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The Divinity of and Operations Of the Holy Ghost
Evidence of His Personality-Part II
"The Spirit speaketh expressly," 1 Timothy 4:1.
It was with reluctance that I closed the preceding Sermon, having left the induction of evidences unfinished, which are in proof of the blessed Spirit's personality. In the delivery of all religious discourses, as well from the press as the pulpit, it is an object, every way desirable, to adopt the closest comprehension of subject, and to avoid all unnecessary divisions: for they only tend to protract the issue of the question, and thereby considerably enervate the strength of the argument. Whereas on the contrary, the testimonies of any given truth, when concentrated, act with united vigor and like the rays of light, converging to a focus, assist each other by their reciprocal operation. But however disadvantageous or unpleasant the interruption, it was both expedient and unavoidable. While attentive to the great object in view, I thought it proper to consult your ease and accommodation. And though anxious above all things, to establish your minds in the firm conviction of "the faith once delivered to the saints;" it became a duty, not to exhaust your patience, in trespassing upon it more at one time, than was absolutely needful.
I would willingly persuade myself, that the impressions from the last discourse are still in your remembrance; and instead of being worn off, have rather left you in a disposition to believe, that the Holy Ghost is a person. Under this idea, I shall proceed without any recapitulation of the arguments then offered to bring before you the evidences yet remaining unnoticed, in support of the same doctrine. The testimonies to this great truth, which have been hitherto reviewed, were comprised in the selection of a few passages from Scripture (sufficient indeed to our purpose), directly leading to this conclusion. The other branch of the argument, which is now to be considered, arises from the properties and operations, both active and passive, which are ascribed to the Holy Ghost, in the same word of God; and which on every consideration cannot be admissible, but under the assurance of his personality.
If we collect the whole of the evidence resulting from hence, into one great mass of particulars, we shall find, that the blessed Spirit is described, as possessing all those qualities, by which the certainty of person is definable: and that he is distinguished also by such properties, as are known among men, under the character of affections; which though widely different in their nature and effects, from human passions, yet for our better apprehension, are expressed by such appellations. Thus he is said, to "create and give life," (Job 33:4); to uphold, and, by taking away the breath of his creatures, to destroy, (Ps. 104:29-30): he is said also to teach, (John 14:26): and to "guide into all truth," (John 16:13): he was seen, "in a bodily shape like a dove," (Luke 3:22): he hath spoken expressly, (1 Tim. 4:1): by prophets, (2 Peter 1:21): to apostles, (Acts 13:2): and to churches, (Rev. 2:7): he hath appointed ministers, (Acts 20:28): sent messengers, (Acts 13:4): he hath borne witness, (Heb. 15:10): hath been appealed to as a witness, (Rom. 9:1): hath "testified of Christ," (John 15:26): he is described as possessing all personal properties, such as "joy and grief," (Eph. 4:30): a mind, (Rom. 8:27): a will, (1 Cor. 12:11): and power, (Rom. 15:13): is declared capable of being tempted, (Acts 5:9): of being resisted, (Acts 7:51): of having despite done unto him, (Heb. 10:29): and of being blasphemed, (Mark 3:29): all of which, more or less, must be allowed to be very highly demonstrative of personal consciousness and identity.
It may indeed very safely be admitted, without the smallest injury to our argument that the whole of what is here said, in relation to the Spirit, is not equally express to this purpose. Some, no doubt, of the properties ascribed to him, if separately and abstractedly considered, do not so clearly imply a personality, but that they may be understood of the Holy Ghost, on the supposition, that he be no other than an emanation, or attribute of the Godhead.1 But though from the review of single and detached passages, this may be said of some, it cannot of all; and it is from the concurring evidence of the whole, tending as they do, to the natural illustration of each other, that the inference is deduced. And when it be further observed, that the doctrine of the blessed Spirit's person, does not rest its certainty upon this, or any other single testimony, however strong that testimony may be in itself, but arises out of several distinct particulars, forming an unity of evidence to the same amount, then every circumstance possesses its specific importance in the argument, and the whole together becomes an accumulated body of proofs, at once decisive and unanswerable.
