What are distinguishing scripture evidences of a work of the Spirit of God.

Having shown, in some instances, what are not evidences that a work wrought among a people, is not a work of the Spirit of God, I now proceed, in the second place, as was proposed, to show positively, what are the sure, distinguishing scripture evidences and marks of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see among a people, without danger of being misled.—And in this, as I said before, I shall confine myself wholly to those marks which are given us by the apostle in the chapter wherein is my text, where this matter is particularly handled, and more plainly and fully than any where else in the Bible. And in speaking to these marks, I shall take them in the order in which I find them in the chapter.

I. When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was born of the Virgin, and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God. This sign the apostle gives us in the 2d and 3d verses,. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God; and every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” This implies a confessing not only that there was such a person who appeared in Palestine, and did and suffered those things that are recorded of him, but that he was Christ, i.e. The Son of God, anointed to be Lord and Saviour, as the name Jesus Christ implies. That thus much is implied in the apostle’s meaning, is confirmed by the 15th verse, where the apostle is still on the same subject of signs of the true Spirit; “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” And it is to be observed that the word confess, as it is often used in the New Testament, signifies more then merely allowing: it implies an establishing and confirming of a thing by testimony, and declaring it with manifestation of esteem and affection; so Matt. x. 32. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” Rom. xv. 9. “I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” And Phil. ii. 11. “That every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And that this is the force of the expression, as the apostle John uses it in the place, is confirmed in the next chapter, ver. 1. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God, and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.” And by that parallel place of the apostle Paul, where we have the same rule given to distinguish the true Spirit from all counterfeits, 1 Cor. xii. 3. “Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed; (or will show an ill or mean esteem of him;) and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”

So that if the spirit that is at work among a people is plainly observed to work so as to convince them of Christ, and lead them to him—to confirm their minds in the belief of the history of Christ as he appeared in the flesh—and that he is the Son of God, and was sent of God to save sinners; that he is the only Saviour, and that they stand in great need of him; and if he seems to beget in them higher and more honourable thoughts of him than they used to have, and to incline their affections more to him; it is a sure sign that it is the true and right Spirit; however incapable we may be to determine, whether that conviction and affection be in that manner, or to that degree, as to be saving or not.

But the words of the apostle are remarkable; the person to whom the Spirit gives testimony, and for whom he raises their esteem, must be that Jesus who appeared in the flesh, and not another Christ in his stead; nor any mystical fantastical Christ; such as the light within. This the spirit of Quakers extols, while it diminishes their esteem of and dependence upon an outward Christ—or Jesus as he came in the flesh—and leads them off from him; but the spirit that gives testimony for that Jesus, and leads to him, can be no other than the Spirit of God.

The devil has the most bitter and implacable enmity against that person, especially in his character of the Saviour of men; he mortally hates the story and doctrine of his redemption; he never would go about to beget in men more honourable thoughts of him, and lay greater weight on his instructions and commands. The Spirit that inclines men’s hearts to the seed of the woman, is not the spirit of the serpent that has such an irreconcileable enmity against him. He that heightens men’s esteem of the glorious Michael, that prince of angels, is not the spirit of the dragon that is at war with him.

II. When the spirit that is at work operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom, which lies in encouraging and establishing sin, and cherishing men’s worldly lusts; this is a sure sign that it is a true, and not a false spirit. This sign we have given us in the 4th and 5th verses. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” Here is a plain antithesis: it is evident that the apostle is still comparing those that are influenced by the two opposite kinds of spirits, the true and the false, and showing the difference; the one is of God, and overcomes the spirit of the world; the other is of the world, and speaks and savours of the things of the world. The spirit of the devil is here called, “he that is in the world.” Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” But it is otherwise with Satan’s kingdom; he is “the god of this world.”

What the apostle means by the world, or “the things that are of the world,” we learn by his own words, in the 2d chapter of this epistle, 15th and 16th verses. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him: for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” So that by the world the apostle evidently means every thing that appertains to the interest of sin, and comprehends all the corruptions and lusts of men, and all those acts and objects by which they are gratified.

So that we may safely determine, from what the apostle says, that the spirit that is at work amongst a people, after such a manner, as to lessen men’s esteem of the pleasures, profits, and honours of the world, and to take off their hearts from an eager pursuit after these things; and to engage them in a deep concern about a future state and eternal happiness which the gospel reveals—and puts them upon earnestly seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and the spirit that convinces them of the dreadfulness of sin, the guilt it brings, and the misery to which it exposes; must needs be the Spirit of God.

