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We enter upon the Theological Department of our journal by endeavouring to counteract a grievous error, respecting the human nature of Christ, which has lately shewn itself in the professing church, and which is held by a far greater number of persons than we should, from its glaring absurdity, have thought possible.
We have always held, “ 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.” Or, to express it in our own words, We believe that the eternal Son of God, in becoming son of man, took our very nature into union with himself, with all the infirmities brought upon it by the Fall; but upheld it from sinning, and sanctified it wholly, and constrained it (in his person) to do the entire will of God.
The error, which is now brought forward, consists in maintaining that Christ took not our present nature, but took the nature of Adam before the fall: or, in other words, that Christ, to recover fallen man, became an unfallen man; that, to redeem us, he took a nature which is no more ours than the nature of angels is ours.
We should have predicated of such an error, that merely to state it would be a sufficient refutation ; but finding that it does prevail extensively, and that the “argument” of some of the publications in which it has been maintained is authoritatively pronounced to be “conducted with the clearness and cogency of a geometrical demonstration !" we have given the question a careful examination, and find, that although errors much resembling this have been repeatedly brought forward by weak or unstable men, yet they have been always promptly and fully refuted by the orthodox Fathers, Reformers, and Divines; nor have we yet been able to find a single theologian of any note who maintains the error.
This error originates in confused notions of the person of Christ. In his one person were comprehended two natures, the Human and the Divine; each nature perfect and entire, but distinct from each other; yet making one person. Many of the early heresies proceeded from the same confusion: as that of Arius, who denied the proper Deity of Christ ; that of Nestor, who denied the personal union of the two natures; and that
of Eutyches, who destroyed the proper humanity of Christ, and gave the first form of the error we are now exposing.
Èutyches was an abbot in Constantinople: he fell into an error far different from the heresy of Nestorius; for Nestorius would not grant the personal union of two natures in Christ, but Eutyches confounded the natures, and would have the human nature so swallowed up by the immensity of the divine nature in Christ, that there were not two natures in Christ, but one only, to wit, the Divine nature. He was condemned in the Council of Chalcedon. In the sixth century a great number of people, especially of monks, favouring the heresy of Eutyches, spake against the Council of Chalcedon. These were called akepalot, because they had no principal head.
Another branch, which sprang up from the root of Eutyches's heresy, was the error of those who supposed that the flesh of Christ was void of all kind of human infirmity; expressly contradicting holy Scriptures, which attributeth unto the body of Christ hunger and weariness, and other infirmities, which he voluntarily accepted for our sakes: (these were called apaproookNTOL.) And where it is said, that the Lord Jesus did eat and drink; to this they answered, that he seemed to eat and drink, as he did after his resurrection; but that he had no necessity of eating and drinking. But the verity of his death stoppeth the mouth of all these heretics ; for Christ was content to taste of all our infirmities (death itself not excepted), that we might know he will be a merciful high priest, because he hath tasted of our infirmities, and can have compassion on those who are in trouble. The heresy of the Monothelites was a branch of the heresy of Eutyches, by a secret and crafty convoy, insinuating itself into credit again, after it was condemned in the Council of Chalcedon. They denied not directly the two natures of Christ personally united, but only affirmed, that, after the union of the natures, there was only one will and one operation in Christ. This heresy was condemned in the Sixth General Council."-(Historie of the Church, by Patrick Symson, 1624.)
The error now brought forward is a combination of several early heresies: we shall counteract it by bringing forward, first, some clear passages of Scripture; then some extracts from the most orthodox Confessions of all ages; a few extracts from English standard Divines; and, lastly, a copious selection of short extracts from nearly all the Fathers, Reformers, and Commentators of note, who have touched on this point: a perusal of which will convince any one, that the contrary of this error has been the uniform faith of the orthodox church, and that heresies bearing any resemblance to this have been always promptly refuted and abjured.
“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 *." now we see not yet all things put under him: but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethrent." • Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same ; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death I. “ He took on him the seed of Abraham: wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people: for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted S.”
" When the fulness of 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 l." “ For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” “ For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him **"
“For he is our peace.....having abolished in his flesh the enmity.....for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (or, in himself)ft. “ In whom ail the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord II. “That.....we may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body, fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love $$. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ II."
* Heb. i. 1, 2 + Heb.ji. 8-11. 1 Heb. ii. 14. § Heb. ii. 16, 18. ll Gal. iv. 4,5. I Rom. viii. 3.
