Abstract of Systematic Theology By James Petigru Boyce

ST. 0001 Abstract of Systematic Theology

Abstract of Systematic Theology|

 

by

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,

 

Joseph-Emerson-Brown Professor of Systematic Theology in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 

 

First published in 1887

 

To the HON. JOSEPH E. BROWN,

 

President of the Board of Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,

 

this book is respectfully dedicated, as a token of high personal esteem, and in recognition of his deep interest in the cause of education, and especially of the theological education of the Christian ministry; as evinced, among other generous gifts, by his endowment in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of the Chair of Systematic Theology, with which the author is officially connected. 

 

Transcribed by Roane Hunt, Spencer Haygood, Todd Wilson, and Dan Wright Proofread by Cindy Kemp, Lewis Noles, Sam Hughey, and Henry Holloway HTML by Lewis Noles

 

CONTENTS

 

PUBLISHERS INTRODUCTION
BoyceSyst: ST. 0002 Publisher's Introduction

PREFACE BY JAMES P. BOYCE
BoyceSyst: ST. 0003 Preface by James P. Boyce

 

Chapter 1: THE SCIENCE OF THEOLOGY.
BoyceSyst: ST. 001 Chapter 1: THE SCIENCE OF THEOLOGY.

 

Chapter 2: THE BEING OF GOD.
BoyceSyst: ST. 002 Chapter 2: THE BEING OF GOD.

 

Chapter 3: REASON AND REVELATION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 003 Chapter 3: REASON AND REVELATION.

 

Chapter 4: THE UNITY OF GOD.
BoyceSyst: ST. 004 Chapter 4: THE UNITY OF GOD.

 

Chapter 5: SPIRITUALITY OF GOD.
BoyceSyst: ST. 005 Chapter 5: SPIRITUALITY OF GOD.

 

Chapter 6: DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
BoyceSyst: ST. 006 Chapter 6: DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.

 

Chapter 7: THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD.
BoyceSyst: ST. 007 Chapter 7: THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD.

 

Chapter 8: THE POWER OF GOD.
BoyceSyst: ST. 008 Chapter 8: THE POWER OF GOD.

 

Chapter 9: THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
BoyceSyst: ST. 009 Chapter 9: THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

 

Chapter 10: HOLINESS, GOODNESS, LOVE AND TRUTH.
BoyceSyst: ST. 010 Chapter 10: HOLINESS, GOODNESS, LOVE AND TRUTH.

 

Chapter 11: JUSTICE OF GOD.
BoyceSyst: ST. 011 Chapter 11: JUSTICE OF GOD.

 

Chapter 12: THE WILL OF GOD
BoyceSyst: ST. 012 Chapter 12: THE WILL OF GOD

 

Chapter 13: THE DECREES OF GOD
BoyceSyst: ST. 013 Chapter 13: THE DECREES OF GOD

 

Chapter 14: THE TRINITY
BoyceSyst: ST. 014 Chapter 14: THE TRINITY

 

Chapter 15: PERSONAL RELATIONS IN TRINITY.
BoyceSyst: ST. 015 Chapter 15: PERSONAL RELATIONS IN TRINITY.

 

Chapter 16: OUTWARD RELATIONS OF THE TRINITY
BoyceSyst: ST. 016 Chapter 16: OUTWARD RELATIONS OF THE TRINITY

 

Chapter 17: CREATION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 017 Chapter 17: CREATION.

 

Chapter 18: CREATION OF ANGELS
BoyceSyst: ST. 018 Chapter 18: CREATION OF ANGELS

 

Chapter 19: FALLEN ANGELS.
BoyceSyst: ST. 019 Chapter 19: FALLEN ANGELS.

 

Chapter 20: CREATION OF MAN.
BoyceSyst: ST. 020 Chapter 20: CREATION OF MAN.

 

Chapter 21: PROVIDENCE.
BoyceSyst: ST. 021 Chapter 21: PROVIDENCE.

 

Chapter 22: THE FALL OF MAN.
BoyceSyst: ST. 022 Chapter 22: THE FALL OF MAN.

 

Chapter 23: THE EFFECTS OF THE SIN OF ADAM.
BoyceSyst: ST. 023 Chapter 23: THE EFFECTS OF THE SIN OF ADAM.

 

Chapter 24: THE HEADSHIP OF ADAM.
BoyceSyst: ST. 024 Chapter 24: THE HEADSHIP OF ADAM.

 

Chapter 25: CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
BoyceSyst: ST. 025 Chapter 25: CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.

 

Chapter 26: THE PERSON OF CHRIST.
BoyceSyst: ST. 026 Chapter 26: THE PERSON OF CHRIST.

 

Chapter 27: THE OFFICES OF CHRIST.
BoyceSyst: ST. 027 Chapter 27: THE OFFICES OF CHRIST.

 

Chapter 28: THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST.
BoyceSyst: ST. 028 Chapter 28: THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST.

 

Chapter 29: ELECTION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 029 Chapter 29: ELECTION.

 

Chapter 30: REPROBATION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 030 Chapter 30: REPROBATION.

 

Chapter 31: OUTWARD AND EFFECTUAL CALLING.
BoyceSyst: ST. 031 Chapter 31: OUTWARD AND EFFECTUAL CALLING.

 

Chapter 32: REGENERATION AND CONVERSION.
BoyceSyst: St. 032 Chapter 32: REGENERATION AND CONVERSION.

 

Chapter 33: REPENTANCE.
BoyceSyst: ST. 033 Chapter 33: REPENTANCE.

 

Chapter 34: FAITH.
BoyceSyst: ST. 034 Chapter 34: FAITH.

 

Chapter 35: JUSTIFICATION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 035 Chapter 35: JUSTIFICATION.

 

Chapter 36: ADOPTION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 036 Chapter 36: ADOPTION.

 

Chapter 37: SANCTIFICATION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 037 Chapter 37: SANCTIFICATION.

 

Chapter 38: FINAL PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
BoyceSyst: ST. 038 Chapter 38: FINAL PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.

 

Chapter 39: DEATH AND THE SOUL’S IMMORTALITY.
BoyceSyst: ST. 039 Chapter 39: DEATH AND THE SOUL'S IMMORTALITY.

 

Chapter 40: CHRIST’S SECOND COMING, AND THE RESURRECTION.
BoyceSyst: ST. 040 Chapter 40: CHRIST'S SECOND COMING, AND THE RESURRECTION.

 

Chapter 41: THE FINAL JUDGEMENT.
BoyceSyst: ST. 041 Chapter 41: THE FINAL JUDGEMENT.

 

Chapter 42: THE FINAL STATES OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED.
BoyceSyst: ST. 042 Chapter 42: THE FINAL STATES OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED.

 

 

ST. 0002 Publisher's Introduction

PUBLISHER’S INTRODUCTION[1]

 

 

            With this volume of Dr. James Pettigru Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology, the Baptist Republication Society begins its mission into the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Society is owned and operated by The Missionary Baptist Church, Hayward, California, with Dr. R. L. Crawford, the president and director. Dr. R. E. Pound II, Pastor Grace Baptist Church, Galdwin, Michigan, is secretary. The Society is dedicated to the republication of the old Baptist classics of the past which are true to the old faith of the Baptists expressed by the Calvinistic and Landmark systems of truth. We promise our members that we will not waste their time or money with works by any Arminian and unbaptistic writers.

            Dr. Boyce’s Abstract occupies a place all its own in the field of systematic theology among American Baptists. He is the only work by an American Baptist writer who was a complete Calvinist as well as a total Landmark Baptist on church truths. If the reader is interested in Calvinistic theology, he can do no better than Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology.

            We feel that the chapter dealing with the atonement is the finest treatment of theological literature which has ever been issued by any theologian—Gill[2] and Calvin not withstanding. The value of Boyce on the atonement over the other masters is that they lived when many of the so-called heresies were not then openly developed. Calvin lived and wrote before the heresy of Joseph Arminius while John Gill lived and wrote before the heresy of Andrew Fuller. Dr. Boyce presents the eight major theories and objects to them and answers their objections against the true doctrine of the atonement.

            Dr. Boyce’s work will give many Baptists the opportunity of receiving the lectures of the outstanding Baptist mind of American Baptist history. His great advances in the Baptist cause is the south consisted in the formation of the Southern Baptist Seminary, now located at Louisville, Kentucky. Up to that time the Baptists of the Sough had no educational units for their ministers to attend. And the present day ideas and theories taught in such places do not represent the doctrines and ideas of Dr. Boyce. He was a solid Baptist and formed the Seminary to educate our American Baptists in the historic principles of the past. Dr. Boyce’s own words explained that his intentions were developed because:

 

historians who have professed to write the history of the church have either utterly ignored the presence of those of our faith, or classed them among fanatics and heretics; or, if forced to acknowledge the prevalence of our principles and practice among the earliest churches, have adopted such false theories as to church power and the development and growth of the truth and principles of Scripture, that by all, save their most discerning readers, our pretentions to an early origin and a continuous existence have been rejected.

Three Changes in Theological Institutions. 

 

            Dr. Boyce received this theological impressions from such theological institutions as those found at Charleston, Brown University and Princeton Theological Seminary under the professorship of Dr. Archibald Alexander, and Dr. Charles Hodge. By the advice of Dr. Hodge, Dr. Boyce gained some acquaintance with the masterly work on Theology by Francis Turrettin, of Geneva, teaching from 1653 to 1687. In many respects this is the most outstanding work of Calvinistic theology every produced. It gratified Boyce’s taste for theology and helped to form, in a lasting manner, his Calvinistic convictions. Following these years of education, Dr. Boyce worked as an editor of the Southern Baptist, in Charleston, for about one year. During these times Dr. Boyce became very active in the work among the American Negro. He had unusual success as an evangelist among the slaves of the Southern states.

            Dr. Boyce was born in Charleston, South Carolina, January 11, 1827, to a mother and father considered as the wealthiest family in South Carolina. Mr. Kerr Boyce, a banker and planter, considered the life of his son a waste. Under the preaching of Dr. Richard Fuller, and the revival at Brown University, Dr. Boyce was converted in 1846 and baptized by the First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina where he was also licensed to preach on September 14, 1847. Following many years in the field of pastoral work and education at such places as Furman University, in 1855, Dr. Boyce put forth all his sources into the opening of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Greenville in 1859. In 1877 Dr. Boyce led in the removal and settlement of the Seminary to Louisville, where it now remains.

            About 1872 Dr. Boyce issues his “A Brief Catechism on Bible Doctrine” and then his “Abstract” was first published in 1882. The present edition comes from the enlarged and revised edition of 1887. Dr. Boyce also produced lectures on such subjects as Polemics, Church Government and Pastoral Duties, Mormonism and The Local Visible Ecclesia.

            In his seminary work in Louisville, the Baptist denomination was finding itself being invaded with many modern and new ideas. One of which was the growing, but unhistoric and unbaptistic practice of receiving immersions from other than Baptist churches. Due to his opposition to alien immersion, Dr. Boyce had one professor, Dr. Williams, removed from the chair of Church Government in the Seminary. And later, he opposed the reception of a candidate for membership into the Louisville Broadway Baptist Church, who wanted to join on his campellite immersion. Although the pastor, Dr. J. L. Burrows, was very unsettled on the issue, Dr. Boyce opposed the reception and the church stood with him. One can only consider the condition that prevails among so many Baptists today as a complete apostasy from the old Baptists who made America the home of the great Baptists that she has been!

            Dr. Boyce was a sound Baptist, and he left his influence on thousands throughout America. In the later years of his life, the great theologian went into Pau, France for help in his failing health. His work being over, he went to his reward from Pau on December 28, 1888.

            In the Baptist ranks today much evil is found in theology and practice. Arminianism has raised it unholy head in every corner and those Baptists who are still true to the Bible and historic position of Baptists are found among the ejected, exiled ministers and churches. The Society prays that this work by Boyce will claim many for the true and historic Baptist position on the atonement, predestination, and other related doctrines.

            Among the legions of evils found among the Baptists today, we recognize the efforts around man’s total depravity and absolute inability. Man is dead in sins, not sick and able to help himself. Being dead in sins, he must be saved by Christ, not save himself with Christ’s help. The shows his inability. Dr. Boyce’s work on human sin and its effects will make clear the old Baptist doctrine of total depravity and inability.

            Furthermore, the salvation of the sinner is simply a work of the mercy and will of God without any mixture of human will or works. This will be seen clearly by Dr. Boyce’s treatment of election. That Christ is the Saviour, not the helper to save, will be seen in the section on the atonement. And the Scripture teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, general and effectual calling, are made very clear by the Doctor’s marshalling these glorious truths before your eyes. And the doctrine of eternal security and inability to lose one’s salvation will become more evident upon your heart by a study of Dr. Boyce’s remarks.

            But, in addition to the presentation of the five points of the old, historic Baptist gospel, Dr. Boyce’s work will correct, among the elect of God, the drifting tendencies toward the doctrines of Sabellianism. Is God one person with three personalities—Sabellianism? Or is God three persons in the unity of the Godhead—Orthodox Trinitarianism! Baptists today are mostly heretics on the doctrine of the Trinity of God. This is a proven fact among most associations and conventions. Their conception of God is as one person with a multipersonality. Dr. Boyce does an excellent presentation of the old Baptist position on this subject. If you are saved, you cannot read these points of Boyce and not be a firm believer in the old, orthodox faith of the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead!

            Dr. Boyce was a supralapsarian, as was true with most of the older complete Calvinists. Sublapsarianism came among Baptists following the turn of the nineteenth century through the work of Andrew Fuller, the great English Baptist. With Fuller’s views of a general redemption and limited application, many Baptists left the older position for a more suitable position. The evil this has done we will never realize until the day of Christian judgment. However, should the reader fear the supralapsarian position because of the statement that God created some men for the mere purpose of damning them, a statement which no supralapsarian ever made or believed, he will joy in Dr. Boyce’s development of reprobation. Dr. Boyce will make you see that there is a difference between reprobation and damnation. While we believe in unconditional reprobation, we also believe in judicial and righteous damnation because of sins. Supralapsarians have never taught that damnation occurred while man was considered in the holy state. If you will read and consider the Scriptures, the old Baptist view will become more meaningful to you.

            And in conclusion, should the reader need any further words of exhortation regarding Dr. Boyce and his ability, we close with these words of testimony from the Baptist Encyclopaedia:

 

            He has great intellect, tireless energy, and extraordinary executive ability, and to him, more than to all others, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary owes its existence. His private library comprises over 13,000 volumes. Page 122.

 

R. E. Pound, II, Th.D., D.D., B.A., Secretary and Director,

R. L. Crawford, Th.D., D.D., Ph.D., President and Director.



[1] Some obvious typographical errors are corrected by Jimmy Barber

[2] I question the elevation of Boyce above John Gill.

ST. 0003 Preface by James P. Boyce

PREFACE

 

            This volume is published the rather as a practical text book, for the study of the system of doctrine taught in the Word of God, than as a contribution to theological science. It was originally prepared for the use of the classes taught by its author, and is indeed but a reprint with numerous and extensive alterations and additions of a book privately printed in 1882, exclusively for his students. He hopes that other teachers may find it useful as a text book for class instruction. It may also be of value to the large number of pastors who have had no advantages of seminary study, or to others who may choose to take up again the subject of which it treats, after the method which is herewith suggested. The experience such pastors have already had, and the knowledge, though only partial, heretofore acquired, will make this very practicable, even without the aid of an instructor. In writing the book for his pupils, the author found it necessary, while attempting a comprehensive exhibit of Systematic Theology to make it so brief s to be within the compass of about one hundred recitations. This was made possible by omitting extensive exegetical discussions, and by presenting theology with as little reference as possible to its polemical aspects. The separate existence of schools of Exegesis and of Polemic Theology, in the institution in which he was teaching, made this not only practicable but advisable. For a like reason there are not here discussed such matters as belong to what is commonly known as Church Government. These have been taught by the author in a school separate from that of Systematic Theology. The material appropriate to these other schools of instruction will therefore only be found in this book when necessary for the proper presentation of some topic belonging to Systematic Theology.

            It ought to be added that the study of the text book has been accompanied by familiar talks by the professor, by free discussions with his pupils, which are always encouraged, and has been supplemented by extensive reading in the Latin Systematic Theology class of the works of Turretine and Aquinas and other writers in the Latin language.

The author deems it appropriate to state the method of instruction which he has always pursued. Thus will not only be exhibited the reason why this science is presented in this abbreviated form, but also suggested to private students, as well as teachers, what seems to him the most effective method of study for the mastery of any subject. There are special reasons why such thorough wook should be applied to Systematic Theology.

            In the use of this method the student is taught to prepare a brief but accurate analysis of each lesson. With this thoroughly memorized, every paragraph is then studied so as to fix in the mind the thoughts presented in it. It is possible to do this with great minuteness. With this preparation the recitation is made without the use of questions, not in the very words of the book, but in such as naturally proceed from the attempt to state all the thoughts of the lesson. This will be found to be quite difficult at first, and will make it necessary that the earlier lessons be very short—of only three or four pages. But the student will very soon acquire great facility, not only in preparing these analyses, but also in reciting from them. The Advance lesson of one day is repeated as an Immediate Review on the next. After five or six lessons, in connection with the Advance and Immediate Review, a Back Review is made comprising the equivalent of two Advance lessons. This soon goes over the ground already covered in the Advance, and permits the beginning of another Back Review. This is followed by another Back Review, and yet again by others until the book is finished; each series of the Back Reviews being an increase in length of the one which had preceded it. The student will thus be constantly advancing, and at the same time reviewing, until, on the completion of the book, he will have so fully mastered all its contents as to be perfectly familiar with every portion of it, and to be able to recall any part of it at will.

            The usefulness of this method of study is not urged upon the single experience of the author of this work. It had been for some time in use when he was a student in Brown University, over forty years ago, and has not only been continued there ever since, but has been adopted by numerous other teachers, who there learned its great value. It not only accomplishes the mastery of any study, but it trains the mind in analyzing and remembering readily any book that may be read, or discourse that may be heard. It cultivates the memory to a marvellous degree. It especially begets logical accuracy and arrangement of thought. It is also one of the best means of cultivating readiness of extemporaneous speech. Could the writer illustrate these points from his experience, both as pupil and instructor, he is sure that many would be led to undergo the great labour in the beginning for the greater profit in the end of pursuing this plan of study.

            The author has aimed to make the discussions in this volume especially Scriptural. He believes in the perfect inspiration and absolute authority of the divine revelation, and is convinced that the best proof of any truth is that it is there taught. He questions, indeed, whether man can know with absolute certainty any truth which is not thus uttered by God. Into all else must enter the liability to error which arises from human imperfection. So far, therefore, as the Scriptures speak, and so far only does man have certainty of knowledge. This has led, therefore, in proofs presented, to the constant quotation of the language of Holy Writ. In this reprint these have been all taken from the Canterbury Revision as furnishing the most accurate translation into English of the inspired originals. Such proofs should always be most satisfactory to pastors for their own use, and most efficacious in the proclamation of the truth to their hearers.

            The presentation of the truth in the Scriptures, however, is not made by mere statement only, but also by emphasis of statement. Its true aspects are like those of a country or continent, not to be measured only by lines and angles, but by elevations and depressions; or like the execution of a piece of music which is not sufficiently accomplished by the striking of the correct notes, but by giving each its due length of time, its due emphasis of touch, with that expression which is only possible for one whose soul enters into the harmony of sound, and to whom the music speaks thought as distinctly as would written or spoken words. The possession of such soul-sympathy with the Divine Word and the power to feel and express, with delicate exactness, the true measure and weight of its emphasis of statement would give the system of theology in all the perfection which Revelation affords. The lack of this is the great cause of difference of doctrinal sentiment among those who really revere and gladly receive the Scriptures as God’s Word. The tendency of Calvinists, for example, is to emphasize, perhaps too strongly, the sovereignty of God, and to receive only in a guarded manner the statements as to the freedom of the human will[1]. That of Arminians is exactly the reverse. The differences between these are due not to any contrariety of teaching in the Word of God, but to human failure to emphasize correctly. It is not probable that this can ever be wholly avoided. But it is unquestioned wisdom and duty to approach so far as possible unto perfection. In order to secure unity Christians are often urged to ignore their differences and unite upon the great points of general agreement. But the better plan is to recognize these differences as starting-points for such investigations as shall result in greater nearness to the truth, and therefore in greater nearness to each other. To this end it is necessary that a system of theology should be mapped out before the human mind. The more correct the system the better will it be. But one had better have an incorrect system than none at all. To this every reading of the Word of God, and indeed all study of divine truth will contribute; to verify it, to correct it, to add to it, to take away from it, and to test and adjust its emphasis of statement. It is necessary only to remember always that the system in the mind is a survey of the truth, and not the truth itself. The worst map a surveyor can obtain is better than none at all, thought it gives him only a starting-point. If any of the metes and bounds can be established there will be great gain. As the land becomes more familiar the map can be made more perfect. The lines and angles having been fixed, the measurements of the elevations and depressions can be added, and the survey finally made as exact as the instruments will allow.

            The map of theological science has already, in great part, been agreed upon. But it is necessary that such accepted facts be received in their exact statement and their proper emphasis, and not be magnified nor emasculated because of any special theories or any unwillingness to believe what God has taught.

            Hence the value of this method of study, which, by a thorough mastery of it, maps out theology in the mind and furnishes the bases for future corrections or additions. This book is published from a desire to lead many others to such study, and to furnish a practical means of pursuing it. The author fervently prays God to bless it to this end, as well as to all other useful purposes for which it may be a fit instrument.



[1] The responsibility of man is better than the freedom of the human will.

 

 

ST. 001 Chapter 1: THE SCIENCE OF THEOLOGY.

CHAPTER I

 

THE SCIENCE OF THEOLOGY.

 

THE word Theology means literally a discourse concerning God but in analogy with other words, as geology, chronology and biology, it means the science which treats of God

 

It naturally concerns itself with such questions as these: Is there a God; can he be known; what is his nature, and character; what are the relations he sustains to the universe, particularly to intelligent beings possessed of spiritual natures, and above all, as most important to us, to men; in what ways has he made himself known; and especially in what aspect does he reveal himself to them as sinner. This is Theology proper.

 

In connection with this last relation it treats, particularly, of man as a creature of God placed under the government of his moral law. It inquires into his original condition of innocence, and happiness; the manner in which he fell there from; and his present state of sinfulness, and condemnation and inability for self-rescue. This is Anthropology.

 

It is thus led, also, to discuss the nature of the salvation which God has provided as seen in the person and character of Jesus Christ, through whom it has come, and in the works of active and passive obedience, by which he has wrought out reconciliation to God. This is Soteriology.

 

In like manner, also, does it consider the nature and work of to Holy Spirit, through whom man is led to accept the provisions of God’s grace, and to attain through penitence and faith unto a salvation in Christ, which consists in freedom, not from condemnation only, but also from the dominion and defilement of sin, and in attainment of the holiness and happiness of children of the Heavenly Father. This is Pneumatology.

 

It follows man also beyond the death of the body, and makes known the future state of both the righteous and the wicked, as we before as after the resurrection of the body, together with the final judgment of both these classes, and the heaven and hell which shall be their respective abodes forever. This is Eschatology.

 

Finally it teaches the great end which God is accomplishing through all his works, in the manifestation to all his creatures of his own glory, as seen in its twofold aspect of mercy and justice in his dealings with this fallen race of man. This is Teleology.

 

The term "theology" is applied, not only to the science itself, but to any treatise on that science. This is true, not only of a discourse upon the one true God, but even of one upon the many false gods of the heathen. It is also true, though the treatise be not a scientific discussion, but simply an imaginative narrative or poem. Thus "Orpheus and Homer were called theologians among the Greek, because their poems treated of the nature of the gods." (Charles Hodge Sys. Theol. Vol. 1, p. 19.) Even the poems of Ossian, though probably written in England within the past century, is a book of theology. Mythology is not less theology because it treats of false gods, and in works of the imagination.

 

The term "theology" is, however, especially applicable to learned and scientific works upon God, or the gods. Of these, many are to be found connected with Heathenism. Such are the Vedas, the most ancient of the sacred books of the Hindoos. Such is the Zendavesta of the ancient Persians. The Edda, which sets forth the Scandinavian mythology, consists of poetic songs, and also of dialogues on the origin of the gods, on the creation of the world, and other like topics. See Gardner’s Faiths of the World, Vol. 1, p. 795.

 

The most valuable discussions among the heathen, however, are to be found in the works of the Greek philosophers, the greater part of which, when not directly upon the nature of the gods, involve questions as to the origin, of the world, and the presence therein of a divine controlling Spirit, as well as upon the nature of the soul, and its duties, and its immortality. Of their works many have come down to us in fragments only, while a large portion of what they taught is found only in the records and reports made by others; but there are also many complete works which profess to have been written by the authors of these speculations. Confessedly the most important of these Greek writings are Xenophon’s Memorabilia of Socrates, and the works of Plato, and Aristotle. But from the beginning of Grecian philosophy in Thales and Pythagoras to its culmination in Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, was not quite two hundred years, while its whole history covers a period of six centuries and a half before, and five centuries after the coming of Christ. No human mind can estimate the value of these contributions, nor the influence they have exerted even over those possessed of the Christian Revelation.

 

The Latin writers also produced several works of a theological character, pre-eminent among which is that of Cicero "Concerning the nature of the Gods."

 

Theology is, also, frequently used for the set of opinions exhibited by a writer, or class of writers, in any one or more productions. Thus we have the theology of Calvin, or of Arminius, or of Baxter, that of the Reformation, Princeton theology, and New England theology. Men also speak of the theology of the Old, or of the New Testament, the theology of the Psalms, of the various Evangelists, especially of John, and Petrine, and Pauline theology.

 

Theology is defined as a science. It is eminently worthy of that name. It lacks nothing that constitutes a science. It is concerned in the investigation of facts. It inquires into their existence, their relations to each other, their systematic arrangement, the laws which govern them, and the great principles which are the basis of this existence, and these relations.

 

As in other sciences, there is much that is absolutely known, much beyond this that is little questioned, much that is still matter of speculation, and much as to which there is decided difference of opinion. New facts are constantly developing in this science, as in others, which enable us to verify the facts and principles heretofore accepted, when true, and to modify them when erroneous. New theories present themselves for the better explanation of facts already known, and are tested by these, and by others subsequently discovered, and are received or rejected, according to their ascertained correctness. The knowledge of the past is built upon for progression towards the future.

 

The discovery of the facts is conducted, as in all other sciences, by study of what the field affords. Geology examines the earth, and derives its facts from the structure of that earth. Astronomy investigates the stars. Theology, likewise, studies the sources of its knowledge. Each science seeks to arrive at the truth. The votaries of each are certain that it is to be found in their fields, either partially, or completely. The perfect attainment of all facts prepares for the exactness of scientific knowledge. The absence of any must make the knowledge incomplete. The proper generalization of all is essential in this, as in all other kinds of science. A full knowledge of all the facts, and a perfect generalization of them, will constitute theology an exact science.

 

Theology is also as sensitive to the absence of facts as is any other science. The astronomer finds that his calculations, based upon correct theories, are not exactly verified, and at once suspects the presence of some disturbing body as the cause of this variation. So, also, in theology. The omission of a single fact, however small, must affect the whole universe of doctrine. The common mind does not perceive this, and hence is not prepared to value the discovery of the new fact. But the theologian finds in the new and more exact adjustment, thus made possible, the proof of the truth of his whole system, and therefore prizes it, even sometimes beyond what he ought.

 

Regarded as a science, theology may be classified in various forms.

 

1. According to the method of revelation, into natural and supernatural theology.

 

Natural theology embraces what man may attain by the study of God in Nature. This extends not only to what is beheld of him in the Heavens and the Earth, but also in the intellectual and spiritual nature of man himself.

 

Supernatural theology is that derived from such special information as God has given by what we commonly call Revelation.

 

2. According to the purpose which it contemplates, into Systematic Theology, also called Didactic, or Dogmatic; Polemic or Controversial Theology; and Practical or Experimental Theology.

 

3. According to the main religious idea associated with it, as Pantheistic Theology; Deistic Theology; Rationalistic Theology, &c.

 

4. According to the name of its founder, or the race in which it originated, or flourishes, as Christian Theology; Judaistic Theology; Mohammedan Theology, &c.

 

5. According to the sources from which it is derived, into Biblical Theology; Christian Dogmatic Theology; and Ecclesiastical Dogmatics.

 

Biblical Theology consists in the facts of the Bible, harmonize by scriptural comparison, generalized by scriptural theories, crystalized into scriptural doctrines, and so systematized as to show the system of truth taught, to the full extent that it is a system, and no farther. As in Botany, one gathers all the plants of the world, and arranges them without attempting to introduce new plants, even to fill up manifest gaps, so Biblical Theology, duly presented, show scriptural truth in all the perfection, and in all the imperfection with which God has given it.

 

True Biblical Theology should recognize the inspired source whence come its teachings. But, as now technically used, Biblical Theology refers to the statement and development of doctrine by the various Biblical writers, or in other words to the development of Jewish religious thought without assuming or denying the inspiration of the Bible.

 

Christian Dogmatics is not confined, as is Biblical, to the facts and theories and statements of doctrine expressly and formally set forth in the Scriptures. It comprises in addition such philosophical explanations as seem necessary to make a complete and harmonious system. These additions are not necessarily non-scriptural, for they are often the embodiment of the very essence of Bible truth though not of its formal utterances. They may be as much a part of Scripture as the theory of gravitation is of the revelation of nature. They should never be so far unscriptural as not to be either probable inferences from the Word of God or natural explanations of its statements. The more perfectly they accord with that word, and the greater the proportion of its facts which they explain, the more clearly do they establish their own truth, and the more forcibly do they demand universal acceptance. Failure to explain all difficulties or to harmonize all facts does not deprive them of confidence, but only teaches the need of further investigation. Direct opposition, however, to any one scriptural truth is enough to prove the existence of error in any Christian Dogmatic statement.

 

Ecclesiastical Dogmatics consists of authoritative statements of doctrine put forth by some body of Christians claiming to be a church of Christ. These are to be found in creeds, symbols, decrees, apologies and resolutions. They may also appear in the form of authoritative discussions of the creed or system of doctrine of any church.

 

It thus appears that a perfect system of theology will combine all of these classes. It must be based upon Biblical dogmatics which shall have so collected and systematized all the teachings of a full revelation as to be concurrent with the facts and doctrines of Christian Dogmatics.

 

The Ecclesiastical Dogmatics will have gone no farther than fully authorized by the Word of God, and therefore will concur with Biblical Dogmatics, while the fullness of revelation will have left to Christian Dogmatics no speculative questions; but in all its discussions it will have been able to attain unto full knowledge of the facts, and ascertainment of all the doctrines.

 

But this concurrence can only be when Theology has been reduced to an exact science. This can never be looked for in this life.

 

The causes of doctrinal variation will therefore be apparent.

 

If men came to the study of Biblical Theology with minds entirely unprejudiced, capable of examining its truths with the same mental powers, and with the same amount of study, all would agree as to its facts and doctrines. But this cannot be done. Mental capacities vary. All men have their prejudices. All have not equal time for study, and all use not equally the time that they have. Thus variety is certain even in studying Biblical Theology.

 

The same causes increase this in Christian Dogmatics, because here the human element enters more largely than in Biblical Theology; while reverence for antiquity, opposition to change, and the influence of the learned of the past and the present, prevent the alteration of Ecclesiastical creeds which embody Ecclesiastical Dogmatics, and thus lead men constantly to continuance in error, and refusal to accept truth.

 

These facts show with what spirit we should study Theology:

 

1. With reverence for truth, and especially for the truth taught in the Word of God.

 

2. With earnest prayer for Divine help.

 

3. With careful searching of heart against prejudice.

 

4. With timidity, as to the reception and propagation of new doctrine.

 

5. But with a spirit willing and anxious to examine, and to accept whatever we may be convinced is true.

 

6. With teachable humility, which, knowing that God has not taught us in his word all the truth that exists, not even all the truth on many a single point, accepts with implicit faith all that he has taught, and awaits his own time for that more full revelation which shall remove all our present perplexities.

 

The advantages of studying theology systematically are several.

 

1. We thus ascertain all that nature and the Scriptures teach on each point.

 

2. We compare all these teachings one with another and are enabled to define their mutual limitations.

 

3. We are brought face to face with the fact that our knowledge is bounded by God’s Revelation, and are led to acknowledge it as its source.

 

4. We are consequently warned not to omit any of the truth ascertained from any source, nor to add to it anything not properly embraced therein. A departure from this rule will lead into inevitable error.

 

5. The harmony, and consistency, which will be found in all God’s teachings, from whatever source we may draw them, will become conclusive proof of the divine origin of revelation. This will result, not only from a comparison of what Reason and Nature teach, with the revelations of God’s Word, but of each of the several books of the Bible with the others, and especially of the body of the Old Testament as one book, with that of the New Testament as another.

 

6. We are thus led to value each of the doctrines of the word or God. Each is true. Each has been revealed that it might be believed. We cannot therefore omit any one, because of its forbidding aspect, or its seeming unimportance, or its mysterious nature, or its demand for great personal sacrifice, or its humiliating assertions, or requirements, or the free terms upon which it assures of life and salvation.

 

 

ST. 002 Chapter 2: THE BEING OF GOD.

 

CHAPTER II|

 

THE BEING OF GOD.|

 

THE fundamental doctrine of Theology is that there is a God; for if this is not true, there can be no science of God.

 

The first duty of Theology, therefore, is to set forth the reasons men have for believing that such a being exists, and is a true object of dependence and worship.

 

1. GOD CAN BE SUFFICIENTLY KNOWN.|

 

1. It is objected, however, to any science of God, that, if there is a God, he cannot be so known and comprehended as to be a true object of worship.

 

(1.) If by this is meant that we cannot know the essential nature of God, it proceeds upon a principle upon which we can know nothing, for we do not know the essential nature of anything. We know not even the nature of our own essence. We cannot know that of any existent being or substance, not indeed of the smallest atom of matter. We can only judge what it must be from the qualities it is perceived to possess, or from its outward manifestations. In like manner we can discover something of the nature of God from the different ways in which he has manifested himself in ourselves and in the universe.

 

(2.) If it is claimed that we cannot know him because his nature may be or must be wholly different from ours, the natural answer is that we do know many things which differ greatly from the mind which takes cognizance of them. Thus our own bodies, though purely material, are known through our mental faculties, and yet we believe mind and matter to be essentially diverse. We comprehend also our modes of existence, and those of other objects in time and space, though these modes are essentially different from the thing which exist in them.

 

Besides, until we know what God is, we cannot be sure that he is in all respects different from ourselves. If there are any points of similarity, we can know him so far as these exist; and, if it is true that we have been made, in any respect, in the likeness and image of God, our knowledge of God may approach at least to such completeness as to enable us to recognize his more manifest perfections, and to perceive that because of these he ought to be reverenced and worshipped.

 

Guided by the analogy of our own natures we expect to find it him a personal, conscious, intelligent, and moral being, and this expectation is confirmed by the manifestations of his presence, and operations in the universe. This teaching of analogy is not worthless because it has also led some to believe that God has a material body as has man. Analogy does not furnish proof, but only probability in some instances only possibilities. It does not show what God is, but what he may be. That which it suggests is confirmed or denied by other sources of knowledge. But we are so far taught through its aid that we learn that God must either be a Spirit, such as we are, or that he must have a higher nature to which belong all those attributes of spirit which constitute conscious personality and intelligent purpose.

 

(3.) Does the objection mean that we cannot know God because we cannot come in contact with him through the senses as we do with our fellow-men, and cannot learn his nature through his conduct and personal action as we do theirs? But it is not only through personal contact with men that we know that they are and what they are; we both know and judge of them by their works, though we have never seen nor known them personally. In like manner through our senses are we brought into contact with God, who though not material, is an artificer in material things, and has displayed before us, in the universe around, the evidences of his wisdom, power and goodness. Surely so great a structure as this, which manifests a grasp of thought, and a power of performance so wonderfully beyond that of any human being, and a minuteness of detail and execution and finish, the limitations of which defy discovery through the most powerful microscope that man can ever make, shows that it has been fashioned, if not created, by some being of personal purposing skill and power immeasurably beyond anything that we can possibly conceive.

 

(4.) Is it asserted that the outward phenomena of the universe cannot give such mental and spiritual knowledge of God as is essential to our apprehension and worship of him? Even were this true, we get that knowledge through our own spiritual and mental operations. We find in ourselves consciousness of existence, of thought and of purpose, and thus learn not only what these are in other intelligent beings, but that they must exist in every being whose nature is as high as, or higher than, that of man. We perceive that the mind is governed by laws no less binding and effective, no less regular and permanent, than those of matter. In the study of these we learn the nature of mind and spirit, not by direct apprehension of their essence, but, as in matter, by indirectly apprehending them through their phenomena. That nature we ascribe to the Divine Mind and Spirit. The differences of mental and spiritual capacities in men convince us that there are degrees of greater or less in mental and spiritual natures. Hence we assign to God mind and spirit in the highest degree, because as their author he must himself be greater than all his mental and spiritual creations.

 

But, in addition to this, we have a peculiar source of information. We find our minds capable of intuitive knowledge. Some abstract principles need only to be understood, and the conviction that they are true immediately follows. That "the whole is greater than an one of its parts" is perceived as soon as understood, as is likewise that "a thing cannot be, and not be, at the same time." Whence is this knowledge? We say that the mind is so constituted that it cannot believe otherwise. Who has so constituted it? It must proceed from some one upon whose veracity we rely, when we accept what our nature teaches. But, if from any one, then there is a creating mind, and that mind operates directly upon mind without the intervention of matter, and thus teaches us truth. When, then, we find other convictions of like nature relative to our dependent upon a higher being, our obligations of duty to him, our sense of right, and wrong, and the duty to do the right, and not to do the wrong, we cannot avoid believing that these intuitions come from the same source, and are his instructions to us as to our moral relation and duties to him.

 

2. But it is further objected that, if there is a God we cannot know him because he must be the Absolute, the Infinite, the Unconditioned, and, therefore, cannot be an object of comprehension to us, whose nature is finite, and whose mode of existence is only relative, finite and conditioned.

 

But the objection itself presents its own refutation. How do we know that God must be such, if there is a God? In whatever way we know this, we know at least that much of God that he must be the Absolute, the Infinite, the Unconditioned. Even before we are supposed to know that he exists, therefore, we know this much of the nature which must be his, and upon the first evidence of his existence have the right to attribute to him all that is therein contained. The characteristics thus ascribed to him, reveal him, therefore, to us, as an infinite existence, without other limitations than are found in his own nature, or essence, who, as Absolute, cannot be dependent, but must be the source and Sovereign of all else; and, as the Unconditioned, cannot be subject to time, and space, and matter, and must therefore exist without possibility of growth, or increase, and without that succession of periods, such as yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, and those measures of space, and location, which belong to matter. The God, therefore, who is thus proclaimed to be unknowable is at least known as a self-existent spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in all the perfections that belong to his nature. Let but the least evidence appear that there is a God, and at once this nature may be ascribed to him.

 

The recognition and contemplation of such a being, though his other perfections are unknown, awaken the reverence and fear, and conviction of the littleness and dependence of man which enter so largely into the sense of the supernatural and lead men everywhere, when in danger or distress, to call upon God, though not moved to prayer by any promise of answers thereto.

 

3. Again, it is objected that though we should learn something of God, we can only attain partial knowledge of him. This is readily admitted. But partial knowledge is actual knowledge as far as it goes. We have complete knowledge of nothing. All our knowledge is partial. The child only partially knows its parent. The subject only partially knows his sovereign. Yet enough is known for the recognition of dependence, and of the duties of obedience and love. So, also, with the Heavenly Father, the King of Kings; although we can only know him in part, we know enough to lead us to revere his sovereign power, and gratefully adore his Fatherly affection. The Scripture teaching upon this subject is twofold.

 

(1) It agrees with Agnosticism in asserting that God cannot be fully known. The questions of Zophar have been, with full reverence for God, and earnest worship for such an one as it is believed that he must be, the language of the pious of all ages. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as Heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than Hell; what canst thou know?" Job 11:7-8. Elihu is represented as saying, "Behold, God is great and we know him not." Job 36:26. And Job, after his description of God’s acts of power, declared, "Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?" Job 26:14. The Psalmist, referring to the Omniscience and omnipresence of God, cried out, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Ps 139:6.

 

(2) On the other hand, in opposition to Agnostics, the Bible declares that the partial knowledge of God attained by men is actual knowledge and not some inferior conception. God said through Jeremiah, "I will give them an heart to know me that I am the Lord," {Jer 24:7} and again "they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them." Jer 25:34. Our Lord himself, in his prayer to the Father, referring to those given to him that to them he should give eternal life declares "This is life eternal that they should know thee the only true God and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." Joh 17:3. The apostle who recorded this prayer uses this language, "He that knoweth God heareth us," {1Jo 4:6} and also "He that loveth not, knoweth not God." 1Jo 4:8.

 

The Bible, therefore, plainly teaches that God may be known, and so known as to be truly worshipped.

 

II ALMOST UNIVERSAL BELIEF IN GOD; ITS SOURCES.|

 

Belief in the existence of God has been almost universal among men. The same ideal of perfection has not everywhere been found. Some have gone no farther than to be moved by the sense of the supernatural, and to believe in a power to which they are subject, and upon which they depend. But at least this much is to be found in the lowest, forms of fetish worshippers. Others have multiplied the numbers and forms of those towards whom they have felt this sense of dependence, and have accepted the existence of many gods. Yet, among these polytheists, the traces of the One God have not entirely disappeared, for they have referred the gods themselves to one originating source. Some, following too closely the analogy of man’s nature, have believed God to be the animating soul of the world. The highest spiritual conception of God has been found only in those nations which have been recipients of his revelation. But the most ancient records show that, in the earliest times, the knowledge possessed by all was comparatively simple and pure.

 

So universal has been this belief, that but very few of the millions of the race in all its ages have denied the existence of God. It has been questioned whether these few have been deceived as to their actual convictions, or have been insincere in their avowal of Atheism; because it has seemed so impossible for man not to believe in a God. A greater number still have been skeptical; sometimes led by wishes born of depravity and sin, but, also, sometimes misled by philosophical speculations, and apparently earnestly desirous to know the truth.

 

But the firm conviction of mankind in general that this belief is unavoidable in any man in his normal condition, and that its absence is due to some crushing out or erasure of his necessary moral capabilities, is seen, not only in the general horror which men have for those who profess Atheism, but in the denial to such men of the right to testify in the courts of justice.

 

1. This almost universal concurrence of men ought to be ascribe primarily to tradition.

 

Belief in God has been handed down from parent to child through out all past generations. Some theologians are unwilling to recognize this fact or to accept it as a cause of the universal belief in God. Some have sought that cause in the idea of God as innate in the mind. Others have simply rested upon other arguments be God’s existence, and taken the universal consent of mankind as evidence that this is not an idea unnatural to them, since they have yielded ready assent to the proofs of it commonly given. But a recognition of the traditional teaching will not weaken the argument. Even if it does, it is a fact which must be acknowledged.

 

In favour of this as the primary source of this general belief it may be said,

 

(1.) That this is the natural manner in which every child among us learns about God. Its own questionings, or its parent’s convictions of the importance of this knowledge cause it to be imparted at an early period, and by direct teaching of the fact alone without proof.

 

(2.) Information obtained by travellers, and especially by Christian missionaries, teaches that our own customs agree with those of heathen nations, as they also do with those of Christendom in general.

 

(3.) This accounts for the fact, that, while the belief has varied at different times and places, it is held in the same form by almost every one within a single nation at a single period.

 

(4.) The uniformity, too, in which it has continued among any one people for many generations, is also proof of traditional origin.

 

(5.) The general existence of it in a purer form the nearer we approach the origin of the race, shows that belief in a God was the primeval belief of man, and has thence been handed down from father to son, until it has reached our own age and ourselves.

 

(6.) This accounts also for the fact that, when that faith has been corrupted, it has continued in the corrupted form until some new mental or spiritual force has arisen to introduce change, and to give new shape to the belief for some time to come.

