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OUTLINES OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE

by the Rev. H. C. G. Moule, M.A., Principal of Ridley Hall, and formerly Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Author of "Veni Creator: Thoughts on the Holy Spirit of Promise," etc.
Revised edition [[third edition, Feb., 1890]]
London: Hodder and Stoughton
27, Paternoster Row.
MDCCCXC

<57> CHAPTER IV.

The Doctrine of God (continued).

The Doctrine of the Son

I. The Person of Christ.

We approach the subject of the Person and Work of our most sacred Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is "the Son of God, the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father." Being such, He "took Manís nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance; so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and the Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but for all actual sins of men" (Article II.).

At His name let our spirits bow and adore, and "confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. ii. 11). He is "the First and the Last, and the Living One; He became dead, and behold He is alive for evermore. Amen" (Rev. i. 17, 18).

For direct Scripture assertion of His Divine Nature, His proper Deity, see, e.g., Joh. i. 1-4, <57/58> viii. 58, xx. 28; Acts xx. 28 (probably); Rom. ix. 5 (probably); Tit. ii. 13; Heb. i. 8. For the implied assignment to Him, in the New Testament, of the name Jehovah, see Joh. xii. 41, compared with Isa. vi. 5; and cp. 1 Cor. xii. 3; Phil. ii. 11. But it is all-important to remember that such passages are all the while only the crown, or nucleus, of a far wider phenomenon, the assumption, expressed in many various ways all through the New Testament, that He is divine. Thus He appears as fully knowable only by the Father (Matt. xi. 27); as the object of boundless trust and love to the human heart (Phil. iii. 7-10; Eph. iii. 19, and cp. ver. 8) ; the offerer of rest to all mankind (Matt. xi. 28); the Lord, Head, and Bridegroom of the universal Church (Eph. i. 22, 23, v. 25); the sovereign Disposer of the life and death of His servants (Joh. xxi. 22; Rom. xiv. 7-9); and again as wholly devoid of that sense of imperfection in Himself which He unvaryingly inculcates on man.

All this evidence, to give it full weight, must be studied with real research in the Holy Scriptures, and in constant view of their jealous "Unitarianism" (above, p. 20).

Meanwhile, being divine, being properly God, He is Filial, He is the Son. For Scripture evidence on the eternal (as distinguished from the human) Sonship of Christ, see e.g. Joh. i. 18, xvii. 5, 24; Col. i. 13-17; Heb. i. 2, 8, ii. 14-17; 1 Joh. iv. 9. Not only as He is Man, but as He is God, He is so related to the Father that in divine reality, eternally and necessarily, He is the Son; as such, truly possessing the whole nature of "His own Father" (Joh. v. 18), and truly subordinate to Him, not in nature, but in order.

The inscrutable mode of this blessed Filiation is named in the theology of the Christian Church "the Eternal Generation." The phrase is due to Origen (cent. iii.), and was, like the word Trinity, an instance of the happy denomination which at once collects and clears up truths already held. Scripture reveals that the Christ is the Son antecedent to Incarnation. It also reveals that He is eternal. "Eternal Generation" (gennêsis achronos, proaiônios) combines these truths in the thought that the Begetting is not an event of time, however remote, but a fact irrespective of time. The Christ did not become, but necessarily and eternally is, the Son. He, a Person, possesses every attribute of pure Godhead. This necessitates eternity, absolute being; in this respect He is "not after" the Father. But Fatherhood is peculiar to the blessed First Person, and in this respect the Father is the Origin (archê) of the Son, "greater than the Son" (Joh. xiv. 28). See further above, p. 23.

The Divine Son is called "the Word," Logos (Joh. i. 14 ; Rev. xix. 13. The reference of Heb. iv. 12; 1 Joh. i. 1; to the Son, is not certain).

The Logos of St John has been connected with the Logos of the Alexandrian Jewish thinker Philo (cent. i.). But Philoís Logos is rather the divine inner Reason (the alternative meaning of the word logos) than the forthcoming Word, Godís utterance of Himself. A truer antecedent to St Johnís inspired use is the Aramaic word Memra (Word, root âmar, dixit), employed by the Palestinian Rabbis to convey the thought of God in intercourse. It was this "Word" which the Apostle seems to have been led to adopt, or explain, as the title of Him (not It) who is the Supreme Revealer <59/60> of the Father, and the Living Way of union and communion between God and the creature. [1]

The phrase "of one substance with (the Father)," (homoousios, consubstantialis), was the battleword of the Arian controversy (see above, p. 28); a controversy of permanent significance, affecting as it did problems inseparable from the Scripture doctrine of Christ. The Arians rejected the word homoousios in favour, some of them, of homoiousios, simili-substantial; while others, more extreme and explicit, preferred anomoios, dissimilar. To a modern the word "substance" is misleading, as it suggests in common parlance the idea of material mass. But substantia, in the early centuries, represented the Greek ousia, Being; a thing wholly immaterial. It means properly that which stands under phenomena, that which they manifest; in fact, the essence of a thing. Thus the "substance" of God is Godhead. [2] The Arian debate thus really turned on the Attributes of Christ; were they fully divine, or only quasi-divine, or positively non-divine? Had He fully, or only proximately, or not at all, the Divine Nature? And the only real alternative was between the first and last. The Son could not be almost almighty, almost eternal, almost necessary; for such conceptions are self-destructive. He is either true God or not truly God.

