Arhive pe categorii: Theology Proper
GOD HAS YOU RIGHT WHERE HE WANTS YOU
God has you right where He wants you and He is going to do with you as He pleases. God is not trying to do something with you. He is not trying to save you or anyone else. God is not a failure. He does not try! If He wants to save you or anyone else, He has the power and the means at His disposal to do so. No man is stronger than God. You say, “But I have a free will.” Do you really think so? Then will to do something contrary to your nature. Exercise your will and change from being a sinner and be perfect. Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” You with your so-called free will: let me see you be perfect. You cannot fly like a bird. You cannot be perfect. You cannot cease from sinning: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). So you see, your free will is not so free as you may have been told. It is bound to your sin nature. You are free to sin because that is your nature. Unless you have been born again your nature is enmity against God: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). You cannot even will to come to Christ and be saved. Some preachers may tell you that you can, but Jesus said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Some free will! You lack even the ability to will to come to Christ and be saved!
It does not matter that you lack a truly free will. It does not matter that your will acts in accordance with your sinful nature. Your will is not going to save you! In order to be saved a person must first be born again. Regeneration or the new birth is an inward change in a person brought about by God. You did not birth yourself the first time you were born and you cannot birth yourself into God’s family. In the birth process the baby is passive, not causative. So it is with the new birth. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7, 8). Just as the wind cannot be seen or controlled, so the Holy Spirit births whom He will when He wills. Perhaps you have been told that being born again is a matter of you exercising your will. That is absolutely contrary to the plain words of Scripture. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to His own nation, but they received (welcomed) Him not. But there were some – a few – who did welcome Him. The Bible explains that the reason these few people received Christ was because they had been born of God – not of human lineage, nor the will of man nor the will of the flesh. Read it yourself: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13). Did you get that? God’s Word says, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” How much plainer could God make it? From every conceivable aspect, no will other than God’s will is involved in the new birth. God says so! If you have been born again it is not because you exercised your so-called free will. It is because God exercised His will. You are not master of your destiny: God is. God has “mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:18). God is in control of all things including whom He saves!
If God wants to save everybody, He will do so. If it is God’s will to save you, He will do so. He will not save you contrary to your will although He could. Rather, He is able to work in you and change your will so that you want Christ. The Bible says: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God does as He pleases! The Bible says so in Isaiah 46:10: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” God says that He does all His pleasure. He does what He wants to do. Daniel 4:35 says, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” But somebody says, “You must let God save you.” Where did you read that in the Bible? Someone may have told you that, but you did not read it in God’s Word! What kind of God do you worship: one that puny men can “stay his hand?” Is yours the Almighty Sovereign God? The God of the Bible does according to His will in Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. The last quoted verse says that plainly.
The Bible says this about God’s children: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:4, 5). God determined what He would do and whom He would save before the foundation of the world. That is a Bible fact! How do you know that you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world? How can you know that you have been predestinated unto God’s adoption? How can you know that you have been born again? Obviously not because you exercised your will, for, as demonstrated above, the Bible says your will has nothing to do with the new birth which is the beginning of salvation. How can you know that you are saved? First of all, have you ever seen yourself as the worst of sinners? Have you experienced godly sorrow over your sins? The Bible speaks of the twin requirements and at the same time the twin gifts of “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Furthermore, the Bible teaches that “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Have you experienced real and lasting sorrow for your sins? Have you mourned for your sin? Have you turned from sin? Is your faith in Christ alone? Has your life changed so that you now try to please God? All these things happen at some point in time to those whom God has chosen to save. Or, is your trust in some foolish religious thing that you did because somebody persuaded you and you willed to do it? Trusting in something that you did, even trusting in the exercise of your will, is not trusting Christ as Savior. That is faith in yourself and in what you did. It is not faith in Christ. God says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). “Before ordained” – your salvation is not in your hands. “Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).
THE GODHEAD OF GOD
by Arthur W. Pink
The Godhood of God! What is meant by this expression? Ah, sad it is that
such a question needs to be asked and answered. And yet it does: for a
generation has arisen that is well nigh universally ignorant of the important
truth which this term connotes. That which is popular today in the colleges,
in the pulpits, and in the press, is the dignity, the power, and the
attainments of man. But this is only the corrupt fruit that has issued from
the Evolutionary teachings of fifty years ago. When Christian theologians
(?) accepted the Darwinian hypothesis, which excluded God from the realm
of Creation, it was only to be expected that more and more God would be
banished from the realm of human affairs. Thus it has proven. To the
twentieth-century mind God is little more than an abstraction, an impersonal
“First Cause,” or if a Being at all, One far removed from this world and
having little or nothing to do with mundane affairs. Man, forsooth, is a
“god” unto himself. He is a “free agent” and therefore the regulator of his
own life and the determiner of his own destiny. Such was the Devil’s lie at
the beginning — “Ye shall be as God” (
Genesis 3:5). But from human
speculation and Satanic insinuation we turn to Divine revelation.
The Godhood of God! What is meant by the expression? This: the
omnipotency of God, the absolute sovereignty of God. When we speak of
the Godhood of God we affirm that God is God. We affirm that God is
something more than an empty title: that God is something more than a mere
figure-head: that God is something more than a far-distant Spectator,
looking helplessly on at the suffering which sin has wrought. When we
speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is “King of kings and Lord
of lords.” We affirm that God is something more than a disappointed, dis-satisfied,
defeated Being, who is filled with benevolent desires but lacking
in power to carry them out. When we speak of the Godhood of God we
affirm that He is “the Most High.” We affirm that God is something more
than One who has endowed man with the power of choice, and because He
has done this is therefore unable to compel man to do His bidding. We
affirm that God is something more than One who has waged a protracted
war with the Devil and has been worsted. When we speak of the Godhood
of God we affirm that He is the Almighty.
To speak of the Godhood of God then, is to say that God is on the Throne,
on the Throne as a fact and not as a say so; on a Throne that is high above
all. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that the Helm is in His hand,
and that He is steering according to His own good pleasure. To speak of the
Godhood of God is to say that He is the Potter, that we are the clay, and
that out of the clay He shapes one as a vessel to honor and another as a
vessel to dishonor according to His own sovereign rights. To speak of the
Divine Despot doing.3
“according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the
inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto
Him what doest Thou?” (
Therefore, to speak of the Godhood of God is to give the mighty Creator
His rightful place; it is to recognize His exalted majesty; it is to own His
The Godhood of God stands at the base of Divine revelation: “in the
beginning God” — in solemn majesty, eternal, un-caused, self-sufficient.
This is the foundation doctrine, and upon it all other doctrines must be built,
and any other doctrine which is not built upon it will inevitably fail and fall
in the day of testing. At the beginning of all true theology lies the postulate
that God is God — absolute and irresistible. It must be so. Without this we
face a closed door: with it we have a key which unlocks every mystery.
This is true of Creation; exclude an Almighty God and nothing is left but
blind and illogical materialism. This is true of Revelation: the Bible is the
solitary miracle in the realm of literature; exclude God from it and you have
a miracle and no miracle-Worker to produce it. This is true of Salvation.
Salvation is “of the Lord,” entirely so; exclude God from any aspect or part
of salvation, and salvation vanishes. This is true of History, for history is
His story: it is the outworking in time of His eternal purpose; exclude God
from history and all is meaningless and purposeless. The absolute Godhood
of God is the only guaranty that in the end it shall be fully and finally
demonstrated that God is “All in all” (
1 Corinthians 15:28).
“In the beginning God.” This is not only the first word of Holy Scripture
but it must be the firm axiom of all true philosophy — the philosophy of
human history, for example. Instead of beginning with man and his world
and attempting to reason back to God, we must begin with God and reason
forward to man and his world. It is failure to do this which leaves unsolved
the “riddle of the universe.” Begin with the world as it is today and try to
reason back to God, and what is the result? If you are honest of heart and
logical of mind, this — that God has little or nothing at all to do with the
world. But begin with God and reason forward to the world as it is today
and much light is cast on the problem. Because God is holy, His anger
burns against sin. Because God is righteous, His judgments fall on those
who rebel against Him. Because God is faithful, the solemn threatenings of
His Word are being fulfilled. Because God is omnipotent, no problem can
master Him, no enemy defeat Him, and no purpose of His can be
withstood. It is just because God is who He is and what He is that we now
behold what we do — the gathering clouds of the storm of Divine wrath
which will shortly burst upon the earth.
“For of Him, and through Him and to Him, are all things”
In the beginning — God. In the center — God. At the end — God. But as
soon as this is insisted upon men will stand up and tell you what they think
about God. They will prate about God working consistently with His own
character, as though a worm of the earth was capable of determining what
was consistent and what was inconsistent with the Divine perfections.
People will say with an air of profound wisdom that God must deal justly
with His creatures, which is true, of course, but who is able to define
Divine justice, or any other of God’s attributes? The truth is that man is
utterly incompetent for forming a proper estimate of God’s character and
ways, and it is because of this that God has given us a revelation of His
mind, and in that revelation He plainly declares,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my
ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher then your ways, and My thoughts than your
In view of such a scripture as this it is only to be expected that much of the
contents of the Bible conflicts with the sentiments of the carnal mind which
is “enmity against God.” And further: in view of such a Scripture as the
above we need not be surprised that much of human history is so
perplexing to our understandings.
The natural world, to begin with the simplest, presents sufficient problems
to humble man, were it not that he was blinded by pride. Why should there
be diseases and remedies for them? Why poisons and their antidotes? Why
rats and mice, and cats to kill them? Why not have left un-made the evils,
and then no necessity for the instruments to remove them! Ah, why are we
so slow to learn that God’s ways are different from ours? And when we
enter the human realm the mystery deepens. What is man placed here for at
all? To learn some lesson or lessons or to undergo some test or experience
which he could not learn or undergo elsewhere? If so, then why is such a
large proportion of the race removed in infancy, before such lessons can be
learned and such experiences be gained? Why indeed! Such questions as
these might be multiplied indefinitely, but sufficient has been said to point
out the manifest limitations of human wisdom. And if we are confronted
with insolvable problems in the domain of nature and of human existence,
what of the Divine realm! Who can fathom the ways of the Almighty? Canst
thou by searching find out God? No indeed.
“Clouds and darkness are round about Him” (
If God were not a mystery He would not be God to us.
But why write in this strain? Surely the need of our day is for that which
will strengthen faith, not that which paralyzes it. True; but what is faith? we
mean faith in the abstract. Faith is, essentially, an attitude rather than an act:
it is that which lies behind the act. Faith is an attitude of dependency, of.5
recognized weakness. Faith is a coming to the end of ourselves and looking
outside of ourselves — away from ourselves. Faith is that which gives God
His proper place. And if we give God His proper place, we must take our
proper place, and that is in the dust. And what is there that will bring the
haughty, self-sufficient creature into the dust so quickly as a sight of the
Godhead of God! Nothing is so humbling to the human heart as a true
recognition of the absolute sovereignty of God. So then, instead of seeking
to weaken faith, we write to promote and strengthen it. The chief trouble is
that so much that passes for faith today is really only maudlin
sentimentality. The faith of Christendom in this twentieth century is mere
credulity, and the “god” of many of our churches is not the Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, but a mere figment of the imagination. Modern theology
has invented a “god” which the infinite mind can understand, whose ways
are pleasing to the natural man, a “god” who is altogether “such a one as”
Psalm 50:21) those who profess to worship him, a “god” concerning
whom there is little or no mystery. But how different the God which the
Holy Scriptures reveal! Of Him it is said, His ways are “past finding out”
Romans 11:33). To particularize:
1 . The “god” of the moderns is altogether lacking in power. The popular
idea of today is that deity is filled with amiable intentions but that Satan is
preventing the making good of them. It is not God’s will, so we are told,
that there should be any wars, for wars are something which men are
unable to reconcile with their ideas of Divine mercy. Hence, the conclusion
is, that all wars are of the Devil. Plagues and earthquakes, famines and
tornadoes, are not sent from God, but are attributed solely to natural causes.
To affirm that the Lord God sent the recent Influenza epidemic as a
judgment scourge, would be to shock the sensibilities of the modern mind.
All such things as this are a cause of grief to “god” for “he” desires nought
but the happiness of everybody.
2 . The “god” of the moderns is altogether lacking in wisdom. The popular
belief is that God loves everybody, and that it is His will that every child of
Adam should be saved. But if this be true, He is strongly lacking in
wisdom, for He knows quite well that under existing conditions the
majority will be lost. If He is really desirous that every creature should have
an equal chance to be saved, then why suffer so many to be born into
families (of criminal parents, for example) and be brought up under
conditions where they will never hear the Gospel — and there are many
thousands such in this country. If it should be said in reply God has not
created these criminal conditions, the point is readily ceded, but
nevertheless God is responsible for sending children into them, for the fruit
of the womb is solely in His hands. Why not produce sterility among
criminals, if it is contrary to His will for children to be born into such
conditions, conditions which frequently preclude all reading of the
Scriptures and all hearing the Gospel..6
3 . The “god” of the moderns is lacking in holiness. That crime deserves
punishment is still allowed in part, though more and more the belief is
gaining ground that the criminal is really an object of pity rather than
censure, and that he stands in need of education and reformation rather than
of punishment. But that SIN — sins of thought as well as deed, sins of the
heart as well as life, sins of omission as well as commission, the sinful root
itself as well as the fruit — should be hated by God, that His body nature
burns against it, is a concept that has gone almost entirely out of fashion;
and that the sinner himself is hated by God is indignantly denied even
among those who boast most loudly of their orthodoxy.
4 . The “god” of the moderns is altogether lacking in a sovereign
prerogative. Whatever rights the deity of present-day Christendom may be
supposed to possess in theory, in fact they must be subordinated to the
“rights” of the creature. It is denied, almost universally, that the rights of
the Creator over His creatures is that of the Potter over the clay. When it is
affirmed that God has the right to make one as a vessel unto honor, and
another as a vessel unto dishonor, the cry of injustice is instantly raised.
When it is affirmed that salvation is a gift and that this gift is bestowed on
whom God pleases, it is said He is partial and unfair. If God has any gifts
to impart, He must distribute them evenly, or else bestow them on those
that merit them, whoever they may be. And thus God is allowed less
freedom than I, who may disburse my charity as I best please, giving to one
beggar a quarter, to another a dime, and to a third nothing at all if I think
How different is the God of the Bible from the “god” of the moderns!! The
God of Scripture is all-mighty. He is one who speaks and it is done, who
commands and it stands fast. He is the One with whom “all things are
possible” and “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will”
Ephesians 1:11). He is the One
“who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and
meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the
earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the
hills in a balance” (
He is the One with whom
“the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small
dust of the balance,” with Whom “all nations before Him are as
nothing and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity”
He is One that
“sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as
grasshoppers; that spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that.7
bringeth the princes to nothing; He maketh the judges of the earth as
He is the One who declares,
“Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, and He that formed thee from
the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretched forth
the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself. That
frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that
turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish.
That confirmeth the word of His servant, and performeth the
counsel of His messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be
inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will
raise up the decayed places thereof. That saith to the deep, Be dry,
and I will dry up thy rivers: That saith of Cyrus (a heathen idolater)
he is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure”
Such is the God of the Bible, the God who throws out the challenge,
“To whom then will ye liken God, or what likeness will ye compare
unto Him?” (
And as though that were not enough, in the same chapter He asks again,
“To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy
One. Lift up your eyes on high and behold who hath created these
things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by
names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power,
not one faileth…Hast thou not known? has thou not heard, that the
everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary?” (
The God of Scripture is infinite in wisdom. No secret can be hidden from
Him, no problem can baffle Him, nothing is too hard for Him. God is
“Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is
Therefore is it said, “There is no searching of His understanding” (
40:28). Hence it is, that in a revelation from Him we expect to find truths
which transcend the reach of the creature’s mind, and therefore the
presumptuous folly and wickedness of those who are but “dust and ashes”
undertaking to pronounce upon the reasonableness or unreasonableness of
doctrines which are above their reason, and of speculating upon things that
are a matter of pure revelation. Instead of coming to the Scriptures to be
taught thereof, men first fill their minds with objections, and then instead of
interpreting the Divine Oracles according to their obvious meaning, they.8
submit and twist them according to the dictates of their own finite reason.
Surely if we are unable to comprehend the mode of God’s existence,
because it is infinitely above us, then for the same reason we are unable to
comprehend the counsels of infinite wisdom. Such is the explicit assertion
of Holy Writ itself —
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for
they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned” (
1 Corinthians 2:14).
The God of Scripture is infinite in Holiness. The “only true God” is He
who hates sin with a perfect abhorrence and whose nature eternally burns
against it. He is the One who beheld the wickedness of the antediluvians
and who opened the windows of Heaven and poured down the flood of His
righteous indignation. He is the One who rained fire and brimstone upon
Sodom and Gomorrah and utterly destroyed these cities of the plain. He is
the One who sent the plagues upon Egypt, and destroyed her haughty
monarch together with his hosts at the Red Sea. He is the One who caused
the earth to open its mouth and swallow alive Korah and his rebellious
company. Yes, He is the One who “spared not His own Son” when He was
“made sin for us…that we might be made the righteousness of God in
Him.” So holy is God and such is the antagonism of His nature against
evil, that for one sin He banished our first parents from Eden; for one sin
He cursed the posterity of Ham; for one sin He turned Lot’s wife into a
pillar of salt; for one sin He sent out fire and devoured the sons of Aaron;
for one sin Moses died in the wilderness; for one sin Achan and his family
were all stoned to death; for one sin the servant of Elisha was smitten with
leprosy. Behold therefore, not only the goodness, but also “the severity of
Romans 11:22). And this is the God that every Christ-rejector has
yet to meet in judgment!
The God of Scripture has a will that is irresistible. Man talks and boasts of
his will, but God also has a will! Men had a will on the plains of Shinar and
undertook to build a tower whose top should reach unto heaven; but what
came of it? God had a will, too, and their willful effort came to naught.
Pharaoh had a will when he hardened his heart and refused to allow
Jehovah’s people to go into the wilderness and there worship Him, but
what came of it? God had a will, too, and being Almighty His will was
performed. Balak had a will when he hired Balaam to come and curse the
Hebrews; but of what avail was it? The Canaanites had a will when they
determined to prevent Israel occupying the promised land; but how far did
they succeed? Saul had a will when he hurled his javelin at David, but
instead of slaying the Lord’s anointed, it entered the wall instead. Jonah had
a will when he refused to go and preach to the Ninevites; but what came of
it? Nebuchadnezzar had a will when he thought to destroy the three
Hebrews; but God had a will too, and so the fire did not harm them. Herod
had a will when he purposed to slay the Child Jesus, and had there been no.9
living and reigning God, his evil desires had been effected; but in daring to
pit his puny will against the irresistible will of the Almighty, his efforts
came to naught. Yes, my reader, and you had a will when you formed your
plans without first seeking counsel of the Lord, and therefore did He
overthrow them. As well might a worm seek to resist the tread of an
elephant; as well might a babe step between the railroad tracks and attempt
to push back the express train; as well might a child seek to prevent the
ocean from rolling, as for a creature to try and resist the outworking of the
purpose of the Lord God —
“O Lord God of our fathers, art not Thou God in heaven? and rulest
not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in Thine hand is
there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?”
2 Chronicles 20:6).
The God of Scripture is absolute Sovereign. Such is His own claim:
“This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this
is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of
hosts hast purposed, and who shall disannul it? and His hand is
stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (
The Sovereignty of God is absolute and irresistible:
“All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth
according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the
inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto
Him, What doest Thou?” (
The Sovereignty of God is true not only hypothetically, but in fact. That is
to say, God exercises His sovereignty, exercises it both in the natural
realm, and in the spiritual. One is born black, another white. One is born in
wealth, another in poverty. One is born with a healthy body, another sickly
and crippled. One is cut off in childhood, another lives to old age. One is
endowed with five talents, another with but one. And in all these cases it is
God the Creator who maketh one to differ from another, and “none can stay
His hand.” So also is it in the spiritual realm. One is born in a pious home
and is brought up in the fear and abomination of the Lord; another is born
of criminal parents and is reared in vice. One is the object of many prayers,
the other is not prayed for at all. One hears the Gospel from early
childhood, another never hears it. One sits under a Scriptural ministry,
another hears nothing but error and heresy. Of those who do hear the
Gospel, one has his heart opened by the Lord to receive the truth, while
another is left to himself. One is “ordained to eternal life” (
while another is “ordained to condemnation (
Jude 4). To whom He will
God shows mercy, and whom he wills He “hardens” (
Romans 9:18). To
THE ABSOLUTE GODHOOD OF GOD
IS SEEN IN CREATION
With whom took He counsel in creation? Whom did He consult when He
determined the various and manifold arrangements, adjustments,
adaptations, relationships, equipments of His myriad creatures? Did He not
do everything after the counsel of His own will? Did He not decide that
birds should fly in the air, beasts roam the earth, and fishes live in the sea?
Did He not decide there should be one vast gradation among the creatures of
His hand, instead of making everything equal and uniform? Did He not
determine to make a revolving world on the one hand, and a floating atom
on the other? Did He not determine to create the exalted seraphim to stand
before His throne throughout endless ages, and also to make another
creature which dies the same hour it is born?” Was He not undisputed
Sovereign in all His creative acts? Yea, verily, for the Three Persons of the
Godhead were all alone in their solitary majesty. Why should God take
counsel? Could man add to His knowledge, or correct His errors? God
sovereignly assigned His myriad creatures their various habitations,
members, movements, as it pleased Him. God never consulted man about a
single member of His body, or about its size, color, or capacity; instead,
“God set the members everyone of them in the body, as it hath
pleased Him” (
1 Corinthians 12:18).
Man is as truly the product of Sovereign creation as any other of God’s
creatures — sovereign, we say, not arbitrary.
THE ABSOLUTE GODHOOD OF GOD
IS SEEN IN ADMINISTRATION
God not only created everything, but everything which He created is subject
to His immediate control. God rules over the works of His hands. God
governs the creatures He has made. God reigns with universal dominion.
When He pleased, the sun and moon stood still (
Joshua 10:12,13); and at
a word from Him the sun went backward ten degrees on the dial of Ahaz
Isaiah 38:8). At His command the Red Sea ceased to flow, and at His
command it resumed its normal course (
Exodus 14). In response to the
prayer of Elisha, He made iron to float on the top of the water (
6:5). Yes, when He pleases, He reverses the order of nature, as when the.11
fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace burnt not, as when the hungry lions
touched not Daniel, as when the ravens, which are birds of prey, were
made to minister of Elijah. At a word from Him who made it, a fish carried
a coin to Peter, a tree withers suddenly (
Matthew 21:4), the raging
tempest becomes a calm.
So it is also with men; they, too, are ruled by God; ruled by and unseen
Hand; often, unknown to themselves. Little did they know it, yet
nevertheless, the sons of Jacob were but performing the pleasure of
Jehovah when they sold Joseph into the hands of the Ishmaelites who
carried him down into Egypt. Little was she aware of it, but when
Pharaoh’s daughter went to the Nile to bathe, she was being directed by
God, directed there to rescue from the waters the babe Moses. Little did he
know it, but in issuing the decree that all the world should be taxed (
2:1) Caesar Augustus was but setting in motion a movement which caused
the word and decree of God to be fulfilled. Yes, even
“The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water:
He turneth it whithersoever He will” (
And so it is with Satan himself. He, too, is the (unwitting and unwilling)
servant of God. He could not touch Job without first gaining Divine
permission. He could not sift the apostles till he gained consent from
Christ. At a word from the Lord Jesus Satan “left” Him (
4:10,11). Of him, also, God has said, Thus far shalt thou go and no
Even death, the “king of terrors,” that which no arts of man can defy, is
absolutely subject to the bidding of the Lord. In his sermon on
68:20,21 — “unto God the Lord belong the issues from death” — the late
C. H. Spurgeon well said, “The prerogative of life or death belongs to God
in a wide range of senses. First of all as to natural life, we are all dependent
upon His good pleasure. We shall not die until the time which He appoints:
for our death-time, like all our time, is in His hands. Our skirts may brush
away the portals of the sepulchre, and yet we shall pass the iron gate
unharmed if the Lord be our guard. The wolves of disease will hurt us in
vain until God shall permit them to overtake us. The most desperate
enemies may waylay us, but no bullet shall find its billet in any heart unless
the Lord allows it. Our life does not even depend upon the care of angels,
nor can our death be compassed by the malice of devils. We are immortal
till our work is done, immortal till the immortal King shall call us home to
the land where we shall be immortal in a still higher sense. When we are
most sick, we need not despair of recovery, since the issues from death are
in Almighty hands. “The Lord killeth and maketh alive: He bringeth down
to the grave and bringeth up!” When we have passed beyond the skill of the
physician we have not passed beyond the succor of our God, to whom
belong the issues from death.”.12
THE ABSOLUTE GODHOOD OF GOD IS SEEN IN
GIVING OF THE SCRIPTURES
What part or lot did man have in the composition of the Bible? None
whatever. Its very words are the words of God. “All Scripture is given by
inspiration of God.” No part of it was of human origination,
“for the prophecy came not at any time by the will of man”
2 Peter 1:21).
Did not holy men of God speak “moved by the Holy Spirit”? And how did
they then record what the Holy Spirit communicated to them — in words of
man’s selecting? Nay verily,
“not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth,
but which the Holy Spirit teacheth” (
1 Corinthians 2:13).
Balaam longed to speak otherwise than he did; but he could not. Caiaphas
prophesied “not of himself” (
John 11:51). Pilate was asked to make a
change in the one sentence which God moved him to write, but he declared
“What I have written I have written” (
John 19:22). God acted
sovereignly in the writing of the Scriptures as in everything else. The very
words were chosen by Him; and did He not sovereignly choose? Did He
take counsel with either angels or men as to the words He should select for
the communicating of His thoughts? No indeed.
THE ABSOLUTE GODHOOD OF GOD IS SEEN IN
God’s absolute and irresistible proprietorship has been and is being
displayed in the spiritual realm as manifestly as in the natural. Isaac is
blessed, but Ishmael is cursed. Jacob is loved, but Esau is hated. Israel
becomes God’s favored people, while all other nations are suffered to
remain in idolatry. Jesse’s seven sons were all passed by, and David the
shepherd-boy was found to be the one after God’s own heart. The Saviour
took on Him the “seed of Abraham” (
Hebrews 2:16), not the seed of
Adam. His ministry was not worldward, but confined to the people chosen
of God. The proud Pharisees were rejected, while publicans and harlots
were sweetly compelled by sovereign grace to sit down at the Gospel feast.
The rich young ruler, who from his youth up, had kept the commandments,.13
was allowed to go away from Christ “sorrowing,” even though he had
sought Him with real earnestness and humility, while the fallen Samaritan
John 4) who sought Him not is made to rejoice in the
forgiveness of her sins. Two thieves hung by Christ on the cross; they were
equally guilty, equally needy, equally near to Him. One of them is moved to
cry: “Lord, remember me” and is taken to Paradise, while the other is
suffered to die in his sins and sink down into a hopeless eternity. Many are
called, but few are chosen.
Yes, Salvation is God’s sovereign work.
“God does not save a man because he is a sinner, for if so He must
save all men, for all are sinners. Nor because he comes to Christ,
for ‘no man can come except the Father draw him;’ nor because he
repents, for ‘God gives repentance unto life;’ nor because he
believes,’ for no one can believe ‘except it were given him from
above;’ nor yet because he holds out faithful to the end, for ‘we are
kept by the power of God.’ It is not because of baptism, for many
are saved without it, and many are lost with it. It is not because of
regeneration, for that would make the new birth a practical duty. It
is not because of morality, for the moralist is the hardeth to reach,
and many of the most immoral are saved — the ground of
distinguishing grace is the Sovereignty of God: ‘Even so Father, for
so it seemed good in Thy sight’” (J. B. Moody).
But is God partial? We answer, Has He not a right to be? Again we quote
from Mr. Spurgeon’s sermon “The Royal Prerogative” — Spiritually, too,
this prerogative is with God. We are by nature under the condemnation of
the law on account of our sins, and we are like criminals tried, convicted,
sentenced, and left for death. It is for God, as the great Judge, to see the
sentence executed, or to issue a free pardon, according as He pleases; and
He will have us know that it is upon His supreme pleasure that this matter
depends. Over the head of a universe of sinners, I hear this sentence
thundering. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have
compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Shut up for death, as men
are by reason of their sins, it rests with God to pardon whom He may
reserve: none have any claim to His favor, and it must be exercised upon
mere prerogative, because He is the Lord God, merciful and gracious, and
delighteth to pass by transgression and sin.” How far away have the
present-day admirers of Spurgeon departed from the teaching of this prince
of preachers: Mark carefully the next sentences: “Our text, however, puts
the prerogative upon the one sole ground of Lordship, and we prefer to
come back to that. ‘Unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.’ It is a
doctrine which is very unpalatable in these days (it always has been. —
A.W.P.), but one nevertheless which is to be held and taught, that God is
an absolute Sovereign, and doeth as He wills. The words of Paul may not
be suffered to sleep, — “Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against.14
God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast Thou
made me thus?” The Lord cannot do amiss, His perfect nature is a law unto
itself. In his case Rex is Lex, the King is the Law.”
Is God partial? Certainly He is. And has He not the right to be? Shall He
not dispense His favors as He wills, and bestow His gifts on whom He
pleases? But it is reasonable to suppose that God who is Love has created
millions of creatures to be lost? seeing that His elect constitute but a
“remnant.” a “few,” in comparison with the great multitudes who die
unsaved? We reply, it is not a question of reason but of revelation. There
are many things revealed in Scripture which are contrary to reason. Is it
reasonable to think that God would give His only begotten Son to die for
sinners? Ah, reason is ruled out entirely here. And so in many other things.
If it lay within the power of the reader, would you suffer your worst enemy
to be eternally tormented? And if you are honest, you will promptly answer,
No! But God will deal thus with His enemies, and the sentence will be a
righteous one, whether we can now discern its justice or not, for the Judge
of all the earth will do right. How far asunder then is carnal reasoning from
the teaching of Holy Writ concerning Eternal Punishment! Once more:
would the reader “laugh at” and “mock” his worst enemy if that enemy was
being severely punished before him and was entirely helpless to deliver
himself from that punishment? Yet Scripture explicitly declares that God
will “laugh” at the calamity of His enemies and “mock” when their fear
Proverbs 1:26). Can your reason harmonize
this with your knowledge of God? And again we say, If you are honest you
must reply, No! Then why prate so loudly and blatantly about the
unreasonableness of Reprobation and of God’s absolute Sovereignty in
salvation? Once more: here is Satan, the age-long enemy of God and many,
the one who has wrought incalculable evil, securely imprisoned at last in the
bottomless pit. There he remains chained for a thousand years. Now would
you, my reader, suggest for a moment that the Devil be released from that
prison after the earth had been freed for a thousand years from his vile
presence? Certainly you would not, and yet this is precisely what Divine
revelation declares shall come to pass. The Scriptures of Truth make known
how that God will cause the Serpent to be “loosed” for a little season, that
God will suffer this even though He knows beforehand that the
consequences will be the most dreadful revolt on the part of men, under
Satan, revolt against God, which this earth has ever witnessed. Truly
God’s ways are different, very different from ours. Learn then the utter
folly of man attempting to pronounce upon the reasonableness or
unreasonableness of the doings and dealings of the Most High God. And
now a few words by way of exhortation and we must conclude.
One of the most flagrant sins of this age is irreverence. By irreverence I am
not now thinking of open blasphemy, or the taking of God’s name in vain.
Irreverence is, also, failure to ascribe the glory which is due the great and
dreadful majesty of the Almighty. It is the limiting of His power and actions.15
by our degrading conceptions: it is the bringing of the Lord God down to
our level. There are multitudes of those who do not profess to be Christians
who deny that God is the omnipotent Creator, and there are multitudes of
professing Christians who deny that God is absolute Sovereign. Men boast
of their free will, prate of their power, and are proud of their achievements.
They know not that their lives are at the sovereign disposal of the Divine
Despot. They know not that they have no more power to thwart His secret
counsel than a worm has to resist the tread of an elephant. They know not
that God is the Potter, and they the clay.
Ah, my reader, this is the first great lesson we have to learn: that God is the
Creator, we the creature; that He is the Potter, we the clay. This is the
harvest of all life’s lessons, and when we think we have learnt them, we
soon discover that we have need to re-learn them. God is God and has the
right to dispose of me as He sees fit. It is for Him to say where I shall live
— whether in America or Africa. It is for Him to say under what
circumstances I shall live — whether amid riches or poverty, whether in
health or in sickness. It is for Him to say how long I shall live — whether I
shall be cut down in youth, like the flower of the field, or whether I shall
live unto old age. Yes, and it is for Him to say where I shall spend eternity.
The first sin of man was the refusal to be clay in the Potter’s hand; Adam
wanted to be something more — “Ye shall be as God’s was the bait which
the Tempter used to hurl him to his destruction.
One of the profoundest mysteries of the Incarnation is that “the mighty
God” descended from highest heaven and took upon Him the nature of the
creature and came down here to show us how to wear it. That which
differentiated the Life of Christ from all other lives, was His absolute and
joyous submission to the Father’s will — “My meat is to do the will of Him
that sent Me” struck the keynote of the thirty-three years that He tabernacled
among men. Have you profited by the example left us by the Beloved of the
Father? Has Divine grace shown you how to wear your creature nature?
Only if you live not in self-assertion, but in self-renunciation. Only if in the
school of Christ you have been taught to say, “Not my will, but Thine be
done.” O may Divine grace so subdue our rebellious hearts that more and
more we can say:
“I bow me to Thy will, O God,
And all Thy ways adore!
And every day I live I’d seek
To please Thee more and more.
Thy will, the good, the blessed rule
Of Jesus’ toil and tears:
Thy will the passion of His heart
Those three and thirty years..16
I love to kiss each print where Christ
Did set His pilgrim feet:
Nor can I fear that blessed path,
Whose traces are so sweet.
When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do,
And leave the rest to Thee.
I know not what it is to doubt,
My heart is ever gay;
I run no risk, for, come what will,
Thou always hast Thy way.”.17
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[A BRIEF DISCOURSE ON]
THE HOLY SPIRIT
The two points to be considered in reference to this subject, are, first the
nature, and second the office or work of the Holy Spirit. With regard to his
nature, is He a person or a mere power? and if a person, is He created or
divine, finite or infinite? The personality of the Spirit has been the faith of
the Church from the beginning. It had few opponents even in the chaotic
period of theology; and in modern times has been denied by none but
Socinians, Arians, and Sabellians. Before considering the direct proof of
the Church doctrine that the Holy Spirit is a person, it may be well to
remark, that the terms “The Spirit,” “The Spirit of God,” “The Holy
Spirit,” and when God speaks, “My Spirit,” or, when God is spoken of
“His Spirit,” occur in all parts of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation;
These and equivalent terms are evidently to be understood in the same
sense throughout the Scriptures.
If the Spirit of God which moved on the face of the waters, which strove
with the antediluvians, which came upon Moses, which gave skill to
artisans, and which inspired the prophets, is the power of God; then the
Spirit which came upon the Apostles, which Christ promised to send as a
comforter and advocate, and to which the instruction, sanctification, and
guidance of the people of God are referred, must also be the power of
God. But if the Spirit is clearly revealed to be a person in the later parts of
Scripture, it is plain that the earlier portions must be understood in the
same way. One part of the Bible, and much less one or a few passages
must not be taken by themselves, and receive any interpretation which the
isolated words may bear, but Scripture must interpret Scripture. Another.3
obvious remark on this subject is, that the Spirit of God is equally
prominent in all parts of the word of God. His intervention does not occur
on rare occasions, as the appearance of angels, or the Theophanies, of
which mention is made here and there in the sacred volume; but He is
represented as everywhere present and everywhere operative. We might as
well strike from the Bible the name and doctrine of God, as the name and
office of the Spirit.
In the New Testament alone He is mentioned not far from three hundred
times. It is not only, however, merely the frequency with which the Spirit
is mentioned, and the prominence given to his person and work, but the
multiplied and interesting relations in which He is represented as standing
to the people of God, the importance and number of his gifts, and the
absolute dependence of the believer and of the Church upon Him for
spiritual and eternal life, which render the doctrine of the Holy Ghost
absolutely fundamental to the gospel. The work of the Spirit in applying
the redemption of Christ is represented to be as essential as that
redemption itself. It is therefore indispensable that we should know what
the Bible teaches concerning the Holy Ghost, both as to his nature and
PROOF OF HIS PERSONALITY.
The Scriptures clearly teach that He is a person. Personality includes
intelligence, will, and individual subsistence. If, therefore, it can be proved
that all these are attributed to the Spirit, it is thereby proved that He is a
person. It will not be necessary or advisable to separate the proofs of
these several points, and cite passages which ascribe to Him intelligence;
and then others, which attribute to Him will; and still others to prove his
individual subsistence, because all these are often included in one and the
same passage; and arguments which prove the one, in many cases prove
also the others.
1. The first argument for the personality of the Holy Spirit is derived from
the use of the personal pronouns in relation to Him. A person is that
which, when speaking, says I; when addressed, is called thou; and when
spoken of, is called he, or him. It is indeed admitted that there is such a
rhetorical figure as personification; that inanimate or irrational beings, or
sentiments, or attributes, may be introduced as speaking, or addressed as
persons. But this creates no difficulty. The cases of personification are
such as do not, except in rare instances, admit of any doubt. The fact that
men sometimes apostrophize the heavens, or the elements, gives no
pretext for explaining as personification all the passages in which God or
Christ is introduced as a person. So also with regard to the Holy Spirit. He
is introduced as a person so often, not merely in poetic or excited
discourse, but in simple narrative, and in didactic instructions; and his
personality is sustained by so many collateral proofs, that to explain the
use of the personal pronouns in relation to Him on the principle of
personification, is to do violence to all the rules of interpretation. Thus in
“The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul,
for the work whereunto I have called them.”.5
Our Lord says (
“When the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the
Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father,
He shall testify of me.”
The use of the masculine pronoun He instead of it, shows that the Spirit is
a person. In the following chapter (
John 16:13, 14) It is there said,
“When He the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth:
for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that
shall He speak, and He will show you things to come. Be shall glorify
me for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.”
Here there is no possibility of accounting for the use of the personal
pronoun He on any other ground than the personality of the Spirit.
2. We stand in relations to the Holy Spirit which we can sustain only to a
person. He is the object of our faith. We believe on the Holy Ghost. This
faith we profess in baptism. We are baptized not only in the name of the
Father and of the Son, but also of the Holy Ghost. The very association of
the Spirit in such a connection, with the Father and the Son, as they are
admitted to be distinct persons, proves that the Spirit also is a person.
Besides the use of the words eiv to onoma, unto the name, admits of no
other explanation. By baptism we profess to acknowledge the Spirit as we
acknowledge the Father and the Son, and we bind ourselves to the one as
well as to the others. If when the Apostle tells the Corinthians that they
were not baptized “in the name of Paul,” and when he says that the
Hebrews were baptized unto Moses, he means that the Corinthians were
not, and that the Hebrews were made the disciples, the one of Paul and the
others of Moses; then when we are baptized unto the name of the Spirit,
the meaning is that in baptism we profess to be his disciples; we bind
ourselves to receive his instructions, and to submit to his control. We
stand in the same relation to Him as to the Father and to the Son; we
acknowledge Him to be a person as distinctly as we acknowledge the
personality of the Son, or of the Father. Christians not only profess to
believe on the Holy Ghost, but they are also the recipients of his gifts.
He is to them an object of prayer. In the apostolic benediction, the grace of
Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, are.6
solemnly invoked. We pray to the Spirit for the communication of Himself
to us, that He may, according to the promise of our Lord, dwell in us, as
we pray to Christ that we may be the objects of his unmerited love.
Accordingly we are exhorted not “to sin against,” “not to resist,” not “to
grieve” the Holy Spirit. He is represented, therefore, as a person who can
be the object of our acts; whom we may please or offend; with whom we
may have communion, i.e., personal intercourse; who can love and be
loved; who can say “thou” to us; and whom we can invoke in every time
3. The Spirit also sustains relations to us, and performs offices which none
but a person can sustain or perform. He is our teacher, sanctifier,
comforter, and guide. He governs every believer who is led by the Spirit,
and the whole Church. He calls, as He called Barnabas and Saul, to the
work of the ministry, or to some special field of labor. Pastors or bishops
are made overseers by the Holy Ghost.
4. In the exercise of these and other functions, personal acts are constantly
attributed to the Spirit in the Bible; that is, such acts as imply intelligence,
will, and activity or power. The Spirit searches, selects, reveals, and
reproves. We often read that “The Spirit said.” (
Acts 13:2; 21:11;
Timothy 4:1, etc., etc.) This is so constantly done, that the Spirit appears
as a personal agent from one end of the Scriptures to the other, so that his
personality is beyond dispute. The only possible question is whether He
is a distinct person from the Father. But of this there can be no reasonable
doubt, as He is said to be the Spirit of God and the Spirit which is of God;
as He is distinguished from the Father in the forms of baptism and
benediction; as He proceeds from the Father; and as He is promised, sent,
and given by the Father. So that to confound the Holy Spirit with God
would be to render the Scriptures unintelligible.
5. All the elements of personality, namely, intelligence, will, and individual
subsistence, are not only involved in all that is thus revealed concerning
the relation in which the Spirit stands to us and that which we sustain to
Him, but they are all distinctly attributed to Him. The Spirit is said to
know, to will, and to act. He searches, or knows all things, even the deep
things of God. No man knoweth the things of God, but the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 2:10, 12.) He distributes “to every man severally as he.7
1 Corinthians 12:11.) His individual subsistence is involved in his
being an agent, and in his being the object on which the activity of others
terminates. If He can be loved, reverenced, and obeyed, or offended and
sinned against, He must be a person.
6. The personal manifestations of the Spirit, when He descended on Christ
after his baptism, and upon the Apostles at the day of Pentecost, of
necessity involve His personal subsistence. It was not any attribute of
God, nor his mere efficiency, but God himself, that was manifested in the
burning bush, in the fire and clouds on Mount Sinai, in the pillar which
guided the Israelites through the wilderness, and in the glory which dwelt
in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.
7. The people of God have always regarded the Holy Spirit as a person.
They have looked to Him for instruction, sanctification, direction, and
comfort. This is part of their religion. Christianity (subjectively
considered) would not be what it is without this sense of dependence on
the Spirit, and this love and reverence for his person. All the liturgies,
prayers, and praises of the Church, are filled with appeals and addresses
to the Holy Ghost. This is a fact which admits of no rational solution if
the Scriptures do not really teach that the Spirit is a distinct person. The
rule: Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, is held by Protestants
as well as by Romanists. It is not to the authority of general consent as an
evidence of truth, that Protestants object, but to the applications made of
it by the Papal Church, and to the principle on which that authority is
made to rest. All Protestants admit that true believers in every age and
country have one faith, as well as one God and one Lord.
DIVINITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
On this subject there has been little dispute in the Church. The Spirit is so
prominently presented in the Bible as possessing divine attributes, and
exercising divine prerogatives, that since the fourth century his true
divinity has never been denied by those who admit his personality.
1. In the Old Testament, all that is said of Jehovah is said of the Spirit of
Jehovah; and therefore, if the latter is not a mere periphrase for the former,
he must of necessity be divine. The expressions, Jehovah said, and, the.8
Spirit said, are constantly interchanged; and the acts of the Spirit are said
to be acts of God.
2. In the New Testament, the language of Jehovah is quoted as the
language of the Spirit. In
Isaiah 6:9, it is written, Jehovah said, “Go and
tell this people,” etc. This passage is thus quoted by Paul,
“Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet,” etc. In
31:31, 33, 34, it is said,
“Behold the days come, saith Jehovah,
that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel;”
which is quoted by the Apostle in
Hebrews 10:15, saying,
“Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He
had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their
Thus constantly the language of God is quoted as the language of the Holy
Ghost. The prophets were the messengers of God; they uttered his words,
delivered his commands, pronounced his threatenings, and announced his
promises, because they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
They were the organs of God, because they were the organs of the Spirit.
The Spirit, therefore, must be God.
3. In the New Testament the same mode of representation is continued.
Believers are the temple of God, because the Spirit dwells in them.
Ephesians 2:22: Ye are “a habitation of God through the Spirit.”
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost
which is in you, which ye have of God?”
Romans 8:9, 10, the indwelling of Christ is said to be the indwelling
of the Spirit of Christ, and that is said to be the indwelling of the Spirit of
Acts 5:1–4, Ananias is said to have lied unto God because he
lied against the Holy Ghost.
4. Our Lord and his Apostles constantly speak of the Holy Spirit as
possessing all divine perfections. Christ says,.9
“All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but
the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto
The unpardonable sin, then, is speaking against the Holy Ghost. This
could not be unless the Holy Ghost were God. The Apostle, in
Corinthians 2:10, 11, says that the Spirit knows all things, even the deep
things (the most secret purposes) of God. His knowledge is commensurate
with the knowledge of God. He knows the things of God as the spirit of a
man knows the things of a man. The consciousness of God is the
consciousness of’ the Spirit. The Psalmist teaches us that the Spirit is
omnipresent and everywhere efficient. “Whither,” he asks, “shall I go from
thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (
The presence of the Spirit is the presence of God. The same idea is
expressed by the prophet when he says,
“Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?
saith Jehovah. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith Jehovah.”
5. The works of the Spirit are the works of God. He fashioned the world.
Genesis 1:2.) He regenerates the soul: to be born of the Spirit is to be
born of God. He is the source of all knowledge; the giver of inspiration; the
teacher, the guide, the sanctifier, and the comforter of the Church in all
ages. He fashions our bodies; He formed the body of Christ, as a fit
habitation for the fullness of the Godhead; and He is to quicken our mortal
6. He is therefore presented in the Scriptures as the proper object of
worship, not only in the formula of baptism and in the apostolic
benediction, which bring the doctrine of the Trinity into constant
remembrance as the fundamental truth of our religion, but also– in the
constant requirement that we look to Him and depend upon Him for all
spiritual good, and reverence and obey Him as our divine teacher and
RELATION OF THE SPIRIT
TO THE FATHER AND TO THE SON
The relation of the Spirit to the other persons of the Trinity has been
(1.) He is the same in substance and equal in power and glory.
(2.) He is subordinate to the Father and Son, as to his mode of
subsistence and operation, as He is said to be of the Father and of the
Son; He is sent by them, and they operate through Him.
(3.) He bears the same relation to the Father as to the Son; as He is
said to be of the one as well as of the other, and He is given by the Son
as well as by the Father.
(4.) His eternal relation to the other persons of the Trinity is indicated
by the word Spirit, and by its being said that he is out of God, i.e.,
God is the source whence the Spirit is said to proceed..11
THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The general doctrine of the Scriptures on this subject is that the Spirit is
the executive of the Godhead. Whatever God does, He does by the Spirit.
He is the immediate source of all life. Even in the external world the Spirit
is everywhere present and everywhere active. Matter is not intelligent. It
has its peculiar properties, which act blindly according to established laws.
The intelligence, therefore, manifested in vegetable and animal structures,
is not to be referred to matter, but to the omnipresent Spirit of God. It
was He who brooded over the waters and reduced chaos into order. It was
He who garnished the heavens. It is He that causes the grass to grow. The
Psalmist says of all living creatures,
“Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their
breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy
Spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.”