It is not to be supposed that Satan would convince men of sin, and awaken the conscience; it can no way serve his end, to make that candle of the Lord shine the brighter, and to open the mouth of that vicegerent of God in the soul. It is for his interest, whatever he does, to lull conscience asleep, and keep it quiet. To have that, with its eyes and mouth open in the soul, will tend to clog and hinder all his designs of darkness, and evermore to disturb his affairs, to cross his interest, and disquiet him, so that he can manage nothing to his mind without molestation. Would the devil, when he is about to establish men in sin, take such a course, in the first place, to enlighten and awaken the conscience to see the dreadfulness of sin, and make them exceedingly afraid of it, and sensible of their misery by reason of their past sins, and their great need of deliverance from their guilt? Would he make them more careful, inquisitive, and watchful to discern what is sinful; and to avoid future sins; and so more afraid of the devil’s temptations, and more careful to guard against them? What do those men do with their reason, that suppose that the Spirit that operates thus, is the spirit of the devil?

Possibly some may say, that the devil may even awaken men’s consciences to deceive them, and make them think they have been the subjects of a saving work of the Spirit of God, while they are indeed still in the gall of bitterness. But to this it may be replied, that the man who has an awakened conscience, is the least likely to be deceived of any man in the world; it is the drowsy, insensible, stupid conscience that is most easily blinded. The more sensible conscience is in a diseased soul, the less easily is it quieted without a real healing. The more sensible conscience is made of the dreadfulness of sin, and of the greatness of a man’s own guilt, the less likely is he to rest in his own righteousness, or to be pacified with nothing but shadows. A man that has been thoroughly terrified with a sense of his own danger and misery, is not easily flattered and made to believe himself safe, without any good grounds. To awaken conscience, and convince it of the evil of sin, cannot tend to establish it, but certainly tends to make way for sin and Satan’s being cut out. Therefore this is a good argument that the Spirit that operates thus, cannot be the spirit of the devil; except we suppose that Christ knew not how to argue, who told the Pharisees—who supposed that the Spirit by which he wrought, was the spirit of the devil—that Satan would not cast out Satan, Matt. xii. 25, 26.—And therefore, if we see persons made sensible of the dreadful nature of sin, and of the displeasure of God against it; of their own miserable condition as they are in themselves, by reason of sin, and earnestly concerned for their eternal salvation—and sensible of their need of God’s pity and help, and engaged to seek it in the use of the means that God has appointed—we may certainly conclude that it is from the Spirit of God, whatever effects this concern has on their bodies; though it cause them to cry out aloud, or to shriek, or to faint; or, though it throw them into convulsions, or whatever other way the blood and spirits are moved.

The influence of the Spirit of God is yet more abundantly manifest, if persons have their hearts drawn off from the world, and weaned from the objects of their worldly lusts, and taken off from worldly pursuits, by the sense they have of the excellency of divine things, and the affection they have to those spiritual enjoyments of another world, that are promised in the gospel.

III. The spirit that operates in such a manner, as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity, is certainly the Spirit of God. This rule the apostle gives us in the 6th verse:. “We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us: hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” We are of God; that is, “We the apostles are sent forth of God, and appointed by him to teach the world, and to deliver those doctrine and instructions, which are to be their rule; he that knoweth God, heareth us,” &c.—The apostle’s argument here equally reaches all that in the same sense are of God; that is, all those that God has appointed and inspired to deliver to his church its rule of faith and practice; all the prophets and apostles, whose doctrine God has made the foundation on which he has built his church, as in Eph. ii. 20. in a word, all the penmen of the Holy Scriptures. The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule for the direction of his church in all religious matters, and all concerns of their souls, in all ages. A spirit of delusion will not incline persons to seek direction at the mouth of God. To the law and to the testimony, is never the cry of those evil spirits that have no light in them; for it is God’s own direction to discover their delusions. Isa. viii. 19, 20. “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? For the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The devil does not say the same as Abraham did, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them:” nor the same that the voice from heaven did concerning Christ, “Hear ye him.” Would the spirit of error, in order to deceive men, beget in them a high opinion of the infallible rule, and incline them to think much of it, and be very conversant with it? Would the prince of darkness, in order to promote his kingdom of darkness, lead men to the sun? The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light; and to draw men off from it: he knows it to be that light by which his kingdom of darkness is to be overthrown. He has had for many ages experience of its power to defeat his purposes, and baffle his designs: it is his constant plague. It is the main weapon which Michael uses in his war with him: it is the sword of the Spirit, that pierces him and conquers him. It is that great and strong sword, with which God punishes Leviathan, that crooked serpent. It is that sharp sword that we read of, Rev. xix. 15. That proceeds out of the mouth of him that sat on the horse, with which he smites his enemies. Every text is a dart to torment the old serpent. He has felt the stinging smart thousands of times; therefore he is engaged against the Bible, and hates every word in it: and we may be sure that he never will attempt to raise persons’ esteem of it, or affection to it. And accordingly we see it common in enthusiasts, that they depreciate this written rule, and set up the light within or some other rule above it.

