General Work of the Spirit before Pentecost, among the Jews and the heathens; and outside of the Church since Pentecost.
In the Conferences on "Catholicity, Protestantism, and Romanism," delivered at your request last year, the Functions of the Holy Ghost were scarcely touched upon; and an explanation is perhaps due for such an apparently serious omission. There were two reasons for it. First, because the work of the Holy Ghost has not been brought directly into the controversy that has arisen between Catholicity and Protestantism and secondly, because any tolerably adequate treatment of the topic could not have been inserted into the Conference that was specially devoted to the Creed, without unduly prolonging it.
A critic in the Eclectic Magazine, in accounting for this omission of extended remarks, says, that it probably arose "from the fact that those who are unsound on the Sacramental sys tem of the Church, are not, formally, unsound in regard to the operation of the Holy Ghost, but lay special stress upon it. For this very reason, however," the critic proceeds to say, "we regret that deficiency the more. For Churchmen are too commonly charged with precisely the error of substituting what Protestants regard as a mechanical or magical use of the Sacraments in place of the work of the Holy Spirit Himself." There is much force in this criticism. And may I be permitted to express my obligations to the signatories of the letter that has asked for these Conferences, for this opportunity, which they have given me, of showing that Catholicity by no means overlooks in Her system of theology the blessed functions of the Divine Spirit in the work of man's restoration to truth and sanctity.
Antagonisms are ever sad. But sometimes they are necessary; they are the penalty of an advancing state of affairs; and, indeed, are a blessing in disguise, if, from the collision of minds, the truth finally emerges with its calm benediction upon both parties. But when men misunderstand each other, and thus multiply their differences needlessly, it is sadder still. And if it be my good fortune in this series of Conferences to dispel any misunderstanding that may prevail among you, my Protestant friends, as to the teaching or Catholics touching the Holy Ghost, we shall all surely have cause to rejoice. May I indeed go farther, and express a hope that, however you and we may disagree on other points of theology, on this, at any rate, we may, at least in the main, see alike, and in many fundamental points agree together. Shall we, then, "ring a truce" for four weeks?
It may not only be that you misunderstand us, but it is very possible that we may misunderstand you. At any rate, before I proceed to state what I take to be the Catholic doctrine touching the Holy Ghost, it will at least do you no harm to hear what seems to us to be the teaching of non-Catholic Christianity.
Non-Catholic Christianity seems, at any rate, to teach that "the Spirit took up the work of man's restoration after the Son had completed His share of it. The Spirit is represented as giving us proper feelings toward our Redeemer, and assisting us in leading lives consistent with the sentiment of gratitude which His sufferings call forth." But there is no mention of the Spirit's non-hypostatic union with the Church; of His cooperation with Christ, in imparting the three-fold elements of a new nature to the individual; of his imparting, through the seven Gifts, the tendencies to those elements unto perfect action, resulting in the Fruits and the Beatitudes; of His uniting the individual more and more closely to the Human Nature of Christ, and imparting that Nature in ever larger measure for strengthening and refreshment; or of His uniting the Faithful more and more closely to each other in and by that Nature. This, and much else, is omitted. And "the idea conveyed is, that the agency of the Son has been superseded by a separate and distinct agency of the Spirit; not that the Spirit carries on the work of Jesus" in the Church and in the soul, "and cooperates with Him."
As I proceed to lay before you the Catholic teaching concerning the operations of the Holy Ghost, it may seem to you to involve too much of scientific system. But as God hath not imparted Intellect to man without its having borne fruits in physical science; so He hath not impart ed His three supernatural Gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge to His Church, without their having borne legitimate fruits in Dogmatic, as well as in Mystical and Moral Theology.
Apropos of this, let me quote and adopt the language of a late writer in the Nineteenth Century. "It will be seen," he says, "how little the complexity of Catholic theology destroys the simplicity of its religion. Many writers of eminence, Mr. Carlyle for instance, are accustomed to contrast natural religion with all orthodoxy in general, and with Catholicity in particular; praising the former as simple and at once going to the heart, and deriding or declaiming against the latter, as being the very reverse of this. On the one hand, they say, see the soul going straight to its God, feeling His love, and content that others shall feel it. On the other hand, see this pure and free communion distracted and interrupted by a thousand tortuous reasonings as to the nature of it. Can such obscure intellectual propositions have anything to do with a religion of the heart? And do not they choke the latter by being thus bound up with it? But this language, though it seems plausible, rep resents really an entire misconception of the matter. Natural religion is doubtless, in one sense, simpler than revealed religion; but it is so merely because it can have no authoritative evidence of itself. It is simpler for the same reason that a boy's account of having given himself a headache is simpler than the physician's would be. The boy says merely, 'I ate ten tarts and drank three bottles of ginger-beer.' The physician, were he to give a full account of the occurrence, would have to describe a number of far more complex processes. The boy's account would be, of course, the simplest, and would doubtle5s go more home to the general heart of boyhood; but it would not for that reason be the truest. And thus to love God and to feel the better for it, may seem, from a certain point of view, as simple as to eat and drink indiscreetly and feel the worse for it. And yet, if the latter be really so complex, how much more will the former be? The simplicity of religion and the complexity of theology are not opposed to each other; and the contrast between the two is an essentially false and superficial one." Indeed, gentlemen, can it be for a moment supposed that God's operations in the natural world are more complex, more precise, and need more science for their explanation, than His operations in the far more exalted, more delicate, and intricate supernatural world? Is there law in the former, and no law in the latter? And is not the natural world but a correspondent of the supernatural; the shadows that flit and play in the natural, representing the realities that exist in the supernatural? Simplicity of statement touching supernatural operations is, in general, nothing more than vagueness of statement. "The explanation, or accurate account of anything, is always far more complex than the apprehension of the thing itself."
