How the Holy Ghost is the author of regeneration, or the first application of salvation to us, in a more peculiar manner, comparatively to the other two persons.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. — Titus III. 5, 6.
Regeneration, you see, is attributed to the Spirit as the author, it is termed the ‘renewing of the Holy Ghost’ and likewise the ‘shedding forth the Holy Ghost’ is magnified as the rich gift and blessing of the New Testament.
I have in a former discourse shewn how all the three persons have shared and distributed the whole work of our salvation amongst them, unto three several parts. 1. Election is appropriated to the Father. 2. Redemption to the Son. 3. Application of both to the Holy Ghost; who accordingly doth bear several offices suited to these three works.
That which now I have to do, is more particularly to demonstrate both the óti and dioti of this point of great moment; both that and why this last part of salvation, viz., application, and so principally this of regeneration, is attributed to the Holy Ghost.
I. I shall produce scriptures to demonstrate this point.
1. The first Scripture is John iii. 5, ‘Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ This scripture shews not only the necessity of being born again, but withal that it must be the Spirit, who must do it, or it will not be done. ‘For no man can so much as say, Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit,’ 1 Cor. xii. 3.
2. The near kindred and dependence the new creature hath with and upon the Spirit, as the child begotten hath of and with its proper father, dote evidence the same truth.
- The new creature is in the same third of John, ver. 6, styled spirit (as elsewhere it is called a spiritual man, 1 Cor. ii.), That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ It is therefore professedly baptized into the same name, because the father of this new birth and baptism is the Spirit. With men the begotten bears the name of the most immediate parent; and so this case, though this work of the Spirit be in common termed the divine nature (2 Peter i. 4) because it is the image of the Godhead, of which all three persons are partakers, yet to show that in a more peculiar manner it is the child of the Spirit, it is called spirit.
- For the very same reason this Spirit of God, the author, relatively beam the name of Holy in the New Testament, where it is (though not first) yet more frequently used as his special title, to be called ‘The Holy Ghost, as our old English hath rendered it to us. Is not the Father holy, and the Son holy, and both equally holy with this Holy Spirit? Yes, essentially and personally also in themselves; ‘Holy, holy, holy,’ they are all proclaimed, Isa. vi. How came these other two to bear it, that he, the third person, should have the peculiar style of Holy? It is not neither in a peculiar, neither in a personal or essential respect, but relatively unto that which is his proper and peculiar work, because he sanctifies and makes us holy, and so merits that name; as Christ doth of our Saviour, and the Father of God the Father and Maker. And here let me return to the necessity of this person’s making us holy. As it is necessary for Christ to redeem us, there is an absolute necessity that we all be a sanctified holy sacrifice offered up to God, if we look to be saved, or otherwise we must be made a sacrifice of his wrath, as Christ hath told us, Mark ix. 49. Where he having threatened, if lust be not killed, men shall be cast into the fire that is unquenchable (ver. 47, 48), he adds this as a reason, that every man is to be a sacrifice to God one way or other. According to the old law some sacrifices were consumed with fire, as the burnt-offerings; some seasoned with salt, to sink up the corrupt moisture in them, Lev. ii. 18. One sort of these sacrifices all men must become; if not sanctified by the Spirit, so as to have salt in them, then with hell-fire, which also is a sacrifice to God. Now Christ for our redemption offered up himself a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savour, Eph. v. 2; and it was necessary he should be so. And to that end he sacrificed himself, as in his sacrificial prayer he speaks, John xvii. 19. And it is as necessary, if we be saved, that our persons be offered up unto God as a sacrifice also, Rom. xii. 1, even a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God It was necessary, therefore, we should have a sanctifier of us to be an offering unto God, as well as a redeemer, that offered up himself for us. And who is that? You are directed to him in Rom. xv., ‘This is the issue of my ministry,’ (says Paul, speaking of. his converting the nations, ver. 18, 19) ‘that the Gentiles’ (being converted) ‘might be an offering acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.’ Else never to be acceptable to God. Christ was sanctified immediately by himself, by the personal union with the Son of God— ‘I sanctity myself’ —even as he also ‘offered up himself by the eternal Spirit,’ or Godhead dwelling in him, Heb. ix.; but we by the Holy Ghost. And as in that other speech, ‘That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,’ the new creature bears his name; so here, he is called the Holy Spirit, or bears the name of holy, because the sanctifier of us: ‘Being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.’
3. The work of conversion, not only in the whole, but in every part thereof, is attributed to him,John xvi. 8, 9, 10. It is (as I hinted afore, and shall shew hereafter) divided into three parts. 1. Conviction of sin. 2. Of righteousness for justification. 3. Of judgment, holiness, and reformation; and the Spirit is there made the author of these three. And according to this division of the parts thereof, he hath titles also given him, as in relation to his immediate working of these three.