Psalm 104:29, 30.)
Isaiah 32:14, 15. Job, speaking of his corporeal frame, says,
“The Spirit of God hath made me.” (
Job 33:4.) And the Psalmist, after
describing the omnipresence of the Spirit, refers to his agency the
wonderful mechanism of the human body.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made…. my substance was not hid
from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the
lowliest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet
being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written,
which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none
of them.” (
THE SPIRIT THE SOURCE OF ALL INTELLECTUAL LIFE
The Spirit is also represented as the source of all intellectual life. When
man was created it is said God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul.” (
Job 32:8, says, The
inspiration of the Almighty giveth men understanding, i.e., a rational
nature, for it is explained by saying, He
“teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth,
and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven.” (
The Scriptures ascribe in like manner to Him all special or extraordinary
gifts. Thus it is said of Bezaleel,
“I have called” him, “and I have filled him with the Spirit of God,
in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner
of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in
silver, and in brass.” (
Exodus 31:2, 3, 4.)
By his Spirit God gave Moses the wisdom requisite for his high duties,
and when he was commanded to devolve part of his burden upon the
seventy elders, it was said,
“I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee,
and will put it upon them.” (
Joshua was appointed to succeed Moses, because in him was the Spirit.
Numbers 27:18.) In like manner the Judges, who from time to time
were raised up, as emergency demanded, were qualified by the Spirit for
their peculiar work, whether as rulers or as warriors. Of Othniel it is said,
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged
Israel and went out to war.” (
So the Spirit of the Lord is said to have come upon Gideon and on
Jephthah and on Samson. When Saul offended God, the Spirit of the Lord
is said to have departed from him. (
1 Samuel 16:14.) When Samuel
anointed David, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him “from that day
1 Samuel 16:13.)
In like manner under the new dispensation the Spirit is represented as not
only the author of miraculous gifts, but also as the giver of the.13
qualifications to teach and rule in the Church. All these operations are
independent of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit. When the. Spirit
came on Samson or upon Saul, it was not to render them holy, but to
endue them with extraordinary physical and intellectual power; and when
He is said to have departed from them, it means that those extraordinary
endowments were withdrawn.
THE SPIRIT’S OFFICE IN THE WORK OF REDEMPTION
With regard to the office of the Spirit in the work of redemption, the
Scriptures teach, –
1. That He fashioned the body, and endued the human soul of Christ with
every qualification for his work. To the Virgin Mary it was 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.”
The prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah should be replenished with
all spiritual gifts.
“Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul
delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth
judgment to the Gentiles.” (
“There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a
branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the LORD shall
rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit
of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the
Isaiah 11:1, 2.)
When our Lord appeared on earth, it is said that the Spirit without
measure was given unto Him. (
“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending
from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.” (
He was, therefore, said to have been full of the Holy Ghost..14
2. That the Spirit is the revealer of all divine truth. The doctrines of the
Bible are called the things of the Spirit. With regard to the writers of the
Old Testament, it is said they spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost. The language of Micah is applicable to all the prophets,
“Truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD and of
judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression and
to Israel his sin.” (
What David said, the Holy Ghost is declared to have said. The New
Testament writers were in like manner the organs of the Spirit. The
doctrines which Paul preached he did not receive from men, “but God,” he
says, “hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” (
1 Corinthians 2:10.)
The Spirit also guided the utterance of those truths; for he adds, “Which
things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but
which the Holy Ghost teacheth; communicating the things of the Spirit in
the words of the Spirit”, The whole Bible, therefore, is to be referred to
the Spirit as its author.
3. The Spirit not only thus reveals divine truth, having guided infallibly
holy men of old in recording it, but He everywhere attends it by his
power. All truth is enforced on the heart and conscience with more or less
power by the Holy Spirit, wherever that truth is known. To this all-pervading
influence we are indebted for all there is of morality and order in
the world. But besides this general influence, which is usually called
common grace, the Spirit specially illuminates the minds of the children of
God, that they may know the things freely given (or revealed to them) by
God. The natural man does not receive them, neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned. All believers are therefore called
spiritual, because thus enlightened and guided by the Spirit.
4. It is the special office of the Spirit to convince the world of sin; to
reveal Christ, to regenerate the soul, to lead men to the exercise of faith and
repentance; to dwell in those whom He thus renews, as a principle of a
new and divine life. By this indwelling of the Spirit, believers are united to
Christ, and to one another, so that they form one body. This is the
foundation of the communion of saints, making them one in faith, one in
love, one in their inward life, and one in their hopes and final destiny..15
5. The Spirit also calls men to office in the Church, and endows them with
the qualifications necessary for the successful discharge of its duties. The
office of the Church, in this matter, is simply to ascertain and authenticate
the call of the Spirit. Thus the Holy Ghost is the immediate author of all
truth, of all holiness, of all consolation, of all authority, and of all
efficiency in the children of God individually, and in the Church
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THE CONVICTION OF SIN BY GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Spirit of God is a Spirit of conviction. He convinces men of sin, original, actual, of all their sins of thought, word, and deed, of the demerit of sin, and of the inability of men to make atonement for it. He brings God’s elect to such a sense of sin as to loath it, and themselves for it, to blush and be ashamed of it, and to have a godly sorrow for it, which works repentance unto salvation.
FAITH IN CHRIST TOUCHES THE EMOTIONS. I cannot imagine having faith without it reaching my emotions. But faith is much more than emotionalism. Faith is the believer’s way of life. Religious emotionalism is but a covering for spiritual death.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY
ABOUT THE TRINTY
By John M. Alber
Published in the Berea Baptist Banner March 5, 1990.
Several years ago, this preacher received a strange
request from another brother in Christ. They wanted
me to sit down and write a dear brother in Christ and
explain unto him the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
Then, just before moving to Hobbs, New Mexico, as the
pastor of the Morris Street Baptist Church, a deacon from
my home church asked me if I had any information on
the Trinity. Most of my books and information were
packed and yet we were able to assist in a small way.
This preacher does not claim to be a theologian and so it
only goes without saying, such could do a far better job
than this person. Immediately, it becomes obvious to
me that in one sermon alone, this subject can not be
exhausted; and therefore, a brief outline of what the Bible
teaches concerning this subject is at hand.
The Trinity! What does the Bible teach about this won-derful
doctrine of the Word of God? We, who are Bap-tist
in name and practice, Independent Baptist in nature
and in our affiliation, have always believed what the
Word of God teaches regarding the Trinity. We may not
be able to completely understand it or explain it, but
nevertheles, we believe the Word of God very clearly
teaches this doctrine. First of all in our thinking today, a
good and proper definition of the term is much needed.
“In the nature of the one God there are three eternal
distinctions which are represented to us under the figure
of persons, and these three are equal” (A. H. Strong).
This Biblical doctrine of “The Trinity” (three in one)
has been discussed, yea defended, and derided through-out
the Christian world for many hundreds of years. It
has become a battleground for truth—truth that can only
be understood by those folk who are born again. Thus,
some folk believe that the doctrine is absurd, a mere
human dogma, irreverent, and at best very illogical. Yes,
the so-called theologicans have argued for years that this
one doctrine of the Trinity is contrary to reason. That
does not surprise this preacher in light of Paul’s state-ment
in First Corinthians, “But the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for
they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor.
2:14). But, for those of us who know the God of the
Bible by the wonderful miracle of the new birth ( John
3:3), we are somewhat awe-struck by its most wonderful
truth, thus recognizing that the Biblical doctrine of the
Trinity is a paradox. It does present many obstacles to
the human reasoning. I am convinced in my own mind
that it is a key to the revelation of Almighty God to man.
“Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest
know that the Lord he is God; there is none else
beside him” (Deut. 4:35). “Hear, O Israel: The Lord
our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). “That all the people
of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and
that there is none else” (I Kings 8:60). “I am the
first, and I am the last: and beside me there is no
God” (Isa. 44:6). All of the above verses of Holy Writ
only give unto us the oneness of our God. That (the one-ness)
in itself is a great and wonderful mystery! Many
other verses from the Bible could be given, but these
will do the job intended—to briefly show that the Bible
teaches the oneness of our Great God.
Elder T. P. Simmons wrote these words in his book,
Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine: “We make no attempt
to deny or to explain away the mystery of the doctrine
of the Trinity. It is a high mystery that human minds can
never fathom” (p. 81). Bro. Simmons is correct in his
brief statement with regards to the Trinity. The Bible
teaches us that there are three persons within the
Godhead: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.
That can be proved over and over throughout both the
Old and New Testaments. But first, let us take a moment
and draw our attention to the book of Genesis.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and
the earth” (Gen. 1:1).T. Elohim, the Hebrew word that
is translated in our King James Bible is found here to be
God. It is a plural noun with a singular meaning—in fact,
it literally means more than two. As we shall see, the
Triune God was involved in the creation of the world as
well with the plan of mans redemption. “And God said,
Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”
(Gen. 1:26). Again, the Bible has used a phrase here that
refers to God as “us”, a plural form, not singular. It is
very interesting that the Hebrew word Elohim is used
about 2,500 times in the Old Testament.
Would you please note with me that each person of
the Godhead is called “GOD” – (1). The Father: “To all
that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and
the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). (2). The Son: “Be-hold,
a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring
forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel,
which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
(3). The Holy Spirit: “But Peter said, Ananias, why
hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost,
and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after.What Does the Bible Say About the Trinty by John M. Alber – Page 2
it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why
hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou
hast not lied unto me, but unto God” (Acts 5:3-4).
There should never be any doubt whatsoever to the child
of God that the Bible in these few verses calls each per-son
of the Godhead, God. Furthermore, these verses of
Holy Writ are but a few of the many that so refer to each
person of the Trinity.
Next, would you turn your attention with me and note
that each person of the Godhead is called “Lord.” (1).
The Father: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I
thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because thou hast hid these things from the wise
and prudent, and has revealed them unto babes”
(Matt. 11:25). (2). The Son: “Therefore let all the house
of Israel know asuredly, that God hath made that
same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and
Christ” (Acts 2:36). (3). The Holy Spirit: “Now the Lord
is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is liberty” (II Cor. 3:17). Now again, from the
reading of these three verses of Holy Writ, there ought
never be any question as to the fact that each person of
the Godhead is called Lord. Nevertheless, it ought to be
once again pointed out, there are many more of these
self same kind of verses.
Furthermore, would you again turn your attention
with me and note that each person of the Godhead is
called “Creator” (1). The Father: “For thus saith the
Lord that created the heavens; God himself that
formed the earth and made it; he hath established
it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be
inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else”
(Isa. 45:18). (2). The Son: “All things were made by
him ( Jesus Christ – see verse one and fourteen); and
without him was not any thing made that was made”
( John 1:3). (3). The Holy Spirit: “By his spirit he hath
garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the
crooked serpent” ( Job 26:13). “And the earth was
without form and void; and darkness was upon the
face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved
upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). These few
short verses prove to my personal satisfaction that all
three persons of the Godhead had a part in the creation
of this old world that we call Earth.
Lastly, would you note with me that each person of
the Godhead is called “The Comforter”. The Father: “I,
even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou,
that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall
die, and of the son of man which shall be made as
grass” (Isa. 51:12). Also, see verse 3 as well. (2). The
Son: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come
to you” ( John 14:18). (3). The Holy Spirit: “And I will
pray the Father, and he shall give you another Com-forter,
that he may abide with you for ever; Even
the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive
because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but
ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall
be in you” ( John 14:16-17).
Thus, the Word of God tells us very plainly that there
is but One God, but that there are three “Persons” who
are shown to be God. Thus, human reasoning implies
that the two thoughts are very much irreconcilable. But
you must remember, that the word “Trinity” literally
means “Tri-unity.” Now, the “Trinity” can be found
throughout the entire Old Testament—that is to the care-ful
student of the Word of God. Within the New Testa-ment,
there is not and should not ever be any question
as to the “Trinity.” As already pointed out, in the Old
Testament there are numerous passages of Holy Writ as
with Genesis 1:26-27 that gives to us a plural noun when
talking about our wonderful God. But in the vision of
the glory of Almighty God which Isaiah the prophet
describes in chapter 6 of his book, he speaks of God as
“the King, (Jehovah) of hosts.” The Apostle John states
that the glory seen by Isaiah was that of the Lord Jesus
Christ ( John 12:41), while the Apostle Paul adds that the
message given to the prophet was that of the Holy Spirit
(Acts 28:25). “These things said Esaias, when he saw
his glory, and spake of him” ( John 12:41). “And when
they agreed not among themselves, they departed,
after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake
the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fa-thers”
“And God said, Let us make man in our image”
(Gen. 1:26). “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw
also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted
up, and his train filled the temple. . .” (Isa. 6:1).
Then, throughout the Old Testament Holy Scriptures,
there are many different references to more than one
person of the Godhead. In the second Psalm, the Psalm-ist
unites the Father and the Son in the coming wrath,
judgment, and the universal reign of our God. Then,
when one picks up the New Testament, it becomes some-what
evident that some Old Testament saints were aware
of the existence of the eternal Son of God. “Abraham
rejoiced to see my day” ( John 8:56). “Moses. . .Es-teeming
the reproach of Christ greater riches than
the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. 11:24,26). “They (the
children of Israel) drank of that spiritual Rock that
followed them; and that Rock was Christ” (I Cor.
Now, as we somewhat turn our attention to the New
Testament Scriptures, one will immediately find a very
strong emphasis for the Biblical doctrine of the “Trin-ity”.
Remember, that the New Testament is hid within
the pages of the Old Testament and the Old Testament
is revealed in the New Testament. The two Testaments
must always agree! Therefore, it should not surprise us
that the New Testament is much clearer on this subject
matter before us today.
(1). In the Incarnation (Deity taking upon self, hu-man
flesh) one can see the “Trinity”. Luke 1:35, “And
the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy
Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the.What Does the Bible Say About the Trinty by John M. Alber – Page 3
highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that
holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be
called the Son of God.” “For that which is conceived
in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring
forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS:
for He shall save His people from their sins. . .Be-hold,
a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring
forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,
which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. 1:2-
(2). In the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ one can
plainly see the Biblical doctrine of the “Trinity.” “It came
to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and pray-ing,
the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost
descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him,
and a voice came from heaven which said, Thou
art my beloved Son (literally, this is My Son, the Be-loved
– cf Isa. 42:1); in thee I am well pleased” (Luke
3:21-22). As the eternal Son of God is submitting to bap-tism,
the Father is said to be speaking from Heaven, and
the blessed Holy Spirit of God is descending upon the
Lord of glory.
(3). In the redemptive work of Almighty God, one
can also see this Biblical doctrine of the Trinity coming
out. The work of the Father is seen in First Peter where
we are told, “Elect according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father, through sanctification of the
Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood
of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:2). The work of the Son is
seen in Paul’s writing to the young preacher, Titus. “But
after that the kindness and love of God our Sav-iour
toward man appeared, Not by works of righ-teousness
which we have done, but according to
his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regenera-tion,
and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he
shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our
Saviour” (Titus 3:4-6). Again, the Apostle Paul speaks
unto the Hebrew Christians and has this to say about
the Saviour’s work: “How much more shall the blood
of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered
himself without spot to God, purge your conscience
from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb.
9:14). The work of the Holy Spirit of God is seen in John
6:63 where we are informed that it is His special minis-try
to quicken the flesh and bring to life those that the
Father loved and the Son died on the Cross for. “It is
the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth noth-ing:
the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit,
and they are life” ( John 6:63).
In the Gospel of John and chapter 3, one of the most
frequently used passages of Holy Scripture today, we can
very clearly see this Biblical doctrine of the “Trinity.”
(1). John 3:3-12 the Holy Spirit of God is seen as the
One that is regenerating the lost sinner. (2). John 3:13-15
the Son of God is pictured as the One that is redeeming
the lost sinner by His one act. (3). John 3:16 the heav-enly
Father is revealed as the One who loved the sinner
and gave His only begotten Son as the gift unto His own.
(4). In the Great Commission that our Lord gave unto
His church before He left this world, one can very clearly
see the doctrine of the “Trinity.” Matthew 28:19, “Go ye
therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost.” It should be noted here that this one verse
in Matthew agrees with what Moses taught in Genesis
1:1. In the name (singular) and then the apostle lists three
Persons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Here
in Matthew 28:19, the plain meaning of the Holy Bible
is noted: unity of the Trinity. A. T. Robertson comments
on this single verse in Matthew 28:19 and says, “Bap-tism
in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit, in the name of the Trinity.”
(5). In the doxologies of the New Testament, the stu-dent
of the Bible can also see this doctrine. Jude 20-21,
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your
most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep
yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy
of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Further-more,
we have the words of the Apostle Paul in Second
Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God, and the communion of the
Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen” (II Cor. 13:14).
There are so many other references to the three Per-sons
of the eternal Godhead within the New Testament
that time and space in this message would not permit.
Ephesians 2:18; 3:14-19; 5:18-20; Philippians 3:3; I
Thessalonians 5:18-19, etc., are but a few examples of
what I mean. The one thing that is very certain in all of
these verses, the three Persons of the Godhead are dis-tinguished.
Thus, the Bible teaches to us plainly that each
person of the Godhead is co-equal, co-eternal and co-existing
and that they have always so been. The evidence
as given in the Bible is overwhelming and thus, there is
more than sufficient proof given therein to prove this
Biblical doctrine. Literally, what one must be willing to
do is to accept the Bible as the final word (authority) and
rule for faith practice. Oh beloved, forget what the theo-logians
have written, yea, even the preachers themselves
and you search out what the blessed eternal Word of
God says about this subject. If our word is not in agree-ment
with what the Word of God says, then, beloved, it
is your duty as a born-again Christian to reject what is
CHAPTER XIV from J.P. Boyce
ABSTRACT OF THEOLOGY
THE Scripture doctrine of the Trinity is set forth in the abstract of principles of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in these words (Art. III.): ” God is revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence or being.”
The peculiarity of this definition is that it is a mere statement of the Scriptural facts revealed, while, at the same time, it includes every point involved in the doctrine of the Trinity as held by orthodox Christians of all ages. There is no addition to the Scripture facts, but the complete exhibition which these words make of the doctrine, shows that it has been correctly formulated from what God has himself revealed. As he alone can know and reveal what he is, so we must accept his statements, however mysterious and incomprehensible may be his revelation.
This definition suggests to us a method of treatment by which, in the utmost simplicity and Scripturalness, the whole truth on this important subject may be attained.
I. THE RELATION OF FATHER AND SON.
God is revealed to us as the Father; not merely in the general way in which he is called the Father of all created beings, and they his sons; nor in that in which he is the Father of those who are his sons, in virtue of the adoption, which is in Christ Jesus; but the Father as indicative of a special relation between him and another person whom the Scriptures call his only begotten Son. There are several classes of Scripture passages which reveal this.
1. That class in which, in recognition of this relation, Christ addresses God as „Father.” Matt. 11:25, 26; Mark 14:36; Luke 10:21; 22:42 ; 23:34, 46; John 12:26, 27, 28 ; 17:1, 5, 11, 24, 25.
2. That class in which Christ speaks of him as peculiarly his Father. The ex-pression „our Father” is never used by him, except in the Lord’s prayer when he is teaching the disciples how to pray. Matt. 10:32, 33 ; 15:13; 16:17; 18:10, 19; 20:23 ; 24:36; 25:34; 26:29, 39, 42, 53; Luke 2:49; 22:29; 24:49; John 5:17, 43; 6:32; 8:19, 38, 49, 54; 10:18, 25, 29, 30, 32, 37; 12:26; 14:7, 20, 21, 23; 15:1, 8, 10, 15, 23; 20:17; Rev. 2:27; 3:5.
3. That class in which the Father is spoken of as sending and as giving the Son.
This does not include many passages in which Christ is said to be sent, but only those in which he is referred to as sent by the Father. John 3:16, 17; 5:37; 6:37-40, 57; 8:16-19; 10:36 ; John 12:45, 49 ; 14:24 ; 17:18; 20:21.
4. A fourth class represents the Father as knowing and loving the Son. Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 3:35; 5:20.
5. There is, also, a class in which Christ and the Father are said to be co-workers, or in which the works of Christ are claimed to be the Father’s witness to him. John 5:17; 10:25, 32, 36, 37, 38.
6. That class in which the Father is said to put special honour on the Son. John 3:35; 5:23, 25, 26, 27.
7. There is yet another class in which peculiarity of relation is shown by such terms, as
(1.) ” My beloved Son;” the language is very strong and emphatic, „my Son, the beloved.” Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; 2 Pet. 1: 17.
(2.) ” Only begotten Son.” John 1:14, 18; 3: 16, 18; 1 John 4:9.
(3.) ” His own Son.” Rom.8:32. In connection with this, it should be remembered that, in John 5: 18, the charge made against Christ by the Jews was that he „called God his own Father making himself equal with God.”
8. The statements that the Son alone has seen, and known, and revealed the Father, also show peculiarity of this relationship. John 1:18; 14:6-11; 17:25, 26.
9. The same peculiarity is shown by the manner in which Christ speaks of the works he does by virtue of it. See his Sabbath day discourse after curing the man at the pool of Bethesda. John 5:19-31, 36, 37; also, John 14:10, 11.
II. THIS FATHER IS GOD
The relation pointed out above, is one borne by Christ to the supreme God. It is he, whom the Scriptures call God in the true sense of that word, to whom Christ is said by them to be Son to the Father.
1. There are the passages which expressly call Christ „Son of God.” All are here omitted where the name is given by devils, or by the Centurion, or in any other way in which the authority of inspired teaching may not be claimed for its use.
Mark 1:1 ; Luke 1:35; John 5:25; 10:36; 11:27; Acts 9:20; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:15; 5:5, 20, 21.
2. There are other passages in which the epithet „God” is ascribed to the Father in this relationship.
John 1:18; 3:16, 17; 6:18 ; Rom. 1:1-4; 8:31, 32; 2 Pet. 1:17; 1 John 4:9, 10; 2 John 3.
III. THIS SON IS GOD
1. He is expressly called God. It is not denied that this epithet, like that of Lord, is applied in an inferior sense to others. The mere use of these titles would not prove that the one to whom they are attributed has the divine nature. But the manner in which they are applied to Christ, and the frequency of that application, become, along with the other evidences presented, an incontestable proof, that he, as well as the Father, is true God. If they were not ascribed to Christ in the Scriptures, their absence would be conspicuous and well-fitted to cast doubt on the other evidence. Matt. 1:23; John 1:1; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 1:3; Heb. 1:8.
In the above are omitted, as, on various grounds, doubtful. Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:16; and 1 John 5:20. An exegetical study of these passages will show, even with the text of the recent critics, that they strongly corroborate the doctrine that Christ is God.
2. Christ is also called Lord. This title is used in both the Old and New Testaments still more generally than is that of God. An examination of the texts here quoted, will show that, in a peculiar sense, only suited to Christ as God, is it applied to him. Matt. 12:8; 22:41-45; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:46; 20:41-44; John 13:13, 14; Acts 10:36 ; Rom. 14:9; 1 Cor. 2:8; Gal. 1:3; 6:18; Phil. 2:11; 2 Thess. 2:16; Jude 4; Rev. 17:14; 19:13, 16.
3. He is a peculiar object of worship. The worship paid to him is not merely that reverential respect offered to kings and others in authority, but such worship as was refused by the apostles with horror, because they were mere men (Acts 14:13-15), and against which, when offered to him by John, even the mighty angel (Revelation 19:10; 22:9) earnestly protested. All doubtful cases of worship are here omitted, even that of the wise men (Matt. 2:2, 11) in which perhaps divine worship was paid. Matt. 14:33; Luke 24:52; Acts 7:59, 60; 2 Cor. 12:8, 9; Phil. 2:10; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:8-14; 7:9-12.
4. He is to be honoured equally with the Father. John 5: 23.
5. His relations to the Father are those of identity and unity. John 1:18; 5:17-19; 8:16, 19; 10:30; 12:44, 45; 14:7-11; 15:24; Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15, 19; 2:9; 1 John 2:23, 24.
6. They are equally known to each other, and unknown to all others. Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 1:18; 6:46; 10:15.
7. He is the creator of all things. John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10.
8. He upholds and preserves all things. Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3.
9. He is the manifestation of the Divine Being in this world. John 1:10, 14, 18; 14:8-11; 16:28-30; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 John 1:2.
10. He is greater than all others; greater than Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Jonah, and the Baptist; and not greater than man only, but than all the spiritual intelligences of the universe. Matt. 3:11; 12:41,42; Mark 12:37; Luke 11:31,32; John 1:17; Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:4,5; 3:3; 1 Pet. 3:22.
11, He is the source of all spiritual blessing.
(a) He gives the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49; John 16:7; 20:22; Acts 2:33.
(b) He forgives sins. Mark 2:5-10; Luke 5:20-24; 7:47-49; Acts 5:31.
(c) He gives peculiar peace. John 14:27; 16:33. Is not he the one who is called „God of Peace?” Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20.
(d) He gives light. John 1:4, 7, 8, 9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35, 46; 1 John 1:5-7; Rev. 21:23.
(e) He gives faith. Luke 17:5; Heb. 12:2.
(f) He gives eternal life. John 17: 2.
(g) He confers all the spiritual gifts bestowed upon his churches. Eph. 4:8-13.
12. All the incommunicable attributes of God are ascribed to him.
(a) Self-existence. He has power over his own life. John 2:19; 10:17, 18. He has life in himself, as has the Father. John 5:26.
(b) Eternity of existence. John 1:1, 2; 17:5, 24; Heb. 1:8, 10-12; 1 John 1:2.
(c) Omniscience. Matt. 9:4; 12:25; Mark 2:8; Luke 6:8; 9:47; 10:22; John 1:48; 2:24,25; 10:15; 16:30; 21:17; Col. 2:3; Rev. 2:23.
(d) Omnipresence. Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13; Eph. 1:23.
(e) Omnipotence. Matt. 28:18; Luke 21:15; John 1:3; 10:18; 1 Cor. l:24; Eph. l:22; Phi1.3:21; Col. 2:10; Rev. 1:18.
(f) Immutability. Heb. 1:11, 12; 13:8.
13. The judgement of the world is entrusted to him. Matt. 16:27; 24:30; 25:31; John 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim.4:1.
14. Absolute equality with the Father is ascribed to Him. This shows that the unity and identity, before referred to, is not of will, but of nature; and that the names, and worship, and attributes of God are not bestowed on any other ground than that he is true God.
(a) Equality in works. John 5:17-23.
(b) Equality in knowledge. Luke 10:22; John 10:15.
(c) Equality in nature. John 5:18; 10:33; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:3.
It will be seen by the foregoing statements that the Scriptures distinctly teach the existence of God in the personal relations of Father and Son, and that each of them is God. No reference has been made to the Old Testament, in proof of the divinity of Christ. The New Testament is the most natural source of such instruction, because it reveals to us the fulfilment of God’s purpose in sending his Son into the world, and teaches us clearly his nature and relation to the Father. What the nature of this relation of Son and Father is, will be hereafter examined in the discussion of the eternal Sonship of Christ. What the Old Testament says of Christ will also be presented hereafter.
There remains, however, to be shown that
IV. THE FATHER AND SON HAVE DISTINCT PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES.
This fact is so manifest, from the manner in which the Scripture speaks of each, as to need but brief discussion.
The mere use of the names Father and Son points out a relation between two persons. That to each of them is ascribed the attributes of character, such as love, hate, goodness, mercy, truth, and justice, which can only exist in, and be exercised by persons, shows separate personality. Neither, except through distinct personal relation, can mutual love be said to be exercised, as by Christ to the Father, John 14:31; and by the Father to Christ, John 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 17:24. Manifestly, also, there must be two persons, when one is said to send, and another to be sent; one to give, and another to be given; one to teach, and another to be taught; one to show, and another to perceive what is shown; one to receive power, and another to bestow it; and one to be declared, with respect to another, to be „the effulgence of his glory and the very image of his substance,” Heb. 1:2; and, because in the form of that other, to have „counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God.” Phil. 2:6.
We have here, therefore, not the one God, manifesting himself sometimes as Father, and sometimes as Son; but a distinction of persons in the Godhead, in which we are taught that in that Godhead there exists a personal relation of Father to Son, and Son to Father, with a distinct individuality and personality of each.
V. THE HOLY SPIRIT A PERSON.
The Scriptures designate, by several very similar terms, the third personality revealed in the Godhead. He is called „the Spirit,” ” the Spirit of God,” ” the Holy Spirit,” ” my Spirit,” ” the Spirit of the Lord,” „the Spirit of Christ,” ” thy good Spirit,” ” the Spirit of glory, „the Spirit of grace,” ” the Spirit of knowledge and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord,” „the Holy Spirit of promise,” „the Spirit of truth,” and „the Spirit of wisdom.” Christ also called him „the Comforter,” and „another Comforter.”
The divine Spirit, thus denominated, must either be some power or influence exerted by God, or a distinct person in the Godhead. It cannot be simply the spiritual part of God, as is the spirit in man, for God is not compounded of spirit and body. This is manifest from his immateriality. Neither can it be in any way a part of his spiritual nature, as sometimes a distinction is made in man, between his mind and spirit, or his soul and spirit. The perfect simplicity of God, which forbids all composition, makes this impossible. It is, therefore, either God himself exercising some power or influence, or a person in the Godhead. An examination of the Scripture shows that it is the latter.
1. The evidences of personal action show that the Spirit is not merely a power or influence from God, but is either God himself or a divine person.
(1.) The Scriptures speak of the Spirit as in a state of activity. Gen. 1:2; Matt. 3:16; Acts 8:39. The language in these passages may be anthropomorphic, but the state of activity taught is undoubtedly real.
(2.) They declare that the Spirit teaches and gives instruction. Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 16:8, 13, 14; Acts 10:19; 1 Cor. 12:3.
(3.) The Spirit is also spoken of by them, as a witness of Christ to his people. John 15:26.
(4.) They also assert that he witnesses to believers that they are the children of God, and becomes the earnest of their inheritance. Rom. 8:16; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30.
(5.) He is spoken of as leading the sons of God. Rom. 8:14.
(6.) He is also said to dwell within them in such a way that his presence is that of God. John 14:16, 17; Rom. 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19.
(7.) We are taught that he is grieved. Eph. 4: 30.
(8.) Ananias is charged with having lied to him. Acts 5: 3.
(9.) Blasphemy against him is the unpardonable sin. Matt. 12:31, 32.
(10.) He is spoken of as resisted by men. Acts 7:51.
(11.) Also as vexed by them. Isa. 63:10.
(12.) As striving with them. Gen. 6:3.
(13.) As inspiring men. Acts 2:4; 8:29; 13:2; 15:28; 2 Pet. 1:21.
(14.) As interceding for them. Rom. 8:26, 27.
(15.) As bestowing diversities of gifts. 1 Cor. 12:4-11.
In all these cases there is personal activity, thought, and feeling. What is thus declared, cannot be true of a mere power, or influence. The only question can be, whether this person is God, distinct from any plurality of personal relations, or whether he is another personality in the divine nature.
2. The Scriptures show that he is a separate person from the Father and the Son.
(1.) It is stated that he proceeds from the Father. John 15:26. A personal being, proceeding from a person, cannot be that person himself. The proofs above given, therefore, of his personal action and emotion, show that this Spirit is another person.
(2.) He is given, or sent by the Father. John 14:16, 26; Acts 5:32, and by the Son, John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 2:33. He that is sent cannot be identical with him that sends.
(3.) He is called the Spirit of the Father. Eph. 3:16; and also the Spirit of Christ, and of the Son. Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6, perhaps also 2 Thess. 2:8.
(4.) The Son is said to send the Spirit from the Father. John 15:26; and God is said to send the Spirit of the Son. Gal. 4:6.
(5.) The Spirit is distinguished from the Father, and the Son, in passages which directly connect them with each other. Matt. 3:16, 17; 28:19; John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; Acts 2:33; Eph. 2:18; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2.
(6.) The personality of the Spirit is also ably argued from „the use of the personal pronouns in relation to him,” by Dr.Charles Hodge, Sys. Theol., Vol. I, p. 524. Not only are personal pronouns used by the Spirit, and of the Spirit., but there is a departure from grammatical rule, in the use of a masculine pronoun in connection with a neuter noun, unless the masculine is warranted by the fact, that a person is referred to who may be called „he.”
VI. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD.
So completely do the Scriptures identify the Spirit with the Supreme God, that the fact of his personality having been established, his essential divinity will at once be admitted. In the discussion of the Trinity, therefore, the point of necessary proof as to the Spirit is his personality, while that as to the Son is his divinity. The abundant proof of the divinity of the Spirit is found :
1. In the passages which call him „the Spirit of God” and „the Spirit of the Lord,” as well as those in which God calls him „my Spirit.” These are conclusive, in like manner, as is the divinity of Christ from those which call him the Son of God. The titles „Spirit of God,” and „Spirit of the Lord,” are each used about twenty-five times in the Bible. „My Spirit” is used in reference to God’s Spirit in Gen. 6:3; Prov. 1:23; Isa. 44:3; 59:21 ; Ezek. 36:27; 39:29; Joel 2:28; Haggai 2:5; Zech. 4:6.; Matt. 12:18; Acts 2:17, 18.
2. The writers of the New Testament declare that certain things, which in the Old Testament are ascribed to Jehovah, were said by the Spirit. Compare Acts 28:25-27, and Hebrews 3:7-9, with Isaiah 6:9, and also Heb. 9:8, with Ex. 25:1, and 30:10.
3. The sacred writers of the Old Testament were the messengers of God, and spake for him, yet the influence by which they became such is called in the New Testament the Holy Ghost. Compare Luke 1:70 with 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16, and Heb. 1:1 with 1 Peter 1:11; also Jer. 31:31, 33, 34, with Heb. 10:15-17.
4. The creation of the world is ascribed to the Spirit. Gen. 1: 2; Job 26:13; Ps. 104:30.
5. He is said to search, and know even the deep things of God. 1Cor. 2:10.
6. He is spoken of as omnipresent. Ps. 139:7-10, and omniscient. Ps. 139:11; 1 Cor. 2:10.
7. The divinity of the Spirit is peculiarly proved by his influences over Christ. It having been shown that Christ the Son is God, the connection of the Spirit of God with Christ, though it were only in his human nature, is a convincing proof that the Spirit, which is not a mere power of God, but a person, as we have seen above, must be also God.
(1.) In his birth. Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:31-35.
(2.) Mental and spiritual influences from the Spirit were predicted. Isa. 11:2, and Isaiah 61:1.
(a) And these were fulfilled at his baptism. Matt. 3:16; John 1:33.
(b) At the time of the temptation in the wilderness. Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12.
(c) In his preaching. Luke 4:14, 18-21.
(d) In his casting out devils. Matt. 12:28.
(3.) This spiritual influence was without measure. John 3:34.
8. The indwelling of the Spirit in the people of God is said to make them the temple of God. Compare 1 Cor. 3:16, and 6:19 with 2 Cor. 6:16, and Eph. 2:22.
9. The Spirit is expressly called God in connection with the falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts 5:3, 4, 9.
VII. THE THREE REVEALED DISTINCTLY.
The scriptural proofs of the personality and divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit having now been considered, it is proper to notice a few passages of Scripture in which the Three are revealed distinctly, by being mentioned, or manifested together. [See others under V. 2, (5), p. 132.]
1. At the baptism of Christ are seen the Son, who has just been baptized, and the „Spirit of God descending as a dove,” while, from Heaven above, [and therefore from the Father and not from the Spirit, who is thus manifested distinctly from the Father,] is heard „a voice,” „saying, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 3: 17.
2. An equally plain distinction is set forth in the language of Christ, Matt. 28:19, in which he commanded baptism to be performed „into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” This act of baptism is such as to involve the divinity as well as the personality of the Three, for it is an act of worship such as can be paid to God only; it is a profession of faith in God and his righteousness, which can be due to God only; and it is a pledge of fealty, such as God has plainly taught he will share with no other.
3. In our Lord’s last discourse he promises to send „the Comforter,” „even the Holy Spirit,” „from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father.” Here the Son sends, the Spirit is sent, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. He is also referred to as one „whom the Father will send in my name.” See John 14:26, and 15:26.
4. The apostle Paul evidently refers to this same Three, when he writes the Corinthians of „the same Spirit,” „the same Lord,” and „the same God.” 1 Cor. 12: 4-6.
5. The benediction, with which Paul closes his second epistle to the Corinthians, also presents unitedly, yet separately, the same Three; certain blessings are invoked, but with no apparent distinction of rank among those of whom they are asked. If there be any prominence, it is given the rather to the Son than to the Father.
VIII. THESE THREE ARE ONE GOD.
Our definition states that these Three are revealed as without division of nature, essence, or being. It is not intended to indicate, by the use of these three words, any wide distinction between them. They are nearly alike. Yet some distinction exists. By nature is meant that peculiar character of being which makes one kind of being to differ from another. Thus we speak of the divine nature, or the angelic nature, or the human nature, or the brute nature; meaning that peculiarity of life, and character, and personal condition, which makes a God, or an angel, or a man, or a brute. By essence is meant, that peculiarity, in the nature itself, which constitutes what is necessary to its existence, so that we cannot say, in the absence of that essence, that such a nature exists. Take away from human nature that which is its essential quality, and it must cease to be human nature. Being is the essence of any nature becoming actually existent in that nature. In God nature and essence must be identical, because everything in the nature of God is necessary to his existence, and consequently the nature can neither be greater nor less than the essence; indeed they must be the same. Neither can being be separated from the nature and essence of God, though it is not identical with them. The necessity of his actual existence is something inherent in his nature. There could be no such nature without necessarily involving the existence of some person or persons in it.
When it is affirmed, therefore, that there is no „division of nature, essence, or being,” all that is meant is simply that there is but one God; that such is the divine nature that it cannot be multiplied, or divided, or distributed, any more than God can be thus divided in his omnipresence with all things. The divine nature is so possessed, by each of the persons in the Trinity, that neither has his own separate divine nature, but each subsists in one divine nature, common to the three. Otherwise the three persons would be three Gods. So also, in that divine nature, its essential quality is not divided in its relation through the nature to the persons. Were this so, there would be three separate parts of the divine nature. But that this cannot be, is manifest from the identity in God of nature and essence. That it is not so, is declared by the Scriptures, when they teach that there is but one God. In God there is also but one divine being, because there is but one divine essence and nature. There is but one that can have actuality of existence. The being of person, not being identical with that of nature, a fact which is true of all natures, created or uncreated, the unity of the nature, and of the essence does not forbid plurality of persons. The threeness of the persons, therefore, does not destroy the unity of the nature or essence, and consequently, not that of the being of God.
The Scriptures teach everywhere the unity of God explicitly and emphatically. There can be no doubt that they reveal a God that is exclusively one. But their other statements, which we have been examining, should assure us that they also teach that there are three divine persons. It is this peculiar twofold teaching, which is expressed by the word „trinity.” The revelation to us, is not that of tritheism or three Gods; nor of triplicity, which is threefoldness, and would involve composition, and be contrary to the simplicity of God; nor of mere manifestation of one person in three forms, which is opposed to the revealed individuality of the persons; but it is well expressed by the word trinity, which is declarative, not simply of threeness, but of three-oneness. That this word is not found in Scripture is no objection to it, when the doctrine, expressed by it, is so clearly set forth.
The Salvation of the Triune God
Each glorious person in the Godhead has a glorious part in our salvation. GOD THE FATHER chose, sanctified, and set us apart in Christ before the world was; GOD THE SON took our humanity into union to His personal Godhead, was made flesh, lived a perfect life, suffered and died a solemn death, rose again from the dead, and is now exalted at the right hand of the Father, ever living to make intercession for us; GOD THE SPIRIT awakened the dead and „called us with a holy calling.” This call is the solemn, soul-quickening, heart-rending call of the Holy God from death to life, from darkness to light, from the power of sin and Satan to the kingdom of the Son of His love. So that, BEFORE THE WORLD WAS, the church was saved purposely by God the Father; IN TIME meritoriously by, the God-man, Christ Jesus, who now lives above, their mediator, High Priest, and advocate; and IN THE DAY OF GOD’S POWER they are saved manifestly and vitally by the „washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY TRINITY
The Authenticity Of 1 JOHN 5:7
1 John 5:7 gives full proof of the plurality of Persons in the Godhead. „For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.”
This is not only a proof of the Deity of each of these three persons, inasmuch as they, are not only said to be „one”, that is, one God; and their witness is called the witness of God (1 John 5:9), but of a Trinity of Persons, in the unity of the divine essence. This unity of essence, or nature, is asserted and secured, by their being said to be one. This respects not a mere unity of testimony, but of nature.
It is not said of them, as of the witnesses on earth, that they „agree in one”; but that they „are one”. And they may be called a Trinity, inasmuch as they are „three”; and a Trinity of Persons, since they are not only spoken of as distinct from each other, the Father from the Word and Holy Ghost, the Word from the Father and the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Word; but a personal action is ascribed to each of them.
They are all three said to be testifiers, or to bear record; which cannot be said of mere names and characters; nor be understood of one person under different names. If the one living and true God only bears record, first under the character of a Father, then under the character of a Son, or the Word, and then under the character of the Holy Ghost; testimony, indeed, would be given three times, but there would be but one testifier, not three, as the apostle asserts.
Suppose one man should, for one man may bear the characters, and stand in the relations of father, son, and master; of a father to a child of his own; of a son, his father being living; and of a master to servants under him; suppose, I say, this man should come into a court of judicature, and be admitted to bear testimony in an affair there depending, and should give his testimony first under the character of a father, then under the character of a son, and next under the character of a master; every one will conclude, that though there was a testimony three times given, yet there was but one, and not three, that bore record.
This text is so glaring a proof of the doctrine of the Trinity, that the enemies of it have done all they can to weaken its authority, and have pushed hard to extirpate it from a place in the sacred writings. They object, that it is wanting in the Syriac version; that the old Latin interpreter has it not; that it is not to be found in many Greek manuscripts; and is not quoted by the ancient fathers who wrote against the Arians, when it might have been of great service to them.
To all which it may be replied; that as to the Syriac version, though an ancient one, it is but a version, and till of late appeared a very defective one. The history of the adulterous woman in the eighth of John, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of Revelation, were all wanting, till restored from a copy of archbishop Usher’s, by De Dieu and Dr. Pocock; and who also, from an Eastern copy, has supplied the version with this text, so that now it stands in it.
As to the old Latin interpreter, it is certain that it is to be seen in many Latin manuscripts of an early date, and is in the Vulgate Latin version of the London Polyglot Bible. The Latin translation which bears the name of Jerom has it; and who, in an epistle to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of those canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it, by unfaithful interpreters.
As to its being wanting in some Greek manuscripts, it need only be said, it is found in many others. It is in the Complutensian edition, the compilers of which made use of various copies. Out of sixteen ancient copies of Robert Stephens’s, nine of them had it. It is also said to be in an old British copy.
As to its not being quoted by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no proof of its not being genuine; since it might be in the original copy, and not in that used by them, through the carelessness and unfaithfulness of transcribers; or through copies erased falling into their hands, such as had been corrupted before the times of Arius, even by Artemon, or his disciples, who lived in the second century; who held that Christ was a mere man; by whom it is said, this passage was erased.
And certain it is, that this epistle was very early corrupted; as the ancient writers testify: It might be in the copies used by the fathers, and yet not quoted by them, having scriptures not without it, to prove and defend the doctrine of it. Yet, after all, it appears plainly to be quoted by many of them…
o by Fulgentius, in the beginning of the sixth century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation:
o and Jerom, as before observed, has it in his translation, made in the latter end of the fourth century:
o and it is quoted by Athanasius, about the middle of it;
o and before him by Cyprian, in the middle of the third century:
o and is manifestly referred to by Tertullian, in the beginning of it;
o and by Clemens of Alexandria, towards the end of the second century.
So that it is to be traced up within a hundred years, or less, the writing of the epistle. That should be sufficient to satisfy anyone of the genuineness of this text.
Besides, it should be observed, that there never was any dispute about it, until Erasmus left it out in the first edition of his translation of the New Testament. Yet he himself, upon the credit of the old British copy, before mentioned, put it into another edition of his translation. Yea, even the Socinians themselves have not dared to leave it out in their German Racovian version, A. C. 1630.
To which may be added, that the context requires it; the connection with the preceding verse shows it, as well as its opposition to, and distinction from, the following verse. And in 1 John 5:9 there is a plain reference to the divine witnesses in this verse. The inference in verse 9 would not be clear, if there was no mention before made of a divine testimony.
I do not rest the proof of the doctrine of the Trinity on this single passage; but on the whole current and universal consent of scripture, where it is written as with a sunbeam; according to which, a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead appears in the works of creation, providence, and grace; in all things respecting the office and work of Christ; in God’s acts of grace towards and upon his people; and in their worship and duties of religion enjoined them, and practised by them.
This article was taken from Dr. Gill’s A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity. It has been very slightly edited by Don Fortner, Pastor of the Grace Baptist Church of Danville, Danville, Kentucky. The editor has altered only a very few words, removed footnote references, and changed the punctuation. The reason for this was only to make the article more easily readable for the general public.
God is a trinity of persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as Father. They are distinct persons; yet, they are all the one God. They are in absolute perfect harmony consisting of one substance. They are coeternal, coequal, and copowerful. If any one of the three were removed, there would be no God. (See also, „Another Look at the Trinity”)
There is, though, an apparent separation of some functions among the members of the Godhead. For example, the Father chooses who will be saved (Eph. 1:4); the Son redeems them (Eph. 1:7); and the Holy Spirit seals them, (Eph. 1:13).
A further point of clarification is that God is not one person, the Father, with Jesus as a creation and the Holy Spirit is a force (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Neither is He one person who took three consecutive forms, i.e., the Father, became the Son, who became the Holy Spirit. Nor is God the divine nature of the Son (where Jesus had a human nature perceived as the Son and a divine nature perceived as the Father (United Pentecostal). Nor is the Trinity an office held by three separate Gods (Mormonism).
The chart below should help you to see how the doctrine of the Trinity is derived from Scripture. The list is not exhaustive, only illustrative. <DD< The first step is to establish how many Gods exist: one! Isaiah 43:10; 44:6; 45:14,18, 21, 22; 46:5,9.
"I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God" (Isaiah 45:5).
FATHER SON HOLY SPIRIT
Called God Phil. 1:2
John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9
Creator Isaiah 64:8
John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17
Job 33:4, 26:13
Resurrects 1 Thess. 1:10
John 2:19, 10:17
Indwells 2 Cor. 6:16
Everywhere 1 Kings 8:27
All knowing 1 John 3:20
John 16:30; 21:17
1 Cor. 2:10-11
Sanctifies 1 Thess. 5:23
1 Pet. 1:2
Life giver Gen. 2:7: John 5:21
John 1:3; 5:21
2 Cor. 3:6,8
Fellowship 1 John 1:3
1 Cor. 1:9
2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1
Eternal Psalm 90:2
Rom. 8:11; Heb. 9:14
A Will Luke 22:42
1 Cor. 12:11
Speaks Matt. 3:17; Luke 9:25
Luke 5:20; 7:48
Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2
Love John 3:16
Searches the heart Jer. 17:10
1 Cor. 2:10
We belong to John 17:9
. . .
1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10
2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:4; 3:6
. . .
