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THE DEITY, PERSONALITY, AND OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST.
BY THE REV. JOHN ELLISON BATES, M. A.
"I HAVE YET MANY THINGS TO SAY UNTO YOU, BUT YE CANNOT BEAR THEM NOW. HOWBEIT 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. HE SHALL GLORIFY ME: FOR HE SHALL RECEIVE OF MINE, AND SHALL SHOW IT UNTO YOU. ALL THINGS THAT THE FATHER HATH ARE MINE; THEREFORE SAID I, THAT HE SHALL TAKE OF MINE, AND SHALL SHOW IT UNTO YOU."-John xvi. 12, 13, 14, 15.
SUCH were the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to his sorrowing disciples. The time was now at hand when he must leave the world, and return unto the Father: and this announcement had filled their hearts with sorrow and grief. To cheer their drooping spirits was the object that engaged his chief concern. His own sufferings were forgotten in the endeavour to soothe and comfort them. But, what could afford them consolation in the prospect of losing the presence of such a master, and the protection of such a friend? Was it enough to show the uselessness and unreasonableness of uncontrolled grief? Was it enough to say that he loved them still, and nothing short of positive necessity could have induced him to leave them? No! their hearts ached with the thought of losing the Counsellor in all their difficulties, the Comforter in
all their troubles, and neither arguments nor assurances could fill up the aching void.
Far more solid and more satisfying was the consolation he had to propose "I go, but my place will be filled, my presence will be supplied, by another." "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you ANOTHER Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the SPIRIT OF TRUTH." This was the chord of consolation our Lord so sweetly touched: upon this one string, the coming of the Comforter, he discoursed most eloquent music. "The Comforter shall abide with you for ever. He shall dwell with you, and be in you. He shall teach, and testify, and bring to remembrance ;† and as ye have much to learn concerning me and my kingdom, which at this time ye are unable to receive, when HE THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH is come, He will guide you into all the truth: not that he shall give any new revelation distinct from, or independent of, that which you have already heard from my lips, and received from the Word of God. His teaching will be essentially my teaching, for He shall not speak of HIMSELF, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. My person, my grace, my mercy, my love, and my glorious salvation, will be the constant theme of his instructions. He shall glorify me for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. Yes, I say He shall receive of mine, for all that the Father hath are mine,-all the attributes of Godhead are mine in union with the Father,—and when he makes known the Father's love, and mercy, and grace, to a guilty world, he will in effect make known mine. Therefore said I unto you, He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you."||
Such, my brethren, being the very important part the
* John xiv. 16, 17. † John xiv. 26; xv. 26. ‡ Appendix, A. John xvi. 12—15.
Comforter fulfils in the economy of man's salvation, it becomes indispensably necessary for us to know "who, or what, this Comforter is." And I am persuaded that this portion of Scripture, duly considered, will remove the opinion, (if such an erroneous opinion has been entertained), that the subject which is to be brought under notice this evening is nothing more than an abstruse question of speculative theology, neither important in itself, nor essential to the everlasting welfare of mankind.
"The Deity, Personality, and Operations of the Holy Ghost," is a subject in itself of the utmost importance for, if the Holy Ghost be GOD, He is the object of our love and reverence, of our adoration and worship, of our gratitude and praise. And it is likewise essential to our everlasting welfare, inasmuch as our Saviour has declared the operations of the Comforter to be necessary to guide us into that truth, which alone can save and sanctify the soul. For the blessing our Lord promised, and the Comforter he announced, were not limited to the individuals whom he then addressed: it was a blessing which should abide with his Church until the end of the world; a Comforter whose operations should extend even to the extremities of the earth. "He shall abide with you for ever."* "He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment."+
Did I not sincerely believe that a sound faith in the Deity and Personality of the Holy Ghost, and a genuine experience of His operations on the heart, are indispensably necessary to salvation, I could not have the confidence to take up so much of your time this evening; but being deeply persuaded of the vital importance of the subject, I venture (in dependence upon the promised aid of the Spirit of God himself) to claim your most serious attention
* John xiv. 16.
↑ John xvi 8.
while, as a preliminary step, I state the case at issue between ourselves and that class of persons designated Unitarians.
The TRINITARIAN FAITH concerning the Holy Ghost is given in our fifth article with so much plainness, so much precision, so much Scriptural fidelity, that it would be difficult to find words, conveying a more clear or comprehensive statement. The first article having laid down the fundamental truth of the UNITY IN TRINITY-"There is but one living and true God;...... and in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY GHOST"-the fifth proceeds with reference to the subject before us, "THE HOLY GHOST, PROCEEDING FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON, IS OF ONE SUBSTANCE, MAJESTY, AND GLORY, WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON, VERY AND ETERNAL GOD." Here we openly and honestly declare our belief in the DEITY of the Holy Ghost-" He is very and eternal God:" and we as openly and honestly declare our belief in his PERSONALITY-" proceeding from the Father and the Son"-distinct in person, but undivided in substance, -"of one substance, majesty and glory."
Such is our faith. We believe the Holy Ghost to be GOD, a DIVINE PERSON, one of the subsistents in the incomprehensible and ever-blessed Trinity, in every respect equal to the Father and to the Son; "for that which we believe of the glory of the Father, the same we believe of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, without any difference or inequality."* This is the doctrine our Prayer Book teaches; and this doctrine we are prepared to defend by unanswerable arguments from the Holy Scriptures.
* Communion Service.-Preface for Trinity Sunday.
On this, as on most other points, UNITARIANS are utterly at variance with us; but from the absence of any thing admitted to be an authorized and accredited formulary, it is not easy to state with confidence the precise nature of their faith. A process, however, by which we may arrive at something like correctness, is suggested by that enactment of the Mosaic law-" In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."* If the testimony of two or three of their theologians respecting the Holy Ghost agrees, the conclusion will not have been rashly formed, that such are the sentiments of Unitarians generally.
The first testimony I shall adduce is that of Dr. Priestley. He writes" There is very little in the Scriptures that could give any idea of the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit, besides the figurative language in which our Lord speaks of the Advocate, or Comforter, as we render it, (πаρакληтos) that was to succeed him with the Apostles after his ascension. But our Lord's language is upon many occasions highly figurative; and it is the less extraordinary, that the figure called personification should be made use of by him here, as the peculiar presence of the Spirit of God, which was to be evidenced by the power of working miracles, was to succeed in the place of a real person, viz. himself; and to be to them what he himself had been, viz. their Advocate, Comforter, and Guide. That the Apostles did not understand our Lord as speaking of a real person, at least afterwards when they reflected on his meaning, and saw the fulfilment of his promise, is evident from their never adopting the same language, but speaking of the Spirit as of divine power only."+
* Deut. xix. 15; 2 Cor. xiii. 1.
+ An History of the Corruptions of Christianity, by Joseph Priestley, LL.D. F.R.S. Vol. I. sec. vii. p. 38.