VII. How are the three persons of the Godhead distinguished?

We must here consider, first, what the Scriptures attribute as common to the three persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which three are one God, and yet distinct in persons ; secondly, what is ascribed to each one singly, as peculiar to him, and how the per sons are distinguished from each other.

The things that are common to the three persons of the Godhead, are, 1. All the essential properties of God, which we comprehend in the single name of Deity, as eternity, immensity, omnipotence, wisdom, goodness, to have essence from himself, or to be God of himself. 2. All the external actions or works of the divinity, which are commonly called ad extra, that is, such as God exercises towards his creatures, and in them or through them, as creation, preservation, the government of the, world, the gathering and preserving of the church, &c.

These persons are distinguished in two ways. 1. By their works, ad intra. 2. By their works or mode of operating, ad extra. The first are called the inward works or operations of the divinity, because the persons have and exercise them one towards the other. By these internal works or properties, therefore, the persons are first distinguished from each other. For the Father is, and exists of himself, not from another. The Son is begotten eternally from the Father, that is, he hath his divine essence communicated to him from the Father in a way not to be explained. The Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father, and the Son, that is, has the same divine essence communicated to him from the Father and the Son, in an inexplicable manner.

The proofs of this are the following : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “ We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” u The only be gotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “ When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father,” &c. (John 1:1; 14:18; 15:26.)

This is, therefore, the order, according to which the persons. of the God head exist: The Father is the first person, and, as it were, the fountain of the divinity of the Son and Holy Spirit, because the Deity is communicated to him of no one ; but he communicates the Deity to the Son and Holy Spirit. The Son is the second person, because the Deity is communicated to him of the Father, by eternal generation. The Holy Ghost is the third person, because the Deity is communicated to him from the Father arid the Son, by an eternal inspiration or procession. This is the order in which the persons of the Godhead are spoken of in the following passages of Scripture : “ Go baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” “ There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.”

(Matt. 18: 19. 1 John 5: 7.) And yet the Father is not prior in time to the Son and Holy Ghost; nor is the Son before the Holy Ghost, but only in the order of existing ; for no person of the Godhead is before or after the others in time, or dignity, or degree, but only according to the order in which they exist. The Father was never without the Son, nor the Son without the Holy Spirit, since the Deity is unchangeable. It is in this way that God has from everlasting existed in himself, and hath so revealed himself in his word.

Heretics are accustomed to ask, in relation to this subject, what the eternal generation of the Son is, and what is the procession of the Holy Spirit, and what the difference between them ? And although we confess that the mode of eternal generation and procession, together with the for mal and natural distinction between them is inexplicable by man. which all the orthodox fathers of former times have confessed, yet the Scriptures certainly teach the thing itself, viz : That generation is a communication of the divine essence, whereby only the second person of the Deity derives and takes from the first person alone, as a son from a father, the same essence whole and entire, which the father has and retains ; and that procession is a communication of the divine essence by which the third person of the Godhead receives from the Father and the Son, as the spirit from him whose spirit it is, the same entire essence which the Father and the Son have and retain.

Both of these differ from creation, which implies the production of something out of nothing by the command and will of God ; but to be conceived or begotten, and to proceed or emenate, is to produce from eternity some other or another person, from the substance of him who be gets, or of him from whom the procession is, in a way that is altogether beyond our comprehension ; yet so that the Son has his subsistence by being begotten, and the Holy Spirit by proceeding. Thus, therefore, we perceive the thing itself, or that thus it is, as far as God has seen fit to reveal this great mystery unto us, although we cannot arrive at the knowledge why it is so.

Concerning the question so warmly controverted by the Greek arid Latin churches, whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son, or from the Father only, we shall speak hereafter, when we come to treat the doctrine concerning the Holy Ghost.

We must also here notice the phrases or forms of speech used in Scripture, and by the ancient church in reference to the distinction which exists between the persons of the Godhead themselves. Thus, it is correct to say, God begat God, but it is not correct to say God begat another God, or begat himself. It is correct to say, the Father begat another, but not that he begat another thing, or another God. It is orthodox to say the Son is what the Father is, but not that the Son is the same person that the Father is. It is true to say, that the Son is begotten, and the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father ; also, the Son is of or from the Father, and the Holy Spirit is of or from the Father and the Son ; also, whatsoever the Son has, he has from the Father, and received it by being begotten ; and whatsoever the Holy Spirit has, he has from the Father and the Son, and received it by proceeding ; also, the Son and the Holy Spirit have a be ginning in respect to their person, and have their essence communicated from another ; but it is not true to say that they have a beginning in respect to their essence, or they are essenced, or have their essence produced from the Father, or from some other person. It is orthodox to say, the first person of the Godhead begat the second of his own essence, and the third person proceeded from the first and second, but not. the divine essence begot a divine essence, or the person is begotten or proceeded from the essence. It is proper to say, the divine essence is communicated, but not to say, the divine essence is begotten or proceeds, because to be communicated, and to be begotten, are not the same thing ; for, not whatsoever is communicated to the begotten, is begotten, but that is begotten to which the substance of him that begets is communicated.

There is another distinction between the persons of the Godhead, arising out of the former, which consists in the order in which the persons of the Godhead operate, ad extra, which embraces those actions which they exercise out of themselves, towards their creatures, and in them, and by them. These works are indeed wrought by the common will and power of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but yet the same order is preserved among the persona of the Godhead, in working, which there is as it respects their existence. The Father is the fountain, as of the persons so also of the working, of the Son and Holy Ghost, and does all things not by any other, that is, not by another working through him, not by the will of another preventing his, or communicating to him power, or efficacy but as existing of himself, so also knowing, working, &c., of himself. But the Son and Holy Ghost do not work of themselves, but by themselves, that is, the Son works, the Father s will going before ; the Holy Ghost works, the will of the Father und of the Son going before. The Father works by the Son and Holy Ghost, arid sends them, but he himself is not sent by them. The Son works through the Holy Spirit, sends him from the Father into the hearts of those that believe, but is not himself sent by the Holy Spirit, but of the Father. The Holy Spirit works and is sent from both the Father and the Son not from himself. “All things were made by him. “ “The Son can do nothing of himself but what he seeth the Father do ; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” “ I proceeded forth and came from God ; neither came I of myself.” “ Whom the Father will send in my name.” “ Whom I will send unto you from the Father.” (John 1:3; 5:19; 8:42; 14:26; 15:26.) “

But when the Son and Holy Ghost are said to be sent, we must not understand it in the sense of a local motion, or as though it indicated a change in God himself : but it must be understood of his eternal will, and decree to accomplish something by the Son and Holy Ghost ; and of the execution and manifestation of his will through the working of the Son and Holy Ghost. So the Son says that he was sent into the world by the Father that he came down from heaven, and yet that he was in heaven, when he was upon the earth. So the Holy Spirit, although he existed before, and dwelt in the Apostles, yet it is said that he was sent upon them on the day of Pentecost. Each of these persons was, therefore, sent into the world, not because they began to exist where they did not exist before ; but because they accomplished in the world what was the will of the Father, and showed themselves present and efficacious according to the will of the Father. Thus it is said, “ God sent forth his Son made of a woman.” “ And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4: 4, G.)