"wise, holy, just. and good"

Mon Dec 1 00:34:13 UTC 2008

        A version of this is in the early Articles of Faith and
Covenant, which apparently date from 1629.  As reprinted in Nathaniel
Morton, New England's Memorial 460 (6th ed. 1855), the Confession of
Faith contained in the Articles begins:

        "I do believe with my heart and confess with my mouth:-- That
there is but one only true God in three persons, the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost; each of them God, and all of them one and the same
infinite, eternal God:  most wise, holy, just, merciful, and blessed for

        The Articles were drawn up by a Mr. Higginson, a non-conformist
minister.  I suspect that they were based on a model from 16th or 17th
century England.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Joel S. Berson
Sent: Sunday, November 30, 2008 1:50 AM
Subject: "wise, holy, just. and good"

What is the origin of the phrase describing God (and sometimes man) as
"wise, holy, just, and good"?

Google Books takes it back to 1796, in John Gill, A Complete Body of
Divinity.  (It also claims a 1584 date for The Creeds of Christendom
..., by Philip Schaff, but this is actually 1877.)  It is apparently
part of the creed of "Independent (or Congregational) Dissenters", from
the 1830s.

But does it come from an earlier writing of the "dissenters", which
might place it in the late 1500s, or perhaps from a Latin text, or from
the Bible?


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