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§ 3. The Hypostatical Union.

Two Natures in Christ.

There is a union. The elements united are the divine and human nature. By nature, in this connection is meant substance. In Greek the corresponding words are φοσις and οὐσία; in Latin, natura and substantia. The idea of substance is a necessary one. We are constrained to believe that where we see the manifestation of force, there is something, an objective entity which acts, and of which such force is the manifestation. It is self-evident that a non-ens cannot act. It may be well here to call to mind a few admitted principles which have already been repeatedly adverted to. (1.) It is intuitively certain that attributes, properties, and power or force, necessarily imply a substance of which they are manifestations. Of nothing, nothing can be predicated. That of which we can predicate the attributes either of matter or mind, must of necessity be a reality. (2.) It is no less certain that where the attributes are incompatible, the substances must be different and distinct. That which is extended cannot be unextended. That which is divisible cannot be indivisible. That which is incapable of thought cannot think. That which is finite cannot be infinite. (3.) Equally certain is it that attributes cannot exist distinct and separate from substance. There cannot be accidentia sine subjecto; otherwise there might be extension without anything extended, and thought without anything that thinks. (4.) Again, it is intuitively certain that the attributes of one substance cannot be transferred to another. Matter cannot be endowed with the attributes of mind; for then it would cease to be matter. Mind cannot be invested with the properties of matter, for then it would cease to be mind, neither can humanity be possessed of the attributes of divinity, for then it would cease to be humanity. This is only saying that the finite cannot be infinite. Speaking in general terms, in the whole history of human thought, these principles have been recognized as axiomatic; and their denial puts an end to discussion.

If the above mentioned principles be admitted, then it follows that in setting forth his Son as clothed in all the attributes of humanity, with a body that was born of a woman, which increased an stature, which was seen, felt, and handled; and with a soul that 388was troubled, joyful, and sorrowful, that increased in wisdom and was ignorant of certain things, God intends and requires that we should believe that He was a true man, — not a phantom, not an abstraction, — not the complex of properties without the substance of humanity, but a true or real man, like other men, yet without sin. In like manner when He is declared to be God over all, to be omniscient, almighty, and eternal, it is no less evident that He has a truly divine nature; that the substance of God in Him is the subject in which these divine attributes inhere. This being so, we are taught that the elements combined in the constitution of his person, namely, humanity and divinity, are two distinct natures, or substances. Such has been the faith of the Church universal. In those ancient creeds which are adopted by the Greek, Latin and Protestant Churches, it is declared that Christ as to his humanity is consubstantial with us, and as to his divinity, consubstantial with the Father. In the Council of Chalcedon, the Church declared our Lord to be,305305Actio Quinta, Binius, Concilia Generalia, vol. ii. part 1, p. 253, e. Θεὸν ἀληθῶς καὶ ἄνθρωπον ἀληθῶς τὸν αὐτὸν ἐκ ψυχῆς λογικῆς καὶ σώματος, ὀμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ κατὰ τὴν θεότητα καὶ ὁμοούσιον τὸν αὐτὸν ἡμῖν κατὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπότητα.

Thomas Aquinas says,306306Summa, III. quæst. ii. art 3, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 5 of fourth set.Humana natura in Christo quamvis sit substantia particularis: qui tamen venit in unionem cujusdam completi, scilicet totius Christi, prout est Deus et homo, non potest dici hypostasis vel suppositum: Sed illum completum ad quod concurrit, dicitur esse hypostasis vel suppositum.” In all the creeds of the Reformation the same doctrine is presented. In the “Augsburg Confession”307307III.; Hase, Libri Symbolici, p. 10. it is said, “Filius Dei assumpsit humanam naturam in utero beatæ Mariæ virginis, ut sint duæ naturæ, divina et humana, in unitate personæ inseparabiliter conjunctæ, unus Christus, vere Deus et vere homo.” “Natura (φύσις, οὐσία) in Christo est substantia vel divinitatis vel humanitatis. Persona (ὑπόστασις, πρόσωπον) Christi est individuum ex utraque natura et divina et humana, conjuncta, non mixta, concretum.308308Hase’s Hutterus Redivivus, sixth edition, p. 224. In the “Second Helvetic Confession”309309Cap. XI.; Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, p. 484. it is said, “Agnoscimus in uno atque eodem Domino nostro Jesu Christo, duas naturas (for natura, substantia is used in other parts of the chapter), divinam et humanam. . . . . In una persona unitæ vel conjunctæ [sunt]: ita ut unum Christum Dominum, non duos veneremur: unum inquam verum Deum, et hominem, juxta divinam naturam Patri, juxta humanam vero nobis 389hominibus consubstantialem, et per omnia similem, peccato excepto.” Therefore the theologians teach,310310Polanus, Syntagma Theologiæ, vi. 12, Hanoviæ, 1625, p. 362, a, b.Natura divina est essentia divina, qua Christus Patri et Spiritui Sancto coessentialis est. Natura humana est essentia seu substantia humana, qua Christus nobis hominibus coessentialis est.” Or as stated in the ancient creeds, Christ is not ἄλλος καὶ ἄλλος (one person and another person), but ἄλλο καὶ ἄλλο (one substance and another substance).

The Two Natures are united but not mingled or confounded.

