Question 33. Why is Christ called the "only begotten Son" of God, since we are also the children of God?
Answer: Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God; (a) but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for his sake. (b)
(a) John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Heb.1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Heb.1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Rom.8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
(b) Rom.8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
Rom.8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Rom.8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Gal.4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Eph.1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Eph.1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
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.” 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.
How then, it may be asked, are we the brethren of Christ? We reply that our brotherhood or fraternity with Christ consists in these four things:
1. In the similitude and likeness of human nature, and because we are born from Adam, the common father of all.
2. In his fraternal love towards us.
3. In our conformity with Christ, which consists in perfect righteousness and blessedness.
4. In the consummation of his benefits.
Obj. 2. He who has a generation unlike that of other sons, is said in respect thereof, to be the only begotten. Christ according to his humanity has a generation different from that of other sons, because he alone was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of a Virgin. Therefore Christ is called the only begotten according to his humanity, in respect to this generation from the Virgin, and not on account of his eternal generation from the Father, according to his Divinity.
Ans. The major is true only of him who has a generation different from the whole race, that is, both in nature and in the mode of generation. But Christ according to his humanity has a, generation different from us, not according to his nature, but only according to the mode of his generation; for according to his humanity he is consubstantial with us, having a human nature the same with ours in kind: the difference is only as to the miraculous manner in which he was conceived and born of the Virgin. Therefore, although he is the only begotten in respect to this generation, yet in Scripture and in the Creed he is called the only begot ten Son of God, not according to his human, but according to his divine nature. Now according to his human nature, Christ has brethren; but according to his divine nature he has no brethren, because he was begotten from everlasting from the essence of the Father. Of no one else is it said that “the Father hath given to him to have life in himself,” and that “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Therefore he is expressly called the only begotten of the Father, and not of his mother. The phrase only begotten properly respects his nature and essence, and not his miraculous conception; and it signifies one that is begotten alone and not one that is begotten in an Extraordinary manner.
Obj. Every son is either natural or adopted. Christ, according to his humanity, is not the natural Son of God. Therefore, he is adopted.
Ans. The major of this syllogism is not sufficiently specific and clear, for there are sons of God by grace, as the angels, who are not sons by adoption, as we have already shown.
Hence we are now, in view of what has been said, led to ask what is meant by this article, I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God? It means,
1. That I believe that Jesus is the only begotton Son of God; that is, the natural and proper Son, not having any brethren, begotten of the substance of the Father from everlasting, very God of very God. But this is not enough; for even the devils believe this, and tremble. Therefore, this is to be added,
2. I believe that he is the only begotten Son of God for me, and my salvation in particular: Or, I believe that he is the Son of God, that he may make me a son by adoption, and communicate to me and all the elect, the right and dignity of the sons of God, as it is said, "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” (John 1:14, 12. Matt. 3:17. Ep. 1:6)
Of the Divinity of Christ
The doctrine concerning the only begotten Son of God is the foundation of our salvation, and has been variously corrupted and opposed by heretics, in different periods of the church. It is important, therefore, that we should here more fully explain and establish this doctrine. There are four things which are especially to be considered in relation to the Divinity of Christ, the Son of God:
I. Whether Christ, beside his soul and body, is, and has been a subsistent or person:
II. Whether he is a person distinct from the Father and the Holy Ghost:
III. Whether he be equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost:
IV. Whether he be con-substantial, that is, of one and the same substance with both.
There are, therefore, just as many principal propositions to be demonstrated against different heretics:
1. That Christ, born of the Virgin, besides his soul and body, is a person.
2. That he is a person, distinct from the Father and the Holy Ghost.
3. That he is equal to both.
4. That he is of one and the same essence, or con-substantial.
There are two ways of collecting arguments out of the Scriptures, in favor of the Divinity of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The one is when the arguments are gathered according to the order of the books of the Bible; this is the most laborious and lengthy method. The other, which is the shortest and easiest mode, because it assists the memory, and therefore the one which we shall follow, is, according to certain classes or sorts of arguments, under which those testimonies of scripture that properly belong to them are arranged.
I. The Son of God, The Word, IS, and has been a subsistent, or person before, and beside the Flesh which He assumed.
This proposition is to be proven against ancient and modern heretics, as Ebion, Cerinthus, Samosatenus, Photinus, Servetus, and others. The different classes of arguments by which we prove the hypostasis, or personal existence of the Word, before and besides the flesh which he assumed, may be reduced to eight or nine:
1. To the first class belong those passages of Scripture which expressly teach and distinguish two natures in Christ, and which affirm of the Word that he was made man, was manifested in the flesh, assumed our nature, &c., as, "The Word was made of flesh.” “He took of him the seed of Abraham.” “God was manifested in the flesh.” “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God.” “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” “To this end was I born, and for this came I into the world.” “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” “Before Abraham was I am.” (John 1:14, Heb. 2:16, I Tim. 3:16, 1 John 4:3, John 8:13, 18:37, Heb. 2:14, John 8:58) There is, therefore, one nature which appeared in the flesh, assumed our nature, descended from heaven, and came into the world, was made a partaker of flesh and blood, and was before Abraham. And there is also another nature which was assumed, in which he came and in which he appeared; for assuming and being assumed are not the same. Therefore, inasmuch as the Word assumed human nature, he must of necessity be different from it, and must have had an existence before that which he took upon him, and into which he was not changed, but has a subsistence or hypostasis different and distinct from the flesh which he assumed. The argument is after this sort: He that assumes, is before that which is assumed. The Word, or Son, is said to have taken upon him our nature, and to have been made flesh. Therefore, he was before that which he assumed.
All those testimonies of the word of God, which distinguish the Word, who assumed our nature from that which he took upon himself, are here in point: “Concerning his Son, Jesus Christ, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness.” “Of whom as concerning the- flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for evermore.” “Christ was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” (Rom. 1:3, 4;9:5. 1 Pet. 3:18.) Therefore, there is something in Christ which is not of the seed of David, and of the fathers, and which was not put to death. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19.) Therefore, there is in Christ one nature which is destroyed, and another which raises up that which is destroyed, viz., the Word, who is called by John "the only begotten Son.” (John 1:18.)
Obj. 1. The Word, by which is meant this preacher Jesus, was made flesh, that is, a mortal man.
