Nature and Attributes of God
§1. Definitions of God. §2. Divine Attributes. §3. Classification of the Divine Attributes.
§4. Spirituality of God. § 5. Infinity.§ 6. Eternity. § 7. Immutability. §8. Knowledge.
§ 9. The Will of God. §10. The Power of God. § 11. Holiness of God.§ 12. Justice.
§ 13. The Goodness of God. § 14. The Truth of God. § 15. Sovereignty.
THE question whether God can be defined, depends for its answer on what is meant by definition. Cicero1 says, “Est definitio, earum rerum, quae sunt ejus rei propriae, quam definire volumus, brevis et circumscripta quaedam explicatio.” In this sense God cannot be defined. No creature, much less man, can know all that is proper to God; and, therefore, no creature can give an exhaustive statement of all that God is.
To define, however, is simply to bound, to separate, or distinguish; so that the thing defined may be discriminated from all other things. This may be done (1.) By stating its characteristics. (2.) By stating its genus and its specific difference. (3.) By analyzing the idea as it lies in our minds. (4.) By an explanation of the term or name by which it is denoted. All these methods amount to much the same thing. When we say we can define God, all that is meant is, that we can analyze the idea of God as it lies in our mind; or, that we can state the class of beings to which He belongs, and the attributes by which He is distinguished from all other beings. Thus, in the simple definition, God is ene perfectissimum, the word ens designates Him as a being, not an idea, but as that which has real, objective existence; and absolute perfection distinguishes Him from all other beings. The objection to this and most other definitions of God is, that they do not bring out with sufficient fulness the contents of the idea. This objection bears against such definitions as the following: Ens absolutum, the self-existent, independent being; and that by Calovius, “Dens est essentia spiritualis infinita;” and Reinhard’s2 “Deus est, Natura necessaria, a mundo diversa, summas complexa perfectiones et ipsius mundi causa;” or Baumgarten’s “Spiritus perfectissimus, rationem rui ipsius rerumque contingentium omnium seu mundi continens;” or, that of Morus, “Spiritus perfectissimus, conditor, conservator, et gubernator mundi.” Probably the best definition of God ever penned by man, is that given in the “Westminster Catechism”: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” This is a true definition; for it states the class of beings to which God is to be referred. He is a Spirit; and He is distinguished from all other spirits in that He is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being and perfections. It is also a complete definition, in so far as it is an exhaustive statement of the contents of our idea of God.
In what sense, however, are these terms used? What is meant by the words “being,” and “perfections,” or “attributes” of God? In what relation do his attributes stand to his essence and to each other? These are questions on which theologians, especially during the scholastic period, expended much time and labor.
Being of God.
By being is here meant that which has a real, substantive existence. It is equivalent to substance, or essence. It is opposed to what is merely thought, and to a mere force or power. We get this idea, in the first place, from consciousness. We are conscious of self as the subject of the thoughts, feelings, and volitions, which are its varying states and acts. This consciousness of substance is involved in that of personal identity. In the second place, a law of our reason constrains us to believe that there is something which underlies the phenomena of matter and mind, of which those phenomena are the manifestation. It is impossible for us to think of thought and feeling, unless there be something that thinks and feels. It is no less impossible to think of action, unless there be something that acts; or of motion, unless there be something that moves. To assume, therefore, that mind is only a series of acts and states, and that matter is nothing but force, is to assume that nothing (nonentity) can produce effects.
God, therefore, is in his nature a substance, or essence, which is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable; the common subject of all divine perfections, and the common agent of all divine acts. This is as far as we can go, or need to go. We have no definite idea of substance, whether of matter or mind, as distinct from its attributes. The two are inseparable. In knowing the one we know the other. We cannot know hardness except as we know something hard. We have, therefore, the same knowledge of the essence of God, as we have of the substance of the soul. All we have to do in reference to the divine essence, as a Spirit, is to deny of it, as we do of our own spiritual essence, what belongs to material substances; and to affirm of it, that in itself and its attributes it is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. When, therefore, we say there is a God, we do not assert merely that there is in our minds the idea of an infinite Spirit; but that, entirely independent of our idea of Him, such a Being really exists. Augustine3 says, “Deus est quaedam substantia; nam quod nulla substantia est, nihil omnino est. Substantia ergo aliquid esse est.”
If, therefore, a divine essence, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, exists, this essence existed before and independent of the world. It follows also that the essence of God is distinct from the world The Scriptural doctrine of God is consequently opposed to the several forms of error already mentioned; to Hylozoism, which assumes that God, like man, is a composite being, the world being to Him what the body is to us; to Materialism, which denies the existence of any spiritual substance, and affirms that the material alone is real; to extreme Idealism, which denies not only the reality of the internal world, but all real objective existence, and affirms that the subjective alone is real; to Pantheism, which either makes the world the existence form of God, or, denying the reality of the world, makes God the only real existence. That is, it either makes nature God, or, denying nature, makes God everything.
§2. Divine Attributes.
To the divine essence, which in itself is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, belong certain perfections revealed to us in the constitution of our nature and in the word of God. These divine perfections are called attributes as essential to the nature of a divine Being, and necessarily involved in our idea of God. The older theologians distinguished the attributes of God, (1.) From predicates which refer to God in the concrete, and indicate his relation to his creatures, as creator, preserver, ruler, etc. (2.) From properties, which are technically the distinguishing characteristics of the several persons of the Trinity. There are certain acts or relations peculiar or proper to the Father, others to the Son, and others to the Spirit. And (3.) From accidents or qualities which may or may not belong to a substance, which may be acquired or lost. Thus holiness was not an attribute of the nature of Adam, but an accident, something which he might lose and still remain a man; whereas intelligence was an attribute, because the loss of intelligence involves the loss of humanity. The perfections of God, therefore, are attributes, without which He would cease to be God.
Relation of the Attributes to the Essence of God.
In attempting to explain the relation in which the attributes of God stand to his essence and to each other, there are two extremes to be avoided. First, we must not represent God as a composite being, composed of different elements; and, secondly, we must not confound the attributes, making them all mean the same thing, which is equivalent to denying them all together. The Realists of the Middle Ages tended to the former of these extremes, and the Nominalists to the other. Realists held that general terms express not merely thoughts, or abstract conceptions in our minds, but real or substantive, objective existence. And hence they were disposed to represent the divine attributes as differing from each other realiter, as one res or thing differs from another. The Nominalists, on the other hand, said general terms are mere words answering to abstractions formed by the mind. And consequently when we speak of different attributes in God, we only use different words for one and the same thing. Occam, Biel, and other Nominalists, therefore, taught that “Attributa divina nec rei, nec rationis distinctione, inter se aut ab essentia divina distingui; sed omnem distinctionem esse solum in nominibus.” The Lutheran and Reformed theologians tended much more to the latter of these extremes than to the former. They generally taught, in the first place, that the unity and simplicity of the divine essence precludes not only all physical composition of constituent elements, or of matter and form, or of subject and accidents; but also all metaphysical distinction as of act and power, essence and existence, nature and personality; and even of logical difference, as genus and specific difference.
In the second place, the theologians were accustomed to say that the attributes of God differ from his essence non re, sed ratione. This is explained by saying that things differ ex natura rei, when they are essentially different as soul and body; while a difference ex ratione is merely a difference in us, i. e., in our conceptions, i. e., “quod distincte solum concipitur, cum in re ipsa distinctum non sit.” Hence the divine attributes are defined as “conceptus essentiae divinae inadequatae, ex parte rei ipsam essentiam involventes, eandemque intrinsice denominantes.” Aquinas says, “Deus est unus re et plures ratione, quia intellectus noster ita multipliciter apprehendit Deum, sicuti res multipliciter ipsum representant.” The language of the Lutheran theologian Quenstedt4 exhibits the usual mode of reprosenting this subject: “Si proprie et accurate loqui velimus, Deus nullas habet proprietates, sed mera et simplicissima est essentia quae nec realem differentiam nec ullam vel rerum vel modoruni admittit compositionem. Quia vero simplicissimam Dei essentiam uno adequato conceptu adequate concipere non possumus, ideo inadequatis et distinctis conceptibus, inadequate essentiam divinam repraesentantibus, eam apprehendimus, quos inadequatos conceptus, qui a parte rei essentiae divinae identificantur, et a nobis per modum affectionum apprehenduntur, attributa vocamus.” And again, “Attributa divina a parte rei et in se non multa sunt, sed ut ipsa essentia divina, ita et attributa, quae cum illa identificantur, simplicissima unitas sunt; multa vero dicuntur (1.) sugkatabatikw/j, ad nostrum concipiendi modum, . . . . (2.) evnerghtikw/j, in ordine ad effecta.”5 The favorite illustration to explain what was meant by this unity of the divine attributes, was drawn from the sun. His ray, by one and the same power (as was then assumed) illuminates, warms, and produces chemical changes, not from any diversity in it, but from diversity in the nature of the objects on which it operates. The force is the same; the effects are different. The meaning of these theologians is further determined by their denying that the relation of attribute and essence in God is analogous to the relation of intelligence and will to the essence of the soul in man; and also by the frequently recurring declaration, borrowed from the schoolmen, that God is actus purus. Schleiermacher goes still further in the same direction. With him the divine attributes are mere Beziehungen, or relations of God to us. He commonly resolves them into mere causality. Thus he defines the holiness of God to be that causality in Him which produces conscience in us.
A third and less objectionable way of representing the matter is adopted by those who say with Hollazius: “Attributa divina ab essentia divina et a se invicem, distinguuntur non nominaliter neque realiter sed formaliter, secundum nostrum concipiendi modum, non sine certo distinctionis fundamento.”6 This is very different from saying that they differ ratione tautum. Turrettin says the attributes are to be distinguished not realiter, but virtualiter; that is, there is a real foundation in the divine nature for the several attributes ascribed to Him.
It is evident that this question of the relation of the divine attributes to the divine essence merges itself into the general question of the relation between attributes and substance. It is also evident that this is a subject about which one man knows just as much as another; because all that can be known about it is given immediately in consciousness.
This subject has already been referred to. We arc conscious of ourselves as a thinking substance. That is, we are conscious that that which is ourselves has identity, continuance, and power. We are further conscious that the substance self thinks, wills, and feels. Intelligence, will, and sensibility, are its functions, or attributes, and consequently the attributes of a spirit. These are the ways in which a spirit acts. Anything which does not thus act, which has not these functions or attributes, is not a spirit. If you take from a spirit its intelligence, will, and sensibility, nothing remains its, substance is gone; at least it ceases to be a spirit. Substance and attributes are inseparable. The one is known in the other. A substance wituout attributes is nothing, i. e., no real existence. What is true of spiritual substances is true of matter. Matter, without the essential properties of matter, is a contradiction.
We know, therefore, from consciousness, as far as it can be known, the relation between substance and its attributes. And all that can be done, or need be done, is to deny or correct the false representations which are so often made on the subject.
The Divine Attributes do not differ merely in our Conception.
To say, as the schoolmen, and so many even of Protestant theologians, ancient and modern, were accustomed to say, that the divine attributes differ only in name, or in our conceptions, or in their effects, is to destroy all true knowledge of God. Thus even Augustine confounds knowledge and power, when he says,7 “Nos ista, quae fecisti videmus quia sunt: tu autem quia vides ea, sunt.” So Scotus Erigena8 says, “Non aliud est ei videre, aliud facere; sed visio illius voluntas ejus est, et voluntas operatio.” Thomas Aquinas9 says the same thing: “Deus per intellectum suum causat res, cum suum esse sit suum intelligere.” And again, “Scientia (Dei) causat res; nostra vero causatur rebus et dependat ab eis.” Even Mr. Mansel,10 to aggravate our ignorance of God, speaks of Him as “an intellect whose thought creates its own object.” It is obvious that, according to this view, God is simply a force of which we know nothing but its effects. If in God eternity is identical with knowledge, knowledge with power, power with ubiquity, and ubiquity with holiness, we are using words without meaning when we attribute any perfection to God. We must, therefore, either give up the attempt to determine the divine attributes from our speculative idea of an infinite essence, or renounce all knowledge of God, and all faith in the revelation of Himself, which He has made in the constitution of our nature, in the external world, and in his Word. Knowledge is no more identical with power in God than it is in us. Thought in Him is no more creative than is thought in us. Otherwise creation is eternal, and God creates everything — all the thoughts, feelings, and volitions of his creatures, good and evil; and God is the only real agent, and the only real being in the universe. According to this doctrine, also, there can be no difference between the actual and the possible, for the one as well as the other is always present to the divine mind. It would also follow that the creation must be infinite, or God finite. For if knowledge is causative, God creates all He knows, and you must limit his knowledge if you limit creation. It need hardly be remarked that this doctrine is derogatory to God. It is not only a much higher idea, but one essential to personality, that there should be a real distinction between the divine attributes. That which from its nature and by necessity does all that it can do, is a force, and not a person. It can have no will. The doctrine in question, therefore, is essentially pantheistic. “However much,” says Martensen, “we must guard our idea of God from being degraded by anything that is merely human, from all false Anthropomorphism, yet we can find in Nominalism only the denial of God as He is revealed in the Scriptures. It is the denial of the very essence of faith, if it is only in our thoughts that God is holy and righteous, and not in his own nature; if it is we who so address Him, and not He who so reveals Himself. We teach, therefore, with the Realists (of one class), that the attributes of God are objectrvely true as revealed, and therefore have their ground in the divine essence.” There is a kind of Realism, as Martensen admits, which is as destructive of the true idea of God as the Nominalism which makes his attributes differ only in name. It grants, indeed, objective reality to our ideas; but these ideas, according to it, have no real subject. “The idea of omnipotence, righteousness, and holiness,” he says, “is a mere blind thought, if there be not an omnipotent, righteous, and holy One.”11
The Divine Attributes not to be resolved into Causality.
It amounts to much the same doctrine, to resolve all the attributes of God into causality. It was a principle with some of the schoolmen, “Affectus in Deo denotat effectum.” This was so applied as to limit our knowledge of God to the fact that God is the cause of certain effects. Thus, when we say God is just, we mean nothing more than that He causes misery to follow sin; when we say He is holy, it only means that He is the cause of conscience in us. As a tree is not sweet, because its fruit is luscious, so God is not holy, he is only the cause of holiness. Against this application of the principle, Aquinas himself protested, declaring, “Cum igitur dicitur, Deus est bonus; non est sensus, Deus est causa bonitatis; vel Deus non est malus. Sed est sensus: Id, quod bonitatem dicimus in creaturis, praeexistit in Deo; et hoc quidem secundum modum altiorem. Unde ex hoc non sequitur, quod Deo competat esse bonum, in quantum causat bonitatem; sed potius e converso, quia est bonus, bonitatem rebus diffundit.”12 And the Lutheran theologian, Quenstedt, says, “Dicunt nonnulli, ideo Deum dici justum, sanctum, misericordem, veracem, etc., non quod revera sit talis, sed quod duntaxat sanctitatis, justitiae, misericordiae, veritatis, etc., causa sit et auctor in aliis. Sed si Deus non est vere misericors, neque vere perfectus, vere sanctus, etc., sed causa tantum misericordiae et sanctitatis in aliis, ita etiam et nos pariter juberemur esse non vere misericordes, non vere perfecti, etc., sed sanctitatis saltem et misericordiae in aliis auctores.”13
The Divine Attributes differ Virtualiter.
Theologians, to avoid the blank ignorance of God which must follow from the extreme view of the simplicity of his essence, which requires us to assunie that the divine attributes differ only in our conceptions, or as expressing the diverse effects of the activity of God, made a distiniction between the ratio rationantis and the ratio rationatae. That is, the reason as determining, and the reason as determined. The attributes, they say, differ not re, but ratione;not in our subjective reason only; but there is in God a reason why we think of Him as possessing these diverse perfections. This idea, as before stated, was often expressed by saying that the divine attributes differ neither realiter, nor nominaliter, but virtualiter. If this be understood to mean that the divimie perfections are really what the Bible declares them to be; that God truly thinks, feels, and acts; that He is truly wise, just, and good, that He is truly omnipotent, and voluntary, acting or not acting, as He sees fit; that He can hear and answer prayer; it may be admitted. But we are not to give up the conviction that God is really in Himself what He reveals Himself to be, to satisfy any metaphysical speculations as to the difference between essence and attribute in an infinite Being. The attributes of God, therefore, are not merely different conceptions in our minds, but different modes in which God reveals Himself to his creatures (or to Himself); just as our several faculties are different modes in which the inscrutable substance self reveals itself in our consciousness and acts. It is an old saying, “Qualis homo, talis Deus.” And Clemens Alexandrinus14 says, “If any one knows himself, he will know God.” And Leibnitz expresses the same great truth when he says,15 “The perfections of God are those of our own souls, but He possesses them without limit. He is an ocean of which we have only received a few drops. There is in us something of power, something of knowledge, something of goodness; but these attributes are in entireness in Him.” There is indeed danger in either extreme, danger of degrading God in our thoughts, by reducing Him to the standard of our nature, and danger of denying Him as He is revealed. In our day, and among educated men, and especially among students of philosophy, the latter danger is by far the greater of the two. We should remember that we lose God, when we lose our confidence in saying Thou! to Him, with the assurance of being heard and helped.
§3. Classification of the Divine Attributes.
On few subjects have greater thought and labor been expended than on this. Perhaps, however, the benefit has not been commensurate with the labor. The object of classification is order, and the object of order is clearness. So far as this end is secured, it is a good. But the great diversity of the methods which have been proposed, is evidence that no one method of arrangement has such advantages as to secure for it general recognition.
1. Some, as has been seen, preclude all necessity of a classification of the attributes, by reducing them all to unity, or regarding them as different phases under which we contemplate the Supreme Being as the ground of all things. With them the whole discussion of the divimie attributes is an analysis of the idea of the Infinite and Absolute.
2. Others arrange the attributes according to the mode in which we arrive at the knowledge of them. We form our idea of God, it is said, (1.) By the way of causation; that is, by referring to Him as the great first cause every virtue manifested by the effects which He produces. (2.) By the way of negation; that is, by denying to Him the limitations and imperfections which belong to his creatures. (3.) By the way of eminence, in exalting to an infinite degree or without limit the perfections which belong to an infinite Being. If this is so, the attributes conceived of by one of these methods belong to one class, and those conceived of, or of which we attain the knowledge by another method, belong to another class. This principle of classification is perhaps the one most generally adopted. It gives rise, however, really but to two classes, namely, the positive and negative, i. e., those in which something is affirmed, and those in which something is denied concerning God. To the negative class are commonly referred simplicity, infinity, eternity, immutability; to the positive class, power, knowledge, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Instead of calling the one class negative and the other positive, they are often distinguished as absolute and relative. By an absolute attribute is meant one which belongs to God, considered in Himself, and which implies no relation to other beings; by a relative attribute is meant one which implies relation to an object. They are also distinguished as immanent and transient, as communicable and incommunicable. These terms are used interchangeably. They do not express different modes of classification, but are different modes of designating the same classification. Negative, absolute, immanent, and incommunicable, are designations of one class; and positive, relative, transitive, and communicable, are designations of the other class.
