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Besides these more prominent exhibitions of this error, it has also, in all ages, been held by smaller sects, such as the Carpocratians, a branch of the ancient Gnostics—the followers of Paul, of Samosata—by Thotenius, a Bishop of Galatia—and in modern times by various deistically-inclined persons.
Against this error, we are taught, that he who became Incarnate was, and is, the "eternal Son.” Not created in time, but selfexistent from all eternity—"who is, and continueth, true and eternal God.”
3. The person who became Incarnate after this Incarnation, Fi continueth true and eternal God.”.
His being conceived and born is the first stage in His humiliation; but we must not imagine that His Incarnation was a degradation—that He became anything less than He was before-that His divine nature was left behind in the Incarnation. Against this we are guarded, “He is, and continueth to be, true and eternal God.”
Of Him who appeared in our nature it could still be said : "This is the true God and eternal life.” (1 Jobn 5: 20.) Though Christ was of the Fathers, as concerning the flesh, He was still “over all, God blessed forever.” (Rom. 9: 5; Heb. 1: 10, 12.)
Olevianus bas well said: “The eternal Son of God, who is one essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost, without laying any. thing aside, without undergoing any change, and without mixture of His divine nature, became wbat He was not before, namely: true man"*
It will add greatly to our reverence for Christ, if, when we read the record of His acts and teachings, we keep this truth steadily before our minds. Beholding Him in His deep bumiliation, we are prone to forget His dignity. True, we may, at times, when mighty works do show themselves in Him, have a transient sense of His di. vinity, yet we find it difficult to maintain it steadily in the gentler and more ordinary exhibitions of His character. Yet we ought to feel it always, that we may be ever filled with the deepest reverence of soul before Him. So that we may feel tbat the babe in the manger, meek, mild andl ovely, as only a babe can be, is a divine babe —that He at wbose feet" Mary is sitting, and upon whose bosom John is leaning, who takes little children into His arms with a blessing, who invites the humble penitents to Himself, and who speaks so many wonderfully touching words of promise, is the true and eternal God.” What new power, and life, and love, would accompany all His words to us, could we steadily and fully realize this blessed truth.
II. We must consider the Incarnation itself.
The eternal Son of God, remaining and continuing the same, "took upon Himself the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.” Or, as the creed expresses it: "He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."
The conception and the birth of Christ must be distinguished from each other; for they are not only separate from each other in time, but different also as to the agents by which they were effected. The one was by the Holy Ghost, the other from the Vir. gin Mary; the one was from Heaven, the other from earth; the one was of divine source, the other of human. It was meet that Immanuel, who unites in His person God and man, heaven and earth, should have both sources unite in His Incarnation.
This distinction between IIis conception and birth, was not made in the ancient creeds. Without any distinct mention of the conception, they included both in the idea of His birth, and said: " Who was born by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary;" or, "of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary.”
When it is said, in a way which makes Him passive, “He was conceived," "He was born,” we are not to understand that the deepest ground of the Incarnation was in the agents by which He was conceived and born. His conception and birth, it must be remembered, did not produce this wonderful being; but only effected the union of the divine, which existed before with the human. It was an entering of the divine into the human, and an assuming of the human into the divine, so as to make a divine-human being.
The divine is, therefore, to be regarded as first in order, as over the human, and as not passive, but positive. Immanuel is not man with God, but first God with man. The human did not assume the divine, but the divine assumed the human. “The Son of Gud" was before the “Son of man."'*
Hence, in the definition of this article in the Catechism, the Son of God is set forth as the first agent, as active and positive, over and before, the agents active in His couception and birth. He "took upon himself the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the IIoly Ghost”
This is agreeable to the representations of the Scriptures. “Whe, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made bimself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.” (Phil. 2: 7.) “Forasmuch, then, as the chil. dren are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself, likewise, took part of the same. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels, but he took on Him the seed of Abraham.” (Heb. 2: 14, 16.)
In order to get a clear and true idea of the Incarnation, several things must be kept in mind.
1. In the Incarnation the divine was not changed into the hu. man. This the divine perfection could not admit. The divine can lose nothing, cannot become less than it was, but must remain divine. By a change of the one into the other, the true idea of a
* The Lord being most kind and merciful, and loving mankind, He united man to God.”—
"It behooved the Mediator between God and man, by bis relation unto both, to reduce them both to amity and concord, and to cause, that God should assume man, and that man should give himself to God.”—IRENAEUS.
Mediator would be lost.* He must remain God while he becomes man, and thus became a Mediator by uniting both in one person. This error was maintained by the Eutychians, and also by the Flandrian Anabaptists in the Low countries.
2. We are not to think that the relation of tbe divine to the human was merely in the way of a power at hand; like the divine assistance which sustained and aided the prophets, only in a greater measure. This was the idea of Nestorius. Hence, he would not admit that Mary was the mother of God that the divine was in no sense conceived and born, but only the human, and that the divine was only with the human as aid and inspiration. Thus, some believed, that the divine only united itself with the Son of Mary at His baptism. The Nestorians held that it was only an anion of will and affection.
