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previous to his own creation of all things: and this his generation, as the authors of the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds rightly judged, is plainly spoken of contradistinctively to the creation of the universe; so that the two expressions are intended to convey totally different ideas. Now the term creation imports the production of something dissimilar in essence to the creator: but the term generation, inadequately as it may express the filiation of the Word, imports, that the person generated is similar in essence to the generator; for the term itself is borrowed from physical generation, as that which at least more nearly resembles the generation of the Word than the act of creation; and accordingly we see, that, from man down to the lowest animal, like invariably begets like.
It need scarcely be observed, that the term is not by any means used as fully expressing the relation of the Son to the Father, but only as being that which can least imperfectly give an idea of it to our limited comprehension: and, if I mistake not, the grand leading truth, designed to be inculcated by it, is this; that the Son is no less of the very same specific essential nature with the Father, than ́a mortal son is of the very same specific essential nature with a mortal father. Now a mortal son, by being of the same essential nature with a mortal father, is a man, as contradistinguished from any other animal. Hence the divine Son, by being of the same essential nature with his divine Father, must needs be God, as contradistinguished from any other intellectual being.
This truth the relative terms, Son and Father and generation, plainly inculcate, when used, as we find them used in studied opposition to the term creation otherwise, we violate the whole analogy of language; and confound together the two terms, creation and generation, which ought carefully to be preserved distinct from each other. For, if, as the Arians say, the Son is the firstcreated angel by whose agency the whole universe was afterwards created: then he is as much a creature as the lowest worm, that crawls upon the ground; nor can he, with the least degree of propriety, be specially and exclusively said to have been begotten, while the term creation more fitly expresses the production of all other beings. In that case, if the term begotten be employed in an extended sense, as God is said to be the father or producer of the whole human race; the Word cannot with justice be specially called the ONLYBEGOTTEN of the Father: or again, if the term created may be as fitly applied to the Word as to any other being (for, after every subterfuge and equivocation, the Arian hypothesis does plainly at length conduct us to this position); then it is impossible to give any rational account, why the Word should be peculiarly and exclusively described as begotten, while every other being is contradistinctively represented as created. Arianism, in short, tends directly and irremediably to a palpable contradiction.
II. Still, though the terms, Father and Son and generation, clearly import sameness of nature and
species; it may be said, that they likewise import, not only subordination in point of dignity, but succession in point of time: so that, if the Son were begotten, there must have been a period when he was unbegotten; just as there is a commencement to the distinct personal existence of every mortal son born from a mortal father.
An excellent person, whose writings have largely contributed to the service of religion, has unhappily been led to adopt this specious opinion: I say unhappily, because I believe it to be a radical and fundamental error which ought not to pass without notice, though essentially differing no doubt from the Arian heresy.
From various expressions in Scripture, which describe the Word as existing in the beginning or before the worlds, Mr. Bryant contends, that the distinct personality of the Son commenced in time, and that he is eternal only as having been previously amalgamated with the sole essence of the Father. Originally and from everlasting, God existed, not in the unity of the Trinity, but in the unity of a strictly personal Unity; so that in the divine essence there was but one person, as there is but one God. Previous however to the creation of the world, though still in time as opposed to eternity, the Son emanated from or was begotten of the Father, the same in nature and specific dignity, but having a commencement as a distinct person, while yet he was eternal in essence as having hitherto subsisted undistinguished in the single
person of the Deity. Respecting the Holy Spirit Mr. Bryant is silent: but it is obvious, that the same mode of reasoning will equally bring out the conclusion, that his existence as a distinct person had also a commencement in time.
This theory Mr. Bryant adopts on the ground, that the term generation necessarily involves the idea of commencement; that it is utterly impossible to form any notion of an eternal filiation; that such a doctrine introduces a mystery, where none existed; that not a single text can be adduced to prove the retrospective eternity of the Word, as a distinct person; that Scripture speaks only of his thus existing anterior to the creation, which is a very different thing from his having thus existed eternally; that the text, THIS DAY have I begotten thee, is alone sufficient to demonstrate the commencement of the Word's personal existence; and that no arguments can be brought in opposition, save those which may well be ranked with mere metaphysical subtilties.'
III. A great naine serves only to make error the more dangerous: both the learning therefore and the piety of Mr. Bryant render it doubly necessary to point out the instability of the system which he has adopted.
1. He thinks, that by this system the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is largely cleared from mystery: and he contends, that, if it be adopted, the great work of the Sun's generation, as described by the
'Bryant's Sentim. of Philo Jud. p. 246–260.
sacred writers, may without difficulty be apprehended.
To my own intellect it certainly does not render at all more comprehensible the tenet, which I think may be clearly gathered from Scripture, that the unity of God is such as to comprehend three distinct persons: for the difficulty does not consist in the eternity of this mode of existence, but in the mode of existence itself; nor do I find it at all more easy to conceive how three persons can be jointly but one God, merely because I am told that their personality commenced in time.
While the mystery therefore, as exhibited by Mr. Bryant, remains as much a mystery as ever; we have it now hampered with a new difficulty, from which before it was exempt.
The great Father of lights is universally represented in Scripture, as a being, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning; and this representation is perfectly accordant with the deductions of right reason; for a mutable God is, by the very circumstance of his mutability, an imperfect God; and an imperfect: God is a contradiction in terms. Hence, even in his dealings with his creatures, God himself never changes or repents; though he is sometimes said to do so, in condescension to our human modes of speech: in all such cases, he is himself strictly immutable; the change is not on his part, but on the part of his creatures. The grand scheme of redemption itself was arranged and predetermined in the counsels of God from all eternity: he was not moved to adopt