The Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ The Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ  

CHAPTER I - Part 1

THE language of complaint put by the Lord into the mouth of one of His prophets of old was, "Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter; yea, truth faileth" Isa 59:14,15. May not the same or similar language issue from the lips of His faithful servants now when they look around and see the reception that truth for the most part meets with in our day and generation? As regards the general mass of what is called "the religious world," may we not justly say, "Truth is fallen in the street"-despised and trampled under foot as a worthless thing? And as regards churches and ministers of clearer views and a sounder creed, in too many instances "truth faileth," either in purity of doctrine, power of experience, or godliness of life.

And yet, what possession can be so dear to the Church of God as the truth as it is in Jesus? To her it is committed by the Lord Himself as a most sacred and precious deposit Joh 17:8 Ga 1:8,9 Eph 3:10 4:11-16 5:25-27 Col 1:18-24 Col 2:6-10 1Th 2:4 1Ti 3:15 Re 3:22. {1} Her very standing, therefore, as a witness for God upon earth Isa 43:10 Ac 1:8 Heb 12:1, as well as all her present and future blessedness, are involved in her maintenance of it. Men may despise the truth from ignorance of its worth and value, or may hate it from the natural enmity of the carnal mind, and from its arraying itself against their sins and errors; but it is the only really valuable thing on earth; since sin defaced the image of God in man. Lest, therefore, it be lost out of the earth, the Lord has lodged it in two safe repositories-the Scriptures of truth Da 10:21 2Ti 3:15-17 and the hearts of His saints. The Scriptures, it is true, are in the hands of well nigh every man; but to understand them, to believe them, to be saved and sanctified by them, is the peculiar privilege of the Church of God. Therefore her liberty, her sanctification, her position as the pure and unsullied bride of the Lord the Lamb, nay, her salvation itself, are all involved in her knowing and maintaining the truth as revealed externally in the Scriptures, and as revealed internally in the soul.

Do we say this at a venture, or in harmony with the oracles of the living God? "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Joh 8:32. Then without knowing the truth there is no gospel liberty. "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth" Joh 17:17. Then without the application of the truth to the heart there can be no sanctification. "I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" 2Co 11:2,3. Then another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel than the truth corrupt the mind from the simplicity that is in Christ, seduce the bride from her rightful Head and Husband, and are as much the work of Satan as his beguiling Eve in Paradise 2Co 11:3,4. "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned. who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" 2Th 2:10-12 Then without receiving the love of the truth there is no salvation. Thus we see that without a vital, experimental knowledge of the truth, there is no liberty of spirit, no sanctification of heart, no union with Christ, and no salvation of the soul. And what is a religion worth when all these blessings are taken from it? What the salt is worth when it has lost its savour; what the chaff is worth when the grain is severed from it; what the tares are worth when the wheat is gathered into the garner. How necessary, then, it is for churches and ministers to hold the truth with a firm, unyielding hand, and to give no place to error no, not for an hour! Remember this, churches and ministers, deacons and members, and all ye that fear God in the assemblies of the saints, that there can be no little errors; we mean as regards the vital, fundamental doctrines of our most holy faith. There may be differences of opinion on minor points, as on church government, the administration of the ordinances of the New Testament, the restoration of the Jews, the nature of the millennium; the interpretation of particular passages of scripture; but on such fundamental points as the blessed Trinity, the Person of Christ, the personality and work of the Holy Ghost, no deviation can be allowed from the straight and narrow line of divine truth. Error on any one of these vital points is from Satan; and he never introduces little errors; all, all are full of deadly poison. There was no great quantity of arsenic in the Bradford lozenges, not much strychnine in Palmer s doses, but death and destruction were in both; or where not death, disease and suffering for life. Error in itself is deadly. In this sense, the tongue of error is "full of deadly poison" Jas 3:8, and of all erroneous men we may say, "With their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips" Ro 3:13. "Their wine," with which they intoxicate themselves and others, "is the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps" De 32:33. The patient may vomit up the poison, but it is poison not the less. Do not, then, by reading erroneous books, hearing erroneous ministers, or associating with erroneous people, try the strength of your faith, or presume upon the soundness of your constitution. When you have tested the error by the inspired word of truth, and by the inward teaching of the blessed Spirit in your own heart, label it POISON! and "touch not, taste not, handle it not," any more than you would arsenic or prussic acid.