That we are to understand what is said of the Holy. Ghost, in these passages of Scripture, and confirmed in many others of a similar import, as of a being possessed of personal identity and intelligence, will be evident from the analysis of any of the characters under which he is described. For example, the apostle Paul speaking of the Holy Ghost, declares, that "the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," (1 Cor. 2:10). Here is expressed in these words, a consciousness of Being in the blessed Spirit, implied from this ability of action: and a distinction also of person is as expressly intimated, between the Spirit, which is said to search, and God, whose deep things are searched. And it is this distinction of persons, which becomes the foundation for the distinction of character. For on the supposition, that they are one and the same person, the sense would be, "that the Spirit of God searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of himself;" which would be a solecism [a grammatical mistake] and absurdity: and yet, upon the supposition that the Holy Ghost is not a person, but an emanation, or energy only of the Godhead; this, and no other, must be the obvious meaning of the apostle's language. By every argument therefore, that we infer a distinction of person, between the Father and the Son, from the specific characters, under which each is revealed in Scripture; by the same we must conclude, that there is a distinction personally considered also, between the Spirit and the Father, from the different acts here expressed of their agency. In both instances, the rule of reasoning is the same. For as the Father and the Son, though participating in the one essence of Godhead, being by their respective operations clearly defined as distinct persons, and allowed to be such, there cannot be the vestige of a reason shown, on the same premises, for denying personality to the Holy Ghost. And this single argument, plain and simple as it is, must be in itself sufficient to demonstrate the certainty of this doctrine.2
In like manner the same inference must result from that view of the blessed Spirit's operation, when he is said to make "intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered," (Rom. 8:26). Here again, upon the supposition that the Holy Ghost is not a distinct person in the Godhead, but an attribute only of the Father, he would be making intercession to himself. No doubt, both the manner of this distinction, and the mode of operation, must by their very nature be wonderfully mysterious to us, and past all ability of perfect apprehension. In a scheme so awful and sublime, as that which reveals "God in Christ reconciling the world to himself," (2 Cor. 5:19), no human faculties can be commensurate to the comprehension of the subject. But though in the indivisibility of the Godhead all distinction is to us lost, yet in the several acts performed by each, in the economy of man's redemption, we discover enough to form a clear idea of an identity of person. And as the duties corresponding to each are so plainly and forcibly inculcated through the whole of Scripture, the distinction of persons, which is the origin of those duties, may be supposed to be sufficiently implied and explained by the different acts, the sacred Three are revealed to us as performing.
These evidences are to my apprehension, I confess, so very satisfactory and convincing, that it is only wonderful to me how any person should be fond of departing from the plain and obvious sense of such passages of Scripture, to seek after some hidden meaning, where the terms are too palpable to admit of it. But in order to invalidate the testimony, which is so direct to the purpose, in proof of the blessed Spirit's being a person, it hath been a favorite expedient among the unbelievers in this great article of faith, when pressed closely by arguments of this nature, to take shelter under some supposed figure of speech in the sacred writers: and because they are known occasionally to make use of metaphor, they would presume that nothing more is intended by it in those passages which ascribe personality to the Holy Ghost.
It is worthy observation, that the same subterfuge was very early had recourse to by the impugners of the divinity of Jesus, and hath been brought forward by their successors from age to age ever since, in order to undermine that grand principle of our holy faith. Hence, when the creation of the world is said by the evangelist St. John, in the exordium of his gospel, to be the act of the divine Logos, and in a form of words which it might have been supposed no sophistry could have evaded; though the testimony of St. John is supported also by that of the apostle Paul, if possible yet more full to the purpose; and though as if to put an end to all dispute, whether the meaning of the evangelist was to be taken literally or figuratively, he expressly adds, that this divine Logos, who made the world, and "without whom was not any thing made that was made, was (himself) made flesh and tabernacled among us," (John 1:14); (an event in itself utterly impossible, but on the presumption of the fact being in reality and not figuratively, as he hath stated it) though these truths, I say, are as plain and palpable as words can make them, yet there are not wanting persons who can resolve the whole into a mere figure of rhetoric, and under the presumptuous idea, that the expressions may be metaphorical, venture to reject the important doctrine they evidently contain.
