De Moor V:3: The Divine Persons and Substance, Part 2

3. And so our AUTHOR joins himself with the Theologians of the preceding age; pursuing a middle way with them, he says that Personality is a positive Mode of Being, ultimately terminating and completing the substantial nature, and givine incommunicability to that. For an understanding of this description it is able to be noted:


Johannes a Marck

α. That Mode of Being here is opposed by our AUTHOR to Being strictly so called or Substance, which Logician say is a Thing subsisting of itself. In which stricter sense Being is taken, and Modes and Accidents are contemplated, not so much as Beings, as rather something of Being; namely, as adjuncts of Being strictly so called, or Substance, according to VRIESIUS, Ontologicis, chapter III, § 2.


β. That Personality is not as a Mode of whatever Being, rational or irrational; but as a Mode of Rational Being in particular, since above we heard that even Brutes are contemplated as supposita, with which their Subsistence agrees; but that Personality is attributed to Rational Substances alone as Persons. But thus our AUTHOR had described, § 2, a Being or Concrete thing, the Abstract of which he here treats, to be intelligent Substance, etc.


Johannes Maccovius

γ. The Mode is able to be called that whereby a matter is thus and not otherwise, in this manner and not in another; that through which a thing is in this or that state in general: for example, that a hand is shut or stretched out, contracted or extended, is the Mode, whereby an answer is able to be made to the question, in what manner is the hand? But, Mode and Accident are indeed believed to signify the same thing in created things; whence VRIESIUS in Ontologicis, chapter XVI, § 8, “Why should we hold the Mode of Being to be notion distinct from Accident, and not rather say that these are synonymous terms? hardly any reason appears.” Namely, because that which in created things is in any thing by Accidental Property also modifies that thing; and that which modifies a thing is likewise, at least commonly, in the thing by Accidental Property. But one may not make this Mode of Being in divine things equivalent to an Accidental Property, since we taught in Chapter IV, § 17, 24, that Accidental Properties, as introducing much of imperfection and Logical composition with substance, are to be removed from God. Hence MACCOVIUS,[1] considering that Mode also obtains in Divine things, said in his Metaphysica, chapter IV, “Mode is a Condition of Being, which is conceived after the manner of an Accidental Property, yet is not an Accidental Property.” On which HEEREBOORD in his Notis[2] has: “Mode, if you take the term in its broadest signification, signifies Substance, not Accidents, not God, not creature, not nothing; but rather something that agrees with those four sorts of real Being;” and for examples of Modes in the same passage he cites Unity, truth, goodness, rationality. But, although CASTANÆUS[3] also reviews the Accidental Modes, which affect an Accidental Property primarily, and the Substance with the Accidental Property intervening; nevertheless, MARESIUS[4] in his Notis on that asserts that there is no Accidental Modes, if we wish to speak accurately, because substance, not an accidental property, is the Subject of a Mode. Which quarrel we are not now going to make our own. Now, CASTANÆUS, when he reviews the three Sorts of Modes, says, “3. It is taken for that which of itself adds no positive being to the subject, but it affects it in some manner;” and among these Modes he includes Subsistence, adding, “And it is common to all these Modes that the subject is able to exist or to be understood without them, but they are by no means able to exist or to be understood without the subject. And this acceptation is especially appropriate.” On which things MARESIUS notes: “When in divine things Personality or Subsistence is taken as a Mode affecting and determining the divine Essence, this Mode is understood in the third signification of our Author, which he says is especially appropriate, for that which of itself adds no positive being to the subject, but does affect it in some manner; with this limitation and restriction as well, that the subject of those divine Modes is not even able to exist without them, but without them is able to be conceived however inadequately and incompletely. Which sort of Mode, that ever agrees with the thing, and is not able to be separated from it, as they are Modes of subsistence of the divine Nature, is able also to be called an Intrinsic Mode, as opposed to an Extrinsic Mode, which is able to be present or absent without the destruction of the subject,” MARESIUS observes in the same place. But, that by this Intrinsic Mode no composition is introduced into the divine Essence, since it merely modifies the divine Essence, has already been observed above. According to MACCOVIUS in the passage cited, Mode in the strictest sense is not even able to be attributed to God, because Mode, brought together with Essence, implies a prior and posterior, since Mose is always posterior in nature to the subject of which it is the Mode; and Essence holds the position of the beginning, Mode of the thing begun, but a thing begun depends upon its beginning, which things do not agree with God: for, God forbid that we should say that the Mode of subsistence in the Son is a thing begun. Hence DAMASCENUS in the last chapter of his Dialecticæ prudently said that a divine Person is τρόπον ἂναρχον, a mode without beginning. That is, analogically, and in its highest eminence, which excludes all prior and posterior, all composition and imperfection, the received language of Mode or τρόπου is able and ought to be applied to divine Persons only, as MACCOVIUS observes; because Persons considered in the abstract either are Essence or Modes; but they are not Essence, and so they are Modes, because no third thing between these is granted in God.

