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duction of this new dispensation that the angels sang, (and what
the mount that might not be touched, and that burned with fire,
Now unto him that is able to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. AMEN.'
and Sufferings of Jesus Christ.
BY REV. THOMAS STRINGFIELD.
ing the fundamental principles of the atonement, by our Divine Redeemer, on grounds so evidently different from those entertained by what have been called the orthodox' for ages past, that I have been greatly disappointed at not seeing some reply.
The subject is one too sacredly endeared to pious feelings-too momentous to Christianity—to be discussed in any other way than that of sobriety and reverence. In this spirit I would present, with much deference, a few plain STRICTURES on the doctrines assumed in that "Essay.'
It appears to me, that the confidence with which the author of the 'Essay relied on the correctness of his views, led him to make fatal concessions to Arians, Socinians, and Infidels such as would utterly subvert the evangelical doctrines of the atonement.
He informs us, in his introduction, that more than forty years ago his attention was called, by a conversation between two elder brethren, to the question, whether Jesus Christ suffered as a man only, or as God and man?' He subsequently met with a disciple of Thomas Paine, who proposed the same question, adding, He could not suffer in his Divine nature; and if he suffered only in his human nature, the sufferings of Peter or Paul would have gone as far towards making an atonement for sin as his.'
The presentation of this difficult question to the mind of our then youthful, but now venerable brother, led him to seek its solution on grounds never before occupied. The results of his inquiries are given in the Essay. “On turning my attention to the Scriptures for a solution of the difficulty,' says he, ' I became satisfied, that, as Jesus Christ united both the Divine and human natures in his person, he must have suffered in both,' &c.
So entire was the satisfaction of our Essayist, as to the correctness of this position, that he proceeds to make the following un. qualified concession :
But if the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction rests alone on the sufferings of the human nature of Christ, it follows, that the nature of his sufferings was finite and could never atone for sin.' (p. 264.*)
Again, However ennobled and dignified the human nature was by its union with the Divine, it was human nature still, and could merit nothing.' (16.)
The sentiment contained in the above quotations runs through the whole · Essay,' forming one of its leading features; thus discarding those principles of proper merit, by virtue of the union of the Divine and human natures of Christ in one Divine person, as relied on for salvation by the good and the wise of all ages! What will Àrians and Socinians say to this? Will it not unsettle the faith of the pious, also, who are required to believe in the actual sufferings of the in. carnated Divinity, as the only ground of proper merit in the sacrificial oblation of Jesus Christ?
The entire · Essay' having been published, I need not quote from it as fully as I otherwise should : it is due, however, to a respected brother, and to the common cause, that he should be so fully heard, in connection with objections raised against his doctrines,
. * The pages as cited in these Strictures refer to the July No. of 'The Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.'
that he may not be misunderstood. I shall therefore state his main proposition, and leading arguments, in his own words.
This Essay assumes that the union of the Divine and human natures in the person of Christ was such that neither could be excluded in any action, suffering, or state of his; and to exclude one is to destroy the union. And on this ground it is that the Scriptures frequently refer suffering to the complex person of our Saviour; as when they say, “ Christ suffered for us, Christ died,” &c., without once intimating that it is to be limited to a part, or to the human nature. Nay, more; they refer suffering and death to the Divine nature directly, as the most important part of, and as implying his complex person.' (p. 263.*)
Again, the author says, 'Whatever is said or done by our Saviour respects his whole person, and not merely a part of it.' (p. 264.)
Again, Those who limit the sufferings of Jesus Christ to his human nature, speak on the subject as though each part of a complex person has a right of property in every other part, and in the actions and sufferings of the whole person, though they do not act or suffer together. Hence they say the sufferings of the human nature of Christ were the sufferings of the Divine nature, though the latter did not suffer. But a little attention to the subject will show this to be an error. Every person and thing has something which makes it what it is, and which distinguishes it from every thing else. This is called identity. The two natures of Jesus Christ were united in his incarnation, and formed one person, having identity, which is essential to him as the one Mediator between God and man. If therefore we destroy the identity of his person, as Mediator, or disunite the two natures, it follows of course that there is no Mediator, though the two natures exist separately. But how can the personal identity of the Mediator be destroyed? We answer, in one way only, by separating the two natures, the human and the Divine ; and this, it is conceived, is done when we limit any action or suffering to one nature, and exclude the other.' (p. 265.) Again,' We have seen above that the actions and sufferings of a complex person must be the actions and sufferings of all parts of which that person is composed; for, otherwise, the parts being separated, the identity of person is destroyed, and we have not one person, but two.'(p. 266.)
After looking over the Essay again and again, I confess I am constrained to view it as the effort of a mind so intensely fixed on one favorite feature as to have lost sight of most others; especially of its own apparent incongruities. The author, for example, seems to have overlooked the fact that his notions of Christ's personal identity require, not only that the Divine nature should have become capable of human actions and sufferings, by incarnation, but likewise that the human nature should have been rendered capable of performing all the acts, and existing in all the states, of the Divine nature.
* The author of the Essay, speaking of the death of the Divine nature, does not mean that it actually expired on the cross; but that all parts of his complex person suffered together till death, when pain ceased, and the soul and Divine nature, closely and indissolubly united, passed together into paradise,' &c. I deem it due to the author of the Essay to make this note of explanation here, lest he should be misunderstood to teach that the Divine nature e.tpired. This he did not believe, though he did believe that it actually suffered.
