THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD, AS MANIFESTED IN THE PERSON
OF CHRIST, THE INCARNATE WORD.
God sent forth his Son made of a woman. - GAL iv. 4.
THE only relation or relationship, properly so called,
which can be fairly held to be constituted by the fact of creation, so as to be
implied in it, or legitimately inferred from it, is that of rule or government
by law and judgment. And the only distinction which the possession of
intelligence akin to that of the Creator confers on the higher order of
creatures, as compared with the lower, is that they are capable of
understanding and appreciating the law by which they are ruled, so as either to
consent to it or to dissent from it ; and that, consequently, the judgment
enforcing the law is to them an experience of conscious personal
responsibility. In other words, they are endowed with the faculties of free
will and the moral sense. In virtue of their being thus distinguished and thus
endowed, they are capable originally, by their very constitution, simply as
creatures, of a kind of intercourse on their part with the Creator, and a mode
of treatment of them on his part, altogether peculiar.
The peculiarity of it lies in its being personal. The Creator and the creature face one another as persons. Now, proper personality, as I need scarcely say, implies capacity of intelligence and freedom of will. When two parties are brought together as persons, so as to have dealings with one another as persons, they must be able to understand one another, and they must be at liberty to choose how they are to stand related or affected to one another. You and I, as persons, dealing with one another upon any point at issue between us, must be able to comprehend the point, and must be free to say whether we are prepared to agree or resolved to differ regarding it. It is not easy to see how anything beyond this can be held to be involved in the original relation, constituted naturally by creation, between God and the highest of the intelligent inhabitants of his universe.
Let it not be supposed that I regard that original relation as imperfect or defective, or that I underrate the rank which it confers. On the contrary, I hold it to be the very climax and consummation of the creature-state, when there comes forth a godlike person, intelligent and free, with whom the personal God may have personal intercourse and personal transactions. No limit can be set to the intimacy of personal communion and the reciprocity of personal affection thus rendered possible.
But the possibility is necessarily conditional on the assertion, on the one hand, and the recognition, on the other hand, of government by moral law and its judicial awards. The very perfection of the creature-state, in the ease of intelligent beings, consists in that reciprocal assertion and recognition. Neither angels nor men could have been originally perfect, as creatures, on any other footing. They cannot, on any other footing, be perfect as creatures, ultimately and eternally.
All this, however, is consistent with its being matter of legitimate inquiry whether there is not revealed in Scripture a relation of fatherhood on the part of the Creator, and sonship on the part of the creature, quite distinct from any relation constituted by creation? And, in particular, it is consistent with the question being raised, whether it may not be indispensable to the full realisation of the perfection of the creature-relationship itself in the unfallen, and to its recovery in the fallen, that this new and superadded relation of fatherhood and sonship should somehow come in?
At the present stage of the inquiry, I take up the former of these questions. And I begin with a consideration of the fatherhood of God as manifested in the person of his incarnate Son.
It is not my purpose to enter at any length into the proof of the eternal sonship of the Second Person in the Trinity - involving, as it necessarily does, the eternal fatherhood of the First. I rather assume the fact or doctrine, as plainly taught in Scripture, and, with scarcely an exception of any note, universally admitted by all believers in our Lords supreme divinity, in all ages of the Church. But as I consider this eternal relation of fatherhood and sonship in the Godhead to be the real origin, root, and ground, as well as the archetype, prototype, and model of the relation of fatherhood and sonship between God and any of his creatures, it may be proper to bring out briefly, though with great prominency, what is usually held to be the import of this glorious truth.
These are in the undivided essence of the Godhead relations, or "related states." And these are and must be from everlasting. The one living and true God is revealed, not as God absolute, but as God related, or as God subsisting from the beginning with certain internal relations; in a way admitting, in some sense, of mutual action and reaction; of a certain reciprocity of loving and being loved.
So we are to conceive of God as love. He is love; and his being love is not dependent on what may be called the accident or contingency of his having creatures to be loved. It springs out of the very necessity of his nature. It is his essential manner of being. Before the existence of any creature - before all time - God is love.
And he is not love potentially only, but actually : not capable of loving, but loving. He loves and is loved. He is love itself. He is not love quiescent, but love active and in exercise. He is so from all eternity. And he is so, and can only be so, in virtue of the eternal distinction of the divine persons in the Godhead, and the eternal relations which they sustain towards one another.
