Arhive pe categorii: Christ
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).