of substance with the Father. Again: disbelieve the latter, (as some unstable and unlearned persons in these days do, God forgive them!) and the proof fails entirely. God’s love is proved only to human nature in that better form of it which Christ assumed; it has not come so low as our state, and therefore we have no ground of hope, but rather the reverse. But being both God and man in one person, the proof is complete and irrefragable, that God is love to the most abject miserable sinner who lives, and moves, and hath his being upon the face of this troublous world.
‘But, as hath been said, this is only half the answer
to the question, How do the sufferings of Christ procure our salvation? For we want not only the disclosure of the object of faith, but we also want the proof that faith can take hold, and keep hold of it, despite the devil and all his angels; and this the faith, not of a faultless man, but of an infirm and sinful man, such as all men are. Now how is this stedfastness of faith, this uplifting and upholding power of faith shewn in the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings are but the opposing force, the ocean load upon the breast of man, form beneath the depths of which he hath to be uplifted, under the load of which he hath to be enabled to walk at large and in liberty. Now the Son of God, by coming into the conditions of very sinful man, partly by taking part of sinful flesh, and partly by having guilt of sin imputed to him, did, under that ocean load, act faith upon the unchanged love and power of God, and did receive from God, in maser to his faith, strength to bear upon his shoulders and walk in majesty and grace, in glory and in power, in victory and in triumph, under the mass, the monstrous mass, of a world’s sin, of a world’s mortality, of the Father’s pronounced curse: “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” And may any single man do this? No; not as a single man: for Christ did it not as a single man but he did is in manhood united to and supported by the Son of God; and thereby did prove, that not in single manhood, but in manhood united to and supported by the Son of God, such faith is possible, such triumphs of faith are certain. Therefore we are taught that, anterior to triumphant faith, there must be union with the human nature of Christ; and so union with his might person: which truth being expressed in his own Divine language, standeth thus: “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat the flash of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” (John vi. 53-57.) Now, into the faith of this union for himself, and for his children, baptism introduceth every man; and he who believeth in the sacrament of baptism, as a seal of the New Testament, is united unto the son by being united to his human nature: and being so united, I, a human person, acting in this flesh, made one with his flesh, and having in it the same power of the Holy Spirit as was in his, do act faith even as he did, who brought himself into the very condition of a man; and by so acting faith in the unity of my flesh with his, I have in his holiness the assurance of my holiness, in his conformity to the Father the assurance of mine, in his victory over the devil the assurance of mine, in his power of faith the assurance of mine in his resurrection the assurance of mine, in his acceptance with the Father the assurance of min, in his personal glory as the son of Man, (though no in his Father’s glory, with which no creature intermeddleth,) the assurance of mine. I am crucified with him; with him I am delivered out of hell’s hands; with him I am delivered from the grave; and with him I am seated in the heavenly places, and with him I shall come again, and with him I shall reign as a king and a priest for ever. And thus it is that the sufferings of Christ procure me salvation, by giving me an object of faith in God’s love, in all extremities, and under all conditions; and by giving me the proof, that person into my conditions brought, and in my conditions subsisting, may through faith be brought out victorious in ever conflict.
‘It is necessary to observe, that Christ, though not a human person, ever acteth as a human person, under the conditions of a human person, within that defined sphere of creature being; and this is the meaning of his name, the son of Man. But while thus acting within bounds, he ceaseth not to be the Son of God. He is Son of God, in that it is he who ever consenteth
to become Son of Man; and he is son of Man, in that he hath ever consented to be so. But his actings in the Godhead who can understand, who can speak of! They have no commensurateness with human language, nor with creature intelligence. But if any one, out of this unknown and unknowable and unsearchable something would derive an argument, or in his own mind harbour a suspicion, that his consciousness in the manhood was not true manly consciousness, and his sufferings in the body true manly sufferings, and his words in the body expressions of true manly feelings, that man is using his Godhead to extinguish his manhood; that man is mingling his Godhead with his manhood, confusing and confounding them; that man is arrogating to himself both to understand and to discourse of Godhead; he is making his manhood a fiction, the Gospels an imaginary tale, and faith a foolish fancy. But if a man say, Here is a something in his Godhead, which, though unknown and inexpressible, is the source and fountain-head of every one of his actings and sufferings and triumphings in man’s estate, and this something I want for myself also, in order to my obtaining his fellowship, his fellowship of suffering, his fellowship of victory, I answer to that man, Thou hast spoken right well; it is most necessary, that of this unknown source and origin thou shouldst also partake, in what way Christ as a human person did partake of the same, and this also thou dost, through union of thy human nature, through union of thy flesh and blood with his flesh and blood, - for then hast thou sustentation from his Godhead, even as he himself had sustentation from the same. And thus art thou a human person, acting in the community of his flesh and blood, and through that fellowship having hold of his Divine nature, to strengthen and support thee, and give thee the victory, even as he was strengthened and supported, and gat the victory when out of his Godhead he ever and continually condescended into his manhood, to act there within the bounds and limits of a human person.’
THE ISSUES DEPENDING UPON THIS QUESTION.
I perceive it to be an artifice of the enemy through which he deludeth unstable souls, to represent the doctrine which we have opened out of the Scriptures, and confirmed by the authority of the church, as if it were to the effect, that Christ had the same experience in his human nature which an unregenerate man hath; or, in other words, that his human nature was as uncontrolled as ours is. This is a blasphemy, a monstrous and damnable heresy; as far from the holy truth which I have been teaching as the child of the devil is from the child of God, as hell is from heaven. This is exactly what I have lifted up my hand against in my ordination vows, when I renounced all Bourignian errors. But yet such is the falsehood of the devil and the deceivableness of man, and the dull sense of good and evil which existeth amongst even the doctors, that I hear we be libelled as Bourignians. I have already divided this matter, and set it upon its true foundation. Nevertheless, on entering upon the fourth and last head of our subject I do feel it necessary to repeat the truth of what we maintain, of what the Scriptures maintain, in opposition to this abominable insinuation. This much indeed we do hold, that the substance of his human nature, both the fleshly visible part, and the invisible reasonable part, was of the same nature with ours, as he took it and as he bore it about with him all his days: defined per se, on its own proper qualities, it was the very same with the rest of the brethren, the very substance which fell in Adam, and which hath brought all mankind into sin and misery: and why? because there was no other to take; this was that which was created, and, being created, fell into sin, and in sin continued until the Redeemer of it came. Some do say that a new substance was created, referring to that passage in Jeremiah xxxi. 22; “Behold I create a new thing upon the earth, A woman shall
compass a man;” wresting it, to signify that Christ's body was a new creation. In the sense in which the regenerate are declared to be “a new creature,” or, a sit ought to be rendered, “a new creation,” Christ is so, as being the first of the regeneration; but in no other sense whatever. If they say that God addeth in these acts of the generation of his Son or of his Son’s sons, to his original work of creation, then they go directly against the declaration of the Scriptures, that in the six days all things were created: and against all the holdings of all churches, which then conclude God’s work of creation. “The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing by the word of his power in the space of six days, and all very good.” And why, if Christ's body was an addition to creation, is it declared to the virgin to be a work of generation by the Holy Ghost: and why is there no hint of such a thing in all the Scriptures except in this passage which they so wrest? “The Son of God became man by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Ghost, and born of her, yet without sin.” No mention in the standards of our church or any church of a new creation. And what then meaneth the passage of Jeremiah? What the same words mean elsewhere: for example, Exodus xxxiv. 10; “Behold I make a covenant before all the people: I will do marvels such as have not been done (created) in all the earth.: And still more in point, Numb. xvi. 30; “But if the Lord make (create) a new thing, and the earth open her mouth,” &c. And if any one will be a t the pains to turn up Pagninus (which is now before me), or any other Hebrew lexicographer, or any Hebrew Concordance, they may find a score of instances to the same effect. What then is it that is signified, but that the Lord would do a new thing, would work a work of Providence hitherto unexampled, that a virgin should conceive a man-child? Look at the parallel prophecy of Isaiah vii. 9, and see whether there be any thing in it more
than this. It is a new act which he is to do, not a new substance which he is to create. And this passage, the only one which has an appearance even of favouring their wild hypothesis and most fearful error (for, as we shall see, it overthrows all foundations) being avoided, there is not in the whole Scriptures the shadow of a reason for their imagination, or rather fiction, that Christ's human nature was a new substance. And if it was not a new creation, then what could it be but the old substance of manhood, perfect and complete manhood, as the Council of Constantinople delivered against Apollinarius, the totality of that substance which was created, and after being created had fallen? As to the figment that it was the same substance but in an unfallen state, it is so untenable a position that I can do nothing but admire the folly of those who have given vent to such a notion. And yet it is taken up, and to my certain knowledge hath been preached in our pulpits. Oh shame! Oh sin! But this surely will not stand. There is too much decency left in the church to entertain a notion, which destroys redemption, which destroys the reality of the fall, which destroys God; fellowship with us, and in truth destroys every thing worth the preserving; as I have set forth at large in my Sermons on the Incarnation, and as appears from the extracts given above.
In its natural propensities, therefore, we indubitably hold, and to the death will maintain, and for the faith of it shall have to praise God through eternity, that Christ’s human nature, his undivided manhood, was in all respects as ours: but being anointed with the Holy Ghost, and animated by the power of the Son of God, it was ever in that state of subjection and subordination to God, in which the regenerate man ought to be, and is whenever he doeth good. His flesh and mind were under the law of the spirit always. His life was the regenerate life always and perfectly. He was the great Head of the regenerate race, the great Base of the regenerate world. He was
the great Prototype of redeemed manhood, living and acting holiness in flesh in spite of the mortality and corruption which were its proper nature. Was he conscious, then, to the motions of the flesh, and of the fleshly mind? In so far as any regenerate man, when under the operation of the Holy Ghost, is conscious of them. Yea, verily, he knew the evil law of that nature he was clothed with; he knew every point and passage of it, and at every point and passage of it he met it with the spirit, and drave it back, and put bonds upon it, and led it forth again tamed and reclaimed; a servant, of itself an unwilling servant, and will in all things a servant unto God. I hold it to be the surrender of the whole question to say, that he was not conscious of, engage with, and troubled by, every evil disposition which inhereth in the fallen manhood, which overpowereth every man that is not born of God; which overpowered not Christ, only because he was born or generated of God; the Son of God that day begotten in flesh when he was conceived of the virgin. I say, that to yield a jot of this is to yield all: I will not yield a jot of it. I will suffer the loss of all things sooner, and death itself, than suffer this doctrine to be shaken so long as I can help it. For what reasons, for what gravest reasons, I now proceed to shew.