 

The Incarnation.

For Scriptures bearing on this holy subject, the palladium of the revealed Gospel, see Joh. i. 14, <60/61> the central passage, and around it, e.g., Matt. i. 1, 18; Luke i. 31-5; Joh. vi. 51, viii. 40, 58, xvii. 5; Rom. i. 3, 4, viii. 3, ix. 5; Gal. iv. 4; Phil. ii. 5-8; 1 Tim. ii. 5; Heb. ii. 9-18, iv. 15; 1 Joh. i. 1, 2, iv. 2, 3; and, in the light of New Testament fulfilment and illustration, e.g., Gen. iii. 15, xxii. 18; Isai. vii. 14; Micah v. 2; Zech. xiii. 7.

From these and other Scriptures emerge the following elements for a true theory of the blessed Incarnation.

(1) One Person is in view throughout. He who undergoes birth, growth, suffering, death, says, "Before Abraham was, I am;" "I had glory by the Fatherís side before the world was." He who "was in the form (morphê), i.e. who possessed the manifested essence, "of God," "took the form of a bondservant, and obeyed, even unto death."

(2) Two Natures are in view, the divine and the human, in equally real relation to this Person. He is God; Jehovah (cp. Isai. vi. 5, with Joh. xii. 41): He becomes man. And He becomes complete man; possessing body, soul (Matt. xxvi. 38), spirit (Luke xxiii. 46); developing in physique and in wisdom (Luke ii. 52); capable of surprise (Matt. viii. 10), and of tears (Joh. xi. 35); feeling manís instinctive and necessary aversion from suffering as such (Matt. xxvi. 39). His manhood, by its mode of becoming, namely, birth of a mother, is not an alien and strange manhood, but solidaire with ours. It descends from Adam, though in its actual production a supernatural power takes place. Its materials are created materials, and derived (see below, p. 68).

(3) The Human Nature of the Son never, for a moment, stood or stands apart from His Divine nature and person. "God sent forth His Son, born of a <61/62> woman" (Gal. iv. 4). He did not send His Son to join a man born of a woman; which would have been an alliance of two persons, not a harmony of two natures in relation to one person. The Manhood was, and is, never independently personal. It is better to say Christ is man, than Christ is a man.

(4) The divine Person of the Son thus, in Incarnation, took human nature, besides divine nature, into the field of personal consciousness. This is sometimes expressed by the phrase, "divine-human Personality." It is better to say that the Incarnate Son is Divine-Human; His ultimate Personality, Divine.

(5) Meanwhile this absolute and necessary dependency of the Manhood does not mean the least unreality in the human experience of our Incarnate Lord. Here the phenomena of the Gospels are clear. Christ, as man, is seen to learn, to trust, to bear, to do, to contemplate past, present, and future, with perfect naturalness. Peter is in these respects no more human than Christ. In some sense, the solicitations of evil appear as a trial as real for Him as for His followers.

(6) On the other hand, He not only did no sin; He "knew no sin" (2 Cor. v. 21). Not for one moment did sin enter the human field of His being. In the highest sense He was incapable of sin; not physically, (for every physical faculty and limit which in us, as men, is an avenue for temptation, and ministers to the sinning spirit, was in Him,) but morally and spiritually. In this respect, His position is expressed by "ability not to sin," posse non peccare, rather than by "inability to sin," non posse peccare.

(7) Yet, from another point, the ultimate truth is non posse peccare. The Manhood of Christ is to <62/63> be studied not in the abstract, but in its actual, absolute, necessary harmony with His Deity, under His divine Personality. Had the Manhood sinned, the Christ would have sinned in His Manhood; the highest moral impossibility.

In this subject, we are reduced to the acceptance of revealed phenomena as yet, at least, imperfectly harmonized to our thought. Our blessed Lord was really tempted. Our blessed Lord could not sin. [3]

(8) We read in the phenomena of the Gospels the truth that our Incarnate Lord, whatever the conditions of His humiliation, still was always God as truly as Man, and Man as truly as God. Real temptations, real hunger, thirst, and surprise, leave Him still able to offer rest to all the weary of mankind; to assert His own eternity, and His eternal Being in heaven (Joh. iii. 13) to exercise omniscience so far as He wills. [4] In Him full Godhead and full Manhood were always present, in harmony. <63/64>

(9) On certain titles of the Incarnate Lord.

