The Incarnation and Human Life

1 Cor. 15:45.---' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.'

The Incarnation and Human Nature.---The Incarnation is a great revelation of God. It declares what God is in His essential Being. It reveals His redeeming passion and His love. The Incarnation did not create that passion and love. They were in God all the time. Love is His nature; Father is His everlasting name; but His love and His Fatherhood were both hidden till Christ came. The Incarnation declared them and made them manifest. It is in it we perceive the essential dignity and greatness of human nature---it was great enough to contain the Eternal Son of God. One of the best theological treaties ever written was that by Anselm on the question, "Why did God become a man?" That led Anselm at once to the discussion of sin and of atonement. But there is a question just as vital and important which concerns the Incarnation itself, and it is this, "How did God become a man?"

The answer to that question is this, that God could incarnate Himself in man because there was an essential kinship between the human and the Divine. Augustine says, and says quite truly, that the Divine became human in order that the human might become Divine. But this also is true [and to that extent Augustine's sayings needs be supplemented and corrected], that the Divine was able to become human only because the human already partook of the nature of the Divine. For, like God, man is a moral personality. Of course there had to be a great self-emptying on the part of God to become a man. But the possibility of Incarnation was present because man was a moral personality like Himself. God could not incarnate Himself in stars and suns, vast though they are, for stars and suns are just masses of unthinking, unfeeling matter. But He could incarnate Himself in man because man was a thinking, feeling, willing, moral being. The ground of the Incarnation is the great truth that God and man are essentially akin. This is the representation of man that we get in the Bible. When God had finished the work of creation, according to the old Genesis story, He said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'

The final proof of the greatness of human nature lies here---it is such a nature that the eternal Son of God could use it and wear it and inhabit it. And it was the birth at Bethlehem that made all this obvious and clear. It did not create the greatness of human nature; it revealed it---revealed it so intrinsically and essentially sacred and Divine a thing that the Son of God could become a man, a real man, and yet be the eternal Son all the time. The Incarnation has ennobled and glorified human nature.

The Incarnation of the Son of God has not left human nature where it was, but imported into it a new Divine splendor. Wonderful as man was in his created likeness to God, the entrance of the Son of God into the vital body of humanity has raised human nature to a higher point than it ever attained before. This, like the Incarnation itself, is as difficult to define as it is clearly a fact. When 'the Word became flesh, and dwelt among men,' the measurements of humanity had to be taken from a new height, even from the glory of the Son of Man.

This truth about the essential greatness and sacredness to human nature is certainly no 'mere doctrine.' It has the most direct and potent influence upon life. If you think meanly of a thing, you can never do justice by it. Mean thoughts of human nature will lead directly to mean uses of it. And there are certain things that tend to make us think meanly of it.

There is first our accentuated and deepened sense of the insignificance of man as compared with the vastness of the universe. This planet, which men used to believe was the center of the universe, and the inhabitants thereof, at least possibly, the apple of its Creator's eye, we now know to be but a speck amid infinite systems of worlds; and we are, therefore, scornfully asked if it be not but an insanity to imagine that the Infinite Cause whose universe is in endless space has taken the likeness of creatures of one of the most infinitesimal of His worlds, and has 'dwelt among us.' Now this is simply an attempt to terrorize the imagination, and is not to be yielded to. We know little or nothing of the rest of the universe, and it may very well be that in no other planet but this is there intelligent and moral life; and, if that be so, then this world, despite its material insignificance, would remain the real summit of creation. But even if this be not so, still man remains man---a spiritual being, capable of knowing, loving, and glorifying God. Man is that, be there what myriads of worlds there may; and is not less that, though in other worlds were also beings like him.

And if, on the one hand, the contrast between the universe and the individual makes us think poorly of human nature---so also do the things we see in man himself. For human nature as we see it in actual experience is often debased and degraded. There are human beings who inspire us with nothing but aversion and disgust. Our temptation is to despise all such and despair of them, we shall be wholly unable to be used to save and redeem them. We shall do with them as the Pharisees did with the publicans and sinners of their day---leave them to perish. The only way in which we shall be able to do our duty by the lapsed and the lost is to look at them in the light of the Incarnation. They, too, are capax Dei, able to receive and contain God. Christ may be born again in them. Realizing that about them we shall despise none and despair of none.

When you see a fellow-creature suffering and it shocks your refined sensibilities and you say "poor devil," and pass on, you think you have pitied him. But you haven't. You think pity's a passive virtue. But it isn't. If you really pity anybody, you go mad to help him. You don't stand by with tears of sensibility running down your cheeks. You stretch out your hand because you've got to. If he won't take it, that's his outlook. You can't work miracles. But if one does take it, well then, you work with all your might to pull him through. And if you do, what bigger thing is there in the world than to see the salvation of a human soul.

The Incarnation and Human Relationships.---Our Lord did not come into the world as a detached and isolated Person. He was a second Adam---a new starting-point for the race. But He was not unrelated with that portion of the race which preceded Him. In a real way He derived from it, He was a shoot out of the stock of Jesse; He was of the house and lineage of David; He was born the son of Mary; He entered into the various relationships of life; He began by being a little child in the home; He was subject to His parents; He was a pupil in the school of Nazareth; He was an elder brother to a number of brothers and sisters; He filled His place in the community; He paid His taxes; He was a loyal citizen of the State. And in all these relations---these everyday human relations---He was the Holy Son of God. By becoming Incarnate and living our life, Christ has shown how holy and sacred all these relationships can be made. He did not make them sacred by entering into them---but by entering into them He revealed to us how great and sacred and beautiful they are when rightly discharged. But they are often enough the very reverse of sacred and beautiful. There is friction where there ought to be harmony; selfishness where there ought to be loving service; rebellion where there ought to be glad obedience. Life would be a different thing for multitudes of us if only we were wise and gracious parents, obedient children, unselfish and helpful brothers and sisters!

The Incarnation and Daily Toil.---The Incarnation has glorified and ennobled all our human labor. For years Jesus was aquatinted with a carpenter's shop and knew what work was. All the time He knew of this trade, He also was in His Father's house and about His Father's business. Was it not to show the glory and divineness of all labor that Jesus entered the carpenter's home? Amongst the Romans and Greeks especially all manual toil was despised, and was largely left to the slave. Now, if Jesus had been born as a member, say, of the professional classes, that pernicious heresy might have endured and become more and more widespread, and the countless millions who toil with their hands might have thought their labor was a profane and almost contemptible thing. But out Lord redeemed those tasks we think humble from any touch of secularity by Himself knowing real work.


In Christ, timothy. maranatha