The Deity of the Holy Spirit

George Smeaton



We shall first keep the Old Testament doctrine of the Spirit full in view; and in tracing the stream of history, we shall consider (1) the testimony to the spirit of prophecy in the Books of Moses and Job; (2) in the time from Moses to David; (3) in the period from David to the Exile; (4) from the Exile to the close of the Old Testament. But underneath this mere chronological division, we shall have occasion to notice the Spirit’s operations in nature and in grace; in the supernatural gifts conferred upon gifted men, and in the prophecies relating to the Messiah prior to the Pentecostal economy.


The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters” (Gen. 1. 2). The term Spirit (Ruach) denotes a BREATH, a WIND, and also an intelligent thinking Being. The designation “the Spirit of God,” denotes two persons—God and the Spirit of God, like the analogous title “the Son of God.” It implies distinct personality, and indicates that He is from God, or of God. The action here ascribed to Him, in connection with the creation of all things, seems to be a metaphor taken from the incubation of a bird, and sets forth how the Spirit, dove-like, sat brooding o’er the dark abyss, and made it pregnant.1

By His Spirit He garnished the heavens (Job xxvi. 13). He is called God’s Spirit (“His Spirit”) to show that He is of the same essence with God and from Him. When it is said that He who garnished the heavens is the Spirit of God, we are not warranted to interpret the words in any other way than as a declaration that the personal Spirit—elsewhere called the finger of God and the power of God—adorned the heavens, and framed them to display the divine glory.

The Spirit of God made me, says Elihu, “and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life (Job xxxiii. 4). The reference to a personal agent standing in a unique relation to God—that is, from God, but personally distinct—is too express to be evaded by any subterfuge.

Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth (Ps. civ. 30). There the Psalmist speaks of God’s manifold works according to their order. He shows that God gives the animals their food; that He bides His face and they are troubled; that He takes away their breath and they die; that He sends forth His Spirit, and a fresh succession or race of animated beings is created. The title “Thy Spirit” distinguishes between the uncreated and the finite Spirit, and proves that the Spirit of God is the fountain of life; and that creation, amid all its necessary changes, receives from Him its renovating or rejuvenating power. The blossom and decay of vegetation; the succession of races on the earth’s surface; the bias impressed on various minds; the skill in arts; the manifold gifts which hold society together,—are all the workmanship of the Spirit.


We come to the indwelling of the Spirit in primeval man, which may be called the deep ground-thought of all right anthropology, as appears from these words: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. ii. 7). When God breathed into man the breath of LIFE (or LIVES, for it is plural), we must understand life in the Holy Spirit as well as animal and intellectual life. Calvin, and the mass of commentators since his day, have interpreted the words of the physical life, as if they intimated nothing more than the animation of the clay figure. The Patristic writers, Athanasius, Basil, Ambrose, and Cyril, refer the words to the occasion when God communicated the Spirit, the breath of the Almighty, the giver of the HIGHER as well as of the lower form of life. If further proof of the correctness of this interpretation were necessary, it is furnished by the contrast of DEATH threatened in the penalty, which certainly cannot be limited to natural death. Adam had the Spirit in the state of integrity, not only for himself, but for his seed; and he walked after the Spirit as long as he stood in his integrity. I must here refer a little more fully to the Spirit’s work in connection with the first Adam.

From the narrative of creation, brief but suggestive, which is given in Genesis, the great thought is derived that, according to the constitution which God was pleased to give to the first man among the creatures of His hand, not only was a federal unity assigned to him as the head of the race, but a relation to the whole Trinity which comes to light, in his being made in the image of God. That he not only bore a likeness to God’s perfections in his mental, moral, and religious constitution, but that lie was placed in a peculiarly CLOSE RELATION TO ALL THE PERSONS OF THE TRINITY,—nay, in a conscious personal relation to all the divine Persons,—is clearly intimated in the words: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. i. 26). The use of the plural number in the pronoun us is not to be reduced, according to the evacuating principle of Rationalism, to a mere mannerism in style. Dr. Owen has well remarked that God, having manifested by other parts of creation His existence, nature, and perfections, designed in the creation of man to manifest Himself in a trinity of persons; a remark setting forth a momentous truth only too little pondered. For the right interpretation of many passages of Scripture in their coherence and meaning, it is necessary to take this thought along with us.

