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CONCERNING THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST.
First, I shall give some proofs and testimonies of his Sonship.
Secondly, Enquire in what sense he is the Son of God. And, Thirdly, Observe some things respecting Christ’s Sonship; which may serve to help and assist us in our thoughts and enquiries about it.
First, I shall give some proofs and testimonies of Christ’s Sonship.
Nothing is more strongly attested than this truth, That Christ is the Son of God. The Father, Word, and Spirit, have bore record of it; an angel from heaven has declared it; saints have made confessions of it, and devils have acknowledged it. 1. God the Father bore testimony to the truth of Christ’s Sonship at the time of his baptism, by a voice from heaven, laying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. ( Matthew 3:17) As he also did in much the same words, and in the same way, at his transfiguration ( Matthew 17:5) upon the mount. 2. The Word bore witness of himself, as the Son of God. Perhaps this may be the reason why the apostle John makes use of the phrase, the Word, and not the Son, when he speaks of the three that bear record in heaven; because the thing they bore record of, was the Sonship of Christ. The charge which the Jews brought, and for which they demanded judgment against: Christ ( John 19:7), was, “because he made himself the Son of God”. He not only asserted that he was, but proved himself to be the Son of God, by unquestionable works and miracles: he asserted himself to be so, when he laid: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”; and, “I and my Father are one ( John 5:17. and 10:30.)”. The Jews understood him, in there passages, to assert him-fell to be the Son of God; and that in such a sense, as to make himself equal with him; which had it been a mistake, he would have rectified; but instead of that, he says all the things that were proper to strengthen his Sonship. And when he was charged with blasphemy for asserting it, he appeals to his works for the vindication of it; nor does he ever call in his words. Yea, when the high priest asked him, upon his trial, saying ( Mark 14:61,62.), “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the blessed? Jesus said, I am”. If the validity of Christ’s testimony should be objected to, and called in question, because it is concerning himself; he has furnished us with an answer which he gave to the Pharisees, when they ( John 8:13,14,16,17,18.) said, “Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true”. To which he replied; “Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: — For I am not alone, but I and the Father that lent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of my self, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me”. Hence Christ’s testimony concerning himself, is good and valid; because it is not alone, but is in conjunction with the testimony of the Father, and also of the Holy Ghost; who, 3. Bore witness to the same truth, by his descent upon him as a dove, at the time of his baptism; when the Sonship of Christ was so fully expressed.
And also, by his plenteous effusion of his gifts and grace upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost; whereby they were sufficiently qualified to assert, demonstrate and maintain this great truth, that Jesus was the Son of God; which they every where did;” God working with them ( Hebrews 2:4.), and bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost according to his will”. 4. The angel which brought the news of the stupendous incarnation of Christ to the virgin, declared, ( Luke 1:32,35) that he should “be great, and be called the Son of the Highest”: Yea, says he, “That holy thing that shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God”. 5. Many of the saints have made full and ample confessions of it. John the Baptist, when he law the Spirit of God descending and remaining on him at his baptism ( John 1:34), bore record that he was the Son of God. Nathanael, upon the first fight of him, said unto him , “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, the King of Israel”. When Christ put this question to his disciples, “Whom say ye that I am” ( Matthew 16:15,16)? Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God”. As he also at another time, in the name of the rest of the disciples ( John 6:67), declared, “We believe, and are sure, that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Martha, when she was called upon to make a confession of her faith in Christ ( John 11:27), expressed it in there words: “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the World”: As did the eunuch also in much the same words, in order to his admission to baptism: “I believe says he, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”. ( Acts 8:37), And indeed, this is the faith of every true believer ( 1 John 5:5): For, “who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God”. 6. The devils themselves have been obliged to acknowledge it. Tho’ Satan twice put an if upon Christ’s Sonship, when he tempted him in the wilderness; yet he, at the same time, knew that he was the Son of God; and at other times was forced to confess it; crying ( Matthew 8:28,29) out and saying, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time”?
