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he could present such a faultless sacrifice unto God. There are only three ways of explaining this, the great foundation of redemption and atonement: two of which the church hath ever pronounced heretical, and the third she hath ever asserted to be orthodox; which we shall give in order, presenting the heretical suppositions first, and the orthodox doctrine last.
The first false exposition which hath been given of Christ's perfect holiness is, that he took flesh, not of sin, which was only apparently flesh of sin, but was in reality other than it seemed. This they rest upon that passage in the Romans (viii. 1), which says, “ in the likeness of sinful flesh ” (flesh of sin): from this they argue, that his was not the reality, but only the appearance or similitude of flesh of sin. Now, taking for a moment their own view of the word "likeness," we ask what likeness is there between flesh of sinlessness and flesh of sin? These are not similar, but opposite, yea, and contrary. But the error of interpretation is in the misrepresentation of the word “likeness,” which, being spoken of God's own Son, doth merely imply that he was not altogether flesh, or altogether man, but that he continued still the very Son of God: how otherwise could it be expressed that a Person truly God, and continuing to be God, took human form, than by saying that He was God in the likeness of man? The word “likeness" is introduced, not to deny the verity of his flesh of sin, but to preserve the verity of his Godhead, when he became manifested as flesh of sin. As we would say of a prince assuming to himself a beggar's form, that the prince had come to us in the likeness of a beggar. But to put this question of what is the force of the word “ likeness” in this passage beyond all doubt, we refer to 2 Phil. v. 7, where the same words, ev quoiwuari, occur in this connection, " being generated in likeness of men,” translated in our version, made in the likeness of man.” one who upon the strength of the word “likeness” will take upon himself to deny the reality of his flesh of sin, must upon the strength of the same word,“ likeness,” deny the reality of his manhood; for the word, and the connection of the word, is one and the same in both passages. Besides this, seeing they rest so much upon this word “likeness," it ought surely to satisfy them if we produce a passage where the same thing is asserted without any intervention of that word. Let it be, amongst many that might be quoted, Heb. ii. 14: “ Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he himself likewise took part of the same:" literally, “ Since then the children had commonness of flesh and blood, he himself intimately participated of the same things.”
But interpretation is one thing, and doctrine is another and much higher thing; of which the harmony and consent of all sound interpretations of all Scripture formeth the basis and the
building up. Now the church, which is the judge of the doctrine deducible from the interpretation of all Scripture, hath ever rejected and cast out all such notions of Christ's reasonable soul and natural flesh as made them in any thing to differ from the reasonable soul and natural flesh of the rest of the brethren. All notions concerning the body of Christ, as a mere apparition or resemblance of what it really was not ; all Puritanical notions concerning the superiority of the substance out of which his humanity was framed ; all fanciful vagaries concerning the transmission of a pre-existent holy human nature through the Virgin, as through a canal of conveyance, without any impartation of her impurity, the church hath ever rejected as hideous and monstrous figments of the human mind, impregnated with the falsehood and malice of the devil. This the church hath ever done, because all such fantastical vagaries did violence to the unity of the faith, and prejudice to the holiness of the believer; did violence to the unity of the faith, by obscuring, and in effect avoiding, the work of the Spirit in the incarnation of Christ, which the church hath ever looked upon as manifested in this very thing, that He should be the Agent by whom the Son united himself hypostatically to the substance of a human soul, and the Agent by which the Son therewith apprehended and animated flesh of the blessed Virgin, and the Agent by which the Son thus united to complete humanity, did evermore, acting in manhood, sanctify that flesh, passible to every temptation to which flesh of man is liable; and did preserve the will of the creature from all consent unto any of those evil things which the devil, the world, and the flesh, under this fallen constitution, do present unto the will of other men, and thereby bring into bondage the will of all other men. But his will, his creature will, was not in bondage to any, was not brought into bondage by all of them : that Almighty Holy Ghost, which serveth the Son, and which the Son serveth himself withal in this great encounter of Godhead in manhood against a fallen universe, did so prevail unto the empowering of the will, unto the information of the reason, unto the enforcing obedience upon the members of the body, unto the expulsion of the devil, and disease, and infirmity from other men, unto the redemption and deliverance of every creature of God, earth, water, air, from the unwilling bondage under which they groan; I say, that Almighty Spirit used by the Son, did so prevail in manhood over all the devil's works, and over sin and death, which are the strength of the devil's head, as that he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, though He the very same behoved in all things to be made like unto the brethren, though He the very same was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.
The second erroneous view of this great subject is, that the human nature of Christ was in substance the same as his mother's, as David's, as Abraham's, but did receive from the assumption into the Divine Person an original purity which altogether differenceth it in its condition from that of any other
This change they suppose to have been effected in one or other of these two ways : either that the Holy Ghost in the conception did impenetrate every particle of his body, so as that, from being under the condition and law of sin, it should be under the condition and law of holiness; or that the Divine nature did impenetrate the human nature in such a way as to produce the same effect. Now, for the substance of this opinion, it hath indeed all the error of the last, seeing it doth amount to the same effect of making Christ's human nature as diverse from and contrary to ours as sin is from holiness, as light is from darkness, as freedom is from bondage ; which is virtually to deny that he had fellow-feeling with us in any one respect. Besides this, it addeth one of two other errors, according as you adopt the one or the other explanation. If the first, then you
, make no difference between his conception in the Virgin's womb and his resurrection from the dead. For if in his conception the particles of his flesh were changed from unholy to holy, from mortal to immortal, then what was left to be done at the resurrection ? His death is but a fiction, his resurrection a fiction also, and his life in apparent suffering no better than a fiction. If you adopt the latter mode of explanation, then you bring in the Eutychean heresy of the confusion of the two natures. For how could the Divine nature impregnate, and impenetrate, and refine the human nature, without being mingled and confused therewith ? And where then is the distinction between Creator and creature, if in the person of Christ they are mingled and confused ? and where, again, is the operation, of the Holy Ghost in the humanity of Christ, if the effect is all produced by an operation of the Divine nature ?
