Chapter 2 - Of God, and the Nature of GodThe Order of Salvation and Damnation by William Perkins (1558-1602)
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Election is God’s decree “whereby on his own free will, he hath ordained certain men to salvation, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” Reprobation is “that part of predestination, whereby God, according to the most free and just purpose of his will, hath determined to reject certain men unto eternal destruction, and misery, and that to the praise of his justice.”
That there is a God, it is evident: 1) by the course of nature, 2) by the nature of the soul of man, 3) by the distinction of things honest and dishonest, 4) by the terror of conscience, 5) by the regiment of civil societies, 6) the order of all causes having ever recourse to some former beginning, 7) the determination of all things to their several ends, 8) the consent of all men well in their wits.
God is Jehovah Elohim, Exodus 6:2-3, “And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.” Exodus 3:13-14, “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” In these words, the first title of God, declareth His Nature, the second His Persons.
The nature of God, is His most holy lively and most prefect essence.
The perfection of the nature of God, is the absolute constitution thereof, whereby it is wholly complete within itself, Exod. 3:13, “I am that I am.” Acts 17:24, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” as though He needed anything; seeing He giveth to all life and breath and all things.
The perfection of His nature, is either Simpleness, or the Infiniteness thereof.
The Simpleness of His nature, is that by which He is void of all logical relation in arguments. He hath not in him subject or adjunct. John 5:26, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” 1 John 5:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Conferred with verse 5, “that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Hence, it is manifest that to have life, and to be Life: to be in light, and to be Light, in God are all one. Neither is God subject to generality, or specialty: whole or parts: matter, or that which is made of matter: for so there should be in God divers things, and one more perfect than another. Therefore, whatsoever is in God, is His essence, and all that He is, He is by essence. The saying of Augustine in his book 6 and 4th chapter of De Trinitate, is fit to prove this, “In God [saith he] to be, and to be just, or mighty, are all one: but in the mind of man, it is not all one to be, and to be mighty or just; for the mind may be destitute of these virtues, and yet a mind.”
Hence it is manifest that the nature of God is immutable and spiritual.
God’s immutability of nature, is that by which He is void of all composition, division, and change. James 1:17, “With God there is no variableness nor shadow of change.” Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, and am not changed.” Where it is to be said that God repenteth, &c., (Genesis 6:6) the meaning is, that God changeth the action, as men do that repent: therefore repentance signifieth not any mutation in God, but in His actions, and such things as are made are changed by Him.
God’s nature is spiritual, in that it is incorporeal, and therefore invisible, John 4:24, “God is a spirit;” 2 Cor. 3:17, “The Lord is the Spirit,” 1 Tim. 1:17, “To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, only wise God be glory and honor forever and ever,” Col. 1:15, “Who is the image of the invisible God.”
The infiniteness of God is two fold: in His Eternity, and exceeding greatness.
God’s eternity, is that by which He is without beginning and ending, Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were made, and before thou hast formed the earth and the round world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Rev. 1:8, “I am Alpha and Omega, that is, the beginning and ending, saith the Lord: Who is, Who was, and Who is to come.”
God’s exceeding greatness is that by which His incomprehensible nature is everywhere present, both within and without the world. Psalm 145:3, “Great is the Lord, and worthy to be praised, and His greatness is incomprehensible.” 1 Kings 8:27, “it is true indeed that God will dwell on earth? Behold the heavens and the heavens of heavens are not able to contain Thee: how much less is this house that I have built?” Jer. 23:24, “Do not I fill the heaven and earth, saith the Lord?”
Hence it is plain: First, that He is only one, and that indivisible, not many. Eph. 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.” Deut. 4:35, “Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord, He is God and that there is none but He alone.” 1 Cor. 8:4, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one,” and there can be but one infinite nature.” Secondly, that God is the knower of the heart. For nothing is hidden from that nature, which is within all things, and without all things, which is included in nothing, nor excluded from anything. Because, 1 Kings 8:39, “The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth every work of the mind. Psalm 139:102, “Thou knowest my sitting down, and my rising up, thou understandeth my cognition a far off.”