3. A third principle of classification is derived from the constitution of our own nature. In man there is the substance or essence of the soul, the intellect, and the will. Hence, it is said, we can most naturally arrange the attributes of God under three heads. First, those pertaining to his essence; second, those referring to his intellect; and third, those referring to his will, the word “will” being taken in its most comprehensive sense.
4. Others again seek the principle of classification in the nature of the attributes themselves. Some include the idea of moral excellence, and others do not. Hence they are distinguished as natural and moral. The word natural, however, 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.
5. Schleiermacher’s method is, of course, peculiar. It is based on the characteristic principle of his system, that all religion is founded on a sense of dependence, and all theology consists in what that sense of dependence teaches us. He does not treat of the divine attributes in any one place, but here and there, as they come up according to his plan. Our sense of dependence does not awaken in our consciousness a feeling of opposition to God’s eternity, omnipotence, omnipresence, or omniscience. These, therefore, are treated of in one place. But we, as dependent creatures, are conscious of opposition to God’s holiness and righteousness. These, therefore, belong to another head. And as this opposition is removed through Christ, we are brought into relation to God’s grace or love, and to his wisdom. These form a third class.
That so many different principles of classification have been adopted, and that each of those principles is carried out in so many different ways, shows the uncertainty and difficulty attending the whole subject. It is proposed in what follows to accept the guidance of the answer given in the “Westminster Catechism,” to the question, What is God? It is assumed in that answer that God is a self-existent and necessary Being; and it is affirmed of Him, I. That He is a Spirit. II. That as such He is infinite, eternal, and immutable. III. That He is infinite, eternal, and immutable, (1.) In his being. (2.) In all that belongs to his intelligence, namely, in his knowledge and wisdom. (3.) In all that belongs to his will, namely, his power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Whatever speculative objections may be made to this plan, it has the advantage of being simple and familiar.
§4. Spirituality of God.
A. The Meaning of the Word “Spirit.”
The fundamental principle of interpretation of all writings, sacred or profane, is that words are to be understood in their historical sense; that is, in the sense in which it can be historically proved that they were used by their authors and intended to be understood by those to whom they were addressed. The object of language is the communication of thought. Unless words are taken in the sense in which those who employ them know they will be understood, they fail of their design. The sacred writings being the words of God to man, we are bound to take them in the sense in which those to whom they were originally addressed must inevitably have taken them. What is the meaning of the word “spirit?” or rather, What is the usus loquendi of the Hebrew and Greek words to which our word “spirit” corresponds? In answering this question, we learn what our Lord meant when he said God is a Spirit. Originally the words x;Wr and pneu/ma meant the moving air, especially the breath, as in the phrase pneu/ma bi,ou;then any invisible power; then the human soul. In saying, therefore, that God is a Spirit, our Lord authorizes us to believe that whatever is essential to the idea of a spirit, as learned from our own consciousness, is to be referred to God as determining his nature. On this subject consciousness teaches, and has taught all men, —
1. That the soul is a substance; that our thoughts and feelings have a common ground, of which they are the varying states or acts. Substance is that which has an objective existence, and has permanence and power. Even Kant says: “Wo Handlung, mithin Thatigkeit und Kraft ist, da ist auch Substanz,” where operation, and consequently activity and power are, there is substance.16 This is not only the common oonviction of men, but it is admitted by the vast majority of philosophers. As before remarked, that there should be action without something acting, is as unthinkable as that there should be motion without something moving.
2. Consciousness teaches that the soul is an individual subsistence. This is included in the consciousness of the unity, identity, and permanence of the soul. It is not that we are conscious simply of certain states of the soul, from which we infer its substance and subsistence; but that such are the contents of the knowledge given to us in the consciousness of self. Des Cartes famous aphorism, Cogito ergo sum, is not a syllogism. It does not mean that existence is inferred from the consciousness of thought; but that the consciousness of thought involves the consciousness of existence. Des Cartes himself so understood the matter, for he says: “Cum advertimus nos esse res cogitantes, prima quaedam notio est quae ex nullo syllogismo concluditur; neque etiam cum quis dicit ‘Ego cogito, ergo sum, sive existo,’ existentiam ex cogitatione per syllogismum deducit, sed tanquam rem per se notam simplici mentis intuitu agnoscit.”17 Mansel says: “Whatever may be the variety of the phenomena of consciousness, sensations by this or that organ, volitions, thoughts, imaginations, of all we are immediately conscious as affections of one and the same self. It is not by any after-effort of reflection that I combine together sight and hearing, thought and volition, into a factitious unity or compounded whole, in each case I am immediately conscious of myself seeing and hearing, willing and thinking. This self-personality, like all other simple and immediate presentations, is indefinable, but it is so because it is superior to definition.”18 This individual subsistence is thus involved in the consciousness of self, because in self-consciousness we distinguish ourselves from all that is not ourselves.
3. As power of some kind belongs to every substance, the power which belongs to spirit, to the substance self, is that of thought, feeling, and volition. All this is given in the simplest form of consciousness. We are not more certain that we exist, than that we think, feel, and will. We know ourselves only as thus thinking, feeling, and willing, and we therefore are sure that these powers or faculties are the essential attributes of a spirit, and must belong to every spirit.
4. Consciousness also informs us of the unity or simplicity of the soul. It is not compounded of different elements. It is composed of substance and form. It is a simple substance endowed with certain attributes. It is incapable of separation or division.
5. In being conscious of our individual subsistence, we are conscious of personality. Every individual subsistence is not a person. But every individual subsistence which thinks and feels, and has the power of self-determination, is a person; and, therefore, the consciousness of our subsistence, and of the powers of thought and volition, is the consciousness of personality.
6. We are also conscious of being moral agents, susceptible of moral character, and the subjects of moral obligation.
7. It need not be added that every spirit must possess self-consciousness. This is involved in all that has been said. Without self-consciousness we should be a mere power in nature. This is the very ground of our being, and is necessarily involved in the idea of self as a real existence.
It is impossible, therefore, to overestimate the importanc of the truth contained in the simple proposition, God is a Spirit. It is involved in that proposition that God is immaterial. None of the properties of matter can be predicated of Him. He is not extended or divisible, or compounded, or visible, or tangible. He has neither bulk nor form. The Bible everywhere recognizes as true the intuitive convictions of men. One of those convictions is that spirit is not matter, or matter spirit; that different and incompatible attributes cannot belong to the same substance. In revealing, therefore, to us that God is a Spirit, it reveals to us that no attribute of matter can be predicated of the divine essence. The realistic dualism which lies at the bottom of all human convictions, underlies also all the revelations of the Bible.
B. Consequences of the Spirituality of God.
If God be a spirit, it follows of necessity that He is a person — a self-conscious, intelligent, voluntary agent. As all this is involved in our consciousness of ourselves as spirit, it must all be true of God, or God is of a lower order of being than man.
It follows also that God is a simple Being, not only as not composed of different elements, but also as not admitting of the distinction between substance and accidents. Nothing can either be added to, or taken from God. In this view the simplicity, as well as the other attributes of God, are of a higher order than the corresponding attributes of our spiritual nature. The soul of man is a simple substance; but it is subject to change. It can gain and lose knowledge, holiness, and power. These are in this view accidents in our substance. But in God they are attributes, essential and immutable.
Finally, it follows from God’s being a spirit, that He is a moral as well as an intelligent Being. It is involved in the very nature of rational voluntary being, that it should be conformed to the rule of right, which in the case of God is his own infinite reason. These are primary truths, which are not to be sacrificed to any speculative objections. It is vain to tell us that an infinite spirit cannot be a person, because personality implies self-consciousness, and self-consciousness implies the distinction between the self and the not-self, and this is a limitation. It is equally vain to say that God cannot have moral excellence, because moral goodness implies conformity to law, and conformity to law again is inconsistent with the idea of an absolute Being. These are empty speculations; and even if incapable of a satisfactory solution, would afford no rational ground for rejecting the intuitive truths of reason and conscience. There are mysteries enough in our nature, and yet no sane muan denies his own personal existence and moral accountability. And he is worse than insane who is beguiled by such sophistries into renouncing his faith in God as a pcrsonal Spirit and a loving Father.
The Scriptures confirm these Views.
It need hardly be remarked that the Scriptures everywhere represent God as possessing all the above-mentioned attributes of a spirit. On this foundation all religion rests; all intercourse with God, all worship, all prayer, all confidence in God as preserver, benefactor, and redeemer. The God of the Bible is a person. He spoke to Adam. He revealed himself to Noah. He entered into covenant with Abraham. He conversed with Moses, as a friend with friend. He everywhere uses the personal pronouns. He says, “I am,” that “is my name.” I am the Lord your God. I am merciful and gracious. Call upon me, and I will answer you. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. O thou that hearest prayer, to thee shall all flesh come. Our Lord has put into our lips words which reveal that God is a spirit, and all that being a spirit implies, when He teaches us to say: “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” Everywhere the God of the Bible is contrasted within the gods of the heathen, as a God who sees, hears, and loves. These are not regulative, they are real truths. God does not mock us when He thus presents Himself to us as a personal Being within whom we can have intercourse, and who is everywhere present to help and save. “To human reason,” says Mansel, “the personal and the infinite stand out in apparently irreconcilable antagonism; and the recognition of the one in a religious system almost inevitably involves the sacrifice of the other.”19 This cannot be so. According to the Bible, and according to the dictates of our own nature, of reason as well as of conscience, God is a spirit, and being a spirit is of necessity a person; a Being who can say I, and to whom we can say Thou.
§ 5. Infinity.
Although God reveals Himself as a personal Being capable of fell worship with man, whom we can worship and love, and to whom wc can pray with the assurance of being heard and answered; nevertheless He fills heaven and earth; He is exalted above all we can know or think. He is infinite in his being and perfections. The ideas with which we are most familiar are often those of which we are the least able to give an intelligent account. Space, time, and infinity, are among the most difficult problems of human thought. What is space? is a question which has never been satisfactorily answered. Some say it is nothing; where nothing is space is not; it is “negation defined by boundary lines;” others, with Kant and Hamilton, say that it is “a condition of thought,” “the subjective condition of sensibility;” others that it is an attribute or accident of God; others that it is that in which real existences can act and move. Notwithstanding these conflicting statements of philosophers, and the real obscurity of the subject, every man knows clearly and definitely what the word “space” means, although no man may be able to define it satisfactorily. It is much the same with the idea of infinity. If men would be content to leave the word in its integrity, as simply expressing what does not admit of limitation, there would be no danger in speculating about its nature. But in all ages wrong views of what the infinite is, have led to fatal errors in philosophy and religion. Without attempting to detail the speculations of philosophers on this subject, we shall simply endeavor to state what is meant when it is said that God is infinite in his being and perfections.
The Idea of Infinity not merely Negative.
Being, in this connection, is that which is or exists. The being of God is his essemice or substance, of which his perfections are the essential attributes or modes of manifestation. When it is said that God is infinite as to his being, what is meant is, that no limitation can be assigned to his essence. It is often said that our idea of the infinite is merely negative. There is a sense in which this may be true, but there is a sense in which it is not true. It is true that the form of the proposition is negative when we say that no limit can be assigned to space, or possible duration, or to the being of God. But it implies the affirmation that the object of which infinity is predicated is illimitable. It is as much a positive idea which we express when we say a thing is infinite as when we say that it is finite. We cannot, indeed, form a conception or mental image of an infinite object, but the word nevertheless expresses a positive judgment of the mind. Sir William Hamilton and others, when they say that the infinite is a mere negation, mean that it implies a negation of all thought. That is, we mean nothing when we say that a thing is infinite. As we know nothing of the inhabitants of the other planets of our system, if such there be, or of the mode in which angels and disembodied spirits take cognizance of material objects, our ideas on such subjects are purely negative, or blank ignorance. “The infinite,” Mansel says, “is not a positive object of human thought.”20 Every man, however, knows that the propositions “Space is infinite,” and “Space is finite,” express different and equally definite thoughts. When, therefore, we say that God is infinite, we mean something; we express a great and positive truth.
A. The Infinite not the All.
The infinite, although illimitable and incapable of increase, is not necessarily all. An infinite body must include all bodies, infinite space all portions of space, and infinite duration all periods of duration. Hence Mr. Mansel says that an infinite being must of necessity include within itself all actual and all possible forms or modes of being. So said Spinoza, many of the schoolmen, and even many Christian theologians. The sense in which Spinoza and Mansel make this assertion is the fundamental principle of Pantheism. Mr. Mansel, as we have seen, escapes that conclusion by appealing to faith, and teaching that we are constrained to believe what reason pronounces to be impossible, which itself is an impossibility. The sense in which theologians teach that an infinite being must comprehend within it all being, is, that in the infinite is the cause or ground of all that is actual or possible. Thus Howe21says, “Necessary being must include all being.” But he immediately adds, not in the same way, “It comprehends all being, besides what itself is, as having had, within the compass of its productive power, whatsoever hath actually sprung from it; and having within the compass of the same power, whatsoever is still possible to he produced.” This, however, is not the proper meaning of the words, nor is it the sense in which they are generally used. What the words mean, and what they are generally intended to mean by those who use them is, that there is only one being in the universe; that the finite is merely the modus existendi, or manifestation of the Infinite. Thus Cousin says, God must be “infinite and finite together at the summit of being and at its humblest degree . . . ; at once God, nature, and humanity.”22 Even some of the Remonstrants regard this as the necessary consequence of the doctrine of the infinitude of the divine essence. Episcopius23 says, “Si essentia Dei sic immensa est, tum intelligi non potest quomodo et ubi aliqua creata essentia esse possit. Essentia enim creata non est essentia divina; ergo aut est extra essentiam divinam, aut, si non est extra eam, est ipsa essentia illa, et sic omnia sunt Deus et divina essentia.” “God is infinite,” says Jacob Bohme, “for God is all.” This, says Strauss,24 is exactly the doctrine of the modern philosophy.
It has already been remarked in a previous chapter, in reference to this mode of reasoning, that it proceeds on a wrong idea of the infinite. A thing may be infinite in its own nature without precluding the possibility of the existence of things of a different nature. An infinite spirit does not forbid the assumption of the existence of matter. There may even be many infinites of the same kind, as we can imagine any number of infinite lines. The infinite, therefore, is not all. An infinite spirit is a spirit to whose attributes as a spirit no limits can be set. It no more precludes the existence of other spirits than infinite goodness precludes the existence of finite goodness, or infinite power the existence of finite power. God is infinite in being because no limit can be assigned to his perfections, and because He is present in all portions of space. A being is said to be present wherever it perceives and acts. As God perceives and acts everywhere, He is everywhere present. This however, does not preclude the presence of other beings. A multitude of men even may perceive and act at the same time and place. Besides, we have very little knowledge of the relation which spirit bears to space. We know that bodies occupy portions of space to the exclusion, of other bodies; but we do not know that spirits may not coexist in the same portion of space. A legion of demons dwelt in one man.
B. Infinitude of God in relation to Space.
The infinitude of God, so far as space is concerned, includes his immensity and his omnipresence. These are not different attributes, but one and the same attribute, viewed under different aspects. His immensity is the infinitude of his being, viewed as belonging to his nature from eternity. He fills immensity with his presence. His omnipresence is the infinitude of his being, viewed in relation to his creatures. He is equally present with all his creatures, at all times, and in all places. He is not far from any one of us. “The Lord is in this place,” may be said with equal truth and confidence, everywhere. Theologians are accustomed to distinguish three modes of presence in space. Bodies are in space circumscriptively. They are bounded by it. Spirits are in space definitively. They have an ubi. They are not everywhere, but only somewhere. God is in space repletively. He fills all space. In other words, the limitations of space have no reference to Him. He is not absent from any portion of space, nor more present in one portion than in another. This of course is not to be understood of extension or diffusion. Extension is a property of matter, and cannot be predicated of God. If extended, He would be capable of division and separation; and part of God would be here, and part elsewhere. Nor is this omnipresence to be understood as a mere presence in knowledge and power. It is an omnipresence of the divine essence. Otherwise the essence of God would be limited. The doctrine, therefore, taught by the older Socinians that the essence of God is confined to heaven (wherever that may be), and that He is elsewhere only as to his knowledge and efficiency, is inconsistent with the divine perfections and with the representations of Scripture. As God acts everywhere, He is present everywhere; for, as the theologians say, a being can no more act where he is not than when he is not.
The older and later theologians agree in this view of the divine immensity and omnipresence. Augustine25 says God is not to be regarded as everywhere diffused, as the air or the light: “Sed in solo coelo totus, et in sola terra totus, et in coelo et in terra totus, et nullo contentus loco, sed in seipso ubique totus.” Thomas Aquinas says,26 Deus “est in omnibus per potentiam, in quantum omnia ejus potestati subduntur; est per praesentiam in omnibus, in quantum omnia nuda sunt et aperta oculis ejus. Est in omnibus per essentiam in quantum adest omnibus ut causa essendi sicut dictum est.” Quenstedt says,27 “Est Deus ubique illocaliter, impartibiliter, efficaciter; non definitive ut spiritus, non circumscriptive ut corpora, sed repletive citra sui multiplicationem, extensionem, divisionem, inclusionem, aut commixtionem more modoque divino incomprehensibili.” The Bible teaches the infinitude of God, as involving his immensity and omnipresence, in the clearest terms. He is said to fill all in all, i. e., the universe in all its parts. (Eph. i. 23.) “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” (Jer. ixiii. 23, 24.) “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” (Ps. cxxxix. 7-12.) It is “in Him we (i. e., all creatures) live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts xvii. 28.) Everywhere in the Old and in the New Testamnent, God is represented as a spiritual Being, without form, invisible, whom no man hath seen or can see; dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, and full of glory; as not only the creator, and preserver, but as the governor of all things; as everywhere present, and everywhere imparting life, and securing order; present in every blade of grass, yet guiding Arcturus in his course, marshalling the stars as a host, calling them by their names; present also in every human soul, giving it understanding, endowing it with gifts, working in it both to will and to do. The human heart is in his hands and He turneth it even as the rivers of water are turned. Wherever, throughout the universe, there is evidence of mind in material causes, there, according to the Scriptures, is God, controlling and guiding those causes to the accomplishment of his wise designs. He is in all, and over all things; yet essentially different from all, being over all, independent, and infinitely exalted. This immensity and omnipresence of God, therefore, is the ubiquity of the divine essence, and consequently of the divine power, wisdom, and goodness. As the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, so also are we always surrounded and sustained by God. It is thus that He is infinite in his being, without absorbing all created beings into his own essence, but sustaining all in their individual subsistence, and in the exercise of their own powers.
