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Duty of Gratitude for Divine Grace: Covenant of Grace- Book Seventh- Chapter 2

Book Seventh

CHAPTER II.

COVENANT OF GRACE.

THE THREE DIVINE PERSONS CO-OPERATE IN MAN’S SALVATION ACCORDING TO AN ETERNAL COVENANT.[1]

On a former occasion, it was shown that the Scriptures use the term covenant with great latitude of meaning. The propriety of its use in the present case, cannot well be questioned. We have three divine persons, who are parties in this covenant; and the doctrine of God’s unity cannot exclude the notion of a covenant, without, at the same time, excluding the distinction of persons in the Godhead. We are not to imagine, as included in this covenant transaction, a proposal of terms by one party, and a deliberation, followed with an acceptance or rejection of them, by the other parties. These things occur, in the making of human covenants, because of the imperfection of the parties. In condescension to our weakness, the Scriptures use language taken from the affairs of men. They speak as if a formal proposal had been made, at the creation of man, addressed by one of the parties to the others: “Let us make man:” but this is in accommodation to our modes of conception. An agreement and co-operation of the divine persons, in the creation of man, is what is taught in this passage. This agreement and co-operation extend to all the works of God: “Who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.”[2] The idea of counsel in all these works, accords with that of consultation which is presented in the account of man’s creation. In every work of God, the divine persons must either agree or disagree. As they alike possess infinite wisdom, disagreement among them is impossible. The salvation of men is a work of God, in which the divine persons concur. It is performed according to an eternal purpose; and in this purpose, as well as in the work, the divine persons concur; and this concurrence is their eternal covenant. The purpose of the one God, is the covenant of the Trinity.

In the work of salvation, the divine persons co-operate in different offices; and these are so clearly revealed, as to render the personal distinction in the Godhead more manifest, than it is in any other of God’s works. Beyond doubt, these official relations are severally held, by the perfect agreement of all; and, speaking after the manner of men, the adjustment of these relations, and the assignment of the several parts in the work, are the grand stipulations of the eternal covenant.

That the covenant is eternal, may be argued from the eternity, unchangeableness, and omniscience of the parties, and from the declarations of Scripture which directly or indirectly relate to it: “Through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”[3] “His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.”[4] “In hope of eternal life promised before the world began.”[5] “Grace given in Christ Jesus before the world began.”[6]

Although God’s purpose is one, we are obliged, according to our modes of conception, to view it, and speak of it, as consisting of various parts. So, the eternal covenant is one; but it is revealed to us in a manner adapted to our conceptions and to our spiritual benefit. The work of redemption by Christ is presented in the Gospel as the great object of our faith; and the stipulation for the accomplishment of this work, is the prominent point exhibited in the revelation which is made to us respecting the covenant of grace. The agreement between the Father and the Son is conspicuously brought to view, in various parts of the sacred volume: “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.”[7] “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”[8] “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. Then said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God:”[9] and in Isaiah, chapter xlix., the stipulations between the Father and the Son are presented, almost as if they had been copied from an original record of the transaction.

According to the covenant arrangement, the Son appeared in human nature, in the form of a servant; and, after obeying unto death, was exalted by the Father to supreme dominion. The Holy Spirit also is revealed as acting in a subordinate office; but appears as sustaining the full authority of the Godhead, sending the Son, giving him a people to be redeemed, prescribing the terms, accepting the service, rewarding and glorifying the Son, and sending the Holy Spirit. In all this the Father appears as the representative of the Godhead, in its authority and majesty. The Son also sustains a representative character. The promise of eternal life was made, before the world began, to the people of God, in him as their representative. The reconciliation between God and men is provided for by the covenant engagement between the Father and the Son; the Father acting as the representative of the Godhead, and the Son as the representative and surety of his people. The Holy Spirit concurs in this arrangement, and takes his part in the work, in harmony with the other persons of the Godhead. His peculiar office is necessary to complete the plan, and to reward the obedience of the Son by the salvation of his redeemed people. The promises of the Father to the Son include the gift of the Holy Spirit; and, therefore, the sending of the Spirit is attributed to the Son;[10] and sometimes to the Father at the petition of the Son.[11]

In this order of operation, inferiority of nature is not implied, in the subordination of office to which the Son and the Spirit voluntarily consent. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in each of the divine persons, and renders the fulfillment of the covenant infallibly sure, in all its stipulations. The Holy Spirit, in the execution of his office, dwells in believers; but he brings with him the fullness of the Godhead, so that God is in them, and they are the temple of God, and filled with the fullness of God. The Son or Word, in the execution of his office, becomes the man Jesus Christ; but the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him; so that, in his deepest humiliation he is God manifest in the flesh, God over all, blessed for ever.

