Ursinus On The Persons, Works, And Unity Of The Trinity

Question 24. How are these articles divided?

Answer. Into three parts: the first is of God the Father, and our creation; the second of God the Son, and our redemption; the third of God the Holy Spirit, and our sanctification.

Exposition

There are three principal parts included in the Apostles’ creed:

  1. The first treats of God the Father and our creation;
  2. The second of God the Son, and our redemption;
  3. The third of God the Holy Ghost, and our sanctification.

Objection. 1. Creation is here attributed to the Father, redemption to the Son, and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Therefore the Son and the Holy Spirit did not create heaven and earth; neither did the Father and the Holy Spirit redeem the human race; nor do the Father and the Son sanctify the faithful.

Answer. We deny the consequence which is here deduced, because the creed attributes creation to the Father, redemption to the Son, and sanctification to the Holy Spirit, not exclusively, or in such a manner as that these works do not belong to all the persons of the God head. For the Father also redeems us, because “he delivered up his Son for us;” “sent his son into the world, that the world through him might be saved.” (Rom. 8:32. John 3:17.) The Father also sanctifies us according to what Paul says: “God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” (Gal. 4:6. 1 Thes. 5:23.) So the Son creates us, for “all things were made by him.” (John 1:3.) He also sanctifies us, because “he is made unto us, of God, sanctification.” (1 Cor. 1:30.) He “sanctifies and cleanses the church with the washing of water, by the word.” (Eph. 5:26.) He gives the Holy Spirit, for he says: “I will send the comforter,” etc. “He hath shed forth this which you now see and hear.” (Acts. 2:33.) The same thing is also to be said of the Holy Spirit, for he also created the heavens and the earth. “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the hosts of them, by the breath of his mouth.” (Gen. 1:2. Ps. 33:6.)

In making this distinction, however, we must not overlook the distinction and the order of working which is peculiar to the persons of the Godhead. The work of creation is attributed to the Father, not exclusively, nor to him alone, but because he is the fountain of Divinity, and of all divine works, and so of creation; for he created of himself all things by the Son and Holy Spirit. Redemption is attributed to the Son, not exclusively, nor to him alone, but because the Son is that person who immediately performs the work of redemption; for the Son alone was made a ransom for our sins. It was the Son, and not the Father, or the Holy Spirit, that purchased us by his death upon the cross. So in like manner sanctification is attributed to the Holy Spirit, not exclusively, nor to him alone, but because the Holy Spirit is that person who immediately sanctifies us, or because it is through him that our sanctification is immediately effected.

Objection. 2. The works which the persons of the Godhead perform out of themselves, that is, such as they perform in reference to creatures, are indivisible, that is, they cannot be attributed to any one person of the Trinity without respect to the other persons. Creation, redemption, and sanctification, are works which are external to the Godhead. Therefore they are indivisible, and consequently there is no need of this distinction.

Answer. We reply to the major proposition: The works of the Trinity are indivisible, but not in such a sense as to destroy the order and manner of working peculiar to each person of the Godhead. All the persons of the Godhead perform certain works in reference to creatures, but yet this order is preserved, that the Father does all things of himself through the Son and Holy Spirit; the Son does all things of the Father through the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit does all things of the Father and the Son through himself. In this way, therefore, all the persons of the Godhead create, redeem, and sanctify; the Father mediately through the Son and Holy Spirit; the Son mediately through the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit immediately through himself, but mediately through the Son, as he is the Mediator. But the works of the Godhead, which are called works ad extra and ad intra, will be explained under the seventh division of the doctrine concerning God.

Zacharias Ursinus, Body of Orthodox Doctrine of the Explication of the Catechism.

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