§ 6. Eternity.
A. Scriptural Doctrine.
The infinitude of God relatively to space, is his immensity or omnipresence; relatively to duration, it is his eternity. As He is free from all the limitations of space, so He is exalted above all the limitations of time. As He is not more in one place than in another, but is everywhere equally present, so He does not exist during one period of duration more than another. With Him there is no distinction between the present, past, and future; but all things are equally and always present to Him. With Him duration is an eternal now. This is the popular and the Scriptural view of God’s eternity. “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. xc. 2.) “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” (Ps. cii. 25-27.) He is “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity.” (Is. lvii. 15.) “I am the first and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.” (Is. xliv. 6.) “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” (Ps. xc. 4.) “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pet. iii. 8.) He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” (Heb. xiii. 8.) God is He “which is [ever is], and which was, and which is to come.” (Rev. i. 4.) Throughout the Bible He is called the eternal or everlasting God; who only hath immortality. The primal revelation of Himself to his covenant people was as the “I am.”
What is taught in these and similar passages, is, first, that God is without beginning of years or end of days. He is, and always has been, and always will be; and secondly, that to Him there is neither past nor future; that the past and the future are always and equally present to Him.
B. Philosophical View.
These are Scriptural facts, and necessarily follow from the nature of God as self-existent, infinite, and immutable. With these representations the teaching of theologians for the most part agrees. Thus Augustine says: “Fuisse et futurum esse non est in ea [scil. vita divina], sed esse solum, quoniam aeterna est: nam fuisse et futurumn esse non est aeternum.”28 “Nec tu tempore tempora praecedis, alioquin non omnia tempora praecederes sed praecedis omnia praeterita celsitudine semper praesentis aeternitatis; et superas omnia futura, quia illa futura sunt et cum venerint praeterita erunt; tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui non deficiunt.”29 Aquinas, to the same effect says, “AEternitas est tota simul.”30 Or, as the schoolmen generally were accustomed to say, “In aeternitate est unicum instans semper praesens et persistens;” or, as they otherwise expressed it, “Eternitas est interminabilis vitae simul et perfecta possessio.” The same view of this attribute is given by the later theologians. Thus Quenstedt says, “AEternitas Dei est duratio vel permanentia essentiae divinae interminabilis, sine principio et fine carens, et indivisibilis, omnem omnino successionem excludens.”31
The only thing open to question in these statements is, the denial of all succession in the divine consciousness. Our idea of eternity is arrived at from our idea of time. We are conscious of existence in space, and we are conscious of protracted or continuous existence. The ideas of space and duration are necessarily given in the consciousness of continuous existence. We see also that events succeed each other, that their occurrence is separated by a longer or shorter period of duration, just as bodies are separated by a greater or less interval in space. We therefore know, from consciousness or from experience, of no kind of duration which is not successive. Instead of saying, as is commonly done, that time is duration measured by succession, which supposes that duration is antecedent to that by which it is measured, and independent of it, it is maintained by some that duration without succession is inconceivable and impossible. As space is defined to be “negation betwixt the boundary-lines of form,” so time is said to be “the negation betwixt the boundary-points of motion.” Or, in other words, time is “the interval which a body in motion marks in its transit from one point of space to another.”32 Hence, if there be no bodies having form, there is no space; and if there is no motion, there is no time. “If all things were annihilated, time as well as space must he annihilated; for time is dependent on space. If all things were annihilated, there could be no transition, no succession of one object with respect to another; for there would be no object in being, — all would be perfect emptiness, nothingness, non-being-ness. Under an entire annihilation, there could be neither space nor time.”33 The same writer34 elsewhere says, “Were the earth, as well as the other globes of space, annihilated, much more would time be annihilated therewith.”35 All this, however, is to be understood, it is said, of “objective time, that is, of time as dependent upon created material conditions.”36 As objective timelessness follows from the annihilation of material existences, so timelessness as regards thinking personalities is conceivable only on the destruction of thought. “We have seen that there can be a state of timelessness for material creation, only by destroying its operation, that is, its attribute of motion: precisely in analogy therewith, there can be a state of timelessness for intellectual creation, only by destroying the laws of intellect, that is, its operation of thinking.”37If, therefore, God be a person, or a thinking Being, He cannot be timeless; there must be succession; one thought or state must follow another. To deny this, it is said, is to deny the personality of God. The dictum, therefore, of the schoolmen, and of the theologians, that eternity precludes succession — that it is a persistent, unmoving Now — is according to this repudiated.
There are, however, two senses in which succession is denied to God. Time first has reference to external events. They are ever present to the mind of God. He views them in all their relations, whether causal or chronological. He sees how they succeed each other in time, as we see a passing pageant, all of which we may take in in one view. In this there is perhaps nothing which absolutely transcends our comprehension. The second aspect of the subject concerns the relation of succession to the thoughts and acts of God. When we are ignoramit, it is wise to be silent. We have no right to affirm or deny, when we cannot know what our affirmation or denial may involve or imply. We know that God is constantly producing new effects, effects which succeed each other in time; but we do not know that these effects are due to successive exercises of the divine efficiency. It is, indeed, incomprehensible to us how it should be otherwise. The miracles of Christ were due to the immediate exercise of the divine efficiency. We utter words to which we can attach no meaning, when we say that these effects were due, not to a contemporaneous act or volition of the divine mind, but to an eternal act, if such a phrase be not a solecism. In like manner we are confounded when we are told that our prayers are not heard and answered in time — that God is timeless — that what He does in hearing and answering prayer, and in his daily providence, He does from eternity. It is certain that God is subject to all the limitations of personality, if there be any. But as such limitations are the conditions of his being a person and not a mere involuntary force, they are the conditions of his infinite perfection. As constant thought and activity are involved in the very nature of a spirit, these must belong to God; and so far as thinking and acting involve succession, succession must belong to God. There are mysteries connected with chronological succession, in our nature, which we cannot explain. We know that in dreams months may be compressed into moments, and moments extended to months, so far as our consciousness is concerned. We know that it often happens to those near death, that all the past becomes instantly present. Had God so constituted us that memory was as vivid as present consciousness, there would to us be no past, so far as our personal existence is concerned. It is not impossible that, hereafter, memory may become a consciousness of the past; that all we ever thought, felt, or did, may be ever present to the mind; that everything written on that tablet is indelible. Persons who, by long residence in foreign countries, have entirely lost all knowledge of their native language, have been known to speak it fluently, and understand it perfectly, when they came to die. Still more wonderful is the fact that uneducated persons, hearing passages read in an unknown language (Greek or Hebrew, for example), have, years after, when in an abnormal, nervous state, repeated those passages correctly, without understanding their meaning. If unable to comprehend ourselves, we should not pretend to be able to comprehend God. Whether we can understand how there can be succession in the thoughts of Him who inhabits eternity or not, we are not to deny that God is an intelligent Being, that He actually thinks and feels, in order to get over the difficulty. God is a person, and all that personality implies must be true of Him.
Modern Philosophical Views.
The modern philosophy teaches that “Die Ewigkeit ist die Einheit in dem Unterschiede der Zeitmomente — Ewigkeit und Zeit verhalten sich wie die Substanz und deren Accidentien.”38 That is, Eternity is the unity underlying the successive momnents of time, as substance is the unity underlying the accidents which are its manifestations. Schleiermacher’s illustration is borrowed from our consciousness. We are conscious of an abiding, unchanging self, which is the subject of our ever changing thoughts and feelings. By the eternity of God, therefore, is meant nothing more than that He is the ground-being of which the universe is the ever changing phenonmenon. The eternity of God is only one phase of his universal causality. “Unter der Ewigkeit Gottes verstehen wir die mit allem Zeitlichen auch die Zeit selbst bedingende schlechthin zeitlose Ursachlichkeit Gottes.”39 To attain this philosophical view of eternity, we must accept the philosophical view of the nature of God upon which it is founded, namely, that God is merely the designation of that unknown and unknowable something of which all other things are the manifestations. To give up the living, personal God of the Bible and of the heart, is an awful sacrifice to specious, logical consistency. We believe what we cannot understand. We believe what the Bible teaches as facts; that God always is, was, and ever will be, immutably the same; that all things are ever present to his view; that with Him there is neither past nor future; but nevertheless that He is not a stagnant ocean, but ever living, ever thinking, ever acting, and ever suiting his action to the exigencies of his creatures, and to the accomplishment of his infinitely wise designs. Whether we can harmonize these facts or not, is a matter of minor importance. We are constantly called upon to believe that things are, without being able to tell how they are, or even how they can be.
The immutability of God is intimately connected with his immensity and eternity, and is frequently included with them in the Scriptural statements concerning his nature. Thus, when it is said, He is the First and the Last; the Alpha and Omega, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; or when in contrast with the ever changing and perishing world, it is said: “They shall be changed, but thou art the same;” it is not his eternity more than his immutability that is brought into view. As an infinite and absolute Being, self-existent and absolutely independent, God is exalted above all the causes of and even above the possibility of change. Infinite space and infinite duration cannot change. They must ever be what they are. So God is absolutely immutable in his essence and attributes. He can neither increase nor decrease. He is subject to no process of development, or of self-evolution. His knowledge and power can never be greater or less. He can never be wiser or holier, or more righteous or more merciful than He ever has been and ever must be. He is no less immutable in his plans and purposes. Infinite in wisdom, there can be no error in their conception; infinite in power, there can be no failure in their accomplishment. He is “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James i. 17.) “God is not a man that He should lie; neither the son of man that He should repent; hath He said and shall He not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Num. xxiii. 19.) “I am the LORD, I change not.” (Mal. iii. 6.) “The counsel of the LORD standeth forever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (Ps. xxxiii. 11.) “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” (Prov. xix. 21.) “The LORD of Hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” (Is. xiv. 24.) “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Is. xlvi. 9, 10.) Those passages of Scripture in which God is said to repent, are to be interpreted on the same principle as those in which He is said to ride upon the wings of the wind, or to walk through the earth. These create no difficulty.
Theologians, in their attempts to state, in philosophical language, the doctrine of the Bible on the unchangeableness of God, are apt to confound immutability with immobility. In denying that God can change, they seem to deny that He can act. Augustine says, on this subject: “Non invenies in Deo aliquid mutabilitatis; non aliquid, quod aliter nunc sit, aliter paulo ante fuerit. Nam ubi invenis aliter et aliter, facta est ibi quaedam mors: mors enim est, non esse quod fuit.”40 Quenstedt uses language still more open to objection, when he says that the immutability of God is “Perpetua essentiae divinae et omnium ejus perfectionum identitas, negans omnem omnino motum cum physicum, tum ethicum.”41 Turrettin is more cautious, and yet perhaps goes too far. He says: “Potestas variandi actus suos, non est principium mutabilitatis in se, sed tantum in objectis suis; nisi intelligatur de variatione internorum suorum actuum, quos voluntas perfecta non variat, sed imperfecta tantum.”42 The clause italicized in the above quotation assumes a knowledge of the nature of God to which man has no legitimate claim. It is in vain for us to presume to understand the Almighty to perfection. We know that God is immutable in his being, his perfections, and his purposes; and we know that He is perpetually active. And, therefore, activity and immutability must be compatible; and no explanation of the latter inconsistent with the former ought to be admitted.
The Absolute Attributes of God not inconsistent with Personality.
These attributes of infinity, eternity, and immutability, are freely admitted by the modern philosophy to belong to the absolute Being. But it is maintained that such a Being cannot be a person. Personality implies self-consciousness. Self-consciousness necessarily implies limitation, a distinction between the self and the not-self. Ohne Du kein Ich, — unless there be something objective and independent to which we stand opposed, as subject and object, there can be no consciousness of self. But nothing can be thus objective and independent in relation to the Absolute; and, therefore, the Absolute cannot have any consciousness of self, and consequently cannot be a personal Being. We have already seen (chap. iv.) that this objection is founded on an arbitrary definition of the Infinite and Absolute. It assumes that the Infinite must be all, and that the Absolute must be alone, without relation to anything out of itself. It is here only necessary to remark, in reference to the objection, (1.) That it may be admitted as a fact that the slumbering consciousness of self in the human soul is awakened and developed by contact with what is not only external to itself but also independent of it. But God is not subject to that law. He is eternally perfect and immutable; having in Himself the plenitude of life. There is, therefore, no analogy between the cases, and no ground for inferring in this case that what is true in us, who begin life as an undeveloped germ, must be true in relation to God. (2.) In the second place, we have no right to assume that even with regard to a finite intelligence created in the perfection of its being, self-consciousness is dependent on what is independent of itself. Such a being would of necessity be conscious of its own feelings; for thought is a state of consciousness in an intelligent being. If God, therefore, can make an intelligent being in the perfection of its limited nature, it would be self-conscious even were it left alone in the universe. (3.) Admitting it to be true that “without a Thou there can be no I,” we know that, according to the Scriptures and the faith of the Church universal, there are in the unity of the Godhead three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit; so that from eternity the Father can say I, and the Son Thou.
We must abide by the teachings of Scripture, and refuse to subordinate their authority and the intuitive convictions of our moral and religious nature to the arbitrary definitions of any philosophical system. The Bible everywhere teaches that God is an absolute Being, in the sense of being self-existent, necessary, independent, immutable, eternal, and without limitation or necessary relation to anything out of Himself. It teaches moreover that He is infinite; not in the sense of including all being, all power, all knowledge in Himself, to the exclusion of all other intelligent agents; but in the sense that no limit can be assigned to his being or perfections, other than that which arises out of his own perfection itself. He would cease to be infinite could He be unwise or untrue. It is to be remembered that God is infinite and absolute as a spirit, and a spirit from its nature is living, active, intelligent, self-conscious, and personal.
A. Its Nature.
By knowledge is meant the intellectual apprehension of truth. It supposes a subject and object; an intelligent subject that apprehends, and something true that is apprehended.
So far as we are concerned, knowledge is either intuitive or discursive. Our senses give us immediate knowledge of their appropriate objects; the understanding perceives intuitively primary truths; our moral and aesthetic nature gives us the immediate cognition of things right or wrong, and beautiful or deformed. Most of our knowledge, however, is derived ab extra, by instruction, observation, comparison, deduction, etc. In all cases there is the distinction between the mind which perceives and the object which is perceived.
Such being the nature of knowledge, can there be knowledge in God? Can there be this distinction between subject and object in an absolute and infinite Being? Not only are the wicked and the worldly disposed to think that God cannot know; that either He is too exalted to take cognizance of earthly things; or that it is impossible even for an infinite mind to embrace the universe and all its perpetual changes in his mental vision; but the possibility of knowledge, in the ordinary and proper sense of the word, is expressly denied to God by a large class of philosophers, and virtually even by many theologians of the highest rank in the history of the Church.
The Pantheistic Theory precludes the possibility of Knowledge of God
1. As, according to the pantheistic theory, the universe is the existence form of God, as the infinite comes to intelligent consciousness and life only in the finite, there is and can be no knowledge in the infinite as distinguished from the finite. God lives only so far as finite beings live; he thinks and knows only so far as they think and know. Omniscience is only the sum or aggregate of the intelligence of the transient forms of finite beings. All this, as even Hamilton and Mansel admit, necessarily flows from the idea of an absolute Being which precludes the possibility of any such conditions or relations as are involved in consciousness or intelligence. Strauss therefore says:43 “Not in Himself, but in finite intelligences is God omniscient, which together constitute the fulness or completeness of all the possible forms or degrees of knowledge.” And Spinoza says:44 “Intellectus et voluntas, qui Dei essentiam constituerent, a nostro intellectu et voluntate toto coelo differe deberent, nec in ulla re, praeterquam in nomine, convenire possent; non aliter scilicet, quam inter se conveniunt canis, signum coeleste, et canis, animal latrans.” This subject was considered in the chapter on Pantheism.
Knowledge and Power not to be confounded.
2. The possibility of knowledge in God is virtually denied by those who deny any distinction between knowledge and power. Knowledge, which is power, ceases to be knowledge; and therefore if omniscience is only a different name for omnipotence, it ceases to be a distinct attribute of God. It makes little difference whether we expressly deny a given perfection to God, or whether we so determine it as to make it mean nothing distinctive. It is deeply to be regretted that not only the Fathers, but also the Lutheran and Reformed theologians, after renouncing the authority of the schoolmen, almost immediately yielded themselves to their speculations. Instead of determining the nature of the divine attributes from the representations of Scripture and from the constitution of man as the image of God, and from the necessities of our moral and religious nature, they allowed themselves to be controlled by apriori speculations as to the nature of the infinite and absolute. Even Augustine, as before stated, says: “Nos ista, qum fecisti videmus, quia sunt: tu autem quia vides ea, sunt.”45 And Scotus Erigena says,46 “Voluntas illius et visio et essentia anum est.”47 . . . . “Visio Dei totius universitatis est conditio. Non enim aliud est ei videre, aliud facere; sed visio illius voluntas ejus est, et voluntas operatio.” Thomas Aquinas also says,48 “Deus per intellectum suum causat res, cum suum esse sit suum intelligere. Unde necesse est, quod sua scientia sit causa rerum.”
The Lutheran and Reformed theologians represent God as simplicissima simplicitas, admitting of no distinction between faculty and act, or between one attribute and another. Thus Gerhard says: “Deus est ipsum esse subsistens, omnibus modis indeterminatum.”49 “Solus Deus summe simplex est, ut nec actus et potentiae, nec esse et essentiae compositio ipsi competat.”50 “Essentia, bonitas, potentia, sapientia, justitia, et reliqua attributa omnia sunt in Deo realiter unum.”51 He also says: “In Deo idem est esse et intelligere et velle.” In like manner the Reformed theologian Heidegger52 says: “Voluntas ab intellectu non differt, quia intelligendo vult et volendo intelligit. Intelligere et velle ejus idemque perpetuus indivisus actus.” This does not mean simply that in an intelligent being, every act of the will is an intelligent act. He knows while he wills, and knows what he wills. The meaning is, that knowledge and power in God are identical. To know a thing is, and to will it, are the same undivided and perpetual act. From this it would seem to follow, that as God knows from eternity He creates from eternity; and that “all He knows, is.” We are thus led, by these speculations, into pantheistical views of the nature of God and of his relation to the world.
This mode of representation is carried still further by the modern philosophical theologians. With Schleiermacher, all the attributes of God are virtually merged into the idea of causality. With him God is ens summum prima causa.53He says that God’s thinking and willing are the same, and that his omnipotence and omimiscience are identical. When we say that He is omnipotent, we only mean that He is the cause of all that is. And when we say that He is omniscient, we only mean that He is an intelligent cause. His power and knowledge are limited to the actual. The possible is nothing; it is the object neither of knowledge nor of power. “Gott,” says Schleiermacher, “weiss Alles was ist; und Alles ist, was Gott weiss und dieses beides ist nicht zweierlei sondern einerlei, weil sein Wissen und sein allmachtiges Wollen eines und dasselbe ist,” i. e., God knows all that is, and all is that God knows. God, therefore, is limited to the world, which is the phenomenon of which He is the substance.
