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by John Owen CHRISTOLOGIA by John Owen or a Declaration of the glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ — God and Man: with the infinite Wisdom, Love, and Power of God in the Contrivance and Constitution thereof; as also, of the Grounds and Reasons of His Incarnation; the Nature of His Ministry in Heaven; the Present State of the Church above thereon; and the Use of His Person in Religion: with an Account and Vindication of the Honor, Worship, Faith, Love, and Obedience due unto Him, in and from the Church. “Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ.” — Philippians 3:8.
TABLE OF CONTENTS PREFATORY NOTE PREFACE CHAPTER 1. Peter’s Confession; Matthew 16:16 — Conceits of the Papists thereon — The Substance and Excellency of that Confession.
CHAPTER 2. Opposition made unto the Church as built upon the Person of Christ.
CHAPTER 3. The Person of Christ the most ineffable Effect of Divine Wisdom and Goodness — Thence the next Cause of all True Religion — In what sense it is so.
CHAPTER 5. The Person of Christ the great Representative of God and his Will.
CHAPTER 6. The Person of Christ the great Repository of Sacred Truth — Its Relation thereunto.
CHAPTER 8. The Faith of the Church under the Old Testament in and concerning the Person of Christ.
CHAPTER 9. Honor due to the Person of Christ — The nature and Causes of it.
CHAPTER 10. The Principle of the Assignation of Divine Honor unto the Person of Christ, in both the Branches of it; with is Faith in Him.
CHAPTER 11. Obedience unto Christ — The Nature and Causes of it.
CHAPTER 12. The especial Principle of Obedience unto the Person of Christ; which is Love — Its Truth and Reality Vindicated.
CHAPTER 14. Motives unto the Love of Christ.
CHAPTER 15. Conformity unto Christ, and Following his Example.
CHAPTER 16. An humble Inquiry into, and Prospect of, the infinite Wisdom of God, in the Constitution of the Person of Christ, and the Way of Salvation thereby.
CHAPTER 17. Other Evidences of Divine Wisdom in the Contrivance of the Work of Redemption in and by the Person of Christ, in Effects Evidencing a Condecency thereunto.
CHAPTER 18. The Nature of the Person of Christ, and the Hypostatical Union of his Natures Declared.
PREFATORY NOTE To object of Dr. Owen in this treatise is to illustrate the mystery of divine grace in the person of Christ. It bears the title, “Christologia;” but it differs considerably from modern works of the same title or character. It is not occupied with a formal induction from Scripture in proof of the supreme Godhead of the Savior. Owen assumes the truth of this doctrine, and applies all his powers and resources to expound its relations in the Christian system, and its bearings on Christian duty and experience.
Chapter 1 of the work is devoted to an exposition of Matthew 16:16, as a warrant and basis for his inquiry respecting the person of Christ. Chapter 2 contains some historical references to the opposition encountered by this doctrine in past ages. From Chapter 3 to 7 inclusive, the person of Christ is exhibited as the origin of all true religion, the foundation of the divine counsel, the representation of the divine nature and will, the embodiment and sum of divine truth, and the source of divine and gracious efficacy for the salvation of the church. The faith of the Old Testament Church respecting it is illustrated in Chapter 8. Then follows the second leading division of the treatise, in which the divine honors and obedience due to Christ, and our obligation to seek conformity to him, are urged at some length, from Chapter 9 to 15. It is followed in Chapters 16 and with an inquire into the divine wisdom as manifested in the person of Christ. The hypostatical union is explained, Chapter 18. Two more Chapters, 19 and 20, close the work, with a dissertation on the exaltation of Christ, and the mode in which he discharges his mediatorial functions in heaven.
The treatise was first published in 1679. We are not informed under what particular circumstances Owen was led to prepare it. There is internal evidence in the work itself that he labored under a strong impression of the peril in which evangelical religion would be involved, if views of the person of Christ, either positively unsound or simple vague and defective, obtained currency in the British churches. His acquaintance with the early history of the church taught him that against this doctrine the persevering assaults of Satan had been directed; and, with sagacious foresight, he anticipated the rise of heresy on this point in England. He speaks of “woeful contests” respecting it, — increasing rather than abating “unto this very day;” and intimates his conviction, in language which elucidates his main design in this work, that the only way by which they could be terminated was to enthrone Christ anew in the hearts and consciences of men.
Events ensued which justified these apprehensions of Own. A prolonged controversy on the subject of the Trinity arose, which drew forth the works of Bull (1686), Sherlock (1690), and South (1695). In 1710, Whiston was expelled from Oxford for his Arianism. Dr. S Clarke, in 1712, published Arian views, for which he was summoned before the Convocation. Among the Presbyterian Dissenters Pierce and Hallet (1717) became openly committed to Arianism. Dr. Isaac Watts who succeeded (1702) to the charge of the same congregation in London which had been under the care of Owen, broached the “Indwelling Schema”; according to which the Father is so united to the man Christ Jesus, whose human soul preexisted his coming in the flesh, that, through this indwelling of the Godhead, he became properly God.
The Christology of Owens has always been highly valued, and will be of use to all ages of the church: — “A work,” says the late Dr. M’Crie, “which, together with its continuation, the ‘Meditations on the Glory of Christ, ‘ of all the theological works published by individuals since the Reformation, next to ‘Calvin’s Institutions’, we would have deemed it our highest honor to have produced.” — Ed.
PREFACE It is a great promise concerning the person of Christ, as he was to be given unto the church, (for he was a child born, a son given unto us, Isaiah 9:6,) that God would “lay him in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation,” whereon “he that believeth shall not make haste:” Isaiah 28:16. Yet was it also foretold concerning him, that this precious foundation should be “for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense, to both the houses of Israel; for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;” so as that “many among them should stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken:” Isaiah 8:14,15.
According unto this promise and prediction it has fallen out in all ages of the church; as the apostle Peter declares concerning the first of them. “Wherefore also,” saith he, “it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto ye therefore which believe, he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed:” 1 Peter 2:6-8.
Unto them that believe unto the saving of the soul, he is, he always has been, precious — the sun, the rock, the life, the bread of their souls — every thing that is good, useful, amiable, desirable, here or unto eternity.
In, from, and by him, is all their spiritual and eternal life, light, power, growth, consolation, and joy here; with everlasting salvation hereafter. By him alone do they desire, expect, and obtain deliverance from that woeful apostasy from God, which is accompanied with — which containeth in it virtually and meritoriously whatever is evil, noxious, and destructive unto our nature, and which, without relief, will issue in eternal misery. By him are they brought into the nearest cognation, alliance, and friendship with God, the firmest union unto him, and the most holy communion with him, that our finite natures are capable of, and so conducted unto the eternal enjoyment of him. For in him “shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory;” (Isaiah 45:25;) for “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation;” they “shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end:” verse 17.
On these and the like accounts, the principal design of their whole lives unto whom he is thus precious, is to acquaint themselves with him — the mystery of the wisdom, grace, and love of God, in his person and mediation, as revealed unto us in the Scripture, which is “life eternal;” (John 17:3;) — to trust in him, and unto him, as to all the everlasting concernments of their souls — to love and honor him with all their hearts — to endeavor after conformity to him, in all those characters of divine goodness and holiness which are represented unto them in him. In these things consist the soul, life, power, beauty, and efficacy of the Christian religion; without which, whatever outward ornaments may be put upon its exercise, it is but a useless, lifeless carcass. The whole of this design is expressed in these heavenly words of the apostle: (Philippians 3:8-12:) “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” This is a divine expression of that frame of heart of that design — which is predominant and efficacious in them unto whom Christ is precious But, on the other hand, (according unto the fore-mentioned prediction,) as he has been a sure foundation unto all that believe, so he has in like manner been “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense unto them that stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” There is nothing in him — nothing wherein he is concerned — nothing of him, his person, his natures, his office, his grace, his love, his power, his authority, his relation unto the church — but it has been unto many a stone of stumbling and rock of offense. Concerning these things have been all the woeful contests which have fallen out and been managed among those that outwardly have made profession of the Christian religion. And the contentions about them do rather increase than abate, unto this very day; the dismal fruits whereof the world groaneth under, and is no longer able to bear. For, as the opposition unto the Lord Christ in these things, by men of perverse minds, has ruined their own souls — as having dashed themselves in pieces against this everlasting rock — so in conjunction with other lusts and interests of the carnal minds of men, it has filled the world itself with blood and confusion.
