« VorigeDoorgaan »
I. Of the nature of the Holy Ghost, or Spirit. For Ghost, in the ancient usage of our language, denoted the same thing which Spirit doth now; a substance different from body or matter. Indeed, we still use it, in expressing the departure of the spirit from the body, which we call giving up the ghost; and in speaking of supposed apparitions of the spirits of persons after their decease. Hence, also, the Catechism mentions "ghostly dangers; and the Communion Service, "ghostly counsels;' meaning such dangers, and such counsels, as relate to our spiritual part.
In like manner, the Holy Ghost is the Holy Spirit concerning whose nature we can know, as I told you before concerning that of the Son, only what results from the discoveries made to us in Scripture. And these, though they enlighten us but in part, are both credible and sufficient. For it is no objection against believing what God hath revealed in relation to any subject, that many questions may be asked about what he hath not revealed, to which we can give no answer. And he will never expect us, in this or any matter, to apprehend more, than he hath afforded us the means of apprehending. Now, the chief things revealed in the present case, are the following:
The Holy Ghost is not merely an attribute, or power, of the Father, but hath a real subsistence, distinct both from the Father and the Son. For the New Testament expressly and repeatedly uses the word he, concerning him: which is never used in that manner of a mere attribute or power. It ascribes to him will and understanding:2 it speaks of him as being sent by the Father, coming and acting on various occasions, relative both to the Son and to others; nay, as showing himself "in a bodily shape like a dove."3
(1) John xiv. 26. xv. 26. xvi. 13. (2) Rom. viii. 27. Heb. ii. 4. Comp. 1. Cor. xii. 11. (3) Luke iii. 22.
Further; the Holy Ghost is, truly and strictly speaking, God. For the language of Scripture concerning him is such, as cannot belong to any created being. He is there called, "the eternal Spirit," the Lord;"" said to quicken, or give life; to be every where present with all good Christians: to "search all things, yea, the deep "things of God, even as the things of man are "known by his own spirit, which is in him." Christ being conceived by him, became "the Son "of God." Christians, by his dwelling in them, become "the temples of the Holy Ghost:" or, as another place expresses it, "the temples of "God."2 Ananias, by lying to him, "lied not "unto men, but unto God." He is said to distribute spiritual and miraculous gifts, "dividing "to every man severally as he will."4 "And as "the disciples ministered to the Lord and fasted, "the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and "Saul for the work whereunto I have called "them." He is represented by our Saviour, as able fully to supply the want of his personal presence with the Apostles. And lastly, he is joined with the Father and the Son, on equal terms, both in the form of Baptism, where his name and theirs are used alike ;7 and in the solid form of blessing, where the fellowship of the Holy Ghost is placed on a level with "the love of God, and the grace of (6 our Lord Jesus Christ.' 998
These, and many other Scripture expressions, are, surely, such as cannot be used of any creature; but prove the Spirit, as others already mentioned to you, prove the Son, to partake of the same authority and perfection, and, therefore, the same
(4) Heb. ix. 14. (7) John xiv. 16, 17. (1) 1 Cor. vi. 19. (4) 1 Cor. xii. 11.
(5) 2 Cor. iii. 17. (6) 1 Pet. iii. 18.
(7) Matt. xxviii. 19.
nature with the Father. Yet we know, that though in Holy Writ, men and angels are, sometimes, on account of their extensive power, sometimes as representatives of the Deity, called gods, yet, in literal propriety of speech, there is but one God, and not, either, three supreme Beings, or a superior and an inferior object of adoration. "Hear, O "Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."9 "Is "there a god besides me? yea, there is no god: "I know not any." "Before me was no god
"formed: neither shall there be after me." 912 "I "am the Lord,--and my glory will I not give to "another."3 "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy "God, and him only shalt thou serve." Since, then, there is not a plurality of gods; and yet the Son and the Spirit are each of them God, no less than the Father; it plainly follows that they are, in a manner by us inconceivable, so united to him, that "these three are one;"5 but still, in a manner equally inconceivable, so distinguished from him that no one of them is the other.
