“The Spirit of God hath made
Understanding somewhat the characteristic note of the work of the Holy Spirit, let us see what this work was and is and shall be.
The Father brings forth, the Son disposes and arranges, the Holy Spirit perfects. There is one God and Father of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things; but what does the Scripture say of the special work the Holy Spirit did in creation and is still doing?
For the sake of order we examine first the account of the creation. God says in
These statements show that the Holy Spirit did a work of His own in creation.
They show, too, that His activities are closely connected with those of the Father and the Son.
It should be noticed that hardly any of these passages mention the Holy Spirit by His own name. It is not the Holy Spirit, but the “Spirit of His mouth,” “His Spirit,” “the Spirit of the Lord.” On account of this, many hold that these passages do not refer to the Holy Spirit as the Third Person in the Holy Trinity, but speak of God as One, without personal distinction; and that the representation of God as creating anything by His hand, fingers, word, breath, or Spirit is merely a human way of speaking, signifying only that God was thus engaged.
The Church has always opposed this interpretation, and rightly so, on the ground that even the Old Testament, not merely in a few places but throughout its entire economy, bears undoubted testimony to the three divine Persons, coequal yet of one essence. It is true that this too has been denied, but by a wrong interpretation. And to the reply, “But our interpretation is as good as yours,” we answer that Jesus and the apostles are our authorities; the Church received its confession from their lips.
Secondly, we deny that “His Spirit” does not refer to the Holy Ghost, for the reason that in the New Testament similar expressions occur that undoubtedly do refer to Him, e.g., "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son”
Thirdly, judging from the following passages,—“By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made”
Finally, to speak of a Spirit of God that is not the Holy Spirit is to transfer to the Holy Scripture a purely Western and human idea. We as men often speak of a wrong spirit which controls a nation, an army, or a school, meaning a certain tendency, inclination, or persuasion—a spirit that proceeds from a man distinct from his person and being. But this may not and can not apply to God. Speaking of Christ in His humiliation, one may rightly say, "To have
Even in those passages where “the breath of His mouth” is added to explain “His Spirit,” the same interpretation must be maintained. For all languages show that our breathing, even as the “breathing of the elements” in the wind which blows before God’s face, corresponds to the being of spirit. Nearly all express the ideas of spirit, breath, and wind by cognate terms. Blowing or breathing is in all the Scripture the symbol of spirit-communication. Jesus breathed on them and said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”
The ancient interpretation of the Scripture should not be hastily abandoned. Accept the dictum of modern theology that the distinction of the three divine Persons is not found in the Old Testament, and allusions to the work of the Holy Spirit in Genesis, Job, Psalms, or Isaiah are out of the question. Consequently nothing is more natural for the supporters of this modern theology than to deny the Holy Spirit altogether in the passages referred to.
But if from inward conviction we still confess that the distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is clearly seen in the Old Testament, then let us examine these passages concerning the Spirit of the Lord with discrimination, and gratefully maintain the traditional interpretation, which finds at least in many of these statements references to the work of the Holy Spirit.
These passages show that His peculiar work in creation was: 1st, hovering over chaos; 2d, creation of the host of heaven and of earth; 3d, ordering the heavens; 4th, animating the brute creation, and calling man into existence; and last, the operation whereby every creature is made to exist according to God’s counsel concerning it.
Hence the material forces of the universe do not proceed from the Holy Spirit, nor did He deposit in matter the dormant seeds and germs of life. His special task begins only after the creation of matter with the germs of life in it.
The Hebrew text shows that the work of the Holy Spirit moving upon the face of the waters was similar to that of the parent bird which with outspread wings hovers over its young to cherish and cover them. The figure implies that not only the earth existed, but also the germs of life within it; and that the Holy Spirit impregnating these germs caused the life to come forth in order to lead it to its destiny.
Not by the Holy Spirit, but by the Word were the heavens created. And when the created heavens were to receive their host, then only did the moment come for the exercise of the Holy Spirit’s peculiar functions. What “the host of heaven” means is not easily decided. It may refer to sun, moon, and stars, or to the host of angels. Perhaps the passage means not the creation of the heavenly bodies, but their reception of heavenly glory and celestial fire. But
Grant that the matter out of which God made man was already present in the dust of the earth, that the type of his body was largely present in the animal, and that the idea of man and the image after which he was to be created existed already; yet from
This agrees with what was said at first of the general character of His work. “To lead to its destiny” is to bring forth the hidden life, to cause the hidden beauty to reveal itself, to rouse into activity the slumbering energies.
Only let us not represent it as a work performed in successive stages—first by the Father, whose finished work was taken up by the Son, after which the Holy Spirit completed the work thus prepared. Such representations are unworthy of God. There is distribution, no division in the divine activities; wherefore Isaiah declares that the Spirit of the Lord, i.e., the Holy Spirit, throughout the entire work of creation from the beginning—yea, from before the beginning—directed all that was to come.
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