The apparent complexity, then, of the Catholic presentment of the operations of the Holy Ghost is no proof whatever against the truth of that presentment.
There is, perhaps, no better plan for treating the subject of the operations of the Holy Ghost than to consider them in their chronological and logical order.
As the special work of the Son is our redemption, so the special work of the Holy Ghost is our sanctification. Not that the Father and the Son do not take part in our sanctification, or that the Father and the Spirit do not take part, together with the Son, in our redemption. Each Person of the Godhead joins, in one will, with the other Two in every act of the one God. And yet, in the economy of the Godhead, each Person hath so assumed to Himself special offices, that, while we may regard the Father as pre engaged in creation, and the Son in redemption, we may regard the Spirit as pre eminently our Sanctifier.
Before the Fall, the Holy Ghost dwelt in the soul of man. His work, as an Indweller there, was twofold. First, He illuminated human nature; so that it possessed, not indeed omniscience, but all knowledge belonging to its state; for Adam was under no obligation to know that which lay outside of his state. Secondly, the Holy Ghost sanctified human nature, so that it possessed entire holiness.
But at the Fall, the Holy Ghost ceased to reside as a personal Indweller in the soul of man; and human nature remained deprived of the Spirit, though not of His general influences, for four thousand Biblical years.
After the lapse of this long period, however, the Spirit descended again. He was first given to Jesus Christ's Human Nature, to which, for a while He was confined. Jesus Christ then prepared the framework and substance of His Body Mystical, the Church; and, at the first Eucharist, just before His death, united it to His Body Natural. As yet, however, the Body Mystical had not received the Breath of Life. But, secondly, at Pentecost, the Spirit went forth from Christ's Body Natural, to which it had been confined and, descending, filled His Body Mystical, the Church, St. Augustine (or some writer in a sermon on Pentecost ascribed to St. Augustine) says, "The Holy Ghost came no more as a transient visitor, but as a perpetual Comforter, and as an Eternal Inhabitant; . . . no longer by grace of visitation and operation, but by the very presence of His majesty; no longer in odor of balsam, but the very substance of the sacred Unction flowed down."
Modern sceptical writers, appealing to the Bible, have thought that they have Convicted Christianity of contradicting its own holy documents by the above statement. "Long before Pentecost," they say, "did not David try, 'Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me?' and yet you say the Spirit fled at the Fall, and did not return till Pentecost. Nay, your very Bible, teaching also what you say, contradicts itself. But to one who considers the Catholic truth of the Incarnation and what it involves, there is no difficulty whatever in the apparently contradictory statements of the Bible on the one hand and of Catholic teaching on the other, touching the readvent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. "The Second Person of the Godhead surely had not been absent from the world which He created, even from the day itself when 'the morning stars sang together' to the day of the Annunciation. Just as truly, nevertheless, was 'the First--Begotten brought into the world' eighteen hundred years ago. And as, at Christmas, the eternal Word, Who had never been absent from the world, came and dwelt in a body like that that is borne by other men, so truly and really, at Pentecost, did the Holy Spirit come and dwell in the Body Mystical of Christ. He came to be the life and soul of that Mystical Body, to join its members to their Head, Christ, and to each other, and to be the channel of the new life and energy from the Head to the whole Body. Thus the Christmas gift to the world was the gift of the Son the Pentecost gift to the Church was the gift of the Spirit; each gift and both gifts necessary to the salvation of man in and from his sins."
Thus the Divine Spirit, having been lost, as a Personal Indweller, four thousand years previously through the sin of the First Adam, was won back by the obedience of the Second Adam. First, It entered, without measure, Christ's Body Natural secondly, It passed thence without measure into His Body Mystical. From the Body Mystical It passes, thirdly, but not without measure, through all the ordinances and operations of the Church, and specially through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, to human souls one by one.
That is to say, Christ, having received the Spirit into His perfect Human Nature, is the Dispenser of It to whom He will, and by the Sacramental means it has pleased Him to appoint. Thus the precious ointment, falling first upon the Head of the Church runs down to the very skirts of the great Aaron's garments.