Let it be believed concerning Christ's human nature otherwise than hath been taught above, that it was in all respects ours, both body and soul, taken and upheld by the Holy Ghost; let any creature-difference between him and us be interposed, no matter how small; let it be said that his body was not truly as ours is, and his soul not truly a reasonable soul as ours it; that as a creature of God his human nature can in any one of its properties be differenced from ours; or that it owed any of its most holy actions and passions, thoughts and purposes, to any other cause whatever than the personality of the Son, and the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: that is to say, let any one of the floating errors now abroad be held, and I will shew
the fatal consequences, the subversion of all foundations to which it leads. And this I will do with great method and exactness; forasmuch as I am not now opening the subject at large, nor yet justifying it by the voice of the church, but warning the church, and every man, of the perilous issues which rest upon this great head of doctrine. Well saith the Athanasian creed, “Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation, that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man: God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man, of the substance of his mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting: equal to the Father as touching his Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching his manhood.”
(1.) And, first, it deprives us of all knowledge of God’s inclinations and affections towards us, and defeats us of all heavenly influences whatsoever. For it is a truth acknowledged in all churches, and devoutly rested in by all believers, that Christ stands in the room of sinful men, and that God’s dealings with him shew us how he will deal with those who believe on him; that because he triumphed, we also shall triumph over sin; that because he lives, we shall live also; that as he was in the world, so are we in the world; that as he was beloved of the Father, so are we beloved; that as he is risen, so shall we be raised; that in what glory he shall come, we shall come; and in what manner he shall reign, we shall reign with him. Wherefore we are said in Scripture to be baptized into his death, to be risen with him, and with him seated in the heavenly places; we are nourished upon his flesh and blood, taken out of his flesh and of his bones; one with him, as he is one with the Father. Now I ask, How can God’s manner of dealing with Christ, in all these respects, be any evidence of his manner of dealing with us; if so be that before God would thus deal with him, he must change
him out of the condition in which we actually are into some other condition? If Christ, when he became man, did take manhood altered and specially prepared for him, and not manhood as every man hath it; then are God’s affections which were shewn forth to him, no affections shewn forth to us, but the contrary, - they are affections shewn forth to something different from us; and therefore the work done in and for Christ is no signification of any work which God intendeth to do in and for any other man, elect or not elect. And this respects not the question of God’s love only, but of his holiness also; not only of his goodness, but also of his severity; and, in truth, every feeling and disposition which he hath towards us. For if Christ from his incarnation have acquired, as a creature, some property which we have not, which was fixed in him and which he bore about with him all his days, then what he suffered and endured is no sign or measure of what we should have suffered or endured; but only of what one so conditioned ought to suffer and endure. It is not the nature offending which is thus and thus entreated, but another different and distinct from it. He is no more the representative of man to teach mankind what is god’s good will towards them. He is no more the publicus homo, the substitute standing in the stead of a race; he is no more the first begotten whose experiences are to be the experiences of all the regenerate people. The thing I argue for is, that he was the head of the regeneration; that he was a regenerate man from his mother’s womb; and that as God shewed himself to him he will shew himself to all the children of the regeneration. But if, as a creature, he was any thing more than the regenerate man; if his human nature was any thing more than sanctified by the Holy Ghost; if it was a better substance than ours, or ours in a better condition, then not only is he lost to us as the great revealer of the Father and ensample of the church, the Author and Finisher of our faith, our great Prototype, the Captain of our salvation; but, verily, it is proved that God will shew no favour, and have no dealings with us, until
we shall have been promoted into that better degree of being and estate of manhood. Fearful, awful, and most fatal are the consequences which flow from any view but that Christ as to his human nature is the Head of the regeneration; the First regenerate man. If he was more, God’s love to his elect people is not shewn in his love to his Elect One. If he be more, God’s love to them is not shewn at all. Christ's life is no manifestation at all of God in flesh, nor for flesh; at least not for us men, but for those only who are in that better condition of human nature with which he was blessed: of whom there is not one, nor hath been one, upon the earth, if, as they say he was, more as to his human nature than the perfect regenerate man.
(2.) Not only are the affections of the secret Godhead, that is, of the Father unto his creatures, hidden from us; but the act of love, which in Christ’s incarnation and death was manifested the grace of Godhead exhibited in the person of the Son, who for us men did give himself to die, is completely destroyed: for this simple reason, that if Godhead in the person of the Son did not embrace our nature, as I and all men possess it, that nature, which I and all men possess, is not yet embraced by God. It is not stooped unto; it is not lifted up; it is not redeemed; it is not regenerated; it is not raised from the dead; it is not seated on the throne of God. All this indeed has been done, but not for flesh and blood as the children partake of it, but for flesh and blood in another state. It was too vile for him to touch it; it were pollution to have anything to do with it; the thought of such a thing is wickedness; the utterance of it is blasphemy. So say the enemies of the truth, -- surely not knowing what they say. For do they not by the same words declare that we are all abandoned? -- that fallen manhood in one lump is abhorred? -- that something must be done for it before God will have any communings with it? Which not being done for me, of for any other, elect or reprobate, we are stamped and sealed all of us for contempt, for being passed by, for sure destruction? I am not reconciled in Christ with God. I see no
God in Christ reconciled to the world: but I see God reconciled to a something which is not in the world, nor indeed anything the like. God hath embraced something, but this embrace includeth not me; I am left out; I am forlorn. Woe is me! For Christ hath sealed my doom, and hath barred the gates of hope upon fallen sinful man. Whatever is wrought in Christ is wrought out of our region altogether, in another region of creature-being, which is different from this of mine. Translate me thither. Oh, who will translate me into the realm of hope? -- Will regeneration? On no! He is more than a regenerated man. Will redemption? No: for redemption is below regeneration. What then? In this life at least there is no hope, neither to regenerate nor to unregenerate, revealed in Christ. Will there be in the next? I cannot tell. It all depends on that incalculable and unknown something which there is between his nature and ours; so very great, that to suppose them like to one another is blasphemy. Then after the manner which they call blasphemy worship I the God of my fathers. Such is the darkness in respect to God and to Christ, which this most fearful error introduceth into the hearts of all who really believe it.
The proper part and prerogative of the Father in the work of redemption, is to exhibit the affections or dispositions which are in Godhead towards a fallen creature, that communion of holiness and love, of justice and mercy, which existeth in him, which is his being in respect to mankind in their low and lost estate. But he must have a person towards whom to manifest the ocean-fulness of his being, and this person he found in his own God-head – the person of his own Son; one who would not fail under the severity of his holiness, nor be buried in despair under the hidings of his countenance; one who would not be intoxicated with pride by the beams of his love, not transported into extasy by the full unction of his Spirit; one whom temptation could not carry
from the firmness of his purpose, nor cruelty force from the complacency of mercy. That Person who could thus bear to have emptied out upon him the fulness of Godhead’s various affections, could be no less than God, the Son of the Father. But to whom is this display of Godhead to be made? To mankind, to creatures fallen. Godhead is the origin, sinners are the object. And if the Son is to be the person in and upon whom God is to put forth his various yet harmonious attributes towards the sinner, it is most manifest that into the very condition of the sinner he must come; and being there, receive and bear and tell out by suffering and by action, the whole amount of the Father’s affections towards the sinner. If he be not in the very condition of the sinner, it is impossible that God’s respect unto the sinner can be found out in God’s way of entreating him. I cannot understand that any thing but ignorance or positive unbelief in a Trinity or a redemption can move any one to withstand such a position, which was wont to be the basis, the first principle, I had almost said the only, certainly the too narrow, principle of the theology of the Reformers. I mean, the principle of the publicus homo, the representative or substitute. But then to meet this necessity they make a shift; and say, Oh, certainly, God does treat him as such: he did suppose him in the condition of the sinner, though he was not in that condition; and as such he did deal with him, though all the while he was as far separate from sinners as he is now, when he is clothed with the resurrection body, and made higher than the heavens. The man who will put a fiction, whether legal or theological, a make-believe into his idea of God, I have done with; he who will make God consider a person to be that which he is not, and act towards him as that which he is not, I have done with. Either Christ was not in the condition of the sinner, was not in that form of being towards which it is God's eternal law to act as he acted towards Christ, or he is not. If he was, then the point in issue is ceded, for that is what I am con-
tending for. If he was not, and God treated him as if he had been so; if that is the meaning of their imputation and substitution, or by whatever name they call it; away with it, away with it from my theology forever: for it makes my God a God of fictions, a God of variableness, a God of make-believes, and not of truths. And what then? Is there no such thing as substitution and imputation? Yea, verily there is. It is substitution, that Christ from being the Son of God should instead thereof become the Son of Man. It is substitution, that instead of the sinner proving the extremes of God's being, whereof he could as little sustain the holiness as he could receive the love, God's own Son should come into his place and bear them all, and enable us through substitution in his person to bear them also. Oh yes; substitution is a precious truth: but what a destructive falsehood is often by the ingenuity of Satan, and the perversity of men, fabricated out of it. It was the eternal and unchangeable law of God to carry himself towards a sinner after one particular way, and no other. That way is exhibited in his treatment of Christ; but if Christ came not into the conditions of a sinner, his very conditions, how could he have the experience of that unchangeable law of God's being? Oh men, ye use God's being and character as if he were a notion of man’s invention, and not the invariable, unchangeable, who created, and governed, and redeemed the world. But it will be said Christ was not a sinner. And is there not a fiction still in treating him as that which he was not? I say, though not a sinner any more than a man, but very God, he came down into that condition of being, into that region of existence, into that experience of God's action which is proper to a sinner, and being there, be bore the storm, and strife, and tempest, and stern controversy which there continually abideth. Nothing is made for him, noting is altered for him. There he finds himself, and there he endures, and, enduring, proves that he can believe God’s word, that he can do God’s will in that region, and shews that there God is
good and gracious; aye, that there he is best of all, because best and fullest known; that there is the glory; that in that lowly bed, in that stable, is the birth-place of heaven’s King, of God’s own resplendent image and translucent glory. To bear God, to sustain the Father, the commune with him, and to communicate to us, this is the office of the God-man for ever and for ever; whereof these thoughtless men would deprive him and us, by imposing their own inventions upon the church instead of the truth of God.
