The Attributes of God

by A. A. Hodge

1. What are the three methods of determining the attributes of the divine Being? 1st. The method of analyzing the idea of infinite and absolute perfection. This method proceeds upon the assumption that we are, as intelligent and moral agents, created in the image of God. In this process we attribute to him every excellence that we have any experience or conception of, in an infinite degree, and in absolute perfection, and we deny of him every form of imperfection or limitation. 

2nd. The method of inferring his characteristics from our observation of his works around us and our experience of his dealings it ourselves. 

3rd. The didactic (instructional) statements of Scripture, the illustration of his character therein given in his supernatural revelation and gracious dispensations, and above all in the personal revelation of God in his Son Jesus Christ. 

All these methods agree and mutually supplement and limit each other. The idea of absolute and infinite perfection, which in some sense is native to us, aids us in interpreting Scripture ––and the Scriptures correct the inferences of the natural reason, and set the seal of divine authority upon our opinions about the divine nature. 

2. To what extent can we have assurance that the objective reality correspondence with our subjective conceptions of the divine nature? 

There are upon this subject two opposite extreme positions which it is necessary to avoid.1st. The extreme of supposing that our conceptions of God either in kind or degree are adequate to represent the objective reality of his perfections. God is incomprehensible to us in the sense (a) that there remains an immeasurably greater part of his being and excellence of which we have and can have no knowledge, and (b) in the sense that even what we know of him we know imperfectly, and at best conceive of very 

inadequately. In this respect the imperfection of the knowledge which men God is analogous in kind, though indefinitely greater in degree to the imperfection of the knowledge which a child may have of the life of a great philosopher or statesman dwelling in the same city. The child not only knows that the philosopher or statesman in question lives––but he knows also in some real degree what that life is––yet that knowledge is imperfect both in respect to the fact that it apprehends a very small proportion of that life, and that it very imperfectly comprehends even that small proportion. 2nd. The second extreme to be avoided is that of supposing that our knowledge of God is purely illusory, that our conceptions of the divine perfections can not correspond in any degree to the objective reality. Sir Wm. Hamilton, Mr. 

Mansel, and others having proved that we are forced to think of God as " first cause," as "infinite," and as " absolute," proceed to give definitions of these abstract terms, which they there show necessarily involve mutual contradictions, of which the human reason is intolerant. They then conclude that our con-ceptions of God can not correspond to the real objective exist-ence of the divine being. "To think that God is as we can think him to be is blasphemy."The last and highest consecration of all true religion, must be an altar—Ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ—"To the unknown and unknowable God" (Sir William Hamilton's "Discussions," p. 22). 

They hold that all the representations of God conveyed in the Scriptures, and the best conceptions we are with the aid of scripture able to form in our minds, do not at all correspond to the outward reality, but are designed simply to be accepted not as actual scientific knowledge, but as regulative assumptions "abundantly instructive in point of sentiment and action" and practically sufficient for our present needs; "sufficient to guide our practice, but not to satisfy our intellect––which tell not what God is in himself,but how he wills that we should think of him. " – Mansel’s " Limits of Religious Thought," p. 132. 

This view, although not so intended, really leads to skeptical if not to dogmatic atheism. (1) It is founded upon an artificial and inapplicable definition of certain abstract notions entertained by philosophers concerning the " absolute " and the "infinite." As shown below, Question 6, a true definition of the absolute and infinite, in the sense in which the Scriptures and the unsophisticated minds of men hold God to be absolute and infinite, involves no contradictions or absurdities whatsoever. (2) It will be shown below, Questions 3 and 5, that there is adequate ground for the assumption that as intellectual and moral beings we are really and truly created in the image of God and therefore capable of knowing him as he really exists. (3) If our consciousness and the Sacred Scriptures present us illusory conceptions as to what God is, we have no reason to trust to their assurance that God is. (4) This principle leads to absolute skepticism. If our Creator wills that we should think of him as he does not really exist, we have no reason to trust our constitutional instincts or faculties in any department. (5) This principle is immoral since it makes a false representation of the divine attributes the regulative principle of man’s moral and religious life. (6) The highest and most certain dictates of human reason necessitates the conviction that moral principles, and the essential nature of moral attributes, must be identically the same in all worlds and in all beings possessed of a moral character in any sense. Truth and Justice and loving–kindness must be always and only the same in Creator and creature, in God and man. 

3. What is anthropomorphism, and in what different senses the word used? 

Anthropomorphism (ἄνθρωπος, man; μορφή, form) is a phrase employed to designate any view of God's nature which conceives of him as possessing or exercising any attributes common to him with mankind. 

The Anthropomorphites in ancient times held that God possessed bodily parts and organs like ours, and hence that all those passages of Scripture which speak of his eyes, hands, etc., are to be interpreted literally. 

The Pantheists, Sir William Hamilton, and other philosopher designate all our conceptions of God as a personal Spirit etc., as anthropomorphic – that is, as modes of conception not conformed to objective fact, but determined necessarily by the subjective conditions of our own human modes of thought. 

It hence follows that this phrase is to be taken in two senses. 

1st. A good sense, in which, since man as a free rational spirit was created in the image of God, it is both Scriptural, rational, and according to objective fact, for man to conceive of God as possessing all the essential attributes which belong to our spirits in absolute perfection of kind, and with no limit inconsistent with absolute perfection in degree. When we say that God knows, and wills, and feels, that he is just, true, and merciful, we mean to ascribe to him attributes of the same kind as the corresponding ones belonging to men, only in absolute perfection, and without limit. 

2nd. The word is used in a bad sense when it designates any mode of conceiving of God which involves the ascription to him of imperfection or limitation of any kind. Thus to conceive of God as possessing hands or feet, or as experiencing the perturbations of human passion, or the like, is a false and unworthy anthropomorphism. 

4. How are we to understand those passages of Scripture which attribute to God bodily parts and the infirmities of human passion? 

The passages referred to are such as speak of the face of God, Exodus 33:11, 20; his eyes, 2 Chronicles 16:9; his nostrils, 2 Samuel 22: 9, 16; his arms and feet, Isaiah 52:10, and Psalm 18:9; and such as speak of his repenting and grieving, Genesis 6:6, 7; Jeremiah 15:6; Psalm 95:10; of his being jealous, Deuteronomy 29:20, etc. These are to be understood only as metaphors. They represent the truth with respect to God only analogically, and as seen from our point of view. That God can not be material is shown below, Question 20. 

When he is said to repent, or to be grieved, or to be jealous, it is only meant that he acts towards us as a man would when agitated by such passions. These metaphors occur principally in the Old Testament, and in highly rhetorical passages of the poetical and prophetical books. 

5. State the proof that Anthropomorphic conceptions of God, in the good sense of the word, are both necessary and valid. 

The fundamental fact upon which all science, all theology, and all religion rests is that God made man a living soul in his own image. Otherwise man could have no understanding of God’s works any more than of his nature, and all relations of thought or feeling between them would be impossible. That man has the right thus far to conceive of God as the original and all perfect fountain of the moral and rational qualities in which he is himself endowed is proved.—

1st. It is determined by the necessary laws of our nature. (a) This is a matter of consciousness. If we believe in God at all we must conceive of him as a rational and righteous personal spirit. (b) Such a conception of God has universally prevailed even amidst the degrading adulterations of heathen mythology. 

2nd. We have no other possible mode of knowing God. The alternative ever must be the principle for which we contend, or absolute atheism. 

3rd. The same is determined by the necessities of our moral nature. The innate and indestructible moral nature of man includes a sense of subjection to a righteous will superior to ourselves, and accountability to a moral Governor. This is nonsense unless the moral Governor is in our sense of the word an intelligent and righteous personal spirit. 

4th. The most enduring and satisfactory argument for establishing the facts of God’s existence is the a posteriori argument from the evidences of "design" in the works of God. If this argument has any force to prove that God is, it has equal force to prove that he must possess and exercise intelligence, benevolent intention and choice, i.e., that he must be in our sense of the terms an intelligent personal spirit. 

5th. The Scriptures characteristically ascribe the same attributes to God, and everywhere assume their existence. 

6th. God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the express image of his person, has in all situations exhibited these very attributes, yet in such a way as to prove himself to be God as truly as he was man. 

