« PreviousContinue »
sity, the Father impaired himself by physically begetting a co-equal; which God could no tnore do than he could deny himself; therefore the generation of the Son cannot have pro-. ceeded otherwise than from a deeree, and of the Father's own free will.
Thus the Son was begotten of the Father in consequence of his decree, and therefore within the limits of time, for the decree itself must have been anterior to the execution of the decree, as is sufficiently clear from the insertion of the word to-day. Nor can I discover on what passage of Scripture the assertors of the eternal generation of the Son ground their opinion, for the text in Micah v. 2. does not speak of his generation, but of his works, which are only said to have been wrought from of old. But this will be discussed more at large hereafter.
The Son is also called only begotten. John i. 14. "and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." v. 18. "the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father." iii. 16, 18. " he gave his only begotten Son.' 1 John iv. 9. "God sent his only begotten Son." Yet he is not called one with the Father in essence, inasmuch as he was visible to sight, and given by the Father, by whom also he was sent, and from whom he proceeded; but he enjoys the title of only begotten by way of superiority, as distinguished from many others who are also said to have been born of God. John i. 13. "which were born of God." 1 John iii. 9. "whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin." James i. 18. "of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.' 1 John v. 1. "whosoever believeth, &c. is born of God." 1 Pet. i. 3. "which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope." But since throughout the Scriptures the Son is never said to be begotten, except, as above, in a metaphorical sense, it seems probable that he is called only begotten principally because he is the one mediator between God and man.
6 Yet in his Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence, Milton begins his prayer to the Son of God thus: Othou the ever-begotten light and perfect image of the Father.' Prose Works, I. 183. The principal texts on which the doctrine is asserted, are Prov. viii. 22, &c. compared with Psal. xc. 2, and Rev. i. 17. 22. 13, compared with Is. xliii. 10. and liv. 6.
So also the Son is called the first born. Rom. viii. 29. "that he might be the first born among many brethren." Col. i. 15. "the first born of every creature." v. 18. "the first born from the dead." Heb. i. 6. "when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world." Rev. iii. 14. "the beginning of the creation of God,"-all which passages preclude the idea of his co-essentiality with the Father, and of his generation from all eternity. Thus it is said of Israel, Exod. iv. 22. "thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, even my first born;" and of Ephraim, Jer. xxxi. 9. "Ephraim is my first born;" and of all the saints, Heb. xii. 23. "to the general assembly of the first born."
Hitherto only the metaphorical generation of Christ has been considered; but since to generate another who had no previous existence, is to give him being, and that if God generate by a physical necessity, he can generate nothing but a co-equal Deity, which would be inconsistent with self-existence, an essential attribute of Divinity; (so that according to the one hypothesis there would be two infinite Gods, or according to the other the first or efficient cause would become the effect, which no man in his senses will admit) it becomes necessary to inquire how or in what sense God the Father can have begotten the Son. This point also will be easily explained by reference to Scripture. For when the Son is said to be the first born of every creature, and the beginning of the creation of God," nothing can be more evident than that God of his own will created, or generated, or produced the Son before all things, endued with the divine nature, as in the fulness of time he miraculously begat him in his human nature of the Virgin Mary. The generation of the divine nature is described by no one with more sublimity and copiousness than by the apostle to the Hebrews, i. 2, 3. "whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person," &c. It must be understood from this, that God imparted to the Son as much as he pleased of the divine nature, nay of the divine substance itself, care being taken not to confound the substance with the whole essence, which would imply, that the Father had given to the Son what he retained nuinerically the same himself; which would be a contradiction
7 See Beza in loc.
of terms instead of a mode of generation. This is the whole that is revealed concerning the generation of the Son of God. Whoever wishes to be wiser than this, becomes foiled in his pursuit after wisdom, entangled in the deceitfulness of vain philosophy, or rather of sophistry, and involved in darkness.
Since, however, Christ not only bears the name of the only begotten Son of God, but is also several times called in Scripture God, notwithstanding the universal doctrine that there is but one God, it appeared to many, who had no mean opinion of their own acuteness, that there was an inconsistency in this; which gave rise to an hypothesis no less strange than repugant to reason, namely, that the Son, although personally and numerically another, was yet essentially one with the Father, and that thus the unity of God was preserved.
