By the Reverend Justus Newton Brown
Professor William Newton Clarke showed himself a discerning teacher of theology when he said: “The Spirit of truth is still guiding the church into the truth, and genuine progress in apprehension of truth respecting Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to be expected yet.” I am not setting myself up as a prophet of a new teaching. Such a prophet there has been, and I am merely one of those who heard him. I refer to Professor John Morgan of Oberlin, a profound thinker and an eminent scholar, the lifelong associate and intimate friend of President Charles G. Finney.
It seemed to Professor Morgan that he had received some light from the Bible upon the Trinity which had not come into the possession of the church; and the years that have passed since he was my teacher have confirmed me in the opinion which I formed then, that he was right. It is a pity that he did not put his views into writing. I wrote them out from hearing them in his classes. After several years, I rewrote them more at length and then went over them with Professor Morgan himself, that he might assure me, as he did, that I had not misunderstood him. These views were original with him; though, after formulating them, he found them in the writings of Twesten, whom Dr. Schaff characterized as “perhaps the clearest thinker and writer among all the systematic divines of Germany.” But, so far as I am aware, they have not been set forth by any American writer.
Of course Professor Morgan is not responsible for anything in the presentation which follows, except its underlying principles. These I state in my own way, and I fully believe them. I think that they will remove speculative difficulties which, to some minds, have reduced what has been supposed to be the doctrine of the Trinity to a metaphysical puzzle; and that they will throw fresh light upon many passages of Scripture, and particularly upon the relations of Christ and the Holy Spirit to our experience.
II. Modern Statements Of The Doctrine
Among the attempts made in our own time to summarize the Scripture teaching in regard to the Trinity, or Triunity, of God, I will mention three. The first was made more than a score of years ago, by Joseph Cook.
1. The Standard Definition
Said Mr. Cook :—
“What is the definition of the Trinity?
“One. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one and only one God.
“Two. Each has a peculiarity incommunicable to the others.
“Three. Neither is God without the others.
“Four. Each, with the others, is God.
“That I suppose to be the standard definition.”
If we accept this as the standard definition, let us add the word “metaphysical.” Perhaps it is the standard metaphysical definition. It represents the Father by himself as not being God, but merely one of the constituents of the Godhead.
2. The Creed Of 1883
The second of the attempts referred to was made by the committee appointed on behalf of the National Congregational Council, which prepared the “Creed of 1883.” Here is what that creed says about the Trinity: —
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who is of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who is sent from the Father and Son, and who together with the Father and Son is worshiped and glorified.”
This statement points out some particulars wherein the Holy Spirit differs from the Father and the Son, and it does not deny that the Father by himself is God.
3. The Free Church Catechism
The third attempt at defining the Trinity was made by those who prepared the Catechism of the Free Churches of England, which was issued in January, 1899. This catechism contains the following questions and answers: —
“Question.—By what name has Jesus Christ taught us to call God?
“Answer.—Our Father in Heaven.
“Question.—What do we learn from this name of the Father?
“Answer.—We learn that God made us in his own image, that he cares for us by his wise providence, and that he loves us far better than any earthly parent can.
“Question.—What does Jesus say about himself?
“Answer.—That he is the Son of God, whom the Father in his great love sent into the world to be our Saviour from sin.
“Question.—How does Jesus Christ still carry on his work of salvation?
“Answer.—By the third person in the blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who was sent forth at Pentecost.
“Question.—What is the mystery of the blessed Trinity?
“Answer.—That the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, into whose name we are baptized, are one God.”
While this Free Church catechism does not go into the metaphysics of the doctrine, it does present a clear and beautiful statement of our relations to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This statement is the best of the three. But an examination of the Bible will show that Joseph Cook’s “standard definition” is not true, and will bring out some truth not contained in either of these statements; though a part of this truth Mr. Cook gives in the lecture which he intended as an expansion of his definition.