Another philosophical view of this subject, adopted even by those who repudiate the pantheistic system and maintain that God and the world are distinct, is, that as God is immanent in the world, there is in Him no difference between self-consciousness and world-consciousness, as they express it, i. e., between God’s knowledge of Himself and his knowledge of the world. They therefore define omniscience by saying, “Insofern Gott gedacht wird als die Welt mit seinem Bewusstseyn umfassend, nennen wir ihn den Allwissenden.”54 That is, “So far as we conceive of God as embracing the world in his consciousness, we call him omniscient.” Whatever such language may mean to those who use it, to the ordinary mind it conveys the revolting idea that all the sins of men enter into the consciousness of God.
The Doctrine of the Scriptures on this Subject.
The Scriptural view of this subject, which distinguishes the attributes in God as distinct, and assumes that knowledge in Him, in its essential nature, is what knowledge is in us, does not conflict with the unity and simplicity of God as a spiritual being. There is a sense in which knowledge and power, intellect and will, may be said to be identical in man. They are not different substances. They are different modes in which the life or activity of the soul manifests itself. So in God when we conceive of Him as a spirit, we do not think of Him as a compound being, but as manifesting his infinite life and activity, in knowing, willing, and doing. What, therefore, we must hold fast to, if we would hold fast to God, is, that knowledge in God is knowledge, and not power or eternity; that it is what knowledge is in us, not indeed in its modes and objects, but in its essential nature. We must remove from our conceptions of the divine attributes all the limitations and imperfections which belong to the corresponding attributes in us; but we are not to destroy their nature. And in determining what is, and what is not, consistent with the nature of God as an infinitely perfect being, we are to be controlled by the teachings of the Scriptures, and by the necessities (or laws) of our moral and religions nature, and not by our speculative notions of the Infinite and Absolute. God, therefore, does and can know in the ordinary and proper sense of that word. He is an ever present eye, to which all things are perfectly revealed. “All things,” says the Apostle, “are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. iv. 13.) “The darkness and the light are both alike” to Him. (Ps. cxxxix. 12.) “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Ps. xciv. 9.) “O Lord thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and my up-rising, thou understandest my thought afar off.” (Ps. cxxxix. 1, 2.) “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov. xv. 3.) “Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?” (Prov. xv. 11.) “Great is our Lord and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Ps. cxlvii. 5.) “O house of Israel I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.” (Ezek. xi. 5.) “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts. xv. 18.) “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matt. x. 30.)
This knowledge of God is not only all-comprehending, but it is intutive and immutable. He knows all things as they are, being as being, phenomena as phenomena, the possible as possible, the actual as actual, the necessary as necessary, the free as free, the past as past, the present as present, the future as future. Although all things are ever present in his view, yet He sees them as successive in time. The vast procession of events, thoughts, feelings, and acts, stands open to his view.
This infinite knowledge of God is not only clearly and constantly asserted in Scripture, but is also obviously included in the idea of an absolutely perfect being. Such a being cannot be ignorant of anything; his knowledge can neither be increased nor diminished. The omniscience of God follows also from his omnipresence. As God fills heaven and earth, all things are transacted in his presence. He knows our thoughts far better than they are known to ourselves. This plenitude of divine knowledge is taken for granted in all acts of worship. We pray to a God who, we believe, knows our state and wants, who hears what we say, and who is able to meet all our necessities. Unless God were thus omniscient, He could not judge the world in righteousness. Faith in this attribute in its integrity is, therefore, essential even to natural religion.
B. The Objects of Divine Knowledge.
Various distinctions are made by theologians as to the objects of the divine knowledge.
1. God is said to know Himself and all things out of Himself. This is the foundation of the distinction between the scientia necessarta and the scientia libera. God knows Himself by the necessity of his nature; but as everything out of Himself depends for its existence or occurrence upon his will, his knowledoe of each thing as an actual occurrence is suspended on his will, and in that sense is free. Creation not being necessary, it depended on the will of God whether the universe as an object of knowledge should exist or not. This distinction is not of much importance. And it is liable to the objection that it makes the knowledge of God dependent. Being the cause of all things, God knows everything by knowing Himself; all things possible, by the knowledge of his power, and all things actual, by the knowledge of his own purposes.
2. This distinction between the possible and actual, is the foundation of the distinction between the knowledge of simple intelligence and the knowledge of vision. The former is founded on God’s power, and the latter upon his will. This only means that, in virtue of his omniscient intelligence, He knows whatever infinite power can effect; and that from the consciousness of his own purposes, He knows what He has determined to effect or to permit to occur. This is a distinction which the modern philosophical theologians ignore. Nothing, according to their philosophy is possible, but the actual. All that can be, either is, or is to be. This follows from the idea of God as mere cause. He produces all that can be; and there is in Him no causality for what does not exist.
The Actual and the Possible.
It seems to be an inconsistency in those orthodox theologians who deny the distinction in God between knowledge and power, to admit, as they all do, the distinction between the actual and possible. For if God creates by thinking or knowing, if in Him, as they say, intelligere et facere idem est, then all he knows must be, and must be as soon as He knows or thinks it, i. e., from eternity. If, however, we retain the Scriptural idea of God as a spirit, who can do more than He does; if we ascribe to Him what we know to be a perfection in ourselves, namely, that our power exceeds our acts, that a faculty and the exercise of that faculty are not identical, then we can understand how God can know the possible as well as the actual. God is not limited to the universe, which of necessity is finite. God has not exhausted Himself in determining to cause the present order of things to be.
C. Scientia Media.
Intermediate between things possible and actual, some theologians assume a third class of events, namely, the conditionally future. They do not actually occur, but they would occur provided something else should occur. Had Christ come a thousand years sooner than the date of his actual advent, the whole history of the world would have been different. This is a popular mode of regarding the concatenation of events. It is constantly said, that if Cromwell had been permitted to leave England; or, if Napoleon had failed to escape from Elba, the state of Europe would have been very different from what it is at present. God, it is assumed, knows what would have been the sequence of events on any or every possible hypothesis. It is therefore said that there must be in God, besides the knowledge of simple intelligence by which He knows the possible, and the knowledge of vision by which He knows the actual, a scientia media, by which He knows the conditionally future. Illustrations of this form of knowledge, it is thought, are found in Scripture. In 1 Samuel xxiii. 11, it is said that David inquired of the Lord whether the men of Keilah would deliver him, should he remain among them, into the hands of Saul; and was answered that they would. Here, it is argued, the event was not merely possible, but conditionally certain. If David remained in Keilah, he certainly would have been delivered up. Thus our Lord said, that if his mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, the people of those cities would have repented. Here again is declared what would have happened, if something else had happened.
The Origin of this Distinction.
This distinction was introduced into theology by the Jesuit theologians Fonseca and Molina; by the latter in his work “De Concordia Providentiae et Gratiae Divinae cum Libero Arbitrio Hominis.” Their object was to reconcile the foreordination of God with the freedom of man, and to explain the reason why some, and not others, were elected to eternal life. God foresaw who would repent and believe, if they received the knowledge of the Gospel and the gift of the Spirit, and these He elected to salvation. This theory of a scientia media was, for a like purpose, adopted by the Lutheran and Remonstrant theologians, but was strenuously opposed by the Reformed or Augustinians. (1.) Because all events are included under the categories of the actual and possible; and, therefore, there is no room for such a class as events conditionally future. It is only possible, and not certain, how men would act under certain conditions, if their conduct be not predeterminmod, either by the purpose of God, or by their own decision already formed. Besides, it is the fundamental principle of the theologians who adopt this theory, or at least of many of them, that a free act must from its nature be uncertain as to its occurrence. A free agent, it is said, can always act contrary to any amount of influence brought to bear upon him, consistent with his free agency. But if free acts must be uncertain, they cannot be foreseen as certain under any conditions. (2.) The futurition of events, according to the Scriptures, depends on the foreordination of God, whc foreordains whatever comes to pass. There is no certainty, therefore, which does not depend on the divine purpose. (3.) The kind of knowledge which this theory supposes cannot belong to God, because it is inferential. It is deduced from a consideration of second causes and their influence, and therefore is inconsistent with the perfection of God, whose knowledge is not discursive, but independent and intuitive. (4.) This theory is inconsistent with the Scriptural doctrine of God’s providential government, as it assumes that the free acts of men are not under his control. (5.) It is contrary to the Scriptural doctrine, inasmuch as it supposes that election to salvation depends on the foresight of faith and repentance, whereas it depends on the good pleasure of God. (6.) The examples quoted from the Bible do not prove that there is a scientia media in God. The answer of God to David, about the men of Keilah, was simply a revelation of the purpose which they had already formed. Our Lord’s declaration concerning Tyre and Sidon was only a figurative mode of stating the fact that the men of his generation were more hardened than the inhabitants of those ancient cities. It is not denied that God knows all events in all possible combinationis and connections, but as nothing is certain but what he ordains to effect or permit, there can be no class of events conditionally future, and therefore there can be no scientia media. By conditionally future is meant what is suspended on a condition undetermined by God.
Among the objects of the divine kniowledge are the free acts of men. The Scriptures abundantly teach that such acts are foreknown. Such knowledge is involved in the prediction of events which either concern the free acts of men, or are dependent on them. If God be ignorant of how free agents will act, his knowledge must be limited, and it must be constantly increasing, which is altogether inconsistent with the true idea of his nature. His government of the world also, in that case, must be precarious, dependent, as it would then be on the unforeseen conduct of men. The Church, therefore, in obedience to the Scripuires, has, almost with one voice, professed faith in God’s foreknowledge of the free acts of his creatures.
The Socinians, however, and some of the Remonstrants, unable to reconcile this foreknowledge with human liberty, deny that free acts can be foreknown. As the omnipotence of God is his ability to do whatever is possible, so his omniscience is his knowledge of everything knowable. But as free acts are in their nature uncertain, as they may or may not be, they cannot be known before they occur. Such is the argument of Socinus. This whole difficulty arises out of the assumption that contingency is essential to free agency. If an act may be certain as to its occurrence, and yet free as to the mode of its occurrence, the difficulty vanishes. That free acts may be absolutely certain, is plain, because they have in a multitude of cases been predicted. It was certain that the acts of Christ would be holy, yet they were free. The continued holiness of the saints in heaven is certain, and yet they are perfectly free. The foreknowledge of God is inconsistent with a false theory of free agency, but not with the true doctrine on that subject.
After Augustine, the common way of meeting the difficulty of reconciling foreknowledge with liberty, was to represent it as merely subjective. The distinction between knowledge and foreknowledge is only in us. There is no such difference in God. “Quid est praescientia,” asks Augustine, “nisi scientia futurorum? Quid autem futurum est Deo, qui omnia supergreditur tempora? Si enim scientia Dei res ipsas habet, non sunt ei futurae, sed praesentes, ac per hoc non jam praescientia, sed tantum scientia dicipotest.”55
E. The Wisdom of God.
Wisdom and knowledge are intimately related. The former is manifested in the selection of proper ends, and of proper means for the accomplishment of those ends. As there is abundant evidence of design in the works of nature, so all the works of God declare his wisdom. They show, from the most minute to the greatest, the most wonderful adaptation of means to accomplish the high end of the good of his creatures and the manifestation of his own glory. So also, in the whole course of history, we see evidence of the controlling power of God making all things work together for the best interests of his people, and the promotion of his kingdom upon earth. It is, however, in the work of redemption that this divine attribute is specially revealed. It is by the Church, that God has determined to manifest, through all ages, to principalities and powers, his manifold wisdom.
Of course those who deny final causes deny that there is any such attribute as wisdom in God. It is also said that the use of means to attain an end is a manifestation of weakness. It is further urged that it is derogatory to God, as it supposes that He needs or desires what He does not possess. Even Schleiermacher says: “Bei Gott is Allwissenheit und Weisheit so ganzlich einerlei, dass die Unterscheidung keinen Werth hat, die Weisheit ware nichts als auch wider absolute Lebendigkeit der Allmacht, also Alwissenheit.” Wisdom is omniscience, omniscience is omnipotence, omnipotence is simply causality of all that is. Thus God sinks into the mere cause or ground of all things. It is not thus the Scriptures speak. We are called on to worship, “The only wise God.” “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all,” is the devout exclamation of the Psalmist. (Ps. civ. 24.) And in contemplation of the work of redemption the Apostle exclaims, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. xi. 33.)
§9. The Will of God.
A. The Meaning of the Term.
If God is a spirit He must possess all the essential attributes of a spirit. Those attributes, according to the classification adopted by the older philosophers and theologians, fall under the heads of intelligence and will. To the former, are referred knowledge and wisdom; to the latter, the power of self-determination, efficiency (in the case of God, omnipotence), and all moral attributes. In this wide sense of the word, the will of God includes: (1.) The will in the narrow sense of the word. (2.) His power. (3.) His love and all his moral perfections. In our day, generally but not always, the word “will” is limited to the faculty of self-determination. And even the older theologians in treating of the will of God treat only of his decrees or purposes. In their definitions, however, they take the word in its wide sense. Thus Calovius56 says, “Voluntas Dei est, qua Deus tendit in bonum ab intellectu cognitum.” And Quenstedt defines it as “ipsa Dei essentia cum, connotatione inclinationis ad bonum concepta.”57 Turrettin says, the object of the intellect is the true; the object of the will, the good. Hence it is said, that God wills Himself necessarily, and all things out of Himself freely. Although the word seems to be taken in different senses in the same sentence, God’s willing Himself means that He takes complacency in his own infinite excellence: his willing things out of Himself, means his purpose that they should exist. Although the theologians start with the wide definition of the word, yet in the prosecution of the subject they regard the will as simply the faculty of self-determination, and the determinations themselves. That is, the power to will, and volitions or purposes. It is altogether better to confine the word to this its proper meaning, and not make it include all the forms of feeling involving approbation or delight.
God then as a spirit is a voluntary agent. We are authorized to ascribe to Him the power of self-determination. This the Bible everywhere does. From the beginning to the end, it speaks of the will of God, of his decrees, purposes, counsels, and commands. The will is not only an essential attribute of our spiritual being, but it is the necessary condition of our personality. Without the power of rational self-determination we should be as much a mere force as electricity, or magnetism, or the principle of vegetable life. It is, therefore, to degrade God below the sphere of being which we ourselves occupy, as rational creatures, to deny to Him the power of self-determination; of acting or not acting, according to his own good pleasure.
B. The Freedom of the Divine Will.
The will of God is free in the highest sense of the word. An agent is said to be free, (1.) When he is at liberty to act or not to act, according to his good pleasure. This is liberty in acting. (2.) He is free as to his volitions, when they are determined by his own sense of what is wise, right, or desirable.
Freedom is more than spontaneity. The affections are spontaneous, but are not free. Loving and hating, delighting in and abhorring, do not depend upon the will.
God is free in acting, as in creating and preserving, because these acts do not arise from the necessity of his nature. He was free to create or not create; to continue the universe in existence or to cause it to cease to be. He is free also in keeping his promises, because his purpose so to do is determined by his own infinite goodness. It is indeed inconceivable that God should violate his word. But this only proves that moral certainty may be as inexorable as necessity.
C. The Decretive and Preceptive Will of God.
The decretive will of God concerns his purposes, and relates to the futurition of events. The preceptive will relates to the rule of duty for his rational creatures. He decrees whatever he purposes to effect or to permit. He prescribes, according to his own will, what his creatures should do, or abstain from doing. The decretive and preceptive will of God can never be in conflict. God never decrees to do, or to cause others to do, what He forbids. He may, as we see He does, decree to permit what He forbids. He permits men to sin, although sin is forbidden. This is more scholastically expressed by the theologians by saying, A positive decretive will cannot consist with a negative preceptive will; i. e., God cannot decree to make men sin. But a negative decretive will may consist with an affirmative preceptive will; e. g., God may command men to repent and believe, and yet, for wise reasons, abstain from giving them repentance.
The distinction between voluntas beneplaciti et signi, as those terms are commonly used, is the same as that between the deeretive and preceptive will of God. The one referring to his decrees, founded on his good pleasure; the other to his commands, founded on what He approves or disapproves.
By the secret will of God, is meant his purposes, as still hidden in his own mind; by his revealed will, his precepts and his purposes, as far as they are made known to his creatures.
D. Antecedent and Consequent Will.
These terms, as used by Augustinians, have reference to the relation of the decrees to each other. In the order of nature the end precedes the means, and the purpose of the former is antecedent to the purpose of the latter. Thus it is said, that God by an antecedent will, determined on the manifestation of his glory; and by a consequent will, determined on the creation of the world as a means to that end.
By Lutherans and Remonstrants these terms are used in a very different sense. According to their views, God by an antecedent will determined to save all men; but, foreseeing that all would not repent and believe, by a subsequent will He determined to save those who he foresaw would believe. That is, He first purposed one thing and then another.
E. Absolute and Conditional Will.
These terms, when employed by Augustinians, have reference not so much to the purposes of God, as to the events which are decreed. The event, but not the purpose of God, is conditional. A maw reaps, if he sows. He is saved, if he believes. His reaping and salvation are conditional events. But the purpose of God is absolute. If He purposes that a man shall reap, He purposes that he shall sow; if He purposes that he shall be saved, He purposes that he shall believe. Anti-Augustinians, on the other hand, regard the purposes of God as conditional. He purposes the salvation of a man, if he believes. But whether he believes or not, is left undetermined; so that the purpose of God is suspended on a condition not under his control, or, at least, undecided. A father may purpose to give an estate to his son, if he be obedient; but whether the son will fulfil the condition is undetermined, and therefore the purpose of the father is undecided. It is, however, manifestly inconsistent with the perfection of God, that He should first will one thing and then another; nor can his purposes be dependent on the uncertainty of human conduct or events. These are questions, however, which belong to the consideration of the doctrine of decrees. They are mentioned here because these distinctions occur in all discussions concerning the Divine Will, with which the student of theology should be familiar.
In this place it is sufficient to remark, that the Greek word qe,lw, and the corresponding English verb, to will, sometimes express feeling, and sometimes a purpose. Thus in Matt. xxvii. 48, the words eiv qe,lei auvto,nare correctly rendered, “if he delight in him.” Comp. Ps. xxii. 8. It is in this sense the word is used, when it is said that God wills all men to be saved. He cannot be said to purpose or determine upon any event which is not to come to pass. A judge may will the happiness of a man whom he sentences to death. He may will him not to suffer when he wills him to suffer. The infelicity in such forms of expression is that the word “will” is used in different senses. In one part of the sentence it means desire, and in the other purpose. It is perfectly consistent, therefore, that God, as a benevolent Being, should desire the happiness of all men, while he purposes to save only his own people.
