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Discourses Illustrative of the Office and Work of the Holy Spirit
by the Reverend Samuel Seabury.

New York: 1874.


A Discourse delivered at the Church of the Annunciation. Whit Sunday, 1850.


"The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name."

ST. JOHN xiv. 36.

IT is our Lord who speaks these words; and as He distinguishes the Father from Himself--"the Father will send in My name"--so very plainly does He distinguish the Holy Ghost both from Himself and the Father: the Father, He says, will, in My name, send the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, therefore, is plainly distinct from the Father and from His Son Jesus Christ.

The whole verse is: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Referring to the same Holy Ghost, our Lord had just before said: "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth;" that is, another besides Himself, and to take His place. And a little after He says: "When He, the Spirit of Truth," the other Comforter, "is come, He guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come." Now, from these words it appears that the Holy Ghost is not an attribute, or quality or divine influence, but an agent or person. For our Lord does not promise that He will send the apostles comfort, but a Comforter; and of this Comforter it is said that He shall come; that He shall guide the apostles; that He shall bring things to their remembrance; that He shall show them things to come; that "He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak." Now all these are personal acts, and such as manifestly suppose the Holy Ghost to be a person. It is true that an attribute or quality is sometimes, by a figure of speech, personified, but that no such figure is here used, may be easily shown. For if we suppose the Holy Ghost to be an attribute, either of the Father as proceeding from Him, or of the apostles as communicated to them, and then attempt to explain the words of our Lord, we shall find it impossible to make sense of them. For suppose the Holy Ghost to mean the spirit of wisdom, and to be an attribute or quality which should be given to the apostles; and then our Lord will be made to say that the apostles, by the assistance of this spirit, shall come themselves, and guide themselves into all truth, and show themselves things to come; which, if it be sense at all, is surely a sense very different from what our Lord intended. Or suppose the Holy Ghost to be an attribute of the Father; then, when our Lord says: "He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak," He means that the Father shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak. And, pray, of whom should the Father hear? Again, when our Lord says: "He shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you," He will be made to mean that the Father shall receive of the Son! But our Lord Himself conies from the Father, and refers up to the Father all that He has; so that what He is thus made to say, comes to this: that the Father shall receive of Himself and impart to the apostles! go it is that they who seek to escape mysteries in religion, run into absurdities.

The Holy Ghost, then, being a Person, let us consider the attributes ascribed to Him. He is said to search all things even the deep things of God, to lead into all truth, and to be the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation. To the Holy Ghost, therefore, we must ascribe the attribute of omniscience. He is said to dwell with the people of God, however dispersed, and to accompany the apostles, and to give them power to be witnesses, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. He is, therefore, omnipresent. The miracles wrought by Christ and His apostles, in the New Testament, and the work of creation recorded in the Old Testament, are ascribed to Him; and He is, therefore, omnipotent. He is called, also, the Eternal Spirit, and is said to abide with us forever. To the service of the Holy Ghost, are all Christians consecrated in their baptism; their bodies are called His temples; Divine blessing or benediction is pronounced in His name, and He is the object of religious invocation to whom the apostles themselves address their prayers and supplications. For example, St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, prays that the Lord would make them increase and abound in love, to the end He might establish their holiness before God, even the Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord here supplicated was neither the person of the Father nor the person of the Son; for He is implored to establish the hearts of the Thessalonians in holiness before the Father, and at the coming of the Son. He is, therefore, the Lord whom Christ promised that the Father would send in His name to establish the hearts of Christians in truth and holiness--that is the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. And again, in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, "The Lord direct your hearts with the love of God and the patient waiting for Christ;" where, also, the Lord who is addressed can be neither the Father nor the Son, but is sufficiently pointed out to be the Holy Ghost, as the author of love and holiness; the other Comforter to whose care and direction Christ had committed His disciples.

Now He who is the Spirit of God, who is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent; who is eternal and abideth forever, to whose service all Christians are consecrated, and who is to be invoked as the source and fountain of love and holiness, is no created person, but a Person of divine nature, of the nature of God.

This doctrine respecting the Holy Ghost, is that which the Church has always attested as grounded on the sure and certain warrant of Scripture. She finds personal acts and properties ascribed to the Holy Ghost in Scripture, and hence she declares the Holy Ghost to be a Person. She finds it revealed in Scripture that this Divine .Person is sent by the Father and promised by the Son; and hence she declares Him to be distinct from the Father and the Son. To this same Person she finds the Divine attributes ascribed in the Scriptures, and hence she declares Him to be equally God with the Father and the Son. And as the being of God is one, she necessarily concludes that in the unity of the Divine nature are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the Father, unbegotten and proceeding from none; the Son, begotten of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

This is the plain and undoubted testimony of the Catholic Church in regard to the Holy Ghost. It is unnecessary to multiply texts of Scripture in proof of these truths; it is sufficient to remind you that the Liturgy, or Communion Office of the Church, and, indeed, the whole of her Prayer-Book and Offices, which are everywhere pervaded with these truths, are chiefly drawn from the Holy Scriptures, and are capable of being resolved almost into the very words of Scripture. To dwell on this point, would be only to repeat that with which you are all familiar. But there is one feature in regard to this testimony which may have escaped your attention, but which is worthy of note; and that is, that not only are these truths in regard to the Holy Ghost attested by the Church, but they are attested, also, by the opponents of the Church, and the enemies of that very doctrine which she attests. This may seem a paradoxical assertion, but a brief statement of facts will convince you of its truth.

