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the ascension of ibeir master, endowed with supernatural pow. ers. By these powers, sometimes denominated the spirit of God, sometimes the spirit of Christ, sometimes the holy spirit, they were qualified for the work to which they were appointed, that of converting the world to the christian failh.
In express allusion to the effusion of miraculous powers thus to take place afterward on the day of Pentecost, the Evangelist John had said, (in explanation of a declaration of our Saviour,) that "he spake it of the spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for,” adds he, “the holy ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John vii. 39.) i.e. those miraculous powers, which were exercised by the apostles at the time when he wrote, were not yet in existence, bad not yet been bestowed, were not to be bestowed, till after the as. cension of their master. So also, when the christians whom Paul found at Ephesus, in answer to his question, whether they had yet received the holy ghost, replied, that they “ had not even heard, that there was a holy ghost;" their meaning was, that they had not heard of the existence of those miraculous powers; for it is added, “ when Paul laid his hands upon them, the holy ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues.'
4. Another use of spirit and holy spirit, too important and of too frequent occurrence to be omitted, is that by which they express tbe moral influence employed by God in any way, for the purpose of producing in men holiness and virtue; or any of the effects of that influence, i. e. the disposition, temper, and babits thus produced. Thus, when Stephen says to the Jews, (Acts vii. 51.) “Ye do always resist the holy ghost, as your fathers did, so do ye;"'he must mean, by the holy ghost, all those means, which God employed in present and preceding dispensations to effect the great ends of his moral governinent. All these they had resisted, and found means to prevent their effects and defeat their design.
In the next preceding chapter also, (Acts vi. 3, 5.) when the qualifications for the office of deacons are mentioned, viz. : “that they be full of the holy ghost and wisdom;" or, as it is without the article, "a holy spirit and wisdom,” there seems good reason for supposing, when we consider the design of the office, that a moral quality, holiness, was meant, and not a spiritual gift: As also, whep it is said of Stephen, after bis election to the office, that he was “full of faith, and a holy spirit;" —And when on another occassion, the same language was applied to Barnabas, (Acts xi. 24.) “He was a good inan, full of the holy spirit and of faith.” This interpretation however, as to the last cases, is not to be urged with entire confidence; since, with respect to these persons, appointed to the office of deacon, one Nero Series-vol. I.
of them, we are afterward expressly told, and another of them, we have reason from the circumstances of the history to be. lieve, were endowed with miraculous powers. The words may therefore here, as in other cases, have been used to express spiritual gifts, and not a moral quality.
Several other uses of the words spirit, spirit of God, holy spirit, &c. having no connexion with the design of this essay, may be passed without notice.
One other use of them, however, by christians in general, probably believed to be their most common use, requires to be distinctly considered.
For although some one of the meanings already mentioned will furnish, as all must admit, a satisfactory explanation of most of the texts in which either of the terms in question occur; there are some to which, in the minds of many, neither of them is applicable. Personal characteristics, it is thought, are em. ployed by the sacred writers in such a manner, as is consistent only with the notion of a distinct Agent or Being, of an exalted character, to which they belong, and that the several terms we are considering, are used as the name of that Agent.
The spirit, or holy spirit, it is alleged, is described as possessing the attributes, and performing the functions of a person. It is described as understanding, willing, and acting. (1 Cor. ii. 11, &c.) “It knoweth all things, searcheth even the deep things of God, and revealeth them to inen." It is represented as “speaking to men," pleading with them, and interceding for them; as bearing testimony to the Saviour, reproving, teach. ing, bringing to remembrance, and being grieved with men for their perverseness, in neglecting its aids and rejecting its guid
(Acts xxviii. 25. Rom. viii. 26. John xiv. sv. xvi. Eph. iv. 30.)
Now in order to satisfy ourselves whether real personality be necessarily implied in the use of such language, or not, it is to our purpose to examine other instances of the application of personal attributes by the sacred writers, where there can be no pretence, that a distinct person is intended. Both the Old and New Testament abound in examples of bold personification. Let us examine a few of them, in order to ascertain how near a resemblance they bear to the one in question.
“This stone,” said Joshua to the Israelites, when be had confirmed the covenant with them in the land of Canaan, (Joshua xxiv, 26, 27.) “ this stone shall be a witness unto us, for it hath heard all the words of the Lord, which he spake to us.” In this instance, though a personal character could hardly have been more clearly expressed, no mistake is ever made as to the meaning of the passage. No reader ever imagines that
stone to have been an intelligent agent, as the words so clearly imply, literally listening to the ratification of the covenant, for the purpose of attesting the fact to future ages.
In some of the first chapters of Proverbs, (Ch. i. ii. iii. iv. viii. ix.) we have a remarkable instance of the personification of wisdom. Yet, though all the attributes of person seem to be applied, not in single epithets only, but in continued discourse, in lively description, in variety of action, we can have no doubt that a figurative and not a real person is intended. We are perfectly satisfied that a mere allegorical person, and not a real being or agent is meant, when she is declared to have “ builded her house, furnished her table, mingled her wine, sent forth her maidens to invite her guests; and from the high places, from the gates, the entrance of the city, to utter her voice, proclaim her warnings, offer her instructions, and pronounce her benedictions on those who will hear, and her reproofs against those who reject, her offers and despise her counsels."
