The Confession of Faith: A commentary on The Westminster Confession of Faith

by A. A. Hodge

A. A. Hodge

Chapter 2

"Of God, and of the Holy Trinity"

SECTION I. There is but one only,[1] living, and true God,[2] who is infinite in being and perfection,[3] a most pure spirit,[4] invisible,[5] without body, parts,[6] or passions;[7] immutable,[8] immense,[9] eternal,[10] incomprehensible,[11] almighty,[12] most wise,[13] most holy,[14] most free,[15] most absolute;[16] working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will,[17] for His own glory;[18] most loving,[19] gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin;[20] the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him;[21] and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments,[22] hating all sin,[23] and who will by no means clear the guilty.[24]

Scripture Proof Texts

[1] Deut. vi. 4; 1 Cor. viii. 4, 6; [2] 1 Thess. 1. 9; Jer. x. 10; [3] Job xi. 7, 8, 9; Job xxvi. 14; [4] John iv. 24; [5] 1 Tim. i. 17; [6] Deut. iv. 15, 16; John iv. 24, with Luke xxiv, 39; [7] Acts xiv. 11, 15; [8] James i. 17; Mal. iii. 6; [9] 1 Kings viii. 27; Jer. xxiii. 23, 24; [10] Ps. xc. 2; 1 Tim. i. 17; [11] Ps. cxlv. 3; [12] Gen. xvii. 1; Rev. iv. 8; [13] Rom. xvi, 27; [14] Isa. vi. 3; Rev. iv. 8; [15] Ps. cxv. 3; [16] Exod. iii. 14; [17] Eph. i. 11; [18] Prov. xvi. 4; Rom. xi. 36; [19] 1 John iv. 8, 16; [20] Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7; [21] Heb. xi. 6; [22] Neh. ix. 32, 33; [23] Ps. v. 5, 6; [24] Nah. i. 2, 3; Exod. xxxiv. 7.

SECTION II. God has all life,[25] glory,[26] goodness,[27] blessedness,[28] in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made,[29] nor deriving any glory from them,[30] but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things;[31] and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases.[32] In His sight all things are open and manifest,[33] His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature,[34] so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain.[35] He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands.[36] To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.[37]

Scripture Proof Texts

[25] John v. 26. [26] Acts vii. 2 [27] Ps. cxix. 68. [28] 1 Tim. vi. 15; Rom. ix.5. [29] Acts xvii. 24, 25. [30] Job xxii. 2, 3. [31] Rom. xi. 36; [32] Rev. iv. 11; 1 Tim. vi. 15; Dan. iv. 25, 35; [33] Heb. iv. 13; [34] Rom. xi. 33, 34; Ps. cxlvii. 5; [35] Acts xv. 18; Ezek. xi. 5; [36] Ps. cxlv. 17; Rom. vii. 12; [37] Rev. v. 12, 13, 14.

These sections teach the following propositions: --
1. There is but one living and true God.
2. This God is a free personal Spirit, without bodily parts or passions.
3. He possesses all absolute perfections in and of himself.
4. He possesses all relative perfections with respect to his creatures.
5. He is self-existent and absolutely independent, the sole support, proprietor, and sovereign disposer, of all his creatures.

1. There is but one living and true God.
There have been false gods innumerable, and the title " god" has been applied to angels (Ps. xcvii. 7), because of their spirituality and exalted excellence; and to magistrates (Ps. lxxxii. 1, 6), because of their authority; and Satan is called "the god of this world" (2 Cor. iv. 4), because of his usurped dominion over the wicked. In opposition, therefore, to the claims of all false gods, and in exclusion of all figurative use of the term, it is affirmed that there is but one true God, one living God.

This affirmation includes two propositions: (a) There is but one God. (b) This one God is an absolute unit, incapable of division.

That there is but one God is proved --
(1.) From the fact that every argument that establishes the being of God, suggests the existence of but one. There must be one First Cause, but there is no evidence of more than one. There must be one Designing Intelligence and one Moral Governor, but neither the argument from design nor from conscience suggests more than one.

(2.) The creation throughout its whole extent is one system, presenting absolute unity of design, and hence evidently emanating from one Designing Intelligence.

(3.) The same is true of the system of providential government.

(4.) The sense of moral accountability innate in man witnesses to the unity of the source of all absolute authority.

(5.) All the instincts and cultivated habits of reason lead us to refer the multiplicity of the phenomenal world backward and upward to a ground of absolute unity, which being infinite and absolute, necessarily excludes division and rivalry.

