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§ 45. (2.) Illumination.2222HOLLAZIUS alone discussed Illumination at length under a separate head; and the reason of this no doubt was, that the questions here treated of acquired a special importance just at that time, partly in opposition to Mysticism, and partly to Pietism, which was then making its appearance. Earlier Dogmaticians either have not separate locus for illumination, or they treat of it very briefly, as CALOVIUS, who places it among the features of the call.

As, to the natural man, everything spiritual is foolishness, and he cannot perceive it, but, on the other hand, many prejudices and doubts prevent him from rightly understanding that which is spiritual, the call would be fruitless, if the Holy Spirit did not so operate that the Gospel should appear in its true light and significance to man. [1]

On this account the further operation of the Holy Spirit aims at the removal of this folly of the natural man, at displacing his doubts and prejudices, and furnishing him correct knowledge and comprehension of the substance and meaning of the Gospel. The aim, therefore, here is not only an external 451knowledge of the plan of salvation, but an internal knowledge; [2] the opening of man’s mind for the due appreciation of the Gospel, the removal of all hindrances, which might conceal from him God’s gracious plan of salvation, and that it may become internally clear to him how miserable is his sinful condition, as shown in the Scriptures, and what a remedy and comfort have been afforded for it in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. [3]

The Holy Spirit having brought about such a result, everything is done on the part of God, and it remains for the will of man to determine whether this salvation is to be received. [4] This is the effect which the Holy Spirit designs to produce by illumination. “Illumination is the act of applying grace, by which the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of the Word, teaches a man who is a sinner and called to the Church, and continues to instruct him in an ever-increasing measure, with the earnest purpose to remove the darkness of ignorance and error, and imbue him with the knowledge of the Word of God, by instilling from the Law the conviction of sin, and from the Gospel the apprehension of divine mercy, founded upon the merit of Christ.” [5] HOLL. (819). Illumination is, accordingly, more immediately an operation of the Holy Spirit upon the intellect of man; He addresses Himself however in this act at least mediately to the will, in as far as this illumination is designed, by the conviction of the misery of sin which it produces, and by presenting the grace of God, to conduct to conversion and the sanctification of the will. [6] It takes place in every man who lays to heart the call of the Holy Spirit, and opens his ear and heart, but not without this, as the Holy Spirit never works by constraint and never when man resists; [7] and He never comes to men except through the divine Word, [8] of which its ministers are the vehicle, [9] and which those who desire to be illuminated must permit to work in them in prayer and religious meditation. [10]

As the Word of God is divided into Law and Gospel, so can illumination, as it is effected by the one or the other, be distinguished as legal or evangelical; and, according to the diverse missions intrusted to the Law and the Gospel respectively, the former will reveal to man only his sins and the wrath of God 452consequent upon them, and the other grace in Christ; [11] and the effect will be different in these respects, that the one will cause only terror and the other comfort in view of the proffered salvation. Hence, it is only the influence proceeding from the Gospel that is really efficient in securing salvation, while that proceeding from the Law is rather preparatory to the former. [12]

Like all other knowledge, that produced by the Holy Spirit is not instantaneous, but gradual, as may be seen from this, that the knowledge here spoken of consists of various particulars, which follow one another in natural order. [13] And as, in the order of nature, external precedes internal knowledge, so here the Holy Spirit produces an external, which is preparatory to the internal knowledge, and then produces the internal; so that there may be further a distinction between a literal and pedagogic illumination, and one that is spiritual and entirely saving. [14] But as man attains the one as well as the other kind of knowledge only upon proper conduct on his part in reference to the grace ministered to him, the operation of the Holy Spirit, if the will of man do not proceed further, may also be restricted to the first; or, the operations of the Spirit may be restricted to the intellect, and not extend to the will of man as they should, [15] in which case the object of the Holy Spirit is not entirely accomplished in man, and the illumination is not perfect; [16] yet it still cannot be denied, that this first state of illumination is effected by the Holy Spirit. [17]

[1] HOLL. (850): “In an unilluminated man there is not merely a negative ignorance, but also an ignorance of depraved inclination, which is error contrary to true knowledge, because the natural man not only does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, but they are foolishness unto him, 1 Cor. 2:14. Therefore, not only mere ignorance, but likewise carnal-mindedness (Rom. 8:6) and the wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 1:20), are opposed to a saving knowledge. The world has its wisdom, but it is immersed in the darkness of arrogance, so as to array itself against the wisdom of God, 2 Cor. 10:5.”

