Divine Nature and Personality of the Holy Spirit

Divine Nature and Personality of the Holy Spirit

John Owen
Book 1, ch. 3, pp. 65-92.

The Divine Nature and Personality
of the Holy Spirit
Proved and Vindicated

Ends of our consideration of the dispensation of the Spirit.

We shall now proceed to the matter itself designed unto consideration—namely, the dispensation of the Spirit of God unto the church. And I shall endeavour to fix what I have to offer upon its proper principles, and from them to educe the whole doctrine concerning it. And this must be so done as to manifest the interest of our faith, obedience, and holy worship, in the whole and each part of it. For these are the immediate ends of all divine revelations, according to that holy maxim of our blessed Saviour, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” To this end the ensuing principles are to be observed:

1. The nature of God the foundation of all religion.

First, The nature and being of God is the foundation of all true religion and holy religious worship in the world. The great end for which we were made, for which we were brought forth by the power of God into this world, is to worship him and to give glory unto him. For he “made all things for himself,” or his own glory (Prov. 16:4), to be rendered unto him according to the abilities and capacities that he hath furnished them withal (Rev. 4:11). And that which makes this worship indispensably necessary unto us, and from whence it is holy or religious, is the nature and being of God himself.

There are, indeed, many parts or acts of religious worship which immediately respect (as their reason and motive) what God is unto us, or what he hath done and doth for us. But the principal and adequate reason of all divine worship, and that which makes it such, is what God is in himself. Because he is—that is, an infinitely glorious, good, wise, holy, powerful, righteous, self-subsisting, self-sufficient, all-sufficient Being, the fountain, cause, and author of life and being to all things, and of all that is good in every kind, the first cause, last end, and absolutely sovereign Lord of all, the rest and all-satisfactory reward of all other beings—therefore is he by us to be adored and worshipped with divine and religious worship. Hence are we in our hearts, minds, and souls, to admire, adore, and love him; his praises are we to celebrate; him are we to trust and fear, and so to resign ourselves and all our concernments unto his will and disposal; to regard him with all the acts of our minds and persons, answerably to the holy properties and excellencies of his nature. This it is to glorify him as God; for seeing “of him, and through him, and to him are all things,” to him must be “glory for ever” (Rom. 11:36). “Believing that God thus is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” is the ground of all coming unto God in his worship (Heb. 11:6). And herein lies the sin of men, that the “invisible things of God being manifest unto them, even his eternal power and Godhead,” yet “they glorify him not as God” (Rom. 1:19–21). This is to honour, worship, fear God for himself; that is, on the account of what he is himself. Where the divine nature is, there is the true, proper, formal object of religious worship; and where that is not, it is idolatry to ascribe it to or exercise it towards any. And this God instructs us in, in all those places where he proclaims his name and describes his eternal excellencies, and that either absolutely or in comparison with other things. All is, that we may know him to be such a one as is to be worshipped and glorified for himself, or his own sake.

2. Divine revelation gives the rule and measure of religious worship.

Secondly, The revelation that God is pleased to make of himself unto us gives the rule and measure of all religious worship and obedience. His being, absolutely considered, as comprehending in it all infinite, divine perfections, is the formal reason of our worship; but this worship is to be directed, guided, regulated, by the revelation he makes of that being and of those excellencies unto us. This is the end of divine revelation—namely, to direct us in paying that homage which is due unto the divine nature. I speak not now only of positive institutions, which are the free effects of the will of God, depending originally and solely on revelation, and which, therefore, have been various and actually changed; but this is that which I intend: Look, what way soever God manifesteth his being and properties unto us, by his works or his word, our worship consisteth in a due application of our souls unto him according to that manifestation of himself.

3. God hath revealed himself as three in one.

Thirdly, God hath revealed or manifested himself as three in one, and, therefore, as such is to be worshipped and glorified by us—that is, as three distinct persons, subsisting in the same infinitely holy, one, undivided essence. This principle might be, and, had not that labour been obviated, ought to have been, here at large confirmed; it being that which the whole ensuing discourse doth presuppose and lean upon. And, in truth, I fear that the failing of some men’s profession begins with their relinquishment of this foundation. It is now evident unto all that here hath been the fatal miscarriage of those poor deluded souls amongst us whom they call Quakers; and it is altogether in vain to deal with them about other particulars, whilst they are carried away with infidelity from this foundation. Convince any of them of the doctrine of the Trinity, and all the rest of their imaginations vanish into smoke. And I wish it were so with them only. There are others, and those not a few, who either reject the doctrine of it as false, or despise it as unintelligible, or neglect it as useless, or of no great importance. I know this ulcer lies hid in the minds of many, and cannot but expect when it will break out, and cover the whole body with its defilements whereof they are members, but these things are left to the care of Jesus Christ.

The reason why I shall not in this place insist professedly on the confirmation and vindication of this fundamental truth is, because I have done it elsewhere, as having more than once publicly cast my mite into this sanctuary of the Lord. For which and the like services, wherein I stand indebted unto the gospel, I have met with that reward which I did always expect. For the present I shall only say, that on this supposition, that God hath revealed himself as three in one, he is in all our worship of him so to be considered. And, therefore, in our initiation into the profession and practice of the worship of God, according to the gospel, we are in our baptism engaged to it, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19). This is the foundation of our doing all the things that Christ commands us, as verse 20. Unto this service we are solemnly dedicated, namely, of God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; as they are each of them equally participant of the same divine nature.

4. Distinct actings and operations ascribed unto these distinct persons.

Fourthly, These persons are so distinct in their peculiar subsistence that distinct actings and operations are ascribed unto them. And these actings are of two sorts:

1. Ad intra, which are those internal acts in one person whereof another person is the object. And these acts ad invicem, or intra, are natural and necessary, inseparable from the being and existence of God. So the Father knows the Son and loveth him, and the Son seeth, knoweth, and loveth the Father. In these mutual actings, one person is the object of the knowledge and love of the other: John 3:35, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” John 5:20, “The Father loveth the Son.” Matt. 11:27, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son.” John 6:46, “None hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” This mutual knowledge and love of Father and Son is expressed at large, Prov. 8:22–31, which place I have opened and vindicated elsewhere. And they are absolute, infinite, natural, and necessary unto the being and blessedness of God. So the Spirit is the mutual love of the Father and the Son, knowing them as he is known, and “searching the deep things of God.” And in these mutual, internal, eternal actings of themselves, consists much of the infinite blessedness of the holy God. Again,

2. There are distinct actings of the several persons ad extra; which are voluntary, or effects of will and choice, and not natural or necessary. And these are of two sorts:—

(1.) Such as respect one another; for there are external acts of one person towards another: but then the person that is the object of these actings is not considered absolutely as a divine person, but with respect unto some peculiar dispensation and condescension. So the Father gives, sends, commands the Son, as he had condescended to take our nature upon him, and to be the mediator between God and man. So the Father and the Son do send the Spirit, as he condescends in an especial manner to the office of being the sanctifier and comforter of the church. Now, these are free and voluntary acts, depending upon the sovereign will, counsel, and pleasure of God, and might not have been, without the least diminution of his eternal blessedness.

(2.) There are especial acts, ad extra, towards the creatures. This the whole Scripture testifieth unto, so that it is altogether needless to confirm it with particular instances. None who have learned the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, but can tell you what works are ascribed peculiarly to the Father, what to the Son, and what to the Holy Ghost. Besides, this will be manifested afterward in all the distinct actings of the Spirit; which is sufficient for our purpose.

5. Therefore the Holy Spirit a divine distinct person.

Fifthly, Hence it follows unavoidably that this Spirit of whom we treat is in himself a distinct, living, powerful, intelligent, divine person. For none other can be the author of those internal and external divine acts and operations which are ascribed unto him. But here I must stay a little, and confirm that foundation which we build upon. For we are in the investigation of those things which that one and self-same Spirit distributeth according to his own will. And it is indispensably necessary unto our present design that we inquire who and what that one and selfsame Spirit is, seeing on him and his will all these things do depend. And we do know, likewise, that if men prevail in the opposition they make unto his person, it is to no great purpose to concern ourselves in his operations; for the foundation of any fabric being taken away, the superstructure will be of no use nor abide.