(6.) The Scriptures constantly affirm this truth. Deut. vi. 4; 1 Cor. viii. 4.

The indivisible unity of this one God is proved by the same arguments. For an essential division in the one Godhead would in effect constitute two Gods; besides, the Scriptures teach us that the Christian Trinity is one undivided God: "I and my Father are one." John x. 30.

2. This God is a free personal Spirit, without bodily parts or passions.

There is a very ancient, prevalent, and persistent mode of thought, which pervades a great deal of our literature in the present day, which tends to compound God with the world, and to identify him with the laws of nature, the order and beauty of creation. In one way or another he is considered as sustaining to the phenomena of nature the relation of soul to body, or of whole to parts, or of permanent substance to transient modes. Now all the arguments that establish the being of a God agree with the Scriptures in setting him forth as a personal spirit, distinct from the world.

By Spirit we mean the subject to which the attributes of intelligence, feeling, and will belong, as active properties. Where these unite there is distinct personality. The argument from design proves that the great First Cause, to whom the system of the universe is to be referred, possesses both intelligence, benevolence, and will, in selecting ends, and in choosing and adapting means to effect those ends. Therefore he is a personal spirit. The argument from the sense of moral accountability, innate in all men, proves that we are subject to a Supreme Lawgiver, exterior and superior to the person he governs; one who takes knowledge of us, and will hold us to a strict personal account. Therefore he is a personal spirit, distinct from -- though intimately associated with -- the subjects he governs.

We know spirit by self-consciousness, and in affirming that God is a spirit --

(1.) We affirm that he possesses in infinite perfection a11 those properties which belong to our spirits, (a) because the Scriptures affirm that we were created in his image; (b) because they attribute all these properties severally to him; (c) because our religious nature demands that we recognize them in him; (d) because their exercise is evidenced in his works of creation and providence; (e) because they were possessed by the divine nature in Christ. And --

(2.) We deny that the properties of matter, such as bodily parts and passions, belong to him. We make this denial --
(a) because there is no evidence that he does possess any such properties; and, (b) because, from the very nature of matter end its affections, it is inconsistent with those infinite and. absolute perfections which are of his essence, such as simplicity, unchangeableness, unity, omnipresence, etc.

When the Scriptures, in condescension to our weakness, express the fact that God hears by saying that he has an ear, or that he exerts power by attributing to him a hand, they evidently speak metaphorically, because in the case of men spiritual faculties are exercised through bodily organs. And when they speak of his repenting, of his being grieved, or jealous, they use metaphorical language also, teaching us that he acts toward us as a man would when agitated by such passions. Such metaphors are characteristic rather of the Old than of the New Testament, and occur for the most part in highly rhetorical passages of the poetical and prophetical books.

3. He possesses all absolute perfections in and of himself.

4. He possesses all relative perfections with respect to his creatures.

The attributes of God are the properties of his all-perfect nature. Those are absolute which belong to God considered in himself alone -- as self-existence, immensity, eternity, intelligence, etc. Those are relative which characterize him in his relation to his creatures -- as omnipresence, omniscience, etc.

It is evident that we can know only such properties of God as he has condescended to reveal to us, and only so much of these as he has revealed. The question, then, is, What has God revealed to us of his perfections in his Word?

(1.) God is declared to be infinite in his being. Hence he can exist under none of the limitations of time or space. He must be eternal, and he must fill all immensity. These three, therefore, must be the common perfections of all the properties that belong to his essence: He is infinite, eternal, omnipresent in his being; infinite, eternal, omnipresent in his wisdom, in his power, in his justice, etc. When God is said to be infinite in his knowledge, or his power, we mean that he knows all things, and that he can effect all that he wills, without any limit. When we say that he is infinite in his truth, or his justice, or his goodness, we mean that he possesses these properties in absolute perfection.

(2.) His immensity. When we attribute this perfection to God we mean that his essence fills all space. This cannot be effected through multiplication of his essence, since he is ever one and indivisible; nor through its extension or diffusion, like ether, through the interplanetary spaces, because it is pure spirit. The spirit of God, like the spirit of a man, must be an absolute unit, without extension or dimensions. Therefore, the entire indivisible Godhead must, in the totality of his being, be simultaneously present every moment of time at every point of space. He is immense absolutely and from eternity. He has been omnipresent, in his essence and in all the properties thereof, ever since the creation, to every atom and element of which it consists. Although God is essentially equally omnipresent to all creatures at all times, yet, as he variously manifests himself at different times and places to his intelligent creatures, so he is said to be peculiarly present to them under such conditions. Thus, God was present to Moses in the burning bush. Ex. iii. 2 -- 6. And Christ promises to be in the midst of two or three met together in his name. Matt. xviii. 20.

