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in part the reason why divine perfections belong to him, in this rather than another manner.
But if this be generation, may not the Son with equal propriety be said to generate the Father; since being co-equal and co-eternal, he cannot be conceived of without at the same time admitting the apprehension, that the perfections of the Father, all of which have so high a relation to him, are modified by him ? And indeed, according to the definition just given, I am unable to perceive any analogy to the meaning of the word generation, in the connexion of the Son with the Father ; or any propriety in using this word in preference to a multitude of others which might easily be selected.
Of the attempts of the early fathers to define what they meant by the generation of the Son of God, I have already taken sufficient notice. To the famous attempt in the Nicene Creed to make a standard definition, it is proper that I should now advert.
“ We believe,” say the Nicene Fathers,—“ in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance (ovolas) of the Father, God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, &c.”+
These accumulated expressions are not designed to be mere tautologies. They are all significant of sentiments opposed to various parties, (specially the Arian,) who denied the divinity, or distinct personality, or generated nature of the Son of God. The term only begotten they have attempted to explain, by adding that the Son is produced from the substance of the Father ; and produced in such a way as to be God. Light of light only presents an image, by which they meant at once to defend and explain the assertion, God of God. It is as if they had said, The light which proceeds from the sun is of the same nature with the sun itself; and the procession of light is coeval with the existence of the sun. Very God of very God, is meant only to express their belief in the real divinity of the Son; for the Arians who did not at all 'scruple to call him God, would still deny that he was really and truly divine. Begotten not made was directly opposed to the Arians, who maintained that the Son was, properly speaking, a created being
* Dogmatik, S. 151. † Nicene Creed, in Bullii Opp. p. 5.
In the Nicene Creed, then, the generation of the Son is defined to be a production from the substance of the Father—an eternal production*—while the Son, in all respects, except that of derivation, is represented as possessed of equality with the Father.
But this creed does not attempt to define, whether the production was voluntary or of necessity; and it cost Athanasius great exertions to procure a general admission of the idea, that the generation of the Son was necessary. It seemed to be a common apprehension, that this view of the subject limited the capacity or power of the Father.
It is disputed among the best patristical critics, whether numerical unity of essence belongs, according to the Nicene Creed, to the Father and the Son. Be this as it may, the distinguishing trait of filiation is represented by it, as derivation from the substance of the Father. I have reserved the examination of this
* At the close of the Creed," And those who say, there was a time when he [the Son] was not, and before he was made he was not; or that he was made out of nothing, or out of any other hypostasis or substance, than that of the Father)-the Catholic Church anathematizes.” Ibid,
generic idea, which lies at the basis of nearly all the definitions that have ever been given of eternal generation, for the subject of discussion in another letter.
I have referred back to the famous Nicene Creed, in ihe present Letter, merely to show, that however various the descriptions of the generation of the Son may have been, in some minute particulars, as given by those who hold that the Logos himself is the Son of God, yet there is a central point, in which they all meet; viz, the Lnyos is derived (eternally derived, say most orthodox divises since the Council of Nice,) from the Father, and depends on him, as some say, for existence ; others, for subsistence; the majority of later divines, for personality.
Without occupying myself any longer then, by descending into the minutiae of differences in the modes of definition found in different writers, I will pass, at once, to the consideration of the main point which is common to them, viz, that of derivation or dependence (in any respect whatever) as Logos, or a being truly divine. This I shall endeavour to do, in the succeeding Letter.
Rev. AND DEAR SIR,
I begin the present Letter, by saying that I fully accede to your views respecting the unreasonableness of those, who demand that the manner of every fact which is affirmed should be explained, before they feel themselves obliged to believe the fact itself. I go so far here as to say, that a great part of all the facts with which we are acquainted, either in the natural or spiritual world, are of such a nature, that the manner in which they become facts, or exist as such, is utterly beyond the reach of our investigation. The manner in which a spire of grass grows, is as really beyond the reach of our knowledge, at present, as the sublime mysteries of the Godhead. The
cry of mystery, mystery, which is so often raised against certain doctrines of the Scriptures, can never influence the real lover of truth to reject them. The fact that the doctrines are true is the only thing which claims his serious attention; the manner in which these truths come to exist, or continue to do so, is not what a rational philosopher expects to understand, in his present imperfect state.
But what is unintelligible or surpasses our comprehension, belongs to things and not to words. What we express respecting things, must of course be intelligible ; for language is merely the vehicle by which our thoughts are conveyed to others. What we understand in our own minds, we can express to the minds of others; and what we do not understand, of course we cannot express, because our language, which is only the vehicle by which our thoughts are conveyed, cannot convey thoughts or conceptions which do not exist.
It is very easy then to draw the line of distinction, between mystery which is connected with things or phenomena, and mystery which belongs only to language. The latter, I take it, always proceeds either from want of skill, or crafty design, or an intention to speak enigmas.
We are not allowed, therefore, by the common laws of language, to assert any thing which, when examined, proves to be either a contradiction, or an incongruity; and then to take refuge from objections which may be made to our language, under the pretence that the subject is mysterious, and consequently it is improper to urge investigation respecting it. It may
be true, indeed, that the subject of which we speak is mysterious. But what I have expressed about such a subject, if I have used language with any propriety, is, of course, only what I knew or conceived about it in my own mind. This can certainly be made intelligible to another mind; and there is, therefore, no mystery in my expression ; at least there ought to be none.
The propriety of these distinctions will not, I apprehend, be called in question. Let me make the application to the subject before us.
If it be true, that the Logos is Son of God, (de facto not simply de nomine, the manner of his generation may be, and no doubt is, inscrutable by us.
I ask for no explanation of this. If the fact can be proved, those who believe it are not at all obliged to explain the manner in which it takes place. But if, in defining the eternal generation of the Son, divines have made statements, which are inconsistent with the perfections of God, or incon