Page images
PDF
EPUB

PREFACE.

That the “Word was made flesh,” and that he was not made sinful Aesh, are propositions which lie at the

very foundations of Christianity. That the first of these propositions is denied by any person in the present age, I have little ground for supposing; and I have not therefore judged it necessary to enter at any length into the proof of it, but have contented myself with simply stating the grounds upon which that proof may be founded. Until very lately, the other proposition would not have required, in a treatise like this, more than a passing notice. The earnestness however with which the sinfulness of our Lord's flesh is now maintained, renders it a matter of paramount importance. While therefore I am not aware that I have altogether omitted any material question that is intimately connected with the Incarnation, yet I have treated each more or less largely, according as I considered it as bearing more or less directly on that tenet.

Of the exculpatory explanation of the word 'sinful,' that it is applied to the humanity of our Lord only in a passive sense, that is, I suppose, synonimous with 'peccable,' I have not felt myself called upon to take any notice. For, first, the word has no such meaning. Next, if it had, yet some of the principal arguments in support of the sinfulness of Christ's flesh are founded upon the active meaning of that word. Thirdly. Many other words equally offensive, and capable of no such explanation, are applied to the flesh of Christ, so that if that word was altogether abandoned, the tenet against which I contend remains unaltered. Fourthly. I deny that the word is applicable to Christ, or, if we must separate his humanity from himself, to the humanity of Christ, in any sense, active or passive. I deny that Christ, or the humanity of Christ, was peccable.

Finally, the charge against the tenet of the sinfulness of Christ's flesh is, that this tenet is rank Nestorianism; and nothing can possibly shew a more thorough want of acquaintance with the subject, than an attempt to escape that charge by attaching to the word "sinful' a meaning less offensive than that which it is usually understood to convey. The fact is, the very offensiveness of the word has been the means of making not a few overlook the real ground of the charge. Shocked, as they well might be, at hearing such language applied to Christ, or to a part of Christ, they have looked no farther, imagining that the whole offence consists in the use of such opprobrious terms. That this is highly criminal, and revolting to the feelings of the Christian, there is no doubt. But the charge of heresy rests upon a ground totally distinct from the offensiveness of the language. Take away from the word 'sinful' every offensive idea, let it be used even as the most laudatory word in the language,—that does not in the slightest degree affect the charge of heresy that lies against the tenet that the flesh of Christ was sinful. The charge rests not at all on the meaning of the term, but solely on its application. The question is, can this term, be its meaning what it may, be applied to the flesh of Christ, while it cannot be applied to Christ himself or to God? While you say that the flesh of Christ was sinful, do you say also that Christ himself was sinful, or that God was sinful ? If not,-if you say that you apply, to the flesh of Christ, terms which you will not apply to Christ or to God, then either this is the most direct and open and flagrant Nestorianism, or no such heresy ever existed. The meaning of the term is a matter of not the slightest earthly consequence, as far as the charge of Nestorianism is concerned ; and the attempt to escape from the charge by palliating the offensiveness of the term, manifests an ignorance which certainly could not have been anticipated in any writer upon the subject in the present age. Employ the word

sinful' if you will, as expressive of all that is good and great, that effects not in the slightest degree the charge of Nestorianism, as long as you say that, whatever be its meaning, it may be applied to the flesh of Christ, but not to Christ himself, or to God. Nestorius attributed all that is good and great to the flesh of Christ; he was nevertheless a Nestorian still, and was justly condemned for making two persons in Christ, because he applied to the flesh of Christ language which however respectful, (and he used none that was not expressive of the highest respect,) he would not apply to God.

For these reasons I could not take the slightest notice of the attempt to evade the charge of Nestorianism, by palliating the offensiveness of the terms applied to the flesh of Christ. I have noticed it here, lest I should be suspected of overlooking it for a different reason. The ancient writers, especially after the time of Nestorius, were extremely guarded upon this subject. They would apply no term to the humanity of Christ which they would have scrupled to apply to Christ or to God. I may give an illustration of the nicety with which expressions were then sifted, out of Facundus Hermianensis, himself too labouring under a violent, though I think, groundless suspicion of Nestorianism, on account of his attachment to the celebrated three chapters. In Book I. chapter iii. of the work which he addressed to the Emperor Justinian, he proves that a person of the Trinity suffered for us. There were two ways of expressing this,—unus de Trinitate passus est, one of the Trinity suffered, and una de Trinitate persona passa est,-one person of the Trinity suffered. At present a man would not

« PreviousContinue »