"Hear, O Israel! Jehovah our God is one—Jehovah."—Deut. 6:4.
The word "god" signifies mighty one, but not always the all -mighty one. It is used as the translation of each of four Hebrew words——el, elah, elohim and adonai—all, in the common version of the Bible, signifying the mighty, or great. It is a general name, often and properly applied to our heavenly Father, as well as to our Lord Jesus, to angels and to men.
In Deut. 10:17 elohim—a mighty or great one—is used in referring to Jehovah the almighty God, as well as to other gods. "Jehovah is a God of gods."
In Jer. 16:13 earthly heathen kings and governors are called gods—elohim.
In Exodus 7:1 Moses is called a god—elohim.
In Exodus 21:6; 22:8,9,28, the word elohim is evidently used to refer to the Judges of Israel appointed by Moses, because they were mighty ones, or persons in authority; and the translators of the common version have rendered the word "judges" except in the last instance, when they rendered it "gods." They were corrected by those who arranged the marginal readings; but remember, it is this same word—elohim.
In Exodus 12:12 the princes of Egypt are referred to as gods—elohim. See margin.
In Psa. 82 the distinction of beings referred to by the word god is very marked—"God [elohim] standeth in the congregation of the mighty [el]: he judgeth among the gods [elohim]." Here the first word god evidently refers to Jehovah, the Almighty One, while the others refer to other mighty ones—the Church, the sons of God, of whom Jesus is the head or chief, and of whom it is written (verse 6), "I have said, Ye are gods [elohim]; and all of you are children of the Most High [el yon, the highest God]."
But, says Paul, "Though there be [many] that are called gods (as there be gods many and lords many), to us there is but one God, the Father." (1 Cor. 8:5,6.) The Father is the mighty one over all other mighty ones—the One God over all. None others are mighty or great, save as they receive their greatness, as well as their existence, from him. And it is to this one fact that the attention of Israel is called in the above words of Moses—"Hear, O Israel! Jehovah our God is one—Jehovah."
The word Jehovah is not a general name, like the word god, but a proper name, the distinctive personal name of the Almighty Father, and is never applied to any other being. The name Jehovah, like other proper names, should not be translated. In our common version of the Old Testament its distinctiveness as a name is lost by being generally translated LORD. Some erroneously suppose that the name Jehovah applies also to Christ. We therefore [R1410 : page 164] cite a few of the many scriptures to prove that this name belongs exclusively to the great First Cause of all things. "I am Jehovah; this is my name, and my glory will I not give to another." (Isa. 42:8). "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name El Shaddai [God Almighty], but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them." (Exod. 6:3.) "That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth."—Psa. 83:18.
Jehovah is frequently declared to be the Savior of men because he was the Author of the plan of salvation, our Lord Jesus being the savior in a secondary sense, as the instrumentality through whom the plan of Jehovah was executed. David makes the distinction between Jehovah and our Lord Jesus very marked in [R1411 : page 164] Psa. 110:1—"The Lord [Jehovah] said unto my Lord [adon, master—Christ] sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Our Lord Jesus and Peter call attention very forcibly to this scripture and to the distinction made.—Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34-36.
While the Scriptures are so very clear concerning the distinct individuality and exact relationship of Jehovah and our Lord Jesus, it seems marvelous that the idea of a triune God—three Gods in one, and at the same time one God in three—should ever have gained prominence and general acceptance. But the fact that it has been so generally accepted only goes to show how soundly the Church slept while the enemy bound her in the chains of error. We believe in Jehovah and in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, and fully accept the fact that our Lord Jesus is a god—a mighty one—though we cannot accept the unscriptural and unreasonable theory that he is his own father and creator, and must reject as unscriptural the teaching that there are either three gods in one person or one god in three persons. The doctrine of the Trinity had its beginning in the third century, and has a very close resemblance to the heathen doctrines prevalent at that time, particularly Hindooism. The only text in the Scriptures which was ever claimed to affirm that the Father, Son and Spirit are one god is a portion of 1 John 5:7,8, which reads: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one; and there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit and the water and the blood: and these three agree in one." We state an undisputed and indisputable fact when we say, that this is the only text favorable to the Trinitarian view, and that the words above in italics are spurious, and were introduced here by Trinitarians in the fifth century, because there was no scriptural statement to support their theory, which was then becoming popular. Trinitarians themselves admit this, and in all recent translations the spurious words are omitted. See the Emphatic Diaglott, Young's Translation, the Revised Version, the American Bible Union Translation and the Improved Version. The latter says:—
"This text concerning the heavenly witnesses is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the fifth century. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers; nor by any of the early Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treat would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority: it is therefore evidently spurious."
It will be observed that the sense is complete without the interpolated words italicized above, and the teaching in perfect harmony with the context, which would not be the case were the interpolated words admitted. The inspired Apostle is showing that "the Son of God is he that came by water and blood" to be the Redeemer of mankind; that is, he came by baptism into water, the symbol of his full consecration even unto death, and also by blood, the actual fulfilling of his consecration vow, even unto death, the shedding of his blood. He came, "not by water only [not by consecration only], but by water and blood"—both the typical and the literal baptism into death. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." (1 John 5:6.) The Spirit of God bore witness after the water baptism that this was his well beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. (Matt. 3:17.) And again, after his baptism into death, the Spirit bore witness to his still being the well beloved Son, in raising him from death and highly exalting [R1411 : page 165] him to the right hand of power. Thus, as verses 7 and 8 assert, There are three that bear witness that this Jesus is the Son of God—the Spirit, the water and the blood. The testimony of the Spirit at his consecration and symbolic baptism in water, and again at his resurrection, marks our Lord Jesus as indeed the Son of God.
"It was not until the beginning of the fourth century that the Trinitarian view began to be elaborated and formulated into a doctrine and an endeavor made to reconcile it with the belief of the Church in ONE GOD." "Out of the attempt to solve this problem sprang the doctrine of the Trinity." Trinity "is a very marked feature in Hindooism, and is discernible in Persian, Egyptian, Roman, Japanese, Indian and the most ancient Grecian mythologies."
In Lange's Critical Commentary, in reference to this spurious passage, we read: "Said words are wanting in all the Greek Codices; also in the Codex Sinaiticus [the oldest known MS.], and in all the ancient versions, including the Latin, as late as the 8th century; and since that time they are found in three variations. Notwithstanding the Trinitarian controversies, they are not referred to by a single Greek father, or by any of the old Latin church fathers."
In Hudson's Greek and English Concordance we read: "The words are found in no Greek MSS. before the 15th or 16th century, and in no early version." Says Alford, "unless pure caprice is to be followed in the criticism of the sacred text, there is not a shadow of reason for supposing them genuine." Tischendorf says, "That this spurious addition should continue to be published as a part of the epistle, I regard as an impiety." T. B. Woolsey inquires: "Do not truth and honesty require that such a passage should be struck out of our English Bibles—a passage which Luther would not express in his translation, and which did not creep into the German Bible until nearly fifty years after his death?"
Dr. Adam Clarke, the learned Methodist commentator, in his notes on this passage, says: "It is likely this verse is not genuine. It is wanting in every MS. of this epistle written before the invention of printing, one excepted—Codex Montfortii, in Trinity College, Dublin. The others which omit this verse amount to one hundred and twelve. It is wanting in both the Syriac, all the Arabic, Ethiopic, Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonian, etc.; in a word, in all the ancient versions but the Vulgate; and even of this version many of the most ancient and correct MSS. have it not. It is wanting, also, in all the ancient Greek fathers; and in most even of the Latin."
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, endeavored to support the doctrine of the Trinity, because he supposed this text to be genuine: yet in one of his sermons from this text, he quoted the words of Servetus—"I scruple using the words 'trinity' and 'persons,' because I do not find those terms in the Bible"—and added, "I would insist only on the direct words unexplained, as they lie in the text."
He labored hard to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, because he believed this spurious passage was genuine, the information regarding the ancient manuscripts of the Bible being recent. For instance, at the time of the preparation of our King James' or Common Version, the translators had the advantage of but eight Greek MSS., and none of them of earlier date than the tenth century. Now, however, there are about seven hundred MSS., some of which, especially the Sinaitic MS. and the Vatican MS. No. 1209, are very old, reaching back to the third century.
Like some other doctrines received by Protestants through Papacy, this one is accepted and fully endorsed, though its educated adherents are aware that not a text of Scripture can be adduced in its support. Nay, more: any one who will not affirm this unscriptural doctrine as his faith is declared by the articles of the Evangelical Alliance to be non-orthodox—a heretic.
However, it behooves us as truth seekers to deal honestly with ourselves and with our Father's Word, which is able to make us truly [R1410 : page 166] wise. Therefore, ignoring the traditions and creeds of uninspired men and corrupt systems, let us hold fast the form of sound words received from our Lord and the Apostles.—2 Tim. 1:13.
Let us inquire of these standards of the true Church what is truth on this subject. Paul answers clearly and forcibly—There is "one God and Father of all." (Eph. 4:6.) And again he says, "There be gods many and lords many, but to us there is but one God, the Father, out of whom are all things, and we of him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him." (1 Cor. 8:5,6.) We believe this exactly: All things are of our Father—he is the first cause of all things; and all things are by our Lord Jesus. He, "the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14), has been the agent of Jehovah in all that has since been done—"Without him was not anything made that was made."—John 1:3.
Jesus' testimony is the same. His claim was that he was a son, an obedient son, who did not do his own will, but the will of his Father who sent him—"Not my will but thine be done." Again, Jesus said, "The Son can do nothing of himself"—"The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." (John 5:19; 14:10.) True, he also said, "I and my Father are one;" but he shows in what sense they are one by his prayer that just so his disciples all might be one. (John 10:30; 17:11.) This desirable oneness is that which results from having the same mind or spirit, a oneness or harmony of heart, plan and action.
Many dishonor the Master, though they think they honor him, when they contradict his direct teachings, affirming that the Father and the Son are one and the same being and equal in all respects. No, says Jesus, "My Father is greater than I." (John 14:28.) And he also says that God is not only his Father, but ours:—"I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." (John 20:17.) A better translation of Phil. 2:6, given in the Emphatic Diaglott, settles the question of the Father's supremacy, in harmony with other scriptures, such as 1 Cor. 15:28 and John 14:28. It reads thus: "Who, though being in a form of God, yet did not meditate a usurpation, to be like God." See also quotations from other translators in Diaglott foot note, all giving the same sense. The idea here is the very opposite of equality, as conveyed in the King James translation. Jesus did not claim equality, nor aspire to a usurpation of God's authority. That was Satan's claim and effort, who said, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God....I will be like the Most High."—Isa. 14:12-14.
