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sentiments of those who explain it of an outward form or amendment; or of such as mistake some transient impressions or emotions for this abiding change.
The necessity of regeneration might be rested on the solemn and repeated declarations of the Saviour and Judge of men; for the multitudes who hope for heaven, whilst they pay no regard to this part of Scripture, strangely presume, either that Christ was mistaken, or that he will depart from his word in their favour. But other conclusive proofs may be adduced, “ that unless a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God:” which result from the nature of God and of man, of true religion, and of happiness. No creature can be satisfied, unless its capacities of enjoyment coincide with its sources of pleasure, or unless it subsist in its proper element. The animals are perfectly satisfied with their several modes of living, whilst unmolested, and sufficiently provided for; but they are uneasy when out of their place, though in a situation which pleases other animals. Different men also have diverse tastes, none is comfortable unless his inclination be gratified; and every one is apt to wonder what pleasure others can take in that which is irksome to him. But who is there, that naturally takes delight in the spiritual worship and service of God? Are not these things man's weariness and aversion? And do not men in general deem those persons melancholy, who renounce other pleasures for them? That “ which is born of the flesh is flesh," or carnal ; " and the carnal mind is enmity against God; whose holy perfections, spiritual law and worship, sovereign authority and humbling truth, are disliked by all unregenerate men, in proportion as they are acquainted with them. This is manifest, not only from the vices of mankind, but from their idolatry, infidelity, superstition, and impiety; for they have in every age, almost with one consent, preferred any absurdity to the truths, precepts and ordinances of revelation ; and any base idol to the Holy One of Israel! Indeed every man, who carefully watches his own heart, whilst he thinks seriously of the omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, justice, holiness, truth, and sovereignty of God; of his laws, threatenings, and judgments; and of his own past and present sins, will find “ a witness in himself,” of the enmity of the carnal mind against God. So that except a man be born again, he cannot take any pleasure in God, nor can God take any pleasure in him; he cannot be subject to his law, he cannot come to, or walk with him, (Amos iii. 3): he cannot render him unfeigned praises and thanksgivings, but must either neglect religion, or be a mere formalist; he cannot deem the service of God perfect freedom, or his privilege, honour, and happiness : he cannot exercise unfeigned repentance for all his sins, but must, in part at least, exalt himself, palliate his crimes, object to the severity of God, and murmur at his appointments : he cannot cordially receive the gospel, or live by faith in Christ, for “ wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;" or perceive the preciousness of his person, mediation, and kingdom, the glory of his cross, his unsearchable riches, and incomprehensible love. He cannot unfeignedly give him the whole glory of his salvation; or practise, from proper motives, meekness, patience, gratitude, forgiveness of injuries, and love of enemies, or count all but loss for Christ; renounce all for him ; bear reproach and persecution for his sake; devote himself to his service, even unto death ; and then at last receive eternal life as the free gift of God in him. Nor can he enter into the spiritual meaning of divine ordinances, (especially of baptism and the Lord's Supper); or seek the spiritual blessings of the new covenant, with decided preference; or love the true worshippers of God, as the excellent and honourable of the earth. Nay, an unregenerate man would not savour the company, the work, the worship, or the joy of heaven; but would be disgusted even with the songs and employments of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; as persons of different descriptions may know, by
a witness in themselves," if they will but carefully consider the subject. But the nature of God, of holiness, of happiness, and of heaven, is unchangeable: and therefore, either we must be changed, or we cannot be either holy or happy.