The chief opponents of the Catholic doctrine respecting the Holy Ghost, are, in modern times, Socinus, who would have us believe that the Holy Ghost is not a Person, but an attribute or quality; in ancient times, Sabellius, who also taught that the Holy Ghost, though a Person, was not distinct from the Father; and Arius and Macedonius, who taught that the Holy Ghost, though a Person, and distinct from the Father and the Son, was yet created, and not of the same nature with the Father. And to these three heads I believe all erroneous opinions in regard to the Holy Ghost, whether in ancient or modern times, may be reduced.

Now it is worthy of note that these opponents of the Catholic doctrine are, at the same time, witnesses in its favor. Does the Church teach that the Holy Ghost is God? Sabellius and Socinus teach the same; being convinced, they say, by the Scriptures, that He is truly divine and no other than God the Father. Does the Church teach that the Holy Ghost is a Person distinct from the Father? Arius and Macedoniua teach the same; convinced, they say, by the Scriptures that He is a Person as distinct from the Father as a human person, so distinct from the Father as to be a creature. Thus the very adversaries of the doctrine have divided the truth among them, and hold, some one portion of it, some the other. If we search the Scriptures, we find that the Church's doctrine respecting the Holy Ghost is their natural and obvious sense; if we consult the earliest expositors, we find them agreeing in the same exposition; if we consult the adversaries of the doctrine, we find them divided, but confirming the truth by their divisions; and if we appeal to the great Councils of the Church, this is their decreed and definite form of faith: That the Holy Ghost is the Lord and Giver of Life; that He proceedeth from the Father, and that with the Father and the Son together He is worshipped and glorified.

That the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father, is the express declaration of Christ Himself. "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." On this point there has never been any dispute in the Catholic Church. That the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Son, is not expressly declared in the Scriptures, though it is drawn from them by an easy deduction. For as the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of the Father, so, also, is He called the Spirit of Christ; as the Father is said to send the Holy Ghost, so, also, Christ says: "I will send Him to you." Again, our Lord says: "The Holy Ghost shall receive of mine." These declarations plainly imply the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son as well as the Father, though the same is not said in so many words. For this reason, our Church teaches that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son. We are not, however, to understand from this that the Father and the Son are two separate fountains of divinity to the Holy G-host, but one God, one undivided source and original. It is from an apprehension of this error, for fear that the words might be understood to insinuate the belief of two sources of divinity to the Holy Ghost, that the Greek or Eastern Church disallows the expression, "proceedeth from the Father and the Son," and professes only that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father. This, it must be owned, is in closer adherence to the letter of Holy Scripture; it must be owned, also, that the words "and the Son" are n of part of the ancient Catholic Creed, and that the Eastern Church had just cause of offense at their being added to the creed by the Western Church. Still, while we disavow the conclusion which they draw from the words and profess that by proceeding from the Son we mean no more than they mean by receiving of the Son, there seems no reason for imputing to us, on this subject, any real difference of doctrine.

That this doctrine respecting the Holy Ghost is revealed, is sufficient reason for us to believe it; for it would not be revealed unless it were necessary to our faith and practice. All the reasons for its being revealed we can not see, but one of its advantages is obvious--it enables us to distinguish the grace of God in our redemption and salvation from everything of our own.

The grace of God is of two kinds--there is the grace given to some for the benefit of others; and this may be called ministering grace; and there is the grace given to us for our personal advantage, and this may be called saving grace.

The need of ministering grace is obvious, for unless there were some to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, saving grace could not in any ordinary way be diffused and communicated to men. But nature qualifies many men to proclaim the doctrine of the Gospel after they have heard, and to exhibit to others the matter of the sacraments. A ministry of nature, however--a ministry which men take upon themselves without any warrant of Christ-- is not that which is best fitted to promote our salvation by Christ. The ministry needful to this end must be one of grace, not of nature; of divine and not of human origin.