Ans. This is a bold and manifest corruption of the meaning of God's word. The Word is said to have been God before he assumed our flesh (through him all things were made) to have come to his own, to enlighten every man that cometh into the world, was made flesh, and has imparted of his fullness to us all. Therefore, this Word was before all men. He was even before Adam himself, whilst Abraham and Moses were illuminated by him, and received out of his fullness. “I am the living bread which came down from Heaven.” “Christ went by the Spirit in the days of Noah and preached to the spirits that are in prison, which were disobedient in times past.” (John 6:51, 1 Pet. 3:19) But the human nature of this preacher Jesus did not descend from heaven, and was not in the times of Noah.
Obj. 2. Christ, man, is called God in the New Testament. Therefore, those who affirm that there is an invisible nature in this man, corrupt the Scripture; because, when I affirm that thou art a scholar, I do not mean that a scholar is in thee.
Ans. 1. Christ is called by the Apostle the Son of God, according to the Spirit. The Scriptures declare this man to be God, and that” in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Christ says of himself, “Destroy this body.” And the author of the epistle to the Hebrews makes mention of the tabernacle of the human nature, and calls his flesh a veil, viz., of his Divinity: “He suffered in the flesh.” “The Word was made flesh, and came unto his own.” (1 Pet. 4:1, John 1:14, 11) Therefore, there must needs be another nature in the flesh.
2. The Scriptures expressly attribute opposite properties to Christ, which cannot be found in anyone at the same time. They also attribute to him a finite and an infinite nature. “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) Therefore, there is a necessity that this should be understood of different natures by the communication of properties, for Christ is never described as being such a God as is made, or as is efficacious in the hearts, of men on account of his excellent gifts. 2. To the second division of arguments, are to be referred those declarations of Scripture in which Christ is called the proper Son of God, because he is not adopted, but begotten from the substance of the Father. “Who spared not his own Son.” (Rom. 8:38.) The Jews exclaimed against Christ in the presence of Pilate,"that he made himself the Son of God,” viz., the proper and natural Son; otherwise, they themselves would have been guilty of the blasphemy of which they accused Christ, since they acknowledged themselves the sons of God. And this is explained more clearly in another place, where the Jews are said to have desired to kill Christ, because he said “that God was his Father, making himself equal with God;” that is, his proper and peculiar Father, which is inferred from. this, that he claimed for himself that power of working which is peculiar to God. (John 5:18.) Therefore, we conclude from the words of the Jews, that Christ called himself the proper and natural Son of God, having the right of a Son by nature, which others obtain by grace through him: because, if Christ had only called himself the Son of God, either by adoption or by grace, the Jews could not have charged him with blasphemy; for so they would have passed sentence upon themselves as blasphemers, since they boasted that they were also the children of God. And further, if this had been a calumny on the part of the Jews, Christ would certainly have refuted it, or at least repelled it as far as he himself was concerned but instead of this, he admitted what they said, and showed by solid reasons that he was truly what he professed to be. Christ is, therefore, the proper Son of God, and there is necessarily another nature in him besides that which he assumed, according to which he is the proper Son of God.
Objections of Servetus: 1. Christ is called the proper Son of God because he was made by God, just as the church is called the peculiar people of God.
Ans. This is a corruption; for the Apostle, in the passage before cited, opposes the proper Son of God to us and to Angels, who are not the proper sons of God; for the Angels are the sons of God by the grace of creation, and we by that of adoption. But Christ alone is the proper and natural Son of God, because he was begotten from the substance of the Father.
Obj. 2. But it is no where said in the Scriptures that Christ is the natural Son of God. Therefore it is nothing more than an invention of men.
Ans. It is true, indeed, that it is no where said in the Bible that Christ is the natural Son of God, but there are expressions used of a similar and equivalent signification, such as, "God's own Son,” "the only begotten Son,” &c. And then the same conclusion is necessarily arrived at as we have already shown, by the argument of the Apostle to the Romans, and that of the Jews in John.
Obj. 3. The Word was indeed always in God, but not the Son. Christ was called the Son in respect to his future filiation or Sonship in the flesh which he assumed. Therefore he is not the natural Son of God.
Ans. 1. Nay, he was not thus called the Son of God, for his humanity did not proceed from the substance of the Father. 2. The Word is called such a Son as he to whom the Father gave to have life in himself. 3. There would not, according to the above objection, have been a personal distinction between the Father and the Son, because the Word according to Servetus was no hypostasis or person. Therefore the Father would have been without the Son, or would have been the same with the Son as Sabellius erroneously taught.
3. This class of arguments comprises those declarations of Scripture in which Christ is called the only begotten Son of God. 4. We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” &c. (John 1:14; 3:16.) Now Christ is called the only begotten Son because he has no brethren. But according to his human nature he has brethren, as it is said, “that it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren.” “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Heb. 2:17, 11.) There fore there is in Christ another nature, according to which he is the only begotten Son of the Father, and in relation to which he has no brethren.
Obj. Christ is called the only begotten, because the man Jesus is the only one born of the Virgin by the Holy Ghost.
Ans. This is a false interpretation of the language of Scripture, for 1. He alone is the only begotten who is from the substance of the Father. 2. Because the generation of the Word from the Father, and that of Christ from the Virgin, are often distinguished in the Scriptures, as it is said of Wisdom in Prov. 3:25, "Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth,” (or as it is otherwise rendered) begotten. “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” And in Matthew we read that Jesus, who is called Christ, was born of the Virgin Mary. 3 The only begotten is opposed to Angels and men, because Christ is the Son, not by the grace of adoption as is true of men, nor by that of creation as is true of Angels, but by nature. Here, however, it is objected on the part of some, that when it is said, “We beheld his glory it means the glory of the man Jesus; but this is an incorrect reference, because there is no antecedent to which we can properly refer the person spoken of, but the Word. The words which precede, are to be carefully noticed: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,” that is, the glory of the Word. If, therefore, the Word is called, and is the only begotten, then certainly, only begotten, in this passage, does not signify generation from Mary, but from the Father from everlasting. 4. To this division belong all those testimonies of Scripture in which the title Son of God is ascribed to Christ as to his divine nature, even before he was made flesh; as, “Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name? and what is his Son s name?” “God hath spoken unto us by his Son, by whom also he made the world.” “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world.” (Prov. 80:4, Heb. 1:2, John 3:17) The Father sent his Son into the world. But human nature is born into the world. Therefore the Son was before he was sent into the world.
To this class of arguments we must also refer all those portions of Scripture which attribute divine works to the Son before his assumption of humanity, as, “by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth.” “My Father worketh hitherto and I work.” “What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (Col. 1:16, John 5:17, 19) But the humanity of Christ does not accomplish whatever the Father does, nor does it effect anything in the same manner in which the Father does, even now since it has been assumed, much less from the beginning. Therefore, according to this, the Son did all things from the beginning according to his divine nature, which is something different from the flesh which he assumed. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” If the Son now revealed God the Father to those who lived before he assumed our nature, he must have existed previously.