Double opposition to the Holy Spirit.

The opposition that is made in the world against the Spirit of God doctrinally may be reduced unto two heads.

1. By some his personality granted and his deity denied.

For some there are who grant his personality, or that he is a distinct self-subsisting person, but they deny his deity, deny him to be a participant of the divine nature, or will not allow him to be God. A created finite spirit they say he is, but the chiefest of all spirits that were created, and the head of all the good angels. Such a spirit they say there is, and that he is called the “Spirit of God,” or the “Holy Ghost,” upon the account of the work wherein he is employed. This way went the Macedonian heretics of old, and they are now followed by the Mohammedans; and some of late among ourselves have attempted to revive the same frenzy. But we shall not need to trouble ourselves about this notion. The folly of it is so evident that it is almost by all utterly deserted. For such things are affirmed of the Holy Ghost in the Scripture as that to assert his personality and deny his deity is the utmost madness that anyone can fall into in spiritual things.

2. His personality denied by the Socinians.

Wherefore, the Socinians, the present great enemies of the doctrine of the holy Trinity, and who would be thought to go soberly about the work of destroying the church of God, do utterly reject this plea and pretense. But that which they advance in the room of it is of no less pernicious nature and consequence: For, granting the things assigned to him to be the effects of divine power, they deny his personality, and assert that what is called by the name of the “Spirit of God,” or the “Holy Spirit,” is nothing but a quality in the divine nature, or the power that God puts forth for such and such purposes; which yet is no new invention of theirs. I do not design here professedly to contend with them about all the concernments of this difference. For there is nothing of importance in all their pretenses or exceptions, but it will in one place or other occur unto consideration in our progress.

I shall only at present confirm the divine personality of the Holy Ghost with one argument; which I will not say is such as no man can return the show of an answer unto, — for what is it that the serpentine wits of men will not pretend an answer unto, or an exception against, if their lusts and prejudices require them so to do? — but I will boldly say it is such as that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it in the hearts of true believers, the strengthening of whose faith is all that in it I do aim at. And if it do not unto all unprejudiced persons evince the truth and reality of the divine personality of the Holy Ghost, it must certainly convince all men that nothing which is taught or delivered in the Scripture can possibly be understood.

Proved against them.

One consideration, which hath in part been before proposed, I shall premise, to free the subject of our argument from ambiguity, and this is: That this word or name “Spirit” is used sometimes to denote the Spirit of God himself, and sometimes his gifts and graces, the effects of his operations on the souls of men. And this our adversaries in this cause are forced to confess, and thereon in all their writings distinguish between the Holy Spirit and his effects. This alone being supposed, I say, it is impossible to prove the Father to be a person, or the Son to be so (both which are acknowledged), any other way than we may and do prove the Holy Ghost to be so. For he to whom all personal properties, attributes, adjuncts, acts, and operations, are ascribed, and unto whom they do belong, and to whom nothing is or can be truly and properly ascribed but what may and doth belong unto a person, is a person, and him are we taught to believe so to be. So know we the Father to be a person, as also the Son; for our knowledge of things is more by their properties and operations than by their essential forms. Especially is this so with respect to the nature, being, and existence of God, which are in themselves absolutely incomprehensible.

Now, I shall not confirm the assumption of this argument with reference unto the Holy Ghost from this or that particular testimony, nor from the assignation of any single personal property unto him, but from the constant, uniform tenor of the Scripture in ascribing all these properties unto him. And we may add hereunto, that things are so ordered, in the wisdom of God, that there is no personal property that may be found in an infinite divine nature but it is in one place or other ascribed unto him.

The open vanity of their pretenses.

There is no exception can be laid against the force of this argument, but only that some things, on the one hand, are ascribed unto the Spirit which belong not unto a person, nor can be spoken of him who is so. And, on the other, that sundry things that properly belong to persons are in the Scripture figuratively ascribed unto such things as are not so. Thus, as to the first head of this exception, the Holy Spirit is said to be “poured out,” to be “shed abroad,” to be “an unction,” or the like; of all which expressions we shall treat afterward. What then? Shall we say that he is not a person, but only the power of God? Will this render those expressions concerning him proper? How can the virtue of God, or the power of God, be said to be poured out, to be shed abroad, and the like? Wherefore, both they and we acknowledge that these expressions are figurative, as many things are so expressed of God in the Scripture, and that frequently; and what is the meaning of them under their figurative colours we shall afterward declare. This, therefore, doth not in the least impeach our argument, unless this assertion were true generally, that whatever is spoken of figuratively in the Scripture is no person; which would leave no one in heaven or earth.

On the other side, it is confessed that there are things peculiar unto rational subsistents or persons, which are ascribed sometimes unto those that are not so. Many things of this nature, as to “hope,” to “believe,” to “bear,” are ascribed unto charity (1 Cor. 13:7). But everyone presently apprehends that this expression is figurative, the abstract being put for the concrete by a metalepsis, and charity is said to do that which a man endued with that grace will do. So the Scripture is said to “see,” to “foresee,” to “speak,” and to “judge,” which are personal actings; but who doth not see and grant that a metonymy is and must be allowed in such assignations, that being ascribed unto the effect, the Scripture, which is proper to the cause, the Spirit of God speaking in it? So the heavens and the earth are said to “hear,” and the fields, with the trees of the forest, to “sing” and “clap their hands,” by a prosopopoeia [i.e. personification]. Now, concerning these things there is no danger of mistake. The light of reason and their own nature therein do give us a sufficient understanding of them; and such figurative expressions as are used concerning them are common in all good authors. Besides, the Scripture itself, in other places innumerable, doth so teach and declare what they are, as that its plain and direct proper assertions do sufficiently expound its own figurative enunciations: for these and such like ascriptions are only occasional, the direct description of the things themselves is given us in other places. But now with respect unto the Spirit of God all things are otherwise. The constant uniform expressions concerning him are such as declare him to be a person endowed with all personal properties, no description being anywhere given of him inconsistent with their proper application to him.

If a sober, wise, and honest man should come and tell you that in such a country, where he hath been, there is one who is the governor of it, that doth well discharge his office—that he heareth causes, discerneth right, distributes justice, relieves the poor, comforts them that are in distress; supposing you gave him that credit which honesty, wisdom, and sobriety do deserve, would you not believe that he intended a righteous, wise, diligent, intelligent person, discharging the office of a governor? What else could any man living imagine? But now suppose that another unknown person, or, so far as he is known, justly suspected of deceit and forgery, should come unto you and tell you that all which the other informed you and acquainted you withal was indeed true, but that the words which he spake have quite another intention. For it was not a man or any person that he intended, but it was the sun or the wind that he meant by all which he spake of him. For whereas the sun by his benign influences doth make a country fruitful and temperate, suited to the relief and comfort of all that dwell therein, and disposeth the minds of the inhabitants unto mutual kindness and benignity, he described these things figuratively unto you, under the notion of a righteous governor and his actions, although he never gave you the least intimation of any such intention—must you not now believe that either the first person, whom you know to be a wise, sober, and honest man, was a notorious trifler, and designed your ruin, if you were to order any of your occasions according to his reports? Or that your latter informer, whom you have just reason to suspect of falsehood and deceit in other things, hath endeavored to abuse both him and you, to render his veracity suspected, and to spoil all your designs grounded thereon? One of these you must certainly conclude upon. And it is no otherwise in this case.

