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a distinct, individual being. So if the parallel in the argument must be supported, it is time for christians to look to the necessary consequence thereof, i. e. that CHRIST in his divine person is a distinct individual being, of the same kind with the Father, which necessarily makes them TWO GODS.
3. There is also another consequence that attends this argument if it hold, which I hope the friends of Christ's proper Deity will be very unwilling to grant, viz. As the term son in all languages among mankind, carries in it the idea of derivation and dependence; to insist on a parallel here, gives the cause wholly to the Arians; who say, that as he is God, he is a derived, dependent being.
The philosophical gentlemen, who presume to account for the manner of the existence of God, having got eternal generation and procession into their scheme, are so confident of their orthodoxy on that head, that one of them tells us, "There is one consideration, which, when thoroughly pursued, will obviate all objections against it,—that is, that as time is a mode of all creature existence, so eternity is a mode of uncreated existence."
Ans. The more I pursue this proposition, the more I find it an imaginary phantom. Some modes are very precarious and uncertain, some ase invariable; but it will perhaps suit the philosopher better to distinguish them into accidental, and essential, or into accidents and qualities. Now, if eternity is a mode in the same sense to the Almighty, that time is to creatures, then it is merely accidental to him; for creatures, as angels and men, shall exist when there is no time, when days, years, and all manner of duration by measure, shall come to
an end; and as time will cease to be a mode of creature existence, being thus accidental, if eter nity be the same to uncreated existence, (which must be the sense of the proposition, if it has any) then the Almighty will (at least may) cease to exist, when creatures enter upon an endless stage of existence, and time is no more a mode of existence to them.
But if we consider time and eternity as essential modes of human and divine existence, the natural consequence is, that man will never get out of time; and eternity to them will never commence. Thus, if we consider these modes as accidental, the proposition lands us in Atheism; and if essential, we must give up immortality.
Again, if a mode be considered under the notion of an accident, then it cannot with any propriety be applied to the Deity; for there is nothing accidental in God, or to him: and if it is considered as a quality, then it supposes some substratum, and so we are just as far from the nature in which it adheres, as we were.
In the sense this philosopher seems to understand modes, time is a mode of present existence to both God and man; for both exist in time; and eternity must be a mode of human existence, inasmuch as it shall exist in eternity, when time is no more. So that the proposition proves nothing to the purpose for which it was brought; and take it even in its utmost latitude, the terms have no regard to the nature of either God or man, abstractedly considered. In time and eternity beings exist, and if eternity be a mode of the divine nature, as time is of the human, then it is no more than continual existence. Eternity is not a property of nature, more than time is of the human nature.
But the dispute is not at all concerning the measure of duration; but the internal operations of the divine nature, which are two very different things. Though we should grant that eternity is a mode of divine existence, will it follow, that generation and procession are other two modes of it? Is there any connection necessary betwixt these ideas? Though the scriptures affirm that God is eternal, they do not say he begat a Son from eternity. When eternity is called a mode of divine existence, it still supposes a nature that exists, and the question is not about modes, but operations of the divine nature. It might be asked, whether there are three modes, or three natures that existed from eternity? And whether every one of these modes equally partake of the divine nature; or whether every nature hath not distinct modes of subsistence? However, if these modes existed from eternity, by paternity, generation, and procession, we may conclude according to any ideas our language affords, or words to express the subject, that the Son and Holy Ghost are eternally dependent upon, and inferior to the Father.
When our philosophical thoughts enter into eternity, either before or after time, they, like a drop of water in the ocean, are lost. Our ideas of eternity are relative, and respect some measure of duration. When we apply them to existence before time, we cannot tell what it is. Our views can reach no further than some beginning of operation. We may go so far back as the creation of dependent beings, when God is said to have begun his works, but then we are within the limits of time, or measurable duration. A step further we cannot go, without losing ourselves in conjec. ture. The modes of divine existence we can know no farther than they are displayed in that plan, where the designs of his government are exposed
to our view, even the holy scriptures, which are the unerring guide concerning the knowledge of God.
But I must follow this gentleman one step further. He says, "that in the existence of God, as well as in his essence, there is a non-successivity, whether succession be applied to time or space: and in respect of this non-successivity, eternal, generation can never imply or infer ground for any of the objections made against it.
Ans. I cannot stay to examine this proposition critically, any further than it respects the present purpose; and though it is produced for an argument in favor of eternal generation, I think it makes directly against it. For when there is no succession, there can be no generation, so far as we have any ideas thereof; and where there is generation, it indisputably implies succession. By all the supporters of eternal generation, it is maintained that it is by communication of essence: now does not communication imply succession? Surely.-As there is no succession in the divine essence or nature, there can be no communication of the divine nature. Wherever there is a communication of the same nature, there must be a succession. There may be a creation, without a succession in the creator; for the creature does not partake of the nature of the creator: but in begetting, the son partakes of the same nature; yea, in the present case, it is maintained that the whole nature is communicated to the son, by or from the father; and if so, succession must be a necessary consequence thereof. How can that person be self-existent, or non-successive, who derives his very person from another? 'Tis no presumption to ask this of a philosopher, who dares investigate the unsearchable things of God.
Philosophy could not afford a better argument against eternal generation. Language does not afford us any idea of generation applied to a being, where there is not succession: and unless the scriptures inform us expressly of its being attributed to God, no arguments beside can prove it. There is no warrant from scripture to apply generation to Deity, but inferences taken from the words begotten, Father, and Son, which terms in scripture language do not imply generation; but do rather express acts of power, goodness, &c. and are applied to several persons beside Christ. "Is he not thy Father that bought thee? Have we not all one Father? I have begotten thee by the gospel. Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. Who hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead," &c. But the phrase eternal generation, or eternally begotten, is no where in revelation, nor any terms that in the least imply it.
When the supporters of this scheme are pressed with certain difficulties that attend it, they frequently tell us, that "Essence doth not beget essence, but the persons in the essence." Though I have often both read and heard this, yet I could never learn the meaning of it, or in what respect it favored their cause. "Essence doth not beget essence," that is, I suppose, one Deity doth not beget another Deity, which is an absolute truth; here we are agreed." But the persons in the essence." This passeth my understanding. If they mean by it that the essence begets the divine persons, then all the divine persons must be begotten; but this will wholly destroy the scheme, for according to it, only one person is begotten: nay, the Father is expressly said to be of none, neither begotten nor proceeding. To make this tally, we must suppose only two persons begotten in the