Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article II

Article II.

Of the Word or Son of God which was made very Man.

THE Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal GOD, and of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

Verbum Dei verum hominem esse factum

FILIUS, qui est Verbum Patris, ab æterno a Patre genitus, verus et æternus Deus, ac Patri consubstantialis, in utero beatæ Virginis, ex illius substantia naturam humanam assumpsit: ita ut duæ naturæ, divina et humana, integre atque perfecte in unitate personæ fuerint inseparabiliter conjunctæ: ex quibus est unus Christus, verus Deus, et verus homo, qui vere passus est, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, ut Patrem nobis reconciliaret, essetque hostia, non tantum pro culpa originis, verum etiam pro omnibus actualibus hominum peccatis.

Section I. — History.

THIS Article evidently treats of three distinct points. I. The Divine nature of the Son of God; II. His incarnation; III. His sufferings, sacrifice, and propitiation.

I. First, as regards the Divine nature of the Son of God: as it was shown under the first Article that He was of one substance and coeternal with the Father, so the history of the different opinions concerning His consubstantiality and co-eternity formed part of the history of that Article. It is not necessary to repeat either those arguments or that history here.

I shall consider that I have said enough concerning the Divine nature of our blessed Lord, when, in addition to His consubstantiality and co-eternity before treated of, I have spoken concerning His generation from the Father, whereby He is the Begotten or Only-begotten Son of God.

It has already been shown that the Arians and Eunomians held that the Son might be called μονογενής, not as being the only-begotten of the Father, by a true and proper generation, but as having been begotten or created by the Father alone;[1] and the Socinians have endeavoured to explain the word as though it meant no more than beloved, as Isaac was called the only son of Abraham, though Ishmael was his son also.

It is hardly necessary to observe that the orthodox fathers held that the Son was begotten of the Father from all eternity, so before all time deriving His Divine Essence from His Father (μόνος ἐκ μόνου γεγέννηται τοῦ Πατρός. Cyril. Alexandr. in Act. Concil. Ephes.) This eternal generation they held to be a proof that He was of one substance and eternity with the Father; but the relation of Father to Son they held to constitute a priority of order, though not of nature or power. They held, that is, not that the Son was, in His nature as God, in any degree different from, or inferior to the Father; but that, as the Father alone was the source and fountain (πηγή, ἀρχή, αἰτία) of Deity, the Son having been begotten, and the Spirit proceeding, so there was a subordination, without diversity, of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son.[2] It may be difficult to conceive of priority of order, without being led to believe in superiority of nature. This seems to have been the cause why Dr. Clarke and other high Arians, perceiving the truth of the doctrine that there was a certain priority of order among the Persons of the undivided Trinity, and unable to distinguish between priority of order and superiority of nature, were led into an assertion of the heretical doctrine of the inferiority of the nature of the Son.

II. The second part of the Article contains the doctrine of the Incarnation.

Errors upon this doctrine were held by the Gnostics, or Docetæ, and the Manichees, who taught that our Lord’s Body was but a phantom, and that He came not in the flesh, but in appearance only (οὐκ ἐν σαρκὶ, ἀλλὰ δοκήσει); by those heretics, who denied the Divinity of our Lord, and therefore, of course, the union of the two natures in one Person; and in short by all the Oriental and Judaizing sects. But the most important controversies on this mystery arose from the errors of, 1, the Arians and Apollinarians; 2, the Nestorians; 3, the Eutychians; 4, the Monothelites.

1. Arius taught that the Son of God did not take human nature, but a human body only, and that the Divine Word was in the place of the soul.[3]

Apollinaris, who maintained against Arius the consubstantiality of the Son, agreed with him in a great measure concerning the mode of His incarnation, teaching that our Lord took a human body, and a sensitive or animal soul, but that the place of the rational soul was supplied by God the Word, thus distinguishing, according to a common notion of those times, between the νοῦς , or mens, and the ψυχή, or anima.[4]

2. The Nestorian controversy arose as follows: The Greek fathers, justly esteeming that our Lord, from the moment that He was conceived in the womb of His mother, was not only man but God also, and maintaining that the union between His two natures was so perfect that it was right, for example, to say “God suffered,” went so far as to call the Virgin Mary by the title Θεοτόκος, or Deipara. Nestorius declaimed strongly against this title, as indicating, according to his view of the subject, that God was liable to change, whereas God can neither be born nor die. He held that the Man Christ Jesus only could derive His birth from His earthly parent; and that therefore the Virgin might be called Χριστοτόκος, but not Θεοτόκος. These statements were considered to involve a denial of the union of the two natures of God and man in the one Person of Christ.[5] Nestorius was accused of teaching that there were not only two natures, but two persons in Christ, namely, the Person of God the Son, and the person of the man Christ Jesus. For this doctrine (though he appears to have denied the inferences drawn from his statements) he was condemned in the Council of Ephesus, A. D. 431, summoned by Theodosius the younger, and at which Cyril of Alexandria presided. This council determined that the true doctrine was that “Christ was but one Person, in whom two natures are intimately united, but not confounded.”[6]

