Edward Leigh (1602-1671): Seven important things to keep in mind about God’s attributes



Edward Leigh (1602-1671) discusses the attributes of God in his A Treatise of Divinity, Book 2, p. 20-22. He first offers a definition of God’s attributes:

God may be known by his Attributes and essentiall properties, 1. of which some shew what he is in himself, 2. What he is to us.

They are called Attributes, because they are rather said to be attributed to God ( that we might by them better conceive what he is) than to be in him. They are that one most pure God diversly apprehended, and the same with the Divine essence; but for the weaknesse of our capacity they are diversly distinguished. They are called properties, because they are peculiar to his Majesty, and are so in him, as they are not in any Creature.

Some doe distinguish of Gods Attributes and Properties. Attributes are those which belong to the Essence, and Properties to the Persons themselves.

A Property in God is an essentiall Attribute in him, whereby his nature is knowne in it selfe, and is distinguished from all other things.

Having defined the attributes of God, he then lays down seven important things (what he calls “rules”) to keep in mind about God’s attributes:

Some Rules are to bee observed in attributing these to God.

First, they are all essentiall to God; for in him is no accident at all; whatsoever is in God the same is God. All these are also one in him; his Mercy is his Justice, and his Justice is his Mercy, and each are his essence, onely they differ in our apprehension.

Secondly, they are all absolute properties in God, and so distinguished from those respective properties whereby every person in the Trinity hath his own subsistence.

Thirdly, they are all equall to all the three Persons, and alike affirmed of all. The Father Eternall, most Holy, Almighty, mercifull; so is the Sonne and Holy Ghost.

Fourthly, these Attributes are altogether in God alone, and that in the highest degree and measure, yea above all degree and measure; they are eternall and infinite in him. Hee alone is good, Mat. 19.17. and only wise, Rom. 16.27. And King of Kings, 1 Tim 6.15. They are affirmed of him, both in the concrete and abstract; Hee is not onely wise and good, but wisdome and goodnesse it selfe, Life and Justice it selfe.

Fifthly, they are all actually and operatively in God. He doth and will; his holinesse makes us holy.

6. All these are in God objectively and finally; our holinesse lookes upon his holinesse, as the face in the looking-glasse on the man, whose representation it is; and our holinesse ends in his.

7. The attributes of God are everlasting, constant and unchangeable, for ever in him, at one time, as well as another. This may minister comfort to Gods people; Gods attributes are not mutable accidents, but his very essence, his love and mercy are like himselfe, infinite, immutable, eternall.

Edward Leigh (1602-1671) on the definition of theology: Another link in the Ramus-Perkins-Ames-Mastricht-Edwards trajectory?


In an earlier post on the origin of the title of this blog, we looked at the theological and historical trajectory running through Petrus Ramus (1515–1572), William Perkins (1558–1602), William Ames (1575-1633), Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706) and Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). That post is can be found here:


Edward Leigh (1602-1671), an English lay writer, seems to provide another link in that chain. Though he phrases it somewhat differently, in essence he is saying the same thing: theology is ultimately a practical discipline. The end thereof is to live unto God and his glory:

Divinity (or theology) is “such an art as teacheth a man by knowledge of God’s will and assistance of his power to live to his glory. The best rules that the Ethicks, Politicks, Oeconomicks have, are fetched out of Divinity. There is no true knowledge of Christ, but that which is practical, since everything is then truly known, when it is known in the manner that it is propounded to be known. But Christ is not propounded to us to be known theoretically but practically.”

– Edward Leigh (1602-1671), Body of Divinity, in Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 1:156-157)