(Calvin, Institutes on the Christian Religion 1, part 11)

Chapter 13 (continued)
    13. How clearly and transparently does this appear in his 
miracles? I admit that similar and equal miracles were performed by 
the prophets and apostles; but there is this very essential 
difference, that they dispensed the gifts of God as his ministers, 
whereas he exerted his own inherent might. Sometimes, indeed, he 
used prayer, that he might ascribe glory to the Father, but we see 
that for the most part his own proper power is displayed. And how 
should not he be the true author of miracles, who, of his own 
authority, commissions others to perform them? For the Evangelist 
relates that he gave power to the apostles to cast out devils, cure 
the lepers, raise the dead, &c. And they, by the mode in which they 
performed this ministry, showed plainly that their whole power was 
derived from Christ. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth," says 
Peter, (Acts 3: 6,) "rise up and walk." It is not surprising, then, 
that Christ appealed to his miracles in order to subdue the unbelief 
of the Jews, inasmuch as these were performed by his own energy, and 
therefore bore the most ample testimony to his divinity. 
    Again, if out of God there is no salvation, no righteousness, 
no life, Christ, having all these in himself, is certainly God. Let 
no one object that life or salvation is transfused into him by God. 
For it is said not that he received, but that he himself is 
salvation. And if there is none good but God, how could a mere man 
be pure, how could he be, I say not good and just, but goodness and 
justice? Then what shall we say to the testimony of the Evangelist, 
that from the very beginning of the creation "in him was life, and 
this life was the light of men?" Trusting to such proofs, we can 
boldly put our hope and faith in him, though we know it is 
blasphemous impiety to confide in any creature. "Ye believe in God," 
says he, "believe also in me," (John 14: 1.) And so Paul (Rom. 10: 
11, and 15: 12) interprets two passages of Isaiah "Whose believeth 
in him shall not be confounded," (Isa. 28: 16;) and, "In that day 
there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of 
the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek," (Isa. 11: 10.) But why 
adduce more passages of Scripture on this head, when we so often 
meet with the expression, "He that believeth in me has eternal 
    Again, the prayer of faith is addressed to him - prayer, which 
specially belongs to the divine majesty, if anything so belongs. For 
the Prophet Joel says, "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever 
shall call on the name of the Lord (Jehovah) shall be delivered" 
(Joel 2: 32.) And another says, "The name of the Lord (Jehovah) is a 
strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe," (Prov. 18: 
10.) But the name of Christ is invoked for salvation, and therefore 
it follows that he is Jehovah. Moreover, we have an example of 
invocation in Stephen, when he said, "Lord Jesus, receive my 
spirit;" and thereafter in the whole Church, when Ananias says in 
the same book, "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much 
evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has 
authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name," 
(Acts 9: 13, 14.) And to make it more clearly understood that in 
Christ dwelt the whole fulness of the Godhead bodily, the Apostle 
declares that the only doctrine which he professed to the 
Corinthians, the only doctrine which he taught, was the knowledge of 
Christ, (1 Cor. 2: 2.) Consider what kind of thing it is, and how 
great, that the name of the Son alone is preached to us, though God 
command us to glory only in the knowledge of himself, (Jer. 9: 24.) 
Who will dare to maintain that he, whom to know forms our only 
ground of glorying, is a mere creature? To this we may add, that the 
salutations prefixed to the Epistles of Paul pray for the same 
blessings from the Son as from the Father. By this we are taught, 
not only that the blessings which our heavenly Father bestows come 
to us through his intercession, but that by a partnership in power, 
the Son himself is their author. This practical knowledge is 
doubtless surer and more solid than any idle speculation. For the 
pious soul has the best view of God, and may almost be said to 
handle him, when it feels that it is quickened, enlightened, saved, 
justified, and sanctified by him. 
    14. In asserting the divinity of the Spirit, the proof must be 
derived from the same sources. And it is by no means an obscure 
testimony which Moses bears in the history of the creation, when he 
says that the Spirit of God was expanded over the abyss or shapeless 
matter; for it shows not only that the beauty which the world 
displays is maintained by the invigorating power of the Spirit, but 
that even before this beauty existed the Spirit was at work 
cherishing the confused mass. Again, no cavils can explain away the 
force of what Isaiah says, "And now the Lord God, and his Spirit, 
has sent me," (Isa. 48: 16,) thus ascribing a share in the sovereign 
power of sending the prophets to the Holy Spirit. (Calvin in Acts 
20: 28.) In this his divine majesty is clear. 
    But, as I observed, the best proof to us is our familiar 
experience. For nothing can be more alien from a creature, than the 
office which the Scriptures ascribe to him, and which the pious 
actually feel him discharging, - his being diffused over all space, 
sustaining, invigorating, and quickening all things, both in heaven 
and on the earth. The mere fact of his not being circumscribed by 
any limits raises him above the rank of creatures, while his 
transfusing vigour into all things, breathing into them being, life, 
and motion, is plainly divine. Again, if regeneration to 
incorruptible life is higher, and much more excellent than any 
present quickening, what must be thought of him by whose energy it 
is produced? Now, many passages of Scripture show that he is the 
author of regeneration, not by a borrowed, but by an intrinsic 
energy; and not only so, but that he is also the author of future 
immortality. In short, all the peculiar attributes of the Godhead 
are ascribed to him in the same way as to the Son. He searches the 
deep things of Gods and has no counsellor among the creatures; he 
bestows wisdom and the faculty of speech, though God declares to 
Moses (Exod. 4: 11) that this is his own peculiar province. In like 
manner, by means of him we become partakers of the divine nature, so 
as in a manner to feel his quickening energy within us. Our 
justification is his work; from him is power, sanctification, truth, 
grace, and every good thought, since it is from the Spirit alone 
that all good gifts proceed. Particular attention is due to Paul's 
expression, that though there are diversities of gifts, "all these 
worketh that one and the self-same Spirit," (1 Cor. 12: 11,) he 
being not only the beginning or origin, but also the author; as is 
even more clearly expressed immediately after in these words 
"dividing to every man severally as he will." For were he not 
something subsisting in God, will and arbitrary disposal would never 
be ascribed to him. Most clearly, therefore does Paul ascribe divine 
power to the Spirit, and demonstrate that he dwells hypostatically 
in God. 
