Page images
PDF
EPUB

1. "Of one substance with the Father." This is the homoousian (of the same substance) of the Nicene Confessors as against the homoiousian (of like substance) of the Arian heretics. The Arians and semi-Arians (the Eusebians) were willing to admit the doctrine of a similar substance in Jesus Christ, but not the doctrine of the same substance, with the Father. But the orthodox party drove the test to the uttermost, and so the symbol stands—homoousian. Bishop Burnet explains that another reason why all confessions have employed this form is that it "was found that an equivocation was used in all other forms except this.” This language has taken on a meaning all but inspired, and will no doubt endure through the ages.

2. "Took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin.” Christianity is a religion of facts and of consequent experiences. It begins in the fact of the Incarnation. That the Incarnation was part of the eternal plan does not admit of the shadow of doubt. Not sin alone was the cause of Christ's coming and humiliation. Holiness and truth were a higher cause. The ultimate proof of his divinity is found in his humanity. Only divinity could have wrought the marvel of the Incarnation. It is the completion and bond of the universe. All worlds were, and continue to be, affected by it. A human heart-the Christ heart-is the center of the created universe. The human Christ was born out of the course of nature. He had a human mother, but his paternity was in the Holy Ghost. This is where and how the divine and the human natures were "joined together in one person.

With

out the recognition of these stupendous facts, so lucidly set forth in this Confession, there is no true conception of Christianity.

3. “Never to be divided.” Not only was the Incarnation in the mind and plan of God from eternity past, but it is in the divine plan for the eternities to be. “Whereof is one Christ, very God and very man.” The Christ is human in the absolute sense, as he is divine in the absolute sense. The mystery of the Incarnation cannot be even remotely apprehended until we get a wide view of God's purpose in humanity. The human Christ is the revelation of God; the divine Christ is the revelation of humanity. “This is the true God and eternal life.”

4. “Who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried.” The sufferings of Christ were not accidental; they were necessary-eternally necessary. Sufferings—not in this or that form—but as a stress, a trial, the perfecting of fire, the tabnuarô of the gospel.? They were the strokes which welded the human and the divine into a perfect unity; they were the travail through which sons and daughters were begotten unto God. The death of Jesus Christ was of the divine plan and foreknowledge, the crucifixion—that is, the manner and method of his death—was of the devising of human truculence and hate.

5. To reconcile his Father to us.There has been no little objection to this phrase as being an inadequate statement of the atonement of reconciliation. The objection is not well taken. God is the enemy of

[ocr errors]

"See Hebrews ii. 10.

[ocr errors]

sin, and the sinner is under his displeasure. But, displeased though he is, his “infinite goodness” yearns after the rebel. The death of Christ makes that goodness effective, available. It opens the way; it moves the sinner to seek the Father. The Father accepts that approach. That is reconciliation. But it is argued that Christ died to reconcile us to the Father. True; but that reconciliation, as observed before, is the lesser term and is contained in the greater. Our reconciliation to God becomes possible only because he was long ago in the eternity of the human Christhood reconciled to us, and this is the realm in which the Confession deals with it. The Father's reconciliation is eternal; ours is in time. The discovery that the Father is already reconciled completes our own reconciliation. The lesser is but the heart-born acceptance of the greater. The confession is well written in this. 4

6. "To be a sacrifice not only for original guilt but also for actual sins of men.” Christ was a sacrifice in the true sense. He gave his life; he "gave himself

4

"Anselm rightly saw, at the outset, that if there existed a necessity for the incarnation, and for such sufferings as those to which the Son of God submitted, that man's salvation should be secured, this necessity must lie, where Scripture already places it, in the nature of sin as wrong done to God, and in the principles of the divine character which unchangeably regulate God in his treatment of sin." (Professor Orr.)

*On this point the Augsburg Confession says in the Twentieth Article: "Now he who knows the Father is reconciled to him through the Son, possesses a true acquaintance with God, confides in his providence, and calls upon his name.”

a

up." "His hour" was the day when men willfully and of their own judgment made him a sacrifice in the name of their heaven-given law-a law which anciently and fundamentally demanded a sacrifice. The Son of Mary died under that law, humanly, not divinely, administered. In this the death of Christ not only fulfilled the sacerdotal idea of a sacrifice but the historical idea as well. “For original guilt.” No matter what views we may hold concerning the doctrine of "original sin,” the Scriptures force on us the idea of a pervasive, a racial corruption. The race is ruined, wasted, depraved through sin. In some way and to some degree each member of the race shares the consequence of this. It cannot be doubted or reasoned away. It is forever present, except grace remove it. And grace does remove it, contravene it, destroy it. This inheritance or participation in the general corruption is the root of “actual sins of men.” The root and growth being common, the remedy is common. The grace that forgives is the grace that purifies.

ARTICLE III.

OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.

Christ did truly rise again from the dead and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.

This Article dates back to primitive Christianity. It is the answer to the scoffers, atheists, and materialists of the first four centuries.

1. "His body.” The body with which Christ left the sepulcher of Joseph was the one which was hanged upon the cross. I will not broach the mystery of the spiritual body. It is enough that the eleven and above "five hundred” others who saw him after the resurrection knew it to be the same body. Both the canonical record of the resurrection and the fundamentals of science on which any series of facts rest, and by which they may be proven, demand that the risen body of Jesus be shown to be the same as the one laid in the sepulcher by Joseph and Nicodemus. It was the same, and this the Confession declares with an emphasis that only madness would attempt to reason away. The resurrection is not proven until this is proven, nor is it accepted until this is accepted.

2. “Appertaining to the perfection of man's nature.” Those who saw the Risen Form saw what redeemed men will be in the life beyond-aye, it may be ultimately with the life here. "Wherewith he ascended." Thus this Confession appropriates the living human Christ. He is now alive! He has gone up in triumph! “And there sitteth.” Christ is not a reminiscence, but "the King eternal, invisible”--the enthroned Life.

3. "Until he return to judge all men.” The resurrection of men is involved in the rising of Jesus. There is no need for a separate tenet. Because he rose, we shall rise also. The judgment is here in the office of the Christ. What need of another declaration of it? “All men.” All shall rise-all shall be judged. What need of an article on heaven? on hell? The greater contains the lesser. Belief in the resurrection of Christ is the corner stone of faith and creed. To

« PreviousContinue »