(3.) Now the office of the Spirit they do in a still more remarkable manner subvert by their inventions. As the office of the Father is from his secret concealments, the unsearchable abode of his Godhead, to manifest himself unto sinful creatures; and as it is the office of the Son coming out of his bosom to sustain the fulness of the Father’s Godhead, and render it into the comprehensible language of human thought, feeling, suffering, and action; so is it the part of the Holy Ghost to furnish him for such an undertaking. The person of he Son in coming into manhood must not bring with him Godhead properties, though he bring with him a Godhead person: that is, no action which he doth in the manhood must be ascribed to Godhead properties, or else Godhead and manhood are mixed and confused together; which were it allowed would introduce man-worship, creature-worship, and all forms of idolatry. With what then doth the Person of the Son serve himself in fulfilling this great work of bringing the fulness of the Godhead into a body, of manifesting God in the Flesh? He serveth himself with Holy-Ghost power which the Father bestows upon him. Inasmuch as it is besought from the Father by the believing Son, and is by the Father accorded to the faith of the Son, it is proved to be from God unto the Son of man: inasmuch as by the Son of man it is received, and by him appropriated, it is proved not o be in the form of Godhead; (for what should one in the form of man be able to do with that which is in the form of God?) so that power out of Godhead follows the faithful Son of
God into the subsistence of the Son of man, and enables him there to do the work of rendering the incommunicable essence of Godhead into the forms of human thought, feeling, and passion. And thus, while all the power to redeem is proved to be from God in the person of the Father, and all the activity from God in the person of the Son, all the ability is proved to be from God in the person of the Holy Ghost; and yet no property of the Godhead is mingled with the properties of the manhood: they are kept as far distant as the orb of the invisible is from the orb of the visible, as the orb of the incomprehensible from the orb of the comprehensible, the orb of the uncreated from the orb of the created. One of two things the opposers of our Lord’s true humanity do necessarily: either they mix the Divine nature of the Son with the human, or they mix the Divine nature of the Holy Ghost with the human nature of Christ. The greater part indeed of their argumentation, if so it may be called (but it is argumentation without argument) confuses the Divine and human natures of Christ, as did the Monothelites, and the Monophysites, and other varieties of the Eutychean Heresy. But those who make any use of the Holy Ghost, do it in the way of mixing him up, in the generation, with the virgin’s substance. His body was not like our body, say they, because he was generated of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost added a something to his body which made it different. The difference is a thing derived from the Holy Ghost, and made to inhere in the body of Christ: which body they make - with reverence be it written, because it alone expresseth the truth - an amalgam of human nature and the Holy Ghost: they effectually mix the divine and the human substances. They confuse Godhead and manhood. I wish it had fallen to the lot of another man to deal with them; but I must go through with it. If they deny this, and say, that it is not after the manner of an amalgam or mixture, but after the way of a life, or energy of the Holy Ghost, with which he, the Son, actuateth his human nature pure and unmixed, then we are at one: for that is what I am maintaining. I am
arguing for a human nature such as we find it every where else; and a Holy-Ghost life in it, which the Son continually useth, and acteth unto the regeneration of it after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness. I am arguing for the human nature of a completely and thoroughly regenerated man; for creature substance sustained by a divine person, and of him informed with the power of a new life, which he receiveth out of the invisible Godhead; and useth as God's gift for the purpose of doing his will. Now behold what a wonder-working person is this Holy Ghost, who doth convey the infinite Godhead into the Son, acting with the limitations of manhood; and in his hands becomes a power capable of converting the creature from its state of rebelliousness and alienation and wickedness, into the state of holiness and love, and being at one with God (at-one-ment)! This office of the Holy Ghost, first to unite the invisible Godhead with the visible Son; and secondly, to furnish the Son for the work of bringing human nature into perfect reconciliation with, and obedience of, God: this, which is the essence of all sanctification of wicked men, is utterly undone upon their ruinous schemes of giving to Christ another substance than that of the virgin. Instead of holding this grand manifestation up before us, through the varieties of human life, from conception to death, they lose it in the first act of generation; and there in ignorant wonderment they lose themselves, and would lead others astray. They bring into existence their amalgam of human and divine natures; and say, Behold it, behold it, how wonderful it is, how unintelligible it is! This redeems us, this reveals God to us. This darkness is the light of God. - Oh it is a most strange delusion, it is a strong delusion. At length, O God, the church hath awaked; but let it not be to the mental impotence of the lunatic, or to the frenzied madness of the maniac. It seems more like the madness of the maniac among the schismatics; but , oh! suffer it not to be impotence of though and paralysis of feeling in thy church. The Church of Scotland is awaking; her chains of sleep are breaking: O God! may it not be to destroy
those her sons who have aroused her out of the sleep of death, in which she might have lain till the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.
I confess myself totally unable to see any part which the Holy Ghost had in this greatest work of the Trinity, - bringing the Son into the world, and by him redeeming all creation from the power of the devil, - if either of these two errors we are contending against be maintained, namely, That Christ had an unfallen nature, or that he had a human nature rendered intrinsically and inherently holy of itself by the miraculous generation. On the last hypothesis, the Holy Ghost had a hand in the generation of the substance by mixing his Divine nature with it, which is heresy; or by a new work of creation, which I have shewn above to be little better. But was the work of redemption or incarnation finished in the act and instant of the miraculous generation? Certainly in the person of Christ it was not finished till his resurrection; in the church it is not finished yet; in the work it is not yet begun. Now what we want is such an intelligible and unquestionable statement of the acting of he Holy Ghost in this work from first to last; as shall shew him acting no subsidiary part, but that very part which is proper to him as a co-equal consubstantial person of the blessed Trinity. We have the Father ever active in supporting and glorifying his Son, and reducing all things to his dominion; we have the Son ever active in supporting the fallen creature; we must also have the Holy Ghost ever active in some equally continuous and necessary way of action. And this we exhibit from the first in his generation, which put Holy-Ghost life into the human substance; then in his holy life, which was the life of a regenerate man a continual Holy-Ghost life (Luke i.); in his miracles, and knowledge, and wisdom, which was by the anointing of the same Holy Ghost (Isai. xi. 1, lxii. 1, &c.); in his spotless, guiltless death, which was by the same Holy Ghost (Heb. ix.); in his resurrection and ascension unto glory, which was by the same Divine power (Eph. i); in
his uniting to himself every one of the Father’s election, and feeding him, and sanctifying him, and glorifying him, which is by the same Sprit, by the same life which he received of the Father. (John vi.) Throughout I see the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost acting to the redemption, sanctification, and eternal glorification of the substance of manhood, with all its dependencies of creation; and yet there is no mixture of the uncreated essence of Godhead with the creature, no confusion, nor conversion, nor change of any sort; and this I believe to be God’s truth, and the contradiction of it to be the devil’s lie, which cannot be held, nor favoured, nor borne with, save at the greatest risk and peril to immortal souls.
(4.) Any view of Christ's humanity, save that which I am contending for; namely, human nature of our very substance, with its very properties, under the complete regeneration of the Holy Ghost, doth not only bring the persons of the blessed Trinity into confusion with one another, and with the creature, but doth likewise make void the written word of God, - not particular passages of it, but revelation in the mass. It is needless to go into details, to prove what the orthodox church hath always believed, that the beginning and the end of all revelation is Jesus Christ, whose name, THE WORD, appropriates to him all that hath ever been spoken by God, without or by means of the organs of men. The Spirit of Christ spake in the Prophets, I Pet. 1.; the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy, Moses is but Christ under the veil. The Law and the Prophets do testify of him. The Apostles only continued that which he had begun: as I said above, no well-instructed and orthodox divine will dispute this matter. But if Christ's human nature be different from mine, if reason in him be not what reason is in me, if flesh in him be not what flesh is in me, to report observations concerning him is no report concerning me; to report sufferings of his is no information to me; to report feelings of his, to report actions of his, to report temptations of his, to report triumphs of his,
is no more revelation to me: there is a want of certainty in it all, there is a want of reality in it all. That difference of nature between us confuses all and confounds all. Who will adjust the observations to my feelings, and the scale of my understanding? How much of it doth he avoid by that addition to his nature, or how much of it is to stand to that account? It is a fictitious thing to me, it is like the story of an angel or an archangel, but not of a very man. Now this is not merely what necessarily will come out of the erroneous doctrines, but what actually is in the church; there is widely spread a persuasion that Christ’s Godhead did in some way or other mingle itself with his human actions and sufferings, so as that his pains from very suffering; there is an indefinite and undefined feeling in the breasts of men, that his Divine Person did, somehow or other, interfere between him and the extremities into which he came, and that he did not swim for his life as a very “man of sorrows” and temptations infinite. This Marcionism, this suspicion, if it amounteth not to the belief, of an unreality and fictitiousness in our Lord’s life in flesh, hath been promoted and brought about by the much use of logical fictions for theological truths; by the representation of him as a substitute merely, as one having things impute to him, but not imparted to him; by representing God as treating him otherwise than the eternal laws of his being required him to do; by representing him as set up for an exhibition of certain appearances, which yet are not realities; in one word, by using him to resolve the knots of systematical theology, instead of beholding in him the one light and truth of God, the eternal and unchangeable God. This misgiving with respect to the reality of God’s part and Christ's part in the whole transaction, this reading of the Gospels and Scriptures which refer to Christ, with a dubious faith, with the Papal devotion of a mysterious unintelligible something, and not with the Protestant certainty of a very intelligible truth, is the cause why,
in the churches, such a greedy ear hath been given to a few fiery and furious schismatics whom Satan hath set on to resist and pervert the truth. It is a fearful state of things: and I hardly know where it is to have an end. No one knows how far the mischief hath extended: time only can shew. I think the body of the Church of Scotland is sound; but we shall soon see. For my own part, I have taken my ground, and will contend there unto the death; and so the enemy knows where to find me. I am not afraid of all which he can do. I know what I have believed, and in whom. Nor have I forgotten, that within ten years from the Nicene Council, the whole world had given up the faith of Christ's Divinity, except Athanasius: so that, as Hooker says, it was the world against Athanasius, and Athanasius against the world. The Protestant churches also may sink, as the Papal soon shall: but the Truth will never sink; it never can; for Truth is a Person, and that Person is on the throne of heaven.