    10. Nor does the Scripture, in speaking of him, withhold the 
name of God. Paul infers that we are the temple of God, from the 
fact that "the Spirit of God dwelleth in us," (1 Cor. 3: 16; 6: 19; 
and 2 Cor. 6: 16.) Now it ought not to be slightly overlooked, that 
all the promises which God makes of choosing us to himself as a 
temple, receive their only fulfilment by his Spirit dwelling in us. 
Surely, as it is admirably expressed by Augustine, (Ad Maximinum, 
Ep. 66,) "were we ordered to make a temple of wood and stone to the 
Spirit, inasmuch as such worship is due to God alone, it would be a 
clear proof of the Spirit's divinity; how much clearer a proof in 
that we are not to make a temple to him, but to be ourselves that 
temple." And the Apostle says at one time that we are the temple of 
God, and at another time, in the same sense, that we are the temple 
of the Holy Spirit. Peter, when he rebuked Ananias for having lied 
to the Holy Spirit, said, that he had not lied unto men, but unto 
God. And when Isaiah had introduced the Lord of Hosts as speaking, 
Paul says, it was the Holy Spirit that spoke, (Acts 28: 25, 26.) 
Nay, words uniformly said by the prophets to have been spoken by the 
Lord of Hosts, are by Christ and his apostles ascribed to the Holy 
Spirit. Hence it follows that the Spirit is the true Jehovah who 
dictated the prophecies. Again, when God complains that he was 
provoked to anger by the stubbornness of the people, in place of 
Him, Isaiah says that his Holy Spirit was grieved, (Isa. 63: 10.) 
Lastly, while blasphemy against the Spirit is not forgiven, either 
in the present life or that which is to come, whereas he who has 
blasphemed against the Son may obtain pardon, that majesty must 
certainly be divine which it is an inexpiable crime to offend or 
impair. I designedly omit several passages which the ancient fathers 
adduced. They thought it plausible to quote from David, "By the word 
of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the 
breath (Spirit) of his mouth," (Ps. 33: 6,) in order to prove that 
the world was not less the work of the Holy Spirit than of the Son. 
But seeing it is usual in the Psalms to repeat the same thing twice, 
and in Isaiah the "spirit" (breath) of the mouth is equivalent to 
"word", that proof was weak; and, accordingly, my wish has been to 
advert briefly to those proofs on which pious minds may securely 
    16. But as God has manifested himself more clearly by the 
advent of Christ, so he has made himself more familiarly known in 
three persons. Of many proofs let this one suffice. Paul connects 
together these three, God, Faith, and Baptism, and reasons from the 
one to the other, viz., because there is one faith he infers that 
there is one God; and because there is one baptism he infers that 
there is one faith. Therefore, if by baptism we are initiated into 
the faith and worship of one God, we must of necessity believe that 
he into whose name we are baptised is the true God. And there cannot 
be a doubt that our Saviour wished to testify, by a solemn 
rehearsal, that the perfect light of faith is now exhibited, when he 
said, "Go and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the 
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," (Matth. 28: 19,) 
since this is the same thing as to be baptised into the name of the 
one God, who has been fully manifested in the Father, the Son, and 
the Spirit. Hence it plainly appears, that the three persons, in 
whom alone God is known, subsist in the Divine essence. And since 
faith certainly ought not to look hither and thither, or run up and 
down after various objects, but to look, refer, and cleave to God 
alone, it is obvious that were there various kinds of faith, there 
behaved also to be various gods. Then, as the baptism of faith is a 
sacrament, its unity assures us of the unity of God. Hence also it 
is proved that it is lawful only to be baptised into one God, 
because we make a profession of faith in him in whose name we are 
baptised. What, then, is our Saviour's meaning in commanding baptism 
to be administered in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the 
Holy Spirit, if it be not that we are to believe with one faith in 
the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit? But is 
this any thing else than to declare that the Father, Son, and 
Spirit, are one God? Wherefore, since it must be held certain that 
there is one God, not more than one, we conclude that the Word and 
Spirit are of the very essence of God. Nothing could be more stupid 
than the trifling of the Arians, who, while acknowledging the 
divinity of the Son, denied his divine essence. Equally extravagant 
were the ravings of the Macedonians, who insisted that by the Spirit 
were only meant the gifts of grace poured out upon men. For as 
wisdom understanding, prudence, fortitude, and the fear of the Lord, 
proceed from the Spirit, so he is the one Spirit of wisdom, 
prudence, fortitude, and piety. He is not divided according to the 
distribution of his gifts, but, as the Apostle assures us, (1 Cor. 
12: 11,) however they be divided, he remains one and the same. 
    17. On the other hand, the Scriptures demonstrate that there is 
some distinction between the Father and the Word, the Word and the 
Spirit; but the magnitude of the mystery reminds us of the great 
reverence and soberness which ought to he employed in discussing it. 
It seems to me, that nothing can be more admirable than the words of 
Gregory Nanzianzen: "Ou ftano to ei noesai, kai tois trisi 
perilampomai; ou ftavo ta tria dielein kai eis to hen anaferomai", 
(Greg. Nanzian. in Serm. de Sacro Baptis.) "I cannot think of the 
unity without being irradiated by the Trinity: I cannot distinguish 
between the Trinity without being carried up to the unity." 