Jesus said: "Ye call me Lord and Master, and ye say well, for so I am;" but "call no man on earth Father, for one is your Father, which is in heaven." (John 13:13; Matt. 23:9.) Peter and Paul convey the same thought, saying, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us." (1 Pet. 1:3; Eph. 3:9-11; Gal. 1:3,4; Rom. 16:25-27.) How clear and harmonious are these words of our standards; and we could quote much more in perfect harmony.
Briefly stated, then, we find the Scriptures to teach that there is but one Eternal God and Father—who is "from everlasting to everlasting" (Psa. 90:2; Rom. 16:26,27)—and that the one who was the beginning of his creation, since called Jesus, though inferior to the Father, was superior to all other and subsequent creatures, in whose creation he was the active agent of Jehovah. When a redeemer was needed for mankind, in harmony with the Father's wish, but not of compulsion, the chief and first-created Son of God was, by divine power (the philosophy of which is beyond our full comprehension) transferred to a lower plane of existence—the human: he was born and grew to mature and perfect manhood. Hence his life principle was not derived from the human channel, and was not that which was forfeited by the sin of Adam.
He was a fully developed, perfect man, according to the Law, at the age of thirty years, when he immediately consecrated himself as a man to the Father's will, offering himself a living sacrifice on our behalf at baptism. The sacrifice was accepted, and he was filled with the holy Spirit of the Father. (Matt. 3:16,17.) The power of God came upon him there. (Acts 10:38.) [R1410 : page 167] This power of God in him was that to which he continually referred. It was the same power that was afterward manifested through Peter, Paul and others, though in our Lord's case it was more marked, because he, being a perfect man, could receive the spirit without measure, whereas all imperfect members of his Church can have only a measure of the spirit.—John 3:34; 1 Cor. 12:7.
When Jesus' sacrificial ministry was over, ending at the cross, he had finished his work—his work as a man. When he arose he was no longer a human being, but a "new creature" perfected. Since his resurrection, Jesus has been a partaker of the divine nature, the same nature as the Father. This present highly exalted condition of our Lord was given him as a reward of obedience to the Father's will. (See Phil. 2:8,9.) This scripture implies that his present glory is greater than the glory he possessed before becoming a man: otherwise it would not have been an exaltation. Now, having the divine, immortal nature, he cannot die. And being thus highly exalted, all power in heaven and in earth is now given unto him (Matt. 28:18), so that he is able to save to the uttermost, to save completely—to awaken from death and restore to full perfection.
How straightforward and simple is the Scriptural statement compared with human traditions. For instance, in what a jumble of contradictions do they find themselves, who say that Jesus and the Father are one person. This would involve the idea that our Lord Jesus acted the hypocrite, and only pretended to address the Father in heaven, when he himself was the same Father on earth. Such must conclude, too, since we read that God tempteth not, neither is tempted of any, that the temptation of the devil (Matt. 4) was only a farce. So with the death of Jesus: The Father is and always has been immortal, and hence cannot die, and if Jesus was the Father, then he must have only pretended to die. Then all the statements of Jesus and the prophets and apostles relative to Jesus' death and resurrection are false, and they were false witnesses in testifying that God raised Jesus from the dead, if he did not really die.
If they admit that Jesus really died, they take the other horn of the dilemma; for, believing that their three Gods are one in person, when Jesus died they must all three have died. If they all died, who raised them to life? This, too, would conflict with the statement of Paul (1 Thes. 1:10) that the Father raised up Jesus from death; for if the Father and Son are the same being, then the Father was dead when the Son was dead.
Shall we thus contradict the Apostles and Prophets and Jesus himself, and ignore reason and common sense, in order to hold to a dogma handed down to us from the dark ages by a corrupt, apostate church? Nay; "To the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:20.) We thus see that the Father and the Son are two separate and distinct persons, though one in mind, purpose, aim, etc., the Son having submitted fully to the Father's will and plan in all things.
We next inquire, What saith the Scriptures with regard to the holy Spirit? The nominal churches, Papal and Protestant, affirm that the holy Spirit is a distinct person, and they also say that these three persons are at the same time one person—"a great mystery." Yes, truly it is a mystery, such as is characteristic of Babylon's confusion. But to those who turn away from the traditions of men to the Word of God, all is clear and plain.
We suggest that whatever definition of the term "holy Spirit" will meet all known conditions, and harmonize all passages of Scripture bearing thereon, may be understood to be the true meaning of the term. We will first give what we conceive to be such a definition, and then examine the Scriptures bearing on the subject which might be supposed by some to conflict with the views we shall present.
We understand the Scriptures to teach, in the manner just suggested, that the holy Spirit is not a distinct person, but that it is the divine will, influence or power, exercised everywhere and for any purpose, at the divine pleasure. God exercises his spirit or energy in a variety [R1410 : page 168] of ways, using various agencies, and accomplishing various results.
Whatever God does through agencies is as truly his work as though he were the direct actor, since all those agencies are of his creation; just as a contractor for a building is said to build a house, though he may never have lifted a tool toward it. He does it with his materials and through his agents. Thus, when we read that Jehovah God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:4), we are not to suppose that he personally handled them. He used various agencies—"He spake, and it was done [He gave his orders, and they were promptly executed]; he commanded, and it stood fast." (Psa. 33:6-9.) It did not spring instantly to order; for we read that time was used in creation—six days, or periods of time.
We are told plainly that all things are of the Father—by his energy or spirit; yet that energy was exercised through his Son. The Son of God, afterward called Jesus, was used in the creation of the world. (John 1:3; Heb. 1:8-12.) And when we turn to Genesis, we find it stated that the power which created was God's Spirit—"The Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters." (Gen. 1:2.) Hence the only reasonable inference is that it was the spirit, energy or will of Jehovah, active through his Son—or the plan of God, executed by the Son.
Another way in which God's Spirit was exercised was through the prophets. They "spoke as they were moved by the holy Spirit"—by the will or energy of Jehovah. (2 Pet. 1:21.) That is, God used them to express his mind, though his mind, his spirit, his thoughts, were not in them; for though they expressed it they could not understand his mind. (1 Pet. 1:12.) God's spirit acted upon, but not in them. In that servant age (Heb. 3:5; Gal. 4:4-7), the faithful servant carried the Lord's message as it was laid upon him; but the sons of God, during this Gospel age, are brought into fellowship with their Father and made acquainted with his plans. Thus they are not merely acted upon mechanically by God's spirit or energy, but they partake of, or imbibe, his mind or spirit through his revelation of his plans to them, which they can receive in proportion as they submit their own wills and plans to his. And having his mind, they become co-workers together with him in carrying out his plans. "The servant," though faithful, "knoweth not what his Lord doeth," but the confidential son is made acquainted with the plans and partakes of the Father's spirit and interest in his work.
The masculine pronoun he is often and properly applied to the holy Spirit, because God, whose spirit it is, is represented as masculine, indicative of strength. It is called the holy Spirit, because God is holy, and because there are other spirits (powers, influences), somewhat similar in operation, which are evil. God is true and righteous, hence the spirit of God is called the "Spirit of truth." It is thus contrasted with the "spirit of error," and the influence which error exerts. (1 John 4:6.) Satan is recognized as the chief or prince of evil, during the present time, and his influence or spirit is exercised in his servants, in much the same way that the spirit of God works in his children. This is "the spirit which now worketh in the children of disobedience."—Eph. 2:2.
The number seven is often used to represent perfection or completeness, and so we read of the seven spirits of God. (Rev. 1:4; 3:1.) And in like manner we read of seven wicked spirits. (Matt. 12:45.) The spirit or influence of evil proceedeth from the "father of lies;" and the spirit or influence of truth proceedeth from the heavenly Father.—John 15:26.
Man is to some extent independent of either of these influences. He has a mind or spirit of his own (1 Cor. 2:11), but he is so constituted as to be subject to influence from without, either good or evil. In the present time God permits evil to triumph to some extent, for the testing and development of the "body of Christ," and also for the discipline of mankind in general. Now, the spirit of evil often transforms itself into an angel of light (truth), and what wonder if he puts forward the children of disobedience, in whom the spirit of error works, and palms them off as saints? (2 Cor. 11:14,15.) What wonder if, under the guise of greater honor to our Lord, he succeeds in deceiving many into unscriptural doctrines, thus beclouding the [R1410 : page 169] mind and covering many glorious truths? During this age, when justified believers fully surrender their human minds to God to be moulded and fashioned after the divine mind, under the guidance and influence of the Spirit of truth, they are brought to the divine standpoint of purpose, will and aim, and thus to this extent of mental conformity they become partakers of the divine nature, which nature they will receive in its fulness when they have obediently followed the Spirit's guidance, even unto death.
Thus the consecrated are transformed (made new creatures) by the renewing of their minds by the holy Spirit of God. Thus we are changed from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18.) This is termed the begetting of the spirit: that is, it is the beginning of the divine life. Such are therefore reckoned as sons of God on the divine plane. In surrendering the mind, the whole being is surrendered, since the mind or will is the controlling power.
Those who resign themselves to God are "led of God," "taught of God," and can "serve the Lord in newness of spirit." They will have a "spirit of meekness," and the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, can give unto them the "spirit of wisdom and revelation" in the knowledge of him, the eyes of their understanding being enlightened; that they may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.—Eph. 1:17,18.
By contrast, too, we can see that as Satan is the adversary of God and his saints, and his plans to usward, his spirit, mind, energy, influence, would be exercised to oppose the Church. He does not oppose openly, but under guise of the Spirit of God. As the "spirit of fear" he attacks many, and if they follow him, they never make progress, but become unfruitful in the knowledge and love of God. The spirit of fear says, It is a great mistake to think that Christ died for all, and it is presumption to believe that all will eventually be released from bondage to death. The same spirit of fear says, Your own sins are not forgiven; you are still a miserable sinner. Thus does the spirit of "error," "fear" and "bondage" give the lie to the statements of the Spirit of truth, which says that Christ gave his life a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (2 Tim. 2:6); that all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and come forth (John 5:28); and that there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.—Rom. 8:1.
