« EdellinenJatka »
miracles, said to them, (Matt. xii. 28.) “If I cast out demons by the spirit of God, then is the kingdom of God come unto you.” By another Evangelist, (Luke xi. 20.) he is represented, on the same occasion, as saying, “ If I with the finger of God cast out demons, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” The two forms of expression then, spirit of God and finger of God, were understood by the Evangelists to mean the same thing. What that meaning was, we learn from our Saviour, when he said on another occasion, (John xiv. 10.) “The Father that dwelleth in me, he doth the works." We have it confirmed also by Peter, in his speech on the day of Pentecost. (Acts ii. 22.) “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and signs, and wonders, which God did by him.” The spirit of God then, and the finger of God, were the power of God, or God himself, the Father, dwelling in Jesus Christ.
Similar examples of the use of the spirit of God for the power of God, might be multiplied. One more only shall be mentioned. (2 Cor. iii. 3.) “Ye are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." The allusion in this text is to the two tables received by Moses on Mount Sinai, on which were written the ten comroandments. Now turning to the account of this transaction in Exodus and Deuteronomy, (Ex. xxxi. 18, Deut. ix. 10.) we find them there declared to be written with the finger of God. The Apostle therefore probably meant the same thing, when he said, written by the spirit of God. Each was intended to express an effect produced supernaturally, by the power of God bimself.
3. The terms under consideration are used, again, sometimes to express a single gift or endowment, such as, poner, wisdom, courage, or skill in some art, --whether properly miraculous, or only possessed in an extraordinary degree, so as to qualify the person for some special office or service. Thus is the bodily strength of Sampson spoken of, and the impulse by w bich be exerted it ;-the valour and intrepidity of Othniel, of Jephtha, and of Gideon, in conducting the armies of their country, and delivering it from the power of its enemies. In each instance it is said, the spirit of the Lord, came upon bim. (Judges xiv. 5, 6. ii. 10. xi. 29. vi. 84.)
A similar mode of expression is applied to Moses and Joshua in reference to the wisdom and skill, with which they conducted the nation, administered its affairs, and settled it in the promised land. Particularly, when the seventy elders were appointed to relieve Moses from a part of the burden of government, of which he complained, as being greater than be could bear. (Num. xi. 16, 17.) “ The Lord said unto Moses, I will take of the spirit, which is upon thee, and will put it upon them.” There can be no doubt, I ibink, what is here meant. It was not, that something was literally to be taken from Moses on that occasion, and given to the elders who were to be his assistants : nor that an exalted person or being was to depart from him, and reside in them. They were to be qualified for the office to which they were to be appointed, and fitted for its duties, by possessing talents resembling his; by being endowed, as he was, with eminent wisdom, integrity, meekness, and impartiality.
Another instance of a similar application of the phrase spirit of God, occurs in the account we have of the designation of persons to construct the tabernacle and its surniture. It is applied to that ingenuity and mechanical skill, by which Bezaleel and Aholiab were qualified to superintend the work, and to understand all the directions, and to execute the commands, wbich Moses had received. It was said, (Ex. xxxi. 1, 7.) " That they were filled with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, in cutting of stone, in carving of wood, in the work of the engraver, the weaver, and the embroiderer.” Expressions of similar import are applied also to all those, whom they were directed to teach the skill which they possessed in these arts, and to employ as assistants in executing the work. (Ex. xxxvi. 1, 2.)
In the writings of the prophets, the expressions continually occur of "giving, sending, pouring out the spirit of God," not in such a manner as to lead to the thought, that a person is intended; but sometimes to express the grant of a gift, power, privilege, or blessing, and sometimes a disposition produced, temper imparled, or change of moral character.
A similar application of the language and terms in question runs through ihe New Testament. They are used to express the power, by which our Saviour performed miracles in proof of his divine mission; and the powers and gifts also, which were imparted to bis Apostles after his ascension, by which they were qualified to go forth into the world, with knowledge and courage to execute their commission, and with supernatural powers to support their claims as divine messengers; to prove (John xvii. 18.) that they were sent into the world by Christ, as he was sení into the world by the Father.
What was meant by the promise of the Comforter ; (John xvi. 7.) the holy ghost with which they were to be baptized; (Acis i. 5.) they learned, when they found themselves, after
the ascension of their master, endowed with supernatural pow
By these powers, sometimes denominated the spirit of God, sometimes the spirit of Christ, soinetimes the holy spirit, they were qualified for the work to which they were appointed, that of converting the world to the christian faith.
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 ghos' was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John vii. 39.) i.e. those miraculous powers, wbich 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 cbristians wbom' Paul found at Ephesus, in answer to his question, whether they had yet received the holy ghost, replied, that they “ bad not even beard, 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 the 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 habits thus produced. Thus, when Stephen says to ihe 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 government. 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 deacous are mentioned, viz. : “that they be full of the holy ghost and wisdom;" or, as it is without the article, “a boly 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, when it is said of Stephen, after his 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 man, full of ihe 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 New Series Vol. I.
of them, we are afterward expressly told, and another of them, we bave reason from the circumstances of the history to believe, were endowed with miraculous powers. The words may therefore here, as in other cases, have been used to express spiritual gifts, and not a inoral 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 employed 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 terins 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. xv. 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 he had confirmed the covenant with them in the land of Canaan, (Josbua xxiv, 26, 27.) “this stone shall be a witness unto us, for il 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 bear, 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! (Roin. v. 14, 17. vi. 12, 14, 17, 23. 1 Cor. xv. 26, 55--57.) representing them as haring power, exercising dominion, reiguing 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 Episile 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 bas a doubt whether or not a real person be meant.
These instances, it seems to me, are sufficiently parallel to those, in wbich 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.