The re-enthroning of the Person, Spirit, Grace, and authority of Christ, in the hearts and consciences of men, is the only way whereby an end may be put unto these woeful conflicts. But this is not to be expected in any degree of perfection amongst them who stumble at this stone of offense, whereunto they were appointed; though in the issue he will herein also send forth judgment unto victory, and all the meek of the earth shall follow after it. In the meantime, as those unto whom he is thus a rock of offense — in his person, his spirit, his grace, his office, and authority — are diligent and restless (in their various ways and forms, in lesser or higher degrees, in secret artifices, or open contradictions unto any or all of them, under various pretenses, and for divers ends, even secular advantages some of them, which the craft of Satan has prepared for the ensnaring of them) in all ways of opposition unto his glory; so it is the highest duty of them unto whom he is precious, whose principal design is to be found built on him as the sure foundation, as to hold the truth concerning him, this person, spirit, grace, office, and authority,) and to abound in all duties of faith, love, trust, honor, and delight in him — so also to declare his excellency, to plead the cause of his glory, to vindicate his honor, and to witness him the only rest and reward of the souls of men, as they are called and have opportunity.
This, and no other, is the design of the ensuing treatise; wherein, as all things fall unspeakably short of the glory, excellency, and sublimity of the subject treated of, (for no mind can conceive, no tongue can express, the real substantial glory of them,) so there is no doubt but that in all the parts of it there is a reflection of failings and imperfections, from the weakness of its author. But yet I must say with confidence, that in the whole, that eternal truth of God concerning the mystery of his wisdom, love, grace, and power, in the person and mediation of Christ, with our duties towards himself therein, even the Father, Son, and eternal Spirit, is pleaded and vindicated, which shall never be shaken by the utmost endeavors and oppositions of the gates of hell.
And in the acknowledgment of the truth concerning these things consists, in an especial manner, that faith which was the life and glory of the primitive church, which they earnestly contended for, wherein and whereby they were victorious against all the troops of stumbling adversaries by whom it was assaulted. In giving testimony hereunto, they loved not their lives unto the death, but poured out their blood like water, under all the pagan persecutions, which had no other design but to cast them down and separate them from this impregnable rock, this precious foundation. In the defence of these truths did they conflict, in prayers, studies, travels, and writings, against the swarms of seduces by whom they were opposed. And, for this cause, I thought to have confirmed the principal passages of the ensuing discourse with some testimonies from the most ancient writes of the first ages of the church; but I omitted that cause, as fearing that the interposition of such passages might obstruct instead of promoting the edification of the common sort of readers, which I principally intended. Yet, withal, I thought not good utterly to neglect that design, but to give at least a specimen of their sentiments about the principal truths pleaded for, in this preface to the whole. But herein, also, I met with a disappointment; for the bookseller having, unexpectedly unto me, finished the printing of the discourse itself, I must be contented to make use of what lieth already collected under my hand, not having leisure or time to make any farther inquiry.
I shall do something of this nature, the rather because I shall have occasion thereby to give a summary account of some of the principal parts of the discourse itself, and to clear some passages in it, which by some may be apprehended obscure.
Chap. I. The foundation of the whole is laid in the indication of those words of our blessed Savior, wherein he declares himself to be the rock whereon the church is built: (Matthew 16:18:) “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The pretended ambiguity of these words has been wrested by the secular interests of men, to give occasion unto that prodigious controversy among Christian, with, whether Jesus Christ or the Pope of Rome be the rock whereon the church is built. Those holy men of old unto whom Christ was precious, being untainted with the desires of secular grandeur and power, knew nothing hereof. Testimonies may be — they have been — multiplied by other unto this purpose. I shall mention some few of them. “Houtos estin he pros ton Patera agousa hosos, he petra, he kleis, he poimen”, etc, saith Ignatius: Epist. ad Philadelph. — “He” (that is, Christ) “is the way leading unto the Father, the rock, the key, the shepherd” — wherein he has respect unto this testimony. And Origin expressly denies the words to be spoken of Peter, in Matthew 16: (Tract. 1:) “Quod si super unum illum Petrum tantum existimees totam eclesiam aedificar, quid dicturus es de Johanne, et apostolorum unoquoque? Num audebimus dicere quod adversus Petrum unum non prevaliturae sunt portae inferorum?” — “If you shall think that the whole church was built on Peter alone, what shall we say of John, and each of the apostles? What! shall we dare to say that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Peter only?” So he [held, ] according unto the common opinion of the ancients, that there was nothing peculiar in the confession of Peter, and the answer made thereunto as unto himself, but that he spake and was spoken unto in the name of all the rest of the apostles. Euseb. Preparat. Evang., lib. 1 cap. 3: “Ete onomasti prothespistheisa ekklesia autou hesteke kata bathous erridzoomene, kai mechris ouranioon hapsidoon euchais hosioon ka theofiloon anoroon meteooridzomene — dia mian ekeinen, hen autos apefenato lexin, eipoon, Epi ten petran oikodomesoo mou ten ekklesian, kan pulai haidou ou katischusousin autes”. He proves the verity of divine predictions from the glorious accomplishment of that word, and the promise of our Savior, that he would build his church on the rock, (that is, himself,) so as that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. For “Unum hoc est immobile fundamentum, una haec est felix fidei Petra, Petri ore confessa, Tu es filius Dei vivi,” says Hilary de Trin., lib. 2 — “This is the only immovable foundation, this is the blessed rock of faith confessed by Peter, Thou art the Son of the living God”. And Epiphanius, Haer.29: “Epi tei petri tautei tes asfalous pisteoos oikodomesoo mou ten ekklesian”. — “Upon this rock” of assured faith “I will build my church”.
For many thought that faith itself was metonymically called the Rock, because of its object, or the person of Christ, which is so.
One or two more out of Augustine shall close these testimonies: “Super hanc Petram, quam confessus es, super meipsum filium Dei vivi, aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Super me aedificabo te, non me super te:” De Verbis Dom., Serm.
13. — “Upon this rock which thou hast confessed — upon myself, the God of the living God — I will build my church I will build thee upon myself, and not myself on thee.” And he more fully declareth his mind: (Tract. 124, in Johan.:) “Universam significabat ecclesiam, quae in hoc seculo diversis tentationibus, velut imbribus, fluminibus, tempestatibusque quatitur, et non cadit; quoniam fundata est supra Petram; unde et Petrus nomen accepit. Non enim a Petro Petra, sed Petrus a Petra; sicut non Christus a Christiano, sed Christianus a Christo vocatur. Ideo quippe ait Dominus, ‘Super hanc Petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam’, quia dixerat Petrus, ‘Tu es Christus filius Dei vivi’. ‘Super hanc ergo’ (inquit) ‘Petram quam confessus es, aedificabo eccleaism meam’. Petra enim erat Christus, super quod fundamentum etiam ipse aedificatus est Petrus. Fundamentum quippe aliud nemo potest ponere, praeter id quod positum est, quod est Jesus Christus”. — “He (Christ) meant the universal church, which in this world is shaken with divers temptations, as with showers, floods, and tempests, yet falleth not, because it is built on the rock (Petra) from whence Peter took his name.
For the rock is not called Petra from Peter, but Peter is so called from Petra the rock; as Christ is not so called from Christian, but Christian from Christ. Therefore, said the Lord, ‘Upon this rock will I build my church;’ because Peter said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Upon this rock, which thou hast confessed, will I build my church. For Christ himself was the rock on which foundation Peter himself was built. For other foundation can no man lay, save that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.