As the spirit or mind of God leads to peace, joy and faith in his promises, the spirit of error leads to faith in unpromised things, joy in earthly pleasures, and peace in slumber. As we read (Rom. 11:8), it is a "spirit of slumber," and alas! how many have been deluded into this condition. Because the influence of the spirit of error is exerted in this subtle way, it is called a "seducing spirit; and the Apostle assures us that "The spirit [of truth] speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the [true] faith, giving heed to seducing spirits." (1 Tim. 4:1.) To what extent Satan has succeeded in seducing God's children, and supplanting truth with error, all must judge by noting the testimonies of the Word of truth.
The spirit of the world is another name for the "seducing spirit," the world being largely under the control of the spirit of the prince of this world. His spirit or influence works in and largely controls the children of this world. And the spirit or influence of the world is one of the mighty levers wherewith the prince of this world opposes the spirit of truth.
Alas! how great an influence, and how strong, is exercised by these evil spirits or influences—the spirit of Satan, the spirit of the world under his control, the "spirit of Antichrist" (John 4:3), the spirit of bondage, of fear, of pride, of error and of sin. Hence the injunction that we test, try and prove the spirits, not by their claims and outward appearances merely, but by the Word of God. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God"—and know "the spirit of truth" from "the spirit of error."—1 John 4:1,6.
Those having the mind or spirit of God are said to be heavenly or spiritually minded. The spiritually minded are so transformed, so entirely different from what they were in their former [R1410 : page 170] earthly minded condition, that they are called "new creatures." However, the new mental creation or transformed mind is still identified with the human body—the body of its humiliation. But when the earthly house is dissolved, sacrificed, dead with Christ, we shall have a building of God—a new house—a glorious body, in harmony with, and fit for, the indwelling of the new mind. (2 Cor. 5:1.) As in Jesus' case, so in ours, the new body will be received in the resurrection—not by all, but by those now mentally or spiritually begotten of the spirit of truth. The resurrection is the birth of this new creation. Jesus was the first thus born. (Rev. 1:5.—Diaglott.) Thus we reach the perfect spiritual condition, and become spiritual beings, fully changed into the glorious likeness of our Lord (Rom. 6:5), who is now "the express image of the Father's person." (Heb. 1:3.) Such things as pertain to the heavenly condition, and can be seen only by the eye of faith through God's Word, are called spiritual things.
Now we are prepared to understand Paul's teaching in 1 Cor. 2:9-16: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man (the natural man), the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." That is, having the mind or spirit of God, that new mind prompts us to search into the deep things of God, to study that we may know and do his will as obedient sons. Having the mind or spirit of our Father, we will take heed to his Word and plans, that we may work in harmony with him. "For what man knoweth the things [mind, will, plans] of a man, save the spirit [mind] of man which is in him? Even so, the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God."—1 Cor. 2:11.
"Now we have received the spirit [or mind] of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." But "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." They are understood only by those who have the spirit or mind of God, the spirit of his plan, and the spirit of the truth. These are more and more filled with the spirit of the truth and the spirit of obedience to it, not by comparing spiritual things with natural things, as the natural man does, but by "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Cor. 2:13.) "He that is spiritual judgeth all things [he is able to understand and properly estimate both human and spiritual things], yet he himself is judged of no man." No natural man can understand or rightly judge of the motives which prompt the spiritually minded "new creature" to willingly sacrifice things valuable to the natural man. Hence we are counted as fools by the worldly minded (1 Cor. 4:10), by those who have "the spirit of the world."
This mind or spirit of Christ is the same as the spirit of God, for Christ sacrificed his own spirit (will), and was filled with the spirit of God—"For even Christ pleased not himself."—Rom. 15:3.
Jesus said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." That is, they express the mind or spirit of God, in giving heed to which is life. It is for this cause that Jesus said, "Search the Scriptures." We are not merely to read them as a duty, but to search them diligently as a privilege, to the intent that we may know the spirit or mind of God. If we would be filled with the spirit of God we must drink deeply of the fountain of truth—his Word. Our earthen vessels are very imperfect and leaky, and it is easy to let the spiritual things slip (Heb. 2:1), in which case the spirit of the world, which is all around us, quickly rushes in to fill the vacuum. Therefore it behooves us to live very close to the fountain of truth, the Word of God, lest the spirit of God be quenched, and we be filled with the spirit of the world. But if constantly filled from the fountain of truth, we will not receive the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God. And it is thus that we may know the things which God has in reservation for us—even the deep things of God. Thus we see that what the natural man could not know, we, receiving the mind, influence, or spirit of God, may know. (1 Cor. 2:12.) Therefore, "Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," for "if any man have not the [R1410 : page 171] spirit of Christ he is none of his."—Rom. 8:9.
The holy spirit or mind should not be confounded with the fruits of the spirit or the gifts of the spirit, though its possession always yields the peaceable fruits of patience, meekness, love, etc. In the beginning of this age its possession was often accompanied, not only by fruit, but also by miraculous gifts of teaching, tongues, miracles, etc. (1 Cor. 12); but these, as well as their necessity, have largely passed away, as the Apostle foretold they would, the gift of teaching still remaining because still needful to "the body."
Believing that the foregoing is a consistent and correct statement of the Bible teaching on this subject, which the Scriptures quoted, we think, prove, we proceed to examine the texts generally supposed to conflict with this understanding. It should be borne in mind, however, that the translators of the Scriptures from Greek into English were Trinitarians, and naturally translated as much in harmony with their belief as they could.
(a) "Quench not the spirit." (1 Thes. 5:19.) To quench signifies to extinguish, as to extinguish a fire or light. The Greek word from which it is translated occurs eight times in the New Testament, and in every other text it refers to quenching fire or light. Carry this thought with you and observe that by reason of having God's holy mind or spirit we are called "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14); but if we should be seduced into worldliness by the spirit of the world, our light would be quenched, or extinguished. "If the light that is in thee become darkness [be extinguished], how great is that darkness!"—Matt. 6:23.
(b) "Grieve not the holy spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Eph. 4:30.) To seal is to mark or designate. The children of this world may be distinguished by certain marks, and so may the children of God, the new creatures in Christ. The mark of the one class is the spirit (mind, disposition, will) of the world; in the other class the seal or mark is the spirit (mind, disposition, will) of God. From the moment of true consecration to God, the evidence, marks or sealing may be seen in words, thoughts and actions. These marks grow more and more distinct daily, if we keep growing in grace, knowledge and love. In other words, the spirit (mind) of God becomes our mind or spirit in proportion as we give up our own human will or spirit, and submit in all things to the will or spirit of God. Thus we are to let or permit the same mind to be in us that was also in Christ Jesus our Lord—a mind to do only the Father's will. Hence, our new mind or spirit is holy or God-directed.
In this text the Apostle urges that we do nothing which will be a violation of our covenant, and thus a grief to the holy spirit or mind of God in us, or in other words, which would wound our conscience as new creatures in Christ. "Grieve not the holy Spirit [mind] of God [in you], whereby ye are sealed."
(c) The spirit of truth—"shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, he shall speak, and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13.) The disciples, as Jews and natural men, had been looking at things from an earthly standpoint, expecting a human deliverance and a human kingdom. Jesus had talked of the kingdom, but not until now had he explained that he must die, and must leave them to go into a far country to receive the kingdom and to return. (Luke 19:12.) Comforting them, he assures them of another who would lead them and teach them—a Comforter that the Father would send in his name, or as his representative for the time. They must not get the idea that the coming comforter is to be another Messiah, or a different teacher; hence he says, "He shall not speak of himself;" that is, he shall not teach independently and out of harmony with my teaching, "but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak." That is, the same things which I have taught, which you have been hearing, he will elaborate and teach more fully—"He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you." "All things that the Father hath are mine [his plans and my plans are all one]; therefore said I that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." The new teacher will not turn your minds from me to himself; but all the [R1410 : page 172] teachings of the coming Comforter will be in harmony with my teachings, and to show you more fully that I am the Messiah. Neither need you doubt the truth of the Comforter's teachings, for it is the Spirit of Truth, and proceeds from the Father. (John 15:26.) This Spirit of Truth will be my messenger to communicate to you my doctrines, and will show you things to come.
Even so it has been: the Spirit of Truth has been showing to the Church during this age more and more of the coming glory and glorious work of Christ and the depth of the riches of God's plans to be fulfilled in him. Thus Christ has been glorified in the Church.
Jehovah is the author of truth, and all the truth which has reached and guided the Church during this age has therefore proceeded from him, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift. He has sent it through channels long since prepared—through the prophetic and typical teachings of the past, opened up to us through the inspired words of Jesus and the apostles. Thus has God's spirit, the spirit of the truth, led us day by day and shown us "things to come."
(d) "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." (John 14:26.) "Ghost" is but another and bad translation of pneuma, generally rendered "spirit."
The fact that the Father sends the holy Spirit shows that it is under his authority and control, just as your powers are under your control. (See 1 Cor. 14:31.) Only those who have followed in the footsteps of Jesus, sacrificing the human will and receiving the mind or spirit of God, can understand the import of these words of Jesus. To the natural man, an explanation of this text is impossible; but he who has the mind of Christ realizes that it is a comfort indeed. No matter how painful the crucifying of the flesh may be, we have learned to view it all from God's standpoint, and to esteem present affliction as light, compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. Thus the holy spirit shall be in you; your spirit or will having been transformed, made new, is now holy. Produced by the truth, it is the spirit of the truth and may be lost only through your receiving a spirit of error, a spirit of slumber, or the "spirit of the world," any of which, if received, will quench and drive out the holy spirit of truth from the heart.
The mind of Christ, or the new spirit, leads us to search the Scriptures, God's storehouse of truth. Thus the spirit of truth works in us. It also enables us to comprehend God's Word; for the more we can get to see from God's standpoint the more reasonable to us does his Word become, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope, while enduring present afflictions.—Rom. 8:26; 15:4.
(e) "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4.) In this case, not only were the disciples filled with the Spirit or mind of God, which was God working in them, but God by his Spirit also acted upon them, conferring special "gifts," for a special purpose.