(3.) His eternity. By affirming that God is eternal, we mean that his duration has no limit, and that his existence in infinite duration is absolutely perfect. He could have had no beginning, he can have no end, and in his existence there can be no succession of thoughts, feelings or purposes. There can be no increase to his knowledge, no change as to his purpose. Hence the past and the future must be as immediately and as immutably present with him as the present. Hence his existence is an ever-abiding, all-embracing present, which is always contemporaneous with the ever-flowing times of his creatures. His knowledge, which never can change, eternally recognizes his creatures and their actions in their several places in time; and his actions upon his creatures pass from him at the precise moments predetermined in his unchanging purpose.

Hence God is absolutely unchangeable in his being and in all the modes and states thereof. In his knowledge, his feelings, his purposes, and hence in his engagements to his creatures, he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. "The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Ps. xxxiii. 11.

(4.) The infinite intelligence of God, including omniscience and absolutely perfect wisdom, is clearly taught in Scripture. God's knowledge is infinite, not only as to the range of objects it embraces, but also as to its perfection. (a) We know things only as they stand related to our organs of perception, and only in their properties; God knows them immediately, in the light of his own intelligence and in their essential nature. (b) We know things successively, as they are present to us, or as we pass inferentially from the know to the before unknown; God knows all things eternally, by one direct, all-comprehensive intuition. (c) Our knowledge is dependent; God's is independent. Ours is fragmentary; God's total and complete. Ours is in great measure transient; God's is permanent.

God knows himself -- the depths of his own infinite and eternal being, the constitution of his nature, the ideas of his reason the resources of his power, the purposes of his will. In knowing the resources of his power, he knows all things possible. In knowing the immutable purposes of his will, he knows all that has existed or that will exist, because of that purpose.

Wisdom presupposes knowledge, and is that excellent practical use which the absolutely perfect intelligence and will of God make of his infinite knowledge. It is exercised in the election of ends, general and special, and in the selection of means in order to the accomplishment of those ends; and is illustrated gloriously in the perfect system of God's works of creation, providence, and grace.

(5.) The omnipotence of God is the infinite efficiency resident in, and inseparable from, the divine essence, to effect whatsoever he wills, without any limitation soever except such as lies in the absolute and immutable perfections of his own nature. The power of God is both unlimited in its range and infinitely perfect in its mode of action. (a) We are conscious that the powers inherent in our wills are very limited. Our wills can act directly only upon the course of our thoughts and a few bodily actions, and can only very imperfectly control these. The power inherent in God's will acts directly upon its objects, and effects absolutely and unconditionally all he intends. (b) We work through means; the effect often followers only remotely, and our action is conditioned by external circumstances. God acts immediately, with or without means as he pleases. When he acts through means it is a condescension, because the means receive all their efficiency from his power, not his power from the means. And the power of God is absolutely independent of all that is exterior to his own all-perfect nature.

The power of God is the power of his all-perfect, self-existent essence. He has absolutely unlimited power to do whatsoever his nature determines him to will. But this power cannot be directed against his nature. The ultimate principles of reason and of moral right and wrong are not products of the divine power, but are principles of the divine nature. God cannot change the nature of right and wrong, etc., because he did not make himself, and these have their determination in his own eternal perfections. He cannot act unwisely or unrighteously; not for want of the power as respects the act, but for want of will, since God is eternally, immutably, and most freely and spontaneously, wise and righteous.

God's omnipotence is illustrated, but never exhausted, in his works of creation and providence. God's power is exercised at his will, but there ever remains an infinite reserve of possibility lying back of the actual exercise of power, since the Creator always infinitely transcends his creation.

(6.) The absolutely perfect goodness of God. The moral perfection of God is one absolutely perfect righteousness. Relatively to his creatures his infinite moral perfection always presents that aspect which his infinite wisdom decides to be appropriate to the case. He is not alternately merciful and just, nor partially merciful and partially just, but eternally and perfectly merciful and just. Both are right; both are equally and spontaneously in his nature; and both are perfectly and freely harmonized by the infinite wisdom of that nature.

