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Name of Christ—-Its Compass and Power—-Scriptural Language, how to be construed—-Name includes both his Natures—-Any Exceptions are created and explained by the Bible—-No such Exception intimated in Case of his Sufferings—-Christ’s”s own Declarations, Luke, 24, 26, 46—-His Name denotes Totality of his united Being, not one of its parts—-Union of his two Natures constituted holy Partnership, to which his Name was given—-Name not applicable to the exclusive Suffering of the human Partner.
THE, abounding scriptural declarations of the sufferings of Christ, just presented to the reader, are general and unqualified, without limit or exception. They cover all the consecrated ground covered by the name of the Christ. The reader has already learned that the name, the Christ, was imparted by the Holy Ghost to the infant Jesus, to designate his mysterious union of humanity with the Godhead. The name was commensurate with the infinitude of his united being. The limits and power of that redeeming, yet awful name, will be the theme of the present chapter. We shall attempt to show that, when applied by Scripture to the mediatorial sacrifice, the name itself, in its distinctive and wide—-reaching signification, necessarily imports, ex vi ter--mini, or from its own intrinsic compass and potency, the participation of both Christ’s”s natures in his expiatory sufferings.
It must constantly be borne in mind, that what distinguished Christ from all other beings in the universe, was his union of the divine and human natures. Earth teems with men, and the celestial throne sustains two other persons of the Godhead; but the unique phenomenon of a being, at once God and man, was first exhibited in the manger of Bethlehem, where it received, from the, Holy Ghost, its distinctive appellation. It cannot be denied that the name, the Christ, and each of its equivalents, ordinarily includes both his natures. It must be admitted that, as a general rule, the term can only be satisfied by its application to his two natures unitedly; that the two natures are its natural aliment; that the name is crippled by confining it to his humanity alone; that his two natures are the divine and human pedestals on which this glorious name reposes in all the infinitude of its meaning.
The science of construing words, written and spoken, has been matured by the united wisdom of centuries. It is the use of words which elevates man above the brute, and on their just and uniform construction depend the stability and safety of all the transactions of social life. Of this useful science, the most simple, universal, and controlling axiom is its elemental rule, that words are to be construed according to their plain, obvious, and ordinary import. No meta-physical subtilties are to make fluctuating the standard of speech. On this rule depends the security of deeds, the most important documents known in the private intercourse of living men; on this rule rests the sanctity of those hallowed bequests which come to us as voices from the dead; even legislative enactments lose all their value, and become dangerous snares when the inviolability of this cardinal rule is wanonly invaded.
This elemental axiom is, as it were, the human palladium of the Oracles of Revealed Truth. That document, written by the hand of God to enlighten the common mind, should be ever meekly received by the children of men, according to the plain, obvious, and ordinary meaning of its sacred words. Its language is brief, simple, clear; well suited, if left unobscured by construction, to the level of ordinary understandings. Its phraseology was selected by the Holy Ghost, as best calculated to bring home even to the closets of uneducated piety the precepts and consolations of inspired wisdom in all their purity and force. It is the call of their heavenly Father to the lost and wandering sons and daughters of humanity. It has all the tenderness, and simplicity, and plainness of the parental voice. Unless clouded by human interpretation, it well knows how to wind its way into the inmost recesses of the filial heart.
The words of Scripture should be understood by us in the same manner as they were calculated to be understood by those to whom they were originally addressed. We are to receive them according to their apparent signification, not to hunt after some occult meaning. If they startle us by their loftiness of import, we must remember that they are the words of the unsearchable God. If they are “as high as heaven,” we have no right to drag them rudely down to earth. To pursue the imagined spirit of a passage, in opposition to its plain letter, is an experiment that man should make with fear and trembling. He may, unwittingly, “add unto,” or “take away from” that holy book which came down from above. Let him beware of the penalties denounced at the close of the last chapter of the New Testament -Revelation, 22. 18, 19.
