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This appellation was given to individuals of the human race. Adam was called the son of God. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, requiring him to let Israel go, he commanded him to say unto Pharaoh, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son. When God forbade David to build an house for his name, he declared that Solomon should build him an house; and "I will be his Father and he shall be my Son; and I will establish his kingdom." Those, who are born of the Spirit and have become members of Christ's kingdom, are frequently called sons of God. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." People are children of God in different senses, and in different respects. All are his children in this general sense, that he is the Author of their existence; and in this sense all may call him Father. But those, who are renewed in the temper of their minds, and are adopted into his family, are, in a more peculiar sense, his children, or his sons; and in a more peculiar sense God is their Father.
Christ is not only Son of God, but by way of distinction and eminence, he is the Son of God. If those, who are born of the Holy Spirit; who bear the divine moral likeness, and have become members of God's family by adoption, are emphatically sons of God; for greater reasons, and in a higher sense is Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Some are of opinion that the sonship of Christ originated from his miraculous conception. To Mary the angel said, "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 is not doubted that this is one reason, for which he was called by this name. But it is not the only, nor the principal reason for giving him this appellation. Christ was called a Son long before his incarnation. The Psalmist
speaking the language of the Father to Christ, saith, "Thou art my Son." The love of God is represented in the highest degree because he sent his Son into the world. The love of God is grounded on his not sparing his own, his dearly beloved Son; but giving him up freely for the sins of the world. If.God had not had a Son before the advent of the Messiah, he could not have sent his Son. Therefore the peculiar manner of his introduction into the world did not constitute his near relationship to the Father.
Christ is not a literal Son of the Father. Because Christ is repeatedly called Son of God, it does not follow that this phrase is to be understood according to its literal, or natural meaning. If it should be admitted as an established rule for the interpretation of the scriptures that words are always to be understood according to their natural meaning, and according to their general acceptation, there would be found something more than mystery in the Bible. If the terms Son of God prove that Jesus Christ is literally and properly the Son of the most High, then the terms Lamb of God would prove that Christ was literally and properly a lamb; and as he was of God, it would prove that God possessed the same nature. The scriptures say, "it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth; The Lord repented of the evil, which he thought to do unto his people; God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them and he did it not." If these passages are to be understood according to the rule of literal interpretation, or according to the common acceptation of words, then God is changeable like man; and feels the painful emotions of humanity. God is represented in the scriptures as hearing, seeing, smelling. If these terms are to be explained by the rule just mentioned, then the divine Spirit is invested with a body; and possesses corporeal organs. Such interpretations prove that the rule is not correct; and it proves also that Christ is not literally the Son of God, merely because he is called by this name.
Christ is not the Son of God by derivation. Creation and derivation are words of different import; and they require different acts of power. Creation is the production of something out of nothing. Derivation is the production of something from something already existing. Matter was created. The human body was derived from this substance. The human race have derived their nature ultimately from the parents of all living. All the properties of their natures are similar to those of their progenitors. If their parents had a beginning of existence, if they were dependent and were limited in all their faculties, their descendants are exactly like them in all these particulars. The nature they derived is exactly similar to that, from which they derived it. A stream is of the same nature as its fountain. Every production is of the same nature, i. e. possesses the same essential properties, as those from which they are produced. In this manner derivation applies to almost every thing, which falls under our notice.
If Christ derived his nature from the Father, he possesses the same kind of nature, the same essential properties, which the Father possesses. If the Father be eternal, self-existent, independent, infinite in power, knowledge and wisdom, the derived Son must also be eternal, self-existent, independent, infinite in power, knowledge and wisdom. This derived Being is a distinct and separate existence from the Father. As he possesses all divine attributes, he is a divine Being. As he possesses a nature separate from, and independent of, the Father, he and the Father are two distinct gods. As this natural conclusion is false, it is presumed that the doctrine of divine derivation is
It is in vain to say, all divine attributes may be derived except eternity and self-existence. If the Son, by derivation be divine, he possesses divine attributes. If he possess not divine attributes, he is not divine. Take from him any one divine property, and
his divinity ceases. Take from him his eternity and self-existence, and it is harder to conceive of his divinity, than it is to conceive of a plurality in the divine nature. It is hard to conceive divine attributes blended in the same nature with finite properties. It is hard to conceive almighty power in a dependent existence; to conceive infinite knowledge, or any other quality infinite in its nature, subsisting in a nature, which has had a temporary existence.
When creatures receive existence by derivation; they, from whom they are derived, communicate a portion of their own substance. They suffer a diminution of themselves; and the diminution would continue, if they did not receive supplies, from external substance. If Christ derived his nature from the Father, the Father communicated a part of his own nature, a part of his own substance. He would suffer a privation of a part of his attributes, a part of his nature. There would be a chasm in the divine Spirit, which could not be filled. There would be an essential defect in the Father. The derived extract would be dependent; and the original Source of being would be diminished. Of course, the Son would be a dependent, and the Father a finite being.
Divine nature, or divine attributes are not communicable. God cannot impart one quality of his mind; nor can one divine quality be derived from him. If a human or an angelic spirit be produced, it is the effect of divine energy; it is not a communication of divine qualities. A created mind is similar, in some respects, to the divine Mind; but, in degree, it bears no comparison. Holiness in the human heart is not a derivation of divine holiness; but it is the effect of divine operation upon the mind. There is an essential difference between originating existence, and communicating that which already exists.
The divine nature is eternal; and it is necessary in its existence. As it had no cause of its existence, there is no cause, which can destroy its existence. As
it is impossible that it should not exist, it is impossible that it should exist otherwise than it does. If its attributes are infinite, it is impossible it should exist with a diminution or relinquishment of any of its attributes. It is not derogatory to the Deity, to be incapable of change; to be incapable of imperfection. Admitting these principles, it is impossible that God should communicate his nature or his attributes; and it is equally impossible that they should be derived. from him. Should he communicate almighty power, infinite wisdom, infinite knowledge and independence, he would become entirely destitute of these attributes. Or rather, a transference of divine attributes, (supposing it possible) would not destroy them; and being again united, they would constitute the same divine Being; and of course there would be no communication, nor derivation. If it be supposed that Jesus Christ derived divine attributes from the Father in only a limited degree, the supposition is inconsistent. In the first place, divine nature is incapable of division, or separation, or of communication of any part of itself. In the second place, if a partial communication were made, the consequence would be different from that, which is contemplated by the supposition. If it were possible that Christ derived a finite nature and finite attributes from the Father, he would not be divine. There is no perceptible difference between finite properties and the properties of creatures. Divine attributes are infinite; or they are in the highest possible degree. Attributes less than these are not divine. Should we speak of divine, dependent power; of a divine, finite knowledge; of a divine, limited presence; of a divine, temporary existence; we should pervert, we should torture language. If we had ideas on this subject, it is certain that such a combination, such a contrariety of words would not convey them.
If Christ has his nature by derivation from the Father, there was a period in eternity, in which he had not existence. It was owing to the will of the