Those testimonies, moreover, which expressly attribute to Christ the name of God according to his divine nature, are here in place. These are to be diligently collected; because the enemies of the Divinity of Christ strongly insist that the name of God is only attributed to him in respect to his human nature. “The Word was God.” “God was manifested in the flesh.” “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.” Therefore, there is in Christ a nature which was called the Son of God even before he was made flesh. Hence heretics cannot say that Christ is only now called the Son of God, since his miraculous conception by the Holy Ghost.
5. Under this class of arguments we shall comprise those passages of Scripture which speak of the Word. The Word, concerning which John speaks, was a person apart from and before the assumption of humanity. The Son is the Word. Therefore the Son is a person apart from and before the flesh assumed. All the different parts of the description of the Word in the first chapter of the gospel of John, combine to establish the truth of the major of the above syllogism. Thus it is said that he was in the beginning of the world and was truly God, that through him all creatures were made, that he was the author of all life and light in men, that he was in the world from the beginning, even when he was not known, and acknowledged, &c. Now all these things, which are proper only of some one that is subsistent, living, intelligent and operating, being ascribed to the Word most clearly prove that he was a person, and that before the man Jesus was born of the Virgin. The minor is proven from John 1:14: "We beheld his glory,” (viz. that of the incarnate Word) "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” Likewise, he who is called the Word is, in the same chapter, called the only begotten Son existing in the bosom of the Father, And again, John says that it was through the Word, and Paul says that it was through the Son that God created all things. Therefore, he who is called the Word and the Son of God, is a person which has existed before Jesus was born, and now dwells personally in the human nature which he assumed.
6. Under this head we shall consider those declarations of holy writ which testify of Christ that he is the Wisdom of God. The argument is this: The wisdom of God, through which all things were made, is eternal. The Son is that Wisdom. Therefore the Son is eternal, and by consequence existed before the assumption of humanity. The major is proven from what is said of Wisdom in Prov. 8:22: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old. When there were no depths I was brought forth.” The minor is thus proven: 1. Wisdom, in the passage just cited, is said to have been begotten. But to be begotten, when this is spoken of an intelligent nature, is nothing else than to be a Son. 2. Christ calls himself the wisdom of God. “Therefore also said the Wisdom of God, I will send them prophets,” &c. (Luke 11:49) 3. Paul also calls Christ the wisdom of God. “We preach Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 1:24) 4. The same things are ascribed by Solomon to wisdom which the Scriptures in other places attribute with peculiar efficacy to the Son, and which are more largely treated of in the book of Wisdom. Therefore Wisdom is the Son of God.
7. To this class belong those testimonies of Scripture concerning the office of the Mediator, which is to collect and to preserve the whole church by his merit and efficacy. That the church might be fully redeemed it was necessary that there should be a Mediator, on account of whom and through whom it might be gathered and defended. This Mediator is neither the Father nor the Holy Ghost. Therefore Christ is the Mediator of the whole church existing already from the beginning of the world. The church of old was received into favor on account of Christ who was to come; but this could not have been had he not existed; for no merit or efficacy can be from one who is not. Wherefore it is clearly evident that Christ had an existence before his incarnation; for it is not possible that there could have been friendship between God and men without a Mediator already existing. And hence, as there was a state of reconciliation between God and the faithful under the Old Testament, there must have been some Mediator of the church. The Scriptures now teach that there is only one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore Christ must have existed before his appearance in the flesh. The same thing may be inferred from the office of the Mediator, which is not only to appease the Father by intercession and sacrifice, but also to confer upon the faithful all those good things which he has obtained by his power and efficacy, to make known the will of God to men, to institute a ministry, to collect and preserve the church, and that wholly. "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Therefore, neither Adam nor any of the faithful of old knew God, except through the Son, consequently the Son must then have existed.
Those testimonies of Scripture which speak of the efficacy of Christ, are to be referred to this division as well as those which speak of his merit. Thus it is said: “He hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church.” “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ep. 1:22; 2:20.) Christ is, therefore, the foundation, the head, the upholder, arid governor of the church, and hence existed before the church was. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” “I give unto them eternal life.” “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “He was that true light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world.” “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” “He gave some apostles, some prophets, and some pastors and teachers.” (John 14:6, 10:28, 1:4,9, Ep. 2:18, 4:11) The apostle Peter says that the Spirit of Christ was in the prophets, foretelling the sufferings that should come unto Christ. Therefore, Christ revealed the will of God, instituted the ministry, established and governs the church; and in as much as he has done all this from the very beginning of the church, it is not to be doubted but that he has always existed. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing.” (John 6:39.) Therefore he preserves the church, and so has always been, because the church has always been preserved.
There is a remarkable testimony in the prophecy of Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.” This is spoken by Christ himself, through the prophet, and is confirmed by this argument: He for whom a way is prepared, is Christ. And he who promises, is the one for whom the way is prepared. Therefore, he who promises is Christ. The major is plain; for not the Father, but Christ was expected, and it was he that came after John the Baptist. The minor is proven from the text. “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.” Therefore Christ was, before he assumed our nature, because he sent his messenger, John, and was very God before he was manifested in the flesh; for he calls it his temple, to which he says he was about to come. No one but God has a temple built for his worship. Therefore, it is blasphemy to say that Christ did not exist before he assumed flesh. Nor is it to be objected because he speaks in the third person: saying the Lord will come to his temple: for he clearly shows that it is the Son who is meant by that Lord; I, the Lord, who sent John before me, and who also am the messenger of the covenant. Hence, it is possible that the prophet changes the person speaking, and represents the Father speaking in regard to sending his Son.
8. This class of arguments contains the testimonies in relation to the angel who appeared to the fathers under the Old Testament, as the messenger of God. “The angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads,” &c. (Gen. 48:16.) This angel of the Lord, of whose appearance we have many instances recorded in the Old Testament, the church has always confessed to have been the Son of God, and that for three reasons: 1. Because the whole Scriptures teach that the Son of God is the messenger of the Father to the church, and that he performs the office of Mediator. “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.” “Unto the Son he saith, thy throne, O God, is forever and ever,” &c. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Mal. 8:1, Heb. 1:8, 13:8) 2. Because, what is said by Moses concerning this angel, is said concerning Christ by Paul, that he was tempted in the desert by the Israelites. From these, and similar things, we may present the argument thus: The angel, or messenger of the Father was before the incarnation. That angel was neither the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, but the Son, because the Son alone is the messenger of the Father, and the mediator. Therefore, the Son was a person subsisting before he took upon him our nature.
