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decisions, is what theologians have known as the judicium contradictionis. Truth cannot contradict truth. It is impossible that anything should be and not be at the same moment. Therefore the scripture must be so interpreted as not to contradict itself, or any other undeniable truth evidenced by sense or reason. To assert that Christ's body is ubiquitous is to assert a contradiction. For it is the very nature of body to be bounded. To assert that the bread and wine of the eucharist are literally, not emblematically, the body and blood of Christ, is to deny that they are bread and wine.
Yet this power of rejecting contradictions, must be duly guarded, lest it be strained to be a pretext for rejecting real and fundamental truths and high mysteries, to wbich a little perverse ingenuity may give the aspect of seeming contradiction, while, properly stated, they have not even the appearance of it. How many have rejected the Trinity, on account of the supposed contradiction of asserting the same being to be both one and three; whereas it asserts him to be three in one respect, one in another. The incarnation likewise, as asserting that two persons are one person; whereas it only asserts two natures in one person. So others have rejected the doctrine of vicarious atonement, because it contradicts their intuitive convictions of justice that the innocent should suffer for the guilty; others still, the sinners helplessness because it contradicts their ideas of responsibility and much more the like. All this only shows the great caution with which the judicium contradictionis should be exercised. We must be sure that the apparent sense of scripture does contradict some undeniable truth, before we, on this ground, strain it to a figurative, allegorical, or other non-natural interpretation. We must presume that the apparent meaning of scripture is its real meaning, and that any apparent contradiction in this meaning to known truths, must be owing to some flaw in our own conceptions, until the contrary is indubitably established. But when the contradiction is indisputably established, then scripture must be
interpreted consistently with known truth; for truth cannot contradict truth. This cautious spirit, however, does not prevent our saying with all confidence, that “ the seven good kine are seven years ” (Gen. xli. 26), means they represent seven years; or that “ This is my body," in the words of our Lord instituting the eucharist, means this represents my body; that, in the light of indubitable modern science, the " pillars of the earth” (2 Sam. xx. 8) have existence only in the forces that hold it in its orbit.
As to the authority of tradition and the church, while, with all evangelical Christians, we deny to either the power to make any additions to the teachings of the canonical scriptures; and, while we further deny that any visible ecclesiastical organization is empowered to make any infallible or authoritative interpretation of scripture, which shall be ipso facto binding on the conscience, or binding at all, except as it is supported by the authority of scripture itself speaking to the conscience; we nevertheless hold that what the true church - meaning thereby the true people of God - have ever held to be the meaning of scripture, on essential points, must be its true meaning. Ii in regard to fundamental doctrine, the saints in all generations have not found out what Christianity is, then it may safely be assumed to be past discovery. Revelation is a failure. Infidelity must triumph. This does not imply that there is not a vast field of revealed truth, beyond these “first principles of the doctrine of Christ,” yet to be explored, or that these fundamental doctrines are not capable of fuller discovery, explication, definition, and defence. But it does imply that there are certain doctrines known which constitute the essence of Christianity, to prosess which is to profess Christianity; to deny which is to deny Christianity. Such, to go no further, are the Trinity, Incarnation, and Redemption.
THE GODHEAD. There is no material difference among evangelical Christians in regard to the attributes of God, unless on the Vol. XXI. No. 81.
question whether all his moral perfections are resolvable into benevolence, We maintain, in common with nearly all Christendom, that holiness, and vindicatory or distributive justice are distinguishable from, or rather involve more than, mere benevolence, while they are no less essential elements in the divine excellence. This has important bearings on the punishment and expiation of sin, the nature of the atonement, and the tone of Christian ethics. Other questions pertaining to the nature of the foreknowledge, purposes, and decrees of God will find their place appropriately hereafter.
The language of our Confession is the brief but adequate expression of our faith in regard to the persons in the God. head: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceedeth from the Father and the Son" (Chap. II. 3).
This, of course, excludes all tritheistic and Sabellian theo. ries, or formulas tending thereto. But here there is little dispute among those known as evangelical. In regard, however, to the sonship of Christ and procession of the Spirit, especially the former, vehement controversy has been waged against them by some prominent American theologians. It is hardly necessary to say, that though called to defend these doctrines, they are no peculiarities of ours. They are the common creed of the church. Simply remarking that the Holy Spirit is represented as proceeding from the Father, and being sent forth by the Son (John xv. 26), we pass on to consider the Sonship of Christ - a relation to the Father variously expressed otherwise, by the phrases “eternal generation,” “ eternally begotten of the Father.”
THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST.
The main point which all these terms set forth is, that the title - Son of God," so abundantly bestowed in scripture on the Second Person of the Trinity, expresses a real relation to the First Person, which is the ground of their receiving the mutual appellations of Father and Son -- a relation not primarily founded upon Christ's humanity, or any accidents thereof, but eternally subsisting in the divine nature.
This relation differs as much from any human or creaturely relation, as God differs from man-- the Creator from the creature. Yet it more nearly resembles the filial relation than any other, and hence is most adequately shadowed forth to us in the words indicative of that relation. As understood by the church, it means nothing inconsistent with the immutability, eternity, and absolute Godhead of the Son. All ideas and definitions contradictory to ihis are to be rejected. The Son, though begotten of the Father, is so begotten, by a mysterious and eternal generation, as to be co-equal, co-eternal, and consubstantial with him. He is described as having “made the worlds,” and “upholding all things by the word of his power," and yet as being, relatively to God the Father, " the brightness of his glory," and the “ express image of his person” (Heb. i. 2, 3); “ the image of the invisible God," by whom “ all things were created” (Col. i. 15, 16). Thus this mysterious and adorable relation is shadowed forth to us by that of radiance or brightness to light; of an image to its original. But these, more fully than any other mode of representation, import, first, what is generated from another, and yet is co-etaneous and consubstantial with it. This is still further indicated in the title Voyos (word), used by the apostle John to denote Christ; and of which he declares that it" in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God.” This points also to his being the eternal, outshining, or articulate expression of God, and yet no other than God. This adorable relation is still further indicated to us in the title “ only begotten" (uovoyevńs), used
to denote this sonship (John i. 14, 18; jii. 16). This title shows that the sonship of Christ is forever distinguished from any relation which creatures, or the human nature of Christ, can sustain to God as their Father or Maker; and not only so, but that it refers to his divine nature. In the following passage (John i. 18) it is connected with his expressive or declarative function as the Word : “ No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." All which adorable mysteries, and the faith of the church therein, is well summed up in the great Athanasian symbol to which Christendom reverently clings : “one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Fa. ther, by whom all things were made.”
Further proofs that the sonship of Christ refers to his divine nature are :
1. The Jews understood Christ to "make himself equal with God,” by calling God his father (John v. 18). Christ did not dispute this interpretation of his meaning, but virtually assented to and confirmed it, by the divine prerogatives he asserted for himself, in his subsequent discourse. This could not be, if his sonship referred merely to his humanity.
2. In Rom. i. 4 it is said, in contrast to his being of the seed of David, according to the flesh, he was a declared (or evinced] to be the Son of God with power (or powerfully), according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
3. The greatness of God's love to us in the gift of Christ appears pre-eminently in that he gave his only begotten Son: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This can hardly consist with the idea that he became the Son of God in consequence of his mediatorship, his incarnation, or resurrection, or aught pertaining to his humanity. For then he would not be the only