Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 05-05 The Spirit of God

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Alexander Campbell The Christian System: CS - 05-05 The Spirit of God

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As there is man and the spirit of man, so there is God and the spirit of God. They are capable of a separate and distinct existence. "What man knoweth the things of a man," says Paul, "but the spirit of man that is in him; even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God." There is in this case an image of God in man--not, indeed, an exact image, but an image; for as Paul says of the law, so say we of man; "For the law had a shadow, (a resemblance) of good things to come, and not the very (or exact) image of the things." So man was made an image of God, though not the exact image--the active power of man is in his spirit: so John the Baptist came in the power of Elijah, because he came in his spirit. The spirit of God is therefore often used for his power; though it is not an impersonal power, but a living, energizing, active, personal existence. Hence, in all the works of God, the spirit of God is the active, operating agent. Thus in the old creation, while ancient chaos yet remained--when "the earth was without form, and void, and darkness brooded on the bosom of the vast abyss," "the spirit of God moved"--(incubated and energized)--"upon the face of the waters." "The hand of the Lord has made me, and the spirit of the Almighty has given me life." "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee;" and thus was chaos subdued, man vitalized, "the heavens garnished," and the body of Jesus made by the spirit of God.

The Spirit is said to do, and to have done all that God does and all that God has done. It has ascribed to it all divine perfections and works; and in the New Testament it is designated as the immediate author and agent of the new creation, and of the holiness of Christians. It is therefore called the Holy Spirit. In the sublime and ineffable relation of the Deity, or godhead, it stands next to the Incarnate Word. Anciently, or before time, it was GOD, the WORD of God, and the SPIRIT of God. But now, in the development of the Christian scheme, it is "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit"--one God, one Lord, one Spirit. To us Christians there is, then, but one God, even the Father; and one Lord Jesus Christ, even the Saviour; and one Spirit, even the Advocate, the Sanctifier, and the Comforter of Christ's body, the church. Jesus is the head, and the Spirit is the life and animating principle of that body.

The whole systems of creation, providence, and redemption, are founded upon these relations in the Deity. Destroy these, blend and confound these, and nature, providence, and grace, are blended, confounded, and destroyed. The peerless and supreme excellency of the Christian system is, that it fully opens to the vision of mortals the Divinity--the whole Godhead employed in the work of man's regeneration and ultimate glorification. God is manifest in human flesh, and is justified and glorified by the Spirit, in accomplishing man's deliverance from ruin. Each name of the sacred three has its own peculiar work and glory in the three great works of Creation, Government, and Redemption. Hence, we are by divine authority, "immersed into the name of the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT," in coming into the kingdom of grace; and while in that kingdom the supreme benediction is--"The Grace of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, and the love of GOD, and the communion of the HOLY SPIRIT be with you!" Indeed in the old church that was in the wilderness, while matters were comparatively in the shadows of a moonlight age, the high priest of Israel was commanded to put "the name of God" upon the children of Israel--in the same relation of the scared three. "The Lord1 bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."2 Jehovah bless thee--is equal to "the love of God." Jehovah be gracious unto thee, answers to "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ"--and Jehovah lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace, corresponds to "the communion of the Spirit."

The divine doctrine of these holy and incomprehensible relations in the Divinity, is so inwrought and incorporated with all the parts of the sacred books--so identified with all the dispensations of religion, and so essential to the mediatorship of Christ, that it is impossible to make any real and divine proficiency in the true knowledge of God--of man--of reconciliation--or remission of sins--of eternal life--or in the piety and divine life of Christ's religion--without a clear and distinct perception of it, as well as a firm and unshaken faith and confidence in it, as we trust still to make more evident in the sequel.

1 In the Hebrew Bible it is Jehovah each time.

2 Num_6:24-27.