Consider helping today!
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
1. Definition and analysis.—Personality is the substance and summary of a man’s qualities, or rather it is the man himself, discovered in the last analysis and in the highest category of being short of God. Indeed, ‘complete personality can be in God only, while to man can belong but a weak and faint copy thereof, (Lotze, Outlines, p. 72). The truth is that through the limitations of bodily existence there are mental and moral workings which do not at once cross the threshold of consciousness, but may at any time surprise the soul, as in the flash of genius or the turn of conversion. But personality implies a grip of these things as our own. We know that we exist when self is revealed to us over against the world. There the self-conscious life begins. But it is not until God is revealed over against both self and the world that personality is fully exercised. The recognition of a moral authority is the touchstone of the self-determined life. Thus, for popular purposes, personality may be expressed in terms of character. ‘It is made up,’ says F. W. Robertson, ‘of three attributes—consciousness, character, and will.’ In other words, it is the power of self-assertion on lines of character. But, philosophically speaking, the two chief factors in personality, in so far as it can be analyzed, are self-consciousness and self-determination, the contents of which it will be necessary to examine. Put briefly, self-consciousness is the soul’s utterance ‘I am’; self-determination is the soul’s assertion ‘I will.’
(1) Self-consciousness is the soul’s utterance ‘I am.’ (a) I am myself and nobody else (cf. John 9:9 ἐγώ εἰμι). Almost the first sense of personality is that it speaks from behind closed doors. It can look out on others, but they cannot enter uninvited to share its life. This point is brought out in Holman Hunt’s famous picture ‘The Light of the World,’ in which the door has no handle outside. ‘Each self is a unique existence, which is perfectly impervious to other selves—impervious in a fashion of which the impenetrability of matter is a faint analogue’ (Seth, Hegelianism and Personality, p. 216). (b) I am myself amid the varied functions of my being. Spinoza based personality on the intellect, Schleiermacher on the feeling, Schopenhauer on the will. But personality subtly underlies thinking, feeling, and willing. They are only modes of the soul’s self-expression. They are unified in the intuition ‘I am.’ In John 6:20 there is an illustrative use of ἐγώ εἰμι, when Jesus assured the disciples of His personal identity behind an unfamiliar appearance. (c) I am myself in a continuity of experience. In all movement of time and change of circumstances the soul still knows itself as the same. We cannot get rid of our own past; it is with us still. And no sceptical philosophy can dissolve this elemental fact. There is a corresponding sense of ἐγώ εἰμι in John 8:58, where Jesus says, ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ and reveals the wonderful secret of His self-consciousness.—These modes of the soul’s utterance ‘I am’ enter into the basis of our understanding, on which is erected that faculty of the soul called reason, by which we cognize and construe the world. But the soul must be considered not only in this static, but also in its dynamic aspect, in its—
(2) Self-determination, which is the soul’s assertion ‘I will.’ The soul selects and pursues its own ends at the bidding of its own desires. It has music of its own to beat out, by appreciating and appropriating objects in its own environment. The whole range of enjoyment in the pursuit of happiness on the one hand, and of endurance in the path of duty on the other, rests on the use of this power of self-determination. But that which moralizes the human will is that it responds to two voices—(a) ‘I can.’ The sense of liberty therein expressed is an essential element of personality, and through the intuition of the soul it has held its own as an assertion of free will in spite of the affirmations of reason respecting the will of God (in theology) or the laws of nature (in science). Our moral sense is strictly bound up with this assertion of the soul, without which there can be neither merit, nor blame, nor any accountability. It is this which binds up our being with that of God.
‘So near is glory to our dust,
So nigh is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, “Thou must,”
The youth replies, “I can.” ’ (Emerson).
(b) ‘I must’ Not, however, until ‘I will’ is consummated in ‘I must’ is the height of personality reached, for its liberty of will is given for the sake of its voluntary obedience. When the personality has found its master, its resources are all enlisted on the side of self-determination, especially when for love’s sake we lose ourselves. In other words, the highest outgoing and incoming of personality in self-determination is in the exercise of love.
‘Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might,
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, passed in music out of sight.’
