The Spirit Triune -- By: Samuel W. Howland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 059:233 (Jan 1902)
Article: The Spirit Triune
Author: Samuel W. Howland


The Spirit Triune

Rev. Samuel W. Howland

The Trinity of Deity has been discussed more perhaps than any other subject, chiefly because some of the most important doctrines of Christianity seemed to be dependent upon it. It is not satisfactory to say, as some do, that it is above reason and therefore we must not expect to express it in rational form. God is the Absolute Reason, and his mode of existence cannot be above reason. And since we also are rational beings, we ought to be able to have a reasonable idea of his nature and existence, even though we cannot comprehend the Infinite to perfection. There are several ways by which we may attain a clearer knowledge of God. We may reason a priori as to what must be, and therefore is, and with this include the intuitions of reason, as well as what we may call direct personal knowledge of God. But this method, though valid, is very liable to errors of interpretation, and its results must be tested, or verified, by a simpler method—the revelations of God’s word. In addition to this, we may take our stand on the teaching of reason and Scripture, that man is the offspring of God and in his image, and learn something about God from the knowledge of ourselves. This latter method has not been made use of as much as the others, and yet it may be quite helpful. To know God spiritually is life eternal, and the clearer knowledge to which these methods may help us may be the means to a fuller, richer, and more fruitful life.

God is a spirit (John 4:24); angels are spirits (Heb. 1:14); in man there is a spirit, which is the breath of God

(Job 32:8), and the gift of God (Eccl. 12:7). The word must convey the same idea in each of these statements, except so far as the circumstances require modification. God and angels are pure spirits, not in bodies as men’s spirits are. Angels and men are finite, not infinite like God. Therefore angels are like God, except for the limitation of finiteness; men are like angels, except for embodiment, and men’s spirits are, like God limited and incarnated. Spirit may be described as rational being, which is being capable of acting rationally, or making use of reasons, perceiving them, acting according to them, etc. We may best know spirit by studying ourselves, being careful to discriminate the spirit in us from the animal soul in us. I have attempted to do this in the article on the “Tripartite Nature of Man” in the October number of this Review, but it is well to note a few distinctions here. That which we find in man differing in kind from what the ...

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