Meditations on the Holy Spirit

by J. C. Philpot

Chapter II.

Necessity is a severe but wise and salutary teacher, and as such has had, in all ages, much to do with the spiritual education of the family of God, and with that heavenly training, whereby they are made fit for the inheritance of saints in light. She meets them at the very beginning of their course; for who ever effectually fled from the wrath to come but under her compulsive strokes, or really sought for refuge in Jesus, until her sharp hail had swept away the refuge of lies, and her rushing waters had overflowed the hiding place? (Isa. 28:17.) "Compel them to come in," was the command to his servant of the lord who had made a great supper; (Luke 14:23;) and in the same spirit all who, knowing the condemnation of the law, seek for a refuge in the Son of God, cry out in the language of the hymn:

"Jesus, my soul's compelled to flee
From all its wrath and curse to Thee."

And as Necessity was thus present at the birth, having much to do with the sharp throes and keen pangs of the soul in its first travail, so has she a large share in the whole subsequent education of the child of God, rarely, if ever, laying down her rod of office until the death song is sung, "O death, where is your sting! O grave, where is your victory?"

How plainly can her teachings be traced all through the Scriptures. How deeply indebted to her lessons, for instance, were the Old Testament saints, whose experience of sorrow and suffering is recorded in the word of truth. David hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, with but a step between him and death; Hezekiah on his sick bed, with the sentence of death in body and soul; Manasseh taken among the thorns; Jonah in the whale's belly; Jeremiah in the low dungeon; and not to enlarge, that great cloud of ancient witnesses who had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment, who, "being destitute, afflicted, tormented, wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and caves of the earth;" (Hebrews 11)—all, all found Necessity the best of all teachers, and one whose lesson could neither be contradicted nor disobeyed.

Nor did she close her school with the close of the Old dispensation, or cease her instructions when life and immortality were brought to light, and the gospel was made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. As then, so now--none began aright who did not begin in her school. There the tax-collector first felt his need of that mercy for which he cried so earnestly in the temple. There the prodigal, as perishing with hunger, began to long for the bread of his father's house. There the thief on the cross learned the first letters of, "Lord, remember me." There the Philippian jailer was first taught to tremble and cry, "What must I do to be saved?" And there, not to multiply instances, though a host of witnesses might be found among "the pierced in heart" on the day of Pentecost—there Saul of Tarsus, at Damascus' gate, first felt the keen lessons of that Instructress of whom he says, even when a servant of Christ and an ambassador of the gospel, as if still under her tuition, "Necessity is laid upon me." (1 Cor. 9:16.)

But when we thus speak of Necessity, and ascribe to her a share in the tuition of the saints of God, are we to be understood literally, or figuratively? Figuratively certainly. There is no such real, actual, living being as Necessity. Like her twin sister Adversity, whom she so closely in form and feature resembles, she is but an abstract idea, a conception of the mind, seeking to realize more clearly, and embody more fully and distinctly that sense of urgent need which is as much a reality in spiritual feeling as an object visible to the bodily eye is of natural sight.

But when thus stripped of its figurative dress, and reduced to its native condition, as an inward feeling, can we attribute to it even then any power of instruction? No--not of itself. Look at the case naturally. Necessity has been called the mother of invention; but she has not always been fruitful, or if so, has not always succeeded in rearing her children. Many have perished of hunger, to whom necessity ministered no food; many have died of thirst; to whom she brought no water. Shall we say more, and add that many have died impenitent, who both saw and felt the necessity of repentance; many have perished in unbelief, who were convinced of the need of faith? Is not Francis Spira a dreadful instance of this? and do not ministers continually, when visiting the sick and dying, find many who are convinced, but not converted, sensible of their need of repentance and faith, but freely owning that they can neither feel grief for sin, nor faith in the Son of God?

Necessity then will do little of itself. It is an excellent—an indispensable preparation for spiritual blessings, but cannot give them; fits the heart for mercy, but cannot bestow it; is the mother of thousands of desires, but cannot feed her own children.

