The language of complaint put by the Lord into the mouth of one of His prophets of old was, ‘Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter; yea, truth faileth’ (Isa. lix. 14, 15). May not the same or similar language issue from the lips of His faithful servants now when they look around and see the reception that truth for the most part meets within our day and generation? As regards the general mass of what is called ‘the religious world,’ may we not justly say ‘Truth is fallen in the street’—despised and trampled under foot as a worthless thing? And as regards churches and ministers of clearer views and a sounder creed, in too many instances ‘truth faileth,’ either in purity of doctrine, power of experience, or godliness of life.
And yet, what possession can be so dear to the Church of God as the truth as it is in Jesus? To her it is committed by the Lord Himself as a most sacred and precious deposit (John xvii. 8; Gal. i. 8, 9; Eph. ii. 10; iv. 11—16; v. 25—27; Col. i. 18—24; ii. 6—10; 1 Thess. ii. 4; 1 Tim. iii. 15; Rev. iii. 22). Her very standing, therefore, as a witness for God upon earth (Isa. xliii. 10; Acts i. 8; Heb. xii. 1), as well as all her present and future blessedness, are involved in her maintenance of it. Men may despise the truth from ignorance of its worth and value, or may hate it from the natural enmity of the carnal mind, and from its arraying itself against their sins and errors; but it is the only really valuable thing on earth, since sin defaced the image of God in man. Lest, therefore, it be lost out of the earth, the Lord has lodged it in two safe repositories—the Scriptures of truth (Dan. x. 21; 2 Tim. iii. 15—17) and the hearts of His saints. The Scriptures, it is true, are in the hands of well nigh every man; but to understand them, to believe them, to be saved and sanctified by them, is the peculiar privilege of the Church of God. Therefore her liberty, her sanctification, her position as the pure and unsullied bride of the Lord the Lamb, nay, her salvation itself, are all involved in her knowing and maintaining the truth as revealed externally in the Scriptures, and as revealed internally in the soul. Do we say this at a venture, or in harmony with the oracles of the living God? ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ (John viii. 32). Then without knowing the truth there is no gospel liberty. ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth’ (John xvii. 17). Then without the application of the truth to the heart there can be no sanctification. ‘I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ’ (2 Cor. xi. 2, 3). Then another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel than the truth corrupt the mind from the simplicity that is in Christ, seduce the bride from her rightful Head and Husband, and are as much the work of Satan as his beguiling Eve in Paradise (2 Cor. xi. 3, 4). ‘And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess. ii. 10—12). Then without receiving the love of the truth there is no salvation. Thus we see that without a vital, experimental knowledge of the truth, there is no liberty of spirit, no sanctification of heart, no union with Christ, and no salvation of the soul. And what is a religion worth when all these blessings are taken from it? What the salt is worth when it has lost its savour; what the chaff is worth when the grain is severed from it; what the tares are worth when the wheat is gathered into the garner. How necessary, then, it is for churches and ministers to hold the truth with a firm, unyielding hand, and to give no place to error, no, not for an hour! Remember this, churches and ministers, deacons and members, and all ye that fear God in the assemblies of the saints, that there can be no little errors; we mean as regards the vital, fundamental doctrines of our most holy faith. There may be differences of opinion on minor points, as on church government, the administration of the ordinances of the New Testament, the restoration of the Jews, the nature of the Millennium, the interpretation of particular passages of scripture; but on such fundamental points as the blessed Trinity, the Person of Christ, the personality and work of the Holy Ghost, no deviation can be allowed from the straight and narrow line of divine truth. Error on any one of these vital points is from Satan; and he never introduces little errors; all, all are full of deadly poison. There was no great quantity of arsenic in the Bradford lozenges, not much strychnine in Palmer’s doses, but death and destruction were in both; or where not death, disease and suffering for life. Error in itself is deadly. In this sense, the tongue of error is ‘full of deadly poison’ (Jas. iii. 8), and of all erroneous men we may say, ‘With their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips’ (Rom. iii. 13). ‘Their wine,’ with which they intoxicate themselves and others, ‘is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps’ (Deut. xxxii. 33). The patient may vomit up the poison, but it is poison not the less. Do not, then, by reading erroneous books, hearing erroneous ministers, or associating with erroneous people try the strength of your faith, or presume upon the soundness of your constitution. When you have tested the error by the inspired word of truth, and by the inward teaching of the blessed Spirit in your own heart, label it POISON! and ‘touch not, taste not, handle it not,’ any more than you would arsenic or prussic acid.
