A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume One

Chapter 8

The Attributes of God









            Self - Sufficiency;













            Moral Attributes Generally;

            Holiness and Love;







            Mercy and Grace;

            General Observations on the Study of the Attributes

By the Divine Attributes are to be understood the full assemblage of those Perfections which God ascribes to Himself in His Word: partly as the fuller expansion of His Names, and partly as designed to regulate our conception of His character. They are to be distinguished from the Properties of the Triune Essence, on the one hand; and, on the other, from the Acts by which His relations to His creatures are made known. Hence dogmatic Theology regards them, first in their unity as Perfections manifesting the Divine Nature, and, secondly, in their variety as Attributes capable of systematic arrangement.


As related to the essence of God, their unity in variety is only the full revelation of the Divine nature in itself; their variety in unity is the real, authoritative, and adequate revelation of it to man. They are one in God, yet many to us.

1. No being or essence is conceivable apart from its attributes and qualities. It is a primary law of thought that all phenomena whether of mind or matter are manifestations of some underlying substance thus only known to us. What is true of all other objects of our knowledge is true also of the Highest. Save in His qualities and attributes God is not revealed to His creatures. The Eternal unclothed in these is not a definite object of thought at all; that pure unmodified being which Pantheistic mysticism presented as its highest conception of God is reduced to nothing. Such super essential existence has no place either in Scripture or in human reason. On the other hand, the entire Divine essence is made known in the assemblage of His qualities predicated of it. The Bible never distinguishes between the Being of God and the NAME or Names that reveal His being. Its nearest approach to a distinction is in the constant use of the term GLORY, which is the effulgence of the manifestation of the hidden essence; and therefore by no means a synonym of the Divine attributes, as is sometimes said. The Divine attributes may exist without their glory: a truth which lies at the basis of the condescension and humiliation of the Incarnate Son. Theology adopts the word Perfections, as they are attributed by God to Himself; Attributes, as His creatures, Divinely instructed, assign them to Him. Moreover, these attributes belong to ALL THAT is CALLED GOD: 1 that is, to the Triune Essence, and each of the Persons of the Godhead. Hence it is well that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity should have preceded the present subject. But, as referred to the Trinity, the attributes must not be confounded with the Divine PROPERTIES, which is one of the terms used to express the characteristics of the interior relation of the Godhead, the Three Divine Hypostases, Subsistences, or Persons.

1 2 Thes. 2:4.

2. The variety of the attributes corresponds to a reality in the Eternal. Who reveals Himself as He is neither leaving His character to the conjectures of His creatures, nor putting into their minds notions of that character which are fictitious and unreal. To make the several qualities of the Divine nature depend only on our conceptions of them is to lose the Divine nature altogether: it is to substitute for the only true God an imaginary Being incapable of definition. The interminable discussions of the Schoolmen on this subject, which have been continued in later times and revived of late with special reference to the knowable-ness of God, are not without a profound interest. The Nominalists, who regarded general terms as merely names of abstractions formed in our minds, effaced the real distinction in the Divine attributes: to them God was in the simplicity of His essence ACTUS PURUS, thought and act, or act and power, being one in Him, and the perfections of the Divine nature existing only in our thoughts, in which we assign to God something that is the cause of what we find in ourselves. The Realists, on the other hand, who regarded general terms as representing real objective existences, clung to the reality in God both of the Triune Persons and of the various perfections He assumes. In every age those who hold with them think of God as essential personality, as really invested with His attributes in perfection as His creatures are invested with them imperfectly. But here our safeguard is to remember that in the simplicity of the eternal essence there can be nothing composite: the whole essence is in each attribute: God is All in all, All in each. Accordingly it follows that we can think of no such accidental attribute as may be and is in everything that is not God; as man, for instance, may or may not have wisdom.

There is no perfection in the Supreme that is not of His essence. Thus, while we reject what may be called the Sabellian theology of the Divine attributes—each is distinct in the unity of the supreme nature—in the Glory of God all the several components of His nature blend into one.

3. Hence it may be said that only through the way of the Divine attributes can we reach a definition of the Divine nature. There is a sense indeed in which the being of God is absolutely undefinable, because absolutely incomprehensible. But, as to define is rather to separate or distinguish from everything else than to explain what is thus defined or marked off, there is nothing more amenable to definition than the nature of God. Of course, to think of genus and species is here out of the question. But we may speak of God as a subject with all good predicates, and with these in their infinite perfection: of no other object of knowledge can we speak with equal confidence. In His essence He is the Being of beings: the Source, Sustainer, and End of all things that are. But this already expresses His difference from all that is not Himself. To express that difference fully is to enumerate the perfections of His nature. We cannot sanctify Him in our hearts from every other object without thinking of or naming His attributes. The moment definition begins these are absolutely necessary. Indeed, we have no notion of Deity which does not connote some idea which severs the conception from all other conceptions. Every thought of God involves the thought of His attributes: without these He is verily and indeed an unknown and an unknowable God.


In systematic theology the attributes require classification. Our best guide, the Scripture, gives hints and specimens of an arrangement of its abundant materials; and such an arrangement tends, as will be seen, to elucidate their connection with the various branches of the system of revelation. To exhibit them merely in an orderly series involves too great a sacrifice to simplicity. But it is as difficult as it is important to determine the guiding principles of such a classification.

1. The favorite method has been to make a division into two counterpart classes. Hence they are distributed as natural and moral by a distinction which the meaning of neither of these words will allow: both are inappropriate to the Deity, and the harshness is not removed if metaphysical and ethical are substituted. The instinctive objection we feel to these terms is not felt to the correlatives of absolute and relative, immanent and transitive, internal and external: these distinctions furnish the right clue and are sound so far as they go; but they do not suggest those special manifestations of God which give their peculiar glory to Christian theology. It is dangerous to speak of positive and negative attributes; for while there is no positive excellence in Deity which does not imply negation or its opposite, the negative ideas of infinity and so forth are really and truly positive. Lastly, when they are classed as communicable and incommunicable, it must be remembered that, as attributes, all are alike incommunicable to the creature.

2. Secondly, the names and perfections of God have been ordered with reference to the method by which we attain, or may be supposed to attain, our conceptions of them. The Mediaeval doctors taught that we arrive at adequate notions of the Divine perfections, first, "via negationis:" by the instinctive denial of limitation and defect to the Supreme; secondly, " via eminentiae:" by ascribing to Him the most eminent possession of what in us or in our idea is good; thirdly, " via causalitatis," by making Him the actual, virtual, or permissive cause of every effect observable in the economy of things. This scholastic method has always commended itself by its simplicity, though it is liable to some of the objections that render the former method doubtful: especially it fails in its application to the attributes which are concerned with human redemption.

3. Thirdly, it has been sought to make our own nature the basis of the distribution of His attributes in Whose image we were created: " Qualis homo, talis Deus." Man is conscious of his own substantial being and identity through all changes: this suggests that God exists, apart from all phenomena. But man is conscious of three orders of selfmanifestation or modes of consciousness: the three constituents of his existence are intellect, sensibility, will. Hence a threefold classification of the Divine attributes, so far as they are distinguished from His eternal essence. In modern times, and especially by the followers of Schleiermacher, the demands of man's religious need have been the regulator: a sense of dependence implying the absolute attributes, a sense of sin the moral perfections, and the whole being consummated by the revelation of love in Christ. Here, then, is undoubtedly a ground of truth. Every rational human thought of God springs from man's knowledge of himself. This is the grand prerogative of human nature that it is a reflection of the Divine. We either ascribe to our Maker the perfection of what is imperfect in ourselves, or we deny to Him what in ourselves we count evil. But it is obvious that there are relations of the Infinite to the finite, of the Creator to the creature, and of the Holy God to sinners, which forbid the carrying out of this principle of classification. It is enough to say concerning these methods that they have too much tendency to make man the measure of the Deity.

4. Guided by these principles of analysis, though not bound to any of them, we shall, first, consider the attributes pertaining to God as an absolute or unrelated Being; then, those arising out of the relation between the Supreme and the creature, which indeed require the creature for their manifestation; and, finally, those which belong to the relation between God and moral beings under His government, with special reference to man. The justification of this arrangement will appear in due course.


The Divine essence, or the Absolute, regarded in itself and in itself alone, is to be conceived as pure spirit, unlimited by time or space, independent of all other existence, in its perfect self knowing no change or process of development. As these are the attributes of a personal Being they may be summed up as Spirituality, Infinity, Eternity, Immensity, necessary Self-sufficiency, Unchangeableness, and Perfection. These great words, carefully examined, are or suggest all the attributes of God which are immanent, independent of the creature, and essential to a right conception of His nature.


Spirituality is the attribute which most nearly and fully expresses the very essence of God as the one eternal substance in which all other attributes inhere. Hence the Scripture does not tell us that the Divine nature is spiritual; but our Lord, the only Revealer, declares that Pneuma ho Theos, GOD is SPIRIT: 1 the only definition He ever gave. This may be understood in two ways: first, positively, as the perfection of all that we know of spirit in our own consciousness; and. negatively, as excluding all that is inconsistent with our conception of pure spirit

1 John 4:24.

1. The human spirit was created in the image of God. By the testimony of our consciousness the Father of spirits 1 is a real, substantial Person, Whose personal selfconsciousness is that of a thinking or intelligent self determining Agent. The Scripturesabound with testimonies, pervading their whole structure, that He holds intercourse with man as a Spirit with spirit. This is and ought to be accepted as the foundation of all religion.

1 Heb. 12:9.

2. This attribute is not generally asserted of God in an abstract manner, or as defining His nature. It is appealed to for two-purposes: to guard our conceptions of the Object of our worship from everything that would debase it; and, to impress upon us a sense of the dignity of our origin and the grandeur of our vocation as worshippers of the One, Triune, Eternal Spirit.

(1.) Of what pure spirit is we can form no notion. The word gives little help, as it simply expresses the breathing forth which in its influence is pneuma: an invisible energy, known by its effects. All pure being, especially spiritual being, as underlying its phenomena, is beyond our grasp. But, in thinking of the highest Spirit, we put away every idea of the limitations which belong to our own spirit. The attribute gives us the simplicity and unity of the Divine uncompounded nature; its immateriality, immortality, and invisibility. Therefore the term is, after all, the predicate of a personal God, distinct from the material and created universe. Pantheism has always seemed in words to deny this: seldom in reality. Some of the greatest leaders of Pantheistic thought have been better than their creed: filled with the idea of a universal directing Spirit, but forgetting that He is and can be in His own nature only Spirit.

(2.) Of that God in His Triune essence, and of each Person in the unity of the Godhead, as the object of worship, spirituality is predicated. This attribute belongs to the absolute Godhead as before all creaturely existence. But it is brought into relation with the economy of redemption. Of the Father, and also the Son, it is said, Whom no man hath seen nor can see! As before: Unto the King eternal (of the worlds and dispensations, ton aionon), immortal, invisible! 1 The Son is the Spirit. 2 The Holy Ghost, holy in His function and relation to redemption, is by His very name to Pneuma. 3 Hence the worship of God must be spiritual: not indeed as formless and void and without material aids, but as the homage of spirit to Spirit: 4 They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. 5 The Apostle Paul teaches the Gentiles, through their own teachers, that we are also his offspring; 6 and the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of that God as the Father of spirits. 7 In the former passage the inference is a remarkable one: from the spiritual essence in man to the spirituality of God and of His perfect service. In the latter, which echoes the words of the Old Testament, The God of the spirits of all flesh, 8 the duty of subjection and; the privilege of LIFE in the fullest sense are connected with it God only hath immortality—that is, the essential incorruptibility of Spirit—and of His incorruptible immortality the indivisibility and indestructibility of the human spirit is an image and a gift.9

1 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 2 Cor. 3:17; 3 John 4:24; 4 Deu. 4:15-19; 5 John 4:24; 6 Acts 17:28; 7 Heb. 12:9; 8 Num. 16:22; 27:16; 9 1 Tim. 6:16.


There is no idea concerning God more necessary to the human mind than that He is Infinite in His being and perfections and all that is His: that whatever is to be predicated of Him is to be infinitely predicated, or without limitation. But while this is an indispensable requisite of every thought concerning the Supreme, it is, at the same time, an idea that must for ever overwhelm the finite mind which must nevertheless entertain it.

1. The notion of the Infinite belongs only to God, to Whom alone of all objects of thought it is, strictly speaking, applicable. No other subject of this predicate has or can have a real existence. There is no meaning in the terms " infinite space " and " infinite duration:" space is nothing save as occupied, but what occupies it must be limited; and duration implies some limited thing that endures. It is only when it is made the attribute of a Being, and one Being, that the word has, strictly speaking, any meaning.

2. Infinity is a positive notion in a negative form: that it is a mere negation of limits springs from the finite nature of our own understanding; that it is a positive judgment or affirmation of our minds, and in our own in destructible conviction something more than mere negation, is a tribute to the essential nobleness of the human intellect. When we say that we ourselves are finite we mean more than a mere denial of our infinity: we express a real judgment concerning our own and every creaturely existence to which the standard of infinity is applied. So when we say that God is infinite we express the sacred thought that He is beyond the circumscription and the comprehension of our understanding.

3. It is important to remember that the word infinite is one of our own making, and not employed in Scripture. It must be narrowly watched and guarded in its application to the Supreme. It belongs to Him not as abstract essence but as a Personal Spirit. Nothing but confusion can arise from applying it to the nature of God as if that were capable of diffusion and its expansion regarded as going on to infinity. The human mind is not capable of thinking save under the conditions of time and space. The Infinite is revealed to faith as above the condition of time, and of this Eternity is the expression; as above the conditions of space, and of this Immensity is the expression. Infinity in philosophical precision has nothing to do with God's relation to the economy of created things; nor is it right to ask how anything can exist which is not God if God be infinite. This term belongs rather to His attributes than to Himself. An infinite Spirit is infinite in the attributes of spirit: in knowledge, in power, and in what we call in human language resources. If it is urged that an unlimited Being must include all being, the only answer— besides the unfailing acknowledgment of our utter incapacity to argue on such subjects—is that an infinite Spirit must by the very term be able to create finite existences. His power is unlimited.


1. The Immensity of God is only once declared in Scripture; but when it is said that Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, 1 a formula is used which expresses the universal sentiment of revelation and precisely defines the supremacy of the Eternal Spirit over all conditions of space. It is not that He fills immensity with His presence: He is the only Immensity, all things created being measurable and limited. The universe CANNOT CONTAIN Him: not because His essence stretches beyond the confines of created things, but because His eternal Spirit transcends and is inconsistent with all notions of space. Space is born out of His immensity, as time out of His eternity: but none can declare the generation of either. This incomprehensible attribute of the pure and absolute Divine essence is the ground of His omnipresence, hereafter to be considered: because, while above and independent of all space, He can, when space and all that it inherit come into existence at His fiat, fill all with His presence. It can hardly be said that the Immensity of God is the negative of which His ubiquity is the positive. Both are positive conceptions; strictly related to each other and yet very different. The former lifts our thought to the overwhelming contemplation of a Being above all created existence; the latter teaches us to draw the necessary inference that the Creator of all things is present to every creature, or, putting this in a better form, that every creature throughout space is present to Him.

1 2 Chr. 6:18.

2. This eternal attribute is in Scripture appealed to for two purposes: first, to bring near the thought of the Divine omnipresence; secondly, and chiefly, to guard us against unduly localizing our conception of the Object of worship. In Him we live and move and have our being: 1 as our time is enfolded by the Divine eternity, so our place is in the bosom of the Divine immensity. 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. 2 The response is that of holy fear: Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, and whither shall I flee from Thy presence? 3 and of holy confidence: Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 4 But when the Temple was dedicated, in which Jehovah would dwell with His people, the Holy Ghost inspired Solomon's sublime appeal already quoted: But who is able to build Him a house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? 5 It is not enough for us in our worship to remember that our God is everywhere present, that He is oar Father in heaven; we must remember also that He is beyond and above even the heavens: Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. 6 It is a high flight to the thought of a Being Who is everywhere present; it is a still higher thought that we are in the presence of One Who is above all space and time.

