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The Coming of the Spirit.

The Coming of the Spirit.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Apr 17, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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THE COMIG OF THE SPIRIT.BY REV, H. S. HOLLAD, M.A.2 Cor. iii. 6, 7.What is this contrast that starts into such sharp out-lines before the eyes of St. Paul — the contrast of theletter and of the spirit ? We may well set ourselvesto answer this question, for the words have passed intoa proverbial familiarity, which has succeeded, as pro-verbs so often succeed, in bandying them to and frountil the original significance, once emphatically pre-cise, has dissolved into a cloud of vague misunder-standing. It is supposed, perhaps, that St. Paul iscontrasting the outer expression of a principle with itsinner meaning — the letter of the Law with its spirit,and hence that he is opposing the wrong use of theLaw, as illustrated by pharisaic pedantry, with its rightspiritual use, as interpreted by the Mind of Christ.Or, again, the letter is taken to represent the cere-monial details of the earlier covenant, while, by thespirit, is supposed to be intended that inner moral law234 Conversion.of the heart which lay burdened under the wearisomeritual of the Pentateuch until it was set free in Christ.And here, again, it is the unfortunate Pharisee whofigures as the representative of externalism, while weare glad to identify ourselves with that inward spiritualservice which the prophets of old asserted, and whichis independent of exact conformity with all the pre-cision of a narrow ceremonialism.And some of all this may possibly be half true ; butyet is it at all what is meant here in this passage of St. Paul ? Let us look at it a little closer."The letter killeth; the spirit giveth life." It isevident, first, that the phrases do not express anygeneral principle, but have for him a perfectly exact,and definite determination. The contrast he has before
him is that between the old and the new covenant,between Moses and Christ; and to appreciate thevividness of his antithesis we must begin by throwingour imaginations back into the days when as yet theChurch of Christ held no Christian book in its hands.Its faith was not as yet rooted in a written word. Itwas Judaism that was based on a book, and it stood inbroad contrast on this very point with Christianity,which held its Gospel in the shape of the spoken word,made present and energetic, though the mouth of apreacher, by the force of the Spirit of God, upon thehearts of a believing body. A living story housedwithin a living society, vitalized by a present Spirit,witnessing to a present and living Christ : — that is theword of God administered under the new dispensation ;and what need, St. Paul is asking, what need of writtenThe Coming of the Spirit. 235authorities to qualify for such a mission as this ?What need of certificates and testimonials, such as hisopponents require him to show, or upon which theyrested their own claims ? " eed we, as some others,epistles of commendation ? " ay : his own peopleare sealed to him by spiritual evidence ; they are hisliving certificates. "You are our epistle ministeredby us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God." And this clinging to documents, socharacteristic of his own foes, stamps them, he thinks,with the brand of that older covenant which had alwaysbeen a matter of letters, of writings, of communications,of things graven with a pen on the face of a stone,rigid, motionless, external, menacing. But the Apostlesof Christ carry with them no written message, no merebook of the covenant. They have a more gloriousministry, not of the letter, not of any writing, but of the Spirit.The letter is first, then, that revelation of God whichhad been effected through a writing, through a com-munication, through a fixed and durable proclamation,through a record, through a statute, through a rule — in a word, through a Law. The letter is the writtenLaw of God. And this Law, which is the letter, is noceremonial rule. St. Paul has in his mind that moment
when Moses bore down from the summit of Sinai theTen Commandments which are the Law, for it was thenthat his face shone with the glory that was under theveil, "the glory that was to be done away." The letter,then, of which St. Paul speaks, is definitely those God-given letters graven upon the tables of stone. It is236 Conversion,essentially the moral, and not the ceremonial, Law ; andthe letter is that Law, then, which our Master summedup for the lawyer in the great commandment, " Thoushalt love thy God with all thy heart, and with allthy soul, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbouras thyself."By the letter is meant the moral Law ; and we knowtherefore at once how and why the letter kills. ForSt. Paul has analysed for us the three stages of deathto which the Law dooms. It kills us, first, by itsmanifestation of that disruption which lay concealedunder the happy outflow of young and brimming life.That strong and fearless energy, which is the core of our human nature, is brought up short and sharp by arelentless voice that refuses it its unhindered joy. Itclashes against the obstinate resistance, the suddenobstruction which bars its road with its terrible negative," Thou shalt not covet ; " and, in the recoil from thatclashing, it knows itself to be subject to a dividedmastery. It knows itself to be capable of violentvariance with God. It knows itself to be somehowspoilt, disordered, corrupt. The unity of sound organichealth has suffered rupture. It has in it the evidencesof a disorganization and a dissolution, which is death." I was alive without the Law once ; but when thecommandment came, sin revived, and I died."And the Law not only declared sin to be there, butit also, so St. Paul is not afraid to assert, provoked andirritated the sin, which fretted at its checks, into amore abundant and domineering extravagance. " Sin,taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me

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