« Prev § 19. The Doctrine is a Mystery. Next »

§ 19. The Doctrine is a Mystery.

THE Holy Scriptures declare that God is but one, and yet they also ascribe Divinity to three, viz., Father, Son, and Spirit; and thus we learn from them that there is one God, but that this one God is Father, Son, and Spirit. Here a proposition is stated which is altogether beyond the grasp of reason; the doctrine it contains belongs therefore to those we designate as mysteries. [2] Concerning this mystery the Holy Scriptures alone can give us any information, therefore upon them alone this doctrine is based. [3] But the Holy Scriptures do not unveil for us this mystery; they rather reveal the doctrine as a mystery, and it is therefore to so great an extent a mystery, that we here upon earth can never attain to a perfectly correct conception or comprehension of it, [4] and at best can only approximate this by analogies drawn from the sphere of human knowledge. [5] Therefore the Church desists from any attempt to fathom this mystery, but applies in this case most rigidly her rule of extracting the substance of her faith alone from the Holy Scriptures. She simply assigns to herself the task of most carefully collecting and arranging the subject-matter of what the Scriptures teach in regard to this mystery, and is the more urgently impelled to do this, because the matter in hand is one of no less importance than to learn what conceptions God wishes us to form concerning Himself. [6] Therefore she demands of every one, who wishes to belong to the Church, that he believingly accept this revelation contained 130in the Holy Scriptures. [7] The Church, when she sets forth this doctrine, is moreover fully justified in the use of such terms as do not occur in the Holy Scriptures; for, inasmuch as the opponents of this doctrine, when it was stated only in the terms employed in the Holy Scriptures, perverted the meaning of these and gave them a different interpretation, the Church was compelled more specifically to explain in what sense these scriptural expressions, taken in their connection, are to be understood; and this, of course, had to be done in terms which were not contained in the Scriptures, for their very purpose was to explain the sense in which the Church understands the statement of the Scriptures. [8] And this explains why it is that the doctrine of the Trinity only gradually assumed the form in which the Church now sets it forth, and how ungrounded is the inference that the doctrine is not fully indorsed by the Holy Scriptures, and that it was not from the first believed by the Church. [9] And, finally, the Church, in using these terms, neither presumes that she has unfolded the mystery, nor does she intend that these expressions are to be taken precisely in the sense in which they are generally used; for, inasmuch as we have here to do with a doctrine that is entirely beyond the reach of reason, the terms that are applicable to other things are inadequate, and the Church therefore still always thus explains the particular sense in which she wishes these expressions to be understood. [10]

The Church arrives at the doctrine of the Trinity by observing that in the Holy Scriptures, on the one hand, the unity of God is taught; and on the other, Divinity is ascribed to three, Father, Son, and Spirit; that, accordingly, a certain distinction is recognized in God, and a plurality in Him is indicated. [11] These predicates concerning God, contained in the Holy Scriptures, of unity, plurality, and diversity, the Church combines in the formula:

The one divine essence subsists in three persons; or (what is the same thing),
In the Deity there are three persons and one essence; or,
God is one in essence, but the same God, one in essence, is threefold in person.


The doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, is that in which a peculiar and incomprehensible application of the term three to the divine persons is taught, but in such a manner that not anything composed of three, but three persons of one essence are postulated. God is triune, therefore, because, in essence one, He has three modes of subsistence. [11]

The meaning of this formula is further explained by the Church as follow:

(1) The unity therein expressed is that of the divine essence. [13] This unity of essence is, more specifically, a numerical unity, i.e., it is of such a nature that it can be predicated only of one. Hence, it follows that when it is said that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, these three are not to be designated as three Gods, each having a special divine essence (Symb. Athanas.: Non tres Dii, set unus Deus); and that we are not to associate with the word being [Wesen, essentia] exactly the same signification that it has when applied to man (essentia hominis), for that is just the difference between the essential nature of God and that of man, i.e., that God’s nature in one numerically, and that of man is one in kind. [14] Father, Son, and Spirit are, therefore, God in such a sense, that entire divinity is predicated of each of the three; the one and undivided essentia is ascribed to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The one and undivided divine essence is entire in each [14] (tota in singulis), whence it further follows that, as in God there is no objective distinction between nature and attributes, divinity as well as all its attributes must be ascribed to each of these three. [16]

(2) A plurality in God, and, therefore, a certain distinction between Father, Son, and Spirit, is indeed clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures, but this is (a) no plurality of essence (pluralitas essentialis), as has already been shown; further, it is (b) no plurality of accidents (pluralitas accidentalis), i.e., personality is not something added to the being of God, as a special peculiarity or characteristic, for the principle applies to God In Deum nulla accidentia cadunt. [17] (§ 18, note 2.) Plurality may perhaps be best described as a pluralitas hypostatica seu personarum, [18] i.e., as one, according to which each of the three persons is to be conceived of as a self-subsistent subject; which statement, however, must be at once qualified by the 132remark that we are to stop with this, and dare not press the analogy of the word any further. For there is always this difference in the word person when used with reference to God or man, respectively, that in the latter case it signifies a self-subsistent subject, which has its own essence, while in the Trinity there is only one undivided essence, of which all the three persons of the Godhead partake. [19] In this sense, therefore, we are to distinguish in the one divine essence three persons, and the distinction between them is to be described as a true and real one. [20] Hence it follows, however, that to each of these there belong certain peculiarities distinguishing it from the others (a hypostatical character or personal peculiarity (nota, notio, relatio), showing a distinction of persons in a common identity of essence). Such peculiarities we recognize in the various statements made in the Holy Scriptures concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These statements are of a twofold character; they either indicate the inner differences that exist in the persons themselves, and describe, in this case, the special mode of subsistence of the single person (τροπος υπαρξεως, the peculiar method of subsisting, through which and by reason of which each person is distinguished from the other), or they describe the special relation which the single persons hold to the world. Hence we have to distinguish the internal and external peculiarities (proprietates, notiones), to which there are also corresponding acts by which the individual persons are related to themselves or to the world (opera da intra, internal acts, which God performs without any creature, within himself — opera ad extra, external acts, when God effects something in creatures, without his own essence). [21] Through these declarations of the Holy Scriptures we learn the peculiarities that constitute the distinction between the several persons. Yet we must not fail to observe that it is the internal characteristics and the internal acts corresponding to them, as described in the divine Word, that reveal to us more clearly the distinction of persons; for only the internal works (opera ad intra) are to be regarded as such acts as proceed from one particular person, to the exclusion of the others, while the outward works (opera ad extra) are those from which, although predicated directly of one person, the others are still 133not absolutely excluded. The reason of this, however, lies in the fact, that the opera ad extra are outward operations, which must always be considered as proceeding from the essence of God; hence, also, in every such operation all the three persons must participate, at least in some way, as the essence of God, which is common to all three, is only one. Whence follow the propositions: “The opera ad intra are divided, [22] the opera ad extra are undivided.” [23] CHEMN. (Loc. Th., I, 40).

The personal peculiarities, moreover, according to the Holy Scriptures, are five: αγεννησια (the not having been begotten) and paternity in the Father — active procession (spiratio) in the Father and the Son — sonship, in the Son — passive procession in the Holy Spirit. [24]

The personal acts, or inward operations, are two: (of the Father) generation (of the Father and Son), spiration.

The opera ad extra are three: of the Father, creation; of the Son, redemption; of the Holy Spirit, sanctification.

From the peculiarities and acts mentioned in Scripture, according to which the begetting of the Son is ascribed to the Father, and the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, it follows, finally, that we are to assign the first place to the Father, the second to the Son, and the third to the Holy Ghost. [25]

The Church indicates both, viz., the unity and the distinction, by the term ομοουσια, which it predicates of the three persons. [26] From this unity there is just as legitimately derived the περιχωρησις (immanentia, immeatio, circumincessio, inexistentia mutua et singularissima) [the mutual and most peculiar inherence], by which one person in virtue of the unity of essence is within another (John 14:11; 17:21), through which term the error is precluded, of regarding the three persons as subsisting separately alongside of one another; as also the equality (so that no one person is greater or less than another, and that the Father cannot properly be called God, by way of eminence (κατ εχοχην), or be said to be greater than the Son by reason of the mode of subsistence). [27]

The predicates which are to be ascribed to the three persons may accordingly be thus classified: 134Holl. (301): “I. God the Father [28] is the First Person of the Godhead, neither begotten nor proceeding, but from eternity begetting the Son, the substantial image of Himself, and with the Son from eternity breathing forth the Holy Spirit, creating, preserving and governing all things, [29] sending His Son as the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier of the human race.”