[2] HOLL. (819): “An objective illumination is not intended here, presenting externally the light of the divine Word, but an effective one, in which the Holy Spirit enkindles the light of knowledge, 453and subjective illumination, in which the blind sinner permits himself to be enlightened by the operation of the Holy Spirit. (Id. 851.) When we represent illumination as the impartation of knowledge, we do not mean merely external, which is produced by the tongue or pen of the minister of the Church, but likewise internal, by which the Holy Spirit, by His own special and gracious concurrence, enkindles the light of supernatural wisdom, through the divine Word preached or read, in the hearts of hearers or readers who do not maliciously oppose it.”

[3] HOLL. (850): “Blindness of the intellect, filled with the darkness of ignorance and error (Eph. 4:18), is the starting-point of illumination. The light of saving knowledge is its goal. By the Law is the knowledge of sin, Rom. 3:20. The knowledge of the glorious grace of God, unveiled in the face of Jesus Christ, proceeds from the Gospel, 2 Cor. 4:6. Assent attends this knowledge, by which man enlightened regards as sure and beyond doubt all that is revealed in the Word of God, particularly the Gospel message concerning the remission of sins and the eternal salvation to be secured through Christ; which undoubting assent is called ελεγχος, conviction of the intellect, Heb. 11:1.”

[4] HOLL. (820): “The first and principal design of illumination is to prepare man for conversion. For thus the natural darkness, the ignorance of the mysteries, and the errors opposed to them, are expelled by grace from the mind of man, and he is imbued with a knowledge of God and of sacred things, and illuminated, as if by a light, so that he is prepared to receive justifying grace. This illuminating grace, therefore, precedes the completion of conversion.”

[5] HOLL. (850): “Divine illumination consists formally in the instruction of the Holy Spirit by means of the read or preached Word, not merely external, but likewise internal, and penetrating efficaciously the inmost recesses of the human heart, so that the darkness of ignorance and error is expelled, and the light of supernatural knowledge is infused into it.” Id. (819): “Enlightening grace is called teaching grace, because the Holy Spirit, in enlightening, teaches all things necessary to salvation, John 14:26; likewise anointing grace, from 1 John 2:20, 27; opening of the eyes of the mind, Acts 26:18, for, as a blind person obtains the power of seeing by the opening of his eyes, so the sinner, filled with the darkness of ignorance, receives, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the power of knowing the true God.”

[6] HOLL. (828): “First, the intellect of the sinner led to the Church is immediately enlightened (2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:18); subsequently 454and mediately, the will also, Tit. 2:11, 12. The saving grace of God which, like the beneficent sun, has appeared to all men, teaches the intellect of the sinner, and sheds upon it the light of knowledge, so that this light is diffused upon the will to enable it to flee from wickedness and choose holiness of life. Therefore the apostle desires for the Colossians illumination, that they may be sanctified, Col. 1:9, 10.” The difference between illumination and regeneration is this (832): “The former has respect more to the intellect, regeneration more to the will; the former consists formally in knowledge concerning sacred things from the divine Word, the latter consists formally in the gift of faith. The effect of the former is a knowledge of the divine mysteries; the effect of the latter is confidence in the merits of Christ. The former precedes, the latter follows.” The difference between illumination and sanctification is (ib.): “All Christians agree that sanctification, taken in a broader sense, embraces all the acts of applying grace; taken in a narrower sense, it differs from illumination (1) in regard to the particular subject, because by illumination the intellect, proximately and formally, and by sanctification the will, is made perfect; (2) in regard to the extent, because more men are illuminated than sanctified; (3) in regard to their peculiar effect and design, because the effect of illumination is γνωσις, or the supernatural knowledge of God and divine things, Eph. 1:18; 2 Cor. 4:6, but the effect of sanctification is holiness and righteousness, Eph. 4:24.”

