Page images

rather to my duty as a man. If indeed those with whom I have to contend were able to produce direct attestation from heaven to the truth of the doctrine which they espouse, it would be nothing less than impiety to venture to raise, I do not say a clamour, but so much as a murmur against it. But inasmuch as they can lay claim to nothing more than human powers, assisted by that spiritual illumination which is common to all, it is not unreasonable that they should on their part allow the privileges of diligent research and free discussion to another inquirer, who is seeking truth through the same means and in the same way as themselves, and whose desire of benefiting mankind is equal to their own.


In reliance, therefore, upon the divine assistance, let us now enter upon the subject itself.5


Hitherto I have considered the INTERNAL EFFICIENCY of God, as manifested in his decrees.

His EXTERNAL EFFICIENCY, or the execution of his decrees, whereby he carries into effect by external agency whatever decrees he has purposed within himself, may be comprised under the heads of GENERATION, CREATION, and the GOVERNMENT OF THE UNIVERSE.

First, GENERATION, whereby God, in pursuance of his decree, has begotten his only Son; whence he chiefly derives his appellation of Father.

Generation must be an external efficiency, since the Father and Son are different persons; and the divines themselves acknowledge this, who argue that there is a certain emanation of the Son from the Father (which will be explained when the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit is under examination); for though they teach that the Spirit is co-essential with the Father, they do not deny its emanation, procession, spira


The Spirit of God, promis'd alike and given

To all believers.

Paradise Lost, XII. 519.

4 The sentence is thus written in the original-quid est æquius quam ut permittant alteri eandem atque ipsi ratione ac via veritatem indaganti -probably an error for eadem.

[ocr errors]

5 Which, imploring divine assistance, that it may redound to his glory, and the good of the British nation, I now begin.'-History of Britain, B. I.


tion, and issuing from the Father, -which are all expres. sions denoting external efficiency. In conjuction with this doctrine they hold that the Son is also co-essential with the Father, and generated from all eternity. Hence this question, which is naturally very obscure, becomes involved in still greater difficulties if the received opinion respecting it be followed; for though the Father be said in Scripture to have begotten the Son in a double sense, the one literal, with reference to the production of the Son, the other metaphorical, with reference to his exaltation, many commentators have applied the passages which allude to the exaltation and mediatorial functions of Christ as proof of his generation from all eternity. They have indeed this excuse, if any excuse can be received in such a case, that it is impossible to find a single text in all Scripture to prove the eternal generation of the Son. Certain, however, it is, whatever some of the moderns may allege to the contrary, that the Son existed in the beginning, under the name of the logos or word, and was the first of the whole creation,



6 Slichtingius, Wolzogenius, Stegman, and others of the Socinian school. See especially their explanations of John viii. 58, the extravagance of which has been well exposed by Dr. Wardlaw, Discourses on the Principal Points of the Socinian Controversy, p. 84-89. Compare also Dr. Pye Smith On the Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, ii. p. 186; Magee On the Atonement, i. 81-88. edit. 1816.

7 Such is the doctrine of our own article, of which the expressions are 'begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father.' These words are not in King Edward's articles of 1552, but were added in 1562; probably because the growth of Socinianism made it expedient to insert an explicit declaration of the true faith. The wise reflections of Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, are so applicable to the Discussion respecting the generation of the Son, on which Milton now enters, that it is impossible not to quote them as a caution to future speculators on this holy mystery. Εἰς εὐσεβεῖς οὐκ οἶμαι λογιζομένους τους μέχρι τούτων ἐπηρωτᾷν, τί τολμῶντας διὰ τὸ ἀνήκουν τοῦ· χαλεπώτερά σου μὴ ζήτη, καὶ ὑψηλότερά σου μὴ ἐξέταζε· εἰ γὰρ ἑτέρων πολλῶν ἡ γνῶσις, καὶ τούτων ἀσυγρίτως κολοβυτέρων, κέκρυπται τὴν ἀνθρωηπίνν κατάληψιν,.


ἂν περιεργάσαιτό τις τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου ὑπόστασιν, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ μελαγχολικῇ διαθέσει ληφοεὶς τυγχάνει; περὶ ἧς τὸ προφητικὸν πνεῦμά φησι, τὴν γενεὰν αὐτοῦ τις διηγήσηται. Epist. ad Alexandrumm Constantinop. apud Theodorit. Eccles. Hist. 1. 1, c. 4, p. 12, Edit. 1682. Thee next they sang of all creation first,

