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Definitive conceptions about the Spirit which conform to the teaching of the Scriptures.
22. Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture concerning It as those which we have received from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. First of all we ask, who on hearing the titles of the Spirit is not lifted up in soul, who does not raise his conception to the supreme nature? It is called “Spirit of God,”911911 Matt. xii. 28, etc. “Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father,”912912 John xv. 26. “right Spirit,”913913 Ps. li. 10. “a leading Spirit.”914914 Ps. li. 12, lxx. R.V. and A.V., “free spirit.” Its915915 It will be remembered that in the Nicene Creed “the Lord and Giver of life” is τὸ κύριον τὸ ζωοποιόν In A.V. we have both he (John xv. 26, ἐκεῖνος) and it (Rom. viii. 16, αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα). proper and peculiar title is “Holy Spirit;” which is a name specially appropriate to everything that is incorporeal, purely immaterial, and indivisible. So our Lord, when teaching the woman who thought God to be an object of local worship that the incorporeal is incomprehensible, said “God is a spirit.”916916 John iv. 24. On our hearing, then, of a spirit, it is impossible to form the idea of a nature circumscribed, subject to change and variation, or at all like the creature. We are compelled to advance in our conceptions to the highest, and to think of an intelligent essence, in power infinite, in magnitude unlimited, unmeasured by times or ages, generous of Its good gifts, to whom turn all things needing sanctification, after whom reach all things that live in virtue, as being watered by Its inspiration and helped on toward their natural and proper end; perfecting all other things, but Itself in nothing lacking; living not as needing restoration, but as Supplier of life; not growing by additions; but straightway full, self-established, omnipresent, origin of sanctification, light perceptible to the mind, supplying, as it were, through Itself, illumination to every faculty in the search for truth; by nature unapproachable, apprehended by reason of goodness, filling all things with Its power,917917 cf. Wisdom i. 7. but communicated only to the worthy; not shared in one measure, but distributing Its energy according to “the proportion of faith;”918918 Rom. xii. 6. in essence simple, in powers various, wholly present in each and being wholly everywhere; impassively divided, shared without loss of ceasing to be entire, after the likeness of the sunbeam, whose kindly light falls on him who enjoys it as though it shone for him alone, yet illumines land and sea and mingles with the air. So, too, is the Spirit to every one who receives it, as though given to him alone, and yet It sends forth grace sufficient and full for all mankind, and is enjoyed by all who share It, according to the capacity, not of Its power, but of their nature.
23. Now the Spirit is not brought into
intimate association with the soul by local approximation. How
indeed could there be a corporeal approach to the incorporeal?
This association results from the withdrawal of the passions which,
coming afterwards gradually on the soul from its friendship to the
flesh, have alienated it from its close relationship with God.
Only then after a man is purified from the shame whose stain he took
through his wickedness, and has come back again to his natural beauty,
and as it were cleaning the Royal Image and restoring its ancient form,
only thus is it possible for him to draw near to the
Theodoret, Dial. i. p. 164, Schaff and Wace’s ed.
“Sin is not of nature, but of corrupt will.” So
the ninth article of the English Church describes it as not the
nature, but the “fault and corruption of the nature, of every
man.” On the figure of the restored picture cf.
Ath. de Incar. § 14, and Theod.
Dial. ii. p. 183. And He, like
the sun, will by the aid of thy purified eye show thee in Himself
the image of the invisible, and in the blessed spectacle of the
image thou shalt behold the unspeakable beauty of the
archetype.920920 cf. Ep.
236. “Our mind enlightened by the Spirit, looks toward
the Son, and in Him, as in an image, contemplates the
Father.” There seems at first sight some confusion in
the text between the “Royal Image” in us and Christ as
the image of God; but it is in proportion as we are like Christ that
we see God in Christ. It is the “pure in heart”
who “see God.” Through His
aid hearts are lifted up, the weak are held by the hand, and they
who are advancing are brought to perfection.921921
“Proficientes perficiuntur.” Ben.
Ed. Shining upon those that are cleansed
from every spot, He makes them spiritual by fellowship with
Himself. Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and
transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed
forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the
Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become
spiritual, and send forth their grace to others.
Hence comes foreknowledge
of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is
hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a
place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the
being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made
thought has its most famous expression in Ath. de Incar.
§ 54. He was made man that we might be made
God—Θεοποιηθῶμεν. cf. De Decretis, § 14, and
other passages of Ath. Irenæus (Adv. Hær. iv. 38
[lxxv.]) writes “non ab initio dii facti sumus, sed
primo quidem homines, tunc demum dii.” “Secundum enim
benignitatem suam bene dedit bonum, et similes sibi suæ potestatis
homines fecit;” and Origen (contra Celsum, iii.
28), “That the human nature by fellowship with the more divine
might be made divine, not in Jesus only, but also in all those who with
faith take up the life which Jesus taught;” and Greg. Naz.
Or. xxx. § 14, “Till by the power of the incarnation
he make me God.”
In Basil adv. Eunom. ii. 4. we have, “They who are perfect in virtue are deemed worthy of the title of God.”
cf. 2 Pet. i. 4: “That ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” Such, then, to instance a few out of many, are the conceptions concerning the Holy Spirit, which we have been taught to hold concerning His greatness, His dignity, and His operations, by the oracles923923 ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν τῶν λογίων τοῦ πνεύματος. St. Basil is as unconscious as other early Fathers of the limitation of the word λόγια to “discourses.” Vide Salmon’s Int. to the N.T. Ed. iv. p. 95. of the Spirit themselves.
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