We serve Matt. 4:10
. . .
Believe in John 14:1
. . .
Gives joy . . . John 15:11
Judges John 8:50
. . .
A brief Declaration and Vindication
of The Doctrine of the Trinity
A brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity and also of The Person and Satisfaction of Christ accomodated to the capacity and use of such as may be in danger to be seduced and the establishment of the truth
by John Owen
Few of Owen’s treatises have been more extensively circulated and generally useful than his „Brief Declaration and Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity,” etc. It was published in 1669; and the author of the anonymous memoir of Owen, prefixed to an edition of his Sermons in 1720, informs us „This small piece has met with such an universal acceptance by true Christians of all denominations, that the seventh edition of it was lately published.” An edition printed in Glasgow was published in 1798, and professes to be the eighth. A translation of the work appeared in the Dutch language (Vitringa, Doct. Christ., pars 6: p. 6, edit. 1776).
At the time when the treatise was published, the momentous doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement were violently assailed; but it was not so much for the refutation of opponents as for ” the edification and establishment of the plain Christian,” that our author composed the following little work. The reader will find in it traces of that deep and familiar acquaintance with opposing views, and with the highest theology involved in the questions which might be expected from Dr Owen on a subject which he seems to have studied with peculiar industry and research. Reference may be made to his „Vindiciae Evangelical,” and his „Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews”, in proof how thoroughly he had mastered the whole controversy in regard to the divinity and satisfaction of Christ, so far as the discussion had extended in his day. His controversy with Biddle, in which he wrote his ” Vindiciae Evangelical,” took place in 1655; and the first volume of the „Exposition” was published only the year before the „Brief Declaration,” etc., appeared. The latter may be regarded, accordingly, as the substance of these important works, condensed and adapted to popular use and comprehension, in all that relates to the proper Godhead of the Son, and the nature of the work which he accomplished in the redemption of his people.
For the special object which he had in view, he adopts the course which has since been generally approved of and pursued, as obviously the wisest and safest in defending and expounding the doctrine of the Trinity. He appeals to the broad mass of Scripture evidence in favour of the doctrine, and after proving the divine unity, together with the divinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost respectively, is careful not to enter on any discussion in regard to the unrevealed mysteries involved in the relations of the Trinity, beyond what was necessary for the refutation of those who argue, that whatever in this high doctrine is incomprehensible by reason, must be incompatible with revelation. This little work is farther remarkable for the almost total absence of the tedious digressions, which abound in the other works of Owen. Such logical unity and concentration of thought is the more remarkable, when we find that the treatise was written, as he tells us, „in a few hours.” But it was a subject on which his mind was fully stored, and his whole heart was interested. The treatise which follows, therefore, was not the spark struck in some moment of collision, and serving only a temporary purpose, but a steady flame nourished from the beaten oil of the sanctuary.
To the Reader
This small treatise has no other design but thy good, and establishment in the truth. And therefore, as laying aside that consideration alone, I could desirously have been excused from the labour of those hours which were spent in its composure; so in the work itself I admitted no one thought, but how the things treated of in it might and ought to be managed unto thy spiritual benefit and advantage. Other designs most men have in writing what is to be exposed to public view, and lawfully may have so; in this I have nothing but merely thy good. I have neither been particularly provoked nor opposed by the adversaries of the truth here pleaded for, nor have any need, from any self-respect, to publish such a small, plain discourse as this. Love alone to the truth, and the welfare of thy soul, has given efficacy to their importunity who pressed me to this small service.
The matters here treated of are on all hands confessed to be of the greatest moment, such as the eternal welfare of the souls of men is immediately and directly concerned in. This all those who believe the sacred truths here proposed and explained do unanimously profess and contend for, nor is it denied by those by whom they are opposed. There is no need, therefore, to give thee any especial reasons to evince thy concernment in these things, nor the greatness of that concernment, thereby to induce thee unto their serious consideration. It were well, indeed, that these great, sacred, and mysterious truths might, without contention or controversies about them, be left unto the faith of believers, as proposed in the Scripture, with that explanation of them which, in the ordinary ministry and dispensation of the gospel, is necessary and required.
Certainly, these tremendous mysteries are not by us willingly to be exposed, or prostituted to the cavils of every perverse querist and disputer; – those learned researchers of this century, whose pretended wisdom (indeed ignorance, darkness, and folly) God has designed to confound and destroy in them and by them. For my part, I can assure thee, reader, I have no mind to contend and dispute about these things, which I humbly adore and believe as they are revealed. It is the importunity of adversaries, in their attempts to draw and seduce the souls of men from the truth and simplicity of the gospel in these great fundamentals of it, that alone can justify any to debate upon, or eristically [in the form of controversy] to handle these awful mysteries. This renders it our duty, and that indispensably, inasmuch as we are required to „contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” But yet, also, when this necessity is imposed on us, we are by no means discharged from that humble reverence of mind wherewith we ought always to be conversant about them; nor from that regard unto the way and manner of their revelation in the Scripture which may preserve us from all unnecessary intermixture of litigious or exotic phrases and expressions in their assertion and declaration. I know our adversaries could, upon the matter, decry any thing peculiarly mysterious in these things, although they are frequently and emphatically in the Scriptures affirmed so to be. But, whilst they deny the mysteries of the things themselves – which are such as every way become the glorious being and wisdom of God, – they are forced to assign such an enigmatical sense unto the words, expressions, and propositions wherein they are revealed and declared in the Scripture, as to turn almost the whole gospel into an allegory, wherein nothing is properly expressed but in some kind of allusion unto what is so elsewhere: which irrational way of proceeding, leaving nothing certain in what is or may be expressed by word or writing, is covered over with a pretence of right reason; which utterly refuses to be so employed. These things the reader will find afterward made manifest, so far as the nature of this brief discourse will bear. And I shall only desire these few things of him that intends its perusal: – First, That he would not look on the subject here treated of as the matter of an ordinary controversy in religion, –
– „Neque denim hic levia aut ludicra petuntur Praemia; lectoris de vita animaeque salute Certatur.”
They are things which immediately and directly in themselves concern the eternal salvation of the souls of men, and their consideration ought always to be attended with a due sense of their weight and importance. Secondly, Let him bring with him a due reverence of the majesty, and infinite, incomprehensible nature of God, as that which is not to be prostituted to the captious and sophistical scanning of men of corrupt minds, but to be humbly adored, according to the revelation that he has made of himself. Thirdly, That he be willing to submit his soul and conscience to the plain and obvious sense of Scripture propositions and testimonies, without seeking out evasions and pretences for unbelief. These requests I cannot but judge equal, and fear not the success where they are sincerely complied withal.
I have only to add, that in handling the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, I have proceeded on that principle which, as it is fully confirmed in the Scripture, so it has been constantly maintained and adhered unto by the most of those who with judgment and success have managed these controversies against the Socinians: and this is, that the essential holiness of God with his justice or righteousness, as the supreme governor of all, did indispensably require that sin should not also lately go unpunished; and that it should do so, stands in a repugnancy to those holy properties of his nature. This, I say, has been always constantly maintained by far the greatest number of them who have thoroughly understood the controversy in this matter, and have successfully engaged in it. And as their arguments for their assertion are plainly unanswerable, so the neglect of abiding by it is causelessly to forego one of the most fundamental and invincible principles in our cause. He who first laboured in the defense of the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, after Socinus had formed his imaginations about the salvation that he wrought, and began to dispute about it, was Covetus, a learned man, who laid the foundation of his whole disputation in the justice of God, necessarily requiring, and indispensably, the punishment of sin. And, indeed, the state of the controversy as it is laid down by Socinus, in his book „De Jesu Christy Servatore,” which is an answer to this Covetus, is genuine, and that which ought not to be receded from, as having been the direct ground of all the controversial writings on that subject which have since been published in Europe. And it is in these words laid down by Socinus himself: „Communes et orthodoxy (ut asseris) sentential est, Jesum Christum ideo servatorem nostrum esse, quia divinae justitiae per quam peccatores damnari merebamur, pro peccatis nostris plane satisfecerit; quae satisfactio, per Fidem, imputatur nobis ex dono Dei credentibus.” This he ascribes to Covetus: „The common and orthodox judgment is, that Jesus Christ is therefore our Saviour, because he has satisfied the justice of God, by which we, being sinners, deserved to be condemned for all our sins” [which satisfaction, through faith, is imputed to us who through the grace of God believe.] In opposition whereunto he thus expresses his own opinion: „Ego vero censeo, et orthodoxam sententiam esse arbitror, Jesum Christuam ideo servatorem nostrum esse, quia salutes eternae viam nobis annuntiaverit, confirmaverit, et in sua ipsius persona, cum vitae examplo, tum ex mortuis resurgendo, manifeste ostenderit; vitamque aeternam nobis ei fidem habentibus ipse daturus sit. Divinae autem justitiae, per quam peccatores damnari meremur, pro peccatis nostril neque illum satisfecisse, neque et satisfaceret, opus fuisse arbitror;” – „I judge and suppose it to be the orthodox opinion, that Jesus Christ is therefore our Saviour, because he has declared unto us the way of eternal salvation, and confirmed it in his own person; manifestly showing it, both by the example of his life and by rising from the dead; and in that he will give eternal life unto us, believing in him. And I affirm, that he neither made satisfaction to the justice of God, whereby we deserved to be damned for our sins, nor was there any need that he should so do.” This is the true state of the question; and the principal subtlety of Crellius, the great defender of this part of the doctrine of Socinus, in his book of the „Causes of the Death of Christ,” and the defense of this book, „De Jesu Christu Servatore,” consists in speaking almost the same words with those whom he does oppose, but still intending the same things with Socinus himself. This opinion, as was said of Socinus, Covetus opposed and everted on the principle before mentioned.
The same truth was confirmed also by Zarnovitius, who first wrote against Socinus’ book; as also by Otto Casmannus, who engaged in the same work; and by Abraham Salinarius. Upon the same foundation do proceed Paraeus, Piscator, Lubbertus, Lucius, Camero, Voetius, Amyraldus, Placaeus, Rivetus, Walaeus, Thysius, Althingius, Maresius, Essenius, Arnoldus, Turretinus, Baxter, with many others. The Lutherans who have managed these controversies, as Tarnovius, Meisnerus, Calovius, Stegmannus, Martinius, Franzius, with all others of their way, have constantly maintained the same great fundamental principle of this doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ; and it has well and solidly been of late asserted among ourselves on the same foundation. And as many of these authors do expressly blame some of the school men, as Aquinas, Durandus, Biel, Tataretus, for granting a possibility of pardon without satisfaction, as opening a way to the Socinian error im this matter; so also they fear not to affirm, that the foregoing of this principle of God’s vindictive justice indispensably requiring the punishment of sin, does not only weaken the cause of the truth, but indeed leave it indefensible. However, I suppose men ought to be wary how they censure the authors mentioned, as such who expose the cause they undertook to defend unto contempt; for greater, more able, and learned defenders, this truth has not as yet found, nor does stand in need of.
The disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ having made that great confession of him, in distinction and opposition unto them, who accounted him only as a prophet, „Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Matt. 16: 14, 16, he does, on the occasion thereof, give out unto them that great charter of the church’s stability and continuance, „Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” verse 18. He is himself the rock upon which his church is built, – as God is called the rock of his people, on the account of his eternal power and immutability, Deut. 32: 4, 18, 31, Isa. 26: 4; and himself the spiritual rock which gave out supplies of mercy and assistance to the people in the wilderness, 1 Cor. 10: 4.
The relation of the professing church unto this rock consists in the faith of this confession, that he is „the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This our Lord Jesus Christ has promised to secure against all attempts; yet so as plainly to declare, that there should be great and severe opposition made thereunto For whereas the prevalence of the gates of hell in an enmity unto this confession is denied, a great and vigorous attempt to prevail therein is no less certainly foretold. Neither has it otherwise fallen out. In all ages, from the first solemn foundation of the church of the New Testament, it has, one way or other, been fiercely attempted by the „gates of hell.” For some time after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the principal endeavours of Satan, and men acting under him, or acted by him, were pointed against the very foundation of the church, as laid in the expression before mentioned. Almost all the errors and heresies wherewith for three or four centuries of years it was perplexed, were principally against the person of Christ himself; and, consequently, the nature and being of the holy and blessed Trinity. But being disappointed in his design herein, through the watchful care of the Lord Christ over his promise, in the following ages Satan turned his craft and violence against sundry parts of the superstructure, and, by the assistance of the Papacy, cast them into confusion, – nothing, as it were, remaining firm, stable, and in order, but only this one confession, which in a particular manner the Lord Christ has taken upon himself to secure.
In these latter ages of the world, the power and care of Jesus Christ reviving towards his church, in the reformation of it, even the ruined heaps of its building have been again reduced into some tolerable order and beauty. The old enemies of its peace and welfare falling hereby under a disappointment, and finding his travail and labour for many generations in a great part frustrate, he is returned again to his old work of attacking the foundation itself; as he is unweary and restless, and can be quiet neither conqueror nor conquered, – nor will be so, until he is bound and cast into the lake that burns with fire. For no sooner had the reformation of religion firmed itself in some of the European provinces, but immediately, in a proportion of distance not unanswerable unto what fell out from the first foundation of the church, sundry persons, by the instigation of Satan, attempted the disturbance and ruin of it, by the very same errors and heresies about the Trinity, the person of Christ and his offices, the person of the Holy Ghost and his grace, wherewith its first trouble and ruin was endeavoured. And hereof we have of late an instance given among ourselves, and that so notoriously known, through a mixture of imprudence and impudence in the managers of it, that a very brief reflection upon it will suffice unto our present design.
It was always supposed, and known to some, that there are sundry persons in this nation, who, having been themselves seduced into Socinianism, did make it their business, under various pretences, to draw others into a compliance with them in the same way and persuasion. Neither has this, for sundry years, been so secretly carried, but that the design of it has variously discovered itself by overt acts of conferences, disputations, and publishing of books; which last way of late has been sedulously pursued. Unto these three is now a visible accession made, by that sort of people whom men will call Quakers, from their deportment at the first erection of their way (long since deserted by them), until, by some new revolutions of opinions, they cast themselves under a more proper denomination. That there is a conjunction issued between both these sorts of men, in an opposition to the holy Trinity, with the person and grace of Christ, the pamphlets of late published by the one and the other do sufficiently evince. For however they may seem in sundry things as yet to look diverse ways, yet, like Samson’s foxes, they are knit together by the tail of consent in these firebrand opinions, and jointly endeavour to consume the standing corn of the church of God. And their joint management of their business of late has been as though it were their design to give as great a vogue and report to their opinions as by any ways they are able. Hence, besides their attempts to be proclaiming their opinions, under various pretences, in all assemblies whereinto they may intrude themselves (as they know) without trouble, they are exceeding sedulous in scattering and giving away, yea, imposing gratis (and, as to some, ingratiis), their small books which they publish, upon all sorts of persons promiscuously, as they have advantage so to do. By this means their opinions being of late become the talk and discourse of the common sort of Christians, and the exercise of many, – amongst whom are not a few that, on sundry accounts, which I shall not mention, may possibly be exposed unto disadvantage and prejudice thereby, – it has been thought meet by some that the sacred truths which these men oppose should be plainly and briefly asserted and confirmed from the scripture; that those of the meanest sort of professors, who are sincere and upright, exercising themselves to keep a good conscience in matters of faith and obedience to God, may have somewhat in a readiness, both to guide them in their farther inquiry into the truth, as also to confirm their faith in what they have already received, when at any time it is shaken or opposed by the „cunning sleight of men that lie in wait to deceive.”
And this comprises the design of the ensuing discourse. It may possibly be judged needless by some, as it was in its first proposal by him by whom it is written; and that because this matter at present is, by an especial providence, cast on other hands, who both have, and doubtless, as occasion shall require, will well acquit themselves in the defense of the truths opposed. Not to give any other account of the reasons of this small undertaking it may suffice, that „in publico discrimine omnis homo miles est,” – „eyery man’s concernment lying in a common danger,” – it is free for every one to manage it as he thinks bests, and is able, so it be without prejudice to the whole or the particular concerns of others. If a city be on fire, whose bucket that brings water to quench it ought to be refused? The attempt to cast fire into the city of God by the opinions mentioned, is open and plain; and a timely stop being to be put unto it, the more hands that are orderly employed in its quenching, the more speedy and secure is the effect like to be.
Now, because the assertors of the opinions mentioned do seem to set out themselves to be some great ones, above the ordinary rate of men, as having found out, and being able publicly to maintain, such things as never would have entered into the minds of others to have thought on or conceived; and also that they seem with many to be thought worthy of their consideration because they now are new, and such as they have not been acquainted withal; I shall, in this prefatory entrance, briefly manifest that those who have amongst us undertaken the management of these opinions have brought nothing new unto them, but either a little contemptible sophistry and caption of words, on the one hand, or futilous, affected, unintelligible expressions, on the other, – the opinions themselves being no other but such as the church of God, having been opposed by and troubled with from the beginning, has prevailed against and triumphed over in all generations. And were it not that confidence is the only relief which enraged impotency adheres unto and expects supplies from, I should greatly admire that those amongst us who have undertaken an enforcement of these old exploded errors, whose weakness does so openly discover and proclaim itself in all their endeavours, should judge themselves competent to give a new spirit of life to the dead carcass of these rotten heresies, which the faith of the saints in all ages has triumphed over, and which truth and learning have, under the care and watchfulness of Christ, so often baffled out of the world.
The Jews, in the time of our Saviour’s converse on the earth, being fallen greatly from the faith and worship of their forefathers, and ready to sink into their last and utmost apostasy from God, seem, amongst many other truths, to have much lost that of the doctrine of the holy Trinity, and of the person of the Messiah. It was, indeed, suited, in the dispensation of God, unto the work that the Lord Jesus had to fulfil in the world, that, before his passion and resurrection, the knowledge of his divine nature, as unto his individual person, should be concealed from the most of men. For this cause, although he was „in the form of Good, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet he made himself of no reputation, by inking on him the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, that being found in the fashion of a man, he might be obedient unto death,” Phil. 2: 6- 8; whereby his divine glory was veiled for a season, until he was „declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” Rom. 1:4; and then „was glorified with that glory which he had with the Father before the world was,” John 17: 6. And as this dispensation was needful unto the accomplishment of the whole work which, as our mediator, he had undertaken, so, in particular, he who was in himself the Lord of hosts, a sanctuary to them that feared him, became hereby „a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” Isa. 8: 13, 14. See Luke 2: 34; Rom. 9: 33; 1 Pet. 2: 8; Isa. 28: 16. But yet, notwithstanding, as occasions required, suitably unto his own holy ends and designs, he forbare not to give plain and open testimony to his own divine nature and eternal pre-existence unto his incarnation. And this was it which, of all other things, most provoked the carnal Jews with whom he had to do; for having, as was said, lost the doctrine of the Trinity and person of the Messiah, in a great measure, whenever he asserted his Deity, they were immediately enraged, and endeavoured to destroy him. So was it, plainly, John 8: 66-69. Says he, „Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him.” So, also, John 10: 30-33, „I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works hare I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makes thyself God.” They understood well enough the meaning of those words, „I and my Father are one,” namely, that they were a plain assertion of his being God. This caused their rage. And this the Jews all abide by to this day, – namely, that he declared himself to be God, and therefore they slew him. Whereas, therefore, the first discovery of a plurality of persons in the divine essence consists in the revelation of the divine nature and personality of the Son, this being opposed, persecuted, and blasphemed by these Jews, they may be justly looked upon and esteemed as the first assertors of that misbelief which now some seek again so earnestly to promote. The Jews persecuted the Lord Christ, because he, being a man, declared himself also to be God; and others are ready to revile and reproach them who believe and teach what he declared.
After the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, all things being filled with tokens, evidences, and effects of his divine nature and power (Rom. 1: 4), the church that began to be gathered in his name, and according to his doctrine, being, by his especial institution, to be initiated into the express profession of the doctrine of the holy Trinity, as being to be baptized in the name of the Father, and, the Son, and the holy Ghost, – which confession comprises the whole of the truth contended for, and by the indispensable placing of it at the first entrance into all obedience unto him, is made the doctrinal foundation of the church, – it continued for a season in the quiet and undisturbed possession of this sacred treasure.
The first who gave disquietment unto the disciples of Christ, by perverting the doctrine of the Trinity, was Simon Magus, with his followers; – an account of whose monstrous figments and unintelligible imaginations, with their coincidence with what some men dream in these latter days, shall elsewhere be given. Nor shall I need here to mention the colluvies of Gnostics, Valentians, Marcionites, and Manichees; the foundation of all whose abominations lay in their misapprehensions of the being of God, their unbelief of the Trinity and person of Christ, as do those of some others also.
In especial, there was one Cerinthus, who was more active than others in his opposition to the doctrine of the person of Christ, and therein of the holy Trinity. To put a stop unto his abominations, all authors agree that John, writing his Gospel, prefixed unto it that plain declaration of the eternal Deity of Christ which it is prefaced withal. And the story is well attested by Irenaeus, Eusebius, and others, from Polycarpus, who was his disciple, that this Cerinthus coming into the place where the apostle was, he left it, adding, as a reason of his departure, lest the building, through the just judgment of God, should fall upon them. And it was of the holy, wise providence of God to suffer some impious persons to oppose this doctrine before the death of that apostle, that he might, by infallible inspiration, farther reveal, manifest, and declare it, to the establishment of the church in future ages. For what can farther be desired to satisfy the minds of men who in any sense own the Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures, than that this controversy about the Trinity and person of Christ (for they stand and fall together) should be so eminently and expressly determined, as it were, immediately from heaven?
But he with whom we have to deal in this matter neither ever did, nor ever will, nor can, acquiesce or rest in the divine determination of any thing which he has stirred up strife and controversy about: for as Cerinthus and the Ebionites persisted in the heresy of the Jews, who would have slain our Savior for bearing witness to his own Deity, notwithstanding the evidence of that testimony, and the right apprehension which the Jews had of his mind therein; so he excited other to engage and persist in their opposition to the truth, notwithstanding this second particular determination of it from beaten, for their confutation or confusion. For after the more weak and confused oppositions made unto it by Theodotus Coriarius [i.e., the tanner], Artemon, and some others, at length a stout champion appears visibly and expressly engaged against these fundamentals of our faith. This was Paulus Samosatenus, bishop of the church of Antioch, about the year 272; – a man of most intolerable pride, passion, and folly, – the greatest that has left a name upon ecclesiastical records. This man openly and avowedly denied the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Deity of Christ in an especial manner. For although he endeavoured for a while to cloud his impious sentiments in ambiguous expressions, as others also have done (Euseb., lib. vii. cap. 27), yet being pressed by the professors of the truth, and supposing his party was somewhat confirmed, he plainly defended his heresy, and was cast out of the church wherein he presided. Some sixty years after, Photinus, bishop of Sirmium, with a pretence of more sobriety in life and conversation, undertook the management of the same design, with the same success.
What ensued afterward among the churches of God in this matter is of too large and diffused a nature to be here reported. These instances I have fixed on only to intimate, unto persons whose condition or occasions afford them not ability or leisure of themselves to inquire into the memorials of times past amongst the professors of the gospel of Christ, that these oppositions which are made at present amongst us unto these fundamental truths, and derived immediately from the late renewed enforcement of them made by Faustus Socinus and his followers, are nothing but old banded, attempts of Satan against the rock of the church and the building thereon, in the confession of the Son of the living God.
Now, as all men who have aught of a due reverence of God or his truth remaining with them, cannot but be wary how they give the least admittance to such opinions as have from the beginning been witnessed against and condemned by Christ himself, his apostles and all that followed them in their faith and ways in all generations; so others whose hearts tremble for the danger they apprehend which these sacred truths may be in of being corrupted or defamed by the present opposition against them, may know that it is no other but what the church and faith of professors has already been exercised with, and, through the power of Him that enables them, have constantly triumphed over. And, for any part, I look upon it as a blessed effect of the holy, wise providence of God, that those who have long harbored these abominations of denying the holy Trinity, and the person and satisfaction of Christ, in their minds, but yet have sheltered themselves from common observation under the shades of dark, obscure, and uncouth expressions, with many other specious pretences, should be given up to join themselves with such persons (and to profess a community of persuasion with them in those opinions, as have rendered themselves infamous from the first foundation of Christianity), and wherein they will assuredly meet with the same success as those have done who have gone before them.
For the other head of opposition, made by these persons unto the truth in reference unto the satisfaction of Christ, and the imputation of his righteousness thereon unto our justification, I have not much to say as to the time past. In general, the doctrine wherein they boast, being first brought forth in a rude misshapen manner by the Pelagian heretics, was afterward improved by one Abelardus, a sophistical scholar in France; but owes its principal form and poison unto the endeavours of Faustus Socinus, and those who have followed him in his subtle attempt to corrupt the whole doctrine of the gospel. Of these men are those amongst us who at this day so busily dispute and write about the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and his satisfaction. – the followers and disciples. And it is much more from their masters, who were some of them men learned, diligent, and subtle, than from themselves, that they are judged to be of any great consideration. For I can truly say, that, upon the sedate examination of all that I could ever yet hear or get a sight of, either spoken or written by them, – that is, any amongst us, – I never yet observed an undertaking of so great importance managed with a greater evidence of incompetency and inability, to give any tolerable countenance unto it. If any of them shall for the future attempt to give any new countenance or props to their tottering errors, it will doubtless be attended unto by some of those many who cannot but know that it is incumbent on them „to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” This present brief endeavour is only to assist and direct those who are less exercised in the ways of managing controversies in religion, that they may have a brief comprehension of the truths opposed, with the firm foundations whereon they are built, and be in a readiness to shield their faith both against the fiery darts of Satan, and secure their minds against the „cunning sleight of men, who lie in wait to deceive.” And wherein this discourse seems in any thing to be too brief or concise, the author is not to be blamed who was confined unto these strait bounds by those whose requests enjoined him this service.
The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity Explained and Vindicated
The doctrine of the blessed Trinity may be considered two ways: First, In respect unto the revelation and proposal of it in the Scripture, to direct us unto the author, object, and end of our faith, in our worship and obedience. Secondly, As it is farther declared and explained, in terms, expressions, and propositions, reduced from the original revelation of it, suited whereunto, and meet to direct and keep the mind from undue apprehensions of the things it believes, and to declare them, unto farther edification.
In the first way, it consists merely in the propositions wherein the revelation of God is expressed in the Scripture; and in this regard two things are required of us. First, To understand the terms of the propositions, as they are enunciations of truth; and, Secondly, To believe the things taught, revealed, and declared in them.
In the first instance, no more, I say, is required of us, but that we assent unto the assertions and testimonies of God concerning himself, according to their natural and genuine sense, as he will be known, believed in, feared, and worshipped by us, as he is our Creator, Lord, and Rewarder; and that because he himself has, by his revelation, not only warranted us so to do, but also made it our duty, necessary and indispensable. Now, the sum of this revelation in this matter is, that God is one; – that this one God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; – that the Father is the Father of the Son; and the Son, the Son of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father and the Son; and that, in respect of this their mutual relation, they are distinct from each other.
This is the substance of the doctrine of the Trinity, as to the first direct concernment of faith therein. The first intention of the Scripture, in the revelation of God towards us, is, as was said, that we might fear him, believe, worship, obey him, and live unto him, as God. That we may do this in a due manner, and worship the only true God, and not adore the false imaginations of our own minds it declares, as was said, that this God is one, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; – that the Father is this one God; and therefore is to be believed in, worshipped, obeyed, lived unto, and in all things considered by us as the first cause, sovereign Lord, and last end of all; – that the Son is the one true God; and therefore is to be believed in, worshipped, obeyed, lived unto, and in all things considered by us as the first cause, sovereign Lord, and last end of all; – and so, also, of the Holy Ghost. This is the whole of faith’s concernment in this matter, as it respects the direct revelation of God made by himself in the Scripture, and the first proper general end thereof. Let this be clearly confirmed by direct and positive divine testimonies, containing the declaration and revelation of God concerning himself, and faith is secured as to all it concerns; for it has both its proper formal object, and is sufficiently enabled to be directive of divine worship and obedience.
The explication of this doctrine unto edification, suitable unto the revelation mentioned, is of another consideration; and two things are incumbent on us to take care of therein: – First, That what is affirmed and taught do directly tend unto the ends of the revelation itself, by informing and enlightening of the mind in the knowledge of the mystery of it, so far as in this life we are, by divine assistance, capable to comprehend it; that is, that faith may be increased, strengthened, and confirmed against temptations and oppositions of Satan, and men of corrupt minds; and that we may be distinctly directed unto, and encouraged in, the obedience unto, and worship of God, that are required of us. Secondly, That nothing be affirmed or taught herein that may beget or occasion any undue apprehensions concerning God, or our obedience unto him, with respect unto the best, highest, securest revelations that we have of him and our duty. These things being done and secured, the end of the declaration of this doctrine concerning God is attained. In the declaration, then, of this doctrine unto the edification of the church, there is contained a farther explanation of the things before asserted, as proposed directly and in themselves as the object of our faith, – namely, how God is one, in respect of his nature, substance, essence, Godhead, or divine being; how, being Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, he subsists in these three distinct persons or hypostases; and what are their mutual respects to each other, by which, as their peculiar properties, giving them the manner of their subsistence, they are distinguished one from another; with sundry other things of the like necessary consequence unto the revelation mentioned. And herein, as in the application of all other divine truths and mysteries whatever, yea, of all moral commanded duties, use is to be made of such words and expressions as, it may be, are not literally and formally contained in the Scripture; but only are, unto our conceptions and apprehensions, expository of what is so contained. And to deny the liberty, yea, the necessity hereof, is to deny all interpretation of the Scripture, – all endeavours to express the sense of the words of it unto the understandings of one another; which is, in a word, to render the Scripture itself altogether useless. For if it be unlawful for me to speak or write what I conceive to be the sense of the words of the Scripture, and the nature of the thing signified and expressed by them, it is unlawful for me, also, to think or conceive in my mind what is the sense of the words or nature of the things; which to say, is to make brutes of ourselves, and to frustrate the whole design of God in giving unto us the great privilege of his word.
Wherefore, in the declaration of the doctrine of the Trinity, we may lawfully, nay, we must necessarily, make use of other words, phrases, and expressions, than what are literally and syllabically contained in the Scripture, but teach no other things.
Moreover, whatever is so revealed in the Scripture is no less true and divine as to whatever necessarily follows thereon, than it is as unto that which is principally revealed and directly expressed. For how far soever the lines be drawn and extended, from truth nothing can follow and ensue but what is true also; and that in the same kind of truth with that which it is derived and deduced from. For if the principal assertion be a truth of divine revelation, so is also whatever is included therein, and which may be rightly from thence collected. Hence it follows, that when the Scripture reveals the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be one God, seeing it necessarily and unavoidably follows thereon that they are one in essence (wherein alone it is possible they can be one), and three in their distinct subsistences (wherein alone it is possible they can be three), – this is no less of divine revelation than the first principle from whence these things follow.
These being the respects which the doctrine of the Trinity falls under, the necessary method of faith and reason, in the believing and declaring of it, is plain and evident: – First. The revelation of it is to be asserted and vindicated, as it is proposed to be believed, for the ends mentioned. Now, this is, as was declared, that there is one God; that this God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and so, that the Father is God, so is the Son, so is the Holy Ghost.
This being received and admitted by faith, the explication of it is, –
Secondly, To be insisted on, and not taken into consideration until the others be admitted. And herein lies the preposterous course of those who fallaciously and captiously go about to oppose this sacred truth: – they will always begin their opposition, not unto the revelation of it, but unto the explanation of it; which is used only for farther edification. Their disputes and cavils shall be against the Trinity, essence, substance, persons, personality, respects, properties of the divine persons, with the modes of expressing these things; whilst the plain scriptural revelation of the things themselves from whence they are but explanatory deductions, is not spoken to, nor admitted into confirmation. By this means have they entangled many weak, unstable souls, who, when they have met with things too high, hard, and difficult for them (which in divine mysteries they may quickly do), in the explication of this doctrine, have suffered themselves to be taken off from a due consideration of the full and plain revelation of the thing itself in Scripture; until, their temptations being made strong, and their darkness increased, it was too late for them to return unto it; as bringing along with them the cavils wherewith they were prepossessed, rather than that faith and obedience which is required. But yet all this while these explanations, so excepted against, are indeed not of any original consideration in this matter. Let the direct, express revelations of the doctrine be confirmed, they will follow of themselves, nor will be excepted against by those who believe and receive it. Let that be rejected, and they will fall of themselves, and never be contended for by those who did make use of them. But of these things we shall treat again afterward.
This, therefore, is the way, the only way that we rationally can, and that which in duty we ought to proceed in and by, for the asserting and confirming of the doctrine of the holy Trinity under consideration, – namely, that we produce divine revelations or testimonies, wherein faith may safely rest and acquiesce, that God is one; that this one God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; so that the Father is God, so also is the Son, and the Holy Ghost likewise, and, as such, are to be believed in, obeyed, worshipped, acknowledged, as the first cause and last end of all, – our Lord and reward. If this be not admitted, if somewhat of it be not, particularly [if it be] denied, we need not, we have no warrant or ground to proceed any farther, or at all to discourse about the unity of the divine essence, or the distinction of the persons.
We have not, therefore, any original contest in this matter with any, but such as deny either God to be one, or the Father to be God, or the son to be God, or the Holy Ghost so to be. If any deny either of these in particular, we are ready to confirm it by sufficient testimonies of Scripture, or clear and undeniable divine revelation. When this is evinced and vindicated, we shall willingly proceed to manifest that the explications used of this doctrine unto the edification of the church are according to truth, and such as necessarily are required by the nature of the things themselves. And this gives us the method of the ensuing small discourse, with the reasons of it: –
1. The first thing which we affirm to be delivered unto us by divine revelation as the object of our faith, is, that God is one. I know that this may be uncontrollably evinced by the light of reason itself, unto as good and quiet an assurance as the mind of man is capable of in any of its apprehensions whatever; but I speak of it now as it is confirmed unto us by divine revelation. How this assertion of one God respects the nature, essence, or divine being of God, shall be declared afterward. At present it is enough to represent the testimonies that he is one, – only one. And because we have no difference with our adversaries distinctly about this matter, I shall only name few of them. Deut. 6: 4, ” Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God is one LORD.” A most pregnant testimony; and yet, notwithstanding, as I shall elsewhere manifest, the Trinity itself, in that one divine essence, is here asserted. Isa. 44: 6, 8, „Thus saith the LORD the being of Israel, and his Redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” In which also we may manifest that a plurality of persons is included and expressed. And although there be no more absolute and sacred truth than this, that God is one, yet it may be evinced that it is nowhere mentioned in the Scripture, but that, either in the words themselves or the context of the place, a plurality of persons in that one sense is intimated.
2. Secondly, It is proposed as the object of our faith, that the Father is God. And herein, as is pretended, there is also an agreement between us and those who oppose the doctrine of the Trinity. But there is a mistake in this matter. Their hypothesis, as they call it, or, indeed, presumptuous error, casts all the conceptions that are given us concerning God in the Scripture into disorder and confusion. For the Father, as he whom we worship, is often called so only with reference unto his Son; as the Son is so with reference to the Father. He is the „only begotten of the Father,” John 10: 14. But now, if this Son had no pre-existence in his divine nature before he was born of the Virgin, there was no God the Father seventeen hundred years ago, because there was no Son. And on this ground did the Marcionites of old plainly deny the Father (whom, under the New Testament, we worship) to be the God of the Old Testament, who made the world, and was worshipped from the foundation of it. For it seems to follow, that he whom we worship being the Father, and on this supposition that the Son had no pre-existence unto his incarnation, he was not the Father under the Old Testament; he is some other from him that was so revealed. I know the folly of that inference; yet how, on this opinion of the sole existence of the Son in time, men can prove the Father to be God, let others determine. „He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son;” but „whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God,” 2 John 9. Whoever denies Christ the Son, as the Son, that is, the eternal Son of God, he loses the Father also, and the true God; he has not God. For that God which is not the Father, and which ever was, and was not the Father, is not the true God. Hence many of the fathers, even of the first writers of the church, were forced unto great pains in the confirmation of this truth, that the Father of Jesus Christ was he who made the world, gave the law, spoke by the prophets, and was the author of the Old Testament; and that against men who professed themselves to be Christians. And this brutish apprehension of theirs arose from no other principle but this, that the Son had only a temporal existence, and was not the eternal Son of God.
But that I may not in this brief discourse digress unto other controversies than what lies directly before us, and seeing the adversaries of the truth we contend for do, in words at least, grant that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the true God, or the only true God, I shall not farther show the inconsistency of their hypothesis with this confession, but take it for granted that to us „there is one God, the Father,” 1 Cor. 8: 6; see John 17: 3. So that he who is not the Father, who was not so from eternity, whose paternity is not equally coexistent unto his Deity, is not God unto us.
3. Thirdly, It is asserted and believed by the church that Jesus Christ is God, the eternal Son of God; – that is, he is proposed, declared, and revealed unto us in the Scripture to be God, that is to be served, worshipped, believed in, obeyed as God, upon the account of his own divine excellencies. And whereas we believe and know that he was man, that he was born, lived, and died as a man, it is declared that he is God also; and that, as God, he did preexist in the form of God before his incarnation, which was effected by voluntary actings of his own, – which could not be without a pre-existence in another nature. This is proposed unto us to be believed upon divine testimony and by divine revelation. And the sole inquiry in this matter is, whether this be proposed in the Scripture as an object of faith, and that which is indispensably necessary for us to believe? Let us, then, nakedly attend unto what the Scripture asserts in this matter, and that in the order of the books of it, in some particular instances which at present occur to mind; as these that follow: –
Ps. 45: 6, „Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Applied unto Christ, Heb. 10: 8, „But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.”
Ps. 68: 17,18, „The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the LORD is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.”. Applied unto the Son, Eph. 4: 8-10, „Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens that he might fill all things.”
Ps. 110: 1, „The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand.” Applied unto Christ by himself, Matt. 22: 44.
Ps. 102: 25-27, „Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” Declared by the apostle to be meant of the Son, Heb. 10: 10-12.
Prov. 8: 22-31, „The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”
Isa. 6: 1-3, „I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; With twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” Applied unto the Son, John 12: 41.
Isa. 8: 13, 14, „Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Applied unto the Son, Luke 2: 34; Rom. 9: 33; 1 Pet. 2: 8.
Isa. 9: 6, „For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”
Jer. 23: 5, 6, „Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, Jehovah our Righteousness.”
Hos. 12: 3-5, „He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.”
Zech. 2: 8, 9, „For thus saith the LORD of hosts, After the glory has he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me.”
Matt. 16: 16, „Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Luke 1: 35, „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.”
John 10: 1-3. „In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Verse 14, „And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”
John 3: 13, „And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven.”
John 8: 57, 58, „Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
John 10: 30, „I and my Father are one.”
John 17: 5, „And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
John 20: 28, „And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”
Acts 20: 28, „Feed the church of Cod, which he has purchased with his own blood.”
Rom. 10: 3, 4, „Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
Rom. 9: 5, „Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”
Rom. 14: 10-12, „For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”
1 Cor. 8: 6, „And one Lord Jesus, by whom are all things, and we by him.”
1 Cor. 10: 9, „Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents;” compared with Numb. 21: 6.
Phil. 2: 5, 6, „Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”
Col. 1: 15-17, „Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
1 Tim. 3: 16, „Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”
Tit. 2: 13, 14, „Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us.
Heb. 1 throughout.
Chap. 3: 4, „For every house is builder by some man; but he that built all things is God.”
1 Pet. 1: 11, „Searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.”
Chap. 3: 18-20, „For Christ also has once suffered for sins, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.”
1 John 3: 16, „Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.”
Chap. 5: 20, „And we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
Rev. 1: 8, „I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
Verses 11-13, „I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou sees, write in a book….. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And, being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man.”
Verse 17, „And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last.”
Chap. 2: 23, „I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”
These are some of the places wherein the truth under consideration is revealed and declared, – some of the divine testimonies whereby it is confirmed and established, which I have not at present inquired after, but suddenly repeated as they came to mind. Many more of the like nature and importance may be added unto them, and shall be so as occasion does require.
Let, now, any one who owns the Scripture to be the word of God, – to contain an infallible revelation of the things proposed in it to be believed, – and who has any conscience exercised towards God for the receiving and submitting unto what he declares and reveals, take a view of these testimonies, and consider whether they do not sufficiently propose this object of our faith. Shall a few poor trifling sophisms, whose terms are scarcely understood by the most that amongst us make use of them, according as they have found them framed by others, be thought meet to be set up in opposition unto these multiplied testimonies of the Holy Ghost, and to cast the truth confirmed by them down from its credit and reputation in the consciences of men? For my part, I do not see in any thing, but that the testimonies given to the Godhead of Christ, the eternal Son of God, are every way as clear and unquestionable as those are which testify to the being of God, or that there is any God at all. Were men acquainted with the Scriptures as they ought to be, and as the most, considering the means and advantages they have had, might have been; did they ponder and believe on what they read, or had they any tenderness in their consciences as to that reverence, obedience, and subjection of soul which God requires unto his word; it were utterly impossible that their faith in this matter should ever in the least be shaken by a few lewd sophisms or loud clamours of men destitute of the truth, and of the spirit of it.
That we may now improve these testimonies unto the end under design, as the nature of this brief discourse will bear, I shall first remove the general answers which the Socinians give unto them, and then manifest farther how uncontrollable they are, by giving an instance in the frivolous exceptions of the same persons to one of them in particular. And we are ready, God assisting, to maintain that there is not any one of them which does not give a sufficient ground for faith to rest on in this matter concerning the Deity of Christ, and that against all the Socinians in the world.
They say, therefore, commonly, that we prove not by these testimonies what is by them denied. For they acknowledge Christ to be God, and that because he is exalted unto that glory and authority that all creatures are put into subjection unto him, and all, both men and angels, are commanded to worship and adore him. So that he is God by office, though he be not God by nature. He is God, but he is not the most high God. And this last expression they have almost continually in their mouths, „He is not the most high God.” And commonly, with great contempt and scorn, they are ready to reproach them who have solidly confirmed the doctrine of the Deity of Christ as ignorant of the state of the controversy, in that they have not proved him to be the most high God, in subordination unto whom they acknowledge Christ to be God, and that he ought to be worshipped with divine and religious worship.
But there cannot be any thing more empty and vain than these pretences; and, besides, they accumulate in them their former errors, with the addition of new ones. For, –
First. The name of the most high God is first ascribed unto God in Gen. 14: 18, 19, 22, denoting his sovereignty and dominion. Now, as other attributes of God, it is not distinctive of the subject, but only descriptive of it. So are all other excellencies of the nature of God. It does not intimate that there are other gods, only he is the most high, or one over them all; but only that the true God is most high, – that is, endued with sovereign power, dominion, and authority over all. To say, then, that Christ indeed is God, but not the most high God, is all one as to say he is God, but not the most holy God, or not the true God; and so they have brought their Christ into the number of false gods, whilst they deny the true Christ, who, in his divine nature, is „over all, God blessed for ever,” Rom. 9: 5; a phrase of speech perfectly expressing this attribute of the most high God.
Secondly. This answer is suited only unto those testimonies which express the name of God with a corresponding power and authority into that name; for in reference unto these alone can it be pleaded, with any pretence of reason, that he is a God by office, – though that also be done very futilously and impertinently. But most of the testimonies produced speak directly unto his divine excellencies and properties, which belong unto his nature necessarily and absolutely. That he is eternal, omnipotent, immense, omniscient, infinitely wise; and that he is, and works, and produces effects suitable unto all these properties, and such as nothing but they can enable him for; is abundantly proved by the foregoing testimonies. Now, all these concern a divine nature, a natural essence, a Godhead, and not such power or authority as a man may be exalted unto; yea, the ascribing any of them to such a one, implies the highest contradiction expressible.
Thirdly. This God in authority and of office, and not by nature, that should be the object of divine worship, is a new abomination. For they are divine, essential excellencies that are the formal reason and object of worship, religious and divine; and to ascribe it unto any one that is not God by nature, is idolatry. By making, therefore, their Christ such a God as they describe, they bring him under the severe combination of the true God. Jer. 10: 11, „The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” That Christ they worship they say is a God; but they deny that he is „that God that made the heavens and the earth:” and so leave him exposed to the threatenings of him, who will accomplish it to the uttermost.
Some other general exceptions sometimes they make use of, which the reader may free himself from the entanglement of, if he do but heed these ensuing rules: –
First. Distinction of persons (of which afterwards), it being in an infinite substance, does no way prove a difference of essence between the Father and the Son. Where, therefore, Christ, as the Son, is said to be another from the Father, or God, spoken personally of the Father, it argues not in the least that he is not partaker of the same nature with him. That in one essence there can be but one person, may be true where the substance is finite and limited, but has no place in that which is infinite.
Secondly. Distinction and inequality in respect of office in Christ, does not in the least take away his equality and sameness with the Father in respect of nature and essence, Phil. 2: 7, 8. A son, of the same nature with his father, and therein equal to him, may in office be his inferior, – his subject.
Thirdly. The advancement and exaltation of Christ as mediator to any dignity whatever, upon or in reference to the work of our redemption and salvation, is not at all inconsistent with the essential honour, dignity, and worth, which he has in himself as God blessed for ever. Though he humbled himself, and was exalted in office, yet in nature he was one and the same; he changed not.
Fourthly. The Scriptures, asserting the humanity of Christ, with the concernments thereof, as his birth, life, and death, do no more thereby deny his Deity than, by asserting his Deity, with the essential properties thereof, they deny his humanity.
Fifthly. God working in and by Christ as he was mediator, denotes the Father’s sovereign appointment of the things mentioned to be done, – not his immediate efficiency in the doing of the things themselves.
These rules are proposed a little before their due place in the method which we pursue. But I thought meet to interpose them here, as containing a sufficient ground for the resolution and answering of all the sophisms and objections which the adversaries use in this cause.
From the cloud of witnesses before produced, every one whereof is singly sufficient to evert the Socinian infidelity, I shall in one of them give an instance, both of the clearness of the evidence and the weakness of the exceptions which are wont to be put in against them, as was promised; and this is John 10: 1-3, „In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
By the Word, here, or „ho Logos”, on what account soever he be so called, either as being the eternal Word and Wisdom of the Father, or as the great Revealer of the will of God unto us, Jesus Christ the Son of God is intended. This is on all hands acknowledged; and the context will admit of no hesitation about it. For of this Word it is said, that „he came” into the world, verse 10; „was rejected by his own,” verse 11; „was made flesh and dwelt among us, whose glory was the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father,” verse 14; called expressly „Jesus Christ,” verse 17; „the only begotten Son of the Father,” verse 18. The subject, then, treated of, is here agreed upon; and it is no less evident that it is the design of the apostle to declare both who and what he was of whom he treats. Here, then, if any where, we may learn what we are to believe concerning the person of Christ; which also we may certainly do, if our minds are not perverted through prejudice, „whereby the god of this world does blind the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them,” 2 Cor. 4: 4. Of this Word, then, this Son of God, it is affirmed, that he „was in the beginning.” And this word, if it does not absolutely and formally express eternity, yet it does a pre-existence unto the whole creation; which amounts to the same: for nothing can preexist unto all creatures, but in the nature of God, which is eternal; unless we shall suppose a creature before the creation of any. But what is meant by this expression the Scripture does elsewhere declare. Prov. 8: 23, „I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” John 17: 5, „Glorify thou me with thins own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Both which places, as they explain this phrase, so also do they undeniably testify unto the eternal pre-existence of Christ the Son of God. And in this case we prevail against our adversaries, if we prove any pre-existence of Christ unto his incarnation; which, as they absolutely deny, so to grant it would overthrow their whole heresy in this matter. And therefore they know that the testimony of our Saviour concerning himself, if understood in a proper, intelligible sense, is perfectly destructive of their pretensions, John 8: 58, „Before Abraham was, I am.” For although there be no proper sense in the words, but a gross equivocation, if the existence of Christ before Abraham was born be not asserted in them (seeing he spoke in answer to that objection of the Jews, that he was not yet fifty years old, and so could not have seen Abraham, nor Abraham him; and the Jews that were present, understood well enough that he asserted a divine pre-existence unto his being born, so long ago, as that hereon, after their manner, they took up stones to stone him, as supposing him to have blasphemed in asserting his Deity, as others now do in the denying of it); yet they [Socinians], seeing how fatal this pre-existence, though not here absolutely asserted to be eternal, would be to their cause, contend that the meaning of the words is, that „Christ was to be the light of the world before Abraham was made the father of many nations;” – an interpretation so absurd and Scottish, as never any man not infatuated by the god of this world could once admit and give countenance unto.
