EMBLEMS AND ASPECTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Seven Spirits which are before His Throne.- Rev. i:4.
This expression denotes the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The number seven
is expressive of divine completeness, and the benediction of the seven spirits
is equivalent to the ascription of Paul in the first chapter of Ephesians:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed
us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
In keeping with this seven-fold expression of the Spirit's fullness, is the
fact that we have seven special emblems of the Holy Spirit given us in the
Scriptures, each fitted to emphasize some special phase of His character
and work. As the Holy Ghost has no personal and incarnate form like Christ,
He has clothed Himself in the robes of symbol, and thus becomes to us more
real and vivid in the figures of human speech and earthly imagery.
1. The earliest symbol of the Holy Spirit is the dove. Not in express terms
is this figure introduced in the Old Testament, but the allusion in the opening
verses of Genesis is sufficiently clear to be recognized. "The Spirit of
God moved upon the deep;" literally this is translated, "The Spirit of God
fluttered or brooded upon the face of the deep." It is the picture of the
mother-bird spreading her wing over the stormy elements, and incubating,
as it were, her brood through the dark night of chaos.
It is the same typical figure that we meet again as the emblem of peace and
gentleness, and the herald of the morning of the new world in the dark and
stormy night of the deluge. It is the same blessed person, who, on the banks
of the Jordan, descended in visible form like a dove, and abode upon the
Lord Jesus, the herald of peace and love to a sinful world, and the emblem
of the Spirit of Christ's ministry. As the dove, the Holy Ghost is the Spirit
of peace, the Giver of rest.
This is also a figure of motherhood, which is constantly associated with
the picture of the blessed Paraclete. In the Divine Trinity there is found
the substance of all relationships, and that which is expressed in human
motherhood must always have been in the bosom of God.
Of this the Holy Ghost is the personal expression. From that material breast
our new life is born; by that gentle Spirit our spiritual childhood is nurtured,
comforted, educated, developed, and matured. "As one who his mother comforteth,"
so doth the Comforter love and cheer our sorrowing hearts. As the brooding
dove, so does this blessed One hide us beneath the wings of God, and cover
us with the feathers of the divine sympathy and tenderness.
It is almost difficult to use the masculine form in speaking of this blessed
person, so womanlike is the sweetness and softness of His touch.
His is that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of even,
That stills each doubt, and calms each
And speaks to us of heaven.
Air is the next symbol of the Spirit.
This also appears in the opening chapter of Genesis. "The Lord God breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." And
this we know was the Holy Spirit, for, we are told, "The inspiration of the
Almighty giveth life." "Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created."
The same figure is used by the prophet Ezekiel in describing the resurrection
of the dry bones. It was the Spirit that came from the four winds and breathed
upon the slain, and they lived. Our Lord has used this figure in two very
striking connections. The first is in relation to the regeneration of a soul.
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but
canst not tell whither it cometh or whither it goeth, so is every one that
is born of the Spirit."
It is like the voiceless wind, known not by visible perception, but by its
Again he uses it in connection with the personal imparting of the Holy Ghost
to His own disciples. "He breathed on them and said, receive ye the Holy
In keeping with this figure the Hebrew and Greek word is the same as that
used for the wind, or the breath. The Holy Ghost is the breath of God. This
emblem expresses at once the gentleness and the strength of the Holy Ghost.
His coming may be as quiet as the evening zephyr, or mighty as the tempest's
power. When He descended on Pentecost, there was a sound as of a mighty rushing
wind; when He came afterwards to the assembled disciples, the place was shaken
where they were assembled; when He answered the prayer of Paul and Silas
the prison rocked to its foundation, and the bolts and bars were loosed.
But above all the manifestations of His tremendous power the most blessed
is His quickening breath. This figure especially expresses the idea of life,
the Spirit that breathes the new life in conversion, that imparts the very
life of Christ to the soul, and quickens the mortal body into His resurrection
This emblem runs through the whole typology of the Old Testament, and the
figurative language of the New.