1 Acts 17:28; 2 Jer. 23:23,24; 3 Psa. 139:7; 4 Psa 16:8; 5 2 Chr. 2:6; 6 Isa. 66:1.


1. What the Divine immensity is to space the Divine eternity is to time. That God is eternal is the constant declaration of Scripture: in fact this is a predicate more habitual than any other, being the first revelation of Himself to His people, I AM THAT I AM, 1 and continued in a variety of other forms down to the end, when it returns to the first, Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come, the Almighty. 2 It must be remembered, however, that very few of the passages which introduce the word assign the absolute attribute we are now considering to God. The Name that declares His essential, necessary, underived being sufficiently sustains the doctrine of the Divine eternity. In one memorable passage it is said that Abraham called there on the name of Jehovah, the Everlasting God, or THE GOD OF ETERNITY, Yahweh 'Eel `Owlaam, 3 which once more occurs in the prophet: Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord—owlaam Yahweh Bowree', the God of eternity, Jehovah—the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? 4 Undoubtedly in these, and some other passages, the word eternal has its profound meaning of time HIDDEN in the abyss of eternity. But it will be found that all the terms generally used carry with them the notion of successive duration indefinitely extended, and therefore fall short of the pure conception of eternal. Hence they are explained with that meaning by many paraphrases: such as, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God, 5 where duration to come and duration past are alike unlimited; and mean, though they do not say, that Jehovah is above all time, wª-Nisaa', the Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity. 6 The variations are very sublime on the idea of duration lost in timelessness, before and after creation: I am the First and I am the Last; and beside Me there is no God, where still the idea of duration enters. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day: here duration is all but gone. St. Paul calls God the King eternal, immortal, invisible: here it is the King of ages, just as it is said that He made the ages or worlds. From all this it is plain that, while the abstract idea is wanting in Scriptural expression, it is not wanting in the Scriptural doctrine. Eternity is expressed in finite terms.

1 Exo. 3:14; 2 Rev. 1:8; 3 Gen. 21:33; 4 Isa. 40:28; 5 Psa. 90:2; 6 Isa. 57:15.

2. But the perfect idea of eternity, as it is in the human mind, cannot tolerate duration or succession of thoughts as necessary to the Divine consciousness. And this is the deep perplexity of our human intellect, which however must accept the profound meaning of the name I AM, as teaching an eternal now enfolding and surrounding the successive existence of time. The personal Jehovah once and once only declared His pure eternity.

His name is the only word which human language affords in its poverty to express that thought: such terms as eternal and everlasting have temporal notions clinging to them; and all our phrases go no further than that the Supreme fills all space and time, and that He was before them, the very word before carrying duration with it. But I AM—before Time or Space was, 1 AM—has in it all the strength of eternity. It is literally the assertion of pure existence, without distinction of past and present and future: that is, of past and present and future as measured in time and regulated by motion in space. We must accept this doctrine of God in all its incomprehensibleness, as the only one that satisfies the mind. The Eternal in Himself knows no succession of time any more than He knows circumscription of space; and, when He created all things, His being remains as independent of duration as it is independent of locality. No attribute, however, has given rise to more discussion than this. The deepest thinkers of all ages have consented to annihilate in the Divine essence all that we mean by time and succession of thought. They have agreed to speak of a Duratio tota simul, of an AEternitas in which fuisse et futurum esse non est sed SOLUM ESSE. And the name Jehovah—the Name of God and of each of the Three Persons in the Godhead—demands and sanctions this. It is utterly vain to attempt to penetrate this abyss of mystery: it is equally fruitless either to fight against it or to illustrate it.

3. Opponents of this truth deny that there can be duration without succession; but duration is succession; both words are equally inappropriate to the Eternal who simply is.

They insist also that to take from a personal being the act and operations of successive thinking is to destroy its personality. But that is simply arguing from our finite nature— which cannot think but under conditions of time and space—to the Infinite which by the very definition knows no such limits. The only answer possible to all such objections is the common apology required everywhere by this subject: we cannot search out the Divine Being unto perfection; though the perfection in which we are lost allows no past to recede before God and no future to rise before Him. When the argument takes another form, and we are pointed to the tenor of Scriptural representations that speak of the Eternal as having purposes which have been fulfilled and are in course of fulfillment, our reply must be cautiously and yet boldly given. Time is the creation of the Eternal God, Who made the ages. 1 It is, with all its endless phenomena and laws, a reality to Him Who brought it into being; and all its succession unfolds in His presence as past and present and future. Our only difficulty is to hold fast the truth that He sustains two relations to time. As the abiding Eternal One He views it in its place, Himself absolutely unconnected with it. As the God who works out for the creature and with the creature His own purposes He beholds, directs, and controls all things as under the law to time. This is of course a deep mystery to human thought: that is, to conceive of eternal willing and temporal acting, of a timeless and succes-sionless Agent working out and watching the evolution of His plans. But the mystery, such as it is, is only that of the Incarnation anticipated; and, as we receive this, we may receive that. We may dare to say that the Eternal inhabits eternity; and yet that in the Son, the Firstborn before every creature, He inhabits time also. As in the incarnation God is manifest in the flesh, so in the creation God is manifest in time. And as God will be for ever manifest in His incarnate Son, so will He for ever have in and through His Son, the Vicegerent of created things, a manifestation in time: that is to say, in plain words, eternity and time will henceforward and for ever coexist. Something pertaining to time will cease: its change and probation and opportunity. In this sense chrónos oukéti éstai, 2 but in no other sense than this.

1 Heb. 1:2; 2 Rev. 10:6.

4. Illustrations are on this subject of no great value. And yet they are not utterly worthless. One has just been used, the analogy with the Incarnation. No exception can be taken to this: as the Son thinks and feels and acts as a man while still the Eternal God, so the Eternal God thinks and feels and acts amidst the creaturely conditions of time. The phenomenal universe is a rehearsal of the Incarnation. But in this case the illustration is as unfathomable as the thing illustrated. Other illustrations are frequently suggested which involve a disguised Pantheism, and should therefore be steadily avoided For instance, when it is said that time is the shadow of eternity, or the element of continuity amidst changing phenomena, the successional existence of God is made eternal.

Pantheism asks nothing more than this. There is indeed a dim and fleeting but an impressive adumbration of the sublime idea nearer home, in the very constitution of our nature. An apocryphal writer says that "God created man for immortality ... an image of His own being." The canonical Preacher, after describing all the ordinances and arrangements of time in their season, adds in a mysterious sentence: He hath made everything beautiful in his time. Also He hath set eternity in their heart, haa`olaam naatan, so that no man can find out the work that God worketh from the beginning to the end. 1 The thought or the instinct or the desire of eternity for ever points the worker in time to an unfathomable mystery of the Divine purpose beyond time. Man knows or feels that he is linked with eternity and surrounded by it. This deep mystery in his inmost soul gives him desires and anticipations that transcend time and space. Sometimes this sense of the infinite or of the eternal seems for a season to annihilate the succession of his thoughts, and his contemplation of God raises him above all limitation. From this sublime ecstasy, however, he evermore awakes; but not without a dim presentiment of what time will be when it is swallowed up, without being lost, in the abyss of eternity.

1 Ecc. 3:11.


No notion we can form of God is more important in its meaning and in its issues than that He is self sufficient, or that of His necessary eternal autarkeia.

1. We use our own feeble words when we say that it is a necessity of thought that the Being who is the ground of all existence should be Himself an eternal necessity. All things have their cause and their end in Him: He can have no cause nor end out of Himself. He is the one, sole, self originated, independent, unconditioned and absolute Being. Here the eternal name JEHOVAH, I AM, 1 again comes in. The idea of causation carries us to One Essential Existence; but cannot go behind that It is a very loose employment of the term to add that He is Causa Sui, His own cause: He simply, purely, and eternally IS. Before Me there was no God formed! 2 To all the best thoughts and instincts of our created nature He may say: Ye are even My witnesses, Is there a God beside Me? I am the First, and I am the last, and beside Me there is no God!3

1 Exo. 3:14; 2 Isa. 43:10; 3 Isa. 44:6,8.

2. Although this immanent and absolute attribute by its very name shuts out the creature, and points to a Being Who needs nothing to complement or complete His perfection, it nevertheless implies that in the infinity of His resources are all the possibilities and potentialities of the created universe. When we exchange the terms Necessary, Independent, Self existent, for that of All sufficient, we begin to think of the eternal resources that are in the Deity; of His eternal power and Godhead. 1 The word Nothing vanishes before both His essence and His power. His sufficiency knows no limit but what He Himself by word or act assigns to it. Of an eternal creation we dare not think; but we may speak of the eternal possibilities of creation: of which more hereafter. From the creation of the world His invisible things have been dearly seen, being understood from the things that are made: these postulate an infinity of the invisible things behind.

1 Rom. 1:20.

3. By self-sufficiency we understand all that philosophy means by the notions of the Absolute and the Unconditioned No relation in which the Supreme may place Himself— He only becomes the Supreme by relation—throws any limitation around His being. No relation is a necessary relation: in saying this we say all that is needful. Some current definitions of the Absolute have literally no meaning. The philosophy which admits that the finite cannot comprehend the Infinite, yet asserts that the Infinite cannot be a Person, cannot be conscious of a self, because it cannot have an object over against itself as subject, is philosophy falsely so called. It must issue either in Pantheism or in Atheism. It has never been proved, it can never be proved, that self-consciousness necessarily implies consciousness of something not self. Even granted that it is so in the creature, the leap in the inference from the creature to the Creator is as unreasonable as it is certainly unscriptural. The Divine I and Thou are heard both in eternity and in time. But this leads to the next consideration.

4. The self-sufficiency of the Eternal is not fully acknowledged unless we bear in mind that within the dread sphere of His being there is a plurality of Persons. The personal Subsistences in the Godhead are eternally related to each other: and this of itself banishes the term Unconditioned. The distinction of I and Thou goes up to and enters the original Fountain of life. And here emerges the central and most glorious application of the term all-sufficiency. The Infinite Being is not the vast and unrelieved monotony of existence that Pantheistic mysticism defined as the abstract Nothing. It has in it infinite life, and, if such language be lawful, infinite variety of life, in the mutual knowledge, love, and communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It was so—to use human words—before the creature existed; and it is so now that the creature exists: to this our Lord bears witness when He says, As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee! 1 And when He adds that they also may be one in us, He raises our minds to the thought that the communion of the creature with the Creator is the reflection in time of that communion which subsists among the Persons of the Godhead in eternity.

1 John 17:21.

5. Here, then, we locate the attributes which, when creatures begin to exist to name them, we call Majesty and Blessedness. By the former we ascribe to Deity the glory of perfections which are essentially above the creaturely excellence: not placing Him at the summit, but above all; as Michael, the highest creature, by his very name cries, Who is like unto God? By the latter we ascribe to Him the most absolute freedom from all that can impair well-being and the infinity of that which by its communication makes the creature blessed. Who is over all, God blessed for ever! 1 expresses both, assigning most emphatically both to the Second Person in the Unity of the Three.

1 Rom. 9:5.


After what has been said few words are necessary on the un-changeableness of the Divine essence. The Word of God makes few references to it save as it is implied in the eternal name: its allusions to the subject are generally connected with the steadfast perpetuity of the Divine counsels, and will be considered elsewhere. But there are some points of theological importance arising out of it for which this is the appropriate place.

1. There are sublime passages which lift our contemplation to the thought of the unchangeableness of the Eternal as contrasted with the fleeting phenomena of the universe; and therefore must be interpreted of the absolute Divine essence. These combine the infinity, eternity, and immutability of God in their glorious aggregate. One only need be quoted, the peculiarity of which is twofold: first, that it most expressly marks the beginning or the very earliest foundations of all created phenomena; and, secondly, that it is quoted from the Old Testament in the New and assigned to the Son of God Who became incarnate. Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment. And as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.1

1 Heb. 1:10-12.

2. This attribute excludes all process of becoming, or development, and whatever is meant by change, or the possibility of change. In His essence and in all the attributes of His essential being, God is for ever the same. And of Him alone can this be predicated: any creature, whether spirit or matter, or a union of the two, becomes what it was not, and reaches a fixed state only by the Divine will: if indeed development does not belong to it for ever. And the interior mystery of the Triune Personality does not affect this truth, which is consistent with an eternal generation of the Son, and procession of the Spirit, in the interior essence of Deity.

3. In the incomprehensibility of the Divine nature, this attribute is also to be reconciled with unbounded activity or mobility when it is brought into relation to the creature; and, in relation to the moral creature, with the changeable manifestation of an eternal purpose.

As to the former, more will be said on the Freedom of the Creator; and, as to the latter, we meet the immutability of the Moral Governor in His Fidelity to His own fixed decrees, whether of judgment or of mercy. That philosophical theology which loses the personal God in the abstract Absolute has greatly erred in its conception of this attribute.

As the Eternal conducts the creaturely universe through an economy of time, in which His eternity is reflected, so also He conducts it through an economy of change, behind and below and above the variations of which He can say: I am Jehovah, I change not.1 Argument is utterly useless here. It is the highest reason to submit to this necessary antinomy or paradox.

1 Mal. 3:6.

4. Though there is no process of development in the essence of the Godhead, it must be remembered that the profoundest and sublimest mystery of the Faith proclaims an evolution of the Divine nature as manifested in redemption. To return once more to the essential Name, I AM THAT I AM means also I AM WHAT I WILL TO BE, 1 and forbids our limiting in any way the possibilities of Divine manifestation as exhibited in the Mediatorial Trinity, and especially in the exinanition of the Son. Concerning Him, Jehovah-Jesus, it is said that He is the same yesterday, and to day, and forever. 2 But He emptied Himself before He took upon Him the form of a servant: 3 He changed before the Incarnation, or in the Incarnation, the mode of His existence and surrendered the glory of attributes which were nevertheless immutably His. The unchangeableness of the Divine nature is not affected even by this; though no created intelligence can fathom the secret.

The eternal generation of the Son becomes another generation in time: This day have I begotten Thee in human nature was said to Him in His human existence of Whom in His Divine eternity it is said Thou art My Son!

1 Exo. 3:14; 2 Heb. 13:8; 3 Phil. 2:7.


We sum up all when in our own speech we say that the Divine Nature is Perfect As God is the Being of beings, His supreme perfection is the perfection of all perfections.