It must seem absurd to every one to talk about a person being in several hundred persons, but many feel compelled to say so, because of their unscriptural theory. In thinking of it, every intelligent person has to think of the power or influence of God in those men, no matter how stoutly they say that it is a person who is diffused into a number of persons. We cannot too carefully discriminate between the Spirit of God and these miraculous "gifts" by which those acceptable to God were at first marked out. These "gifts" were for the establishment of the Church, and were different in different members; but they were not to be compared with "the fruits of the Spirit"—joy, peace, faith, patience, love, etc. To have the latter proved adoption, but not so the gifts, for though a man had gifts of tongues and of miracles, he might be but a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. The holy Spirit has abode in the members of the Church throughout the Gospel age, as was promised, though many of the "gifts," being no longer needful, have passed away, as the Apostle predicted.—1 Cor. 13:8-11.
(f) "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart, to lie to the Holy Spirit [R1410 : page 173] and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:3.) Satan had filled Ananias' heart with his spirit of covetousness. God had filled Peter with his spirit, and one of the gifts of God's spirit, conferred upon Peter, was the gift of "discerning of spirits." (1 Cor. 12:10.) In verse 3, the lying is said to be unto the Holy Ghost (spirit or mind of God), and in verse 5, it is said to be unto God. The idea is the same, and thus we have the term Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit defined to be the mind of God, whether in the Father or in his representatives and agents—as in this instance in Peter.
(g) "Then Peter said unto her [Sapphira], How is it ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9.) As with Ananias, so with his wife, their lying was reckoned to be not to Peter and the Church as men, but to God, whose agent and representative, through the Spirit, Peter was.
(h) "But whosoever speaketh against the holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." (Matt. 12:32.) Read the context: Jesus had just exercised the power of God by casting out a devil. The Pharisees saw the miracle and could not deny it; but, to turn aside its force, they said it was performed by the power of the devil and not by God's power. But in answer, Jesus claims that he cast out devils by the Spirit [influence or power] of God. Then he upbraids them for being so malicious—a generation of vipers, so set on the traditions of their church that their eyes were blinded against the simplest kind of reasoning. It was so plainly evident that the power which opposed and cast out evil must be good, that they were inexcusable in ascribing it to Satan. They might and would be freely forgiven for supposing him, as a man, an impostor, and hence for blaspheming him; but they were wholly inexcusable for that gross prejudice which would ascribe such a good deed to the power of Satan. This, their sin, would not be among those forgiven. It must be punished; it will neither be forgiven in this present life, nor in the next, the Millennial age; it indicates more than Adamic depravity, and must have stripes.
(i) "The spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot." (Acts 8:29.) We fail to see in this anything demanding another God. We think the influence or spirit of God could indicate this to Philip in a variety of ways. In what way he was influenced is not stated and is immaterial to us.
(j) "The Spirit said and unto him, Behold, three men seek thee." (Acts 10:19.) We would make the same criticism of this as of the former objection. It is immaterial how the power or spirit of God addressed to Peter this information. Possibly it came as an inspired thought into his mind, or possibly he was guided by three men's voices and the three visions, and accepted these as evidences of the mind or will of God as to his going.
(k) "The Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them." (Acts 13:2.) We are not told in what manner the holy Spirit said or indicated the setting apart specially of these two. It is very probable, however, that they were "called" and "set apart" by the holy Spirit in much the same manner that all true ministers of God are now called and set apart. All the fully consecrated—begotten—children of God are called to preach, each according to his ability. The Spirit says to us all, "Why stand ye idle?...go ye also into the vineyard." But, where special ability and opportunity to teach or expound God's Word is possessed by any of the consecrated, that special ability and opportunity should be recognized as a special call to the more public work of the ministry—the talents possessed emphasizing the general call of the holy Spirit.
In speaking of his call to the ministry (Gal. 1:1), Paul mentions his authority of the Father and Son, but ignores the holy Spirit entirely; which would be inexcusable if the holy Spirit were a person, and, in fact, the person actually appointing him. But it is entirely consistent when we regard the holy Spirit as the holy influence from the Father or the Son, or from both conjointly, as their purposes are one. Gal. 1:1 reads, "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."
(l) "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," etc. (Acts 15:28.) The decisions reached in the matter under consideration [R1410 : page 174] seemed to be the judgment of the Church, and in harmony with God's will and plan.
James, the chief speaker at the council, gives the clue to how God's will or mind was then ascertained; and we find it the same method which we use to-day. He argues from Peter's statement of God's leadings in the matter of Cornelius, and from an unfulfilled prophecy which he quotes. The conclusion drawn from these, he and all the Church accepted as the holy Spirit's teaching. Examine Acts 15:13-18.
(m) "And were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia." (Acts 16:6.) Like the others, this text in no way indicates that the holy Spirit is a person. As to how God's power or influence was exercised to direct their course away from Asia we know not, but possibly by unfavorable circumstances, or by a vision. No matter how, the lesson is that God was guiding the apostles. An illustration of one of the Spirit's ways of leading them is given in the context, verse 9. "A vision appeared to Paul in the night. There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, 'Come over into Macedonia, and help us;' and after he had seen the vision, immediately they endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called them for to preach the gospel unto them." All these various dealings teach us that the methods by which God taught and led in those days were not very different from those he now uses.
(n) "Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me." (Acts 20:23.) Nothing here indicates personality. As an illustration of the agencies by which the holy power of God informed Paul of the bonds awaiting him at Jerusalem, see Acts 21:10-14.
(o) "The flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God." (Acts 20:28.) Paul, addressing the Church, not the world, says, "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man [in Christ] to profit withal"—"GOD hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers," etc.—"and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same GOD which worketh all in all." (1 Cor. 12:6,7,28.) This explains how God through his holy Spirit sets men apart to various offices which he deems needful to the Church. It contradicts the thought of the holy Spirit being another person, and shows that God did the work by his Spirit. These elders of the Church had consecrated themselves to the Lord's service, and were chosen because of special fitness and talents, by their brethren (in whom also was the holy Spirit, the will of God), to be overseers of the flock. And though called to office through human instrumentality, they accepted the service as of God's direction and appointment.
(p) "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." (1 Cor. 2:10,13. Read the context.) This, as we have already shown, proves that the holy Spirit or mind of God in us, as his children, enables us to comprehend his plan, etc., even the deep things of God, by coming into full harmony with him through his Word. We have also noticed the context (verse 12), where Paul, in explaining the subject, tries to make it plain by comparing "the Spirit which is of [from] God," in us, with "the spirit of the world," which influences "the natural man." It is clear that the spirit of the world is not a person, but a worldly mind. The spirit or mind of God in his children is no more a person than is the spirit of the world with which it is here contrasted.
(q) "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." (Verse 14.) This is a forcible statement of what we have already seen. A man who is filled with the worldly spirit is unprepared to see the "deep" and glorious things of God—the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. This is a close test if applied. Have you the Spirit of God? Have you been taught by it (through the Word) any "deep things" which the natural, worldly man cannot appreciate?
Alas! how often have we felt the force of this distinction between natural and spiritual [R1410 : page 175] as we have talked with some of the professed teachers of to-day, many of whom are blind leaders of the blind, when they confessed and sometimes boasted of their ignorance of "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Thereby they proclaim that they have not the mind of God, do not know his plans, and cannot have much of his Spirit, the Spirit of the Truth, when they have not much of the truth from which that Spirit flows. The test here given of our possession of the Spirit is our ability to discern and appreciate the deep things of God which are hidden from the worldly—"God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit."
(r) "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth the mind of the Spirit."—Rom. 8:26,27.
How much this expression of our Father's loving care has been misunderstood by his children! Who that has been taught that the holy Spirit is a person, and, as the catechisms state it, "equal in power" with the Father, has wondered why it could not utter groanings. Many a Christian brother has endeavored to make up for this supposed weakness or inability of the holy Spirit to express itself, by redoubling his own groanings. But it would be equally strange if it be understood to mean that the holy Spirit, as the influence or power of the Almighty Jehovah, is unable to express itself. We know that in past ages this influence found abundant expression by words and deeds of the prophets. We know that in this age all the apostles attest its power over them. What can it mean, then—"The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered?" The mistake is in supposing that it is God's Spirit which supplicates. It is the spirit of the saints which supplicates and often cannot express itself.
Let us look at the text with its connections, and the ground for our conclusion will be evident. Paul had just been speaking of sin-burdened humanity groaning in its fetters. He assures us that it shall be given liberty from this bondage when the Church is selected from the world, and when as sons of God the great Deliverer whom Jehovah raises up to bless all the families of the earth is manifested in power. (Verses 19-21.) He then passes from the groanings of the world to the present condition of the Church, in which we groan: "Ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption."—Verse 23.
Our renewed, transformed mind or spirit, once worldly, is now holy and spiritual, but our bodies are still human, and have the Adamic imperfections. Hence we, as new creatures, are burdened by the flesh, and groan for the promised deliverance into Christ's likeness. Paul explains how we may, by faith, reckon the earthly body dead, and think of ourselves as new creatures perfected, and thus realize ourselves saved now—"Saved by hope." (Verse 24.) Then, having seen how we may view ourselves, he tells us how the matter is viewed from God's standpoint—God reckons us "new" and "holy"—"spiritual" beings—and he recognizes as ours only those deeds of the flesh to which our minds consent. God knows when your holy spirit (new mind) is willing and your flesh weak.
As the receiving of the new mind brought us into a new relationship to God, and into new hopes, so "likewise the spirit [our new holy mind] also helpeth [maketh up for] our [bodily] infirmities. For we know not [even] what we should pray for as we ought [much less are we always able to do as we would like]; but the spirit itself [our holy mind] maketh intercession [for us—omitted in old MSS.] with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts [God] knoweth what is the mind [Greek, phronema—inclination] of the [our] spirit; because he [it] maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." It is God's will that the heart-desires of his children be accepted, in both prayer and service, notwithstanding the imperfections of their vessels.
O, how comforting is this thought! How often you have experienced it. You were perhaps overtaken in a fault, entrapped by some weakness of the human nature, and, almost disheartened, [R1410 : page 176] you went to your Father in prayer. You had no words for utterance, but you groaned in spirit to God—"being burdened." God heard you and blessed you, answering your unuttered prayer and giving strength. Paul's conclusion is ours: we have every cause for rejoicing. What shall we say then? God is for us, evidently, and disposed to accept our heart-intentions rather than our imperfect prayers and deeds. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"—Verse 31.
