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Basil the Great

On the Holy Spirit

From: Schaff - Wace, (ed)., Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II, v. 8, tr. by the Rev. Blomfield Jackson, London 1894.


Against those who assert that the Spirit ought not to be glorified.

48. "Be it so," it is rejoined, "but glory is by no means so absolutely due to the Spirit as to require His exaltation by us in doxologies." Whence then could we get demonstrations of the dignity of the our Spirit, "passing all understanding," if His communion with the Father and the Son were not reckoned by our opponents as good for testimony of His rank? It is, at all events, possible for us to arrive to a certain extent at intelligent apprehension of the sublimity of His nature and of His unapproachable power, by looking at the meaning of His title, and at the magnitude of His operations, and by His good gifts bestowed on us or rather on all creation. He is called Spirit, as "God is a Spirit," and "the breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord." He is called holy, as the Father is holy, and the Son is holy, for to the creature holiness was brought in from without, but to the Spirit holiness is the fulfilment of nature, and it is for this reason that He is described not as being sanctified, but as sanctifying. He is called good, as the Father is good, and He who was begotten of the Good is good, and to the Spirit His goodness is essence. He is called upright, as "the Lord is upright," in that He is Himself truth, and is Himself Righteousness, having no divergence nor leaning to one side or to the other, on account of the immutability of His substance. He is called Paraclete, like the Only begotten, as He Himself says," I will ask the Father, and He will give you another comforter." Thus names are borne by the Spirit in common with the Father and the Son, and He gets these titles from His natural and close relationship. From what other source could they be derived? Again He is called royal, Spirit of truth, and Spirit of wisdom. "The Spirit of God," it is said "hath made me," and God filled Bezaleel with "the divine Spirit of wisdom and understanding and knowledge." Such names as these are super-eminent and mighty, but they do not transcend His glory.

49. And His operations, what are they? For majesty ineffable, and for numbers innumerable. How shall we form a conception of what extends beyond the ages? What were His operations before that creation whereof we can conceive? How great the grace which He conferred on creation? What the power exercised by Him over the ages to come? He existed; He pre-existed; He co-existed with the Father and the Son before the ages. It follows that, even if you can conceive of anything beyond the ages, you will find the Spirit yet further above and beyond. And if you think of the creation, the powers of the heavens were established by the Spirit, the establishment being understood to refer to disability to fall away from good. For it is from the Spirit that the powers derive their close relationship to God, their inability to change to evil, and their continuance in blessedness. Is it Christ's advent? The Spirit is forerunner. Is there the incarnate presence? The Spirit is inseparable. Working of miracles, and gifts of healing are through the Holy Spirit. Demons were driven out by the Spirit of God. The devil was brought to naught by the presence of the Spirit. Remission of Sins was by the gift of the Spirit, for "ye were washed, ye were sanctified, ... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the holy Spirit of our God." There is close relationship with God through the Spirit, for "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father." The resurrection from the dead is effected by the operation of the Spirit, for "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth." If here creation may be taken to mean the bringing of the departed to life again, how mighty is not the operation of the Spirit, Who is to us the dispenser of the life that follows on the resurrection, and attunes our souls to the spiritual life beyond? Or if here by creation is meant the change to a better condition of those who in this life have fallen into sin, (for it is so understood according to the usage of Scripture, as in the words of Paul "if any man be in Christ he is a new creature"), the renewal which takes place in this life, and the transmutation from our earthly and sensuous life to the heavenly conversation which takes place in us through the Spirit, then our souls are exalted to the highest pitch of admiration. With these thoughts before us are we to be afraid of going beyond due bounds in the extravagance of the honour we pay? Shall we not rather fear lest, even though we seem to give Him the highest names which the thoughts of man can conceive or man's tongue utter, we let our thoughts about Him fall too low?

It is the Spirit which says, as the Lord says, "Get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them." Are these the words of an inferior, or of one in dread? "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." Does a slave speak thus? And Isaiah, "The Lord God and His Spirit hath sent me," and "the Spirit came down from the Lord and guided them." And pray do not again understand by this guidance some humble service, for the Word witnesses that it was the work of God;--"Thou leddest thy people," it is said "like a flock," and "Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock," and "He led them on safely, so that they feared not." Thus when yon hear that when the Comforter is come, He will put you in remembrance, and "guide you into all truth." do not misrepresent the meaning.

50. But, it is said that "He maketh intercession for us." It follows then that, as the suppliant is inferior to the benefactor, so far is the Spirit inferior in dignity to God. But have you never heard concerning the Only-begotten that He "is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us"? Do not, then, because the Spirit is in you,--if indeed He is at all in you,--nor yet because He teaches us who were blinded, and guides us to the choice of what profits us,--do not for this reason allow yourself to be deprived of the right and holy opinion concerning Him. For to make the loving kindness of your benefactor a ground of ingratitude were indeed a very extravagance of unfairness. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit;" hear the words of Stephen, the first fruits of the martyrs, when he reproaches the people for their rebellion and disobedience; "you do always," he says, "resist the Holy Ghost;" and again Isaiah,--"They vexed His Holy Spirit, therefore He was turned to be their enemy;" and in another passage, "the house of Jacob angered the Spirit of the Lord." Are not these passages indicative of authoritative power? I leave it to the judgment of my readers to determine what opinions we ought to hold when we hear these passages; whether we are to regard the Spirit as an instrument, a subject, of equal rank with the creature, and a fellow servant of ourselves, or whether, on the contrary, to the ears of the pious the mere whisper of this blasphemy is not most grievous. Do you call the Spirit a servant? But, it is said, "the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth," and yet the Spirit knoweth the things of God, as "the spirit of man that is in him."

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