QUESTION 4. What is God?
ANSWER: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
Q. 1. What is the first fundamental truth to be believed, and upon which all other truths depend?
A. That God is; or that there is a God; Heb. 11:6 “He that cometh unto God, must believe that He is.”
Q. 2. Is this fundamental truth known by the light of natural reason?
A. Yes; as the apostle declares, Rom. 1:20 “The invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; even his eternal power and Godhead.”
Q. 3. In what volumes has God discovered the knowledge of Himself to all mankind?
A. In the great volumes of creation and providence; which He opens to all the world.
Q. 4. What says the volume of creation as to the being of a God?
A. All creatures in general, and every creature in particular, say that God “made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3).
Q. 5. What says the volume of providence?
A. It says, that the same God who gave us being, upholds us therein; and governs us to the end for which he made us (Heb. 1:3).
Q. 6. Is not every man’s own being, a convincing evidence that there is a God?
A. Yes; for, “in him we live, move, and have our being.” No man can have any hand in his own formation in the womb (Psalm 139:15, 16); nor can he add a cubit unto his stature, or make one hair of his head either white or black (Matt. 6:27; and 5:36).
Q. 7. Though the works of creation and providence declare that God is, can they also tell us what God is?
A. They afford us some dark glimpses of His eternal power, wisdom, greatness, and goodness; but it is only by and through the Scriptures of truth, set home on the soul by His Spirit, that we can attain the saving knowledge of God and of His perfections (John 5:39; 2Pet. 1:19; Rom. 15:4).
Q. 8. Who is it that reveals God to the sons of men in the word?
A. Christ, the eternal Son of God: “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him,” John 1:18.
Q. 9. What account of himself, has God given us in the scriptures?
A. There are three short, but comprehensive descriptions which he has given of himself there: (1.) That God is light, 1 John 1:5. (2.) That God is love, 1 John 4:8, 16. (3.) That God is a Spirit, John 4:24.
Q. 10. Why is God said to be light?
A. Because of his infinite purity and omniscience, Hab. 1:13; Heb. 4:13; and because he is the fountain and father of all light, whether material, natural, gracious, or glorious, James 1:17.
Q. 11. Why is God said to be love?
A. Because, according to the manifestation he has made of himself in Christ, love is the reigning excellency of his nature, which gives a dye or tincture to all his other perfections, in their egress, or exercise about the salvation of sinners, of mankind, John 3:16; 1 John 4:8-10.
Q. 12. Why is he said to be a Spirit?
A. Because he is necessarily and essentially a living intelligent substance; incorruptible, incorporeal, without flesh, or bones, or bodily parts, Luke 24:39.
Q. 13. How far does God transcend all created spirits?
A. He is as infinitely above the being of all created spirits, as he is above the conception of all intelligent creatures. Job 37:23 — “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out.”
Q. 14. Since God is a most simple and pure Spirit, why are bodily parts, such as eyes, ears, hands, face, and the like, ascribed to him in scripture?
A. Such figurative expressions ought not to be understood in their literal sense, but according to the true scope and intent of them; which is to set forth some acts and perfections of the divine nature, to which these members of the body bear some faint resemblance. Thus, when eyes and ears are ascribed to God, they signify his omniscience; hands are desired to denote his power; and his face, the manifestation of his favour: and in this light, other metaphors of like nature, when applied to God, ought to be explained.
Q. 15. Is it lawful to form any external image of God with the hand, or any internal imaginary idea of him in the fancy?
A. It is absolutely unlawful and idolatrous; condemned in the Second Commandment, and other scriptures, Deut. 4:12, 15. Rom. 1:23. Man cannot form an imaginary idea of his own soul or spirit, far less of Him who is the Father of spirits.