The tenets of the Nestorians, however, spread rapidly and widely in the East. They were embraced by the school of Edessa, were eagerly propagated by Barsumas, who became Bishop of Nisibis in 435, and by his influence took such root in Persia that a Nestorian Patriarch was established at Seleucia, to whose authority, even to modern times, the Nestorian churches have been subjected. Nestorianism took deep root in many soils; and the Nestorians proved themselves zealous missionaries. Their opinions spread rapidly into Armenia, Chaldæa, Syria, Arabia, and India.[7] They afterwards extended the Christian faith among the Tartar tribes of Scythia; and, in the thirteenth century, established their bishops and clergy even among the Chinese. In the eighth century, the sect called Adoptionists revived unconsciously a form of Nestorianism in Spain.[8] And, in the twelfth century, the Nominalists were accused of Nestorianism, as well as Tritheism, by their adversaries.[9]

3. Eutyches, an abbot at Constantinople, from opposition to Nestorianism, was led into the other extreme. He asserted that the Divine and human natures of Christ were originally distinct, but that, after their union, they became but one nature, the human nature being transubstantiated into the Divine. Before the hypostatic union, he acknowledged two natures; but after that union he acknowledged but one. The Council of Chalcedon, which was summoned by Marcian in 451, and is reckoned the fourth general Council, condemned Eutyches, and declared the Catholic doctrine to be, that “in Christ two distinct natures are united in one Person, without any change, mixture, or confusion.”[10]

The Eutychian, or Monophysite doctrine, notwithstanding this condemnation, rapidly gained ground, principally through the zeal of Jacob Baradæus, Bishop of Edessa, from whom the sect of the Eutychians are called Jacobites. It was established in Syria, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Egypt, Abyssinia. The Eutychians became united under the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria, and so continue to this day. They are now divided into three principal societies: the Oriental Monophysites, subject to the patriarch of Antioch; the African Monophysites, subject to the patriarch of Alexandria, embracing the Copts and Abyssinians; and thirdly, the Armenians, who, though agreeing with the other Monophysites concerning the natures of Christ, are not united with them in other points of faith and discipline, and are subject to patriarchs of their own.[11]

4. In the seventh century a new controversy on this important subject arose; and a more subtle question was mooted. This question was, whether in Christ there were two distinct wills, the Divine and the human, or but one, the Divine. Those who adopted the opinion that there was but one will in Christ, among whom was Honorius, Bishop of Rome, were called Monothelites, Μονοθελῆται, and were condemned in 680 by the sixth general Council, the third Constantinopolitan. Their doctrine was supposed to border too closely on that of the Monophysites. It appears, however, that they entirely disclaimed Monophysite errors; and from the ambiguous manner in which their views were expressed, it has been questioned whether they held that the human will in Christ was wholly swallowed up in the Divine will, or only that it was so completely subservient to the Divine will as always to move in unison with it.[12]

III. As to the third division of this Article, the terms of it probably had reference to the error of the Docetæ, who denied that our Lord “truly” suffered, teaching either that He suffered only in appearance, or, as Basilides would have it, that Simon the Cyrenian was crucified in His place.

Of course it may be added, that the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ is necessarily denied by all humanitarian heretics, and others, who nearly symbolize with them. The Swedenborgians also of late times, though in some sense admitting the Atonement, appear to deny anything of the nature of a vicarious sacrifice, maintaining that redemption consists in the subduing of the powers of evil within the Christian, by virtue of union with the Redeemer in His human nature.

Section II. — Scriptural Proof.

I. THE division of the subjects treated of in this Article, which has been suggested above, leads us to consider in the first place the eternal generation of the Son of God.

That the nature and being of the Son were from all eternity, and that He was of one substance with the Father, having been shown in the First Article, it is only necessary to prove here, that that nature, though eternal, is yet derived from the Father in such a manner that the relationship of the Father to the Son is best expressed to our understandings by the term, and under the notion of generation.

In order to represent to us the mode of existence of the Second Person in the Trinity, and His relation to the First, Holy Scripture has used various terms, drawn from human relations. The most common and important are the terms “Word” and “Son.” The term “Word,” or “Logos,” is probably used to exhibit the intimate connection of the one Person with the other; that, as reason dwells in man, so the Logos dwells in God, and that, as the word goeth forth from the heart and lips of man, so the Word is sent forth from God the Father.

In like manner, we must conceive the term “Son” to indicate something definite concerning the relation of the Son to the Father; the variety of terms being adopted, probably because no one term could sufficiently convey to our understanding just notions of the nature and of the connection of the Persons in the Godhead.

That God the Son is not the same Person with God the Father has already been shown. That He is called the “Word” and the “Son” of the Father, seems sufficiently to declare that He derives in some manner His Being from the Father, even as the word springs from him who thinks and speaks, as the son is derived from him who begets him. This is farther evident from express statements in Holy Scripture. For example, our Lord is distinctly said to be begotten of the Father. He is called the Begotten and “Only-begotten of the Father,” John i. 14. The Psalmist, as explained by St. Paul, tells us that God said to our Saviour, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” Ps. ii. 7. Acts xiii. 33. Heb. i. 5. And so He is spoken of as having been “begotten before every creature.” (Πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, Col. i. 15.)