From similar reasons, and by similar methods, the person of the blessed Spirit hath been denied; and in reply to those very declarations of holy Scripture, which are so pointed and express to the certainty of it, as to be incapable of refutation, by any direct argument, the difficulty is attempted to be removed, by means of fallacious reasoning. It is said that the same causes, from whence is inferred the person of the Holy Ghost, by analogy will hold good of inanimate things, and even moral virtues to which sometimes in Scripture personal properties are ascribed. As for example, the heavens and the earth are called upon by the prophet to "hear," (Isa. 1:2); the fields, and floods are said to "clap their hands," (Ps. 98:8); and the waters are represented as "seeing God" and "being afraid," (Ps. 77:16). And St. Paul in his beautiful description of the evangelical virtue of charity, hath personified it through almost a whole chapter, (1 Cor. 13). Hence therefore they would infer, that whatever is said in Scripture, in allusion to the personality of the blessed Spirit, may be supposed also to be figurative, and ought to be explained in much the same terms. But such quibbles hardly merit reply. Nothing but the ingenuity of sophistry, whose prolific womb teems but with monstrous and preternatural productions, could have given them birth. Plain understandings would have been at a loss to trace a similarity, which indeed hath no existence but in the imagination; between the personification of inanimate things, occasionally introduced by way of heightening a representation; and that uniform and invariable manner of expression, which is observable in every part of the divine word, in relation to the person and being of the Holy Ghost. A writer of the last century, (Dr. Owen), in his treatise on the Holy Spirit, hath answered this objection in so masterly a style, and by such a happy vein of ridicule (which is indeed the only way of replying to it, for it deserves none more serious), that I cannot perhaps more effectually expose the fallacy of such reasoning, than by stating it in his own words. "If (says he) a wise and honest man should come and tell you, that in a certain country, where he has been, there is an excellent governor, who wisely discharges the duties of his office; who hears causes, discerns right, distributes justice, relieves the poor, and comforts the distressed; would you not believe that he intended by this description, a righteous, wise, diligent, and intelligent person? What else could any man living imagine? But now suppose that a stranger should come and tell you that the former information, which you had received was indeed true, but that no person was meant by it; it was only a figure of the sun or the wind, which by their benign influences rendered the country fruitful and temperate, and disposed the inhabitants to natural kindness and benignity." This is exactly the case in the instance before us. The Scriptures tell us that the Holy Ghost governs the church, appoints overseers of it, discerns and judges all things, comforts the faint, strengthens the weak; is grieved and provoked by sin; and that in these and many other affairs, he works, and orders, and disposes all things according to the counsel of his own will. Can any man credit this testimony, and conceive otherwise of the blessed Spirit, than as of an holy, wise, and gracious God? Is it possible that nothing more is intended by these expressions, than only an accident, a quality, an effect or influence of the power of God, which doth all these things figuratively; hath a will figuratively; an understanding figuratively; is sinned against figuratively, and the like? What can any man, not bereft of natural reason as well as spiritual light conclude; but rather that the Scripture designed to draw him into fatal errors, or that those, who would impose such a sense upon the word of God, are corrupt seducers, who would rob him of his faith and his comforts? This in short is the issue of the argument. There is no other alternative; one of these opinions must be adopted. Take the negative of the proposition, and suppose the blessed Spirit not a person, and what a wonderful concatenation of causes must it have been, to have brought together such a correspondence of testimonies, as you have already in part seen (to say nothing of others, yet to be considered), to induce the belief of the blessed Spirit's personality, when that personality hath no existence? Nay, more than this; that the inspired word of God, which was professedly written to be the guide of human life, and to conduct the mind into all truth, should have proved the reverse of