Therefore, let us beware of imagining such a Trinity of persons as 
will distract our thoughts, instead of bringing them instantly back 
to the unity. The words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, certainly 
indicate a real distinction, not allowing us to suppose that they 
are merely epithets by which God is variously designated from his 
works. Still they indicate distinction only, not division. The 
passages we have already quoted show that the Son has a distinct 
subsistence from the Father, because the Word could not have been 
with God unless he were distinct from the Father; nor but for this 
could he have had his glory with the Father. In like manner, Christ 
distinguishes the Father from himself when he says that there is 
another who bears witness of him, (John 5: 32; 8: 16.) To the same 
effect is it elsewhere said, that the Father made all things by the 
Word. This could not be, if he were not in some respect distinct 
from him. Besides, it was not the Father that descended to the 
earth, but he who came forth from the Father; nor was it the Father 
that died and rose again, but he whom the Father had sent. This 
distinction did not take its beginning at the incarnation: for it is 
clear that the only begotten Son previously existed in the bosom of 
the Father, (John 1: 18.) For who will dare to affirm that the Son 
entered his Father's bosom for the first time, when he came down 
from heaven to assume human nature? Therefore, he was previously in 
the bosom of the Father, and had his glory with the Father. Christ 
intimates the distinction between the Holy Spirit and the Father, 
when he says that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, and between 
the Holy Spirit and himself, when he speaks of him as another as he 
does when he declares that he will send another Comforter; and in 
many other passages besides, (John 14: 6; 15: 26; 14: 16.) 
    18. I am not sure whether it is expedient to borrow analogies 
from human affairs to express the nature of this distinction. The 
ancient fathers sometimes do so, but they at the same time admits 
that what they bring forward as analogous is very widely different. 
And hence it is that I have a great dread of any thing like 
presumption here, lest some rash saying may furnish an occasion of 
calumny to the malicious, or of delusion to the unlearned. It were 
unbecoming, however, to say nothing of a distinction which we 
observe that the Scriptures have pointed out. This distinction is, 
that to the Father is attributed the beginning of action, the 
fountain and source of all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and 
arrangement in action, while the energy and efficacy of action is 
assigned to the Spirit. Moreover, though the eternity of the Father 
is also the eternity of the Son and Spirit, since God never could be 
without his own wisdom and energy; and though in eternity there can 
be no room for first or last, still the distinction of order is not 
unmeaning or superfluous, the Father being considered first, next 
the Son from him, and then the Spirit from both. For the mind of 
every man naturally inclines to consider, first, God, secondly, the 
wisdom emerging from him, and, lastly, the energy by which he 
executes the purposes of his counsel. For this reason, the Son is 
said to be of the Father only; the Spirit of both the Father and the 
Son. This is done in many passages, but in none more clearly than in 
the eighth chapter to the Romans, where the same Spirit is called 
indiscriminately the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of him who 
raised up Christ from the dead. And not improperly. For Peter also 
testifies (1 Pet. 1: 21,) that it was the Spirit of Christ which 
inspired the prophets, though the Scriptures so often say that it 
was the Spirit of God the Father. 
    19. Moreover, this distinction is so far from interfering with 
the most perfect unity of God, that the Son may thereby be proved to 
be one God with the Father, inasmuch as he constitutes one Spirit 
with him, and that the Spirit is not different from the Father and 
the Son, inasmuch as he is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. In 
each hypostasis the whole nature is understood the only difference 
being that each has his own peculiar subsistence. The whole Father 
is in the Son, and the whole Son in the Father, as the Son himself 
also declares, (John 14: 10,) "I am in the Father, and the Father in 
me;" nor do ecclesiastical writers admit that the one is separated 
from the other by any difference of essence. "By those names which 
denote distinctions" says Augustine "is meant the relation which 
they mutually bear to each other, not the very substance by which 
they are one." In this way, the sentiments of the Fathers, which 
might sometimes appear to be at variance with each other, are to be 
reconciled. At one time they teach that the Father is the beginning 
of the Son, at another they assert that the Son has both divinity 
and essence from himself, and therefore is one beginning with the 
Father. The cause of this discrepancy is well and clearly explained 
by Augustine, when he says, "Christ, as to himself, is called God, 
as to the Father he is called Son." And again, "The Father, as to 
himself, is called God, as to the Son he is called Father. He who, 
as to the Son, is called Father, is not Son; and he who, as to 
himself, is called Father, and he who, as to himself, is called Son, 
is the same God." Therefore, when we speak of the Son simply, 
without reference to the Father, we truly and properly affirm that 
he is of himself, and, accordingly, call him the only beginning; but 
when we denote the relation which he bears to the Father, we 
correctly make the Father the beginning of the Son. Augustine's 
fifth book on the Trinity is wholly devoted to the explanation of 
this subject. But it is far safer to rest contented with the 
relation as taught by him, than get bewildered in vain speculation 
by subtle prying into a sublime mystery. 
    20. Let those, then, who love soberness, and are contented with 
the measure of faith, briefly receive what is useful to be known. It 
is as follows: - When we profess to believe in one God, by the name 
God is understood the one simple essence, comprehending three 
persons or hypostases; and, accordingly, whenever the name of God is 
used indefinitely, the Son and Spirit, not less than the Father, is 
meant. But when the Son is joined with the Father, relation comes 
into view, and so we distinguish between the Persons. But as the 
Personal subsistence carry an order with them, the principle and 
origin being in the Father, whenever mention is made of the Father 
and Son, or of the Father and Spirit together, the name of God is 
specially given to the Father. In this way the unity of essence is 
retained, and respect is had to the order, which, however derogates 
in no respect from the divinity of the Son and Spirit. And surely 
since we have already seen how the apostles declare the Son of God 
to have been He whom Moses and the prophets declared to be Jehovah, 
we must always arrive at a unity of essence. We, therefore, hold it 
detestable blasphemy to call the Son a different God from the 
Father, because the simple name God admits not of relation, nor can 
God, considered in himself, be said to be this or that. Then, that 
the name Jehovah, taken indefinitely, may be applied to Christ, is 
clear from the words of Paul, "For this thing I besought the Lord 
thrice." After giving the answer, "My grace is sufficient for thee," 
he subjoins, "that the power of Christ may rest upon me," (2 Cor. 