We are grieved to see an old error now brought forward and, we fear, spreading, which, however speciously covered up, is really nothing less than denying the Son of God. The error we mean is the denial of the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Only-begotten of the Father before the foundation of the world. If the Lord has done anything for us by His Spirit and grace, He has wrought in our heart two things-a love to His truth and a love to His people. By both of these principles, therefore, we feel constrained to oppose this error to the utmost of our power, and to contend for what has been long commended to our conscience as the truth of God. This is no new question with us, no fresh doctrine which we have never before thought of or considered, but one the reality, power and sweetness of which we have for many years known and felt, for our very hope of eternal life hangs upon it. We do not expect, indeed, by any arguments to convince those who have deeply drunk into the spirit of error. It is a rare thing for any such to vomit up the sweet morsel which they have eaten in secret; and of most of them, we fear it may be said, as being entangled in the snares of the mystical harlot, "For her house inclined unto death, and her feet unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life" Pr 2:18,19. We rather write for those who tremble at God s Word, who have been made willing to receive the love of the truth that they may be saved thereby, and who dread above all things to be left to love and embrace a lie. And these often need instructing, for many of the saints of God are weak in judgment, and are thus laid open to the snares of Satan. They would not willingly, wilfully embrace error, but being simple, or not well rooted and established in the truth, they cannot discern false doctrine when speciously wrapped up in a cloud of words and backed with arguments and an array of texts, the meaning of which is, for the most part, perverted and distorted. Some, too, are drawn aside by favourite ministers of more knowledge and greater experience, as they think, than themselves; and others view the whole question as a mere controversy of words, and that it is an obscure and abstruse doctrine, which they heartily wish had never been brought forward to divide churches, perplex inquirers, and separate chief friends. But such arguments are always at hand when truth begins to speak with decided voice. God s servants are only His mouth as they "take forth the precious from the vile" Jer 15:19; and when they wield the sword of the Spirit it may well sever churches and wound individuals, for "it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow" Heb 4:12. The policy of Satan has always been to cry out against the truth as causing confusion, disturbing the general peace of the church, and filling the world with division and strife. It was so in the days of Athanasius, when he, almost single-handed, fought against Arianism. It was so in the days of Luther, when he began to oppose Popery; and it was so with our Puritan ancestors, when they testified against the various corruptions in doctrine and life which prevailed in their day. Those who from self-interest, love of carnal ease, entanglement in error, or cowardice of spirit, wished things to remain quiet as they were, all lifted up their voice against the disturbers of the general peace. We would say, then, to all who are zealous for the truth on earth, Do not think that this is a matter of little import, that we are plunging into a controversy about mere words, and troubling the churches with tithes of mint, anise and cummin, and omitting the weightier matters of judgment, mercy and faith. Examine the Scriptures for yourselves, especially the First Epistle of John, and then say whether the true Sonship of Christ is a matter of little importance. And as we hope, with God s help and blessing, to examine the subject prayerfully and carefully, in the light of His teaching, and as revealed in the sacred Scripture, we call upon our spiritual readers, not merely to give a passing glance to the testimonies that we shall bring forward, but to weigh them well in the balance of the sanctuary, and see for themselves whether we are contending earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, or, laying aside the commandment of God, are holding the tradition of men.

A few preliminary observations, however, may be desirable in order to lay down a clear track for us and our readers to walk in.

1. Our first rule must be that the Scriptures shall be our only standard of appeal,  and these taken in their plain, literal meaning, without perverting or mystifying their evident signification.