If the scriptural passages declarative of the sufferings of Christ are taken in their plain, obvious, and ordinary sense, they include, beyond peradventure, his divine nature as well as his humanity. The name of Christ is used by the inspired writers to indicate the recipient of the mediatorial sufferings; and that name, in its ordinary import, has no limits narrower than the whole compass of his united natures. Let a man of ordinary understanding, candid and intelligent, untinged by the unfounded hypothesis of God’s”s impassibility, open his Bible; let him read there the oft-repeated, general, and unqualified declarations that Christ suffered; let him call to mind the peculiarity of Christ’s”s being, uniting in himself the God and the man, and that this union, in all the elements of both its natures, is pervaded and represented by his distinctive appellation, and the inference seems to be inevitable, that he would come to the conclusion that the sufferings of Christ were as extensive as the import of his holy name. It doubtless would not occur to this plain and unbiassed reader of the Bible that he was at liberty to narrow down, by his own fiat, to a particular and contracted meaning, declarations and words which the Holy Ghost left general and unlimited.
It is true that a few insulated cases are to be found in Scripture, where words expressive of Christ are applied peculiarly to his human nature. It is on this ground, as it would seem, that the advocates of the prevalent theory, seek to bring under the same category the general and, abounding scriptural declarations of his sufferings. We might reply that, in these few insulated cases, the distinctive name of Christ is almost never used; but we prefer to place our reply on more general grounds. We have, at some pains, ascertained the number of times that the name of Christ, in some of its forms, appears in the New Testament, and find it to be sixteen hundred and twenty-five. The insulated cases in which either of his names, or its equivalent, is used to designate his human nature exclusively, cannot exceed one or two in a hundred of this number.
These insulated cases are so rare in their occurrence, and so uncertain in their import, as scarcely to amount to an exception to the general scriptural rule, that the name of Christ denotes both of his united natures. And in all these insulated cases the limitation of his name to his human nature is rendered inevitable by intrinsic marks on the passages themselves, or by contiguous portions of Holy Writ. Take, as a sample, the following passage: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature,” Luke 2. 52. Inspiration limits this passage to his humanity, by assuring us that as God he was perfect in wisdom ere the worlds were formed, and, that as an infinite Spirit he was without corporeal stature. Take, as another sample, the declaration of Christ, “My Father is greater than I.,”—-John 14. 28. The declaration was restricted to his manhood by our Lord himself, when he said, a few chapters before, “I and my Father are one.” Take yet another sample, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”—-Mark 12. 32. This lack of prescience is necessarily confined to the human nature of the Son by numerous other passages of the New Testament, which imply that, as the second person of the Trinity, his omniscient eye scans at a glance the illimitable expanse of the future. So, that in these insulated cases, it is God, and not man, who limits to the humanity of Christ a name including both his natures within its expressive import. The Bible itself explains the excepted passages; the Bible still stands its own expositor; it is not, human reason that engrafts the particular limitation on the general language of Holy Writ.
So, in a very few cases, scriptural terms expressive of Christ have exclusive reference to his Godhead. Take the following as an example, “Before Abraham was I am.”—-John 8. 58. Sacred history states that the man Christ Jesus was then only about thirty years old. The Bible itself, therefore, necessarily limits the declaration of ex-istence before the birth of Abraham to the in-dwelling God. But where the Bible interposes no restrictive qualification, the name, the Christ, and its equivalents, whenever occurring in Sacred Writ, stand forth in all the amplitude of meaning originally imparted to them by the Holy Ghost. They are never to be restricted within narrower limits merely because reason deems such restriction most “fitting to God.”
The name, the Christ, when mingled in the ever-recurring declarations of his sufferings, is not limited. to his humanity, directly or by implication, anywhere in the Word of God. The limitation sought to be engrafted on the declarations of his sufferings rests on human, not on divine authority. It is the begotten of the unfounded hypothesis, “God is impassible.” Had that hypothesis never been adopted, it is not likely that the prevalent theory, confining the sufferings of Christ to his human nature, would have found a place in Christian theology.