More particularly, it is in respect of the eternal relation of fatherhood and sonship that God is thus, from everlasting, love. It is chiefly in virtue of that relation that God is revealed as consciously, if I may so say, and energetically, love. From everlasting the Son is in the bosom of the Father. And the infinite, ineffable complacency subsisting between the Father and the Son in the Hoiy Ghost is the primary exercise of that love which God is; that love which is of the essence of his nature.
It is thus that love in God has never been, properly speaking, the love of himself, or self-love. For there have ever been in the one undivided Godhead the holy three - . Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, mutually loving and loved. And especially in the second person, and in the real and intimate relation of fatherhood and sonship between the first person and the second, the deep disinterestedness of the divine love is proved. The Father loveth the Son: the Spirit glorifieth the Son. For it is in the Son, as the Son, that the fatherly love of God flows forth in full stream. It flows forth to create and bless the countless multitude of intelligences who are, throughout eternity, to rejoice in calling the highest Father, in and with the Son.
Thus, then, the paternal relation, the relation of fatherhood and sonship, exists primarily and originally in the Godhead itself. And, as thus existing, it is natural, necessary, and eternal. It is not constituted by any creative act, or any sovereign volition or fiat of will, The Son is eternally begotten of the Father; "begotten, not made ;" of the same substance; participating in the same nature; "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God." In this eternal relation between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is eternally and intimately concerned. Being one with the Father and the Son in the undivided essence of Deity, he is - if one may venture to use such language on such a subject - from all eternity a conscious, consenting party to the relation. It is in the Holy Spirit that this wondrous relation of divine fatherhood and sonship, with all its inconceivable endearments, is realised from all eternity. It is by the Holy Spirit that it is developed, so far as it is to be developed, in time. He is the Spirit of God, and of his Son (Gal. iv. 6).
I cannot here deny myself the gratification of quoting a passage from the very remarkable book of a very remarkable man ; - A Dissertation on the Eternal Sonship of Christ, by Dr. Kidd, of Aberdeen. He sums up his argument from Christ being said to dwell in the bosom of his Father, in these terms : - "Language cannot convey in stronger words the existence of the only-begotten Son of the Father in the Godhead. If the expression Son be a mere title conveying no relation to the person who is Father, - terms must cease to include meaning, and be stript of the property of including rational ideas. Could such expressions be used, in any other case, where an unbiassed mind would not instantly affix the notion of a related state between persons thus described? - Could an unprejudiced mind adopt any other conelusion? The love of the person of the Father, and complete participation in his counsels and designs, are attributed to the only-begotten Son. If there were not the Son eternally enjoying this love, and participating in these counsels and designs, there never was the Eternal Father loving, counselling, and designing. This is the utmost verge of knowledge which the human intellect is permitted to apprehend. When it has explored creation and creations laws - when it has risen to higher contemplations than the investigation of matter can elicit - when it has surveyed farther than planets roll or spheres glitter - when it has exhausted the wonders of the telescope and microscope - when it has studied the soul, whose powers have directed these pursuits - when it has left the observation of kindred minds, and learned what is announced of the ranks of the pure spirits - when it has, in thought, ascended to the illimitable vastness of Godhead, - it is permitted to know that harmony active, energetic, eternal, subsists therein, enjoyed between the adorable persons, the Father and the Son!
"In our nature complacency is the sweet, refreshing influence which hallows enjoyment, which is the unison of the mental powers, which introduces repose from all that is harassing, and a soul-felt intensity of delight. The mind is alive to enjoyment, and misery is hushed. It feels the flow of what is good, and the rotrocession of what is evil. Existence is experienced more alertly, more gladly, more exquisitely. The periods when we were without this feeling were, in our estimation, either those of tempestuous confusion, or the dull, dead level where emotions are absorbed in vacancy. - In complacency we feel joy; we wish joy to be felt by all. The very ardour of our happiness longs for a congeniality of feeling and sentiment. The aspect of creation is more pleasing. For us, the sun shines brighter, and the earth gives its thousand sweets more lovely. We act better; we think better; we are better. We long to enjoy this for ever! We hold communion with those suited for happier, purer scenes. We wish for the time when this complacency shall be warmer - when communion of soul shall be dearer - when we shall increase in the expanse of this feeling. Such is the complacency of men. - But, in the Godhead, complacency is undefinable, because it is immense, - vast as the Being in whom it dwells, - vast in the nature of him who filleth all in all, - vast in that boundless expanse of delight, from whose stores angels joys have flowed, mans delights have been given. There - is the only-begotten Son, in the bosom of the Father. He sees him; he is with him; he is God." - (Pages 221-223. Edit. 1822.)