[7] Id. (827): “The most gracious God seriously designs to illuminate all men, but only they are actually illuminated who, called and led to the Church, receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, and listen attentively to the divine Word, read it, and meditate upon it. The grace of the Holy Spirit is not irresistible, for the sinner, if obstinately perverse, may hinder the supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit by opposing a veil or malicious obstacle, 2 Cor. 4:3, 4. But the sinner not obstinately opposing is efficaciously enlightened by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, Ps. 119:130.”

[8] Id. (820): “The Holy Spirit does not immediately, but by means of the divine Word, enlighten us, 2 Pet. 1:18, 19.” (Qualified, however, with great care (825), “the power of illumination which pertains to the divine Word is not accurately confined to the acts of hearing, reading, or meditation; but the Word of God heard, read, or conveyed to the mind, and retained by it, always retains its illuminating power.”) (821): “God hath not promised in His Word that any man by ecstasy shall be illuminated, 455his faith be confirmed, and a foretaste of eternal life be imparted; in opposition to the Platonics, the Quakers, the Mystics.” Definition of ecstasy (trance): “It is a rare and extraordinary operation either of God, or of a corrupt imagination, or of the devil, alienating the mind of a man from his bodily senses, so that, the use of the latter ceasing, he becomes more ready and quick to receive the objects of imagination. It differs from rapture, because ecstasy simply denotes a departure of the mind from the senses, but rapture adds violence.”

[9] Id. (826): “The Holy Spirit truly and really enlightens the souls of men in darkness in regard to sacred things by means of ministers of the Word, performing in the right way the public office of teaching, Eph. 3:8, 9; 2 Cor. 4:6; Acts 26:18; John 5:35; Matt. 5:14.”

[10] Id. (844): “To obtain spiritual illumination, three auxiliaries are necessary: prayer (Luke 11:13; Eph. 1:17, 18), meditation (John 5:39), trials (Ps. 119:71). The following positions are in addition, opposed to the erroneous views of the Mystics and Quietists:

“I. The illumination and regeneration of the sinner do not take place by the purgation or abstraction of the soul from created objects, and the turning of it in upon itself.” The following explanations are added:

“(a) We do not disallow all abstractions of the mind from foreign objects and secular cares in the actual use of the Word and in godly meditations and prayers. We oppose that abstraction or annihilation by which the mind is presumed to be withdrawn from all creatures and from the divine gifts, and loses itself in God.

“(b) We do not condemn all resignation, since our divines inculcate a temperate and godly resignation (Gelassenheit). We reject that resignation which involves the destruction of all the affections, desires, and thoughts.

“(c) We must distinguish from the descent into the heart or soul for the purpose of bringing to remembrance sin, or the state of misery, and searching for repentance and faith, that introspection whose object is to apprehend the inner light immediately revealing . . . . The present controversy has respect to the introversion of the mind upon itself, to wait for, and observe, and apprehend the internal light, immediately making revelations.”

II. (847): “So far from expecting in silence a supernatural divine light, the external Word of God, which is a most clear light, is on the contrary to be earnestly preached, carefully heard, frequently read, attentively pondered, and, in addition, devout prayers, 456mingled with sacred hymns, are to be raised to heaven, that the light of saving knowledge may arise in our hearts, and continually increase.” We add also the following remarks:

(848): “(a) When the Mystics distinguish between silence of words, thoughts, and desires, we approve of the first silence, i.e., of words in a certain respect; for meditation on the divine Word is aided by silence in our houses: but we disapprove of the silence of desires and thoughts.

“(b) The expectation of divine assistance, united with silence, is proper for true Christians, but not the silent expectation of directly revealing light.

“(c) The doctrine of an internal Sabbath of the soul, so far as it denotes (α) cessation from works of the flesh, (β) rest of the soul in God, (γ) meditation on the divine mercies, (δ) the desire and expectation of the eternal Sabbath, is retained and inculcated in our churches. But an internal Sabbath is rejected, so far as it denotes, not only a silence of words, but of all the thoughts and senses.”

[11] Id. (824): “Illumination, in respect to the illuminating means, is either legal or evangelical. The former is that which manifests to us sin, the wrath of God, and the temporal and eternal punishments of sin (Rom. 7:7). The latter reveals to us the grace of God, founded on the merit of Christ, righteousness accepted by God, and eternal life (2 Cor. 4:4).”