(s) "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God."—Rom. 8:16.
Nothing in this text teaches that the holy Spirit is a person, but the contrary: it indicates that as each man has a spirit or mind, so God has a spirit. Read this text in the light of 1 Cor. 2:11,12, and it will be seen that it does not teach of a personal holy Spirit.
On few subjects have Christians in general felt more disturbed than on this. Not knowing what the witness of the spirit is, they know not surely whether they have it or not. And some, more full of assurance than of knowledge, claim that they have it, and refer to their own changeable feelings as evidence. The Calvinist, repudiating the idea of positive knowledge of sonship, sings,
This comes from a misapprehension of the doctrine of Election. Other Christians, equally misunderstanding the subject, claim that when they feel good these feelings are the witness of sonship. Because the Scriptures say, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee," they judge of their sonship solely by their peace, and often by their prosperity. They lose sight of the words of Jesus—"In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace."
When things move smoothly they feel good, and consider this the witness of the Spirit. But when they look at the heathen and at the worldly, and see that many of them apparently have peace of mind too, their supposed witness proves insufficient. Then the dark hour comes, and they say, How easy a matter to be deceived, and they sing—
They are in torment lest they have grieved the Spirit—for "fear hath torment." This is all because of the unscriptural view taken of the Spirit and its dealings and witnessings. Let us take the Bible view of the witness of the Spirit (mind) of God with our spirit (mind), and the song of God's children shall be—
As we would know of a man's mind or spirit by his words and dealings, so we are to know of God's mind or spirit by his words and dealings. God's Word is, that whosoever cometh unto him by Jesus (consecrates himself) is accepted. (Heb. 7:25.) Then, the first question to ask yourself is, Did I ever, during the acceptable time, fully consecrate myself—my life, time, talents, influence, my all—to God? If you can candidly answer before God—Yes, I gave myself wholly to him, then be assured, on the authority, not of your feelings, but of God's Word, which, unlike your feelings, is unchangeable, that you then and there instantly became a child of God—a probationary member of the true Church, a branch of the true vine. (John 15:1.) This is a witness that you have joined the true Church, which is Christ's body: it is a witness given to your mind or spirit, by the testimony of God's spirit through his Word.
Whether or not you are abiding in him now, depends on whether you have grown as a branch, and are bearing fruit: "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth [pruneth] it, that it may bring forth more fruit." Here is stated the rule in our Father's family—chastisements, pruning, taking away of dross, and a development of fruit-bearing qualities. If you lack these indications of parental care and personal growth in grace you lack one evidence or witness that you are a child. "Whom [R1410 : page 177] the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye be without chastisement, then are ye bastards and not sons." (Heb. 12:8.) Afflictions and troubles come upon the world as well as upon the Lord's saints, but they are not marks of sonship except to those fully consecrated to his service. Nor is the pruning and chastising in the divine family always the same. As with earthly children, so with God's children: to some, a look of disapproval, to others, a word of rebuke, is an all-sufficient reproof, while others must be scourged repeatedly. An earthly parent rejoices most in the child so obedient and submissive that a look or word is sufficient to prune off evil; and so does our Father in heaven. Such are those who judge themselves, and who therefore need less of the chastising of the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:31.) To be of this class requires a full consecration; and these are the overcomers deemed worthy of being joint-heirs with Jesus Christ their Lord, whose footsteps they thus follow. To this obedient, watchful class the Lord says, "I will guide thee with mine eye." Those who can be guided only by the scourge are not the overcoming class, destined to be the Lord's bride.
The chastening, however, is not always suffering for our faults, but with the saints it is often the suffering which strict adherence to their covenant of sacrifice involves. Even so our Lord was chastened for our transgressions, not his own, because he bore the sins of many. And so we must suffer as joint-sacrifices with him.
Here is one testimony of the Spirit, then—that every true child or branch needs and will have continual pruning. Are you being pruned? If so, that is an evidence of your being a branch; in this pruning the Spirit of truth bears witness with your spirit that you are God's child.
Again the Spirit witnesseth that "whosoever is born [begotten] of God sinneth not." (1 John 5:18.) Such may be overtaken in a fault, may err in judgment, may be overpowered by the old nature not yet under control, but will never wilfully transgress God's will. Now can your mind answer that you delight to do God's will and would not willingly violate or in any way oppose it, but would rather have his will done, his plan carried out, even though it should dash your former hopes and break every tender tie? If so, the witness of your spirit or mind agrees with the spirit of truth, indicating that you are a child of God, acceptable to him.
The witness of the Spirit is, that the true branches of the vine, like the vine Christ Jesus, are not of the world—"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you." "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12.) Does your mind testify that it is thus in your experience? If so, then the Spirit of God again witnesseth with your spirit that you are his child. Remember that the world spoken of by Jesus included all worldly-minded ones, all in whom the spirit of the world has a footing. In Jesus' day, this was true of the nominal Jewish Church. In fact, all of his persecution came from professors of religion. Marvel not if you should have a similar experience. It was the chief religionists of his day that called Jesus Beelzebub, a prince of devils; and he tells us, "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household." (Matt. 10:25.) If Jesus had joined hands with them he would not have had "hatred" and "persecution." Even had he kept quiet and let their hypocrisies, shams, long prayers and false teachings alone, he would have been let alone and would not have suffered. So it is with us: it is from a similar class that the truth and those who have the spirit of the truth, and who let their light shine, now incur hatred and persecution. If we have this witness it is another testimony of the Spirit that we are overcoming the spirit of the world—therefore the worldly-spirited hate us.
The Spirit witnesseth that whosoever is ashamed of Jesus and his words, of him shall he be ashamed. (Mark 8:38.) Does your spirit witness that you are one whom he here promises to confess? If so, rejoice: this is another good witness of the Spirit that your present standing is that of a child and heir.
The Spirit witnesseth that "Whosoever is [R1410 : page 178] born [begotten] of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4.) Is this your experience? To be an overcomer signifies that you are not in harmony with the spirit—the aims, hopes and ambitions—of the world. Have you this witness that you are overcoming the world? Wait a moment—you are not to overcome the world by flattery, nor by joining in its follies, nor are you to overcome the world by teaching a Sunday class, or joining a sectarian church; no, but by your faith. To be an overcomer, you must walk by faith, not by sight. Looking not at things that are seen—popularity, worldly show, numbers, denominational greatness, etc., but looking at the things which are not seen—the spiritual and eternal things.—2 Cor. 4:18.
Again, the Spirit witnesseth that if you are a child of God, you will not be ignorant of his Word, and will not only be in the light as to present truth, but will know something about "things to come." The maturing child will grow in grace, knowledge and love, adding daily the graces of the Spirit—faith, virtue, knowledge, charity, etc. And surely "If these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off....For if ye do these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:5-11. Compare John 16:12-15.) Ask yourself whether you have this witness of growth, and the sort of fruit mentioned. Remember, too, that you cannot grow in love faster than you grow in knowledge; and you cannot grow in favor except by complying with God's instructions. This instruction, this knowledge, is found in his Word. Hence we are exhorted to "search the Scriptures," that we may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work.—2 Tim. 3:17.
These are the witnesses of the Spirit by which we may know just how we stand. You may be a young sprout in the vine; then, of course, God does not expect ripe fruit instantly; but there should be budding at once, and soon the fruits. And if you are a developed and advanced Christian, every testimony of the Spirit above cited should witness with your spirit. If in any of these testimonies of the Spirit you find yourself lacking, give diligence, give earnest heed, that you may possess every experience described. Then you will no longer sing—
but will know, and be rooted and grounded, built up and established in the faith. In this divinely arranged way, we escape from fear and from what Bunyan called "Doubting Castle," for our trust rests securely on God's promises.
"But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.—1 Cor. 6:11.
Sanctification means a setting apart or separating. Those who are sanctified, set apart, fully consecrated to God, must first be justified or cleansed from Adamic sin by accepting in faith the testimony of God, that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." Being then justified by faith, we have peace with God, and can approach him and begin to do works acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The evidence which we have of our justification and sanctification is the testimony of the spirit of truth in the Word, and the "seal" and "witness" in ourselves—our transformed mind.
The power which enables us to live up to our consecration vows is the Spirit or mind of our God of which we receive. The Spirit of truth received by the study and obedience of our Father's words gives the needed strength for the overcoming of the human nature and the spirit of the world.
To this agree other scriptures. Paul prayed: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." Peter says: Ye are "elect [chosen], through sanctification [setting apart] of the Spirit, unto obedience." Again, that the sanctifying [R1410 : page 179] power or spirit in us is the spirit of truth is shown by Paul's statement, that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the Church by the Word. (Eph. 5:26.) Our Lord Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth." (John 17:17.) So, then, these scriptures taken together teach, as the foregoing, that our sanctification is accomplished by the spirit of truth freely imparted to the consecrated followers of the Redeemer through the Word of God, which he has provided for this purpose.
All thus sanctified are reckoned new creatures in Christ, and are addressed as "them that are sanctified in Christ." (1 Cor. 1:2.) That it is by reason of our sanctification of spirit that we are one with Christ, is shown by the statement: "Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Heb. 2:11.) Thus it is that we are "washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God"—the spirit of the truth, communicated to us through his Word.
"When he ['the Spirit of truth'] is come he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement."—John 16:8-11.
Many gather from this text that the holy Spirit operates in sinners for their reformation. This is not the right view. The spirit of God is not in the children of this world. Theirs is "the spirit of the world." The "spirit of the world," or "the carnal mind, is enmity against God." The Spirit or mind of God is in believers only. Hence, wherever we find it, it is a seal or mark of sonship—"By whom also ye were sealed after that ye had believed the gospel of your salvation." (Eph. 1:13.) "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." The Spirit of God, by means of its fruits, and its witness through the Word, is the evidence of our begetting to the family of God; it is "the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Rom. 8:15.) It must be evident to all, then, that the Spirit in us is not the spirit which is in the worldly, and that the Spirit of God is in no sense in the worldly.
