(Calvin, Institutes on the Christian Religion 1, part 10)

Chapter 12 
12. God distinguished from idols, that He may be the exclusive 
object of worship. 
1. Scripture, in teaching that there is but one God, does not make a 
    dispute about words, but attributes all honour and religious 
    worship to him alone. This proved, 1st, By the etymology of the 
    term. 2d, By the testimony of God himself, when he declares 
    that he is a jealous God, and will not allow himself to be 
    confounded with any fictitious Deity. 
2. The Papists in opposing this pure doctrine, gain nothing by their 
    distinction of julia and latria. 
3. Passages of Scripture subversive of the Papistical distinction, 
    and proving that religious worship is due to God alone. 
    Perversions of Divine worship. 
    1. We said at the commencement of our work, (chap. 2,) that the 
knowledge of God consists not in frigid speculation, but carries 
worship along with it; and we touched by the way (chap. 5 s. 6, 9, 
10) on what will be more copiously treated in other places, (Book 2, 
chap. 8,) viz., how God is duly worshipped. Now I only briefly 
repeat, that whenever Scripture asserts the unity of God, it does 
not contend for a mere name, but also enjoins that nothing which 
belongs to Divinity be applied to any other; thus making it obvious 
in what respect pure religion differs from superstition. The Greek 
word "eusebeia" means "right worship;" for the Greeks, though 
groping in darkness, were always aware that a certain rule was to be 
observed, in order that God might not be worshipped absurdly. Cicero 
truly and shrewdly derives the name "religion" from "relego", and 
yet the reason which he assigns is forced and farfetched, viz., that 
honest worshipers read and read again, and ponder what is true. I 
rather think the name is used in opposition to vagrant license - the 
greater part of mankind rashly taking up whatever first comes in 
their way, whereas piety, that it may stand with a firm step, 
confines itself within due bounds. In the same way superstition 
seems to take its name from its not being contented with the measure 
which reason prescribes, but accumulating a superfluous mass of 
vanities. But to say nothing more of words, it has been universally 
admitted in all ages, that religion is vitiated and perverted 
whenever false opinions are introduced into it, and hence it is 
inferred, that whatever is allowed to be done from inconsiderate 
zeal, cannot be defended by any pretext with which the superstitious 
may choose to cloak it. But although this confession is in every 
man's mouth, a shameful stupidity is forthwith manifested, inasmuch 
as men neither cleave to the one God, nor use any selection in their 
worship, as we have already observed. 
    But God, in vindicating his own right, first proclaims that he 
is a jealous God, and will be a stern avenger if he is confounded 
with any false god; and thereafter defines what due worship is, in 
order that the human race may be kept in obedience. Both of these he 
embraces in his Law when he first binds the faithful in allegiance 
to him as their only Lawgiver, and then prescribes a rule for 
worshipping him in accordance with his will. The Law, with its 
manifold uses and objects, I will consider in its own place; at 
present I only advert to this one, that it is designed as a bridle 
to curb men, and prevent them from turning aside to spurious 
worship. But it is necessary to attend to the observation with which 
I set out, viz., that unless everything peculiar to divinity is 
confined to God alone, he is robbed of his honour, and his worship 
is violated. 
    It may be proper here more particularly to attend to the 
subtleties which superstition employs. In revolting to strange gods, 
it avoids the appearance of abandoning the Supreme God, or reducing 
him to the same rank with others. It gives him the highest place, 
but at the same time surrounds him with a tribe of minor deities, 
among whom it portions out his peculiar offices. In this way, though 
in a dissembling and crafty manner, the glory of the Godhead is 
dissected, and not allowed to remain entire. In the same way the 
people of old, both Jews and Gentiles, placed an immense crowd in 
subordination to the father and ruler of the gods, and gave them, 
according to their rank, to share with the supreme God in the 
government of heaven and earth. In the same way, too, for some ages 
past, departed saints have been exalted to partnership with God, to 
be worshipped, invoked, and lauded in his stead. And yet we do not 
even think that the majesty of God is obscured by this abomination, 
whereas it is in a great measure suppressed and extinguished - all 
that we retain being a frigid opinion of his supreme power. At the 
same time, being deluded by these entanglements, we go astray after 
divers gods. 
    2. The distinction of what is called dulia and latria was 
invented for the very purpose of permitting divine honours to be 
paid to angels and dead men with apparent impunity. For it is plain 
that the worship which Papists pay to saints differs in no respect 
from the worship of God: for this worship is paid without 
distinction; only when they are pressed they have recourse to the 
evasion, that what belongs to God is kept unimpaired, because they 
leave him latria. But since the question relates not to the word, 
but the thing, how can they be allowed to sport at will with a 
matter of the highest moment? But not to insist on this, the utmost 
they will obtain by their distinction is, that they give worship to 
God, and service to the others. For "latreia" in Greek has the same 
meaning as worship in Latin; whereas "douleia" properly means 
service, though the words are sometimes used in Scripture 
indiscriminately. But granting that the distinction is invariably 
preserved, the thing to be inquired into is the meaning of each. 
"Douleia" unquestionably means service, and "latreia" worship. But 
no man doubts that to serve is something higher than to worship. For 
it were often a hard thing to serve him whom you would not refuse to 
reverence. It is, therefore, an unjust division to assign the 
greater to the saints and leave the less to God. But several of the 
ancient fathers observed this distinction. What if they did, when 
all men see that it is not only improper, but utterly frivolous? 