This attribute consummates and harmonizes all the rest: representing, as it were, the undivided glory of the several rays of the Divine character. The perfection we reverently ascribe to God is unique and employs the term in a sense applicable to no other being. It is absolute, not relative; it is one, and not the result of the combination of qualities; it is necessary, and excludes the possibility of defect; it is supreme and immutable, not the finish of a process; it is the ground and standard and source of all other perfection. By these poor sentences we labor to express the essential difference between the perfectness of God and the perfectness of the creature. But the importance of this attribute is found in its use as a reverent defense of the adorable nature from all that would dishonor it in our thoughts or in our theological systems. If we sacrifice any one attribute to any other we derogate from the perfection of God Who is the Being in whom every attribute has its supreme existence and manifestation. As it belongs essentially to God in Himself, so it impresses its stamp on all the Divine works, and must give the law to all our theological views of His character. Holy Scripture, which dwells so much on the absolute perfections of the Godhead, does not often, perhaps never does, call Him in His eternal essence perfect. This needs no assertion, nor does it need demonstration. The only passage in which the attribute is given Him is one of the very few instances in which the Incarnate Son assigns anything like a specific character to His Father and our Father: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Which is in heaven is perfect.1

1 Mat. 5:48.


Before leaving this class of Divine essential perfections, we must impress upon our minds the following observations: 1. They are all and alike incomprehensible and unfathomable, though each conveys a definite notion both to reason and to faith or rather to that consummate reason which is faith. In studying out these absolute attributes we are in the presence of a God Whom we strive to think of as existing in the awful solitude of His own essential being; and of Him we must needs say, with more than the prophet's meaning: Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself. 1 Here, if anywhere, we move in the region of pure thought; and of thought which is more passive than active. We use certain terms, but when we strive to shape them into concepts we are utterly baffled. We speak of infinity, eternity, immensity or spacelessness, immutability; but our words return upon us without the exact ideas they define. By no possibility can we grasp their meaning. And yet it is the glory of our created intellect—stamped with the image of God— that we still persist in believing that our ideas of Deity are sound and true: that there is a Being of Whom all this may and must be said. Our reason is our faith; for we believe in the indestructible convictions of our consciousness of God. Our faith is our reason; for every argument leads to the conclusion that such a Being must be. This is the valid inference we deduce from our own finiteness, which is strictly speaking nothing but a negation of the Infinite: not the converse. Our very idea of limitation implies an Unlimited with which we compare ourselves. Every thought of finite imperfection implies a standard of infinite perfection: what other meaning can these words have?

1 Isa. 14:15.

2. But, whenever we think of God as the perfection of what in ourselves is imperfect, we think as persons, and must needs think of Him as a Personal Being. Here we find a special difficulty: though it may be said that the difficulty is self-created, or rather that it springs very much from the poverty of our words. All these attributes of the eternal essence of God are described by terms that are not very appropriate as referred to personal spirit. Thus when we speak of the immensity or of the immutability of the eternal God we are applying language derived from the relations of material things to One Who is a pure spirit; and the impropriety of the terms reflects its difficulty on the doctrine. The material notion inhering suggests the thought of a vast monotonous essence extending beyond all limit that we can assign, and undergoing no process of living development. If we change the terms we get rid of this anomaly. God is a Personal Spirit, infinite and eternal, ever the same in His nature and mode of being, and not thinking or acting of necessity under the limitations of time and space. Reference has been again and again made to the difficulties of speculation which wonders at the idea of the Absolute or Infinite being defined off from all that is not Himself by personality; but without the Infinite I speaking to the finite Thou there can be no science of God and no religion.

Theology at least should have no difficulty here. It must either renounce itself and abdicate, or accept a personal God, of whom these absolute attributes are to be predicated only as they are made consistent with His personality. The vain attempt to reconcile an impersonal Absolute with a personal thinker about it must be left to philosophy; though all philosophy worthy of the name rejects and disdains the task. The question will for ever return upon it: How can personality, conscious of itself and of its origin from something not itself, spring from impersonality? 3. Once more, it is an observable fact that this class of attributes, which we predicate of the absolute Deity, as yet unrelated to any creature, is brought into very express and clear connection with the Triune God as such. It has been seen, and we need now only to impress the fact again, that the Scriptures plainly declare the Personal Son to be eternal and immutable; and the Third Person to be an eternal spiritual essence, the Holy Spirit preeminently. To us there is no Deity but the Triune; and these absolute attributes are predicated of all that is in God. It would be hardly too much to say that they are as often and as distinctly referred to the Son as to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit as to the Son.

No one can carefully read the Scriptures without seeing that the supreme Name which binds this class of primary perfections into one is given to the Three Persons distinctively and in their unity. 1 The one Jehovah—the Eternal, Infinite, Immutable Spirit—is the Three-one God. Proofs have already been given of this most fundamental truth, on which hangs the whole fabric of the Christian revelation. And, in harmony with it, we have done well to study the doctrine of the Trinity before entering on that of the Divine attributes.

1 Heb. 1:2,10; 13:8.

4. They are the basis on which rest, or the source from which spring, all our other ascriptions to the Divine Being as related to the universe. In other words, the perfections to which we next pass are these in another form and application: not other perfections, but yet new as exhibited towards the creature. In dwelling upon the attributes of the Divine essence, as they are brought within the range of their finite operation, it must always be remembered that the essential, immanent, incomprehensible prerogatives form the dread background of every representation. If the Divine Being gives His character and works a human exhibition—if, by what is called anthropomorphic language, He speaks AS A MAN, or adopts creaturely language—His eternal and infinite nature is behind as the standard and regulator of all: a truth of boundless importance, too often forgotten.


The attributes which connect the Supreme Being with the created universe, or which derive their new names and applications from that connection, are such as may be understood by the terms Freedom, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Wisdom, and Goodness. To blend them all in one proposition: The God of the universe is a self determining Agent, using unbounded power, which is everywhere operative, is guided by infinite knowledge, displayed in perfect wisdom, under the law of never-failing benevolence. It must be remembered that, while including all and excluding nothing that may be regarded as belonging to the perfections of the Supreme revealed in His works, we keep as yet out of view the modifications of some of these attributes, especially of the first and last, which are introduced in the relation of God to moral agents in probation as such.


We cannot pass from the absolute God to the God of the universe without paying our homage to the Freedom of the Divine will as assigning the sufficient reason why anything not God exists at all. This is the anti-Pantheistic attribute.

1. When we ascribe to God a will, we begin at once, as we have not done before to study His spiritual nature in the light of our own, as created after His image. Whatever else we regard as characteristic of an intelligent spirit, we cannot exclude from it selfdetermination, implying a faculty of willing or deciding its own course of conduct, the exercise of the will as expressed by purpose, and the result in act. These are summed up and assigned to God in one saying of the Apostle: Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, 1 where we have the theleéma, or will in exercise, the bouleén, or determination of that will, and the issue-as the act of the energoúntos. St. Paul makes all things absolutely the result of this will in the Deity, and he only sums up in one remarkable expression the unanimous testimonies of all Scripture. It is important to remember that we speak here of a will in God in the strictest sense of the term, not including the other attributes of God which may be more or less closely connected with it: such as His power and His complacency or love.

1 Eph. 1:11

2. The freedom of the Divine will might seem to need no proof. But, in regard to an attribute which forms as it were the link between the absolute perfections and the perfections related to the creature, this needs to be correctly understood. It means that the reason of the purpose arid act of God going towards the creature is to be sought only in Himself: the will indeed is in the necessity of His essence, like the attributes already considered, but it is itself under no necessity. We may think indeed of a freedom in the eternal essence which is absolute necessity; and of an absolute necessity which is perfect freedom. So it is sometimes said that God wills Himself necessarily. This is an expression which is capable of a sound interpretation: but only if the will includes complacency. A perfect spirit must have a perfect will, and in a sense will its own perfection; but it is not, strictly speaking, more true to say that God wills Himself than to say that He is His own cause or CAUSA SUI.

3. Though the cause of all things not God is to be sought in His free will, in the eternal purpose of the Holy Trinity as an absolute essence, we cannot even speak of the freedom of that will without descending at once into the creaturely universe, the result of His free volition. There could be no necessity to create; no necessity to create what is created; no necessity to uphold. The existence of all things according to the infinite variety of their constitution, in parts and as a whole, is a display of the freedom of the Divine Artificer.

The necessity of the laws of nature is the freedom of the God of nature.

4. Although the relation of this attribute to moral beings will have to be considered again hereafter when the Divine perfections are viewed in the light of redemption, yet it is right to view it now in relation to the moral government of God over His creatures as such.

Here once more we must observe that absolute necessity is perfect freedom: and we cannot conceive otherwise than that all intelligent beings are created under the obligation of obedience to a law of holiness. His moral will is the free expression of His holy nature.

The ground of our obligation to goodness is simply the ground of our obligation to obey that will which is God Himself. But we dare not say with equal confidence that all moral intelligences are created by a free necessity which must make them probationary beings.

Here comes in the liberty of the Divine will in another and more unrestricted sense. It has pleased Him to make His creatures free; and to suspend their ultimate destiny on the right use of freedom. From this it follows that, in the mystery of the eternal will, its own liberty is bound up with that of the creatures. As it is no disparagement to the Divine power that it cannot do what cannot be done, nor to the Divine Omniscience that it knows contingent things as contingent, so it is not inconsistent with the absoluteness of the Divine will that its decrees are sometimes adapted to the conditionally of events. However derogatory it may seem to what is called the Sovereignty of God, the freedom of the supreme will is linked with conditional events, and is conditional with them. The entire Scripture proclaims this from beginning to end, and the history of all the dealings of Heaven with men confirms it. That God, Who willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 nevertheless does not actually save all men. Probation would cease to be probation were not the freedom of the Divine will adjusted to the freedom of the human. False views of the absolute and unconditioned pervade the philosophy of religion: and they are nowhere more obnoxious than here.

1 1 Tim. 2:4.

5. Lastly, this attribute of God as presiding over the creaturely universe is the attribute of a perfect Being: and we may be sure that what would be contrary to morality in our own use of the will ought never to be imputed to the Author of our nature. It is possible to make the Divine freedom conflict with some other equally necessary attributes which we have yet to mention. His liberty cannot be His creatures' bondage: His freedom cannot be their necessity. There is a sense in which absolute sovereignty in God is not only consistent with His perfection, but essential to it. He is free to appoint the conditions and circumstances of the probation of every human or intelligent being; to reveal when He will, and according to what measures, His hidden purposes, or His decretive will, or good pleasure, as distinguished from His preceptive will or command. His preceptive will itself is under the government of freedom: positive precepts may be given or withheld, may be appointed and withdrawn, may be modified or relaxed, or suppressed altogether. But the freedom of God cannot decree the unconditional misery of any creature that He has formed, even for the manifestation or supposed manifestation of what may be called the glory of His justice.

6. Finally, leaving these reflections, which belong to a later stage, let us return to the more immediate application of this attribute. It is placed first in the order of perfections which connote the created universe because it is really the first in the order of our thought. Without it the formula God and the universe has no meaning. It translates the Eternal from the region of abstract necessity and uniformity of existence into the reality of a Personal Spirit acting with free intelligence. It accounts for all things as they have been, as they are, and as they will be. Before it the Moira, or Fate, of eternal necessity binding the universe vanishes. Before it Pantheism flies, which allows no personal will either in God or in what seems, but seems only, to be His creation. Before it also, when rightly interpreted, recedes, or ought to recede, every system that makes the probation of intelligent creatures only the circuitous evolution of a fixed purpose called the sovereign will of God.


The Divine Omnipotence follows hard on the Divine Freedom: indeed it is but the expansion of the result of will in effect; in this case its expansion to infinity. It is the attribution to God of power to do all that He wills to do; according to the simple formula of the prophet: There is nothing too hard for Thee.1 He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. 2 He can do all that He wills to do; He wills to do all that He does. Potest quod vult, in its application to the Deity, is sound theology; though the converse, that He wills all that He can, is to be rejected. Proceeding from this principle, we may dwell on a few important inferences.

1 Jer. 32:17; 2 Psa. 95:3.

1. The omnipotence of God is the ground and secret of all efficiency, or what we call causality. No argument, however specious, can rob us of the indestructible conviction that there is such a power in the nature of things as we call cause: that there is a connection between events which is more than mere sequence. As in regard to almost every attribute of God, but in this case with more than usual distinctness, we perceive in ourselves the finite reflection of the Infinite. We are conscious of producing effects as ourselves their cause. From that, remembering two things, we rise to the Divine Omnipotence. First, the range of our direct causation is exceedingly limited: very decisive so far as it extends, it soon reaches its term. In the interior economy of our spiritual nature it is comparatively great; in the government of our bodily constitution less; in our action upon others it has decreased rapidly; and in our action upon external nature it is gone. To the Supreme there is no limit: with God all things are possible follows, in our Lord's words, with men this is impossible, 1 and may have the largest application. Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and in all deep places. Jehovah spake and it was done; 2 He commanded and it stood fast. 3 Secondly, all power in us is derived from Him: He is the absolute source of all causation. It is not simply that He can do all things; for all things that are done are done by the operation of causes that owe their efficiency to Him, though in many cases the efficiency is contrary to His will But this leads to another view: the necessary limitation or condition—if such language may be used—of the Divine omnipotence.

1 Mat. 19:26; 2 Psa. 135:6; 3 Psa. 33:9.

2. As to the display of Almighty power, it is and must be, if the Divine freedom is maintained, for ever restricted. It is not indeed a limitation that omnipotence cannot accomplish the impossible: the impossible is impossible because His nature makes it so; even as it is inconceivable that His holiness should tolerate evil. It is more important to bear in mind that the Infinite Cause can never exhaust itself: the actual must always fall short of the possible: Lo, these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him! Were it otherwise, the Divine freedom would be gone, and Pantheism reign in its stead. To assume that the sum of finite things is the full expression of the Divine Almightiness is to confound the faculty with its exercise: that which is irrational in relation to man is equally irrational in relation to God. This error is really based upon a notion of the Absolute which is impatient of admitting that it can have any project which requires means for its accomplishment and thus involve the thought that God is equal, so to speak, to the production of what He wills. Holy Scripture assents to what is true in this: it is everywhere faithful to the original declaration: Let there be light, and there was light.

It may be granted that the will of God is His act, that is, when He wills that it should be so; but the converse is equally certain, that He may will not to act, and infinite varieties of being are not in existence that might be. Nothing is gained by transcendental speculations as to the identity in God of will and act. Such speculations simply trifle with words: if will means will and act means act, they fall to the ground. The same remark as to dishonest or unreal use of words is in other respects of wide application.

3. Once more, the wisdom and goodness of the Supreme conditionate His omnipotence.

Here, then, is a twofold range of suggestion: one more simple and comprehensible; the other bringing us to the threshold of unfathomable mystery. It is not difficult to understand that in the providential arrangements of the universe omnipotent agency is limited by wisdom. There is a definite and clear distinction between what is sometimes called the POTESTAS ABSOLUTA, or the absolute power that creates all at first, and places it under the government of secondary laws which represent the POTESTAS ORDINATA. This distinction between the supreme and the economical omnipotence of the Creator is important in many applications. It does justice to the regular, orderly, uninterrupted process of created things, in which occasional interventions are rare, and indeed no more than exceptions to general rule. But it gives room for these interventions in creation itself, and in the miracles which sometimes introduce a new creation into the old. The one idea of the Divine Omnipotence reconciles the two and harmonizes with both. But there is another aspect of the subject before which the human mind must bow down in amazement. In the infinite wisdom of God things contrary to His will in one sense are permitted by His will in another. This leads us up to the original mystery that the Almighty created beings capable of falling from Him; and down again to the present mystery that omnipotence sustains in being creatures opposing His authority; and then forward to the same mystery in its consummate form that omnipotence will preserve in being, not indeed active rebels against His authority, but spirits separated from Himself.

It is the solemn peculiarity of this attribute, in common with wisdom and goodness, as we shall see, that it is traversed and thwarted, so to speak, by the creatures that owe to it their origin. But the same three attributes are conspicuous in the redeeming economy: of which more hereafter.


The Omnipresence of God is no other than His Immensity referred to the creature, and restricted, so to speak, within the universe. There are three ways in which we may regard this attribute, as we find it everywhere presented in Scripture.

1. It is the actual presence of the Deity in every part of created nature. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. 1 This is one aspect; and it asserts that the Divine Essence, though not extended nor diffused, is to be regarded as present to every portion of the universe, whether more material or more spiritual. God is not present by circumscription of space; nor by the occupation of any one locality rather than any other. He is present in every force or energy of created things; nor can He be absent from any region of the universe or any act of the beings He has created. This, with all its inevitable consequences, may be called His absolute, or, so to speak, natural omnipresence.

