There are two things which every child of God has the greatest reason to dread; the one is evil, the other is error. Both are originally from Satan; both have a congenial home in the human mind; both are in their nature deadly and destructive; both have slain their thousands and tens of thousands; and under one or the other, or under both combined, all everlastingly perish but the redeemed family of God. Evil—by which we mean sin in its more open and gross forms—is, in some respects, less to be dreaded than error, that is, error on vital, fundamental points; and for the following reason. The unmistakable voice of conscience, the universal testimony of God’s children, the expressed reprobation of the world itself, all bear a loud witness against gross acts of immorality. Thus, though the carnal mind is ever lusting after evil, thorns and briers much hedge up the road toward its actual commission; and if, by the power of sin and temptation, they be unhappily broken through, the return into the narrow path, though difficult, is not wholly shut out. David, Peter, and the incestuous Corinthian fell into open evil, but they never fell into deadly error, and were not only recoverable, but by superabounding grace were recovered. But error upon the grand, fundamental doctrines of our most holy faith is not only in its nature destructive, but usually destroys all who embrace it.
As, however, we wish to move cautiously upon this tender ground, let us carefully distinguish between what we may perhaps call voluntary and involuntary error. To explain our meaning more distinctly, take the two following cases of involuntary error by way of illustration. A person may be born of Socinian parents, and may have imbibed their views from the force of birth and education. Is this person irrecoverable? Certainly not. The grace of God may reach his heart and deliver him from his errors, just as much as it may touch the conscience of a man living in all manner of iniquity, and save him from his sins. Or a child of God, one manifestly so by regenerating grace, may be tempted by the seducing spirit of error breathed into his carnal mind by a heretic or by an erroneous book, and may for a time be so stupefied by the smoke of the bottom less pit as to reel and stagger on the very brink, and yet not fall in. Most of us have known something of these blasts of hell, so that we could say with Asaph, ‘My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped;’ but they have only rooted us more firmly in the truth. These are cases of what we call involuntary error. But there is voluntary error when a man wilfully and deliberately turns away from truth to embrace falsehood; when he is given up to strong delusions to believe a lie; when he gives heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and seeks to spread and propagate them with all his power. These cases are usually irrecoverable, for such men generally wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived; error so blinds their eyes and hardens their hearts, that they cannot or will not see anything but what seems to favour their views, and at last they either sink into a general state of unbelief and infidelity or die confirmed in their deceptions. It is scarcely possible to read the Epistles of the New Testament, especially those of Paul to Timothy and Titus, and those of Peter, John and Jude, without being struck by the strong denunciations which those inspired men of God launched as so many burning thunderbolts against error and erroneous men. Any approach to their strong language, even in opposing the most deadly errors, would in our day be considered positively unbearable, and be called the grossest want of charity. It is with most an unpardonable offence to draw any strong and marked lines between sinner and saint, professor and possessor, error and truth. The ancient landmarks which the word of truth has set up have almost by general consent been removed, and a religious right of common has become established, by means of which truth and error have been thrown into one wide field, where any may roam and feed at will, and still be considered as sheep of Christ. It was not so in the days of Luther, of John Knox, and of Rutherford; but in our day there is such a general laxity of principle as regards truth and falsehood, that the corruption of the world seems to have tainted the church. There was a time in this country when, if there was roguery in the market, it was not tolerated in the counting-house; if there was blasphemy in the street, it was not allowed in the senate; if there was infidelity in the debating-room, it was not suffered in the pulpit. But now bankers and merchants cheat and lie like costermongers; Jew, Papist, and infidel sit side by side in the House of Commons; and negative theology and German divinity are enthroned in Independent chapels. It would almost seem that Paul, Peter, John and Jude were needlessly harsh and severe in their denunciations of error and erroneous men, that Luther, John Knox, and Rutherford were narrow-minded bigots, and that it matters little what a man believes if he be ‘a truly pious’ man, a member of a church, a preacher, or a professor. Old Mrs. Bigotry is dead and buried; her funeral sermon has been preached to a crowded congregation; and this is the inscription put, by general consent, upon her tombstone:
‘For modes of faith let graceless bigots fight
He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.’