But „in the beginning,” as absolutely used, is the same with „from everlasting,” as it is expounded, Prov. 8: 23, and denotes an eternal existence; which is here affirmed of the Word, the Son of God. But let the word „beginning,” be restrained unto the subject matter treated of (which is the creation of all things), and the pre-existence of Christ in his divine nature unto the creation of all things is plainly revealed, and inevitably asserted. And indeed, not only the word, but the discourse of these verses, does plainly relate unto, and is expository of, the first verse in the Bible, Gen. 1: 1, „In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There it is asserted that in the beginning God created all things; here, that the Word was in the beginning, and made all things. This, then, is the least that we have obtained from this first word of our testimony, – namely, that the Word or Son of God had a personal pre-existence unto the whole creation. In what nature this must be, let these men of reason satisfy themselves, who know that Creator and creatures take up the whole nature of beings. One of them he must be; and it may be well supposed that he was not a creature before the creation of any.
But, secondly, Where, or with whom, was this Word in the beginning? „It was,” says the Holy Ghost, „with God.” There being no creature then existing, he could be nowhere but with God; that is, the Father, as it is expressed in one of the testimonies before going, Prov. 8: 22, „The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old;” verse 30, „Then was I by him as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;” that is, in the beginning this Word, or Wisdom of God, was with God.
And this is the same which our Lord Jesus asserts concerning himself, John 3: 13, „And no man,” says he, „has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” And so in other places he affirms his being in heaven, – that is, with God, – at the same time when he was on the earth; whereby he declares the immensity of his nature, and the distinction of his person; and his coming down from heaven before he was incarnate on the earth, declaring his pre-existence; by both manifesting the meaning of this expression, that „in the beginning he was with God.” But hereunto they have invented a notable evasion. For although they know not well what to make of the last clause of the words, that says, then he was in heaven when he spoke on earth, – „The Son of man which is in heaven,” answerable to the description of God’s immensity, „Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord,” Jer. 23: 24, but say that he was there by heavenly meditation, as another man may be; yet they give a very clear answer to what must of necessity be included in his descending from heaven, namely, his pre-existence to his incarnation: for they tell us that, before his public ministry, he was in his human nature (which is all they allow unto him) taken up into heaven, and there taught the gospel, as the great impostor Mohammed pretended he was taught his Koran. If you ask them who told them so, they cannot tell; but they can tell when it was, – namely, when he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days after his baptism. But yet this instance is subject to another misadventure; in that one of the evangelists plainly affirms that he was „those forty days in the wilderness with the wild beasts,” Mark 10: 13, and so, surely, not in heaven in the same nature, by his bodily presence, with God and his holy angels.
And let me add this, by the way, that the interpretation of this place, John 10: 1, to be mentioned afterward, and those of the two places before mentioned, John 8: 58, 3: 13, Faustus Socinus learned out of his uncle Laelius’ papers, as he confesses; and does more than intimate that he believed he had them as it were by revelation. And it may be so; they are indeed so forced, absurd, and irrational, that no man could ever fix upon them by any reasonable investigation; but the author of these revelations if we may judge of the parent by the child, could be no other but the spirit of error and darkness. I suppose, therefore, that notwithstanding these exceptions, Christians will believe „that in the beginning the Word was with God;” that is, that the Son was with the Father, as is frequently elsewhere declared.
But who was this Word? Says the apostle, He was God. He was so with God (that is, the Father), as that he himself was God also; – God, in that notion of God which both nature and the Scripture do represent; not a god by office, one exalted to that dignity (which cannot well be pretended before the creation of the world), but as Thomas confessed him, „Our Lord and our God,” John 20: 28; or as Paul expresses it, „Over all, God blessed for ever;” or the most high God; which these men love to deny. Let not the infidelity of men, excited by the craft and malice of Satan, seek for blind occasions, and this matter is determined; if the word and testimony of God be able to umpire a difference amongst the children of men. Here is the sum of our creed in this matter, „In the beginning the Word was God,” and so continues unto eternity, being Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the Lord God Almighty.
And to show that he was so God in the beginning, as that he was one distinct, in something, from God the Father, by whom afterward he was sent into the world, he adds, verse 2, „The same was in the beginning with God.” Farther, also, to evince what he has asserted and revealed for us to believe, the Holy Ghost adds, both as a firm declaration of his eternal Deity, and also his immediate care of the world (which how he variously exercised, both in a way of providence and grace, he afterward declares), verse 3, „All things were made by him.” He was so in the beginning, before all things, as that he made them all. And that it may not be supposed that the „all” that he is said to make or create was to be limited unto any certain sort of things, he adds, that „without him nothing was made that was made;” which gives the first assertion an absolute universality as to its subject. And this he farther describes, verse 10, „He was in the world, and the world was made by him.” The world that was made, has a usual distribution, in the Scripture, into the „heavens and the earth, and all things contained in them;” – as Acts 4: 24, „Lord, thou art God, which best made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is;” that is, the world, the making whereof is expressly assigned unto the Son, Heb. 1: 10, „Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” And the apostle Paul, to secure our understandings in this matter, instances in the most noble parts of the creation, and which, if any, might seem to be excepted from being made by him, Col. 1: 16, „For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him.” The Socinians say, indeed, that he made angels to be thrones and principalities; that is, he gave them their order, but not their being: which is expressly contrary to the words of the text; so that a man knows not well what to say to these persons, who, at their pleasure, cast off the authority of God in his word: „By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth.”
What now can be required to secure our faith in this matter? In what words possible could a divine revelation of the eternal power and Godhead of the Son of God be made more plain and clear unto the sons of men? Or how could the truth of any thing more evidently be represented unto their minds? If we understand not the mind of God and intention of the Holy Ghost in this matter, we may utterly despair ever to come to an acquaintance with any thing that God reveals unto us; or, indeed, with any thing else that is expressed or is to be expressed, by words. It is directly said that the Word (that is Christ, as is acknowledged by all) „was with God,” distinct from him; and „was God,” one with him; that he was so „in the beginning,” before the creation, that he „made all things,” – the world, all things in heaven and in earth: and if he be not God, who is? The sum is, – all the ways whereby we may know God are, his name, his properties, and his works; but they are all here ascribed by the Holy Ghost to the Son, to the Word: and he therefore is God, or we know neither who nor what God is.
But say the Socinians, „These things are quite otherwise, and the words have another sense in them than you imagine.” What is it, I pray? We bring none to them, we impose no sense upon them, we strain not any word in them, from, beside, or beyond its native, genuine signification, its constant application in the Scripture, and common use amongst men. What, then, is this latent sense that is intended, and is discoverable only by themselves? Let us hear them coining and stamping this sense of theirs.
First, they say that by „In the beginning,” is not meant of the beginning of all things, or the creation of them, but the beginning of the preaching of the gospel. But why so, I pray? Wherever these words are else used in the Scripture, they denote the beginning of all things, or eternity absolutely, or an existence preceding their creation. „In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” Gen. 1: 1. „I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was,” Prov. 8: 23. „Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth,” Heb. 1: 10. And besides, these words are never used absolutely anywhere for the beginning of the gospel. There is mention made, indeed, of the „beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mark 1: 1, which is referred to the preaching of John Baptist: but „In the beginning,” absolutely, is never so used or applied; and they must meet with men of no small inclination unto them, who will, upon their desire, in a matter of so great importance, forego the sense of words which is natural and proper, fixed by its constant use in the Scripture, when applied in the same kind, for that which is forced and strained, and not once exemplified in the whole book of God. But the words, they say, are to be restrained to the subject-matter treated of. Well, what is that subject-matter? „The new creation, by the preaching of the gospel.” But this is plainly false; nor will the words allow any such sense, nor the contempt, nor is any thing offered to give evidence unto this corrupt perverting of the words, unless it be a farther perverting of other testimonies no less clear than this.
For what is, according to this interpretation, the meaning of these words, „In the beginning was the Word?” „That is, when John Baptist preached, and said, „This is the Lamb of God,” which was signally the beginning of the gospel, – then he was.” That is, he was when he was, – no doubt of it! And is not this a notable way of interpreting of Scripture which these great pretenders to a dictatorship in reason, indeed hucksters in sophistry, do make use of? But to go on with them in this supposition, How was he then with God, – „The Word was with God?” „That is,” say they, „he was then known only to God, before John Baptist preached him in the beginning.” But what shall compel us to admit of this uncouth sense and exposition, – „‘He was with God;’ that is, he was known to God alone?” What is there singular herein? Concerning how many things may the same be affirmed? Besides, it is absolutely false. He was known to the angel Gabriel, who came to his mother with the message of his incarnations Luke 1: 35. He was known to the two angels which appeared to the shepherds upon his birth, Luke 2: 9, – to all the heavenly host assembled to give praise and glory to God on the account of his nativity, as those who came to worship him, and to pay him the homage due unto him, Luke 2: 10,13,14. He was known to his mother, the blessed Virgin, and to Joseph, and Zacharias, and to Elizabeth, to Simon and Anna, to John Baptist, and probably to many more to whom Simon and Anna spoke of him, Luke 2: 38. So that the sense pretended to be wrung out and extorted from these words, against their proper meaning and intendment, is indeed false and frivolous, and belongs not at all unto them.
But let this pass. What shall we say to the next words, „And the Word was God?” Give us leave, without disturbance from you, but to believe this expression, which comprises a revelation of God, proposed to us on purpose that we should believe it, and there will be, as was said, an end of this difference and debate. Yea, but say they, „These words have another sense also.” Strange! They seem to be so plain and positive, that it is impossible any other sense should be fixed on them but only this, that the Word was in the beginning, and was God; and therefore is so still, unless he who is once God can cease so to be. „But the meaning is, that afterwards God exalted him, and made him God, as to rule, authority, and power.” This making of him God is an expression very offensive to the ears of all sober Christians; and was therefore before exploded. And these things here, as all other figments, hang together like a rope of sand. In the beginning of the gospel he was God, before any knew him but only God; that is, after he had preached the gospel, and died, and rose again, and was exalted at the right hand of God, he was made God, and that not properly, which is absolutely impossible, but in an improper sense! How prove they, then, this perverse nonsense to be the sense of these plain words? They say it must needs be so. Let them believe them who are willing to perish with them.
Thus far, then, we have their sense: – „In the beginning,” that is, about sixteen or seventeen hundred years ago, „the Word,” that is, the human nature of Christ before it was made flesh, which it was in its being, „was with God,” that is, known to God alone; and „in the beginning,” that is afterwards, not in the beginning, was made God! – which is the sum of their exposition of this place.
But what shall we say to what is affirmed concerning his making of all things, so as that without him, that is, without his making of it, nothing was made that was made; especially seeing that these „all things” are expressly said to be the world, verse 10, and all things therein contained, even in heaven and earth? Col. 1: 16. An ordinary man would think that they should now be taken hold of, and that there is no way of escape left unto them; but they have it in a readiness. By the „all things” here, are intended all things of the gospel, – the preaching of it, the sending of the apostles to preach it, and to declare the will of God; and by the „world,” is intended the world to come, or the new state of things under the gospel. This is the substance of what is pleaded by the greatest masters amongst them in this matter, and they are not ashamed thus to plead. And the reader, in this instance, may easily discern what a desperate cause they are engaged in, and how bold and desperate they are in the management of it. For, –
First, The words are a plain illustration of the divine nature of the Word, by his divine power and works, as the very series of them declares. He was God, and he made all things: „He that built all things is God,” Heb. 3: 4.
Secondly, There is no one word spoken concerning the gospel, nor the preaching of it, nor any effects of that preaching; which the apostle expressly insists upon and declares afterward, verse 15, and so onwards.
Thirdly, The making of all things, here ascribed unto the Word, was done in the beginning; but that making of all things which they intend, in erecting the church by the preaching of the word, was not done in the beginning, but afterwards, – most of it, as themselves confess, after the ascension of Christ into heaven.
Fourthly, In this gloss, what is the meaning of „All things?” „Only some things,” say the Socinians. What is the meaning of „Were made?” „That is, were mended.” „By him?” „That is, the apostles, principally preaching the gospel.” And this „In the beginning?” „After it was past;” – for so they say expressly, that the principal things here intended were effected by the apostles afterwards.
I think, since the beginning, place it when you will, – the beginning of the world or the beginning of the gospel, – there was never such an exposition of the words of God or man contended for.
Fifthly, It is said, „He made the world,” and he „came” into it, – namely, the world which he made; and „the world,” or the inhabitants of it „knew him not.” But the world they intend did know him: for the church knew him, and acknowledged him to be the Son of God; for that was the foundation that it was built upon.
I have instanced directly in this only testimony, to give the reader a pledge of the full confirmation which may be given unto this great fundamental truth, by a due improvement of those other testimonies, or distinct revelations, which speak no less expressly to the same purpose. And of them there is not any one but we are ready to vindicate it, if called whereunto, from the exceptions of these men; which how bold and sophistical they are we may, in these now considered, also learn and know.
It appears, then, that there is a full, sufficient revelation made in the Scripture of the eternal Deity of the Son of God; and that he is so, as is the Father also. More particular testimonies I shall not at present insist upon, referring the full discussion and vindication of these truths to another season.
4. Fourthly, We are, therefore, in the next place, to manifest that the one, or the like testimony, is given unto the Deity of the Holy Spirit; that is, that he is revealed and declared in the Scripture as the object of our faith, worship, and obedience, on the account and for the reason of those divine excellencies which are the sole reason of our yielding religious worship unto any, or expecting from any the reward that is promised unto us, or to be brought by them to the end for which we are. And herein lies, as was showed, the concernment of faith. When that knows what it is to believe as on divine revelation, and is enabled thereby to regulate the soul in its present obedience and future expectation, seeing it is its nature to work by love and hope, there it rests. Now, this is done to the utmost satisfaction in the revelation that is made of the divine existence, divine excellencies, and divine operations of the Spirit; as shall be briefly manifested.
But before we proceed, we may, in our way, observe a great congruency of success in those who have denied the Deity of the Son and those who have denied that of the Holy Spirit. For as to the Son, after some men began once to disbelieve the revelation concerning him, and would not acknowledge him to be God and man in one person, they could never settle nor agree, either what or who he was, or who was his Father, or why he was the Son. Some said he was a phantasm or appearance, and that he had no real subsistence in this world; and that all that was done by him was an appearance, he himself being they know not what elsewhere. That proud beast, Paulus Samosatenus, whose flagitious life contended for a preeminence in wickedness with his prodigious heresies, was one of the first, after the Jews, that positively contended for his being a man, and no more; who was followed by Photinus and others. The Arians perceiving the folly of this opinion, with the odium of it amongst all that bare the name of Christians, and that they had as good deny the whole Scripture as not grant unto him a pre-existence in a divine nature antecedent to his incarnation, they framed a new Deity, which God should make before the world, in all things like himself, but not the same with him in essence and substance, but to be so like him that, by the writings of some of them, ye can scarce know the one from the other; and that this was the Son of God, also, who was afterward incarnate. Others, in the meantime, had more monstrous imaginations: some, that he was an angel; some, that he was the sun; some, that he was the soul of the world; some, the light within men. Departing from their proper rest, so have they hovered about, and so have they continued to do until this day.
In the same manner it is come to pass with them who have denied the Deity of the Holy Ghost. They could never find where to stand or abide; but one has cried up one thing, another another. At first they observed that such things were everywhere ascribed unto him in the Scripture as uncontrollably evidence him to be an intelligent, voluntary agent. This they found so plain and evident, that they could not deny but that he was a person, or an intelligent subsistence. Wherefore, seeing they were resolved not to assent unto the revelation of his being God, they made him a created spirit, chief and above all others; but still, whatever else he were, he was only a creature. And this course some of late also have steered.
The Socinians, on the other hand, observing that such things are assigned and ascribed unto him, as that, if they acknowledge him to be a person, or a substance, they must, upon necessity, admit him to be God, though they seemed not, at first, at all agreed what to think or say concerning him positively, yet they all concurred peremptorily in denying his personality. Hereon, some of them said he was the gospel, which others of them have confuted; some, that he was Christ. Neither could they agree whether there was one Holy Ghost or more; – whether the Spirit of God, and the good Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit, be the same or no. In general, now they conclude that he is „vis Dei” or „virtue Dei,” or „efficacia Dei;” – no substance, but a quality, that may be considered either as being in God, and then they say it is the Spirit of God; or as sanctifying and conforming men unto God, and then they say it is the Holy Ghost. Whether these things do answer the revelation made in the Scripture concerning the eternal Spirit of Cod, will be immediately manifested. Our Quakers, who have for a long season hovered up and down like a swarm of flies, with a confused noise and humming, begin now to settle in the opinions lately by them declared for. But what their thoughts will fall in to be concerning the Holy Ghost, when they shall be contented to speak intelligibly, and according to the usage of other men, or the pattern of Scripture the great rule of speaking or treating about spiritual things, I know not, and am uncertain whether they do so themselves or no. Whether he may be the light within them, or an infallible afflatus, is uncertain. In the meantime, what is revealed unto us in the Scripture to be believed concerning the Holy Ghost, his Deity and personality, may be seen in the ensuing testimonies.
The sum of this revelation is, – that the Holy Spirit is an eternally existing divine substance, the author of divine operations, and the object of divine and religious worship; that is, „Over all, God blessed for ever,” as the ensuing testimonies evince: –
Gen. 10: 2, „The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”
Ps. 33: 6, „By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the Spirit of his mouth.”
Job 26: 13, „By his Spirit he has garnished the heavens.”
Job 33: 4, „The Spirit of God has made me.”
Ps. 104: 30, „Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created.”
Matt. 28: 19, „Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Acts 1: 16, „That scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake.”
Acts 5: 3, „Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled thins heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” verse 4, „Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”
Acts 28: 20, 26, „Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say,” etc.
1 Cor. 3: 16, „Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
1 Cor. 12: 11, „All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” Verse 6, „And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
2 Cor. 13: 14, „The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”
Acts 20: 28, „Take heed to the flock over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers.”
Matt. 12: 31, „All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”
Ps. 139: 7, „Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?”
John 14: 26, „But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.”
Luke 12: 12, „The Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”
Acts 13: 2, „As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”
Verse 4, „So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia,” etc.
2 Pet. 1: 21, „For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
It is evident, upon the first consideration, that there is not any thing which we believe concerning the Holy Ghost, but that it is plainly revealed and declared in these testimonies. He is directly affirmed to be, and is called, „God,” Acts 5: 3, 4; which the Socinians will not say is by virtue of an exaltation unto an office or authority, as they say of the Son. He is an intelligent, voluntary, divine agent; he knows, he works as he will: which things, if, in their frequent repetition, they are not sufficient to evince an intelligent agent, a personal subsistence, that has being, life, and will, we must confess that the Scripture was written on purpose to lead us into mistakes and misapprehensions of what we are under penalty of eternal ruin, rightly to apprehend and believe. It declares, also, that he is the author and worker of all sorts of divine operations, requiring immensity, omnipotence, omniscience, and all other divine excellencies, unto their working and effecting. Moreover, it is revealed that he is peculiarly to be believed in, and may peculiarly be sinned against, [as] the great author of all grace in believers and order in the church. This is the sum of what we believe, of what is revealed in the Scripture concerning the Holy Ghost.
As, in the consideration of the preceding head, we vindicated one testimony in particular from the exceptions of the adversaries of the truth, so on this we may briefly sum up the evidence that is given us in the testimonies before produced, that the reader may the more easily understand their intendment, and what, in particular, they bear witness unto.
The sum is that the Holy Ghost is a divine, distinct person, and neither merely the power or virtue of God, nor any created spirit whatever. This plainly appears, from what is revealed concerning him. For he who is placed in the same series or order with other divine persons, without the least note of difference or distinction from them, as to an interest in personality; who has the names proper to a divine person only, and is frequently and directly called by them; who also has personal properties, and is the voluntary author of personal, divine operations, and the proper object of divine worship, – he is a distinct divine person. And if these things be not a sufficient evidence and demonstration of a divine, intelligent substance, I shall, as was said before, despair to understand any thing that is expressed and declared by words. But now thus it is with the Holy Ghost, according to the revelation made conceding him in the Scripture. For, –
First. He is placed in the same rank and order, without any note of difference or distinction as to a distinct interest in the divine nature (that is, as we shall see, personality) with the other divine persons. Matt. 28: 19, „Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 1 John 5: 7, „There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” 1 Cor. 12: 3-6, „No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” Neither does a denial of his divine being and distinct existence leave any tolerable sense unto these expressions. For read the words of the first place from the mind of the Socinians, and see what is it that can be gathered from them, „Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the virtue or efficacy of the Father.” Can any thing be more assonant from faith and reason than this absurd expression? and yet it is the direct sense, if it be any, that these men put upon the words. To join a quality with acknowledged persons, and that in such things and cases as wherein they are proposed under a personal consideration, is a strange kind of mystery. And the like may be manifested concerning the other places.
Secondly. He also has the names proper to a divine person only; for he is expressly called „God,” Acts 5. He who is termed the „Holy Ghost,” verse 3, and the „Spirit of the Lord,” verse 9, is called also „God,” verse 4. Now, this is the name of a divine person, on one account or other. The Socinians would not allow Christ to be called God were he not a divine person, though not by nature, yet by office and authority. And I suppose they will not find out an office for the Holy Ghost, whereunto he might be exalted, on the account whereof he might become God, seeing this would acknowledge him to be a person, which they deny. So he is called the „Comforter,” John 16: 7. A personal appellation this is also; and because he is the Comforter of all God’s people, it can be the name of none but a divine person. In the same place, also, it is frequently affirmed, that he shall come, that he shall and will do such and such things; all of them declaring him to be a person.
Thirdly. He has personal properties assigned unto him; as a will, 1 Cor. 12: 11, „He divideth to every man severally as he will;” and understanding, 1 Cor. 2: 10, „The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God;” – as also, all the acting that are ascribed unto him are all of them such as undeniably affirm personal properties in their principal and agent. For, –
Fourthly. He is the voluntary author of divine operations. He of old cherished the creation, Gen. 1: 2, „The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” He formed and garnished the heavens. He inspired, acted, and spoke, in and by the prophets, Acts 28: 25, „Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers;” 2 Pet. 1: 21, „The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” He regenerates, enlightens, sanctifies, comforts, instructs, leads, guides, all the disciples of Christ, as the Scriptures everywhere testify. Now, all these are personal operations, and cannot, with any pretence of sobriety or consistency with reason, be constantly and uniformly assigned unto a quality or virtue. He is, as the Father and Son, God, with the properties of omniscience and omnipotence, of life, understanding, and will; and by these properties, works, acts, and produces effects, according to wisdom, choice, and power.
Fifthly. The same regard is had to him in faith, worship, and obedience, as unto the other persons of the Father and Son. For our being baptized into his name, is our solemn engagement to believe in him, to yield obedience to him, and to worship him, as it puts the same obligation upon us to the Father and the Son. So also, in reference unto the worship of the church, he commands that the ministers of it be separated unto himself; Acts 13: 2, „The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them;” verse 4, „So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed;” – which is comprehensive of all the religious worship of the church.
And on the same account is he sinned against, as Acts 5: 3, 9, 9; for there is the same reason of sin and obedience. Against whom a man may sin formally and ultimately, him he is bound to obey, worship, and believe in. And this can be no quality, but God himself. For what may be the sense of this expression, „Thou hast lied to the efficacy of God in his operations” or how can we be formally obliged unto obedience to a quality? There must, then, an antecedent obligation unto faith, trust, and religious obedience be supposed, as the ground of rendering a person capable of being guilty of sin towards any; for sin is but a failure in faith, obedience, or worship. These, therefore, are due unto the Holy Ghost; or a man could not sin against him so signally and fatally as some are said to do in the foregoing testimonies.
I say, therefore, unto this part of our cause, as unto the other, that unless we will cast off all reverence of God, and, in a kind of atheism which, as I suppose, the prevailing wickedness of this age has not yet arrived unto, say that the Scriptures were written on purpose to deceive us, and to lead us into mistakes about, and misapprehensions of, what it proposes unto us, we must acknowledge the Holy Ghost to be a substance, a person, God; yet distinct from the Father and the Son. For to tell us, that he will come unto us, that he will be our comforter, that he will teach us, lead us, guide us; that he spoke of old in and by the prophets, – that they were moved by him, acted by him; that he „searcheth the deep things of God,” works as he will; that he appoints to himself ministers in the church; – in a word, to declare, in places innumerable, what he has done, what he does, what he will do, what he says and speaks, how he acts and proceeds, what his will is, and to warn us that we grieve him not, sin not against him, with things innumerable of the like nature; and all this while to oblige us to believe that he is not a person, a helper, a comforter, a searcher, a willer, but a quality in some especial operations of God, or his power and virtue in them, were to distract men, not to instruct them, and leave them no certain conclusion but this, that there is nothing certain in the whole book of God. And of no other tendency are these and the like imaginations of our adversaries in this matter.
But let us briefly consider what is objected in general unto the truth we have confirmed: –
They say, then, „The Holy Spirit is said to be given, to be sent, to be bestowed on men, and to be promised unto them: and therefore it cannot be that he should be God; for how can any of these things he spoken of God?”
I answer, First, As the expressions do not prove him to be God (nor did ever any produce them to that purpose), yet they undeniably prove him to be a person, or an intelligent, voluntary agent, concerning whom they are spoken and affirmed. For how can the power of God, or a quality, as they speak, be said to be sent, to be given, to be bestowed on men? So that these very expressions are destructive to their imaginations.
Secondly. He who is God, equal in nature and being with the Father, may be promised, sent, and given, with respect unto the holy dispensation and condescension wherein he has undertaken the office of being our comforter and sanctifier.
Thirdly. The communications, distributions, impartings, divisions of the Spirit, which they mention, as they respect the object of them, or those on whom they were or are bestowed, denote only works, gifts, operations, and effects of the Spirit; the rule whereof is expressed, 1 Cor. 12: 11. He works them in whom he will, and as he will. And whether these and the like exceptions, taken from acting and operations which are plainly interpreted and explained in sundry places of Scripture, and evidently enough in the particular places where they are used, are sufficient to impeach the truth of the revelation before declared, all who have a due reverence of God, his word, and truths, will easily understand and discern.
These things being declared in the Scripture concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, it is, moreover, revealed, „And these three are one;” that is, one God, jointly to be worshipped, feared, adored, believed in, and obeyed, in order unto eternal life. For although this does absolutely and necessarily follow from what is declared and has been spoken concerning the one God, or oneness of the Deity, yet, for the confirmation of our faith, and that we may not, by the distinct consideration of the three be taken off from the one, it is particularly declared that „these three are one;” that one, the one and same God. But whereas, as was said before, this can no otherwise be, the testimonies given whereunto are not so frequently multiplied as they are unto those other heads of this truth, which, through the craft of Satan, and the pride of men, might be more liable to exceptions. But yet they are clear, full, and distinctly sufficient for faith to acquiesce in immediately, without any other expositions, interpretations or arguments, beyond our understanding of the naked importance of the words. Such are they, of the Father [and] the Son, John 10: 30, „I and my Father are one;” – Father, Son, and Spirit, 1 John 5: 7, „There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” Matt. 28: 19, „Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” For if those into whose name we are baptized be not one in nature, we are by our baptism engaged into the service and worship of more gods than one. For, as being baptized, or sacredly initiated, into or in the name of any one, does sacramentally bind us unto a holy and religious obedience unto him, and in all things to the avowing of him as the God whose we are, and whom we serve, as here we are in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit; so if they are not one God, the blasphemous consequence before mentioned must unavoidably be admitted: which it also must upon the Socinian principle, who, whilst of all others they seem to contend most for one God, are indeed direct polytheists, by owning others with religious respect, due to God alone, which are not so.
Once more: It is revealed, also, that these three are distinct among themselves, by certain peculiar relative properties, if I may yet use thee terms. So that they are distinct, living, divine, intelligent, voluntary principles of operation or working, and that in and by internal acts one towards another, and in acts that outwardly respect the creation and the several parts of it. Now, this distinction originally lies in this, – that the Father begets the God, and the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both of them. The manner of these things, so far as they may be expressed unto our edification, shall afterwards be spoken to. At present it suffices, for the satisfaction and confirmation of our faith, that the distinctions named are clearly revealed in the Scripture, and are proposed to be its proper object in this matter: – Ps. 2: 7, „Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” Matt. 16: 16, „Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 10: 14, „We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” Verse 18, „No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” John 5: 26, „For as the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself.” 1 John 5: 20, „The Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding.” John 15: 26, „But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me.”
Now, as the nature of this distinction lies in their mutual relation one to another, so it is the foundation of those distinct acting and operations whereby the distinction itself is clearly manifested and confirmed. And these acting, as was said, are either such as where one of them is the object of another’s acting, or such as have the creature for their object. The first sort are testified unto, Ps. 110: l; John 10: 18, 5: 20, 17: 5; 1 Cor. 2: 10, 11; Prov. 8: 22; most of which places have been before recited. They which thus know each other, love each other, delight in each other, must needs be distinct; and so are they represented unto our faith. And for the other sort of acting, the Scripture is full of the expressions of them. See Gen. 19: 24; Zech 2: 8; John 5: 17; 1 Cor. 12: 7-11; 2 Cor. 8: 9.
Our conclusion from the whole is, – that there is nothing more fully expressed in the Scripture than this sacred truth, that there is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which are divine, distinct, intelligent, voluntary, omnipotent principles of operation and working: which whosoever thinks himself obliged to believe the Scripture must believe; and concerning others, in this discourse, we are not solicitous.
This is that which was first proposed, – namely, to manifest what is expressly revealed in the Scripture concerning God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; so as that we may duly believe in him, yield obedience unto him, enjoy communion with him, walk in his love and fear, and so come at length to be blessed with him for evermore. Nor does faith, for its security, establishment, and direction, absolutely stand in need of any farther exposition or explanation of these things, or the use of any terms not consecrated to the present service by the Holy Ghost. But whereas it may be variously assaulted by the temptations of Satan, and opposed by the subtle sophisms of men of corrupt minds; and whereas it is the duty of the disciples of Christ to grow in the knowledge of God, and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by an explicit apprehension of the things they do believe, so far as they are capable of them; this doctrine has in all ages of the church been explainer and taught in and by such expressions, terms and propositions, as farther declare what is necessarily included in it, or consequent unto it; with an exclusion of such things, notions, and apprehensions, as are neither the one nor the other. This I shall briefly manifest, and then vindicate the whole from some exceptions, and so close this dissertation.
[First.] That God is one, was declared and proved. Now this oneness can respect nothing but the nature, being, substance, or essence of God. God is one in this respect. Some of these words, indeed, are not used in the Scripture; but whereas they are of the same importance and signification, and none of them include any thing of imperfection, they are properly used in the declaration of the unity of the Godhead. There is mention in the Scripture of the Godhead of God, Rom. 1: 20, „His eternal power and Godhead;” and of his nature, by excluding them from being objects of our worship who are not God by nature, Gal. 4: 8. Now, this natural godhead of God is his substance or essence, with all the holy, divine excellencies which naturally and necessarily appertain whereunto. Such are eternity, immensity, omnipotence, life, infinite holiness, goodness, and the like. This one nature, substance, or essence, being the nature, substance, or essence of Gad, as God, is the nature, essence, and substance of the Father, Son, and Spirit; one and the same absolutely in and unto each of them: for none can be God, as they are revealed to be, but by virtue of this divine nature or being. Herein consists the unity of the Godhead.
Secondly. The distinction which the Scripture reveals between Father, Son, and Spirit, is that whereby they are three hypostases or persons, distinctly subsisting in the same divine essence or being. Now, a divine person is nothing but the divine essence, upon the account of an especial property, subsisting in an especial manner. As in the person of the Father there is the divine essence and being, with its property of begetting the Son, subsisting in an especial manner as the Father, and because this person has the whole divine nature, all the essential properties of that nature are in that person. The wisdom, the understanding of God, the will of God, the immensity of God, is in that person, not as that person, but as the person is God. The like is to be said of the persons of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Hereby each person having the understanding, the will, and power of God, becomes a distinct principle of operation; and yet all their acting ad extra being the acting of God, they are undivided, and are all the works of one, of the selfsame God. And these things do not only necessarily follow, but are directly included, in the revelation made concerning God and his subsistence in the Scriptures.
[Thirdly.] There are, indeed, very many other things that are taught and disputed about this doctrine of the Trinity; as, the manner of the eternal generation of the Son, – of the essence of the Father. – of the procession of the Holy Ghost, and the difference of it from the generation of the Son, – of the mutual in-being of the persons, by reason of their unity in the same substance or essence, – the nature of their personal subsistence, with respect unto the properties whereby they are mutually distinguished; – all which are true and defensible against all the sophisms of the adversaries of this truth. Yet, because the distinct apprehension of them, and their accurate expression, is not necessary unto faith, as it is our guide and principle in and unto religious worship and obedience, they need not here be insisted on. Nor are those brief explications themselves before mentioned so proposed as to be placed immediately in the same rank or order with the original revelations before insisted on, but only are pressed as proper expressions of what is revealed, to increase our light and farther our edification. And although they cannot rationally be opposed or denied, nor ever were by any, but such as deny and oppose the things themselves as revealed, yet they that do so deny or oppose them, are to be required positively, in the first place, to deny or disapprove the oneness of the Deity, or to prove that the Father, or Son, or Holy Ghost, in particular, are not God, before they be allowed to speak one word against the manner of the explication of the truth concerning them. For either they grant the revelation declared and contended for, or they do not. If they do, let that concession be first laid down, namely, – that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God and then let it be debated, whether they are one in substance and three in persons, or how else the matter is to be stated. If they deny it, it is a plain madness to dispute of the manner of any thing, and the way of expressing it, whilst the thing itself is denied to have a being; for of that which is not, there is neither manner, property, adjunct, nor effect. Let, then, such persons as this sort of men are ready to attempt with their sophistry, and to amuse with cavils about persons, substances, subsistence, and the like, desire to know of them what it is that they would be at. What would they deny? What would they disapprove? Is it that God is one? Or that the Father is God, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost is so? If they deny or oppose either of these, they have testimonies and instances of divine revelation, or may have, in a readiness, to confound the devil and all his emissaries. If they will not do so, if they refuse it, then let them know that it is most foolish and unreasonable to contend about expressions and explications of any thing, or doctrine, about the manner, respects, or relations of any thing, until the thing itself, or doctrine, be plainly confessed or denied. If this they refuse, as generally they do and will (which I speak upon sufficient experience), and will not be induced to deal openly, properly, and rationally, but will keep to their cavils and sophisms about terms and expressions, all farther debate or conference with them may justly, and ought, both conscientiously and rationally, to be refused and rejected. For these sacred mysteries of God and the gospel are not lightly to be made the subject of men’s contests and disputations.
But as we dealt before in particular, so here I shall give instances of the sophistical exceptions that are used against the whole of this doctrine, and that with respect unto some late collections and representations of them; from whence they are taken up and used by many who seem not to understand the words, phrases, and expressions themselves, which they make use of.
The sum of what they say in general is, – 1. „How can these things be? How can three be one, and one be three Every person has its own substance; and, therefore, if there be three persons, there must be three substances, and so three Gods.”
Answer. Every person has distinctly its own substance, for the one substance of the Deity is the substance of each person, so it is still but one; but each person has not its own distinct substance, because the substance of them all is the same, as has been proved.
2. They say, „That if each person be God, then each person is infinite, and there being three persons, there must be three infinites.”
Ans. This follows not in the least; for each person is infinite as he is God. All divine properties, such as to be infinite is, belong not to the persons on the account of their personality, but on the account of their nature, which is one, for they are all natural properties.
3. But they say, „If each person be God, and that God subsist in three persons, then in each person there are three persons or Gods.”
Ans. The collusion of this sophism consists in that expression, „be God” and „that God.” In the first place the nature of God is intended; in the latter, a singular person. Place the words intelligibly, and they are thus: – If each person be God, and the nature of God subsists in three persons, then in each person there are three persons; and then the folly of it will be evident.
4. But they farther infer, „That if we deny the persons to be infinite, then an infinite being has a finite mode of subsisting, and so I know not what supposition they make hence; that seeing there are not three infinites, then the Father, Son, and Spirit are three unites, that make up an infinite.”
The pitiful weakness of this cavil is open to all; for finite and infinite are properties and adjuncts of beings, and not of the manner of the subsistence of any thing. The nature of each person is infinite, and so is each person because of that nature. Of the manner of their subsistence, finite and infinite cannot be predicated or spoken, no farther than to say, an infinite being does so subsists.
5. „But you grant,” say they, „that the only true Good is the Father, and then if Christ be the only true God, he is the Father.”
Ans. We say, the only true God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We never say, the Scripture never says, that the Father only is the true God; whence it would follow, that, he that is the true God is the Father. But we grant the Father to be the only true God; and so we say is the Son also. And it does not at all thence follow that the Son is the Father; because, in saying the Father is the true God, we respect not his paternity, or his paternal relation to his Son, but his nature, essence, and being. And the same we affirm concerning the other persons. And to say, that because each person is God, one person must be another, is to crave leave to disbelieve what God has revealed, without giving any reason at all for their so doing.
But this sophism being borrowed from another, namely, Crellius, who insisted much upon it, I shall upon his account, and not on theirs, who, as far as I can apprehend, understand little of the intendment of it, remove it more fully out of the way. It is proposed by him in way of syllogism, thus, „The only true God is the Father; Christ is the only true God therefore he is the Father.” Now, this syllogism is ridiculously sophistical. For, in a categorical syllogism the major proposition is not to be particular, or equipollent to a particular; for, from such a proposition, when any thing communicable to more is the subject of it, and is restrained unto one particular, nothing can be inferred in the conclusion. But such is this proposition here, The only true God is the Father. It is a particular proposition, wherein the subject is restrained unto a singular or individual predicate, though in itself communicable to more. Now, the proposition being so made particular, the terms of the subject or predicate are supposed reciprocal, – namely, that one God, and the Father, are the same; which is false, unless it be first proved that the name God is communicable to no more, or no other, than is the other term of Father: which to suppose, is to beg the whole question; for the only true God has a larger signification than the term of Father or Son. So that, though the only true God be the Father, yet every one who is true God is not the Father. Seeing, then, that the name of God here supplies the place of a species, though it be singular absolutely, as it respects the divine nature, which is absolutely singular and one, and cannot be multiplied, yet in respect of communication it is otherwise; it is communicated unto more, – namely, to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And, therefore, if any thing be intended to be concluded from hence, the proposition must be expressed according to what the subject requires, as capable of communication or attribution to more than one, as thus: Whoever is the only true God is the Father; – which proposition these persons and their masters shall never be able to prove.
I have given, in particular, these strictures thus briefly upon these empty sophisms; partly because they are well removed already, and partly because they are mere exscriptions out of an author not long since translated into English, unto whom an entire answer may see long be returned.
That which at present shall suffice, is to give a general answer unto all these cavils, with all of the same kind which the men of these principles do usually insist upon.
1. „The things,” they say, „which we teach concerning the Trinity, are contrary to reason;” and thereof they endeavour to give sundry instances, wherein the sum of the opposition which they make unto this truth does consist. But first, I ask, What reason is it that they intend? It is their own, the carnal reason of men. By that they will judge of these divine mysteries. The Scripture tells us, indeed, that the „spirit of a man which is in him knows the things of a man,” – a man’s spirit, by natural reason, may judge of natural things; – „but the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God,” 1 Cor. 2: 11. So that what we know of these things, we must receive upon the revelation of the Spirit of God merely, if the apostle may be believed. And it is given unto men to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, – to some, and not to others; and unless it be so given them, they cannot know them. In particular, none can know the Father unless the Son reveal him. Nor will, or does, or can, flesh and blood reveal or understand Jesus Christ to be the Son of the living God, unless the Father reveal him, and instruct us in the truth of it, Matt. 16: 17. The way to come to the acknowledgment of these things, is that described by the apostle, Eph. 3: 14-19, „For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints,” etc. As also, Col. 2: 2, 3, That ye might come „unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” It is by faith and prayer, and through the revelation of God, that we may come to the acknowledgment of these things, and not by the carnal reasonings of men of corrupt minds.
2. What reason do they intend? If reason absolutely, the reason of things, we grant that nothing contrary unto it is to be admitted. But reason as it is in this or that man, particularly in themselves, we know to be weak, maimed, and imperfect; and that they are, and all other men, extremely remote from a just and full comprehension of the whole reason of things. Are they in such an estate as that their apprehension shall pass for the measure of the nature of all things? We know they are far from it. So that though we will not admit of any thing that is contrary to reason, yet the least intimation of a truth by divine revelation will make me embrace it, although it should be contrary to the reason of all the Socinians in the world. Reason in the abstract, or the just measure of the answering at one thing unto another, is of great moment: but reason – that is, what is pretended to be so, or appears to be so unto this or that man, especially in and about things of divine revelation – is of very small importance (of none at all) where it rises up against the express testimonies of Scripture, and these multiplied, to their mutual confirmation and explanation.
3. Many things are above reason, – that is, as considered in this or that subject, as men, – which are not at all against it. It is an easy thing to compel the most curious inquirers of these days to a ready confession hereof, by multitudes of instances in things finite and temporary; and shall any dare to deny but it may be so in things heavenly, divine, and spiritual? Nay, there is no concernment of the being of God, or his properties, but is absolutely above the comprehension of our reason. We cannot by searching find out God, we cannot find out the Almighty to perfection.
4. The very foundation of all their objections and cavils against this truth, is destructive of as fundamental principles of reason as are in the world. They are all, at best, reduced to this: It cannot be thus in things finite; the same being cannot in one respect be one, in another three, and the like: and therefore it is so in things infinite. All these seasonings are built upon this supposition, that that which is finite can perfectly comprehend that which is infinite, – an assertion absurd, foolish, and contradictory unto itself. Again; it is the highest reason in things of pure revelation to captivate our understandings to the authority of the Revealer; which here is rejected. So that by a loud, specious, pretence of reason, these men, by a little captious sophistry, endeavour not only to countenance their unbelief, but to evert the greatest principles of reason itself.
5. The objections these men principally insist upon, are merely against the explanations we use of this doctrine, – not against the primitive revelation of it, which is the principal object of our faith; which, how preposterous and irrational a course of proceeding it is, has been declared.
6. It is a rule among philosophers, that if a man, on just grounds and reasons, have embraced any opinion or persuasion, he is not to desert it merely because he cannot answer every objection against it. For if the objections wherewith we may be entangled be not of the same weight and importance with the reason on which we embraced the opinion, it is a madness to forego it on the account thereof. And much more must this hold amongst the common sort of Christians, in things spiritual and divine. If they will let go and part with their faith in any truth, because they are not able to answer distinctly some objections that may be made against it, they may quickly find themselves disputed into atheism.
7. There is so great an intimation made of such an expression and resemblance of a Trinity in unity in the very works of the creation, as learned men have manifested by various instances, that it is most unreasonable to suppose that to be contrary to reason which many objects of rational consideration do more or less present unto our minds.
8. To add no more considerations of this nature, let any of the adversaries produce any one argument or grounds of reason, or those pretended to be such, against that that has been asserted, that has not already been baffled a thousand times, and it shall receive an answer; or a public acknowledgment, that it is indissoluble.
Of the Person of Christ
The next head of opposition made by the men of this conspiracy against this sacred truth, is against the head of all truth, the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Socinians, indeed, would willingly put a better face or colour upon their error about the person of Christ than it will bear or endure to lie on it. For in their catechism, unto this question, „Is the Lord Jesus Christ purus homo, a mere man?” they answer, „By no means.” „How then? Has he a divine nature also?” Which is their next question. To this they say, „By no means; for this is contrary to right reason.” How, then, will these pretended masters of reason reconcile these things? For to us it seems, that if Christ has no other nature but that of man, he is as to his nature purus homo, a mere man, and no more. Why, they answer, that „he is not a mere man, because he was born of a virgin.” Strange that that should be an argument to prove him more than a man, which the Scripture, and all men in their right wits, grant to be an invincible reason to prove him to be a man, and, as he was born of her, no more. Rom. 10: 3, „Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” Rom. 9: 5, „Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came.” Gal. 4: 4, „God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” But, say they, „He was endowed with the Spirit, wrought miracles, was raised from the dead, had all power given [him] in heaven and earth; for by these degrees he became to be God.” But all men see that the inquiry is about the nature of Christ, and this answer is about his state and condition. Now this changes not his nature on the one hand, no more than his being humbled, poor, and dying, did on the other. This is the right reason we have to deal withal in these men! If a man should have inquired of some of them of old, whether Melchizedek were purus homo, a mere man, some of them would have said, „No, because he was the Holy Ghost;” some, „No, because he was the Son of God himself;” and some, „No, because he was an angel;” – for such foolish opinions have men fallen into. But how Scottish soever their conceptions were, their answer to that inquiry would have been regular, because the question and answer respect the same subject in the same respect; but never any was so stupid as to answer, „He was not a mere man, (that is, by nature,) because he was a priest of the high God,” – which respects his office and condition. Yet, such is the pretence of these men about the person of Christ, to incrustate and give some colour unto their foul misbelief; as supposing that it would be much to their disadvantage to own Christ only as a mere man, – though the most part of their disputes that they have troubled the Christian world withal have had no other design nor aim but to prove him so to be, and nothing else. I shall briefly, according to the method insisted on, first lay down what is the direct revelation which is the object of our faith in this matter, then express the revelation itself in the Scripture testimonies wherein it is recorded; and having vindicated some one or other of them from their exceptions, manifest how the doctrine hereof is farther explained, unto the edification of them that believe. That there is a second person, the Son of God, in the holy trin-unity of the Godhead, we have proved before. That this person did, of his infinite love and grace, take upon him our nature, – human nature, – so as that the divine and human nature should become one person, one Christ, God and man in one, so that whatever he does in and about our salvation, it is done by that one person, God and man, is revealed unto us in the Scripture as the object of our faith: and this is that which we believe concerning the person of Christ. Whatever acts are ascribed unto him, however immediately performed, in or by the human nature, or in and by his divine nature, they are all the acts of that one person, in whom are both these natures. That this Christ, God and man, is, because he is God, and on the account of what he has done for us as man, to be believed in, worshipped with worship religious and divine, to be trusted and obeyed, this also is asserted in the Scripture. And these things are, as it were, the common notions of Christian religion, – the common principles of our profession, which the Scriptures also abundantly testify unto.