(a) Son of God (Luke i. 35). The words, in the light of the context, indicate the divine action, analogous to human paternity, in the generation of the Manhood. Compare the same words used of Adam (Luke iii. 38), with reference also to special divine action in his production.

(b) Son of Man. This designation is used only by our Lord, never by His disciples. It is remarkable that in the Old Testament the phrase "Son of Man" habitually refers to the weakness and dependency of mere man. [5] In the Gospels the Saviour uses it in a sense apparently new, designating Himself as the True Man, the Man of men.

(c) The Second Man (1 Cor. xv. 47). In the light of the last remarks, this title explains itself. As Adam sums up and represents humanity as created, and as fallen, so Christ, incarnate and "perfected" (p. 74), sums up and represents humanity as regenerated and holy. Individually, every man, as man, is "in Adam," as to derivation of nature and bond of covenant; every regenerated man is "in Christ," as to reception of renewed nature and grant of new covenant. Adam is the head of humanity, Christ of new humanity. On the question whether the Manhood of Christ was pre-existent, see p. 72.

 

Supplementary

History of the Doctrine of Christís Person.

Our outline of this has been in part anticipated under the History of the Doctrine of the Trinity.

(1) First to Third Centuries.óThat divine worship was from the first paid to Christ can be amply proved. In the second century the records of martyrdoms, as of Polycarp and of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, and the Letters of Ignatius, fully show the intensity of faith in the Lordís Godhead. So does the frequency with which heathen observers fix upon the adoration of Christ as God as a phenomenon of Christianity. Side by side with this more popular phase of the facts, the early teachers of the Church do, on the whole, steadfastly and with deepest earnestness, both in replies to assailants and in instruction to disciples, avow and glory in their adoration. From the first, as even the New Testament bears witness, there were alien drifts of opinion; but the broad fact remains that a main stream of conviction not only allowed, but jealously guarded, the confession of the Godhead of Christ. The more and more careful definitions of it were made in face of attacks upon a truth felt to be inestimably precious, and which had been not carelessly held, but inadequately analysed and stated.

This last remark accounts for exceptional language found in orthodox writers earlier than the Nicene Council (325), language which favours later theories openly heterodox; e.g., that the Son is "another God under the Creator" (Justin); or of a nature "very near to the Supreme" (Clement of Alexandria). But the whole evidence gives the inference that such language is accidental, not essential; an aberration from a central truth which had not yet received full analysis under the process of attack. From the same writers a far larger mass of <65/66> testimony to a full doctrine of our Lordís Godhead can be adduced.

(2) Fourth to Fifth Centuries.óIn the Arian controversy the question lay, as we have seen (above, p. 28), between a Christ only quasi-God (we do not yet speak of His Manhood) and a Christ fully God. It is remarkable that on the whole the Arians posed as the original thinkers, as against a stationary traditionism; a fact suggestive of the past state of belief. The Homoousion (above, p. 60), and not simply the Godhead of the Son, was the crucial word of the discussion, because the Arians patronized a secondary, illusory, use of the word "God," which thus ceased to be a test-word.

Meanwhile, the Arians taught only a quasi-manhood as well as a quasi-Godhead. To them, the manhood altogether lacked the spiritual element (pneuma); its place was taken by the quasi-Godhead of "the Son."

"Far from spanning the infinite abyss which philosophy, not revelation, had placed between God and sinless man, the Arian Christ is nothing but an isolated pillar in its midst" (Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 28).

The Arian controversy left the general Christian confession of our Lordís proper Godhead historically unmistakable. But the following century saw three great after-waves raised over related questions.

(a) Appollinarius (cir. 380) represents the opinion that in the manhood of the Christ the highest natural element, the rational soul (nous, mens) was lacking, and that the Godhead took its place. This he taught, apparently, as if necessary to the impeccability of the Incarnate; ignoring the surer inference from it that it leaves Him not truly "one with us." He also held, in some sense, the eternal pre-existence of this quasi-manhood, and that the Crucified suffered not only being God, but as God. Apollinarianism was repudiated at the Council of Constantinople, 381.

(b) Nestorius (Bishop of Constantinople, 428) held, in effect, a dual Personality in the Incarnate. With him, <66/67> the Manhood was not only entire, but independent. A human being, supernaturally produced, the Virginís Son, was then taken into an ineffable connexion by the eternal Son of God. The term "Mother of God" (theotokos), then recently adopted as a title of the Holy Virgin, in testimony to the Godhead of her Son, was earnestly censured by Nestorius. His theory seriously obscures the relation of our Lord, as "the Second Man," to manhood in general. The Nestorian Christ, from the human side, is not Man, but a man. Nestorianism was reelected at the Council of Ephesus, 432. The followers of Nestorius became a dissentient body, still existing in the East. Their bishoprics extended at one period across the whole length of Upper Asia, to China.