We are grieved to see an old error now brought forward and, we fear, spreading. which, however speciously covered up, is really nothing less than denying the Son of God. The error we mean is the denial of the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Only-begotten of the Father before the foundation of the world. If the Lord has done anything for us by His Spirit and grace, He has wrought in our heart two things—a love to His truth and a love to His people. By both of these principles, therefore, we feel constrained to oppose this error to the utmost of our power, and to contend for what has been long commended to our conscience as the truth of God. This is no new question with us, no fresh doctrine which we have never before thought of or considered, but one the reality, power and sweetness of which we have for many years known and felt, for our very hope of eternal life hangs upon it. We do not expect, indeed, by any arguments to convince those who have deeply drunk into the spirit of error. It is a rare thing for any such to vomit up the sweet morsel which they have eaten in secret; and of most of them, we fear it may be said, as being entangled in the snares of the mystical harlot, ‘For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life’ (Prov. ii. 18, 19). We rather write for those who tremble at God’s Word, who have been made willing to receive the love of the truth that they may be saved thereby, and who dread above all things to be left to love and embrace a lie. And these often need instructing, for many of the saints of God are weak in judgment, and are thus laid open to the snares of Satan. They would not willingly, wilfully embrace error, but being simple, or not well rooted and established in the truth, they cannot discern false doctrine when speciously wrapped up in a cloud of words and backed with arguments and an array of texts, the meaning of which is, for the most part. perverted and distorted. Some, too, are drawn aside by favourite ministers of more knowledge and greater experience, as they think, than themselves; and others view the whole question as a mere controversy of words, and that it is an obscure and abstruse doctrine which they heartily wish had never been brought forward to divide churches, perplex inquirers, and separate chief friends. But such arguments are always at hand when truth begins to speak with decided voice. God’s servants are only His mouth as they ‘take forth the precious from the vile’ (Jer. xv. 19); and when they wield the sword of the Spirit it may well sever churches and wound individuals, for ‘it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow’ (Heb. iv. 12). The policy of Satan has always been to cry out against the truth as causing confusion, disturbing the general peace of the church, and filling the world with division and strife. It was so in the days of Athanasius, when he, almost single-handed, fought against Arianism. It was so in the days of Luther, when he began to oppose Popery; and it was so with our Puritan ancestors, when they testified against the various corruptions in doctrine and life which prevailed in their day. Those who from self-interest, love of carnal ease, entanglement in error, or cowardice of spirit, wished things to remain quiet as they were, all lifted up their voice against the disturbers of the general peace. We would say, then, to all who are zealous for the truth on earth, Do not think that this is a matter of little import, that we are plunging into a controversy about mere words, and troubling the churches with tithes of mint, anise and cummin, and omitting the weightier matters of judgment, mercy and faith. Examine the Scriptures for yourselves, especially the First Epistle of John, and then say whether the true Sonship of Christ is a matter of little importance. And as we hope, with God’s help and blessing, to examine the subject prayerfully and carefully, in the light of His teaching, and as revealed in the sacred Scripture, we call upon our spiritual readers, not merely to give a passing glance to the testimonies that we shall bring forward, but to weigh them well in the balance of the sanctuary, and see for themselves whether we are contending earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, or, laying aside the commandment of God, are holding the tradition of men.
A few preliminary observations, however, may be desirable in order to lay down a clear track for us and our readers to walk in.
1. Our first rule must be that the Scriptures shall be our only standard of appeal, and these taken in their plain, literal meaning, without perverting or mystifying their evident signification. 2. All appeals to natural reasoning, as distinct from Scripture, and all carnal conclusions opposed to the word of truth must be discarded, and we must be content to receive the truth as little children in the simplicity of faith, without attempting to comprehend what is necessarily to our finite understanding incomprehensible. 3. Knowing our ignorance, and that a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven, we should seek the promised teaching of the Holy Spirit, who alone can guide into all truth, but who takes of the things of Christ and reveals them to the soul, and communicates that sacred unction which ‘teacheth of all things, and is truth, and is no lie.’ (See the following scriptures: Matt. xi. 27; John vi. 45; xiv. 21, 26; xvi. 14, 1.5; James i. 5; 1 John ii. 20, 27.) 4. We must also have a deep conviction that nothing is more precious than the truth as it is in Jesus, and be made willing to buy it at any price, and not to sell it for any consideration. Whatever we let go, friends, wife, children, house or lands, name, fame or character, we must never give up the truth of God. To do so would be to prove that we never received it from God’s mouth (Prov. ii. 6), but were taught it by the precept of men (Isa. xxix. 13).
We lay down, then, at the very outset, as a standing mark for every spiritual eye these two points: 1. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and 2. That a belief in Him as such is essential to salvation. A few scriptures will decide this; the main difficulty being, where there are so many, which to fix upon for that purpose; but let us examine carefully and prayerfully the following:— 1, The first shall be the noble testimony of Peter. ‘When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matt. xvi. 13—16). Peter’s confession embraced two things: 1, that Jesus was the Christ; 2, that He was the Son of the living God. By acknowledging the first, he declared his belief that He was the promised Messiah, the anointed One, whom all the prophets had spoken of, and whose coming at that period the saints of that day, such as Simeon, Anna, and those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem, were anxiously expecting (Luke ii. 26, 36, 38). By the second he acknowledged that Jesus was not only the Christ, the expected, long-looked-for Messiah, but the true, actual, and real Son of God. It is evident from the confession of Peter, of Nathanael (John i. 49), and of Martha (John xi. 27), as well as from the adjuration of the high priest (Matt. xxvi. 63), and the preaching of Paul in the synagogues (Acts ix. 20), that the Jews in our Lord’s time identified the Christ, the promised Messiah, with the Son of God. It was most evidently the faith of the Jewish church that the Messiah was no less than God’s own Son. The question, then, with them was not whether the Christ, the promised Messiah, was the true and proper Son of God or not, but whether Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ; for if He were the Christ they knew He must be the Son of God, and that in His divine nature. And what other idea could they attach to the Christ being the Son of God than that He was His real and actual Son? If not wholly impossible, it was most improbable that such ideas could have been entertained by them as that He was the Son of God by virtue of the covenant, or of His complex Person, or any of those evasions of the simplicity of truth whereby His real and proper Sonship is now denied. To understand, then, this testimony from the mouth of Peter a little more clearly, we offer the following considerations. The blessed Lord had sought, so to speak, to bring His disciples to a clear and decided recognition of His divine Sonship by asking them two pointed questions: 1. ‘Whom do men, not you, but men generally, say that I the Son of Man am?’ He called Himself ‘the Son of man,’ that He might draw forth more clearly out of their bosom their confession that He was the Son of God, for as such they had seen His glory and received Him (John i. 12—14). The disciples told Him the various opinions which men entertained about Him. All saw and acknowledged that the Spirit of the prophet’s was in Him, and therefore some said He was John the Baptist, and some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Then, to put the matter home personally to themselves, the blessed Lord asked them another, and- a most searching question, ‘But whom say ye that I am? as though He should mean, ‘Never mind what others think and say, tell Me for yourselves what you, My own immediate disciples, think and say.’ How nobly, then, how boldly, how believingly did Peter at once answer in the name of all the rest, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Did the blessed Lord repel the confession, or rebuke the confessor? No; on the contrary, He pronounced him ‘blessed,’ and declared that ‘flesh and blood had not revealed it unto him but His Father which is in heaven.’ Do not these words of the blessed Lord clearly show that it was by divine revelation Peter knew and believed Jesus was the Son of the living God? And are not all blessed’ with faithful Peter, to whom the Father has revealed the same divine mystery, who believe as he believed, and confess as he confessed? But if the Father has not revealed it to their heart, need we wonder that men neither know, believe, nor confess it, but stumble at the stumbling-stone laid in Zion ? We shall have occasion to refer to this passage again, and shall, therefore, dwell upon it no longer, but pass on to another, our present object being not so much to open the texts which we bring forward as to show from the word of truth the solemn importance of a right faith on this fundamental point.
