« PreviousContinue »
purpose with which I undertook and completed the four sermons upon the Origin, the End, the Act, and the Fruit of the Incarnation. When I had completed this office of my ministry, and, by the request of my flock, had consented to the publication of these and the other discourses contained in this book; and when the printing of them had all but, or altogether, concluded; there arose, I say not by what influence of Satan, a great outcry against the doctrine which, with all orthodox churches, I hold and maintain concerning the person of Christ : the doctrine I mean of his human nature, that it was manhood fallen, which he took up into his Divine person, in order to prove the grace and the might of Godhead in redeeming it; or, to use the words of our Scottish Confession, that his flesh was, in its proper nature, mortal and corruptible, but received immortality and incorruption from the Holy Ghost. The stir which was made in divers quarters, both of this and my native land, about this matter, as if it were neither the orthodox doctrine of the church, nor a doctrine according to godliness, shewed me, who am convinced of both, that it was necessary to take controversial weapons in my hand, and contend earnestly for the faith as it was once delivered to the saints. I perceived now, that the dogmatical method which I had adopted for the behoof of my own believing flock, would not be sufficient when publishing to a wavering, gainsaying, or unbelieving people; and therefore it seemed to me most profitable to delay the publication until I should have composed something fitted to re-establish men's minds upon this great fundamental doctrine of the church,
which having done, I resolved to insert the same as two other sermons; the one upon the method of the Incarnation, and the other upon the relations of the Creator and the creature, as these are shewn out in the light of the Incarnation. And for this timeous interruption by evil tongues, I desire to give thanks to God, inasmuch as I have been enabled thereby not only to expound, but to defend the faith, that the Son of God came in the flesh.
I would not add another word upon this subject, were it not that I know how ready the ear of this generation is to take up an evil report, and how much it doth prejudice a man to be even suspected of a great vital error in his faith. Therefore to set myself straight with honest-hearted men, who may have been poisoned by malicious slanders, I will state, in a few words, what is the exact matter in dispute between us and these gainsayers of the truth.
The point at issue is simply this ; Whether Christ's flesh had the grace of sinlessness and incorruption from its proper nature, or from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. I say the latter. I assert, that in its proper nature it was as the flesh of his mother, but, by virtue of the Holy Ghost's quickening and inhabiting of it, it was preserved sinless and incorruptible. This work of the Holy Ghost, I further assert, was done in consequence of the Son's humbling himself to be made flesh. The Son said, “I come:” the Father said, “I prepare thee a body to come in :' and the Holy Ghost prepared that body out of the Virgin's substance. And so, by the threefold acting of the Trinity, was the Christ constituted a Divine and a human nature, joined in personal union for ever. This I hold to have been the orthodox faith of the Christian church in all ages : it is the doctrine of the Scottish Church, expressed in these words of the Twenty-first Article: “ As the eternal Godhead hath given to the flesh of Christ Jesus, which of its own nature was mortal and corrptible, life and immortality,” &c. And, moreover, I assert, that the opposite of this doctrine, which affirmeth Christ's flesh to have been in itself immortal and incorruptible, or in any way diverse from this flesh of mine, without respect had to the Holy Ghost, is a pestilent heresy, which coming in will root out atonement, redemption, regeneration, the work of the Spirit, and the human nature of Christ altogether. Now, I glory that God hath accounted me worthy to appear in the field of this ancient controversy, which I hold to be the foundation-stone of the edifice of orthodox truth. With all this I hold the human will of Christ to have been perfectly holy, and to have acted, spoken, or wished nothing but in perfect harmony with the will of the Godhead; which, to distinguish it from the creature will, he calleth the will of the Father : for that there were two wills in Christ, the one the absolute will of the Godhead, the other the limited will of the manhood, the church hath ever maintained as resolutely as that there were two natures. These two wills, I maintain, were always concentric or harmonious with each other, and the work achieved by the Godhead through the Incarnation of Christ was neither less nor more than this, to bring the will of the creature, which had erred from the Divine will, back again to be harmonious with the Divine will, and there to fix it for ever. This is the redemption, this is the at-one-ment, which was wrought in Christ, to redeem the will of a creature from the oppression of sin, and bring it to be at one with the will of the Creator. 1. All divinity, all Divine operation, all God's pure ! pose, from the beginning to the ending of time, , and throughout eternal ages, resteth upon this
one truth, that every acting of the human nature 110f Christ, was responsive to, and harmonious y with, the actings of the Divine will of the Godj head. What a calumny it is then, what a hideous r lie, to represent us as making Christ unholy and sinful, because we maintain that he took his humanity completely and wholly from the substance, from the sinful substance, of the fallen creatures - which he came to redeem! He was passive to
every sinful suggestion which the world through y the flesh can hand up unto the will; he was liable i to every sinful suggestion which Satan through - the mind can hand up to the will; and with all
such suggestions and temptations I believe him beyond all others to have been assailed, but fur'ther went they not. He gave them no inlet, he went not to seek them, he gave them no quarter, but with power Divine rejected and repulsed them all; and so, from his conception unto his resurrection, his whole life was a series of active triumphings over sin in the flesh, Satan in the world,
and spiritual wickednesses in high places.-If now, after this honest and true statement of the issue, 1 any one will advance to the perusal of this treatise
on the Incarnation with a prejudice against the : orthodox truth, or against me its expounder, be z the guilt of the breach, of charity on his own
God deal with him better than he deserves.
With respect to the second part of this book, which, from the text of the Parable of the Sower, doth open the various forms of prejudice and opposition which the truth as it is in Jesus hath to encounter from the world, together with the nature of that soil which God prepareth for it in those parts where he purposeth it should take root, I have, in the way of preface, to observe, that I have spoken with all boldness concerning the obstacles and resistances which the natural man preferreth to the preaching of the grace and truth as it is in Jesus Christ ;—the forms, to wit, of infidelity, the forms of instability, the forms of worldly prepossession. And I have specially enlarged upon that soil of an honest heart in which alone the seed of the word taketh root. In all which compass of discourse I will be found, I fear, to have wounded the self-esteem of every sect and party in the church; but not, as I judge, to have wounded the unity of the Holy Spirit, or sinned against the holy catholic church, and the communion of the saints. My great preservative against the sectarian and schismatic spirit, I have found to be the right discernment of the unity of the church, and the right discernment of the forms of Apostasy in the church. It hath pleased God to set forth all truth by the positive and the negative method. Sin is the negative of righteousness, and all forms of righteousness have their opposite forms of sin. Again, the devil, as a person, is the negative, or opposite, of Christ as a person ; who came to destroy the devil and his works. And again, the Apostasy is the negative