This then is a truth confessed on all hands, is without controversy, and beyond all contradiction; but in what sense he is the Son of God, is not so easily agreed on; and is what I shall Secondly, Enquire into. The Socinians deny, that Christ is the eternal Son of God. They own that he is the Son of God, but not before he was the Son of Mary ; yet, where to fix his Sonship, and to what cause to ascribe it, they are at a great loss. Calovius f121 , an Anti-Socinian writer, has collected our or their writings, no left; than thirteen causes, or reasons of Christ’s Sonship; and more might be added, which shows the wretched uncertainty they are at. Now twelve of these causes must be false ones; for there can be but one true cause of Christ’s proper Sonship. It would be tedious, and to little purpose, to consider all that are mentioned by them. Sometimes f122 they tell us, that he is called the Son of God; because of the exceeding great love which God bears towards him: And that to be the only begotten Son, and to be the beloved Son, are terms synonymous. That Christ is the Son of God’s love, and that he, who is the begotten Son, is also the beloved Son of God, is certain; but God’s love to him is not the foundation or cause of this relation. The reason why he is the Son of God, is not because God loves him; but the reason why he loves him, is because he is his Son. ‘Tis not love among men that is the cause of such a relation; there may be love where there is no such relation; and there may be such a relation where there is not love. Sometimes they tell us, that he is called the Son of God, because of the likeness which is between them. That Christ is like unto the Father is certain; for he is “the image of the invisible God, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his Person”: But then this likeness is not the cause or foundation of his Sonship. The reason why he is the Son of God, is not because he is like him; but the reason why he is like him, is because he is his Son, of the same nature and essence with him. At other times they say, That he is the Son of God by adoption; but the scriptures say nothing of that. Moreover, if he was his adopted Son, then he could not be his own Son, or the Son of himself, which he certainly is; and if his own Son, then not his adopted one: An own son is never an adopted one. Nor would he be his begotten Son; for to be begotten, and yet adopted, is not consistent. Betides, he could not be called his only begotten Son in this sense, because there are many adopted sons, even all the elect of God, who are predestinated unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ; which blessing comes to them through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and which is witnessed to them by the Spirit of Christ, who is therefore called the Spirit of Adoption. But parting these, with many others, I shall fix upon three of the reasons or causes of Christ’s Sonship assigned by them, and consider them, which seem to have the most countenance from scripture; which are there, 1st . That Christ is called the Son of God, on the account of his miraculous conception and birth. 2dly , That he is so called on account of his resurrection from the dead.
And, 3dly, That he is so called on the account of his office as Mediator, Prophet, Priest, and King, and his performance of the same. 1st . It is said, that he is called the Son of God on the account of his miraculous conception and birth. The only scripture on which this is formed, is Luke 1:35. “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: Therefore also, that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God”. It will be necessary, before I give my reasons against the notion, built upon this text, to consider the text it fell, on which it is built; and show that it has no foundation in it: In order to which, let it be observed, 1. That this scripture does not say, that therefore the holy thing born of the virgin, should be, but that it should be called the Son of God. ‘Tis true indeed, that such an Hebraism is sometimes used; and when persons or things are said to be called, the meaning is, that they art. Thus when the saints are laid to be tailed the Sons of God, the meaning is, that they are the Sons of God. So when ‘tis prophesied of Christ, that his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, etc. the meaning is, not that he should be usually called by those names, but that he should appear to be all that which was answerable to those names. But this phrase, the Son of God, being a name by which Christ has been, and is usually called, such an Hebraism seems not to be intended here. The angel is not giving a reason of Christ’s being the Son of God, or of his constitution as such; for he was the Son of God long before his incarnation; but is speaking of his declaration and manifestation as such in the human nature. Betides. 2. The angel does not predict that he should, for this reason, be called the Son; for either he must call himself so, or others must call him so on this account; or else, the angel’s prediction must be false. Now, though he called himself so, and has been often called so by others in the New Testament; yet we never read that he was called so for this reason; consequently this cannot be the angel’s meaning; or else, what he laid was false, which must by no means be admitted. Again, 3. The particle therefore, is not causal, but consequential. The angel is not giving a reason, why Christ should be the Son of God, but why he should be owned, acknowledged, embraced, and received as such by his people; who would infer and conclude from his wonderful conception and birth, that he must be the lmmanuel, God with us, Isaiah prophesied of, Chap. 7:14. That he must be the child that was to be born, and the Son that was given, whose name should be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, etc. of whom the same prophet speaks, Chap. 9:6. Once more, 4. The particle ki< , rendered also, ought not to be overlooked: “Therefore also, the holy thing, etc.” The meaning is, that the divine Lo>gov , or Word, being the Son of God, the holy thing which was to be born of the virgin, or the human nature, when united to him, should also be called the Son of God. So that it is not the wonderful conception and birth of the human nature, but the union of it to the divine nature, which was then made, which is the reason why the human nature is called the Son of God; which is what divines call a communication of idioms, or properties; whereby names and things proper to one nature, are predicated of the person of Christ, in the other; of which we have many instances in scripture: See John 3:13. 1 Corinthians 2:8. Acts 20:28. Having now given the sense of this text, which is the only one pretended to, to build the hypothesis upon; I shall proceed to give my reasons against it. And, (1.) If the miraculous conception and birth of Christ is the ground and foundation of his being the Son of God, then the Holy Ghost must be the Father of Christ; since he had a special and peculiar concern in that stupendous work. This the Socinians have been often pressed with by many excellent men who have written against them; but none I ever met with, have ventured to own the consequence. Yet a late writer has been so hardy as to assert in express terms, that the Holy Spirit is the Father of Christ; his words are there: “The sure word declares the Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit; therefore he was the Father of Christ in the nature which was conceived, and was made of a woman; as it must be true, that he, by whom the child was conceived, is the Father”.
He argues both from scripture and reason; but his arguments from both are exceeding bad. He says, “The sure word declares the Son was conceived by the “Holy Ghost”; and therefore was the Father of Christ:
Whereas, the sure word declares ( Isaiah 7:12) that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, etc.” And the angel ( Luke 1:31) declared to Mary, when he brought her the news of the incarnation, that she should” conceive in her womb, and bring forth a Son”. ‘Tis indeed ( Matthew 1:20) said, that “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost”; but it is never said, that it was conceived by him. It was the virgin that conceived under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost.
