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THE NEW CREATION.
“These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”
BY these divine titles our Lord made Himself known to the Church of Laodicea. They have each one of them a deep and ineffable meaning, far beyond the reach of our intelligence. He is the eternal, self-affirming, self-attesting Truth; the changeless revelation of the unchangeable wisdom; the fulness of the promises; “the beginning,” and first producing cause, “of the creation of God.”
It is of this last title we have now to speak. Let us consider, therefore, why He is so called.
And first, the Son of God is so called because He was Himself the creator of all worlds.
In the book of Proverbs we read of the Word or Wisdom of the Father: “The Lord possessed 177me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep: when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.”6767 Prov. viii. 22-30. Again, in the book of Psalms: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”6868 Ps. xxxii. 6. The beloved disciple writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . . All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”6969 St. John i. 1, 3. And St. Paul writes: “Who is the image of the invisible 178 God, the first-born of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”7070 Col. i. 15-17. And again: “His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.”7171 Heb. i. 2. And so the Church confesses in the Nicene creed, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God,” “by whom all things were made.”
From these words we learn that the creator of the world is the everlasting Son of God. The Word of God is He by whom “He spake, and it was done: He commanded, and it stood fast.” He said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” That same almighty and eternal Word is not a mere effluence, or emanation, or radiance of the Father, but a divine Person, consubstantial, distinct, but undivided,—the Power of creation, as voice is the power of speech,—true, living, almighty. Thus He was the beginning, the first moving cause, making that to be which was not, shaping and moulding it after the forms of His own eternal wisdom; ordering, harmonising, uniting all things; filling, quickening, upholding 179all things. All creation was a visible revealing of the divine Word. He was in all things, clothing Himself with His creatures; imaging Himself forth in wisdom, goodness, and power. All orders of being, visible and invisible, had their life in Him who was “the Life,” the sustaining bond of their life and unity. This is one, and the first, sense of this divine title.
2. Again, He is the beginning of the creation of God, as the first cause or principle of its restoration. After the world had fallen from Him, and was at war with Him, the same power of endless life, out of which in the beginning they first arose into being, became a power of healing and restoration. There is a mysterious law which pervades the creatures of this fallen world, healing over and smoothing out even the scars of their wounds. So is He in the creation of God. He is the power of health and restoration, renewing all things. Before the fall of man, this mystery of restoration was conceived in heaven, though the voice was not heard for long ages upon earth: “Behold, I make all things new.” The beginning of the new creation was even then at work. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning.” Time is not, with Him. Though His divine purposes are unfolded and fulfilled in time, with Him they are already perfect in order 180 and fulness. In the first four thousand years of the world the Son of God was preparing all things to unfold the great mystery of the new creation. He spake with man by the ministry of angels, and intermingled with the earthly life of His chosen people. He spake with Abraham when the burning lamp passed between the sacrifices, and with Moses at the unconsuming bush in Horeb; He journeyed in the midst of Israel in the wilderness; He put His Spirit on prophets and seers, until the fulness of time came, that the Word should be made flesh and dwell among us, and that men should behold His glory. This was the first act of the new creation. By the mystery of the Incarnation it began to be, and the Word made flesh is “the Beginning.”
As the first Adam, who was by creation the son of God, was made of the virgin earth, so the second Adam, the only-begotten Son of the Father, was made man of a virgin mother. The first miraculous birth of the dust of the earth was a shadow of the second miraculous birth of the substance of the woman. Our manhood, which in the fall of the first man was marred and sullied, He took in all its sinless infirmities in will, conscience, and affections; and He bare it in all its measures and ages, of childhood, youth, and manhood. He hallowed it, and filled it with the Divine 181presence, and reconsecrated it to God. In it He died, and laid it in the rock, and bare it through the valley of the shadow of death; raised it from the dead; exalted it above the conditions of matter; of a natural body, made it to be a spiritual body; carried it upward to the holiest of all, and arrayed it in glory at the right hand of God. Such is the mystery of the Incarnation, as now perfected in the kingdom of heaven. It is the restoration of our manhood to God in the Person of Jesus Christ. But as the first creation was not a single and final, but a sustained and continuous act, so also is the second. As in the first was contained the multiplication and increase of all germs of nature and the perpetual preservation of the whole order of life, so in the new, which is the mystical body of the Son, He began a new family of man upon the earth.