In what sense, we inquire, does the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, reprove the world? We reply that this spirit in the true Church is the light of the world. It is the light which shines from the true Christian, which reproves or condemns and opposes the darkness of this world. Jesus, when anointed by the Spirit of God, declared, "I am the light of the world." And again, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 8:12; 9:5.) Addressing his Church of this age, sanctified by the same holy Spirit, he says, "Ye are the light of the world. ...Let your light shine before men." (Matt. 5:14-16.) Paul, addressing the same body of Christ, says, "Ye were at one time darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light." (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thes. 5:5.) "For God [the spirit of God, the spirit of truth] ...hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." (2 Cor. 4:6.) Thus we see that it is the light of God's truth, his spirit or mind shining in our hearts, which shines out upon the world; and we are to "do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life."—Phil. 2:15.
It is, thus, not directly, but by a reflex light, through those who possess it, that the Spirit operates upon (but not in) the world; for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them. (1 Cor. 2:14.) The Apostle thus explains the reproving of the world by the Spirit in the saints, saying, "Walk as children of light...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them....All things that are reproved are made manifest [shown to be wrong] by the light." (Eph. 5:8-13.) The light of God's truth, which is the expression of his mind or spirit, as it shines through a sanctified life, is the holy Spirit reproving the darkness of the world, showing those who see it, what is sin, and what is righteousness, from which they will reason of a coming judgment, when righteousness will receive some [R1410 : page 180] reward and sin some punishment. Thus a godly life is always a reproof to the ungodly, even where no word of reproof may be possible, or proper. The spirit in you reproves them; for if sanctified ye are "living epistles known and read of all men."
The true Church has always been a light in the world; but, as with its Head, the light has shined in the darkness; and though the darkness recognizes the reproof of its presence, it comprehends it not. Therefore they have always persecuted the light-bringers, because they knew not our Father, nor our Lord, nor his body. (John 16:3.) It has always been a part of the Church's mission to let the truth shine through it to reprove evil. And this reproof has always been chiefly to nominal systems and nominal professors, as were our Lord's reproofs. But "if the light that is in thee be [become] darkness, how great is that darkness!"—both to the individual soul in whom the light has gone out, and to the world from whom the light is thus obscured. Satan achieves no greater triumph than when he seduces a soul which was once enlightened and sanctified by the truth; and the influence of such a one for evil is more than doubled. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
A common error among God's children today, arising also from an improper conception of the holy Spirit, is the supposed necessity for frequent baptisms of the Spirit. We are told, "Be ye filled with the Spirit;" and we would urge the necessity of constantly receiving supplies of grace to help our infirmities. We all need constantly to go to the fountain to replenish, because our "earthen vessels" are very defective and the spirit of Christ easily slips out, being under constant pressure from the spirit of the world. But to be filled with the Spirit is something totally different from the baptism of the Spirit.
So far as we are informed, there have been but three baptisms of the Spirit in all: first, Jesus was so baptized: second, the disciples at Pentecost were similarly baptized; third, Cornelius and his family were so baptized. These three baptisms were in reality but one, as already shown from the Levitical type. The holy anointing oil was poured upon the head and ran down over the body of the typical priest; and so the spirit of anointing given to our Head, Jesus, descended on the Church at Pentecost, and has since been running down over and anointing all that are members of his body. In the three cases mentioned above, then, it was an outward manifestation which witnessed specially that God recognized the baptized as his. To convince the natural man, this acceptance was accompanied by various "gifts." (1 Cor. 14:22.) To them these gifts were the evidences of the possession of the Spirit and of acceptance with God.
The spirit or mind of God is now received without the gifts and without outward manifestation, those manifestations and gifts being now recorded in the Word of God, and not (or with few exceptions) in the persons and deeds of his children. Paul testified that he might have gifts, or be acted upon by the Spirit, and yet be almost destitute of the spirit of love and sacrifice itself—and thus be but a "tinkling cymbal." (1 Cor. 13:1.) Thus we see that the gifts were not a mark of special favor toward those exercised by them. What we may have of the "witness" of the Spirit is a far better criterion of our spiritual condition than if possessed of the mountain-moving, tongue-speaking and miracle-working power, without the internal witness of harmony with God's Word.
Since Cornelius, there have been no such baptisms or outward manifestations of God's favor; but instead, the inward, unseen witness of the Spirit of Truth with our spirit, that we are children and heirs of God.
Nor should we wonder at this: the Church was like two rooms, hitherto unopened—locked up. The one room represents the Jewish believers in Jesus; the other the Gentile believers. Both were to be henceforth thrown open and used. There must be an opening and demonstration, after which the doors, standing open, needed not a further re- opening. Peter unlocked or opened both of these doors. At Pentecost he did the opening work to the Jews [R1410 : page 181] who had believed. (Acts 2:14-41.) And when, about three and one-half years after, it became God's due time to receive Gentile believers into the same privileges of sonship, Peter was again used to open that door—being sent to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. (Acts 10.) Thus he used the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (the Church), and opened the way, as Jesus had foretold. (Matt. 16:19.) Keys represent power and authority. He needed more than one, because hitherto Jews and Gentiles had been recognized as totally distinct, and the Gentiles were not fellow-heirs, and of the same body.
If the acceptance of Jewish-born believers was indicated once for all at Pentecost, why should God repeat it to others now? If the acceptance of Gentile-born believers was clearly shown in Cornelius' case, why should a repetition be asked? There is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that these baptisms were ever repeated.
Some now meet and pray for a Pentecostal baptism of the holy Spirit. They look back to that with special longings, thinking that it was something not now possessed by the saints, whereas the things not now possessed are merely the gifts of the Spirit. This is wrong—it is looking from the standpoint of the natural mind. It is looking at the things that are seen, and not at the things unseen and eternal, for a basis of faith. When just coming out of the fleshly into the spiritual dispensation, it was very necessary to have something which the natural man might recognize to mark the new era. The gifts were in the Church, not to convince the saints of their acceptance with God, but to convince others of the divine authority of Christianity. (See 1 Cor. 14:22.) The witness of the Spirit was for the saints.
The Church in general had the gifts, but they did not all receive those gifts at Pentecost, nor by a baptism of the Spirit. The eleven apostles, with Paul, the Lord's choice for the place of Judas, possessed the special power of communicating those gifts by laying on of hands (Compare Acts 8:13,14,17-19); but those who received the gifts from their hands could not re-communicate them to others.
Though entirely out of harmony with God's Word to pray for another baptism of the holy Spirit, it is right to pray to be kept filled with the holy Spirit. The Father in heaven is more willing to give the Spirit to those that ask him than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children. (Luke 11:13.) When we ask for anything, it implies that we want it; and if wholly consecrated we should want to receive the holy Spirit in the way God wishes to give it. We pray for daily food, and properly, but we must do more than pray. God puts within our reach the needful means of procuring the food, and thus the food comes from him from whom cometh every good gift. When we pray for the Spirit, and desire to "be filled with the Spirit," it is well. God has already provided all the means necessary to the fulfilment of our request. The "Spirit of truth" will give the very filling we desire, but we must partake of, must eat the feast, or we will not be filled. He who will not eat of a full table will be empty and starve, as truly as though there were no food. The asking of a blessing on food will not fill us; we must eat it; so the possession of a Bible and a petition for spiritual food will not do: we must eat the Word of God if we would derive his spirit from it.
The Spirit of truth speaks to us through the Word, and by obedience to the Word we shall be filled with the Spirit. Our Lord said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63.) And of those who are filled with the Spirit it is true as spoken by the prophet, "Thy words were found and I did eat them." (Jer. 15:16.) It is useless, then, for us to pray, Lord, Lord, give us the Spirit, if we neglect the Word of truth from which that Spirit is supplied. It is for this reason that many who meet often and pray much for the holy Spirit are still but "babes in Christ;" and many seek the outward signs as proof of relationship, instead of the inward witness through the Word of truth.
As we have just seen, it is because we have something to do if we would be filled with the Spirit, as surely as we have something to do if we would have natural food, that the Apostle addresses us—"Be ye filled with the Spirit" [R1410 : page 182] (Eph. 5:18), indicating that it rests entirely with us, since the doors were opened wide at Pentecost and at Cornelius' house.
"He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." (Matt. 3:10-12.) These words were spoken to the Jews as a nation, and our Lord was the one who would do the baptizing. As many of that nation as received him were baptized of the holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the remainder were afterward baptized with fire—trouble. The time of trouble which finally, in A.D. 70, destroyed their national existence was the fiery baptism foretold by the Prophets, and here by John. The three verses here connected (10-12) refer to the same fire. The unfruitful tree cast into the fire and the chaff burned represent those of that nation who "knew not the time of their visitation."
There is a remarkable prophecy in Joel (2:28-32,) which clearly distinguishes between the present age in which the possession of God's spirit is by the few, and the Millennial age in which the truth will be generally diffused among men, and its spirit generally accepted by men. The prophecy is stated in a manner likely to be misunderstood, in that the blessing upon the many is mentioned first, and the blessing upon the little flock, which comes first, is mentioned last. Even so, many of God's testimonies are so arranged and stated as not to be clearly seen until fully due—as meat in due season to the household of faith.
Joel says [transposing his words to the order of their fulfilment]: "In those days I will pour out my spirit upon my servants and upon my handmaids: And it shall come to pass after those days, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh." (Joel 2:29,28.) Peter at Pentecost referred to this prophecy (Acts 2:16-21), saying, "This [outpouring of the spirit of God which you see—upon his servants and handmaids] is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." All that Joel had prophesied was not fulfilled before their eyes, but what they saw was all foretold by Joel in that prophecy, and more too. Joel foretold the blessing of Pentecost upon the servants and handmaids, and also the blessing of all flesh in the "great day of the Lord," the Millennial day; and he also foretold the day of trouble preceding that Millennial day of blessing, referring to it under the symbolic statement of "wonders in the heavens above and signs in the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke," etc.
The coming of the spirit upon all flesh (i.e., in general, upon all mankind) in the next age will be in much the same manner that it comes now to the special servants of God. Then, as now, it will be the spirit of truth, and cannot be received without the recipients first coming to a knowledge of at least the first principles of THE TRUTH, and being consecrated to God's service.
