Divine Limitation -- By: John Milton Williams

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 047:186 (Apr 1890)
Article: Divine Limitation
Author: John Milton Williams


Divine Limitation

Rev. John Milton Williams

While we all recognize omnipotence, or infinite power, as one of the essential attributes of the divine nature, no one, probably, includes in the meaning of the word ability to do any and every thing that may be named or imagined. All sensible men admit that whatever involves absurdity, or self-contradiction, is not an object of power, comes not within the scope of this attribute; consequently non-ability to effect such results involves no limitation of power. We do not, therefore, disparage this divine perfection in saying, though the language may seem irreverent, that God cannot make the part greater than the whole, make a crooked line the shortest distance between two points, make the diameter of a sphere greater than the circumference, or add to the age of a living organism a century in an hour; for the reason that physical power has no tendency to accomplish such fanciful results, more than it has to understand a syllogism, or solve a problem in mathematics. It is, therefore, no contradiction of terms, and involves no derogation of infinite perfection, to say, the Infinite One is environed by myriads of limitations.

The fact that God is a moral being, subject, like ourselves, to the restraints of obligation, is a divine limitation. The moral law revealed in the human reason, and in the Sacred Scriptures, is an intuition of the infinite reason, and a part of the divine nature. It is coexistent with God, and is as uncreated and changeless as God, and imposes its obligation upon him, precisely as upon other

moral beings. God acts under immeasurable responsibility. His moral character is the golden chain which binds the moral universe to himself. “The Judge of all the earth will do right,” and render himself worthy the highest acclaim angels ever utter. “Just and righteous are thy ways, thou King of saints.” This is a natural as well as moral limitation, inasmuch as God cannot swerve from the line of perfect rectitude, without involving consequences we shudder to contemplate.

The objection that the divine will creates law, makes right, is per se the ultimate right, and therefore it is absurd to say, God can do wrong, not only antagonizes an intuitive truth, but environs him in still greater limitations, as it renders him incapable both of merit and moral action. Necessary action is not moral action. He who cannot do both right and wrong is not a responsible being.

It is also evident that God has limited himself by the freedom with which he has invested moral beings. The best definition of freedom is, “power of contrary choice” or ability, in any circumstances, under any pressure...

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