But what bearing have these thoughts upon Necessity on our present subject? This—that a felt necessity of the teaching and testimony of the blessed Spirit lies at the root of all our prayers and supplications for his gracious operations upon our heart, and of all our Meditations upon his Person and work, that they may be fruitful in instruction and comfort to both writer and reader. Unless the spiritual appetite be sharpened by necessity, how little relish is there for the provisions which are laid up in Zion; how little real delight in the word of truth; how little prayer and supplication for the work and witness of the blessed Spirit, as a felt, enjoyed reality. But as a sense of deep and urgent need falls upon the heart, and the Spirit of grace and supplication is given, what an ardent longing breaks forth to experience and enjoy his gracious communications of light, life, liberty, and love. What a sense of darkness—darkness that may be felt--midnight, Egyptian darkness broods like a dense, impenetrable cloud over the soul, when he does not shine upon the word, or upon the Person and work of Jesus. But with this sense of darkness, what a cry for light! "Light, Lord! light, Lord! O break into my soul with a beam of friendly light. O for a word to come with a divine power to my heart." Is not this cry for light, life, and power learned in the school of Necessity? And is it not the blessed Spirit himself, who discovers to our hearts their darkness and death, and makes us see, feel, and know it? for only "in God's light do we see light," and "whatever does make manifest is light."

In our last chapter, we attempted to bring forward some scripture proofs of the Deity of the blessed Spirit. But this doctrine, like every other sacred truth, can only be really believed as experimentally realized. When then the child of God, as quickened into spiritual life, puts up a whole host of prayers and supplications, bringing up to the front a very army of fervent desires, as if he would take the kingdom of heaven by violence, has he not so many witnesses in his bosom of the Deity of the blessed Spirit? for it is by his divine energy that he is thus enabled to plead with the Majesty of heaven. And so when the same gracious and holy Spirit, as the promised Comforter, brings near the word of truth, reveals Jesus, or applies a promise warm to the heart, the child of grace has in his own bosom the surest, sweetest evidence that none other but, none less than Deity could thus appear for him to the very joy of his soul. Bearing then in mind this experience of the saints as their internal evidence of the truths which we are seeking to establish from the word of God, we now proceed with our Meditations on the Person and work of God the Holy Spirit.

Among the scriptural proofs of the Deity of the Holy Spirit which we brought forward in our last paper was this, that names are given to him in the word which express or imply that he is God. Among them we showed, from a comparison of Scriptures, that he bears the name of "Jehovah." Pursuing the same line of proof, we shall now show that he is also called "Lord," which we know is the peculiar name of God. Thus we read in a promise made to Israel upon whose heart the veil still is, "Nevertheless, when they shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." (2 Cor. 3:16.) Now this "Lord" to whom Israel shall one day turn is "the Lord God," according to his own words--"That is why the Lord says--Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don't tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you." (Joel 2:12, 13.)

But the Apostle assures us that "the Lord" to whom Israel shall thus turn is the Holy Spirit; for he adds, "Now the Lord is the Spirit." And what Spirit? "The Spirit of the Lord," or as it is rendered in the margin, 2 Cor. 4:18, "the Lord the Spirit." Is not this a plain proof that "the Spirit of the Lord," or "the Lord the Spirit," is Lord and God?

He is called "the Lord" also in that remarkable passage where the Three Persons of the blessed Trinity are all named--"And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ." (2 Thess. 3:5.) Is it not the peculiar work and office of the blessed Spirit to guide the children of God into all truth, according to the Lord's own testimony--"Howbeit, when he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13.) When, therefore, the Apostle prays that "the Lord would direct their hearts into the love of God," how plainly he calls the blessed Spirit "Lord;" and if "Lord," then he is God.

We also find the blessed Spirit similarly spoken of both as "Lord" and "God" in that passage where the Apostle opens the subject of spiritual gifts--"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all." (1 Cor. 12:4-6.) He there shows that there are diversities of gifts, differences of administrations, and diversities of operations, but that the Giver and Author of them is the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God. How plainly does he then call the Spirit "Lord" and "God." Indeed, the whole chapter is one continued testimony to the Deity of the Blessed Spirit. Examine and consider the following testimonies--"But all these works that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (1 Cor. 12:11.) How sovereign will and work are here ascribed to the Spirit. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." Here the spiritual union of the members of Christ's body is attributed to the Spirit. Now, consider the following testimonies--"But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him;" (1 Cor. 12:18;) "God has tempered the body together;" God has set some in the Church." (1 Cor. 12:24, 28.) How clear is the conclusion that the Spirit is God, as thus expressly called such.