δ. Our AUTHOR calls that Mode Positive, in opposition to negative, which only removes something from a thing and denies something concerning a thing, but does not affect the thing itself: while that is positive, which places something in a thing that would not be had in it, if that Mode had not been present. Therefore, it is Positive; not in this sense, that something Positive, real or strictly so called, adds positive Being to the subject; for this is not able to come upon the Infinite and altogether Simple divine Essence: but it is something Positive, of broader signification, as it were, which sort comes between real Being, strictly so called, and mere Nothing or Non-Being. “Mode,” says MACCOVIUS in the passage cited, “is not without a Being, because it has no Being apart from a Being, of which it is said to be a Mode.”


ε. Moreover, this Mode of Being is said by our AUTHOR ultimately to terminate and to complete the Substantial Nature. This is the case because that Positive Mode yields to the divine Substance or Nature, contemplated apart from Personality, its ultimate Terminus and Complement; so that by that Terminus and Complement this Substance proves to be a Person, or so that by this Mode, superadded to the divine Nature, the divine Nature is constituted in the being of a Person. That is, the Suppositum is constituted by Subsistence superadded to Nature. And so in divine things for the Person of the Father, for example, and of the Son, is not only required the divine Nature in general; but also in addition the divine Nature ought to be terminated ultimately in the Father and the Son through the new Complement, namely, the Mode of subsisting, which is in the Father, not being from another; and in the Son, being from the Father by Generation: in such a way that this ultimate Terminus and Complement of Nature, being superadded to the divine Nature, constitutes a Person; or God the Father and God the Son.


ϛ. Finally, concerning this Positive Mode our AUTHOR asserts that it gives Incommunicability to Being. That is, that Positive Mode brings it to pass, not only that the substance is substance complete or perfect, that is, since it is not a part of another, and since this Person is rather this and not another, which they commonly call Individuation: but also that one Person is not able to be another. That is, by this Mode, which is called Personality, the person of Peter is not only the person of Peter, and not the person of Paul, because the individual human nature subsisting in Peter is not united with the intellectual suppositum of Paul; but it is not even able to be united with it to constitute one Person. Similarly in the divine Essence, the Mode of the existence of the Father is not only not the Mode of the existence of the Son, but it is not even able to be; neither, on the other hand, is or is able to be the Mode of the existence of the Son the Mode of the existence of the Father or of the Holy Spirit. Or, the divine Essence, modified by this positive mode, which is in the Father, is not able to be in the Son, and vice versa; so that eternally the Father is not able to be the Son, nor the Son the Father, nor the Holy Spirit the Father or Son. Our imbecility prevents us from saying more or giving a plainer explanation of this sublime matter.

[1] Johannes Maccovius (1588-1644) was a Polish Reformed theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Franeker (1615-1644). Maccovius’ supralapsarianism, use of scholastic terminology in metaphysics, and loose living, brought him into conflict with his colleague, Sibrandus Lubbertus. Lubbertus drew up fifty charges against Maccovius, and those charges were taken up at the Synod of Dordt, at which Maccovius was acquitted of heresy, by admonished to be more cautious and peaceable.


[2] Adriaan Heereboord (1613-1661) was a Dutch philosopher and logician. He served as Professor of Philosophy at Leiden (1641); his philosophy was eclectic, including elements of Cartesianism and Ramism. Heereboord published Notes on Maccovius’ Metaphysica.


[3] Henri-Louis Chasteigner de la Roche-Pozay (1577-1651) was a French abbot and bishop. He wrote voluminously, and many French Calvinists were converted to the Roman faith under his ministry.


[4] Maresius, or Samuel Desmarets (1599-1673), was a French Huguenot minister and polemist. He held various ministerial posts, and served as Professor of Theology at Sedan (1625-1636), and at Groningen (1643-1673). Maresius composed annotations on Castanæus’ Celebriorum Distinctionum tum philosophicarum, tum theologicarum synopsi.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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