2 Cor. v. 21. + Eph. ii. 14, 16. 11 Eph. ii. 21. $5 Eph. iv. 15, 16 III Eph. iv. 13.
In the English Confession of Faith, printed at the end of all the old Bibles, it is said: "I believe also and confess Jesus Christ the only Saviour and Messias ; who, being equal with God, made himself of no reputation, but tooke on him the shape of a servant, and became man in all things like unto us, except sin.-And forasmuch as he being only God could not feel death, neither being 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 judgement of God even as he had been in extreem torments of hell, and therefore cried with a loud voice, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me! Then of his mercy, without compulsion, he offered up himself as the only sacrifice to purge the sins of all the world.”
In the Notes to Barker's Bible, 1608, it is said :-Rom. viii. 3: “ Christ did take flesh, which of nature was subject to sin; which notwithstanding he sanctified even in the very instant of his conception, and so did appropriate it unto him that he might destroy sin in it.” On Heb. ii. 9: "Jesus Christ, by humbling himself, and taking upon him the form of a servant, which was our flesh and mortality, giveth us assurance of our salvation. The head and the members are of one nature : so Christ which sanctifieth us, and we that are sanctified, are all one, by the union of our flesh.” And ver. 17 : “ In all things like unto his brethren. Not only as touching nature, but also qualities, only sin except. Forasmuch as he is exercised in our miseries, we may be assured that at all times in our temptations he will succour us."
In the Confession of Faith received and approved by the Church of Scotland in the beginning of the Reformation, and which is still the standard of doctrine in the Established Church of Scotland, under the “ Article xxi. of the Sacraments,” are these words :-"So that we confesse, and undoubtedlie beleeve, that the faithful, in the richt use of the Lord's Table, do so eat the bodie and drink the blude of the Lord Jesus, that he remaines in them, and they in him : Zea, they are so maid flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones; that
as the eternal Godhead hes given to the flesh of Christ Jesus • (quhilk of the awin conditioun and nature wes mortal and cor
ruptible) life and immortalitie; so dois Christ Jesus his flesh and blude eattin and drunkin be us, give unto us the same prerogatives. Itaque confitemur, et procul dubio credimus, quod fideles, in recto cænæ Dominicæ usu, ita corpus Domini Jesu edant, et sanguinem bibant, ut ipsi in Christo maneant, et Christus in eis: quin et caro de carne ejus, et os ex ossibus ejus ita fiunt, ut quemadmodum carni Christi, quæ suapte
natura mortalis erat et corruptibilis, divinitas vitam et immortalitatem largita est; ita ut carnem Jesu Christi edimus, et bibimus ejus sanguinem, eisdem et nos prærogativis donamur.”
Calvin's Catechism declares “ after what sort the Sonne of God was anointed of his Father to become our Saviour: That is to say, he took upon him our flesh.....That he was fashioned in the virgin's womb, taking very substance and manhood of her, that he might thereby become the seed of David, as the Prophets had before signified.”
The Palatine Catechism affirms: “ That the very Son of God did take the very true nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary; so that he is also of the true seed of David, like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.....Of his own accord he took on him the shape of a servant (that is, our flesh) and that subject to all infirmities, even to the death of the
In the Helvetic Confession, dated March 1566, it is said : “Eundem quoque æterni Dei æternum Filium credimus et docemus hominis factum esse Filium, ex semine Abrahæ atque Davidis.......Caro ergo Christi nec phantastica fuit, nec cælitus allata, sicuti Valentinus et Marcion somniabant. Præterea anima fuit Domino nostro Jesu Christo non absque sensu et ratione, ut Apollinaris sentiebat, neque caro absque anima, ut Eunomius docebat, sed anima cum ratione sua, et caro cum sensibus suis, per quos sensus, veros dolores tempore passionis suæ sustinuit: sicuti et ipse tentatus est, et dixit, Tristis est anima mea usque ad mortem. Et nunc anima mea turbata est, &c. (Mat. xxvi. John xii.)-Eutychetis et Monothelitarum vel Monophysicorum vesaniam, expungentem naturæ humanæ proprietatem, execramur penitus. Præterea credimus Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum vere passum et mortuum esse, pro nobis, sicut Petrus ait, carne (i Pet. iv.) Abominamur Jacobitarum et omnium Turcarum, passionem Domini execrantium, impiissimam vesaniam. Credimus et docemus eundem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum vera sua carne, in qua
crucifixus et mortuus fuerat, a mortuis resurrexisse, et non aliam pro sepulta excitasse, aut spiritum pro carne suscepisse, sed veritatem corporis retinuisse. In eadem illa carne sua credimus ascendisse Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, supra omnes cælos aspectabiles in ipsum cælum supremum sedem videlicet Dei et beatorum, ad dexteram Dei Patris.” The Belgic Confession says:
“ Confitemur vero Deum.....Filium illum suum unicum, et æternum in hunc mundum misit : qui formam servi accepit, similis hominibus factus, et veram naturam humanam cum omnibus ipsius infirmitatibus (excepto peccato) vere assumpsit. Idcirco contra Anabaptistarum hære