9. In this last division are comprehended all those places in the Scripture in which Christ is expressly called the true God, by name and properties. “Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all God blessed for ever.” “This is the true God, and eternal life.” (Rom. 9:5, 1 John 5:20) Here the man Jesus Christ is expressly called the true God. If, therefore, he is the true God, he has always existed; for the one true God is from everlasting. “God was manifested in the flesh.” Here Christ is, without doubt, called God.
To this class of arguments also properly belong all those testimonies which attribute to Christ the work of creation, miracles, redemption, regeneration, protection, glorification, and also the government of the whole world, for which infinite wisdom, power, knowledge, and omnipresence are necessary, of which we have already at different times furnished quite a number of proofs. From these it is evident that not only the name, but also the properties of the true God, are attributed to the man Christ, the latter of which furnish the strongest proofs of his proper Divinity; for, whilst the titles of the true God which are attributed to Christ, may, after a certain manner, be expounded metaphorically, the divine properties cannot be so wrested as to lose their proper weight. And if we fortify ourselves with arguments of this kind, our adversaries cannot stand, but will be compelled, willing or unwilling, to confess that Christ had an existence before his incarnation.
This proposition being established, that the Son subsisted before his manifestation in the flesh, we must further enquire, what was he? the Creator, or a creature. Was he a Spirit co-eternal with God, or created in time? An answer to these questions is returned in the description of the Word, and of wisdom which is found in the first chapter of the gospel of John, and in the eighth chapter of the Proverbs of Solomon.
II. That the Son is a person really distinct from the Father and the Holy Ghost
That the person of the Son is distinct from that of the Father, must be maintained and taught on account of Noetus, Sabellius, and their adherents, who affirm that the essence of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is of the same person, or that the three are one person; but that they have different names, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, on account of having different offices.
To prove that the Son is distinct from the Father, not only in office, but also in his personality, the following arguments are sufficient:
1. No one is a son of himself, but every son is of a father, who is distinct from him that is begotten, or else the father and the son would be the same in the same respect, which is absurd. Therefore, the Word is the Son of the Father, and not the Father himself.
2. The Scriptures teach that there are three distinct persons in the God head. “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” “And God said let us make man in our own image;” (he did not say I will make man.) “I and my Father are one.” “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.” “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” “Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” (1 John 5:7, Gen. 1:26, John 10:80, 14:26, 15:26, Matt. 28: 19) The Holy Ghost also descended in the shape of a dove, the Son was baptized in Jordan, and the voice of the Father was heard from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16)
3. There are express testimonies of Scripture which affirm that the Father is one, the Son is one, and the Holy Ghost is another. “There is another that beareth witness of me,” viz., the Father speaking from heaven. “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter.” (John 5:32, 37, 7:16, 5:19, 14:16)
4. There are distinct attributes ascribed to the different persons of the Godhead. The Father begat the Son, and the Son is begotten. The Father sent, and the Son is sent. It is not said of the Father that he was made flesh, but of the Son alone. The Son, and not the Father, took upon him the seed of Abraham. The Son was made a supplicating intercessor, priest, prophet, king, and mediator, and not the Father. Therefore, the Father and Son are different. The Father is of himself through the Son: the Son is not of himself, nor through the Father, but through himself from the Father. Finally, Christ was baptized, and not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost. Therefore, Christ is distinct from the Father and the Holy Ghost.
III. That the Son is equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost
That the Son is true God, equal with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, that he was not made or created before all creature, that he is not God on account of divine qualities and operations, and that he is not inferior to the other persons of the Godhead, as Arius, Eunomius, Samosatenus, Servetus, and other heretics of a similar character imagine; but that he is by nature God, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is proven,
1. By explicit testimonies from the Scriptures. “This is the will of the Father, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father;” but the Father ought to be honoured as the true God, and not as an imaginary Deity; so therefore the Son is to be honored. “Whatsoever the Father doeth, the Son does likewise.” “As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” “Christ is over all God blessed for ever.” “This is the true God arid eternal life.” “The second man is the Lord from heaven.” “All things that he hath are mine.” “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (John 5:23, 5:19, 5:26, Rom. 9:5, 1 John 5:20, 1 Cor. 15:47, Col. 2:9, Phil. 2:6)
2. He is the true, proper, and natural Son of God, begotten from the essence of the Father. And if he is begotten from the essence of God, the same is, therefore, communicated to him whole and entire, since the divine essence is infinite, indivisible, and not communicated in part. Therefore, inasmuch as the Son has the whole essence communicated to him, he is, for this reason, equal with the Father, and, consequently, true God.
3. The Scriptures attribute all the essential properties of Deity to the Son, not less than to the Father, as that he is eternal. “Before the hills, was I brought forth.” “In the beginning was the Word.” (Prov. 8:25, John 1:1) He is immense: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.” “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” (John 3:13, Eph. 3:17) He is omnipotent: “What things the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” “according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.” “Upholding all things by the word by his power.” (John 5:19, Phil. 3:21, Heb. 1:3) His wisdom is immense: “His name shall be called Counsellor.” "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son,” &c. "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.” “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things.” (Is. 9:6, John 2:54, 16:30) He is the sanctifier of the church: “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:25, 26) He is unchangeable: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) He is the truth itself, yea the fountain of truth: “Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true.” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 8:14, 14:6) His mercy is unspeakable: “As Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.” (Ep. 5:2.) He is angry with sin, and punishes even those sins that are committed in secret: “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “And said to the rocks and mountains, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. (John 3:36, Rev. 6:16) Therefore, the Son is by nature God, and equal with the Father.
4. The Scriptures, in like manner, attribute all divine works equally to the Father and the Son.
He is the creator of all things, for it is said in the gospel of John: “All things were made by him.”
He is the preserver and governor of all things: “Upholding all things by the word of his power.” (Heb. 1:3)
Then there is attributed to Christ those things which appertain specially to the salvation of the church. He sends prophets, apostles, and other ministers of the church: “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” “And he gave some prophets, and some apostles, and some evangelists,” &c. (John 20:21, Eph. 4:11)
He furnishes his ministers with necessary gifts and graces: “I will give you a mouth, and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” (Luke 21:15) He reveals unto us the doctrine of salvation: “The only begotten which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18)
He confirms this doctrine by miracles: [i]“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” (Mark 16:20)
He instituted the sacraments: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.” "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”[/i] (1 Cor. 11:23, Matt. 28:19)
He reveals the future: “I, Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.” “He shall receive of mine, and show it unto you.” (Rev. 22:16, John 16:14)
He collects the church: “l am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” “Other sheep also I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” (John 10:14, 16)
He illuminates the understandings of men: “No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom he will reveal him.” “Then opened he their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures.” (Matt. 11:27, Luke 24:45) He regenerates and sanctifies: “This is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” (John 1:33. Tit. 2:14.)
