By Daniel Steele
NAMES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
THE first name that is found in the Bible is Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God. He moved upon the face of the waters. The word spirit literally signifies breath. All nations express things immaterial by the use of the most subtile material representatives. The best symbol for the invisible, immaterial thinking agent in man is the wind or breath, that kind of matter which is the thinnest and has least of the grosser elements. Says Martin Luther: "They who desire to speak of God without these material envelopes strive to scale heaven without ladders. For it is necessary, when God reveals Himself to us that He should do this through some veil or kind of wrapper, and say, 'Lo, under this involucrum, or cover, you certainly grasp me.'" The Old Testament form of statement is not that God is spirit, but rather that he has the Spirit and sends Him forth out of Himself.
This may have suggested to the thoughtful Hebrew that the Spirit is God and is a personality distinct from Him from whom He proceeds.
The only other Old Testament designation is the Holy Spirit. This occurs only in Ps. li. 11 and Isa. lxiii. 10, Ii. In the New it is very common. The adjective holy cannot be distinctive of the quality of purity which is not found in equal degree in the Father and the Son. Both are holy. Hence, as it is not descriptive of an attribute peculiar to the Spirit, we infer that it points to the peculiar office of the Spirit, in the redemptive scheme, to make men holy. The Holy Spirit, then, is the scriptural term for the Sanctifier, a term not found in the Scriptures as a designation of the Spirit. Holy Spirit is a name in English preferable to Holy Ghost, for the reason that words like men flourish and decay. Ghost and ghostly were once dignified words, as " ghostly adviser " for spiritual adviser. But these words have become degraded so that it would sound strange to us and repulsive to hear the words " the Ghost of God." Hence we commend the American revisers for substituting uniformly Holy Spirit for Holy Ghost.
When the time came for Christ to depart He introduced a new name to designate the Spirit whom He would send to continue His work—the Paraclete, a term used only four times in the four Gospels, and all of them in the consolatory address in John xiv.-xvi. and translated "Comforter," strengthener, from the Latin confortare, to strengthen. In I John ii. I it is translated "advocate" and is descriptive of Christ, our intercessor in heaven. Paraclete is a Greek word signifying either, passively, the near called, as an assistant, monitor, teacher and guide; or, actively, the near caller, calling the believer near to God, or giving access to Him by inspiring confidence and strength. He is also called the Spirit of truth or reality, because He is the inspirer of revealed truth, which He makes blessedly real to the believer in Christ.
Twice He is styled the Spirit of grace, since He is the dispenser of the divine favor to all men, either by conviction of sin in order to bless them by turning them away from their iniquities, or by imparting to believers spiritual life, witnessing to their adoption and perfecting their holiness.
He is called also the Spirit of supplication because He teaches us how to pray and for what to pray; the Spirit of revelation because He reveals Christ to the eye of faith; the Spirit of wisdom because He imparts wisdom; the Spirit of adoption because He certifies the believer's sonship; and the Spirit of Christ because He was sent by the Father through the mediation of the Son. He is called the Spirit of God because He is one with God in His nature. This leads us to the scriptural proofs that the Holy Spirit is consubstantial with God and is a person. The two doctrines of the personality and the divinity of the Spirit go together. The identity of God and the Spirit of God runs through the Holy Scriptures. Whoever the Spirit is, there is no distinction between Him and God, just as there is no distinction between the man and the spirit of the man (I Cor. ii. 11).