III. Who Is The Father?
Two conceptions are before us, and we must choose between them. One is that of a mere constituent of the Godhead, who is not God without two other constituents—the term “Father” pointing to the relation which this constituent sustains to the others, or at least to the second. If this be the true conception, it gives to a great deal of biblical language about God a metaphysical sense.
The other conception is that of God in the entirety of his nature, including within himself all the constituents of the Godhead. According to this conception the word “Father” is applied to God, not to designate the relation of one constituent in the divine nature to other constituents, but to suggest God’s character and the relation which he sustains to mankind—to suggest that he “made us in his own image, that he cares for us by his wise providence, and that he loves us far better than any earthly parent can.” These views of the significance of the word “Father” are mutually exclusive, unless it be employed sometimes for one reason and at other times for another reason. Moreover the conception which we form of God as Father will go far to determine our conception of the whole Trinity. What, then, is the biblical usage?
Father in the Old Testament.
Let us begin with the Old Testament. David called God a “father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows “(Ps. 68:5), and said: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Ps. 103:13). The Lord said of Solomon, “I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (2 Sam. 7:14). Isaiah wrote: “Thou art our father, though Abraham knoweth us not” (63:16). Through Jeremiah the Lord said to Israel: “Wilt thou not from this time cry Unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth” (3:4)? and, “I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn “(31:9). Malachi wrote: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us” (ii. 15)? It appears to be self-evident that in these passages “father” is used to point out God’s relation to men and to suggest his tenderness and love. No recondite metaphysical sense of the word was thought of. And these passages fairly represent the usage of the entire Old Testament.
Father in the New Testament
How is the word “Father,” as a name of God, used in the New Testament? It would be manifestly improper to attribute a new meaning to this word as we pass out of the Old Testament into the New, unless the new situation requires this. It is natural that the word shall be used here more frequently than in the Old Testament, because here God’s love is more fully revealed. But is the word employed in a new sense when Christ teaches his disciples to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven”? or when he says: “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such doth the Father seek to be his worshipers. God is a spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24)? or when Paul writes: “To us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him” (1 Cor. 8:6)? It is perfectly clear that, in these passages, “Father” does not designate a mere constituent of the Godhead, which is not God by itself, but that it means the Being we commonly call God.
The Father of Christ
Was this word employed in a new sense ontologically when Christ called God his Father? No doubt it had a larger, deeper meaning when thus uttered by Christ than when uttered by any one else. How much better Christ knew God! And God was his Father in a peculiar sense. But the question now raised is not about the relation of the Father to Christ. It is rather whether the Father of Christ was exactly the same being as the Father whom Christ spoke of in other relations. Christ made this clear by using the words “Father” and “God” interchangeably. He said that the Father sent him into the world, and that God sent him; that he came from the Father, and that he came from God; that lie alone knew the Father, and that he alone knew God. Furthermore, with nothing to suggest that the words were to be understood in a different ontological sense in the different statements, he called God his Father and the Father of the disciples. He said, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God” (John 20:17). If he meant to express in the clearest way possible that his God was identical with their God, and that his Father was identical with their Father, what language would have answered his purpose better than this?
Father in the Baptismal Formula
Again, when Christ commanded the disciples to baptize believers “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19), did he employ the name “Father” in a new and metaphysical sense? He gave no intimation of such a change of meaning. Did he not expect illiterate believers, and converts from heathenism, to be baptized into the name of the Father? But would he have them baptized into this name without knowing what it meant? Would he give to an ordinance designed for all believers a meaning which the common people would not understand? Imagine Paul and Silas preparing the Philippian jailer for baptism by explaining that the word “Father” in the baptismal formula did not mean God, but merely one of the constituents of the Godhead!
The Divine Three in Other Passages
Furthermore, if the word “Father” here designates a constituent of the Deity, we shall expect to find the word used in the same sense in the other passages where the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are spoken of together. But the fact is that, among all the passages where these three are thus spoken of, this (Matt, 28:19) is the only one where the first of them is called Father without any other designation. In several of these passages he is called both God and Father, but in most of them he is simply called God.