12: 8, 9.) For it is certain that the name of Lord (Kuriou) is there 
put for Jehovah, and, therefore, to restrict it to the person of the 
Mediator were puerile and frivolous, the words being used 
absolutely, and not with the view of comparing the Father and the 
Son. And we know that, in accordance with the received usage of the 
Greeks, the apostles uniformly substitute the word Kurios for 
Jehovah. Not to go far for an example, Paul besought the Lord in the 
same sense in which Peter quotes the passage of Joel, "Whosoever 
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," (Acts 2: 21; 
Joel 2: 28.) Where this name is specially applied to the Son, there 
is a different ground for it, as will be seen in its own place; at 
present it is sufficient to remember, that Paul, after praying to 
God absolutely, immediately subjoins the name of Christ. Thus, too, 
the Spirit is called God absolutely by Christ himself. For nothing 
prevents us from holding that he is the entire spiritual essence of 
God, in which are comprehended Father, Son, and Spirit. This is 
plain from Scripture. For as God is there called a Spirit, so the 
Holy Spirit also, in so far as he is a hypostasis of the whole 
essence, is said to be both of God and from God. 
    21. But since Satan, in order to pluck up our faith by the 
roots, has always provoked fierce disputes, partly concerning the 
divine essence of the Son and Spirit, and partly concerning the 
distinction of persons; since in almost every age he has stirred up 
impious spirits to vex the orthodox doctors on this head, and is 
attempting in the present day to kindle a new flame out of the old 
embers, it will be proper here to dispose of some of these perverse 
dreams. Hitherto our chief object has been to stretch out our hand 
for the guidance of such as are disposed to learn, not to war with 
the stubborn and contentious; but now the truth which was calmly 
demonstrated must be vindicated from the calumnies of the ungodly. 
Still, however it will be our principal study to provide a sure 
footing for those whose ears are open to the word of God. Here, if 
any where, in considering the hidden mysteries of Scripture, we 
should speculate soberly and with great moderation, cautiously 
guarding against allowing either our mind or our tongue to go a step 
beyond the confines of God's word. For how can the human minds which 
has not yet been able to ascertain of what the body of the sun 
consists, though it is daily presented to the eye, bring down the 
boundless essence of God to its little measure? Nay, how can it, 
under its own guidance, penetrate to a knowledge of the substance of 
God while unable to understand its own? Wherefore, let us willingly 
leave to God the knowledge of himself. In the words of Hilary, (De 
Trinity. lib. 1,) "He alone is a fit witness to himself who is known 
only by himself." This knowledge, then, if we would leave to God, we 
must conceive of him as he has made himself known, and in our 
inquiries make application to no other quarter than his word. On 
this subject we have five homilies of Chrysostom against the 
Anomoei, (De Incomprehensit. Dei Natura,) in which he endeavoured, 
but in vain, to check the presumption of the sophists, and curb 
their garrulity. They showed no more modesty here than they are wont 
to do in everything else. The very unhappy results of their temerity 
should be a warning to us to bring more docility than acumen to the 
discussion of this question, never to attempt to search after God 
anywhere but in his sacred word, and never to speak or think of him 
farther than we have it for our guide. But if the distinction of 
Father, Son, and Spirit, subsisting in the one Godhead, (certainly a 
subject of great difficulty,) gives more trouble and annoyance to 
some intellects than is meet, let us remember that the human mind 
enters a labyrinth whenever it indulges its curiosity, and thus 
submit to be guided by the divine oracles, how much soever the 
mystery may be beyond our reach. 
    22. It were tedious, and to no purpose toilsome, to form a 
catalogue of the errors by which, in regard to this branch of 
doctrine, the purity of the faith has been assailed. The greater 
part of heretics have with their gross deliriums made a general 
attack on the glory of God, deeming it enough if they could disturb 
and shake the unwary. From a few individuals numerous sects have 
sprung up, some of them rending the divine essence, and others 
confounding the distinction of Persons. But if we hold, what has 
already been demonstrated from Scripture, that the essence of the 
one God, pertaining to the Father, Son, and Spirit, is simple and 
indivisible, and again, that the Father differs in some special 
property from the Son, and the Son from the Spirit, the door will be 
shut against Arius and Sabellius, as well as the other ancient 
authors of error. But as in our day have arisen certain frantic men, 
such as Servetus and others, who, by new devices, have thrown every 
thing into confusion, it may be worthwhile briefly to discuss their 
    The name of Trinity was so much disliked, nay detested, by 
Servetus, that he charged all whom he called Trinitarians with being 
Atheists. I say nothing of the insulting terms in which he thought 
proper to make his charges. The sum of his speculations was, that a 
threefold Deity is introduced wherever three Persons are said to 
exist in his essence, and that this Triad was imaginary, inasmuch as 
it was inconsistent with the unity of God. At the same time, he 
would have it that the Persons are certain external ideas which do 
not truly subsist in the Divine essence, but only figure God to us 
under this or that form: that at first, indeed, there was no 
distinction in God, because originally the Word was the same as the 
Spirit, but ever since Christ came forth God of God, another Spirit, 
also a God, had proceeded from him. But although he sometimes cloaks 
his absurdities in allegory, as when he says that the eternal Word 
of God was the Spirit of Christ with God, and the reflection of the 
idea, likewise that the Spirit was a shadow of Deity, he at last 
reduces the divinity of both to nothing; maintaining that, according 
to the mode of distribution, there is a part of God as well in the 
Son as in the Spirit, just as the same Spirit substantially is a 
portion of God in us, and also in wood and stone. His absurd 
babbling concerning the person of the mediator will be seen in its 
own place. 
    The monstrous fiction that a Person is nothing else than a 
visible appearance of the glory of God, needs not a long refutation. 