“II. The Son of God [30] is the Second Person of the Godhead, begotten of the Father from eternity, [31] of the same essence and majesty with the Father, who with the Father from eternity breathes forth the Holy Spirit, and in the fulness of time assumed human nature in His own person, that He might redeem and save the human race.” Id. (305).

“III. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead, of the same essence with the Father and the Son, who from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son, [32] and in time is sent forth [33] by both, to sanctify the hearts of those who are to be saved.” [34] Id. (329).

[1] The doctrine concerning the Trinity can properly be treated of as distinct from that concerning God in general, for we should first discuss the essence and attributes of God in themselves, and then the particular manner in which this essence subsists and thus becomes common to three.

QUEN. (I, 284): “The consideration of God is twofold, one absolute, another relative. The former is occupied with God considered essentially, without respect to the three persons of the Godhead; the latter, with God considered personally. The former explains both the essence and the essential attributes of God; the latter describes the persons of the Holy Trinity, and the personal attributes of each one.”

CAL. (III, 1): “The doctrine of the divine persons follows the doctrine of the divine attributes. This doctrine explains the mystery of the Holy Trinity, in order that we may know who is the one, true, and eternal God, whether, as He is one in essence, He is so also in person, or not; and who these divine persons are, who are to be regarded as the one, true God; namely, that according to the Catholic faith, they are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

[2] CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 33): “The things that are declared concerning the Trinity of persons in the most holy Godhead are wonderful and far above all comprehension of creatures.”


GRH. (III, 220): “The mystery of the Trinity can in no way be clearly proved a priori from natural reason, nor ought such an attempt to be made.” . . . (III, 221): “To learn a doctrine that has been placed far above all comprehension of human reason, human reason cannot be led, from its own principles; for otherwise it would not be above reason. But such is the doctrine of the Trinity, as is inferred from Matt. 11:27; 16:17; John 1:18, etc.” . . . (Ibid.): “The question concerning the one and triune God is, What is God, in Himself? To this man cannot rise by the strength of His own reason.”

KG. (30): “Its sublimity is such that it is υπερ νουν, υπερ λογον, και υπερ πασαν καταλεψιν (above thought, above speech, and above all comprehension), and therefore, from reason, it neither can nor ought to be attacked, or refuted, or demonstrated, whether a priori or a posteriori.” QUEN. (I, 318): “Yea, not even the possibility of this mystery can be obtained from the light of nature, since to reason, consulting its own principles, it seems absurd and impossible.”

GRH. (III, 229): “Such is the nature and character of the mystery of the Trinity, and of other mysteries properly so called, that they transcend the comprehension of reason, i.e., that reason, without the revelation of the Word, cannot attain to the knowledge of them, and that even when the revelation of the Word has been given, reason cannot and ought not to affirm, from its own principles, anything whatever concerning them. Therefore also, in these mysteries, it ought not to oppose its own reasonings to the heavenly truth.”

The question, How, then, must the testimonies be judged which have been produced from heathen writers, for constructing the mystery of the Trinity? is thus answered (GRH., III, 227): “(1) In some there are only similar things, but not the same with Christian doctrine. They agree with us in words; they differ from us in the explanation and meaning of the words. (2) Others teach the same things, but have derived them (a) partly from the reading of the Holy Scriptures; (b) partly from conversation with Hebrews; (c) partly from the revelations of oracles and the Sibyls.”

[3] GRH. (III, 217): “From the proper and only source of theology, viz., from the Word of God, the confirmation of this mystery must be derived.”

KG.: “The source (principium), therefore, through which this mystery becomes known, and ought to be framed, is divine revelation alone, communicated to us in the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testament.”


[4] This is implied already in the statement contained in Note 2, viz., that this doctrine cannot be proved from reason by an a posteriori argument. GRH. (III, 233): “The mysteries of faith are above reason, not only in such a sense and respect that reason, without the revelation of the Word, cannot aspire to their knowledge, but also that even with the revelation of the Word, reason still cannot, in any manner, comprehend the same; because in 1 Cor. 2:14, not only the knowing, but also the receiving, of spiritual things is denied the natural man, and if reason were to judge concerning these things, it could judge only that they are folly.”

[5] HFRFFR. (44): “Is it possible, nevertheless, for this plurality of unity to be, in any wise, adumbrated by certain analogies or most rude outlines? In the entire universe, nothing can be found to express the mystery of the adorable Godhead. For God, the Creator, surpasses creatures by immense intervals of degrees; yet, in order that we may be able even to stammer something concerning so great a mystery as this, and to raise up and excite our thoughts to the adorable sublimity of the same, pious antiquity has attempted to illustrate so great a matter by analogies derived from creatures.” (47): “Yet, in all these analogies, the points of unlikeness are greater than those of likeness; for there is nothing in heaven or in earth which can express the nature of the infinite God, nor is there any voice or reason that can adequately explain so great a mystery.”

GRH. (I, 209): “We must make a distinction between a class of a posteriori declarations and proofs, by which this mystery, first revealed in the Scriptures, is in a manner explained and shown to be not absurd; and, on the other hand, accurate a priori demonstrations, according to which we absolutely deny that this can be investigated or proved by us.” The Church Fathers sought for traces of the Trinity in the creature, and found what they regarded as reflections of it (imagines), in intellectual and rational creatures, and traces of it (vestigia), in irrational creatures. As to the arguments thence derived, GRH. says (III, 224): “(a) They only illustrate, they do not prove; (b) there is in them more unlikeness than likeness; (c) they are derived a posteriori, not a priori; they are not the parents, but the offspring of thought; (d) we must use them prudently and cautiously; (e) they cannot be presented against an adversary, they can delight a believer.” Accordingly, the question “Whether Thomas Aquinas was right in saying that what the Christian faith declares of the Trinity could be proved from natural reason to be not impossible,” is thus answered, “Among Christians, instructed in the Word of God, and embracing by faith the mystery of the 137Trinity, this can be proved by means of natural reasons; but among the heathen, ignorant of the Trinity, and among heretics, obstinately denying it, it can scarcely be proved; for the fact that they pronounce it absurd and impossible, occurs because they presume to judge of this mystery from the principles of reason, without the light of the heavenly Word.”

QUEN. (I, 318): “These natural agreements, and the analogy of created things to this mystery of faith, do not generate faith, but only human opinion.”

[6] CHMN. (I, 33): . . . “Because we must think of God as He has revealed Himself, we believe, acknowledge, confess, and call upon three persons.” . . . Although the Trinity is a mystery beyond the reach of reason, yet we learn through it what conceptions God wishes us to form concerning Him. MEL. (Loc. Th., I, 19): “The Church acknowledges God as such an eternal and omnipotent Creator as He has revealed Himself to be, and, although we cannot thoroughly understand these mysteries, yet in this life, God wishes this our knowledge and worship of Him to be begun and to be distinguished from that which is false; and in His Word He has propounded, by infallible testimonies, a revelation, in which we, as the unborn infant in the maternal womb, drawing nutriment from the umbilical vessels, might sit inclosed and draw the knowledge of God and life from the Word of God, in order to worship Him as He has made Himself known.”

