Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
THE DEITY OF CHRIST
OUR Church places before us to-day the two cardinal passages which establish the Divine Nature of Him Who was this day born, leaving the fuller consideration of His Humanity for the following Sunday, the Sunday of the Incarnation. This order is most fitting, for the Humanity of Christ derives its significance from the fact that it is the Humanity of the Son of God.
THE EPISTLE. (HEB. i. 1.) THE SON OF GOD
We learn that the Son of God was the word or final revelation of the Father.
A. Previous Revelations.
God had previously made His will known to man “in sundry portions” (R.V.). His revelation had been progressive, and in-creasing by slow degrees in clearness and fulness. He had revealed Himself also “in divers manners,” by visions, appearances, mysterious types, by the appointment of sacrifices, by the promulgation of a law, by the institution of a system of worship with mystic instructiveness, and lastly, by the direct inspiration bestowed upon the goodly fellowship of the prophets. He had revealed Himself, therefore, both progressively and variously.
B. The Final Revelation.
The Christian revelation is not progressive but final, not distributed into various channels but concentrated in one Person, of Whom we learn : —
(1) His Relation to the Father.
He is the Father’s Son, and His Son so as no other is or can be. He is not only “of God,” but “God of God.”
He is the effulgence of the Father’s glory, being not only “light,” but “Light of light “—a breaking forth of that Light which God is.
He is the exact impress of the Father’s essence, being “very God of very God.” Others could reveal God by what they said; He alone by what He did and by what He was.
Such is the unique relation of Christ to the Father.
(2) His Relation to the World.
To creation He was the source of its existence, for “by Him He made the worlds.” In Him also dwells the power by which all things are held in being and freshness. He is the renewer as well as the creator of nature’s beauties, its heir, possessor, and Lord. From Him all things came, and to Him all things tend.
(3) His Relation to the Angels.
His position is far above theirs. He possesses eternal Sonship as the only begotten of the Father. He claims the right of angelic worship—“Let all the angels of God worship Him.” He inherits eternal Kingship—“A throne for ever and ever”—and wields a sceptre of righteousness. He enjoys eternal bliss, being not only the King of Glory, but the King of Joy. Saints and angels indeed taste of this joy, but He is “anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows.” Eternal being is His, and He shall remain when all created things shall have passed away.
Such is the nature of Christ, indefinitely removed from all created beings and so nearly related to the Godhead that it is impossible to conceive it nearer.
THE GOSPEL. (S. JOHN i. i.) THE WORD OF GOD
These two great passages variously describe the relation of Christ to God: in the Epistle He is the Son, and in the Gospel the Word. There is no inconsistency, for we read in the Epistle that God spake by His Son, Who is, therefore, the Word; and in the Gospel S. John describes the Word as the “only-begotten of the Father,” and, therefore, as the Son.
The real relation is, of course, such as no human comparison can fully exhaust. “The Son” seems to express distinction of person and “the Word” unity of substance, the one simile guarding against Sabellius, the other against Anus.
A. The Pre-incarnate Word.
As in the Epistle, we see:—
(1) His Relation to God.
He shares the eternity of God, His most intimate presence, His very nature, and this also from all eternity.
(2) His Relation to Creation.
He was its source, for “all things were made by Him.” He is not only its source, but is immanent in creation as its constant sustainer. “That which hath been made was life in Him” (cf. R.V. marg.).
(3) His Relation to the World of Men.
He was the invisible Head of the old dispensation, and, though thus more removed from the grasp of faith, was yet the light of its darkness, ever shining, though unrecognized, and then, as now, the sole source of salvation and life.
(4) His Relation to previous Revelations.
These are summed up in the person of John, the greatest of the prophets. These were not the light, but came to bear witness that the true Light was on the way, and to point men to the dawn, and to shew them that “the true Light which lighteth every man was coming into the world,” and was even already present in the world which was made by Him, though that world knew Him not.
B. The Incarnate Word.
Reference to the Incarnation seems to begin with the words, “He came to His own inheritance, and His own people received Him not.” We learn—
(1) The Purpose of the Incarnation.
The Son came to make us sons. S. John here gives the teaching of S. Paul in a single sentence. He “gave the right” (R.V.). This is our justification conferred in baptism, by which we are adopted into God’s family.
“To become children of God.” This is the purpose and object of justification, viz., sanctification, that we become children in the fullest sense of likeness to our Heavenly Father.
(2) The Fact of the Incarnation.
The “word became flesh “—i.e., took man’s nature, and in that nature “tabernacled among us,” not merely as God dwelt in the material tabernacle, for that was never in any sense one with its glorious Inmate, as here the tabernacle of the Humanity was inseparably one with the Divinity which dwelt within.
(3) The Witness of the incarnation.
Was that of those who themselves saw the glory of the Divine Shekinah visible through the veil of human flesh, in beauty of character, blamelessness of wisdom and conduct, unearthliness of teaching, and in the Divine power and sweetness of His miracles.
Especially were they convinced that such Divine fulness of beauty and convincing reality (“grace and truth”) could only exist in One Who bore a unique relation to the Father, even in the only-begotten Son.
Thus while the Epistle teaches that the Son was also the Word, the Gospel teaches that the Word was also the Son. The agreement of these two so widely different passages is a most remarkable testimony to the truth of their common doctrine.
THE COLLECT. THE PRAYER OF THE INCARNATION
This will he considered more fully on the Sunday after Christmas. It is here sufficient to notice its evident connection with verses 13 and 14 of the Gospel.
Our adoption or regeneration is evidently the right of sonship, which our Church distinctly teaches to have been conferred in baptism.
Our renewal by the Holy Spirit is as evidently an exposition of the phrase “to become children of God.”
Our position as baptized is due to the Incarnation of Christ, which is given to us individually for our encouragement, that we may seek the spirit of sonship.