In correspondence with this notion of Sonship, our Lord is constantly called “Heir of all things,” and said to be Possessor of all things, by right of Sonship. (See Heb. i. 2, 3, 4; iii. 6. John xvi. 15.) Again, our Lord speaks of Himself as deriving His own eternal Being from God the Father.[13] “As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father” (John vi. 57), and again, “As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself” (John v. 26). From which we learn that the mode of existence which the Father possessed from all eternity, He communicated to the Son. All created beings have their existence from, and their life in, God. But the Son, who is uncreated, derives indeed His Being from the Father, but it is a Being of the same kind as the Father’s, and therefore not dependent, like a creature’s, but independent, self-existent, having life in itself.

Accordingly the Son is farther called “the Brightness of His Father’s glory, the express Image of His Person,” Heb. i. 3; words which in the Greek indicate a relation of the Son to His Father, like that of brightness to light, like that of the impression of a seal on wax to the seal, to which it answers.[14]

Now the communication of the nature of God, thus made by the Father to the Son, may be called a proper generation. Nay! it is more proper than any earthly generation. For, in human generation, the son indeed derives his nature from his father, but it is in a manner according with the imperfection of humanity. Man’s generation is in time, and, as connected with that which is material, results, in part at least, from that property of matter called divisibility. The son too, in human beings, when derived from the father, becomes separate from him.

But this is not so with God. God’s eternal perfections He, from all eternity, communicated to His Son. “So also the Divine Essence, being by reason of its simplicity not subject to division, and in respect of its infinity incapable of multiplication, is so communicated as not to be multiplied, insomuch that He, which proceedeth by that communication, hath not only the same nature, but is also the same God. The Father God, and the Word God; Abraham man, and Isaac man: but Abraham one man, Isaac another man; not so the Father one God, and the Word another; but the Father and the Word both the same God. Being then the propriety of generation is founded in the essential similitude of the son unto the father, by reason of the same which he receiveth from him; being the full, perfect nature of God is communicated unto the Word, and that more intimately, and with a greater unity or identity than can be found in human generation; it followeth, that this communication of the Divine nature is the proper generation, by which Christ is, and is called the true and proper Son of God.”[15]

This peculiar relation of the Father to the Son is that which has authorized the Church, while she confesses an equality of nature, to admit also a priority of order in the Persons of the Trinity. The Father hath this preeminence, that He is not only uncreated, but unbegotten, too. He derives His essence from none, being Himself the Fountain of life and the Source of being. The Son, too, is uncreated, deriving His being, not by creation but by generation, from the Father. Yet in this He is subordinate to the Father; not that His attributes are lower, or His nature inferior, but that both are derived. The Father begat; the Son is begotten. The Father is Life, Christ too is Life; but He confesses that He has life from the Father (John vii. 29), and that “He liveth by the Father” (John vi. 57). “The Father hath life in Himself:” so too has the Son. But the Father not only in Himself but from Himself. The Son in Himself, but from the Father (John v. 26).[16] On this account, therefore, and in this sense, “the Father is greater than the Son” (John xiv. 28); greater as regards priority of order, not greater as regards infinity of nature.[17]

II. The second part of the Article concerns the true doctrine of the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is thus expressed: “The Son . . . . took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very man.”

1. The wording of this is very important. “The Son of God took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin.” It appears directly from Holy Scripture, that the Being conceived by the Virgin was, from the moment of His conception, the Son of God (Luke i. 35, 43. Matt. i. 20, 23). Had the human nature of our Lord been conceived in the womb of the Virgin, and then united to the Divine nature; it is clear that Christ would have consisted of two distinct persons: one person, the Son of God, the other person, that human being who had been conceived of the Virgin Mary. For if a human being had been first conceived of the Virgin, and then united to God, it is clear that that human being must have been a human person, previously to the union with the Divine Person; and so the incarnation would have been the union of two persons, not the union of two natures.[18] It was from want of attention to this, that Nestorius was led into error. He denied that the Person, who was born of the Virgin, was God; and said that He was only man. Hence he was obliged to divide Christ into two persons. “If,” says Hooker, “the Son of God had taken to himself a man now made and already perfected, it would of necessity follow that there are in Christ two persons, the one assuming, the other assumed; whereas the Son of God did not assume a man’s person to His own, but a man’s nature to His own Person; and therefore took semen, the seed of Abraham, the very first original element of our nature, before it was come to have any personal human subsistence. The flesh, and the conjunction of the flesh with God, began both at one instant; His making and taking to Him our flesh was but one act; so that in Christ there is no personal subsistence but one, and that from everlasting. By taking only the nature of man, He still continueth one Person, and changeth but the manner of His subsisting, which was before in the mere glory of the Son of God, and is now in the habit of our flesh.”[19]

Thus it is said by St. John, “The Word was made flesh” (John i. 14); by St. Paul, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also took part of the same” (Heb. ii 14). “He took not the nature of angels, but He took the seed of Abraham” (Heb. ii. 16). It was “Emmanuel, God with us,” who was born of the Virgin (Isai. vii. 14. Matt. i. 23); yea, “the Son of God” (Luke i. 32, 35).[20]

