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An Examination of Bishop Pearson’s Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

(Continued from page 499.)

The Bishop brings many passages in the Prophecies and the Psalms, which he applies to Jesus; but there is no evidence that they were meant by the speakers to allude to a person who was not born for some hundred years afterwards, and of whose future appearance the prophet or psalmist could not have any preknowledge, without imparting it for the full understanding of their words; therefore those passages cannot have the meaning which is attempted to be fastened on them.

In the following section under the head, and in “Jesus Christ his only son,” he describes him as “the true, proper, and natural son of God, begotten of the substance of the Father, which being incapable of division or multiplication, is so really and totally communicated to him, that he is of the same essence, God of God, light of light, very God of very God.” Now understanding the meaning of every word in the paragraph, I confess I cannot comprehend the meaning intended to be conveyed by the order in which they are placed. The object proposed is to explain the nature of the generation of the Son by the Father. Supposing the fact to be true, is it possible for the Bishop or any other man to be of himself cognisant of the act? It is only by revelation from the Father, that the manner of that generation could be known; it seems to me to be highly impious in the poor worm, man, to pretend to describe or explain the action of the Father, at the time when there was no other being existing; for John says of the Son (or the Word as he calls him), John, 1:3, “All things were made by him.” However, the impiety of the Bishop’s declaration is equaled by its absurdity. He says, that the Son was begotten of the substance of the Father, which being incapable of division or multiplication, is so really and totally communicated to him, that he is of the same essence. Now the terms, substance and essence, I conceive to be applied here to the same object, and to avoid confusion, I shall only make use <<548>>of one term, the former. This substance being indivisible, was communicated really and totally to the son; but it is also incapable of multiplication; therefore remained the same after being communicated to the son as it was before. In believing that the substance of the Father was totally communicated to the son, we must believe that the Father converted himself into the son. The son received his existence, or was begotten by the communication of the Father; unless there was a division of the substance it could not be communicated to the Son. The explanation given is contradictory and absurd; the Bishop’s belief in this matter does not rest on any foundation.

The second part of the quotation describes the son as “God of God.” What can we understand by that phrase? We read in the Scripture, “the God of Abraham,” “the God of Israel,” &c. Now the God of God can only mean a being who holds the same relative position to God as God holds to Abraham, Israel, &c.; in other words, the Bishop teaches that the son is the God of the Father; this, I affirm, is the fair inference to be drawn from the words used.

The Bishop concludes the section by declaring that he acknowledges none but him to be begotten of God, “by that proper and natural generation.” Now as he would allow that nearly 4000 years had elapsed since the creation of this world, before the existence of any son of God was revealed by the pretended incarnation of the being termed his only son, would he be bold enough to say that he is truly his only son? would he assert that at the end of another 4000 years, another son or other sons may not be revealed? would he restrict God from begetting more sons, or certify that there are not more sons existing unrevealed?

In a note appended to this chapter, it is asserted, that as the Jews looked for a Messiah to come, so they believed that Messiah to be the son of God. This assertion is  not warranted by any authority. What are offered as proofs are quotations from the Gospels, which are not entitled to regard, as being given by interested persons. The question of the High Priest, “ I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be Christ, the son of God,” does not prove that the High Priest believed that the Messiah expected was the son of God. Jesus was brought before him on the charge of having asserted that he was the <<549>>Messiah and the son of God; his judge naturally asked him if it was so? Jesus acknowledges it by saying, “Thou hast said,” Matthew 26. The High Priest declared, “He hath spoken blasphemy.” Does this show that the Jews believed the Messiah to be the son of God? Assuming the character of the Messiah was not blasphemy, it was asserting that he was the son of God. The notes to this chapter are so numerous and so copious, that it would require a long treatise to take notice of them all; of their tendency and accuracy I give one example; the vision of Isaiah 6:1-3, with the remark, that “He whose glory Isaiah saw was Christ,” he founds on the assertion of John 12:41. What authority could John have for such an assertion?

The next section says, “I do assent unto this as a certain and infallible truth, taught me by God himself, that Jesus Christ, the only son of God, is the true Jehovah, who hath that being which is originally and eternally of itself.” If there be any meaning in this declaration, it asserts that the son is the Father, in opposition to the Athanasian creed, which directs the believers not to confound the persons, or else that the Tetragrammaton is the peculiar name of the son. The Bishop labours hard to prove his case by many quotations, where, from the peculiar structure of the Hebrew language and prophetic writings, the Lord is represented as speaking in the first person, and in the next sentence or verse is spoken of in the third person, as in Exodus 19:10: “And the Lord said unto Moses,” &c:, and verse 11, “For the Lord will come down,” &c. Now, in both these instances, the Tetragrammaton is used, and it cannot be pretended that two different persons are indicated; in fact, the prophets, in repeating the will of God, which had been revealed to them, or in conveying his commands to his people, often make use of the third personal pronoun, of which there is a striking instance in the Decalogue. In the beginning, the pronoun I is used; “I am the Lord thy God,” as well as in the 5th verse; whilst in the others, God is spoken of as a third person, and treated with the pronouns he and his in the translation from the Hebrew.

(To be continued.)