F. The Will of God as the Ground of Moral Obligation.
The question on this subject is, Whether things are right or wrong, simply because God commands or forbids them? Or, does He command or forbid them, because they are right or wrong for some other reason than his will? According to some, the only reason that a thing is right, and therefore obligatory, is, that it tends to promote the greatest happiness, or the greatest good of the universe. According to others, a thing is right which tends to promote our own happiness; and for that reason, and for that reason alone, it is obligatory. If vice would make us happier than virtue, we should be bound to be vicious. It is a more decorous mode of expressing substantially the same theory, to say that the ground of moral obligation is a regard to the dignity of our own nature. It makes little difference whether it be our own dignity of our own happiness, which we are bound to regard. It is self, in either case, to whom our whole allegiance is due. Others, again, place the ground of moral obligation in the fitness of things, which they exalt above God. There is, they affirm, an eternal and necessary difference between right and wrong, to which God, it is said, is as much bound to be conformed as are his rational creatures.
The common doctrine of Christians on this subject is, that the will of God is the ultimate ground of moral obligation to all rational creatures. No higher reason can be assigned why anything is right than that God commands it. This means, (1.) That the divine will is the only rule for deciding what is right and what is wrong. (2.) That his will is that which binds us, or that to which we are bound to be conformed. By the word “will” is not meant any arbitrary purpose, so that it were conceivable that God should will right to be wrong, or wrong right. The will of God is the expression or revelation of his nature, or is determined by it; so that his will, as revealed, makes known to us what infinite wisdom and goodness demand. Sometimes things are right simply because God has commanded them; as circumcision, and other ritual institutions were to the Jews. Other things are right because of the present constitution of things which God has ordained; such as the duties relating to property, and the permanent relations of society. Others, again, are right because they are demanded by the immutable excellence of God. In all cases, however, so far as we are concerned, it is his will that binds us, and constitutes the difference between right and wrong; his will, that is, as the expression of his infinite perfection. So that the ultimate foundation of moral obligation is the nature of God.
§10. The Power of God.
A. The Nature of Power, or, The Origin of the Idea.
We get the idea of power from our own consciousness. That is, we are conscious of the ability of producing effects. Power in man is confined within very narrow limits. We can change the current of our thoughts, or fix our attention on a particular object and we can move the voluntary muscles of our body. Beyond this our direct power does not extend. It is from this small measure of efficiency that all the stores of human knowledge and all the wonders of human art are derived. It is only our thoughts, volitions, and purposes, together with certain acts of the body, that are immediately subject to the will. For all other effects we must avail ourselves of the use of means. We cannot will a book, a picture, or a house into existence. The production of such effects requires protracted labor and the use of diverse appliances.
It is by removing all the limitations of power, as it exists in us, that we rise to the idea of the omnipotence of God. We do not thus, however, lose the idea itself. Almighty power does not cease to be power. We can do very little. God can do whatever He wills. We, beyond very narrow limits, must use means to accomplish our ends. With God means are unnecessary. He wills, and it is done. He said, Let there be light; and there was light. He, by a volition created the heavens and the earth. At the volition of Christ, the winds ceased, and there was a great calm. By an act of the will He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, and raised the dead. This simple idea of the omnipotence of God, that He can do without effort, and by a volition, whatever He wills, is the highest conceivable idea of power, and is that which is clearly presented in the Scriptures. In Gen. xvii. 1, it is said, “I am the Almighty God.” The prophet Jeremiah exclaims, “Ah Lord God! behold thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power, and stretched out arm; and there is nothing too hard for thee.” (Jer. xxxii. 17.) God is said to have created all things by the breath of his mouth, and to uphold the universe by a word. Our Lord says, “With God all things are possible.” (Matt. xix. 26.) The Psalmist long before had said, “Our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He pleased.” (Ps. cxv. 3.) And again, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” (Ps. cxxxv. 6.) The Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and doeth his pleasure among the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth, is the tribute of adoration which the Scriptures everywhere render unto God, and the truth which they everywhere present as the ground of confidence to his people. This is all we know, and all we need to know on this subject: and here we might rest satified, were it not for the vain attempts of theologians to reconcile these simple and sublime truths of the Bible with their philosophical speculations.
C. The Negation of Power.
The sensuous school of philosophers deny that there is any real efficiency or power in existence. Their principle is, that all knowledge is derived from the senses; and consequently, that, as we cannot know anything of which the senses do not take cognizance, it is unphilosophical or unreasonable to admit the existence of anything else. Our senses, however, do not take cognizance of efficiency. It cannot be felt, or seen, or heard, or tasted. Therefore it does not exist. A cause is not that to which an effect is due, but simply that which uniformly precedes it. All we can know, and all we can rationally believe, is the facts which affect our senses, and the order of their sequence; which order, being uniform and necessary, has the character of law. This is the doctrine of causation proposed by Hume, Kant, Brown, Mill, and virtually by Sir William Hamilton; and it is this principle which lies at the foundation of the Positive Philosophy of Comte. Of course, if there be no such thing as power, there is no such attribute in God as omnipotence.
It is sufficient to say, in this connection, in reference to this theory, (1.) That it is contrary to every man’s consciousness. We are conscious of power, i. e., of the ability to produce effects. And consciousness has the same authority, to say the least, when it concerns what is within, as when it concerns what affects the senses. We are not more certain that our hand moves, than we are that we have the power to move, or not to move it, at pleasure. (2.) This theory contradicts the intuitive and indestructible convictions of the human mind. No man believes, or can believe really and permanently, that any change or effect can occur without an efficient cause. The fact that one event follows another, is not the ultimate fact. It is intuitively certain that there must be an adequate reason for that sequence. Such is the universal judgment of mankind. (3.) The argument, if valid against the reality of power, is valid against the existence of substance, of mind, and of God. This is admitted by the consistent advocates of the principle in question. Substance, mind, and God, are as little under the cognizance of the senses as power; and, therefore, if nothing is to be admitted but on the testimony of the senses, the existence of substance, mind, and God, must be denied. This principle, therefore, cannot be admitted without doing violence to our whole rational, moral, and religious nature. In other words, it cannot be admitted at all; for men cannot, permanently, either believe or act contrary to the laws of their nature.
D. Absolute Power.
By absolute power, as understood by the schoolmen and some of the later philosophers, is meant power free from all the restraints of reason and morality. According to this doctrine, contradictions, absurdities, and immoralities, are all within the compass of the divine power. Nay, it is said that God can annihilate Himself. On this subject Des Cartes says, Deus “non voluit tres angulos trianguli aequales esse duobus rectis, quia cognovit aliter fieri non posse. Sed contra . . . . quia voluit tres angulos trianguli necessario aequales esse duobus rectis, idcirco jam hoc verum est, et fieri aliter non potest, atque ita de reliquis.”58 This “summa indifferentia,” he says, “in Deo, summum est ejus omnipotentiae argumentam.”59
It is, however, involved in the very idea of power, that it has reference to the production of possible effects. It is no more a limitation of power that it cannot effect the impossible, than it is of reason that it cannot comprehend the absurd, or of infinite goodness that it cannot do wrong. It is contrary to its nature. Instead of exalting, it degrades God, to suppose that He can be other than He is, or that He can act contrary to infinite wisdom and love. When, therefore, it is said that God is omnipotent because He can do whatever He wills, it is to be remembered that his will is determined by his nature. It is certainly no limitation to perfection to say that it cannot be imperfect.
In this view of the omnipotence of God, the great body of the theologians, especially among the Reformed, agree. Thus Zwingle60 says: “Summa potentia non est nisi omnia possit, quantum ad legitimum posse attinet: nam malum facere aut se ipsum deponere aut in se converti hostiliter aut sibi ipsi contrarium esse posse impotentia est, non potentia.” Musculus,61 “Deus omnipotens, quia potest quae vult, quaeque ejus veritati, justitiae conveniunt.” Keckermann,62 “Absolute possibilia sunt, quae nec Dei naturae, nec aliarum rerum extra Deum essentiae contradicunt.” This scholastic doctrine of absolute power Calvin63 stigmatizes as profane, “quod . . . merito detestabile nobis esse debet.”
Potentia Absoluta and Potentia Ordinata.
There is a sense of the terms in which absolute power is generally recognized among theologians. A distinction is commonly made between the potentia absoluta and the potentia ordinata of God. By the latter is meant the efficiency of God, as exercised uniformly in the ordered operation of second causes; by the former, his efficiency, as exercised without the intervention of second causes. Creation, miracles, immediate revelation, inspiration, and regeneration, are to be referred to the potentia absoluta of God; all his works of providence to his potentia ordinata. This distinction is important, as it draws the line between the natural and supernatural, between what is due to the operation of natural causes, sustained and guided by the providential efficiency of God, and what is due to the immediate exercise of his power. This distinction, indeed, is rejected by the modern philosophy. God in creating and sustaining the world, does it as a whole. Nothing is isolated. There is no individual act, but only a general efficiency on the part of God; and, consequently, no particular event can be referred to his absolute power or immediate agency. Everything is natural. There can be no miracle, and no special providence.64
E. Confounding Will and Power.
Another perversion of the Scriptural doctrine on this subject is, that which denies any distinction between will and power, or faculty and act, in God. It is said that it is unphilosophical to say that God can do anything. We use the word “can” only in reference to difficulty to be overcome. When nothing stands in the way, when all opposition is precluded, then we no longer say, we can. It is, therefore, inconsistent with the nature of an absolute Being to say that He is able to do this or that.65 It is further denied that willing can be ascribed to God, if any difference be assumed between willing and doing. The ordinary definition of omnipotence, Potest quod vult, is to be rejected. It is admitted, that the distinction between will and power is unavoidable, if we determine the nature of God from the analogy of our constitution. As will and power are distinct in us, we are disposed to think they are distinct in Him. But this method of determining the attributes of God heads to the destruction of the true idea of an absolute being. In such a being, no such distinction can be admitted; and therefore, in relation to God there can be no distinction between the actual and the possible. Nothing is possible but the actual; and all that is possible becomes actual. Strauss66 says, after Schleiermacher,67 that by the omnipotence of God is to be understood “not only that all that is has its causality in God, but that everything is and occurs for which any causality in God exists.” Bruch68 says, that by the omnipotence of God is meant nothing more than that He is the original ground and cause of all things. He quotes Nitsch69 as saying, that “The idea of omnipotence is the repetition and application of the idea of God as creator of heaven and earth.” Nitsch, however, does not understand the passage in the sense put upon it; for he adds, in his note commenting on the dictum of Abelard, “Deus non potest facere aliquid praeter ea quae facit,” that, if this means that the actual exhausts the resources of God, it is to be rejected. The words of Abelard, nevertheless, correctly express the doctrine of the modern German school of theologians on this subject. Schleiermacher’s language on this point is explicit and comprehensive. “Alles ist ganz durch die gottliche Allmacht und ganz durch den Naturzusammenhang, nicht aber darf die erstere als Erganzung der letztern angesehen werden. Die Gesammtheit des endlichen Seins ist als vollkommene Darstellung der Allmacht zu denken, so dass alles wirklich ist und geschieht, wozu eine Productivitat in Gott ist. Damit fallt weg die Differenz des Wirklichen und Moglichen, des absoluten und hypothetischen. Wollens oder Konnens Gottes; denn dies fuhrt auf einen wirksamen und unwirksamen Willen und letzterer kann bei Gott unmoglich statt finden; so wenig als Konnen und Wollen getrennt sein konnen.” That is, “Everything is entirely through the divine omnipotence, and everything is through the course of nature. The former, however, must not be regarded as supplementary to the latter. The aggregate of finite things is the complete revelation of God’s omnipotence, so that everything is and occurs for which there is a productivity in God. Thus the difference between the actual and the possible, between the absolute and hypothetical willing and power of God, disappears, because this implies an operative and inoperative will, but the latter is impossible in God; just as little as willing and power can be separated.”70 This passage is quoted by Schweizer,71 who adopts the views which it presents.
This Doctrine Destroys our Knowledge of God.
In reference to this doctrine, it may be remarked, —
1. That it utterly confounds all our ideas of God. It renders all knowledge of Him impossible. If will and power are identical, then those words lose for us their meaning. We cannot know what God is, if this doctrine be true; and if we know not what He is, we cannot rationally worship, love, or trust Him.
2. The doctrine effectually destroys the personality of God. A person is a self-conscious, self-determining being. But in denying will to God, self-determination, and consequently personality, is denied to Him. This consequence is admitted by the advocates of this doctrine. “If in God,” says Strauss, “willing and power are identical, then there can be no freedom of the will in God, in the sense of the Church theologians, who hold that it was possible for God not to create the world, or to have created it other than it is. If there be no ability in God to do what He does not do, there can be no freedom of will or power of choice.” “Mit diesem Konnen fallt auch die Freiheit im Sinne eines Wahlvermogens hinweg.”72 This, however, it is said, is not the doctrine of fate; for fate supposes an ab extra necessity to which God is subject. If it does not teach fate, it at least teaches inexorable necessity. Spinoza says, “Ea res libera dicetur, quae ex sola suae naturae necessitate existit et a se sola ad agendum determinatur. Necessaria autem, vel potius coacta quae ab alio determinatur ad existendum et operandum certa ac determinata ratione.”73 And again,74 “Deum nullo modo fato subjicio, sed omnia inevitabili necessitate ex Dei natura sequi concipio.” In this sense the sun is free in shining. It shines from the necessity of its nature. We think from a like necessity; but we can think of one thing or another, changing the current of our thoughts at pleasure. And thus we are free in exercising the power of thought. This freedom is denied to God. He can think only in one way. And all his thoughts are creative. He does, therefore, what He does, from a necessity of his nature, and does all He is able to do. God, according to this doctrine, is not a personal Being.
3. The Scriptures constantly represent God as able to do whatever He wills. They recognize the distinction between the actual and the possible; between ability and act; between what God does, and what He is able to do. With Him all things are possible. He is able of stones to raise up children unto Abraham.. He can send me, says our Lord, twelve legions of angels.
4. As this is the doctrine of the Bible, it is the instinctive judgment of the human mind. It is a perfection in us, that we can do far more than we actually accomplish. With us the actual is not the measure of the possible.
5. It is, therefore, a limitation of God, a denial of his omnipotence, to say that He can do only what He actually brings to pass. There is infinitely more in God than simple causality of the actual.
It is consequently an erroneous definition of omnipotence to call it All-power, meaning thereby that all the efficiency in the universe is the efficiency of God; which is not only a pantheistic doctrine, but it makes the finite the measure of the infinite.
§ 11. Holiness of God.
This is a general term for the moral excellence of God. In I Sam. ii. 2, it is said, “There is none holy as the LORD;” no other Being absolutely pure, and free from all limitation in his moral perfection. “Thou Holy One of Israel,” is the form of address which the Spirit puts into the lips of the people of God. “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is Holy.” (Ps. xcix. 9.) “Holy and reverend is his name.” (Ps. cxi. 9.) “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” (Hab. i. 13.) “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for Thou only art Holy.” (Rev. xv. 4.) Holiness, on the one hand, implies entire freedom from moral evil; and, upon the other, absolute moral perfection. Freedom from impurity is the primary idea of the word. To sanctify is to cleanse; to be holy, is to be clean. Infinite purity, even more than infinite knowledge or infinite power, is the object of reverence. Hence the Hebrew word vAdq’, as used in Scripture, is often equivalent to venerandus. “The Holy One of Israel,” is He who is to be feared and adored. Seraphim round about the throne who cry day and night, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, give expression to the feelings of all unfallen rational creatures in view of the infinite purity of God. They are the representatives of the whole universe, in offering this perpetual homage to the divine holiness. It is because of his holiness, that God is a consuming fire. And it was a view of his holiness which led the prophet to exclaim, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the king, the LORD of hosts.” (Is. vi. 5.)
It is in their application to the moral attributes of God, that the two methods of determining his nature come most directly into conflict. If we allow ourselves to be determined in answering the question, What is God? by the teachings of his Word, and the constitution of our own nature; if we refer to Him, in an infinite degree, every good we find in ourselves, then we can have no hesitation in believing that He is holy, just, and good. But if the philosophical notion of the absolute and infinite is to decide every question concerning the divine nature, then we must give up all confidence in our apprehensions of God, as an object of knowledge. This Strauss, the most candid of the recent philosophical theologians, frankly admits. He says: “The ideas of the absolute and of the holy are incompatible. He who holds to the former must give up the latter, since holiness implies relation; and, on the other hand, he who holds fast the idea of God as holy, must renounce the idea of his being absolute; for the idea of absolute is inconsistent with the slightest possibility of its being other than it is. The impossibility of referring moral attributes to God had been admitted by some of the fathers of the Church.”75
The Reasons urged for denying Moral Attributes to God.
The grounds on which it is denied that moral attributes can be predicated of God, are such as these : —
1. To assume that God can delight in good, and hate evil, takes for granted that He is susceptible of impression ab extra, which is inconsistent with his nature.
2. It is said that moral excellence implies subjection to a moral law. But an absolute and infinite Being cannot be thus subject to law. It is true that God is not subject to any law out of Himself. He is exlex, absolutely independent. He is a law unto Himself. The conformity of his will to reason is no subjection. It is only the harmony of his nature. God’s being holy, implies nothing more than that He is not in conflict with Himself. On this point even the rationalistic theologian Wegscheider says: “Minime Deus cogitandus est tanquam pendens ex lege ethics vol eidem subjectus tanquam potestati cuidam alienae, sed Deus sanctus ipsa ea lex est, natura quidam hypostatica indutus.”76
3. It is said that moral excellence must be free. A moral agent, to be holy, must voluntarily do right. But this implies that he is able to do wrong. There must, therefore, be at least a metaphysical possibility of God’s being evil, or He cannot be good. But all possibility of the Absolute being other than it is, is inconsistent with its nature. To this it may be answered that the ideas of liberty and necessity are indeed antagonistic; but that liberty and absolute certainty are perfectly compatible. That an infinitely wise Being will not act irrationally, is as absolutely certain as that the self-contradictory cannot be true. The one is as inconceivable as the other. It is just as impossible that an infinitely holy Being should be unholy as that light should be darkness. The impossibility, however, is of a different kind. The former is what Augustine calls the felix necessitas boni, which is the highest idea of freedom.
4. Strauss says that those who attribute moral perfections to God, forget that a purely spiritual Being can have nothing of what we call reason, wisdom, goodness, wrath, righteousness, etc. “Strictly speaking,” he adds “the ascription of moral attributes to God supposes that He is material; and the most abstract theological ideas on the subject are really founded on Materialism.” This is founded on the assumption that spirit is impersonal, a generic force, which becomes individual and personal only by union with a material organization, just as the Realists define man to be generic humanity, individualized and rendered personal by union with a given corporeal organization.
It is surely most unreasonable to sacrifice to such speculations all religion, and all confidence in the intuitive judgments of the human mind, as well as all faith in God and in the Bible.
It is scarcely less destructive of the true doctrine, to define holiness in God as the causality of conscience in us. That we are moral beings is not admitted to be a proof that God has moral attributes. That the sun produces cheerfulness in us is no proof that the sun is cheerful. But if we know nothing of God except that He is the cause of all things, He is to us only an inscrutable force, and not a Father, and not a God.
§ 12. Justice.
A. Meaning of the Word.
The word justice, or righteousness, is used in Scripture sometimes in a wider and sometimes in a more restricted sense. In theology, it is often distinguished as justitia interna, or moral excellence, and justitia externa, or rectitude of conduct. In Hebrew qyDic; means, in a physical sense, straight; and in a moral sense, right, what is as it should be. And hq’d’c.means rightness, that which satisfies the demands of rectitude or law. The Greek word di,kaioj has the physical sense of equal; and the moral sense of, conformed to what is right; and dikaiosu,nhis either that which divides equally, i. e., equity in the moral sense, or that which satisfies the demands of right. The Latin justus and justitia are commonly used in the wide sense for what is right, or as it should be. Cicero77 defines justitia as “animi affectio suum cuique tribuens.” This definition he elsewhere amplifies, saying: “Justitia erga Deos religio, erga parentas pietas, creditis in rebus fides, in moderatione animadvertendi lenitas, amicitia in benevolentia nominatur.”78
When we regard God as the author of our moral nature, we conceive of Him as holy; when we regard Him in his dealings with his rational creatures, we conceive of Him as righteous. He is a righteous ruler; all his laws are holy, just, and good. In his moral government He faithfully adheres to those laws. He is impartial and uniform in their execution. As a judge he renders unto every man according to his works. He neither condemns the innocent, nor clears the guilty; neither does He ever punish with undue severity. Hence the justice of God is distinguished as rectoral, or that which is concerned in the imposition of righteous laws and in their impartial execution; and distributive, or that which is manifested in the righteous distribution of rewards and punishment. The Bible constantly represents God as a righteous ruler and a just judge. These two aspects of his character, or of our relation to Him, are not carefully distinguished. We have the assurance which runs through the Scriptures, that “The judge of all the earth” must “do right.” (Gen. xviii. 25.) “God is a righteous judge.” (Ps. vii. 11, marginal reading.) “He shall judge the world with righteousness.” (Ps. xcvi. 13.) “Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of hs throne.” (Ps. xcvii. 2.) Notwithstanding all the apparent inequalities in the distribution of his favours; notwithstanding the prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of the righteous, the conviction is everywhere expressed that God is just; that somehow and somewhere He will vindicate his dealings with men, and show that He is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works.
B. Justice in its Relation to Sin.
As the sense of guilt is universal among men, and as the manifestations of sin are so constant and pervading, it is mainly in its relation to sin that the justice of God is revealed. Hence many theologians define the justice of God as that attribute of his nature which is manifested in the punishment of sin. Goodness, it is said, is manifested in bestowing good, and justice in the infliction of punishment. Schleiermacher says, “Justice is that causality in God which connects suffering with actual sin.”79 Schweizer says, “We know God as just only through the punishment of sin.” Hegel says, “The manifestation of the nothingness of the finite as power, is justice.” This is the philosophical, statement of the principle that “Might is Right,” a principle which underlies the morals and religion of the modern philosophy.
C. The Reformation of the Offender is not the Primary Object of Punishment.
As the justice of God is specially manifested in the punishment of sin, it is of primary importance to determine why sin is punished.
One prevalent theory on this subject is, that the only legitimate end of punishment is the reformation of the offender.
It is of course to be admitted, that the good of the offender is often the ground or reason why evil is inflicted. A father chastises a child in love, and for its good. And God, our heavenly Father, brings suffering upon his children for their edification. But evil inflicted for the benefit of the sufferer, is chastisement, and not punishment. Punishment, properly speaking, is evil inflicted in satisfaction of justice.
That the good of the sufferer is not the primary end of the infliction of punishment, is proved : —
1. Because the punishment of the wicked is always, in the Scriptures, referred to the anger of God, and the chastisement of his people to his love. The cases, therefore, are not analogous. This difference of representation is designed to teach us that the wicked and the good do not stand in the same relation to God, as objects of benevolence; but that the one He punishes to testify his disapprobation and satisfy his justice, and the other He chastises to bring them nearer to Himself.
2. In many cases the nature of the punishment precludes the possibility of the good of the offender being the ground of its infliction. The deluge, the destruction of the cities of the plain, and the overthrow of Jerusalem, were certainly not designed for the benefit of the men who suffered from those desolating inflictions. Much less can it be assumed that the punishment of the fallen angels, and of the finally impenitent, is intended to be reformatory.
3. Scripture and experience both teach that suffering, when of the nature of punishment, has no tendency to reform. When suffering is seen to come from a father’s hand, and to be a manifestation of love, it has a sanctifying power; but when it comes from the hand of God, as a judge and an avenger, and is the expression of displeasure and a proof of our alienation from God, its tendency is to harden and to exasperate. Hence the Apostle says, that so long as men are under condemnation, they bring forth fruit unto sin; and that, only when reconciled to God and assured of his love, do they bring forth fruit unto God. The great New Testament prophet, in his vision of the world of woe, represents the lost as gnawing their tongues with pain and blaspheming God. The denunciation of punishment is addressed to fear, but fear is not the principle of genuine obedience.
4. On this subject, appeal may be fairly made to the common consciousness of men. Such is our moral hebetude that it is only glaring offences which awaken our moral sensibilities, and reveal their true nature. When any great crime is committed, there is an instinctive and universal demand for the punishment of the criminal. No man can pretend that the desire for his reformation is the feeling which prompts that demand. That is not so much as thought of. It is the instinctive judgment of the mind that he ought to suffer. It is not benevolence towards him which calls for the infliction of punishment.
D. The Prevention of Crime is not the Primary End of Punishment.
The doctrine that the only legitimate end of punishment is the prevention of crime, has had great prevalence in the Church and the world. It is the common doctrine of jurists. It is, of course, to be conceded that the good of society and of the moral government of God, is one important end of punishment in all governments, human or divine. It is, however, rather an important collateral effect of the administration of justice, than its immediate design. The doctrine in question merges justice into benevolence. According to this way of thinking, it is only because God has a view to the happiness of his rational creatures, that He visits sin within punishment. This doctrine was adopted by some of the early fathers. In answer to the objection that the Bible represented God as a vindictive being, because it speaks of his anger and of his determination to punish, they said that He punished only out of benevolence. Thus Clemens Alexandrinus80 says, “Men ask how God can be good and kind if He is angry and punishes? They should remember that punishment is for the good of the offender and for the prevention of evil.” And Tertullian81 says: “Omne hoc justitiae opus procuratio bonitatis est.” Origen,82 also to the same effect, says: “Ex quibus omnibus constat, unum eundemque esse justum et bonum legis et evangeliorum Deum, et benefacere cum justitia et cum bonitate punire.”
Many later theologians take the same view. Leibnitz defines justice to be benevolence guided by wisdom. Wolf, who modified the whole system of theology in accordance with the philosophy of Leibnitz, adopted the same view. So did Stapfer,83 who says: “Quando Deus ejusmodi malum triste ex peccato necessario se quens creaturae accidere sinit, . . . dicitur peccatorem punire, et hoc seusu ipsi tribuitur justitia vindicativa. In justitia punitiva bonitas cum sapientia administratur.84 Notio justititae resolvitur in notionem sapientiae et bonitatis.” Grotius, the jurist, makes this idea of justice the fundamental principle of his great work, “De Satisfactione Christi.”
The Optimist Theory.
In this country the same view has been extensively adopted, and made, as it must of necessity be, the controlling principle of those systems of theology in which it is incorporated. It is assumed that happiness is the greatest good; and hence that the purpose and desire to promote happiness is the sum of all virtue. From this it follows, that this world, the work of a God of infinite benevolence, wisdom, and power, must be the best possible world for the production of happiness; and, therefore, the permission of sin, and its punishment, must be referred to the benevolence of God. They are the necessary means for securing the greatest amount of happiness. If happiness be not the greatest good; if holiness be a higher end than happiness; if expediency be not the ground and measure of moral obligation, it is obvious that this whole structure collapses.
Proof of the Scriptural Doctrine.
It is admitted that happiness is promoted by justice, and therefore that it is contrary to a wise benevolence that men should be allowed to sin with impunity. But justice cannot properly be merged into benevolence. And that the promotion of happiness by the prevention of crime is not the primary end of the infliction of punishment, is evident, —
1. From the testimony of every man’s consciousness. Every man knows that benevolence and justice, as revealed in his own consciousness, are different sentiments. The one prompts to the promotion of happiness, the other involves the instinctive judgment, that a criminal ought to suffer for his crime. We do not stop to ask, or to think, what may be the collateral effect on others of the infliction of punishment. Anterior to such reflection, and independent of it, is the intuitive perception, that sin should be punished, for its own sake, or on account of its inherent ill-desert. These instinctive moral judgments are as clear and as trustworthy revelations of the nature of God as can possibly be made. They force conviction in spite of all speculative sophistries. Every man knows the righteous judgment of God, that those who sin are worthy of death. If justice and benevolence are distinct in us, they are distinct in God. If we, in obedience to the nature which He has given us, intuitively perceive or judge that sin ought to be punished for its own sake, and irrespective of the good effect punishment may have on others, then such also is the judgment of God. This is the principle which underlies and determines all our ideas of the Supreme Being. If moral perfection be not in Him what it is in us, then He is to us an unknown something, and we use words without meaning when we speak of Him as holy, just, and good.
Argument from the Religious Experience of Believers.
2. This sense of justice, which is indestructible in the nature of man, and which, in common with reason and conscience, has survived the Fall, is not only revealed in the ordinary experience of men, but still more distinctly in their religious consciousness. What is commonly called “conviction of sin,” is only a modification, and higher form, of those inward experiences which are common to all men. All men know that they are sinners. They all know that sin, as related to the justice of God, is guilt, that which ought to be punished; and that, as related to his holiness, it renders us polluted and offensive in his sight. They also know, intuitively, that God is just as well as holy; and, therefore, that his moral perfection calls for the punishment of sin, by the same necessity by which He disapproves of and hates it. Under the pressure of these convictions, and the consciousness of their utter inability either to satisfy divine justice, or to free themselves from the defilement and power of sin, men either tremble in the constant looking for of judgment, or they look out of themselves for help. When, under either the common or saving operations of the Spirit of God, these sentiments are deepened, then their nature is more clearly revealed. A man, when thus convinced of sin, sees that not only would it be right that he should be punished, but that the justice, or moral excellence of God, demands his punishment. It is not that he ought to suffer for the good of others, or to sustain the moral government of God, but that he, as a sinner and for his sins sought to suffer. Were he the only creature in the universe, this conviction would be the same, both in nature and degree. Such is the experience of men under the conviction of sin, as recorded in the Scriptures and in the history of the Church. In many cases criminals under the pressure of these feelings have delivered themselves to the officers of justice to be punished. More frequently they resort to self-inflicted tortures to satisfy the clamors of conscience. We have, therefore, an inward revelation, which can neither be suppressed nor perverted, that justice is not benevolence.
The Sense of Justice not due to Christian Culture.
3. That this sense of justice is not due to Christian culture, or to the influence of peculiar forms of doctrine, but belongs to the common consciousness of men, is plain. (a.) Because it is impressed upon all human languages as far as known or cultivated. All languages have different words for justice and benevolence. There could not be this difference in the words, if the sentimenti themselves were not different. Every one knows that when we say a man is just, we mean one thing; and when we say he is benevolent, we mean another thing. (b.) All history as it records the workings of human nature, reveals this innate sense of justice. We everywhere hear men calling for the punishment of offenders, or denouncing those who allow them to escape with impunity. No mass of men ever witness a flagrant act of cruelty or wrong without an irrepressible manifestation of indignation. The voice of nature, which in such cases is the voice of God, demands the punishment of the wrong-doer. (c.) In all religions which reveal the inward convictions of men, there are expiatory rites. Every sacrifice for sin, the smoke from every altar, which has been going up through all ages and from every part of the world, are so many attestations to the truth of reason and of Scripture, that there is such an attribute as justice in God, distinct from his benevolence.
Argument from the Holiness of God.
4. The truth of this doctrine may also be inferred from the holiness of God. If He is infinitely pure, his nature must be opposed to all sin; and as his acts are determined by his nature, his disapprobation of sin must manifest itself in his acts. But the disfavour of God, the manifestation of his disapprobation, is death, as his favour is life. It cannot be that this essential opposition between holiness and sin should be dependent for its manifestation on the mere ab extra consideration that evil would result from sin being allowed to go unpunished. It might as well be said that we should feel no aversion to pain, unless aware that it weakened our constitution. We do not approve of holiness simply because it tends to produce happiness; neither do we disapprove of sin simply because it tends to produce misery. It is inevitable, therefore, that the perfection of the infinitely holy God should manifest its opposition to sin, without waiting to judge of the consequences of the expression of this divine repugnance.
5. The doctrine that the prevention of crime is the only legitimate end of punishment, or that there is no such attribute in God as justice, as distinguished from benevolence, rests on the assumption, before remarked upon, that all virtue consists in benevolence; which again rests on the assumption that happiness is the highest good; which makes expediency the ground of moral obligation, and the rule of moral conduct. It is indeed a solecism to use the word moral in such connections, for, on this theory, the word has no meaning. A thing may be wise or unwise, expedient or inexpedient, but in no other sense right or wrong. Wrong becomes right, and right becomes wrong, as the greater amount of happiness flows from the one or from the other. As this utilitarian theory of morals has been banished from the schools of philosophy, it should be banished from systems of theology.
Argument from the Connection between Sin and Misery.
6. The inseparable connection between sin and misery is a revelation of the justice of God. That holiness promotes happiness is a revelation of the relation in which God stands to holiness; and that sin produces misery is no less a revelation of the relation in which He stands to moral evil. This constitution of things depending on the nature and will of God, proves that sin is evil in its own nature, and is punished for its own sake. The law of God which includes a penalty as well as precepts, is in both a revelation of the nature of God. If the precepts manifest his holiness, the penalty as clearly manifests his justice. If the one is immutable, so also is the other. The wages of sin is death. Death is what is due to it in justice, and what without injustice cannot be withheld from it. If the prevention of crime were the primary end of punishment, then if the punishment of the innocent, the execution, for example, of the wife and children of a murderer, would have a greater restraining influence than the punishment of the guilty murderer, their execution would be just. But this would shock the mural sense of men.
Argument from the Scriptural Doctrines of Satisfaction and Justification.
7. The Scriptural doctrines of satisfaction and justification rest on the principle that God is immutably just, i. e., that his moral excellence, in the case of sin, demands punishment, or expiation. The Bible clearly teaches the necessity of satisfaction to justice in order to the forgiveness of sin. Christ was set forth as a propitiation, in order that God might be just in justifying the ungodly. This assumes that it would be unjust, i. e., contrary to moral rectitude, to pardon the guilty without such a propitiation. This necessity for a satisfaction is never referred to expediency or to governmental considerations. If sin could have been pardoned, without a satisfaction. the Apostle says, Christ is dead in vain. (Gal. ii. 21.) If there could have been a law which could have given life, salvation would have been by the law (Gal. iii. 21.)
Moreover, if there is no such attribute in God as justice, as distinguished from benevolence, then there can be no such thing as justification. There may be pardon, as the act of a sovereign remitting a penalty and restoring an offender to favour; but no such thing as justification, as an act of a judge proceeding according to law and pronouncing the demands of justice satisfied. The Scriptures, however, according to the almost unanimous judgment of the Church, pronounce that justification is more than an act of executive clemency. Conscience is not satisfied with mere forgiveness. It is essential to peace with God, that the soul should see that justice is satisfied. This is the reason why the death of Christ, why his blood, is so inexpressibly precious in the eyes of his people. All the experience of the saints is a protest against the principle that expiation is unnecessary, that sin can be pardoned without a satisfiction of justice.
The whole argument of the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans is founded on the principle that justice is a divine attribute distinct from benevolence. His argument is: God is just. All men are sinners. All, therefore, are guilty, i. e., under condemnation. Therefore no man can be justified, i. e., pronounced not guilty, on the ground of his character or conduct. Sinners cannot satisfy justice. But what they could not do, Christ, the Eternal Son of God, clothed in our nature, has done for them. He has brought in everlasting righteousness, which meets all the demands of the law. All those who renounce their own righteousness, and trust to the righteousness of Christ, God justifies and saves. This is the gospel as preached by Paul. It all rests on the assumption that God is just.
The doctrine of the vindicatory justice, which has this clear evidence of its truth, in the moral nature of man, in the religious experience of believers, and in the teaching and doctrines of the Scriptures, has ever been considered as a turning point in theology.
E. Philosophical Views of the Nature of Justice.
The teachings of the Scriptures, and the faith of the Church, so far as the divine attributes are concerned, are founded on the assumption that God is a personal Being. It is involved in that assumption, not only that He possesses intelligence and moral character, but that he thinks, feels, wills, and acts. It is, moreover, involved in the idea of personality, that thinking, feeling, willing, and acting in God, are, in all that is essential, analogous to what those terms signify in us. The modern philosophy, however, teaches that, if God be an absolute Being, thinking, feeling, willing, and acting are inconsistent with his nature. Hence, —
1. Some teach that God is only the original ground of beings having in Himself no distinctive attributes. What we call the attributes of God are only the attributes of finite creatures having the ground of their being in God. That they are intelligent, moral, voluntary agents, is no proof that the same is true of God. That the sun produces the sensation of heat in us is no proof that it experiences the same sensation. The attributes of God, therefore, are only different aspects of the causality in Him which produces different effects. Justice, then, is not an attribute of God; it is only the causality to which the connection between sin and suffering is to be referred.
2. Others, while insisting that personality, and all that it involves, are incompatible with the idea of an absolute Being, still maintain that we are constrained, and bound, to believe in the personality of God, on the authority of the Bible and of our own moral nature. But the Bible reveals, it is said, not absolute, but only regulative truth; not what He is, but what it is expedient for us to think He is. Justice in God, then, is for us what generosity in a fairy is for nursery children.
3. Others again, while they admit personality in God, make it a personality which precludes all willing, and all acting, except in the form of law, or general, uniform efficiency. Justice in God, therefore, is only a name for one form, or one mode, of the manifestation of the power of God. As it is to be referred to his ordination, or to his nature, that fire burns and acids corrode, so it is to be referred to his general efficiency that sin produces misery. There is no special intervention of God, when fire burns; and there is no special decision, or judgment on his part, when a sinner is punished. Punishment is not the execution of a sentence pronounced by an intelligent being on the merits of the case, but the operation of a general law. Bruch (Professor of Theology in the Theological Seminary in Strasbourg) is a representative of this mode of thinking. He professes Theism, or faith in a personal God, but he teaches that the attributes of God are nothing else (als die Modalitaten seiner ewigen Wirksamkeit) “than the modes if his constant efficiency.” Since among men justice is exercised in a succession of special acts, it is erroneously inferred that there is a like succession of acts of the will of God by which He approves or condemns. The great difficulty, he says, arises from judging of God after the analogy of our own nature. He admits that the Bible does this; that it constantly speaks of God as a righteous judge, administering justice according to his will. In this case, however, he adds, it is important to separate the real truth from the imperfection of its Scriptural form. Penalties are not evils inflicted by a special act of the divine will, but the natural consequences of sin, which cannot fail to manifest themselves. There is an organic connection between sin and evil. All the activity or agency of God is in the form of laws having their foundation in his nature. Thus justice is simply that law, or uniform mode of divine operation, by which sin is made its own punishment.85Hence there is no distinction between natural and positive inflictions; the deluge was either no punishment, or it was the natural consequence of the sins of the antediluvians. Hence, there is no such thing as forgiveness. The only possible way to remove the suffering is to remove the sin. But how is the sin of theft or murder to be removed? We can understand how pride or envy may be subdued and the suffering they occasion be escaped: but how can a past act be removed? A man hardened in sin suffers little or nothing for a special offence; the morally refined suffer indescribably. Thus, according to this theory, the better a man is, the more severely he is punished for his sin. Strauss is consistent enough to carry the principle out, and discard altogether the ideas of reward and punishment, as belonging to a low form of thought. He quotes and adopts the dictum of Spinoza: “Beatitudo non est virtutis praemium, sed ipsa virtus.”
4. Scarcely distinguished from the doctrine last mentioned, is that presented by Dr. John Young.86 His doctrine is that there are certain eternal and immutable laws arising out of the nature of things, independeimt of the will or nature of God, to which He is as much subject as his creatures. One of these laws is, that virtue produces happiness, and vice misery. The one is, therefore, rewarded, and the other punished, by the necessary and immutable operation of that law, and not by the will of God. God, therefore, ceases to be the ruler of the world. He is Himself subordinate to eternal and necessary laws. That this doctrine is at variance with the whole tenor of the Bible cannot be doubted. It is no less opposed to the dictates of our own moral and religious nature. It is revealed in that nature that we are subject, not to necessary and self-acting laws, but to an intelligent, personal God, to whom we are accountable for our character and conduct, and who rewards and punishes his creatures according to their works.
As a philosophical theory, this doctrine is much below the standard of the German theologians. For they, as far as they are Theists, admit that these immutable laws are determined by the nature of God, and are the uniform modes of his operation. Indeed, as God and his creatures exhaust the whole category of being, the “nature of things,” apart from the nature of God and of his creatures, seems to be a phrase without meaning. It is tantamount to the “nature of nonentity.”
§ 13. The Goodness of God.
A. The Scriptural Doctrine.
Goodness, in the Scriptural sense of the term, includes benevolence, love, mercy, and grace. By benevolence is meant the disposition to promote happiness; all sensitive creatures are its objects. Love includes complacency, desire, and delight, and has rational beings for its objects. Mercy is kindness exercised towards the miserable, and includes pity, compassion, forbearance, and gentleness, which the Scriptures so abundantly ascribe to God. Grace is love exercised towards the unworthy. The love of a holy God to sinners is the most mysterious attribute of the divine nature. The manifestation of this attribute for the admiration and beatification of all intelligent creatures, is declared to be the special design of redemption. God saves sinners, we are told, “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus.” (Eph. ii. 7.) This is the burden of that Epistle.
As all the modifications of goodness above mentioned are found even in our dilapidated nature, and commend themselves to our moral approbation, we know they must exist in God without measure and without end. In him they are infinite, eternal, and immutable.
The goodness of God in the form of benevolence is revealed in the whole constitution of nature. As the universe teems with life, it teems also with enjoyment. There are no devices in nature for the promotion of pain for its own sake; whereas the manifestations of design for the production of happiness are beyond computation. The manifestation of the goodness of God in the form of love, and specially of love to the undeserving, is, as just stated, the great end of the work of redemption. “God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John iii. 16.) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John iv. 10.) The Apostle prays that believers might be able to comprehend the height and depth, the length and breadth, of that love which passes knowledge. (Eph. iii. 19.)
Love in us includes complacency and delight in its object, with the desire of possession and communion. The schoolmen, and often the philosophical theologians, tell us that there is no feeling in God. This, they say, would imply passivity, or susceptibility of impression from without, which it is assumed is incompatible with the nature of God. “We must exclude,” says Bruch,87 “passivity from the idea of love, as it exists in God. For God cannot be the subject of passivity in any form. Besides, if God experienced complacency in intelligent beings, He would be dependent on them; which is inconsistent with his nature as an Absolute Being.” Love, therefore, he defines as that attribute of God which secures the development of the rational universe; or, as Schleiermacher expresses it, “It is that attribute in virtue of which God communicates Himself.”88 According to the philosophers, the Infinite develops itself in the finite; this fact, in theological language, is due to love. The only point of analogy between love in us and love in the Absolute and Infinite, is self-communication. Love in us leads to self-revelation and communion; in point of fact the Infinite is revealed and developed in the universe, and specially in humanity. Bruch admits that this doctrine is in real contradiction to the representations of God in the Old Testament, and in apparent contradiction to those of the New Testament. If love in God is only a name for that which accounts for the rational universe; if God is love, simply because He develops himself in thinking and conscious beings, then the word has for us no definite meaninig; it reveals to us nothing concerning the real nature of God. Here again we have to choose between a mere philosophical speculation and the clear testimony of the Bible, and of our own moral and religious nature. Love of necessity involves feeling, and if there be no feeling in God, there can be no love. That He produces happiness is no proof of love. The earth does that unconsciously and without design. Men often render others happy from vanity, from fear, or from caprice. Unless the production of happiness can be referred, not only to a conscious intention, but to a purpose dictated by kind feeling, it is no proof of benevolence. And unless the children of God are the objects of his complacency and delight, they are not the objects of his love. He may be cold, insensible, indifferent, or even unconscious; He ceases to be God in the sense of the Bible, and in the sense in which we need a God, unless He can love as well as know and act. The philosophical objection against ascribing feeling to God, bears, as we have seen, within equal force against the ascription to Him of knowledge or will. If that objection be valid, He becomes to us simply an unknown cause, what men of science call force; that to which all phenomena are to be referred, but of which we know nothing. We must adhere to the truth in its Scriptural form, or we lose it altogether. We must believe that God is love in the sense in which that word comes home to every human heart. The Scriptures do not mock us when they say, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him.” (Ps. ciii. 13.) He meant what He said when He proclaimed Himself as “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth.” (Ex. xxxiv. 6.) “Beloved,” says the Apostle, “let us love one another: fot love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation con our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John iv. 7-1l.) The word love has the same sense throughout this passage. God is love; and love in Him is, in all that is essential to its nature, what love is in us. Herein we do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
B. The Existence of Evil.
How can the existence of evil, physical and moral, be reconciled with the benevolence and holiness of a God infinite in his wisdom and power? This is the question which has exercised the reason and tried the faith of men in all ages of the world. Such is the distance between God and man, such the feebleness of our powers, and such the limited range of our vision, it might seem reasonable to leave this question to be answered by God himself. If a child cannot rationally sit in judgment on the conduct of his parents, nor a peasant comprehend the affairs of an empire, we certainly are not competent to call God to account, or to ask of Him the reason of his ways. We might rest satisfied with the assurance that the Judge of all the earth must do right. These considerations, however, have not availed to prevent speculation on this subject. The existence of evil is constantly brought forward by sceptics as an argument against religion; and it is constantly in the minds of believers as a difficulty and a doubt. While it is our duty to obey the injunction, “Be still and know that I am God,” it is no less our duty to protest against those solutions of this great problem which either destroy the nature of sin or the nature of God.
Theories which involve the Denial of Sin.
Most of the theories proposed to account for the existence of evil, come under one or the other of the three following classes:
First, those which really or virtually deny the existence of evil in the world. What we call evil is distinguished as physical and moral, pain and sin. There is some plausibility in the argument to prove that pain is not necessarily an evil. It is necessary to the safety of sentient creatures. But pain exists far beyond the bounds of this necessity. Such is the amount and variety of suffering in the world, of the just and of the unjust, of infants and of adults, that no philosophy can smother the conviction that the misery which weighs so heavily on the children of men, is an appalling evil. There is no such trial to our faith, as to see an infant suffering excruciating pain. If, however, pain could be removed from the category of evil, sin is not so easily disposed of. The world lies in wickedness. The history of man is, to a large degree, the history of sin. If God be holy, wise, and omnipotent, how can we account for this widely extended and long-continued prevalence of sin?
One solution is sought in the denial that sin is an evil. In other words, it is denied that there is any such thing as sin. What we so regard is, as some maintain, nothing more than limitation of being. To be free from sin, we must be free from limitation, i. e.. infinite. It is not an evil that one tree is smaller, less beautiful, or less valuable than others; or that a plant has not the sensitive life of an animal; or that all animals have not the rational powers of man. As in a forest, we see trees of every shape and size, perfectly and imperfectly developed, and this diversity is itself a good; so among men there are some more, and some less conformed to the ideal standard of reason and right, but this is not an evil. It is only diversity of development; the manifold forms of an endless life.
Others say that what we call sin is the necessary condition of virtue. There can be no action without reaction; no strength without obstacles to be overcome; no pleasure without pain; and no virtue without vice. Moral goodness is mastery over moral evil. There cannot be one without the other. All would be dead and motionless, a stagnant sea, were it not for this antagonism.
Others again say that sin has only a subjective reality. It is analogous to pain. Some things affect us agreeably, others disagreeably; some excite self-approbation, some disapprobation. But that is simply our own concern. God no more participates in our judgments than He does in our sensations.
Others do not so expressly deny the existence of sin. They admit that it is not only evil to us, but that it involves guilt in the sight of God, and therefore should be punished. Nevertheless, they represent it as arising necessarily out of the constitution of our nature. All creatures are subject to the law of development — to a “Werden.” Perfection is a goal to be reached by a gradual process. This law controls every sphere of life, vegetable, animal, intellectual, and moral. Every plant is developed from a seed. Our bodies begin in a germ; infancy is feeble and suffering. Our minds are subject to the same law. They are, of necessity, open to error. Our moral life is not an exception to this rule. Moral beings, at least those constituted as we are, cannot avoid sin. It is incident to their nature and condition. It is to be outlived and overcome. If the world be so constituted and so directed that there is a continued progress toward perfection; if all evil, and especially all sin, be eliminated by this progress, the wisdom, goodness, and holiness of God will be thereby vindicated. Bruch89asks, “Why has God (der heilige Urgeist) brought men into the world with only the potentiality of freedom (which with him includes perfection), and not with the actuality, but left that perfection to be attained by a long process of development? The only answer to that question,” he says, is, “that development lies in the very nature of the finite. It must strive toward perfection by an endless process, without ever reaching it in its fulness. We might as well ask why God has ordained that the tree should be developed from a germ? or why the earth itself has passed through so many periods of change, ever from a lower to a higher state? or why the universe is made up of things finite, and is itself finite?” He adds the further consideration, “that God, with the possibility of sin, has provided redemption by which it is to be overcome, banished, and swallowed up.” “The annihilation of sin is the design of the whole work of redemption. ‘The Son of Man is come that He might destroy the works of the devil.’ (1 John iii. 8.) Sin, however, will disappear only when not the individual alone, but when the whole race of man has reached the goal of its destination, — and when,” he asks, “will this happen?”90 That question he leaves unanswered. On a following page, however, he quotes Klaiber91 as saying: “Divine revelation gives the only possible and satisfactory answer to the question, how the existence of sin can be reconciled with the holiness of God, an answer which satisfies not only our pious feelings, but our anthropological and theological speculations, in that it makes known the truth that God determined on the creation of beings, who, as free agents, were subject to the possibility of sin, and who were through their own fault sunk in evil, in connection with redemption; so that sin is only a transient, vanishing phenomenon in the development of finite beings. This is the great idea which pervades the whole of revelation; yea, which is its essence and its goal.”
It is obvious that all theories which make sin a necessary evil, destroy its nature as revealed in Scripture, and in our own consciousness.
Sin considered as the Necessary Means of the Greatest Good.
A much more plausible theory, belonging to the class of those which virtually, although not professedly, destroy the nature of sin, is that which regards it as the necessary means of the greatest good. Sin, in itself; is an evil; relatively, it is a good. The universe is better with it than without it. In itself, it is an evil that the smaller animals should be devoured by the larger; but as this is necessary to prevent the undue development of animal life, and as it ministers to the higher forms thereof, it becomes a benevolent arrangement. The amputation of a limb is an evil; but if necessary to save life, it is a good. Wars are dreadful evils, yet the world is indebted to wars for the preservation of civil and religious liberty, for which they are a small price. Better have war than lose the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. Thus, if sin be the necessary means of the greatest good, it ceases to be an evil, on the whole, and it is perfectly consistent with the benevolence of God to permit its occurrence. This has been a favorite method of solving the problem of evil in all ages. This is the idea which Leibnitz wrought out so elaborately in his “Theodicee.” It has been adopted by many theologians who do not carry it on to its legitimate consequences. Thus Twesten92says: “If the world be absolutely dependent on the most perfect Being; if it be the work of the highest love, power, and wisdom; and if it be constantly controlled and governed by God, it must be absolutely perfect.” Hence even sin, although like pain an evil in itself, must on the whole be a good. It is a necessary element in a perfect world. Twesten, therefore, says,93 “If the world, with the sin and misery which it contains, produces a greater amount of good, and reveals the divine power and love more fully than could otherwise be possible, then the consistency of the existence of evil with the universal causality (or government) of God is thereby vindicated.” The word good in this connection, according to the common doctrine of optimists, does not mean moral good, but happiness. The principle on which this theory is founded was propounded in a posthumous treatise of President Edwards, in which he taught that virtue consists in the love of being. This principle was adopted and carried out by Drs. Hopkins and Emmons in their systems of theology, which for many years had great influence in this country.
Objections to this Theory.
Plausible as this theory is, it is liable to many objections.
1. In the first place, we have no right to limit the infinite God. To say that this is the best possible world, is to say that God can make nothing greater or better; which, unless the world be infinite, is to say that God is finite. It is enough for us to believe that the world with its finite results, is what God in his wisdom saw fit to call into existence; but that it is the best He could make, is a gratuitous and derogatory assumption.
2. It is unscriptural, and contrary to our moral reason, to make happiness the end of creation. The Bible declares the glory of God, an infinitely higher end, to be the final cause for which all things exist. It is the instinctive judgment of men, that holiness or moral excellence is a greater good than happiness. But, on this theory, holiness has no value except as a means of producing happiness. This cannot be believed, except under a protest from our moral nature. The theory in question, therefore, solves the problem of evil by denying its existence. Nothing is an evil which tends to the greatest happiness. Sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and therefore is not an evil.
The Doctrine that God cannot prevent Sin in a Moral System.
The second general method of reconciling the existence of sin with the benevolence and holiness of God, is, not to deny that sin, even all things considered, is an evil; but to affirm that God cannot prevent all sin, or even the present amount of sin, in a moral system. It assumes that certainty is inconsistent with free agency. Any kind or degree of influence which renders it certain how a free agent will act, destroys his liberty in acting. He must always be able to act contrary to any degree of influence brought to bear upon him, or he ceases to be free. God, therefore, of necessity limits Himself when He creates free agents. They are beyond his absolute control. He may argue and persuade, but He cannot govern.
This doctrine that God cannot effectually control the acts of free agents without destroying their liberty, is so contrary to the Scriptures, that it has never been adopted by any organized portion of the Christian Church. Some theologians avail themselves of it for an emergency, when treating of this subject, although it is utterly at variance with their general scheme. Twesten, for example, who, as we have seen, in one place teaches that God voluntarily permits sin as the necessary means of the greatest good, in another place94 says that He cannot prevent it in a moral system. “Mit der Freiheit,” he says, “war die Moglichkeit des Misbrauchs gegeben; ohne jene zu vernichten, konnte Gott diesen nicht verhindern.” That is, without destroying liberty, God cannot prevent its abuse. If this be so, then God cannot govern free agents. He cannot secure the accomplishment of his purposes, or the fulfilment of his promises. There is no security for the triumph of good in the universe. Angels and saints in heaven may all sin, and evil become dominant and universal. On this theory, all prayer that God would change our own hearts, or the hearts of others, becomes irrational. All this is so contrary to the teaching of the Bible, which everywhere asserts the sovereignty and supremacy of God, declaring that the hearts of men are in his hand, and that He turns them as the rivers of water; that He makes his people willing in the day of his power, working in them to will and to do, according to his good pleasure; it is so inconsistent with the promise to give repentance and faith, with the assertion of his power to change the heart; it is so incompatible with the hopes and confidence of the believer, that God can keep him from falling; and so subversive of the idea of God as presented in the Bible and revealed in our nature, that the Church has, almost with one accord, preferred to leave the mystery of evil unexplained, rather than to seek its solution in a principle which undermines the foundation of all religion.
The Scriptural Doctrine.
The third method of dealing with this question is to rest satisfied with the simple statements of the Bible. The Scriptures teach, (1.) That the glory of God is the end to which the promoticn of holiness, and the production of happiness, and all other ends are subordinate. (2.) That, therefore, the self-manifestation of God, the revelation of his infinite perfection, being the highest conceivable, or possible good, is the ultimate end of all his works in creation, providence, and redemption. (3.) As sentient creatures are necessary for the manifestation of God’s benevolence, so there could be no manifestation of his mercy without misery, or of his grace and justice, if there were no sin. As the heavens declare the glory of God, so He has devised the plan of redemption, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” (Eph. iii. 10.) The knowledge of God is eternal life. It is for creatures the highest good. And the promotion of that knowledge, the manifestation of the manifold perfections of the infinite God, is the highest end of all his works. This is declared by the Apostle to be the end contemplated, both in the punishment of sinners and in the salvation of believers. It is an end to which, he says, no man can rationally object. “What if God, willing to show his wrath (or justice), and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.” (Rom. ix 22, 23.) Sin, therefore, according the Scriptures, is permitted, that the justice of God may be known in its punishment, and his grace in its forgiveness. And the universe, without the knowledge of these attributes, would be like the earth without the light of the sun.
The glory of God being the great end of all things, we are not obliged to assume that this is the best possible world for the production of happiness, or even for securing the greatest degree of holiness among rational creatures. It is wisely adapted for the end for which it was designed, namely, the manifestation of the manifold perfections of God. That God, in revealing Himself, does promote the highest good of his creatures, consistent with the promotion of his own glory, may be admitted. But to reverse this order, to make the good of the creature the highest end, is to pervert and subvert the whole scheme; it is to put the means for the end, to subordinate God to the universe, the Infinite to the finite. This putting the creature in the place of the Crcator, disturbs our moral and religious sentiments and convictions, as well as our intellectual apprehensions of God, and of his relation to the universe.
The older theologians almost unanimously make the glory of God the ultimate, and the good of the creature the subordinate end of all things. Twesten, indeed, says95 it makes no difference whether we say God proposes his own glory as the ultimate end, and, for that purpose, determined to produce the highest degree of good; or that He purposed the highest good of his creatures, whence the manifestation of his glory flows as a consequence. It, however, makes all the difference in the world, whether the Creator be subordinate to the creature, or the creature to the Creator; whether the end be the means, or the means the end. There is a great difference whether the earth or the sun be assumed as the centre of our solar system. If we make the earth the centre, our astronomy will be in confusion. And if we make the creature, and not God, the end of all things, our theology and religion will in like manner be perverted. It may, in conclusion, be safely asserted that a universe constructed for the purpose of making God known, is a far better universe than one designed for the production of happiness.
§ 14. The Truth of God.
Truth, is a word of frequent occurrence and of wide signification in the Bible. The primary meaning of the Greek word avlh,qeia(from av and lh,qw) is openness; what is not concealed. But in the Hebrew, and therefore in the Bible, the primary idea of truth is, that which sustains, which does not fail, or disappoint our expectations. The true, therefore, is, (1.) That which is real as opposed to that which is fictitious or imaginary. Jehovah is the true God, because He is really God, while the gods of the heathen are vanity and nothing, mere imaginary beings, having neither existence nor attributes. (2.) The true is that which completely comes up to its idea, or to what it purports to be. A true man is a man in whom the idea of manhood is fully realized. The true God is He in whom is found all that Godhead imports. (3.) The true is that in which the reality exactly corresponds to the manifestation. God is true, because He really is what He declares himself to be; because He is what He commands us to believe Him to be; and because all his declarations correspond to what really is. (4.) The true is that which can be depended upon, which does not fail, or change, or disappoint. In this sense also God is true as He is immutable and faithful. His promise cannot fail; his word never disappoints. His word abideth forever. When our Lord says, “Thy word is truth,” He says that all that God has revealed may be confided in as exactly corresponding to what really is, or is to be. His word can never fail, though heaven and earth pass away.
The truth of God, therefore, is the foundation of all religion. It is the ground of our assurance, that what He has revealed of Himself and of his will, in his works and in the Scriptures, may be relied upon. He certainly is, and wills, and will do, whatever He has thus made known. It is no less the foundation of all knowledge. That our senses do not deceive us; that consciousness is trustworthy in what it teaches; that anything is what it appears to us to be; that our existence is not a delusive dream, has no other foundation than the truth of God. In this sense, all knowledge is founded on faith, i. e., the belief that God is true.
The theologians are accustomed to say: (1.) “Veritas Dei in essentia, est convenientia omnium eorum, quae ad naturam perfectissimi pertinent eamque totam constituunt; qua ratione Deus verus opponitur fictis et commentitiis.” (Jer. x. 8, 10, 11; John v. 20, 21.) (2.) “Veritas Dei in intellectu, est convenientia cogitationum cum objecto.” . . . . (Job xi. 7; Acts xv. 18.) (3.) “Veritas Dei in voluntate est convenientia decreti ac propositi efficacis cujusque cum rationibus in intellectu probe cognitis et judicatis.” (Rom. xi. 33.) (4.) “Veritas Dei in factis, est convenientia actionum cum proposito.” (Ps. xxv. 10) (5.) “Veritas Dei in dictis, quae singulatim vocari solet veracitas, est convenientia verborum omnium cum recta cogitatione animique sententia, et efficaci voluntatis proposito.” (Num. xxiii. 19; 1 Sam. xv. 29; Tit. i. 2; Heb. vi. 18.) “Haec cernitur (a). in doctrin’s (Is. xvii. 17); (b), in praedictionibus, promissionibus, ut et comminationibus. (Num. xxiii. 19.)”96
To the same effect the Reformed theologian Endemann, says, “Veracitas Deo duplici sensu recte adscribitur, (1.) Quatenus nunquam errat, quia est omniscius, nunquam errorem aliis significat, quia id repugnat bonitati ejus. . . . (2.) Quatenus Deus ea actu sentit, quae verbis vel factis entibus intelligentibus significat. Deus actionibus et sermonibus suis eum intendit finem, ut sibi homines credant, confidant, etc., quem finem everteret si semel a veritate discederet. Scriptura docet idem scil. quod Deus . . . . [est] verax, immunis ab omni errore et mendacio. . . . Fidelis est Deus, quatenus ingenue aliquid promittit; atque promissum certissimo complet. . . . Severitatem Deo tribuimus quatenus comminationes suas implet.”97
The philosophical theologians virtually deny that there is any such attribute in God as truth. They say that what is intended by that term is only the uniformity of law. The efficiency of God is always exercised in such a way that we may confide in the regular sequence of events. In this respect it may be said that God is true. Bruch98 admits “That this idea arises necessarily out of our religious consciousness, inasmuch as we embrace with full confideuce what we regard as a divine revelation, and are persuaded that God in due time will fulfil whatever He has purposed, promised, or threatened. This confidence is in the strongest terms often expressed in the sacred writings, and is the source of the firm faith by which the Christian receives the revelation made in Christ; and of the unshaken confidence with which he anticipates the fulfillment of the divine promises.” Nevertheless, although this idea of the truth of God has its foundation in our own nature, and is so clearly recognized in Scripture, and although it enters so deeply into the religious experience and hopes of the believer, it is a delusion. There is no such attribute in God. It is unphilosophical, and therefore impossible that there should be the distinction, which must then be assumed, between purpose and act in the divine mind. The ascription of truth or veracity to God rests, says Bruch, “on the assumption of a distinction in Him between thought and its manifestation, between his promises and threatenings, and their accomplishment, which not only destroys the unity of the divine essence, but reduces Him to the limitations and changes of time. . . . As the ascription of veracity to God arises out of what we observe in ourselves, it bears the impress of anthropomorphism, and has no claim to scientific recognition.”99 He further objects to the ascription of truth to God, in the ordinary sense of that term, because God works uniformly according to law, and therefore. “properly speaking, there can be no such thing as promises oe threatenings with him.”100 The idea is, that as God has established certain physical laws, and if men comply with them they are well, if they violate them, they suffer for it; so there are laws which determine the well-being of rational creatures: if we observe those laws, we are happy; if we disregard them, we are miserable. God has nothing to do with it, except as He established those laws and carries them out. The philosophical idea, therefore, of the truth of God, is the immutability of law, physical and moral. This view is still more definitely presented by Schweizer.101 God from the beginning to the end of the world is one and the same causality; this, in reference to the moral world, is his truth, veracitas, fidelitas, in so far as the later revelations, or manifestations of this causality, correspomid to what the earlier manifestations would lead us to expect. God, according to this view, is not so much a person, as a name for the moral order of the universe. There is, of course, some truth in this mode of representation. The laws of God, by which He governs his creatures, rational and irrational, are uniform. It is true that a man reaps what he sows; that he receives here and hereafter the natural consequences of his conduct. If he sows to the flesh, he reaps corruption; if he sows to the spirit, he reaps life everlasting. But these laws are administered by a personal God, who, as He controls physical laws so as to produce plenty or famine, health or pestilence, as to Him seems fit, so also He controls all the laws which determine the well-being of the souls of men, so as to accomplish his designs and to secure the fulfilment of his promises and threatenings. The laws of a well-ordered human government are uniform and impartial, but that is not inconsistent with their human administration.
It is a great mercy that, at least in some cases, those whose philosophy forbids their believing in the personality of God, believe in the personality of Christ, whom they regard as a man invested with all the attributes of the Godhead, and whom they love and worship accordingly.
§ 15. Sovereignty.
Sovereignty is not a property of the divine nature, but a prerogative arising out of the perfections of the Supreme Being. If God be a Spirit, and therefore a person, infinite, eternal, and immutable in his being and perfections, the Creator and Preserver of the universe, He is of right its absolute sovereign. Infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, with the right of possession, which belongs to God in all his creatures, are the immutable foundation of his dominion. “Our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He pleased.” (Ps. cxv. 8.) “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. iv. 35.) “All that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine.” (1 Chron. xxix. 11.) “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Ps. xxiv. 1.) “Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.” (1 Chron. xxix. 11.) “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine.” (Ez. xviii. 4.) “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Is. xlv. 9.) “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?” (Matt. xx. 15.) He “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Eph. i. 11.) “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. xi. 36.)
From these and similar passages of Scriptures it is plain, (1.) That the sovereignty of God is universal. It extends over all his creatures from the highest to the lowest. (2.) That it is absolute. There is no limit to be placed to his authority. He doeth his pleasure in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. (3.) It is immutable. It can neither be ignored nor rejected. It binds all creatures, as inexorably as physical laws bind the material universe.
This sovereignty is exercised, (1.) In establishing the laws, physical and moral, by which all creatures are to be governed. (2.) In determining the nature and powers of the different orders of created beings, and in assigning each its appropriate sphere. (3.) In appointing to each individual his position and lot. It is the Lord who fixes the bounds of our habitation. Our times are in his hands. He determines when, where, and under what circumstances each individual of our race is to be born, live, and die. Nations, no less than individuals, are thus in the hands of God, who assigns them their heritage in the earth, and controls their destiny. (4.) God is no less sovereign in the distribution of his favours. He does what He wills with his own. He gives to some riches, to others, honour; to others, health; while others are poor, unknown, or the victims of disease. To some, the light of the gospel is sent; others are left in darkness. Some are brought through faith unto salvation; others perish in unbelief. To the question, Why is this? the only answer is that given by our Lord. “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.”
Although this sovereignty is thus universal and absolute, it is the sovereignty of wisdom, holiness, and love. The authority of God is limited by nothing out of Himself, but it is controlled, in all its manifestations, by his infinite perfections. If a man is free and exalted, in proportion as he is governed by enlightened reason and a pure conscience, so is he supremely blessed who cheerfully submits to be governed by the infinite reason and holiness of God. This sovereignty of God is the ground of peace and confidence to all his people. They rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; that neither necessity, nor chance, nor the folly of man, nor the malice of Satan controls the sequence of events and all their issues. Infinite wisdom, love, and power, belong to Him, our great God and Saviour, into whose hands all power in heaven and earth has been committed.
1. De Oratore, i. 42, 189, edit. Leipzig, 1850, p. 34.
2. Dogmatik, p. 92.
3. Emarratio in Psalmum, lxvii. I. 5, edit. Benedictines, vol. iv. p. 988 c.
4. Theologia, part I. cap. viii. § 2, edit. Leipzig, 1715, p. 426.
5. Ibid. II. cap. viii. § 2, p. 426.
6. Examen Theologicum, edit. Leipzig, 1763, p. 235.
7. Confessiones, XIII. xxxviii. 53, edit. Benedictines, vol. i. p. 410 b.
8. De Divisione Naturae, iii. 29, edit. Westphalia, 1838, p. 264.
9. Summa, I. xiv. 8, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 30.
10. Limits, p. 195.
11. Dogmatik, p. 113.
12. Summa, I. xiii. 2, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 23.
13. Theologia, I. viii. § ii. 2, p. 481.
14. Poedagogus, III. i. edit. Cologne, 1688, p. 214 a.
15. “Theodicee” Prefacem, Works, p. 469, edit. Berlin, 1848.
16. Werke, edit. Leipzig, 1838, vol. ii. p. 173.
17. Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, Responsio ad Secundas Objectiones, III., edit. Amsterdam, 1685, p. 74.
18. Prolegomena Logica, Boston, 1860, p. 123. See also McCosh’s Intuitions of the Mind, p. 143.
19. Limits, p. 148.
20. Prolegomena Logica, Boston, 1860, p. 52.
21. “Living Temple,” Works, London, 1724, vol. i. p. 70.
22. History of Modern Philosophy, translated by Wight. New York, 1852, vol. i. p. 113.
23. Institutiones Theologicae, IV. ii. 13, edit. Amsterdam, 1550, vol. i. p. 294.
24. Dogmatik, vol. i. p. 556.
25. De Praesentia Dei seu Epistola CLXXXVII. iv. 14, edit. Benedictines, vol. ii. p. 1023, d.
26. Summa, I. viii. 3, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 16.
27. Theologia, I. viii. § 1, p. 413.
28. Confessiones, IX. x. 24, edit. Benedictines, vol. i. p. 283, c.
29. Ibid. XI. xiii. 16, p. 338, a.
30. Summa, I. x. 4, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 16.
31. Theologia, I. viii. § I. xvii. p. 413.
32. Jamieson, p. 199.
33. Ibid. p. 163
34. Rev. George Jamieson, M.A., one of the ministers of the parish of Old Machar, Aberdeen, The Essentials of Philosophy, wherein its constituent Principles are traced throughout the various Departments of Science with analytical Strictures on the Views of some of our leading Philosophers.
35. Ibid., p. 200.
38. Strauss, Dogmatik, i. p. 561.
39. Christliche Glaube, I. § 52, Werke, edit. Berlin, 1842, vol. iii. p. 468.
40. In Joannis Evangelium Tractatus, xxiii. 9, edit. Benedictines, vol. iii. p. 1952, b, c.
41. Theologia, I. viii. § I. xx. p. 414.
42. Locus III. xi. 9, edit. Edinburgh, 1847, vol. i. p. 186.
43. Dogmatik, i. p. 575.
44. Ethices, I. xvii. Scholium, edit. Jena, 1803, vol. ii. p. 53.
45. Confessiones, XIII. xxxviii. 53, edit. Benedictines, vol. i, p. 410, b.
46. De DivisioneNaturae, III, 17, p. 235.
47. Ibid. 29, p. 264.
48. Summa, I. xiv. i, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 36.
49. Tom. i. loc. iii. cap. vi. § 43, p. 106, edit. Tubingen, 1762.
50. Ibid. cap. x. § 80, p. 119.
51. Ibid. chap. vii. § 47, p. 108.
52. Corpus Theologiae Christiane Tiguri, 1732.
53. Christliche Glabue, i. § 55. Werke, edit. Berlin, 1842, vol. iii. p. 295.
54. Bruch, Die Lebre von den gottlichen Eigenschaften, p. 162.
55. De Diversis Quoestumibus ad Simplicaianum, II. ii. 2, edit. Benedictines, vol. vi. p. 195, a. Compare also what he says on this subject, De Civitate Dei, XI. xxi.: Ibid. vol. vii. p. 461.
56. Systema Locurum Theologicorum, tom. ii. cap. 9; Wittenburg, 1655, p. 439.
57. Theologia, I. viii. § 1, xxvii. p. 418.
58. Meditationes. Responsiones Sextae, vi. edit. Amsterdam, 1685, p. 160.
59. Ibid. p. 181.
60. De Providentia Dei, Epilogus. Opera, edit. Turici, 1841, vol. iv. p. 133.
61. See Loci Communes Theologici, edit. Basle, 1573, pp. 402-408.
62. Systema Theologiae, lib. I. cap. v. 4; edit. Hanoviae, 1603, p. 107.
63. Institutio, III. xxiii. 2, edit. Berlin, 1834, part ii. p. 148.
64. Strauss, i. p. 592; Schliermacher, I. § 54. Werke, edit. Berlin, 1842, vol. III. p. 285.
65. Bruch, p. 155.
66. Dogmatik, vol. i. p. 587.
67. Glaubenslehre, I. § 54.
68. Die Lehre von den gottlichen Eigenschaften, p. 154.
69. Christlichen Lehre, p. 160.
70. Gess, Uebersicht uber das System Schliermacher’s, p. 88.
71. Glaubenslehre, I. p. 263.
72. Dogmatik, vol. i. p. 487.
73. Ethices, i. def. vii. edit. Jena, 1803, vol. ii. p. 36.
74. Epistola xxiii. Ibid. vol. i. 513.
75. “So wollen also die Begriffe des Absoluten und des Heiligen nicht zusammengehen; sondern wer das Absolute festhalt, der lost die Heiligkeit auf, welche nur an einem in Relation gestellten Wesen etwas ist; und wer es umgekehrt mit der Heiligkeit ernstlich nimmt der tritt der Idee der Absolutheit zu nahe, welche durch den leisesten Schatten der Moglichkeit, anders zu sein als sie ist, verunreinigt wird. Diese Einsicht in die Unanwendbar keit moralischer Attribute aut Gott hatten schon einzelne Kirchenvater . . . erkanute. — Dogmatik, vol i. p. 595.
76. Institutiones, p. 273.
77. De Finibus, v. 23, 65, edit. Leipzig, 1850, p. 1042.
78. Partitiones Oratoriae, 22, 78, edit. ut sup. p. 194.
79. Christlichen Glaube, § 84, Works, Berlin, 1843, vol. iv. p. 465.
80. Paedag gus, I. viii; edit. Cologne, 1688, p. 114, c. and p. 115.
81. Adversus Marcionem, II. 10; edit. Basel, 1562, p. 179, seu II. 13; edit. Leipzig, 1841, iii. p. 90. Bibliotheca, Gerdorf, vol. vi.
82. De Principiis, II. v. 3; edit. Paris, 1733, vol. i. p. 88, a.
83. Institutiones, i. 153; edit. Tiguri, 1743, p. 154.
84. Ibid. p. 154.
85. See the section on the “Gerechtigkeit Gottes” in Bruch’s Lehre von den Gottlichen Eigenschaften, pp. 275-296.
86. Light and Life of Men.
87. Eigenschaften, page 240.
88. Christlichen Glaube, § 166; Works, Berlin, 1843, vol. iv. p. 513.
89. Eigenschaften, p. 266.
90. Eigenschaften, p. 269, 270.
91. Von der Sunds und Erlosung, p. 21, Stud. der Ev. Geistl. Wurtembergs. vol. ii. part 2, Stuttgart, 1835.
92. Dogmatik, ii. p. 121.
93. Ibid. p. 130.
94. Dogmatik, ii. p. 137.
95. Dogmatik, vol. ii. p. 89.
96. Hollaz, Examen Theologicum, edit. Leipzig, 1763, pp. 243, 244.
97. Compendium Theologicum, I. § 33; edit. Hanoviae, 1777, pp. 97, 99.
98. Eigenschaften, p. 250.
99. Eigenschaften, p. 250.
100. Ibid. p. 252.
101. Glaubenslehre, vol. i. p. 443.v