It is held by some that by what they call ‘the fatherhood of God’ in virtue of an alleged unbroken relation formed by creation, and assert that all men, without exception or distinction, belong to the family of God. Children, forsooth, who only disobey and dishonour their Father! No: all men by nature belong to a family antagonistic to the family of God, and they do the lusts of a father who is described as a liar and murderer from the beginning. That position is in harmony with the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. Men cannot, at one and the same moment, be of their father the devil, as Cain was (1John 3:10-12), and as the Jews were when our Lord announced to them their family (John 8:44), and yet be recognised or called the sons of God. The doctrine of our Lord and his apostles sets forth that sinners and all unregenerate men are children of the evil one.
With the Christian church in post-apostolic times, Satan was a reality, and his kingdom a fact, with which they daily felt themselves encompassed. The Fathers cannot find terms sufficiently strong to delineate the power of Satan, the seductive influence which he wields, and the subjection to his dominion under which men have fallen. In a word, the Patristic literature gives the utmost prominence to the terrible power and tyranny of Satan, though by no means greater than the subject warrants; and this subjection is always traced to sin. There is no disposition with them to shrink from representing men as children of the wicked one.
In the translation of the individual from the one family to the other, it must be borne in mind that the Spirit is represented in scripture as the great agent. He makes Christ and his people one, for the acceptance of their persons and renovation of their natures. I refer to this the rather because there are schools of theology which make the work of the Spirit and commencement of his operations subsequent to the believing reception of Christ; and many, under the spell of a theory from which they never escape, make the participation of the Redeemer’s work turn in the last resort on the self-application of the individual. And setting out from the universal call of the gospel, they look with suspicion on any express allusion either to human inability on the one hand or to the effectual application of the Spirit on the other. But the language of scripture in reference to this application is so express as to leave room for a moment’s hesitation. Thus, if we consider any aspect of the question, the Spirit is said to shed abroad the love of God upon the heart, which must be taken as the decisive turning point in that application (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit is designated as ‘the Spirit of adoption,’ a phrase which, according to the analogy supplied by every similar expression, means that he is THE AUTHOR of the adoption (Romans 8:15). The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause in communicating the blessings of redemption; for the merits of Christ and efficacy of the Spirit are placed together in the inseparable connection which follows: “but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1Corinthians 6:11).
When the gospel produces saving effects, it is said to come not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost (1Thessalonians 1:15). The sanctification of the Spirit is inserted by Paul and Peter as the intermediate link between election on the part of God and faith on the part of man (2Thessalonians 2:13). The apostle Peter declares that men are chosen by sanctification or separation which the Spirit produces to obedience, and sprinkling of the blood (1Peter 1:2). But there is one title of the Spirit which is peculiarly significant and suggestive in this light, THE SPIRIT OF FAITH; that is, the Spirit is the author of faith (2Corinthians 4:13), by whom we call Jesus Lord, and confide in him. The conclusion to which we come, from all these testimonies, is that in the application of redemption there is but one great agent, viz. the Holy Spirit, not the force of human will, according to the Semi-Pelagian opinion; not a double factor, according to the synergistic theory. The sole cause is the Holy Spirit operating through the word, that is, by the proclamation of law and gospel, by means of which he enlightens the understanding, and inclines the will to receive Christ’s finished work.
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by George Smeaton.
(Jimmy Hamilton aka The Street Preacher.