Jesus Christ: A Reflection.  by Chauncey Giles

from Chauncey Giles, Lectures on the Incarnation, Atonement and Mediation of The Lord Jesus Christ, (4th Edition. New York: General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the United States of America 1870)

Table of Contents


Lecture I.

The Incarnation; Its Nature and Necessity

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke ii. 10, 11.)

In these few and simple words, the angel of the Lord announced to the shepherds upon the plains of Bethlehem, the most important event in the history of humanity. It marks the lowest depth of the descent of the human race from the innocence of its infancy, and the point where its ascent began. By the coming of the Lord, a new element of life was infused into the hearts of men; a new truth was introduced and became established in human history, which was to be a sun in the spiritual night, growing brighter and brighter unto the perfect day; a central truth which was to be the source of all truth; the standard of all genuine excellence, and the sure guide to its attainment. A fountain of living waters was opened in the scorched and blasted heart of humanity, which was to become a well of water springing up unto eternal life.

The first question that naturally arises is: Who was incarnated?—who came into the world? The angel said, He was “Christ the Lord.” Our doctrines declare that the Being who is called in the Old Testament, Jehovah, The I Am, The Holy One of Israel, The God of Jacob, was the person who was incarnated. This is affirmed in so many passages in the Bible, both directly in the most explicit terms, and indirectly by necessary inference, that it would occupy the whole time of my lecture to repeat them. I can do but little more than refer to the various classes of texts, which declare this.

1. The declaration is repeatedly made in the most solemn manner, that there is only one God. “The first of all the commandments is, The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Mark xii. 29, 30.) “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (Deut. vi. 4, 5.) “I am Jehovah, and there is None Else; there is no God beside Me.” (Isaiah xlv. 5, 6.) “Is there a God beside Me? Yea there is no God. I know not any.” (Isaiah xliv. 8.) “Who is God save Jehovah, or who is a Rock save our God?” (Psalm xviii. 31.)

2. The same Being is repeatedly declared to be the only Redeemer and Savior. “I am Jehovah, thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior.” (Isaiah xliii. 1, 3.) “And all flesh shall know that I, Jehovah, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah lx. 16.) “As for our Redeemer, Jehovah of Hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel. I am Jehovah, and besides Me there is no Savior. I am Jehovah thy God; there is no Savior besides Me.” (Hosea xiii. 4.) These are only a few passages of the same import. Language cannot affirm a truth in plainer and more forcible terms than is affirmed in these passages, that the Being called Jehovah is the only Savior, that there is none beside Him.

3. In other places, as if to avoid all possible grounds for mistake, Jehovah is declared to be the person who was to come, and who did come to save men. “And it shall be said in that day: Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is Jehovah: we have waited for Him; we will be glad, and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah xxv. 9.) “The voice of Him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. Behold the Lord Jehovah will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for Him.” (Isaiah xlix. 3, 5.). “Jehovah shall go forth and fight against those nations, and His feet shall stand, in that day, upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem.” (Zech. xiv. 3, 4.) In other places the Savior is called Jehovah our Righteousness, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. There is no more difficulty in identifying Jehovah of the Old Testament and Jesus Christ of the New as the same person, the same Being, than there is in proving that a man who has held various offices and sustained various relations to others is the same man through all his changes.

The person or Being, then, who is called Jehovah, God, the Holy One of Israel, is the only Redeemer, the only Savior. There is no other. He promises to come into this world. He declares that His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives; and, after His coming, He declares that He has come, that He was before Abraham; that He came down from heaven; that He was the Creator of all things; that He came to be a Savior, and was a Savior, and the only Savior. To the question: Who came into the world?—who was incarnated? the Bible answers, Jehovah, the only God of heaven and earth.

Our next question naturally is, Why was it necessary for him, that he might become a Savior, to come into this world and suffer and die?

