« PreviousContinue »
be in the form of God; but continuing so to be, he took on him the form of a servant' in our nature: he became what he was not, but he ceased not to be what he was. So he testifieth of himself, John iii. 13. No man hath ascended up into heaven, but he that came down from heaven, the Son of man which is in heaven.' Although he was then on earth as the Son of man, yet he ceased not to be God thereby; in his divine nature he was then also in heaven.
He who is God, can no more be not God, than he who is not God can be God; and our difference with the Socinians herein is, we believe that Christ being God, was made man for our sakes; they say, that being only a man, he was made a God for his own sake.
This, then, is the foundation of the glory of Christ in this condescension, the life and soul of all heavenly truth and mysteries; namely, that the Son of God becoming in time to be what he was not, the Son of man, ceased not thereby to be what he was, even the eternal Son of God. Wherefore,
2. Much less did this condescension consist in the conversion of the divine nature into the human, which was the imagination of some of the Arians of old; and we have yet (to my own knowledge) some that follow them in the same dotage. They say that the Word which was in the beginning,' by which all things were made, being in itself an effect of the divine will and power, was in the fulness of time turned into flesh; that is, the substance of it was so, as the water in the miracle wrought by our Saviour, was turned into wine; for by an act of the divine power of Christ it ceased to be water substantially, and was wine only; not water mixed with wine. So these men suppose a substantial change of the one nature into the other, of the divine nature into the human; like what the Papists imagine in their transubstantiation. So they say God was made man, his essence being turned into that of a man.
But this no way belongs unto the condescension of Christ. We may call it Ichabod, it hath no glory in it. It destroys both his natures, and leaves him a person in whom we are not concerned. For according unto this imagination, that divine nature wherein he was in the form of God, did in its own form cease to be, yea, was utterly destroyed, as
being substantially changed into the nature of man; as the water did cease to be, when it was turned into wine; and that human nature which was made thereof, hath no alliance or kindred unto us, or our nature, seeing it was not made of a woman,' but of the substance of the Word.
3. There was not in this condescension, the least change or alteration in the divine nature. Eutiches and those that followed him of old, conceived that the two natures of Christ, the divine and human, were mixed and compounded as it were into one. And this could not be without an alteration in the divine nature, for it would be made to be essentially what it was not; for one nature hath but one and the same
But, as we said before, although the Lord Christ himself in his person was made to be what he was not before, in that our nature hereby was made to be his, yet his divine nature was not so. There is in it neither variableness nor shadow of turning.' It abode the same in him in all its essential properties, actings, and blessedness, as it was from eternity. It neither did, acted, nor suffered any thing, but what is proper unto the Divine Being. The Lord Christ did and suffered many things in life and death, in his own person, by his human person, wherein the divine neither did, nor suffered any thing at all; although in the doing of them, his person be denominated from that nature; so God purchased his church with his own blood;' Acts xx. 28.
4. It may then be said, What did the Lord Christ in this condescension with respect unto his divine nature? The apostle tells us, that he humbled himself, and made himself of no reputation;' Phil. ii. 7, 8. He veiled the glory of his divine nature in ours, and what he did therein, so as that there was no outward appearance or manifestation of it. The world hereon was so far from looking on him as the true God, that it believed him not to be a good man. Hence they could never bear the least intimation of his divine nature, supposing themselves secured from any such thing, because they looked on him with their eyes to be a man, as he was indeed, no less truly and really than any one of themselves. Wherefore, on that testimony given of himself, 'Before Abraham was, I am,' which asserts a pre-existence from eternity in another nature than what they saw, they
were filled with rage, and 'took up stones to cast at him;' John viii. 58. And they give a reason of their madness, John x. 33. namely, that he, being a man, should make himself to be God.' This was such a thing, they thought, as could never enter into the heart of a wise and sober man; namely, that being so, owning himself to be such, he should yet say of himself, that he was God. This is that which no reason can comprehend, which nothing in nature can parallel or illustrate, that one and the same person should be both God and man. And this is the principal plea of the Socinians at this day, who through the Mahometans succeed unto the Jews in an opposition unto the divine nature of Christ.
But all this difficulty is solved by the glory of Christ in this condescension; for although in himself, or his own divine person, he was over all God blessed for ever;' yet he humbled himself for the salvation of the church unto the eternal glory of God, to take our nature upon him, and to be made man and those who cannot see a divine glory in his so doing, do neither know him, nor love him, nor believe in him, nor do any way belong unto him.