Now how are we to distinguish the ministry of grace from the ministry of nature? Both are in some sense the gift of God, for all our talents, all our learning and zeal, our very life and being, are given to us by God. Both may, in some sense, be held to be the appointment of God, for they are upheld by that Divine Providence which rules and upholds the course of nature. But we are in search of a ministry of grace, and not merely a ministry of nature or providence, a ministry appointed by Christ, as the author of redemption and salvation. How, then, are we to distinguish this ministry? I answer, by its being a gift of the Holy Ghost. Our Saviour gave forth but one commission, and to whom He gave it to them also He gave the promise of assistance in suitable abilities for the discharge of that commission. This was not to the apostles only, but to the apostles and their successors, and if the promise, so, likewise, the commission. As, therefore, Christ chose some whom He appointed to this work, and left it not the common privilege and claim of all, so they also had power to commission whom they thought proper, and the commission which they delivered is the same which they received. Now this commission, this designation or appointment to office in the Church of Christ, is called by St. Paul a grace or gift of the Holy Ghost. "Unto me," he says, "who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." And to Timothy he says: "Stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." Now this grace or gift is, since our Lord's ascension, bestowed in the way of His appointment by the Holy Ghost, and as the name of the giver is often applied to the gift, so this gift or grace which is bestowed in ordination is called the Holy Ghost, the ordaining minister saying as he gives the commission: "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest or bishop in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the imposition of our hands." Here, then, is one advantage of faith in the Holy Ghost, that it enables us to discriminate the ministry of grace from the ministry of nature, or of providence. Both are gifts of God, but the former is not only a gift of God, but it is specifically a gift of the HOLY GHOST, that ministry which Christ has PROMISED to concur and be present with, to bless and make effectual to the end of the world.

The end of this ministering grace, which is bestowed on some, is to convey to others by the administration of the Word and Sacraments, saving grace or that which is necessary to our personal salvation. The need of this, also, is obvious; for unless we have it, we can not be made effectual partakers of the death and resurrection of our Saviour Christ. The effect of this grace is to enlighten our minds with the knowledge of the Gospel, and to sanctify and purify our lives. Now we find that our natural talents, our reason and understanding, qualify us to perceive the truth of the Gospel, and to assent to it as a record of facts, supported by sufficient evidence. Again, we find that men are able, by their own strength, to form many good and virtuous resolutions and habits. We see the beauty and advantage of social duties; and for this reason, as well as from a natural die-position, or from motives of expediency and convenience, we may perform many amiable actions, and accustom ourselves to moral and virtuous habits. How, then, are we to distinguish these natural endowments from those which we receive from Christ our Saviour? How are we to renounce our dependence on ourselves, and ascribe our salvation exclusively to Him! To say that our abilities are imparted by God, is not sufficient; for all the endowments of the mind, our very being and life, are owing to the favor of God. To say that they are all produced in us by the Gospel of Christ, does not much mend the matter, for we may regard Jesus as only the greatest of human teachers, and resolve our obedience into our own strength, and call this the grace of God. How, then, shall we distinguish the grace of Christ, enlightening and sanctifying the hearts of believers, from the gifts and endowments of God in nature? In no other way than by referring them to the Holy Ghost, the third person of the blessed Trinity, the Comforter whom Christ promised to send. In this way, and in this way alone, are we able to distinguish the grace which is necessary to salvation from that strength which we have by nature. For the strength which we have by nature, though given to us by God, is so given to us as to become our own, and part of our very selves. But this is not properly the grace of the Gospel, nor have they who rely on it any claim to the promises of Christ our Saviour. And this we clearly understand, when we are taught that the grace necessary to salvation is not a common gift of God the Father, bestowed on human nature, nor a gift of Christ bestowed on all men by the diffusion and propagation of the Gospel, but a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost procured from the Father, by the intercession of Jesus Christ, for the special aid and success of those who come to God in the way of Christ's appointment. For hence we clearly see that it is only by totally renouncing the strength and endowments of nature, and by humbly imploring the succors and inspirations of the Holy Ghost, that we can be really illumined and strengthened by the saving grace of the Gospel, and attribute the glory of our salvation exclusively to Christ our Redeemer.

Most devoutly, therefore, should we thank the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that He hath given us the knowledge of that Holy Spirit whom He has sent to govern His Church, and to be the fountain of life and salvation to its members. He it is who enlightens our minds with the saving knowledge of Christ; who inclines our hearts to love the precepts of Christ, and who inspires us with the spirit of prayer and supplication. Let us, then, constantly believe in the Holy Ghost, as well as in the Father and the Son; let us rely on His succors, cherish His holy inspiration, and breathe out again the spirit which we receive from Him, in prayers for continual supplies of His grace and heavenly benediction. Let us never remit that devout frame and disposition of soul which is always open to receive the influences of the Holy Ghost, and to comply with His heavenly motions; remembering that He is the Comforter whom our Saviour promised, and that it is only under His guidance and through His power and energy that we can overcome the corruptions of nature, and be really enlightened and strengthened by the Gospel of Christ, or really profited by the trials and afflictions of this life. Ever then, and especially at this time, let us implore the Almighty Father that He would send us the light of His Holy Spirit, and that He would grant us by the same Spirit to have that right judgment in all things which our own reason can never furnish; that joy in His holy comfort which, in the season of trouble and sorrow, the resources of nature can never inspire. Thus, and thus only, can we be guided through this world to that heavenly inheritance which has been procured for us by the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. To whom, etc.

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