We have seen that the first important point concerning the person of Christ is, that the elements united or combined in his person are two distinct substances, humanity and divinity; that He has in his constitution the same essence or substance which constitutes us men, and the same substance which makes God infinite, eternal, and immutable in all his perfections. The second point is, that this union is not by mixture so that a new, third substance is produced, which is neither humanity nor divinity but possessing the properties of both. This is an impossibility, because the properties in question are incompatible. We cannot mingle mind and matter so as to make a substance which is neither mind nor matter, but spiritual matter, for that would be a contradiction. It would amount to unextended extension, tangible intangibility, or visible invisibility. Neither is it possible that the divine and human natures should be so mingled as to result in a third, which is neither purely human nor purely divine, but theanthropic. Christ’s person is theanthropic, but not his nature; for that would make the finite infinite, and the infinite finite. Christ would be neither God nor man; but the Scriptures constantly declare Him to be both God and man. In all Christian creeds therefore, it is declared that the two natures in Christ retain each its own properties and attributes. They all teach that the natures are not confounded, “Sed salvis potius et permanentibus naturarum proprietatibus in una persona unitæ vel conjunctæ.

As therefore the human body retains all its properties as matter, and the soul all its attributes as spirit in their union in our persons; so humanity and divinity retain each its peculiar properties in their union in the person of Christ. And as intelligence, sensibility, and will are the properties of the human soul, without which it ceases to be a soul, it follows that the human soul of Christ retained its intelligence, sensibility, and will. But intelligence and will are no less the essential properties of the divine nature, and therefore were 390retained after its union with the human nature in Christ. In teaching, therefore, that Christ was truly man and truly God, the Scriptures teach that He had a finite intelligence and will, and also an infinite intelligence. In Him, therefore, as the Church has ever maintained, there were and are two wills, two ἐνέργειαι or operations. His human intellect increased, his divine intelligence was, and is infinite. His human will had only human power, his divine will was, and is almighty. Mysterious and inscrutable as all this is, it is not more so than the union of the discordant elements of mind and matter in our own constitution.

There is no Transfer of the Attributes of one Nature to the Other.

The third point in relation to the person of Christ, is that no attribute of the one nature is transferred to the other, This is virtually included in what has already been said. There are those, however, who admit that the two natures in Christ are not mixed or confounded, who yet maintain that the attributes of the one are transferred to the other. But the properties or attributes of a substance constitute its essence, so that if they be removed or if others of a different nature be added to them, the substance itself is changed. If you take rationality from mind it ceases to be mind. If you add rationality to matter it ceases to be matter. If you make that extended which in itself is incapable of extension the identity of the thing is lost. If therefore infinity be conferred in the finite, it ceases to be finite. If divine attributes be conferred on man, he ceases to be man; and if human attributes be transferred to God, he ceases to be God. The Scriptures teach that the human nature of Christ remained in its integrity after the incarnation; and that the divine nature remained divine. The Bible never requires us to receive as true anything which the constitution of our nature given to us by God himself, forces us to believe to be false or impossible.

The Union is a Personal Union.

Thc union of the two natures in Christ is a personal or hypostatic union. By this is meant, in the first place, that it is not a mere indwelling of the divine nature analogous to the indwelling of the Spirit of God in his people. Much less is it a mere moral or sympathetic union; or a temporary and mutable relation between the two. In the second place, it is intended to affirm that the union is such that Christ is but one person. As the union of the soul and body constitutes a man one person, so the union of the 391Son of God with our nature constitutes Him one person. And as in man the personality is in the soul and not in the body, so the personality of Christ is in the divine nature. Both of these points are abundantly evident from Scripture. The former, or the unity of Christ’s person, has already been proved; and the latter is proved by the fact that the Logos, or Son, was from all eternity a distinct person in the Godhead. It was a divine person, not merely a divine nature, that assumed humanity, or became incarnate. Hence it follows that the human nature of Christ, separately considered, is impersonal. To this, indeed, it is objected that intelligence and will constitute personality, and as these belong to Christ’s human nature personality cannot be denied to it. A person, however, is a suppositum intelligens, but the human nature of Christ is not a suppositum or subsistence. To personality both rational substance and distinct subsistence are essential. The latter the human nature of Christ never possessed. The Son of God did not unite Himself with a human person, but with a human nature. The proof of this is that Christ is but one person. The possibility of such a union cannot rationally be denied. Realists believe that generic humanity, although intelligent and voluntary, is impersonal, existing personally only in individual men. Although realism may not be a correct philosophy, the fact of its wide and long continued prevalence may be taken as a proof that it does not involve any palpable contradiction. Human nature, therefore, although endowed with intelligence and will, may be, and in fact is, in the person of Christ impersonal. That it is so is the plain doctrine of Scripture, for the Son of God, a divine person, assumed a perfect human nature, and, nevertheless, remains one person.

The facts, therefore, revealed in Scripture concerning Christ constrain us to believe, (1.) That in his person two natures, the divine and the human, are inseparably united; and the word nature in this connection means substance. (2.) That these two natures or substances are not mixed or confounded so as to form a third, which is neither the one nor the other. Each nature retains all its own properties unchanged; so that in Christ there is a finite intelligence and infinite intelligence, a finite will or energy, and an infinite will. (3.) That no property of the divine nature is transferred to the human, and much less is any property of the human transferred to the divine. Humanity in Christ is not deified, nor is the divinity reduced to the limitations of humanity. (4.) The union of the natures is not mere contact or occupancy of the same portion of space. It is not an indwelling, or a simple control of 392the divine nature over the operations of the human, but a personal union; such a union that its result is that Christ is one person with two distinct natures forever; at once God and man.


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