Isa. 7: 14, „Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel;” that is, he shall be God with us, or God in our nature. Not that that should be his name whereby he should be called in this world; but that this should be the condition of his person, – he should be „God with us,” God in our nature. So are the words expounded, Matt. 1: 20-23, „That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel; which, being interpreted, is, God with us.” his name whereby he was to be called, was Jesus; that is, a Saviour. And thereby was accomplished the prediction of the prophet, that he should be Emmanuel; which, being interpreted, is, „God with us.” Now, a child born to be „God with us,” is God in that child taking our nature upon him; and no otherwise can the words be understood.
Isa. 9: 6, „Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and his name shall be called The mighty God.” The child that is born, the son that is given, is the mighty God; and as the mighty God, and a child born, or son given, he is the Prince of Peace, as he is there called, or our Saviour.
John 1: 14, „The Word was made flesh.” That the Word was God, who made all things, he had before declared. Now, he affirms that this Word was made flesh. How? Converted into flesh, into a man, so that he who was Good ceased so to be, and was turned or changed into flesh, – that is, a man? Besides that this is utterly impossible, it is not affirmed. For the Word continued the Word still, although he was „made flesh,” or „made of a woman,” as it is elsewhere expressed, – or made of the seed of David, – or took our flesh or nature to be his own. Himself continuing God, as he was, became man also, which before he was not „The Word was made flesh;” This is that which we believe and assert in this matter.
See John 3: 13, 31, 6: 62, 16: 28. All which places assert the person of Christ to have descended from heaven in the assumption of human nature, and ascended into heaven therein [in that nature] being assumed; and to have been in heaven as to his divine nature, when he was on the earth in the flesh that he had assumed.
Acts 20: 28, „Feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.” The person spoken of is said to be God absolutely, – „the church of God.” And this God is said to have blood of his own; – the blood of Jesus Christ, being the blood of him that was God, though not the blood of him as God; for God is a spirit. And this undeniably testifies to the unity of his person as God and man.
Rom. 1: 3, 4, „Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Rom. 9: 5, „Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” This is all we desire that we may believe without disturbance from the glamours of these men, – namely, that the same Christ, as concerning the flesh, came of the fathers, of David, and, in himself, is over all, God blessed for ever. This the Scripture asserts plainly; and why we should not believe it firmly, let these men give a reason when they are able.
Gal. 4: 4, „God sent forth his Son made of a woman.” He was his Son, and was made of a woman, according as he expresses it, Heb. 10: 5, „A body hast thou prepared me;” as also, Rom. 8: 3.
Phil. 2: 5-7, „Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” It is the same Christ that is spoken of. And it is here affirmed of him, that he was „in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” But is this all? Is this Jesus Christ God only? Does he subsist only in the form or nature of God? No; says the apostle, „He took upon him the form of a servant, was made in the likeness of men, and was found in fashion as a man.” That his being truly a man is expressed in these words our adversaries deny not; and we therefore believe that the same Jesus Christ is God also, because that is no less plainly expressed.
1 Tim. 3: 16, „And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels.” It is a mystery, indeed; under which name it is despised now and reproached; nor are we allowed so to call it, but are reflected on as flying to mysteries for our defense. But we must take leave to speak in this matter according to His directions without whom we cannot speak at all. A mystery it is, and that a great mystery; and that confessedly so, by all that do believe. And this is, that „God was manifested in the flesh.” That it is the Lord Christ who is spoken of, every one of the ensuing expressions do evince: „Justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” And this, also, is the substance of what we believe in this matter, – namely, that Christ is God manifest in the flesh; which we acknowledge, own, and believe to be true, but a great mystery, – yet no less great and sacred a truth notwithstanding.
Heb. 2: 14, „Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” Verse 16, „For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” and this plainly affirms his preexistence unto that assumption of our nature, and the unity of his person in it being so assumed.
1 John 3: 16, „Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” He who was Glad laid down for a season and parted with that life which was his own, in that nature of ours which he had assumed. And that taking of our nature is called his „coming in the flesh;” which whose denies, is „not of God, but is the spirit of Antichrist,” chap. 4: 3.
These are some of the places wherein the person of Christ is revealed unto our faith, that we may believe in the Son of God, and have eternal life.
The method formerly proposed would require that I should take off the general objections of the adversaries against this divine revelation, as also vindicate some peculiar testimonies from their exceptions; but because a particular opposition unto this truth has not, as yet, publicly and directly been maintained and managed by any that I know of among ourselves, though the denial of it be expressly included in what they do affirm, I shall leave the farther confirmation thereof unto some other occasion, if it be offered, and it be judged necessary.
And this is that which the faith of believers rests in, as that which is plainly revealed unto them, – namely, that Jesus Christ is God and man in one person; and that all his acting in their behalf are the actings of him who is God and man; and that this Son of God, God and man, is to be believed in by them, and obeyed, that they [may] have eternal life.
What is farther added unto these express testimonies, and the full revelation of the truth contained in them in this matter, in way of explication educed from them, and suitable unto them, to the edification of the church, or information of the minds of believers in the right apprehension of this great mystery of God manifested in the flesh, may be reduced to these heads: –
1. That the person of the Son of God did not, in his assuming human nature to be his own, take an individual person of any one into a near conjunction with himself, but preventing the personal subsistence of human nature in that flesh which he assumed, he gave it its subsistence in his own person; whence it has its individuation and distinction from all other persons whatever. This is the personal union. The divine and human nature in Christ have but one personal subsistence; and so are but one Christ, one distinct personal principle of all operations, of all that he did or does as mediator. And this undeniably follows from what is declared in the testimonies mentioned. For the Word could not be made flesh, nor could he take on him the seed of Abraham, nor could the mighty God be a child born and given unto us, nor could God shed his blood for his church, but that the two natures so directly expressed must be united in one person; for otherwise, as they are two natures still, they would be two persons also.
2. Each nature thus united in Christ is entire, and preserves unto itself its own natural properties. For he is no less perfect God for being made man; nor no less a true, perfect man, consisting of soul and body, with all their essential parts, by that nature’s being taken into subsistence with the Son of God. His divine nature still continues immense, omniscient, omnipotent, infinite in holiness, etc.; his human nature, finite, limited, and, before its glorification, subject to all infirmities of life and death that the same nature in others, absolutely considered, is obnoxious unto.
3. In each of these natures he acts suitably unto the essential properties and principles of that nature. As God, he made all things, upholds all things by the word of his power, fills heaven and earth, etc.; as man, he lived, hungered, suffered, died, rose, ascended into heaven: yet, by reason of the union of both these natures in the same person, not only his own person is said to do all these things, but the person expressed by the name which he has on the account of one nature, is said to do that which he did only in the other. So God is said to „redeem his church with his own blood,” and to „lay down his life for us,” and the Son of man to be in heaven when he was on the earth; all because of the unity of his person, as was declared. And these things do all of them directly and undeniably flow from what is revealed concerning his person, as before is declared.
Of the Satisfaction of Christ
The last thing to be inquired into, upon occasion of the late opposition to the great fundamental truths of the gospel, is the satisfaction of Christ. And the doctrine hereof is such as, I conceive, needs rather to be explained than vindicated. For it being the centre wherein most, if not all, the lines of gospel promises and precepts do meet, and the great medium of all our communion with God in faith and obedience, the great distinction between the religion of Christians and that of all others in the world, it will easily, on a due proposal, be assented unto by all who would he esteemed disciples of Jesus Christ. And whether a parcel of insipid cavils may be thought sufficient to obliterate the revelation of it, men of sober minds will judge and discern.
For the term of satisfaction, we contend not about it. It does, indeed, properly express and connote that great effect of the death of Christ which, in the cause before us, we plead for. But yet, because it belongs rather to the explanation of the truth contended for, than is used expressly in the revelation of it, and because the right understanding of the word itself depends on some notions of law that as yet we need not take into consideration, I shall not, in this entrance of our discourse, insist precisely upon it, but leave it as the natural conclusion of what we shall find expressly declared in the Scripture. Neither do I say this as though I did decline the word, or the right use of it, or what is properly signified by it, but do only cast it into its proper place, answerable unto our method and design in the whole of this brief discourse.
I know some have taken a new way of expressing and declaring the doctrine concerning the mediation of Christ, with the causes and ends of his death, which they think more rational than that usually insisted on: but, as what I have yet heard of or seen in that kind, has been not only unscriptural, but also very irrational, and most remote from that accuracy whereunto they pretend who make use of it; so, if they should publish their conceptions, it is not improbable but that they may meet with a scholastic examination by some hand or other.
Our present work, as has been often declared, is for the establishment of the faith of them who may be attempted, if not brought into danger, to be seducers by the sleights of some who lie in wait to deceive, and the glamours of others who openly drive the same design. What, therefore, the Scripture plainly and clearly reveals in this matter, is the subject of our present inquiry. And either in so doing, as occasion shall be offered, we shall obviate, or, in the close of it remove, those sophisms that the sacred truth now proposed to consideration has been attempted withal.
The sum of what the Scripture reveals about this great truth, commonly called the „satisfaction of Christ,” may be reduced unto these ensuing heads: –
First. That Adam, being made upright, sinned against God; and all mankind, all his posterity, in him: – Gen 1: 27, „So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Chap. 3: 11, „And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” Eccles. 7: 29, „Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out manv inventions.” Rom. 5: 12, „Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Verse 18, „Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” Verse 19, „By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.”
Secondly. That, by this sin of our first parents, all men are brought into an estate of sin and apostasy from God, and of enmity unto him: – Gen. 6: 5, „God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Ps. 51: 5, „Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Rom. 3: 23, „For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Chap. 8: 7, „The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Eph. 4: 18, „Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” Chap. 2: l; Col. 2: 13.
Thirdly. That in this state all men continue in sin against God, nor of themselves can do otherwise: – Rom. 3: 10-12, „There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Fourthly. That the justice and holiness of God, as he is the supreme governor and judge of all the world, require that sin be punished: – Exod. 34: 7, „That will by no means clear the guilty.” Josh. 24: 19, „He is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” Ps. 5: 4-6, „For thou art not a God that has pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing.” Hab. 1: 13, „Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity.” Isa. 33: 14, „Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Rom. 1: 32, „Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” Chap. 3: 5, 6, „Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” 2 Thess. 1: 6, „It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” Heb. 12: 29, „For our God is a consuming fire;” from Dent. 4: 24.
Fifthly. That God, has also engaged his veracity and faithfulness in the sanction of the law, not to leave sin unpunished: – Gen. 2: 17, „In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Dent. 27: 26, „Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” In this state and condition, mankind, had they been left without divine aid and help, must have perished eternally.
Sixthly. That God out of his infinite goodness, grace, and love to mankind, sent his only Son to save and deliver them out of this condition. – Matt. 1: 21, „Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shalt save his people from their sins.” John 3: 16, 17, „God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Rom. 5: 8, „God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 John 4: 9, „In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” Verse 10, „Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 Thess. 1: 10, „Even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Seventhly. That this love was the same in Father and Son, acted distinctly in the manner that shall be afterward declared; so, vain are the pretences of men, who, from the love of the Father in this matter, would argue against the love of the Son, or on the contrary.
Eighthly. That the way, in general, whereby the Son of God, being incarnate, was to save lost sinners, was by a substitution of himself, according to the design and appointment of God, in the room of those whom he was to save: – 2 Cor. 5: 21, „He has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Gal. 3: 13, „Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” Rom. 5: 7, 8, „For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet per adventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Chap. 8: 3, „For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” 1 Pet. 2: 24, „Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” Chap. 3: 18, „For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” All these expressions undeniably evince a substitution of Christ as to suffering in the stead of them whom he was to save; which, in general, is all that we intend by his satisfaction, namely, that he was made „sin for us,” a „curse for us,” „died for us,” that is, in our stead, that we might be saved from the wrath to come. And all these expressions, as to their true, genuine importance, shall be vindicated as occasion shall require.
Ninthly. This way of his saving sinners is, in particular, several ways expressed in the Scriptures.
1. That he offered himself a sacrifice to God, to make atonement for our sins; and that in his death and sufferings: – Isa 53: 10, „When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” John 1: 29, „Behold the lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.” Eph. 5: 2, „Christ hath loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” Heb. 2: 17, Was „a merciful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Chap. 9: 11-14, „But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls,” etc., „how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works?”
2. That he redeemed us by paying a price, a ransom, for our redemption: – Mark 10: 45, „The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many.” 1 Cor. 6: 20, 7: 23, „For ye are bought with a price.” 1 Tim. 2: 6, „Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Tit. 2: 14, „Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” 1 Pet. 1: 18, 19, „For ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
3. That he bare our sins, or the punishment due unto them: -Isa. 53: 5, 6, „He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 11, „For he shall bear their iniquities.” 1 Pet. 2: 24, „Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.”
4. That he answered the law and the penalty of it: – Rom. 8: 3, 4, „God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Gal. 3: 13, „Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Chap. 4: 4, 5, „God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law”
5. That he died for sin, and sinners, to expiate the one, and in the stead of the other: – Rom. 4: 25, „He was delivered for our offenses.” Chap. 5: 10, „When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” 1 Cor. 15: 3, „Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” 2 Cor. 5: 14, „For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead,” 1 Thess. 5: 9, 10.
6. Hence, on the part of God it is affirmed, that „he spared him not, but delivered him up for us all,” Rom. 8: 32; and caused „all our iniquities to meet upon him,” Isa. 53: 6.
7. The effect hereof was, –
(1.) That the righteousness of God was glorified. Rom. 3: 25, 26, „Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” (2.) The law fulfilled and satisfied, as in the places before quoted, chap. 8: 3, 4; Gal. 3: 13, 4: 4, 5. (3.) God reconciled. 2 Cor. 5: 18, 19, „God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Heb. 2: 17, „he made reconciliation for the sins of the people.” (4.) Atonement was made for sin. Rom. 5: 11, „By whom we have now received the atonement;” and peace was made with God. Eph. 2: 14, 16, „For he is our peace, who has made both one, … that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” (6.) He made an end of sin. Dan. 9: 24, „To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.” The glory of God in all these things being exalted, himself was well pleased, righteousness and everlasting redemption, or salvation, purchased for sinners. Heb. 9: 14, For in that „the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” and that „by his stripes we are healed,” he being punished that we might go free, himself became a captain of salvation unto all that do obey him.
I have fixed on these particulars, to give every ordinary reader an instance how fully and plainly what he is to believe in this matter is revealed in the Scripture. And should I produce all the testimonies which expressly give witness unto these positions, it is known how great a part of the Bible must be transcribed. And these are the things which are indispensably required of us to believe, that we may be able to direct and regulate our obedience according to the mind and will of God. In the explanation of this doctrine unto farther edification, sundry things are usually insisted on, which necessarily and infallibly ensue upon the propositions of Scripture before laid down, and serve to beget in the minds of believers a due apprehension and right understanding of them; as, –
1. That God in this matter is to be considered as the chief, supreme, absolute rector and governor of all, – as the Lord of the law, and of sinners; but yet so as an offended ruler: not as an offended person, but as an offended ruler, who has right to exact punishment upon transgressions, and whose righteousness of rule requires that he should so do.
2. That because he is righteous and holy, as he is the supreme Judge of all the world, it is necessary that he do right in the punishing of sin; without which the order of the creation cannot be preserved. For sin being the creature’s deduction of itself from the order of its dependence upon, and obediences unto, the Creator and supreme Lord of all, without a reduction of it by punishment, confusion would be brought into the whole creation.
3. That whereas the law, and the sanction of it, is the moral or declarative cause of the punishment of sin, and it directly obliges the sinner himself unto punishment; God, as the supreme ruler, dispenses, not with the act of the law, but the immediate object, and substitutes another sufferer in the room of them who are principally liable unto the sentence of it, and are now to be acquitted or freed; – that so the law may be satisfied, requiring the punishment of sin; justice exalted, whereof the law is an effect; and yet the sinner saved.
4. That the person thus substituted was the Son of God incarnate, who had power so to dispose of himself, with will and readiness for it; and was, upon the account of the dignity of his person, able to answer the penalty which all others had incurred and deserved.
5. That God, upon his voluntary susception of this office, and condescension to this work, did so lay our sins, in and by the sentence of the law, upon him, that he made therein full satisfaction for what ever legally could be charged on them for whom he died or suffered.
6. That the special way, terms, and conditions, whereby and wherein sinners may be interested in this satisfaction made by Christ, are determined by the will of God, and declared in the scripture.
These, and the like things, are usually insisted on in the explication or declaration of this head of our confession; and there is not any of them but may be sufficiently confirmed by divine testimonies. It may also be farther evinced, that there is nothing asserted in them, but what is excellently suited unto the common notions which mankind has of God and his righteousness; and that in their practice they answer the light of nature and common reason, exemplified in sundry instances among the nations of the world.
I shall therefore take one argument from some of the testimonies before produced in the confirmation of this sacred truth, and proceed to remove the objections that are commonly bandied against it.
If the Lord Christ, according to the will of the Father, and by his own counsel and choice, was substituted, and did substitute himself, as the mediator of the covenant, in the room and in the stead of sinners, that they might be saved, and therein bare their sins, or the punishment due unto their sins, by undergoing the curse and penalty of the law, and therein also, according to the will of God, offered up himself for a propitiatory, expiatory sacrifice, to make atonement for sin, and reconciliation for sinners, that the justice of God being appeased, and the law fulfilled, their might go free, or be delivered from the wrath to come; and if therein, also, he paid a real satisfactory price for their redemption; then he made satisfaction to God for sin: for these are the things that we intend by that expression of satisfaction. But now all these things are openly and filly witnessed unto in the testimonies before produced, as may be observed by suiting some of them unto the several particulars here asserted: –
As, 1. What was done in this matter, was from the will, purpose, and love of God the Father, Ps. 40: 6-8; Heb. 10: 5-7; Acts 4: 28; John 3: 16; Rom. 8: 3.
2. It was also done by his own voluntary consent, Phil. 2: 6-8.
3. He was substituted, and did substitute himself, as the mediator of the covenant, in the room and stead of sinners, that they may be saved, Heb. 10: 5-7, 12: 22; Rom. 3: 25, 26, 5: 7, 8.
4. And he did therein bear their sins, or the punishment due to their sins, Isa. 53: 6, 11; 1 Pet. 2: 24. And this, –
5. By undergoing the curse and penalty of the law, Gal. 3: 13; or the punishment of sin required by the law, 2 Cor. 5: 21; Rom. 8: 3.
6. Herein, also, according to the will of God, he offered up himself a propitiatory and expiatory sacrifice, to make atonement for sin and reconciliation for sinners, Eph 5: 6; Rom. 5: 6; Heb. 9: 11-14; – which he did, that the justice of God being satisfied, and the law fulfilled, sinners might be freed from the wrath to come, Rom. 3: 25; 1 Thess. 1: 10.
7. And hereby also he paid a real price of redemption for sin and sinners, 1 Pet. 1: 18, 19; 1 Cor. 6: 20. These are the things which we are to believe concerning the satisfaction of Christ. And our explication of this doctrine we are ready to defend when called whereunto.
The consideration of the objections which are raised against this great fundamental truth shall close this discourse. And they are of two sorts: – First, In general, to the whole doctrine, as declared, or some of the more signal heads or parts of it. Secondly, Particular instances in this or that supposal, as consequences of the doctrine asserted. And, in general, –
First, they say „This is contrary to, and inconsistent with, the love, grace, mercy, and goodness of God, which are so celebrated in the Scripture as the principal properties of his nature and acts of his will wherein he will be glorified; -especially contrary to the freedom of forgiveness, which we are encouraged to expect, and commanded to believe.” And this exception they endeavour to firm by testimonies that the Lord is good and gracious and that he does freely forgive us our sins and trespasses.
Ans. 1. I readily grant that whatever is really contrary to the grace, goodness, and mercy of God, whatever is inconsistent with the free forgiveness of sin, is not to be admitted; for these things are fully revealed in the Scripture, and must have a consistency with whatever else is therein revealed of God or his will.
2. As God is good, and gracious, and merciful, so also he is holy, righteous, true, and faithful. And these things are no less revealed concerning him than the others; and are no less essential properties of his nature than his goodness and grace. And as they are all essentially the same in him, and considered only under a different habitue or respect, as they are exerted by acts of his will; so it belongs to his infinite wisdom, that the effects of them, though divers, and produced by divers ways and means, may no way be contrary one to the other, but that mercy be exercised without the prejudice of justice or holiness, and justice be preserved entire, without any obstruction to the exercise of mercy.
3. The grace and love of God, that in this matter the Scripture reveals to be exercised in order unto the forgiveness of sinners, consists principally in two things: – (1.) In his holy eternal purpose of providing a relief for lost sinners. He has done it, „to the praise of the glory of his grace,” Eph. 1: 6. (2.) In the sending his Son in the pursuit and for the accomplishment of the holy purpose of his will and grace. Herein most eminently does the Scripture celebrate the love, goodness, and kindness of God, as that whereby, in infinite and for ever to be adored wisdom and grace, he made way for the forgiveness of our sins. John 3: 16, „God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” Rom. 3: 25, „Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” Rom. 5: 8, „God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Tit. 3: 4; 1 John 4: 9, 10. Herein consists that ever to be adored love, goodness, grace, mercy, and condescension of God. Add hereunto, that, in the act of causing our iniquities to meet on Christ, wherein he immediately intended the declaration of his justice, Rom. 3: 25, – „not sparing him, in delivering him up to death for us all,” Rom. 8: 32, – there was a blessed harmony in the highest Justice and most excellent grace and mercy. This grace, this goodness, this love of God towards mankind, towards sinners, our adversaries in this matter neither know nor understand; and so, indeed, what lies in them, remove the foundation of the whole gospel, and of all that faith and obedience which God requires at our hands.
4. Forgiveness, or the actual condonation of sinners, the pardon and forgiveness of sins, is free; but yet so as it is everywhere restrained unto a respect unto Christ, unto his death rind blood- shedding. Eph. 1: 7, „We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Chap. 4: 32. „God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Rom. 3: 25, 26, „God has set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” It is absolutely free in respect of all immediate transactions between God and sinners.
(1.) Free on the part of God.
[1.] In the eternal purpose of it, when he might justly have suffered all men to have perished under the guilt of their sins. [2.] Free in the means that he used to effect it, unto his glory. 1st. In the sending of his Son; and, 2dly. In laying the punishment of our sin upon him. 3dly. In his covenant with him, that it should be accepted on our behalf. 4thly. In his tender and proposal of it by the gospel unto sinners, to be received without money or without price. 5thly. In the actual condonation and pardon of them that do believe.
(2.) It is free on the part of the persons that are forgiven; in that, [1.] It is given and granted to them, without any satisfaction made by them for their former transgressions. [2.] Without any merit to purchase or procure it. [3.] Without any penal, satisfactory suffering here, or in a purgatory hereafter. [4.] Without any expectation of future recompense; or that, being pardoned, they should then make or give any satisfaction for what they had done before. And as any of these things would, so nothing else can, impeach the freedom of pardon and forgiveness. Whether, then, we respect the pardoner or the pardoned, pardon is every way free, – namely, on the part of God who forgives, and on the part of sinners that are forgiven. If God now has, besides all this, provided himself a lamb for a sacrifice; if he has, in infinite wisdom and grace, found out a way thus freely to forgive us our sins, to the praise and glory of his own holiness, righteousness, and severity against sin, as well as unto the unspeakable advancement of that grace, goodness, and bounty which he immediately exercises in the pardon of sin; are these men’s eyes evil, because he is good? Will they not be contented to be pardoned, unless they may have it at the rate of despoiling God of his holiness, truth, righteousness, and faithfulness? And as this is certainly done by that way of pardon which these men propose, no reserve in the least being made for the glory of God in those holy properties of his nature which are immediately injured and opposed by sin; so that pardon itself, which they pretend so to magnify, having nothing to influence it but a mere arbitrary act of God’s will, is utterly debased from its own proper worth and excellency. And I shall willingly undertake to manifest that they derogate no less from grace and mercy in pardon, than they do from the righteousness and holiness of God, by the forgiveness which they have feigned; and that in it both of them are perverted and despoiled of all their glory.
But they yet say, „If God can freely pardon sin, why does he not do it without satisfaction? If he cannot, he is weaker and more imperfect than man, who can do so.”
Ans. 1. God cannot do many things that men can do, – not that he is more imperfect than they, but he cannot do them on the account of his perfection. He cannot lie, he cannot deny himself, he cannot change; which men can do, and do every day.
2. To pardon sin without satisfaction, in him who is absolutely holy, righteous, true, and faithful, – the absolute, necessary, supreme Governor of all sinners, – the author of the law, and sanction of it, wherein punishment is threatened and declared, – is to deny himself, and to do what one infinitely perfect cannot do.
3. I ask of these men, why God does not pardon sins freely, without requiring faiths repentance, and obedience in them that are pardoned; yea, as the conditions on which they may be pardoned? For, seeing he is so infinitely good and gracious, cannot he pardon men without prescribing such terms and conditions unto them as he knows that men, and that incomparably the greatest number of them, will never come up unto, and so must of necessity perish for ever? Yea, but they say, „This cannot be: neither does this impeach the freedom of pardon; for it is certain that God does prescribe these things, and yet he pardons freely; and it would altogether unbecome the holy God to pardon sinners that continue so to live and die in their sins” But do not these men see that they have hereby given away their cause which they contend for? For, if a prescription of sundry things to the sinner himself, without which he shall not be pardoned, do not at all impeach, as they say, the freedom of pardon, but God may be said freely to pardon sin notwithstanding it; how shall the receiving of satisfaction by another, nothing at all being required of the sinner, have the least appearance of any such thing? If the freedom of forgiveness consists in such a boundless notion as these men imagine, it is certain that the prescribing of faith and repentance in and unto sinners, antecedently to their participation of it, is much more evidently contrary unto it, than the receiving of satisfaction from another who is not to be pardoned can to any appear to be. Secondly, if it be contrary to the holiness of God to pardon any without requiring faith, repentance, and obedience in them (as it is indeed), let not these persons be offended if we believe him when he so frequently declares it, that it was so to remit sin, without the fulfilling of his law and satisfaction of his justice.
Secondly, they say, „There is no such thing as justice in God requiring the punishment of sin; but that that which in him requires and calls for the punishment of sin is his anger and wrath; which expressions denote free acts of his will, and not any essential properties of his nature.” So that God may punish sin or not punish it, at his pleasure; therefore there is no reason that he should require any satisfaction for sin, seeing he may pass it by absolutely as he pleases.
Ans. 1. Is it not strange, that the great Governor, the Judge of all the world, which, on the supposition of the creation of it, God is naturally and necessarily, should not also naturally be so righteous as to do right, in rendering unto every one according to his works?
2. The sanction and penalty of the law, which is the rule of punishment, was, I suppose, an effect of justice, – of God’s natural and essential justice, and not of his anger or wrath. Certainly, never did any man make a law for the government of a people in anger. Draco’s laws were not made in wrath, but according to the best apprehension of right and justice that he had, though said to be written in blood; and shall we think otherwise of the law of God?
3. Anger and wrath in God express the effects of justice, and so are not merely free acts of his will. This, therefore, is a tottering cause, that is built on the denial of God’s essential righteousness. But it was proved before, and it is so elsewhere.
Thirdly, they say, „That the sacrifice of Christ was only metaphorically so,” – that he was a metaphorical priest, not one properly so called; and, therefore, that his sacrifice did not consist in his death and blood-shedding, but in his appearing in heaven upon his ascension, presenting himself unto God in the most holy place not made with hands as the mediator of the new covenant.
Ans. 1. When once these men come to this evasion, they think themselves safe, and that they may go whither they will without control. For they say it is true, Christ was a priest; but only he was a metaphorical one. He offered sacrifice; but it was a metaphorical one. He redeemed us; but with a metaphorical redemption. And so we are justified thereon; but with a metaphorical justification. And so, for aught I know, they are like to be saved with a metaphorical salvation. This is the substance of their plea in this matter: – Christ was not really a priest; but did somewhat like a priest. He offered not sacrifice really; but did somewhat that was like a sacrifice. He redeemed us not really; but did somewhat that looked like redemption. And what these things are, wherein their analogy consists, what proportion the things that Christ has done bear to the things that are really so, from whence they receive their denomination, it is meet it should be wholly in the power of these persons to declare. But, –
2. What should hinder the death of Christ to be a sacrifice, a proper sacrifice, and, according to the nature, end, and use of sacrifices, to have made atonement and satisfaction for sin? (1.) It is expressly called so in the Scripture; wherein he is said to „offer himself, to make his soul an offering, to offer himself a sacrifice,” Eph. 5: 2; Heb. 1: 3, 9: 14, 25, 26, 7: 27. And he is himself directly said to be a „priest,” or a sacrificer, Heb. 2: 17. And it is nowhere intimated, much less expressed, that these things are not spoken properly, but metaphorically only. (2.) The legal sacrifices of the old law were instituted on purpose to represent and prepare the way for the bringing in of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, so to take away the sin of the world; and is it not strange, that true and real sacrifices should be types and representations of that which was not so? On this supposition, all those sacrifices are but so many seductions from the right understanding of things between God and sinners. (3.) Nothing is wanting to render it a proper propitiatory sacrifice. For, – [1.] There was the person offering, and that was Christ himself, Heb. 9 14, „He offered himself unto God.” „He,” that is, the sacrificer, denotes the person of Christ, God and man; and „himself,” as the sacrifice, denotes his human nature whence God is said to „purchase his church with his own blood,” Acts 20: 28; for he offered himself through the eternal Spirit: so that, – [2.] There was the matter of the sacrifice, which was the human nature of Christ, soul and body. „His soul was made an offering for sin,” Isa. 53: 10; and his body, „The offering of the body of Jesus Christ,” Heb. 10: 10, – his blood especially, which is often synecdochically mentioned for the whole. (4.) His death had the nature of a sacrifice: for, – [1.] Therein were the sins of men laid upon him, and not in his entrance into heaven; for „he bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. 2: 24. God made our sins then „to meet upon him,” Isa. 53: 6; which gives the formality unto any sacrifices. „Quad in ejus caput sit,” is the formal reason of all propitiatory sacrifices, and ever was so, as is expressly declared, Lev. 16: 21, 22; and the phrase of „bearing sin,” of „bearing iniquity,” is constantly used for the undergoing of the punishment due to sin. [2.] It had the end of a proper sacrifice; it made expiation of sin, propitiation and atonement for sin, with reconciliation with God; and so took away that enmity that was between God and sinners, Heb. 1: 3; Rom. 3: 25, 26; Heb. 2: 17, 18, 5: 10; Rom. 8: 3; 2 Cor. 5: 18, 19. And although God himself designed, appointed, and contrived, in wisdom, this way of reconciliation, as he did the means for the atoning of his own anger towards the friends of Job, commanding them to go unto him, and with him offer sacrifices for themselves, which he would accept, chap. 42: 7, 8; yet, as he was the supreme Governor, the Lord of all, attended with infinite justice and holiness, atonement was made with him, and satisfaction to him thereby.
What has been spoken may suffice to discover the emptiness and weakness of those exceptions which in general these men make against the truth before laid down from the Scripture. A brief examination of some particular instances, wherein they seek not so much to oppose as to reproach the revelation of this mystery of the gospel, shall put a close to this discourse. It is said, then, –
First, „That if this be so, then it will follow that God is gracious to forgive, and yet it is impossible for him, unless the debt be fully satisfied.”
Ans. 1. I suppose the confused and abrupt expression of things here, in words scarcely affording a tolerable sense, is rather from weakness than captiousness; and so I shall let the manner of the proposal pass. 2. What if this should follow, that God is gracious to forgive sinners, and yet will not, cannot, on the account of his own holiness and righteousness, actually forgive any, without satisfaction and atonement made for sin? The worst that can be hence concluded is, that the Scripture is true, which affirms both these in many places. 3. This sets out the exceeding greatness of the grace of God in forgiveness, that when sin could not be forgiven without satisfaction, and the sinner himself could no way make any such satisfaction, he provided himself a sacrifice of atonement, that the sinner might be discharged and pardoned. 4. Sin is not properly a debt, for then it might be paid in kind, by sin itself; but is called so only because it binds over the sinner to punishment, which is the satisfaction to be made for that which is properly a transgression, and improperly only a debt. It is added, –
Secondly, „Hence it follows, that the unite and impotent creature more capable of extending mercy and forgiveness than the infinite and omnipotent Creator.”
Ans. 1. God being essentially holy and righteous, having engaged his faithfulness in the sanction of the law, and being naturally and necessarily the governor and ruler of the world, the forgiving of sin without satisfaction would be no perfection in him, but an effect of impotency and imperfection, – a thing which God cannot do, as he cannot lie, nor deny himself. 2. The direct contrary of what is insinuated is asserted by this doctrine; for, on the supposition of the satisfaction and atonement insisted on, not only does God freely forgive, but that in such a way of righteousness and goodness, as no creature is able to conceive or express the glory and excellency of it. And to speak of the poor having pardons of private men, upon particular offenses against themselves, who are commanded so to do, and have no right nor authority to require or exact punishment, nor is any due upon the mere account of their own concernment, in comparison with the forgiveness of God, arises out of a deep ignorance of the whole matter under consideration.
Thirdly. It is added by them, that hence it follows, „That God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son to save it; and yet that God stood off in high displeasure, and Christ gave himself as a complete satisfaction to offended justice.”
Ans. Something these men would say, if they knew what or how; for, – 1. That God so loved the world as to give his only Son to save it, is the expression of the Scripture, and the foundation of the doctrine whose truth we contend for. 2. That Christ offered himself to make atonement for sinners, and therein made satisfaction to the justice of God, is the doctrine itself which these men oppose, and not any consequent of it. 3. That God stood off in high displeasure, is an expression which neither the Scripture uses, nor those who declare this doctrine from thence, nor is suited unto divine perfections, or the manner of divine operations. That intended seems to be, that the righteousness and law of God required the punishment due to sin to be undergone, and thereby satisfaction to be made unto God; which is no consequent of the doctrine, but the doctrine itself.
Fourthly. It is yet farther objected, „That if Christ made satisfaction for sin, then he did it either as God or as man, or as God and man.”
Ans. 1. As God and man. Acts 20: 28, „God redeemed his church with his own blood.” 1 John 3: 16, „Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” Heb. 9: 14. 2. This dilemma is proposed, as that which proceeds on a supposition of our own principles, that Christ is God and man in one person: which, indeed, makes the pretended difficulty to be vain, and a mere effect of ignorance; for all the mediatory acts of Christ being the acts of his person, must of necessity be the acts of him as God and man. 3. There is yet another mistake in this inquiry; for satisfaction is in it looked on as a real act or operation of one or the other nature in Christ, when it is the apotelesma or effect of the actings, the doing and suffering of Christ – the dignity of what he did in reference unto the end for which he did it. For the two natures are so united in Christ as not to have a third compound principle of physical acts and operations thence arising; but each nature acts distinctly according to its own being and properties, yet so as what is the immediate act of either nature is the act of him who is one in both; from whence it has its dignity. 4. The sum is, that in all the mediatory actions of Christ we are to consider, – (1.) The agent; and that is the person of Christ. (2.) The immediate principle by which and from which the agent works; and that is the natures in the person. (3.) The actions; which are the effectual operations of either nature. (4.) The effect or work with respect to God and us; and this relates unto the person of the agent, the Lord Christ, God and man. A blending of the natures into one common principle of operation, as the compounding of mediums unto one end, is ridiculously supposed in this matter.
But yet, again; it is pretended that sundry consequences, irreligious and irrational, do ensue upon a supposition of the satisfaction pleaded for. What, then, are they?
First. „That it is unlawful and impossible for God Almighty to be gracious and merciful, or to pardon transgressors.”
Ans. The miserable, confused misapprehension of things which the proposal of this and the like consequences does evidence, manifests sufficiently how unfit the makers of them are to manage controversies of this nature. For, – 1. It is supposed that for God to be gracious and merciful, or to pardon sinners, are the same; which is to confound the essential properties of his nature with the free acts of his will. 2. Lawful or unlawful, are terms that can with no tolerable sense be used concerning any properties of God, all which are natural and necessary unto his being; as goodness, grace, and mercy, in particular, are. 3. That it is impossible for God to pardon transgressors, according to this doctrine, is a fond imagination; for it is only a declaration of the manner how he does it. 4. As God is gracious and merciful, so also he is holy, and righteous, and true; and it became him, or was every way meet for him, in his way of exercising grace and mercy towards sinners, to order all things so, as that it might be done without the impeachment of his holiness, righteousness, and truth. It is said, again, –
Secondly, „That God was inevitably compelled to this way of saving men; – the highest affront to his noncontrollable nature.”
Ans. 1. Were the authors of these exceptions put to declare what they mean by God’s „uncontrollable nature,” they would hardly disentangle themselves with common sense; such masters of reason are they, indeed, whatever they would fain pretend to be. Controllable or uncontrollable, respects acting and operations, not beings or natures. 2. That, upon the principle opposed by these men, God was inevitably compelled to this way of saving men, is a fond and childish imagination. The whole business of the salvation of men, according unto this doctrine, depends on a mere free, sovereign act of God’s will, exerting itself in a way of infinite wisdom, holiness, and grace. 3. The meaning of this objection (if it has either sense or meaning in it) is, that God, freely purposing to save lost sinners, did it in a way becoming his holy nature and righteous law. What other course Infinite Wisdom could have taken for the satisfaction of his justice we know not; – that justice was to be satisfied, and that this way it is done we know and believe.
Thirdly. They say it hence follows, „That it is unworthy of God to pardon, but not to inflict punishment on the innocent, or require a satisfaction where there was nothing due.”
Ans. 1. What is worthy or unworthy of God, himself alone knows, and of men not any, but according to what he is pleased to declare and reveal; but, certainly, it is unworthy any person, pretending to the least interest in ingenuity or use of reason, to use such frivolous instances in any case of importance, which have not the least pretence of argument in them, but what arises from a gross misapprehension or misrepresentation of a doctrine designed to opposition. 2. To pardon sinners, is a thing becoming the goodness and grace of God; to do it by Christ, that which becomes them, and his holiness and righteousness also, Eph. 1: 6, 7; Rom. 3: 25. 3. The Lord Christ was personally innocent; but „he who knew no sin was made sin for us,” 2 Cor. 5: 21. And as the mediator and surety of the covenant, he was to answer for the sins of them whom he undertook to save from the wrath to come, by giving himself a ransom for them, and making his soul an offering for their sin. 4. That nothing is due to the justice of God for sin, – that is, that sin does not in the justice of God deserve punishment, – is a good, comfortable doctrine for men that are resolved to continue in their sins whilst they live in this world. The Scripture tells us that Christ paid what he took not; that all our iniquities were caused to meet upon him; that he bare them in his own body on the tree; that his soul was made an offering for sin, and thereby made reconciliation or atonement for the sins of the people. If these persons be otherwise minded, we cannot help it.
Fourthly. It is added, that „This doctrine does not only disadvantage the tribe virtue and real intent of Christ’s life and death, but entirely deprives God of that praise which is owing to his greatest love and goodness.”
Ans. 1. I suppose that this is the first time that this doctrine fell under this imputation; nor could it possibly be liable unto this charge from any who did either understand it or the grounds on which it is commonly opposed. For there is no end of the life or death of Christ which the Socinians themselves admit of, but it is also allowed and asserted in the doctrine now called in question. Do they say, that he taught the truth, or revealed the whole mind and will of God concerning his worship and our obedience? We say the same. Do they say, that by his death he bare testimony unto and confirmed the truth which he had taught? It is also owned by us. Do they say, that in what he did and suffered he set us an example that we should labour after conformity unto? It is what we acknowledge and teach: only, we say that all these things belong principally to his prophetical office. But we, moreover, affirm and believe, that as a priest, or in the discharge of his sacerdotal office, he did, in his death and sufferings, offer himself a sacrifice to God, to make atonement for our sins, – which they deny; and that he died for us, or in our stead, that we might go free: without the faith and acknowledgment whereof no part of the gospel can be rightly understood. All the ends, then, which they themselves assign of the life and death of Christ are by us granted; and the principal one, which gives life and efficacy to the rest, is by them denied. Neither, – 2. Does it fall under any possible imagination, that the praise due unto God should be eclipsed hereby. The love and kindness of God towards us is in the Scripture fixed principally and fundamentally on his „sending of his only begotten Son to die for us.” And, certainly, the greater the work was that he had to do, the greater ought our acknowledgment of his love and kindness to be. But it is said, –
Fifthly, „That it represents the Son as more kind and compassionate than the Father; whereas if both be the same God, then either the Father is as loving as the Son, or the Son as angry as the Father.”
Ans. 1. The Scripture refers the love of the Father unto two heads: – (1.) The sending of his Son to die for us, John 3: 16; Rom. 5: 8; I John 4: 9, lo. (2.) In choosing sinners unto a participation of the fruits of his love, Eph. 1: 3-6. The love of the Son is fixed signally on his actual giving himself to die for us, Gal. 2: 20; Eph. 5: 25; Rev. 1: 5. What balances these persons have got to weigh these loves in, and to conclude which is the greatest or most weighty, I know not. 2. Although only the actual discharge of his office be directly assigned to the love of Christ, yet his condescension in taking our nature upon him, – expressed by his mind, Phil. 2: 5-8, and the readiness of his will, Ps. 40: 8, – does eminently comprise love in it so. 3. The love of the Father in sending of the Son was an act of his will; which being a natural and essential property of God, it was so far the act of the Son also, as he is partaker of the same nature, though eminently, and in respect of order, it was peculiarly the act of the Father. 4. The anger of God against sin is an effect of his essential righteousness and holiness, which belong to him as God; which yet hinders not but that both Father, and Son, and Spirit, acted love towards sinners. They say again, –
Sixthly, „It robs God of the gift of his Son for our redemption, which the Scriptures attribute to the unmerited love he had for the world, in affirming the Son purchased that redemption from the Father, by the gift of himself to God as our complete satisfaction.”
Ans. 1. It were endless to consider the improper and absurd expressions which are made use of in these exceptions, as here; the last words have no tolerable sense in them, according to any principles whatever. 2. If the Son’s purchasing redemption for us, procuring, obtaining it, do rob God of the gift of his Son for our redemption, the Holy Ghost must answer for it; for, having „obtained” for us, or procured, or purchased, „eternal redemption,” is the word used by himself, Heb. 9: 12; and to deny that he has laid down his life a „ransom” for us, and has „bought us with a price,” is openly to deny the gospel. 3. In a word, the great gift of God consisted in giving his Son to obtain redemption for us. 4. Herein he „offered himself unto God,” and „gave himself for us;” and if these persons are offended herewithal, what are we, that we should withstand God? They say, –
Seventhly, „Since Christ could not pay what was not his own, it follows, that in the payment of his own the case still remains equally grievous; since the debt is not hereby absolved or forgiven, but transferred only; and, by consequence, we are no better provided for salvation than before, owing that now to the Son which was once owing to the Father.”
Ans. The looseness and dubiousness of the expressions here used makes an appearance that there is something in them, when indeed there is not. There is an allusion in them to a debt and a payment, which is the most improper expression that is used in this matter; and the interpretation thereof is to be regulated by other proper expressions of the same thing. But to keep to the allusion: – 1. Christ paid his own, but not for himself, Dan. 9: 26. 2. Paying it for us, the debt is discharged; and our actual discharge is to be given out according to the ways and means, and upon the conditions, appointed and constituted by the Father and Son. 3. When a debt is so transferred as that one is accepted in the room and obliged to payment in the stead of another, and that payment is made and accepted accordingly, all law and reason require that the original debtor be discharged. 4. What on this account we owe to the Son, is praise, thankfulness, and obedience, and not the debt which he took upon himself and discharged for us, when we were nonsolvent, by his love. So that this matter is plain enough, and not to be involved by such cloudy expressions and incoherent discourse, following the metaphor of a debt. For if God be considered as the creditor, we all as debtors, and being insolvent, Christ undertook, out of his love, to pay the debt for us, and did so accordingly, which was accepted with God; it follows that we are to be discharged upon God’s terms, and under a new obligation unto his love who has made this satisfaction for us: which we shall eternally acknowledge. It is said, –
Eighthly, „It no way renders men beholden or in the least obliged to God, since by their doctrine he would not have abated us, nor did he Christ, the least farthing; so that the acknowledgments are peculiarly the Son’s: which destroys the whole current of Scripture testimony for his goodwill towards men. O the infamous portraiture this doctrine draws of the infinite goodness! Is this your retribution, O injurious satisfactionists?”
Ans. This is but a bold repetition of what, in other words, was mentioned before over and over. Wherein the love of God in this matter consisted, and what is the obligation on us unto thankfulness and obedience, has been before also declared; and we are not to be moved in fundamental truths by vain exclamations of weak and unstable men. It is said, –
Ninthly, „That God’s justice is satisfied for sins past, present, and to come, whereby God and Christ have lost both their power of enjoining godliness and prerogative of punishing disobedience; for what is once paid, is not revocable, and if punishment should arrest any for their debts, it argues a breach on God or Christ’s part, or else that it has not been sufficiently solved, and the penalty complete sustained by another.”
Ans. The intention of this pretended consequence of our doctrine is that, upon a supposition of satisfaction made by Christ, there is no solid foundation remaining for the prescription of faith, repentance, and obedience, on the one hand; or of punishing them who refuse so to obey, believe, or repent, on the other. The reason of this inference insinuated seems to be this, – that sin being satisfied for, cannot be called again to an account. For the former part of the pretended consequence, – namely, that on this supposition there is no foundation left for the prescription of godliness, – I cannot discern any thing in the least looking towards the confirmation of it in the words of the objection laid down. But these things are quite otherwise; as is manifest unto them that read and obey the gospel. For, – 1. Christ’s satisfaction for sins acquits not the creature of that dependence on God, and duty which he owes to God, which (notwithstanding that) God may justly, and does prescribe unto him, suitable to his own nature, holiness, and will. The whole of our regard unto God does not lie in an acquitment from sin. It is, moreover, required of us, as a necessary and indispensable consequence of the relation wherein we stand unto him, that we live to him and obey him, whether sin be satisfied for or no. The manner and measure hereof are to be regulated by his prescriptions, which are suited to his own wisdom and our condition; and they are now referred to the heads mentioned, of faith, repentance, and new obedience. 2. The satisfaction made for sin being not made by the sinner himself, there must of necessity be a rule, order, and law-constitution, how the sinner may come to be interested in it, and made partaker of it. For the consequent of the freedom of one by the suffering of another is not natural or necessary, but must proceed and arise from a law-constitution, compact, and agreement. Now, the way constituted and appointed is that of faith, or believing, as explained in the Scripture. If men believe not, they are no less liable to the punishment due to their sins than if no satisfaction at all were made for sinners. And whereas it is added, „Forgetting that every one en must appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, to receive according to the things done in the body, yea, and every one must give an account of himself to God;” Closing all with this, „But many more are the gross absurdities and blasphemies that are the genuine fruits of this so confidently-believed doctrine of satisfaction:” I say it is, – 3. Certain that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive according to the things done in the body; and therefore, woe will be unto them at the great day who are not able to plead the atonement made for their sins by the blood of Christ, and an evidence of their interest therein by their faith and obedience, or the things done and wrought in them and by them whilst they were in the body here in this world. And this it would better become these persons to retake themselves unto the consideration of, than to exercise themselves unto an unparalleled confidence in reproaching those with absurdities and blasphemies who believe the Deity and satisfaction of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who died for us; which is the ground and bottom of all our expectation of a blessed life and immortality to come.