- He condescends to be termed ‘the Spirit of bondage;’ I say, he condescends but to the work and name; for otherwise, and in himself, he is ‘the free Spirit,’ (Ps. Ii. 11, 12), and delights in comforting us, not in grieving us. And he is therefore also called ‘the Comforter;’ but yet to affect our salvation, and the effectual application of it to us, he (contrary to his nature) becomes our jailor, takes the keys of death and damnation into his custody, and shuts up our spirits under the law, as it is a schoolmaster to Christ, rattles the chains, lets us see the sin and punishment we deserve. He convinceth of sin, John xvi., and becomes a ‘Spirit of bondage,’ Born. viii. 15.
- But then, secondly, in regard of the revealing God’s love to us, and Christ and his righteousness, by whom we are adopted, and by which justified, he is called in the same place ‘the Spirit of adoption,’ ‘the Spirit of faith,’ as some interpret, 2 Cor. iv. 13. Barnabas was ‘full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith,’ Acts xi. 24.
- In regard of sanctifying us, and convincing of judgment, he is in the Old Testament enstyled the ‘Spirit of judgment,’ Isa. iv. 4, in respect of washing away the filth of sin: ‘When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of Zion, by the Spirit of judgment,’ &c. And in the New he is entitled ‘the Spirit of grace:’ Heb. x. 29 ‘Have done despite to the Spirit of grace,’ that is, to him as going about to work grace and holiness in the heart. The sin against the Holy Ghost, which is there described, not being against the person of the Spirit, so much as against him in his workings; and that in his working grace and sanctifying, as in the words afore you have it. And as to grace in the general, as he is the author of every particular grace, so in the head himself, therefore much more in the members. The prophet, speaking of the Messiah in Isa. xi. 1, ‘The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,’ and shall be in him, in respect of his effects upon him, ‘the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.’ There is the like reason he should be denominated from every other grace. He is in one chapter, John xiv., termed The Spirit of truth,’ ver. 17, who reveals all truth to the understanding; ‘The Holy Spirit,’ who sanctifies the will, the chief subject of holiness; ‘The Comforter,’ who fills the heart with joy and peace in believing; which is therefore usually styled ‘joy in the Holy Ghost,’ in multitudes of places; that phrase speaking him not so much the object of it (which is rather Christ, 1 Peter i. 8, ‘In whom believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorious;’ and God, Rom. v. 11) as the author of it: Rom. xv. 18, ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’
II. I shall now, secondly, give the reasons why this work is committed to him, and is his lot. These reasons are not of logical demonstration, but harmonious, by comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and by the suiting of one thing with another, in which the strength of divine reason lies; for divinity is a wisdom, not an art.
1. This operation of the Spirit is in a correspondency to the creation of the first man, who was a type of what was to come: Job xxxiii. 4, ‘The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.’ It is evident he speaks of the new creation, in allusion to the old: ver. 1-3, ‘My word shall be of the uprightness of my heart, and my lips shall utter knowledge thereby;’ and then adds, ‘The Spirit of God bath made me,’ that is, hath given me a sincere heart, an illuminated mind, put the words of life into me. To have spoken of his first creation only, he being a man fallen from it, had been a poor argument to persuade Job of the truth of his heart, and the truths he went about to utter. And yet, too, he as evidently alludes to the first creation: Gen. ii. 7, ‘The Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.’ Now, in this new creation, we being dead in sins and trespasses, it is the Spirit of God that giveth life, 2 Cor. in. 6; who, as in respect of giving us this new life, is called ‘the Spirit of the living God,’ ver. 3; and in the Old Testament, Ezek. xxxvii. 13, 14, ‘I will bring you out of your graves, I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live,’ which you find in the 36th chapter, ver. 27. And it is observable that the first visible giving the Holy Ghost, which was after Christ’s resurrection, to enable them to be ‘ministers, not of the letter, but of the Spirit,’ which should give life to them, and to others by them, was the ceremony of breathing on them: ‘And he said, Receive the Holy Ghost,’ John xx. 22. We had his blood that ran in his veins first, and it is efficacious to wash away the guilt of sin. We have his breath next, which comes out of the inwards of him, which conveys his Spirit, which conveys himself into cur inwards, as it is in the prophet, and gives us life. And as life comes with the breath of God breathed at first, and goes away with it, so doth spiritual life upon the going or coming of the Holy Ghost upon us.