The Scripture informs us that the Holy Ghost rules in and over the church of God, appointing overseers of it under him; that he discerns and judgeth all things; that he comforteth them that are faint, strengthens them that are weak, is grieved with them and provoked by them who sin. And that in all these, and in other things of the like nature innumerable, he worketh, ordereth, and disposeth all “according to the counsel of his own will.” Hereupon it directeth us so to order our conversation towards God that we do not grieve him nor displease him, telling us thereon what great things he will do for us; on which we lay the stress of our obedience and salvation. Can any man possibly, that gives credit to the testimony thus proposed in the Scripture, conceive any otherwise of this Spirit but as of a holy, wise, intelligent person?

Now, whilst we are under the power of these apprehensions, there come unto us some men, Socinians or Quakers, whom we have just cause on many other accounts to suspect, at least, of deceit and falsehood; and they confidently tell us that what the Scripture speaks concerning the Holy Spirit is indeed true, but that in and by all the expressions which it useth concerning him, it intendeth no such person as it seems to do, but “an accident, a quality, an effect, or influence of the power of God,” which figuratively doth all the things mentioned—namely, that hath a will figuratively, and understanding figuratively, discerneth and judgeth figuratively, is sinned against figuratively, and so of all that is said of him. Can any man that is not forsaken of all natural reason as well as spiritual light choose now but determine that either the Scripture designed to draw him into errors and mistakes about the principal concernments of his soul, and so to ruin him eternally? Or that these persons, who would impose such a sense upon it, are indeed corrupt seducers, that seek to overthrow his faith and comforts? Such will they at last appear to be. I shall now proceed to confirm the argument proposed:

1. Matthew 28:19 pleaded.

1. All things necessary to this purpose are comprised in the solemn form of our initiation into covenant with God. Matt. 28:19, our Lord Jesus Christ commands his apostles to “disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This is the foundation we lay of all our obedience and profession, which are to be regulated by this initial engagement. Now, no man will or doth deny but that the Father and the Son are distinct persons. Some, indeed, there are who deny the Son to be God; but none are so mad as to deny him to be a person, though they would have him only to be a man—all grant him, whether God and man, or only man, to be a distinct person from the Father. Now, what confusion must this needs introduce, to add to them, and to join equally with them, as to all the concerns of our faith and obedience, the Holy Ghost, if he be not a divine person even as they! If, as some fancy, he be a person indeed, but not one that is divine, but a creature, then here is openly the same honour assigned unto him who is no more as unto God himself. This elsewhere the Scripture declares to be idolatry to be detested (Gal. 4:8, Rom. 1:25). And if he be not a person, but a virtue and quality in God, and emanation of power from him, concerning which our adversaries τερατολογοῦσι, speak things portentous and unintelligible, what sense can any man apprehend in the words?

Besides, whatever is ascribed unto the other persons, either with respect unto themselves or our duty towards them, is equally ascribed unto the Holy Ghost; for whatsoever is intended by the “name” of the Father and of the Son, he is equally with them concerned therein. It is not the name “Father,” and the name “Son,” but the name of “God,” that is, of them both, that is intended. It is a name common to them all, and distinctly applied unto them all; but they have not in this sense distinct or diverse names. And by the “name” of God either his being or his authority is signified; for other intention of it none have been able to invent. Take the “name” here in either sense, and it is sufficient as to what we intend: for if it be used in the first way, then the being of the Spirit must be acknowledged to be the same with that of the Father. If in the latter, he hath the same divine authority with him. He who hath the nature and authority of God is God—is a divine person.

Our argument, then, from hence is not merely from his being joined with the Father and the Son, for so, as to some ends and purposes, any creatures may be joined with them (this our adversaries prove from Acts 20:32, Eph. 6:10, Phil. 3:10, 2 Thess. 1:9, and might do it from other places innumerable, although the first of these will not confirm what it is produced to give countenance unto—Schlichting, de Trinitat. ad Meisner., p. 605); but it is from the manner and end of his being conjoined with the Father and the Son, wherein their “name”—that is, their divine nature and authority—is ascribed unto him, that we argue.

Again; We are said to be baptized εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, “into his name.” And no sense can be affixed unto these words but what doth unavoidably include his personality. For two things they may and do intend, nor anything else but what may be reduced unto them:

First, Our religious owning the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in all our divine worship, faith, and obedience. Now, as we own and avow the one, so we do the other; for we are alike baptized into their name, equally submitting to their authority, and equally taking the profession of their name upon us. If, then, we avow and own the Father as a distinct person, so we do the Holy Ghost.

Again; by being baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, we are sacredly initiated and consecrated, or dedicated, unto the service and worship of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This we take upon us in our baptism.

Herein lies the foundation of all our faith and profession, with that engagement of ourselves unto God which constitutes our Christianity. This is the pledge of our entrance into covenant with God, and of our giving up ourselves unto him in the solemn bond of religion. Herein to conceive that anyone who is not God as the Father is, who is not a person as he is also, and the Son likewise, is joined with them for the ends and in the manner mentioned, without the least note of difference as to deity or personality, is a strange fondness, destructive of all religion, and leading the minds of men towards polytheism. And as we engage into all religious obedience unto the Father and Son herein, to believe in them, trust, fear, honour, and serve them, so we do the same with respect unto the Holy Ghost; which how we can do, if he be not as they are, no man can understand.

We do not, then, in this case, from hence merely plead our being baptized into the “Holy Ghost,” as some pretend; nor, indeed, are we said so to be. Men may figuratively be said to be baptized into a doctrine, when their baptism is a pledge and token of their profession of it. So the disciples whom the apostle Paul met with at Ephesus (Acts 19:3), are said to be baptized εἰς τὸ Ιωάννου βάπτισμα, “into the baptism of John”—that is, the doctrine of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, whereof his baptism was a pledge. So also the Israelites are said to be baptized εἰς Μωϋσῆν, “into Moses” (1 Cor. 10:2), because he led and conducted them through the sea, when they were sprinkled with the waves of it as a token of their initiation into the rites and ceremonies which he was to deliver unto them. But we are said to be baptized into his “name;” which is the same with that of the Father and Son. And certainly this proposal of God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be the object of all our faith and worship, and our engagement hereunto required as the foundation of all our present religion and future hopes, being made unto us, and that under one and the same name; if the doctrine of a Trinity of persons, subsisting in the same undivided essence, be not taught and declared in these words, we may justly despair of ever having any divine mystery manifested unto us.

2. Appearance of the Spirit under the shape of a dove explained and improved.

2. His appearance in and under a visible sign argues his personal existence. This is related (Matt. 3:16; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Luke speaks first in general that he descended ἐν εἴδει σωματικῷ, “in a bodily shape” or appearance; and they all agree that it was the shape of a dove under which he appeared. The words in Matthew are, Εἷδε τὸ Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν καὶ ἐρχόμενον ἐπ’ αὐτόν—“He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting” (or rather coming) “upon him.” “He,” that is John the Baptist, not Christ himself. The relative, αὐτός, refers in this place to the more remote antecedent; for although “he,” that is Christ himself, also saw the descending of the Holy Spirit, yet I suppose this relates unto that token which was to be given of him unto John, whereby he should know him (John 1:32-33). The following words are ambiguous: for that expression, “like a dove,” may refer to the manner of his descending—descending (in a bodily shape) as a dove descends; or they may respect the manner of his appearance—he appeared like a dove descending. And this sense is determined in the other evangelists to the bodily shape wherein he descended. He took the form or shape of a dove to make a visible representation of himself by; for a visible pledge was to be given of the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Messiah, according to the promise, and thereby did God direct his great forerunner to the knowledge of him.

Now, this was no real dove. That would not have been a thing so miraculous as this appearance of the Holy Ghost is represented to be. And the text will not bear any such apprehension, though it was entertained by some of the ancients; for it is evident that this shape of a dove came out of heaven. He saw the heavens opened and the dove descending; that is, out of heaven, which was opened to make way, as it were, for him. Moreover, the expression of the opening of the heavens is not used but with respect unto some appearance or manifestation of God himself. And so (or which is the same) the bowing of the heavens is often used: Ps. 144:5, “Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down;” 2 Sam. 22:10; Isa. 64:1; Ezek. 1:1, “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God;” so Acts 7:56. God used not this sign but in some manifestation of himself; and had not this been an appearance of God, there had been no need of bowing or opening the heavens for it. And it is plainly said that it was not a dove, but the shape or representation of a dove. It was εἷδος σωματικόν, “a bodily shape;” and that περιστερᾶς, “of a dove.

