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possessed an extraordinary measure of Divine power, and that the prophets and apostles possessed an extraordinary measure of Divine knowledge; and that all holy beings do partake of that attribute which is the glory of the Divine nature ? If the attributes of holiness, knowledge, and power, may be properly communicated from God to dependent agents, and in such a manner as to become personal properties or attributes of these agents, what properties of intelligent existence may not be properly derived from Deity, as a stream from a fountain, or as a Son from a FATHER 2 The communication of these attlibutes, from a self-existent to a derived agent, seems to imply something distinct from these attributes as the BEING who is the recipient of these communications. But what that is which constitutes BEING, distinct from such properties or attributes, is perhaps beyond the reach of mortal discernment. I have not, however, made this remark with a view to deny the existence of BEING, as distinct from all we know of attributes or properties. The language we use, and the language of the Bible, naturally imply a recipient or receiver of Divine communications; and that BEING does imply something more than all we know of properties, attributes, or qualities. If any thing be communicated from one agent to another, there must be an agent or capacity to receive such communicationS. But if, from his own self-existent nature, or fulness, God may communicate the attributes of knowledge, power, and holiness, to created intelligences, so that they shall possess, in measure, these attributes as derived excellences, what evidence can be found to invalidate the hypothesis that the existence of the Son of God was properly derived from the Divine nature ? Angels and saints are called sons of God; yet Christ is God’s own and onEy SoN, the oNLY BEGoTTEN of the Father. The primary and radical distinction may possibly be this: angels and saints, as created intelligences, may derive from the Divine nature some attributes or properties, while God's own SoN may derive not only some attributes, but his very Being or Existence, from the Divine nature. • Some may imagine, that I have labored hard, in this investigation, to support a self-invented theory. But this is not the case ; I have been laboring to support the primitive * * ... •
Christian faith, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, God's own and only Son ; and to rescue the plain, abundant, and emphatical language of Scripture, from the strong prepossessions of my fellow Christians. Dr. Spring says, “The Scriptures were inspired, to instruct common readers, by using words according to their common acceptation, and not to confound them by an abuse of language.” Had the principle advanced in this excellent remark been understood and duly regarded, I should have had no occasion for a labored discussion to prove that Jesus Christ is truly the SoN of God. But the plain meaning of the terms has been so involved in the labyrinth of controversy, and the mists of prepossession, that it has required some fortitude to assert, and some labor to prove, that the concurrent testimony of GoD, of CHRIST, and the ApostLEs, is to be regarded as a correct expression of the truth. Yea, I have been laboring to prove, that these Witnesses used “words according to their common acceptation,” and that they did not mean “to confound us by an abuse of language.” Had the plain and natural import of language been heretofore duly regarded, an attempt to prove that Christ is truly the SoN of God, would have been as needless, as an attempt to prove that Isaac was truly the son of Abraham.
THERE are some who predicate the Sonship of Christ simply on the ground stated by the Angel to Mary, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the SoN of God.”
That this text contains a reason why Christ, in his incarnate state, should be called the Son of God, I will not deny; and if I were in the habit of believing that the soul or spirit of Christ had no pre-existence, I should readily admit this as the only ground on which he is called the Son of God. But even on such an "hypothesis, nothing could be made to appear against the supposition that his existence was truly derived from God, in a sense by which he is distinguished from every other intelligent being. But I as fully believe that the Son of God, as an intelligent
* Sermon on the Self-existence of Christ.
Being, existed before the world, as I believe that he now exists. - Some will probably object, that it is unaccountable and inconceivable how God should have a Son. But you, Sir, I trust,will not make the incomprehensibleness of the mode of Divine operation an objection to the theory. For this hypothesis is far more consistent with all we do know, than the supposition of THREE infinite Persons in on E intelligent BEING. The hypothesis which I have proposed contradicts nothing which we know of PERson, of BEING, or of GoD. It is doubtless repugnant to what some men have thought : but it may be presumed that it is not repugnant to what is known by any man. Nor does the hypothesis imply anything more inconceivable, unaccountable, or incom
prehensible, than what is implied in the existence of every "
other intelligent being in the universe. How God exists
without any cause, and how he could give existence to an- "
gels, or to men, are as perfectly inconce vable to us, as how
he could give existence to an own SoN. And I may ask the objector, whether it be more inconceivable to us how God could have an own SoN, than it is to conceive how or why such a thing should be impossible with HIM : If we
are to draw our conclusions from all we know of God by
his works and by his word, we have surely as much ground to say that such a thing is possible, as we have to say it is impossible.
