Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 15
(... continued from part 14) 

Chapter 14. 
How two natures constitute the Person of the Mediator. 
    This chapter contains two principal heads: I. A brief 
exposition of the doctrine of Christ's two natures in one person, 
sec. 1-4. II. A refutation of the heresies of Servetus, which 
destroy the distinction of natures in Christ, and the eternity of 
the divine nature of the Son. 
1. Proof of two natures in Christ - a human and a divine. 
    Illustrated by analogy, from the union of body and soul. 
    Illustration applied. 
2. Proof from passages of Scripture which distinguish between the 
    two natures. Proof from the communication of properties. 
3. Proof from passages showing the union of both natures. A rule to 
    be observed in this discussion. 
4. Utility and use of the doctrine concerning the two natures. The 
    Nestorians. The Eutychians. Both justly condemned by the 
5. The heresies of Servetus refuted. General answer or sum of the 
    orthodox doctrine concerning Christ. What meant by the 
    hypostatic union. Objections of Servetus to the deity of 
    Christ. Answer. 
6. Another objection and answer. A twofold filiation of Christ. 
7. Other objections answered. 
8. Conclusion of the former objections. Other pestilential heresies 
    of Servetus. 
    1. When it is said that the Word was made flesh, we must not 
understand it as if he were either changed into flesh, or confusedly 
intermingled with flesh, but that he made choice of the Virgin's 
womb as a temple in which he might dwell. He who was the Son of God 
became the Son of man, not by confusion of substance, but by unity 
of person. For we maintain, that the divinity was so conjoined and 
united with the humanity, that the entire properties of each nature 
remain entire, and yet the two natures constitute only one Christ. 
If, in human affairs, any thing analogous to this great mystery can 
be found, the most apposite similitudes seems to be that of man, who 
obviously consists of two substances, neither of which however is so 
intermingled with the other as that both do not retain their own 
properties. For neither is soul body, nor is body soul. Wherefore 
that is said separately of the soul which cannot in any way apply to 
the body; and that, on the other hand, of the body which is 
altogether inapplicable to the soul; and that, again, of the whole 
man, which cannot be affirmed without absurdity either of the body 
or of the soul separately. Lastly, the properties of the soul are 
transferred to the body, and the properties of the body to the soul, 
and yet these form only one man, not more than one. Such modes of 
expression intimate both that there is in man one person formed of 
two compounds, and that these two different natures constitute one 
person. Thus the Scriptures speak of Christ. They sometimes 
attribute to him qualities which should be referred specially to his 
humanity and sometimes qualities applicable peculiarly to his 
divinity, and sometimes qualities which embrace both natures, and do 
not apply specially to either. This combination of a twofold nature 
in Christ they express so carefully, that they sometimes communicate 
them with each other, a figure of speech which the ancients termed 
"idiomaton koinonia", (a communication of properties.) 
