Page images
PDF
EPUB

ejaculation or a hymn seems the natural expression of the disciple's heart, and is not inconsistent with the Scripture teachings as to the proper Object of supreme worship.

And now one word as to the practical bearing of this subject. I know not how it may be with others, but for myself I must say that the unity of God in substance and in person seems to me, as Channing so powerfully maintains, most favorable to piety. The indistinct and confused impression of the Divine Being, left on my mind by Mr. Bickersteth's Treatise, I cannot but feel to be a painful contrast to the simple teaching of the Gospel, and tending to lead us on the one hand so to think of God as Three, as not to be able to realize that He is One, and on the other hand, so to think of Him as One, as not to be able to realize that He is Three. When we ask our Trinitarian brethren on what principle they make their selection when they worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit separately, the answer is, we are guided by the nature of our petitions. But for myself, since the Father is our Redeemer through Christ, and our Sanctifier through the Holy Spirit, I know not how we can find ourselves in any circumstances, in which it is not most fitting that we should make our cry to Him, and call upon His hallowed name. In proof that I do not overstate the perplexity in which the Trinitarian Christian may find himself, I will conclude this branch of my subject with an extract from Dr. Newman's History of the Arians : “To say that in the unity of the Godhead there are when I know not what I mean by three persons, is to say, 'I know not what.' Is this to satisfy the thoughts of perplexed inquirers ?' Will it satisfy my own ? Besides, it is certain men do attach ideas to these words. Yet, if we are unable to conceive a sense of the word person such as to be more than a mere character, yet less than an individual being;' and if, nevertheless, the true notion lies between these extremes, either one of which is heresy, then it is past dispute, that in so far as we form any idea of the divine persons at all, we form an heretical one. It is alarming to trace this thought in its bearings on devotion. 'Oh! holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity! three persons and one God! When my mind has gone forth to these several objects of worship in its most intense exercises, have I not regarded them as Beings? or, if I have forced myself to the reflection that God is but one, have I not immediately found myself entangled with the opposite conception of three several aspects of this One ? Alas! that my most ardent devotion should have an heretical basis! I cannot, then, rest in the supposition that the proper idea of a divine person attainable. My thoughts will busy themselves with the object of my worship: and oftentimes then most, when devotion is most alive. It is agonizing to think that that is the time when I am most an heretic; if heresy be that foul and impious thing, I have represented it, and now much more must represent it. Great God! most impious when I would be most devout !"'*

three persons,

* Barling's Review of Trinitarianism, pp. 120, 121.

is un

CHAPTER V.

INQUIRY INTO THE EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF THE

DOCTRINE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON,
AND ENTITLED TO WORSHIP IN PARITY WITH

THE FATHER.

“ Thou knowest how much I am afraid of speaking one word which may be construed into a neglect of Thy blessed Spirit, from whom I hope I am daily receiving happy influences of light and strength.”— Watts. The doctrine of the Spirit is involved in the Fatherhood of God. If there be no union and communication between our Heavenly Father's spirit and ours, the title Father, that name of infinite love, is a dead letter. Most precious, therefore, to the Christian is the promise of the Holy Spirit. Without such divine help, how could we become children of God in character, or fit for the communion of the blessed in Heaven?

In the Scriptures the term Holy Spirit is applied both to God and His spiritual gifts or influence. In this twofold use of the phrase Mr. Bickersteth and I are agreed. The difference between us is this, that he believes there is proof in the Old and New Testaments of a separate personal God the Spirit, whereas it seems to me, that where the Holy Spirit is not an influence or gift, it is another name for the Father Himself in communication with the spirits of men, or in His operations in the world.

Four passages are alleged as evidence of a personal distinction between the Father and the Holy Spirit as God. First, at Christ's baptism, the descending Spirit, it is said, was different both from the approving Father and the baptized Saviour. But the dovelike appearance was only an emblem, and surely that which it represented had its source in Him from whom the voice proceeded, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Peter speaks of Jesus as “a man'approved of God by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him.” In one part of the New Testament it is written that the Holy Spirit was given to Christ without measure ; in another, that the Father dwelt in him. In Acts x. 38, we read that “ God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil;” in St. John's gospel it is written again and again that the miracles of Jesus were wrought by the Father—" The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” Further, we are taught by our Lord himself that our Heavenly Father will grant His Spirit to them that ask Him. And when the apostles were waiting for the advent of the Spirit after the ascension, they are described as waiting, not for God the Holy Ghost, but for the promise of the Father.

What has been said of the dove-like emblem is applicable also to the cloven tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost. No one will contend that they were actually the third person of the Trinity; they were the symbol of a divine process in the souls of the disciples, and were not less appropriate, if the Father

were giving His Holy Spirit to them that asked Him than they would have been if the influence proceeded from the Holy Ghost as God.

With regard to the next argument, the baptismal commission, it is, as I have already stated, a proof that the Holy Spirit has an essential part in Christianity, but the question of personality is left open altogether. And the benediction in 2 Cor. xiii. 14, seems to exclude the idea of the Spirit's personality, for we cannot say the communion or fellowship of a person ; the preposition with is always used in such instances; but we read of the communion of the body and of the blood of Christ. And the inquiry may well suggest itself whether if the Spirit were a person in the Godhead his name would be so generally omitted in the Apostolic benedictions, in which God the Father and Jesus Christ are frequently associated ?

In the next passage in which Mr. Bickersteth thinks the sanctifying Spirit is represented as a distinct person, the apostle's words are, “ Through sanctification of the Spirit,” (1 Pet. i. 2), and, I believe, have their true explanation in Mr. Jowett's comment on them in 2 Thes. ii. 13, where also they

He says, “The phrase έν αγιασμό Πνεύματος και πίστει αληθείας expresses not the instrument by which God works, but the state into which He transformis those whom He chooses ;” but otherwise, why should not the sanctification of the Spirit be by the Spirit of the Father, just as elsewhere God is said to accomplish His purpose by His will, or by His hand?

The last evidence adduced under this head is the benediction in the Book of Revelation, in which are

occur.

« PreviousContinue »