IV. Another rule to judge of spirits may be drawn from those compellations given to the opposite spirits, in the last words of the 6th verse,. “The spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” These words exhibit the two opposite characters of the Spirit of God, and other spirits that counterfeit his operations. And therefore, if by observing the manner of the operation of a spirit that is at work among a people, we see that it operates as a spirit of truth, leading persons to truth, convincing them of those things that are true, we may safely determine that it is a right and true spirit. For instance, if we observe that the spirit at work makes men more sensible than they used to be, that there is a God, and that he is a great and sin-hating God; that life is short, and very uncertain; and that there is another world; that they have immortal souls, and must give account of themselves to God, that they are exceeding sinful by nature and practice; that they are helpless in themselves; and confirms them in other things that are agreeable to some sound doctrine; the spirit that works thus operates as a spirit of truth; he represents things as they truly are. He brings men to the light; for whatever makes truth manifest is light; as the apostle Paul observes, Eph. v. 13. “But all things that are reproved (or discovered, as it is in the margin) are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” And therefore we may conclude, that it is not the spirit of darkness that doth thus discover and make manifest the truth. Christ tells us that Satan is a liar, and the father of lies; and his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness. It is upheld and promoted only by darkness and error. Satan has all his power of dominion by darkness. Hence we read of the power of darkness. Luke xxii. 53. And Col. i. 13. And devils are called “the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Whatever spirit removes our darkness, and brings us to the light, undeceives us, and, by convincing us of the truth, doth us a kindness. If I am brought to a sight of truth, and am made sensible of things as they really are, my duty is immediately to thank God for it, without standing first to inquire by what means I have such a benefit.

V. If the spirit that is at work among a people operates as a spirit of love to God and man, it is a sure sign that it is the Spirit of God. This sign the apostle insists upon from the 6th verse to the end of the chapter. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: he that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love,” &c. Here it is evident, that the apostle is still comparing those two sorts of persons that are influenced by the opposite kinds of spirits; and mentions love as a mark by which we may know who has the true spirit: but this is especially evident by the 12th and 13th verses. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us: hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” In these verses love is spoken of as if it were that wherein the very nature of the Holy Spirit consisted; or, as if divine love dwelling in us, and the Spirit of God dwelling in us, were the same thing; as it is also in the last two verses of the foregoing chapter, and in the 16th verse. of this chapter. Therefore this last mark which the apostle gives of the true Spirit he seems to speak of as the most eminent: and so insists much more largely upon it, than upon all the rest; and speaks expressly of both love to God and men; of love to men in the 7th, 11th, and 12th verses;. and of love to God, in the 17th, 18th, and 19th verses.; and of both together, in the last two verses; and of love to men, as arising from love to God, in these last two verses.

Therefore, when the spirit that is at work amongst the people, tends this way, and brings many of them to high and exalting thoughts of the Divine Being, and his glorious perfections; and works in them an admiring, delightful sense of the excellency of Jesus Christ; representing him as the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, and makes him precious to the soul; winning and drawing the heart with those motives and incitements to love, of which the apostle speaks in that passage of Scripture we are upon, viz. The wonderful, free love of God in giving his only-begotten Son to die for us, and the wonderful dying love of Christ to us, who had no love to him, but were his enemies; must needs be the Spirit of God, as ver. 9, 10. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because God sent his onlybegotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And ver. 16. “And we have known, and believed, the love that God hath to us.” And ver. 19. “We love him because he first loved us.” The spirit that excites to love on these motives, and makes the attributes of God as revealed in the gospel, and manifested in Christ, delightful objects of contemplation; and makes the soul to long after God and Christ—after their presence and communion, acquaintance with them, and conformity to them—and to live so as to please and honour them; the spirit that quells contentions among men, and gives a spirit of peace and good will, excites to acts of outward kindness, and earnest desires of the salvation of souls-and causes a delight in those that appear as the children God, and followers of Christ; I say, when a spirit operates after this manner among a people, there is the highest kind of evidence of the influence of a true and divine spirit.

