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Unitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches online

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nature. — Philip Limborch : Theol. Christ, Kb. i. cap. 17, § 10.

That the title " Son of God," when applied to Jesus oiu: Lord and
Saviour, is the same as " Christ," the Ambassador of God, sent by him
for our salvation, no one can doubt who consults those passages in
which, in themselves, or with others compared together, either the
word " Christ " is, by way of interpretation, connected with " Son of
God," as Matt. x\i. 16; xxvi. 63. Luke iv. 41. John i. 49; — or for
this name, found in one text, is substituted in another the name
*' Christ," as Matt, xxvii. 40, 43, comp. Mark xv. 32. 1 John v. 1,
comp. ver. 5 and chap. iv. 2 ; — or the phrases " Son of God " and
" Son of man " are interchanged, as Mark xiv. 6 1, comp. ver. 62 and
Matt. xxvi. 63, 64. John v. 25, comp. ver. 27 ; — or the Son of God
is so described that to him are attributed what would be unsuitable
unless appHed to him as a man, an instance of which occurs in Luke
j. 32, seq. ... I know of no passage in Sacred Scripture in which this
title can be understood of the divine nature of Christ. — J. Augustus
NoSSELT : Exerc. ad S. Scripturarum Interpretationem, pp. 130-1.

"VVe hold it to be clear from the import of the terms employed,
and from the context of innumerable passages, that this name, " the
Son of God," is applied to Jesus as a man, and applied to him for this
reason, among others, that he was " the image of the invisible God,"
and intimately united with him, as well as the object of his special



420 CHRIST'S DIVINE SONSHIP

favor. Every child knows, tlmt, in the Sacred Scriptures, men are
often called the sons of God, on account of some remarkable comiec-
tion ydth. the Deity, or because they in some sense resembled God
himself. Now, is it not evident that all these reasons jom in one to
render the name in question pre-eminently apphcable to that man who
sustained a relation to the Deity which no prophet ever had sustained
(John i. 14 ; x. 38 ; xiv. 10) ; and who, as the Scriptures exphcitly
inform us, was the image of the Father (Col. i. 15), and beloved
above all the other sons of God? Matt. xvii. 5. Col. i. 13. John
iii. 35. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the title Son of God
would have been perfectly appropriate to Jesus, considered merely as
a man. And it is no less clear that this interpretation harmonizes
fuhy with the context of many passages ; such as Heb. i. 5. Rom.
viii. 29, 32 5 but particularly John x. 31, a text often cited to oppugn
our doctrine. — J. F. Flatt : Dissertation on the Deity of Christ ; in
Biblical Repertonj for 1829, new series, vol. i. pp. 170-1.

The term " to beget " denotes, in many passages, not the commu-
nication of the divme nature to the Son of God, but his appointment
to the kingly office, or the Messiahship. Thus the passage, Ps. ii. 7,
" Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," though often cited
in the New Testament, is never brought to prove the divine nature of
the Son of God, but is always supposed to refer to the confirmation
of his jSIessiahship by his resm-rection from the dead. The same
might be said of many other passages in which similar phraseology is
used. — G. C. KxAPP : Christian Theology, sect, xliii. III. (c).

Dr. Knapp adds that " the name Son of God is, in some passages, given
to Christ in designation of his higher nature, his equaUty with the Futher,
and his internal relation to him; " but, by the aid of other orthodox com-
mentators, we intend to show, in future volumes, the utter lack of proof
for supposing that in any one passage it is used to indicate a divine essence
in Christ.

According to Matt. i. 20, Luke i. 35, Jesus was born into the
world in such a manner as no other ever was ; and, if apphed to this
circumstance, I see nothing improper in retaining the common ver-
sion [" only-begotten "]. The term [fj.ovoyev7)g], however, may admit
the sense of " dearly beloved," or " well-beloved." John only uses the
term in reference to our Lord. The Septuagint use it for T^n^,
Ps. xxii. 20 ; xxxv. 17 ; and often render the same word uyanrjTdg,
« beloved," Gen. xxii. 2, 12, 16. Jer. vi. 26. Amos viii. 10. Zech.
xii. 10. — Dr. Benjamin Boothroyd on John i. 14.