its design, and have led only into error and confusion. Gracious Lord! how unjust were this accusation! Its beneficent design has been fully answered. Scriptures have sufficiently attested the fact itself, of the certainty of the person of the blessed Spirit, to procure the unreserved belief of all humble and teachable minds. And however incomprehensible the doctrine of a plurality of persons, in the indivisibility of the Godhead, may be, yet the truth rests not upon our perfect apprehension, no more than the intrinsic excellency of our faith will depend upon the accuracy of our judgment respecting it. Our acquiescence in divine truths, as far as the article of believing is concerned, being the great duty required; to obtain this, a competent degree of information is afforded, which may procure the assent of the mind, without offering any violence to the understanding. And when we consider the darkness and imperfection of our present state; the weak and immature faculties of man; how little he is able to investigate the causes of the effects continually produced in himself, and in all around him; the only wonder is, that in a subject so infinitely great and mysterious, as that, which hath the Divinity for its object, he should know so much as he does, rather than that his abilities should enable him not to penetrate farther. The information he possesses, if properly used, under the grace of God, is equal to all the purposes intended, which is "to make him wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus the Lord," (2 Tim. 3:15). More than this is unnecessary, and perhaps might prove hurtful. The animal which burrows in the earth, and whose powers of vision are admirably adapted both to the nature of its wants, and to the darkness in which it dwells, might with equal justice complain of the defect of sight, as that man should be querulous with his Maker, because he is not endued with such faculties as are perfectly unsuitable to his present state, and would defeat the very purposes of his being, and neither conduce to his improvement nor his happiness. "Secret things belong unto the Lord our God." And secret they must remain, while the powers of man are incompetent to their discovery. But "those which are revealed," and which include all that we are interested to know, "belong to us and to our children for ever," (Deut. 29:29). In a word, everything demonstrates that the present state is designed to be a state of faith; the future, will be a life of fruition: Happy those humble souls, who during their day of trial, are sincerely endeavoring, under divine aid, to answer the great end of their being, in the diligent use of the means of the information afforded them; and waiting with patient hope for the greater manifestations of knowledge, which are promised shortly to open upon them, do yield a cheerful and unfeigned assent to the "acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ," (Col. 2:2). They "know whom they have believed," (2 Tim. 1:12), and "whom having not seen they love," and though now "seeing not, yet believing," they can "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;" looking forward to receive the "end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls," (1 Pet. 1:8-9).
Though the evidences which have been brought forward in favor of our argument, might be considered sufficient for the satisfaction of all candid and reasonable minds, yet as they are capable of being very considerably strengthened, with similar proofs from the same word of God, it would not be doing justice to our subject if we were wholly to pass them over unnoticed. The personality of the blessed Spirit is plainly implied in various other parts of Scripture, from qualities both of an active and passive nature ascribed to him. A few examples will set this matter in a clear point of view. Personal identity must be understood in the disposition and ability of imparting gifts. The apostle Paul, after enumerating a great variety of these of a spiritual nature, adds, "all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will," (1 Cor. 12:11). Now if the Holy Ghost be not a person, but merely an emanation of the Godhead, what will can an emanation be supposed to have for the distribution and division of gifts? And how can they be called his gifts? What gifts can an emanation bestow, which is itself in all its operations but given?
Though it does not come within the present object of my plan, to notice in this discourse the proofs of the Godhead of the Holy Ghost, yet the passage now under consideration so happily furnishing a testimony to this purport, as well as to his person, I ought not to overlook it.