Indeed there is a counterfeit love, that often appears among those who are led by a spirit of delusion. There is commonly in the wildest enthusiasts, a kind of union and affection, arising from self-love, occasioned by their agreeing in those things wherein they greatly differ from all others, and from which they are objects of the ridicule of all the rest of mankind. This naturally will cause them so much the more to prize those peculiarities that make them the objects of others’ contempt. Thus the ancient Gnostics, and the wild fanatics that appeared at the beginning of the reformation, boasted of their great love one to another; one sect of them, in particular, calling themselves the family of love. But this is quite another thing, than that christian love I have just described: it is only the working of a natural self-love, and no true benevolence, any more that the union and friendship which may be among a company of pirates, that are at war with all the rest of the world. There is enough said in this passage of the nature of a truly christian love, thoroughly to distinguish it from all such counterfeits. It is love that arises from apprehension of the wonderful riches of the free grace and sovereignty of God’s love to us, in Christ Jesus; being attended with a sense of our own utter unworthiness, as in ourselves the enemies and haters of God and Christ, and with a renunciation of all our own excellency and righteousness. See ver. 9, 10, 11, and 19. The surest character of true divine supernatural love—distinguishing it from counterfeits that arise from a natural self-love—is, that the christian virtue of humility shines in it; that which above all others renounces, abases, and annihilates what we term self. Christian love, or true charity, is an humble love. 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5. “Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked.” When therefore we see love in persons attended with a sense of their own littleness, vileness, weakness, and utter insufficiency; and so with self-diffidence, self-emptiness, self-renunciation, and poverty of spirit; these are the manifest tokens of the Spirit of God.

He that thus dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him. What the apostle speaks of as a great evidence of the true Spirit, is God’s love or Christ’s love; as ver. 12.—”his love is perfected in us.” What kind of love that is, we may see best in what appeared in Christ’s example. The love that appeared in that Lamb of God, was not only a love to friends, but to enemies, and a love attended with a meek and humble spirit. “Learn of me,” says he, “for I am meek and lowly in heart.”—Love and humility are two things the most contrary to the spirit of the devil, of any thing in the world; for the character of that evil spirit, above all things, consists in pride and malice.

Thus I have spoken particularly to the several marks the apostle gives us of a work of the true Spirit. There are some of these things which the devil would not do if he could: thus he would not awaken the conscience, and make men sensible of their miserable state by reason of sin, and sensible of their great need of a Saviour; and he would not confirm men in the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Saviour of sinners, or raise men’s value and esteem of him: he would not beget in men’s minds an opinion of the necessity, usefulness, and truth of the Holy Scriptures, or incline them to make much use of them; nor would he show men the truth, in things that concern their souls’ interest; to undeceive them, and lead them out of darkness into light, and give them a view of things as they really are. And there are other things that the devil neither can nor will do; he will not give men a spirit of divine love, or christian humility and poverty of spirit; nor could he if he would. He cannot give those things he has not himself: these things are as contrary as possible to his nature. And therefore when there is an extraordinary influence or operation appearing on the minds of a people, if these things are found in it, we are safe in determining that it is the work of God, whatever other circumstances it may be attended with, whatever instruments are used, whatever methods are taken to promote it; whatever means a sovereign God, whose judgments are a great deep, employs to carry it on; and whatever motion there may be of the animal spirits, whatever effects may be wrought on men’s bodies. These marks, that the apostle has given us, are sufficient to stand alone, and support themselves. They plainly show the finger of God, and are sufficient to outweigh a thousand such little objections, as many make from oddities, irregularities, errors in conduct, and the delusions and scandals of some professors.

But here some may object to the sufficiency of the marks given, what the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

To which I answer, that this can be no objection against the sufficiency of these marks to distinguish the true from the false spirit, in those false apostles and prophets, in whom the devil was transformed into an angel of light, because it is principally with a view to them that the apostle gives these marks; as appears by the words of the text, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God;” and this is the reason he gives, because many false prophets are gone out into the world: viz. “There are many gone out into the world who are the ministers of the devil, who transform themselves into the prophets of God, in whom the spirit of the devil is transformed into an angel of light; therefore try the spirits by these rules that I shall give you, that you may be able to distinguish the true spirit from the false, under such a crafty disguise.” Those false prophets the apostle John speaks of, are doubtless the same sort of men with those false apostles, and deceitful workers, that the apostle Paul speaks of, in whom the devil was transformed into an angel of light: and therefore we may be sure that these marks are especially adapted to distinguish between the true Spirit, and the devil transformed into an angel of light, because they are given especially for that end; that is the apostle’s declared purpose and design, to give marks by which the true Spirit may be distinguished from that sort of counterfeits.

