The Divine Trinunity, Francis Cheynell. Chapter 7, The Three Uncreated, Divine, and Co-essential Subsistents are Sufficiently Distinguished.
July 26, 2018
We are now come to treat of that profound mystery, at which men and angels stand amazed. How can three be one? (saith the disputer of this world) or one be three? Can one be distinguished again and again from himself? O bold fools, (saith Athanasius) why do you not lay aside your curiosity, and enquire no farther after a Trinity, than to believe that there is a Trinity? The Scripture saith there is but one God, and the Scripture saith that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are this one God; and yet the Scripture saith, that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three, three and yet one: three persons and yet one God. We have shown above that the Godhead cannot be multiplied; now we are to show that the persons are distinguished, and what kind of distinction there is between these three divine and uncreated persons.
1. These divine and uncreated persons are sufficiently distinguished to our apprehension, who ought to judge, believe, speak, worship, according to the word of God.
2. These uncreated persons were truly distinguished from one another before there was any Scripture, any world; for the co-existency and distinction of these glorious persons is eternal, and therefore this distinction cannot be grounded upon the mere phrase of Scripture; it is the true intent of God in several plain expressions of Scripture, to declare unto us the distinction of these divine and uncreated persons. I shall prove this point fully and clearly by certain steps and degrees.
(a) These uncreated persons have distinct and proper names in the word of God. The Father, the Son, [or the Word] and the Holy-Ghost [or Spirit]. Now that we may not be Tritheites or Sabellians, let us consider that these three names do not signify three different natures, and yet they do signify three different persons, for it is evident that one person cannot be predicated of another, the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father; the Holy Ghost is not either of them, nor is either of them the Holy Ghost; and therefore they are three distinct persons of the Godhead.
(b) These uncreated persons are co-equal, and therefore they are distinct; It is most absurd to say that the same person is equal to himself. But the Son is said to be equal to the Father (Phil 2. 6) therefore the Son is not the Father. We do usually say that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are equal in power, to note a distinction of persons; but then when we speak strictly, we do not say the power of the persons is equal, but we say the power of the persons is the same, to note the unity of their essence. We say the persons are equal in power, goodness, wisdom, &c. to note that one person does not exceed another in degrees of wisdom, power, &c. because it is impossible that there should be any degrees in that which is infinite; and the power, wisdom, &c. of all the three persons is the same infinite perfection, because all three have the same infinite essence. And therefore when we look upon power in a common notion, as referred to the divine essence which is common to all three persons, we say it is the same power. But when we look upon power in a singular notion as it is communicated after a singular manner to this, or that person, we say this person is equal to that in power, the Father equal to the Son, the Spirit equal to both, to note the distinction of the persons, and not the distinction of the power, because the self-same almighty power is communicated to the several persons in a several way; Power is in the Father of and from himself [that is] not from any other person; the same power is communicated to the Son, but it is communicated to him by eternal generation, and to the Spirit by eternal procession; the same power then is communicated to different co-equal persons in a different way, as we shall more fully declare before we conclude this chapter.
(c) The uncreated persons are sufficiently distinguished by their number. The nature of God is the first entity, the first unity, and therefore it is incapable of number, because it is most singularly single, and actually infinite. It is not proper (if we speak strictly) to say that God is one in number; we should rather say, that God is one, and an only one. Deus non est unus numero, sed unicus. But the persons of the Godhead are three in number: the Scripture speaks expressly of these three, 1 John 5. 7.
If any man in Athanasius’s time asked how many persons subsist in the Godhead, they were wont to send him to Jordan; Go say they to Jordan and there you may hear and see the blessed Trinity; or if you will believe the holy Scriptures, read the third chapter of Matthew, the 16th & 17th verses, for there:
(i) The Father speaks in a voice from Heaven, and owns his only begotten Son, saying, This is my beloved Son, &c.
(ii) The Son went down into the water and was baptized.
(iv) The Holy Ghost did visibly descend upon Jesus Christ.
In the fourteenth of John we have a plain demonstration of this truth. I [saith the Son] will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, John 14. 16, 17. May we not safely conclude from hence that the Spirit is a distinct person, another person from the Father and the Son? For the text is clear, the Son will pray, and the Father will give another Comforter; we know the Holy Ghost is not another God, he is the same God with the Father and the Son, and therefore we must confess that it is meant of another person; he shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, verse 16, 17. And again, in the 26th verse of the same Chapter. But when the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth. What can there be more express or clear? The Scripture teaches us to reckon right, and we see the divine persons are reckoned three in number: One person is not another, there are diverse persons, there are three persons, the number numbered, the persons numbered are named by their distinct and proper names, the number numbering is expressly set down in sacred records. We are not more exact in any accounts than we are in reckoning of witnesses, whose testimony is produced in a business of great consequence, and high concernment.
Now in the great question about the Messiah, witnesses are produced to assure us, that Jesus Christ the son of the Virgin, and the only begotten Son of God, is the true Messiah, the only all-sufficient Saviour of his people from their sins. And there are three witnesses named and produced for the proof of this weighty point.
Now, one person that has three names, or two persons, and an attribute of one or both persons cannot pass for three witnesses in any fair and reasonable account; we are sure God reckons right, and he reckons Father, Son and Holy Ghost for three witnesses, and he does not reckon these three and the Godhead for four (as they do who dream of a Quaternity) because these three are one and the same God blessed for ever. Let us then be exact in observing, since the Holy Ghost is so exact in making of the account. In the eighth of John the Pharisees object that our Saviour did bear record of himself, and did conclude from thence that therefore his record was not true, John 8. 13. Our Saviour answers in the next verse. Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true; for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. And it is written in your Law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me. It is most clear and evident by this discourse that our blessed Lord did make a fair legal just account; for he cites the law concerning the validity of a testimony given in by two witnesses; and then he reckons his Father for one witness, and himself for another. I am one saith he, and my Father is another; I and my Father make two sufficient witnesses in a just and legal account. There is another (saith he) that bears witness of me, and I know that the witness which he witnesses of me is true, John 5 32. There is another saith he; he does not mean another God; for when he speaks of his power and Godhead, he saith, I and my Father are one, John 10. 30. Christ and his Father are one God, but Christ and his Father are two distinct persons, for they are reckoned as two distinct witnesses; and one person must not be reckoned for two witnesses. There is another that bears witness, John 5. 32, and the Father himself, v. 37 bears witness of me. Well then, Christ is one witness, the Father is another, and the Holy Ghost is a third witness, 1 John 5. 7 we see the Holy Ghost speaks as plainly in this point as we do when we teach a child to tell one, two, and three. For there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. If we peruse the Scriptures diligently as we ought, we shall find that these witnesses are three persons, who are one and the same blessed God. They are one in nature, though three in subsistence, to show that these three persons are not to be reckoned as three men are, who have three distinct singular natures really divided and separated; for these three glorious persons subsist in one another, and have one and the same single undivided and indivisible nature; and they are three witnesses, three persons truly distinct, John 1. 14, 18 & Ch 5. 32 & Ch. 14. 16.
(d) The divine persons are distinguished by their inward and personal actions. The Father did from all eternity communicate the living essence of God to the Son, in a most wonderful and glorious way; Now it is clear that the Father did not beget himself; and therefore the Son is another person truly distinct from the Father, and yet equal to the Father, because he is begotten in the unity of the same Godhead, and has life in himself, John 5. 26 the living essence of God who is life itself being communicated to him by an eternal generation. The unbegotten Father is clearly distinguished from the only begotten Son. But I dare not say as some do, that the Father is active, and the Son passive in this eternal generation because this generation is eternal. For nothing which is eternal, can be truly said to be in a passive power to any thing, much less can it be said to be in a passive power to be. The Son has life in himself, is life itself, has life essentially, and as he is the same essence with the Father, is of himself, and has all that is essential from that very essence; but that essence is communicated to the Son by the Father, and therefore the Son is said to receive all from the Father. But then we must consider that the Son receives nothing from the Father as from an external cause but as from an intrinsical principle rather the cause, for the Son does not depend upon the Father as an effect upon its cause; And I call the Father an intrinsical principle of the Son’s subsistence, because the Father does beget the Son of, and in himself in the unity of the same Godhead; their divine nature is one and the same, and their persons are co-equal and co-eternal because they are co-essential. This is the very mystery of mysteries which corrupt and wanton reason derides, but prudent faith admires and adores.
