MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA TREATISE I. 4. THE SIMPLICITY OF GOD.
Madonna and Child with Saints (detail)
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA
4. THE SIMPLICITY OF GOD.
I. Simplicity means the exclusion of component parts, and is an attribute, although not a property of spirit. God is supremely spiritual, and is therefore supremely simple. He differs from matter, which has a necessary relation to quantity and therefore to parts. He differs from ourselves, in whom are found not only the composition of quantitative parts, but also the composition of body and soul, of faculties and qualities various in kind. He differs from the angels, in whom is found the composition of essence and existence, of substance and properties. So we must not consider the character of God as being composed of different qualities antagonistic to and checking one another. We must not think of His mercy as contending with His justice and frustrating it ; nor of His promises and threats as representing different frames of mind. We must distinguish between what is figurative, or spoken according to human apprehension, and the inconceivable, inexpressible divine reality. Your soul, as a spiritual substance, is immensely superior to your material body. Endeavour to become more spiritual, and so more like to God, alienating yourself, as far as you can, from flesh and blood by means of prayer and mortification.
II. From this perfect simplicity of God s essence which lies at the root of His immutability, it follows that He can receive no extrinsic addition of anything to His substance; nor is He, as we are, brought into new relationships to beings by any change of environment. So the course of events does not pass through the stages of past, present and future with regard to God. He is always acting, yet in His eternity there is no beginning of action, no end of action, no change of activity. We express the truth in an approximate way when we say that all things and all events are always present at once to God in His eternity, which is simultaneous totality of life without any succession. So also God is everywhere, but He is not under the conditions of space ; He is great, and yet is not extended or measurable ; He creates all things, and is not the richer for them ; He changes all things, and yet towards them He changes not. The simple essence of God is all things ; it is law, it is love, it is justice, it is eternity. Hence you cannot divide God so as to possess Him partially. You possess Him entirely or not at all. One mortal sin excludes God entirely from the soul. You cannot disobey one of His laws and have the merit of obeying all the others. He cannot be present with you in one respect and absent in another. Hence the impossibility of that which so many attempt, viz., serving God simultaneously with mammon, or the world, or self.
III. Not only is God simple in the sense described ; He is so in the further sense which excludes duplicity in thought, word or deed. All in Him is simple, straight forward, undisguised truth. In His teachings and in His dealings with us there is no admixture of Yea and Nay, of " I will " and " I won t," but all is categorical and positive, and no word of His can ever pass away. What God promises He will perform ; His threats are literally true, and are not spoken for effect. Hypocrisy, double-dealing, paltering with the truth are abominations in His eyes. He demands from us, in our relations with Him, with ourselves, and with our neighbour, perfect candour, simplicity, consistency. " Wo to them that are of a double heart, and to wicked lips, and to the hands that do evil, and to the sinner that goeth on the earth two ways. Wo to them that are faint-hearted, who believe not God : . . . and have forsaken the right ways, and gone aside into crooked ways" (Eccli. ii. 14-16). There are many who would not wilfully deceive a neighbour with false words, yet do not shrink from deceiving them selves with vain excuses for not following the lead of light and grace ; but they do not deceive God, and He will not be mocked.
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA BY THE RIGHT REV. JAMES BELLORD, D.D.