Christ had told his disciples, when forewarning them of the difficulties and oppositions they should necessarily meet with in the course of their ministry, that he would inspire them with sufficient abilities for every conflict. "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist," (Luke 21:15). Hence it follows as an undeniable inference, that such gifts as had an especial relation to the office the apostles exercised in the service of Jesus according to the various situations in which they were placed, and the divine assistance they required, were dispensed by the immediate donations of our blessed. Lord. But the apostle Paul, in the very chapter now under consideration, speaking of spiritual gifts, ascribes the whole, without limitation or reserve, to the bounty of the Father. "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in- all," (1 Cor. 12:6). And yet in direct reference to the Holy: Ghost, within a few verses after, he declares, that "all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will," (1 Cor. 12:11). Upon the conclusion then of the personal authority of Christ in the promise he made (which cannot be questioned), and upon the personal authority of the Father (which will hardly be doubted), what shadow of objection can be shown, that the same application, both of person and authority (and which must include Godhead also), should be withheld from the Holy Ghost? The same words of distinction are used; the same divine power is ascribed; the same freedom and sovereignty of action are imputed equally to all; and therefore words can have no determinate sense or meaning, unless it be admitted, from this fair comparative view of Scripture with Scripture, that to the sacred Three is here given an equal distinction of person, a participation of power, and the possession of full and absolute Godhead. And when the doctrine arising from hence, which is so express in proof of a plurality of persons, in the unity of the Godhead, is added to the many other parts of Scripture to the same effect, which have been already noticed; what can be plainer, than that from the same characters and the same divine operations, being thus clearly ascribed, and without discrimination to the whole Three, there can be no difference or inequality in that inseparable, though to us mysterious union of Godhead, in which they eternally exist.
Again, the certainty of person must be implied, in the idea of the Holy Ghost's doing such actions as are only performable by a Being of conscious identity. Various instances of this kind may be gathered from the word of God. The text describes him under one, which, when explained, will serve as an illustration of others, which might, if needful, be brought forward upon the occasion. The apostle says, "the Spirit speaketh expressly." And though the circumstances, to which the apostle alludes in this passage, no doubt referred to the particular writings of the prophets, which from being penned under the Spirit's inspiration, might properly be said, to be the Spirit speaking by them; yet the expression is warrantable, from the several occasions mentioned in Scripture, in which the blessed Spirit was pleased to make an open and immediate revelation of his will, by the action of speaking. We have already reviewed some instances, in which he exercised his ministry, in the early ages of mankind, by a voice; and the New Testament dispensation furnishes other proofs of the like nature. He expressly spake to the apostle Peter, on the subject of the message from Cornelius. For while the apostle was revolving in his mind the import of the vision, with which he had been favored on that business, "the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise, therefore, and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them," (Acts 10:19-20). He spake also to Philip the deacon upon much the same occasion, in the instance of the conversion of the Ethiopian nobleman. "The Spirit said, Go near, and join thyself to his chariot." And as soon as the commission was fulfilled, to which he had appointed him, it is said, that "the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that he saw him no more," (Acts 8:29, 39).
Again; We are not only taught, that it is from the express will of the Holy Ghost, that overseers are appointed in the church of Christ; but a very memorable instance occurs in the Scripture history, where he was pleased to make a particular selection from the college of prophets and teachers, at Antioch, for this purpose. While they were engaged in the ministrations with fastings (preparatory as may be supposed to the more immediate service of the Lord), "the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them," (Acts 13:2). This is a very striking instance of the agency of the blessed Spirit, and highly demonstrative of his personality; for not only speech and action, but a will and power are contained in it. He calls the apostles, appoints them in the ministry, that ministry is declared to be his service, and they, as servants, are said to be dedicated to him. And in further confirmation of it, it is added, that when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands upon them, they departed, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, (Acts 13:4).
