« AnteriorContinuar »
If you or others should understand any thing which I have said on this subject, as designed to convey the most distant reproach, to those who embrace the doctrine of eterpal generation, it would be a subject of sincere mor. tification and regret to me. Nothing is farther from my intention than this. But in shewing what reasons I have, to believe that your fears about the rejection of the doctrine in question are not well grounded, it seemed to me unavoidable to state my views in respect both to the Nicene creed, and to the sentiments of those who opposed it ; and to endeavour, if possible, to convince you that we are in reality farther from rejecting the proper divinity of Christ, than our brethren who adopt the Nicene creed.
I cannot but feel that it is important, also, (if you will permit me to turn your attention to a different topic,) that we should unite in some plain and obvious principles, in respect to the interpretation of all those passages of Scripture, which speak of the being and predicates of God. This is essential to unity of sentiment, in the result of our investigations.
With regard to some obvious principles, we are undoubtedly in persect unison. We believe that God is a being purely spiritual and incorporeal. Of course, all those parts of Scripture, (and they are very numerous,) which attribute to him eyes, feet, hands, and heart; or walking, moving, ascending, descending, approximating, and receding; or which attribute to him anger, vengeance, fury, hatred repentance, &c; or exhibit him as whetting his sword, bending his bow, preparing his arrows, brandishing his spear, &c; we agree to construe as figurative language. They indicate, in our view, only soinething possessed, performed, or threatened, on the part of God, which has some analogy to like things among men, but which must never be so understood, as to interfere with the idea of his pure and perfect, spiritual and immutable nature. The Anthropomorphites, in the time of Origen, argued from the passage in Gen. 1:26, which speaks of man as made in the likeness of God, that God had a bodily form and organs ; as do the Swedenborgians of the present day. But Origen, who had clearer notions of the spirituality of the divine Being than most of his cotemporaries, in reply to this argument, asks them whether men have seven eyes; as the prophet asserts that Jehovah has seven. The spirit of this reply is sufficient to meet all the objections that Anthropomorphites can bring, to the principle which we admit.
Let us now proceed one step further. On the supposition, that there are passages of Scriptures, which speak of the Logos as eternally begotten, (which you seem to assert on p. 86, but which I find not in the Scriptures,) would it of course follow, that a real and proper generation was intended to be indicated, as Turretine, Gerhard, and many others have asserted ? I think not: and my reason is, that the nature of God, as a self existent, independent, and immutable Being forbids us to apply such an exegesis; provided we admit that the Logos is, as the Scriptures assert, supreme God. Derivation is incompatible with these predicates. All the similies used to illustrate the nature of it, and to justify the opinion in question, are essentially defective; or else convey notions utterly inconsistent with the doctrine of Christ's true divinity. Take the favourite one of light proceeding from the sun. Is not the irradiation of light, it is asked, coeval with the existence of the sup? As a philosopher, I should surely answer, No. For if the sun
is the cause of irradiation, in the order of time and of nature the cause must precede the effect. But dismissing this, and admitting that they are coeval; are they homoousian--the same substance-numerically the same? Turretine, Gerhard, and others who agree with them, represent the Son as having the same numerical essence as the Father. But is the light, which flows from the sun, is the effect of it, and spreads itself over the universe, the same numerical substance as the sun, which remains a solid substance, the cause of light, and undiffused?
With vencrable Irenaeus, I protest against all such similies, as amounting to nothing but specious deception, in our reasonings about the nature of the Deity. They are utterly incompetent to answer the object for which they are designed
I should feel compelled, therefore, to assign some other meaning to the word Son, than the literal or proper one, if I should find it in Scripture, in such a connexion as I have above stated. I should think it to be either an appellation of endearment, or of office, or of dignity, or of equality. Of derivation as applicable to a God
supreme, I could not well think. There is yet another point, on which I must say a few things, before I take my leave of the subject.
It has hitherto been a very severe task for those, who believe in the doctrine of eternal generation, and of course understand the term Son of God as in itself implying a nature divine, to explain those passages of the New Testament, which speak of the Son as not knowing the day nor the hour, when the destruction of Jerusalem would take place, Mark 13:32; which represent the Father as greater than the Son, John 14:28; which speak of God as exalting him above every creature, Phil. 2: 9; and which represent him as finally becoming subject to the Father, that God may be all in all, 1 Cor. 15: 28.
I will not undertake here to criticise on the interpretations which they have proposed; but one thing must be plain to the reader who is not biassed by the sentiments, which the authors of them adopt: I mean, that they do, and must do, great violence to the obvious import of the language ; which is irreconcileable with the idea that Son of itself indicates a nature truly Divine. On the ground where I stand, the difficulty vanishes, if the double nature of the person of Christ be admitted. The Son of God i. e. the Messiah was in a humble station, he suffered, he died, he rose from the dead, he was exalted to supreme dominion, he holds it still as the vicegerent of God, governing the world in our nature exalted; he will continue to do this until the mediatorial work is finished; and then the duties of the office which he sustained being all accomplished, the office itself will no more be needed. Son, therefore, does primarily indicate the inferior nature as united to the divine; a nature that could suffer and could be exalted; a nature, of course, inferior to that of the Father. But, as happens in other cases and as I have already stated, it sometimes is used as a proper name, to indicate the whole person of Christ. This, however, as I have also endeavored to show, is very far from justifying the use made of this term, to prove the doctrine of eternal generation.
But I must hasten to take my leave of this protracted discussion. Will you permit me, with the most sincere respect and fraternal affection to say, that in times like these, which “ try men's souls," and promise to exacerbate the trial, it bodes well to the cause of truth, if those who worship the same God and Saviour, who flee for refuge from the consequences of their guilt, and for deliverance from the power of corruption, to the atoning blood of Jesus and the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, forgetting the lesser differences which may devide them in regard to the manner of certain truths, upite heart and hand in promoting the kingdom of that Saviour whom they adore. Sure I am, that it is not a subject of any unkind feelings, of any suspicion, nor the occasion of any want of entire confidence and cordiality in me towards my Christian brethren, that they believe in the doctrine of eternal generation ; and it is not to oppose them, nor to urge them into dispute, that I have thought it proper to publish the preceding Letters. My motives, if I know my own heart, have been, the desire of having truth developed, and of using my feeble efforts to prevent a breach of perfect cordiality, between brethren who agree in doctrines that are essential ; and whose disagreements consist principally in words, or at most in what is speculative rather than in what is practical. If I have expressed myself with freedom, it arises from the strength of my own convictions, in regard to the views which I entertain. But I trust that freedom has been guided by respect to those who differ from me, and who are entitled to my fraternal affection and Christian confidence.
Was it improper to make an effort to convince you, that, so far as our principles are concerned, we are not so near to Unitarianism as you seem to apprehend; or to show the Christian public, that we are, in reality, no nearer than those who differ from us, in regard to the doctrine in question? If you or they can be convinced