But if to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints be bigotry, let us be bigots still; and if it be a bad spirit to condemn error, then let us bear the reproach rather than call evil good and good evil, put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Here, then, we resume our subject, hoping, with God’s help and blessing, whilst we contend earnestly for the truth as it is in Jesus, to advance nothing that may be in the least inconsistent with His sacred Word, and desiring His glory and the good of His people. But as Abraham, when he went up the mount with Isaac, left the young men and the ass at the foot; as Moses put off his shoes, at God’s command, when he stood on holy ground; so must we leave carnal reasoning at the foot of the mount where the Lord is seen (Gen. xxii. 14), and lay aside the shoes of sense and nature when we look at the bush burning with fire and not consumed. Four things are absolutely necessary to be experimentally known and felt before we can arrive at any saving or sanctifying knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus: 1. Divine light in the understanding; 2. Spiritual faith in the heart; 3. Godly fear in the conscience; 4. Heavenly love in the affections. Without light we cannot see; without faith we cannot believe; without godly fear we cannot reverentially adore; without love we cannot embrace Him who is the Truth,’ as well as ‘the Way, and the Life.’ Here all heretics and erroneous men stumble and fall. The mysteries of our most holy faith are not to be apprehended by uninspired men. Spiritual truths are for spiritual men; as the apostle beautifully says, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God’ (1 Cor. ii. 9. 10). It is, therefore, utterly impossible for men who are sensual, having not the Spirit’ to understand any branch of saving truth, much more the deep mysteries of godliness. We must be taught of God, and receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child, or we shall never enter therein; and it is for those who have been so led and taught that we mainly write.
We have already attempted to show the various ways in which erroneous men have sought at different times to overthrow the eternal Sonship of Jesus. If we have succeeded, with God’s help and blessing, in refuting what is false, we have advanced a good way in proving what is true; for in grace, as in nature, the conviction of falsehood is the establishment of truth. Before, then, we proceed any further, let us fix our foot firmly on the ground that we have thus far made good, and not run backwards and forwards in confusion as though we had proved nothing. What is proved is proved; and as each successive step in an argument is clearly and firmly laid, it forms, as in a building, a basis to support a fresh layer of proof. These points, then, we consider to have been already fully established by us from the Word of truth: 1, that Jesus is the Son of God; 2, that He is not the Son of God by the assumption of human nature, or by the resurrection, or by sitting at God’s right hand, or by virtue of any covenant name, title, or office; 3, that He was the Son of God before He came into the world; and 4, that consequently He is the Son of God in His divine nature. The pre-existerian dreams and delusions we need not say we utterly discard as full of deadly error, and therefore need not stop to show that He is not the Son of God by virtue of a human soul created before all time, and united to His body in the womb of the Virgin at the incarnation. Here, then, we take our firm stand, that Jesus is the Son of God in His divine nature; and if that divine nature is truly and properly God, as the words necessarily imply, and as such is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, then He must be the eternal Son of the Father. No sophistry can elude this conclusion. Forsaking the Scriptures and the guiding light of divine revelation, you may reason and argue on natural grounds, and cavil at the words, an eternal Son’ and ‘eternal generation,’ as expressing or implying ideas naturally inconsistent, not to say impossible. But we shall not follow you on such boggy ground. If you will do so, lose yourself there; and, led by the ignis fatuus of reason, flounder from swamp to swamp, till you sink to rise no more; but we shall, with the Lord’s help, abide on the firm ground of God’s own inspired testimony, and draw all our proofs from that sacred source of all knowledge and instruction. But though we shall confine ourselves to the inspired testimony in opening up this subject, we shall endeavour to proceed step by step, carefully and prayerfully, in the hope that our pen may move in strict harmony with the truth of God in a matter so mysterious and yet so blessed. Follow us, spiritual reader, with the Scriptures in your hand and with faith and love in your heart, that we, as taught and blessed of God, may be able to set our seal to those words, ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.’ If we have not this, what witness have we worth possessing?
1. First, then, we lay it down as undeniable scripture truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God as God. This is the express testimony of the Father Himself: ‘But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever’ (Heb. i. 8). Is it not clear from this express declaration from the Father’s own lips, that the Son is God, and God as being the Son? How else is He ‘the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His Person’? (Heb. i. 3.) The human nature of Jesus was not ‘the brightness of God’s glory,’ for how could a created, finite nature represent the brightness of the glory of the infinite, self-existent I AM? Nor could the nature assumed in the womb of the Virgin be ‘the express image of God’s Person.’ The Person of God must necessarily be divine, and the express image of it must be necessarily divine also.