I cannot forbear observing also, that this argument, like the former, is no less express in the testimony of the person, than it is of the Godhead of the Holy Ghost. Our blessed Redeemer, during the season of his ministry in the flesh, observing that the laborers in the spiritual husbandry, from the smallness of their number, bore no proportion to the extensive scene of action which opened to the view on every side, commanded his disciples that they should "pray the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest," (Luke 10:2). And here we find the Holy Ghost assuming that very character, and with a supreme and undivided authority, sending forth the apostles on this errand. Can it then be the question of a moment, whether he be not "the Lord of the harvest," who acts in this manner? Or can anyone imagine that the exercise of such a prerogative becomes not the fullest decision of the Godhead of his person? It would be a matter, I believe, not easily to be refuted, if the certainty both of Person and Godhead were contended for on these evidences only: but when the many and very strong testimonies already noticed, to the same purport, be taken into the account, I persuade myself they form all together a body of proofs, impregnable to all opposition.
It still remains to be observed, that the certainty of the Holy Ghost's personality, is not limited to the proofs derived from the active properties he possesses; those of a passive nature concur in testimony to the same; and both give their separate and distinct evidence to this doctrine.
When the apostle Peter, in his pointed condemnation of Ananias and Sapphira, for the horrible crime which they had committed, of willful and deliberate falsehood against the Holy Ghost, charged them with having thereby tempted the "Spirit of the Lord," (Acts 5:9); could he have done this, but under the idea that the Spirit of the Lord was a person? Had he considered the Holy Ghost to have been no other than an attribute of the Godhead, would he have said, how is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Omnipresence or the Omniscience of the Lord? Would this have been a proper expression? And yet upon the presumption, that the Holy Ghost is not a person, it might with as much propriety be said of any other attribute, or emanation of God, as of him.3
In like manner, to speak of the sin of resisting the Holy Ghost, which Stephen charged the Jews with, must also, upon much the same principles, be equally erroneous, if no more was intended by it, than that they resisted, in a general way, an attribute of God. Whereas the sin is particularly specified to have been the resisting the Holy Ghost. In which the personality of the blessed Spirit must be understood, for on no other ground can the possibility of sinning against him4 be admitted.
It were easy to extend the subject yet further, by similar observations of this nature, which are to be gathered from Scripture, in which the Holy Ghost is represented under such properties, as can only be explained upon the assurance of his personality. But I have been already much more diffuse than I originally intended, or perhaps you will think to have been necessary. I shall only take notice, therefore, of a single instance more, which though it may not be strictly and altogether of a passive nature, yet as it is certainly in proof of the blessed Spirit's personality, it ought not to be overlooked and omitted: the instance, I mean, is that in which the Holy Ghost is represented, both as a witness himself, and appealed to under this character, which can never be understood in any other light than as the property of a self-intelligent and conscious Being.
That he is the first and great witness in the church of Christ, testified at large in those innumerable signs, and wonders, and miracles, and gifts, which he hath wrought according to his own will, at sundry times and in divers manners, is a truth, which is too palpable and obvious, to be called in question. But if it be replied, that these attestations of the blessed Spirit, may be allowed, without admitting his personality; I would beg it may be recollected, that in the very first instance, under the new dispensation, which the Holy Ghost gave of a testimony to Christ, at his entrance on his ministry in his baptism, he assumed the individual form of a dove; and after our Lord's Ascension the Holy Ghost's first descent, in testimony of the truth of Christ's comission, was in a visible form, on the memorable day of Pentecost: in these two most important events, to which the Holy Ghost as a witness in the church, of Christ can minister, we find a visible representation of a personal Being; and it is but a fair conclusion to suppose, that these instances were intended as proofs of his Being and personality.
Add to this, the Apostle Paul declares to the Hebrews, that the Holy Ghost is a witness to the certainty of Christ's sufferings as an offering for sin, (Heb. 10:15). And the same Apostle, after setting forth some very important points in the Christian scheme of salvation to the Romans, makes an immediate appeal to the blessed Spirit, for the truth of what he had delivered. "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost," (Rom. 9:1). All which would be words without meaning, if the whole was an appeal to an emanation, or quality of the Godhead, and would be perfectly destitute of common sense under this acceptation.5
But I must trespass no longer. I shall therefore not even detain you, with collecting into a general statement, the sum of the several arguments, which have been proposed to your consideration in this and the preceding sermon, in proof of the doctrine which hath been now discussed.