Thus far I have adverted to the original and necessary relation of fatherhood and sonship, as subsisting from everlasting in the Eternal Godhead. For the further investigation of that great subject, I refer inquirers to such works as that of Dr. Kidd, and the more recent unanswered and unanswerable treatise of Treffrey. My present object does not require me to dwell longer upon it. Assuming the eternity of the relation, I proceed to inquire into the manner in which it is manifested and acted out, if I may so say, in time.
And here, generally, it may be observed that the development of this relation, its being disclosed and unfolded, is by means of creation, and its history; of which, indeed, the development of this relation is the one chief and capital design. The created universe is the stage on which it is to be displayed. The succession of events in the created universe is the process through which it is to be displayed.
The interest chiefly centres, at least so far as. we are concerned, in the one great event of the incarnation. It is the incarnation that illustrates all the preceding, as well as all the subsequent steps in the process of this development of the divine fatherhood and sonship. For it is the incarnation that brings this eternal relation within the range of human cognisance and experience in time.
There may have been other ways of making it partly and partially known to other intelligences. It is possible, perhaps even probable, that the Father may have found other occasions, and adopted other methods, for introducing his Son to the angels, so that they might recognise him as his Son, and worship him accordingly. Still I am persuaded, even as regards these high intelligences, that their full insight into the fatherhood of God, and their full participation, to the extent of their capacity, in the sonship which that fatherhood implies as its correlative, must be found ultimately to be connected with the incarnation and its accompanying incidents - " the things which the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter i. 12). Certainly, for all created minds and hearts, the incarnation is the clearest, brightest, most gracious and glorious exhibition that has ever been given, or may I not add, that ever can be given, of the divine fatherhood. And it is the manifestation of it too, that must ever be most intensely interesting to all holy beings and all saved ones, for its momentous bearing practically on their everlasting state and prospects.
Let the several principal points which the incarnation brings out be in this view carefully considered.
I. In the first place, the incarnation, as a great fact, discovers the communicableness, if I may use such a word, of the relation of fatherhood and sonship, as it exists in the Godhead. It proves that it is a relation which may be communicated to a creature, and shared in by a creature. The incarnation demonstrates, by a plain palpable proof, that this relation is not like an incommunicable property or attribute of Deity, but is something in or about Deity, in which others besides exclusively Divine persons may participate and have fellowship. For in fact the incarnation shows this relation actually communicated to humanity, and shared in by humanity, in the person of the man Christ Jesus.
For the man Christ Jesus is the Son of God, in respect of his human nature as well as his divine. He is, as he goes about on earth doing good, the Son of God, in the very same sense, in the very same fulness of blessed significancy, in which he is the Son of God, as dwelling in the Fathers bosom from everlasting.
Let it be ever remembered that, though possessed of two natures, Jesus Christ, come in the flesh, is one person ; one individual person; as truly and literally so as I am, or any one of you is. It is the one person, the man Christ Jesus, who is, from and after the incarnation, the Son of God. There are not two sonships belonging to him, but only one; not two fatherhoods of God towards him, but only one. For the relation of sonship, being strictly personal, must be one, as the person is one. There are not, there cannot be, two distinct relations of fatherhood and sonship subsisting between God and the Incarnate Word; the one proper to his divine, the other to his human nature. The sonship of the one person cannot be conceived of as thus divided. It has, and must have, the character or quality of perfect unity. Again, it is to be remarked that the original and eternal relation in which the First Person in the Godhead stands to the Second, as his uncreated, only-begotten Son, cannot be conceived of as altered or modified by that Sons becoming incarnate; by his taking into personal union with himself the nature of the creature man. His proper personality is not thereby affected; nor the relation between it and that of the Father. He continues to be the Son of the Father in the very same sense exactly in which he has been the Son of the Father from everlasting. Any other imagination would make that divine relation mutable in time, not, as in his case it must be held to be, necessary and eternal. If it is in any respect, or to any extent, susceptible at any time or in any circumstances of any modification whatever, it cannot be regarded as what we consider it to be, the original and inherent condition of Deity itself, of the everlasting and unchangeable God.
