Select Page

The Attributes of God and Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion - by C. Matthew McMahon

The Attributes of God

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

See the attributes of God laid out in the Westminster Confession, William Ames’ Marrow of Theology and Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology in another chart HERE.

Scripture John Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion
Trinity Genesis 1:26, 3:22; Deut 6:4; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 5:7; Matt. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 13:14; Titus 3:4–6; Heb. 9:14; 1 Peter 1:2 In this one essence are three persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the simple essence of God divided. Three hypostases in God, or the essence of God. (1:13:2)
Aseity Exod. 3:14; Deut. 32:40; Psalm 90:2, 102:25-27; Acts 17:23-25; Isa. 40:28-31, 44:6; John 5:26; Rev. 4:10; Jer. 10:10 There is nothing more peculiar to God than eternity and αὺτὸυσία, i.e. self-existence, or existence of himself. (1:14:3)
Incomprehensible Exod. 20:21; Deut. 4:11; 1 Kings 8:12; Job 11:7–9, 15:8, Job 37:1–24; Psa. 18:11, 97:2; Isa. 40:12–31; 1 Cor. 2:16 His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse. (1:5:1) It is true that the Lord occasionally manifested his presence by certain signs, so that he was said to be seen face to face; but all the signs he ever employed were in apt accordance with the scheme of doctrine, and, at the same time, gave plain intimation of his incomprehensible essence. (1:11:3).
Simple or Impassible Exod. 3:14; Num. 23:19; Deut. 4:15-16; 1 Sam. 15:29; Psalm 110:4, 145:3-8; Isa 6:1-4; John 4:24; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27. For the essence of God being simple and undivided, and contained in himself entire, in full perfection, without partition or diminution, it is improper, nay, ridiculous, to call it his express image, (χαρακτηρ.) (1:13:2)
Unity Deut. 6:4; 1 Kings 8:60, 20:28; Isa. 42:8, 45:41; Her. 23:34; Mark 12:29-32; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Gal. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19 Should any be so superstitiously precise as not to tolerate these terms, still do their worst, they will not be able to deny that when one is spoken of, a unity of substance must be understood, and when three in one essence, the persons in this Trinity are denoted. (1:13:5)
Infinite 1 Kin. 8:27; 2 Chr. 2:6; Psa. 147:5; Jer. 23:24; Judg. 13:18; Job 5:8-9, 9:10; Isa. 40:28; Rom. 11:33-34; 1 Cor. 2:10-11, 16; Eph. 3:8 That there is only one method of deliverance which can rescue us from this miserable calamity, viz., when Christ the Redeemer appears, by whose hand our heavenly Father, out of his infinite goodness and mercy, has been pleased to succour us, if we with true faith embrace this mercy, and with firm hope rest in it. (3:2:1)
Eternal Deut. 33:27; Job 36:26; Psa. 9:7, 33:11; Isa. 48:12; Jer. 10:10; Dan. 4:34; Rom. 1:20; Eph. 3:21; 1 Tim. 1:17 He only sets forth that doctrine concerning the eternal God which the Israelites had received by tradition from their fathers, by whom it had been transmitted, as it were, from hand to hand, during a long series of ages. (1:8:3). Ex. 34:6-7, Here we may observe, first, that his eternity and self-existence are declared by his magnificent name twice repeated. (1:10:2) That Christ is our righteousness, because he is the eternal God, the fountain of righteousness, the very righteousness of God. (3:11:5)
Immensity or Omnipresence Job 34:21; Psalm 139:7-10; Prov. 15:3; Isa 43:2, 66:1; Jer. 23:24; Matthew 6:6, 18:20; Acts 17:24-27; Heb. 4:13 He is everywhere present. (1:13:4)
Immutable Num. 23:19-20; 1 Sam. 15:29; Job 23:13; Psa. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Eccl. 3:14; Isa. 40:28; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 11:29; Heb. 6:17-18; James 1:17. God being immutable, cannot consistently disapprove what he once ordered. (2:11:1)
Spirit 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chr. 2:6; Acts 7:48-49. Psa. 139:3–10; Jer. 23:23-24; John 4:24; Gen. 1:2; Matt. 1:18-20; 1 John 5:6–8; Rev. 22:17. The declaration of Christ that “God is a Spirit,” (John 4:24,) cannot be confined to the Father only, as if the Word were not of a spiritual nature. But if the name Spirit applies equally to the Son as to the Father, I infer that under the indefinite name of God the Son is included. (1:13:24)
Invisible Exod. 33:20; 1 Kings 8:12; Job 9:11; John 1:18; John 5:37; Rom. 1:20; Col. 1:13–15; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27; 1 John 4:12 When Christ is called the image of the invisible God, (Col. 1:15,) the expression is not used without cause, but is designed to remind us that we can have no knowledge of our salvation, until we behold God in Christ. (2:6:4) The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of a dove, but as it instantly vanished, who does not see that in this symbol of a moment, the faithful were admonished to regard the Spirit as invisible, to be contented with his power and grace, and not call for any external figure? (1:11:3)
