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bis Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which are of so much importance toward our salvation.
Yet finally to avoid all objections and dangers of mistake, I think it may be proper here to take notice, that there have been generally two ways among our protestant divioes allowed to explain the filiation or sooship of our Lord Jesus Christ, in his divide pature; the one is, the real and supernatural, #bich is granted to be utterly incomprehensible, relating chiedy to the nature of the Father and the Son; the otber is scriptural and economical, relating chiefly to the characters or offices in our salvation, wbicb is more easy to be voderstood ; I must acknowledge I incline most to the second, because this allows the most perfect equality, even oneness or samegess io tbe godhead, wbether applied to the Father or the Son, and thus it maintains the true godbead itself to be underived and self-existent in both; and upon this supposition I believe the second of these writers have been always esteemed perfectly sound aod orthodox, as well as the first.
USEFUL AND IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
FREELY PROPOSED, &c.
QUESTION I.-IVhat is the meaning of the Name Son of God,
as given to Christ in the New Testament, where the Belief of it is necessary to Salvation.
INTRODUCTION, It is of some importance in the doctrine of the gospel, and especially in the great article of the blessed Trinity, to know the meaning of the name Son of God, which is so often given to our Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament : 'for hereby we shall be better able to understand the chief import and design of those places of scripture.
But here I desire my reader to observe, that I am not enquiring into the highest and most sublime sense of which it is possible that our Lord himself might have the idea when he used that word; but what is the sense that Christ, or the apostles and writers of the New Testament more directly designed to convey to those who heard them, and in what sense the people generally could and did understand this name.
It is evident from several expressions of Christ, that he well knew that his own words sometimes carried in them a much nobler and sublimer signification, than barely that which he designed to convey to the Jews, or even to his own disciples at that tiine : As when he says to the Jews, “ before Abraham was, I am ;” John viii. 58.' And so when he says to his disciples; John xiv. 10. “ I am in the Father, and he Father in me,' they could not know that glorious and sublime relation of Christ to the Father, and his intimate oneness with the Father, which he himself was perfectly acquainted with.
My chief business in this discourse therefore is only to shew what is the true idea or meaning of the word Son of God, which our Saviour or the sacred writers designed to convey to their disciples through all ages and nations by this name, and in which it is possible their hearers could understand them, or we who read the same words.
And in order to find this sense of it, let us consider those texts of scripture wherein the belief of Christ to be the Son of God is made the great requisite in order to salvation, and a necessary ingredient of christianity. For in these places of scripture, these two considerations will offer themselves; first, that the sense of these words must be “plain, familiar, and easy to be understood; otherwise it could not be made a necessary article, or a fundamental of the christian faith. It must have also, secondly,
some apparent connexion with and influence into our salvation, otherwise the belief of it would not have been made so grand a requisite in order to be saved; for it is scarce to be imagined that the blessed God would appoint any mere arbitrary and unoperative speculations to be the terms of our enjoying bis favour. Now both these considerations will give us some assistance toward our finding out the true sense of this title.
The texts of scripture, wherein a belief of Jesus to be the Son of God seems to be made the great necessary term of salvation, are such as these ; John iii. 18. “ He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John xx. 21. “ These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his pame."
1 John v. 13. “ These things bave I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that
ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John iy. 15. “ Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him." 1 John ii. 23. “ Wbosoever denietb the Son, the same hath not the Father.” Acts viii. 37. “ And Philip said to the eunuch, if thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest be baptized; and he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and he baptized him."
Now if believing or not believing Christ to be the Son of God has salvation and damnation annexed to it by the sacred writers, then surely it is of considerable importance to know what this name means, that we may not include too little in it, and by leaving out some important part, expose ourselves to that anathema; nor include too much in it, and so be tempted to lay our weaker neighbours under the like condemnation for want of sufficient knowledge.
But blessed be God, since it is a name of such importance, be has not confined this name precisely to one single, narrow, abstruse and difficult idea, but has affixed it to several ideas in scripture, that so if we receive it in the most important sense, we may be secured from the scriptural condemnation, though we should not happen to understand and receive it in all the sublime senses which may be applied to it.