The Gospel illuminates the hearts of men, that they may know the glory of Christ, raised indeed upon the cross, but also conveyed to heaven and sitting at the Right Hand of God the Father. The Gospel, therefore, declares and manifests the mercy, the wisdom, and the justice of God the Father, in the open face of Christ, who is His express image.”

[12] Id. (825): “The divine Law, like lightning, has a terrible, slaying and condemning light. But the Gospel, like the beneficent sun, diffuses an exhilarating and vivifying light, 2 Cor. 3:6-9. The Law possesses salutary powers of the pedagogical illumination, Gal. 3:24 (the divine Law shows us and exposes both the native leprosy of the soul and the diseases contracted voluntarily, and thus affords us the occasion of seeking Christ, the physician of souls and the author of righteousness and salvation). But from the Gospel a perfectly saving illumination arises to those who properly use the evangelical doctrine according to the divine purpose (which makes know the knowledge of salvation by remission of sins, and reveals the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, Luke 1:77, 78).”


[13] Id. (851): “Ordinary illumination is not accomplished instantaneously, but by intervals, by degrees, by acts frequently repeated, that man may be disposed and prepared to admit continuously more and more light of the truth, so that if he should repel the first degree of illumination, the Holy Spirit may deny him the next, for it cannot occur without the first.”

“Note. — We speak now of ordinary, not of extraordinary illumination. We do not doubt that God, by special and extraordinary grace, and by His absolute power, can entirely illuminate a man at once, so that he may be acquainted with all the articles of faith, since we know that the Holy Spirit infused the gift of tongues into the apostles instantaneously.”

[14] Id. (840): “Illumination in regard to the man receiving the heavenly doctrine is either literal and pedagogic or spiritual and completely saving. The former is that operation of the Holy Spirit by which, through His grace externally assisting and preparing the way, He instructs with a literal knowledge of the doctrines of religion the intellect of an unregenerate man, who is nevertheless inclining towards regeneration, and produces an historical assent to the Gospel, so that he may be more and more disposed to receive saving faith (John 1:9; 2 Pet. 1:19; Ps. 25:8; Eph. 3:9). The latter is the operation of the Holy Spirit by which, entering and dwelling in the contrite heart of man, He enkindles in him a saving knowledge of the divine mercy established in Christ, produces a confiding assent to the Gospel, and confirms and seals it by His internal testimony.”

QUEN. (II, 77), expresses the distinction thus: “Pedagogic illumination is merely literal and external, when any one is instructed in the knowledge of divine truth, and is convinced of its certainty in his conscience, but has not this known truth as yet sealed in his heart with the seal, or confirmed by the gracious indwelling, of the Holy Spirit: spiritual, gracious, and internal, when any one, for instance, truly regenerate, not only has a literal understanding of the evangelical doctrine, but is at the same time the temple of the Holy Ghost, inhabited, graciously by Him; or, when the truth is not only known and admitted, but at the same time is strengthened, confirmed, and sealed by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit graciously dwelling in the heart.”

[15] HOLL. (829): “As supernatural illumination is a successive act of applying grace, therefore, without the sanctification of the will, the illumination may be imperfect in the intellect. This is in opposition to all the mystic writers, who regard the purgative process as antedating the illuminative.”


[16] Id. (843): “The sinner is illuminated pedagogically to the end that he may be disposed and prepared for spiritual illumination, by which not only his intellect is enlightened, but his will directed to the love of God and his neighbor. If the sinner who is to be converted does not attain this spiritual illumination, his knowledge of the letter is insufficient, unfruitful, not saving, because it is not applied to its proper use; therefore it may be called finally false, because the true end designed by God is frustrated.” Imperfect illumination, and pedagogical, is moreover ascribed by many divines to the grace of God assisting, and perfect illumination to the grace of God indwelling. Illumination is perfect only when grace dwells in man, and he permits his will to be sanctified by it, in which case progress is made from it to sanctification.

[17] Imperfect and pedagogical illumination is also not natural, but supernatural; (id., 831): “because (a) it proceeds from the light of a special revelation; (b) it is obtained by us through a supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit; (c) it is occupied with the mysteries of faith; (d) and is divinely designed for a spiritual end. We cannot but particularly notice that divines, truly orthodox, have never divided illumination into natural and supernatural.”

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