There will be no difference between the spirit received by the Church in this Gospel age and by the human family in general in the next age: it is the same spirit; and, as we have just seen, it will be received in the same way, from the same source (God), and through the same channel—his Word of truth. But [R1412 : page 182] the sealing and witnessing of the Spirit of God then to the converted world will be very different from the sealing and witness which it now gives to the Church. Some may not at once see how the same spirit could in the same way testify, witness and seal differently in the two ages, but we trust we shall be able to make this abundantly clear.
Note clearly the dissimilarity of the two ages. In the Gospel age evil predominates, Satan rules, gross darkness covers the people, and the god of this world takes advantage in thousands of ways of the weakness of fallen men, misrepresents the truth and clothes error in the garb of truth. In the Millennial age evil will be restrained, Christ will rule and bless and the light of truth shall penetrate every dark corner. Mankind will be helped out of the weakness of the fall, and right and truth on every subject shall triumph.
All this, God saw beforehand; and he saw that the trial or testing of any who possess and who would be led by his Spirit would be seven-fold as severe in this Gospel age as in the Millennial age. Yet he designed to have it so, in [R1412 : page 183] order that thus he might select the "little flock" of peculiarly zealous ones for the work of blessing others, as well as for illustrations of the exceeding riches of his favor toward those willing to serve him at the cost of self-sacrifice.
God knew beforehand that whosoever would live godly in this present world [age]—whoever would receive the Spirit of the truth and be led of it—would suffer persecution and present loss; that whoever would have and obey the leadings of his holy Spirit, among those having the opposing "spirit of the world," would do it only at the cost of self-sacrifice. And God had a perfect right to promise such sacrificers, of whom our Lord Jesus is the head and exemplar, a special "prize," a "high calling," exceeding great and precious, and a change from the human to the divine nature if he chose; and he did choose to do this very thing. "This is the promise which he hath promised us." The promises to be like Christ our Lord, and to live with him, and to reign with him, and to be his joint-heirs, are not made to all who will receive the holy Spirit of the truth, but to those who suffer for righteousness sake, who hazard and lay down their lives for the truth, who suffer with Christ and become dead with him, filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in the earnest desire to serve his body, which is the Church.
Just so surely as the "sufferings of Christ" are completely filled up and end with this age, and the glories to follow enter with the next age, just so surely it will be impossible for those who in the next age have the spirit of truth to suffer and sacrifice themselves in obeying it. Consequently they could never have the witness of the Spirit that they are joint-heirs with Christ, nor that they shall be made new creatures, partakers of the divine nature.
The Spirit's testimony is that they for whom those exceeding great things were prepared of the Father were sacrificers, who through much opposition, tribulation and gainsaying should be recognized as "overcomers," members of "the body of Christ."
But those who receive the Spirit of the truth in the Millennial age will have in it a witness also. It will witness to them their acceptance with God through faith in Christ their Redeemer. And it will witness then almost the reverse of what it now witnesses, so far as tribulation is concerned. He who then suffers tribulation will have it as a witness of wrong doing and of the King's displeasure; while he who flourishes well in his affairs will have that as a witness of his well doing and of the King's good pleasure toward him, as it is written: "In his day [the Millennial Day] the righteous shall flourish," and the evil doers shall be cut off; and again, "He shall visit tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile." (Psa. 72:7; Rom. 2:9.) And under that blessing the well doers will progress toward human perfection. Be it remembered, MAN is an earthly image of God, and hence the spirit or mind of a perfect man would be in harmony with God's spirit or mind. Especially will this be the case with restored men, who, during the fall and rising again, will have well learned to rely upon and obey implicitly the divine Spirit's leadings, and thus be led by the Spirit of the truth.
The opening work for the world may furnish some marked evidence of divine acceptance, as at Pentecost a special manifestation of divine acceptance was given; but not necessarily so. The Word of truth and its witness may be all that will be given; and if so, it will be quite sufficient evidence for faith.
The Spirit of truth would be, to them, a spirit of begetting also, begetting again as human sons of God; for such was Adam before he sinned, since whose fall all his posterity are counted as cut off, dead, except as brought back to perfection through redemption and restitution. And though begotten by the Spirit of truth, such must prove themselves worthy of being restored to full sonship (born), until the end of that age, when, being made complete through Christ, they can be presented to the Father as sons.—1 Cor. 15:24.
As we thus bring the light of one scripture to bear upon another we see how God brushes away the mists of traditional error, revealing his own glorious character, and making us better [R1412 : page 184] acquainted with himself and with his dear Son, through whom he accomplished our redemption. With a clear understanding of the distinct personality of each comes a clearer understanding of much more truth. We are able to appreciate more intelligently what both our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus have done for us, and to give to each the honor due. And as we observe the beautiful harmony of parental and filial affection, and study it in all its workings as revealed in the great plan of God, we have a theme for our praise and imitation throughout eternity.
"Hear, O Israel! Jehovah our God is one—Jehovah. And thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might;" for he is worthy. Study his character, behold his glory—of wisdom, love and power—and when you fully apprehend him, and recognize him as the fountain of every virtue and of every blessing, no creature in heaven or in earth will be able to take his first and rightful place in your heart's affections.
Even our blessed Lord Jesus is no rival with Jehovah for that first, chief place. He himself said, "My Father is greater than I," and his highest ambition was to honor him at any cost to himself; at the cost of abasement and humiliation even unto death. And yet the Father hath so highly honored him as to place him at his own right hand of power and glory, and bid all his creatures honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. And being in character and glory the express image of the Father, and so intimately associated with all his plans, the love of our hearts that goes out toward one naturally falls upon both, and the only distinction we can see or feel in our love toward them is that the one is the eternal fountain and the other the perennial stream of unalloyed goodness and glory and blessing.
a spirit so necessary both to a clear understanding and to obedience of the truth; and may God grant that through the careful and prayerful study of this whole subject his children may be more and more filled with his holy Spirit and adorned with its precious fruits. The Apostle says: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."—2 Tim. 1:7.
The word spirit is here used in the sense of mental disposition. Thus we sometimes speak of a bad spirit, meaning an evil disposition; or of a good, true spirit, meaning a pure, noble and amiable disposition. So the Apostle here refers to the disposition of a sound mind.
A sound mind is a mind in a sound, healthy condition, and in full possession of all its faculties. Its perceptive faculties gather up various data and store them away in memory's garner; and its reasoning faculties arrange and compare them, and thus arrive at conclusions that otherwise could not be gained. However, if the mind is not in a sound, healthy condition, reason will not act properly. It will receive memory's store of facts, and, by misapplying and misappropriating them, arrive at erroneous conclusions. If the mind is disturbed by undue fear and dread, or by superstition or prejudice, or hate, or revenge, or undue ambition, or pride, or self-conceit, or avarice, or any depraved passion, reason will be so influenced by such dispositions as to render its conclusions, or judgment, untrustworthy. The mind is sound only when in the full possession of all its faculties, and when it is entirely free, in the use of those faculties, from prejudice or bias in any direction. Those among men who are freest from prejudice in the use of reason we sometimes, and very properly, speak of as cool-headed, while those of the opposite disposition are called hot-headed.
Strictly speaking, there is not a perfectly sound mind in the world. The mind could not be perfectly sound unless the body were so. Both mind and body are sadly bruised by the fall; and in the fallen race we see all shades and grades of mental as well as physical derangement. Mark the varieties of physical derangement: Here is one with a deranged stomach—a dyspeptic; and that derangement affects the whole body to a greater or less extent. Another is afflicted with an improper action of the [R1413 : page 185] heart; and the whole body is therefore in trouble. The same is true if the lungs do not fill their appointed office, or if the liver will not do its duty, or if the nervous system be unstrung. In such cases the mind is always more or less unfavorably affected. If the body is burning with fever, or racked with pain, or agitated by an excited nervous system, or oppressed by the distresses of a dyspeptic stomach, or excited by a palpitating heart, or enfeebled by inactive and diseased lungs, the mind is correspondingly weak and diseased: it is unsound, fettered in the use of its powers, and unable fully to govern and rightly use them.
The curse of sin and its penalty has laid its heavy hand on the entire man—mind and body. If one member of the body suffer, the whole body, and no less the mind, suffers with it. And in addition to those sufferings of the mind which come directly from physical disabilities are many others which come from its own derangement, from the undue cultivation of its inferior instincts and the dwarfing of its nobler faculties through sin and the necessities of painful toil—the labor and sweat of face which are parts of sin's penalty. Truly, as the prophet expresses it, There is none perfect (sound, either in mind or body), no, not one. (Psa. 14:3.) All are covered with wounds and bruises and putrefying sores—both mentally and physically, though there are various degrees of unsoundness.
Oh! says one, I do not see that the world is so much out of gear mentally. Men are considerably out of sorts physically, greatly out of order morally, but it seems to me that mentally they are pretty straight. What evidence is there of such general mental derangement?
Well, let us see. If we go into an insane asylum we find people who are so far unbalanced mentally as to be incapable of managing their own affairs, and often in danger of damaging the interests of others as well, because unable to exercise even moderate judgment. But we all know that we have neighbors on every side whose judgments, as well as our own, are very imperfect. And not infrequently many give evidence of inability to manage their own affairs creditably, who are a great annoyance in attempting to manage the affairs of others. Through self-conceit they are gossips and busybodies in other men's matters, though incapable of managing their own. This is one evidence of an unsound mind—a measure of insanity.
What business man will not admit that, over and over again, when he has used his very best judgment, he has actually done the wrong thing when he should have known better? The large number of failures in business, and ill-successes generally, attest that the majority of people are very unsound in judgment. And likewise the numbers of badly raised families, of mismatches in matrimony, of ungoverned tempers, and of miserly, or extravagant, or foolish habits, etc., etc., all bear witness to the same fact. The great trouble in every case is an unsound mind. And no one knows better than the man who has precipitated financial disaster, or who has made a bad mistake in choosing a wife, or the woman who accepted a worthless man for a husband, that bad judgment, unsoundness of mind, was the cause of the trouble. And so avarice, selfishness, and other bad habits are evidences of mental as well as of moral and physical unbalance. Sometimes a man has average soundness of mind on most subjects, but is greatly astray on some one. He can reason intelligently on other subjects, but on this one he cannot: he reasons absurdly and draws false conclusions. There are some subjects on which so many are astray that mankind in general do not regard the wrong course as wrong, and are ready to pronounce those unbalanced who do not run with them to the same excesses.