He adds, from reason, as he thinks, “It must be true, that he, by whom the child was conceived, is the Father”. But I am persuaded, that all mankind, both male and female, except this author, and he too with a very little reflection, will conclude, that the child is conceived, not by the Father, but by the mother of it. That the Holy Ghost is the Father of Christ, is not a harry thought of this author’s, or a sudden flip of the pen, but a settled and established notion of his; and what he published in a pamphlet above eleven years ago. Against which I object as follows: If the Holy Spirit is the Father of Christ, then there must be two fathers in the Trinity; and so a wretched confusion be introduced there. Whereas, we read but of one Father, and he distinct from the Word and Spirit. We are baptized in the name of one Father, one Son, and one Holy Spirit. Besides, the Father of Christ, is, in many places, distinguished from the Spirit; and therefore cannot be the same.
Yea, the Spirit is ( Galatians 4:6) called the Spirit of the Son; which he would not be, if he was the Father of him. Add to this, that Christ, as man, had no Father. Mary called Joseph his Father, because he was reputed to be so, as he was supposed to be the Son of Joseph; but in reality he had no father as man. As he was ajmh>twr , without mother, with respect: to his divine nature, so he was ajpa>twr , without Father, with respect to his human nature; on which account Melchizedek was a proper type of him. He is never said to be begotten by the Holy Ghost; nor is he ever said to be begotten as man. He is laid to be conceived in the womb of the virgin, to be made flesh, and to be made of a woman, but never to be begotten as man. All those scriptures which speak of him as the only begotten Son, are to be understood in another sense, as I shall show hereafter. (2.) If the Incarnation of Christ is the ground and foundation of his being the Son of God, then there was no God, the Father of Christ, under the Old Testament, nor much more than seventeen hundred years ago. The Marcionites of old asserted this; which put the ancient writers upon proving that it was the Father of Christ who made the world, gave the law, spoke by the prophets, and was the author of the Old Testament; which the apostle ( Hebrews 1:1,2) strongly confirms, when he says: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the Fathers by the prophets, hath in there last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”. Nor is it difficult to prove, that he existed as the Father of Christ, before the foundation of the world: For, as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world”( Ephesians 1:3,4). (3.) If Christ is the Son of God according to the human nature only, then that distinctive phrase, according to the flesh, which the apostle Paul s ometimes makes use of, when speaking of the person of Christ, is useless and impertinent. If he was a Son only as man, it would be needless to add, according to the flesh. We never say of any one, that he is the Son of such an one, according to the flesh; but only, that he is his Son. Christ is the Son of David, according to the flesh, or the human nature; but he is the Son of God, according to the divine nature; which is the true reason of the apostle’s use of the phrase, in Romans 1:4. where he says, “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ, who was made of the feed of David, according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness. See also Romans 9:5. (4.) The incarnation of Christ cannot be the reason and foundation of his divine Sonship; because he was not thereby made the Son of God, but only manifested to be so. “For this purpose, says the apostle ( John 3:8), the Son of God was manifested”; i.e. in human nature, it being a phrase equivalent to “God manifest in the flesh.” Now as he was God, before he was manifest in the flesh; so he must be the Son of God, before he was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. When God is said to send forth his Son, made of a woman, or in the likeness of sinful flesh; it is certain, that he was a Son before he was lent, before he was made of a woman, or appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh. He did not send forth his Son to become a Son; but he sent him forth to become man. That Christ existed as the Son of God, before his incarnation, may easily be collected out of the writings of the Old Testament. The Jews, in Christ’s time, seem well acquainted with the phrase, the Son of God; and by it understood a divine Person; as is easy to observe in many places ( Matthew 14:33. and 26:63. and 27:40, 54. John 5:17,18. and 10:30, 33-36.): Now this they must learn from the books of the Old Testament. Their ancient writers speak of the Lo>gov , or Word of God, as his Son. The Jerusalem Targum, on Genesis 3:22. Calls the Word of the Lord the only begotten in the highest heavens. Philo the Jew speaks of God as unbegotten; and of the divine Word as begotten. He calls him the first begotten Word, and sometimes the first begotten Son. He says the world is God’s younger Son, and that he has one older than that; who, because of his seniority, abides with him. Yea, he calls f136 him his most ancient Son, and a Son of complete virtue, who acts the part of an advocate. And as to his generation, he says , that he is not unbegotten as God, nor yet begotten as men. Ben Sira, a famous Jew, who lived many Years before Christ’s time, and was the author of the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, peaks of the Lord God as a Father, and as having a Son, when he says: “I called upon the Lord, the Father of my Lord, not to forsake me in the day of tribulation. “Now there hints they took out of the books of the Old Testament; where are many proofs of a divine Person existing under the character of the Son of God. And to begin with Daniel 3:25. where Nebuchadnezzar s ays, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” How Nebuchadnezzar, an Heathen prince, came by this knowledge, that there was a divine Person, who was called the Son of God, I shall not determine; very probably he had it from the Jews, who were in great numbers in his dominions, and some of them in his palace; from whom having heard of such a glorious Person, and seeing such an one in the furnace, he concludes he must be like unto him. All that I bring this passage for, is this, that there was a belief, which obtained in those times, that a glorious divine Person did exist under the character of the Son of God; or Nebuchadnezzar could not have mentioned him as such, nor have likened the Person he saw in the furnace to him. Agur also knew that there was a divine Person who existed in this character, when he said ( Proverbs 30:4): “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?”