And if we look over what is said about these false prophets, and false apostles, (as there is much said about them in the New Testament,) and take notice in what manner the devil was transformed into an angel of light in them, we shall not find any thing that in the least injures the sufficiency of these marks to distinguish the true Spirit from such counterfeits. The devil transformed himself into an angel of light, as there was in them a show, and great boast, of extraordinary knowledge in divine things; Col. ii. 8. 1. Tim. i. 6, 7. and chap. vi. 3-5. 2 Tim. ii. 14-18. Tit. i. 10, 16. Hence their followers called themselves Gnostics, from their great pretended knowledge: and the devil in them mimicked the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, in visions, revelations, prophecies, miracles, &c. Hence they are called false apostles, and false prophets: see Matt. xxiv. 24. Again, there was a false show of, and lying pretensions to, great holiness and devotion in words: Rom. xvi. 17, 18. Ephes. iv. 14. Hence they are called deceitful workers, and wells and clouds without water. 2 Cor. xi. 13. 2 Pet. ii. 17. Jude 12. There was also in them a show of extraordinary piety and righteousness in their superstitious worship: Col. ii. 16-23. So they had a false, proud, and bitter zeal: Gal. iv. 17, 18. 1 Tim. i. 6. and chap. vi. 4, 5. And likewise a false show of humility, in affecting an extraordinary outward meanness and dejection, when indeed they were “vainly puffed up in their fleshly mind:” and made a righteousness of their humility, and were exceedingly lifted up with their eminent piety: Col. ii. 18, 23. But how do such things as these in the least injure those things that have been mentioned as the distinguishing evidences of the true Spirit?—Besides such vain shows which may be from the devil, there are common influences of the Spirit, which are often mistaken for saving grace; but these are out of the question, because though they are not saving, yet are the work of the true Spirit.

Having thus fulfilled what I at first proposed, in considering what are the certain, distinguishing marks, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any work that falls under our observation, whether it be the work of the Spirit of God or no; I now proceed to the Application.

Section II of the document:

THE DISTINGUISHING MARKS
OF A WORK OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD,
APPLIED TO THAT UNCOMMON OPERATION THAT HAS LATELY APPEARED ON THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE OF NEW ENGLAND:
WITH A
PARTICULAR CONSIDERATION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES WITH WHICH THIS WORK IS ATTENDED

Jonathan Edwards

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The two points to be considered in reference to this subject, are, first the nature, and second the office or work of the Holy Spirit. With regard to his nature, is He a person or a mere power? and if a person, is He created or divine, finite or infinite? The personality of the Spirit has been the faith of the Church from the beginning. It had few opponents even in the chaotic period of theology; and in modern times has been denied by none but Socinians, Arians, and Sabellians. Before considering the direct proof of the Church doctrine that the Holy Spirit is a person, it may be well to remark, that the terms “The Spirit,” “The Spirit of God,” “The Holy Spirit,” and when God speaks, “My Spirit,” or, when God is spoken of “His Spirit,” occur in all parts of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation; These and equivalent terms are evidently to be understood in the same sense throughout the Scriptures.

If the Spirit of God which moved on the face of the waters, which strove with the antediluvians, which came upon Moses, which gave skill to artisans, and which inspired the prophets, is the power of God; then the Spirit which came upon the Apostles, which Christ promised to send as a comforter and advocate, and to which the instruction, sanctification, and guidance of the people of God are referred, must also be the power of God. But if the Spirit is clearly revealed to be a person in the later parts of Scripture, it is plain that the earlier portions must be understood in the same way. One part of the Bible, and much less one or a few passages must not be taken by themselves, and receive any interpretation which the isolated words may bear, but Scripture must interpret Scripture. Another obvious remark on this subject is, that the Spirit of God is equally prominent in all parts of the word of God. His intervention does not occur on rare occasions, as the appearance of angels, or the Theophanies, of which mention is made here and there in the sacred volume; but He is represented as everywhere present and everywhere operative. We might as well strike from the Bible the name and doctrine of God, as the name and office of the Spirit.

In the New Testament alone He is mentioned not far from three hundred times. It is not only, however, merely the frequency with which the Spirit is mentioned, and the prominence given to his person and work, but the multiplied and interesting relations in which He is represented as standing to the people of God, the importance and number of his gifts, and the absolute dependence of the believer and of the Church upon Him for spiritual and eternal life, which render the doctrine of the Holy Ghost absolutely fundamental to the gospel. The work of the Spirit in applying the redemption of Christ is represented to be as essential as that redemption itself. It is therefore indispensable that we should know what the Bible teaches concerning the Holy Ghost, both as to his nature and office.

I. Proof of his Personality.

The Scriptures clearly teach that He is a person. Personality includes intelligence, will, and individual subsistence. If, therefore, it can be proved that all these are attributed to the Spirit, it is thereby proved that He is a person. It will not be necessary or advisable to separate the proofs of these several points, and cite passages which ascribe to Him intelligence; and then others, which attribute to Him will; and still others to prove his individual subsistence, because all these are often included in one and the same passage; and arguments which prove the one, in many cases prove also the others.