All in the Old Testament which speaks of him as a man of like passions and affections with us, is made void. He is not the man of God’s Spirit as he is there represented to be; he is not the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief; he is not the Prophet like unto Moses, the just Seed of David, not the very Seed of Abraham, nor the Son of man of Daniel, nor the Man who hath seen affliction, of Jeremiah, nor the ignominious Branch (the netzer) of Isaiah, nor the lowly King of Zion of Zechariah, nor the smitten Judge of Israel, of Micah; and I might go through all the Old-Testament Scriptures, and shew how they are invalidated upon any other supposition whatever except the true doctrine, that he was very man of his mother’s substance, whose life as it was originated so was it carried on and consummated by the Holy Ghost. But what shall we say of the Psalms of David, the xvith, xxiid, xxxiid, xlth, lxixth, and others, which by the Holy Ghost are expressly to him referred: in all which the utmost extremities into which a sinner was ever reduced, of sorrow and of
anguish, of darkness and of misery, are spoken by the Holy Ghost of Him who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. When this great question altered its shape, - for a t the outset it was maintained that his body was neither mortal nor corruptible; but now, being driven out of that position, they have taken to debate what was the nature of his experience in the flesh, and have roundly asserted it to be rank heresy to say that his human nature was in all its natural instincts and inclinations such as ours is, - when the question came to be a question of his experiences, I set myself to study the Psalms where the Holy Ghost speaketh of those experiences, and to submit my own faith and the faith of my church to the instruction and obedience thereof: and I was strongly and deeply convicted in my conscience of great short-coming in my statements as to the exercise of the Redeemer both in soul and body. So that when I came to read over again what I had written thereof, in the Sermon upon the very act of the Incarnation, and elsewhere in my treatises, I could not find one word to retract, but much, much, if I were writing again, to express more and more forcibly; for these Psalms pass all which I have uttered, though they were certainly my model. It is not an unusual thing to turn away the force and application of these Psalms, by saying that they are spoken of Christ mystical, that is, the church; and not of Christ personal, that is, “the Man of Sorrows:” and in justification of this, such passages are quoted as that in the xlth Psalm; “Mine iniquities have taken hold of me; they are more than the hairs of mine head.” But though such passages as these are of deep import, I will be slow to reject them from the use of Christ personal, when I find the counterpart of them in the New Testament, “He bare our sins in his own body;” “he was made sin for us.” That they do not imply actual transgression, is manifest from the very Psalms in which they are used: as, for example, from that xlth, where it is said, “I delight to do thy will; yea thy law is within
my heart.” When I find such seeming contradictions, I am not rash to reject either the one or the other, as not spoken of Christ: for if you deprive him of the one for its seeming imputation of evil, why not as well deprive him of the other (an Unitarian might say) for its seeming imputation of good? I am accustomed to tremble before God’s word, and to send it like a ploughshare through my own and every other man’s system. Much meditating then upon such expressions, I have come to the conclusion that they import that load of all sins which in taking our nature he took along with it. Manhood in Adam was sinless, set up in righteousness and true holiness by the Creator. With this state of it the Holy Scripture hath little to do: manhood after the fall broke out into sins of every name and aggravation; corrupt to the very heart’s core, and from the centre of its inmost will sending out streams black as hell. This is the human nature which every man is clothed upon withal, which the son of Man was clothed upon withal, bristling thick and strong with sin like the hairs upon the porcupine. These sins are in manhood, the manhood of the child unborn, of the babe of days and months, all the same as in the manhood of the hoary wretch grown grey with sin. This poisonous coat, not of flesh merely, but of flesh and heart, covering and insphering and grasping and oppressing every person, and dragging him down out of light into hell’s nethermost put of darkness, is the condition of the creature, which wanteth to be sanctified and redeemed and presented spotless in the presence of God; and this Christ did with it, this he did for it. I stand forth and say, that the teeming fountain of the heart’s vileness was opened on him; and the Augaean stable of human wickedness was given him to cleanse, and the furious wild beasts of human passions were appointed him to tame. This, this is the horrible pit and the miry clay out of which he was brought, Psa. xl.: these, these are the dogs and the lions and the unicorns and the many strong bulls of Bashan, which engirded him around, Psa. Xxii.: these, these are
the sins which were more numerous upon him than the hairs of his head, Ps. xl.; not of his own (let it never be said), but sins of that substance which he took, that sin for which we are answerable, and which opens its craving, threatening, deadly mouth upon every one who comes into the region of manhood: where Christ coming, met its many open fountains of iniquity, and was not polluted by them; heard the roaring violence of those passions, more fearful than the cave of Eolus, and was not terrified; saw those fearful shapes of darkness, like Pandemonium disclosed, and was not dismayed; encountered all hidings, bereavings, afflictions, and griefs laid on him by the Father, and was not shaken from the faith of his Father’s love, of that Godhead union which was between them. What, I ask, is the meaning of that passage, which is the representative of a hundred, “He bare our sins in his own body on the tree?” If that body of his, when it hung upon the tree, had no connection with ourselves, but was separate from the sinful substance altogether; if he bare our sins by imputation merely, by a legal fiction, as they understand, the word imputation; then why say “in the body?” If he bare them by suffering merely, why say “in his body,” and not in his sufferings? If by the dolors of his soul, still why say in his body? In his flesh also he abolished the enmity between Jew and Gentile; in that also which was nailed to the cross, he triumphed over principalities and powers. What do these passages mean; I may say, what doth all Scripture concerning his body mean, if so be that his body was taken out of the hands of all evil by its conception? I believe it to be most orthodox, and of the substance and essence of the orthodox faith, to hold that Christ could say until his resurrection, Not I, but sin that tempteth me in my flesh; just as after the resurrection he could say, “I am separate from sinners.” And, moreover, I believe that the only difference between his body of humiliation and his body of resurrection is in this very thing, that sin inhered in the human nature, making it mortal
and corruptible, till that very time that he rose from the dead: and if this principle must go to the wall, I shall go to the wall along with it. It is anew form of the ancient errors to deny it; I believe it to be the last form thereof: and if I have the honour to contend for it, and to suffer for it, the Lord be praised.
(5.) The next doctrine that is overthrown by these spurious views of our Lord’s humanity is the most precious doctrine of our union with Christ; which cometh only from his previous union with us. If he was not during his life of our flesh and bones, we cannot in this, the day of his glory, be of his flesh and bones. The form of the doctrine of union lies in this, that it is in God’s person to establish with a human person such a bond as no created powers can rend asunder: and the name for such a union as no creature violence, resistance, and rebellion can rend asunder, is faith. The origin of such a union is in the Persons of the blessed Trinity; and the measure of it is from the same high original: “That they may be one, as we are. . . .That they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us.” To shew the union which is between the Father and the Son, is one great end both of the Fall and the Incarnation. A whole creation is permitted to rush amain from God, and to abuse all its vast powers in withdrawing his responsible creatures away from him. This is the utmost possible distraction, the greatest weight of separation which can be; a whole creation under the power of God’s enemy combined to withdraw from God, to darken, to hide, to hinder and prevent all communication with him. The Son, who is one with the Father, comes into this creation thus concentrated against God; and with all its might concentrated into one hour and power of darkness: in his agony and on his cross it is permitted to work amain against the Incarnate Son. What can resist this but a union stronger than creation, a love stronger than death, a oneness closer than the dissolution of the grave? Something increate, for all creation is rushing the other way; some-
thing superhuman, for all human persons have been withdrawn from their confidence. And thus Christ's perfect faith, his inviolate union with his Father, his unbroken communion, doth prove him to be not a creature, doth prove him to be inseparable from God, doth prove him to be one with God. This unity of uncreated substance between the Father an the Son, I say, was proved by the fixedness of his faith during that hour and power of darkness; which he regarded as of an importance so far surpassing any other act of his life, that he said in entering upon it, “Now is my Father glorified.” The surpassing importance of it lay in this, that whereas the temptation in the wilderness was his personal conflict with the prince of darkness, and his ministry the manifestation of the power he had gotten over him, his agony and crucifixion was a controversy with all the powers of a sunk and sinful creation assaulting him from their strong-hold of death and the grave. And if his faith had failed then, all had been for ever lost; but his faith standing stedfast proved that between God and this man there was a union indivisible, which all creation could not shake for a moment. And when this union of Christ with the Father had been established beyond all power and possibility of disruption, it becomes to us the assurance of a union with Christ, which is of a kind equally indestructible. As he is one with the Father, so are we one with him, The union between them is the measure of the union between him and us. If an antagonist creation could not break the one, an antagonist creation cannot break the other. If neither life nor death, nor principalities, nor powers, could separate him from God, no more can they separate us from him: if he made a shew of them openly on his cross, triumphing over them, so also may we. If neither height nor depth, nor any other creature, could separate him from the love of God, no more can they separate us from his love. In his union with the Father, is the form and the measure of our union with him: and what could not break the one, cannot break the other. This is the nature of faith; this is
the definition of faith, that it gives a union with Christ, equal in strength to the union of the persons in the Godhead; is not by creation’s state affected, is not by creation’s warfare disturbed, is not by inward darkness and desolateness, nor by outward circumstances of pain and anguish, nor by death, nor by corruption, nor by anything whatever, which men or devils, which the world or the flesh can do, subverted or overthrown. And by thus being above the injury of created things, is faith proved to be not of creature growth, but the work of our Creator, the work of a Divine person, and by a Divine person ever sustained. It is proved to be union through the flesh with one who is united to God; it is proved to be union with his flesh, by the means of one who is likewise united to God; the former the Son, the latter the Holy Ghost. If I understand any thing of faith, it is that which Christ proved in the garden and on the tree; if I know any thing of union, it is that which, being between the persons of the Godhead, is by them transplanted into the members of Christ, to be their inseparable communion with the Head, and with one another. This is the root of the matter; and behold how it is rooted up by the spurious and heretical tenets of those who hold Christ's flesh or human nature to have been inherently holy, and no part of his temptations, of which I say it was the chief part, the sting and strength of them all.