2. ‘The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him’ (John iii. 35, 36). How clearly is believing on the Son of God made the test of life and salvation; how needful, then, to know who the Son of God is, that we may have a right faith in His divine Person, and not make a mistake in a matter of life and death. You may think that you believe on the Son of God, but may be deceiving yourself for want of a divine revelation of Him to your soul. You do not deny that He is the Son of God in your sense of the words, but may deny that He is the true, proper, real and only-begotten Son of God by His very mode of subsistence as a Person in the Trinity; or you may be looking to a name, a title, or an office instead of the Son of the Father in truth and love.
3. Take another testimony: ‘Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father’ (1 John ii. 23). Do you deny the eternal Sonship of Christ? Are you, as far as lies in your power, destroying that intimate and ineffable relationship which He bears to the Father as the only-begotten Son of God? O what dangerous ground are you treading! Beware lest you deny the Son, and so have not God as your Father and Friend, but fall into His hands as a consuming fire. Are not these testimonies enough?
4. But, to leave you without excuse on a matter of such importance, take as one more witness that most comprehensive of declarations proclaiming, as in a voice of thunder, those who have and those who have not life: ‘If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life’ (1 John v. 9—12).
But you may answer, ”We believe all this. We are as firm believers in the Son of God as you can be. This is not the point of dispute between us. Where we differ from you is this, that we do not believe He is the eternal Son of God; for as a father must exist before a son, it is a self-contradictory proposition to assert that He can be, as a Son, co-eternal with the Father.’ That it is not so we shall hereafter attempt to show, but for the present we will simply ask you this question: ‘Do you mean to receive nothing as divine truth which involves apparent contradictions?’ We say apparent, for we cannot allow them to be real. If you answer, ‘I can receive nothing which I cannot understand and reconcile to my reasoning mind,’ then you had better be a Socinian at once, for that is just his very position. He says, ‘I cannot receive the doctrine of the Trinity, for it contradicts the Unity of God, which I receive as a fundamental truth; and to assert that three are one and one is three, is to contradict all my fundamental notions of number.’ And thus he stumbles at the stumbling-stone laid in Zion. You see his error and the fallaciousness of his reasoning, but his argument is only your own in another form. You say, ‘I cannot receive the doctrine that Jesus is the eternal Son of God because it denies His co-eternity and co-equality with Him, for a father is necessarily prior to a son, and a father is necessarily superior to a son.’ Certainly, if we carry earthly reasonings into the courts of heaven, and measure the being and nature of God by the being and nature of man. But the very idea of eternity excludes priority and posteriority of time, and the very nature of God excludes superiority and inferiority. When, then, we say that Jesus is the eternal Son of God we declare His co-eternity, and when we say that He is the Son of God, as God the Son, we declare His co-equality with the Father and the Holy Ghost. But you and the Socinian really stand on the same ground—the ground of natural reason and carnal argument. He draws a natural conclusion that three cannot be one, and therefore rejects the Trinity; you draw a natural conclusion that a father must Exist before, and be superior to, his son, and as you believe the Lord Jesus to be a Person in the Godhead, you therefore reject on that ground the eternity of His Sonship. Thus, neither he nor you submit your mind to the Scriptures. You both really stand upon infidel ground, for both of you prefer your own reasonings and your preconceived notions to the truth as revealed in the Word of God. That speaks again and again of ‘the only-begotten Son of God,’ which, as we shall by-and-by show, refers to His divine nature, as in the following passage: ‘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 i. 14). It is evident from these words that there was a vital distinction between those who received Christ and those who received Him not; for ‘He came unto His own [literally, property or estate It is in the neuter in the original, literally, ‘‘His own things;’ the second ‘His own’ is in the masculine, i.e., ‘His own men.’], and His own [people by profession and outward covenant] received Him not.’ But there were those who did receive Him, and they did so because they ‘were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God;’ for they ‘ beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’ The blessed Lord is here most plainly declared to be ‘the only-begotten of the Father.’ You cannot, therefore, deny that He is the begotten of the Father in a way in which none else could be begotten, and that He has a peculiar glory as such. This cannot refer to His human nature, for we read, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him’ (John i. 18). What do these words imply, then, but that whereas no man bath seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son of God has seen Him, for He is, that is, from all eternity, as the eternal ‘I AM’ in the bosom of the Father. The human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ was not in the bosom of the Father when the Lord spake, but the divine was, for the words imply union, and yet distinctness—the closest intimacy, and yet the relative personality of the Father and the Son. And so again the passage, ‘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 ‘ (John iii. 16), as plainly declares that Christ was the only-begotten Son of God before He came into this world. When did God love the world? Surely before He gave ‘His only-begotten Son,’ for His love to the world moved Him to bestow that unspeakable gift. Then He was certainly His ‘only-begotten Son’ before He was given and before He came; and how could He be this but in His divine nature? for His human did not then exist, except in the mind of God. How plain the testimony to a believing heart that the Lord Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God by His very mode of subsistence; and is it not greatly to be feared that those who reject His eternal Sonship fall under that solemn sentence, ‘He that believeth not is condemned already, because he bath not believed in the Name of the only-begotten Son of God’? (John iii. 18.) Though hidden from our finite understanding, surely the Lord knew the mystery of His own generation; and is it not more consistent with the obedience of faith to believe the Lord’s own testimony concerning Himself than to cavil, disbelieve, or explain it away, because such a doctrine contradicts the conclusions of your reasoning mind? You censure the Arminians for saying that they cannot receive election because it contradicts their first notions, their primary, fundamental principles, both of the justice and love of God; and yet you, on precisely similar grounds, reject the eternal Sonship of Christ, as contradicting your natural views of priority and posteriority. So the Jews rejected and crucified the Lord of life and glory, because His appearance in the flesh as a poor carpenter’s son contradicted all their pre-conceived opinions of the dignity and glory of the promised Messiah; and in a similar way infidels reject miracles as contrary to their fundamental opinions of the laws of nature being unalterable. Thus to reject the eternal Sonship of the blessed Lord merely because it contradicts some of your preconceived opinions is most dangerous ground to take, and is to set up your authority against that of the Word of truth.