Consider these things, dear readers; examine them in the light of God's testimony; seek to enter into their sweetness and blessedness. If the Lord the Spirit be but pleased to shine upon his own word and his own work, you will find that a contemplation of his Deity, and sweet meditation on him as a Person in the Godhead, will much draw up your hearts towards him as a most benevolent and gracious Teacher and holy Comforter, and will put an edge upon your prayers and supplications to be more abundantly baptized with his sweet influences and sacred operations.

3. But we pass on to another branch of scriptural proof of the Deity of the blessed Spirit. This is drawn from the WORKS ascribed to him in the Scriptures of truth. These are such as none but God can perform. Thus, as a divine Agent, he was present in the first CREATION; as we read--"And the Spirit of God moved, (or fluttered like a bird over her young,) upon the face of the waters," as if vivifying the cold, dead mass, and impregnating it with life and power to bring forth at God's command. Thus in the old creation he was present as a Person in the Godhead, imparting life and movement to dead, motionless chaos.

In the creation of man he too had a share, for God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;" (Gen. 1:26;) in which "us" and "our" is wrapped up the sublime mystery of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity in Unity, all engaged in the creation of our first parents. No, Elihu ascribes his own creation to his Almighty power--"The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life." (Job 33:4.) And so speaks the Psalmist of that re-creation when the Lord takes away the breath of his creatures, and they return to their dust--"You send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth." (Psalm 104:30.)

To RAISE FROM THE DEAD the sleeping dust of the saints must be the sole work of God; for who but he, who is Almighty in power, can re-animate the cold clay in that resurrection morn, when "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and with the trumpet of God," and "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body?" (1 Thess. 4:16; Phil. 3:21.) And yet this act of omnipotence is ascribed to the Spirit--"But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you." (Rom. 8:11.) In the resurrection, therefore, of Jesus from the dead, the Holy Spirit had an important share, for our gracious Lord is declared to have been "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit," (1 Pet. 3:18,)—the same blessed Spirit who will quicken (or make alive) at the resurrection the dead who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

As in the vision seen by the prophet in the open valley, so will he, as a quickening Spirit, breathe upon the dead and dry bones of the sleeping saints, and the entombed millions will arise and stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (Ezek. 37:10.*) Of this a pledge was given at the resurrection of Jesus; for as at his baptism, as before pointed out, so at his resurrection, the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity were all present and all engaged. The Father, as again and again declared, raised him from the dead; (Acts 2:32; 4:10; 10:40; 13:30;) the Son raised up himself by his own power--"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up;" (John 2:19;) "I lay my life down that I might take it again;" (John 10:17;) and, as we have just shown, the Holy Spirit quickened his dead body when he was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." (Rom. 1:4.)

* We wish it to be clearly understood that we do not mean this as an interpretation, but merely a figurative application of Ezekiel's vision.

Nor is the QUICKENING of a soul dead in sins less an act of divine, creative power than the creation of man or the raising of him from the dead. But this we know, from the testimony of the word of truth, is the special work of the blessed Spirit. "It is the Spirit who quickens" was our Lord's own testimony. (John 6:63.) He, therefore, assures us that "except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God;" and that "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:5, 6.) All must admit that nothing short of a divine power can quicken the soul dead in trespasses and sins; for it is "God," and God only, "who quickens the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were." (Rom. 4:17.) Thus every one made alive unto God by regenerating grace carries in his own bosom a witness of the Deity of the Holy Spirit, for he has felt his quickening power, and is therefore fully satisfied that he must be "God who raises the dead," whether out of the dust of death in the grave, or out of the charnel-house of sin. This power to raise the dead was Paul's only trust when he was "pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that he despaired even of life," and to him was the sure pledge not only of deliverance from so great a present death, but from all future "deaths often." (2 Cor. 1:8-10; 11:23.)

