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WHEREIN THE SPECIAL CHARACTER, PROPER DEITY, AND DISTINCT PERSONALITY OF THE FATHER, ARE CONSIDERED.
Having proved, not only a plurality, but a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, I proceed, IV. To consider the several characters, proper Deity, and distinct personality of each of there Three, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit.
And shall begin, First, With the Father, and consider the relation he stands in, or the character of a Father, which he bears; give some proofs of his Deity, and show his distinct personality. 1st. I shall consider the relation or character of a Father, which he sustains.
Now it must be observed, that the word Father, when applied to God, does not always intend the first person, to the exclusion of the Son or Spirit, as Deuteronomy 32:6. Isaiah 64:8. Malachi 2:10. Hebrews 12:9. where the one God, Father, Son, and Spirit, is called a Father; because he is the common parent, creator, and former of all things: On which account, neither the Son, nor the Spirit, as I have before observed, are to be excluded in those scriptures, which speak of one God, the Father of all things, as 1 Corinthians 8:6. Ephesians 4:6. By the word Father, sometimes is understood the first person in the Trinity, as distinct from the Son and Spirit. Who is so called either with a peculiar regard to his people, whom he hath predestinated to the adoption of children, and has sent his Son to redeem, that they might receive this blessing; and into whose hearts he has also sent his Spirit, crying, Abba Father: Or rather, he is called so with a peculiar regard to the second person, the Word; who is his only begotten Son; and his Son in such a way of filiation, as neither angels nor saints are. For “to which of the angels, and it may be said also, to which of the saints, said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?” ( Hebrews 1:5) And again, “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.” Jesus Christ always owned him as his Father, addressed him as such, and frequently distinguished him from his earthly parents, by calling him his heavenly Father; or his Father which is in heaven. But because Father and Son are correlates, and suppose each other; and because I design to insist at large on the Sonship of Christ, I shall, for the present, dismiss this character and relation of the Father; and go on, 2dly. To give some proofs of his Deity. And though the Father’s Deity is not scrupled, or called in question, and therefore I need not enlarge upon it; yet it will be necessary to say something concerning it. And besides express texts of scriptures, such as Romans 15:6. 2 Corinthians 1:3. Philippians 2:11. and many others, where the Father is expressly called God; the thing will admit of proof,1. From the divine perfections he is possessed of. He that is God, necessarily is; he owes his being to no other; nor does he depend upon another, but subsists of himself: Such is the Father of Christ. “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son, to have life in himself.” ( John 5:26) He that is God, is from everlasting to everlasting; he is without beginning, and shall be without end: Such is the Father of Christ. For he it is ( Revelation 1:4. Ephesians 1:4. 1 Corinthians 15:28.) “which is, and which was, and which is to come.” He chose his people in Christ before the foundation of the world, and blessed them in him, with all spiritual blessings; and will be all, and in all, to them for evermore. He that is God, is immense, infinite, and omnipresent; as he cannot be bounded by time, neither can he be circumscribed by space: He fills heaven and earth, and is contained in neither; there is no going from his presence, nor fleeing from his Spirit: Such is the Father of Christ; whom Christ often speaks of, as in heaven, and yet with him on earth, and with all his people, at all times, in all ages, and among all nations; insomuch that they can say, “Truly our ( 1 John 1:3) fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” He that is God, is omniscient; he knows the hearts, and tries the reins of the children of men: Such is the Father of Christ, who knows the Son in such a sense as no other does; and knows that which neither the angels, nor the Son as man, do; even the day and hour of judgment. The time and season of that, as well as of many other events the Father has put in his own power. The apostle Paul ( 1 Corinthians 11:31) appeals to the Father of Christ, as the omniscient God, for the truth of the narrative he gave of his sufferings and labors, when he says: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.” Omnipotence is a perfection which belongs to God. He that is God, can do all things; and so can the Father of Christ: “Abba Father, says Christ, all things are possible unto thee.” ( Mark 14:36) And he intimates as much, when he bid Peter put up his sword, and. said unto him: ( Matthew 26:53) “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels” And yet more fully, when speaking of the safety and security of his people, he says: “My Father which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand”. ( John 10:29) Once more, He that is God is immutable, the Lord who changes not, who is subject to no variation whatever. Now he that is the Father of Christ, “is the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning”. He is unchangeably the same in his purposes in Christ, and in his promises through him; and in the blessings of his Grace which he bestows on his people in him; nor can there be any reparation of them from the love of God towards them, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord. In fine, there’s no perfection that belongs to Deity, but what is to be seen in the Father of Christ. 