« PreviousContinue »
great work, a work far above the ability of any creature, was, by divine agreement, to be accomplished. Taking this for granted, which could easily be proved, I am inclined to think, (for the honour of the compilers), that the early creeds were in general composed with a view to this gracious scheme of salvation, and designed not so much to describe how the Persons in Deity are in their nature related to one another, as how they stand officially with respect to the plan of man's redemption. Hence it is, that most of these creeds are particularly full and copious in what relates to the character of the Redeemer, and point out very circumstantially the various stages of his progress in that interesting character. It was this work of redemption, as predicted before, and accomplished by, his incarnation, that these early writers seem to have had in their eye, and to have described in conformity to the Scripture style, for the instruction of the faithful. This is what we always find the Apostolic Fathers most zealous in inculcating, before philosophy crept into the church, and confounded the faith of christians with intricate disquisitions. If then, it shall be asked, Why is the Redeemer said to be " begotten of his Father before all worlds ?" I answer in relation to his office as Redeemer, not to his origin as God. And if it shall still be asked, What connection there is between being begotten, and the work of redemption? It is enough to say that this is the style of Scripture, made use of
in terms of the antemundane covenant among the co-eternal Three, whereby the præexistent person of the Redeemer should be, or was to be begotten of God (yenes en Oe) into that office, and so to (γεννηθεις become the μovoyens, the only begotten,-as the præ-existent persons of the redeemed are to be begotten of God' into the benefits of that office, and thereby become brethren to that first-born. Thus we find him early held forth, as the seed of the woman, and the first mother thought he was come, as soon as a Son was born" I have got a man," said she, (not from, but) "the very Jehovah 3." There seems to be an analogy between the fall and the redemption, in many particulars, and especially in what appear to be the effects of both. "For "since by man was death, by man shall be also "the resurrection of the dead *." And the word begotten, as applicable in the one case, is in terms of this analogy applied to the other.
But still it may be asked-Why "begotten before all worlds ?" I answer-either to indicate that He, who was before all worlds, was begotten, or to be begotten into the office of man's Redeemer; or, more pointedly to signify, that, having undertaken that office before the creation of the world, he was pleased to assume some appearance or figure of
I See the Texts above quoted.
2 Heb. ii. 11, 12. 17.
3 Gen. iv. I. See Ps. ii. 7. cx. 3. Prov. viii. 22-32. Isa.ix. 6. &c. 4 1 Cor. xv. 21, &c.
of what he was really to be, when he came to execute it. It is certain, that the Scripture speaks of the scheme of redemption, as having been præconcerted among the Persons in Jehovah " before "the world began';" in pursuance of which scheme of mercy, the Logos did assume some sort of human appearance, and thereby became that Image of God, after which man was formed. Hence St Paul calls him "the image of the invisible "God 3;" which expression does not suit so well with the idea of Deity, even with the strange idea of derived Deity, as with the idea of something assumed by Deity, to constitute that character; in which view the apostle immediately after calls him πρωτοτοκῶ πασης κτισεως—the first-born of all the "creation," which seems to be much of the same import with "begotten before all worlds.”
Those however who assert that these words im'ply eternal generation, and the derivation of Christ's divine nature, will insist, that this sense of them is confirmed by the words which immediately follow in the creed, and are thought to be explicit on this head." 05 εn 8-God of God." But why not allow St Ignatius' beautiful antithesis to expound this part of our Saviour's character" yeven
με του και αγεννητο, εν σαρκι γενομενω ΘΕΟΣ-και εκ Μαgias, no EK MEOT, the begotten-of Mary, the
unbegotten of God?" Thus the
* Titus i. 2.
2 Col. i, 15.
"God of God" is introduced with a reference to the “ γενομενον εν σαρκhis appearing in a body of "flesh-x Magias, of Mary." Nay, should this exposition be thought either weak or forced, our Saviour himself has afforded one, against which no such objection can be urged-" Eyw en т8 Deɣ eğnλlov,—I Εγω εκ τ8 Θες εξηλθον, proceeded forth from God," say our translators'; and these subsequent passages shew the translation to be correct "6 ; εγω παρα τε Θε8 εξήλθον εξήλθον πagα TY TαTρI came out from God-I came "forth from the Father" And again,
"camest forth ano Os' from God 3." Thus, in the Gospel of St John, three different prepositions are used, 'εx 8,' 'Taça 8,' and 'Tо 8,' but all Θεό, пара translated, and properly translated, from God.' Why not then give "OEDS εx Oε8," in the creed, the same rendering, "God FROM GOD," according to our Saviour's own interpretation of it, in these words, "I came forth from the father, and am come "into the world"—again, “I leave the world, and go to the Father "
It seldom happens, that the Latin language is found to be more copious than the Greek; yet,
3 Ib. 30.
> St John viii. 42. 2 St John xvi. 27, 28. 4 It may well be asked, Why "“ Os ex Oiɣ—God of God" should be thought to imply a derivation of Essence, when the preposition is so often applied in a different sense? The unbelieving Jews are said (John viii. 44) to be "ex diaßoλs-of their father the devil;" surely not of his substance, wicked as they were. Every faithful christian is said to be born or begotten x Os of God. See 1 John v. i. already referred to, with many other passages to the same purpose.
when we come to treat of the next clause to Ex 8,' in the Nicene Creed, we find the Latin translation more significant than the Greek original. Pws Ex Pwros-light of light," carries with it no very clear idea; whereas "LUMEN EX LUCE" makes an impression even on a schoolboy's mind; and to the biblical scholar suggests at once the corresponding expression of St Paul, “ απαυγασμα της δόξης—the
"EFFULGENCE of the GLORY "."
I know, that the simile of one light, lighted up by another light', is familiar language among the christian Fathers. But, though Dr Bull himself uses it, he recommends to us caution in the use of it 2.
The last clause in this admirable creed, which points at generation, is the following, σε γεννηθεντα 8 Tombeta-begotten, not made." It is not however said " eternally begotten, not made." So far from it, that,
1 Heb. i. 3.
2 In Grabe's Spicil. vol. II. p. 199. I find a fragment of a book o Justin Martyr's on the Trinity, where the simile of the Sun and Light is applied to the hypostatic Union, which entirely spoils the allusion, attributed to the Qws ex Qaros in the creed. And it may be worthy of remark, that, in his treatise, "De differ. Essent. et Hypost." St Basil represents the whole Trinity by a rainbow-" as the substance of a rain"bow, which shines with different colours, is one, but the colours "6 many, (he might, I believe, have said three); so, in one common substance, do shine forth the distinguishing properties of each person. Qu. 1. Does one colour beget another? Qu. 2. Might not this simile of St Basil's illustrate, and be illustrated by Gen. ix. 13.-" God's "bow for a token?"