Knowledge or Omniscience 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chron. 28:19; Psalm 147:5; Isa. 40:28; Matthew 10:30; Acts 1:24, 15:18; Romans 8:29; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20 Moreover, the knowledge of God, which is set before us in the Scriptures, is designed for the same purpose as that which shines in creation, viz., that we may thereby learn to worship him with perfect integrity of heart and unfeigned obedience, and also to depend entirely on his goodness. (1:10:2) God knows what he has determined to do with regard to us: if he has decreed our salvation, he will bring us to it in his own time; if he has doomed us to death, it is vain for us to fight against it.” (3:23:12)
Wisdom Job 12:13; Psalm 104:1-34; Proverbs 3:19, 8:1ff; Dan. 2:20–28; Eph. 3:10; James 3:17; Rom. 11:33; 1 Cor. 2:7; Rev. 7:12. Is not he wise who is the eternal wisdom of God? (1:13:24)
Truth Deut. 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isa. 65:16; Jer. 10:10; John 7:13; 1 Thess. 1:9; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; 1 John 1:5, 5:20-21 Hence, with perfect truth, the Psalmist exclaims, “He covereth himself with light as with a garment,” (Psalm 104:2;) as if he had said, that God for the first time was arrayed in visible attire when, in the creation of the world, he displayed those glorious banners, on which, to whatever side we turn, we behold his perfections visibly portrayed. (1:5:1)
Faithfulness Deut 7:9; Psalm 89:8; Isa 25:21; Lam. 3:23; 1 Cor. 1:9, 10:13; Heb. 2:17; 1 Peter 4:19; Rev. 3:14, 22:6 He by whom God is thus known, perceiving how he governs all things, confides in him as his guardian and protector, and casts himself entirely upon his faithfulness,—perceiving him to be the source of every blessing, if he is in any strait or feels any want, he instantly recurs to his protection and trusts to his aid,—persuaded that he is good and merciful, he reclines upon him with sure confidence, and doubts not that, in the divine clemency, a remedy will be provided for his every time of need,—acknowledging him as his Father and his Lord, he considers himself bound to have respect to his authority in all things, to reverence his majesty, aim at the advancement of his glory, and obey his commands,—regarding him as a just judge, armed with severity to punish crimes, he keeps the judgment-seat always in his view. (1:2:2)
Goodness Gen. 1:31; Exod. 34:6; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 52:1, 68:10, 73:1, 107:1; Rom. 2:4, 11:22; 2 Thess. 1:11 Moreover, if it be asked what cause induced him to create all things at first, and now inclines him to preserve them, we shall find that there could be no other cause than his own goodness. (1:5:6) And, as Augustine expresses it, (in Psalm 144,) since we are unable to comprehend Him, and are, as it were, overpowered by his greatness, our proper course is to contemplate his works, and so refresh ourselves with his goodness. (1:5:9)
Love Deut. 7:13; Prov. 8:17, 21; Song of Songs 2:4; John 3:16; Romans 5:5, 8:39; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Thess. 3:5; 1 John 2:5 Now, without controversy, God loves no man out of Christ. (3:2:32)
Grace Exod. 34:6; Num. 6:25; 2 Chron. 30:9; Neh. 9:17; Psalm 103:8; 1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:7; Titus 2:11; Heb. 2:9; 1 Peter 2:3 Hence there is need of the gracious promise, in which he testifies that he is a propitious Father; since there is no other way in which we can approach to him, the promise being the only thing on which the heart of man can recline. (3:2:7)
Mercy Deut. 7:9; 1 Kings 8:23; Ezra 9:9; Psalm 86:15, 136:26; Luke 1:78; Rom. 9:16; Gal. 6:16; Eph. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:2; 1 Peter 1:3 In like manner, how richly does he supply us with the means of contemplating his mercy, when, as frequently happens, he continues to visit miserable sinners with unwearied kindness, until he subdues their depravity, and woos them back with more than a parent’s fondness? (1:5:7) Moreover, while his perfections are thus most vividly displayed, the only means of ascertaining their practical operation and tendency is to descend into ourselves, and consider how it is that the Lord there manifests his wisdom, power, and energy,—how he there displays his justice, goodness, and mercy. (1:5:10)
Longsuffering Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Psalm 86:15; Jer. 15:15; Rom. 2:4, 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:9, 15 That whatever our mind conceives, or our tongue utters, may have a regard to the majesty of God; 2. That we may not rashly abuse his holy word and adorable mysteries for the purposes of ambition or avarice; 3. That we may not throw obloquy on his works, but may speak of them with commendations of his Wisdom, Long-suffering, Power, Goodness, Justice. Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1845). Institutes of the Christian religion (Vol. 3, p. 562). Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society.