    2. Little dependence could be placed on these statements, were 
it not proved by numerous passages throughout the sacred volume that 
none of them is of man's devising. What Christ said of himself, 
"Before Abraham was I am," (John 13: 58,) was very foreign to his 
humanity. I am not unaware of the cavil by which erroneous spirits 
distort this passage, viz., that he was before all ages, inasmuch as 
he was foreknown as the Redeemer, as well in the counsel of the 
Father as in the minds of believers. But seeing he plainly 
distinguishes the period of his manifestation from his eternal 
existence, and professedly founds on his ancient government, to 
prove his precedence to Abraham, he undoubtedly claims for himself 
the peculiar attributes of divinity. Paul's assertion that he is 
"the first-born of every creature," that "he is before all things, 
and by him all things consist," (Col. 1: 15, 17;) his own 
declaration, that he had glory with the Father before the world was, 
and that he worketh together with the Father, are equally 
inapplicable to man. These and similar properties must be specially 
assigned to his divinity. Again, his being called the servant of the 
Father, his being said to grow in stature, and wisdom, and favour 
with God and man, not to seek his own glory, not to know the last 
day, not to speak of himself, not to do his own will, his being seen 
and handled, apply entirely to his humanity; since, as God, he 
cannot be in any respect said to grow, works always for himself, 
knows every thing, does all things after the counsel of his own 
will, and is incapable of being seen or handled. And yet he not 
merely ascribes these things separately to his human nature, but 
applies them to himself as suitable to his office of Mediator. There 
is a communication of "idiomata", or properties, when Paul says, 
that God purchased the Church "with his own blood," (Acts 20: 28,) 
and that the Jews crucified the Lord of glory, (1 Cor. 2: 8.) In 
like manner, John says, that the Word of God was "handled." God 
certainly has no blood, suffers not, cannot be touched with hands; 
but since that Christ, who was true God and true man, shed his blood 
on the cross for us, the acts which were performed in his human 
nature are transferred improperly, but not ceaselessly, to his 
divinity. We have a similar example in the passage where John says 
that God laid down his life for us, (1 John 3: 16.) Here a property 
of his humanity is communicated with his other nature. On the other 
hand, when Christ, still living on the earth, said, "No man has 
ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the 
Son of man, which is in heaven," (John 3: 13,) certainly regarded as 
man in the flesh which he had put on, he was not then in heaven, but 
inasmuch as he was both God and man, he, on account of the union of 
a twofold nature, attributed to the one what properly belonged to 
the other. 
    3. But, above all, the true substance of Christ is most clearly 
declared in those passages which comprehend both natures at once. 
Numbers of these exist in the Gospel of John. What we there read as 
to his having received power from the Father to forgive sins; as to 
his quickening whom he will; as to his bestowing righteousness, 
holiness, and salvation; as to his being appointed judge both of the 
quick and the dead; as to his being honoured even as the Father, are 
not peculiar either to his Godhead or his humanity, but applicable 
to both. In the same way he is called the Light of the world, the 
good Shepherd, the only Door, the true Vine. With such prerogatives 
the Son of God was invested on his manifestation in the flesh, and 
though he possessed the same with the Father before the world was 
created, still it was not in the same manner or respect; neither 
could they be attributed to one who was a man and nothing more. In 
the same sense we ought to understand the saying of Paul, that at 
the end Christ shall deliver up "the kingdom to God, even the 
Father," (1 Cor. 15: 24.) The kingdom of God assuredly had no 
beginning, and will have no end: but because he was hid under a 
humble clothing of flesh, and took upon himself the form of a 
servant, and humbled himself, (Phil. 2: 8,) and, laying aside the 
insignia of majesty, became obedient to the Father; and after 
undergoing this subjection was at length crowned with glory and 
honour, (Heb. 2: 7,) and exalted to supreme authority, that at his 
name every knee should bow, (Phil. 2: 10;) so at the end he will 
subject to the Father both the name and the crown of glory, and 
whatever he received of the Father, that God may be all in all, (1 
Cor. 15: 28.) For what end were that power and authority given to 
him, save that the Father might govern us by his hand? In the same 
sense, also, he is said to sit at the right hand of the Father. But 
this is only for a time, until we enjoy the immediate presence of 
his Godhead. And here we cannot excuse the error of some ancient 
writers, who, by not attending to the office of Mediator, darken the 
genuine meaning of almost the whole doctrine which we read in the 
Gospel of John, and entangle themselves in many snares. Let us, 
therefore, regard it as the key of true interpretation, that those 
things which refer to the office of Mediator are not spoken of the 
divine or human nature simply. Christ, therefore, shall reign until 
he appear to judge the world, inasmuch as, according to the measure 
of our feeble capacity, he now connects us with the Father. But 
when, as partakers of the heavenly glory, we shall see God as he is, 
then Christ, having accomplished the office of Mediator, shall cease 
to be the vicegerent of the Father, and will be content with the 
glory which he possessed before the world was. Nor is the name of 
Lord specially applicable to the person of Christ in any other 
respect than in so far as he holds a middle place between God and 
us. To this effect are the words of Paul, "To us there is but one 
God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord 
Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him," (1 Cor. 8: 6;) 
that is, to the latter a temporary authority has been committed by 
the Father until his divine majesty shall be beheld face to face. 
