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will,*-a mode more perfect and more agreeable to the paternal dignity ; particularly since the Father is God, all whose works, as has been already proved from Scripture, are executed freely according to his own good pleasure, and consequently the work of generation.
For questionless, it was in God's power consistently with the perfection of his own essence not to have begotten the Son, inasmuch as generation does not pertain to the nature of the Deity, who stands in no need of propagation ;t but whatever does not pertain to his own essence or nature, he does not effect like a natural agent from any physical necessity. If the generation of the Son proceeded from a physical necessity, the Father impaired himself by physically begetting a co-equal ; which God could no more do
than he could deny himself; therefore the generation > of the Son cannot have proceeded otherwise than from
a decree, and of the Father's own free will. at Thus the Son was begotten of the Father in con
sequence of his decree, and therefore within the limits of time, for the decree itself must have been anterior to the execution of the decree, as is sufficiently clear from the insertion of the word “to-day.' Nor can I
* Milton puts the same distinction into the mouth of Adam, speaking after his fall of the relation in which his sons stood to him :
....... what if thy son
discover on what passage of Scripture the assertors of the eternal generation of the Son ground their opinion, for the text in Micah v. 2. does not speak of his generation, but of his works, which are only said to have been wrought from of old.' But this will be discussed more at large hereafter.
The Son is also called 'only begotten.' John i. 14. and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.' v. 18. the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father.' iii. 16, 18. • he gave his only begotten Son. 1 John iv. 9. • God sent his only begotten Son. Yet he is not called one essentially with the Father, inasmuch as he was visible to sight, and given by the Father, by whom also he was sent, and from whom he proceeded; but he enjoys the title of only begotten by way of superiority, as distinguished from many others who are also said to have been born of God. John i. 13. which were born of God.' 1 John iii. 9. whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin.' James i. 18. of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.' 1 John v. 1. whosoever believeth,' &c. • is born of God.' 1 Pet. i. 3. which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope. But since throughout the Scriptures the Son is never said to be begotten, except, as above, in a metaphorical sense, it seems probable that he is called only begotten' principally because he is the one mediator between God and man.
So also the Son is called the • first born.' Rom. viii. 29. that he might be the first born among many brethren.' Col. i. 15. the first born of every creature.' y. 18. the first born from the dead.' Heb. i. 6. when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world. Rev. iii. 14. the beginning of the creation of God,'-—all which passages preclude the idea of his co-essentiality with the Father, and of his generation from all eternity. Thus it is said of Israel, Exod. iv. 22 thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, even my first born ;' and of Ephraim, Jer. xxxi. 9. • Ephraim is my first born ;' and of all the saints, Heb. xii. 23. to the general assembly of the first born.'
Hitherto only the metaphorical generation of Christ has been considered ; but since to generate another who had no previous existence, is to give him being, and that if God generate by a physical necessity, he can generate nothing but a co-equal Deity, which would be inconsistent with self-existence, an essential attribute of Divinity ; (so that according to the one hypothesis there would be two infinite Gods, or according to the other the first or efficient cause would become the effect, which no man in his senses will admit) it becomes necessary to inquire how or in what sense God the Father can have begotten the Son. This point also will be easily explained by reference to Scripture. For when the Son is said to be the first born of every creature, and the beginning of the creation of God,' nothing can be more
evident than that God of his own will created, or - generated, or produced the Son before all things, en
dued with the divine nature, as in the fulness of time - he miraculously begat him in his human nature of the
Virgin Mary. The generation of the divine nature is described by no one with more sublimity and copiousness than by the apostle to the Hebrews, i. 2, 3. • whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom
also he made the worlds ; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,' &c. TIt must be understood from this, that God imparted
to the Son as much as he pleased of the divine nature, nay of the divine substance itself, care being taken not to confound the substance with the whole essence, which would imply, that the Father had given to the Son what he retained numerically the same hiuself; which would be a contradiction of terms instead of a mode of generation. This is the whole that is revealed concerning the generation of the Son of God. Whoever wishes to be wiser than this, becomes foiled in his pursuit after wisdom, entangled in the deceitfulness of vain philosophy, or rather of sophistry, and involved in darkness.
Since, however, Christ not only bears the name of the only begotten Son of God, but is also several times called in Scripture God, notwithstanding the universal doctrine that there is but one God, it appeared to many, who had no mean opinion of their own acuteness, that there was an inconsistency in this ; which gave rise to an hypothesis no less strange than repugnant to reason, namely, that the Son, although personally and numerically another, was yet essentially one with the Father, and that thus the unity of God was preserved.
But unless the terms unity and duality be signs of the same ideas to God which they represent to men, it would have been to no purpose that God had so repeatedly inculcated that first commandment, that he was the one and only God, if another could be said to exist besides, who also himself ought to be believed in as the one God. Unity and duality cannot VOL. I.
consist of one and the same essence. God is one ens, not two; one essence and one subsistence, which is nothing but a substantial essence, appertain to one ens; if two subsistences or two persons be assigned to one essence, it involves a contradiction of terms, by representing the essence as at once simple and compound. If one divine essence be common to two persons, that essence or divinity will either be in the relation of a whole to its several parts, or of a genus to its several species, or lastly of a common subject to its accidents. If none of these alternatives be conceded, there is no mode of escaping from the absurd consequences that follow, such as that one essence may be the third part of two or more.
There would have been no occasion for the sup. porters of these opinions to have offered such violence to reason, nay even to so much plain scriptural evidence, if they had duly considered God's own words addressed to kings and princes,* Psal. lxxxii. 6. • I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High ;' or those of Christ himself, John x. 35. if he called them Gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken-;' or those of St. Paul, 1 Cor. viji, 5, 6. 'for though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or earth, (for there be gods many and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things,' &c. or lastly of St. Peter, ii. 1, 4. that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,'
*............ for glory done
Paradise Lost, XI. 696.