For when John declares that before the world was created the Logos 
was God, (John 1: 1,) he shows that he was something very different 
from an idea. But if even then, and from the remotest eternity, that 
Logos, who was God, was with the Father, and had his own distinct 
and peculiar glory with the Father, (John 17: 5,) he certainly could 
not be an external or figurative splendour, but must necessarily 
have been a hypostasis which dwelt inherently in God himself. But 
although there is no mention made of the Spirit antecedent to the 
account of the creation, he is not there introduced as a shadow, but 
as the essential power of God, where Moses relates that the 
shapeless mass was unborn by him (Gen. 1: 2.) It is obvious that the 
eternal Spirit always existed in God, seeing he cherished and 
sustained the confused materials of heaven and earth before they 
possessed order or beauty. Assuredly he could not then be an image 
or representation of God, as Servetus dreams. But he is elsewhere 
forced to make a more open disclosure of his impiety when he says, 
that God by his eternal reason decreeing a Son to himself, in this 
way assumed a visible appearance. For if this be true, no other 
Divinity is left to Christ than is implied in his having been 
ordained a Son by God's eternal decree. Moreover, those phantoms 
which Servetus substitutes for the hypostases he so transforms as to 
make new changes in God. But the most execrable heresy of all is his 
confounding both the Son and Spirit promiscuously with all the 
creatures. For he distinctly asserts, that there are parts and 
partitions in the essence of God, and that every such portion is 
God. This he does especially when he says, that the spirits of the 
faithful are co-eternal and consubstantial with God, although he 
elsewhere assigns a substantial divinity, not only to the soul of 
man, but to all created things. 
    23. This pool has bred another monster not unlike the former. 
For certain restless spirits, unwilling to share the disgrace and 
obloquy of the impiety of Servetus, have confessed that there were 
indeed three Persons, but added, as a reason, that the Father, who 
alone is truly and properly God, transfused his Divinity into the 
Son and Spirit when he formed them. Nor do they refrain from 
expressing themselves in such shocking terms as these: that the 
Father is essentially distinguished from the Son and Spirit by this; 
that he is the only essentiator. Their first pretext for this is, 
that Christ is uniformly called the Son of God. From this they 
infer, that there is no proper God but the Father. But they forget, 
that although the name of God is common also to the Son, yet it is 
sometimes, by way of excellence, ascribed to the Father, as being 
the source and principle of Divinity; and this is done in order to 
mark the simple unity of essence. They object, that if the Son is 
truly God, he must be deemed the Son of a person: which is absurd. I 
answer, that both are true; namely, that he is the Son of God, 
because he is the Word, begotten of the Father before all ages; (for 
we are not now speaking of the Person of the Mediator,) and yet, 
that for the purpose of explanation, regard must be had to the 
Person, so that the name God may not be understood in its absolute 
sense, but as equivalent to Father. For if we hold that there is no 
other God than the Fathers this rank is clearly denied to the Son. 
    In every case where the Godhead is mentioned, we are by no 
means to admit that there is an antithesis between the Father and 
the Son, as if to the former only the name of God could competently 
be applied. For assuredly, the God who appeared to Isaiah was the 
one true God, and yet John declares that he was Christ, (Isa. 6; 
John 12: 41.) He who declared, by the mouth of Isaiah, that he was 
to be "for a stone of stumbling" to the Jews, was the one God; and 
yet Paul declares that he was Christ, (Isa. 8: 14; Rom. 9: 33.) He 
who proclaims by Isaiah, "Unto me every knee shall bow," is the one 
God; yet Paul again explains that he is Christ, (Isa. 45: 23; Rom. 
14: 11.) To this we may add the passages quoted by an Apostle, 
"Thou, Lord, hast laid the foundations of the earth;" "Let all the 
angels of God worship him," (Heb. 1: 10; 10: 6; Ps. 102: 26; 97: 7.) 
All these apply to the one God; and yet the Apostle contends that 
they are the proper attributes of Christ. There is nothing in the 
cavil, that what proper]y applies to God is transferred to Christ, 
because he is the brightness of his glory. Since the name of Jehovah 
is everywhere applied to Christ, it follows that, in regard to 
Deity, he is of himself. For if he is Jehovah, it is impossible to 
deny that he is the same God who elsewhere proclaims by Isaiah, "I 
am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God," 
(Is. 44: 6.) We would also do well to ponder the words of Jeremiah, 
"The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they 
shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens," (Jer. 10: 
11;) whence it follows conversely, that He whose divinity Isaiah 
repeatedly proves from the creation of the world, is none other than 
the Son of God. And how is it possible that the Creator, who gives 
to all should not be of himself, but should borrow his essence from 
another? Whosoever says that the Son was essentiated by the Father, 
denies his selfexistence. Against this, however, the Holy Spirit 
protests, when he calls him Jehovah. On the supposition, then, that 
the whole essence is in the Father only, the essence becomes 
divisible, or is denied to the Son, who, being thus robbed of his 
essences will be only a titular God. If we are to believe these 
triflers, divine essence belongs to the Father only, on the ground 
that he is sole God, and essentiator of the Son. In this way, the 
divinity of the Son will be something abstracted from the essence of 
God, or the derivation of a part from the whole. On the same 
principle it must also be conceded, that the Spirit belongs to the 
Father only. For if the derivation is from the primary essence which 
is proper to none but the Father, the Spirit cannot justly be deemed 
the Spirit of the Son. This view, however, is refuted by the 
testimony of Paul, when he makes the Spirit common both to Christ 
and the Father. Moreover, if the Person of the Father is expunged 
from the Trinity, in what will he differ from the Son and Spirit, 
except in being the only God? They confess that Christ is God, and 
that he differs from the Father. If he differs, there must be some 
mark of distinction between them. Those who place it in the essence, 
manifestly reduce the true divinity of Christ to nothing, since 
divinity cannot exist without essence, and indeed without entire 
essence. The Father certainly cannot differ from the Son, unless he 
have something peculiar to himself, and not common to him with the 
Son. What, then, do these men show as the mark of distinction? If it 
is in the essence, let them tell whether or not he communicated 
essence to the Son. This he could not do in part merely, for it were 
impious to think of a divided God. And besides, on this supposition, 
there would be a rending of the Divine essence. The whole entire 
essence must therefore be common to the Father and the Son; and if 
so, in respect of essence there is no distinction between them. If 
they reply that the Father, while essentiating, still remains the 
only God, being the possessor of the essence, then Christ will be a 
figurative God, one in name or semblance only, and not in reality, 
because no property can be more peculiar to God than essence, 
according to the words, "I AM has sent me unto you," (Ex. 3: 4.) 