The fact, thus exhibited, that the Son of God took in the womb of the Virgin the nature of man, explains some of the most remarkable passages in the new Testament. As there is but one Person in Christ, and that the Person of the Son of God, it naturally follows, that even the actions proper to man will at times be attributed to God, and the actions proper to God will be attributed to the man Jesus.[21] Thus we understand the Scripture, when it says that men “crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. ii. 8); when it says that “God purchased the Church with His own Blood” (Acts xx. 28); because, though God in His Divine Nature cannot be crucified, and has no blood to shed; yet the Son of God, the Lord of Glory, took into His Person the nature of man, in which nature he could suffer, could shed his Blood, could be crucified, could die. Thus again, we understand the Scripture, when it attributes to a man powers and attributes which belong only to God. Our Lord (John iii. 13) speaks of none having gone up to Heaven “but the Son of man, which is in Heaven”: yet the Son of man was then on earth. Omnipresence is an attribute of none but God. But the Son of man here spoken of was God, God having taken into His own Person man’s nature.[22] And so “as oft as we attribute to God what the manhood of Christ claimeth, or to man what his Deity hath right unto, we understand by the name of God and the name of Man, neither the one nor the other nature, but the whole Person of Christ, in which both natures are.”[23] Of that Person, then, we may say, that He reigns as God, that He was subject as man. Of that Person we may say, that He liveth forever, and yet that He suffered and died. Of that Person we may say, that He “was crucified through weakness,” and yet that He hath “the Power of God.” Of that Person we may say, that whilst He was bound down to live on earth, He yet filled Heaven with His presence and glory.[24]

2. The Article, having expressed the truth that the Son of God took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance, adds, “So that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead, and Manhood, were joined together in one Person.” Having already shown that there was but one Person with two natures, it is necessary farther to observe, that those two natures continued perfect and entire; for though the Person was but one, the Person of the eternal Son of God, yet we must not suppose that the verity of either of His natures was lost or absorbed.

(1) That He was perfect God appears by what was proved under the first Article; and indeed His Divine nature could not cease to be Divine by his taking to Him the nature of man; for God is not liable to change or to diminution. And though, by taking human nature, the Son of God was enabled to suffer, which to God simply would have been impossible, yet by taking human nature He did not change the nature of God. And this appears from plain passages of Scripture; for where the Son of God is spoken of as God, it is constantly in those very passages where He is called by the name of Christ or of Jesus or of the Son of Man, or is spoken of as incarnate, e. g. John i. 14; iii. 13; viii. 68; x. 30. Acts xx. 28. Rom. ix. 5. Phil. ii. 5, 6. Col. i. 14, 15, &c.

(2) That He was perfect Man will appear, if we can show that He had a human Body and a human Soul, both subject to human infirmities and invested with human attributes.

That he had a human Body appears from His birth of the Virgin (Matt. i. 25. Luke i. 35; ii. 7); from His growth like other children (Luke ii. 52); from His liability to hunger (Luke iv. 2); to weariness (John iv. 6); to pain (Luke xxii. 44); to bleeding and bloody sweat (John xix. 34. Luke xxii. 44); to wounds and laceration (John xx. 27); from His possessing flesh and bones (Luke xxiv. 39, 40); from His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection.

That he had a perfect human Soul appears from His “increasing in wisdom” (Luke ii. 52); from the possibility of His being ignorant (Mark xiii. 32), (which could not be true of Him considered only in His Divine nature); from His being liable to temptation (Matt. iv. 1. Heb. iv. 15); from His feeling sorrow and sympathy (Luke xix. 41. John xi. 35. Matt, xxiii. 37, 38, &c.); from the separation of His Soul from His Body at death, the Soul descending to Hades, whilst the Body was laid in the grave (Acts ii. 27, 31).

And as the nature of His Godhead was not changed (God not being capable of change) by union with His manhood; so also the nature of His manhood was not changed by being taken into His Godhead, farther than that it was thereby exalted, ennobled, glorified. For the object of God’s taking flesh was that He might take to Himself a nature like our own, in which He might be tempted with our temptations, liable to our sorrows and infirmities, and subject to our sufferings and death. The properties therefore of His human nature were not sunk nor absorbed in His Divine nature, any more than His Divine nature was altered or corrupted by His human nature.

3. That these two natures, thus united in the one Person of Christ, shall “never be divided,” appears from the nature of the union, the object of that union, and the declaration of Scripture.[25] The nature of the union being that the Person of the Eternal Son took to Himself human nature, not a human person, it follows, that, if the two natures were divided at any time, either a new person would be brought into being, or else the human nature of Christ would utterly cease to exist. According to the latter supposition, instead of being highly exalted and set above all His fellows, Christ’s human Body and Soul would be annihilated and perish. Surely neither of these hypotheses is tenable. Again, the end and purpose of the union, whereby the Son of God took the nature of man, being that He might join together God and men, Himself both God and man, and the necessity of such conjunction never ceasing, it follows that the union of the natures shall never cease. It is through the instrumentality of Christ’s humanity that man is united to God. When the union has been effected, we cannot suppose that the bond will be destroyed, the link annihilated. It is by virtue of incorporation into Christ’s Body, that the saints shall rise and reign; and we cannot suppose that Christ’s Body shall cease to be one with the Son of God, when the saints, incorporated into It, reign because of It.

