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knowledge of them; but in open defiance of the Scriptures, which direct our prayers to God alone: and particularly of that passage in St. Paul, where the voluntary humility of worshipping even angels, though they are known to be ministering spirits, is forbidden, as what may beguile us of our reward; and the persons who practise it, condemned as not holding the head, which is Christ."
But to return to our subject. The foregoing doctrine, of "God manifest in the flesh," is undoubtedly one very wonderful part of that which the Apostle calls "the mystery of godliness."7 And yet there is nothing in it, either impossible, or, indeed, more difficult to the Almighty, than in those productions of his, which we commonly call the course of nature, and wonder at them less, for no other reason, but because we see them constantly; the manner of both being equally inconceivable.
And as the miraculous conception and birth of Christ was easy to infinite power, so was it undoubtedly proper and fit, since it was chosen by infinite wisdom. Indeed, some footsteps of that wisdom even we may be able to trace in this wonderful dispensation. It appears most becoming the dignity of so extraordinary a person, not to enter into the world in the ordinary manner. As the first Adam, possessed of original uprightness, was formed immediately by the hand of God, it was suitable that the second Adam, who came to restore that uprightness, should not be inferior, but, indeed, superior in that respect. Accordingly we read, that "the first man was of the "earth, earthy; the second, the Lord from hea"ven."8 It seems requisite, also, that he, who was designed both for a spotless example to us,
(6) Col. ii. 18, 19. Heb. i. 14.
(7) 1 Tim. iii. 16.
and a spotless sacrifice to God, should be perfectly free from every degree of that impurity and inward irregularity, which the tainted nature of a fallen earthly father may, for aught we know, according to the established law of this world, communicate; whereas being produced in the manner that he was, may have qualified him perfectly for becoming, both a "lamb without blemish,"9 and a high priest, in every respect and degree, "holy and undefiled, and separate from sinners."1
But whether these, or others, concealed from us for wise, though unsearchable, ends, were the reasons why his incarnation was in this manner; yet, for his being incarnate there are several weighty reasons very evident; and possibly many more entirely unseen by us.
By becoming man he was capable of becoming the most complete and engaging pattern of virtue to man. The example of the invisible God might seem too high, and too remote from our view. The examples of men were all, in one respect or another, faulty, and likely to mislead us. But our blessed Saviour, by his joining, in his own person, perfection with humanity, gives us the most encouraging invitation to endeavour at being so too, according to our power. "He was, in all points, tempted like as we are, yet without sin;"2" "leave us an example, that we might follow his "steps."3 But in particular, by this means he hath set us the brightest example of that excellent virtue, humility, that ever was, or could be; to this intent, that "the same mind might be in "us, which was in him; who, being in the form "of God, took upon him the form of a servant, "and was made in the likeness of a man." Of mutual love, also, he hath set before us the most
(9) Exod. xii. 5.
(1) Heb. vii. 26.
(4) Phil. ii. 5, 6, 7.
amiable pattern, by this amazing proof of his love to mankind. He, who was rich in all the glories of God, became " poor for our sakes; that "we, through his poverty, might become rich" in heavenly blessings. He, who was exempted from all suffering, suffered every thing terrible in life and death for our good. Surely, these are powerful motives both to give up, and do, and undergo, whatever we are called to, for our brethren; and to "love one another, as he hath "loved us." His resignation, likewise, his meekness, his zeal, his prudence, every one of his virtues, (and his whole character was composed of virtues) are most useful lessons, derived from his appearing in our nature, that in a very peculiar manner command our attention, and require our imitation.
But further still, by becoming man, he had the means of most familiarly and beneficially instructing men, in every point of faith and practice. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, "full of grace and truth, and of his fulness have 66 we all received.”7 This condescension enabled him to accommodate his manner of teaching to the capacities and dispositions of his disciples, to remove their prejudices, insinuate truth into their minds gradually; and thus gently training them to the kingdom of heaven, lay such deep foundations of his church as shall never be moved.
By taking upon him our nature, he was likewise capaple of being a sacrifice for our sins; a doctrine which, in its proper place, shall be explained to you; therefore, since we are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took "part of the same, that, through death, he might
(5) 2 Cor. viii. 9.
(6) John xv. 12. (7) John i. 14, 16.
destroy him that had the power of death, that "is, the devil."8
And there was another benefit, consequent to his suffering in our nature, viz. his rising again in it; and thus giving us the fullest certainty of our own resurrection to eternal life.
Even while he sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for his Church, and ruling over it, his being man, both makes him a proper person to represent men, and offer up their devotions; and affords us the most sensible assurance of his knowing the wants, and being touched with the necessities of the nature in which he shares. "Wherefore in all things it behoved him (says "the Apostle) to be made like unto his brethren, "that he might be a merciful and faithful high "priest in things pertaining unto God. For, in "that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, "he is able to succour them that are tempted.' "Seeing, then, that we have not a high priest, that "cannot be touched with the feeling of our "infirmities; but one, who was in all points "tempted, like as we are; we may come boldly "to the throne of grace, in confidence of obtaining mercy, and finding grace to help, in "time of need." And since, lastly, we have a judge appointed us, who hath experienced whereof we are made; we may be in the utmost degree certain, that his judgment will be according to equity; that, on the one hand, all due allowances will be made to us; and, on the other, no undue ones must be expected by us in that day, "When "God will judge the world in righteousness by "that man, whom he hath ordained ;" and to "whom he hath "given authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man."3
(8) Heb. ii. 14. (9) Heb. ii. 17, 18. (2) Acts xvii. 31.
(1) Heb. iv. 14, 15, 16.
(3) John vi. 27.
Article IV. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried: he descended into Hell.
IMMEDIATELY after the mention of our Saviour's birth, the Creed goes on to the mention of his sufferings; for, indeed, his whole state on earth was a suffering state. By condescending to be "made in the likness of men," he exposed himself to all the necessities, infirmities, and pains, to which men are naturally subject. Besides this, he underwent the many inconveniencies of a low and unsettled condition. And, which was yet much heavier, though his whole life was spent in doing good," yet was it spent also in bearing 2 troubles and uneasiness from all around him.
The prejudices and misapprehensions of his kindred and disciples were no small trial. But the perverseness and malice of his enemies was a great one beyond example. They were no less. persons than the rulers and guides of the Jewish people, with their blind followers: whom the purity and humility of his doctrine, and the very needful severity of his reproofs for their pride, superstition and wickedness, had rendered implacable against him. Every condescension to win them gained only contempt from them every endeavour to convince and reform them did but exasperate them: they misrepresented and deridedthey reviled and threatened-they assaulted and
(1) Phil. ii. 7.
(2) Acts x. 38.