The removal of these objections against the truth, scattered of late up and down in the hands of all sorts of men, may suffice for our present purpose. If any amongst these men judge that they have an ability to manage the opposition against the truth as declared by us, with such pleas, arguments, and exceptions, as may pretend an interest in appearing reason, they shall, God assisting, be attended unto. With men given up to a spirit of railing or reviling, – though it be no small honour to be reproached by them who reject with scorn the eternal Deity of the Son of God, and the satisfactory atonement that he made for the sins of men, – no person of sobriety will contend. And I shall farther only desire the reader to take notice, that though these few sheets were written in a few hours, upon the desire and for the satisfaction of some private friends, and therefore contain merely an expression of present thoughts, without the least design or diversion of mind towards accuracy or ornament; yet the author is so far confident that the truth, and nothing else, is proposed and confirmed in them, that he fears not but that an opposition to what is here declared will be removed, and the truth reinforced in such a way and manner as may not be to its disadvantage.
The preceding discourse, as has been declared, was written for the use of ordinary Christians, or such as might be in danger to be seduced, or any way entangled in their minds, by the late attempts against the truths pleaded for: for those to whom the dispensation of the gospel is committed, are „debtors both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise,” Rom. 1: 14. It was therefore thought meet to insist only on things necessary, and such as their faith is immediately concerned in; and not to immix therewithal any such arguments or considerations as might not, by reason of the terms wherein they are expressed, be obvious to their capacity and understanding. Unto plainness and perspicuity, brevity was also required, by such as judged this work necessary. That design, we hope, is answered, and now discharged in some useful measure. But yet, because many of our arguments on the head of the satisfaction of Christ depend upon the genuine signification and notion of the words and terms wherein the doctrine of it is delivered, – which, for the reasons before mentioned, could not conveniently be discussed in the foregoing discourse, – I shall here, in some few instances, give an account of what farther confirmation the truth might receive by a due explanation of them. And I shall mention here but few of them, because a large dissertation concerning them all is intended in another way.
First. For the term of satisfaction itself, it is granted that in this matter it is not found in the Scripture, – that is, it is not so (here follows transcribed Greek:) |G: retoos|, or syllabically, – but it is |G: kata to pragma anantirretoos|; the thing itself intended is asserted in it, beyond all modest contradiction. Neither, indeed, is there in the Hebrew language any word that does adequately answer unto it; no, nor yet in the Greek. As it is used in this cause, |G: engue|, which is properly „sponsio,” or „fide-jussio,” in its actual discharge, makes the nearest approach unto it: |G: hikanon poiein| is used to the same purpose. But there are words and phrases, both in the Old Testament and in the New, that are equipollent unto it, and express the matter or thing intended by it: as in the Old are, (here follows transcribed Hebrew:) |H: pidjon padah| [Ps. 49: 9], and |H: kofer| This last word we render „satisfaction,” Numb. 35: 32, 33, where God denies that any compensation, sacred or civil, shall be received to free a murderer from the punishment due unto him; which properly expresses what we intend: „Thou shalt admit of no satisfaction for the life of a murderer.”
In the New Testament: |G: lutron, antilutron, apolutroosis, time, hilasmos| and the verbs, |G: lutroun, apolutroun, exagapozein, hilaskesthai|, are of the same importance, and some of them accommodated to express the thing intended, beyond that which has obtained in vulgar use. For that which we intended hereby is, the voluntary obedience unto death, and the passion or suffering, of our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, whereby and wherein he offered himself through the eternal Spirit, for a propitiatory sacrifice, that he might fulfil the law, or answer all its universal postulate; and as our sponsor, undertaking our cause, when we were under the sentence of condemnation, underwent the punishment due to us from the justice of God, being transferred on him; whereby having made a perfect and absolute propitiation or atonement for our sins, he procured for us deliverance from death and the curse, and a right unto life everlasting. Now, this is more properly expressed by some of the words before mentioned than by that of satisfaction; which yet, nevertheless, as usually explained, is comprehensive, and no way unsuited to the matter intended by it.
In general, men by this word understand either „reparationem offensae” or „solutionem debiti,” – either „reparation made for offense given unto any,” or „the payment of a debt.”Debitum” is either „criminale” or „pecuniarium;” that is, either the obnoxiousness of a man to punishment for crimes or the guilt of them, in answer to that justice and law which he is necessarily liable and subject unto; or unto a payment or compensation by and of money, or what is valued by it; – which last consideration, neither in itself nor in any seasonings from an analogy unto it, can in this matter have any proper place. Satisfaction is the effect of the doing or suffering what is required for the answering of his charge against faults or sins, who has right, authority, and power to require, exact, and inflict punishment for them. Some of the schoolmen define it by „Voluntaria redditio aequivalentis indebiti;” of which more elsewhere. The true meaning of, „to satisfy, or make satisfaction,” is „tantum facere aut pati, quantum quantum satis sit juste irato ad vindictam.” This satisfaction is impleaded as inconsistent with free remission of sins, – how causelessly we have seen. It is so far from it, that it is necessary to make way for it, in case of a righteous law transgressed, and the public order of the universal Governor and government of all disturbed. And this God directs unto, Lev. 4: 31, „The priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.” This atonement was a legal satisfaction, and it is by God himself premised to remission or pardon. And Paul prays Philemon to forgive Onesimus, though he took upon himself to make satisfaction for all the wrong or damage that he had sustained, Epist. verses 18, 19. And when God was displeased with the friends of Job, he prescribes a way to them, or what they shall do, and what they shall get done for them, that they might be accepted and pardoned, Job 42: 7, 8, „The LORD said unto Eliphaz, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly.” He plainly enjoins an atonement, that he might freely pardon them. And both these, – namely, satisfaction and pardon, with their order and consistency, – were solemnly represented by the great institution of the sacrifice of the scapegoat. For after all the sins of the people were put upon him, or the punishment of them transferred unto him in a type and representation, with „Quod in ejus caput sit,” the formal reason of all sacrifices propitiatory, he was sent away with them; denoting the oblation or forgiveness of sin, after a translation made of its punishment, Lev. 16: 21, 22. And whereas it is not expressly said that that goat suffered, or was slain, but was either |H: azazel| „hircus,” |G: apopompaios|, „a goat sent away,” or was sent to a rock called Azazel, in the wilderness, as Vatablus so and Oleaster, with some others, think (which is not probable, seeing, though it might then be done whilst the people were in the wilderness of Sinai, yet could not, by reason of its distance, when the people were settled in Canaan, be annually observed), it was from the poverty of the types, whereof no one could fully represent that grace which it had particular respect unto. What, therefore, was wanting in that goat was supplied in the other, which was slain as a sin-offering, verses 15, 16. Neither does it follow, that, on the supposition of the satisfaction pleaded for, the freedom, pardon, or acquitment of the person originally guilty and liable to punishment must immediately and ” ipso facto” ensue. It is not of the nature of every solution or satisfaction, that deliverance must „ipso facto” follow. And the reason of it is, because this satisfaction, by a succedaneous substitution of one to undergo punishment for another, must be founded in a voluntary compact and agreement. For there is required unto it a relaxation of the law, though not as unto the punishment to be inflicted, yet as unto the person to be punished. And it is otherwise in personal guilt than in pecuniary debts. In these, the debt itself is solely intended, the person only obliged with reference whereunto. In the other, the person is firstly and principally under the obligation. And therefore, when a pecuniary debt is paid, by whomsoever it be paid, the obligation of the person himself unto payment ceases „ipso facto.” But in things criminal, the guilty person himself being firstly, immediately, and intentionally under the obligation unto punishment, when there is introduced by compact a vicarious solution, in the substitution of another to suffer, though he suffer the same absolutely which those should have done for whom he suffers, yet, because of the acceptation of his person to suffer, which might have been refused, and could not be admitted without some relaxation of the law, deliverance of the guilty persons cannot ensue „ipso facto,” but by the intervention of the terms fixed on in the covenant or agreement for an admittance of the substitution.
It appears, from what has been spoken, that, in this matter of satisfaction, God is not considered as a creditor, and sin as a debt; and the law as an obligation to the payment of that debt, and the Lord Christ as paying it; – though these notions may have been used by some for the illustration of the whole matter, and that not without countenance from sundry expressions in the Scripture to the same purpose. But God is considered as the infinitely holy and righteous author of the law, and supreme governor of all mankind, according to the tenor and sanction of it. Man is considered as a sinner, a transgressor of that law, and thereby obnoxious and liable to the punishment constituted in it and by it, – answerably unto the justice and holiness of its author. The substitution of Christ was merely voluntary on the part of God, and of himself, undertaking to be a sponsor, to answer for the sins of men by undergoing the punishment due unto them. To this end there was a relaxation of the law as to the persons that were to suffer, though not as to what was to be suffered. Without the former, the substitution mentioned could not have been admitted; and on supposition of the latter, the suffering of Christ could not have had the nature of punishment, properly so called: for punishment relates to the justice and righteousness in government of him that exacts it and inflicts it; and this the justice of God does not but by the law. Nor could the law be any way satisfied or fulfilled by the suffering of Christ, if, antecedently thereunto, its obligation, or power of obliging unto the penalty constituted in its sanction unto sin, was relaxed, dissolved, or dispensed withal. Nor was it agreeable to justice, nor would the nature of the things themselves admit of it, that another punishment should be inflicted on Christ than what we had deserved; nor could our sin be the impulsive cause of his death; nor could we have had any benefit thereby. And this may suffice to be added unto what was spoken before as to the nature of satisfaction, so far as the brevity of the discourse whereunto we are confined will bear, or the use whereunto it is designed does require.
Secondly. The nature of the doctrine contended for being declared and cleared, we may, in one or two instances, manifest how evidently it is revealed, and how fully it may be confirmed or vindicated. It is, then, in the Scripture declared, that „Christ died for us,” that he „died for our sins;” and that we are thereby delivered. This is the foundation of Christian religion as such. Without the faith and acknowledgment of it, we are not Christians. Neither is it, in these general terms, at all denied by the Socinians. It remains, therefore, that we consider, – 1. How this is revealed and affirmed in the Scripture; and, 2. What is the true meaning of the expressions: and propositions wherein it is revealed and affirmed; – for in them, as in sundry others, we affirm that the satisfaction pleaded for is contained.
1. Christ is said to die, to give himself, to be delivered, |G: huper hemoon|, etc., for us, for his sheep, for the life of the world, for sinners, John 6: 51, 10: 15; Rom. 5: 6; 2 Cor. 5: 14, 15; Gal. 2: 20; Heb. 2: 9. Moreover, he is said to die |G: huper hamartioon|, for sins, 1 Cor. 15: 3; Gal. 1: 4. The end whereof, everywhere expressed in the gospel, is, that we might be freed, delivered, and saved. These things, as was said, are agreed unto and acknowledged.
2. The meaning and importance, we say, of these expressions is, that Christ died in our room, place, or stead, undergoing the death or punishment which we should have undergone in the way and manner before declared. And this is the satisfaction we plead for. It remains, therefore, that from the Scripture, the nature of the things treated of, the proper signification and constant use of the expressions mentioned, the exemplification of them in the customs and usages of the nations of the world, we do evince and manifest that what we have laid down is the true and proper sense of the words wherein this revelation of Christ’s dying for us is expressed; so that they who deny Christ to have died for us in this sense do indeed deny that he properly died for us at all, – whatever benefits they grant that by his death we may obtain.
First. We may consider the use of this expression in the Scripture either indefinitely or in particular instances.
Only we must take this along with us, that dying for sins and transgressions, being added unto dying for sinners or persons, makes the substitution of one in the room and stead of another more evident than when the dying of one for another only is mentioned. For whereas all predicates are regulated by their subjects, and it is ridiculous to say that one dies in the stead of sins, the meaning can be no other but the bearing or answering of the sins of the sinner in whose stead any one dies. And this is, in the Scripture, declared to be the sense of that expression, as we shall see afterward. Let us, therefore, consider some instances: –
John 11: 50, The words of Caiaphas’ counsel are, |G: Sumferei hemin, hina heis anthroopos apothanei huper tou laou, kai me holon to ethnos apoletai| – „It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not:” which is expressed again, chap. 18: 14, |G: apolesthai huper tou laou|, „perish for the people.” Caiaphas feared that if Christ were spared, the people would be destroyed by the Romans. The way to free them, he thought, was by the destruction of Christ; him, therefore, he devoted to death, in lieu of the people. As he, –
„Unum pro multi dabitur caput;” –
„One head shall be given for many.” Not unlike the speech of Otho the emperor in Xiphilin, when he slew himself to preserve his army; for when they would have persuaded him to renew the war after the defeat of some of his forces, and offered to lay down their lives to secure him, he replied, that he would not, adding this reason, |G: Polu gar pou kai kreitton, kai dikaioteron estin, hena huper pantoon e pollous huper henos apolethai| – „It is far better, and more just, that one should perish or die for all, than that many should perish for one;” that is, one in the stead of many, that they may go free; or as another speaks, –
„|G: Exon pro pahtoon mian huperdounai thanein|” – Eurip.
„Let one be given up to die in the stead of all.”
John 13: 37, |G: ten psuchen mou huper sou thesoo|. They are the words of St. Peter unto Christ, „I will lay down my life for thee;” – „To free thee, I will expose my own head to danger, my life to death, – that thou mayest live, and I die.” It is plain that he intended the same thing with the celebrated |G: antipsuchoi| of old, who exposed their own lives |G: psuchen anti psuches| for one another. Such were Damon and Pythias, Orestes and Pylades, Nisus and Euryalus. Whence is that saying of Seneca, „Succurram perituro, set ut ipse non peream; nisi si futures era magni hominis, aut magnae rei merces;” – „I will relieve or succour one that is ready to perish; yet so as that I perish not myself, – unless thereby I be taken in lieu of some great man, or great matter;” – „For a great man, a man of great worth and usefulness, I could perish or die in his stead, that he might live and go free.”
We have a great example, also, of the importance of this expression in these words of David concerning Absalom, 2 Sam. 18:33, |H: mi-yiten muti ani tachteicha| – „Who will grant me to die, I for thee,” or in thy stead, „my son Absalom?” [Literal rendering of the Hebrew.] It was never doubted but that David wished that he had died in the stead of his son, and to have undergone the death which he did, to have preserved him alive. As to the same purpose, though in another sense, Mezentius in Virgil expresses himself, when his son Lausus, interposing between him and danger in battle, was slain Aeneas: –
„Tantane me tenuit vivendi, nate, voluptas,
Ut pro me hostile paterer succedere dextrae
Quem genui? tuane haec genitor per vulnera servor,
Morte tua vivens?” – Aen. 10. 846. „Hast thou, O son, fallen under the enemies’ hand in my stead? Am I saved by thy wounds? Do I live by thy death?”
And the word |H: tachat|, used by David, does signify, when applied unto persons, either a succession or a substitution; still the coming of one into the place and room of another. When one succeeded to another in government, it is expressed by that word, 2 Sam. 10: 1; 1 Kings 1: 35, 19: 16. In other cases it denotes a substitution. So Jehu tells his guard, that if any one of them let any of Baal’s priests escape, |H: nafsho tachat nafsho| – his life should go in the stead of the life that he had suffered to escape. And this answers unto |G: anti| in the Greek; which is also used in this matter, and ever denotes either equality, contrariety, or substitution. The two former senses can here have no place; the latter alone has. So it is said, that Archelaus reigned |G: anti Herodou tou patros outou|, Matt. 2: 22, – „in the room” or stead „of his father Herod.” So |G: ofthalmos anti ofthalmou, hodous anti hodontos|, Matt. 5: 38, is „an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” And this word also is used in expressing the death of Christ for us. He came |G: dounai ten psuchen hautou lutron anti polloon}, Matt. 20: 28, – „to give his life a ransom for many;” that is, in their stead to die. So the words are used again, Mark 10: 45. And both these notes of a succedaneous substitution are joined together, 1 Tim. 2: 6, |G: Ho dous heauton antilutron huper pantoon|. And this the Greeks call |G: tes psuchen priasthai|, – to buy any thing, to purchase or procure any thing, with the price of one’s life. So Tigranes in Xenophon, when Cyrus asked him what he would give or do for the liberty of his wife, whom he had taken prisoner, answered, |G: Kan tes psuches priaimen hooste latreusai tauten| – „I will purchase her liberty with my life,” or „the price of my soul.” Whereon the woman being freed, affirmed afterward, that she considered none in the company, but him who said, |G: hoos tes psuches an priaito hooste me me douleuein|, „that he would purchase my liberty with his own life,” [Cyrop. lib. iii.]
And these things are added on the occasion of the instances mentioned in the Scripture; whence it appears, that this expression of „dying for another” has no other sense or meaning, but only dying instead of another, undergoing the death that he should undergo, that he might go free. And in this matter of Christ’s dying for us, add that he so died for us as that he also died for our sins; that is, either to bear their punishment or to expiate their guilt (for other sense the words cannot admit); and he that pretends to give any other sense of them than that contended for, which implies the whole of what lies in the doctrine of satisfaction, „erit mihi magnus Apollo,” even he who was the author of all ambiguous oracles of old.
And this is the common sense of „mori pro alio,” and „pati pro aito,” or „pro alio discrimen capitis subire;” a substitution is still denoted by that expression: which suffices us in this whole cause, for we know both into whose room he came, and what they were to suffer. Thus Entellus, killing and sacrificing an ox to Eryx in the stead of Dares, whom he was ready to have slain, when he was taken from him, expresses himself, –
„Hanc tibia, Eryx, meliorem animam pro morte Daretis
Persolvo.” – Aen. v. 483. He offered the ox, a better sacrifice, in the stead of Dares, taken from him. So, –
„Fratrem Pollux alterna morte redemit.” – Aen. vi. 121. And they speak so not only with respect unto death, but wherever any thing of durance or suffering is intended. So the angry master in the comedian: –
„Verberibus caesum te in pistrinum, Dave, dedam usque ad necem;
Ea lege atque omine, ut, si te inde exemerim, ego pro te molam.” – Ter. And., i. 2, 28.
He threatened his servant, to cast him into prison, to be macerated to death with labour; and that with this engagement, that if he ever let him out, he would grind for him; – that is, in his stead. Wherefore, without offering violence to the common means of understanding things amongst men, another sense cannot be affixed to these words.
The nature of the thing itself will admit of no other exposition than that given unto it; and it has been manifoldly exemplified among the nations of the world. For suppose a man guilty of any crime, and on the account thereof to be exposed unto danger from God or man, in a way of justice, wrath, or vengeance, and when he is ready to be given up unto suffering according unto his demerit, another should tender himself to die for him, that he might be freed; let an appeal be made to the common reason and understandings of all men, whether the intention of this his dying for another be not, that he substitutes himself in his stead, to undergo what he should have done, however the translation of punishment from one to another may be brought about and asserted; for at present we treat not of the right, but of the fact, or the thing itself. And to deny this to be the case as to the sufferings of Christ, is, as far as I can understand, to subvert the whole gospel.
Moreover, as was said, this has been variously exemplified among the nations of the world; whose acting in such cases, because they excellently shadow out the general notion of the death of Christ for others, for sinners, and are appealed unto directly by the apostle to this purpose, Rom. 5: 7, 8, I shall in a few instances reflect upon.
Not to insist on the voluntary surrogations of private persons, one into the room of another, mutually to undergo dangers and death for one another, as before mentioned, I shall only remember some public transactions, in reference unto communities, in nations, cities, or armies. Nothing is more celebrated amongst the ancients than this, that when they supposed themselves in danger, from the anger and displeasure of their gods, by reason of any guilt or crimes among them, some one person should either devote himself or be devoted by the people, to die for them; and therein to be made, as it wets, an expiatory sacrifice. For where sin is the cause, and God is the object respected; the making of satisfaction by undergoing punishment, and expiating of sin by a propitiatory sacrifice, are but various expressions of the same thing. Now, those who so devoted themselves, as was said, to die in the stead of others, or to expiate their sins, and turn away the anger of God they feared, by their death, designed two things in what they did. First, That the evils which were impendent on the people, and feared, might fall on themselves, so that the people might go free. Secondly, That all good things which themselves desired, might be conferred on the people. Which things have a notable shadow in them of the great expiatory sacrifice, concerning which we treat, and expound the expressions wherein it is declared. The instance of the Decii is known; of whom the poet, –
„Plebeiae Deciornm animae, plebeian fuerunt
Nomina; pro totis legionibus Hi tamen, et pro
Omnibus auxiliis, atque omni plebe Latina,
Sufficiunt Diis infernis.”
The two Decii, father and son, in imminent dangers of the people, devoted themselves, at several times, unto death and destruction. And says he, „Sufficiunt Diis infernis,- „they satisfied for the whole people; adding the reason whence so it might be: –
„Pluris denim Decii quam qui servntur ab illis.” Juv., Sat. vii. 254-8
They were more to be valued than all that were saved by them. And the great historian does excellently describe both the actions and expectations of the one and the other in what they did. The father, when the Roman army, commanded by himself and Titus Manlius, was near a total ruin by the Latins, called for the public priest, and caused him, with the usual solemn ceremonies, to devote him to death for the deliverance and safety of the army; after which, making his requests to his gods, („dii quorum est potestas nostrorum hostiumque,”) „the gods that had power over them and their adversaries,” as he supposed, he cast himself into death by the swords of the enemy. „Conspectus ab utraque acie aliquanto augustior humano visu, sicut coelo missus piaculum omnis deorum irae, qui pestam ab suis aversam in hostes ferret;” – „He was looked on by both armies as one more august than a man, as one sent from heaven, to be a piacular sacrifice, to appease the anger of the gods, and to transfer destruction from their own army to the enemies,” Liv., Hist. viii. 9. His son, in like manner, in a great and dangerous battle against the Gauls and Samnites, wherein he commanded in chief, devoting himself, as his father had done, added unto the former solemn deprecations’: – „Prae se agere sese formidinem ac fugam, caedemque ac cruorem, coelestum, inferorum iras,” lib. x. 28; – „That he carried away before him, from those for whom he devoted himself, ‘fear and flight, slaughter and blood, the anger of the celestial and infernal gods.'” And as they did, in this devoting of themselves, design „averruncare malum, deum iras, lustrare populum, aut exercitum, piaculum fieri,” or |G: peripsema, anathema, apokatharma|, – „expiare crimina, scelus, raetum,” „or to remove all evil from others, by taking it on themselves in their stead; so also they thought they might, and intended in what they did, to covenant and contract for the good things they desired. So did these Decii; and so is Menoeceus reported to have done, when he devoted himself for the city of Thebes, in danger to be destroyed by the Argives. So Papinius Statius introduces him treating with his gods: –
„Armorum superi, tuque o qui funere tanto
Indulges mihi, Phoebe, mori, date gaudia Thebis,
Quae pepigi, et toto quae sanguine prodigus emi.” – [Theb. x. 757.]
He reckoned that he had not only repelled all death and danger from Thebes, by his own, but that he had purchased joy, in peace and liberty, for the people.
And where there was none in public calamities that did voluntarily devote themselves, the people were wont to take some obnoxious person, to make him execrable, and to lay on him, according to their superstition, all the wrath of their gods, and so give him up to destruction. Such the apostle alludes unto, Rom. 9: 3; 1 Cor. 4: 9, 13. So the Massilians were wont to expiate their city by taking a person devoted, imprecating on his head all the evil that the city was obnoxious unto, casting him into the sea with these words, |G: Peripsema hemoon genou| – „Be thou our expiatory sacrifice.” To which purpose were the solemn words that many used in their expiatory sacrifices, as Herodotus [lib ii. 39] testifies of the Egyptians, bringing their offerings. Says he, |G: Katapeontai de, tade legontes, teisi kefaleisin, ei ti melloi e sfisi toisi thuousi, e Aiguptooi tei sunapasei kakon genesthai es kefalen tauten trapesthai| – „They laid these imprecations on their heads, that if any evil were happening towards the sacrificer, or all Egypt, let it be all turned and laid on this devoted head.”
And the persons whom they thus dealt withal, and made execrate, were commonly of the vilest of the people, or such as had rendered themselves detestable by their own crimes; whence was the complaint of the mother of Menaeceus upon her son’s devoting himself: –
„Lustralemne feris, ego te puer inclyte Thebis, Devotumque caput, ilis seu mater alebam?” – [Statius, Theb. x. 788, 789.]
I have recounted these instances to evince the common intention, sense, and understanding of that expression, of one dying for another, and to manifest by examples what is the sense of mankind about any one’s being devoted and substituted in the room of others, to deliver them from death and danger; the consideration whereof, added to the constant use of the words mentioned in the Scripture, is sufficient to found and confirm this conclusion: –
„That whereas it is frequently affirmed in the Scripture, that ‘Christ died for us, and for our sins,’ etc., to deny that he died and suffered in our stead, undergoing the death whereunto we were obnoxcious, and the punishment due to our sins, is, – if we respect in what we say or believe the constant use of those words in the Scripture, the nature of the thing itself concerning which they are used, the uncontrolled use of that expression in all sorts of writers in expressing the same thing, with the instances and examples of its meaning and intention among the nations of the world, – to deny that he died for us at all.”
Neither will his dying for our good or advantage only, in what way or sense soever, answer or make good or true the assertion of his dying for us and our sins. And this is evident in the death of the apostles and martyrs. They all died for our good; our advantage and benefit was one end of their sufferings, in the will and appointment of God: and yet it cannot be said that they died for us, or our sins.
And if Christ died only for our good, though in a more effectual manner than they did, yet this alters not the kind of his dying for us; nor can he thence be said, properly, according to the only due sense of that expression, so to do.
I shall, in this brief and hasty discourse, add only one consideration more about the death of Christ, to confirm the truth pleaded for; it and that is, that he is said, in dying for sinners, „to bear their sins.”. Isa. 53: 11, „He shall bear their iniquities;” verse 12, „He bare the sin of many;” explained, verse 5, „He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him.” 1 Pet. 2: 24, „Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” etc.
This expression is purely sacred. It occurs not directly in other authors, though the sense of it in other words do frequently. They call it „luere peccata;” that is, „delictorum supplicium ferre,” – „to bear the punishment of sins.” The meaning, therefore, of this phrase of speech is to be taken from the Scripture alone, and principally from the Old Testament, where it is originally used; and from whence it is transferred into the New Testament, in the same sense, and no other. Let us consider some of the places: –
Isa. 53: 11, |H: awonotam hu yisbol|. The same word, |H: saval|, is used verse 4, |H: umach’oveinu svalam|, – „And our griefs, he has borne them.” The word signifies, properly, to bear a weight or a burden, as a man bears it on his shoulders, – „bajulo, porto.” And it is never used with respect unto sin, but openly and plainly it signifies the undergoing of the punishment due unto it. So it occurs directly to our purpose, Lam. 5: 7 |H: avoteinu chat’u einam anachnu awonoteihem savalnu| – „Our fathes have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities;” the punishment due to their sins. And why a new sense should be forged for these words when they are spoken concerning Christ, who can give a just reason?
Again; |H: nasa| is used to the same purpose, |H: wehu chet-rabim nasa| Isa. 53: 12, „And he bare the sin of many. |H: nasa| is often used with respect unto sin; sometimes with reference unto God’s acting about it, and sometimes with reference unto men’s concerns in it. In the first way, or when it denotes an act of God, it signifies to lift up, to take away or pardon sin; and leaves the word |H: awon|, wherewith it is joined under its first signification, of iniquity, or the guilt of sin, with respect unto punishment ensuing as its consequent; for God pardoning the guilt of sin, the removal of the punishment does necessarily ensue, guilt containing an obligation unto punishment. In the latter way, as it respects men or sinners, it constantly denotes the bearing of the punishment of sin, and gives that sense unto |H: awon|, with respect unto the guilt of sin as its cause. And hence arises the ambiguity of these words of Cain, Gen. 4: 13, |H: gadol awoni minso|. If |H: nasa| denotes an act of God, if the words be spoken with reference, in the first p]ace, to any acting of his towards Cain, |H: awon| retains the sense of iniquity, and the words are rightly rendered, „My sin is greater than to be forgiven.” If it respect Cain himself firstly, |H: awon| assumes the signification of punishment, and the words are to be rendered, „My punishment is greater than I can bear,” or „is to be borne by me.”
This, I say, is the constant sense of this expression, nor can any instance to the contrary be produced. Some may be mentioned in the confirmation of it. Numb. 19: 33, „Your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years,” |H: wenasu et-znuteichem| „and shall bear your whoredoms.” Verse 34, |H: tisu et-awonoteichem arba’im shanah| – „Ye shall bear your iniquities forty years;” that is, the punishment due to your whoredoms and iniquities, according to God’s providential dealings with them at that time. Lev. 19: 8, „He that eateth it |H: awono yisa| shall bear his iniquity. How? |H: nichretah hanefesh hahi| – „That soul shall be cut off.” To be cut off for sin by the punishment of it, and for its guilt, is to bear iniquity. So chap. 20: 16-18, for a man to bear his iniquity, and to be killed, slain, or put to death for it, are the same.
Ezek. 18: 20, |H: hanefesh hachotet hi tamoet ben lo-yisa ba’awon ha’av| – „The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the sin of the father.” To bear sin, and to die for sin, are the same. More instances might be added, all uniformly speaking the same sense of the words.
And as this sense is sufficiently, indeed invincibly, established by the invariable use of that expression in the Scripture so the manner whereby it is affirmed that the Lord Christ bare our iniquities, sets it absolutely free from all danger by opposition. For he bare our iniquities when |H: wa’adonai hifnia bo et awon kulanu| – „the LORD made to meet on him, or laid on him; the iniquity of us all,” Isa. 53: 6; which words the LXX render, |G: Kai Kurios paredooken auton tais hamartiais hemoon| – „The LORD gave him up, or delivered him unto our sins;” that is, to be punished for them, for other sense the words can have none. „He made him in sin for us,” 2 Cor. 5: 21. So „he bare our sins,” Isa. 53: 12. How? „In his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. 2: 24; that when he was, and in his being stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded bruised, slain, so was the chastisement of our peace upon him.
Wherefore, to deny that the Lord Christ, in his death and suffering for us, underwent the punishment due to our sins, what we had deserved, that we might be delivered, as it everts the great foundation of the gospel, so, by an open perverting of the plain words of the scripture, because not suited in their sense and importance to the sin imaginations of men, it gives no small countenance to infidelity and atheism.
THE SLAIN LAMB
By Milburn Cockrell
„And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (Rev. 5:6).
John wept because no man in Heaven could open the book of redemption and loose its seals (Rev. 5:1-4). Then one of the twenty-four elders said to him: „Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (Rev. 5:4-5).
John looked for a lion and saw a lamb. These are symbols of the same person–Jesus Christ. He is the lion in His mighty power; the Lamb in His gentleness of atoning sacrifice. By His sacrifice as a Lamb He became a Lion. He is One mighty to save and to claim the inheritance of the saints.
HIS FORM–„A LAMB”
There are symbols in the Book of Revelation. Chapter 1, verse 1, says: „The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” Note the words „signified it.” Two errors are made in studying the book. The first is to deny that it contains some symbols, for it surely does as Revelation 1:1 declares. The second is to make it so symbolic that the book is robbed of all truth.
„Lamb” is a symbol of Christ in the Book of Revelation. The word for „Lamb” in Revelation is (arnion–little or young lamb) differs from the word „Lamb” (amnos–sacrificial lamb) in the Gospel of John (John 1:29, 36) and in Peter’s epistle (I Pet. 1:19). Christ is called „Lamb” 28 times in the Book of Revelation.
In the eternal purpose of God Christ was „the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). In the decree of God Christ was appointed to redeem the elect by His blood. The Bible teaches blood redemption by Jesus Christ, God’s Lamb.
A lamb was used in the legal sacrifices of the Old Testament. The first sacrifice ever offered by a man was a lamb: „And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Gen. 4:4). God accepted the sacrifice of Abel because it was typical of the future sacrifice of Christ. A lamb was used in the Passover: „Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house” (Ex. 12:3). The pascal lamb was typical of the death of Christ as the Lamb of God. „For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7; cf. I Pet. 1:19). A lamb was used in the daily sacrifice of the tabernacle (Ex. 29:38-39) and other sacrifices (Num. 28:3, 9, 13).
Christ was called a Lamb in Old Testament prophecy. Speaking some 700 years before the birth of the Savior, the Prophet Isaiah said: „He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7; cf. Jer. 11:19). The New Testament commentary on this verse is found in Acts 8. „The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth” (Acts 8:32). When the eunuch asked Philip of whom the prophet spoke Acts 8:35 reads: „Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.”
John the Baptist, the son of a priest, called our Lord a sacrificial Lamb: „The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). „And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). John had seen other lambs furnished by men, but this One was provided by God. The words of Abraham were true when he said to Isaac: „My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). Jesus Christ told the Jews of His day: „Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).
Hence we must not marvel that when John had a vision of Christ he saw „a lamb.” This lamb is in contrast to all the wild beasts elsewhere mentioned in the Book of Revelation. When on earth Christ was as innocent and pure as a lamb; He was as inoffensive and harmless as a lamb. The Greek word of „lamb” in Revelation (arnion) means „a young lamb” or „little lamb” (Lev. 9:3). Such creatures were cherished by the Israelites and kept in the house as much loved pets (II Sam. 12:3-4). In a manner of speaking, men murdered the young pet Lamb of the family of God at Golgotha.
HIS MARKS–„AS IT HAD BEEN SLAIN”
Who were the murderers of this Lamb of God? A first degree murder charge was laid at the feet of the Jewish leaders in the first century. On the day of Pentecost Peter said: „Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22-23). Peter renewed this charge later: „But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; wherof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15). It is little wonder that the high priest said, „Did we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28). Hear Peter still once more in Acts 10:39: „And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree.” The death of Christ was by wicked hands, but it was the fulfillment of what God’s „hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 2:23; 4:28), and what the prophets had foretold (Acts 3:18).
According to Old Testament law, the sacrificial lamb had to be slain. This is why Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God „became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). This is why our Savior „endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). Our Lord „put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).
Greek scholars tell me in Revelation 5:6 it literally reads „as having been slain.” It might possibly be translated „with its throat cut.” The knife-wound was familiar to all who stood at an Israelitish altar and had seen a lamb die. In the vision John sees Christ in Heaven with the evidences that He had come by the way of the altar of sacrifice, had been dead and become alive by resurrection. This once slain Lamb, by whose blood the elect’s inheritance had been purchased, is seen with power to take and open the seven-sealed book.
This Lamb John saw in Heaven was covered with blood and had wounds upon it. Here we see Christ in Heaven with His atoning blood. He stands in the presence of His Father with His blood: „Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). This event was typified by the living bird who flew away to Heaven with the blood of the slain bird upon its wings (Lev. 14:51-53).
In the post-resurrection appearances Christ bore the marks of His death: „And when he had thus spoken, he shows them his hands and his feet” (Luke 24:40). „And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Our Lord told Thomas: „Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Today Christ, as He sits at the right hand of His Father in Heaven, still bears the marks of His death. When He returns to the Mount of Olives the remnant of Israel shall look on Him as the slain Lamb. „They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him” (Zech. 12:10; cf. 1:7).
Many preachers of this generation ridicule and make fun of the idea that Christ took His blood to Heaven–that He bears in His body for eternity His wounds–that He is the slain Lamb up in Heaven. According to them, John merely thought he saw a Lamb as it had been slain in Heaven. These people throw the typology of the Old Testament to the wind. They seem to have a problem with a memorial of the cross abiding in Heaven, and of it being owned and felt throughout eternity. I have no such problem.
Unlike them, I believe Christ is in Heaven bearing the marks and scars of His slaughter. I believe we need a constant sight of the slain Lamb. Christ in His sacrificial character is the most prominent object in the heavenly world. This should be the most prominent thing in our preaching on earth: „For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). God’s people in Heaven sing of the slain Lamb: „And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The elect on earth should sing of the slain Lamb. Revelation 5 concludes with all Heaven worshipping Christ because of redemption: „Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).
Some Greek scholars point out that in Revelation 5:6 the slain Lamb means „newly” or „lately slain” (See Chadwick and Gill). This declares the perpetual freshness of the offering of Jesus Christ before the throne of God. Here is the continual efficacy of the blood of Jesus to cleanse from all sin. I John 1:7 says: „And the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin.” „Cleanseth” is in a continuous tense. The efficacy of His precious blood is perpetually available to cleanse from every sin past, present and future. William Cowper saw this truth and crystallized it in that line of his hymn–
Dear dying Lamb
Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
After the ascension of Christ our Lord is often said to be sitting down. „So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). „. . .when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). But in Revelation 5:6 Christ is not seen sitting down. He is not merely seen slaughtered and dead, but raised again with sacrificial marks upon Him. He stands before the throne of the Father in all the vigor of His eternal life. The resurrection of Christ is not a fiction, but a fact. At present He sits with the Father upon the Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21) and at His Father’s right hand (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 8:1). In the vision John sees that Christ has vacated the throne and the right hand, and He stands ready to take His great power and act. Standing indicates a readiness for action.
We believe not in a dead Christ only. Our faith does not terminate at the garden tomb. We believe in a resurrected Redeemer, standing in Heaven full of energy. John sees Christ as He stands to take to Himself His rights, purchased by His death on the cross, about to usher in His reign. Christ is about to rid the world of its usurpers and to put down all false authority. „And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Rev. 5:7). His purpose in taking the seven-sealed book is to open it and to reveal its contents. The book contains the foreordained process by which our Lord will claim our inheritance for us. This is the revelation proper and covers the things from here to the end of the Book of Revelation.
HIS PLACE– „IN THE MIDST”
Christ stands in the midst of the company around the throne. This means in the middle or center. The center of attraction in Heaven is Jesus bleeding and dying in our room and stead. Christ is the center of heavenly worship. He is worshipped by men and angels as the slain Lamb. The memories of Calvary are treasured in Heaven.
The Holy Spirit seems to always put Jesus in the center place. In the before-time covenant He is in the bosom of the Father as the center of Divine affection (Prov. 8:30). At the age of 12 we find Him „in the temple, setting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking questions” (Luke 2:46). Speaking to His church Christ said: „For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). After the institution of the memorial supper we see Christ „in the midst of the church” (Heb. 2:12) singing a hymn. On the cross, a malefactor on each side, we see „Jesus in the midst” (John 19:18). Prior to His ascension into Heaven, „Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (Luke 24:36; cf. John 20:19, 26).
Some believe that Christ stood between the elders and the Father who sat on the throne. Here is the mediatorial work of our Lord. As the God man, He mediates between God and redeemed men. He is our go-between. „For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5; cf. Heb. 9:24; I John 2:1). The slain Lamb is a „daysman betwixt us” and God (Job 9:33).
The text concludes with the words: „. . .having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” In the Bible horns are a symbol of power. Daniel 7:24 declares: „And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise. . .” Kings are people with power. The little horn (Antichrist) in Daniel is seen to have great power (Dan. 7:24-25). In Daniel 8:20-21 Alexander the Great is symbolized by „the great horn.” The beast out of the sea (the Antichrist) has ten horns, and he has power over the nations on earth (Rev. 13:7). The power of Christ to save us in Luke 1:69 is called „an horn of salvation for us.” The seven horns on the Lamb are symbolic of power, and joined with the number seven it means complete and perfect power.
This can only be said of God, and Jesus Christ is God. Psalm 62:11 says: „God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.” There is no power in the entire universe save what God delegates. The slain Lamb did not acquire this power. Rather it belongs to Him inherently. His complete and perfect power is self-existent and self-sustained. No man nor angel can add to as much as a shadow of increase to the power of Jesus Christ.
The „seven eyes” are symbolic of omniscience. The language of Revelation 5:6 is reminiscent of Zechariah 4:10 which speaks of „the eyes of the LORD (Jehovah) which run to and fro through the whole earth.” In II Chronicles 16:9 it is written: „for the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” Proverbs 15:3 says: „the eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” In Revelation 5:6 omniscience is ascribed to Christ, showing Jesus is Jehovah and qualified to take the book of future events and explain it.
Liberals and cultists deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. They make the slain Lamb a mere man for the homage of the redeemed and the adoration of the angels. In contradiction of the prophets and apostles and Jesus Himself, they deny the Lamb was God in the flesh. But in Revelation 5:6 the slain Lamb is seen as Jehovah God.
1. The center of heavenly worship is the slain Lamb who is Jehovah-Jesus. Men and women on earth may doubt the divinity of Jesus Christ. They may preach against it and write books against it. But Heaven is not such a place of doubtful questions. The angels in Heaven and redeemed saints are certain the slain Lamb is Omnipotent and omniscient. The departed who are of the contrary mind are not seen in Heaven; they are in Hell!
2. A lamb is an approachable being. No one should fear to come to the Lamb of God who died for sinners. Have you come to Christ, weak and heavy laden with sin, for spiritual rest and refreshment? Have you received Him as your Savior?
3. One has so well written:
If you from sin are longing to be free,
Look to the Lamb of God;
He, to redeem you, died on Calvary,
Look to the Lamb of God.
A Dissertation Concerning The
Eternal Sonship Of Christ
by John Gill
(London: George Keith, 1768)
Thou hast given a standard to them that fear thee;
that it may be displayed because of the truth
— Psalm 60:4
SHEWING BY WHOM IT HAS BEEN DENIED AND OPPOSED,
AND BY WHOM ASSERTED AND DEFENDED
IN ALL AGES OF CHRISTIANITY.
THE eternal Sonship of Christ, or that he is the Son of God by eternal
generation, or that he was the Son of God before he was the son of Mary,
even from all eternity, which is denied by the Socinians, and others akin, to
them, was known by the saints under the Old Testament; by David,
Psalm 2:7, 12; by Solomon,
Proverbs 8:22, 30; by the prophet
2, verse 2. His Sonship was known by Daniel, from
whom it is probable Nebuchadnezzar had it,
Daniel 3:25, from which it
appears he was, and was known to be, the Son of God before he was born
of the virgin, or before his incarnation, and therefore not called so on that
account. This truth is written as with a sun-beam in the New Testament;
but my design in what I am about is, not to give the proof of this doctrine
from the sacred scriptures, but to shew who first set themselves against it,
and who have continued the opposition to it, more or less, to this time; and
on the other hand, to shew that sound and orthodox christians, from the
earliest times of christianity to the present, have asserted and defended it. I
shall begin with
I. The first century, in which the Evangelists and Apostles lived; what their
sentiments were concerning this doctrine, is abundantly manifest from their
writings. The persons in this age who opposed the divine and eternal Son-ship
of Christ were,
1st, Simon Magus, father of heresies, as he is justly called; he first vented
the notion afterwards imbibed by Sabellius, of one person in the Godhead;
to which he added this blasphemy, that he was that person that so is.
Before he professed himself a christian he gave out that he was some great
one; he afterwards said, he was the one God himself under different names,.3
the Father in Samaria, the Son in Judea, and the holy Spirit in the rest of
the nations of the world;
or as Austin
expresses it, he said that he in
mount Sinai gave the law to Moses for the Jews, in the person of the
father; and in the time of Tiberius, he seemingly appeared in the person of
the Son, and afterwards as the holy Ghost, came upon the apostles in
tongues of fire. And according to Jerom
he not only said, but wrote it;
for it seems, according to him, he wrote some volumes, in which he said, “I
am the Word of God, that is, the Son of God.” Menander his disciple took
the same characters and titles to himself his master did.
2dly, Cerinthus is the next, who was contemporary with the apostle John,
of whom that well known story is told,
that the apostle being about to
go into a bath at Ephesus, and seeing Cerinthus in it, said to those with
“Let us flee from hence, lest the bath fall upon us in which
Cerinthus, the enemy of truth is:”
he asserted that Christ was, only a man, denying his deity,
and in course
his divine and eternal Sonship; he denied that Jesus was born of a virgin,
which seemed to him impossible; and that he was the son of Joseph and
Mary, as other men are
of their parents. Jerom says,
at the request of
the bishops of Asia, John the apostle wrote his gospel against Cerinthus
and other heretics, and especially the tenets of the Ebionites, then rising up,
who asserted that Christ was not before Mary hence he was obliged plainly
to declare his divine generation; and it may be observed, that he is the only
sacred writer who in his gospel and epistles speaks of Christ as the
begotten and only begotten Son of God, at least speaks mostly of him as
3dly, Ebion. What his sentiment was concerning Christ, may be learned
from what has been just observed, about the apostle John’s writing his
gospel to refute it; and may be confirmed by what Eusebius
says of him,
that he held that Christ was a mere man, and born as other men are: and
though he makes mention of another sort of them, who did not deny that
Christ was born of a virgin, and of the Holy Ghost, nevertheless did not
own that he existed before, being God the Word and Wisdom. Hence
Photinus, Ebion, because of the sameness of their
principles, and Jerom
says. Photinus endeavoured to restore the heresy
of Ebion; now it is notorious that the notion of the Photinians was the
same with the Socinians now, who say, that Christ was not before Mary;.4
and so Alexander bishop of Alexandria
observes of Arius and his
followers, who denied the natural sonship and eternal generation of Christ,
that what they propagated were the heresy of Ebion and Artemas.
Besides the inspired writers, particularly the apostle John, who wrote his
gospel, as now observed, to confute the heresies of Ebion and Cerinthus,
and in vindication of the deity of Christ, and his divine and eternal
generation, there are very few writings if any in this century extant. There
is an epistle ascribed to Barnabas, cotemporary with the apostle Paul, in
which are these words,
having made mention of the brazen serpent as a
figure of Jesus, he adds,
“what said Aliases again to Jesus the son of Nave, putting this
name upon him, being a prophet, that only all the people might hear
that the Father hath made manifest all things concerning his Son
Jesus in the son of Nave, and he put this name upon him, when he
sent him to spy the land—because the Son of God in the last days
will cut up by the roots the house of Amalek: behold again Jesus,
not the son of man, but the Son of God, manifested in the flesh by a
type.—Likewise David said the Lord said to my Lord.—See how
David calls him Lord, and the Son of God:”
by which it appears that he believed that Christ was the Son of God before
he was manifested in the flesh or became incarnate; and that he was the
Son of God according to the divine nature, as well as the Son of David
according to the human nature, which he also expresses in the same
paragraph. And elsewhere he says,
“For this end the Son of God came in the flesh, that the full sum
might be made of the sins of those who persecuted the prophets,”
so that according to him Christ was the Son of God before he came in the
flesh or was incarnate.
