Of the Work of the Holy Ghost
(the third person of the trinity)
In Our Salvation
A general and brief scheme of the whole of that work committed to the Holy Spirit in bringing us to salvation; in an enumeration of all particulars, and of the glory due unto him for it.—The work of the Holy Spirit in the unction of Jesus to be our Saviour.
Some general observations premised out of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of St John’s Gospel.
There is a general omission in the saints of God, in their not giving the Holy Ghost that glory that is due to his person, and for his great work of salvation in us, insomuch that we have in our hearts almost lost this third person. We give daily in our thoughts, prayers, affections, and speeches, an honour to the Father and the Son; but who almost directs the aims of his praise (more than in that general way of doxology we use to close our prayers with, ‘All glory be,’ &c.) unto God the Holy Ghost? He is a person in the Godhead equal with the Father and the Son; and the work he doth for us in its kind is as great as those of the Father or the Son. Therefore, by the equity of all law, a proportionable honour from us is due to him. God’s ordination amongst men is, that we should ‘render to all their due, honour to whom honour is due,’ Rom. 13:1. To the magistracy (which there he speaks it of) according to their place and dignity; and this he makes a debt, a due, ver. 8. And the like is enjoined concerning ministers, that are instruments of our spiritual good, that we should ‘esteem them very highly for their work’s sake,’ 1 Thes. 5:13. Let the same law, I beseech you, take place in your hearts towards the Holy Ghost, as well as the other two persons of the Trinity. The Holy Ghost is indeed the last in order of the persons, as proceeding from the other two, yet in the participation of the Godhead he is equal with them both; and in his work, though it be last done for us, he is not behind them, nor in the glory of it inferior to what they have in theirs. And indeed he would not be God, equal with the Father and the Son, if the work allotted to him, to shew he is God, were not equal unto each of theirs. And indeed, no less than all that is done, or to be done in us, was left to the Holy Ghost’s share, for the ultimate execution of it; and it was not left him as the refuse, it being as necessary and as great as any of theirs. But he being the last person, took his own lot of the works about our salvation, which are the last, which is to apply all, and to make all actually ours, whatever the other two had done afore for us. The scope of this treatise is to set forth this work to you in the amplitude of it, to the end you may accordingly in your hearts honour this blessed and holy Spirit. And surely if to neglect the notice and observation of an attribute of God, eminently imprinted on such or such a work of God’s, as of power in the creation, justice in governing the world, mercy in bearing with sinners, grace in our salvation; if this be made so great a sin (Rom. 1) then it must be deemed a greater diminution to the Godhead to neglect the glorifying one of these persons, who is possessed of the whole Godhead and attributes, when he is manifested or interested in any work most gloriously.
In prosecution of my design, to persuade you to honour the Holy Ghost as you do the Father and the Son, I shall consider the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John, and make some general observations upon various passages in those chapters serving to this purpose; and we shall see therein what a valuation the Father and the Son, the other persons with him, have in those chapters put upon him and hi work, and what a great and singular matter they make of his work, and what a great and singular matter they make of his work, and what divine esteem of his person, as by Christ’s speeches scattered up and down therein appears. Though the Father himself doth not immediately speak, yet the Son doth in his name, as well as in his own. And you may well take their judgments, for they are sharers and co-rivals with him in point of glory about our salvation; the work of which I shall only treat of.
There are these general observations which I shall make upon the whole series of the aforesaid chapters, which serve the design of my discourse.