 

2. The belief thus dependent on this traditional teaching is of great value as proof of the truth of this doctrine.

 

(1.) Its general prevalence shows that this doctrine is suitable to all mankind. It is one that, though worthy of the wisest thought, is not dependent upon philosophical conceptions, or abstract, or logical reasoning for its acceptance. The most ignorant of men have been able to grasp it. It is like that teaching of the Great Master, whom "the common people heard gladly." There has been something, in it, or connected with it, that has made all men believe it. What this is will be hereafter shown. But the fact that this simple teaching, from father to son, throughout all the ages, has been enough to make it dwell as a powerful and controlling influence in the hearts of the masses of mankind, is a strong proof not only of its truth, but also that it has come from God, whose universal gifts are of this simple nature, suitable to all.

 

(2.) That it has come down through all the ages, shows that it has come in contact with all the best thoughts of the wisest of mankind. That, in its study, the wisest and best, even among the heathen, have approached, in their noblest conceptions of it, to what we believe we have received through the revelation of God, affords a convincing argument, not only in favour of this noblest conception, but of the Divine Word which reveals it. The least that can be said is, that, after being subjected to every variety of thought, and philosophical speculation, this traditional belief has maintained itself as truth, and convincingly withstood every objection that has been brought against it.

 

(3.) The variety of forms in which it has appeared shows some universal cognition of some one or more fundamental truths which has led all men to believe in the existence of some kind of Divinity. It also teaches that, through the knowledge of no additional truth than such as is afforded by the light of nature only, some have attained more correct ideas approximating, though in very different degrees, that true knowledge which is attainable only through the revelations of Holy Scripture.

 

(4.) These simplest truths are seen to be a common possession of the higher heathen ideal, and of Divine revelation.

 

(5.) There is thus manifested, also, the existence of that knowledge of God in all men, which enforces the duty of worship and reverence, and causes accountability to him.

 

(6.) The continuance of this belief among those whose self-interest, because of sin, would naturally have led them to reject it, is a strong proof of the sincerity with which it has been held.

 

III IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD INNATE?|

 

The knowledge of the insufficiency of mere tradition to prove the truth of any doctrine leads us to seek some other ground of this universal belief of mankind. Tradition has been pointed out as the primary source of this faith. But it is primary, in point of time only, not as the real cause of the general acceptance of the doctrine. Neither does the belief in a God arise from any of the various arguments which have been devised for its support. All men reach conviction on this subject before they ever hear any discussion about it. To the mass of men the arguments have been utterly unknown. While these arguments are, therefore, to be presented as confirmatory proof, we must seek some other cause for this continued general belief of man.

 

The true reason of it is that such is the constitution of the human mind that it naturally accepts as true the idea it has attained of God, and rests upon brief in his existence, as a fact that ought not to be doubted.

 

1. This is generally expressed by the statement that the idea of God is "innate." But the expression seems to be unfortunate.

 

(1.) There are no innate truths in the ordinary acceptation of the word innate. The mind possesses no ideas independent of all suggestion, or inward contemplation. No truth becomes truth to the mind, until it is perceived to be truth.

 

(2.) If the idea of God were innate in the mind, as this word is commonly understood, that idea would be as perfect in one man as in another. But there are evidently various degrees of that perfection. These, therefore, must arise from the different measures of cultivation and thought, as well as from the different circumstances by which the elements which compose that idea in its perfection are suggested.

 

(3.) Inasmuch as the idea of God, possessed by most men in Christian lands, is the result of the teachings of the Scriptures, or at least of the philosophical studies of men of thought, and is therefore one of the loftier conceptions of God, when the innateness of such an idea is urged as a reason for belief in God, we are naturally met by the avowal, on the part of many, if not all, that they have no such innate idea.

 

(4.) Any idea of God which we have is not an idea of himself, but of certain relations existing between him, and man, or the universe, or of his relation to certain facts which we perceive in connection with these.

 

2. A better statement, therefore, is that the belief in God is based upon the intuitive perception by the mind of certain truths, which necessarily involve the existence of God, and of the verity of which it attains absolute conviction.

 

It has been already stated that man attains intuitive conceptions. He is not confined to a single method of obtaining knowledge. He arrives at truth through sensation. He is taught it by experience He believes testimony. He is conscious of himself. But he is also so constituted as to certain truths, that they are self-evident upon an intelligent conception of what is meant by them. No reasoning about them can make them, more convincing. No study of them, except as to the nature of the things affirmed, gives deeper conviction of their truth. No personal experience, nor testimony of others, gives stronger witness to their reliability. In each individual mind, according to its comprehension of what is meant by the things spoken of, there arises personal conviction of their indubitable truth. This is really what is meant, when it is affirmed that these ideas an innate in man.

 

All that is necessary, prior to such intuitive conception, is a knowledge of the meaning of the truth which is to be intuitively perceived. Take, for example, the mathematical axiom before quoted, "the whole is greater than any one of its parts." Before the truth of this is perceived, it is necessary to know what is meant by "whole," and "part," and "greater." As soon as these are known, the truth of the affirmation at once appears. It is on this account that the term "God," or the expression "the true idea of God," cannot be a part of an intuitive conception. We cannot know "God." We may know certain things about God. We have not "the true idea of God." We only have some true idea of God. Hence our statement was limited to the assertion, that "such is the constitution of the human mind that it naturally accepts the idea it has attained of God as true."

 

These intuitive conceptions are originally single. Sir William Hamilton makes simplicity a characteristic of intuitive truth. In opposition to this statement which he quotes, Dr. Charles Hodge contends that "all of the propositions of the First Book of Euclid were as plain at first sight to Newton as the axioms, and the same is true in our moral and religious nature. The more that nature is purified, and exalted, the clearer is its vision, and the wider the slope of its intuitions. * * * If a proposition be capable of resolution into simpler factors, it may still, to a powerful intellect, be seen as self-evidently true. What is seen immediately, without the intervention of proof, to be true, is, according to the common mode of expression, said to be seen intuitively." (Sys. Theol. Vol. 1, p. 193). Both of these writers appear to be right, and both wrong. Hamilton is correct in stating that simplicity is a characteristic of intuitive truth, but incorrect in maintaining, as a consequence, that no complex truth can he intuitively perceived. For the mind, in perceiving separately the correctness of two intuitive truths, may, at the same time, combine them into a single conception, if they are homogeneous, just as we unite the different qualities of any object, as a table, or chair, and express them by a single term. But the mind apprehends these separately before it thus connects them. Indeed, it never so unites them as not still to preserve their separable character, and to cognize them as such. "The clearer is its vision," and "the wider the slope of its intuitions," to use the figurative language of Hodge, the more distinctly separate and the more plainly plural do these intuitions appear.

 

3. In seeking, therefore, for the intuitive conceptions which enter into the idea of God, we ought not to be surprised that they are simple, and yet that two or more of them may unite in the proof of his existence. Thus is it, that, so far as God is known, his existence is intuitively known, however few or many may be the intuitions involved; for the mind, while originally perceiving them separately, still combines them together, and, as the result of all, as of each, believes that God exists. But the meaning of what is thus affirmed, in relation to a single intuition only, is far less than in relation to two, or three, or all.

 

Of these intuitive conceptions we shall find that only the simpler are universally accepted. Greater intelligence, cultivation and thoughtfulness lead to the knowledge of others by some. Were these so stated to all as to be comprehended, they would be as fully acceptable to all as to any. They are limited as to their reception, not because they are less true, nor because the nature of one man accepts, while that of another rejects them, but because they have either not been suggested to the intellect, or, if suggested, their meaning has not been understood. The more of these that we know, and the higher the nature of the thought conveyed by them, the purer and the greater will be the meaning to us of the being of God.

 

4. Some of the more manifest of these may be taken as examples of their nature, and of their manner in which men arrive, through them, at the knowledge of God’s existence.

 

(1.) That which is dependent must have its final support in something purely independent.

 

(2.) Derived existence must have its ultimate origin in that which is self-existent.

 

(3.) Every effect must have its cause, either within, or without itself.

 

The truth of the above affirmations must be admitted as soon as their meaning is perceived. But, if the first be true, there is some being upon whom men depend, and to whom, therefore, they are under obligations of duty and obedience, whom they must fear, and whose protection they must seek. This is the most general idea of God. If the second be true, the being upon whom men depend is, also, the one through whom they exist; or there are two beings, the one the source of life, the other the cause of its preservation and support. One of these will be independent, and the other self-existent. That the uncultivated should not perceive that these two are necessarily one, is not a matter of surprise. The possibility of this has allowed the existence of polytheism. But when they are thus united, the idea of God has been that of an independent, self-existent being, which is a complex idea, and is consciously based upon, not one, but two intuitive conceptions, though they are now united together. In like manner the third of these is accepted as soon as comprehended. It is only necessary to know what is meant by the terms "effect," and "cause within or without itself." This is attained through observation and experience. The idea of cause and effect is found even in very young children, who cannot be persuaded that anything has happened without a cause. Nor is it difficult to teach what is meant by "having the cause within or without itself." It may be illustrated by the difference between a clock moving its own hands because of its own mechanism, and the hands of the same clock moved by some person; or by that between a horse which has the power of self-motion, and the cart which moves only because he draws it. The meaning of the terms of this intuitive suggestion has not been difficult to comprehend, consequently the existence of God, as based upon it, has been generally accepted. To the common mind, especially, it has commended itself as teaching that God is the creator of the world, and thus accounting for the existence of all things that have been made. In this ease, also, men have not always associated the things which we see with the one God. In some forms of belief, they have divided the universe among more gods than one. In others, they have conceived of it as made by a god inferior to the Great Supreme, whom they recognized. But, in these varied ways, they have shown a universal acceptance of the idea of causality, and of the intuitive conception which arises upon its comprehension. The only objection made to it, is that of Hume and Kant, who have thought that the knowledge of causation must be limited by our experience. But this is an objection to the amount of evidence we have of the effects of causation, which truly is measured by experience only, but our knowledge of the universal nature of the law comes not from experience, but from intuitive conceptions based upon the knowledge of its meaning.

 

5. Other intuitive conceptions might be added which are not so simple, but which are as truly believed by those who comprehend them. Take for example some of those which enter into the idea of God as the perfect Being.

 

(1.) The distinctions of right and wrong must have some absolute standard, which is personal, conscious, unchangeable, and without limitations of time or space. But this is God.

 

(2.) Moral perfection cannot be merely ideal, but must have some real embodiment; else there could be no imperfection, and, especially, no, degrees of imperfection, since degrees imply the existence of that to which imperfection approaches, or from which it recedes, and this can only he absolute perfection. But absolute perfection is itself God.

 

IV THE ARGUMENTS WHICH CONFIRM THIS BELIEF.|

 

The theistic proofs have been divided into arguments a priori and a posteriori. This is a convenient division, although some of those a priori have in them some elements of a posteriori nature, and some of those a posteriori depend upon a priori principles. As to some of them, also, it is difficult to draw an exact line, and assign them to the one class or to the other.

 

An argument a priori is one to prove the existence of some effect, or fact, from the knowledge we have of an antecedent cause, or of some reason, or principle, in the nature of things, which necessarily involves the existence of a certain consequence.

 

1. Some of the arguments a priori in proof of God’s existence.

 

An argument a priori, for the Being of God, is one based upon some reason in the nature of things, or some principle cognized by the human mind, by which, independent of any examination of the works of God, we are led to infer his existence.

 

(1.) The most celebrated of all of these is that which argues the being of God from the idea we have of him in the mind. It is supposed to have been first presented Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, England, in his work called "Proslogium sen Allogium de Dei natura." His form of the argument may be briefly stated thus. By definition God is a being such as that no greater can be conceived of. But we can conceive of a being whose non-existence is impossible. If God, then, does not necessarily exist, we can conceive of a greater than God, which is contrary to the definition. Therefore, God must exist. See chapters 2, 3, 4.

 

This argument, from the idea of God in the mind, was a favorite with the Schoolmen. It appears in various forms in the works of many of them. It has, however, been commonly called the Cartesian argument, having been set forth with signal ability by Des Cartes. One form in which he gives it is based upon the idea in the mind of supreme perfection. To this we attain, though ourselves only creatures of imperfection. Whence is it? It must come from the All Perfect, who has stamped it on our being, as the artificer sets his trade-mark on the work of his intelligence.

 

Des Cartes also presents, in the following syllogism, an argument more closely resembling that of Anselm.

 

"To affirm that any attribute is contained in the nature or conception of a thing, is to affirm that such a attribute is true of the thing, and that it is surely contained in it;

 

"But, necessary existence is contained in the nature and conception of the Deity;

 

"Therefore, necessary existence is a true attribute of the Deity; or God of necessity exists."

 

See Blunt’s Theological Dictionary, Art. Theism: in which are also more full statements of all the above mentioned forms of this argument.

 

But the clearest and most complete presentation of this argument is given by Bishop Stilling fleet. Origins Sacral, vol. 1, pp. 484-492. The following is a mere statement of the syllogistic form presented without the arguments that support it.

 

That, which we do clearly and distinctly perceive to belong to the nature and essence of a thing, may be with truth affirmed of the thing; a clear and distinct perception in the mind being the greatest evidence we can have of its truth.

 

But we do have a clear and distinct perception that necessity of existence doth belong to the nature of God.

 

Therefore, he must exist. |

 

This argument, from the idea of God, has been strenuously objected to. Kant opposed it on the ground that "the mere supposableness or logical possibility of a perfect being, is no proof of the objective or real possibility of such a being, and existence cannot be inferred from a mere idea." Knapp’s ‘Theology, p. 86.

 

But, in reply to this objections it may be said that the argument against which it is prevented, does not prove the mere logical possibility, but the logical certainty, or necessity, for such a being. More over, it is not contended that every subjective conception must have an objective reality; but only that certain ones may have such a reality, and that this one, the idea of God, which itself involves the idea of necessary existence, must, in consequence of the idea thus involved, possess that reality.

 

Hodge objects that if it "has any validity it is unimportant. It is only saying that what must be, actually is." But this is not merely such an abstract statement. It is a proof that something namely, the being of God, actually is, because of the proof of the correctness of our conception that necessary existence belongs to his nature.

 

It has also been objected to it that "it confounds ideal existence with real existence" A. H. Strong’s Sys. Theol. p. 49. But certainly there is no confounding of ideal existence and real existence, abstractedly, nor of forms of ideal and real existence, generally, but the arguments only show the actuality of a single form of ideal existence, because the very nature of the idea involves its correspondent reality.

 

(2.) A second a priori argument for the existence of God was devised by Moses Lowman, and is from the nature of existence, and the relation between necessary and contingent existence. The following is a still more brief statement than the points of the argument, given by Dr. J. Pye Smith, in his First Lines of Christian Theology, pp. 99-101.

 

1. Positive existence is possible, for it involves no contradiction.

 

2. All possible existence is either necessary, which must be, and in its own nature cannot but be, or contingent, which may be, or may not be.

 

3. Soul existence is necessary, for if all existence were contingent, all existence might not be, as well as might be; and that thing which might not be, never could be without some other thing as the prior cause of its existence, since every effect must have a cause. If, therefore, all possible existence were contingent, all existence would be impossible; because the idea or conception of it would be that of an effect without a cause, which involves a contradiction.

 

4. Necessary existence must be actual existence.

 

5. Necessary existence must be always.

 

6. Necessary existence must be wherever any existence is possible.

 

7 There can be but one necessarily existent being, for two could in no respect differ from each other; that is, they would be one and the same being.

 

8. The one necessarily existent being must have all possible perfections.

 

9. The one necessarily existent being must be a free agent.

 

10. Therefore, there in one necessarily existent being, the cause of all contingent existence, that is, of all other existences besides himself; and this being is eternal, infinite, possessed of all possible perfections, and is an intelligent free agent,-that is, this being is God.

 

(3.) A third argument a priori is that of Dr. Samuel Clarke, in the Boyle Lectures which he delivered. It may be briefly presented thus.

 

Something must have existed from all eternity, for since something now exists, it is evident that something always was,-otherwise the things which now are must have been produced out of nothing, absolutely, and without cause, which is absurd, for nothing can be produced, and yet be without cause.

 

But, now, if something has existed from all eternity, either there must always have been some unchangeable and infinite being, or else an infinite succession of changeable and dependent beings, without any original cause, which is absurd.

 

Dr. Clarke does not discuss the absurdity of an infinite series in the past.

 

The impossibility of such a series appears, however, from its very nature. There can be no past infinite series, because an infinite series is one, the last term of which can never be attained, or completed. But, in an infinite series going backward, the term now present is the first of the series, and not the last. The last term of the series is really the first in existence. But that first was complete before the second. It has already existed. The series, therefore, as now before us is one, all of whose terms have already appeared, and the series, therefore, however indefinite in the numbers of its terms, is still a completed, and, therefore, a finite series. See this matter ably discussed by Rev. Joseph Tracy, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 7, pp. 613-626. Also Turretine, Theol., Vol. I, Book 3, Ques. 1, par. 6, p. 154.

 

The value of the arguments a priori has been questioned. But on the other hand they have seemed to some eminently satisfactory. To these, they have appeared to be clothed with the authority of God himself speaking through the constitution he has given to the mind, and its capacity for the intuitive conception of underlying principles. To those who perceive these principles, the proofs are as conclusive as the consciousness of their own existence, and as authoritative as the dictates of conscience. These principles are accepted, and arguments are formed upon them in the same way as in mathematical demonstrations, and afford those who perceive the truth of them actual demonstrations of the fact that God exists.

 

But many have thought them fallacious, and have denied the possibility of demonstrative proof that there is a God. To such the arguments a posteriors have alone seemed to be valuable. Whether or not this be true, they are certainly of much greater value in general, because much more simple, and better adapted to force conviction upon the minds of the masses of mankind.

 

2. The arguments a posteriori.

 

The value of these arguments has not been duly appreciated. Men have looked for that kind of demonstration of God’s existence, called mathematical, which can only arise from arguments based upon admitted axioms, and which proceed thence to their conclusions by invincible logical processes. Such arguments, if they exit, can only be of the nature of those a priori already considered.

 

But while no such demonstration is afforded by them, the arguments for God a posteriori are as conclusive as similar ones on any other subject. Their nature is precisely like that of those upon which all physical science is based, and upon which men act in all the affairs of life.

 

Physical science pursues the inductive method. It gathers all the facts in any matter. It recognizes that there are general laws which unite these facts in some one principle, and those who study them devise a theory to explain them. Such a theory must account for all the facts, and not be opposed by any one of them. If the series of facts can be traced very generally, and any theory an universally accounts for them, while no other can, that theory which at first in the presence of a few facts, was only probable, becomes more and more certain, and finally unquestionable.

 

Thus, the theory of gravitation has been accepted as a great law of the universe, binding it together, keeping all its parts in all their courses, and everywhere equally effective according to a fixed proportion of numbers, and yet seen only in its effects.

 

In like manner we arrive, according to the strictest scientific method of induction, at the existence of God. The only theory which accounts for the universe with all its phenomena is that which asserts that it has proceeded from him. This alone has been satisfactory in the eyes of most men, from the beginning of all historic records. Mankind have been incredulous as to the sanity or sincerity of those who have denied it. No scientific theory has ever been held about facts so universally existent and so generally known. None has dealt with matters of more vital importance or absorbing interest. None has been, as has this, an object of thought to every intelligent human being. None has so commended itself at once to practical men and philosophers. None, after having been so far forgotten, because of sin and ignorance, as to be remembered only in its name and its simplest facts, has risen to a beauty of conception which beyond all else constitutes the glory of Grecian philosophy; while at the same time its belief has been preserved in another race in its purity by a literature which, despite all tendencies to corrupt the theory, has maintained it in its purest form for generation after generation.

 

(1.) The first argument a posteriori to be considered is commonly called the cosmological, because it argues the existence of God, as a First Cause, from the effects seen in the world. It should, however, be named the argument from causation, to distinguish it from the teleological argument and others which are equally cosmological.

 

A very striking form of it was put forth by Bishop Berkeley and is quoted in Dwight’s Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 79 and 80:

 

"We acknowledge the existence of each other to be unquestionable. We say that we know this from our senses. Yet, after all, it is intuitively certain that what we see is not the living, thinking being which we call man. On the contrary, they are merely effects of which that living, acting thing is the cause. We conclude the existence of the cause from the effects.

 

"So in the universe around us we perceive a great variety of effects produced by some cause adequate to their production.

 

"This cause is God, or a being possessed of sufficient intelligence and power to contrive and bring them to pass.

 

"If it be said that these are only the effect of certain inherent powers of matter, and mind, and, therefore, demand no extrinsic agency, the answer is that this affects the conclusion only by removing it one step farther back in the course of reasoning."

 

By this is meant that these inherent powers are only effects which themselves demand an adequate cause.

 

It will be seen that this argument is based upon the law of causality. Hence it should be called the argument from causation.

 

I proceed now to give this argument in another form, simpler indeed, but yet more complete.

 

It may be stated syllogistically thus: |

 

A. Every fact or effect must have its adequate cause, either within or without itself.

 

B. There are effects in the universe which have no adequate cause, either in themselves or in the universe.

 

C. Therefore, there must be an adequate cause for their existence in some being without, which is the Supreme Being, the cause of all things.

 

We consider first the proof of the major premiss of the syllogism namely, A., that every effect must have its adequate cause, either within or without itself.

 

Objection 1. It has been objected to this that there is no such thing as causation, and that all of which we have any experience is mere antecedence and consequence.

 

But it may be replied that experience teaches us that there are effects in some consequents which are the result of relation to, and power in certain antecedents.

 

We admit the existence of many antecedents and consequents between which there is no relation of cause and effect, but experience plainly teaches that relation in others.

 

This has been so far admitted that Hume and Kant have simply attempted to confine the law of causation to our experience. But

 

(1.) It is evident that causes must exist independently of our experience, and that when we see an effect (namely, something evidently requiring some power for its production), we know that it has had its adequate cause, even though we have never had experience of its special cause. Indeed one of the most important branches of scientific inquiry is into the unknown causes of existing phenomena, which, without experience, we know must be effects, adequate causes. Thus Geology leads to inquiries into the cause of the original stratifications in the rocks, the existence of fossil remains, and the phenomena connected with the upheavals of rocks. So Astronomy presents its problems about the perturbations of the planets, the movements of stars and their dissappearances, the spot upon the sun, and the rugged volcanic condition of the moon. So also Medicine forces investigation into the origin of disease, as of yellow fever. Even Social Science seeks adequate physical causes for matters in which the human will or accident seems to have been most free from external influence, so as to establish that the number of marriages and murders, or railway accidents or suicides is governed by controlling law.

 

(2.) It might also he justly added that this point needs no proof, because the idea that every effect must have its cause is an intuitive conception of the human mind. It arises upon the first perception of what is meant by power. The conviction of its truth is seen in the very earliest stages of infancy.

 

Objection 2. It is again objected that we ought to carry this idea of causation farther hack and apply it to the great First Cause. If subsequent effects, or facts, or existences must have had a cause, why should not this being, whom we call God, and who is more wonderful in his nature than all others, be himself an effect and himself have a cause?

 

The reply to this is, that experience does not teach us that every thing has a cause without itself, but only every thing which has not its cause in itself.

 

Wherever there is the principle of life, there is, to a limited extent at least, self-causation in its development.

 

(1.) Thus the tree puts forth its own leaves, and flowers, and fruits. It is true that it needs to have had its seed planted in a favourable position and to be surrounded by favourable circumstances. Yet, despite this, even here, though in a very limited way, there is self-causation.

 

So with the motion in a watch, the cause of which is in its own mechanism.

 

(2.) This is more distinctly seen as we reach higher forms of life. Here the movement is self-caused. Such is the movement of a bird as it shoots into the air, or of a beast as it springs upon its prey. The higher form of this is apparent. The watch needed some action upon it from without, before its springs within would act, but in these living forms no outward impelling cause originates the power. This may be illustrated by the difference between a steam boat, moved by its machinery under the guidance of men, and the movement of a fish which by its own powers swims through the seas.

 

(3.) In a still higher degree is this seen in man. Here is found a self-determining will which puts forth effects which may be more confidently spoken of as self-originated. We have not here the mere instinct which perhaps blindly prompts the mere animal to act, but a will which acts as it pleases through liberty of choice, and is governed only by motives to which it yields of its own self-choice.

 

We do not presume to say that this explains to us God’s self-existence and independence, nor how he is self-caused, having the cause of causes in himself, but we simply assert that our experience of causes does not force us to find an outside cause for every effect, and, therefore, a cause for what we call the first or final cause, but simply a cause for every thing which has not its cause of existence and action in itself.

 

We may also claim from this that, if, between the lifeless clod and the man made from it, such difference exists, that the one is no cause at all in itself, and the other capable of such self-causation, then, when we rise to the Great Being, who has made the Universe, we have the right to expect such infinite superiority to man, that he should be, not only the cause of all things, but, being self-existent, should have within himself the cause or ground of his own existence.

 

The existence of such a Great First Cause is beyond the denial of any. That which satisfies our minds of that existence is, that we are so constituted that we cannot rest under this conviction of causation, until the idea is presented of a Great First Cause having self-existence or the cause of his own existence in himself.

 

If there is not such a self-existent and self-contained cause we are driven to adopt the idea of an infinite series of finite causes from Eternity, or an infinite succession of such series, each of which is both impossible and absurd.

 

B. There are effects in the Universe which have no adequate cause in themselves, nor in the Universe as a whole.

 

This may be argued from the Universe as a whole, as an existing substance (an entity), or from its component parts as existing substances (entities).

 

We have the phenomena of the material world about us.

 

As presented to our eyes, it is a wonderful mechanism, more so than the most perfect machinery man can devise, and presents an effect in itself, and in its parts, which demands a cause of more power and skill than we can conceive.

 

Was it made as it is? If so, how great the cause which will account for its phenomena!

 

But it is asserted that it was not thus made, but is a growth which has been reached by long ages of gradual development, accompanied by destruction, and renewal, and modification until it has attained its present form.

 

We shall not deny this, but admit the force of all the evidence which suggests it.

 

But, after all, this growth is also an effect. It has proceeded either from some inherent power of self-development, or has been produced by the power and will of some outward cause.

 

It is claimed by anti-theists that it is a self-development of matter which has taken upon itself form after form until this result has been attained.

 

This theory involves the idea that all growth, and life, and mind, are the outcome of original inorganic matter. It claims that in the ultimate analysis we reach simple molecules of matter, and that, from the development of these, we have this whole universal structure.

 

Admit now all that is thus claimed as a fact by anti-theists, even go so far as to suppose that there has been a time when nothing existed but molecules, even a few, even two only, even one, if it should be desired; reduce the whole material universe to a speck the one millionth part of a grain of sand,-and still we have in that molecule an effect entirely unaccounted for, except as it with all its vast possibilities was made by some creative energy. There is, therefore, even here a demand for the self-existent cause.

 

Yet, to admit all of the above, is to admit more than we ought, more than there is the slightest reason to suppose to be true; for there no evidence that any matter has been added to the universe since its creation. Matter is seen to expand and contract, to take on one form and then another, but there is evidence neither of diminution on the one hand, nor of increase on the other. But there must have been such increase of matter unless the world had in its molecule period as many molecules containing in themselves as much material as is now existent. Whatever growth or development, therefore, may be ascribed to the world, the whole of it has existed from the beginning, whether in an organized form or in simple molecule. It is, however, as difficult, without admitting a producing cause, to account for the world-mass of molecules, even for a single molecule, as for the universe created in the forms in which it appears today.

 

Let us now consider certain actual effects seen in the universe as farther proof of an external cause.

 

(1.) Motion. The principle of motion in the universe is beautifully developed. The universe is regular. It is governed by fixed laws. There is harmony in its movements. The principles of centripetal and centrifugal action governed by the law of gravitation, not only regulate this motion, but cause the universe to be self-balanced; so that we have a kind of mechanism not only impossible for man to imitate, but the principle of which he cannot comprehend, though he sees and acknowledges it as a fact.

 

Now whence this motion? Inert matter has no motion. A piece of rock, or a clod of soil, even a tree, remains always where it is unless moved by some outward power.

 

Our knowledge of this inertness in matter is such that we know that an infant’s ball will remain forever where it has been put, unless disturbed from without.

 

Whence, then, this motion of the universe which is not a simple movement, such as is given to a ball by striking it, but a complex motion, involving the description of circles and ellipses and parabolas, and so involving them as to keep each in its sphere without confusion or distraction?

 

Can any one persuade himself that ten thousand balls laid upon a plain surface will have any more power of motion than one, or that a universe of them created without motion, would not, unless influenced from without, remain utterly and forever at rest?

 

Something, therefore, must account for the motion.

 

Now our experience is that all motion primarily proceeds from mind or will. Thus I move a ball as the result of will influenced by my mind. Even if I accidentally kick it, not intending to do so, and even ignorant that I have done so, this is still true. I had willed to move my body and that body by its contact when in motion with the ball, has moved it.

 

Before motion then we have mind; before the motion of these atoms a directing mind; so that not only for the creation, but for the motion of molecules we must recognize God.

 

If it be said that this motion was caused by wind, we inquire whence came that wind? Was it not itself produced by motion? If so, it cannot have been the primary cause of motion. We are still forced to the supposition that motion has proceeded from God.

 

If it be claimed that it came from heat, whence was the heat? Heat is also the result of motion. What caused the movement which led to its existence?

 

If it be said that the motion was a matter of chance, we ask what is chance? Is there any such reality? We apply the name variously, but in all cases the thoughtful mind knows that there is no "chance" in the sense of uncaused, unwilled forces present.

 

Thus I place dice in a box and throw them. I say that the resultant numbers come by chance. But I know that that result has followed unerringly under law from the forces present. But law supposes the mind of the law-giver, and the results of his law are from purpose, not from chance. Hence the proverb: "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." Pr 16:33.

 

So also when I meet in New York an acquaintance from Texas, I say, "We met by chance." By this I mean that the meeting was not because of the purpose of either of us. But I do not deny the laws which have governed each of us, through which, guided by a higher power, we have met as he had purposed we should.

 

In no usage of the word chance, therefore, do we mean to assert absence of mental purpose. There is no such kind of chance, and by none such can we account for the existence of motion in the universe.

 

(2.) Form and life also appear among the effects of the universe.

 

Matter is not simply inorganic with the form and shape which might have been bestowed upon it by motion; but it takes special forms of life.

 

Between the inorganic and this organic life there is a wide interval. Even in the very lowest forms of vegetable life there is movement and growth and capacity to absorb and increase and give forth which shows a new kingdom in nature.

 

It is admitted that here the whole substance is material, and that the growth of vegetables is nothing more than the absorption into life of what has been already in inorganic nature.

 

But this power of taking on form and life is very striking. If the change could be made into a single form only, it would be still surprising. But the forms are innumerable. Not only this, but the specific form, having been once assumed, attains not only fixedness in the original, but power continuously in the species to reproduce its like. Yet, nevertheless, there is a certain power of adaptation by which, within fixed limits, there is variation.

 

This is the law of plants. In a still higher degree is it true of animals.

 

Now whence this change from inorganic to such organic matter?

 

Is it inherent in matter? Then matter would be constantly engaged in thus developing the organic from the inorganic. This is evident from what we see in crystallization. Here there is power in matter to assume special forms. The law under which this is done in each kind is known, and, in accordance with such law, and not otherwise, are the shapes in crystallization assumed. We can place the proper substances in their appropriate relations and produce the result. Why? Because here certain matter has inherent power to assume certain forms. But this matter cannot assume other forms. Other matter cannot assume these forms. And thus is it seen that matter, as such, has not the inherent power to assume form, but that such power has been bestowed only on certain kinds of matter under the action of specific law and not of its own prompting.

 

Yet from this power of crystallization has been argued the power of matter to produce both vegetable and animal life. The most that could be concluded is that some kinds of matter, (such as we now see to do so,) under circumstances, (under which they now so act,) are capable of producing vegetable and animal life. But we see this done only by propagation and generation from like to like. Therefore, only thus are we authorized to infer that such life and form has been heretofore produced from matter alone. This still leaves necessary the creation of the first forms through which matter has this power.

 

Various attempts have been made to produce animals and plants by spontaneous generation. But these attempts have thus far utterly failed.

 

Because of this inability to produce by any means the organic directly from the inorganic, anti-theists have been driven to adopt the idea, (a mere idea without proof,) that there is a substance which they call protoplasm, which common substance underlies all life-forms, vegetable or animal, and that, in its varied changes, ordinary inorganic matter finally attains to this protoplasm.

 

As to this we should remember: |

 

(a) That protoplasm is not the name of a substance which has been found developed from inorganic matter. No such substance has as yet been discovered. This is only the name that would be given to it if it should be.

 

(b) That the name is applied to the earliest forms of organic life, as being what protoplasm would be if thus developed from inorganic matter. But the substance here found is really a part of organic life, produced by the process of propagation or generation through which matter of this kind becomes life and form.

 

The whole idea of protoplasm, therefore, is a figment, except within the limits of organic life.

 

But, admit this to be true, and that the first forms (the protoplasm) that we see, are the results, directly, of inorganic matter and not of organic, it must still be acknowledged that in all the protoplasm yet examined there is no variation, that all of it is exactly alike, there being but one kind of protoplastic germs so far as investigation can perceive or material elements indicate. Yet, from a number of specimens of this protoplasm, come several different kinds of life. It is as though from seed, precisely the same, should come wheat and barley, and rice, and rye, and maize. Now, what is here the directing power which, from the same substance, apparently, produces different forms of life, some vegetable and some animal, and various vegetables, as well as various animals, and which so produces them without variation that the protoplasm of one species of animals always produces that species and not another? This can be understood, if this be organic life which is acting, and acting under the laws which propagate species; but how explain it of mere matter which has become mere protoplasm-a substance whose forms and material have no difference in themselves, and which therefore must be indebted to some other directing power for the difference seen in its results.

 

It is evident, therefore, that in protoplasm we have matter not in a process of self-development, but matter already organized in organic forms, under a law for reproducing species; a law which can in no respect account for the origin of the species, and, therefore, forces us back to the idea of its direct creation.

 

But if this be true, the principle of form and life in the Universe speaks to us distinctly of a God.

 

(3.) Mind also appears among the effects in the Universe which can only be accounted for upon the supposition of a God.

 

The whole history of man teaches that the powers of the human mind are wonderful. Of this we are conscious in ourselves, and we are taught it by experience about others.

 

Instinct in plants and animals is itself incomprehensible. We cannot tell why the vine should put forth entwining tendrils, or the root of a plant seek a piece of bone, or push forward to a well of water, nor why the birds should fly southward, or a horse or dog should dread danger which man cannot perceive, or an ox should utter cries of distress at the smell of blood, or a bee construct its cells of the most economical shape. We account for it by saying, that God has so constituted irrational creatures for their protection and happiness. But an anti-theist would say, these are qualities inherent in matter, so that it is the matter that acts in the animal as it does in the vine.

 

But we have in mind something of which this cannot be said. Mind is not mere instinct. Indeed it differs widely from instinct. Thus:

 

(a) Mind is individual will or purpose; instinct is common to the whole species.

 

(b) The will or purpose is not a blind tendency, but is the result of mental perceptions, comprehensions of facts, logical reasoning, personal fancy, and other like causes.

 

(c) Its governing principle, being its prevailing motive, is the desire of the individual himself, not of another, not even of God, not even the dictate of conscience, nor of wisdom, but merely of self-choice.

 

(d) It often acts contrary to appetite, and desire, and passion. The will refuses to do that to which these prompt. This is a peculiar mark of excellence, not merely in the wise use of the power, but in the possession of the power itself. Its value in such exercise may be illustrated by the proverb of Solomon: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." Pr 16:32.

 

These are some of the most important particulars in which mind is seen to be far superior to instinct. They have been presented as though admitting that instinct is a quality of matter.

 

But there is no reason for such admission. Instinct is a governing power over animals. But whence comes it? Is it a growth in them, or is it something bestowed on them by God for their control, just as he gives man conscience; or for their guidance, as he gives man intuitive conceptions? It is doubtless not a growth; but, admit that it is, whence the power for such growth in some matter and not in all? If it is a property of some of these united molecules, or of these particles of protoplasm, and these are only matter self-developed, why has all matter not attained this growth? and why does not the growth develope itself alike in all?

 

No reason can be given for the phenomena of instinct which does not reject the idea of mere matter alone thus developing. Either

 

1. The power was first bestowed on some molecules to germinate this instinct, or

 

2. It was more directly given in connection with the development of the animal life, or

 

3. The animal was originally created with these functions, and they have continued by propagation to appear throughout the species.

 

If originating in either of these ways, the existence of the instinct proves that of a regulating, and originating, or creating mind.

 

But, as we have seen, mind is still higher than instinct, and, if instinct cannot be accounted for as a material growth, very much less so can mind. Even the most persistent advocates for the development of life from matter, admit that between the mind and the body which it inhabits there is a wide interval, and while they contend for the development of the latter through protoplasm as the work of unaided matter, they admit that they have never been able to discover anything which can account for the existence of mind.

 

But if mind has no cause for its existence in the material universe, it must be the direct product of the infinite mind, the intelligent, personal God. There is an old book of Jewish origin, called "Genesis" in which, long before the days of scientific inquiry into the origin of man, was given the only account which has ever satisfied or will ever satisfy the inquirer into that origin. "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." Ge 2:7. This was in fulfilment of the divine counsels, "Let us make man it our image after our likeness," Ge 1:26. Strange that any writer of that day should have known that the body of man is of the same material as the inorganic matter of the earth, and stranger still that he should ascribe such origin to his mind and soul as fully accounts for the soul’s existence and its union with matter; and, strangest of all, that he should have put forth a theory such as the world, with all the wisdom of the intervening ages to this day, has not bettered, but which has forced acceptance of its truth on all. Is not this God telling us what God did, and informing us through his servant of the true origin of mind?

 

(4.) Among the many other phenomena of the world which might be selected, one other only, namely, conscience, need be mentioned.

 

Of what is this an effect? Is it the result of matter or of mind? What is it but a controlling power, located in each man, and made a part of his nature, which commands him to do the right and avoid the wrong, and reproves, rebukes, and punishes him for disobedience to its dictates?

 

Upon the theory that it is God-given, its presence and its phenomena may be explained, but upon no other.

 

If there is a God, |

 

(a) There must be eternal principles of right and wrong which may form a foundation for conscience.

 

(b) There must be obligation to act in accordance with these principles, the non-fulfilment of which would involve punishment by God, and a reason for the apprehensions of conscience.

 

(c) If there is a God who has created man with his fellows, that God would seek the happiness of the race as such, which cannot be attained if moral obligations he ignored, and hence would place conscience in each man to enforce these obligations.

 

(d) If there is a God, he must love the right and hate the wrong. How naturally would he seek through conscience to have man do right and avoid wrong.

 

If, on the other hand, there is no God, then

 

(a) Is there any right and wrong as conscience teaches that there is?

 

(b) Are we under any obligation to our fellow-men? Have they any rights we should respect? Is our right to possess, to have any other limit than our power to attain?

 

(c) How can we account for the terror which strikes men for crimes which have been committed, terror not of punishment here, but hereafter?

 

Conscience, therefore, argues the existence of God perhaps even more wonderfully than mind; for conscience is the exponent of the law which keeps the moral universe in being and fixes the limits of its wanderings, as much and as truly as the law of gravitation does the material. Even the defeats of it in our race, caused by sin, only prove the more conclusively the power of its law and its necessity to human existence. While the understanding is the guide to what is right and wrong, conscience is the authority which enforces the right and forbids the wrong, and the avenging judge inflicting punishment on those who disobey. In the state of innocence it was perfect in its guidance, effective in its authority, and peaceful in its approval. In our present state, it is imperfect in its guidance and has only partial authority and limited punitive power. In the future it must be like the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched.

 

Now whence this conscience, if it be not the messenger God sets in the heart, teaching man more plainly than the starry heavens show God’s glory that there is a God, that he rules over man and governs him by laws of right and wrong and punishes the sinful and disobedient, and rewards the righteous and obedient.

 

The four effects in the universe which have been mentioned, motion, form and life, mind, and conscience, prove this second point B of our syllogism, namely, that there are effects in the universe which have no adequate cause either in themselves or in the universe; and from A and B follows the conclusion C, that there must be an adequate cause for the existence of these effects in some being without, who must be the supreme being and the first cause of all things.

 

It can only be objected to this conclusion that the being who has made our universe may himself have been created by some other, and that he is not the supreme mind. But if this be so, then there must be some being who created him, and thus we are led to look one step further back until we reach an infinite being not created, but having self-existence, himself the cause of all other beings and things.

 

We are shut up by the argument from causation to this result, or to the adoption of the idea of an infinite succession of finite-beings, which is absurd and impossible.

 

The remaining a posteriori arguments may be more briefly presented than this first one from causation, for the principles involved in this to some extent underlie all the rest.

 

(2.) The second a posteriori argument is that from design, commonly called the teleological argument.

 

It may be expressed as a syllogism, thus:

 

A. Whatever gives proof of design must have had a designer.

 

B. The Universe gives proof of design.

 

C. Therefore, it must have had a designer.

 

Design may be seen either in arrangement or adaptation. In both these respects the Universe gives proof of design.

 

1. In its arrangement the specific purpose may not be evident as it is in special adaptation. But evidence is given in that arrangement of the unity and universality which mark design throughout the whole universe.

 

The syllogism of Principal Tulloch presents the argument in a convenient form. Burnett Prize Essay on Theism, p. 147.

 

I Order universally proves mind.

 

II The works of nature discover order.

 

III The works of nature prove mind.

 

The point here to be proved is the major premise. There can be no question about the existence of order and arrangement throughout the universe. This is a matter of universal experience. It is also the testimony of all science.

 

But does order universally prove mind?

 

(1.) We shall ascertain that it does by noticing that order always proceeds from law by which arrangement occurs, or from direct arrangement. In either event mind is the cause of the order, and therefore, is proved by it. That the origin of order is in one of these ways, is a matter of universal experience, and we may from experience argue, at least, that such is everywhere true. There is no exception to the rule.

 

(2.) But, again, we may argue this to be true from the fact that such is the constitution of the human mind that "we cannot help apprehending everywhere in phenomena of order the operation of a rational will or mind, * * * the laws of our rational nature compel us to do so. These will not permit us to rest short of mind as an ultimate explanation of such phenomena." Tulloch, Prize Essay, p. 50.

 

(3.) Having proved the existence of causation in the preceding argument we have also the right here to apply its principles. The order is an effect, and since every effect must have its adequate cause, so, because this is an effect of mind, we argue from it the existence of the supreme mind, which is alone sufficient to account for such harmony and arrangement.

 

(4.) Finally we may argue this from the very meaning of the word order. If order means arrangement, then it involves the existence of one who arranges. If order means plan, this demands mind to devise such plan. If order means laws or regulation, the word involves the idea of a lawgiver.

 

Thus is it that simply considering design as order or arrangement we prove from it the existence of mind.

 

2. But the proof is much stronger when we look at design as adaptation to the object in view.

 

The same arguments here as in the syllogism by Tulloch prove the major premise-whatever shows marks of design must have had a designer.

 

The illustrations of the minor premise are numerous and convincing:

 

(1.) In the vegetable world; in the structure and arrangement of plants, in their connection with soil, climate and atmosphere; is their relations to the necessities of surrounding animal life; and it their material structure, fitting them to receive and assimilate food, and to breathe the atmosphere and absorb its gases, and to reproduce themselves.

 

(2.) In the animal world; in adaptation to climate, vegetable productions for food, and all the circumstances which make life possible at various places for some animals and not for all, especially in the peculiarity that man is fitted for all climates, and that the animals necessary to be present with him are capable of equal variety of climate.

 

(3.) It is also seen in the formation of the various parts of the body, especially of the eye, which presents signal evidences of design, in its structure for seeing, in its capacity for motion, in it instinct against danger, and in its protective apparatus.

 

So also in the hand and foot, especially the thumb in man, which gives him such superiority over all other animals, in felling trees, chopping wood, sewing clothes, use of mechanic’s tools and nunberless other respects, intimately and essentially connected with a condition of high civilization, as well as of mere physical capacity to prevail over brute force.

 

So with a thousand times a thousand marks of special design in the forms of life in this world. All prove a designer, and that designer to be the Creator of the world and its forms of life.