. I think I do not misunderstand the author. I am sure I do not wish to misrepresent him. If I do understand him, he assumes that the actions, sufferings, and state of the human nature of Christ are not properly the actions, sufferings, and state of the Divine complex person, unless they are those of his Divine nature also : and, conversely, that the actions, &c., of the Divine nature are not those of the Divine complex person unless they are those also of the human nature. The principle assumed in the main proposition, as a rule, must work both ways, otherwise it is of no force. It must not only prove the Divine nature capable of human actions and sufferings, but, vice versa, that the human nature was rendered capable of Divine actions, and states of existence; such as omnipotence, omnipresence, &c. This is the plain, common-sense, and only sensemeaning of the author's theory of identity, so far as I can understand him. The human nature is thus Deified, and the Divine nature humanized.
To me it appears the most reasonable and easily conceived thing imaginable, that the act of one nature of a complex person should be the act of that person himself, and yet not the act of the other nature of such person. Take, for example, man, as a compound of matter and mind. The exercises of the heart, the motions of the will, the reasoning, judging, and determining of the mind; the hungering and thirsting, the bleeding and suffering of the body, are all the exercises, motions, &c., of the complex person, man; but they are not indiscriminately or interchangeably those of body and mind. Each nature attends to its own peculiar functions. So of the complex person, Christ. When his Divinity performed works peculiar to itself, Christ performed them. So when his humanity was hungry, thirsty, tempted—when it'grew in wisdom and stature'—when it was 'sorrowful even unto death'—when its precious 'blood was shed, being 'hung upon the cross'—when all these were realized by the humanity of Christ, they were predicated of Christ himself.
The absurdity of supposing that, if the Divine nature did not actually participate in all the actions and sufferings of the human nature, such actions and sufferings were not properly those of Christ, as a complex person, may be manifested by the following short method of stating the subject. It is assumed, in the Essay, that no action of the human nature, which is not an action of the Divine nature also, can properly be an action of the complex person, Jesus Christ : but the shedding of blood is an action of the human nature, and not of the Divine; therefore, the shedding of blood was not properly that of Jesus Christ !
It is as easy to conceive how the sufferings of the human nature, exclusive of the Divine, were properly those of God manifest in the flesh,' as to perceive how the blood of the human nature was the blood of God, Acts xx, 28. But, on the principles assumed in the Essay, the blood of the humanity could not have been that of God; the Scripture, therefore, and the Essay occupy different grounds, on this subject. The blood of Christ is precious, it 'purges the conscience, purifies the heart,' cleansing from all unrighteousness. — Through it we have redemption,' and by or in it we shall finally be washed and made white. On what grounds is the blood of Christ so precious and efficacious ? Not, surely, because it was the blood of the Divine nature ; but, manifestly, because it was the blood of a Divine person-the human nature Divinely impersonated—being 'ennobled and dignified' by the hypostatical union. And precisely on this ground we place the merit of Christ's suffering and death.
When the doctrines of the Trinity are under examination, it is common to call the Logos or Eternal Son a Divine person, in jux. taposition with the Father and the Holy Ghost, as three persons in one God. When the Son of God, in such discussion, is called a Divine person, sheer Divinity is meant. But when we call him a Divine person, in reference to his INCARNATION, we always include his humanity as well as his Divinity. Of the distinction between the second person in the adorable Trinity, before his incarnation, and the same Divine nature in union with the humanity, as constituting one complex Divine person, the author of the Essay was duly apprized ; and yet he frequently confounded them. Indeed, this confusion lies at the bottom of his radical error, and pervades his entire Essay. A distinction between a Divine person, and the Divine nature, in this discussion, is essential to a proper understanding of its difficulties. If the author of the Essay had not overlooked the Divine personality of Christ, as an all-important medium between sheer Divinity on the one hand, and mere human nature on the other, he would not have been perplexed by the question of his two brethren, and the disciple of Thomas Paine. Examine that question for a moment in the orthodox light of the subject; · Whether Jesus Christ suffered as a man only, or as God and man?" The answer is easy; he did not suffer as God ; nor did he suffer as mere man; for he was not a mere man, but a Divine person ; his human nature being Divinely impersonated with the Divinity.
Let the difference between the author of the Essay and us be distinctly stated, and kept in mind. He assumes that the actions of each nature are those of the other also; while we maintain that, although the actions of each nature are properly the actions of the Divine complex person, yet the actions of one nature are contradistinguishable from those of the other. The interchangeability is not to and from each nature respectively; but between each nature respectively and the one person composed of both united. The difference between us may appear more metaphysical than important; but this is a great mistake; for it not only involves the merits of the present discussion, but lies at the foundation of a proper atonement by the sacrificial offering of the body of Christ,' as will be seen plainly hereafter.
To save the room and trouble of requoting what I have already adduced, at considerable length, the reader is requested to turn back and re-examine my quotations from the Essay. He will then be prepared to pursue the subject, while I attempt to prove, from divers passages of Scripture, that Jesus Christ (as well as several of his apostles) spake some things of himself which appertained to one of his natures only; and that whatever appertained thus to either of his natures belonged properly to himself as a complex Divine person. Consult John xiv, 9, 10, Philip said unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us; Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me,