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De Moor IV:24: Divine Simplicity Defended against the Remonstrants

But, as the Socinians and Vorstius here pursue their finite and corporeal conception of God, and study to overthrow in this way the Essential identity of the divine Persons: so the Remonstrants, so that they might flatter the Socinians, in their Apologia, chapter II, page 41b, pronounce that the whole Question or disputation concerning the Simplicity of God is Metaphysical, concerning which there is not so much as one Jot in Scripture. They say that the most acute geniuses pause here, in which they exercise their industry: and, after they have done that, their disputes are drier than sand. In which the recede from ARMINIUS, who in his Disputationibus publicis, Thesis IV de Natura Dei, § 10, 11, pages 37, 38, correctly asserted the Simplicity of God, and denied all Composition in Him, with various sorts of Composition examined.

But against those Remonstrant Apologists make, α. God’s Independence, Consummate Perfection, and Immutability, asserted in the Scriptures with sufficient clarity, as it was seen in § 20, 21, 18, and we will see in § 26: and hence we just now showed the Simplicity of God to be inferred by legitimate consequence. Therefore, the Disputation concerning the Simplicity of God is not just Metaphysical, but also Theological; indeed, it is a Question of such moment that Deity, and τὸ μυστηριῶδες, the mystery, of the doctrine concerning the Trinity, hangs upon it.

β. It is added that the Scripture here and there attributes Attributes to God in the Abstract: thus God is indeed called the Victory of Israel according to some, but according to others, with whom our AUTHOR agrees, Eternity, נֵצַח,[1] of Israel, 1 Samuel 15:29;[2] compare § 31 below: Truth, Jeremiah 10:10;[3] Light, 1 John 1:5; Love, 1 John 4:8.

Neither ought it to be Excepted, 1. that this is done Hyperbolically, to denote the highest degree of the Perfections in God. For, a. there is to be no withdrawal from the letter without necessity, that we might have recourse to figures. b. But this manner of speech perfectly agrees with the Simple Nature of God, which we submit to have been abundantly proven, and is founded on this, that these divine Attribues are identified with God’s very Essence because of the Simplicity of His Nature: which Perfectly Simple Nature of God the Scripture’s same manner of speaking so perfectly confirms and illustrates.

Exception 2: Vorstius in his Notis on Disputation III de Deo, page 205, objects that the Scripture speaks in the same way concerning men, when they are called Light in the Lord, Righteousness in Christ, Ephesians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; and that one is vulgarly called his Highness, his Excellency: indeed, that this is a common trope, whereby one is said to be the very thing with which he has been superabundantly furnished.

Responses: a. Although the Scripture in the passages cited does call men Light and Righteousness, at the same time it indicates that they possess these gifts dependently, adding in the Lord. b. It is well-known, that, because of the imperfection of the creature by composition, assertions of this sort concerning the creature are not able properly to be affirmed: since all Virtues are superadded to the Essence of man, so that they are not only able to be separated from the continuing Nature of man, but are also actually separated, as it is evident in Fallen man. c. But this does not hinder similar assertions from being made concerning God in a far more perfect manner: from whom perhaps they were transferred to men through a sort of accommodation, to indicate men that, excelling in Virtue, are thus in a measure similar to God.

γ. Moreover, the Attributes of God are treated reciprocally with the divine Essence in Scripture, in such a way that, when God is said there to do anything by one or another Attribute, this is understood of that, that He accomplishes it of Himself, by His Essence. Thus God is said to swear by His Holiness, Amos 4:2; Psalm 89:35, that is, by Himself, comparing Hebrews 6:13; Amos 6:8. God is said to forgive sins, not recording them, for the sake of His own Goodness or Benignity, Psalm 25:7; this elsewhere God is said to do for His own sake, Isaiah 43:25. Whence it is evident that God’s Holiness, Goodness, and Benignity are God Himself: see HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismum confutatum, book II, chapter IV, section II, page 377.

δ. We are yet able to argue from the Scriptural Names of God, which God Himself declares to be proper to Himself, יְהוָה/Jehovah, אֶהְיֶה/Eheyeh, אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה, Eheyeh asher Eheyeh;[4] in which manner, a. God’s Independence, Eternity, and Immutability is most certainly declared. But now, when God says that He is יְהוָה/Jehovah and אֶהְיֶה/ Eheyeh, He declares that those Perfections of Independence, Eternity, and Immutability constitute God’s very Essence. b. When God calls Himself I am that I am, and declares יְהוָה/Jehovah, He that is, to be His Name, at the same time He signifies that His Essence is Perfectly Simple, since the whole is nothing but Being, Essence, to which no Accidental Properties diverse from the Being of His Essence are superadded.

That this disquisition is not drier than dust, but of the greatest moment, if we are going to think rightly of God, VOGELSANG[5] demonstrates against the Remonstrants in his Exercitationibus theologicis XII, § 27, page 305.

To their Objections our AUTHOR responds briefly, distinctly, and prudently, in whose reasoning here we acquiesce: being rightly mindful that, when we speak of God, who is in heaven, our words ought to be few, Ecclesiastes 5:1; indeed, that it is dangerous to say even true things concerning God. Meanwhile, compare on Objection α, Chapter V, § 3; on Objection β, Chapter VIII, § 10, 11, Chapter X, § 8; on Objection γ, Chapter VI, § 5; on Objection δ, Chapter IV, § 17. Add VOETIUS’ Disputationem de Unica et Simplicissima Dei Essentia, tome I, Disputationum theologicarum, pages 226-246.

[1] נֵצַח, eminence or everlastingness, is related to the verb נָצַח, to be pre-emient, victorious, or enduring.

[2] 1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Strength of Israel (נֵ֣צַח יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל) will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.”

[3] Jeremiah 10:10a: “But the Lord is the true God (וַֽיהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ אֱמֶ֔ת, but Jehovah God is truth), he is the living God, and an everlasting king…”

[4] Exodus 3:14: “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AMאֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר) אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM (אֶהְיֶה) hath sent me unto you.”

[5] Reinerus Vogelsang (1610-1679) was a Reformed divine, and Professor of Theology at Deventer (1676-1679). Silva-Ducis is the Latin name of ’s-Hertogenbosch, a city in the southern Netherlands.

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