Chap. II. Against this rock, this foundation of the church — the person of Christ, and the faith of the church concerning it — great opposition has been made by the gates of hell. Not to mention the rage of the pagan world, endeavoring by all effects of violence and cruelty to cast the church from this foundation; all the heresies wherewith from the beginning, and for some centuries of years ensuing, it was pestered, consisted in direct and immediate oppositions unto the eternal truth concerning the person of Christ. Some that are so esteemed, indeed, never pretended unto any sobriety, but were mere effects of delirant [raving] imaginations; yet did even they also, one way or other, derive from an hatred unto the person of Christ, and centered therein. Their beginning was early in the church, even before the writing of the gospel by John, or of his Revelation, and indeed before some of Paul’s epistles. And although their beginning was but small, and seemingly contemptible, yet, being full of the poison of the old serpent, they diffused themselves in various shapes and forms, until there was nothing left of Christ — nothing that related unto him, not his natures, divine or human, not their properties nor acting, not his person, nor the union of his natures therein — that was not opposed and assaulted by them. Especially so soon as the gospel had subdued the Roman empire unto Christ, and was owned by the rulers of it, the whole world was for some ages filled with uproars, confusion, and scandalous disorders about the person of Christ, through the cursed oppositions made thereunto by the gates of hell. Neither had the church any rest from these convicts for about five hundred year. But near that period of time, the power of truth and religion beginning universally to decay among the outward professors of them, Satan took advantage to make that havoc and destruction of the church — by superstition, false worship, and profaneness of life which he failed of in his attempt against the person of Christ, or the doctrine of truth concerning it.
It would be a tedious work, and, it may be, not of much profit unto them who are utterly unacquainted with things so long past and gone, wherein they seem to have no concernment, to give a specimen of the several heresies whereby attempts were made against this rock and foundation of the church. Unto those who have inquired into the records of antiquity, it would be altogether useless. For almost every page of them, at first view, presents the reader with an account of some one or more of them. Yet do I esteem it useful, that the very ordinary sort of Christians should, at least in general, be acquainted with what has passed in this great contest about the person of Christ, from the beginning. For there are two things relating thereunto wherein their faith is greatly concerned. First, There is evidence given therein unto the truth of those predictions of the Scripture, wherein this fatal apostasy from the truth, and opposition unto the Lord Christ, are foretold: and, secondly, An eminent instance of his power and faithfullness, in the appointment and conquest of the gates of hell in the management of this opposition. But they have been all reckoned up, and digested into methods of time and matter, by many learned men, (of old and of late,) so that I shall not in this occasional discourse represent them unto the reader again. Only I shall give a brief account of the ways and means whereby they who retained the profession of the truth contended for it, unto a conquest over the pernicious heresies wherewith it was opposed.
And by the Scripture it was that they discharged their duty confirmed with apostolical tradition consonant thereunto. This was left in charge unto them by the great apostle, (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 6:13,14; Timothy 2:1, 2, 15, 23, 24; 4:1-5,) and wherein any of them failed in this duty, they were reproved by Christ himself: Revelation 2:14,15,20. Nor were private believers (in their places and capacities) either unable for this duty or exempt from it, but discharged themselves faithfully therein, according unto commandment given unto them:1 John 2:20,27; 4:1-3; John 8,9. All true believers, in their several stations — by mutual watchfullness, preaching, or writing, according unto their calls and abilities — effectually used the outward means for the preservation and propagation of the faith of the church. And the same means are still sufficient unto the same ends, were they attended unto with conscience and diligence. The pretended defense of truth with arts and arms of another kind has been the bane of religion, and lost the peace of Christians beyond recovery. And it may be observed, that whilst this way alone for the preservation of the truth was insisted on and pursued, although innumerable heresies arose one after another, and sometimes many together, yet they never made any great progress, nor arrived unto any such consistency as to make a stated opposition unto the truth; but the errors themselves and their authors, were as vagrant meteors, which appeared for a little while, and vanished away. Afterwards it was not so, when other ways and means for the suppression of heresies were judged convenient and needful.
For in process of time, when the power of the Roman empire gave countenance and protection unto the Christian religion, another way was fixed on for this end, viz., the use of such assemblies of bishops and others as they called General Councils, armed with a mixed power, partly civil and partly ecclesiastical — with respect unto the authority of the emperors and that jurisdiction in the church which began then to be first talked of. This way was begun in the Council of Nice, wherein, although there was a determination of the doctrine concerning the person of Christ — then in agitation, and opposed, as unto his divine nature therein — according unto the truth, yet sundry evils and inconveniences ensued thereon. For thenceforth the faith of Christians began greatly to be resolved into the authority of men, and as much, if not more weight to be laid on what was decreed by the fathers there assembled, than on what was clearly taught in the Scriptures. Besides, being necessitated, as they thought, to explain their conceptions of the divine nature of Christ in words either not used in the Scripture, or whose signification unto that purpose was not determined therein, occasion was given unto endless contentions about them. The Grecians themselves could not for a long season agree among themselves whether “ousia” and “hupostatis” were of the same signification or no, (both of them denoting essence and substance,) or whether they differed in their signification, or if they did, wherein that difference lay. Athanasiu6 at first affirmed them to be the same: Orat. 5 con. Arian., and Epist. ad African. Basil denied them so to be, or that they were used unto the same purpose in the Council of Nice:
78. The like difference immediately fell out between the Grecians and Latins about “hypostasis” and “persona”. For the Latins rendered “hypostasis” by “substantia,” and “prosoopon” by “persona.” Hereof Jerome complains, in his Epistle to Damasus, that they required of him in the East to confess “tres hypostases,” and he would only acknowledge “tree personas:” Epist.
71. And Augustine gives an account of the same difference: De Trinitate, lib. 5 cap. 8, 9. Athanasius endeavored the composing of this difference, and in a good measure effected it, as Gregory Nazianzen affirms in his oration concerning his praise. It was done by him in a synod at Alexandria, in the first year of Julian’s reign. On this occasion many contests arose even among them who all pleaded their adherence unto the doctrine of the Council of Nice. And as the subtle Asians made incredible advantage hereof at first, pretending that they opposed not the deity of Christ, but only the expression of it by of “homo-ousios”, so afterwards they countenanced themselves in coining words and terms, to express their minds with, which utterly reacted it.
Hence were their “homoousios, heterousios, ex ouk ontoon”, and the like names of blasphemy, about which the contests were fierce and endless.
And there were yet farther evils that ensued hereon. For the curious and serpentine wits of men, finding themselves by this means set at liberty to think and discourse of those mysteries of the blessed Trinity, and the person of Christ, without much regard unto plain divine testimonies, (in such ways wherein cunning and sophistry did much bear sway,) began to multiply such near, curious, and false notions about them, especially about the latter, as caused new disturbances, and those of large extent and long continuance. For their suppression, councils were called on the neck of one another, whereon commonly new occasions of differences did arise, and most of them managed with great scandal unto the Christian religion. For men began much to forego the primitive ways of opposing errors and extinguishing heresies; retaking themselves unto their interest, the number of their party, and their prevalence with the present emperors. And although it so fell out — as in that at Constantinople, the first at Ephesus, and that at Chalcedon — that the truth (for the substance of it) did prevail, (for in many others it happened quite otherwise,) yet did they always give occasions unto new divisions, animosities, and even mutual hatreds, among the principal leaders of the Christian people. And great contests there were among some of those who pretended to believe the same truth, whether such or such a council should be received — that is, plainly, whether the church should resolve its faith into their authority. The strifes of this nature about the first Ephesian Council, and that at Chalcedon, not to mention those wherein the Asians prevailed, take up a good part of the ecclesiastical story of those days. And it cannot be denied, but that some of the principal persons and assemblies who adhered unto the truth did, in the heat of opposition unto the heresies of other men, fall into unjustifiable excess themselves.