[7] KG. (30): “The necessity of believing this doctrine is such that it not only cannot be denied, but even cannot be ignored by anyone without a loss of salvation. John 17:3; John 5:11, 12; 1 John 2:23; John 5:23; 2 Thess. 1:8.” More detailed, GRH. (III, 209): “It is necessary for all who are to be saved, to know and believe the mystery of the Trinity: (a) we exclude from men who are to be saved, not only those who deny, but also those who are ignorant of the Trinity . . . (b) we do not require of all members of the Church an equal degree of knowledge, since the light of spiritual knowledge and faith is brighter in some and more obscure in others; (c) nor do we require of those who are to be saved a perfect and full comprehension and an intuitive knowledge of this mystery, since we cannot attain this in this life . . . but we assert only this, that for the catholic faith, necessary to all who are to be saved, not a confused and implied, but a distinct and explicit knowledge of the three persons of the Godhead is required.” The reason (III, 210: “Whoever is ignorant of the mystery of the Trinity does not acknowledge God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, and is ignorant of the definition of 138God given in the Scriptures. The mystery of the Trinity being ignored or denied, the entire economy of salvation is ignored or denied.” (211.)

[8] CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 36): “Even in ancient times it offended many that the Church, in speaking of the article of the Trinity, was not content with the simple peculiar phraseology which the Son of God Himself employed when revealing the doctrine concerning God, and which the Holy Ghost followed in the prophets and apostles; but that it introduced into the Church foreign appellations from the irreligious schools of the heathen . . . and the orthodox fathers were oppressed with great hatred by the heretics on this specious pretext, viz., that the Church ought not to believe concerning the inaccessible light of the Godhead otherwise than as the Godhead Himself, coming forth from the hidden abode of His majesty, has manifested Himself; neither ought it [the Church] to speak otherwise, but that it should imitate the language of the Holy Ghost, and, therefore, express also the very words in just so many syllables and letters. For neither ought the weakness of the human mind to assume this to itself, viz., in regard to these mysteries placed above and beyond the sight of human intelligence, to hope to be able to speak more becomingly and skilfully than the Son of God Himself, who alone knows the Father, and has revealed to us what we know of God, or the Holy Ghost, who alone knows the things which are of God (1 Cor. 2:10), and searches also the very depths of God. . . . Both Arius and Sabellius had a specious pretext: ‘We speak of divine mysteries in no other way than God Himself speaks in Scripture. Moreover, we have been cast out of the Church for no other reason than that we were not willing to mingle philosophy with the doctrine of the Church, i.e., we are not willing to confess one essence and three persons, because Scripture is ignorant of these heathenish appellations.’ We must consider whence, with what purpose, and for what reasons, these foreign terms were received; and, in order that we may understand the entire matter better, let us observe two things: 1. What Cyril says with very great force, that, although these terms are not found in Scripture, with such a meaning, yet that the things themselves, which the Church understands and signifies by these terms, have been expressly laid down and revealed in Scripture. 2. That the Church departed from the simple usage of Scriptural words, not from any wanton affectation of novelty, but as Augustine elegantly and truly says, that,, by the necessity of speech, these terms were acquired from the Greeks and Latins, because of the errors and snares of heretics. . . . The 139Church would have preferred to use such simplicity of speech, so that, as it believes, so it might also speak, viz., that there is one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But contests of heretics arose, attacking partly the unity of God, and partly the Trinity, yet so artfully that when they confessed that there is one God, they understood it as though there were a plurality of gods, nevertheless called one God, just as the heart of believers is called one, Acts 4:12 . . . Because, therefore, the heretics spake with the Church, and yet believed differently, and by means of forms of expression, resembling the truth, as Nazianzen says, spread poison secretly among the inexperienced, who suspected no evil when they heard these men speak in the very same words which the Church uses; the men of the Church endeavored to find in Scripture terms by which they might draw forth from ambush the lurking heretics, so as to prevent them from deceiving by ambiguous phrases the unwary. And because Scripture thus speaks, 2 Peter 1:4; Gal. 4:8, they said that there is one divine nature. But this term they corrupted by sophistries, and by distinguishing between God and nature, as when it is said that God and nature have done nothing in vain. Likewise, in 1 John 5:7, it is written: ‘There are three,’ etc. And because in the words of Baptism it is said: ‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father,’ etc., they said that there are three names . . . Sabellius received this, but understood that one and the same person is τριωνυμος [possessed of three names], just as one and the same man has a praenomen, a nomen, and a cognomen . . . Afterwards it began to be said that there were not only three names, but also three peculiar significations of the names. Sabellius conceded also this, but in this sense, viz., just as the soul has three powers, each one of which has its own peculiarities, and yet there is only one soul. And thus, the heretics who certainly did not believe aright concerning these articles of faith, spake in the very same words in which the Church spake, and, by this deception, instilled their poison into many unwary ones, who feared no evil, because they heard the same words that are recorded in Scripture, and are proclaimed in the Church. What was the Church to do under these circumstances? It is very certain that it was her plain duty to defend against heretics that faith concerning the article of the Trinity which the Holy Ghost revealed in the Scriptures. But this could not be done in the words of Scripture, because of the petulance of heretics, who cunningly evaded all the words of Scripture, so that they could not be convicted and held fast, and who meanwhile led captive, by this artifice, the minds of the simple. Therefore, it was necessary to seek for such terms as might express, in some other manner, the facts delivered concerning this article, in Scripture; so that heretics 140might not be able, by a deceitful interpretation, to elude them . . . Because, therefore, in God there is a divine nature, common to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and entire in each, and nevertheless, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinguished by certain properties, in such a manner that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and the Holy Ghost is neither Father nor Son, etc.; the Church, on the maturest consideration, has transferred these terms (ουσια: υποστασις) from the common usage of speech to the article of the Trinity, on account of, as Augustine says, the artifices and errors of heretics, in order that thus even the more simple might be able to observe the rule of Athanasius: ‘Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.’”

[9] CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 33): “Neither is it something new, devised by the Council of Nice (as some blasphemously assert that the doctrine of the Trinity was first framed in the Councils of Nice and Constantinople), while, before that, the Church piously believed that there was one God. But we solemnly declare that it is the most ancient and constant harmonious testimony of the Church from the very beginning.”

[10] GRH. (III, 236): “Do terms derived from the ordinary usage of language, and adapted to this mystery, retain in this application in every respect the same signification? Reply: By no means, but the Church presents them with the right to its citizenship, and uses them in a peculiar signification.”

CHEM. (Loc. Th., I, 38): “As the Church speaks of subjects of which reason is ignorant, it also employs these terms in a sense somewhat different from that in which they have commonly been used.”

[11] A general survey of the doctrine is presented by Baier (208) under the following heads:

“I. That the Father differs really from the Son, the Son from the Father, and the Holy Ghost from both; so that one is in fact Father, another Son, and another Holy Ghost. (Christ says that the Father is other than Himself, John 5:32, 37, and that the Holy Ghost is other than Himself and the Father, John 14:16. The same is manifest from the names of the Father and the Son, and that the former is described as begetting, and the latter as begotten, Ps. 2:7; John 1:14, 18; 3:16. The Son was sent from the Father, John 16:36; Gal. 4:4. The Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, John 15:26; is sent by the Father, John 14:26, and by the Son, 15:26.)

“II. That not only the Father, but also the Son and Holy Ghost, are true and eternal God.”


“III. That the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not three gods, but one God.”

GRH. (I, 194): “The general theory will be comprised under the following heads: (1) That there is one undivided essence of these three persons. (2) That these three persons are truly and really distinct from each other. (3) That they are distinguished by their own personal properties.”

[12] We must carefully distinguish triune from threefold, which signifies: composed of three. GRH. (III, 254): “We say that God is triune, but we are forbidden, by the Christian religion, to say that He is threefold.”

[13] Essence: ουσια, also substance, φυσις, nature. GRH. (III, 251): “Moreover, they preferred to use the name essence rather than substance (a) to indicate that God is an ουσια υπερουσιος [an essence superior to essence], not included in the categories among which substance is first; (b) because God, unlike the essences of created things, does not exist beneath (substat) accidents, but His attributes are His very essence; (c) because the name substance is ambiguous, for it is sometimes put for ουσια, and sometimes for υποστασις.”