    3. Laying aside subtleties, let us examine the thing. When Paul 
reminds the Galatians of what they were before they came to the 
knowledge of Gods he says that they "did service unto them which by 
nature are no gods," (Gal. 4: 8.) Because he does not say latria, 
was their superstition excusable? This superstition, to which he 
gives the name of dulia, he condemns as much as if he had given it 
the name of latria. When Christ repels Satan's insulting proposal 
with the words, "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, 
and him only shalt thou serve," (Matth. 4: 10,) there was no 
question of latria. For all that Satan asked was "proskunesis", 
(obeisance.) In like manners when John is rebuked by the angel for 
falling on his knees before him (Rev. 19: 10; 22: 8, 9,) we ought 
not to suppose that John had so far forgotten himself as to have 
intended to transfer the honour due to God alone to an angel. But 
because it was impossible that a worship connected with religion 
should not savour somewhat of divine worship, he could not 
"proskunein" (do obeisance to) the angel without derogating from the 
glory of God. True, we often read that men were worshipped; but that 
was, if I may so speak, civil honour. The case is different with 
religious honour, which, the moment it is conjoined with worship, 
carries profanation of the divine honour along with it. The same 
thing may be seen in the case of Cornelius, (Acts 10: 25.) He had 
not made so little progress in piety as not to confine supreme 
worship to God alone. Therefore, when he prostrates himself before 
Peter, he certainly does it not with the intention of adoring him 
instead of God. Yet Peter sternly forbids him. And why, but just 
because men never distinguish so accurately between the worship of 
God and the creatures as not to transfer promiscuously to the 
creature that which belongs only to God. Therefore, if we would have 
one God, let us remember that we can never appropriate the minutest 
portion of his glory without retaining what is his due. Accordingly, 
when Zechariah discourses concerning the repairing of the Church, he 
distinctly says not only that there would be one God, but also that 
he would have only one name - the reason being, that he might have 
nothing in common with idols. The nature of the worship which God 
requires will be seen in its own place, (Book 2, c. 7: and 8.) He 
has been pleased to prescribe in his Law what is lawful and right, 
and thus restrict men to a certain rule, lest any should allow 
themselves to devise a worship of their own. But as it is 
inexpedient to burden the reader by mixing up a variety of topics, I 
do not now dwell on this one. Let it suffice to remember, that 
whatever offices of piety are bestowed anywhere else than on God 
alone, are of the nature of sacrilege. First, superstition attached 
divine honours to the sun and stars, or to idols: afterwards 
ambition followed - ambition which, decking man in the spoils of 
God, dared to profane all that was sacred. And though the principle 
of worshipping a supreme Deity continued to be held, still the 
practice was to sacrifice promiscuously to genii and minor gods, or 
departed heroes: so prone is the descent to this vice of 
communicating to a crowd that which God strictly claims as his own 
peculiar right! 
Chapter 13 
13. The unity of the Divine Essence in three Persons taught, in 
Scripture, from the foundation of the world. 
This chapter consists of two parts. The former delivers the orthodox 
doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity. This occupies from sec. 1-21, 
and may be divided into four heads; the first, treating of the 
meaning of Person, including both the term and the thing meant by 
it, sec. 2-6; the second, proving the deity of the Son, sec. 7-13; 
the third, the deity of the Holy Spirit, sec. 14 and 15; and the 
fourth, explaining what is to be held concerning the Holy Trinity. 
The second part of the chapter refutes certain heresies which have 
arisen, particularly in our age, in opposition to this orthodox 
doctrine. This occupies from sec. 21 to the end. 
1. Scripture, in teaching that the essence of God is immense and 
    spiritual, refutes not only idolaters and the foolish wisdom of 
    the world, but also the Manichees and Anthropomorphites. These 
    latter briefly refuted. 
2. In this one essence are three persons, yet so that neither is 
    there a triple God, nor is the simple essence of God divided. 
    Meaning of the word Person in this discussion. Three hypostases 
    in God, or the essence of God. 
3. Objection of those who, in this discussion, reject the use of the 
    word Person. Answer 1. That it is not a foreign term, but is 
    employed for the explanation of sacred mysteries. 
4. Answer continued, 2. The orthodox compelled to use the terms, 
    Trinity, Subsistence, and Person. Examples from the case of the 
    Asians and Sabellians. 
5. Answer continued, 3. The ancient Church, though differing 
    somewhat in the explanation of these terms, agree in substance. 
    Proofs from Hilary, Jerome, Augustine, in their use of the 
    words Essence, Substance, Hypostasis. 4. Provided the orthodox 
    meaning is retained, there should be no dispute about mere 
    terms. But those who object to the terms usually favour the 
    Arian and Sabellian heresy. 
6. After the definition of the term follows a definition and 
    explanation of the thing meant by it. The distinction of 
7. Proofs of the eternal Deity of the Son. The Son the "logos" of 
    the Eternal Father, and, therefore, the Son Eternal God. 
    Objection. Reply. 
8. Objection, that the Logos began to be when the creating God 
    spoke. Answer confirmed by Scripture and argument. 
9. The Son called God and Jehovah. Other names of the Eternal Father 
    applied to him in the Old Testament. He is, therefore, the 
    Eternal God. Another objection refuted. Case of the Jews 
10. The angel who appeared to the fathers under the Law asserts that 
    he is Jehovah. That angel was the Logos of the Eternal Father. 
    The Son being that Logos is Eternal God. Impiety of Servetus 
    refuted. Why the Son appeared in the form of an angel. 
