The Divine Nature
8. It has not been permitted to man to sound the inmost nature of God. We still lack the inner knowledge of our own sense of being, which can only be acquired by means of a complete purification of the Spirit; only then will we be able to comprehend God. But if we cannot penetrate his essence, his existence being given as premise, we can, by the power of reason, arrive at the knowledge of his necessary attributes; for, in seeing that which he cannot be without ceasing to be God, we judge that what he must be. Without the knowledge of the attributes of God, it would be impossible to comprehend the work of creation. It is the starting point of all religious beliefs; and the fault of most religions is that they have made their dogmas the beacon-light to direct them. Those which have not attributed to God all power have made many gods; those which have not endowed him with sovereign goodness have made of him a jealous, angry, partial, and vindictive God.
9. God is supreme and sovereign intelligence. The intelligence of man is limited, since it can neither make nor comprehend all that exists; that of God, embracing infinity, must be infinite. If we supposed it to be limited to a certain point, then it would be possible to conceive a being still more intelligent, capable of comprehending and doing that which the other was not able to do. This search would continue indefinitely.
10. God is eternal: that is to say, he has had no beginning, and he will have no end. If he had had a commencement, he must have sprung from nothingness. Now, nothingness being nothing, can produce nothing; or, if he could have been created by another being anterior to himself, then this other being would be God. If one could suppose of him a commencement or an end, one would then be able to conceive a being having existed before him, or being able to exist after him, and thus one after the other even to infinitude.
11. God is unchangeable. If he were subject to change, the laws which govern the universe would not have any stability.
12. God is immaterial; that is to say, his nature differs from all that which we call matter: otherwise he could not be immutable, for he would be subject to the transformations of matter.
God has not a form appreciable to our senses: if he had, he would be matter. We say, the hand of God, the eye of God, the mouth of God, because men knowing him only by themselves, takes themselves as a term of comparison of all that which they comprehend not. Pictures representing God as an old man with a long beard, covered with a mantle, are ridiculous: they have the disadvantage of lowering the Supreme Being to the level of poor humanity. It is but one step from that to endow him with the passions of humanity, and to make of him a jealous and angry God.
13. God is all-powerful. If he had not supreme power, one could conceive of a being more powerful; thus from one to another, till one could find a being that no other could surpass in power, and it is the latter who would be God.
14. God is sovereignly just and good. Providential wisdom in divine laws is revealed in small as well as in great things, and this wisdom gives no room to doubt either his justice or his kindness.
The infinitude of a quality excludes the possibility of a contrary one which would lessen or annul it. A being infinitely good could not have the smallest particle of wickedness; a being infinitely bad could not have the smallest particle of goodness, - just as an object could not be absolutely black with the faintest shade of white, neither one absolutely white with the slightest spot of black.
God would not then be both good and bad; for possessing neither one nor the other of these qualities in a supreme degree, he would not be God. All things would be submitted to caprice, and he would have stability in nothing. It is then only possible to be infinitely good or infinitely bad. If he were infinitely bad, he would do nothing good. Now, as his works testify of his wisdom, of his goodness, and of his solicitude for us, it is necessary to conclude that being unable to be at the same time good and bad without ceasing to be God, he must be infinitely good.
Sovereign kindness and goodness imply sovereign justice; for if he acted unjustly or with partiality in one instance, or in respect to any one of his creatures, he would not be sovereignly just, and consequently not perfectly good.
15. God is infinitely perfect. It is impossible to conceive of a God without an infinitude of perfections, without which he could not be God; for one would always be able to think of a being possessing that which was wanting in him. In order that no one being surpass him, it is necessary that he be infinite in all.
The attributes of God being infinite, are neither susceptible of augmentation nor of diminution. Without that they would not be infinite, and God would not be perfect. If one could take away the least part of one of his attributes, he would no longer be God, since it would be possible for a more perfect being to exist.
16. God is unique. The unity of God is the result of absolute infinitude of perfection. Another God could not exist except upon one condition, that of being equally infinite in all things; for, if there were between them the slightest difference, the one would be inferior to the other, subordinate to his power, and would not be God. If there were between them absolute equality, there would be for all eternity one same thought, one wish, one power; thus confounding their identity, and there would be in reality only one God. If each one had special attributes, the one would do that which the other would not, and then there would not be between them perfect equality, since neither one nor the other would have sovereign authority.
17. It is ignorance of the principle of infinite perfection of God which has engendered polytheism, the worship of all people in early times. They attribute divinity to all power which seemed to them above humanity. Later, reason led them to join these diverse powers in one alone; then, as men have gradually comprehended the essence of the divine attributes, they have taken away from their creeds the beliefs which denied them.
18. After all, God cannot be God except on condition of not being surpassed in anything by another being; for them the being who should surpass him in whatever it might be, were it only by a hair’s breadth, and would be the true God; for it is necessary that God be infinite in all things.
It is thus that the existence of God being proved by his works, one arrives, by a simple logical deduction, to determine the attributes which characterize him.
19. God is then the Supreme and Sovereign Intelligence. He is unique, eternal, immutable, immaterial, all-powerful, sovereignly just and good, infinite in all his perfection, like no other.
Such is the base upon which the universal edifice reposes. It is the beacon-light whose rays illuminate the entire universe, and which alone can guide man in the search for truth. In following it he will never go astray; and, if he is often led astray, it is for want of having followed the route which was indicated to him.
Such is the infallible criterion of all philosophical and religious doctrines. Man has a rigorously exact measure in the attributes of God with which to judge him; and he can say with certitude that all theory, all principle, all dogma, all beliefs, all practices which are in contradiction with anyone of these attributes, which should tend not necessarily to annul it, but simply to weaken it, cannot be of the truth.
In philosophy, in psychology, in ethics, in religion, there is no truth in that which departs one iota from the essential qualities of divinity. Perfect religion must be that of which no article of faith is in opposition with these qualities; all the dogmas must sustain the proof of this control without conflicting with it in any particular.