It is the radical error of the prevalent theory, that it seeks to contract, without scriptural authority, to the manhood of Mary’s”s son the declarations of the Holy Ghost applicable, in their terms, to the whole incarnate God, and crippled by a more limited application. Human reason has no authority delegated from above to restrict, by its own volition, what the Bible has left general. The Word of God must not be bent to what human reason somewhat arrogantly terms, when applied to divine things, its own sound discretion. The sound discretion of one theorist differs from the sound discretion of another theorist. If the Bible is to shape itself to the ever-varying phases of what claims to be the sound discretion of reason, it must assume more forms than the fabled Proteus of heathen mythology ever assumed. The self styled sound discretion of human reason has done the Bible more harm than it ever suffered from the prince of darkness. It has brought Christians into collision with Christians; it has broken into fragments what should have been the one and indivisible Church of the Son of God; it has rent asunder what the Roman soldiery spared, even the seamless vestment of Christ.
The impropriety of limiting to his mere humanity the unlimited declarations of Scripture indicattive of Christ’s”s sufferings will be more obvious if we consider the relative proportions which his two natures bore to each other. The one was finite, the other was infinite; the one akin to the dust of the earth, the other thinking it “not robbery to be equal with God.” Would the inspired writers, would our Lord himself, then, if intending to have it believed that the divinity of Christ had not suffered, have used, to express the sufferings of his mere terrestrial adjunct, terms applicable to the whole infinitude of his united natures; and terms, too, which are crippled and distorted by a more limited application? They best knew the natures and agonies of the Mediator: and when they used the significant term, the Christ, to designate the recipient of the expiatory sufferings, they must have meant that the Christ, the whole Christ of the Bible had suffered.
When you speak of the visible heavens, in terms broad and unlimited, you cannot be supposed to have lost sight of the blue expanse and the glorious sun above you; and your words, appropriate and suited to the whole majestic scene, and to that only, should not be narrowed, by mere construction, to the frail cloud that specks the skirt of the horizon. If these inspired writers, if our Saviour himself had intended to declare that the atoning sufferings of Christ were confined to his mere earthly appendage; if they had designed to limit the generality of their words to so restricted and confined a meaning, they would have said so in terms, or, at least, by necessary implication. There is no self-contracting power in the words indicative of suffering to draw within creature dimensions a name framed by the, Holy Ghost to include within its vast compass not only the finite man, but the infinite God.
When our Lord, after his resurrection, asserted his sufferings interrogatively, “Ought not Christ to have suffered?” when, in a subsequent verse of the same chapter, he repeated the assertion positively, “Thus it behooved Christ to suffer;” when he thus, without restriction, used the very name which he had himself adopted to designate his, united natures, can erring man venture to say that by that name he intended to designate one of his natures only as the recipient of his suffering, and that, too, the inferior one?—-Luke, 24. 26, 46. The Son of God did not say, interrogatively or positively, that Christ ought to have suffered, or that it behooved him to suffer in his human nature only. It is reasoning pride which seeks virtually to interpolate into the sacred texts the omitted words, “i"in his human nature only,” by its own uninspired interpretation.
How can worms of the dust presume to limit, by such words off addition and restriction, the unlimited and unrestricted declarations of the infinite Son; lowering, too, the majesty of the declarations, as it were, from heaven down to earth? We are bound to give unqualified credence to what Christ unqualifiedly uttered. It would ill become us to suppose that he spoke unadvisedly. He best knew that while in a subordinate sense he was man, he was God in the primary and, principal elements of his being. He perfectly understood that the name of that God-man, of his own glorious self, was Christ. When he used his own distinctive name, without restriction or limitation, his meaning must have had all the compass which that name imports. When he twice declared in the same chapter that Christ had suffered, without restriction or limitation, he must be understood to have included both the natures indicated by the name of Christ, and to have affirmed that the whole Christ had suffered.
