Contents The Christian System
by Alexander Campbell
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CHAPTER III

GOD

I. "I AM THAT I AM." "I lift up my hand to heaven and say, I live for ever." "The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding." "His understanding is infinite." "Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?" "For thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." "I beseech thee, show me thy glory, and he said I will make all my goodness pass before thee; and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." "And the Lord passed by before him 1  and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and sin, and that by no means aquits the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation" - "and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments." "O Lord God of Israel, who dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, thou hast made heaven and earth. Hear, O Israel - Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah 2 - the Lord our God is one Lord." "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which wast, and art, and art to come." "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou king of saints." "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name, for thou only art holy," "He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." "Glorious in holiness, fearful in praise, doing wonders."

II. Such are a few - a specimen of the Divine declarations concerning himself; repeated and re-echoed by the purest and most intellectual beings in heaven and earth. It is from his word and his works we learn the being and perfections of God. As we form a character of man from what he says and what he does, so learn we the Divine character. "The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth forth his handy work: day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge." Creation reveals the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God. Providence proclaims also his justice, truth, and holiness. Redemption develops his mercy, condescension, and love; and all these are again characterised by infinity, eternity, immutability. Nature, then, attests and displays the knowledge, wisdom, power, and goodness of God. The law and the providence of God especially declare his justice, truth, and holiness - while the gospel unfolds his mercy, condescension, and love; and all these proclaim that God is infinite, eternal, and immutable. God appears before the universe of intellectuals, in the threefold attitude of Creator, Lawgiver, and Redeemer; and although each of these involves and reveals many of his excellencies, still in each department three are most conspicuous. As Creator, knowledge, wisdom, power, and goodness; as Lawgiver, justice, truth, and holiness; as Redeemer, mercy, condescension, and love. In each and all of which departments, he is infinite, immutable, and eternal.

III. But the Scriptures speak of his divinity or godhead, as well as of the unity, spirituality, and eternity of his being. We have not, indeed, much said upon this incomprehensible theme; for - who by searching can find out God, or know the Almighty to perfection? The knowledge of him is high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.

IV. Paul and Peter indeed speak of the divine nature in the abstract, or of the divinity or godhead. These are the most abstract terms found in the Bible. Eternity and divinity are however equally abstract and almost equally rare in holy writ. Still, they are necessarily found in the divine volume; because we must abstract nature from person before we can understand the remedial system. For the divine nature may be communicated or imparted in some sense; and indeed while it is essentially and necessarily singular, it is certainly plural in its personal manifestations. Hence we have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit equally divine, though personally distinct from each other. We have in fact, but one God, one Lord, one Holy Spirit; yet these are equally possessed of one and of the same divine nature.

V. Some conceive of God as mathematical unit; and as a thing cannot be both mathematically singular and plural, one and three, at the same time and in the same sense, they deny the true and proper divinity of the Son of God and of the Spirit of God. But it would seem to us, that they reason not in harmony with the sacred style of inspiration. But why should we imagine that there cannot be a plurality of personal manifestations in the divine nature any more than in the angelic or human, especially as man was created in the image of God?

VI. The relations in human plurality are indeed limited to three. For while all the human nature was at one time originally and wholly in the person of Adam, it was afterwards found equally in the person of Eve - and again in the person of their first born. Now as to its derivation and mode of existence, it was diverse in the three. In Adam it was underived as respected human nature, in Eve it was derived from Adam, and in Cain it was again derived from Adam and Eve. Here the matter ends; for while Eve proceeded from Adam in one mode, and Cain proceeded from Adam and Eve in another, all the residue of human nature is participated without any new relation or mode of impartation. While, then, our nature is plural as to its participation, it is limited to three relations or modes of existence. Now as man was made in the image of God, we must conceive of him as having plurality, relation, and society in himself - though far be it from us to suppose that the divine nature either is, or can be fairly or fully exhibited by any resemblance or illustration drawn from angel or from man, or from any created thing. Still, there is a resemblance between God and the sun that shines upon us - between God and an angel - between God and man; and even in the mode of his existence, and in the varieties of relation and personal manifestation, there is so much resemblance as to peremptorily forbid all dogmatism as to what is, or is not, compatible with the unity, spirituality, and immutability of God. But of this more fully and intelligibly when we shall have examined the record concerning the WORD and the SPIRIT of God.


1   Moses.
2   So reads the Hebrew. Deut. vi. 4.


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