What life and vigour does Paul infuse into his Epistles, by his bold personification of sin and death! (Rom. v. 14, 17. vi. 12, 14, 17, 23. 1 Cor. xv. 26, 55–57.) representing them as having power, exercising dominion, reigning over men, and being enemies; yet without ever misleading the judgment of the reader into the apprehension that he is describing real persons.
How beautiful, again, is St. Paul's picture of charity drawn in the 13th chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians ! Yet, though it presents us throughout with the attributes of a person, instead of the characteristics of a virtue, no one is led into a mistake; or has a doubt whether or not a real person
These instances, it seems to me, are sufficiently parallel to those, in which the personality of the holy spirit is supposed to be expressed, to furnish a satisfactory explanation of, at least, the most of them; since they shew, that a similar mode of interpretation is required, and is perfectly satisfactory, when applied to the language used by the same writers on other subjects.
But there is one passage, which may be thought to require a more distinct consideration, because more stress is laid on it than on any other single passage, as a proof of the personality of the spirit ; and because the personal characteristics in it are supposed to be more difficult to explain on any other ground, but that of a literal personality, than those expressed on any other occasion. I refer to our Saviour's discourse to his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion, contained in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of John.
In order to console them on that occasion, and prepare them for the loss they were so soon to sustain, he promised to send them "another comforter to abide with them for ever.” This comforter, he tells them, is the spirit of truth, who was to guide them into all truth. It is the holy ghost, whom the Father," said be, “will send in my name; he will teach you all things, and will bring all things to your remembrance. He will not speak of binself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that will he speak, and he will shew you things to come. He will glorify me, for be will receive of nine, and shew it unto you. Him I will send unto you, and when he is come, he will reprove tbe world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment."
Now the meaning of these passages is to be ascertained by attending to the three following things : viz.
1. By comparing the language of our Saviour in this discourse with that, which was used by him on other occasions, when evidently speaking of the same thing.
2. By observing how this promise was actually fulfilled, as related in the subsequent history.
3. And then, by placing this in comparison with other acknowledged instances of personification io be found in the sacred writings, so as to see whether the difference be such, that while one is confessed to be a figurative person only, the other cannot be so.
1. In the first place then, the several terms used by our Saviour on this occasion, viz. the comforter, the spirit of truth, and the holy ghost, or holy spirit, are manifestly used to mean one and the same thing; and there is nothing to lead us to the supposition, that holy spirit, thus used as synonymous to comforter, is used in any new or uncommon sense. Besides, when our Saviour said, “I will pray the Father, and he will give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever ;" can we have any doubt that he meant the same thing, as when he said to them after his resurrection, according to the representation of another evangelist, (Matt. xxviii. 20.) Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world ?” So also, what. ever was meant by the spirit of truth to guide them into all truth, and the holy spirit 10 teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance ; can there be any question whether the same were not also meant, when on another occa. sion he expressed the guidance and aid they should enjoy, in executing the commission which they were to receive, by saying, (Luke xxi. 15.) “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist.” (Matt. x. 20.) “ It shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the spirit
of your Father, that speaketh in you.” The promise also, wbich we find in immediate connexion with that of the coinforter, as it seems to be but a repetition of the same promise in other words, may be considered as helping us to understand the meaning of the other. “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you." In wbat sense was he to come to them, and, as expressed on the other occasion, to be with them always, even to the end of the world ? Not personally, but by that being, person, power, influence, or what ever it be, which bad just been spoken of as the Comforter, the spirit, the spirit of the Father, the spirit of Christ, the spirit of truth, the holy spirit.
2. Let us now, in the second place, look into the subsequent history, and see what account we can find of the manner, in which these promises were actually fulfilled. No interpretation of a promise can be more fair or satisfactory than that, which is drawn from its fulfilment. It is the interpretation of bim who made it, and must be supposed more competent than any other to decide in wbat sense it was meant to be understood.
A few days after our Saviour's ascension, his disciples were assembled together at Jerusalem by the express injunction of their master, when, alluding to his former promise, he said to them, (Luke xxiv. 49.) “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you ; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” Tbey, tarried at Jerusalem accordingly until the day of Pentecost, when the promise was fulfilled; not as a literal interpretation of the promises, on which they relied, might have led them to expect, by the appearance of a great personage to live among them, to be their leader, and to supply the place of their ascended Lord; nor yet by his 'personal return to them ; but by the gift of extraordinary powers, by which they were enabled to perform miracles, to speak in other tongues, were enlightened with a knowledge of the whole scheme of the Gospel, were enabled to preach it with undaunted courage, and to support la. bours, dangers, and sufferings, in propagating it, with inflexible firmness and resolution.
No other account of the fulfilment of those promises is given. No intimation do we find that any other was expected. And we meet with frequent allusion to this in the subsequent history and the Epistles. The persons thus endued with miraculous powers, were said to be filled with the holy ghost, to be baptized with the holy ghost. The spirit was said to be poured out upon them. (Acts ix.) And the miracles which they performed in the exercise of these powers are sometimes mentioned as dope by Christ, sometimes by God, sometimes