    24. The assumption, that whenever God is mentioned absolutely, 
the Father only is meant, may be proved erroneous by many passages. 
Even in those which they quote in support of their views they betray 
a lamentable inconsistency because the name of Son occurs there by 
way of contrast, showing that the other name God is used relatively, 
and in that way confined to the person of the Father. Their 
objection may be disposed of in a single word. Were not the Father 
alone the true God, he would, say they, be his own Father. But there 
is nothing absurd in the name of God being specially applied, in 
respect of order and degree, to him who not only of himself begat 
his own wisdom, but is the God of the Mediator, as I will more fully 
show in its own place. For ever since Christ was manifested in the 
flesh he is called the Son of God, not only because begotten of the 
Father before all worlds he was the Eternal Word, but because he 
undertook the person and office of the Mediator that he might unite 
us to God. Seeing they are so bold in excluding the Son from the 
honour of God, I would fain know whether, when he declares that 
there is "none good but one, that is, God," he deprives himself of 
goodness. I speak not of his human nature, lest perhaps they should 
object, that whatever goodness was in it was derived by gratuitous 
gift: I ask whether the Eternal Word of God is good, yes or no? If 
they say no, their impiety is manifest; if yes, they refute 
themselves. Christ's seeming at the first glance to disclaim the 
name of good, (Matth. 19: 17,) rather confirms our view. Goodness. 
being the special property of God alone, and yet being at the time 
applied to him in the ordinary way of salutation, his rejection of 
false honour intimates that the goodness in which he excels is 
Divine. Again, I ask whether, when Paul affirms. that God alone is 
"immortal," "wise, and true," (1 Tim. 1: 17,) he reduces Christ to 
the rank of beings mortal, foolish, and false. Is not he immortal, 
who, from the beginning, had life so as to bestow immortality on 
angels? Is not he wise who is the eternal wisdom of God? Is not he 
true who is truth itself? 
    I ask, moreover, whether they think Christ should be 
worshipped. If he claims justly, that every knee shall bow to him, 
it follows that he is the God who, in the law, forbade worship to be 
offered to any but himself. If they insist on applying to the Father 
only the words of Isaiah, "I am, and besides me there is none else," 
(Is. 44: 6,) I turn the passage against themselves, since we see 
that every property of God is attributed to Christ. There is no room 
for the cavil that Christ was exalted in the flesh in which he 
humbled himself, and in respect of which all power is given to him 
in heaven and on earth. For although the majesty of King and Judge 
extends to the whole person of the Mediator, yet had he not been God 
manifested in the flesh, he could not have been exalted to such a 
height without coming into collision with God. And the dispute is 
admirably settled by Paul, when he declares that he was equal with 
God before he humbled himself, and assumed the form of a servants 
(Phil. 2: 6, 7.) Moreover, how could such equality exist, if he were 
not that God whose name is Jah and Jehovah, who rides upon the 
cherubim, is King of all the earth, and King of ages? Let them 
glamour as they may, Christ cannot be robbed of the honour described 
by Isaiah, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him," (Is. 25: 
9;) for these words describe the advent of God the Redeemer, who was 
not only to bring back the people from Babylonish captivity, but 
restore the Church, and make her completely perfect. 
    Nor does another cavil avail them, that Christ was God in his 
Father. For though we admit that, in respect of order and gradation, 
the beginning of divinity is in the Father, we hold it a detestable 
fiction to maintain that essence is proper to the Father alone, as 
if he were the deifier of the Son. On this view either the essence 
is manifold, or Christ is God only in name and imagination. If they 
grant that the Son is God, but only in subordination to the Father, 
the essence which in the Father is unformed and unbegotten will in 
him be formed and begotten. I know that many who would be thought 
wise deride us for extracting the distinction of persons from the 
words of Moses when he introduces God as saying, "Let us make man in 
our own image," (Gen. 1: 26.) Pious readers, however, see how 
frigidly and absurdly the colloquy were introduced by Moses, if 
there were not several persons in the Godhead. It is certain that 
those whom the Father addresses must have been untreated. But 
nothing is untreated except the one God. Now then, unless they 
concede that the power of creating was common to the Father, Son, 
and Spirit, and the power of commanding common, it will follow that 
God did not speak thus inwardly with himself, but addressed other 
extraneous architects. In fine, there is a single passage which will 
at once dispose of these two objections. The declaration of Christ 
that "God is a Spirit," (John 4: 24,) cannot be confined to the 
Father only, as if the Word were not of a spiritual nature. But if 
the name Spirit applies equally to the Son as to the Father, I infer 
that under the indefinite name of God the Son is included. He adds 
immediately after, that the only worshipers approved by the Father 
are those who worship him in spirit and in truth; and hence I also 
infer, that because Christ performs the office of teacher under a 
head, he applies the name God to the Father, not for the purpose of 
destroying his own Divinity, but for the purpose of raising us up to 
it as it were step by step. 