(c) Eutyches (abbot at Constantinople, 448) represents the opposite tendency of opinion, the Monophysite, or Uni-natural. With him, Incarnation resulted in a Single Nature, that of "God made flesh and come to dwell in man" (theou sarkôthentos kai evanthrôpêsantos). This opinion was condemned at Chalcedon, 451. The Council issued a Confession, known as the "Definition" (horos), a memorable document, alike for its fulness, clearness, and balance. We translate here that part of it immediately in point.

After reciting certain circumstances, and after solemn recognition of the Creeds of Nicæa and Constantinople, the Fathers proceed:ó

"This wise and saving Watchword of the grace of God would have sufficed for the true knowledge and establishment of our religion. But since those who seek to spoil the proclamation of the Truth through their own wilful errors (haireseis) have produced their idle utterances, some daring to undermine the Lordís Incarnation (oikonomia) for our sakes, and to reject the term ĎMother of God,í and others to introduce [the theory of] a compound and mixture, foolishly feigning that the nature of the Flesh and the Godhead is one, and unnaturally assert- <67/68> ing that the divine Nature of the Only Begotten is, by the compound, passible Ö. . [the Synod] opposes those who seek to rend the mystery of the Incarnation into a Pair of Sons, and thrusts from the assembly of holy worship those who dare to say that the Godhead of the Only Begotten is passible, and resists those who invent a mixture or compound concerning the two Natures of the Christ, and casts forth those who teach that that ĎForm of the Bondservantí which He took from us is of celestial or any non-human essence (ousia), and bans those who fable two Natures of the Lord before the Union, but invent one Nature after it. Following then the holy Fathers [of Nicæa and Constantinople], we confess One and the Same Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, and all with one voice teach that He is perfect in Godhead and perfect also in Manhood, God truly, and also Man truly, of reasonable soul and body consisting, consubstantial (coessential, homoousion) with the Father as to the Godhead, and also consubstantial (coessential) with us as to the Manhood, in all things like to us without sin, begotten of the Father before the ages as to the Godhead, but also in the end of days, for us and for our salvation, [born] of Mary, the Virgin, the Mother of God, as to the Manhood; confessed One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only Begotten, in two Natures without compound, without change, without division, without [possible] separation, the difference of the Natures being nowise removed because of the Union, but rather the property of each Nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person (prosôpon) and one substance (hypostasis), not as if He were to be partitioned Ö. into two Persons; but One and the same Son, and Only Begotten, God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; as of old the Prophets concerning Him, and also He, the Lord Himself, instructed us, and as the Watchword of the Fathers hath handed it down to us." [6]

(3) Seventh Century.óA subordinate ancient controversy was the Monothelite, or One-Will controversy. The Monothelite held that as there was one Person only, there could be but one Will, though acting through two Natures. Against this Scripture is practically clear; and, indeed, the conclusion seems to be direct that, granting the full spiritual element to manhood in the Incarnate, we grant the presence of human will. The doctrine of Two Wills, separable in conception, but perfectly and always harmonious in divine plan and historic fact, was laid down at Constantinople, 635.

Our sketch of controversies is inevitably meager and eclectic. But it may in part be supplemented from the previous section. Its aim is to present great specimens, suggestive of closer study. The ancient controversies are significant for all time; not specimens of fossil species, but fossil specimens, singularly instructive by their surroundings, of existing and permanent species of thought. <69>

___________________

[1] Cp. Westcott, Introduction (p. xv) to St Johnís Gospel (Speakerís Commentary).

[2] In the definition of Chalcedon (below, p. 67) the Incarnate Son is said to be consubstantial (coessential) with us, homoousios hêmin; that is, partaker of true manhood.

[3] As St. Anselm points out (Cur Deus Homo, ii. 17), to say "God," or "Christ, cannot sin" is a phrase not of impotency but of potency. It expresses the utter inability of temptation to deflect the nature and will.

[4] Mark xiii. 32 is quoted as invalidating His perfect knowledge. It no doubt limits His knowledge on that one point. But the very phrase, from His lips, looks like an implicit claim to knowledge otherwise complete. And the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship, in the Gospels, makes it surely inconceivable that even that limitation of conscious knowledge should be imposed on the Son because of limitation of capacity. It was for unknown purposes of dispensation; and it was the one thing of the kind. The Christian who deals eclectically with any positive statement of His, about fact as well as about principle, is on very dangerous ground indeed.

As regards Luke ii. 52, the "increase in wisdom" no more implies stages of defective wisdom than the "increase in favour with God" implies stages of defective favour. What is implied is developed application to developed subject matter. Cp. by all means Liddon, Bampton Lectures, Lect. viii.

[5] In Dan. vii. 13, a Messianic passage, we find the True King represented as, "like unto (a) Son of Man"; perhaps in contrast to the "beasts" symbolizing the usurping world-powers. See Westcott on Joh. i. 51.