HOLL. (284): “The word essence, ουσια, is not indeed found in Holy Scripture in just so many letters, but nevertheless is derived from it by easy inference. For (a) in the Old Testament God is called יהוה essentiator; therefore he has an essence, and that, too an independent essence, etc.; (b) in the New Testament God is named ο ων, Rev. 1:8, from which ουσια, or essence, is derived; (c) a synonym of divine essence is φυσις θεια, divine nature, 2 Pet. 1:4.”

[14] GRH. (III, 239): “A great, yea an infinite distinction presents itself in the predicates, when I predicate of three human individuals, humanity, or human nature, and when I predicate of the three persons of the Godhead, a divine nature, or essence. The essence of men is a universal term which does not actually exist per se, but is only inferred in thought and conceived of by the intellect. But essence, in that which is divine, is not an imaginary something, as genus or species, but actually exists, although it is communicable.” CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 39): “Therefore the Church understands by the term essence not a universal term, as philosophers name human essence, but a divine nature truly existing, which is communicable and common to three persons, and is entire in each. But what this is with respect to the definition of the matter, I say is not known, unless we say that the attributes given in the definition of God are the very essence of God.” “The essence with respect to divine persons (α) is not a species, because the persons of the 142Trinity do not share essence in the manner that individuals share a common nature, which diffuses itself in no way beyond that of which it is a part, as it were; as, man is a species of animal, and Peter is an individual of the human species. (β) It is not predicated of many individual differing in numerical essence, as three men are said to differ in number. (γ) It is not predicated in the plural form of individuals, for the first three persons are not three gods or three divine essences, as Peter, Paul, etc. (δ) Neither does it belong to either more or less than three persons; while human essence is not restricted to a determinate number of persons. Of a man I cannot say that all humanity is in him, but of a person of the Godhead I can correctly affirm that all the fulness of the Godhead is in Him. The reason rests upon the infinity of the divine essence. In three human individuals the essence is one, not in number, but one only in species; but in the three persons of the Godhead, there is an essence one in number and absolutely undivided. Human person are distinguished by substance, time, will, accidents of mind and body, etc. Thus, the substance of Peter is different from that of Paul; . . . but in the Trinity persons are not thus distinguished, for the Son is ομοουσιως, ομοιωνιας, συναιδιος with the Father. . . . Of human persons it cannot be said that the one is in the other; but of Himself and His Father, Christ says (John 14:10): ‘I am in the Father,’ etc. Of human persons it cannot be said that, because of their common nature, where the one persons is, there also is the other; because they are locally distinct: but of Himself and the Father, Christ declares (John 8:29): ‘The Father hath not left me alone.’ Of human persons it cannot be said that, because of their common nature, he who honors the one honors also the other, nay rather one can be honored while the other is treated with contempt; but of Himself and the Father, Christ says (John 5:23): ‘He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father that hath sent Him.’”

[15] GRH. (I, 194): “The essence of the three persons of the Godhead is one and undivided. . . . For, if there are three persons of the Godhead, and, nevertheless, the true God is only one, it follows thence that there is one essence of the three persons of the Godhead. If there were one essence of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost, one of the two alternatives would undoubtedly follow, viz.: either that there is not one true God, or that the Son and Holy Ghost are excluded from the true Godhead.”

GRH. (III, 238): “The word (ουσια), used of God, signifies an essence common to the three persons of the Godhead, one in number 143and undivided, which does not exist partially in the three persons, so that a part of it is in the Father, a part in the Son, and a part in the Holy Ghost; but, because of infinity and immateriality, is entire in the Father, entire in the Son, and entire in the Holy Ghost.”

CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 43) cites as different modes of expression employed with reference to the unity of God, the following: “One and indistinguishable nature; one and the same substance; simple, one and undivided divinity; one and indifferent essence; in essence there is unity; there are three persons, co-eternal and co-equal; three persons, of one substance and inseparable equality, one God; the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is one; their glory, equal; their majesty, co-eternal; in this Trinity nothing is before, nothing after, nothing greater or less, but the entire three persons are co-equal and co-eternal to each other. . . . John 10:30: ‘I and my Father are one,’ viz., in essence, will, power, and work.” On the other hand, he notes as false, the expressions: “In essence, He is singular; there are three, eternal, immense, etc.; three Gods, three Lords; essence is distinguished into Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: in divinity, there is before and after, that is greater and less.”

[16] GRH. (III, 257): “There are three, to each of whom belongs the name of Jehovah and God, and likewise, truly divine attributes, works, and glory, viz., the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Therefore, essence is thus defined: BR. (217): “By the name, essence or ουσια, there is meant the divine nature, as it is absolutely in itself, all of which, with its attributes, is most simply one and singular, and, thus, also of the three persons the essence is only one; so, indeed, that there is also one intellect of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by which they understand; one will of the three, by which they wish; and one power, by which they operate outside of the divine essence.”

QUEN. (I, 321): “The divine essence itself is that pertaining to God, by which God is what He is.”

HOLL. (284): “The essence of God is God’s spiritual and independent nature, common to the three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

[17] HFRFFR. (48): “Plurality in the unity of divinity is not accidental, for God is most absolute and simple, and no accidents occur in Him. Therefore, since there are no accidents, no plurality can arise hence.”

[18] HFRFFR. (48): “Plurality in unity of the divinity is hypostatic, i.e., of persons, for the essence, indeed, of the divinity 144is one, but the persons are plural; and, therefore, in the mystery of the divinity there are, indeed, distinct persons, but not distinct things. For the person of the Father is one, and the person of the Son, another, and the person of the Holy Ghost, another; yet they are not different things, but the essence of all the persons is one.”

By person, υποστασις, there is understood, “an individual, intelligent, incommunicable substance, which is not sustained, either upon another or from another.” Thus CHMN., (Loc. Th., I, 39). This definition is thus explained by SELN. (I, 76): “A substance is said to be individual and peculiar, in order to distinguish it from accident, and to remove the error of those who have thought that person signifies only a distinction of employments. It is said to be incommunicable, on account of the distinction of persons, because the Father does not communicate His hypostasis to the Son, or Holy Ghost, but each person has His own peculiar subsistence and being; although essence itself is said to be communicable” (“the subsistence of one persons cannot be communicated to another person, for the reason that each person possesses a peculiar and ultimate act of subsistence, so that it cannot be farther determined by another person.”) HOLL. (284): “Not sustained by another, excludes the opinion of those who think that as there are two natures in Christ, so also there are two persons.”

HOLL. (284): “An intelligent suppositum: a stone, a tree, a horse, are, indeed, called supposita, but not persons, because they are without intellect.”

A still more accurate distinction is made between persons, regarded materially, or in the concrete, and person, considered formally, or in the abstract. HOLL. (ib.): “A person, considered materially, is an intelligent suppositum. But a suppositum is a υφισταμενον, or a subsistence, singular, incommunicable, not sustained by another (a singular subsistence, not a singular substance; for persons, considered in the concrete sense, is not a substance, but a υφισταμενον, a singular subsistence, which consists of substance and an ultimate mode of subsisting. We call a person a singular υφισταμενον, and not an individual; because the latter implies a logical reference to a particular species, which is predicated of the individual. But God is not predicated of the divine persons, under the mode of species, nor do these differ in essences, diverse in number, just as do individuals). But formally or abstractly considered, a person is an independent and communicable subsistence of singular, complete, and intelligent substance.”

The meaning of this distinction will be more clearly apparent 145from the definitions of υποστασις that we shall presently cite from QUEN.: In the latter case, that is made particularly prominent which constitutes the one person a person, in distinction from the other; while, in the former case, the intention is not so much to indicate this distinction as rather to assert the personality of the Divine Essence. The term, person, is employed abstractively, if I say the Father is αγεννητος, for then I mention that which distinguishes Him from the other persons; it is employed concretively, if I say the Father is almighty; for in that case it is, indeed, also asserted that God is a person, and the hypostatical character of the person is asserted also in the word Father, yet in the statement I am more concerned to assert something concerning the Divine Essence, and not so much concerned to give prominence to the personal distinction.

