« PreviousContinue »
On the Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit ;
with some thoughts on the Doctrine of the sacred Trinity.
The Christian dispensation is distinguished by the apostle as “the ministration of the Spirit ;"" and a careful investigation of the Scriptures must convince an impartial enquirer, that the promise of the Holy Spirit is the grand peculiarity of the New Testament, even as that of the Messiah was of the Old. Having therefore shown the nature and necessity of regeneration, it regularly occurs to us in this place, to give a more particular statement of the scriptural doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit.— Those things then, which relate to the Personality and Deity of the Spirit, and to the doctrine of the Trinity as connected with it, will constitute our present subject: while his extraordinary and ordinary operations, influences, and gifts; the office he performis in the economy of our salvation, and the duties thence incumbent upon us, must be reserved for the next Essay.
1 2 Cor, iii, 8.
When we use the term personality, we simply mean, that language is used in Scripture concerning the Holy Spirit, and actions are ascribed to him, which are suited to convey the idea of a personal Agent; and such as would be extremely improper, if a mere attribute, or mode of operation, was intended. Yet all who deny the personality of the Holy Spirit, and pay any suitable respect to the sacred Oracles, in which so much is constantly ascribed to him, must hold the latter opinion. We do not, however, suppose, that the words person and personality can, in an adequate manner, explain such a subject, or even assist our conceptions in respect of mysteries, which we profess to consider as absolutely incomprehensible.
Indeed these words, 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 terms, and to introduce such as may express, in as exclusive a manner as possible, the sense in which they understand the declarations of Scripture: because their opponents will invent some plausible method of explaining away those which had before been in use. That imperfection, which characterizes everything which belongs to man, is peculiarly discernible in human language: the mysteries of the infinite God can only be declared in words originally
taken from the relations and affairs of men; and
tute the matter of revelation, and words are only the vehicle of truths to our minds. We are, in fact, deeply convinced that some men have got the habit or art of evading the force of scriptural terms, and of thus misleading others into error: and is it not allowable for us to state our sentiments in other words; and then to prove that those sentiments are actually contained in holy Scripture? or can we do otherwise, unless we be disposed to give our opponents every possible advantage in the argument? For it cannot well be doubted by impartial persons, that aversion to the doctrines themselves lies at the bottom of those objections, which 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,'” we can neither explain. them clearly in human language, nor illustrate them fully by earthly things, nor yet prove them by arguments from human reason. The whole rests entirely on the authority of divine revelation; we gain our knowledge of it by simply believing God's sure testimony; and we should improve it to practical purposes in humble adoration, and not treat it as a subject of disputatious speculation, or presumptuous curiosity. And may he, who hath promised to “ give his Holy Spirit to those "who ask him,” guide us by his divine teaching
into the sanctifying knowledge of the truth, in this and every subject that we investigate!
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, we may be sure that 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 no one, except the most ignorant reader, is in danger of being misled. 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, without any intimation, are interwoven in historical or didactick discussions; or in promises and precepts, that is, in grants and laws, where the greatest precision is absolutely necessary; what instruction can be with certainty derived from revelation ? or how shall we know what we are to believe, to do, or to expect? Surely this supposition tends directly to render the Scriptures useless; and to perplex and bewilder every serious enquirer after the way of eternal life! Now, I shall, almost exclusively, select my proofs of the personality of the Holy Spirit, from those parts