The Fountain of Life
The Fountain of Life opened up: or, a display
of Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory.
by John Flavel
Christ's wonderful Person
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." John
You have heard the covenant of redemption opened. The
work therein propounded by the Father, and consented to by the Son, is such
as infinitely exceeds the power of any mere creature to perform. He that
undertakes to satisfy God, by obedience for man's sin, must himself be God;
and he that performs such a perfect obedience, by doing, and suffering all
that the law required, in our room, must be man. These two natures must be
united in one person, else there could not be a concourse or cooperation of
either nature in his mediatory works. How these natures are united, in the
wonderful person of our Emmanuel, is the first part of the great mystery of
godliness: a subject studied and adored by angels! and the mystery thereof
is wrapped up in this text. Wherein we have,
First, The incarnation of the Son of God plainly
Secondly, That assertion strongly confirmed.
(1.) In the assertion we have three parts.
1. The Person assuming, "ho Logos", the Word, That is,
the second Person or Subsistent in the most glorious Godhead, called the
Word, either because he is the scope or principal matter, both of the
prophetical and promissory word; or because he expounds and reveals the mind
and will of God to men, as verse 18. The only begotten Son which is in the
bosom of the Father, he has declared or expounded him.
2. The nature assumed, "sarks", Flesh, That is, the
entire human nature, consisting of a true human soul and body. For so this
word "sarks", in Rom. 3:20, and the Hebrew word "basar" which answers to it,
by a usual Metonymy of a part for the whole, is used, Gen. 6:12. And the
word Flesh is rather used here, than Man, on purpose to enhance the
admirable condescension and abasement of Christ; there being more of
vileness, weakness, and opposition to spirit in this word, than in that, as
is pertinently noted by some. Hence the whole nature is denominated by that
part, and called flesh.
3. The assumption itself, "egeneto", he was made; not
fuit, he was, (as Socinus would render it, designing thereby to overthrow
the existence of Christ's glorified body now in heaven) but factus est, it
was made, that is, he took or assumed the true human nature (called flesh,
for the reason before rendered) into the unity of his divine person, with
all its integral parts and essential properties; and so was made, or became
a true and real man, by that assumption. The apostle speaking; of the same
act, Heb. 2:16. uses another word, He took on him, "epilambanetai", fitly
rendered he took on him, or he assumed; which assuming, though; inchoative,
it was the work of the whole Trinity, God the Father, in the Son, by the
Spirit, forming or creating that nature; as if three sisters should make a
garment between them, which only one of them wears: yet, terminative, it was
the act of the Son only; it was he only that was made flesh. And when it is
said, he was made flesh, misconceive not, as if there was a mutation of the
Godhead into flesh; for this was performed, "not by changing what he was,
but by assuming what he was not," as Augustine well expresses it. As when
the scripture, in a like expression, says, "He was made sin," 2 Cor. 5:21,
and made a curse, Gal. 3:13, the nearing is not, that he was turned into
sin, or into a curse; no more may we think here the Godhead was turned into
flesh, and lost its own being and nature, because it is said he was made
flesh. This is the sum of the assertion.
(2.) This assertion ["that the word was made flesh,"] is
strongly confirmed. He "dwelt among us," and we saw his glory. This was no
phantasm, but a most real and indubitable thing. For, "eskenosen en hemin",
pitched his tent, or tabernacled with us. And we are eye-witnesses of it.
Parallel to that, 1 John 1:1, 2, 3. "That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked
upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life, &c. declare we unto
you." Hence note,
DOCTRINE. That Jesus Christ did really assume the true
and perfect nature of man, into a personal unions with his divine nature,
and still remains true God, and true man, in one person forever.
The proposition contains one of the deepest mysteries of
godliness, 1 Tim. 3:16. A mystery, by which apprehension is dazzled,
invention astonished, and all expression swallowed up. If ever the tongues
of angels were desirable to explicate any word of God, they are so here.