In the mystery of the Incarnation is contained, therefore, the mystery of our renewal, in body, soul, and spirit, to the image of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the principle and power, and, as it were, the root of the new creation. We are so united to His incarnate nature, as to be incorporated and summed up in Him: we are made one with Him, as by our natural lineage we are one with the first Adam, the father of all flesh. When He ascended up on high, the virtues of His glorified 182 manhood were shed abroad upon His Church. Through His holy Sacraments began a new line of spiritual generation. We are new-born, or regenerated. We were made partakers of that manhood which is sinless, immortal; we are incorporated in that new creation, of which the second Adam is the head, the source, and the beginning. Therefore the Apostle calls the font of baptism “the laver of regeneration.” We can be born into this fallen world but once; and into the new world, which is the Church, but once. As, then, there is no second birth in nature, so no second regeneration. There is but “one baptism for the remission of sins.” And as our birth is an isolated event, shut up within the narrow boundaries of the moment in which we enter into this fallen world; and therefore our after existence is not still called birth, but life, or living;—so is our new birth perfected at the font; and therefore our after life of faith is not called regeneration, as if spiritual birth were a continuous fact, as if we could be always entering for the first time into the new creation of God, but our renewal. We are thenceforward under the continual transforming and restoring power of Him who in Himself hath made all things new. The work of our renewal, indeed, is not perfected in regeneration, but only begun. All our life long we must grow into 183the perfection and ripeness of the new manhood we have received from Christ. Our renewal shall never be perfect until we shall be made like Him, in that day when “we shall see Him as He is.”
We must pass to Him by the gate of death; for the death of the body is a witness of God’s justice and of our sin. Our body of earth is a partaker of the new creation, but its time is not yet. It must die, turn into dust, be changed, and raised again. This is a great and wonderful mystery of God’s love and of our humiliation. But death is no longer an enemy; it is a minister of the resurrection. As the mystery of the Incarnation was not complete till Christ rose from the grave, and the new man, the first-born of the dead, came forth into the world, having destroyed death for ever, so neither shall our renewal be fulfilled until the morning of the resurrection. Then the mystery of baptism shall be completed. What was begun in the soul shall be made perfect also in the body. The whole outline of the restoration shadowed forth in that holy sacrament shall be fulfilled. The whole family of God shall be renewed, every one in the perfect likeness of the Son of God; and the Word or Wisdom of the Father shall manifest Himself afresh through a new creation. “The Beginning” shall once more reveal Himself in the unity and the perfection of a world, not 184 restored only, but raised to more than its original perfection: to sin and die no more, but blissful and eternal in Him who is the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”7272 Rev. xxi. 6.
If this divine title of our Lord had been more patiently and devoutly considered, many of the deepest and sorest wounds suffered by His body on earth, and at the hands of His own professed servants, would have been turned aside.
1. We have here seen two great spiritual facts: the first, that the Word, who is by eternal generation of one substance with the Father, by the mystery of the Incarnation became of one substance with us. Unity of substance does not mean unity of persons, as the Socinians blindly say. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, are in substance one, but in person distinct. Their personal distinctions are incommunicable; so that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost is neither the Father nor the Son. The word ‘substance’ expresses their common nature, excluding all personal proprieties, as paternity, filiation, and procession, by which each Person is distinct. And the word ‘consubstantial’ guards the distinctness of personality, while it affirms the unity of Godhead. So, to pass from the infinite to the finite, Christ took of 185the substance of the blessed Virgin. He thereby united Himself to the line of which Adam is the first father. The very substance originally created of the dust, multiplied throughout mankind, and descending in the generations of four thousand years, was taken by the Son of God in the womb of His Blessed Mother. His union with us is a consubstantial union. His substance as Man, and our substance, are one and the same. Yet His Person is not our person: unity of substance does not in the finite, any more than in the infinite, carry with it unity of person. Our personal distinction and entity is incommunicable. Every living man is as personally distinct as every star of light. The unity of brightness does not confound the distinctness of their several existence. So far we may use this parallel, but no farther; for with us personality involves also distinction of will, power, and the like; but in God all these are one. Here, then, we see one great spiritual fact, one great law and mystery, that between God and man there is a person who is both Man and God; consubstantial with the Creator and the creature, the finite and the infinite; that by one consubstantial unity He is God, by the other, Man.
