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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Procession of the Holy Ghost
A term made use of in reference to the Holy Ghost, as proceeding from the Father, or from the Father and the Son. It seems to be founded on that passage in John 15:26 . "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, He shall testify of me." The procession of the Holy ghost, it is said, is expressly taught by Christ, in very strong terms, in this text. This procession, it is alleged, is here evidently distinguished from his mission; from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father." If his mission and proceeding were the same thing, there would be a tautology in the words, his mission, according to that interpretation, being mentioned twice in the same verse. Dr. Watts, however, observes, that the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father, respects not his nature or substance, but his mission only; and that no distinct and clear ideas can be formed of this procession; consequently it must be given up as popish, scholastic, inconceivable, and indefensible. But, it is answered, what clear idea can be given us of the originate, self-existent, eternal being of the Father? Shall we, therefore, deny him to be without beginning or end, and to be self-existent, because we know not how he is so? If not, why must we give up the procession of the Spirit, because we know not the mode of it.
We can no more explain the manner how the Spirit proceeds from the Father, than we can explain the eternal generation and hypostatical union of the two natures of the Son. We may say to the objector, as Gregory Nazianzen formerly did to his adversary, "Do you tell me how the Father is unbegotten, and I will attempt to tell you how the Son is begotten, and the Spirit proceeds." The clearest and fullest account of this procession, next to that in the above-mentioned text, is that in 1 Corinthians 2:12 . "The Spirit which is of God;" that is (say the advocates for this doctrine, ) the Spirit which is the same in nature and essence with the Father, and so is said to be of him, or out of him, not as to local separation, but with respect to identity of nature. About the eighth and ninth centuries there was a very warm dispute between the Greek and Latin churches, whether the Spirit proceeded from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son; and the controversy arose to such a height, that they charged one another with heresy and schism, when neither side well understood what they contended for. The Latin church, however, has not scrupled to say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; but the Greek church chooses to express it thus: the Spirit proceeds from the Father by or through the Son, or he receives of the Son, Galatians 4:6 .
See HOLY GHOST; Bishop Pearson on the Creed, p. 324; Watts's Works, 8vo. ed. vol. 5: p. 199; Hurrion on the Holy Spirit, p. 204; Ridgley's div. qu. 11; Dr. Lightfoot's Works, vol. 1:p. 482.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Procession of the Holy Ghost'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/p/procession-of-the-holy-ghost.html. 1802.