As, then, at the beginning of the old creation, the Spirit of God מְרַחֶפֶת‎, “incubabat” [brooded upon], came and fell on the waters, cherishing the whole, and communicating a prolific and vivific quality unto it, as a fowl or dove in particular gently moves itself upon its eggs, until, with and by its generative warmth, it hath communicated vital heat unto them; so now, at the entrance of the new creation, he comes as a dove upon him who was the immediate author of it, and virtually comprised it in himself, carrying it on by virtue of his presence with him. And so this is applied in the Syriac ritual of baptism, composed by Severinus, in the account given of the baptism of Christ: ורוחא דקודשא בדמות יונא פרחת נחתת ועל רישא דברא שכנת ועל מיא רהפת‎; — “And the Spirit of Holiness descended, flying in the likeness of a dove, and rested upon him, and moved on the waters.” And in the assumption of this form there may be some respect unto the dove that brought tidings to Noah of the ceasing of the flood of waters, and of the ending of the wrath of God, who thereon said that he would curse the earth no more (Gen. 8:11, 21), for herein also was there a significant representation of him who visited poor, lost mankind in their cursed condition, and proclaimed peace unto them that would return to God by him, the great peace-maker (Eph. 2:14–17). And this work he immediately engaged into on the resting of this dove upon him. Besides, there is a natural aptness in that creature to represent the Spirit that rested on the Lord Jesus; for the known nature and course of a dove is such as is meet to mind us of purity and harmless innocency. Hence is that direction, “Be harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). So also the sharpness of its sight or eyes, as Cant. 1:15, 4:1, is fixed on to represent a quick and discerning understanding, such as was in Christ from the resting of the Spirit upon him (Isa. 11:2–4).

His appearance as fire opened.

The shape thereof that appeared was that of a dove, but the substance itself, I judge, was of a fiery nature, an ethereal substance, shaped into the form or resemblance of a dove. It had the shape of a dove, but not the appearance of feathers, colours, or the like. This also rendered the appearance the more visible, conspicuous, heavenly, and glorious. And the Holy Ghost is often compared to fire, because he was of old typified or represented thereby. For on the first solemn offering of sacrifices there came fire from the Lord for the kindling of them. Hence Theodotion of old rendered וַיּשַׁע יְהוָה‎, “The Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering” (Gen. 4:4), by Ἐνεπύρισεν ὁ Θεός, “God fired the offering of Abel;” sent down fire that kindled his sacrifice as a token of his acceptance. However, it is certain that at the first erection of the altar in the wilderness, upon the first sacrifices, “fire came out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat; which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Lev. 9:24). And the fire kindled hereby was to be perpetuated on the altar, so that none was ever to be used in sacrifice but what was traduced from it. For a neglect of this intimation of the mind of God were Nadab and Abihu consumed (Lev. 10:1-2). So was it also upon the dedication of the altar in the temple of Solomon: “Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt-offering and the sacrifices” (2 Chron. 7:1); and a fire thence kindled was always kept burning on the altar. And in like manner God bare testimony to the ministry of Elijah (1 Kings 18:38-39). God by all these signified that no sacrifices were accepted with him where faith was not kindled in the heart of the offerer by the Holy Ghost, represented by the fire that kindled the sacrifices on the altar. And in answer hereunto is our Lord Jesus Christ said to offer himself “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14). It was, therefore, most probably a fiery appearance that was made.

And in the next bodily shape which he assumed it is expressly said that it was fiery: “There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3), which was the visible token of the coming of the Holy Ghost upon them. And he chose, then, that figure of tongues to denote the assistance which, by the miraculous gift of speaking with divers tongues, together with wisdom and utterance, he furnished them withal for the publication of the gospel. And thus, also, the Lord Christ is said to “baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Matt. 3:11). Not two things are intended, but the latter words, “and with fire,” are added ἐξηγητικῶς, and the expression is ἕν διὰ δυοῖν—with the Holy Ghost, who is a spiritual, divine, eternal fire. So God absolutely is said to be a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29, Deut. 4:24). And as in these words, “He shall baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” there is a prospect unto what came to pass afterward, when the apostles received the Holy Ghost with a visible pledge of fiery tongues, so there seems to be a retrospect, by way of allusion unto what is recorded, (Isa. 6:6-7); for a living or “fiery coal from the altar,” where the fire represented the Holy Ghost, or his work and grace, having touched the lips of his prophet, his sin was taken away, both as to the guilt and filth of it. And this is the work of the Holy Ghost, who not only sanctifieth us, but, by ingenerating faith in us, and the application of the promise unto us, is the cause and means of our justification also (1 Cor. 6:11, Tit. 3:4–7), whereby our sins on both accounts are taken away.

So also his efficacy in other places is compared unto fire and burning: Isa. 4:4-5, “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” He is compared both to fire and water, with respect unto the same cleansing virtue in both. So also Mal. 3:2. Hence, as this is expressed by “the Holy Ghost and fire” in two evangelists (Matt. 3:11, Luke 3:16); so in the other two there is mention only of the “Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:8, John 1:33), the same thing being intended. I have added these things a little to clear the manner of this divine appearance, which also belongs unto the economy of the Spirit.

His personal subsistence proved.

Now, I say that this appearance of the Holy Ghost in a bodily shape, wherein he was represented by that which is a substance and hath a subsistence of its own, doth manifest that he himself is a substance and hath a subsistence of his own. For if he be no such thing, but a mere influential effect of the power of God, we are not taught right apprehensions of him but mere mistakes by this appearance, for of such an accident there can be no substantial figure or resemblance made but what is monstrous. It is excepted by our adversaries (Crell. de Natur. Spir. Sanc.), “That a dove is no person, because not endued with an understanding, which is essentially required unto the constitution of a person; and therefore,” they say, “no argument can thence be taken for the personality of the Holy Ghost.” But it is enough that he was represented by a subsisting substance; which if they will grant him to be, we shall quickly evince that he is endued with a divine understanding, and so is completely a person. And whereas they farther object, “That if the Holy Ghost in the appearance intended to manifest himself to be a divine person, he would have appeared as a man, who is a person, for so God, or an angel in his name, appeared under the Old Testament,” it is of no more importance than the preceding exception. The Holy Ghost did manifest himself as it seemed good unto him. And some reasons for the instructive use of the shape of a fiery dove we have before declared. Neither did God of old appear only in a human shape. He did so sometimes in a burning fiery bush (Ex. 3:2, 4), sometimes in a pillar of fire or a cloud (Ex. 14:24).

Moreover, the appearances of God, as I have elsewhere demonstrated, under the Old Testament, were all of them of the second person. And he assumed a human shape as a preludium [prelude] unto, and a signification of, his future personal assumption of our nature. No such thing being intended by the Holy Ghost, he might represent himself under what shape he pleased. Yea, the representation of himself under a human shape had been dangerous and unsafe for us. For it would have taken off the use of those instructive appearances under the Old Testament teaching the incarnation of the Son of God. And also, that sole reason of such appearances being removed—namely, that they had all respect unto the incarnation of the second person—as they would have been by the like appearance of the third, there would have been danger of giving a false idea of the Deity unto the minds of men. For some might from thence have conceived that God had a bodily shape like unto us, when none could ever be so fond as to imagine him to be like a dove. And these, with the like testimonies in general, are given unto the divine personality of the Holy Spirit.

Personal properties assigned to the Holy Ghost.

I shall next consider those personal properties which are particularly and distinctly ascribed unto him.