The Divine Spirit was given to the Body of the Catholic Church in all fulness; but It is given to each of the faithful in measure. It works in all fulness in the Church; but It works in each of the faithful only accordingly as he corresponds with and opens the doors of his soul wider and wider to the Spirit he has received through Baptism and Confirmation The Church, viewed under one aspect, is "Without spot or wrinkle." But each member of the Church is by no means "holy and without blemish." The results to the Church of the gift of the Spirit to It in all fulness, were the same that accompanied the Spirit's presence in the soul of Adam before the Fall, viz. full illumination and full sanctification. But the results in each separate soul of the gift of the Spirit to it through Baptism and Confirmation are its gradual illumination only, and its gradual sanctification.
Protestant critics have drawn the conclusion, by way of reductio ad absurdum, from the statement, in last year's Conferences, that the Catholic Church is one with its informing Head, Christ, and has received from that Head the illuminating Spirit without measure, that the Church must therefore be omniscient. This conclusion would not have been so triumphantly drawn if that fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the Incarnation, had been more carefully considered. For, the very Body Natural or human part, of the God-man in Palestine, though joined in hypostatic union with His Godhead, was not on that account omniscient. Christ was perfect man as well as God. And it is to be remembered that, as man, He grew in wisdom as well as in stature. It by no means follows, unless we deny the perfect manhood of Christ, that the Catholic Church, or Body Mystical of Christ, possesses all knowledge because it is, in a mystical sense, the Body of Christ. The Church, indeed, possesses a nescience of many things, as was the case with Adam before the Fall. For like Adam She is a creature, and is "under no obligation to know what is beyond Her state." But the Divine Spirit, coming into Her, illuminates Her nevertheless as He did the soul of Adam, and enables Her, as one united body, to speak infallibly all the supernatural verities that lie within Her requirements as the Divine teacher of the world; that is to say, that are necessary to the eternal welfare of human s for whose benefit She was divinely organized.
Secondly; the presence of the fulness of the Holy Spirit within Her sanctifies also the Church Catholic, making her the Holy Catholic Church.
It seems difficult for a man not reared in the Catholic atmosphere, or at least for one who has not lived for years in that atmosphere, to comprehend what the Catholic means, when he thus distinguishes between his Mother the Church, and each, or all together, of Her fallen members. "How," he says, "can the Church be holy, when Its human members are none of them holy? And how can the Church be infallible, when each and every one of Its fallen members is fallible? For surely no multiplication of fallibility will turn it into infallibility." But this difficulty arises from the fact of the Protestant's conception of the Church; so different from the Catholic conception. To the Protestant, the Church is a mere voluntary association of individuals who can rearrange themselves at will, and thus create new "Churches" at every new rearrangement. "Church"-making is to him a renew able earthly process, similar to the organizing of new nations in place of old. But to the Catholic, it is an unrenewable Divine act similar to the creation of this globe; once done by the Divine fiat, there is an end of the matter. The Protestant "Churches" are each destructible by man like the nations; the Catholic Church is as continuous and as indestructible by man as is the planet, earth. It is something which God made for man to dwell in; not something into which men arrange themselves. To the Catholic, there fore, there can be but one Church.
If the Church were composed solely of all Its fallen members together, how indeed could It be holy, and how indeed could It be infallible? But, to the Catholic, It is not composed solely, nor even mainly and principally, of Its fallen members; It is composed of them plus something else vastly greater and more important than all the fallen members together, namely, Jesus Christ, here among us really and practically and not in a mere vague abstract sense.
The Solar System is not composed solely, or even mainly and principally, of the planets and satellites. It is composed of them, plus something vastly greater in bulk and more important than all of them put together, namely, the sun. The planets and satellites cannot wander off and rearrange themselves from time to time at will into various new groups, each with its own order. But the great sun binds them permanently around himself in a one unalterable order.
But, though each and every planet, satellite, and asteroid is, in itself considered, opaque and dark, yet the whole Solar System is not a fountain belching forth darkness into the regions of space round about. On the other hand, it is a vast source of resplendent light radiating everywhere in oceanic floods from its central sun and dimly reflected even by its opaque planets themselves in their several imperfect degrees. So the Church, when viewed as our Protestant friends view It, and as we at times also view It, on the side, namely, of Its human members alone, is far from holy and far from infallible; but viewed also from the Catholic stand-point, on the side, namely, of Its centre and principle of life and organization, Jesus Christ, Who is Its very sub stratum and essence, It is, as a whole bound together organism, resplendently holy and divinely infallible. To the Catholic, the Church is a Mystical Personality; and It takes that personality not from a mere conglomeration into one of all the fallen personalities subsisting in It, but from Its great and organizing Head, Christ. As the Catholic, therefore, gazes at the Church, while be holding indeed Its human satellites, he yet be holds the organism primarily in Its great substratum and unifying Personality, Jesus Christ; very much as one gazes at the glory of a diamond, not thinking of the chemical atoms of carbon that enter into, but are not a part of that glory.
I may have a handful of particles, composed of mica, feldspar, and quartz: but what have I? mere dust. But if I have all this, plus that mysterious, invisible, organizing, and crystallizing some thing, which we cannot define, but which, as an assistance to our conception, we call by the in adequate name of attraction of cohesion, I have something in my hand vastly different from and additional to mere dust I have a positive entity which I call a stone, a piece of granite. So with regard to the Church, Christ is the rock-principle into which the human particles are incorporated.