1 Jer. 23:24.

2. But there is another view of the matter which we may profitably take. In Him we live, and move, and have our being, 1 which makes God's omnipresence the presence of every creature to Him. The relation is rather of the creature to Him than His relation to the creature. Before His perfect Divinity, not extended but in its one and unextended perfection, every creature stands and moves and runs its course; every thought is conceived, every word is spoken, and every deed is done. It is this aspect of the attribute that the Word of God constantly bids us remember.

1 Acts 17:28.

3. And there is yet another, which connects it specially with the Divine omnipotence.

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. 1 This makes the God of the universe present wherever the special operation of His power is. Thus we may speak of Him as present in the mightiest and in the gentlest forces of nature, which no physical science can account for or explain without this fundamental supposition. Thus also we may speak of His special presence in places set apart for the manifestation of His glory or of His grace: The Lord is in this place. 2 Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them. 3 And thus also we believe in a presence peculiar to heaven, and in a presence in the humble spirit of the soul that trembles at His word: the saints are filled into all the fullness of God. 4

1 Psa. 139:7-12; 2 Gen. 28:16; 3 Mat. 18:20; 4 Eph. 3:19.

4. All these must be combined in our reverent study of this attribute. God is in all things; all things are present to Him; and His energy is everywhere felt, though not everywhere alike felt. Thus the attribute is protected from Pantheism on the one hand, and from every limitation of the Divine Essence on the other. But this subject will be more fully treated under the next.


The attribute of Omniscience assigns to God the perfection of that which in us is knowledge, the intellectual apprehension of things in their truth: His understanding is infinite. 1 We must consider the plain Scriptural presentation of it; then our necessary theological distinctions, and the collision of omniscience generally with certain philosophical notions.

1 Psa. 147:5.

I. This perfection is closely allied with that of the Divine omnipresence: The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good: He knows all things as they are, because all things are present to Him. Sheol and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men? 1 This, so far as things present go, gives a most simple and clear view of the subject what to man his consciousness is, and what the testimony of his senses tells him, all things in the universe are to Him Who is a present witness of all. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. 2 It is the taking knowledge, or the marking of the procession of events, especially in this world the thoughts and conduct of men. Thus have ye said, 0 house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them. 3 But it leaves that attribute behind when it includes what is to us the past and the future as well as the present. Scripture ascribes to His infinite mind the intuitive, simultaneous, and perfect knowledge of all that can ever be the object of knowledge: embracing in one eternal cognizance the actual, the possible, the contingent: Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. 4 In our apprehension and interpretation of it, the Divine omniscience is the knowledge of the past as past, of the developing present as present, and of the future as future. Particularly, as to the future, it is Foreknowledge, which must however be carefully kept distinct from predestination: between these there is no necessary connection. Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. 5 This foreknowledge of persons extends also to all events, not only known from the beginning of the world, but to the end of it. Prophecy is a constant element of revelation; and, whereas prediction might be supposed to refer to certain events of signal importance predetermined in the Divine counsel, the insight into all futurity is expressly assigned to God. Jehovah, confounding the false god, cries: Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods. 6 On the other hand, He appeals to His own foreknowledge as absolute: Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. 7 He sees the thoughts of men very far off, even to the end of time. What is wanting in express declaration on this subject is implied in the whole current of testimony concerning the infinity of the Divine understanding, and His inhabiting eternity, and seeing the end from the beginning. 8 As to the past, becoming the past, it is the infallible storing of the deeds of His creatures in what we may call, though Scripture does not, the infinite memory of God. And this leads to a final observation, that the attribute of omniscience is, for the most part, brought into relation with the Divine moral government, as a large number of passages might be brought from Scripture to prove. Indeed, this is the predominant purpose for which this perfection is appealed to throughout revelation.

1 Pro. 15:3,11; 2 Heb. 4:13; 3 Eze. 11:5; 4 Acts 15:18; 5 Rom. 8:29; 6 Isa. 41:23; 7 Isa. 42:9; 8 Isa. 46:10.

II. No attribute of God occupies a more important critical place in theology than this of the Divine omniscience. Its systematic presentation in dogmatic systems varies of course with the systems themselves. We may reduce all to two questions, relating respectively to the reality of knowledge generally in God and to the relation between the Divine foreknowledge and the Divine predestination.

1. Pantheism, and all theological speculation tinctured with Pantheism, tends to the denial of any knowledge in God properly so called. Knowledge in man is the intellectual apprehension of an objective thing known by a subject knowing it. Even when the object is the subject, as in the knowledge of consciousness, this distinction between subject and object must be maintained. But, on any supposition, the God of Pantheism cannot know with an infinite knowledge. He is conscious only in the consciousness of finite creatures; and that can never be infinite. In fact, there is no personal Being into whose one distinct consciousness may be gathered up the many consciousnesses of all creatures; and as to all phenomena that are not spiritual they are not known at all, save in finite parcels by the creature. But as soon as we accept the fact that the Infinite Creator has made intelligences reflecting His own personality, they must become objects to Him the Subject knowing.

The same may be said of all material things. Meanwhile, the Infinite is eternally the Object known to Himself. And thus we have all the elements of the Divine omniscience.

2. The Predestinarian view of the Christian Faith has required the entire removal of any distinction between foreknowledge and foreordination. If from eternity God has foreknown all that is to be, it seems hard to separate this from an immutable destiny appointed for all things. Whatever is foreknown truly must come to pass as it is foreknown. But—granting the unsearchable mystery that to the Divine mind all processes are already results— we may be bold to say that logically there is no ground for such a conclusion. It is not the Divine foreknowledge that conditions what takes place, but what takes place conditions the Divine foreknowledge. We have seen again and again that the God of eternity has condescended to be also the God of time, with its past, and present, and future. Instead of saying with the Schoolmen that to God there is only an eternal now, it were better to say that to God as absolute essence there is the eternal now, and also to God as related to the creature there is the process of succession. Predestination must have its rights: all that God wills to do is foredetermined. But what human freedom accomplishes God can only foreknow: otherwise freedom is no longer freedom. The other or determinist view is only Pantheism Augustinianised. So Augustine says: " What is prescience but the knowledge of future things? For what can be future to God, who transcends all time? As to the knowledge God has of things themselves, they are not to Him future, but present, and consequently it cannot be called prescience but only knowledge." This is not Pantheism, but only Pantheism could teach it. The same humble submission we pay to the union of Infinite and finite in the Incarnation must be offered to the mystery of an Infinite knowledge which, not in words only, but in very deed is voluntarily subjected to finite forms. The analogy is perfect.

3. We have some theological and philosophical compromises on this subject which demand brief attention.

(1.) The Lutheran divines formulated the whole subject with their wonted skill in analysis. They distinguished in relation to the objects of the Divine omniscience between His necessary knowledge of Himself and of all things possible as determined by Himself, and His free knowledge of all things conditionally dependent on His will: the former was the Scientia necessaria vel naturalis; the latter Scientia libera vel visionis. But this left room for another division, due to the sagacity of the Jesuit divines, opponents of Jansenist Predestinarianism. This they termed Scientia media, and it has been generally held by all anti-Predestinarian theologians. It is the Divine knowledge of the hypothetical or conditional as such: scientia eorum quae neque facta neque futura sunt, sed sub conditionibus quibusdam vel fuissent vel forent. There is not so much importance in this distinction as is sometimes ascribed to it. If of the Fuissent and the Forent we take the latter, then we have simply the foreknowledge of men's acts on certain conditions: that such and such men will embrace the terms of salvation when presented to them. If we take the former, we are led to a subtle speculation which seems to some without much profit in it. When our Lord says, in His apostrophe to Capernaum, If the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day, 1 this, if the Savior used more than merely figurative or hypothetical language, is an instance of Sciatica media, or intermediate knowledge. He knew what would have been but never was. But, when He goes on to say, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the Day of Judgment than for thee, we cannot but feel that this middle or conditional knowledge may have a most important influence on the destinies of men. At any rate, it constitutes a most important element in the Divine omniscience.

1 Mat. 11:23,24.

(2.) The Socinians, on the other hand, boldly denied that free or contingent acts can be known beforehand, or known at all as such. They were misled by a false analogy with the omnipotence of God: as He does not accomplish all that He could accomplish, so He voluntarily wills not to know what is contingent: in other words, He knows things knowable as He performs things possible. Here we see the importance of the distinction already introduced: between the absolute attributes of God and the same attributes as related to the creature. The Divine all sufficiency is the power of doing what He will; the Divine omnipotence is the power to do all that His creation and sustentation of the universe demands, and no more. So the Divine eternity embraces in perfect knowledge all that has been, is, or may be; but the Divine omniscience knows according to the conditions of time, and all things future as what we call contingent. The free acts of His creatures are known to Him as certain though He foreknows them as free and not as dependent on His own will. Nothing can be imagined more derogatory to the perfection of God than that He should be made ignorant of contingent events. To Him they cannot be contingent: contingency is altogether a creaturely term. The notion is incompatible with any foreknowledge of human acts; for in a certain sense every one of them is contingent Even shortsighted man can be all but certain of some contingent events lying in the immediate future. In God the memory of the past, the vision of the present, the prescience of the future, are alike perfect: the very fact of creation involves all this.


No attribute is more abundantly ascribed to the God of the universe than Wisdom. This, in human affairs, is intimately connected with knowledge: in man there can be no wisdom without knowledge, though there may be knowledge without wisdom. The analogy is only a faint one: yet we may speak of God only wise, 1 who applies His infinite knowledge with infinite skill to the accomplishment of the highest ends by the best means.

1 Rom. 16:27.

1. The analogy of the human artificer wisely adapting his resources must not be pressed too far. The human agent has means at his disposal which he prudently uses to help his own weakness, and the highest skill is shown in achieving the greatest results by the smallest instrumentality. But in the case of the Supreme both the end and the means are created; and, while a final cause must be assumed for all, every arrangement in nature is a final end with reference to some most important purpose. The means are ends while the ends are means. The fundamental objection urged by many Christian philosophers against this attribute falls away when this is steadfastly remembered. It can never be said of this or that particular law of nature that it is used by the Supreme for the accomplishment of a certain purpose: it is itself, whatever it may be, a display of omnipotence and a final end of some kind. That ten thousand times ten thousand ends converge to one supreme and ultimate purpose displays; wisdom indeed, but not the weakness and patience of wisdom humanly so called. As the attribute is sometimes described, some ground is given for the assault of a philosophy which counts it derogatory to the Supreme to have need of means.

Every, the slightest, part of the infinite economy of means is a display of the Divine glory, and as such cannot be degraded to the level of mere expedient. There is no experiment in the wisdom of God.

2. The Word of God abounds in every possible strain of expatiation on the wisdom of God in the construction of the universe, in its variety of adaptations to intelligent creatures. Whatever objection we may instinctively feel to making the Omnipotent a skilful artificer, His own Word delights in the representation. With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days understanding. 1 This, true of man, is applied to God: With Him is wisdom and. strength, He hath counsel and understanding. Very much of the praise of Jehovah in the Old Testament is only a variation in the theme: 0 Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches. 2 But if we note carefully, we shall find that it is everywhere taken for granted that what appears like the adjustment of means to ends is no other than the evolution of an infinite series of ends all expanding and converging to an ulterior and perfect end in eternity.

1 Job 12:12,13; 2 Psa 104:24.

3. Hence, while in the Old Testament the economy of nature is the sphere of the Divine wisdom, in the New it is the economy of grace in which it most gloriously reigns. In the provisions of redemption for the accomplishment of His supreme end we have the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world began. 1 Here is wisdom in the deepest sense: the very foolishness of God is wiser than men. 2 The attribute, studied in the light of the Cross, puts on its highest perfection.

It is now far beyond the adjustment of means to an end: it is that, but it is infinitely more than that. It is the infinite knowledge of the abysses of His own Triune Being, and of the possibilities of reconciliation with the sinner through the resources of His own essence, brought into exhibition in a counsel of infinite wisdom. Hence this attribute has given its name both to the Gospel and to the Lord of the Gospel: Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. 3 Here, however, we are going beyond the strict limits of the present class of attributes; and further enlargement on this subject must be postponed.

1 Eph. 1:8;3:10; 2 1 Cor. 2:7; 1:25; 3 1 Cor. 1:24; 2:6,7.


Goodness, as the last of this series of attributes, expresses the Divine sentiment which wills the good of all creatures as such.

1. It is not His excellence in Himself, which is ascribed to Him in other forms; but His benevolence in willing good and His beneficence in doing good to every work of His hands in need of both. The Fountain of life is the fountain also of loving-kindness: The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. 1 His tender mercies are over all His works. 2 It is no less than a law of the Divine nature to make the universe minister to the happiness of its inhabitants, and to communicate happiness to all creatures capable of it. This is demanded by the ascription of goodness to God as a perfection of His nature in its relation to the creature. To this relation we now limit ourselves; and may boldly say, guided by the Word of God, that His diffusive goodness is everywhere illustrated in creation as such. As such God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good: 3 in all things, man included, there was the happiness that responded to His beneficent design in the original creation.

1 Psa. 33:5; 2 Psa. 145:9.

2. Here we might pause, as we are treating of the Divine perfections related to the created universe. But the tremendous difficulty arises that evil exists. The goodness of God is the attribute which this fact most directly confronts: not His love, which does not emerge in its glory from the ground of His loving-kindness until sin already exists; not His holiness, which likewise implies the existence of what He for ever rejects; not His wisdom, which has its grandest illustration in its making evil subservient to His designs. But it is for ever argued that a Creator of unbounded benevolence and power must, or might, or ought to have prevented the origination of evil There are only two possible solutions of this profound difficulty. Either the desperate expedient must be adopted of renouncing a Supreme God altogether: a solution this which is really no solution, for atheism solves nothing but dissolves all. Or, accepting the testimony of God Himself, we must bow down before an unfathomable mystery, and seek our refuge in the harmony of the Divine attributes. On this subject more will be said in the next department of the perfections of God, now waiting to be revealed; as also when the doctrine of Sin comes formally before us.

3. Meanwhile, it may be well to consider briefly some compromises or palliatives which are current, and, after considering their strength and weakness, make a few closing reflections.

(1.) So far as concerns our present subject, it is enough to impress the following considerations. First, we must be bold to reject every theory that makes evil and its development a form of the manifestation of Divine goodness: to that goodness evil is an unsearchable mystery of opposition. It might seem impossible that such a notion should be entertained: it has not only been entertained, but has been defended by very plausible arguments. Some have gone so far as to deny the objective reality of evil, and even of sin the cause of it. They make it the necessary form of limited nature: which, created by Divine power guided by benevolence, is under a law of development through sin and guilt and evil to a predestined perfection that will leave all stages of wandering behind, swallowed up in the eternal realization of the Divine good pleasure. The final end of the creation being the happiness of being, we are bound to believe—they tell us—that a Perfect Creator has so ordered it that what we call sin and misery should subserve in this best possible universe the purposes of His goodness more fully than a world without misery could have done. But the sufficient answer to all this is—for those at least who hold the Bible in their hands—that sin is the abominable thing that God hateth. It cannot be a designed and appointed element in the display of His goodness. Moreover, supposing it granted that for those who are ultimately delivered from sin the process will result in greater happiness than if it had not existed, this is no argument for the unsaved portion of the race.

