"As the Soul is vitally united to the Body": Tillotson and Christological Orthodoxy

In this expression, the Word was made Flesh, is likewise implied the Union of the Divinity with Human Nature in one Person. And this the Text expresseth in such words as seem to signify a most perfect, and intimate, and vital Union of the Divine and human Natures of Christ in one Person: The Word was made, or became, flesh: Which what else can it signify but one of these two things? Either that the eternal Word and only begotten Son of God was changed into a Man, which is not only impossible to be, but impious to imagine: Or else, that the Son of God did assume our Nature and became Man by his Divinity being united to human Nature as the Soul is vitally united to the Body; without either being changed into it, or confounded with it, or swallowed up by it, as the Eutychian Heretics fancied the human Nature of Christ to be swallowed up of his Divinity: Which had it been so, St. John had expressed himself very untowardly when he says, The Word became flesh; for it had been quite contrary, and flesh had become the Word, being changed into it, and swallowed up by it, and lost in it.

The only thing then that we can reasonably imagine to be the meaning of this expression is this, that the Son of God assumed our Nature, and united himself with it, as our Souls are united with our Bodies: And as the Soul and Body united make one Person, and yet retain their distinct Natures and Properties; so may we conceive the Divine and human Natures in Christ to be united into one Person: And this without any change or confusion of the two Natures.

From a 1680 Christmastide sermon - Sermon II - by John Tillotson, then Dean of Canterbury, preached at the Church of St. Lawrence Jewry, London.  While Tillotson is traditionally identified with the now historically disputed category of Latitudinarian, the robust orthodoxy of his account of the Incarnation - echoing, as it does, the Athanasian Creed - is noteworthy.


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