Great is the interest of words in this doctrine. We walk upon the brink of
danger. The least tread awry may engulf us in the bogs of error. Arius would
have been content, if the council of Nice would but have gratified him in a
letter, "homousios", and "homoiousios". The Nestorians also desired but a
letter, "Theodochos", "theotokos". These seemed but small and modest
requests, but, if granted, had proved no small prejudice to Jesus Christ,
and his truths. I desire therefore the reader would, with greatest attention
of mind, apply himself to these truths. It is a doctrine hard to understand,
and dangerous to mistake. I am really of his mind that said, 'It is better
not touch the bottom, than not keep within the circle.' He did assume a true
human body; that is plainly asserted, Phil. 2:7, 8, &c. Heb. 2:14, 16. In
one place it is called taking on him the seed of Abraham, and in the text,
flesh. He did also assume a true human soul, this is undeniable by its
operations, passions, and expiration at last, Matth. 26:38 and 27:50. And
that both these natures make but one person, is as evident from Rom. 1:3, 4.
"Jesus Christ was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and
declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of
holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." So Rom. 9:5, "Of whom, as
concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.
Amen." But that you may have a sound and clear understanding of this
mystery, I will (1.) Open the nature; (2.) The effects; and (3.) The reasons
or ends of this wonderful union.
First, The nature of this union. There are three
illustrious and dazzling unions in scripture: that of three persons in one
God, Essentially. That of two distinct natures, and persons; by one spirit
Mystically: and this of two distinct natures in one person, Hypostatically.
This is my task to open at this time: and, for the more distinct and
perspicuous management thereof, I shall speak to it both negatively and
1. Negatively. Think not when Christ assumed our nature,
that it was united consubstantially, so as the three persons in the Godhead
are united among themselves. They all have but one and the same nature and
will; but in Christ are two distinct natures and wills, though but one
2. Nor yet that they are limited Physically, as soul and
body are united in one person; for death actually dissolves that; but this
is indissoluble. So that when his soul expired, and his body was interred,
both soul and body were still united to the second person as much as ever.
3. Nor yet is it such a mystical union, as is between
Christ and believers. Indeed that is a glorious union; but though believers
are said to be in Christ, and Christ in them, yet they are not one person
with him. They are not christed into Christ, or godded into God, as
blasphemous Familists speak.
Secondly, Positively. But this assumption of which I
speak, is that whereby the second Person in the Godhead did take the human
nature into a personal union with himself, by virtue whereof the manhood
subsists in the second person, yet without confusion, both making but one
person, "Theanthropos", or Immanuel, God with us.
So that though we truly ascribe a two-fold nature to
Christ, yet not a double person; for the human nature of Christ never
subsisted separately and distinctly, by any personal subsistence of its own,
as it does in all other men, but from the first moment of conception,
subsisted in union with the second person.
To explicate this mystery more particularly, let it be
First, The human nature was united to the second person
miraculously and extraordinarily, being supernaturally framed in the womb of
the Virgin, by the overshadowing power of the Highest, Luke 1:34, 35. By
reason whereof it may truly and properly be said to be the fruit of the
womb, not of the loins of men, nor by man. And this was necessary to exempt
the assumed nature from the stain and pollution of Adam's sin, which it
wholly escaped; inasmuch as he received it not, as all others do, in the way
of ordinary generation, wherein original sin is propagated: but this being
extraordinarily produced, was a most pure and holy thing, Luke 1:35. And
indeed this perfect shining holiness, in which it was produced, was
absolutely necessary, both in order to its union with the divine Person, and
the design of that union; which was both to satisfy for, and to sanctity us.
The two natures could not be conjoined in the person of Christ, had there
been the least taint of sin upon the human nature. For God can have no
fellowship with sin, much less be united to it. Or, supposing such a
conjunction with one sinful nature, yet he being a sinner himself, would
never satisfy for the sins of others; nor could any unholy thing ever make
us holy. "Such an High-priest therefore became us as is holy, harmless,
undefiled, separate from sinners, Heb. 7:26. And such an one he must needs
be, whom the Holy Spirit produces in such a peculiar way--that holy One.