2. Secondly, we assert that when the Scripture speaks of Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God, it speaks of Him as such in His divine nature. Thus, when John says, ‘And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father’ (John i. 14), that glory was the glory of Christ’s divine nature; for how could His human nature, which was marred more than the sons of men, shine forth with the glory of His divine? This ‘glory of the Only-begotten of . the Father’ is most evidently the same glory as that of which Jesus speaks in those touching words: ‘And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was’ (John xvii. 5). But this must be the glory of His divine nature, for His human nature He had not then assumed. Then ‘the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father’ must be the same ‘glory as He had with Him before the world was,’ and that could be none other but His divine. Thus we are brought in the clearest and most indubitable manner to this point, that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God as God. The two passages that we have quoted bring us to this conclusion with all the clearness, force and distinctness of a mathematical problem. Examine one by one the links of this argument, and see if they are not firm and good. Jesus is the only-begotten of the Father; this is the first step. As the only-begotten of the Father He has a peculiar glory; this is the second step. This glory He had with the Father before the world was; this is the third step. As He could only possess this glory in His divine nature, for His human did not then exist, He is the only-begotten Son of God as God; this is the fourth step, and establishes the conclusion that He is the eternal Son of the Father, and that by eternal generation. You may object to the term ‘eternal generation,’ but how else can you explain the words, ‘the Only-begotten of the Father’? If you say that this refers to the human nature of Jesus, how can you interpret in that sense the passage, ‘the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father’? (John i. 18.) Surely you will not say that the human nature of Jesus was -in the bosom of the Father from all eternity. How was He ever in the bosom of the Father but as His only-begotten Son, and if He lay there from all eternity, what is this but eternal generation?
But we have by no means exhausted our quiver. ‘Thine arrows,’ we read, ‘ are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; whereby the people fall under Thee’ (Ps. xlv. 5). The Lord fill our quiver full of them; then shall we not be ashamed, but shall speak with His enemies in the gate. Look at the following testimony: ‘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). Does not Jesus Himself here declare that the Father ‘gave His only-begotten Son’? Was He not, then, His only-begotten Son before He gave Him? If language mean anything, the words positively declare that God had a Son, an only-begotten Son, and that He so loved poor, fallen man that He freely and voluntarily gave this only-begotten Son for his redemption. But when did God love the world? Before or after Jesus came in the flesh? Of course, before, for love moved Him to give His only-begotten Son. Where, then, was His only-begotten Son when God loved the world? In heaven, with God. And what was He in heaven with God? His only-begotten Son. Then He was His only-begotten Son in His divine nature, for His human nature never was in heaven till after the resurrection. And if His only-begotten Son in His divine nature, and if He existed as such from all eternity, what is this but eternal generation? Surely Jesus knew the mystery of His own generation; and if He call Himself God’s only-begotten Son, is it not our wisdom and mercy to believe what He says, even if our reason cannot penetrate into so high and sublime a mystery?
‘Where reason fails, with all her powers.
There faith prevails, and love adores.’
3. But you will say, ‘We do not deny that Jesus is God’s only-begotten Son, for so the Scripture speaks, but He is so by virtue of the everlasting covenant.’ But how could a covenant beget Him? Begetting implies a being, not a compact; and to be begotten implies a nature, a mode of existence, not a covenant. The two ideas are essentially incompatible, for begetting implies a relationship independent of, and anterior to, a covenant, whereas a covenant implies the existence of the covenanting parties.
But another may say, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but neither by virtue of His divine nor of His human nature viewed separately, but of His complex Person as God-man Mediator.’ But was His complex Person in heaven before the incarnation ? Surely not. But that the Son of God was in heaven before His incarnation we have already abundantly proved. It is evident, then, that He is not the Son of God by virtue of His complex Person, for He was so before He took our nature into union with His divine. He must be the Son of God either as God or as man. We have shown over and over again that He is not the Son of God as man. What then remains but that He is the Son of God as God, and therefore previous to His assumption of our nature in the womb of the Virgin, and consequently anterior to His becoming God-Man? Has not the Lord Himself declared, ‘He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God’? Do you believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God? How can you if you deny that He is the eternal Son of the Father? For we have already proved from Scripture that He is the only-begotten Son of God in His divine nature; and he who denies that, most certainly believes not ‘in His Name,’ by which is meant His very Being and nature, Person and work, as revealed to the sons of men.
