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Angels and men have received the name Son of God. But they did not inherit it, in the same sense, in which be did. Christ obtained this name in a peculiar and distinguishing sense, in a sense, in which no creature ever obtained it. This is an evidence that he is in nearer relationship to the Father than any created being. If Christ was called Son, only on account of his human nature, then he was not Son in any higher sense than angels and men; and he inherited it in no other manner than they. But the apostle reasons otherwise. He argues Christ's nearer relationship to the Father, and his superior excellence and dignity from this fact, that he inherited a more excellent name than the angels; that he inherited the name Son of God.
It is ådmitted that the humanity of Christ is sometimes called Son of God. The scriptures testify that he raised his Son from the dead. But the man Christ Jesus was not Son of God in a higher sense than Adam. When Christ is called God's own and only Son; his dearly beloved, his first begotten, bis only begotten Son, these appellations primarily designate his divine nature. If either of these appellations are applied to his humanity, it is because his humanity is united with him, who is in a peculiar sense the Son of God.
If the sonship of Christ originated from his humanity, then the Holy Spirit was Father of the Son. The angel declared to Joseph, “that which is conceived in her, (i. e. Mary,) is of the Holy Ghost.” When Christ addresses his Father, he does not address the Holy Spirit. He addresses another of the Trinity. Why is this, if the Holy Spirit is the Father of the Son. When Christ addresses his Father, he addresses him, who sent him from heaven into the worid, and whom he obeys. He addresses him who stands first in order in the work of redemption.
It is natural to inquire why two of the Trinity are called Father and Son? It is not supposable that finite minds can fully understand the ground of relationship in the divine plurality. It appears reasonable that the relationship between the Father and the Son is not literal; that there is not that priority and posteriority of existence, and those claims and obligations, which there are between a human father and son. If there be a striking analogy in several prominent points in the relationship between Christ and the Father, and between a human son and his father, there is sufficient ground for calling Christ the Son of the Father, or the Son of God. Such analogy appears; and there appears to be just ground for applying to them the relative names Father and Son.
The relationship between God and the human nature of Christ is not a sufficient ground for calling him literally, Son of God. The origination of his existence, and the origination of the existence of a humán son, in the ordinary way, were too different to be a ground for calling him, by this name.
Yet there is such a resemblance between the origination of the two, that figuratively the man Christ Jesus, may, with propriety, be called Son of God. If this appellation be applied figuratively to Christ, either in his human, or divine nature, it is also used figuratively, when it is applied to him without the distinction of natures.
In the Old Testament, Christ, in relation to the Father, is called Son. He is called by this name in connexion with the present, the past and future tense. By one prophet God said of Christ, “Thou art my Son; he shall be to me a Son.” By another prophet he said, “I called my Son out of Egypt.”. These passages appear to furnish evidence that the sonship of Christ
may be traced as remotely, at least, as the time when these declarations were made. But in the prophetic writings tenses are not always used literally. Revelation was much more obscurely made in the Old, than in the New Testament. There is much greater reason for explaining the Old Testament by the New, than there is for explaining the New Testament by the Old. It is much more reasonable to explain prophecy by its event, than to explain an event by its prophecy. The reality
The reality affords more correct and definite ideas than the representation. The Sun of Righteousness sheds more copious light than all the shadows, which had dimly prefigured him. The Old Testament, like the lesser light in the firmament, reflects light from its obscure representations. But the New Testament, like the sun in the heavens, sheds its own native splendor.
Christ's being begotten, first begotten, only begotten, import his introduction into the world; his introduction into office; his reception of all authority, and his resurrection from the dead. These acts did not bring him into a new relationship with the Father. They did not make him Son. They declared, or manifested that he was the Son of God.*
* If there be distinctions in the divine nature, it is not incredible that names should be given them to designate their relationship with each other. Whatever that relationship is, it cannot be expected that any name, or names, can give us a full conception of it. There is nothing, which falls under our notice, which can give an adequate representation of those distinctions, which constitute the divine plurality. But when God would reveal himself to us, he uses various similitudes, so that he may, in some measure, bring himself down to our conception. When he would express the near relationship between himself, the Creator, and ourselves his creatures, he calls himself Father, and us, his chil. dren. When he would acquaint us with his knowledge of the affairs of this world, he represents himself, as if he possessed organs of sense. This is figura. tive language, and it conveys the ideas, which were designed. If he would reveal to as the distinctions and relationships, which exist in his nature, he must, undoubtedly, use words in a figurative sense; because these are subjects, different from all those, with which we are acquainted. When he reveals himself by the relative terms, Father and Son, these distinctive appellations must be understood in a sense not inconsistent with the divine perfections. Whatever is predicated of the Son of God, as it respects his nature, which implies literal sonship, literal generation, derivation, emanation, or procession, appears to be directly against his independence and his eternal, self-existence. Or, in other words, it appears to be directly against his divinity. But if it be admitted that the distinctive terms, Father and Son, are to be understood in a figurative sense, this difficulty ceases to exist.
If the phrases, Son of God, first begotten, only begotten, first born, are onderstood figuratively, they may be consistently applied to Christ, in his divine nature, unless certain texts of scripture, render this application inadmissible. So far from this, the scriptures apply to him the term Son, before he took upon him the form of a servant. The apostle, in his epistle to the Hebrews, speaking of the Son, says, “By whom also he made the worlds." John, in his Gospel, attributes the creation of the world to the Logos. There is no doubt that the Son and Logos are the same; and it appears that both are names given to his divine nature. When it is considered that several names are given to God without a view of the distinctions in his nature, it is not incredible that more names than one should be given to the Son of God. It is not doubted that he derived names from his offices, from his works, and from his union with human nature. But it appears that, independently of these, he inherited by right, one name, and that was Son.
DIVINE NAMES GIVEN TO CHRIST.
Names, in the sacred scriptures, are frequently significant of the nature or qualities of the thing or being named. When language was in its infancy, names were given to different classes of beings, whose natural signification would distinguish one class from another. In giving names to individuals of a species, words were used, which designated some characteristic quality; or some remarkable circumstance attending them. The word Adam, which was used for a name of the first man, signifies ruddy, earth, man. therefore, denoted the substance and one of its qualities, of which his body was formed. The name, Eve, given to the first woman signifies “the manifester, because she was, or was to be the mother of all that live.” This denotes her relative situation to the human family. The word Moses signifies to draw
This name was given to a child, which was hidden among the flags on the river's brink; and this name was given him because he was drawn out of the water; and this was the most prominent circumstance of his early life. The name, angel, is given to that elevated order of spirits, which stand around God's throne, and receive messages from him to this world, because the original word, both in Hebrew and in Greek signifies messenger, or one sent.
The name characterizes their office. Instances of significant names in the sacred scriptures are too numerous to
be quoted. Those already cited are sufficient for the present purpose.
“The Hebrew names of God, as Jerome (the best Hebrecian of the fathers) observes are ten; three come from being; three from power; three from governing; one from excellence.” He is called the holy One, which name denotes his moral excellence. As the names of things, of persons, and of God in the sacred scriptures are significant, it is not improbable that the names of his Son are significant; that they are expressive of his nature and attributes.
“What is his Son's name, if thou canst tell?” His name is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” When Thomas saw Christ after his resurrection, and had full evidence that it was he, who had been crucified, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” In the original it is expressed with peculiar emphasis, and conveys the clearest idea of his belief of his divinity. (ο κύριός μου και δ' θεος μου.) Christ, instead of upbraiding him for his faith, and for ascribing to him this divine title, manifested his approbation. "Of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” All the forced constructions of this text have not destroyed its natural and most obvious import. The Father himself bears testimony to the same truth. “Unto the Son he saith, thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." The truth of this witness cannot safely be disputed. God said to Moses, “behold I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the · way, and to bring thee into the place, which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him.” This Angel was Christ; and God's name was in him. He is therefore called with propriety by the name, God.
Those, who deny the Divinity of Christ, are necessitated to admit that he is called by this divine name; but they endeavor to evade the force of it by saya