Thus, though it be impossible to present any comparison which shall explain, and so destroy, a mystery, there is a sense in which the Catholic Church is distinct from Its human members, albeit all of them, gathered from afar like dust, are incorporated into It by the supernaturally chemical action of Its Sacraments. In Its earthly aspect therefore, as the generations of Its members die
u succession, they are to It in the Catholic view as the leaves to a tree, which swell, wither, and fall year by year, distinct from yet a part of the tree, while the tree itself stands through the centuries. Thus is the Catholic Church that "Stone," Christ, seen by the prophet, "which" (as His glorified Body Natural, gathering to Itself fallen human members and incorporating them by Sacraments into Itself, swells and enlarges into His Body Mystical) "grows, and becomes a great mountain, and fills the whole earth." For though we be the branches, the Catholic reads it in Scripture that, after all, Christ is the whole vine, branches and all.
There are times, indeed, as is hinted above, when we speak of the Catholic Church, not as thus a Mystical Personality, but meaning also by the phrase only Its earthly part. For instance, we speak of Christ and His Mystical Body--Christ and His Church, as though the Catholic Church were something separate from and independent of Christ, just as we sometimes speak of a man and his body, regardless of the fact that the body is a part of the man. And at such times we are apt to personify the earthly part of the Church, using concerning it the personal pronouns "She" and "Her." But this occurs when, for some reason, we are compelled to distinguish between the Head and His members, or between Christ's in visible glorified Body Natural which left mortal vision at Olivet, and His Body Mystical on earth in which He is still visible and audible. It is a temporary adaptation of the word, which comes from the paucity of our language as a vehicle to express supernatural mysteries. But we must ever remember that a body separated from its head and soul has no distinct personality, and that there is no separate personality (as of the earthly part of the Church) standing between Christ and His members.
Besides, in endeavoring to convey to us the profound mystery of the Catholic Church, Scripture seems to give warrant for this temporary use of the word. For it speaks of Christ as the Head of the Body. And yet, when we hear a living body utter thoughts, it is the man, the head, the soul of that body that we listen to. Scripture speaks also of the Bridegroom and His Bride. And there is, indeed, a sense in which man and wife, considered temporarily as a man and a woman are two. But, after all, the earthly part of the Church is not likened by God, even temporarily, to "a woman," but to "a wife." And, in God's sight, "man and wife" are "one flesh;" and that "one" is so the man himself that, by the old common law, it was impossible for a man to give a piece of property to his wife in such manner that its fee should rest in her alone; since in endeavoring to give it to his wife, it would be a vain effort on his part to give it away from himself.
Thus there are two senses in which the Catholic uses the word Church; that which is predicable of the word when it merely signifies an earthly body being by no means applicable to it in its other sense; and the holiness and infallibility, which are predicable of it in that other sense being by no means true of it in the sense in which we speak of the Church as consisting only of its fallen human members. And it must be confessed that these two uses of the word are naturally confusing to the non-Catholic mind.
But, after all, strictly speaking, it is Christ with His Mystical Body, Christ in His Mystical visible Body on earth as Its substratum, as Its mighty nucleus, as Its principle of earthly and glorious sacramental organization and of heavenly and glorious life, that is that one Mystical Personality, which the Catholic calls the Church.
That one Mystical Personality sprang into existence at the Divine fiat, eighteen hundred years ago, entire and Catholic, regardless of the greater or less size of Its mere earthly part; and It received Its Breath of Life at Pentecost. It was thus not only complete as a creature of God from the first, but It was also prior in time to the successive myriads that were to subsist in It. It was as complete when It received the submission of Constantine in the year 325, as It is to-day when It takes your little infant into union with Itself; and It could give of Its fulness as much to the first man It baptized, as It can to your infant.
The amputation of limbs does not diminish the soul or personality of a man one particle; and, if all human beings save a thousand, save a hundred, save ten even, should fall away from the Church, Its complete and Catholic Personality would not be diminished. The Church would not, of course, be so numerous in Its human members, or so widely extended in the race; but It is not extent that makes the Church's Catholicity any more than it is human personalities united that create the Church's own independent personality. If, on the other hand, all men on earth should submit to the Church, Its Mystical Personality would be none the more enlarged or complete. In short, the Church is Catholic, not inasmuch as She is, or perhaps ever will be coextensive with mankind, but because She is so in design and capabilities.
"Christ is not merely in the Head, and not in the Body," or human members, says St. Augustine in his 28th Tract on St. John, "but whole Christ is both in the Head and in the Body. What, therefore, His members are, He is; but it does not follow that His members are what He is." Thus, though the Church, considered on Its human side, may truly be said to consist of many men, there is a sense in which the Church is One Man. In speaking of the Church according to this conception where It is distinct from, though including a multitude of individuals told off by number, St. Augustine says, "Now, One Man speaketh in all nations; One Man, the Head and the Body; One Man, Christ and the Church, perfect Man together, the Bridegroom and the Bride, but they two shall be One Flesh." And again, "The Head and Body form Whole Christ." And again, "The Head and His Body are called One Christ." And again, "There is produced, then, as it were, out of two, out of the Head and the Body, out of the Bride and the Bridegroom, One certain Person.