But as the matter is so important, let us now examine another testimony: ‘And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life’ (1 John v. 20). Carefully examine the mind and meaning of the Holy Ghost in this remarkable declaration, for it is well worth weighing word by word. ‘We know,’ says holy John, ‘that the Son of God is come.’ But how do we know that the Son of God is come? By the personal and experimental manifestation of Him as the Son of God to our soul (Gal. i. 16). But if not so manifested, not known. And who understand and ‘know Him that is true’? Those to whom ‘He hath given an understanding.’ Then where no such understanding is given, there ‘He that is true’ is not understood or known. ‘And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christi’ Then if not in union with the Son, not in Him that is true, and therefore necessarily in him that is false. ‘This is the true God.’ Who? The Son. And why? Because He is the Son. ‘And eternal life.’ Then out of Him is eternal death. Why? Because only in union with Him is eternal life. Look at the chain as thus drawn out from beginning to end; weigh it well, link by link. ‘The Son of God is come.’ That is link the first. ‘We know that He is come.’ That is link the second. ‘He bath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true.’ That is link the third. ‘We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.’ That is link the fourth. ‘This is the true God, and eternal life.’ That is link the fifth. And may we not, with holy John, add another link to close the chain? ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols;’ and amongst them, from the idol of a Son by office, for such is not ‘the true God, nor eternal life.’
4. But now let us advance a step further in our line of argument and show that Jesus is not only the Son of God in His divine nature, but as being ‘the only-begotten of the Father,’ is God’s own, proper, true and eternal Son – Take the following testimonies by way of proof of this assertion: ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh’ (Rom. viii. 3). Here the Holy Ghost declares that ‘God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.’ Have you ever carefully weighed the meaning of the words, ‘His own Son’? If you are a father, does not your own son widely differ from an adopted son? The word means literally His ‘proper’ and ‘peculiar’ Son—His own, in a sense specially distinct from any other. But let us examine this passage a little more closely. A certain work was to be done which the law could not do, for ‘it was weak through the flesh.’ The law was strong in itself, for it had all the authority of God to back it; but it was weak through man’s infirmity—the flesh not being able to keep or obey it. God, then, sent His own Son to do what the law could not do. If words have any meaning, if the blessed Spirit choose suitable expressions to convey instruction, what can we understand by the term, ‘God’s own Son,’ but that Jesus is God’s true and proper Son by His very mode of existence? This is the grand and blessed revelation of these last days, as made known to the apostles and prophets, and embodied in the inspired pages of the New Testament. What, for instance, is the foundation of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and indeed of the whole Epistle, but that the Son of God has a relation to the Father, not only of a dignity but of a nature which He alone possesses? How clear and emphatic the language in which the apostle opens that weighty epistle, ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds’ (Heb. i. 1, 2). View the Son thus spoken of as a Son merely by office or by covenant title, and the whole force and beauty of the words are lost. But see in the Son the true and real Son of the Father, then the love and mercy of God, as speaking in and by Him in these last days, shine forth in all their unparalleled lustre. So, in the words just quoted from Rom. viii. 3, the whole foundation of redemption is laid on this rock, that God sent His own Son. Can language be more plain or more positive? If Jesus be not God’s own Son, His true, real and proper Son, what do the word, mean? We say it with all reverence; that if Jesus, be a Son only by office, or merely by virtue of His complex Person, such words as ‘His own Son’ would but mock and deceive us, and lead us to believe a lie. If I were to point to a son of mine, and say to a neighbour or a stranger, ‘This is my own son,’ and a few days after the person learnt that he was not my own son, but an adopted child, whom I was accustomed to call my son when he was no such relation, should I stand clear of deception in the matter? If God, then, declares that Jesus is ‘His own Son,’ am I to believe that He is His Son by nature, His only-begotten, and thus His true and proper Son, or to make Him a liar ? It seems to us that holy John has already decided the matter: ‘He that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.’ This is just your case, if you say that Jesus is not God’s own Son, which you must certainly do if you say that He is not His Son in His divine nature. You do not believe God because you believe not the record (or testimony) that God gave of His Son, when He said from heaven, ‘This is My beloved Son.’ And what is the consequence? ‘You make God a liar.’ And is not that an awful position for a worm of earth to stand in? But such is ever the result of listening to natural reasoning and argument instead of believing the testimony of God.