6. What is the meaning of the terms "infinite" and "absolute," and in what sense are they applied to the being of God, and to his attributes severally? 

Hamilton and Mansel define the infinite "that which is free from all possible limitation; that than which a greater is inconceivable, and which, consequently, can receive no additional attributes or mode of existence which it had not from eternity;" and the absolute as "that which exists by itself, having no necessary relations to any other being." Hence they argue (a) that that which is infinite and absolute must include the sum total of all things, evil and good, actual and possible; for if any thing actual or possible is excluded from it, it must be finite and relative; (b) that it can not be an object of knowledge for to know is both to limit––to define – and to bring into relation to the one knowing; (c) that it can not be a person, for personal consciousness implies limitation and change; (d) that it cannot know other things, because to know implies relation as before said.––Hamilton’s "Discussions," Art. 1; Mansel’s " Limits of Religious Thought," Lectures 1, 2, 3. 

All of this logical bewilderment results from these philosophers starting from the false premise of an abstract, notional "infinite" and "absolute" and substituting their definition of that in the place of the true infinite and absolute person revealed in Scripture and consciousness as the first cause of all things, the moral Governor and Redeemer of mankind. "Infinite" means that which has no limits. When we say is infinite in his being, or in his knowledge or in his power, we mean that his essence and the active properties thereof, have no limitations which involve imperfections of any kind whatsoever. He transcends all the limitations of time and space, he knows all things in an absolutely perfect manner. He is able to effect whatsoever he wills to effect with or without means, and with facility and success. When say that God is infinite in his justice, or his goodness, or his truth, they mean that his inexhaustible and unchangeable being possesses these properties in absolute perfection. 

"Absolute" when applied to the being of God signifies that he is an eternal self–existent person, who existed before all other beings, and is the intelligent and voluntary cause of whatsoever else has or will exist in the universe, etc., that he sustains, consequently, no necessary relation to any thing without Himself. Whatever exists is conditioned upon God, as the circle is conditioned upon its center, but God himself neither in his existence, nor in any of the modes or states of it, is conditioned upon any of his creatures, nor upon his creation as a whole. God is what he is because he is, and he wills whatsoever he does will because " it seemeth good in his sight." All other things are what they are because God has willed them to be as they are. Whatsoever relation He sustains to any thing without himself is voluntarily assumed. 

7. In what different ways do the Scriptures reveal God? 

They reveal God–– 1st. By his names. 2nd. By the works which they ascribe to him. 3rd. By the attributes which they predicate of him. 4th. By the worship they direct to be paid to him. 5th. By the manifestation of God in Christ. 

8. State the etymology(linguistic development) and meaning of the several names appropriated to God in the Scriptures. 

1st. 1st. JEHOVAH, from the Hebrew verb הָוָה to be. It expresses self–existence and unchangeableness; it is the incommunicable name of God, which the Jews superstitiously refused to pronounce always substituting in their reading the word Adonai, Lord. Hence it is represented in our English version by the word LORD, printed in capital letters. JAH, probably an abbreviation of the name Jehovah, is used principally in the Psalms.––Psalm18:4. It constitutes the concluding syllable of hallelujah, praise Jehovah. God gave to Moses his peculiar name, "I AM THAT I AM," Exodus 3:14, from the same root, and bearing the same fundamental significance as Jehovah. 

2nd. El, might, power, translated God, and applied alike to the true and to the false gods.––Isaiah 44:10. 

3rd. ELOHIM and ELOAH, the same name in its singular and plural form, derived from אָלַה to fear, reverence. " In its singular form it is used only in the latter books and in poetry." In the plural form it is sometimes used with a plural sense for gods, but more commonly as a pluralis excellentice, for God. It is applied to false gods, but pre–eminently, to Jehovah as the great object of adoration. 

4th. ADONAI, the Lord, a pluralis excellentice, applied exclusively to God, expressing possession and sovereign dominion, equivalent to κύριος, Lord, so frequently applied to Christ in the New Testament. 

5th. SADDAI, almighty a pluralis excellentice. Sometimes it stands by itself. – Job 5:17; and sometimes combined with a preceding El.––Genesis 17:1. 

6th. ELYŌN, Most High, a verbal adjective from עָלָח, to go up, ascend.—Ps. 9:3; 21:8. 

7th. The term TZEBAOTH, of hosts, is frequently used as an epithet qualifying one of the 

above–mentioned names of God. Thus, Jehovah of Hosts, God of Hosts, Jehovah, God of Hosts. – Amos 4:13; Psalm 24:10. Some have thought this equivalent to God of Battles. The true force of the epithet, however, is "sovereign of the stars, material hosts of heaven, and of the angels their inhabitants."––Dr. J. A. Alexander, "Commentary on Psalm 24:10," and Gesenius’s " Heb. Lex." 

8th. Many other epithets are applied to God metaphorically, to set forth the relation he sustains to us and the offices he fulfills, e.g., King, Lawgiver, Judge.––Isaiah 33:17; Psalm 24:8; 1:6. Rock, Fortress, Tower, Deliverer.––2 Samuel 22:2, 3; Psalm 62:2. Shepherd, Husbandman.––Psalm 23:1; John 15:1. Father. – Matthew 6:9; John 20:17, etc. 

9. What are the divine attributes? 

The divine attributes are the perfections which are predicated of the divine essence in the Scriptures, or visibly exercised by God in his works of creation and providence and redemptions. They are not properties or states of the divine essence separable in tact or idea from the divine essence, as the properties and modes of every created thing are separable from the essence of the creature. God’s knowledge is his essence knowing, and his love is his essence loving, and his will is his essence willing, and all these are not latent capacities of action, nor changing states, but co–existent and eternally unchangeable states of the divine essence which in state and mode as well as in existence is "the same yesterday, today and forever " and " without variableness or shadow of turning." 

Concerning the nature and operations of God, we can know only what he has granted to reveal to us, and with every conception, either of his being or his acts, there must always attend an element of incomprehensibility, which is inseparable from infinitude. His knowledge and power are as truly beyond all understanding as his eternity or immensity.––Job 11:7–9; 26:14; Psalm 139:5, 6; Isaiah 40:28. The moral elements of his glorious nature are the norm or original type of our moral faculties; thus we are made capable of comprehending the ultimate principles of truth and justice upon which he acts. Truth and justice and goodness are of course the same in essence in God and in angel and in man. Yet his action upon those principles is often a trial of our faith, and an occasion of our adoring wonder.––Romans 11:33–36; Isaiah 55:8, 9. 

10. What do theologians mean by the phrase SIMPLICITY, when applied to God? 

The term simplicity is used, first, in opposition to material composition whether mechanical, organic, or chemical; second, in a metaphysical sense in negation of the relation of substance and property, essence and mode. In the first sense of the word human souls are simple, because they are not composed of elements, parts, or organs. In the second sense of the word our souls are complex, since there is in them a distinction between their essence and their properties, and their successive modes or states of existence. 

As, however, God is infinite, eternal, self–existent from eternity, necessarily the same without succession, theologians have maintained that in him essence, and property and mode are one. He always is what he is; and his various states of intellection, emotion, and volition are not successive and transient but co–existent and permanent He is what he is essentially, and by the same necessity that he exists. Whatever is in God, whether thought, emotion, volition, or act, is God. 

Some men conceive of God as passing through various transient modes and states just as men do, and therefore they suppose the properties of the divine nature are related to the divine essence as the properties of created things are related to the essences which are endowed with them. Others press the idea of simplicity so far that they deny any distinction in the divine attributes in themselves, and suppose that the only difference between them is to be found in the mode of external manifestation, and in the effects produced. They illustrate their idea by the various effects produced on different objects by the same radiance of the sun. 

In order to avoid both extremes theologians have been accustomed to say that the divine attributes differ from the divine essence and from one another, 1st, not realiter or as one thing differs from another, or in any such way as to imply composition in God. Nor 2nd, merely nominaliter, as though there were nothing in God really corresponding to our of conception of his perfections. But 3rd, they are said to differ virtualiter so that there is in him a foundation or adequate reason for all the representations which are made in Scripture with regard to the divine perfections, and for the consequent conceptions which we have of them.––Turretin’s "Institutio Theologicae," Locus 3., Ques. 5 and 7, and Dr. C. Hodge’s " Lectures." 

