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ARTICLE 1.—THE DIVINE HUMANITY OF CHRIST.*
The doctrine of Christ's person, or the question, Who and what was Christ? is the great question, the fundamental and all-inclusive doctrine of Christianity. Yet this question, important as it is, is not definitely and finally settled, as is evident from the many and diverse theories respecting Christ which still prevail in the world ; from the fact, moreover, that acknowledged Christians, and some of the most devoted and wise of Christian teachers, differ, if not radically, at least widely in their interpretations of his person; and also from the fact,—a most significant one,—that the Christian mind of the present age is turning itself with more and more
the fore Christ
pea Christiana' from
* This Article was originally written and preached as a Discourse before the General Association of Illinois, at Aurora, May 25th, 1860, from the texts, John i, 14: “ And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”. Hebrews ii, 17: “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren: that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God.”
of interest and gravitating tendency towards this great question-revolving about it with holy curiosity, desiring with the angels to “look into" this mystery of godliness with a profounder and more intelligent gaze.
If it be said that this question, and the doctrine of Christ's person, was settled authoritatively by the councils of the fourth and fifth centuries, when the various heresies concerning it were eliminated and proscribed, and the whole truth defined and circumscribed by logical boundaries, yet, like many other questions, it will not stay settled, but rises ever and anon, like Hamlet's ghost, after being “quietly inurned,” jcviting and demanding reinvestigation.
There are reasons why this question could not be finally settled in the earlier ages, besides the skeptical tendency which is more or less rife in all ages. The science of man, to say nothing of the science of God or Christian theology, has been advancing. The man of modern anthropology is not precisely the man of Plato and Aristotle, any more than the cosmos of modern science is the same cosmos which Hipparchus and Ptolemy understood. And this very advance is owing, in no small degree, to the new light which Christianity or the ideal humanity revealed in Christ has contributed. Christ is himself the key to a true interpretation and science of man, as he is the type of a true and perfect manhood. And just as the key which unlocked the mysteries and motions of the starry universe was seized by Newton, in connection with new discoveries which it alone could explain, so a deeper and truer knowledge of the person of Christ is to be understood, if at all, only in connection with a deeper and truer knowledge of man, of which he is the divine head and type.
In attempting one more reply to this greatest of all ques. tions, we do it in no spirit of vain speculation, or conceit of superior wisdom. Rather do we feel that it were more befit. ting the writer, and more honoring to the Redeemer, to be silent and adore with the humblest disciple, than to contend and argue with the ablest. But we also feel that we may not shrink from uttering the truth, through modesty or fear of reproach; and that a profound conviction of truth on a subject 80 vital to the faith and comfort of the church, a fit occasion being given, is a distinct call to utter it.
Let us first glance at some of the existing beliefs and theories respecting Christ, as preparatory to the true doctrine.
Rejecting the manifestly unscriptural theories which deny the real divinity of Christ, the faith of the Christian church seems to be practically settled in the great two-fold truth or doctrine, that Christ is in some real and true sense divine and human. He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. No faith can be Christian or Scriptural which leaves out really and practically these two elements of his being. But how they coëxist, or are united; what is the relation of the one to the other; in what sense Christ is divine, and in what sense he is human, and how he is or can be both ?—here is a large and undivided field of truth, where different claims and theories are put forth, which in their conflict confuse and mar the faith of the church, and greatly obscure the light of Christ, for want of a single eye to discern it.
The most prominent and prevailing theory is the common orthodox belief of “two natures and one person,”-meaning by two natures two distinct subsistences, one the Logos, or divine nature, the other a human nature, consisting of a physical body and a reasonable soul; and all included in a metaphysical unity called a person.
The theoretical objections to the duality of Christ's spiritual nature, or the doctrine that he had two distinct souls, a divine and a human, are too obvious to need anything more than a statement of them. How, on the one hand, these two souls or wills, and their several activities, could exist together, and yet form but one person ; or how, on the other, they could exist in one personal consciousness, and yet preserve their individnal integrity ;-how, moreover, to conceive of such a spiritual conjunction of two rational souls in one person without a confusion too great and insurmountable for a rational faith in him; and finally, where is the need of supposing a distinctively active human soul in Christ when a divine soulthe Word made flesh-will answer all the conditions and terms of the problem ;-and especially and last of all, since
there is no clear warrant in the Scripture for such a supposition ;—these are questions which reason cannot help asking, however she may be silenced by the reply that they are questions she has no right to ask, since the subject of them lies without the pale of reason and speculation, and belongs to faith alone.
We are aware that a need for a human soul in Christ is found, or thought to be found, and also a seeming warrant for it in Scripture, in those passages which set forth most distinctly his humanity, his perfect likeness to his human brethren, his growth in wisdom, his dependence, weakness, suffering and temptation, and other distinctively human traits and attributes. But these, as we propose to show, may be better explained on the supposition of one spiritual nature, than of two.
But the practical objections to the theory in question are more weighty than those of reason. By this theory of a distinct human soul, the divine and human in Christ are practically separated; a man is as it were, thrust between our faith and the being we worship. In approaching this divine person,—whom we profess and believe to be divine,-it is not the divinity, but the humanity, of Christ, that we really approach. The divine is still separated from us by the intervention of a human soul. The love and sympathy of Christ towards men is not the very love of God, or of the divine heart, but of a human heart in union or conjunction with the divine. The love of God can only be inferred from, not felt and seen in, the love of Jesus. And so the suffering of Christ and his atoning death is not divine suffering and expresses not the real feeling of God, but only of a man, or a human nature bearing certain relations to God; and so the very meaning and vitality of the atonement, as a divine self-sacrifice, is lost out of it.
As a reaction from this unsatisfactory, and, at best, clumsy theory of the person of Christ, there is the simpler, and, to some, more satisfying theory, recently revived by a distinguished preacher of our own country—of one nature in Christ, or the Divine Soul manifested in a human body. This avoids