We may take an instance hereof with respect unto the Nestorian heresy, condemned in the first Ephesian Council, and afterwards in that at Chalcedon. Cyril of Alexandria, a man learned and vehement, designed by all means to be unto it what his predecessor Athanasius had been to the Arian; but he fell into such excesses in his undertakings, as gave great occasion unto farther tumults. For it is evident that he distinguisheth not between “hupostatis” and “fusis”, and therefore affirms, that the divine Word and humanity had “mian fusin”, one nature only. So he does plainly in Epist. ad Successum: “They are ignorant,” saith he, “hoti kath’ aletheian esti mia fusis tou logou sesarkoomene”. Hence Eutyches the Archimandrite took occasion to run into a contrary extreme, being a no less fierce enemy to Nestorius than Cyril was. For to oppose him who divided the person of Christ into two, he confounded his natures into one — his delirant folly being confirmed by that goodly assembly, the second at Ephesus. Besides, it is confessed that Cyril — through the vehemency of his spirit, hatred unto Nestorius, and following the conduct of his own mind in nice and subtle expressions of the great mystery of the person of Christ — did utter many things exceeding the bounds of sobriety prescribed unto us by the apostle, (Romans 12:3,) if not those of truth itself. Hence it is come to passe that many learned men begin to think and write that Cyril was in the wrong, and Nestorius by his means condemned undeservedly. However, it is certain to me, that the doctrine condemned at Ephesus and Chalcedony as the doctrine of Nestorius, was destructive of the true person of Christ; and that Cyril, though he missed it in sundry expressions, yet aimed at the declaration and confirmation of the truth; as he was long since vindicated by Theorianus: Dialog. con. Armenios.
However, such was the watchful care of Christ over the church, as unto the preservation of this sacred, fundamental truth, concerning his divine person, and the union of his natures therein, retaining their distinct properties and operations, that — notwithstanding all the faction and disorder that were in those primitive councils, and the scandalous contests of many of the members of them; notwithstanding the determination contrary unto it in great and numerous councils — the faith of it was preserved entire in the hearts of all that truly believed, and triumphed over the gates of hell.
I have mentioned these few things, which belong unto the promise and prediction of our blessed Savior in Matthew 16:18, (the place insisted on,) to show that the church, without any disadvantage to the truth, may be preserved without such general assemblies, which, in the following ages, proved the most pernicious engines for the corruption of the faith, worship, and manners of it. Yea, from the beginning, they were so far from being the only way of preserving truth, that it was almost constantly prejudiced by the addition of their authority unto the confirmation of it.
Nor was there any one of them wherein “the mystery of iniquity” did not work, unto the laying of some rubbish in the foundation of that fatal apostasy which afterwards openly ensued. The Lord Christ himself has taken it upon him to build his church on this rock of his person, by true faith of it and in it. He sends his Holy Spirit to bear testimony unto him, in all the blessed effects of his power and grace. He continueth his Word, with the faithful ministry of it, to reveal, declare, make known, and vindicate his sacred truth, unto the conviction of gainsayers. He keeps up that faith in him, that love unto him, in the hearts of all his elect, as shall not be prevailed against. Wherefore, although the oppositions unto this sacred truth, this fundamental article of the church and the Christian religion — concerning his divine person, its constitution, and use, as the human nature conjoined substantially unto it, and subsisting in it — are in this Last age increased; although they are managed under so great a variety of forms, as that they are not reducible unto any heads of order; although they are promoted with more subtlety and specious pretenses than in former ages; yet, if we are not wanting unto our duty, with the aids of grace proposed unto us, we shall finally triumph in this cause, and transmit this sacred truth inviolate unto them that succeed us in the profession of it.
Chap. III. This person of Christ, which is the foundation whereon the church is built, whereunto all sorts of oppositions are endeavored and designed, is the most ineffable effect of divine goodness and wisdom — whereof we treat in the next place. But herein, when I speak of the constitution of the person of Christ, I intend not his person absolutely, as he is the eternal Son of God. He was truly, really, completely, a divine person from eternity, which is included in the notion of his being the Son, and so distinct from the Father, which is his complete personality. His being so was not a voluntary contrivance or effect of divine wisdom and goodness, his eternal generation being a necessary internal act of the divine nature in the person of the Father.
Of the eternal generation of the divine person of the Son, the sober writers of the ancient church did constantly affirm that it was firmly to be believed, but as unto the manner of it not to be inquired into. “Scrutator majestatis absorbetur a gloria”, was their rule; and the curious disputes of Alexander and Arius about it, gave occasion unto that many-headed monster of the Arian heresy which afterwards ensued. For when once men of subtile heads and unsanctified hearts gave themselves up to inquire into things infinitely above their understanding and capacity — being vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds — they fell into endless divisions among themselves, agreeing only in an opposition unto the truth. But those who contented themselves to be wise unto sobriety, repressed this impious boldness. To this purpose speaks Lactantius:(lib. 4, De Vera Sapient.:) “Quomodo igitur procreavit? Nec sciri a quoquam possunt, nec narrari, opera divina; sed tamen sacrae literae docent illum Dei filium, Dei esse sermonem”. — “How, therefore, did the Father beget the Son? These divine works can be known of none, declared by none; but the holy writings” (wherein it is determined) “teach that he is the Son of God, that he is the Word of God.” And Ambrose: (De Fide, ad Gratianum:) “Quaero abs te, quando aut quomodo putes filium esse generatum? Mihi enim impossibile est scire generationis secretum Mens deficit, vox silet, non mea tantum, sed et angelorum. Supra potestates, supra angelos, supra cherubim, supra seraphim, supra omnem sensum est. Tu quoque manum ori admovere; scrutari non licet superna mysteria. Licet scire quod ntus sit, non licet discutere quomodu ntus sit; illud negare mihi non licet, hoc quaerere metus est. Nam si Paulus ea quae audivit, raptus in tertium coelu, ineffabilia dicit, quomodo nos exprimere possumus paternae generationis arcanum, quod nec sentire potuimus nec audire? Quid te ista questionum tormenta delectant?” — “I inquire of you when and how the Son was begotten? Impossible it is to me to know the mystery of this generation.
My mind faileth, my voice is silent — and not only mine, but of the angels; it is above principalities, above angels, above the cherubim, above the seraphim, above all understanding. Lay thy hand on thy mouth; it is not lawful to search into these heavenly mysteries. It is lawful to know that he was born — it is not lawful to discuss how he was born; that it is not lawful for me to deny — this I am afraid to inquire into. For if Paul, when he was taken into the third heaven, affirms that the things which he heard could not be uttered; how can we express the mystery of the divine generation, which we can neither apprehend nor hear? Why do such tormenting questions delight thee?”
Ephraim Syrus wrote a book to this purpose, against those who would search out the nature of the Son of God. Among many other things to the same purpose are his words: (cap. 2:) “Infelix profecto, miser, atque impudentissimus est, qui scrutari cupot Opificem suum. Millia millium, et centies millies millena millia angelorum et archangelorum, cum horrore glorificant, et trementes adorant; et homines lutei, pleni peccatis, de divinitate intrepide disserunt Non illorum exhorrescit corpus, non contremescit animus; sed securi et garruli, de Christo Dei filio, qui pro me indigno peccatore passus est, deque ipsius utraque generatione loquuntur; nec saltem quod in luce caecutiunt, sentiunt”. — “He is unhappy, miserable, and most impudent, who desires to examine or search out his Maker. Thousands of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of millions of angels and archangels, do glorify him with dread, and adore him with trembling; and shall men of clay, full of sins, dispute of the Deity without fear? Horror does not shake their bodies, their minds do not tremble, but being secure and pealing, they speak of the Son of God, who suffered for me, unworthy sinner, and of both his nativities or generations; at least they’re not sensible how blind they are in the light.” To the same purpose. speaks Eusebius at large: Demonstratio Evang., lib. 5 cap. 2.
Leo well adds hereunto the consideration of his incarnation, in these excellent words: (Serm. 9, De Nativit.:) “Quia in Christo Jesus Filio Dei non solum ad divinam essentiam, sed etiam ad humanan spectat naturam, quo dictum est per prophetam —’generationem ejus quis enarrabit?’ — (utramque enim substantiam in unam convenisse personam, nisi fides credat, sermo non explicat; et ideo materia nunquam deficit laudis; qui nunquam sufficit copia laudatoris) — gaudeamus igitur quod ad eloquendum tantum, misericordiae sacramentum impares sumus; et cum salutis nostrae altitudinem promere non valeamus, sentiamus nobis bonum esse quod vincimur. Nemo enim ad cognitionem veritatis magis propinquat, quam qui intelligit, in rebus divinis, etiamsi multum proficiat, semper sibi superesse quod quaerat”. See also Fulg., lib. 2 ad Thrasimund.