INDICATING OFFICIAL AND MORAL QUALITIES, 421

Here I trust I may be permitted to say, with all due respect for
those who differ from me, that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of
Christ is, in my opinion, antiscriptm-al and highly dangerous. This
doctrine I reject for the following reasons : 1. I have not been able to
find any express declaration in the Scriptm'es concerning it. 2. If
Christ be the Son of God as to his di\ine nature, then he cannot be
eternal ; for " son " implies a father, and " father " implies, in reference
to son, precedency in time, if not in nature too. " Father and son "
imply the idea of generation ; and " generation " implies a time in which
it was effected, and time also antecedent to such generation. 3. If
Christ be Son of God as to his divine nature, then the Father is of ne-
cessity prior, consequently superior, to him. 4. Again, if this divine
nature were begotten of the Father, then it must be in time ; that is,
there was a period in which it did not exist, and a period when it began
to exist. This destroys the eternity of our blessed Lord, and robs him
at once of his Godhead. 5. To say that he was begotten from all
eternity is, in my opinion, absurd j and the phrase " eternal Son " is
a positive self-contradiction. " Eternity " is that which has had no
beginning, nor stands in any reference to time. " Son " supposes
time, generation, and father, and time also antecedent to such genera-
tion. Therefore the conjunction of these two terms, " Son " and
" eternity," is absolutely impossible, as they imply essentially different
and opposite ideas. — Dr. Adam Clarke on Luke i. 35.

When Christ is called the image of the invisible God, the bright-
ness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, i.e. of
him ; or the only-begotten of the Father, the Son of God ; God's own
Son ; God's beloved Son ; his dear Son, &c., — I understand all this
phraseology as descriptive of his mediatorial nature and station. I
know, indeed, that many of these texts have been appropriated by
some Trinitarians to prove the divine nature of Christ : in my ap-
prehension, however, this has been done injudiciously, and without
any soKd reason. Texts of this class may be found : Matt. xvii. 5.
John i. 14 ; x. 36 ; xiv. 10 ; iii. 35. Col. i. ] 3. Heb. i. 5. Rom. viii.

29, 32 As Mediator, as Messiah, Christ was sent into the

world ; as Son, he filled, and acted in, a subordinate capacity : how,
then, can his being Son in such a sense prove him to be divine ?
. . . Commonly and appropriately, it [the term Son of God] designates
the incarnate Messiah, as born in a manner supernatural, Lul^e i. 35,
comp. iii. 38; as the special object of divine love, Matt. xvii. 5. Col.
i. 13. John iii. 35 ; and as exhibiting the best and highest resemblance

36



422 CHEIST'S DIVINE SONSHIP

of the Father, Col. i. 15. Heb. i. 3. John i. 14; x. 38; xiv. 10.
"Would theologians keep these ideas in \iew, I cannot help tliinking
they might be able to understand each other better, and to reason
more conclusively. — Moses Stuaut : Letters to Channing ; in
Miscellanies, pp. 158-9, 164-5.

The writer, however, says that the apostles sometimes use the term Sou
of God as a proper name, and as designating a distinction in the Godhead
which he beheves to be eternal; but, judging from Heb. i. 1-3, the only
passage he refers to in proof of his opinion, we may without hesitation
affirm, that the meaning which he himself attaches to the title in the above
extract, as implying Christ's "resemblance to the Father," is far more pro-
bable, and that the apostles had no belief whatever in eternal distinctions
in the essence of God.