It is clear, then, that neither the Old Testament nor the New makes any ontological distinction between Father and God. Instead of representing the “Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” as “one and only one God,” and neither as being “God without the others,” the Bible everywhere sets forth the Father by himself as including the Godhead in its entirety. And were it not for what metaphysical systems have read into the Bible through the unbiblical sense which they have foisted upon this word, we should never have thought of Father as meaning anything less than God in the completeness of his nature. God is not blind Force, nor “the animating but impersonal Soul of the earth and the heavens,” nor an Absolute Being having no relation to mankind, nor a mere Judge and King, but an infinitely powerful and wise and loving Father.
IV. Who Is The Son Of God?
Is the Son of God one of the constituents of the Godhead, one of the eternal distinctions within the Deity— exactly this and nothing more? Or is he the God-man, the incarnate Saviour, Jesus Christ? These two conceptions of the Son of God are distinct and mutually exclusive.
Those who regard the Father as the first constituent in the Godhead naturally think of the Son as the second constituent, for “Father “and “Son” are correlative terms. The theory that the Father is a mere constituent of Deity, and the theory that the Son is such a constituent, would seem to stand or fall together. But this theory respecting the Father falls, as we have seen, when tested by the current usage of the Scriptures. There is, therefore, a very strong probability that the Son of God is not a mere constituent of the Godhead.
The Son of God is Jesus Christ
There are many passages in the New Testament in which the Divine Three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit— are mentioned together. In these passages the second of the three is spoken of in a variety of ways, as Christ, or Jesus Christ, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Son of God. In only two instances is he called the Son, with no further designation. One of these is that already mentioned, wherein the disciples were commanded to baptize “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). But it is plain that Son here means Jesus Christ, for believers were baptized into his name, and not into the name of the second constituent of the divine nature. The believers whom Paul found at Ephesus, he baptized “into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). The same apostle spoke of the Christians at Rome as those “who were baptized into Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:3), and of the Christians at Colossę as “having been buried with him in baptism” (Col. 2:12).
The only other passage in the New Testament where the word ‘Son” is used alone to designate one of the Divine Three, is that in which Christ said: “Of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). Unless Christ here spoke of himself as the Son, he declared that one of the constituents of the divine nature is ignorant of the time when a certain future event shall occur. We cannot believe that he would attribute any ignorance to a constituent of the divine nature. So we must conclude that here also the Son was Christ.
Sometimes the declaration of the Second Psalm, “Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee,” is cited as though it referred to a constituent of Deity rather than to the God-man. But this is cited in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in Paul’s address recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the Acts, as a prophecy of the incarnation.
If the expression “Son of God” is ever used to designate a constituent of Deity rather than the God-man, we should expect to find it so used when reference is made to the preexistence of the Son. But an examination of passages referring to the Son’s preexistence shows that they refer to Christ. Thus in the first chapter of Hebrews, the “Son” through whom God “made the worlds” is the God-man who “made purification of sins.”
A very common name for the second of the Divine Three is the Son of God, a name which is contained in the New Testament about one hundred times. But in every instance the context shows that these words refer to the God man. Thus the more we consider the usage of the New Testament, the more proofs we discover that the Son of God is none other than Jesus Christ.
Why Christ is Called the Son of God
But this is an instance in which we may know not only the fact, but the reason for the fact. We have, in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, a statement of the reason why Jesus Christ was to be called the Son of God. It was made by the angel who foretold his birth. He said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also that which is to be born shall be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). In other words, this name was given to Christ because he was begotten of God and born of a woman. Thus the word “Son “applied to him is the true correlative of the word “Father” applied to God.
In this exposition we have not yet reached the doctrine of the Trinity. Before entering upon the discussion of this great doctrine, it seemed necessary to get out of the words “Father” and “Son” the misconceptions put into them by such unscriptural theories as that contained in what has been called the “standard definition” of the Trinity.