But I speak of the person of Christ as unto the assumption of the substantial adjunct of the human nature, not to be a part whereof his person is composed, but as unto its subsistence therein by virtue of a substantial union. Some of the ancients, I confess, speak freely of the composition of the person of Christ in and by the two natures, the divine and human. That the Son of God after his incarnation had one nature, composed of the Deity and humanity, was the heresy of Apollinarius, Eutyches, the Monothelites, or Monophyeites, condemned by all. But that his most simple divine nature, and the human, composed properly of soul and body, did compose his one person, or that it was composed of them, they constantly affirmed. “Ton Theou mesiten kai enthroopoon, kata tas grafas sunkeisthai famen ek te tes kath’ hemas anthroopotetos teleioos echousas kata ton idion logon, kai ek tou pefenotos, ek Theou kata fusin huiou”, saith Cyril of Alexandria — “A sanctis patribus adunatione ex divinitate et humanitate Christus Dominus noster compositus praedicatur:” Peter Diacon., Lib. De Incarnat. et Grat. Christi, ad Fulgentium. And the union which they intended by this composition they called “enoosin fusiken”, because it was of diverse natures, and “enoosin kata sunthesin”, a union by composition.
But because there neither was nor can be any composition, properly so called, of the divine and human natures, and because the Son of God was a perfect person before his incarnation, wherein he remained what he was, and was made what he was not, the expression has been forsaken and avoided; the union being better expressed by the assumption of a substantial adjunct, or the human nature into personal subsistence with the Son of God, as shall be afterwards explained. This they constantly admire as the most ineffable effect of divine wisdom and grace: “Ho asarkos tarkoutai, ho logos pachunetai, ho aoratos horatai, ho anafes pselafatai, ho achronos archetai, ho huios Theou huios anthroopou ginetai”, saith Gregory Nazianzen, (Orat. 12,) in admiration of this mystery. Hereby God communicates all things unto us from his own glorious fullness, the near approaches whereof we are not able to bear. So is it illustrated by Eusebius: (Demonst. Evang., lib. 4 cap. 5, etc.:) “Houtoo de footos heliou mia kai he aute prostole homou kai kata to auto kataugadzei men aera, footidzei de ofthalmous, hafen de termainei, piainei de gen, auxei de futa, k. t. l. (cap. 6) Ei goun hoos en hupothesei logou, katheis ouranothen autos heauton pamfaes helios sun anthroopois epi ges politeuoito, oudena toon epi tes ges meinai an adiaforon, pantoon sulletden empsuchoon homou kai apsuchoon athroai tei tou footos prostolei dieaftharesomenoon”. The sense of which words, with some that follow in the same place, is unto this purpose: By the beams of the sunlight, and life, and heat, unto the procreation, sustentation, refreshment, and cherishing of all things, are communicated. But if the sun itself should come down unto the earth, nothing could bear its heat and lustre; our eyes would not be enlightened but darkened by its glory, and all things be swallowed up and consumed by its greatness; whereas, through the beams of it, every thing is enlightened and kindly refreshed. So is it with this eternal beam or brightness of the Father’s glory. We cannot bear the immediate approach of the Divine Being; but through him, as incarnate, are all things communicated unto us, in a way suited unto our reception and comprehension.
So it is admired by Leo: (Serm. 3, De Nativit.:) “Natura humana in Creatoris societatem assumpta est, non ut ille habitator, et illa esset habitaculum; sed ut naturae alteri sic misceretur altera, ut quamvis alia sit quae suscipitur, alia vero quae suscepit, in tantam tamen unitatem conveniret utriusque diversitas, ut unus idemque sit filius, qui se, et secundum quod verus est homo, Patre dicit minorem, et secundum quod verus est Deus Patrise profitetur aequalem” — “Human nature is assumed into the society of the Creator, not that he should be the inhabitant, and that the habitation,” (that is, by an inhabitation in the effects of his power and grace, for otherwise the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily,) “but that one nature should be so mingled” (that is, conjoined) “with the other, that although that be of one kind which assumeth, and that of another which is assumed, yet the diversity of them both should concur in such a unity or union, as that it is one and the same Son who, as he was a true man, said that he was less than the Father, or the Father was greater than he — so as he was true God, professeth himself equal unto the Father.” See also Augustinus De Fide, ad Peter Diacon., cap. 17; Justitianus Imperator Epist. ad Hormisdam, Romae Episcop.
And the mystery is well expressed by Maxentius: (Biblioth. Patr. pars prima:) “Non confundimus naturarum diversitatem; veruntamen Christum non tu asseris Deum factum, sed Deum factum Christum confitemur. Quia non cum pauper esset, dives factus est, sed cum dives esset, pauper factus est, ut nos divites faceret; neque enim cum esset in forma servi, formam Dei accepit; sed cum esset in forma Dei, formam servi accepit; similiter etiam nec, cum esset caro, verbum est factum; sed cum esset verbum, caro factum est”. — “We do not confound the diversity of the natures, howbeit we believe not what you affirm, that Christ was made God; but we believe that God was made Christ. For he was not made rich when he was poor; but being rich, he was made poor, that he might make us rich. He did not take the form of God when he was in the form of a servant; but being in the form of God, he took on him the form of a servant. In like meaner, he was not made the Word when he was flesh; but being the Word, he was made flesh.”
And Jerome, speaking of the effects of this mystery: (Comment. in Ezekiel, cap. 46:) “Ne miretur lector si idem et Princeps est et Sacerdos, et Vitulus, et Aries, et Agnus; cum in Scripturis sanctis pro varietate causarum legamus eum Dominum, et Deum, et Hominem, et Prophetam, et Virgam, et Radicem, et Florem, et Principem, et Regem justum, et Justitiam, Apostolu, et Episcopu, Brachium, Servum, Angelum, Pastorem, Filium, et Unigenitum, et Promogenitum, Ostium, Viam, Sagittam, Sapientiam, et multa alia.” — “Let not the reader wonder if he find one and the same to be the Prince and Priest, the Bullock, Ram, and Lamb; for in the Scripture, on variety of causes, we find him called Lord, God, and Man, the Prophet, a Rod, and the Root, the Flower, Prince, Judge, and Righteous King; Righteousness, the Apostle and Bishop, the Arm and Servant of God, the Angel, the Shepherd, the Son, the Only-begotten, the First-begotten, the Door, the Way, the Arrow, Wisdom, and sundry other things.” And Ennodius has, as it were, turned this passage of Jerome into verse: — “Corda domat, qui cuncta videt, quem cuncta tramiscunt; Fons, via, dextra, lapis, vitulus, leo, lucifer, agnus; Janua, spes, virtus, verbum, sapientia, vates.
Ostia, virgultum, pastor, mons, rete, columba, Flama, gigas, aquila, sponsus, patientia, nervus, Filius, excelsus, Dominus, Deus; omnia Christus.” (In natalem Papoe Epiphanii.) “Quod homo est esse Christus voluit; ut et homo possit esse quod Christus est”, saith Cyprian: De Idolorum Vanitate, cap.
3. And, “Quod est Christus erimus Christiani, si Christum fuerimus imitati:” Ibid. And he explains his mind in this expression by way of admiration: (Lib. de Eleemosyn.:) “Christus hominis filius fieri voluit, ut nos Dei filios faceret; humiliavit se, ut popolum qui prius jacebat, erigeret; vulneratus est, ut vulnera nostra curaret”.
Chap. IV. That he was the foundation of all the holy counsels of God, with respect unto the vocation, sanctification, justification, and eternal salvation of the church, is, in the next place, at large declared. And he was so on a threefold account.
