John Newton on “Immanuel”

The Mediator, the surety for sinful men, must himself be a man. Because those whom he came to redeem were partakers of flesh and blood, he therefore took part of the same. Had not Messiah engaged for us and appeared in our nature, a case would have occurred which I think we may warrantably deem incongruous to the divine wisdom. I mean, that while fire and hail, snow and vapour, and the stormy wind, fulfil the will of God, while the brutes are faithful to the instincts implanted in them by their Maker, a whole species of intelligent beings would have fallen short of the original law and design of their creation, and indeed have acted in direct and continual opposition to it. For the duty of man to love, serve, and trust God with all his heart and mind, and to love his neighbour as himself, is founded in the very nature and constitution of things, and necessarily results from his relation to God, and his absolute dependence on him as a creature. Such a disposition must undoubtedly have been as natural to man before his fall, as it is for a bird to fly, or a fish to swim. The prohibitory form of the law delivered to Israel from Mount Sinai, is a sufficient intimation that it was designed for sinners. Surely our first parents, while in a state of innocence, could not stand in need of warnings and threatening to restrain them from worshipping idols, or profaning the name of the great God whom they loved. Nor would it have been necessary to forbid murder, adultery, or injustice, if his posterity had continued under the law of their creation, the law of love. But the first act of disobedience degraded and disabled man, detached him from his proper centre, if I may so speak, and incapacitated him both for his duty and his happiness. After his fall, it became impossible for either Adam or his posterity to obey the law of God. But Messiah fulfilled it exactly, as a man, and the principles of it are renewed, by the power of his grace, in all who believe on him. And though their best endeavours fall short, his obedience to it is accepted on their behalf, and he will at length perfectly restore them to their primitive order and honour. When they shall see him as he is, they will be like him, and all their powers and faculties will be perfectly conformed to his image.

Again, Messiah must not only be a man, but a partaker of our very nature. It had been equally easy to the power of God to have formed the body of the second Adam, as he formed the first, out of the dust of the earth. But though, in this way, he would have been a true and perfect man, he would not have been more nearly related to us than to the angels. Therefore, when God sent forth his Son to be made under the law, to redeem us from the curse of the law, that we might receive the adoption of children (Gal iv. 4, 5), and be re-admitted into his happy family, he was made of a woman. Thus he became our Goel, our near kinsman, with whom the right of redemption lay.

But farther, if he had derived his human nature altogether in the ordinary way, from sinful parents, we see not how he could have avoided a participation in that defilement and and depravity which the fall of Adam had entailed upon all his posterity. But his body, that holy thing, conceived and born of a virgin, was the immediate production of God. Therefore he was perfectly pure and spotless, and qualified to be such a high priest as became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Heb. vii. 26); who needed not, as the typical high-priests of Israel, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sin, and then for the sins of the people, Heb. vii. 27. These difficulties were obviated by a virgin’s conceiving and bearing a son. His obedience was without defect, his nature without blemish, and, having no sin of his own, when he voluntarily offered himself to make an atonement for the sins of his people, his sacrifice was, so far, answerable to the strict and extensive demands of the law and justice of God. Let us make a solemn pause, and call upon our souls to admire and adore the wisdom and power of God in this appointment. Thus the Lord created a new thing upon the earth!