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Written by Wilson Thompson   

OF THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST, AND OF A GOSPEL CHURCH AND HER DUTIES.

Revelation chapter 2, from the 18th verse to the end of the chapter. "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write, These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass."

In this verse the Son of God commands John to write to the angel of the church in Thyatira; and we are naturally led to consider these two characters.

First: The Son of God.

Secondly: A gospel church.

1st. We shall consider the character of the Son of God. To have a proper knowledge of this glorious personage, is one of the most important points in revealed religion. It embraces in it everything which can make us wise unto salvation. Therefore it is said in the scripture, "to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent, is eternal life." Jesus Christ, when he was in this world, declared himself to be the Son of God, and substantiated this declaration by many miracles. Hence it is said, "He was declared to be the Son of God with power." Christ is called the Son of God 44 times in the scriptures; and he is called the son of man 84 times. May we not be safe in saying that he is both the Son of God and of man? I never remember of his being called the son of man until he was born of Mary; and so I conclude, the appellation son of man was expressive of his corporeal body or flesh. Yet we find many of the works, which he done as God, and which could only be done by the divine nature, are attributed or ascribed to him as the son of man; such as forgiving sins on earth, exercising all judgment, &c. He is often called indefinitely the Son, without expressing his relation to God or man; but I believe it is always implied and perhaps where it is not expressed we may fairly understand both; for I find, that when his power as God is spoken of, and ascribed to him as Son, it is spoken of as a given power, as he says of himself, as the Son, speaking to a Father, "Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." The reason why Jesus was called the Son of God, when he was born of the virgin, is stated by the angel Gabriel to Mary in the following words: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore, that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the SON OF GOD." Here the power of the Highest and the Holy Ghost are both spoken of, and because of the agency of both in the conception of Jesus, he is called the Son of God. Let those who are fond of personal distinctions and divisions in the Godhead say which of these two is the Father, for the power of the highest came upon Mary, and the Holy Ghost overshadowed her. Now if these were distinct persons, I ask which of the two was the Father of Jesus? But if this popish tri-personalism be left out of sight, and the power of the Highest, and the Holy Ghost, be the same thing and God be intended, then it is proper to say that holy thing which was conceived by the power of the highest God, who is a Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, should be called the Son of God, or the Son of the most high God. But we do not believe that the divinity of Jesus Christ was originated in this conception; therefore his sonship in this sense, was not in his divine nature, for his divine nature was not begotten by this overshadowing; but this begetting was the flesh of Christ, which came of the tribe of Judah and seed of David, according to the scriptures. Christ was both God and man in one person; as God, he was the root of David; as man he was David’s son; hence he is called the root and offspring of David; and as God was manifested in the flesh, many of his divine works are spoken of as the works of the Son, and properly too, because the Son performed those works, but performed them by the power, not of his begotten flesh, but of his unbegotten and underived divinity .So we see that the divinity of Christ was not begotten when his flesh was conceived in the womb of Mary. Therefore his being called the Son of God by the overshadowing, is with reference to the flesh of Christ, and not his divine nature, nor do I think any believer in the proper divinity of Christ, will contend that his divine person was begotten at this time; although some, nay, many, very many, have been vain enough to argue, that he was begotten as God by eternal generation; as if it added some greater honors to him to be begotten so long ago, than to be begotten at the conception of Mary. But a begotten being is but a begotten being, be him begotten whenever he may; whether in time or eternity as to eternal generation, I know nothing about it; but if there is any such a thing, I would much sooner believe that the human nature was that begotten, than his divine nature or divine person, as it is called. It matters not to me how far back men trace the divine Jesus; if they hold him as God, to be a Son, that is, a begotten being, it is to me so low and so diminutive an idea of the Immanuel, that I cannot believe it to be any better than Arianism under disguise; yet I am fully persuaded that many great men in Israel have believed it, not seeing the dishonor which it attached to the divinity of Christ, to make him a begotten divine person; and while men do not see this, I feel bound in charity to bear and forbear with my dear brethren, believing that their hearts are much better than their heads on this subject; and that from tradition and education they are blind to the evils of their system. May the good Lord help us all to know and love the truth, and enjoy the freedom which it administers.