The Divine Dignity of the Son of God.
WHATEVER may be the apprehensions of others, respecting my attempt to prove that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, you may be assured, Sir, that it has been no part of my object to degrade his character. If it did not. seem a “light thing” to David to be a “King’s son-in-law,” it surely ought not to be viewed by us degrading to Christ,
to consider him as GoD's own AND only SoN.—And I shall
now attempt to show, That the Son of God is truly a Person of Divine Dignity. * - *
No principle, perhaps, has been more universally admitted, than this, that a son derives dignity from illustrious parentage. The Jews, to whom Christ made his appearance in the flesh, were well acquainted with this principle; and though many generations had intervened, they still gloried in the idea that they were the descendants of the illustrious Patriarch Abraham. There is, perhaps, no nation, whether barbarous, civilized, or christianized, in which the principle is not admitted. The sons of Emperors, Kings, and Noblemen, are considered as deriving dignity from their respective fathers. And the derived dignity of each is according to the acknowledged dignity of his father.—But more especially is the first-born or only son of a King, or Emperor, considered as deriving royal or imperial dignity by royal or imperial descent. It is indeed true, that a son of the most renowned and worthy King may, by vicious or disobedient conduct, forfeit his derived dignity, and subject himself to the displeasure of his father, and to general infamy; but this forms no ground of objection to the principle of derived dignity. And on the same principle that a worthy son of a worthy King derives royal dignity, the Son of God derives Divine dignity. And on the same principle that the most worthy son of the most renowned King derives higher dignity than the son of a common peasant, the derived dignity of the SoN of GoD will appear to be infinite. For his Father is infinitely illustrious. This must certainly be the case, unless the Son has done something by which he has forfeited his claim. But that he has not, we have the highest ground of assurance; twice by an audible voice from Heaven, God has proclaimed his perfect satisfaction in his Son, by saying, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we have still farther assurance of the same thing, by the high and important offices with which God has invested his BELovED SoN. It has sometimes been the case in earthly governments, that a King's son, who was well beloved of the father, has been admitted, during the father's life, to a joint participation in the government, and invested by the father with kingly authority. Such was the case with Solomon, the son of David. Solomon derived his authority from David, and by the pleasure of David he was crowned King ; but Solomon was as truly the King of Israel as though he had possessed the same authority by self-existence. If it be true, that God has an own and only SoN, in whom he is well pleased, it would be natural to expect that he would delight to honor him in the highest possible manner. Moreover, any wise and benevolent King, being about to invest his son with kingly authority, would, were it in his power, endue his son with every qualification or attribute which would be requisite to the most perfect and honorable execution of the office which he was to sustain. And such we may suppose would be the pleasure of God respect-, ing his Son. Nor may we suppose any insufficiency in God, in respect to communicating of his own infinite fulness to the Son, in whom he is ever well pleased. Let us now examine the sacred Oracles, to see whether these reasonable expectations are justified by revealed facts. f In respect to communicated fulness or sufficiency, we have the following declarations....“He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God ; for God giveth not the SPIRIT by measure unto him.” John iii. 34. “For it pleased the Father, that in him all fulness should dwell.” Col. i. 19. - “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Col. ii. 9. Such then has been the pleasure of God in respect to enduing his Son with Divine sufficiency. If by a portion or measure of the Divine Spirit, the apostles were instantaneously endued to speak a number of languages which the had never learned, what may not the Son of God be able to do, who has the Spirit without measure ? And if it hath pleased the Father that ALL FULNEss should dwell in his Son, we can with no more propriety set bounds to the sufficiency of Christ, than to the FULNEss of the GoDHEAD. Thus we find one of the reasonable expectations justified by plain and positive declarations of Scripture. We have next to show, that God has manifested a disposition to honor his Son in the highest possible manner. As the first token of this disposition in God, we may notice that God constitut ED his SoN the CREATOR of the world. In this great and astonishing work, a surprizing display was made of the power, the wisdom, and the good