Q. 16. What may we learn from God’s being a spirit?
A. To worship him in spirit and in truth, John 4:24.
Q. 17. What is it to worship him in spirit and in truth?
A. It is to worship him, from a real and saving knowledge of what he is in Christ to lost sinners of mankind, John 17:3.
Q. 18. Is it possible for man to attain the real and saving knowledge of God?
A. Although neither men nor angels can have a comprehensive knowledge of God, Job 11:7-9; yet, besides the speculative and merely rational knowledge of him, which men have, and may have much of, by the light of nature, a saving and satisfying knowledge of him is attainable, and is promised in the word, Jer. 24:7 — “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.” And John 6:45 — “It is written in the prophets, They shall be all taught of God.”
Q. 19. Wherein consists the saving knowledge of God?
A. It is like the white stone and new name, which no man knows but he that receives it, Rev. 2:17; and he that attains it, cannot make language of it, but silently admires what he cannot comprehend: only, there is no saving knowledge of God, but in and through Christ the Saviour, 2 Cor. 4:6.
Q. 20. What is the language of the soul that sees God, and knows him savingly in Christ?
A. It is like that of Moses, Ex. 15:11 — “Who is like unto thee, O Lord? — who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” Or that of the Psalmist, Psalm 48:14 — “This God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”
Q. 21. What are the rays of divine glory in the face of Jesus Christ by which we come to know God savingly?
A. They are the attributes and perfections of his nature, by which he is pleased to manifest himself; such as, that he is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
Q. 22. Are these attributes of God, distinct things from God himself, or the divine essence?
A. By no means; for, whatever is in God, is God himself; and therefore the infinity of all perfection, is inseparable from the divine essence.
Q. 23. Are the divine attributes separable from one another, so as that which is infinite should not be eternal, and that which is infinite and eternal, should not be unchangeable, and so of the rest?
A. All perfections whatsoever being inseparable from God, must also be inseparable from one another; for though we, through weakness, must think and speak of them separately, yet all of them taken together, are, properly speaking, but the one infinite perfection of the divine nature, which cannot be separated from it, without granting that God is not infinitely perfect, which would be the height of blasphemy to suppose.
Q. 24. Why are the perfections of God called his attributes?
A. Because they are attributed or ascribed to him, as the essential properties of his nature, 1 Chron. 29:11.
Q. 25. How are the attributes of God commonly divided?
A. Into incommunicable and communicable.
Q. 26. What are the incommunicable attributes of God, mentioned in the answer?
A. His infinity, eternity, and unchangeableness.
Q. 27. Why called incommunicable?
A. Because there is not the least resemblance of them to be found among the creatures.
Q. 28. What are the attributes that are called communicable?
A. They are being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
Q. 29. Why called communicable?
A. Because there is some faint resemblance or similitude of them to be found among the creatures, namely, angels, and saints: hence are they proposed in scripture for our imitation, Psalm 11:6 — “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness. ” 1 Pet. 1:16 — “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
Q. 30. Can these communicable attributes be ascribed to any creature, as they are in God?
A. No; for they are in God, infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably; he is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being; infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his wisdom, and so on of the rest, which would be blasphemy to affirm of any creature: hence it is said, Matt. 19:17, “There is none good but one, that is God:” None infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably good, but he only.
OF GOD’S INFINITY
Q. 1. What is it for God to be infinite?
A. It is to be absolutely without all bounds or limits in his being and perfections, Job 11:7-9.
Q. 2. What does the infinity of God imply in it?
A. His incomprehensibleness, immensity, and omnipresence.
Q. 3. What is it for God to be incomprehensible?
A. It is infinitely to transcend the most enlarged capacity of men or angels, as to his being and perfections, Psalm 145:3; Job 36:26.
Q. 4. What is the immensity of God?
A. As it includes his omnipresence, it is that perfection of his nature, by which he is every where present with all and every one of his creatures; and infinitely exceeds all their limits and boundaries, 1 Kings 8:27.
Q. 5. What is the difference between the omnipresence and immensity of God?
A. The omnipresence of God is included in his immensity, and though not separable therefrom, yet may be conceived as having a respect to created substances, with every one of which he is intimately present; whereas his immensity extends infinitely beyond the boundaries of all created substance, 2 Chron. 6:18.