(2.) Nor does it much help us when Predestinarian divines, abhorring this method of vindication, set up another very much like that which they condemn. They tell us that the Divine glory is the only end of creation, and NOT the happiness of the creature: instead of saying, as they ought, the Divine glory IN the happiness of the creature. They affirm, consistently, that sin as permitted in order that the justice of God might be made known in its punishment, and His grace in its pardon and removal. But we venture boldly to affirm by anticipation that both the justice and the grace of the Eternal, if we may so speak, sublapsarian in their relation to sin. These attributes were not to be illustrated by the permission of evil; but, evil being permitted, are illustrated in contending with it.

When we all say alike EVIL BEING PERMITTED, we must alike confess that an absolute solution is not by the finite creature to be found. But we cannot agree to relieve the difficulty by regarding sin as either permitted or ordained to glorify God. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that there is something inherently selfish in this argument, in whatever form put. It leaves out of view the inferior races of the creature, and all their innumerable calamities: calamities suffered also on account of the sin of man.

(3.) Meanwhile, we must submit to the clear and tranquil teaching of Scripture that the Divine benevolence is in all its manifestations controlling the evil of sin: this is the law of all His dispensations. Not indeed that He purposes to abolish it for ever; not that He has so controlled it in other parts of the universe as to save the fallen spirits from it. We have only to do with our own province of the created universe; and for ourselves we know that the lovingkindness of God is still over all His works. He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good 1 both His natural sun, as the symbol of His universal benevolence and His spiritual Sun, the Friend of publicans and sinners. The history of this world is the history of unwearied benevolence for ever bringing good out of evil. However perilous it may be to speak of the ultimate happiness of the universe being heightened by the remembrance of the evil through which it has been reached, it is safe to say that the sin of man has given scope for the display of the Divine lovingkindness in forms and in resources which otherwise would never have been known. It is the glory of faith to believe that, in spite of the woeful results of the Fall, the goodness of God endureth continually.2

1 Mat. 5:45; 2 Psa. 52:1.

OBSERVATIONS, The attributes thus summarily exhibited are here regarded as intermediate between the first series, which belong to God regarded as Alone or without the creature, and a third order, to which we shall presently proceed. A few remarks will be appropriate at this point upon their relation to both.

1. They must be understood to bring the absolute perfections of the Eternal Being into relation with the universe, and, in fact, to derive their character and name from that relation. Three illustrate this by the composition of the terms that define them: they are the Omni-attributes, and imply the existence of all things to which they refer. The omniscience and omnipresence of the Deity especially have no meaning on any other supposition. But we must be careful not to assume that every absolute attribute has its creaturely form. The Divine all-sufficiency becomes-omnipotence in the universe; but the infinity and eternity of God have no attributes of finite and temporal to correspond with them. On the other hand, when we speak of the lovingkindness and wisdom of the Creator, we cannot point to any absolute perfection on which these are founded, unless indeed we base them upon the perfection of the Divine Being generally.

2. Those attributes make prominent the personality of the Supreme: not indeed that the personality of God is in any sense originated by His relation to creatures whom He calls into a quasi-independent existence. There is no sound philosophical reason why the Eternal Spirit, contemplated before and apart from the creaturely universe, should not be a Person. With such a Being, however, we never have had, and never can have, to do in the nature of things. But every one of the attributes which we ascribe to the Creator, Director, and End of the universe belongs to a Person of Whose personality we may think as we think of our own limited and imperfect selves: saving, of course, the difference between a finite and an infinite subject.

3. It may seem arbitrary to separate this order of Divine attributes from a third having relation to moral beings. The distinction is not perhaps so clear as that between the former orders: still it serves an important purpose. With those which we have just considered the enumeration would cease were there no law of probationary trial, and no fall among the facts of the universe. Had evil not entered into the creation here the display of the Divine attributes would have closed. Wisdom and goodness would have provided for the eternal blessedness of all the intelligent worshippers of God. But the moral government of the Lord of all gives a new aspect, and in some respects a new name, with an application most affectingly enlarged, to these attributes. Our study must now be conducted in the light of redemption.


There are some attributes, hitherto unmentioned which belong to the Divine Being as He is the Moral Governor of intelligent creatures. These are revealed especially in connection with the economy of redemption, and derive their names and characteristics mainly from that connection: though they are displayed in the relations of God to His probationary creatures universally, they must be viewed by us especially in the light of the mediation of Christ, and in their aspect towards mankind. All the perfections of which we speak may be said to hang upon two, Holiness and Love, the mutual relations, harmony and unity of which are bound up with the clear apprehension of the mystery of the Gospel. These supreme central attributes stand at the head, respectively, of many others which spring from them, or may be regarded as pertaining to the same family.

Holiness is the name which defines the essential perfection of God as opposed to all that is not in harmony with it, and therefore connotes the actuality or the possibility of sin. Its first representative in the moral government of God is Justice, which, as Righteousness, enters distinctively into the redeeming economy of that government and gives it one of its named. This is itself represented and supported by the attributes of Truth and Fidelity.

The essential Love of God, by virtue of which He communicates Himself to His creature, capable of blessedness in union with Him, is most perfectly displayed in the revelation of Jesus. It is represented by Grace, as the favor which rests upon the undeserving; and this in the varieties of its display gives many attributes to the Triune God of redemption, such as Compassion, Longsuffering, and Mercy.


In the two former series of perfections we have had no reason to consider their relation to moral goodness: whatever has been introduced as bearing that aspect has entered only by anticipation. But now we are altogether in a moral region: every attribute has reference to the assertion and maintenance of ethical goodness. We find that the Supreme assumes the glory of all moral excellence; that He ascribes to Himself the absolute perfection of every quality that He requires in us. We find, moreover, that the Lord of all appears before us in His word as often in His moral attributes, perhaps oftener, than in His absolute perfections. Are we to regard all this as unreality, and suppose that the God of our life is giving us an imaginary picture of Himself? We know that He sometimes speaks as if He had our bodily organization; and sometimes as if He were the subject of passions and affections of which we know Him to be incapable. May it be that the entire moral presentation of the Deity from beginning to end bears the same anthropopathic character? Does some unknown Being educate mankind according to certain principles which He has made binding; and, in order to carry on the process, teach by example as well as by precept? by an example, however, altogether fictitious? This question has been discussed already in the notion of God possible to man; but a few observations may be made here on its relation to this class of attributes.

1. Every objection to the ascription to God of a moral character rests upon that false and unreal idea of the Absolute which saps the foundations of all theology. Carried out to its legitimate conclusion this would rob the Deity of every attribute, and reduce or elevate Him or It to an abstraction incapable of definition: the very term definition, or distinguishing from what it is not, being treason to the majesty of the unconditioned Entity. But, however inexorable may seem the logic that establishes such a notion of the Divine, it vanishes at the touch of common sense: at any rate, before the common sense of the man who listens to conscience within his heart, and has the Bible in his hand, and believes in the incarnation of the Son of God. With Atheists, Antitheists, and Pantheists we have not here to do: to them all and alike the attributes of God are nonentity. But it is necessary to warn believers in revelation against the mischief of refining away the reality in God Himself of those eternal qualities of right which His nature and His will unite to make binding on every creature. If God is manifest in the flesh, then He brought with Him those principles of holiness which are the glory of His human manifestation: He did not create the eternal principles that underlie morality, nor learn the first elements of morals from His creature.

2. It may be argued that all morals suppose a free submission to an external authority or law, with the possibility of doing wrong. This is perfectly true of the ethical relations of probationary creatures. It is not true in the abstract: it is not true of God. The Supreme Governor of the universe is a moral being, but He is not responsible to any behind Himself. He is the foundation of all law, Himself its eternal embodiment. Nor can it be established that morality implies the possibility of evil. We are accustomed to such a thought, being ourselves what we are; but a little consideration will show that perfect liberty and perfect necessity may be and are one in the moral character of God, Necessity has two meanings: it may be compulsion from without; and it may be compulsion from within, which is hardly to be distinguished from the absolute certainty of an immutable principle. This is the highest necessity of the highest liberty in God. This also was the character of the moral development of the Son of God incarnate, Who descended to the region of our human morals with the spontaneous obedience of a will that was incapable of sin: sinless, as born in the flesh by miraculous generation; impeccable, because He was the Son of God.

3. But the fundamental and more obvious difficulty here is to understand how the Immutable God can be capable of impressions from without, which the idea of passions and emotions requires. Part of this difficulty is obviated by remembering that after all much of the Biblical language on this subject is anthropopathic, an accommodation to human infirmity. Thus the unchangeable God represents Himself as hoping and fearing, uttering and suspending His wrath, vacillating in suspense, and repenting of His purposes. It is not difficult to understand all this. Woe unto thee, 0 Jerusalem! 1 is the expression of a holy wrath that suspends its execution. Wilt thou not be made clean? is the offer of mercy in consistency with that holy wrath, the intervention of a Redeemer being supposed. When shall it once be? is the language of a seeming suspense between hope and fear. The Psalmist says: Who is a Rock save our God? As for God His way is perfect. 2 He is unchangeable in His perfection. But he also says: With the merciful Thou wilt shew Thyself merciful; with an upright man Thou wilt shew Thyself upright; with the pure Thou wilt shew Thyself pure; and with the froward Thou wilt shew Thyself froward.

As it were all things to all men; but we must not misunderstand the word shew Thyself.

As to the so frequent repentance of God, Samuel the prophet gives us a typical example.

He also says: The Strength, or the Rock, of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man that He should repent. 3 But he afterwards, using the same words, says: And the Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel. But we must be careful not to carry this explanation too far. There is a real, and not merely a conventional, difference between the attributes of the absolute Godhead and the attributes created, or the manifestation of which is created, by the creation itself and with it. We cannot understand this; nor can we understand the Incarnation. We cannot fathom the mystery that the God of eternity, 'Eel

`Owlaam, 4 inhabits time also, and waits on its processes as the God of patience; 5 nor can we fathom the mystery that the impassible God should mourn and rejoice, and be angry.

It is a relief to us to see that in His Son incarnate God does tabernacle with us, and rejoice with us who rejoice, and weep with us who weep. The Old-Testament anthropopathy may be an anticipation of the New-Testament reality. Or—and perhaps it is better to say this—the New-Testament exhibition of a God clothed with human morality, and of like sinless passions with ourselves, may be only the manifestation unto perfection of a mystery that was before unmanifested.

1 Jer. 13:27; 2 Psa. 18:31,30,25,26; 3 1 Sam. 15:29,35; 4 Gen. 21:33; 5 Rom. 15:5.


The manifestation of God in His moral government has in every age made prominent two classes of attributes which have for their root and principle respectively the holiness and the love of the Supreme: His holiness, which separates Him from us, and His love, which nevertheless communicates itself to the sinner. The Nevertheless here points to the most essential and profound mystery of the Atonement.

1. Throughout the Old Testament we mark the ascendancy of these two perfections in their mysterious, and as yet not fully explained, union and harmony. The beginning of revelation displays the righteous anger of God against sin, and His gracious dealings with the sinner; but it was not until the Jehovah of the covenant-people laid the foundations of the Theocracy, the formal preparative for the full redeeming economy, that the two leading attributes were placed in their correlative position. The first reference to the Divine holiness is in connection with the giving of the Law. He is never the Holy One in Genesis; but at the very commencement of His redeeming relation to the typical people, He is glorious in holiness. 1 But the holiness of the jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, 2 is blended with the love of the same God shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments. When Jehovah renewed His covenant, after the first violation of it, the two-leading attributes are again made prominent in His revelation of His name and glory. But the love now comes first.

The LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, the LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy far thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. 3 What this meant was then further explained: Thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is JEALOUS, is a jealous God. 4 Throughout the remainder of the Old-Testament economy the two great families of attributes belong respectively to Him of Whom Joshua said He is an holy God; He is a jealous God, 5 God, to the Lord God, merciful and gracious. 6 Sometimes the families of attributes are kept apart; sometimes they are united, and their union, through the propitiation typified in the Temple, distinguishes the Psalms and the prophets who anticipate the Gospel. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me bless His HOLY NAME: 7 this leads the way in the Psalm; but mercy takes up the strain and continues it to the end. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 8 This may represent the psalmists: let Hosea stand for the prophets. Mine heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee. 9 It will be observed that the holiness and the mercy are so blended in these passages, and others like them, that it might seem as if they crossed hands: the holiness forgiving the sin and not the mercy. This has misled many theologians who forget that the union of the two attributes, and not their confusion, is the glory of redemption. Apart from this, however, it is plain that throughout the Old Testament the holiness and the mercy of God are supreme: on these two hang all the redeeming attributes.

1 Exo. 15:11; 2 Exo. 20:5,6; 3 Exo. 34:6,7; 4 Exo. 34:14; 5 Jos. 24:14; 6 Exo. 34:6; 7 Psa. 103:1; 8 Psa 103:8; 9 Hos. 11:8,9.

2. Assuredly it is the same in the New Testament. To illustrate this would anticipate the whole doctrine of the Atonement. Suffice that our Lord and His Apostles gave the same pre-eminence to the two attributes. In St. John's Gospel the Savior begins by God so loved the world 1 and ends with Holy Father! 2 St. Paul makes the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 3 the God of holiness, and the free offer of His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 4 the keynotes of the whole Evangelical system. St.

John, in his First Epistle, which is the last revelation of the Bible, singles out the two Divine perfections, Holiness and Love, for the definition of what may be called the moral nature of God. These two are the only terms which unite in one the attributes and the essence of God. This, then, is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that GOD is LIGHT, and in Him is no darkness at all. 5 The revelation of the Word incarnate is the supreme Holiness of God: He is Himself the glory of all goodness, and the negation of all that is not good. A second revelation of the Word is this: GOD is LOVE.6 Never before in all the Scriptures had this attribute been identified with the very being of God: prophets and apostles, and the Son Himself, had approached this truth, but had not spoken it; but St. John here gives the bold and blessed interpretation of their meaning.

These two perfections we may then consider in the true order which the Apostle indicates, and show their harmony in redemption.

1 John 3:16; 2 John 17:11; 3 Rom. 2:5; 4 Rom.3:24; 5 1 John 1:5; 6 1 John 4:8.


That absolute perfection which belongs to God in His eternal essence is, in His moral relations with creatures in whom sin is possible or present, who are to be kept from sin or saved from it, Holiness: His nature is the sum and the standard of all goodness; and it is eternally opposed to all that is not good in the creature. Thus the term unites the positive and negative ideas: always with latent or avowed reference to what is or may be contrary to the Divine will.

1. That God is holy expresses the perfection of moral excellence as existing in Him alone, the emphasis lying on the alone, whence it follows that every approach to Him must be marked by reverence and awe.

(1.) The first time the attribute is given to Him this idea appears: Who is like unto Thee. 0 Lord, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 1 And also the last time: Who shall not fear Thee, 0 Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy! 2 Through a multitude of intermediate passages there runs the invariable meaning that God by His holiness is marked off from every human being: alone in His moral perfection, in the presence of which all faces gather blackness and all creature? are convicted of impurity. This meaning of the word as referred to God is too often forgotten: holiness is regarded as synonymous with perfection generally, without the concomitant of separation from evil: or it is by some, in the interest of a special theology, made to mean the opposite of what it really means, the communicative goodness of the Deity.

1 Exo. 15:11; 2 Rev. 15:4.

(2.) Hence, that God is qodesh, resplendent in the glory of unshared holiness, and Agios, fearful in His sanctity, is the special ground of the peculiar adoration of the creature, especially of the sinful creature. Holy and reverend is His name! 1 His name in the worship of His people is the Holy One of Israel. 2 It is this attribute which surrounds with awful glory God in His temple, whether the heavens or the temple of earth.