Therefore, we, together with our Head, are all, Christ." Again, says St. Gregory the Great, in his Exposition of one of the Penitential Psalms, "Christ with His whole Church is One Person.
And the Holy Spirit quickens and illuminates the whole Church, Which is filled by the same Spirit, that we may have life."
The material particles of each human body are perishable--they change totally once in seven years but the body, nevertheless, is continuous, and preserves its identity. So with the fallen human elements, that enter into the continuous earthly structure of that Mystical Personality, the Church.
As each of Her human members retains his own fallen personality, they, though subsisting in Her, are all more human than divine. But She, because She finds Her Personality in Christ, is more divine than human.
Again, as each of Her members retains his own fallen personality, the union of the Holy Ghost with such member is neither full nor indissoluble; it is conditioned on the fidelity of the individual, and may be sundered by his unfaithfulness. But as She finds Her Personality in Her Head, and not in Her members, the union of the Holy Ghost with the Church, though not hypostatic, is both full and indissoluble. The Church is, therefore, not on trial or probation, although all Her members are, but She is Herself "the instrument of probation to mankind." She received the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, in order to be the channel of holiness on earth to all Her sinful members; and as such She is distinct in conception from them all and superior to them all.
Individuals and nations may fall away from Her, but the Church Herself is "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." The gates of Hell cannot prevail against Herr though they may prevail against Her separate members. In short, She is one, holy, catholic, continuous, and imperishable, though the individuals in Her are many, sinful, ignorant, and perishable. Or, using the figure for which Scripture gives us warrant, She is the Bride of Christ and all Her members are, not Herself, but the children She bears to Her Lord in the waters of Her Holy Baptism.
But, to return; although the Holy Ghost was, in a certain sense, thus lost at the Fall and not restored to the earth till the Incarnation and Pentecost, it is not to be inferred that His kindly and persistent influence was absent between the Fall and Pentecost. And, although He was not restored at Pentecost, directly to each and every man of the human race, but only to the Church first, from Which He is granted to individuals through Baptism and Confirmation, it is not to be inferred that His influence has not always pervaded man kind outside of the Catholic Church from Pentecost to the present time and even in the order of nature itself.
Postponing, then, a consideration of the full and special work of the Spirit since His restoration at Pentecost, let us consider--
First. The Spirit's General work:
(a.) Prior to Pentecost, among the Heathen.
(b.) Prior to Pentecost, among the Jews.
(c.) Since Pentecost, among those outside of the Church.
We can then take up the Spirit's Special work:
(a.) Since Pentecost; in the Church.
(b.) Since Pentecost; in each individual member of the Church.
I. The Spirit's General work, prior to Pentecost, among the Heathen; and since, among those outside the Church.
There is no man begotten of Adam, before or since Pentecost, that has not had sufficient grace and aid from the Holy Ghost, to turn to God and escape eternal death. Although the indwelling Spirit was forfeited and lost to human nature by Adam's sin, His prevenient and cooperative influences were never withdrawn from man. He hath ever so sent His grace into the soul, as to precede its faintest movements in turning to God, and to urge and help those movements. This is His prevenient grace. And when the soul has begun to cooperate with His heavenly influences, the grace of the Spirit is ever present in the soul, supernaturally to assist it to be a fellow-worker with Him unto its own salvation. This is His cooperative grace.
It is a misunderstanding to charge Catholics of any kind, Anglican, Greek, or Roman, with holding or teaching that no soul among the ancient heathen, and no soul outside of the Catholic Church to-day, has received or can receive this prevenient and this cooperative grace from the Holy Spirit. Even the Roman part of the Church, against which this charge is most often made, has, through Alexander VIII. and Clement XI., formally condemned such a statement as heresy. It is, indeed, the very teaching of Catholicity, that the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit must operate in any soul before it can so much as turn to God and seek Baptism; and that the cooperative grace must be ever instant, or the soul will, of its own powers, fall back. There was no heathen soul before Pentecost, and there has been no soul since Pentecost outside of the Catholic Church, that has not had "sufficient grace, if it had sufficient fidelity to correspond with it, to escape eternal death," considering, of course, the soul's advantages of century, place, and circumstances. There is many a soul of the heathen, and many a soul of the invincibly ignorant, and, we may humbly believe, many another soul deprived to-day of the light of Catholic truth by other causes than invincible ignorance, with whom God, in His unrevealed mercies, will deal very gently, and in ways secret to us. For "the infinite merits of the Redeemer are before the mercy seat of the Father for the salvation of those that follow the little light which, in the order of nature, they receive."