The order of operation in this mysterious and wonderful economy, can be learned from divine revelation only. Here we should study it with simple faith, relying on the testimony of God. In the representation of it here exhibited, we may discover that the blessings of grace, proceeding from God, appear to originate in the Father, “of whom are all things,” to be conferred through the Son, “by whom are all things,” and by the Spirit, who is the immediate agent in bestowing them, the last in the order of operation. The approach to God, in acts of devotion, is in the reverse order. The Spirit makes intercession in the saints, moving them, as a spirit of supplication, and assisting their infirmities, when they know not what to pray for. Their prayers are offered through Christ, as the medium of approach; and the Father, as the highest representative of the Godhead, is the ultimate object of the worship. Through him [Christ] we have access by one Spirit to the Father.[12] The Spirit moves us to honor the Son and the Father: and for this purpose takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, that we may believe in him, and through him approach the Father. In this work he acts for the whole Godhead, and therefore his drawing is ascribed to the Father: “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.”[13] When we come to Jesus Christ, the whole Godhead meets us again in the person of the Mediator: for “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.”[14] And when we address the Father, as the ultimate object of our worship, the whole Godhead is there, and receives our adorations. In the covenant of grace, the triune God is so presented to the view of the believer, that he may worship without distraction of thought, with full confidence of acceptance, and with clear perception that God is to him all and in all. In the retirement of the closet, the devotional man addresses God as present in the secret place, and holds communion with him, as a friend near at hand. When he comes forth into the busy world, he sees God all around him, in the heavens, and in the earth; and holds converse with him in this different manifestation of himself. When he lifts his thoughts to the high and holy place where God’s throne is, and prays, “Our Father which art in heaven,” his mind is directed to the highest and most glorious manifestation of the Deity. In all this he suffers no distraction of thought. The same omnipresent One is addressed, whether conceived to be in the closet, or in the world, or in the highest heavens. With equal freedom from distraction we may worship the Infinite One, whether we approach him as the Holy Spirit, operating on the heart; or as the Son, the Mediator between God and men; or as the Father, representing the full authority and majesty of the Godhead. We worship God, and God alone, whether our devotions are directed to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit; for the divine essence, undivided and indivisible, belongs to each of the three persons.

To guard against mistake, it should be observed, that the covenant which we have been considering is not identical with the new covenant of which Paul speaks in the epistle to the Hebrews. The latter made, according to the prophecy which he quotes, “with the house of Israel and the house of Judah;”[15] whereas the covenant of which we have treated, is not made with man. There is, however, a close connection between them. In the eternal covenant, promises are made to the Son, as the representative of his people: in the new covenant, these promises are made to them personally, and, in part, fulfilled to them. The promises are made to them: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:”[16] and they are, in part, fulfilled. “I will put my law in their minds, and write it in their hearts.”

[1] Ps. ii. 8; xl. 6–8; lxxxix. 3; Isaiah xlix. 3–12; John xvii. 6; Heb. xiii. 20; Titus i. 2.

[2] Eph. i. 11.

[3] Heb. xiii. 20.

[4] Eph. iii. 11.

[5] Tit. i. 2.

[6] 2 Tim. i. 9.

[7] John xvii. 6.

[8] Ps. ii. 8.

[9] Ps. xl. 6–18.

[10] John xvi. 7.

[11] John xiv. 16.

[12] Eph. ii. 18.

[13] John vi. 44.

[14] 2 Cor. v. 19.

[15] Heb. viii. 8.

[16] Heb. viii. 10.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

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Duty of Gratitude for Divine Grace: The Trinity- Book Seventh- Chapter 1

Book Seventh

CHAPTER I.

THE TRINITY.

THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT, ARE THREE PERSONS IN ONE DIVINE ESSENCE.[1]

The unity of God is a fundamental doctrine of religion; and no doctrine can be true which is inconsistent with it. All admit that the Father is God; and we have seen that the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, according to the teachings of the sacred Scriptures. To reconcile the proper deity of these three, with the strict unity of God, is a matter of great difficulty. All admit that they cannot be three and one in the same respect; and divines have usually held that they are three in person, and one in essence.

The doctrine of a three-fold distinction in the Godhead, belongs especially to the economy of grace, and is therefore more clearly revealed in the New Testament than in the Old. Some intimations of it, however, may be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the very first verse of the Bible, the name of God is plural, and the verb “created,” with which it is construed, is singular. This countenances the opinion, that there is plurality as well as unity in the Godhead. But since words which are plural in form, are sometimes used to denote objects which are singular, this argument for a plurality in the Godhead cannot be regarded as in itself conclusive. It derives strength, however, from two considerations: 1. The Hebrew scriptures guard the doctrine of God’s unity with great care; and if all plurality were inconsistent with it, this important purpose of the revelation made to the Hebrews, would have been better subserved if none but singular names for the deity had been admitted, yet plural names are very commonly employed. And in one remarkable case, the Hebrew name Elohim, is used in an express declaration of the divine unity. “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah, our Elohim, is one Jehovah.”[2] Why was the plural name here introduced? The declaration of the divine unity would have been complete without it. If it was introduced to guard against an improper inference from the use of plural names, it shows the use of such names to have been dangerous, and therefore difficult to reconcile with the wisdom of revelation. If the name Jehovah be understood to refer to the divine essence; and the name Elohim, to the three divine persons; the passage may be interpreted consistently and beautifully, and it becomes an explicit declaration of the New Testament doctrine. 2. The Hebrew scriptures contain other intimations of a plurality in the Godhead. Plural pronouns are applied to God, and consultation is attributed to him. “Let us make man.”[3] “Let us go down and confound their language.”[4] A consultation with created beings cannot here be supposed. The opinion that God spoke in these cases, after the pompous manner of eastern monarchs, besides being, on other accounts, wholly improbable, is completely set aside, by the passage, “Behold, the man is become as one of us.”[5] No eastern monarch ever spoke of his individual unity, in this style. No consistent interpretation of this language can be given, without admitting a plurality in the Godhead; and this admission explains the use of plural names for God.

That the plurality in the Godhead is three-fold, has been inferred from the three-fold ascription of holiness[6] to God, and the three-fold benediction of the High Priest.[7] A more satisfactory argument is derived from passages in which the three divine persons are distinctly brought to view.[8]

This doctrine is more clearly revealed in the New Testament. In the formula of Christian baptism it is clearly exhibited.[9] We are baptised into one name, because God is one; but that is the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, because it belongs alike to each of these divine persons. Here, this doctrine meets us, at our very entrance on the profession of the Christian religion. If Christ was not God, he was justly condemned to death, and his religion is false; and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter whom he promised, is as little entitled to regard as he was. If Christ and the Holy Spirit are not God, the form of baptism should be rejected, as of a piece with the false religion into which it introduces us. No man can consistently receive Christian baptism, without believing the doctrine of the Trinity.

We have spoken of this doctrine as belonging especially to the economy of grace. It is here that it is most clearly unfolded to our view, and without this doctrine, the covenant of grace, and its developments in the great work of salvation, cannot be understood. Yet there are fainter exhibitions of the doctrine in the works of God. This is true of creation. The consultation at the creation of man has already been noticed, as a proof of plurality in the Godhead. Moses says, “The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.” Job says, “By his Spirit he garnished the heavens.” John says, “By him (the Word) all things were made.”[10] All the divine persons, therefore, were concerned in creation: and other passages teach that they are also concerned in providence.[11]

The most sober-minded divines admit that there is incomprehensible mystery in the doctrine of the Trinity. All attempts to explain it have failed. Two methods which have been proposed to bring it within our comprehension, deserve special notice.

Some who are called Sabellians, maintain, that the distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is official and not personal. They hold that God is one in person, as well as in essence; but that he manifests himself in three different ways, and that the three different names denote these three modes of manifestation. This simplifies the doctrine; but it does not accord with the Scriptures. According to this view of the doctrine, we might paraphrase the words of Christ, in John, xiv. 16, thus: “I who am the same person with the Father, will pray the Father, who is no other than myself, in a different office, or mode of manifestation, and he shall give you another comforter, who is not another, but the same person as my Father and myself.” We see, from this specimen, that this explanation of the doctrine is at variance with the word of God.