 

It is vain to say that all these members of the body have been developed from inferior forms.

 

There is no evidence of any different structure in these particulars in the individuals of today than in those which earliest appear. Whatever changes have occurred in animal life have been within fixed limits and under the regulation of law. They have always been such as have preserved those characteristics of the animals upon which difference in species is based. There is in each individual a wonderful capacity to enlarge, by exercise, the powers both of mind and body. But this goes not beyond what, according to some law of its nature, is a common property of humanity.

 

(3.) Another argument a posteriori may be drawn from the evidences of God’s providential care and control of the world.

 

It may be thus stated:

 

Man perceives in his own life and in the lives of others, and in the history of nations and of the race, evidence of a superintending power, governing, guiding and protecting, and by means sometimes most insignificant or minute, accomplishing ends of greater or less magnitude. In the workings of this power there are traceable evidences of designing purpose which are so marked as to show it to be not mere blind force or established law, but an intelligent agent exercising such oversight as is rendered necessary by the presence of free will in man, which, but for such oversight, would prevent the accomplishment of ends, which would certainly be attained through mere laws alone, were the universe, with its inhabitants, a mere machine governed only by purely mechanical laws-and such oversight also as supplies to man the information and resources needed at particular stages in the world’s progress, and as preserves from excess or deficiency the equilibrium of food and work in the world and its various parts.

 

As none but the supreme mind, which is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, can exercise such care, the proof that this care is exercised is a proof of the existence of God.

 

It will be seen from this that all the proof which can be presented of providential care becomes a proof of a God. This is very strong and conclusive, and is to be found in the historical accounts of mankind, as well as in the constant testimony of individual men.

 

(4) The fourth argument a posteriori is from the miracles wrought by messengers from God.

 

A miracle is an extraordinary act performed, or event brought to pass by God, not through the established laws of nature, nor mere providential control, but by direct action without the use of efficient means.

 

The working of a miracle, therefore, shows the presence and act of a power superior to nature which can be no other than its creator and lawgiver.

 

A miracle is, therefore, evidence of the existence of God.

 

This argument rests upon the proof that miracles have been wrought. Of this fact it is universally acknowledged that we have abundant testimony. But the credibility of the testimony, as for example of the New Testament miracles, has been questioned. If it be credible then the fact has been proved.

 

1. It is charged that the witnesses are not credible, because they were not disinterested.

 

(a) But disinterestedness is not necessary in a witness. Formerly courts required this, but now, in the more civilized communities, all evidence is heard and due weight is given to each part of it in connection with all the other circumstances and facts testified to.

 

(b) None of the witnesses for miracles were interested except upon the supposition that the facts which they attested were true. They could have no purpose, therefore, in testifying falsely.

 

(c) They published their testimony at a time when multitudes were alive who had been present at the times and places when the miracles were said to have been wrought. Had the facts not been believed by all present on such occasions they would have been disputed and the witnesses exposed. This was especially true of the miracles wrought by Christ and his apostles.

 

(d) To the above may be added that the statements made about these miracles were such as to affect the character and position of men in public authority, and in some cases appealed to acts of the rulers in council, by whom the miracles were admitted. None could have dared to make such statement unless they knew they spoke the truth.

 

2. It is charged that the witnesses were themselves deceived.

 

But it was impossible that deception could take place in many of the miracles.

 

Could Israel be deceived about the plagues in Egypt, or the passage through the Red Sea, or that of the Jordan, or the fall of the walls of Jericho, or the guidance of the pillar of cloud and fire, &c., &c.

 

But the rationalist will say that the history of these events was not written at the same time with the events themselves, and that the people in the wilderness never saw nor heard the record.

 

While this is not admitted of the Old Testament it cannot he justly said of the New Testament histories. The statements are by eye-witnesses. Could they have been deceived about the stilling of the waves, the feeding of the five thousand on one occasion, and of the four thousand on another, about the raising from the dead of the daughter of Jairus, of the son of the widow of Nain, of Lazarus, and especially the self-resurrection of Christ himself. One who looks at these facts is obliged to deny that these witnesses were deceived. They have either knowingly stated what is false, or their testimony is true.

 

3. But it is maintained by Hume and others, that even if a miracle had been wrought it would be proof only to those who saw it. No testimony could convince others of the fact.

 

The argument is, that the uniformity of the laws of nature is a matter of universal experience, and that such is our knowledge of that uniformity that no testimony can convince us of the existence of a fact which is not consistent with it.

 

But the history of the world shows the contrary. Hume is actually presenting his argument, that no such proof could or would be accepted, to men who have already actually accepted it.

 

There are many events in the world which seem contrary to the uniformity of nature; as much so to the ignorant mind as the most wonderful miracle to the educated. Are such not accepted? What is more apparently opposed to the uniformity of nature, as perceived by ignorant men, than eclipses of the sun or moon, or, to those who have never seen the sea, the phenomenon of water running or swelling upwards in the tides.

 

Yet testimony of the facts is readily taken as evidence.

 

The truth is that men almost universally believe, when there is no apparent reason to the contrary, in the truthfulness of their fellows and their capacity to perceive what has happened. Even strangers are trusted to this extent. But when men of known probity, having no motive to deceive and who cannot be self-deceived, testify to any fact, however incredible, conviction of the truthfulness of such persons is stronger than belief in the uniformity of nature.

 

What would appear more wonderful than that a world, the greater part of the surface of which is water, should be burned up with fire? yet a whole audience, to nine-tenths of whom previously such a thing would have seemed incredible, has been known to accept it as a fact upon the mere statement of a single scientific man.

 

In this argument the statements of the Bible have been used not as inspired truth, but merely as containing human testimony. In like manner in the succeeding argument the Bible is treated merely upon its own apparent merits as a book, without reference to its divine character.

 

(5.) The fifth argument a posteriori is from the contents of a book we call the Bible, which claims to have come from God. If these contents show a supernatural origin they prove the existence of a mind supreme above nature

 

This proof may be presented:

 

1. With respect to the prophecies of the Bible. Events were predicted and recorded by its writers long periods, even centuries before they took place. Many of them were minutely described, as to their nature, locality, persons, times, circumstances and causes. Such descriptions show such knowledge as belongs only to one who uses no conjectural knowledge, but knows certainly what will come to pass. But such knowledge of the far future can arise not otherwise than from full knowledge of the eternal purpose of God.

 

2. It may be presented with reference to the great central figure of the Bible, our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Scriptures taken as a whole is his biography. The causes of his existence as seen in the original and fallen state of man and in God’s mercy to our sinful race, the preparation for his coming, the gradual development of the doctrine of his person and work, the prophecy of his kingdom, his appearance, life, death, resurrection, the establishment of his throne in heaven upon his ascension from earth, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power and progress of his religion and its suitableness to our sinful race, all present a life of developed growth as plainly the result of a creative mind as the most wonderful creation of fiction. The unity of purpose is seen throughout. In the beginning we see but dimly what is taught and catch but feebly the outlines of the plot; but as we progress it grows upon us as a genuine creation. Whatever was at first dim is cleared up by the final record, and as we begin to read it over once more, its perfect unity, its exactness of detail without superfluity, its development in the far future of the importance of facts which at first were only casually stated, as though of no special importance, its skilful interweaving of the minor characters and events, and its use of them in all their fulness to bring on the final catastrophe and its results, the great power with which the theme is handled, the majestic simplicity which everywhere pervades it, all show a master artist creating a character and work, through the instrumentality of writers so numerous, of such different capacities, under such various circumstances, with such manifest unity, as proclaims the mind of God which alone could conceive of such a character and work, and alone could thus reveal it to man, as he alone could create the real persons and events which embody the idea presented.

 

3. A further proof from the Bible is suggested by Nitzsch: namely, the revelation which it makes of God in Christ.

 

He says, "The proof which is peculiar to Christianity, independent and historical, is not indeed, as some designate it, miracle, but the accomplishment of the passage in Isa 40:9. ‘Behold your God.’ It is revelation in an eminent sense, the existence of God in Christ, Joh 14:9" Nitzsch: System of Christian Doctrine, p. 140.

 

This is not the same argument as the last. That was an argument from a development extending over so many thousand years, and proving the existence of one, who was contemporaneous with all those years, working out the character of Christ as the Saviour of mankind.

 

This is based upon the evidence of divine perfection seen in Christ while here on earth. "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." Joh 14:9.

 

The revelation of the nature of God seen in the universe commends to us the fact that he exists, for the nature indicated is one worthy of such a being. Hence the force of Paul’s language in Ro 1:20 "For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his Everlasting power and Divinity."

 

So also with equal self-recommendation comes the character of God set forth in the words of the Bible in which he tells us what he is, and commends his spiritual nature with its unspeakable holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, with its infinite power and wisdom, as the character alone worthy of a God, and which makes us say a once: This is the true character of God. If he exists he must be such as is thus described.

 

But in his incarnate Son we see the embodiment of that which before had appeared as but an ideal. Although appearing here on earth most obviously as a man, yet the divine attributes and character were so exhibited in him that we perceive the truthfulness with which Christ said to Philip: "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." Joh 14:9.

 

(6.) The sixth argument a posteriori is the historical, based upon the fact that the records of history cover so brief a period of time. If man has lived forever, where is the record of that life? It is strange that we find no historical monuments which go beyond few thousand years.

 

(7.) Finally, an argument a posteriori may be drawn from geology. This science teaches:

 

(a) That there was a time when life, both vegetable and animal began upon this globe.

 

(b) That the remoteness of the period of that beginning even according to the wildest hypothesis, is capable of calculation.

 

(c) That, in both the vegetable and animal life, of which we have fossil remains, there have been distinct successive genera which began with small numbers, gradually increased to their culminating points and then as gradually decreased.

 

History and geology, therefore, furnish us conclusive proof against the eternity of form and life in the universe, and especially oppose the absurd idea of endless succession of finite objects or beings, in the past. Geology, indeed, seems also to give proof of an actual direct creation of the first beginnings of each of these genera.

 

Thus, through the proofs of the existence of God, derived from many sources, do we arrive at that certainty of the fact which confirms the teaching of tradition. In the a priori arguments we proceed from admitted first principles to the existence of God, through demonstration, and acknowledge that the arguments are inconclusive if they fail to secure such absolute conviction as do the problems of mathematics. But the arguments a posteriori do not belong to this class of proof, but to that which is the only one found in the accepted theories of science. Scientific proof is only inductive proof, and no induction of science is more certainly true than that God exists. No theory of science more fully answers all of the demands for the explanation of facts than does the theory that God exist respond to all the explanations required. None has been so universally, and so variously, and so successfully, tested. The theory of gravitation has been constantly becoming more acceptable until now it is held as scientifically certain, because of its success in accounting for all facts connected with it. In like manner has the theory that God exists been confirmed to almost universal satisfaction, by the fact that without it there is no explanation of the innumerable facts around us, while with it there is nothing lacking to account for the cause and origin of all things.

 

 

ST. 003 Chapter 3: REASON AND REVELATION.

CHAPTER III|

 

REASON AND REVELATION.|

 

HAVING considered the proofs of the existence of God, we should discuss the ways in which he has made himself known, before we study his nature, and attributes, and relations to us. These constitute the sources of our knowledge of Theology, which are two, Reason and Revelation.

 

Reason is that power in man, which enables him to have mental perceptions, to exercise thought, and reflection, to know facts, to inquire into their mutual relations, and to deduce, logically, the conclusions which may be drawn from them.

 

Reason may be used either with reference to the natural or supernatural means of knowledge conferred by God.

 

When we refer to reason as a source of knowledge distinct from revelation, we mean the information attained, by the use of this faculty, in connection only with the natural, as distinguished from the supernatural.

 

By revelation, we mean the knowledge which God conveys by direct supernatural instruction, pre-eminently that given in the book known as the Bible.

 

Reason involves all the cognitive powers of man, which are the faculties through which the mind attains knowledge. These faculties are not separate, and independent, but are merely the instruments of the mind.

 

The mind is not itself an original source of knowledge, like the Scriptures, but is merely an instrument by which the man attains knowledge through the exercise of its appropriate faculties. There are no such things as innate ideas. These arrive only through the exercise of proper thought and reflection, in connection with some perceived facts.

 

The means by which the mind attains knowledge in the exercise of its faculties, are five.

 

1. Consciousness, by which we learn our own existence, and the fact that we think, and are personal beings, possessing personal identity during the term of our natural life.

 

2. Observation, and experience of the world about us, through the senses.

 

3. Through intuitive conceptions, by which, upon the suggestion through some external object, of some principle, we find ourselves at once convinced of its correctness.

 

4. The dispositions, instincts and tendencies of our natures.

 

5. The curse of events in nature, as tending to good or evil, to what is desirable or disastrous.

 

It is manifest that the knowledge obtained from these various sources must be abundant to teach man the simple facts upon which rests his duty to God; namely, that there is a God to whom he owes existence, and consequent reverence, service and love, and whose greatness and goodness enforce this obligation; also to show him that that duty has not been discharged, and that he has not the disposition to discharge it; and consequently to render him uneasy in his relations to God, and anxious to appease him, and secure some assurance of his pardon and approval. It has also been thought by many, that through reason alone man attains the conviction of immortality and of a future state of rewards and punishments.

 

However abundant may be the information thus conveyed to man, it is nevertheless clear that his knowledge in these directions must still remain very imperfect.

 

This must have been true of man even in a state of innocence. His finite nature and the finite conditions which surrounded him must still have left him ignorant upon many desirable matters. It is natural, therefore, to believe that, in that condition, he received direct communications from God, which are properly esteemed revelations.

 

But this imperfection must have been greatly increased by an subsequent, fall from innocence. By this the Perceptions of right and wrong would be dimmed, the power of conscience to enforce the right would be impaired, the desire to do the right would be diminished, prejudices against the right would be created, an affection for God would be greatly decreased, if not entirely obliterated.

 

Upon these grounds we may infer the necessity of some further source of knowledge of God, and of his will with respect to man.

 

We may also argue a priori as to the nature of this revelation.

 

1. It must come from God, the source of all our other knowledge. No other could give it, and it is fit that no other should do so.

 

2. It must be suited to our present condition, confirming the truth already known, and teaching what is practically useful to man as sinner before God.

 

3. It must be secured from all possibility of error, so that its teachings may be relied on with equal, if not greater, confidence than those of reason.

 

4. It must come with authority, claiming and proving its claim to be the word of God, who has the right to command, and to punish those who disobey his commands; with authority also, that man may with confidence believe and trust the promises and hopes pardon and peace it may hold out.

 

5 That it will be accompanied by difficulties and mysteries what may be expected, since these are found frequently attending the knowledge derived from reason.

 

The gift of such a revelation must of course depend absolutely upon the will of God. It is not for man to say, before it is given, whether it certainly will, or will not, be bestowed.

 

That it is not improbable may be inferred from the fact that God has already made himself known to us in various ways in ourselves and in nature. If we need further revelation we my hope for it.

 

The only reason to the contrary is that we have sinned against God, and he may have chosen to abandon us to our fate. But this is not so truly understood until revelation has confirmed our conviction of our sinful estate. On the other hand, the favors which God still bestows, and the means of continued knowledge of him which he affords, indicate that he has not yet consigned us to our deserved fate, and that he may have purposes of mercy towards us.

 

That which renders it highly probable is the expectation seen in man, in the conceptions he has formed of God, as one to be propitiated by sacrifices and approached with prayer.

 

If the expectations thus formed are to he verified, the important question arises, in what way can God make known to us the new truth he wills to teach.

 

They manifestly speak unadvisedly who assert that this can in nowise be done.

 

If he should so choose, he could impress it on each one in like manner as we attain intuitive conceptions. He might reveal it to individuals in dreams and visions, so as to make each one feel and know that the vision is from God. Those through whom he has revealed himself have in some such way attained absolute conviction that God has spoken to and through them, and with God there is neither impossibility nor difficulty in producing like certainty in the mind of each individual of the race.

 

But as God usually acts through means, so he has revealed himself to a few, and through them to mankind in general.

 

The only question then is, how can he give evidence to the race at large that the men he has inspired are indeed his messengers?

 

This also might be done in various ways, but he has chosen to do it by attesting their mission by miracles wrought through them.

 

As to the measure of authority to be ascribed to these miracles, men differ in opinion.

 

Some teach that any miracle wrought is of itself sufficient attestation of the messenger and of the truth which he teaches.

 

Others, that miracles are only proofs to those who behold them, and dubious proofs even then, and that the true purpose of them is not to set the seal of God’s authority, but simply to awaken attention and excite awe, and thus prepare the way for a proper hearing of the divine message. These assert that the revelation comes to us with the authority only of the self-convincing nature of the truth made known.

 

It is necessary, in this difference of opinions, to seek carefully after the true theory. From no source can we better obtain it than from the revelation itself, the teaching of which will be seen to be fully corroborated otherwise.

 

The Scripture theory seems to be this, that in any new revelation the prophet of God must present a doctrine perfectly consistent with ever past revelation and with the knowledge conveyed by nature, and must, at the same time, confirm by miracles his authority as a teacher from God. Without the miracle the new truth has no evidence that it is not simply the product of human reason or imagination. The coincidence in doctrine is necessary to protect against pretended miracles and the tricks of unprincipled men. Besides, the new truth can have no higher authority than the old, and therefore cannot supersede it, for the old also has come from God. No truth ever taught by God can be opposed by any new truth from him. What with God is truth is eternal truth. Like himself, it is the same "yesterday, to-day and forever." It may be more abundantly or clearly revealed. We may learn to comprehend it better and to correct our own misapprehensions of it, but whatever God has once given as truth must so remain forever, as changeless as his own life.

 

1. The Scriptural authority for this theory is conclusive.

 

Moses announced the law, which shows the miracle alone not to be conclusive. See De 13:1-2,3 "If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he give thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he shake unto thee, saying, let us go after other gods which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." This passage shows that even a miracle, wrought by one teaching doctrine not in accordance with that already received, should not tempt to belief in the divine authority of him who should work it.

 

The Apostle Paul gives similar instruction to the Galatians, Ga 1:8 "Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema." Whatever might be the accredited authority of the messenger, his teachings were not to be received.

 

Yet, with all this, the Scriptures do not disparage the miracle. The miracles of Mosaic times are constantly referred to as indubitably marking it as divine. Nicodemus recognized the high position assigned to miracles by the Jews, Joh 3:2 "No man can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him." Christ himself says, Joh 10:25 "The works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me."

 

This theory of the Scriptures is not necessarily based upon the idea that real miracles can be wrought otherwise than by divine power. Still the language sometimes used is liable to this construction. And much depends upon the definition of a miracle. If a miracle be a suspension of the fixed laws which God has established for the world, that suspension can only occur through his special permission. Taking this as the true meaning of the word, we can understand why such stress is laid in the Scriptures upon the Mosaic miracles and those of Christ, since many of them are such as nothing but divine power could accomplish. But the word miracle in the Scriptures has not this restricted meaning, but is applied likewise to any marked supernatural event. Because men are apt to put these upon a level with the miracles which God alone can work, they are warned not to follow after what is thus supernaturally done, if it be accompanied by such teaching as is contrary to truth already received.

 

See the apparent reality of such miracles in connection with the magicians of Egypt, Ex 7:11; Chap. Ex 8:7, and compare with it the conviction expressed by the magicians, Ex 8:19, when they failed to produce lice from the dust, "This is the finger of God."

 

Notice also what Christ says, Mr 13:22 "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew signs and wonders, that they may lead astray, if possible, the elect."

 

See also Re 16:13-14 "And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, as it were frogs, for they are spirits of devils, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God the Almighty."

 

It is because of this liability to be deceived, that the Scriptures require the miracle and the concurrent doctrine as both essential to the reception of a new revelation.

 

2. This theory alone concurs with the course to which nature necessarily impels us.

 

To the extent that we are fully convinced of the truth of a doctrine, no subsequent revelation could change our belief. It is true that this does not apply when we have doubts; but when our knowledge is fixed, we cannot be moved. No amount of miracle could convince a Christian that the nature of God is otherwise than pure and holy, or that he delights in worship not of the heart, or that he is not infinite in justice and holiness, in goodness, mercy and truth, or that be will pardon sin without due satisfaction to his law.

 

3. This theory accords with the progressive character of divine revelation.

 

The earliest revelation came to those who had heretofore been guided only by reason. This was true even down to the beginnings of the Old Testament Scriptures, and, in that economy, only preparation was made for the future glory of the New Testament revelation. Hence the truths taught were, for the most part, only those which come within the compass of discovery by reason, or acceptance by it upon due suggestion, namely,—the existence of one God, the fact of creation, the law of moral obligation to God and man, the punishment of sinners, the duty of repentance, the pardoning mercy of God, and the law of sacrifices, with substitution and satisfaction.

 

The new economy goes further in its clear instructions: it teaches the vicarious atonement of Christ, involving representation in him and also in Adam, the doctrine of the Trinity in the Godhead, the mysterious union in the person of Christ, and many other truths heretofore only very indistinctly revealed.

 

These could not have been presented to those only taught heretofore by reason. But the revelation which stood between fore-shadowed them in different ways. From it alone originally they would not have been discovered. But now that they are made known, that former revelation is seen to concur with the new statements, and the conformity of the clearly expressed doctrine to the mere outlines of them in the past sustains the fact that they have a common author, and that the divine revealer is the same. It is like the presence in animals of the same genus in earlier days of germs which find their development in species which come later.

 

4. This accords with our means of judging what course of action infinite wisdom would have devised.

 

The conviction we have of past truth renders it impossible that we should throw it aside. We must, therefore, still hold it fast. That conviction has come from God, and we can have no higher evidence.

 

Yet, other statements and doctrines very probably or even certainly true, may be taught by men, as revealed to them, when they are either self-deceived, or attempting to deceive others. Hence, we must have the attesting miracle.

 

On the other hand, we are liable to be deceived as to what is supernatural, and especially, in the supernatural, as to what is within the limits of created power. Hence, we may be misled by the craft of men, or by the superhuman power of wicked spirits. Therefore, no doctrine must be accepted contrary to a truth already received.

 

A revelation, such as we have described, having been given and proved, another question arises: what is the relation which reason bears towards it?

 

We may lay down the following facts:

 

l. That reason is the first revelation, and is consequently presupposed in any other.

 

2. That the facts of reason cannot be denied by any subsequent revelation. No truth can destroy other truth.

 

A limitation must, however, be put on the province of reason. The doctrines of which it may judge, are those only which come within its sphere. Upon the presentation of a new doctrine reason may decide whether it agrees with former knowledge. If agreeable thereto, it must be accepted, if opposed, it must be rejected. But, if it be above reason, it must stand or fall with the rest of the revelation. God may, in his mercy, refrain from trying faith by a revelation of supernatural doctrine, but, if he reveals it, it must be no barrier to the reception of that doctrine itself, or of the revelation which accompanies it. In an able article in the Southern Presbyterian Review, Vol. I, pp. 1-34, on "Reason and Revelation," Dr. Thornwell puts this limitation upon reason, that it is sole arbiter within its own bounds, but no judge beyond them. He thinks that in this way only can it be applied as a test of doctrine. The theory is undoubtedly correct. It fails only in not recognizing the precise manner in which Scripture brings it in as an arbiter, not as the judge of truth as disconnected from the past, but as related to the various times and forms in which God has taught it. Reason should judge a new revelation, not by the truths taught by reason alone, but also by those which have been made known in any previous revelation.

 

The office of reason with respect to revelation, is therefore seen to be:

 

1. To examine the evidence of the miracles upon which it rests.

 

2. To compare its doctrines with the teaching of the past, and recognize their correspondence with or opposition to that teaching.

 

3. To adopt or reject the revelation according to the evidence afforded that it is God’s truth.

 

4. To interpret its contents, according to the best light which learning affords.

 

 

ST. 004 Chapter 4: THE UNITY OF GOD.

CHAPTER IV

 

THE UNITY OF GOD.|

 

THE arguments by which we have proved the existence of God have shown us:

 

1. From that of causation; that he is self-existent, having the cause of his existence in himself.

 

2. From the proof of design and from his creation of spirit; that he is an intelligent personal and spiritual being.

 

3. From the non-eternity of matter; that he alone is eternal.

 

4. From providence and miracles; that he continues to rule and govern the world which he has created.

 

In them all have been the foundations upon which proofs of his wisdom, power, and goodness, as well as many other attributes are based.

 

The information thus received is however insufficient, and is capable of being greatly increased by further examination. Having proved that God is, we naturally desire to know more of what he is and who he is.

 

This leads to an inquiry into his nature or essence, and, since the nature and essence of all being, even of ourselves, can be known only by considering its mode of existence, its qualities and its manner of manifestation, we are led to inquire into the mode of God’s existence and into the attributes and works by which he has made himself known to us.

 

Preliminary to this, however, are two subjects which demand attention, viz.: The Unity and the Spirituality of God.

 

 

 

1. The proof thus far attained, to say the least of it, is not inconsistent with that unity. Indeed one God is all that is demanded by or involved in that proof.

 

But one first cause is needed; but one designer is suggested; one being alone meets all the conditions arising from our sense of dependence on another; but one is required to account for the evidences of providential care over the world; but one for the wonders in miracles; but one for the scriptures with their prophesies and their revelation of Christ and God; and but one for the common consent of mankind.

 

This last point is the only apparent exception.

 

But (1.) Universal consent only goes so far as to admit the existence of one God. Many have in one way or another assumed that there are more, but the belief in more than one is not universal.

 

(2.) The belief of more than one God was not the earliest type, but has been the result of corruption of the truth. This may be accounted for either from reverence for objects as representations of the divinity, as of the heavenly lights or for animals or statues representing deified attributes of God; or from veneration for men, after death regarded as exponents of such attributes.

 

(3.) The belief of one God thus found in the earliest records of all nations was maintained among most men of intelligence even in the days of Heathenism. See Cudworth’s Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol. I, pp. 293-638, for ancient Latin, Greek, Persian and Egyptian opinions.

 

As to Brahminism, see Maurice’s Religions of the World, p. 59.

 

As to Buddhism, see Maurice, p. 102-3.

 

As to the classic writers, see also the testimony of Cicero de Natura deorum, pp. 11-13 of translation in Bohn’s library.

 

As to the mass of Heathenism we have this testimony from Tertullian, quoted by Tholuck on Heathenism, p. 23.

 

"In the deepest emotions of their minds they never directed their exclamations to their false gods, but employed the words ‘By God,’ ‘As truly as God lives,’ ‘God help me.’ Moreover they do not have their eyes directed to the capitol, but to heaven."

 

This belief in one God is true, even of that dualism which arose among the Persians because of their knowledge of the struggle between good and evil connected with the presence of sin in the world. They believed in a God superior to the two contestants in this struggle and thus they may be claimed as accepting the idea of the unit of God. See Cudworth, Vol. I, p. 411, &c.

 

The argument for universal consent therefore does not demand more than one God.

 

2. But the proof of God’s existence is not only not inconsistent with the unity of God, but renders that unity highly probable and indeed almost certain.

 

The unity of the first cause, and of the designer is naturally if not necessarily involved in the unity of will or purpose or design, seen in the effects produced in Creation and Providence.

 

These show at least such perfect harmony and agreement between the wills of all gods, if there be more than one, as can result only from one Being, or from several as fully agreeing together as though they were but one.

 

But the very idea of will involves choice, and choice involves such right and possibility to select between two or more things as forbids universal original agreement in choice between two different beings. Either, therefore, there must be difference of choice, which would destroy the uniformity, or there must be a subordination of will one to another, which gives supremacy to one of the beings. This result would be to make that one a first cause of will or action to the others, and therefore to make him alone God.

 

If, therefore, there is uniformity in the designs and works of nature, that is almost if not quite certain proof that there is but one God.

 

That uniformity is seen,

 

(1.) In the materials which compose it.

 

(2.) In the qualities possessed by these materials.

 

(3.) In the nature of the forces which they evolve.

 

(4.) In the unity of design between all living forms, fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammalia in all parts of the world whether adapted for air, water or earth, whether in fossils of the past or living organisms of the present; and in like unity seen in one species only as germs and developed into perfected organs in another separated from it by a wide interval of time.

 

3. The only objection to the unity of God which can be drawn from the world arises from the presence of pain and ill, of sorrow and suffering, of guilt and sin, together with the violent and destructive forces of nature.

 

(1.) But these are not inconsistent with the unity of God.

 

(a) If they ought not to be and God could prevent them, they would prove lack of goodness, not of unity.

 

(b) If they ought not to be and God cannot prevent them, then they would prove some other being to exist greater than he, and then that other being would be God.

 

(c) The evils referred to are as apparently under uniform general laws as any other facts or events of nature.

 

(2.) But there is no evidence that these evils ought not to be, and are not perfectly consistent with God’s goodness.

 

(a) They may be part of a system which best exists in connection with them. We see this in part so far as the destructive forces of the world are concerned.

 

(b) We find among them traces of a working together for final and intermediate good ends, and hence they may safely be said neither to militate against goodness nor unity.

 

4. But while some of the arguments for God are only consistent with his unity and highly suggestive of the same, and others make it so highly probable as to be almost certain, there are others which establish it with absolute certainty.

 

(1.) The idea of God in the mind, to which is attached that of necessary existence, is the idea of one God, and one only. The notion of two or more gods is self-contradictory, for neither of them can be the absolute and perfect and independent being which is our idea of God. All the evidence for God therefore contained in the first of the a priori arguments is for one God and one only.

 

(2.) In the argument from the nature of necessary existence (the second a priori), the 7th point was: "There can be but one necessarily existent being, for two necessarily existent beings could in no respect whatever differ from each other; that is, they would be one and the same being."

 

The nature of necessary existence therefore proves the unity of God.

 

5. The proofs we have thus far presented from nature for the unity of God are abundantly confirmed by the statements of Scripture.

 

(1.) The passages which declare explicitly that God is one: De 6:4; Mal 2:10 "Hath not one God created us?" Mr 12:29,32; 1Ti 2:5; Eph 4:5-6; Jas 2:19.

 

(2.) Those that assert that there is none else or none beside him: De 4:35,39; 1Sa 2:2; 2Sa 7:22; 1Ki 8:60; Isa 44:6,8; 45:5-6,21-22; 46:9; Joe 2:27.

 

(3.) That there is none like him nor to be compared with him: Ex 8:10; 9:14; 15:11; 2Sa 7:22; 1Ki 8:23; 1Ch 6:14; Isa 40:25; 46:5; Jer 10:6.

 

(4.) That he alone is God: 2Sa 22:32; Ne 9:6; Ps 18:31; 86:10; Isa 37:16; 43:10; 46:9; Joh 17:3; 1Co 8:4-6.

 

(5.) That he alone is to be worshipped: Ex 20:5; 34:14; 1Sa 7:3; 2Ki 17:36; Mt 4:10; Ro 1:25; Re 19:10.

 

(6) Those which forbid any one else to be accepted as God: Ex 20:3; De 6:7; Isa 42:8; Ho 13:4.

 

(7.) Which proclaim him as supreme over all so-called gods: De 10:17; Jos 22:22; Ps 96:4-5; Jer 14:22; 1Co 8:4-6.

 

(8.) Which declare him to be the true God: Jer 10:10; 1Th 1:9.

 

This Scripture doctrine of the unity of God is not affected by some expressions which at first sight appear to contradict it.

 

(a) The Bible does not deny that unity where the gods of the heathen are spoken of as their gods: De 10:17 "The Lord your God, he is God of gods and Lord of lords;" Jos 22:22 "The Lord the God of gods, the Lord the God of gods, he knoweth and Israel he shall know;" Jg 8:33; 9:27; 11:28,24; 1Sa 5:7; 1Ki 11:33; 2Ki 1:2,16, and many other passages. Ps 96:4-5 "For great is the Lord and highly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols; but the Lord made the heavens."

 

Jer 14:22 "Are there any among the vanities of the heathen that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O Lord our God?"

 

1Co 8:4-5,6 "Concerning therefore the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is any thing in the world, and that there is no god but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth; as there are gods many, and lords many; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him."

 

1. Such gods are only so-called gods and exalted to such places by the false conceptions of men.

 

2. Many of them have solely imaginary existence.

 

3. Where there is any corresponding existence, they are but creatures of God, dependent upon him for existence and even permission to exercise power and influence.

 

4. Many of these gods are identified in the New Testament with the devils which Christ cast out, and which were subject to him and his disciples, and who are only the angels or messengers of Satan, and therefore fallen created angels.

 

Ac 17:18. Some of the philosophers who met Paul at Athens said of him, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods," (demons). This passage shows that the word which is constantly used in the New Testament for the devils cast out, was a word properly used by these Greeks as applicable to their gods.

 

But we have places in which the word is applied by the sacred writers themselves to these gods.

 

1Co 10:20-21 "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should leave communion with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils; ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of tile table of devils."

 

Re 9:20 "And the rest of mankind which were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood which can neither see, nor hear nor walk."

 

(b) The word god is also applied to Moses and others.

 

Ex 4:16 "And he (Aaron) shall be thy spokesman until the people; and it shall come to pass, that be shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him as God."

 

Ex 7:1 "And the Lord said, unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh."

 

Joh 10:34-35 "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came and the Scripture cannot be broken."

 

The reference is to Ps 82:6-7 "I said ye are gods, (Elohim,) and all of you sons of the Most High. Nevertheless ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes."

 

As to these passages referring to Moses, the idea manifestly is that he stood before Aaron and Pharaoh as the representative of God, clothed with his authority and having the right to demand confidence in his utterances and obedience to his commands. But all of this, not because of any partaking of divine nature, but because he was God’s ambassador.

 

As to the passage in the Psalms, quoted by Christ, it is equally manifest that this was a metaphorical use of the words to denote the recognition of exalted dignity and mighty power. In the psalm, from which the words are taken, it is said in the lst verse, "God standeth in the congregation of God; he judgeth among the gods. This language and the threat that they "shall die like men" in the 6th verse, show that it was applied to men who are only metaphorically spoken of as gods.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity is not opposed to the unity of God, but only enables us to form just conceptions as to that unity.

 

It presents to us three Persons who are not three gods, but one God, and, as will hereafter be seen, shows us that the unity of God is to be found in his nature or essence and not in the personal relations in that essence, so that there is but one divine nature or essence, one being, one god, although there are three persons subsisting therein, who, by virtue of that subsistence, are each God.

 

We are not led by this doctrine of the unity of God, therefore, to adopt the Arian notion that the Father is Supreme God and the Son only a divine being in a subordinate sense. Nor is it proper to accept the Sabellian notion, that God is one person, manifesting himself sometimes as Father, sometimes as Son, and sometimes as Holy Ghost. "Neither does it at all teach tritheistic unity by which these are really three gods, but considered one because they have the same nature, just as three men may be said to be one because of the same human nature." See Gill, vol. 1, pp. 183, 184 from which this is condensed.

 

 

 

ST. 005 Chapter 5: SPIRITUALITY OF GOD.

CHAPTER V

 

SPIRITUALITY OF GOD.

 

HAVING in the last chapter discussed the unity of God, we proceed in this to the consideration of his spirituality. This is the second subject preliminary to that of his attributes. The attempt will be made to prove, not only that God has a spiritual nature, but that he is a pure spirit without outward form or material organization.

 

I The one God has undoubtedly a spiritual nature.

 

1. He is the creator of spirits. But spirit is the highest order of existence and its creator must himself have the nature which belongs to that order.

 

2. The creation and government of the world give evidence of wisdom, skill, knowledge and purpose, but there are attributes of spirit. God therefore must have a spiritual nature.

 

3. We arrive at the idea of the perfect being by the exclusion of all imperfection and the ascription of all perfection. But spiritual nature is in every respect a perfection. Therefore we ascribe it to God.

 

4. The Scriptures ascribe a spiritual nature to God.

 

It is involved in the abundant language about the spirit of God in which, however, reference is had distinctively to the third person in the Trinity.

 

It is also presupposed in all the intellectual, moral, and emotional thoughts and acts ascribed to him.

 

But it is directly asserted in two places: Joh 4:24, the language of our Lord to the woman of Sychar: "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

 

Again in Heb 12:9, where fathers of the flesh and of the spirit are contrasted. "Furthermore, we have had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?"

 

Compare also Ac 17:24-25 "The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything," &c.

 

II But when we ascribe spirituality to God, we do not intend simply to assert that he possesses a spiritual nature, but that his nature is exclusively spiritual. By this we mean that he has no material organization, that he has neither body nor members of the body such as we have, neither shape nor form, neither passions nor limitations, but only a spiritual nature.

 

1. This is evident from his immensity and eternity (infinity in time and space).

 

To have an omnipresent and eternal mode of existence is possible for a spiritual nature, because spirit has not of necessity succession of time and specific limitation of location. But these of necessity belong to matter. It is of necessity that it has a here, and not an everywhere; spirit alone can combine the two, the here and the everywhere. It is also of necessity that matter exists in time; we know that it exists now, that it existed yesterday, that it may exist to-morrow. We know that it necessarily has this succession and difference of time. But with the eternal God there can be no succession of time, and consequently he can have no material nature but must be purely spiritual.

 

2. It also follows from his independence and immutability.

 

If God have body, he is capable of being influenced from without, for all matter is thus capable of being influenced, of being moved, divided, added to and diminished. But if thus capable of influence from without he is not independent. Therefore the independent God cannot be material.

 

Again, if he is body, he is mutable, for all matter is capable of change. Therefore the immutable God cannot be material.

 

3. This may be proved from his absolute perfection.

 

(a) Negatively. From the idea of absolute perfection we exclude all that admits of limitation or change. But body is both limited and changeable. Therefore the absolute perfection of God excludes a bodily organism.

 

(b) Positively. To absolute perfection we ascribe the possession of intelligence, will and moral perception. But these do not belong to body. Therefore body cannot be either in part or whole the absolutely perfect one.

 

4. We realize in ourselves, the defects of a material organization, how it confines us, how it causes pain and suffering, how it imposes on us joy in sensual pleasures, how incapable it is of knowledge and power in itself. Hence we naturally disbelieve that in God is to be found an organism so necessarily imperfect. On the other hand we find our spiritual natures to be of wondrous power and capacity, endowed with intelligence, skill and wisdom, capable of knowing right and wrong, and the true and the false, and possessed of liberty of choice, and we therefore ascribe to God the possession of such a nature to an infinite extent, with infinite intelligence, skill and wisdom, and a will absolutely untrammeled from without.

 

In apparent opposition to this doctrine of the pure spirituality of God is a large number of passages, which represent God in or with bodily form. This language is partly figurative, and partly used as an accommodation to human thought, and to the incapacity of human language to express exclusively divine things. Such language is called anthropomorphic, and is generally so obviously such, as to make no false impression, even upon the most ignorant.

 

The following is a corrected list of the passages as collected in West’s Analysis, pp. 17-19.

 

Those which speak of him as having location: Ge 4:16; Ex 19:17-20; 20:21; 33:14-15.

 

As having motion: Ge 17:22; 18:33; Ex 19:20; Nu 12:5; 23:4; De 33:2; Jg 5:4; 1Sa 4:7; Ps 47:5; 68:7-8; Eze 11:23; Mic 1:3; Hab 3:3; Zec 2:13.

 

As using vehicles: 2Sa 22:11; Ps 18:10; 104:3; Hab 3:8,15; Zec 9:14.

 

He is said to dwell on the earth: Ex 25:8; 29:43-44; 1Ki 6:13; 8:12-13; 2Ch 6:1-2; Ps 132:14; Mic 1:2-3; Hab 2:20.

 

He dwells with man: Ex 29:45; Le 26:11-12; 2Ch 6:18; Zec 2:10; Re 21:3.

 

He dwells in men: 1Co 3:16; 6:19.

 

He has face: Ge 32:30; Ex 33:11,20; De 5:4; 34:10; Re 20:11; eyes: 2Ch 16:9; Pr 22:12; nostrils: 2Sa 22:9,16; Ps 18:15; mouth: Nu 12:8; Ps 18:8; lips and tongue: Isa 30:27; breath: Isa 30:28; shoulders: De 33:12; hand and arms: Ex 33:22-23; Ps 21:8; 74:11; 89:13; 118:16; Isa 52:10; Hab 3:4; fingers: Ps 8:3; back: Ex 33:23; feet: Ps 18:9; voice: Ex 19:19; 20:22; Le 1:1; Nu 7:89; 12:4; 22:9; De 4:12,36; 1Ki 19:12-13; Ps 29:3-9; 68:33; Jer 25:30-31; Eze 43:6.

 

His voice is spoken of as dreaded: Ex 20:19; De 4:33; 5:24-26; Joe 2:11; 3:16; Am 1:2; Heb 12:19,26.

 

He is said to exercise laughter: Ps 2:4.

 

He appears to men: Ge 35:9; 48:3; Ex 3:2-6; 19:9; 1Ki 9:2; Job 42:5-6; Am 9:1.

 

His appearance is described: Ex 24:10; De 31:15; Isa 6:1; Eze 8:1-4; 43:2; Da 7:9-10; Re 4:5.

 

He is in human form: Ge 18:1; Eze 1:26-27; Re 4:2-3.

 

III The value of true ideas as to the spirituality of God may be seen from the important consequences which follow from this characteristic of God.

 

1. It involves concerning the nature of God:

 

(1.) That he is invisible and intangible, or incapable of apprehension by the bodily senses.

 

(2.) That he is unchangeable, incorruptible and indestructible.

 

(3.) That he is simple and uncompounded.

 

(4.) That he is a living personal being, intelligent, moral, free and active.

 

(5.) That he is infinite and eternal.

 

2. Upon it depends in the relation of God to creation:

 

(1.) His knowledge of all events, and especially of his spiritual creatures.

 

(2.) His control of all events.

 

(3.) His purposing all things that shall come to pass.

 

3. Because of it, he must receive spiritual worship:

 

(1.) Not that of the body only.

 

(2.) Nor of the outward form.

 

(3.) Nor of pretended service.

 

(4.) But of genuine emotion.

 

(5.) Because of it, he cannot be represented in that worship by outward forms or images. He is to be approached, not with the bodily senses, but with the communings of the heart. Hence the second commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them." Ex 20:4-5.

 

IV Spirituality has been by some classified as one of the attributes of God. This has possibly arisen from the twofold sense which the word spirituality has. It is used among men as a description of character, when it means that that character is exalted to an extraordinary sense above the fleshly appetites and passions, and devoted to spiritual affairs. In this sense spirituality would be an attribute of character, and therefore of the person possessing that character. But when spirituality is spoken of with reference to God, it is used in the sense in which man is spoken of as a spiritual as well as material being. It is declarative of God as possessing a spiritual nature in the sense that his nature is that of a spirit. It is, therefore, a simple declaration of what his nature is, and not a statement of an attribute of that nature. It is, consequently, no more to be classed among the attributes of God than is his unity. These two subjects have, therefore, been treated separately and as preliminary questions to the consideration of his attributes.

 

 

ST. 006 Chapter 6: DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.

CHAPTER VI

 

DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.

 

THE Attributes of God are those peculiarities which mark or define the mode of his existence, or which constitute his character.

 

They are not separate nor separable from his essence or nature, and yet are not that essence, but simply have the ground or cause of their existence in it, and are at the same time the peculiarities which constitute the mode and character of his being.

 

As they are not separable from his essence, so they are not to be regarded as so many different powers and peculiarities or faculties, which so belong to God that he is "composed of different elements." Hedge, 1:369. This would take away the simplicity of the divine nature and make it compound and therefore divisible and changeable.

 

But, on the other hand, they are not simply our different conceptions of God. They have existence independently of his creatures. There is some true foundation in God himself for the distinctions between them, so that, when we speak of God as wise, we do not only say that we conceive of him differently than when we call him just, but we mean that there is that in God which makes it proper that we should conceive of him under the different aspects of wisdom and justice.

 

CLASSIFICATIONS.

 

Various divisions have been made of the attributes of God.

 

1. One is into communicable and incommunicable.

 

The communicable attributes are those which, to a limited degree, he can also bestow upon his creatures. Such are power, knowledge, wisdom, love, holiness, &c.

 

The incommunicable are those which cannot thus be bestowed, but which, of necessity, exist only in God. Such are self-existence, immutability, and infinity including immensity and eternity.

 

2. Another division is into relative and absolute. The relative are those which may be exercised towards objects which are without, the absolute, which exist only in connection with God.