He governs the lives and actions of the godly: [i]“Without me ye can do nothing.” “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (John 15:5, Gal. 2:20)
He comforts the godly in temptations: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (Matt. 11:28, John 14:27)
He confirms and defends those that are converted against the temptations of the devil, and preserves them by a true faith unto the end: “Be of good comfort, I have overcome the world.” “My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” (John 16:33, 10:28)
He hears those that call upon him: “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” “For this I besought the Lord thrice, and he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee.” (John 14:14, 2 Cor. 12:8)
He forgives sins, justifies, and adopts us as the children of God: “The knowledge of my righteous servant shall justify many.” “That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” “But as many as received him to them gave he power to be the sons of God.” (Is. 53:11. Matt. 9:6. John 1:12.)
He gives eternal life and salvation: “I give unto them eternal life.” “This is the true God and eternal life.” (John 10:28, 1 John 5:20)
He will judge the world: “He was ordained of God, to be the Judge of quick and dead.” “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” (Acts 10:42, 17:32)
These divine works attributed to the Son, differ from the divine properties which are also ascribed to him, as effects differ from their causes.
5. In the Scriptures, equal and common honor, and worship, are also attributed to the Father and the Son; which equality follows from an equality of essence and operations. Christ is worshipped by the angels and the church: “Let all the angels of God worship him.” He himself said: “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” (Heb. 1:6, John 5:23) Faith and trust are to be reposed in him: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) He is called God absolutely, as the Father: “This is the true God, and eternal life. ”He himself instituted the sacraments in which he is worshipped. He is seated at the right of God, upon the throne of his Father, and rules with equal power with the Father. He is adored with equal honor with the Father by the church triumphant. “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13) Finally, he is the bridegroom, the husband, the head and king of the church, which is his house, and temple, &c.
Obj. He who has all things from another, is inferior to him from whom he has them. The Son has all things from the Father. Therefore, he is inferior to the Father.
Ans. The major is true only of him who has any thing by the grace of the giver; for he may not have it, and is, therefore, by nature inferior; but it is not true of him who has all things by generation, or by nature, as the Son of God, the Word has all things from the Father. “The Father hath given to the Son to have life in himself as he hath life in himself.” "All mine are thine, and thine are mine.” (John 5:26, 17:10)
Obj. 2. He who does whatever he does by the will of another going before, is inferior to him by whose will he is controlled. The Son acts by the will of the Father going before, and preventing. Therefore, he is inferior to the Father.
Ans. The order of operating on the part of the persons of the Godhead, does not take away their equality; for it is thus that God reveals himself in his word; because the Father does all things through the Son and Holy Ghost; the Son by the Father, through the Spirit, &c. Neither is this an order of time, or dignity, or nature, but only of persons; so that the Son wills and does only such things as the Father wills and does, and that with the same power and authority, which instead of doing away with their equality, only establishes it the more fully.
IV. That the Son is consubstantial or of the same essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost
Having established the former propositions, we are now naturally led to prove that the Son is consubstantial; that is, of the same essence with the Father. Heretics are willing to confess that the Son is of like substance, or essence with the Father, which is, indeed, true, but does not express the whole truth in relation to this subject. Two men are also, like-substantial who are nevertheless, not consubstantial. But the Father and the Son are not only of similar, but of one, and the same essence, and are one God; for there is only one divine essence which is the same, and is wholly in every one of the persons of the Godhead. The Father is, indeed, one person, and the Son is another; but yet the Father is not one God, and the Son another God, &c. John says, "that there are three that bear record in heaven; “they are three persons, but not three Gods that bear witness; "for these three are one.” Therefore, we declare against Arius, that Christ is not only like-substantial, but also consubstantial with the Father, having the same divine essence with the Father, which is confirmed by the following arguments:
1. Because the Son is called Jehovah, who is only one essence. And not only is the name, but the properties, also, which belong to Jehovah alone, are attributed to Christ: “And this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” “Lo this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord.” This expected God and Saviour is the Messiah, who, in the same sense, is called “the desire of all nations.” (Jer. 23:6, Is. 25:9, Hag. 1:7)
Those passages of Scripture are here also in place in which the angel of the Lord is called Jehovah himself; and also, those which in the Old Testament are spoken concerning Jehovah, and in the new are cited and applied to Christ: “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” (Ps. 68:18, Eph. 4:8) Jehovah was tempted in the desert; the same is said of Christ. “And let all the angels of God worship him.” “And thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands.” (Ps. 97:7, Ps. 102:26, Heb. 1:6, 10)
2. Because he is called the true God, who is but one, as it is said, "This is the true God, and eternal life.” “Who is over all God blessed forever.” (1 John 5:20, Rom. 9:5)
3. Because there is one and the same Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeding from, and proper unto both through whom the Father and the Son work. They are, therefore, not distinct in essence, but only in persons, otherwise each one would have his own peculiar Spirit, and that different from the Spirit of the other.
4. Because Christ is the only begotten and proper Son of the Father, having his essence communicated to him the same, and entire, in as much as the Godhead can neither be multiplied or divided.
From these considerations it is easy to return an answer to the sophisms of heretics, especially if we consider the source whence they proceed; for they either rest their conclusions upon false principles; or they transfer to the Creator those things which are peculiar to created things; or they attribute to the Divinity of Christ those things which are spoken of his human nature; or they confound the office of the mediator with his nature or person; or they exclude the Son and Holy Ghost from those things which they ascribe to the Father as the fountain of all the divine works of the Son and Holy Ghost; or they detract from the Son and Holy Ghost those things by which the Divinity of the Father is distinguished from creatures and idols; or, finally, they corrupt the language of Scripture.
General rules by which an answer may be returned to the principal heresies and objections of heretics.
1. Heretics reason from false principles when they argue that, if God begat one Son he could have begotten more, and the Son might have begotten another son, &c. We reply to this objection by laying down this rule, That we are to judge of God according to the revelation which he has made in his word, and not according to the brain of heretics. Hence, as he has revealed himself in his word as such an one as could have begotten only one Son, and has and willed to have only one and not more, we should rest satisfied with this and not go beyond what he has been pleased to reveal.
