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And at this rate the Sonship of Christ, would only be an adventitious relation, as that of creator, governor, or preserver. If God had not given being to an universe, these relations he had never sustained; and if Christ's Messiahship be the same with his Sonship, it as necessarily follows, that if sinners had not been redeemed, he had never been a Son. And if this be true, it also follows, that filiation does not constitute the per. sonality of the second subsistent in the Godhead, nor paternity that of the first. And thus the names Fa
. ther and Son, by which they are denominated in holy scripture, would not intimate the natural and necessary relations subsisting between them, but only such as presupposed the redemption of mankind: the one being called a Father to the other, because he chose and sent him to be their Saviour; and the other a Son to him, as being chosen and sent by him. This doctrine, however, is inadmissible, according to the scripture representation of the matter. There the Sonship and office of Christ, are uniformly mentioned, as distinct things. Nathaniel's confession runs, “ Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel,” John i. 49. He confesses not one thing but two, viz. that Christ was the Son of God, and next that he was the King of Israel; the former by nature, the latter by office. In respect of the one, he is said to be begotten; as to the other anointed. Whether the faithful Israelite had a view to the second Psalm, I shall not say, but certain it is, that there our Lord is mentioned under both characters, the Son, and the anointed of God, verse 1, 6, 7, 12.
The distinction, in Nathaniel's confession is equally kept up in that of Peter. Our Saviour having interrogated the disciples, " Whom say ye that I am?” Peter in their name immediately answers, “ Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God,” Matt. xvi. 16. Or as it is elsewhere expressed, “ We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God,” John vi. 69. In the same strain runs the confession of the Ethiopian Eumuch, Acts viii. 37. and the doctrine of Paul, soon as he began to preach, Acts ix. 20. That our Saviour's Sonship is distinct from his office, appears from his well known words, John. iii. 17. “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever be lieveth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting - life.” Here it is obvious that he who was given, was previously a Son. He was not given to be a Son and therefore a Son; but a Son prior to his being given; a Son, though he never had been given. The love celebrated here appears from the previous and intimate relation subsisting between the giver and the gift. The one was the Father, the other his only begotten Son. But once suppose that our Lord was a son by office only, and a sable veil is thrown over redeeming love. For then the matter comes to this, one person in the Godhead so loved the world, that he gave another, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. But taking the words in the sense which they naturally convey, the love of God appears in the strongest light. He had but one Son, yet him he gave. Notwithstanding the near, the natural, the necessary relation, which he bore unto him, yet him he spared not, but delivered him up for us all, Rom. viii. 32.
Of this doctrine we have a faint illustration in Abraham's offering up his son, his only son Isaac, whom he so dearly loved. Isaac was his son previous to his laying him
upon the altar. The miracle of love to God consist. ed in this, that to him the Patriarch offered his own, yea, his only son. Hence, Jehovah said, “ Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me," Gen. xxii. 12. Had not Abrabam been so nearly related to Isaac, his love to God had not been so illustriously displayed. In like manner, had not the first of the adorable Three, stood in a paternal relation to the second, the love in giving him had not been so wonderful. The wonder is, that God gave his only begotten Son: sent him forth made of a woman, made under the law, Gal. iv. 4. Having sent servants in succession, last of all, he sent his Son, Matt. xxi. 37. That our Lord was not a Son by office, is
further evident from what he himself said on a certain occasion to the Jews, John. vii. 28, 29. “I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him, for I am from him, and he hath sent me." Here he mentions his being from God as one thing, and his being sent by him as another. He does not say, I was from him; but speaking as he with whom there is nothing past or to come,“ I am from him.” Compare chap. viii. 58. “ Before Abraham was, I am,” i.e. with respect to my person, I am from God; and as to my mission, he hath sent me. That this is the true sense of the passage, appears from comparing it with what is said concerning the Holy Ghost. As to his person, it is said that he proceedeth from the Father, John xv. 26.; as to his mission, it is written that the Father sendeth him, John xiv. 26. Gal. iv. 6. Thus he is from him, and he hath sent him. After the same manner of speech, our Lord says, “I am from him, and he hath sent me." I am from him as a Son, and he hath sent me as a servant. It is observed further, that the Sonship and office of our Lord were two distinct parts of that good confession, which he made before the two different courts at which he was arraigned, agreeably to the interrogations put unto him. Standing at the bar of the Jewish Sanhedrin, it was asked him, “ Art thou the Son of God?” To which he answered, “ I am," Mark xiv. 61, 62. Standing at Pilate's judgment.seat, the interrogation run,“ Art thou a king?” which he confessed he was, declaring at the same time that his kingdom was not of this world, John xviii. 33–37. When standing at the bar of the ecclesiastic court, which pretended to found their sentence on the holy oracles, he confessed his filial relation unto God; but when interrogated by a heathen judge with respect to his Son. ship, he gave him no answer, John xix. 7-9.