After the many evidences which you have gone through in favor of this truth, I leave it with you to determine, whether it be possible to suppose anything less, than that an intelligent, conscious person is implied in one, to whom is ascribed both names and properties, all expressive of a personal Being and nature; who is classed in the same order and rank, and denominated by the same terms as the other divine persons of the Godhead, and without the least intimation of any difference or inequality. To whom also, as to the immediate author, are referred those divine operations of the Holy Ghost, which are enumerated in Scripture, and which, to mark them by still more prominent characters, are expressly distinguished, (as far as personal distinction is concerned) from the operations of the Father, by an identical specification of person. If these things can be understood upon any other terms than in reference to the personality of the Holy Ghost, I conceive it might be equally easy to do away the plainest doctrines of Scripture upon the same principles. It is very possible, that in the great variety of testimonies, which are express to this purpose, some may possess greater weight than others; for indeed on no topic of evidence, can all be supposed to be of equal consequence. But it must be the fallacy of the whole, and not of any single proposition, or more, that can be deemed sufficient, to refute the certainty of what is here advanced. Allow but only one of the proofs to be convincing and unanswerable, and that one is enough for all the purposes intended; in demonstrating that the blessed Spirit is a Being of personal consciousness and identity.
It would be an anticipation of my subject in this place to enter upon the practical improvements, arising out of this very interesting topic. These will more properly follow our subsequent inquiries, relating to the dignity of the Holy Ghost's character. I cannot however dismiss our present review of it, without adding one reflection, which naturally results from what hath been said.
The question of the Holy Ghost's personality, hath not been considered so interesting in the church of Christ, as it appears to be; nor hath it called forth in general, equal to its consequence, the serious contemplation of even sincere minds. But it certainly is a matter of infinite moment. Admit the evidence of it proved the belief of it involves in it a train of duties of the highest and most important nature. As an object of faith, it surely is of the first consequence to have proper conceptions of what we believe; and if it be to his personal operation, we owe every divine influence from the laver of regeneration in baptism, to the final consummation in glory; can it be a subject of indifference to entertain a perfect apprehension (as far as our faculties are competent) of a Being to whose divine grace and energy the efficient means of our salvation through Christ are to be ascribed?
To those who are strangers to the operations of the blessed Spirit in the heart, his person, or his Godhead, may be alike a matter of uninteresting speculation. But to those who have felt what those operations are, it may be said to them, as Christ said privately to his disciples, "Let these sayings sink down into your ears," (Luke 9:44). "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear," (Matt. 13:16). And to all of this description the words of the apostle Paul are particularly addressed: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy, and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost," (Rom. 15:13).
1 Everything that the utmost stretch of reason shall suggest, of incompetency in some of the passages selected, in proof of our argument, may be allowed; and yet enough left to establish the doctrine. Let it be supposed, that there are several, where the expressions are not to clear and determinate, of the Holy Spirit's being a person, but that the meaning may be interpreted either way, for, or against it, without any violation of the context. No doubt the Spirit of God, is frequently by a metonymy [the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant], put for God, And when we consider the mysteriousness of that union, by which the sacred characters exist in the essence of Godhead, this may easily be accounted for. But if the passages are as numerous, which evidently indicate personality in the blessed Spirit, and which cannot indeed upon any other principles be explained, but under this acceptation; and what still makes more for the argument; if those passages are supported no less by proofs of a collateral nature, and all concurring to the same end; the doctrine must necessarily and unavoidably follow. How far it is illustrated and explained in these discourses, to the satisfaction of the reader, must be left to his own determination, when he shall have gone through the whole of the evidences offered to his perusal, and shall have carefully examined them, under the divine assistance, with a candid and unprejudiced mind. Back to reading.
