Exposition

The Deity of the Son of God is taught in this question, and it is now proper for us to consider it more fully. But here an objection arises out of the manner in which the above question is framed, which it may be well to notice: He who is the only begotten Son has no brethren; but Christ has brethren; for we also are the sons of God: therefore he is not the only begotten Son of God. To this we reply, by making a distinction as to the manner in which Christ and we are the sons of God; for there is a difference in this respect which it is well for us to keep in view whilst treating this subject. Christ is the only begotten, the natural, proper and eternal Son of God; but we are the sons of God, adopted of the Father by grace for the sake of Christ.

That these things may be manifest, we must explain in a few words, Who are called sons, and in how many ways this title is used: then consider, Who are, and who are called the sons of God.

They are and are called sons who are either born sons, or are adopted as such.

They are born sons who begin at one and the same time both to be and to be sons. These are either sons born from parents, or through grace. Sons born from parents are properly called natural sons, to whom the essence and nature of their parents is communicated, and that either wholly or in part. Now the essence and nature of our parents, of whom we were born, is communicated to us in part; but the divine essence is communicated from the Father to Christ wholly according to his Divinity. As we are, therefore, the natural sons of our parents, so Christ is according to his divine nature the natural and only Son of God, of the same essence and nature with the Father, out of whose substance he was begotten from ever lasting, in a manner altogether beyond our comprehension. “As the Father hath life in himself, so also hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” (John 5:26.) The Father has, therefore, communicated to him the life by which he himself lives by himself, and by which he quickens all creatures, which life is that one and eternal Deity by whom all things are.

They are sons by grace, who at one and the same time began to be, and to be the sons of God. That they are sons results, either from the grace of creation, or from the grace of conception by the Holy Ghost and union with the Word.

The Angels and Adam before the fall are Sons of God by the grace of creation; because God created them that he might have them for sons, and that they on the other hand might acknowledge and praise him as their gracious Father. These are, indeed, improperly called sons born by grace, but yet they are such in as far as they began, at one and the same time, to exist and to be sons.

Christ alone according to his human nature is the Son of God, by the grace of conception by the Holy Ghost, and of union with the Word; because, according to this, he was the Son of God by grace, even from the very moment in which he began to be man and to be born; and that because, by virtue of the Holy Ghost, he alone was from the substance of the Virgin, pure from all stain or corruption, and was personally united with the Word.

They are adopted sons who do not begin at one and the same time to be, and to be sons; but who were already before they were adopted, or who had an existence before their adoption as sons. They have been made sons by law and the will of him who has adopted them, and given them the right and title of sons, so that they occupy the same place as if they were natural sons. So Adam, after his fall, and all those who are regenerated, are the adopted sons of God, received into favor with him on account of his natural Son, Jesus Christ. All these were the children of wrath before they were adopted into the family and church of Christ.

From what has now been said, it is plain, as well how we are the sons of God, which is by adoption, as how Christ is the only begotten Son of God, viz. in two ways. First, according to his Divinity, because as touching this he was begotten from everlasting from the substance of the Father; “and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” (John 1:14.) And, secondly, according to his humanity in some sort, because even in relation to this, he was born after such a manner as no one else ever was, from a pure and chaste Virgin by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Christ is also called the first begotten, 1. According to his Divinity in respect both to time and dignity. 2. According to his humanity, in respect to dignity alone, and that on account of the miraculous and peculiar manner of his conception, and on account of the gifts by which he excels all others, angels and men. It was the right of the first begotten to have a double portion of the inheritance, whilst each of the rest had only a single portion. The reason of this was on account of the office which he, as the first-begotten, filled; for he was placed over the rest and ruled them. "Christ is the first born of every creature: who is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” v Col. 1:15,18)

Christ is also called God's own Son, because he was begotten and not adopted; “Who spared not his own Son.” (Rom. 8:32.)

There are also forms of speech which it becomes us to observe carefully in speaking of the filiation of Christ and us. Christ is called the natural Son of God according to his Divinity, because he was begotten from everlasting from the Father. But according to his humanity he is not so called; but is called the Son of God by grace, and that not the grace of adoption, but of conception by the Holy Ghost, and of union with the Word. The reason why Christ is not, according to his humanity, the natural Son of God, is, because he is not begotten from the essence of the Father, according to his humanity. And the reason why he is not the adopted Son of God in respect to his humanity, is, because he was not made a Son of no son, but because in the very moment in which he began to be, he began also to be a Son. Angels are called the natural sons of God, but it is by the grace of creation, as man also was before his fall. Those who are regenerated in this life are called the sons of God, not by the grace of creation, but of adoption. Grace, therefore, in respect to adoption, is as the general to the particular; for there are three or four degrees, or as it were, species, of grace, viz: that of creation, of conception by the Holy Ghost, of union with the Word, and of adoption, as appears from what we have said.


From these remarks and the distinction we have made between those who are the children of God, the answer to the above named objection is apparent: He who has brethren is not the only begotten. Christ has brethren. Therefore he is not the only begotten. In answering this objection, the major must be more clearly distinguished; He that has brethren, that is, of the same generation and nature, is not the only begotten. But those who sustain the relation of brethren to Christ are not of the same generation and nature, for they are not begotten of the substance of the Father, but are only adopted of him by grace.