Dr. Keith A. Mathison is professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla. In June 2003, Dr. Mathison wrote an article in Tabletalk Magazine entitled the Existence and Attributes of God. The following is an excerpt from that article.
For those who wish to begin digging deeply into what Scripture teaches about God, there is no better place to go than to Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God, published by Baker Books. At 1,150 pages, this book is not for the faint-hearted. It involves a major commitment of time and effort. But then, most things that are worthwhile do.
The book is divided into 14 discourses. In each discourse, Charnock takes one topic and exhaustively examines what the Bible tells us about it. He begins with two very helpful discourses on the existence of God and practical atheism. He takes as his starting point Psalm 14:1: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” He examines what it means to deny the existence of God and explains that many who profess belief in God with their mouths deny belief in God with their actions.
As Paul explains, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). Charnock elaborates: “Evil works are a dust stirred up by an atheistical breath. He that habituates himself in some sordid lust, can scarcely be said seriously and firmly to believe that there is a God.…” The old cliché, “Actions speak louder than words,” is certainly applicable here. The essence of practical atheism is to live “as if’ God does not exist.
In the remaining discourses, Charnock discusses at great length various attributes of God: His spiritual nature, eternity, immutability, omnipresence, knowledge, wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, dominion, and patience.
One of the most edifying sections of each discourse is that in which Charnock explains the practical relevance of truly knowing and understanding a particular attribute of God. In dealing with God’s eternality, for example, Charnock explains how an understanding of this attribute helps us to overcome our fear of death. He writes: “It is impossible that the believer, who is united to the immortal God that is from everlasting to everlasting can ever perish; for being in conjunction with him who is an ever-flowing fountain of life, he cannot suffer him to remain in the jaws of death.”
In addressing the much-maligned doctrine of immutability, Charnock explains how it is a profound comfort to God’s people: “What comfort could it be to pray to a God that like the chameleon changed colors every day, every moment? What encouragement could there be to lift up our eyes to one that were of one mind this day and of another mind tomorrow?”
Too many Christians think of the attributes of God as obscure, impractical doctrines. To the contrary, as Charnock observes, there are no more practical doctrines in Scripture than those that reveal to us the nature of God.
Charnock has written a book that is a spiritual gold mine. It will drive you to Scripture and to your knees in adoration of the living God who has revealed Himself in His holy Word. Men today have forgotten God. Allow the great Puritan Stephen Charnock to remind you again of who He is.
Soli deo Gloria!