Page images

ch. 4: 4. ch. 5: 21. Compared with ch. 3: 2, 21. ch. 4: 1, 7, 11.

When believers are called the children of God, or the sons and daughters of God, they are thereby designated as those whom God specially loves; and care is therefore taken to distinguish their relation to God from that of servants, who may be loved and kindly treated, but can never aspire, in this respect, to the privileges of sonship. St. Paul says to the Romans, “ For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.” Rom. 8: 14, 15. Compare Gal. 4: 1--8. And the Apostle John exhorts believers to contemplate the greatness of the love which God had manifested toward them in calling them his children. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" 1 John 3: 1. This term has other significations also, but the idea of the love subsisting between a parent and his children is primary, and is always implied where the term occurs in one of its other meanings.

When Jesus Christ is called the Son of God, the article the is emphatic, and distinguishes him from all other children of God, as most eminently the object of God's love. The import of the term is both explained and strengthened, when he is called the beloved Son, and God's dear son. síos ang ayarns đutns, Son of his love. So also by the clause, “ In whom I am well pleased :" ¿v w Eudoxnoa, in whom I have complacency; in whom I take pleasure. And so when Jesus says, “ The Father loves the Son." John 5: 20. See also John 3: 35. Ephes. 1: 6.

Jesus is called “ the first-begotten," in Hebrews 1: 6, and o the first-born among many brethren," Rom. 8: 29. This title assigns to him brethren, who, like himself, are children of God; but it gives him a pre-eminence above them all, similar to that of the first-born son in a family, whose prerogative it was to have a double portion of the paternal estate, to officiate as the priest of the family, and to be the lord of his brethren. It designates Jesus as that Son of God whom the Father has honored most, and has appointed to be the Chief of the family of his children, the Prince and Ruler of the redeemed of the human race, the Head of his church.

love. So ou o xenoa, ina 90 when Jesso

of hilar to that as to have priest des Jesus has appointed Ruler

[ocr errors]

He is called “ The only begotten Son." This title, like the others, was in use among the Jews in a tropical signification, and was the strongest term by which they expressed their tenderness and love toward the object of that affection. So Isaac, the second of Abraham's sons, is called his only begotten son, Heb. 11: 17, and his only son, Gen. 22: 2, 16. The sense is, his most beloved Son. Hence the Greek translation which was made before the time of Christ, by Jews who spoke the Greek language and were familiar with the Hebrew idiom, renders the Hebrew in both of the lastmentioned places by dyanntos, the beloved : and in Zechariah 12: 10, the clause, “ And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for an only son," is rendered by “ And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for a beloved.

Josephus also calls Isaac the only begotten son of Abraham. See Antiq. B. 1. Ch. XIII. § 1. But the sense in which he understood this term appears, in the most satisfactory manner, from the terms in which he speaks of Izates, the son of Monobazus, king of Adiabene. He (Monobazus, the king) had indeed Monobazus, his (lzates') elder brother, by Helena also, as he had other sons by other wives besides. Yet did he openly place all his affections on this his only begotten son Izates; which was the origin of that envy which his other brethren, by the same father, bare to him ; while on this account they hated him more and more, and were all under great affliction that their father should prefer Izates before them.” Antiq. B. XX. Ch. II. § 1. Josephus was cotemporary with the apostle John. He was a Jew, a priest, and a Pharisee. His usage of the term only-begotten son, settles the question about the usus loquendi of the Jews of that tinie, and shows most fully that its meaning is the most beloved.. .

This title is given to Jesus only in the writings of John, where it occurs in the gospel four times, and in the first epistle once. The other sacred writers have, doubtless, said the same thing ; but they have used other terms, namely the beloved Son, and simply the Son, the Son of God. John differs from them in both conceiving and expressing the same idea more fully and forcibly; but not in adding any thing, on this point, to their doctrine.

This import of the term Son of God contains the reason of its application in all the places where it is used. We must except, however, the Hebrew phrase in the Old Testament, by z sons of the Elohim, which is equivalent to the simple term denoting that order of higher intelligences to which, from their office of ministering spirits, the scriptures more usually give the appellation angels. See the article on the Scriptural idea of angels, in the Repository for October, 1838. vol. xii. p. 360.

Kings and Rulers are called gods and sons of the Most High, Ps. 82: 1, 6. “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.—“I have said, ye are gods, and all of you are children (sons) of the Most High." And in 2 Sam. 7; 14," I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” This title designated them as the beloved, the favored ones of God. In that age when the religious sense of mankind referred every thing to the immediate agency of the deity ; when little or nothing was known of rewards and punishments in another world, and the present life was, consequently, regarded as the period during which God dispenses his favors to those whom he loves, a prosperous life and elevated rank among men, were considered the marks and evidences of divine love and favor; and rulers and kings, being so highly exalted above others who were also blessed, were therefore viewed as those whom God most loved, and were in this view called the sons of God. If one king was exalted above the rest, and was honored with their homage, he was denominated the first-born of the kings of the earth, in allusion to the pre-eminence which the eldest son of a family enjoyed over the other children. See Ps. 89: 27.