There have been various answers to this question. The one commonly given is, in substance, this: Man had sinned and exposed himself to the penalties of a violated law. God had declared that He would punish sin, and He must do it, to maintain His own integrity and the honor of his government. But if the punishment was actually inflicted upon the sinner, he must be subject to eternal torment. Here, then, was a conflict between the Divine Mercy and justice. In this exigency the Son of God, the Second Person in the Trinity, offered to take upon Himself the punishment due to man. Thus, the demands of justice could be satisfied, the law could be sustained, and yet man could be saved. This offer was accepted by the Father. But in order to receive the full measure of the punishment due to the sinner, it was necessary that he should undergo the humiliation of coming into this world, of suffering every indignity, and, finally, that He should be condemned and crucified. Thus He bore the punishment of our sins; “He was wounded for our transgression, and by His stripes we are healed.” Now the demands of the law are satisfied. God can be just, and yet forgive the sinner. By giving up His only Son to an ignominious and cruel death, He shows His inflexible determination to inflict upon some one the penalty due to sin, and sets forth His love for man in making so great a sacrifice for him. Now, too, the sinner can be saved by accepting the sacrifice Christ has made for him. Consequently, he prays the Father to forgive him for Christ’s sake, and if he sincerely repents, and heartily believes in the Savior, His merits are imputed to him and he is saved.

There have always been, in the minds of intelligent and sincere Christians, many difficulties resulting from this doctrine, and thousands of volumes have been written to explain them away. In considering the subject at the present time, it seems proper for us to mention some of them, that we may see more clearly, that while the doctrines of the New Church teach the absolute necessity of the Lord’s coming into the world, to human salvation, they obviate many of the difficulties and contradictions involved in the doctrine commonly received.

1. It is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile this doctrine with the Divine Unity. Two distinct beings are necessarily implied—beings of quite different if not opposite characters. If they are the same, and have the same character, the Son ought to demand justice as well as the Father. Both are creators, both are lawgivers, both have been offended, and if the justice of the one demands satisfaction, why does not the justice of the other? If one was willing to suffer, why was not the other also? Or, if it was necessary for one to suffer, why was it not just as necessary for the other? While, therefore, the theory necessitates two persons to give it any color of truth, and thus destroys the unity of God, it avoids no difficulties, but rather increases them.

2. Again: According to this doctrine the being called Jehovah, in the Old Testament, did not come into the world. He sent his Son. It was the Second Person in the Trinity, therefore, who came, and who is the Savior and Redeemer, and the only Savior. But this is directly contrary to the most explicit and oft-repeated declarations of Scripture. Jehovah declares that He is the only Savior, that there is no other beside Him. Neither does He fulfill His promise, that He will come and save men. He does not come; He sends some one else.

3. But waiving all these objections, and supposing the plan to be carried out according to the doctrine, does it really accomplish the end for which it was instituted? Does it satisfy the demands of justice? Is it just that the innocent should suffer for the guilty, even if, from their compassionate nature, they are willing to do it? You would not admit the doctrine for a moment in the government of your own family, or in the administration of justice in the state. You make a law for the government of your children, and affix a penalty to it. Let it be a certain number of stripes, for example. A rude, thoughtless, headstrong boy violates it, and when you are about to inflict the punishment, your beautiful and innocent daughter begs you to spare the offender and lay the blows upon her. Would you do it? Would there be any justice in the substitution? Or suppose a man has been guilty of murder, and when he is about to suffer the penalty some innocent and compassionate person steps forward and offers to be hung in the murderer’s place. If you were a judge or an executive officer, would you accept the substitute and let the guilty go free? If it was a debt in which only a certain sum of money was involved, such substitution would be accepted, though there might be no justice in it. All that is really demanded is paid.

This idea of debt seems to be such a happy solution of this whole question, that many persons have accepted it as an illustration of the relation of the sinner to the Lord. By sin man had incurred a debt which he could never pay. He had sinned against an infinite Being, and had thereby incurred an infinite debt, and he was about to be cast into the great prison-house of the universe, with no hope of release until he had paid the uttermost farthing. In this critical juncture the Savior steps in and says, “I will pay the debt; you demand an infinite price, and I will pay it,” and He gives Himself. He suffers all that the whole world of sinners would have suffered, and thus he purchases their pardon. Now God can freely forgive them, since the demands of His justice are satisfied.

But this scheme only avoids one difficulty to meet many greater ones. Think for a moment of the light in which it represents the Divine character. The Lord demands so much suffering for so much sin. It is no matter who suffers, so that the exact amount is inflicted. When the penalty is paid He will be merciful and forgive the debt. What mercy or generosity is there in that? When I am paid to the uttermost farthing all that is due to me, I will freely forego my claim! What kind of compassion, what kind of generosity does this show?