His goodness includes (a) Benevolence, or goodness viewed as a disposition to promote the happiness of his sensitive creatures; (b) Love, or goodness viewed as a disposition to promote the happiness of intelligent creatures, and to regard with complacency their excellences; (c) Mercy, or goodness exercised toward the miserable; (d) Grace, or goodness exercised toward the undeserving.

The grace of God toward the undeserving evidently rests upon his sovereign will (Matt. xi. 26; Rom. ix. 15), and can be assured to us only by means of a positive revelation. Neither reason nor conscience nor observation of nature can assure us, independently of his own special revelation, that he will be gracious to the guilty. Our duty is to forgive injuries; we as individuals have nothing to do with either forgiving or pardoning sin. That God's goodness is absolutely perfect and inexhaustible is proved from universal experience, as well as from Scripture. James i. 17; v. 11. It is exercised, however, not in making the happiness of his creatures indiscriminately and unconditionally a chief end, but is regulated by his wisdom in order to the accomplishment of the supreme ends of his own glory and their excellence.

(7.) God is absolutely true. This is a common property of all the divine perfections and actions. His knowledge is absolutely accurate; his wisdom infallible; his goodness and justice perfectly true to the standard of his own nature. In the exercise of all his properties God is always self-consistent. He is also always absolutely true to his creatures in all his communications, sincere in his promises and threatenings, and faithful in their fulfillment.

This lays the foundation for all rational confidence in the constitution of our own natures and in the order of the external world, as well as in a divinely-accredited, supernatural revelation. It guarantees the validity of the information of our senses, the truth of the intuitions of reason and conscience, the correctness of the inferences of the understanding, and the general credibility of human testimony, and pre-eminently the reliability of every word of the inspired Scriptures.

(8.) The infinite justice of God. This, viewed absolutely, is the all-perfect righteousness of God's being considered in himself. Viewed relatively, it is his infinitely righteous nature exercised, as the moral Governor of his intelligent creatures. in the imposition of righteous laws, and. in their righteous execution. It appears in the general administration of his government viewed as a whole, and distributively in his dealing to individuals that treatment which righteously belongs to them, according to his own covenants and their own deserts. God is most willingly just, but his justice is no more an optional product of his will than is his self-existent being. It is an immutable principle of his divine constitution. He is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity." Hab. i. 13. "He cannot deny himself." 2 Tim. ii. 13. God does not make his demands just by willing them, but he wills them because they are just.

The infinite righteousness of his immutable being determines him to regard and to treat all sin as intrinsically hateful and deserving of punishment. The punishment of sin and its consequent discouragement is an obvious benefit to the subjects of his government in general. It is a revelation of righteousness in God, and a powerful stimulant to moral excellence in them.

But God hates sin because it is intrinsically hateful, and punishes it because such punishment is intrinsically righteous. This is proved --
(a.) From the direct assertions of Scripture: "To me belongeth vengeance and recompense." Deut. xxxii. 35. "According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay." Isa. lix. 18, "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you." 2 Thess. i. 6. "Knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death." Rom. i. 32.

(b.) The Scriptures teach that the vicarious suffering of the penalty due to his people by Christ, as their substitute, was absolutely necessary to enable God to continue " just " and at the same time " the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Rom. iii. 26. " If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Gal. ii. 21. "If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." Gal. iii. 21. That is, if God could have, in consistency with justice, pardoned sinners without an expiation, " verily" he would not have sacrificed. his own Son " in vain."

(c.) It is a universal judgment of awakened sinners that their sin deserves punishment, and that immutable righteousness demands it. And this is the sentence universally pronounced by the moral sense of enlightened men with regard to all crime.

(d.) The same changeless principle of righteousness was in culcated by all the divinely appointed sacrifices of the Mosaic dispensation: "Almost all things by the law are purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." Heb. ix. 22. It has also been illustrated in the sacrificial rites of all heathen nations, and in all human laws and penalties.

(9.) The infinite holiness of God. Sometimes this term is applied to God to express his perfect purity: "Sanctify yourselves, and be ye holy; for I am holy." Lev. xi. 44. In that case it is an element of his perfect righteousness. " The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." Ps. cxlv. 17. Sometimes it expresses his transcendently august and venerable majesty, which is the result of all his harmonious and blended perfections in one perfection of absolute and infinite excellence: "And one cried to another, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." Isa. vi. 3.

5. God is self-existent and absolutely independent, the sole support, proprietor, and sovereign disposer, of his creatures. Since God is eternal and the creator out of nothing of all things that exist besides himself, it follows (1.) That his own being must have the cause of its existence in itself -- that is, that he is self-existent; (2.) That he is absolutely independent, in his being, purposes, and actions, of all other beings; and (3.) That all other beings of right belong to him, and in fact are absolutely dependent upon him in their being, and subject to him in their actions and destinies.