His giving up of the kingdom to the Father, so far from impairing 
his majesty, will give a brighter manifestation of it. God will then 
cease to be the head of Christ, and Christ's own Godhead will then 
shine forth of itself, whereas it is now in a manner veiled. 
    4. This observation, if the readers apply it properly, will be 
of no small use in solving a vast number of difficulties. For it is 
strange how the ignorant, nay, some who are not altogether without 
learning, are perplexed by these modes of expression which they see 
applied to Christ, without being properly adapted either to his 
divinity or his humanity, not considering their accordance with the 
character in which he was manifested as God and man, and with his 
office of Mediator. It is very easy to see how beautifully they 
accord with each other, provided they have a sober interpreter, one 
who examines these great mysteries with the reverence which is meet. 
But there is nothing which furious and frantic spirits cannot throw 
into confusion. They fasten on the attributes of humanity to destroy 
his divinity; and, on the other hand, on those of his divinity to 
destroy his humanity: while those which, spoken conjointly of the 
two natures, apply to neither, they employ to destroy both. But what 
else is this than to contend that Christ is not man because he is 
God, not God because he is man, and neither God nor man because he 
is both at once. Christ, therefore, as God and man, possessing 
natures which are united, but not confused, we conclude that he is 
our Lord and the true Son of God, even according to his humanity, 
though not by means of his humanity. For we must put far from us the 
heresy of Nestorius, who, presuming to dissect rather than 
distinguish between the two natures, devised a double Christ. But we 
see the Scripture loudly protesting against this, when the name of 
the Son of God is given to him who is born of a Virgin, and the 
Virgin herself is called the mother of our Lord, (Luke 1: 32, 43.) 
We must beware also of the insane fancy of Eutyches, lest, when we 
would demonstrate the unity of person, we destroy the two natures. 
The many passages we have already quoted, in which the divinity is 
distinguished from the humanity, and the many other passages 
existing throughout Scripture, may well stop the mouth of the most 
contentious. I will shortly add a few observations, which will still 
better dispose of this fiction. For the present, one passage will 
suffice - Christ would not have called his body a temple, (John 2: 
19,) had not the Godhead distinctly dwelt in it. Wherefore, as 
Nestorius had been justly condemned in the Council of Ephesus, so 
afterwards was Eutyches in those of Constantinople and Chalcedony, 
it being not more lawful to confound the two natures of Christ than 
to divide them. 
    5. But in our age, also, has arisen a not less fatal monster, 
Michael Servetus, who for the Son of God has substituted a figment 
composed of the essence of God, spirit, flesh, and three untreated 
elements. First, indeed, he denies that Christ is the Son of God, 
for any other reason than because he was begotten in the womb of the 
Virgin by the Holy Spirit. The tendency of this crafty device is to 
make out, by destroying the distinction of the two natures, that 
Christ is somewhat composed of God and man, and yet is not to be 
deemed God and man. His aim throughout is to establish, that before 
Christ was manifested in the flesh there were only shadowy figures 
in God, the truth or effect of which existed for the first time, 
when the Word who had been destined to that honour truly began to be 
the Son of God. We indeed acknowledge that the Mediator who was born 
of the Virgin is properly the Son of God. And how could the man 
Christ be a mirror of the inestimable grace of God, had not the 
dignity been conferred upon him both of being and of being called 
the only-begotten Son of God? Meanwhile, however, the definition of 
the Church stands unmoved, that he is accounted the Son of God, 
because the Word begotten by the Father before all ages assumed 
human nature by hypostatic union, - a term used by ancient writers 
to denote the union which of two natures constitutes one person, and 
invented to refute the dream of Nestorius, who pretended that the 
Son of God dwelt in the flesh in such a manner as not to be at the 
same time man. Servetus calumniously charges us with making the Son 
of God double, when we say that the eternal Word before he was 
clothed with flesh was already the Son of God: as if we said 
anything more than that he was manifested in the flesh. Although he 
was God before he became man, he did not therefore begin to be a new 
God. Nor is there any greater absurdity in holding that the Son of 
God, who by eternal generation ever had the property of being a Son, 
appeared in the flesh. This is intimated by the angel's word to 
Mary: "That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called 
the Son of God," (Luke 1: 35;) as if he had said that the name of 
Son, which was more obscure under the law, would become celebrated 
and universally known. Corresponding to this is the passage of Paul, 
that being now the sons of God by Christ, we "have received the 
Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father," (Rom. 8: 15.) 