The term υποστασις is employed in doctrinal writings as synonymous with person, but strictly speaking there is still a difference between them. HOLL. (285): “According to the testimony of Damascenus, the Fathers called the same thing hypostasis and person. Nevertheless, person differs from hypostasis, in this, that hypostasis is common to an intellectual nature, and to one destitute of reason; but person is affirmed only of an intellectual nature.”

QUEN. (I, 320): “υποστασις is received either in the concrete, or materially, when it implies, at the same time, an object itself and the mode of the object, and marks an essence, distinguished by a hypostatic character, i.e., a person, in the sense in which Christ is said to be χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως, Heb. 1:3; or, abstractly and formally, when it designates personality or substance itself, which is an act, mode, or ultimate degree, in which an intelligent nature subsists completely and incommunicably. In this signification the word υποστασις is not employed in Scripture, yet can be correctly inferred from its material signification; but, in this mystery, υπαρξις is the same as υποστασις.”

The Greek and Latin Fathers did not at once agree in the usage of the terms here employed and in the distinction between υποστασις and ουσια. It was only from the time of Athanasius that the expressions were uniformly used in the sense above given.

BR. (216): “Although the Greeks and Latins contended for awhile with each other (for the former thought that by the name, person, there was designated among the Latins an occupation or external habit, and on this account, three persons did not imply or express the real distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; but the Latins thought that υποστασις, in the nominative case, denoted the essence itself, so that if three υποστασις are admitted, three 146essences must be affirmed), nevertheless, afterwards, when they understood each other better, it came to pass that the Greeks spoke of τρια προσωπα, and the Latins of three hypostases.”

[19] CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 39): “Thus, in the Church, the term υποστασις, or person, is used in a different sense from the usage of common speech. Among men we know what a person is; among angels we understand what it is. Peter, Paul, and John are three persons to whom one human nature is common. But they differ very much, (1) in substance, because one entirety is distinct from another (totus a toto), (2) in time, (3) in will, (4) in power, (5) in work. . . . But in the Trinity Persons are not thus distinguished, as an angel from an angel, and a man from a man (nor do they differ in time, will, power, work; but, in the persons of the Trinity, there is co-eternity, one will, one power, one working). Likewise in creatures, it does not follow that where one person is, there, because of their common nature, the others also are. And this distinction must necessarily be observed; for the mystery at which even the angels are astonished, would not be so great, if the one essence were three persons, in the manner that Michael, Gabriel, Raphael are three persons, to whom one angelic nature is common and equally belongs.”

In reference to the two terms, “essence” and “persons,” CHMN. remarks (Loc. Th., I, 39): “These are grammatical observations, not idle exhibitions of acuteness; but if they have no other, they yet have this use, that, with the foundations thoroughly known, we can speak very cheerfully with the Church for the sake of harmony. But, if any one would cavil that the terms essence and person are not sufficiently peculiar to designate this hidden mystery of unity and Trinity, he has this reply that Augustine gives: ‘Human language labors from its absolutely great poverty. Nevertheless the term, “three persons,” has been adopted not for the purpose of expressing this, but so as not to keep altogether silent concerning it. For, by this term, the eminence of the ineffable matter cannot be expressed.’”

[20] CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 39). “The persons of the divinity do not differ essentially as in creatures, where each one has his own peculiarity, nor is there only a distinction of reason therein as Sabellius wished; but they are really distinguished, nevertheless in a manner incomprehensible and unknown to us.”

QUEN. (I, 326): “They are distinguished really, i.e., they are distinct from each other, even when all operation of the human intellect ceases.”

[21] CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 42): “The persons are distinguished, 147not only by interior, but also by exterior marks, derived especially from revelation and their benevolent works in behalf of the Church.”

[22] QUEN. (I, 414): “Personal divine actions ad intra are those which are limited to God Himself, in such a manner that they, nevertheless, as a source of action, pertain to the divine essence, not in so far as it is common to all three persons, but as it has been determined by certain hypostatic characters and properties. Hence, these personal works ad intra have been divided, i.e., they are not common to three divine persons, but are peculiar to only one person or to two persons.”

As, in Note 20 above, the question was concerning the distinction between the single persons, so here the question is concerning the distinction between essence and person.

QUEN. (I, 326) answers: “A divine person is distinguished in one way from essence, and in another way from another person; from the former not in fact but in thought, with its foundation in fact; but from the latter actually, even when all operation of the human intellect ceases.” The former distinction is a distinction “not actually, or from the nature of the thing itself, nor modally, but in thought, which is proved as follows: for, if the relation of paternity, filiation, and procession were really distinguished from the divine essence, then something real would be superadded to it, and in the divine persons which are constituted by these relations, and, therefore, in God Himself, there would be a real compounding.” (I, 327) . . . “Thus divine essence and relations are actually one thing, and the former is separated from the latter in thought and the apprehension of the mind alone; or, in other words, by our mode of conception, yet in such a manner that the foundation and occasion of the distinction exists in fact.”

(Id.) (328): “The true and real distinction of the divine persons does not introduce a division or multiplication of the divine essence. For God is not divided into three persons, but the three persons, distinct from each other, undividedly share the essence, one in number undivided and infinite, in such a manner that each persons has the same essence, without its multiplication or division. For, in this mystery, several persons are considered hypostatically, not several things essentially. But these three really distinct persons are and remain ομοουσιοι.”

[23] QUEN. (I, 415): “External actions ad extra, or emanent and transient actions, are those which both relate to an object outside of God, and are performed outside of God, producing or leaving an effect outside of God.”


GRH. (I, 199): “These works are undivided, because in them the three persons are together and work together. . . . In God there is so great unity, and so great power of one and the same essence, that to individual persons individual and peculiar works, which are wrought separately in creatures, ought by no means to be assigned;” whence follows the statement: “By one person named in works ad extra, the entire Trinity is meant.” QUEN. (I, 328): “The reason of this rule is the unity of the divine essence, the common participation in the power to act, the equality of the operations, and the identity of the works of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and, hence, there then follows an equality of denomination. Nevertheless, this clause must be added to the rule of Augustine: ‘The order and distinction of persons being preserved;’ for, inasmuch as the Father has an essence from Himself, therefore He also acts of Himself, the Son acts and works from the Father, and the Holy Ghost from both. John 5:19.”

By the addition of this clause: “the order and distinction of persons being preserved,” the canon, “the works ad extra are undivided,” is more accurately defined; for the Dogmaticians do not wish directly to call in question the statement that even in the works ad extra the distinction of persons may be recognized. Not without reason, do they believe that in the Scriptures a work ad extra is ascribed to the one person and not to another; and the difference which, notwithstanding all the oneness of essence, is yet indicated in the order which is assigned in the Scriptures to the single persons, and in accordance with which the Father is placed first, the Son second, etc., seems to them to indicate also a difference in the order and in the manner in which the single persons work. So CHMN. already states (Loc. Th., I, 42): “Works ad extra are considered, as Luther has remarked, in a twofold manner: First, absolutely, and thus they are without distinction, and are called works of the three persons in common. Secondly, relatively, when they are considered in the order in which the persons act, or with reference to what is the property of each person, and which person acts immediately.” The order in working and the relation in which the three persons stand to a work ad extra, the Dogmaticians find most clearly stated in Rom. 11:36, where they refer the εξ to the Father, the δια to the Son, and the εν to the Holy Ghost. CHMN. (Loc. Th., I, 42): “For, as the apostle speaks of works ad extra, he makes mention of one eternal essence; to Him be honor, not to them. And, nevertheless, as the essence is one, without confusion of persons, it performs works ad extra, common to the three persons, without confusion, but implying a distinction of persons, 149‘of Him, and through Him, and to Him.’ . . . In fine, as we believe that there is unity of essence, and, nevertheless, ought not to admit a confusion of persons, we must understand also the rule, that works ad extra are common to the three persons, yet in such a manner that the distinctions and properties of the persons be not confounded.” The Dogmaticians remark, in general, that sometimes in the Scriptures there is predicated of one person an attribute or an act, from which, however, the other persons are by no means to be excluded, inasmuch as this attribute or act pertains to the Divine Essence and does not peculiarly belong to the one person. Whence they draw the inference that nevertheless this attribute must pertain to the one or to the other person in a more eminent sense, either because it belongs more especially to the one or the other person, in accordance with the order which we assign to the three persons, or because in a certain sense it more especially belongs to the mode of existence (τροπος υπαρξεως) of a particular person. The Dogmaticians say, in this case, that this occurs through appropriation. GRH. (I, 203). “Hence certain essential attributes are appropriated by the ecclesiastical writers to each person, although, because of the identity of essence, the essential attributes are common to the three persons.” Thus there is specially appropriated to the Father, power; to the Son, love; to the Holy Spirit, wisdom.