11. Passages from the New Testament in which the Son is acknowledged 
    to be the Lord of Hosts, the Judge of the world, the God of 
    glory, the Creator of the world, the Lord of angels, the King 
    of the Church, the eternal Logos, God blessed for ever, God 
    manifest in the flesh, the equal of God, the true God and 
    eternal life, the Lord and God of all believers. Therefore, the 
    Eternal God. 
12. Christ the Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Searcher of hearts. 
    Therefore, the Eternal God. 
13. Christ, by his own inherent power, wrought miracles, and 
    bestowed the power of working them on others. Out of the 
    Eternal God there is no salvation, no righteousness, no life. 
    All these are in Christ. Christ, consequently, is the Eternal 
    God. He in whom we believe and hope, to whom we pray, whom the 
    Church acknowledges as the Saviour of the faithful, whom to 
    know is life eternal, in whom the pious glory, and through whom 
    eternal blessings are communicated, is the Eternal God. All 
    these Christ is, and, therefore, he is God. 
14. The Divinity of the Spirit proved. I. He is the Creator and 
    Preserver of the world. II. He sent the Prophets. III. He 
    quickeneth all things. IV. He is everywhere present. V. He 
    renews the saints, and fits them for eternal life. VI. All the 
    offices of Deity belong to him. 
15. The Divinity of the Spirit continued. VII. He is called God. 
    VIII. Blasphemy against him is not forgiven. 
16. What view to be taken of the Trinity. The form of Christian 
    baptism proves that there are three persons in one essence. The 
    Arian and Macedonian heresies. 
17. Of the distinction of Persons. They are distinct, but not 
    divided. This proved. 
18. Analogies taken from human affairs to be cautiously used. Due 
    regard to be paid to those mentioned by Scripture. 
19. How the Three Persons not only do not destroy, but constitute 
    the most perfect unity 
20. Conclusion of this part of the chapter, and summary of the true 
    doctrine concerning the unity of Essence and the Three Persons. 
21. Refutation of Arian, Macedonian, and Anti Trinitarian heresies. 
    Caution to be observed. 
22. The more modern Anti Trinitarians, and especially Servetus, 
23. Other Anti Trinitarians refuted. No good objection that Christ 
    is called the Son of God, since he is also called God. Impious 
    absurdities of some heretics. 
24. The name of God sometimes given to the Son absolutely as to the 
    Father. Same as to other attributes. Objections refuted. 
25. Objections further refuted. Caution to be used. 
26. Previous refutations further explained. 
27. Reply to certain passages produced from Irenaeus. The meaning of 
28. Reply to certain passages produced from Tertullian. The meaning 
    of Tertullian. 
29. Anti Trinitarians refuted by ancient Christian writers; e. g., 
    Justin, Hilary. Objections drawn from writings improperly 
    attributed to Ignatius. Conclusion of the whole discussion 
    concerning the Trinity. 
    1. The doctrine of Scripture concerning the immensity and the 
spirituality of the essence of God, should have the effect not only 
of dissipating the wild dreams of the vulgar, but also of refuting 
the subtleties of a profane philosophy. One of the ancients thought 
he spake shrewdly when he said that everything we see and everything 
we do not see is God, (Senec. Praef. lib. 1 Quaest. Nat.) In this 
way he fancied that the Divinity was transfused into every separate 
portion of the world. But although God, in order to keep us within 
the bounds of soberness, treats sparingly of his essence, still, by 
the two attributes which I have mentioned, he at once suppresses all 
gross imaginations, and checks the audacity of the human mind. His 
immensity surely ought to deter us from measuring him by our sense, 
while his spiritual nature forbids us to indulge in carnal or 
earthly speculation concerning him. With the same view he frequently 
represents heaven as his dwelling-place. It is true, indeed, that as 
he is incomprehensible, he fills the earth also, but knowing that 
our minds are heavy and grovel on the earth, he raises us above the 
worlds that he may shake off our sluggishness and inactivity. And 
here we have a refutation of the error of the Manichees, who, by 
adopting two first principles, made the devil almost the equal of 
God. This, assuredly, was both to destroy his unity and restrict his 
immensity. Their attempt to pervert certain passages of Scripture 
proved their shameful ignorance, as the very nature of the error did 
their monstrous infatuation. The Anthropomorphites also, who dreamed 
of a corporeal God, because mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, are 
often ascribed to him in Scripture, are easily refuted. For who is 
so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so 
speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little 
children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much 
express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of 
him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far 
below his proper height. 
    2. But there is another special mark by which he designates 
himself, for the purpose of giving a more intimate knowledge of his 
nature. While he proclaims his unity, he distinctly sets it before 
us as existing in three persons. These we must hold, unless the bare 
and empty name of Deity merely is to flutter in our brain without 
any genuine knowledge. Moreover, lest any one should dream of a 
threefold God, or think that the simple essence is divided by the 
three Persons, we must here seek a brief and easy definition which 
may effectually guard us from error. But as some strongly inveigh 
against the term Person as being merely of human inventions let us 
first consider how far they have any ground for doing so. 