Clemens Romanus was bishop of Rome in this century, and though the
book of Recognitions, ascribed to him, are judged spurious, yet there is an
epistle of his to the Corinthians
thought to be genuine: in which, after
speaking of Christ our Saviour, and the high priest of our oblations, and
the brightness of the magnificence of God, and of his haying a more
excellent name than the angels, observes, that the Lord thus says of his
own Son, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; thereby
declaring his belief, that Christ is the proper Son of God, and begotten by.5
him. Ignatius was bishop of Antioch in this century, after the first bishop of
that place Evodius, and was early in it, if any truth in these reports that he
was the child Christ took in his arms, when he rebuked his disciples; and
that he saw Christ after his resurrection; but though these are things not to
be depended on, yet it is certain that he lived in the latter end of the first
century, and suffered martyrdom in the beginning of the second. Several
epistles of his are extant, in which, as well as by words, he exhorted the
saints to beware of heresies then springing up among them, and abounding,
as Eusebius observes;
meaning the heresies of Ebion arid Cerinthus
about the person of Christ: and says many things which shew his belief, and
what was their error. In one of his epistles
he exhorts to decline from
some persons, as beasts, as ravenous dogs, biting secretly, and difficult of
cure; and adds,
“there is one physician, carnal and spiritual, begotten and
unbegotten. God made flesh, in a true and immortal life, who is
both of Mary and of God.”
In a larger epistle to the same,
thought by some to be interpolated,
though it expresses the same sentiment;
“our physician is alone the true God, the unbegotten and invisible
Lord of all, the Father and begetter of the only begotten one; we
have also a physician, or Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son
before the world, and the word, and at last man of the virgin
and afterwards in the same
epistle still more expressly,
“the Son of God, who was begotten before the world was, and
constitutes all things according to the will of the Father, he was
bore in the womb by Mary, according to the dispensation of God,
of the seed of David by the Holy Ghost.”
And a little farther,
“be ye all in grace by name, gathered together in one common faith
of God the Father, and of Jesus Christ his only begotten Son, and
the first-born of every creature: according to the flesh indeed of the
family of David: ye being guided by the Comforter.”.6
A plain account, as of the divine Sonship and Humanity of Christ, so of the
doctrine of the Trinity. In another epistle
of his, he speaks of Jesus
Christ, “who was with the Father before the world was, and in the end
appeared,” that is, in human nature in the end of the world; and exhorts all
“run to one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ,
who came forth from one Father, and being in him and returning to
And a little lower he adds,
“there is one God, who hath manifested himself by Jesus Christ his
Son, who is his eternal word.”
And father on he says,
“study to be established in the doctrines of the Lord, and of the
apostles, that whatsoever ye do may prosper, in flesh and spirit, in
faith and love, in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit.”
A full confession of the Trinity, one of the principal doctrines he would
have them be established in. All which is more fully expressed in the larger
to the same persons: speaking of Christ, he says,
“who was begotten by the Father before the world was; God the
Word, the only begotten Son, and who remains to the end of the
world, for of his kingdom there is no end.”
“there is one God omnipotent, who hath manifested himself by
Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word; not spoken, but essential,
not the voice of an articulate speech, but of a divine operation,
begotten substance, who in all things pleased him that sent him.”
And father on,
“but ye have a plerophory in Christ, who was begotten by the
Father before all worlds, afterwards made of the virgin Mary
without the conversation of men.”
And in the larger epistle
of his to other persons, he thus speaks of some
heretics of his time;.7
“they profess an unknown God, they think Christ is unbegotten, nor
will they own that there is an holy Spirit: some of them say the Son
is a mere man, and that the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit, are
the same:—beware of such, lest your souls be ensnared.”
And in an epistle to another people
“there is one unbegotten God the Father, and one only begotten
Son, God the Word and man, and one comforter the Spirit of
And in an epistle
ascribed unto him he has these words,
“there is one God and Father,—there is also one Son, God the
Word—and there is one comforter, the Spirit;—not three Fathers,
nor three Sons, nor three Comforters, but one Father, and one Son,
and one Comforter; therefore the Lord, when he sent his apostles to
teach all nations, commanded them to baptize in the name of the
Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; not in one of three
names, nor into three that are incarnate, but into three of equal
honour and glory.”
Lucian, that scoffing, blasphemous heathen, lived in the times of Trajan,
and before, as Suidas says, wrote a dialogue
in derision of the christian
religion, particularly of the doctrine of the Trinity: which dialogue, though
it is a scoff at that doctrine, is a testimony of it, as held by the christians of
that age; and among other things, he represents them as saying that Christ
is the eternal Son of the Father. I go on,
II. To the second century, in which the same heresies of Ebion and
Cerinthus were held and propagated by Carpocrates, the father of the
by Valentinus and Theodotus the currier, whose disciples
were another Theodotus a silversmith, and Asclepiodotus and. Artemon
also, according to Eusebius.
1st. Carpocrates was of Alexandria in Egypt, and lived in the beginning of
the second century: he and his followers held that Christ was only a man,
born of Joseph and Mary, of two parents, as other men,
only he had a
soul superior to others; which, having a strong memory, could remember,
and so could relate, what he had seen and had knowledge of, when in the
circumference (as they express it) and in conversation with his unknown
and unbegotten Father; and which was endowed with such powers, that he.8
escaped the angels, the makers of the world; and was so pure and holy,
that he despised the Jews, among whom he was brought up; and afterwards
returned to his unknown Father; his soul only, not his body.
seems to be something similar in this notion of the human soul of Christ, to
what is imbibed by some in our day.
2dly, Valentinus. He came to Rome when Hyginus was bishop of that
place, flourished under Pius, and lived till the time of Anicetus.
his followers held, that God the creator sent forth his own Son, but that he
was animal, and that his body descended from heaven, and passed through
the virgin Mary, as water through a pipe; and therefore, as Tertullian,
Valentinus used to say, that Christ was born by a virgin, but
not of a virgin. This is what divines call the heretical illapse; which yet
those disavow, who in our day are for the antiquity of the human nature of
Christ before the world was; though how he could be really and actually
man from eternity, and yet take flesh of the virgin in time, is not easy to
3dly. Artemon or Artemas who lived in the time of Victor bishop of Rome.
He held that Christ was a mere man
and pretended that the apostles and
all christians from their times to the times of Victor, held the same;
which nothing could be more notoriously false, as the writings as Justin,
Irenæus, &c shew: and’ it is said that by him, or by his followers, the
celebrated text in
1 John 5:7, was erased and left out in some copies.
4thly, Theodotus the currier held the same notion he did, that Christ was a
mere man; for which he was excommunicated by Victor bishop of Rome:
which shews the falsity of what Artemon said; for if Victor had been of the
same opinion, he would never have excommunicated Theodotus. Eusebius
says, this man was the father and broacher of this notion,
Artemon, that Christ was a mere man; and denied him to be God. Yea, that
he was not only a mere man, but born of the seed of man.
Tertullian says, that he held that Christ was only a man, but equally
conceived and born of the holy Ghost and the virgin Mary, yet inferior to
The contrary to these notions was asserted and maintained by those
apostolical men, not only Ignatius, who lived in the latter end of the
preceding century, and the beginning of this, as has been observed, but by
Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and others..9
1. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna a disciple and hearer of the apostle John,
used to stop his ears when be heard the impious speeches of the heretics of
his time. This venerable martyr, who had served his master Christ eighty
six years, when at: the stake, and the fire just about to be kindled upon
him, witnessed a good confession of the blessed Trinity in his last
moments, putting up the following prayer;
“O Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom
we have received the knowledge of thee; God of angels and of
powers, and every creature—I praise thee for all things; I bless
thee, I glorify thee, by the eternal high priest Jesus Christ thy
beloved Son, through whom, to thee with him in the holy spirit, be
glory, now and for ever, Amen.”
2. Justin, the philosopher and martyr, in his first apology
christians, has these words;
“The Father of all, being unbegotten, has no name—the Son of him,
who only is properly called a Son, the Word, begotten and existing
before the creatures (for at the beginning by him he created and
beautitied all things) is called Christ.”
And in his second apology he says,
“We profess to be atheists with respect to such who are thought to
be Gods, but not to the true God and Father of righteousness, etc.;
him, and his Son who comes from him, and has taught us these
things, and the prophetic Spirit, we adore and worship.”
Afterwards he speaks of the logos, or word, the first birth of God:” which,
says he, we say is begotten without mixture.” And again
“We speak that which is true, Jesus Christ alone is properly the Son
begotten by God, being his Word, and first-born, and power, and
by his will became man; these things he hath taught us.”
And in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, who is represented as objecting
“What thou sayest that this Christ existed God before the world,
and then was born, and became man, does not only seem to be a
paradox to me, but quite foolish.”.10
To which Justin replies,
“I know this seems a paradox, especially to those of your nation, —
but if I cannot demonstrate, that this is the Christ of God, and that
he pre-existed God, the Son of the maker of all things, and became
man by a virgin, in this only it would be just to say, that I am
mistaken, but not to deny that this is the Christ of God, though he
may seem to be begotten a man of men, and by choice made Christ,
as asserted by some: for there are some of our religion who profess
him to be Christ, but affirm that he is begotten a man of men; to
whom I do not assent, nor many who are in the same mind with
In which he plainly refers to the heretics before mentioned, who thought
that Christ was born of Joseph and Mary. And in another place, in the
same dialogue, he says,
“I will prove from scripture that God first begat of himself before
all creatures, a certain rational power, which is called by the holy
Spirit, the Glory of the Lord, sometimes the Son, sometimes
Wisdom, sometimes the Angel, sometimes God, sometimes the
Lord and the Word.”
And then, after observing there is something similar in the Word begetting
a Word without any rejection or diminution, and fire kindling fire without
lessening it, and abiding the same; he proceeds to give his proof from the
words of Solomon, Proverbs 8 where
“the word of wisdom testifies, that he is the God who is begotten
by the Father of all, who is the word and wisdom and the power
and the glory of him that generates.”
And then observes, that
“this is the birth produced by the Father, which co-existed with the
Father before all creatures, and with whom the Father familiarly
conversed, as the word by Solomon makes it manifest, that he the
beginning before all creatures is the birth begotten by God, which
by Solomon is called Wisdom.”
And in another place, in the same dialogue, on mention of the same words
in Proverbs he says,.11
“Ye must understand, ye hearers, if ye do but attend, the Word
declares that “this birth was begotten by the Father before all
creatures, and that which is begotten is numerically another from
him that begets.”
What can be more express for the eternal generation of the Son of God,
and that as a distinct person from his Father!
3.Irenaeus, a martyr, and bishop of Lyons in France, and a disciple of
Polycarp. He wrote five books against the heresies of Valentinus and the
Gnostics, which are still extant; out of which many testimonies might be
produced confirming the doctrine of the Trinity, and the deity of Christ. I
shall only transcribe two or three passages relating to the divine Sonship
and generation of Christ. In one place he says,
“Thou art not increated and man, nor didst thou always co-exist
with God, as his own word did, but through his eminent goodness,
hast now had a beginning of beings; thou sensibly learnest from the
word the dispositions of God who made thee; therefore observe the
order of thy knowledge, and lest, as ignorant of good things, thou
shouldest, transcend God himself”
“should any one say to us, how is the Son brought forth by the
Father? we reply to him, This bringing forth or generation, etc. or
by whatsoever name it is called; no man knows his existing
unspeakable generation; not Valentinus, not Marcion, not,
Saturninus, nor Basilides, nor angels, nor archangels, nor
principalities, nor powers, only the Father who hath generated, and
the Son that is generated; thererefore seeing his generation is
ineffable, whoever attempts to declare such productions and
generations (as the above heretics did) are not in their right minds,
promising to declare those things which cannot be declared.”
And elsewhere, he says,
“The Son, the Word and Wisdom, was always present with him
(God), and also the Spirit, by whom, and in whom, he made all
things freely and willingly; to whom he spake, saying, Let us make
And a little after, “that the Word, that is, the Son, was always with the
Father, we have abundant proof;” and then mentions
Proverbs 3:19 and
Proverbs 8:22, etc.
4. Athenagoras, who flourished at Athens, in the times of Antoninus and
Commodus, to which emperors he wrote an apology for the christians, in
which he has these words,
“Let not any think it ridiculous in me that I speak of God as having
a Son, for not as the poets fable, who make their Gods nothing
better than men, do we think either of God and the Father, or of the
Son; but the Son of God is the Word of the Father, in idea and
efficacy for of him, and him are all things made, seeing the Father
and the Son are one; so that the Son is in the Father, and the Father
is in the Son, by the union and power of the Spirit; the mind, and
word of the Father is the Son of God; now if any through the
sublimity of your understanding would look further and enquire
what the Son means, I will tell him in a few words, that he is the
first birth of the Father; not as made, for from the beginning, God
being the eternal mind, he had the word in himself (the logov, or
reason) being eternally rational, (that is, “never without his word
and wisdom) but as coming forth is the idea and energy of all
For which he produces as a proof
Proverbs 8:22 and then proceeds,
“Who therefore cannot wonder, to hear us called atheists, who
speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and the holy Spirit,
shewing their power in unity and their distinction in order?”
A little farther,
he strongly expresses the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity;
“We assert God and the Son his Word, and the holy Ghost, united
indeed according to power, the Father, the Son, the Spirit, for the
Mind, Word and Wisdom, is the Son of the Father, and the Spirit
an emanation, or influence, as light from fire.”
Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, flourished under the emperor Antoninus
Verus: in a treatise of his
he has these words concerning the Word and
Son of God,.13
“God having his logon endiaqeton, internal word within himself,
begat him, when he brought him forth with his wisdom before all
things; this word he used in working those things that were made
by him, and he made all things by him. — The prophets were not
when the world was made; but the wisdom of God, which is in him,
and the holy word of God, was always present with him;”
in proof of which he produces
Proverbs 8:27, And in another place,
speaking of the voice Adam heard, says,
“What else is the voice, but the word of God who is his Son? not as
the poets and writers of fables, who say, the sons of the gods are
born of copulation; but as the truth declares, the internal Word
being always in the heart of God, before any thing was made, him
he had as his counsellor, being his mind and prudence, when God
would do what he counselled, he begat the Word, and having
begotten the Word, the first-born of every creature, he always
conversed with his Word,”
for which he quotes
6. Clemens of Alexandria, flourished under the emperors Severus and
Caracalla, towards the latter end of the second century, he bears a plain
testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity, concluding one of his treatises
“Let us give thanks, praising the only Father and the Son, both
teachers, with the holy Spirit, in which are all things, in whom are
all things, and by whom all are one, — to whom “be glory now and
for ever, Amen”
of Cbrist the perfect word, as born of the perfect Father; and
of the Son of God,
“that he never goes out of his watchtower, who is not divided nor
dissecated, nor passes from place to place, but is always every
where, is contained no where, all mind, all paternal light, all eye;
who sees all things, hears all things knows all things by his power,
searches powers, and to whom the whole militia of angels and gods
(magistrates) is subject. — This is the Son of God, the Savior and
Lord whom we speak of, and the divine prophecies shew.”.14
A little after he speaks of him as,
“begotten without beginning, that is, eternally begotten, and who,
before the foundation of the world, was the Father’s counsellor,
that wisdom in whom the almighty God delighted; for Son is the
power of God; who before all things were made, was the most
ancient word of the Father. — Every operation of the Lord has a
reference to the almighty; and the Son is, as I may say, a certain
energy of the Father.”
This ancient writer frequently attacks and refutes the Carpocratians,
Valentinians, and Gnostics, and other heretics of this and the preceding
age. I proceed,
III. To the third century, The heresies which sprung up in this age
respecting the Person, Sonship, and Deity of Christ, were those of
Berullus, who revived that of Artemon, and of the Noetians or Sabellians,
sometimes called Patripassians, and of the Samosatenians.
1st, Beryllus, bishop of Bostra in Arctia, who for some time behaved well
in his office, as Jerom says,
but at length fell into this notion, that Christ
was not before his incarnation; or as Eusebius
expresses it, that our
Lord and Savior did not subsist in his own substance before he sojourned
among men, and had no deity of his own residing in him, but his Father’s;
but through disputations he had with several bishops and particularly with
Origen, he was recovered from his error and restored to the truth.
2. The Noetians, so called from Noctus, and afterwards Sabellians, from
Sabellius, a disciple of the former; those held that Father, Son, and Spirit,
are one person under these different names. The foundation of their heresy
was laid by Simon Magus, as before observed. They were sometimes called
Praxeans and Hermogeniaus, from Praxeus and Hermogenes, the first
authors of it, who embraced the same notions in this period, and sometimes
Patripassians, because, in consequence of this principle, they held that the
Father might be said to suffer as the Son.
3. The Samosatenians, so called from Paul of Samosate, bishop of Antioch,
who revived the heresy of Artemo, that Christ was a mere man. He held
that Christ was no other than a common man; he refused to own that he
was the Son of God, come from heaven; he denied that the only begotten
Son and Word was God of God: he agreed with the Noetians and.15
Sabellians, that there was lint one person in the Godhead;
notions he was convicted, and for them condemned by the synod at
The writers of this age are but few, whose writings have been continued
and transmitted to us; but those we have, strongly opposed the errors now
mentioned; the chief are Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian, besides in some
fragments of others.
1. Tertullian, He wrote against Praxeus, who held the same notion that
Noctus and Sabellius did, in which work he not only expresses his firm
belief of the Trinity in Unity, saying;
“nevertheless the oeconomy is preserved, which disposes Unity into
Trinity, three, not in state or nature, essence) but in degree (or
person) not in substance but in form, not in power but in species, of
one substance, of one state, and of one power, because but one
God, from whom these degrees, forms and species are deputed,
under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy
And that he means three distinct persons, is clear from what he afterwards
“whatsoever therefore was the substance of the Word, that I call a
person, and to him I give the name of Son; and whilst I
acknowledge a Son, I defend a second from the Father.”
The distinction of the Father and Son from each other, and the eternal
generation of the one from the other, are fully expressed by him
“this rule as professed by me, is every where held; by which I
testify, the Father, Son, and Spirit are inseparable from each other;
— for lo, I say, another is the Father, and another is the Son, and
another is the holy Spirit; — not that the Son is another from the
Father, by diversity, but by distribution; not another by division, but
by distinction: — another is he that generates, and another he that
is generated: — a “Father must needs have Son that he may be a
Father, and the Son a Father that he may be a Son.”.16
And again, he explains the words in
Proverbs 8:22. (The Lord
possessed me) of the generation of the Son; and on the clause, when he
prepared the heavens, I was with him, he remarks,
“thereby making himself equal to him, by proceeding from whom
he became the Son and first born, as being begotten before all
things; and the only begotten, as being alone begotten of God.”
On these words, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, he
“If you would have me believe that he is both Father and Son, shew
me such a passage elsewhere, The Lord said unto himself, I am my
Son, this day have I begotten my self.”
And in another work
of his, he has these words, speaking of the Word,
“this we learn is brought forth from God, and by being brought
forth generated, and therefore called the Son of God, and God,
from the unity of substance; — so that what comes from God, is
God, and the Son of God, and both one:”
that is, one God.
2. Origen. Notwithstanding his many errors, he is very express for the
doctrine of the Trinity, and the distinction of the Father and Son in it, and
of the eternal generation of the Son: he observes
of the Seraphim, in
Isaiah 6:3 that by saying,
“Holy, holy, holy, they preserve the mystery of the Trinity; that it
was not enough for them to cry holy once nor twice, but they take
up the perfect number of the Trinity, that they might manifest the
multitude of the holiness of God, which is the repeated community
of the trine holiness, the holiness of the Father, the holiness of the
only begotten Son, and of the holy Spirit.”
allegorizing the show-bread, and the two tenth deals in
one cake, he asks, how two tenths become one lump? because, says he,
“we do not separate the Son from the Father, nor the Father from
John 14:9 therefore each loaf is of two tenths, and set
in two positions, that is in two rows, for if there was one position,
it would be confused, and the Word would be mixed of the Father.17
and the Son, but now indeed it is but one bread for them is one will
and one substance; but there are two posifions; that is, two
proprieties of persons (or proper persons for we call him, the
Father who is not the Son: and him the the Son who is not the
Of the generation of the Son of God he thus speaks,
“Jesus Christ himself, who is come, was begotten of the Father
before every creature was.”
“it is abominable and unlawful to equal God the Father in the
generation of his only begotten Son, and in his substance, to any
one, men or other kind of animals: but there must needs be some
exception, and something worthy of God, to which there can be, no
comparison, not in things only, but indeed not in thought: nor can it
be found by sense, nor can the human thought apprehend, how the
unbegotten God is the Father of the only begotten Son: for
generation is eternal, as brightness is generated from light, for he is
not a Son by adoption of the Spirit extrinsically, but he is a Son by
3. Cyprian. Little is to be met with in his writings on this subject. The
following is the most remarkable and particular;
“the voice of the Father was heard from heaven, This is my beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased hear ye him; — that this voice
came from thy paternity, there is none that doubts; there is none
who dares to arrogate this word to himself; there is none among the
heavenly troops who dare call the Lord Jesus his Son. Certainly to
thee only the Trinity is known, the Father only knows the Son, and
the Son knows the Father, neither is he known by any unless he
reveals him; in, the school of “divine teaching, the Father is he that
teaches and, instructs, “the Son who reveals and opens the secrets
of God unto us, and the holy Spirit who fits and furnishes us; from
the Father we receive power, from the Son wisdom, and from the
holy Spirit innocence. The Father chooses, the Son loves, the holy
Spirit joins and unites; from the Father is given us eternity, from the
Son conformity to him his image, and from the holy spirit integrity
and liberty; in the Father we are, in the Son we live, in the holy.18
Spirit we are moved, and become proficients; eternal deity and
temporal humanity meet together, and by the tenor of both natures
is made an unity, that it is impossible that what is joined should be
separated from one another.”
As for the Exposition of the Creed, which stands among Cyprian’s works,
and is sometimes attributed to him, it was done by Ruffinus, and the
testimonies from thence will be produced in the proper place.
4. Gregory of Neocaesarea, sometimes called Thaumaturgus, the wonder-worker,
lived in this century, to whom is ascribed
confession of faith;
“One God, the Father of the living Word, of subsisting wisdom and
power, and of the eternal character, perfect begetter of the perfect
One, Father of the only begotten Son: and God the Son, who is
through all. The perfect Trinity, which in glory eternity and
kingdom, cannot be divided • nor alienated. Not therefore anything
created or servile is in the Trinity, nor any thing superinduced, nor
first and last; nor did the Son ever want a Father, nor the Son a
Spirit: but the Trinity is always the same, immutable and
And among his twelve articles of faith, with an anathema annexed to them,
this is one:
“If any one says, another is the Son who was before the world, and
another who was an the last times, and does not confess, that he
who was before the world, and he who was in the last times, is the
same, as it is written, let him be anathema.”
The interpolation follows; how can it be said, another is the Son of God
before the world was, and another in the last days, when the Lord says,
before Abraham was, I am; and because I came forth from the Father, and
am come; and again, I go to my Father?”
5. Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, was a disciple of Origen: he wrote
against the Sabellians,
but none, of his writings are extant, only some
fragments preserved in other authors. And whereas Arius made use of
some passages of his, and improved them in favor of his own notions,
Athanasius from him shows the contrary, as where in one of his volumes
he expressly says,
“there never was a time in which God was not a Father; and in the
following acknowledges, that Christ the Word, Wisdom and Power,
always was; that he is the eternal Son of the eternal Father; for if
there is a Father, there must be a Son; and if there was no Son, how
could he be the Father of any? but there are both, and always were.
The Son alone always co-existed with the Father. God the Father
always was; and the Father being eternal, the Son also is eternal,
and co-existed with him as brightness with light.” And in answer to
another objection, made against him, that when he mentioned the
Father, he said nothing of the Son; and when he named the Son,
said nothing of, the Father; it is observed,
that in another volume
of his; he says, that each of these names spoken of by me; are
inseparable and indivisible from one another; when I speak of the
Father, and before I introduce the Son, I signify him in the Father;
when I introduce the Son; though I have not before spoken of the
Father, he is always to be understood in the Son.”
6. The errors of Paulus Samosate were condemned by the synod at
Antioch, towards the latter end of this century, by whom
a formula or
confession of faith was agreed to, in which are these words.
“We profess that our Lord Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father
before ages, according to the Spirit, and in the last days, born of a
virgin, according to the flesh.”
The word omousiov, consubstantial, is used in their creed. Towards the
close of this century, and at the beginning of the next, lived Lactantius, (for
he lived under Dioclesian, and to the times of Constantine) who asserts,
that God, the maker of all things, begat
“a Spirit holy, incorruptible, and irreprehensible, whom he called
“how hath he procreated? The divine works can neither be known
nor declared by any; nevertheless the scriptures teach, that the Son
of God is the Word of God.”
Nothing more is to be observed in this century. I pass on,.20
IV. To the fourth century, in which rose up the:Arians and Photinians, and
others, 1st, The Arians, so called from Arius, a presbyter of the church at
Alexandria, in the beginning of this century, who took occasion from some
words dropped in disputation by Alexander his bishop, to oppose him, and
start the heresy that goes under his name; and though the eternal Sonship
of Christ was virtually denied by preceding heretics, who affirmed that
Christ did not exist before Mary; in opposition to whom the orthodox
affirmed, that he was begotten, of the Father before all worlds; yet Arius
was, the first, who pretended to acknowledge the Trinity, that actually and
in express words set. himself to oppose the eternal Sonship of Christ by
generation; and argued much in the same manner as those do, who oppose
it now: for being a man who had a good share of knowledge of the art of
logic, as the historian observes,
he reasoned thus:
“If the Father begat the Son, he that is begotten, must have a
beginning of his existence, from whence it is manifest, that there
was a time when the Son was not; and therefore it necessarily
follows, that he had his subsistence from things that are not;”
or was brought out of a state of non existence into a state of existence. He
understood generated in no other sense than of being created or made; and
asserted, that he was created by God before time, and was the first
creature, and by which he made all others; in proof of which he urged
Proverbs 8:22 taking the advantage of the Greek version, which,
instead of possessed me, reads created me the beginning of his ways. His
sentiments will more fully appear from his own words in his epistles to
Eusebius of Nicomedia, and to his own bishop, Alexander of Alexandria;
in his letter to the former, he says,
“Our sentimemts and doctrines are, that the Son is not unbegotten,
nor a part of the unbegotten in any manner, nor out of any subject
matter, but that by will and counsel he subsisted before times and
ages, perfect God, the only begotten, immutable; and that before he
was begotten or created, or decreed or established, he was not, for
he was not unbegotten; we are persecuted because we say, the Son
had a beginning, but God is without beginning: for this we are
persecuted, and because we say, that he is of things that did not
exist (that is, out of nothing;) so we say, that he is not a part of
God, nor out of any subject-matter; and for this we are
And in his letter to his bishop, he thus expresses himself,
“We acknowledge one God, the only unbegotten; — that this God
begat the only begotten Son before time, by whom he made the
world, and the rest of things; that he begot him not in appearence,
but in reality; and that by his will he subsisted, immutable and
unalterable, a perfect creature, but as one of the creatures, a birth,
but as one of the births — We say, that he was created before times
and ages, by the will of God, and received his life and being from
the Father; so that the Father together appointed glories for him; —
The Son without time was begotten by the Father, and was created
and established before the world was; he was not before he was
begotten, but without time was begotten before all things, and
subsisted alone from the alone Father; neither is eternal nor co
eternal, nor co-unbegotten with the Father, nor had he a being
together with the Father.”
What he held is also manifest from his creed,
which he delivered in the
“I believe in one eternal God, and in his Son whom he created
before the world, and as God he made the Son, and all the Son has,
he has not (of himself,) he receives from God, and therefore the
Son is not equal to, and of the same dignity with the Father, but
comes short of the glory of God, as a workmanship; and in less
than the power of God. I believe in the holy Ghost, who is made by
The Arians were sometimes called Aetians, from Aetius, a warm defender
of the doctrine of Arius, and who stumbled at the same thing that Arius
did; for he could not understand, the historian says,
how that which is
begotten could be co-eternal with him that begets; but when Arias
dissembled and signed that form of doctrine in the Nicene Synod, Aetius
took the opportunity of breaking off from the Arians, and of setting up a
distinct sect, and himself at the head of them. These were after called
Eunomians, from Eunomius, a disciple of Aetius; he is said
to add to and
to exceed the blasphemy of Arias; he with great boldness renewed the
heresy of Aetius, who not only after Arius asserted that the Son was
created out of nothing, but that he was unlike to the Father.
followers of these men were called Anomcoeans. There was another sect
called Nativitarians, who were a sucker or branch that sprung from the.22
Eunomians, and refined upon them; these held that the Son had his nativity
of the Father, and the beginning of it from time; yet being willing to
own:that he was co-eternal with the Father, thought that he was with him
before he was begotten of him, that is, that he always was, but not always a
Son, but that he began to be a Son from the time he was begotten There is
a near approach to the sentiments of these in some of our days.
The Arians were also called Macedonians, from Macedonius a violent
persecutor of the orthodox, called Homoousians,”
who believed that the
Son is of the same substance with the Father; but this man afterwards
becoming bishop of Constantinople, refused to call him a creature, whom
the holy scripture calls the Son; and therefore the Arians rejected him, and
he became the author and patron of his own sect; he denied the Son was
consubstantial with the Father, but taught, that in all things he was like to
him that begat him, and in express words called the Spirit a creature,
and the denial of the deity of the holy Spirit is the distinguishing tenet of
2dly, The Photinians rose up much about the same time the Arians did, for
they are made mention of in the council of Nice, but their opinions differ
from the Arians. These were sometimes called Marcellians, from
Marcellius of Ancyra, whose disciple Photinus was, and from him named
Photinians. He was bishop of Syrmium; his notions were the same with
Ebion, and Paul of Samosate, that Christ was a mere man, and was only of
Mary; he would not admit of the generation and existence of Christ before
the world was.
His followers were much the same with our modern
Socinians, and who are sometimes called by the same name. According to
the Photinians, and so the Cerinthians, Ebionites, and
Samosatenians before them, as they held that Christ was a mere man, and
took his beginning from Mary, so that he only obtained the honor of deity
above others by, the merit of his blessed life; that he was, like other men,
the Son of God by the Spirit of adoption, and by grace born of him, and by
some likeness to God is in Scripture called God, not by nature, but by
some participation of divine goodness.
These heresies were condemned by the several councils and synods held on
account of them, and were refuted by various sound and valuable writers
who lived in this century: to produce all their testimonies would be endless:
I shall only take notice of a few, and particularly such as respect the
Sonship of Christ..23
1. The tenets of Arius were condemned by the council held at Nice in
Bythinia, consisting of three hundred and eighteen bishops, by whom was
composed the following creed or agreement of faith, as the historian calls
“We believe in one God the Father Almighty, the maker of all
things, visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son
of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father, that is, out of the
substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true
God; begotten not made, consubstantial (or of the same essence)
with the Father, by whom all things are made which are in heaven
and in earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, descended and
became incarnate, and was made man and suffered, and rose again
the third day; ascended up into heaven, and will come to judge the
quick and the dead. And we believe in the holy Spirit. As for those
that say, there was a time when the Son of God was not, and before
he was begotten was not, and that he was made of what does not
exist (out of nothing), and say, he was from another substance, or
essence, or created, or turned, or changed; the holy catholic and
apostolic church anathematises.”
2. Athanasius was a famous champion for the doctrines of the Trinity, the
proper Sonship of Christ, and his eternal generation; to produce all the
testimonies from him that might be produced in proof of those doctrines,
would be to transcribe a great part of his writings; it may be sufficient to
give his creed; not that which is commonly called the Athanasian creed,
which, whether penned by him is a doubt, but that which stands in his
works, and was delivered by him in a personal disputation with Arius, and
is as follows; which he calls an epitome of his faith.
“I believe in one God the Father, the almighty, being always God
the Father; and I believe in God the Word, the only begotten Son of
God, that he co-existed with his own Father; that he is the equal
Son of the Father, and that he is the Son of God; of the same
dignity; that he is always with his Father by his deity, and that he
contains all things in his essence; but the Son of God is not
contained by any, even as God his Father: and I believe in the holy
Ghost, that he is of the essence of the Father, and that the holy
Spirit is co-eternal with the Father and with the Son. The Word, I
say, was made flesh.”.24
After this I would only just observe, that Athanasius having said that the
Son was without beginning and eternally begotten of the Father, farther
that he was begotten ineffably and inconceivably; and elsewhere he
“it is superfluous or rather full of madness to call in question, and in
an heretical manner to ask, how can the Son be eternal? or, how
can he be of the substance (or essence) of the Father, and not be a
part of him?” And a little farther, “it is unbecoming to enquire how
the Word is of God, or how he is the brightness of God, or how
God begets, and what is the mode of the generation of God: he
must be a madman that will attempt such things, since the thing is
ineffable, and proper to the nature of God only, this is only known
to himself and his Son.”
3. Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, whom Arius opposed, and should
have been mentioned first, in an epistle of his to Alexander, bishop of
acquaints him with the opinion of Arius, that there was
a time when the Son of God wits not, and he that was not before,
afterwards existed, and such was he made, when he was made as every
man is; and that the Son of God is out of things that are not, or out of
nothing; he observes to him, that what was his faith and the faith of others,
was the faith of the apostolic church:
“We believe in one unbegotten Father, — and in one Lord Jesus
Christ, the only begotten Son of God; not begotten out of that
which is not, but from the Father; that exists, not in a corporal
manner by incision, or defluctions of divisions, as seemed to
Sabeilius and Valentinus, but in a manner ineffable and
4. Epiphanius wrote a volume against all heresies, and attempts a
confutation of them: and with respect to the Arian heresy, he thus writes;
“God existing incomprehensible, has begat him that is
incomprehensible, before all ages and times, and there is no space
between the Son and the Father, but as soon as you understand a
Father, you understand a Son, and as soon as you name a Father
you shew a Son; the Son is understood by the Father, and the
Father is known by the Son; whence a Son, if he has not a Father?.25
and whence a Father, it he has not begat an only begotten Son? for
when is it the Father cannot be called a Father, or the Son, a Son?
Though some think of a Father without a Son, who afterwards
comes to a proficiency and begets a Son, and so after the birth is
called the Father of that Son: the Father who is perfect, and never
wants perfection, making a progress or proficiency in the deity.”
5. Hilary, bishop of Poictiers in France, wrote against the Arians, and says
many things in opposition to their tenets, concerning the Sonship of Christ,
and his eternal generation; among others, he says
“the unbegotten begot a Son of himself before all time, not from
any subjacent matter, for all things are by the Son, nor out of
nothing, for the Son is from him himself. — He begot the only
begotten in an incomprehensible and unspeakable manner, before all
time and ages, of that which is unbegotten, and so of the
unbegotten, perfect and eternal Father, is the only begotten, perfect
and eternal Son.”
6. Faustinus the presbyter, wrote a treatise against the Arians; who
observes, that they sometimes use the same words and phrases the
orthodox do, but not in the same sense; they speak of God the Father and
of God the Son, but when they speak of the Father, it is not of one who
truly begets, and when they speak of the Son, it is of him as a Son by
adoption, not by nature; and when they speak of him as a Son begotten
before the world was, they attribute a beginning to him, and that there was
a time when he was not; and so they assert him to he of things not existent,
that is, of nothing. He asks,
“How is he truly a Father, who, according to them, does not beget
(truly)? and how is Christ truly a Son, whom they deny to be
generated of him?”
“How is he the only begotten of the Father, since he cannot be the
only begotten, other Sons existing by adoption? but if he is truly the
only begotten by the Father, therefore because he only is truly
generated of the Father.”
“They say God made himself a Son; if he made him out of nothing,
then is he a creature, and not a Son. What is he that you call a Son,
whom you confirm to be a creature, since you say he is made out of
nothing? therefore you cannot call him both a Son and a creature;
for a Son is from birth, a creature from being made.”
“In this alone the Father differs from the Son, that the one is a
Father, the other a Son; that is the one begets and the other is
begotten; yet not because he is begotten has he any thing less than
what is in God the Father.”
God alone is properly a true Father, who is a Father without
beginning and end, for he did not sometime begin: he is a Father,
but he was always a Father, having always a Son begotten of him,
as he is ahvays the true God, continuing without beginning and
7. Gregory, bishop of Nazianzum, gives many testimonies to the doctrines
of the Trinity and of the Sonship and generation of Christ, against the
Arians and Eunomians: among which are the following:
“We ought, says he,
to acknowledge one God the Father,
without beginning and unbegotten; and one Son, begotten of the
Father; and one Spirit, having subsistence from God, yielding to the
Father, because he is unbegotten, and to the Son, because he is
begotten; otherwise of the same nature, dignity, honor and glory.”
And elsewhere he says,
“If you ask me, I will answer you again, When was the Son
begotten? When the Father was not begotten. When did the Spirit
proceed? When the Son did not proceed, but was begotten before
time, and beyond expression. — How can it be proved, that they
(the Son and Spirit) are, co-eternal with the Father? From hence,
because they are of him, and not after him, for what is without
beginning is eternal.”
And then he goes on to answer the several objections made to the
generation of the Son by the Eunomians. Again he says,
“Believe the Son of God, the word that was before all ages
begotten of the Father before time, and in an incorporeal manner;
the same in the last clays made the Son of man for thy sake, coming
forth from the virgin Mary in an unspeakable manner.”
And elsewhere he says,
“Do you hear of generation? do not curiously enquire how it is. Do
you hear that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father? do not be
anxiously solicitous how it is: for if you curiously search into the
generation of the Son, and the procession of the Spirit, I shall
curiously enquire into the temperament of the soul and body, how
thou art dust, and yet the image of God? How the mind remains in
thee, and begets a word in another mind?”
8. Basil, called the great archbishop of Caesarea Cappadocia, wrote a
treatise against Eunomius, in which he says,
“As there is one God the Father always remaining the Father, and
who is for ever what he is; so there is one Son, born by an eternal
generation, who is the true Son of God, who always is what he is,
God the Word and Lord; and one holy Spirit, truly the holy Spirit.”
“Why therefore, O incredulous man, who dost not believe that God
has an own Son, dost thou enquire how God begets? if truly thou
askest of God how and where also, as in a place and when as in
time; which, if absurd to ask such things concerning God, it will be
more abominable not to believe.”
And a little after he says,
“If God made all out of nothing by his will, without labor, and that
is not incredible to us; it will certainly be more credible to all, that
it; became God to beget an own Son of himself, in the divine
nature, without passion, of equal honor, and of equal glory, a
counsellor of the same seat, a co-operator consubstantial with God
the Father; not of a divers substance, nor alien from his sole deity;
for if he is not so, neither is he adorable, for it is written thou shall
not worship a strange God.”.28
9. Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, the brother of Basil, wrote against Eunomius,
in which we have this passage.
“He (Eunomius) does say, that he (the Son) was truly begotten
before the world. Let him say of whom he was begotten: he must
say of the Father entirely, if he is not ashamed of the truth; but from
the eternal Father there is no separating the eternity of the Son; the
word Father “contains a Son.”
10. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, after having said many things in opposition
to Arius, Sabellius, Phontius, and Eunomius, observes, that
“when you speak of a Father, you also design his Son, for no man is
a father to himself; and when you name a son, you confess his
father, for no man is a son to himself; therefore neither the son can
lie without the father, nor the father without the son; therefore
always a father and always a son.”
He has also these words:
“You ask me, how he can be a son if he has not a prior father? I ask
of you also, when or how you think the Son is generated? for to me
it is impossible to know the secret of generation; the mind fails, the
voice is silent; and not mine only, but that of the angels; it is above
angels, above powers, above cherubim, above seraphim, and above
all understanding, if the peace of Christ is above all understanding,
Philippians 4:7 must not such a generation be above all
And in another place,
“God the Father begat the Word co-eternal with himself and co-omnipotent,
with whom he produced the holy Spirit; hence we
believe that the substance of the Son and of the holy Spirit existed
before any creature, out of all time; that the Father is the begetter,
the Son is begotten, and the holy Spirit the holiness and the Spirit
of the begetter and the begotten.”
11. Jerom the presbyter, and a noted writer in this century, speaking of the
“Let them understand, that they glory in vain of the testimony in
which Wisdom speaks of being created in the beginning of the ways.29
of God, and begotten and established; for it, according to them, he
was created, he could not be begotten or born: if begotten or born,
how could he be established and created?”
And a little after he says “God, the
“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a Father according to substance
(or essence,) and the only begotten is not a Son. by adoption, but
by nature; whatsoever we say of the Father and the Son, this we
know is said of the holy Spirit.”
Here the creed of Damasus might be taken notice of, in which he says,
“God has begot a Son, not by will nor by necessity, but by nature;”
and in the explanation of it, it is said,
“Not because we say the Son is begotten of the Father by a divine
and ineffable generation, do we ascribe any time to him, for neither
the Father nor the Son began to be at any time; nor do we any
otherwise confess an eternal Father, but we also confess a co-eternal
Also Ruffinus’s exposition of the apostles creed, which stands among
“when you hear of a Father, understand the Father of a Son, the
image of his substance; but how God begat a Son do not discuss,
nor curiously intrude into the depth of this secret.
12. The errors of the Photinians were not only confuted by the several
above writers, but Photinus himself was condemned by the synod at
Syrmium, of which place he had been bishop; and in the formula of faith
agreed on therein, among others, are the following articles,
“We believe in one God the Father almighty, the creator and maker
of all things; — and in his only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
who was begotten of the Father before all ages; — and in the holy
Spirit: — and as to those that say, that the Son is of things that are
not, (or of nothing) or of another substance, and not of God; and
that there was a time or age when he was not, the holy and catholic
church reckons them as aliens. — If any one dare to say, that the
un-begotten or a part of him was born of Mary, let him be.30
anathema: and if any one say that he is the Son of Mary by
prescience, and not begotten of the Father before the world, and
was with God by whom all things are made, let him be anathema.
— If any one says, that Christ Jesus was not the Son of God before
the world was, and ministered to the Father at the creation of all
things, but only from the time he was born of Mary was called Son
and Christ, and then received the beginning of deity, let him be
anathema, as a Samosatenian.”
13. The formulas, creeds, and confessions of faith, made by different
persons, and at different places, besides the Nicene creed, and even some
that differed in other things from that and from one another, yet all agreed
in inserting the clause respecting their faith in Christ, the only begotten
Son, as begotten of the father before all ages, or the world was; as at
Antioch, Syrmium, Ariminum, Selucia, and Constantinople.
14. Before the Nicene creed was made, or any of the above creeds, this
was an article of faith with the orthodox christians, that Christ was the
eternal begotten Son of God. From the Writings of Cyril, bishop of
Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth century, may be collected a symbol or
creed containing the faith of the church, and in which this article is fully
“is the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all
worlds, the true God by whom all things are made;”
and which article he strongly asserts and defends; and the creed which he
explains, is thought to be the
same which the first and ancient church
always professed, and from the beginning; and perhaps is what Eusebius
refers unto, who was bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, when he declared
his faith in the council at Nice; our formula, says he, which was read in the
presence of our emperor (Constantine) most dear to God, is as we
received it from the bishops that were before us; and as when catechized
and received the laver (that is, were baptized,) and as we learnt from the
divine writings, and is in this manner,
“We believe in one God the Father Almighty, — and in one Lord
Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the only begotten Son, the first-born
of every creature, begootten of God the Father before all
worlds, by whom all things are made, etc.”.31
Nor indeed was the word omoousiov, consubstantial, which expresses the
Son’s being of the same substance, nature and essence with the Father, a
devised in the council of Nice; for it was in use before,
Athanasius has proved from the same Eusebius.
“The bishops, he says, (that is, those assembled at Nice) did not
invent these words of themselves, but having a testimony from the
Fathers, so they wrote; for the ancient bishops near a hundred and
thirty years before, both in the great city of Rome, and in our city
(Alexandria) reproved those that said that the Son was a creature,
and not consubstantial with the Father;”
and this Eusebius who was bishop of Caesarea, knew, who first gave into
the Arian heresy, but afterwards subscibed to the synod at Nice; for being
confirmed, he wrote to his own people thus,
“We find, says he, some sayings of the ancient and famous bishops
and writers, who use the word consubstantial in treating of the
deity of the Father and of the Son.”
And certain it is, that it is used by Gregory of Neocaesarea,
before the council of Nice, and by the synod at Antioch in their creed,
held A. D. 277.
V. In the fifth century Arianism continued and prospered, having many
abettors, as well as many who opposed it: other heresies also arose, and
some in opposition to the Sonship of Christ.
1st. Felicianus, the Arian, argued against it thus,
“If Christ was born of a virgin, how can he be said to be co-eternal
with God the Father?”
To whom Austin replied,
“The Son of God entered into the womb of the virgin, that he might
be again born, who had been already begotten before, he received
the whole man (or whole humanity) who had had already perfect
deity from the Father, not unlike was he to the begetter, when being
everlasting he was begotten from eternity, nor unlike to men when
born of his mother.”.32
2dly, Faustus, the Manichee, asserted, that according to the evangelists,
Christ was not the Son of God, only the Son of David, until he was thirty
years of age, and was baptized: to which Austin replied,
“The catholic and apostolic faith is, that our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ, is the Son of God according to Deity, and the Son of David,
according to the flesh: which we so prove from the evangelic and
apostolic writings, as that no man can contradict our proofs, unless
he contradicts limit express words.”
3dly, The Priscillianists asserted that Christ is called the only begotten Son
of God, because he only was born of a virgin; to which Leo Magnus makes
“Let them take which they will, their tenets tend to great impiety,
whether they mean, that the Lord Christ had his beginning from his
mother, or deny him to be the only begotten of God the Father;
since he was born of his mother, who was God the Word, and none
is begotten of the Father but the Word.”
The writers in this century are many, who have plainly and strongly
asserted the eternal generation and Sonship of Christ: as Augustine,
Chrysostom, Proclus archbishop of Constantinople, Leo Magnus,
Theodoret, Cyril of Alexandria,
Paulinus, Victor, Maximus
Taurinensis, etc. it may be abundantly sufficient only to mention the
following formulas, or confessions of faith.
1. Of Augustine, bishop of Hippo, or of Sennadius, presbyter of Marseilles
in France, to whom it is sometimes ascribed:
“We believe there is one God, the Father, Son, and holy Spirit; the
Father because he has a Son, the Son because he has a Father; the
holy Spirit because he is from the Father and the Son (proceeding
and co-eternal with the Father and the Son,) — the eternal Father,
because he has an eternal Son, of whom he is the eternal Father; the
eternal Son, because he is co-eternal with the Father and the holy
Spirit; the eternal holy Spirit, because he is co-eternal with the
Father and the Son.”
2. Of Flavianus, bishop of Constantinople, which he delivered in conc.
Constantinop. A. D. 448 approved of by the synod at Chalcedon, A. D.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God
and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and body; begotten indeed of
the Father, without beginning and before the world, according to
deity, but in the end, in the last days, the same was born of the
virgin Mary for our salvation, according to humanity;
consubstantial with the Father, according to deity, consubstantial
with his mother according to “humanity; for of two natures we
confess that Christ is after the incarnation in one subsistence, in one
person. we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.”
3. Of the council at Chalcedon, consisting of six hundred and thirty
“Following the holy fathers, say they, we all harmoniously teach
and confess our Lord Jesus Christ: that he is perfect in deity and
perfect in humanity, truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and
body; co-essential with the Father according to the deity, and co-essential
with us according to the humanity, in all things like unto
us, excepting sin, but begotten of the Father before the world,
according to the deity: and in the last days, for us and our salvation,
was of the virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord, according to the
VI. In the sixth century were a sort of heretics called Bo-o-nosians, who
held that Christ was not the proper but adoptive Son; against whom
dustinian bishop of Valae in Spain wrote;
and Arianism spread and
prevailed under the Gothic kings in several parts. Fulgentius speaks of the
tenets of the Arians in this time, that the Word or Son of God was not of
the same substance with the Father.