Secondly, As it was produced miraculously, so it was
assumed integrally; that is to say, Christ took a complete and perfect human
soul and body, with all and every faculty and member pertaining to it. And
this was necessary (as both Austin and Fulgentius have well observed) that
thereby he might heal the whole nature of that leprosy of sin, which has
seized and infected every member and faculty."He assumed all, to sanctify
all;" as Damascen expresses it. He designed a perfect recovery, by
sanctifying us wholly in soul, body, and spirit; and therefore assumed the
whole in order to it.
Thirdly, He assumed our nature, as with all its integral
parts, so with all its sinless infirmities. And therefore it is said of him,
Heb. 2:17. "That it behaved him, according to all things (that is, all
things natural, not formally sinful, as it is limited by the same apostle,
Heb. 4:15.) to be made like into his brethren. But here our divines so
carefully distinguish infirmities into personal and natural. Personal
infirmities are such as befall particular persons, from particular causes,
such as dumbness, blindness, lameness, leprosies, monstrosities, and other
deformities. These it was no way necessary that Christ should, nor did he at
all assume; but the natural ones, such as hunger, thirst, weariness,
sweating, bleeding, mortality, &c., which though they are not in themselves
formally and intrinsically sinful; yet are they the effects and consequent
of sin. They are so many marks, that sin has left of itself upon our
natures. And on that account Christ is said to be sent "in the likeness of
sinful flesh", Rom. 8:3. Wherein the gracious condescension of Christ for us
is marvelously signalized, that he would not assume our innocent nature, as
it was in Adam before the fall, while it stood in all its primitive glory
and perfection; But after sin had quite defaced, ruined, and spoiled it.
Fourthly, The human nature is so united with the divine,
as that each nature still retains its own essential properties distinct. And
this distinction is not, nor can be lost by that union. So that the two
understandings, wills, powers &c. namely, The divine and human are not
confounded; but a line of distinction runs between them still in this
wonderful person. It was the heresy of the Eutychians, condemned by the
council of Chalcedon, to affirm, that there was no distinction between the
two natures in Christ. Against whom that council determined, that they were
united without any immutation or confusion.
Fifthly, The union of the two natures in Christ, as an
inseparable union; so that from the first moment thereof, there never was,
nor to eternity shall be, any separation of them.
Doubt. If you ask how the union remained between them,
when Christ's human soul and body were separated from each other upon the
cross? Is not death the dissolution of the union between soul and body?
Resolution. True, the natural union between his soul and
body was dissolved by death for a time, but this hypostatical union remained
even then as entire and firm as ever: for, though his soul and body were
divided from each other, yet neither of them from the divine nature. Divines
assist our conception of this mystery, by an apt illustration. A man that
holds in his hand a sword sheathed, when he pleases, draws forth the sword;
but still holds that in one hand, and the sheath in the other, and then
sheaths it again, still holding it in his hand: so when Christ died, his
soul and body retained their union with the divine nature, though not
(during, that space) one with another.
And thus you are to form and regulate your conceptions of
this great mystery. Some adumbrations and imperfect similitudes of it may be
found in nature. Among which some commend that union which the soul and body
have with each other; they are of different natures, yet both make one
individual man. Others find fault with this, because both these united make
but one complete human nature; whereas, in Christ's person, there are two
natures, and commend to us a more perfect emblem, namely,, That of the Cyon
and the tree or stock, which have two natures, yet make but one tree. But
then we must remember that the Cyon wants a root of its own, which is an
integral part, but Christ assumed our nature integrally. This defect is by
others supplied in the Misletoe and the Oak, which have different natures;
and the Misletoe subsists in union with the Oak, still retaining the
difference of nature; and though making but one tree, yet bears different
fruits. And so much to the first thing, namely, the nature of this union.
Secondly, For the effects, or immediate results of this
marvelous union, let these three be well considered.
1. The two natures being thus united in the person of the
Mediator, by virtue whereof the properties of each nature are attributed,
and do truly agree in the whole person; so that it is proper to say, the
Lord of glory was crucified, 1 Cor. 2:8, and the blood of God redeemed the
Church, Acts 20:28, that Christ was both in heaven, and in the earth at the
same time, John 3:13.