The Socinians tell us, that they cannot believe, that the Father did beget a Son of his own substance, because God is eternal and unchangeable; the single essence of God is indivisible, and being most singu∣arly one is incommunicable; part of the divine essence could not be communicated (say they) to the Son, because the essence is impartible, indivisible; and the self same whole essence cannot be communicated, because it is most singularly one, and therefore incommunicable. Essentia quae est una numero est incommunicabilis.
To this grand objection I shall return a plain answer out of pure Scripture, and deliver it in certain propositions or con∣clusions, that the answer may be more direct, clear and satisfactory.
Conclusions concerning the eternal generation.
1. The Father did beget his Son; the Father himself bears witness to this truth, and his witness is full, and clear, and true. Jehovah has said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, Psal. 2. 7. Nay, the Father declares this truth to men and angels as a practical truth that they may direct and regulate their worship according to this mystery. The Apostle proves that Christ is more excellent than angels, because he has a more excellent name than they; For, unto which of the angels said he at any time, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son, Heb. 1. 4, 5. Here's a double proof of the point, he has a more excellent name, because he is the Son of God in a peculiar sense, and has the divine nature communicated to him, as shall be fully proved ere we conclude this point; for the name of Son is not an empty title, he has the divine nature of his Father in him. Now that he is the Son of God, is testified again, and again, saith the Apostle, verse 5. And he begins the sixth verse thus, And again, &c. You see how he does inculcate this point, how he beats upon it again and again; and the reason is, because this truth is fundamental both of faith and worship, as is most evident in the sixth verse of that chapter. And again when he brings in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him, Heb. 1. 6.
You see this mystery of the unbegotten Father, and the only begotten Son is held forth to men and angels in order to worship that their worship may be directed to Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God, and to God the Father, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God declared this truth after a glorious manner from heaven, that it might be more diligently considered. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, this is my beloved Son Matt. 3. 17, when he was baptized: and the like we read of when he was transfigured in the presence of the disciples in the holy mount. And the Apostle does take notice of these solemn declarations from heaven, and lays them down as fundamentals of the Christian Religion, 2 Pet. 1 from the 16th verse to the 20th. All the glorious miracles wrought by our Saviour, John 5. 36 and his resurrection from the dead bear witness to this fundamental truth, that Christ is the first begotten, and the only begotten Son of the living God; be pleased to compare, Acts. 13. 32, 33. with Romans 1. 4. and it will be evident that he was not made, but only declared to be the Son of God at the time of his resurrection.
2. The Father did beget his Son from all eternity before his works of old; I (saith the Son who is the wisdom of the Father) was set up from everlasting, when as the highest part of the dust of the earth was not made, when he prepared the heavens I was there, &c. Prov. 8. from 21 verse to the 31st his goings forth were of old from the days of eternity, Micah 5. 2 & John 1. 1. 2, 3 he was with God, he was God, before the beginning he had glory with his Father before the world was, John 17. 5. Relata simul sunt.
3. The Father did beget his Son in the unity of the Godhead; the Scripture speaks expressly that Christ is the proper or natural Son of God; he spared not his own Son, or his proper Son; Rom. 8. 32. God is the Father of Christ, his own father, John 5. 18 the Jews did well understand the importance and force of that expression, for say they, in that he said God is his own father, he has made himself equal with God; and therefore that phrase does import that he is the natural and co-essential Son of God, else he could not be co-equal with his Father, John 5. 18 & Philip. 2. 6. All those texts which prove that Christ is God, and that there is but one God, do prove that Christ is the natural and co-essential Son of God. God has but one co-essential Son, to whom he has given to have life in himself, John 5. 26 because the divine nature, which is life itself is communicated to the Son by this eternal and ineffable generation. It is proper to living creatures to communicate their nature by generation in their low and imperfect way; but the great God who is not subject to imperfection, does after the most glorious and perfect manner beget a Son in the unity of his own living essence, who is therefore called the Son of the living God, that is the natural and co-essential Son of God, who has the same Divine Life, Nature, Essence with the Father; and therefore Peter is so highly commended for confessing that Christ is the Son of the living God; Blessed art thou, saith our Saviour for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven; upon this fundamental truth, Christ has built the Christian Church as on a rock, Matt. 16. 16, 17, 18. He who has life in himself is the natural and co-essential Son of the living God: he has the same will, power, nature, essence, life with his Father, John 5. 18, 26 & John 16. 15 & John 10. 30 & 1 John 5. 7. The same single and infinite essence is in Father, Son and Holy Ghost; the whole undivided and indivisible essence of God dwells in the Son in its fulness and infinite perfection, Col. 2. 9.
4. The Father did beget his Son without change or motion after a most glorious and wonderful manner; there can be no change, motion, or succession in this eternal and most perfect generation. The essence of God is spiritual, John 4. 24 and therefore the Son is not begotten of the Father’s seed, or any material substance, because God is a single and pure act, who does beget a Son within himself essentially one with himself and therefore his Son does not subsist out of himself, John 14. 10 & John 10. 30 for an infinite nature cannot be poured forth beyond itself. There can be no essential change in the Son by this generation, because the generation is eternal, and the nature which is communicated by generation is unchangeable; the Father did unchangeably beget his Son, and his Son is unchangeably begotten, there is no shadow of changing or turning either in the Father of lights, or the Sun of righteousness, because they are one and the same unchangeable Jehovah, James 1. 17 & Mal. 3. 6. They are too carnal and base who make an unworthy and odious comparison between the material generation of a weak man, and this more then spiritual and supernatural generation. The eternal and unchangeable Father does beget an eternal and unchangeable Son according to the perfection of his eternal, unchangeable, infinite nature. The Father does beget his Son naturally, and therefore in a way agreeable to his unchangeable nature; if the Son were not necessarily begotten, his being would not be necessary, and then his essence would not be divine.
5. Jesus Christ is truly and properly the only begotten Son of God, and therefore the only natural Son of God. Jesus Christ is called the Son of David according to his human nature: but the Lord of David, and the Son of the living God according to his divine nature, as appears by our Saviour’s discourse with the Pharisees, Matt. 22 from the 41st verse to the 46th. And the Jews sought to kill Christ because he called God his proper father, as appears by the original text; for our English translation does omit that most observable emphasis; the words are theos idios pater, John 5. 18 and Christ is called God’s proper Son; idios huios, Rom. 8. 32 and the Apostle gives the reason why he is called the proper Son of God in a more excellent way than the most glorious angel is the Son of God, because Christ is begotten by the Father, but the angles were only created by him; observe the words of the Apostle, For unto which of the Angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; so that the proper reason why he is called the proper Son of God, is, because he is begotten of God; there is the most excellent reason why Christ is said to obtain a more excellent name than Angels: Christ was begotten in the unity of the Godhead, and therefore he alone is properly the Son of God with a supereminent excellency. The angels are not such excellent sons as Christ is:
(i) Because Christ is begotten of God, v. 5.
(ii) Worshipped by angels with divine honour, worshipped as God, v. 6.
(iii) He has the throne, sceptre, Kingdom of God, v. 8.
(iv) He has the sovereign and proper title of God, v. 8.
(v) The attributes of God, eternity, v, 8, 10, 11, 12.
(vi) He sits at the right hand of God, v. 13.
All these excellencies are due to Christ as the proper Son of God, Heb. 1 whereas the Angels the most excellent sons by creation are but ministering spirits.