Any observations of ours would but weaken the force of the testimonies that we have brought forward from the Word of truth. You that ‘tremble at God’s word’ (Isa. lxvi. 2) and ‘hide it in your heart,’ that you may cleanse your way by taking heed thereto, and not sin against the Lord (Ps. cxix. 9, 11), weigh these scriptures well, for they are the faithful and true sayings of God (Rev. xxii. 6), the testimony of Him who cannot lie.
But it will be said that we are drawing nice and needless distinctions, and that all who profess to believe in the Trinity, the Deity and atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and the other leading truths of the gospel, believe in and acknowledge the Sonship of Christ. Yes, in lip; for they dare not in so many words deny so cardinal and fundamental a doctrine; but many who think and call themselves believers in the Son of God do all they can to nullify and explain away that very Sonship which they profess to believe.
But as it is necessary to point out and overthrow error before we can lay down and build up truth, we shall, as briefly as the subject allows, first show the different modes in which this fundamental doctrine of our most holy faith has been perverted or denied.
There are four leading ways in which erroneous men have, at different periods of the church’s history, sought to nullify the vital doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Jesus : —
1. Some place the Sonship of Christ in His incarnation, as if He was not the Son of God before He assumed our nature in the womb of the Virgin. The main prop of this erroneous view is the language of the angel to the Virgin Mary: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1. 35). As this text is much insisted upon by those who deny that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God prior to His incarnation, it demands an attentive consideration. All Trinitarians—and with them we have chiefly to do upon this point—allow the three following truths in common with us: 1. The union of two natures, the human and divine, in the Person of the Lord Jesus. 2. That the human nature of the Lord Jesus was formed of the flesh of the Virgin by the supernatural operation of the Holy Ghost. 3. That He who was born at Bethlehem was called the Son of God. Thus far there is no difference between the opponents of Christ’s eternal Sonship and ourselves. But now we come to a most important difference, in which lies the whole gist of the question, viz., whether He was the Son of God before His incarnation, or became such by it. Those who hold the latter view rest mainly on the text which we have just quoted. Let us, then, carefully and prayerfully examine the passage. The text asserts that ‘that Holy Thing which should be born’ of the Virgin ‘should be called the Son of God.’ It does not say it should be or become the Son of God, but should be called so. Now, was the human nature of the blessed Lord ever called the Son of God as distinct from the divine? As far as our reading of the Scripture extends, we think we can safely assert that His human nature never was called the Son of God, nor can a single passage of Holy Writ, we believe, be produced where the pure humanity of Jesus, as distinct from His divine nature, is spoken of under that name. We most fully admit that in His complex Person He is called again and again the Son of God, for the union of the two natures is so intimate that after His conception or birth the actings of the two natures, though separable, are not usually separated in the Word of truth. But the angel evidently meant that the Child to be born should be called the Son of God as His usual prevailing title. This, however, was not true of the human nature of our blessed Lord, which never was called the Son of God, as distinct from His divine, but was true of Him as uniting two natures in one divine Person. The angel, therefore, did not mean that His holy human nature, but that He who wore that nature should be called the Son of God. This pure humanity was called ‘that Holy Thing’ for two reasons: 1. To show that it was intrinsically and essentially holy—not involved in the Fall of Adam, nor corrupted by the taint of original sin, but, though of the flesh of the Virgin, sanctified by the Holy Ghost at the moment of its conception, under His overshadowing operation and influence. These two natures are distinctly named and kept separate in that memorable passage of the great Apostle—that mighty bulwark against the floods of error and heresy: ‘Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead’ (Rom. i. 3, 4). There Jesus Christ is declared to be ‘God’s Son,’ and yet ‘made of the seed of David according to the flesh;’ therefore the Son of God before so made, and not becoming so by being made, and ‘declared’ [margin, ‘determined’ The literal meaning of the Greek word is, ‘distinctly marked out,’ or ‘clearly defined.’] ‘to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.’
Besides which, were Jesus the Son of God by virtue of His miraculous conception, He might rather be called the Son of the Holy Ghost, which is a thought shocking to every spiritual mind.