 

3. Still another division is into transient attributes, or such as pass over to his creatures, and immanent, or such as ever remain in God alone.

 

4. A fourth division is into positive and negative attributes, the positive being those which ascribe perfections to God, and the negative those which deny imperfections.

 

These four divisions are however identical. The attributes ranked under the communicable are also placed among the relative, and the transient, and the positive, and those defined as incommunicable are classified as absolute, and immanent, and negative.

 

5. A further division has been made into the natural and moral attributes.

 

By the natural attributes are meant those which describe the mode of his existence without respect to personal character; by the moral, those which describe his character.

 

Dr. Charles Hedge justly objects to this division because the "word natural is ambiguous. Taking it in the sense of what constitutes or pertains to the nature, the holiness and justice of God are as much natural as his power or knowledge. And on the other hand God is infinite and eternal in his moral perfections, although infinity and eternity are not distinctively moral perfections. In the common and familiar sense of the word natural, the terms natural and moral express a real distinction."—Sys. Theol., Vol. I, pp. 375, 376.

 

In the discussion of the divine attributes, those which belong to the incommunicable, or absolute, or immanent, or negative class will first be considered. These are simplicity, which denies composition; infinity, which, either as eternity denies limitation as to time, or as immensity denies it as to space; and immutability, which rejects all possibility of change in God. After that will be taken up, in the order named, the communicable, relative, transient, or positive attributes of power, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, goodness, love, truth and justice. The remainder of this chapter will be devoted to the simplicity and infinity of God.

 

THE SIMPLICITY OF GOD.

 

By this we mean, that the nature of God, comprising his essence and his attributes, is simple or uncompounded pure spirit.

 

It means more than his unity, for the latter expresses only the fact that there is but one being, that is, God. Were God both matter arid spirit, or compounded in any other way, his unity would not be affected.

 

Were there but one man in the world, we should ascribe to him unity, and if there could be but one we should ascribe essential unity.

 

It means more than the spirituality of God, for that includes only that he must be spiritual, and, also, as we have seen, that he should be purely spiritual.

 

But there is nothing contradictory in the idea, that created spirits might have a composite spiritual nature, composed, for example, of mind, soul and spirit, as three distinct essences, or that a spiritual nature should have a spiritual body, as well as a spiritual soul.

 

But in God there can be no composition, and therefore his spiritual nature must be uncompounded. Even his attributes and his nature must be in such a manner one, that his attributes essentially inhere in that nature and are not capable of separation from it, which really makes them one with that nature.

 

The reasons for this are:

 

1. Because composition (or a putting together,) involves possibility of separation. But this would involve destructibility, and changeableness, each of which is inconsistent with absolute perfection and necessary existence.

 

2. Composition involves a time of separate existence of the parts compounded. If so, then there was a time when God did not exist, because the parts of his nature had not been united, or, when he existed imperfectly, not having yet received to his essential nature the additions subsequently made; all of which is inconsistent with absolute perfection and necessary existence.

 

3. If the parts have been compounded, it has been done by some force from without, or has been a growth in his nature. They have not been added from without, because God is independent, and therefore cannot be affected from without. Besides all outward form and all else than God had its origin in him, and he existed as God before it. They have not been a growth in him, for, if so, he is not unchangeable. Any such addition to God or growth in him is also inconsistent with absolute perfection and necessary existence.

 

In ascribing simplicity to God, therefore, we declare that his nature is so purely or simply one as not to be compounded of separate substances, as matter and spirit, or even of the same substance, in different forms, or of a substance with separable attributes; and we assert that even his attributes are one with his essence, and that he is not only essentially spiritual, but also essentially wise, and good, and holy, and just, and true, and almighty, and omnipotent.

 

INFINITY OF GOD.

 

When we say that God is infinite, we deny to him all limitation in his nature or essence. We are conscious of the finite nature of our soul as well as of our body; it has limitations as to place, time and capabilities. In arriving at the idea of the perfect being by way of negation, we deny all such limitation in him, and therefore ascribe to him infinity as to time and space, as well as infinite perfection in his mode of existence, in his power, wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness and truth.

 

The infinity of God as to time is called

 

HIS ETERNITY.

 

By this we mean:

 

(1.) That he has no beginning nor end.

 

(2.) That with him there is no succession of moments.

 

It is difficult to attain any conception of the mode of existence which is thus ascribed to him. It is so different from our own. Yet a brief consideration of what is involved in the nature of God must convince us that the idea which we express by these statements is just and true.

 

1. As to the statement that he has no beginning nor end.

 

When we say that we shall live forever, we can understand how a life once begun may never be completed.

 

But it is difficult to conceive of a life which goes back equally forever as one may go forward. The past is always completed, and as completed, must be measurable. That which has been by succession of moments or days must have had some first day or moment with which it began. We can form no other conception of it.

 

That division of eternity, therefore, which is called eternity a parte post we can comprehend; but the complement of it, the eternity a parte ante, which is united with it to express infinite duration, is felt at once to be an attempted conception of the mind to express the eternity which we know must be true, and yet which we perceive is inadequately conceived as well as incorrectly expressed.

 

While, therefore, we know that God has had no beginning, we see that his mode of existence cannot have been one in which he has had in the past that ever continuing indefinite duration which corresponds to what may be ours in the future.

 

2. When we say that during some period a certain being has always existed and will always exist, we mean that there has not only been no moment in that period when he has not existed and will be none in which he will not exist, but that during that period he has been and will be existent in a constant succession of moments. There is at all times, after the beginning, a past and present, and will be, until the end, a future. One moment passes away, and another succeeds. But with God there can be no succession of moments.

 

(1.) Because then he would have had a beginning, which is opposed to his infinity.

 

(2.) Because then he would not he unchangeable, for that would be true of him to-day which was not yesterday and will not be tomorrow.

 

(3.) He would not be perfect because something could be added to him from day to day. He would become older. He would have new experiences. Indeed there would be either increase or diminution of his power, wisdom, etc.

 

The schoolmen attempted to express the eternity of God by saying that it is "punctum stans" or "nunc semper stans."

 

This is the conception of eternity which we strive to attain. Our difficulty in doing so is that we can no more conceive of duration without succession than we can of an eternity a parte ante. But we see that in this conception we are not arriving at a thought in itself erroneous, as in the other case, but are simply recognizing the fact that God’s mode of existence, as to time, is different from ours. Ours has succession of moments, increase in the length of the period, is not all of it possessed at the same time, has had beginning and might have an end, and has a past and future as well as present. God has no succession, no increase of life, is possessed of the whole of his existence at once, and eternally possessed, has had no beginning, can have no end, and lives in the present only, having no past or future.

 

This accords with the statements of Scripture. God is always spoken of in the present.

 

He calls himself I AM. His name Jehovah has been supposed mystically to express this.

 

The psalmist says: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." Ps 90:2.

 

Thus our Lord, when he would declare his equality with the Father, uses the present tense for each. "My Father worketh even until now, and I work." Joh 5:17.

 

So also in like manner he declared his divinity by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am." Joh 8:58.

 

A question arises, what then is the relation of time and eternity to each other?

 

Time is not a part of eternity, for if it were, eternity must have succession, viz.: before time, during time, after time.

 

They are in reality different modes of existence which are unlike each other, time being suited to the measurement of creation periods and creature life. True eternity belongs only to the life of God.

 

While time, however, is not a part of eternity, it co-exists with it.

 

Through the divine purpose all its events have been eternally present with God, and as well known and realized by him as though actually existent. And, in the actual existence of time, it has been present actually with God and with eternity, although not constituting a part of eternity.

 

The nature of these relations we cannot understand. Our ideas are vague, and the language in which we would convey them is incapable of expressing even what we perceive and know. But while this is true, we have no question as to the possibility of better knowledge in the future on this point. The difficulty is in reality no greater than in the connection between the immensity and omnipresence of God. Yet from the knowledge of the presence of our spirits as compared with that of our bodies, we comprehend the fact of the omnipresence of God with all created things, while the space in which they exist is no more a part of his immensity than is time a part of his eternity.

 

Corresponding to the infinity of God in respect to time, is his infinity in respect to space, which is called

 

HIS IMMENSITY.

 

God is not confined to space any more than he is measured by time.

 

Space must have its limitations because its existence is commensurate only with the universe. Where there is no creation, there can be no space nor time. But creation cannot be infinite, but must have its bounds, impossible as it may be for us to imagine the nonexistence of space. In our mode of existence, space and time are so necessary that we cannot even deny their existence without using words which involve that existence. Thus if we say, "Where there is no universe, there is no space," the very words "where" and "there" involve the notion of space.

 

But notwithstanding this, we know that, just as time is the period, so is space the location, in which creation exists.

 

When, therefore, we speak of God’s immensity, we mean more than his filling all space, just as when we speak of his eternity, we mean more than his existing throughout all time.

 

We can only express the idea by the fiction of infinite space, as in the other, we have done by that of infinite time.

 

Immensity is the absolute attribute of God to which corresponds the relative one

 

HIS OMNIPRESENCE.

 

By this word we express the relation of God as present with creation.

 

He is present everywhere. He is present at one and the same time everywhere.

 

His presence is not merely contact, but energy and power.

 

It is not merely through his knowledge of it, or the exertion of his power upon it, but he fills it with his essence.

 

He fills it, not as part to part, but the whole infinite deity is entirely, undividedly present, at each point of creation, in each moment of time.

 

The following valuable questions and answers are taken from the Outlines of Theology, by Dr. A. A. Hodge, p. 141, of the new edition.

 

"What are the different modes of the divine presence?

 

"God may be conceived of as present in any place, or with any creature, in several modes; first, as to his essence; second, as to his knowledge; third, as manifesting that presence to any intelligent creature; fourth, as exercising his power in or upon his creatures. As to essence and knowledge his presence is the same everywhere and always. As to his self-manifestation and the exercise of his power, his presence differs endlessly in different cases, in degree and mode. Thus God is present to the church as he is not to the world. Thus he is present in hell in the manifestation and execution of righteous wrath, while be is present in heaven in the manifestation and communication of gracious love and glory.

 

"How may it be proved that he is everywhere present as to his essence?

 

"That God is everywhere present as to his essence is proved from Scripture. 1Ki 8:27; Ps 139:7-10; Isa 66:1; Ac 17:27-28. And from reason. (1.) It follows necessarily from his infinitude. (2.) From the fact that his knowledge is his essence knowing, and his actions are his essence acting, yet his knowledge and his power reach to all things.

 

"State the different relations that bodies, created spirits and God sustain to space.

 

"Turretine says: ‘Bodies are conceived of as existing in space circumscriptively, because, occupying a certain portion of space, they are bounded by space upon every side. Created spirits do not occupy any portion of space, nor are they embraced by any; they are, however, in space definitely as here and not there. God on the other hand is in space repletively, because in a transcendent manner his essence fills all space. He is included in no space; he is excluded from none. Wholly present to each point he comprehends all space at once."

 

 

ST. 007 Chapter 7: THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD.

CHAPTER VII

 

THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD.

 

By the immutability of God is meant that he is incapable of change, either in duration of life, or in nature, character, will or happiness. In none of these, nor in any other respect is there any possibility of change.

 

1. This is implied in his absolute perfection. Perfection permits neither increase as though he lacks, nor decrease as though he can lose. Change must be for the worse or for the better, but God cannot become worse or better.

 

2. It arises in like manner from the pure simplicity of his nature. That which is not and cannot be compounded cannot be changed.

 

3. It is expressly taught by the Scriptures in the following as well as in other particulars. A few passages out of many are referred to in support of each.

 

(a) They declare him to be unchangeable in duration and life: Ge 21:33; De 32:39-40; Ps 9:7; 55:19; 90:2; 102:12; Hab 1:12; Ro 16:26; 1Ti 1:17; 6:16.

 

(b) They affirm the unchangeableness of his nature: Ps 104:31; Mal 3:6; Ro 1:23; Jas 1:17.

 

(c) They also assert that his will is without change: Job 23:13; Ps 33:11; Pr 19:21.

 

(d) His character is also said to be immutable, as for example his justice: Ge 18:25; Job 8:3; Ro 2:2; his mercy: Ex 34:7; De 4:31; Ps 107:1; La 3:22-23; Mal 3:6; his truth: Nu 23:19; 1Sa 15:29; Mic 7:20; Ro 3:3; 11:2,29; 2Ti 2:13; Tit 1:2; his holiness: Job 34:10; Hab 1:13; Jas 1:13; and his knowledge: Isa 40:13-14,27-28.

 

The immutability thus set forth in the Scriptures and implied in the simplicity and absolute perfection of God is not, however, to be so understood as to deny in him some real ground for the Scripture statements of emotional feeling in the exercise of love, pity, longsuffering and mercy, or of anger, wrath and avenging justice. We could as well deny some real ground for the attributes of love, justice and truth which are at the basis of these emotions. We must never forget that we know but little, if anything, of the mode of operation of the divine mind. We are sure that we have to think and speak of it erroneously when our thoughts or words involve successive emotions in God or such as have beginning or end. And yet the only way in which change in him in such emotional acts could occur would involve both beginning, and end, and succession. Wherefore, we know that whatever possibility of change in God appears is due only to our own imperfection of knowledge and in-capacity to form true conceptions.

 

It is also true that the unchangeableness of God is not incompatible with such outward activity and relations as exist in connection with Creation, Providence and Redemption. But as this has not been so readily admitted, it may be well to consider more particularly the objections which have been made.

 

I It is objected that a change must have taken place in God in the creation of the universe. It is claimed that he must then have formed a new purpose, and must have passed from a state of rest to one of activity.

 

(a) But this objection is based upon a forgetfulness of the fact, that in him there is no succession, and no change of time from one moment to another. The creation of the universe is no less an outward act than is the time in which it has existence. It appears in time and with time. But with God there is no time and no relation of time, exclusive of time itself. There was not before its creation. There will not be when there shall be no more time in creation. We may not be able to understand how this is, but we know that the fact must be so.

 

It is on this account that the purpose of God to create was not a new one, formed at one time and not at another. On the contrary, that purpose, and, indeed, his whole will is eternal. Whatever may have given rise to that purpose, does not exclude this fact.

 

(b) There was nothing outside to influence him. He was moved entirely by his own will. Whether that will was altogether voluntary, or arose from some necessity in his nature, we need not now consider. If it was either the one or the other, in either event it was eternal, for if his nature be eternal, then any necessity of his nature is an eternal necessity, and any purpose he forms, whether of necessity, or voluntarily, must be eternal volition. So much for the objection, based upon a supposed new purpose.

 

That from a transition from rest to labour is equally baseless. It supposes labour and toil in God. But the Scripture account of creation, as well as the dictates of reason, forbid this. There was no laborious work of God. There never is; there never can be. His infinite power compasses his infinite will, in the mere wishing. Neither in the creation nor in the sustentation of the universe is there in God any of that busy, careful thought, and protracted weary effort by which man maintains government or sustains the lives of those dependent on him.

 

This view of God’s creation accords with reason. It alone is worthy of an all-wise, all-powerful, independent and self-existent God.

 

It is established by Scripture. Heb 11:3 "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear."

 

The whole account of the creation in Genesis, Chap. 1:1, to chap. 2:3, is full of this truth. In every case it is simply, "And God said," &c.

 

Ps 33:9 "For he spake, and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast."

 

When it is said that he rested on the seventh day, no more is implied than that he ceased as to further creation; for the sustentation of the universe requires constantly the same exercise of power and will as its creation.

 

II It is again objected, that the Scriptures represent change in God, when they speak of him as "repenting" of the acts which he had done.

 

Ge 6:6 "And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."

 

1Sa 15:35 "And the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel."

 

Ps 106:45 "And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitudes of his mercies."

 

Am 7:3 "The Lord repented concerning this: It shall not be saith the Lord."

 

Jon 3:10 "And God repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them."

 

In reply to this objection, it may be stated that these are merely anthropopathic expressions, intended simply to impress upon men his great anger at sin, and his warm approval of the repentance of those who had sinned against him. The change of conduct, in men, not in God, had changed the relation between them and God. Sin had made them liable to his just displeasure. Repentance had brought them within the possibilities of his mercy. Had he not treated them differently then there would have been change in him. His very unchangeableness makes it necessary that he shall treat differently those who are innocent and those who are guilty, those who harden themselves against him and those who turn toward him for mercy, with repentant hearts. So far as the first of these passages is concerned, it is simply a protest against the great wickedness into which the race of man has fallen. The Scriptures show that God has had a purpose with reference to such sin, which, from the beginning, contemplated the fall of man and the different stages of wickedness by which in various ages that fall has been accompanied. These statements differ widely from those which declare love, pity, or anger, for there is no emotion in God correspondent with the outward declaration.

 

III Again it has been objected that God must be changeable or he could not answer prayer. It is said if his purposes stand forever and he changes not his will, then there is no place for prayer.

 

It is unquestionably true that God promises to answer prayer. It is also true that prayers have been answered, and that the course of human events has thus been different from what it would have been had there been no prayer and no answer to it.

 

But the mistake arises from supposing that there has been change in God’s purpose or action from what he always contemplated.

 

The difficulty is not one that affects prayer only; it arises as well in connection with labour, or with any other act, by which, through man, a new force is introduced into the universe.

 

It proceeds from the fact that man, being a voluntary agent, may act according to choice at any moment of his life. That choice puts his action outside of the mere mechanical movements of the universe. Over these it is admitted that God has absolute control, and that his purpose relative to them has no change. But it is thought, that if man can choose one thing, or another, or can do, or not do, any special act he pleases, then so much of the future being dependent upon and resultant from his act or volition, God must change his purpose to correspond with that act or volition.

 

To this it may be replied that, even without explanation, we know that such cannot be the case, for this would take away the independence of God. It would make his volitions dependent upon those of man. If it be therefore true, that man cannot be a free agent, without such mechanical action, on his part, as would leave God free, we know that free agency does not belong to him. But we are so fully conscious of our free agency, that that consciousness becomes to us the highest revelation from God that it has real existence. If prayer then be offered, the only doubt about it, as a power and force, the effect of which does not change, is whether God answers it. And, in his word he has so plainly taught this, as to leave no room for doubt.

 

In what aspect, then, are we to regard prayer? Evidently in this simple way; that it is a secondary cause, which has a place, like all other secondary causes, which, like other such, is necessary to produce the result, to which God has given means of efficient entrance into the working of the universe, the existence of which has been as fully known and purposed as any other secondary cause, and the presence of which can in no way take God by surprise, nor render any new purpose or action on his part necessary. So far then from changing his purpose when he answers prayer, God is in reality only carrying out that purpose. But even if we he not able to explain how any will or act of ours can be at the same time as fixed and certain with God, as if it were a decree about some mechanical action of the universe, or were his own personal purpose, and at the same time he perfectly voluntary with man, so that man can either will or not will, do or not do, as he may himself choose, we are perfectly sure that it must he so, from our consciousness of ourselves, and our certainty of what is the nature of God.

 

IV It is further objected, that there was change in God, in the act of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity.

 

The objection is met here, because this is the most suitable place in our course to do so, though the explanation may not be fully comprehended, until we have discussed the Trinity, and the relations of the persons of the Godhead in it.

 

It is based upon a misconception of the scripture doctrine of the incarnation.

 

1. It was not the divine nature, which became incarnate, but simply one of the persons subsisting in it.

 

2. No change took place in the divine nature. The human and divine natures of the Son of God were so related to his person and to each other, that while he was truly God and truly man, possessing every characteristic of each, the two natures remained entirely distinct, each with its own peculiarities and properties. The divine nature was in no degree affected. The Son of God, therefore, was as truly divine after, as before the incarnation.

 

3., So distinct were these natures, that in becoming man, the Son took not simply a human body, but also a human soul. These were united with the personality with which he subsists in the divine nature, but not with the divine nature itself. Christ lacked nothing to make him as separate from God in his human nature as any other man, except separate human personality. He united his human nature to himself by subsisting in it in the same personality with which he subsists in the divine nature.

 

4. The Son has not divine nature separate from the Father and the Spirit, so that we can say his divine nature in the exclusive sense, in which we speak of the human nature of Paul and Peter. Human nature is distributed among individual men, so that each one has his own, and in no wise partakes with another. But the one divine nature is common to the three persons.

 

These statements will show why God has not been changed in the act of incarnation.

 

(1.) There would have been change, had the human nature been so united to the divine, as to add to it such qualities, properties and conditions as do not belong to God. These may be possessed by a divine person in the human nature he has assumed, for thus is there no change in his nature as God, but they cannot be transferred to the divine nature without making it finite as well as infinite, material as well as spiritual, fallible as well as infallible, mortal as well as immortal. These contradictory states may exist in the one person, but cannot in any such compounded nature.

 

(2.) There would have been change, had the divine nature become the soul of the human nature. This would have made that nature subject to human passions and appetites, to human frailties and imperfections, and liable to pain, suffering, and temptation, and to limitation in goodness, knowledge, power and wisdom.

 

The knowledge therefore of the true doctrine of the incarnation shows conclusively, that in it there has been no change in God.

 

V It is alleged that God cannot be without change, because he suffered during the incarnation of Christ.

 

The argument is that the declarations about Christ’s suffering are made, not simply of the human nature, but of both natures combined, and that thus we are taught, that it was not merely man, but God also that suffered. This position is assumed by some who maintain that Christ had a complete human, as well as divine nature, not a mere human body, but also a rational soul. It is necessarily also the position of those who claim that he had no human soul, but that his divine nature took the place of a rational soul.

 

The reply to this argument is that the Scripture statements do not teach that the divine nature suffered. This is nowhere said. They teach that the second person of the Trinity, who became man, suffered. But they plainly refer that suffering to his human nature only. They teach us, that in the relations of his natures to his person, he preserved unchanged the properties and qualities which belonged to them separately, and that this was especially true of the divine nature. There were, indeed, some communications from the divine nature to the human, but none from the human to the divine. But while thus distinct, they were united together in a single personality, and by such a union, that whatever might be said to be true of or to be done or to be suffered by either of the natures, might in like manner be affirmed of the person in whom they were united. It is because of this that Christ, the Son of God, is said to have suffered. He did this in his human, though not in his divine nature. The scripture declarations that Christ suffered, are no proof that God suffered, or that God can change in this respect.

 

But there are those who do not receive the above statements as an exposition of the teachings of Scripture on this point They claim, as necessary, an interpretation which asserts suffering of the divine nature. Those, indeed, who hold that the divine nature is in the place of the human soul, are forced to maintain such an interpretation. It is in reply to both of these that the unchangeableness of the divine nature is presented as conclusive against any such interpretation. Against their position are adduced the numerous statements of scripture asserting that God does not change, and that he is immutable in his nature, and in his various perfections. There are also arguments from reason, by which the same error may be refuted. So incontestable are these statements and reasonings that the objectors readily admit that there is no power or being who can change God contrary to his will, and that the idea of enforced suffering is revolting. The possibility of change and suffering in God, they conceive, therefore, to result from his own will and his own voluntary choice.

 

This raises the question of the possibility of voluntary suffering on the part of God.

 

If this be possible, it must arise in one of two ways; either the nature of God is essentially such as to admit suffering, or the will of God is capable of so changing his nature for a time, as to enable it to suffer. In the first instance the essence of God itself is supposed to remain unchanged, but to be capable of existing in different states at the dictation of his will. In the other, the essence itself is changed by the will, and made capable of that, which otherwise it could not have.

 

In the first case God could suffer, because of the contingent conditions of his life liable to the action of his will, just as we can inflict suffering upon ourselves.

 

In the last case, the nature of God would be so dependent on his will that be could change it at pleasure.

 

This last view, however, is based upon an erroneous conception of the relation of the will of God to his nature. That relation is not causal. The will does not create the nature nor confer upon it its powers nor exercise a controlling influence upon it. It is the nature that influences the will. It is because he is holy, just, and good, that he wills holiness, justice, and goodness, and wills these in himself, because he alone is the infinitely holy, just, and good. His will, therefore, so far from causative, is only approbative and complacent, and his essence can in no degree be affected by it. If this were not so, the nature of God must be the effect of the will of God as a cause, and must be dependent upon that will. The foundation of all excellence, righteousness and holiness would he, not what God is, but what he happens to will at any one time, and would make him differ again and again should he so will. And such will would be capricious; for in making the will superior to the nature, there is taken away all reason for choice in God to good or ill, or in one direction or another, and he is left, without motive, to accidental or capricious volition only. Moreover, if God is capable of this kind of change in any respect, he is so in all others, for the power of the will to effect one modification in the divine nature, necessarily involves the power to effect any or all other such.

 

As the will, therefore, cannot change the essence of God, but is itself controlled by that essence, it is not possible that it can confer the power to suffer, which otherwise God would not have. If, therefore, this power of suffering be not inherent in the divine nature, it can have no existence.

 

But if this be inherent in the divine nature, it must be a quality necessarily and constantly belonging to the nature of God, and must, therefore, be destructive of the blessedness so fully and eminently ascribed to God in the Scriptures, or it must exist there after the manner of the contingent conditions of our life, because of which we can pass from a state of happiness into one of suffering, and back to happiness again; and its passage from one of these states to the other, most be the result of the exercise of a divine volition.

 

But with God there can be no such contingent conditions.

 

1. The very nature of his necessary existence forbids this.

 

2. The language of scripture "I, the Lord, change not," {Mal 3:6} and "with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning," Jas 1:17, is expressly contrary to such a supposition.

 

3. The contrast drawn in the Bible between God and men in respect to change, is distinctly based upon that contingency in man, to which there is no similarity in God.

 

4. The truth and faithfulness of God are magnified in the Scriptures by the fact of their exercise where man would thus change, but where God does not, because he is fixed and constant. The passage, "I change not" is presented in a context, where the will of God might be presumed to induce change, and the assertion that this is his nature is made to show why that will would not so affect him.

 

5. In addition to all of this, such contingent conditions or states are incompatible with the nature of his eternity, which, as being without succession, excludes change; as well as with his simplicity which denies separation between his essence and his attributes, and therefore gives no room for change; while they are absolutely excluded by the perfection of God, which cannot be always asserted of him if the states or conditions of his being can be changed, unless in all these states he could be equally perfect in all respects, which surely cannot be affirmed of the two states of happiness and suffering.

 

 

 

ST. 008 Chapter 8: THE POWER OF GOD.

CHAPTER VIII

 

THE POWER OF GOD.

 

We derive our knowledge of power from the consciousness of our will or purpose to effect an end, and from our experience that we have accomplished that end.

 

Over our own bodies our will acts directly, without the intervention of any means known to us. Thus, when we will to move the arm, the arm is moved, but whatever necessity there may be of nervous influence or muscular action, we know of no such connection between these and our will, save the fact that the will puts these into operation.

 

Over other material objects we can only act through our bodies and other necessary means of contact.

 

Experience teaches us, however, that mind can act upon mind without such contact, though the mode in which this is done is still mysterious.

 

The action of our minds upon our material structure and over other minds also suggests that mind, by some subtle connection, may act upon outward matter, as we see, that our minds act upon our bodies.

 

In this way many of the curious phenomena which have been falsely used for the proof of the spiritualistic theories of the present day will probably be accounted for.

 

But, whatever may be the power of man, it is evident that it is marked by limitations, not only as to what can be done, but also as to the way in which it may be done.

 

In ascribing power to God, however, we must exclude all such limitation. Not only is he all powerful (almighty), but he needs not instrumental contact.

 

But, although this is true, God accomplishes much that he does through secondary means which partake of the nature of instrumental contact. Such action, however, is with him not a matter of necessity, but simply his economic way of doing what he could as perfectly and as easily do by direct action.

 

Power in God, therefore, may be defined to be the effective energy inherent in his nature by which he is able to do all things. The exercise of that power is dependent upon his will or purpose, and is limited not by what he can do, but by what he chooses to do.

 

We ascribe power to God.

 

1. Because we perceive that its possession is a perfection in us, and is therefore to be attributed to the all-perfect being.

 

2. Because we cannot account for the existence and phenomena of the universe without ascribing to God the power which has produced them.

 

3. Because our own sense of dependence assures us that there must be power to create, preserve, and protect us, in him in whom we live and move and have our being.

 

4. The Scriptures also teach us to ascribe power to God.

 

(a) In such passages as directly ascribe power to him: Jer 32:17; Ps 115:3; Eph 1:19; 3:20.

 

(b) By reference to his unlimited works: Jer 10:12; Joh 1:3; Ac 17:24.

 

(c) By declaring that what he does is done by mere will without labour, by his word; as in the whole account of creation in the beginning of Genesis and in Ps 33:9.

 

(d) By denying the necessity of great means and asserting that what he does can be done with the many or the few: 1Sa 14:6; 2Ch 14:11.

 

(e) By figurative or anthropomorphic expressions, as "the hand," "the right hand of God," "the strong hand," "the arm," "the arm not shortened." Ex 15:6; Nu 11:23; Jos 4:24; Ne 1:10; Job 40:9; Ps 98:1; Isa 50:2; 59:1.

 

God’s power may be described as:

 

I Absolute, which is equivalent to what he can do, and is measured by his nature.

 

II Actual, which is what he exercises, and is measured by his will. It is what is put in action by him.

 

Knapp makes a division of absolute and ordinate, making the absolute that by which he created the world out of nothing, and the ordinate that by which he continues to create or produce according to the laws he has established, as by secondary causes, as in the production of plants, animals, etc. But these are different kinds of exercise of power, but not different kinds of power.

 

Our power differs from that of God in three particulars:

 

1. We cannot do whatever we choose, even if it be right.

 

2. We cannot do it without intermediate means.

 

3. We cannot do it at any moment we please, but only when the circumstances favour.

 

But, while God is not subject to the limitations which thus affect us, he also is limited in his power. These limitations, however, are such as arise, not from without, but from the excellence and perfection of his own nature. Hence the limitations are concurrent with his will, which can never desire to do what his nature does not permit.

 

1. God cannot create a being or world to which his essential incommunicable attributes can be given, viz.: infinity, embracing eternity and immensity, and self-existence.

 

2. He cannot create a being whose nature is sinful. The nature he bestows on any creature becomes the law of that creature, so that for any nature to be sinful, it must have been changed from conformity to the law of its creation.

 

3. He cannot impose laws which are not accordant with righteousness and holiness.

 

4. He cannot deal with any of his creatures unjustly.

 

5. He cannot commit sin.

 

6. He cannot change his own nature.

 

7. He cannot change his decrees or purpose.

 

8. He cannot do impossibilities.

 

If it be asked why he can do none of these things, the answer is, because his own nature is to him the law of what he does, as well as of what he wills and of what he is. He is not just and holy because he wills to be so, but he wills to be just and holy because he is so. His will does not make his nature, but his nature controls his will.

 

An apparent objection to the infinite power of God is the presence of sin in the universe.

 

The holiness, justice, and even goodness of God render it impossible that sin can be either created or permitted as something indifferent to God. He must hate it, and punish it wherever it appears.

 

Its presence therefore is due either to the fact that he could not prevent it, or that he has permitted it for some wise purpose.

 

What that wise purpose is, ought properly to be shown in proof that the existence of evil is consistent with God’s goodness.

 

That its presence is due to such purpose, rather than to lack of power of God, appears from the fact that he could have prevented it. This he could have done

 

1. By not creating beings capable of sinning.

 

2. By not allowing them to be placed in circumstances which would lead to sin.

 

3. By sustaining and fortifying them in those circumstances, so as to counteract the temptation and keep them from sinning.

 

4. And, (as the objection is the rather to the continued existence of sin than its origin,) by the immediate destruction of those who have sinned.

 

But so far from the presence of sin showing lack of power in God, it has served the more signally to display that power.

 

1. Over sin itself, in its destruction and punishment.

 

2. Over its final victims, by causing them to feel and acknowledge the terrible power of his wrath.

 

3. Over others, by their signal deliverance through his power, not only from the penalty, but from the presence of sin.

 

4. In the sin itself, by exhibiting that restraining and conquering power, by which God makes evil itself to work out his purposes of good and glory.

 

 

ST. 009 Chapter 9: THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

CHAPTER IX

 

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

 

GOD is an intelligent being possessed or knowledge.

 

This may be proved:

 

1. From his spirituality; for intelligence is an essential element of spiritual existence.

 

2. From his perfection; for the perfect one must have intelligence as one of his perfections.

 

3. From his causal relations to other beings and things.

 

(1.) As the cause of mental power and action in others, he must himself be possessed of mind. As the Scriptures aptly inquire, "He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?" Ps 94:9; so may we ask, he that made the mind, and gave the power of thought and knowledge, shall he be without intelligence?

 

(2.) The effects he has produced show that they are the result of, conscious action in the fulfillment of purpose, which he has formed. His causation is not like that of mechanical or chemical forces, which operate with blind productiveness or effective operation towards ends unknown to them, and not predetermined. This is possible to secondary causes, because they are the instruments of some other cause, itself intelligent and purposing. But intelligence and purpose are necessarily present in him, who is the great first cause, the prime mover and designer of all else that exists. All the evidences of design in creation, therefore, prove the intelligence of him who bears to it the relation of its first cause.

 

(3.) It is sometimes argued from his omnipresence, but omnipresence alone would not prove intelligence. His intelligence, however, having been established, his omnipresence enables us to determine the extent of his knowledge.

 

How does God know? or in what way does he possess knowledge?

 

1. Not as we gain it, by using faculties fitted to acquire it. There is in him nothing corresponding to observation, comparison, generalization, deduction, processes of reasoning, by which we pass from one step to another, or the contemplation or conjecture of suppositions or theories by which we account for facts.

 

2. It is even improper to speak of his knowing by intuition, as is frequently done.

 

3. All that we can say is that his knowledge is his essence or nature knowing. It is not something acquired, but something belonging to that nature itself and identical with it, in like manner as are his love, and truth, and justice. It is something so inherent in his nature that it exists exclusively of any means of attaining or perceiving it, which we call action.

 

4. The knowledge of God, therefore, not being acquired, cannot be increased. Time does not add to it. Succession of events does not bring it before God. All the objects of his knowledge are to him eternally present and known.

 

What then are the objects of his knowledge?

 

1. Himself his nature, or essence; the personal relations subsisting in that essence; all that that nature is, and all that it can appear to be in its manifestations; all that the purposes of God include, and all that might be purposed by him, whether to be done or to be permitted.

 

2. His creation in all its fullness; in its whole extent, whether marked by magnitude, or minuteness, or variety. The whole universe, with its innumerable worlds, is ever before him, while not an atom of dust, nor the most microscopic of sensitive existencies is unperceived thoroughly.

 

3. Not merely inanimate matter, nor simple animal natures, but all spiritual beings; he knowing their essences which to them remain unknown, and having perfect perception of the intents and thoughts of their hearts. "When Thales was asked if some of the actions of men were not unknown to God, he replied, ‘not even their thoughts.’" Knapp’s Theology. An inspired writer has taught us that God knows us even better than we know ourselves. "Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him, whereinsoever our heart condemn us; because God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." 1Jo 3:19-20. His knowledge is not limited to the manifestations and operations of spiritual beings, but extends to their essences, and includes not only what they are, but also those tendencies which indicate what they may be.

 

4. He knows all the past, present, and future of all things, knowing the future with the same certainty and accuracy with which he knows the present and past; for that future is already as present to him as though actually existing with the creatures and time belonging to it, and is as distinctly perceived as it shall be then.

 

But more specifically as to his knowledge of future events it may be said:

 

1. That he knows all events that are certain or fixed. The certainty that they will come to pass is based upon his decree. He therefore knows all things that shall come to pass.

 

2. He knows all events that could possibly come to pass. This is based upon his infinite knowledge of himself and of all his creatures, by which all things or events, which could at any time or under any circumstances occur, are known to him.

 

In these two classes are necessarily included all objects of knowledge.

 

Knapp lays down a third kind of knowledge, namely, the knowledge of contingent events, or events which might take place under certain circumstances; for example, that God foresees that if James lives until he is grown, he will commit murder; he therefore determines to prevent this by removing him from life. The knowledge of the murder is here claimed to be that of a contingent event. And hence it is claimed to be another kind of knowledge.

 

But to examine this. It is readily admitted that the murder does not come under the classification of things certain or decreed, because it will not take place. But it does come under the head of things possible, and between it and all other possible things no distinction can be made. All possible things are contingent until made certain by a decree. Every possible thing is only possible in connection with the circumstances under which it can happen. There is therefore no distinction between possible things and contingent things, and consequently no third class is to be added.

 

The kind of knowledge which he thus speaks of as contingent is stated by Knapp to be what is called Scientia Media. It is one form only, in which Scientia Media is presented by those who maintain it.

 

Another form of Scientia Media is, however held by some. According to this, the future event to which it refers is known to God as an event that will take place, but his knowledge of that fact is attained, not through his decree, but through his foreknowledge that, under certain circumstances, a man will pursue one course of action rather than another.

 

This kind of Scientia Media teaches:

 

(1.) The future event as certain.

 

(2.) That God knows it as such.

 

(3.) That this knowledge does not arise from his decree.

 

(4.) But, from his knowledge of the nature of the man, together with that of the circumstances that will surround him, he knows that he will act in a particular way.

 

The only question here is as to the 3d and 4th, for it agrees with the usual orthodox statement in saying, 1st, that it is certain, and 2d, that God knows it as such.

 

But the 3d and 4th assert that this knowledge is the result of a foreknowledge of God as to how a man will act under certain circumstances. It is evident, however, that this foreknowledge is necessarily accompanied by a determination to allow him so to act.

 

Now the question arises, is this universally the method of God’s action? If it be so, then God has left the world entirely to itself, without any influence from him. Everything has come to pass, not because of his will and action, but because he has left the general laws, under which he has placed the world, to work out their results without any action or influence on his part.

 

But this is so manifestly untrue and unscriptural, that it never has been maintained by any Christian men, and it is by Christian writers only that the idea of Scientia Media referred to above has been presented.

 

It is therefore denied that this is what is meant, and they say that while God does operate in and interfere with the world, and carry on his own purposes in certain matters, he does not choose in other events to exercise any influence, but simply refrains and leaves the events to work out their own effects; and that the knowledge which he has of these events is based upon the fact that they will take place if he does not thus interfere.

 

The theory thus presented, as will be seen, admits the continued preservation of all things, with all their powers. This can only result from God’s providential action, and involves all that concurrence with events on the part of God through which alone they preserve and exercise effectively the powers he has given them.

 

This being admitted, then the views held by these parties, stated in any form in which they could hold them, would involve no additional fact beyond the distinction, recognized by all orthodox divines, between the absolute and permissive decrees of God.

 

But in any event there is a decree, determination, intention, purpose, or whatever else men may call it,—in the broadest language, a will, or volition,—to leave these things so to operate. And upon this will or decree is based his knowledge that these things will be; for without the knowledge of such a purpose, how could he know that he will not at some time choose to change the circumstances or prevent their accomplishment of the event?

 

It will be seen that in neither of the forms of Scientia Media thus far referred to is there any serious disagreement from the truth. The objection to them is more the lack of accuracy and the mistaken notion that some new idea is involved; or rather the great objection has been the purpose by which men have been led, viz., a desire to lay down the distinction of conditional decrees in salvation. According to these decrees:

 

(1.) God offers salvation to every man.

 

(2.) But does not decree his salvation or damnation.

 

(3.) Yet only decrees his salvation if he believes.

 

(4.) Or his damnation if he does not believe.

 

(5.) The knowledge which God is admitted to have had of the event from the beginning arises from foresight that, under the circumstances in which the man is placed, he will exercise, or will not exercise belief.

 

The Scientia Media is, therefore, introduced to show how an event can be known as something that will actually take place, and yet as something not fixed by a decree of God, and consequently known upon some other ground than because decreed. This we have shown to be a mistaken conception in the forms already examined.

 

But a third kind of Scientia Media is by no means as harmless as the two already presented, although its absurdity is readily seen. It is given in Dr. J. Pye Smith’s first lines of Christian Theology, p. 145, as follows:

 

"That God foresees all future events, depending upon the will of His voluntary agents, (i. e., all possible beings and all possible actions of all possible beings), under a position of antecedents endlessly varied; and that, then, in every case certain consequents will follow. The Deity does not certainly know which, in the endless number of possible antecedents, a voluntary creature will choose and practice; but he knows what will be the result under every possible variation of these antecedents. When, therefore, the creature has made his election and fulfilled his course of action, the Deity may say that he foreknew the whole."

 

The objections to this scheme are manifest.

 

(1.) It makes the God, whose purposes we see constantly manifested to us, a God of no purpose at all. He can have no end; he can only know that at any time given in the universe, some one end of many myriads may be the one attained.

 

(2.) It s contrary to the power to prophesy the actual events which shall happen at a given time, which God has exercised through his prophets.

 

(3.) It is opposed to his independence, for it makes him dependent upon the will of his creatures, and not their actions dependent upon him.

 

(4.) It is opposed to his perfection, for that perfection forbids the idea of increase or addition from without; yet, according to this view, his knowledge is constantly increasing as to what is done by his creatures. Every moment, that which heretofore has been only one of many possibilities, becomes a certain event.

 

(5.) As there can be no reason for God’s will not being effective at least in some respects in man, this Scientia Media, which rests upon the idea that God ought not thus to operate on the mind, even by a purpose, must be a misconception. Else how could God bestow influences upon intelligent creatures which are fitted to affect their minds, as in the gift of Christ, or of the Spirit. Even the conscience within ought not to exercise its powers, nor even to exist in man. If it be said that these would only operate with the free consent of the party, it may be replied that such is the case with all the influences arising in connection with God’s decrees. Is it said that these are influences for good only? So also is it in connection with his decrees. The effective decrees of God, by which he changes in any respect the will of his creatures, are altogether connected with influences for good. In all other respects men are left to act as they please. But their action is known, and known because of God’s decree to leave them thus to act.

 

(6.) That God should exert no influence over his intelligent creatures also involves that he be excluded from the physical universe.

 

The very circumstances under which men are supposed to act in Scientia Media are circumstances arising from things around as well as within. Neither can he who can control these circumstances be shut out from the control of those physical events which he knows will affect the will of a voluntary agent. If it be necessary to responsible freedom of the will that man shall not be influenced at all, God must be excluded from the universe; yea, every other being and thing except man. Every man also must be completely isolated from all others, even so far that he shall suppose that he owes no obligations of obedience, and that none shall know his action. These absurd conclusions might even be further extended.

 

The passages in Scripture supposed to support Scientia Media do not sustain it. These are Ge 3:22; Ex 4:8; 1Sa 23:5-14; Jer 38:17-20; Mt 11:21,23; Ac 27:22,31.

 

THE WISDOM OF GOD.

 

Wisdom is that power which enables one to put to practical use the knowledge and skill which he possesses, to choose wise ends of action, and to attain these ends by wise means. It is that guidance of the understanding under which the will determines wisely its pleasure, and puts forth power to accomplish it.

 

Wisdom in God is infinite mid unerring, choosing always the best end and the best means of attaining it. It is seen in creation, and in providence, but is most signally manifested in redemption.

 

 

ST. 010 Chapter 10: HOLINESS, GOODNESS, LOVE AND TRUTH.

CHAPTER X

 

HOLINESS, GOODNESS, LOVE AND TRUTH.

 

After the consideration of the wisdom and knowledge of God, which correspond to the characteristics of our mental organism, we take up that of those attributes sometimes called moral, because they correspond to those which form our moral character. These are holiness, goodness, truth and justice.

 

HOLINESS.

 

Holiness is, however, not a distinctive attribute, but rather the combination of all these attributes. We may suppose a being in whom there may be love without justice, or truth, or any one of these to the exclusion of the other two; but no being can be holy, who does not combine in himself all of these, and all other moral perfections. Nor, when we have such a combination, is there anything to be added to constitute holy character. It is evident, therefore, that holiness is the sum of all excellence and the combination of all the attributes which constitute perfection of character.

 

In the study of these constituents, we first consider

 

GOODNESS.

 

In one aspect of this word, it is merely equivalent to holiness. If we look at it as marking the excellence of God’s nature, as we often use it with reference to man, we mean by it simply holiness. Thus, when we say of any one, he is a good man, we mean to assert the combination of traits of character, such as have just been pointed out as constituting holiness. This is the goodness which terminates in God himself.