From these proper and excellent reasons we infer that Christ is the only proper or natural Son of God, because he is the only-begotten Son of God. We, saith John, beheld his glory as of the only begotten Son of God. The word [as] is not assimilative, but declarative, and demonstrative in that place, for it does declare to us that the glory of Christ is agreeable to his divine nature, he being the only natural Son of God, because he is the only begotten Son of God; just as if when we see a King sitting in his royal robes on his throne, with a crown on his head and a sceptre in his hand, we should say now we see him as a King, that is, now he is like himself his state is agreeable to his majesty; even so was the glory of Christ which the Apostles beheld agreeable to the majesty of the only begotten Son of God, John 1. 14. and therefore the word [as] was not inserted tanquam terminus diminuens to diminish the glory of the only begotten Son of God; for the word [as] is left out in the 18th verse of this very chapter, The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, John 1 v. 18. The Scripture does abound with several expressions to the same purpose. But we are specially to observe that the only begotten Son of God is propounded to us as the object of saving faith, and therefore this point ought to be diligently studied and considered by us. For so God loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life, John 3. 16. The Socinians observing how much it concerns us to stand stedfast, and not yield one whit of ground in this point, have tried their wit to deceive and seduce us, and therefore they object Isaac is called the only son of Abraham, Gen. 22. 2, 12.
To this we answer without any great study, that Isaac was the only son which Abraham had by Sarah: he was the only begotten son of the promise; though Ishmael was the son of Abraham by Hagar, the bond-woman, in an unworthy and dishonourable way; and therefore this example will not serve the turn, we reject it, for its impertinency and dissimilitude. Christ is the only begotten Son of God, he is absolutely and simply considered his only begotten Son, and not only in some respect as Isaac was the only son of Abraham, Christ (as Gregory Nazianzen said) is truly the Son of God, he alone is the Son, and the only Son of the Father, and his son in an only or singular way, and he is the son only, he is not the Father also, or the holy Ghost Jesus Christ is the proper natural true son of God, begotten by the Father without a mother in the unity of the Godhead, from all eternity, equal to the Father, one and the same God with the Father, as the Scripture sets it forth; and therefore we conclude that he is simply and absolutely the only begotten Son of God, a more excellent son than all the other sons of God, not only more excellent in degree, for gradus non mutat speciem; but a super-excellent son, who does differ from all his other sons, plusquam genere aut specie, because he is one God with the Father. Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, because he is the true God, 1 John 5. 20 begotten of the Father, Heb. 1. 5 begotten without a mother, Heb. 7. 3 begotten from the days of eternity, Micah. 5. 2 a son equal to his Father, who begot him, John 5. 1 & Phil. 2. 6. The Son of God, Matt. 16. 16 the first begotten, and the only begotten Son of God, the natural and proper Son of God; for he is as the Father is, God by nature, Gal. 4. 8. and therefore naturally, necessarily, eternally begotten of the Father in the unity of the Godhead; and therefore there is more then a gradual, nay more than a specifical or generical difference between this and all other sons of God; we see by all these various expressions, and by those divine and glorious attributes which are ascribed to Christ in Scripture, that God has wonderfully declared his love to us in sending his only begotten to redeem us according to that of the Apostle, 1 John 4. 9. In this was manifest the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. When our Saviour called God his father, the Jews did very well understand that he meant it in a proper and peculiar sense, and therefore told him that he did make himself equal with God, John 5. 17, 18 and that being but a man he made himself God, John 10. 33. And though the Jews accused him of blasphemy, and endeavoured to stone him as they pretended for his blasphemy, yet our Saviour does not excuse his speech, or say he meant it in a metaphorical sense, but does defend it by many arguments both in the fifth and in the tenth chapters of John, though he did thereby endanger his life; he saith he is equal to the Father, nay one with the Father, John 5. 18 & John 10. 30 and when the High Priest asked him whether he was the Son of the blessed, Mark 14. 61 our Saviour answers; I am: there's a punctual and positive affirmation of it, v. 62, 63 and you may easily know in what sense the High Priest meant it, by his renting of his clothes, and condemning our Saviour to death for blasphemy, v. 64. And yet our Saviour did not endeavour to allay their heat and rage with any retraction; he would not say that he spake metaphorically, for he spake properly, he meant that he was the proper and natural Son of God, who had the same nature and power with the Father, and therefore was able to do, and actually did the same works with his Father. And the Jews did understand him so, and therefore urged the law against him, and condemned him to death for blasphemy, John 19. 7. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. Mark the reason, because he made himself the Son of God; If our Saviour had not meant that he was the proper and natural Son of God, a Son equal to the Father, and one God with the Father, the Jews would not have accused him of blasphemy.
Moreover the Jews do generally hold that those words of the second Psalm, This day have I begotten thee, are meant of the Messiah, as Rabbi Solomon does acknowledge in his commentary upon the place. Whatsoever saith he is sung in this Psalm, our Masters have interpreted of King Messiah; but (saith he) and he whispers it as a secret) in regard of the sound of the words, and for the refutation of hereticks (for so the Jew calls us Christians) we think fit to expound it of David himself. Here's a Jew would fain conceal a confessed truth from Christians, and there are some others it seems that would conceal this malicious concealment, for these words are expunged out of the great Hebrew Bibles set forth at Basil, but they are to be found in the Hebrew Bibles set forth with the commentaries of the Rabbins at Venice by Bombergius, or else I had not insisted upon the words; I hope the detecting of this fraud may be very useful, but I must hasten to some other arguments.
The Socinians tell us that there are five causes of Christ’s sonship assigned in Scripture, which are all temporal causes, and therefore they see no reason why we should assert, or they believe this eternal generation of the Son of God, since Christ may be called the Son of God upon another, and far different account. We desire to know whether every one of these five causes be total or perpetual causes; if they be every one a total cause, then there will be as many sonships as there are causes, no less than five sonships; for that rule is certain, where there is a total and sufficient cause in act, there the effect must needs follow. If they be partial causes, then the causes which succeed in order, do not produce their complete effect, until the last cause be in act; this we premise, that the vanity of this invention may be more evident in the whole contexture of their discourse. I shall now give them leave to speak their mind freely, and fully.
I. The first cause of this Divine Sonship is (as they conceive) the conception of Christ by the Holy Ghost, whereby (say they) Christ is said to be begotten of God in an excellent and peculiar way; and they urge that testimony of the angel, which stands upon record, Luke 1. 35, to make good their conceit; And the angel answered, and said unto her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be borne of thee shall be called the Son of God. These words of the angel have reference to the prophesy of Isaiah mentioned in the 31st verse of this first of Luke. The words of Isaiah are, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel, Isaiah 7. 14. they shall call his name Jesus, Matt. 1. 21 he shall be called the Son of the highest, the Son of God, Luke 1. You see the words are different, and therefore we must have special respect to the thing signified. Observe then:
(i) That the Prophet did foretell two particulars. First, that a virgin should bear a Son. Secondly, that the son born of her should be called the Son of God. The virgin doubts of the first particular, and enquires how that could be without the knowledge of a man? The Angel informs her, that she should conceive after a peculiar and admirable manner by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost; and from thence infers the second particular, that she should bring forth a son, who was to be called the Son of God; and he gives the very same reason which was given by Saint Matthew, because it was so foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, Matt, 1. 20, 21, 22 for the particle [Therefore] Luke 1. 35 is not to be referred to the conception of Christ as the cause of this divine sonship, but to the prophecy of Isaiah recorded Luke 1. 31 for all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet Matt. 1. 22.
(ii) They shall call his name Immanuel, God with us, and therefore he, the same person shall be called the Son of God; this is an higher reason than that which the Socinians allege.