All the scriptures referred to, imply, that regeneration is wrought by “ the exceeding greatness of the mighty power of God :" but it should be observed, that he operates on the minds of rational creatures according to their nature. The renewal of a fallen angel to the Divine image, would be as real a display of omnipotence, as his first creation; and in some respects a greater: but the Lord might effect this change in a different manner. Having made use of truth (as the medium of his almighty energy), to overcome the dark and obstinate enmity of his fallen nature; and to produce a willingness to be restored : he might afterwards require his concurrence in the use of means, through which that recovery should be effected. Now we are informed, that the Lord regenerates sinners by his word (James i, 18; 1 Pet. i, 23); ministers, therefore, and parents, and many others, in different ways, are bound to set before those, committed to their care, the word of truth; and to treat them as reasonable creatures, addressing their understanding and consciences, their hopes, fears, and all the passions and powers of their souls ; beseeching God" to give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” And they who are convinced that such a change must take place in them, or else that they must be miserable, should be induced by the consideration that they cannot change their own hearts, (that being the work of the Holy Spirit), to seek this needful blessing, by reading the Scriptures, retirement, meditation, self-examination, hallowing the Lord's day, hearing faithful preaching and other instruction, breaking off known sin, practising known duties, avoiding vain company and dissipation, and earnestly praying to God to create in them a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within them.” For convictions of our inability have a similar effect upon us in other cases : and lead us to seek help from them that are able to help us. To those who continue to treat this subject with contempt and derision, we can only say, that as such persons will neither believe our testimony, nor that of Christ; they will at last have no cause to complain, if they are left destitute of that which they have so despised. Some may believe that such things are, who are yet at a loss to know what they are : to them I would say, “ beg of God daily and earnestly to teach you what it is to be born again;" and in time your own experience will terminate your perplexity. But let those who admit the doctrine, beware lest they rest in the notion, without the experience and effects of it. And finally, let those who have known the happy change, know also that they need to be changed more and more: and should therefore unite with gratitude, for what the Lord hath wrought, persevering prayer, for a more complete renewal into the Divine image, in all the powers, dispositions, and affections of their souls.
On the Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit, with some Thoughts on the
Doctrine of the Sacred Trinity.
CHRISTIANITY is styled by the apostle “ the ministration of the Spirit," (2 Cor. iii. 8 ;) and a careful investigation the Scriptures may suffice to convince any impartial inquirer, that the promise of the Holy Ghost is the grand peculiarity of the New Testament; even as that of the Messiah was of the old dispensation. Having considered regeneration, or a man's being “ born of the Spirit,” or “ born of God;" it regularly occurs to us in this place to give a more particular statement of the Scripture doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit. "What relates to his personality and Deity, and to the doctrine of the Trinity as connected with it, will constitute the subject of the present Essay: and the extraordinary and ordinary operations, influences, and gifts of the Spirit; the office he performs in the economy of our salvation; and the duties resulting from them, must be reserved for the next Essay.
When we use the term personality, in the discussion of this subject, we only mean, that language is used in Scripture concerning the Holy Spirit, and actions are ascribed to him, which lead us to think of him as a distinct Agent, and such as would be extremely improper, if a mere attribute or mode of operation were intended. Yet all must entertain this sentiment, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, and yet pay any suitable respect to the sacred oracles, in which so much is constantly ascribed to him. But we do not suppose, that the words “ person,” and personality can, in an adequate manner, explain to us the distinct subsistence of the Spirit: or assist our conceptions in respect of mysteries, which we profess to consider as absolutely incomprehensible. These words, indeed, in this use of them, are not found in scripture : but when divine truths are opposed with ingenuity, learning, and pertinacity; it becomes necessary for those “ who would contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” to vary their expressions : because their opponents will invent some plausible method of explaining away those terms, which had before been made use of. That imperfection which characterizes every thing that belongs to man, is peculiarly discernible in human language: the mysteries of the infinite God can only be declared to us in words primarily taken from the relations and affairs of men; and every thing that relates to infinity, confounds and overwhelms our finite and narrow capacities. The most careful and able writers cannot, on such topics, wholly prevent their readers from attaching ideas to their words, which they meant not to convey by them : so that they, whose object it is to put an absurd construction on our expressions, or to enervate, by a plausible interpretation, the language of holy scripture, will never find it very difficult to accomplish their purpose, as far as the generality of mankind are concerned. If we speak of three distinct Persons in the Godhead, they may charge us with holding three distinct gods : supposing, or pretending we mean, that this incomprehensible distinction is perfectly like the obvious distinction of three men from each other. On the other hand, the labour, study, and ingenuity of revolving centuries have so perplexed the subject, that we cannot at present find words explicitly to define our meaning, and exactly to mark the difference of our sentiments from those of our opponents, unless we use such exceptionable terms: at least, this is my principal reason for adhering to them. But if our expressions convey to the reader's mind the doctrine of scripture, with as much perspicuity and precision as human language generally admits of ; it is mere trifling to object to them, because they are not found in the Bible: for truths not words constitute the matter of revelation; and words are only the vehicle of truths to our minds. If some men have got the habit or art of evading the force of Scriptural terms, and thus mislead others into error; it is not only allowable, but needful, for us to state our sentiments in other words, and then to prove that those sentiments are actually contained in holy Scripture; unless we be disposed to give our opponents every advantage in the argument. For it cannot well be doubted by impartial persons, but that aversion to the doctrines themselves lies at the bottom of those objections that are made to the words, in which their defenders have been used to express them.