Righteousness attends Him in His judicial court; but holiness belongeth to His house, which is therefore His sanctuary, the Holy place; where He takes refuge from all unholiness, while He provides the expiatory means by virtue of which the unholy may approach Him. It is emphatically seen in the trisagion of Isaiah's mystical temple; in the dread which seized the heart of the worshipper; and in the purifying of his lips that he might join in the worship of the angels. This leads us to notice that it is the attribute of the Triune as an object of worship: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory! 3 to which the New-Testament echo is: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Which was, and is, and is to come! 4 Hence it is obvious to observe how strong confirmation this gives to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity: this is the only thrice-uttered perfection. Neither this nor any other perfection is reserved from the second and third Persons: holiness, however, is in a peculiar and pre-eminent sense ascribed to them in common. The Son addresses the Holy Father; 5 He is Himself as Incarnate the Holy Servant; 6 while the Spirit of God is the Holy Ghost 7 pre-eminently.

1 Psa. 109:9; 2 Psa 71:22; 3 Isa. 6:3; 4 Rev. 4:8; 5 John 16:11; 6 Acts 4:30; 7 John 14:26; 2. All this implies that this attribute is always, directly or indirectly, related to the creature; and, as such, is the standard of goodness and the expression of the Divine abhorrence of evil. It cannot be denied that it severs God from the creaturely nature, apart from its evil. But even in that case there is silent reference to the pollution of sin which has entered the universe, of which all the worshippers, whether of heaven or earth, are conscious. In the direct reference of the attribute to mankind, however, there can be no question that the holiness of God is displayed always on the dark background of sin. It is the law and obligation of all ethical good; it is the eternal repulsion of all ethical evil.

(1.) It is the nature of God that declares what is morally good; that is the only Nature of Things which we dare think of. After all that has been said as to the foundation of goodness and the reason why good is good, we are shut up to one only view. God alone is holy: not because He submits to a law binding on Him and on all: but because holiness has its eternal standard and sanction in Him. It is of no moment to ask whether the Divine nature or the Divine will is the ground of moral obligation. Be ye holy; for I am holy! 1 is the only answer. As every intelligent moral agent is created in the image of God, the Divine nature is the only ground of his obligation to be holy: he knows of nothing behind the nature of his God. As he is a subject of the moral government of the Supreme, the Divine will is the ground of his obligation to be holy: he knows nothing behind the will of his God. But these two aspects are really one.

1 1 Pet. 1:16.

(2.) Hence, as the Divine holiness is the standard of goodness, it is the eternal opposite and the eternal condemnation of sin. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity. 1 This attribute cannot be separated from the idea of its inviolableness and assertion of its own rights. Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? 2 The conscience, which in the guilty is faithful in its response to the Divine holiness, cries in every sinner: Woe is me, for I am undone! 3 The whole tenor of Scripture—not less the New Testament than the Old—is faithful to the conception of this attribute, which makes it not merely retire before unholiness, but also turn against it with abiding displeasure. It not only admits no fellowship with evil, but is eternally repelling, rejecting, and condemning it. Our God is a consuming fire. 4 As the thought of the sin from which it is for ever defended is always latent in the ascription of holiness to God, so also is the thought of His abiding wrath against it.

1 Hab. 1:13; 2 1 Sam. 6:20; 3 Isa. 6:5; 4 Heb. 12:29.

3. We should not, however, do justice to this attribute were we not to point out that it is revealed towards men only through an economy of grace which renders it possible that sinners, trembling before the Holy God, may become partakers of His holiness. 1 Throughout the entire Scripture there runs one perpetual strain: Be ye holy, for I am holy.2 The ancient people heard it in this form: Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God, and ye shall keep My statutes and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you. 3 And it was promised to them: Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation. 4 The awful holiness of Jehovah was revealed, and for ever kept prominent by every token and symbol; and yet a sinful people might be sanctified from the world and from sin to a peculiar fellowship with the Holy One. The God whose glory filled the Temple, and revealed only the unholiness of all who approached Him, nevertheless bade the unholy draw near to be sanctified. Was it then by the rays of His holiness shining upon and around them? Most assuredly not. The mystery of this paradox, that the attribute which separated God from sinners is nevertheless the bond of union between sinners and Himself, is solved only by the system of sacrificial expiation typifying the great Atonement, which through a satisfaction offered to the Divine righteousness opened the fellowship of love between God and man. But this leads to the next attribute, or another exhibition of holiness.

1 Heb. 12:10; 2 1 Pet. 1:16; 3 Lev. 20:7,8; 4 Exo. 19:6.


The Justice or Righteousness of God is the Divine holiness applied in moral government and the domain of law. As an attribute of God it is united with His holiness as being essential in His nature; it is legislative or rectoral, as He is the righteous Governor of all His creatures; and it is administrative or judicial, as He is the just Dispenser of rewards and punishments. Under these three heads may be distributed all that the Scripture teaches us on this most important subject.

I. The Justitia Interna, or essential righteousness of the God of holiness, need not be dwelt upon at great length.

1. It is His holiness regarded as subject to test; also as exhibited in His dealings with man; moreover, and lastly, it is rather the positive expression of what in holiness is negative separation from evil. All is said in that first ascription to Jehovah in the Song of Moses. I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He. 1 The last words are Tsadiyq w’yaashaar huw' in the Septuagint dikaios kai osios, and in the Vulgate, justus et rectus. The Hebrew words mean nearly the same thing: straightness and lightness, when measured by the standard of perfection.

Very frequently the Holy One condescends to let men apply the standard, and then the attribute of righteousness is always vindicated. After every test it is faultless, and far above human censure or rivalry: Thy righteousness is like the great mountains: 2 as much above man's as heaven is above earth.

1 Deu. 32:3,4; 2 Psa. 36:6.

2. But it is, like the holiness of God, to be imparted to man. When we come down to the psalms and prophets, we find the righteousness of God almost taking the place of His holiness, as the attribute for the revelation of which the ages wait. When we so often read, I bring near My righteousness;1 or My righteousness is near;2 or My salvation is near to come, 3 and My righteousness to be revealed, 4 we must understand more than that God's faithfulness to His covenant would be approved in the latter day. The coming of the Lord our Righteousness 5 would bring in the everlasting righteousness of His saints made righteous through Him in the possession of the righteousness of God, 6 the imputation and impartation of a righteous character in God's own way. Hence, as the great Atonement was to be a glorious manifestation of the Divine holiness in the expiation of sin, so also it would be a glorious manifestation of God's righteousness given in free mercy to those who were ungodly, and a perverse and crooked generation.7

1 Isa. 46:13; 2 Isa. 51:5; 3 Isa. 56:1; 4 Jer. 23:6; 5 Dan. 9:24; 6 Rom. 10:3; 7 Deu. 32:5.

II. The Legislative or Rectoral Righteousness of God is the attribute that stamps perfectness on all the laws by which He carries on the government of the universe, whether in other worlds or in this; and whether His laws are revealed in the constitution of man's heart, or in the written revelation of His will. What the ancient people rejoiced to remember, in their distresses, the whole world may rejoice in: The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King: He will save us. 1 The entire rectoral administration of man's affairs has been conducted with reference to the great salvation gradually revealed; and this must be remembered in every estimate of the moral administration of Jehovah. We are required to believe that His law is perfect: 2 perfect as the expression of the Divine holiness: perfect therefore as the standard of right: perfect in its universal adaptation; perfect in its requirements; perfect in its sanctions. All this is summed into one sentence by St. Paul: The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 3 Returning back, however, to the attribute of the Lawgiver, we are bound to believe that all ordinances are righteous: first, with regard to the constitution and nature of His subjects; and, secondly, as answering strictly to His own Divine aim, whether understood or not. To believe these two things is by anticipation to answer every objection. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy law is the truth.4 Because He is righteous, His law is true both to Himself and to the nature of His creatures.

1 Isa. 33:22; 2 Psa. 19:7; 3 Rom. 7:12; 4 Psa. 119:142.

1. It is necessary to believe that under a righteous Lawgiver no living creature is overburdened with obligation: in other words, whether we discern it or not, God is a righteous Lawgiver in every department where He reveals His law. Upon every rational spirit He creates He imprints the law of obedience and love perfect and supreme; and that law is in strict harmony with creaturely nature: it is the Creator's right and it is right to the creature. But He is pleased as the Moral Governor of the universe to ordain for each a term of probation: in His righteousness He makes dependence upon His Spirit the law of continued' obedience and happiness; and the penalty of separation from His will, or sin, is separation from His presence. And, apart from the commentary upon this which history gives, every creature must say Amen: even so, Lord God almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments. 1 Nothing is imposed upon creaturely duty, or demanded of the creaturely will, that is beyond the creature's capacity and obligation.

1 Rev. 16:7.

2. The righteousness of Divine laws implies also that they are conformed to His aim and purpose, and in this sense right. It is well to believe that they are equal and just in their relation to the creaturely nature. But that is not all. They must be measured by another standard: they are right in their perfect adaptation to the Divine plans. Here comes in our apology for the Divine Lawgiver: His own supreme Theodicy, or vindication of Himself.

It is not given to us to understand the mysteries of the hidden rectoral administration of God. We must believe now that it is righteous; as we shall certainly one day know that it is. Clouds and darkness are round about Him: 1 unbelief forms out of these clouds, and writes upon this darkness, innumerable matters of questioning. But righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne: behind, all is clear, steadfast, and perfect right.

This must terminate human strife with the Divine Law-giver. This must settle all our disputes about the difference between legislation for angels and legislation for man; the law of Paradise with its sanctions; the gradual and slow revelation of the Divine will to the world; the eternal enactments of Sinai and the special and limited enactment for the Theocracy, with its occasional statutes that were not good, 2 not good, that is, for permanent application. Ten thousand difficulties are swept away, rather are obviated, if we remember that the righteousness of God's moral government is to be measured, not only by the creature's nature, —it will always bear to be thus measured, — but by the design and final end of the economy of His will.

1 Psa. 97:2; 2 Eze. 20:25.

III. The judicial administration of His own laws demands this attribute of righteousness in the equal bestowment of reward and punishment. This is called, in human affairs, Distributive Justice: Remunerative, on the one hand, and Punitive on the other.

1. The Administration of God the Judge of all 1 takes up the sanctions of His law as imposed upon moral beings in probation, and cannot be separated from its relation to sin.

It indeed gives the Supreme the new office of JUDGE, even as His love gives Him the new name of Savior. It is Judicial righteousness as it assures us of the eternal rectitude of the administration: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 2 This appeal of Abraham, in the beginning of history, expresses as a question the faith of all who believe in God to the end of time, and will be confirmed for ever at the close of history. Reverence accepts this necessary truth and commits to it with confidence the destinies of all that exist. But the idea of God's judicial righteousness must be analyzed into some of its applications.

1 Heb. 12:23; 2 Gen. 18:25.

2. This is the attribute of a Personal Judge: and all that His personality demands must be remembered. Those who deny that the Absolute Being can think, and feel, and will, and judge, renounce the God of the Bible. Even if they take refuge in the thought that He hath committed all judgment to the Son, the very committal to the Son is a personal act. Or if they fall back upon the notion that justice in the Judge means only the law according to which sin is made its own punishment and goodness its own reward they gain nothing by this. It is a personal Judge Who ordains this connection and sees that it is not interrupted.

There is but a step between this idea and that which makes God and the universe, physical and ethical, subject to the eternal law of the fitness of things. This reduces the Supreme to the position of an administrator of a law higher than Himself, after the manner of a human judge. But the very expression "Nature or Fitness of Things," betrays its own inconsistency. Admitted difficulties swell into contradictory absurdities and even blasphemies, if we forget that the Administrator of His own laws is a Judge. He does not merely watch the current that sets in for righteousness, and guide it; nor watch the current that sets in for evil, and restrain it. He is a personal Divider between good and evil: in the perfection of that principle which human nature acknowledges in itself and never can be robbed of, that every good and every evil deserves its reward or punishment, and that justice requires every man to have his own.

3. God is the righteous Judge in His constant administration in the present world. This introduces us at once to the question: How can a personal Ruler of strict righteousness administer His holy laws and yet permit sinners to live? The answer is given by the blessed truth to which all the attributes converge, that the mediation and sacrifice of Christ secures His righteousness in the administration of mercy. He is just in the punishment of all sin; His incarnate Son was made sin for us; 1 and the infinite worthiness of the sacrificial obedience unto death of Jesus Christ the Righteous is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world, 2 to the end of time. He is just in the pardon of sin; for the atonement of Christ belongs to everyone who makes it his by faith: That He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus; 3 Faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 4 Moreover, He is just during the present dispensation in mingling the punishment of sin with that corrective and disciplinary chastisement of offenders which still labors for their reformation, and so deters them from ruin. The intercession of the Most Holy Son of God, so precious to His Father, has its unbounded rights; and justice to them is the secret of that mingled mercy and judgment which makes up the Divine government of the present world. But the absolute righteousness of the Judge has its rights also; and those who resist and reject the Atonement perish. But these are topics which belong to a later stage.

1 2 Cor. 5:21; 2 1 John 2:2; 3 Rom. 3:26; 4 1 John 1:9.

4. The judicial righteousness of God waits for its final manifestation until the great day, the solemn characteristic of which will be its vindication of the absolute justice of the Supreme in retribution of reward and punishment. The subject of the Future Judgment is far in advance. But we may here consider its relation to this attribute of the Judge.

(1.) Generally, the justice of God will then, as it must now, be maintained in its stern consistency with itself. We have all along regarded it as looking with equal eye on the good and on the evil; assigning to each its right. So will it be on the great day. The anomalies of the present dispensation will be corrected, and shown to have been only the apparent confusion which prepared for perfect harmony. Justice will be clear when it judges finally; and from its decision there will be no appeal. As an attribute of God, it will assert its reality and integrity. Two mistakes are often made on this subject. One is, to regard justice as dealing only with the sin of man. Now, it is true that one branch of the whole family of terms belonging to this attribute has been almost entirely appropriated to punishment and doom. But God is the just Judge in His rewards as well as in His displeasure. Another is, on the contrary, to merge justice in benevolence: as if the righteous displeasure of God against sin, restrained by His mercy, was limited to the reformation of the offender, the fatherly correction of his fault, the prevention of sin in others, and so forth. Up to a certain stage it is true that mercy and judgment work together so unitedly, so inseparably— both rejoicing while the gentler attribute has the richer joy— that it might appear as if God had forgotten to be angry with sin. Until the blow finally falls in this world, and not always even then, we know not if the punishment has not been only correction. But at the great day there will be no longer doubt. Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. 1 The unclothed sinner is not cast out for reformation here. We avoid both errors when we hold fast distributive righteousness. There is no respect of persons with God, Who will render to every man according to his deeds.2

1 Mat. 22:13,14; 2 Rom. 2:6,11.

(2.) There is a profound and awful reality in the vindicatory, retributive justice of God.

The specific nature of final punishment we have not now to do with: only with its righteous character. In that attribute let all who are oppressed by the dread of the prospect rejoice: let them feel its strong consolation. Be the doctrine what it may, and the language in which it is announced be clothed with whatsoever terror, still it remains that all the multitudes of the creatures whom God shall judge will fall into Righteous Hands. But theological speculation finds it hard to repose in this. It strives to take from the notion of justice what is of its essence; and would make it only goodness tempered by wisdom. "In justitia punitiva bonitas cum sapientia administratur; notio justitiae resolvitur in notionem sapientiae et bonitatis." This idea has played a great part in modern theology, though its first clear expression was Origen's: " Ex quibus constat, unum eundemque esse justum et bonum legis et evangeliorum Deum, et benefacere cum justitia et cum bonitate punire." Again let it be said that prevention of sin and correction or amendment of the sinner are not of the essence of justice: this idea is imported into it by the definition. It required the awful sacrifice of the Son of God to unite justice and mercy; but no new definition of either is introduced by the Atonement. Within the range of the cross the definition may be accepted on certain terms. But the cross is not within the view of either God or man for ever. Those who project its benefit into the intermediate world have no Scriptural ground for their charity. But the whole strain of Scripture is against those who deny that there is, in the strictest sense of the term, a Justitia Retributiva et Rependens at the day of final and eternal judgment.