(iii) The Socinians put a fallacy upon us by assigning that to be the cause which is not the true cause, [he shall be called] that is declared and acknowledged to be the Son of God. This declaration or manifestation of the Son of God in the flesh was temporal, 1 Tim. 3. 16, but his generation was eternal, Micah 5. 2. The Son of God was sent, manifested, incarnate, in the fulness of time, Gal. 4. 4, but he was the Son of God before his incarnation, and therefore his incarnation is not the cause of his divine sonship, the effect cannot be before the cause, but the divine sonship of Christ was before the world was. The Holy Ghost is never called the father of Christ, and he could not be the principle of the subsistence or the Word, and therefore not the cause of this divine sonship. The Apostle states the point, and puts it past all dispute, Rom. 1. 3, 4. Christ was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but determined and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead; from whence it follows directly that Christ is not properly the Son of God according to the flesh, but is in that consideration rather to be called the Son of David as we observed above, because Christ came of David as concerning the flesh; but the eternal Son of God, is God blessed for ever, Rom. 9. 5. When the Jews said that our Saviour blasphemed, because he made himself God, John 10, 33. Christ asks them whether they did accuse him of blasphemy, because he said he was the Son of God? v. 36 whereby he declared that he was the Son of God according to his person which is truly divine; believe (saith he) that the Father is in me and I in him, v. 38. The force of his answer is evident: I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and therefore I am a divine person; I am the Son of God, and therefore the divine nature is communicated to my person, I am begotten in the unity of the God. head, I am in the Father, and therefore if it be no blasphemy for me to say that I am the Son of God, it is no blasphemy at all to say that I am God, because the divine nature is communicated to the natural and proper Son of God; there's the proper reason why Christ is called the Son of God, because the divine nature was communicated to him by an eternal generation.
II. The second cause assigned by the Socinians why Christ is called the Son of God, is the sanctification of Christ, for which they cite John 10. 35, 36. Behold say they the second cause of this divine sonship plainly set forth unto us, Christ hath obtained an excellent portion of the Spirit, he is sanctified and sent with a divine power into the world to save mankind.
To which we answer, that here is the same fallacy obtruded again, because first Christ was the Son of God before he was sent into the world. Second, God did not give the spirit by measure to him, John 3. 34. Third, Christ proves in that tenth chapter of John, that he is one with his Father in power, and therefore in nature, as appears
(i) Because he does the same works that his Father does, v. 37.
(ii) Because he is in his Father, and his Father in him, v. 38.
(iii) Because he is the natural Son of God, and therefore might truly call himself God, v. 33. 36.
(iv) Because they themselves called Magistrates gods, upon a cheaper account; only in regard of their commission and office; much more might he call himself God, because he was sanctified without measure, had an higher office and commission, being sent to do the work of God, to satisfy the justice of God, and save the elect of God, which he could not have done if he had not had the nature of God, and been thereby fully enabled to perfect this work of God. The argument is grounded upon the infinite distance, and imparity between the office of a Mediator, and the office of a Magistrate; between the only begotten Son of God, who is one with his Father, who begot him, and the sons of men who are but the deputies of God.
III. The third cause which they assign of this Divine Sonship, is the special love of the Father to this excellent Son, Matt. 3. 17.
To this we answer, that God did not make Christ his Son because he loved him, but he loves him because he is his Son, a Son equal to himself, one with himself, the express image of his person, the illustrious brightness of his glory. That very place which they cite makes much against them: God does from heaven own Christ for his proper and natural Son in that very place, Matt. 3. 17. God said not so to the best of angels, Heb. 1. 4, 5 To which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son this day have I begotten thee? that one place is sufficient to discover the fraud of the Socinians in this point.
IV. The fourth cause which they assign is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because when Christ was raised from the dead he was as it were begotten again from the dead, Acts 13. 32, 33.
To which we answer, that Christ was the natural and proper Son of God before his resurrection, only he was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection, according to that of the Apostle, Rom. 1. v. 4. Declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness, (that is his divine nature) by the resurrection from the dead. Christ was not made but declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection. His divine sonship lay hid under the form of a servant before; only they who had spiritual eyes did discern it, John 1. 14 we have seen, and beheld the glory of the only begotten Son of God. Moreover it is observable that the Apostle endeavours to make the mystery of Christ’s divine sonship manifest in the thirteenth of the Acts, not simply by his resurrection, but by the manner of his resurrection, and the state whereunto he was raised.
1. For the manner, he was raised by his own almighty and most glorious power in an irresistible way; he did offer violence to all the forces of death and powers of the grave, because it was not possible that he should be holden of them, Acts 2. 24. when he came to declare himself to be the Son of God with power, Rom. 1. 4.
2 For the state whereunto he was raised, he did not rise to return to the grave again, as Lazarus did, but he raised himself to an immortal life. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, Acts 13. 34 & Rom. 6. 9.
Now, God by raising Christ after such a manner, to such a state, did declare him to be his only begotten Son, of whom David speaks in the second Psalm, and therefore it was evident by the resurrection of Christ, that God had fulfilled his promise by sending his only begotten Son to be a Saviour unto Israel, that we might have forgiveness of sins and all sure mercies by him who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification; this is the scope of the Apostles discourse in the thirteenth of the Acts from the 23 verse to the 39. The second Psalm is cited here by accommodation to make good a remote and implicit consequence; as those words, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, &c. are cited to prove a resurrection by an implicit consequence, Matt. 22. 31, 32. Thou art my Son, mine own proper Son, whom I own for my only begotten Son by raising thee to a never dying life.
V. The fifth cause which they assign, is the exaltation of our Lord and Saviour to glory, and the conferring of a name and power upon him above all creatures; for the Apostle, as they conceive, speaks of this sonship, Heb. 5. 5. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
I cannot but admire that the acute Socinians should cite every place where the second Psalm is named, to prove that there are so many several causes of the divine sonship of Christ; but I do more admire that they should cite this text of all the rest; for if their fifth argument have any force in it, does overthrow and disprove their four first arguments. If Christ was not begotten before his exaltation to glory, then he was not the Son of God before his exaltation; for surely these men of reason, will easily grant that the effect cannot be before its proper and complete cause was in its causal actuality, or actual causality.
The words of God in the second Psalm are so often repeated, to teach us to keep our eye constantly fixed upon the divine sonship of Christ when ever we discourse of his conception, birth, resurrection, transfiguration, exaltation to glory, and conclude that the self-same person who was begotten of God from the days of eternity took our flesh, died for our sins, and rose for our justification; for this is that great and fundamental truth which runs quite thorough the Gospel, That the son of Mary who died and suffered all for us, is the proper, the natural Son of God, the only and all-sufficient Saviour of his people from their sins. We must not part with this truth, for this is all our salvation.
It was very proper for the Apostle to speak of his divine sonship when ever he spake of him as a Mediator, as a Priest, &c. because he could not have undertaken or gone thorough with any such office unless he had been the natural and proper Son of God equal to God; and therefore we do readily grant, that the divine offices of Christ do declare and make manifest the divine sonship, and nature of Jesus Christ, and this truth is most evident from the connexion of the seven and eight verses of the second Psalm.
I have with the more patience and content waded thorough this large and deep sea that I might come to the haven, where we desire to be; That we might come to take harbour and sanctuary in the merit and satisfaction of Jesus Christ, who is the natural and proper Son of God.
The Eternal Procession of the Holy Ghost
In the next place I am to prove the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost, whereby I shall make the distinction of the persons more clear and evident, and therefore I hasten to the discussing of that mysterious, but useful point.