Every good and every perfect gift cometh from God. Prior to Pentecost, strength, light, and knowledge, not their own, came to heathen men. High moral truths and inspirations were occasion. ally uttered by Buddhist, Brahmin, Zoroastrian, Greek and Roman; and standing out from the general sin, like green islands from a sea, were lofty feelings that stirred in many a conscience. Thus God, the Holy Ghost, wrought from the first by His unseen influence even among the heathen, to hold them back from sinking, like the fallen angels, to that depth of debasement which is the normal Consequence of sin. Indeed, no restoration at Pentecost had been possible if the Spirit of God had, at the Fall, cut off His influences completely from man. The day was gone, but the twilight was left. Ever since the very first sin the Holy Spirit has ever confronted evil in roan by striving with the Conscience. All, indeed, that was good in heathen lands, all the flowerets of the natural Eden that were left, all "the imperfect yet hopeful feeling after God," and all the dim visions of spiritual truth, tell of the play on earth of the general influence of the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost.
Nor has that influence been diminished since Pentecost, in that part of mankind lying outside of the Catholic Church. Indeed, it has rather been increased in lands where the Catholic Church has gone, or where its indirect influence is felt. So that, although outside of Catholicity no rare sanctity has been produced--no Philip Neri, no John Keble, no Francis Sales, no Jane Chantal, no Thomas Wilson, no St. Bonaventure, no St. Catharine, and hundreds of others that might he mentioned (for such are results only of the Sacramental life), yet not a little that is very beautiful, though in a far inferior sense, has sprung up from the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit under the twilight which has bathed the outlying regions.
It is to be borne in mind, that, starting from the boundaries of the Catholic Church, to which Body the Spirit has been given in His fulness, and going out to the utmost heathen to-day who have never heard of Christianity, the light of the Holy Ghost fades by such imperceptible degrees, that it is impossible to draw any hard and fast line anywhere, separating twilight from night. Nay, the very line itself between the outlying twilight and the Catholic day is somewhat blurred For there are thousands who, though not submitting to the Church Catholic, are yet validly baptized, and who hold portions at least of the Catholic truth. And these profit, therefore, by those consequent and corresponding helps of the Holy Spirit, that are additional to His general prevenient and cooperative graces. They have received the Holy Ghost through lay-Baptism; but, being self-cut off from the Church, they are necessarily cut off; to greater or less degree, from those supernatural helps that are divinely designed to bring the spiritual nature to full growth and to ripe perfection.
II. The Spirit's General work, prior to Pentecost, among the Jews.
This part of the Divine Spirit's work began with that great event, the call of Abram, and ended at the Crucifixion, when the vail of the Temple was rent in twain. It can be summed up under the general statement, that it consisted in a preparation for the restoration of the race; and that, to this end, first, the Spirit selected a nation out of the nations of earth; secondly, He revealed to them the outward Law; and thirdly, "He spake by the prophets."
The steps which mark the progress of this work were as follows, viz.: The call of Abram; the selection of Isaac; the choice of those who sprang from Isaac's son, Jacob; the summoning of Moses; the leading of the Jews out of Egypt; the revelation to them of the Law, and the organization of the Jewish polity, with its typical priesthood and sacrifices; the planting of the people in the Holy Land, as a separate people, and as the repository of His Law and truth and promises touching the coming Dispensation; the inspiring of the prophets; the disciplining of the people till a portion of them, at least, namely, Judah and Benjamin, became permanently true to the one God and His Temple and His Law; the preparation of Sts. Mary and Elizabeth, and the sending of the Baptist.
Why were the Jews rather than any other people thus selected? We do not know. We know that, since Pentecost, the Spirit, in His special work, ever grants particular graces in larger measure to those who are congenitally ready to receive and profit by them, than to those who are not; and, apparently, on the principle, that, "to him that hath shall be given." But, at any rate, the ancient Jews were selected; and they stand out prominently above all other peoples prior to Christ in the illustration of those more tender faculties of human nature by which man looks up to God and corresponds with all spiritual influences.
If, as has often been said, the will so predominated in the Romans over the intellect and affections, that that people became not only the rulers of the world, but also the schoolmaster of subsequent time in matters of law and organization; and if, in the Greeks, the intellect and imagination so predominated over the will and the affections, that they became the schoolmaster of subsequent time in respect of fine art, literature, logic, and philosophy, surely the ancient Jewish people has been the world's schoolmaster in the study and practice of the spiritual life. They were the womb out of which the God-Man and Christianity issued. If, as a people, they were not congenitally ready to be selected and prepared for this great office, then so much the more must their exaltation and fitness for the function be attributed to the Holy Ghost. And even if they were congenitally ready, still the supernatural phenomena that accompanied the origin, organization and typical character of Judaism as a sys tem, point to the particular operation of the Holy Ghost for their main cause.
It was the Holy Ghost that breathed into the spiritual plaints and p of the Jews the breath of perennial life. For Rome and Greece are dead; Justinian and Hector and Antigone, and the gentle Bion, and the gay Anacreon, are buried in the private delights of the rare student. But the words which gave utterance to the sorrows, the hopes, the anxieties, the penitence and the joys of the sweet singers of Israel, are the very words in which the peasant of to-day finds relief. If Rome and Greece are dead, the Wandering Jew still lives.
