The Ancient Faith
GOD PROPERLY REVEALED ONLY IN AND THROUGH THE BIBLE
In speaking of God, we must be very careful not to be wise above what is written. For “no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him!” (Matt 11:27).
CUDWORTH’S ARGUMENT FROM PHILOSOPHICAL NECESSITY
True, indeed, it may be said, that “Something is, and therefore something eternally was.” For as the ancients taught: “Ex nihilo, nihil fit“—from nothing, nothing comes. And hence it follows of necessity that something must have existed from eternity.
MEANING OF PSALM 19:1 and ROMANS 1:20
When, therefore, it is said, “The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handiwork,” (Psa. 19:1); and again, “ The invisible things of him, since the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhood” (Rom. 1:20)—in all such passages, nothing more is intended than that such is the testimony of nature to him, to whom God has revealed himself, and whose mind is not blinded and perverted by sin.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES CONCERNING GOD
To the Bible, then, we must look primarily and chiefly for a knowledge of the being, character, and attributes of God. In it we are taught all things that it is really necessary we should know concerning Him, in order, to our present and eternal well-being. Such, for example, are the following particulars:
That God is one. “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah?” (Deut. 6:4).
HIS THREEFOLD PERSONALITY PROVED
- That in this sublime and incomprehensible unity there is also embraced a threefold personality. This is evident from such passages as the Personality following: proved.
- From Genesis 1:1. It is true that in this verse the verb created (toil) is singular; but the name God (Eloheim) is plural. And hence it seems that the Holy Spirit labors even here, as it often does elsewhere, to guard the readers of the Bible against the extremes of both Polytheism and Unitarianism.
- A still more striking instance of this plurality in the Divine Unity occurs in Genesis 1:26. Genesis 1:26. “And God said, Let US make man in OUR image; after OUR likeness.” Here the name Eloheim, the pronouns “us” and “our”, and the verb “make”, all serve to reveal and to express the plurality of our Creator in some sense. I know it is alleged by some that this language is used merely in imitation of the majestic style with regard to of kings; and by others, that this address was delivered to angels. But in reply to the first of these hypotheses, it is enough to say that no such majestic style was then in being. And with regard to the second, I need only remind the reader that angels are not creators, but simply creatures. God himself is the only Creator revealed to us in the Living Oracles. And hence we are constrained, by a fair and rational exegesis of this passage, to regard these words of the Holy Spirit as an expression of plurality in the Divine unity.
- Another very remarkable example of this Trinity is given in the formula of Christian Baptism. Matt. 28:19. “Baptize them,” said our Redeemer, “into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Here there is clearly but one Divinity, and yet a threefold personality.
- Each of these three persons is called God in the Holy Scriptures. See 1 Cor.8:6; John 1:1 and Acts 5:3, 4.
I need not multiply examples and illustrations. The Divine Unity in one sense, and the Divine Plurality in some other and different sense, are both as clearly revealed in the Bible as anything else. And for us who believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, this is of course sufficient. To reconcile fully these two attributes of the Divine nature and character, and to explain satisfactorily in what they severally consist, may, for aught we know, be above the capacity of the Archangel. Indeed, to do this may require a perfect knowledge of the Divine nature. Βut, of course, the finite cannot comprehend the Infinite (Job 11:7). Let us, then, not attempt to be wise beyond or above what is written; but let us humbly and gratefully receive this sublime truth as a matter of faith, just as we are compelled to receive many other things that are clearly revealed in the three great volumes of creation, providence, and redemption.
GOD’S ESSENCE IS SPIRIT, NOT MATTER
It is also clearly taught in the Holy Bible, that God is Spirit (John 4:24); and, moreover that a spirit has not flesh and bones as we find in the human body (Luke 24:39). And hence it is only by a figure of speech (anthropomorphism) that we ascribe any form of material organization to God.
That he is omniscient—a being of infinite knowledge. This is proved,
- By his works. He has weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.
- By prophecy. None but a being of infinite knowledge could have foretold what the Bible reveals to us.
- By the direct testimony of the Scriptures (Isa. 40:9, 10; Acts 15:18; Romans 16:27). Finite knowledge is nothing compared with that which is infinite.
That he is omnipotent. This is proved,
- By his works (Psalms viii and xix).
- By direct testimony (Genesis xvii:1; and Revelation iv:8).
That he is omnipresent (1 Kings viii:27; Psa. cxxxix:7-10; Jeremiah xxiii:23, 24; Acts xvii:27, 28).
That he is infinitely just. This is beautifully illustrated by Psalm lxxxix:14: “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne.”
And hence the death of Christ was necessary in order to the justification of the believer (Rom. 3:25; Luke 24:46).
That he is infinite in holiness. Isa. 6:3 and Rev. 4:8; 15:4.
That he is infinite in goodness; i. e., that in all cases he acts for the greatest good of the whole creation. Psalm cxlv, 9; and Matthew xix, 17.
That he is eternal; without beginning of days or end of life. Psalm xc, 2; and 1 Timothy i, 17.
That he is unchangeable. “With him is no variableness, not even the shadow of turning.” James 1:17.
THE SOURCE OF ALL THINGS
That he is the Creator of all things (Prov, xvi, 4; Rom. xi, 33-36; Rev. iv, 11).
From these premises it follows:
- That God makes no experiments: that he never repents as man repents, (1 Samuel xv, 29,) and He is never disappointed in any issue or contingency that can possibly arise. And hence it follows, that when God is said to repent, it is only by a figure (anthropopathy), in condescension to our imperfections. See Genesis vi, 6.
- That his own nature is the Constitution of the universe; according to which all things Constitution of were created and all laws enacted.
- That his will is the only proper standard of rectitude (John iv, 34; and 1 Cor. vi, 20).
How long Jehovah existed alone, or at what epoch his creative voice first broke the silence of eternity, we have no means of knowing with absolute certainty. But it is probable that things material” were first created, and afterward such beings as are purely spiritual or of a mixed constitution. Be this as it may, it seems pretty evident from Genesis 1:1, that in the beginning, perhaps in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, all the matter of the entire universe was at once launched into being by a single and almighty fiat of Jehovah. No subsequent readjustment of forces was necessary. At the simple command of the Great Architect, suns, and moons, and stars, and systems sprang into existence. And though they were perhaps at first in a chaotic state, they immediately commenced their march sublime under the laws and forces of universal gravitation. “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.”
MEANING OF THE WORD “CREATE” IN GENESIS 1:1
That this was an absolute creation of matter, and not a mere renovation of something previously existing, is evident, 1. From the context. For,
- A mere change or renovation is ordinarily expressed by the the word ahsah and not by the word bahrah.
- The beginning of the Adamic renovation is evidently described in the third verse of this chapter.
- In Genesis 2:3, both the words bahrah and ahsah are used: the former to describe creation absolute, as in Genesis 1:1, and the latter to describe the Adamic renovation as it is given and explained in Genesis i, 3-31.
- From parallel passages.
John 1:1-3. In these words we are assured that “all things began to be (έγένετο) through the Word.”
Heb. 11:3. Here the apostle clearly distinguishes this primary and absolute creation of matter from all subsequent changes and renovations of the same by the statement that “the things which are now seen were not made out of things which do appear.”
[This is from Robert Milligan’s book The Scheme of Redemption printed in (1868)]