Which words plainly show that the Almighty and incomprehensible God, whom he describes, had a Son, who existed with him, was of the same divine, ineffable, and incomprehensible nature, and a distinct Person from him. Earlier than him, David takes notice of a divine Person, as the Son of God; and calls upon the kings and judges of the earth to pay homage and worship to him ( Psalm 2:12), saying, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little: Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
Not to take notice of another passage in the same place; “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee:” Which I shall consider hereafter. To conclude this argument, Christ existed as the Son of God, at the creation of all things. For God, by him his Son, made the worlds, Hebrews 1:2.
Yea, before any creature was made; before the sun was, he was the Son of God: See Psalm 72:17. where the words wmç ˆwny çmç ynpl may be rendered, before the sun was, his name was Yinnon ; which the Jews say f141 , is one of the names of the Messiah, and comes from ˆyn , which signifies a Son; and is explained by Aben Ezra f142, ˆb arqy, shall be called a Son: But on this I lay no great stress. From the whole it is manifest, that Christ bore the character of the Son of God under the Old Testament-dispensation, and before his incarnation; and therefore his incarnation cannot be the true cause and reason of his being the Son of God. Moreover, (5.) If the incarnation of Christ was the cause of his divine Sonship, or of his being the Son of God, then he would be but in the same class of Sonship as creatures, angels, and men are. Adam is called the Son of God, being wonderfully made and created by him, out of the dust of the earth; and all his posterity are the offspring of God. Angels are also the Sons of God by creation: But “to which of the angels said he, i.e. God at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee:” ( Hebrews 1:5) , And much less did he ever say so to any of the sons of men. The filiation of Christ is of an higher rank than that of creatures, and therefore must be placed to another account. I go on, 2dly. To consider another cause or reason assigned, why Christ is called the Son of God, and that is, his resurrection from the dead; which must be rejected for the following reasons: 1. He was the Son of God before his resurrection; and therefore it can never be the foundation of this relation. The Socinians themselves say, that he is called the Son of God, on the account of his incarnation; and therefore before his resurrection. As his own Son, God lent him forth in the likeness of sinful flesh ( Romans 8:3,32); and as such he spared him not, but delivered him up to death; both which acts were previous to his resurrection. Yea, God, by a voice. from heaven, declared him to be his Son ( Matthew 3:17. and 17:5), both at his baptism and transfiguration. And his disciples, even before his death, knew, and were sure ( John 6:66 ) that he was the Son of the living God. The same was confessed by others, whilst he was alive; and by the Centurion, ( Matthew 27:54) when he hung upon the cross. All which fully evince, that he was the Son of God before his resurrection. 2. If his resurrection from the dead was the cause of his divine filiation, then he must beget himself, or be the author of his own Sonship, which is absurd; for he was himself concerned in his resurrection from the dead. As he had power to lay down his life, which no mere creature has; so he had power to take it up again, which none but God could do: According to his own prophecy, when the temple of his body was destroyed, he raised it up again in three days. 3. If his resurrection from the dead is the ground of his Sonship, then his Sonship must be metaphorical, and not proper: Whereas, he is called God’s own or proper Son, and the Son of himself; and God is called his own or proper Father. 4. He could not be called on this account, God’s only begotten Son, which is the character he sometimes bears; because there are others that have been, and millions that will be railed from the dead, betides him. He may indeed, on the account of his resurrection, be called, as he is, the first born from the dead, Colossians 1:18. and the first begotten of the dead, Revelation 1:5. because he is the first fruits of them that sleep, Corinthians 15:20. but he cannot be called the only begotten. Besides, if this was a true cause of divine Sonship, not only saints, but wicked men, would be the sons of God: For there will be “a resurrection both of the just and unjust” ( Acts 24:15). Some of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, as others to everlasting life: ( Daniel 12:2. John 5:28,39.) And some of them that are in their graves, shall come forth to the resurrection of damnation, as others to the resurrection of life: Yet there are no where called, nor will they ever bear the character of the sons of God. Indeed, the saints are said to be “the of God, being the children of the resurrection.” ( Luke 20:36) Not that their resurrection from the dead will be the cause of their relation to God as children; for they were such before: but being railed from the dead by virtue of their union to Christ, and being by him put into the possession of the heavenly inheritance, they will be manifested and declared to be children, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. For this reason, I apprehend, the words in Psalm 2:7. “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,” are by the apostle, in Acts 13:33. applied to the resurrection of Christ. Not that he was then begotten as God’s own Son, for he was so before, as has been proved; but he was then manifested to be the eternally begotten Son of God. Things are, in an improper sense, said to be, when they are only manifested: So Christ is said to be that day begotten, because he was ( Romans 1:4) “declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.”