Were not also the holy patriarchs of old reckoned among the sons of 
God? Yea, trusting to this privilege, they invoked God as their 
Father. But because ever since the only-begotten Son of God came 
forth into the world, his celestial paternity has been more clearly 
manifested, Paul assigns this to the kingdom of Christ as its 
distinguishing feature. We must, however, constantly hold, that God 
never was a Father to angels and men save in respect of his 
only-begotten Son: that men, especially, who by their iniquity were 
rendered hateful to God, are sons by gratuitous adoption, because he 
is a Son by nature. Nor is there anything in the assertion of 
Servetus, that this depends on the filiation which God had decreed 
with himself. Here we deal not with figures, as expiation by the 
blood of beasts was shown to be; but since they could not be the 
sons of God in reality, unless their adoption was founded in the 
head, it is against all reason to deprive the head of that which is 
common to the members. I go farther: since the Scripture gives the 
name of sons of God to the angels, whose great dignity in this 
respect depended not on the future redemption, Christ must in order 
take precedence of them that he may reconcile the Father to them. I 
will again briefly repeat and add the same thing concerning the 
human race. Since angels as well as men were at first created on the 
condition that God should be the common Father of both; if it is 
true, as Paul says, that Christ always was the head, "the first-born 
of every creature - that in all things he might have the pre- 
eminence," (Col. 1: 15,18,) I think I may legitimately infer, that 
he existed as the Son of God before the creation of the world. 
    6. But if his filiation (if I may so express it) had a 
beginning at the time when he was manifested in the flesh, it 
follows that he was a Son in respect of human nature also. Servetus, 
and others similarly frenzied, hold that Christ who appeared in the 
flesh is the Son of God, inasmuch as but for his incarnation he 
could not have possessed this name. Let them now answer me, whether, 
according to both natures, and in respect of both, he is a Son? So 
indeed they prate; but Paul's doctrine is very different. We 
acknowledge, indeed, that Christ in human nature is called a Son, 
not like believers by gratuitous adoption merely, but the true, 
natural, and, therefore, only Son, this being the mark which 
distinguishes him from all others. Those of us who are regenerated 
to a new life God honours with the name of sons; the name of true 
and only-begotten Son he bestows on Christ alone. But how is he an 
only Son in so great a multitude of brethren, except that he 
possesses by nature what we acquire by gift? This honour we extend 
to his whole character of Mediator, so that He who was born of a 
Virgin, and on the cross offered himself in sacrifice to the Father, 
is truly and properly the Son of God; but still in respect of his 
Godhead: as Paul teaches when he says, that he was "separated unto 
the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in 
the Holy Scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, 
which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and 
declared to be the Son of God with power," (Rom. 1: 1-4.) When 
distinctly calling him the Son of David according to the flesh, why 
should he also say that he was "declared to be the Son of God," if 
he meant not to intimate, that this depended on something else than 
his incarnation? For in the same sense in which he elsewhere says, 
that "though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the 
power of God," (2 Cor. 13: 4,) so he now draws a distinction between 
the two natures. They must certainly admit, that as on account of 
his mother he is called the Son of David, so, on account of his 
Father, he is the Son of God, and that in some respect differing 
from his human nature. The Scripture gives him both names, calling 
him at one time the Son of God, at another the Son of Man. As to the 
latter, there can be no question that he is called a Son in 
accordance with the phraseology of the Hebrew language, because he 
is of the offspring of Adam. On the other hand, I maintain that he 
is called a Son on account of his Godhead and eternal essence, 
because it is no less congruous to refer to his divine nature his 
being called the Son of God, than to refer to his human nature his 
being called the Son of Man. In fine, in the passage which I have 
quoted, Paul does not mean, that he who according to the flesh was 
begotten of the seed of David, was declared to be the Son of God in 
any other sense than he elsewhere teaches that Christ, who descended 
of the Jews according to the flesh, is "over all, God blessed for 
ever," (Rom. 9: 5.) But if in both passages the distinction of two 
natures is pointed out, how can it be denied, that he who according 
to the flesh is the Son of Man, is also in respect of his divine 
nature the Son of God? 