This was the significance of the stream that flowed from Horeb's riven rock,
and the diverse washings of the Levitical system. It was of this that Jesus
spake when He said, "He that believeth on me, out of him shall flow rivers
of living water." It was of this that the prophet said, "I will pour water
upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, and they shall spring up
as among the grass, as willows by the water courses." This is the rain that
comes upon the new-mown grass, and the dew which revives the earth. It is
the fulness of the Holy Spirit in His cleansing, refreshing, and comforting
influences. This is He who comes to us in the washing of regeneration, and
the renewing of the Holy Ghost which He sheds upon us abundantly. This is
He who sends the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. This
is He who baptizes us in the ocean of divine light and love, and fills us
with all the fullness of God.
The oil is another Old Testament figure of the Holy Ghost, appearing in all
the anointings of the priesthood and tabernacle, and reappearing in the very
name of Christ, which means the anointed One. It was of this that He said,
"the Spirit of the Lord is upon me; for He hath anointed me to preach the
gospel. to the poor; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to preach
deliverance to the captives, the opening of the eyes to them that are blind,
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
This figure describes the Holy Ghost as the figure of light, consecration,
In the ancient ritual, the head, hands, and feet of the cleansed leper and
the consecrated priest were touched with oil as a symbol of their dedication
to God. Thus Aaron was set apart, thus David was consecrated, and thus we
are dedicated to Christ, and divinely qualified for service by the anointing
of the Holy Ghost.
But the oil was also the figure of light in the vision of Zechariah. The
temple is lighted by seven lamps that are fed by two living olive trees,
teaching us that the Holy Ghost is the constant and living source of His
people's life and light.
It is in this connection that John says, "But ye have an unction from the
Holy One, and ye know all things. The anointing which ye have received of
Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same
anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even
as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him."
And so, also, the oil speaks of His healing touch. Oil and wine are used
in the parable of the good Samaritan as figures of physical restoration.
And so the disciples anointed the sick and commissioned the elders to continue
the same rite in the command, James v: 14, as a token of the touch of the
Holy Ghost upon the suffering form, and communicating to each the love of
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oil might also be used as a symbol of gladness. The Psalmist speaks of oil
which makes our face to shine, and describes Jesus Christ as anointed with
the oil of gladness above His fellows. Isaiah speaks of the oil of joy for
mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. The Holy
Ghost anoints us with the spirit of joy, and He radiates the face with the
reflected glory of the indwelling God.
Have we received the divine anointing as our light and healing, our joy and
consecration? The oil that fell on Aaron's head descended to the skirts of
his garments; and from our Great High Priest the divine anointing descends
to His lowliest member.
Let us consecrate our hands and feet, our head and heart to be touched and
dedicated from this holy chrism, and go forth as the Lord's anointed.
The mightiest of human forces is the last figure implied to represent the
Holy Spirit up to the time of His descent at Pentecost. It had appeared in
the very beginning in the Shekinah which hovered at Eden's gate; the pillar
of fire that led the camp of Israel, the descending flame that consumed the
sacrifices in the tabernacle, the blaze of the burning bush in Horeb, the
coals of fire in Isaiah's vision, the glowing symbols of Ezekiel's imagery,
the figurative language of John the Baptist prophesying of Him who should
baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire; and at length it was revealed
in all its manifested meaning in the cloven tongues of Pentecost, and the
fiery baptism of the assembled disciples.
It is the figure of destruction, reminding us of the Spirit which consumes
not only the sin, but also the life of nature, and leaves the soul an empty
vessel for the divine filling. It represents also, more emphatically than
any other figure, the idea of cleansing; penetrating every fibre of our being,
purifying with intrinsic power the inmost soul, and eliminating every particle
of dross and evil.
This is also the figure of power, reminding us of the mightiest forces of
human mechanics, electricity and steam, which are forms of fire, and the
great dynamic center of our system, and fiery sun which holds up the planets
in their orbits by his power; so the Holy Ghost is the source of omnipotent
power; impelling all the machinery of Christianity, moving all the forces
of the soul, and enduing us with all we can ever know of power for service.
The fire is also the image of love; it is the force that melts, dissolves
barriers, fuses hard substances, and welds the pieces into one.
