Horatius Bonar: The Holy Spirit, Not Power but Person

19 12 2011

How do we think of the Holy Spirit? Some churches don’t think about him at all. But those who do, often think of him as a power or influence. So in some churches the Holy Spirit is articulated as a force that works on the heart for conversion. In other churches the Holy Spirit is a force that makes us feel good. In other churches the Holy Spirit is a force that creates power for believers to perform miraculous works of healing. Some go so far as to imagine him as a wild storm, blowing throughout the church thoughtlessly and without purpose. But here is the problem with that kind of thinking. When we reduce the Holy Spirit to a power, and not a person, then he is merely an accessory (albeit a neccessary asscessory) to the persons of the Father and the Son. You can have a relationship with a person, but not an accesssory. But the scriptures understand the Spirit as a person. He is powerful, but he is not power. He is a person who applies his power thoughtfully and purposefully. And how is it applied? Bonar says it is applied chiefly through love, thus he calls it “The Gospel of the Love of the Holy Spirit.” Enjoy!

Perhaps much of our slow progress in the walk of faith is to be traced to our overlooking the love of the Spirit. We do not deal with Him, for strength and advancement, as one who really loveth us, and longs to bless us, and delights to help our infirmities (Rom 8:26). We regard Him as cold, or distant, or austere; we do not trust Him for His grace, nor realize how much He is in earnest in His dealings with us. More childlike confidence in Him and in His love would help us on mightily. Let us not grieve Him, nor vex Him, nor quench Him by our untrustfulness, by disbelieving or doubting the riches of His grace, the abundance of His loving-kindness.

He is no mere “influence,” but a living “Personality”; and there is a vast difference between these two things. An “influence” cannot love us, and we cannot love an “influence.” If there is to be love, there must be personality; and, in this case, it must be the personality of love. The fresh breath of spring is an influence, but not a personality. It cannot love us nor call on us to love it. The voice of that which we call “nature” is an influence, but not a personality. There can be no mutual love between it and us. But a being with a soul is a personality, not an influence; and the love of man or woman is a personal thing, a true and real affection-one eye looking into another, and one heart touching its fellow. So is it with the love of the Spirit. There is a personality about Him passing all the personalities of earth,-passing all the personalities of men or angels; and it is this divine personality that makes His love so precious and so suitable, as well as so true and real. There is no reality of love like that of the Spirit. It has nothing in common with the coldness or distance of a mere “influence.” It comes closely home to a human heart, because it is the love of Him who formed the heart, and who is seeking to make it His abode for ever.

The proofs of His love are abundant. They are divine proofs; and, therefore, assuredly true. It is God who has given them to us, that no doubt of the Spirit’s love may ever enter our minds. They are spread over all Scripture, in different forms and aspects. While the Bible was meant to be specially the revelation of the Son of God, it is also the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He reveals Himself while revealing Christ. He utters His own love while showing us the love of the Father and the Son.

Bonar, “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit’s Love” Read it all here



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