The Work of the Spirit in the Salvation of the Sinner
By J. N. Hall
The Scriptures teach, that in the conversion of sinners, there is a distinct, (from the written or spoken word) personal, (the Spirit himself acting) power of the Holy Spirit, on the sinner's heart.
The question before us is a vital one, and affects the very foundation, upon which the whole superstructure of the system of doctrines, as held by each of us, reposes.
If my friend is able to show, that the proposition I affirm is false, then the entire fabric of my system of belief, must inevitably fall; while on the other hand, if I maintain my proposition, and show that it is taught by God's word, then the whole system of doctrines, as held by my friend, and the people whom he represents, must be equally false, and must surely crumble into dust, for they are diametrically opposed to each other. I am also glad to meet a man, who is so able to support and defend the doctrines which he believes, and who is the chosen representative of his people, to uphold their cause in this discussion. For we must remember, that neither my friend
No doubt the reading of this proposition sounds somewhat strangely, when- read in your hearing, but it is on account of the definitions that are introduced to define, or explain the meaning of the terms. My friend, in our correspondence, (and that correspondence is here, and can be referred to if necessary) refused to debate this proposition, unless I would agree to insert these definitions. They are no part of the proposition itself, and do not affect its meaning, but are merely thrown in as definitions, explanatory of the terms used, and the proposition would make complete sense, by leaving out these definitions, and would read:
"The Scriptures teach, that in the conversion of sinners, there is a distinct, personal power of the Holy Spirit on the sinner's heart."
That is the proposition as it stands, without those explanatory definitions, and that is the proposition I am here to affirm. My friend denies it.
By the term "The Scriptures," I mean the accepted word of God, the revealed, or written word. as contained in the Old and New Testaments.
I define the word "conversion," to mean that change that is made in passing from a state of nature, to a state of grace, including every exercise of the sinner's mind, or heart, from the conviction for sin, to the adoption into the heavenly family. Webster says: — "Conversion is a radical change of moral character; a change from the service of the world, to the service of God; a change of the ruling of the disposition of the soul, and the appropriate effect in transforming the outward life."
I define the word "power," to mean ability to put forth action; an influence exerted; strength, force, energy in action; the employment of strength; the exercise of any kind of control; influence; dominion; sway.
By the word "distinct," I mean that the written and spoken word may be, and is used as a means, but in addition to the means, and distinct from them, in themselves considered, the Spirit displays his power. To be distinct, is to be so separated from the means, as not to be confounded with them, not liable to be misunderstood.
The first proposition as read by President McCall, is as follows:
The Scriptures teach, &c.
By "personal," I mean that which belongs, or pertains to a person. It implies that the work of the Spirit in the conversion of sinners, is the work
The "Holy Spirit." I understand the Godhead to be a trinity, composed of three divine persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, and that this term represents the divine character of one of the three persons. The term Holy Spirit is the Scriptural name for the third Person in the Trinity.
The word "heart" is used for the soul, and all the powers hereof; as the understanding conscience, will, affections, and memory. I get this definition from Buck's Theological Dictionary, and I trust my worthy opponent will be satisfied with the definition thus given.
By the term "Sinner's heart," I mean the heart of man, who has never been reconciled to God, by the death of Jesus Christ — an unsaved man.
Now, I have defined my proposition so clearly that the least intelligent man in the congregation, cannot fail to understand it. Nor can any one fail to understand the issue between my friend and myself. I think I have made both so plain, that no one who has attended to what I have said, can fail to fully understand my position and the position of my friend.
My proposition does not deny the use of means on God's part, to accomplish his purpose, and while I claim that the Holy Spirit can and does operate on the heart of the sinner, without means, and above all means, I do not ignore t
he fact that He uses means. I believe in the use of
My proposition does not assert that the work of the Spirit is distinct from the written or spoken word, in the sense that he saves men, when there is no knowledge of Christ. But rather, it asserts that the work of the Spirit is in addition to the means used. This work of the Spirit may reach the sinner through the instrumentality of means, but its power is distinct from the power of means.
As an Illustration of this power, I call your attention to Deuteronomy first chapter, and from the 41st to the 45th verses, inclusive: "Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the Lord, we will go up and fight according to all that the Lord our God commanded us.