2. All appeals to natural reasoning, as distinct from Scripture, and all carnal conclusions opposed to the word of truth must be discarded, and we must be content to receive the truth as little children in the simplicity of faith, without attempting to comprehend what is necessarily to our finite understanding incomprehensible.

3. Knowing our ignorance, and that a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven, we should seek the promised teaching of the Holy Spirit,  who alone can guide into all truth, but who takes of the things of Christ and reveals them to the soul, and communicates that sacred unction which "teacheth of all things, and is truth, and is no lie." (See the following scriptures: Mt 11:27 Joh 6:45 Joh 14:21,26 Joh 16:14,15 Jas 1:5 1Jo 2:20 1Jo 2:27)

4. We must also have a deep conviction that nothing is more precious than the truth as it is in Jesus, and be made willing to buy it at any price, and not to sell it for any consideration. Whatever we let go, friends, wife, children, house or lands, name, fame or character, we must never give up the truth of God. To do so would be to prove that we never received it from God s mouth Pr 2:6, but were taught it by the precept of men Isa 29:13.

We lay down, then, at the very outset, as a standing mark for every spiritual eye these two points:

1. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and

2. That a belief in Him as such is essential to salvation. A few scriptures will decide this; the main difficulty being, where there are so many, which to fix upon for that purpose; but let us examine carefully and prayerfully the following:

1. The first shall be the noble testimony of Peter. "When Jesus came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" Mt 16:13-16. Peter s confession embraced two things:

1, that Jesus was the Christ;

2, that He was the Son of the living God.

By acknowledging the first, he declared his belief that He was the promised Messiah, the anointed One, whom all the prophets had spoken of, and whose coming at that period the saints of that day, such as Simeon, Anna, and those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem; were anxiously expecting Lu 2:26 Lk 2:36,38. By the second he acknowledged that Jesus was not only the Christ, the expected, long-looked-for Messiah, but the true, actual, and real Son of God. It is evident from the confession of Peter, of Nathanael Joh 1:49, and of Martha Joh 11:27, as well as from the adjuration of the high priest Mt 26:63, and the preaching of Paul in the synagogues Ac 9:20; that the Jews in our Lord s time identified the Christ, the promised Messiah, with the Son of God. It was most evidently the faith of the Jewish church, that the Messiah was no less than God s own Son. The question, then, with them was not whether the Christ, the promised Messiah, was the true and proper Son of God or not, but whether Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ; for if He were the Christ they knew He must be the Son of God, and that in His divine nature. And what other idea could they attach to the Christ being the Son of God than that He was His real and actual Son? If not wholly impossible, it was most improbable that such ideas could have been entertained by them as that He was the Son of God by virtue of the covenant, or of His complex Person, or any of those evasions of the simplicity of truth whereby His real and proper Sonship is now denied. To understand, then, this testimony from the mouth of Peter a little more clearly, we offer the following considerations. The blessed Lord had sought, so to speak, to bring His disciples to a clear and decided recognition of His divine Sonship by asking them two pointed questions:

1. "Whom do men, not you, but men generally, say that I the Son of Man am?" He called Himself "the Son of man," that He might draw forth more clearly out of their bosom their confession that He was the Son of God, for as such they had seen His glory and received Him Joh 1:12-14. The disciples told Him the various opinions which men entertained about Him. All saw and acknowledged that the Spirit of the prophets was in Him; and therefore some said He was John the Baptist, and some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Then, to put the matter home personally to themselves, the blessed Lord asked them another, and a most searching question, "But whom say ye that I am?" as though He should mean, "Never mind what others think and say, tell Me for yourselves what you, My own immediate disciples, think and say." How nobly, then, how boldly, how believingly did Peter at once answer in the name of all the rest, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Did the blessed Lord repel the confession, or rebuke the confessor? No; on the contrary, He pronounced him "blessed," and declared that "flesh and blood had not revealed it unto him but His Father which is in heaven." Do not these words of the blessed Lord clearly show that it was by divine revelation Peter knew and believed Jesus was the Son of the living God? And are not all "blessed" with faithful Peter, to whom the Father has revealed the same divine mystery, who believe as he believed, and confess as he confessed? But if the Father has not revealed it to their heart, need we wonder that men neither know, believe, nor confess it, but stumble at the stumbling-stone laid in Zion? We shall have occasion to refer to this passage again, and shall, therefore, dwell upon it no longer, but pass on to another, our present object being not so much to open the texts which we bring forward as to show from the word of truth the solemn importance of a right faith on this fundamental point.

2. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" Joh 3:35,36 . How clearly is believing on the Son of God made the test of life and salvation; how needful, then, to know who the Son of God is, that we may have a right faith in His divine Person, and not make a mistake in a matter of life and death. You may think that you believe on the Son of God, but may be deceiving yourself for want of a divine revelation of Him to your soul. You do not deny that He is the Son of God in your sense of the words, but may deny that He is the true, proper, real and only-begotten Son of God by His very mode of subsistence as a Person in the Trinity; or you may be looking to a name, a title, or an office instead of the Son of the Father in truth and love.

3. Take another testimony: "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father" 1Jo 2:23. Do you deny the eternal Sonship of Christ? Are you, as far as lies in your power, destroying that intimate and ineffable relationship which He bears to the Father as the only begotten Son of God? O what dangerous ground are you treading Beware lest you deny the Son, and so have not God as your Father and Friend, but fall into His hands as a consuming fire. Are not these testimonies enough?

4. But, to leave you without excuse on a matter of such importance, take as one more witness that most comprehensive of declarations proclaiming, as in a voice of thunder, those who have and those who have not life: "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that be believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath, given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" 1Jo 5:9-12 .

But you may answer, "We believe all this. We are as firm believers in the Son of God as you can be. This is not the point of dispute between us. Where we differ from you is this, that we do not believe He is the eternal Son of God; for as a father must exist before a son, it is a self-contradictory proposition to assert that He can be, as a Son, co-eternal with the Father." That it is not so we shall hereafter attempt to show, but for the present we will simply ask you this question: "Do you mean to receive nothing as divine truth which involves apparent contradictions?" We say apparent,  for we cannot allow them to be real. If you answer, "I can receive nothing which I cannot understand and reconcile to my reasoning mind," then you had better be a Socinian at once, for that is just his very position. He says, "I cannot receive the doctrine of the Trinity, for it contradicts the Unity of God, which I receive as a fundamental truth; and to assert that three are one and one is three, is to contradict all my fundamental notions of number." And thus he stumbles at the stumbling-stone laid in Zion. You see his error and the fallaciousness of his reasoning, but his argument is only your own in another form. You say, "I cannot receive the doctrine that Jesus is the eternal Son of God because it denies His co-eternity and co-equality with Him; for a father is necessarily prior to a son, and a father is necessarily superior to a son." Certainly, if we carry earthly reasonings into the courts of heaven, and measure the being and nature of God by the being and nature of man. But the very idea of eternity excludes priority and posteriority of time, and the very nature of God excludes superiority and inferiority. When, then, we say that Jesus is the eternal Son of God we declare His co-eternity, and when we say that He is the Son of God, as God the Son, we declare His co-equality with the Father and the Holy Ghost. But you and the Socinian really stand on the same ground-the ground of natural reason and carnal argument. He draws a natural conclusion that three cannot be one, and therefore rejects the Trinity; you draw a natural conclusion that a father must exist before, and be superior to, his son, and as you believe the Lord Jesus to be a Person in the Godhead, you therefore reject on that ground the eternity of His Sonship. Thus, neither he nor you submit your mind to the Scriptures. You both really stand upon infidel ground, for both of you prefer your own reasonings and your preconceived notions to the truth as revealed in the Word of God. That speaks again and again of "the only-begotten Son of God," which, as we shall by-and-by show, refers to His divine nature, as in the following passage: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" Joh 1:14. It is evident from these words that there was a vital distinction between those who received Christ and those who received Him not; for "He came unto His own [literally, property or estate] {2} and His own [people by profession and outward covenant] received Him