Yet we do not believe that one nature does transfuse or
impart its properties to the other, or that it is proper to say the divine
nature suffered, bled, or died; or the human is omniscient, omnipotent,
omnipresent; but that the properties of both natures, are so ascribed to the
person, that it is proper to affirm any of them of him in the concrete,
though not abstractly. The right understanding at this would greatly assist,
in teaching the true sense of the forenamed, and many other dark passages in
2. Another fruit of this hypostatical union, is the
singular advancement of the human nature in Christ, far beyond and above
what it is; capable of in any other person, it being hereby replenished and
filled with an unparalleled measure of divine graces and excellencies; in
which respect he is said to be "anointed above, or before his fellows," Gal.
14:8, and so becomes the object of adoration and divine worship, Acts 7:59.
This the Socinians oppugn with this argument: He that is worshiped with a
divine worship, as he is Mediator, is not so worshiped as God; but Christ is
worshiped as Mediator. But we say, that to be worshiped as Mediator, and as
God, are not opposite, but the one is necessarily included in the other; and
therein is further included the divine religious worship.
3. Hence, in the last place, follows, as another
excellent fruit of this union, The concourse and cooperation of each nature
to his mediatory works; for in them he acts according to both natures: the
human nature doing what is human, namely, suffering, sweating, bleeding,
dying; and his divine nature stamping all these with infinite value; and so
both sweetly concur unto one glorious work and design of mediation. Papists
generally deny that he performs any of these mediatory works as God, but
only as man; but how boldly do they therein contradict these plain
scriptures? See 2 Cor. 5:10. Heb. 9:14,15. And so much as to the second
thing propounded, namely, the fruits of this union.
Thirdly, The last thing to be opened is the grounds and
reasons of this assumption. And we may say, touching that, (1.) That the
human nature was not assumed to any intrinsical perfection of the Godhead,
not to make that human nature itself perfect. The divine did not assume the
human nature necessarily, but voluntarily; not out of indigence, but bounty;
not because it was to be perfected by it, but to perfect it, by causing it
to lie as a pipe, to the infinite all filling fountain of grace and glory,
of which it is the great receptacle. And so, consequently, to qualify and
prepare him for a full discharge of his mediatorship, in the offices of our
Prophet, Priest, and King. Had he not this double nature in the unity of his
person, he could not have been our Prophet: For, as God, he knows the mind
and will of God, John 1:18 and 3:13, and as man he is fitted to impart it
suitably to us, Deut. 18:15, 16, 17, 18, compared with Acts 3:22.
As Priest, had he not been man, he could have shed no
blood; and if not God, it had been no adequate value for us, Heb. 2:17. Acts
As King, had he not been man, he had been an
heterogeneous, and so no fit head for us. And if not God, he could neither
rule nor defend his body the Church.
These then were the designs and ends of that assumption.
Use 1. Let all Christians rightly inform their minds in
this truth of so great concernment in religion, and hold it fast against all
subtle adversaries, that could wrest it from them. The learned Hooker
observes, that the dividing of Christ's person, which is but one, and the
confounding of his natures, which are two, has been the occasion of those
errors, which have so greatly disturbed the peace of the church. The Arians
denied his deity, leveling him with other mere men. The Apollinarians maimed
his humanity. The Sabellians affirmed, that the Father and Holy Spirit were
incarnated as well as the Son; and were forced, upon that absurdity, by
another error, namely, denying the three distinct persons in the Godhead,
and affirming they were but three names. The Eutychians confounded both
natures in Christ, denying any distinction of them. The Seleusians affirmed,
that he unclothed himself of his humanity when he ascended, and has no human
body in heaven. The Nestorians so rent the two names of Christ asunder, as
to make two distinct persons of them.
But you (beloved) have not so learned Christ. You know he
is, (1.) True and very God; (2.) True and very man; that, (3.) these two
natures make but one person, being united inseparately; (4.) that they are
not confounded or swallowed up one in another, but remain still distinct in
the person of Christ. Hold you the sound words which cannot be condemned.