Let it be noted also, that perhaps the various imaginations and reasonings of men may have affixed more senses to this phrase than scripture has ever done : Yet, in order to give this
enquiry a fuller consideration, we will survey the several senses wbich have been usually put upon it; and this shall be the first argument which I shall use toward the proof of the true signification of this name in the New Testament, that is, by way of a disjunctive syllogism proposing several and excluding some of them. Sect. I.—The First Argument toward the Proof of the Sense
of this Name, Son of God. This name, Son of God, hath been supposed to be given to our Lord Jesus Christ upon some or all of these five accounts. 1. Because of an eternal and inconceivable generation by the person of the Father in the sameness of the divine essence.-2. Because of the glorious derivation of his human soul from God before the creation of the world.-3. Because of his incarnation or coming into this world by an extraordinary conception, and birth of a virgin without an earthly father, by the immediate operation of God.-4. Because of his resurrection from the dead, and high exaltation.-5. In order to point out that glorious person who hath in general some sublime and singular relation to God, and who also was to sustain the character and office of the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.
1. The first of these senses is patronized by many writers, viz. “ That an eternal inconceivable generation of the person of the Son by the person of the Father in the sameness of the divine essence consubstantial, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father," is included in the name Son of God.
But I am persuaded this can never be the sense of this name in those several texts before cited: They can never siguify, that it is necessary to salvation to believe Christ to be the “ eternal Son of God as a distinct person in the same divine essence, proceeding from the Father by such an eternal and incomprehensible generation.” For,
1. If this be ever so true, yet it is confessed to be inconceivable. Now, if it be so very inconceivable, so mysterious and sublime a doctrine, then I do not think the gracious God would put such a difficult test upon the faith of young disciples, poor illiterate men and women, in the very beginning of the gospel, and exclude them from heaven for not believing it.
2. Nor indeed is this eternal generation and consubstantial sonship clearly enough revealed in scripture for us to make it a fundamental article in any age, and to damn all who do not receive it. I cannot see evidence enough in the word of God to make the salvation of all mankind, the poor and the ignorant, the labouring men and the children, even in such a day of knowledge as this is, to depend on such a doctrine, which the most learned and pious christians in all ages have confessed to be attended with so many difficulties, which, after the labour and study of near 1400 years, is so inconceivable in itself, and was at first so obscurely revealed ; much less can I suppose this notion of the Son of God could be made a necessary and fundamental article in those dawnings of the gospel-day. Besides,
3. There have been some very pious and learned men in several ages, who have acknowledged Christ's true godhead, and yet have supposed that the sonship of Christ referred rather to his human nature, or to his office of Messiah, than to such an eternal generation and consubstantial sonship : And there are some in our age who have given sufficient proofs of their good learning, and sincere piety, who heartily believe the eternal godbead of Christ, and yet doubt or disbelieve this eterDal generation and derivation of his person, as God, and I will Dever pronounce an anathema
them. Objection I. But some will say, “ If the name Son of God doth not signify eternal generation by the Father in the sameness of the divine essence or substance, yet surely it must at least import Christ's true and eternal godhead.”
Answer I. This name son and sons of God is often used in the bible, and applied variously to men and to angels as well as to Christ : but it is never used in any one place to signify true and eternal godhead that I can find, unless it be in those very places which are at present under debate. And therefore when Çbrist is called eminently and absolutely the Son of God, the meaning of it does not necessarily rise higher than that he is the most eminent of all other beings, men ur angels, that are called sons of God, without a certain determination whether he be true God, or no, by the mere use of that name.
II. This name Son of God cannot necessarily signify his true godhead any otherwise, than by supposing it primarily to signify his co-essential sonship or that he is a Son of the same nature and essence with the Father, even as a son among men has the same specifical essence with his father, and then consequentially that the Son of God is true God, because his Father is so. Now, we have before proved, that this name cannot neces. sarily signify his co-essential or consubstantial sonship, and therefore it cannot necessarily signify his true godhead.
III. It is evident from some parts of the conduct of Peter and other disciples during the life of Christ on earth, that they did not heartily believe they had the true and eternal God among them, and that their Master was the true and eternal God, as when they rebuked him, when they questioned his knowledge in some things, when they wondered, and were so astonished at his working miracles, &c. as I shall shew hereafter : Yet it is plain that they then believed him to be the Son of God; for this was made necessary to their salvation in that day, and they professed