(3.) The rewards of a righteous judgment are always dispensed to those who merit them.

But it is obvious that here we are on ground which must be carefully ventured on. The righteousness of the Judge in acknowledging all that is good in man is as abundantly asserted as His righteousness in the awards of punishment. But whatever of praiseworthy there can be found in human nature is of God, whether as the effect of His preventing grace or the fruit of His renewing Spirit; while the evil within him is his own. There can be no mention of merit in any case, save as the word is used in the Divine condescension.

He Who only crowns the work of His own hands in glorifying the sanctified believer, nevertheless speaks of his own works of faith as matter of reward. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love. 1 This term adikos is used once more concerning God the Judge: Is God unrighteous Who taketh vengeance (I speak as a man)? God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? 2 In both cases the impossibility of any injustice in God, whether as ho epiféroon teén orgeén, or as being capable epilathésthai toú érgou humoón, is left to the natural inference of every reason. He cannot, in the nature of things, that is in harmony with His own nature, be unjust in either respect. The rewards of the distributive righteousness of God are reckoned not of debt but of grace;3 and the whole tenor of Scripture proclaims that the allotments of the last day will be measured out according to the strictest rule of right: hekástoo katá tá érga autoú. St. Paul calls the last day the revelation of the righteous judgment of God,4 dikaiokrisías toú Theoú, the only instance of this impressive word. He teaches here as elsewhere that, as the punishment of evildoers will be the fruit of their own doings, and also the direct infliction of judgment, so likewise the reward of the blessed will be the righteous decision of judgment, as well as the harvest of their own sowing.

1 Heb. 6:10; 2 Rom. 3:5,6; 3 Rom. 4:4; 4 Rom. 2:6.


These attributes—which are really one under two aspects-are, as it were, the supporters and guarantees of the Divine Justice. It may be affirmed that they are never referred to save in connection with that supreme economy which reveals the Righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.

1. Truth as a Divine perfection represents the absolute correspondence of all His revelations with the reality; and it may be referred to His representations of His own nature, to His revelation of the great system of grace under which He governs the world, and to His word of revelation generally whether in whole or in part.

(1.) God is the true God, 1 and the only true God. 2 It is observable that in both these passages, which are unique, the revelation of God is connected with the Son. He is the only veritable God, in opposition to every fictitious being; and He is the God of veracity in thus revealing Himself. We have here a sublime petitio principii: our God is the only real God, because He Who is true declares it. But the attribute is not here objective: it is rather the subjective Divine veracity in all His revelations of Himself. As to His nature, His Triune essence, His attributes, our relations to Him and His to us, and all that concerns the essentials of our theology, we are dependent on the truth of the Creator, Who hath formed us in His image and implanted those instincts and that consciousness of Him which cannot deceive us. Our faith in universal religion is bound up with our faith in the veracity of God Who speaks the truth to us concerning Himself and our own relations to Him.

1 John 5:20; 2 John 17:3.

(2.) The truth of God is pledged to the stability and eternity of the redeeming economy as a whole. This is His absolute immutability translated into the sphere of His saying revelations. One great purpose for the good of mankind is announced from generation to generation; and to that the Eternal declares Himself true, uttering every variety of appeal to His own steadfastness from age to age. In early times the universal purpose seemed limited to one people; and to them He represents His truth. He is the Bock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He. 1 As the great system is further disclosed in the psalms and prophets, the coming salvation is pledged with ever-increasing strength: The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations. 2 When it is consummated, it is by Him who is THE TRUTH; 3 and it is confirmed by the oath of an immutable counsel in which it was impossible for God to lie. 4 Hence it may be said that the attribute of truth is assigned to God mainly as the God of the one eternal covenant in Christ.

1 Deu. 32:4; 2 Psa. 100:5; 3 John 14:6; 4 Heb. 6:18.

(3.) But it is also referred to His spoken and written revelations generally, which are declared to contain only the truth of God. Speaking to His Father, He Who is the Truth said Thy word is truth. 1 There is no doubt that the Old Testament, which was then the Bible, was regarded by all who read it as containing the infallible sayings of the undeceiving God of truth. The truth of Scripture we are not now, however, pleading: only for the attribute in the Supreme that insures the absolute correspondence of every word spoken by Him with the essential reality of things.

1 John 17:17.

2. The Faithfulness of God has a more limited application than His truth. It is the attribute that pledges to man in infinite condescension—for it is the most anthropopathic of all the attributes—the fulfillment of every specific promise based upon the economy of His righteousness. Appeals to His own fidelity on the part of Jehovah, and responses to the appeal on the part of man, crowd the Scriptures. It may suffice here to refer to three most interesting illustrations of it in the economy of grace. Sinners repenting of their sin, and confessing it, are assured that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. 1 Believers oppressed by the weariness of the way, and their own instability, are reminded that The Lord is faithful, Who shall stablish you, and guard you from the evil one. 2 We are encouraged to aspire to perfect holiness of body and soul and spirit, are assured that, faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it. 3 These passages carry the Divine fidelity into the entire process of personal salvation from beginning to end. It is remarkable that this attribute is never expressly connected with the fulfillment of the Divine threatenings, though equally applicable to them. Hence, though we have located it in the family of Righteousness or justice, it forms the transition to the other and more gracious family of Love.

1 1 John 1:9; 2 2 Thes. 3:3; 3 1 Thes. 5:24.


Like His holiness, the love of God has its most direct and express relation to the creature, and especially to the intelligences under the moral government of God. But love has in this the pre-eminence, that it has an eternal and essential seat in the Triune Essence.

1. Hence we read that GOD is LOVE: in the secret of the Divine Self-sufficiency and Blessedness we have already seen the mysterious intercommunion of Three Persons whose mutual love gives God one of His Names and defines His nature. 1 If in the created universe it for ever seeks to impart itself to all who are capable of receiving it, and delights both in giving and receiving, that is because in the ever-blessed Trinity love is, as in all who reflect the Divine image, the bond of perfectness. 2 We may, we must, transfer our finite feeling to the Infinite, and believe, not that the Triune God was, but that He is, existing in an eternal sphere of love, into the fellowship of which the finite and creaturely universe is received. Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world:3 if these words are connected with those which immediately precede, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me; 4 and these again with the assurance, as the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you; and these once more with the command, That ye love one another, as I have loved you, 5 it will appear how perfect is the identity in kind between finite and infinite love, between the reflection among us and the reality in the essential Trinity, and how profound is the meaning of those words, Love is of God: hee agápee ek toú Theoú estin, 6 a form of expression used of no other grace. The Son is ever—not was, ho oón in the bosom of the Father: 7 in the unity of the Holy Ghost one Spirit with the Father even as he that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit 8 with Him. Thus we may boldly repeat that more glorious things are spoken of the Divine perfection of Love than of any other. It is not said that God is holiness: for, in His eternal Triune Essence, there is no room, there is no reason, for the attribute that sets up the standard of good and eternally repels evil As soon as we think of holiness we think of the creature on the way from evil to good, or on the way from perfection to still higher perfection. But GOD IS LOVE; 9 and this attribute, which is both nature and attribute, forms the link between the absolute Godhead and the manifestations of God to His intelligent creatures. The Divine holiness springs, as it were, out of His perfection to meet the creature; and is in a most important sense created with it. But love is of God, and is in the Divine relation to the universe only a hidden mystery revealed.

1 1 John 4:16; 2 Col. 3:14; 3 John 17:23,24; 4 John 15:9; 5 John 13:34; 6 1 John 4:7; 7 John 1:18; 8 1 Cor. 6:17; 9 1 John 4:8,16.

2. The love of God rested upon the world also from its foundation: upon every intelligent creature as the love that communicates itself and takes complacency in its object. But the book of revelation, which is the record of the Divine dealings with a redeemed race, — redeemed in the very act of its fall, —reserves the attribute for redemption. It does not indeed speak of it familiarly, scarcely speaks of it at all, until its last expression in Christ is ready. 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 This sentiment or feeling in God, originating and directing the economy of redemption, was not fully revealed until the Lord Himself revealed it. And, when revealed, it is reserved for one service: to preside over the Cross and the Recovery of mankind. No record or register of the Divine perfections, related to the created universe as such, contains that of love. His goodness and His loving-kindness are often alluded to as the nearest approach to the attribute that is never turned towards any but the objects of redeeming love. But at length the set time came for the new revelation, or at least the fuller revelation, of the attribute that governs all the rest: that which, to adopt St. James's word, is the nómon basilikón, the royal law 2 in God as in man. And love when it is revealed takes many names, or rather is the mother of a new and blessed family of attributes.

1 1 John 4:10; 2 Jas. 2:8.

3. But, whatever other manifestations love may take, or whatever other name it may bear, it is the moral attribute in God which is His most blessed gift to the individual soul: in the administration of the Holy Ghost it is the bond between God and the redeemed, as it were their common ethical principle. We are said to be made partakers of the Divine nature1 generally, and with special reference to the two great moral attributes of holiness and love. We are partakers of His holiness 2 as being purified from sin and sanctified to His service. Bat a stronger word is used about our participation of His love. St. John points our thought to the invisible essence of God, No man hath seen God at any time, 3 but only that he may tell us in what sense we become one with the Invisible: If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and His love is fulfilled in us. 3 Soon afterwards he utters the profoundest word the Bible contains as to the relations and privilege of the saints: God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 4 It may be added here in conclusion that the indwelling of the Holy Ghost is the real bond of fellowship between God and the believer: He that is joined unto the Lord is One Spirit. 5 Our partaking of the Divine holiness is the sanctification of the Spirit; 6 and our partaking of the Divine love is explained to be because He hath given us of His Spirit. 7

1 2 Pet. 1:4; 2 Heb. 12:10; 3 1 John 4:12; 4 1 John 4:16; 5 1 Cor. 6:17; 6 1 Pet. 1:2; 7 1 John 4:13.


What the righteousness is to the holiness of God, that His grace is to His love: the firstborn of its strength and its minister in the things pertaining to salvation. Love retains its distinction to define both the nature and the attribute. The supreme principle or feeling, governing the Divine dealings with sinners, is in the Christian dispensation grace.

1. This word is in some respects a creation of the Gospel God was, in the Old Testament, a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and plenteous in mercy and truth;1 but there is something in the Evangelical term that surpasses all these. In the New Testament this unwearied agent of Love appears as the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is only another form of the love of God, and this again only another form of the communion of the Holy Ghost. 2 The love of the Triune God is communicated by the Spirit through the redeeming grace of Christ. As holiness comes upon the scene of atoning administration under the aspect of justice, so love comes under the aspect of grace, which is the Divine love with an emphasis upon the ill desert and utter impotence of those who receive it. Not that we loved God, but that He loved us: 3this is the best interpreter of the grace that represents in the active work of redemption the love of God which provided the redemption itself. It may be added in conclusion, that as an attribute of God each Person of the Holy Trinity shares it. We read of the grace of our God, AND the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Spirit of grace.4

1 Psa. 136: 15; 2 2 Cor. 13:14; 3 1 John 4:10; 4 2 Thes. 1:12; Heb. 10:29 2.

It is needless to enumerate the other attributes or modifications of grace with which God in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, 1 is clothed in the whole of Scripture, and specially in the Gospel. They are as many as the aspects of sin and the need of sinners. Here practical theology may multiply its epithets: gathering from the abundance of the Bible, or framing them anew according to Biblical analogy or precedent. The grace that seeks the well-being of the whole race is the Divine philanthropy or kindness to humankind. 2 That which looks upon man in his sin and misery and waits to be gracious is Compassion and Pity. The Grace that waits for the sinner's return and submission, restraining the deserved judgment upon evil, is Forbearance, or Long-suffering. That which forgives him when he comes is Mercy. It is well seen that in the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 3 God invests Himself with every attribute that is sanctified to the service of lovingkindness generally, and that there is not much exact discrimination in their use. Finally, the grace that rejoices over the recovered and renewed spirit with delight and complacency has no name, but returns again to the source of all these perfections, the Divine and original love of our Father in heaven.

1 2 Cor 5:19; 2 Tit. 3:4; 3 Eph. 2:7.


These two attributes preside over the redeeming economy; their harmony in the Atonement, whether in the decree of heaven or in the ministry of Christ on earth, will hereafter appear. Meanwhile some prospective observations are here demanded as it respects that harmony, which is the topic of most importance. The word must be taken in its strictest meaning, and without fear of any consequences: this is a question on which the light of Scripture is so clear that we ought not to speak timorously.

1. These attributes must need, or must have needed, what we in our human speech call reconciliation in God Himself. But we should be careful how we understand and use the term. It is necessary here to carry up our thoughts into the nature of the Triune God, Who, in relation to the world as sinful, foreordained the Incarnation as the provision or expedient both of holy justice and of merciful love, Redemption is said to have been the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus, and therefore eternal redemption: before the ages in its virtual accomplishment and after the ages in its results. The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world: 1 more than that, before the foundation of the world. 2 Therefore whatever exhibition of wrath against sin and love to the sinner we now read in the cross must be only the expression of the same wrath and love in the mind of the Holy Trinity before the world was. Nothing has been added, nothing has been taken away from it, since. The whole matter or word of redemption was settled in heaven. 3 The actuality of sin has not aggravated or intensified the holiness that for ever burns against evil; nor has the actuality of human misery deepened in any sense the tenderness of the Divine benevolence. If there was reconciliation or harmonizing of wrath and mercy at the cross, there was precisely the same in the heart of the God Who would create man. All that the Atonement means was transacted in the bosom of the Deity before the world was.

Then it was a reality. We dare not think otherwise, however hard it may be even to seem to disturb the eternal rest of the Divine nature. There is great danger to many minds of being tempted to soften this away: in fact, to render to heaven all the love of the Atonement, and to make the wrath the offspring of earth; to regard love as the one only attribute in eternity, and justice as an invention or accommodation of time.