It may, with God’s help and blessing, tend to throw some light on the subject if we compare the passage in Luke (i. 35) with the parallel place in Matthew (i. 23), where the evangelist quotes ‘what was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.’ The prophecy of Isaiah (vii. 14), as quoted by the evangelist, was, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with Child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’ (Matt. i. 23). The declaration to the Virgin (Luke i. 35), that ‘the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and the power of the Highest overshadow her,’ was to explain to her the mystery of her conception, and is therefore a passage strictly parallel to that just quoted from Matthew. The Son born of the virgin was according to Matthew (i. 23) to be called ‘Emmanuel, which being interpreted as, God with us,’ or God in our nature. ‘The Holy Thing,’ born of the Virgin, was, according to Luke, ‘to be called the Son of God.’ Now, in the same way as Christ was God before He was called Emmanuel, so was He the Son of God before, as being born of the Virgin, He was called the Son of God; and His being so born no more made Him the Son of God than His being so born made Him God. The Son of God could not be seen or known by the sons of men except as born of the Virgin; but His being so born did not constitute Him the Son of God. In the same way the resurrection of Christ is sometimes spoken of as ‘a begetting’ Him to be the Son of God, as we find Paul speaking at Antioch. ‘We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee’ (Acts xiii. 32, 33). As this passage stands, taken in its literal, apparent signification, it would certainly seem to mean that Christ became the Son of God by His resurrection, for the Apostle applies the words of the second Psalm, ‘Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,’ to the raising of Christ from the dead. But, as our opponents themselves will admit, the resurrection of Christ did not make Him the Son of God, for He was that before, as is evident from the confession of Peter, but it manifested Him to be such. The incarnation and the resurrection stand on the same footing as manifestations of the Son of God. By the incarnation He was manifested, by the resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God; but neither that by which lie was manifested, nor that by which He was declared, made Him the Son of God, for He was so before either manifestation or declaration.
As far as we can understand the views of those that we are at present combating, they hold that the Lord Jesus Christ, before His incarnation in the womb of the Virgin, was the eternal Word, but not the eternal Son; but when He assumed flesh of the Virgin, then, for the first time, He became the Son of God. They therefore hold that He is the Son of God by virtue of His complex Person—in other words, that He is not the Son of God by virtue of His, human nature, nor the Son of God by virtue of His divine nature, but the Son of God as uniting two natures in one glorious Person. But the mere fact of the Word taking flesh would not make Him the Son of God if He was not so before, for there is no connection between incarnation and Sonship. That by His incarnation He became the Son of man as scriptural and intelligible, but that by the same incarnation He became the Son of God is as unintelligible as it is unscriptural. Indeed, He is the Word because He is the Son, not the Son because He is the Word. The Son is the prior title and the foundation of the second. Why is Christ called the Word? Because by Him God the Father speaks. But why does the Father speak by Him? Because He is His only-begotten Son. Who so fit to speak for the Father as the Son? Who so knows His mind? Who is so ‘the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person’? We see, then, that He did not become the Son by being first the Word, but is the Word because He is first the Son.
But the clearest, plainest, and most decisive way of overthrowing this wild theory, this utterly unscriptural view, is to show from the Word of truth that Jesus was the Son of God before His incarnation. If this point can be proved from the Word of God, their error is at once cut from under them, and falls before the inspired testimony, as Dagon fell before the ark. To our mind nothing can be more plainly revealed in the Word of truth than that the Lord Jesus existed as the Son of God before His assuming flesh. But as this is the controverted point, let us examine some of these testimonies, they being so numerous and so plain that the difficulty is which to name and which to omit. But take the following from the Lord’s own lips, and examine carefully and weigh prayerfully the Lord’s own declaration concerning Himself: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,’ etc. (John iii. 16). God is here declared so to have loved the world that ‘He gave His only-begotten Son.’ Now must He not have existed as His Son before He gave Him? If I give a person a thing, my giving it does not change the nature of the object given, does not make it different from what it was before I gave it. So, if God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son, He must surely have been His only-begotten Son before He gave Him. In fact, the truth proclaimed by the blessed Lord is this, the amazing love of God to the world, that it was so stupendously great that having an only-begotten Son He gave Him for the salvation of those in the world who should believe in His Name, that they might not otherwise perish. But His giving Him could not make Him His only-begotten Son, because the wondrous love consisted in this, that though He was God’s only-begotten Son, still He gave Him. Any other interpretation quite destroys the meaning and force of the passage.
Now look at another passage of almost similar character: ‘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?’ (Rom. viii. 32.) The expression ‘spared not’ is explained by the words which follow, ‘delivered Him up for us all,’ which are again fully explained by the Lord’s own testimony before quoted, that God ‘gave His only-begotten Son.’ When, then, did God not spare His own Son? When He delivered Him up. When did He deliver Him up? When He gave Him. When did He give Him, but when He gave Him out of His own bosom to become incarnate? Thus by this connected chain it is most evidently shown that He was His Son before He delivered Him up; in other words, before He came into the world; which is the very point that we are seeking to establish. But observe, also, the words, ‘His only-begotten Son,’ literally, His peculiar, His proper Son; and observe, too, that He was His own, His peculiar, and proper Son before He spared Him not, but freely delivered Him. His delivering Him out of His bosom to become incarnate could not, and did not, make Him His Son any more than it made Him God. If words have meaning, He was His own true, real and proper Son before He was delivered up. And if so, was He not His own Son from all eternity, in other words, His eternal Son? the point of truth for which we are contending.
But see how all the force and beauty of the passage are destroyed if the Lord Jesus were not the true and real Son of God before He was delivered up! The apostle wishes to show the certainty that God will freely give us all things. But why should we have this certainty that we may rest upon it as a most blessed and consoling, truth? It rests on this foundation, that God spared not His own [in the original ‘idiou,’ that is, His proper and peculiar] Son, but delivered Him up for us all. Here we have brought before our eyes the personal and peculiar love of a Father towards a Son. But though this love to Him as His own peculiar Son was so great, yet pitying our case, He did not spare to give Him up to sufferings for our sake. But if He were not the true and real Son of God, but became so by being incarnate, the whole argument falls to the ground in a moment. If Father, Son and Holy Ghost are mere names and titles, distinct from and independent of their very mode of subsistence, the Holy Ghost might have been the Father and sent the Son, or the Son might have been the Father and sent the Holy Ghost; for if the three Persons of the Trinity are three distinct subsistences, independent of each other, and have no such mutual and eternal relationship as these very names imply, there seems to be no reason why these titles might not have been interchanged.
