« PreviousContinue »
great Revealer of the secrets of Heaven.--" No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," John i. 18. By him, God expresses and declares his thoughts to the Church, as men express their thoughts by their words. He “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” Heb. i. 2. By him, God in the beginning spoke all things into existence—"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made." By him, God spake to the ancient patriarchs and prophets. By him was the Gospel preached in the days of his flesh: at the first it began to be spoken by the Lord. It is by him that God speaketh to the hearts of sinners in the day of his
power. 3. As it is by him that God declares his thoughts or will to his people, so it is by him that they express their thoughts and desires to God. The Man Christ Jesus “is the only Mediator between God and men.” It is by him, therefore, that believers offer the sacrifice of praise and thanks to God continually He spake for his people in the council of peace, and covenanted to pay the price of their redemption. He speaks for them in his intercession, and presents their prayers and performances acceptable to his eternal Father.
4. He is in the text, and also in the first verse of the chapter, called the Word, because, being the second Person in the Trinity, it was customary among the Jews to call him by this name; and since the evangelist is here speaking of the constitution of his Person, what he says concerning him would consequently be better understood by them than if he had called him by any other name. Messiah was better known by that name among the ancient Jews than by any other; for he was so denominated, not only in several passages of the Old Testament, but in multitudes of places in the Chaldee paraphrase. Besides, it has been observed, that this term was more acceptable, both to Jews and heathens, than the terms Christ or Son would be. Heathen writers made much use of this term to express the power of God; and nothing was more abhorred by the Jews than the phrase, Son of God. Since, therefore our evangelist was treating of the constitution of Christ's adorable Person, it was requisite that he should style him the Word.
5. Once more: he may be so named, because he is the great and glorious Subject of Divine revelation. The oracles of God are full of him. Moses and all the prophets testified of him : they testified of his sufferings, and of the glory that should follow. The evangelists and apostles build all their doctrines upon him, as the foundation laid in Zion : “ And other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” He is the centre in which all the lines of Divine revelation meet. The gospel cannot exist without him. There we read, that "he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood,” and that his name is called “ The Word of God,” Rev. xix. 13. On these accounts, the only-begotten of the Father may be styled the Word.
II. The second thing proposed was,-to speak of Christ's Incarnation, or his having been made flesh.
1. The eternal Word, the only-begotten Son of the Father, was made flesh ;" that is, he in the fulness of time actually assumed human nature, with all its sinless infirmities, into a personal union with the Divine nature in his adorable Person/" When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,” Gal. iv. 4. « Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same,” Heb. ii. 14. The word was made or became flesh. He became man, or began to be man, not by alteration, but by assumption; not by changing the Godhead into man, but by taking the manhood unto God; so as to constitute a personal and indissolvable union between the Divine and human nature. In consequence of this union, the human nature does not exist by itself, but subsists in the person of the eternal Son.
2. The evangelist does not say that the Word was made
man, but that the Word was made flesh ; intimating the astonishing love of Christ to his people, in humbling himself so low for their redemption as to assume flesh, the meanest part of human nature. Besides, the term flesh expresses more fully the truth of Christ's humanity, and shows, that though he did not assume the person any man, yet he assumed the nature of every man. Moreover, the distinction of the two natures in the person of Christ was hereby rendered more clear, especially to the Jews, who used to set flesh and blood in opposition to the nature of God.
3. The expression intimates, that Christ existed before his incarnation—“The word was made flesh," which implies, that he was the Word before he assumed flesh. He was the Word from all eternity; he was with his eternal Father, as one brought up with him ; he was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, but he was made flesh only in time.
4. So great was the love of Christ to his people, and so much did he long to assume their nature, that he is represented in the Old Testament as often trying it on before he actually assumed it. He sometimes appeared in human form to saints under the Old Testament. I shall cite only two passages in proof of this :- -“It came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted
and looked, and, behold, there stood a Man over against him, with his sword drawn in his hand ; and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries ? And he said, Nay, but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come,” Josh. v. 13, 14. “ He answered and said, LO, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God,” Dan. iii. 25. The love of Christ to his spiritual seed was so ardent, so immense, that he longed to resemble them as nearly as it was possible for him, consistently with his infinite holiness, to do. Hence he was styled, long before his incarnation, Son of man,” Psal. lxxx. 17. ; Dan. vii. 13.
5. Each of the Persons in the adorable Trinity had a peculiar agency in the incarnation of Christ. The Father prepared a body or human nature for him, Heb. x. 5. ; the Holy Spirit, by his overshadowing power, formed it out of the substance of the virgin, Luke i. 35. ; and the Son or second Person, assumed the entire human nature to the Divine nature in his person, Heb. ii. 14. 6. The human nature of Christ has no personality of
In the moment it was formed by the Holy Spirit, it was assumed by the Son ; so that, instead of existing for a moment by itself, or having a distinct personality of its own, it subsists in the person of the Son of God. This human nature is so far from being less perfect than that in a mere man, because it has not a distinct personality of its own, that it is much more perfect and excellent ; for to subsist in a Divine person is inconceivably more excellent than to subsist by itself. A human nature differs from a human person in this, that a human person subsists by itself, but a human nature can subsist in the person of another.
7. The Divine and the human nature in the person of Christ, though united together, are still distinct, each nature possessing its own peculiar properties. The human nature, though united to the Divine, is not dignified with Divine perfections ; nor is the Divine nature made finite or dependent. The human nature is not, in consequence of this union, omnipotent, for Christ was crucified in weakness; nor is it omniscient, Mark xiii. 32. ; nor omnipresent, John xi. 15. And that these two natures are distinct in the person of Christ is evident also from this, that the Scripture ascribes two wills to him, a human and a Divine, Luke xxii. 42. Though the two natures are distinct in the Lord Jesus, yet he hath • not two persons, but one ; as the soul and body, though very distinct, form but one person. It was necessary that his Divine and human natures should be entirely distinct ; because otherwise his Divine nature would have advanced his human nature above the capacity of obeying and suffering ; and his human would have depressed his
Divine nature below the capacity of meriting and satisfying Notwithstanding this personal union, the two natures are not confused nor changed into each other, which was the error of the Eutychians of old, who maintained that there was no distinction of natures in the person of Christ, but that the human was entirely absorbed in the Divine nature. This union is such, that the properties of both natures are preserved entire ; each nature retaining its own essential properties. A change, indeed, is made in the human nature by its being united to the Divine, and yet no change is produced in the Divine by its union with the human ; just as a change is made in the air by its being brightened by the sun, and yet no change in the sun by communicating of its brightness to it. One of the Christian fathers considers the burning bush as a type of this union. He makes the fire in the bush a type of the Divine, and the bush itself a type of the human nature. As the bush was united to the fire, and yet was not hurt by it, but remained entire, was not converted into it, but retained its own properties; so the human nature is united to the Divine, and yet, instead of being converted into it, remains entire. The two natures are so united in one person, as to continue two still.
8. There is a great difference between this union and the union among the Divine Persons in the adorable Trinity. Whereas the hypostatical union of which I have been speaking is an union of two natures in one person, the union in th eTrinity is the union of three persons in one nature, in one numerical nature, or
It differs also from the mystical union that subsists between Christ and believers ; for although Christ be said, in consequence of this mystical union, to be in believers, and they in him, yet they are not one person with him ; they are one mystical body with him, but not one person. It likewise differs from the union that takes place between the soul and the body. Death dissolves the union between the soul and body ; but though the soul had been separated fron the body of our