2. Christ’s influence on the conception of personality.—The full extension of the possibilities of personality is due to Jesus Christ. He opened up new vistas for the soul’s self-consciousness by revealing the inherent but hitherto hidden natures of God, the world, and the soul, whereby the value of the personality has been infinitely enhanced; and higher ways for the soul’s self-determination by bringing the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the strength of which the soul overcomes the world, submits to God, and thus realizes itself. This is what the world was waiting for. Prof. Bigg (The Church and Roman Empire) shows that the Eastern religions of Isis and Mithras were being welcomed because by their virtual monotheism and their proffer of peace and happiness they seemed to meet the needs, of the newly discovered personality. Christ did this completely. He supplied the key of knowledge to self-consciousness and the nerve of power to self-determination. Henceforth the soul is a possibility to be realized through knowledge in obedience. These are the two factors of faith, for ‘faith is at once a vision and an allegiance’ (Hort). Prior to Christ, and still apart from Him, the conception of the world has largely absorbed both the notion of God (in Polytheism, Pantheism, and Fatalism), and that of the soul (in Naturalism and Materialism). But through Christ, God and man draw out apart from the world, apart from each other too (sin being the ‘sunderer’); and yet more truly close to each other, under the common conception of personality in which both share as distinguished from the world. Illingworth has put the whole point finely at the end of his 5th Bampton Lecture: ‘As reason qualifies and conditions our whole animal nature by its presence, so that we are never merely animals, spirituality also permeates and modifies all that we call our natural faculties; and our personality itself is, in this sense, as truly supernatural as the Divine Person in whom alone it finds its home.’
‘God … soul … the only facts for me.
Prove them facts? That they o’erpass my power of proving
Proves them such.’ (R. Browning, La Saisiaz).
Through Christ man has learned to read God and himself as being gathered under the same categories, perfect and infinite in the one, derivative and fettered in the other. But that is only the intellectual aspect of what we owe Him. And, as Martensen has said (Dogmatics, p. 154), ‘No intellectual creation can ever be perfected by dint of a mere psychological possibility; it must first be fructified and awakened by a higher inspiration.’ Christ has shown us the way to the consummation of our personality in the voluntary and glad surrender to God and in fellowship with Him through the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:3), so that we learn to say—
‘Our wills are ours, we know not how:
Our wills are ours to make them Thine.’
There is such an utter absence of the language of the schools in the speech of Christ, that one might be tempted to think that He made no contribution to the subject of personality. And it is true He was no philosopher in the accepted sense of the term. But He gave philosophy a new world to discover. He roused and satisfied experiences of the soul which at length called into being a new terminology. The fact that the analysis of personality first went to the depths in Paul’s Epistles, argues that the first perfect exposition of personality was in Paul’s Master. For a thing must be before it is thought upon. Where even Plato and Aristotle had groped blindly because they had no true conception of personality, Christ moved with perfect assurance. What was hidden from them, ‘the wise and prudent,’ was all in all to Him. It might truly be said that personality is the pivot of the gospel. ‘The gospel was in the highest and most perfect sense a personal religion’ (Bousset, Jesus, p. 164). It does not move in the regions of mere intellect or will or feeling, nor even in the field of their joint exercise. It moves throughout in the region of the man himself, in his self-consciousness and self-determination, and finds its highest expression in the Divine passion for the soul and the human hunger for God. Christ did not coin terms, and yet there is what may be called with Rothe, a ‘language of the Holy Ghost.’ His psychological expressions do not travel beyond the accepted antitheses of soul and body, flesh and spirit, using the first to express simply the two elements in man’s nature (Matthew 10:28), and the second to emphasize their distinction in origin (John 3:6) and divergence in character (Mark 14:38). Indeed, Jesus did not make use of the psychology available in His own day, e.g. μακάριος οὖ οὐ κατέγνω ἡ ψυχὴ αὐτοῦ (Sirach 14:2), which is a plain reference to conscience.
Although the word ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα) is reserved in the Gospels chiefly for super- or sub-human agencies, it is also used indifferently as a synonym for ψυχή or ‘soul,’ to express the region of the inner life where the feelings especially have full play. In fourteen instances of such a kind, πνεῦμα occurs seven times (five times in reference to Jesus), and ψυχή also seven times (in reference to Jesus only twice). (With Paul, however, these two words fall apart in psychological connotation). The favourite word of the Evangelists, and presumably of Jesus Himself, is καρδία, which is not only the region of the feelings, but the seat of the will (θέλημα) and of the thoughts (διαλογισμοί). In fact, throughout the Bible it means the organ of the personality (cf. Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , art. ‘Psychology’). It is, by the way, suggestive of the moral emphasis of Christ’s teaching that He never uses νοῦς, διάνοια, σύνεσιρ or their correlatives. But, while Jesus employed terms simply In their popular connotation, He sometimes transfused them with His own transcendental conceptions, and then they stand in excess of light. Thus, ‘If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light’ (Matthew 6:22); ‘Whosoever will save his life (ψυχή) shall lose it’ (Matthew 16:25); ‘Blessed are your eyes, for they see’ (Matthew 13:16); ‘The things that proceed out of a man defile him’ (Mark 7:20); ‘He that believeth on me, out of his belly (κοιλία) shall flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38).
But Christ’s exposition of personality was not vocal, but vital. It was essentially the realm in which He lived, moved, and had His being: it was the true life to which He invited the careworn and heavy laden, and those who were entangled in their material and worldly environment. Secure in the possession of His own personality, His self-consciousness being at one with God, His self-determination being merged in the will of God, He could affirm, ‘The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me’ (John 14:30); ‘I am in the Father and the Father in me’ (John 14:10); ‘I do always the things that please him’ (John 8:29). That personality is the pivot of the gospel which Jesus lived and taught may be illustrated in detail.
