The Attributes of God
by Arthur W. Pink
The Solitariness of God
The title of this article is perhaps not sufficiently
explicit to indicate its theme. This is partly due to the fact that so few
today are accustomed to meditate upon the personal perfections of God.
Comparatively few of those who occasionally read the Bible are aware of the
awe-inspiring and worship-provoking grandeur of the divine character. That
God is great in wisdom, wondrous in power, yet full of mercy, is assumed by
many to be almost common knowledge; but, to entertain anything approaching
an adequate conception of His being, His nature, and His attributes, as
these are revealed in Holy Scripture, is something which very, very few
people in these degenerate times have attained unto. God is solitary in His
excellency. "Who is like unto You, O Lord, among the gods? who is like You,
glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Exo 15:11).
"In the beginning God" (Gen 1:1). There was a time, if
"time" it could be called, when God, in the unity of His nature (though
subsisting equally in three divine persons), dwelt all alone. "In the
beginning God." There was no heaven, where His glory is now particularly
manifested. There was no earth to engage His attention. There were no angels
to hymn His praises; no universe to be upheld by the word of His power.
There was nothing, no one, but God; and that, not for a day, a year, or an
age, but "from everlasting." During eternity past, God was alone:
self-contained, self-sufficient, self-satisfied; in need of nothing. Had a
universe, had angels, had human beings been necessary to Him in any way,
they also had been called into existence from all eternity. The creating of
them when He did, added nothing to God essentially. He changes not (Mal
3:6), therefore His essential glory can be neither augmented nor diminished.
God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity
to create. That He chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on His part,
caused by nothing outside Himself, determined by nothing but His own mere
good pleasure; for He "works all things after the counsel of His own will"
(Eph 1:11). That He did create was simply for His manifestative glory. Do
some of our readers imagine that we have gone beyond what Scripture
warrants? Then our appeal shall be to the Law and the Testimony: "Stand up
and bless the Lord your God forever and ever: and blessed be Your glorious
name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise" (Neh 9:5). God is no
gainer even from our worship. He was in no need of that external glory of
His grace which arises from His redeemed, for He is glorious enough in
Himself without that. What was it that moved Him to predestinate His elect
to the glory of His grace? It was, as Ephesians 1:5 tells us, "according to
the good pleasure of His will."
We are well aware that the high ground we are here
treading is new and strange to almost all of our readers; for that reason it
is well to move slowly. Let our appeal again be to the Scriptures. At the
end of Romans 11, where the Apostle brings to a close his argument on
salvation by pure and sovereign grace, he asks, "For who has known the mind
of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him,
and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (vv. 34-35). The force of this
is, it is impossible to bring the Almighty under obligations to the
creature; God gains nothing from us. "If you are righteous, what do you give
to him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects only
a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men" (Job
35:7-8), but it certainly cannot affect God, who is all-blessed in Himself.
"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should
say—We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty." (Luke 17:10)—our
obedience has profited God nothing.
Nay, we go further; our Lord Jesus Christ added nothing
to God in His essential being and glory, either by what He did or suffered.
True, blessedly and gloriously true, He manifested the glory of God to us,
but He added nothing to God. He Himself expressly declares so, and there is
no appeal from His words: "My goodness extends not to You" (Psalm 16:2). The
whole of that Psalm is a Psalm of Christ. Christ's goodness or righteousness
reached unto His saints in the earth (v.3), but God was high above and
beyond it all. God alone is "the Blessed One" (Mark 14:61, Greek).
It is perfectly true that God is both honored and
dishonored by men; not in His essential being, but in His official
character. It is equally true that God has been "glorified" by creation, by
providence, and by redemption. This we do not and dare not dispute for a
moment. But all of this has to do with His manifest glory and the
recognition of it by us. Yet had God so pleased He might have continued
alone for all eternity, without making known His glory unto creatures.
Whether He should do so or not was determined solely by His own will. He was
perfectly blessed in Himself before the first creature was called into
being. And what are all the creatures of His hands unto Him even now? Let
Scripture again make answer:
"Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are
regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were
fine dust. Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough
for burnt offerings. Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are
regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. To whom, then, will you
compare God? What image will you compare him to?" (Isa 40:15-18).
That is the God of Scripture; alas, He is still "the
unknown God" (Acts 17:23) to the heedless multitudes.
"He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its
people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and
reduces the rulers of this world to nothing." (Isa 40:22,23).
How vastly different is the God of Scripture from the
"God" of the average pulpit!
Nor is the testimony of the New Testament any different
from that of the Old: how could it be, seeing that both have one and the
same Author! There do we read, "God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of
kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in
unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and
might forever. Amen" (1 Tim 6:15,16). Such an One is to be revered,
worshiped, adored. He is solitary in His majesty, unique in His excellency,
peerless in His perfections. He sustains all, but is Himself independent of
all. He gives to all, but is enriched by none.
Such a God cannot be found out by searching. He can be
known only as He is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit through the
Word. It is true that creation demonstrates a Creator so plainly that men
are "without excuse"; yet, we still have to say with Job, "Lo, these are
parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? but the thunder
of His power who can understand?" (26:14) The so-called argument from design
by well-meaning "Apologists" has, we believe, done much more harm than good,
for it has attempted to bring down the great God to the level of finite
comprehension, and thereby has lost sight of His solitary excellence.
Analogy has been drawn between a savage finding a watch
upon the sands, and from a close examination of it he infers a watch-maker.
So far so good. But attempt to go further: suppose that savage sits down on
the sand and endeavors to form to himself a conception of this watch-maker,
his personal affections and manners; his disposition, acquirements, and
moral character—all that goes to make up a personality; could he ever think
or reason out a real man—the man who made the watch, so that he could say,
"I am acquainted with him"? It seems trifling to ask such questions, but is
the eternal and infinite God so much more within the grasp of human reason?
No, indeed. The God of Scripture can only be known by those to whom He makes
Nor is God known by the intellect. "God is Spirit" (John
4:24), and therefore can only be known spiritually. But fallen man is not
spiritual; he is carnal. He is dead to all that is spiritual. Unless he is
born again, supernaturally brought from death unto life, miraculously
translated out of darkness into light, he cannot even see the things of God
(John 3:3), still less apprehend them (1 Cor 2:14). The Holy Spirit has to
shine in our hearts (not intellects) in order to give us "the knowledge of
the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). And even that
spiritual knowledge is but fragmentary. The regenerated soul has to grow in
grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).
The principal prayer and aim of Christians should be that
we "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good
work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col 1:10).