Now this is the only passage on which this notion is Built; and what little foundation there is for it, is easy to be observed. I proceed, 3dly . To consider another reason given of Christ’s Sonship; and that is, his office as Mediator. The Socinians say that he is called the Son of God because he was sanctified, or let apart to this work and office; and was font into the world to do it; and because he has executed the offices of Prophet, Priest and King, and is now exalted in glory. It is no wonder to hear them say, that Christ is the Son of God by office; when it is a darling notion of theirs, that he is only God by office; for the sake of which, they endeavor to support this. And since ( Isaiah 9:5) smells so rank of Socinianisin, or rather, is a part and branch of it, it should have the less countenance from, and be the less regarded by such who have a true value for the proper divinity of Christ. That he who is the Mediator is the Son of God, is certain; but that his being the Mediator is the reason of his being called the Son of God, is the thing in question. That many, or most of the scriptures which speak of him as the Son of God, do at the same time hint some things which relate to him as Mediator, is not denied; for the scriptures do mostly speak of God considered in and through the Mediator; and of the Son of God as such: But that his Mediatorship is the foundation of his Sonship, is a question that ought to be proved, and not begged. There are few scriptures that speak of Christ as God, but also speak of him as man, or as he is considered in his office as Mediator. Thus when he is called the Mighty God, he is in the same verse said to be born as a child; and when he is represented as “over all, God blessed for ever;” ( Romans 9:5) he is said, at the same time, to be of the Fathers as concerning the flesh. If this way of interpreting scripture be allowed of, a subtle Socinian knows how to make his advantage of it, to the destruction of Christ’s proper Deity, as well as Sonship. The text which the Socinians chiefly build this notion on, is John 10:36. “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.”
That he who was sanctified, and sent into the world, was the Son of God, may very well be collected from there words, and from his sanctification and mission; because no other was promised to be sent; and no other was expected to come, but he who was the Son of God: But that his sanctification and mission are the reason why he is called the Son of God, cannot be from hence concluded; because he was the Son of God before he was sent. In the preceding verses Christ had asserted his equality with the Father: Upon which, the Jews charge him with blasphemy, because he made himself God. To vindicate himself from this charge, he first argues from his inferior character, as being in office; that if magistrates, without blasphemy, might be called gods, much more might he, who was sanctified and sent into the world by the Father. But he does not let the stress of his Deity and Sonship rest here; but proceeds to prove that he was truly and properly God, and the Son of God, by doing the same works his Father did. From the whole, I fee no reason to conclude from this text, that Christ being in office as Mediator, is the cause of his being called the Son of God.
Against which, I have further to object, as follows: 1. If Christ is the Son of God by office, and not nature, then he must be so only in an improper, allusive, and metaphorical sense; just as magistrates are called gods ( Psalm 82:6), and the children of the Most High.
Whereas, as has been before observed, he is called his own Son, his only begotten Son, and the Son of himself. 2. The Mediatorship of Christ is not the foundation of his Sonship, but his Sonship is the foundation of his Mediatorship. He is not the Son of God because he is Mediator; but he is Mediator because he is the Son of God.
He must be considered, at least, in order of nature, as existing under some character or another, antecedent to his investiture with the office of a Mediator. If I prove that he existed as a Son, previous to his being a Mediator, the conclusion is easy, that his Mediatorship cannot be the cause, reason, or foundation of his Sonship. And, I think, this may be done by considering distinctly, and apart, his several offices of King, Priest, and Prophet, and his investiture into them. As to his kingly office, and his installment into that ( Hebrews 1:8) , it is said: “But unto the Son, he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.”