Others admit the distinction of persons in the Godhead, and explain that the three possess one essence, just as three men, Peter, James, and John, possess one nature. This is Tritheism. It makes the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three Gods, just as Peter, James, and John, are three men. If we may call the three persons one God, merely because they are alike in their nature; we may, with equal reason, call all mankind one man; and we may maintain that Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, and all the heathen deities were one God. Paul’s distinction, “There are gods many; but to us there is but one God,”[12] is a distinction without a difference; for the many gods are one, in the same sense in which the three divine persons are supposed to be one. This explanation must, therefore, be rejected, as inconsistent with the proper unity of God.

Attempts have frequently been made, to illustrate the mystery of the Trinity, by means of material objects. One of these may be cited as a specimen of the rest. Water, ice, and snow, it is said, are different things, and yet they are but one. For aught that appears, it would have served quite well, to illustrate the mystery, by three separate glasses of water, all in the liquid form. The distinction between them would have been as perfect; and the identity of nature would have been as real, and more apparent. All such illustrations darken counsel with words without knowledge. What shall we liken to the Lord?

These efforts to explain the doctrine, are not simply fruitless, but they lead to error. If the mind receives satisfaction from them, it is by a false view of God’s mode of existence, and thinking him such an one as ourselves. It is far wiser to admit, that none by searching can find out God; and to abstain from unavailing efforts to comprehend what is incomprehensible to our finite minds. What God tells us on the subject, we ought to believe; and with this measure of knowledge, we ought to be satisfied; and all beyond this is human speculation, of which it is our duty and interest to beware. Nor are we justly liable to the reproach of believing what we do not understand. The teaching of divine revelation, we may understand, and we should labor to understand; and the mystery which remains unrevealed to our understanding, is not an object of our faith. The proposition, God is incomprehensible, is simple and intelligible, and our faith embraces it. God is the subject of this proposition; and, if a full understanding of the subject were necessary to faith, a belief of this proposition would be impossible. Though we do not comprehend God, we comprehend the meaning of the proposition; and this is what we believe. So the doctrine of the Trinity, as an object of our faith, may be expressed in propositions, each one of which is intelligible, notwithstanding the incomprehensibility of the subject.

The view which has been presented, is important, to strengthen our faith in the doctrine of the Trinity. So long as we imagine that a full comprehension of the subject is necessary to the exercise of faith, we must embrace the truth feebly. But let us examine the propositions, in which the doctrine may be expressed, and we shall find each one of them perfectly intelligible. The Father is God;–the Son is God;–the Holy Ghost is God;–there is but one God. All these propositions, we may understand, and receive with unwavering faith; while we are well assured that our understandings fall infinitely short of comprehending the great subject, and that, in harmonizing the last proposition with the preceding three, there is a difficulty which finite intelligence cannot explain.

In receiving a truth which is attended with difficulty, our faith may be assisted, by noticing that other truths, which we are compelled to admit, are attended with equal difficulty. The Omnipresence of God, may be shown to be as incomprehensible as the Trinity. If, at the same moment, a ball of matter is here, a ball there, and a ball yonder, we know that there are three balls. If, in the illustration, we substitute an angel for the ball, we know that there are three angels in the three places, and not one and the same angel. Yet the doctrine of God’s omnipresence teaches, that a whole is here, a whole deity there, and a whole deity yonder; and yet it is one and the same deity which is present at each place. If an entire deity may dwell, at the same time, in three separate places, and yet be but one, why may not an entire deity dwell in the three separate persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and yet be but one God? There is, perhaps no analogy between the two cases, except in this, that they alike confound our arithmetic; but this analogy is sufficient for our present purpose. Were God’s mode of existence like that of created things, either material or spiritual, he could not be in several places at the same time, or in three distinct persons; and yet be an undivided unit. We are compelled to admit the omnipresence of God, and we should admit, with equal faith, on the authority of God’s word, the doctrine of the Trinity, ascribing the difficulty of the subject to the incomprehensibility of the divine nature.

The doctrine of God’s omnipresence has, in one particular, greater difficulty, than that of the Trinity. The latter has a relief not discoverable in the other, arising from the consideration, that God is not three and one in the same respect. God is three in person, one in essence; and, although we may be unable to explain the precise difference between person and essence, the fact that there is a difference, relieves the doctrine from the charge of inconsistency.