Still another case is mentioned by QUEN. (I, 415): “Personal actions ad extra are, in a certain respect and manner, also essential or common to all three persons, viz., by reason of efficiency or source, and inchoatively; but they are personal or peculiar to any one divine person by reason of their end, or terminatively, because they are terminated in a certain person. Thus, the Spirit appeared only in the visible form of a dove. The voice from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son,’ belonged to the person of the Father alone, and the Son of God alone appeared under the form and habit of man, in the time of the Old Testament, and in that of the New Testament was born of the Virgin Mary, and was made flesh. But, nevertheless, the entire Trinity was operative, with regard to that flesh of the Son alone, and that voice of the Father alone, and that form of a dove of the Holy Ghost alone.”

[24] The Dogmaticians in part distinguish also between the hypostatical characteristics or personal qualities and the personal notations. By the former, they understand those peculiarities which one person possesses having distinct reference to another, and by the latter, the marks by which, in general, one person can be recognized as distinct from another. Thus QUEN. (I, 330): “Some 150personal properties are absolute, which have no relation to another person; such a property is αγεννησια, and the not being born (innascibilitas), with respect to the Father, likewise the not being breathed (inspirabilitas), with respect to Father and Son. Other personal properties are relative, which have respect to another person, and constitute an order of things producing and being produced, of which there are only three; paternity, filiation, and procession.”

HOLL. (285) distinguishes: “Personal properties, i.e., relations founded upon a personal act, constituting a person in the being (esse) of a certain person, and, by relative opposition, introducing a distinction from another person” (of such he enumerates three: paternity, filiation, and procession), and “personal notations, i.e., modes of recognizing the divine persons and distinguishing them ad intra.” These, taken in a wider sense, and constitutively of each person, in the being (esse) of such person, comprehend the personal properties, and as such are regarded the five enumerated in the text. More strictly taken, however, or significatively, i.e., such as do indeed describe the divine persons and indicate the distinction between them, but still do not constitute a person, in the being of such person, they are distinct from the personal properties. Of these there are two, viz., αγεννησια and spiratio activa.

[25] QUEN. (I, 327): “From the real distinction of persons, arises their order, both in subsisting and in operating. Nevertheless, we must distinguish between the order of nature, of time, of dignity, of origin, and of relation. Among the divine persons, there is not an order of nature, because, they are ομοουσιοι [consubstantial]; nor of time, because they are co-eternal; nor of dignity, because they have the same honor. But there is among them an order of origin and relation, because the Father is of no one, the Son is of the Father, and the Holy Ghost is of both. An order among the divine persons in subsisting is proved from the procession or emanation of one person from the other. For if the Father proceeds from no one, but has His essence of Himself, as the fountain and source of the Holy Trinity, and the Son has His essence of the Father by eternal generation, and the Holy Ghost has the same of the Father and the Son, by eternal procession, it follows that the Father is the first, the Son the second, and the Holy Ghost the third person, and this order, both fixed in nature itself and unchangeable, is clearly shown in the formula of baptism. Matt. 28:19.” Concerning the order in working, which is recognized in the use of the diacritical particles εξ, δια, εν, we have already spoken in Note 23.

[26] GRH. (III, 243): “The term ομοουσιος embraces both ideas, 151viz., that the Son is of a distinct person from the Father, and that He is of the same essence with the Father.”

(Id.): “For the Father and the Son are not ετερουσιοι of different or diverse essence; they are not συνουσιοι, as men who have one common essence, nor only ομοιουσιος, of like substance, but ομοουσιος, having the same essence, eternity, will, work, power, and glory.”

[CHEMN. (I, 43): “By this term, the unity of the essence is signified, viz., that there is one eternity, one will, a common operation, and equal glory, and, at the same time, the distinction of persons is indicated.”]

[27] QUEN. (I, 328) further adds, as a consequence of ομοουσια: “The most perfect communion of all essential perfections, and the identity both of the divine works ad extra and the mode of action, so that they do the same things and in like manner; John 5:19, although not in the same order.” Concerning the latter, see below.

In the περιχωρησις the Dogmaticians usually also distinguish “π. essentialis, the absolutely unique immanence of one divine person in the other,” and “π. personalis, that inmost and ineffable permeation, by which the divinity of the λογος intimately permeates, inhabits, and perfects the assumed human nature.” The discussion of the latter does not belong here.

[28] HOLL. (301): “The name, ‘Father,’ is received here not ουσιοδος, or essentially, but υποστατικως, or personally. The name, Father, essentially taken, belongs not to the first person alone of the Godhead, but to all the divine persons equally; inasmuch as, received in this sense, it introduces a relation to creatures, of whom God is said to be the Father, both on account of creation, as the angels are regarded sons of God, Job 38:7, and on account of regeneration and adoption, as converted and regenerate men, by means of the merit of Christ, apprehended by faith, have obtained this εξουσια, power or dignity, to become the sons of God, John 1:12. But personally received, the name, Father, is peculiar to the first divine person, and introduces a relation to the consubstantial Son, whom He begat from His essence, as His image, whose ιδιος πατερ, own Father, He is called, John 5:18.”

[29] QUEN. (I, 332): “The characteristic of the Father ad extra is manifested in the work of creation, preservation, and of the government of the universe. For the work of creation is ascribed to the Father, in a peculiar manner, in the Holy Scriptures and the Apostles’ Creed, i.e., not exclusively, nor εξοχικως, or only particularly, much less as a principal cause, so that the Son is only an instrument, but on account of personal order, because the Father, through the Son and Holy Ghost, has created, preserves, and governs 152all things, Gen. 1:1, 2; Ps. 33:6; John 1:3, and because to God the Father power is ascribed, which especially shines forth in creation.”

[30] QUEN. (I, 332): “The second person is the Son of God, not by υιοθεσια, or gracious adoption; nor on account of gracious and glorious union with God, and love — for thus all the pious, the blessed, and the holy angels are sons of God; nor on account of His wonderful conception by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, as the Socinians wish, but through and on account of a true, peculiar, essential, most singular [unparalleled] and inexplicable eternal generation, and thus is the Son of God properly, incommunicably, and alone. In a few words: He is the Son of God, not χαριτι, or by grace, but φυσει, or by nature, John 1:14, 18.”

HOLL. (305): “Hence, the Son of God is called His own, Rom. 8:32; the only begotten, John 1:14; existing in the bosom of His Father, John 1:18; the image of the invisible God, and the firstborn of every creature, Col. 1:15; the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person, Heb. 1:3.”

[31] For this reason, according to HOLL. (322), there is ascribed to the Father, as a hypostatical characteristic, eternal active generation, and to the Son, filiation, or passive generation, “by which the Son of God is produced by the Father, as His substantial image, really and literally, yet in a manner hyperphysical and inexplicable, by an eternal communication of one and the same essence.”