    When the Apostle calls the Son of God "the express image of his 
person," (Heb. 1: 3,) he undoubtedly does assign to the Father some 
subsistence in which he differs from the Son. For to hold with some 
interpreters that the term is equivalent to essence, (as if Christ 
represented the substance of the Father like the impression of a 
seal upon wax,) were not only harsh but absurd. For the essence of 
God being simple and undivided, and contained in himself entire, in 
full perfection, without partition or diminution, it is improper, 
nay, ridiculous, to call it his express image, (charaktes.) But 
because the Father, though distinguished by his own peculiar 
properties, has expressed himself wholly in the Son, he is said with 
perfect reason to have rendered his person (hypostasis) manifest in 
him. And this aptly accords with what is immediately added, viz., 
that he is "the brightness of his glory." The fair inference from 
the Apostle's words is, that there is a proper subsistence 
(hypostasis) of the Father, which shines refulgent in the Son. From 
this, again it is easy to infer that there is a subsistence 
(hypostasis) of the Son which distinguishes him from the Father. The 
same holds in the case of the Holy Spirit; for we will immediately 
prove both that he is God, and that he has a separate subsistence 
from the Father. This, moreover, is not a distinction of essence, 
which it were impious to multiply. If credit, then, is given to the 
Apostle's testimony, it follows that there are three persons 
(hypostases) in God. The Latins having used the word Persona to 
express the same thing as the Greek "hupostatis", it betrays 
excessive fastidiousness and even perverseness to quarrel with the 
term. The most literal translation would be subsistence. Many have 
used substance in the same sense. Nor, indeed, was the use of the 
term Person confined to the Latin Church. For the Greek Church in 
like manner, perhaps, for the purpose of testifying their consent, 
have taught that there are three "prosopa" (aspects) in God. All 
these, however, whether Greeks or Latins, though differing as to the 
word, are perfectly agreed in substance. 
    3. Now, then, though heretics may snarl and the excessively 
fastidious carp at the word Person as inadmissible, in consequence 
of its human origin, since they cannot displace us from our position 
that three are named, each of whom is perfect God, and yet that 
there is no plurality of gods, it is most uncandid to attack the 
terms which do nothing more than explain what the Scriptures declare 
and sanction. "It were better," they say, "to confine not only our 
meanings but our words within the bounds of Scripture, and not 
scatter about foreign terms to become the future seed-beds of brawls 
and dissensions. In this way, men grow tired of quarrels about 
words; the truth is lost in altercation, and charity melts away amid 
hateful strife." If they call it a foreign term, because it cannot 
be pointed out in Scripture in so many syllables, they certainly 
impose an unjust law - a law which would condemn every 
interpretation of Scripture that is not composed of other words of 
Scripture. But if by foreign they mean that which, after being idly 
devised, is superstitiously defended, - which tends more to strife 
than edification, - which is used either out of place, or with no 
benefit which offends pious ears by its harshness, and leads them 
away from the simplicity of God's Word, I embrace their soberness 
with all my heart. For I think we are bound to speak of God as 
reverently as we are bound to think of him. As our own thoughts 
respecting him are foolish, so our own language respecting him is 
absurd. Still, however, some medium must be observed. The unerring 
standard both of thinking and speaking must be derived from the 
Scriptures: by it all the thoughts of ours minds, and the words of 
our mouths, should he tested. But in regard to those parts of 
Scripture which, to our capacities, are dark and intricate, what 
forbids us to explain them in clearer terms - terms, however, kept 
in reverent and faithful subordination to Scripture truth, used 
sparingly and modestly, and not without occasion? Of this we are not 
without many examples. When it has been proved that the Church was 
impelled, by the strongest necessity, to use the words Trinity and 
Person, will not he who still inveighs against novelty of terms be 
deservedly suspected of taking offence at the light of truth, and of 
having no other ground for his invective, than that the truth is 
made plain and transparent? 
    4. Such novelty (if novelty it should be called) becomes most 
requisite, when the truth is to be maintained against calumniators 
who evade it by quibbling. Of this, we of the present day have too 
much experience in being constantly called upon to attack the 
enemies of pure and sound doctrine. These slippery snakes escape by 
their swift and tortuous windings, if not strenuously pursued, and 
when caught, firmly held. Thus the early Christians, when harassed 
with the disputes which heresies produced, were forced to declare 
their sentiments in terms most scrupulously exact in order that no 
indirect subterfuges might remain to ungodly men, to whom ambiguity 
of expression was a kind of hiding-place. Arius confessed that 
Christ was God, and the Son of God; because the passages of 
Scripture to this effect were too clear to be resisted, and then, as 
if he had done well, pretended to concur with others. But, 
meanwhile, he ceased not to give out that Christ was created, and 
had a beginning like other creatures. To drag this man of wiles out 
of his lurking-places, the ancient Church took a further step, and 
declared that Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, and 
consubstantial with the Father. The impiety was fully disclosed when 
the Arians began to declare their hatred and utter detestation of 
the term "homo-ousios". Had their first confession, viz., that 
Christ was God, been sincere and from the heart, they would not have 
denied that he was consubstantial with the Father. Who dare charge 
those ancient writers as men of strife and contention, for having 
debated so warmly, and disturbed the quiet of the Church for a 
single word? That little word distinguished between Christians of 
pure faith and the blasphemous Arians. Next Sabellius arose, who 
counted the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as almost 
nonentities; maintaining that they were not used to mark out some 
distinction, but that they were different attributes of God, like 
many others of a similar kind. When the matter was debated, he 
acknowledged his belief that the Father was God, the Son God, the 
Spirit God; but then he had the evasion ready, that he had said 
nothing more than if he had called God powerful, and just, and wise. 
Accordingly, he sung another note, viz., that the Father was the 
Son, and the Holy Spirit the Father, without order or distinction. 
The worthy doctors who then had the interests of piety at heart, in 
order to defeat it is man's dishonesty, proclaimed that three 
subsistence were to be truly acknowledged in the one God. That they 
might protect themselves against tortuous craftiness by the simple 
open truth, they affirmed that a Trinity of Persons subsisted in the 
one God, or (which is the same thing) in the unity of God. 
