The Works Of James Arminius Vol 2 by James Arminius
DISPUTATION XV ON THE NATURE OF GOD
Concerning God, the primary object of theology, two things must be known, (1.) His nature, or what God is, or rather what qualities does he possess? (2.) Who God is, or to whom this nature must be attributed. These must be known, lest any thing foolish or unbecoming be ascribed to God, or lest another, or a strange one, be considered as the true God. On the first of these we will now treat in a few disputations. II. As we are not able to know the nature of God, in itself, we can, in a measure, attain to some knowledge from the analogy of the nature which is in created things, and principally that which is in ourselves, who are created after the image of God; while we always add a mode of eminence to this analogy, according to which mode God is understood to exceed, infinitely, the perfections of things created. III. As in the whole nature of things, and in man, who is the compendium or abridgment of it, only two things can be considered as essential, whether they be disparted in their subjects, or, in a certain order, connected with each other and subordinate in the same subject, which two things are Essence and Life; we will also contemplate the nature of God according to these two impulses of his nature. For the four degrees, which are proposed by several divines -- to be, to live, to. feel, and to understand -- are restricted to these two causes of motion; because the word |to live,| embraces within itself both feeling and understanding. IV. We say the essence of God is the first impulse of the divine nature, by which God is purely and simply understood to be. V. As the whole nature of things is distributed according to their essence, into body and spirit, we affirm that the divine essence is spiritual, and from this, that God is a Spirit, because it could not possibly come to pass that the first and chief being should be corporeal. From this, one cannot do otherwise than justly admire the transcendent force and plenitude of God, by which he is capable of creating even things corporeal that have nothing analogous to himself. VI. To the essence of God no attribute can be added, whether distinguished from it in reality, by relation, or by a mere conception of the mind; but only a mode of pre-eminence can be attributed to it, according to which it is understood to comprise within itself and to exceed all the perfections of all things. This mode may be declared in this one expression: |The divine essence is uncaused and without commencement.| VII. Hence, it follows that this essence is simple and infinite; from this, that it is eternal and immeasurable; and, lastly, that it is unchangeable, impassable and incorruptible, in the manner in which it has been proved by us in our public theses on this subject. VIII. And since unity and goodness reciprocate with being, and as the affections or passions of every being are general, we also affirm that the essence of God is one, and that God is one according to it, and is, therefore, good -- nay, the chief good, from the participation of which all things have both their being, and their well being. IX. As this essence is itself pure from all composition, so it cannot enter into the composition of any thing. We permit it to become a subject of discussion, whether this be designated in the Scriptures by the name of |holiness,| which denotes separation or a being separated. X. These modes of pre-eminence are not communicable to any thing, from the very circumstance of their being such. And when these modes are contemplated in the life of God, and in the faculties of his life, they are of infinite usefulness in theology, and are not among the smallest foundations of true religion.