2 It is hoped that the present discourse, which from the nature of the subject cannot but be chiefly argumentative, will not however be altogether barren of spiritual improvement. The author's design would be miserably frustrated indeed, if while endeavoring to convince the skeptic, his observations yielded no advantage to the believer. Sincere professors of the gospel can hardly require information, that there is not a single character of the blessed Spirit, which may be reviewed in favor of his personality, but what furnishes, at the same time, some more particular motive to awaken the exercises of faith and godliness. When, for example, the certainty of his person is inferred from that solemn view of his divine operations, in which he is described as "searching all things, yea the deep things of God;" must it not strike every serious mind who is convinced of this great truth, that if the "deep things of God" are open to the investigation of the blessed Spirit, how intimately acquainted must he be with all the circumstances of human action? and is it possible, that the believer, while recollecting whose awful presence and inspection he is continually under, can forget at the same time, what a sanctity of character the assurance of it is calculated to induce? Surrounded as we are and encompassed (if I may so speak) with the immensity of such a Being, "unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid;" will not the prayer almost involuntarily be excited in the breast of the godly, that the "thoughts of the heart may be cleansed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?" Men of the world, from being absorbed in the different employments, which occupy the attention of the frivolous, and the vain; engaged either in the hurry and bustle of life, or lost amidst the pleasurable pursuits of it, will suffer the blessed Spirit to pass by in all his operations both of providence and grace unnoticed, and disregarded. But he, too whose awakened and enlightened mind, the consciousness of his perpetual agency is familiarized; who is accustomed to contemplate Him, in the tempest, and in the storm, in the calm of life, and the still small voice: such views of this great Being will at all times call up suitable affections, and he will need no human monitor to remind him; either of whose presence or inspection he is constantly under, or of the corresponding train of duties which may be supposed to result therefrom.
This view of the spiritual improvement and consolation, which arises out of one part of the Holy Ghost's operations, opens a subject which it might take pages to fill. It is only thrown in here, by way of example of similar reflections, capable of being reduced from all. And the author consoles himself with the idea, that in the many other parts of this work, where to avoid prolixity [tedious length] such practical observations are omitted; the serious reader under divine assistance will himself be ablest to supply such deficiency. Back to reading.
3 This passage of Scripture, it may be remarked, is as pertinent in proof of the Godhead, as it is of the Person of the Holy Ghost. Indeed very few are the instances that make for the one doctrine, which do not include the other also. But it would render the subject voluminous indeed to notice all. The present will require nothing more in confirmation of it, than taking a comparative view of two verses in relation; in one of which the crime which Ananias committed is said to have been done against the Holy Ghost, and in the other it is declared to have been committed against God. "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie unto the Holy Ghost?" (Acts 5:3). And immediately it is added, "Thou Last not lied unto men, but unto God." The inference is obvious. Back to reading.
4 It is a circumstance of no small weight in the argument (and though it may not be adapted as much as others to general apprehension, yet cannot fail of operating with peculiar strength in the breast of the grammarian), that the sacred writers in several instances, (Rom. 15:13, 16, 30) and our blessed Lord himself, in the whole of his conversation with his disciples, when talking of the Holy Ghost, speak of him as a person in the masculine gender: whereas according to the rules of grammar, and in strict propriety of language, if the Holy Ghost be but an energy, or attribute of God, in all those places, where mention is made of him, the word should have been rendered it. In the 16th chapter of St. John, and the 13th and following verses, there is a remarkable example of this kind, and attended with a particularity not less expressive, than any of those which have been alleged, in justification of the argument; where we find pneuma, though unquestionably of the neuter gender, hath a masculine relative prefixed to it, ekeinos; which is altogether inexplicable, but under the idea of the Holy Ghost being a person. Back to reading.
5 In this instance, as in many preceding, we find the most positive proof of Godhead as well as personality in the Holy Ghost. Paul's appeal to him, and solemn oath in his name, imply the Divinity of his person. The Apostle was too well informed in the Mosaic Law to be ignorant of this. "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God and serve him," and "shalt swear by his name, (Deut. 6:13). Back to reading.
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