2. They assume many things which are true in relation to things that are finite, but which are false when they are applied to God who is infinite, as, for example, when they argue, That three cannot be one: Three persons really distinct cannot be one essence: He that begets and he that is begotten are not the same essence: An infinite person cannot beget another that is infinite: One essence cannot be communicated to many: He who communicates his own essence, whole and entire to another, does not remain what he was, &c. To these and similar objections often brought forward by those who oppose the doctrine of the Divinity of the Son and Holy Ghost, we reply, not by simply denying what they affirm, but by making a distinction according to this rule: Principles which are true concerning a nature that is finite, are not to be transferred to the infinite essence of God; for when this is done they become false.
3. When they argue from things peculiar to the human nature, as that Christ suffered, died, &c., which things cannot be said of God; we reply to them by making a distinction between the natures in Christ, according to this rule: Those things which are proper to the human nature of Christ are not to be transferred to his divine nature.
4. When they conclude from those things which are peculiar to the office of the mediator, that God cannot be sent by God; we must reply according to the rule of Cyril: Sending and obedience do not take away or conflict with equality of power, or of essence; or, inequality of office does not set aside equality of nature, or of persons. It is in accordance with this rule that we are also to explain that declaration of Christ: My Father is greater than I; viz. as it respects the office and human nature of the mediator, but not as it respects his divine essence. (John 14:28)
5. When they conclude that the Son is not God, or that he is inferior to the Father, because he sometimes in the Scriptures attributes his own works to the Father, as the fountain of all divine operations, as in John 14:10, "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works;” an answer is to be returned according to this rule: Those things which are attributed to the Father as the fountain, are not to be considered as belonging to him exclusively , as though the Son did not participate in them; for they are communicated to him that he may have them as his own. For what things soever the Father doeth, these doeth the Son likewise.
6. So when they argue from those passages of Scripture in which the Father is opposed to false deities which make no mention of the Son, that this omission is a manifest proof that the Son is not that one God, an answer is easily given according to this rule: When any thing is attributed to any one of the persons of the Godhead that is opposed to creatures, or false deities, that he may thereby be distinguished from them, the other persons are not excluded, but only those things in regard to which a comparison is made. Or, When one divine person, as the Father, is opposed to creatures, or idols, and glory and honor are ascribed to him, it does not follow that the Son and Holy Ghost are not of the same divine essence with the one thus opposed, and that they do not possess equal honor and glory: Or, the divine properties, operations and honor are attributed to any one of the persons in such a manner that they are not removed from the other persons of the Godhead, but only from creatures: Or, a superlative or exclusive manner of speaking in regard to one person, does not exclude the other persons of the Godhead; but creatures and false gods with whom the true God in one or more persons, is opposed. As, "the Father is greater than all,” that is, all creatures, and not the Son or Holy Ghost. (John 10:29) “Of that day knoweth no one, but the Father only, ”that is, no creature. (Matt. 24:86) Hence an answer is also furnished to the declaration, “that they might know thee, the only true God.” (John 17:3) The Son is not by this excluded as though he were not truly and properly God, but idols and false gods with whom the Father, the true God, is compared, are excluded.
7. Concerning the phrases and language of Scripture which they corrupt, we are to judge of them according to the circumstances connected with the passages referred to, and by a comparison of them with other passages, as, "he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father,” (1 Cor. 15:24) in such a manner, doubtless, that he himself might retain it, just as the Father delivered the kingdom to the Son in such a way that he, nevertheless, did not lose it. So "the Son does nothing;” (John 5:19) that is, he does nothing of himself, or without the will of the Father going before, yet he acts by himself from the Father.
Special rules against the sophisms of heretics and such as we necessary for the understanding of Scripture.
1. There is nothing objectionable in the declaration that those who are equal in nature may be unequal in office.
2. That which the Father has given to the Son that he may retain, he will never take from him again; but that which has been given and committed to him for a certain time, he must of necessity resign.
3. A consequence which is drawn from that which is relative to that which is absolute, is not of force.
4. It does not follow that he who has his person from another, has his essence likewise from another.
5. That which is proper to one nature only, is attributed to the person in the concrete, but not otherwise than in respect to that nature to which it is proper.
6. Wisdom is two-fold: there is one kind which is in creatures, which is the order of things in nature wisely constituted: and there is another wisdom which is in God, which, when it is opposed to creatures, is the divine mind itself, or the eternal decree of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in relation to this order. But when this wisdom in God is distinguished from God, then it is properly taken for the Son of God. The former wisdom is created, the latter uncreated.
7. Whenever one person of the Godhead is opposed in the Scripture to creatures, or false gods, and thus distinguished from them, the other persons are not thereby excluded, but only creatures with whom there is a comparison of the true God. The same is to be observed in all exclusive and superlative declarations.
8. When God is named absolutely in the Scriptures, it is always to be understood as referring to the true God.
9. Whereas the Son and Holy Ghost are from the Father; and whereas the Father works through the Son and Holy Ghost, and did not humble himself, as the Son; the Scriptures oftentimes, and especially in the discourses of Christ, understand by the name of the Father, also the Son and Holy Ghost.
10. When God is considered absolutely, or by himself, or is opposed to creatures, the three persons are comprehended; but when he is opposed to the Son, the first person of the Godhead, which is the Father, is understood.
11. The Scriptures distinguish the persons when they oppose or compare them with each other, or when they express their personal properties, by which they restrict to one of the persons of the Godhead, the name of God common to them all. But they embrace and mean all the persons of the Godhead, when they oppose the true God to creatures, or false gods, or consider him absolutely according to his nature.
12. The Son is wont to refer to the Father that which he has in common with him, not making any mention of himself, in as much as he speaks in the person of the mediator.
13. The Son is said to see, to learn, to hear and to work as from the Father in respect to both natures, but yet with a just and proper distinction; for the will of God is made known to his human understanding by revelation. But his Godhead by itself, and in his own nature, knows and sees most perfectly from everlasting the will of the Father.
14. If the external operations of the three persons were distinct they would make distinct essences, because, if when one would work another should rest, there would be different essences.
15. When God is called the Father of Christ and of the faithful, it does not follow that he is their, and his Father in the same name.
16. The Father has never been without the Son, nor the Father and the Son without the Spirit, in as much as the Godhead can neither be increased, diminished, nor changed.
Certain sophisms of heretics against the eternal Deity of the Son briefly refuted.
1. Three persons are not one in essence. Jehovah is one essence. Therefore there cannot be three persons in the Godhead. Ans. The major holds true only of things finite and created: and not of the uncreated, infinite, most simple and individual essence of the Godhead.