Suppose a man down on the river bank with a long rake, raking up old corks, and sticks, and rubbish out of the water, and having them at considerable expense carted off and stored in a barn somewhere. You see him day after day toiling away to no reasonable purpose, and you say, the man is insane. Why do you think so? Because he is spending his time and effort at that which, when looked at from a reasonable standpoint, is foolish. Now while all are not so bad as the illustration, there is a disposition of the same kind running through the whole race with reference to some subjects: [R1413 : page 186] for instance, that of accumulating money. That is an evidence of an unsound mind, but the popular opinion does not so regard it. There are thousands of men who have plenty of money, more than they know what to do with. It gives them great care and anxiety to take care of it, and great labor and weariness in one way or another to accumulate it. And yet, notwithstanding their superabundance, they will lie, and cheat, and steal, and defraud their best friends, to get more—only to add greater burdens to their already heavy load, and to heap upon themselves the calumnies and hatred of those whom they have defrauded. What is the natural inference? The man who acts so has an unsound mind. But it is on a popular subject; and others of similar disposition, though not always so successful, say, That is a great man; his aim is the grand acme of life; go on, become a ten times ten-millionaire (unless I should succeed in out-witting you).
How should a really sound mind regard such proceedings? How does God view it, as he looks down upon men cheating and fighting and stealing from one another to get money, or wheat, or corn, into a "corner" from other men, and then guarding it, and keeping it, and fighting for it, as if it were very life itself.
He sees it as the result of an unsound mind, as the mental and moral unbalance brought about through sin. If the mind were well balanced its energies would be divided between accumulating and using; and good and noble uses would be thought out whereby he and his fellow-men might receive some real advantage. But the common practice of all the world is to lay it up for posterity, and posterity receives it with mean ingratitude and generally uses it to its own injury.—Psa. 49:10,13.
Another subject upon which the masses of men are unsound of mind, but which is not popularly so regarded, is the reckless propagation of the race without due regard to means of support, or health, or the Lord's special service to which some have consecrated their all, and often regardless of the barest necessities of life, overburdening wives whom they profess to love, and covenanted to support and defend, with weights of care which they are mentally and physically unable to endure, and from which they often gladly find refuge in the silent tomb; while the mentally and physically diseased offspring, which she was thus unfitted to rear, and which the father is incapable of supporting, are left to add their burden of misery, and mental and moral and physical depravity, to the world's long moan of distress and sorrow.
True, the command was given, increase and multiply and fill the earth, but human fatherhood should be after the likeness of the divine fatherhood, which provides for every son—"If a son, then an heir." If a sound mind were in control, a man would not incur the responsibilities of a husband, or of fatherhood to a numerous family, with known inability to produce a healthy offspring, or to provide for them the necessities of life until able to do for themselves. The unsoundness of mind thus displayed has raised the wail of distress from thousands of homes, and nipped in the bud the tender plants of love and peace; and the struggle for bare existence has driven out every element of harmony and right-mindedness.
If the spirit of a sound mind were in control here, love and harmony would prevail to a vastly greater extent, and a healthy, happy and welcomed offspring would rise up to bless a mother's training hand of care, to honor a father's kindly providence, and to walk in their honorable footprints.
Is it not true, too, that such as have consecrated all to the Lord's service have little enough to give at best without tying their hands with more than indispensable earthly burdens and cares? Is it not, rather, the mission and privilege of such to feed and clothe, spiritually, God's little ones?
But there are many other evidences of unsoundness of mind not so general among men, and yet very numerous in one form or another. For instance, one is a miser: he clutches a penny with almost a death grip; he would bargain and contend with a poorer man to induce him to undersell his little stock of goods on which he depends for the support of his family; he would deprive his own family of the necessary comforts of life, which he and they know [R1413 : page 187] he is able to supply, but will not, and thus introduce an element of discord into what might be a happy and prosperous home. Hugging his hoarded dollars he goes to his grave, and his children gather to quarrel over them and to hate his very memory. O, what a mistake!
Another man is a spendthrift: self-gratification he will have, in every possible direction, regardless of consequences for the future. This is better than the miserly extreme, yet it is founded on the same mean principle of selfishness, regardless of the interests of others, and even of self-interest beyond the present moment. Neither of these extremes of unsoundness is realized by those thus afflicted. The miser congratulates himself that he is not a spendthrift, and the spendthrift that he is not a miser, and neither ever dreams that he has gone to the opposite extreme.
O, that all the world might be blessed with a sound mind! What a renovation it would [R1414 : page 187] make! What a transformation of all things! This is just what men will have when the great restitution work is all complete.
But, notice that the Apostle in the above text speaks of the saints as now having the spirit of a sound mind. They are not actually sound, either in mind or body; they have mental and physical and moral weaknesses like other men; but they have received from God the spirit, the disposition, of a sound mind, which, under God's direction, is able to a very great extent to correct, control and direct the whole man. To have a sound mind, then, is the thing to be desired above all others, and all who realize their unsound condition should apply at once to the great Physician, who says, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And those who have come to this great Physician can testify to his power; for lo, under the magic of his healing touch, old things—the old disposition of fear and superstition, and evil inclinations, and weakness, and imbecility—have passed away, and all things have become new. The spirit of love and of a sound mind has taken its place, giving increasing power to govern the whole being as we grow up toward the stature of the fulness of Christ—complete in him.
In line with these suggestions is the Apostle's advice, that those who have received the new mind—the spirit of a sound mind—we are not to know after the flesh, as men, but according to their real spirit or intention—as God knows or recognizes them. (2 Cor. 5:16.) And the Apostle Peter declares (1 Pet. 4:6) that "For this purpose the gospel is preached to them that are dead [those reckoned dead to sin, but alive toward God and righteousness]: that they might be judged of God in spirit [according to their real motives and intentions], although judged by men merely according to [the outward deeds] the flesh." (The Greek text supports this rendering, while the common version shrouds this text in mystery.)
In coming to our Lord, his first requirement is, that we submit our minds entirely to his control, setting aside our ideas and plans entirely, to be guided henceforth by his sound mind. And only those thus consecrated to the doing of his will have the spirit, or disposition, of a sound mind.
As soon as this spirit of a sound mind comes in, it begins at once, under the divine guidance, to set the whole man in order. And it begins in the right place: it commands the will to assert its power and hold its commanding place over body and mind; it puts reason at the helm with the divine Word as its guide book; it searches the heart with the lamp of divine truth lighted by the Holy Spirit, to see what form the malady of sin has taken; and then, looking to the divine healer by faith and the energy of resistance, the transforming work begins and progresses, bringing the mind into a more and more sound and healthy condition, notwithstanding the infirmities of the body may tend in an opposite direction. Thus the children of God are "transformed, by the renewing of their minds." And it is only these who have the transformed mind, who can know or prove what is the holy and perfect will of God.
Sometimes the children of God get cold and listless and almost cease to aspire to and seek this soundness of mind, but let such remember that this is the lukewarm condition of which the Master declares his abhorrence. (Rev. 3:16.) Let the consecrated ones who look for [R1414 : page 188] the reward of our high calling remember that ceaseless vigilance and earnest striving against the dispositions of the old unsound mind, and a constant submission to the divine will in the smallest affairs of every-day life, are the most thorough proofs of our faithfulness to God. It is all-important that while we endeavor to serve the Lord faithfully by bearing the good tidings of his truth to others, we should not fail in this most important work of self-discipline and self-culture under the divine direction. The every-day life of faithful saints will preach a sermon to all who know them, which their lips could never speak. And if it does not so do; if avarice, or penuriousness, or pride, or selfishness, or bad tempers, or slovenly habits in conversation still continue, our lips had best keep silence regarding godly matters, except before God in our closets. There we may speak freely, and ask largely for fresh supplies of grace to help us overcome the dispositions of the old unsound mind, that our daily life may speak a volume to our Redeemer's praise. Our children, our neighbors, our friends, and all who know us as exponents of divine truth, are looking for its fruits in our daily life, and judging of it accordingly, whether they tell us so or not. Let us endeavor to let our light shine in this way. We should never be too busy to let those about us see that our mind is under control of the divine mind—to let them see what carefulness the spirit of a sound mind hath wrought in us.
As the divine mind takes the control of our minds, it cultivates the nobler qualities; it nourishes them with divine truth and bids them expand and take possession of the man; it subdues the lower propensities and appoints their definite and proper place in the service of the new higher nature. It also lifts the mind out of the narrow sphere of self, and sets the man to work in the Lord's benevolent service of blessing others; it shows him the divine plan and tells him he may have a share in it—not only in its benefits, but also in its great work as a co-laborer together with God. Thus the saint approaches the divine likeness and enjoys communion and fellowship with God.
Well, says one, while we criticise some who spend their lives in gathering dollars, and others who spend it otherwise, they also criticise us, and say that we are unsound in mind, "peculiar," because our view of life is turned so much from the ordinary channel. What shall we say to this?
We cannot help that: we once thought much as they do, but now have received the mind of Christ. We cannot expect any but those governed by the same heaven-directed view of matters to agree with us, or to commend our mind and course. The only way we could please all the insane people in an asylum would be to agree with their ideas and do as they do. And just so, the only way we can please the unsound world is to agree with their erroneous ideas and do as they do; but when we receive our ideas from God's Word, and recognize the world's ideas as contrary to that Word, then we know, on God's authority, that we have the spirit, the disposition, of a sound mind, though we are constantly reminded of the unsoundness of our natural mind by the effort which it costs us to keep it in subjection to the divine ruling. Often, the children of God are no better than average men of the world; and sometimes they are more imperfect naturally than many of the world. Among them, as natural men and women, there are all sorts of imperfections, but when the spirit of a sound mind, under God's direction, takes hold of them, it transforms and beautifies them in deed and in truth. And, dearly beloved, if this transforming work is not going on within us, we are either dead or dying branches that must sooner or later be severed from the vine. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit [fruit of the spirit] he taketh away."—John 15:2.
We must then let the transforming work go on within our own hearts, while we do all in our power to inspire and cultivate the same spirit in others. God hath not given to us the spirit of fear and superstitious dread of him, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. And when we have discarded our own unsound mind, and taken God's mind as expressed in his Word, we know that we have the disposition of a sound mind, no matter how other men regard it.