V. A Trinity In Man
“God created man in his own image.” So far as we are able to conceive of God, we must do this through our knowledge of ourselves. Accordingly, we may be aided in forming a conception of the divine Trinity, by first looking within ourselves and considering whether there be a trinity there.
The Self-revealing Constituent
That there is some sort of complexity in our nature is a fact of which we are distinctly conscious. When I turn my attention upon myself, I am at the same time the subject who thinks and the object thought of; the permanent, thinking I, and the ever-changing, thought-of me. Were it not for this complexity in man’s nature, the psalmist never could have said, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me” (Ps. 42.)? Without such a complexity, either real or apparent, there could have been no experience answering to the psalmist’s words. Now what is this soul, or self, within us that we think of and sometimes address—this second self that we make a companion of? Is it not a constituent of our nature through which we know ourselves? Is it not that through which we reach self-consciousness? Perhaps it is through the same constituent of our nature that we are likewise known to others. Let us call this the self-revealing constituent of our nature.
The Self-projecting Constituent
Besides this, we have another constituent, whereby we exert ourselves—we exercise power of some sort—upon what is outside of us. By it we project our energy, so that it goes forth upon our physical organism, causing the action of our muscles and controlling the movement of our bodies. By it we also act upon other minds. The manner of this action is but little understood, but of the fact there is no question. While certain orators and certain hypnotists possess in a remarkable degree this mysterious power of acting upon others’ minds, in some degree it belongs to all. We seem thus to have a constituent of our nature whereby we project our energy, we act upon what is beyond ourselves.
The Unfathomable Depth of Being
But these two constituents do not include our whole being. There is not only the self-revealing constituent, which lies, so to speak, upon the surface of our nature, and the other constituent whereby we project our energy beyond ourselves; but there is within us an unfathomable depth or substratum of being. As there is more in the sea than appears on its surface, so there is more in us than we are conscious of. For every recollection of which we are now conscious, or which we can now bring up into consciousness, we have a hundred recollections hidden away in the depth of being below consciousness, and waiting to be brought up into consciousness by future suggestions. We have likewise within us latent powers and dispositions, which are no less real because they are shut off from our present consciousness. They may at any time come up into consciousness and exert themselves there.
A Real Trinity
Thus we discover within ourselves a real trinity, whose constituents are: that wherein we have the capacity of self-revelation, that whereby we project our energy beyond ourselves, and the unfathomable substratum of our being. By these constituents of our nature I do not mean three mere faculties, as the intellect, sensibility, and will. The several faculties are only so many distinct and regular modes of the action of the self-conscious ego; but between the thought-object within, whereby we know ourselves, and the unfathomable substratum of our being, there is a line of cleavage which goes deeper. This points to something more than a different mode of activity. It involves a complexity of the nature itself. There is, therefore, in man a real trinity.
VI. The Three Constituents Of The Godhead
Trinity in Unity
Unity and Trinity are parallel truths; neither must be held in terms which contradict the other. There are few doctrines, if any, upon which the Old Testament puts greater emphasis than upon that of the Unity of God. The keynote of the earlier Scriptures was sounded in the words: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). It is clear that, if God is one as man is one, there cannot be in God three constituents so related to each other that one commands and another obeys; or so related that they enter into a covenant with each other, as three men might do. If there were three intellects or three wills in the Deity, it would make no difference what we should call them, we should have three Gods. But inasmuch as I, who am one being, have in my nature three constituents, there is nothing unreasonable in supposing that there are likewise three constituents in the divine nature. Indeed, the fact that I am in God’s image leads me to believe that he possesses, in their strength and perfection, three constituents corresponding to those which, in their weakness and imperfection, I have discovered in myself.
The Logos, or Self-revealing Constituent
We read in John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1). Of the Word, or Logos, as here spoken of, Dr. H. A. W. Meyer, the commentator, says: “Under the conception of a personal subsistence, we must understand nothing else than the self-revelation of the divine essence, before all time immanent in God.” In accordance with this usage, we might call that wherein we have the capacity of self-revelation, as described in the last chapter, the human logos. Now we are told by John that there is likewise a Logos in God.
