By Amos Binney and Daniel Steele
The attributes of God are the several qualities or perfections of the Divine nature; or, in other words, the different parts of his character. These are called attributes because God attributes them to himself, and perfections because they are the several representations of that one perfection, which is himself.
These attributes are divided into two classes, the NATURAL and the MORAL.
The NATURAL attributes are those qualities which do not immediately include the notion of moral action, being independent of the will.
The MORAL attributes are those which give worthiness to all his perfections, rendering him infinitely lovely. They involve an exercise of the will. As a man does not will to be six feet high, but does will to be honest, so God does not will to be eternal, but he does will to be just. If this is not so, God has only natural attributes, and is destitute of a moral character.
1. NATURAL ATTRIBUTES.
As to the nature or substance of God the testimony of Scripture is most definite. John 4: 24; II Cor. 3:17. (66. What are the attributes of God? Why so called? How classified? What of the Natural?)
a. His UNITY stands first among his natural attributes. God is one. Deut. 4:35; 6:4; 32:39; I Sam. 7:22; II Kings 19:15; Isa. 44:6, 8; 45:5; John 17:3; I Cor. 8:4, 6; Eph. 4:6; I Tim. 1:17; James 2:19.
DUALISM is the belief that there are two antagonistic and eternal deities, one good and the other evil. Their worship involves the confusion of all moral distinctions.
POLYTHEISM, or a plurality of gods, is a most dangerous error, since it involves the worship of bloody and impure conceptions of the imagination, which by a law of our nature assimilates the worshiper to the object worshiped.
b. ETERNITY, past and future existence without end. Dent. 33:27; Ps. 90:2; 93:2; 103:24, 27; Isa. 94:6; 57:15; Heb. 1:12; I Tim. 1:17; Rev. 1:4, 8.
c. OMNIPRESENCE, existence every-where, not by an extension of parts, but by his essential being. I Kings 8:27; Ps. 139:7-10; Jer. 23:23-24; Eph. 1:23. "Tell me where is God," said an atheist to a child. "I will," said the child, "if you will tell me where he is not." (67. What texts prove his Unity? What is Dualism? Polytheism? What texts prove his eternity? Omnipresence?)
d. OMNISCIENCE, or the knowledge of all things and all events. II Chron. 16:9; Job 34:21, 22; 37:16; Ps. 139:1-6; 147:5; Prov. 15:3, 11; 29:11, 12; Isa. 40:28; 42:9; Ezek. 9:5; Dan. 2:22; John 21:17; Acts 1:24; 15:18; Heb. 4:13; I John 3:20. This attribute includes what has been called the prescience or foreknowledge of God. These terms, however, as applied to God, are improper. They are applicable only to finite intelligences. With Jehovah nothing, strictly speaking, is future or past, but what he knows he knows as it is and not as it will be. Duration, past and future, is a framework within which all human thinking must be done. There is no such limitation to God's intelligence. There is no succession of thought, nor logical processes with him. He sees all truths intuitively. Heb. 4:13.
The mere knowledge of God influences nothing, nor changes the nature of things in any wise; for the plain reason, that it is KNOWLEDGE, and NOT INFLUENCE, NOR CAUSATION.
Some actions are necessary, such as breathing and sleeping, and others are free, and as such they are known of God. Had any thing been otherwise than it is, his knowledge of it would have been otherwise. Knowledge takes its form from the act, and not the act from the knowledge, as the impression from the seal and not the seal from the impression. How God knows the future decisions of a free agent is to us a mystery, as are all the perceptions of the Infinite mind. Job 5:9; 26:14; Isa. 55:8, 9; Ps. 139:6; Rom. 11:33, 34. (68. Omniscience? What is said of prescience? Of Divine knowledge? Has his knowledge any influence on our actions? What of necessity and free actions?)
e. OMNIPOTENCE, or power to do any thing which is not in its nature absurd or repugnant to his nature. Gen. 17:I; Job 9:12; Isa. 26:4; 43:13; Jer. 27:5; 32:17; Dan. 4:35; Matt. 19:26; Rev. 1:8; 19:6.
This attribute is represented in a variety of ways, for the twofold purpose of awing and controlling the wicked, and of affording strength and consolation to the righteous. Ps. 1:21-22; Rom. 4:20-21; 8:31.
f. IMMUTABILITY. This attribute is indicated in his august and awful title, "I Am." Exod. 3:14; John 8:58. Compare Num, 23:19; I Sam. 15:29; Job 23:13; Ps. 102:27; Isa. 26:4. (The Hebrew reads ROCK OF AGES.) Mal. 3:6; James 1:17. (69. Difference between Divine and human knowledge? Omnipotence? How is this attribute represented? For what purpose? How is God's immutability indicated?)
His Immutability is also inferred from the general order of nature: the revolution of the heavenly bodies, the succession of seasons, the laws of animal and vegetable production, and the perpetuation of every species of being. This attribute is not to be so interpreted as to signify that his OPERATIONS admit of no change or contrariety under any circumstances whatever. Exod. 32:14; Ezek. 18:20-30.
He creates and he destroys; he loves and he hates, etc. These are the proofs, not of change in God, but of unchanging PRINCIPLES.
His Immutability qualifies him as the Supreme Ruler of all, as all things in the kingdoms of nature and grace are governed by FIXED LAWS. Were it otherwise, there would be no security for any thing, nor any uniform course of nature.
This attribute in God is the grand source of terror to the impenitent, and of encouragement to such as are of contrite hearts. Ps. 1:21-22; Rom. 2:2-11; 4:20-21; I Thess. 5: 24. (70. From what is this attribute inferred? How should it be interpreted? How proved? How does God govern all things? Of what is this attributed the grand source? Invisibility? Incomprehensibility?)
g. INVISIBILITY. Exod. 33: 2-23; John 1:18; Col. 1:15; I Tim. 6:16; Heb. 9:27.
h. INCOMPREHENSIBILITY. He cannot be grasped by any finite conception. Job 9:7-8; 26:14; 36:26; 37:23; Ps. 145:3; Rom. 11:33.
2. MORAL ATTRIBUTES.
a. The WISDOM of God. This stands first among his moral attributes. It is partly natural and partly moral, being a compound of knowledge and benevolence.
This perfection is proved from the works of creation, providence, and redemption, and from express declarations of Scripture. Exod. 34:6; Ps. 54:24; Prov. 3:19; 8:14; Jer. 10:12; Dan. 2:20; Rom. 11:33; I Cor. 3:19; Col. 2:3; Jude 25; Rev. 5:12.
b. GOODNESS, or benevolence, is God's disposition to communicate the highest happiness. It is proved in the same manner as wisdom. Exod. 34:5; Ps. 33:5; 52:1; 107: 8; 119: 68; 145:7, 9; Matt. 19:17; James 1:17.
c. HOLINESS, or his perfect absolute purity and rectitude of nature. The evidence of this is found in uniform treatment of all moral beings, and also in his word. Exod. 15:11; (71. What is God's wisdom? How proved? Goodness? Proof? Holiness? Proof?) Lev. 11:44; Josh. 24:19; Ps. 22:3; 111:9; 145:17; Isa. 6:3; I Pet. 1:15, 16; Rev. 15:4.
d. JUSTICE, the expression of holiness by actions, or his disposition to render unto all their dues. This is proved from its display in the moral world, and from the Bible. Exod. 34: 6; Deut. 32:4; Neh. 9:13; Job 8:3; Ps. 89:14; Isa. 45:21; Rev. 15:3.
e. MERCY denotes his disposition to pity the miserable, and especially to forgive those who have done him wrong. Since it depends upon the existence of sin, it is not an essential attribute, but a stream flowing from goodness. It is argued from the gift of his Son, the provision of the means of grace, and the Scriptures. Exod. 34:6-7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 4:31; Psa. 62:12; 86:15; 100:5; 103:8; 116:5; 138:8; Lam. 3:22; Jonah 4:2; Micah 7:18; Rom. 8:32; II Cor. 1:3; Eph. 2:4.
f. TRUTH, or perfect veracity. His faithfulness in accomplishing his predictions, in fulfilling his promises, and in executing his threatenings, is evidence of this perfection. It is also declared in his word. Exod. 34:6; Num. 23:19; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 100:5; 146:6; Isa. 25:1; II Tim. 2:13; Titus 1: 2; Rev. 15:3. (72. What is God's justic? Proof? His mercy? How argued? Truth? Proof?)