PREFACEIt is not claimed that in this little volume all has been said that might be said upon the subject treated. On the contrary, the writer has proceeded upon the belief that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit can be better understood by limiting the sphere of discussion, rather than by extending it to the largest bounds. For finite beings, at least, presence is more intelligible than omnipresence. So, though the subject of this book is in itself profoundly mysterious, we have sought to simplify it by dwelling upon the time-ministry of the Holy Ghost without entering upon the consideration of his eternal ministry. What the Spirit did before the incarnation of Christ, and what he may do hereafter beyond the second advent of Christ, is a question hardly touched upon in this volume. We have sought rather to emphasize and to magnify the great truth that the Paraclete is now present in the church: that we are living in the dispensation of the Spirit, with all the unspeakable blessing for the church and for the world which this economy provides. Hence, as we speak of the ministry of Christ meaning a service embraced within defined limits, so we name this volume the “Ministry of the Spirit,” as referring to the work of the Comforter extending from Pentecost to the end of this dispensation.How deep a subject for a study! What prayer more becoming for those entering upon it than the humble petition that the Spirit himself will teach us concerning the Spirit! Deeply sensible of the imperfection of this work, it is now committed to the use and blessing of that Divine Person of the Godhead of whom it so unworthily speaks.A. J. Gordon BostonDec., 1894.
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THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT
A. J. GORDON, D.D.
With an Introduction by Rev. F. B. Meyer
Minister at Christ Church, London
Philadelphia American Baptist Publication Society
1420 Chestnut Street
Copyright 1894 by the
American Baptist Publication Society
INHERITORS OF THE SPIRIT
Hope. Inspiration. Trust.
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I. THE AGE-MISSION OF THE SPIRIT
II. THE ADVENT OF THE SPIRIT
III. THE NAMING OF THE SPIRIT
IV. THE EMBODYING OF THE SPIRIT
V. THE ENDUEMENT OF THE SPIRIT
VI. THE COMMUNION OF THE SPIRIT
VII. THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE SPIRIT
VIII. THE INSPIRATION OF THE SPIRIT
IX. THE CONVICTION OF THE SPIRIT
X. THE ASCENT OF THE SPIRIT
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It is not claimed that in this little volume all has been said that might be said upon the subject treated. On the contrary, the writer has proceeded upon the belief that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit can be better understood by limiting the sphere of discussion, rather than by extending it to the largest bounds. For finite beings, at least, presence is more intelligible than omnipresence. So, though the subject of this book is in itself profoundly mysterious, we have sought to simplify it by dwelling upon the time-ministry of the Holy Ghost without entering upon the consideration of his eternal ministry. What the Spirit did before the incarnation of Christ, and what he may do hereafter beyond the second advent of Christ, is a question hardly touched upon in this volume. We have sought rather to emphasize and to magnify the great truth that the Paraclete is now present in the church: that we are living in the dispensation of the Spirit, with all the unspeakable blessing for the church and for the world which this economy provides. Hence, as we speak of the ministry of Christ meaning a service embraced within defined limits, so we name this volume the “Ministry of the Spirit,” as referring to the work of the Comforter extending from Pentecost to the end of this dispensation.
How deep a subject for a study! What prayer more becoming for those entering upon it than the humble petition that the Spirit himself will teach us concerning the Spirit! Deeply sensible of the imperfection of this work, it is now committed to the use and blessing of that Divine Person of the Godhead of whom it so unworthily speaks.
It is remarkable how many in these last days have been led to deal with the sublime subject to which this treatise is devoted. Without doubt the mind of the church is being instructed, and her heart prepared for a recognition of the indwelling, administration, and co-operation of the blessed Paraclete, which has never been excelled in her history, and is fraught with the greatest promise both to her and to the world.
Each of these treatises has brought out some new phase in respect to the person or mission of the Holy Spirit, but I cannot recall one that is so lucid, so suggestive, so scriptural, so deeply spiritual as this, by my beloved friend, Dr. Gordon. The chapters on the Embodying, the Enduement, and the Administration of the Spirit seem specially fresh and helpful. But all is good, and deserving of prayerful perusal. Let only such truths be well wrought into the mental and spiritual constitution of God’s servants, and there would be such a revival of pure and undefiled religion in the churches, and such marvelous results through them on the world that the age would close with a world-wide Pentecost. And there are many symptoms abroad that this also is in the purpose of God. Nothing else can meet the deepest needs and yearnings of our time.