Jesus as the Son of God was in existence before his conception or birth of Mary. He was seen by Nebuchadnezzar about 580 years before his birth of Mary according to Dan.3:25; and his form was like the "Son of God." David in the second Psalm exhorts the kings to be wise, and "Kiss the Son." But we need not start the Son of God into being in the fiery furnace, for God created the worlds by him, as his Son, according to Heb.1 :2, and as his Son appointed him heir of all things. Now we have traced Jesus under the name Son, back from the gospel era, to the creation of the worlds, and we are done with dates, and therefore cannot tell when he was brought forth; but we are taught the fact, that is, we are taught that he was brought forth before the creation of any part of this world. Read Proverbs 8th chapter, and especially verses 22, 23, 24, 30, 31. From this chapter we are taught, in as plain words as we could now select from our language, that he was brought forth, set up, &c., and all this before the beginning of creation. In the above mentioned chapter this personage, who was brought forth before all worlds, is expressed to be God’s delight, rejoicing before him and as being with him. John in the first chapter of his gospel expresses the same; in verse 1, he says of the Word, that it was "with God;" in the 14th verse he says, this "Word was made flesh," and in the 18th verse this Word is called, "The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father." I have showed elsewhere, that both natures: divine and human, was in this Word or wisdom, but it was not the divine nature that was brought forth, set up, &c. , as mentioned in Proverbs, nor that was with God, and in his bosom mentioned by John, but this that was brought forth, and set up, was with God, and was his delight, dwelling in his love, called the bosom of the Father. This was the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father. Now we do see that the Son of God was brought forth before creation, but how long before I cannot tell, for the scriptures have not said, and I will not conjecture. I know there are many who are much opposed to the idea of this early existence of the human nature of the Son of God, and as the scriptures speak of him as a Son, so long before his birth of Mary, they have placed his sonship in his divinity and hold him to be begotten as God! I have never doubted the divinity of Christ, or that his divinity is the only wise God; but I do not believe that his divinity was begotten, but his human nature being begotten, brought forth and set up, was strictly speaking, the Son of God; yet the human nature being brought forth, begotten, or derived of the divine nature, and on that account in complete subserviency to the divine will, he moves in the very channel prescribed by the divine; so while he is sent into the world, he comes freely, not to do the will of the begotten human nature; but the will of the Father or unbegotten divinity; not to do a work which the begotten son or man had laid out, but to do a work which the Father or begetting divinity had given him to do; and as the Son had heard and learned with the Father so he judged; the Son or human nature did not even seek his own glory .In support of these assertions, read the 8th chapter of John, where Christ speaks largely of his own sonship, and we know that his testimony is true. Now some person, who is more tenacious for old tradition than for truth, may try to pervert the above remarks into the appearance of a denial of the proper divinity of the Son of God; but when anyone wishes to pervert the obvious views of a speaker, I think it hardly worth while to spend much time to answer his criticism; but I will here state, once for all, that I am as firm a believer in the divine deity of the Son as any man; and whoever can select words to express it in the highest colors; those are the words I would choose to use, when I express it; and this is reason enough why I should refuse to acknowledge his divinity to be a begotten divine person. The filiation of Christ is in his human nature; which was brought forth before all worlds; and it being properly the Son of God, being derived or brought forth before all worlds, and in every sense in complete agreement or conformity to the divine will, was actuated by it, and voluntarily performed all that the divine nature dictated to be done. Now as the human nature was begotten, and not the divine nature; so the human nature strictly speaking was the Son of God, and not the divine; but both natures being in one person, he is both God and man, in one Christ. The divinity of the Son of God is the MIGHTY GOD, who never was begotten, but was the EVERLASTING FATHER; and his human nature was the begotten Son of the Father. Both these natures, being in one person and proper to him as his own, without delegation from any other person, or being begotten of any other person, or in any sense dependent on any other person; he exists of himself, and by himself, and these two whole and distinct natures, being in one person, he is both God and man, both Father and Son; and as the man was the visible form of the invisible God, and the glory of the divine nature, or God was only visible in the visible man, in whom he was manifested; so this personage is properly called: God or Man, Father or Son, and is called both a given Son and the everlasting Father, in one verse; Isa.9:6. In the first chapter of Revelation, this person is spoken of as appearing to John in the Isle of Patmos; and he declared himself to be both these natures in the same person. In verse 11, he declares, "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." When John heard this declaration behind him, he turned to see the voice or who it was that spoke to him; and saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of them, "one like unto the son of man," verse 13; this personage which John says was like unto the son of man, whom he described by his clothing, a "garment down to the foot, and a golden girdle about the paps;" by his head and his hairs, "white like wool, as white as snow," and by his eyes, ‘‘as a flame of fire, and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters." This august personage had in his right hand seven stars, the hieroglyphics of the angels, or ministers of the seven churches in Asia, [and perhaps may denote ministers in all ages] was in the midst of the golden candlesticks, the hieroglyphics of the churches; "and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." The overpowering glory of this son of man [whom John calls afterwards the Son of God] was such, that mortality fainted beneath its blazing splendor, and John fell, as dead at his feet; but he laid his right hand upon him, saying, "Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Here are seven particular traits or descriptive characteristics in this personage, and these John distinguishes, at the commencement of the seven epistles, in the second chapter, verses 1, 8, 12, 18, and chapter 3:1, 7, 14. But all these characters are in one person; in the first chapter, and at the 11th and 19th verses, commands John to write these things, and John at the second verse calls his writing, "the testimony of Jesus Christ." The same person that John speaks of in chapter 1, verse 13, as being "one like unto the Son of man;" he calls him in the 2nd chapter, 18th verse, "THE SON OF GOD, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass." This person here called the "first and the last," "the Alpha and Omega," &c., was surely the unbegotten, underived God; but the same person declares himself to be, him that liveth and was dead; and John says, he was like unto the Son of man. These declarations show his human nature, for his divinity, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, was never dead. But this person, including both natures, fills every character ascribed to him; but if his divinity or divine person was begotten and distinct from the Father, he could not have been called the first; for the Father who begot him was before him; and if the Holy Ghost was another person distinct from them both, he was not the last, for the Holy Ghost proceeded from them; and if he was not the whole triune God he would not have been called "the Alpha and Omega." The Alpha being the first letter in the Greek alphabet, and the Omega the last, the whole alphabet is included between these two letters, and this person being both shows that the whole trinity of God was in him. And as this person was alive, and had been dead, and is called the Son of man, it shows that the human nature was in him; and this same person hath "the seven spirits of God," see chapter 3:1, or the fulness of the Spirit of God, and is the prince of the kings of the earth. So he is the same person whom the prophet speaks of when he said, "Unto us a Son is given, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. " He is both the Son and the everlasting Father in one person, the Son in his human nature, and the Father in his divine nature.