We study the human mind in the phenomena which it exhibits. The operations of memory, imagination, reasoning, &c., differ widely from each other; but we refer them all to the one indivisible substance, called mind, of which we have no knowledge, except what we acquire from the phenomena. What we know of God, we learn from the manifestations which he has made of himself, in his works and word. In these manifestations, we discover the personal distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; yet, as taught by the divine word, we refer all the manifestations to the one indivisible essence, in which the unity of God consists. It is not a threefold manifestation of the same person, as the Sabellians hold; but a manifestation of three distinct persons, counselling and covenanting with each other, one sending another, one speaking to another, and of the third, &c. Nothing like this appears in the phenomena of one human mind: but we cannot thence infer, that it cannot be in the manifestations of one divine mind.

The word Trinity is not in the Bible, and objection has therefore been made to its use. As signifying tri-unity, three in one, it is an expressive name for the doctrine. As a convenient word, we are at liberty to use it, as we do many other words not found in the Bible; and the propriety of using it is the greater, because there is no single word in the Bible, which can be substituted for it. But we are under no obligation to contend for the name, which is human, provided we firmly maintain the doctrine, which is divine.

The word person, also which is used in stating this doctrine, is without Scripture precedent. Some have cited, as authority for its use, the passage in Heb. i. 3: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” Here, it is alleged, the person of the Father is mentioned; and, as the Son is his express image, we must conclude that he, also, is a person; and, having established the personal distinction between the Father and the Son, no doubt can remain, that the Holy Spirit is a third person. To all this, it may be answered, that the word person is not a good rendering of the Greek word here used, the sense of which would be better expressed by the word substance. The passage properly interpreted, refers to the full display of the Godhead, made through Jesus Christ as mediator, and not to the relation subsisting among the divine persons. But though there is no Scripture precedent for the use of the word, must it therefore be abandoned? A scrupulosity, which should refuse to use any word not found in the Bible, would be unwise, and lead to no good result. No one would refuse to apply the word person to Jesus Christ, and speak of him as a holy and just person, an extraordinary or wonderful person; or to say that his divine and human natures are united in one person: yet it would be difficult to produce Scripture precedent for this application of the term. Paul does speak, in 2 Cor. ii. 10, of “the person of Christ:” but a better rendering of this passage would be, “in the presence of Christ:” and Pilate’s wife said, Matt. xxvii.: “Have thou nothing to do with this just person:” but the word person is here supplied by our translators, and has no word corresponding to it in the original text. Yet our translators, in applying this word to Christ, have conformed to the common usage of the word, adopted and sustained by the common sense of mankind. Now, if Jesus Christ was a person, in the common acceptation of the term; and if he addressed his Father, and spoke of the Holy Spirit, as one human person would address another, and speak of a third, it must be an excessive scrupulosity, which refuses to apply the term to the Father, and the Holy Spirit, as well as the Son. Some have preferred to substitute the word manifestation; but this is equally without Scripture precedent; and to say, that one manifestation speaks to another, and of a third: would be unintelligible. We may, therefore, defend the use of the term person, provided we remember that it is a human expedient to avoid circumlocution. But if any one proceed to draw from the term, an inference which will affect the doctrine, he must be reminded that the word is human. If any one should infer, when we speak of the three divine persons, that they are as distinct from each other, in every respect, as the three human persons, Peter, James, and John, he is building an inference, on a foundation not authorized by the word of God.

[1] Matt. xxviii. 19; 2 Cor. xiii. 14; Rev. i. 4; Gen. i. 26; iii. 22; xi. 7; Isaiah xlviii. 16; John xiv. 16; Matt. iii. 16, 17.

[2] Deut. vi. 4.

[3] Gen. i. 26.

[4] Gen. xi. 7.

[5] Gen. iii. 22.

[6] Isaiah vi. 3.

[7] Num. vi. 24–26.

[8] Isaiah xlviii. 16; lxi. 1; lxiii. 7–10.

[9] Matt. xxviii. 19.

[10] Gen. i. 2; Job xxvi. 13; John i. 3.

[11] Heb. i. 3; Isaiah xxxiv. 15, 16.