1. Understanding.

First, Understanding or wisdom, which is the first inseparable property of an intelligent subsistence, is so ascribed unto him in the acts and effects of it: 1 Cor. 2:10, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” What Spirit it is that is intended is declared expressly, verse 12, “Now we have not received τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου, the spirit of the world,” are not acted by the evil spirit; ἀλλὰ τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, “but the Spirit which is of God”—a signal description of the Holy Ghost. So he is called “His Spirit,” verse 10, “God hath revealed these things unto us by his Spirit.” Now, to search is an act of understanding; and the Spirit is said to search, because he knoweth: Verse 11, “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?”—which is intimate unto all its own thoughts and counsels; “even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” And by him are they revealed unto us, for by him “we know the things that are freely given to us of God,” verse 12. These things cannot be spoken of any but a person endued with understanding. And he thus “searcheth τὰ βάθη τοῦ Θεοῦ, the deep things of God”—that is, the mysteries of his will, counsel, and grace—and is, therefore, a divine person that hath an infinite understanding; as it is said of God, אֵין חֵקֶר לִחְבוּנָתוֹ‎, “There is no end,” measure, or investigation, “of his understanding” (Isa. 40:28); there is “no number of his understanding” (Ps. 147:5)—it is endless, boundless, infinite.

It is excepted (Schlichting. de Trinitat., p. 605) “That the Spirit is not here taken for the Spirit himself, nor doth the apostle express what the Spirit himself doth, but what by the assistance of the Holy Ghost men are enabled to do. By that believers are helped to search into the deep counsels of God.” But as this exception is directly against the words of the text, so the context will by no means admit of it; for the apostle giveth an account how the wisdom, counsels, and deep things of God, which the world could not understand, were now preached and declared unto the church. “God,” saith he, “hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” But how cometh the Spirit himself, the author of these revelations, to be acquainted with these things? This he hath from his own nature, whereby he knoweth or “searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” It is, therefore, the revelation made by the Spirit unto the apostles and penmen of the scripture of the New Testament—who were acted by the Holy Ghost in like manner as were the holy men of old (2 Pet. 1:21)—which the apostle intendeth, and not the illumination and teaching of believers in the knowledge of the mysteries by them revealed, whereof the apostle treateth in these words. But who is this Spirit? The same apostle tells us that the “judgments of God are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out,” Rom. 11:33; and asketh, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?” verse 34. And yet this Spirit is said to “search all things, yea, the deep things of God;” such as to all creatures are absolutely unsearchable and past finding out. This, then, is the Spirit of God himself, who is God also; for so it is in the prophet from whence these words are taken, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” (Isa. 40:13).

It will not relieve the adversaries of the Holy Ghost, though it be pleaded by them that he is compared with and opposed unto the “spirit of a man” (1 Cor. 2:11), which, they say, is no person; for no comparisons hold in all circumstances. The spirit of a man is his rational soul, endued with understanding and knowledge. This is an individual intelligent substance, capable of a subsistence in a separate condition. Grant the Spirit of God to be so far a person, and all their pretenses fall to the ground. And whereas it is affirmed by one among ourselves, though otherwise asserting “the deity of the Holy Ghost” (Goodwin, p. 175), “That this expression, of ‘searching the things of God,’ cannot be applied directly to the Spirit, but must intend his enabling us to search into them, because to search includes imperfection, and the use of means to come to the knowledge of any thing,” it is not of weight in this matter. For such acts are ascribed unto God with respect unto their effects. And searching being with us the means of attaining the perfect knowledge of any thing, the perfection of the knowledge of God is expressed thereby. So David prays that God would “search him, and know his heart” (Ps. 139:23). And he is often said to “search the hearts of men,” whereby his infinite wisdom is intimated, whereunto all things are open and naked. So is his Spirit said to “search the deep things of God,” because of his infinite understanding and the perfection of his knowledge, before which they lie open. And as things are here spoken of the Spirit in reference unto God the Father, so are they spoken of him in reference unto the Spirit: “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:27). Add hereunto that this Spirit is the author of wisdom and understanding in and unto others, and therefore he must have them in himself; and that not virtually or casually only, but formally also. Wisdom and knowledge are reckoned among the gifts bestowed by him (1 Cor. 12:8). For those of faith and tongues, it is enough that they are in him virtually; but wisdom and understanding, they cannot be given by any but he that is wise and understandeth what he doth; and hence is he called expressly a “Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and knowledge” (Isa. 11:2). I might confirm this by other testimonies, where other effects of understanding are ascribed unto him (as 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:21); but what hath been spoken is sufficient unto our purpose.

2. A will.

Secondly, A will is ascribed unto him. This is the most eminently distinguishing character and property of a person. Whatever is endued with an intelligent will is a person. And it cannot by any fiction, with any tolerable congruity, be ascribed unto anything else, unless the reason of the metaphor be plain and obvious.

John 3:8 & James 3:4 cleared.

So when our Saviour says of the wind that it bloweth ὅπου θέλει, “as it willeth” or listeth (John 3:8), the abuse of the word is evident. All intended is, that the wind, as unto us, is ἀνυπεύθυνος, and not at all at our disposal, acts not by our guidance or direction. And no man is so foolish as not to apprehend the meaning of it, or once to inquire whether our Saviour doth properly ascribe a will to the wind or no.

So James 3:4. The words rendered by us, “Turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth,” are in the original, Ὅπου ἂν ἡ ὁρμὴ τοῦ εὐθύνοντος βούληται, in which the act of willing is ascribed to the ὁρμή, the impetus or inclination of the governor, which yet hath not a will. But the ὁρμή in that place is not the πρώτη κίνησις of the philosophers, the motus primo-primus, or the first agitation or inclination of the mind, but it is the will itself under an earnest inclination, such as is usual with them who govern ships by the helms in storms. Hereunto the act of willing is properly ascribed, and he in whom it is proved to be is a person.

Thus, a will acting with understanding and choice, as the principle and cause of his outward actions, is ascribed unto the Holy Ghost: “All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:11). He had before asserted that he was the author and donor of all the spiritual gifts which he had been discoursing about, verses 4–6. These gifts he declares to be various, as he manifests in nine instances, and all variously disposed of by him, verses 8–10. If now it be inquired what is the rule of this his distribution of them, he tells us that it is his own will, his choice and pleasure. What can be spoken more fully and plainly to describe an intelligent person, acting voluntarily with freedom and by choice, I know not.

Exceptions removed.

We may consider what is excepted hereunto. They say (Schlichting. p. 610), “That the Holy Ghost is here introduced as a person by a prosopopœia—that the distribution of the gifts mentioned is ascribed unto him by a metaphor; and by the same or another metaphor he is said to have a will, or to act as he will.” But is it not evident that if this course of interpreting, or rather of perverting, Scripture may be allowed, nothing of any certainty will be left unto us therein? It is but saying this or that is a metaphor, and if one will not serve the turn, to bring in two or three, one on the neck of another, and the work is done; — the sense intended is quite changed and lost. Allow this liberty or bold licentiousness, and you may overthrow the being of God himself and the mediation of Christ, as to any testimony given unto them in the Scripture. But the words are plain, “He divideth to every man severally as he will.” And for the confirmation of his deity, though that be out of question on the supposition of his personality, I shall only add from this place, that he who hath the sovereign disposal of all spiritual gifts, having only his own will, which is infinitely wise and holy, for his rule, he is “over all, God blessed for ever.

3. Power.

Thirdly, Another property of a living person is power. A power whereby anyone is able to act according to the guidance of his understanding and the determinations of his will, declares him to be a person. It is not the mere ascription of power absolutely, or ability unto anything, that I intend. For they may signify no more but the efficacy wherewith such things are attended in their proper places, as instruments of the effects whereunto they are applied. In this sense power is ascribed to the Word of God, when it is said to be “able to save our souls” (James 1:21); and Acts 20:32, “the word of God’s grace” is said to be “able to build us up, and to give us an inheritance among all them which are sanctified,” if that place intend the word written or preached (whereinto I have made inquiry elsewhere): but these things are clearly interpreted in other places. The word is said to be “able,” yea, to be the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), because God is pleased to use it and make it effectual by his grace unto that end.