But again, Have you ever looked at the word ‘sent’ in the passage that we are now considering? There is a singular beauty and propriety in a Father sending a Son, which is completely lost if the Second Person is so far independent of the Father as to be a Son merely in name. As such He might certainly covenant to come, but could hardly covenant to be sent. But view Him as the Father’s own Son, and then the love of the Father in sending Him, and His own love in consenting to come (‘Lo! I come’) are beautiful beyond expression.
But this is by no means the only passage in which Jesus is spoken of as God’s ‘own Son.’ Look at those words in the same blessed chapter (Rom. viii.), which has comforted thousands of sorrowful hearts, ‘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?’ Can words be more expressive, ‘He that spared not His own Son’? Believing soul, you that desire to know God’s truth for yourself, who would not hold error for a thousand worlds, and are looking up for that wisdom which cometh from God, consider well the words; they are full of truth and blessedness. Do not the words, then, clearly declare that the love of God was so great to the church that there being no other way by which she could be saved, God the Father spared not His own true and proper Son? Make Jesus a Son by office, and the whole force, not to say the meaning, of the passage is gone in a moment. It would be nothing less than plucking away the whole love of God to His people. If Jesus be not God’s own proper and true Son, where is the compassion of the Father’s heart overcoming, so to speak, all His reluctance to give Him up? Where the depth of the Father’s love in delivering Him up for us all ? The moment that you deny the eternal Sonship of Jesus, you deny the Father’s love to Him as His own Son, and with that you deny also the peculiar love that God has to His people. Thus you destroy at a stroke the unutterable love and complacency that the Father has to the Son as His own Son, and the compassion and love displayed to the church in giving Him up as a sacrifice for her sins. The only foundation of our being sons of God (1 John iii. 2) is that Jesus, our Head and Elder Brother, was the Son of God. Therefore He said to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection, ‘ Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God’ (John xx. 17). Why ‘your Father’? Because ‘My Father.’ Why ‘your God’? Because ‘My God.’ ‘Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father’ (Gal. iv. 6). Why sons? Because Christ is the Son of God. Why the Spirit of His Son ? Because the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father and the Son as His mode of subsistence. In removing these ancient landmarks of truth, men little think what havoc they make, we were going to say, in heaven and in earth. In heaven, by destroying the very mode of existence of the Three Persons in the sacred Godhead; in earth, by destroying the foundations on which the church is built. If you destroy the peculiar and unutterable love of God to the church, what do you leave us? And this you must certainly destroy if you deny the eternal Sonship of Jesus, for the love of the Father to the church is the same as His love to the Son: ‘And hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me’ (John xvii. 23). O the depth of God’s love To carry out this love both Father and Son, in a sense, made a sacrifice. The sacrifice that the Father made, out of His love to the church, was that He gave out of His own bosom His darling Son, and spared Him not the sorrows and agonies of the cross, but delivered Him up to the curse of the law, the temptations of the devil, the malice of men, and the burning indignation of Justice arresting Him as a transgressor. The sacrifice that the Son made was to leave His Father’s bosom and be delivered up to a life of suffering and a death of agony. How much is contained ‘in that expression, ‘He that spared not His own Son ‘I But does not all its force and meaning consist in this, that Jesus is the true and real Son of God? But if you still are in doubt about the meaning of God’s ‘not sparing His own Son,’ look at an almost parallel expression, ‘I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him’ (Mal. iii. 17). In reading that passage, what meaning do you attach to the expression of ‘a man sparing his own son’? Is the own son spoken of there the man’s real, true and proper son, or an adopted one, or one calling himself so when he is not ? You answer, and that well, ‘Why, the whole force of the passage depends on the person spared being the man’s own son.’ Then why interpret this passage in that sense, which, indeed, you cannot help doing, and explain what is said about God’s own Son in a manner quite different? But you say, ‘I cannot understand this eternal generation. It seems to me so inconsistent, so self-contradictory, that I cannot receive it.’ Do you mean, then, to receive nothing which you cannot understand, and which appears self-contradictory? Then you must on those grounds reject the two greatest mysteries of our most holy faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. We do not call upon you to understand it. But if you love your own soul, we counsel you not to deny it, lest you be found amongst those who deny the Son, and so have not the Father (1 John ii. 23).
