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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; and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood : who although He be God and man, yet 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.”
Now, in this mystery there are two cardinal points : the one, the integrity of the two natures; the other, the unity of the one person. The Word-which is the Eternal Son, begotten from everlasting, the very and Eternal God, of one substance with the Father, having in Himself all the attributes, powers, and perfections of the Divine nature without ceasing to be God was made man, of the substance of flesh and blood, and took to Himself our nature, with all its endowments and properties of soul and body; “ so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man." Wherefore “God was in Christ,” not as when He appeared in angelic forms to Abraham and to Israel; nor as He was in the prophets by vision and revelation; nor as He is in us by presence and fellowship; but the man Jesus Christ Himself was God. They that saw Him saw God; they that spake with Him spake with God; they whom He touched and breathed upon felt the touch and the breath of God. “ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we
have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us); that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us : and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
Such is this great mystery, which we can hardly enunciate, and having enunciated can do little more than adore in silence. Let us, however, gather such lights as Holy Scripture gives us for the better understanding of the wisdom which is hid in it.
Gainsayers of the Catholic Faith have set themselves chiefly against this dogma, which is the corner-stone of the gospel. They have been wont to object to the mystery of the Incarnation, not only as a thing incredible in the manner of its fulfilment, but as unnecessary and circuitous, that is, inconsistent with the directness of the power and operations of God. Why,” they say, “need the Son of God be made man? What connection has this with our salvation ? Why could not man be redeemed by the simple exercise of Almighty power in forgiving, cleansing, and raising him from the dead, or in abolishing at once the power of sin and death, so that he should no longer either sin or die ?"
Let us consider what answer the doctrine of Faith gives to these questions. It is this : that according to the revelation made to us of the character and kingdom of God, and of the nature and conditions of man, there appears no other
* 1 St. John i. 1-3.
way by which we could be saved but by the manifestation of God in the flesh.
1. For, first, although it is most true that God might, in His almighty power, destroy the sinful race of mankind, and create another all holy in its stead; or separate the taint of sin and the power of death from our nature, and abolish them altogether; yet we must not forget that God is not Power alone, but Holiness, Wisdom, Justice. There are deeper necessities in the perfections of the Divine mind, and the laws of the spiritual world, which are the expressions of those perfections, than we can penetrate. Sin and death are antagonists and contradictions of the righteousness and immortality of God, which need, it may be, deeper operations of the Divine hand than a simple exercise of power. Sin and death are not realities existing in themselves, apart from beings whom God has made, but are a condition of the creatures of God, privations of holiness and life; they are negations, having no separate existence. Man is sinful, because righteousnss has departed from him ; and mortal, because with righteousness life also departed. The salvation of man, then, is the restoration of righteousness and immortality—the expulsion of sin and death, by the infusion of their natural and distinctive opposites of holiness and life. But as man, who has fallen under the power of sin and death, is a moral and responsible creature, and as his fall from God was through the misdirected energies of his moral powers, so the restoration of man, it may be, can only be effected through the same means, and under the same conditions ; and therefore it may be that the immutable justice of God's kingdom demands no less than the atonement of a Person. We are so greatly ignorant of the original springs of right and wrong, life and death, and of
the laws which inform a mind of infinite perfection, that we cannot, without the highest presumption, doubt that there was no other way to abolish the moral causes of separation between God and man, but by One who should harmonise the laws and conditions of such a redemption in His own Person; in a word, that it needed not a bare exertion of Omnipotence, but an economy and dispensation of moral agencies in harmony with the nature of God and of man, co-ordinate with the scheme of the Divine kingdom and of human probation—that is, the intervention of a Personal Redeemer.
2. Again, sin and death had power in and over the personal nature of mankind. It was from this we had need to be redeemed. Though the laws of God's kingdom were never so fully satisfied, yet our nature would be our destruction: “to be carnally minded is death.” The first sin, as it deprived Adam of the righteousness of grace, so by consequence it threw his nature into corruption; and that corruption is derived to us; and is in every one born into the world; and infects the first motions of the will, which, as they pass through the lusts of the flesh, become biassed and distorted. Even though the kingdom of God had nothing against us, we should die, each one of us, by our own inherent mortality. No man could break the yoke of death from off his own neck; much less redeem mankind. Our very nature itself needed to be purged and restored to the conditions of immortality. There must be a work of life counteracting the work of death, and propagating life throughout the race of mankind, as death has been
pro pagated to us from Adam. And for this cause, the Person who should undertake the salvation of mankind must assume to Himself our humanity, that is, the very nature which Hc
was to heal and to save; and put Himself into personal relation to us. So St. Paul argues: “Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same."* We imposed on Him that necessity. The fall of our nature was the producing cause of His incarnation : because we are men, therefore for us men, and for our salvation, He was made Man.
3. And, once more : as this burden of our humanity is too great for any of us to bear without falling, no created and finite being, either man or angel, could so assume it as to raise it from its fall, restore its imperfections, and sustain it in strength and mastery over the powers of sin. Angels fell from their first estate, not man alone ; both need either the grace of redemption or the grace of perpetual support. Even angels “that excel in strength" stand stedfast in the power of God. In Him is their life, energy, and power. Without Him they would be as we are. They can render to God nothing but what they owe. They can minister, at His bidding, to those that shall be heirs of salvation; but to save is a work too near akin to creation for any but God to accomplish. Our humanity needed to be strengthened and hallowed: of fleshly, to be again made spiritual; of mortal, to be raised above the power of death; of outcast from God, to be united to Him again. So closely, indeed, are we knit to Him, that St. Peter does not fear to say that we are made "partakers of the Divine nature.”+ Therefore He must needs "by Himself purge our sins.” None but He that in the beginning said, “Let us make man in our image,''! could restore again to man the image of God.
So far, then, as we can reason upon things the very terms of which transcend our understanding, it seems that
* Heb. ii. 14.
† 2 St. Pet. i. 5.
| Gen. i. 26.