There is a very large class of texts, which, either directly or by
implication, make the Son of God inferior to the Father, and depend-
ent from him. 1. The Son prays to the Father, John xvii. 1 ; xi. 41.
He prays as the Son ; prays that he may be glorified or honored by
the Father as the Son. This certainly impHes that as the Son he is
dependent. 2. He avows his inferiority to the Father, and his de-
pendence from him : John xiv. 28. jMark xiii. 32. John v. 19. Matt.
XX. 23. 3. When the Son claims authority and power, he always
represents them as received by donation from the Father, and, con-
sequently, not originally and essentially his own : ]\Iatt. xi. 27 ; xxviii.
18. John v. 26, 27; vi. 57; viii. 54; x. 18; x^ii. 2, 3, 6. 4. The
Son is subordinate and subject to the Father : John vi. 38-40 ; xii.
49, 50 ; xvii. 4 ; iii. 16. 5. It was the Son of God that was given ;
the Son that was sent ; the Son that was born, that agonized in Geth-
semane, that died upon the cross, that was raised from the dead by
the Father, w-as exalted to the right hand of God,- was constituted the
head of the church, &c. Nothing of all this can be predicated of
Divinity ; and it consequently shows, that, as the Son of God, Jesus
is a man. — The apostles have given the same \iew of his Sonship.
One or two texts only must suffice here : Heb. v. 5-9. All this [all
that is expressed in this passage] is said of Jesus as the Son of God.
He did not glorify himself, but was glorified by the Father ; he did not
constitute liimself a priest, but was made such : both his Sonship and
his priesthood were derived from the Father's good pleasure. As the
Son, he desired to be dehvered from death ; as the Son, he prayed to
the Father, who alone could save him from it ; as the Son, he sufiered,
and learned obedience by his sufferings ; as the Sbn, he was made



INDICATING OFFICIAL AND MORAL QUALITIES. 423

perfect, and was constituted the Author of salvation, by the will of the
Father. Is it possible that the inspired author who \^iote these
things could have thought, that, as the Son, Jesus is God ? Certainly
not. Every sentence in this passage shows, that, with regard to his
Sonship, he considered liim a man. 1 Cor. xv. 24-28 : Here the
apostle describes the glory of the Son of God, in his universal reign
over the creatures of God, as one which God the Father had given
him 5 for it is He that put all things under his feet; and, in his
highest glory, he, as the Son, is still subject to the Father, and the
Father is all in all, — all in the Son, as well as in every creature in
the universe. Can it be, that, when St. Paul gave this account of the
Son of God, he considered him, as the Son, divine and equal with
the Father ? Certainly not. . . . We are told, indeed, that, inasmuch
as Jesus Christ is not called a Son, but the Son, the use of the definite
article, when the appHcation of the title is made to him, shows that he
is the Son of God in a sense pecuhar to himself, and in which there
can be no other Son of God, and, consequently, in a sense in which he
is equal with the Father. But how can this consequence follow ? A
son is not necessarily equal with his father. In some respects, he
never can be equal with him : he must necessarily be younger than
his father ; neither does the father derive his existence from the son,
but the son from the father. But, passing over this ground of objec-
tion, we call Homer the poet, and Demosthenes the orator, and the
first Wilham of the kings of England the conqueror. Does this
phraseology imply that there have been no other poets or orators or
conquerors ? The use of the definite article with the title Son of God,
when it is appKed to Christ, does indeed designate him as sustaining
the relation of Sonship in a sense pecuhar to himself; but the differ-
ence w^hich it marks between him and other- sons is not a difference of
nature, but a diff'erence of measure. — Abridged from Dr. Lewis
Mayer, in the Biblical Repository for January, 1840 ; second series,
vol. iii. pp. 150-4.