We proceed therefore to consider the personality of the Holy Spirit; premising, that as '“ these are heavenly things,” (John iii. 12, 13), we can neither explain them clearly in human language, nor illustrate them fully by any earthly things, nor yet prove them by arguments from human reason : for the whole rests entirely on the authority of divine revelation : we gain our knowledge of them by simply believing God's sure testimony; and we should improve them to practical purposes in humble adoration, and not treat
them as subjects of disputatious speculation, or presumptuous curiosity. And may he, “ who hath promised to give his Holy Spirit to those who ask for him," guide us by his divine teaching into the sanctifying knowledge of the truth, in this and every subject that we investigate. We may,
I presume, be allowed to say, that if such language be uniformly used in the Scriptures concerning the Holy Spirit, as in all other cases would convey to our minds the ideas of personality and personal agency; the true believer will conclude him to be a personal agent. In allegories, indeed, and in sublime poetry, we often find attributes, propensities, or modes of operation personified : but none, except the most ignorant reader, is in danger of being misled by such adventurous figures of speech. Should any man suppose that Wisdom, in the book of Proverbs, was introduced merely as an allegorical person; we might allow that he had some colour for his opinion: though I should rather say, that the Messiah, the Word and Wisdom of the Father, who is made wisdom to us, is the real speaker in those passages. But if such bold figures of speech are supposed, without any intimation, to be interwoven in historical or didactic discussions, or in promises and precepts, that is grants and laws, where the greatest precision is absolutely necessary, what instruction can be certainly derived from revelation? or how shall we know what we are to believe, to do, or to expect ? Surely this tends directly to render the Scriptures useless ; and to perplex and bewilder every serious inquirer after the way of eternal life! But it is from discourses of this lattter kind especially, that I shall select my proofs of the personality of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord promised his disciples, “ that he would pray the Father, and he should give them another Comforter, that he might abide with them for ever," &c. (John xiv. 16, 17:) and afterwards he added, “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father shall send in my name, he shall teach you all things," &c. (ver. 26 :) and the personal pronoun (sưuvos) is used in this, and several other passages, especially those that follow. Calling this Comforter “the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father," he added, “ he shall testify of me,” &c. (John xv. 26 :) and still more explicitly, he says, when "he cometh, he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak :" "he shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John xvi. 7–15.) Not to insist further on the repeated use of the personal pronoùn, which the ordinary rules of language appropriates in such discourses, to a personal agent; being sent, coming, testifying, receiving, showing, teaching, hearing, and speaking, do undoubtedly imply personal agency: and if we are required to suppose the strongest rhetorical figures, that ever orators or poets have used, to be constantly interwoven in the plainest instructions and promises; we must infer, that the language of the scripture is so indeterminate and unusual, that no certain conclusions can be drawn from it. This indeed seems to be the inference that some interpreters of the scripture are willing should be deduced from their observations: but an insinuation more dishonourable to God and his holy word can hardly be imagined.