For, in that case, Christ, in the days of his flesh, was not proved with all creation’s antagonist power, but only with a part, and that the remotest part; of those evils which have access to us, and effect upon us. Only through the other part, - our human nature, where he was not al all able to be tempted. What then follows? It follows that the Son of God was not even so much proved as we are. His faith had not half the weight of battle to bear up against, which ours hath to endure. How was his faith proved to be of an uncreated kind, and from a source increate? To say, By reason of his Divine nature, is to beg the question; which is simply this: And where dost thou get this Divine nature, brother? Out of the
Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed? These are nothing, and claim to be nothing, save as they are found to express the word and the act of God in Christ Jesus. I want proof of his Godhead in his action; and I have shewn thee how I get it, by seeing his creature nature, the world and the devil all set against him, and something in him prevailing against adverse creation; which thing I thereby know to be not creation, but the very contrary of a fallen creation, that is God. But thou, O man! with thy unfallen or unrebellious creature nature in Christ, how dost thou get in him any manifestation of a power out of, and above, and contrary to creation? For here is one part of creation on the same side with him: it is therefore creation against creation, not Creator against creation, in thy battle, or rather sham of battle, for battle it is none. I know that thou art not accustomed to think in this region. Thou canst rest thy faith upon a Catechism; but I cannot: I can rest my faith only upon what I see in Christ of God; and if thou wouldst be saved, so must thou; therefore, for thy soul’s good, we must drag thee up into this sphere of thought and reasoning; and if thou canst not handle thy weapons here, let them drop from thy hands, and become a disciple, and be taught, oh thou who professest to teach others. The degree and measure of Chris’s union with God being thus overthrown, what follows, but that all union of the believer with Christ should be overthrown? And faith’s stability is not know nor felt; it must be backed out with probabilities, and propped up with circumstantial expedients: the necessity of God to give it, the necessity of the Spirit to work and to preserve it; the necessity of Christ to sustain it, and keep up the fellowship with God; - all, all is lost. Christ did not such a work as the poorest sinner is called upon to do. He was attempered and annealed for the proof; we are left soft and sinking. Aye, and there are some of them who even deny that he lived by faith in the days of his flesh. Had they not as well deny that he lived by prayer; or that he lived at all as a man liveth, that he was either a pattern of the perfect
believer, or of the holy man? I have shewn how they deprive us of the pattern of the perfect believer in our Lord. I will now shew how they deprive us of the pattern of the holy man.
(6.)Holiness is of two kinds: the one belonging to the creature in its creation state, as it came forth from the hands of the Creator; the other belonging to the creature in its fallen state, as it is upheld by the Son, and energized by the Holy Ghost. Of the former, mention is made in Scripture in such passages as these: “God made man in his own image, after his own likeness;” “ And God saw every thing which he had made, and, behold, it was very good;” “This only have I found, that God made man upright, but he hath sought out many inventions.” Of the latter, it is spoken in such passages as these: “Be ye holy, as your Father in heaven is holy;” “Renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness;” “he that is born of God sinneth not; for his seed abideth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God;” “The holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.” The goodness and holiness of the creation stood not in man alone, but in every thing; for over all and every one of his works God pronounced that they were good. It is a mistake to speak of holiness as the property only of a will; it is the property of a thing, as the holy place of the lower creatures; “the holy and the unholy;” of creation, which being once holy is now sinful. All creation was holy at the first, manifesting the holiness of him that had created it; and ground of temptation was there in nothing. Man’s fall was a pure acting of man’s own, of his will; to which indeed he was tempted by the devil, but most certainly not by his own mind or flesh, or any of the lower creatures. The man fell in his highest, noblest part, in his proper personality; and sin entered into his mind, into his flesh, into creation thereupon. They became sin-possessed, devil-minded, death-stricken. They are but the caput mortuum of creation, as we now see them. And it maketh no difference when or where the various persons are born, any
more than it maketh a difference when or where the different branches of the tree shoot forth; and we are all of one root, of one quality, of one vileness in the sight of God. This is the meaning of original sin, that as Adam was upon his fall, so are all his posterity in the sight of God, come they when they may upon the face of the visible world. This also is the root of the matter; to deny which is to make all things foolish and vain. The substance of creation is as full of sin as it can be crammed; there is not a nook nor crany of it which is not sinful: but man only is the sinner. The rest came all down in virtue of his sovereignty. When the king fell, the kingdom also fell. The commonwealth of creation, whereof reason, or soul, or spirit, I mean the invisible substance, call it what you please, as well as flesh, and the materialism came all down in one mass. And it is an idle tale to talk of our nature being else than sinful flesh, and mind, and dependent world to boot. The persons are the sinners; but the substance, the dominion which these persons possess, are also sinful: darkness and chaos, poison and pestilence and tempest, strife and quarrel and bloodshed, are amongst them, even where there is no man to cause or to suffer it; and are not these actings of the creature? There is a law of sin and a law of holiness in all creation, a good and an evil: before the Fall, all was in harmonious goodness; since the Fall, all has been in the throes or oppression of death. These are things which will not go into a nutshell, as many seem to think, nor be put into a conception, nor be passed off with a contemptuous sneer, nor exploded with a laugh, nor turned aside by the horns of a dilemma. They are ideas for men to meditate and possess; truths for men to ponder and feed on. They are the conditions of man’s being, which will not alter, by which we are bound, under which we live and move and have our being.
Well, when things had come into this pass, it appeareth that every person who comes into this inheritance to try his power of dominion over it, is himself over-
come; his responsible will which feels responsibility to be its very constitution, can make no debate with the darkened reason and lustful flesh. The whole world are brought in sinners. Not a man of them can stand his ground, or give account unto God for one of a thousand of his transgressions; as it is written, “ In thy sight shall no man living be justified.” And yet God is ever crying out for holiness. As on the first day that man was created; and he lets down a law of holiness, which, though accommodated to a fallen creature, makes no abatement on that account; of which law love is the beginning and the ending: yea, and before the law is it not written, that the message which men have had from the beginning is, that we should love one another? Because that God is love, in whose image man was at first created; and this answerableness to himself God exacteth now as ever. He hath not changed, though the creatures have. And how then is this to be given, when all things in creation are at war and strife with one another? By faith. Abraham believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness: that is, by trust in another than ourselves; into whom we must be brought, in order to have righteousness. And who is this? That seed in whom Abraham believed; that seed promised to the woman. Faith uniting to Christ as he is united to God; this worketh love and holiness. The Spirit, in uniting us to Christ, gets us that holiness in him, which, flowing into us as the blood of the mother into the child, as the sap of the tree into the branches, doth make them holy and righteous, prolific of all good fruit, possessed of a life which ever beats in harmony with God. This is the only method of holiness under the Fall; holiness in Christ's body; and out of it holiness is there none.
Now then, if this be the only kind of holiness under the Fall, how should Christ be the head or the example of it, if so be, as they say, that his human substance was first sanctified for him to come there-into? How could he be called the Holy One of God, and given forth as the container of all holiness,
if so be that he was not also under the Fall, and his holiness wrought in him by the Holy Ghost? Holiness is all the Scriptures, except in the few passages where reference is made to the creation state, is a work of the Holy Ghost in the fallen constitution of things; but if Christ was not in that constitution of things, how should holiness be predicated of him also, in the very same places, and in the very same words, in which it is predicated of his people? Seeing the same words in the Old and New Testaments are used indiscriminately of him and his members, one of two things must be true: either that his members are also brought into the creation state of Adam above the Fall, while they are still in the world, which no one asserts; or, that Christ's holiness was, like theirs, wrought in the fallen creature by power of the Holy Ghost, through that faith which joined Christ, acting as a human person, with the Godhead of the Father, out of which he ever descended to act that gracious part. When Christ's holiness is spoken of, it is not the holiness of his Divine nature alone, but of his manhood also; and when it is set forth to the church as the basis of faith, it is always the holiness of his manhood, with which alone the church hath fellowship and communion. Now what fellowship and communion can creatures under the Fall have with a creature not in their condition? A man who is united to Christ is spoken of as holy, and as not being able to sin, because he is born of God through regeneration of the Holy Ghost. I may say that the whole of John’s First Epistle is to teach this one truth of our being holy by being in him; and no otherwise are we holy: and this is the holiness of faith; because faith is at once the name and the method of our union with him. Now I ask again, how could he be the head of the regeneration, if no regeneration was accomplished in him? And what is regeneration? Not the striking of a new virtue through the fallen substance, but the upholding it in its present state by action of the invisible Godhead. It is not I myself that live a new life, but Christ that
liveth in me. I am made willing; I am made obedient by Him of whom I am made a member. His person, not mine, hath the glory. It is God who worketh in me to will and to do of his good pleasure. If this be the orthodox doctrine of regeneration, then cannot Christ be the resurrection head, otherwise than by being in the same state, by being holy through the same means, as I assert that he was: the first, the complete regenerated man unto the end of being, exalted to become the head of the regenerated ones.