2. He that has a beginning is not eternal. The Son has a beginning. Therefore he is not that eternal Jehovah who is the Father. Ans. That is not eternal which has a beginning of essence and time; but the Son is said to have had a beginning, not of essence and time; but only of person or of order and of the mode of existing. For he has one and the same essence with the Father, not in time, but by eternal generation. “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” “And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” “As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” (Micah 5:2, John 17:5, 5:26) If it be further objected, that he who has a beginning of person or of origin, as the Son has, is not Jehovah; we reply that if this proposition is understood universally, it is false; for the Scriptures distinctly teach, both that the Son is Jehovah, and that he was begotten, that is, had an ori gin of person from the Father.
3. Our union with God is a consent of will. The union of the Son with the Father is of the same character, as it is said, “that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11) Therefore the union of the Son with the Father is not of essence, but only a consent and agreement of will.
Ans. There is more in the conclusion than in the premises; for the conclusion is universal whilst the minor is specific; for there is besides the con sent of the faithful to the will of God, also another union of the Son with the Father, viz., of essence; because they are one God. “I and my Father are one.” “I am in the Father and the Father in me.” “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” “Who is the express image of his person.” (John 10:30, 14:9, 10, Heb. 1:3)
4. Besides him in whom the whole Deity is, there is not another in whom it is likewise. The whole Deity is in the Father. Therefore the Godhead is not in the Son.
Ans. We deny the major, because the same essence which is in the Father, is also entire in the Son and Holy Ghost.
5. The divine essence is not begotten. But the Son is begotten. Therefore he is not the same divine essence which the Father is.
Ans. Nothing can be concluded from mere particulars; for the major, when expounded generally, is false, that whatever is the divine essence is not begotten.
6. Where there are distinct operations, at least such as are internal there are also distinct essences. There are distinct internal operations of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Therefore their essences are distinct.
Ans. The major is true of persons having a finite nature; but may be inverted when understood of persons having an infinite essence; for where there are distinct operations ad intra, which consist in the communicating of essence, there it must needs be one and the same, and that the whole essence, because it is communicated entire to whomsoever it is made over.
7. Christ is the Son of God according to that nature, in respect to which lie is called the Son in the Scriptures. But he is called the Son according to his human nature only. Therefore he is the Son of God according to this alone, and consequently is not very God.
Ans. The minor is false, because the Son is said to have descended from heaven, to be in heaven when his flesh was on earth. The Father is said to have created all things through the Son. These things are not said of the Son according to his human nature.
8. The Son has a head and is less than the Father. Therefore he is not one and the same essence with the Father.
Ans. The Son has a head in respect to his human nature, and his office as mediator. These things, however, do not detract any thing from his Divinity.
9. The divine essence is incarnate. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are the divine essence. Therefore the three are incarnate.
Ans. We deny the consequence; for nothing can be inferred with certainty from mere particulars. The major cannot be established universally; for not what ever is the divine essence is incarnate, that is, not every person subsisting in it is incarnate; or the divine essence is not incarnate in the three per sons, but only in one, and that in the person of the Son.
10. The Father only is the true God, as it is said, John 17:3, “That they might know thee, the only true God” Therefore the Son is not the true God.
Ans. 1. According to the sixth general rule, there is here not an opposition of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but of the true God, with idols and creatures. Therefore the particle only does not exclude the Son and Holy Ghost from Deity, but only those to whom he is opposed.
2. There is a fallacy in dividing clauses of mutual coherence and necessary connection; for it follows in the passage above referred to, “and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Therefore eternal life also consists in this, that Jesus Christ, sent of the Father, might likewise be known to be the true God, as it is said, “This is the true God and eternal life.”
3. There is also a fallacy in refering the exclusive particle only to the subject thee, to which it does not belong; but to the predicate the true God, which the article in the Greek plainly shows; for the sense is, that they might know thee, the Father, to be that God, who only is the true God.
11. Christ distinguishes himself from the Father by saying, “my Father is greater than I.” Therefore he is not equal and con-substantial with the Father. Ans. He separates and distinguishes himself from the Father, 1. In respect to his human nature. 2. In respect to the office of mediator. The Father, therefore, is greater than the Son, not as to his essence, in which the Son is equal with the Father, but as to his office and human nature. It is resolved in accordance with the fourth general rule.
12. The mediator between God and man is not God himself. But the Son is the mediator between God and man. Therefore he is not God. Ans. The major is false, because it might follow for the same reason, that the mediator between God and man is not man.
Reply 1. The major is thus proven: God is not interior to himself. The mediator with God is inferior to him. Therefore he is not God.
Ans. The minor is true of the office of Christ, in which sense he is inferior to God; but it is not true when understood of his nature, according to the fourth general rule: Inequality of office does not take away equality of nature or of persons.
Reply 2. The Son is mediator with Jehovah. But the Son is not mediator with himself. Therefore he is not Jehovah.
Ans. We remark again that nothing can be inferred from mere particulars. The major is not general: for the Son is not mediator with whomsoever is Jehovah; but with the Father.
Rep. 3. Then the Son and Holy Ghost are not truly reconciled, or they are reconciled without a mediator.
Ans. We deny the consequence, because the same will belongs to the three persons. When the Father is appeased the Son and Holy Ghost are also reconciled.
Rep. 4. The Son is mediator with him whom he reconciles. But the Son does not only reconcile the Father, but also himself. Therefore he is mediator with himself, which is absurd.
Ans. We reply to the major: That the Son is properly said to be mediator with him whom he so appeases by his satisfaction, that the decree and purpose of atonement may seem to have originally sprung from him. But this is the Father alone. Therefore the Son is not, in this sense, mediator with himself, but with the Father alone. Again, it is not absurd to say that the Son is mediator towards or with himself; for it is not absurd that he should carry on the offices, both of God accepting and of the mediator making reconciliation, but in different respects: the former by reason of his divine nature; the latter by reason of the office of mediator.
It is proper to compare these objections with those which are brought forward under the subject of the Trinity. For the same objections and sophisms which are brought against the divine essence and the Trinity itself, are brought against each single person of the Godhead; and those with which one person is assailed, are the same which are brought against the essence of God. Besides some objections were there merely proposed which are here more fully refuted. More may be seen on this subject in the first vol. of Ursinus, from page 115 to 125.
Question 34. Wherefore callest thou him "our Lord"?