But the illustration does not apply. The law is; “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” In all offences against government, civil or moral, the debtor must pay the debt. The relation is not one of contract, according to which one party is paid an equivalent for some good, or receives damages for some loss. The law not only requires the penalty, but the whole force and intent of the law is evaded unless the one who breaks the law pays the penalty.

The Lord’s justice is not, therefore, eminently set forth in this way. But on the contrary, it makes him the most unjust Being in the universe. It represents him as violating the first principles of justice in His efforts to obtain it—of violating His own law for the purpose of maintaining its sanctions.

But this doctrine involves a still greater difficulty than this. It implies the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner. The Lord consents to regard sinners as holy on the Savior’s account, for His sake. Now, if we know anything, we know that there can be no such transfer of character; no transfer whatever. It is impossible in the nature of things; it is a violation of all the laws of the human mind. A man’s character is the total result of his will and understanding; of his affections and thoughts. It is really the man himself; that which constitutes his identity and distinguishes him from all others. It is as impossible to give our character to others, as it is to give our strength or health, our complexion and features. We can assist others with our strength, our knowledge, our affections. But when we do it, the merit is not theirs; it is ours. We can love others with a sincere, devoted affection. We can suffer for them, and save them from much suffering, but not in the way of penalty for their sins. The Savior is infinitely perfect and powerful; but He can make no legal transfer of His perfection. The Lord might as well regard us as infinitely wise and perfect for Christ’s sake, as regard us as holy and righteous. The principle strikes at the foundation of all righteousness; levels all moral distinctions; dissolves all the inherent connection between sin and its penalty, and makes the Divine laws the dictates of a merely arbitrary power, without any essential order, and thus destroys all necessity for an atonement; for the same arbitrary power could as easily forgive the penalty without any satisfaction as with it. The whole theory is encumbered with innumerable difficulties, and when carried out to its legitimate conclusions, it destroys all justice, all relation between right and wrong, renders the real unity of God impossible, and so arrays scripture against scripture, that there is no possibility of reconciling its various declarations; and does not, after all, show the real necessity for the coming of the Lord.

There is another view, held by many Unitarians, which regards our Lord as a teacher and an example only. He was, indeed, so thoroughly penetrated and imbued with the Divine life, that He is God’s representative and image, and stands before men as their highest idea of the Divine. This doctrine necessarily implies that our relations to God are external, the same in principle as those of one man to another. Man’s salvation, according to this theory, was effected by giving him a more perfect example, and a better teacher.

But all the results, demanded by both of these theories, could have been accomplished without the incarnation of a Divine being. If a certain amount of suffering was the essential thing, that could have been inflicted in the spiritual world as well, and according to common ideas, much better, than in this world. If a teacher and example were all that man’s lost condition required, that want could surely have been supplied without such a stupendous miracle, as the clothing of a Divine or even a celestial being with a human nature.

But whether the Incarnation was necessary to secure the requisite degree of humiliation and suffering to satisfy the demands of justice, or to provide an example and teacher sufficiently perfect or not, the radical question of sin, of man’s lost and dying condition, is not touched by either doctrine. If your child, contrary to your commands, has rushed into danger, led away by some illusion or passion, and has broken his bones, the question of how much punishment he deserves, or how it shall be inflicted, or what better example and instruction he needs, will not mend his bones; nor would breaking the bones of another child heal his. The question is a very simple and practical one. The child must be taken up and carried to his home, a surgeon must be procured, and he must do his work. It is not a question of law, but of surgical skill and practical help. So it is with man. When all the legal questions are settled and the perfect examples provided, man still lies as dead in trespasses and sins as before. The real difficulty is not reached; and it cannot be shown that either theory has any necessary relation to it. They do not touch the essential question, but are, themselves, encumbered with innumerable difficulties and contradictions.

The doctrines of the New Church place the necessity for the Lord’s descent upon earth upon entirely different grounds. We cannot understand the subject, however, unless we can gain a correct idea of the actual relation that exists between man and the Lord. For if we do not know that, we do not know what we are talking about; our theories have relation to nothing, and it is as absurd to theorize, as it would be for a pretended physician to prescribe for a disease when he knew nothing about the nature of physical life. Our first step, then, must consist in learning the true relations of man to the Lord.

