Page images

rection from the dead“; and, according to the Fathers", to His original mission in the beginning of all things to create the world; and to His manifestation in the flesh. Still, granting this, the sense of the word “only-begotten” remains, defined by its context to relate to something higher than any event occurring in time, however great or beneficial to the human race.

Being taken then, as it needs must be taken, to designate His original nature, it witnesses most forcibly and impressively to that which is peculiar in it, viz. His origination from God, and such as to exclude all resemblance to any being but Him, whom nothing created resembles. Thus, without irreverently and idly speculating upon the generation in itself, but considering the doctrine as given us as a practical direction for our worship and obedience, we may accept it in token, that whatever the Father is, such is the Son. And there are some remarkable texts in Scripture corroborative of this view : for instance, that in the fifth chapter of St. John, “ As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself. . What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth. . As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will .. that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him."

[ocr errors]

4 Ps. ii. 7. Acts xiii. 33. Heb. v. 5. Rev. i. 5. Rom. i. 4. 5 Bull, Defens. Fid. Nic. iii. 9, § 12.

This is the principle of interpretation acknowledged by the primitive Church. Its teachers warn us against resting in the word "generation,” they urge us on to seize and use its practical meaning. “ Speculate not upon the divine generation (gennesis),” says Gregory Nazianzen, “for it is not safe .... let the doctrine be honoured silently; it is a great thing for thee to know the fact; the mode, we cannot admit that even Angels understand, much less thou." Basil says, “Seek not what is undiscoverable, for you will not discover; . . if you will not comply, but are obstinate, I shall deride you, or rather I weep at your daring: . . believe what is written, seek not what is not written?.” Athanasius and Chrysostom repel the profane inquiry argumentatively. “Such speculators,” the former says, "might as well investigate, where God is, and how God is, and of what nature the Father is. But as such questions are irreligious, and argue ignorance of God, so is it also unlawful to venture such thoughts about the generation of the Son of God.” And Chrysostom; “I know that He begat the Son: the manner how, I am ignorant of. I know that the Holy Spirit is from Him; how from Him, I do not understand. I eat food; but how this is converted into my flesh and blood, I know not. We know not these things, which we see every day wher we eat, yet we meddle with inquiries concerning the substance of God.”

While they thus prohibited speculation, they boldly used the doctrine for the purposes for which it was given them in Scripture. Thus Justin Martyr speaks of Christ as the Son, “ who alone is literally called by that name:" and arguing with the heathen, he says, “ Jesus might well deserve from His wisdom to be called the Son of God, though He were only a man like others, for all writers speak of God as the 'Father of both men and gods. But let it not be strange to you, if, besides this common generation, we consider Him, as the Word of God, to have been begotten of God in a special way!." Eusebius of Cæsarea, unsatisfactory as he is as an authority, has nevertheless well expressed the general Catholic view in his attack upon Marcellus. “He who describes the Son as a creature made out of nothing," he says, “does not observe that he is bestowing on Him only the name of Son, and denying Him to be really such; for he who has come out of nothing, cannot truly be the Son of God, more than other things which are made. But He who is truly the Son, born from God, as from a Father, He may reasonably be called the singularly beloved and onlybegotten of the Father, and therefore He is Himself God.” This last inference, that what is born of God, is God, of course implicitly appeals to, and is supported by, the numerous texts which expressly call the Son God, and ascribe to Him the divine attributes ?.

6 Greg. Naz. Orat. xxxv. 29, 30 [xxix. 8]. 7 Petav, v. 6, § 2.

8 Ibid.


9 Bull, Defens. ii. 4, § 2. [The sentence runs on thus:-Tois Toy 'Epuñ nóyov toy mapà Deoù åyyeltiKOV Néyovoiv. Apol. i. 22.]

i Euseb. de Eccles. Theol. i. 9, 10.

2 The following are additional specimens from primitive theology. Clement calls the Son “ the perfect Word, born of the perfect Father.” Tertullian, after quoting the text, “ All that the Father hath are Mine,” adds, “ If so, why should not the Father's titles be His ? When then we read that God is Almighty, and the Highest, and the God of 3 Vid Athan. ad Serap. i. 20.

The reverential spirit in which the Fathers held the doctrine of the gennesis, led them to the use of other forms of expression, partly taken from Scripture, partly not, with a view of signifying the fact of the Son's full participation in the divinity of Him who is His Father, without dwelling on the mode of participation or origination, on which they dared not speculate'. Such were the images of the sun and its radiance, the fountain and the stream, the root and its shoots, a body and its exhalation, fire and the fire kindled from it; all which were used as emblems of the sacred mystery in those points in which it was declared in Scripture, viz. the mystery of the Son's being from the Father and, as such, partaker in His divine perfections. The first of these is found in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where our Lord is called “the brightness of God's glory.” These illustrations had a further use in their very variety, as reminding the Christian that he must not dwell on any one of them for its own sake. The following passage from Tertullian will show how they were applied in the inculcation of the sacred doctrine. “Even when a ray is shot forth from the sun, though it be but a part from the whole, yet the sun is in the ray, inasmuch as it is the ray of the sun ; nor is its substance separated, but drawn out. In like manner there is Spirit from Spirit, and God from God. As when a light is kindled from another, the original Hosts, and the King of Israel, and Jehovah, see to it whether the Son also be not signified by these passages, as being in His own right the Almighty God, inasmuch as He is the Word of the Almighty God.” Bull, Defens. ii. 6, § 3. 7, § 4.

light remains entire and undiminished, though you borrow from it many like itself; so That which proceeds from God, is called at once God, and the Son of God, and Both are One *.”

So much is evidently deducible from what Scripture tells us concerning the generation of the Son; that there is, (so to express it,) a reiteration of the One Infinite Nature of God, a communicated divinity, in the Person of our Lord; an inference supported by the force of the word “only begotten," and verified by the freedom and fulness with which the Apostles ascribe to Christ the high incommunicable titles of eternal perfection and glory. There is one other notion conveyed to us in the doctrine, which must be evident as soon as stated, little as may be the practical usefulness of dwelling upon it. The very name of Son, and the very idea of derivation, imply a certain subordination of the Son to the Father, so far forth as we view Him as distinct from the Father, or in His personality: and frequent testimony is borne to the correctness of this inference in Scripture, as in the descriptions of the Divine Angel in the Old Testament, revived in the closing revelations of the News; and in such passages as that above cited from St. John's Gospel . This is a truth which every Christian feels, admits, and acts upon; but from piety he would not allow himself to reflect on what he does, did not the attack of heresies oblige him. The direct answer which a true religious loyalty leads him to make to any question about the subordination of the Son, is that such comparisons are irreverent, that the Son

4 Bull, Defens. ii. 7, § 2. 5 Rev. viii. 3. Jolin v. 19–30.

« PreviousContinue »