Furthermore, in declaring that the Logos was with God, John used a preposition (πρός, “with”) which requires that the Logos shall be conceived of as turned toward God, just as the constituent of our nature whereby we know ourselves seems turned toward us—the thought-object turned toward the thinking subject,—or just as a mirror is turned toward one who sees his face therein.
Again, when John said that the Logos was with God, he used the article before the word “God” in both sentences, showing that he included by this word the entire Godhead. But when he said that the Logos was God, he omitted the article before the word “God,” showing that he did not regard the Logos as identical with the entire Godhead. In this way John represented the Logos as merely a constituent of the Godhead.
In the next place John declared that, through this self-revealing constituent of the Godhead, all things were made; that in him was life, which was the light of men; that be was in the world, and the world knew him not. Perhaps the work of creation, so far as it was a work of God’s self-revelation—so far as the divine thought was revealed in it,—could be accomplished only through the self-revealing constituent of the Godhead. And perhaps the life of God could be manifested only through the same constituent of his nature.
The other statement, that the Logos was in the world, seems to mean that God not only manifested himself through the Logos in the act of creation, but that he continued the manifestation of himself through the Logos as immanent in nature.
Thus the Bible seems to establish the fact that there is a complexity of some sort in God’s nature, of which one constituent, the Logos, corresponds with the thought-object in us—with that through which we reach self-consciousness.
The Spirit, or Self-projecting Constituent
Furthermore, what we found true of that constituent of our being whereby we project our energy beyond ourselves, seems to correspond with what is said in the Bible of the Spirit of God. The word “spirit,” or “breath,” itself suggests the going forth of life or vital energy. The earliest account of the going forth of divine energy in the work of creation is in the words, “And the Spirit of God was brooding upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). The relation of the divine energy to the creation of the human soul is expressed thus: “The Lord breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). When God was about to send his Son into the world, the angel said to the Virgin Mary: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee” (Luke 1:35). Later it was said of Jesus that “God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). Paul declared that his preaching was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4). Thus throughout the Bible the Spirit is represented as that constituent of God’s nature whereby he projects his energy beyond himself, working upon and through the material universe and in the souls of men.
Now if the Father and the Spirit were both mere constituents of the Godhead and equal each to the other, as certain theories of the Trinity maintain, the Father could not send the Spirit as he does. He who sends is superior to him that is sent. But the Father, who includes in himself the entire Godhead, can employ one constituent of his nature, the Spirit, as he will.
The Unnamed Constituent
From what has now been said it appears that two constituents of the Trinity in God correspond with two constituents of the trinity in man. Is there a third constituent in the divine nature, corresponding with the deep, unfathomable substratum in man’s nature? If there be such a constituent in the Godhead, perhaps about all we can know of it, in the nature of the case, is that it exists. Or if it were possible for us to know much more of it, we are not at all sure that so practical a book as the Bible would bring us the knowledge. How meager was the knowledge of the Logos which was brought to men during the entire Old Testament period! With the light thrown back from the New Testament, we can find this doctrine in what Isaiah said of the angel of God’s presence who saved the people (Isa. 63:9), and in what Micah said of the One to come forth out of Bethlehem, “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). But the doctrine of the Logos was never clearly revealed until it was needed to explain the person of Christ. However, what was then said of the relation of the Logos to the Godhead implies the existence of another constituent of the Trinity, bearing the same relation to the divine Logos which the deep, unfathomable substratum in our nature bears to the logos in us. There was no need of going farther in describing the Godhead, because all our relations with God are either with the Father, or with those constituents which are revealed to us, the Logos and the Spirit. Yet it may be that God intended further to call attention to the un-revealed constituent of his nature by representing himself as surrounded with clouds and darkness.
