A scene from The Canterbury Psalter (12th century)
Double Consideration (Norton)
John Norton’s 1654 book The Orthodox Evangelist (pdf, html) is mainly about salvation. Its title page describes it as “a treatise wherein many great evangelical truths… are briefly discussed, cleared, and confirmed, as a further help, for the begeting, and establishing of the faith which is in Jesus.”
It’s a sign of doctrinal health, in my opinion, that while Norton wants to establish some truths about salvation, he begins with a substantive treatment of God and Christ. Norton is mainly interested in some details about what happens before justification by faith (200 pages), but he spends 125 pages putting in place the theological & Christological background for that soteriology. The great objective truths of Christian doctrine require our attention; those of us who are eager to teach about the subjective experience of salvation need to go out of our way to include that material. Plenty in Norton on the divine essence, the Trinity, and what he calls “the Efficiency of God,” that is, the basis of God’s work/works/working.
All I’m saying is, if you want to discuss, clear, & confirm many great evangelical truths to help beget and establish faith, you’d better lay a deep foundation in the divine essence and existence. You’ll be glad you did. It’ll make you an orthodox evangelist, see?
Here’s an especially good sample of the kind of crisp distinctions Norton makes in Christology. To understand the incarnation of the Son, we need to undertake “a double Consideration of the second Person in the Trinity.” To wit:
- The second Person in the Trinity considered in himself, is God, and not man;
but being considered in personal union with the Manhood, he is God-man.
- That the second Person should be of the Father, by co-eternal generation, was absolutely necessary:
but that the second Person should be united unto the humane nature, was not absolutely necessary; but proceeded from the free pleasure of God.
Or that the second Person should be, was absolutely necessary: that he should be incarnate, was arbitrary, not necessary.
- The second Person, as considered in himself, is of the Fa∣ther, not of the Holy Ghost:
the second Person considered in personal union with the Manhood, is of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
- The second Person, considered in himself, is equal unto the Father,
but considered as united to the Manhood, is inferior to the Father, in respect of his voluntary dispensation.
- The second Person, considered in himself, was of the object of faith unto Adam in the first covenant, who was to believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
but the second Person incarnate, God-man, Mediator, was not of the object of faith in the first, though he be in the second Covenant.