[12] 1 Cor. viii. 5, 6.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

The Wednesday Word: Seeing the Father!

“In Christ the invisible God has become visible. Whoever sees Him sees the Father (John 14:9). Whoever wants to know who God is and what He is must behold the Christ. As Christ is, such is the Father.”

Herman Bavinck: The Divine and Human Natures of Christ

Have you ever tried witnessing to a person who hates the doctrine of Christ’s deity? They smugly say, “Well, of course, Jesus never claimed to be God, he merely claimed to be the Son of God! Oh really? The next time this happens, take them to the Scripture and show them this, “Philip said unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us. Jesus said unto him, “Have I been so long a time with you, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He that has seen me has seen the Father; and why do you say then, Show us the Father? John 14:8-9.

It doesn’t get any simpler than this! Philip had had enough of these references to the Father and asked Jesus plainly to, “Show us the Father.” Christ’s response is astonishing. He says, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me has seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

Was Jesus mistaken about His own identity? Was He simply a good man with a God -consciousness? Or was He merely a man possessed by God? Call it whatever way you will, if Jesus is wrong about being the God/Man, He’s a fruitcake! Listen to what He boldly declares, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” In other words, He’s saying, “Philip I’m the visible image of the invisible God. Philip, you don’t have to guess anymore about what God is like, I am God in human form.”

This is stout stuff! Jesus most clearly and without ambivalence claimed to be God. John writes at the beginning of his gospel; “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John: 1:18).

The word translated ‘declared’ is of utmost interest. It is the Greek word ‘exegeomai’ from which we get the English words exegete and exegesis. When a preacher exegetes a passage of scripture, he brings out all that is contained in the verses. He declares what is there. He dares not read into the passage things that are not there otherwise he would be practicing eisegesis and not exegesis. Christ, according to John 1:18, is the exegesis of God. He has fully declared him. Is it any wonder then that He can say to Philip “If you have seen me you have seen the Father?” Horatius Bonar astutely remarks;

“Christ’s person is a revelation of God. Christ’s work is a revelation of God. He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. His words and works are the words and works of the Father. In the manger, He showed us God. In the synagogue of Nazareth, He showed us God. At Jacob’s well, He showed us God. At the tomb of Lazarus, He showed us God. On Olivet, as He wept over Jerusalem, He showed us God. On the cross, He showed us God. In His resurrection He showed us God. If we say with Philip “Show us the Father and it is sufficient for us,” He answers, “Have I been so long a time with you and yet hast thou not known me? He that has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:8-9). This God, whom Christ reveals as the God of righteous grace and gracious righteousness, is the God with whom we have to do.”

Horatius Bonar: God’s Way of Peace: Chapter 3

Do we understand the incarnation (God becoming man)? I for one do not. It is a mystery (1 Timothy 3:16). I can’t explain it, but I can declare it. God came here Himself, became one of us and yet remained fully God. Then as one of us, as a real and genuine human, He surrendered Himself to the ignominious death of the cross. No wonder the hymn writer declares, “Hallelujah, what a Saviour!”

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com

Anti Trinitarians refuted by ancient Christian writers

March 11, 2015 2 comments

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Anti Trinitarians refuted by ancient Christian writers; e. g., Justin, Hilary. Objections drawn from writings improperly attributed to Ignatius. Conclusion of the whole discussion concerning the Trinity.

29. Assuredly, whosoever will compare the writings of the ancient fathers with each other, will not find any thing in Irenaeus different from what is taught by those who come after him. Justin is one of the most ancient, and he agrees with us out and out. Let them object that, by him and others, the Father of Christ is called the one God. The same thing is taught by Hilary, who uses the still harsher expression, that Eternity is in the Father. Is it that he may withhold divine essence from the Son? His whole work is a defense of the doctrine which we maintain; and yet these men are not ashamed to produce some kind of mutilated excerpts for the purpose of persuading us that Hilary is a patron of their heresy. With regard to what they pretend as to Ignatius, if they would have it to be of the least importance, let them prove that the apostles enacted laws concerning Lent, and other corruptions. Nothing can be more nauseating, than the absurdities which have been published under the name of Ignatius; and therefore, the conduct of those who provide themselves with such masks for deception is the less entitled to toleration.

Moreover, the consent of the ancient fathers clearly appears from this, that in the Council of Nice, no attempt was made by Arius to cloak his heresy by the authority of any approved author; and no Greek or Latin writer apologizes as dissenting from his predecessors. It cannot be necessary to observe how carefully Augustine, to whom all these miscreants are most violently opposed, examined all ancient writings, and how reverently he embraced the doctrine taught by them, (August. lib. De Trinit. etc.) He is most scrupulous in stating the grounds on which he is forced to differ from them, even in the minutest point. On this subject, too, if he finds any thing ambiguous or obscure in other writers, he does not disguise it. And he assumes it as an acknowledged fact, that the doctrine opposed by the Arians was received without dispute from the earliest antiquity. At the same time, he was not ignorant of what some others had previously taught. This is obvious from a single expression. When he says (De Doct. Christ. lib. 1.) that “unity is in the Father,” will they pretend that he then forgot himself? In another passage, he clears away every such charge, when he calls the Father the beginning of the Godhead, a being from none — thus wisely inferring that the name of God is specially ascribed to the Father, because, unless the beginning were from him, the simple unity of essence could not be maintained. I hope the pious reader will admit that I have now disposed of all the calumnies by which Satan has hitherto attempted to pervert or obscure the pure doctrine of faith. The whole substance of the doctrine has, I trust, been faithfully expounded, if my readers will set bounds to their curiosity, and not long more eagerly than they ought for perplexing disputation. I did not undertake to satisfy those who delight in speculate views, but I have not designedly omitted any thing which I thought adverse to me. At the same time, studying the edification of the Church, I have thought it better not to touch on various topics, which could have yielded little profit, while they must have needlessly burdened and fatigued the reader. For instance, what avails it to discuss, as Lombard does at length, (lib. 1 dist. 9,) Whether or not the Father always generates? This idea of continual generation becomes an absurd fiction from the moment it is seen, that from eternity there were three persons in one God.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation

A reply to those who think Tertullian is on their side in denying the Trinity

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Reply to certain passages produced from Tertullian. The meaning of Tertullian.

28. With no more truth do they claim Tertullian as a patron. Though his style is sometimes rugged and obscure, he delivers the doctrine which we maintain in no ambiguous manner, namely, that while there is one God, his Word, however, is with dispensation or economy; that there is only one God in unity of substance; but that, nevertheless, by the mystery of dispensation, the unity is arranged into Trinity; that there are three, not in state, but in degree — not in substance, but in form — not in power, but in order. He says indeed that he holds the Son to be second to the Father; but he means that the only difference is by distinction. In one place he says the Son is visible; but after he has discoursed on both views, he declares that he is invisible regarded as the Word. In fine, by affirming that the Father is characterized by his own Person, he shows that he is very far from countenancing the fiction which we refute. And although he does not acknowledge any other God than the Father, yet, explaining himself in the immediate context, he shows that he does not speak exclusively in respect of the Son, because he denies that he is a different God from the Father; and, accordingly, that the one supremacy is not violated by the distinction of Person. And it is easy to collect his meaning from the whole tenor of his discourse. For he contends against Praxeas, that although God has three distinct Persons, yet there are not several gods, nor is unity divided. According to the fiction of Praxeas, Christ could not be God without being the Father also; and this is the reason why Tertullian dwells so much on the distinction. When he calls the Word and Spirit a portion of the whole, the expression, though harsh, may be allowed, since it does not refer to the substance, but only (as Tertullian himself testifies) denotes arrangement and economy which applies to the persons only. Accordingly, he asks, “How many persons, Praxeas, do you think there are, but just as many as there are names for?” In the same way, he shortly after says, “That they may believe the Father and the Son, each in his own name and person.” These things, I think, sufficiently refute the effrontery of those who endeavor to blind the simple by pretending the authority of Tertullian.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation

A reply to those who think Irenaeus is on their side in denying the Trinity

February 25, 2015 2 comments

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Reply to certain passages produced from Irenaeus. The meaning of Irenaeus.

27. In the many passages which they collect from Irenaeus, in which he maintains that the Father of Christ is the only eternal God of Israel, they betray shameful ignorance, or very great dishonesty. For they ought to have observed, that that holy man was contending against certain frantic persons, who, denying that the Father of Christ was that God who had in old times spoken by Moses and the prophets, held that he was some phantom or other produced from the pollution of the world. His whole object, therefore, is to make it plain, that in the Scriptures no other God is announced but the Father of Christ; that it is wicked to imagine any other. Accordingly, there is nothing strange in his so often concluding that the God of Israel was no other than he who is celebrated by Christ and the apostles. Now, when a different heresy is to be resisted, we also say with truth, that the God who in old times appeared to the fathers, was no other than Christ. Moreover, if it is objected that he was the Father, we have the answer ready, that while we contend for the divinity of the Son, we by no means exclude the Father. When the reader attends to the purpose of Irenaeus, the dispute is at an end. Indeed, we have only to look to lib. 3 c. 6, where the pious writer insists on this one point, “that he who in Scripture is called God absolutely and indefinitely, is truly the only God; and that Christ is called God absolutely.” Let us remember (as appears from the whole work, and especially from lib. 2 c. 46,) that the point under discussion was, that the name of Father is not applied enigmatically and parabolically to one who was not truly God. We may adds that in lib. 3 c. 9, he contends that the Son as well as the Father united was the God proclaimed by the prophets and apostles. He afterwards explains (lib. 3 c. 12) how Christ, who is Lord of all, and King and Judge, received power from him who is God of all, namely, in respect of the humiliation by which he humbled himself, even to the death of the cross. At the same time he shortly after affirms, (lib. 3 c. 16,) that the Son is the maker of heaven and earth, who delivered the law by th hand of Moses, and appeared to the fathers. Should any babbler now insist that, according to Irenaeus, the Father alone is the God of Israel, I will refer him to a passage in which Irenaeus distinctly says, (lib. 3 c. 18, 23,) that Christ is ever one and the same, and also applies to Christ the words of the prophecy of Habakkuk, “God cometh from the south.” To the same effect he says, (lib. 4 c. 9,) “Therefore, Christ himself, with the Father, is the God of the living.” And in the 12th chapter of the same book he explains that Abraham believed God, because Christ is the maker of heaven and earth, and very God.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation

The name ‘God’ is used of the Father only in respect of order within the Godhead

February 18, 2015 2 comments

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Previous refutations further explained.

26. To the objection, that if Christ be properly God, he is improperly called the Son of God, it has been already answered, that when one person is compared with another, the name God is not used indefinitely, but is restricted to the Father, regarded as the beginning of the Godhead, not by essentiating, as fanatics absurdly express it, but in respect of order. In this sense are to be understood the words which Christ addressed to the Father, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” (John 17:3.) For speaking in the person of the Mediator, he holds a middle place between God and man; yet so that his majesty is not diminished thereby. For though he humbled (emptied) himself, he did not lose the glory which he had with the Father, though it was concealed from the world. So in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:10; 2:9,) though the apostle confesses that Christ was made a little lower than the angels, he at the same time hesitates not to assert that he is the eternal God who founded the earth. We must hold, therefore, that as often as Christ, in the character of Mediator, addresses the Father, he, under the term God, includes his own divinity also. Thus, when he says to the apostles, “It is expedient for you that I go away,” “My Father is greater than I,” he does not attribute to himself a secondary divinity merely, as if in regard to eternal essence he were inferior to the Father; but having obtained celestial glory, he gathers together the faithful to share it with him. He places the Father in the higher degree, inasmuch as the full perfection of brightness conspicuous in heaven, differs from that measure of glory which he himself displayed when clothed in flesh. For the same reason Paul says, that Christ will restore “the kingdom to God, even the Father,” “that God may be all in all,” (1 Corinthians 15:24, 28.) Nothing can be more absurd than to deny the perpetuity of Christ’s divinity. But if he will never cease to be the Son of God, but will ever remain the same that he was from the beginning, it follows that under the name of Father the one divine essence common to both is comprehended. And assuredly Christ descended to us for the very purpose of raising us to the Father, and thereby, at the same time, raising us to himself, inasmuch as he is one with the Father. It is therefore erroneous and impious to confine the name of God to the Father, so as to deny it to the Son. Accordingly, John, declaring that he is the true God, has no idea of placing him beneath the Father in a subordinate rank of divinity. I wonder what these fabricators of new gods mean, when they confess that Christ is truly God, and yet exclude him from the godhead of the Father, as if there could be any true God but the one God, or as if transfused divinity were not a mere modern fiction.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 13-Henry Beveridge Translation