« PreviousContinue »
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 fron: 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
* 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
Paradise Lost, X. 760
sity, the Father impaired himself by physically degetting 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 -1
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 oid.. 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.” üï. 16, 18. “ he gave his only begotten Son." i 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-beyotten 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. xliü. 10. and sliv. E.
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
* See Beza in luce
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 repug; nant 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 purp ie that God had so repeatedly inculcated that first commandnient, 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
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 ? First Article of the Church of England.
.for glory done
Paradise Lost, XI. 698
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. vüi. 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, . 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 ço-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 respecting the nature of God, hitherto utterly unheard of by his own people, but to announce salvation to the Gentiles through
· Down, reason, then ; at least vain reasonings, down.
Samson Agonistes, 322. ? Seem I to thee sufficiently possess’d
Of happiness or not? who am alone