In the description of the guilt incurred by an apostate from Christ to Judaism is found another phrase descriptive of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of grace (Heb. x.29). If this is not the irremissible sin, it is sin at its climax. The Son of God is trampled down with ruthless scorn and hatred, His " precious blood" is counted as that of either an ordinary man or that of a guilty criminal. Then the description reaches the summit of wickedness, the sin of all sins, the irremissible sin —" and insulted the Spirit of grace." Most modern exegetes say that the Spirit is thus called because He is the gift of grace. But by referring to Zechariah xii. 10 we find the expression "Spirit of grace and supplication," evidently implying that the Spirit is "the source of grace" and the inspirer of all true prayer (Delitzsch). He is the source of grace not only in His own person, but He is the channel through which the love of the Father and the grace of His Son are poured upon penitent believers. The importance of the Spirit's office in human salvation cannot be overestimated. The Father's love and the Son's self-sacrifice in the scheme of redemption are ineffectual without the Spirit's personal agency in applying the provisions of salvation. He is the appointed and indispensable almoner of the divine bounty and messenger of the King's pardon. If a city has a bureau of charities, its poor who proudly refuse its help and rely on the general benevolence of the city government, and starve because of their folly, are no more unreasonable than are those who admit that they are sinners, but are trusting in the fatherhood of God for forgiveness, ignoring His bureau of pardon, through the mediation of His Son, as administered by His accredited commissioner, the Spirit of grace. Many Christians who are almost destitute of spiritual strength might become strong through the more abundant life which Christ came to bestow, if they would honor with an intelligent faith that personality whom He has appointed as the Lord and giver of life.
He is also styled the Spirit of truth. "What is truth?" Jesus Christ declined to answer Pilate's question, not because truth is a simple term too difficult to define, but because the truth most needed by the selfish Roman procurator had a moral element which he had no capacity to receive. Christ could make blind eyes see, but He could not make a blind soul perceive while persisting in a course of sin. Moral truth can be apprehended only by an active moral sense in sympathy with it. To awaken this sense in dead souls was one part of the mission of Christ. The other part was to reveal the truth. "To this end was I born, that I should bear witness unto the truth." All saving truth is centred in His person. "I am the truth;" not abstract, but concrete, in the form of facts adapted to man's faculties, or truths cast in a human mould. Truth is conformity to fact or reality. Eternal happiness is in building on the granite of reality and laying every hewn stone by the plumb line of truth. There can be no other destiny for a character thus constructed. But sin is a lie. The motive to the first human sin was a lie. "Thou shalt not surely die." All the woes of the human generations and eternities are serpents coiled up in that delusion. Yet eternal well-being is in Jesus Christ for every one of the serpent-deceived race who will receive Him by faith. For spiritual realities do not address our physical senses, but our faith only. The great danger lies in the pleasing delusions of sin and our proneness to embrace them in preference to sober truth. I do not compliment my race nor do I misrepresent them when I say in the words of the great American showman, "Men love humbug and sham." They delight in being beguiled and duped. This strange infatuation for what is false is what gives Satan his chief power for doing harm. For no truly wise man wants to foster illusions. They end in pain, and if persisted in they lead to eternal sorrow. No sane man ever chose naked evil or pain as an ultimate end. He always chooses what seems to him at the time a good, a means of happiness. The mind has the power to invest the chosen object with all the colors of the rainbow, though it be as black as midnight. The drunkard sees happiness in the cup where the serpent lies concealed. He could see the serpent if he wished. The worldling sees supreme good in millions of money, being wilfully blind to the day just ahead when he would give it all for "an inch of time" in which to prepare for eternity.
To dispel these illusions and break their power to decoy men to eternal ruin the Son of God came into the world. He revealed the real good, which is His Father's approval. His love is heaven. He disclosed the infallible standard by which to estimate things. But Jesus Christ, who is the incarnation of truth, has withdrawn His visible presence from our world. How can He now help us to divest ourselves of delusions destructive to our eternal blessedness? He has left a successor whose office it is to testify of Christ and to reveal Him and His standard of values to us. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. Without His agency the absent Christ would be forgotten and His power to sway each successive generation keeping abreast of the ages would have been entirely lost. Even the memory of Him would have perished, as President Warren intimates in his hymn to the Holy Spirit:
"I worship Thee, O Holy Ghost,
I love to worship Thee;
My risen Lord for aye were lost
But for Thy company."