And this farther appears from Scripture; where we read, that “Christ ever liveth to make intercession for us” (Heb. vii. 25); that “He is a Priest forever” (Heb. vi. 20; vii. 21, 24), “consecrated for evermore” (Heb. vii. 28); that “He is set down at the right hand of God forever” (Heb. x. 12); that “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and that He shall reign for ever and ever” (Dan. ii. 44; vii. 14, 18, 27. Luke i. 32, 33. Rev. xi. 15).

III. The Article, thirdly, asserts that the Son of God, having thus taken man’s nature, “truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.”

To enter at full length into each portion of this clause of the Article, would necessarily exceed our present limits. The student may be referred to the Fourth Article of Pearson, On the Creed, for a most able exposition of the doctrine of Scripture concerning our Lord’s sufferings, crucifixion, death, and burial.

1. To show the reality of our Lord’s sufferings and death, it is only necessary to read the last chapters of the four Gospels, which require no comment. If they did, such comment would be found in the prophecies of Christ’s sufferings (e. g. Ps. xxii. Isai. liii.), and in the letters and discourses of the Apostles on them (e. g. Acts ii. 22, 23; iii. 15; x. 39; xiii. 29. Rom. v. 10; vi. 8. 1 Cor. xv. 16. 2 Cor. i. 5; iv. 10. Phil. ii. 8. Heb. ii. 9, 10; v. 7, 8; ix. 17‒28; x. 10; xii. 2; xiii. 12. 1 Pet. ii. 21; iii. 18). The reality of the death, indeed, is a subject immediately connected with the reality of the human nature of Christ. The Docetæ, who denied the one, naturally and necessarily denied the other. It was against them that St. John appears to have written many passages both in his Gospel and Epistles, as for example, John xix. 34, 35. 1 John iv. 3; v. 6. 2 John 7. Errors, against which the words of Scripture are specially directed, cannot lightly be disregarded by the Church. But as such errors are not likely to prevail extensively now, it may be unnecessary to dwell at length upon their refutation.

2. One subject connected with the death and sufferings of our Saviour requires to be a little further considered. The Son of God by taking on Him human nature became truly man; and one of the chief ends of His thus becoming man was, that He might die. But it may be asked still, Wherein did His death consist, and how did He suffer? Man dies, when His soul leaves his body. Man suffers, because his whole nature is passible. But Jesus Christ was man; yet not mere man. His Person consisted of the Eternal Son united to a human Body and a human Soul. How then did He suffer, and how die?

He suffered in His human nature, which, being a perfect human nature, was capable of suffering both in Soul and Body. We may not imagine, as has already been shown, that His human nature ceased to be human nature when it was taken by His Godhead; “that the properties of the weaker nature have vanished with the presence of the more glorious, and have been therein swallowed up as in a gulf.” It is true, then, that the Son of God suffered; but not in the Godhead. His Godhead could no more suffer than the Godhead of the Father. But He took human nature, that He might suffer, and in His manhood the Son of God was crucified, and suffered and died.

And His death consisted, not in the separation of His Divine Being from either Body or Soul. Then would not the Son of God have died at all. Then Christ would have been divided into two separate Persons, by the Godhead leaving the manhood; and the mystery and the blessing of the Incarnation would have been lost. The soul does not die by leaving the body, neither would the Son of God have died by leaving either Body or Soul. It was the Person of Christ that suffered death; and as that Person was invested with the nature of man, death was to Him what death is to other men, namely, the separation of the human soul from the human body. The union of the Godhead with the manhood was not disturbed; but the human Soul of Christ left His human Body. But even when the Soul forsook the Body, the Godhead forsook neither Body, nor Soul.[26] “If it had, then could we not truly hold either that the Person of Christ was buried, or that the Person of Christ did raise up itself from the dead. For the Body separated from the Word can in no true sense be termed the Person of Christ, nor is it true to say that the Son of God, in raising up that Body, did raise up Himself, if the Body were not both with Him and of Him, even during the time it lay in the sepulchre. The like is also to be said of the Soul; otherwise we are plainly and inevitably Nestorians. The very Person of Christ therefore, forever one and the self-same, was, only touching bodily substance, concluded within the grave; His soul only from thence severed, but by personal union His Deity still inseparably joined with both.”[27]

3. The conclusion of the Article concerns the end and object of our blessed Saviour’s sufferings.

The Socinians deny that there was any necessity for a propitiatory sacrifice, or that God had need to be reconciled to man. Man, say they, was at enmity with God, not God with man. Man therefore needed to be reconciled, and so Christ came to call men to repentance and to move them to it by His precept and example, and so committed to his disciples the ministry of reconciliation. But to say that God needed to have blood shed, and that the blood of an innocent and holy Victim, in order to appease His wrath, is to make God a vindictive and implacable Being, not a God of love.

The answer to this is twofold.