  1. The first argument for the personality of the Holy Spirit is derived from the use of the personal pronouns in relation to Him. A person is that which, when speaking, says I; when addressed, is called thou; and when spoken of, is called he, or him. It is indeed admitted that there is such a rhetorical figure as personification; that inanimate or irrational beings, or sentiments, or attributes, may be introduced as speaking, or addressed as persons. But this creates no difficulty. The cases of personification are such as do not, except in rare instances, admit of any doubt. The fact that men sometimes apostrophize the heavens, or the elements, gives no pretext for explaining as personification all the passages in which God or Christ is introduced as a person. So also with regard to the Holy Spirit. He is introduced as a person so often, not merely in poetic or excited discourse, but in simple narrative, and in didactic instructions; and his personality is sustained by so many collateral proofs, that to explain the use of the personal pronouns in relation to Him on the principle of personification, is to do violence to all the rules of interpretation. Thus in Acts 13:2, “The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work where- unto I have called them.” Our Lord says (John 15:26), “When the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me.” The use of the masculine pronoun H instead of it, shows that the Spirit is a person. In the following chapter (John 16:13, 14) It is there said, “When He the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak, and He will show you things to come. Be shall glorify me for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” Here there is no possibility of accounting for the use of the personal pronoun He on any other ground than the personality of the Spirit.
  2. We stand in relations to the Holy Spirit which we can sustain only to a person. He is the object of our faith. We believe on the Holy Ghost. This faith we profess in baptism. We are baptized not only in the name of the Father and of the Son, but also of the Holy Ghost. The very association of the Spirit in such a connection, with the Father and the Son, as they are admitted to be distinct persons, proves that the Spirit also is a person. Besides the use of the words eis to onoma, unto the name, admits of no other explanation. By baptism we profess to acknowledge the Spirit as we acknowledge the Father and the Son, and we bind ourselves to the one as well as to the others. If when the Apostle tells the Corinthians that they were not baptized “in the name of Paul,” and when he says that the Hebrews were baptized unto Moses, he means that the Corinthians were not, and that the Hebrews were made the disciples, the one of Paul and the others of Moses; then when we are baptized unto the name of the Spirit, the meaning is that in baptism we profess to be his disciples; we bind ourselves to receive his instructions, and to submit to his control. We stand in the same relation to Him as to the Father and to the Son; we acknowledge Him to be a person as distinctly as we acknowledge the personality of the Son, or of the Father. Christians not only profess to believe on the Holy Ghost, but they are also the recipients of his gifts. He is to them an object of prayer. In the apostolic benediction, the grace of Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, are solemnly invoked. We pray to the Spirit for the communication of Himself to us, that He may, according to the promise of our Lord, dwell in us, as we pray to Christ that we may be the objects of his unmerited love. Accordingly we are exhorted not “to sin against,” “not to resist,” not “to grieve” the Holy Spirit. He is represented, therefore, as a person who can be the object of our acts; whom we may please or offend; with whom we may have communion, I. e., personal intercourse; who can love and be loved; who can say ” thou” to us; and whom we can invoke in every time of” need.
  3. The Spirit also sustains relations to us, and performs offices which none but a person can sustain or perform. He is our teacher, sanctifier, comforter, and guide. He governs every believer who is led by the Spirit, and the whole Church. He calls, as He called Barnabas and Saul, to the work of the ministry, or to some special field of labor. Pastors or bishops are made overseers by the Holy Ghost.
  4. In the exercise of these and other functions, personal acts are constantly attributed to the Spirit in the Bible; that is, such acts as imply intelligence, will, and activity or power. The Spirit searches, selects, reveals, and reproves. We often read that “The Spirit said.” (Acts 13:2; 21:11; 1 Tim. 4:1, etc., etc.) This is so constantly done, that the Spirit appears as a personal agent from one end of the Scriptures to the other, so that his personality is beyond dispute. The only possible question is whether He is a distinct person from the Father. But of this there can be no reasonable doubt, as He is said to be the Spirit of God and the Spirit which is of God; as He is distinguished from the Father in the forms of baptism and benediction; as He proceeds from the Father; and as He is promised, sent, and given by the Father. So that to confound the Holy Spirit with God would be to render the Scriptures unintelligible.
  5. All the elements of personality, namely, intelligence, will, and individual subsistence, are not only involved in all that is thus revealed concerning the relation in which the Spirit stands to us and that which we sustain to Him, but they are all distinctly attributed to Him. The Spirit is said to know, to will, and to act. He searches, or knows all things, even the deep things of God. No man knoweth the things of God, but the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:10, 12.) He distributes “to every man severally as he will.” (1 Cor. 12:11.) His individual subsistence is involved in his being an agent, and in his being the object on which the activity of others terminates. If He can be loved, reverenced, and obeyed, or offended and sinned against, He must be a person.
  6. The personal manifestations of the Spirit, when He descended on Christ after his baptism, and upon the Apostles at the day of Pentecost, of necessity involve His personal subsistence. It was not any attribute of God, nor his mere efficiency, but God himself, that was manifested in the burning bush, in the fire and clouds on Mount Sinai, in the pillar which guided the Israelites through the wilderness, and in the glory which dwelt in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.
  7. The people of God have always regarded the Holy Spirit as a person. They have looked to Him for instruction, sanctification, direction, and comfort. This is part of their religion. Christianity (subjectively considered) would not be what it is without this sense of dependence on the Spirit, and this love and reverence for his person. All the liturgies, prayers, and praises of the Church, are filled with appeals and addresses to the Holy Ghost. This is a fact which admits of no rational solution if the Scriptures do not really teach that the Spirit is a distinct person. The rule: Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, is held by Protestants as well as by Romanists. It is not to the authority of general consent as an evidence of truth, that Protestants object, but to the applications made of it by the Papal Church, and to the principle on which that authority is made to rest. All Protestants admit that true believers in every age and country have one faith, as well as one God and one Lord.