This completely sets to a side the reasonings of those who would lay a great stress upon the expression used in the salutation, “the holy thing, born [generated] of thee, shall be called the Son of God.” For unless holy here were used in a different sense than in the rest of the New Testament, where it is continually applied to the regenerate, “the saints,” the “holy ones;” unless a new import altogether were given to it, which hath had no reality in the world since Adam fell; it cannot be otherwise understood than as sanctified by the Holy Ghost. And why it should be called the thing, and not the person, is because the thing, and not the person was sanctified. He, the eternal Son of God, needed no sanctification; but the substance he took of the virgin did, and received it in the act of his being generated man; and what sanctification it then received from him, he continued to give it, to maintain in it, all his life long. It is a vain delusion to understand us as if we said it took him a life-long to sanctify himself. Men that will deceive themselves are not easily undeceived. We hold that it, even it, was a thing made holy from its conception, and kept holy by the same power which made it so: not holy in itself, but made holy; not made holy by one act and no more, but kept holy through the incidents, and trials, and endurances of a whole life. When any man will find in my writings upon this subject, a passage capable of being even tortured to mean that there ever was a time when Christ's flesh was not made holy by the Holy Ghost in the hands of the incarnate Son, I will
arraign myself of heresy, and submit to the utmost penalties of the church; nay, I would myself arraign of heresy any member of my church, or so-presbyter, who should deny the holiness of Christ's flesh; and I would do the same by any one who would obstinately and perversely maintain that it was so, otherwise than by operation of the Holy Ghost. As I have written at the fore front of the book which has awakened all this controversy, “The question is, whether the flesh of Christ had the grace of sinlessness from the Holy Ghost, or from itself?” That is the question, and nothing else is the question.
There is yet another point which I now think upon, as in connection with this head of holiness, wherein I perceive not a few to be locked up in error; which is, that Christ was the second Adam from his generation, instead of from his resurrection; or rather from his receiving of the Holy Ghost. He was the regenerated man from his generation of the Holy Ghost; but the regenerator he was not till after he had been glorified. If regeneration be by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, then is it expressly declared (John vi.) “that the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” He did indeed breathe on his Apostles, and they received the Holy Ghost; but this was not the promise of the Holy Ghost, for after this (Acts i. 4, 5,) he desires them to wait in Jerusalem till they should receive it: “And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.” The baptism with the Holy Ghost was in the day of Pentecost; and this was the beginning of his action and office as the Baptist with the Holy Ghost: then was the first act of regeneration; then did members first begin to be joined to the body of Christ; then did sons of God first begin to be born through a regenerating act of the second Adam: (for under the law it was the highest treason for any one to call himself
“Son of God:”) then was fulfilled, both to Jew and Gentile, that word which is written, John i. 12, 13, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” And much more could I say upon this subject, if it did not lead us too far from the matter in hand; which I rather choose to cut short by a reference to the only passage (I Cor. xv. ) where he is called the second Adam. Let any one consult that passage, from verse 45 to verse 50, and he will see that it cannot be interpreted of Christ's nativity of the virgin, and earthly humility, but of his nativity from the tomb, and his heavenly glory. The discourse which is there holden, concerning the first and second Adam, is introduced as an illustration and confirmation of the doctrine of the resurrection, and of the nature of the body with which we are to rise. After mentioning several other contrasts between the body of death and the body of life, he addeth, verse 44, “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” And to confirm this he quoteth from the first chapter of Genesis, “And as it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul;” and then adds, “The last Adam was made a quickening (life-giving) Spirit.” Can any one doubt that it is in respect to the resurrection, and the spiritual body, that he maketh this asseveration? If it hath respect to Christ's incarnation, it hath nothing to do with the subject in hand, which is the resurrection. Besides, the very form of the expression teacheth us, that it is not his generation which is spoken of; for it is not, he was generated a living Spirit, but, he was generated UNTO a living Spirit. Compare it with John 1. 14: “The Word was generated flesh,” not unto flesh; for flesh and blood, which cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, was the very form in which he was generated; but not the end or ultimate thing unto which he was to come. The meaning of the passage is, that Adam’s creation went no higher than
to become a living soul, which we all are, but that the second Adam went into the height of becoming a life-giving Spirit; and to this effect hath received a spiritual body, whose property it is to beget a living spirit, as it was the property of Adam’s to beget a living soul. In one word, that creation is only one degree, regeneration a higher degree; that the one stood complete in the first Adam when he was created; and being come into death, hath a second spring and shooting forth into the glory of a living spirit, which stood complete in the second Adam when he was risen from the dead, and had received the spiritual body. And this may teach another lesson to those who set so lightly by the body, how that in it the great glory of God’s work is manifested; when it is seen that with Christ's receiving his spiritual body is connected the capacity of begetting sons unto God by regeneration. As man by his nature body doth God’s work upon the earth, so doth Christ by his spiritual body work all God’s will in the heavens. And if they would learn still another lesson upon the subject; I refer them to the conclusion of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
The second Adam is declared to be (1) A life-making spirit; but this we have shewn he was not till after the resurrection: (2) The Lord from heaven; but Christ and Lord he was not declared to be till after the resurrection (Acts 11): (3) The heavenly, and not the earthly; whose image we shall hereafter wear, when we are delivered from flesh and blood, from mortality, from weakness, and from corruption: abut in the days of his flesh he himself was like Adam, had flesh and blood, was mortal, was corruptible, and was crucified by reason of weakness. (2 Cor. xiii.) It is a mere misinterpretation to support a theory, to call him the second Adam till his ascension into glory: but it is very convenient for sustaining the erroneous doctrines of his life and death being only for a part; for if he was the second Adam in the flesh, then his action must respect only the children of the second Adam, that is, the elect exclusively: but
wiping away this error, we have his work in flesh for all in flesh, his work in glory as the second Adam for the children of the regeneration only.
There is yet a third conclusion, which I derive by way of corollary from this head; which is, that if, as they say, Christ's holiness was derived from an extraordinary work of the Holy Ghost, whereof he alone hath any right to partake, then we cannot without the same be brought up to the fellowship of his holiness. If the anointing which we receive be not after the same kind which he received, then the fruits of holiness in us cannot be after the same completeness; if, to bring his human nature into the proper state of acceptableness in God’s sight, to make it fit for God’s Son to unite himself to, something was necessary which we have not, then can we never be acceptable to God nor united to his Son: he must abhor us, they both must abhor us: union is but a figure, faith is but a slender attachment; and as to holiness in our flesh and mind, the thing is impossible without that extraordinary act: it cannot be that the Son, and the Spirit of the son, can subdue every member of our mind and body to the obedience of God: for it could not in Christ be done without that which in us is not to be expected. The generation is not for complete sanctification, the Holy Ghost is the elect is not irresistible; their falls and short-comings are not to be ascribed to themselves, but to God’s insufficient provision; and a thousand other most fatal practical errors flow from this heretical doctrine, that Christ’s generation was something more than the implantation of that Holy-Ghost life in the members of his human nature, which is implanted in us by regeneration. And if it be asked, why did it never come short in him, when in us, in the best of us, it cometh short? Because there was more in him than one of us; there was one of the Elohim, one of the Persons in the Godhead, even the only-begotten Son, whose substance being of one with the Father, did prove its unity in this, that his faith, which is unity in trial and under proof, never failed under all the trials and
proofs to which it was subjected. And much more have I to add upon this great head of doctrine, which, as I have said, is the radiating point of truth, and the denial of it the radiating point of error: but I must prevent this tractate from becoming a treatise.
I have shewn the faithful in the church how this great point is to be argued and maintained. I am no polemic; I have neither the gift nor the inclination for it: but I know and I love the truth; and I rest my salvation on it. I make no doubt in saying that the opposite doctrine is damnable; that to believe it is to belief a lie, to die in the faith of it is to die in the faith of a lie: and like every lie, I believe it will work the glory of the devil, who was a liar from the beginning, and not the glory of Jesus Christ, who is the truth, nor the glory of the Father who is true, and in him is no darkness at all. No lie is of the truth. I know well enough the schismatical temper of the church, to believe that it is ready for any thing. I saw and marked its ripeness for revolt from truth, by the way in which the Bible-Society controversy was conducted on both sides. In Scotland there is the spirit of schism, in England there is the spirit of expediency. I know not where to look for help on earth from any body of men, except the true old churchmen, the reformation seed, still subsisting in the churches of Scotland and of England. And, alas! this body is very lethargic: but they may perhaps be awaked. As to what are called the evangelical in both lands they are driving full tilt to error, and the sectaries are already drowned in it. But God hath his people, his sealed ones, though unseen. They are not of Paul, nor of Apollos, nor of Cephas, but of Christ. To them I call; to them I have a message, both to ministers and people. And this is what I say, that if they will wait upon the Lord, and maintain their several posts in the field of battle, now, even now, and not be afraid to speak out the truth, the Lord will work great things for his church. There never was a day since the apostolical age, in which valour, and wisdom, and prayer, and patience,
were so much called for. There never was such a crisis in the church. Now then, oh ye people of the Lord, quit you like men and be strong. It is a day of decision: there is no longer room for temporising. Every truth is called in question; first advent, second advent, atonement, God’s love, God himself, whether we are to have a God made in the schools of theology, or the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a fearful controversy which is going on, whether we are to have an artificial system of theologians, or the natural system of the Scriptures; whether the systematic theology is to be overthrown and the scriptural introduced, or whether it is to be fixed in the church by some act like the Council of Trent in the Papacy; whether, in one word, the church of these realms is to stand or to fall. And I have one word more to my brethren who are stirred up to do battle over men for the bulwarks of Zion, that they would add, to their valour and hardihood, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, godliness; and to godliness, patience; and to patience, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity. Spare the men; but, oh! spare not the error. Attack it, expose it, root it out, destroy it; and let the last breath be a testimony against it. They call this personality. I deny it: it is the opposite. It is not the persons, but their opinions, their errors, their destructive, seductive errors, we are set against. This is love to the person. Thus I will carry myself with forbearance to the men, with unsparing destructiveness to their erroneous doctrines. If I mistake not, this doctrine of the true nature is the lever and the fulcrum to subvert the present fabric of ignorance and error, which men have sanctified with most specious names. I have done my part, and I will do yet more while God spareth me, to preserve the ancient foundations of the Church of Scotland, and to enlarge them; for our fathers expected us to labour in the same work in which they laboured before us. May the Lord look upon these unworthy labours, and bless them.
