Sir: - Will you do a reader of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES the favor to give your opinion of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God?
Reply: - The above note came to us by mail, precisely as we have copied it above, without place or date, but post-marked on the envelope by the stamp, Baltimore, Md., Feb. 11, and directed to us at New Vernon, in this County; thence it was forwarded to us at this place. Who the querist is, and what is desired, and for what purpose, we do not fully comprehend, but as we desire always to oblige, as far as we have ability, the readers of the SIGNS, we will inform the inquirer frankly, that we do not know what the doctrine is, on which our opinion is requested. We have found no mention made, in our version of the Scriptures, of the eternal generation of the Son of God, in so many words, therefore we suppose the inquiry relates to some theory or doctrine so designated, as held and taught by men. As we do not know what the theory or doctrine is, we have no other opinion than this, that the Scriptures contain all that it is essential for the saints to understand in regard to the doctrine of God our Savior. That he is the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and that he was the Son of God before he was sent into the world, and is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that he who is the Son of God, is also the eternal, underived, independent God, we also firmly believe. That in his Mediatorial union with his body, his church, he is the only begotten of the Father, while in his supreme Godhead, he is the fullness of the Godhead, underived and unbegotten.
The New Testament begins with the words, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David." - Matt. i. 1. Of his generation in this sense, we are told that he was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. (Rom. i. 3, 4.) Of his generation as the seed of David, we find no record of its being called eternal. The inspired psalmist, in prophesying of him, says: "The kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the governor among the nations," &c. "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation." - Psalms xxii. 28,30. This prophetic declaration of the royal prophet, compared with 1 Peter ii. 9: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people," &c., very clearly presents to us, the generation of Jesus Christ the Son of God. The life, that is, the eternal life or immortality of this generation, was with the Father, (1 John i. 2:) "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." - 1 John v. 11, 12. This generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as we have proven by 1 Peter ii. 9, is a chosen generation, and Paul testifies, Eph. i. 4, that they were "chosen in him," that is, in Jesus Christ the Son of God, "before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Thus far we have the testimony that the life which was given to the generation of Jesus Christ the Son of God, was Eternal Life, and that it was, and still is so in Jesus Christ the Son of God, that no man can have the one without having the other, and no one can be destitute of the one without being destitute of the other. Such, then, is the seminal union and relationship of vitality, of immortality, that indissolubly unites the Head and Body of the church of God, that we are compelled to regard it as eternal.
The book of the complete generations of the earthly Adam was given in the day that God created man, (Gen. v. 1,) consequently before any of the children of Adam were born of the flesh. And as the earthly Adam is the figure of the heavenly Adam, (Rom. v. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 47, 48,) we infer that the seed or generation of Jesus Christ the Son of God, is just as ancient as his Sonship. That is, we cannot from the Scriptures learn that our Lord Jesus Christ held the office, or occupied the position of Mediator, before the eternal life, which was with the Father, was given to us in him. That this is what constitutes the relationship between Christ, the seminal Head, and his seed, the Progenitor and the chosen generation.
We believe there are some who have held the idea that the flesh of our Redeemer, in which he was born of the Virgin, which suffered on the cross, was laid in the tomb, and which was raised from the dead, was begotten and brought forth by what they call an eternal generation, and so existed a human body and soul, from the ancients of eternity. If that theory be true, we have not so learned it, and must wait for clearer light on that subject. If what is called the humanity of Christ was so generated and did so exist before all time, then, instead of his assumption of our flesh, instead of his taking on him the seed of Abraham, or being made of a woman in his advent to this world, the whole race of mankind must have assumed his human nature when they were born of the flesh. And furthermore, we see no reason why it was expedient for him to be made of a woman, in order to be made under that law which the human family were under, as that law was binding on all human beings, until they are redeemed from its dominion by his one offering of himself without spot unto God. Until these difficulties which, to a very little mind like ours, are insuperable, are obviated, we are unable to indorse this speculation.
Another, to us, equally untenable theory, called eternal generation of the Son of God, sets forth, that his supreme Godhead is a derivative Godhead; that it is not original, self-existent, independent and eternal. This theory, as it appears to us, seems to deny all that is essential to his Godhead. How can we conceive of absolute Godhead that has descended by generation or otherwise from any producing source higher than himself? That Christ exists in a Sonship which is begotten of the Father, is clearly demonstrated in the Scriptures, and confirmed by his own declarations, but this we understand to be in relation to what he is as Head and life of his church. But that he also is the eternal, self-existent God, the Jehovah, is equally demonstrated in the Scriptures, and in the personal experience of every saint. For if he is not God in an absolute and unrestricted sense, he cannot be the Savior. He says: "I am God, and beside me there is no Savior." We must, therefore, be excused from indorsing a doctrine, however popular or plausible, that would rob us of a Savior, or present him in a character in which we are forbidden to worship him. This doctrine of a begotten Godhead is, to us, equivalent to a denial of his Godhead in all but a nominal sense. Nor does the fine-spun reasoning of his being eternally begotten, remove the difficulty. The effect would be the same, whether begotten in eternity or in time. Alike it must and would imply a begetting or producing God, anterior to his development as God; while, to our view, the denial of his self-existence is a denial that he exists at all, as an absolute, eternal, independent and self-existent God. The argument, that the son is as old as his father, that a father cannot exist without a son, is quite too feeble to bring conviction to our mind. Stripped of all artificial verbage, the naked question returns; Is Jesus Christ absolutely, eternally, independently, underivedly, the very supreme and eternal God? To this question we emphatically answer, Yes! and as such we hope to worship and adore him when the earth and heavens shall be no more; and even now we have no sweeter song to sing than,
"Jesus, my God, I know his name,
His name is all my trust;
Nor will he put my soul to shame,
Nor let my hope be lost."
February 15, 1860.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4