This author wrote an answer to ten
objections of theirs: to the first, concerning diversity of words and names
used, he replies,
“When Father and Son are named, in these two names a diversity of
words is acknowledged, but neither by those two different words
the nature of both is signified, for the diversity of those names does
not divide the natures, but shews the truth of the generation, as
from one true Father, we know that one true Son exists.”
To the second objection, concerning the ineffability of generation, he
“because the generation of the Son is unspeakable, it is not
unknowable, nor does it follow, because it cannot be declared, that
it cannot be known.”
Chilpericus, king of the Franks, endeavored to revive the Sabellian heresy,
but was opposed by Gregory Furnensis:
besides Fulgentius and
Gregory, there were others in this age who asserted and defended the
eternal generation and Son-ship of Christ, as Fortunatus, Cassiodorus,
Gregorius Magnus, and others;
and even by a synod consisting of
in number sixty three. In the same century the famous
Boetius declares his faith in God the Father, in God the Son, and in God
the holy Ghost; that the Father has a Son begotten of his substance, and
co-eternal with him, whose generation no human mind call conceive of.
VII. In the seventh century, towards the beginning of it, rose up that vile
impostor Mahomet, as bitter an enemy to the true, proper and eternal
Sonship of Christ, as ever was, for which he gave the following brutish and
“because God did not need a Son, because if he had a Son, they
might not agree, and so the government of the world be disturbed.”
Reasons which require no answer, Not to take notice of the several
councils at Toletum, held in this century, in which the article of Christ’s
eternal Son-ship was asserted and maintained, I would observe what is said
in a Roman synod, consisting of a hundred and twenty five bishops, in
which Agatho the Roman pontiff presided;
“We believe, say they, in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven
and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in his only
begotten Son, who was begotten of him before all worlds.”
VIII. In the eighth century, the notion that Christ, though the true,
proper, and natural Son of God according to the divine nature, yet
according to the human nature was only the Son of God by adoption and
grace, an adoptive Son, was propagated by Elipandus and Felix, Spanish
bishops; but condemned by the council at Frankfort, called by Charles the
and the eternal Sonship and generation of Christ was asserted and
maintained by Damascene, Bede, Albinus, and others.
IX. In the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries, the controversies were
chiefly about Image-worship, Transubstantiation, etc. yet in theseand the
following centuries, we have testimonies from various writers to the truth
of Christ’s proper and eternal Sonship by generation; it would be too
numerous to produce them all; it will be sufficient to say, it was not
opposed by any, but plainly and strongly affirmed by Rabanus, Macerus,
and Haymo in century 9 by Theophilact, in century 10 by Anselm, in
century 11 by Peter Lombard and Bernard, in century 12 by Thomas
Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, in century 13, but in these and the
following centuries, till the Reformation, Satan had other work to do than
to stir up men to oppose the Trinity, or any of the divine persons in it,
having enough to do to support the hierarchy of Rome, and the peculiar
tenets of Popery, against the witnesses who rose up at different times to
oppose them, and to endeavor to carry the pride and tyranny of the bishop
of Rome to the highest pitch possible.
X. When the Reformation began in the sixteenth century, and spread
throughout many nations in Europe, great evangelical light broke forth
among the Reformers; and Satan fearing his kingdom would greatly suffer
hereby, went to his old game again, which he had played with so much
success in the first ages of christianity, namely, to stir up an opposition to
the doctrine of the Trinity, and the person of Christ; which was first begun
by Servetus in Helvetia, who afterwards came to Geneva and there ended
Blandrata, infected with his principles, went into Poland, and
there artfully spread his poison in the reformed churches, assisted by
others, and which at length issued in a division in those churches; when
Faustus Socinus, who had imbibed some bad notions from the papers of his
uncle Laelius about the Trinity, came into Poland, and joined the
Antitrinitarians there, and strengthened their cause, and where the notions
of him and his followers took root and flourished much: and from thence
bays been transplanted into other countries, Those men, who were men of
keen parts and abilities, saw clearly that could they demolish the article of
Christ’s Son-ship by eternal generation, it would be all over with the
doctrine of the Trinity; and therefore set themselves with all their might
Socinus himself says of it,
not only that it is error and a
mere human invention, and which he represents as if it was held to be more
animantium; but that it is most absurd, most unworthy of God, and
contrary to his absolute perfection and unchangeable eternity;
asserts, that Christ is not called the only begotten Son of God, becase.36
generated of the substance of God; and that there is no other, nor ever
existed any other only begotten Son of God, besides that man, Jesus of
Nazareth: and expressly says, it clearly appears, that the human nature of
Christ is the person of the Son of God; and elsewhere
makes the same
objection to Sonship by generation as Mahomet did, for he says,
“Those who accommodate the Word brought forth in
8:24 to the Son, are not according to the judgment of the
Homoousians, to be reckoned very distant from the blasphemy of
the Turks, who when they hear that the Christians say, God has a
Son, ask, Who is his wife?”
And in this article concerning the Sonship of Christ, and also with respect
to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Remonstrants,
in the seventeenth
century and onwards, seem to agree with them; but the contrary has been
maintained by all sound divines and evangelical churches, from the
Reformation to the present time, as appears by their writings and harmony
of confessions: so that upon the whole it is clear, that the church of God
has been in the possession of this doctrine of the eternal generation and
Sonship of Christ, from the beginning of christianity to the present age,
almost eighteen hundred years; nor has there been any one man who
professed to hold the doctrine of the Trinity, or of the three distinct divine
persons in the unity of the divine essence, that ever opposed it, till the
latter end of the seventeenth century: if any such person in this course of
time can be named, let him be named: none but the followers of Simon
Magus, Cerinthus, Ebion, Carpocrates, the Gnosticks, etc. in the two first
centuries, and then by the Sabellians, Samosatenians, Arians, Photinians,
Mahometans, Socinians, and more lately by the Remonstrants, such as are
Antitrinitarians. The only two persons I have met with who have professed
to hold the doctrine of the Trinity, as it has been commonly received, that
have publicly expressed their doubts or dissatisfaction about the phrase
eternal generation, I mean such as are of any note or character, for as for
the trifling tribe of ignorant writers and scribblers, who know not what
they say, nor whereof they affirm, I make no account of them; I say, I have
met with only two of this sort. The one is Roell, a Dutch Professor at
Franeker, who lived at the latter end of the last century; this man professed
to believe that there are three distinct divine persons, the Father, Son, and
Spirit, and that these three are one; that the second person in the Trinity
was begotten by the Father from all eternity, and that this is the first and
chief reason that he is called a Son; nor did he object to the use of the.37
phrase eternal generation, nor did he disuse it, but explained it to another
sense than that in which it was commonly taken, that is, that it only
signified the co-existence of the second person with the first, and
communion of nature with him. But as the same may be said of the first
and third persons, the phrase of generation so understood might be said of
them as well as of the second; he therefore was obliged to have recourse to
the oeconomy of salvation, and the manifestation of the three persons in it.
On the whole, he was opposed by the very learned Vitringa,
opinion was proscribed and condemned by almost all the synods of the
Dutch churches, and he was forbid by the authority of his supreme
magistrate to propagate it; and most of the synods have decreed, that the
candidates for the ministry shall be examined about this opinion, before
they are admitted into the ministry.
The other person, who has objected
to the eternal generation of the Son of God, is Dr. Thomas Ridgeley,
Professor of Divinity in London, towards the beginning of the present
who strongly asserts, and contends for the doctrine of a Trinity
of divine distinct persons in the Godhead, and vet strangely adopts the
Socinian notion or Sonship by office, and makes the eternal Sonship of
Christ to be what he calls his mediatorial Sonship. There is indeed a third
person of great flame among us, Dr. Isaac Watts, who has expressed his
dissatisfaction with the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of
God, but then he is not to be reckoned a Trinitarian, being so manifestly in
the Sabellian scheme, as appears by his Dissertations published in 1725.
Insomuch that the celebrated Fred. Adolphus Lampe, who published his
Theological Disputations concerning the holy Spirit, two or three years
after, spares not to reckon him among the grosset Sabellians: his words
“Nuperius novum systema Socinianum de Trinitate Angtiee J.
WATS edidit, additis quibusdam dissertationibus eam illustrantibus,
quaram quinta ex professo de spiritu S. agit. Existimat quidem sect.
o. p. 126. eatenus se a Socino, Schlictingio, Crellio esse
distinguatum, quod virituem in Deo non accidentalem, sed
essentialem, seu substantialem pro spiritu S. habeat: hoc tamen ita
facit, ut non censeat hanc notionem constanter ubique obtinere:
nam saepius “cum crassioribus Sabellianis spiritum S. esse Deum
ipsum, p. 130. s. 49. defendit.”
Upon the whole, setting aside the said persons, the testimonies for and
against the eternal generation and Sonship of Christ stand thus:.38
FOR ETERNAL GENERATION, ETC.
Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Theophilus of
Antioch, Clemens of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Gregory of
Neoccesaria, Dionysius of Alexandria, the three hundred and eighteen
Nicene Fathers; Athanasius, Alexander bishop of Alexandria, Epiphanius,
Hilary, Faustinus, Gregory of Nazianzum, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa,
Ambrose, Jerom, Ruffinus, Cyril of Jerusalem, besides the many hundreds
of bishops and presbyters assembled at different times and in different
places, as, at Syrmium, Antioch, Arminum, Seleucia, and Constantinople,
Simon Magus, Cerinthus, and Ebion, and their respective followers;
Carpocrates and the Gnostick, Valentinus, Theodotus the currier,
Artemon, and others their associates; Beryllus of Bostra, Praxeus,
Hermogenes, Noctius and Sabellius, the Samosatenians, Arians, Aetians,
Eunomians and Photinians, the Priscillianists and Bonotians; Mahomet and
his followers; the Socinians and Remonstrants; and all Anti-trinitarians;
Augustine, Chrysostom, Leo Magnus, Theodoret, Cyril of Alexandria,
Paulinus, Flavianus, Victor, Maximus Tauriensis, six hundred and thirty
fathers in the council at Chalcedon; Fulgentius, Gregory Turnasis,
Fortunatus, Cassioclorus, Gregorius Magaus, the many bishops in the
several councils at Toletum, the Roman synod of a hundred and twenty-five
under Agatho, Damascene, Beda, Albinus, and the fathers in the
council of Francford, with many others in later times, and all the sound
divines and evangelic churches since the reformation.
Now since it appears that all the sound and orthodox writers have
unanimously declared for the eternal generation and Sonship of Christ in all
ages, and that those only of an unsound mind and judgment, and corrupt in
other things as well as this, and many of them men of impure lives and vile
principles, have declared against it, such must be guilty of great temerity
and rashness to join in an opposition with the one against the other; and to
oppose a doctrine the Church of God has always held, and especially being
what the scriptures abundantly bear testimony unto, and is a matter of such
moment and importance, being a fundamental doctrine of the christian
religion, and indeed what distinguishes it from all other religions, from
those of Pagans, Jews and Mahometans, who all believe in God, and.39
generally in one God, but none of them believe in the Son of God: that is
peculiar to the christian religion.
Irenaeus adv. Haeres l. 1. C. 20.
De Haeres. C. 1.
Comment. in Matt. xxix. 5. tom. 9. fol. 33. A.
Tertullian de praescript. haeret c. 46.
Irenaeus adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 3.
Tertullian ut supra, c. 48.
Irenaeus ib. l. 1. c. 25.
Catalog. Scrip. eccles. c. 19. sic Irenaeus 1.3. c. 11.
Eccles. Hist. l. 3. c. 27. vid. Tertullian de carne Christ. c. 18
De Trinitate l. 7. p. 81,82.
Catalog. scrip. eccl. c. 117.
Apud Theodoret.hist. eccles. 1. 1. c. 4.
Barnabae epist. c. 9.
Barnabae epist. c. 4.
Clemens. epist. ad Coriuth. P. 84. ed. Oxon. 1669.
Eccles. Hist. 1. 3. c. 36.
Epist. ad Ephes. p.21. Ed. Voss
Ibid. p. 125.
Ibid. p. 136.
Ibid. p. 138.
Epist. as Magnes. p. 33, 34, 37.
Page 145, 147, 151.
AD. Trallianos, p. 160.
Ad. Philadelph. p. 176.
Ad Phillipans, p. 100.
Euseb. hist. eccles. 1. 4. c. 7..41
Ibid. 1. 5. c. 28.
Irenaeus adv. haeres. 1. 1. c. 24. Tertull. de praescript. haeret. c. 48.
Irenaeus ib. Epiphan. contra haeret. haer. 27. Theodoret. haeret. fol. 1.
1. c. 7. Aug. de haeret. c. 7.
Irenaeus 1. 3. c. 4.
Ibid. 1. c. 1. Tertull. de praescript. c. 49. Epiphan. haeres. 31
Adv. Valentin. c. 27: & de carne Christ. c. 20.
Euseb. Eccles. Hist. 1. 5. c. 25. Theodoret. haecret. fol: 1. 2. c. 5.
Wittichii Theolog. pacific. c. 17. s. 25.
Euseb.eccles. hist. 1. 5. c. 28.
Epiphan. Haeres. 54.
De praescript. Haeer. c. 53
Euseb. 1. 4. c. 15.
Adv. Haeres. 1, 2, c. 43.
Adv. Hieres, 2. c. 48.
„Ibid. lib. 4. c. 37.
Legatio pro Christian, p, 10, 11,
Legratio pro Christian, p 27.
Ad. Antolog. c. 1. q. p, 88.
Ibid. p. 100.
Paedagog. I. 3. p. 266.
Ibid. I. I. c. p. 92,
Stromat. 1. 7. p 702, 703.
Catalog. Script. Ecclesiastes c. 70.
Hist. Ecclesiastes 1. 6, c. 33.
Epiphan. Haeres 42. Aug. de haeres, c. 36, 41.
Euseb. Ecclesiastes Hist. I. 7. c. 07, 30. Epiphan, Haeret. 65. Aug. de
Haeres. c. 44.
Euseb. lb. c. 29,
Adv, Praxcam. c. 2..42
Adv. Praxeam. c. 11.
ApolegeL c. 21.
In Esaiam Homil. 1. sol. 100. 4.& Homil. 4, fill. 103. 3.
In Leviticus Homil. 13. fol. 88.1.
peri Arcwn proem fol. 111.4.
Ibid 2l1. c. 2. fok 114.4.,vial. Pan, phiL Atmlog. pro Origen. inter opere
Hieronom. tom. 4. fol. 74. M. & foL 77. A.
Cyprian de baptisnio inter Opera, ejus p. 455.
Expos. Fidei iuter opera ejus, p. 1. cd. Paris.
Epist. ad Xystum spud Euseb. 1:7. c. O. & ad Ammonium &
Igaphrauor. spud Athanasium de Sent Dionys. p. 433, 435.
Elench. & Apolog; vol. 1. spud Athanas; lb. p. 436, 437.
Ibid. vol. 2. apud Athauas. ibid. p. 437.
Apud. Forbes. Instruct. Hist. Theolog. 1. l. c. 4. p. 10.
De verb. Sap. 1. 4. c. 6.
Ibid, c. 8.
Socrat. Hist. Eccl. 1. 1. c. 5.
Apud Theodoret. Eccl. Hist. I. 1. c. 5.
Apud Epiphan. Haeres. 69.
Apud Athanas. in Nie. concil, contr. Arium disput, p. 81, 82.
Socrat. Eccl. Hist, 1. 2. c. 36.
Theodoret. Eccl. Hist. 1. 2. c. 29,
Sosomen. Eccl. Hist. 1. 6. c. 26.
Soerxt. Eccl. Hist. 1. 2. c. 38,
Theodoret, Eccl. Hist. 1. 2. c. 6.
Theodoret. ibid, 1. 5. c. 11. Socrat. 1.7. c. 32. Sozoraon. I. 4. c. 6.
Contr. Gentiles, 1.4. e. 4. p. 610.
Socrat. Hist. I. 1. c. 8.
Contr. Arian. dislmt, inter opera ojus. vol. 1. p. 83.
Exposit fidei, vol. I. p. 394.
„Contr. Arian, Orat, 3. p. 211, 214..43
Aired Theodoret. Hist. I. 1. c. 4,
Contr. Haeres, 1.2. tom, 2 haeres. 69.
De Trinitate, 1. 3. p. 23, 24. rid. ibid. de Unitate fitii & patris, p. 650.
De Trinitate conh’. Arian c. 1. p. 3c,.
De Trinitate contr. Arian. c. 3. p. 124.
Ibid c. 7. p. 157 Ed Oxon.
Orat 26. p. 445.
Orat 35. p. 563.
Orat 40. p. 674.
Orat. 29. I’. 4,92.
Adv. Eunom. I. 5. c. i 1.
lbid. c. 14.
„Contr. Eunom. Orat. 1. p, 30.
De Fide ad Gratian. C. 5. p. 119, 120.
In symbolism apostol. c. 1. p. 87. tom. 4.
In Epist. ad Ephes. fol. 96. A. tom. 9.
Vid. opera Hierom. tom. 4. fol. 42.. l.. 44. 2.
Socrat. eccl. Hist. 1. 2. c. 29, 30.
Socrat. eccl. Hist. 1. 2. c. 10, 18, 19, 30, .57, 40, 4l. vid. epist. haeres.
Cateches. 4, s. 5. 5:xi.1.
Vid. Bulli judicium eccl. cathol. p. 123.
Apud. Socrat. eccl. hist. 1. 1. c. 8, and Theodoret hist, 1. 1. c. 12.
Theodoret, ibid, c. 13.
I Theodoret, ibid. c. 8.
In ibid. c. 12.
In Annuntiat. S. Mariae sermo 2. p, 25. & in S. Theophan, p. 36. &
expos, fidci, p. 101.
Apud Forbes. instruct, Hist, Theolog 1. 1. c. 4. p. 10,
Aug. contr. Faustum, 1. 23. 100:1-5..44
Leo Magn. Ep. 93. 100:3.
Vid. Magdeburg. centuriat, cent. 5. p. 75, etc.
Ecclesiastes Dogm. c. 1. Appendix. tom. 3. Aug. operum.
Apud Forbes. Instruct. Hist. Theolog. 1. 2, e, 10. p, 88.
Apud ibid. c. 12. p. 92.
Isidor. Orig. l, 8, c. 6. vid eunrl, do Script. eccl. c. 20. & Chronicum
Goth. p. 276.
Ad hominmn, 1.3. e. 1.
Contr. object. Arian, p, 38, 39. h
Vid. Magdeburg. centur, cent, 6. p, 164.
lbid, p. 53, 54, etc.
Ibid. p. 313.
Confess. Fidei, p, 173.
Altreg. Theolog. Hist. loc. 3. p. 236. rid. Forbes. instruot. Hist,
Theolog. 1.4. c. 6. p. 189, 190.
Apud Forbes. ibid. 1.6. c. 3; p. 227.
Ibid. I. 6. c. 1. p. 292, etc.
Magdeburg. centur. cent. 8. c. 4. p, 61, 52. etc.
Servetus has these blasphemous words concerning eternal generation,
„debuisscnt diccre quod pater” celebat uxorem quandam spiritualem,
vel quod solus ipse masculo-foemineus, out hermaphroditus, simul crat
pater & mater, etc. nam ratio vocabuli nou patitur ut „quis dicatur sine
matrc pater.” Servetus do Trinit. error Septen. 1. 1. A, D. 1531. And
again, „Si Logos filius crat natps cx patre sine matre, dic mihi quomodo
peperit cure, per ventrem an per latus.” Ibid. 1. 2. p. 52,. apud
Hornbeck Socin. consolat, tom. 1. p. 17. Servetus would not own
Christ to be the eternal Son of God, only the Son of the eternal God.
Socinus spud Hornbeck. Ibid. p. 20.
Vid. Racov. Catoch. c. I. qu. 17.-20. Wolzogon de essentia et natura
Dei, c. 9. p, 26, etc.
Christ. Belig. Institut inter opera ejus, vol. 1. p. 655.
Quod regni Polon. c. 4. s, 2. p. 608, 699.
Respons. ad Vujekum, c. 7. p. 607, vol. 2..45
Vid. Peltii Herman Remonstr & Socin, artic,.4, paragr. 1. 4. p. 15, 19.
Vid. Roell. Dis.sort. de gcneratione filii, &e. p. 4,5, 31, 49.
Disputafio Theolog. & E, pilog. Disputat. de generatione fiili.
Mastrict. Theolog. 1. 2. c. 26. s. 17. p. 257.
See his body or divinity, p. 121, etc.
Lampe. disp. de spiritu s. c, 8. s. 13, c. 11,
THE ABSENT PRESENT CHRIST
by: ALEXANDER MACLAREN – 1826-1910
„I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see Me; because I live, ye shall live also.” – John 14:18,19
HE SWEET AND GRACIOUS comfortings with which Christ had been soothing the disciples’ fears went very deep, but hitherto they had not gone deep enough. It was much that they should know the purpose of His going, whither He went, and that they had an interest in His departure. It was much that they should have before them the prospect of reunion; much that they should know that all through His absence He would be working in them, and that they should be assured that, absent, He would send them a great gift. But reunion, influence from afar, and gifts from the other side of the gulf were not all that their hearts needed. And so here our Lord gives yet more, in the paradoxes that, absent He will be present, unseen visible, and dying will be for them for ever, life and life-giving. These great thoughts go to the centre of their needs and of ours; and on them I now touch briefly.
There are in the words I have read, though they be but a fragment of a closely-linked together context, these three great thoughts then: the absent Christ the present Christ; the unseen Christ the seen Christ; the Christ who dies life and life-giving. Let us look at these as they stand.
I. First, then, the absent Christ is the present Christ.
„I will not leave you comfortless,” or, as the Revised Version has it, „desolate-I come to you.” Now, most of us know, I suppose, that the literal meaning of the word rendered „comfortless,” or „desolate,” is „orphans.” But that is rather an unusual form in which to represent the relation between our Lord and His disciples. And so, possibly, our versions are accurate in giving the general idea of desolation rather than the specific idea conveyed directly by the word. But still it is to be remembered that this whole conversation begins with „Little children „; and there seems to be no strong reason for suppressing the literal meaning of the word, if only it be remembered that it is employed not so much to define Christ’s relation to His brethren as to describe the comfortless and helpless condition of that little group when left by Him. They would be like fatherless and motherless children in a cold world. And what is to hinder that? One thing only. „I come to you.” „Then, and only then, will you cease to be desolate and orphans. My presence will change everything and turn winter into glorious summer.”
Now, what is this „coming?” It is to be observed that our Lord says, not „I will,” as a future, but „I come,” or „I am coming,” as an immediately impending, and, we may almost say, present, thing. There can be no reference in the word to that final coming to judgment which lies so far ahead; because, if there were, then there would follow from the text, that, until that period, all that love Him here upon earth are to wander about as orphans, desolate and forsaken; and that certainly can never be. So that we have to recognize here the promise of a coming which is contemporaneous with His absence, and which is, in fact, but the reverse side of His bodily absence.
It is true about Him that He „departs from” His people in bodily form „for a season, that they may receive Him” in a better form „for ever.” This, then, is the heart and centre of the consolation here, that howsoever the external presence may be withdrawn, and the „foolish senses” may have to speak of an absent Christ, we may rejoice in the certainty that He is with all those that love Him, and all the more with them because of the very withdrawal of the earthly manifestation which has served its purpose, and now is laid aside as an impediment rather than as a help to the full communion. We confuse bodily with real. The bodily presence is at an end; the real presence lasts for ever.
I do not need to insist, I suppose, upon the manifest implication of absolute Divinity which lies in such words as these. „I come.” „Being absent, I am present in all generations. I am present with every single heart.” That is equivalent to the Omnipresence of Deity; that is equivalent to or implies the undying existence of the Divine nature. And He that says, when He is leaving earth and withdrawing the sweetness of His visible form from the eyes of men, „I come,” in the very act of going, „and I am with you always, with all of you to the end of the ages,” can be no less than God, manifest in the flesh for a time, and present in the Spirit with His children for ever.
I cannot but think that the average Christian life of this day woefully fails in the simple, conscious realization of this great truth, and that we are all far too little living in the calm, happy, strengthening assurance that we are never alone, but have Jesus Christ with each of us more closely, more truly, in a more available fashion, and with more Omnipotence of influence than they had who were nearest Him during the days that He lived upon earth.
Oh, brethren, if we really believed, not as an article of our creed, which has become so familiar to us that it produces little impression upon us; but as a vital and ever-present conviction of our souls, that with us there was ever the real presence of the real Christ, how all burdens and cares would be lightened, how all perplexities would begin to smooth themselves out and be straightened, all the force would be sucked out of temptations, and how sorrows and joys and all things would be changed in their aspect by that one conviction intensely realized and constantly with us! A present Christ is the Strength, the Righteousness, the Peace, the Joy, and as we shall see, in the most literal sense, the Life of every Christian soul.
Then, note, further, that this coming of our Lord is identified with that of His Divine Spirit. He has been speaking of sending that „other Comforter,” but though He be Another, He is yet so indissolubly united with Him who sends as that the coming of the Spirit is the coming of Jesus. He is no gift wafted to us as from the other side of a gulf, but by reason of the unity of the Godhead and the Divinity of the sent Spirit, Jesus Christ and the Spirit whom He sends are inseparable though separate, and so indissolubly united that where the Spirit is, there is Christ, and where Christ is, there is the Spirit. These are amongst the deep things which the disciples were „not able to carry” at that stage of their development, and they waited for a further explanation. Enough for them and enough for us, to know that we have Christ in the Spirit and the Spirit in Christ; and to remember „that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”
We stand here on the margin of a shoreless and fathomless sea; and for my part I venture to think that the men who talk about the incredibilities and the contradictions of the orthodox faith would show themselves a little wiser if they were more conscious of the limitation of human faculty, and remembered that to pronounce upon contradictions in the doctrine of the Divine Nature implies that the pronouncer stands above and goes round about the whole of that Nature. So, for my part, abjuring omniscience and the comprehension of Deity, I accept the statement that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit come together and dwell in the heart.
Then, note, further, that this present Christ is the only Remedy for the orphanhood of the world. The words had a tender and pathetic reference to that little, bewildered group of followers, deprived of their Guide, their Teacher, and their Companion. He who had been as eyes to their weak vision, and Counsellor and Inspirer and everything for three blessed years, was going away to leave them unsheltered to the storm. And we can understand how forlorn and terrified they were, when they looked forward to fronting the things that must come to them, without His presence. Therefore He cheers them with the assurance that they will not be left without Him, but that, present still just because He is absent, He will be all that He ever had been to them.
And the promise was fulfilled. How did that dispirited group of cowardly men ever pluck up courage to hold together after the Crucifixion at all? Why was it that they did not follow the example of John’s disciples, and dissolve and disappear; and say, „The game is up. It is no use holding together any longer?” The process of separation began on the very day of the Crucifixion. Only one thing could have stopped it, and that is the Resurrection and the presence with His Church of the risen Christ in His power and in all the fulness of His gifts. If it had not been that He came to them, they would have disappeared, and Christianity would have been one more of the abortive sects forgotten in Judaism. But, as it is, the whole of the New Testament after Pentecost is aflame with the consciousness of a present Christ, working amongst His people. And although it be true that, in one aspect, we are „absent from the Lord” when we are present with the body, in another aspect, and an infinitely higher one, it is true that the strength of the Christian life of apostles and martyrs was this, the assurance that Christ Himself-no mere rhetorical metaphor for His influence or His example, or His memory lingering in their imaginations, but the veritable Christ Himself-was present with them, to strengthen and to bless.
That same conviction you and I must have, if the world is not to be a desert and a dreary place for us. In a very profound sense it is true that if you take away Jesus Christ, the elder Brother, who alone reveals to men the Father, we are all orphans, fatherless children, who look up into an empty heaven and see nothing there. It is only Christ who reveals to us the Father and makes our happy hearts feel that we are of His children. And in the wider sense of the word „orphans,” is not life a desolation without Him? Hollow joys, fleeting blessednesses, roses whose thorns last long after the petals have dropped, real sorrows, shows and shams, bitternesses and disappointments- are not these our life, in so far as Christ has been driven out of it? Oh! There is only one thing that saves us from being as desolate, fatherless children, groping in the dark for the lost Father’s hand, and dying for want of it, and that is that the Christ Him- self shall come to us and be with us.
II. The Unseen Christ Is A Seen Christ.
It is clear that the period referred to in the second clause of our text is the same as that referred to in the first, that „yet a little while” covers the whole space up to His ascension; and that if there be any reference at all to the forty days of His earthly life, during which, literally, the world „saw Him no more,” but „the apostles saw Him,” that reference is only secondary. These transitory appearances are not of sufficient moment or duration to bear the weight of so great a promise as this. The vision, which is the consequence of the coming, has the same extension in time as the coming-that is to say, is continuous and permanent. We must read here the great promise of a perpetual vision of the present Christ. It is clear, too, that the word „see” is employed in these two clauses in two different senses. In the former it refers only to bodily sight, in the latter to spiritual perception. For a few short hours still, the ungodly mass of men were to have that outward vision which might have been so much to them, but which they had used so badly that „they seeing saw not.” It was to cease, and they who loved Him would not miss it when it did; but the withdrawal which hid Him from sense and sense-bound souls would reveal Him more clearly to His friends. They, too, had but dimly seen Him while He stood by them; they would gaze on Him with truer insight when He was present though absent.
So this is what every Christian life may and should be-the continual sight of a continually-present Christ. It is His part to come. It is ours to see, to be conscious of Him who does come.
Faith is the sight of the soul, and it is far better than the sight of the senses. It is more direct. My eye does not touch what I look at. Gulfs of millions of miles may lie between me and it. But my faith is not only eye, but hand, and not only beholds, but grasps, and comes into contact with that to which it is directed. It is far more clear. Senses may deceive; my faith, built upon His Word, cannot deceive. Its information is far more certain, far more valid. I have better reason for believing in Jesus Christ than I have for believing in the things that I touch and handle. So that there is no need for men to say, „Oh, if we had only seen Him with our eyes!” You would very likely not have known Him if you had. There is no reason for thinking that the Church has retrograded in its privileges, because it has to love instead of beholding, and to believe instead of touching. That is advance, and we are better than they, inasmuch as the blessing of those who have not seen, and yet have believed, comes down upon our heads. The vision of Christ which is granted to the faithful soul is better and not worse, more and not less, other in kind indeed, but loftier in degree too, than that which was granted to the men who saw Him upon earth. Sense disturbs, faith alone beholds.
„The world seeth Me no more.” Why? Because it is a world. „Ye see Me.” Why? Because, and in the measure in which you have „turned away your eyes from seeing vanity.” If you want the eye of the soul to be opened, you must shut the eye of sense. And the more we turn away from looking at the dazzling lies with which time and the material universe befool and bewilder us, the more shall we see Him whom to see is to live for ever.
Oh! Brethren, does that strong word „see” in any measure express the vividness, the directness, the certainty of our realization of our Master’s presence? Is Jesus Christ as clear, as perceptible, as sure to us as the men round us are? Which are the shadows and which are the realities to us? The things which are seen, which the senses crown as „real,” or the things which cannot be seen because they are so great, and tower above us, invisible in their eternity? Which world are our eyes most open to, the world where Christ is, or the world here? Our happy eyes may behold and our blessed hands may handle the Word of Life which was manifested to us. Let us beware that we turn not away from the one thing worthy to be looked at, to gaze upon a desolate and dreary world.
III. Lastly, the present and seen Christ is life and life-giving.
The last words of my text may be connected with the preceding, as the marginal rendering of the Revised Version shows. But it is probably better to take them as standing independently, and presenting another and co-ordinate element of the blessedness arising from the coming of the Christ. Because He comes, His life passes into the hearts of the men to whom He comes, and who gaze upon Him.
Time forbids me to dwell upon that majestic proclamation of His own absolute and Divine life, from lips that were so soon to be paled with death. Mark the grand „I live”-the timeless present tense, which expresses unbroken, underived, undying, and, as I believe, Divine life. It is all but a quotation of the great Old Testament name „Jehovah.” The depth and sweep of its meaning are given to us in this apostle’s Apocalypse, where Christ is called „the living One,” who lived whilst He died, and having died „is alive for evermore.”
And this Christ, coming to all His friends, possessor of the fulness of life in Himself, and proclaiming His absolute possession of that life, even whilst He stands within arm’s length of Calvary, is life-giver to all that love Him and trust Him.
We live because He lives. In all senses of the word life, as I believe, the life of men is derived from the Christ who is the agent of creation, the channel from whom life passes from the Godhead into the creatures, and who is also the one means by whom any of us can ever hope to live the better life which is the only true one, and consists in fellowship with God and union to Him.
We shall live as long as He lives, and His being is the pledge and the guarantee of the immortal being of all who love Him. Anything is possible, rather than that it should be credible that a soul, which has drawn spiritual life from Jesus Christ here upon earth, should ever be rent apart from Him by such a miserable and external trifle as the mere dissolution of the bodily frame. As long as Christ lives your life is secure. If the Head has life, the members cannot see corruption. „Take me not away in the midst of my days: Thy years are throughout all generations” was the prayer of a saint of old, deeply feeling the contrast of the worshipper’s transiency and God’s eternity, and dimly hoping that the contrast might be changed into likeness. The great promise of our text answers the prayer, and assures us that the worshipper is to live as long as does He whom he adores.
We shall live as He lives, nor ever cease the appropriation of His being until all His life we know, and all its fulness has expanded our natures-and that will be never. Therefore we shall not die.
Men’s lives have been prolonged by the transfusion of blood from vigorous frames. Jesus Christ passes His own blood into our veins, and makes us immortal. The Church chose for one of its ancient emblems of the Saviour the pelican, which fed its young, according to the fable, with the blood from its own breast. So Christ vitalizes us. He in us is our life.
Brethren, without Jesus Christ we are orphans in a fatherless world. Without Him our wearied and yet unsatisfied eyes have only trifles and trials and trash to look at. Without Him, we are dead whilst we live. He and He only can give us back a Father, and renew in us the spirit of sons. He and He only can satisfy our eyes with the sight which is purity and restfulness and joy. He and He only can breathe life into our death. Oh! Let Him do it for you. He comes to us with all these gifts in His hands, for He comes to give us himself. And in Himself, as „in a box where sweets compacted lie,” are all that lonely hearts and wearied eyes and dead souls can ever need. All are yours if you are Christ’s. All are yours if He is yours. And He is yours if by faith and love you make yourselves His and Him your own.
The Mission of Christ
By Milburn Cockrell
Published in the Berea Baptist Banner, February 5, 1990.
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”(Luke 19:10). The mission of Christ into the world was associated with astonishing wonders and inexplicable mysteries. Never in any respect was there anything like it. Conquers have visited countries, but their footsteps have been marked with blood, war and death. Travellers have explored dis-tant lands, but their object was to discover the wonders of nature. But Jesus Christ came into the world to submit to shame and endure death for guilty rebels. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
Our Lord had just saved Zacchaeus and announced He was going home with him. The enemies of Christ had just murmured, “saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luke 19:7). My text is a part of Christ’s reply to the uncharitable remarks of His critics. They were ignorant of the great purpose for which He came into the world. He had come to save sinners. He was not ashamed to visit the home of Zacchaeus and to receive him as one of His disciples. By saving Zacchaeus He was doing what He came into the world to do. I wish to call attention to five truths in my text. They are as follows:
HIS POSITION TO MAN
The position of Christ to man can be seen in the words: “The Son of man. . .” As the Son of God He is the offspring of all that God the Father is in Himself. As the Son of man He is the offspring of humanity. Divinity and humanity are both represented in Jesus who is called the Christ.
We know from Scripture that Jesus Christ expressly called Himself “the Son of man.” He personally used this title of Himself on 32 occasions in Matthew’s Gospel, always preceded by the definite article. By use of this title He identified Himself with the sons of men. Although His sinless nature and life were unique among the sons of men, He was a son of man in that He was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He was the Son of Adam, the son of Abraham, and the son of David. He was the Son of man more than He was the Son of Mary. By using this title some 80 times in the Gospels He identified Himself as the Messiah of the Old Testament who was called “the Son of man” in Daniel 7:13.
The title “Son of man” speaks of the incarnation of the Son of God. As the Mediator it behooved Him to assume the nature of man. “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same. . .” (Heb. 2:14).
In order to be man’s Savior, Jesus Christ had to become a man. To save sinners in the flesh He had to be made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). He that was “in the form of God” had to take “the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7). To qualify as our kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ found it necessary to have interest in both parties. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). He was God with God, and man with man.
The Redeemer had to become the Son of man to suffer and die for man. God could not suffer and die. If the Re-deemer was to die He must assume a reasonable soul and a true body that He might offer Himself a sacrifice for sin. “. . .Christ. . .hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor” (Eph. 5:2). The Mediator had to assume the same nature that had sinned and was condemned. Romans 8:3 tells us: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in
the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
HIS POVERTY ON BEHALF OF MAN
My text sets forth Christ’s poverty on behalf of man in the words: “. . .is come. . .” This implies Christ’s pre-existence and that He was at some other place before He came. So let us ask three questions: First, where did He come from? He came from the Third Heaven, the royal palace of Jehovah. Christ declared: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” ( John 3:13). In John 8:42 He said: “. . . proceeded forth and came from God. . .” Christ left the throne of the father and the glory of the celestial state to become the Son of man. Having left the bosom of the Father to be manifested in the flesh, He did not lose His Divine per-sonality, for He “is the Lord from heaven” (I Cor. 15:47). Truly, “He that cometh from heaven is above all” ( John 3:31).
Christ had been with the Father and the Holy Spirit from eternity passed. He was Jehovah’s fellow. He had been “as one brought up with him” and “was daily his delight” (Prov. 8:30). He was loved by the Father and had a glory with the Father before the foundation of the world ( John 17:5,24). By Christ all things had been cre-ated. He was the first-begotten of the Father, the firstborn of every creature, the heir of all things, the righteous Lord. This glorious person came from the heaven of heavens to this sin-cursed earth.
Second, where did the Christ of God come to? He came to this planet which was inhabited by Adam’s fallen race. He came to a world blasted, blighted by sin and Satan..The Mission of Christ by Milburn Cockrell – Page 2
He came to a world in a state of revolt, misery and death.
What condecension! What sovereign grace! How He humbled Himself. He left the bosom of the Father for the bosom of a woman. He made His footstool His dwelling place. He came to live among the sinners of earth for 33 years.
Third, in what manner did He come? He did not come in all His glory. He did not visit with regal pomp, nor with a train of celestial attendants. He did not come to dwell in stately palaces among the highest of earth. A poor village in Palestine was His birthplace and a stable His first residence. His mother was a poor virgin. Christ Him-self well said: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28)
HIS PICTURE OF MAN
The picture of the Lord’s people while in a state of na-ture is seen in the words that which was lost,” or “the lost thing.” Here the whole number of the elect is spoken of as a body. By the fall the world had become a lost world. The word “lost” means all that man had lost—the garden of Eden, the way to the tree of life, the visible fellowship of God, the moral likeness of God, etc. It also speaks of man himself as a lost one. Man as a spirit is lost to Heaven and to God as long as he is enslaved by the power of sin. The elect were not irrevocably lost. Some emblems will assist us here. First, the elect were lost like a poor sheep. A sheep is lost when it strays on a dark and distant moun-tain, exposed to the beasts of prey. Separated from the sheepfold he is subject to the elements of nature such as cold and storm. Such was the case of the elect: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. . .” (Isa. 53:6). Like a lost sheep, we would have never returned on our own; we would have wandered on in an endless maze lost for eternity.
Second, God’s people were lost as a city is lost when it has revolted to the rebels. A rebel has renounced his gov-ernment and dares to resist it by force. Man is a rebel against God. “We were enemies” (Rom. 5:10). We “were sometimes alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works” (Col. 1:21). As rebels we had trodden under foot the Son of God, had trampled His holy laws, had counted the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, and had done despite to the Spirit of grace. We deserved the wrath of the great King as we were lost to His moral rule in the world.
Third, the elect were lost as a traveller is lost when he has missed the way in the wilderness. The traveller does not know where he is, or where he is going, when he is lost. In describing the ruin of man Paul wrote: “They are all gone out of the way. . .And the way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:12,17). Hebrews 5:2 speaks of “them that are out of the way.” Sinners were out of the way and thus are lost to God.
Fourth, man is lost as a mariner. His vessel has been smashed against the hidden rocks. He has escaped to a barren and rocky shore. He is lost, for he cannot long
survive as he is unable to cross the trackless deep. Such is the state of man. He is in the barren and desolate rock of the world without the Water of Life and the Bread of Life. Without these he is hopelessly lost.
Fifth, the sinner is lost like a man is lost who has an incurable disease. Look how the cancer has spread in its desolating foulness through the whole system. There is no remedy. The physicians have done all they can. The disease is deepening and spreading. Is the patient not lost? So is the case with man: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundnes in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither molified with oint-ment” (Isa. 1:5-6).
Sixth, he is lost like a prisoner is lost when the sentence of death has been passed upon him. He has committed to pay with his life. He in the eyes of the law is a dead man. This is the plight of the sinner. Sin has made him “guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19) and unbelief has caused him to be “condemned already” ( John 3:18).
Jesus Christ as the great Shepherd came to seek the lost sheep out and to bring him back to the fold. He came as the great King to give peace and pardon to the rebels in the city of Destruction. He came as the Seeker to find the lost traveller and to show him the way to Heaven. He came to visit the desolate mariner on the rock, to give him the life-boat of salvation, and to guide him to the shore of immortality. He came as the great Physician to heal the sinner of all his soul’s diseases by giving him the balm of Divine grace. He came as the Judge of all the earth to the condemned prisoner to open the prison doors and grant a free pardon.
HIS PATIENCE TOWARD MAN
In the text I see Christ’s patience toward man. “He came to seek. . .” Sinners had lost their way utterly, their way from the home of God, from the path of holiness, from the fountain of joy. They were wandering, blind and mis-erable, in forbidden ways. They were stumbling on the dark mountains of error and sin. Jesus Christ came to seek out these erring ones, to lead them back again, to restore them their heritage in God. In Ezekiel 34:16 the Lord said: “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. . .”
In his famous hymn, E. E. Hasty of the nineteenth cen-tury so well wrote:
Jesus, my Saviour, to Bethlehem came
Laid in a manger to sorrow and shame;
Oh, it was wonderful, blest be His name,
Seeking for me, for me.
No one who knows the Scripture can deny that man is responsible to seek the Lord. In Isaiah 55:6 this command is found: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found. . .” In the New Testament Christ delivered this command: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righ-.The Mission of Christ by Milburn Cockrell – Page 3
teousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Men need to go out of themselves to seek elsewhere for eternal life and everlasting happiness.
To seek God is to respect and adorn His sovereign maj-esty, to search the Scriptures, to obey His holy command-ments, to approach Him in prayer. Before any of this can be done man must seek God by repentance and place confidence in Him. This is where the problem is. Man does not desire to repent and believe the gospel. He will not seek God with his whole heart until regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
On this point the Scripture is plain: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11). There is none acquainted with His character, that endeavours to know and do His will. They all neglect and forget Him. This disposition not to seek God is full proof of total depravity. Adam, sinning, turned his back and fled from the holy God. Since that day no human being has ever sought a righteous God. Conscious of his inward depravity and guilt, he is filled with terrors of conscience at any thought of God. Ever since Eden, God has had to take the place of the seeker, persuader, convicter and final perfecter of man’s salvation. His sovereign grace goes ahead of, and brings into being, all human response to the gospel of Christ. Christ had to seek man because man would have never sought God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ left heaven’s glory to come to earth to seek His lost sheep. He patiently seeks them out because He loves them ( Jer. 31:3). He patiently seeks out each lost sheep because He died to save them. He pa-tiently seeks those who were not worth seeking, those who sought Him not as Zacchaeus. He will seek each lost sheep until He finds it, and He will not cease in His work until He brings every one of them home to God (Luke 15: 4-7).
HIS PURPOSE WITH MAN
Our Savior’s purpose with man is seen in the words “to save that which was lost.” The same ones that Christ seeks He also saves. He seeks them out for the expressed purpose of saving them. His great design is to save, for there is no salvation in any other (Acts 4:12). He uses ev-ery means at His disposal to effect the salvation of sin-ners. Men desperately need salvation, yet they spend their time upon trifles with no consideration for the safety of their own souls. They admire and make provision for this vile body while their souls are dropping into Hell. This is like painting the door when the house is on fire. Men
need to forsake their sins and to come in tears for their sins to Christ for peace and pardon. Upon coming to Him in this manner, they will discover that He came to seek and to save poor sinners like they are. Please re-member that He said: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matt. 18:11).
1. Christ came forth into human history on a seeking and saving mission. His was a seeking and saving life and ministry. He is the great heavenly Seeker and Savior. While on earth He sought out and saved sinners. He still has this same seeking and saving attitude in Hevaen which He formerly had on earth. Many are the places He has sought and found His lost ones—one on a cross, one by the well, one in a boat, and one in a sycamore tree!
2. The Lord from Heaven seeks and saves only those who have been brought by the Holy Spirit to see they are lost. Man is lost in respect to separation and distance from God. He is lost in regard to future hopes. It is a wonderful time for you if the Holy Spirit has brought you to see that you are lost. If this is your case then know for a fact that the Son of man is come to seek and save you. He is bent on doing this. It is His errand and mission. No matter how lost you are He is determined to seek and save you. Thank God that He came to seek you instead of leaving you to seek Him!
3. There are but three classes of persons in the world. First, those who have found Christ precious to their souls and serve Him. John told Peter: “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” ( John 1:41). Second, those who, not having found Him are seek-ing Him. These are earnestly seeking him with their whole heart because the Lord has already given them a new heart. Third, those who neither have found Him nor seek Him. Such incorrigible wanderers will be lost for ever.
NO KING, NO SAVIOUR!
William S. Plumer
Those who reject Christ as King have never truly received Him as Prophet or Priest. His yoke and His doctrine, His rule and His rest, go together. If His love does not make us obedient to His laws, we have no interest in His merits. We are not wise unto salvation till we bow to His authority. If we are partakers of His redemption, we are certainly partakers of His holiness. We may talk of His wonderful teachings, or boast of our interest in His amazing sacrifice, but it is all in vain so long as we refuse to own Him as our Leader and Commander. Wherever He comes to bless, He comes as Conquerer. His rule is as just as it is welcome to the penitent: „For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:9).
CHRIST IS THE BELIEVER’S ALL
William S. Plumer
Christ is our life; severed from Him we are withered branches. It is only when Christ is clearly seen and cordially embraced that our peace is like a river, and our righteousness as the waves of the sea. The entire Christian race is run by pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. All the acts of faith are the fruit of the Spirit; the object of them all is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; the warrant of them all is the promise of God, the offer of the gospel: and while they utterly renounce self, they bring Christ into the soul, the hope of glory…
Hold fast your profession of His Name. Stick to Him, stand up for Him, live unto Him, look to Him, be ready to die for Him, let your desires centre in Him, let your motives to holy living be drawn from Him, let your sorrows be sanctified by Him, let your joys be heightened, chastened, sweetened by Him. Keep to Him alone none else can do us good. Devotion to Christ cannot be excessive. Many love, and serve, and trust, and praise Him too little; but whoever loved, or served, or trusted, or praised Him too much?