For my conclusion, I prefer to reprint what is contained in a head of the Fifth Lecture on the Apocalypse, as summing up the whole argument much better than I could do at present. -
“These things saith he which was dead and is alive;” literally, “which became dead and lived.” To the understanding of the truth and the consolation in these words contained, it is, first of all, necessary, that we should remember the subject of whom they are spoken. They are spoken of Christ; by which name is signified, Godhead subsisting under an intelligible form in the person of the Son. The person who died, therefore, is the Son of God, who is very God of very God. For nothing hath the orthodox church, in all time so zealously contended, as to affirm, that God was born of a virgin, and that God died upon the cross; and as it is written in the xx th chapter of the Acts, that God hath purchased us with his own blood; because in these expressions, they contended for this truth of truths, That the thing, the holy thing conceived of the virgin, was in the origin of its existence inseparably united and made eternally one with the second Person of the glorious Godhead. Therefore in our Catechism, it is said, “that the Son of God was conceived in the womb of the virgin, and born of her, yet without sin.” On the other hand, no point hath been more diligently argued, and more explicitly pronounced by the catholic church, in all ages of its existence, than this, That the Godhead cannot suffer nor be tempted, nor with any creature affection whatever, be moved or influenced: because, if so, Godhead would cease to be a subsistence above, apart from, creation, all-sufficient in itself, subject to no change and incapable of change. How then it may be asked, could God be born, could God be crucified, could God suffer and die, according to the constant faith of the catholic church? Here is an apparent contradiction between two capital points of the or-
thodox faith. How are they to be reconciled? They are to be reconciled by the doctrine concerning the Christ delivered above, and in no other way whatever. Before the world was, the Persons of the Godhead set up among themselves the Christ, as hath been said, and the Son took that form of subsistence, and was God, subsisting as the Word, the Logos, before the world was. This glorious fulness of the Godhead, not absolute but contained, and containing all purposes, forms of being, providences, and events whatsoever, is what Christ speaketh of under the name “The glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Now contemplate the Son of God thus subsisting as the Christ before creation, and you have the Being “which was made flesh, and dwelt among us;” which died upon the accursed tree; or, as it is in the text, became dead, and lived again. He is not God in his absoluteness who doth so, but God within the limits of the word; not God absolute, but the Logos, whose person indeed is the Son of God, but whose subsistence is not as the absolute Godhead, but as the Godhead intelligible. Now this is he which was born, and yet Godhead was not born: this is he which was tempted of evil, and yet Godhead cannot be tempted of evil: this is he which died, and yet Godhead cannot die. God first realises to himself a subsistence, as the Word in the person of the Son; and the Son thus subsisting, not in his absolute Godhead, but in his limited Godhead, becomes flesh, and becomes dead. His Godhead all the while remaining unchanged, his Christhood alone passeth through the condition of humiliation and death; and yet the identity of the person is preserved, whether you look to his subsistence in Godhead absolute, or his subsistence in Christhood before the worlds; or his subsistence in sinful flesh which he made sinless, redeeming it out of death; or his present subsistence in the throne of God; or his future subsistence as the King and Priest of a regenerate world. The unintelligible part of this mystery, is, how Godhead should come out of
the absolute form, into the relative form of the Christ; and how the person subsisting as the Christ should likewise subsist as the absolute God. To attempt to explain this, to attempt to understand it, is to attempt to make God comprehensible; which is no less than to attempt to make him a creature, yea, and the creation of a creature: for this action of Godhead, by which he becometh comprehensible, is an action above and beyond the comprehensible; is an action to the end of becoming comprehensible, and must therefore remain for ever incomprehensible. This, therefore, I attempt not to explain: this I pronounce inexplicable to man or angel. But from the point oat which the Christ is set up, and God in the person of the Son becomes active in Christ, from that point it is all intelligible, all within the bounds of pure reason, which to know is life eternal. That reasonable man who turns aside from the knowledge of God, from the full and perfect knowledge of God, in Christ revealed, is guilty of an enormous sin, which I shall not name nor judge, but of which I will say this, that it is the heaviest sin of the church in these times. For, alas! she is contented to be ignorant of those high points of truth and reason which I am continually straining my faculties to express: LABOR INGRATUS: labour truly without reward; yea, labour with much contumely, suspicion, and accusation pursued, if I were to look to the multitude of men and churchmen around me, my brethren, and my fathers; but labour well bestowed, and most delightsome, when I look unto the light of life, when I look into the community of it, which I myself have partaken; and when I look unto those who, reusing the fellowship of a dark world, and a blinded understanding, do seek and find their fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Of the Son of God, then, subsisting as the Christ within the bounds of reason and of work it is said in the text that he became dead. In the first of John it is said, that he became flesh; but here it is said that he became dead. Now between these two spheres
of humiliation there is a great difference, upon which I would make some observations: that is to say, in order to shew more perfectly what is meant by Christ’s becoming dead, I would follow him in his progress thereto by his first becoming flesh. Flesh is the region of humanity, the bound and compass which God hath fixed for the definition of his creature man; not the body alone, nor the reasonable soul alone, but the body and the soul or spirit, the visible and the invisible parts of man, subsisting in union with one another. When, therefore, it is said, Christ became flesh, it is signified that he who heretofore had subsisted in the glory and fulness of Godhead intelligible, did empty himself thereof, and come into the condition and limits, and passions and affections of manhood, such as manhood is experienced by us to be, such as manhood is by God defined to be. This is incarnation in the abstract idea of it. That from being the Pleroma, the fulness of the Godhead, the Logos, the Word of God, subsisting not in any creature form, but in the bosom of the Father abiding, and its vastness filling, and its blessedness enjoying, he should take upon him and be brought into the conditions of space and time, and endure whatever pains, sufferings, diseases, troubles, and affections, an embodied soul and quickened body are heir unto. This I say is the abstract idea of incarnation, and is the proper measure of the humiliation voluntarily undertaken therein. As to the peculiar condition of the flesh which he took, whether fallen or unfallen, sinless or sinful, it is a question not of the substance, but of the accidents of incarnation; for incarnation might have been in Adam’s unfallen substance, as well as in Mary’s fallen substance. It would have been equally incarnation in either case. But if in Adam’s unfallen substance, it would have had no connexion with our fallen condition, no sympathy with our trials, no affliction with our afflictions, no share in our sufferings, no fellowship of our mortal ills, no conjunction with us in our death, and no bearing upon our condition beyond the grave. If he was
incarnate of Adam’s unfallen substance, incarnation hath no comfort in it to a sinner: as man it touches me, and honours me; but as a sinful me, it touches me not at all. As a mortal man, it yields me no life of immortality; as an enslaved man, it yields me no tidings of redemption; as a rebellious man, at war with my God, it yields me no knowledge of atonement. It is, indeed, a great condescension of God, which, like the devils, I may look at and tremble; which, like Balaam, I may see, but not nigh: condescension of God there is in it to creation, but to a sinner there is no grace. Wide, wide of my wants it is: and if so it is, that Christ took Adam’s unfallen substance, I, a poor fallen sinner, am debarred from hope of liberty, and must hang my harp upon the willows; or, if I take it into my hand, must strike the note of hopes defeated, of human redemption for ever forsaken of God, of mankind forlorn, and the world for ever lost. But it is not so. Whoso saith it is so, let him be anathema. If an angel from heaven should come and say it is so, let him be anathema maranatha.
When I said above, that, to the idea of incarnation in its abstract form, redemption from sin and death was not necessary, I did not mean to say that it was not of the essence of the purpose of God, wherein Christ is contemplated as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It is an much of the purpose of God, that Christ should die, as that he should be made flesh: and therefore when the man who was his forerunner and messenger to announce him, pointed his finger at him, he spake these words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;” announcing him as the sacrificial Lamb, whom God had sanctified and sent into the world for the end of taking away its sin. And upon this resteth he his claim to the Father’s love; not that he had become flesh, but that he was to give his life for the sheep. And wherever in Scripture this great mystery is celebrated, as essential part of it consisteth in his dying: as, for example, in the second
chapter of the Philippians; “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and, being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And in the opening of the Hebrew: “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.” His becoming flesh, therefore, is not to be separated in the purpose of God, from his becoming dead: to the unfolding of which truth we now proceed.