This Theory Not Wholly New
It should be noted, in passing, that the view of the Spirit here presented has much in common with the old theory of the procession of the Spirit; and that the view of the Logos here presented bears some resemblance to the old theory of the eternal generation of the Son. But John never could have written, “In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was God.” Accordingly the confusion of thought and the seeming impossibility, which belonged to the old conception of the eternal generation of the Son, would be avoided by following the usage of the New Testament in regard to the words “Logos” and “Son”—by employing “Logos” to designate a mere constituent of the Godhead, and “Son “to designate the God-man.
Thus, interpreting the language of the Bible by what we know about our own nature, we have reached the conception of a threeness in God which is consistent with the divine Unity.
VII. The Trinity Of Salvation
The words “Trinity of Salvation” are here used to designate the Divine Three mentioned upon almost every page of the New Testament and there spoken of as those on whom we must depend for salvation. This is the only Trinity which the Bible makes prominent. It is not exactly the same as that considered in the last chapter. The common mistake of regarding this Divine Three as identical with the three constituents of the Godhead is one which leads to confusion of thought upon the whole subject.
The First in the Trinity of Salvation
The source of all that is done for the salvation of the human race is not in any one constituent of the divine nature, but in the entire Godhead—in him who is revealed in the Scriptures as the Father, or God. He is the Fountain of life and light and joy, and beside him there is no other. “For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things.” “He first loved us.” God does not love us because Christ came, but Christ came because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” “While we were yet sinners,” “he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” And he will “also with him freely give us all things.”
The Second in the Trinity of Salvation
“The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” The second in the Trinity of Salvation is the God-man, Jesus Christ, the Son and Revealer of God, the Light of the World, and our Saviour and Lord. The significance of Christ’s life and service and suffering and death was in the fact, that these expressed in time and under human conditions what is eternal and infinite in the heart of God.
This manifestation of God was made through a personality in some sense distinct from that of God. Christ spoke of God as though there were a distinction between God’s consciousness and his consciousness. He spoke of God’s will and his will as though they were not one will, but two wills in agreement. He said he obeyed God. He prayed to God. He was the object of God’s peculiar love. Indeed, such distinctness of personality belongs to the Son of God that, if he and the Father were merely two constituents of the Godhead, we should have two Gods. But the basis of the unique personality of Christ is in his divine-human nature. In him the Logos, or self-revealing constituent of God’s nature, entered into such union with a human soul that a new personality came into conscious being.
Christ dwelt among men as their brother, sympathizing with them in their sorrows; sharing their temptations and struggles; bearing with their selfishness and pride; loving them in spite of their sins; receiving them into companionship; and making them friends of God. Thus through Christ God came into a brotherly relation to mankind. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).
Christ likewise dwelt among men as their Saviour and Lord. He healed their sick and raised their dead. He claimed the obedience and love due to God alone. He forgave sins and shed his blood for their remission. He claimed power to give men eternal life. He said that “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to him. And Paul said that, because Christ “humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, … God highly exalted him, and gave him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil, 2:8–10). Accordingly the New Testament couples Christ’s name with that of God in its benedictions, doxologies, and prayers. Paul writes: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude says: “To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, before all time, and now, and forevermore “(Jude 25). And the angels in heaven are represented as saying: “Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13). We do well to worship Christ, for in doing so we worship the Father who sent him, who dwells in him, and who gives “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
The Third in the Trinity of Salvation.
But we should search the Scriptures in vain for a single passage in which the Holy Spirit is mentioned as Christ is, along with God, as the sender of a blessing or the receiver of worship. Paul wrote: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion [joint participation] of the Holy Spirit, be with you” (2 Cor. 13:14). While God and Christ are the senders of grace and love, Christians have joint-participation in the Holy Spirit. This passage illustrates the usage of the entire New Testament in its benedictions. And there is a similar difference between the language used in speaking of the Holy Spirit and that used in speaking of God and Christ in the prayers and doxologies of the New Testament. Paul wrote of his prayers: “I bow my knees unto the Father that he would grant you, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man” (Eph. 3:14–16). But nowhere in the Bible is there an account of a prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit. Nowhere is the Holy Spirit presented as an object of worship. We should search the Bible in vain for any such expressions as, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost”; or, “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”; or for any similar representation of worship paid to the Holy Spirit.