But unless the terms unity and duality mean the same with God as with man, it would have been to no purpse that God had so repeatedly inculcated that first commandment, that he was the one and only God, if another could be said to exist besides, who also himself ought to be believed in as the one God. Unity and duality cannot consist of one and the same essence. God is one ens, not two; one essence and one subsistence, which is nothing but a substantial essence, appertain to one ens; if two subsistences or two persons be assigned to one essence, it involves a contradiction of terms, by representing the essence as at once simple and compound. If one `divine essence be common to two persons, that essence or divinity will either be in the relation of a whole to its several parts, or of a genus to its several species, or lastly of a common subject to its accidents. If none of these alternatives be conceded, there is no mode of escaping from the absurd consequences that follow, such as that one essence may be the third part of two or more.
There would have been no occasion for the supporters of these opinions to have offered such violence to reason, nay even to so much plain scriptural evidence, if they had duly considered God's own words addressed to kings and princes,'
8 In the unity of this Godhead there be three persons of one substance, power and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Firs: Article of the Church of England.
.for glory done
Paradise Lost, XI. 696
Psal. lxxxii. 6. "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High;" or those of Christ himself, John x. 35. "if he called them Gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken-;" or those of St. Paul, 1 Cor. viii. 5, 6. " for though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or earth, (for there be gods many and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things,"&c. ; or lastly of St. Peter, ii. 1, 4. “that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature," which implies much more than the title of gods in the sense in which that title is applied to kings; though no one would conclude from this expression that the saints were co-essential with God.
Let us then discard reason in sacred matters, and follow the doctrine of Holy Scripture exclusively. Accordingly, no one need expect that I should here premise a long metaphysical discussion, and advocate in all its parts the drama of the personalities in the Godhead: since it is most evident, in the first place, from numberless passages of Scripture, that there is in reality but one true independent and supreme God; and as he is called one, (inasmuch as human reason and the common language of mankind, and the Jews, the people of God, have always considered him as one person only, that is, one in a numerical sense) let us have recourse to the sacred writings in order to know who this one true and supreme God is. This knowledge ought to be derived in the first instance from the Gospel, since the clearest doctrine respecting the one God must necessarily be that copious and explanatory revelation concerning him which was delivered by Christ himself to his apostles, and by the apostles to their followers. Nor is it to be supposed that the gospel would be ambiguous or obscure on this subject; for it was not given for the purpose of promulgating new and incredible doctrines repecting the nature of God, hitherto utterly unheard of by his own people, but to announce salvation to the Gentiles through
1 Down, reason, then; at least vain reasonings, down.
Samson Agonistes, 322.
2 Seem I to thee sufficiently possess'd
From all eternity; for none I know
Second to me or 'ike, equal much less. Paradise Lost, VIII. 404.
Messiah the Son of God, according to the promise of the God of Abraham. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," John i. 18. Let us therefore consult the Son in the first place respecting God.
According to the testimony of the Son, delivered in the clearest terms, the Father is that one true God, by whom are all things. Being asked by one of the scribes, Mark xii. 28, 29, 32, which was the first commandment of all, he answered from Deut. vi. 4, "the first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord;' or as it is in the Hebrew, "Jehovah our God is one Jehovah." The scribe assented; "there is one God, and there is none other one but he ;" and in the following verse Christ approves this answer. Nothing can be more clear than that it was the opinion of the scribe, as well as of the other Jews, that by the unity of God is intended his oneness of person. That this God was no other than God the Father, is proved from John viii. 41, 66 54, we have one Father, even God.... it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say that he is your God." iv. 21, "neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father." Christ therefore agrees with the whole people of God, that the Father is that one and only God. For who can believe it possible for the very first of the commandments to have been so obscure, and so ill understood by the Church through such a succession of ages, that two other persons, equally entitled to worship, should have remained wholly unknown to the people of God, and debarred of divine honours even to that very day? especially as God, where he is teaching his own people respecting the nature of their worship under the gospel, forewarns them that they would have for their God the one Jehovah whom they had always served, and David, that is, Christ, for their King and Lord. Jer. xxx. 9. "they shall serve Jehovah their God, and David their King, whom I will raise up unto them." In this passage Christ, such as God willed that he should be known or worshipped by his people under the gospel, is expressly distinguished from the one God Jehovah, both by nature and title. Christ himself therefore, the Son of God, teaches us nothing in the gospel respecting the one God but what the law had before taught, and every where clearly asserts him to