1 Rev. 13:8; 2 1 Pet. 1:20; 3 Psa. 119:89.

2. But the fact that the Atonement was settled in heaven—the pattern in the Mount of all that was wrought out below — teaches us what is meant by harmony: it is not the reconciliation after contest, nor the agreement after stipulation, nor the accordance on certain conditions, that is meant; but the perfect concurrence of two eternal principles of the Divine perfection, — which as to a creaturely universe are called wrath and love, — in the mission of the incarnate Son and His union with the guilty world. The purpose of the Atonement was one purpose, which did not require, as we should say, two thoughts: successive, reconciled, and finally one. Hence, in speaking of holiness and love, we must be careful not to assign priority or preeminence to either. If God is Love, God also is Light, as has been seen, and that Light even a consuming fire. 1 If it was the love of God that sent the only-begotten Son, it was His holiness that demanded the sacrifice. Hence the co-ordination of the two attributes in St. John's words: Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son the Propitiation for our sins: 2 love sent Him already the expiation required by holiness. Hence also the fact that Righteousness and Grace — the two forms that Holiness and Love assume in redemption — give their names severally to the atoning work of Christ: it is the Grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men, and therein is revealed a Righteousness of God by faith unto faith.3

1 Heb. 12:29; 2 1 John 4:10; 3 Rom. 3:21; Tit. 2:11; Rom. 1:17.

3. But here again arises the necessity of yet another qualification. However perfectly one in their harmony, these attributes or principles of action in the Divine nature are to be kept apart in our thoughts. There is a real distinction between the two. They are not merely, as many have attempted to prove, diverse presentations of the same attribute. It is very common to say that holiness is love guarding the majesty of the Divine nature, and love the same holiness communicating itself; while justice or righteousness is a combination of the two: as, to quote an illustration, the Apostle following the Septuagint makes the sure mercies of David into the holy things, tá hósia, of David. 1 Some, who find an unreality in this, give love the pre-eminence as expressing the nature of God, and regard holiness as its opposite pole: wrath is the love of the holy Deity for all that is good in its energy as opposed to all that is evil. There is a sense in which this is perfectly true; but it is a truth which is very liable to be perverted. It is well to remember that each of these perfections is kept distinct in the redemptional language of Scripture, and that we do not find there any justification for this habit of thinking and speaking. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven: 2 not the love of God manifesting its wrath. We were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: — BUT God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us. 3 The strongest argument, however, against this absolute unification of the two attributes is the fact that everywhere in Scripture the Atonement is referred to neither alone. Where the one is the other is not far off: so to speak as its necessary counterpart or qualification. Certainly it would be wrong to say that this truth is ever matter of argument in the New Testament It does not amount to that. But it is abundantly shown, nevertheless, that neither of these attributes alone would have secured the salvation of mankind. Certainly not holiness in itself, which is a consuming fire: nor as righteousness, which would not be just in passing by transgression; nor in faithfulness, which must fulfill its threatening; nor in any form that any of its family of attributes might assume. And love would have been equally powerless; for it is as vehement as holiness itself in chastising its object for his good, and no disciplinary correction could have met the case of sin against God. Hence whenever in revelation we find either of these supreme attributes connected with the Atonement the other is sure to be near at hand. There is no exception to this; no exception, that is, where the atoning work of Christ is mentioned. Take the passage which might seem more than any other to give love the sole honor: But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 4 It follows immediately: Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. An earlier passage might seem to give the pre-eminence to the justice that required propitiation: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in His blood, to declare His righteousness. 5 This is, however, preceded by being justified freely by His grace. Some of our Lord's earlier words might appear to make the Father's love the one spring of mercy in His own mission. But we must remember that as He approached the cross He paid the most solemn tribute to the will of the righteous judgment which rested upon Him instead of sinful man. The last attribute He ever gave His Father was RIGHTEOUS.6

1 Acts 13:34; Isa. 55:3; 2 Rom. 1:18; 3 Eph. 2:3,4; 4 Rom. 5:8,9; 5 Rom. 3:25,24.

4. But after all there is a most blessed sense in which love must have the pre-eminence. It has been seen that in the records of that accomplished redemption there is undoubtedly an ascendancy given to the love of God which no worthy theological interest is concerned to deny. In a sense the origination of our recovery is ascribed to the Divine charity: God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. 1 It is true that God so hated sin that He sent His Son, the Propitiation: this, however, is never said, however profoundly true.

Walk in love, St. Paul says, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice: 2 he does not anywhere otherwise than indirectly tell us that Christ so hated sin that He gave Himself. This also is the truth: He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity; 3 and, Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. 4 But it is rather His love of sinners than His love of righteousness that is appealed to and magnified throughout the New Testament. GOD is LOVE; and we must, in our homage to this perfection, reverently think that it was not the holiness which asked, in the eternal counsel, what love could do, but the love which offered the unspeakable gift: Cháris toó Theoó epí teé anekdieegeétoo autoú dooreá. 5 And. as in the origination of the redeeming economy, so also in the process and final issues of it, love has the pre-eminence. It is everywhere magnified by God the Father and His incarnate Son; and we must magnify it. Mercy and judgment are on either side of the cross; they co-operate in all the administration of the Gospel; and they will preside at the final day.

But evermore judgment executes the will of mercy, or love, the royal law; 6 even when justice may seem to use the ministry of love. Our theology, like David, must sing of mercy and judgment. 7 But still Mercy rejoiceth against judgment: 8 exults or triumphs not OVER it, indeed, but yet AGAINST it. The same Moralist among the Apostles who made love the law, says: katakauchátai éleos kríseoos.

1 John 3:16; 2 Eph. 5:2; 3 Tit. 2:14; 4 Heb. 1:9; 5 2 Cor. 9:15; 6 Jas. 2:8; 7 Psa. 101:1; 8 Jas. 2:13.


Finally, we may consider the union of these attributed in the Atonement as administered in the Gospel. That administration is mediatorial: while the attributes are the perfections of each Person in the Godhead, they are generally regarded as displayed by the Father, through the intercession of the Son, by the ministry of the Holy Ghost. And they are displayed in three departments of the economy of grace. The Supreme Judge presides in the mediatorial court where righteousness reigns; as a Father He dispenses grace in the household and family of His adopted and regenerate children; and as God in His temple He sanctifies His worshippers to Himself: all through the mediation of the incarnate Son, and the influences of the Holy Spirit. To the first answers the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; 1 to the second the love of God; and to the third the communion of the Holy Ghost.

1 2 Cor. 13:14.

1. In what we hare termed the Mediatorial Court, God's relations to man, or rather man's relations to God, are altogether those of law. God is the Judge; there reigns His righteousness; the Atonement is a satisfaction to justice; Jesus Christ the Righteous is the Advocate; sin is transgression; repentance is conviction; acceptance with God is the righteousness of faith, imputed and imparted; and the whole Christian system is the new law of faith. Now in this Evangelical court, all the Divine-moral perfections which cluster around or arise out of His justice have their manifestation, and are glorified.

2. In the temple of Christianity the presiding attribute is holiness. There the holy God reigns over the propitiatory, sprinkled with the blood of expiation. There the Redeemer is the High-priest of our profession. Sinners polluted approach the altar and are sanctified, purified, consecrated to the Divine possession, fellowship, and service. The Christian system is the consecration of a holy life, and Christians partake of the Divine holiness.

Over a large variety of terms describing the Evangelical privilege this sanctuary attribute presides, uniting God and His saints in one most holy communion.

3. Midway between these, and yet as the crown and consummation of both, is the household and family of God, where He dwells as a Father in the midst of His adopted and regenerate children, united to Him in His Son the Firstborn among many brethren.1 There His love supremely reigns. It reigns, indeed, in the court and the temple; but here it supremely reigns, glorified in the face of the Incarnate, and from it shining upon all His children. The Christian system becomes now a family discipline: the sons of God are imitators of Christ, and keep the commandments as children obeying their Father's voice in love. Here we may reverently say is the perfection of the Christian economy as a display of the perfections of God in Christ. The Atonement— an expiation in the temple, and a satisfaction in the court—is the reconciliation: the reconciliation of the Father and His prodigals in the Son incarnate. Through this reconciliation, and the indwelling of the Spirit of the Son, believers are restored to the image of Him Who is the Image of the Father: changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord,2 and thus reaching the goal of their destiny whom He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.3

1 Rom. 8:29; 2 2 Cor. 3:18; 3 Rom. 8:29.

4. But, though we thus decompose and distribute the Divine attributes in redemption, they combine into one harmonious glory of grace. The three are one; and the bond of their perfectness is Love. To this subject we return in due time when the administration of redemption is our subject


A few closing remarks may be made, both dogmatic and practical, on this inexhaustible subject.

1. The meditation and study of the Divine Attributes lies at the foundation of theology, which is by the very term the doctrine of God contemplated in Himself and in His universal relations, or in the universal relation of all things to Him. The whole superstructure of this holy science might be reared upon the several names and perfections of the Most High; and, whether formally aiming at it or not, our divinity is sound only in proportion as it is remembered. There is not a single truth of our dogmatics or ethics which might not be assigned as it were to its natural place under the several heads of the preceding distribution. But the attempt to do this, as it would overtax in many respects our ability, so it would not on the whole conduce to our advantage as students of systematic theology. Hence we must be content to make the Divine nature and perfections part only instead of the whole. But, for this very reason, a treatment of the various attributes, more elaborate and comprehensive than that which has been attempted, is needless at the outset: just as their rays are diffused and blended throughout the Scripture, so are they, as it will be found, more or less interwoven with all the topics we shall hereafter discuss.

2. As the consistent and universal exhibition of the Divine perfections in their harmony is the glory of our science, so all its confusion, and dimness, and vexation have been due to the errors of men's conception of them: the history of the heresies, major and minor, of the Christian dogma is little more than the history of the systematisation of such unworthy apprehensions of those perfections. Hence, their equal honor and perfect harmony should be the standard of our aspiration in every step that we take: abstaining from the invention of attributes that God has never given to Himself, we must evermore seek to do full justice to all and to each of those which He has revealed. The safeguard of truth is in this harmony. It is a standard to which by the help of the Scripture, nowhere more rich than on this subject, we may constantly and. safely bring our views of Divine things. For instance, an attribute of Sovereignty, or Absolute Sovereignty, is sometimes assigned to the Divine Being in a peculiar meaning for which the Scriptures-give no warrant. Most assuredly the Supreme is, by the evidence of this very name, high above all restraint, the uncontrolled Disposer of all events. He is the Only Potentate. 1 There is a sense of course in which all things that are to take place may be traced to the Divine will, which we may reverently term absolute if we desire. Moreover, with reference to some events, and some providential arrangements, the Word of God does sometimes represent Him as pointing to His sovereign pleasure, from which there is no appeal, and into the reasons of which no mortal must seek to penetrate. But it may be denied that any such attribute as that of Sovereignty is to be found mentioned in Scripture; certainly that it is placed, where much human theology places it, at the head of all the attributes, alone sternly ruling the whole economy of revelation. At any rate God is pleased to order His wisdom and His love, and His grace which is the expression of both, in most affecting juxtaposition with His uncontrolled and uncontrollable will: He Who is the Only Potentate,2 is also the Only wise God, 3 and God is love. 4 On the other hand, this last attribute of love itself has sometimes assigned to it an absolute sovereignty of its own which dissipates the gloom of the other system by a light not borrowed from heaven. This we have sufficiently seen. And it may be enough generally to repeat, what cannot be too profoundly pondered, that the Holy Spirit has displayed the economy of the Divine perfections in such a way as to forbid every exaggeration of any one of them, and to encourage us to harmonies the whole.

1 1 Tim. 6:15; 2 1 Tim. 6:15; 3 Jude 25; 4 1 John 4:16.

3. Once more, the study of the Divine perfections should be conducted habitually, reverently, and most devoutly, with reference to our own edification. The benefit of this is literally incalculable and inexhaustible, if we contemplate them with a never-failing reference to our soul's good: either endeavoring to rise to them or bringing them down to ourselves. We cannot indeed reach them; they are high and they are deep. But the very contemplation of perfections which oppress the mind strengthens the mind which it oppresses. To be amazed, and confounded, and baffled by our thoughts of God is the noblest discipline of the human regenerate spirit. But, though we cannot attain to them, we may—in the right sense of the word, however—bring them down to us. What this means is best taught by Scriptural examples. Let two stand for an endless series. Mark Job's struggle and submission in the presence of the Divine Omniscience. His consolation is that, though God is inscrutable to His creature, His creature is perfectly known to Him: Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him: on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand that I cannot see Him. But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold. 1 And David's more tranquil and equally sublime reduction to himself of the Divine Omnipresence. Meditating upon the presence of God which fills the universe, from which nothing is or can be concealed, he cries: Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high, I cannot attain unto it. 2 He despairs of pursuing this track; and we all despair with him. But his meditation regards God as thinking of his own poor destiny and interests: How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, 0 God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with Thee. 3 And then he places the secrets of his own spirit in the light of that omniscience. He brings that awful attribute to bear upon himself. Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1 Job 23:8-10; 2 Psa. 139:6; 3 Psa 139:17,18,23,24.

4. But the way everlasting suggests a truth which every Christian theologian should remember: that the Divine perfections must be contemplated as they are manifested and made incarnate in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the sum of Divine attributes in human nature. In Him the infinite and the finite are everlastingly one. The Incarnation is an eternal fact: in purpose before time was, in reality now and for ever. We are not called to study the absolute and immanent perfections in themselves, nor in Himself the Being Who is invested with them. We have as men no God Who is not revealed in Jesus; nor need we ever contemplate Him apart from our own nature in Christ. We shall never see and never know God save as revealed in the face of His incarnate Son. In Him we see these attributes which connect the Supreme with the creature under a most blessed and peculiar aspect; especially those of omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence: the omni-attributes. In Him, reflected from His face, and reflected through His work, we see the glory of the perfections that bring the Divine into relation with human redemption from sin. We all with unveiled face reflecting as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 1 It may be supposed that what is primarily meant here is our common reflection of the moral image of God exhibited in the human virtue of the Son's holiness. But we have no right to limit our view rigidly to this. One with the Son—He that is joined unto the Lord is One Spirit 2 we are, in a certain sense, in Him one with the Holy Trinity, and made partakers of the Divine nature. 3 In the likeness of the Triune we were originally formed.

The finest dust of the material universe contributed the body which connected us with the other orders of the Creature; but it was the Spirit of God Who gave us the higher essence on which was stamped the Divine image. In our perfection in Christ we shall be restored to the most consummate reflection of every attribute of the Creator which is possible to the creature. As to the absolute attributes, and our reflection of them, there is a mystery at present unfathomable. But as to the attributes which depend on the holiness and love of the Divine nature, we must study them not only in the volume which reveals the Supreme but in the Person and Work of the Son, In His work they have their atoning aspect; and there we study them as the ground of our redemption and hope. In His Person they have their passive and active exhibition as the perfect example of human holiness. Beholding and reflecting the glory of the Divine-human character of Christ, we study the attributes of God where alone we can study them unto perfection. No department of Scriptural Theology, as such, is so abundant as that which trains our minds to contemplate the perfections of the Supreme, and to dwell upon the works and ways of God as manifestations of His character, or of His glory. The several attributes are constantly set before us, some for our adoring wonder, and some for our imitation; and they are blended into the unity which is the glory of that Divine nature of which we may be partakers.

1 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 1 Cor. 6:17; 3 2 Pet. 1:4.

5. Finally, though the incarnate Son has fully revealed the Father as such, and the Triune secret of the Divine essence, He has introduced no change in the exhibition of the Divine attributes generally. There is nothing more remarkable in the Bible as a whole than the substantial unity and identity of the Being Whom it describes in a series of revelations running through thousands of years. The consistency of the Holy Scriptures in this respect is one of its most glorious characteristics, and one of its strongest credentials.

There is nothing in all the religious literature of mankind—and that literature is very large—which can be brought even into comparison, much less into competition, with them. This is true of the Scriptural names of the Deity; but it is more abundantly true of the perfections in which those names are enshrined. The noblest conceptions of the Godhead to be found outside of the Bible are found connected with the most degrading; nor is there one hymn, or one meditation, in all Gentile theology which gives a presentation of the Divine character either perfectly honorable to God Himself or perfectly satisfying to the soul of man. But from the beginning to the end of the revelation which we accept as Divine there is not one discordant note; the Being Whom it presents may not be at all points what human fear or hope could in its diversified moods desire; but He is ever the Same, a Being in whose presence unholiness is rebuked and all goodness or tendency to goodness is encouraged and quickened into life. From that almost the first announcement to a personal worshipper, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me and be thou perfect, 1 through all the annals of Scripture, there is the same God Whose character is the standard of perfection, Whose almightiness or all-sufficiency is the source of strength, and Whose manifested Presence is the light and joy of life.

Everywhere we find the great quaternion of names which combine His essence and His attributes. God is JEHOVAH, 2 the absolute Being; He is SPIRIT, 3 the personal object of worship: He is LIGHT, 4 repelling all impurity; He is LOVE, 5 diffusing His goodness as grace for ever.

1 Gen. 17:1; 2 Exo. 6:3; 3 John 4:24; 4 1 John 1:5; 5 1 John 4:8.