Abstract of Systematic Theology

By Rev. James Petigru Boyce

Chapter 8


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ascribe power to God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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