Which words are directed to Christ, under the character of the Son; and contain the Father’s solemn inauguration of him into his kingly office; his being let up and declared to be King over God’s holy hill of Zion, and the perpetuity and righteousness of his kingdom. Concerning his priestly office, we read ( Hebrews 7:27), That “the law maketh men high priests, which have infirmity; but the Word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore;” i.e. the Word of the oath, or God’s eternal counsel and covenant, which. has been made more clear and manifest since the law was given, maketh the Son; What? not a Son; but maketh the Son a priest. It follows then, that he was a Son before he was a priest; before he was constituted as such, or inverted with the priestly office. Again, he was the Son of God, previous to his investiture with, entrance upon, or discharge of his prophetic office. And indeed, his being the only begotten Son, was what qualified him for it: For “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 1:18) Being the only begotten of the Father, and lying in his bosom, and to privy to all his thoughts, purposes and counsels, he was the only Person proper to be sent into the world, as the great prophet of the Lord, to declare his mind and will to the sons of men. 3. Some scriptures do manifestly distinguish him as a Son, from the consideration of him in the mediatorial office; as in the eunuch’s confession of faith ( Acts 8:37); when he said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
If this phrase, Son of God, is only expressive of his office as Mediator, it coincides with the other phrase, Jesus Christ; and then the sense is, I believe that Christ is the Christ, or the Mediator is the Mediator; which sense carries in it no distinct ideas. The plain meaning of the confession is; I believe that Jesus Christ, the true Messiah and Savior of sinners, who was sent into the world for that purpose, is no less a Person than the Son of God; who is of the same nature with God, and equal to him. Likewise, when Saul, upon his conversion, is said ( Acts 9:20) to “preach Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”
Whereas, the sense is, that he preached that the Messiah, who had lately appeared in the world, with all the true characters of the promised one, was a divine Person, no less than the Son of God; who had the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in him. The same may be observed in other passages. ( John 4:14,15 and 5:5) In fine, if Christ is the Son of God only as he is Mediator, then he is so as a servant; for Christ, as Mediator, is God’s righteous servant; and so those ideas of Son and Servant, which are otherwise clear and distinct, are blended together and confounded; and that beautiful antithesis between Moses and Christ is spoiled; where ( Hebrews 3:5,6) is said to be” faithful in all his house, as a servant; but Christ as a Son over his own house.” For if he is the Son of God by virtue of his office, as Mediator, he is a servant as such, as Moses was; only he is a servant of an higher rank, and in a greater office. I believe no instance can be produced among men, of any one being called the son of another, because he is his servant. A son and a servant are always reckoned distinct; not but that he who is a son may also be a servant; but then he is not a fort because he is so. This distinction our Lord keeps up ( John 8:35), when he says; “The servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever.” 4. Some scriptures speak of Christ as the Son of God, as adding a luster to his office, and as putting a virtue into his actions as Mediator; yea, as the it was somewhat surprising, that he, being the Son of God, should act the part of a Mediator. Sometimes the scripture speaks of him under this character, as adding a luster to his office as Mediator; as when the apostle says ( Hebrews 4:14) “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fact our profession.”
What is it that makes this high priest, Jesus, so great an high priest, and furnishes out so strong an argument to hold fact our profession of him? It is his being the Son of God by nature, and not by office. If this was only a term of office, there would be no emphasis in it; nor would there be such strength in the argument formed upon it. Again, the scripture sometimes speaks of him under this character, as the Son of God, as putting a virtue and efficacy into his actions as Mediator. Thus the apostle John ascribes the virtue of his blood, in cleansing from all sin, to his being the Son of God, when he says: ( 1 John 1:7) “And the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, (here lies the emphasis of the words,) cleanseth us from all sin”. Once more, the scripture speaks of it as something wonderful, that he who is the Son of God, should act the part of a Mediator. Hence we are told ( Hebrews 5:8), That “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience, by the things which he suffered”: But where’s the wonder, or what surprising thing is it, that he being a Mediator, should act the part of a Mediator? No, the wonder lies here; that he being the Son of God, in the form of God, and equal with him, should be obedient to death, even the death of the cross. In fine, all those ( John 3:16. Romans 8:3,32. 1 John 4:9,10) scriptures which are designed to express the greatness of God’s love in the gift and mission of his Son, and in his delivering him up for the fins of all his people, do better and more fully express it, when this phrase, the Son of God, is understood to intend one who is a divine person, and of the same nature with God, than when it is understood to intend only one who is a servant under him.
There are some who assert the proper Deity of the Son, and his distinct personality from the Father; who are neither in the Socinian nor Sabellian scheme; and yet think that the terms, “Messiah, King of Israel, and Son of God, are synonymous”.
Or, as he is God-man and Mediator. And that “his eternal generation intends nothing else than an eternal communion of the same nature and co-existence with the first person”.
And also, that the “those names, Father and Son, chiefly signify a communion of the same nature, yet so as to respect and have a singular regard to the manner in which the sacred Trinity would manifest it, by the wonderful economy of persons, especially in the work of man’s redemption”.
To which it has been replied: That “the reason why the phrase, the Son of God, is sometimes used in the writings of the New Testament, under the same signification with the Word, Messiah, or Christ, as John 1:49. Matthew 16:16. is, because the Jews observing that he, who in Psalm 2:2. is called the Messiah, is afterwards called the Son of God, often used the phrase, the Son of God, for the Messiah. But from hence it ought not to argued, that the reason why the second person is called the Son of God, is to be taken from his mediatorial office.
This only can be concluded from it. That the Messiah ought to be the Son of God, and to be demonstrated as such. Not that therefore he was to be called the Son of God, because he was the Messiah, or Redeemer of mankind”.
And, That if the generation of the Son, only intends a communion of the same nature, and a co-existence with the Father, then, “to beget in the Father, intends “the same as to be begotten in the Son. That the word Father, in the first person, signifies the same as the word Son, in the second. That the same who is now called the Father, might have been called the Son; and which is now called the Son, might have been called the Father: Yea, that the second person might be called a Father to the first, as the first be called a Father to the second”.
Which produced this ingenuous confession; That “it might have so been, if it had been the will of God, that the person, which is now called the Father, might have been called the Son”.