Thus while his Sonship, strictly speaking, belongs to his human nature, which was begotten, and so is called his only begotten Son; [the reader will not be vain enough to think of this begetting in the ordinary sense of the word, but a production brought about by the power or love of God, as Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, and it is called a begetting, Rev.1: 5, Col.1:18,] yet the eternal Godhead was proper to, and belonged to the same person, so that the divinity of Christ is so far from being tarnished by saying that his sonship, strictly speaking, belongs to his human nature, that it is exalted; for if his divine nature was the Son, strictly speaking, we must admit, that his divine nature was begotten or produced, and this is too degrading an idea of the adorable Jesus. Then God, the unbegotten, underived, self-existent, and independent Jehovah, and the mediator, the man Christ Jesus, were in one person, and did appear to John under a sevenfold character, as both God and man; and being visible in the human nature, and appearing like the son of man, and possessing all the glories of the deity; he is declared to be the "Son of God." This person was walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks or churches; to show his care and attention to his people; he holds the stars or ministers in his right hand to show how he supplies them; he has the seven spirits of God to store them with gifts and graces; and appears in all the translucent glories of his divine majesty , paternal attention, and humble but deeply interesting sonship. O that he may ever hold his ministers in his right hand. O that his countenance, like the sun in its strength, may dispel every cloud of error from his church. May his eyes like flames strike tenor to the hearts of his enemies, and his voice like the sound of many waters, call his friends to the feast of his love. This person with both natures was both God and man; and John was his disciple and apostle, who would obey his command, in writing for the good of his church; and this is the command, "Unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write, these things saith the SON OF GOD."