Great things hang upon all these truths. O suffer not a stone to be loosed
out of the foundation.
Use 2. Adore the love of the Father, and the Son, who bid
so high for your souls, and at this rate were contented you should be
1. The love of the Father is herein admirably
conspicuous, who so vehemently willed our salvation, that he was content to
degrade the darling of his soul to so vile and contemptible a state, which
was, upon the matter, an undoing to him, in point of reputation; as the
apostle intimates, Phil. 2:7. If two persons be at a variance, and the
superior, who also is the wronged person, begin to stoop first, and say, you
have deeply wronged me, yes, your blood is not able to repair the wrongs you
have done me: however, such is my love to you, and willingness to be at
peace with you, that I will part with what is most dear to me in all the
world, for peace-sake; yes, though I stoop below myself, and seem, as it
were, to forget my own relation and endearments to my own son, I will not
suffer such a breach between me and you. John 3:16. "God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son."
2. And how astonishing is the love of Christ, that would
make such a stoop as this to exalt us! Oh, it is ravishing to think, he
should pass by a more excellent and noble species of creatures, refusing the
angelic nature, Heb. 2:16, to take flesh; and not to solace and disport
himself in it neither, nor experience sensitive pleasures in the body, for,
as he needed them not, being at the fountain-head of the highest joys, so it
was not at all in his design, but the very contrary, even to make himself a
subject capable of sorrows, wounds, and tears. It was, as the apostle
elegantly expresses it, in Heb. 2:9; that he might sensibly taste what
relish death has, and what bitterness is in those pangs and agonies. Now, Oh
that you would get your hearts suitably impressed and affected with these
high impressures of the love both of the Father and the Son! How is the
courage of some noble Romans celebrated in history, for the brave adventures
they made for the commonwealth; but they could never stoop as Christ did,
being so infinitely below him in personal dignity.
Use 3. And here infinite wisdom has also left a famous
and everlasting mark of itself; which invites, yes, even chains the eyes of
angels and men to itself. Had there been a general council of angels, to
advise upon a way of recovering poor sinners, they would all have been in an
everlasting demur and loss about it. It could not have entered their
thoughts, (though they are more intelligent, and more sagacious creatures)
that ever mercy, pardon, and grace, should find such a way as this to issue
forth from the heart of God to the hearts of sinners. Oh, how wisely is the
method of our recovery laid! So that Christ may be well called, "the power
and wisdom of God," 1 Cor. 1:24; forasmuch as in him the divine wisdom is
more glorified than in all the other works of God, upon which he has
impressed it. Hence it is, that some of the schoolmen affirm, (though I
confess myself unsatisfied with it) that the incarnation of Christ was in
itself so glorious a demonstration of God's wisdom and power, and thereupon
so desirable in itself, that though man had not sinned, yet Christ would
have been made man.
Use 4. Hence also we infer the incomparable sweetness of
the Christian religion, that shows poor sinners such a fair foundation to
rest their trembling consciences upon. While poor distressed souls look to
themselves, they are perpetually puzzled. That is the cry of a distressed
natural conscience, Micah 6:6 "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" The
Hebrew is--how shall I prevent or anticipate the Lord? Conscience sees God
arming himself with wrath, to avenge himself for sin; cries out, Oh, how
shall I prevent him; if he would accept the fruit of my body, (those dear
pledges of nature,) for the sin of my soul, he should have them. But now we
see God coming down in flesh, and so intimately united our flesh to himself,
that it has no proper subsistence of its own, but is united with the divine
person: hence it is easy to imagine what worth and value must be in that
blood; and how eternal love, springing forth triumphantly from it,
flourishes into pardon, grace, and peace. Here is a way in which the sinner
may see justice and mercy kissing each other, and the latter exercised
freely, without prejudice to the former. All other consciences through the
world, lie either in a deep sleep in the devil's arms or else are rolling
(sea sick) upon the waves of their own fears and dismal presages. Oh, happy
are they that have dropped anchor on this ground, and not only know they
have peace, but why they have it!