And as the blessed Spirit first quickened the soul into life, so he also from time to time REVIVES his gracious work; nor is this less the effect of a divine power than the first begetting unto eternal life; for as no man can quicken, so "none can keep alive his own soul." (Psalm 22:29.) When the Psalmist cried out, as expressing the longing desire of the Church--"Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" (Psalm 85:6;) did it not imply that none but God could revive his own work? as the prophet prayed--"O Lord, I have heard your speech, and was afraid. O Lord, revive your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy." (Hab. 3:2.) Under his gracious renewings David could say, "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me," as feeling a confidence that the Lord would perfect that which concerned him, and never forsake the work of his own hands. (Psalm 138:7, 8.) "He restores my soul;" (Psalm 23:3;) "I shall be anointed with fresh oil;" (Psalm 92:10) "O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit; so will you recover me, and make me to live;" (Isa. 38:16;) "Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the grain, and grow as the vine." (Hos. 14:7.)

Such and similar expressions of living experience bear testimony to the Spirit's renewings and revivings, for as he grants life and favor in the first communications of his grace, so his after visitations preserve the spirit. (Job 10:12.) Thus every revival of our faith, hope, and love, every renewing in the spirit of our mind, whereby we put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness; every fresh going out of prayer, supplication, or affection after the Lord; and every visitation of his presence and of his power, are so many clear testimonies that God the Holy Spirit is fulfilling the promise--"In that day we will sing of the pleasant vineyard. I, the Lord, will watch over it and tend its fruitful vines. Each day I will water them; day and night I will watch to keep enemies away." (Isa. 27:2, 3.)

As the TEACHER, too, of the family of God, the work of the Holy Spirit is divine, and therefore divine must be the Workman. "All your children shall be taught of the Lord," is one of the firm promises of the New Covenant; and to this the Lord himself bore witness when he said, "It is written in the prophets, They shall be all taught of God." (John 6:45.) But the same gracious Lord declared to his disciples that "the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in his name, should teach them all things," and that "when he, the Spirit of truth, should come, he would guide them into all truth." (John 14:26; 16:13.) Now unless the Holy Spirit be God, where is the promise, "They shall be all taught of God?"

But the blessed Spirit is said also "to SEARCH all things, yes, the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:10.) But this clearly needs an Omniscient eye, for what other can read, so to speak, the very heart of God to its profoundest depths? The Apostle therefore adds, "For what man knows the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no one but the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 2:11.) The angels which excel in power surround the throne, and are sent forth "as ministering spirits to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation;" (Heb. 1:14;) but what angelic being or bright and burning seraph, can "search the deep things of God?" When "the book written within and without," sealed with seven seals, was held in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a strong angel proclaimed with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?" But "no one in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon," until the Lamb came and took the book out of the hand of him that sat on the throne. (Rev. 5:1-3, 6, 7.) If, then, no created being could read the book, how can any read the very heart of God but He who has in himself all the perfections of Deity?

"You are the temple," says the Apostle, "of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them and walk in them." (2 Cor. 6:16.) But he also says, "What! Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" (1 Cor. 6:19.) If, then, the body of the saint be "the temple of the Holy Spirit" and "the temple of the living God," how clear, how certain the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is the living God.

When Ananias sold a possession and kept back part of the price, that he might have a character for liberality and self-denial and yet make a provision for the flesh, Peter said to him, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?" "You have not lied unto men, but unto God." How plain, then, how clear the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is God, since to lie unto him is to lie unto God!

The sin against the Holy Spirit is, we, know from the Lord's own testimony, the great transgression, the unpardonable sin; and thousands of God's dear family have been severely tried lest they should have been guilty of it. But, without entering into the nature, the subjects, or the consequences of this unpardonable sin, as foreign to our present intention, let us look at it merely as a proof of the Deity of the blessed Spirit. If the Spirit be not a divine Person in the Godhead, but a mere virtue, or a breath, or an emanation, or a title, why should the sin against him be so exceedingly great as to be absolutely unpardonable? Sins against the Justice, the Mercy, the Patience, the Goodness of God, are not unpardonable; why, then, if the Holy Spirit be but a covenant title, or a peculiar relationship, or an operation, or an influence, or an attribute of God—why, we ask, should the sin against him be without forgiveness? Besides which, when we speak of sinning against the goodness, patience, etc., of God, we speak but figuratively; for, in strict language, these sins are not so much against the attributes of God as against God himself, who is all good, patience, etc. To sin, therefore, against the Holy Spirit must be to sin against God, for there is no sin but what is against God. Why, then, should the sin against the Holy Spirit be so deeply resented, so inflexibly punished, and should bring down such certain and awful ruin upon the head of the transgressors, unless he be verily and truly God, possessing, as such, every glory and perfection of the Godhead?