The question now raised in theological circles in reference to man is: Did he, as God’s creature, realize in any measure His idea? And was he the object of divine complacency not only as the partaker of a pure nature, but as a Son who was then replenished, just as redeemed men are again replenished, with the Holy Spirit? Or, on the contrary, was he, according to the Rationalistic theory, formed in a low and rude condition, though capable of advancing in an ascending scale, and necessarily requiring even in his creation-state some further intervention to make him correspond to His idea? On exegetical grounds as well as on the ground of analogy, we must hold that man as he was formed not only corresponded to His idea as a Son within the sphere of creaturehood, but was the temple of the Holy Ghost. This is a view so essential to all right conceptions of our primeval relationship, that without it no sound anthropology can be maintained. The deep ground-thought presupposed by Christianity is, that Adam had the divine image and life from the Spirit of Life. It follows, accordingly, that the elements were already deposited in him by which he was in a position to reach the full perfection of his being, as he was. He needed only to have further developed that which was already in him, and to abide the probation under which he was placed.

The advocates of the Rationalistic conception of man—however variously it may be modified, and however imposing some aspects of it may at first sight appear—describe man’s original state as commencing with a low grade or type, and rising to a higher. But of all the forms in which this baseless theory has been presented, by far the most attractive is the novel theory supported, in our day, by many able men, that an incarnation would have entered to complete the idea of man even though no sin had ever entered to disturb the harmony of the universe. This favourite speculation2 of modern German theologians has no Biblical ground, but has a tendency to introduce a wholly different conception of man’s original state. It gives a false idea of his original integrity or perfection. According to this theory, they postulate the necessity of an incarnation to make man correspond to His idea; and what does that supposition involve? It necessarily implies imperfection in his very constitution, and in the adaptation of the means to the end designed. It reflects on the perfection of that nature in which our race was made. Assuming that man was formed by the Creator in an imperfect and rude state,—that is, without the elements that would have unfolded themselves in the full efflorescence of his being,—it takes for granted that the ideal of creation, without a new intervention from above, must have remained unrealized; that with all his natural powers exerted to the utmost, and with all the aids provided for him in his original sphere, he could not have completed his destiny without an intervention wholly new and supplementary. If there still remained a further extraordinary interposition to carry forward to completeness the act of creation which, by the supposition, was left imperfect—or, at least, unfinished—in kind as well as in degree; if nature required no mere development within its assigned sphere into the perfection of its capacities, but; was left defective in its structure or mental conformation from the first,—then everything most confidently accepted by inspired and uninspired men from the beginning is seen in a cross light and through a distorting medium. If imperfection, at least in the sense of incompleteness, attached in such a degree to creation in its normal state,—in other words, if it did not correspond to its idea,—reason would be staggered. The moral problem of responsibility—arduous enough as it is—would in that case be insoluble. We could not speak of all as “very good” in its primordial state, nor could we vindicate the ways of God to men. On the contrary, the representations of man from a Biblical point of view are to the effect that he had, from the first, realized and formed within him the divine idea to such an extent that he needed nothing more than the required probation in order to his being confirmed, and then exalted to an immensely higher degree, according to the promised reward.

We naturally ask whether the first Adam had the Holy Spirit at his creation. This must be affirmed whether we look at the exegetical grounds, which we hold to be conclusive (Gen. ii. 7), or at the analogy of the Second Adam. This has not been denied in any quarter entitled to respect, Patristic or Protestant. Bishop Bull has proved in his sermons, by quotations from the Fathers, that they believed firmly on the warrant of Scripture, that Adam along with the principle of natural life received also the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is a point that has never been taken up in earnest by any divine of note, with the single exception of Howe, whose Living Temple proceeds upon it as a postulate. The explanation of that omission, from which not only anthropology but the doctrines of grace have suffered not a little, may be the following. In a treatise which long passed under the name of Augustin, there was a formal denial of the position that Adam in his state of integrity was in the possession of the Spirit. The great influence of Augustin’s name, thus supposed to have pronounced a different judgment, seems mainly to have had the effect of repressing due inquiry, and of blunting statements which might otherwise have been at once clearer, ampler, and less reserved in the direction to which I have referred. That treatise, ascribed to Augustin,3 contains, however, so many gross mistakes and errors on many different points, and even on the doctrines of grace, on which the views of Augustin were the most pronounced, that any man might have detected the injury done to him by attributing such an unworthy composition to his pen. It is now with a general concurrence of opinion rejected as spurious, and replete with views which Angustin did not hold. The arguments from analogy which go to prove that Adam had the Spirit are conclusive.