Divinity of the Holy Spirit.

On this subject there has been little dispute in the Church. The Spirit is so prominently presented in the Bible as possessing divine attributes, and exercising divine prerogatives, that since the fourth century his true divinity has never been denied by those who admit his personality.

  1. In the Old Testament, all that is said of Jehovah is said of the Spirit of Jehovah; and therefore, if the latter is not a mere periphrase for the former, he must of necessity be divine. The expressions, Jehovah said, and, the Spirit said, are constantly interchanged; and the acts of the Spirit are said to be acts of God.
  2. In the New Testament, the language of Jehovah is quoted as the language of the Spirit. In Is. 6:9, it is written, Jehovah said, “Go and tell this people,” etc. This passage is thus quoted by Paul, Acts 28:25, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet,” etc. In Jeremiah 31:31, 33, 34, it is said, “Behold the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel;” which is quoted by the Apostle in Heb. 10:15, saying, ” Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts,” etc. Thus constantly the language of God is quoted as the language of the Holy Ghost. The prophets were the messengers of God; they uttered his words, delivered his commands, pronounced his threatenings, and announced his promises, because they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. They were the organs of God, because they were the organs of the Spirit. The Spirit, therefore, must be God.
  3. In the New Testament the same mode of representation is continued. Believers are the temple of God, because the Spirit dwells in them. Eph. 2:22: Ye are “a habitation of God through the Spirit.” 1 Cor. 6:19: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?” In Rom. 8:9, 10, the indwelling of Christ is said to be the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, and that is said to be the indwelling of the Spirit of God. In Acts 5:1–4, Ananias is said to have lied unto God because he lied against the Holy Ghost.
  4. Our Lord and his Apostles constantly speak of the Holy Spirit as possessing all divine perfections. Christ says, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” (Matt. 12:31.) The unpardonable sin, then, is speaking against the Holy Ghost. This could not be unless the Holy Ghost were God. The Apostle, in 1 Cor. 2:10, 11, says that the Spirit knows all things, even the deep things (the most secret purposes) of God. His knowledge is commensurate with the knowledge of God. He knows the things of God as the spirit of a man knows the things of a man. The consciousness of God is the consciousness of’ the Spirit. The Psalmist teaches us that the Spirit is omnipresent and everywhere efficient. “Whither,” he asks, “shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7.) The presence of the Spirit is the presence of God. The same idea is expressed by the prophet when he says, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith Jehovah. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith Jehovah.” (Jer. 23:24.)
  5. The works of the Spirit are the works of God. He fashioned the world. (Gen. 1:2.) He regenerates the soul: to be born of the Spirit is to be born of God. He is the source of all knowledge; the giver of inspiration; the teacher, the guide, the sanctifier, and the comforter of the Church in all ages. He fashions our bodies; He formed the body of Christ, as a fit habitation for the fulness of the Godhead; and He is to quicken our mortal bodies. (Rom. 8:11.)
  6. He is therefore presented in the Scriptures as the proper object of worship, not only in the formula of baptism and in the apostolic benediction, which bring the doctrine of the Trinity into constant remembrance as the fundamental truth of our religion, but also– in the constant requirement that we look to Him and depend upon Him for all spiritual good, and reverence and obey Him as our divine teacher and sanctifier.

Relation of the Spirit to the Father and to the Son.

The relation of the Spirit to the other persons of the Trinity has been stated before.

  1. He is the same in substance and equal in power and glory.
  2. He is subordinate to the Father and Son, as to his mode of subsistence and operation, as He is said to be of the Father and of the Son; He is sent by them, and they operate through Him.
  3. He bears the same relation to the Father as to the Son; as He is said to be of the one as well as of the other, and He is given by the Son as well as by the Father.
  4. His eternal relation to the other persons of the Trinity is indicated by the word Spirit, and by its being said that he is out of God, I. e., God is the source whence the Spirit is said to proceed.

II. The Office of the Holy Spirit.

In Nature.