(1) The personal temptation of Jesus is given as the record of a unique struggle within the chambers of personality. It was associated with that enhancing of His self-consciousness which was represented by the descent of the Spirit as that of a dove, and the hearing of a voice, ‘Thou art my beloved Son’ (Mark 1:10). The first temptation was overcome by His affirmation that the soul is infinitely more precious than the natural life, and that there is eternal provision for it in communion with the Father (Matthew 4:4). As Christ said afterwards to His disciples, ‘I have food to eat that ye know not of’ (John 4:32). The second temptation was resisted on the ground that man has the responsibility of cherishing his life and using it wisely, as the vehicle of a God-given personality. To depend on the aid of angels would be an act of presumption (Matthew 4:6 f.). God has chosen that they should minister only when personality has achieved its proper work (Mark 1:13), or before personality is permitted to begin it (Matthew 18:10). A true man scorns the aid of impersonal forces when affairs of the soul are at stake (Matthew 26:53). The third temptation was met in the confidence that personality is of itself worth more than all the world. It may subject itself only to God (Matthew 4:10), by whose gentleness it is made great; for it is meant to be king of all, but not through the acknowledgment of Satan (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:23). So Jesus taught elsewhere, ‘What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’; but ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ (Mark 8:36, Matthew 5:5).
(2) The public teaching of Christ never moved far from the personal character of true religion. (a) The Kingdom of heaven is essentially the realm of personality. It thus calls for no less an analogy than a new birth, and the breath of the Spirit (John 3:7-8). Its boundaries are specifically in character, for it is inherited by such as are poor in spirit, pure in heart, and peaceable in will (Matthew 5:3; Matthew 5:8-9), and those who revert to the attitude of children (Matthew 18:3). Deeds of themselves, however zealously performed, are outside this realm (Matthew 7:22 f.), for a house may be swept and garnished, yet vacant for evil spirits (Matthew 12:44). But even our words will witness against us, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:35). The approach of this Kingdom, therefore, is a call to repentance (Mark 1:15): its entry involves the ‘binding of the strong man’ (Matthew 12:29); and its extension needs such a personal influence as the word or the gospel incorporated in the lives of the disciples (Matthew 5:13 f.). (b) The inner righteousness is only another way of stating that in true religion the personality must come to its own, as the character of fruit is fixed by the tree on which it grows (Matthew 7:17). Nothing done by rote or for show is worthy of the soul’s approach to its God (Matthew 6:1-8). The only genuine worship is in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), in the consciousness that the best things may be asked for from a Father (Matthew 7:11), who in turn expects the inward attitude of a believing (Matthew 6:31), lowly (Luke 18:14), and forgiving heart (Matthew 6:15). The only defiling thing in life is the effluence of a man’s personality (Mark 7:20). The only unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is essentially a sin against one’s own personality (Matthew 12:31). And behind Christ’s teaching were His miracles of mercy, which were sacramental of this rescue of personality from its fetters (Mark 2:5 ff., Luke 13:16). In short, with Christ, religion is positive because it is spiritual. Saintliness is not by contraction, but by expansion. Keeping the Law is acting the Good Samaritan. In a word, religion is raised to personality-power.
(3) The private training of Christ was always and wholly exerted on the personality of His disciples. He left behind Him no documents, nor any organization, only men who knew whom they believed (2 Timothy 1:12). He was satisfied, therefore, that they should be with Him (Mark 3:14), sure that afterwards they would become ‘fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19), ‘lambs in the midst of wolves’ (Luke 10:3), all because of His influence on their character. They had nothing else to carry with them but the secret of this wonderful change (Matthew 10:7 ff.). This change was due to something deeper than even the personal magnetism of Jesus. It was due to a revelation at the core of a man’s nature (Matthew 16:17 f.), by an organ of personality undiscovered by the wise (Matthew 11:25), and unappreciated by the rich (Matthew 19:23). The Church rests on the confession of a convinced personality (Matthew 16:18), in whom it has pleased God to reveal His Son (Matthew 16:17, cf. Galatians 1:15 f.). And this revelation provides the clue to spiritual truth and the criterion of religious authority (Matthew 10:34 f., Matthew 23:9, John 8:31 f., cf. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, 1 John 2:27) [cf. art. Authority in Religion (iii.)]. It is worth while for a disciple to ‘lose his life’ in order to gain the hidden life of his true personality (Matthew 16:25); and if he finds stumbling-blocks to this in his nature, he must act with surgical severity (Matthew 18:8-9).
On the other hand, there is an infinite range to the possibilities of personality clear to the mind of Jesus, but hardly fathomable to ourselves, as where He says that to receive a disciple is to receive One who is greater than he (Matthew 10:40), and the service even of the helpless and forlorn is done to Himself (Matthew 25:40, cf. Matthew 26:1 f). (Is it on this account that ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven’ is greater than John the great individualist?) Another great saying which suggests that we are more than ourselves through Christ, is, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20); and yet one more, ‘Lo, I am with you all the days’ (Matthew 28:20). In such utterances, which give ample support to Pauline and Johannine mysticism, Christ at least suggests that personality, when once released, is not bounded by the limits of the individual, but is only fulfilled when lost in union with Himself, as the Spirit of all Love. In the words of Dr. Moberly (Atonement and Personality, p. 254), ‘Personality is the possibility of mirroring God, the faculty of being a living reflexion of the very attributes and character of the Most High.’ But for the final expression of this profound truth we turn to the words of our Saviour in His intercessory prayer: ‘I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one (εἰς ἕν) … that the love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them, and I in them’ (John 17:23; John 17:26).
3. New factors introduced by Christ.—The way in which He directly met the needs of personality was twofold—by a revelation and a reinforcement. (1) To man’s self-consciousness He revealed God as our Father, with the full illumination of man’s worth, hope, and destiny which this truth brings. (2) To man’s self-determination He brought the gift of the Holy Spirit, as a power in aid (παράκλητος) of the fettered personality. The essential conjunction, in the view of the early Church, of these two elements of redemption, which are ours through Christ, is well illustrated in the variant of St. Luke’s recension of the Lord’s Prayer. After the acknowledgment of the Fatherhood stands the petition, ‘Thy Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.’
(1) Jesus made the soul aware of its high origin and destiny, for the acceptance of the Fatherhood of God clears a path through Time and through Eternity. The issues of life become of supreme account to those who believe in One who lives and loves, watches and listens, provides and controls, and will at length either welcome or reject. There is a place for the least, the last and the lost. The angels of the little ones, who have achieved nothing and possess nothing, are before the face of the Father (Matthew 18:10). Though uncounted in a nation (Luke 19:9), though unvalued by society (Luke 7:47), though classed with publicans and sinners (Luke 15:1), a man is counted among the Father’s children, and valued in the Father’s heart (Matthew 12:9 f., Luke 15:20 f.). ‘It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.’ But the greatest hindrance to the full emergence of personality is not so much the lack of outward respect as the loss of self-respect through sin. Self-consciousness becomes thereby a conscience of slavery, of impotence (Romans 7, esp. Romans 7:7-11). When St. Paul speaks of having been once ‘alive apart from the law’ (Romans 7:9), he means a non-moral existence, before true self-consciousness was born. In the words of Schleiermacher, ‘The sinner prior to conversion is overlooked, and is not in this respect a person at all in the eyes of God. He is a particle of the mass, out of which the continued operation of the same creative act of God which gave us the Redeemer does, through Him, call him into personality’ (A. Vaughan, Works, vol. i. p. 87; cf. Aug. de Pecc. Or. 36). The process in the experience of many is a painful one. And although for others it is gradual and apparently natural, there does not seem to be much footing in the NT for those whom F. W. Newman designated as the ‘once-born’ (cf. James, Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 80 and Lect. 3 and 4).
‘Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.’
The tying to a dead past cramps the soul’s activities. ‘Now was I sorry’ (says Bunyan in Grace Abounding, 87, 88) ‘that God had made me a man, for I feared I was a reprobate.… Yea, I thought it impossible that ever I should attain to such goodness of heart, as to thank God that He had made me a man.’ Yet, as St. Paul implies in the above reference, this humiliation is the way to the heights of self-consciousness, for ‘guilt is the awful guardian of our personal identity’ (Illingworth). Simon Peter only half knew himself when he cried to Christ, ‘Depart from me: for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Luke 5:8). The lost son did not ‘come to himself, fully until he was at home with his father, reconciled. Here we come upon the great doctrine of Justification (wh. see), which is St. Paul’s interpretation of the Father’s forgiveness in forensic terms. In the experience of the justified man, the ‘conscience of sins’ is transmuted into a consciousness of ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1). ‘Actually and in fact Justification is only accomplished by an act of human freedom, an act of the deepest self-consciousness in man, appropriating the redeeming love of the Son of God by the power of awakening and life-giving grace’ (Martensen, Dogmatics, p. 391).
Starting from this point, the revelation of God as Father is the means of the enlargement of our personality in three ways, through (a) His forgiveness of us, (b) our imitation of Him, (c) the communion between Him and us.
(a) God’s forgiveness, gratefully received, is the first stage of man’s moral freedom. It must always be a factor in our filial consciousness, but at first it may be said to be the only, or at least the chief one. Thus it was the message in which Christ first expressed the meaning of the Fatherhood (Mark 2:5), and which He ever delighted to bring to the children who felt themselves farthest from home (Luke 15:4; Luke 15:32). Their repentance made joy in heaven (Luke 15:7), while the Divine forgiveness woke love in their hearts (Luke 7:47). For it is the spiritual release that goes to the root of our being, and sets free the wholesome springs of goodness, long sealed and ignored (Luke 18:14, Luke 19:8). But forgiveness was more than a ‘word of grace’: it was a gain for the world at the cost of Calvary (Matthew 26:28). And that cost was ultimately met out of the treasuries of the Father’s heart, ‘who so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son’ (John 3:16, cf. Romans 8:32). Forgiveness in the name of Christ is thus the measure of the estimate in which our personality is held in the sight of God.
(b) Our imitation of God.—Sonship, being ours potentially through forgiveness, becomes ours actually through imitation. If one may venture to say so, without seeming to undervalue the continuity of grace, in forgiveness God pays our debts, in order that in imitation we may pay our way. We are ‘made nigh’ (Ephesians 2:13), that we may grow like our Father who is in heaven. Having ‘received the adoption of sons’ (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5), we are to become ‘imitators of God as dear children’ (Ephesians 5:1). ‘Even as God (or the Lord) forgave you, so also do ye’ (Colossians 3:13). For the standard of our new nature is nothing less than κατὰ θεόν (Ephesians 4:24). This connexion of thought is as clear in John as in Paul. ‘Herein is love … that God loved us, and sent his Son.… Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another … because as he is, even so are we in this world’ (1 John 4:10-11; 1 John 4:17). These words point to their original in the teaching of Christ, who bade us give ‘mind, heart, will, and strength’ to this holy task (Matthew 22:37). To ‘be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48), to forgive as He forgives (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 18:35), to make peace and love our enemies that we may prove ourselves His sons (Matthew 5:9; Matthew 5:45), is the Christian standard of conduct, and the final challenge to our personality.
(c) Communion between God and man.—If personality finds its release in the forgiveness, its scope in the imitation, of God, it finds its fulfilment in communion with Him. ‘Religion is nothing if it is not the vital act by which the whole spirit seeks to save itself by attaching itself to its principle. This act is prayer’ (Sabatier, Philosophy of Religion, p. 28). But prayer, to be real and effectual, must rest on faith in the Father revealed by Jesus Christ. ‘He who makes prayer simply a way to reach God “invents a god for himself, and one that does not hear.” … There can be no true worship unless we come through Christ into the relation of children towards God’ (Luther, quoted by Herrmann, Communion with God, p. 244). This is the prayer that is surely answered by God (Luke 11:9-13, John 15:7), the worship that is in spirit and in truth, which He Himself both inspires and seeks after (John 4:23-24, Romans 8:26-27). This is praying after the manner of the Lord’s Prayer, when ‘the storm of desire dies away into stillness before God.’ Yet ‘whatever really so burdens the soul as to threaten its peace is to be brought before God in prayer, with the confidence that the Father’s love understands even our anxious clinging to earthly things’ (Herrmann, p. 247). There is no higher employment of the powers of personality than real (Matthew 6:5-6), believing (Mark 11:24), consecrated (John 14:13), persistent (Luke 18:1) prayer, from a forgiving heart (Mark 11:25), when it throws itself without reserve upon the loving will of the Father (Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42). Such prayer is far more than an act: it invests all the outgoings and incomings of life with the sacred sense that the Father is ‘over all, through all, and in all’ (Ephesians 4:6). Thus prayer has ‘a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before. Gradually—imperceptibly to himself—he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles. He is as one coming from kings’ courts, with a grace, a delicacy, a dignity, a propriety, a justness of thought and taste, a clearness and firmness of principle, all his own’ (J. H. Newman). Resting on life eternal as a principle, a man cannot sink into being the mere plaything of events, a puppet in his environment. Christ has invited him to ascend a higher storey of his being, whence he can see the hosts of God beyond the encircling enemy. ‘Heaven lies about us in our infancy.’ And the fulfilment of that truth is when the saint, with the heart of a little child, endures as seeing Him who is invisible.
On these three steps of heightened self-consciousness—forgiveness, imitation, and communion—stands the temple of immortality for the soul.
(2) Jesus made the soul capable of attaining its high destiny (in correspondence with its Divine origin) by the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was the one great object of His saving ministry besides revealing the Father. It is not that there was no Holy Spirit except for the ministry of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, we must believe, was as truly at the centre and circumference of the universe as the Father Himself. But none the less, for the purposes of human personality, the Fatherhood and Spirit of God were alike the creation of Jesus Christ. On these twin pillars His Kingdom of the redeemed is founded; Justification being the result of the Father’s relation to personality, and Sanctification being the effect of the Spirit s influence on personality: both being secured through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It were of little use to heighten the soul’s self-consciousness without increasing its powers of self-determination. The knowledge that God is our Father, with all it implies, must be completed by our receiving the ‘spirit of adoption’ whereby we cry ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15), and the ‘power to become sons of God’ (John 1:12). The connexion between this Spirit of God and our spirits is too subtle for our analysis. ‘In the ephemeral and empirical Me, there is a mysterious Guest, greater than the Me, and to which the Me instinctively addresses its prayer and its trust’ (Sabatier, Religions of Authority, p. 318). But there can be no doubt (and this is the meaning of Romans 8) that the result is an enhancing of the soul’s power to realize itself in respect of character which is the real realm of personality. In other words, the Holy Spirit is preeminently the mainspring of the life inspired by Christ (vis vicaria, Tertullian), not, however, as substitute for the will, but as its partner and prompter (cf. Galatians 2:20 with Galatians 5:25, and Ephesians 3:16 with Ephesians 3:17). ‘The Spirit and faith,’ says Dr. Denney (art. Holy Spirit in vol. i. p. 738b), ‘are correlative terms, and each of them covers from a different point of view all that is meant by Christianity. Regarded from the side of God and His grace and power in initiating and maintaining it, Christianity is the Spirit; regarded from the side of man and his action and responsibility in relation to God, it is faith.’ The bearing of the Spirit on man’s self-determination (i.e. as a moral motive) may be viewed in two aspects.
(a) There is the entrance of the Spirit, which is sometimes called simply a gift (Luke 11:13), but also ‘a new birth’ (John 3:3 ff.), because its origin is behind the will of man (John 1:13), and a ‘baptism’ (Mark 1:8), because its outcome is in the will of man, in his personal dedication (cf. Philippians 2:12).
‘My heart was full; I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
A dedicated Spirit’ (Wordsworth, The Prelude, iv. 334 ff.).
And cf. Paracelsus:—
‘As He spoke, I was endued
With comprehension and a steadfast will;
And when He ceased, my brow was sealed His own.’
In any case, it brings the power of the Highest (δύναμις ὑψίστου, Luke 1:35) to those who have high work to do. Christ began His public ministry (Luke 4:14) in the power of the Spirit, who first brooded over Him and then drove Him forth (Mark 1:10; Mark 1:12). The Spirit also endowed the behaviour and bearing of Jesus with its unique characteristics (Matthew 12:17 ff.). But this belongs more properly to the section below. The most critical act of the soul’s self-determination is known as conversion, which is the final acceptance of the will and love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, so that the motives stored in the gospel become henceforth dominant partners in the life of the soul. ‘In conversion’ (says Starbuck, quoted in James, Religious Experience, p. 210) ‘a person must relax, i.e. must fall back on the larger power that makes for righteousness, which has been welling up in his own being, and let it finish in its own way the work it has begun.’ This is the true leverage of all moral possibilities; and it is due to the entering of the Spirit, which has its own heavenly ways (cf. Luke 9:55 Authorized Version ), and releases the soul from the encumbrance of habit and the tyranny of desire. The entrance of the Spirit thus brings the release of the personality. ‘The unseen region is not merely the ideal, for it produces effects in this world. When we commune with it, work is actually done upon our finite personality, for we are turned into a new man, and consequences in the way of conduct, follow in the natural world upon our regenerative change’ (Professor James, op. cit. p. 516).
(b) The indwelling of the Spirit is the consummation of the Christian faith, its distinctive feature and peculiar power (Luke 11:13; Luke 24:49, John 7:38; John 14:16; John 20:22, cf. Acts 11:15-18; Acts 19:1-6, Romans 8:2, 2 Corinthians 3, Galatians 5:16 ff.). The human problem is stated in a famous chapter (Romans 7) by Paul, in a memorable sentence by Christ (Mark 14:38). Without the higher inspiration the mind becomes carnal instead of the body being consecrated. Christ Himself suffered from no division in His nature (cf. Harnack, What is Christianity? p. 32 f.), because He was filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1): the Prince of this world had nothing in Him (John 14:30). And this is the summum bonum to which He invites His disciples: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you’ (John 14:27). It resolves the antinomies of flesh and spirit, body and soul, whereby the self-determination of man is tested, enabling us to believe, and live by the truth, that our bodies are ‘temples of the Holy Ghost’ which is in us, which we have from God (1 Corinthians 6:19); or, using the original analogy of Christ, that we are branches of the true Vine, into which, and through which, the sap of His ever-living word is to flow, producing fruit to the glory of God (John 15:1-8). The fruitfulness of life in character, which is the crown of personality, depends in short on the partnership of our personality with the Paraclete, whose dominion brings us liberty from the Law, as the obverse of our obedience to Love (Romans 8:15 cf. Romans 8:9, Galatians 5:22-23 cf. Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:18, 2 Peter 1:8 cf. 2 Peter 1:4). All this is the process of sanctification. ‘If it has come to pass that the saints of the New Covenant have a higher idea of holiness, have walked by a more perfect rule, have shown forth a more excellent and lovely character, these are the fruits of the blessed Spirit’ (Dean Church, Village Sermons, p. 121).
The manifestation of this spiritual fact was at Pentecost (Acts 2), and it presupposed two prior events—the advent of Jesus, and His ascension. And the meaning of these three events for man’s self-determination lies here.
(i.) The Spirit as revealed in the earthly life of Jesus was the unique illustration of a Personality moving only in the direction of truth, holiness, and love, and yet on the lines of human nature. And this was manifestly due to the unhindered operation of the personal Spirit of God. Henceforth the association between Christ and the Spirit is so close for us, that we may say that the Spirit is Christ interpreted in terms of our experience; even as the Father is Christ read into the Eternal. To use the fine analogy of Martineau (Essays, iii. 1, p. 50), ‘If it has pleased God, the Creator, to fit up one system with one sun, to make the daylight of several worlds, so may it fitly have pleased God, the Revealer, to kindle amid the elliptic of history One Divine Soul to glorify whatever lies within the great year of His moral Providence, and represent the father of Lights.’ Only we must go on to say that, in the name of God the Redeemer, Jesus represents the sunshine as well; for it is through Him the Holy Spirit is mediated to us. ‘The truth is’ (as against Beyschlag, vol. i. p. 279), ‘not that the Spirit is identical with Christ, but that it was from the first so entirely the principle of His personality, and He was throughout so completely one with it in His Divine humanity, that He became its perfect organ and expression, not merely in a temporal and impersonal sense, but in a personal and abiding sense.… The Holy Spirit as it comes to us in Christianity, therefore, includes the personal presence of Christ’ (Walker, Spirit and Incarnation, p. 85).
(ii.) But it is equally true that the earthly life of Jesus had to be superseded if it was to have its full effect on man’s personality. On the one hand, He Himself said, ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me’ (John 12:32); and, on the other hand, the response came from the experience of an Apostle: ‘Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more’ (2 Corinthians 5:16). ‘If any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his’ (Romans 8:9). Faith is more than an outlook; it is also an up-look and an inlook. The Christ of history must become the Christ of experience. Just as the painter passes from the stage of imitation to origination before he becomes an artist, so a Christian is one who, looking away to Christ, loses himself in Him, and so finds himself again as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; cf. Mark 8:35). Thus ‘the Lord is the Spirit.’ Christ in whose face was the glory of God-becomes ‘Christ in us the hope of glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:6, Colossians 1:27). ‘He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things’ (Ephesians 4:10).
(iii.) The significance of Pentecost is, in brief, that Christ is now to be made known to the world through ‘living epistles, known and read of all men, written by the Holy Spirit on the fleshy tables of the heart,’ i.e. in the promptings of conscience and compassion, which prove the working of the Spirit of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). In other words, the honour of Christ’s name and the success of His cause are thrown upon the personality He has evoked,—that personality which in partnership with the Spirit of God, and in union with fellow-Christians, is to do even greater things than Christ in His earthly life could accomplish. And who is sufficient for these things? But we have the mind of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:16, 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:6).
4. The redeemed personality.—For the redeemed personality, Justification is its liberty; Sanctification its law. These great words were invented to express personality at its highest, and in its fulfilment, from the point of view of self-consciousness and self-determination respectively. It may fairly be said that this redeemed personality has been the keynote of Christendom, the secret of its history, the source of its progress—often misleading and misled, but having the power of an endless life. This sketch of the subject may be completed by a few suggestions as to the significance of the redeemed personality for the history of Christendom. It has caused man (1) to stand for his rights and liberties, (2) to recognize his debts and duties.
(1) The rights and liberties of the soul.—Modern history is the steady unfolding of the powers of the personality in. answer to the challenge of the civilization by which it is surrounded. The world is so much with us through facilities of knowledge, communication, and enjoyment, that the inner life of the soul would have little chance indeed were it not continually replenished in spirit and in truth. But because personality is conscious of its eternal environment, it can ‘endure as seeing him who is invisible,’ and must assert itself in the name of its Creator and Redeemer. Steadily it has been rising to the height of its possibilities against the weight of an accumulating tradition and venerable institutions, in the belief that the word of God comes most directly to this world through its dedicated personalities. That ‘word’ has always breathed Justice as the social, and Liberty as the personal ideal. And reformers have always found their inspiration for the former in the OT, for the latter in the NT. Constitutional history could not be explained but for the continual inflow of these principles upon the consciences of the people from their springs in the Christian faith. We cannot fail to observe that the action of the Christian conscience through the leaders of the Church had much to do with the Magna Charta. The uprising from the condition of villenage in the 14th cent. was vitally connected with the Lollard movement and the distribution of the Bible in the English tongue. The Peasants’ Wars in Germany which followed, and the national movements in all the northern countries of Europe, found the secret of their power in the recovered gospel. It is the testimony of all who know, that the rights of the Christian man were the first objective of our own Puritan Revolution. Said Pym, its typical exponent: ‘The greatest liberty of our country is religion.’ The American Commonwealth was founded, as to its true nucleus, in the passion for ‘freedom to worship God.’ And although the French Revolution triumphed in an ‘age of reason,’ in defiance of Church and creed, its passionate hope was derived from the Christian conception of the rights of man which had certainly drifted into the mind of Voltaire.
Finally, in religion itself personality has played its true part only under the aegis of Jesus Christ. In Mohammedanism the political and social bonds are drawn very closely, and its military associations have tended to promote the type of the devoted soldier (Moslems)—‘Theirs not to reason why, theirs but. to do and die.’ Under such a form of religion personality has little chance. The Hindu philosophy which underlies Buddhism regards personality as the chief seat of evil in the universe, and works towards its obliteration. Socially, this philosophy results in the caste system, which is well calculated to this end. The religion, if so it may be called, of Confucius, throws the weight of every moral sanction on the dead past, and, by the worship of ancestors, depreciates to the utmost extent the homage due to the living soul. Christianity has no doubt many points of contact with these and other religions; but in this respect it is utterly antagonistic, in that its unit is the individual, whatever his race, colour, or class, on the sublime ground that God seeks him and needs him. Hence its life has always been fed by personalities, whose love to God has been with the heart, mind, soul, and strength. As Christ founded His Church on Peter, so on the man who adopts the motto of the Northern university—‘Men say: Quhat say they: lat them say’—in the spirit of Peter (Acts 4:19), has the Church as a matter of history always been refounded. By the touch of Christ on the individual all bands and bars have snapped, and in the inspired personality the word of God has found free course and been glorified. It might almost be said that no other religion is anything but a framework. Only in the religion of Jesus Christ do we see the face of a renewed personality changed into the same image from glory to glory.
(2) But the new-found personality has not only rejoiced in rights and liberties, political and social, mental and spiritual; it has also made an ever fuller discovery of its debts and duties. The Fatherhood of God means the promise at least of personality in every human being, and that means the essential brotherhood of men. The Incarnation has drawn them into one by declaring them one; so that each must bear the others’ burdens, and so fulfil the law. of Jesus Christ. The Atonement on Calvary has focussed the conception of vicarious suffering, and summoned Christians to fulfil that which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ (Colossians 1:24). In the train of Christian salvation mutual service becomes the truest expression of the bond of union (John 13:15-17). So we are bidden to respect one another’s personality, to ‘honour all men,’ to ‘receive one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God’ (Romans 15:7). Being hopelessly in debt to God, we are to pay off all we can on the altar of humanity’s need. Our indebtedness to God involves our forgiveness of others (Matthew 18:32-33), our help of any one in every time of need (Matthew 10:8, Luke 10:37), and especially our hope and labour for their spiritual welfare (Matthew 28:19, Luke 10:2).
This consciousness of duty to humanity for Christ’s sake soon showed itself in the breaking of yokes, although the yokes crumbled rather than snapped under His humane influence. It worked upon pagan notions of slavery and conquest, and after abolishing the gladiatorial shows, first eased and finally freed the human chattel. The rights of woman, too, as partner rather than subordinate, and the honour paid even to children, as against the Roman practice of infanticide, have gradually come into being through the changed standpoint from which personality is regarded through Christ. Continuing the story thus begun, the recognition of our debt and duty towards others on account of their personality has (a) secretly undermined the resistance of racial barriers. More than this can hardly be said in view of events East and West. But at any rate the Christian Church, now a fellowship of many peoples, kindreds, and tongues, has to a large extent anticipated the fulfilment of the ideal which leaped to the imagination of St. Paul, when there shall be ‘neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; for all are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). (b) It has slowly produced an attitude of tolerance, i.e. a recognition of the rights of others in thought. That is a position far in advance of the claim to personal independence. Liberty of thought for others, with a resulting equality of opportunity, is an ideal hard of attainment. But because humanity is logical, though men are not, it will at length be established as the corollary to the rights of personality, (c) It has steadily permeated law with the larger justice of mercy. This is another comparatively recent development of the Christian consciousness. The criminal code and the service discipline were both administered on brutal lines, and the industrial system was beset by conditions hardly less degrading. But the claim of personality is steadily laying hold of the popular imagination and conscience, and asserting itself in the acts of our statute-book. (d) It has turned older methods of education upside down. The claim of the personality is now respected even when in the bud. The teacher now learns to sit first at the feet of the child, who is no longer trained to be a kind of imitation adult, but is desired to develop on the lines of its own personality, (e) It has inspired all crusades of compassion. Christianity has l
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Personality'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/p/personality.html. 1906-1918.