 

On the other hand, the goodness of God may be spoken of as kindness, benevolence, or beneficence towards others, in which it is seen to terminate outside of himself. Thus we speak of him, as being very good to us. Thus the Psalmist says: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Ps 23:6.

 

It is on account of this ambiguity in this word, that it is best to consider it, in its first aspect, as merely holiness, and, therefore, as disposed of in what we have said of that, and to refer it in this second respect to one of the divisions into which the love of God naturally falls.

 

We therefore take up next

 

LOVE.

 

Of this there are five kinds, which vary according to the object upon which love is exercised. The attribute in God is the same; but it is in its exit, or in its termination, that it assumes these different forms.

 

1. There is the love of complacency or approbation. This is exercised towards a worthy object in which excellencies are perceived. It is of the nature of tile love of the beautiful, or the good, or the useful in us. It complacently or approvingly regards, because there is in the object something worthy of’ such regard.

 

This is exercised by God, in its highest degree, in the love of himself, of his own nature and character, because the infinitely excellent must be to God the highest object of complacent love.

 

Were God but one person, in this way only could such love be exercised. But in the Trinity of the Godhead, there is found, in the love of the separate persons towards each other, another mode in which this love of complacency may in this highest sense be exercised.

 

Such love is also felt by God for his purposes. As he perceives them to be just, wise and gracious, he approves and regards them with complacent love.

 

But this love extends itself also to the creations, which result from this purpose.

 

This is true of inanimate creation. It is perfect, as far as conformed to his will, and fitted to accomplish his end, and as such God can regard it and pronounce it good. Thus we find that he did in the creation, Genesis, Chap. 1:10, 12.

 

The same record is made, in verse 25, as to the animal creation, before that of man; and after the creation, and investiture of man with the dominion over the earth, with its plants and animals, we are told, verse 31, "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."

 

The complacent love of God, therefore, extends not only to himself and his will, but to all his innocent creation and even to inanimate nature.

 

This love of complacency, however, as it is exercised in its highest degree towards himself, so also is it exhibited, in the nearest approach to that, towards those beings who are most like himself, having been made in his nature and likeness. An innocent angel, or an innocent man is therefore by nature a joy to God, as is the child to the father who sees in it a peculiar likeness to himself.

 

But the guilty cannot thus be loved. Sinful man cannot receive such love, so long as sinful. Even the penitent believer in Jesus, until the time of his perfect sanctification in the life to come, and doubtless even then, has access to God only through Christ, and, of himself, can in no respect secure the approbation of God.

 

2. The second kind of love, is the love of benevolence, which corresponds to the idea of God’s goodness towards his creatures.

 

This is the product of his wishes for their happiness. It is not dependent on their character, as is the love of complacency, but is exercised towards both innocent and guilty.

 

It is general in its nature, not special, and exists towards all, even towards devils, and wicked men, because God’s nature is benevolent, and, therefore, he must wish for the happiness of his creatures

 

That that happiness is not attained, nor attainable, is due, not to him, but to their own sin.

 

When the benevolence of God is exercised actively in the bestowment of good things upon his creatures, it is called his beneficence. By the former, he wishes them happiness, by the latter, he confers blessings to make them so.

 

This is done to the wicked also, as well as to the righteous. It is to this that Christ refers, Mt 5:45 "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust."

 

3. The third form of love is the love of compassion.

 

This corresponds to our idea of pity. It is benevolent disposition to those who are suffering or in distress.

 

This also may be exercised towards the guilty or the innocent, if it be possible to suppose that guilt and suffering are separable.

 

It has been very commonly held that they are inseparable. Pain, suffering and distress have been believed to be the result of sin, and consequently inseparable from guilt.

 

But this is a mistaken notion. Man in a state of innocence was made capable of physical suffering. That capacity was necessary to the protection of his physical organism.

 

The lower animals also suffer.

 

Whatever addition to the capacity of suffering has, therefore, been made by the fall, and is the consequence of sin, we are not, on that account,forced to the conclusion that there can be no suffering where there has been no sin.

 

The capacity to suffer may so belong to a higher organism, that we would naturally choose that organism, with that capacity, rather than a lower one without it. If so God can justly so create us.

 

If misery, then, may be the lot of the innocent, God’s love of compassion can be exercised toward such.

 

It can be and is also exercised toward the guilty. We see this in the forbearance with which he delays their punishment, in his constant offers of mercy, in his yearnings after their salvation, and most signally, in the gift of his only begotten Son, "that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." Joh 3:16.

 

4. A fourth form of the love of God corresponds to what we call mercy.

 

This can be exercised only toward sinners.

 

Its very nature contemplates guilt in its objects.

 

It consists, not only in the desire not to inflict the punishment due to sin, and the neglect and refusal to do so, but in the actual pardon of the offender.

 

It cannot be exercised towards a righteous being, because in him is no sin or guilt to be pardoned.

 

It is, however, no new attribute in God, which has arisen because of the existence of sin, and which is, therefore, an addition to his attributes.

 

It is a virtue inherent in his nature, and is especially only one form in which his love exhibits itself, the same love as that benevolence which innocent creatures call forth, and the same love which in another form of complacency has been eternally exercised in the Godhead.

 

When we say that this mercy must be exercised in accordance with the truth and justice of God, we say no more than is true of every attribute of God. No one can be exercised in such a way as to destroy another. Every one must be in harmony with the others. Or, remembering what we have before stated, that these attributes are not separate faculties, all that is meant in this case, as in all others, is that God must act in harmony with his nature.

 

The objects of the exercise of this attribute are all those to whom God pardons offenses of any kind.

 

They are not to be confined to redeemed sinners, although this is the most signal exhibition.

 

Under the ancient economy, God ruled as theocratic ruler over Israel. Sins of the nation and sins of individuals in their capacity of citizens of the nation, were pardoned.

 

Under that dispensation God occupied to that people the position of an earthly ruler, and consequently could pardon sins against his government at will, upon repentance, and upon merely governmental principle—that is, such as would secure obedience to the law, and peace and order, and the welfare of the nation. These were offences against the mere person of the king or the laws of his state, and not against the fundamental principles of holiness and righteousness; hence sovereignty and expediency could decide in each case what might be done, and mercy was exercised and justice dispensed accordingly.

 

But this is very different from the case of God, the righteous judge, the dispenser, not of arbitrary law, but of a law based upon his own nature and that of man, essential obedience to which is necessary, not for maintaining government, but for preserving and maintaining the right and preventing the violation with impunity of eternal law.

 

In both cases God must act in harmony with his whole nature.

 

But in that of Israel no obstacle was presented by that nature to the pardon of individual and national sins against the theocratic king.

 

Hence mercy was extended, apparently at least, without compensation to justice.

 

Yet amid it all, there was, in the sacrificial offerings with which the people were required to approach God, seeking pardon for both individual and national political sins, such a typical relation to the atonement made by Christ as shows that in some way in that atonement, may, after all, be found the reason why God, even in those cases, could be just and yet justify the offenders.

 

5. The fifth form of love is that of affection.

 

This differs from that of complacency inasmuch as it does not always demand a worthy object. This is exhibited in the parable of the "Prodigal Son."

 

It differs from that of benevolence, inasmuch as its object is not viewed in general with all others, but is one of special interest.

 

It differs from that of compassion and that of mercy, because the object may neither be in distress, nor sinful.

 

It arises from,

 

(1.) Mutual relationship; as of the Father to the Son, and of all the persons in the Trinity toward each other; of God to Israel, of Christ to his apostles, his disciples and his church, and of the adopted sons to God the Father.

 

(2.) From dependence; as of creatures on the creator, and of the redeemed upon the redeemer.

 

(3.) From ownership; as of God over man of God over Israel, and of Christ over the redeemed. This is illustrated in the lost coin in Lu 15:8-9.

 

This kind of love originates in each of these ways in man, and, as the Scriptures show, is also found in God.

 

It is from this aspect of God’s love that proceeds grace, which is to be distinguished from love, and pity, and mercy.

 

Love, as we have seen, is the general characteristic, exhibiting itself in these five different forms.

 

Mercy is one of these, but is given to the guilty only.

 

Pity is given to guilty or innocent, who may be in distress, pain or suffering.

 

Grace is also given to guilty, or innocent, and does not necessarily suppose distress in the object, but involves an affectionate interest in it, arising either from peculiar relation to it, or ownership of it, or compassion for its dependence.

 

Grace is undeserved favour to innocent or guilty arising from affection.

 

Mercy is undeserved compassion to the guilty only.

 

THE TRUTH OF GOD.

 

The expression, "truth of God," is ambiguous, and must be considered under the specific terms which set forth its various meanings.

 

I His Verity. He is True God. By this is meant, the exact correspondence of the nature of God with the ideal of absolute perfection. The foundation of that ideal may be indeterminable. But, whether it is in the nature of God himself, or in his will proceeding from his nature, or in eternal principles of the fit and the necessary and the right, which exactly coincide with that nature, God and that ideal must be perfect counterparts. That ideal can only be partially comprehended by any of his creatures, because of their imperfections; but it is known by God in all its supreme excellence, and his nature must fully correspond to it as thus known. Otherwise he would not be God.

 

It is in this aspect of God’s truth, that the Scriptures call him the true God. See 2Ch 15:3; Jer 10:10; Joh 17:3; 1Th 1:9; 1Jo 5:20; Re 3:7.

 

II His Veracity. By this is meant, God’s truthfulness or incapacity to deceive. It is an attribute of his nature, which, like his power, exists, and makes him what he is, even though there be no outward relation to it. By virtue of it, he is the source of all truth, not moral only, but even mathematical.

 

In its relation to God’s creatures, it is the foundation of their confidence in the knowledge obtained through the use of their own faculties, whether by intuition, observation or reason. Whatever imperfection there is in such knowledge, is perceived to be due to the creature, and not to God the creator. Upon it is also based belief in the revelations God makes to man of facts beyond the attainment of merely human power.

 

The Scriptures affirm the veracity of God in the strongest terms. In addition to its assertion in numerous passages, we are told, Ps 108:4, that his "truth reacheth unto the skies." In Tit 1:2, he is called "God, who cannot lie."

 

III His faithfulness. This consists in the truth of God viewed in its relation to his purposes whether secret, or revealed. When revealed, these become either promises, or threats. But as promises, the ground upon which these purposes must be fulfilled is, not any obligation to the creature, for God can come under none, but simply because of his own faithfulness to his purposes. Hence his faithfulness demands equally the performance of his threatenings, as of his promises.

 

This faithfulness is based upon the veracity of his nature considered above. It is by virtue of that veracity, that God must be faithful; yet the faithfulness is a new aspect, in which God’s truthfulness appears.

 

This faithfulness is the ground both of hope and of fear. In the Scriptures it is more frequently presented as a reason for hope and trust. But it is also the foundation of belief in future judgement and punishment. The faithful God has been true to his threatenings, as well as his promises. His faithfulness assures us that he will so continue.

 

 

ST. 011 Chapter 11: JUSTICE OF GOD.

CHAPTER XI

 

JUSTICE OF GOD

 

By justice is meant that rectitude of character which leads to the treatment of others in strict accordance with their deserts.

 

The justice of God differs in no respect from this attribute as seen among his rational creatures; except that his justice must be perfect while theirs is imperfect, and his must be impartial, while theirs is partial. These differences, however, exist in the exercise of justice, and not in the thing itself. They arise from the limited knowledge, reason, and perception of right and wrong among men, and from the extent to which they naturally yield to their prejudices and passions. In the all perfect being, however, justice has none of these deficiencies, and must be exercised according to its strictest nature, and in every conceivable from of perfection. To all, therefore, he must deal out the most absolute justice, whatever they deserve, only what they deserve, and the full measure of their deserts.

 

Inasmuch as the justice of God may be considered as it exists in himself, or as it is manifested towards his creatures, a distinction has been made in it as viewed in these aspects, into the absolute and relative justice of God.

 

By absolute justice is meant that rectitude of the divine nature, in consequence of which God is infinitely righteous in himself. This rectitude is essential to him, and existed before there was a creation in which to exhibit it.

 

By the relative justice of God is meant that justice, as exhibited towards, and exercised upon, his creatures in the dispensation of the universe. It is seen in the nature of the laws he gives, in his impartiality in dealing with those subjected to them, and in his maintenance of right and virtue, by the threats and promises he attaches to them, and his punishment of those who violate them. To this form of justice is often applied the name of rectoral justice, inasmuch as it is justice exercised by a ruler, in the form of government, and by means of laws.

 

There is a form of justice, known among men as commutative justice, which consists in giving to each one his due in the barter and exchange of commerce, or in any other of the mutual relations of life. As it is based upon the ground of mutual obligation, and, therefore, is not suited to a being entirely independent of others, it cannot properly be ascribed to God. The blessings given in consequence of his promises to man, are not matters of obligation, but of grace. The only aspect, in which this could be connected with God, would be as between the Father and the Son, in conferring upon his people those blessings which the Son had purchased through his sufferings. It is in this sense that the Scripture says, that God is "faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1Jo 1:9.

 

In the administration of the affairs of his creatures, God exercises distributive justice. By this is meant, the rewarding and punishing his subjects, according to the sanctions of his law. His justice is here evinced in the maintenance of punishment, if the law be broken, but not in the bestowment of rewards, since these are given graciously as further inducements to duty. While, therefore, God gives all the rewards promised, they are given because promised, and not because due. These punishments further show forth the justice of God as they are impartially inflicted.

 

The ground upon which the offenders against God’s law are punished, is not simply the fact that a law of God has been broken, but, that, in the breaking of that law, essential right has been violated and wrong committed. It would be sufficient to authorize punishment, that the law of the ruler is broken. Still it might appear that the will of the ruler might remit a punishment due to a mere violation of his will. But the law of God is based upon the immutable distinctions between right and wrong, and sin and holiness, as they exist in the nature of God. Its violation, therefore, is sin. It is a destruction of the right. Hence, that which impels God to punish, is not his rectoral character, but his holy nature. It is when justice is regarded in this respect, that it is called punitive or vindicatory.

 

But punitive justice is not admitted by all, nor that God punishes sin in any other respect, than as a violation of his will; nay, it is even disputed whether he even punishes the violations of his will.

 

Three questions, therefore, arise here.

 

1. Does God punish the violations of his will?

 

2. Does he punish them, because they are mere violations, or because they are sin?

 

3. Is this done because of anything essential in his nature, or because it is expedient for governmental or other purposes?

 

Upon these questions there have been several opinions expressed.

 

1. The Universalists and some of the Socinians deny that God punishes even the violations of his law. They regard the precepts of morality and duty set forth in his word as merely intended to guide us in this life. When this life is ended, there may be no dealing with man for such violation. They are only for a temporary purpose, and having accomplished that purpose, will have no further effect. God looks now only to the good of his creatures, and if the same method of dealing be extended beyond this life, it will be only for a time, and only for the good of those who suffer. According to this, these are not punishments, but chastisements, and God is moved by goodness and not by justice.

 

2. A second theory is, that the laws given by God are merely exponents of his will; that the ground upon which he commands is simply his sovereignty; that, looking at the universe as a world to be created and to be occupied by his moral creatures, he selected such a system of laws as seemed to him best to secure the welfare of those creatures, and that these laws while seeking the happiness, not of the individuals, but of the mass, are such as are really best fitted to that end; and that the justice of God is seen in so administering these laws, by rewarding those who obey, and punishing those who disobey, as to maintain his government, and thus secure the welfare of the whole. God punishes sin, therefore, under this system, but he punishes it, not because of its heinous nature, but because it is best that men should not sin, and thus the best interest of all is secured by preventing by punishment the commission of sin. The end he has in view, therefore, is rather to furnish a spectacle which shall restrain sin, than to perform an act demanded by the inherent nature of sin. It is his rectoral justice, therefore, rather than his vindicatory justice, that is thus shown.

 

This theory embraces four points.

 

(1) God punishes offences or sins.

 

(2) The object is thus the better to secure the welfare of his moral creatures.

 

(3) The laws of his government are based entirely upon his mere will.

 

(4) Consequently he punishes sin, not because of its inherent desert, but because the general happiness of his creatures, and not his own holiness demands it.

 

3. The third theory is different in all respects, except the first of these points.

 

(1) It agrees, that God punishes sin.

 

(2) But it makes his object the maintenance of the right.

 

(3) His laws and actions are based upon the immutable principles of right.

 

(4) He punishes sin, because, from its nature, it demands punishment from him.

 

The great difficulty in attaining a correct result in this matter, is that whatever might have been the origin of these laws, they would have been the same. Hence, no conclusion can be drawn from the nature of the laws themselves. It is manifest, that God, in the establishment of the government of the world for any purpose, will not give to it laws contrary to his nature.

 

It does not follow, however, that because the same effect may be produced by either of these causes, it is, therefore, unimportant to which of them it is assigned. There may be, and in the present case it is believed that there are important reasons, why only one cause should be assigned, and that it should be ascertained to exist in the nature of God. Matters of great moment, in connection with the atonement especially, but also with other parts of the plan of salvation, demand the true answer.

 

But this fact is not to be allowed to warp our judgement or lead us away from the truth. It is only mentioned to show the importance of the subject now under consideration.

 

As to the first of these theories, it need only be said, that the objections to it are partly involved in those to the second and that those peculiar to it, are too plain to need presentation here. They will more properly be considered in connection with the subject of future punishment.

 

As to the second, it may be objected:

 

(1) "That it makes happiness, and not holiness and virtue, the great end of God. The dictates of nature teach us all plainly, that happiness does not occupy this place." Dr. Charles Hodge: manuscript lecture.

 

(2) "It destroys the essential difference between right and wrong, which conscience teaches us." Dr. Charles Hodge: manuscript lecture.

 

(3) It supposes, that God might have made a world, in which precisely opposite moral laws might have prevailed by his command; and that thus it would by his duty, in this world to reward, in that world to punish, his creatures for the same action.

 

(4) It is opposed to the relation of the true will of God to his nature. It ascribes the laws of God to that will. It recognizes those laws as flowing from it alone. They are as God pleased. Now, it is not denied that they come from the free will of God, and are such as please him. But they have a higher basis even than his will. That will is influenced by his nature, and is its exponent. Now, whether that nature is itself the basis of good and right, or whether good and right considered as distinct from it in the nature of things simply accord perfectly with that nature, the result is the same; the will is influenced by the nature to establish the moral laws for the government of his creatures according to the immutable principles of right and wrong.

 

(5) This theory is also opposed to the independence of God, who is thus forced to punish sin, not by any law of his own nature, which would still maintain that independence, but from a regard to the government of his creatures, which could not be otherwise maintained. (Altered from Dr. A. A. Hodge’s Outlines.)

 

(6) The instinctive sense of justice in man testifies to the ill desert of sin. This is the universal testimony of conscience. But conscience speaks for God, and, therefore, testifies to the fact that, independent of the evil to society, the wrong-doer deserves punishment proportioned to his offence.

 

(7) Dr. A. A. Hodge, in his Outlines, thus argues this from the love of holiness and hatred of sin in God: "If the reason for God’s punishing was founded only in God’s arbitrary will, then he could not be said to hate sin, but only to love his own will, or, if his reason for punishing sin rested upon governmental considerations, then, he could not be strictly said to hate sin, but only its consequences." But both conscience and Scripture teach that God does hate sin, and love holiness.

 

Leaving these considerations as to the second theory, with the statement of these objections, we proceed to establish the third theory by the teachings of Scripture. It will be seen that the Scriptures represent God as a just God, thus ascribing that character to him; that they do it in such a way as shows that his justice is not simply in his will, but is a part of his nature; that they challenge denial of the position that the acts of God are in accordance with right and justice, and that not of his sovereignty, but because of the absolute justice of his nature; that they present him as actually claiming vindicatory or avenging justice, speaking of his justice as hatred of sin, and not as a desire to maintain government; nay, that they are constantly showing us instance after instance in which God has exercised that avenging justice, commencing with the ejection of Adam from Paradise, and culminating in its highest and most signal example in the sacrificial work of Christ.

 

It is remarkable that all of this can be established from the Scriptures in favour of vindicatory justice, and not a passage can be given in proof that God is only active for the maintenance of his government, or the mere happiness of his creatures. Indeed, in the Scriptures everywhere, it is God’s glory and dishonor, his holiness and sin, his love and his justice, that are placed in fearful contrast.

 

1. Passages in which God is spoken of as having a just character, and in which this is held forth as an excellence in him. How can these be accounted for, if justice and will are the same, or even if justice is no more than the administration of human affairs according to his plan? While this is done there are no passages in which he asserts his power, or choice, or justice in changing the essential laws laid down for our rule. De 32:4; Job 8:3; 34:10-12; 36:2-3; Ps 9:4; 11:7; 33:4; 71:19; 89:14; 92:15; 97:2; 99:4; 119:137-138; Zep 3:5; Ro 2:2.

 

2. Passages in which God’s claim to this character is vindicated by asserting his justice and his impartiality toward all men. Ge 18:16-33; De 10:17; Job 37:24; Ec 3:17; 12:14; Eze 18:29; Ac 10:34; 17:31; Ro 2:3-6; 14:12; Ga 2:6; Eph 6:8; Col 3:25; 1Pe 1:17; Jude 25.

 

3. In those passages in which God’s justice is spoken of, it is never based upon his will, nor his economy, but,

 

(a) Judgement is always based upon his righteousness. Ps 9:8; 50:4; 96:10; 98:9.

 

(b) His economy among the Jews is commended, not because of its setting forth his will, but because of its justice or righteousness. De 4:8; Ps 19:7-9; 119:138.

 

4. Passages in which God speaks of his justice as being a hatred of sin. Ps 5:4-5; Hab 1:13.

 

5. Passages in which God is spoken of as a jealous God, exercising avenging justice. Ex 20:5; De 32:34-35,39,41-43; Ps 94:1-2; Isa 34:8; 66:6; Heb 10:26-31.

 

6. Passages in which the dealings of God with his enemies are spoken of, in connection with such words as anger, wrath, fury, &c. Nu 12:9; De 32:22; Jg 10:7; 2Sa 22:8; Job 19:11; Ps 2:5; 7:11; 21:9; 90:11; Isa 28:21; 30:30; Jer 30:24; La 2:3; 3:43; Eze 5:13; 38:18; Ho 12:14; Na 1:6.

 

7. Passages in which angels are spoken of as ministers of such vengeance. These are not introduced as proof of the justice of God, but simply as parts of transactions, by which that justice is manifested. Nu 22:22-31; 2Sa 24:16; 1Ch 21:14-16,27; Ps 35:5-6; Re 7:1-3; 9:15; 15:1; 16:17.

 

8. The instances given of the actual exercise of God’s wrath are associated, not merely with the idea of producing effect in his moral government, nor with the exercise of his mere will, but as results produced by his emotions against sin, or, in other words, his avenging justice.

 

Some of these are (1.) The fallen angels, (2.) our first parents, (3.) Sodom and Gomorrah, (4.) the flood, (5.) the plagues of Egypt, (6.) the punishments of the children of Israel in the wilderness, (7.) the captivity of the Jews, (8.) God’s punishment of heathen nations, because of their wicked instrumentality in the exercise of his wrath against the delinquent Israelites, and (9.) the threatened eternal punishment of the wicked.

 

9. Passages which point out something in the work of Christ as essential before God could pardon sin. Mt 26:39; Ro 3:26; 2Co 5:21.

 

 

ST. 012 Chapter 12: THE WILL OF GOD

CHAPTER XII

 

THE WILL OF GOD

 

By the will of God is meant that power inherent in his nature, by which he purposes and chooses any end or object, or determines its existence.

 

I That God must have this power is evident.

 

1. Because it is an attribute of personality. A conscious personal being cannot be without will. Every proof that we have, therefore, that God has personal existence, is evidence that he must have will.

 

2. Will is also a perfection, and must be found in the being of all perfection.

 

3. The absolutely independent God, who is controlled by, and dependent upon no person nor thing, must have will, which determines his own acts.

 

4. It cannot be separated from the possession of the power and wisdom seen in the creation of the universe and in all God’s outward acts, for, without it, the things which wisdom devises and power executes could neither be devised nor executed.

 

5. It is essential to the sovereignty by which he rules the universe, for will is the element in which sovereignty consists.

 

6. Without it there could be no existence whatever, not even of God himself.

 

II The objects of that will are all beings that exist, and all events that take place.

 

1. God must will his own existence and nature. These are objects of supreme desire. The infinite excellence of that nature, which furnishes a completely worthy object of his complacent love, cannot be contemplated without a correspondingly infinite desire that it should exist, and should be what it is. The will thus exercised, however, is not causal, as it is towards all other objects. It does not give existence to God, nor make his nature what it is, but on the contrary, it is because God exists and has such a nature, that he must so will.

 

2. The will of God is also exercised in establishing and maintaining the personal relations revealed to us as existing in the Godhead. It is by the will of the Father that he begets the Son, and by the will of the Father and the Son that the Spirit proceeds. The action of the will here is causal, although these relations are eternal, and are characteristic of the Godhead. They are the results of the divine activity, and, as effects, must find their ultimate cause in the will which moves to action. The fact that because this is divine will and action, there can be no priority of time in the will to the act, does not forbid the causal relation which, because of the eternity of God, must make cause and effect in him co-eternal.

 

3. Another exhibition of will in the divine being is connected with the mutual love of the divine persons toward each other. This love proceeds from these persons as one form of eternal activity, and is willed by each to the full extent of its infinite exercise.

 

4. The will of God is more plainly made known, however, to his creatures, in his outward activity in creation. This was called into existence by the word of his power. He willed, and it was done. But for that will, it had not been. Viewed as a whole, or in its minutest part, the universe presents everywhere the impress of its maker’s will. To that will is due not only all material, but also all spiritual existence.

 

5. The will of God is also manifested in his providential care and government of the universe. In creating it, he has established laws, both mechanical and spiritual, by which it is regulated. Yet he has not withdrawn his own presence and power in its continued guidance and preservation; but is constantly developing, through it and in it, his eternal purpose.

 

6. In human affairs, however, the will of God is most distinctively exhibited in the work of redemption. Let this be admitted as a true work of God, and, at once, appear the proofs of a far-reaching end, accomplished by frequent acts of interposition and guidance, in which concentres and culminates the entire scope of God’s outward activity. The will of God is seen to be the propelling force of his devising wisdom and executing power in the accomplishment of one great purpose to which is indissolubly linked all his other acts and volitions.

 

III A question arises as to this will of God, whether, in its exercise, he acts necessarily or freely.

 

It has been answered, that his will is exercised both necessarily and freely, according to the object of that will.

 

1. He is said to will necessarily, himself, his holy nature, and character, and the personal relations in the Godhead. This language may be admitted, if it be borne in mind, that the necessity here declared, is not one of fate, nor of outward compulsion. Whatever is meant by it must be fully consistent with God’s free agency. It is a necessity that arises from his nature, because of which, such must be the will of God, that he wills himself, his existence, and the relations of the persons of the Godhead. Such being the nature of the necessity, it would be better to express it in some way which would indicate its source and prevent misapprehension. The word "naturally" would suffice, were it not for its ambiguity in common use; consequently "essentially" is suggested as expressive of all the necessity, and at the same time of all the freedom which must accompany an act of the will proceeding from the very essence or nature of God.

 

2. As to all else than himself, God wills freely, whether his will has regard to their existence, or mode of existence, or their actions, or the events which influence or control them. He does his own will, not that of another. He chooses what, and whom he will create, and the times, places and circumstances in which he will place those he creates. He marks out to all his intelligent creatures the paths of their lives. He uses them for his purposes. Though he gives to them also, like freedom of will, yet is their will subordinate to his, and, with their actions, is controlled by it. Yet is this so wisely done, and so truly in accordance with their own natures, as fully to preserve in them consciousness and conviction of the power of contrary choice, and of full responsibility for what they choose and do.

 

When it is said, however, that God will freely, it is not meant that no influence is exerted upon his will. It is only intended to deny that his will is influenced from without. In all his outward acts, as well as in those within, he is governed by his own nature. That nature, and that will, must always be in unison. As he is infinitely wise, so must his will and action be directed towards wise ends in the use of wise means. His infinite justice forbids that he should will or do anything contrary to the strictest justice. The God of truth must also purpose in accordance with truth and faithfulness. His love, too, which is so gracious a characteristic of God, forbids that he shall will otherwise than benevolently towards all; securing the happiness of the innocent, an desiring that even of the guilty, when it can be made consistent with his justice. The holiness of his nature makes it essential that, as all perfection, in perfect harmony, is involved in that holiness, so also must it be found in every purpose which he forms, as well as in every action by which his purposes are accomplished. When, therefore, God is said to will freely in all matters which are without, it is not meant to deny that he is governed by his nature in all respects, in which that nature ought to affect his will.

 

But, even in the volition thus formed, God does not will freely, in the sense of willing arbitrarily. He is not indifferent as to what he will do. There is choice, and not arbitrary choice. There are reasons perceived by him, which induce him to choose one end, rather than another, and one set of means to that end, in preference to others. There is in each case a prevailing motive, not necessarily dependent upon its own force or power, but upon the simple fact, that, in the midst of the numerous ends and means known to him through his infinite knowledge, this motive makes this end, and these means best pleasing to him. The very nature of choice in any being of intelligence and free agency makes this the method by which the will forms its decision. There is nothing in the nature of the omniscient and all-purposing God, which forbids that this also should be the method of his volitions. Our conception of God in this respect cannot be incorrect, although, as in all instances in which we attempt to arrive at the perfections of God through those recognized as such in man, this conception may be very inadequate.

 

IV The discussion of the preceding question shows how truly man, so far as his will is concerned, had been made in the image of God. It suggests the propriety, therefore, of setting forth more particularly the points of similarity and dissimilarity between the will of man and that of God.

 

1. Some points of similarity may be mentioned.

 

(1.) In man, will is the element in which sovereignty exists; so also in God.

 

(2.) In man, will depends upon the understanding, that is, it is exercised, all other things being equal, in accordance with its dictates; so also in God.

 

(3.) In man, the will is essentially influenced by his nature; so also in God.

 

(4.) In man, the will is controlled by the prevailing motive, which is made the strongest, because it is that most pleasing to him; so also in God.

 

2. But there are also points of dissimilarity between these wills.

 

(1.) God never wills what he cannot do; man often does.

 

(2.) In God, the will is never influenced from without; in man this is frequently done.

 

By the outward control in man is not here meant that physical compulsion by which a man is sometimes said to act against his will; but those legitimate outward influences from persons, circumstances, and events, which lead men freely to choose, in accordance with the laws of the mind.

 

(3.) In God, the prevailing motive is not only the most pleasing, but, presumably, the best; in man, it is only the most pleasing, not the most reasonable and right, nor the most conducive to happiness; but often the very contrary of these.

 

(4.) In God there is but one will, or purpose, which comprehends all his ends and means; he does not will, by successive acts, nor in successive moments, but simultaneously, and eternally; man wills successively, one will follows another, and the volition of one man often succeeds the acts, as well as the volitions, of others.

 

(5.) The will of God is always accomplished; that of man is often defeated.

 

(6.) God never changes his will, nor perceives any reason for such change; man changes his frequently, from caprice, or because of new information, or because he sees the importance of a better life, or is carried off by passion to one that is worse.

 

V Various distinctions as to the will of God have been pointed out, some of which are correct, or at least admissible, and others incorrect, and objectionable.

 

The following list is given by Turretine in the fifteenth and sixteenth questions of his third book. The statements made are in the main taken from his discussion.

 

1. The correct distinctions.

 

(1.) The first distinction is between the decretive and preceptive will of God.

 

By the decretive will is meant that will of God by which he purposes or decrees, whatever shall come to pass, whether he will to accomplish it himself effectively, or causatively, or to permit it to occur through the unrestrained agency or will of his creatures. In either case, however, he has determined, purposed, or decreed, either to bring it to pass, or to cause, or to permit it to be brought to pass.

 

By the preceptive will is meant that which he has prescribed to be done by others. Such are the laws under which he places his creatures, or the duties which he enjoins upon them. It is the rule of duty.

 

The decretive will must always be fulfilled; the preceptive may be disobeyed, and therefore remain unfulfilled.

 

(2.) Nearly corresponding to this first distinction is another into the will of eudokia, and that of euarestia. As the former was taken from two Latin, so this is from two Greek words, and these Greek words are scriptural. The former division was made in connection with purpose to do; this in connection with pleasure in doing, or desire to do, or to see done. But the two correspond in the fact that the will of eudokia, like that of decree, comprises what shall certainly be accomplished, and that of euarestia like that of precept embraces simply what it pleases God that his creatures shall do.

 

It must not be supposed, however, that, because of the meaning eudokia, (well pleasing,) the decretive will, expressed by this word, is confined to those volitions of God, in which the happiness and blessing of man are involved. It was with reference both to evil to some, and blessing to others, that Christ used it when he said, "Yea Father for so it was well pleasing in thy sight." Mt 11:26. The decretive will of God, whatever its effect upon his creatures, is "well pleasing" to God.

 

(3.) A third distinction is between the will of the signum and that of the beneplacitum.

 

By the beneplacitum is intended, a will of God which is confined to himself, until he makes it known by some revelation, or by the event itself. Any will thus made known becomes the signum. Manifestly these may differ in several respects.

 

If the will of the beneplacitum be confined, as it should be, to the decretive will of God, it will be broader, and narrower, than that of the signum; broader, because at no time has the whole decretive will of God been revealed; and narrower, because the will of the signum must extend, also, to the preceptive will of God, which God prescribes as duty, and yet does not determine shall be performed. In some cases, God even gives commands, which are, for the time, a rule of duty, and, therefore, a part of his preceptive will, and thus also of this will of signum, obedience to which he actually intends to prevent. Thus he ordered Abraham by the will of signum to sacrifice Isaac, which was thus made to his servant a rule of duty, yet, by the will of the beneplacitum, he not only did not purpose the sacrifice, but intended to interpose to prevent it.

 

(4.) A fourth distinction is between the secret and the revealed will of God. Turretine says, "The former of these is commonly referred to the will of decree, which for the most part is hidden in God; the latter to the will of the precept, which is revealed, and disclosed in the Law and the Gospel. Its basis is sought in De 29:29: ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.’ The former is called a great deep and an unsearchable abyss. Ps 36:6; Ro 11:33-34. The latter is accessible to all, nor is it far from us. De 30:14; Ro 10:8. That has for its object all those things which God will either to effect, or permit, and which, especially, he wishes to do concerning each man, and which are, therefore, absolute and fixed without exception. The latter refers to those things which belong to our duty, and which are conditionally set forth. The former is always done, the latter is often violated."

 

2. The incorrect distinctions:

 

(1.) That of antecedent and consequent volitions.

 

By this is not meant one will, or decree, which precedes another in its logical order in the divine mind, or in its execution by God, as that of the creation of man, before that of his redemption; nor one will of the precept, which consists in the prescribed duty, followed by another which sets forth the consequent rewards and punishments. Were this so, the distinction would be objectionable only because of its inaccuracy in transferring to God such methods of our action, or logical conception, as belong to that succession in our acts and will which cannot exist in God. It would be only the same kind of misstatement, of which orthodox theologians are guilty, when under the form of sublapsarianism, or supralapsarianism, they attempt to set forth the order of God’s decrees. In one form, in which this distinction is incorrectly made, it is claimed that a consequent will in God arises after he sees the results of one which is previous, or antecedent; another that he forms a particular volition, especially affecting an individual man, following upon a general volition, or disposition, to seek the happiness of his creatures, or to prescribe a course by which that happiness may be secured.

 

To the distinction of antecedent, and consequent volitions, in these forms, there are many objections.

 

(a.) It admits succession in the decrees of God, and makes them many, when they are but one.

 

(b.) It makes them temporal, when they are eternal.

 

(c.) Turretine ably argues, that thus contrary wills would exist in God, who would thus be at one and the same time willing, and not willing, the same event.

 

(d.) He also justly states, that the antecedent will thus spoken of, could be only a mere wishing (velleitas), and not a will (voluntas.)

 

(e.) He suggests that thus the independence of God would be taken away, since he must wait upon man to will, and act, before he could will.

 

(2.) A second incorrect distinction is between the efficacious and inefficacious will of God.

 

This distinction would also be admissible, if by the efficacious will were meant that of the decree, and by the inefficacious, that of the precept. But, as introduced, both terms are applied to the will of the decree. Turretine objects to the application, in the first place, "because the scripture testifies, that the purpose of God is immutable, and his will cannot be resisted. Isa 46:10; Ro 9:19; but. if it cannot be resisted, he will surely perfect that which he intends; secondly, inefficacious will cannot be attributed to God, unless he is accused either of ignorance, because he knew not that the event would not occur, or of impotence, because he could not accomplish the result he purposed; finally, the same reasons which prove that antecedent and consequent will are not allowable, are also proofs against efficacious and inefficacious."

 

(3.) The third of the incorrect distinctions is that of absolute and conditional.

 

If, by the conditional will, were meant the conditions appended to the preceptive will of God, in the promises and threats given as inducements to duty, it would not be objected to. But the object of those who present it, is to apply it to the decretive will, and to suppose that God, in his purposes, determines, on certain conditions, that he will do a certain act, which he will not do if those conditions fail. Whether these conditions shall fail, or not, is supposed to be unknown to God, or, if known, yet at least so far undetermined, that he has formed no purpose whether or not to permit, or to accomplish them. The purposes of God, thus formed, are not, therefore, absolute decrees, as are all those concerning what shall actually and absolutely take place, but are only conditional ones, based upon some antecedent condition, which must first occur.

 

This distinction is introduced, chiefly, to show how God can make an absolute decree about the salvation of mankind in general, and, yet, not about that of any one man in particular. Absolutely he decrees the salvation in general of all who believe. But the salvation of each one is decreed, only upon the condition that he believes. Whether that faith will be exercised by any one, is not determined by God. Nor so far as involved in any purpose made by him is it even known to God.

 

Such is the theory and purpose of this distinction. The objections presented against the other two of these incorrect distinctions are also justly made against it.

 

 

ST. 013 Chapter 13: THE DECREES OF GOD

CHAPTER XIII

 

THE DECREES OF GOD

 

The decrees of God may be defined as that just, wise, and holy purpose or plan by which eternally, and within himself, he determines all things whatsoever that come to pass.

 

I This purpose or plan is just, wise, and holy. Since it is formed by God it must have this character. His nature forbids that anything otherwise shall proceed from him. Though what he permits may be unrighteous, or foolish, or sinful, these characteristics belong to it because of others; while his will, purpose, or plan continues just, wise, and holy.

 

It is needful that this fact be always remembered.

 

1. Since, on account of the ignorance of man, there must be much in connection with this subject, which cannot be comprehended; because (1.) man’s finite knowledge cannot compass the nature, and mode, and reasons of the will, and action of the infinite God, (2.) because of the difficulty of reconciling the free agency and responsibility of man, with the pre-existent knowledge and purposes of God, and (3.) because of the perplexities which arise from the existence of sin in a world planned, created and governed by a holy, all-wise, and almighty God.

 

2. The same fact should also not be forgotten, because of the natural corruption of the human heart, which makes it (1.) revolt against the sovereignty of God, (2.) seek refuge from the condemnation justly due to sin, and (3.) endeavor to find excuses for continuance therein.

 

It is our duty, therefore, (1.) to seek to learn all the facts made known by reason and revelation, (2.) to accept them, (3.) to recognize them as the testimony of God, (4.) to admit that our knowledge is still imperfect, (5.) to believe that further information will still further remove the difficulties, (6.) to refuse on account of the difficulties to reject what God has actually taught, and (7.) amid all, to believe that whatever that teaching is, it must accord with justice, wisdom and holy perfection, because it is God of whom these things are affirmed.

 

II These decrees are properly defined to be God’s purpose or plan.

 

The term "decree" is liable to some misapprehension and objection, because it conveys the idea of an edict, or of some compulsory determination. "Purpose" has been suggested as a better word. "Plan" will sometimes be still more suitable. The mere use of these words will remove from many some difficulties and prejudices which make them unwilling to accept this doctrine. They perceive that, in the creation, preservation, and government of the world, God must have had a plan, and that that plan must have been just, wise and holy, tending both to his own glory and the happiness of his creatures. They recognize that a man who has no purpose, nor aim, especially in important matters, and who cannot, or does not, devise the means by which to carry out his purpose, is without wisdom and capacity, and unworthy of his nature. Consequently, they readily believe and admit that the more comprehensive, and, at the same time, the more definite is the plan of God, the more worthy is it of infinite wisdom. Indeed they are compelled to the conclusion that God cannot be what he is, without forming such a purpose or plan.

 

III Any such plan or purpose of God must have been formed eternally, and within himself.

 

1. It must have been eternally purposed, because God’s only mode of existence, as has been heretofore proved, is eternal, and therefore his thoughts, and purpose, and plan must be eternal. The fact also that his knowledge is infinite, and cannot be increased, forbids the forming of plans in time, which, as they become known to him, would add to that knowledge. It is also to be remembered that the plan must precede its execution, but as time began with that execution, the plan must not have been formed in time, and must be eternal.

 

2. In like manner, also, was it formed within himself. He needed not to go without himself, either for the impulse which led to it, or the knowledge in which it was conceived. He had all knowledge, both of the actual and the possible, all wisdom as to the best end and means, all power to execute what he devised in the use, or without the use of appropriate secondary means, and free will to select, of all possible plans and means, whatever he himself should please, and the impulse which moved him existed alone in that knowledge and will.

 

IV By this plan or purpose God determined all things which it included.

 

This is manifestly true, even if all things whatsoever were not thus embraced.

 

To say the least, all the parts of it, as well as the whole, were known to him. But this knowledge, apart from any decree, determines, marks out, and fixes the nature, limits, time, sequence and relation to each other of the whole, and of all the parts. Things which are known by God as future, must certainly be future. A determination, or decree to bring them to pass, and even their actual existence, does not make them more certain.

 

But whence is God’s knowledge of the futurity of any events, except from the knowledge of his purpose, to cause or permit them to come to pass? The knowledge of the futurity of any event, over which any one has absolute control, is the result of his purpose, not its cause. And, as God has such absolute control over all things, his knowledge that they will be, must proceed from his purpose that they shall be. It cannot be from mere perception of their nature, for he gives that nature, and in determining to give it, determines what it shall be, and thus determines the effects which that nature will cause. Nor is it from mere knowledge of the mutual relations which will be sustained by outward events or beings, for it is he that establishes these relations for the accomplishment of his own purposes. To say that this nature and these relations are from God, and are not from his purpose, is in the highest degree fatalistic, for it would involve that they originate in some necessity of the nature of God, because of which he must give them existence without so willing, and even against his will. In this way alone could God be said to know, and yet not to purpose them. His knowledge would arise from knowledge of his nature, and of what that nature compels him to do, and not from knowledge of his purpose and of his will involved in that purpose. This, and this alone, would make equally certain and known what will come to pass, without basing that knowledge upon his purpose; but it would not only be destructive of his free agency and will, but, from the nature of necessity, would make the outward events eternal and prevent the existence of time, and the relation to it of all things whatsoever.

 

V This plan, or purpose, includes all things whatsoever that come to pass; not some things, but all things; not all things in general, but each thing in particular.

 

So interwoven are all these things, that the lack of purpose, as to any one, would involve that same lack as to multitudes of others, indeed as to every other connected in the slightest degree with the one not purposed.

 

This is evidently true as to all subsequent events; but it is equally so as to those that are antecedent, for these thus connected antecedent events have been established with efficient causative power, relative to all their effects. God knows the existence of this power; he has in fact ordained and bestowed it. He knows also what will be its effects. With this knowledge, God must, therefore, either allow them to act, because he purposes that the result shall follow, or he must hinder, or restrain, or accelerate their action because he would change the effect. In each case he purposes, in the one to effect, in the other to permit, and his purpose thus extends to all things. Any limitation of his purpose involves limitation of his knowledge, and this cannot be true of the omniscient God.

 

To such an extent is the force of this realized, that it is admitted by all, that, in the mechanical universe, and even in the control of the lower animals, this is true. But the free agency of man, and of other rational and moral agents, is supposed to prevent God’s purposing, or willing, all things with reference to them. It is said that such purposing would take away that free agency, and consequent responsibility.