Death is the stamp of God, which distinguisheth a sinful state of the creature. “The wages of sin is death.” “Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Putting Christ out of the question, no one can deny that death is the one thing which differenceth the creature void of sin from the creature under sin; the creature in its creation state, from the creature in the state wherein by its own actings it hath brought itself; or in one word the unfallen from the fallen. I do not say that death proves a creature to be actually sinful; but I say that it proves a creature to be actually sinful, because then it would prove Christ to be sinful; but I say that it proves a creature to have lost its creation standing, and to be upon another footing before God, which is the footing of redemption, resting upon another base than that base originally given to it by God. Christ, to become mortal, must therefore not be created, but generated of a women: his generation is of the Holy Ghost, but it is not creation. If it were creation, then he must fall before he
can die: but being generated, he himself, as to his human nature, stands upon a redemption footing, and therefore is mortal. And in the Psalms, and in the Prophets, he is as continually, aye, and more frequently spoken of, as being saved than as saving; as being redeemed than as redeeming. Psal. xvi. 9 - 11; xxii. 20, 21; xxviii. 8; xxxv. 17, to the end; xl. passim; xli. passim; lv. 16; lvi. 11, 13; lxix. 29; lxxi. 20; xci. 15, 16; cxvi. 4, 8; cxviii. 5 - 22: Isai. viii. 17, 18; xlix. 7, 8; li. 6. 7; liii. 9 - 12; lv. 5: Acts ii. 22 - 24; iii. 15; xiii. 30: Romans iv. 24; vi. 9, 10; viii. 11: I Cor. xv. 15 - 17: Eph. i. 20: Phil. ii. 8, 9: Heb. ii. 9, 10; v. 7 - 9; xiii. 20: I Pet. i. 21. And the same is declared to have been the object and the end of those prayers, and supplications, and tears, which he offered in the days of his flesh (Heb. v. 7); and in one word the acting of Godhead in him, which is the Father’s acting, is altogether made void, unless we look upon Christ as standing in the condition of needing to be saved, and of having been saved in virtue of his continual faith upon the Father. Where then, it may be said, is the acting of his own Godhead? This question contains in it a fundamental error: as if, when we shewed the acting of the Father’s Godhead, we did not also shew the acting of his own Godhead, which would divide the substance of the Godhead. If a man, being shewn the Father’s acting in support and preservation of Christ, turn about and say, But where is the acing of the Son’s Godhead? I say, that man makes two Godheads, and is a Polytheist, a believer of more gods than one. And if a man say, that Christ’s human nature needed no salvation, preservation, redemption, but was in itself an unfallen thing, then that man makes void the Godhead altogether in Christ. And is a worshipper of unfallen human nature. And again, if a man say that Christ conceived and born had no need of continual sustenance, salvation, redemption, from the Father, that man doth deny that his Godhead was at all operative after his conception. But if a man
say, as do all the Scriptures, that he by being conceived of the Virgin, was brought into the weakness, and infirmity, and trials, and temptations, common to all mankind, and was only delivered out of them by the continual acting of faith upon the Father, and reception from the Father of Godhead power, which he used to defeat, with every faculty of the soul and every member of the body, all his and our enemies, then doth that man well hold and maintain that in all his actions Godhead acted, and that to the holiness of all his actions Godhead was necessary; and in one word that a human nature and a Divine nature were present in every action of that person, the Son of Man, who was born of the Virgin. And, moreover, he who thus maintaineth that Christ when conceived and born of the Virgin, needed, in order to be saved from sin, the continual acting of Godhead, doth therein maintain that no creature whatever can prevail to do a good action otherwise than by the same Godhead power. For if human nature, even when informed by the person of the Son of God, could not in that personality do a good action without the sustenance and information of the Divine nature, without the acting of the Father, by the Holy Ghost, to the Son, who receiving this Divine power might with it inform, strengthen, sanctify, and redeem his every member; if, I say, the Son of God when born of a woman could not otherwise than by the Godhead nature be good, and do good, how is it to be believed, or to be imagined, that a created person, a limited being, a man in the same nature subsisting, should be able to be food or to do good. We are all taught by the instance of Christ, that, to be food and to do good, we must receive power from the Father in like manner communicated; that is to say, the Father, or the absolute Godhead, without departing from his absoluteness, without changing his form of the infinite, doth through the spirit communicate unto Christ divine power, which he may exercise by the same Spirit, now acting as the Spirit of Christ, and communicate to each of us who believe on the
Father, power to do good and to be good. This now is the explanation of his becoming dead; and thus explained, “his becoming dead and living again” is the most pregnant truth of God.
He became dead, in order to shew that God out of sinful flesh, such as we now do all possess, could bring forth holiness such as is required of us all. His Son the Christ became flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone; that is, he came into the experience, and the obligation, and the suffering which all flesh is heir to; and by the power of Godhead he took this flesh out of the hands of all his and our enemies, and presented it unto God at all times, and in all ways, pure and spotless, whereby was shewn the grace and power of our God. In like manner, further to prove the power of Godhead, he became dead. Now it hath been made a question how he who never sinned could die. But the question, if a question is to be made of it, is far larger; how he that never sinned could suffer. The answer to both questions is, Because his human nature was held of sinful Adam. “Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he himself took part of the same.” And the part which he took was subject to the same laws, as the lump of which he took it: and so he became dead by becoming flesh. Those who ignorantly or heretically maintain that he took unfallen flesh, or that in conception his flesh was brought into a different law of being from ours, can give no account of his death whatever, so as to justify God. They do indeed talk long and loud about its being vicarious and sacrificial, to cleanse away our sins, which no orthodox man ever denied. But if Christ's flesh were unfallen, how could it die without God’s violating the law of creation, which is not death but life? What would we say of any one who should affirm that God made Adam for suffering and death? Where then were God’s goodness in creation? But what better is it to say that Christ took Adam’s nature in order to die therein? The thing is monstrous, and never was heard of in the church till now. Preachers, indeed, in the large liberty of discourse,
may be found, when insisting upon the purity of Christ's human nature, to have now and then likened it, and perhaps even identified it with Adam’s before the Fall; but that any theologian should maintain as a thesis that Christ's substance was in the state of Adam, is what I, in the course of my reading or hearing, have never met with, save in some schismatical and heretical pamphleteers of this day. Equally erroneous is it to maintain that, by the miraculous generation, the substance of his flesh was brought into a third state; neither such as Adam’s nor such as the Virgin’s, such as no one possesseth, and no one therefore can define or sympathize with, except by negative; - as, that it was not like ours, it was not predisposed to temptation, it was not inclined to evil, and so forth. For what law appoints this third estate of flesh to die? If the root of sin was taken out of it by extraordinary generation, how was the fruit of death not taken out of it also? And who shall tell the properties of this metaphysical substance, this non-descript body? Was pain to it pain? Was death to it death? Was resurrection to it resurrection? Or are they all but phantasms, as the Marcionites held? It is not my present object to press these erring brethren of mine into a corner. I would rather lead them out of their schismatical fastnesses into the open field of wholesome and pleasant discourse; but if I were inclined, I could shew that they are plunged into the Marcionite heresy, which the catholic church hath ever abhorred, and which our church condemns by name. Marcion held that Christ's was not a true body; and therefore it is asserted in our Catechism that he took a true body. Now what is meant by the work “true,” when applied to the body, but that in all its properties it was as ours is, not failing one? And how the, say they, changed in the generation; yea, so changed as to be entirely of different properties, having no proclivity to temptation? If temptation bounded from him like a ball from an adamantine rock, his body is as different from ours as the rock of adamant is from
the soft and yielding clay. And so an untrue body, which is the essence of the Marcionite heresy, is maintained. But is it sinful to be tempted through the flesh? If it be, then Christ must not be liable to temptation through the flesh, for he is sinless. But if it be sinful to be tempted through the flesh, how can there be such a thing as holiness at all brought out of man? for every man is tempted through the flesh, at all times, and in all ways. The flesh lusteth against the spirit. Bur I deny that it is unholiness to be tempted through the flesh, or by the flesh to be tempted through the mind, provided the will consent not to the evil consciousness. On the other hand, I assert that it is in a condition to all holiness to be thus tempted. Holiness since the Fall there has been none, but through such temptation; and holiness consisteth in being assailed by such temptation of the flesh or of the mind, in being conscious to it, and overcoming it. How any man dareth, in the face of God’s word, to say that Christ was not in all points tempted like as we are, is beyond my comprehension. And the boldness is only increased by making the words “without sin” to limit the scope and extent of the temptation; which words contain the great truth, that though tempted always he was sinless always, by overcoming the temptation, and carrying his Divine power into the field of the temptation, and casting the tempter out; so that when in the end of his career the devil came to him, he found nothing of his in him, no root of bitterness, no right of possession, no sign of subjection. And this word “without sin,” introduced also into the Catechism and the Confession of Faith, when treating of our Lord’s generation, in order to guard against the communication of guilt, whereof ordinary generation is the sign, these misguided men would seize upon to prop up their wretched soul-destroying error, that Christ's flesh underwent in his generation a change which made it impassive to temptation, or at least not passive as ours is: the
end of which vile and abominable fiction is to separate him from all sympathy with us, and us from all sympathy with him, and to make his mortality an arbitrary appointment of God, and no obedience of the word of his holiness pronounced upon mankind. If an innocent angel or archangel can die for any end whatever, then the distinction between good and evil, between righteousness and iniquity, is subverted for ever, and man’s estate since the Fall is no proof of God’s holiness whatever, but a mere arbitriment of his will. Ah, it is a fearful siege which is at present carrying on against the very citadel of God’s own holy being, and man’s free inheritance in his grace; and we, who should have been as one man to defend God’s holy being, and our own goodly inheritance in his grace, are like the sons of Ephraim drunken, but not with strong drink, - - drunken with delusion and the cup of error. I could weep and bow myself down in fasting and mourning, because of the things which I hear, and which I partly see, with respect to the opinions entertained by some of the more ostensible and conspicuous of the clergy of my mother church. I hope it is otherwise with the quiet and unobserved parish ministers. If not, I trust, O God, thou wilt bless these labours of thy servant, to stand in this breach and defend thy truth. Give me a confidence in the truth which shall not be be afraid even of a brother’s wrath, even of a mother’s punishment. The time is short, the issues, are a nation’s, and a church’s preservation: therefore, O ye who know the truth, be up and doing; quit you like men, be strong.’
Oh, most merciful God, who in the person of thy Son didst empty thyself of Godhead, and become clothed upon with flesh of sin, in order to conquer sin in flesh, grant that thy church, in like manner humbling herself into the conformity of thy life and death, may receive the power of thy resurrection, and be enabled to apprehend and admire and hold up unto the world this thy true love and deep abasement for our salvation, to the end that men may be convinced of thy truth, and converted from the error of their ways, and taught to acknowledge thy glory. Grant this prayer, O Father, for the sake of thine incarnate Son, our Saviour. Amen.