As the cause of all good unto us, he is on this account acknowledged by the ancients. “Houtos goun ho logos ho Christos kai tou einai palai hemas, en gar en Theooi, kai tou eu einai aitios. Nun de etefane anthroopois, autos houtos ho logos, ho monos amfoo Theos te kai anthroopos, hapantoon hemin aitios agatoon”, saith Clemens, Adhort. ad Gentes — “He, therefore, is the Word, the Christ, and the cause of old of our being; for he was in God, and the cause of our well-being. But now he has appeared unto men, the same eternal Word, who alone is both God and man, and unto us the cause of all that is good”. As he was in God the cause of our being and well-being from eternity, he was the foundation of the divine counsels in the way explained; and in his incarnation, the execution of them all was committed unto him, that through him all actual good, all the fruits of those counsels, might be communicated unto us.
Chap. V. He is also declared in the next place, as he is the image and great representative of God, even the Father, unto the church. On what various accounts he is so called, is fully declared in the discourse itself. In his divine person, as he was the only begotten of the Father from eternity, he is the essential image of the Father, by the generation of his person, and the communication of the divine nature unto him therein. As he is incarnate, he is both in his own entire person God and man, and in the administration of his office, the image or representative of the nature and will of God unto us, as is fully proved. So speaks Clem. Alexandrin., Adhort. ad Gentes: “He men gar tou Theou eikoon ho logos autou, kai huios tou nou gnesios, ho Teios logos footos erchetupon foos, eikoon de tou logou ho enthroopos”. — “The image of God is his own Word, the natural Son of the” (eternal) “Mind, the divine Word, the original Light of Light; and the image of the Word is man.” And the same author again, in his Paedagogus: “Prosoopon tou Theou ho logos hooi footidzetai ho Theos kai gnooridzetai” — “The Word is the face, the countenance, the representation of God, in whom he is brought to light and made known.”
So also Jerome expresseth his mind herein: (Comment. in Psalm 66:) “Illuminet vultum suum super nos; Dei facies quae est? Utique imago ejus.
Dicit enim apostolus imaginem Patris esse filium; ergo imagine sua nos illuminet; hoc est, imaginem suam filium illuminet super nos; ut ipse nos illuminet; lux enim Patris lux filii est.” — “Let him cause his face to shine upon us; or lift up the light of his countenance upon us. What is the face of God? Even his image. For the apostle says, that the Son is the image of the Father. Wherefore, let him shine on us with his image; that is, cause his Son, which is his image, to shine upon us, that he may illuminate us; for the light of the Father and of the Son are the same.” Christ being the image of God, the face of God, in him is God represented unto us, and through him are all saving benefits communicated unto them that believe.
Eusebius also speaks often unto this purpose, as: (Demonstratio Evangelica, lib. 4 cap. 2:) “Hothen eikotoos hoi cresmoi teologountes, Theon geneton auton apofainousin, hoos an tes anekfrastou kai aperinoetou theotetos monon en autooi feronta ten eikona di’ hen kai Theon einak te auton kai legesthai tes pros to prooton exomoiooseoos charin”. — “Wherefore, the holy oracles, speaking theologically, or teaching divine things, do rightly call him God begotten,” (of the Father,) “as he who alone bears in himself the image of the ineffable and inconceivable Deity. Wherefore, he both is, and is called God, because of his being the character, similitude, or image of him who is the first.” The divine personality of Christ consists in this, that the whole divine nature being communicated unto him by eternal generation, he is the image of God, even the Father, who by him is represented unto us. See the same book, chap. 7, to the same purpose; also, De Ecclesiast. Theol. contra Marcell., lib. 2 cap. 17.
Clemens abounds much in the affirmation of this truth concerning the person of Christ, and we may yet add, from a multitude to the same purpose, one or more testimonies from him. Treating of Christ as the teacher of all men, his “paidagoogos”, he affirms that he is “Theos en anthroopou schemati”, “God in the figure or form of man;” “achrantos, patrikooi telemati diakonos, logos, Theos, ho en patri ho ek dexioon tou patros, sun kai tooi schemati Theou”, “impolluted, serving the will of the Father, the Word, God, who is in the Father, on the right hand of the Father, and in or with the form of God”. “Houtos hemin eikoon he akelidootos, toutooi panti sthenei peirateon exomoioun ten psuchen”. — “He is the image (of God) unto us, wherein there is no blemish; and with all our strength are we to endeavor to render ourselves like unto him”. This is the great end of his being the representative image of God unto us And: (Stromat., lib. 4:) “Ho men oun Theos anapodeiktos oon, ouk estin epistemonikos. Ho de huios sofia te esti kai episteme, kai aletheia, kai, hosa alla toutooi sungene”. — “As God” (absolutely) “falls not under demonstration,” (that is, cannot perfectly be declared,) “so he does not” (immediately) “effect or teach us knowledge. But the Son is wisdom, and knowledge, and truth, unto us, and every thing which is cognate hereunto.”
For in and by him does God teach us, and represent himself unto us.
Chap. VII. Upon the glory of this divine person of Christ depends the efficacy of all his offices; an especial demonstration whereof is given in his prophetical office. So it is well expressed by Irenaeus, “qui nil molitur inepte:” lib. 1 cap.
1. “Non enim aliter nos discere poteramus quae sunt Dei, nisi magister noster verbum existens, homo ffactus fuisset. Neque enim alius poterat enarrare nobis quae sunt Patris, nisi proprium ipsius verbum. Quis enim alius cognovit sensum Domini? Aut quis alius ejus consiliarium factus est? Neque rursus nos aliter discere poteramus, nisi Magistrum nostrum videntes, et per auditum nostrum vocem ejus percipientes, uti imitatores quidem operum, factores autem sermonum ejus facti, communionem habeamus cum ipso”. — “We could not otherwise have learned the things of God, unless our Master, being and continuing the” (eternal) “Word, had been made man. For no other could declare unto us the things of God, but his own proper Word. For who else has known the mind of the Lord? Or who else has been his couselor? Neither, on the other side, could we otherwise have learned, unless we had seen our Master, and heard his voice,” (in his incarnation and ministry,) “whereby, following his works, and yielding obedience unto his doctrine, we may have communion with himself.”
I do perceive that if I should proceed with the same kind of attestations unto the doctrine of all the chapters in the ensuing discourse, this preface would be drawn forth unto a greater length than was ever designed unto it, or is convenient for it. I shall therefore choose out one or two instances more, to give a specimen of the concurrence of the ancient church in the doctrine declared in them, and so put a close unto it.
Chap. IX. In the ninth chapter and those following, we treat of the divine honor that is due unto the person of Christ, expressed in adoration, invocation, and obedience, proceeding from faith and love. And the foundation of the whole is laid in the discovery of the true nature and causes of that honor; and three things are designed unto confirmation herein.
1. That the divine nature, which is individually the same in each person of the holy Trinity, is the proper formal object of all divine worship, in adoration and invocation; wherefore, no one person is or can be worshipped, but in the same individual act of worship each person is equally worshipped and adored.
2. That it is lawful to direct divine honor, worship, and invocation unto any person, in the use of his peculiar name — the Father, Son, or Spirit — or unto them altogether; but to make any request unto one person, and immediately the same unto another, is not exemplified in the Scripture, nor among the ancient writers of the church.
The first of these is the constant doctrine of the whole ancient church, viz, that whether, (for instance,) in our solemn prayers and invocations, we call expressly on the name of the Father, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spirit; whether we do it absolutely or relatively, that is, with respect unto the relation of one person to the others as calling on God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, on Christ as the Son of his love, on the Holy Spirit as proceeding from them both — we do formally invocate and call on the divine nature, and consequently the whole Trinity, and each person therein. This truth they principally confirmed with the form of our initiation into Christ at baptism: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” For as there is contained therein the sum of all divine honor, so it is directed unto the same name, (not the names,) of the Father, Son, and Spirit, which is the same Deity or divine nature alone.
This form of baptism teacheth us, say they, “Pisteuein eis to onoma tou patros, kai tou huiou, kai tou hagiou pneumatos, delade, teotetos te kai dunameoos kai ousias mias tou patros, kai tou huiou, kai tou hagiou pneumatos pisteuomenes, homotimou tes axias, kai sunaidiou tes basileias, en trisi teleiais hupostasesi”. — “to believe in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; seeing that the Deity, substance, and power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is one and the same; their dignity equal; their kingdom coeternal, in three perfect persons.” “In nomine dixit, non nominibus, erog non aliud nomen Patris est, “etc., “quia unus Deus:” Ambrose, De Spirit. Sanct., lib. 1 cap.