The sovereignty of God is his absolute right to govern and dispose of the world of his own hands according to his own good pleasure. This sovereignty rests not in his will abstractly, but in his adorable person. Hence it is an infinitely wise, righteous, benevolent, and powerful sovereignty, unlimited by anything outside of his own perfections.

The grounds of his sovereignty are -- -(1.) His infinite superiority. (2.) His absolute ownership of all things, as created by him. (3.) The perpetual and absolute dependence of all things upon him for being, and of all intelligent creatures for blessedness, Dan. iv. 25, 35; Rev. iv. 11.

SECTION III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.[38] The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; [39] the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. [40]

 

Scripture Proof Texts

[38] 1 John v. 7; Matt. iii. 16, 17; Matt. xxviii. 19; 2 Cor. xiii. 14; [39] John i. 14, 18; [40] John xv. 26; Gal. iv. 6.

 

Having before shown that there is but one living and true God, and that his essential properties embrace all perfections, this section asserts in addition --

1. That Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are each equally that one God; and that the indivisible divine essence and all divine perfections and prerogatives belong to each in the same sense and degree.

2. That these titles, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are not different names of the same person in different relations, but of different persons.

3. That these three divine persons are distinguished from one another by certain persona1 properties, and are revealed in a certain order of subsistence and of operation.

These propositions embrace the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (three in unity), which is no part of natural religion, though most clearly revealed in the inspired Scriptures -- indistinctly, perhaps, in the Old Testament, but with especial definiteness in the New Testament.

1. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are each equally the one God; and the indivisible divine essence and all divine perfections and prerogatives belong to each in the same sense and degree.

Since there is but one God, the infinite and the absolute First Cause, his essence, being spiritual, cannot be divided. If then Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are that one God, they must each equally consist of that same essence. And since the attributes of God are the inherent properties of his essence, they are inseparable from that essence; and it follows that if Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, consist of the same numerical essence, they must have the same identical attributes in common -- that is, there is common to them the one intelligence and the one will, etc.

The Scriptures are full of the evidences of this fundamental truth. It has never been questioned whether the Father is God. That the Son is the true God is proved by the following considerations: --

(1.) Christ existed before he was born of the Virgin. (a) He was with the Father "before the world was." John viii. 58; xvii. 5. (b) "He came into the world"--" He came down from heaven." John iii. 13; xvi. 28.

(2.) All the names and titles of God are constantly applied to Christ, and to none others except to the Father and the Spirit: as Jehovah, Jer. xxiii. 6; -- mighty God, everlasting Father, Isa, ix. 6; -- God, John i. 1; Heb. i. 8; -- God over all, Rom. ix. 5; -- the true God, and eternal life, 1 John v. 20; -- the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty, Rev. i. 8.

(3.) All divine attributes are predicated of him: Eternity, John viii. 58; xvii. 5; Rev. i. 8; xxii. 13; -- immutability, Heb. i. 10, 11; xiii. 8; -- omnipresence, Matt. xviii. 20; John iii. 13; -- omniscience, Matt. xi. 27; John ii. 24, 25; Rev. ii. 28; -- omnipotence, John v. 17; Heb. i. 3.

(4.) The Scriptures attribute all Divine works to Christ: Creation, John i. 3 -- 10; Col. i. 10, 17; -- preservation and providential government, Heb. i. 3; Col. i. 17; Matt. xxviii. 18; -- the final judgment, John v. 22; Matt. xxv. 31, 32; 2 Cor. v. 10; -- giving eternal life, John x. 28; -- sending the Holy Ghost, John xvi. 7; -- sanctification, Eph. v. 25 -- 27.

(5.) The Scriptures declare that divine worship should be paid to him: Heb. i. 6; Rev. i. 5, 6; v. 11, 12; 1 Cor. i. 2; John v. 23. Men are to be baptized into the name of Jesus, as well as into the names of the Father and the Holy Ghost. The grace of Jesus is invoked in the apostolical benediction.

That the Holy Ghost is the true God is proved in a similar manner.

(1.) He is called God. What the Spirit says Jehovah says. Compare Isa. vi. 8, 9, with Acts xxviii. 25, 26; and Jer. xxxi. 33 with Heb. x. 15, 16. To lie to the Holy Ghost is to lie to God. Acts v. 3, 4.