Our doctrines set out with the central truth, that all life and power emanate from the Lord, as a perpetual and constant cause. The creation of the material universe or of human beings is not a fiat, the effect of a spoken word. They are a perpetual emanation; a birth; a flowing forth. The Lord creates all things from Himself. All substances material, spiritual, and Divine, flow from Him as a perpetual cause. The universe was not once created and assigned over to the keeping of certain laws, and then essentially disconnected from the Lord. The cause perpetually operates. The power that makes a rock or metal to be what it is, continually operates upon it. If it should cease for a moment, the rock would lose its form. We know this from our own observation. We can destroy the attraction of cohesion in a metal, by the application of heat, and dissipate it. Material bodies have no more power in themselves to maintain their form than they had to create it. All spiritual and natural life is a continual gift from the Lord. We have no inherent independent power to will or think, to feel or act, or exist. All our power, in every plane of life, is an everflowing gift from the Lord. Your power to come here this evening, mine to speak and yours to listen, is as much the Lord’s gift to us as though it was given now for the first time. All power of existence and action is the Lord’s power in us. “In Him we live and move, and have our being.”

Our life comes from the Lord, relatively the same as light and heat from the sun. They are not once created, and then remain. They are continually created. If the lights that now illuminate this room were put out, the light that is in it would not remain. It is a perpetual creation. If the sun was destroyed, the light that is now in the universe would not remain in it; and all the planets would not only be involved in darkness, but would perish; for those magnetic and other subtile forces and substances, which mediately create and hold in existence the various material forms, have their constant source in the sun, and would cease to operate; and as a material object has no more power to retain its form and existence than it has to create itself, the material universe must cease to exist with the cause which produces it.

In the same way, the mind and the body also are a perpetual creation from the Lord. Man is an organic form, created by the Lord to receive life from him, and to be made happy by its reception and according to it. The will is an organic form, and the inflow of the Divine life into it causes love and the affections in their various degrees and forms. The understanding is also an organic form, and the inflow of the Divine wisdom into it gives us the power to reason, to know, and to think; gives us all our intellectual faculties. Our spiritual, moral, and intellectual powers are given to us in the same way, and according to the same law, that all our powers of natural sensation are.

The eye is an organic form, and when the light flows into it we can see. This is the method Infinite Wisdom has adopted to give us light. The ear is an organic form, but very different in its nature from the eye, because it is to be operated upon by a different element from the light. The ether is the form of life which flows from without into the eye; the air is the form it assumes when it flows into the ear and the lungs; the odor of flowers, and the savor of fruits and meats, are the forms it assumes when it flows into the senses of smell and taste.

If you will lay aside all theories and doctrines for a moment, and look at the material body as it is, you will see that it is an organic form, perfectly fitted to be operated upon by the soul within and the material world without, to receive life from the Lord through them, in various ways and degrees. It has no life which it does not continually receive. The moment the light ceases to flow into the eye all power of seeing is lost. The sound dies away in the ear when the air ceases to vibrate and fall upon it. The whole body loses all its life as soon as the spirit leaves it. In the same way the soul, which is a spiritual organism, has no life in itself, and receives it as an everflowing gift from the Lord.

Man was so created by The Lord that he could receive life from Him in a great variety of forms, spiritual and natural, and act in perfect harmony with the inflowing life. When His life flowed into the will, it caused the emotion of love to the Lord and to man. When the Divine wisdom flowed into the understanding, as light flows into the eye, it gave him a perfect knowledge; a perception of the significance of the true relations to himself and to the Lord, of everything which was the object of his observation and thought. Before the fall, all knowledge was gained by intuition, as the knowledge of the whole animal kingdom now is. As the Lord’s love flowed into man’s will, and His wisdom into his understanding, and thence down into his affections and thoughts, and thence into his outward senses and acts, it communicated to every organ its appropriate delight, and man’s whole being and form, in every plane and degree, and least organ, from his inmost will to his lowest senses, was an embodied joy. Every special form received its own delight; all forms vibrated in unison, and like a vast instrument, flowed together in perfect harmony. Man lived, and loved, and thought, and acted according to the truth; according to the Divine laws; for those laws were embodied in his form and organization, and in his relations to the Lord. They were not written on parchment or tables of stone, but in his members, in his book of life. Man stood midway between the Lord and the lowest material forms, and all things, from all worlds, flowed towards him, and found their centre in him; and he found delight and peace in receiving from all and giving to all.