Begotten Son, divine Similitude,

In whose conspicuous countenance, without cloud
Made visible, the Almighty Father shines,

by whom afterwards all other things were made both in heaven and earth. John i. 1-3. "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," &c. xvii. 5. “and now, O Father, glorify me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Col. i. 15, 18. "the first-born of every creature." Rev. iii. 14. "the beginning of the creation of God." 1 Cor. viii. 6. "Jesus Christ, by whom are all things." Eph. iii. 9. "who created all things by Jesus Christ." Col. i. 16. "all things were created by him and for him." Heb. i. 2. "by whom also he made the worlds," whence it is said, v. 10, "thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth;' respecting which more will be said in the seventh Chapter, on the Creation.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

All these passages prove the existence of the Son before the world was made, but they conclude nothing respecting his generation from all eternity. The other texts which are produced relate only to his metaphorical generation, that is, to his resuscitation from the dead, or to his unction to the mediatorial office, according to St. Paul's own interpretation of the second Psalm: "I will declare the decree; Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" which the apostle thus explains, Acts xiii. 32, 33. "God hath fulfilled the promise unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." Rom. i. 4. "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Hence, Col. i. 18. Rev. i. 4. "the first begotten of the dead." Heb. i. 5, speaking of the exaltation of the Son above the angels; "for unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?1 and again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be Whom else no creature can behold; on thee Impress'd, the effulgence of his glory abides, Transfus'd on thee his ample Spirit rests.

Paradise Lost, III. 383.

1 Hear my decree, which unrevok'd shall stand;
This day have I begot whom I declare

My only Son, and on this holy hill
Him have anointed, whom ye now behold
At my right hand.


V. 603.




to me a Son." Again, v. 5, 6, with reference to the priesthood of Christ; 66 so also Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: as he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever," &c. Further, it will be apparent from the second Psalm, that God has begotten the Son, that is, has made him a king: v. 6. yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Sion ;" and then in the next verse, after having anointed his King, whence the name of Christ is derived, he says, "this day have I begotten thee.”2 Heb. i. 4, 5. "being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." No other name can be intended but that of Son, as the following verse proves: "for unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee?" The Son also declares the same of himself. John x. 35, 36. say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?" By a similar figure of speech, though in a much lower sense, the saints are also said to be begotten of God."


It is evident however upon a careful comparison and examination of all these passages, and particularly from the whole of the second Psalm, that however the generation of the 2 ...... Into thee such virtue and grace

Immense I have transfus'd, that all may know

In heaven and hell thy power without compare ;
And this perverse commotion govern'd thus,
To manifest thee worthiest to be heir
Of all things; to be heir, and to be king
By sacred unction, thy deserved right.

Paradise Lost, VI. 703.

3 Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view
And narrower scrutiny, that I might learn

In what degree or meaning thou art call'd

The Son of God; which bears no single sense;
The Son of God I also am, or was;

And if I was, I am; relation stands :

All men are Sons of God; yet thee I thought

In some respect far higher so declar'd.'

Paradise Regained, IV. 514.

'The people of God, redeemed and washed with Christ's blood, and dig nified with so many glorious titles of saints, and sons in the gospel.' —Ŏƒ Reformation in England. Prose Works. II. 378.

Son may have taken place, it arose from no natural necessity, as is generally contended, but was no less owing to the decree and will of the Father than his priesthood or kingly power, or his resuscitation from the dead. Nor is it any objection to this that he bears the title of begotten, in whatever sense that expression is to be understood, or of God's own Son, Rom. viii. 32. For he is called the own Son of God merely because he had no other Father besides God, whence he himself said, that God was his Father, John v. 18. For to Adam God stood less in the relation of Father, than of Creator. having only formed him from the dust of the earth; whereas he was properly the Father of the Son made of his own substance. Yet it does not follow from hence that the Son is co-essential with the Father, for then the title of Son would be least of all applicable to him, since he who is properly the Son is not coeval with the Father, much less of the same numerical essence, otherwise the Father and the Son would be one person; nor did the Father beget him from any natural necessity, but of his own free will, -a mode more perfect and mòre agreeable to the paternal dignity; particularly since the Father is God, all whose works, and consequently the works of generation, are exécuted freely according to his own good pleasure, as has been already proved from Scripture.

For questionless, it was in God's power consistently with the perfection of his own essence not to have begotten the Son, inasmuch as generation does not pertain to the nature of the Deity, who stands in no need of propagation; but whatever does not pertain to his own essence or nature, he does not effect like a natural agent from any physical necessity. If the generation of the Son proceeded from a physical neces

4 Milton puts the same distinction into the mouth of Adam, speaking after his fall of the relation in which his sons stood to him:

what if thy son

Prove disobedient, and reprov'd retort,

"Wherefore didst thou beget me? I sought it not ;"
Would'st thou admit for his contempt of thee
That proud excuse? yet him not, thy election,
But natural necessity begot.

Paradise Lost, X. 760

No need that thou

Should'st propagate, already infinite,

And through all numbers absolute, though one. VIII. 419

« PreviousContinue »