Q. 6. Is God every where present only as to his knowledge and power?
A. He is every where present also as to his essence of being, as is evident from Jer. 23:23, 24.
Q. 7. How may this be evinced also from reason?
A. Reason teaches us that no creature can subsist by itself, without the presence of God to uphold it in its being and operation. Acts 17:28 — “In him we live, and move, and have our being.”
Q. 8. How is God present with the church here on earth?
A. He is present, with the church visible, by the ordinances and symbols of his institution, Ex. 20:24; and with the church invisible, or believers, by the inhabitation and operation of his Holy Spirit, Ezek. 36:27.
Q. 9. How is he present in heaven?
A. By the most bright and immediate displays of his glory; all the inhabitants of the upper sanctuary seeing him as he is, and enjoying him without interruption for ever, 1 John 3:2; Psalm 16:11.
Q. 10. How is he present in hell?
A. In a way of tremendous power and justice, upholding the damned in their being, that they may lie under the strokes of his vindictive wrath for evermore, Psalm 90:11; Matt. 25:46.
Q. 11. What may we learn from God’s omnipresence?
A. That no affliction or temptation can befall the saints without his knowledge and sympathy, Isa. 43:2.
OF GOD’S ETERNITY
Q. 1. What is the difference between time and eternity?
A. Time has a continual succession, the former time passing away, and another succeeding; but eternity is an infinite immutable duration.
Q. 2. What is it for God to be eternal?
A It is that perfection of his nature, by which he continually exists, without any beginning, end, or succession of time.
Q. 3. How do you prove that God is without beginning?
A. From Psalm 90:2 — “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God;” that is, since thou didst exist before the mountains were brought forth, or before the beginning of time, thou art absolutely eternal.
Q. 4. How do you prove that God is without end?
A. From Psalm 102:12, 27 — “Thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever, — and thy years shall have no end;” for that which had no beginning of duration, can never have an end of it, but must always necessarily exist.
Q. 5. How do you prove that he is without succession of time?
A. From Psalm 90:4 — “A thousand years are in thy sight but as yesterday when it is past:” and 2 Pet. 3:8 — “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” He does not only always remain in being, but is always the same in that being, Psalm 102:27.
Q. 6. What is the difference between God’s eternity, and the eternity of angels and the souls of men?
A. God’s eternity is essential, absolute, and independent, without beginning, as well as without end; but the eternity of angels, and of the souls of men, is quite of another nature; for, as they had a beginning, so their duration admits of a succession, as long as time lasts: and though they shall never have an end, yet this eternity of theirs is not necessary and essential to their nature, but flows from the will and power of God; who, if he pleased, could bring them to an end, as well as he gave them a beginning.
Q. 7. What use should the wicked make of God’s eternity?
A. It should be matter of the greatest terror to them while they continue in their wickedness; for, in this case, God will be their eternal foe, and will punish them with everlasting destruction, 2 Thess. 1:9.
Q. 8. What use should the godly, or believers in Christ, make of it?
A. They should improve it as matter of unspeakable comfort; because their God, being the eternal God, will therefore be the strength of their heart, and their portion for ever, Psalm 73:26.
OF GOD’S UNCHANGEABLENESS
Q. 1. What do you understand by God’s being unchangeable?
A. His most perfect constancy, by which he is infinitely free from any actual or possible change, and is always the same.
Q. 2. How is God’s unchangeableness proved from scripture?
A. From Mal. 3:6 — “I am the Lord, I change not;” and James 1:17 — “The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Q. 3. How may it be proved from reason?
A. Reason teaches, that if God did change, it behoved either to be to the better, or to the worse; neither of which is consistent with his absolute perfection, Matt. 5:48.
Q. 4. Can any creature be unchangeable in its nature?
A. No; because every creature depends upon God for being and operation, Acts 17:28.
Q. 5. Are not holy angels, and glorified saints, unchangeable?
A. They are in a state of unchangeable happiness, Eph. 1:10; but this is owing to sovereign grace, and not to their own natures, Rom. 6:23.