It has been also further observed, f155 “That the first person appears to be the Father, the second person to be the Son of the Father, and the third person to be the Spirit of the Father and the Son, in the redemption of mankind. Yet this appearance and manifestation is not the reason why the first person is called the Father, the second the Son, and the third the Spirit; for unless they had been Father, Son, and Spirit, before this manifestation of their economy, these three persons could not be manifested and discovered as such. If therefore they were Father, Son, and Spirit, before this manifestation, it evidently follows, that the reason of those names, cannot, nor ought to be taken from this manifestation, but from the nature of the perfections of those three persons: For the three persons would have been Father, Son, and Spirit, if they had never been discovered and manifested as such among men”.
To which I would only add, That if these names are given to these three divine persons on the account of their distinct concern in the economy of man’s salvation, some reason from thence ought to be given, why the first person is called the Father, the second the Son, and the third the Spirit. But I shall now proceed to show that Christ is the Son of God, as he is a distinct divine person in the Godhead; or, that he is the true and natural Son of God; begotten in the divine essence by the Father, in a way and manner not to be comprehended or conceived of by us. And. (1.) That Christ is the true and natural Son of God, and not so in an improper, allusive, or metaphorical sense, is, I think, evident from all those passages of scripture which speak of him as God’s own Son, his proper Son, the Son of himself, and his only begotten Son. If he is his own Son, then he must be so, as he is of the same nature with him; and consequently must be his natural Son. If he is his proper Son, then not so in a figurative and an improper sense. And if he is his only begotten Son, he must be so either as he is God, or as he is man: Not as he is man; for as such he had no Father, and so was not begotten; wherefore he must be so as God. If it should be said, that he is called so because of his constitution as God-man, and Mediator; it ought to be shown, that there is something in his constitution as such, which is at least analogous to generation. and will furnish out a sufficient reason for his bearing the name and character, and standing in the relation of a Son to his Father. (2.) It is easy to observe, that Christ, as a Son, is expressly called God; and that the term, Son of God, is used to express a divine Person.
Thus, in Hebrews 1:8. “Unto the Son he faith, thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever”. And in 1 John 5:20. “We know that the Son of God is come, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life”; h. e. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the true God; for with him the true God is closely connected; he is the immediate antecedent to the relative this. Again, the phrases, “God manifest in the flesh”, and ( 1 Timothy 3:16. John 3:3.) “ the Son of God was manifested”, are synonymous, and equally design a divine person, who was made flesh and dwelt among us. Moreover, whenever Christ asserted, that he was the Son of God, or that God was his Father, the Jews always understood him as making himself God, and equal to him; and therefore charged him with blasphemy; and on this account demanded sentence of death upon him. (3.) Christ, as a Son, asserts his equality with the Father, when ( John 10:30) he says: “I and my Father are one”; i.e. not one in person, which would be a contradiction, but one in nature; and so in power. The same perfections the Father has, the Son has; as omniscience, omnipotence, etc. As the Father knows the Son, the Son knows the Father; and as the Son of God, he searcheth the hearts and reins. He has done and does all things that his Father has done or does:
He made the worlds, and upholds them by the word of his power. He will raise the dead, and judge the world. And has the fame divine honor, homage, worship and adoration given him as the Father. (4.) He was concluded by others, to be the Son of God, not from his mediatorial works and actions, but from such works which he performed as God. When Satan disputed his Sonship, he put him upon proof of it, by doing that which none but God could do ( Matthew 4:3,6); which was, to command stones to be made bread: As also, by doing that which he knew, if he was a mere man, and not the Son of God, must end in his death; which was, to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Much in the same manner the Jews insulted him on the cross, and said ( Matthew 27:40) to him, “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thy self. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross”.
It was an instance of Christ’s omniscience which obliged Nathanael to make that ingenuous confession of him, ( John 1:49) saying: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God”. It was an act of Christ’s omnipotence in stilling the boisterous wind, which caused the men in the ship, where the disciples were, to come and worship him; “saying, of a truth, Thou art the Son of God”. ( Matthew 14:33) When Christ was suffering on the cross, it was not the satisfaction he then made to law and justice for the fins of his people, or the remission of their fins, which he then procured by his blood, or any such theandric or mediatorial work then performed; hut the darkness of the heavens, the quaking of the earth, rending of the rocks, and such like divine and surprising works, which made the Centurion, and those that were with him, say, “ Truly this was the Son of God”. (5.) The form of baptism ( Matthew 27:54) runs, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.
Baptism is a solemn act of divine worship, and is not to be administered in the name of any but a divine person. If the term Son does not express the dignity of his divine nature, which is the original foundation and support of such divine worship, and what gives him a claim to it, but only his office as Mediator; then we are baptized in the name of two divine persons, considered in their highest titles and characters; and in the name of the other, in his lower and inferior tide and character. (6) As the phrase the Son of man, intends one that is truly man; so the phrase, the Son of God, must intend one that is truly God. If the Messiah is called the Son of man, from the nature in which he is man, he must be called the Son of God. from the nature in which he is God.