not." But there were those who did receive Him, and they did so because they "were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God;" for they "beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The blessed Lord is here most plainly declared to be "the only-begotten of the Father." You cannot, therefore, deny that He is the begotten of the Father in a way in which none else could be begotten, and that He has a peculiar glory as such. This cannot refer to His human nature, for we read, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" Joh 1:18. What do these words imply, then, but that whereas no man hath seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son of God has seen Him, for He is,  that is, from all eternity, as the eternal "I AM!" in the bosom of the Father. The human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ was not in the bosom of the Father when the Lord spake, but the divine was, for the words imply union, and yet distinctness-the closest intimacy; and yet the relative personality of the Father and the Son. And so again the passage, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" Joh 3:16, as plainly declares that Christ was the only-begotten Son of God before He came into this world. When did God love the world? Surely before He gave "His only-begotten Son," for His love to the world moved Him to bestow that unspeakable gift. Then He was certainly His "only begotten Son" before He was given and before He came; and how could He be this but in His divine nature? for His human did not then exist, except in the mind of God. How plain the testimony to a believing heart that the Lord Jesus is the only begotten Son of God by His very mode of subsistence; and is it not greatly to be feared that those who reject His eternal Sonship fall under that solemn sentence, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only-begotten Son of God"? Joh 3:18 Though hidden from our finite understanding, surely the Lord knew the mystery of His own generation; and is it not more consistent with the obedience of faith to believe the Lord s own testimony concerning Himself than to cavil, disbelieve, or explain it away, because such a doctrine contradicts the conclusions of your reasoning mind? You censure the Arminians for saying that they cannot receive election because it contradicts their first notions, their primary, fundamental principles, both of the justice and love of God; and yet you, on precisely similar grounds, reject the eternal Sonship of Christ, as contradicting your natural views of priority and posteriority. So the Jews rejected and crucified the Lord of life and glory, because His appearance in the flesh as a poor carpenter s son contradicted all their pre-conceived opinions of the dignity and glory of the promised Messiah; and in a similar way infidels reject miracles as contrary to their fundamental opinions of the laws of nature being unalterable. Thus to reject the eternal Sonship of the blessed Lord merely because it contradicts some of your preconceived opinions is most dangerous ground to take, and is to set up your authority against that of the Word of truth.

Any observations of ours would but weaken the force of the testimonies that we have brought forward from the Word of truth. You that "tremble at God s word" Isa 66:2 and "hide it in your heart," that you may cleanse your way by taking heed thereto, and not sin against the Lord Ps 119:9,11, weigh these scriptures well, for they are the faithful and true sayings of God Re 22:6, the testimony of Him who cannot lie.

But it will be said that we are drawing nice and needless distinctions, and that all who profess to believe in the Trinity, the Deity and atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and the other leading truths of the gospel, believe in and acknowledge the Sonship of Christ. Yes, in lip; for they dare not in so many words deny so cardinal and fundamental a doctrine; but many who think and call themselves believers in the Son of God do all they can to nullify and explain away that very Sonship which they profess to believe.

But as it is necessary to point out and overthrow error before we can lay down and build up truth, we shall, as briefly as the subject allows, first show the different modes in which this fundamental doctrine of our most holy faith has been perverted or denied.


{1} Our space does not admit of our opening up and working out the above scriptures; but they all deserve the most attentive examination and consideration, as witnessing to the above declaration.

{2} It is in the neuter in the original, literally, "His own things;" the second "His own" is in the masculine, i.e., "His own men."