To all these instances of the difference between Christ's Sonship and office, I may add, the apostle's words, Heb. iii
. 5, 6. “ Moses verily was faithful as a servant, but Christ as a Son." See how he distinguishi.
es between Son and servant. These two relations differ in kind. The one is natural: the other founded on consent. If Christ be a Son by office, Moses might be called a son too, for great was his office. But here lies the difference between them; the one, high as he was, was a servant only: the other, amidst all his abasement was a Son. “ Though a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” Heb. v. 8. A servant, however exalted, cannot become a son by nature. A son, however depressed, cannot cease to be a son.
Christ being the Son of God neither by creation, nor by his incarnation, resurrection, or office, it remains that he must be his Son in a far superior sense, and in a manner of which we can form no ade. quate conceptions. It has been observed, that though he taught his disciples to say, “ Our Father,” yet when speaking of God with relation to himself and them, he never once uses that phrase: but intimates that he is a Father in one sense to him, and in another to them. Witness his ever-memorable words, John xx. 17. “ I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." He does not say, to our Father, and our God, as if his Sonship had been of the same nature with theirs; but, to my Father and your Father; intimating not only that God was his Father, before he was theirs, but also that he was his Father in a far sublimer sense than he was theirs: his by nature; theirs by grace, regenerating and adopting grace. Of this important doctrine we have a pregnant proof, John v. 17, 18.“ Jesus answered them, my Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he said that God was his own Father, making himself equal with God.” Here it is obvious that the Jews understood him as intending such a Sonship as made him equal with the Father, and that therefore he was the Son of God in such a sense as none else was. They themselves averred that God was their Father, John viii, 41. but they never once dreamed of equality with God. From Christ's words,
however, in calling God his Father, they concluded that he asserted he was equal with God. The word rendered equal here is the same in effect with that so translated in my text. Had they reasoned amiss as to Christ's Sonship implying equality with God, it can. not be thought, but that He, the fountain and the friend of truth, would have pointed out their mistake. But instead of this, he in effect asserts what they had reckoned so criminal, for says he, “ What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. As the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Fa. ther.” From this passage therefore it is evident that the nature of Christ's Sonship is vastly different from that of the most exalted creatures. It argues no infe. riority to the Father, but an equality with him. Father and Son among men, are names of superiority and inferiority. But here they imply equality.
equality. Of the Sonship of Christ, we are as certain as divine authori. ty can make us, but with respect to the manner, we are altogether ignorant. An attempt to explain the generation of the Son, would be as unlawful, as it must be unsuccessful. If in ourselves we find inex. plicable mysteries, how much more in contemplating these relations which subsist between God and his Son. “ What is his name, and what is his Son's name, if thou canst tell?” Prov. xxx. 4. But of this we may rest as. sured, as of any other point of revelation, that from eternity the second of the ever-adorable Three stood related as a Son to the first. As he was necessarily God, so a Son. A Son he was, and ever would have been, though creation had never rose, though angel or man had never existed *. I have insisted the longer on this
• If the names Father, Son, and Spirit, are not expressive of the natural and neces. sary relations, which subsist among the ever-adoroble Three, then we know nothing as to their order or relation. We know only that there are Three Persons in the Godo head, but we cannot say if there be a First, a Second, or a Third. We cannot say that the First sent the Second, but only that one sent another. We cannot say louc that he who sent that other, might have been sent by him. On the contrary, believing that the names Father, Son, and Spirit, point out the order in which these da