MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA TREATISE I 3 THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA
3 THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS.
I. The attributes or perfections of God are those qualities which proceed from His Essence and manifest it to us. God possesses every actual perfection of creatures, and every conceivable perfection, in an infinite degree. As we cannot fully conceive them, we must try to rise to some inadequate appreciation of them by considering such manifestations of them as occur in the visible creation. There we have the incalculable vastness of the celestial world, the long epochs of cosmic time, the irresistible forces of nature, the varieties of beauty and marvellous works of skill and power, from solar systems down to the infusoria in a drop of water, the vast achievements and vaster cravings of human minds. All this has proceeded from God in the first instance. He surpasses it all. It is the merest dim reflection of the unimaginable splendour of God. How magnificent will be the full revelation of God given to us in glory! He contains all that we can desire. He alone can satisfy the immense cravings of human nature. Seek Him then above all things, and let nothing come between your soul and God to turn you from this wonderful treasure reserved for you. " O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God ! " (Rom. xi. 33).
II. All that is contained in the Divine Essence is really one and indivisible ; there is no real multiplicity of qualities. God s sanctity is His wrath, His mercy is His justice, His power and His love are one and the same. But in order to accommodate realities to our comprehension and to the limitations of our speech, we make a division of the divine attributes according to the different effects produced on us. The perfections of God are, then, from this point of view, numerous, and varied; we know of many, but there are many more which are not manifested in this limited sphere to our limited comprehension. Consider some classes of them. The negative attributes express indirectly God s infinite perfection by excluding from Him all conceivable limitations and imperfections; thus we say that God is uncreated, unchangeable, incomprehensible. The positive attributes, such as wisdom, power, goodness, are those which directly attribute perfections to God. Some perfections are immanent in God, such as His sanctity; while others express a relation of action towards us, as His providence, predestination, mercy. Some are incommunicable, according to that; "I will not give My glory to another" (Isa. xlii. 8); such are His eternity and immensity. Others again are communicated in a measure to us, like intelligence, prudence, the supernatural life, the beatific vision. Every good or great quality in creatures extorts your love or admiration ; how much then does God deserve from you on account of His great attributes! You cannot know how great is your debt. Render Him all that you can.
III. We have no experience of good qualities unalloyed. We speak, accordingly, of having the " defects of our qualities." Our highest virtues, though infused by God, are limited and are accompanied by many faults. Our faith, our justice, our love, are all seriously imperfect. All things in us err by excess or deficiency. Reason is obscured, the will tends to love evil, power is ineffectual ; greatness is dangerous to us, beauty is transient, desire is insatiable, gratification ends in disgust, our best virtues are spoiled by our conceit. With God how different ! All is perfect. Action is without effort, repose without inactivity, justice without harshness, mercy without weakness, joy without drawbacks, power equal to His desires. There is no weariness, no failure, no disappointment. Rejoice that God, in whom you trust, is so perfect. Recognize your own imperfection and nothingness. Take no credit to yourself for anything ; all that is good in you is from Him; all that is really your own is your weakness, your folly, your shame. And this is the whole of man without God.
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA BY THE RIGHT REV. JAMES BELLORD, D.D.