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August 17, 2005

Ch. XVIII. Q. 111. Perfection and Example

THE personal character which Jesus Christ exhibited in Jewry comprehended all, even the most opposite, human virtues—each in its perfection, and all concurring in a demonstration of grace such as has never been given on earth except by Him. Tempted through all human avenues of temptation, He remained sinless;1 and approved Himself as morally invincible and as the pattern and example according to which, by His grace, we are to grow.2

2. It is true that Jesus Christ also grew, increasing in a properly human manner in favour with God, and being made perfect by suffering. But this means that His virtues actualized themselves under the conditions of human growth and experience, and that what He learned by endurance of suffering was required to bring to experiential form the perfections which constitute Him the Author of our salvation. He never grew from moral deficiency to virtue, but was at each stage of His development what He ought to be, exhibiting successively, and as widening experience afforded occasion, the highest perfections of a child, of a youth, and of fullgrown manhood.3

3. There is but one sufficient explanation of this—His divine Person and mission. He came to reveal in forms of human experience, and for our progressive appropriation, the righteousness of God. He did this because divine righteousness is the only final standard of our righteousness, and because that righteousness could not be adequately revealed unless God Himself should live our life, and thus exhibit the manner of perfection into which He wills us to grow. Jesus Christ is our Example because He is God,4 although He is an intelligible and appealing example because He became Man and translated divine righteousness into human terms. Such a mission could not have been fulfilled if by taking our nature He had lost His moral invincibility—His personal impeccability.5

4. Temptation, or moral testing, does not depend for reality upon liability to sin on the part of the person tempted, but upon his moral freedom and possession of natural appetites to which temptation can appeal. Liability to sin decreases to zero in a perfectly emancipated will. Accordingly, impeccability does not preclude real temptation and painful effort in resisting it. Impeccability is neither a defect of volitional power nor an effect of external constraint; and it does not depend upon or imply a reduction of the natural appetites to which temptations appeal. Rather it is a characteristic of perfect freedom, of entire exemption of the will from servitude to appetites. It characterizes moral perfection—initially present in Christ, and the ultimate goal of our spiritual growth. But just because it was not in Jesus Christ to do otherwise than to fight temptation and control appetites to the finish, He felt the pains of resisting temptation more fully than any one else ever did. Therein lies our assurance of His sympathy.6

5. No example contains so completely all the elements of satisfying appeal as that of Christ, although He exhibited the future goal of our growth rather than what we can now attain. If what He exemplified had been level to our immediate possibilities of achievement, either in resources employed or in character displayed, then we should have no example of what we are meant finally to become. The lives of the saints afford needed examples of repentance and struggle with one's own sinfulness; but that which makes their lives exemplary is due to their imitation of Christ, is a derivative branch of His example.7

6. The examples of the saints also confirm the practicability of Christ's example—that is, when viewed as a goal of human endeavour. And this practicability is due to the fact that the boundless resources of grace wherewith Jesus Christ won His inevitable victory are made available to us, through our sacramental union with Him, as rapidly as we learn how to utilize them by the practice of self-discipline.

1 Heb. iv. 15; ii. 17-18; 1 St. Pet. i. 21-22; 1 St. John iii. 4-5. Cf. St. John viii. 46; xiv. 30. Incarnation, ch. v. 3.

2 H.R. Mackintosh, Doctr. of the Person of Jesus Christ, pp. 400-404; H.P. Liddon, Divinity of Our Lord, pp. 163-198; E.D. la Touche, Person of Christ, pp. 232-248; Chas. Harris, Pro Fide, pp. 388-400; E. Bougaud, Divinity of Christ, ch. iv; D. Stone, Outlines of Christ. Dogma, pp. 77-81; Hastings, Dic. of Christ, s. v. "Character of Christ"; C.H. Robinson, Studies in the Character of Christ.

3 K. Theory, ch. vi.

4 Cf. St. Matt. v. 48; Ephes. v. 1-2, Gen. i. 26.

5 Incarnation, ch. viii. 9-11; K. Theory, pp. 126-128; E.H. Gifford, Incarnation, pp. 101-102, Hastings, Dic. of Christ, s. v. "Example."

6 Incarnation, ch. viii. 5-7; W.H. Hutchings, Mystery of Temptation, pp. 116 et seq.; W. Bright, Sermons of St. Leo, n. 15; H.R. Mackintosh, pp. 401-403; A.J. Mason, Faith of the Gospel, ch. vi. 13.

7 H.P. Liddon, pp. 494-504; Ch. Qly. Review, July, 1883, art, iii.; C.H. Robinson, ch. iii.

Posted by AKMA at August 17, 2005 06:32 PM