3. In the Incarnation there was not a mixing, merging or melting of the divine and the human. The finite is not adequate to mix with, and fill out, the infinite. The Eutychians believed that as Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost, that therefore His flesh was produced from the substance of Divinity, and that thus the divine was changed into the human, and the human into the divine. The human is assumed by the divine, so that we, in a certain sense, become “partakers of the divine nature ;” and so, also, did the human in Christ partake of the divine; but there can be no change of the divine, so as to allow of a mixture with the hu. man. Christ is ever one thing as the Son of God, and another as the Son of man-one person, but two natures. “If we should confess such a mixture and confusion of substances as to make a union of natures, we would be so far from acknowledging Him as both God and man, that thereby we should profess Him to be neither God nor man, but a person of a nature as different from both, as all mixed bodies are distinct from each element which concurs in its composition.” (Pearson on the Creed; p. 254.) If the divine nature were mixed with the human, then the Father and the Holy Ghost, as well as the Son, would be Incarnate ; for the divine na. ture is the same in all the persons of the Godbead.
All these views are opposed and set aside by the declaration : "He took upon Himself the very, or the true, nature of man.” If the divine was changed into the human, or the human into the divine, or if such change took place only in part, then it was no more a true human nature,
If the divine was merely associated with the human in the way of power at hand, then it was not a true assumption of the human into union with the divine.
If there was a mixing and merging of both natures into one nature, then the human was no more a true buman nature. Hence, neither of these conceptions can be entertained ; and they are properly thus excluded by the words : “He took upon Himself the
* The Mediator was to be an example of virtue and holiness to His redeemed. ones, which He could not be as God; wherefore he Incarnated himself.-LACTANTIUB. (See King's His. of Apost. Creed; p. 147-148.)
very nature of man;" while at the same time “He continueth true and eternal God.”
We have here clearly stated what He took upon Himself: “The very nature of man."
This includes :
Wo are not to think that He took only a human body, uniting the divinity with it, so that the divine nature occupied, and filled out, the place of the human soul. This was anciently the doctrine of the Arians and Apollinarians. Arius taught that Christ had nothing of man but flesb, and to it tbe Word was joined as its animating principle. Apollinarius distinguishing between the Psyche or soul, and the Nous, mind or spirit, admitted that Christ assumed the former, but not the latter.
This would be a denial of His true humanity; for to a true human being belongs a human soul or spirit, as well as a human body.
The Scriptures assure us that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature.” (Luke 2: 52.) Wisdom cannot, on the one hand, be predicated of the flesh; nor, on the other hand, can the wisdom of divinity, which is infinite, increase. That, therefore, of wbich wisdom is predicated, was not the body; and that wbich is said to have increased in wisdom, was not divinity. It could only be the human soul which is both capable of wisdom, and of increasing in it.
The Son of God had also a will distinct from the Father, and hence, also distinct from His own divine will, which is one with that of the Father. “Not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22: 42.)
He manifested those affections and passions which belong to the human soul, when He said : “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matt. 26: 38 ) He said, also, before His departure from His body: “Father, into thy bands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23: 46.) This could only be said of His human spirit; for, as to His divinity, that was not so separated from the Father as allowed of the idea of commending it back. He was, therefore, in union with a true human soul.
2. He took upon Himself a true human body.
It was not a mere show, a mere semblance, a mere phantasm, that deceived the senses. So taught Simon Magus, and the Gnostics. "A body hast thou prepared me." (Heb. 10: 5.) “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God : and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God,” (1 John 4: 2, 3.) To deny this is Anti. Christ, because it denies a full, true union of Christ with our nature, and thus denies Christ as come to us.
His body grew naturally, and by degrees; it was nourished in the ordinary way, for “He came eating and drinking." (Matt. 11: 19.) He was subject to hunger and thirst. He was weary, and slept. (John 4: 6;Matt. 8: 24;) Wept-(Luke 19: 41; Jobo 11: 35.)
Suffered the agonies of death and died. (Matt. 26:36, &c.) “The thorns which pricked His sacred temples, the nails which penetrated through His hands and feet, the spear which pierced His sacred side, give sufficient testimony of the natural tenderness and frailty of His flesh. And lest His fasting forty days together ; lest His walking on the waters and traversing the seas ; lest His sudden standing in the midst of His disciples when the doors were shut, should raise an opinion that His body was not true and proper flesh. He confirmed first His own disciples. “Feel and see,” that a "spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me to have.” (Luke 24: 39.) He took upon Himself, therefore, a true human body.
3. These two parts of true human nature, namely a true human body and a true human soul, He also assumed and possessed in · their true and proper union with each other.
He grew in wisdom and in stature—the two developed them. selves in united harmony. He was susceptible of temptation. (Matt. 4: 1, 16, 22; Heb. 2: 18.) “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities; but was, in all points, tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4: 15.)
Thus the nature of man, the soul and body, though in the Incar, nation taken into union with the divine, continued in their proper relations, in their several parts-a true body and soul, constituting a true human being. “So that He, which was perfect God, was also perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.” Thus “He took upon Himself the very nature of man.”
As to how He took upon Himself the very nature of man, we are informed that He was "conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” He "took upon Hiinself the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost."
When the conception is to be attributed to the Holy Ghost, we are not to regard Him as the productive, but as the conditional cause. The conception is predicated of Mary, and ascribed to her by the angel: “Thou shalt conceive.” (Luke 1: 31.) The action is ascribed to her; the operation by which she was enabled to con. ceive, is ascribed to the Holy Ghost. (Luke 1: 35; Matt. 1: 18.) Hence, we are correctly taught that He took upon Himself human nature, "of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary.”
In regard to her from whom Christ took human nature, three tbings are to be noticed.
1. Who she was-her name.
Her name was Mary. We can hardly seek anything peculiarly significant in this. It was a common name in that day. It means, indeed, both “exalted” and also “bitterness,” both of which senses, if the name was designed to be prophetic, are fulfilled in her character and experience.
As ber name is the representative of her character, it will be proper here to allude to this.
1.) She was an humble woman. Her life was among the lowly.