This brings me to the second proposition, which is to consider: What we are to understand by a gospel church. The term church is used in different senses in scripture; sometimes for all the elect of God, as in Eph.5:25, 26, 27, 32, and many other places. Sometimes for all true evangelic believers, as in Acts 2:47, 5:11 , 8:1. Sometimes for a particular located body of believers, who for local conveniences have formed themselves into a body, to be governed by the scriptures, and keep up the worship of God socially, and observe the ordinances of the gospel. In this sense I understand the term church to be used in the verse under consideration; for there were seven churches in Asia, and the one mentioned in this verse was in Thyatira. A church in this sense I understand to be any number of believers that may have been baptized [I mean immersed] upon profession of their faith in Christ. All the churches in the apostles’ days were composed of such materials. When John came to prepare a people for Christ, or materials for the first gospel church, he came "baptizing with water;" and when Jesus entered on his gospel ministry , he was baptized, and so was manifested to Israel by water. And his disciples by his command continued baptizing, as it is said, "Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples." From the baptism of John, the example of Christ, the continuation of the same practice by the disciples, and the express command of Christ in the commission he gave to the apostles after his resurrection, there remained no doubt of the propriety of water baptism, in order to church membership; so on the day of Pentecost, when many cried out, "What shall we do," being pricked to the heart under Peter’s sermon, with a full conviction that Jesus was the Christ, baptism was enjoined upon them, and as many as gladly received the word were baptized, and the same day there was added to the church about three thousand. This was the first gospel church, and we see these were baptized believers. Here in this first church, the members were thus prepared; first, they received the word gladly; secondly, they were baptized; thirdly, they were added to the church. And then they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers. This was the first church, and a model for all the rest; and they were built of materials made ready in the same way. So the church at Samaria was built of materials who rejoiced at Philip’s preaching, and "when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."

The church at Cesarea was formed of the same kind of materials; for when Cornelius had sent for Peter, he went and preached Jesus to them, and when he perceived that they had received the Holy Ghost, he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord; see Acts l0th chapter. In Acts, l6th chapter, you will find that the church at Philippi was formed of similar materials; Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened, and her household which were the brethren, that the apostles comforted; and the jailor who rejoiced, believing in God with all his house; these two families of believers and brethren were all baptized, and so this church was formed.

Read the 18th chapter of Acts, and you will see that the church at Corinth was composed of baptized believers; for when Paul preached in that place, "Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized." These Paul calls "the church of God, which is at Corinth;" see I Cor.1:2, and declares, I Cor.11:2, "that they kept the ordinances as he had delivered them."

The church at Rome was composed of materials who had been baptized unto Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death, nay such as were buried with him in baptism; see Rom.6:3.

The churches at Galatia, Colosse and Ephesus were all composed of baptized believers, and so the apostle says, Gal.3:26,27, "For ye are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." This church was therefore composed of baptized believers.

The church at Colosse was composed of saints and brethren in Christ; see Col.1:2, and in chap.2: 12, who were "buried with him in baptism, "&c.

The church at Ephesus was of the same sort of materials. See Acts 19:1, 4, 5. Paul having passed through the upper coasts to Ephesus, and finding certain disciples, said unto them, "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." On which account he calls them "the saints which are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus." Eph.1:1.

Thus we see the primitive church at Jerusalem was a body of baptized believers; and that when a sore persecution arose in that place, the brethren were scattered abroad, and went in different directions, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ; and when their ministry was blessed, and the people believed, they were baptized and formed a worshipping assembly, under the gospel charter or laws of Christ; and enjoyed amongst themselves as a church all the ordinances of the gospel, or of a gospel church. Therefore we are well supported in saying, that the members of the apostolic churches were baptists, or baptized believers, nor do we read of any church, in the apostles’ days, that were not composed of such members. And as the gospel gives us but one model of a church, [that at Jerusalem] and the apostles were as particular in the formation of all the above named churches, to have them baptized believers, as Moses was in building the former tabernacle according to the pattern showed to him in the mount; so the church at Thyatira, seems to have been a congregated body of baptized believers; for this city of Thyatira, was in Asia Minor, and the apostle in Acts 19: 10, says, "All they who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." And it is pointedly said, Acts 11: 14, that "Lydia, who was of this very city , was baptized with her household, and being at Philippi, as a trader when this took place, she probably returned afterwards to Thyatira, her place of residence, and was the seed of the church, which John now writes to; if so, [and it seems to be so] this was a baptized church of believers, and Lydia might be addressed, and the church of God in thy house, as well as another. Thus we have seen the pattern of the first gospel church, and the constant example of the apostles in forming all the other churches after this pattern, that a church in the apostolic sense is a congregated body of baptized believers, who for local convenience have united themselves in a religious society , to be governed by the laws, and maintain the doctrine and ordinances of Christ; and those societies, formed of unbaptized and unbelieving members are not churches in the scripture sense of the word.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 September 2006 )
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