 

The Scriptures recognize both the sovereignty of God, and the free agency, and accountability of man. Consciousness assures us of the latter. The nature of God, as has just been shown, proves the former. The Bible makes no attempt to reconcile the two. Paul even declines to discuss the subject, saying, "Nay but, oh man, who art thou that repliest against God?" Ro 9:20. The two facts are plainly revealed. They cannot be contradictory, they must be reconcilable. That we cannot point out the harmony between them is a proof, only of our ignorance, and limited capacity, and not that both are not true. It is certain, however, that, whatever may be the influences which God exercises, or permits, to secure the fulfilment of his purposes, he always acts in accordance with the nature, and especially with the laws of mind he has bestowed upon man. It is equally true, that his action is in full accord with that justice, and benevolence, which are such essential attributes of God himself.

 

Acting, however, upon the belief that the purpose of God, accomplishing his will in his rational creatures, is inconsistent with their free agency, several classes of theologians have presented theories in opposition to the scriptural doctrine of decrees above set forth.

 

1. The most objectionable theory is that of the Socinians, who deny that God can know what a free agent will choose, or do, before he acts, or wills. They maintain that the will is, at the moment of its choice, in such perfect equilibrium, that there are no tendencies in any direction which prevent an absolute freedom of choice. No knowledge, therefore, of the will itself, nor of the circumstances which surround its action, will enable any one to say, before it is exercised, what will be its choice. Its act, therefore, is entirely undetermined and indeterminable, until the free agent wills. It cannot even be known beforehand by God himself.

 

The objections to this theory are obvious.

 

(1.) It is based upon a wrong conception of the nature of free agency; for it supposes each act of the will to be an arbitrary choice. But such arbitrary choice is not found even in God. As regards man, we know, from consciousness and experience, that his will is influenced by motives. Indeed, so truly is it governed by the nature of the man, and the attendant influences, that even we can predict his will and action in many cases, and only fail to do so perfectly in all because of our limited knowledge. The omniscient God cannot fail to know everything that affects the decision, and, therefore, what the decision will be.

 

(2.) This theory is also opposed to the independence of God. It supposes him to have made beings of such a nature, that his own actions and will must depend upon theirs, and that he must await their decision, wherever it will have any influential bearings on anything future, before he can know or purpose what he himself will do.

 

(3.) It is also manifest, from what has been said under the first objection, that this theory is opposed to the omniscience of God. It expressly puts a limitation, upon that omniscience, by declaring that he is limited in his knowledge, at least, so far as not to know beforehand the decision of the will of his creatures. But ignorance of this would also involve ignorance of all things in the future, with which it may be connected. This would, in a world inhabited by free agents, constitute no small part of all that will occur.

 

(4.) It is opposed to the instances mentioned in Scripture of the prediction beforehand by God, even of the bad actions of certain men. See as to Pharaoh, Ex 7:3-4; Hazael, 2Ki 8:13; Judas, Mt 26:21; Peter, Mt 26:34, &c., &c.

 

(5.) It is opposed to the power of forming habits, which is a matter of universal experience. Such habits, when known, constitute a source of information, upon which, to some degree, reliance can be placed in foretelling what any man will do. A perfect knowledge of his habits, as well as of all else that influences, would secure infallible prediction of the choice. God has this perfect knowledge, and if he cannot foreknow the decision, it must be because it is not true that habits can be formed which according to the law of habit will influence and control.

 

2. Another theory has been advanced by some Arminians, who maintain that God does not know the free actions of men, not because he cannot know them, but because he chooses not to do so.

 

(1.) The first objection to this theory is, that, were it true, it would not give greater freedom to the will, than does the orthodox statement.

 

Though this theory honours God more than the former, it is inferior to it with respect to the object for which it is introduced. If it could be true as the first theory claims, that so indeterminate is the future will of a free agent, that even God cannot know it, then that future will would certainly be entirely under the control of the free agent, and he would to the utmost extreme be free. His will would be in absolute equilibrium in the act of choosing. Neither would any motive exist to influence that choice. It would be thoroughly arbitrary.

 

But the second theory has not this advantage, for it does not suppose this condition of equilibrium. In claiming, that God does not choose to know, what he might know if he should so choose, it admits that there are the same surrounding circumstances and conditions, and the same prevailing motive, through foresight of which God could know if he should so will. But, if this be true, there can be no state of equilibrium. The certainty of what will occur is as much fixed as though known to God. It is not his knowledge of these things, and of their certain result in the act of the will, that makes it certain what it will be. It is the fact, that these things are such as they are, which makes it possible for him to know them. If he barely determines to permit what his knowledge perceives will surely take place, the event is not made any more certain by that knowledge, than it was before. Unquestionably, therefore, so far as the permissive decrees of God are involved, this theory has no advantage over that of the Scriptures.

 

The same fact is true as to God’s effective decrees, for the fact that God does not choose to know the result, does not prevent his introduction of active influences towards that result. Because a man does not know the decision which a judge will make in a case in court, and does not choose, because of the impropriety of so doing, to ascertain from the judge what will be his decision, he does not, therefore, refrain from using all proper arguments to influence the judge. There can be no reason why God, in ignorance of what will be the decision, could not exert every influence which would be possible if that decision were known to him. He could only exert such influences as, under the circumstances, would be just and right. He could do this only in accordance with the nature of his creatures, in strict conformity to the laws of the human mind. Therefore, it may be affirmed as true, that, even under his efficient decrees, when he knows the result, his creatures are left as f’ree as they could be, were that result unknown to him.

 

(2.) The chief objection, to this theory is, that it is based upon a wrong conception of the relation of the will of God to his nature. That will does not confer the attributes of his nature, nor does it control them, but is itself influenced by them. God knows all things, not because he wills to know them, but, because, from his nature, he has infinite knowledge, knowledge of all things possible, and knowledge of all things certain. If, by his will, he could refrain from knowing, he would change his nature. As well speak of a man not choosing to see, with his eyes open, the objects presented to his sight, as of God not choosing to know anything, whether that be only something which is possible, or something which in any way has been made certain.

 

3. There is, beside the theories already referred to, the ordinary Arminian theory. This is, that God knows all things that will come to pass, but does not decree all, but only some of them. The decisions of free agents are among those things which he is supposed not to decree.

 

(1.) The manifest objection to this theory is, that it does not accord with the statements of the Bible. This will be subsequently shown, by the passages of Scripture which will be advanced, in proof of the various points involved in the ordinary Calvinistic theory.

 

(2.) But a second objection will be found in the fact that this theory does not thus secure that freedom from certainty in the decisions of free agents, which is the great reason of the objections to the decrees of God concerning them.

 

If by decreeing such decisions, is meant effectively causing them, it is true that God does not decree all things; for, while he effectually causes some, he only permissively decrees others. Hence the objection to the word "decree," and the previous suggestion of the words "purpose" or "plan."

 

But, if God knows that any event will occur, and can prevent it, and does not, it is evident that he purposes that it shall exist, and makes it a part of his plan.

 

His knowledge of the futurity of any event makes it as certain as any purpose he could form effectively to cause it. That knowledge is perfect and infallible. What he knows will come to pass, must necessarily take place. Otherwise, he would know a thing as future which will not be future. His knowledge of it would be false. He would be himself deceived. To suppose, then, that he knows it as certain, when it is not certain, is to deny his infinite knowledge, and to reduce this theory to the plane of one or the other of those previously mentioned.

 

(3.) Neither does this theory accomplish another object for which it is introduced, namely, to secure such a relation of God to any free act of man as shall take away the influence upon it exerted by his decree

 

His decree to permit it, is as hidden from his creatures as his knowledge that they will so act, and can have no other influence upon them than that knowledge.

 

The only apparent advantage is that God is supposed thus not to interfere with their free agency, so as to destroy their accountability. But we have seen that, so far as the permissive decree is concerned, the knowledge of the event is as effective in making it certain, and in influencing the free agent, as would be any decree, purpose or plan of God. It is only when the decree is effective, and introduces the means for its accomplishment, that the free agency is affected. In this case, God does not destroy the free agency, although he exerts an influence towards the result. But that God is thus active, sometimes, as in his gracious influences upon men, is held as firmly by Arminians as Calvinists. In all such gracious acts, both parties claim that he is both merciful and just. Calvinists extend these no further than do Arminians, for they deny as strenuously as others, that God acts effectively to lead men to wicked decisions and deeds. So far as the nature of God’s actions upon free agents is concerned, both parties agree. But the Arminian theory, in asserting foreknowledge without purpose, and in alleging that the foreknowledge is all that there is in God, is contrary to the relations of God’s will to his knowledge, as well as to the statements of Scripture about the decrees of God; and while it leaves the event equally certain, supposes fully as much influence over the will of the creature, and has equal difficulty in reconciling the free agency, and consequent responsibility, with the inevitable certainty of the event.

 

The chief difficulty connected with the doctrine of decrees arises from the existence of’ sin. According to that doctrine, sin has not accidentally occurred, nor was it simply foreknown, but it was a part of the plan and purpose of God, that it should exist. The difficulty is freely admitted. In this respect the dispensation of God is surrounded with "clouds and darkness."

 

The following statements, however, may be made:

 

(1.) That its being a part of the purpose or plan of God, renders its presence no more difficult of explanation than that he should have foreknown its appearance, and not exerted his unquestioned power to prevent it.

 

(2.) That, amid all the darkness, we can yet see that God is so overruling sin as to cause it greatly to redound to his glory and the happiness of his creatures.

 

(3.) That even without any explanation of it, we can rest in our knowledge of the justice, wisdom, and goodness of God.

 

(4.) That we cannot see how its possible entrance into the world could have been prevented, consistently with the creation and putting upon probation of beings with moral natures, endowed with free will, and necessarily fallible because mere creatures; while the right thus to put on probation, without such influence as would make his creatures certainly persevere in holiness, is one which none could justly deny to God. But that which God could possibly (under any contingency) permit, cannot, if it has actual existence, militate against his pure and holy character.

 

The Scriptural authority for the doctrine of decrees will appear from the following statements and references, gathered with slight modifications from Hodge’s Outlines, pp, 205-213:

 

1. God’s decrees are eternal. Ac 15:18; Eph 1:4; 3:11; 1Pe 1:20; 2Th 2:13; 2Ti 1:9; 1Co 2:7.

 

2. They are immutable. Ps 33:11; Isa 46:9.

 

3. They comprehend all events.

 

(1.) The Scriptures assert this of the whole system in general embraced in the divine decrees. Da 4:34-35; Ac 17:26; Eph 1:11.

 

(2.) They affirm the same of fortuitous events. Pr 16:33; Mt 10:29-30.

 

(3.) Also of the free actions of men. Eph 2:10-11; Php 2:13.

 

(4.) Even the wicked actions of men. Ac 2:23; 4:27; 13:29; 1Pe 2:8; Jude 25; Re 17:17. As to the history of Joseph, compare Ge 37:28, with Ge 45:7-8, and Ge 50:20. See also Ps 17:13-14; Isa 10:5,15.

 

4. The decrees of God are not conditional. Ps 33:11; Pr 19:21; Isa 14:24; 46:10; Ro 9:11.

 

5. They are sovereign. Isa 40:13-14; Da 4:35; Mt 11:25-26; Ro 9:11,15-18; Eph 1:5,11.

 

6. They include the means. Eph 1:4; 2Th 2:13; 1Pe 1:2.

 

7. They determine the free actions of men. Ac 4:27-28; Eph 2:10.

 

8. God himself works in his people that faith and obedience which are called the conditions of salvation. Eph 2:8; Php 2:13; 2Ti 2:25.

 

9. The decree renders the event certain. Mt 16:21; Lu 18:31-33; 24:46; Ac 2:23; 13:29; 1Co 11:19.

 

10. While God has decreed the free acts of men, the actors have been none the less responsible. Ge 50:20; Ac 2:23; 3:18; 4:27-28.

 

 

ST. 014 Chapter 14: THE TRINITY

CHAPTER XIV

 

THE TRINITY

 

THE Scripture doctrine of the Trinity is set forth in the abstract of principles of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in these words (Art. III): " God is revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence or being.”

 

The peculiarity of this definition is that it is a mere statement of the Scriptural facts revealed, while, at the same time, it includes every point involved in the doctrine of the Trinity as held by orthodox Christians of all ages. There is no addition to the Scripture facts, but the complete exhibition which these words make of the doctrine, shows that it has been correctly formulated from what God has himself revealed. As he alone can know and reveal what he is, so we must accept his statements, however mysterious and incomprehensible may be his revelation.

 

This definition suggests to us a method of treatment by which, in the utmost simplicity and Scripturalness, the whole truth on this important subject may be attained.

 

I THE RELATION OF FATHER AND SON.

 

God is revealed to us as the Father; not merely in the general way in which he is called the Father of all created beings, and they his sons; nor in that in which he is the Father of those who are his sons, in virtue of the adoption, which is in Christ Jesus; but the Father as indicative of a special relation between him and another person whom the Scriptures call his only begotten Son. There are several classes of Scripture passages which reveal this.

 

1. That class in which, in recognition of this relation, Christ addresses God as "Father." Mt 11:25-26; Mr 14:36; Lu 10:21; 22:42; 23:34,46; Joh 12:26-27; 17:1,5,11,24-25.

 

2. That class in which Christ speaks of him as peculiarly his Father. The ex-pression "our Father" is never used by him, except in the Lord’s prayer when he is teaching the disciples how to pray. Mt 10:32; 15:13; 16:17; 18:10; 20:23; 24:36; 25:34; 26:29,39,42,53; Lu 2:49; 22:29; 24:49; Joh 5:17; 6:32; 8:19,38,49; 10:18,25,29-30,32; 12:26; 14:7,20-21; 15:1,8,10,15; 20:17; Re 2:27; 3:5.

 

3. That class in which the Father is spoken of as sending and as giving the Son.

 

This does not include many passages in which Christ is said to be sent, but only those in which he is referred to as sent by the Father. Joh 3:16; 5:37; 6:37-40; 8:16-19; 10:36; 12:45; 14:24; 17:18; 20:21.

 

4. A fourth class represents the Father as knowing and loving the Son. Mt 11:27; Lu 10:22; Joh 3:35; 5:20.

 

5. There is, also, a class in which Christ and the Father are said to be co-workers, or in which the works of Christ are claimed to be the Father’s witness to him. Joh 5:17; 10:25,32,36-37,38.

 

6. That class in which the Father is said to put special honour on the Son. Joh 3:35; 5:23,25-26,27.

 

7. There is yet another class in which peculiarity of relation is shown by such terms, as

 

(1.) "My beloved Son;" the language is very strong and emphatic, "my Son, the beloved." Mt 3:17; 17:5; Mr 1:11; Lu 3:22; 2Pe 1:17.

 

(2.) "Only begotten Son." Joh 1:14; 3:16,18; 1Jo 4:9.

 

(3.) "His own Son." Ro 8:32. In connection with this, it should be remembered that, in Joh 5:18, the charge made against Christ by the Jews was that he "called God his own Father making himself equal with God."

 

8. The statements that the Son alone has seen, and known, and revealed the Father, also show peculiarity of this relationship. Joh 1:18; 14:6-11; 17:25-26.

 

9. The same peculiarity is shown by the manner in which Christ speaks of the works he does by virtue of it. See his Sabbath day discourse after curing the man at the pool of Bethesda. Joh 5:19-31,36-37; also, Joh 14:10-11.

 

II THIS FATHER IS GOD

 

The relation pointed out above, is one borne by Christ to the supreme God. It is he, whom the Scriptures call God in the true sense of that word, to whom Christ is said by them to be Son to the Father.

 

1. There are the passages which expressly call Christ "Son of God." All are here omitted where the name is given by devils, or by the Centurion, or in any other way in which the authority of inspired teaching may not be claimed for its use.

 

Mr 1:1; Lu 1:35; Joh 5:25; 10:36; 11:27; Ac 9:20; Ga 4:4; 1Jo 4:15; 5:5,20-21.

 

2. There are other passages in which the epithet "God" is ascribed to the Father in this relationship.

 

Joh 1:18; 3:16; 6:18; Ro 1:1-4; 8:31-32; 2Pe 1:17; 1Jo 4:9-10; 2Jo 13.

 

III THIS SON IS GOD

 

1. He is expressly called God. It is not denied that this epithet, like that of Lord, is applied in an inferior sense to others. The mere use of these titles would not prove that the one to whom they are attributed has the divine nature. But the manner in which they are applied to Christ, and the frequency of that application, become, along with the other evidences presented, an incontestable proof, that he, as well as the Father, is true God. If they were not ascribed to Christ in the Scriptures, their absence would be conspicuous and well-fitted to cast doubt on the other evidence. Mt 1:23; Joh 1:1; 20:28; Ro 9:5; Tit 1:3; Heb 1:8.

 

In the above are omitted, as, on various grounds, doubtful. Ac 20:28; 1Ti 3:16; and 1Jo 5:20. An exegetical study of these passages will show, even with the text of the recent critics, that they strongly corroborate the doctrine that Christ is God.

 

2. Christ is also called Lord. This title is used in both the Old and New Testaments still more generally than is that of God. An examination of the texts here quoted, will show that, in a peculiar sense, only suited to Christ as God, is it applied to him. Mt 12:8; 22:41-45; Mr 2:28; Lu 6:46; 20:41-44; Joh 13:13-14; Ac 10:36; Ro 14:9; 1Co 2:8; Ga 1:3; 6:18; Php 2:11; 2Th 2:16; Jude 25; Re 17:14; 19:13,16.

 

3. He is a peculiar object of worship. The worship paid to him is not merely that reverential respect offered to kings and others in authority, but such worship as was refused by the apostles with horror, because they were mere men, {Ac 14:13-15} and against which, when offered to him by John, even the mighty angel {Re 19:10; 22:9} earnestly protested. All doubtful cases of worship are here omitted, even that of the wise men {Mt 2:2,11} in which perhaps divine worship was paid. Mt 14:33; Lu 24:52; Ac 7:59-60; 2Co 12:8-9; Php 2:10; Heb 1:6; Re 5:8-14; 7:9-12.

 

4. He is to be honoured equally with the Father. Joh 5:23.

 

5. His relations to the Father are those of identity and unity. Joh 1:18; 5:17-19; 8:16; 10:30; 12:44; 14:7-11; 15:24; Heb 1:3; Col 1:15; 2:9; 1Jo 2:23-24.

 

6. They are equally known to each other, and unknown to all others. Mt 11:27; Lu 10:22; Joh 1:18; 6:46; 10:15.

 

7. He is the creator of all things. Joh 1:3,10; 1Co 8:6; Col 1:16; Heb 1:10.

 

8. He upholds and preserves all things. Col 1:17; Heb 1:3.

 

9. He is the manifestation of the Divine Being in this world. Joh 1:10,14; 14:8-11; 16:28-30; Col 1:15; 1Ti 3:16; 1Jo 1:2.

 

10. He is greater than all others; greater than Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Jonah, and the Baptist; and not greater than man only, but than all the spiritual intelligences of the universe. Mt 3:11; 12:41-42; Mr 12:37; Lu 11:31-32; Joh 1:17; Eph 1:21; Php 2:9; Heb 1:4; 3:3; 1Pe 3:22.

 

11, He is the source of all spiritual blessing.

 

(a) He gives the Holy Spirit. Lu 24:49; Joh 16:7; 20:22; Ac 2:33.

 

(b) He forgives sins. Mr 2:5-10; Lu 5:20-24; 7:47-49; Ac 5:31.

 

(c) He gives peculiar peace. Joh 14:27; 16:33. Is not he the one who is called "God of Peace?" Ro 15:33; 16:20; 2Co 13:11; Php 4:9; 1Th 5:23; Heb 13:20.

 

(d) He gives light. Joh 1:4,7-8; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35,46; 1Jo 1:5-7; Re 21:23.

 

(e) He gives faith. Lu 17:5; Heb 12:2.

 

(f) He gives eternal life. Joh 17:2.

 

(g) He confers all the spiritual gifts bestowed upon his churches. Eph 4:8-13.

 

12. All the incommunicable attributes of God are ascribed to him.

 

(a) Self-existence. He has power over his own life. Joh 2:19; 10:17-18. He has life in himself, as has the Father. Joh 5:26.

 

(b) Eternity of existence. Joh 1:1; 17:5,24; Heb 1:8,10-12; 1Jo 1:2.

 

(c) Omniscience. Mt 9:4; 12:25; Mr 2:8; Lu 6:8; 9:47; 10:22; Joh 1:48; 2:24; 10:15; 16:30; 21:17; Col 2:3; Re 2:23.

 

(d) Omnipresence. Mt 18:20; 28:20; Joh 3:13; Eph 1:23.

 

(e) Omnipotence.   Mt 28:18; Lu 21:15; Joh 1:3; 10:18; 1Co 1:24; Eph 1:22; Php 3:21; Col 2:10; Re 1:18.

 

(f) Immutability. Heb 1:11; 13:8.

 

13. The judgement of the world is entrusted to him. Mt 16:27; 24:30; 25:31; Joh 5:22,27; Ac 10:42; 17:31; Ro 2:16; 14:10; 2Co 5:10.

 

14. Absolute equality with the Father is ascribed to Him. This shows that the unity and identity, before referred to, is not of will, but of nature; and that the names, and worship, and attributes of God are not bestowed on any other ground than that he is true God.

 

(a) Equality in works. Joh 5:17-23.

 

(b) Equality in knowledge. Lu 10:22; Joh 10:15.

 

(c) Equality in nature. Joh 5:18; 10:33; Php 2:6; Col 2:9; Heb 1:3.

 

It will be seen by the foregoing statements that the Scriptures distinctly teach the existence of God in the personal relations of Father and Son, and that each of them is God. No reference has been made to the Old Testament, in proof of the divinity of Christ. The New Testament is the most natural source of such instruction, because it reveals to us the fulfilment of God’s purpose in sending his Son into the world, and teaches us clearly his nature and relation to the Father. What the nature of this relation of Son and Father is, will be hereafter examined in the discussion of the eternal Sonship of Christ. What the Old Testament says of Christ will also be presented hereafter.

 

There remains, however, to be shown that

 

IV THE FATHER AND SON HAVE DISTINCT PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES.

 

This fact is so manifest, from the manner in which the Scripture speaks of each, as to need but brief discussion.

 

The mere use of the names Father and Son points out a relation between two persons. That to each of them is ascribed the attributes of character, such as love, hate, goodness, mercy, truth, and justice, which can only exist in, and be exercised by persons, shows separate personality. Neither, except through distinct personal relation, can mutual love be said to be exercised, as by Christ to the Father, Joh 14:31; and by the Father to Christ, Joh 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 17:24. Manifestly, also, there must be two persons, when one is said to send, and another to be sent; one to give, and another to be given; one to teach, and another to be taught; one to show, and another to perceive what is shown; one to receive power, and another to bestow it; and one to be declared, with respect to another, to be "the effulgence of his glory and the very image of his substance," Heb 1:2; and, because in the form of that other, to have "counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God." Php 2:6.

 

We have here, therefore, not the one God, manifesting himself sometimes as Father, and sometimes as Son; but a distinction of persons in the Godhead, in which we are taught that in that Godhead there exists a personal relation of Father to Son, and Son to Father, with a distinct individuality and personality of each.

 

V THE HOLY SPIRIT A PERSON.

 

The Scriptures designate, by several very similar terms, the third personality revealed in the Godhead. He is called "the Spirit," " the Spirit of God," " the Holy Spirit," " my Spirit," " the Spirit of the Lord," "the Spirit of Christ," " thy good Spirit," " the Spirit of glory, "the Spirit of grace," " the Spirit of knowledge and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord," "the Holy Spirit of promise," "the Spirit of truth," and "the Spirit of wisdom." Christ also called him "the Comforter," and "another Comforter."

 

The divine Spirit, thus denominated, must either be some power or influence exerted by God, or a distinct person in the Godhead. It cannot be simply the spiritual part of God, as is the spirit in man, for God is not compounded of spirit and body. This is manifest from his immateriality. Neither can it be in any way a part of his spiritual nature, as sometimes a distinction is made in man, between his mind and spirit, or his soul and spirit. The perfect simplicity of God, which forbids all composition, makes this impossible. It is, therefore, either God himself exercising some power or influence, or a person in the Godhead. An examination of the Scripture shows that it is the latter.

 

1. The evidences of personal action show that the Spirit is not merely a power or influence from God, but is either God himself or a divine person.

 

(1.) The Scriptures speak of the Spirit as in a state of activity. Ge 1:2; Mt 3:16; Ac 8:39. The language in these passages may be anthropomorphic, but the state of activity taught is undoubtedly real.

 

(2.) They declare that the Spirit teaches and gives instruction. Lu 12:12; Joh 14:26; 16:8,13-14; Ac 10:19; 1Co 12:3.

 

(3.) The Spirit is also spoken of by them, as a witness of Christ to his people. Joh 15:26.

 

(4.) They also assert that he witnesses to believers that they are the children of God, and becomes the earnest of their inheritance. Ro 8:16; 2Co 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:13; 4:30.

 

(5.) He is spoken of as leading the sons of God. Ro 8:14.

 

(6.) He is also said to dwell within them in such a way that his presence is that of God. Joh 14:16-17; Ro 8:9,11; 1Co 3:16; 6:19.

 

(7.) We are taught that he is grieved. Eph 4:30.

 

(8.) Ananias is charged with having lied to him. Ac 5:3.

 

(9.) Blasphemy against him is the unpardonable sin. Mt 12:31-32.

 

(10.) He is spoken of as resisted by men. Ac 7:51.

 

(11.) Also as vexed by them. Isa 63:10.

 

(12.) As striving with them. Ge 6:3.

 

(13.) As inspiring men. Ac 2:4; 8:29; 13:2; 15:28; 2Pe 1:21.

 

(14.) As interceding for them. Ro 8:26-27.

 

(15.) As bestowing diversities of gifts. 1Co 12:4-11.

 

In all these cases there is personal activity, thought, and feeling. What is thus declared, cannot be true of a mere power, or influence. The only question can be, whether this person is God, distinct from any plurality of personal relations, or whether he is another personality in the divine nature.

 

2. The Scriptures show that he is a separate person from the Father and the Son.

 

(1.) It is stated that he proceeds from the Father. Joh 15:26. A personal being, proceeding from a person, cannot be that person himself. The proofs above given, therefore, of his personal action and emotion, show that this Spirit is another person.

 

(2.) He is given, or sent by the Father. Joh 14:16,26; Ac 5:32, and by the Son, Joh 15:26; 16:7; Ac 2:33. He that is sent cannot be identical with him that sends.

 

(3.) He is called the Spirit of the Father. Eph 3:16; and also the Spirit of Christ, and of the Son. Ro 8:9; Ga 4:6, perhaps also 2Th 2:8.

 

(4.) The Son is said to send the Spirit from the Father. Joh 15:26; and God is said to send the Spirit of the Son. Ga 4:6.

 

(5.) The Spirit is distinguished from the Father, and the Son, in passages which directly connect them with each other. Mt 3:16; 28:19; Joh 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; Ac 2:33; Eph 2:18; 1Co 12:4-6; 2Co 13:14; 1Pe 1:2.

 

(6.) The personality of the Spirit is also ably argued from "the use of the personal pronouns in relation to him," by Dr.Charles Hodge, Sys. Theol., Vol. I, p. 524. Not only are personal pronouns used by the Spirit, and of the Spirit., but there is a departure from grammatical rule, in the use of a masculine pronoun in connection with a neuter noun, unless the masculine is warranted by the fact, that a person is referred to who may be called "he."

 

VI THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD.

 

So completely do the Scriptures identify the Spirit with the Supreme God, that the fact of his personality having been established, his essential divinity will at once be admitted. In the discussion of the Trinity, therefore, the point of necessary proof as to the Spirit is his personality, while that as to the Son is his divinity. The abundant proof of the divinity of the Spirit is found:

 

1. In the passages which call him "the Spirit of God" and "the Spirit of the Lord," as well as those in which God calls him "my Spirit." These are conclusive, in like manner, as is the divinity of Christ from those which call him the Son of God. The titles "Spirit of God," and "Spirit of the Lord," are each used about twenty-five times in the Bible. "My Spirit" is used in reference to God’s Spirit in Ge 6:3; Pr 1:23; Isa 44:3; 59:21; Eze 36:27; 39:29; Joe 2:28; Hag 2:5; Zec 4:6; Mt 12:18; Ac 2:17-18.

 

2. The writers of the New Testament declare that certain things, which in the Old Testament are ascribed to Jehovah, were said by the Spirit. Compare Ac 28:25-27, and Heb 3:7-9, with Isa 6:9, and also Heb 9:8, with  Ex 25:1; 30:10.

 

3. The sacred writers of the Old Testament were the messengers of God, and spake for him, yet the influence by which they became such is called in the New Testament the Holy Ghost. Compare Lu 1:70 with 2Pe 1:21; 2Ti 3:16, and Heb 1:1 with 1Pe 1:11; also Jer 31:31,33-34, with Heb 10:15-17.

 

4. The creation of the world is ascribed to the Spirit. Ge 1:2; Job 26:13; Ps 104:30.

 

5. He is said to search, and know even the deep things of God. 1Co 2:10.

 

6. He is spoken of as omnipresent. Ps 139:7-10, and omniscient. Ps 139:11; 1Co 2:10.

 

7. The divinity of the Spirit is peculiarly proved by his influences over Christ. It having been shown that Christ the Son is God, the connection of the Spirit of God with Christ, though it were only in his human nature, is a convincing proof that the Spirit, which is not a mere power of God, but a person, as we have seen above, must be also God.

 

(1.) In his birth. Mt 1:18,20; Lu 1:31-35.

 

(2.) Mental and spiritual influences from the Spirit were predicted. Isa 11:2, and Isa 61:1.

 

(a) And these were fulfilled at his baptism. Mt 3:16; Joh 1:33.

 

(b) At the time of the temptation in the wilderness. Mt 4:1; Mr 1:12.

 

(c) In his preaching. Lu 4:14,18-21.

 

(d) In his casting out devils. Mt 12:28.

 

(3.) This spiritual influence was without measure. Joh 3:34.

 

8. The indwelling of the Spirit in the people of God is said to make them the temple of God. Compare 1Co 3:16; 6:19 with 2Co 6:16, and Eph 2:22.

 

9. The Spirit is expressly called God in connection with the falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira. Ac 5:3-4,9.

 

VII THE THREE REVEALED DISTINCTLY.

 

The scriptural proofs of the personality and divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit having now been considered, it is proper to notice a few passages of Scripture in which the Three are revealed distinctly, by being mentioned, or manifested together. See others under V 2, (5), p. 132.

 

1. At the baptism of Christ are seen the Son, who has just been baptized, and the "Spirit of God descending as a dove," while, from Heaven above, and therefore from the Father and not from the Spirit, who is thus manifested distinctly from the Father, is heard "a voice," "saying, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Mt 3:17.

 

2. An equally plain distinction is set forth in the language of Christ, Mt 28:19, in which he commanded baptism to be performed "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." This act of baptism is such as to involve the divinity as well as the personality of the Three, for it is an act of worship such as can be paid to God only; it is a profession of faith in God and his righteousness, which can be due to God only; and it is a pledge of fealty, such as God has plainly taught he will share with no other.

 

3. In our Lord’s last discourse he promises to send "the Comforter," "even the Holy Spirit," "from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father." Here the Son sends, the Spirit is sent, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. He is also referred to as one "whom the Father will send in my name." See  Joh 14:26; 15:26.

 

4. The apostle Paul evidently refers to this same Three, when he writes the Corinthians of "the same Spirit," "the same Lord," and "the same God." 1Co 12:4-6.

 

5. The benediction, with which Paul closes his second epistle to the Corinthians, also presents unitedly, yet separately, the same Three; certain blessings are invoked, but with no apparent distinction of rank among those of whom they are asked. If there be any prominence, it is given the rather to the Son than to the Father.

 

VIII THESE THREE ARE ONE GOD.

 

Our definition states that these Three are revealed as without division of nature, essence, or being. It is not intended to indicate, by the use of these three words, any wide distinction between them. They are nearly alike. Yet some distinction exists. By nature is meant that peculiar character of being which makes one kind of being to differ from another. Thus we speak of the divine nature, or the angelic nature, or the human nature, or the brute nature; meaning that peculiarity of life, and character, and personal condition, which makes a God, or an angel, or a man, or a brute. By essence is meant, that peculiarity, in the nature itself, which constitutes what is necessary to its existence, so that we cannot say, in the absence of that essence, that such a nature exists. Take away from human nature that which is its essential quality, and it must cease to be human nature. Being is the essence of any nature becoming actually existent in that nature. In God nature and essence must be identical, because everything in the nature of God is necessary to his existence, and consequently the nature can neither be greater nor less than the essence; indeed they must be the same. Neither can being be separated from the nature and essence of God, though it is not identical with them. The necessity of his actual existence is something inherent in his nature. There could be no such nature without necessarily involving the existence of some person or persons in it.

 

When it is affirmed, therefore, that there is no "division of nature, essence, or being," all that is meant is simply that there is but one God; that such is the divine nature that it cannot be multiplied, or divided, or distributed, any more than God can be thus divided in his omnipresence with all things. The divine nature is so possessed, by each of the persons in the Trinity, that neither has his own separate divine nature, but each subsists in one divine nature, common to the three. Otherwise the three persons would be three Gods. So also, in that divine nature, its essential quality is not divided in its relation through the nature to the persons. Were this so, there would be three separate parts of the divine nature. But that this cannot be, is manifest from the identity in God of nature and essence. That it is not so, is declared by the Scriptures, when they teach that there is but one God. In God there is also but one divine being, because there is but one divine essence and nature. There is but one that can have actuality of existence. The being of person, not being identical with that of nature, a fact which is true of all natures, created or uncreated, the unity of the nature, and of the essence does not forbid plurality of persons. The threeness of the persons, therefore, does not destroy the unity of the nature or essence, and consequently, not that of the being of God.

 

The Scriptures teach everywhere the unity of God explicitly and emphatically. There can be no doubt that they reveal a God that is exclusively one. But their other statements, which we have been examining, should assure us that they also teach that there are three divine persons. It is this peculiar twofold teaching, which is expressed by the word "trinity." The revelation to us, is not that of tritheism or three Gods; nor of triplicity, which is threefoldness, and would involve composition, and be contrary to the simplicity of God; nor of mere manifestation of one person in three forms, which is opposed to the revealed individuality of the persons; but it is well expressed by the word trinity, which is declarative, not simply of threeness, but of three-oneness. That this word is not found in Scripture is no objection to it, when the doctrine, expressed by it, is so clearly set forth.

 

 

ST. 015 Chapter 15: PERSONAL RELATIONS IN TRINITY.

CHAPTER XV

 

PERSONAL RELATIONS IN TRINITY.

 

The Scripture doctrine of the Trinity, as we have seen, presents three persons occupying mutual relations to each other. There consequently arise certain questions as to these relations. What is their nature? What has originated them? When did they begin? In what respects do the persons differ from each other? Is there perfect equality between them? If there is any kind of subordination, in what does it consist?

 

These questions will be best answered, first by some general statements applicable to all the relations; next by special consideration of the Sonship of Christ, and of the Procession of the Spirit; followed by an examination of the equality, and subordination of the Son and Spirit.

 

I GENERAL STATEMENTS.

 

1. The nature of these relations can be indicated in no other forms than those set forth in Scripture. They are matters of pure revelation. The fact of their existence is beyond the attainment of reason. Nor, after the revelation of the doctrine, has that fact been strengthened by any philosophical speculations, or its difficulties removed by any arguments, or illustrations from analogy. See statements of some of these in Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 478-482. We are constrained to fall back upon the simple Scripture statements. The only explanations of these, which are justifiable, are such as arise from recognizing that, as the persons, transactions, and relations are divine, there must be separated from them all that belongs to human conditions, and imperfections. But this must not lead us so far as to deny the reality of these things, or the existence, in the highest degree, of relations of the nature indicated, of which our best conception is gained from the terms which are used. Thus no physical generation, nor any that could begin, or end, or be measured by succession, can be ascribed to the divine Father. No dependent existence, nor previous lack, and subsequent attainment of being, can be true of a Son who is himself God. No communication, nor reception, of a portion of the divine essence, or nature, is possible between two divine persons. If the term "begotten" is intended to teach a communication of the divine essence to the Son by the Father, it must be one of the whole essence, otherwise there would no longer be only one God, one divine nature, or essence. So also, when the Spirit proceeds from the Father, there can be no breathing out of a part of the divine nature, nor can that breathing begin, or end, or exist in successive moments of time. These internal acts in God necessarily conform to that eternity, and unity, of the nature of God, which exist even in his purposes towards things which are without. All human imperfections must be removed. But, this being done, the Scripture teachings must be accepted with unquestioning belief that relations, corresponding to these titles, exist in God, and that they, and the causes assigned for them, are duly expressed by the language of his word.

 

2. These relations exist in the nature of God. They are not revelations to us of what God is not; but of what he is. It is because God is one in three persons, and because the three persons are one God, that he thus makes himself known to us. Though it is true that the Father wills to beget the Son, and the Father and Son will to send forth the Spirit; yet the will thus exercised, is not at mere good pleasure, but it results necessarily from the nature of God, that the Father should thus will the begetting, and the Father and the Son the sending forth. The will, thus exercised, is not like that of his purposes, in which God acts of free pleasure, choosing between various purposes which he might form; but, like that by which he necessarily wills his own existence. Otherwise, these relations might, or might not, have existed. But, if this were possible, the Son, and the Spirit, would only have been creatures of God, however exalted might have been their nature, or extraordinary their faculties. Theirs would only have been contingent existence, until made certain by the will of God. None of the incommunicable attributes of God could have been ascribed to them. In no sense could they have had self-existence, or eternity of existence, or independent existence, or immutability of nature. When, therefore, we find the Scriptures assigning such attributes to any other persons than the Father, we have conclusive evidence that the divine nature of these persons is perfectly equal to that of the Father; and when it is also asserted, that God is but one, and yet that each of the three is God, we are plainly taught, that all have the same undivided divine essence, or nature. That of the Son, or of the Spirit, is identical with that of the Father. It is not simply a similar nature, but even numerically the same. Were it otherwise, there would be three Gods. If, however, this be true, the relations belong to the nature of God, and are not something superadded to that nature. The simplicity of God is a proof of this. It could only be in a God compounded of nature, and relations, that the relations would not be in, and of, that nature itself.

 

3. These relations must also be eternal. ‘The nature being eternal, so also must be the relations which are in, and of that nature. Moreover, if not eternal, they must have had a beginning, and there must have been a time when they did not exist. But this argues changeableness in God, in virtue of which he, who once was one person only, has now become three. It is no reply to this, that the expressions "begotten," and ”proceedeth from," involve the idea of the antecedent existence of him who begets, and from whom there is procession. For these are terms of human language, applied to divine actions, and must be understood suitably to God. There is no greater difficulty here than in other cases in which this principle is readily recognized. We cannot speak of the eternity of the life of God, without using language which implies beginning, and succession. Neither can we think of his eternal purpose, except as numerous determinations formed and thought out in successive moments, and following upon God’s infinite knowledge; which, by placing before him all things possible, has presented various objects and plans from which he has chosen. Nor yet can we talk of his presence divested of the ideas and language that belong to space, nor conceive of his immensity without the fiction of infinite space. This has not been done even by the inspired authors of the Scriptures. Dealing, therefore, with the terms expressive of the divine relations, it is natural, and right, that we treat them after the same fashion, and divest them of those ideas of time, and succession, which are known to have no place in God. When this is done, nothing forbids the belief that, as these relations are in and of the nature of God, they are eternal.

 

4. So far as true divinity is involved, the persons must be absolutely equal, As each possesses the undivided divine essence, so neither can, as God, be superior, or inferior to the others. No difference in the mode, or order of subsistence in that essence, can make an inequality in the divinity of either of them, inasmuch as that subsistence makes each of them partakers of the same essence, and undividedly of all of it. Even if there be inequality relative to each other as persons, because of the respective relations, this would no more require one to be an inferior God to the others, than the three separate persons make necessary such a threefold distinction in the divine nature, as to constitute them three Gods.

 

These general statements will shorten and simplify the separate discussions as to the Sonship of Christ, and the Procession of the Spirit. So far as these have elements in common, a statement and explanation of these points in each case is rendered unnecessary. They are also more plainly exhibited, as to both the relations, than they could be separately. Moreover, we have in them answers to most of the questions suggested at the beginning. The nature of the relations is perceived to be properly indicated by the Scripture language which expresses them and to be such as belongs to the essence and nature of God. They have originated in that essence, acting through the person of the Father, and the persons of the Son and the Father. The perfect equality in that divine nature has been seen. It remains simply to inquire in what respects they differ from each other, and whether with the equality, relative to the divine essence, there co-exists any inequality of person, or any kind of subordination. These points will be appropriately presented in the separate discussions of the Sonship of Christ, and of the Procession of the Spirit, which discussions will, also, throw still further light upon the questions already answered.

 

II THE ETERNAL SONSHIP OF CHRIST.

 

In the previous lecture it was shown that Christ is Son of God in a sense peculiar to himself. The Father called him, at his baptism, "My beloved Son;" and he is spoken of by the sacred writers as God’s "only begotten Son," and "his own Son."

 

The Scripture proofs were also presented, that this Son is not only called "God;" but possesses all the incommunicable attributes of God, together with such unity and identity with the Father, as make him truly God; that he is equal with the Father in his works, and knowledge, and nature; and, that not only to him are all the acts of creation, providence, and judgement to be ascribed, but that he is to be honoured, and worshipped equally with the Father, he being indeed the manifestation in the world, of the divine Father, "the image of the invisible God," {Col 1:15} in whom "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," {Col 2:9} "being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance." Heb 1:3.

 

These proofs of this eternal Sonship may be strengthened by further reference to the Scripture teaching both as to the nature and eternity of the relation.

 

1. That the relation is one of nature, is additionally shown.

 

(a) By passages, which declare that the Son is so "from God," and "in God," as to have perfect knowledge of him. Joh 1:18; 7:29; 16:27-30; 17:25. He is here spoken of as proceeding from God, not merely being sent as a messenger. The claim asserted, is one of intimate fellowship in and participation of the divine nature. It is made of him in the capacity of God’s Son. Consequently it betokens a sonship of nature, not one of mere office, or name.

 

(b) By such passages as contrast the divine and human natures, ascribing the divine nature to the Son. Ro 1:3-4; Php 2:5-11.

 

(c) The divine nature of the Sonship is plainly taught by John in the 1st chapter of his gospel. "The only begotten Son," which "is in the bosom of the Father," who alone has "seen God" and "declared him," v. 18, is "the Word" that "became flesh, and dwelt among men," v. 14, and yet, which was not only "in the beginning," but "was with God," and "was God." If the Word and the Son are identical, the divine nature ascribed to the Word is truly the divine nature of the Son.

 

2. Of the eternity of this relation, we may also find further proof.

 

(1.) Christ’s existence before birth in this world is taught

 

(a) In such passages as show that Christ, of his own will, assumed this life. Joh 6:38; Php 2:7; Heb 2:14; 10:5,9.

 

(b) Such as show peculiar coming into the world. Joh 3:13; 6:33,38,62.

 

(c) Where it is said, that he had seen and known the Father; which implies a previous state of existence. Joh 6:46.

 

(d) Such passages as declare, that he, the Son, was sent into the world by the Father. See p. 126, 3.

 

(2.) His existence when creation occurred, is announced in Joh 1:3,10; Col 1:16; Heb 1:10.

 

(3.) The Scriptures also declare that he was in the beginning, before all things, when time began, which was, therefore, eternal existence. Joh 1:1; 17:5,24; Col 1:17; Heb 1:10.

 

(4.) They expressly state that it was eternal. 1Jo 1:1-3.

 

In the general statements above, it has been argued that the relations, borne by these two persons, are to be learned only from the Scripture revelations, and that these are to be modified in no respect, except by removing from them whatever is necessary to make them conform to divine transactions. It was also urged that all the divine relations being in and of God, who, with all his plurality of person, is but one God, these relations are in the same undivided divine essence, and, consequently, belong to the nature of God, and must be eternal.

 

In applying these statements and the scripture proofs to the relation of Father and Son in God, we arrive at the doctrine commonly called the Eternal Sonship of Christ.