Holiness Exod. 28:36, 39:30; Lev. 11:44-45; Deut. 4:24; Psalm 99:9; Isa. 6:1-4, 62:9; 1 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 12:14, 29; 1 Peter 1:16 In like manner another Psalm, after describing the raging billows of the sea, thus concludes, “Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh thine house for ever,” (Psalm 93:5.) To the same effect are the words of our Saviour to the Samaritan woman, when he told her that her nation and all other nations worshipped they knew not what; and that the Jews alone gave worship to the true God, (John 4:22.) Since the human mind, through its weakness, was altogether unable to come to God if not aided and upheld by his sacred word, it necessarily followed that all mankind, the Jews excepted, inasmuch as they sought God without the Word, were labouring under vanity and error. (1:6:4)
Righteousness Ezra 9:15; Psalm 7:9, 116:5; Dan. 9:14; Rom. 1:17, 2:5, 3:5, 3:21; 2 Thess. 1:5-6; 2 Peter 1:1 “Let him that glorieth,” says he, “glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth,” (Jerem. 9:24.) Assuredly, the attributes which it is most necessary for us to know are these three: Loving-kindness, on which alone our entire safety depends: Judgment, which is daily exercised on the wicked, and awaits them in a severer form, even for eternal destruction: Righteousness, by which the faithful are preserved, and most benignly cherished. (1:10:2)
Justice Deut. 33:21; Job 8:3, 37:23; Psalm 89:14; Isa. 45:21; Jer. 50:7; Zeph. 3:5; Acts 22:14; 1 John 1:9; Rev. 15:3 And though he often permits the guilty to exult for a time with impunity, and the innocent to be driven to and fro in adversity, nay, even to be wickedly and iniquitously oppressed, this ought not to produce any uncertainty as to the uniform justice of all his procedure. (1:5:7)
Wrath Psalm 78:31; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 14:10, 19, Rev. 15:1, 7, 16:1 And justly; for all the wicked are vessels of wrath, and, accordingly, to whom should they be subjected but to the minister of the divine vengeance? (1:14:18) Original sin exposes us to the wrath of God. (2:1:8)
Sovereign Gen. 14:19; Exod. 18:11; Deut. 10:14-17; Psalm 115:3; Isa. 41:4, 43:13, 46:10; Jer. 27:5; Dan. 4:17, 35; Acts 17:24-26; Rom. 9:19-21; Rev. 19:6 But if they will still murmur, let us in the soberness of faith rest contented with the admonition of Paul, that it can be no ground of complaint that God, “willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,” (Rom. 9:22, 23.) Let my readers observe that Paul, to cut off all handle for murmuring and detraction, attributes supreme sovereignty to the wrath and power of God; for it were unjust that those profound judgments, which transcend all our powers of discernment, should be subjected to our calculation. (3:23:1)
Almighty Gen. 17:1; Ruth 1:20; Job 33:4; Psalm 91:1; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 2:5; 2 Cor. 6:18; 2 Tim. 1:8; 1 Peter 1:5; Rev. 4:8, 11:17 In the Law, the Almighty not only permits an oath as a thing that is lawful, (this were amply sufficient,) but, in a case of necessity, actually commands it, (Exod. 22:11.) Christ again declares, that he and his Father are one; that he only delivers what was commanded of his Father; that his doctrine is not his own, but his that sent him, (John 10:18, 30; 7:16.) What then? (2:8:26)
Jealous Exod. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19; Nah. 1:2; Zech. 8:2; John 2:17; 2 Cor. 11:2 But God, in vindicating his own right, first proclaims that he is a jealous. God, and will be a stern avenger if he is confounded with any false god; and thereafter defines what due worship is, in order that the human race may be kept in obedience. Both of these he embraces in his Law when he first binds the faithful in allegiance to him as their only Lawgiver, and then prescribes a rule for worshipping him in accordance with his will. The Law, with its manifold uses and objects, I will consider in its own place; at present I only advert to this one, that it is designed as a bridle to curb men, and prevent them from turning aside to spurious worship. But it is necessary to attend to the observation with which I set out, viz., that unless everything peculiar to divinity is confined to God alone, he is robbed of his honour, and his worship is violated. (1:12:1)
Beauty 1 Chron. 16:29; 2 Chron. 20:21; Psalm 27:4, 29:2, 45:11, 90:17, 96:9; Isa. 61:3; 1 Cor. 13:12; Rev. 22:4 And did not the soul, when unclothed from the body, retain its essence, and be capable of beatific glory, our Saviour would not have said to the thief, “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43.) Trusting to these clear proofs, let us doubt not, after the example of our Saviour, to commend our spirits to God when we come to die, or after the example of Stephen, to commit ourselves to the protection of Christ, who, with good reason, is called “The Shepherd and Bishop” of our souls, (Acts 7:59; 1 Pet. 2:25.) (3:25:6)
Glory Psalm 19:1; Prov. 25:2; Isa. 42:8; John 11:4; Acts 7:55; Rom. 3:23; 1 Cor. 10:31; Phil. 2:11; Rev. 21:11, 23 By the knowledge of God, I understand that by which we not only conceive that there is some God, but also apprehend what it is for our interest, and conducive to his glory, what, in short, it is befitting to know concerning him. (1:2:1)

Offsite Banner Ad:

Help Support APM

Search the Site

Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind
Get APM in Your Inbox

Get APM in Your Inbox

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from A Puritan's Mind, as well as coupons and our newest books published by Puritan Publications.

You have Successfully Subscribed!