And so the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of love, melting the stony heart, dissolving
the prejudices of men, and uniting the people of God as one heart. It is
His to give the glow of enthusiasm and the fire of holy zeal; it was He who
clothed Elijah with his fervor, John with his love, Paul with his tremendous
energy, Whitfield with his love of souls, and Fenelon, Rutherford and McCheyne
with their seraphic piety.
Have we received the baptism of fire? It is the still unexhausted promise
of the New Testament, waiting its mightiest manifestations just before the
coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.
Another symbol has been added in the epistles, following with peculiar propriety
the complexion of redemption, and the ratifying of the covenant by the death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the descent of the Holy Ghost.
It is the figure of the seal in the epistles of Paul. This figure is used
respecting the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the believer, "In
whom after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise."
And so again He says, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit by whom ye were sealed
unto the day of redemption." The covenant completed, the will made effectual;
it is fitting that the seal should be added. And this the Holy Spirit becomes,
putting upon the heart the distinct stamp of Christ, touching and making
divine things real and tangible as the impression upon the seal and the wax.
This figure represents the idea of certainty and reality in connection with
the work of the Spirit. There is such an experience in the Holy Ghost. It
is not enough that we merely believe the truth, we may also know it and
experience it. "We have known and believed," John says, "the love that God
hath to us," and so the Holy Ghost becomes to us the witness to our consciousness
of the reality of Divine things; enabling us to say, "I know Him whom I have
believed;" "We know that He abideth in us by the Spirit that He hath given
to us;" "We know that we have eternal life;" "We know that we have the petitions
that we desired of Him."
It is very important that we do not reverse the order of this experience;
it does not come before faith, but after it. "After ye believed, ye were
sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." we should not rest short of this
blessed reality, and if we yield ourselves unto God in the surrender of
consecration, and the simplicity of trust, we shall receive the touch of
His blessed hand, and the stamp of His own personal presence, and the very
image of His blessed face impressed upon our hearts, and be able to say,
"He who hath sealed us and anointed us is God, who hath also stablished us,
and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
This leads us to the last symbol of the Spirit, namely:
This also is added in the epistles along with the seal, and after the descent
of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. These two last symbols seem especially
appropriate as added ones, in view of their special significance with respect
to the finished redemption of Christ, and His approaching advent. All the
other aspects of the Spirit's work have been expressed by former emblems,
but there is still one more, namely, the prophetic. "He shall show you things
to come;" so Christ promised regarding the Comforter. He was to be the foretaste
of all the yet unrevealed and unrealized hopes of the glorious future, and
one more term was needed to express this; this is afforded in the word
An earnest in ancient legal customs was a handful of soil bestowed upon the
purchaser of a piece of real estate, containing a portion of the very ground
that he had bought, as a solemn pledge of the whole estate which was to be
delivered in due time. It was not a handful .of soil from any estate, but
it was from the very ground that he had bought, and it guaranteed the identity,
certainty, and completeness of the transfer in due time.
In this sense the Holy Spirit is to show a simple and pledge of our future
inheritance. All that we are to be and to enjoy He brings us now in foretaste
and in limited measure, as a pledge that it shall be all delivered in the
fullness of time, in all its completeness.
The term is used in a two-fold connection in the epistles; first, of our
spiritual inheritance, which the Holy Ghost foreshadows in our hearts by
the experience of His sanctifying, comforting, and quickening life; giving
us the measure in which we are able to receive amid the limitations of our
mortal life, a real foretaste of the felicities and glories of heaven.
But there is a second sense in which He is also an earnest, namely: in our
mortal bodies, into which he brings the physical life of Christ as an earnest
and foretaste of the physical resurrection. Thus we have the first-fruits
of the Spirit as the pledge that we shall yet have the full redemption of
the body. "He that hath wrought us for this self-same thing," that is, for
the future resurrection, "is God, who hath also given us the earnest of the
Have we received this blessed token, and do we have in our measure all its
meaning, in anticipation of the things which "eye hath not seen, ear hath
not heard, and it hath not entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared
for them that love Him," but of which it is added, "God hath revealed them
unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep
things of God?"
Can we claim the benediction of the seven Spirits which are before the throne,
and say with the apostle, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who hath blessed us with all the blessings of the Spirit in heavenly
places in Christ Jesus?"