« PreviousContinue »
by whom afterwards all other things were made both in heaven
Col. i. 16.
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?' and again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be
to me a Son." Again, v. 5, 6, with reference to the priesthood of Christ; 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."" 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. 3
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
Of all things; to be heir, and to be king
Paradise Lost, VI. 703.
3 Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view
And if I was, I am; relation stands :
All men are Sons of God; yet thee I thought
Paradise Regained, IV. 514.
'The people of God, redeemed and washed with Christ's blood, and dignified with so many glorious titles of saints, and sons in the gospel.'-Of 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 more agreeable to the paternal dignity; particularly since the Father is God, all whose works, and consequently the works of generation, are executed 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
sity, the Father impaired himself by physically begetting a co-equal; which God could no more do than he could deny himself; therefore the generation of the Son cannot have proceeded otherwise than from a decree, and of the Father's own free will.
Thus the Son was begotten of the Father in consequence of the limits
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: O thou 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 Rey. i. 17. 22. 13, compared with Is. xliii. 10. and xliv. 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 numerically the same himself; which would be a contradiction
7 See Beza in loc.