Obs. 1. First, Our Saviour had abundantly in all his former sermons discoursed both his work and hand in our salvation, as also his Father’s; and now at last, just when he was to go out of the world, he then, and not till then, doth more plainly and more fully discover to them this third person, that had an after-work left to him, who to that end was to come when he should be gone, and was to come visibly upon the stage, to act visibly a new scene of works, left by the Father and himself unto him: John 14:16, ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter.’ He had said, chap. 8:17, that ‘the testimony of two men’ (or persons) ‘is true;’ and that he himself was one witness of those two there spoken of, and his Father another: ver. 18, ‘I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.’ And he tells us here, you see, that there is yet another, distinct from the Father and himself; for in his saying, ‘I will pray the Father to give you another Comforter,’ he must mean a third person, distinct from them both, to be that other. And more over this Spirit, as another person, is said likewise to be a third witness of, and unto Christ; John 15:26, and so is to be joined as a person, and third witness with these two: ‘When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me;’ like as of the Father and himself, the same had been spoken in that chap. 8 ver. 18, last cited. And the coherence with ver. 17 argues their being witnesses alike, to be distinct persons each from other, for, ver. 17, he allegeth the law, ‘It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.’ For therein lies the validity of their testimony, that they must be two men or two persons that make up a legal testimony. And in this 15th chap. ver. 26, there is the Holy Ghost as a third witness brought into court to testify with both; and therefore he is a person if a witness, for there are three persons if three witnesses, and the law itself he cites says, ‘Under the mouth of two or three witnesses shall the matter be established,’ Deut. 19:15, and Matt. 18:16. We may also observe how industriously careful Christ is further to characterise this person of the Holy Spirit, the author of these works, and to describe who he was, and what manner of person, that they might be sure to mind him, and have a regard to him, and to know whom and to what name they were to be so much beholden. Thus, ver. 26, ‘The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost’ (says he); and ver. 17, ‘Even the Spirit of truth;’ and chap. 15:26, ‘Whom I will send unto you from the Father, who proceedeth from the Father.’ Which last addition is to shew the divine procession of the Holy Ghost, and the original and the consubstantiality of his person, to be out of the substance of the Father, proceeding from him; as (1 Cor. 2:12) the apostle signaliseth him, ‘The Spirit that is out of God;’ or (which is all one) that hath his subsistence, or his being a person, by proceeding from God the Father, and so being God with God, insomuch as it is not in anywise to be understood that he subsisted extra Deum, out of, or separate from God; for he had said, ver. 11, that he is in God, even as the spirit of a man is said to be in him.
Some would understand that speech of Christ’s, ‘Who proceedeth from the Father,’ to be meant in respect of God’s sending him forth to us, and his embassage to us. But that had been said by Christ in the words afore, ‘Whom I will send from the Father;’ and therefore to intend the words after—‘Who cometh from the Father’—of an ambassador’s sending, had been needless, for Christ had said that already; and therefore if that had been all the meaning of that addition, he had but said the same over a second time. There is therefore, in those speeches, a manifest distinguishing between that dispensatory sending of him from the Father to them, and that substantial proceeding of his from the Father, as a third person; and this is added to shew the original ground, why it must be from the Father that he sends him, and with his consent first had; because his very person is by proceeding from the Father, and therefore this his office too. And therefore that latter is spoken in the present time, whereas that other speech of Christ’s, ‘Whom I will send from the Father,’ is in the future; because the Holy Ghost his dispensatory sending, both from the Father and from Christ, was yet to come; whereas this personal proceeding of his from the Father was then, when he spake it, and is continually, and had been from eternity.
Now the tendency of these reiterated designations of the person, doth manifest Christ’s sedulous intention, and tender regard to, and for the honour of this, so great a person; and to raise up in their hearts a valuation of this person himself, that should be the Comforter; and to make them careful to give glory to him, even the Holy Ghost, as a third person, and the Comforter. As likewise to assure them of his coming upon them, when himself was gone; and that therefore they might honour him in his coming, for his work, as he would have them to honour himself for his own work, and coming in the flesh. It is as if he had said, I would not, for that honour I ever look for from yourselves, that you should go attribute the comfort you shall have, or the revealing of truth to you (from which he is called ‘the Spirit of truth’), so unto me or my Father alone, as to neglect or omit to give him his peculiar honour in it; for it properly, and of due, belongs to him. You are and shall be beholden to me and my Father, for the sending of him; but you are to be especially beholden to himself, for that work he doth in you, being sent by us. Be sure therefore to take notice of him and his person, distinct both from me and my Father. For it is ‘another Comforter’ (says he, ver. 16) ‘which is the Holy Ghost,’ (ver. 26), and therefore you ought as distinctly to glorify him as you would do us.