It is His office in respect to the truth revealed by Christ to make it real and vivid to men bewildered and seduced by falsehoods. Sinful pleasures sway them because they are near and present. The Holy Spirit brings eternal verities near and makes them outweigh the vanities of this life. He supplies a new measuring rod, a sense of eternity, and convicts the soul of folly in neglecting its happiness millions of ages hence. He lifts every man at some point in probation to a mount of vision above the mirage, where, as Longfellow says,
In this golden hour the disenchanted soul freed from all illusions gets a view of realities unfolded by the Spirit of truth. Happy indeed is he if from that view his future life is conformed to those realities. Unspeakably wretched will he be if he comes down from this mount of vision unchanged in moral purpose, and sinks into the shadowy illusions of sin for the rest of his life to pursue phantom pleasures and to grasp bubbles till smitten by the arrow of death, a forgotten reality.. The most precious hour in a sinner's life is this hour of correct spiritual vision commonly spoken of as conviction of sin. Then it is that the Spirit of truth becomes the reprover by holding up to the soul two pictures, the dark reality of what it is, and the bright possibility of what it still may be by being "not disobedient to the heavenly vision." But if the soul refuses to obey and persists in this refusal till disobedience hardens into fixedness of character, there will sooner or later be another vision which will awaken remorse; by the dark reality of what is and hereafter must forever be will ever hang the splendid ideal of what it might have been, the most doleful words in the English language. Again, the designation Spirit of truth might have been translated Spirit of reality. He is thus called by Jesus because He works in human souls only through the instrumentality of truth. He regenerates only through Christian truth. Men are begotten children of God through the word of God. They are sanctified through the truth. The truth is the instrument; the Spirit is the efficient worker. The stability of the new life consists in having the "loins girt about with truth." Victory in warfare is through a vigorous wielding of "the sword of the Spirit, the word of God." When the Spirit convicts of sin, He takes such religious truth as He finds in the mind and makes it vivid and real. Conviction is the distinct realization of the person's lack of conformity to the requirement of the truth. There is no proof that the Holy Spirit ever acts immediately upon the soul without the medium of some truth lodged in the intellect, affording light for the activity of the will. Successful preaching is by manifestation of the truth accompanied by the demonstration of the Spirit. The failure of many preachers arises from their dependence solely on the saving efficacy of the truth without the Spirit's office to make it real. There is a legend that the eloquent head of a monastery died, and that while his body was lying in state before burial one of Satan's imps took possession of the corpse, raised it to seeming life, and preached an orthodox sermon through the lips of the dead abbot. The evil spirit returned to pandemonium and boasted of his exploit. When asked by Satan whether he did not run the risk of converting some soul by his orthodox sermon, he replied: "Sire, do you not well know that orthodoxy without the unction of the Spirit never saves, but always damns?" John Wesley asserts that an impenitent man may be as orthodox as the devil, who believes and trembles, but is not improved in character by his faith and his fear.
Where the truth, the Spirit's instrument, is only partially presented, His work is defective, as in the case of souls moved to a religious life by singing joyful hymns, as " Sweet By and By," and by a suppression of the awakening truths of original depravity and the deserts of actual sin, the holiness of the law and the terrors of the Lord. Such fragmentary views of God's character as exhibit only His fatherhood, concealing His unbending justice in upholding the majesty of law in the punishment of sin, limit the Spirit to the production of a short-lived verdure on the stony ground. Nevertheless, the Spirit may find in some Pagans and Mohammedans truths of natural religion sufficient to inspire them with the fear of God and to make them His servants, but He cannot assure them of pardon and sonship to God till they have heard of Jesus Christ and have received Him by an obedient faith both as Saviour and Lord (John i. 12). Such will be saved through Christ though they know Him not, but they can have no assurance of salvation till they have believed in Him. The Spirit gives reality to the Old Testament, the prophetic record, and to the New Testament, the historic record of Christ's life. He impresses upon us the fact that Jesus is living and present — that He is what He was. His birth, His sermon on the mount, His parables, His miracles, His farewell discourse, His high-priestly prayer, His words on the cross, to Spirit-illumined souls do not belong to a distant antiquity, but are perpetually as fresh as the morning paper. The Spirit telegraphs the Gospels across the chasm of centuries and millenniums as recent news from heaven. "What are you so greedily reading, grandpa?" said a child to a Bible-studying saint of four score years intently reading the word of God. "News," was the reply. To the spiritual mind Christ is present giving life to His words spoken eighteen hundred years ago. Thus He verifies His own promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Thus He makes His words spirit and life. Statesmen are present in the governments which they have founded. Thus Washington is present in the American Constitution, and Bonaparte in the Code