 

By this is meant, that paternity, and filiation in God are, not mere names for something which does not exist, nor for some relation, different from that of father and son, to which these titles were first applied in connection with Christ’s creation, or birth, or resurrection, or exaltation; but are realities which exist eternally in his nature, and are as properly described by the names which express them are his attributes by the various terms of wisdom, power, truth, justice and love.

 

No attempt is made by those who accept this doctrine to state the nature of this generation. Some are even content to suppose that nothing more may be meant than to express by sonship what would be the result of such a relation. As human sonship is accompanied by earnest love between father and son, and implies likeness of character, and similarity of nature; so they have been willing to rest at this point, and accept the divine sonship, as meaning no more than the existence of perfect likeness, and infinite mutual love. But, manifestly, if nothing more than this be meant, the Father might equally be called Son, and the Son Father. The Scriptures, on the contrary, indicate that the likeness is the result of the relation, and not that the terms of the relation are given because of the likeness. It is not the resemblance of Christ to the Father, which is set forth as the reason he is called the Son, but it is because he is the Son that this resemblance exists.

 

But, even if these titles could be ascribed because of the likeness, we still have to account for the use of the peculiar word "begotten." This is evidently intended to tell us something of a great mystery. It proclaims some kind of activity in the divine Father, and passivity in the Son. We cannot tell what it is, but it at least resembles, in some way, that impartation of nature which occurs in the act of human begetting, and conveys to us the idea of the communication of the essence of God by the Father, through this act, to the Son. The continued unity of God shows that it is a communication of the whole essence, in which, however, the Father still continues to subsist, while imparting to the Son subsistence also in the same. Such impartation must partake of the nature of the "Eternal Now" in God. It never began and will never end, it has no succession, no past, and no future. It is the ever present, having no reference even to a past, or to a future. It is such a generation as constitutes eternal Sonship, and Fatherhood.

 

Many have rejected this doctrine because of misconceptions as to the nature of an Eternal Divine Sonship.

 

1. They have objected to the idea of Sonship itself.

 

(1.) They have urged that Sonship implies inferiority, and, therefore, that the Son cannot be truly God equal with the Father.

 

But how can we know what is and what is not possible in this matter with God? If the Scriptures assert the Divine generation, and the equality of the Son and the Father, why should any deny their consistency with each other?

 

After all, however, does sonship imply inferiority of nature? There may be subordination of rank, or office. But surely there is none of nature. Even human sonship results from the impartation of the same nature by the father; not the same numerically, but the same in kind, and degree, the same partitively. The son of any man partakes alike, and equally, with his father, in human nature. The divine communication differs from the human in not so dividing the nature that two gods result, as in human generation do two men.

 

That sonship may imply inferiority of official rank and personal relation, is readily admitted. But it does not always do this. Such subordination of person, indeed, seems to be taught of the Son of God to his Father. But it is equality and sameness of nature, not of office, which makes the Son truly God. He is such, because he is a true subsistence in the Divine essence. He does not cease to be such because the Father is officially greater than he, nor even because the Father bestows, and the Son receives the communication of the divine essence.

 

(2) It has also been objected that Fatherhood implies priority of existence, and that this is impossible towards another divine person. But this is based upon a forgetfulness of the nature of eternal acts. Though we may not be able to explain how they are so, we nevertheless know that, in such acts, there is no beginning nor end, no first nor second, no antecedent nor consequent, indeed, no succession of any kind. Were it otherwise, God would exist in successive moments. He would have had a beginning. He would form new purposes, and would increase in knowledge from day to day.

 

Arguing from the nature of eternal acts in God, we, therefore, judge that the eternal generation of the Son is not a single act, which was accomplished at a definite moment in the divine nature; but one ever continuing. With God there may be such definitely completed acts, when they are performed outside of himself, as in creation; but, not when they are purely within. Such an act must be ever continuing, and completed only in the sense of its being always perfect, though not ended. Even the expression "continuing" is imperfect so far as it involves the idea of successive moments in God. It is only "ever continuing" as viewed by man. Sonship in God, therefore, does not imply priority of existence. Even in man paternity and filiation are co-existent. One becomes a father, only, when another becomes his son. Priority of existence is necessary, as a mere accident of human birth, because of the necessity of growth, and maturity in a man before he can become a father. But, even here, the sonship and fatherhood exist at the same moment. In God, however, priority, even of the existence of one person before another, can have no place, since he is self-existent, and eternal, who never began to be, and whose perfect maturity is not attained by growth or increase.

 

(3) Again it is said, "If Christ is Son, if he is God of God, he is not self-existent and independent. But self-existence, independence, etc., are attributes of the divine essence, and not of one person in distinction from the others. It is the triune God, who is self-existent, and independent. Subordination, as to the mode of subsistence, and operation, is a scriptural fact; and so also is the perfect and equal godhead of the Father, and the Son, and, therefore, these facts must be consistent. In the consubstantial identity of the human soul, there is a subordination of one faculty to another, and so, however incomprehensible to us, there may be a subordination in the trinity consistent with the identity of essence in the godhead." Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1, 474.

 

2. There are objections also made to the eternity of this relation. They are based upon scripture statements, and are, on that account, even more worthy of consideration.

 

It is well to remember, however, that Christ is revealed to us, in the Scriptures, as one person in two natures, by virtue of which he is frequently called the Theanthropos, or Godman. The doctrine of his person will be hereafter discussed. It is sufficient here to state that, while the two natures are distinct, and preserve their respective attributes and qualities, yet, because of the one personality in both natures, whatever belongs to the person as person may be attributed to either nature. Thus the Spirit is not only called the Spirit of Christ, "but also the Spirit of Jesus." Ac 16:7. Inasmuch, then, as the sonship expresses a mere personal relation in the godhead, the title Son of God may be applied to Christ in mere human relations. That this is sometimes done, does not then destroy the force of its much more frequent application to him in his divine nature, and especially of such an application, when it is accompanied by the ascription to him of divine titles, attributes, acts, and worship, together with assertions of equality, identity, and unity with the Father.

 

"Bishop Pearson, one of the most strenuous defenders of eternal generation, and of all the peculiarities of the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity, gives four reasons why the Theanthropos, or Godman is called the Son of God. (1.) His miraculous conception. (2.) The high office to which he was designated. Joh 10:34-35,36. (3.) His resurrection according to one interpretation of Ac 13:33. ‘The grave,’ he says, ‘is as the womb of the earth; Christ, who is raised from thence, is as it were begotten to another life, and God, who raised him, is his Father.’ (4.) Because after his resurrection, he was made the heir of all things. Heb 1:2-5. Having assigned these reasons why the Godman is called Son, he goes on to show why the Logos is called Son. There is nothing, therefore, in the passages cited inconsistent with the church doctrine of the eternal sonship of our Lord." Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1, 476.

 

1. The first objection to the eternity of the sonship, is that the title "Son" is given because of his birth.

 

This is based upon Lu 1:35 "And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also that which is to be born shall be called holy, the Son of God."

 

Upon this passage it may be remarked, as the foundation of all just interpretation, that no relation to the Holy Ghost, which constitutes a personal relation in the Godhead, can refer to the Sonship, because this relation is one of Christ to the Father, and not to the Holy Ghost. Some other reason, then, than the act of the Spirit in his conception, must be found for the ascription here of the title "Son of God."

 

Again, it must be recognized, that the title "Son" is not here prophesied of in connection with the divine nature of our Lord, but is declared of that "which is to be born," which was undoubtedly his human nature, or himself in his human nature.

 

One interpretation of the passage affixes to the term "Power of the Highest" a personal sense, explaining it as a title of the Divine Logos. According to this, it is the overshadowing and permanent abiding of the divine Son, in union with the human nature conceived under the influence of the Holy Ghost, which will cause that "holy thing" to be "called the Son of God." Instances are quoted of the use of "Power" in a divine sense from Philo, and other Jewish writers. The early Christian fathers are stated to have applied generally the word "power" to the divine nature of Christ, and many of them are quoted as maintaining this interpretation of this passage. Ac 8:10, and 1Co 1:24 are referred to as illustrating this use of the word power. See Treffry, on the Doctrine of the Eternal Sonship, 3rd edition, pp. 120-133, and 142-144.

 

If this be the interpretation, then, it is the coming of the Eternal Son upon this human nature, and his presence with it, that causes it to be called the Son of God.

 

This is, therefore, perfectly consistent with both the requirements before mentioned as necessary to the true interpretation. The Spirit is not associated with the ascription of the title Son of God, and that title is appropriately given to the human nature, and yet the eternity of the divine Sonship is not affected. If this use of the word "Power" can be fully verified, no valid objection can be made to the interpretation. Treffry gives very strong proof that it is so used.

 

If, however, we should adopt the more generally received interpretation, which supposes that "the power of the Highest" is either descriptive of the Holy Ghost, or of the divine power which accompanied his coming upon Mary, there will still be no difficulty in ascribing the title Son of God to the presence of the Eternal Son, who in his divine personality "became flesh, and dwelt among us." Joh 1:14. Such an explanation of the title would still be consistent with his relation, both to the Father and the Holy Ghost. The text would then still teach that the title Son of God is to be given to Christ as man, in like manner as that of Lord, because we have not here a mere human person, but simply a human nature, in which the divine Person, the Son, subsists without ceasing also to subsist in the divine nature. As that divine Person, and not the divine nature, is the Son, so also the divine Person in his human nature, and not that human nature, or a mere man is called Son of God. The title, therefore, though given to him as man, arises not from his birth, but from his eternal Sonship.

 

The Holy Ghost is, therefore, set forth here merely as the originator of the human nature of Christ. That nature is from God, not acting through the divine essence, which is never affirmed of God in any of his acts, but through a person in the Godhead, according to the usual mode as revealed to us, and as exhibited in creation, providence and redemption, and even in the eternal acts within the Godhead. The Scriptures make known no influence, nor action of the Spirit on the Son in his divine relations. On the contrary, the Son acts through the Spirit, but not the Spirit through the Son. But the instances of the influence of the Spirit on the human nature are abundant. At his birth, Lu 1:35, at his baptism, Mt 3:16, in leading him to be tempted, Mt 4:1, in the working of his miracles, Mt 12:28, in his return from temptation "in the power of the Spirit into Galilee," Lu 4:14, and in his giving commandments through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, Ac 1:2, we have express mention of this influence. Was it not to this that the author of Hebrews referred, "A body didst thou prepare for me?" Heb 10:5.

 

2. Again it is objected, that Christ did not become Son of God until the day of his resurrection.

 

Two passages are quoted in favour of this objection.

 

(1.) That in Ro 1:4 "Who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead."

 

The word translated "declared" in this passage means "determined," "marked out as." It has no reference to a new ascription of title. All that is taught is that the resurrection of Christ plainly and distinctly evinced that "Jesus Christ, our Lord" (v. 5) is "Son of God." Of this fact, the resurrection from the dead of him who had constantly claimed to be the Son of God, is an unquestionable proof.

 

(2.) The other passage is Ac 13:32-33. This reads in the King James version, "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise that was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again;" as it is also written in the second psalm, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee."

 

Upon this objection, Dr. Charles Hodge justly says: "Here there is no reference to the resurrection. The glad tidings, which the Apostle announced, was not the resurrection, but the advent of the Messiah. That was the promise made to the fathers, which God had fulfilled by raising up, i. e., bringing into the world the promised deliverer. Compare Ac 2:30; 3:22; 7:37; in all which passages where the same word is used, the ‘raising up’ refers to the advent of Christ; as when it is said, ‘A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me.’ The word is never used absolutely in reference to the resurrection, unless, as in Ac 2:32, where the resurrection is spoken of in the context. Our translators have obscured the meaning by rendering it, ‘having raised up again,’ instead of simply ‘having raised up,’ as they render it elsewhere." Sys. Theo. 1, 475.

 

The Canterbury Revision has simply "raised up," omitting the word "again."

 

We might, then, rest the reply to this objection upon the denial that the Sonship is spoken of as given in connection with the resurrection. But, on the other hand, we might admit it to be thus given, and yet the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship would not be affected. For, so long as we may justly confine any such declaration to the Theanthropos, it might still be true that to the Godman the name could thus be given, and yet, all the teachings of Scripture relative to the eternity and nature of the divine sonship remain true. The truth is, that it would be more difficult to establish positively that the title Son of God ever was bestowed upon Christ, in consequence of any event connected with his humanity, than that it is confined to him in his human relations. At least, it is manifest from the Scriptures that, if ever applied to this divine person because of his birth, or resurrection, that was not the first period of such application; for the title is given to him in connection with the acts of creation, and he is said to have been before all things, their creator, in whom they consist, as the one who laid the foundations of the world, the existence of which is perishable, while his is eternal.

 

(3.) A further objection is made by Arians, and others who deny the proper divinity of Christ, and claim that he is but a creature. These assert that the title Son of God was given to Christ by virtue of his creation. The obvious reply to this objection, is to produce the Scripture teachings which prove the true deity of the Son, especially such as assert that he is God and Lord, and to be honoured, and worshipped, and that he performs all the divine acts of creation, providence and redemption, and has all the incommunicable attributes of God, together with perfect equality, exact resemblance, absolute unity, and sameness of nature with the Father.

 

The passage in Col 1:15, has been claimed in support of this objection; Christ being there called, according to the King James Version, "the first born of every creature." But the true rendering is "the first born of all creation," and it is so translated in the Canterbury Revision. There is a similar passage in Re 3:14, where Christ calls himself "the beginning of the creation of God." The word translated "beginning" in this passage, means also "the origin." It is also used for "the first place, or power, the sovereignty." The "first born" in the former passage, is the same word used in Heb 1:6, and there translated "first begotten." The "first created" would have been differently expressed in the Greek. The fact that this is a begotten Son, and not a created being, and that he is not said to be born at the time of Creation, but before it, actually shows that the eternal generation of the eternal Son, which took place before all things, is here spoken of. Such pre-existence is plainly taught in the context of Hebrews, but it is directly asserted in that of Colossians.

 

III THE PROCESSION OF THE SPIRIT.

 

The relation of the Spirit, in the Godhead, differs from that of the Son in several respects. What is the ground, or reason of this, it is impossible to state. The Scriptures give no information upon this point. We must be content, therefore, simply to point out what they reveal upon this subject.

 

1. An obvious distinction is made between the names given to the two persons. While the one is called the Son, the other is called "the Spirit," and other names of like import, as stated p. 130, V That these names are indicative of some specific difference, may be argued from the fact that they are never interchanged. The Spirit is never called the Son, nor is the Son ever called the Spirit. When it is remembered, that these names describe persons subsisting in the same divine essence, this fact becomes very significant of some peculiar distinction between them in the mode of such subsistence. The word "pneuma," which is the designation in the Greek original, means spirit, breath, or wind, and seems to indicate some influence, or power which proceeds from God, not impersonally, but with a personal relation in the Godhead. The work of the Spirit, in the creation and government of the world, in the inspiration of the sacred writers, in the miraculous conception of, and gracious influences upon the human nature of Christ, and in the regeneration and sanctification of the people of God, points him out as the outwardly operating power of the Godhead in this world.

 

2. A distinction is also revealed, between these persons, as to the mode of action by which they proceed from the Father. The Son is said to be generated, the Spirit is simply said to proceed. The relation of the Spirit to the divine Father has been generally expressed by the term "Procession." This is admissible, if it be recognized as a term merely declarative of such a procession from the Father as is not exclusive of a procession also of the Son. This expression is applied to the Spirit upon the authority of Christ, who calls him in Joh 15:26 "the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father." But our Lord uses a similar word as to himself, though not the same, in Joh 16:28 "I came out from the Father, and am come into the world." The disciples use this last word in Joh 16:30. The verb in these two passages means sometimes "came out," and sometimes "went out," and, in the latter signification, is precisely equivalent to the other verb, which in a different tense appears in Joh 15:26. From the "proceeding from" of the Spirit, therefore, cannot be argued a difference in his mode of procedure from that of the Son. The terms applied to both are general, and cannot express a difference. Procession, therefore, may be asserted of both the Son and the Spirit. The mode of the procession of the Son is specifically designated by the generation which is asserted of him. That of the Spirit appears likewise to be pointed out by the name given to him. He is the breath of God, which fact, already expressed in his name, was taught by our Lord when, on the evening of his resurrection, he breathed upon his apostles, saying unto them: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Joh 20:22. It is not unlikely, however, that the human breath of the Theanthropos was, on that occasion, used as a symbol of the divine outbreathing of the Spirit by the divine Son. This may be well assumed as true, if, indeed, the Spirit proceeds from the Son, as well as from the Father.

 

This outbreathing of God is even more difficult to interpret, and the nature of the relation thus indicated even more incomprehensible than that of the generation of the Son. In this, therefore, as in that, we must be content to accept the statement, just as it is revealed, being only careful to separate from it all ideas inconsistent with acts of God. This would exclude everything like a physical breathing, or several acts of breathing, at various times, which may be successive. The procession of the Spirit, must, therefore, be regarded as eternal action, completed, only because perfect, and continuing, only in the sense of not ended.

 

It seems therefore proper, that we should regard the peculiarity of the mode of the procedure of both these persons, to be indicated by the names given respectively to each. The term "procession" may be especially appropriated to the Spirit only, because, in his case, "Spirit" does not as distinctly point out the mode of procedure, as does Sonship, in that of the Son.

 

The preposition, with which the verbs are compounded in each of these three passages of John, is the same, and shows a procession from within God. Wherever the terms "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ" appear, the simple genitive is used without a preposition, but this same preposition is found with the genitive of God, in 1Co 2:12 and Re 11:11. In this latter passage, however, the Holy Spirit is probably not meant. The procedure is, therefore, taught as being from within God, which shows that the coming from, and the going forth from, are both in and of the Divine nature, and are not to be limited to such action as occurs when an ambassador is sent from a king, or one man simply proceeds from the presence of another.

 

3. Western Christendom, in opposition to Eastern, has maintained that there is also a distinction between the relations of Son and Spirit, as to the source. The procession of the Spirit is said, by the East, to be from the Father only, as is the generation of the Son; but by the West, to be from both the Father and the Son.

 

Eastern Christians have urged that the Scriptures only actually declare procession from the Father. It must be acknowledged that this is true, inasmuch as there is but one passage of Scripture which speaks of his Procession, {Joh 15:26} the language of which is "which proceedeth from the Father." But in 1Co 2:12 the Spirit of said to be "of God," which may mean of the Father alone, or, as of God, so of the Son also. The Spirit is also spoken of as the Spirit of Jesus {Ac 16:7} and of Christ, and of the Lord, and of the Son, {Ga 4:6} as well as the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of God. Our Lord also declared, that he would send the Spirit. More than this, the action of Christ, when he breathed upon the disciples, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," {Joh 20:22} is very significant, and strongly indicates the procession of the Spirit from him. See also Ac 16:7. This act of Christ, however, may have been no more than giving the Spirit to his disciples, without intending to teach any procession from himself. The breathing, which in any event was symbolical, may have been so only of the divine act of the Father, from whom alone the Spirit may truly proceed. In this event, may we not also believe that the relation to the procession of the Son differs from that of the Father? Would it not be a more exact statement of the Scripture teaching to say, that the Son, or Christ, sends the Spirit, and gives the Spirit, which is his, because the right to bestow it is his, either essentially, or as given him in his office as Messiah, and that the Spirit thus sent proceeds from the Father? In this event the Father would be the source of the procedure, and the Son the agent in sending it forth. Is not this bestowment on the Messiah, of this right to send the Spirit, suggested by Christ’s declaration, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you," {Joh 16:7} as well as by the language, "The Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Joh 7:39. These points are presented for consideration, while it is admitted that the assertion, that the Spirit proceeds also from the Son, is less objectionable than the denial. The Scriptures seem to leave it so doubtful, as to forbid any positive statement about it. But the preponderance of evidence is in favour of a procession from both Father and Son.

 

IV SUBORDINATION BETWEEN THE PERSONS

 

The absolute equality of each of these persons, as God, has already been pointed out; and the possibility of inferiority, in other respects, was then intimated. There are some scriptural statements which seem to indicate this. Christ said expressly of himself, "The Father is greater than I" Joh 14:28. He also not only taught that the Father had sent him, but compared with that his own sending of his disciples, {Joh 17:18} and declared that he came, not to do his own will but that of him that sent him,; {Joh 6:38} that he came not of himself,; {Joh 7:28} that he spoke not of himself, but that the Father had given him a commandment, what he should say, and speak,; {Joh 12:49} that his teaching was not his own,; {Joh 7:16} that the word they heard was not his, but his Father’s,; {Joh 14:24} that he had given and spoken the words given him by the Father,; {Joh 8:26; 17:8} that the Father had given him to do the work he had accomplished,; {Joh 17:4} that he could do nothing of himself, but what he saw the Father doing,; {Joh 5:19} that the Father was with him, and had not left him alone,; {Joh 8:29} and that the Father had sanctified (consecrated) him,. {Joh 10:36} Peter also preached to Cornelius "Jesus of Nazareth, how that God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power," and that he performed beneficent and miraculous acts because "God was with him.." {Ac 10:38} Christ also denied the goodness of any but God, {Mt 19:17; Mr 10:38; Lu 18:19} and as to the day of judgement, asserted that "of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father," (Mr 13:32, "but the Father only," Mt 24:36); and, that to sit on his right hand, and on his left, was not his to give, but that these positions shall be given to those for whom it is prepared of his Father,. {Mt 20:23; Mr 10:40} We are told also of his prayers to God, of which the remarkable statement is made, that "in the days of his flesh," he "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear.." {Heb 5:7} Christ also speaks of the power he had over all flesh, as given him by the Father, {Joh 17:2} and Paul in Eph 1:17,20, assigns his exaltation over all things, and as head of the church, described in vv. 19-22, to "the Father of glory." While it is said that the Father "put all things in subjection under his feet," we are told that "he is excepted, who did subject all things unto him," {1Co 15:27} that "then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father," (v. 24); and "when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected unto him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all," v. 28. The climax of these statements is reached, when we find that not only did Paul say that "the head of Christ is God," {1Co 11:3} and call the Father "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,;" {Eph 1:17} but our Lord himself spoke of him to Mary Magdalene as "my Father and your Father," and "my God and your God." Joh 20:17.

 

An examination of these, and all similar statements in the Scriptures, shows they are in no respect inconsistent with the perfect equality of the persons as to the divine nature.

 

1. Almost all of them have reference to Christ as man; or as the Son in his relations to his human nature; or as Messiah, securing for his people eternal life, and bestowing it upon them, or ruling over the universe, and the church.

 

2. This explanation may be thought by some insufficient to account fully for the subjection of the Son referred to in 1Co 15:28, or for the superior greatness ascribed to the Father in Joh 14:28. But, if so, we are only taught an inferiority of one person in the Trinity to another, as a person. Nothing indicates that it is of one of them as God, to another as God, or of the Godhead of one to the Godhead of another. It is only of the Son to the Father, and not of God the Son to God the Father. The subsistence of each of the persons in the same divine nature may still remain true, as well as that partaking of all of it by each, which makes all equally God.

 

3. The personal inferiority which is thus made possible, so far as it is natural, is due doubtless to the difference in the modes of subsistence in the divine essence. The Father thus subsists independently of the will, or the action of any other person. He is thus simply God; not originated, not begotten, not proceeding from. The Son is originated, his filiation is willed, though necessarily, by the Father, and he is begotten, and is, as the Athanasian creed asserts, "very God" of "very God." The Holy Spirit is also originated; he is not however begotten, but proceeds from the Father, or from the Father and the Son. His procession is also willed, though necessarily, and he, likewise, is "very God" of "very God." In this mode of subsistence, therefore, inferiority of the person of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and Son, may be said to exist. Without any superiority as God, therefore, the Father may be said to be greater than the Son, because of the personal relations in the Trinity.

 

4. But there is also a subordination of office or rank still more plainly taught. By virtue of this, the Father sends the Son, and the Father and Son send the Spirit. This could exist between persons in all respects equal to each other, both in nature and relation. In God, however, it is probable that the official subordination is based upon that of the personal relations. It corresponds exactly with the relations of the persons, from which has probably resulted their official subordination in works without, and especially in the work of redemption.

 

The order of this subordination is plainly apparent from the scriptural names and statements about the relations. The Father is unquestionably first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third. This is their rank, as well because of the mode of subsistence, as of its order. Hence they are commonly spoken of in this order, as the First, Second and Third Persons of the Trinity.

 

V "THE INHABITATION OF THE PERSONS."

 

"As the essence of the Godhead is common to the several persons, they have a common intelligence, will, and power. There are not in God three intelligences, three wills, three efficiencies. The Three are one God, and, therefore, have one mind and will. This intimate union was expressed in the Greek church by the word ‘perichoresis,’ which the Latin words inexistentia, inhabitatio, and intercommunio were used to explain. These terms were intended to express the scriptural facts that the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son; that where the Father is, there the Son and Spirit are; that what the one does, the others do." * * *

 

"This fact—of the intimate union, communion, and inhabitation of the persons of the Trinity—is the reason why everywhere in Scripture and instinctively by all Christians, God as God is addressed as a person, in perfect consistency with the Tri-personality of the Godhead. We can, and do pray to each of the Persons separately; and we pray to God as God; for the three persons are one God; one not only in substance, but in knowledge, will, and power. To expect that we, who cannot understand anything, not even ourselves, should understand these mysteries of the Godhead, is to the last degree unreasonable. But as in every other sphere, we must believe what we cannot understand; so we may believe all that God has revealed in his word concerning himself, although we cannot understand the Almighty unto perfection." Charles Hodge, Sys. Theol., vol. 1, pp. 461-462.

 

 

ST. 016 Chapter 16: OUTWARD RELATIONS OF THE TRINITY

CHAPTER XVI

 

OUTWARD RELATIONS OF THE TRINITY

 

THE universe, with all it is, and all it contains, is the result of the outward working of the triune God. It exists, not because of any necessity in God’s nature to create it, but as the result purely of his will. It is the form in which the voluntary activity of God manifests itself outwardly.

 

Activity, in some form, is essential to a personal, intelligent being. God must therefore he eternally active. But this necessity for eternal activity finds ample scope for its exercise, within the Godhead, in the acts involved in the mutual relations of the persons, and in the purposes which he forms relative to things without. His outward workings are the results of those purposes alone, and therefore proceed purely from his will. The universe consequently hears no other relation to God than that of a mere creation of his wisdom and power. It is not eternal, but has those peculiarities of beginning, and succession, which belong to time, as well as the dependence, change and imperfection, which are naturally found in that which is neither divine nor self-existent.

 

There are three kinds of divine acts.

 

1.         Immanent, and intrinsic acts. These are within God, and have no reference to things without. Such are the generation of the Son, and the spiration of the Spirit.

 

2.

 

3. 4.     Immanent, and extrinsic acts. These, also, are within God, but have reference to things without. Such are his decrees.

 

5.

 

6. 7.     Extrinsic, and transitive acts. These are outside of himself, having no existence within him, but nevertheless proceed efficiently from him, and terminate upon his creatures. Such are creation, providence and redemption. See Turretine’s Institutes, Book 4, Ques. 1, Sec. 4.

 

8.

 

9. The first kind of divine acts is revealed to us in what the scriptures teach of the personal relations within the Godhead. The second, and especially the third, are made known to us in what we are told of the creation of the world, of God’s Providential care over it, and of his redemption of man. As might have been anticipated, we find the activity of God in the second and third kinds of acts manifested in accordance with the personal relations revealed in the first. Each of the persons performs such divine acts as show that he is God. Each demands and accepts equal honour and worship from man. Each has his own especial relation to every work. In it the same subordination, revealed in the personal relations, is preserved. Yet, along with this, we find that same intercommunion, by which what one does is also spoken of as done by each of the others. The evidence of this last point needs especially and constantly to be borne in mind, lest we emphasize too much the distinct acts of the persons, and forget that essential union, and intercommunion, which, as well as subsistence in the same undivided essence, or nature, makes the three persons only one God.

 

The method of this action, and the distinct subordination in it, will not in all cases appear equally plain. We must, therefore, observe with caution what is exactly revealed. Whatever, from other circumstances, may appear probable, must he taken only as such. This is more especially necessary as this method will he seen somewhat to vary, although, so far as exhibited, the same order of subordination will be perceived.

 

I IN CREATION.

 

Creation, as the first outward manifestation of God, demands the first place in this treatment.

 

(1.) Whatever distinction may sometimes appear, it is generally attributed to the one God. This does not forbid that each person has performed his distinctive part, for it is also referred to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Spirit. We have here only the evidence of that intercommunion which, even through the distinct action of each, still makes any divine act performed by any one of the persons to be the act of the whole Godhead. The passages which teach this are the numerous ones in which "God" is spoken of as the creator. These must refer either to the triune God, or to the Father alone. But whatever may be the relation of the Father to this act, the scriptures, by revealing that the Son and the Spirit were also associated with him, show that creation was the act of the whole Godhead.

 

(2.) The method of this act is revealed in a few passages. These teach that creation came from the Father, as the source, that it was accomplished by, or through the Son, as the efficient instrumental creating agent, and by, or through the Spirit, as the transforming power. The first two of these facts is taught in 1Co 8:6 "Yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him." Here the Father is declared to be the source of all things, and Jesus Christ, the divine Son, the instrument through whom they exist. We have the same truth in Heb 1:2 "Through whom also he made the worlds."

 

The creation is also attributed separately to the Father in Ac 4:24. He is indeed there called "Lord," but is shown to be the Father by the quotation from the second psalm as well as by the reference to his "holy child Jesus," which marks a distinction between two persons. In Re 4:11 it is manifestly the Father, to whom the four and twenty elders ascribe creation; for he is distinguished from the Lamb that redeemed us. See Chap.  Re 5:8-9. In Eph 3:9, God is said to have created all things and the context shows that it is God the Father who is spoken of.

 

That the creation was by, or through the Son, is also separately declared. John says of the divine word, "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that bath been made." * * * "He was in the world, and the world was made by him." Joh 1:3,10. Paul says, that "in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, * * * all things have been created through him, and unto him." Col 1:16. See also Ps 33:6.

 

The transforming power of the Spirit is shown in Ge 1:2. Here the Hebrew verb is in the Piel form, and means "to brood over," and, Gesenius in his lexicon says, is used "tropically of the Spirit of God as thus brooding over and vivifying the chaotic mass of the earth." This work of the Spirit seems to have been known to Job and his friends. Job himself says: "By his Spirit the heavens are garnished," Job 26:13, and Elihu declares, "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath (Spirit) of the Almighty giveth me life." Job 33:4. In Ps 33:6 it is also stated, that "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath (Spirit) of his mouth." In Ps 104:30, God is addressed thus: "Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground." The creation here referred to is simply transformation.

 

The above statements show that the creation of the world is ascribed to God as One, yet that all things are of the Father, who is thus the source; that they were created by, or through the Son; and that the Spirit has been their transforming and life-giving power. We find then in this outward action of the persons the same relations and subordination exhibited personally in the Trinity. The Father acts through the Son, {Eph 3:14-19; Heb 1:2} and sends forth the Spirit Ps 104:30.

 

II IN PROVIDENCE.

 

In the statements made as to the acts of Providence, the subordination of the Son and Spirit is not distinctly taught. It is not denied, however, and there is no reason for supposing that it does not exist. Still, in the absence of specific revelation, we dare not positively affirm that it does. Throughout the Scriptures, however, all the acts of providence are ascribed to God. Whether by this is meant the Father alone, or the Triune God, does not appear. There is no revelation as to the method by which this is done. But each of the persons is revealed as performing acts of providence. Christ declared this of the Father, Mt 6:25-32, especially verse 32, and  Mt 10:29-31. The upholding of the world is asserted of the Son, Heb 1:3, and it is said that "in him all things consist." Col 1:17. The providential care of the Spirit is abundantly exercised in connection with the life of believers in Christ, who may well be said spiritually to "live, and move, and have their being" in him. That this is done in the sphere of redemption makes it no less providential than if it were in that of creation. In this latter, however, the Spirit is also spoken of as engaged in providential acts. Isa 59:19; 63:14.

 

III IN REDEMPTION.

 

The distinctive action of the three persons is more plainly exhibited in connection with redemption. This is due, probably, to the fact that upon this subject we have more full information than upon the acts of creation or providence. God is also brought nearer to us, and thus is more clearly revealed. It is in connection with this that the revelation has been made of the relations within the Trinity, together with the equality of the persons in the divine nature, and their subordination within and in the work without. The whole work of redemption is ascribed to the Triune God, but each of the persons is revealed as sustaining distinct official relation to it.

 

1. All of this appears even in the manner in which it has been revealed.

 

(a) The Scriptures are explicitly declared to be from God,  Joh 3:34; 10:35; 1Co 2:9; 1Th 2:13; 2Ti 3:16; Heb 1:1.

 

(b) Christ attributes to the Father his own power and authority to speak, and declares him to be the source of what was revealed by himself. Joh 3:34; 7:16; 12:49; 15:15. The same truth is taught in Re 1:1, where the distinction between the persons shows that "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him," was given by the Father. It is from the Father also as a source, that the Spirit derives the truth which he reveals. It is as the Spirit of truth that Christ declared that he proceeds from the Father. Joh 15:26. The cause he assigned for his subsequent promise that the Spirit should guide into all truth was "he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak." Joh 16:13. That the truth, thus spoken, should be from the Father, through the Son, appears from vv.  Joh 16:33. The same is also taught in 1Co 2:7-11, in which it is said that "God revealed through the Spirit" the "deep things of God," which "the Spirit searcheth," "even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory." The whole context shows that it is the Father from whom these things are learned.

 

(c) But while the Father is thus declared to be the source of the revelation of redemption, it is the Son by whom he has made it known. He is, in his divine relation, especially called the Word of God. Him we are commanded by the Father to hear as his "beloved Son." Mt 17:5. In his own person he so manifested the Father that he could say, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." Joh 14:9. During his incarnation he spoke personally, as did the prophets of old. Heb 1:1-2. He was that prophet whom Moses foretold, De 18:15-19; and is so proclaimed in Ac 3:20-22. He declared himself to be the light of the world. Joh 8:12. He foretold the future as to himself, his disciples, Jerusalem, and the world. He began the preaching of the great salvation. Heb 2:3. He gave especial instruction to his apostles, both before his death and after his resurrection, not only as to the gospel of the kingdom, but as to all things which were to be observed by them, and by those whom they should teach. Especially, during this latter period, did he instruct them as to the relation of his sufferings and death to the prophecies of the Old Testament.

 

(d) In this work of revelation, however, the Holy Spirit is made known to us as the operating agent. Everywhere it is the Spirit to whom the word sent by God is referred. "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." 2Pe 1:21. This is spoken of the Old Testament writers in general. It is specifically declared of David, Mt 22:43; Ac 1:16; and of Isaiah, Ac 28:25, and of the author of the 96th Psalm, in Heb 3:7. These Old Testament writers constantly attribute their instructions to the Spirit of God, as, for example, David in 2Sa 23:2. Nehemiah asserts it of the prophets, by whom God had warned his people. Ne 9:30. Isa 48:16, proclaims "the Lord God hath sent me and his Spirit."

 

The same is pre-eminently true of the inspired revelations of New Testament days. Even the ministry of our Lord was subjected to the Spirit. While, as the Divine Son, he works through the Spirit in this, as in other divine acts, yet, as the God-man, he was fostered in his human nature by its influences, and was anointed by it for his work. Our Lord declared this in the first act of his ministry, Lu 4:16-21. The immeasurable extent of this influence was taught by John the Baptist. Joh 3:34. In like manner, also, were the Apostles of Christ prepared for their work. Eph 3:5. The teaching of the Lord had not sufficed. In recalling and revealing that teaching they must needs he made infallible. Other truths were also to be made known. Therefore the Spirit was promised, which promise was signally fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; nor then only, nor upon those there alone, but during all the period of New Testament revelation, and upon multitudes who spake, as well as upon those who wrote. The effect of this influence is distinctly asserted. At Pentecost they "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Ac 2:4. The boldness with which such men as those could speak of Christ, is attributed to their being filled with the Spirit. Ac 4:31. Paul claimed that his preaching was in "demonstration of the Spirit and of power," 1Co 2:4, and that he spake "not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth." 1Co 2:13.

 

2. If we turn now to the work of redemption itself, we shall still find those mutual relations sustained. Salvation or redemption is ascribed everywhere to the Triune God. Examples of this are to be found in Lu 1:68-71; 3:6; Ac 28:28; Ro 1:16; 2Th 2:13; Tit 2:11.

 

(1.) But it is specifically assigned as to its source to the Father. Its sphere is within the creation which is from him, and under the providential influences which originate in him. He is the lawgiver, whose law has been broken, and who exacts the penalty; as the administrator of that law. The redemption is the effect of his purpose. 1Co 2:7; Eph 3:11; 2Ti 1:9. That purpose flows from his benevolent love for mankind. Joh 3:16. He has even sent his own Son "that the world should be saved through him." Joh 3:17. It was his will that the Son came to fulfil. Heb 10:7; Joh 6:38-40; Ga 1:3-4. For this he delivered him up, {Ro 8:32} according to his "determinate counsel," {Ac 2:23} thus saving men "according to his own purpose and grace," {2Ti 1:9} and thus "gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." 1Jo 5:11. It is he, also, who "chose us" in Christ "before the foundation of the world," and "freely bestowed on us in the beloved his grace," Eph 1:4,6, and hath given us to Christ, Joh 17:6-11, to whom, says Christ himself, "no man can come" "except the Father, which sent me draw him," Joh 6:44 "having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself according to the good pleasure of his will." Eph 1:5. That men may thus be drawn, he promised and gave his Spirit to Christ,  Ac 2:33,) and through him unto men, that they might be regenerated, {Joh 3:5} and "quickened," while "dead through trespasses and sins," {Eph 2:1} that they might have faithfulness, {Ga 5:22} and the spirit of sonship, {Ga 4:6} and may be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, {Eph 1:13} which witnesses to believers that they are "children of God; and, if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" Ro 8:16-17. It is thus, also, that God, having predestinated that they shall "be conformed to the image of his Son," sanctifies them, in the sense of consecrating them, "in the truth," {Joh 17:17} and, also, in that of cleansing and purifying them from sin, Eph 5:26; 1Th 4:7, and causes them "to be transformed into the same image from glory to glory." 2Co 3:18. Throughout all of this work the Father is also the person who is especially addressed in prayer in the name of Jesus, Eph 2:18; 3:14, through the moving of the Spirit, Eph 6:18; Ro 8:26, and from whom comes "Every good gift and every perfect boon," Jas 1:17, as well as the justification, pardon, adoption and sanctification of believers, and also the heavenly kingdom he has prepared for them.

 

These are some particulars which show how completely the Father is identified with the redemption of man. They are not exhaustive of what we are taught. Indeed the whole is from him as its source, and not merely in a general way in the gift of his Son and Spirit, but as working by and through them in each particular. In redemption, as in creation and providence, he is ever present, constantly willing, and continually working; though not directly by himself, but through the Son and the Spirit.

 

Some portions of this work of the Father will need hereafter more full discussion; though not so much as some of that of the Son, and of that of the Spirit, all of the acts of whom must be more particularly and minutely examined.

 

A short statement is, however, necessary here as a summary of what will be discussed as to each hereafter, and also that the official subordination may be shown.

 

(2.) The action of the Son in redemption is briefly, yet almost fully described in Php 2:5-11. We are there taught of that official subordination to the Father which he willingly assumed for the discharge of this work, which corresponds with the statement, elsewhere, that he was sent by the Father. We are also told of that act of condescension, by which he assumed our nature, and became man in his incarnation; of his voluntary humiliation to the death of the cross; and of that honour, bestowed upon him, in that nature, by which in his exaltation he has been made an object of universal worship, "to the glory of God the Father."

 

We learn, elsewhere, that in the period of his earthly residence he became our example as man, as he likewise in it set forth in his own person the image of his Father. By his active obedience to the law he fulfilled for his people the righteousness due by them. By his sufferings, and death, he paid the penalty of their sin. As the reward of his work, he received the promised Spirit which he sends forth for the salvation of those whom God has given him. All power has also been bestowed upon him, that his gospel may be preached with success, and he is now made king in Zion, and invested with mediatorial dominion over all things. Sitting at the right hand of God, he exercises the dominion thus conferred, and at the same time makes intercession for his people. Thence shall he come to judge the world, and to assign to the righteous and the wicked their everlasting portions.

 

The subordination of office, in all the positions thus occupied, is plainly revealed. Speaking prophetically, when the hour had come for his betrayal and crucifixion, as though already the work were over, Christ himself declared of all that he had done, thus contemplated as finished, that it was the work the Father gave him to do, Joh 17:4. So also, had he said, that he came to do the Father’s will, {Joh 6:38} and to "work the works of him that sent him." Joh 9:4. It was the Father whose law he honoured in the fulfilment of all its demands, and unto whom, he, "though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered." Heb 5:8. The rewards he received were all given by the Father; namely, the Spirit, {Ac 2:33} his people, {Joh 17:9} and his exaltation, Ac 2:33,36. Even the future judgement of the world is to be his office, because of the ordination of God, {Ac 10:42; 17:31; Ro 2:16} and has been committed to him by the Father. Joh 5:22.

 

(3.) The works of the Spirit in redemption are even more numerous than those of the Son, and bring him into the most intimate relations to the people of God.

 

It was by him that the human body of Christ was prepared for the indwelling of the divine person, {Lu 1:35} and by his gracious influences, that the mind and heart of Christ were fitted for his work. Isa 11:1-5; Joh 3:34; Lu 4:14. Likewise he prepares the Church which is the spiritual body of Christ "for a habitation of God." Eph 2:22. It is he, in whom they are so baptized as to be thoroughly overwhelmed by the flood of his divine influences, Mt 3:11, and who "saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Tit 3:5. Through him they are born anew. Joh 3:5-8. It is he that "strives with man," {Ge 6:3} and "convicts the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement," {Joh 16:8} and gives repentance, (Ac 5:31-32, cf. Ac 2:33) so warring against the lusts of the flesh, and bringing forth spiritual fruit in them, Ga 5:16-25, that they "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Ro 8:2-4. He also produces faith, Eph 3:17, and "all joy and peace in believing, that" they "may abound in hope," Ro 15:13, and knowledge of "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." 1Co 2:9-10 "Through him we both have our access by one Spirit unto the Father," Eph 2:18 "With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit," Eph 6:18, since we "have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father," and "the Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." Ro 8:15-16. Thus does he become to us the author of justification by the faith produced, and of sanctification, both cleansing and consecration, 1Co 6:11, and of the spirit of adoption. Ga 4:6. Likewise he reveals the glory of Christ to the believer, and changes him into the same image. 2Co 3:18. This, as the context slows, is done through the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit. Eph 6:17. It is also effected through the ordinances of the gospel, so far as they are symbolical of his cleansing and nourishing work, as well as of the death and resurrection of Christ. Ro 6:3-4; Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5-6; 1Co 11:26; Joh 6:48-63.

 

In all of these, and in his other work, the Spirit comes into the most intimate fellowship with the people of God. As the Father attains nearness by the endearing relation of the Fatherhood to sons who cry unto him with the spirit of adoption, and as the Son becomes an object of supreme affection because of his loving sacrifice and sufferings so the Spirit seeks the intimacy of an indweller in believers, that he may develop their graces and become to them a present witness and comforter in the bodily absence of their incarnate Lord. 1Co 3:16-17.

 

The subordination of the Spirit in this work is revealed, in general, in the statements that he is sent by the Father and the Son. Joh 14:16; 15:26. But it is taught also, more particularly. It is Christ that is to baptize in the Spirit, Mt 3:11, and thus through him to produce the results of his work. It is the Father unto whom men come through the Spirit in prayer. Eph 6:18. It is the Father who justifies and adopts, though through the influences of the Spirit. It is the image of Christ, not of himself, into which he transforms believers. The ordinances also are of (Christ’s appointment, and are especially fitted to set forth his work, and only that of the Spirit in a secondary way. Even the indwelling is that believers may be "builded together for an habitation of God." Eph 2:22.

