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“Every one that is godly shall make his prayer unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.”* And again : “He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee : behold, now is the accepted time ; behold, now is the day of salvation.” + * Ps. xxxii. 7.
+ 2 Cor. vi. 2
ON 1 TIMOTHY III. 16. (1845.)
God was, manifest in the flesh.
(Among the London Parochial Tracts.)
This is a clear statement of the highest mystery of the Christian Revelation; that God Himself, in the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, became really and truly Man, and lived and died a Man. Our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, the Redeemer of men, by His Atonement on the cross, from their sins and their punishment, is both God and MAN.
This awful truth we recognise, in less precise terms often, in express terms in various places, in the prayers and services of the Church. In the Litany, when we pray to Christ as God the Son; in the Nicene Creed, when we confess Him as very God; in the Athanasian Creed at greater length ; in many of the Collects, when we address Him as being with the Father and the Holy Ghost One God. It may perhaps be doubted whether all those who in words assert this wonderful fact, do duly feel and realise it; whether their belief is a real and a true one, and in some measure suitable, in its effects on the mind, to the exceeding awfulness of the subject. I say in some measure; for assuredly man cannot, with his limited faculties, lay hold of the apprehension of this Divine Mystery, God manifest in the flesh, with anything approaching to fulness. As the bodily eye cannot look at the sun, and as, if we try to fix our thoughts steadily on the idea of Eternity, our
minds will be stunned and fail in the effort, so will it be if we should attempt to grasp in them the true reality of the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ. But this is said lest we should imagine that the understanding is called upon to do what is far beyond its powers. A true and deep belief may well exist together with an imperfect understanding: and the dangerous error which has often prevailed among men is, that it matters not what they believe as to the nature of our Blessed LORD and the other great revealed mysteries of the Gospel, provided they obey its precepts and rule of life. What are the words of Scripture ? “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”* Believeth what? assuredly the Revelation which Christ made known to mankind. And shall that be called an unimportant part of that Revelation, which tells us who our Blessed Lord, its Author, is ? Being God, is it immaterial that He should be acknowledged as such ? Consider the meaning of our own words ; when we say in the Creed that we believe in Jesus Christ, we mean that we believe that He is : that He is who? God the Son, perfect GoD and perfect Man: "equal to the Father as touching his Godhead," though “inferior to Him as touching His manhood.” Let us then, at times at least, and as we are able, bring our thoughts steadily to gaze at this amazing mystery, as it is made known to us; and in our minds hold fast that form of sound and safe words in which it is declared to us in Scripture, and thence taken in the language of the Church. Not that we are to make it the subject of frequent and familiar conversation. It is not for nothing
. * Mark xvi. 16.
that our Lord himself seems to have rather led His disciples' thoughts to the contemplation of His Divine Essence, by His behaviour and actions, than brought it before them in express words. He spoke of Himself as the Son of Man rather than as God the Son. But nowhere in the Bible is any restraint laid upon our meditations; on humble and dutiful contemplation of what is revealed. Let us then often bring before our minds, and dwell upon, such texts as those great and overpowering ones :-"The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."* "I and My Father are one.”+ “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”† “ Christ Who is over all, God blessed for ever."ş “Great is the mystery of godliness : GOD was manifest in the flesh.”|| For by the thought of these most penetrating words we shall be more impressed with the manifestation of the Godhead of Christ that shines through all the rest of Holy Scripture. And in praying, whether alone or publicly with the Congregation, to God the Son as to GOD the Father and God the Holy Ghost, let us sometimes at least pause, and endeavour to enter into our own minds, and reflect what we really mean by those heavenly and fearful, yet most consoling words.
Now, in considering what may be useful helps towards thus deepening and making more and more real our belief that Christ is God, of course we must first mention those large and general ones, which are the appointed supports of every part of our faith, and the food of the whole of our spiritual life ; frequent prayer, public and * John i. 1-14. ^ Ibid. x. 30. I Ibid. xiv. 9.
§ Rom. ix. 5. || 1 Tim. iii. 16.
private study of the Bible, participation in the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ; these, united with an honest endeavour to follow the heavenly light of conscience, and to please God, and not ourselves, in all things. For, towards the settling of every part of religious belief, the best advice is that contained in that great and important text of Holy Scripture, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of GOD."* But a few special hints may be given towards the formation of a right state of mind, chiefly on this principal mystery of Revelation, the Godhead of Christ, but partly also applicable to other mysteries.
One may be, that we should guard against having low and unworthy views of human nature, as it came from the creating hand of God. We look around on the world and within upon our own selves, and seeing the endless misery and the sin beyond our power to measure, the utter debasement of the souls of many, the prevalence of avowed selfishness, and the want of any attempt even at true purity and holiness, among the masses of men, and feeling our own consciousness of deadness of belief, or pride, or worldliness, or whatever may be our besetting sin, we are startled, as if it were a strange and impossible thing, when we read that the Almighty Himself became flesh, and dwelt among such as we are, and such as men ever have been. But let us ever bear in mind, that this is the picture, not of our nature as it was first created, but of our nature fallen and corrupt by the sin of our first parents, from whom all mankind have derived it. This is not the state of man's nature in which Christ partook of it. He indeed took our
* John vii. 7.