So is it with the men of these abominations. they cannot behold the glory hereof, they deny the foundation of our religion, namely, the divine person of Christ. Seeing he would be made man, he shall be esteemed by them no more than a man. So do they reject that glory of God, his infinite wisdom, goodness, and grace, wherein he is more concerned than in the whole creation. And they dig up the root of all evangelical truths, which are nothing but branches from it.
It is true and must be confessed, that herein it is that our Lord Jesus Christ is a stumbling-stone, and a rock of offence' unto the world. If we should confess him only as a prophet, a man sent by God, there would not be much contest about him, nor opposition unto him. The Mahometans do all acknowledge it, and the Jews would not long deny it; for their hatred against him was, and is, solely because he professed himself to be God, and as such was believed on in the world. And at this day partly through the insinuation of the Socinians, and partly from the efficacy of their own blindness and unbelief, multitudes are willing to
grant him to be a prophet sent of God, who do not, who will not, who cannot, believe the mystery of this condescension in the susception of our nature, nor see the glory of it. But take this away, and all our religion is taken away with it. Farewell Christianity as unto the mystery, the glory, the truth, the efficacy of it; let a refined heathenism be established in its room. But this is the rock on which the church is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.
4. This condescension of Christ was not by a phantasm or an appearance only. One of the first heresies that pestered the church immediately after the days of the apostles, was this, that all that was done or suffered by Christ as a man, were not the acts, doings, or sufferings of one that was truly and really a man, but an outward representation of things, like the appearance of angels in the shape of men, eating and drinking under the Old Testament; and suitably hereunto some in our days have spoken; namely, that there was only an appearance of Christ in the man Jesus at Jerusalem, in whom he suffered no more than in other believers. But the ancient Christians told those men the truth; namely, that' as they had feigned unto themselves an imaginary Christ, so they should have an imaginary salvation only.'
But the true nature of this divine condescension doth consist in these three things:
1. That the eternal person of the Son of God, or the divine nature in the person of the Son, did by an ineffable act of his divine power and love, assume our nature into an individual subsistence in or with himself; that is, to be his own, even as the divine nature is his. This is the infallible foundation of faith even to them who can comprehend very little of these divine mysteries. They can, and do believe, that the Son of God did take our nature to be his own; so as that whatever was done therein, was done by him, as it is with every other man. Every man hath human nature appropriated unto himself by an individual subsistence; whereby he becomes to be that man which he is, and not another; or that nature which is common unto all, becomes in him to be peculiarly his own, as if there were none partaker of it but himself. Adam in his first creation, when all human nature was in him alone, was no more that individual man
which he was, than every man is now the man that he is, by his individual subsistence. So the Lord Christ taking that nature which is common unto all, into a peculiar subsistence in his own person, it becometh his, and he the man Christ Jesus. This was the mind that was in him.
2. By reason of this assumption of our nature, with his doing and suffering therein, whereby he was found in fashion. as a man, the glory of his divine person was veiled, and he made himself of no reputation. This also belongs unto his condescension, as the first general effect and fruit of it. But we have spoken of it before.
3. It is also to be observed, that in the assumption of our nature to be his own, he did not change it into a thing divine and spiritual; but preserved it entire in all its essential properties and actings. Hence it really did and suffered, was tried, tempted, and forsaken as the same nature in any other man might do and be. That nature, as it was peculiarly his, and therefore he, or his person therein, was exposed unto all the temporary evils which the same nature is subject unto in any other person.
This is a short general view of this incomprehensible condescension of the Son of God, as it is described by the. apostle, Phil. ii. 5-8. And this is that wherein in an especial manner we are to behold the glory of Christ by faith whilst we are in this world.
But had we the tongue of men and angels, we were not able in any just measure to express the glory of this condescension. For it is the most ineffable effect of the divine wisdom of the Father, and of the love of the Son, the highest evidence of the care of God towards mankind. What can be equal unto it? What can be like it? It is the glory of Christian religion, and the animating soul of all'evangelical truth. This carrieth the mystery of the wisdom of God, above the reason or understanding of men and angels, to be the object of faith and admiration only. A mystery it is that becomes the greatness of God with his infinite distance from the whole creation; which renders it unbecoming him that all his ways and works should be comprehensible by any of his creatures; Job xi. 4, 5. 9. Rom. xi. 34-36.
He who was eternally in the form of God, that is, was essentially so, God by nature, equally participant of the