But where power, divine power, is absolutely ascribed unto anyone, and that declared to be put forth and exercised by the understanding and according to the will of him to whom it is so ascribed, it doth undeniably prove him to be a divine person. For when we say the Holy Ghost is so, we intend no more but that he is one who by his own divine understanding puts forth his own divine power. So is it in this case: “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4). Creation is an act of divine power, the highest we are capable to receive any notion of. And it is also an effect of the wisdom and will of him that createth, as being a voluntary act, and designed unto a certain end. All these, therefore, are here ascribed to the Spirit of God.

It is excepted (Schlichting. pp. 613–615), “That by the ‘Spirit of God’ here mentioned no more is intended but our own vital spirits, whereby we are quickened, called the ‘Spirit of God’ because he gave it.” But this is too much confidence. The words are, רוּחַ־אֵל עָשָׂתְנִי וְנִשְׁמַת שַׁדַּי תְּחַיֵּנִי‎. There were two distinct divine operations in and about the creation of man. The first was the forming of his body out of the dust of the earth; this is expressed by עָשָׂה‎, and יָצַר‎—“he made,” “he formed.” And secondly, the infusion of a living or quickening soul into him, called נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים‎, or “the breath of life.” Both these are here distinctly mentioned; the first ascribed to the Spirit of God, the other to his breath—that is, the same Spirit considered in a peculiar way of operation in the infusion of the rational soul. Such is the sense of these figurative and enigmatical words, “God breathed into man the breath of life”—that is, by his Spirit he effected a principle of life in him; as we shall see afterward.

As he is called a “Spirit of wisdom and understanding,” so is he also of “might” or power (Isa. 11:2). And although it may be granted that the things there mentioned are rather effects of his operations than adjuncts of his nature, yet he who affecteth wisdom and power in others must first have them himself. To this purpose also is that demand, “Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened,” or shortened? (Mic. 2:7), that is, in his power. That he cannot work and operate in the prophets and his church as in former days. And the same prophet affirms that he is “full of power, and of judgment, and of might, by the Spirit of the Lord” (Mic. 3:8). These things were wrought in him by his power, as the apostle speaks to the same purpose (Eph. 3:16).

Those by whom this truth is opposed do lay out all their strength and skill in exceptions, I may say cavils, against some of these particular testimonies and some expressions in them; but as to the whole argument, taken from the consideration of the design and scope of the Scripture in them all, they have nothing to except.

Other personal ascriptions to him.

To complete this argument, I shall add the consideration of those works and operations of all sorts which are ascribed to the Spirit of God. Which we shall find to be such as are not capable of an assignation unto him with the least congruity of speech or design of speaking intelligibly, unless he be a distinct, singular subsistent or person, endued with divine power and understanding. And here what we desired formerly might be observed must be again repeated. It is not from a single instance of every one of the works which we shall mention that we draw and confirm our argument; for some of them, singly considered, may perhaps sometimes be metaphorically ascribed unto other causes, which doth not prove that therefore they are persons also—which contains the force of all the exceptions of our adversaries against these testimonies—but as some of them, at least, never are nor can be assigned unto any but a divine person, so we take our argument from their joint consideration, or the uniform, constant assignation of them all unto him in the Scriptures: which renders it irrefragable [undeniable]. For the things themselves, I shall not insist upon them, because their particular nature must be afterward unfolded.

He is said to teach us.

First, He is said to teach us: “The Holy Ghost shall teach you what ye ought to say” (Luke 12:12). “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26). He is the “anointing which teacheth us all things” (1 John 2:27); how and whence he is so called shall be afterward declared. He is the great Teacher of the church, unto whom the accomplishment of that great promise is committed, “And they shall be all taught of God” (John 6:45). It is sad with the church of God when her teachers are removed into a corner, and her eyes see them not; but better lose all other teachers, and that utterly, than to lose this great Teacher only: for although he is pleased to make use of them, he can teach effectually and savingly without them where they are removed and taken away; but they cannot teach without him unto the least spiritual advantage. And those who pretend to be teachers of others, and yet despise his teaching assistance, will one day find that they undertook a work which was none of theirs.

Exceptions removed.

But as unto our use of this assertion, it is excepted “That the apostle affirms that nature also teaches us: 1 Cor. 11:14, ‘Doth not even nature itself teach you?’ now, nature is not a person.” This is the way and manner of them with whom we have to do. If any word in a testimony produced by us have been anywhere used metaphorically, though it be never so evident that it is so used in that place, instantly it must have the same figurative application in the testimony excepted against, although they can give no reason why it should so signify! And if this course of excepting be allowed, there will be nothing left intelligible in the Scripture, nor in any other author, nor in common conversation in the world. For there is scarce any word or name of a thing but, one where or other, is or hath been abused or used metaphorically. In particular, nature in this place of the apostle is said to teach us objectively, as the heavens and earth teach us in what we learn from them. For it is said to teach us what we may learn from the customs and actings of them who live, proceed, and act, according to the principles, dictates, and inclinations of it. Everyone sees that here is no intimation of an active teaching by instruction, or a real communication of knowledge, but it is said figuratively to do what we do with respect unto it. And not only in several places, but in the same sentence, a word may be used properly with respect unto one thing and abusively with respect unto another. As in that saying of the poet:

Disce, puer, virtutem ex me, verumque laborem;
Fortunam ex aliis…
(Æneid XII.435).

[“Learn, my son, virtue from me, and true toil;
Fortune from others…“]

For virtue and industry are to be learned properly, but fortune, as they called it, or prosperous events, are not so. These things, therefore, are very different, and their difference is obvious unto all. But we insist not merely on this or that particular instance.

Descriptions in John 14-16.

Let any man not absolutely prepossessed with prejudice read over that discourse of our Saviour unto his disciples, wherein he purposely instructs them in the nature and work of the Spirit of God, on whom, as it were, he then devolved the care of them and the gospel, according unto the promise (John 14-16), and he will need no farther instruction or confirmation in this matter. He is there frequently called “The Comforter,” the name of a person, and that vested with an office, with respect unto the work that he would do; and “Another Comforter,” in answer and conformity unto the Lord Christ, who was one Comforter and a person, as all grant (John 14:16, 26). If he be not so, the intention of this expression with these circumstances must be to deceive us, and not instruct us.

He tells them, moreover, that he is one whom the world neither sees nor knows, but who abideth with and dwelleth in believers, verse 17. One whom the Father would send, and who would come accordingly, and that to teach them, to lead and guide them and to bring things to their remembrance, verse 26. A Comforter that should come and testify or bear witness unto him (John 15:26). One that should be sent of him, “to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (16:7-8), and to abide with his disciples, to supply his own bodily absence. So is he said to “speak,” “guide,” “teach,” “hear,” to “receive of Christ’s and to show it unto others” (14:26, 16:13-14), with sundry other things of the same nature and importance. And these things are not spoken of him occasionally or in transitu [in passing], but in a direct continued discourse, designed on purpose by our Lord Jesus Christ to acquaint his disciples who he was, and what he would do for them. And if there were nothing spoken of him in the whole Scripture but what is here declared by our Saviour, all unprejudiced men must and would acknowledge him to be a divine person.