The general doctrine of the Scriptures on this subject is that the Spirit is the executive of the Godhead. Whatever God does, He does by the Spirit. He is the immediate source of all life. Even in the external world the Spirit is everywhere present and everywhere active. Matter is not intelligent. It has its peculiar properties, which act blindly according to established laws. The intelligence, therefore, manifested in vegetable and animal structures, is not to be referred to matter, but to the omnipresent Spirit of God. It was He who brooded over the waters and reduced chaos into order. It was He who garnished the heavens. It is He that causes the grass to grow. The Psalmist says of all living creatures, ” Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” (Ps. 104:29, 30.) Compare Is. 32:14, 15. Job, speaking of his corporeal frame, says, “The Spirit of God hath made me.” (Job 33:4.) And the Psalmist, after describing the omnipresence of the Spirit, refers to his agency the wonderful mechanism of the human body. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…. my substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowliest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:14-16.)

The Spirit the Source of all Intellectual Life.

The Spirit is also represented as the source of all intellectual life. When man was created it is said God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7.) Job 32:8, says, The inspiration of the Almighty giveth men understanding, i. e., a rational nature, for it is explained by saying, He “teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven.” (Job 35:11.) The Scriptures ascribe in like manner to Him all special or extraordinary gifts. Thus it is said of Bezaleel, ” I have called ” him, ” and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass.” (Ex. 31:2, 3, 4.) By his Spirit God gave Moses the wisdom requisite for his high duties, and when he was commanded to devolve part of his burden upon the seventy elders, it was said, “I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them.” (Num. 11: 17.) Joshua was appointed to succeed Moses, because in him was the Spirit. (Num. 27:18.) In like manner the Judges, who from time to time were raised up, as emergency demanded, were qualified by the Spirit for their peculiar work, whether as rulers or as warriors. Of Othniel it is said, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel and went out to war.” (Judges 3: 10.) So the Spirit of the Lord is said to have come upon Gideon and on Jephthah and on Samson. When Saul offended God, the Spirit of the Lord is said to have departed from him. (1 Sam. 16: 14.) When Samuel anointed David, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon’ him “from that day forward.” (1 Sam. 16:13.)

In like manner under the new dispensation the Spirit is represented as not only the author of miraculous gifts, but also as the giver of the qualifications to teach and rule in the Church. All these operations are independent of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit. When the. Spirit came on Samson or upon Saul, it was not to render them holy, but to endue them with extraordinary physical and intellectual power; and when He is said to have departed from them, it means that those extraordinary endowments were withdrawn.

The Spirit’s Office in the Work of Redemption.

With regard to the office of the Spirit in the work of redemption, the Scriptures teach,

  1. That He fashioned the body, and endued the human soul of Christ with every qualification for his work. To the Virgin Mary it was said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35.) The prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah should be replenished with all spiritual gifts. “Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” (Is. 42:1.) ” There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” (Is. 11:1, 2.) When our Lord appeared on earth, it is said that the Spirit without measure was given unto Him. (John 3:34.) “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.” (John 1:32.) He was, therefore, said to have been full of the Holy Ghost.
  2. That the Spirit is the revealer of all divine truth. The doctrines of the Bible are called the things of the Spirit. With regard to the writers of the Old Testament, it is said they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The language of Micah is applicable to all the prophets, “Truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the LORD and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.” (Micah 3:8.) What David said, the Holy Ghost is declared to have said. The New Testament writers were in like manner the organs of the Spirit. The doctrines which Paul preached he did not receive from men, ” but God,” he says, “hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:10.) The Spirit also guided the utterance of those truths; for he adds, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; communicating the things of the Spirit in the words of the Spirit” , The whole Bible, therefore, is to be referred to the Spirit as its author.
  3. The Spirit not only thus reveals divine truth, having guided infallibly holy men of old in recording it, but He everywhere attends it by his power. All truth is enforced on the heart and conscience with more or less power by the Holy Spirit, wherever that truth is known. To this all-pervading influence we are indebted for all there is of morality and order in the world. But besides this general influence, which is usually called common grace, the Spirit specially illuminates the minds of the children of God, that they may know the things freely given (or revealed to them) by God. The natural man does not receive them, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. All believers are therefore called spiritual, because thus enlightened and guided by the Spirit.
  4. It is the special office of the Spirit to convince the world of sin; to reveal Christ, to regenerate the soul, to lead men to the exercise of faith and repentance; to dwell in those whom He thus renews, as a principle of a new and divine life. By this indwelling of the Spirit, believers are united to Christ, and to one another, so that they form one body. This is the foundation of the communion of saints, making them one in faith, one in love, one in their inward life, and one in their hopes and final destiny.
  5. The Spirit also calls men to office in the Church, and endows them with the qualifications necessary for the successful discharge of its duties. The office of the Church, in this matter, is simply to ascertain and authenticate the call of the Spirit. Thus the Holy Ghost is the immediate author of all truth, of all holiness, of all consolation, of all authority, and of all efficiency in the children of God individually, and in the Church collectively.