(1) “A God all mercy is a God unjust:” Justice is an attribute of God as well as mercy. Justice therefore calling for wrath on man, and the love of God calling for mercy, it was necessary, in order to reconcile both these attributes of God, that some means should be devised for satisfying both. We do not say that God was tied to the means which He ordained; but we learn, that His wisdom ordained the sacrifice of His Son, and in that sacrifice we perceive a manifestation of infinite justice and infinite love.

(2) But the same thing appears, too, from many passages in Scripture. There is some ambiguity in the words used in the new Testament for “reconciliation.” The most learned critics have observed, that those words are used in a somewhat different sense from that in which the classical authors use them. But it is quite clear from the contexts that in some passages God is spoken of as needing to be reconciled to man. For example, in 2 Cor. v. 19, where it is said that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” there might be some ambiguity, if it were not added, “not imputing their trespasses unto them;” but these words clear up the doubt. Indeed the whole context speaks as of two offended parties, God and man. God is represented as giving up His wrath and being reconciled through Christ, and then as sending to man, to invite him to give up his enmity and be reconciled to God.[28]

That the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against sinful man seems hardly necessary to be proved. The Article on Original Sin is the more proper place for proving it. It may be sufficient now to refer to such passages as the following: Rom. v. 9. Eph. ii. 3. 1 Thess. i. 10. Heb. x. 26, 27. Rev. vi. 16, 17.

The Jewish sacrifices were expressly appointed to deliver from the wrath of God.[29] The Passover was appointed, that the wrath of God might be averted, when the first-born of Egypt were slain. In the 4th and 5th chapters of Leviticus, directions are given for the mode in which those who have sinned shall make atonement for their transgression. Whether it were priest, prince, or people, they were to bring a victim, to confess the sin upon the head of the victim, and then slay it as a sin-offering. The same is observable of the offerings on the day of expiation; when the high-priest made atonement, first for himself, and then for the people; and also of the scape-goat, which was offered at the same time, the sins of the people being confessed on his head (Lev. xvi.) The Jews looked on these sacrifices as strictly propitiatory.[30] The Gentiles, who imitated them, evidently had a similar notion of their offerings; and those especially, who, in times of peculiar danger, had recourse to human sacrifice, appear to have entertained a strong feeling of the necessity of propitiating the gods with the noblest victims. That the legal sacrifices were types of the death of Christ, and therefore that Christ’s death was a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men, appears plainly from the fact that the terms taken from the Jewish sacrifices are applied in Scripture to describe the death of Christ. Thus He is said to have been “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (see Isai. liii. 5‒8). He is called “the Lamb slain” (Rev. v. 6, 12; xiii. 8). “A Lamb without blemish and spot” (1 Pet. i. 19); “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world” (John i. 29). St. Paul expressly compares the priesthood of Aaron with the priesthood of Christ; explaining to us that whereas the priest of old offered the blood of bulls and goats which could not take away sin, but availed only to a carnal purifying (Heb. ix. 13), so Christ offered, not the blood of others, but His own Blood — offered Himself to bear the sins of many; and so put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. As under the Law, without shedding of blood was no remission, and as the patterns of heavenly things were purified with the blood of sacrificed victims, so the heavenly things themselves were purified with better sacrifices, even Christ (See Heb. ix. x.)[31]

4. It may be well to observe one more expression, which occurs at the very end of the Article, namely, “to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.” It seems as if the reformers were anxious to meet a possible, perhaps an actual error, which, admitting the sacrifice of Christ for original sin, either denied remission to actual sins, or looked for pardon of them to something beside the propitiation offered on the cross. That actual, and not only original sin is pardoned for the sake of Christ, is taught repeatedly in the old Testament, as well as the new.

Isaiah, besides saying that Christ “was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities,” adds a passage expressly indicating actual sin: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isai. liii. 6). It is from “all iniquity” that “He gave Himself to redeem us” (Tit. ii. 14). It was when we were not only “alienated” by original guilt, but “enemies through wicked works,” too, that Christ reconciled us (Col. i. 21). The persons whom the Apostle speaks of as not capable of being saved by the law, but “justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” are described in the strongest terms as actual sinners (see Rom. iii. 12‒26). And again (in 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, 11) he paints the characters of some who had been “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,” as having been stained with the foulest vices and the deadliest sins. St John (1 John ii. 1, 2) distinctly assures us that “if any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins.” And that he meant actual sins is most apparent, because he begins the sentence with “My little children, these things I write unto you that ye sin not.”

We conclude, therefore, that the sacrifice of Christ, the Son of God, offered by Him upon the cross, whereon in His human nature He suffered and died, is a propitiation, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.