Jesus tells the Pharisees that those were called gods to whom the word of God came, and that he, as one whom the Father had set apart, and sent to men in the world, with a commission from him to make his counsels known, might therefore be justly called the Son of God. To be called by the Deity to such an office was a distinction which marked out the person as one chosen and beloved of God, and thus made it right and fit that he should be honored with such a title.

The man Jesus Christ is called the Son of God, by way of eminence, with reference, 1. To his miraculous conception, Luke 1: 35 ; 2. With regard to his resurrection, Rom. 1:3, 4; 3. With regard to his regal office, Heb. 1: 8, 9.Ps. 2:6–12. John 1: 49. Luke 22: 69, 70. Mark 14: 61, 62. Matth. 26; 63, 64. In Matth. 16: 16, “ Thou art the Christ, that is, the anointed one, is equivalent to John 1: 49, • Thou art the king of Israel:" for every lawful king of Israel was the Lord's anointed. Ps. 2: 2. 1 Sam. 16: 6. Ch. 24: 6. 2 Sam. 19: 21. Lament. 4: 20. Each of these particulars marked him out as the chosen, the favored, the beloved one. Jesus was the only one of the sons of men that was conceived, without the intervention of natural causes, by a supernatural divine agency. This event distinguished him advantageously from all the rest of mankind, and marked him out as the object of God's peculiar favor and love. He was the first that rose from the dead: while all other men, even Abraham the friend of God, and Moses with whom he spake face to face, and David the man after God's own heart, with all the holy prophets, were left still to sleep profoundly in the grave, Jesus, and he only, was waked up from the dead, was raised from the grave, and saw no corruption. His resurrection on the third day was the work of God the Father; and it marked him out, with a most powerful demonstration, as the one who, among all who share in the love of God, is the chief beloved. As the king, “all things are put under his feet,” by him who anointed him. “God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name ; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth ; and that every tongue should confess, to the glory of God, that Jesus Christ is Lord.” This high dignity is a favor above every favor which God has elsewhere bestowed ; and it demonstrates that, among all the creatures of God, none is equally beloved with Jesus Christ.

We must add here another ground of the application of this title to Jesus, namely, the mysterious union subsisting between the man Jesus Christ and the Godhead; “ The Word,” which is God, “became flesh”—“ Christ is God over all”—“God was in Christ"_" God was manifested in the flesh"-" In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”—“ He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father" “I am in the Father and the Father in me”_“I and the Father are one." There is no such union elsewhere in the universe; God is not so united with any other man ; nor

with any other intelligence. Christians are the temple of God; the Spirit of God dwells in them; they have fellow. ship with the Father ; but it is no where said that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in them bodily ; and none of them can dare to say, “ He that seeth me, hath seen the Father.” This union was such that it was the Father that spake and taught in Christ, and it was the Father dwelling in him that wrought his works. The selecting of the man Jesus Christ from among the intelligent creatures of God, for, such a connection with the Godhead, marked him out and set him apart from all created beings, as the one upon whom God has bestowed his most distinguished love, and the highest tokens of his approbation and favor : and on this ground, especially, may Jesus, therefore, be called the Son of God, and the only begotten Son.

On all these four grounds for the application to Jesus of this title, he is the Son in a sense in which there is no other Son of God; the beloved in such a sense that, in comparison with him, no other is beloved; but none of them will support the theory that, as the Son, he is equal with the Father: neither, indeed, is that theory at all consistent with any one of them. It will be perceived also that, on all these grounds, the title Son of God preserves its appropriate meaning. Instead, therefore, of saying, “ when Christ calls himself the Son of God, he claims equality with God; and when he is so called by the sacred writers, this equality is ascribed to him," the esteemed brother should have said, When Christ calls himself the Son of God, he claims to be the object of God's special love; and when he is so called by the sacred writers, this distinction is ascribed to him.

When Jesus calls himself the Son of God he ordinarily speaks of himself as a man, and distinguishes between himself and God whom he calls the Father.* Hence this term

* Our Lord ordinarily calls the Deity Father instead of God. Seldom was he heard, in conversing with his disciples, to use the term God. His usual phrase is The Father, My Father, Your Father, My heavenly Father, Your Father which is in heaven, etc. See the sermon on the mount, in ch.5: 6 and 7, of Matthew's gospel. In his conversations with the Jews or the Samaritans, in the gospel of John, the title Father is often in. terchanged with and explained by the title God. See John 4:


« PreviousContinue »