2. It is the Spirit that converts and regenerates us, and forms the new creature in us, in a conformity to our head Christ. The Holy Ghost was, 1. The immediate former of the human nature of Christ in the womb; 2. The uniter of that nature to the Son of God; 3. The sanctifier thereof, with all graces dwelling therein above all measure.
- He was the former of the human nature of Christ in the womb: Mat. i. 18, ‘She was found with child of the Holy Ghost;’ and ver. 20, ‘that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost;’ which was in his forming and fitting that matter into a man, which the prolific virtue useth to do.
- He was the uniter of it to the divine, and sanctifier of it with all graces, both which you have expressed in another place: Luke i. 35, ‘And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’ Now, we being to be made as comformable to Christ as is possible, it was correspondent that the same person who was designed to form Christ’s body for the Godhead to dwell in all its fulness should form Christ in us, that God and Christ may dwell in us: 1 Cor. iii. 16, ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’ That same person that made that happy match, the personal union between Christ’s human nature and the divine, the same person makes the union between Christ and our souls; and so we become one spirit with the Lord, 1 Cor. vi. 17. The same person that made the man Christ partaker of the divine nature maketh us also. There is a higher correspondency yet. The Holy Ghost is vinculum Trinitatus, the union of the Father and the Son, as proceeding from both by way of love; and who so meet to be the union of God and man in Christ, of Christ and men in us, as he that was the bond of union among themselves?
- In respect of sanctifying that human nature of Christ, it was the Holy Ghost who made him Christ, that anointed him with himself, and all his graces: Isa. xi.2, ‘The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.’ The graces of Christ, as man, are attributed to this Spirit, as the immediate author of them; for although the Son of God dwelt personally in the human nature, and so advanced that nature above the ordinary rank of creatures, and raised it up to that dignity and worth, yet all his habitual graces, which even his soul was full of, were from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit is therefore said to be ‘given him without measure.’ And this inhabitation of the Holy Ghost did in some sense and degree concur to constitute him Christ, which, as you know, is the anointed one of God: Acts iv. 27, ‘Thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed.’ Anointed with what? Acts x. 38, ‘God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost.’ Now, then, if the Spirit made him Christ, and concurred in this respect to make him the anointed of God, much more is the that make us Christians.
3. Consider what this application of salvation unto us is. It is the revelation of the mind and love of God and Christ unto us, and the things of both. He that dote this must ‘take of mine,’ says Christ; and in doing so he must take of my Father’s also, for all the Father hath or doth is Christ’s. You have both in one place: John xvi. 14, 15, ‘He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you. All things teat the Father hath are mine.’ Great persons woo not by themselves, but employ ambassadors and ministers of state; and so doth Christ. Now, who should do this but the Spirit, who knows the heart and mind of God? 1 Cor. ii., ‘We have received the Spirit who is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God;’ that is, by our having him from God, who knows all that is in God, which is the reason there given; ver. 10, ‘God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God;’ which he confirms and illustrates by a similitude fetched from our own bosoms: ver. 11, ‘For what man,’ that is, what other man, ‘knows the things of a man’ (that are in his own breast), ‘save the spirit of a man teat is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man,’ or angel, ‘but the Spirit of God;’ who being the Spirit of counsel (Isa. xi. 2) even to Christ himself, helped him to all God’s secrets; and he also being privy and overhearing (as John xvi. 13), all that the Father and Christ have intended to us, and spoken about us, was only fit to reveal them unto us. And thus by him we come to have the very mind of God and Christ. The grace of Christ, and the love of God the Father, are revealed to us by the communion of the Holy Ghost, 2 Cor. xiii. 14.
Thomas Goodwin was born near Yarmouth in 1600, and not expected to survive childhood, and died in his eightieth year, in 1679, at the end of a life of unusual influence and after a ministry characterized by a rich knowledge of Holy Scripture and close acquaintance with the operations of the human heart.
Chosen a Fellow and Lecturer at St. Catherine’s Hall, from 1625-1634, Goodwin served as a preacher and lecturer in the University, until, in the rising persecution he emigrated to Holland. After the impeachment of Archbishop Laud by the Long Parliament, he returned to England and gathered a church in London. Thereafter his commanding presence was soon recognized and his influence was prominent in the Westminster Assembly where he led the brethren of Independent persuasion. He counselled Oliver Cromwell in the spiritual concerns of the Protector’s last hours.
No doubts appear to have attended his own experience of death; among his last words were these; ‘I could not have imagined I should have had such a measure of faith in this hour . . . My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No. I have the whole of his righteousness . . . Christ cannot love me better than he doth. I think I cannot love Christ better than I do. I am swallowed up in God.’