Now, certainly, in general it is no contradiction that things should be in one respect the same, and in another different. But the particular and explicit notion of this union and this distinction, the word of God hath not given us. Whether we are capable of apprehending it, we know not: and, therefore, it is no wonder in the least, that we are incapable of forming one to ourselves. For, indeed, we are incapable of forming clear notions concerning thousands of other things, which are unspeakably less beyond our reach. All that we can do, therefore, is, to use those expressions in relation toit, which either Scripture furnishes, or experience hath found useful to guard against false apprehensions; for, with very imperfect ones we must be content. Thus, in speaking of the difference of the Son and
(9) Deut. vi. 4. (3) Isa. xlii. 8.
(1) Isa. xliv. 8.
(2) Isa. xliii. 10. (5) I John v. 7.
Spirit from the Father, and from each other, we say, with our Bible, that the Son is begotten, and the Spirit proceeds, without pretending to know any further what these words mean, than that each denotes something different from the other; and both something different from creation out of nothing. And this distinction giving occasion to Scripture to speak of them in somewhat the same manner, as of different persons amongst men; we call them the three persons of the Trinity; not at all intending by it to say, that the word person, suits them in every respect that it suits us: but only to acknowledge, that, as we find them thus spoken of, we doubt not but there is some sufficient ground for it. And as we find further, that in point of rank, the person of the Father is represented as supreme, the Son as subordinate to him, the Holy Spirit to both; and in point of relation to us, creation is ascribed peculiarly to the first, redemption to the second, sanctification to the third; and yet, in some sense, each of these things to each: we imitate the whole of this likewise. Still we are very sensible, at the same time, that many more doubts and difficulties may be raised, almost about every part of the doctrine, than God, in his unsearchable wisdom, hath given us light enough to solve. But we apprehend it is our duty to believe, with humility and simplicity, what the Scripture hath taught us; and to be contentedly ignorant of what it doth not teach us; without indulging speculations and conjectures, which only perplex the subject more, instead of clearing it. And, surely, it is our duty also, to interpret with candour, and use with moderation, whatever well-meant phrases the Church of Christ, especially in its earlier days, hath applied to this subject; to think on matters, which are both so mysterious in their nature, and so hard to be expressed, with great charity of other persons: and
for ourselves, to keep close with great care to so much as is plain and practical. In order to this, I proceed to lay before you,
II. The peculiar office of the Spirit in the work of our redemption: on account of which he is called, in our Catechism, "God the Holy Ghost, "who sanctifieth us, and all the elect people of "God." For, probably, he is called the Holy Spirit so frequently in Scripture, and the Spirit of Holiness once, not merely as being perfectly holy in himself, which the Father and the Son are also, but as being the cause of holiness in believers ; who are elected by God to eternal life, on foreseeing their faith will produce obedience.
To be holy, is to be pure from defilement; but particularly in this case, from the defilement of iniquity; and being sanctified, is being made holy; to which blessed change in sinful man, the Spirit of God, we are taught, contributes many ways.
In baptism we are "born again of water, and of "the Spirit ;"7 restored by him to the state of God's children, and endued with the principles of a new, that is the Christian, life. As we grow up, it is through him that our understandings are enlightened by the knowledge of God's will. He directed the ancient Prophets in what they preached and wrote. For "holy men of old times spake, "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;"8 which more especially "testified, beforehand, the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should "follow." Then, afterwards, when our Saviour became man, the Holy Ghost was upon him, and accompanied him through the whole of his ministration; and after his ascension, was communicated more fully than before to his Apostles; "to "teach them all things needful, and to bring to
(6) Rom. i. 4.
(8) 2 Pet. i. 21. (1) Matt. iii. 16,
(7) John iii. 3, 5.
(9) 1 Pet. i. 11.
Luke iii. 22. iv. 1. Acts i. 2. x. 38.