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of God. It is necessary, therefore, to note how far such definitions, and even all the most lengthened explanations, are to be considered as expressing Him to our apprehension, viz.: only so far as, in His self-revelation in His works and word, He has declared Himself, and taught us how He wishes Himself to be recognized, thought of, and worshiped. The representations theology gives of His nature are valid only as they express the divine self-declaration. They must suffice not only to distinguish Him from all other beings in the universe, but to exhibit Him in all the essential realities of His nature and character in which He claims human recognition, homage, faith, and love.
The fundamental truth to be affirmed concerning the nature of God expresses the essence or substance of His being—that to which all His attributes belong. As to this, the Christian revelation is direct and unequivocal : “God is a Spirit” (John iv, 24). This affirmation is by Christ Himself. In it He made clearly explicit the implications of the Old Testament teaching, which had already involved this truth in its representations of God as the self-existent (moot, Ex. iii. 13-16; Isa. xliv. 6), and as the living God (Deut. v. 24; Isa. xxxvii. 4, 17; Jer. xxiii. 36), acting, as always represented, as a personal Creator and Ruler. These Old Testament representations unquestionably contained the elements of the conception of God as a Spirit, a purposive Intelligence and free Power. The explicit assurance of this truth of the spirit-essence of God opens to full view the essential condition for genuine worship. The object of worship must necessarily be, not matter, but Mind, the Spirit-Being to whom belong supreme knowledge, goodness, and dominion. Otherwise there would be no point of devotional contact. Religion would be a link uniting to inanity—a caput mortuum-to nothing that could understand or help, answer our prayers, be pleased with our homage, or afford any fellowship.
wisdom, the eternal Father who begat the Son, His own image from eternity, and the Son, the co-eternal image of the Father, and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son."-"Loci Theol."
Westminster Shorter Catechism : “God is a spirit, eternal, infinite, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth."
It has been much the custom of theology to state the essence of God under the term "spirituality,” using the word attributively and placing it among the attributes. But the use of this method and placing is discrepant and hardly just. It takes the Essence, which is the subject of all the divine properties and predicates, and classifies it among the attributive predicates. It is better, since the reality concerned is not an attribute, but the substance of God-pure Spirit—that it should have its own fundamental position, undisturbed by a confusing classification.
THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD. How are we to think of these? We are compelled, under the laws of mind, divinely given, to think of every being or entity under the category of substance and attribute. The term thus expresses the qualities, powers, or properties which mark and define any substance or essence. Substances are distinguished from each other by the complex or total of their attributes. No substance is known directly in its interior essence or reality, but only through the qualities or properties, open to perception or scientific determination, which belong to it and manifest it. Apart from its attributes manifesting it, it would be unknown and unknowable.
The relation between substance and attribute needs to be clearly borne in mind. A substance is not made or constituted of attributes—not a mere aggregation of them. Nor do the attributes exist, save conceptually or in notion, apart from the substance. But the substance is the subject of attributes or properties which inhere in it. A substance without attributes is a mere figment of fancy-is, in fact, unthinkable. Attributes likewise do not exist apart from substance, save as mental products by abstraction and generalization. The attributes of God are, therefore, the real qualities of the divine essence and mark its being and character. They belong to the essence and reveal its intrinsic nature. God's attributes are the immutable perfections of His being.
The old nominalistic notion of the “absolute simplicity” of God, denying to His nature all internal distinction between essence and attribute, between attribute and act, or between one property and another, or between knowing and willing, and affirming all such distinctions to be only our subjective modes of representing Him to ourselves, is not only in contradiction to the necessary laws of thought, but is without warrant of the Scriptures, and amounts to a denial that we can know God at all. The correct conception of his "simplicity”
" This false notion of the nature of God as absolutely simple began with Augustine on “The Trinity,” Book XV., ch. vi. 8; Book VI., ch. vii. Occam taught : "The divine attributes are distinguished neither substantially nor logically from each other or from the divine Essence; the only distinction is that of names." We find the same idea in Gerhard's "Loci," Loc. III., ch. vii. Also in Quenstedt. Now and then in later and recent writers, as Charnock, Schleier
is merely exclusion of all composition and inconsistency. It must be compatible with the fullness of divine attributes. The true conception of His attributes must hold them, not as mere forms of our subjective thought under which we naturally seek to represent Him to ourselves, and which we, therefore, attribute to Him, but as intrinsic properties and characteristics of the divine nature, which are disclosed to us in God's self-revelation in order that we may know Him as He truly is.
It is advantageous to make some classification of the attributes. Sometimes they have been divided into negative and positive, the negative being those by which certain limitations have been denied, the positive those by which perfections are affirmed. Sometimes they have been classed as immanent and transitive, the former relating to God as He is in Himself, internal and quiescent; the latter having respect to His activities in which His nature passes over into manifestation in the constitution and administration of the world. A third division classes them as communicable and incommunicable, those which can be imparted and those which cannot. The best division, the one most generally followed, groups them under the terms natural and moral, the natural being such as pertain to Him as pure essence or being, the moral, such as belong to Him in His ethical perfections, expressing what we specifically speak of as character.
macher, Rothe, etc. This obliteration of a real distinction between the attributes, making them only names and human notions, besides being unscriptural, works confusion and error when applied in formulating the doctrines of redemption and providence. The simple assertion that the divine justice or righteousness is only another name for the divine love, has often opened the way to rejection of the atonement.
1 See Dorner, "System of Christian Doctrine," ch. i., Pp. 235-237. * H. B. Smith, “System of Christian Theology," p. 15.
The advantage of this division is that it is based upon a very clear distinction with respect to God; it also throws the theological treatment and view in closest, most constant, practical relations with the way of salvation and the duties of the Christian life.
NATURAL ATTRIBUTES. These mark the divine nature considered simply as pure being. They express its properties viewed only with respect to God's essence and altogether apart froin any thought of His moral character as good or evil. They designate the properties that, taken together, distinguish the substance of God from all other essence in the universe of existent being. They include the following:
1. LIFE. This connects itself directly with the truth that, as to essence, God is a Spirit. For it seems to be of the very nature of spirit to be living being, in contrast with matter which may be void of life. All through the Scriptures God is revealed as “the living God,” Jer. X. 10; 1 Thes. i. 9; John v. 26. The finite life in nature implies life in its divine Source, as otherwise its origin remains inexplicable. The contingent life of the world cannot be the product of dead or nonliving existence. Though, despite all our science, life remains mysterious and beyond analytic explanation, our consciousness brings us face to face with it as a high unique reality, marking a grade of being different from all without it. The very conferring of this quality of being reveals God as the everliving God. In Him life is perfect-infinite, absolute, original, and endless : “Who alone hath immortality” (1 Tim. vi. 16), deathless, “from everlasting to everlasting.” All the life ex