Q. 6. Did creation make any change in God?
A. It made a change in the creature, from nothing to being; but none in God, because his will and power to create were the same from eternity.
Q. 7. How is God unchangeable, when he sometimes said in scripture to repent, as in Gen. 6:6. Jonah 3:10?
A. When, in these or the like places, he is said to repent, it imports only an alteration of his way, or outward conduct according to his infallible foresight, but no change of his mind or will, Job 23:13.
Q. 8. What may we learn from God’s unchangeableness?
A. That he will accomplish his promise, Micah 7:20; rest in his love, Zeph. 3:17; and finish the good work which he has begun in the soul, Phil. 1:6.
Q. 9. In what is God infinite, eternal, and unchangeable?
A. In his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
OF GOD’S BEING
Q. 1. What is understood by God’s being?
A. It is what is usually called his essence.
Q. 2. What is the divine essence?
A. It is the glorious and transcendent nature of God, by which he is infinitely blessed in himself, and comprehended by none beside himself.
Q. 3. What is the highest perfection of being?
A. That to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken, and which is independent of all things else, Job 35:6-8.
Q. 4. Can being itself, or being in a proper and strict sense, be attributed to any, but God only?
A. No; for though the heavens and the earth, angels and men, have a being; yet there is no infinite, eternal, and unchangeable being, but God only. It is God alone that can say, I AM, Ex. 3:14.
Q. 5. What is the import of that name, I AM?
A. It is of the same import with the name JEHOVAH: as if he had said, I am being itself, the author and fountain of all beings in heaven or earth.
Q. 6. What are all other beings, in comparison with the being of God?
A. All other beings are but created, contingent, and shadowy beings, if compared with his, who spoke them into being, Psalm 33:6, 9.
Q. 7. What says God concerning those that are taken up with created beings, without ever reflecting upon the supreme, infinite, and eternal Being?
A. That they are brutish among the people; fools, destitute of wisdom, Psalm 94:8; more brutish than the ox that knoweth his owner, Isa. 1:3.
Q. 8. Are not all created beings, with their perfections, originally in God, and from him?
A. Yes; as is evident from the unanswerable reasoning of the Spirit of God, Psalm 94:9, 10:– “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? — He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?”
Q. 9. What may we learn from God’s being?
A. That as he gave being to all the creatures, so he will give being to all his promises, in their full accomplishment, Ex. 6:8.
OF GOD’S WISDOM
Q. 1. Is not omniscience, or infinite knowledge and understanding, inseparably connected with infinite wisdom?
A. Yes; “For the Lord is a God of knowledge, by him actions are weighed,” 1 Sam. 2:3.
Q. 2. What is God’s omniscience?
A. It is that perfection of his nature, by which he knows all things most perfectly in himself, by one eternal act, Acts 15:18.
Q. 3. How do you prove from scripture that he knows all things?
A. From 1 John 3:20 — “God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”
Q. 4. How does God’s omniscience appear from reason?
A. He who made all things, cannot but know and comprehend his own workmanship, Psalm 94:9.
Q. 5. How does it appear that he has a perfect knowledge of intelligent creatures?
A. If he did not perfectly know them, and their actions, he could not be their supreme governor and judge, Heb. 4:13.
Q. 6. What is the object of the divine knowledge or omniscience?
A. God himself, Matt. 11:27, and all other things whatsoever, John 21:17.
Q. 7. How is it evident, that God has a most perfect knowledge of himself, and his own glorious excellencies?
A. Because otherwise his understanding would not be infinite, as it is asserted to be, Psalm 147:5, in regard all other objects, beside himself, are but finite.
Q. 8. Is the knowledge of God absolutely independent upon the creature?
A. It is so independent upon the creature, “as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain, Acts 15:18; Ezek. 11:5.”
Q. 9. How does it appear, that God has a certain and infallible knowledge of contingent actions, or of such things as seem casual and accidental to us?
A. It appears from this, that future events, which depend upon the freedom of man’s will, or upon second causes, are expressly foretold in scripture, and, therefore, certainly foreknown by God; such as, Joseph’s preferment, and Israel’s oppression in Egypt; Ahab’s death, though by an arrow shot at a venture; Caesar’s decree, that all the world should be taxed, bringing about Christ’s birth at Bethlehem; and many other instances.