[6] For the original, in a generally accessible form, see Heurtley De Fide et Symbolo, p. 19; or Canons of the First Four General Councils (Clarendon Press, Oxford), p. 31. See also Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, Eng. Trans., ed. 1850, vol. i., p. 300; and by all means Hooker, Eccl. Polity, bk v., 51-4.

<57> CHAPTER IV.

The Doctrine of God (continued).

The Doctrine of the Son

I. The Person of Christ.

We approach the subject of the Person and Work of our most sacred Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is "the Son of God, the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father." Being such, He "took Manís nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance; so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and the Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but for all actual sins of men" (Article II.).

At His name let our spirits bow and adore, and "confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. ii. 11). He is "the First and the Last, and the Living One; He became dead, and behold He is alive for evermore. Amen" (Rev. i. 17, 18).

For direct Scripture assertion of His Divine Nature, His proper Deity, see, e.g., Joh. i. 1-4, <57/58> viii. 58, xx. 28; Acts xx. 28 (probably); Rom. ix. 5 (probably); Tit. ii. 13; Heb. i. 8. For the implied assignment to Him, in the New Testament, of the name Jehovah, see Joh. xii. 41, compared with Isa. vi. 5; and cp. 1 Cor. xii. 3; Phil. ii. 11. But it is all-important to remember that such passages are all the while only the crown, or nucleus, of a far wider phenomenon, the assumption, expressed in many various ways all through the New Testament, that He is divine. Thus He appears as fully knowable only by the Father (Matt. xi. 27); as the object of boundless trust and love to the human heart (Phil. iii. 7-10; Eph. iii. 19, and cp. ver. 8) ; the offerer of rest to all mankind (Matt. xi. 28); the Lord, Head, and Bridegroom of the universal Church (Eph. i. 22, 23, v. 25); the sovereign Disposer of the life and death of His servants (Joh. xxi. 22; Rom. xiv. 7-9); and again as wholly devoid of that sense of imperfection in Himself which He unvaryingly inculcates on man.

All this evidence, to give it full weight, must be studied with real research in the Holy Scriptures, and in constant view of their jealous "Unitarianism" (above, p. 20).

Meanwhile, being divine, being properly God, He is Filial, He is the Son. For Scripture evidence on the eternal (as distinguished from the human) Sonship of Christ, see e.g. Joh. i. 18, xvii. 5, 24; Col. i. 13-17; Heb. i. 2, 8, ii. 14-17; 1 Joh. iv. 9. Not only as He is Man, but as He is God, He is so related to the Father that in divine reality, eternally and necessarily, He is the Son; as such, truly possessing the whole nature of "His own Father" (Joh. v. 18), and truly subordinate to Him, not in nature, but in order.

The inscrutable mode of this blessed Filiation is named in the theology of the Christian Church "the Eternal Generation." The phrase is due to Origen (cent. iii.), and was, like the word Trinity, an instance of the happy denomination which at once collects and clears up truths already held. Scripture reveals that the Christ is the Son antecedent to Incarnation. It also reveals that He is eternal. "Eternal Generation" (gennêsis achronos, proaiônios) combines these truths in the thought that the Begetting is not an event of time, however remote, but a fact irrespective of time. The Christ did not become, but necessarily and eternally is, the Son. He, a Person, possesses every attribute of pure Godhead. This necessitates eternity, absolute being; in this respect He is "not after" the Father. But Fatherhood is peculiar to the blessed First Person, and in this respect the Father is the Origin (archê) of the Son, "greater than the Son" (Joh. xiv. 28). See further above, p. 23.

The Divine Son is called "the Word," Logos (Joh. i. 14 ; Rev. xix. 13. The reference of Heb. iv. 12; 1 Joh. i. 1; to the Son, is not certain).

The Logos of St John has been connected with the Logos of the Alexandrian Jewish thinker Philo (cent. i.). But Philoís Logos is rather the divine inner Reason (the alternative meaning of the word logos) than the forthcoming Word, Godís utterance of Himself. A truer antecedent to St Johnís inspired use is the Aramaic word Memra (Word, root âmar, dixit), employed by the Palestinian Rabbis to convey the thought of God in intercourse. It was this "Word" which the Apostle seems to have been led to adopt, or explain, as the title of Him (not It) who is the Supreme Revealer <59/60> of the Father, and the Living Way of union and communion between God and the creature. [1]

The phrase "of one substance with (the Father)," (homoousios, consubstantialis), was the battleword of the Arian controversy (see above, p. 28); a controversy of permanent significance, affecting as it did problems inseparable from the Scripture doctrine of Christ. The Arians rejected the word homoousios in favour, some of them, of homoiousios, simili-substantial; while others, more extreme and explicit, preferred anomoios, dissimilar. To a modern the word "substance" is misleading, as it suggests in common parlance the idea of material mass. But substantia, in the early centuries, represented the Greek ousia, Being; a thing wholly immaterial. It means properly that which stands under phenomena, that which they manifest; in fact, the essence of a thing. Thus the "substance" of God is Godhead. [2] The Arian debate thus really turned on the Attributes of Christ; were they fully divine, or only quasi-divine, or positively non-divine? Had He fully, or only proximately, or not at all, the Divine Nature? And the only real alternative was between the first and last. The Son could not be almost almighty, almost eternal, almost necessary; for such conceptions are self-destructive. He is either true God or not truly God.

 

The Incarnation.

For Scriptures bearing on this holy subject, the palladium of the revealed Gospel, see Joh. i. 14, <60/61> the central passage, and around it, e.g., Matt. i. 1, 18; Luke i. 31-5; Joh. vi. 51, viii. 40, 58, xvii. 5; Rom. i. 3, 4, viii. 3, ix. 5; Gal. iv. 4; Phil. ii. 5-8; 1 Tim. ii. 5; Heb. ii. 9-18, iv. 15; 1 Joh. i. 1, 2, iv. 2, 3; and, in the light of New Testament fulfilment and illustration, e.g., Gen. iii. 15, xxii. 18; Isai. vii. 14; Micah v. 2; Zech. xiii. 7.

From these and other Scriptures emerge the following elements for a true theory of the blessed Incarnation.

(1) One Person is in view throughout. He who undergoes birth, growth, suffering, death, says, "Before Abraham was, I am;" "I had glory by the Fatherís side before the world was." He who "was in the form (morphê), i.e. who possessed the manifested essence, "of God," "took the form of a bondservant, and obeyed, even unto death."

(2) Two Natures are in view, the divine and the human, in equally real relation to this Person. He is God; Jehovah (cp. Isai. vi. 5, with Joh. xii. 41): He becomes man. And He becomes complete man; possessing body, soul (Matt. xxvi. 38), spirit (Luke xxiii. 46); developing in physique and in wisdom (Luke ii. 52); capable of surprise (Matt. viii. 10), and of tears (Joh. xi. 35); feeling manís instinctive and necessary aversion from suffering as such (Matt. xxvi. 39). His manhood, by its mode of becoming, namely, birth of a mother, is not an alien and strange manhood, but solidaire with ours. It descends from Adam, though in its actual production a supernatural power takes place. Its materials are created materials, and derived (see below, p. 68).

(3) The Human Nature of the Son never, for a moment, stood or stands apart from His Divine nature and person. "God sent forth His Son, born of a <61/62> woman" (Gal. iv. 4). He did not send His Son to join a man born of a woman; which would have been an alliance of two persons, not a harmony of two natures in relation to one person. The Manhood was, and is, never independently personal. It is better to say Christ is man, than Christ is a man.

(4) The divine Person of the Son thus, in Incarnation, took human nature, besides divine nature, into the field of personal consciousness. This is sometimes expressed by the phrase, "divine-human Personality." It is better to say that the Incarnate Son is Divine-Human; His ultimate Personality, Divine.

(5) Meanwhile this absolute and necessary dependency of the Manhood does not mean the least unreality in the human experience of our Incarnate Lord. Here the phenomena of the Gospels are clear. Christ, as man, is seen to learn, to trust, to bear, to do, to contemplate past, present, and future, with perfect naturalness. Peter is in these respects no more human than Christ. In some sense, the solicitations of evil appear as a trial as real for Him as for His followers.

(6) On the other hand, He not only did no sin; He "knew no sin" (2 Cor. v. 21). Not for one moment did sin enter the human field of His being. In the highest sense He was incapable of sin; not physically, (for every physical faculty and limit which in us, as men, is an avenue for temptation, and ministers to the sinning spirit, was in Him,) but morally and spiritually. In this respect, His position is expressed by "ability not to sin," posse non peccare, rather than by "inability to sin," non posse peccare.

(7) Yet, from another point, the ultimate truth is non posse peccare. The Manhood of Christ is to <62/63> be studied not in the abstract, but in its actual, absolute, necessary harmony with His Deity, under His divine Personality. Had the Manhood sinned, the Christ would have sinned in His Manhood; the highest moral impossibility.

In this subject, we are reduced to the acceptance of revealed phenomena as yet, at least, imperfectly harmonized to our thought. Our blessed Lord was really tempted. Our blessed Lord could not sin. [3]

(8) We read in the phenomena of the Gospels the truth that our Incarnate Lord, whatever the conditions of His humiliation, still was always God as truly as Man, and Man as truly as God. Real temptations, real hunger, thirst, and surprise, leave Him still able to offer rest to all the weary of mankind; to assert His own eternity, and His eternal Being in heaven (Joh. iii. 13) to exercise omniscience so far as He wills. [4] In Him full Godhead and full Manhood were always present, in harmony. <63/64>

(9) On certain titles of the Incarnate Lord.

(a) Son of God (Luke i. 35). The words, in the light of the context, indicate the divine action, analogous to human paternity, in the generation of the Manhood. Compare the same words used of Adam (Luke iii. 38), with reference also to special divine action in his production.

(b) Son of Man. This designation is used only by our Lord, never by His disciples. It is remarkable that in the Old Testament the phrase "Son of Man" habitually refers to the weakness and dependency of mere man. [5] In the Gospels the Saviour uses it in a sense apparently new, designating Himself as the True Man, the Man of men.

(c) The Second Man (1 Cor. xv. 47). In the light of the last remarks, this title explains itself. As Adam sums up and represents humanity as created, and as fallen, so Christ, incarnate and "perfected" (p. 74), sums up and represents humanity as regenerated and holy. Individually, every man, as man, is "in Adam," as to derivation of nature and bond of covenant; every regenerated man is "in Christ," as to reception of renewed nature and grant of new covenant. Adam is the head of humanity, Christ of new humanity. On the question whether the Manhood of Christ was pre-existent, see p. 72.

 

Supplementary

History of the Doctrine of Christís Person.

Our outline of this has been in part anticipated under the History of the Doctrine of the Trinity.

(1) First to Third Centuries.óThat divine worship was from the first paid to Christ can be amply proved. In the second century the records of martyrdoms, as of Polycarp and of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, and the Letters of Ignatius, fully show the intensity of faith in the Lordís Godhead. So does the frequency with which heathen observers fix upon the adoration of Christ as God as a phenomenon of Christianity. Side by side with this more popular phase of the facts, the early teachers of the Church do, on the whole, steadfastly and with deepest earnestness, both in replies to assailants and in instruction to disciples, avow and glory in their adoration. From the first, as even the New Testament bears witness, there were alien drifts of opinion; but the broad fact remains that a main stream of conviction not only allowed, but jealously guarded, the confession of the Godhead of Christ. The more and more careful definitions of it were made in face of attacks upon a truth felt to be inestimably precious, and which had been not carelessly held, but inadequately analysed and stated.

This last remark accounts for exceptional language found in orthodox writers earlier than the Nicene Council (325), language which favours later theories openly heterodox; e.g., that the Son is "another God under the Creator" (Justin); or of a nature "very near to the Supreme" (Clement of Alexandria). But the whole evidence gives the inference that such language is accidental, not essential; an aberration from a central truth which had not yet received full analysis under the process of attack. From the same writers a far larger mass of <65/66> testimony to a full doctrine of our Lordís Godhead can be adduced.

(2) Fourth to Fifth Centuries.óIn the Arian controversy the question lay, as we have seen (above, p. 28), between a Christ only quasi-God (we do not yet speak of His Manhood) and a Christ fully God. It is remarkable that on the whole the Arians posed as the original thinkers, as against a stationary traditionism; a fact suggestive of the past state of belief. The Homoousion (above, p. 60), and not simply the Godhead of the Son, was the crucial word of the discussion, because the Arians patronized a secondary, illusory, use of the word "God," which thus ceased to be a test-word.

Meanwhile, the Arians taught only a quasi-manhood as well as a quasi-Godhead. To them, the manhood altogether lacked the spiritual element (pneuma); its place was taken by the quasi-Godhead of "the Son."

"Far from spanning the infinite abyss which philosophy, not revelation, had placed between God and sinless man, the Arian Christ is nothing but an isolated pillar in its midst" (Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 28).

The Arian controversy left the general Christian confession of our Lordís proper Godhead historically unmistakable. But the following century saw three great after-waves raised over related questions.

(a) Appollinarius (cir. 380) represents the opinion that in the manhood of the Christ the highest natural element, the rational soul (nous, mens) was lacking, and that the Godhead took its place. This he taught, apparently, as if necessary to the impeccability of the Incarnate; ignoring the surer inference from it that it leaves Him not truly "one with us." He also held, in some sense, the eternal pre-existence of this quasi-manhood, and that the Crucified suffered not only being God, but as God. Apollinarianism was repudiated at the Council of Constantinople, 381.

(b) Nestorius (Bishop of Constantinople, 428) held, in effect, a dual Personality in the Incarnate. With him, <66/67> the Manhood was not only entire, but independent. A human being, supernaturally produced, the Virginís Son, was then taken into an ineffable connexion by the eternal Son of God. The term "Mother of God" (theotokos), then recently adopted as a title of the Holy Virgin, in testimony to the Godhead of her Son, was earnestly censured by Nestorius. His theory seriously obscures the relation of our Lord, as "the Second Man," to manhood in general. The Nestorian Christ, from the human side, is not Man, but a man. Nestorianism was reelected at the Council of Ephesus, 432. The followers of Nestorius became a dissentient body, still existing in the East. Their bishoprics extended at one period across the whole length of Upper Asia, to China.

(c) Eutyches (abbot at Constantinople, 448) represents the opposite tendency of opinion, the Monophysite, or Uni-natural. With him, Incarnation resulted in a Single Nature, that of "God made flesh and come to dwell in man" (theou sarkôthentos kai evanthrôpêsantos). This opinion was condemned at Chalcedon, 451. The Council issued a Confession, known as the "Definition" (horos), a memorable document, alike for its fulness, clearness, and balance. We translate here that part of it immediately in point.