Answer: Because he hath redeemed us, both soul and body, from all our sins, not with silver or gold, but with his precious blood, and has delivered us from all the power of the devil; and thus has made us his own property. (a)
(a) 1 Pet.1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
1 Pet.1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
1 Pet.2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
1 Cor.6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
1 Cor.7:23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
1 Tim.2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
I. In what sense Christ is called Lord?
To be Lord is to have a right over something or person. Christ, therefore, is our Lord and the Lord of all,
1. Because he has dominion over us, and over all things: he has a care for all things, keeps and preserve! all, and especially those who have been purchased and redeemed by his blood.
2. Because all things are subject to him, and we are bound to serve him, in body and soul, that he may be glorified by us.
The name Lord belongs to both natures of Christ, just as that of Prophet, Priest and King for the names of the office, benefits, dignity and beneficence of Christ towards us are affirmed of his whole person, not by the communication of properties, as the names of the two natures and attributes of Christ, but properly in respect to each nature. For both natures of Christ will and secure our redemption: the human nature paid the price of our redemption by dying for us, and the divine gives and offers to the Father this price, and applies it unto us by the Spirit. Christ is, therefore, our Lord not only in respect to his divine nature, which has created us, but also in respect to his humanity for even in as far as he is man, the person of Christ is Lord over all angels and men.
II. For what causes and in how many ways He is our Lord
Christ is our Lord, not only in one, but in many respects.
1. By right of creation, sustenance and government in its general character, as well as that which he has in common with the Father and Holy Ghost. Hence it is said, “ all mine are thine, and thine are mine.” (John 17:10.) The general dominion of Christ is that which extends itself not only to us, but to all men, even the wicked and the devils themselves, although not in the same respect. For
1. He created us to eternal life, but them to destruction.
2. He has a right and power over the wicked and devils, to make them do what he pleases, so that without his will they cannot so much as move—and if he wills he has power to reduce them to nothing, as the history which we have in the gospel of the man possessed with devils, sufficiently testifies. But besides this right which he likewise has over us, he is also called our Lord, because he guards us as his own peculiar people, whom he has purchased with his blood, and sanctifies by his Spirit and furthermore, by this his Spirit, he rules and governs us, and works in our hearts faith and obedience.
2. By the right of redemption peculiar to himself; because he alone is the mediator, who has redeemed us by his blood, from sin and death, delivered us from the power of the devil and set us apart for him self. The way in which we have been redeemed is most precious, because it was far greater to redeem us with his blood than with money. There fore, the right of possession which he has over us is also of the strongest character. But, seeing that he has redeemed us, it is evident that we were slaves. We were indeed the servants and slaves of the devil, from whose tyranny Christ has delivered us ; hence we are now the servants of Christ; because, notwithstanding we were by nature his enemies, and deserving of destruction, he has preserved and redeemed us. Slaves were first called servi by the Romans, from servando, which properly means preserved, be cause, being taken captives by their enemies, they were preserved, when they might have been slain. This dominion of Christ over us is special, inasmuch as it extends only to the church.
Obj. If we have been redeemed from the power of the devil, the price of our redemption has been given to him—for from whose power we are redeemed, to him is the ransom due. But the price of our redemption was not given to Satan. Therefore we have riot been redeemed from his power.
Ans. The price of our deliverance is due him from whose power we have been redeemed, provided he is supreme Lord, and holds a dominion over us by right. But God alone, and not Satan, is our Supreme Lord, and holds a dominion over us justly. Therefore the price of our redemption is due to God, and not to the devil. It is true indeed, that Satan enslaved us by the just judgment of God, on account of sin, taking us by force, and thus making inroads upon the possessions of another. But Christ, that strong armed and greater one, having made satisfaction for our sins, and broken the power of the devil, liberated us from his tyranny. Therefore Christ has redeemed us in respect to God, because he paid to him our ransom, and in respect to the devil, he has liberated us, and asserted and secured our freedom.
3. By reason of our preservation Christ is our Lord ; because he defends us even to the end, and keeps us unto eternal life, not only by preserving our bodies from injuries, but our souls also from sin. For our preservation must be understood not only concerning our first rescue from the power of the devil, but also concerning our continual preservation and the consummation of his benefits. Christ himself speaks of this preservation when he says, “ Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost.” “No man shall pluck them out of my hands.” (John 17:12; 10:28.) He preserves the wicked unto destruction, and that merely with a temporal defence.
4. In respect to ordination or appointment ; because the Father ordained the Word, or this person, Christ, to this, that he might through him accomplish all things in heaven and on earth. For Christ is our Lord, not only in that he preserves us, having rescued us from the power of the devil and made us the sons of God ; but also because the Father has given us to him, and has constituted him our Prince, King and Head. “He hath appointed him heir of all things.” “Thine they were and thou gavest them me. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be Head over all things to the church,” &c. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour for to give repentance to Israel,” &c. (Heb. 1:2, John 17:6; 6:37, Eph. 1:22, Acts 5:81) Since Christ, therefore, is our Lord in a far more excellent manner than others, we are also much more strongly obligated to render obedience to him for he is our Lord in such a manner that he may do with us what he wills, and has an absolute right over us, which he however, uses only for our salvation; for we receive from him more and infinitely greater benefits than from any one else. Hence we ought ever to acknowledge the dominion which Christ has over us, which acknowledgement to be complete, implies
1. A confession of this great benefit, that Christ should condescend to be our Lord.
2. A confession of our obligation and duty to him, which may be comprehended in serving, worshipping and loving him.
What, therefore, is the meaning of this article, I believe in Christ, our Lord? Three things are here to be observed:
1. To believe that Christ is Lord. This, however, is not sufficient, for we believe also that the devil is lord; but not of all, nor of us, as we believe Christ is Lord of us all.
2. To believe that Christ is Lord both of all and of us. Neither is this all that is necessary for us to believe ; for the devils also believe that Christ is their Lord, as it is plain that he has a right and authority over them.
3. To believe in Christ as our Lord; that is, to believe that he is our Lord in such a manner that we may repose our confidence in him. And this is what we are especially required to believe.
When we, therefore, say that we believe in our Lord, we believe,
1. That the Son of God is the Creator of all things, and therefore has a right over all creatures. “ All things that the Father hath are mine.”
2. That he is in a peculiar manner constituted the Lord, the defender and preserver of the church, because he has redeemed it with his blood.
3. That the Son of God is also my Lord, that I am one of his subjects, that I am redeemed by his blood and continually preserved by him, so that I am bound to be grateful to him. And, further, that his dominion over me is such as is calculated to promote my good, and that I am saved by him as a most precious possession, a peculiar purchase, secured at the greatest expense.