Again, still pursuing the same line of argument, we read that "all SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God." (2 Tim. 3:16.) Now, who inspired the Scriptures, or rather, the men of God, both under the Old and New Testaments, who wrote them? Was it not the Holy Spirit? Hear Paul's testimony, as an inspired Apostle, whose blessed epistles we hold in our hands and the power and sweetness of which we have so often felt in our hearts--"Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given us of God; which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."* (1 Cor. 2:12, 13.) And what is Peter's testimony? "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." (1 Pet. 1:10, 11.) And again--"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy carne not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (2 Pet. 1:20, 21.) Similar was the testimony of the sweet psalmist of Israel--"The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue." (2 Sam. 23:2.) Agreeing with this was the witness also of Stephen before the council--"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit? As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them who showed before of the coming of that Just One, of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers." (Acts 7:51, 52.) But how did they and their fathers resist the Holy Spirit, except by resisting his testimonies, as speaking in the prophets whom they persecuted? How plain the conclusion, then, that the Holy Spirit inspired those Scriptures, which are expressly declared to have been given by inspiration of God. Is not this a conclusive proof that the Holy Spirit is God?

* The last clause might be translated, "composing spiritual things for spiritual men." That this is the meaning of the passage, or at least that it may be rendered so, seems plain to us from the context; "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God." Here the Apostle contrasts the spiritual man of whom he had just spoken with the natural man. "We" he says, "compare or write spiritual things for spiritual men;" and why? Because they only can receive them. We do not write spiritual things for natural men, for they cannot receive them, as being the things of the Spirit of God. But he who is spiritual judges (or discerns, margin) all things, and therefore for him and him alone do we write. If our readers will look at the drift and bearing of the whole chapter, (1 Cor. 2) we cannot but think they will see it harmonize with our interpretation.

Thus we see how, as in a magnifying glass, the scattered rays of divine truth converge into one focus, and all meet in one point—the Deity of the blessed Spirit. It is, then, with this as with every other foundation truth, that it does not rest on one or more isolated passages, but bursts more and more upon our view as we examine, compare, and meditate upon the word of God's grace. The truths of the gospel, though to an enlightened eye they shine as with a ray of light all through the word, yet are they, for the most part, laid up as in veins. "Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for the gold, where they fine it." "As for the earth, out of it comes bread, and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold." (Job 28:5, 6.) But where is "the place of sapphires?" and where his "dust of gold?" "In the path which no fowl," no unclean professor, "knows, and which the vulture's eye," keen though it be after this world's carrion, "has not seen." (Job 28:7.)

But to a spiritual mind, sweet and soul-rewarding is the task—if task it can be called—of searching the word as for hid treasure. No sweeter, no better employment can engage heart and hands than, in the spirit of prayer and meditation, of separation from the world, of holy fear, of a desire to know the will of God and do it, of humility, simplicity, and godly sincerity, to seek to enter into those heavenly mysteries which are stored up in the Scriptures; and this, not to furnish the head with notions, but to feed the soul with the bread of life. Truth, received in the love and power of it, informs and establishes the judgment, softens and melts the heart, warms and draws upward the affections, makes and keeps the conscience alive and tender, is the food of faith, the strength of hope, and the mainspring of love.

To know the truth is to be "a disciple indeed," and to be made blessedly free—free from error, and the vile heresies which everywhere abound; free from presumption and self-righteousness; free from the curse and bondage of the law and the condemnation of a guilty conscience; free from a slavish fear of the opinion of men and the contempt and scorn of the world and worldly professors; free from following a multitude to do evil; free from companionship with those who have a name to live but are dead. But free to love the Lord and his dear people; free to speak well of his name; free to glorify him with our body and soul, which are his; free to a throne of grace and to a blood-besprinkled mercy-seat; free to every good word and work; free to "whatever things are good, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report." (Phil. 4:8.)

The Deity of the blessed Spirit is one of those foundation truths which are thus to be received in love and power. It is no dry doctrine when made manifest to the heart, but full of heavenly comfort and rich with that holy savor and divine unction which make the truth of God so precious to every believing soul.