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THE WORD BECAME MAN. HIS GLORY, AS SEEN BY THE APOSTLES, AND WITNESSED IN THE WORLD.
John i. 14.
14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
St. John, in the preceding verses, had declared the DIVINITY of the Redeemer. “ The Word was God.” He now testifies, with the same clearness, a truth which equally concerns us, his HUMANITY. The Word was made flesh. He who was God, took upon him the nature of man: the nature of frail, mortal flesh. He did not cease to be what he was : he could not cease to be what he had been from eternity ; but he became, what he was not before, man as well as God.1
Let us consider, first, Is this possible?
Why should it not be possible? There seems no reason why the nature which is clothed with flesh should only be such a nature as our own. God, we know, breathed into man the breath of
1 As defined by the fourth General Council.—“ He was so made flesh, that he ceased not to be the Word, never changing that he was, but assuming that he was not."
life, and he became a living soul. That soul might have partaken of his own nature instead of the nature which it has. The mode in which God and man became one, we cannot comprehend; but we need not go beyond ourselves, and the union of soul and body in our own natures, to meet with that which we shall never comprehend ; and there is nothing contradictory in believing that as the living soul and body constitute one man, so God and man are one Christ. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Secondly, Does this agree with what had been foretold, and with what the Jewish nation, possessing the oracles of God, had reason to expect?
God had declared to Adam that “the seed" or offspring of the woman should bruise the serpent's head.” Jesus was the offspring of the woman, Mary; and was now manifested to bruise the serpent's head, and to destroy the works of the devil.
Moses had assured the Israelites, that in due time, “ the Lord their God should raise up unto them of their brethren a prophet like unto himself.”3 And now the Word was made flesh, and “ born of a woman,” among this people.
Isaiah had prophesied concerning a Saviour, in words which could only apply to one who came in fashion as a man, and yet who was in his nature more than man :* whose generation was incompre
.? Gen. iii. 15.
3 Deut. viii. 15. See Acts xiii. 22. - Compare Isai. vii. and ix.
hensible :* whose appearance was frail and humble, yet whose power was divine.
The appearance, therefore, of Christ in the flesh, did agree with the expectation raised by prophecy. And then we ask, thirdly, Was there a reason for it? Scripture explains the reason. Jesus came to save sinners, by dying the death of sinners. In the nature of God he could not die. He could not suffer, except in that nature which had sinned. He could only bear the curse of the law in the nature which had incurred the curse by transgression of the law. Forasmuch then as those whom he came to redeem “ are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil ; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”5
Therefore, according to God's power, and according to God's determinate counsel, and for a reason which can be explained to us, “ a body was prepared for the Word : 6 the Son of God " was made of the seed of David according to the flesh ;”? and dwelt among us in fashion as a man. “ Without controversy, great is the mystery; God manifest in the flesh.”8 Great is the mystery : but how much greater is the mercy!
And now the Evangelist adds, We beheld his 5 Heb. ii. 14–16. 6 Heb. x. 5. 7 Rom. i. 3.
81 Tim. iii. 16.
glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. Though he showed himself in the nature and weakness of man, he also showed himself in the glory of Almighty God. That while we can approach and lean upon the one, we may trust in and commit ourselves to the other. St. John says, 6. We beheld his glory.” St. John was one of those who enjoyed this privilege in a special degree. He was of that chosen party, which attended Jesus on mount Tabor, when “ he was transfigured before them, and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light."9 The intent, surely, of that manifestation, was to leave an impression upon the mind of the witnesses, which they should in time transmit to others. St. Peter used it for this purpose, saying, “ We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”
Such is the clear assurance left to us from those who spoke what they knew, and testified what they had seen. It has been handed down to us in uninterrupted order by successive generations of Christians. The apostles beheld it. To the different assemblies among which they went, 9 Matt. xvii. 1, 2.
1 2 Peter j. 16–18.
“ preaching the word,” they related what their “ eyes had seen, and their hands had handled of the word of life.”? And what was so witnessed and confirmed, the first companies of Christians received as true ; and believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God : so that Peter could affirm of them, “Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” These, again, conveyed the word of truth to the generation that came after ; the leaven was gradually diffused; the seed became a great tree, with its branches spread on every side, and “its leaves for the healing of the nations.” But as the tree which may have stood for centuries, and which no man living has ever known except as a widely spreading and an ancient tree, was once a seed, and would never have existed at all if that seed had not been dropped into the ground : so with our Christian faith. The believers have multiplied ; ages have followed ages; nation after nation has been added to the church : and the time seems far back since that church first began to be. Still there was at first a seed ;—and that seed was planted, when the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and the apostles beheld his glory.
In one way, that glory has been evidently beheld in every age that has since passed. For in every age that has since passed, multitudes have been brought, through the preaching of the word, 2 1 John i. 1.
3 1 Pet. i. 8.