    5. Where names have not been invented rashly, we must beware 
lest we become chargeable with arrogance and rashness in rejecting 
them. I wish, indeed, that such names were buried, provided all 
would concur in the belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one 
God, and yet that the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit the Son, 
but that each has his peculiar subsistence. I am not so minutely 
precise as to fight furiously for mere words. For I observe, that 
the writers of the ancient Church, while they uniformly spoke with 
great reverence on these matters, neither agreed with each other, 
nor were always consistent with themselves. How strange the formula 
used by Councils, and defended by Hilary! How extravagant the view 
which Augustine sometimes takes! How unlike the Greeks are to the 
Latins! But let one example of variance suffice. The Latins, in 
translating "homo-ousios" used "consubstantialis" (consubstantial,) 
intimating that there was one substance of the Father and the Son, 
and thus using the word Substance for Essence. Hence Jerome, in his 
Letter to Damasus, says it is profane to affirm that there are three 
substances in God. But in Hilary you will find it said more than a 
hundred times that there are three substances in God. Then how 
greatly is Jerome perplexed with the word Hypostasis! He suspects 
some lurking poison, when it is said that there are three Hypostases 
in God. And he does not disguise his belief that the expression, 
though used in a pious sense, is improper; if, indeed, he was 
sincere in saying this, and did not rather designedly endeavour, by 
an unfounded calumny, to throw odium on the Eastern bishops whom he 
hated. He certainly shows little candour in asserting, that in all 
heathen schools "ousia" is equivalent to Hypostasis - an assertion 
completely refuted by trite and common use. 
    More courtesy and moderation is shown by Augustine, (De 
Trinity. lib. 5 c. 8 and 9,) who, although he says that Hypostasis 
in this sense is new to Latin ears, is still so far from objecting 
to the ordinary use of the term by the Greeks, that he is even 
tolerant of the Latins, who had imitated the Greek phraseology. The 
purport of what Socrates says of the term, in the Sixth Book of the 
Tripartite History, is, that it had been improperly applied to this 
purpose by the unskilful. Hilary (De Trinitat. lib. 2) charges it 
upon the heretics as a great crime, that their misconduct had 
rendered it necessary to subject to the peril of human utterance 
things which ought to have been reverently confined within the mind, 
not disguising his opinion that those who do so, do what is 
unlawful, speak what is ineffable, and pry into what is forbidden. 
Shortly after, he apologises at great length for presuming to 
introduce new terms. For, after putting down the natural names of 
Father, Son, and Spirit, he adds, that all further inquiry 
transcends the significance of words, the discernment of sense, and 
the apprehension of intellect. And in another place, (De Conciliis,) 
he congratulates the Bishops of France in not having framed any 
other confession, but received, without alteration, the ancient and 
most simple confession received by all Churches from the days of the 
Apostles. Not unlike this is the apology of Augustine, that the term 
had been wrung from him by necessity from the poverty of human 
language in so high a matter: not that the reality could be thereby 
expressed, but that he might not pass on in silence without 
attempting to show how the Father, Son, and Spirit, are three. 
    The modesty of these holy men should be an admonition to us not 
instantly to dip our pen in gall, and sternly denounce those who may 
be unwilling to swear to the terms which we have devised, provided 
they do not in this betray pride, or petulance, or unbecoming heat, 
but are willing to ponder the necessity which compels us so to 
speak, and may thus become gradually accustomed to a useful form of 
expression. Let men also studiously beware, that in opposing the 
Asians on the one hand, and the Sabellians on the other, and eagerly 
endeavouring to deprive both of any handle for cavil, they do not 
bring themselves under some suspicion of being the disciples of 
either Arius or Sabellius. Arius says that Christ is  God, and then 
mutters that he was made and had a beginning. He says, that he is 
one with the Father; but secretly whispers in the ears of his party, 
made one, like other believers, though with special privilege. Say, 
he is consubstantial, and you immediately pluck the mask from this 
chameleon, though you add nothing to Scripture. Sabellius says that 
the Father, Son, and Spirit, indicate some distinction in God. Say, 
they are three, and he will bawl out that you are making three Gods. 
Say, that there is a Trinity of Persons in one Divine essence, you 
will only express in one word what the Scriptures say, and stop his 
empty prattle. Should any be so superstitiously precise as not to 
tolerate these terms, still do their worst, they will not be able to 
deny that when one is spoken of, a unity of substance must be 
understood, and when three in one essence, the persons in this 
Trinity are denoted. When this is confessed without equivocations we 
dwell not on words. But I was long ago made aware, and, indeed, on 
more than one occasion, that those who contend pertinaciously about 
words are tainted with some hidden poison; and, therefore, that it 
is more expedient to provoke them purposely, than to court their 
favour by speaking obscurely. 
    6. But to say nothing more of words, let us now attend to the 
thing signified. By person, then, I mean a subsistence in the Divine 
essence, - a subsistence which, while related to the other two, is 
distinguished from them by incommunicable properties. By subsistence 
we wish something else to be understood than essence. For if the 
Word were God simply and had not some property peculiar to himself, 
John could not have said correctly that he had always been with God. 