(2.) Divine perfections are ascribed to him: Omniscience, 1 Cor. ii. 10, ll; -- omnipresence, Ps. cxxxix. 7; -- omnipotence, Luke i. 35; Rom. viii. 11.

(3.) Divine works are attributed to him: Creation, Job xxvi. 13; Ps. civ. 30; -- miracles, 1 Cor. xii. 9 -- 11; -- regeneration, John iii. 6; Titus iii. 5.

(4.) Divine worship is to be paid to him. His gracious influences are invoked in the apostolical benediction. 2 Cor. xiii. 14. We are baptized into his name. Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is never forgiven. Matt. xii. 31, 32.

2. These titles, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are not the names of the same person in different relations, but of different persons.

Since there is but one indivisible and inalienable spiritual essence, which is common to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and since they have in common one infinite intelligence, power, will, etc., when we say they are distinct persons we do not mean that one is as separate from the other as one human person is from every other. Their mode of subsistence in the one substance must ever continue to us a profound mystery, as it transcends all analogy. All that is revealed to us is, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, stand so distinguished and related that,--

(1.) They use mutually the personal pronouns I, thou, he, when speaking to or about each other. Thus Christ continually addresses the Father, and speaks of the Father and of the Holy Ghost: "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter," John xiv. 16; "And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was," John xvii. 5. Thus Christ speaks of the Holy Ghost: "I will send him;" "He shall testify of me;" " Whom the Father will send in my name," John xiv. 26, and xv. 26.

(2.) That they mutually love one another, act upon and through one another, and take counsel together. The Father sends the Son, John xvii. 3; and the Father and Son send the Spirit, Ps. civ. 30. The Father giveth commandment to the Son, John x. 18; the Spirit "speaks not of himself "--" he testifies of" and "glorifies" Christ. John xv. 26; xvi. 13-15.

(3.) That they are eternally mutually related as Father and Son and Spirit. That is, the Father is the Father of the Son, and the Son the Son of the Father, and the Spirit the Spirit of the Father and of the Son.

(4.) That they work together in a perfectly harmonious economy of operations upon the creation; -- the Father creating and sitting supreme in the general administration; the Son becoming incarnate in human nature, and, as the Theanthropos, discharging the functions of mediatorial prophet, priest, and king; the Holy Ghost making his grace omnipresent, and applying it to the souls and bodies of his members: the Father the absolute origin and source of life and law; the Son the revealer; the Holy Ghost the executor.

There are a number of Scripture passages in which all the three persons are set forth as distinct and yet as divine: Matt. xxviii. 19; 2 Cor. xiii. 14; Matt. iii. 13-17; John xv. 26, etc.; 1 John v. 7.

3. These three divine persons are distinguished from one another by certain personal properties, and are revealed in a certain order of subsistence and of operation.

The "attributes" of God are the properties of the divine essence, and therefore common to each of the three persons, who are "the same in substance," and therefore "equal in power and glory." The "properties" of each divine person, on the other hand, are those peculiar modes of personal subsistence, and that peculiar order of operation, which distinguish each from the others, and determine the relation of each to the others. This is chiefly expressed to us by the personal names by which they are revealed. The peculiar personal property of the first person is expressed by the title Father. As a person he is eternally the Father of his only begotten Son. The peculiar personal property of the second person is expressed by the title Son. As a person he is eternally the only begotten Son of the Father, and hence the express image of his person, and the eternal Word in the beginning with God. The peculiar property of the third person is expressed by the title Spirit. This cannot express his essence, because his essence is also the essence of the Father and the Son. It must express his eternal personal relation to the other divine persons, because he is as a person constantly designated as the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son. They are all spoken of in Scripture-in a constant order; the Father first, the Son second, the Spirit third. The Father sends and operates through both the Son and the Spirit. The Son sends and operates through the Spirit. Never the reverse in either case. The Son is sent by, acts for, and reveals the Father. The Spirit is sent by, acts for, and reveals both the Father and the Son. The persons are as eternal as the essence, equal in honour, power, and glory. Three persons, they are one God, being identical in essence and divine perfections. " I and my Father are one." John x. 30. "The Father is in me and I in him." John x. 38. "He that hath seen the Son, hath seen the Father." John xiv. 9 -- 11.

The most ancient and universally accepted statement of all the points involved in the doctrine of the Trinity, is to be found in the Creed of the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, as amended by the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381.

Top of page

[Chapter 3][TOC][Creeds and Confessions][Home]