  1. Ορειανοὶ λέγουσιν, ὅτι μονογενὴς λέγεται, διότι αὐτὸς μόνος γέγονε καὶ ἐκτίσθη ὑπὸ Θεοῦ, τὰ δ’ ἄλλα πάντα ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ. — Theophyl. in Joh. cap. iii. See Pearson, On the Creed, p. 138; Suicer, II. p. 375.
  2. The statements of the Ante-Nicene fathers on this subject are fully investigated by Bp. Bull, F. D. Sect. IV. De Subordinatione Filii. See also Suicer, s. vv. αἰτία, ἀρχή, πηγή.
  3. See Pearson, On the Creed, p. 160. “In eo autem quod Christum sine anima solam carnem suscepisse arbitrantur minus noti sunt: . . . sed hoc verum esse et Epiphanius non tacuit, et ego ex eorum quibusdam scriptis et collocutionibus certissime comperi.” — Augustin. Hæres. 49, Tom. VIII. p. 18.
  4. Pearson, as above. Mosheim, Cent. IV. pt. II. ch. v. § 17. Neander, C. H. IV. pp. 98‒106. “Apollinaristas Apollinaris instituit, qui de anima Christi a Catholica dissenserunt, dicentes, sicut Ariani, Deum Christum carnem sine anima suscepisse. In qua quæstione testimoniis Evangelicis victi, mentum, qua rationalis est anima hominis, defuisse animæ Christi, sed pro hac ipsum Verbumin eo fuisse dixerunt.” — Augustin. Hæres. 55, Tom. VIII. p. 19.
  5. The technical term for this union was the ἕνωσις καθ ὑπόστασιν — hypostatic union.
  6. Neander, IV. pp. 123‒152.
  7. Suicer, s. vv. Θεοτόκος and Χριστοτόκος. Pearson, On the Creed, pp. 178, 163. Mosheim, Cent. v. pt. II. ch. v. Neander, C. H. IV. pp. 269‒271.
  8. Neander, v. pp. 216, seq.
  9. See p. 33, note 1.
  10. Suicer, s. v. ἀκέϕαλοι. Pearson, p. 162. Mosheim, Cent. v. pt. II. ch. v. Neander, IV. pp. 203‒231.
  11. Mosheim, Cent. IV. pt. II. ch. v. Cent. XVI. pt. I. § 3. Neander, IV. pp 271‒278.
  12. Mosheim, Cent. VII. pt. II. ch. v.
  13. In John v. 18, our Lord speaks of God as His true and proper Father, ἀλλὰ καὶ πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγε τὸν Θεόν. Compare John vi. 46, ὁ ὢν παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, He that hath His being from God.
  14. Origen, commenting on these words of the Apostle, Splendor est gloriæ Dei, says: “Deus lux est, secundum Joannem. Splendor ergo hujus Lucis eest Unigenitus Filius, ex ipso inseparabiliter velut splendor ex luce procedens, et illuminans universam creaturam.” — De Principiis, Lib. I. ch. II. n. 7.
  15. Pearson, On the Creed, Art. II. p. 138, fol. So Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Bk. v. ch. LIV. 2. “By the gift of eternal generation, Christ hath received of the Father one and in number the self-same substance, which the Father hath of Himself unreceived from any other. For every ‘beginning’ (Eph. iii. 15) is a father unto that which cometh of it, and every ‘offspring’ is a son to that out of which it groweth. Seeing therefore that the Father alone is originally that Deity, which Christ originally is not, (for Christ is God by being of God; light by issuing out of light); it followeth hereupon, that whatsoever Christ hath common unto Him with His heavenly Father, the same of necessity must be given Him, but naturally and eternally given; not bestowed by way of benevolence and favour, as the other gifts” (i. e. those of union and of unction) “both are.”
  16. “Pater vita in Semetipso, non a Filio: Filius vita in Semetipso, sed a Patre.” — Augustin. In Johan. Tract. XIX. Tom. III. par. II. p. 443.
  17. See Pearson, On the Creed, Art. I. p. 34; Bull, F. D. § 4.
  18. “Primo illud nos oprtet scire, quod aliud est in Christo Deitatis ejus natura, quod est Unigenitus Filius Patris; et alia humana hatura quam in novissimis temporibus pro dispensatione suscepit.” — Origen. De Principiis, Lib. I. ch. II. n. 1.
  19. Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Bk. v. LII.
  20. The Scriptures clearly indicate this to have been the case. See Luke i. 39‒44; ii. 11. The former passage is especially clear, showing that Elisabeth by the Holy Ghost, and even the yet unborn “prophet of the Highest,” acknowledged the presence of their “Lord,” when He was yet in the womb of His mother. The earliest fathers speak as plainly on the subject as if they had foreseen the heresy of Nestorius: e. g. ὁ γὰρ Θεὸς ἡμῶνησοῦς ὁ Χριστὸς ἐκυοϕορήθη ὑπὸ Μαρίας κατ’ οἰκονομίαν Θεοῦ, ἐκ σπέρματος μὲν Δαβὶδ, Πνεύματος δὲ ἁγίου. — Ignat. Ad Ephes. 18.
  21. “Cum ergo in eo quædam ita videamus humana ut nihil a communi mortalium fragilitate distare videantur, quædam ita divina ut nulli alii nisi illi primæ et ineffabili naturæ conveniant Deitatis, hæret humani intellectus angustia, et tantæ admirationis stupore percussa quò declinet, quid teneat, quo se convertat, ignorat. Si Deum sentiat, mortalem videt: si hominem putet, devicto mortis imperio cum spoliis redeuntem a mortuis cernit. . . . Nam et Filius Dei mortuus esse dicitur, pro ea scilicet natura quæ mortem utique recipere poterat: et filius hominis appellatur, qui venturus in Dei Patris gloria cum sanctis angelis prædicatur.” — Origen. De Principiis, Lib. II. ch. VI. n. 2, 3.