When he adds immediately after, that the Word was God, he calls us 
back to the one essence. But because he could not be with God 
without dwelling in the Father, hence arises that subsistence, 
which, though connected with the essence by an indissoluble tie, 
being incapable of separation, yet has a special mark by which it is 
distinguished from it. Now, I say that each of the three 
subsistences while related to the others is distinguished by its own 
properties. Here relation is distinctly expressed, because, when God 
is mentioned simply and indefinitely the name belongs not less to 
the Son and Spirit than to the Father. But whenever the Father is 
compared with the Son, the peculiar property of each distinguishes 
the one from the other. Again, whatever is proper to each I affirm 
to be incommunicable, because nothing can apply or be transferred to 
the Son which is attributed to the Father as a mark of distinction. 
I have no objections to adopt the definition of Tertullian, provided 
it is properly understood, "that there is in God a certain 
arrangement or economy, which makes no change on the unity of 
essence." - Tertull. Lib. contra Praxeam. 
    7. Before proceeding farther, it will be necessary to prove the 
divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thereafter, we shall see 
how they differ from each other. When the Word of God is set before 
us in the Scriptures, it were certainly most absurd to imagine that 
it is only a fleeting and evanescent voice, which is sent out into 
the air, and comes forth beyond God himself, as was the case with 
the communications made to the patriarchs, and all the prophecies. 
The reference is rather to the wisdom ever dwelling with God, and by 
which all oracles and prophecies were inspired. For, as Peter 
testifies, (1 Pet. 1: 11,) the ancient prophets spake by the Spirit 
of Christ just as did the apostles, and all who after them were 
ministers of the heavenly doctrine. But as Christ was not yet 
manifested, we necessarily understand that the Word was begotten of 
the Father before all ages. But if that Spirit, whose organs the 
prophets were, belonged to the Word, the inference is irresistible, 
that the Word was truly God. And this is clearly enough shown by 
Moses in his account of the creation, where he places the Word as 
intermediate. For why does he distinctly narrate that God, in 
creating each of his works, said, Let there be this - let there be 
that, unless that the unsearchable glory of God might shine forth in 
his image? I know prattlers would easily evade this, by saying that 
Word is used for order or command; but the apostles are better 
expositors, when they tell us that the worlds were created by the 
Son, and that he sustains all things by his mighty word, (Heb. 1: 
2.) For we here see that "word" is used for the nod or command of 
the Son, who is himself the eternal and essential Word of the 
Father. And no man of sane mind can have any doubt as to Solomon's 
meaning, when he introduces Wisdom as begotten by God, and presiding 
at the creation of the world, and all other divine operations, 
(Prov. 8: 22.) For it were trifling and foolish to imagine any 
temporary command at a time when God was pleased to execute his 
fixed and eternal counsel, and something more still mysterious. To 
this our Saviour's words refer, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I 
work," (John 5: 17.) In thus affirming, that from the foundation of 
the world he constantly worked with the Father, he gives a clearer 
explanation of what Moses simply touched. The meaning therefore is, 
that God spoke in such a manner as left the Word his peculiar part 
in the work, and thus made the operation common to both. But the 
clearest explanation is given by John, when he states that the Word 
- which was from the beginning, God and with God, was, together with 
God the Father, the maker of all things. For he both attributes a 
substantial and permanent essence to the Word, assigning to it a 
certain peculiarity, and distinctly showing how God spoke the world 
into being. Therefore, as all revelations from heaven are duly 
designated by the title of the Word of God, so the highest place 
must be assigned to that substantial Word, the source of all 
inspiration, which, as being liable to no variation, remains for 
ever one and the same with God, and is God. 
    8. Here an outcry is made by certain men, who, while they dare 
not openly deny his divinity, secretly rob him of his eternity. For 
they contend that the Word only began to be when God opened his 
sacred mouth in the creation of the world. Thus, with excessive 
temerity, they imagine some change in the essence of God. For as the 
names of God, which have respect to external work, began to be 
ascribed to him from the existence of the work, (as when he is 
called the Creator of heaven and earth,) so piety does not recognise 
or admit any name which might indicate that a change had taken place 
in God himself. For if any thing adventitious took place, the saying 
of James would cease to be true, that "every good gift, and every 
perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of 
lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," 
(James 1: 17.) Nothing, therefore, is more intolerable than to fancy 
a beginning to that Word which was always God, and afterwards was 
the Creator of the world. But they think they argue acutely, in 
maintaining that Moses, when he says that God then spoke for the 
first time, must be held to intimate that till then no Word existed 
in him. This is the merest trifling. It does not surely follow, that 
because a thing begins to be manifested at a certain time, it never 
existed previously. I draw a very different conclusion. Since at the 
very moment when God said, "Let there be light," the energy of the 
Word-was immediately exerted, it must have existed long before. If 
any inquire how long, he will find it was without beginning. No 
certain period of time is defined, when he himself says, "Now O 
Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I 
had with thee before the world was," (John 17: 5.) Nor is this 
omitted by John: for before he descends to the creation of the 
world, he says, that "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word 
was with God." We, therefore, again conclude, that the Word was 
eternally begotten by God, and dwelt with him from everlasting. In 
