§5. CONCERNING THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
1. THE CONCEPTION OF THE ATTRIBUTES.
In the theological terminology the attributes are called attributa. Proprietates set forth the trinitarian relationship and praedicata special acts, such as creation, etc. But in speaking of the attributes and the predicates we must not consider the former as inactive, for God is an actus purissimus.
The attributes are based upon the essential characteristics of God’s essence. The attributes set forth the relationship of God’s essence to the world. His essential characteristics are therefore both transcendent and immanent. They have two sides, one inward toward God Himself, the other outward toward the world. In the latter case the essential characteristics become the same as the attributes. The attributes are not supplements to the essence of God which can be laid aside without detriment to the divine being. The attributes are therefore unchangeable and permanent. GERHARD says that the attributes, considered per se, are really one with the divine essence. God is not, therefore, a combination of essence and attributes.
With regard to the subjectivity of the attributes it may be remarked that they are not the subjective products of our thought, but are grounded in the essence of God and are objectively true, although they are not to be considered as disintegrated parts. Their relation is such that they subsist in and through each other. Each attribute expresses the whole of the divine essence, otherwise the essence would be divided. However, this does not nullify the distinction above mentioned. Each attribute gives expression to the divine essence in a special manner.
Various opinions have appeared from time to time concerning the objectivity and the subjectivity of the divine attributes. According to AUGUSTINE they are distinguished subjectively only in our own thought. In De trin., VI, 7, he says: “His greatness is the same as His wisdom, for He is not great by bulk but by power; His goodness is the same as His wisdom and His greatness, and His truth is the same as all these things, and in Him it is not one thing to be blessed and another thing to be great or wise, true, good, or in a word, to be Himself.” THOMAS AQUINAS said that the conceptual distinctions on the part of man were well grounded objectively (fundamentum aliquid in re) , and distinguished between distinctio rationis ratiocinantis, a subjective distinction, and distinctio rationis ratiocinatae , which is grounded in the object. QUENSTEDT follows Thomas Aquinas and uses his terms, but says, nevertheless, that strictly and correctly speaking, God has no attributes, but is the most simple essence, which cannot be resolved into parts and is without all composition. By reason of the fact that we cannot comprehend the divine essence in an adequate manner, therefore we endeavor to apprehend it by means of distinct and inadequate conceptions which imperfectly represent the divine essence, and these conceptions are called attributes. HOLLAZIUS says: “The divine attributes are distinguished from the divine essence and from each other not nominally, nor really, but formally, according to our mode of conceiving, not without a certain foundation of distinction.” SCHLEIERMACHER says that the attributes do not represent anything in the essence of God, nor in His relation to the world, but are the relationships inherent in the idea of God as found in the Christian consciousness. THOMASIUS considers that the attributes are found not only in our reason, but also in God Himself. PHILLIPPI takes the view that they are not objective and distinct attributes in the essence of God, but that they are nevertheless true and grounded in the revelation of God.
2. HOW WE GAIN KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
The Church Fathers in general taught that we gain knowledge of the attributes in three ways. Dogmaticians, such as Gerhard and Hollazius, used the same method and likewise taught that we gain knowledge of the attributes via negationis, via causalitatis and via eminentiae.
Via negationis sets out from the principle: quod summe perfectum est, ei nullus inest defectus, or that there is no imperfection in that which in the highest sense is perfect. We remove from God whatever implies imperfection in creatures, and ascribe to Him an opposite perfection, so that we say that He is perfect, independent, immeasurable, immortal, etc.
Via causalitatis is based upon the following principle: effectus testatur de causa ejusque perfectione, or that an effect testifies of the cause and its perfection. We ascribe to God as the cause the good attributes which are revealed in His works.
Via eminentiae is derived from the principle: quidquid exstat in effectu praeexistit in causa, or whatever exists in the effect, pre-exists in the cause; so that we ascribe to God in the highest degree those attributes which we find in a lower degree in ourselves.