Use 5. Of how great concernment is it, that Christ should
have union with our particular persons, as well as with our common nature?
For by this union with our nature alone, never any man was, or can be saved.
Yes, let me add, that this union with our natures, is utterly in vain to
you, and will do you no good, except he have union with your persons by
faith also. It is indeed infinite mercy, that God is come so near you, as to
dwell in your flesh; and that he has fixed upon such an excellent method to
save poor sinners. And has he done all this? is he indeed come home, even to
your own doors, to seek peace? does he veil his unsupportable glory under
flesh, that he might treat the more familiarly? and yet do you refuse him,
and shut your hearts against him? Then hear one word, and let your ears
tingle at the sound of it: Your sin is hereby aggravated beyond the sin of
devils, who never sinned against a mediator in their own nature; who never
despised, or refused, because indeed, they were never offered terms of
mercy, as you are.
And I doubt not but the devils themselves, who now tempt
you to reject, will, to all eternity, upbraid your folly for rejecting this
great salvation, which in this excellent way is brought down, even to your
Use 6. If Jesus Christ has assumed our nature, then he is
sensibly touched with the infirmities that attend it, and so has pity and
compassion for us, under all our burdens. And indeed this was one end of his
assuming it, that he might be able to have compassion on us, as you read,
Heb. 2:17, 18. "Therefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto
his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High-priest, in
things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that he himself has suffers, being tempted, he is able to support
them that are tempted." O what a comfort is this to us, that he who is our
High-Priest in heaven, has our nature on him, to enable him to take
compassion on us!
Use 7. Hence we see, to what a height God intends to
build up the happiness of man, in that he has laid the foundation thereof so
deep, in the incarnation of his own Son.
They that intend to build high, use to lay the foundation
low. The happiness and glory of our bodies, as well as souls, are founded in
Christ's taking our flesh upon him: for, therein, as in a model or pattern,
God intended to show what in time he resolves to make of our bodies; for he
will transform our vile bodies, and make them one day conformable to the
glorious body of Jesus Christ, Phil. 3:21. This flesh was therefore assumed
by Christ, that in it might be shown, as in a pattern, how God intends to
honor and exalt it. And indeed, a greater honor cannot be done to the nature
of man, than what is already done, by this grace of union; nor are our
persons capable of higher glory, than what consists in their conformity to
this glorious head. Indeed the flesh of Christ will ever have a distinct
glory from ours in heaven, by reason of this union; for being the body which
the Word assumed, it is two ways advanced singularly above the flesh and
blood of all other men, namely, subjectively, and objectively: Subjectively,
it is the flesh and blood of God, Acts 20:28, and so has a distinct and
incommunicable glory of its own. And objectively, it is the flesh and blood
which all the angels and saints adore. But though in these things it be
supereminently exalted, yet it is both the medium and pattern of all that
glory which God designs to raise us to.
Use 8. Lastly, How wonderful a comfort is it, that he who
dwells in our flesh is God? What joy may not a poor believer make out of
this? what comfort one made out of it, I will give you in his own words, "I
see it a work of God, (says he) that experiences are all lost, when
summonses of improbation, to prove our charters of Christ to be counterfeit,
are raised against poor souls in their heavy trials. But let me be a sinner,
and worse than the chief of sinners, yes, a guilty devil, I am sure my
well-beloved is God, and my Christ is God. And when I say my Christ is God,
I have said all things, I can say no more. I would I could build as much on
this, My Christ is God, as it would bear: I might lay all the world upon
God and man in one person! Oh! thrice happy conjunction!
As man, he is full of experimental sense of our infirmities, wants, and
burdens; and, as God, he can support and supply them all. The aspect of
faith upon this wonderful Person, how relieving, how reviving, how
abundantly satisfying is it? God will never divorce the believing soul, and
its comfort, after he has married our nature to his own Son, by the
hypostatical union, and our persons also, by the blessed mystical union.