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The Ministry of the Spirit By A. J. Gordon Characters: 5782

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"It is evident that the present dispensation under which we are is the dispensation of the Spirit, or of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. To him in the Divine economy, has been committed the office of applying the redemption of the Son to the souls of men by the vocation, justification, and salvation of the elect. We are therefore under the personal guidance of the Third Person, as truly as the apostles were under the guidance of the Second."-Henry Edward Manning.



In some observations on the doctrine of the Spirit, which lie before us as we write, an eminent professor of theology remarks on the disproportionate attention which has been given to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, as compared with that bestowed on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It is affirmed, moreover, that in many of the works upon the subject now extant there is a lack of definiteness of impression which leaves much still to be desired in the treatment of this subject. These observations lead us to ask: Why not employ the same method in writing about the Third Person of the Trinity as we use in considering the Second Person? Scores of excellent lives of Christ have been written; and we find that in these, almost without exception, the divine story begins with Bethlehem and ends with Olivet. Though the Saviour lived before his incarnation, and continues to live after his ascension, yet it gives a certain definiteness of impression to limit one's view to his historic career, distinguishing his visible life lived in time from his invisible life lived in eternity.


So in considering the Holy Spirit, we believe there is an advantage in separating his ministry in time from his ministry before and after, bounding it by Pentecost on the one side, and by Christ's second coming on the other. We have to confess that in many respects one of the best treatises on the Spirit which we have found is by a Roman Catholic-Cardinal Manning. Notwithstanding the papistical errors which abound in the volume, his general conception of the subject is in some particulars admirable. His treatise is called "The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost." How much is suggested by this title! Just as Jesus Christ had a time-ministry which he came into the world to fulfill, and having accomplished it returned to the Father, so the Holy Spirit, for the fulfillment of a definite mission, came into the world at an appointed time; he is now carrying on his ministry on earth, and in due time he will complete it and ascend to heaven again-this is what these words suggest, and what, as we believe, the Scriptures teach. If we thus form a right conception of this present age-ministry of the Spirit, we have a definite view-point from which to study his operations in the ages past, and his greater mission, if there be such, in t

he ages to come.

Now we conceive that the vagueness and mystery attaching in many minds to the doctrine of the Spirit, are due largely to a failure to recognize his {15} time-ministry, distinct from all that went before and introductory to all that is to come after-a ministry with a definite beginning and a definite termination. Certainly no one can read the farewell discourse of our Lord, as recorded by John, without being impressed with the fact that just as distinctly as his own advent was foretold by prophets and angels, he now announces the advent into the world of another, co-equal with himself, his Divine successor, his other self in the mysterious unity of the Godhead. And moreover, it seems clear to us that he implied that this coming One was to appear not only for an appointed work, but for an appointed period: "He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever"-eis ton ai?na. If we translate literally and say "for the age," it harmonizes with a parallel passage. In giving the great commission, Jesus says: "And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age." Here his presence by the Holy Ghost is evidently meant. The perpetuity of that presence is guaranteed, "with you all the days"; and its bound determined, "unto the end of the age." Not that it need be argued that he shall not be here after this dispensation is finished; but that there is such a thing as a temporal mission of the Holy Spirit does seem to be implied. And a full study confirms the view. The present is the dispensation of {16} the Holy Ghost; the age-work which he inaugurated on the day of Pentecost is now going on, and it will continue until the Lord Jesus returns from heaven, when another order will be ushered in and another dispensational ministry succeed.

In the well-known work of Moberly, on "The Administration of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ," the author divides the course of redemption thus far accomplished into these three stages: The first age, God the Father; the second age, God the Son; and the third age, God the Holy Ghost. This distribution seems to be correct, and so does his remark upon the inauguration of the last of these periods on the day of Pentecost. "At that moment," he says, "the third stage of the development [manifestation] of God for the restoration of the world finally began, never to come to an end or to be superseded on earth till the restitution of all things, when the Son of Man shall come again in the clouds of heaven, in like manner as his disciples saw him go into heaven." And what shall be the next period, "the age to come," whose powers they have already tasted who have been "made partakers of the Holy Ghost"? This question need not be answered, as we have done all that is required, defined the age of the Spirit which constitutes the field in which our entire discussion lies.


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