    7. They indeed find a blustering defence of their heresy in its 
being said, that "God spared not his own Son," and in the 
communication of the angel, that He who was to be born of the Virgin 
should be called the "Son of the Highest," (Rom. 8: 32; Luke 1: 32.) 
But before pluming themselves on this futile objection, let them for 
a little consider with us what weight there is in their argument. If 
it is legitimately concluded, that at conception he began to be the 
Son of God, because he who has been conceived is called a Son, it 
will follow, that he began to be the Word after his manifestation in 
the flesh, because John declares, that the Word of life of which he 
spoke was that which "our hands have handled," (1 John 1: 1.) In 
like manner we read in the prophet, "Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, 
though thou be little among the thousands of Israel, yet out of thee 
shall he come forth that is to be a ruler in Israel; whose goings 
forth have been from of old, from everlasting," (Mic. 5: 2.) How 
will they be forced to interpret if they will follow such a method 
of arguing? I have declared that we by no means assent to Nestorius, 
who imagined a twofold Christ, when we maintain that Christ, by 
means of brotherly union, made us sons of God with himself, because 
in the flesh, which he took from us, he is the only-begotten Son of 
God. And Augustine wisely reminds us, that he is a bright mirror of 
the wonderful and singular grace of God, because as man he obtained 
honour which he could not merit. With this distinction, therefore, 
according to the flesh, was Christ honoured even from the womb, 
viz., to be the Son of God. Still, in the unity of person we are not 
to imagine any intermixture which takes away from the Godhead what 
is peculiar to it. Nor is it more absurd that the eternal Word of 
God and Christ, uniting the two natures in one person, should in 
different ways be called the Son of God, than that he should in 
various respects be called at one time the Son of God, at another 
the Son of Man. Nor are we more embarrassed by another cavil of 
Servetus, viz., that Christ, before he appeared in the flesh, is 
nowhere called the Son of God, except under a figure. For though the 
description of him was then more obscure, yet it has already been 
clearly proved, that he was not otherwise the eternal God, than as 
he was the Word begotten of the eternal Father. Nor is the name 
applicable to the office of Mediator which he undertook, except in 
that he was God manifest in the flesh. Nor would God have thus from 
the beginning been called a Father, had there not been even then a 
mutual relation to the Son, "of whom the whole family in heaven and 
earth is named," (Eph. 3: 15.) Hence it is easy to infer, that under 
the Law and the Prophets he was the Son of God before this name was 
celebrated in the Church. But if we are to dispute about the word 
merely, Solomon, speaking of the incomprehensibility of God, affirms 
that his Son is like himself, incomprehensible: "What is his name, 
and what is his Son's name, if thou canst tell?" (Prov. 30: 4.) I am 
well aware that with the contentious this passage will not have 
sufficient weight; nor do I found much upon it, except as showing 
the malignant cavils of those who affirm that Christ is the Son of 
God only in so far as he became man. We may add, that all the most 
ancient writers, with one mouth and consent, testified the same 
thing so plainly, that the effrontery is no less ridiculous than 
detestable, which dares to oppose us with Irenaeus and Tertullian, 
both of whom acknowledge that He who was afterwards visibly 
manifested was the invisible Son of God. 
