Chapter 5 - Concerning the Persons of the GodheadThe 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.”
The persons are they, which subsisting in one Godhead, are distinguished by incommunicable properties. 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Gen. 19:24, “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.” John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
They therefore are coequal, and are distinguished not by degree, but by order.
The Constitution of a person is, when as a personal propriety, or the proper manner of subsisting is adjoined top the Deity, or the one divine nature.
Distinction of persons, is that, by which albeit every person is one and the same perfect God, yet the Father is not the Son or the Holy Ghost, but the Father alone; and the Son is not the Father or the Holy Ghost, but the Son alone; and the Holy Ghost is not the Father or the Son, but the Holy Ghost alone: neither can they be divided, by reason of the infinite greatness of that most simple essence, which one and the same, is wholly in the Father, wholly in the Son, and wholly in the Holy Ghost. So that in these there is diversity of persons, but unity in essence.
The communion of the persons, or rather union, is that by which each one is in the rest, and with the rest, by reason of the unity of the Godhead: and therefore every each one doth possess, love, and glory another, and work the same thing. John 14:10, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” Prov. 8:22, “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” And verse 30, “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” and chapter 5:19, “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”
There be three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Matt. 3:16-17, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The Father is a person without beginning from all eternity begetting the Son, Heb. 1:3, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Psalm 2:7, “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”
In the generation of the Son, these properties may be noted: 1) He that begetteth and He that is begotten are together, and to one before another in time. 2) He that begetteth, doth communicate with Him that is begotten, not some one part, but His whole essence. 3) The Father begot the Son not out of Himself, but within Himself.
The incommunicable property of the Father, is to be unbegotten, to be a Father and to beget. He is the beginning of actions, because He beginneth every action of Himself, effecting it by the Son and the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor. 8:6, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” Rom. 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
The other two persons of the Godhead, or the whole divine essence, of the Father by communication, namely, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
The Son is the second person, begotten of the Father from all eternity. Heb. 1:5, “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” Col. 1:15, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Rom. 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Although the Son be begotten of His Father, yet nevertheless He is of and by Himself very God: for He must be considered either according to His essence, or according to His filiation or Sonship. In regard of His essence, he is autotheas that is, of and by Himself very God: for the Deity which is common to all the three persons, is not begotten. But as he is a person, and the Son of the Father, He is not of Himself, but from another: for He is the eternal Son of His Father. And thus He is truly said to be very God of very God.
For this cause He is said to be sent from the Father. John 8:42, “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” John 5:18, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” Phil. 2:6, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”
For this cause also He is the WORD of the Father, not a vanishing, but an eternal Word; because as a word is, as it were, begotten of the mind, so is the Son begotten of the Father, and also, because He bringeth glad tidings from the bosom of His Father. Nazianzus, in his Oration of the Son. Basil, in his preface before John’s Gospel.
His proper manner of working, is to execute actions from the Father, by the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor. 8:6, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” John 5:19, “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”
The Holy Ghost is the third person, proceeding from the Father and the Son. John 15:26, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” Rom. 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” John 16:13-14, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
And albeit the Father, and the Son are two distinct persons, yet are they both but one beginning of the Holy Ghost.
What may be the essential difference betwixt proceeding and begetting, neither the Scriptures determine, nor the Church knoweth.
The incommunicable property of the Holy Ghost is to proceed.
His proper manner of working is, to finish an action, effecting it, as from the Father and the Son.