And it is a confidence swelling above all bounds of modesty, to suppose that because one or other of these things is or may be metaphorically or metaleptically ascribed unto this or that thing which are not persons, when the figurativeness of such an ascription is plain and open, that therefore they are all of them in like manner so ascribed unto the Holy Ghost in that discourse of our Saviour unto his disciples, wherein he designed the instruction of them, as above declared. Of the same nature is that which we discoursed before concerning his searching of all things, from 1 Cor. 2:10; which as it proves him to be an understanding agent, so it undeniably denotes a personal action. Such also are the things mentioned, Rom. 8:16, 26: He “helpeth our infirmities,” he “maketh intercession for us,” he himself “beareth witness with our spirit;” the particular meaning of all which expressions shall be afterward inquired into. Here the only refuge of our adversaries is to cry up a prosopopœia (Schlichting. p. 627) But how do they prove it? Only by saying that “these things belong properly to a person, which the Spirit is not.” Now, this is nothing but to set up their own false hypothesis against our arguments, and, not being able to contend with the premises, to deny the conclusion.

Acts 13 & 20.

There are two other places of this nature, both to the same purpose, sufficient of themselves to confirm our faith in the truth pleaded for; and these are, Acts 13:2, 4, “As they ministered unto the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed.” The other is Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” These places hold a good correspondence; and what is reported in an extraordinary case, as matter of fact, in the first, is doctrinally applied unto ordinary cases in the latter. And two things are remarkable in the first place:

1. The object of the duty required.

1. The Holy Ghost’s designation of himself as the person unto whom and whose work Barnabas and Saul were to be separated and dedicated. Saith he, Ἀφορίσατε δή μοι, not “Separate me,” as in our translation, making the Spirit only the author of the command, but “Separate unto me;” which proposeth him also as the object of the duty required, and the person whose work was to be attended. Who or what, then, is intended by that pronoun “me?” Some person is directed unto and signified thereby. Nor can any instance be given where it is so much as figuratively used, unless it be in a professed parable. That remains, therefore, to be inquired into, Who is intended in that word “me?” And the words are the words of the Holy Ghost: “The Holy Ghost said, Separate unto me;” he, therefore, alone is intended.

All the answer which the wit and diligence of our adversaries can invent is, that “these words are ascribed unto the Holy Ghost because the prophets that were in the church of Antioch spake therein by his instinct and inspiration.” But in this evasion there is no regard unto the force of our argument. For we do not argue merely from his being said to speak, but from what is spoken by him, “Separate unto me,” and do inquire whether the prophets be intended by that word or no? If so, which of them? For they were many by whom the Holy Ghost spake the same thing, and some one must be intended in common by them all; and to say that this was any of the prophets is foolish, indeed blasphemous.

2. Personal properties necessarily implied.

2. The close of the second verse confirms this application of the word, “For the work whereunto I have called them.” This confessedly is the Holy Ghost. Now, to call men to the ministry is a free act of authority, choice, and wisdom; which are properties of a person, and none other. Nor is either the Father or the Son in the Scripture introduced more directly clothed with personal properties than the Holy Ghost is in these places. And the whole is confirmed, verse 4, “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed.” He called them, by furnishing them with ability and authority for their work. He commanded them to be set apart by the church, that they might be blessed and owned in their work. And he sent them forth, by an impression of his authority on their minds, given them by those former acts of his. And if a divine person be not hereby described, I know not how he may so be.

Acts of wisdom and authority ascribed to him.

The other text speaks unto the same purpose. Acts 20:28, it is expressly said that the Holy Ghost made the elders of the church the overseers of it. The same act of wisdom and authority is here again assigned unto him. And here is no room left for the evasion insisted on; for these words were not spoken in a way of prophecy, nor in the name of the Holy Ghost, but concerning him. And they are explicatory of the other. For he must be meant in these expressions, “Separate unto me those whom I have called,” by whom they are made ministers. Now, this was the Holy Ghost; for he makes the overseers of the church. And we may do well to take notice, that if he did so then, he doth so now. For they were not persons extraordinarily inspired or called that the apostle intends, but the ordinary officers of the church. And if persons are not called and constituted officers, as at the first, in ordinary cases, the church is not the same as it was. And it is the concernment of those who take this work and office upon them to consider what there is in their whole undertaking that they can ascribe unto the Holy Ghost. Persons furnished with no spiritual gifts or abilities, entering into the ministry in the pursuit of secular advantages, will not easily satisfy themselves in this inquiry when they shall be willing, or be forced, at the last to make it.

He is the object of such actions of men as none but a person can be.

There remains yet one sort of testimonies to the same purpose, which must briefly be passed through: and they are those where he is spoken of as the object of such actings and actions of men as none but a person can be. For let them be applied unto any other object, and their inconsistency will quickly appear.

Tempted of them that sin.

Thus he is said to be tempted of them that sin: “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9). In what sense soever this word is used—whether in that which is indifferent, to try, as God is said to tempt Abraham, or in that which is evil, to provoke or induce to sin—it never is, it never can be, used but with respect unto a person. How can a quality, an accident, an emanation of power from God, be tempted? None can possibly be so but he that hath an understanding to consider what is proposed unto him, and a will to determine upon the proposal made. So Satan tempted our first parents; so men are tempted by their own lusts; so are we said to tempt God when we provoke him by our unbelief, or when we unwarrantably make experiments of his power—so did they “tempt the Holy Ghost” who sinfully ventured on his omniscience, as if he would not or could not discover their sin; or on his holiness, that he would patronize their deceit.

Lied unto.

In like manner, Ananias is said to “lie to the Holy Ghost,” verse 3; and none is capable of lying unto any other but such an one as is capable of hearing and receiving a testimony, for a lie is a false testimony given unto that which is spoken or uttered in it. This he that is lied unto must be capable of judging and determining upon; which without personal properties of will and understanding none can be. And the Holy Ghost is here so declared to be a person as that he is declared to be one that is also divine; for so the apostle Peter declares in the exposition of the words, verse 4, “Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” These things are so plain and positive that the faith of believers will not be concerned in the sophistical evasions of our adversaries.

Resisted and grieved.

In like manner, he is said to be resisted (Acts 7:51); which is the moral reaction or opposition of one person unto another. So also is he said to he grieved, or we are commanded not to grieve him (Eph. 4:30); as they of old were said to have “rebelled and vexed the Holy Spirit of God” (Isa. 63:10). A figurative expression is allowed in these words. Properly, the Spirit of God cannot be grieved or vexed; for these things include such imperfections as are incompetent unto the divine nature. But as God is said to “repent” and to be “grieved at his heart” (Gen. 6:6), when he would do things correspondent unto those which men will do or judge fit to be done on such provocations, and when he would declare what effects they would produce in a nature capable of such perturbations. So on the same reason is the Spirit of God said to be grieved and vexed. But this can no way be spoken of him if he be not one whose respect unto sin may, from the analogy unto human persons, be represented by this figurative expression. To talk of grieving a virtue or an actual emanation of power, is to speak that which no man can understand the meaning or intention of. Surely he that is thus tempted, resisted, and grieved by sin and sinners, is one that can understand, judge, and determine concerning them; and these things being elsewhere absolutely spoken concerning God, it declares that he is so with respect unto whom they are mentioned in particular.

Blasphemy of the Holy Ghost.

The whole of the truth contended for is yet more evident in that discourse of our Saviour (Matt. 12:24). The Pharisees said, “He doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.” And Jesus answered, verse 28, “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” Verses 31, 32, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him.” To the same purpose, see Luke 12:8–10.

The Spirit is here expressly distinguished from the Son, as one person from another. They are both spoken of with respect unto the same things in the same manner, and the things mentioned are spoken concerning them universally in the same sense. Now, if the Holy Ghost were only the virtue and power of God, then present with Jesus Christ in all that he did, Christ and that power could not be distinctly spoken against, for they were but one and the same. The Pharisees blasphemed, saying, that “he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.” A person they intended, and so expressed him by his name, nature, and office. To which our Saviour replies, that he cast them out by the Spirit of God—a divine person, opposed to him who is diabolical. Hereunto he immediately subjoins his instruction and caution, that they should take heed how they blasphemed that Holy Spirit, by assigning his effects and works to the prince of devils. And blasphemy against him directly manifests both what and who he is, especially such a peculiar blasphemy as carrieth an aggravation of guilt along with it above all that human nature in any other instance is capable of.