But take another passage of similar strength and purport: ‘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’ (1 John iv. 9). God is here declared to have ‘sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him.’ If men were but willing to abide by the plain, positive declarations of the Holy Ghost, and not evade them by subtleties of their own reasoning mind, this passage would of itself fully decide the whole controversy. Several things in it will demand and abundantly repay our closest attention: 1. The love of God towards us. Was not this from all eternity? Are not His own words, ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love’? (Jer. xxxi. 2); 2. The manifestation, or proof, of that love, which was sending His only-begotten Son into the world; 3. The Person sent, which was no other than His only-begotten Son. Now was this love of God before or only just at the time when ‘the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us’? All must admit that it was before, for it was the moving cause which induced God to send His only-begotten Son. Then He could not become for the first time His Son in the womb of the Virgin, but must have been His only-begotten Son before He was sent. The mere act of sending could not make Him to be His Son, if He was not so before. One would think that no elaborate train of reasoning was needful to prove this, and that simple faith in God’s own testimony was amply sufficient. And so it would be were not men’s minds so perverted by prejudice, and drugged and intoxicated by a spirit of error, that they obstinately refuse every argument, or even every scripture testimony that contradicts their pre-conceived views. But what unprejudiced mind does not see that sending a person to execute a certain task does not make him to be what he was not before? A master sends a servant to do a certain work; or a father bids a son to perform a certain errand; or a husband desires his wife to execute a certain commission which he has not time or opportunity to do himself; the servant does not cease to be a servant, the son to be a son, nor the wife to be a wife by being so sent. You might as well argue that if I send my maid-servant upon an errand, my sending her makes her to be my daughter; or if I send my daughter it makes her my maid-servant. My daughter for the time becomes my servant, as the Lord Jesus became His Father’s servant; but the relationship of father and daughter, as of Father and Son, existed prior to, and independent of, any act of service.
But to put this in a still clearer light, if indeed so plain and simple a point needs further elucidation, consider the parable of the vineyard let out to husbandmen (Matt. xxi. 33—46; Mark xii. 1—12; Luke xx. 9—19). We need not go all through the parable, but may confine ourselves to the last and simple point of the householder sending his son to receive of the fruits of the vineyard. ‘Having yet therefore one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence My Son’ (Mark xii. 6). What can be more plain all through the parable than that the husbandmen represent the Jews, the servants the prophets, and the son of the householder the blessed Lord? But the point which we wish chiefly to dwell upon is the sending of the Son. We read of the Lord of the vineyard, which is God, ‘Having yet therefore one Son, His well-beloved Son, He sent Him also last.’ Now surely He was the ‘one Son, the well-beloved Son,’ before He sent Him, or the whole drift and beauty of the parable fall to the ground. The idea conveyed by the parable is evidently this: The Lord of the vineyard, which is God the Father, lived in a far country, at a long distance from the vineyard, viz., heaven, His dwelling-place. With Him there was His one Son, and therefore His only-begotten Son, His well-beloved Son (Luke xx. 13), dwelling in the same abode with Himself, and therefore His Son before He sent Him, and quite independent of His being so sent. The husband-men having refused to send the fruits of the vineyard by the servants, and having most cruelly treated them, the Lord of the vineyard makes, as it were, a last experiment. Then said the Lord of the vineyard, ‘What shall I do?’ as if He took counsel with Himself how He should act. He then comes to a decision in His own mind, I will send My beloved Son; it may be they will reverence Him.’ Now surely when the Father thus consulted and thus determined, His Son must have already existed as His Son, been already at home with Him before the counsel could be taken or the resolution executed. If then the parallel has any force, or indeed any meaning—and it would be sacrilege to say it has not—God the Father must have had a Son in heaven with Him before He sent Him. If so, and we cannot, see how the force of the argument can be evaded, the Lord Jesus Christ existed as the Son of God before He was sent by the Father; and if so, as we cannot conceive a time when He was not a Son, He is the eternal Son of the eternal Father.
But we have other testimonies in the inspired record to the same import. Thus we read of God ‘sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Rom. viii. 3), and of His ‘sending forth His Son made of a woman’ (Gal. iv. 4). There must surely be some meaning attached to the expression, ‘His own Son,’ analogous to a similar earthly relationship. If I were to write a letter to a friend, and say in it, ‘ I send my own son with this,’ he surely would not understand me to mean that he was not my own son until I sent him, or that the bare circumstance of my sending him made him my son. And if I were to write to him afterwards an explanatory letter to say that I did not mean in my former note that the bearer was really and truly my own son, but only that he became my son by bringing the note, would he not at once reply, ‘What could be plainer than the declaration in your first letter that he was your own son; what other meaning could I attach to your words? And if I have misunderstood them, I shall not be able for the future to understand your plainest, simplest language.’ Apply this argument to the passages before us, wherein God is said ‘to have sent His own Son.’ We may well say, If the meaning of these passages be that the Lord Jesus Christ was not God’s Son before He sent Him, but became His Son by being sent, we must for the future give up all hope of understanding the Scriptures in their plain, simple meaning. And surely those who assert that the Lord Jesus Christ was not the Son of God before He was sent, but became God’s own Son by being sent, are bound to explain the connection between being sent and becoming a Son, and to give some reason more valid than a preconceived prejudice against the eternal Sonship of Jesus.
But take another testimony of almost similar purport. ‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says the apostle, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me’ (Gal. ii. 20). Now, when did the Son of God love Paul? Before He gave Himself for him or after? It was because He loved him that. He gave Himself for him, and therefore He must evidently have been the Son of God before He gave Himself for him. And when did He give Himself? When He came forth from His Father’s bosom, and assumed flesh in the womb of the Virgin. If, then, the Son of God loved Paul before He came into the world, He must have been the Son of God before He came into the world. As the eternal Son of God He loved Paul, and as the eternal Son of God Paul believed in and loved Him.