The distinctive name, the Christ, was the name of the totality of his, person. It was not given to either of his two natures, but to their union; it was the name of the whole, not of its parts. It is ordinarily no more used in Scripture to signify one of his united natures than the name circle is used in mathematics to signify one of the segments of which it is composed. Whenever the term Christ is used in Scripture, save in a very few insulated cases, scarcely amounting to an exception, it was intended to be applied to both his natures unitedly. When, therefore, the Bible so often declared that Christ suffered, it meant to declare that he suffered in his united natures. Suffering in his human nature would have been the suffering of the human son of the Virgin; suffering in the divine nature would have been the suffering of the second person of the Trinity; but in neither case would the suffering have been the suffering of Christ.
God formed the first Adam “of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The creature thus formed was compounded of body and soul. To this complex being, and to his posterity, the appellation of man was given by his almighty Creator. The name pertains not exclusively to his soul or to his body, but to their mysterious union. It would be an unintelligible abuse of the name to apply it separately either to his corporeal or to his spiritual nature. It belongs to the united totality of the man.
To the second Adam, combining in himself divinity and humanity, the distinctive appellation of Christ was imparted by the Holy Ghost, to designate, not one of his united natures singly, but their glorious union. The name of Christ was as exclusively appropriatedap-propriated to his united being. as the name of man was appropriated to the united body and soul of the first Adam. The name of Christ, when used without explanation, can no more be limited to his human nature than the name of man, when used without explanation, can be limited to the human body. The few insulated cases where the name of Christ is applied, in Scripture, to his manhood alone, have in or about them abundant scriptural explanations. Where the Bible has recorded no limiting explanation, we are bound to suppose that it intended to affix to the sacred name the same plenitude of meaning affixed to it by the Holy Ghost when it was originally imparted to the infant Saviour. The abounding scriptural declarations of the sufferings of Christ are limited to his manhood by no scriptural explanations. They stand, therefore clothed in the same amplitude of signification that was attached to the consecrated name by the Holy Ghost in the manger of Bethlehem.
The Bible is wont to express heavenly things by earthly similitudes. Sustained by this example, we would venture most reverentially, to suggest that, by the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity received into a holy partnership with himself the human son of Mary. The union had for its object the salvation of a world. To that sacred union a distinctive name was given. The name of the holy partnership was the Christ. It commenced in the womb of the Virgin; its duration was to be without end; its members were once wrapped together in the swaddling clothes of the manger; they now occupy the right hand throne of heaven. Both retained, in unmingled perfection, their own distinct natures; they differed infinitely in dignity; the one was a worm of the dust; the other was the Lord of Glory.
According to the prevalent theory the man, in his own distinct nature, suffered, while the God remained wholly free from suffering. Now we submit it as a clear proposition, that, under this theory, the individual and insulated sufferings of the terrestrial partner were not the sufferings of the holy union; that they were not distinguishable by its partnership appellation; and that they could not, without violating the elemental principles of speech, have been called the sufferings of Christ. Under the prevalent theory, the holy union suffered not. Its name, then, would not have been employed by Inspiration to designate the suffering. Its sacred name was con-secrated to the holy union. If the name has, in a very few insulated cases, been depressed to the man, it was the Bible that did it; and the Bible was not only the author, but the ample expositor of the depression. The Bible contains no intimation, direct or indirect, of any such depression of the name of Christ, when applied to his sufferings. There was none. His sufferings were the sufferings of the holy union in both its natures.
A partnership of earth, whether commercial, professional, agricultural, or literary, cannot be said to suffer from an injury to one of the individual partners, in his separate and distinct capacity, in no wise affecting the association. The partnership can only be said to suffer when the injury is felt by all its partners directly, and not merely by sympathy. To apply the partnership name to an injury borne by an individual partner exclusively would be a palpable misuse of the term. So, if in the holy union designated by the name of Christ, the man had been the sole sufferer, his individual suffering would not have been expressed by the name dedicated to the holy union. Such an appropriation would have been a misapplication of the sacred name of which the inspired writers were utterly incapable.
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