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CHAPTER XVII. Examination of the proper Sunship of our Lord, continued:
We have in the preceding chapter in relation to the subject under inquiry, confined ourselves mostly to the comparison of the manifestations of our Lord, to the patriarchs and prophets, with his manifestations to the apostles after his resurrection and ascensionhoping thereby to advance in our inquiry, who this character can be, if not the proper Son of God in his pre-existent state of dignity and glory. We shall now proceed in a particular examination as to the proper Sonship of our Lord, in his pre-existent state, and search for the testimony touching the Sonship, and review several passages in the new testament, to see whether this doctrine will bear the test of scripture.
When fairly compared with the sacred text, and that without any forced construction, it shall be found to bear the examination, it will be our undoubted duty to hold to it, as one of the most sacred principles of the christian doctrine, and if not, to reject it. And in any event, the sooner we can arrive at a conviction of the truth of this momentous point, the better it is for us; who should strive for the demonstration which proceeds from the Holy Spirit, and works on the conscience with convincing light and persuasive eloquence. Our Lord, saith, this is life, that
they might know thee the only true God, and Jes sus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Although it is argued by some, that these are not points which so immediately concern us at the present day, if we believe in a Saviour which is able to save our souls from everlasting death. This is in some sense true; yet it is equally as true, we know not how to place implicit confidence in him, in which we have no clear knowledge. And the clearer our knowledge is on this point, the stronger and more unwavering will be our confidence in him. And the more entirely, and confidingly we are prepared to worship and love him, and know and feel the love of God in the gift of his son, for the redemption of a lost world, the more sound and steadfast will be our faith. Every means of grace, therefore, which God in infinite kindness hath placed before us, to acquire knowledge, ought to be industriously and cautiously improved to the glory of God, and the salvation of our own souls.
The apostles, frequently bring forward this point, with a note of attention and admiration,
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.” We think it plain that the apostles, one and all, agree in defending the proper Sonship of Jesus Christ, as the only substantial ground to defend his real deity, and proper God-head; or in other words, that he is really and inherently God in his nature.
We are greatly mistaken, if the fathers of the three first centuries, did not follow exactly this rule of the Apostles. The important Council or Synod held at the city of Nice, A. D. 325, we
understand to have done the same. This Council was composed of 318 bishops, and about as many presbyters, and we consider is to be esteemed one of the most important christian Councils held in the christian world since the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.
And we are equally certain that the fathers of the Reformation from popery, for the three centuries last past, have been enabled by the grace of God, and the peculiar and peaceful lights of the spirit of God, to follow them in this luminous and golden path.
We shall in our further inquiries, consider, the declarations of the apostles-the views of the fathers which sealed their testimony with their own blood, and died as martyrs for the cause of the christian religion—the Nicean creed, or the decisions of that council-the articles of faith of the reformed churches, and the views of leading characters, or christian lights, since the days of the reformation.
Before we proceed to the proposed examination, it will be well to offer the reasons, which lead us to resort to the three last mentioned sources of information. It will be acknowledged by almost all christians, that if correct information can be gained upon this point, it is to be found in the New Testament, which is the standard of Christian faith and practice. In the three first hundred years of christianity, this point was often called in question, not only among christains, but when persecution abounded, and the leaders in christian churches were arraigned at the bar, and compelled to answer to the point now in question, viz. what they believed respecting Jesus of Nazareth. Thus the opportunity was not only given
to state the proofs and principles of their belief ; but the circumstances of persecution under which they were placed, were calculated to give veracity to their relation, and validity to the doctrine they advanced, if it is admitted they were christians; as by adhering to their belief, under trials, difficulties, and great worldly hazard, and against opposing temptations, no motives could have biassed them, but a firmness, and love of truth according to the lights they possessed. It is imagined, also, that they had more correct and unadulterated views in general on this subject at that time than afterwards existed, when worldly considerations and motives seem to have had more influence. In that day there were a few exceptions, however; even in the apostles times, there were a few dissented from the general body of christians on this point of christian faith.
In respect to our resort to the fathers of the reformation, for aid on this subject: In the christian world, especially in this portion of the vineyard, their opinions have been greatly regarded, and they were unquestionably men of sound judgment, men of learning, men of benevolent motives and deep piety. We do not intend, here ta expatiate on the merit or demerit of that dependence which mankind are prone to place on precedents. Some, who may read these our views, may not possess that independence of mind, that others have; and may not have that information, on this profound and weighty subject, which would lead them to esteem themselves competent judges of this matter, without the opinion and judgment of the fathers. We therefore superadd their views, to lessen the diffidence of this class, and to increase the charity or all:
We now proceed to examine and re-examine a few passages from the scriptures of the new testament, on the point of Jesus Christ's being the son of God in his divine nature. We say a few passages, for were we to take up the New Testament averments on this subject, at large, it must swell this little work of notes on the doctrine of the Trinity, far beyond what we are now able to attend to.
In John, chapter 1, he commences his evangelical labours by saying " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him ; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
John in this speaks of our Lord, as existing with God, that is, with the Father in the beginning, meaning, without doubt, at the time when creation or things began to be or exist; and if with hïm, in some sense distinct; otherwise there must be an impropriety or looseness in the Apostle's language. He tells us, “the Word was God;" these declarations put together, seem to prove, conclusively, the personality of the Son, and what the Son is inherently in his nature. « The Word was God,” it was something more than' wisdom, energy, or active force, as some Unitarians have termed the spirit of God. Wisdom, energy, or active force alone are not God, although we place them as the attributes of God, yet they are no where defined Christ. We have therefore wondered when we have heard the expressions used to define the character of Christ. It may be asked, has not the apostle Paul set this example? We