Christianity is beset with three powerful currents, which insidiously operate to deflect her from her course. Materialism, which denies or ignores the supernatural, and concentrates its heed on ameliorating the outward conditions of human life; criticism, which is clever at analysis and dissection, but cannot construct a foundation on which the religious faculty may build and rest; and a fine literary taste, which has greatly developed of late, and is disposed to judge of power by force of words or by delicacy of expression.
To all of these we have but one reply. And that is, not a system, a creed, a church, but the living Christ, who was dead, but is alive forevermore, and has the keys to unlock all perplexities, problems, and failures. Though society could be reconstituted, and material necessities be more evenly supplied, discontent would break out again in some other form, unless the heart were satisfied with his love. The truth which he reveals to the soul, and which is ensphered in him, is alone able to appease the consuming hunger of the mind for data on which to construct its answer to the questions of life and destiny and God, which are ever knocking at its door for solution. And men have yet to learn that the highest power is not in words or metaphors or bursts of eloquence, but in the indwelling and out-working of the Word, who is the wisdom and the power of God, and who deals with regions below those where the mind vainly labors.
Jesus Christ, the ever-living Son of God, is the one supreme answer to the restlessness and travail of our day. But he cannot, he will not reveal himself. Each person in the Holy Trinity reveals another. The Son reveals the Father, but his own revelation awaits the testimony of the Holy Ghost, which, though often given directly, is largely through the church. What we need then, and what the world is waiting for, is the Son of God, borne witness to and revealed in all his radiant beauty of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as he energizes with and through the saints that make up the holy and mystical body, the church.
It is needful to emphasize this distinction. In some quarters it seems to be supposed that the Holy Spirit himself is the solution of the perplexities of our time. Now what we may witness in some coming age we know not, but in this it is clear that God in the person of Christ is the one only and divine answer. Here is God’s yea and amen, the Alpha and Omega, sight for the blind, healing for the paralyzed, cleansing for the polluted, life for the dead, the gospel for the poor and sad and comfortless. Now we covet the gracious bestowal of the Spirit, that he may take more deeply of the things of Christ, and reveal them unto us. When the disciples sought to know the Father, the Lord said, He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. It is his glory that shines on my face, his will that molds my life, his purpose that is fulfilled in my ministry. So the blessed Paraclete would turn our thought and attention from himself to him, with whom he is One in the Holy Trinity, and whom he has come to reveal.
Throughout the so-called Christian centuries the voice of the Holy Spirit has borne witness to the Lord, directly and mediately. Directly, in each widespread quickening of the human conscience, in each revival of religion, in each era of advance in the knowledge of divine truth, in each soul that has been regenerated, comforted, or taught. Mediately his work has been carried on through the church, the body of those that believe. But, alas! how sadly his witness has been weakened and hindered by the medium through which it has come. He has not been able to do many mighty works because of the unbelief which has kept closed and barred those avenues through which he would have poured his glad testimony to the unseen and glorified Lord.
The divisions of the church, her strife about matters of comparative unimportance, her magnification of points of difference, her materialism, her love of pelf and place and power, her accounting herself rich and increased in goods and needing nothing, when she was poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked—these things have not only robbed her of her testimony, but have grieved and quenched the Holy Spirit, and nullified his testimony.
We gladly hail the signs that this period of apathy and resistance is coming to a close. The Church which is in the churches is making herself felt, is arising from the dust and arraying herself in her beautiful garments. There is a widespread recognition of the unity of all who believe, together with an increasing desire to magnify the points of agreement and minimize those of divergence. The great conventions for the quickening of spiritual life on both sides of the Atlantic in which believers meet, irrespective of name or sect, are doing an incalculable amount of good in breaking down the old lines of demarcation, and making real our spiritual oneness. The teaching of consecration and cleanliness of heart and life is removing those obstacles that have restrained and drowned the Spirit’s still small voice. The fuller’s soap and the refiner’s fire have been largely resorted to, with the best results. And as believers have become more consistent and devoted, they have grown increasingly sensitive to the indwelling, energy, and co-witness of the Holy Spirit.
If only this glorious movement is permitted to achieve its full purpose, the effect will be transcendently glorious. The church will become as pliant to the Divine Tenant as the resurrection body of our Lord to the impulse of his divine nature. And so the Lord Jesus will increasingly become the object of human hope, the center around which the concentric circles of human life shall circle.
That the Lord Jesus should be thus magnified and glorified through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and with this end in view, that the hearts and lives of believers should be made more sensitive to and receptive of his blessed energy, this treatise has been prepared; and I add my testimony to the beloved author’s, that in the mouth of two witnesses, every word may be established; and my prayer to his that the yea of the Spirit to the great voice of the gospel may be heard more mightily and persistently amongst us.
“It is evident that the present dispensation under which we are is the dispensation of the Spirit, or of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. To him in the Divine economy, has been committed the office of applying the redemption of the Son to the souls of men by the vocation, justification, and salvation of the elect. We are therefore under the personal guidance of the Third Person, as truly as the apostles were under the guidance of the Second.”—Henry Edward Manning.
In some observations on the doctrine of the Spirit, which lie before us as we write, an eminent professor of theology remarks on the disproportionate attention which has been given to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, as compared with that bestowed on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It is affirmed, moreover, that in many of the works upon the subject now extant there is a lack of definiteness of impression which leaves much still to be desired in the treatment of this subject. These observations lead us to ask: Why not employ the same method in writing about the Third Person of the Trinity as we use in considering the Second Person? Scores of excellent lives of Christ have been written; and we find that in these, almost without exception, the divine story begins with Bethlehem and ends with Olivet. Though the Saviour lived before his incarnation, and continues to live after his ascension, yet it gives a certain definiteness of impression to limit one’s view to his historic career, distinguishing his visible life lived in time from his invisible life lived in eternity.
So in considering the Holy Spirit, we believe there is an advantage in separating his ministry in time from his ministry before and after, bounding it by Pentecost on the one side, and by Christ’s second coming on the other. We have to confess that in many respects one of the best treatises on the Spirit which we have found is by a Roman Catholic—Cardinal Manning. Notwithstanding the papistical errors which abound in the volume, his general conception of the subject is in some particulars admirable. His treatise is called “The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost.” How much is suggested by this title! Just as Jesus Christ had a time-ministry which he came into the world to fulfill, and having accomplished it returned to the Father, so the Holy Spirit, for the fulfillment of a definite mission, came into the world at an appointed time; he is now carrying on his ministry on earth, and in due time he will complete it and ascend to heaven again—this is what these words suggest, and what, as we believe, the Scriptures teach. If we thus form a right conception of this present age-ministry of the Spirit, we have a definite view-point from which to study his operations in the ages past, and his greater mission, if there be such, in the ages to come.
Now we conceive that the vagueness and mystery attaching in many minds to the doctrine of the Spirit, are due largely to a failure to recognize his time-ministry, distinct from all that went before and introductory to all that is to come after—a ministry with a definite beginning and a definite termination. Certainly no one can read the farewell discourse of our Lord, as recorded by John, without being impressed with the fact that just as distinctly as his own advent was foretold by prophets and angels, he now announces the advent into the world of another, co-equal with himself, his Divine successor, his other self in the mysterious unity of the Godhead. And moreover, it seems clear to us that he implied that this coming One was to appear not only for an appointed work, but for an appointed period: “He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever”—eis ton aiõna. If we translate literally and say “for the age,” it harmonizes with a parallel passage. In giving the great commission, Jesus says: “And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.” Here his presence by the Holy Ghost is evidently meant. The perpetuity of that presence is guaranteed, “with you all the days”; and its bound determined, “unto the end of the age.” Not that it need be argued that he shall not be here after this dispensation is finished; but that there is such a thing as a temporal mission of the Holy Spirit does seem to be implied. And a full study confirms the view. The present is the dispensation of the Holy Ghost; the age-work which he inaugurated on the day of Pentecost is now going on, and it will continue until the Lord Jesus returns from heaven, when another order will be ushered in and another dispensational ministry succeed.
In the well-known work of Moberly, on “The Administration of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ,” the author divides the course of redemption thus far accomplished into these three stages: The first age, God the Father; the second age, God the Son; and the third age, God the Holy Ghost. This distribution seems to be correct, and so does his remark upon the inauguration of the last of these periods on the day of Pentecost. “At that moment,” he says, “the third stage of the development [manifestation] of God for the restoration of the world finally began, never to come to an end or to be superseded on earth till the restitution of all things, when the Son of Man shall come again in the clouds of heaven, in like manner as his disciples saw him go into heaven.” And what shall be the next period, “the age to come,” whose powers they have already tasted who have been “made partakers of the Holy Ghost”? This question need not be answered, as we have done all that is required, defined the age of the Spirit which constitutes the field in which our entire discussion lies.
“Therefore the Holy Ghost on this day—Pentecost—descended into the temple of his apostles, which he had prepared for himself, as a shower of sanctification, appearing no more as a transient visitor, but as a perpetual Comforter and as an eternal inhabitant. He came therefore on this day to his disciples, no longer by the grace of visitation and operation, but by the very presence of his majesty.”—Augustine.
“For the Holy Ghost was not yet,” is the more than surprising saying of Jesus when speaking of “the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive.” Had not the Spirit been seen descending upon Jesus like a dove at his baptism, and remaining on him? Had he not been the divine agent in creation, and in the illumination and inspiration of the patriarchs and prophets and seers of the old dispensation? How then could Jesus say that he “was not yet given,” as the words read in our Common version? The answer to this question furnishes our best point of departure for an intelligent study of the doctrine of the Spirit. Augustine calls the day of Pentecost the “dies natalis” of the Holy Ghost; and for the same reason that the day when Mary “brought forth her first-born son” we name “the birthday of Jesus Christ.” Yet Jesus had existed before he lay in the cradle at Bethlehem; he was “in the beginning with God”; he was the agent in creation. By him all things were. But on the day of his birth he became incarnate, that in the flesh he might fulfill his great ministry as the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, manifesting God to men, and making himself an offering for the sins of the world. Not until after his birth in Bethlehem was Jesus in the world in his official capacity, in his divine ministry as mediator between man and God; and so not till after the day of Pentecost was the Holy Spirit in the world in his official sphere, as mediator between men and Christ. In the following senses then is Augustine’s saying true, which calls Pentecost “the birthday of the Spirit”:
1. The Holy Spirit, from that time on, took up his residence on earth. The Christian church throughout all this dispensation is the home of the Spirit as truly as heaven, during this same period, is the home of Jesus Christ. This is according to that sublime word of Jesus, called by one “the highest promise which can be made to man”: “If a man love me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost, and the first two Persons of the Godhead now hold residence in the church through the Third. The Holy Spirit during the present time is in office on earth; and all spiritual presence and divine communion of the Trinity with men are through him. In other words, while the Father and the Son are visibly and personally in heaven, they are invisibly here in the body of the faithful by the indwelling of the Comforter. So that though we affirm that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to dwell upon earth for this entire dispensation, we do not imply that he thereby ceased to be in heaven. Not with God, as with finite man, does arrival in one place necessitate withdrawal from another. Jesus uttered a saying concerning himself so mysterious and seemingly contradictory that many attempts have been made to explain away its literal and obvious meaning: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven”—Christ on earth, and yet in glory; here and there, at the same time, just as a thought which we embody in speech and send forth from the mind, yet remains in the mind as really and distinctly as before it was expressed. Why should this saying concerning our divine Lord seem incredible? And as with the Son, so with the Spirit. The Holy Ghost is here, abiding perpetually in the church; and he is likewise there, in communion with the Father and the Son from whom he proceeds, and from whom, as co-equal partner in the Godhead, he can never be separated any more than the sunbeam can be dissociated from the sun in which it has its source.
2. Again: The Holy Spirit, in a mystical but very real sense, became embodied in the church on the day of Pentecost. Not that we would by any means put this embodiment on the same plane with the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. When “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” it was God entering into union with sinless humanity; here it is the Holy Spirit uniting himself with the church in its imperfect and militant condition. Nevertheless, it is according to literal Scripture that the body of the faithful is indwelt by the divine Spirit. In this fact we have the distinguishing peculiarity of the present dispensation. “For he dwelleth with you and shall be in you!” said Jesus, speaking anticipatively of the coming of the Comforter; and so truly was this prediction fulfilled that ever after the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit is spoken of as being in the church. “If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” is the inspired assumption on which the deep teaching in Romans eighth proceeds. All the recognition and deference which the disciples paid to their Lord they now pay to the Holy Spirit, his true vicar, his invisible self, present in the body of believers. How artlessly and naturally this comes out in the findings of the first council at Jerusalem: “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us” runs the record; as though it had been said: “Peter and James and Barnabas and Saul and the rest were present, and also just as truly was the Holy Ghost.”
And when the first capital sin was committed in the church, in the conspiracy and falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira, Peter’s question is: “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Holy Ghost?” Not only is the personal presence of the Spirit in the body of believers thus distinctly recognized, but he is there in authority and supremacy, as the center of the assembly. “Incarnated in the church!” do we say? We get this conception by comparing together the inspired characterizations of Christ and of the church. “This temple” was the name which he gave to his own divine person, greatly to the scandal and indignation of the Jews; and the evangelist explains to us that “he spoke of the temple of his body.” A metaphor, a type! do we say? No! He said so because it was so. “The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory” (John 1:14). This is temple imagery. “Tabernacled” (eschênôsen) is the word used in Scripture for the dwelling of God with men; and the temple is God’s dwelling-place. The “glory” harmonizes with the same idea. As the Shechinah cloud rested above the mercy-seat, the symbol and sign of God’s presence, so from the Holy of Holies of our blessed Lord’s heart did the glory of God shine forth, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” certifying him to be the veritable temple of the Most High.
After his ascension and the sending down of the Spirit, the church takes the name her Lord had borne before; she is the temple of God, and the only temple which he has on earth during the present dispensation. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” asks the apostle. This he speaks to the church in its corporate capacity. “A holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit,” is the sublime description in the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is enough that we now emphasize the fact that the same language is here applied to the church which Christ applies to himself. As with the Head, so with the mystical body; each is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and thus is God in some sense incarnated in both; and for the same reason. Christ was “the Image of the Invisible God”; and when he stood before men in the flesh he could say to them, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Not otherwise than through the incarnation, so far as we know, could the unknown God become known, and the unseen God become seen. So, after Christ had returned to the Father, and the world saw him no more, he sent the Paraclete to be incarnated in his mystical body, the church. As the Father revealed himself through the Son, so the Son by the Holy Spirit now reveals himself through the church; as Christ was the image of the invisible God, so the church is appointed to be the image of the invisible Christ; and his members, when they are glorified with him, shall be the express image of his person.
This then is the mystery and the glory of this dispensation; not less true because mysterious; not less practical because glorious. In an admirable work on the Spirit, the distinction between the former and the present relation of the Spirit is thus stated: “In the old dispensation the Holy Spirit wrought upon believers, but did not in his person dwell in believers and abide permanently in them. He appeared unto men; he did not incarnate himself in man. His action was intermittent; he went and came like the dove which Noah sent forth from the ark, and which went to and fro, finding no rest; while in the new dispensation he dwells, he abides in the heart as the dove, his emblem, which John saw descending and alighting on the head of Jesus. Affianced of the soul, the Spirit went oft to see his betrothed, but was not yet one with her; the marriage was not consummated until the Pentecost, after the glorification of Jesus Christ.”1
3. A still more obvious reason why before the day of Pentecost it could be said that “the Holy Ghost was not yet,” is contained in the words, “Because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” In the order of the unfolding ages we see each of the persons of the Godhead in turn exercising an earthly ministry and dealing with man in the work of redemption. Under the law, God the Father comes down to earth and speaks to men from the cloud of Sinai and from the glory above the mercy-seat; under grace, God the Son is in the world, teaching, suffering, dying, and rising again; under the dispensation of election and out-gathering now going on, the Holy Spirit is here carrying on the work of renewing and sanctifying the church, which is the body of Christ. There is a necessary succession in these Divine ministries, both in time and in character. In the days of Moses it might have been said: “Christ is not yet,” because the economy of God-Jehovah was not completed. The law must first be given, with its sacrifices and types and ceremonies and shadows; man must be put on trial under the law, till the appointed time of his schooling should be completed. Then must Christ come to fulfill all types and terminate all sacrifices in himself; to do for us “what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh,” and to become “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” When in turn Christ had completed his redemption-work by dying on the cross for our sins, and rising again from the dead for our justification, and had taken his place at God’s right hand for perpetual intercession, then the Holy Ghost came down to communicate and realize to the church the finished work of Christ. In a word, as God the Son fulfills to men the work of God the Father, so God the Holy Ghost realizes to human hearts the work of God the Son.
There is a holy deference, if we may so say, between the Persons of the Trinity in regard to their respective ministries. When Christ was in office on earth, the Father commends us to him, speaking from heaven and saying: “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him”; when the Holy Ghost had entered upon his earthly office, Christ commends us to him, speaking again from heaven with sevenfold reiteration, saying: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
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