It was the prevenient and cooperative grace of the Holy Ghost that gave their exceptional character to the firmness of Abraham, the meek ness of Isaac, the perseverance of Jacob, the purity and uprightness of Joseph, and the stern purpose of Moses; that inspired every lofty aspiration and dim fore-looking of the Jew, that fanned the holy zeal of the Maccabees, that perfected the character of St. Mary, and strengthened the trust of St. Joseph; that ripened Nathaniel's guilelessness and that quickened the ready following of Andrew and Peter and John. And what shall we say of Jeremiah, and of the Baptist? We can only utter concerning each of them the very language of the Holy Ghost Himself: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." And yet so much greater is the special work of the Spirit since His restoration at Pentecost, that we are told that "he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than John the Baptist."
I cannot turn away from all this general work of the Spirit after the fall, and take up His special work since Pentecost, which, of course, is of far more interest to us personally, without a few words on one more of His operations, as He prepared Judaism to be the womb of Christianity and the prophecy of His personal restoration to Man. It was this: He inspired the Law, and "He spake by the prophets."
Who shall lay the measures of the Old Testament, or enter into the springs thereof? who shall bind its sweet influences?
Consider, first, the diversity that is apparent on its surface. The Pentateuch moves with an epic cadence; Joshua rings with heroic numbers and Judges sustains the martial strain; but in Ruth, the song sinks to a gentle pastoral, soon to break out as a sonnet in Esther, then swell to a drama in Job, and heave like a restless sea in the lyric Psalms.
From these it subsides to a quieter temper in Proverbs. Nor, yet, are its changing moods or matter exhausted. For, all at once, as though inspired by beatific vision, it rises suddenly into the brief, ravishing strains of the Song of Songs; then drops to a wail in Lamentations; and then, still never exhausted, mounts again on the sustained, supernal utterances, loftiest of all, of the strange, sad, puissant Prophets. And yet with all this wealth--this extravagance of variety in matter and in manner, those books of the Old Testament--that growth of a thousand years, are but the nine and thirty parts of a one compact Epic, singing beforehand, with a supernatural unity of purpose, "The Word made Flesh." The golden threads of Christ's prophetic biography stretch like warp from Genesis to Malachi; side by side with these stretch also the silver warp of the acted prophecy of His life; and, intermingled with these, run, like meandering streams, the threads of genealogy from Eve toward Christ, and the bright lines of typical priests, kings, prophets and sacrifices. Nor must we forget that, here and there and everywhere, woven by the Holy Ghost into the wonderful warp and woof, are glittering diamonds:--Hannah, singing her wondrous magnificat; the infant Moses, saved from the decree of death; the child Samuel in the Temple, with his "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth;" Joseph, beloved of his father, hated by His brethren and sold, but rich with the wealth and food of an other land and feeding those very brethren Noah, saving the chosen; Moses working miracles and ransoming his people; David in his royalty, his sufferings, and his triumphs; Job in his temptations, his probation and his rewards; Esther pleading for her people; Judas Maccabeus fighting for them with a zeal which consumed him
Nehemiah rebuilding the ruins; Isaac on Calvary; Samson slaying great enemies by his very death; Jonah going "down to the bottom of the mountains, with the earth and her bars about him for ever," but risen from the belly of hell; Elijah, ascending; Solomon, in judgment; Joshua, leading his people at last into the promised land; and finally Meichizedek, king of Salem. All these, and many more, sparkle in the Old Testament as scattered and broken reflections beforehand of the One Character of the Epic, Jesus Christ. Homer wrote of Achilles and his wrath; God wrote of the coming Messias and His love. Who, indeed, shall enter into the springs of the marvellous Old Testament?
Nor does all this exhaust the wonders of this great work of the Holy Ghost. For there are also under-strains, which the attentive ear can detect in the steady flow of this one great harmony.
One of these under-strains is as follows. The Divine Spirit hath wrought into the structure of the Old Testament two developing lines; the one a spiritual line, and the other an earthly; and He has displayed the conflict between the two as each goes up to its consummation.
The spiritual line begins in Adam, the Son of God in Eden; the earthly, in Satan. The spiritual line, broken at the Fall, is caught up again in Abel, whose slain lamb appeals to Christ and revealed religion. The earthly line continues in Cain, whose offered fruits of the earth scorned Calvary, and were the efforts of mere natural religion, that would enter heaven, indeed, but not by the Only Door. In the conflict of Cain with Abel begins the hate of infidelity and of all rationalism for Christianity. The strong, earthly Cain, killing the gentle, spiritual Abel, is the law of subsequent time; it is the struggle of pride with humility; of intellect with faith, albeit there should be no war between the two; of luxury with chastity; of anger with meekness; of covetousness with charity; of envy with gentleness; of the scribes with Christ; of Voltaire and Tyndall and Comte with the Church.
The spiritual line runs on again in Seth, in Enoch, who was translated; in Noah, who believed and was saved; in Abraham, who was called; in Joseph, who was rejected; in Moses and Job, and so on to the Baptist. And it culminates at last in Jesus Christ Himself, the great Abel, and His Church.
The earthly line, on the other hand, continues in Cain, who took a wife and builded a city; in Tubal-Cain, the artificer in brass and iron; in Jubal, the inventor; in Lamech, the slayer; in Sodom, Egypt, Esau, Ishmael, the Philistines, Moab, the strong and wicked Babylon; and in all earthly pride and pomp, and boasting of mere material progress. And it culminates, at last, in the earthly consummation of the Man of Sin Himself.