One more testimony may for the present suffice. ‘Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead’ (Rom. i. 3, 4). First look at the words: ‘Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.’ The Son of God is here declared to have been ‘made of the seed of David according to the flesh;’ therefore He existed as the Son of God before made of the seed of David; for all will admit that it is His humanity here spoken of as made. ‘We grant,’ say the opponents of Christ’s eternal Sonship, ‘that He existed before His incarnation, but not as the eternal Son of God.’ How, then, did He exist, and what was His title? ‘The Word,’ they answer, according to the declaration, ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
According, then, to your own showing, the Lord Jesus Christ existed as the Word before He was made flesh. ‘Undoubtedly,’ you reply. Now, what is the difference between the two expressions, ‘His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh,’ and ‘The Word was made flesh’? for by parity of reasoning, if ‘the Word’ existed as ‘the Word’ before He was ‘made flesh,’ the Son of God existed as the Son of God before ‘He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.’ The two texts stand on precisely the same grounds. Both speak of the Deitv and of the humanity of the blessed Lord; and as no change can take place in His glorious Deity, we justly infer that as He was the Word in His divine nature before He was made flesh, so He was the Son of God in His divine nature before He was made of the seed of David. Do not all these scripture testimonies prove as with one unanimous voice that the Lord Jesus Christ was the only-begotten Son of God before God sent Him into the world? Sending Him into the world no more made Him God’s Son than, to speak with all reverence, my sending my son to school makes him my son.
2. Another error on this important point is that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. The main prop of this view is what we read in Acts xiii. 32, 33: ‘And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.’ But the meaning of the apostle is abundantly clear from the passage already quoted (Rom. i. 4). His resurrection did not make Him, but manifest Him to be the Son of God. Did not the Father, before the resurrection, twice with a voice from heaven proclaim, ‘This is My beloved Son’ (Matt. iii. 17; xvii. 5). Will any man then lift, up his voice against the Majesty of heaven, and say that Christ was not the Son of God before His resurrection, which He clearly was not, if the resurrection made Him such? Why, the Roman centurion, who stood at the cross, had a better faith than this when he said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’ (Matt. xxvii. 54). Nay, the very devils themselves were forced to cry out before His sufferings and death. ‘Thou art Christ the Son of God’ (Luke iv. 41). We may be sure, therefore, that none but a heretic of the deepest dye could assert that the blessed Lord was not the Son of God till made so by the resurrection.
3. Another erroneous view of the Sonship of Christ is that He is so by virtue of His exaltation to the right hand of God. This view is founded on a mistaken interpretation of Heb. i. 4: ‘Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.’ Christ was made so much better than the angels, not as the Son of God, because as that He was better than they already, being indeed their Maker and Creator (John i. 3; Col. i. 16). Nor did He become God’s Son by being ‘appointed heir of all things,’ and ‘obtaining by inheritance a more excellent name’ than all the angelic host. If I have an only son, and he inherits my property, his being my heir does not make him my son, but his being my son makes him my heir. So the blessed Jesus is God’s heir. But the beauty and blessedness, the grace and glory, the joy and consolation of His being ‘the heir of all things,’ lie in this, that He is such in our nature—that the same blessed Immanuel who groaned and wept, suffered and bled here below, is now at the right hand of the Father as our High Priest, Mediator, Advocate, Representative, and Intercessor; that all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth as the God-man (Matt. xxviii. 18); and that the Father hath ‘set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come’ (Eph. i. 20, 21). But He has all this pre-eminence and glory not to make Him the Son of God, but because He who, as the Son of God, ‘thought it not robbery to be equal with God, made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess. that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. ii. 7—11). The joy of heaven above, the delight of the saints here below, their only hope and help, strength and wisdom, spring from this, that the Son of God is exalted to the right hand of the Father in the very nature which He assumed in the womb of the virgin. But if He were made the Son of God by this exaltation, it sinks His Deity by merging it into His humanity, and constitutes Him a made God—which is not God at all, but an idol.
In fact, these three views which we have endeavoured to strip bare out of their party-coloured dress are all of them either open or disguised Socinianism, and their whole object and aim are to overthrow the Deity of the Lord Jesus by overthrowing His divine Sonship. The enemies of the Lord Jesus know well that the Scriptures declare beyond all doubt and controversy that He is the Son of God. This mountain of brass they may kick at, but can never kick down. But they know also that if they can by any means nullify and explain away His Sonship, they have taken a great stride to nullify and explain away His Deity. Beware, then, simple-hearted child of God, lest any of these men entangle your feet in their net. Hold by this as your sheet-anchor, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God in His divine nature, as His eternal and only-begotten Son. Faith in Him as such will enable you to ride through many a storm, and bear you up amidst the terrible indignation which will fall upon His enemies, when He shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
4. But there is another way in which erroneous men seek to explain, and by explaining deny, the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus, and that is, by asserting that He is a Son by office. These men do not deny His essential and eternal Deity, nor do they seek to overthrow the Trinity. On these points they are professedly sound—we say ‘professedly,’ for we fully believe that the Deity of Christ and the very doctrine of the Trinity Itself are so involved in the eternal Sonship of Jesus, that they stand or fall with it. This, however, they do not, or will not, see, and call themselves believers in the Trinity of Persons and the Unity of essence in the great and glorious self-existent Jehovah. But they do not believe that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are necessarily and eternally such, and neither are, were, or could be otherwise, but that they are covenant offices and titles which They have assumed, and by which They have made Themselves known to the sons of men. Thus they do not believe that Christ is the Son of the Father by eternal generation, His only-begotten Son, His Son in truth and love, but that the Three distinct Persons in the Trinity covenanted among Themselves, the Father to be the Father, the Son to be the Son, and the Holy Ghost to be the Holy Ghost, and that chiefly for man’s redemption.
Monstrous figment! God-dishonouring error! which needs only to be stated to be reprobated by every believer in the Son of God as a deadly blow against each Person in the Trinity, and destroying that eternal intercommunication of nature, without which They are Three distinct Gods, and not Three distinct Persons in One undivided Godhead. Truly Satan introduces no little errors into the church; truly all his machinations are to overthrow vital truths, and to poison the spring at the very fountain head.