2. The Deity of the Father may be proved from the divine works and actions which are ascribed unto him: Such as creation, providence, and. the like. He created all things by Jesus Christ; by him, his Son, he made the worlds; and his hands have laid the foundation of the heavens and the earth: He supports the world by his power, and governs it by his wisdom. “My Father, says Christ worketh hitherto, and I work”; ( John 5:17) , i.e. in the preservation and government of the world, as heretofore in the creation of it. And hence, in another place ( Matthew 11:25) he calls him “the Lord. of heaven and earth”; which he would not do, was he not both the creator and preferrer of it. Forgiveness of sins is peculiar to God. ‘Tis a maxim that will hold good: No one can forgive sins, but God only. But the Father of Christ forgives sinners. Christ himself applied to him for them, while on the cross; when he said: ( Luke 23:34) “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
The resurrection of the dead is a work purely divine, and is frequently ascribed to the Father. As he raised up his Son Jesus Christ, and gave him glory, so he will raise up the dead at the last day: For “the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth whom he will”. Now from these, as well as from many other divine works and actions, ascribed to him, we may strongly conclude the Deity of the Father. Which, 3. May also be argued from the worship which is ascribed unto him. None but he, who is the most high God, ought to be the object of religious worship and adoration: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve”. Now the Father is frequently represented in scripture, as he whom we are to love, to hope and believe in; as the object of prayer and supplication, to whom, both Christ and his apostles prayed; and stands first in the form of baptism; which is a solemn act of divine and religious worship. But I shall no longer insist on this: But, 3dly. Proceed to consider the distinct personality of the Father: And that he is a person, I shall endeavor to prove,1. From his being expressly called so, in Hebrews 1:3. where Christ is said to be “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person”. Our translation is indeed blamed by some, who contend that the word uJpo>vasiv , should be rendered substance, and not person. I shall hint a few things in vindication of our version. Let it be observed, that the word is only used in the New Testament, in this epistle, and in the second epistle to the Corinthians; and but five times in all. In 2 Corinthians 9:4. the apostle uses it to express his confidence in boasting of the forwardness of the Corinthians, in their contributions to the necessities of the poor saints.
And in the same epistle, Chap. 11:17. he uses it also to express his confidence in boating of his own labors in the gospel, and his sufferings for it. And in this epistle to the Hebrews, it is twice used, concerning faith, Chap. 3:14 and <581101> 11:1. and here it is applied to the divine Being. Now the word being used in such a different sense, “The mere use of it, in one place, as Dr. Owen observes , will afford no light unto the meaning of it in another; but it must: be taken from the context, and subject treated of”.
Moreover, it ought to be observed, That not only our translators, who were learned and judicious men, but many other learned men, have rendered the word, by subsistence or Person; as Valla, Vatablus, Erasinus, Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Paraeus, and others. And besides, some of the Greek fathers have used the word in the same sense; and some of them too, who wrote before the council at Nice; as particularly Justin Martyr if the writings, which bear his name, referred to in the margin, are allowed to be his; and also Origen f71 . The word substantia indeed was used by some of the Latin writers, as answering to uJpo>vasiv ; but then they understood it of prima substantia; and used it just in the same sense as we do the word person. And when they said , there were three substances in the Trinity, they at the same time asserted, that there was but one nature or offense; and so distinguished substance from nature or essence. But finding the word substantia to be of ambiguous signification, and having a tendency to lead persons to imagine that there were three distinct divine Beings, they left off using it; and rather chore the word persona, as less exceptionable.