this way, his true essence, his eternity, and divinity, are 
    9. But though I am not now treating of the office of the 
Mediator, having deferred it till the subject of redemption is 
considered, yet because it ought to be clear and incontrovertible to 
all, that Christ is that Word become incarnate, this seems the most 
appropriate place to introduce those passages which assert the 
Divinity of Christ. When it is said in the forty-fifth Psalm, "Thy 
throne, O God, is for ever and ever," the Jews quibble that the name 
Elohim is applied to angels and sovereign powers. But no passage is 
to be found in Scripture, where an eternal throne is set up for a 
creature. For he is not called God simply, but also the eternal 
Ruler. Besides, the title is not conferred on any man, without some 
addition, as when it is said that Moses would be a God to Pharaoh, 
(Exod. 7: 1.) Some read as if it were in the genitive case, but this 
is too insipid. I admit, that anything possessed of singular 
excellence is often called divine, but it is clear from the context, 
that this meaning here were harsh and forced, and totally 
inapplicable. But if their perverseness still refuses to yield, 
surely there is no obscurity in Isaiah, where Christ is introduced 
both us God, and as possessed of supreme powers one of the peculiar 
attributes of God, "His name shall be called the Mighty God, the 
Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," (Isa. 9: 6.) Here, too, 
the Jews object, and invert the passage thus, This is the name by 
which the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, will call him; so that 
all which they leave to the Son is, " Prince of Peace." But why 
should so many epithets be here accumulated on God the Father, 
seeing the prophet's design is to present the Messiah with certain 
distinguished properties which may induce us to put our faith in 
him? There can be no doubt, therefore, that he who a little before 
was called Emmanuel, is here called the Mighty God. Moreover, there 
can be nothing clearer than the words of Jeremiah, "This is the name 
whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS," (Jer. 23: 
6.) For as the Jews themselves teach that the other names of God are 
mere epithets, whereas this, which they call the ineffable name, is 
substantive, and expresses his essence, we infer, that the only 
begotten Son is the eternal God, who elsewhere declares, "My glory 
will I not give to another," (Isa. 42: 8.) An attempt is made to 
evade this from the fact, that this name is given by Moses to the 
altar which he built, and by Ezekiel to the New Jerusalem. But who 
sees not that the altar was erected as a memorial to show that God 
was the exalter of Moses, and that the name of God was applied to 
Jerusalem, merely to testify the Divine presence? For thus the 
prophet speaks, "The name of the city from that day shall be, The 
Lord is there," (Ezek. 48: 35.) In the same way, "Moses built an 
altar, and called the name of it JEHOVAH-nissi," (Jehovah my 
exaltation.) But it would seem the point is still more keenly 
disputed as to another passage in Jeremiah, where the same title is 
applied to Jerusalem in these words, "In those days shall Judah be 
saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name 
wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness." But so 
far is this passage from being adverse to the truth which we defend, 
that it rather supports it. The prophet having formerly declared 
that Christ is the true Jehovah from whom righteousness flows, now 
declares that the Church would be made so sensible of this as to be 
able to glory in assuming his very name. In the former passage, 
therefore, the fountain and cause of righteousness is set down, in 
the latter, the effect is described. 
    10. But if this does not satisfy the Jews, I know not what 
cavils will enable them to evade the numerous passages in which 
Jehovah is said to have appeared in the form of an Angel, (Judges 6: 
7: 13: 16-23, &c.) This Angel claims for himself the name of the 
Eternal God. Should it be alleged that this is done in respect of 
the office which he bears, the difficulty is by no means solved. No 
servant would rob God of his honour, by allowing sacrifice to be 
offered to himself. But the Angel, by refusing to eat bread, orders 
the sacrifice due to Jehovah to be offered to him. Thus the fact 
itself proves that he was truly Jehovah. Accordingly, Manoah and his 
wife infer from the sign, that they had seen not only an angel, but 
God. Hence Manoah's exclamation, "We shall die; for we have seen the 
Lord." When the woman replies, "If Jehovah had wished to slay us, he 
would not have received the sacrifice at our hand," she acknowledges 
that he who is previously called an angel was certainly God. We may 
add, that the angel's own reply removes all doubt, "Why do ye ask my 
name, which is wonderful?" Hence the impiety of Servetus was the 
more detestable, when he maintained that God was never manifested to 
Abraham and the Patriarchs, but that an angel was worshipped in his 
stead. The orthodox doctors of the Church have correctly and wisely 
expounded, that the Word of God was the supreme angel, who then 
began, as it were by anticipation, to perform the office of 
Mediator. For though he were not clothed with flesh, yet he 
descended as in an intermediate form, that he might have more 
familiar access to the faithful. This closer intercourse procured 
for him the name of the Angel; still, however, he retained the 
character which justly belonged to him - that of the God of 
ineffable glory. The same thing is intimated by Hosea, who, after 
mentioning the wrestling of Jacob with the angel, says, "Even the 
Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial," (Hosea 12: 5.) 
Servetus again insinuates that God personated an angel; as if the 
prophet did not confirm what had been said by Moses, "Wherefore is 
it that thou dost ask after my name?" (Gen. 32: 29, 30.) And the 
confession of the holy Patriarch sufficiently declares that he was 
not a created angel, but one in whom the fulness of the Godhead 
dwelt, when he says, "I have seen God face to face." Hence also 
Paul's statement, that Christ led the people in the wilderness, (1 
Cor. 10: 4. See also Calvin on Acts 7: 30, and infra, chap. 14 s. 
9.) Although the time of humiliation had not yet arrived, the 
eternal Word exhibited a type of the office which he was to fulfil. 