The Holy Spirit is not called a spirit because of his spiritual nature only, for the same spiritual nature is common to all the three blessed persons; but he is called a spirit upon a special and peculiar reason because he is breathed forth by the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit which is of God, 1 Cor. 2. 11. The Spirit who proceeds from the Father is sent by the Son from the Father, John 15. 26. The Greek Church acknowledges that the Spirit does proceed from the Father by the Son. All things that the Father hath are mine, saith our Saviour, John 16. 15. But the Spirit did receive all from the Father, and Christ and his Father are essentially one John 10. 30. The Spirit is said to receive of the Son, and to glorify the Son, John 16. 14. Whatsoever things the Father does, the Son does; and as the Son can do nothing without the Father, so the Father can do nothing without the Son; not that there is a defect of power in either, but an unity of power and nature in both: The divine nature of both the Father and the Son was communicated to the Spirit by this eternal spiration, and therefore he is sent by both, and he receives of both, and he glorifies both, and he is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son. He is called the Spirit of the Father, Matt. 10. 20 because he proceeds from the Father, John 15. 26. And he is called the Spirit of the Son of God Gal. 4. 6, the Spirit of Christ Rom. 8. 9, the Spirit of Jesus Christ Phil. 1. 19 and the Spirit of Christ 1 Pet. 1. 11, because he receives of Christ, is sent from Christ, is breathed forth by Christ; the Father and the Son breath forth the subsistence of the Spirit with one and the same spiration. When Christ breathed upon his disciples, he said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, to show that he had power to dispose of the Spirit, who did from all eternity breath forth the Spirit. The Holy Ghost was breathed forth necessarily by both; I say, necessarily, because eternally there was a double and eternal necessity of it both in respect of the persons breathing, and the person breathed. The Spirit was not breathed forth as a creature, but as a divine person, a person of the Godhead; he was breathed forth by procession, and subsists in the unity of the Godhead; he proceeds from both, and yet in both; for one divine person cannot subsist out of another, but all three subsist in the same undivided and infinite nature.
But the Socinians tell us that the Holy Ghost is nothing else but the power and virtue of God the Father.
To which we answer.
That the Spirit is the natural virtue of the Father no more than he is the natural virtue of the Son, or of himself; for the virtue of God is the essence of God; the Holy Ghost is his own essence, and all three persons have one and the same essence; The Holy Ghost who proceeds from the Father, is called the power of the Father, Luke 1. 35, because the Spirit works as he proceeds in order; the Father works in the Son and by the Spirit. But the Spirit who proceeds from the Father is distinguished from the Father; the Spirit did not breath forth himself, or proceed from himself. The Holy Ghost does not speak of himself, John 16. 13, but the Father speaks of himself, because he is of himself, he is begotten of none, proceeds from none of the divine persons, is sent by none of them. The Holy Ghost does receive of Christ, is sent by Christ; therefore the Holy Ghost is not the Father, but clearly distinguished from him, John 16. 14, 15, John 15. 26, John 14. 16, 17, Matt. 3. 16, 17, Matt. 28. 19 & 2 Cor. 13. 14 and in diverse other places. The Father and the Spirit are personally distinguished, but they are essentially one, 1 John 5. 7, they are one in power, nature, will, and yet are three persons, three witnesses who deliver one and the same divine testimony; The testimony of the Holy Ghost is as divine as the testimony of God the Father. The witness of God is greater, verse 9 must refer to the witness of the Father, Word and Spirit, verse 7 though the testimony of the Father be specially insisted on in the following words; for all the three witnesses in heaven give one and the same testimony, and that testimony is divine. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit which is of God, the Spirit of Elohim Gen. 1. 2, the Spirit of Jehovah Isa. 11. 2, the Spirit which is Jehovah and the God of Israel, as has been proved already. The distinction between the Father and the Spirit will be more evident when we come to treat of the personal properties; The Socinians are so confounded in this point, that they are forced to acknowledge that the Holy Ghost is no accidental virtue, no finite substance, no creature, but the uncreated and substantial virtue or power of God, because whatsoever is in God, is the substance of God; as Eniedinus confesses. And Smalcius acknowledges that it may be granted that the Holy Ghost is God, because whatsoever is naturally in God may be called God. But I shall prove that the Holy Ghost is not only God, but a person of the Godhead distinct from the Father and the Son. Jesus Christ is called the power of God, 1 Cor. 1. 24, and the Holy Ghost the power of God, Luke 1. 35 & Luke 24, 49. The Son is a distinct person from the Father; and the Holy Ghost is as the Ancients used to call him, the personal virtue or power of the Father proceeding from the Father, by whom he does declare and put forth his power; and therefore the Spirit is said to work and distribute all gifts and graces as he will; Father, Son and Holy Ghost have one and the same will and power; still we must bottom upon that truth, These three are one, 1 John 5. 7. That this procession of the Holy Ghost is mysterious, and for the manner of it unsearchable we do readily grant; and therefore I shall not presume to define after what manner the Holy Ghost is breathed forth from the Father and the Son; but we are sure that it cannot be any corporeal procession. The Ancients did constantly distinguish between procession and generation; but the eternal generation of Christ being spiritual, the procession of the Spirit must needs be spiritual; for the Spirit is not only essentially a Spirit as the Father, and God the Son are, but he is personally a Spirit. The more perfect and spiritual this procession is, the more evident it is that the Spirit was breathed forth in the unity of the Godhead. They who say the Son does proceed from the Father use that term [Proceed] in a general and very large signification: but then they say that the Son did proceed by generation, the Spirit by spiration thereby endeavouring to distinguish the manner of proceeding.
2. They say the Son did proceed from the Father alone, and therefore is said to be sent by the Father only; but the Holy Ghost did proceed from the Father and the Son both, and therefore is said to be sent by the Son as well as the Father, Luke 24. 49, John 15. 26, John 14. 26 & John 16. 14, but Christ is sent by the Father only, because he is of the Father only, and was not begotten of the Spirit; and the Father is not sent by any because he is of himself; hereby they endeavour to distinguish the principle of these divine processions.
3. The Son did proceed as the second person, the Holy Ghost as the third person of the Godhead, and hereby they endeavour to distinguish the order of these divine processions. We know this divine procession is:
(b) Eternal, because divine.
(c) Immutable; this procession is not a change of the Spirit from not being to being, or from an imperfect being to a more perfect being. We know that procession cannot be a motion from one place to another, for the Spirit is omnipresent, fills all places, and therefore cannot change its place.
4. Necessary. The Father and Son did from all eternity breath forth the Spirit in the unity of the Godhead, not by any alienation of the Godhead from themselves, but by an unspeakable communication of the same divine nature to a third person of the Godhead; And this communication is natural and therefore necessary it is, but not involuntary; the Father and Son did not breath forth the Spirit by any co-action or compulsion: and yet we cannot say that the Father and the Son did arbitrarily or freely breath forth the Spirit as all three persons did create the world; for they did create the world with such liberty and freedom as that they might not have created it; but they did naturally and necessarily breath forth the Spirit, and could not but breath him forth: this inward and personal act is natural; such is the perfection of the Godhead that it must needs be communicated to all three persons; and such is the co-essential unity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, as that all three do necessarily and naturally subsist in the self-same entire and infinite Godhead. True it is, that the will of God is the nature of God, but nature is a more comprehensive word, and therefore according to our manner of apprehension and in strictness of speech, it is more proper to say that the Father and the Son did breath forth the Spirit by the perfection of their nature, than to say they breathed him forth of their own will, or by some arbitrary decree; for then it will follow that there might have been but two persons of, and in the Godhead, that the Holy Spirit does exist and subsist contingently, and by consequent that the Spirit is no person of the Godhead. The acute Samosatenian whom learned Junius confutes, desired to know whether the Holy Ghost was produced by an action of the will; Junius answers; If you oppose the will of God to the nature of God, we cannot say that the Spirit does proceed from the Father and the Son by their will but by their nature, because the Father, Son and Spirit are co-essential; for as the Father did beget his natural Son by his nature, so do the Father and the Son breath forth the co-essential Spirit by their nature; nor is it safe to say, saith Junius, that the nature of the Father does breath forth the Spirit by an action of his will, but rather according to that manner (the infinite distance being observed between what is human and di∣vine) after which the will does proceed in man: and this saith he is but a weak resemblance of the Schools, which we are not bound to defend. For the nature of God is pure, single, infinite, and therefore we must not follow those resemblances too far which are grounded upon the distinction of the understanding and the will in creatures, because even that point is very disputable, and the most single and perfect nature of God does infinitely transcend the perfection of Angels. I believe you are, as I am, willing to get out of the dark. But enough of that, for we read that the Saints are begotten by the will of God, James 1. 18. But we must not conceive that Christ is begotten, or the Spirit breathed forth after the same manner as we are regenerated: the Spirit is breathed forth in a co-natural and co-essential way in the unity of the single and entire Godhead; but we are regenerated by the graces of God.