In like manner, St. Paul, when expressly instructing the Corinthians concerning the gifts of the Spirit, uses the strongest personal language: these worketh that one and self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will,” (1 Cor. xii. 11:) but are not working, dividing, and willing personal acts ? or can such terms be used of a mere attribute, consistently with the precision required in religious instructions ? He also speaks of the Spirit, as * searching all things, yea the deep things of God” (i Cor. ii. 10,) for he knoweth the things of “God, as the spirit of man knoweth the things of a
The Holy Spirit is also said to dwell in us, to lead us, to “bear witness with our spirits, and to make intercession for us ;" whilst “ he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit ;" which certainly implies personal distinction (Rom. viii. 11, 14, 16, 26, 27.) The sacred historian also records several instances, in which the Holy Spirit spoke, acted, and com
manded. “ The Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of David” (Acts i. 16.) “The Spirit said to Philip,” (Acts viii. 29). The spirit said to Peter, “ Arise, get thee down,” (Acts X. 19, 30). The Holy Ghost said, “ Separate me Barnabas and Saul: and they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed," (Acts xiii. 2, 4). “ It seemed good to the Holy Ghost,” (Acts xv. 28). · They were forbidden of the Holy Ghost,”—“The Spirit suffered them not," (Acts xvi. 6, 7). “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias,” &c. (Acts xxviii. 25.) To which the language of other Scriptures accord; “ Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith,” (Heb. iii. 7.) “ Let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” (Rev. ii. 7.) That this is the frequent phraseology of Scripture is undeniable : and as the sacred oracles were given to make us wise unto salvation; so it is evident, that we are taught in them to think of the Holy Spirit as of an Agent, willing, hearing, speaking, acting, commanding, forbidding, receiving, and executing a commission, and performing a part in the great work of our salvation, distinct from that of the Father, by whom, or that of the Son, through whom he is given unto men. I apprehend that they who deny this doctrine, would feel themselves embarrassed in familiarly using such language as this, concerning the Spirit, or in speaking according to the oracles of God in their discoures, treatises or devotions ; at least many of them deem it convenient to adopt a more literal, philosophical, or modern style than that of the Scriptures, lest they should mislead some of their unestablished disciples, or give men reason to call their consistency in question.
When the personality of the Holy Spirit has been proved from the word of God, little difficulty remains to ascertain his Deity. The operation of the Holy Ghost in our Lord's conception, rendered it proper to call him the Son of God, even in respect to his human nature, according to the language of Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, (Luke i. 35). Ananias, by “ lying to the Holy Ghost, lied unto God," (Acts v. 3, 4). Christians are “ the temple of God, because the Spirit of God dwelleth in them;" even “ an habitation of God through the Spirit,” (1 Cor. iii. 16, 17; vi. 19; 2 Cor. vi. 16; Eph. ii. 22). Indeed, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in all believers, wheresoever they are dispersed, evidently implies the divine attribute of omnipresence; nor could he “search all things, yea, even the deep things of God,” unless he were omniscient. His work of regeneration, or new creation, and sanctification, require omnipotence to effect it: and all these surely are divine attributes, incommunicable to any creature. But “ if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” (Rom. viii. 9–11): and they are strangely ignorant of Christianity, who do not “ know that Christians are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelletḥ in them.” Of this more abundant proof will be given when we come to consider the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit.
The very titles which are given to this distinguished Agent in all revivals of vital godliness, confirm the same conclusion. He is called, by way of eminence, “ the Holy Spirit,” “ the Spirit of Holiness,"
,” “ the Spirit of Truth," “ the Spirit of Power,” “ the Spirit of Promise," “ the Spirit of Wisdom and Knowledge,” “ the Comforter,” “the Eternal Spirit.” These, and several other expressions of a similar nature, seem to denote both his essential perfections, and the nature or effect of his influences on our minds; and to distinguish him from all those created spirits which are sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. And when it is said, that “ he divideth to every man severally as he will;" his divine sovereignty, as well as his personal volition, is declared to us.
But if distinct personality, agency, and divine perfections be in Scripture ascribed also to the Father and to the Son, no words seem more exactly to express the unavoidable inference than these, “ that there are three distinct Persons in the Unity of the Godhead." The Scripture most assuredly teaches us, “ that the One living and true God is, in some inexplicable manner, Triune :" for he is spoken of as One in some respects, as Three in others