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gruous, or injurious in their legitimate consequences to the proper divinity of the Logos ; then they cannot retreat from examination, and find shelter for such statements under the allegation, that the subject is mysteriThis may
be very true; but what they have stated concerning it is, or at least may be, no more mysterious to my mind than it was to theirs; and consequently I may
understand it. If they have stated something which they did not, and do not, and cannot know, a serious and rational man surely will not undertake to defend such a statement.
Is the eternal generation of the Son of God asserted in the Scriptures? No direct assertion of this kind can be found. Those who believe the doctrine, deduce it consequentially from certain passages of the Bible Is this phraseology or doctrine
any where defined, in the word of God? No one will venture, at the present day, to assert this. We are cast, then, for the meaning of the terms in question, upon the definitions of divines, who have laboured to prove the doctrine. Those definitions have been produced ; and as they are not of inspired authority, it is doubtless lawful fully to examine them.
As I have already intimated, they all concur in the general idea of derivation and dependence, in some respect or other, of the Logos upon the Father. Is such an idea consistent with the truly divine nature of the Logos? Is it consistent with the fundamental predicates of the divine Being ?
Bishop Bull, at the close of his work on the testimonies of the Antenicene fathers, has undertaken to show, that all who lived before the Council of Nice, as well as the members of that Council, and all the fathers who succeeded them, utterly disclaimed (prorsus repugnare)
the idea that the Son of God is avtoteos or sell existent. A second thesis advanced by him is, that “the ancient Fathers, with one voice, taught that God the Father is greater than the Son, inasmuch as (or because that] he is the origin and primary cause (principium) of him; but that still the Son, by nature (xata quou,) is equal to the Father."**
The matter of fact, or in other words, that the class of fathers of whom he asserts this, did in reality believe and teach thus, I do not feel disposed to call in question. But whether the doctrine itself comports with the fundamental predicates of the Divinity, may be examined from the nature of the divine attributes, and from the Scriptures. With an examination of this doctrine, in respect to the nature of the divine attributes, the remainder of the present Letter is designed to be occupied.
That God is a being self-existent, immutable, and independent, is a truth conceded by all, who have any proper knowledge of the Deity, as revealed in his works and in bis word. Nor is it the case that mere simple assent is given to these truths. They constitute the basis, the fundamental part of our notion of the Supreme Being. Self existence or uncaused existence is necessary to independence and immutability ; nor is it possible for my mind to conceive of a being, who is in any sense dependent for any of his essential attributes or predicates on another, who is at the same time independent and immutable.
If then the Logos be dependent for existence, subsistence, or personality, on another, in that respect wherein he is dependent, he is not independent ; nor, so far as his own power is concerned, can he be immutable; nor can he be self existent.
* Bullii Opp. p. 258.
Will any of the advocates of eternal generation say, that dependence for existence, or subsistence, or personality, is not dependence in respect to an essential predicate of the Logos? I think not. And if not, is not the Son, according to their mode of representation, wanting in an essential predicate of true and proper Divinity, viz, wanting in independence and self-existence as to an essential predicate or attribute?
For my own part, after the most anxious and painful scrutiny of this subject, I feel compelled to say,
that self-existence, or uncaused existence, as to all essential predicates of Divinity, is fundamental, in my view of the Godhead. I can concieve it possible, that a derived being may have such an unlimited communication of
pow. er, and knowledge, and wisdom, that he may govern worlds ; I say it may be possible, though I do not believe it actually to be the case. Such a being too may be perfectly just, and holy, and benevolent, and merciful. But a distinguishing mark, which of necessity would forever separate such being or beings from the Great Supreme,
is found in uncaused existence. God has and can have no equal, no competitor, no representative, in this respect. He remains, and must eternally remain distin. guished here, infinitely distinguished in the view of all rational beings, from every derived intelligence.
Any theory, then, respecting the person of the Son of God, which make the Logos a derived being, destroys the radical principle—an elementary ingredient, of his true and proper Divinity. I believe that the Logos is really and verily divine-self-existent, uncaused, independent, immutable in himself.! Derivation in any shape, or in any measure ; as to all or part of his essential predicates as God—whether you apply to it the name generation, emanation, creation, procession, or any other term which has been used derivation, I say, appears essentially incompatible with proper divinity. And so plain does this appear to my mind, that if I once admit the proper derivation of the Logos, (be the derivation eternal, or in time,) the idea of supreme Divinity vanishes in a moment ; and the Logos ranks with those who are called God, only from some resemblance either of station, or office, or of moral or intellectual qualities, to the self-existent Deity.
I have undertaken only to state my own views, and the reasons of them. If any of my brethren can relinquish the self-existence of the Logos, and yet hold the true and proper divinity of Christ, and worship him as very God, I can only say, that with all my heart I can give them the hand of a brother, as disciples of the same Saviour. But my mind utterly refuses, on this point, to speculate with them. God the maker of all things, has no cause of existence, i. e. no dependence for it, so far as I am able to learn any thing of his true nature.
If the question, whether this be a correct view of the nature of the Logos, is to be decided by patristical or ecclesiastical authority, or by the voice of the majority in times past, I frankly acknowledge that you will have an advantage over me.
and I have renounced such authority, if it decides against reason and Scripture. I have made the appeal to reason, as concerned with deducing consistent conclusions from the nature of the divine attributes. I come now to the ultimate arbiter of all religious questions—to the Scriptures themselves.
Rev. AND DEAR SIR,
It is very possible that you may think I have expressed myself too confidently, in the preceding letter, respecting the validity of the argument derived from the essential predicates of God, against the derivation of the Logos; and that you will say, I ought not to have attributed so much efficacy to an argument, that is not directly drawn from the express decisions of the Scriptures. I should feel the force of such an allegation, if the argument had been made out, without having first examined the Scriptures, to see if there were any thing there which would militate against it. This I did; and first satisfied my mind, that the sacred writers have not taught the generation or derivation of the Logos. In consequence of this, I felt more at liberty to argue in the manner I have done. A reader of my Letters might possibly think, that I first decided against the possibility of eternal generation, by reasoning independently of the Scriptures; and then brought this decision along with me, to the investigation of the Bible. This, however, I have not in fact done ; nor, believing as I do that the Bible is the word of God, can I think it proper or lawful for me to do this. I would sooner distrust my own reasoning or deductions from what I believe to be the divine attributes, than distrust the decisions of the Scriptures on any point whatever, and specially on the awful mysteries of the Godhead.