Ourspace does not permit us to enlarge upon these great fundamental heresies; and we proceed to state the true doctrine, as set forth in the quotations given above : which is, That Christ had no connection with Adam, or Adam's sin, by ordinary generation, but looking upon the one substance of flesh and blood existing in a fallen state under the dominion of Satan, the Eternal Son did, according to the will of the Father, take a body of flesh and blood ; and as the Father and the Son act nothing of themselves without the Holy Ghost, he did this wholly and entirely by the Holy Ghost. "The Son, in the fulness of the Father's will, and with the fulness of the Holy Ghost to effect it withal, took a body out of the lump. And how did he this? He did it as it is ever done, through a rational soul. The Son,
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acting the Father's will, did by the Holy Ghost take a soul; and with and in that soul he did take flesh and blood of the Virgin; and having thus added a living soul, a soul living in fallen flesh, to his Divine nature he did act in it, by the Holy Ghost all the days of his flesh ; and by the Holy Ghost in it acting he did redeem it from the bondage of the devil
, he did make it obedient unto God, he did make the will of the fallen creature at one with the will of God, he did redeem flesh and blood in general, and hath become the Lord of it, to give eternal life unto as many as the Father pleaseth. His perfect holiness in the human nature is as necessary to the orthodox faith, as is the unholiness of the nature which he took. He came to reconcile these contraries in his own person, God and the fallen sinful creature: therefore he must take these two contraries, God and the sinful fallen creature, into union, and shew them in reconciliation, shew them to be at one.
He came to redeem the devil-oppressed creature: therefore he must take the devil-oppressed creature into himself, and shew it redeemed. He came to be our forerunner unto glory: therefore he must run before us, in the same tangled and perilous path in which we run. And thus have we, in the work of incarnation, the Three Persons, the fulness of the Godhead, manifested in a body.
We will close this attempt to vindicate and defend the orthodox faith, by reference to three texts, which shew how necessary to the office of our High Priest both ideas are; first, his identity with our fallen nature; and next, his perfect holiness therein. The texts are, Heb. ii. 17; Heb. iv. 15; Heb. vii. 26. We will conclude with interpretation, for the sake of those who are weak in doctrine. This is the literal translation and the true meaning of Heb. ii. 16, 17, as every scholar and interpreter who will follow us in the original will easily perceive : “ For not by any means apprehended he angels (substance], but seed of Abraham apprehended he: whence (that is, because he apprehended seed of Abraham] he must [he owed) as to all particulars have been likened to the brethren, to the end he might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things wherein we have to do with God." The argument of this passage and the context is, that, seeing it was prophesied in the Old Testament that he was to call the church brethren, and to live by faith, and to call men his children, it was necessary, for the verity of these words of God, that he should take upon him the common condition of flesh and blood; to the end he might die, and, dying, conquer the devil, and redeem the elect from the bondage of death. And it was further necessary to apprehend seed of Abraham, and be every way assimilated to the brethren, in order that he might compassionate and faithfully represent their case before God, and, through the fellowship of our sufferings by temptation, might be able to help us under our temptations.—To the same effect is the passage Heb. iv. 14, 15; which, being literally rendered, is as follows: “ Having then a great High Priest, who hath passed to the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the profession: for we have not a High Priest unable to sympathize with our weakness, but having been tempted in every way according to slikeness] sameness, apart of sin.” The argument of this passage and the context is, that we ought not to finch from our stedfastness, because God's word is most discerning and penetrating; but in all our weaknesses, counting and reckoning upon the sympathies of our High Priest, we should take boldness to appear at the Throne of Grace, where He ministers, even He, who had the similitude or identity of all our temptations, yet stood apart from sin; and therefore is able, not only to sympathize with the tempted, but also to keep them apart from sin.--Now the last passage, Heb. vii. 26 : “ For such an High Priest became us, holy, sinless, blameless, having been parted from sinners, and become higher than the heavens.”. “ He took part with the brethren” (ii. 14), “ he was assimi
“ lated to the brethren in every thing” (ii. 17), to the end of becoming the High Priest : which dignity having attained in his resurrection, he is now parted from the sinners, with whom he had communicated in the flesh; and not only so, but lifted up above the heavens; so as, both in respect of his holiness and in respect of his power, to be able and willing to deliver us from sinful oppressors, as in respect to his flesh-and-blood humanity, he is able to sympathize with us labouring under their oppression. His communicating with us in our flesh-and-blood substance doth qualify him for the high priesthood ; his resurrection in holy and glorious and immortal substance doth bring him near to God, and put him separate from us: so as that he who heretofore felt with us, is now permitted to stand and represent those feelings in the presence of our God. His days of flesh put him into possession of our pitiful case, which he had undertaken to advocate; his taking holy flesh at the resurrection brought him up into God's presence, to advocate it there. Each is needful in its place, to our Mediator, both must meet together in our High Priest; and this hath ever been the doctrine of the orthodox church, and must remain so unto the end.—The other two opinions are heretical in the last degree; either doing away with the work of the Holy Ghost, or doing away with the separateness of the two natures of Christ; each of which is an error of unspeakable magnitude, from which may God defend the church !