More detailed description of generation. HOLL. (322-325): “The generation of the Son of God is not improper, metaphorical, or accidental (as is the regeneration of sinful men), but proper, true, and substantial. Proof: a. He would not be God’s own Son, if His generation were improper or metaphorical; b. God the Father, in producing His Son, communicated to Him His essence in such a manner that He is His image; not physical (‘which occurs, in matter and out of matter, in time, having relation to that which is before and after, and is an essential change from that which has no being into a being.’ QUEN. I, 385), but hyperphysical (‘which occurs from eternity, without any succession of time, matter, and change, and which consists alone in the communication of essence.’ QUEN. I, 385); not temporal, but eternal. Proof: a. From passages of Scripture which testify that the Son is eternal; b. From the relation between the Father and the Son. The first person is the eternal Father, therefore the second person also is the eternal Son; c. Because, otherwise, the essence of the Father would be affirmed to be changeable, if, in time, He had begun to beget the Son. Furthermore, from Ps. 2:7: The act of generation is described by the 153‘to-day,’ which is employed concerning an internal divine act, a generation such as is only during ‘a divine to-day,’ and, therefore, excludes the flow of time, separates from the past and future, and denotes a perpetual now, or a day of immutable eternity; not external, but innermost (because God the Father produced His own Son, not ad extra, but begot Him within His essence; nor is the Son separated from the Father, as happens otherwise, but remains in His Father’s bosom, John 1:18; nor is the Son only in the Father, but the Father is also in the Son by the inmost communion and mutual περιχωρησις); not voluntary, but natural and necessary, (but, if the generation of the Son of God were called forth by an act of the will, and were free, and were not necessary or natural, the Son would not be equal and omoousioß to the Father, for He exists necessarily and cannot not be. Here it is well to observe that God the Father, not being constrained, and, nevertheless, not by the purpose of His free will preceding generation, but from the necessity of His nature, which is yet entirely removed from all constraint, begat His Son by the most perfect generation . . . ).”

Concerning the eternity of generation, QUEN. (I, 330) says further: “This generation of the Son does not occur by derivation or transfusion, nor by an action which may begin or cease, but it occurs by an unceasing emanation, like which there is nothing to be found in nature. For God the Father from eternity begat, and always begets, and never will cease to beget His Son. For, if the generation of the Son should have an end, it would also have a beginning, and this would not be eternal. Nevertheless, this generation cannot be said, for this reason, to be imperfect and successive, for the act of generation in the Father and the Son is considered perfect in work and constant in operation.” The consequence of passive generation, is the passive sending forth. QUEN. (I, 338): “The consequence of this passive generation is the passive sending of the Son of God into the flesh, which is not accurately the incarnation of the same, for they differ as former and latter, He having been first sent and, afterwards, made of a woman, Gal. 4:4.”

Note — “The sending forth of the Son of God (1) is not a local and separative removal, as though He had been locally removed from the highest heaven to the lowest earth, and had been separated from His Heavenly Father. For this conflicts with the infinite and intimate identity of the persons of the Father and the Son; (2) it is not an imperious sending forth, but one of free consent, and therefore proves, between the one sending and the one sent, no inequality, such as the Arians once attempted to derive thence, and as the Socinians at the present day maintain. In divine things a sending 154forth does not remove equality of persons, but only presupposes an order of origin. (3) The sending forth is not constrained, but is spontaneous, John 4:34: 5:30; (4) it is not accurately incarnation itself. For the sending forth preceded incarnation, and the latter is the goal of the former, since the Son was sent forth in order to become man.”

According to GRH. (I, 288), the difference between to beget and to create is: “To beget is, from one’s own substance, to produce something similar according to essence. To create is to make, out of nothing, something different from the substance of the Creator.” QUEN. (I, 330) says, indeed: “Although this generation is most peculiar and most true, yet the mode itself of generation is unknown to us and ineffable,” and yet he attempts, as follows, to form at least an approximate conception of it: “This divine generation, however, can be adumbrated by the similitude of rays of the sun, flowing from the solar body with a perpetual dependence. For, as the sun is not older than its rays, nor the one begetting prior, in time, to the one begotten; so, the eternal Father, from eternity, generated the Son; and, just as the sun has, from the beginning, generated its own rays, and even now begets them, and will continue to generate them, and nevertheless, it cannot be inferred thence that the generation of the rays of the sun is not yet perfect, so also, from eternity, God has begotten, and always begets, and will never cease to beget His own Wisdom, and, nevertheless, it cannot on that account be said that the generation of the Son is not yet perfect. The Holy Ghost, Ps. 2:7, seems to intimate this. In these words, the generation of the Son is expressed in the preterite in such a manner that, nevertheless, it is said to occur today, because the generation of the Son is present, and will never cease. Yet there is this great distinction between the two: the sun is a substance, but the rays are an accident; whereas the substance of the Son is the same with the substance of the Father.”

[32] The hypostatic character of the Holy Ghost is “passive spiration, or the proceeding of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, i.e., the eternal origin of the Holy Ghost, by which He is sent forth, within the bosom of the Godhead, by the Father and the Son, by the communication of an essence numerically one and the same, as the common breath of both.” HOLL. (337.) QUEN. (I, 343): “The origin of the Holy Ghost, by which, within the Godhead, He received, through an ineffable procession, from the Father and the Son, an essence the same in number.”

HOLL. (337): “It is called passive spiration, not physically, as though it implied passive power or imperfection, but grammatically, 155because the Holy Ghost is said not to breathe, but to be breathed. Nor are active and passive spiration two spirations, but the spiration is one and the same, which, with respect to the source breathing and producing, is called active spiration, and with respect to the end attained, is called passive. In other respects, the emanation of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son is most absolute.”

“The spiration here understood is not external, like the breathing of Christ upon His disciples, John 20:22, but internal and immanent, since it occurs within the very bosom of the Godhead; not transitory and evanescent, as is that of breathing men, but eternal and permanent, because the Holy Ghost proceeds from eternity, as the breath of the Almighty, Job 33:4, and the spirit of the mouth of the Lord, Ps. 33:6; not an accidental but a substantial spiration, for in God there is no accident, nor can the Holy Ghost, as a divine person and substance, be produced by an accidental act.”

An analogy for the conception of the procession was sought by some of the Dogmaticians in the going forth of the word from the mouth, and in our spirit. GRH. says, however, concerning the former (I, 321): “Our word proceeds in such a manner from the heart, that there is an evanescent sound, but the Holy Ghost so proceeds that there is a subsisting person.” Of the latter (ibid.): “The spirit of God is ασωματος, of altogether the same nature and essence with Himself, but our spirit is corporeal, because an exhalation from the most refined and subtle portion of the blood, and not at all the same nature with the soul.”

Proof of the procession from Father and Son, HOLL. (337): “Holy Scripture teaches in express words, that the Holy Ghost proceeds from God the Father. John 15:26. That He proceeds from the Son of God is correctly inferred from the name, the Spirit of the Son (Gal. 4:6), from the omoousia of Father and Son (John 16:15), and His reception of omniscience from the Son (John 16:13, 14), from the apocalyptic vision of the river proceeding from the throne of the Lamb (Rev 22:1), from the sending of the Holy Ghost from the Son (John 15:26), from the breathing of Christ upon His disciples (John 20:22), and from the order and distinction of the divine persons.”

[33] The consequence of the procession is the temporal sending forth of the Holy Ghost. QUEN. (I, 331): “The sending forth, in time, of the Holy Ghost upon and to the apostles and other believers, is the manifestation, or consequence and effect, of the eternal procession. The latter is eternal and necessary; the former is gracious, intermitted, and free, and likewise conditionate; 156nevertheless this sending forth is not local, and does not introduce an inferiority; because it is not ministerial and servile.”

[34] The scriptural proof we give partly according to GRH., and partly according to QUEN. and HOLL.

In the Old Testament GRH. finds indicated: “Where God is spoken of, I. a plurality of persons, and II. when by name, a Trinity of persons.”

I. The plurality is shown (I, 186 seq.):

(a) By those passages which employ the plural term Elohim, concerning God . . . Gen. 20:13; 35:7; Deut. 5:26; Josh. 24:19; 2 Sam. 7:23; Job 35:10; Ps. 149:2; Is. 44:2; 54:5; Jer. 10:10; 23:36, where observe that this plural word is not only construed with a singular verb in very many passages of Scripture (to denote the unity of the divine essence), but even is sometimes joined with a plural verb and adjective (to make known more clearly the plurality of persons).