11. State the different principles upon which the divine attributes are generally classified. 

From the vastness of the subject and the incommensurateness of our faculties, it is evident that no classification of the divine attributes we can form can be any thing more than approximately accurate and complete. The most common classifications rest upon the following principles:

1st. They are distinguished as absolute and relative. An absolute attribute is a property of the divine essence considered in itself: e.g., self–existence, immensity, eternity, intelligence. A relative attribute is a property of the divine essence considered in relation to the creation: e.g., omnipresence, omniscience, etc. 

2nd. They are also distinguished as affirmative and negative An affirmative attribute is one which expresses some positive perfection of the divine essence: e.g., omnipresence, omnipotence, etc. A negative attribute is one which: denies all defect or limitation of any kind to God: e.g., immutability, infinitude, incomprehensibility, etc. 

3rd. The attributes of God, distinguished as communicable and incommunicable. The communicable are those to which the attributes of the human spirit bear the nearest analogy: e.g., his power, knowledge, will, goodness, and righteousness. The incommunicable are those to which there is in the creature nothing analogous, as eternity, immensity, etc. This distinction, however, must not be pressed too far. 

God is infinite in his relation to space and time; we are finite in our relation to both. But he is no less infinite as to his knowledge, will, goodness, and righteousness in all their modes, and we are finite in all these respects. All God’s attributes known to us, or conceivable by us, are communicable, inasmuch as they have their analogy in us, but they are all alike incommunicable, in as much as they are all infinite. 

4th. The attributes of God, distinguished as natural and moral. The natural are all those which pertain to his existence as an infinite, rational Spirit: e.g., eternity, immensity, intelligence, will, power. The moral are those additional attributes which belong to him as an infinite, righteous Spirit: e.g., justice, mercy, truth. 

I would diffidently propose the following fourfold classification:

(1) Those attributes which equally qualify all the rest— Infinitude, that which has no bounds; absoluteness, that which is determined either in its being, or modes of being or action, by nothing whatsoever without itself. This includes immutability. 

(2) Natural attributes. God is an infinite Spirit, self– existent, eternal, immense, simple, free of will,intelligent, powerful. 

(3) Moral attributes. God is a Spirit infinitely righteous, good, true faithful. 

(4) The consummate glory of all the divine perfections in union. The beauty of HOLINESS. 


12. ln what two senses of the word is UNITY predicated of God? 

1st. God is unique: there is only one God to the exclusion of all others. 

2nd. Notwithstanding the threefold personal distinction in the unity of the Godhead, yet these three Persons are numerically one substance or essence, and constitute one indivisible God. 

13. How may the proposition, that God is one and indivisible, be proved? 

1st. There appears to be a necessity in reason for conceiving of God as one. That which is absolute and infinite can not but be one and indivisible in essence. If God is not one, then it will necessarily follow that there are more gods than one. 

2nd. The uniform representation of Scripture.––John 10:30. 

14. Prove from Scripture that the proposition, there is but one God, is true. 

Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 44:6; Mark 12:29, 32; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Ephesians 4:6. 

15. What is the argument from the harmony of creation in favor of the divine unity? 

The whole creation, between the outermost range of telescopic and of microscopic observation, is manifestly one indivisible system. But we have already (Chapter 2.) proved the existence of God from the phenomena of the universe; and we now argue, upon the same principle, that if, an effect proves the prior operation of a cause, and if traces of design prove a designer, then singleness of plan and operation in that design and its execution prove that the designer Is ONE. 

16. What is the argument upon this point from necessary existence? 

The existence of God is said to be necessary, because it has its cause from eternity in itself. It is the same in all duration and in all space alike. It is absurd to conceive of God not existing at any time or in any portion of space, while all other existence whatsoever, depending upon his mere will, is contingent. But the necessity which is uniform in all times and in every portion of space, is evidently only one and indivisible, and can be the ground of the existence only of one God. 

This argument: is logical, and has been prized highly by many distinguished theologians. It however appears to involve the error of presuming human logic to be the measure of existence. 

17. What is the argument from infinite perfection, in proof that there can be but one God? 

God is infinite in his being and in all of his perfection’s. But the infinite, by including all, excludes all others, of the same kind. If there were two infinite beings, each would necessarily include the other, and be included by it, and thus they would be the same, one and identical. It is certain that the idea of the co–existence of two infinitely perfect beings is as repugnant to human reason as to Scripture. 

18. What is polytheism? And what dualism? 

Polytheism, as the etymology of the word indicates, is a general term designating every system of religion which teaches the existence of a plurality of gods. 

Dualism is the designation of that system which recognizes two original and independent principles in the universe, the one good and the other evil. At present these principles are in a relation of ceaseless antagonism, the good ever struggling to oppose the evil, and to deliver its province from its baneful intrusion. 


19. What is affirmed and what is denied in the proposition that God is a Spirit? 

We know nothing of substance except as it is manifested by its properties. Matter is that substance whose properties manifest themselves directly to our bodily senses. Spirit is that substance whose properties manifest themselves to us directly in self consciousness, and only inferentially by words and other signs or modes of expression through our senses. 

When we say God is a Spirit we mean–– 

1st. Negatively, that he does not possess bodily or that he is composed of no material elements; that he is not subject to any of the limiting conditions of material existence; and, consequently, that he is not to be apprehended as the object of any of our bodily senses. 

2nd. Positively, that he is a rational being, who distinguishes with infinite precision between the true and the false; that he is a moral being, who distinguishes between the right and the wrong; that he is a free agent, whose action is self–determined by his own will; and, in fine, that all the essential properties of our spirits may truly be predicated of him in an infinite degree. 

This great truth is inconsistent with the doctrine that God is the soul of the world ( anirna mundi) a plastic organizing force inseparable from matter; also with the Gnostic doctrine of emanation, and with all forms of modern Materialism and Pantheism. 

20. Exhibit the proof that God is a Spirit. 

1st. It is explicitly asserted in Scripture.––John 4:24. 

2nd. It follows from our idea of infinite and absolute perfections. Matter is obviously inferior to Spirit, and inseparable from many kinds of imperfections and limitations. Matter consisting of separate and ceaselessly reacting atoms cannot be "one," nor "infinite", nor "immutable, " etc. The idea that matter may be united with spirit in God, as it is in man, is felt to degrade him, and bind him fast under the limitations of time and space. 

3rd. There is no trace anywhere of material properties in the Creator and Providential Governor of the universe––whereas all the evidence that a God exists conspires to prove also that he is a supremely wise, benevolent, righteous, and power person––that is, that he is a personal spirit. 


21. What is meant by the immensity of God? 

The immensity of God is the phrase used to express the fact that God is infinite in his relation to space, i.e., that the entire indivisible essence of God is at every moment of time cotempopresent to every point of infinite space. 

This is not in virtue of the infinite multiplication of his Spirit, since He is eternally one and individual; nor does it result from the infinite diffusion of his essence through infinite space, as air is diffused over the surface of the earth, since, being a Spirit he is not composed of parts, nor is he capable of extension, but the whole Godhead in the one indivisible essence is equally present in every moment of eternal duration to the whole of infinite space, and to every part of it. 

22. How does immensity differ from omnipresence? 

Immensity characterizes the relation of God to space viewed abstractly in itself. Omnipresence characterizes the relation of God to his creatures as they severally occupy their several positions in space. The divine essence is immense in its own being, absolutely. It is omnipresent relatively to all his creatures. 

23. What are the different modes of the divine presence, and how may it be proved that He is everywhere present as to His essence? 

God may be conceived of as present in any place, or with any creature, in several modes, first, as to his essence; second, as to his knowledge; third, as manifesting that presence to any intelligent creature; fourth, as exercising his power in any way, in or upon the creature. As to essence and knowledge, his presence is the same everywhere and always. As to his self–manifestation and the exercise of his power, his presence differs endlessly in different cases in degree and mode. Thus God is present to the church as he is not to the world. Thus He is present in hell in the manifestation and execution of righteous wrath, while He is present in heaven in the manifestation and communication of gracious love and glory. 