But again, if Jesus be not the true, proper and real Son of God, how can we understand the parable of the vineyard and the husbandmen, given us by three evangelists ? We need not go over this ground again, for we have already done so; but we may simply ask, If Jesus be not the true, proper and real Son of God, what is the meaning of the parable? No one would accept this interpretation, that it was not the real son of the householder that was sent, but a neighbour or a friend who personated a son, who assumed the office and took the title when he was not his son at all. Do you not see, as a general rule of Scripture interpretation, that whilst you hold the truth all is simple and harmonious and different passages confirm and corroborate each other; but the moment that error is set up all is confusion, and you cannot by any possible means get one passage of Scripture to harmonise with the other? So it is with this parable as harmonising with the true and real Sonship of Jesus. The moment you see and believe that Jesus is the true Son of the Father, His only-begotten Son, the whole parable is full of exquisite truth, pathos, and beauty; but abandon that view, and the parable at once falls to the ground as devoid of all sense or significance.
It is with the eternal Sonship of Christ as with the Trinity, the Deity of Jesus, the Personality of the Holy Ghost, etc. It does not so much rest on isolated texts as on the general drift of God’s inspired Word—what the apostle calls ‘the proportion (or analogy) of faith (Rom. xii. 6). And it is an infinite mercy for the church of God that the Holy Spirit has so ordered it; for single texts, however clear, may be disputed, but the grand current of truth, like a mighty river, not only bears down all opposition, but flows on in a pure, perennial stream, to slake the thirst of the saints of the Most High.
But take another testimony to the same grand truth, and that from God’s own mouth. Twice did God Himself declare with an audible voice from heaven, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matt. iii. 17; xvii. 5). Surely when God speaks from heaven those who fear His great name will by His grace listen, believe and obey. If Jesus ‘received from God the Father honour and glory, when that voice came to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (2 Pet. i. 17), we who desire to honour and glorify Him should feel a solemn pleasure in obeying the Father’s voice, ‘Hear ye Him.’ Blessed Jesus, we do desire to hear Thee, for Thy sheep hear Thy voice, and Thy mouth is most sweet; yea, Thou art altogether lovely. When sin distresses our conscience, or error assails our mind, may we ever feel and say, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God’ (John vi. 68, 69).
But if Jesus be the Son of God merely by office or covenant title, or by virtue of His complex Person, where is the blessedness of that voice from heaven proclaiming Him the beloved Son of the Father ? It would but deceive and mislead us were it but a name, not a reality, a title implying a relationship which did not actually exist. If words so plain and so expressive mean anything (and who dare say that God’s words mean nothing?), they most certainly declare an intimacy of divine relationship between the Father and the Son, peculiar and ineffable, deeply mysterious, but inexpressibly blessed. No name or title can give a natural and necessary relationship. My son is called my son because he is my son; and if he were not so, no calling could make him so. In the same or an analogous manner, the covenant, however blessed, however ordered in all things and sure, could not make the Word to be the Son of God were He not so in reality. Besides which, if Jesus is not the Son of God by His very mode of subsistence, there would be, at least as far as we can see, no peculiar significancy in His becoming so by the covenant. It does not at all touch the efficacy of redemption, which depends on the Redeemer being God as well as man. If, then, the Second Person of the Trinity is riot the Son of God anterior to and independent of the covenant of grace, there appears to be no reason why He should assume that particular title for the purpose of redemption rather than any other. As this, however, is a point involving many considerations, we shall not further press it. though it has a weight with our own mind.
Thus, in whatever point of view we examine it, we see error and confusion stamped upon every explanation of the Sonship of Jesus, but that which has always been
the faith of the Church of God, that He is the Son of the Father in truth and love (2 John 3). As such we, in sweet union with prophets, apostles and martyrs, with the glorified spirits in heavenly bliss, and the suffering saints in this vale of tears, worship, adore and love Him, and crown Him Lord of all.