A difference there certainly is, between uJpo>vasiv subsistence, and oujsiOwen observes, would denote substantia, yet so as to differ from, and to add something to oujsi>a , substance or being; which, in the divine nature, can be nothing but a special manner of subsistence”.
Add to this, That the apostle is not so much speaking of the Father, and of Christ, in that wherein they are the same as they are in nature and substance; but of them in those things which carry in them an evidence of distinction between them. Thus Christ is said to be the Son, by whom God hath, in there last days, spoke unto us; and the heir, who is so by his appointment; and by whom he made the worlds: He is the brightness of his glory. And so, though he is of the same nature with him, yet is he distinct: from him, as the sun and its beams; and is also the image of his person; and so distinct from him, as the image is from the person, of whom it is the image. Not that Christ is the image of his Father’s personality; for then, as the Father begat, which is his distinctive personal character, so must the Son. I distinguish between personality and person: Personality is the bare mode of subsisting; a Person, besides that connotates the nature or substance in, and with which he subsists. So that Christ is the image of the Father’s Person, as he is possessed of the whole divine nature or substance.
From the whole, I cannot see why any should quarrel with our translation of this word. 2. The definition of a person, which has been given already, agrees with the Father, who is art individual, and so distinguishable from the Godhead, or divine nature, which dwells personally in him, and which is common with him, to the other two persons. He subsists by, and of himself, and is not sustained by another; nor is he a part of another. The Father has life in himself; he does not owe his being to another; nor is he upheld in his being by another; nor is he possest only of a part of, but of the whole Deity. He is, in fine, a living, willing, and intelligent agent: He is the living Father, that sent Christ, whole will, not as opposite to, but as distinct from his, he came to do; who knows himself, his Son and Spirit, and all his works, as none else does. 3. That the Father is a person, may be concluded from those personal actions which are ascribed to him; such as creation, providence, the resurrection of the dead, and the like; which have been already considered as proofs of his Deity. To which may be added, his several acts of grace towards his elect in Christ Jesus: Such as his eternal choice of them in him; his predestination of them, to the adoption of children by him; his entering into a covenant with him on their account; his putting them all into his hand, and there blessing them with all spiritual blessings; his drawing them to himself, and to his Son, with the cords of love and efficacious grace; the several methods he takes to administer divine consolation to them; with the promise of the Spirit, called the promise of the Father, which he has made, and fulfills to them. The mission of his Son Jesus Christ into this world, for the salvation of lost sinners, which the scriptures so much speak of, is a plain proof of his Personality, and of his distinct personality from the Son. ‘Tis true indeed, the Spirit is hid to fend him as well as he: But: then observe, that the Son is sent, both by the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit is lent both by the Father and the Son; yet the Father is never said to be sent by either; he is always the sender, and never the sent. But what is the grand distinctive personal act of the Father, is his eternal act of begetting the Son in the divine nature or essence; which though inconceivable, and unaccountable by us, yet is plainly revealed in the sacred scriptures; and is the true reason of his bearing the character and relation of a Father; and is what distinguishes him from the Son and Spirit. The Son is never laid to beget, either the Father or the Spirit: And the Spirit is never laid to beget either the Son or the Father: The act of begetting, is peculiar to the Father. What is meant by it, and the proof of it, I shall consider hereafter. Thus much for the personality of the Father.
Now when we call the Father the first person in the Trinity, we do not suppose that he is the first, in order of nature, or time, or causality; as if the Father was sons Deitatis, the fountain of the Deity; expressions which some good men have made use of with no ill design: But since an ill use has been made of them, by artful and designing men, ‘tis time for us to lay them aside. As the Father is God of himself, so the Son is God of himself, and the Spirit is God of himself. They all three exist together, and necessarily exist, and subsist distinctly by themselves in one undivided nature. The one is not before the other, nor more excellent than the other.
But since ‘tis necessary, for our better apprehension of them, that there should be some order in the mention of them, it seems most proper to place the Father first, whence we call him the first person; and then the Son, and then the Holy Ghost; in which order we sometimes find them in scripture: Though, to let us see that there is a perfect equality between them, and no superiority or inferiority among them, this order is frequently inverted.