And yet the New Testament teaches the Divinity of the Holy Spirit and represents his work as essential to salvation. How are these things to be explained? On the common theory of the Trinity, which affirms the equality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no explanation can be given. But on the theory here presented the explanation is simple. The Holy Spirit, as we have seen, is pure Deity, and not Deity plus humanity, as Christ is. So he has no personality, as Christ has, distinct from the personality of God. But he is simply that constituent of the divine nature whereby God projects his energy beyond himself and produces effects in matter and mind. The Spirit is that whereby God exerts his power. He is really worshiped whenever God is worshiped, because he is included in God. But he is not worshiped separately, because he has no separate personality to become the object of worship. And yet the work of the Holy Spirit is essential to salvation, for all that God does in working directly upon the soul, he does through the Holy Spirit.
VIII. The Method Of The Holy Spirit’s Work
His Subjective Relation To Men
The method of the Spirit’s work is different from that of Christ’s work. The life of God as the Word, or Logos, is “the light of men,” the true “light, even the light which lighteth every man.” This light shines, though sometimes dimly, in all nations and upon all men. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the Logos. He is accordingly the revealer of God and “the Light of the world.” He stands thus in an objective relation to men. God is manifested in him. By knowing him men become acquainted with God. The truth which men need for their salvation is embodied in Jesus Christ. He is presented to them as a thought-object to be contemplated, and as a person to be known and received and trusted and obeyed and loved and adored.
On the other hand the relation of the Holy Spirit to men is subjective. Through the Spirit God does not reveal himself, but projects his energy. He dwells in men through the Spirit, so that they become his temple (1 Cor. 3:16 and 6:19). The Spirit is “the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20), a power which operates in and with the several faculties of the soul, but in such a way as not to interfere with their normal action. It does not impair our freedom. Indeed its presence is a fact of which we are not directly conscious. We know the power only through its effects. Such, briefly stated, is our relation to the Holy Spirit, through whom God exercises his power and exerts his influence in our souls.
A New Era in the Spirits Work
The Holy Spirit, like the Logos, has always been in the world, and the relations of men to the Holy Spirit have been the same from the beginning. Yet the revelation of the truth made in Jesus Christ enables the Spirit to do a work now which he could not do before Christ came. In the nature of the case the work done by the Spirit at any time depends upon the amount of truth which has been revealed. When the revelation made through the life and teaching and death and resurrection of Christ was completed, a vast amount of fresh material was ready for the Spirit’s use in dealing with human souls. Thus the way was prepared for him to accomplish so much as to mark a new era in the work of salvation. It was to this new era that Christ referred, when he said to his disciples, on the evening before his death: “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 bear witness of me. 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 shall guide you into all the truth. He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you” (John 15:26; 16:12–14).
The Spirit Continues the Work of Christ
Although the manner of the Holy Spirit’s working should be very different from the manner of Christ’s working, yet the work of the Holy Spirit was to be in effect a continuation of the work of Christ. So Christ said the Spirit should be sent in his name, and he even spoke of the Spirit’s coming and presence as his own coming and presence (John 14:26, 19:23, and Matt, 28:20). In other words, the Spirit should so present Christ to those who loved him that the Spirit’s presence would be potentially the continued presence of Christ. Indeed this would be better than the presence of Christ in the flesh; for it could be enjoyed everywhere at the same time, and it would enable men to understand Christ himself better than they had done during his personal ministry. Christ said: “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you” (John 16:7).
The relation of Christ to the soul is illustrated by the relation of a visible object to a man’s eye. But if, while the eye looks at the object before it, there were an unseen, unfelt power within helping the eye to see clearly, and transforming the man himself into the likeness of that which he beholds, this would illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18. American Revised Version).