    25. The hallucination consists in dreaming of individuals, each 
of whom possesses a part of the essence. The Scriptures teach that 
there is essentially but one God, and, therefore, that the essence 
both of the Son and Spirit is unbegotten; but inasmuch as the Father 
is first in order, and of himself begat his own Wisdom, he, as we 
lately observed, is justly regarded as the principle and fountain of 
all the Godhead. Thus God, taken indefinitely, is unbegotten, and 
the Father, in respect of his person, is unbegotten. For it is 
absurd to imagine that our doctrine gives any ground for alleging 
that we establish a quaternion of gods. They falsely and 
calumniously ascribe to us the figment of their own brain, as if we 
virtually held that three persons emanate from one essence, whereas 
it is plain, from our writings, that we do not disjoin the persons 
from the essence, but interpose a distinction between the persons 
residing in it. If the persons were separated from the essence, 
there might be some plausibility in their argument; as in this way 
there would be a trinity of Gods, not of persons comprehended in one 
God. This affords an answer to their futile question - whether or 
not the essence concurs in forming the Trinity; as if we imagined 
that three Gods were derived from it. Their objection, that there 
would thus be a Trinity without a God, originates in the same 
absurdity. Although the essence does not contribute to the 
distinction, as if it were a part or member, the persons are not 
without it, or external to it; for the Father, if he were not God, 
could not be the Father; nor could the Son possibly be Son unless he 
were God. We say, then, that the Godhead is absolutely of itself. 
And hence also we hold that the Son, regarded as God, and without 
reference to person, is also of himself; though we also say that, 
regarded as Son, he is of the Father. Thus his essence is without 
beginning, while his person has its beginning in God. And, indeed, 
the orthodox writers who in former times spoke of the Trinity, used 
this term only with reference to the Persons. To have included the 
essence in the distinction, would not only have been an absurd 
error, but gross impiety. For those who class the three thus - 
Essence, Son, and Spirit - plainly do away with the essence of the 
Son and Spirit; otherwise the parts being intermingled would merge 
into each other - a circumstance which would vitiate any 
distinction. In short, if God and Father were synonymous terms, the 
Father would be deifier in a sense which would leave the Son nothing 
but a shadow; and the Trinity would be nothing more than the union 
of one God with two creatures. 
    26. To the objection, that if Christ be properly God, he is 
improperly called the Son of God, it has been already answered, that 
when one person is compared with another, the name God is not used 
indefinitely, but is restricted to the Father, regarded as the 
beginning of the Godhead, not by essentiating, as fanatics absurdly 
express it, but in respect of order. In this sense are to be 
understood the words which Christ addressed to the Father, "This is 
life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus 
Christ whom thou hast sent," (John 17: 3.) For speaking in the 
person of the Mediator, he holds a middle place between God and man; 
yet so that his majesty is not diminished thereby. For though he 
humbled (emptied) himself, he did not lose the glory which he had 
with the Father, though it was concealed from the world. So in the 
Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 1: 10; 2: 9,) though the apostle 
confesses that Christ was made a little lower than the angels, he at 
the same time hesitates not to assert that he is the eternal God who 
founded the earth. We must hold, therefore, that as often as Christ, 
in the character of Mediator, addresses the Father, he, under the 
term God, includes his own divinity also. Thus, when he says to the 
apostles, "It is expedient for you that I go away," "My Father is 
greater than I," he does not attribute to himself a secondary 
divinity merely, as if in regard to eternal essence he were inferior 
to the Father; but having obtained celestial glory, he gathers 
together the faithful to share it with him. He places the Father in 
the higher degree, inasmuch as the full perfection of brightness 
conspicuous in heaven, differs from that measure of glory which he 
himself displayed when clothed in flesh. For the same reason Paul 
says, that Christ will restore "the kingdom to God, even the 
Father," "that God may be all in all," (1 Cor. 15: 24, 28.) Nothing 
can be more absurd than to deny the perpetuity of Christ's divinity. 
But if he will never cease to be the Son of God, but will ever 
remain the same that he was from the beginning, it follows that 
under the name of Father the one divine essence common to both is 
comprehended. And assuredly Christ descended to us for the very 
purpose of raising us to the Father, and thereby, at the same time, 
raising us to himself, inasmuch as he is one with the Father. It is 
therefore erroneous and impious to confine the name of God to the 
Father, so as to deny it to the Son. Accordingly, John, declaring 
that he is the true God, has no idea of placing him beneath the 
Father in a subordinate rank of divinity. I wonder what these 
fabricators of new gods mean, when they confess that Christ is truly 
God, and yet exclude him from the godhead of the Father, as if there 
could be any true God but the one God, or as if transfused divinity 
were not a mere modern fiction. 
    27. In the many passages which they collect from Irenaeus, in 
which he maintains that the Father of Christ is the only eternal God 
of Israel, they betray shameful ignorance, or very great dishonesty. 
For they ought to have observed, that that holy man was contending 
against certain frantic persons, who, denying that the Father of 
Christ was that God who had in old times spoken by Moses and the 
prophets, held that he was some phantom or other produced from the 
pollution of the world. His whole object, therefore, is to make it 
plain, that in the Scriptures no other God is announced but the 
Father of Christ; that it is wicked to imagine any other. 
Accordingly, there is nothing strange in his so often concluding 
that the God of Israel was no other than he who is celebrated by 
Christ and the apostles. Now, when a different heresy is to be 
resisted, we also say with truth, that the God who in old times 
appeared to the fathers, was no other than Christ. Moreover, if it 
is objected that he was the Father, we have the answer ready, that 
while we contend for the divinity of the Son, we by no means exclude 
the Father. When the reader attends to the purpose of Irenaeus, the 
dispute is at an end. Indeed, we have only to look to lib. 3 c. 6, 
where the pious writer insists on this one point, "that he who in 
Scripture is called God absolutely and indefinitely, is truly the 
only God; and that Christ is called God absolutely." Let us remember 
(as appears from the whole work, and especially from lib. 2 c. 46,) 
that the point under discussion was, that the name of Father is not 
applied enigmatically and parabolically to one who was not truly 
God. We may adds that in lib. 3 c. 9, he contends that the Son as 
well as the Father united was the God proclaimed by the prophets and 
apostles. He afterwards explains (lib. 3 c. 12) how Christ, who is 
Lord of all, and King and Judge, received power from him who is God 
of all, namely, in respect of the humiliation by which he humbled 
himself, even to the death of the cross. At the same time he shortly 
after affirms, (lib. 3 c. 16,) that the Son is the maker of heaven 
and earth, who delivered the law by the hand of Moses, and appeared 
to the fathers. Should any babbler now insist that, according to 
Irenaeus, the Father alone is the God of Israel, I will refer him to 
a passage in which Irenaeus distinctly says, (lib. 3 c. 18, 23,) 
that Christ is ever one and the same, and also applies to Christ the 
words of the prophecy of Habakkuk, "God cometh from the south." To 
the same effect he says, (lib. 4 c. 9,) "Therefore, Christ himself, 
with the Father, is the God of the living." And in the 12th chapter 
of the same book he explains that Abraham believed God, because 
Christ is the maker of heaven and earth, and very God. 
