“Because the love of God is shed
abroad in our hearts by the
Holy Ghost, which is given
The final end of all God’s ways is that He may be all in all. He can not cease from working until He has entered the souls of individual men. He thirsts after the creature’s love. In man’s love for God He desires to see the virtues of His own love glorified. And love must spring from man’s personal being, which has its seat in the heart.
The work of grace exhibited in the eternal counsel can never be sufficiently praised. From Paradise to Patmos, revealed to prophets and apostles, it is transcendently rich and glorious. Prepared in Immanuel, who ascended on high, who has received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them, it exceeds the praise of men and angels. And yet its highest glory and majesty appear only when, overcoming the rebellious, operating in the soul, it causes its light so to shine that men, seeing it, glorify the Father which is in heaven.
Hence the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the crowning event of all the great events of salvation, because it reveals subjectively, i.e. in individual persons, the grace revealed hitherto objectively.
Assuredly in the days of the Old Covenant saving grace wrought in individuals, but it always bore a preliminary and special character. Old-Covenant believers “received not the promise, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
Hence the purpose of the Triune God steadily urges to this
The waters of salvation descending from the mountain-tops of God’s holiness do not flow toward unknown fields, but their channel is prepared, and leaping over the mountain-sides they greet the acres below which they are to water.
Hence, altho clearness demands divisions and subdivisions in the work of grace, yet they do not actually exist; the work of grace is a unit, it is one eternal, uninterrupted act, proceeding from the womb of eternity, unceasingly moving toward the consummation of the glory of the children of God which shall be revealed in the great and notable Day of the Lord. For instance, altho in the moment of regeneration God calleth the things that are not, with all that they contain as in a germ, yet it should not be represented as tho He had neglected that soul for twenty or thirty years. For even this apparent neglect. is a divine work. Constrained by His love He would rather have turned to His chosen but lost creature immediately, to seek and save it. But He refrained Himself, if we may so express it; for this very neglect, this hiding of His countenance works together as a means of grace, in the hour of love, to make grace efficient in that soul.
Hence the salvation of a soul in its personal being is an eternal,
Instead of being cold and formal, it is rather one act of love, energizing, pouring forth, shedding itself abroad. From its fountain-head on the highest mountains, traversing many highlands before it can reach you, divine love flows on, ever restless, until it pours itself forth into your soul. Hence the apostle boasts that at last love had attained this blessed end in his person and in Rome’s beloved church. “Now we have peace with God, because the love of God (moving toward us from eternity) at last has reached us, and is now shed abroad in our heart.”
And this does not mean that now we possess a pure love of our own, but that the love of God for His elect, having descended from on high and overcome every obstacle, has poured itself into the deep bed of our regenerated hearts. And to this He adds the grace of making the soul understand, drink, and taste of that love. And when in contrition and shamefacedness the soul loses itself in love’s delights and in the adorations of its eternal compassion, then
However, while the Triune God anticipates from before the foundation of the world the ingathering and glorification of the saints, Scripture clearly reveals that this ingathering and glorification is the adorable work of the Holy Spirit. God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.
The Scripture gives this work of the Spirit a prominent place; not to the exclusion of the Father and the Son, yet so that this personal work is always effected by the Holy Spirit. And the Scripture puts this so strongly that the Catechism speaks, not incorrectly, of three things in our most holy faith: of God the Father and our Creation, of God the Son and our Redemption, and then only of God the Holy Ghost and our Sanctification. And this is not surprising. For—
First, as we have seen already, in the economy of the Triune God it is the Holy Spirit who comes in closest contact with the creature and fills him. Hence it is His peculiar work to enter man’s heart, and in its recesses to proclaim God’s grace until he believes.
Second, He brings every work of the Triune God to its consummation. Hence He perfects the work of objective grace by the saving of souls, thus realizing its final purpose.
Third, He quickens life. He hovers over the waters of chaos, and breathes into man the breath of life. In perfect harmony with this, the sinner dead in trespasses and sin can not live except he be quickened by the Spirit of all quickening, whom the Church has always invoked, saying: “Veni, Creator Spiritus.”
Fourth, He takes the things of Christ and glorifies Him. The Son does not distribute His treasures, but the Holy Spirit. And since the entire salvation of the redeemed consists in the fact that their dead and withered hearts are joined to Christ, the Source of salvation, we must praise the Holy Spirit for doing it.
Hence in the constraining desire of divine love for the individual salvation of chosen but lost creatures, the work of the Holy Spirit evidently occupies the most conspicuous place. Our knowledge of God is not complete except we know Him as the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But as “no man cometh to the Father but by Me,”
But this does not imply any separation, even in thought, between the Persons of the Godhead. This would destroy the confession of the Trinity, substituting for it the false confession of tri-theism. Nay, it is eternally the same God subsisting in three Persons. The truth of our confession shines in the very acknowledgment of the unity in the Trinity. The Father is never without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. And the Holy Spirit can never come to us nor work in us except the Father and the Son cooperate with Him.
Calvin College. Last modified on 08/11/06. Contact the CCEL.