Through via negationis we learn of God’s transcendence and through the other methods we learn of His immanence. It is necessary to unite these three ways and not to separate them, in order to derive a perfect idea of God’s attributes.
3. DIVISION OF THE ATTRIBUTES.
Dogmaticians have divided the attributes in many ways. BAIER, SCHMID and others have divided them into negative attributes, such as unity, simplicity, eternity, immensity and immutability; and positive, such as life, wisdom, justice, truth, power, goodness and perfection. Others, such as BJORLING, divide them into the attributes of being, knowing and willing. The attributes of absolute being are, eternity, omnipresence, immutability, and immensity; the attributes of the absolute intellect are, omniscience, omnisapience; the attributes of the absolute will are, power, holiness, righteousness, truthfulness and love. PHILLIPPI: The attributes of the absolute substance are eternity and omnipresence; of the absolute subject, power and omniscience; of the absolute love, wisdom, righteousness and goodness. THOMASIUS divides the attributes into immanent and relative. Among the former are eternity, immensity, etc., and among the latter power, omniscience, omnipresence, etc. It is our purpose to follow this division in the section of Christology.
Luthardt in his dogmatics makes use of a combination of SCHLEIERMACHER and NITZSCH: 1) Essential characteristics according to the conception of the absolute personality or according to the Scriptures: Life, light and love. 2) Those attributes that express the relationship of the absolute personality to the world: A. God’s relationship to the natural world: a) Distinct from the world (eternity, infinity and immutability); b) Contact with the world (omnipresence, power, omniscience and wisdom); B. God’s relationship to the moral world: a) Separated from but active in the moral world (holiness, righteousness and truthfulness; b) Contact (love as expressed in goodness, mercy, longsuffering, patience, meekness, faithfulness, etc.).
4. ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS.
In accordance with the conception of the absolute personality we might say that the essential characteristics or the transcendental attributes are the following: Perfection or the harmony between being, intellect and will, self-sufficiency and love. In this connection, however, we wish to consider the essential characteristics according to Biblical expressions, as life, light and love.
a. Vita or life. God is the absolute life, the absolutely harmonious life. He possesses the principle of His own existence in Himself. QUENSTEDT says: “The life of God is that attribute by which His essence ever manifests its activity,” Cf. Ezekiel, chap 1, concerning the living creatures and the wheels, etc.; “A living God” (Acts 14: 15); “The Father hath life in himself” (John 5: 26); “Neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17: 25); “Who only hath immortality” (1 Tim. 6: 16).
b. Lux or light. God is the absolute light. Of all things light is the purest. God is therefore the absolute truth, wisdom and holiness. Compare how the divine majesty is described in Ezekiel 1 and in Daniel 7. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1: 17); “And this is the message which we have heard from Him an announce to you, that God is the light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), etc.
c. Amor or love. God lives within Himself the life of everlasting love. In God are found both the subject and object of love and also the union between them. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8); “The Father loveth the Son” (John 3: 35); “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17: 24). Compare vv. 23, 26.
In regard to these three essential characteristics or attributes of the divine essence we add to what is above stated: Vita is the essential attribute which corresponds to His perfection as an expression of the divine intensive or qualitative unity. No one can define life, and God is the essence of life. All life depends on God, spiritual, physical, angelic, human, animal and vegetable. In regard to Logos John says: “In him was life.” The incarnated Logos, or Christ, says: “I am the life.” Christ defines eternal life as knowledge of God and Himself. Cf. John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.” Lux, the second great essential attribute, corresponds to the self-sufficiency of God as expressed by the exclusive or numerical unity of the divine essence. According to the numerical unity God is unicus and none is like Him, and He is the only one who is self-sufficient. He is, therefore, the absolute light and has all light within Himself. And all light in the world has its source in Him. The incarnated Logos is the light of the world. In John 1: 9 we read: “There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world.” In James 1: 17 God is called the Father of lights. Amor is the third attribute which. is characteristic of the divine essence. God is love, which is the material element of the Absolute Personality. The diversification of external attributes was not necessary for God Himself. He lived eternally and lives eternally in love. When God created angels and man the love of God flowed out in the universe. What would the world be without the life, light and love of God !
5. THE SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES.
A. In Relation to the Natural World.
a. Immanent Attributes, Distinct from the Natural World.
AEternitas, or eternity, is that attribute of God which expresses His possession of the fulness of infinite life and that in an absolute sense He is independent of time by which all finite existences are conditioned.
We cannot comprehend the idea of eternity because we view it from the standpoint of time and because we lack suitable analogies. Someone has compared eternity to a circle and time to a line passing off from the periphery of the circle. It might still better be said that the line is within the periphery. In the nature of the case God must be eternal also from the point of view that He is without beginning, for who or what could have existed if God had not been? We cannot conceive of anything existing before God. And if there was nothing, neither could there be the concept “nothing.” We cannot comprehend the eternity of God because of the limitations of our thought, but it would be just as incomprehensible that God should not be eternal.
Among Scripture passages the following may be here noted: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Ps. 90: 2); “Thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end” (Ps. 102: 27); “With thee is the fountain of life” (Ps. 36: 9); “His everlasting power and divinity” (Rom. 1: 20); “And he is before all things” (Col. 1: 17); “And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever” (Rev. 10: 6), etc.
AUGUSTINE understood eternity to be never-ceasing being, BOETHIUS defines eternity thus: Quod sit interminabilis vitae tota simul et perfecta possessio. ANSELM declares that concerning God it can only be said that He is. THOMAS AQUINAS said that eternity is the same as tota simul. GERHARD says that the Scholastics define eternity as follows: Quod sit duratio interminabilis, indivisibilis et independens. Interminabilis, quia excludit terminum a quo et ad quem; indivisibilis, quia excludit omnem successionem temporis; independens, quia excludit omnem imperfectionem ac mutationem. HASE defines: “That attribute by which God, Himself independent of all time, is the creator of time, by which all finite existences are conditioned.” MARTENSEN: “God is eternal as that essence which possesses life and fulness in itself, a living eternity which ever blossoms forth in unfading youth.” LUTHARDT: “Supertime, which is not quantitatively but qualitatively separated from that which exists in time, that which is purely present, and which therefore comprises the background which sustains time and which at every moment can dwell within the same.”
Immensitas, immensity, BAIER defines: “The immensity of God consists in this, that the divine essence cannot be measured by, or included within, any local limits.” Immensity is the infinity of God or His absolute transcendence above spatial relations. We must understand God’s immensity not extensively but intensively.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith Jehovah” (Jer. 23: 24); “But will God in very deed dwell on earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded!” (1 Kings 8: 27),
Immutabilitas or immutability, according to BJORLING, is that attribute by which God, independent of time, is also independent of all those changes that continually take place in time. BAIER: “Immutabilitas consistit in eo, quod Deus nulli mutationi, neque secundum esse, neque secundum accidentia, neque secundum locum, neque secundum voluntatem aut propositum est obnoxius.” According to this definition the immutability of God consists in this, that God cannot be subject to any change: 1) in regard to essence, because He is eternal, 2) in regard to accidental attributes, because all in God is essential, 3) in regard to space, because He is omnipresent, 4) in regard to will, because He can do what He wills, 5) in regard to purpose or resolution, because He is omniscient and all-wise. But the immutability of God ad extra and ad intra does not imply a monotonous sameness, a barren, petrified existence, or such like. When, therefore, we read of God’s repentance, and that He does not punish men when they repent, as in Nineveh, although He had threatened to punish, this does not militate against His immutability, but rather emphasizes it, because God thereby corresponds to His own nature. God’s seeming change is in fact a change of relation on the part of man. When sinners, like the people of Nineveh, are wicked and do not repent, they are exposed to the justice of God, but when they repent, they enter into a new relation and receive God’s grace and mercy. As an analogy we may use the sun and our relation to it. We may place ourselves in such a relation to the sun that we are healed and live, but we may also expose ourselves in such a way that we are hurt and killed by sunstroke. God is not only love, but also a consuming fire. Each attribute of God works immutably according to its nature. How God’s love and justice work immutably and do not conflict is evident in the great work of reconciliation. In love God sends His Son and in justice He sacrifices Him for the expiation of the sins of the world. The immutability of God is an earnest that in a living way He answers to all His attributes. Prayer, for instance, would be worthless, if God were mutable ad intra or ad extra. But because He is immutable, therefore prayer has a sure foundation. God appears in history and enters into the life of individuals and of nations and follows the history of mankind with great sympathy. The following Scripture passages may be quoted: “I, Jehovah, change not” (Mal. 3: 6); “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” (James 1: 17).
b. Relative Attributes Or Attributes Of Contact.
OMNIPRAESENTIA, or omnipresence, HASE defines as follows: “That attribute by which God, Himself independent of all space, is the creator of space, by which all material substances are conditioned.” God’s transcendence as well as His immanence are united in His omnipresence. Of course we are unable to understand completely how God can be omnipresent, but we can understand it in part by presenting certain qualifying characteristics.
Negative characteristics are such as the following: 1) non circumscriptive, because God is not limited as to space; 2) non definitive, as pneumatic bodies and angels are present somewhere; 3) non extensive, by extension as the ether or the universe; 4) non per rarefactionem, because God is not present through rarefaction or diminution; 5) non per multiplicationem or through multiplication; 6) non per divisionem or through the division of His essence. Positive characteristics of His praesentia are the following: 1) illocalis, because, although His throne is in heaven. He is intensively present everywhere but not limited to any certain place; 2) intensiva, or that His essence is of such a nature that He can be present everywhere without extension; 3) repletiva, or that God, Himself contained within no bounds, contains or enfolds all things as in a little point (GERHARD: omnia instar minutissimi puncti continens); 4) Indivisibilis, because ubicunque est, totus est, for God cannot be divided, so that a part of His essence should be at one place and a part at another; 5) incomprehensibilis or incomprehensible, for there is no analogy that can represent the substantial presence, but we can understand that a being can be constituted in such a manner when that being is an absolute personality or God. The thought of man can be at many places. While this is not an analogy, still we may learn from it that God who is an absolute spirit can intensively be present everywhere; 6) operativa, so that God is actively present everywhere. Our soul is operatively present in the body. A speaker in an auditorium is operatively present everywhere in the whole room, although not locally through extension. A king is present in an operative sense throughout his whole kingdom. There is, however, this difference with God, that He is both substantially and operatively present everywhere.
The Scriptures clearly teach the omnipresence of God: “Know therefore this day, and lay it to thy heart, that Jehovah he is God in heaven above and upon earth beneath” (Deut. 4: 39); “Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith Jehovah” (Jer. 23: 24); “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thy hand upon me. If I ascend up into heaven thou art there: if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there” (Ps. 139: 5, 8); “Jehovah is nigh unto all them that call upon him” (Ps. 145: 18); “Christ says: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28: 20): Paul says concerning God: “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17: 28), etc.
HERMES TRISMEGISTUS said that God is an intellectual sphere whose center is everywhere and whose periphery is nowhere. AUGUSTINE said that it would be more suitable to say that all things are in God than that God is in all things. THOMAS AQUINAS said that the essential presence of God gives reality to space and its affections. GERHARD says among many other things on this subject: “Deus est totus in omnibus, totus in singulis, totus in se ipso.” The old Dogmaticians call God’s substantial presence in things immediatio suppositi, and His activity they call immediatio virtutis. The former term implies that there is no intermediary subject, the second that there is no intermediary power beside God’s own. God’s presence has also been considered as revealing His power, grace and glory. The Giessen and Saxon theologians taught a specialis approximatio essential divinae ad substantiam credentium. The Tubingen theologians, however, and especially GERHARD and MUSAEUS in Jena, spoke of a gratiosa operatio. In general it is taught that the presence of God is both substantialis and operativa. Some have taught a modified omnipresence which implies merely an operative presence, while others have taught a relative presence, i. e., God is present wherever He wills to be. But the Scriptures set forth an omnipresence that is more general than those implied in omnipraesentia modificata and relativa, so that we may say that it is an omnipraesentia absoluta which also implies the operativa. The omnipresence of God is absolute, both substantial and operative. Just as the soul in its entirety is everywhere in the body, God as the absolute spirit is totally in every place of the universe. But His presence may not be recognized. As a figure or analogy we may use electricity. There must be an induction. Think of the induction of electricity by Franklin’s kite and how it led to the great electrical inventions ! God has given us the means of grace, and we should use those means. And there may be so-called spiritual induction by prayer, when we realize the presence of God. A Christian feels daily the presence of the Lord in the mystical union. There are many promises as to the presence of the Lord. But God is present independent of our feeling.
OMNIPOTENTIA or power. On the basis of the intensive unity, God is the perfect essence. He is also the absolute power because His will harmonizes with His essence. Omnipotence is therefore that attribute of God by which He can do all things that are not contrary to His will. Omnipotentia is called absoluta when we consider the divine power as active at the creation and in the miracles; relativa or ordinata, when we consider it as mediated through the laws of nature.
The divine will is named and divided as follows: Voluntas necessaria or naturalis, by which God wills and determines Himself, and voluntas libera, by which God determines the whole universe and all definite things. Voluntas libera is divided as follows: 1) with regard to the relation of tho will to outside objects, a) prima, absoluta or antecedens, and b) secunda, conditionata or consequens. The former refers to a disposition of God without reference to any conditions; the latter to one in which conditions and circumstances are considered; 2) with regard to the imparting of the content of the divine will, a) beneplaciti or abscondita, the secret will, and b) signi (on account of certain signs) or revelata, the revealed will. These divisions have mostly arisen through the controversy on election.
The Scriptures present the power or omnipotence of God in the form of figures or in direct statements: “The arm of thy strength” (Ps. 89: 10); “The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly” (Ps. 118: 16); “or he spake, and it was done: he commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33: 9); “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19: 26); “The Lord almighty” (2 Cor. 6: 18; Rev. 1:8), etc.
CHRYSOSTOM and JOHN OF DAMASCUS spoke of an antecedent and subsequent will. PROSPER AQUITANUS distinguished between a secret and a revealed will of God. The former was seria or efficax and the latter was non seria, for the secret will had reference to those chosen for salvation, but the revealed will had reference to the universal call which was not serious. Clearly the secret and the revealed will cannot conflict with each other, for then the veracity of God would be annulled. ABELARD said that God cannot do anything except what He does. We may say that God can do all that He wills, but He does not do all that He can. DUNS SCOTUS declared that God could determine what is good, and therefore conceived God’s will to be arbitrary. LUTHER sanctioned the division of the will as secret and revealed. CALVIN misinterpreted the division in the same manner as Prosper Aquitanus. But the misinterpretation does not hinder the use of terms which, when correctly employed, serve to explain this attribute, as in the relation between the determined order of God and His daily providence.
OMNISCIENTIA or omniscience. By this attribute is meant that God in an immediate and perfect manner knows all that which under certain conditions can happen and be. To God are ascribed memory, vision and foreknowledge. There is, however, no distinction as to the formal part of God’s knowledge, but only as to the objects. With regard to praescientia it may be remarked that there is no determinism implied in it, inasmuch as the acts do not take place by reason of God’s foreknowledge, but God foresees that they shall occur. With regard to the character of God’s knowledge it may be pointed out that it is called intuitiva, in contradistinction to demonstrative and discursive knowledge, for in the thought of God all things are immediately present; simultanea, to distinguish it from that which is successive, for God knows and sees all things simultaneously; distinctissima, or perfectly clear, and verissima, or perfectly true.
Scientia is divided as follows: 1) Scientia necessaria or naturalis, by which is meant that God knows His own absolute essence and all possible things. This knowledge is called scientia simplicis intelligentiae, when the knowledge embraces those possible things that are the objects of thought only. As examples we call attention to the fact that God knows evil ideally or theoretically, but not by personal experience. There are many things we know ideally and are able to present concretely in our minds. The Supreme Mind can understand fully everything and picture it correctly in His own thought. If man had not fallen, evil would have been known to him according to the method of scientia simplicis intelligentiae. 2) Scientia libera or God’s knowledge of all that exists. This knowledge is also called scientia visionis or God’s penetrating vision or perception of real beings and things, coram intuendo. 3) Scientia media or conditionata, by which is meant God’s knowledge of those things that could have happened or can now happen under certain conditions.
There are many Scripture passages that set forth the omniscience of God, among which the following may be quoted: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15: 18); “And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before his eyes” (Heb. 4: 13); “God knoweth all things” (1 John 3: 20); “Thou knowest the hearts of all the children of men” (1 Kings 8: 39); “Thou understandest my thought afar off; There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, Jehovah, thou knowest it altogether” (Ps. 139: 2–4), etc.
ORIGEN said that God’s foreknowledge is not the same as His predetermination, for the free acts do not happen by reason of God’s foreknowledge, but God foresees that they shall happen. However, Origen limited the knowledge of God when he endeavored to prove the finiteness of the world by the argument that God could not understand the world if it were infinite. The term scientia media originated with the Jesuits FONSECA and MOLINA in the sixteenth century during the controversy concerning election. The Socinians declared that the acts of man could not be free by reason of God’s foresight. ROTHE and MARTENSEN both sought to defend the Socinian view asserting that God arranged a schedule of the world plan and that the free acts of man as they occur constitute the filling in of this schedule. However, this view militates against the perfection of God and is not a satisfactory explanation. We must distinguish between the foreknowledge and the predetermination of God. The knowledge of God and His will do not always agree, inasmuch as God knows much that He does not will.
OMNISAPIENTIA or wisdom. God’s wisdom is the perfect correspondence of His thought with the absolute good. God is all-wise because He infallibly knows the best means to be used to accomplish purposed ends. God’s omnisapience implies, therefore, teleology or causa finalis.
The Word of God teaches the omnisapience of God, as in the following passages: “Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? God understandeth the way thereof, and knoweth the place thereof. He made a weight for the wind: yea, He meteth out the waters by measure. When He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder; then did he see it, and declare it” (Job 28: 20, 23, 25–27); “0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God” (Rom. 11: 33); “The only wise God” (Rom. 16: 26); “Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden” (Col. 2: 3), etc.
B. In Relation to the Moral World.
a. Immanent Attributes, Distinct from the Moral World.
SANCTITAS, JUSTITIA INTERNA, or God’s holiness is the correpondence of the will of God with the absolute good or perfection. God’s holiness contains a negative element, inasmuch as God is separated from all that is unclean and sinful, and also a positive element, because God as the absolutely Holy One wills that all creatures should be holy.
BAIER defines God’s holiness as the rectitude of His will, wherefore He wills all things that are right and good in accordance with His eternal law. But Baier adds that God is Himself the law.
JUSTITIA EXTERNA is the term that is used to express the righteousness of God in its narrow and specific sense. Righteousness in a broader sense is understood to include all the moral perfections of God. In the narrow sense the righteousness of God is the same as His holiness in an external sense, which makes laws. Justitia externa is divided in the following way: 1) Legislativa or antecedens, by which is meant God’s legislative righteousness, 2) judicialis, consequens or distributiva, i. e.. His retributive righteousness. This latter is divided as follows: a) remuneratoria, or the remunerative righteousness, b) punitiva, or the punitive righteousness, for which reason God is said to become angry, which implies the righteous reaction of God’s holiness against sin.
The following Scripture passages may be quoted: “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11: 45); “The Holy One in Israel” (Ezek. 39: 7); “And provoked the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 78: 41); “As your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5: 48); “Each shall receive his own reward according to his labor” (1 Cor. 3:8); “After thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works” (Rom. 2: 5, 6). Other passages could be cited.
Many objections have been raised against the righteousness of God, against His righteous government, against His righteous judgment, and some have desired to deny the wrath of God towards sinners. For this reason they have also attacked the doctrine of substitutional atonement. They emphasize the love of God at the cost of His holiness and righteousness and forget that God is holy love, that He loves Himself as the Holy One. God has been compared to a sinful father, who forgives His children. The argument is that God must be more merciful than an earthly father. Indeed, He is more merciful, but He is not sinful, for which reason He is more just. The love of God does not encroach upon His righteousness, nor does His righteousness limit His love. Both attributes function according to their own nature and characteristics. We must remember that when God is forced to manifest His wrath He is not cruel. Even the punishments of hell conform to an infallible justice, and men shall some day acknowledge the righteousness of God as they now acknowledge His love and mercy.
VERACITAS or truthfulness. BAIER defines veracity as that attribute by which God is ever constant in the telling of the truth and in the keeping of His promises. The veracity of God is the correspondence of His thought with His essence, so that God is the absolute truth, which is another acknowledged definition.
The following passages may be quoted: “For Thy loving kindness is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the skies” (Ps. 57: 10); “All thy commandments are faithful” (Ps. 119: 86); “Loving kindness and truth go before thy face” (Ps. 89: 15); “He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to this that God is true” (John 3: 33); “In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal” (Titus 1:2), etc.
b. Attributes of Contact or Relative Attributes.
AMOR or love. HOLLAZIUS defines love in the following manner: “Amare significat velle alicui bonum.” Love may be understood in many ways. GRANFELT combines God’s intra-essential love and His love manifested to the world and defines as follows: “That attribute by which God eternally imparts Himself ad intra and ad extra.”
The Scholastics divide love as follows: 1) complacentia, or that God loves all creatures, in other words, God’s general good-will, 2) benevolentia or His love to man, 3) amicitia or His love for the faithful.
Scripture passages: “God so loved the world” (John 3: 16) . This is the cardinal passage by which to prove God’s general love to men. “Jehovah loveth the righteous” (Ps. 146: 8); of Jesus we read: “Having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13: 1); “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him” (John 14: 21) . The expressions which the Lord uses concerning the faithful manifest the special love (amicitia) which He has for them, such as betrothed, bride, flock, fold, a beautiful crown, a kingly diadem, etc. We might also speak of an amicitia specialis, such as was manifested in relation to such as Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Peter, James, John, Lazarus, etc.
Love manifests itself as bonitas or goodness toward all creatures; gratia or grace toward sinners; misericordia, or mercy towards sinners in their wretchedness; clementia, or meekness, mildness; longanimitas, or long-suffering, in which love manifests itself in the deferring of punishment, and patientia, or patience, which bears with many faults. We should always use the expressions correctly. Bonitas or goodness refers to the love of God as in providence, when the sun shines on all and the rain waters the fields of both good and wicked. Grace should be used in relation to sinners and criminals. Only sinners and criminals before the law of God need grace in the sense of pardon. Mercy is needed on account of the consequences of sins in suffering, sickness and all kinds of misery. God is long-suffering towards the wicked and delays punishment in order to give them an opportunity to repent and reform. God exercises patience towards the pious or His own children in education and correction of faults.
Among the Scripture passages that set forth love from these various points of view are the following: “Jehovah is good to all” (Ps. 145: 9); “Where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly” (Rom. 5: 20); “Jehovah is merciful and gracious” (Ps. 103: 8); “The Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1: 3) “Endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction” (Rom. 9: 22); “Slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness” (Ps. 103: 8); “For he is kind toward the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6: 35); “The riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering” (Rom. 2:4).
FIDELITAS, or fidelity, is that attribute by which God continues to manifest His love and grace until the object has been won. This attribute constitutes the external side, an opus ad extra, of God’s veracity. “He is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10: 23). “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you” (2 Thess. 3:3).