(b) By the passages in which God speaks of Himself in the plural number, Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Is. 6:8.

(c) By the passages in which God speaks of God, and the Lord of the Lord; for there, in like manner, plurality of persons is signified. Gen. 19:24; Ex. 16:7; 34:5, 6; Numb. 14:21; 2 Sam. 5:24; 7:11; Ps. 45:7; 110:1; Jer. 23:5, 6, 33.15; Dan. 9:17; Hos. 1:7; Zach. 2:8, 9.

(d) By the passages in which mention is made of the Son of God; for it is necessary that He be also true God. Ps. 2:7; 72:17; Prov. 30:4. Finally, there are to be referred hither all the testimonies of the Old Testament in which Jehovah is said to send an angel, to whom the name Jehovah or divine works are ascribed; for then by the name angel is meant the Son of God, who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is true God. Ex. 23:20, 21.

II. The three persons in one essence, are proved (I, 190 sq.):

(a) From the passages in which three persons of the Godhead are distinctly enumerated, Gen. 1:1, 2; Ex. 31:1, 3; 2 Sam. 23:2; Ps 33:6; Is. 42:1; 48:16; 61:1; 63:7; Hagg. 2:5.

(b) From the passages in which the name of Jehovah and God is thrice repeated in one connection; for there, according to the corresponding mode of revelation of the Old Testament, three persons of the Godhead are implied. Numb. 6:23-26; Deut. 6:4; Ps. 42:1, 2; 67:6, 7; Is. 33:22; Jer. 33:2; Dan. 9:19.

(c) From the Trisagion of the angels. Is. 6:3.

(d) From the passages in which God speaks concerning God, and the Lord concerning the Lord, as above. I, c.

But of the Old Testament proof-passages for the Trinity, GRH. 157(III, 218) says in general: “1. We do not say that in the Old Testament and the New Testament there is the same clearness and evidence of the testimonies concerning the Trinity; because the clearer revelation of this mystery was reserved for the New Testament. 2. Nor do we wish that, in a discussion with an obstinate adversary, a beginning be made with the more obscure statements of the Old Testament. But we only assert that from the Old Testament some testimonies, in constructing the doctrine of the Trinity, both can and ought to be cited, since God always from the beginning revealed Himself thus, in order that the Church at all times might, in this manner, acknowledge, worship, and praise Him, namely, as three distinct persons in one essence.”

In the New Testament there is shown, I. The Trinity of persons in God; and, II. The true divinity of each person.

I. The Trinity of persons.

QUEN. (I, 324 seq ): “The Holy Trinity is proved in three ways: (1) From 1 John 5:7. (2) From the wonderful theophany at the baptism of Christ, where three persons of the Godhead are manifested. Matt. 3:16,17. (3) From the solemn formula of baptism given by Christ. Matt. 28:19. But we cannot be baptized εις ονομα of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, unless the name of these three, as equal in authority, dignity, and essence, be invoked over us. Hence, we argue: He to whose faith, religion, worship, and obedience we are bound, is true God.”

II. The true divinity of each person.

1. (QUEN. I, 329): “The Deity of the Father is proved (1) by the names peculiar to the true God alone; (2) by attributes, e.g., eternity, infinity, omniscience, omnipotence, etc.; (3) by works truly and purely divine; (4) by the truly divine worship.”

2. (I, 332 sq.): “The Deity of the Son is proved:

I. From His names. Some names are essential, others personal. Those are essential which express the divine nature and essence of Christ. Personal names are those which designate His person.

(1) Divine essential names: In the Old Testament, Christ, the branch of David, is called Jehovah, our righteousness. Jer. 23:6. He is called Jehovah, whom Jehovah anointed, Is. 61:1, 8; Adonai, Is. 6:1-3, cf John 12:41. In the New Testament, the Son of God. (a) He is called God absolutely, without any limiting or alienating condition. John 1:1; 20:28. (b) To the divine names, the words are added, by which the incarnate Son of God is designated. Thus Paul, Acts 20:28. The same apostle, 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:14; John 1:14; 1 John 4:2,3. (c) To the divine names, epithets are annexed, by which He is declared to be 158supreme God. For (α) Christ is named by St. John the true God and eternal life, 1 John 5:20. (β) By St. Paul, the Son of God is called the great God. Tit. 2:13. (γ) By the same apostle, Christ is named God over all, blessed forever, Rom. 9:5. He is called the Lord from heaven, 1 Cor. 15:47; He is said to be Lord of all, Acts 10:36, and therefore Lord of heaven and earth, which is the description of the true God, Matt. 11:25; Lord of lords and King of kings. Rev. 17:14; 19:16.

(2) Divine personal names: Christ is called in Holy Scriptures, (a) God’s own Son, Rom. 8:32; having God as His own Father, John 5:18. (b) The only-begotten Son of the Father, John 1:14. (c) The Son existing in the bosom of the Father, John 1:18. (d) The first-begotten Son, Heb. 1:6. (e) The Son above angels, Heb. 1:5. (f) The Son equal to God the Father, John 15:17,18.

II. From Divine Attributes

For the Son of God is: (1) Eternal, Col. 1:17; Heb. 13:8; John 1:1, 14; Rev. 1:8. (2) Infinite and omnipresent, John 1:48; Matt. 18:20; 28:20. (3) Immutable, Ps. 102:27; Heb. 1:12. (4) Most holy, Dan. 9:24. (5) Omnipotent, Rev. 1:8; John 10:28. (6) Omniscient, John 21:17; 2:25. (7) Most happy and αυταρκεστατος [perfectly self-contented], John 16:15. (8) Most glorious, 1 Cor. 2:8; John 17:5.

III. The Divine Works of the Son, proving His deity, are either ad intra, as the active procession of the Holy Ghost, and the sending of the same (elsewhere discussed); or ad extra, since in the Scripture divine works ad extra are ascribed to Christ, the Son of God. From them His true deity is effectually proved. Moreover, there is ascribed to Him: (1) The creation of the world, Gen. 1:2; Ps 33:6; 102:25; Prov. 8:30; John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10. (2) The preservation and governing of all things, John 5:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:3. (3) The working of miracles, Ps. 72:18. (4) The redemption of the human race, Hos. 13:14; Zach. 9:11. (5) The preservation and protection of the Church, Matt. 16:18. (6) The raising of the dead, Job 19:25; John 6:39, 40; 11:25. (7) Salvation, Matt. 1:21.

IV. The final argument for the deity of Christ is derived from His divine worship and honor. These are ascribed to Him (1) in general, John 5:23; (2) specifically, Is. 45:23; Phil. 2:10; John 14:1; Matt. 28:19.”

(3) (I, 340): “The Deity of the Holy Ghost is proved:

I. From His divine names. For He is distinctly called Jehovah, 2 Sam. 23:2, רוח יהוה the Spirit of the Lord spake by me, cf. v. 2, 159and Acts 1:16; Is. 1:21; Ez. 1:3, etc., with Zech. 7:12; Luke 1:70; with 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:21; Is. 6:8, 10, with Acts 28:25, sq., etc., etc., θεος, Acts 5:3, 4; 1 John 5:7, 9, etc., etc., κυριος, 2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Cor. 13:4, 5.

II. From essential divine attributes ascribed to Him; namely, Eternity, Heb. 9:14. Omnipotence, Is. 11:2. Luke 11:20; 1 Cor. 12:11. Omniscience, 1 Cor. 2:10-12. Goodness and mercy, Neh. 9:20; Ps. 103:11. Omnipresence, Ps. 139:7.

III. From divine works, such as the creation of the universe, Gen. 1:2; Job. 26:13; Ps. 33:6. Preservation, Job 33:4. The working of miracles, Acts 10:38. Add to these, works of grace and justice, of which Scripture speaks frequently.

IV. From divine worship, such as (a) Adoration, Is. 6:3; Acts 28:25 and 26. (b) Invocation, 2 Cor. 13:13; Rev. 1:4. (c) Faith in the Holy Ghost, Matt. 28:19.”

« Prev § 19. The Doctrine is a Mystery. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |