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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
the third person in the Trinity. The orthodox doctrine is, that as Christ is God by an eternal filiation, so the Spirit is God by procession from the Father and the Son. "And I believe in the Holy Ghost," says the Nicene Creed, "the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who, with the Father and the Son together, is worshipped and glorified." And with this agrees the Athanasian Creed, "The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding." In the Articles of the English church it is thus expressed: "The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God." The Latin church introduced the term spiration from spiro, "to breathe," to denote the manner of this procession; on which Dr. Owen remarks, "As the vital breath of a man has a continual emanation from him, and yet is never separated utterly from his person, or forsaketh him, so doth the Spirit of the Father and the Son proceed from them by a continual divine emanation, still abiding one with them." On this refined view little can be said which has clear Scriptural authority; and yet the very term by which the Third Person in the Trinity is designated, Wind or Breath, may, as to the Third Person, be designed, like the term Son applied to the Second, to convey, though imperfectly, some intimation of that manner of being by which both are distinguished from each other, and from the Father; and it was a remarkable action of our Lord, and one certainly which does not discountenance this idea, that when he imparted the Holy Ghost to his disciples, "He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost," John 20:22 .
2. But, whatever we may think as to the doctrine of spiration, the profession of the Holy Ghost rests on more direct Scriptural authority, and is thus stated by Bishop Pearson: "Now the procession of the Spirit, in reference to the Father, is delivered expressly in relation to the Son, and is contained virtually in the Scriptures.
1. It is expressly said, that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father, as our Saviour testifieth, ‘When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me,' John 15:26 . And this is also evident from what hath been already asserted; for being the Father and the Spirit are the same God, and, being so the same in the unity of the nature of God, are yet distinct in the personality, one of them must have the same nature from the other; and because the Father hath been already shown to have it from none, it followeth that the Spirit hath it from him.
2. Though it be not expressly spoken in the Scripture, that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and Son, yet the substance of the same truth is virtually contained there; because those very expressions which are spoken of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Father, for that reason, because he proceedeth from the Father, are also spoken of the same Spirit in relation to the Son; and therefore there must be the same reason presupposed in reference to the Son, which is expressed in reference to the Father. Because the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, therefore it is called ‘the Spirit of God,' and ‘the Spirit of the Father.' ‘It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you,' Matthew 10:20 . For by the language of the Apostle, ‘the Spirit of God' is the Spirit which is of God, saying, ‘The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. And we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God,' 1 Corinthians 2:11-12 . How the same Spirit is also called ‘the Spirit of the Son:' for ‘because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,' Galatians 4:6 . ‘The Spirit of Christ:' ‘Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,' Romans 8:9; ‘Even the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets,' 1 Peter 1:11 .
‘The Spirit of Jesus Christ,' as the Apostle speaks: ‘I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,' Php_1:19 . If then the Holy Ghost be called ‘the Spirit of the Father,' because he proceedeth from the Father, it followeth that, being called also ‘the Spirit of the Son,' he proceedeth also from the Son. Again: because the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father, he is therefore sent by the Father, as from him who hath, by the original communication, a right of mission; as, ‘the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send,' John 14:26 . But the same Spirit which is sent by the Father, is also sent by the Son, as he saith, ‘When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you.' Therefore the Son hath the same right of mission with the Father, and consequently must be acknowledged to have communicated the same essence. The Father is never sent by the Son, because he received not the Godhead from him; but the Father sendeth the Son, because he communicated the Godhead to him: in the same manner, neither the Father nor the Son is ever sent by the Holy Spirit; because neither of them received the divine nature from the Spirit: but both the Father and the Son sendeth the Holy Ghost, because the divine nature, common to the Father and the Son, was communicated by them both to the Holy Ghost. As therefore the Scriptures declare expressly, that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father; so do they also virtually teach, that he proceedeth from the Son."
3. Arius regarded the Spirit not only as a creature, but as created by Christ, κτισμα κτισματος , the creature of a creature. Some time afterward, his personality was wholly denied by the Arians, and he was considered as the exerted energy of God. This appears to have been the notion of Socinus, and, with occasional modifications, has been adopted by his followers.
They sometimes regard him as an attribute; and at others, resolve the passages in which he is spoken of into a periphrasis, or circumlocution for God himself; or, to express both in one, into a figure of speech.
4. In establishing the proper personality and deity of the Holy Ghost, the first argument may be drawn from the frequent association, in Scripture, of a Person under that appellation with two other Persons, one of whom, the Father, is by all acknowledged to be divine; and the ascription to each of them, or to the three in union, of the same acts, titles, and authority, with worship, of the same kind, and, for any distinction that is made, of an equal degree. The manifestation of the existence and divinity of the Holy Spirit may be expected in the law and the prophets, and is, in fact, to be traced there with certainty. The Spirit is represented as an agent in creation, "moving upon the face of the waters;" and it forms no objection to the argument, that creation is ascribed to the Father, and also to the Son, but is a great confirmation of it. That creation should be effected by all the three Persons of the Godhead, though acting in different respects, yet so that each should be a Creator, and, therefore, both a Person and a divine Person, can be explained only by their unity in one essence. On every other hypothesis this Scriptural fact is disallowed, and therefore no other hypothesis can be true. If the Spirit of God be a mere influence, then he is not a Creator, distinct from the Father and the Son, because he is not a Person; but this is refuted both by the passage just quoted, and by Psalms 33:6 : "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath (Hebrews Spirit ) of his mouth." This is farther confirmed by Job 33:4 : "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life;" where the second clause is obviously exegetic of the former: and the whole text proves that, in the patriarchal age, the followers of the true religion ascribed creation to the Spirit, as well as to the Father; and that one of his appellations was, "the Breath of the Almighty." Did such passages stand lone, there might, indeed, be some plausibility in the criticism which resolves them into a personification; but, connected as they are with the whole body of evidence, as to the concurring doctrine of both Testaments, they are inexpugnable. Again: If the personality of the Son and the Spirit be allowed, and yet it is contended that they were but instruments in creation, through whom the creative power of another operated, but which creative power was not possessed by them; on this hypothesis, too, neither the Spirit nor the Son can be said to create, any more than Moses created the serpent into which his rod was turned, and the Scriptures are again contradicted. To this association of the three Persons in creative acts, may be added a like association in acts of preservation, which has been well called a continued creation, and by that term is expressed in the following passage: "These wait all upon thee, that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to dust: thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth," Psalms 104:27-30 . It is not surely here meant, that the Spirit by which the generations of animals are perpetuated, is wind; and if he be called an attribute, wisdom, power, or both united, where do we read of such attributes being "sent," "sent forth from God?" The personality of the Spirit is here as clearly marked as when St. Paul speaks of God "sending forth the Spirit of his Son," and when our Lord promises to "send" the Comforter; and as the upholding and preserving of created things is ascribed to the Father and the Son, so here they are ascribed, also, to the Spirit, "sent forth from" God to "create and renew the face of the earth."
5. The next association of the three Persons we find in the inspiration of the prophets: "God spake unto our fathers by the prophets," says St. Paul, Hebrews 1:1 . St. Peter declares that these "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," 2 Peter 1:21; and also that it was "the Spirit of Christ which was in them," 1 Peter 1:11 . We may defy any Socinian to interpret these three passages by making the Spirit an influence or attribute, and thereby reducing the term Holy Ghost into a figure of speech. "God," in the first passage, is, unquestionably, God the Father; and the "holy men of God," the prophets, would then, according to this view, be moved by the influence of the Father; but the influence, according to the third passage, which was the source of their inspiration, was the Spirit, or the influence of "Christ." Thus the passages contradict each other. Allow the trinity in unity, and you have no difficulty in calling the Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son, or the Spirit of either; but if the Spirit be an influence, that influence cannot be the influence of two persons,—one of them God, and the other a creature.
Even if they allowed the pre-existence of Christ, with Arians, these passages are inexplicable by the Socinians; but, denying his preexistence, they have no subterfuge but to interpret, "the Spirit of Christ," the spirit which prophesied of Christ, which is a purely gratuitous paraphrase; or "the spirit of an anointed one, or prophet;" that is, the prophet's own spirit, which is just as gratuitous and as unsupported by any parallel as the former. If, however, the Holy Ghost be the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, united in one essence, the passages are easily harmonized. In conjunction with the Father and the Son, he is the source of that prophetic inspiration under which the prophets spoke and acted. So the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead, is said by St. Peter to have preached by Noah while the ark was preparing;—in allusion to the passage, "My Spirit shall not always, strive (contend, debate) with man." This, we may observe, affords an eminent proof, that the writers of the New Testament understood the phrase, "the Spirit of God," as it occurs in the Old Testament, personally. For, whatever may be the full meaning of that difficult passage in St. Peter, Christ is clearly declared to have preached by the Spirit in the days of Noah; that is, he, by the Spirit, inspired Noah to preach. If, then, the Apostles understood that the Holy Ghost was a Person, a point which will presently be established, we have, in the text just quoted from the book of Genesis, a key to the meaning of those texts in the Old Testament where the phrases, "My Spirit," "the Spirit of God," and "the Spirit of the Lord," occur; and inspired authority is thus afforded us to interpret them as of a Person; and if of a Person, the very effort made by Socinians to deny his personality, itself, indicates that that Person must, from the lofty titles and works ascribed to him, be inevitably divine. Such phrases occur in many passages of the Hebrew Scriptures; but, in the following, the Spirit is also eminently distinguished from two other Persons: "And now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me," Isaiah 48:16; or, rendered better, "hath sent me and his Spirit," both terms being in the accusative case. "Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his Spirit it hath gathered them,"
Isaiah 34:16 . "I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts, according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come," Haggai 2:4-7 . Here, also, the Spirit of the Lord is seen collocated with the Lord of Hosts and the Desire of all nations, who is the Messiah.
6. Three Persons, and three only, are associated also, both in the Old and New Testament, as objects of supreme worship; and form the one "name" in which the religious act of solemn benediction is performed, and to which men are bound by solemn baptismal covenant. In the plural form of the name of God, each received equal adoration. This threefold personality seems to have given rise to the standing form of triple benediction used by the Jewish high priest. The very important fact, that, in the vision of Isaiah, the Lord of hosts, who spake unto the prophet, is, in Acts 28:25 , said to be the Holy Ghost, while St. John declares that the glory which Isaiah saw was the glory of Christ, proves, indisputably, that each of the three Persons bears this August appellation; it gives also the reason for the threefold repetition, "Holy, holy, holy!" and it exhibits the prophet and the very seraphs in deep and awful adoration before the Triune Lord of hosts. Both the prophet and the seraphim were, therefore, worshippers of the Holy Ghost and of the Son, at the very time and by the very acts in which they worshipped the Father; which proves that, as the three Persons received equal homage in a case which does not admit of the evasion of pretended superior and inferior worship, they are equal in majesty, glory, and essence.
7. As in the tabernacle form of benediction, the Triune Jehovah is recognized as the source of all grace and peace to his creatures; so also we have the apostolic formula: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Amen." Here the personality of the three is kept distinct; and the prayer is, that Christians may have a common participation of the Holy Spirit, that is, doubtless, as he was promised by our Lord to his disciples, as a Comforter, as the Source of light and spiritual life, as the Author of regeneration. Thus the Spirit is acknowledged, equally with the Father and the Son, to be the Source and the Giver of the highest spiritual blessings; while this solemn ministerial benediction is, from its specific character, to be regarded as an act of prayer to each of the three Persons, and therefore is at once, an acknowledgment of the divinity and personality of each. The same remark applies to Revelation 1:4-5 : "Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which was, and which is, and which is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne," (an emblematical reference, probably to the golden branch with its seven lamps,) "and from Jesus Christ." The style of this book sufficiently accounts for the Holy Spirit being called "the seven spirits;" but no created spirit or company of created spirits is ever spoken of under that appellation: and the place assigned to the seven spirits, between the mention of the Father and the Son, indicates, with certainty, that one of the sacred Three, so eminent, and so exclusively eminent in both dispensations, is intended.
8. The form of baptism next presents itself with demonstrative evidence on the two points before us, the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit. It is the form of covenant by which the sacred Three become our one or only God, and we become his people: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." In what manner is this text to be disposed of, if the personality of the Holy Ghost is denied? Is the form of baptism to be so understood as to imply that baptism is in the name of one God, one creature, and one attribute? The grossness of this absurdity refutes it, and proves that here, at least, there can be no personification. If all the Three, therefore, are persons, are we to have baptism in the name of one God and two creatures? This would be too near an approach to idolatry, or, rather, it would be idolatry itself; for, considering baptism as an act of dedication to God, the acceptance of God as our God, on our part, and the renunciation of all other deities and all other religions, what could a Heathen convert conceive of the two creatures so distinguished from all other creatures in heaven and in earth, and so associated with God himself as to form together the one name, to which, by that act, he was devoted, and which he was henceforward to profess and honour, but that they were equally divine, unless special care were taken to instruct him that but one of the Three was God, and the two others but creatures? But of this care, of this cautionary instruction, though so obviously necessary upon this theory, no single instance can be given in all the writings of the Apostles.
9. But other arguments are not wanting to prove both the personality and the divinity of the Holy Spirit. With respect to the former,
(1.) The mode of his subsistence in the sacred Trinity proves his personality. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and cannot, therefore, be either. To say that an attribute proceeds and comes forth, would be a gross absurdity.
(2.) Many passages of Scripture are wholly unintelligible and even absurd, unless the Holy Ghost is allowed to be a person. For as those who take the phrase as ascribing no more than a figurative personality to an attribute, make that attribute to be the energy or power of God, they reduce such passages as the following to utter unmeaningness: "God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost and with power;" that is, with the power of God and with power. "That ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost;" that is, through the power of power. "In demonstration of the Spirit and of power;" that is, in demonstration of power and of power.
(3.) Personification of any kind is, in some passages in which the Holy Ghost is spoken of, impossible. The reality which this figure of speech is said to present to us, is either some of the attributes of God, or else the doctrine of the Gospel. Let this theory, then, be tried upon the following passages: "He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak." What attribute of God can here be personified? And if the doctrine of the Gospel be arrayed with personal attributes, where is there an instance of so monstrous a prosopopoeia as this passage would exhibit?—the doctrine of the Gospel not speaking "of himself," but speaking "whatsoever he shall hear!"— "The Spirit maketh intercession for us." What attribute is capable of interceding, or how can the doctrine of the Gospel intercede? Personification, too, is the language of poetry, and takes place naturally only in excited and elevated discourse; but if the Holy Spirit be a personification, we find it in the ordinary and cool strain of mere narration and argumentative discourse in the New Testament, and in the most incidental conversations, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." How impossible is it here to extort, by any process whatever, even the shadow of a personification of either any attribute of God, or of the doctrine of the Gospel! So again: "The Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot." Could it be any attribute of God which said this, or could it be the doctrine of the Gospel? Finally, that the Holy Ghost is a person, and not an attribute, is proved by the use of masculine pronouns and relatives in the Greek of the New Testament, in connection with the neuter noun Πνευμα , Spirit, and also by many distinct personal acts being ascribed to him, as, "to come," "to go," "to be sent," "to teach," "to guide," "to
comfort," "to make intercession," "to bear witness," "to give gifts," "dividing them to every man as he will," "to be vexed," "grieved," and "quenched." These cannot be applied to the mere fiction of a person, and they therefore establish the Spirit's true personality.
10. Some additional arguments to those before given to establish the divinity of the Holy Ghost may also be adduced. The first is taken from his being the subject of blasphemy: "The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men," Matthew 12:31 . This blasphemy consisted in ascribing his miraculous works to Satan; and that he is capable of being blasphemed proves him to be as much a person as the Son; and it proves him to be divine, because it shows that he may be sinned against, and so sinned against that the blasphemer shall not be forgiven. A person he must be, or he could not be blasphemed: a divine person he must be, to constitute this blasphemy a sin against him in the proper sense, and of so malignant a kind as to place it beyond the reach of mercy. He is called God: "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie unto the Holy Ghost? Why hast thou conceived this in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God," Acts 5:3-4 . Ananias is said to have lied particularly "unto the Holy Ghost," because the Apostles were under his special direction in establishing the temporary regulation among Christians that they should have all things in common: the detection of the crime itself was a demonstration of the divinity of the Spirit, because it showed his omniscience, his knowledge of the most secret acts. In addition to the proof of his divinity thus afforded by this history, he is also called God: "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." He is also called the Lord: "Now the Lord is that Spirit," 2 Corinthians 3:17 . He is eternal: "The eternal Spirit," Hebrews 9:14 . Omnipresence is ascribed to him: "Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost," 1 Corinthians 6:19 . "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God," Romans 8:14 . For, as all true Christians are his temples, and are led by him, he must be present to them at all times and in all places. He is omniscient: "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," 1 Corinthians 2:10 . Here the Spirit is said to search or know "all things" absolutely; and then, to make this more emphatic, that he knows even "the deep things of God,"
things hidden from every creature, the depths of his essence, and the secrets of his counsels; for, that this is intended, appears from the next verse, where he is said to know "the things of God," as the spirit of a man knows the things of a man. Supreme majesty is also attributed to him, so that to "lie" to him, to "blaspheme" him, to "vex" him, to do him "despite," are sins, and as such render the offender liable to divine punishment. How impracticable then is it to interpret the phrase, "the Holy Ghost," as a periphrasis for God himself! A Spirit, which is the Spirit of God, which is so often distinguished from the Father, which "sees" and "hears" the Father, which searches "the deep things" of God, which is "sent" by the Father, which "proceedeth" from him, and who has special prayer addressed to him at the same time as the Father, cannot, though "one with him," be the Father; and that he is not the Son is acknowledged on both sides. As a divine person, our regards are therefore justly due to him as the object of worship and trust, of prayer and blessing.
11. Various are the gracious offices of the Holy Spirit in the work of our redemption. He it is that first quickens the soul, dead in trespasses and sins, to spiritual life; it is by him we are "born again," and made new creatures; he is the living root of all the Christian graces, which are therefore called "the fruits" of the Spirit; and by him all true Christians are aided in the "infirmities" and afflictions of this present life. Eminently, he is promised to the disciples as "the Comforter," which is more fully explained by St. Paul by the phrase "the Spirit of adoption;" so that it is through him that we receive a direct inward testimony to our personal forgiveness and acceptance through Christ, and are filled with peace and consolation. This doctrine, so essential to the solid and habitual happiness of those who believe in Christ, is thus clearly explained in a sermon on that subject by the Rev. John Wesley:—
(1.) But what is the witness of the Spirit? The original word, μαρτυρια , may be rendered, either, as it is in several places, the witness, or, less ambiguously, the testimony, or, the record: so it is rendered in our translation: ‘This is the record,' the testimony, the sum of what God testifies in all the inspired writings, ‘that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son,' 1 John 5:11 . The testimony now under consideration is given by the Spirit of God to and with our spirit. He is the person testifying. What he testifies to us is, ‘that we are the children of God.' The immediate result of this testimony, is, ‘the fruit of the Spirit;' namely, ‘love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness.' And without these, the testimony itself cannot continue. For it is inevitably destroyed, not only by the commission of any outward sin, or the omission of known duty, but by giving way to any inward sin: in a word, by whatever grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
(2.) I observed many years ago, It is hard to find words in the language of men to explain the deep things of God. Indeed, there are none that will adequately express what the Spirit of God works in his children. But, perhaps, one might say, (desiring any who are taught of God to correct, soften, or strengthen the expression,) By the ‘testimony of the Spirit,' I mean, an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses with my spirit, that I am a child of God; that ‘Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me;' that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.
(3.) After twenty years' farther consideration, I see no cause to retract any part of this. Neither do I conceive how any of these expressions may be altered, so as to make them more intelligible. I can only add, that if any of the children of God will point out any other expressions which are more clear, or more agreeable to the word of God, I will readily lay these aside.
(4.) Meantime, let it be observed, I do not mean hereby, that the Spirit of God testifies this by any outward voice: no, nor always by an inward voice, although he may do this sometimes. Neither do I suppose, that he always applies to the heart, though he often may, one or more texts of Scripture. But he so works upon the soul by his immediate influence, and by a strong, though inexplicable, operation, that the stormy wind and troubled waves subside, and there is a sweet calm: the heart resting as in the arms of Jesus, and the sinner being clearly satisfied that all his ‘iniquities are forgiven, and his sins covered.'
(5.) Now what is the matter of dispute concerning this? Not, whether there be a witness or testimony of the Spirit. Not, whether the Spirit does testify with our spirit, that we are the children of God. None can deny this, without flatly contradicting the Scriptures, and charging a lie upon the God of truth. Therefore, that there is a testimony of the Spirit, is acknowledged by all parties.
(6.) Neither is it questioned, whether there is an indirect witness or testimony, that we are the children of God. This is nearly, if not exactly, the same with ‘the testimony of a good conscience toward God;' and is the result of reason or reflection on what we feel in our own souls. Strictly speaking, it is a conclusion drawn partly from the word of God, and partly from our own experience. The word of God says, Every one who has the fruit of the Spirit is a child of God. Experience or inward consciousness tells me, that I have the fruit of the Spirit; and hence I rationally conclude, Therefore I am a child of God. This is likewise allowed on all hands, and so is no matter of controversy.
(7.) Nor do we assert, that there can be any real testimony of the Spirit, without the fruit of the Spirit. We assert, on the contrary, that the fruit of the Spirit immediately springs from this testimony; not always indeed in the same degree even when the testimony is first given; and much less afterward: neither joy nor peace is always at one stay. No, nor love: as neither is the testimony itself always equally strong and clear.
(8.) But the point in question is, whether there be any direct testimony of the Spirit at all; whether there be any other testimony of the Spirit, than that which arises from a consciousness of the fruit. I believe there is, because that is the plain, natural meaning of the text, ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.' It is manifest here are two witnesses mentioned, who together testify the same thing, the Spirit of God, and our own spirit. The late bishop of London, in his sermon on this text, seems astonished that any one can doubt of this, which appears upon the very face of the words. Now, ‘the testimony of our own spirit,' says the bishop, ‘is one which is the consciousness of our own sincerity;' or, to express the same thing a little more clearly, the consciousness of the fruit of the Spirit. When our spirit is conscious of this, of love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, it easily infers from those premises, that we are the children of God. It is true, that great man supposes the other witness to be ‘the consciousness of our own good works.' This, he affirms, is ‘the testimony of God's Spirit.' But this is included in the testimony of our own spirit: yea, and in sincerity, even according to the common sense of the word. So the Apostle: ‘Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have our conversation in the world;' where it is plain, sincerity refers to our words and actions, at least, as much as to our inward dispositions. So that this, is not another witness, but the very same that he mentioned before: the consciousness of our good works being only one branch of the consciousness of our sincerity. Consequently, here is only one witness still. If, therefore, the text speaks of two witnesses, one of these is not the consciousness of our good works, neither of our sincerity; all this being manifestly contained in ‘the testimony of our spirit.' What, then, is the other witness? This might easily be learned, if the text itself were not sufficiently clear, from the verse immediately preceding: ‘Ye have received, not the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.' It follows, ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.' This is farther explained by the parallel text, Galatians 4:6 : ‘Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.' Is not this something immediate and direct, not the result of reflection or argumentation? Does not this Spirit cry, ‘Abba, Father,' in our hearts, the moment it is given? antecedently to any reflection upon our sincerity, yea, to any reasoning whatsoever? And is not this the plain, natural sense of the words, which strikes any one as soon as he hears them? All these texts, then, in their most obvious meaning, describe a direct testimony of the Spirit. That the testimony of the Spirit of God, must, in the very nature of things, be antecedent to the testimony of our own spirit, may appear from this single consideration: We must be holy in heart and life, before we can be conscious that we are so. But we must love God before we can be holy at all, this being the root of all holiness. Now, we cannot love God, till we know he loves us: ‘We love him, because he first loved us.' And we cannot know his love to us, till his Spirit witnesses it to our spirit. Since, therefore, the testimony of his Spirit must precede the love of God and all holiness, of consequence it must precede our consciousness thereof."
12. The precedence of the direct witness of the Spirit of God to the indirect witness of our own, and the dependence of the latter upon the former, are also clearly stated by other divines of great authority. Calvin, on Romans 8:16 , says, "St. Paul means, that the Spirit of God gives such a testimony to us, that he being our guide and teacher, our spirit concludes our adoption of God to be certain. For our own rains, of itself, independent of the preceding testimony of the Spirit, [ nisi praeunte Spiritus testimonio, ] could not produce this persuasion in us. For while the Spirit witnesses that we are the sons of God, he at the same time inspires this confidence into our minds, that we are bold to call God our Father." On the same passage Dr. John Owen says, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the sons of God; the witness which our own spirits do give unto our adoption is the work and effect of the Holy Spirit in us; if it were not, it would be false, and not confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit himself, who is the Spirit of truth. ‘And none knoweth the things of God but the Spirit of God,' 1 Corinthians 2:11 . If he declare not our sonship in us and to us, we cannot know it. How doth he then hear witness to our spirits? What is the distinct testimony? It must be some such act of his as evidenceth itself to be from him immediately, unto them that are concerned in it, that is, those unto whom it is given." Poole on the same passage remarks, "The Spirit of adoption doth not only excite us to call upon God as our Father, but it doth ascertain and assure us, as before, that we are his children. And this it doth not by an outward voice, as God the Father to Jesus Christ, nor by an angel, as to Daniel and the Virgin Mary, but by an inward and secret suggestion, whereby he raiseth our hearts to this persuasion, that God is our Father, and we are his children. This is not the testimony of the graces and operations of the Spirit, but of the Spirit itself." Bishop Pearson, in his elaborate work on the Creed, and Dr. Barrow, in his Sermons, are equally explicit in stating this Scriptural doctrine.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Holy Ghost'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/h/holy-ghost.html. 1831-2.