From all this it clearly follows, that in the one undivided person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh, humanity enters into that very relation of sonship which, before his coming in the flesh, he sustains to the Father. From thenceforth fatherhood is a relation in which the Supreme God stands, not merely to a divine, but now also to a human being; to one who is as truly man as he is truly God.
This is not, let it be carefully observed, making man as God; confounding the two natures in Christ, and ascribing to the one what can only be truly predicted of the other. It is not implied in the view which I have been giving that there is any communication of any divine property or attribute, any quality or perfection of the divine nature, to the human nature, in the man Christ Jesus. The question is not a question about nature at all; it is simply and exclusively a question of relationship. The two natures, being distinct, and continuing to be distinct, may nevertheless, if united in one person, be embraced in one personal relationship. That is what is meant, and all that is meant. And that surely cannot reasonably be said, either to derogate from the supreme divinity, or to deify the humanity, of the Incarnate Son. As God and man, in two distinct natures, he is one person, standing in the one personal relation of sonship to the Father. That is what he begins to be from the moment of his becoming incarnate.
And he is so, all throughout his earthly course. This also it is important to bear in mind. There is no such thing as dualism, or duality, about this thoroughly human Son of God, as he is seen walking before our eyes in Galilee and Judea. There is no need of any line being drawn, or any distinction being made, between his sonship as God and his sonship as man; as if he sometimes spoke and acted in the character or capacity of Gods divine Son, and at other times in that of his human son; as if he sometimes called God Father by a right or title proper to his divinity, and at other times by a right or title belonging to his humanity. To conceive thus of him is really to break the unity of his person. And it does not elevate; rather on the contrary it lowers him. It lowers him as man, in the human aspects of his position and standing towards the Father and his fellowship with the Father, without at all elevating him as God, in any of his divine prerogatives. The true honouring of him in his incarnate state, is to hold that whatever he says as the Son, to the Father; whatever he asks, as the Son, of the Father; whatever he does, as the Son, for the Father; he says, and asks, and does, as the "one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus ;" the one Lord Jesus Christ.
Here it may be proper, for, the purpose of preventing, if possible, misrepresentation and misconception, to interpose an explanatory caution, which, but for there being some men of peculiar minds, apt to pervert even the plainest statements, I might not have considered necessary.
I would not like the inference which I deduce from the fact of the incarnation to be confounded with the notion, which seems much in vogue in certain quarters, of that great event having somehow affected beneficially humanity in general; the human nature as such; the human race universally and at large; so as to impress a kind of filial character on the intuitional apprehension which all men are said to have of God, and on the position which they occupy towards him. I confess, I never can feel quite sure that I thoroughly understand the language used on this subject by the class of writers I refer to ; it seems to me vague and hazy. I would not do them injustice. And, therefore, I wish it to be observed, that it is not my present object to comment on their opinions, but only to make my own meaning clear. The idea of some at least seems to be, that the Son of God, becoming man, has taken all manhood, wherever and in whomsoever found, into a sort of incorporating union with himself as regards his sonship; that simply in consequence and in virtue of humanity being a partaker of the filial relation in his human person, it is so in all human persons; that altogether apart from any dealing with men individually, the Son, having assumed the nature common to all, invests that nature everywhere with the dignity which it has in him, and makes all who possess it ipso facto sons. Whether I am right or wrong in believing that to be the teaching of any theologians is not at this stage of any consequence. All I wish to say is that it is not mine.
I limit my contemplation, for the present, to the one glorious object of the person of our Lord ; - the most glorious object of contemplation, I suppose, in all the universe. I fix my eyes exclusively on him. And I follow him with admiring, adoring gaze, all along the path he trode, from Bethlehems cradle to Calvarys cross. I see him doing works, I hear him uttering words, which unequivocally proclaim him to be God; while, evermore, suffering, sympathy, tears, sighs, groans, as unmistakeably prove him to be man. Here are manifestations of power and glory which I hesitate not to ascribe to his divine nature; there are traces of weakness, weariness and woe, which I at once ascribe to the human. But while I distinguish the natures, I cannot divide the person. And, consequently, I cannot divide the sonship. It is the one Son of God, sustaining but one relation as Son to the Father, who lives and moves before me, in all his earthly history, whether I behold him putting forth his power, as God, to raise the dead, or submitting, as man, himself to die.