24. Prove that God is omnipresent as to His essence. 

That God is everywhere present as to his essence is proved, first from Scripture (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7–10; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 17:27, 28); second, from reason. (1) It follows necessarily from his infinitude. (2) From the fact that his knowledge is his essence knowing, and his actions are his essence acting. Yet his knowledge and his power reach to all things. 

25. State the different relations that bodies, created spirits, and God sustain to space. 

Turretin says: Bodies are conceived of as existing in space circumscriptively, because occupying a certain portion of space they are bounded by space upon every side. Created spirits do not occupy any portion of space, nor are they embraced by any, they are, however, in space definitely, as here and not there. God, on the other hand, is in space repletively, because in a transcendental manner His essence fills all space. He is included in no space; he is excluded from none. Wholly present to each point, he comprehends all space at once. 

Time and Space are neither substances, nor qualities, nor mere relations. They constitute a genus by themselves, absolutely distinct from all other entities, and therefore defying classification. "We know that space and time exist; we know on sufficient evidence that God exists; but we have no means of knowing how space and time stand related to God. The view taken by Sir Isaac Newton, — 'Deus durat semper et adest ubique, et, existendo semper et ubique, durationem et spatium constituit'— is certainly a grand one, but I doubt much whether human intelligence can dictatorially affirm that it is as true as it is sublime."— McCosh, "Intuitions of the Mind," p. 212. 


26. What is eternity? 

Eternity is infinite duration; duration discharged from all limits, without beginning, without succession, and without end. The schoolmen phrase it a punctum stans, an ever-abiding present. 

We, however, can positively conceive of eternity only as duration indefinitely extended from the present moment in two directions, as to the past and as to the future, improperly expressed as eternity a parteante, or past, and eternity a parte post, or future. The eternity of God, however, is one and indivisible. Externitas est una individua et tote simul. 

27. What is time? 

Time is limited duration, measured by succession, either of thought or motion. It is distinguished in reference to our perceptions into past, present, and future. 

28. What relation does time bear to eternity? 

Eternity, the unchanging present, without beginning or end, comprehends all time, and co–exists as an undivided moment, with all the successions of time as they appear and pass in their order. 

Thought is possible to us, however, only under the limitations of time and space. We can conceive of God only under the finite fashion of first purposing and then acting, of first promising or threatening and then fulfilling his word, etc. He that inhabiteth eternity infinitely transcends our understanding. Isaiah 57:15. 

29. When we say that God is eternal, what do we affirm and what do we deny? 

We affirm, first, that as to his existence, he never had any beginning, and never will have any end; second, that as to the mode of his existence, his thoughts, emotions, purposes, and acts are, without succession, one and inseparable, the same forever; third, that he is immutable. 

We deny, first, that he ever had a beginning or ever will have an end; second, that his states or of occur in succession; third, that his essence, attributes, or purposes will ever change. 

30. In what sense are the acts of God spoken of as past, present, and future? 

The acts of God are never past, present, or future as respects God himself, but only in respect to the objects and effects of his acts in the creature. The efficient purpose comprehending the precise object, time, and circumstance was present to him always and changelessly; the event, however, taking place in the creature occurs in time, and is thus past, present, or future to our observation. 

31. In what sense are events past or future as it regards God? 

As God’s knowledge is infinite, every event must, first, be ever equally present to his knowledge from eternity to eternity; second, these events must be know to him as they actually occur in themselves, e. a., in their true nature, relations, and such– This distinction, therefore, holds true––God’s knowledge of all events is without beginning, end, or succession; but he knows them as in themselves occurring in the successions of time, past, present, or future, relatively to one another. 


32. What is meant by the immutability of God? 

By his immutability we mean that it follows from the infinite perfection of God; that he can not be changed by any thing from without himself; and that he will not change from any principle within himself that as to his essence, his will, and his states of existence, he is the same from eternity to eternity. 

Thus he is absolutely immutable in himself. He is also immutable relatively to the creature, inasmuch as his knowledge, purpose, and truth, as these are conceived by us and are revealed to us, can know neither variableness nor shadow of turning––James 1:17. 

33. Prove from Scripture and reason that God is immutable. 

1st. Scripture: Malachi 3:6; Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 46:10; James 1:17. 

2nd. Reason: (1) God is self–existent. As he is caused by none, but causes all, so he can be changed by none, but changes all. (2) He is the absolute being. Neither his existence, nor the manner of it, nor his will, are determined by any necessary relation which they sustain to any thing exterior to himself. As he preceded all and caused all, so his sovereign will freely determined the relations which all things are permitted to sustain to him. (3) He is infinite in duration, and therefore he cannot know succession or change. (4) He is infinite in all perfection, knowledge, wisdom, righteousness, benevolence, will, power, and therefore cannot change, for nothing can be added to the infinite nor taken from it. Any change would make him either less than infinite before, or less than infinite afterwards. 

34. How can the creation of the world and the incarnation of the Son be reconciled with the immutability of God? 

1st. As to the creation. The effective purpose, the will and power to create the world dwelleth in God from eternity without change, but this very efficacious purpose itself provided that the effect should take place in its proper time and order. This effect took place from God, but of course involved no shadowy of change in God, as nothing was either taken from him or added to him. 

2nd. As to the incarnation. The divine Son assumed a created human nature into personal union with himself. His uncreated essence of course was not changed. His eternal person was not changed in itself, but only brought into a new relation. The change effected by that stupendous event occurred only in the created nature of the man Christ Jesus. 


35. How does God’s mode of knowing differ from ours? 

God’s knowledge is, 1st, his essence knowing; 2nd, it is one eternal, all–comprehensive, indivisible act. 

(1) It is not discursive, i.e., proceeding logically from the known to the unknown; but intuitive, i.e., discerning all things directly in its own light. 

(2) It is independent, i.e., it does in no way depend upon his creatures or their actions, but solely upon his own infinite intuition of all things possible in the light of his own reason, and of all things actual and future in the light of his own eternal purpose. 

(3) It is total and simultaneous, not successive. It is one single, indivisible act of intuition, beholding all things in themselves, their relations and successions, as ever present. 

(4) It is perfect and essential, not relative, i.e., he knows all things directly in their hidden essences, while we know them only by their properties, as they stand related to our senses. 

(5) We know the present imperfectly, the past we remember dimly, the future we know not at all but God knows all things, past, present, and future, by one total, unsuccessive, all comprehensive vision. 

36. How has this divine perfection been defined by theologians? 

Turretin, Locus 3., Q. 12.––" Concerning the knowledge of God, before all else, two things are to be considered, viz.. its mode and its object. The Mode of the divine knowledge consists in this, that he perfectly, individually, distinctly, and immutably knows all things, and his knowledge is thus distinguished from the knowledge of men and angels. He knows all things perfectly, because he has known them through himself or his own essence, and not by the phenomena of things, as the creatures know objects..... 2. He knows all things individually because he knows them intuitively, by a direct act of cognition, and not inferentially, by a process of discursive reasoning, or by comparing one thing with another..... 3. He knows all things distinctly, not that he unites by a different conception the various predicates of things, but that he sees through all things by one most distinct act of intuition, and nothing, even the least thing, escapes him..... 4. And he knows all immutably because that with him there is no shadow of change, and he remaining himself unmoved, moves all things, and so perceives all the various changes of things, by one immutable act of cognition." 

37. How may the objects of divine knowledge be classified? 

1st. God himself in his own infinite being. It is evident that this, transcending the sum of all other objects is the only adequate object of a knowledge really infinite. 

2nd. All possible objects, as such, whether they are or ever have been, or ever will be or not, seen in the light of his own infinite reason. 

3rd. All things actual, which have been, are, or will be, he comprehends in one eternal, simultaneous act of knowledge, as ever present actualities to him, and as known to be such in the light of his own sovereign and eternal purpose. 

38. What is the technical designation of the knowledge of things possible, and what is the foundation of that knowledge? 

Its technical designation is scientia simplicis intelligentiae knowledge of simple intelligence, so called, because it is conceived by us as an act simply of the divine intellect, without any concurrent act of the divine will. For the same reason it has been styled scientia necessaria, necessary knowledge, i.e., not voluntary, or determined by will. The foundation of that knowledge is God’s essential and infinitely perfect knowledge of his own omnipotence. 

39. What is the technical designation of the knowledge of things actual, whether past, present, or future, and what is the foundation of that knowledge? 

It is called scientia visions, knowledge of vision, and scientia libera, free knowledge, because his intellect is in this case conceived of as being determined by a concurrent act of his will. 

The foundation of this knowledge is God’s infinite knowledge of his own all–comprehensive and unchangeable eternal purpose. 

40. Prove that the knowledge of God extends to future contingent events. 

The contingency of events in our view of them has a twofold ground: first, their immediate causes may be by us indeterminate, as in the case of the dice; second, their immediate cause may be the volition of a free agent. The first class are in no sense contingent in God’s view. The second class are foreknown by him as contingent in their cause, but as none the less certain in their event. 

That he does foreknow all such is certain–– 

1st. Scripture affirms it.—1 Samuel 23:11, 12; Acts 2:23; 15:18; Isaiah 46:9,10. 

2nd. He has often predicted contingent events future, at the time of the prophecy, which has been fulfilled in the event. Mark 14:30. 

3rd. God is infinite in all his perfections, his knowledge, therefore, must (1) be perfect, and comprehend all things future as well as past, (2) independent of the creature. He knows all things in themselves by his own light, and can not depend upon the will of the creature to make his knowledge either more certain or more complete. 

41. How can the certainty of the foreknowledge of God be reconciled with the freedom of moral agents in their acts? 

The difficulty here presented is of this nature. God’s foreknowledge is certain; the event, therefore, must be certainly future; if certainly future, how can the agent be free in enacting it. 

In order to avoid this difficulty some theologians, on the one hand, have denied the reality of man’s moral freedom, while others, on the other hand, have maintained that, God’s knowledge being free, he voluntarily abstains from knowing what his creatures endowed with free agency will do. 

We remark–– 

1st. God’s certain foreknowledge of all future events and man’s free agency are both certain facts, impregnably established by independent evidence. We must believe both, whether we can reconcile them or not. 

2nd. Although necessity is inconsistent with liberty, moral certainty is not, as is abundantly shown in Chapter 15., Question 25. 

42. What is scientia media? 

This is the technical designation of God’s knowledge of future contingent events, presumed, by the authors of this distinction, to depend not upon the eternal purpose of God making the event certain, but upon the free act of the creature as foreseen by a special intuition. It is called scientia media, middle knowledge, because it is supposed to occupy a middle ground between the knowledge of simple intelligence and the knowledge of vision. It differs from the former, since its object is not all possible things, but a special class of things actually future. It differs from the latter, since its ground is not the eternal purpose of God, but the free action of the creature as simply foreseen. 

43. By whom was this distinction introduced, and for what purpose? 

By Luis Molina, a Jesuit, born 1535 and died 1601, professor of theology in the University of Evora, Portugal, in his work entitled "Liberi arbitrii cum gratae donis, divine praescientia, praedestinatione et reprobatione concordia." ––Hagenbach's " Hist. of Doc.," vol. 2, p. 280. It was excogitated for the purpose of explaining how God might certainly foreknow what his free creatures would do in the absence of any sovereign foreordination on his part, determining their action. Thus making his foreordination of men to happiness or misery to depend upon his foreknowledge of their faith and obedience, and denying that his foreknowledge depends upon his sovereign foreordination. 

44. What are the arguments against the validity of this distinction? 

1st. The arguments upon which it is based are untenable. Its advocates plead–– (1) Scripture.––1 Samuel 23:9–12; Matthew 11:22, 23. (2) That this distinction is obviously necessary, in order to render the mode of the divine foreknowledge consistent with man’s free agency. 

To the first argument we answer, that the events mentioned in the above–cited passages of Scripture werenot future. They simply teach that God, knowing all causes, free and necessary, knows how they would act under any proposed condition. Even we know that if we add fire to powder an explosion would ensue. 

This comes under the first class we cited above (Question 38), or the knowledge of all possible things. To the second argument we answer, that the certain foreknowledge of God involves the certainty of the future free act of his creature as much as his foreordination does; and that the sovereign foreordination of God, with respect to the free acts of men, only makes them certainly future and does not in the least provide for causing those acts in any other way than by the free will of the creature himself acting freely. 

2nd. This middle knowledge is unnecessary, because all possible objects of knowledge, all possible things, and all things actually to be, have already been embraced under the two classes already cited (Questions 38, 39). 

3rd. If God certainly foreknows any future event, then it must be certainly future, and he must have foreknown it to be certainly future, either because it was antecedently certain, or because his foreknowing it made it certain. If his foreknowing it made it certain, then his foreknowledge involves foreordination. If it was antecedently certain, then we ask, what could have made it certain, except what we affirm, the decree of God, either to cause it himself immediately, or to cause it through some necessary second cause, or that some free agent should cause it freely? We can only choose between the foreordination of God and a blind fate. 

4th. This view makes the knowledge of God to depend upon the acts of his creatures exterior to himself: This is both absurd and impious, if God is infinite, eternal, and absolute. 

5th. The Scriptures teach that God does foreordain as well as foreknow the free acts of men.––Isaiah 10:5–15; Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28. 

45. How does wisdom differ from knowledge, and wherein does the wisdom of God consist? 

Knowledge is a simple act of the understanding, apprehending that a thing is, and comprehending its nature and relations, or how it is. 

Wisdom presupposes knowledge, and is the practical use which the understanding, determined by the will, makes of the material of knowledge. God’s wisdom is infinite and eternal. It is conceived of by us as selecting the highest possible end, the manifestation of his own glory, and then in selecting and directing in every department of his operations the best possible means to secure that end. This wisdom is gloriously manifested to us in the great theaters of creation, providence, and grace. 


46. What is meant by the omnipotence of God? 

Power is that efficiency which, by an essential law of thought, we recognize as inherent in a cause in relation to its effect. God is the uncaused first cause, and the causal efficiency of his will is absolutely unlimited by anything outside of the divine perfection themselves. 

47. What distinction has been marked between the Potestas absoluta and the Potestas ordinata of God? 

The Scriptures and right reason teach us that the causal efficiency of God is not confined to the universe of second causes, and their active properties and laws. The phrase Potestas absoluta expresses the omnipotence of God absolutely considered in himself— and specifically that infinite reserve of power which remains with him as a free personal attribute, above and beyond all the powers of nature and his ordinary providential actings upon and through them. Creation, miracles, etc., are exercises of this power of God. The Potestas ordinata on the other hand is the power of God as it is now exercised in and through the established system of second causes, in the ordinary course of Providence. Rationalists and advocates of mere naturalism, who deny miracles, and any form of divine interference with the established order of nature, of course admit only the latter and deny the former mode of divine power. 

48. In what sense is the power of God limited and in what sense is it unlimited? 

We are conscious with respect to our own causal efficiency. 1st. That it is very limited. We have direct control only over the course of our thoughts, and the contractions of a few muscles. 2nd. That we depend upon the use of means to produce the effects we design. 3rd. We are dependent upon outward circumstances which limit and condition us continually. 

The power inherent in the divine will on the other hand can produce whatever effects he intends immediately, and when he condescends to use means he freely endows them with whatever efficiency they possess. All outward circumstances of every kind are his own creation, conditioned upon his will, and therefore incapable of limiting him in any way. He is absolutely unlimited in the exercise of his power. He can not do wrong, nor work contradictions, because his power is the causal efficiency of an infinitely rational and righteous essence. His power therefore is limited only by his own perfections. 

49. Is the distinction in us between power and will a perfection or a defect and does it exist in God? 

It is objected that if our power was equal to our design, and every volition resulted immediately in act, we would not be conscious of the difference between power and will. We admit that when a man’s power fails to be commensurate with his will it is a defect,— and that this never is the case with God. But on the other hand when a man is conscious that he possesses powers which he might but does not will to exercise, he is conscious that it is an excellence––and that his nature is the more perfect for the possession of such reserves of power than it would otherwise be. To hold that there is nothing in God which is not in actual exercise, that his power extends no further than his will, is to make him no greater than his finite creation. The actions of a great man impress us chiefly as the exponents of vastly greater power which remains in reserve. So it is with God. 

50. How can absolute omnipotence be prayed to belong to God? 

1st. It is asserted by Scripture. Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37; Revelation 19:6. 

2nd. It is necessarily involved in the very idea of God as an infinite being. 

3rd. Although we have seen but part of his ways(Job 26:14), yet our constantly extending experience is ever revealing to us new and more astonishing evidences of his power, which always indicate an inexhaustible reserve. 


51. What is meant by the will of God? 

The will of God is the infinitely and eternally wise, powerful, and righteous essence of God willing. In our conception it is that attribute of the Deity to which we refer his purposes and decrees as their principle. 

52. In what sense is the will of God said to be free, and in what sense necessary? 

The will of God is the wise, powerful, and righteous essence of God willing. His will, therefore, in every act is certainly and yet most freely both wise and righteous. The liberty of indifference is evidently foreign to his nature, because the perfection of wisdom is to choose the most wisely, and the perfection of righteousness is to choose the most righteously. 

On the other hand, the will of God is from eternity absolutely independent of all his creatures and all their actions. 

53. What is intended by the distinction between the decretive and the preceptive will of God? 

The decretive will of God is God efficaciously purposing the certain futurition of events. The preceptive will of God is God, as moral governor, commanding his moral creatures to do that which he sees it right and wise that they in their circumstances should do. 

These are not inconsistent. What he wills as our duty may very consistently be different from what he wills as his purpose. What it is right for him to permit may be wrong for him to approve, or for us to do. 

54. What is meant by the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God? 

The secret will of God is his decretive will, called secret. because although it is sometimes revealed to man in the prophecies and promises of the Bible, yet it is for the most part hidden in God. 

The revealed will of God is his preceptive will, which is always clearly set forth as the rule of our duty.––Deuteronomy 29:29. 

55. In what sense do the Armenians maintain the distinction between the antecedent and consequent will of God, and what are the objections to their view of the subject? 

This is a distinction invented by the schoolmen, and adopted by the Armenians, for reconciling the will of God with their theory of the free agency of man. 

They call that an antecedent act of God’s will which precedes the action of the creature, e.g., before Adam sinned God willed him to be happy. They call that a consequent act of God’s will which followed the act of the creature, and is consequent upon that act, e.g., after Adam sinned God willed him to suffer the penalty due to his sin. 

It is very evident that this distinction does not truly represent the nature of God’s will, and its relation to the acts of his creatures: first, God is eternal, and therefore there can be no distinction in his purposes as to time; second, God is eternally omniscient and omnipotent. If he wills any thing, therefore, he must from the beginning will the means to accomplish it, and thus secure the attainment of the end willed. 

Otherwise God must have, at the same time, two inconsistent wills with regard to the same object. The truth is that God, eternally and unchangeable, by one comprehensive act of will, willed all that happened to Adam from beginning to end in the precise order an succession in which each event occurred; third, God is infinitely independent. It is degrading to God to conceive of him as first willing that which he has no power to effect, and then changing his will consequently to the independent acts of his creatures. 

It is true, indeed, that because of the natural limits of our capacities we necessarily conceive of the several intentions of God’s one, eternal, indivisible purpose, as sustaining a certain logical (not temporal), relation to each other as principal and consequent. Thus we conceive of God’s first (in logical order) decreeing to create man, then to permit him to fall, then to elect some to everlasting life, and then to provide a redemption.––Turretin. 

56. In what sense do Armenians hold the distinction between the absolute and conditional will of God, and what are the objections to that view? 

In their views that is the absolute will of God which is suspended upon no condition without himself, e.g., his decree to create man. That is the conditional will of God which is suspended upon a condition, e.g., his decree to save those that believe i.e., on condition of their faith. 

It is evident that this view is entirely inconsistent with the nature of God as an eternal, self existent, independent being, infinite in all his perfections. It degrades him to the position of being simply a coordinate part of the creation, mutually limiting and being limited by the creature. 

The mistake results from detaching a fragment of God’s will from the one whole, all–comprehensive, eternal purpose. It is evident that, when properly viewed as eternal and one, God’s purpose must 

comprehend all conditions, as well as their consequence God’s will is suspended upon no condition, but he eternally wills the event as suspended upon its condition, and its condition as determining the event. 

It is admitted by all that God’s preceptive will, as expressed in commands, promises, and threatenings, is often suspended upon condition. If we believe we shall certainly be saved. This is the relation which God has immutably established between faith as the condition, and salvation as the consequent, i.e., faith is the condition of salvation. But this is something very different from saying that the faith of Paul was the condition of God’s eternal purpose to save him, because the same purpose determined the faith as the condition. and the salvation as its consequent. See further, Chapter 10.. on the decrees. 

57. In what sense is the will of God said to be eternal? 

It is one eternal, unsuccessive, all–comprehensive act, absolutely determining either to effect or to permit all things, in all of their relations, conditions, and successions, which ever were, are, or ever will be. 

58. In what sense may the will of God be said to be the rule of righteousness? 

It is evident that in the highest sense, with respect to God willing, his mere will cannot be regarded as the ultimate ground of all righteousness, any more than it can be as the ultimate ground of all wisdom. 

Because, in that case, it would follow, first, that there would be no essential difference between right and wrong in themselves, but only a difference arbitrarily constituted by God himself; and, second, that it would be senseless to ascribe righteousness to God, for then that would be merely to say that he wills as he wills. The truth is, that his will acts as his infinitely righteous wisdom sees to be right. 

On the other hand, God’s revealed will is to us the absolute and ultimate rule of righteousness, alike when he commands things in themselves indifferent, and thus makes them right, as when he commands things in themselves essentially right, because they are right. 


59. What is meant by the distinctions, absolute and relative, rectoral, distributive, and punitive or vindicatory justice of God? 

The absolute justice of God is the infinite moral perfection or universal righteousness of his own being. 

The relative justice of God is his infinitely righteous nature, viewed as exercised in his relation to his moral creatures, as their moral governor. 

This last is called rectoral, when viewed as exercised generally in administering the affairs of his universal government, in providing for and governing his creatures and their actions. It is called distributive, when viewed as exercised in giving unto each creature his exact proportionate due of rewards or punishment. It is called punitive or vindicatory, when viewed as demanding and inflicting the adequate and proportionate punishment of all sin, because of its intrinsic ill desert. 

60. What are the different opinions as to the nature of the punitive justice of God, i. e., what are the different reasons assigned why God punishes sin? 

The Socinians deny the punitive justice of God altogether, and maintain that he punishes sin simply for the good of the individual sinner, and of society, only so far as it may be interested in his restraint or improvement. Those theologians who maintain the governmental theory of the Atonement, hold that God punishes sin not because of a changeless principle in himself demanding its punishment, but for the good of the universe, on the basis of great and changeless principles of governmental policy. Thus resolving justice into a form of general benevolence. Leibnitz held that "justice is goodness conducted by wisdom." 

This principle assumes that happiness is the chief good. That the essence of virtue is the desire to promote happiness, and that consequently the end of justice can only be to prevent misery. This is the foundation of the Governmental theory of the Atonement. See Chapter 25. See Park on the "Atonement." 

Some hold that the necessity for the punishment of sin is only hypothetical, i. e., results only from the eternal decree of God. 

The true view is that God is immutably determined by his own eternal and essential righteousness to visit every sin with a proportionate punishment. 

61. Prove that disinterested benevolence is not the whole of virtue. 

1st. Some exercises of disinterested benevolence, for example, natural parental affection, are purely instinctive, and have no positive moral character. 

2nd. Some exercises of disinterested benevolence, such as the weak yielding of a judge to sympathy with a guilty man or his friends, are positively immoral. 

3rd. There are virtuous principles incapable of being resolved into disinterested benevolence, such as proper prudential regard for one’s own highest good; aspiration and effort after personal excellence; holy abhorrence of sin for its own sane, and just punishment of sin in order to vindicate righteousness. 

4th. The idea of oughtness is the essential constitutive idea of virtue. No possible analysis of the idea of benevolence will give the idea of moral obligation. This is simple, unresolvable, ultimate. Oughtness is the genus, and benevolence one of the species comprehended in it. 

62. State the evidence derived from the universal principles of human nature, that the justice of God must be an ultimate and unchangeable principle of his nature, determining him to punish sin because of its intrinsic ill desert. 

The obligation of a righteous ruler to punish sin, the intrinsic ill desert of sin, the principle that sin ought to be punished, are ultimate facts of moral consciousness. They cannot be resolved into any other principle whatsoever. This is proved, 

1st. Because they are involved in every awakened sinner’s consciousness of his own demerit.––Psalm 51: 4. "I have done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be just when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest." In its higher degree this feeling. rises into remorse, and can be allayed only by expiation. 

Thus many murderers have had no rest until they have given themselves up to the law, when they have experienced instant relief. And millions of souls have found peace in the application of the blood of Jesus to their wounded consciences. 

2nd. All men judge thus of the sins of others. The consciences of all good men are gratified when the just penalty of the law is executed upon the offender, and outraged when he escapes. 

3rd. This principle is witnessed to by all the sacrificial rites common to all ancient religions, by the penance’s in some form universal even in modern times, by all penal laws, and by the synonyms for guilt, punishment, justice, etc., common to all languages. 

4th. It is self–evident, that to inflict an unjust punishment is itself a crime, no matter how benevolent the motive which prompts it, nor how good the effect which follows it. It is no less self–evident that it is the justice of the punishment so deserved which renders its effect on the effect good, and not its effect on the community which renders it just. To hang a man for the good of the community is both a crime and a blunder, unless the hanging is justified by the ill desert of man. In that case his ill desert is seen by all the community to be the real reason of the hanging. 

63. Prove the same from the nature of the divine law. 

Grotius in his great work, " Defensio Fidei Catholicce De Satisfactione Christi," in which he originates the Governmental Theory of the Atonement, maintains that the divine law is a product of the divine will, and therefore at the option of God relaxable, alike in its preceptive and its penal elements. But the truth is (a) that the penalty is an essential part of the divine law; (b) that the law of God, as to all its essential principles of right and wrong, is not a product of the divine will, but an immutable transcript of the divine nature; (c) therefore the law is immutable and must need be fulfilled in every iota of it. 

This is proved—1st. Because fundamental principles must have their changeless ground in the divine nature, or (a) otherwise the distinction between right and wrong would be purely arbitrary––whereas they are discerned by our moral intuitions to be absolute and independent of all volition divine or human; (b) otherwise it would be meaningless to say that God is right– if righteousness be an arbitrary creature of his own will; (c) because he declares that he " cannot lie," that "he cannot deny himself." 

2nd. The scriptures declare that the law cannot be relaxed that it must be fulfilled.––John 7:23, and 10:35; Luke 24:44, Matthew 5:25, 26. 

3rd. The scriptures declare that Christ came to fulfill the law, not to relax it.––Matthew 5:17, 18; Romans 3:31; 10:4. 

64. How may it be argued from the independence and absolute self–sufficiency of God, that punitive justice is an essential attribute of his nature? 

It is inconsistent with these essential attributes to conceive of God as obliged to any course of action by the external exigencies of his creation. Both the motive and the end of his action must be in himself.––Colossians 1:16; Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:5, 6; Romans 9:22, 23. If he punishes sin because determined so to do by the principles of his own nature, then he acts independently. But if he resorts to this merely as the necessary means of restraining and governing his creatures, then their actions control his. 

65. How may it be proved from God’s love of holiness and hatred of sin? 

God’s love for holiness and hatred of sin is represented in Scripture as essential and intrinsic. He loves holiness for its own sake. He hates sin and is determined to punish it because of its intrinsic ill desert. He hates the wicked every day – Psalms 5:5; 7:11. "To me belongeth vengeance and recompense." –– Deuteronomy 32:35. " According to their deeds accordingly he will repay."––Isaiah 59:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:6. "See Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you."––Romans 1:32. " Knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death."––Deuteronomy 17:6; 21:22. 

66. How can this truth be proved from what the Scriptures teach as to the nature and necessity of the atonement of Christ? 

As to its nature the Scriptures teach that Christ suffered the penalty of sin vicariously in the place and stead of his elect people, and that he thus expiated their guilt, and reconciled God and redeemed their souls by giving himself the ransom price demanded in their stead. The Scriptures everywhere and in every, way teach that the design of Christ’s death was to produce a sin–expiating effect upon the Governor of the moral universe, and not a moral impression either upon the heart of the individual sinner, or upon the public conscience of the intelligent universe. All this will be proved at length under Chapters 25. and 33. 

As to the necessity of the Atonement the scriptures teach that it was absolute. That Christ must die or sinners perish. Galatians 2:21, and 3:21. But the propriety of producing a moral impression upon each sinner personally, or upon the public mind of the universe generally, can not give rise to an absolute necessity on the part of God––since God who created the universe and all its members might, of course, if he so pleased, produce moral impressions upon them of whatever kind, either without means, or by whatsoever means he pleases. An absolute necessity must have its ground in the unchangeable nature of God, which lies back of and determines his will in all its acts. Therefore the eternal nature of God immutably determines him to punish all sin. "Political Science," President Theodore D. Woolsey, vol. 1., pp. 330–335. 

The theory that correction is the main end of punishment will not bear examination. (1) The state is not a humane institution. (2) The theory makes no distinction between crimes. If a murderer is apparently reformed in a week, the ends of detention are accomplished, and he should be set free; while the petty offender must stay for months or years until the inoculation of good principles becomes manifest. (3) What kind of correction is to be aimed at? Is it such as will insure society itself against his repeating his crime? In that case it is society, and not the person himself who is to be benefited by the corrective process. Or must a thorough cure, a recovery from selfishness and covetousness, an awakening of the highest principle of soul be aimed at; an established church, in short, be set up in the house of correction? 

The explanation that the state protects its own existence, or the innocent inhabitants of the country, by striking its subjects with awe and deterring them from evil–doing through punishment, is met by admitting that, while this effect is real and important, it is not as yet made out that the state has a right to do this. Crime and desert of punishment must be pre–supposed before the moral sense can be satisfied with the infliction of evil. And the measure of the amount of punishment, supplied by the public good for the time, is most fluctuating and tyrannical; moreover mere awe, unaccompanied by an awakening of the sense of justice, is as much a source of hatred as a motive to obedience. 

The theory that in punishing an evil–doer the state renders to him his deserts, is the only one that seems to have a solid foundation. It assumes that moral evil has been committed by disobedience to rightful commands, that according to a propriety which commends itself to our moral nature it is fit and right that evil, physical or mental, suffering or shame should be incurred by the wrong–doer, and that in all forms of government over moral beings there ought to be a power able to decide how much evil ought to follow special kinds and instances of transgressions. The state is in fact, as St. Paul calls it, the minister of God to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. But only in a very limited sphere and for special ends. . . It punishes acts, not thoughts, intentions appearing in acts, not feelings; it punishes persons within a certain territory over which it has the jurisdiction, and perhaps its subjects who do wrong elsewhere, but none else, it punishes acts hurtful to its own existence and to the community of its subjects; it punishes not according to an exact scale of deserts, for it cannot, without a revelation find out what the deserts of individuals are, nor what is the relative guilt of different actions of different persons. 1


67. What distinctions are signified by the terms benevolence, complacency, mercy, and grace? 

The infinite goodness of God is a glorious perfection which pre–eminently characterizes his nature, and which he, in an infinitely wise, righteous, and sovereign manner, exercises towards his creatures in various modes according to their relations and conditions. 

Benevolence is the goodness of God viewed generically. It embraces all his creatures, except the judicially condemned on account of sin, and provides for their welfare. 

The love of complacency is that approving affection with which God regards his own infinite perfections, and every image and reflection of them in his creatures, especially in the sanctified subjects of the new creation. 

God’s mercy, of which the more passive forms are pity and compassion, is the divine goodness exercised with respect to the miseries of his creatures, feeling for them, and making provision for their relief, and in the case of impenitent sinners, leading to long–suffering patience. 

The grace of God is his goodness seeking to communicate his favors, and, above all, the fellowship of his own life and blessedness to his moral creatures,—who, as creatures, must be destitute of all merit,––and pre–eminently his electing love, securing at infinite cost the blessedness of its objects, who, as sinful creatures, were positively ill deserving. 

68. State a false definition of divine benevolence often given, and state how it is rightly defined. 

The infinite Benevolence of God is often defined as that attribute in virtue of which he communicates to all his creatures the greatest possible amount of happiness, i.e., as great as they are capable of receiving, or as great as is consistent with the attainment of the greatest amount of happiness on the age– in the moral universe. 