After reciting certain circumstances, and after solemn recognition of the Creeds of Nicæa and Constantinople, the Fathers proceed:ó

"This wise and saving Watchword of the grace of God would have sufficed for the true knowledge and establishment of our religion. But since those who seek to spoil the proclamation of the Truth through their own wilful errors (haireseis) have produced their idle utterances, some daring to undermine the Lordís Incarnation (oikonomia) for our sakes, and to reject the term ĎMother of God,í and others to introduce [the theory of] a compound and mixture, foolishly feigning that the nature of the Flesh and the Godhead is one, and unnaturally assert- <67/68> ing that the divine Nature of the Only Begotten is, by the compound, passible Ö. . [the Synod] opposes those who seek to rend the mystery of the Incarnation into a Pair of Sons, and thrusts from the assembly of holy worship those who dare to say that the Godhead of the Only Begotten is passible, and resists those who invent a mixture or compound concerning the two Natures of the Christ, and casts forth those who teach that that ĎForm of the Bondservantí which He took from us is of celestial or any non-human essence (ousia), and bans those who fable two Natures of the Lord before the Union, but invent one Nature after it. Following then the holy Fathers [of Nicæa and Constantinople], we confess One and the Same Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, and all with one voice teach that He is perfect in Godhead and perfect also in Manhood, God truly, and also Man truly, of reasonable soul and body consisting, consubstantial (coessential, homoousion) with the Father as to the Godhead, and also consubstantial (coessential) with us as to the Manhood, in all things like to us without sin, begotten of the Father before the ages as to the Godhead, but also in the end of days, for us and for our salvation, [born] of Mary, the Virgin, the Mother of God, as to the Manhood; confessed One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only Begotten, in two Natures without compound, without change, without division, without [possible] separation, the difference of the Natures being nowise removed because of the Union, but rather the property of each Nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person (prosôpon) and one substance (hypostasis), not as if He were to be partitioned Ö. into two Persons; but One and the same Son, and Only Begotten, God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; as of old the Prophets concerning Him, and also He, the Lord Himself, instructed us, and as the Watchword of the Fathers hath handed it down to us." [6]

(3) Seventh Century.óA subordinate ancient controversy was the Monothelite, or One-Will controversy. The Monothelite held that as there was one Person only, there could be but one Will, though acting through two Natures. Against this Scripture is practically clear; and, indeed, the conclusion seems to be direct that, granting the full spiritual element to manhood in the Incarnate, we grant the presence of human will. The doctrine of Two Wills, separable in conception, but perfectly and always harmonious in divine plan and historic fact, was laid down at Constantinople, 635.

Our sketch of controversies is inevitably meager and eclectic. But it may in part be supplemented from the previous section. Its aim is to present great specimens, suggestive of closer study. The ancient controversies are significant for all time; not specimens of fossil species, but fossil specimens, singularly instructive by their surroundings, of existing and permanent species of thought. <69>

___________________

[1] Cp. Westcott, Introduction (p. xv) to St Johnís Gospel (Speakerís Commentary).

[2] In the definition of Chalcedon (below, p. 67) the Incarnate Son is said to be consubstantial (coessential) with us, homoousios hêmin; that is, partaker of true manhood.

[3] As St. Anselm points out (Cur Deus Homo, ii. 17), to say "God," or "Christ, cannot sin" is a phrase not of impotency but of potency. It expresses the utter inability of temptation to deflect the nature and will.

[4] Mark xiii. 32 is quoted as invalidating His perfect knowledge. It no doubt limits His knowledge on that one point. But the very phrase, from His lips, looks like an implicit claim to knowledge otherwise complete. And the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship, in the Gospels, makes it surely inconceivable that even that limitation of conscious knowledge should be imposed on the Son because of limitation of capacity. It was for unknown purposes of dispensation; and it was the one thing of the kind. The Christian who deals eclectically with any positive statement of His, about fact as well as about principle, is on very dangerous ground indeed.

As regards Luke ii. 52, the "increase in wisdom" no more implies stages of defective wisdom than the "increase in favour with God" implies stages of defective favour. What is implied is developed application to developed subject matter. Cp. by all means Liddon, Bampton Lectures, Lect. viii.

[5] In Dan. vii. 13, a Messianic passage, we find the True King represented as, "like unto (a) Son of Man"; perhaps in contrast to the "beasts" symbolizing the usurping world-powers. See Westcott on Joh. i. 51.

[6] For the original, in a generally accessible form, see Heurtley De Fide et Symbolo, p. 19; or Canons of the First Four General Councils (Clarendon Press, Oxford), p. 31. See also Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, Eng. Trans., ed. 1850, vol. i., p. 300; and by all means Hooker, Eccl. Polity, bk v., 51-4.

 
 

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