The Divine Trinunity, Francis Cheynell. Chapter 1 The Godhead is Spiritual, Infinite, Incomprehensible.
July 12, 2018
We read of the eternal Godhead in the book of the creature, Rom. 1. 20 and therefore I prize philosophy because it is subservient to divinity; nay that philosophy which manifests the eternal power and Godhead of our great Creator is indeed and truth, nothing else but natural divinity: This natural divinity is called "the truth", Rom. 1. 18. and it is a divine truth, because it does declare, all that can be known of God by the light of nature, Rom. 1. 19, 20. I subscribe to that of Clemens Alexandrinus: We ought not to swear allegiance to any sect of Philosophers, whether Stoics, Epicures, Platonists or Peripatetiques, but we must select and embrace whatsoever is true and faithfully delivered concerning God by any Sect; and the truth selected out of all Sects is not vain philosophy, but natural divinity.
There is something of the image of God and law of nature written in our hearts and consciences, as is evident by common experience and plain testimonies of the world of God, and therefore the Scripture does not condemn all philosophy, but vain philosophy, Col. 2.
These natural notions of the eternal Godhead should excite us to enquire farther after God as the Apostle shows in Acts 17. 27, because though our natural notions concerning God are true, yet they are such imperfect and obscure notions, or rather hints, that we are by reason of the corruption of our nature, very apt to abuse them, and therefore we must regulate them by the Word of God.
The Godhead is spiritual, and therefore invisible; the professors of wisdom became fools, when upon a clear sight of some invisible things of God they changed the glory of God into a visible image made like unto corruptible man, and unreasonable creatures; such images are both artificial and real lies; for by making images of God, these learned fools changed the truth of God into a lie, and then adored and worshipped their own lies, Rom. 1. 20, 23, 25.
The Godhead is infinite, and the immensity of God’s perfection cannot be measured by any created understanding. God is great, and his greatness is unsearchable, Psalm 145. 3. The greatness of God is not a greatness of bulk and quantity, but of perfection and excellency; he is great in power, and his understanding is infinite, Ps. 147. 5, and therefore his understanding is unsearchable, Isa. 40. 28 when men and angels search farthest into God’s perfection, they do most of all discover their own imperfection, for God will make them know that the secrets of his wisdom are double to that which they behold, and that it is impossible by our most accurate disquisition to find out the Almighty unto perfection, Job 11. 6, 7, but we may find him out unto salvation in the holy Scriptures.
If we sum up all that the Philosophers and Schoolmen can attain to in their discourses of this first principle, it will amount to no more than this; Men and angels can never comprehend that perfection which dwells in God; for the perfection of God is infinite, and therefore incomprehensible.
Let Schoolers examine this brief account, Deus est Ens, Ens entium, Essentia Essentiarum, Ens purum, Ens Simplex, Ens simpliciter Simplex, Ens Absolutum, Ens Necessarium, Ens Absolutè necessarium. Ens Primum, aeternum, independens, perfectum infinitum, infinitè perfectum, & proinde immensum. Let us therefore study, believe and embrace the holy Scriptures, which may satisfy and save us.
I confess I have been very much taken with some discourses in Aristotle's Metaphysicks concerning the spiritual and eternal efficacy of the first principle, first mover or prime understanding, whose very essence, substance, nature and being is a spiritual and eternal self-efficacy, from whence it was easy to demonstrate the self-sufficiency and all-sufficiency of this eternal understanding, and from thence to infer that this eternal spirit, whose very being is efficacy (or as we say a pure act) should be effectually obeyed and sincerely worshipped with pure and spiritual worship.
I shall not examine those passages which are usually cited out of Plato, Iamblichus Trismegistus and others upon this subject, because it is clear to me that those glorious mysteries which they did either discourse or treat of were discovered to them by an Hebrew light. Plato was not called the Atticising Moses in vain, Clemens Alexandrinus and divers others have said enough of that, and saved me the labour of a learned digression upon that subject; and it is conceived that Christians have inserted such passages into the works of heathens.
The Platonists say Lumen est umbra Dei, Deus est lumen luminis [that is Light is the shadow of God's brightness, who is the light of light]. The Apostle saith God is light, and in him is no darkness at all: That is, God is perfection itself without any imperfection at all, 1 John 1. 5. God is a pure act, God is one single infinite perfection. And therefore as Seneca said, we had need compose our whole man into an argument of modesty when we discourse of the nature of God, lest we speak any thing rashly, or affirm any thing that is untrue.
The works of God are great, and his thoughts (decrees and counsels) very deep, Psal. 92. 5. Who then is able to sound the depth of his natural perfection, whose immense perfection is like a sea (if there were any such) which has neither banks nor bottom; who can sound a bottomless depth, or define an infinite perfection? God is near us, nay in us, and yet far off from us; there is an infinite distance between his excellency and our infirmity: he is far off from our senses and from our understanding; and therefore instead of begging longer time as the Philosopher did, I will conclude as the wise man does, Eccl. 7. 23, 24. All this have I proved by wisdom: I said I will be wise, but it was far from me; That which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out? Heraclitus put forth a pretty riddle. If you do not hope for something above hope, you shall never find out that which can never be found. It is safer as the Poet said, to believe and worship God than to pry into him. Nam praeter ipsum quaerere acquires nihil. How much Raymundus de Sabunde, A. Steuchus Eugubinus, Pacardus and others would have found without the help of the Scripture, let such as are spiritually judicious judge.