Q. 10. How does God know things that are only possible?
A. He knows them in his power, which could easily bring them to pass if he had so decreed, Matt. 19:26.
Q. 11. How does he know things future, or such as actually come to pass in time?
A. He knows them not only in his power, as able to effect them; but in his will, as determining their futurition, or after-existence, Gen. 17:21.
Q. 12. Is God’s knowledge of things general or particular?
A. It is a particular knowledge of every individual creature, and every circumstance about it, Psalm 139:2; Matt. 10:29, 30.
Q. 13. Is there any succession in his knowledge, or does he know one thing before another?
A. As there is no succession in his essence, so there is none in his knowledge; he knows all things eternally, infallibly, and immutably, by one single act of his infinite understanding, Heb. 4:13 — “All things are naked and opened, unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
Q. 14. What conception may we have of the difference between the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God?
A. His infinite knowledge comprehends all things in heaven and earth, by one intuitive glance of his infinite mind; but his infinite wisdom directs these things to the proper ends, for which he gave them their being, Rom. 11:36.
Q. 15. How does the wisdom of God appear in the work of creation?
A. It appears in the excellent order, beauty, and harmony that are to be seen in all parts of the creation, Psalm 19:1-7; in the subserviency of one thing to another, Hos. 2:21, 22; the tendency of the whole, to manifest the glory of God, Rev. 4:11; and calculate also for the good of man as his peculiar favourite, Psalm 115:16.
Q. 16. How does the wisdom of God appear in the works of providence?
A. In adjusting the whole of his administrations according to the plan laid in his infinite mind from eternity; or his most judicious and regular putting his counsels into execution, Psalm 33:10, 11.
Q. 17. How does the wisdom of God shine in the work of redemption?
A. In making an honourable egress and vent for his mercy and love to sinners of mankind, in the way of satisfying his justice to the full, by the obedience and death of the blessed Surety, Rom. 5:21.
Q. 18. What encouragement ought we to take from the wisdom of God?
A. That he will make all things work together for our good, Rom. 8:28; and that no plot can be so deeply laid for our ruin, but his wisdom can easily frustrate and disappoint, Job 5:13.
OF GOD’S POWER
Q. 1. What is the power of God?
A. It is that essential perfection of his nature, by which he can do whatsoever he pleases, in heaven and earth, in the seas, and all deep places, Psalm 135:6.
Q. 2. What is the object of divine power, or to what does it extend?
A. To all things possible, though limited, by his will, to those things only which he has decreed to be done, Matt. 26:53, 54.
Q. 3. Is it any impeachment of God’s omnipotence, that he cannot lie, cannot deny himself?
A. By no means; for, on the contrary, God is therefore omnipotent, because it is impossible for him to do evil or depart from the infinite rectitude of his own will, 1 Sam. 15:29 — “The strength of Israel will not lie.”
Q. 4. In what does God manifest his infinite power?
A. In creation, providence, and redemption.
Q. 5. How is the power of God manifested in creation?
A. In calling “those things that be not as though they were,” Rom. 4:7; without the assistance or instrumentality of any whosoever, Isa. 44:24.
Q. 6. How is it displayed in the conduct of providence?
A. In upholding and preserving all his creatures from sinking into their original nothing, Heb. 1:3; and, particularly, in protecting and defending his church, in midst of all the dangers and enemies, with which it is surrounded, Matt. 16:18.
Q. 7. How is the power of God illustrated in the glorious work of redemption?
A. By laying the chief cornerstone thereof, in the union of the human nature to the person of the Son of God; supporting him under the inconceivable load of divine wrath, for our sins, and spoiling principalities and powers in that very nature which Satan had vanquished at first; hence he is called “the power of God,” 1 Cor. 1:24 — “the arm of the Lord,” Isa. 53:1; and “the man of his right hand,” Psalm 80:17.