Amid all the influences favorable tc; a belief in the essential Deity of
Christ, there is perhaps none so paramo:ant in the orthodox mind as the
nnscriptural sense which is attached to the title " Son of God," and similar
expressions, applied in the New Testament to our Lord. Forgetting that
God is an infinite Spirit and a universal Parent, the Father of all who have
been created in his moral image, and especially of those who devote their
faculties and their lives to his service, Christians in general have been prone
to form materia] conceptions respecting his nature, an 1 to regard him in th«



424 CHRIST'S DIVINE SONSHIP.

character of an Omnipotent and Supreme Man, — the mightiest, indeed, of
Potentates, but still with human passions and feelings; not as infinitely
blessed in his single and glorious being, but as producing other existences
with an essence and with attributes identical with his ovrn, rejoicing in the
company of his fellows, of whom he is the Origin and Head, and holding
with them converse and counsel of an ineffable kind. One of these divine
persons was the Son of God, and another the Holy Ghost; each of them
equal in nature, power, and glory with the Father, from whom they derived
their being and their qualities. This, as has already been at some length
shown, is Trinitarianism ; at least, one of its forms, — the Athanasian, — that
which has been most commonly defended by divines, professed by the laity,
but, because contradictory in its language, not steadily and fully believed
by any one.

But the idea of Christ's having been in essence the Son of God, either
from all eternity or for an indefinite and inconceivable time before the crea-
tion of the world, has been so deeply stamped into the heart of Christendom
by the creed and the catechism, that, Avhatever doubts may be entertained
as to the absolute equality of the Son with the Father, thei'e is little or no
difficulty felt in supposing Jesus to have the same nature as God; as little,
indeed, as in regarding Isaac to possess the same nature as his father, Abra-
ham. With views of the Divinity so low and so human do men take the
Bible into their hands, and despoil the titles " Son of God," " the only-
begotten or well-beloved of the Father," of all their moral and celestial
beauty, b}' investing them with significations earthly and unspiritual.

Happily, however, all Christians will not be bound with the bands, or be
compelled to read with the glasses, of an Athanasius. Some will cast
aside the swaddling-clothes of a childish and semipagan age, and, with a
clearer and more heavenly vision, discern the truth as it is in Jesus, instead
of groping amid the dim dogmas and unrealities that issued from the coun-
cils and the schools. Fraught with this free and more simple spirit are the
sentiments we have just quoted, — sentiments the truth and excellence of
which, in the main, must, we think, be perceived by every dispassionate
reader of the Bible.

The Christ of the Holy Scriptures was no natural or essential Son of
God; no physical or metaphysical emanation from the Father; no eternally
begotten person or being; no second person of the Godhead, or of a Triune
Deity; no God-man, possessed of properties destructive of each other; — •
but a man the most highly chosen -and approved of God; the divinest of
God's messengers and prophets, raised up and appointed by God to be the
Eedeemer of the world; filled with all the exuberance of God's spirit, —
blessed by all the tenderness of the Father's love ; more than a son of God,
because more devoted than others to his heavenly Father; the Son of God,
the only-begotten and best beloved of God, because distinguished above all
God's children — whether prophets or philosophers — by a deeper insight
into God's designs, by a holier love for his character, by a more devout and
reverent submission to his will.



CHRIST NOT GOD IN THE HIGHEST SENSE. 425



SECT. IV. — CHEIST NOT CALLED " GOD," IN THE HIGHEST SENSfi

OF THE TERM.

A god on earth thou axt. — Shakspeaee.

In a figurative sense, iQedg [" God "] signifies " lie who acts by the
authority and command of God; he who on the earth represents
the Deity." Thus magistrates and judges are called " gods," John
X. 34, 35, comp. Ps, Ixxxii. 6. Exod. xxii. 28. Ps. xcvii. 9; as also
angels and prmces, 1 Cor. yiii. 5. Exod. vii. 1. — J. F. Schleusner :
Lexicon in JVovum Testamentum, art. Qebg^ 4.

These [the passages which apply to Christ the unquahfied appella-
tion " God "] are not decisive in the present inquiry ; for although
they imply divine honor in some sense, yet, as it is possible the term
may be employed in a secondary or figurative sense, they cannot be
appealed to as necessarily denoting full and supreme Di\dnity. —
Joseph Ha^'en, Jun., in the JVew Englander for February, 1850 j
vol. viii. (new series, vol. ii.) p. 9.

To prevent mistake, it is but right to state that the author of this extract
notices John i. 1, 3; Rom. ix. 5; 1 John v. 20; Tit. ii. 13, as texts which
speak of Christ as God in the highest sense. He says that Heb. iii. 4 is
"perhaps justly regarded as somewhat obscure."

Psalm xlv. 6, and Heb. i. 8.

The Hebrew word ti'^ji):?!^, in the text, designates the rank of a
judge and sovereign ; as if the Psalmist, in connecting it with that
of the " throne " of the Messiah, meant to say that Jesus should be
appointed by his Father the Judge of the living and the dead, possess
the throne of David his ancestor, and reign over the true Israel . . ,
during all eternity. — Augustin Calmet on Ps. xlv. 6. *

It will be proper to lay aside. from this discussion the consideration
of Christ's divine nature, not because we deny that doctrine, or think
that no regard should be paid to it in treating of the regal powei of
Christ, but because, wherever they speak of him in the character of a
sovereign, the sacred writers apply that imagery to him, as man. . . .
We have no hesitation in referring Heb. i. 8, 9, particularly to the
human nature of Christ, and, with the distinguished interpreters who
follow the great Grotius, to render 6 -d^povog gov 6 ■dsbg, " God is thy

36*



426 CHRIST NOT GOD IN THE HIGHEST SENSE.

throne ; " that is, God has conferred on thee regal authority ; the
word " throne " being used by the metonymy of the sign for the thing
Bigrnified, and of the effect for the efficient cause. Thus " throne " is
substituted for Him who set Chi'ist on the throne, just as our Lord
is often called " hfe," instead of him who imparts Kfe ; and as the
Phihppians, chap. iv. 1, are termed " the joy and crown " of Paul,
because they refreshed his mind, and held him in honor. In the
forty-fifth Psalm, from which the quotation is taken, there are no
traces of the Deity of Christ ; and since the words as they occur in
this chapter of Paul's, together wdth the context, speak clearly of
Christ's human natm-e, they c-annot form an address to him as God. — •
John Augustus Nosselt : Opuscula, fasc. ii. pp. 355-6, 358-9.

IsA. vii. 14, AND ]\Iatt. i. 23.

Here Clu'ist is not manifestly called " God ; " but the name " Em-
manuel " is given to that son to intimate that God would be merciful
to the human race. For God is said to be with those whom he
fevors. — Erasmus : Apologia ad J. Stunicam ; Op., torn. ix. p. 310.

The name " Immanuel " denotes the certain aid of God ag linst the
Sp'ians and Israelites, and his preservation of the city in opposition to
Sennacherib. — Grotius on Isa. ^di. 14.

There is a presence of favor and distinction whereby God is said
to be, in a peculiar manner, with those whom he loves and blesses
above others. In this regard, the child here spoken of is justly called
" Emmanuel," because, as St. Paul speaks, " God was in him recon-
ciling the world to himself; "... and again, by him they " who were
sometimes afar off are made nigh, have access to the Father, are
accepted in the Beloved," 2 Cor. v. 19. Eph. ii. 13, 18, 19 ; i. 6. —
Dr. George Stanhope : Comment on the Epistles and Gospels,
vol. iv. p. 198.

But the dean afterwards explains the title as indicative of the Saviour's
divine nature.

"What you say respecting the argument in favor of Clirist's di'V'ine
nature, from the name given him in Matt. i. 23, accords in the main
with my own views. To maintain, as some have done, that the name
" Immanuel " proves the doctrine in question, is a fallacious argument.
Is not Jerusalem called " Jehovah our righteousness " ? And is Jeru-
salem divine, because such a name is given to it ? — MoSES Stuart :
ZitUers to Chunnin,g , in Miscellanies, p. 148.