Thus I think the fact of the incarnation may be shown to involve this consequence, that the relation of fatherhood and sonship subsisting between the first and second persons in the Godhead is not incommunicable; that it is a relation in which one having a created nature may participate. Undeniably, in point of fact, humanity actually shares in it, in the person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ come in the flesh.
Let it be observed that I do not now assert the actual communication of this relation to others besides the incarnate Son. Far less do I undertake, at this stage of the argument, to define either the extent and limits, or the terms and conditions, of such communication. It is admitted, or rather asserted, that the relation in the incarnate Son is a personal one; and consequently, that the mere fact of his incarnation does not of itself prove its communicableness to other persons. It is in his case a relation retained by the divine person in the new human nature assumed by him. The new human nature communicates in the sonship by entering into the person.
But this shows at least, that human nature, as such, has nothing in it or about it which should preclude, in certain circumstances, the being and exercise of sonship in that nature. This is all that I at present contend for. What the circumstances are or may be in which this may be possible, is another question. In Christ, we have the divine Son retaining his sonship in his assumed humanity. In the believer, we have a human being divinely united to Christ by the divine Spirit, in the exercise of a divinely-originated faith. And he is thus united to Christ, as the divine Son retaining his sonship in his assumed humanity. I do not say that the circumstances in the two instances are the same. Nor do I, in the meanwhile, even say that they are so far analogous as to warrant a valid conclusion with regard to the identity of the relation. But the incarnation surely renders this, beforehand, a not impossible, nay, a not improbable, opinion ; - which is all that I now assert. And it seems .to me to do so without involving the least risk of our being shut up into the wild mysticism which would make Christ and the believer literally one person, or represent the believer as losing his own distinct and proper personality in that of the incarnate Son. On the contrary, my reasoning is all in the opposite line. It is the communicableness of the original, divine, filial relation to manhood as subsisting in an individual that I contend for. Christ preserves his proper personality when he shares with the believer what is characteristic of him as man - his being a creature. Is there any reason why the believer should necessarily lose his proper personality when, by a divine act or operation, he shares with the Son what is characteristic of him as God - his being the Son? Is it really a question of personality at all, in any fair sense of the term ?
II But I am anticipating. I return to the subject on hand. I speak of what the incarnation proves, with reference to the person of the incarnate Son of God.
In that view, I have noticed one conclusion or inference which I think may be deduced from it. I now proceed to point out another. It is this : - Not only does the fact of the incarnation establish the communicableness of this divine relation of sonship to God the Father; it discovers also its entire consistency, when communicated, with another relation; - that of subjectship, if I may be allowed to use the term, to God the ruler, to God the king. In the person of Christ, the two relations, while continuing distinct from one another, are yet found combined.
I do not see how, before the appearance of the Son of God in his incarnate state, the possibility of such a combination, or the manner in which it might be effected, could be made clearly manifest; how it could be shown, at least fully, to the satisfaction of any created intelligence, that the relation of proper sonship, and the relation of real and actual subjectship, might co-exist in one and the same individual person. For certainly, as it seems to me, all a priori presumptions, all antecedent probabilities, must have been felt to be against the union; the two relations being to all appearance, as regards their respective natures and conditions, opposite and contradictory. The problem might well be regarded by any one who had to deal with it beforehand as all but insoluble - to produce, or even imagine, a being, who should unite and combine, in his own single and individual person, the filial relation, as it has subsisted from all eternity in the uncreated Godhead, and the subject or servant relation, which began to exist when intelligent creatures came upon the stage of the universe.
The problem is now seen to be solved by the union of the two natures, the uncreated Godhead and the created manhood, in Jesus Christ as come in the flesh. In virtue of the one nature, he is the Son; in virtue of the other nature, he is a subject and a servant. And being one person, combining in himself both natures, he is at once both son and subject ; - both son and servant.
This, as I cannot but think, is the special wonder and the peculiar mystery of the incarnation. Even more, I would almost say, than in the union of the two natures in one person - the wonder, the mystery, to my mind, lies in the union of the two relations. If we at all worthily realise to ourselves the eternal sonship of the second person in the Trinity, I apprehend that we must feel this to be the true state of the case.