 

We have thus seen that in the various outward works of the Trinity, the same subordination of office appears as is found in the mode of subsistence within. This subordination, in both respects, should be recognized because taught in God’s word. At the same time it must never be forgotten that the same word declares as distinctly the perfect equality of the three persons in the divine nature, which allows no inferiority of any one of them as God.

 

 

 

ST. 017 Chapter 17: CREATION.

CHAPTER XVII

 

CREATION.

 

IT is natural that the origin of the universe should have been one of the most prominent subjects of inquiry among men. Various theories have been presented, not only by those who have been guided by reason only, but even by others to whom revelation has been known but not accepted as authoritative. All theories, however, may be generally reduced to four.

 

1.         That which asserts that matter is the one eternal, self-existent substance from which all else proceeds.

2. That which regards it as an emanation from God.

3. That which maintains that matter is itself eternal, but has been acted upon by God, who has used its substance in the construction of all things, thus giving to them form and life.

4. That which accords with the Scripture teaching, that the universe has been made absolutely out of nothing, by the active exercise of the will and power of God.

 

It is the duty of Theology to examine each of these theories, and to set forth the reasons for believing that matter is neither self-existent and independently eternal, nor an emanation from God, nor mere material used by him, but has been created out of nothing.

 

1. Matter is not the one eternal, self-existent substance from which all else proceeds.

 

(1.) If it is, then mind is the product of matter, and not matter that of mind.

 

The universe presents to us both mind and matter. Each of these must exist independently of the other, or the one must have been the production of the other. Which then has been the producing cause? Have the mental powers, which are exhibited by man, been the development of forces inherent in matter, which through various processes have finally attained to self-consciousness, and thought, and purpose, such as we find in man? or is there some infinite mind which has originated all things, both mind and matter?

 

The greater reasonableness of the supposition that mind has originated matter is ably set forth by Dr. Hovey, in his Manual of Theology, pp. 28-39. He contends that it is more reasonable to suppose, (1.) that there is one original and self-existent force or being than more than one; (2.) that matter is a product of mind, rather than mind of matter; (3.) that the order of the universe is due to a supreme mind, rather than to forces co-operating together without purpose; (4.) that the vegetable world is a product of mind organizing matter, rather than of matter organizing itself; (5.) that the animal world is a product of mind, imparting a higher organizing principle to vegetable elements, rather than of vegetable forces acting alone; (6.) that man, as a rational being, is a product of mind, giving a higher principle of life to animal being, rather than of mere vital forces acting without reason; (7.) that man, as a moral being, is a product of the supreme mind, itself moral, rather than of vital forces that have no moral insight; (8.) that man, as a religious being, is a product of the supreme mind, rather than of mere vital forces.

 

The above are simply condensed statements of the mere propositions laid down by Dr. Hovey. His full argument shows conclusively how utterly unreasonable is the idea that mind should have proceeded from matter, and not produced it. But, if so, it is equally unreasonable that matter should be the one originating cause of the universe.

 

(2.) The same fact appears from the existence of the laws which control matter. Matter has fixed limitations, within which alone it can act. Its movements, its changes of form, its developments, and indeed all things connected with it are governed by fixed, and, so far as we can see, unchangeable laws. These laws can be examined and known, and made the basis of the action of men. Now these laws can be accounted for only in one of three ways. Either they belong to matter as a necessity of its nature, or matter has the power to give to itself laws, or these laws have been imposed upon it by a superior intelligence. But if the first be true, then that necessity of nature would not only make these laws unchangeable, (for whatever exists of necessity, exists without possibility of change,) but would likewise make it impossible for men to conceive of any reasonable change in them in any respect. But the fact that there is such great diversity among the scientific theories which attempt to develop the laws controlling nature in many of its aspects, and that there seems no absurdity nor natural impossibility that the law should accord with any one of these theories, or be different from it,—evinces that there is no absurdity nor unreasonableness in supposing that the material universe might have been placed under very different laws from those which exist.

 

But the second of these suppositions cannot he true, because matter must then, in some aspect, have had intelligence to understand, and establish law before the existence of mind in any form; for science teaches that created mind, (which, upon the supposition, is the only kind of existent mind,) comes forth in connection with the higher organisms of existence, and long after apparent operation of the laws which regulate matter.

 

It is certain, therefore, that the laws of matter have been imposed by a superior intelligence, and, consequently, that matter cannot be the eternal, self-existent substance, from which all else proceeds.

 

(3.) The incapacity of matter to create anything shows that it is not self-existent, and eternal. All that is claimed for matter is the power to develop one form into another. It is even denied that there has been any increase in its original materials since it first began to be. But it is evident that whatever cannot be the cause of existence to others, cannot be the cause of its own existence, or be self-existent. The latter is a far higher power than the former.

 

(4.) That matter is not eternally self-existent is also manifest from the fact that it exists in time. The laws of time require succession of moments and limits of duration. Matter could not he eternal in any other way than through the existence of an infinite series of finite periods, which is absurd.

 

2. Matter is not an emanation from God.

 

That which goes forth from God must either be from his nature, or from his mere will and power. But the latter would be a mere creation out of nothing, since it would not be something produced out of himself. An emanation from God must, therefore, proceed from his nature. But it cannot be of this character.

 

(a) Because, if from his nature, it must possess the attributes of that nature, and must exist in the same mode of existence with it. But matter has none of the attributes which belong to God. Nor is the mode of its existence like his. It has neither self-existence, nor eternity of existence, nor even infinity of space or time, since it is composed of finite parts, and exists in successive moments which are finite and measurable. It has not intelligence, nor purposing power, nor can it have wisdom or goodness, neither can it exercise justice, nor experience love.

 

(b) An emanation from the nature of God would be opposed to the doctrine of the unity of God. That which thus proceeds would be as truly God as that from which it comes forth. We should, therefore, have two Gods. Indeed, as matter itself is capable of indefinite division, there would be an indefinite number of Gods. The doctrine of the Trinity gives no support to such an emanation as matter would necessarily be. It does not teach an emanation from the nature of God, for the divine nature remains one only, and is not divided among the three persons, but is the common substance in which they subsist. In order that matter should subsist in God in like manner, it must itself have a conscious personal existence, and have all the attributes of God, and have the same mode of existence.

 

3. Neither is matter a substance upon which God has simply acted in the production of the Universe.

 

(a) The evidence that it is not eternal shows that it was not thus present of itself with God furnishing material for his workmanship. If it existed at any time as purely inorganic, it must either have been first created in that condition, or permitted to lapse into it from its original form.

 

(b) The power and right thus to act upon matter must either have been conferred upon God, as it is on us, or it must have arisen from his having created it. But as there was no one to confer this power upon God, the Universe must have been created by him.

 

4. The theory of a creation out of nothing, by the mere will and power of God, is then the only reasonable supposition upon which to account for the existence of the Universe. It is not an objection to this reasonableness, that it was first made known by Revelation. Being thus revealed, it appears to reason, not only to be fully accordant with all the facts and phenomena of matter, but to be the only theory which can account for them. That this theory has been suggested by the language of God’s word makes it no less reasonable than if suggested by some mere man. It is at once seen not to be an impossibility. It is not a creation out of nothing, in the sense that it has had no cause, or has been produced without the existence of forces adequate to the end. The cause and the forces are in God; in his will, and wisdom, and power, and goodness. It cannot be said to come from nothing, for it comes from God. The mind readily rests in such a theory. It fully answers all the demands of the problem to be solved. It is accompanied with none of the difficulties which press against the theories based upon the eternity of matter. The manner in which God works is indeed unknown to us; but that he may so work is highly accordant with reason.

 

The creation of the world out of nothing is the plain teaching of Scripture. It is true, that the phrase to "create from nothing" is not found, except in one of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. {2Ma 7:28} But the fact itself is taught expressly in Heb 11:3 "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear." The account of the general creation in Genesis conveys the same idea, and a like impression is produced by the Scriptures generally. It has been argued from the verbs, used to declare the creation, both in Genesis and elsewhere; but the argument is doubtful, as these words are also applied to acts of creation out of pre-existent matter.

 

This creation out of nothing seems essential to the power of God over matter. If he did not create it, it exists independently of him; but if it is his creation, then he has absolute control, not only over the forms into which he has shaped it, and over the laws he has given it, but over matter itself in every respect, even over its longer existence for a moment of time.

 

A distinction is made between immediate or primary creation, which is that act by which God acts directly without the use of pre-existent materials, and mediate and secondary creations, which are those acts by which out of pre-existent materials he produces his creatures. The universe of matter was an immediate creation. The body of Adam was a mediate one, and so, also, are those of all his posterity.

 

Several objections have been presented against the full inspiration of the account of the Creation given in the first chapters of Genesis.

 

(1.) It is claimed that the general account which concludes with the third verse of the second chapter cannot be an inspired writing, because it was evidently taken from some other source, and incorporated in this book.

 

In reply It may be said:

 

(a) That this has not been, and cannot be established.

 

(b) That if it were, it would not affect its inspiration.

 

It is much more probable that the genealogies of Christ, given by Matthew and Luke, were from the records of the family of David. The inspiration of Matthew, and Luke, and Moses does not depend upon these having been made as direct revelations to him; but upon the fact that they were moved by the Holy Ghost to insert them in the books they were writing, such moving of the Spirit being, however, an evidence of the truthfulness of the records. If; therefore, it could be proved that the account of creation existed long before the days of Moses, this proof would, in no respect, militate against its inspiration.

 

(2.) Another objection is that Genesis represents the Creation as occurring in six literal days of twenty-four hours each, and that geological science has proved that the world was created in periods of time much longer.

 

But the account does not necessarily teach that this work was done in six such days.

 

(a) Because the word "day" is sometimes an indefinite term, the true meaning of which must be ascertained by the context. It is applied to each of these periods in the first chapter, and also to all of them unitedly in Ge 2:4. The Scriptures frequently use it very indefinitely, as the "day of trouble," "of wrath," "of temptation," "of vengeance," etc. It even embraces the whole period of a captivity as "the day of Jerusalem," Ps, 137:7; and "the day of Egypt," Eze 30:9. These, and many other applications, show that frequently it means merely a period, and the length of that period must be accertained otherwise.

 

(b) Because the Hebrew words translated "evening," and "morning," while almost always used for those portions of the day, do not necessarily indicate a day of twenty-four hours’ duration, but may denote only the changes which occur periodically in any cyclical period. The root ideas of these words are "the mingling" (evening) and "the bursting forth" (morning). They are thus beautifully descriptive of a time of intermingling of the elements, leading to a period of darkness, and that again followed by the bursting forth of the appearance of a new creation, the whole forming one cyclical period. The length of the period is not necessarily indicated by them. The use, also, of these words before the appearance of the Sun and Moon on the fourth day, very decidedly confirms the idea that the periods need not be those of an ordinary day.

 

(c) While it is admitted that the resting of God upon the seventh day, in connection with the language of the commandment respecting the observance of the Sabbath, favours the idea of days of twenty-four hours, even this does not make necessary such days. We know not what is exactly meant by God’s resting on the seventh day. There is certainly something figurative, or anthropomorphic about it. The "rest" of this first chapter may represent the ceasing from creative work in this world, and the seventh day of rest, which man is commanded to observe, may he commemorative and typical of the former; this being brief and inferior, in comparison with that, as man is but an atom in the creation of the great God of this greater Sabbath.

 

From these facts it is manifest that we are not compelled to maintain that the creation was limited to six ordinary days. This is all that is necessary. If science can show the impossibility of such a six-day creation, we can reply that the Scriptures do not necessarily teach it. And the fact of this possibility of concurrence with possible scientific discoveries, heretofore so generally unlooked for, becomes strong evidence of the inspiration of this account of Creation.

 

(3.) Another objection is, that, according to any scripture chronology which we have, man has been on the earth only six or eight thousand years, and yet that fossil remains of men have been found who must have existed fifty thousand years ago, or more.

 

(a) But satisfactory proof of this has not yet been afforded. Scientific men themselves are not agreed about it.

 

(b) But if true, the Scriptures are not necessarily wrong, nor uninspired. The chronology of the different forms in which the Old Testament has come down to us is known to vary. This is attributable to mistakes in copying, which can more easily occur in the representations of numbers, than of any other ideas. It may be that Adam was created more than eight thousand years ago, and that the original chronology of the Scriptures so taught. It may be that, in connection with that greater antiquity, if all were known about it, would appear explanations of the great age to which many of the patriarchs are said to have arrived. Nor is it impossible that other races of men existed before Adam, either endowed as he was, with both spiritual and animal life, or they with animal life only, and he with the specially added endowment of a spiritual nature. While it is granted that such has not probably been the fact, yet is it not impossible that it may have been.

 

While these various objections thus seem not to render impossible the absolute verity of this Genesis account of Creation, there are other facts which ought to be remembered which support the narrative.

 

1. That it is natural that the Scripture should use phenomenal language only as to scientific matters. We do this every time we speak of the sun rising and setting, and no one misunderstands, or is deceived. This is the only method in which a book for all ages could refer to scientific matters. Had the Bible used language exactly suited to the science of to-day, embracing all its best established theories, in less than fifty years it would have to be admitted that it could not be from God, because of its lack of truth. Had it been written in the language of true science originally, age after age would have rejected it as false. It could only treat science phenomenally.

 

2. But, while thus written, it often gives underlying evidence that God its author knew truths of science, that could not have been known to the science of that day. This is particularly shown in this account of Creation. Light here appears before the Sun and the Moon. The order of the creations accords generally with that taught by Geology from an examination of the stratifications of the rocks. Man is made after all other creations, and his body is made of the dust of the earth. Even the universe was not made as it now appears, for, while the first verse of the first chapter states the creation of both heavens and earth, the second teaches that, before the formative process began, the earth was in a chaotic condition. The truth is, that, so generally, and yet so accurately, are the statements made, that, even if it could be proved that the Universe is the production of original concurrent atoms, or of a universal fire mist, or the development of molecules, there is nothing in this Genesis account to commit it to the contrary. Even the creation of animal life, including that of man, is from the earth, which is directed to bring forth. The soul of man is the only living thing which is declared to have been a direct creation of God.

 

Several theories have been presented for the full reconciliation of Genesis and Geology. It is not necessary to state them here. It is enough that there are possible means of such reconciliation, and that any one, or more of them, may be true. The veracity of the Scriptures is otherwise abundantly proved. Here it is charged that they speak falsely. Were a man of well-known probity and honour thus assailed, and facts, however strong, or cumulative, presented against him, it would suffice to support his denial by showing that there are possible circumstances which may explain all seeming falsehood. So with the Scriptures. They are charged with error. It is enough to show one possible explanation. But, in this case, we can show several. This would suffice. But we are justified in challenging those who deny inspiration to account for the many coincidences with the scientific teaching found in this narrative.

 

 

ST. 018 Chapter 18: CREATION OF ANGELS

CHAPTER XVIII

 

CREATION OF ANGELS.

 

IN the last chapter reference was made only incidentally to the creation of intelligent, moral and spiritual beings. There are several matters connected with such creations which deserve special consideration. The creation of angels will be first treated because of their probable earlier existence, and superior nature, and position.

 

I Some have denied the utility of this inquiry because men owe angels no duty of homage, or worship, and because their usual invisibility forbids that their presence for good, or evil, should be known. But it is surely important to know something of beings who have been so intimately associated with the past history of man, both for weal and woe. See Article of Moses Stuart in Bib. Sacra, Vol. O, p. 88.

 

II It is said by some that reason decides against the existence of such beings, or at least against their appearance to man. But, on the contrary, nothing can be more rational than the belief that the God, whose animal creatures in this world are of so many kinds and gradations, should not stop with the first creation of moral and intellectual beings, but should extend upward his creative skill and power, throughout numerous classes of similar nature to man. Nor is there anything unreasonable in the supposition that, while ordinarily these may be confined to the exercise of influences under the laws of mind and spirit, at times, at God’s will, they should appear in bodily forms recognizable by the senses. Stuart in Bib. Sacra, Vol. O, pp. 90-93.

 

III But the Scriptures plainly teach that there are angels, and that they visit the inhabitants of this world.

 

Their general tenor teaches it. Even superficial readers of the Word of God must he convinced that it reveals the existence, and presence with man, of personal beings of another sphere, through whom God communicates to him, and aids, and protects him; as well as of other angels whose influence is for evil, and is destructive of happiness.

 

There are some, however, who declare that all such teachings are purely figurative, and that the good angels of the Word are "no more than the kindness and mercy of God, and the evil angels his afflictive, punishing or chastising acts."

 

Such interpretations deserve the charge of "handling the Word of God deceitfully." But even if these were admitted to be correct, as to much, or most of the language used, there are some instances of the appearance of angels which cannot thus be explained away. The interview between the angel and Hagar, Ge 16:7-14, is one of these. That with the wife of Manoah is another, Jg 13:2-21. Signal instances also are those with Zacharias, Lu 1:5-20, and with Mary, Lu 1:26-38, and with Mary Magdalene, and the other women, Mt 28:1-7. Those statements are especially conclusive which are made in Mr 12:25, and Lu 20:36, in which it is declared as to the saints, "after the resurrection that they neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they are equal unto the angels." There is also no meaning in Heb 1:4 if there are no angels. See Kitto’s Ency., Art. Angels.

 

IV Various names are given to angels as expressive either of their nature or offices.

 

1. The chief of these is descriptive of their office. Angel means a messenger. It is a word not confined to them, nor to any other kind of messengers of God. (1.) It is used of ordinary messengers among men, 1Sa 11:3; Job 1:14; Lu 9:52; (2.) of prophets, Mal 3:1; (3.) of priests, Mal 2:7; (4.) of ministers of the gospel, Re 1:20; (5.) of impersonal agents, as of pestilence, 2Sa 24:16-17. Plagues, likewise, are denominated "angels of evil," Ps 78:49. Paul also calls his "thorn in the flesh" "an angel of Satan," 2Co 12:7. (6.) It is also applied to the Second Person of the Trinity, as "the angel of his presence," Isa 63:9, and "the messenger angel of the covenant," Mal 3:1. (7.) The name, however, is generally applied to the angels of God as spiritual beings. See Kitto’s Ency., Art. Angels.

 

2. The name Spirit is also given to them, Ps 104:4; Mr 1:27; Heb 1:7. This name is descriptive of their nature.

 

3. They are called "Sons of God," Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7.

 

4. They are called "Gods." Compare Ps 97:7 with Heb 1:6.

 

5. They are called "servants of God," Job 4:18; Ps 103:21.

 

6. They are called "Holy ones," Job 15:15; Da 4:13,17.

 

7. They are called "Watchers," Da 4:13,17.

 

8. They are called "Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, Powers, and Mights," Eph 1:21; Col 1:16.

 

9. There are other names which ate probably applied to them, as "Cherubim," "Seraphim," and "Hosts," as when God is called the "Lord of Hosts." See Dr. J. Pye Smith, First Lines, p. 328. Also Kitto’s Ency., Art. Angels.

 

V We know very little of the nature of angels. They are spoken of; but not described in the Scriptures. Yet some facts plainly appear.

 

1. They are spiritual beings. This is indicated by the only name derived from their nature.

 

Dr. J. Pye Smith attributes to them corporeal powers analogous to the substance of light, or of the electric fluid, and claims that thus light is cast upon such Scripture passages as speak of their relations to space, and of their locomotion, as Lu 2:9; Mt 28:2; Ac 1:10; 12:7. First Lines, p. 329.

 

Moses Stuart, on the contrary, maintains that "angels are incorruptible, immaterial, immortal, and, in their proper nature, impalpable to the senses." Bib. Sac., Vol. O, p. 99.

 

This seems to be the most correct and Scriptural view, as it is also the one most generally held. All the difficulties it encounters may he explained by the fact that we have to speak of angels as we do of God in the language of man, which cannot always convey exact and adequate ideas of them. See Stuart in Bib. Sacra, Vol. O, pp. 94-98.

 

The declarations that "a spirit hath not flesh and bones," Lu 24; 24:53, that "God is a spirit," Joh 4:24, that the children of the resurrection will "neither marry nor are given in marriage, for neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels," Lu 20:35-36; Mt 22:30, indicate that the nature of angels is truly spiritual. Moses Stuart, Bib. Sac., Vol. O, p. 100. The abode of the angels in heaven, and the offices they perform confirm this idea. After all, however, it is unimportant to decide whether they are simply spirits, or have some spiritual body, such as will belong to the saints after the resurrection. Either view maintains all that is essential to the spirituality of their nature.

 

2. They are intelligent beings. This seems to follow necessarily, from their being spirits. But it is plainly taught in the Scriptures. See Eph 3:10; 1Pe 1:12; 2Pe 2:11. These passages imply that they are superior to men in this respect.

 

3. They possess moral natures. They are not only made capable of knowing God’s excellence and of worshipping him, but are also spoken of as being under moral obligation, so that they are rewarded for obedience, and punished for disobedience. It may also be argued from the fact that their ministry in this life seems confined to moral and spiritual things. Heb 1:14.

 

There are certain facts which result from the nature of angels.

 

1. As spiritual and intelligent beings, they must possess freedom of will.

 

2. They are not subject to the restrictions and conditions of the world of sense. They do not occupy space unless they have some bodily form. Nevertheless they are not omnipresent, as is God, but they have location. Neither do they attain knowledge through the senses, nor are they affected by bodily appetites or desires.

 

3. As long as they retain their original innocent condition they must be happy. It is believed from the general tenor of Scripture, that the angels that kept their first estate have been confirmed in their happiness. Such confirmation, however, results from the promises of God as a reward for their obedience, and is bestowed by him not as an act of justice, but in accordance with his veracity. No obedience can bring God under obligation to confirm.

 

4. They must also be possessed of great power.

 

Christ intimates that their power is greater than that of man, Mt 26:53, and this fact is plainly taught in 2Pe 2:11. See also 2Th 1:7, and Eph 1:21. This power is seen also in their performance of supernatural works; as perhaps in the rolling away of the stone at the sepulchre of Christ, and in the opening of the prison-door of Peter. It was most wonderfully exhibited in the strengthening of the Saviour in Gethsemane by the angel which appeared. Lu 22:43.

 

Dr. A. D. C. Twesten makes the following five valuable suggestions as to the exercise by angels of power over man.

 

1. "Whatever may be the efficiency attributed to the angels, their relation to us can only be that of one finite to another finite cause; and is never to be imagined as similar to the relation which God, or Christ, or the Holy Ghost sustains to us."

 

2. "The efficiency of the angels is, therefore, always to be represented in accordance with the laws of reciprocal action established between finite beings; hence it never excludes our counter-action, or reaction, and can neither annul the power of nature, nor the freedom of the will."

 

3. "All action of angels upon the world of sense can take place only under the following conditions: that they enter into, or become one of the series of causes there at work; and that they themselves act by means of these causes, or in the same mode with them." * * * * * * *

 

4. "This entrance into the series of causes at work in the world of sense, may be looked upon as an original, a primitive, perhaps also a transient influence; but it can leave behind it effects which will propagate the primitive influence, and which may, therefore, be considered as parts of the angelic efficiency. Thus, for example, the temptation of the first man by Satan continues to operate in the law of sin and death which was thus introduced into the world."

 

5. "The original entrance of angels into the world of sense seems not to depend upon their own good pleasure alone; but, if we may judge from its infrequency, to be limited to narrow bounds. In this respect, and in its very nature, it is analogous to miracles, and hence like these, appears to be specially attached to certain periods of divine revelation, or of the development of God’s kingdom in this world." See the translation in the Bib. Sacra., Vol. 1, pp. 774-775.

 

VI Our final inquiry will be into the offices discharged by these beings.

 

1. Their chief duty is to attend upon God, and perform his commands. This may be said indeed to include all that they do. They are God’s messengers.

 

2. They are brought into contact with men by these commands. They are represented as present at the Creation, at the giving of the Law, at the birth of Christ, after the temptation in the wilderness, during the agony in Gethsemane, and at Christ’s resurrection and ascension. They are deeply interested in the economy of Redemption and are constantly seeking to penetrate into its mysteries, and know its depths. They feel a deep interest in man, and become the medium of messages to him. They rejoice over his repentance, and are made the means of comfort, protection and guidance. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them who shall inherit salvation." Heb 1:14. They are also made the messengers of God’s vengeance to execute his wrath upon the sinful, 2Sa 24:16-17; 2Ki 19:35; 1Ch 21:15-16; 2Ch 32:21; Ac 12:23. This punitive office belongs to good as well as bad angels.

 

3. From the intimate connection thus existing between angels and men, other offices have been assigned to them. Guided by Rabbinical fables, and led off by the peculiar views of Oriental philosophy, some have conceived that on each person in this life an angel attends to guard and protect him from evil.

 

This theory of a guardian angel has been held in various forms. Some have confined his presence to the good; some have extended it also to the wicked; some to the elect before or after conversion; some to all men alike; some have supposed two angels instead of one, the one good, the other bad. In like manner has the theory been held of guardian angels over nations; some confining that also to good nations, others extending it to all. That such views existed among the Jews, and that they were also prevalent among the earlier Christians may be admitted; but the scriptural authority for them is wanting.

 

The passages supposed to favour them may be readily explained otherwise. This idea of guardian angels is earnestly advocated by Prof. Stuart, in Vol. O, of the Bibliotheca Sacra. He claims that they attend the good only.

 

The strongest points that he makes are based upon the attendance of angels upon the footsteps of Christ. That attendance is readily granted; but they were attendants, not guardians. This is seen from the fact that, although they strengthened him while here on earth, as his agony seemed to require, that attendance is not confined to Christ in this life, but is spoken of as to be continued, even after the time of his ascension. Besides this, that which is fatal to the theory is, that it was not one special angel that was present, but several at one time, and probably different ones at different times. The sacred Scriptures never speak of any one of these as his angel, or as the angel, but only refer to an angel, or to angels. This, however, is but the general sense in which God is said to send his angels, that they may be ministering spirits. This sending is not questioned, but is very different from the supposition of the appointment to each man of one angel, who, from the beginning to the end of life, is to be ever present to watch over his welfare.

 

The Scripture references by which Prof. Stuart would prove this of individual men do not at all sustain him. They are Ge 32:1-2; 2Ki 6:1-17; Ps 34:7; Zec 3:4-10; Mt 18:10; Ac 12:7-15.

 

There are indeed but two passages which at all make likely the idea of guardian angels to individuals. One of these is Ac 12:7-15, in which we are told that when Peter, on his deliverance from prison, knocked at the door of the house in which were the disciples, they were led to say, "It is his angel."

 

Of this passage it may be said that it is doubtful whether reference was not made to the spirit of Peter; but even if not, the language is simply that of the disciples, expressing a sentiment that commonly prevailed, and one for which inspiration is not at all responsible, except as correctly reporting the language used.

 

The other passage is Mt 18:10. This is well paraphrased by Knapp: "As we are careful not to offend the favourites of those who stand high in the favour of earthly kings, we should be still more careful not to offend the favourites of divine providence." "The humbly pious are those entrusted to the special care of those who stand high in the favour of God (who behold his face)." Knapp’s Theology, p. 212.

 

The Scriptures that seem to sustain the notion of guardian angels over nations are Da 10:13-21; 12:1. But here "Cambyses and Alexander seem to be meant, and Michael is probably the Messiah." J. Pye Smith, First Lines, p. 331.

 

The following passages seem to be opposed to the idea of one angel to one man or nation: Ge 28:12; 32:1-2; 2Ki 6:16-17; Lu 16:22.

 

It is further to be objected:

 

1. That this notion seems unworthy of the rank and office of such beings. But it is replied that God watches over us. This, however, is very different from the constant daily attendance upon us of one being of such superior intelligence.

 

2. It is rendered needless by the watchful care of God.

 

3. It has led, and naturally so, to the worship of angels.

 

4. It is apt to derogate from the mediatorial glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. J. Pye Smith, p. 331.

 

VII The number of the angels is unknown, but that it is very great is shown by the following passages: Da 7:10; Mt 26:53; Heb 12:22.

 

VIII As to their dwelling-place nothing definite can be said. They dwell with God. But is this in one place or in many? We have no means of knowing

 

 

ST. 019 Chapter 19: FALLEN ANGELS.

CHAPTER XIX

 

FALLEN ANGELS.

 

SUPERIOR spiritual beings have heretofore been referred to, almost as though there are none except those who yet retain their position as sons of God. Only a hint or two has been given which would lead to the knowledge of the existence of others. But the important relations which angels bear to us, and the great power over us which they exercise, render useful the consideration whether evil angels actually exist, and in what position to us they may be supposed to stand.

 

The belief of evil spirits has been almost universal in the world. The exceptions may indeed be said to be only the few who, in more modern times, have supposed this universal opinion to be simply the result of superstition.

 

The Jews undoubtedly held this faith. It is not disputed that it is taught in their later books, and that in the time of Christ the belief in such spirits was universal. But it has been denied that such views can be traced prior to the time of the Babylonish Captivity. If by this is simply meant that prior to that time the Jews knew not of the fall of angels formerly pure, it is only equivalent to declaring that they knew not in what manner evil angels had come into existence. But if it is meant, as seems to be the ease, that they did not know of the existence of evil angels, the position may be easily refuted from the Scriptures. That this is the opinion of these objectors is plain from the fact that they suppose the origin of these ideas was the Persian belief of the two principles of good and evil which they had met with in Chaldea. That faith taught indeed the origin of evil in this world, but not among the spiritual intelligences above. Besides, it attributed the existence of evil to an antagonistic principle to the great good, perhaps equally powerful, yet constantly contending, perhaps finally to be vanquished.

 

The fact that the existence of these beings is taught at all, either in the Old or the New Testament, would be sufficient to make it an article of our faith. Yet, as this charge has been made, it is best to refer to it, and to show from the Scripture proofs that it is untenable. The truth is that with the exception of Zec 3:1-2 (where the high priest Joshua is standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him), there is no passage in all the post-Babylonish Scriptures by which the doctrine of evil angels could be proved, while there are numerous such passages in the earlier books.

 

In the book of Job, supposed by some to be the oldest, and sometimes even ascribed to Moses, Satan is represented as presenting himself among the sons of God before the LORD. Job 1:6.

 

This may be said to be a merely dramatic work, yet scarcely can it be denied that the conception of such beings must have existed prior to a dramatic use of them.

 

In 1Ch 21:1, however, Satan is said to have provoked David to number Israel. In Ps 109:6 the Psalmist says: "Set thou a wicked man over him, and let an adversary (Satan) stand at his right hand." The use of the word "devil" also teaches the existence of evil spirits. In Ps 106:37 the Israelites are said to have sacrificed their sons and daughters unto devils (demons).

 

Evil angels are also spoken of by the name of "evil spirits." In Jg 9:28 God is said to have sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. In 1Sa 16:14 the Spirit of the Lord is said to have departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord to have troubled him; in ver. 15 Saul’s servants recognize this fact in addressing Saul, and verse 16 propose to send for a skilful player on the harp, through whom he should he made well, and in verse 23 this device is spoken of as successful.

 

When we turn now to the New Testament, we find the proofs even more abundant. No one questions that this is the apparent language of this part of Scripture, whatever explanations are resorted to for escaping its plain meaning. The passages are not here presented because they will be quoted in connection with other points, and enough of them will then he given to prove this a New Testament doctrine. Including both the singular and plural forms, the word "diabolus" is found in the New Testament about forty times, demon sixty times, Satan twenty-three times, evil spirit eight times, dumb spirit three times, and spirit of divination once.

 

The commonly received doctrine as to the original state of evil angels, is that they were once pure and holy, such as are now the angels of heaven, though not, as they, confirmed in holiness. This is founded upon the supposition that it is impossible for God to create beings otherwise than free from sin.

 

The only objection which can be made to this original innocence is suggested in such questions as these: how can a being perfectly holy be led to the commission of sin? how would a being realizing the character and power of the supreme being ever be so unwise as to revolt against it?

 

But these questions present only metaphysical difficulties which must vanish before actual facts. The existence of such beings is plainly taught; we are told in Scripture that they sinned, 2Pe 2:4, and all argument of this kind is merely an argument from our ignorance.

 

It might be supposed that appeal might he made to the case of Adam; but, while this is true to some extent, this difference must be observed, that there was present with our first parents an evil one to suggest the sin. Yet, even then, the suggestion might have arisen within the mind of either Adam or Eve as the result of desire in any way awakened, which, when fostered, may have become too strong. And, if this be psychologically possible with them, why may it not have been so with Satan and his angels?

 

It has been because of the difficulties which thus have seemed to perplex this question that on the one hand the very existence of such beings has been questioned; and, on the other, the theory has been advanced that Satan, either as created or uncreated, has always had a sinful nature, and been filled with enmity to God. Both theories are readily dispelled by the fact that the Scriptures speak of their having sinned with manifest allusion to some one particular act of sin.

 

Despite, however, this plain teaching of Scripture as to the existence of evil spirits, efforts have been made, even by Christian men, to explain away its plain language, and especially that of the New Testament. It has been claimed that all that Christ and his Apostles said upon this subject is to be accounted for upon the principle of accommodation. It is said that they knew the prejudices of the Jews, and that, not wishing upon an unimportant matter to excite these prejudices, they accommodated the language of their teachings to Jewish ideas, and used such words as seemed to imply belief in such beings.

 

(1.) But the principle here assumed is dangerous. How can we know that Christ taught anything, if we be allowed thus to strip his language of its natural force?

 

(2.) The object of Christ was not to accommodate himself to prejudices; but to remove them. What instance can be given of such conformity? None can be justly claimed. On the contrary, he said that he came not to send peace, but a sword, and to preach not a gospel of accommodation, but one of contention and exclusiveness. He drove out, with a whip or small cords, those who defiled the temple. He persisted in healing upon the Sabbath day. He inveighed against the traditions of the elders. He attacked the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees who were reputed most holy. Does any of this conduct look like that of one who would have shrunk from declaring the non-existence of Satan? Was not the doctrine of the resurrection as against the Sadducees, and of the salvation of publicans and sinners and the adoption of the Gentiles as against the Pharisees, even more unpalatable than would have been the denial of the existence of evil spirits?

 

(3.) The idea of mere accommodation to the Jews would not have involved the language upon this point used to his disciples in private. The time of the return of the seventy was peculiarly suitable to remove these prejudices from their minds. They came to Christ saying: "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us in thy name." Lu 10:17. And Christ only teaches more plainly the existence or such beings, declaring that he beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven, at the same time assuring them that even the power to cast out devils was no subject of joy in comparison with the fact that their names were written in heaven.

 

(4.) A still stronger objection may be drawn from the circumstances of the temptation. There the devil is said to have tempted Christ. In cases of human temptation, it may be said that it is the principle of evil in the heart that moves the man to do wrong, and that thus he is tempted. But what principle like this was there in Christ? Upon what ground can he be said to have been tempted except by the personal solicitation of the evil one?

 

Another question of interest has been as to the cause of the sin of angels. Some, because of a misconception of the meaning of Ge 6:2, have attributed it to lust. But this is not only contrary to the nature of angels, but also places the fall of man before that of the devil. Some have held that it consisted in the temptation of man. But he who tempted with evil intent and falsehood must himself have sinned beforehand. Besides, this tempter was one only, and the evil angels are many. Others think that it was envy of angels superior to them. This was the idea of the Jews, who, holding the theory of guardian angels over nations, supposed that some of them aspired to higher positions than were allotted to them. But the more common opinion is that it was a sin of pride. The apostle says of a bishop, that he must not be "a novice, lest being puffed up, he fall into the condemnation of the devil." 1Ti 3:6. From this it appears probable that pride was the sin of Satan, and that for this he was condemned. See Kitto’s Cyc., Art. Satan. Dick’s Theology, vol. 1, p. 377. Knapp, p. 218.

 

Their relation to each other in this sin has been still further a subject of inquiry. In the fall of man we recognize both a natural and federal head. Through these we see that all have been made sinners. But did the angels have a federal head, or did they sin individually each one for himself? There is a difficulty in either hypothesis. On the one hand, how could a federal head, when he had sinned, infuse, by that sin, an unholy nature into those whom he represented; on the other hand, as we recognize the first beginnings of sin to be in the desire, how could so many simultaneously have revolted against God?

 

In favour of the federal theory, may be stated the fact of the headship of one over the others, and the nature of the sin, pride, which may have arisen from the occupancy of a position of such power. Yet these do not necessarily imply it. Supreme position may have existed without federal relation.

 

In favour of the other theory may be adduced (1.) the co-existence at that time of all those angels that sinned; this was not true of all mankind, and is a reason why they needed to act differently. (2.) The immediate intercourse, because of their nature, which all others as well as their head may have had with God, to know his will and to perform it. In man this existed only in Eve, and may account for her personal sin before that of her representative. (3.) The greater lack of excuse that would exist in a fall as the result of individual probation. (4.) The fact that no provision of salvation has been made for them, either in the representative Saviour of man or in one for angels.

 

The main difficulty in the way of this theory may be removed by the natural supposition, that all the angels, or a portion of them to which all of these belonged, were put at one time upon probation, just as Adam was. In that probation some sinned, and some did not. The fall of all may, therefore, have been instantaneous. That one of them may have been the instantaneous instigator of this, is not improbable. That he may have held rank over them before, is in accordance with what is taught of the rank of all angels. That he might in this act have attained this position is also not improbable.

 

For the sin which they have thus committed, they are held accountable by God. They seem to have been already punished by being "kept in everlasting bonds under darkness, unto the judgement of the great day." Jude, verse 6. But on that day their punishment will be probably consummated.

 

In the meantime they are permitted access to this world. Satan is called the God of this world. 2Co 4:4. This access is evident from the history of the fall, from that of the temptation of Christ, from the warnings given to believers against him as their adversary, and from the declarations made as to the power he exercises to blind the minds of them that believe not.

 

As a finite being, Satan must be limited in his approaches to man. The doctrine of Satan is often objected to, upon the ground that thus we make out a being of almost equal power with God, and everywhere present. But this power of constant approach arises, not probably from personal contact, but from the multitude of inferior agents which he thus controls. By these he is everywhere operating; perhaps not operating always thus directly upon each one; but always keeping in progress the influences which he puts in operation among men.

 

What then, we may inquire, is the extent of the power of evil spirits?

 

1. Undoubtedly they have great power over the minds of men. They may tempt, deceive, darken the minds of men, pervert the judgement of men, excite them to pride, anger and other evil passions. It was Satan that instigated the Jews to put Christ to death. The old phraseology of the courts of justice in indictments for murder recognize his power. It is not confined to the subjects of his kingdom; but over the people of God also, even after they have been rescued from their slavery to Satan, does he maintain and exercise the power to tempt, though not to destroy.

 

2. Satan also possesses power over the bodies of men. In Job 2:7, it is said that he "smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown." In Lu 13:16, a woman is spoken of who has been bound by Satan for eighteen years by disease. In Ac 10:38, one of the works of Christ is said to have been the healing of all who were oppressed with the Devil. In 1Co 5:5, excommunication is spoken of as the delivering over of one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Satan is also said, in some sense, to have or to have had the power of death, Heb 2:14.

 

It is here that naturally arises the question of demoniacal influence as proving, if true, the existence and number of such beings. Have Satan and his messengers the power thus to enter, and afflict the bodies of men?

 

The most serious objection to the idea of such possessions is that they have been confined to the age of Christ and the Apostles.

 

(1.) But this is not certain. We even have declarations to the contrary. The Jews of the second century professed that there were such in their day. This was true, also, of the Christians of the third century. But the evidence of such possessions at these periods is not conclusive. It is not probable that any existed at that time.

 

(2.) Dr. Macknight, quoted by Dr. Dick, Theol. vol. 1, p. 403, says "that the possessions mentioned may have been diseases carried to an uncommon height by the presence and agency of demons." And, if this is allowed, there have possibly been such in all ages.

 

(3.) But this difficulty must yield before the direct testimony of Scripture. A reason may be given for their especial prevalence in the time of Christ. The great struggle was about to take place between Christ and Satan, and uncommon freedom was doubtless granted to the Devil, and his assistants.

 

The following points show that the idea of demoniacal possessions is Scriptural.

 

(a) The demons are expressly separated from the persons possessed. See Lu 6:17-18; Mt 12:43-45; Mr 1:32; 9:18.

 

(b) The actions and language show the personality of some evil being or beings within the sufferer. They beseech Christ not to torment them before their time; they answer his questions; they come out of the possessed and enter into the swine; they know Christ and call upon him as the Son of God.

 

(c) The writers mention facts connected with them, needless to he mentioned, which favour this. The number of demons cast from Mary Magdalene is given. In Mr 9:29 Jesus says of a demon, "this kind can come out by nothing save by prayer."

 

(d) Jesus addresses the demons, Mt 8:32. He orders the demons to come out, and permits them to go into the swine. In Mr 9:25, Christ rebukes the foul spirit. See also Lu 4:8. In Mr 1:25, Christ orders the demon to hold his peace and come out.

 

These are sufficient to prove the Scripturalness of this doctrine, and to show that Christ did not speak and act merely from a spirit of accommodation.

 

3. As to their power over the laws of nature and natural causes.

 

They have no power to change the laws of nature. These are established by God, and are beyond the power of any of his creatures. He upholds and preserves with the same almighty power with which he created.

 

But, from Satan’s superior wisdom, from his spiritual nature, and from his numerous emissaries, he has great power within the circle of those laws. It is thus that he performs the lying wonders by which, were it possible, he would deceive the very elect. It is thus that, in connection with his power over the mind, he has aided to establish false religions, to vitiate certain forms of the true religion, and to work as the great power of Antichrist in the world.

 

The connection held by him with the ancient heathen oracles is a subject worthy of study, and eminently suggestive of the extent of the power he exercises. Those oracles failed precisely where Satan’s knowledge failed—the want of power to predict the future. Answers that affected present knowledge were abundant. Ambiguous replies that could hear various interpretations were frequent. "Undoubtedly," says Dr. J. Pye Smith, "fraud was practiced. * * * Still there appears satisfactory reason for believing that in some degree, and occasionally there was a real diabolical influence." First Lines, p. 337. The case of divination spoken of in Ac 16:16-18 seems conclusive upon this point; "a certain maid," says Luke, "having a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. The same following after Paul and us cried out, saying, These men are servants of the Most High God, which proclaim unto you the way of salvation. And this she did many days. But Paul, being sore troubled, turned and said to the spirit, I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour."

 

Dr. J. Pye Smith presents in his First Lines of Theology some valuable points in reply to the objections that may he made to the doctrine of wicked spirits, and also on the practical uses of the doctrine. See pp. 337-340.

 

 

ST. 020 Chapter 20: CREATION OF MAN.

CHAPTER XX

 

CREATION OF MAN.

 

I THE SCRIPTURE ACCOUNT.

 

THE Scripture account of the creation of man is given in four places in Genesis. The first, in Ge 1:26-28, is of both male and female. The second is of Adam only, in Ge 2:7. The third is of the creation of the woman, whom Adam at that time called Isha (woman), because she was taken out of man (Ish). Ge 2:18-23. Subsequently, ch. 3:20, he called her Eve because she was "the mother of all living." The fourth is found in Ge 5:1-2, and states that God called them Adam. There are allusions to the statements thus made in two other places in this book, namely, ch. 3:19, 23 and ch. 9:6, 7. The other Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, endorse the correctness of all the facts stated in Genesis by frequent allusions to one or another of them as undoubted truths. See Ps 100:3; 103:14; Ec 7:29; 12:7; Isa 64:8; Mal 2:10,15; Mt 19:4-5 and  Mr 10:6-7; Ac 17:25-29; Ro 9:20; 1Co 11:7-9; 15:45-47; Col 3:10. The Scripture doctrine thus revealed is that man was created by God, being formed, as to his body, from earthy material, and as to his soul, by direct creation; that he was made male and female, one Adam, in the image after the likeness of God. The Adam thus made, the Scriptures also teach, was the progenitor of all the present race of men. Indeed they appear to allude to him as the embodiment of that race. Adam is not given as a proper name, as are Cain, and Abel, and Noah, but is used to express the creature God proposed to male, {Ge 1:26} as both male and female. Ge 5:2 "In all the other instances in the second and third chapters of Genesis, which are nineteen, it is put with the article, the man or the Adam. It is also to be observed that though it occurs very frequently in the Old Testament, and though there is no grammatical difficulty in the way of its being declined by the dual and plural terminations and the pronomina