CHEIST NOT GOD IN THE HIGHEST SENSE. 427

IsA. ix. 6.

This [viz., " God "] is another name by itself, and not " the mighty
God," as it is commonly rendered ; the next word, '^132, "mighty"
or " strong," being another of his names. The word "^i^, signifying
" God," doth also signify " strong ; " but, because it is most commonly
used when God is spoken of, it is everywhere rendered " God." Yet
fi'om this we cannot fii'mly prove him to be God, no more than other
men Avho have this name. Moses was Aaron's god ; and there is so
much proof besides even in this place, that we need not to argue from
hence ; for he that is the everlasting Father, and of whose government
there is no end, is God indeed, without beginning or end. — Abridged
from Dr. John Mayer in loc.

The Hebrew words, translated, in the common vei'sion, " the everlasting
Father," are rendered by Bishop Lowth and others, " the Father of the
everlasting age."

lisa ^N;, " the mighty God," — thus the words signify, and in this
sense are only true of om* Sa\iour Jesus Christ. But ^^ has a lower
signification, and may be rendered " potentate ; " and in this, which I
call the first and literal sense, they are appKcable to Hezekiah. —
Samuel White in loc.

John i. 1.

It [the appellation Xoyog] signifies, among the Jews and other an-
cient people, when applied to God, every thing by which God reveals
himself to men, and makes known to them his will. ... In this passage^
the principal proof does not He in the word TMjog [" revealer of God "],
nor even in the word ^ebg [" God "], which in a larger sense is often
applied to kings and earthly rulers, but to what is predicated of the
Tioyog, viz., that he existed from eternity with God ; that the world
was made by him, &c. — George C. Knapp : Christian Theology,
sect, xxxvii. 1.

Perhaps no Scripture expression is more frequently adduced, or is quoted
with a greater air of triumph, on behalf of the essential Deity of Christ,
than this, — that "the word was God;'' the argument being founded on
two assumptions: 1. That John applied the term Logos, "word," as a
■personal designation of our Lord before his appearance in the flesh; and,
2. That he meant to call hira " God " in the absolute or highest sense. But,
orthodox as Dr. Knapp was, and unwisely resting his belief in part on the
phrase, " in the beginning," which, as admitted by Professor Stuakt and



428 CHRIST NOT GOD IN THE HIGHEST SENSE.

others, does not of itself indicate eternity, he frankly owns that the " prin-
cipal proof" of the Trinitarian doctrine drawn from the passage does not
lie in the words " Logos " and " God; " and, for this admission, he assigns
what to us appears to be a very satisfactory reason.

John intends to say, that the antemundane Logos is in such fellow-
ship with God, stands in such a relation to him, that he may be called
" God." K, now, there is any historical, though it may be a mediate,
connection between the representation of John and Philo, then is ■&edg
[" God "] to be taken in the same sense in which Philo, in order to
distinguish the Logos from the absolute God (6 ■&edg), calls him simply
i?£of, without the article, and even 6 devrepog ■&£bg, " the second God,"
but "with the express addition that this last expression is used only
figuratively. K, as we have seen, John imderstood by the Logos a
real dinne person, and yet, as a Christian apostle, certainly adhered to
the monotheistic idea of God in a higher and far piurer degree (xvii. 3 ;
1 John V. 20) than Philo, — then must he, not less than Philo, have un-
derstood " the word was God " in a figurative sense. Thus the meaning
of debg would be nearly the same as tliat of ■&£tog, " divine." But this
equivalence of ■delog and i^ebg is not allowed by New-Testament usage.
We must, then, tike d-ebg, without the article, in the indefinite sense
of a di^dne nature or a divine being, as distinguished from the definite
absolute God, 6 ^ebg, the avrodeog of Origen. Thus the ■&£bg of John



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