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constitution wholly earthly, and such as was adapted to the original constitution of man, which is flesh-a constitution which, without some higher endowment than the natural powers of man received at his creation, is not capable of receiving the heavenly things now revealed to the Church by her risen and glorified Head : for they belong to a SPIRITUAL constitution of things—a kingdom and a glory into which flesh and blood cannot enter. Hence St. Paul, speaking of the Christian Church, says, “ Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him ? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given us of God."* Thus it is clear that the natural man, unless changed and supernaturally endowed-unless a partaker of the Holy Ghost and of the powers of the world to come, cannot receive the things of the Spirit. Neither could the circumcision under the Law, by such a power of faith in God as was common to all the faithful from Adam to Christ, be so changed as to become capable of receiving the things of the Spirit of God. For the capacity of believing equally belonged to the faithful under the Law as to the faith
* 1 Cor. ii. 9-12.
ful under the Gospel. Indeed, the instances of faith recorded in the sacred Scriptures, of men living under the Old Testament dispensation, might put to the blush the faith of many now living under the New Testament dispensation : yet their faith wrought not this change—they were still “in the flesh.” Therefore, in order to receive the things of the Spirit,” it is needed, besides faith, that man should come into a different condition under a new law --one not fleshly, but spiritual; and in that condition receive spiritual gifts and endowments of a higher order than he before was capable of sustaining. In truth, man “must be born again.” He
from a condition of the flesh, to a condition of the Spirit. For the first man, Adam, was made a living soul, and was of the earth, earthy. And as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy. And all the posterity of Adam do by generation inherit the earthly nature. But the second Adam is the Lord from heaven, and a quickening Spirit. And as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly; and all the baptized do become, by regeneration, partakers of this heavenly nature. Howbeit, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual. The natural precedes the spiritual. The spiritual, strictly speaking, came into existence only by the setting up of the Christian Church. Then the natural, through death, was taken into union with Christ, and constituted 66 a new creature."
66 Wherefore (saith St. Paul), henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh,
yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature : old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”* This new condition of our being will be consummated at the resurrection of the just. “And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. It is unto this glory that the Church is ever pressing forward and seeking to attain, as our birthright and heavenly inheritance. « We who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit (says St. Paul), even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” “Beloved (saith St. John), now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”
To this most important doctrine of the new condition of our being, which we derive through our union with Christ, the conversation of our Lord with Nicodemus bears ample testimony: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." The astonishment of Nicodemus, and his reply, only served to call forth a reiteration and confirmation of the truth, that we must be born again. For when Nicodemus, to whom this doctrine was strange, and who could not understand how the second birth was to be effected, answered, “How can a man be born again? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born ?” our Lord, with the same solemnity of manner and expression, replies, “ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” And then, noticing the form which the objection took in the mind of Nicodemus, He adds, if it were possible to realize his suggestion, that a man could enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, yet such a man would still be flesh, and only flesh
* 2 Cor. v. 16, 17.
- for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” But Nicodemus understood none of these things--they were so strange to his ears, that he exclaimed, “How can these things be?” And yet, as a master in Israel, he ought to have known and understood all that the Law taught concerning them. Hence the reproof of Jesus— Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things ? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our witness. If I have told. you of earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven,” that he might attain to the knowledge of heavenly things, “but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in heaven.” For He only is God of God, light of light, one with God, dwelling in the bosom of the
Father. And, therefore, He alone of the sons of men has ascended up to heaven-i.e., He alone knows God as He is, and none but He is in a condition to reveal Him to men; as He also says in another place, “ No man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son shall reveal Him."
In like manner St. Paul, speaking of the constitution of the Church of Christ, and of the unsearchable riches of God's grace conferred upon us through Him, says, “ Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth ?” How emphatic are these words, and how strikingly do they set forth the unspeakable greatness of this dispensation above all others that have preceded it, inasmuch that, in order to introduce it, the Son of God descended from heaven, not merely to speak to man as He had done heretofore by His servants the prophets, but to take our very nature into actual union with Himself, so that in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, Godhead and Manhood might be united. Wonderful mystery !amazing truth! He took Manhood into Godhead : so that in Him, the Man Christ Jesus, these two NATURES, Godhead and Manhood, subsist in one Person. The Manhood is not mingled with, neither is it absorbed in, the Godhead, but remaineth distinct—"PERFECT MAN.” If otherwise, the reality of man's glorification would be lost. Neither was it the bringing of the Godhead into Manhood; for then the infinite and eternal God would be bounded and limited by man, which is a thing impossible. But it was the taking of human nature into union with the divine. And in this first great act of God