Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The life-giving influence of the Spirit peculiarly characteristic of the evan

gelical dispensation—The Spirit a personal agent-A two-fold source of objection against this-Proofs of His personality—1. The power of spontaneous action, and the actual voluntary exercise of it—2. The Spirit performs actions peculiar to a personal agent-3. Operales, &c.-4. Is affected,

C.-5. Exercises the functions of various offices—6. Flas various personal attributes.

"The Lord is that Spirit," said the apostle, when speaking of the influence necessary to remove the prejudices of the Jews against Christ. He had been contrasting the Mosaic and Evangelical dispensations, and extolling the latter as possessing richer glory, because of its being accompanied with the life-giving influences of the Spirit of God. The communications of God, under the former economy, were made by means of Moses, and the law engraved on tables of stone.

It was indeed a glorious revelation, but comparatively little more than the knowledge of the letter was had by its votaries. There was no provision made for an especial, powerful, and enlightening influence of the Spirit of God on the minds and hearts of ancient worshippers.

Whatever influence the Spirit vouchsafed, it was adapted to the sensible ordinances, and appalling rites celebrated in the temple of Jehovah. There was a veil of darkness and mystery thrown around the whole system, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. "2 1 2 Cor, iii, 17.

2 2 Cor. i. 13.

In con

But under the gospel, there are ministers of Christ commissioned to teach, and enforce, the great truths of religion, whose efforts are accompanied with a convincing and illuminating agency of the Spirit of God. This Spirit, the apostle declares is JEHOVAH-THE LORD. His influence is represented as giving life in opposition to the killing sentence of the law of God, which was engraven on the tables of stone, and which formed as it were the grand central glory of the whole system of types and shadows. “Who also,” says he, “hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth Life.”l templating an exposition of this, His peculiar work, therefore, it becomes necessary for us to clear away all the obscurity and perplexity which hang around our subject, in consequence of the objections and doubts expressed by some in relation to the existence and personality of the Spirit of God. Wherefore, we have quoted the assertion of the apostle, with a view to present distinctly for discussion the two following propositions, which his language evidently involves:

1. That the Spirit of God is A PERSONAL AGENT, and

II. That He is possessed of a divine nature or is in reality God.

It is objected, by the enemies of our faith, that the word PERSON is not to be found in the sacred scriptures as designating any distinct or separate subsistence in the divine essence. This is freely admitted. But it does not, therefore, fullow, that there are no distinct or separate subsistences in the divine nature, to which severally and respectively are attributed, an understanding and will and power to exert them. The translators of the New Testament have used the term person in the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, no doubt because it is the best they could employ, and approximates most to the idea expressed by the original. All that is meant, however, when personality is attributed to the Spirit of God, is, simply, that there is some distinct subsistence in the divine na. ture, possessed of an understanding, and will, and such other intellectual and moral properties, as authorise us to believe him to be, and to speak of him as, a personal agent, who is represented by this appellation. We would not be very tenacious of the English term, but we claim the privilege of using it till a better can be substituted.

1 2 Cor. iji, 6.

We are aware that objections are urged against it in a two-fold form. It is alleged that the idea of there being three distinct personal subsistences in the divine essence, is incompatible with that of the unity of God--a fact most plainly asserted in the sacred scriptures; and that, as for the Spirit of God so frequently spoken of, nothing else is meant by it than an attribute of Deity: wisdom, for instance, or more frequently, perhaps, the divine power. The first objection is by no means admissible. That there may be, and is something altogether unintelligible in the fact of three distinct personal subsistences dwelling in the same divine essence, is not to be denied: but this is by no means a sufficient reason for rejecting it, since the evidence which establishes it is most unquestionable. We daily admit and believe many things, which we cannot, and do not even attempt to explain. We believe that we are possessed of two natures, or perhaps three, according to Paul's philosophy, body, soul, and spirit, perfectly distinct and dissimilar, and yet that they are resident in one moral being, which we call man. The thing is inexplicable, and yet the fact is undeniable. Does any one allege the two natures in man as an objection against the unity of his person? Where then is there any greater ground of objection against the unity of the divine nature from the plurality of divine persons? We are not at liberty to urge objections from what appears inconsistent and may be inexplicable to us, provided the evidence sufficiently establishes the fact. And that such is the fact, that there is a plurality of personal subsistences in the divine essence, cannot be successfully disputed by any one who acknowledges that there is evidence in testimony, and that the sacred scriptures, as being the word of God, are of paramount authority. Of this we shall be more convinced presently.

As for the attempt of those who allege that the Spirit of God is a mere attribute, spoken of, in a bold personification, according to the highly figurative style of the sacred scriptures, it may be remarked, that such a figure of speech is indeed sometimes employed by the inspired writers, but only in the lofty strains of eloquence, or in their sublime Rights of poetry, not in the plain, sober, historical narrative. In the much admired instance of the personified wisdom in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, it is, to say the least, very doubtful whether it is not the Lord Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom, who is spoken of.

At all events, the figure of speech occurs in the rich imagery employed by our inspired poet, and therefore cannot furnish any thing conclusive on the main question. For, as we shall now proceed to shew all the peculiar and appropriate acts of a person are attributed to the Spirit of God, or, as He is often called, the Holy Spirit,

It would be unnecessary to notice all the passages in which the Spirit of God is spoken of as a personal agent. Our attention must be confined to a few which we shall classify under the following heads:

1. The power of SPONTANEOUS action, and the ACTUAL VOLUNTARY EXERCISE of it, are attributed to the Spirit. Thus, He is said to move. The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. It is true that some understand by

91

1 Gen. i. 2. Merahepheth, in the Hithpael which has the force of a reflexive verh-motitans se, molli fotu incubans.---Clav. pent. p. 4.

the Spirit in this passage, a mighty wind, according to the idiomatic import, as they allege, of the Hebrew phrase. The term translated Spirit, it is confessed, does primarily signify breath, or wind, and also, that the name of God, among the Hebrews, was, and as a mode of comparison, being designed to express the superlative degree: but this method of resolving the phrase cannot be correct; for the wind has not the power of spontaneous motion. By whatever causes its motions may be originated, the air is always entirely passive. We do, indeed, personify the wind in ordinary speech, but it is in a manner perfectly intelligible by all, and never as though it possessed life, and was capable of spontaneously affecting other things. The SPIRIT or Gon, however, in the place referred to, is spoken of as originating his own actions. Strictly and literally the expression may be rendered moved himself,' as the fow! does over her nest when she is hatching her young. The motion described by the term, is totally dissimilar from that of the wind. Beside, there are many passages in which the phrase, the Spirit of God, cannot possibly, by any

licentiousness of criticism whatever, be conceived to mean breath or wind, though they are so translated. For example, the breath of the Almighty hath given me life:"2 soby the breath of God frost is given:" "by the word of the Lord were the heavens made: and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth:"3"Behold the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy, his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire, and his breath as an overflowing siream.""For Tophet is ordained of old, and the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it:''5 “Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy son of man, and say to the wind, thus saith the Lord God,

[ocr errors]

.

1 Job, xxxüi, 4.
4 Isaith, XIX. 27. 28.

2 Job, xxxvii. 10.

3 Psalms, xxxii. 6 5 Isaiah, xxx. 33.

« PreviousContinue »