The spirit does proceed equally from the Father and the Son; for the unity of the divine nature, and equality of divine persons cannot be maintained if that principle be denied. Peter Lombard and his adherents did mince the point with a very dangerous distinction: that the Spirit does proceed principally from the Father, and less principally from the Son. But it is clear and evident that the Holy Ghost being a co-essential person has the self-same divine nature and essence entirely communicated unto him which is in the Father and the Son, without any alienation of it from them, or multiplication of it in him; and therefore the Spirit does not proceed from the Father and Son as they stand in relative opposition, but as they are essentially and naturally one; and therefore the Spirit did proceed from both equally, aequè primò ac per seas we use to say. The Spirit does receive from Christ, John 16. 14, 15, but the Spirit being God could not receive any thing but subsistence from the Father or the Son. The Spirit does glorify the Son, John 16. 14, no otherwise than the Son as God does glorify the Father: because the Son did receive his subsistence from the Father as the Spirit receives his subsistence from the Father and the Son.
We must carefully distinguish:
1. Between the generation of the Son, and procession of the Holy Spirit, though as we have shown above, the Son does proceed, if you take that word in a general notion. The most exact critics will not take upon them to distinguish between the two. Yet because we want words to express ourselves, the reverend Doctors of the Church thought fit to appropriate to the Holy Ghost for distinction sake; and the Scripture saith that Christ is the only begotten Son of God; God the Father is never called the Father of the Holy Ghost; nor is the Holy Ghost called the Son of God. Moreover, the Schoolmen have given advantage to the enemies of the Trinity by discoursing of divine processions at large in a general notion; and for these reasons I did endeavour to distinguish the procession of the Son from the Spirit in this Chapter, in respect of the manner, principle, and order of procession.
2. We must carefully distinguish between the eternal procession of the Spirit, and the temporal mission of the Spirit; but the natural and eternal procession of the Spirit may be evinced by the temporal mission of the Spirit. The Greek Church does acknowledge, (i) that the Holy Ghost is God; and (ii) that he is one and the same God with the Father and the Son; and from hence we infer:
(a) That the Son did not send the Spirit by way of command as if he were greater than the Spirit.
(b) That the Son did not send the Spirit by way of counsel and advice, as if he were wiser than the Spirit; and therefore the only reason why he did temporally send him, is, because the Spirit did naturally and eternally proceed from him, and receive his glorious subsistence of him. I might discourse more largely upon this subject; but I consider what Athanasius, Damascen, and divers other reverend Divines who did long study these mysterious points, have after many perplexed debates acknowledged. The Son (say they) was begotten and the Spirit proceeded; this we are sure of, because it is written; if you enquire after the manner how the one was begotten, and how the other did proceed, we answer that the Son was begotten and the Spirit did proceed eternally, unchangeably, unspeakably.
Those places of Scripture which are spoken of God in the Old Testament are said to be spoken of the Son, and the Spirit in the New Testament, and therefore do by consent of both Testaments, declare that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one and the same God; for instance, The sixth of Isaiah is spoken of Jehovah, the God of Israel, whom the Mahumetans, Sabellians and Arians do acknowledge to be the true God, but this is spoken of Christ saith Saint John, Chap. 12. 41. These things said Isaiah when he saw his glory and spake of him. But the Holy Ghost has his share in this prophesy, Acts 28. 25, therefore they who believe both Testaments, must conclude that the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost are one and the same God.
Finally, the personal actions and properties of these three declare them to be distint persons; therefore it is easy to conclude that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three distinct persons, and yet one and the same God.
That the Spirit is a person of the Godhead, has been proved in the fourth chapter of this Book; That he is a distinct person from the Father and the Son, is most clear by that which has been said both in that chapter and in this and all those places might be heaped up which prove the personal appearance of the Spirit, when he did assume the shape of a dove, and appeared as in tongues of fire, his teaching, leading, acting, ruling, comforting, distributing of gifts and the like, together with the several phrases of him in Scripture, and frequent joining him with the Father and Son as their equal in power and authority in bestowing all spiritual and eternal blessings do evince the same. The notes of distinction another, even the Spirit; These three, &c. The change of the gender in relative articles, which must necessarily be referred to the Spirit, is very considerable. But I have said more then enough upon this point, and therefore proceed to make the distinction of these three uncreated persons yet more evident.
V. These uncreated persons are sufficiently distinguished by their order. The Scripture does most commonly place the Father first in order, the Son second, the Holy Ghost third, when all three are named; and by the inward and personal actions (which have been mentioned) it does appear, that, this is the natural order of these uncreated persons; for the Son cannot be placed in order before the Father, because he is naturally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost cannot be placed in order before the Son, because he does naturally proceed from the Son: this is the proper and natural order. Basil the great complains that some in his time did place the Son in order before the Father, and the Holy Ghost before the Son, that they might gain some advantage by that device. Basil tells them that he had received order from the Lord to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and therefore was resolved to preserve that order inviolable, notwithstanding any devices or attempts for to prevent it. When the witnesses in heaven are reckoned up in a business of the highest consequence, they are reckoned in this very order 1 John 5. 7. The Father, the Word, and the Spirit. But it is confessed that sometimes it is most agreeable to the scope and purpose of the Holy Ghost to place the Son before the Father as appears 2 Cor. 13. 13, Gal. 1. 1 and hence it is likewise, that the Holy Spirit is sometimes placed before the Son, as Rev. 1. 4, 5 and sometimes before the Father and the Son, 1 Cor. 12 4, 5, 6. But the natural order does not overthrow either the equality or co-eternity of the persons, nor does that order of enumeration which is pro instituto, overthrow the natural order, and both do sufficiently prove the distinction of the three uncreated persons.
VI. The Divine Persons are sufficiently distinguished by their personal properties; The property of the Father is to subsist of himself, that is, to receive subsistence or subsisting life from none but himself. I shall not enter into that sad dispute whether this personal property be absolute or relative? whether (in non-Latin alphabet) does not import something as positive and abso∣lute as (in non-Latin alphabet) ? It is pleaded that the self subsistence of the Father is not his fatherhood: and that that rule is beyond dispute, Habere subsistentiam à se non dicit respe∣ctum ad Aliud, vel Al•um; And therefore I humbly offer it to the consideration of the learned, whether that self subsistence whereby the first person is distinguished from the Son and the Spirit be absolute, or relative? I will not take upon me to determine any thing in so deep a point, or suffer my reason to wax wild and wanton in discoursing of so great a mystery: and therefore though there be something hinted which may amount to a videtur quod sic in the behalf of the less common opinion in the 142 page of this book: and it is clear that all three persons are nothing else but the Godhead considered with all absolute and relative perfection, yet I conceive it safest to wave that point, and conclude with that learned divine, Nos fidelem ignorantiae professionem temerariae assertio∣ni praeferendam judicamus. Whether then this self-subsistence be absolute or relative, it is enough for our present purpose to prove that the first person of the Godhead is distinguished by his self-subsistence from the blessed Son and Holy Spirit. The self-subsistence of the Father is incommunicable, it is proper and peculiar to the first person to have subsistence from none but himself and to be the first personal principle which gives subsistence to the other two co-essential and co-equal persons. The Son receives subsistence from the Father, the Spirit receives subsistence from the Father and the Son, as has been proved above; and therefore this self-subsistence doth make a very remarkable, and undeniable difference between the Father and the two other uncreated persons.