While, between these two lines, stands out the frightful example of Lot and Lot's wife, those compromisers between truth and error; those trimmers between faith and heresy; those hesitants between the love of the earthly and the love of the heavenly. Ah! how much, in this age of schism and heresy and material progress--this age of boasting over steam-engines more than over holy souls, of pilgrimages to the shrines of the earthly Shakespeares, while the graves of the most illustrious saints are deserted, do we need strong Abrahamic men that hate a lie or even a compromise with error, more than they do starvation.
Again, the Holy Ghost hath welded into the structure of the Old Testament another revelation; a revelation namely of God's will to earthly nations as such.
For, while the New Testament concentrates itself about the spiritual life of a single heavenly Individual (who was never given in marriage), His truth, His sinlessness, His resurrection and ascension, the Old Testament begins with a married pair and their sin; as it progresses, the pair be come a family, the family a tribe, and the tribe an earthly nation. It is around this that the elder Testament concentrates itself; around its government, its material growth, its prosperity under obedience, and adversity under disobedience; and around its general career in peace, and in war. Thus, while the New Testament is a revelation of God's will to the individual soul destined for eternity, the Old is, in this respect at least, a revelation of His will to the nations of the earth, as such, in time.
Divine principles are revealed, which, if obeyed, will secure happiness to the nation; but the neglect of which will bring war, famine, captivity, and disaster generally. Thus, while a model man is set up in the New, a model nation is displayed to the world in the Old Testament.
That nation was to have God for its supreme King, and not money, or mere earthly prosperity and glory; it was, through rigid laws, to keep itself physically pure, if it would escape devastating disease; it was to have a care to its food, what it should eat and what drink; man and beast were to rest from labor at stated times; in its desire for gain it was not to despise holidays and amusements as a further recreation from work; it was to take means to escape all miserable local isolations and jealousies; and, to this end, the one part of the nation was not to remain in ignorance of; or misrepresent the other, calling them, on the one hand, thieves and robbers, or, on the other, mere shopkeepers, if it was to escape civil wars; it was to look well to its morality, by having its families each dwell in its own abode, and not herd indiscriminately together in caravansaries, hotels, and watering places; if it would be blessed with material wealth, it was to have a care not to be stingy toward God, robbing God to dress its children in purple and fine linen, but it was to pay liberally for the support of His temple, His altar, and His worship; if it was to escape barbarism, it was to take care to educate its children, and especially in religion; it was not to make slaves of its brethren, nor practise extortion; it was to take care that no tremendous wealth should accumulate in the hands of a few individuals, and it was to be merciful to the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger. Of course the measures adopted to carry out these great principles would differ from century to century, according to climate, the size of the nation, and its degree of civilization; but the principles themselves were unchanging.
And yet there are those on the line of Cain, Tubal-Cain, and Jubal, who declare the work of the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament to be effete, and who take the secret delight of an intellectual pride in reading it side by side with the Koran and the Zend-Avesta. But, nay, it goes forth, not only unique and supernatural among all ancient books, but also a living voice unto all nations as such till the end of time; and who, indeed, shall lay the measures thereof?
Finally, and independently of all the above, the Holy Spirit hath filled the Old Testament with an inexhaustible store of spiritual reading. When the intellect is weary with thinking, and the faith with reaching and grasping, the hungry Spirit can betake itself thither and find rest and comfort, and refreshment and peace. The loving soul can find Christ everywhere in it, and be fed. "Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly or stood in the way of sinners;" and who is this man but The Man, Christ Jesus? And who is he, too, "that hath not sat in the seat of the scornful," but Christ Jesus? And who is he "that setteth not by him self, but is lowly in his own eyes, and maketh much of them that fear the Lord," but Christ Jesus? And who cried, "Hide not thy face from me in the time of trouble," but He Who cried from the Cross, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" And who is that, of whom it is said, "Lo, we heard of the same at Ephrata, and found it in the wood," but He, of Whom the shepherds heard at Bethlehem Ephrata, and Whom all sinners find on the wood of the Holy Cross. And what were those two sticks which the widow of Zarephath gathered on which to bake her bread, but the two beams of the Cross on which was prepared the Bread of Life? Trope, allegory, symbol, and anagoge crowd thickly together all through the Testament. Through them the Holy Spirit looks out from every page upon him who hath the spiritual eye to see the trope to tell him what to do; the anagoge, what to hope; and the allegory, what to believe. Under the warm sunshine of meditation myriads and myriads of spots in the Old Testament open their petals and exhale the sweet odors of their mystical meanings. Oh, ancient but ever-living voice of the Divine Spirit, Thou hast gone forth to human spirits in all centuries; and who, in deed, can bind Thy sweet influences!
But here we must close the treatment, how ever inadequate, of the general work of the Spirit after the Fall. There remains before us the treatment of His special work in the Church, and in the baptized man since His restoration to earth at Pentecost.