But this supposes that God is limited by something out of himself, that he could not have secured more happiness for his creatures than he has actually done. It also makes happiness paramount in the view of God to excellence. 

Benevolence should, on the other hand, be defined as that attribute in virtue of which God produces all the happiness in the universe, which is consistent with the end he had in view in its creation. These ends stand in this order. 1. The manifestation of his own glory. 2. The highest moral excellence of his creatures. 3. Their highest blessedness in himself.—Dr. Charles Hodge’s Lectures. 

69. What are the sources of our knowledge of the fact that God is benevolent? 

1st. Reason. Benevolence is an essential element of moral perfection. God is infinitely perfect, and therefore infinitely benevolent. 

2nd. Experience and observation. The wisdom of God in designing, and the power of God in executing, in the several spheres of creation, providence, and revealed religion, have evidently been constantly determined by benevolent intentions. 

3rd. The direct assertions of Scripture.—Psalm 165:8, 9; 1 John 4:8. 

70. How may it be proved that God is gracious and willing to forgive sin? 

Neither reason nor conscience can ever raise a presumption on this subject. It is the evident duty of fellow–creatures mutually to forgive injuries, but we have nothing to do with forgiving sin as sin. 

It appears plain that there can be no moral principle making it essential for a sovereign ruler to forgive sin as transgression of law. All that reason or conscience can assure us of in that regard is, that sin can not be forgiven without an atonement. The gracious affection which should prompt such a ruler to 

provide an atonement, must, from its essential nature, be perfectly free and sovereign, and therefore it can be known only so far as it is graciously revealed. The gospel is, therefore, good news confirmed by signs and wonders.––Exodus 24:6, 7; Ephesians 1:7–9. 

71. What are the different theories or assumptions on which it has been attempted to reconcile the existence of sin with the goodness of God? 

1st. It has been argued by some that free agency is essential to a moral system, and that absolute independence of will is essential to free agency. That to control the wills of free agents is no more an object of power than the working of contradictions; and consequently God, although omnipotent, could not prevent sin in a moral system without violating its nature.— See Dr. N. W. Taylor's "Concio ad Clerum," 1828. 

2nd. Others have argued that sin was permitted by God in infinite wisdom as the necessary means to the largest possible measure of happiness in the universe as a whole. 

On both of these we remark–– 

1st. That the first theory above cited is founded on a false view of the conditions of human liberty and responsibility (see below, Chapter 15); and, further, that it grossly limits the power of God by representing him as desiring and attempting what he cannot effect, and that it makes him dependent upon his creatures. 

2nd. With reference to the second theory it should be remembered that God’s own glory, and not the greatest good of the universe, is the great end of God in creation and providence. 

3rd. The permission of sin, in its relation both to the righteousness and goodness of God, is an insolvable mystery, and all attempts to solve it only darken counsel with words without knowledge. It is, however, the privilege of our faith to know, though not of our philosophy to comprehend, that it is assuredly a most wise, righteous, and merciful permission; and that it shall redound to the glory of God and to the good of his chosen. 

72. How can the attributes of goodness and justice be shown to be consistent? 

Goodness and justice are the several aspects of one unchangeable, infinitely wise, and sovereign moral perfection. God is not sometimes merciful and sometimes just, nor so far merciful and so far just, but he is eternally infinitely merciful and just. Relatively to the creature this infinite perfection of nature presents different aspects, as is determined by the judgment which infinite wisdom delivers in each individual case. 

Even in our experience these attributes of our moral nature are found not to be inconsistent in principle though our want both of wisdom and knowledge, a sense of our own unworthiness, and a mere physical sympathy, often sadly distract our judgments as well as our hearts in adjusting these principles to the individual cases of life. 


73. What is truth considered as a divine attribute? 

The truth of God in its widest sense is a perfection which qualifies all his intellectual and moral attributes. His knowledge is infinitely true in relation to its objects, and his wisdom unbiased either by prejudice or passion. His justice and his goodness in all their exercises are infinitely true to the perfect standard of his own nature. In all outward manifestations of his perfections to his creatures, God is always true to his nature —always self–consistently divine. This attribute in its more special sense qualifies all God’s intercourse with his rational creatures. He is true to us as well as to himself; and thus is laid the foundation of all faith, and therefore of all knowledge. It is the foundation of all confidence, first, in our senses; second, in our intellect and conscience; third, in any authenticated, supernatural revelation. 

The two forms in which this perfection is exercised in relation to us are, first, his entire truth in all his communications; second, his perfect sincerity in undertaking and faithfulness in discharging all his engagements. 

74. How can the truth of God be reconciled with the apparent non–performance of some of his threatenings? 

The promises and threatenings of God are sometimes absolute, when they are always infallibly fulfilled in the precise sense in which he intended them. They are often also conditional made to depend upon the obedience or repentance of the creature.––Jonah 3:4, 10; Jeremiah 18:7, 8. This condition may be either expressed or implied, because the individual case is understood to be, of course, governed by the general principle that genuine repentance and faith delivers from every threatening and secures every promise. 

75. How can the invitations and exhortations of the Scriptures, addressed to those whom God does not propose to save, be reconciled with his sincerity? 

See above (Question 42), the distinction between God’s preceptive and his decretive will. His invitations and exhortations are addressed to all men in good faith: first, because it is every man’s duty to repent and believe, and it is God’s preceptive will that every man should; second, because nothing ever prevents the obedience of any sinner, except his own unwilling– third, because in every case in which the condition is fulfilled the promise implied will be performed; fourth, God never has promised to enable every man to believe; fifth, these invitations and exhortations are not addressed to the reprobate as such, but to all sinners as such, with the avowed purpose of saving; thereby the elect. 


76. What is meant by the sovereignty of God? 

His absolute right to govern and dispose of all his creatures, simply according to his own good pleasure. 

77. Prove that this right is asserted in Scripture. 

Daniel 4:25, 35; Revelation 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:15; Romans 9:15–23. 

78. On what does the absolute sovereignty of God rest? 

lst. His infinite superiority in being and in all his perfections to any and to all his creatures. 

2nd. As creatures they were created out of nothing, and are now sustained in being by his power, for his own glory and according to his own good pleasure.––Romans 11:36. 

3rd. His infinite benefits to us, and our dependence upon and blessedness in him, are reasons why we should not only recognize, but rejoice, in this glorious truth. The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice. 

79. Is there any sense in which there are limits to the sovereignty of God? 

The sovereignty of God, viewed abstractly as one attribute among many, must of course be conceived of as qualified by all the rest. It can not be otherwise than an infinitely wise, righteous, and merciful sovereignty. 

But God, viewed concretely as an infinite sovereign, is absolutely unlimited by any thing without himself:" He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.",—Daniel 4:35. 


80. What is meant by the holiness of God? 

The holiness of God is not to be conceived of as one attribute among others; it is rather a general term representing the conception of his consummate perfection and total glory. It is his infinite moral perfection crowning his infinite intelligence and power. There is a glory of each attribute, viewed abstractly, and a glory of the whole together. The intellectual nature is the essential basis of the moral. 

Infinite moral perfection is the crown of the Godhead. Holiness is the total glory thus crowned. 

Holiness in the Creator is the total perfection of an infinitely righteous intelligence. Holiness in the creature is not mere moral perfection, but perfection of the created nature of moral agents after their kind, in spiritual union and fellowship with the infinite Creator.—1 John 1:3. 

The word holiness, as applied to God in Scripture, represents, first, moral purity—Leviticus 11:44; Psalm 145:17; second, his transcendental august and venerable majesty.–– Isaiah 5:3; Psalm 22:3; Revelation 4:8. 

To "sanctify the Lord", i.e., to make him holy, is to declare and adore his holiness by venerating his august majesty wherever and whereinsoever his person or character is represented, Isaiah 8:13; [29:23]; Ezekiel 38:23; Matthew 6:9; 1 Peter 3:15. 



From Outlines of Theology by A, A. Hodge

By Topic


By Scripture

Old Testament









1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

2 Chronicles








Song of Solomon


















New Testament







1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians





1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy





1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 John

3 John



By Author

Latest Links