    28. With no more truth do they claim Tertullian as a patron. 
Though his style is sometimes rugged and obscure, he delivers the 
doctrine which we maintain in no ambiguous manner, namely, that 
while there is one God, his Word, however, is with dispensation or 
economy; that there is only one God in unity of substance; but that, 
nevertheless, by the mystery of dispensation, the unity is arranged 
into Trinity; that there are three, not in state, but in degree - 
not in substance, but in form - not in power, but in order. He says 
indeed that he holds the Son to be second to the Father; but he 
means that the only difference is by distinction. In one place he 
says the Son is visible; but after he has discoursed on both views, 
he declares that he is invisible regarded as the Word. In fine, by 
affirming that the Father is characterised by his own Person, he 
shows that he is very far from countenancing the fiction which we 
refute. And although he does not acknowledge any other God than the 
Father, yet, explaining himself in the immediate context, he shows 
that he does not speak exclusively in respect of the Son, because he 
denies that he is a different God from the Father; and, accordingly, 
that the one supremacy is not violated by the distinction of Person. 
And it is easy to collect his meaning from the whole tenor of his 
discourse. For he contends against Praxeas, that although God has 
three distinct Persons, yet there are not several gods, nor is unity 
divided. According to the fiction of Praxeas, Christ could not be 
God without being the Father also; and this is the reason why 
Tertullian dwells so much on the distinction. When he calls the Word 
and Spirit a portion of the whole, the expression, though harsh, may 
be allowed, since it does not refer to the substance, but only (as 
Tertullian himself testifies) denotes arrangement and economy which 
applies to the persons only. Accordingly, he asks, "How many 
persons, Praxeas, do you think there are, but just as many as there 
are names for?" In the same way, he shortly after says, "That they 
may believe the Father and the Son, each in his own name and 
person." These things, I think, sufficiently refute the effrontery 
of those who endeavour to blind the simple by pretending the 
authority of Tertullian. 
    29. Assuredly, whosoever will compare the writings of the 
ancient fathers with each other, will not find any thing in Irenaeus 
different from what is taught by those who come after him. Justin is 
one of the most ancient, and he agrees with us out and out. Let them 
object that, by him and others, the Father of Christ is called the 
one God. The same thing is taught by Hilary, who uses the still 
harsher expression, that Eternity is in the Father. Is it that he 
may withhold divine essence from the Son? His whole work is a 
defence of the doctrine which we maintain; and yet these men are not 
ashamed to produce some kind of mutilated excerpts for the purpose 
of persuading us that Hilary is a patron of their heresy. With 
regard to what they pretend as to Ignatius, if they would have it to 
be of the least importance, let them prove that the apostles enacted 
laws concerning Lent, and other corruptions. Nothing can be more 
nauseating, than the absurdities which have been published under the 
name of Ignatius; and therefore, the conduct of those who provide 
themselves with such masks for deception is the less entitled to 
    Moreover, the consent of the ancient fathers clearly appears 
from this, that in the Council of Nice, no attempt was made by Arius 
to cloak his heresy by the authority of any approved author; and no 
Greek or Latin writer apologises as dissenting from his 
predecessors. It cannot be necessary to observe how carefully 
Augustine, to whom all these miscreants are most violently opposed, 
examined all ancient writings, and how reverently he embraced the 
doctrine taught by them, (August. lib. de Trinit. &c.) He is most 
scrupulous in stating the grounds on which he is forced to differ 
from them, even in the minutest point. On this subject, too, if he 
finds any thing ambiguous or obscure in other writers, he does not 
disguise it. And he assumes it as an acknowledged fact, that the 
doctrine opposed by the Arians was received without dispute from the 
earliest antiquity. At the same time, he was not ignorant of what 
some others had previously taught. This is obvious from a single 
expression. When he says (De Doct. Christ. lib. 1.) that "unity is 
in the Father," will they pretend that he then forgot himself? In 
another passage, he clears away every such charge, when he calls the 
Father the beginning of the Godhead, as being from none - thus 
wisely inferring that the name of God is specially ascribed to the 
Father, because, unless the beginning were from him, the simple 
unity of essence could not be maintained. I hope the pious reader 
will admit that I have now disposed of all the calumnies by which 
Satan has hitherto attempted to pervert or obscure the pure doctrine 
of faith. The whole substance of the doctrine has, I trust, been 
faithfully expounded, if my readers will set bounds to their 
curiosity, and not long more eagerly than they ought for perplexing 
disputation. I did not undertake to satisfy those who delight in 
speculate views, but I have not designedly omitted any thing which I 
thought adverse to me. At the same time, studying the edification of 
the Church, I have thought it better not to touch on various topics, 
which could have yielded little profit, while they must have 
needlessly burdened and fatigued the reader. For instance, what 
avails it to discuss, as Lombard does at length, (lib. 1 dist. 9,) 
Whether or not the Father always generates? This idea of continual 
generation becomes an absurd fiction from the moment it is seen, 
that from eternity there were three persons in one God. 

Calvin, Institutes on the Christian Religion, Volume 1
(continued in part 12...)

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