Theophanies are quite conceivable. The eternal Son of the Father may be imagined to make himself visible in many ways; assuming on occasion the semblance of angel or man, or any other suitable symbolic form. Personal intercourse is conceivable. The uncreated Son of the Father may be supposed to visit the created subjects of the Father, and to have dealings with them, of various sorts. But that he should himself, continuing to be the Son of the Father, come to stand, in his own person, in the relation of a subject and servant to the Father - this might well be held to be all but inconceivable beforehand.
It is not inconceivable now. The incarnation has made it palpable as a great accomplished fact. And it is a fact pregnant with great results. His coming in the flesh demonstrates that it is possible for him, who is naturally the Son, to be also a subject and a servant, as all Gods reasonable creatures are. May it not, must it not, be regarded as going far to demonstrate the converse also, that it is possible for those who are naturally subjects and servants to be sons, as he is - to enter somehow and to some extent into his relation to God as his Son, as he enters into their relation to God as his subjects and servants?
I have thrown out the idea that there may have been beings far back in the history of the created universe, interested in having the possibility and the manner of this union of the two relations in one person made patent to them. And I have suggested that before the incarnation this may have presented itself to their minds as a difficult, if not insoluble, problem. I refer, of course, to the unfallen angels.
If, as I venture to think it may be shown to be at least probable, on grounds of reason and Scripture which I may have occasion afterwards to state, these blessed spirits, having stood some decisive test of their allegiance as subjects and their obedience as servants, were on that account, and as the appropriate reward of their faithfulness, invested with the character and title of sons ; - and if especially their being invested with that character and title was connected with some introduction to them by the Father of his eternal Son, as such, and some act of homage on their part to him ; - I can well imagine how, having before their eyes an ideal or exemplar of sonship, so august, so intimate, so dear, so transcendantly glorious and ineffably complacent, they may have felt themselves at a loss to grasp all the fulness of the blessing so graciously bestowed upon them, in their being called the sons of God. The lowly posture of subjects under dominion, of servants under the yoke, they had been well content to take. But what manner of love is this? Can it indeed be possible that sonship, after the only model of which they have any knowledge, is to be, nay, that it already is, theirs? They cannot doubt, they must believe it to be so. And they must thankfully rejoice in its being so.
But I can suppose that the divine privilege is at first only very imperfectly realised. I can suppose that, even for a long period, it may be all matter of faith with them, rather than matter of clear-sighted knowledge and experience. I can imagine them looking for clearer light to be shed on what may seem to them so strange, so unaccountable, so all but incomprehensible, a state of things, as that their humble standing as creatures should be found compatible with their sharing the high standing of the Son. And as they wait upon the Son in all the stages of his march along the line of his own creations opening history ; - as they mark his footsteps on this earth, his wondrous goings forth from of old, and the ever-brightening signs of a coming forth more wondrous still; - I can almost, I would say, see these blessed spirits, waiting, watching, on the tip-toe of expectation, on the very rack of hope, till - Lo! the babe is born at Bethlehem.
Now at last there bursts on them the great discovery. The Son of God, taking upon him the form of a servant, explains all, harmonises all. Now the joy of their sonship begins to be complete ; - completely intelligible, completely realisable ; - as they fix their gaze on the proper and eternal Son of God become truly and in all respects a servant. Now is their worship of the Son recompensed indeed. They see him who is the Son become a servant as they are servants. They can understand how they, being servants, are sons as he is Son. Is this altogether a wild and unwarranted speculation? I do not think so. I think I find some warrant for it in what all Scripture indicates of the attendance of angels on the Son, and in that very significant intimation of the Apostle Peter already quoted - "Which things the angels desire to look into (iPet. i. 12).
At any rate, this speculation, if it be a mere speculation, as to what the angels may have known and reasoned about it, does not touch the conclusion which I am now asserting to be deducible from the mere fact of the incarnation itself. It is that fact which proves, as perhaps nothing else could prove, the possibility of the two relations of sonship and subjectship meeting in one and the same person ; - the sonship, let it be specially noted, being the very relation in which the Son stands to the Father from everlasting; and the subjectship, let it be also specially noted, being the very relation in which the creature stands to the Creator, as his lawgiver, ruler, and judge.
