The Self-Existence of God

by Thomas Ridgley

God is said to be 'in, and of, himself,' not as though he gave being to, or was the cause of himself; for that implies a contradiction. Divines, therefore, generally say, that God is 'in and of himself,' not positively, but negatively; that is, his being and perfections are underived, they are not communicated to him, as all finite perfections are by him communicated to the creature. He is self-existent, or independent; and this is one of the highest glories of his nature, by which he is distinguished from creatures, who all live, move, and have their being, in and from him.

This attribute of independence belongs to all his perfections. Thus his wisdom, power, goodness, holiness, &c. are all independent.

1. He is independent as to his knowledge or wisdom. He doth not receive ideas from any object out of himself. All intelligent creatures do this, and, in that respect, are said to depend on the object; so that if there were not any such object, they could not have the knowledge or idea of it in their minds. The object known must exist, before we can apprehend what it is. But this must not be said respecting God's knowledge; for the things which he knows cannot be supposed of as antecedent to his knowing them. The independency of his knowledge is elegantly described in scripture: 'Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor, has taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?'

2. He is independent in power. As he does not receive strength from any one, so he doth not act dependently on the will of the creature. 'Who hath enjoined him his way?' Again, as he did not receive the power of acting from any one, so none can hinder, turn aside, or control his power, or put a stop to his methods of acting.

3. He is independent as to his holiness, hating sin necessarily, and not merely depending on some reasons out of himself, which induce him to hate it; for it is essential to the divine nature to be infinitely opposite to all sin, and therefore to be independently holy.

4. He is independent as to his bounty and goodness, and so he communicates blessings not by constraint, but according to his sovereign will. Thus he gave being to the world, and all things therein, which was the first instance, and a very great one, of bounty and goodness, not by constraint, but by his free will: 'For his pleasure they are and were created.' In like manner, in whatever instances he extends mercy to miserable creatures, he acts independently in displaying it. Nothing out of himself moves him or lays a constraint upon him; but he shows mercy because it is his pleasure so to do.

To evince the truth of this doctrine, that God is independent as to his being, and all his perfections, let it be considered, 1. That all things depend on his power, which brought them into, and preserves them in being. They exist by his will, as their creator and preserver, and consequently are not necessary but dependent beings. Now if all things depend on God, it is the greatest absurdity to say that God depends on any thing; for this would be to suppose the cause and the effect to be mutually dependent on, and derived from each other,—which implies a contradiction. 2. If God be infinitely above the highest creatures, he cannot depend on any of them, for dependence argues inferiority. Now that God is above all things is certain. This is represented in a very beautiful manner by the prophet, when he says, 'Behold the nations are as the drop of the bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; all nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than nothing and vanity.' He cannot, then, be said to be inferior to them, and, by consequence, to depend on them. 3. If God depends on any creature, he does not exist necessarily,—and if so, he might not have been; for the same will, by which he is supposed to exist, might have determined that he should not have existed. And, according to the same method of reasoning, he might cease to be; for the same will that gave being to him might take it away at pleasure,—a thought which is altogether inconsistent with the idea of a God.

From God's being independent, or 'in and of himself,' we infer that the creature cannot lay any obligation on him, or do any thing that may tend to make him more happy than he is in himself. The apostle gives a challenge to this effect: 'Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?' And Eliphaz says to Job, 'Can a man be profitable to God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect?'e Again, if independency be a divine perfection, let it not, in any instance, or by any consequence, be attributed to the creature. Let us conclude, that all our springs are in him, and that all we enjoy and hope for is from him, who is the author and finisher of our faith, and the fountain of all our blessedness.


Ridgley, T. (1855). A Body of Divinity 

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