There have been from the beginning teachers and sects who have endeavoured to destroy the faith of the Holy Trinity and of the Incarnation, 186 as the Gnostics, Docetae, Arians, Nestorians, and, of later times, the Socinians. It is never to be forgotten, that all these sects have alike adopted one principle in the interpretation of holy Scripture. They have treated its language as metaphorical and figurative: they have explained it as a symbolical expression of relations and affinities. For instance, the unity of the Father and the Son is not, according to them, in substance, but in volition and in love: the Word and the Spirit were impersonal attributes, personated only in figure, and the like. Now, against this the Catholic Church has always held one uniform doctrine in one uniform language, namely, that all these divine mysteries are real, spiritual, and substantial; and that spirit is substance and reality.
%. The other great fact issuing from the last is, that as by this substantial unity and personal distinctness the Son lives by the Father; so we, distinct in person, but partaking of His substance, live by the Son. He Himself hath said it. “As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”7373 St. John v. 26. And again: “As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.”7474 St. John vi. 57. As the unity of the Father and the Son is not a figure or metaphor, an external 187relation or affinity, but a real, spiritual unity of substance; so our union with the Word made flesh is not figurative or metaphorical, by affinity and relation of will, or love only, but in substance, spirit, and reality. As the Son partakes of the Godhead of the Father, so we partake of the manhood of the Son: as He lives by the Father, we live by Him. Surely this great spiritual fact is doubted by no one who does not also deny the truth of the Incarnation, or the mystery of the ever-blessed Trinity. How can there be any living union which is not real? or real union which is not substantial? “God is a spirit.” Branches do not derive their life by a figurative engrafting, neither is the union of the trunk and the root a metaphor. The Incarnation is a real and substantial partaking of our manhood; and our union with Christ is a real, substantial partaking of His. He partook of ours by the operation of the Holy Ghost, and we of His by the power of the same Spirit. The miraculous Agent in the Incarnation and in the holy Sacraments is the same third Person of the ever-blessed Three, uniting first the divine nature to ours in the person of the Son, and now our fallen nature to Him as “the beginning of the” new “creation of God.”
If this had been ever borne in mind, the Church would have been spared many a rent, and 188 love and truth many a wound. For how, then, could true believers treat the holy Sacraments as metaphors and figures? How could any confound the nature of substance with the dimensions of a person; or misconceive the blessed truth of the real presence of Christ, as God and Man, in the holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood? How could notions of quantity, locality, circumscription, division, and the like, find a place in the contemplations, or even in the controversies, of Christians? Alas, we have but ill learned the mystery of the Incarnation, so to wander from the mysteries of the Spirit. We are united, indeed, to Him as to a Person, but our union with Him is by participation of His substance. “As I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” Let us, then, with veneration and veiled faces adore His presence. Let us believe His very words when He says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” “I am the Bread of life.” “This is My body.” “This is My blood.” My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him.” These are not metaphors nor figures. God forbid. Neither are they to be carnally understood. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh” (that is, apart from the Spirit, not “My flesh, which is meat indeed”) 189“profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you” are substance and reality; “they are spirit, and they are life.” What is an unsubstantial spirit but no spirit? an unsubstantial life but no life at all? or an unsubstantial presence but an unreal presence—a very and true absence? What is an unsubstantial regeneration but a word, a figure, and an empty sound?—a worthy doctrine only for those who believe in an unsubstantial incarnation, a figurative resurrection, a metaphorical creation. O the dreaming shallowness of the reason of man! O the depth both of the power and of the spirit of God! Let us hold fast what we have, that no man take our crown. The law had “a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” We have entered into the order of the spiritual world, where shadows are not; where all things are real and eternal. Let us trust in Him who is “the Amen,” the very and true Life, the giver of life, the multiplier of all creatures, the Maker and the Healer of the substance of our manhood, first in Himself, and then in us who by faith are His.190
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