    8. But although Servetus heaped together a number of horrid 
dogmas, to which, perhaps, others would not subscribe, you will 
find, that all who refuse to acknowledge the Son of God except in 
the flesh, are obliged, when urged more closely, to admit that he 
was a Son, for no other reason than because he was conceived in the 
womb of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit; just like the absurdity of 
the ancient Manichees, that the soul of man was derived by 
transfusion from God, from its being said, that he breathed into 
Adam's nostrils the breath of life, (Gen. 2: 7.) For they lay such 
stress on the name of Son that they leave no distinction between the 
natures, but babblingly maintain that the man Christ is the Son of 
God, because, according to his human nature, he was begotten of God. 
Thus, the eternal generation of Wisdom, celebrated by Solomon, 
(Prov. 8: 22, seq.) is destroyed, and no kind of Godhead exists in 
the Mediator: or a phantom is substituted instead of a man. The 
grosser delusions of Servetus, by which he imposed upon himself and 
some others, it were useful to refute, that pious readers might be 
warned by the example, to confine themselves within the bounds of 
soberness and modesty: however, I deem it superfluous here, as I 
have already done it in a special treatise. The whole comes to this, 
that the Son of God was from the beginning an idea, and was even 
then a preordained man, who was to be the essential image of God. 
nor does he acknowledge any other word of God except in external 
splendour. The generation he interprets to mean, that from the 
beginning a purpose of generating the Son was begotten in God, and 
that this purpose extended itself by act to creation. Meanwhile, he 
confounds the Spirit with the Word, saying that God arranged the 
invisible Word and Spirit into flesh and soul. In short, in his view 
the typifying of Christ occupies the place of generation; but he 
says, that he who was then in appearance a shadowy Son, was at 
length begotten by the Word, to which he attributes a generating 
power. From this it will follow, that dogs and swine are not less 
sons of God, because created of the original seed of the Divine 
Word. But although he compounds Christ of three untreated elements, 
that he may be begotten of the essence of God, he pretends that he 
is the first-born among the creatures, in such a sense that, 
according to their degree, stones have the same essential divinity. 
But lest he should seem to strip Christ of his Deity, he admits that 
his flesh is "homo-ousion", of the same substance with God, and that 
the Word was made man, by the conversion of flesh into Deity. Thus, 
while he cannot comprehend that Christ was the Son of God, until his 
flesh came forth from the essence of God and was converted into 
Deity, he reduces the eternal personality (hypostasis) of the Word 
to nothing, and robs us of the Son of David, who was the promised 
Redeemer. It is true, he repeatedly declares that the Son was 
begotten of God by knowledge and predestination, but that he was at 
length made man out of that matter which, from the beginning, shone 
with God in the three elements, and afterwards appeared in the first 
light of the world, in the cloud and pillar of fire. How shamefully 
inconsistent with himself he ever and anon becomes, it were too 
tedious to relate. From this brief account sound readers will 
gather, that by the subtle ambiguities of this infatuated man, the 
hope of salvation was utterly extinguished. For if the flesh were 
the Godhead itself, it would cease to be its temple. Now, the only 
Redeemer we can have is He who being begotten of the seed of Abraham 
and David according to the flesh, truly became man. But he 
erroneously insists on the expression of John, "The Word was made 
flesh." As these words refute the heresy of Nestorius, so they give 
no countenance to the impious fiction of which Eutyches was the 
inventor, since all that the Evangelist intended was to assert a 
unity of person in two natures. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 15
(continued in part 16...)

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