Much importance, therefore, is to be attached to the keeping of the two relations which meet in the person of Christ apart and distinct. As much importance, at least, is to be attached to that as to the keeping of the two natures apart and distinct. The person is one, though the relations are to be regarded as distinct, even as the natures are distinct. The Son in the bosom of the Father, and the subject or servant learning obedience by suffering, is one and the same person. The Son is the suffering and obedient servant. The suffering and obedient servant is the Son.
III. This thought suggests a third consequence following from the fact of the incarnation, which it is important to notice. The incarnation not only brings the eternal Son into the relation of a subject and a servant, but brings him into that relation after it has sustained a great shock - a fatal jar, as it might seem - after it has become thoroughly disordered and deranged.
I assume here, in the meanwhile, the reality, not so much of substitution as of identification; not so much the eternal Sons substituting himself for us, as his identifying himself with us. The Son of God, in his incarnation, becomes one of us men, one with us men. He becomes one of us, one with us, as fallen creatures, guilty, corrupt, condemned. He shares with us the relation in which we stand to God as subjects, not in its original integrity, as it was at the first, but as it is now, I repeat, disordered and deranged. In its essential nature, of course, the relation is one and the same throughout. It is that of subjection to authority. It is being ruled by law. But as the Son takes it, in our nature, being still the Son, it is subjection to outraged authority - it is being ruled, if one may say so, by violated law.
No doubt his human nature, when he becomes incarnate, may be different, so far, from ours, in respect of its being such as it was in Adam before he sinned and fell. It may be different from ours, not in its essence, not in anything necessary to identify human nature as human nature, but in the circumstance or accident of depravity and corruption attaching to it, or rather to those who inherit it. I have always felt a difficulty in conceiving of the Holy Son of the Most High becoming man, altogether as man now is since the fall, without qualification or reservation. It has always seemed to me to imply a derogation from his holiness. That he should become what Adam was when he was first made in the image of God, involves no difficulty beyond what lies in the idea of a union of the two natures in one person, however put. But that he should become what I am, when I am begotten in the image of fallen Adam, born in iniquity and conceived in sin, - that theory exceedingly complicates the difficulty. And then, I never have been able to see how, if the human nature of the Son of God had in it anything of the blight or taint which the fall has entailed on it as transmitted to us - if, when he came into our world in human nature, he had any stain of sin, original or actual - he ever could have stood us in stead, as the Lamb of God offered for us without blemish and without spot ; or, in other words, as the Holy One of God, taking our place, and answering for us, by substitution, under a sentence of condemnation from which, as it would seem, if he is really to do so, he must himself be free. I cannot, therefore, reconcile myself to the idea of his assuming the human nature in the corrupt condition, and under the personal, liabilities consequent upon the fall. I hold his manhood to be what unfallen Adams manhood was.
But the question of relation is altogether different. For the very same reason for which I maintain that he assumes our nature in the incarnation, not as it is now, but as it was before the fall, I maintain also that he enters into our relation to God, as his subjects and servants, in its present, not its original state.
The incarnation, if real, necessarily implies this: or, at all events, the end or design of the incarnation requires it. He comes into our place or position as that of subjects and servants who have disobeyed, and have justly incurred the penalty of disobedience, - to relieve us of our liabilities by taking them on himself. The incarnation of the Son of God is his entering into our relation to God, as a relation involving guilt to be answered for, amid the wrath and curse of God to be endured.
How does this enhance the wonder and deepen the mystery of the incarnation! For what does it imply? In the person of the man Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of the living God, the relation of sonship to God, which from everlasting is his glory and joy in heaven, must now for a time co-exist with the relation of criminality and condemnation, under Gods righteous sentence, which is to be the misery of lost intelligences in hell to everlasting! That these two opposite relations should meet in the incarnate Son of God, in him and in his experience, even for a moment, is an amazing thought. How much more so is it when we consider that, however the full agony of the felt contrast between them may have been concentrated into one dark hour, he must have been conscious, for a lifetime, of their really meeting in him Surely this is indeed a great wonder and mystery. And yet, as it would seem, nothing short of this is implied in the incarnation of the Son of God. Nor, if anything less had been implied in it, would our case be really met ; - not at least if we, being by nature not merely servants and subjects, but, as servants and subjects, criminal and condemned, are to find our relation to God in that character and position - yes! even this relation of ours to God, - not ultimately incompatible after all, through his marvellous grace, with our being admitted into participation in the relation which he sustains to God, who washes us in his blood, and renovates us by his Spirit ; - that relation of sonship which gives to his mediation ou our behalf all its value and all its efficacy, and which alone opens up the way to our being sons, as he is the Son.