Q. 8. How is the power of God denied or abused by men?
A. By limiting it, as Israel did, Psalm 78:19; by trusting more to an arm of flesh, than to the arm of God, Jer. 17:5; and by fearing the wrath of man more than the displeasure of God, Isa. 51:12, 13.
Q. 9. What improvement may faith make of the power of a promising God?
A. It can fasten upon it, for the performance of his gracious word, Rom 4:20, 21:for resisting and conquering sin, Satan, and the world, saying, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Rom. 8:31; and for the practice of any commanded duty, however difficult, saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me,” Phil. 4:13.
OF GOD’S HOLINESS
Q. 1. What is the holiness of God?
A. It is that essential rectitude or integrity of his nature, by which he infinitely delights in his own purity, and in every thing agreeable to his will, Hab. 1:13; and has a perfect hatred and abhorrence of every thing contrary to it, Jer. 44:4.
Q. 2. Is God necessarily holy?
A. Holiness is as necessary to him as his being: he is as necessarily holy, as he is necessarily God: “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord? — for thou only art holy,” Rev. 15:4.
Q. 3. What peculiar honour does God put upon his own holiness?
A. He singles it out as the attribute to swear by, for the accomplishment of his promises and threatenings, Psalm 89:35 — “Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David.”
Q. 4. Are finite creatures able to behold the brightness of God’s holiness?
A. No; for when the angels themselves view his infinite holiness, as manifested in Christ, they are represented as covering their faces with their wings, Isa. 6:2.
Q. 5. How are sinners of mankind made partakers of his holiness?
A. By regenerating grace, and spiritual ingraftment into the second Adam, John 15:4, 5; by faith’s improvement of the great and precious promises, 2 Pet. 1:4; and by beholding the glory of this attribute, as it shines in the person and sufferings of the Son of God, presented to our view in the glass of the gospel revelation, 2 Cor. 5:21.
Q. 6. Does every thing pertaining to God, bear the stamp and impress of his holiness?
A. Yes; he is holy in all his works, Psalm 145:17; his word is holy, Rom. 1:2; his covenant or promise is holy. Psalm 105:42; his Sabbath is holy, Isa. 58:13; his people are holy, chap. 62:12; his ministering spirits are the holy angels, Rev. 14:10; and the place where he dwells, is the high and holy place, Isa. 57:15.
Q. 7. In what did the holiness of God appear in the creation of man?
A. In making him upright, Eccl. 7:29, after his own image, Gen. 1:27; and writing a law upon his heart, which was the transcript of his holiness, Rom, 7:12.
Q. 8. How has God discovered his holiness in his providential procedure?
A. In not sparing the angels who sinned; and in the visible and remarkable judgements, which he has inflicted upon notorious offenders in this life, 2 Pet. 2:4-6.
Q. 9. What was the highest display of God’s holiness, and detestation of sin?
A. His hiding his face from his own beloved Son, as bearing our iniquity, Matt. 27:46.
Q. 10. What is the greatest opposite of the holiness of God?
A. Sin: therefore called that abominable thing which God hates, Jer. 44:4.
Q. 11. How does God hate sin?
A. He hates it necessarily, and with a “perfect hatred,” Psalm 5:4-6.
Q. 12. Since God thus hates sin, how does his permission of it consist with his holiness?
A. It fully consists with it, because his permission of sin has no influence upon the commission of it, which entirely flows from the free will of the sinner, James 1:13, 14. Besides, God thereby takes occasion to give a brighter display of his holiness and detestation of sin, than though Adam had continued in innocence; when he spared not his own Son, but gave him unto death on account of it, Rom. 8:32.
Q. 13. What improvement ought we to make of the holiness of God?
A. To “give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness,” Psalm 30:4; to proclaim the glory of it, Ex. 15:11; and to study holiness in all manner of conversation, 1 Pet. 1:15.
Q. 14. How may we know if we have suitable impressions of God’s holiness?
A. If we stand in awe to offend him, Gen. 39:9; and have an habitual desire after more conformity to him, 1 John 3:3.