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ficing His infinitude." We add, further, that He is the absolute Personality, because there are in Himself the intelligence and free-power that have conferred or created all the external forces and influences by which He is then affected. "Everything that the world means for Him is at bottom an expression of His own. self-activity; and whatever of the movement reacts upon Him He recognizes as the recurrent sweep of that reality which is possible through Himself alone." It but exhibits the free self-activity in which He goes forth for the creation only of what He has before and eternally taken up in His own personal purposes and plan. The predicates of personality, in truth, necessarily belong to 'the Absolute' and 'the Infinite' in the highest and fullest sense, and are applicable to finite beings only in an inferior or limited sense.
The necessity of keeping the divine personality distinct and clear is seen in the fact that a denial of it means atheism. For an impersonal, unconscious thing, without knowledge or free-power, is not God-cannot be God. Not a single relation, work, or office from that involved in creation, on through preservation, providence, redemp tion, fellowship, love or help to creatures, could be p sible or conceivable if a personal Supreme Being did not exist. In vain would mankind direct worship up to an unconscious sky or make appeal to a pantheistic, impersonal universe. In no particular, kowen, da the supreme importance of this attribute come into view more impressively than in the fact that a dentál
of it negatives the whole possibility of the ethical character of God. For ethical character is unthinkable apart from conscious intelligence and freedom. It is one of the mysteries in confusion of thought when Matthew Arnold is satisfied to leave the idea of God simply in the sphere of impersonality: 'a tendency,' 'a stream of tendency,' 'a power not ourselves, which makes for righteousness.' '
5. ETERNITY. Being self-existent, God must be eternal-without beginning or end. He is superior to the limitations of time. He is "from everlasting to everlasting" (Ps. xc. 2)—without commencement, without termination. He never began to be and never can cease to be. He is the Absolute Eternal Life. This is the essential import of this wonderful attribute; and it is probably about all that ought to be unequivocally affirmed concerning it. The many curious assertions about its involving, for God,' a successionless consciousness,' an 'eternal now' of view, 'an absolute simultaneity of knowledge, without distinction of past, present, and future,' are probably but futile attempts to establish definitions beyond not only the revelations of the Scriptures, but the reach of the human faculties. At best they are mystical and uncertain. In some respects they are confusing and misleading. We will notice some of their bearings when we come to consider
1 "Literature and Dogma," pp. 8-45.
For instance, if God's eternity were made to exclude consciousness of "succession "" or "timelessness," the word eternity would mean absolutely nothing to us, an empty blank, for the very form of our conception of "eternity "as reality, without "beginning or ending," involves a "time" interval between the terms. We cannot abstract the distinction between purpose and fulfillment, with its time idea, from the divine consciousness without making it motionless and dead.
the divine omniscience. At this point it seems best to let the eternity of God stand in its own single, specific divine reality, unconfused by doubtful feats of metaphysical speculation.
6. IMMUTABILITY. This must be understood as excluding all change, either in the divine essence or the divine perfections and purposes. In the essence of His being and in all His character God is eternally equal and self-identical (Ps. cii. 25-27; Mal. iii. 6; Heb. xiii. 8; Jas. i. 17; Eph. iii. 11). This truth rests in the absolute
i. and infinite perfections of His nature and character. There is in Him no imperfection to overcome; there are no errors to correct.
That the Scriptures sometimes, especially in their earlier records, represent God as' repenting' (Gen. vi. 6; Ex. xxxii. 14, etc.), or dealing in altered way with men, is not legitimately taken to mean any change in His nature or purposes. The expressions are simply anthropomorphic, adapted, after a common manner of human speech, to declare the immutable divine aversion to sin or wrong-doing, when men depart froin righteousness. They reflect the changed relations made by transgression in which the divine dealing with men necessarily becomes different. It is just because God changes not, that men corrupting themselves in wickedness experience the change as if God had repented of all His earlier love and favor.
The difficulties sometimes suggested in connection with the work of creation and with the Christological truth of the incarnation, seem to be more real and perplexing. As to the latter, it has often seemed to involve some change in the interior life of God, through the
1 See Dr. R. S. Foster's “Studies in Theology-God," p. 55.
assumption of human nature into union with the Godhead. Peter Lombard's perplexity with the question, bringing on the nihilian controversy, is well known.1 The difficulty seems fairly to disappear under the light of the two certain truths: first, that the seeming change was no real change in the divine nature or essence. The divine "nature" in the incarnate union maintained its own pure self-identity, without alteration or confusion. The assumption in the act and state of the union was, and is, rather the taking of a new 'relation,' a new 'manifestation,' than any change of being-a redeeming manifestation and relation, instead of the relation and manifestation of divine displeasure brought in by human sin. And this, as it made the 'nature' of God neither more nor less than before, was, secondly, no alteration of His "purpose"; for the incarnation was part of His "eternal purpose" (Eph. iii. 11), "without variableness or shadow of turning." The difficulty with respect to the act of creation, as involving a passing of God from an inactive, quiescent existence into one of activity, if not satisfied by Origen's offered solution of an "eternal creation," can easily be explained along the same lines of distinguishing, as above, between what God is immutably in Himself and as realizing, in time, the order of His eternally self-consistent purposes. His acts are not identical with His essence or attributes.
7. OMNIPOTENCE marks a feature of God's nature, both as to what He is in Himself and in relation to the universe. While expressing a reality in His inner being, it stands for transitive energy, which moves forth and appears in the forces of creative existence. We are assured of it in the Scriptural revelation (Gen. xvii. 1; 2 "De Prin.," I., 2, 10; III., 3, 5.
1 "Sent.," III., 6, 7.
Job xxvi. 7-14; Matt. xix. 26; Rom. iv. 17). It is witnessed to in nature. It is that attribute by which God is the absolute and supreme causality, the Cause of all causes and effects within the range of His acting, or by which He can do, and does, whatever He pleases.
We cannot have a correct view of this attribute without bearing in mind that it, with all the rest, belongs to God only as He is the self-existent, eternal Spirit, Mind, the absolute Personality. Apart from this, as will become apparent, He could not be omnipotent. For the very conception of omnipotence, as required both by Christian revelation and the demands of reason, becomes a possibility only under the ideas which mark and define personal being. An impersonal power stands infinitely apart from God's self-portraiture in His word. In the theories of reason, such impersonal power gets apotheosis only in the irrationalities of materialism or the pantheism which dissolves into atheism.
The divine omnipotence, therefore, stands for the divine Will as Power, and must be viewed under this double conception. Under the conception of it as Will, careful definition is necessary for clearness. Will being Mind as causal for choice and executive action, the Divine Will may justly be defined to be the Divine Mind, in the light of perfect knowledge, as causal for whatever God does. It is, thus, that capacity of God by which He chooses and works for ends. As Will, it must involve these four distinct notions : (a) Intelligence. The causality knows why and for what it acts. Will, being a rational power, is inconceivable apart from this. (6) Freedom. There is nothing outside of Him to take away His absolute self-direction. His choices are abso lutely in and of Himself. In the highest and perfect