Obs. 2. The second observation is concerning the particular works which Christ says are his, and for which we are to honour him. And an enumeration of his works being the scope of this my discourse, we may find divers particulars that are the most eminent of them, named and specified in these chapters to our hand, which will sufficiently serve for me to take the mention of them, for an example to me to proceed to specify other works that are attributed to him elsewhere. This I premise, because I would not be obliged to fetch each of them which I shall after name out of these chapters, and so to confine myself thereto.
The particular eminent work indeed on which he insists in these chapters, is, that of being a Comforter to them; for the occasion of these sermons was to relieve and pacify the apostles’ minds, against his own leaving them, as they thought, desolate. But therewith he further brings in other works of his besides, and in effect that he should do all, that they had need of his help in. He insinuates to them how much already themselves had been obliged unto him for his working hitherto in them, which he calls them to look back upon, for they had received them already in regenerating, converting and calling them out from the world (which was his first and great work in them), and so distinguished them from the world. Thus chap. 14:16, 17, ‘The Comforter, the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him;’ that is, knows him not by experience of any saving work upon them, and so they cannot receive him as a comforter, because it is necessary they first receive him as a converter. ‘But ye know him,’ and have found him to have begotten you again; ‘for he dwelleth in you,’ hath come and taken possession of you, and acted hitherto in you all that spiritual good that hath been found in you, and thereby hath taken everlasting possession of you, as it follows: ‘and shall be in you,’ to perfect all that is wanting, and that for ever, as verse 16.
A second work there specified is, that he should be to them a ‘Spirit of truth,’ ‘to lead them into all truth,’ which, as a sacred depositum, he was by them, as apostles, to leave unto the rest of the world; chap. 14:26, ‘He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’ And not only so, but shall suggest new to you, chap. 16:12, 13, ‘I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.’
A third work instanced in is, that ‘He will shew you things to come;’ and this to that end, that ye may teach and write them to others, chap. 15:26, 27. He shall bear witness of me, and you shall bear witness of me.
A fourth work specified is, to sanctify them against sin and corruption. This work is imported in his name, ‘the Holy Spirit,’ as the other, of leading them into all truth, is signified by that other title, ‘the Spirit of truth;’ for he is termed the Holy Spirit, because he sanctifies: Rom. 15:16, ‘Being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.’
Fifthly, He shall be a Comforter to you, against all sorrows, chap. 14:16, 17, 18.
Sixthly, He shall assist and direct you in all your prayers, and be the inditer of them for you; and so effectually as to obtain what you shall ask, chap. 16:23, ‘Verily, verily, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you; hitherto have you asked nothing in my name;’ for the Holy Ghost was not as yet given, as he in these chapters promiseth he should be. ‘But in that day,’ namely, when the Holy Ghost is come, ‘ye shall ask in my name,’ then (as in chap. 14:20). ‘In that day,’—namely, when the Comforter is come, that word in that day refers thereunto—‘ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me.’ These works he specifies as to themselves.
But withal, seventhly, he mentions his works upon the world, by their ministry, unto whom they were sent. He shall be a converter and convincer of the world; that is, the glory of the conversion of the Gentiles is reserved for him, by your ministry: chap. 16 verses 8, 9, ‘When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me,’ &c. To which three enumerations the total of the work of conversion is reduced, of which afterwards.
Obs. 3. Thirdly, observe what Christ says, I myself must be gone (saith he) and disappear, to the end it may appear that all this whole work is his, not mine: ver. 7, ‘If I go not away, the Comforter will not come.’ He will not do these works while I am here, and I have committed all to him. That look, as my Father hath visibly ‘committed all judgment unto me,’ (John 5:22, 23, ‘For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father’), so here: I and my Father will send him, having committed all these things to him, that all men might honour the Holy Ghost, even as they honour the Father and the Son. Even as in like manner the reason why the Spirit was not sent, whilst Christ was on earth, was to shew that not the Father alone sent him, but that he came from Christ, as well as from the Father. And so Christ, he went to heaven to shew that both Father and Son would send the Holy Ghost from thence, Acts 2:32, 33, ‘This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which you see and hear.’ Thus wary and careful are every of the persons to provide for the honour of each other in our hearts. And as careful should we be to give it to them accordingly.
Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin. Vol. 6. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), 3-7. Public Domain
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