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Bible Dictionaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary


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I detain the reader at this word, because of its importance. Not in respect to the real meaning of the word itself, either in a natural or spiritual sense, for both are generally understood, but for an higher purpose, It is easy to apprehend what is meant by the term begotten, in natural generation among men. (See Matthew 1:2, etc.) And we no less understand the scriptural meaning of spiritual generation, in application wholly to God. They who are new born in Christ, are expressly said to be born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13) But the meaning of the word begotten, when applied to the person of Christ, differs wholly from both these and (according to my apprehension of the scriptural sense of the word) is perfectly another thing. I beg to explain myself upon it.

If we look at the several Scriptures which speak Christ being begotten, we find the word connected at different places with different terms. Sometimes, Christ is said to be the first begotten, and at other of the Father. (See Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5; John 1:14; Joh 3:16; Joh 18:1; Joh 4:9; Psalms 2:7) And some have supposed, that these expressions refer to the eternal generation of the Son of God as God. But with all possible respect to the judgement to those men, I venture to believe that those phrases have no reference whatever to that subject. The eternal generation of the Son of God as God, is declared in Scripture as a most blessed reality; and as such, forms an express article of our faith. But as God the Holy Ghost hath not thought to proper to explain it, in any part of his revealed word, it becomes an article of faith only, and here the subject rests. We are not called upon to say, how that eternal generation is formed, any more than we are to tell how Jehovah exists, or how that existence is carried on in an unity of substance, while distinct in a threefold character of person. Our capacities are, at present, incompetent to form any adequate conception, and perhaps, even in our future state, they never may be able.

But in relation to the Son of God, as the first begotten and the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, if those terms are confined to the person of the Lord Jesus in his character and office as Mediator, here all difficulty vanisheth to the proper apprehension of our mind; and under divine teaching, we are not only brought to the full conviction of the glorious truth itself, but to the full enjoyment of it, in knowing the Lord Jesus Christ in his mediatorial character, God and man in one person, the Head of union with his people, and the Head of communication also to his people, for grace here and glory for ever.

In this sense, Christ is the first begotten and the only begotten of the Father before all worlds. In this sense, that sweet passage in the Psalms is explained, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." (Psalms 2:7) Begotten; that is, when in the decree concerning redemption, the Father predestinated the Son unto the being and office of the God-man Mediator. And this day means, when in the covenant transactions, the Lord Jesus stood up the Head of his church, at the call of God the Father. Had this begetting referred to the eternal generation of the Son of God as God, how could it be called this day? Eternity is never spoken of as a day in Scripture. For when the Holy Ghost would describe the eternal nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, he speaks of him in the past, present, and future; "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8) And hence, when describing also the eternal and everlasting nature and essence of him, the high and holy One, who inhabiteth eternity, the Holy Ghost saith, "from everlasting to everlasting thou art God." (Psalms 90:2) Everlasting, in the language of Scripture, is without beginning without ending. So that in the eternal generation of the Son of God, as the Father is eternal everlasting in his personal character as Father, must the Son be eternal and everlasting in his character as Son. If there had been a period in eternity when the Son of God was not in that same period the Father would not have been the Father; for both, in the very nature of things, in the constitution of each character, have been equally existing together. Hence, (according to my view of things) nothing plainer than that in those expressions of the begotten and only begotten of the Father, is not the least reference to the eternal generation of the Son of God; but those, and the like of Scripture, respect only the person of the Jesus in his character and office of Mediator. In farther confirmation of this doctrine, I beg the reader to turn to Isaiah 42:1-9 compared with Matthew 12:17, etc. Isaiah 61:1-3 compared with Luke 4:16-22; and yet as particularly as either, the Lord Jesus, under the Spirit of prophecy, describes his commission as Mediator both from the Father and the Holy Ghost, ages before his incarnation, and the consequent execution of his office as Redeemer to his church and people.

I hope that I have explained myself in the clearest manner, in order to render my meaning perfectly intelligible to the humblest capacity. And if so, and my view of this sublime subject is agreeable to the unerring word of the holy Scripture, and if the reader's apprehension of this doctrine corresponds with mine, he will find (what I bless the Lord I have found,) much sweetness in such precious views of the Lord Jesus Christ. The distinction is, in my apprehension, highly important in the exercises of faith, between the eternal generation of the Son of God as God, and the Son of God as Mediator, begotten to the office mid character of Mediator. The distinction is essential, that we may not confound things, and thereby lessen our proper conception of the Son of God, "one with the Father over all, God blessed for ever." And it is no less most blessed and interesting to behold the Son of God thus begotten of the Father, the God-man Mediator, when, for the gracious purposes of salvation, he stood up in his covenant character, that he might be both the head of union and of fulness for communication to his people in grace, and in glory, for ever.

I beg the reader to pause over a subject so infinitely sublime, and so infinitely consolatory. And I beg of him farther to pause and remark with me, the wonderful grace manifested to creatures, such as we are, in the Lord's giving such blessed manifestations of himself. Instead of being astonished that we know no more, the only astonishment is, that we know so much. Great must be the communicated influence of the Holy Ghost to our poor fallen nature, to enable us to grasp any thing relating to the GODHEAD, in his threefold character of person, in this our fallen state. By and by, we are promised that we shall know, even as we are known; that is, as far as our spiritual faculties, ripened into perfection, are capable of advancing. But here below, we are only, in our highest attainments, in the twilight of knowledge, and our best discoveries are but as seeing "through a glass darkly."

See Generation.

Before I depart from the contemplation of this sublime subject as it refers to the person of God's dear Son, I would beg to drop a short observation on what I humbly conceive to be a misapplication of the term begotten, as is sometimes made in reference to man, I mean, when ministers themselves, or others for them, are said to have begotten souls to Christ by the instrumentality of their preaching. It is more than probable, that the first idea of such a thing took its rise from what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 4:15) I have begotten you through the gospel. And in like manner, concerning Onesimus, the apostle saith, Whom I have begotten in my bonds. (Philemon 1:1:10) But whatever the apostle meant by the expression, certain it is, that the act of the new creation, as the act of the old, is wholly of the Lord. And uniformly in Scripture, the act of begetting is altogether ascribed to the Lord. (See 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 5:1; 1Jn 5:18) And, perhaps it would be no difficult matter to shew, that the apostle did not mean what some have supposed, that when he used those expressions, he considered himself as their spiritual father. The very term sounds haughtily, and not scripturally; Paul himself would hardly have joined such words together: in application to one he thought the chief of sinners. But even admitting the contrary, supposing it be granted, that this inspired apostle used the term in relation to himself, what warrant would this be for the use of it among ordinary ministers? If it be said, that it is only meant to imply their instrumentality, I answer, that the term spiritual father is still unsuitable and unbecoming. There is no warrant in the word of God for such an appellation. And when it is farther considered, how much it tends to minister to spiritual pride, it is a very plain proof it cometh not of the Lord. I shudder to think to what lengths this misapplication of the words begetting souls to Christ, and spiritual fathers, have hurried men, when I have heard it hath been said from the pulpit, or committed to the press, that such preachers, at the last day, will have to say, "Behold I, and the children which the Lord hath given me!" Words which can belong to none but the Lord Jesus Christ, and never were intended to be used, or can with truth be used, by any other. (Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:13)

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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Begotten'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. London. 1828.

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