40. Hence Augustine gives it as a rule, in speaking of the Holy Trinity: “Quando unus trium in aliquo opere nominatur, universa operari trinitas intelligitur:” Enchirid., cap.
38. — “When one person of the three is named in any work, the whole Trinity is to be understood to effect it.” “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” according to the Scriptures. Wherefore, as there is one faith in Christ, and one baptism of truth, although we are baptized and believe in the Father, Son, and Spirit, “kata ton outon, oimai, tropon kai logon, mia proskunesis he patros, kai enanthroopesantos huiou, kai hagiou pneumatos;” — “so plainly, in my judgment, there is one and the same adoration, of the Father, the Son incarnate, and the Holy Spirit:” Cyril. Alex. De Recta Fide, cap. 32.
And this they professed themselves to hold and believe, in that ancient doxology which was first invented to decry the Arian heresy: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” The same glory, in every individual act of its assignation or ascription, is directed unto each person jointly and distinctly, on the account of the same divine nature in each of them. I need not produce any testimonies in the farther confirmation hereof; for, in all their writings against the Arians, they expressly and constantly contend that the holy Trinity (that is, the divine nature in three persons) is the individual object of all divine adoration, invocation, and all religious worship; and that by whatever personal name — as the Father, Son, or Spirit — we call on God, it is God absolutely who is adored, and each person participant of the same nature. See August. Lib. con. Serm. Arian. cap. 35, and Epist. 66 ad Maximum.
For the second thing, or the invocation of God by any personal name, or by the conjunction of the distinct names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together, nothing occurs more frequently among them. Yea, it is common to find in their writings, prayers begun unto one person, and ended in the name of another; yea, begun unto Christ, and closed in the name of His only-begotten Son; it being one and the same divine nature that is called on. Yea, the schoolmen do generally deny that the persons of the holy Trinity, under the consideration of the formal reason which is constitutive of their personality, are the formal object and term of divine worship; but in the worship of one, they are all worshipped as one God over all, blessed for ever. See Aquin. 22 q. 81, a. 3, ad prim., and q. 84, a. 1, ad tertium; Alexand. Alens. p. 3, q. 30, m. 1, a. 3.
But yet, although we may call on God in and by the name of any divine person, or enumerate at once each person, (oo trias hagia arithmoumene, trias en heni onomati arithmoumene”, Epiphan. Ancorat., 8 22,) it does not follow that we may make a request in our prayers unto one person, and then immediately repeat it unto another; for it would thence follow, that the person unto whom we make that request in the second place, was not invocated, not called on, not equally adored with him who was so called on in the first place, although the divine nature is the object of all religious invocation, which is the same in each person. Wherefore, in our divine invocation, we may name and fix our thoughts distinctly on any person, according as our souls are affected with the distinct operations of each person in grace towards us.
For what concerns, in the third place, the ascription of divine honor, in adoration and invocation, unto the person of Christ; it is that which they principally contended for, and argued from, in all their writings against the Arians.
Evidences of infinite wisdom in the constitution of the person of Christ, and rational discoveries of the condecencies therein, unto the exaltation of all the other glorious properties of the divine nature, are also treated of.
Herein we consider the incarnation of the Son of God, with respect unto the recovery and salvation of the church alone. Some have contended that he should have been incarnate, had man never fallen or sinned. Of these are Rupertus, lib. 3, De Gloria et Honore Filii Hominis; Albertus Magnus, in distinct. 10, a 4; Petrus Galatinus, lib. 3 cap. 4; as are Scotus, halensis, and others, whom Osiander followed. The same is affirmed by Socinus concerning the birth of that man, which alone he fancied him to be, as I have elsewhere declared. But I have disproved this figment at large. Many of the ancients have labored in this argument, of the necessity of the incarnation of the eternal Word, and the condecencies unto divine wisdom therein. See Irenaeus, lib. 3, cap. 20, 21; Eusebius, Demonst. Evangel., lib. 4 cap. 1-4, etc.; Cyril. Alexand., lib. 5 cap. 6, lib.
1. De Fide ad Regin.; Chrysostom, Homil. 10 in Johan., et in cap. 8, ad Romans Serm. 18; Augustine, De Trinit., lib. 13 cap. 13-20; Leo, Epist. 13, 18, Sermo. De Nativit. 1, 4, 10; Basil., in Psalm 48; Albinus, lib. 1 in Johan. Cap. 11; Damascen., lib. 3, De Fide, cap. 15, 19; Anselm., quod Deus Homo, lib. duo. Guil. Parisiensis, lib. Cur Deus Homo. Some especial testimonies we may produce in confirmation of what we have discoursed, in the places directed unto. There is one of them, one of the most ancient, the most learned, and most holy of them, who has so fully delivered his thoughts concerning this mystery, as that I shall principally make use of his testimony herein.
It belonged unto the wisdom and righteousness of God, that Satan should be conquered and subdued in and by the same nature which he had prevailed against, by his suggestion and temptation. To this purpose that holy writer speaks, (lib. 3 cap. 20,) which, because his words are cited by Theodore, (Dial. 2,) I shall transcribe them from thence, as free from the injuries of his barbarous translator: “Henoosen oun kathoos proefamen ton anthroopon tooi Theooi, ei gar me anthroopos henikesen ton antipalon tou anthroopou, ouk an dikaioos henikethe ho echthros, palin te, ei me ho Theos edooresato ten sooterian, ouk an betaioos echoimen auten, kai ei me sunenoothe ho anthroopos tooi Theooi ouk an edunethe metaschein tes aftharsias. Edei gar ton mesiten tou Theou te kai anthroopoon, die tes idias pros hekaterous oikeiotetos eis filian kai homonoian tous anfoterous sunagagein”. Words plainly divine; an illustrious testimony of the faith of the ancient church, and expressive of the principal mystery of the gospel! “Wherefore, as we said before, he united man unto God. For if man had not overcome the adversary of men, the enemy had not been justly conquered; and, on the other hand, if God had not given and granted salvation, we could never have a firm, indefeasible possession of it; and if man had not been united unto God, he could not have been partaker of immortality. It behaved, therefore, the Mediator between God and man, by his own participation of the nature of each of them, to bring them both into friendship and agreement with each other.” And to the same purpose, speaking of the wisdom of God in our redemption by Christ, with respect unto the conquest of the devil: (lib. 5 cap. 1:) “Potens in omnibus Dei Verbum, et non deficiens in sua justitia, juste etiam adversus ipsam conversus est apostasiam, ea quae sunt sua redimens, ab eo, non cum vi, quemadmomdum ille initio dominabatur nostri, ea quae non erant sua insatiabiliter rapiens... Suo igitur sanguine redimente nos Domino, et dante animam suam pro anima nostra, et carnem suam pro carnibus nostris”, etc.
Again divinely: “The all-powerful Word of God, no way defective in righteousness, set himself against the apostasy justly also; redeeming from him (Satsn, the head of the apostasy) the things which were his own — not with force, as he bare rule over us, insatiably making rapine of what was not his own — but he, the Lord, redeeming us with his own blood, giving his soul for our soul, and his flesh for ours, wrought out our deliverance.” These things are at large insisted on in the ending discourse.
It belongs unto this great mystery, and is a fruit of divine wisdom, that our deliverance should be wrought in and by the me nature wherein and whereby we were ruined. The reasons hereof, and the glory of God therein, are at large discoursed in the ensuing treatise. To the same purpose speaks the same holy writer: (lib. 5 cap. 14:) “Non in semetipso recapitulasset haec Dominus, nisi ipse caro et sanguis secundum principalem plasmationem factus fuisset; salvans in semetipso in fine illud quod perierat in principio in Adam. Si autem ob aliam quandam dispositionem Dominus incarnatus est, et ex altera substantia carnem attulit, non ergo in semetipso recapitulatus est hominem, adhuc etiam nec aro quidem dici potest... Habuit ergo et ipse carnem et sanguinem, non alteram quindam, sed ipsam principalem Patris plasmationem in se recapitulans, exquirens id quod perierat”. And to the same purpose: (lib. cap. 1:) “Neque enim vere esset sanguinem et carnem habens, per quam nos redemit, nisi antiquam plasmationem Adae in seipsum recapitulasset”.