From the whole, I think, we may strongly conclude, that Christ is the true and natural Son of God, begotten by God the Father, in the divine nature or essence; though the modus of generation may be inexplicable by us. I go on, Thirdly, To take notice of some things which may be of some service in the consideration of this momentous article of faith. 1. I observe, that several scriptures which have been formerly insisted on as proofs of Christ’s eternal Sonship, have been of late dropped; such as Psalm 2:7. Proverbs 8:22-30. Micah 5:2. and by those who have asserted the proper Deity, and natural Sonship of Christ. As for Psalm 2:7. I am unwilling to part with it, as a proof of Christ’s eternal filiation: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee”.
As for the phrase this day, it may well be thought to express eternity; which is with God an eternal now. A thousand years with him, is as one day; and so is eternity, and is called a day, in Isaiah 43:13. Likewise we read of the days of eternity in Micah 5:2. And the divine Being is called the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9. Christ indeed, in this psalm, is spoken of as Mediator, as King, upon God’s holy hill of Zion; against whom the Heathen raged, and the kings of the earth conspired; and to let forth the dignity of his person, the greatness of their crime, the fruitlessness of their attempts, ‘tis here declared, that he is no other than God’s own begotten Son. In the fame way, to show the glory of his nature, the excellency of his person, and his pre-eminence to angels, are the words cited in Hebrews 1:5. They are also cited in Hebrews 5:5. where all that can be made of them is this, That he, who made Christ an high priest, had said unto him, “Thou art my son, etc.” Not that his saying so to him, was the constitution of him as an high priest, it being only descriptive of him who made him so.
The words are once more cited in Acts 13:3 3. and referred to Christ’s resurrection; which, as has been already observed, was only a declaration of the relation it self. And indeed, theft words may very properly be applied to every case and time, wherein Christ was manifested and declared to be the Son of God. As for <200801>Proverbs 8:1 it is a glorious proof of Christ’s eternal existence, though not so clear an one of his eternal Sonship. The phrases of setting up, possessing, bringing forth, and bringing up, seem rather to refer to his mediatorial office. Though had he not eternally existed, he could not have been set up as Mediator from everlasting; or been brought forth before the mountains were formed, or the hills were made. Micah 5:2. is also a strong and clear proof of Christ’s eternity, but not of his Sonship. The phrase, his goings forth were of old, is in the plural number, and denotes more acts than one; and betides, cannot intend the Father’s begetting the Son, but the goings forth, methods and steps of Christ in the everlasting council and covenant of peace, to secure the salvation of his people: Though had he not eternally existed, he could not have gone forth in such ways and methods from everlasting. To there might be added, Isaiah 53:8. “Who shall declare his generation”, which moil of the ancients understood of the eternal generation of Christ; though the Hebrew word, Rwd , will by no means admit of such a sense; but the text either intends the numerous offspring and seed of the Messiah, or the cruelty, barbarity, and wickedness of the age, or men of that generation in which he should live. I have not therefore produced there passages as proofs of Christ’s divine Sonship: The truth is supportable without them. 2. I observe, that the divine nature of the Son is no more begotten than the divine nature of the Father, and of the Holy Ghost; the reason is, because it is the same divine nature, which is common to, and is possessed by all three. Hence it would follow, that if the divine nature of the Son was begotten, so would the divine nature of the Father, and of the Holy Ghost likewise. The divine essence neither begets nor is begotten. It is a divine person in the essence that begets, and a divine person in that essence that is begotten. Essence does not beget essence, but person begets person, otherwise there would be more than one essence: Whereas, though there are more persons than one, yet there is no more than one essence. A late writer has therefore very wrongly represented us as holding that the divinity of Christ is begotten. 3. I choose rather to express my self with those divines, who say that the Son is begotten in, and not out of the divine essence. Christ, as God’s only begotten Son, is in the bosom of the Father. The Father is in him, and he is in the Father. The Father’s essence or substance is not the matter out of which he is begotten. The act of begetting is internal and immanent in God. The Father begets a divine person not out of, but in his nature and essence. All those scriptures which ( John 8:42. and 13:3. and . 16:27, 28.) speak of Christ as proceeding and coming forth from God, I understand of his mission into the world as Mediator. 4. We must remove every thing that carries in it imperfection from the divine generation and Sonship of Christ; such as divisibility, or multiplication of essence, priority and posteriority, dependence and the like. We are not to make natural or carnal generation the rule and measure of divine generation, which is hyperphysical, or above nature; nor to run the parallel between there two in every respect; ‘tis enough that there is some kind of analogy and agreement between them, which occasions the use of the terms, generation, sonship, etc. for instance, as in human generation, person begets person, and like begets like; so it is in divine generation. But, 5. The modus or manner of it, is not to be conceived of, or explained by us.
Nor need we wonder that so it should be: We cannot account for our own generation, much less for Christ’s. We “know not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child.” ( Ecclesiastes 11:3) The regeneration of the saints is a riddle to the natural man. He says, with Nicodemus, ( John 3:9) “ How can there things be ?” And it need not be surprising, that the divine generation of Christ should be so, even to a spiritual man. If the incarnation of Christ, and the union of two natures in one person, are, without controversy, a great mystery of godliness; we should also be content to have Christ’s eternal filiation so accounted.