Some learned men have from hence inferred, that because the Father alone has subsistence from himself, therefore the Father alone is God of himself. But the consequence is absurd, for they do not distinguish between the essence of God and the peculiar subsistences, in the Godhead. The essence of God is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and is one and the same in all, and every one of the uncreated persons: it is (if I may so speak) a self-essence and essence it self a self-deity, because every one of the persons is truly, properly, essentially God, God himself; and therefore if the essence of the Father be a self-deity, so is the essence of the Son and Spirit. The divine essence of the Son is not begotten, caused, produced any more then the essence of the Father; the subsistence of the Son is begotten, but not caused; the divine essence is communicated to the Son, but it is not begotton by the Father; for the Father does communicate that self same divine and entire essence, which is in himself, by begetting the personal subsistence of the Son in the unity of the Godhead from the days of eternity. Christ is not God by grace, but by nature; and the will of the Father did not precede and produce the Godhead in Christ, but accompany and approve the natural communication of the Godhead to Christ, even as his will does approve his own natural and eternal goodness; and therefore Christ is both his natural Son, as has been proved, and the Son of his love, Col. 1. 13. Genebrardus was too blame to fall foul upon Calvin and Beza, and other reformed writers whom he condemns as guilty of a new heresy called Autotheanism, because they said that Christ was God of himself, but he was not the Son of himself. Calvin and Beza did not deny that the Godhead was from all eternity communicated to the Son by the Father; only they say,
1. That the Godhead which is communicated is in itself, of itself truly, properly, essentially divine; because the self-same Godhead is in the Father and Son whole and entire in both.
2. Because the Godhead which is communicated, is not begotten; the unbegotten Godhead is communicated to the only begotten Son by an eternal generation.
3. Because the Godhead which is communicated, is not caused, produced, created by the Father, as Valentinus Gentilis dreamt. And therefore Genebrardus, Canisius, Gifford, Stapleton, Faber Fevardentius, and the rest are extremely mistaken, when they say that Calvin and Beza deny that the Father did beget his Son in the unity of his own divine essence; For the meaning of Calvin was plainly this, The Son has the self-same divine nature with the Father, they are co-essential: one and the same God who is the only true God, God of himself, not God by participation, or creation, but God by nature and essence; for Calvin speaks in opposition to Valentinus Gentilis, who denies the Son and Spirit to be co-essential with the Father, but saith the Father did essentiate the Son with another manner of essence then his own divine essence, namely with a created and produced essence. Gentilis saith, the Father only is truly God, because he only has an uncreated Godhead, and the Son has not the self-same Godhead with the Father.
I had not said so much on this argument but that I find Papists, Arminians, Socinians, and some bitter Lutherans do all join their forces to abuse Calvin, Beza, Viret, Farrell, Simler, Volanus, Gualter, Bullinger, Lavater, the orthodox Helvetians, and many other reformed writers upon this argument. Some say these reverend Divines are guilty of heresy, blasphemy, atheism, because they say Christ is God of himself, though they clearly mean that he is one God with his Father, and that the Godhead which is communicated to the Son by generation is an unbegotten Godhead, a self-deity. If any one desire to read more upon this argument, he may consult Valentinus Gentilis, and all that write against him, especially Calvin, and the rest of the Reformed writers named but now: he may read the Ancients, with whom Arminius was not well acquainted; for if he had read them, he would not have said that the word autotheos is not to be found in the writings of the Fathers.
They who are taken with platonical raptures may read Dionysius, Plato's corrivall; Maximus Pachymerius and the rest, will give them some light therein. Athanasius, Basil, Epiphanius, Nazianzen, Damascen, speak the same thing either 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; to whom I might add Justin Martyr, Anastasius and Cyril; as for Origen, I know his writings have been extremely corrupted by the iniquity of his antagonists, and yet there are many things that are excellent in him, which I am in charity obliged to conceive to be his genuine and proper judgement, and to impute many of his errors to the fraud, ignorance, or malice of such as made too bold with his works, or else to a kind of liberty of speaking, which good wits are not free from, when they have no adversary in sight who is like to call them to an account for their irregular phrases. Bellarmine is as modest, as we could expect such a sophister to be; only he did not take notice of the controversy between Calvin and Gentilis; but we will pardon that error; for we know the Cardinal was not at leisure, and therefore did many times pass sentence upon the Protestants for expedition sake before he had heard their cause. Gregory de Valentia is very ingenuous in this point, and makes a fair Apology for the Autotheans. If any desire to take a shorter cut, I shall refer them to three most eminent Divines who have studied this point exactly, and are very critical both in state of the question, and their phrases, Chamier, Gomarus and Voetius; and now, I crave leave to proceed without begging pardon for this necessary digression, because I hope it may be very useful to learned men.
It is now easy upon the due consideration of the premises to state the point right. It is proper to the Father to have,
1. The Godhead without any communication of it to him from any other uncreated person.
2. To have subsistence from, and of himself as he is the first person, and the first personal principle of giving subsisting life unto the other two co-essential persons. For the first uncreated person cannot receive subsistence from any person, because he is the first person in order, though all three be equal in respect of dignity and duration; there can be no person in order before the first person to communicate his Godhead, or give personal subsistence to him either by generation or spiration, and this must needs be a characteristical and distinctive property which declares the subsistence of the Father to be incommunicable.
For though all three uncreated persons do subsist in the Godhead, yet self-subsistence is proper to the Father; the Father alone is the first personal principle of subsisting life; the Father is distinguished from the Son, because the Father is unbegotten, and because he did beget the Son; the Father is distinguished from the Spirit, because he did breath forth the Spirit. But I have said enough of that when I treated above of the inward and personal actions. I need not take notice of their nice exception who say the Father is not his own father, and therefore cannot be said to be begotten of himself, or to have subsistence from himself; yet because some take advantage thereby to censure the reverend Doctors of the Church, I shall stop the critics mouths with one criticism out of Hesychius and Suidas, To be begotten of one's self (saith Hesychius) is to be begotten of none. God is said to be begotten of himself because he is unbegotten; & Suidas concurs, and does either transcribe or subscribe. No man ever dreamt that the Father did beget either his Godhead, or his own personal subsistence: for the Godhead were no Godhead if it were begotten; and we know the Father is not his own father though Synesius and some such poetical wits who meant well have adventured upon such dangerous expressions. It does imply a contradiction that any thing should be the cause of itself, or its own effect, for the cause is before the effect, and nothing can be before and after itself; and there is a friendly opposition between correlates; the Father cannot be his own Son. But notwithstanding all that has been alleged by these critical disputants, still it holds good that the Godhead was not communicated to God the Father by any person created or uncreated, and the first person did not receive his personal subsistence from any other person by generation, spiration, or any other way. But I must not dwell upon this argument.
VII. The uncreated persons are sufficiently distinguished by their personal and inward relations; but we must not conceive that there are as many persons in the Godhead, as there are relations; for the Father is related to the Son and to the Spirit; and the Son is related to the Father and to the Spirit; and the Spirit is related to the Father and the Son. But there is a friendly opposition evidenced by some relations which do help together with the actions, order and properties above mentioned to demonstrate some kind of distinction between the persons; The Son as he is a son, is relatively opposed to the Father who begat him; and so the Spirit as proceeding by spiration is relatively opposed to the Father and the Son who did both join in breathing forth the Holy Spirit; relations distinguish as proper, and opposite.
I might discourse concerning the order of these persons in working, as well as of their order in subsisting; something might be spoken of the peculiar manner of their working ad extra: and much might be said of the incarnation of the Son to declare him to be distinct from the Father and the Spirit; and something of the effusion of the Spirit; but I have said enough to evidence that these uncreated persons are distinguished; what kind of distinction there is between them, I am now to show, and that I may be brief and plain in the opening of this weighty point, I shall lay down the truth clearly in some few propositions.
1. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are not essentially distinguished: for Christ and his Father are one, John 10. 30. and all three are essentially one, 1 John 5. 7. The Synod of Calcedon determined, that Christ was co-essential with his Father according to his divinity, and co-essential with us according to his humanity; but the natural union between us and Christ does only prove a specifical unity; but Christ and his Father have one and the self-same divine and undivided essence. He must acknowledge more gods, who holds that the Son and Spirit have another or different kind of Godhead from the Father. The Arians did divide the nature of the Trinity, and the Sabellians did confound their persons; but Christians acknowledge and maintain that there are three persons, and but one single divine nature in the blessed Trinity; only the second person did assume the nature of man that he might heal our nature, and save our persons.
2. These three divine persons are not distinguished realiter separabiliter: That is, they are not so distinguished, as that they can be divided or separated one from another, as created persons and things may. These three co-essential persons are omnipresent, they do all three subsist in the self-same omnipresent nature; nay, they do all three subsist in one another, without any contraction, commixtion, or confusion, as has been proved at large in the 161, 162 and the following pages of this Book. These co-essential subsists cannot be separated, or divided any more then their indivisible and infinite essence can be divided or multiplyed.
3. These three uncreated persons are truly distinguished; this proposition is fully proved already in this very chapter: I know it will be expected by some, that I should say that these three persons are distinguished really; but I shall humbly desire them to consider, that some have by that expression taken occasion to exercise their wanton wits in cavelling against this deep and glorious mystery to the great prejudice of this weighty truth. If they be really distinguished, say some, then they differ essentially, or tanquam res & res, then they may be separated, say others, then there are three Gods, say a third. It is too well known what sport Atheists have made upon this advantage; and truly it is much at one whether men do professe themselves Atheists or Tritheites; for he who does believe that there are three Gods, may when he pleases, believe that there is no God at all.
Vorstius presses those that call the distinction between the persons real after this manner; If the three persons be really distinguished, then they are Tres Res, three real things; for the multiplication of persons is reall, and therefore the Son being really distinct from the Father, and the Spi∣rit from both, they must needs have three essences really distinct. And if they are Tres Res, then either three substances, or three accidents; but the Reformed Divines cannot saith Vorstius grant, that they are three accidents, because they deny that there is any accident in God; and if they be three substances, then there are saith he three Gods. Valentinus Gentilisand some Ministers of Transylvania reason much after the same manner. I know not whether Master Fry did ever read any of their writings, but sure I am he has conversed with some of that persuasion, or else, his carnal reason is of near kin to theirs.
For upon this very ground Mr. Fry does adventure to explode three distinct persons or subsistencies out of his Creed, but he will never be able to explode them out of the Godhead: he may sooner explode himself out of the number of Christians; for if he take away the divine person of Christ, he takes away the foundation of Christianity. But having shewed him his danger, I desire to satisfy his reason, awaken his faith, and settle his conscience in this weighty point: if he will deny his carnal reason, and not require any example, to illustrate a mystery above reason, and beyond example: Master Fry will tell us news indeed, if he can make it good, that any Ministers or Members of the Church of God in England do make Jesus Christ a distinct God from God the Father.
2. He may do well to publish those reasons, which move him and the others he speaks of, to be of that opinion.
3. He does acknowledge that these three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are equally God, page 21. Let him consider his own confession [these three] what are these three? are they three Gods? No, that he does abominate: are they three accidents, no, that is absurd; are they three substances? if so, then created or uncreated; not created, for that he saith none will affirm: are they three uncreated substances? No saith he, for then they would consequently be three Gods, p. 23.
I hope by this time he sees how easy it is to retort his own Argument; and if this retortion may help him to answer it, I shall be glad that I have retorted it.
His only answer ought to be, I do believe that these three are three subsistents in the same single and infinite Godhead, Phil. 2. 6 & Joh. 10. 30 & 1 Joh. 5. 7. & Heb 1. 3.
Vorstius, Valentinus Gentilis, the Transylvanians require some more curious answer; but I shall be as plain, and as briefe as the weight and depth of this mystery will permit me to be; I remember that Aristotle saith, He doth make a truth sufficiently plain, who brings such proofs as the point in question will bear.
Now it is most evident that supernatural mysteries cannot be expounded according to the rules of Art.
Some return this answer, That if by Tres Res, three real things, you mean three persons; there are three real persons in the Godhead; they are not made three by a fiction of reason, they are declared three by the plain words of Scripture; but they were three before any Scripture was written, even from the days of eternity. But if by Tres Res, three real things, you mean three Divine Essences, we do deny that three persons are three Divine Essences, or three Gods; for these three persons are but one God blessed for ever.
If you ask others, they will say that these three are one Being, but they are three proper and peculiar manners of being subsisting in the same Godhead. They have one essential subsistence say others, but they have three incommunicable manners of subsisting. Some express it thus, these three are really distinct, but not essentially; modally, but not separably; truly, but relatively; formally, and yet but personally. Others that mean the same thing, say they are distinguished Secundum esse Personale, non secundum esse Quidditativum.
They then that say the persons are really distinct, should explain themselves warily according to some of these or the like safe expressions: namely that by really:
1. they do not mean essentially.
2. They do not mean separably.
3. That by really they do mean that the relations and personal properties, whereby the three persons are known to be distinguished, are real relations and real properties, and not fictions of reason.
The relations are opposite, the properties incommunicable, and much might be said of the personal actions to the self-same purpose; but I must hasten. Some do adventure to call this distinction natural, but that is a very dangerous expression, it must not pass without some favourable grains of allowance, nor can it then pass unless it be seasoned with some grains of salt, and be mollified with some fair and orthodox interpretation. By natural distinction, they mean Relative, because say they the relations which are between these uncreated persons are not only real, but natural also. The relation between God the Father and his own natural Son is a natural relation, grounded upon a natural and personal action; namely, the eternal generation of the Son. The Greek Fathers speak much of the familiar and proper emphasis of this natural relation between the Father and the Son. By natural distinction than they do not mean an essential distinction, as if the three uncreated persons did differ in nature; but natural, in that sound and orthodox sense recited above.
I had rather leave my margin to relate the curiosities of others, than to perplex a mere English reader with any scholastical difficulties. I have said enough for the explication of those terms which are most usual, and yet likely to give offence to such as do not understand the importance of them. I shall therefore conclude this point with Fulgentius his Commentary, which is an excellent contexture of some pertinent Scriptures for the proof of the point. When you read (saith he) of Father, Son and Spirit, understand that there are three persons of one essence, omnipotence, eternity, &c. For our Saviour saith, I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me John 8, 16. And concerning the Spirit he saith, And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, even the spirit of Truth, John 14. 16, 17. Moreover he commanded his Apostles to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And the equality of the persons proves the unity of the nature, Phil. 2. 6 & John 5. 18 and from hence he concludes that there are three persons, and not three natures in the blessed Trinity.
From what has been said, it is evident that these three uncreated persons are truly distinguished, but they cannot be divided; and it is not so safe to express the distinction of uncreated persons by terms of art; They who say the distinction is natural, real, absolute, or relative, do deny that the distinction is essential, or that the persons are separable. They who speak most tenderly, say it is modal, formal, personal. They who say it is natural in respect of personal relations and natural actions, confess that it is supernatural and mysterious, because the unity of the Godhead is unquestionable; the Trinity of persons subsisting in that Godhead admirable; both put together undeniable and inexplicable, and yet most necessarily and highly credible.
They who say the persons are formally distinct, do mean that they are truly distinct; they do not conceive that the distinction of the uncreated persons is grounded upon a mere fiction of reason, or upon the weakness of our apprehension, as if we did conceive one person to be three persons, because he is called by three names, as Praxeas, Sabellius, and some others dreamt. Nor do they believe that this distinction of these three uncreated persons is only grounded upon the phrase of Scripture: but they do acknowledge that there is a true and proper, not an improper and figurative distinction between these uncreated persons; nay, they all confess that this true and proper distinction is an eternal distinction; it was from, and it will last to all eternity, and therefore is not grounded only upon some offices and external dispensations which have respect unto the creature.