Again, if the first chapter of Zechariah (ver. 9, &c.) and the 
second (ver. 3, &c.) be candidly considered, it will be seen that 
the angel who sends the other angel is immediately after declared to 
be the Lord of hosts, and that supreme power is ascribed to him. I 
omit numberless passages in which our faith rests secure, though 
they may not have much weight with the Jews. For when it is said in 
Isaiah, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will 
save us; this is the Lord: we have waited for him, we will be glad 
and rejoice in his salvation," (Isa. 25: 9,) even the blind may see 
that the God referred to is he who again rises up for the 
deliverance of his people. And the emphatic description, twice 
repeated, precludes the idea that reference is made to any other 
than to Christ. Still clearer and stronger is the passage of 
Malachi, in which a promise is made that the messenger who was then 
expected would come to his own temple, (Mal. 3: 1.) The temple 
certainly was dedicated to Almighty God only, and yet the prophet 
claims it for Christ. Hence it follows, that he is the God who was 
always worshipped by the Jews. 
    11. The New Testament teems with innumerable passages, and our 
object must therefore be, the selection of a few, rather than an 
accumulation of the whole. But though the Apostles spoke of him 
after his appearance in the flesh as Mediator, every passage which I 
adduce will be sufficient to prove his eternal Godhead. And the 
first thing deserving of special observation is that predictions 
concerning the eternal God are applied to Christ, as either already 
fulfilled in him, or to be fulfilled at some future period. Isaiah 
prophesies, that "the Lord of Hosts" shall be "for a stone of 
stumbling, and for a rock of offence," (Isa. 8: 14.) Paul asserts 
that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, (Rom. 9: 33,) and, 
therefore, declares that Christ is that Lord of Hosts. In like 
manner, he says in another passage, "We shall all stand before the 
judgement-seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the 
Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to 
God." Since in Isaiah God predicts this of himself, (Isa. 45: 23,) 
and Christ exhibits the reality fulfilled in himself, it follows 
that he is the very God, whose glory cannot be given to another. It 
is clear also, that the passage from the Psalms (Ps. 68: 19) which 
he quotes in the Epistle to the Ephesians, is applicable only to 
God, "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive," (Eph. 
4: 8.) Understanding that such an ascension was shadowed forth when 
the Lord exerted his power, and gained a glorious victory over 
heathen nations, he intimates that what was thus shadowed was more 
fully manifested in Christ. So John testifies that it was the glory 
of the Son which was revealed to Isaiah in a vision, (John 12: 41; 
Isa. 6: 4,) though Isaiah himself expressly says that what he saw 
was the Majesty of God. Again, there can be no doubt that those 
qualities which, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, are applied to the 
Son, are the brightest attributes of God, "Thou, Lord, in the 
beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth," &c., and, "Let all 
the angels of God worship him," (Heb. 1: 10, 6.) And yet he does not 
pervert the passages in thus applying them to Christ, since Christ 
alone performed the things which these passages celebrate. It was he 
who arose and pitied Zion - he who claimed for himself dominion over 
all nations and islands. And why should John have hesitated to 
ascribe the Majesty of God to Christ, after saying in his preface 
that the Word was God? (John 1: 14.) Why should Paul have feared to 
place Christ on the judgement-seat of God, (2 Cor. 5: 10,) after he 
had so openly proclaimed his divinity, when he said that he was God 
over all, blessed for ever? And to show how consistent he is in this 
respect, he elsewhere says that "God was manifest in the flesh," (1 
Tim. 3: 16.) If he is God blessed for ever, he therefore it is to 
whom alone, as Paul affirms in another place, all glory and honour 
is due. Paul does not disguise this, but openly exclaims, that 
"being in the form of God, (he) thought it not robbery to be equal 
with God, but made himself of no reputation," (Phil. 2: 6.) And lest 
the wicked should glamour and say that he was a kind of spurious 
God, John goes farther, and affirms, "This is the true God, and 
eternal life." Though it ought to be enough for us that he is called 
God, especially by a witness who distinctly testifies that we have 
no more gods than one, Paul says, "Though there be that are called 
gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and 
lords many,) but to us there is but one God," (1 Cor. 8: 5, 6.) When 
we hear from the same lips that God was manifest in the flesh, that 
God purchased the Church with his own blood, why do we dream of any 
second God, to whom he makes not the least allusion? And there is no 
room to doubt that all the godly entertained the same view. Thomas, 
by addressing him as his Lord and God, certainly professes that he 
was the only God whom he had ever adored, (John 20: 28.) 
    12. The divinity of Christ, if judged by the works which are 
ascribed to him in Scripture, becomes still more evident. When he 
said of himself, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," the Jews, 
though most dull in regard to his other sayings, perceived that he 
was laying claim to divine power. And, therefore, as John relates, 
(John 5: 17,) they sought the more to kill him, because he not only 
broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was his Father, making 
himself equal with God. What, then, will be our stupidity if we do 
not perceive from the same passage that his divinity is plainly 
instructed? To govern the world by his power and providence, and 
regulate all things by an energy inherent in himself, (this an 
Apostle ascribes to him, Heb. 1: 3,) surely belongs to none but the 
Creator. Nor does he merely share the government of the world with 
the Father, but also each of the other offices, which cannot be 
communicated to creatures. The Lord proclaims by his prophets "I, 
even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own 
sake," (Is. 43: 25.) When, in accordance with this declaration, the 
Jews thought that injustice was done to God when Christ forgave 
sins, he not only asserted, in distinct terms, that this power 
belonged to him, but also proved it by a miracle, (Matth. 9: 6.) We 
thus see that he possessed in himself not the ministry of forgiving 
sins, but the inherent power which the Lord declares he will not 
give to another. What! Is it not the province of God alone to 
penetrate and interrogate the secret thoughts of the heart? But 
Christ also had this power, and therefore we infer that Christ is 

Calvin, Institutes on the Christian Religion, Volume 1
(continued in part 11...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04:cvin1-10.txt