From this state of perfection, which consisted in a loving obedience to all Divine laws, man fell. In what did this fall consist? In the violation of an external and arbitrary law? In eating an apple which the Lord had forbidden him to eat? No, that cannot be. The eating of forbidden fruit may symbolize the real process of his decline from perfection; but the mere outward act could not constitute it. His sin consisted in the violation of the Divine laws written in his spiritual organization. The principle is the same as that which is involved in the violation of the laws of physical life written in the body.

When a man eats too much of any food, however wholesome it may be, he eats forbidden fruit; when he violates any law of health he eats fruit forbidden by those laws, which are Divine laws, written in his organization; and he cannot violate them without dying to the exact extent of their violation. Man’s sin consisted in departing from the laws of spiritual life, and consequently he began to die. Death followed as an inevitable consequence, and not from an arbitrary infliction of the Divine vengeance. The Lord did not change. His love did not turn to hatred. Man changed, and because he began to suffer pain, he attributed it to the Lord. He knew he had received all his joys from the Lord, and he could not be made to understand that he did not receive the pain which was caused by his sins, from Him also. This is the reason the Lord is represented as angry, in the Bible. It was an apparent truth, and is the highest man could then be made to understand. But the real truth is, that the Lord did not change from love to hate; the only change was in man.

The fall was not a sudden one, caused by one act; it was a gradual declension, and according to the doctrines of the New Church, was not fully completed until the Lord came into the world. No one becomes suddenly evil from a state of perfect goodness; the movements of the race are slow, and extend through many generations. Man continued to decline, and an organic change was gradually effected in his spiritual nature. He could no longer receive the Divine Life in its true order. It tormented him instead of giving him delight, and his nature closed against it, as the inflamed eye closes against the light, or an excited nerve shrinks from the slightest contact.

The Lord never deserted man in his descent. He followed him every step of the way, and did for him all He could according to his state. When man had departed so far from the Lord, that he could not be restrained and led to heaven by influences operating from within, the Lord gave him an external law, written upon tables of stone, and permitted him to have a sacrificial worship, which only represented a spiritual and genuine worship, because this was the highest idea of the Divine character of which man was capable. But still man continued to have less and less of spiritual life. “He killed the prophets and stoned those that were sent unto him.” And he had made even “the Divine commandments of none effect by his traditions.” The Lord declares that He had done all He could for His vineyard.

While this process of declension had been going on, another difficulty in the way of man’s salvation had been continually increasing. As generation after generation passed into the spiritual world, there was a vast accumulation of spiritual beings, who were constantly operating upon the minds of those who were living in this world. Spirits of a character similar to man’s had therefore so entirely surrounded him, on the spiritual side of his nature, that they had interposed between him and the Lord, like clouds between the earth and sun, and the Lord could not reach him. These evil spirits had begun to take bodily possession of men, many instances of which are given in the New Testament, and to drive them about at their will; and if the same influences had been allowed to increase much longer, they would have destroyed man from the face of the earth.

Man was in this fearful condition, then. He had so closed all the most interior and spiritual forms of his mind by sin, by willing and acting against the laws of his own being, that he could no longer receive life immediately from the Lord. Evil spirits had so accumulated around him that he could not receive anything good and true directly from the
spiritual world, through the medium of angels or the Lord. He was spiritually sick and dying, helpless himself, and cut off from all means of salvation. It was not a legal, but a real difficulty that was in the way. There was no want of will on the Lord’s part; but the Lord in his unclothed Divine nature could not draw near to him without consuming him. He could not exert a healing and saving influence upon man without in some way graduating His Divine power, veiling it, and adapting it to the diseased condition of man. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai his face shone with such brightness that the Israelites could not bear to look upon it, and he covered it with a veil. In many instances of Divine manifestation men have fallen as dead. This inability of man to bear the Divine presence is what the apostle means when he says that “God, out of Christ, is a consuming fire.” He does not mean that God is filled with such a fierce wrath against man that Christ must interpose between them, or God would consume him; but that the activities of the Divine life are so intense and glowing that man could not endure them for a moment. Our Lord also declared that no man had seen the Father at any time, and that no man could see Him except as He was manifested in Him. The reason is plain. No man could bear the sight. We can hardly glance at the unveiled splendors of the sun. How, then, could we look upon Him who is light itself; whose intense splendors outshine the sun farther than the sun outshines the faintest spark of the glow-worm!

In perfect accordance with this view, we find our Lord repeatedly declaring that He came into this world to bring light and life down to men; to show the Father, or to manifest the Divine life to them; to seek and save the lost; to save men from their sins. There is much also said in the Bible about His tenderness and care to adapt His truth and power to men’s capacities. “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench.” “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd. He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Our Lord also declared to His disciples, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” The Scriptures abound in testimony to the same truth, which is also in perfect accordance with reason. For if the Lord is a being of infinite love and wisdom, and made man to be a recipient of His life, how could He fail to adapt that life to him in all states, the lowest as well as the highest? Both scripture and reason, therefore, lead us to the same conclusion as the doctrines of the New Church. They all declare that the Lord assumed a human nature, because His relations to man, as the perpetual source of his life, were such that He could reach him and save him in no other way.

Before the Fall, when man was perfect, the Lord governed him from within. The higher faculties always controlled the lower. The human will was in perfect harmony with the Divine will, and obedient to it. The will controlled the reason, and the reason the thoughts, speech, and actions. Thus the whole man, from his most interior volitions to the lowest sense, was under the perfect control and guidance of the Lord; and human life flowed in perfect harmony with the Divine life. Man had no more necessity for any outward law to teach him his duty, than the fish has to teach it how to swim, or the bird to fly, and what food is wholesome and good for it. He was a law unto himself. All his faculties flowed in the currents of the Divine order. It was not necessary that the Lord should act directly upon the senses and the lowest degrees of life. Every impulse communicated to the will was conveyed to every faculty. And now, if we can control a man’s will, we can control his thoughts and actions. Hit a man in the heart, and you hit him all over.

But when the higher degrees of the mind were closed against the Lord, and the lower began to rule over the higher, as they now do, the Lord could only reach man by an outward way; He must operate upon the senses and the natural mind, and open the way to his understanding and heart through them. But mere will and thought cannot act directly upon the senses. The affection and thought must come down to the level of the senses, and clothe themselves in sensuous and material forms. We are compelled to do that in our intercourse with each other; must not the Lord do it, also? Observe, it is not any lack of power in the Lord to give, but in us to receive. The Lord lost no power by our declension.

That man was in this condition when the Lord came into the world, observation, history, reason, and the Bible abundantly testify. Man was spiritually blind, deaf, lame, palsied, dead to the truth. To reach him, the Lord must adapt Himself to man’s state. You cannot instruct or guide a blind man by the eye or gesture. You cannot teach a deaf man by sound; you cannot warn him of any danger or direct him to any good by voice. You can only control and guide him by the sense of touch. You must come close to him; you must take him by the hand and lead him, and if he will not be led, but bursts away from you, he must go to destruction. Is there any other way of reaching him? Is there any other hope for him?

Now, if man was spiritually blind and deaf, as the Bible says he was, how could the Lord save him in any other way than by coming to him, in a form adapted to his state. To say that He has omnipotence, does not remove the difficulty. It is not the want of sufficient power, but of power adapted to the end for which it is to be exerted. A man may have sufficient power of will and intellect to accomplish the most important results, but his material body may be so feeble that he cannot even raise his hand. His mental power, therefore, is of no avail for that specific purpose, because it cannot be applied to it.

The whole subject is capable of illustration, by many things in nature and in human life. It is a well-known fact, that it is intensely cold on the tops of high mountains, and that the cold increases as we ascend. The reason is not that there is less heat, or less of those activities which cause heat, whatever they may be, but it is owing to the rarity of the atmosphere. The calorific element is so subtile, that it flows through gross material objects without affecting them, for it meets with no obstruction. It must be clothed with a denser medium like the atmosphere, and the atmosphere itself must be dense as it is near the surface of the earth, before it can sensibly affect the human body, or other material objects. Unless the pure element of heat was so clothed with a grosser form, the earth would be desolate and bare of all vegetable and animal life, though revolving in the ocean of pure solar fire and light.

Now suppose this to be the state of the earth, and the question arises, how can it be made habitable for plant, animal, and man? Must the sun give forth an intenser heat and a more brilliant light? No. It must clothe its heat, which is the life of all material things, in a grosser element; it must come down from its essential purity, and adapt itself to the nature of the objects it desires to act upon. Is it not so? In the same analogous manner the Lord veiled the brightness of His glory, and the intense ardor of His love, in a natural and even material form, that He might adapt them to the end He desired to accomplish. It was no lack of Divine love or Divine power; it was human power, the power to act directly upon man’s senses, that was needed. The Lord did not need propitiating. Man had become separated from the Lord, and he needed reconciling, atoning, to be at one with Him again; and to accomplish this end, a medium or a mediator was necessary, a bridge to span this gulf between man and the Lord; and that medium must be a human nature investing the Divine, touching the Divine Life on one side, and human life in its most sensuous and material forms, on the other side. Such a nature Jehovah assumed, and by means of it, reestablished a direct communication between Himself and man, and brought His saving, life-giving power to bear upon him.

Such, briefly, were the real relations of man to the Lord, and out of them grew the necessity for the incarnation. With a correct knowledge of these relations, the whole process of redemption and salvation lies clear before us. Man was like a branch severed from a vine, or united to it only by a mere external, by some filaments of bark, as it were. By the assumption of a human nature, the Lord formed a medium by which the connection between the branch and the true vine could be restored; by which the branch could abide in the vine and the vine in the branch, and the vital forces of the root and trunk could flow into the branch, purge it of its death—its sins—and cause it to bring forth more fruit.

Having ascertained the real relations of man to the Lord, and found what man really needed, we are prepared to see the essential difference between the doctrines of the New Church, on the subject of the Incarnation, and those which are generally received in the, so-called, Evangelical Churches.

I. The doctrines of the New Church teach us, that Jehovah Himself came into the world, moved by His own infinite love, and in the way provided by His infinite wisdom, for the sole purpose of saving His children. His human nature was begotten by His divine nature, and, therefore, they bear the relation to each other of Father and son. But yet they are one being, one person, and one Lord. In the motives which led to the incarnation, and in every step taken in its accomplishment, we see unity of purpose, unity of method, and unity of person. Our doctrines demand but one Lord, and one name.

The common doctrine begins by dividing the Divine being into two persons, one of whom is the embodiment of inflexible justice, and demands punishment for man’s disobedience to the uttermost farthing; the other is all mercy, and is willing to endure any indignity or any suffering to save man from the punishment due to his sins. This doctrine, practically, makes two distinct beings of equal power, dignity, and substance, who are really unlike in character, office, and ends, and yet they are only one; teaching the lips to say one when the mind conceives two. It confuses and distracts the mind, and runs into contradictions against the plain teachings of the Bible and reason; and, when carried out to its legitimate conclusions, contradicts itself. It requires the most skilful and agile metaphysician to defend it, and the greatest ability to say one thing and mean another, and the most remarkable facility in forgetting one side of the question while the other is advocated. The inevitable result is an acknowledgment that it is a great mystery, and must be received as a matter of faith.

II. The prevalent doctrine teaches that the Lord suffered in our stead to satisfy the demands of Divine justice. One person in the Trinity suffered to satisfy the demands of another, and the sufferings of the Son were accepted by the Father as a substitution for the punishment of the sinner. The Father lets the sinner go free on certain conditions, not because he is free from sin, but because someone else has paid his debt. This involves a principle directly contrary to all our ideas of justice. It would not be admitted in any court or civil government in the world. It is also directly contrary to what the Lord declares to be just. “The son,” He says, “shall not bear the iniquities of the father. The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The motives, also, which these doctrines attribute to the Lord in claiming so much suffering for so much sin, and His unrelenting demand for punishment because we have broken His law, are directly contrary to what he teaches us, to be just and good. He commands us to return good for evil; to forgive those who offend us “seventy times seven;” not if they make a full equivalent for the injury, but simply upon their saying, “I repent.” The doctrine of an inflexible demand for punishment, or that justice which consists in giving “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” is contrary to reason, to the general tenor of scripture, and the explicit declarations of the Lord.

III. Our doctrines teach us that the Lord came to take away our sins. They direct us to fasten our whole thought and attention upon the sin, and never confound it with the punishment. They teach us to shun all evils, as sins against God, and not because they entail punishment; to pray to be saved from the penalty while we cherish the sin is hypocrisy, and can have no avail with the Lord.

On the contrary, the doctrine of the Christian Church looks primarily to the penalty; when it says sin it means punishment. This is the legitimate result of the whole theory; and it is a most fatal mistake, for it leads men to believe that they can be saved from mere mercy, and that salvation consists, essentially, in the Lord’s consent to remit the penalty of sin; that repentance consists really in being sorry that we are going to be damned, rather than that we have acted against so much goodness.

IV. Finally, the doctrines of the New Church show clearly what relation the Lord’s coming into the world has to man’s salvation, and how it effects it; while the other, according to the confession of its most celebrated expounders, does not give us any clear light upon the central truth, which is the key to the whole scheme. After all its reasonings and learning, and the efforts of its learned men, extending over many generations, to construct a logical and rational scheme of salvation, the result is irreconcilable contradictions, and the mournful confession that we cannot see how it effects its object.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Lord has given us a perfect picture of his relations to the sinner. The “certain man” represents the Lord; the younger son, the sinner. See how entirely opposite the whole spirit and scope of the common doctrine of the Atonement is to the plain meaning of this parable. If that doctrine were true, the Father ought to stand aloof from his repentant son; He ought to demand compensation for his wasted estate; He ought to visit him with condign punishment for his ingratitude and sins, and refuse to see him until some one had given him full satisfaction. The elder son, who was indignant because his father would heap blessings upon the young prodigal, who had wasted his father’s living with harlots, was a more correct representation of the Lord, according to the common doctrine, than the father. But how different is the actual fact! The parental heart, overflowing with love and pity for his lost son, yearns to embrace him. He does not wait for satisfaction; it is satisfaction enough that he has seen the error of his ways, and is willing to come back. He does not hesitate for fear that all parental authority will be destroyed if he forgives him. No. “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” He would not listen to his erring but penitent son’s request, to be made as one of his hired servants. His reply was, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

The Lord teaches us the same truth in other parables. Indeed he seems to exhaust every method of expressing His love for us, and of showing us how ready he is to forgive, and bless us, if we will only permit Him to do it. He does what he commands us to do. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Time would fail me to quote the passages in which he plainly declares that He came to reveal the Divine truth to men, to bring the Divine life down to them, and to open their eyes to see it. He says nothing about satisfaction, about the payment of debt. He is the good Shepherd, the great Physician, the perfect Teacher, the faithful Exemplar in every work. He did come to make an atonement, to make us at one with Him and the Father who dwells within Him. He assumed a human Nature because He could not come to man in any other way. He did what a just, wise, and loving father would do. If one of your children had wandered from home, had spent all his living, was sick and dying, would you not do all in your power to save him? Would you not spend time, money, labor; would you not provide yourself with all the instrumentalities in your power that were necessary to reach him? And do you suppose that infinite love, compared with which your love is not so much as a drop of water to ,the ocean, would refuse to be reconciled to His lost and dying children until he had received full compensation for their sin; until there had been measured to Him, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,” or an exact equivalent? It cannot be. Reason, Scripture, the perceptions of justice and mercy which the Lord has given us, and the deep, spontaneous yearnings of our own hearts, declare it to be impossible. No, the Lord did not come into the world to satisfy the demands of an inflexible and arbitrary justice. He came rather to satisfy the demands of infinite love; not to pay a debt, but to reach the dying soul, to cleanse it from its impurities; to heal its diseases; to mould it into His own image and likeness, and fill it with His own peace and blessedness.

This doctrine, concerning this vital subject, does not militate against the Divine Unity. Jehovah Himself came into the world by clothing His Divine with a human nature—the only way in which He could come; the nature he assumed was called the Son. Thus he fulfilled His promise, that He would come and be a Savior. The Father and Son are the same Being, the same person, as the soul and body are one man.

This central truth harmonizes all the apparently opposite declarations of the Sacred Scriptures into one consistent and beautiful whole. It involves none of the difficulties inseparable from the theory of an inflexible demand of so much suffering for so much sin, of vicarious suffering, and a transfer of character. It is in perfect harmony with all we know of the Divine Love, or of the nature of any pure, unselfish love; and when fully understood, it satisfies all the requirements of the Bible, the demands of the enlightened reason, and the aspirations of the heart.

to Lecture 2