We bless God that there is a Covenant—a covenant of grace, ‘ordered in all things and sure;’ we adore His gracious Majesty that in this everlasting Covenant the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost sustain certain relationships to the church of God; but we most thoroughly deny that these relationships made Them to be Father, Son and Holy Ghost; and that separate from them the Father is not really and truly Father to the Son, nor the Son really and truly Son to the Father, but only nominally so. For who does not see that if this be true, the Father might have been the Son, and the Son might have been the Father, and the Holy Ghost either the Father or the Son? for certainly if They are so, not by nature but by office, and are three equal, independent Persons, at liberty to choose Their several titles, there appears to be no reason why They should not have chosen otherwise than They did. We see, therefore, into what confusion men get when they forsake the simple statements of Scripture, and what perilous weapons they hold in their hands when they directly or indirectly sap the very throne of the Most High. But to clear up this point a little further, let us illustrate it by a simple figure. Suppose, then, that three friends, of equal rank and station, were to go on a journey, say a foreign tour; they might say to one another before they started, ‘Let us severally choose the three departments to which we shall each attend, I will take this part, if you and you will take that and that.’ Now, why might they not, as three friends, of equal station, without any tie of kindred, choose different departments from what they actually selected, for there was no anterior binding necessity that they should have chosen the exact offices which they fulfil? The same reasoning applies to the Three co-equal Persons of the Trinity, if Father, Son and Holy Ghost be but mere covenant names, titles, and offices, and not their very mode of existence. But it will be said by such men, ‘You carnalise the subject by your figure.’ Not so; we have too much reverence, we trust, for the things of God to carnalise them; but we use the figure to meet you on your own ground, and to show you by a simple argument the absurdity and folly, not to say the impiety of your views. We admit, nay more, we rejoice to believe that Father, Son and Holy Ghost sustain each distinct Their relationships in the eternal Covenant; but these relationships are not arbitrary offices, which They might or might not have severally chosen, but are intrinsically and necessarily connected with, and flow out of Their very subsistence, Their very mode of existence. So that to talk, as some have done, that ‘the Three Persons in the Alehim’ (to use their barbarous Hebrew), ‘covenanted among Themselves to be Father, Son and Holy Ghost,’ is an abominable error, and tantamount to declaring that but for the Covenant, the Father would not have been the Father, nor the Son the Son, nor the Holy Ghost the Holy Ghost. Where is there one scripture for such an assertion? When the blessed Jesus, in that sacred, heart-moving prayer, ‘lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee’ (John xvii. 1), was there no other relationship, no more intimate and eternal tie than being His Son by assuming an office? We cannot express what we have seen and felt in that most blessed and sacred chapter, perhaps the most solemn in the whole Word of God; but there is that tender intimacy, that holy, filial communion with His heavenly Father breathing through it which conveys to a believing heart the fullest assurance that He is the eternal Son of God as being the only-begotten of the Father.
But as we cannot convey to erroneous men our faith, we must meet them on the solid ground of scriptural argument. Nothing then can be more evident than that the one great and glorious Jehovah existed in a Trinity of Persons before the Covenant. What then were those Three Persons before the Covenant was entered into? Did that Covenant alter Their mutual relationship to Each other so as to introduce a new affinity between Them? You might just as well say that the Covenant made Them a Trinity of Persons, or called Them into being, as to say that the Covenant made Them Father, Son and Holy Ghost; for if these be but Covenant titles, had there been no Covenant, They most certainly, according to your own showing, would not have been Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This is indeed overthrowing the Trinity with a witness, and making the distinct, eternal subsistence of Three Persons in the Godhead depend upon a Covenant made on behalf of man. For remember this, that you cannot touch one Person of the Godhead without touching all; and if you say that the Son of God is a Son only by office, you say with the same breath that the Father is only a Father by office, and the Holy Ghost only a Holy Ghost by office.
But let us further ask, What do you mean by saying that the Son of God is so only by office, or as a name or title? Has the Son of God, His only-begotten Son no more real, intimate, and necessary relationship to His Father than calling Himself His Son, when He is not really His Son, but only so by office? Do you think you clearly understand what it is to be a Son by office? for persons often use words of which they have never accurately examined the meaning. The Lord Jesus, by becoming man, became the Father’s servant by office, but if you make Him a Son by office, you strip Him of all His glory. His glory is this, that though He was a Son by nature, He became a servant by office, as the Apostle says, ‘Though He were (not ‘became’) a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered’ (Heb. v. 8). In this we see His unparalleled condescension, His infinite love, and boundless depths of grace, that though by nature the eternal Son of God, and as such co-equal with the Father, He stooped to become a servant. But apart from all Scripture revelation, it is an absurdity, an insult to common sense, to make the Lord Jesus Christ a Son by office. There are but two ways by which anyone can become a son: 1, by generation; 2, by adoption. In the first case he is the father’s son, his true, proper and real son; in the other, his made or adopted son. No office or service, no law or title, no covenant or agreement, can make a son if he be not a real or an adopted one. A servant by office may become a son by adoption, as Abram complained that ‘one born in his house (as a servant) was his heir,’ and as Moses became the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Exod. ii. 10); and a son by nature may become a servant by office, but a son by office is an absurdity, both in nature and grace.
Now do look at the weight of these plain and united testimonies. Would God deceive us by telling us again and again that He had a Son, an own, a proper, a peculiar, an only-begotten Son, if He had not? Where in all these passages is there the faintest intimation that the Sonship of Christ was not a true and real Sonship, but only a name, a title, a word, that might or might not have been, and but for the creation of man never would have been? To make the mutual eternal relationship which subsists between the Father and the Son depend upon a covenant made on behalf of man, is to destroy the very eternal being of both Father and Son Surely, when the Father spoke Himself from heaven, ‘This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him,’ He meant that He was really and truly His beloved Son, that He was His most loving Father, and that we were to hear, believe in, and obey Him as such.