It is supposed that blasphemy may be against the person of the Father: so was it in him who “blasphemed the name of Jehovah and cursed” by it (Lev. 24:11). The Son, as to his distinct person, may be blasphemed. So it is said here expressly—and thereon it is added that the Holy Ghost also may be distinctly blasphemed, or be the immediate object of that sin which is declared to be inexpiable. To suppose now that this Holy Ghost is not a divine person is for men to dream whilst they seem to be awake.

Explicit testimonies unto the deity of the Holy Spirit.

I suppose by all these testimonies we have fully confirmed what was designed to be proved by them—namely, that the Holy Spirit is not a quality, as some speak, residing in the divine nature; not a mere emanation of virtue and power from God; not the acting of the power of God in and unto our sanctification; but a holy intelligent subsistent or person. And in our passage many instances have been given, whence it is undeniably evident that he is a divine, self-sufficient, self-subsisting person, together with the Father and the Son equally participant of the divine nature. Nor is this distinctly much disputed by them with whom we have to do; for they confess that such things are ascribed unto him as none but God can effect: wherefore, denying him so to be, they lay up all their hopes of success in denying him to be a person. But yet, because the subject we are upon doth require it, and it may be useful to the faith of some, I will call over a few testimonies given expressly unto his deity also.

1. He is expressly called God.

First, he is expressly called God; and having the name of God properly and directly given unto him, with respect unto spiritual things, or things peculiar unto God, he must have the nature of God also. Ananias is said to “lie to the Holy Ghost” (Acts 5:3). This is repeated and interpreted, verse 4, “Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” The declaration of the person intended by the “Holy Ghost” is added for the aggravation of the sin, for he is “God.” The same person, the same object of the sin of Ananias, is expressed in both places; and, therefore, the Holy Ghost is God. The word for lying is the same in both places, ψεύδομαι, only it is used in a various construction. Verse 3, it hath the accusative case joined unto it: Ψεύσασθαί σε τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον—that “thou shouldst deceive,” or think to deceive, or attempt to deceive, “the Holy Ghost.” How? By lying unto him, in making a profession in the church wherein he presides of that which is false. This is explained, verse 4, by ἐψεύσω τῷ Θεῷ, “thou hast lied unto God;” the nature of his sin being principally intended in the first place, and the object in the latter. Wherefore, in the progress of his discourse, the apostle calls the same sin, a “tempting of the Spirit of the Lord,” verse 9; it was the Spirit of the Lord that he lied unto, when he lied unto God. These three expressions, “The Holy Ghost,” “God,” “The Spirit of the Lord,” do denote the same thing and person, or there is no coherence in the discourse.

It is excepted “That what is done against the Spirit is done against God, because he is sent by God.” It is true, as he is sent by the Father, what is done against him is morally and as to the guilt of it done against the Father. And so our Saviour tells us with respect unto what was done against himself; for saith he, “He that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). But directly and immediately, both Christ and the Spirit were sinned against in their own persons. He is God who is here provoked.

2. He is called Lord.

So also he is called “Lord,” in a sense appropriate unto God alone: “Now the Lord is that Spirit;” and, “We are changed from glory to glory,” ἀπὸ Κυρίου Πνεύματος, “by the Lord the Spirit,” or the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:17-18); where also divine operations are ascribed unto him. What is affirmed to this purpose (1 Cor. 12:6-8), hath been observed in the opening of the beginning of that chapter at the beginning of our discourse. The same, also, is drawn by just consequence from the comparing of Scriptures together, wherein what is spoken of God absolutely in one place is applied directly and immediately unto the Holy Ghost in another.

3. He dwells in his people.

To instance in one or two particulars: “I will,” saith God, “set my tabernacle among you; and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Lev. 26:11-12). The accomplishment of this promise the apostle declares, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:16). How and by whom is this done? “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which ye are.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). If it were, then, God who of old promised to dwell in his people, and to make them his temple thereby, then is the Holy Spirit God; for he it is who, according to that promise, thus dwelleth in them. So Deut. 32:12, speaking of the people in the wilderness, he saith, “The Lord alone did lead him;” and yet, speaking of the same people, at the same time, it is said, that “the Spirit of the Lord did lead them, and caused them to rest” (Isa. 63:14). “The Spirit of the Lord” therefore, is Jehovah, or Jehovah alone did not lead them.

4. He is sinned against.

That, also, which is called in the same people their “sinning against God, and provoking the Most High in the wilderness” (Ps. 78:17-18), is termed their “rebelling against and vexing the Holy Spirit” (Isa. 63:10-11). And many other instances of an alike nature have been pleaded and vindicated by others.

5. Divine properties are assigned unto the Holy Spirit.

Add hereunto, in the last place, that divine properties are assigned unto him, as: Eternity, he is the “eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14). Immensity, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?” (Ps. 139:7). Omnipotency, “The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened” (Micah 2:7, compared with Isa. 40:28); “The power of the Spirit of God” (Rom. 15:19). Prescience, This scripture must be fulfilled, “which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16). Omniscience, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10-11). Sovereign authority over the church (Acts 13:2, 4; 20:28).

6. Divine works of the Holy Spirit.

The divine works, also, which are assigned unto him are usually, and to good purpose, pleaded in the vindication of the same truth; but these in the progress of our discourse I shall have occasion distinctly to consider and inquire into [i.e. later chapters of Pneumatalogia], and, therefore, shall not in this place insist upon them. What hath been proposed, cleared, and confirmed, may suffice as unto our present purpose, that we may know who he is concerning whom—his works and grace—we do design to treat.

Third person in the Trinity, in the order of subsistence.

I have but one thing more to add concerning the being and personality of the Holy Spirit. And this is, that in the order of subsistence, he is the third person in the holy Trinity. So it is expressed in the solemn numeration of them, where their order gives great direction unto gospel worship and obedience: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mat. 28:19).

This order, I confess, in their numeration, because of the equality of the persons in the same nature, is sometimes varied. So, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:4-5). The Holy Spirit, under the name of the seven Spirits before the throne of God, because of his various and perfect operations in and towards the church, is reckoned up in order before the Son, Jesus Christ. And so in Paul’s euctical [supplicatory] conclusion unto his epistles, the Son is placed before the Father: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). And some think that the Holy Ghost is mentioned in the first place, “The acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Col. 2:2). In this expression of them, therefore, we may use our liberty, they being all one, “God over all, blessed for ever” (Rom. 9:5).

But in their true and natural order of subsistence, and consequently of operation, the Holy Spirit is the third person. For as to his personal subsistence, he “proceedeth from the Father and the Son,” being equally the Spirit of them both, as hath been declared. This constitutes the natural order between the persons, which is unalterable. On this depends the order of his operation—for his working is a consequent of the order of his subsistence. Thus the Father is said to send him, and so is the Son also (John 14:16, 26; 16:7). And he is thus said to be sent by the Father and the Son, because he is the Spirit of the Father and Son, proceeding from both, and is the next cause in the application of the Trinity unto external works. But as he is thus sent, so his own will is equally in and unto the work for which he is sent. As the Father is said to send the Son, and yet it was also his own love and grace to come unto us and to save us.

And this ariseth from hence, that in the whole economy of the Trinity, as to the works that outwardly are of God, especially the works of grace, the order of the subsistence of the persons in the same nature is represented unto us, and they have the same dependence on each other in their operations as they have in their subsistence. The Father is the fountain of all, as in being and existence, so in operation. The Son is of the Father, begotten of him, and, therefore, as unto his work, is sent by him; but his own will is in and unto what he is sent about. The Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and, therefore, is sent and given by them as to all the works which he immediately effecteth; but yet his own will is the direct principle of all that he doth—he divideth unto every one according to his own will.

And thus much may suffice to be spoken about the being of the Holy Spirit, and the order of his subsistence in the blessed Trinity.


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