  22. Compare John i. 48.
  23. Hooker, Eccl. Pol. v. LIII. 4.
  24. πὶ γῆς μὲν γὰρ ὁ Υἱὸς καὶ ὁ Θεὸς Λόγος βεβήκει, οὐρανοῦ δὲ ἥπτετο, καὶ πάντες ἐχθροὶ ἐπληροῦντο τῆς αὐτοῦ δόξης · καὶ ἐν Μαρίᾳ ἐτύγχανε, καὶ ἄνθρωπος ἐγένετο, ἀλλὰ τῇ δυνάμει αὐτοῦ ἐπλήρου τὰ σύμπαντα. — Epiphan. Hæres. LXIX. Tom. I. p. 788. Colon. Hooker does not scruple to say: “The union of the flesh with Deity is to that flesh a gift of principal grace and favour: for by virtue of this grace, man is really made God, a creature is exalted above the dignity of all creatures, and hath all creatures else under it.” And again, “Since God hath deified our nature, though not by turning it into Himself, yet by making it His own inseparable habitation, we cannot now conceive, how God should without man either exercise Divine power, or receive the glory of Divine praise, for man is in both the associate of Deity.” — Eccl. Pol. Bk. v. LIV.
  25. One of the errors of the Photinians was that they believed the kingdom of Christ would wholly cease at the end of the world, and that the Word would be wholly resolved into the Father, and as a separate Person cease to exist. See Pearson, Art. VI. p. 284, note. The only text which can appear even for a moment to favour the notion that Christ shall ever cease to be both perfect God and perfect Man, is the remarkable passage 1 Cor. xv. 24, 28, where it is said that Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and “the Son Himself shall be subject to Him that did put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” We cannot, however, from this infer, that the Son of God shall leave His human nature and be absorbed into the Person of the Father, and that then the human nature of Christ divested of the Divine shall be subject to God; for, if no other passage in Scripture opposed that notion, this very passage would of itself refute it. It is the Son who is to be subject to the Father; but the human nature of Christ, separated (if that were possible) from His Divine nature, would not be the Son of God. The true interpretation of the passage is, that the Son, who, in His human nature and touching His manhood, is inferior to the Father, yet now seated on the throne of His mediatorial kingdom, reigns supreme over men, angels, and devils. But at the end, when the need of that mediatorial reign has passed away, then the mediatorial sceptre shall be laid down, Christ shall reign with God, upon His right hand; but as κατ οἰκονομίαν, and in His human nature, He is inferior to the Father, so then He shall be subject to the Father; God shall be all in all. — See Pearson, On the Creed, Art. VI. p. 283.
  26. στε ούκ ἄνθρωπος Θεοῦ ἐχωρίζετο, οτε Θεος πρὸς ἄνθρωπον ἐγκατάλειψιν διηγεῖτο · οτε ἡ νέκρωσις ἀποχώρησις Θεοῦ, ἢ ἀπὸ σώματος ἦν μετάστασις, ἀλλὰ ψυχῆς ἀπὸ σώματος χωρισμός. — Athanasius, De Salut. Advent. Jesu Christ. Tom. I. pp. 645, 646. Compare the passage from Fulgentius quoted in the exposition of the next Article: “Secundum Divinitatem suam, quæ nec loco tenetur, nec fine concluditur, totus fuit in sepulchro cum carne, totus in inferno cum anima.” — Fulgent. Ad Trasimund. Lib. III. ch. 34. This is well expressed in some of the Calvinistic Confessions: e. g. Confessio Belgica, Art. XIX.: “Cæterum duæ istæ naturæ ita sunt simul unitæ et conjunctæ in unam Personam, ut ne morte quidem ipsius separari potuerint. Quod igitur Patri suo moriendo commendavit, id vere erat spiritus humanus a corpore ipsius egrediens; at interim divina natura semper humanæ (etiam in sepulchro jacenti) conjuncta remansit: adeo ut Deitas ipsa non minus in ipso tunc fuerit, quam cum adhuc infans esset, etsi exiguum ad tempus non sese exerceret.” — Sylloge, p. 338.
  27. Hooker, v. LII. 4. The whole subject is admirably treated by Hooker; and by Pearson, Art. IV. “Suffered,” “Dead.”
  28. See, at length, Magee, On Atonement, I. p. 202, fifth edition, and the authors referred to there; especially Hammond and Whitby on Rom. v. 10, xi. 15; 2 Cor. v. 18, 19, 20; Ephes. ii. 16; and Col. i. 20, 21.
  29. It is quite unnecessary to consider the question whether sacrifice was a rite in the first instance divinely instituted, or devised by man. If the latter be, as some learned and pious authors have believed, the truth, still it sprang from a natural feeling of guilt, and the need of atonement, and was sanctioned by Almighty God and made a type of Christ, and rules were given for its observance, that the type might be more clear and express. The argument in the text therefore would not be invalidated, even if the divine institution of sacrifice be denied.
  30. Magee, as above, Illustrations, No. XXXIII.
  31. On the whole subject consult Magee, On Atonement and Sacrifice; especially the Illustrations at the end of Vol. I., and the authors there referred to.


E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.

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