The doctrine that man was originally, though mutably, replenished with the Spirit, may be termed the deep fundamental thought of the Scripture-doctrine of man. If the first and second Adam are so related that the first man was the analogue or figure of the second, as all admit on the authority of Scripture (tupo" tou mellonto", Rom. v. 12-14), it is clear that, unless the first man possessed the Spirit, the last man, the Healer or Restorer of the forfeited inheritance, would not have been the medium of giving the Spirit, who was withdrawn on account of sin, and who could be restored only on account of the everlasting righteousness which Christ brought in (Rom. viii. 10). Sin separated between the soul and God; and, according to the tenor of God’s just and holy moral government, the Spirit was of necessity withdrawn at the moment when Adam lent an ear to the tempter’s glozing words. And the privation to which man’s nature was subjected, as the term FLESH clearly shows (Gen. vi. 3), implies that he had forfeited that fulness of the Spirit which he once possessed, and which, but for sin, would have descended as an inheritance to his posterity.

The arguments against the view that Adam had the Spirit are wholly destitute of Biblical ground, and have no validity or weight. One ill-understood text has been adduced to prove that Adam was not replenished with the Spirit, viz.: “the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit” (1 Cor. xv. 45). That is the main argument in the spurious treatise ascribed to Augustin. But that passage, when closely examined, is no absolute antithesis; for the apostle aims to show that there is a natural body and a spiritual body, the one before the other; the one inherited from the first man, the other received from Him who is the quickening Spirit. But the apostle says nothing against Adam being replenished with the Spirit— nothing in favour of the notion which it was adduced to prove. On the contrary, it is clear that man must have realized his idea, for God pronounced all very good; and he had only to undergo the necessary probation, which implied that his nature, from the first, was so perfect that it might certainly have come out unhurt. Why, in fact, was there any probation at all, if man at his creation was left without the Spirit to guide and animate him? and how could he be tried if he did not answer his idea, as one supplied with all that was requisite for the trial, the successful issue of which would have placed him amid the glory and incorruption of the resurrection state?

There are two conclusions to which we must come: (1) Man as a creature, but with a certain standing as a son in the beloved Son, was the object of the divine complacency, though mutable; (2) His soul was inwardly irradiated with the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit, which might have been retained. That man stood at first related to all the persons of the Trinity, and bore the image of God, though mutably, upon his soul; that the Spirit of Life filled him for a service of holy love, may be accepted as a postulate in all our investigations—a postulate which Christianity, as a restorative or remedial economy, will not permit us to ignore, although it has never received the place to which it is entitled in any system of anthropology—Patristic or Protestant. But it may be affirmed, on the ground of the analogy between the two Adams, that Christ would not have been the medium of giving the Spirit, if the first man had not possessed the Spirit. The Spirit departed from the human family when Adam gave ear to the tempter’s seducing words; and the restoration by the second man implies the possession of the Spirit by ‘the first No one, in fact, can read the action of Christ on the first evening after His resurrection, and consider the symbolic breathing on the disciples, and the words which fell from Him in conveying a new gift of the Spirit, without an impression that these two acts were counter-parts—the one the original gift, the other the restoration of what was lost.4


  1. Milton, i. 21 and vii. 233.
  2. See Dorner’s Doctrine of the Person of Christ; Liebuer, Martensen, Ebrard.
  3. Vid. Qućt. ex utroque Testamento, Qućt. 123.
  4. See Basil on the breathing upon Adam and upon the apostles (Against Eunomius, V. 119).


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