That which these passages give testimony unto, is what we have discoursed concerning the necessity of our redemption in and by the nature that sinned; and yet withal, that it should be free from all that contagion which invaded our nature by the fall. And these things are divinely expressed. “Our Lord,” saith he, “had not gathered up these things in himself, had not he been made flesh and blood, according unto its original creation.” The reader may observe, that none of the ancient writers do so frequently express the fall of Adam by our apostasy from God, and our recovery by a recapitulation in Christ, as Irenaeus — his recapitulation being nothing but the “anakefalaioosis” mentioned by the apostle, Ephesians 1:10 — and he here affirms, that, unto this end, the Lord was made flesh; “secundum principalem plasmationem”, as his words are rendered; that is plainly, the original creation of our nature in innocence, uprightness, purity, and righteousness.) “So he saved in himself in the end, what perished in Adam at the beginning.” (The same nature, in and by the same nature.) “For if the Lord had been incarnate for any other disposition,” (i. e., cause, reason, or end,) “and had brought flesh from any other substance,” (i. e., celestial or ethereal, as the agnostics imagined,) “he had not recovered men, brought our nature unto a head in himself, nor could he have been said to be flesh. He therefore himself had flesh and blood not of any other kind; but he took to himself that which was originally created of the Father, seeking that which was lost.” The same is observed by Augustine: (Lib. de Fide, ad Petrum Diaconum:) “Sic igitur Christum Dei Filium, id est, unam ex Trinitate personam, Deum verum crede, ut divinitatem ejus de natura Patris natam esse non dubites; et sic eum verum hominem crede, et ejus carnem, non coelestis, non aeriae, non alterius cujusquam putes esse naturae, sed ejus coujus est omnium caro; id est, quam ipse Deus, homini primo de terra plasmavit, et caeteris hominibus plasmat.” — “So believe Christ the Son of God, that is, one person of the Trinity, to be the true God, that you doubt not but that his divinity was born” (thy eternal generation) “of the nature of the Father; and so believe him to be a true man, that you suppose not his flesh to be aerial, or heavenly, or of any other nature, but of that which is the flesh of men; that is, which God himself formed in the first man of the earth, and which he forms in all other men.” That which he speaks of one person of the Trinity, has respect unto the heretical opinion of Hormisdas, the bishop of Rome, who contended that it was unlawful to say that one person of the Trinity was incarnate, and persecuted some Scythian monks, men not unlearned about it, who were strenuously defended by Maxentius, one of them.
It carrieth in it a great condecency unto divine wisdom, that man should be restored unto the image of God by him who was the essential image of the Father; (as is declared in our discourse;) and that he was made like unto us, that we might be made like unto him, and unto God through him. So speaks the same Irenaeus: (lib. 5 Praefat:) “Verbum Dei Jesus Christus, qui propter immensam suam dilectionem, factus est quod sumus nos, ut nos perficeret quod est ipse”. — “Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who, from his own infinite love, was made what we are, that he might make us what he is;” that is, by the restoration of the image of God in us. And again: (lib. 3 cap. 20:) “Filius Dei existens semper apud Patrem, et homo factus, longam hominum expositionem in seipso recapitulavit; in compendio nobis salutem praestans, ut quod perdideramus in Adam, id est, secundum imaginem et similitudinem esse Dei, hoc in Christo Jesus reciperemus. Quia enim non erat ppossibile, eum hominem, qui semel victus fuerat et elisus per inobedientiam, replasmare et obtinere brabium (brateion) victoriae; iterum autem impossibile erat ut salutem perciperet, qui sub peccato ceciderat. Utraque operatus est filius Verbum Dei existens, a Patre descendens et incarnatus, et usque ad mortem descendens, et dispensationem consummans salutis nostrae”. — “Being the Son of God always with the Father, and being made man, he reconciled or gathered up in himself the long-continued exposing of men,” (unto sin and judgment,) “bringing in salvation in this compendious way, (in this summary of it,) that what we had lost in Adam — that is, our being in the image and likeness of God — we should recover in Christ. For it was not possible that man that had been once conquered and broken by disobedience, should by himself be reformed, and obtain the crown of victory; nor, again, was it possible that he should recover salvation who had fallen under sin.
Both were wrought by the Son, the Word of God, who, descending from the Father, and being incarnate, submitted himself to death, perfecting the dispensation of our salvation.”
And Clemens Alexandrinus to the same purpose: (Adhort. ad Gentes.) “Nai femi ho logos h tou Theou anthroopos genomenos, hina de kai su para anthroopou matheis, te pote ara anthroopos genetai Theos”. — “The Word of God was made man, that thou mightest learn of a man how man may become” (as) “God.” And Ambrose, in Psalm 118 Octonar. decim.: [of the authorized English version, Psalm 119 73:] “Imago, [id est, Verbum Dei, ] ad eum qui est d imaginem, [hoc est, hominem, ] venit, et quaerit imago eum qui est ad similitudinem sui, ut iterum signet, ut iterum confirmet, quia amiseras quod accepisti.” — “The image of God, that is, the Word of God, came unto him who was after the image of God, that is man. And this image of God seeks him who was after the image of God, that he might seal him with it again, and confirm him, because thou hadst lost that which thou hadst received.” And Augustine in one instance gives a rational account why it was condecent unto divine wisdom that the Son, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, should be incarnate — which we also inquire into: (Lib. de Definitionibus Orthodoxae Fidei sive de Ecclesiastica Dogmatibus, cap. 2:) “Non Pater carnem assumpsit, neque Spiritus Sanctus, set Filius tantum; at qui erat in divinitate Dei Patris Filius, ipse fieret in homine hominis matris Filius; ne Filii nomen ad alterum transiret, qui non esset eterna nativitate filius”. — “The Father did not assume flesh, nor the Holy Spirit, but the Son only; that he who in the Deity was the Son of the Father, should be made the Son of man, in his mother of human race; that the name of the Son should not pass unto any other, who was not the Son by an eternal nativity.”
I shall close with one meditation of the same author, concerning the wisdom and righteousness of God in this mystery: (Enchirid. ad Laurent., cap. 99:) “Vide — universum genus humanum tam justo judicio Divino in apostatica radice damnatum, ut etiam si nullus inde liberaretur, nemo recte possit Dei vituperare justitiam; et qui liberantur, sic oportuisse liberari, ut ex pluribus non liberatis, atque in damnatione justissima derelictis, ostenderetur, quod meruisset universa conspersio, et quo etiam istos debitum judicium Dei duceret, nisi ejus indebita misericordia subveniret.” — -“Behold, the whole race of mankind, by the just judgment of God, so condemned in the apostatical root, that if no one were thence delivered, yet no man could rightly complain of the justice of God; and that those who are freed, ought so to be freed, that, from the greater number who are not freed, but left under most righteous condemnation, it might be manifest what the whole mass had deserved, and whither the judgment of God due unto them would lead them, if his mercy, which was not due, did not relieve them.” The reader may see what is discoursed unto these purposes: and because the great end of the description given of the person of Christ, is that we may love him, and thereby be transformed into his image, I shall close this preface with the words of Jerome, concerning that divine love unto Christ which is at large declared. “sive legas”, says he, “sive scribas, sive vigiles, sive dormias, amor tibi semper buccina in auribus sonet, hic lituus excitet animam tuam, hoc amore furibundus; quaere in lectulo tuo, quem desiderat anima tue:” Epist. 66 ad Pammach., cap.
10. — “Whether thou readest or writest, whether thou watchest or sleepest, let the voice of love (to Christ) sound in thine ears; let this trumpet stir up thy soul: being overpowered (brought into an ecstasy) with this love, seek Him on thy bed whom thy soul desireth and longeth for.”
A DECLARATION OF THE GLORIOUS MYSTERY OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST