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Of the nature of God.
His second chapter, which is concerning God, his essence, nature, and properties, is second to none in his whole book for blasphemies and reproaches of God and his word.
The description of God which he labours to insinuate is, that he is “one person, of a visible shape and similitude, finite, limited to a certain place, mutable, comprehensible, and obnoxious to turbulent passions, not knowing the things that are future and which shall be done by the sons of men; whom none can love with all his heart, if he believe him to be ‘one in three distinct persons.’ ”
That this is punctually the apprehension and notion concerning God and his being which he labours to beget, by his suiting Scripture expressions to the blasphemous insinuations of his questions, will appear in the consideration of both questions and answers, as they lie in the second chapter of the Greater Catechism.
His first question is, “How many Gods of Christians are there?” and his answer is, “One God,” Eph. iv. 6; whereunto he subjoins secondly, “Who is this one God?” and answers, “The Father, of whom are all things,” 1 Cor. viii. 6.
That the intendment of the connection of these queries, and the suiting of words of Scripture to them, is to insinuate some thoughts against the doctrine of the Trinity, is not questionable, especially being the work of him that makes it his business to oppose it and laugh it to scorn. With what success this attempt is managed, a little consideration of what is offered will evince. It is true, Paul says, “To us there is one God,” treating of the vanity and nothingness of the idols of the heathen, whom God hath threatened to deprive of all worship and to starve out of the world. The question as here proposed, “How many Gods of Christians are there?” having no such occasion administered unto it as that expression of Paul, being no parcel of such a discourse as he insists upon, sounds pleasantly towards the allowance of many gods, though Christians have but one. Neither is Mr B. so averse to polytheism as not to give occasion, on other accounts, to this supposal. Jesus Christ he allows to be a god. All his companions, in the undertaking against 87his truly eternal divine nature, still affirm him to be “Homo Deificatus” and “Deus Factus,”154154 Smalc. de Divinit. Jes. Christ. edit. Racov. anno 1608, per Jacob. Sienienskia; Volkel. de Vera Relig. lib. v. cap. x. pp. 425, 468, et antea, p. 206; Cat. Rac. cap. i., de Cognit. Christ. quæst. 8; Confession de Foi, des Chrestiens, qui croyent en un seul Dieu le Pere, etc., pp. 18, 19; Jonas Schlichtingius, ad Meisner. artic, de Filio Dei, p. 887; Socin. Resp. ad Weik. p. 8; et passim reliqui. and plead “pro vera deitate Jesu Christi,” denying yet, with him, that by nature he is God, of the same essence with the Father; so, indeed, grossly and palpably falling into and closing with that abomination which they pretend above all men to avoid, in their opposition to the thrice holy and blessed Trinity. Of those monstrous figments in Christian religion which on this occasion they have introduced, of making a man to be an eternal God, of worshipping a mere creature with the worship due only to the infinitely blessed God, we shall speak afterward.
We confess that to us there is one God, but one God, and let all others be accursed. “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth,” let them be destroyed, according to the word of the Lord, “from under these heavens,” Jer. x. 11. Yet we say, moreover, that “there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one,” 1 John v. 7. And in that very place whence Mr B. cuts off his first answer, as it is asserted that there is “one God,” so “one Lord” and “one Spirit,” the fountain of all spiritual distributions, are mentioned; which whether they are not also that one God, we shall have farther occasion to consider.
To the next query concerning this one God, who he is, the words are, “The Father, from whom are all things;” in themselves most true. The Father is the one God whom we worship in spirit and in truth; and yet the Son also is “our Lord and our God,” John xx. 28, even “God over all, blessed for ever,” Rom. ix. 5. The Spirit also is the God “which worketh all in all,” 1 Cor. xii. 6, 11. And in the name of that one God, who is the “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” are we baptized, whom we serve, who to us is the one God over all, Matt. xxviii. 19. Neither is that assertion of the Father’s being the one and only true God any more prejudicial to the Son’s being so also, than that testimony given to the everlasting deity of the Son is to that of the Father, notwithstanding that to us there is but one God. The intendment of our author in these questions is to answer what he found in the great exemplar of his Catechism, the Racovian, two of whose questions are comprehensive of all that is here delivered and intended by Mr B.155155 “Exposuisti quæ cognitu ad salutem de essentia Dei sunt prorsus necessaria, expone quæ ad eam rem vehementer utilia esse censeas. R. Id quidem est ut cognoscamus in essentia Dei unam tantum personam esse. Demonstra hoc ipsum. R. Hoc sane vel hinc patere potest, quod essentia Dei sit una numero; quapropter plures numero personæ, in ea esse nullo pacto possunt. Quænam est hæc una Persona divina? Est ille Deus unus, Domini nostri Jesu Christi Pater, 1 Cor. viii. 6.” — Cat. Rac cap. i., de Cognit. Dei, de Dei Essentia. But of these things more afterward.
88His next inquiry is after the nature of this one God, which he answers with that of our Saviour in John iv. 24, “God is a spirit.” In this he is somewhat more modest, though not so wary as his great master, Faustus Socinus, and his disciple (as to his notions about the nature of God) Vorstius. His acknowledgment of God to be a spirit frees him from sharing in impudence in this particular with his master, who will not allow any such thing to be asserted in these words of our Saviour. His words are (Fragment. Disput. de Adorat. Christi cum Christiano Franken, p. 60), “Non est fortasse eorum verborum ea sententia, quam plerique omnes arbitrantur: Deum scilicet esse spiritum, neque enim subaudiendum esse dicit aliquis verbum ἐστὶ, quasi vox πνεῦμα, recto casu accipienda sit, sed ἀπὸ κοινοῦ repetendum verbum ζητεῖ quod paulo ante præcessit, et πνεῦμα quarto casu accipiendum, ita ut sententia sit, Deum quærere et postulare spiritum.” Vorstius also follows him, Not. ad Disput. 3, p. 200. Because the verb substantive “is” is not in the original expressed (than the omission whereof nothing being more frequent, though I have heard of one who, from the like omission, 2 Cor. v. 17, thought to have proved Christ to be the “new creature” there intended), contrary to the context and coherence of the words, design of the argument in hand insisted on by our Saviour (as he was a bold man), and emphaticalness of significancy in the expression as it lies, he will needs thrust in the word “seeketh,” and render the intention of Christ to be, that God seeks a spirit, that is, the spirit of men, to worship him. Herein, I say, is Mr B. more modest than his master (as, it seems, following Crellius,156156 “Significat enim Christus id, quod ratio ilia dictat, Deum, cum spiritus sit, non spiritualibus revera delectari.” — Crell. de Deo: seu de Vera Relig. lib. i, cap. xv. p. 108. “Spiritus est Deus: animadverterunt ibi omnes prope S. literarum interpretes, Dei nomen, quod articulo est in Græco notatum, Subjecti locum tenere: vocem, spiritus, quæ articulo caret, prædicati: et spiritualem significare substautiam. Ita perinde est ac si dictum fuisset, Deus est spiritus, seu spiritualis substantia.” — Idem ibid, p. 107. who in the exposition of that place of Scripture is of another mind), though in craft and foresight he be outgone by him; for if God be a spirit indeed, one of a pure spiritual essence and substance, the image, shape, and similitude, which he afterwards ascribes to him, his corporeal posture, which he asserts (ques. 4), will scarcely be found suitable unto him. It is incumbent on some kind of men to be very wary in what they say, and mindful of what they have said; falsehood hath no consistency in itself, no more than with the truth. Smalcius in the Racovian Catechism is utterly silent as to this question and answer. But the consideration of this also will in its due place succeed.
To his fourth query, about a farther description of God by some of his attributes, I shall not need to subjoin any thing in way of animadversion; for however the texts he cites come short of delivering that of God which the import of the question to which they 89are annexed doth require, yet being not wrested to give countenance to any perverse apprehension of his nature, I shall not need to insist upon the consideration of them.
Ques. 5, he falls closely to his work, in these words, “Is not God, according to the current of the Scriptures, in a certain place, namely, in heaven?” whereunto he answers by many places of Scripture that make mention of God in heaven.
That we may not mistake his mind and intention in this query, some light may be taken from some other passages in his book. In the preface he tells you “That God hath a similitude and shape” (of which afterward), “and hath his place in the heavens” (that “God is in no certain place,” he reckons amongst those errors he opposes, in the same preface; of the same kind he asserteth the belief to be of God’s “being infinite and incomprehensible);” and, Cat. Less. p. 6, “That God glisteneth with glory, and is resident in a certain place of the heavens, so that one may distinguish between his right and left hand by bodily sight.” This is the doctrine of the man with whom we have to do concerning the presence of God. “He is,” saith he, “in heaven, as in a certain place.” That which is in a certain place is finite and limited, as, from the nature of a place and the manner of any thing’s being in a place, shall be instantly evinced. God, then, is finite and limited; be it so (that he is infinite and incomprehensible is yet a Scripture expression): yea, he is so limited as not to be extended to the whole compass and limit of the heavens, but he is in a certain place of the heavens, yea, so circumscribed as that a man may see from his right hand to his left; — wherein Mr B. comes short of Mohammed, who affirms that when he was taken into heaven to the sight of God, he found three days’ journey between his eye-brows; which if so, it will be somewhat hard for any one to see from his right hand to his left, being supposed at an answerable distance to that of his eye-brows. Let us see, then, on what testimony, by what authority, Mr B. doth here limit the Almighty and confine him to a certain place, shutting up his essence and being in some certain part of the heavens, cutting him thereby short, as we shall see in the issue, in all those eternal perfections whereby hitherto he hath been known to the sons of men.
The proof of that lies in the places of Scripture which, making mention of God, say, “he is in heaven,” and that “he looketh down from heaven,” etc.; of which, out of some concordance, some twenty or thirty are by him repeated. Not to make long work of a short business, the Scriptures say, “God is in heaven.” Who ever denied it? But do the Scriptures say he is nowhere else? Do the Scriptures say he is confined to heaven, so that he is so there as not to be in all other places? If Mr B. thinks this any argument, “God is in heaven, therefore his essence is not infinite 90and immense, therefore he is not everywhere,” we are not of his mind. He tells you, in his preface, that he “asserts nothing himself.” I presume his reason was, lest any should call upon him for a proof of his assertions. What he intends to insinuate, and what conceptions of God he labours to ensnare the minds of unlearned and unstable souls withal, in this question under consideration, hath been, from the evidence of his intendment therein, and the concurrent testimony of other expressions of his to the same purpose, demonstrated. To propose any thing directly in way of proof of the truth of that which he labours insensibly to draw the minds of men unto, he was doubtless conscious to himself of so much disability for its performance as to waive that kind of procedure; and therefore his whole endeavour is, having filled, animated, and spirited the understandings of men with the notion couched in his question, to cast in some Scripture expressions, that, as they lie, may seem fitted to the fixing of the notion before begotten in them. As to any attempt of direct proof of what he would hare confirmed, the man of reason is utterly silent.
None of those texts of Scripture where mention is made of God’s being in heaven are, in the coherence and dependence of speech wherein they lie, suited or intended at all to give answer to this question, or any like it, concerning the presence of God or his actual existence in any place, but only in respect of some dispensations of God and works of his, whose fountain and original he would have us to consider in himself, and to come forth from him there where in an eminent manner he manifests his glory. God is, I say, in none of the places by him urged said to be in heaven in respect of his essence or being, nor is it the intention of the Holy Ghost in any of them to declare the manner of God’s essential presence and existence in reference to all or any place; but only by the way of eminency, in respect of manifestations of himself and operations from his glorious presence, doth he so speak of him. And, indeed, in those expressions, heaven doth not so much signify a place as a thing, or at least a place in reference to the things there done, or the peculiar manifestations of the glory of God there; so that if these places should be made use of as to the proof of the figment insinuated, the argument from them would be a non causa pro causa. The reason why God is said to be in heaven is, not because his essence is included in a certain place so called, but because of the more eminent manifestations of his glory there, and the regard which he requires to be had of him manifesting his glory as the first cause and author of all the works which outwardly are of him.
3. God is said to be in heaven in an especial manner, because he hath assigned that as the place of the saints’ expectation of that enjoyment and eternal fruition of himself which he hath promised 91to bless them withal; but for the limiting of his essence to a certain place in heaven, the Scriptures, as we shall see, know nothing, yea, expressly and positively affirm the contrary.
Let us all, then, supply our catechumens, in the room of Mr B.’s, with this question, expressly leading to the things inquired after:— What says the Scripture concerning the essence and presence of God? is it confined and limited to a certain place, or is he infinitely and equally present everywhere?
Ans. “The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath,” Josh. ii. 11. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” 1 Kings viii. 27. “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there,” etc., Ps. cxxxix. 7–10. “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool,” Isa. lxvi. 1, Acts vii. 47, 48. “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord,” Jer. xxiii. 23, 24.
It is of the ubiquity and omnipresence of God that these places expressly treat; and whereas it was manifested before that the expression of God being in heaven doth not at all speak to the abomination which Mr B. would insinuate thereby, the naked rehearsal of those testimonies, so directly asserting and ascribing to the Almighty an infinite, unlimited presence, and that in direct opposition to the gross apprehension of his being confined to a certain place in heaven, is abundantly sufficient to deliver the thoughts and minds of men from any entanglements that Mr B.’s questions and answers (for though it be the word of the Scripture he insists upon, yet male dum recitas incipit esse tuum) might lead them into. On that account no more need be added; but yet this occasion being administered, that truth itself, concerning the omnipresence or ubiquity of God, may be farther cleared and confirmed.
Through the prejudices and ignorance of men, it is inquired whether God be so present in any certain place as not to be also equally elsewhere, everywhere?
Place has been commonly defined to be “superficies corporis ambientis.” Because of sundry inextricable difficulties and the impossibility of suiting it to every place, this definition is now generally decried. That now commonly received is more natural, suited to the natures of things, and obvious to the understanding. A place is “spatium corporis susceptivum,” — any space wherein a body may be received and contained. The first consideration of it is as to its fitness and aptness so to receive any body: so it is in the imagination 92only. The second, as to its actual existence, being filled with that body which it is apt to receive: so may we imagine innumerable spaces in heaven which are apt and able to receive the bodies of the saints, and which actually shall be filled with them when they shall be translated thereunto by the power of God.
Presence in a place is the actual existence of a person in his place, or, as logicians speak, in his ubi, that is, answering the inquiry after him where he is. Though all bodies are in certain places, yet per sons only are said to be present in them. Other things have not properly a presence to be ascribed to them; they are in their proper places, but we do not say they are present in or to their places.
This being the general description of a place and the presence of any therein, it is evident that properly it cannot be spoken at all of God that he is in one place or other, for he is not a body that should fill up the space of its receipt, nor yet in all places, taking the word properly, for so one essence can be but in one place; and if the word should properly be ascribed to God in any sense, it would deprive him of all his infinite perfections.
It is farther said that there be three ways of the presence of any in reference to a place or places. Some are so in a place as to be circumscribed therein in respect of their parts and dimensions, such are their length, breadth, and depth: so doth one part of them fit one part of the place wherein they are, and the whole the whole; so are all solid bodies in a place; so is a man, his whole body in his whole place, his head in one part of it, his arms in another. Some are so conceived to be in a place as that, in relation to it, it may be said of them that they are there in it so as not to be anywhere else, though they have not parts and dimensions filling the place wherein they are, nor are punctually circumscribed with a local space: such is the presence of angels and spirits to the places wherein they are, being not infinite or immense. These are so in some certain place as not to be at the same time, wherein they are so, without it, or elsewhere, or in any other place. And this is proper to all finite, immaterial substances, that are so in a place as not to occupy and fill up that space wherein they are. In respect of place, God is immense, and indistant to all things and places, absent from nothing, no place, contained in none; present to all by and in his infinite essence and being, exerting his power variously, in any or all places, as he pleaseth, revealing and manifesting his glory more or less, as it seemeth good to him.
Of this omnipresence of God, two things are usually inquired after: 1. The thing itself, or the demonstration that he is so omnipresent; 2. The manner of it, or the manifestation and declaring how he is so present. Of this latter, perhaps, sundry things have been over curiously and nicely by some disputed, though, upon a thorough search, their disputes may not appear altogether useless. The schoolmen’s 93distinctions of God’s being in a place repletivè, immensivè, impletivè, superexcedenter, conservativè, attinctive, manifestative, etc. have, some of them at least, foundation in the Scriptures and right reason. That which seems most obnoxious to exception is their assertion of God to be everywhere present, instar puncti; but the sense of that and its intendment is, to express how God is not in a place, rather than how he is. He is not in a place as quantitive bodies, that have the dimensions attending them. Neither could his presence in heaven, by those who shut him up there, be any otherwise conceived, until they were relieved by the rare notions of Mr B. concerning the distinct places of his right hand and left. But it is not at all about the manner of God’s presence that I am occasioned to speak, but only of the thing itself. They who say he is in heaven only speak as to the thing, and not as to the manner of it. When we say he is everywhere, our assertion is also to be interpreted as to that only; the manner of his presence being purely of a philosophical consideration, his presence itself divinely revealed, and necessarily attending his divine perfections; yea, it is an essential property of God. The properties of God are either absolute or relative. The absolute properties of God are such as may be considered without the supposition of any thing else whatever, towards which their energy and efficacy should be exerted. His relative are such as, in their egress and exercise, respect some things in the creatures, though they naturally and eternally reside in God. Of the first sort is God’s immensity; it is an absolute property of his nature and being. For God to be immense, infinite, unbounded, unlimited, is as necessary to him as to be God; that is, it is of his essential perfection so to be. The ubiquity of God, or his presence to all things and persons, is a relative property of God; for to say that God is present in and to all things supposes those things to be. Indeed, the ubiquity of God is the habitude of his immensity to the creation. Supposing the creatures, the world that is, God is by reason of his immensity in-distant to them all; or if more worlds be supposed (as all things possible to the power of God without any absurdity may be supposed), on the same account as he is omnipresent in reference to the present world, he would be so to them and all that is in them.
Of that which we affirm in this matter this is the sum: God, who in his own being and essence is infinite and immense, is, by reason thereof, present in and to the whole creation equally, — not by a diffusion of his substance, or mixture with other things, heaven or earth, in or upon them, but by an inconceivable indistancy of essence to all things, — though he exert his power and manifest his glory in one place more than another; as in heaven, in Zion, at the ark, etc.
That this is the doctrine of the Scriptures in the places before mentioned needs no great pains to evince. In that, 1 Kings viii. 27, 94the design of Solomon in the words gives light to the substance of what he asserted. He had newly, with labour, cost, charge, and wisdom, none of them to be paralleled in the world, built a temple for the worship of God. The house being large and exceedingly glorious, the apprehensions of all the nations round about (that looked on, and considered the work he had in hand) concerning the nature and being of God being gross, carnal, and superstitious, themselves answerably worshipping those who by nature were not God, and his own people of Israel exceedingly prone to the same abomination, lest any should suppose that he had thoughts of including the essence of God in the house that he had built, he clears himself in this confession of his faith from all such imaginations, affirming that though indeed God would dwell on the earth, yet he was so far from being limited unto or circumscribed in the house that he had built, that “the heaven and the heaven of heavens,” any space whatever that could be imagined, the highest heaven, could not, “cannot contain him;” so far is he from having a certain place in heaven where he should reside, in distinction from other places where he is not. “He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath,” Josh. ii. 11. That which the temple of God was built unto, that “the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain.” Now, the temple was built to the being of God, to God as God: so Acts vii. 47, “But Solomon built him an house;” him, — that is, the Most High, — “who dwelleth not,” is not circumscribed, “in temples made with hands,” verse 48.
That of Ps. cxxxix. 7–10 is no less evident; the presence or face of God is expressly affirmed to be everywhere: “Whither shall I go from thy face? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I go into hell, behold, thou art there” As God is affirmed to be in heaven, so everywhere else; now that he is in heaven, in respect of his essence and being, is not questioned.
Neither can that of the prophet Isaiah, chap. lxvi. 1, be otherwise understood but as an ascribing of an ubiquity to God, and a presence in heaven and earth: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” The words are metaphorical, and in that way expressive of the presence of a person; and so God is present in heaven and earth. That the earth should be his footstool, and yet himself be so inconceivably distant from it as the heaven is from the earth (an expression chosen by himself to set out the greatest distance imaginable), is not readily to be apprehended. “He is not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being,” Acts xvii. 27, 28.
The testimony which God gives to this his perfection in Jer. xxiii. 23, 24, is not to be avoided; more than what is here spoken by God himself as to his omnipresence we cannot, we desire not to speak: “Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? 95saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” Still where mention is made of the presence of God, there heaven and earth (which two are comprehensive of, and usually put for the whole creation) are mentioned: and herein he is neither to be thought afar off nor near, being equally present everywhere, in the hidden places as in heaven; that is, he is not distant from any thing or place, though he take up no place, but is nigh all things, by the infiniteness and existence of his being.
From what is also known of the nature of God, his attributes and perfections, the truth delivered may be farther argued and confirmed; as, —
1. God is absolutely perfect; whatever is of perfection is to be ascribed to him: otherwise he could neither be absolutely self-sufficient, all-sufficient, nor eternally blessed in himself. He is absolutely perfect, inasmuch as no perfection is wanting to him, and comparatively above all that we can conceive or apprehend of perfection. If, then, ubiquity or omnipresence be a perfection, it no less necessarily belongs to God than it does to be perfectly good and blessed. That this is a perfection is evident from its contrary. To be limited, to be circumscribed, is an imperfection, and argues weakness We commonly say, we would do such a thing in such a place could we be present unto it, and are grieved and troubled that we cannot be so. That it should be so is an imperfection attending the limitedness of our natures. Unless we will ascribe the like to God, his omnipresence is to be acknowledged. If every perfection, then, be in God (and if every perfection be not in any, he is not God), this is not to be denied to him.
2. Again; if God be now “in a certain place in heaven,” I ask where he was before these heavens were made? These heavens have not always been. God was then where there was nothing but God, — no heaven, no earth, no place. In what place was God when there was no place? When the heavens were made, did he cease this manner of being in himself, existing in his own infinite essence, and remove into the new place made for him? Or is not God’s removal out of his existence in himself into a certain place a blasphemous imagination? “Ante omnia Deus erat solus ipse sibi, et locus, et mundus, et omnia,” Tertul. Is this change of place and posture to be ascribed to God Moreover, if God be now only in a certain place of the heavens, if he should destroy the heavens and that place, where would he then be in what place? Should he cease to be in the place wherein he is, and begin to be in, to take up, and possess another? And are such apprehensions suited to the infinite perfections of God? Yea, may we not suppose that he may create another heaven? can he not do its. How should he be present there? or must it stand empty? or must he move himself thither? or make himself bigger than he was, to fill that heaven also?
963. The omnipresence of God is grounded on the infiniteness of his essence. If God be infinite, he is omnipresent. Suppose him infinite, and then suppose there is any thing besides himself, and his presence with that thing, wherever it be, doth necessarily follow; for if he be so bounded as to be in his essence distant from any thing, he is not infinite. To say God is not infinite in his essence denies him to be infinite or unlimited in any of his perfections or properties; and therefore, indeed, upon the matter Socinus denies God’s power to be infinite, because he will not grant his essence to be, Cat. chap. xi. part 1. That which is absolutely infinite cannot have its residence in that which is finite and limited, so that if the essence of God be not immense and infinite, his power, goodness, etc., are also bounded and limited; so that there are, or may be, many things which in their own natures are capable of existence, which yet God cannot do for want of power. How suitable to the Scriptures and common notions of mankind concerning the nature of God this is will be easily known. It is yet the common faith of Christians that God is ἀπερίγραπτος καὶ ἄπειρος.
4. Let reason (which the author of these Catechisms pretends to advance and honour, as some think, above its due, and therefore cannot decline its dictates) judge of the consequences of this gross apprehension concerning the confinement of God to the heavens, yea, “a certain place in the heavens,” though he “glister” never so much “in glory” there where he is. For, (1.) He must be extended as a body is, that so he may fill the place, and have parts as we have, if he be circumscribed in a certain place; which though our author thinks no absurdity, yet, as we shall afterward manifest, it is as bold an attempt to make an idol of the living God as ever any of the sons of men engaged into. (2.) Then God’s greatness and ours, as to essence and substance, differ only gradually, but are still of the same kind. God is bigger than a man, it is true, but yet with the same kind of greatness, differing from us as one man differs from another. A man is in a certain place of the earth, which he fills and takes up; and God is in a certain place of the heavens, which he fills and takes up. Only some gradual difference there is, but how great or little that difference is, as yet we are not taught. (3.) I desire to know of Mr B. what the throne is made of that God sits on in the heavens, and how far the glistering of his glory doth extend, and whether that glistering of glory doth naturally attend his person as beams do the sun, or shining doth fire, or can he make it more or less as he pleaseth? (4.) Doth God fill the whole heavens, or only some part of them? If the whole, being of such substance as is imagined, what room will there be in heaven for any body else? Can a lesser place hold him 1 or could he fill a greater? If not, how came the heavens [to be] so fit for him? Or could he not have made them of other dimensions, less or greater? If he be only in a part of heaven, as is more than insinuated in the 97expression that he is “in a certain place in the heavens,” I ask why he dwells in one part of the heavens rather than another?157157 “Si spatium vacat super caput Creatoris, et si Deus ipse in loco est, erit jam locus ille major et Deo et mundo; nihil enim non majus est id quod capit, illo quod capitur.” — Tertul. ad Max. lib. i. cap. xv. or whether he ever removes or takes a journey, as Elijah speaks of Baal, 1 Kings xviii. 27, or is eternally, as limited in, so confined unto, the certain place wherein he is? Again; how doth he work out those effects of almighty power which are at so great a distance from him as the earth is from the heavens, which cannot be effected by the intervenience of any created power, as the resurrection of the dead, etc. The power of God doubtless follows his essence, and what this extends not to that cannot reach. But of that which might be spoken to vindicate the infinitely glorious being of God from the reproach which his own word is wrested to cast upon him, this that hath been spoken is somewhat that to my present thoughts doth occur.
I suppose that Mr B. knows that in this his circumscription of God to a certain place, he transgresses against the common consent of mankind; if not, a few instances of several sorts may, I hope, suffice for his conviction. I shall promiscuously propose them, as they lie at hand or occur to my remembrance. For the Jews, Philo gives their judgment. “Hear,” saith he, “of the wise God that which is most true, that God is in no place, for he is not contained, but containeth all. That which is made is in a place, for it must be contained and not contain.”158158 Ἄκουσον παρὰ τοὺ ἐπισταμένου Θεοῦ ῥῆσιν ἀληθεστάτην ὅτε ὁ Θεὸς οὐχί που οὐ γὰρ περιέχεται ἀλλὰ περιέχει τὸ πᾶν Τὸ δὲ γενόμενον ἐν τόπῳ περιέχεσθαι γὰρ αὐτὸ ἀλλὰ οὐ περιέχειν ἀναγκαῖον. — Philo, lib. ii. Alleg. Leg. And it is the observation of another of them, that so often as מָקוֹם, a place, is said of God, the exaltation of his immense and incomparable essence (as to its manifestation) is to be understood.159159 Maimon. Mor. Nevoch. p. 1, cap. viii. And the learned Buxtorf tells us that when that word is used of God, it is by an antiphrasis, to signify that he is infinite, illocal, received in no place, giving place to all.160160 Buxtorf in Lexic.: verbo מָקוֹם. That known saying of Empedocles passed among the heathen, “Deus est circulus, cujus centrum ubique, circumferentia nusquam;” and of Seneca, “Turn which way thou wilt, thou shalt see God meeting thee. Nothing is empty of him: he fills his own work.”161161 “Quocumque to fiexeris, ibi illum (Deum) videbis occurrentem tibi. Nihil ab illo vacat: opus suum ipse implet.” — Senec, de Benef. lib. iv. cap. viii. “All things are full of God,” says the poet;162162 “Jovis omnia plena.” — Virg. Ecl. iii. 60. and another of them:—
“Estque Dei sedes nisi terræ, et pontus, et ær,
Est cœlum, et versus superos, quid quærimus ultra:
Of this presence of God, I say, with and unto all things, of the infinity of his essence, the very heathens themselves, by the light of 98nature (which Mr B. herein opposes), had a knowledge. Hence did some of them term him κοσμοποιὸς νοῦς, “a mind framing the universe,” and affirmed him to be infinite. “Primus omnium rerum desoriptionem et modum, mentis infinitæ vi et ratione designari, et confici voluit,” says Cicero of Anaxagoras, Tull. de Nat. Deor. lib. i. 11; — “All things are disposed of by the virtue of one infinite mind.” And Plutarch, expressing the same thing, says he is νοῦς καθαρὸς καὶ ἄρκρατος ἐμμεμιγμένος πᾶσι, — “a pure and sincere mind, mixing itself, and mixed” (so they expressed the presence of the infinite mind) “with all things.” So Virgil, “Jovis omnia plena,” — “All things are full of God,” (for God they intended by that name, Acts xvii. 25, 28, 29; and says Lactantius, “Convicti de uno Deo, cum id negare non possunt, ipsum se colere, afrmant, verum hoc sibi placere, ut Jupiter nominetur,” lib. i. cap. 2.); which, as Servius on the place observes, he had taken from Aratus, whose words are:—
Ἐκ διὸς ἀρχώμεσθα τὸν οὐδὲ ποτ ἄνδρες ἐῶμεν
Ἄῤῥητον μεσταὶ δὲ διὸς πᾶσαι μὲν ἁγυιαὶ
Πᾶσαι δ ἀνθρώπων ἀγοραὶ μεστὴ δὲ θάλασσα
Καὶ λιμένες πάντη δὲ διὸς κεχρήμεθα πάντες
— giving a full description, in his way, of the omnipresence and ubiquity of God. The same Virgil, from the Platonics, tells us in another place:—
“Spiritus intus alit, totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem.”
Æn. vi. 726.
And much more of this kind might easily be added. The learned know where to find more for their satisfaction; and for those that are otherwise, the clear texts of Scripture cited before may suffice.
Of those, on the other hand, who have, no less grossly and carnally than he of whom we speak, imagined a diffusion of the substance of God through the whole creation, and a mixture of it with the creatures,164164 Vide Beza, Ep. ad Philip Marnix. so as to animate and enliven them in their several forms, making God an essential part of each creature,165165 Vide Virg. Æn. lib. vi. 724: “Principio cælum,” etc., ex Platouicia. or dream of an assumption of creatures into an unity of essence with God, I am not now to speak.
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