IV. There is yet a fourth inference or deduction which I would draw from the fact of the incarnation as uniting in the one person of Christ, not only the two natures, the divine and the human, but the two relations, that of Son and that of subject and servant. It is this. Not only does the incarnation bring the Son into the relation of a subject, under the inevitable condition of criminality and condemnation now attaching to that relation in our ease; it proves that the relation itself, apart from that condition, may be one in spirit with that of sonship; and it secures that, as regards all who are in Christ, it shall ultimately be so, and that for ever.
I assume the union of the two natures in the one person of Christ to be indissoluble. And I argue that, the two natures being indissolubly and for ever united in him, the two corresponding relations are also united in him indissolubly and for ever. How they are so, and how they are to be seen to be so in the world to come, it may be difficult to imagine. But that they are so, would seem to follow as a necessary consequence from his uuehangeableness, as Redeemer, Lord, and King, - his being "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
Of course the relation of subjectship must be divested conclusively and thoroughly of the character or condition of criminality and condemnation attaching to it when he comes into it. How that is effected I need not now state at length. I simply refer to his "obedience and death," as satisfying the claims of outraged authority and violated law. That being over, there is no more criminality, no more condemnation, to mar this relation assumed by him, as it thenceforth co-exists in him with his own natural and divine relation of sonship.
Thus the relation of subjectship adapts itself in a wonderful manner, and through a wonderful process, to the relation of sonship; and that too, even after it has been so deranged and broken by the introduction of sin, that even its restoration to its original integrity could scarcely have been anticipated, far less its elevation to so high an honour in the person of its Great Restorer, who, in virtue of his incarnation, "is, and continues to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person for ever;" - and therefore also, on the same ground, Son and subject, in two distinct relations, and one person for ever.
To some, this view of our Lords manner of existence throughout eternity may seem, at first sight, strange and startling; and beyond all question, it is a great inscrutable mystery. The idea of the Eternal Son, the Maker, Lord, and Heir of all things, not only condescending to occupy for a time the position of a subject, but consenting to make that position his own inalienably and for ever, is very solemn and awful. It is one from which the reverential adorer of the Divine Redeemer may be apt, on its being first presented to him, to shrink and recoil. And yet I do not see how that conclusion can be avoided or evaded, if the fact of the incarnation is admitted, together with the doctrine founded upon it, - the doctrine of the indissoluble union of the two natures in the one person of the incarnate Son.
Nor, I am persuaded, will the devout student of Scripture, the humble searcher after truth, upon fuller, deeper meditation, be disposed to turn away from it. It will probably occur to such a man that there is one remarkable passage, at least, which seems to indicate something like what I have been inferring. I mean the passage (1 Cot xv. 28) in which the consummation of the Sons mediatorial reign is anticipated. Whatever difficulty there may be in determining the precise nature of the change which, as there announced, is to take place in the Sons state at that era, one thing would seem to be expressly asserted. He is to be "subject unto him which did put all things under him." So direct a declaration cannot but have weight with all who are content to believe the simple word of God; and it will go far to reconcile them to a view which otherwise they might be slow to admit. Then, besides, it may probably occur to them, as they reflect upon the whole subject, that any feeling they may have had against the view in question, may have arisen out of inadequate and unworthy conceptions of what subjection or service in the kingdom of the Father really is; especially of what it is when it is associated with sonship.
Certainly, when he was on earth, our Lord gave no indication of his considering the position of a subject and servant either irksome or degrading. He counted it an honour and a joy to be subject to the Father, and to serve the Father. Why, then, should it be deemed incredible that this should be his honour and his joy for ever? Why should we not hail and welcome the thought that it is this honour and this joy that he is to share with us, when we, having overcome, sit with him in his throne, even as he, having overcome, sits with the Father in his throne ?
I am afraid that some of my hearers may be inclined to find fault with my manner of treating the great subject I have on hand in this, as well as in my former lecture. It may seem to them to be be too speculative, and to make too much of merely inferential reasoning. My object has been to clear the way for a direct appeal to the word of God. The next lecture, in which I propose to inquire in what manner and to what extent the fatherhood of God was matter of human knowledge and Divine revelation before the incarnation, will bring me into more immediate contact with the sacred volume.
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