Napoleon. Authors are present in succeeding ages in their books. Thus Homer and Plato are marching down the generations. But the presence of Christ through the Comforter is entirely different. It is a real spiritual and personal presence, invisible to all, but felt by the truly regenerate. "The Paraclete takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us. He shall testify of me.1 He shall glorify me." It is said that the personal presence of Napoleon on the field of battle was equal to a re-enforcement of ten thousand men. But he could not be present in every battle of the French down the ages, for the allied nations caged him up in St. Helena, and death soon imprisoned him in the tomb. But Jesus Christ is present to every tempted believer and in every Waterloo of His church, not as a hallowed and inspiring memory, but a veritable personality, manifesting Himself to the loving heart. This is true because the Comforter is emphatically the Spirit of Christ. To fail to realize this truth is not to have heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. We are to be on our guard against commingling the risen Son of God with the Spirit. They are distinct personalities while one in substance. The Spirit is the organ through which the Son now communicates with the believer and with the world. He is the revealer by whose activity in human hearts redemptive truth is transformed into knowledge in such a manner that faith becomes knowledge (Eph. iv. 13). The Holy Spirit is the channel of reality. He gives eyesight to the spiritually blind. He gives visibility, substance, color and weight to truths which are as airy nothings to the sense-imprisoned soul. Vague, shadowy and unreal are spiritual truths to the carnal heart. The inward vision, the spirit of revelation (Eph. i. 17) is wanting. "Whom the world receiveth not, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." Granite realities indeed are gospel truths to him who has received the Comforter. The sordid earth and the shining orbs are soap bubbles in comparison. The things that are seen are temporal and evanescent, and the things that are not seen are changeless and eternal. Thus the Holy Spirit leads us up to that mount of vision where we see things with God's eyes, where the world's reals become the believer's unreals, and the things unreal to blind unbelief become real to openeyed faith. The feet which press this mount will not be lured by mammon from ministries to the Master.
"As by the light of opening day
The stars are all concealed,
So earthly glories fade away
When Jesus is revealed."
The truly spiritual man, actuated by a motive power incomprehensible to the natural man, must appear visionary and fanatical. He is like a train moving up a steep grade with no locomotive; a ship moving against wind and waves with neither sail nor oar nor engine; or a magnet uniformly pointing to the pole swayed by a power too subtle for our coarse senses to grasp. Yet it is a very shallow philosophy which rejects the Paraclete and His work in the believing soul because the divine worker is invisible, and at the same time assents to the demonstration of Sir Isaac Newton that all the heavenly bodies are impelled by an invisible force called gravitation, and to the masterly argument of the greatest American mathematician, Prof. Benjamin Pierce of Harvard -College, that all physical force originates in spirit. The last chapter of his "Mechanics" demonstrates the spiritual origin of force. How glaring the inconsistency of those who accept this conclusion of a spiritualistic philosophy in the realm of physics and of metaphysics, and in the realm of theology reject the revelation of a spiritual agent morally transforming believing souls because of His invisibility!
Such people to be consistent ought to abstain from riding in an electric car, reading by an incandescent light, and communicating by an electro-magnetic telegraph or telephone because the imponderable agent is invisible and mysterious.
In attempting to awaken and call forth from the tomb dead souls, the great purpose of gospel preaching, it is a fatal mistake to neglect the Spirit of reality. The truth, however clearly unfolded and eloquently applied, will be no substitute for this grand factor in human salvation. Here again is the failure of much Sunday school teaching and preaching which is evangelical in doctrine. It is unevangelical in spirit because it does not depend on the Spirit of truth to give vividness and reality to the gospel. The picture is thrown upon the canvas, but in the absence of the eye-opener who purges the film from blind eyes there is no vision. The day of judgment, heaven and hell are fables to the natural man till made solid realities by the Holy Ghost. Rhetoric is no substitute. Pyrotechnics are not power. They may fill the pews with admirers; they will never crowd the altar with penitents.