Again, Deuteronomy, 20th chapter, 1st to 4th verses": When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them." Why should they not be afraid of a people more than them, and better armed? "for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say
Let us hear what Mr. Campbell says upon the
In his Millennial Harbinger, vol. 1, page 294, he says: "And when we think of the power of the Spirit of God exerted upon minds, or human spirits, it is impossible for us to imagine that that power can consist in ANYTHING ELSE but WORDS, or ARGUMENTS." Again, Millennial Harbinger, vol. 2, page 295, he says, "As the spirit of man puts forth all its moral power in the words which it fills with its ideas, so the Spirit of God puts forth all its converting and sanctifying power in the words which it fills with its ideas."
In Millennial Harbinger, vol. 2, page 297, and in Christianity Restored, page 362, he says, "All the moral power of God or of man, is exhibited in the truth which they propose. Therefore, we say, that if the light or the truth contain all the moral power of God, then the truth alone is all that is necessary to the conversion of men."
Again, in Christianity Restored, page 350, "If the New and Old Testaments contain all the arguments which can be offered to reconcile man to God, and to purify them who fire reconciled, then all the power of the Holy Spirit which can operate on the human mind IS SPENT; and he that is not sanctified and saved by these, can not
I introduce another witness, Mr. Sweeny, who is one of the ablest defenders of the doctrines of the Current Reformation they have ever had. In the Sweeny and Crawford Debate, page 124, he said, "Let it be borne in mind that I believe the Divine power of the Holy Spirit overcomes the enmity of the human heart, by acting upon it through the medium of Divine Truth. That's my position. I contend for the SUFFICIENCY, therefore, of the TRUTH to ACCOMPLISH the CONVERSION of SINNERS."
I introduce the testimony of another witness, Mr. Moses E. Lard, than whom there is not a fairer, clearer, or more candid and able writer among the people my friend represents, and he says, in Lard's Review of Campbellism Examined, page 83, "But what do we mean when we say, the Spirit operates through the truth? We mean that it operates by the truth; that is, that the divine truth is itself the vital power by which, in all cases, the Spirit effects conversion; in other words, that the Spirit spends on the mind of the sinner in conversion no influence except such as RESIDES in the truth as divine, as of the Spirit. And we shall further add, that neither in quantity nor in force, do we conceive that this influence can be increased and the human will be left free."
Will you hear Mr. Lard? He says, that "there is NO nifluence of the Spirit on the mind of the sinner in conversion, except such as resides in the truth."
Again, Mr. Lard states his proposition in his
Mr. Campbell's affirmative proposition, in the Rice-Campbell Debate reads as follows, "In conversion and sanctification, the Spirit of God operates on persons only through the word."
Mr. Briney said in his debate with Brother Moody, of the Baptist Gleaner, last summer, "The personal power of the Spirit is not present with the word, in the conversion of the sinner," Again, he said, "The Scriptures teach that the gospel is sufficient for the conversion and sanctification of sinners." Mr. Briney here says in effect, that "I deny that there is any personal power of the Holy Spirit exerted upon the sinner's heart in conversion."
Now, this is the position of my friend, or at least the position of the leading preachers and writers among the people whom he is here to represent. Of course he may not indorse the doctrines of his people, and thus escape the consequences of such a position, but that these are the doctrines of the Current Reformation, I have already proven, and if necessary can bring additional
I now address my self more fully to the subject. I think the issue is clear cut between us, and amounts to just this: that in the conversion of the sinner, God works, and God does not work. I know there are a class of Scriptures, which taken by themselves and without reference to any other part of God's word, that seem to teach that the Spirit alone does the work. But there is another class of Scriptures which occupy a "golden mean" between the two, and which, when taken in all their bearings and relations completely harmonize God's word, and these Scriptures teach the doctrine which I believe and teach, that it is not by the Word alone, or by the Spirit alone, but that it by both the Spirit and the Word, in conjunction with each other, each performing the work assigned to each in the conversion of the sinner.
The parable of the sower is a striking illustration of these different classes. We are taught in this parable that the seed is the word of God.
Now, suppose we are riding along the road, and I we come across a man in the woods sowing seed. Here he is, sowing the seed broadcast among the trees and bushes, and around over the logs and
Now, I am going to admit all the power God has placed in his Word, yet I believe that that power is exerted on the sinner's mind and heart,
My first argument in support of the proposition is based on the fact, that MAN IN AN UNREGENERATED STATE, WILL NOT ACCEPT THE WORD OF GOD, WITHOUT THE DISTINCT INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT.
I sub-divide this argument into two parts,
FIRST. The metaphorical allusions to man's condition, and,
SECOND. The specific statements of Scripture showing man's condition.
Under the head of "Metaphorical Allusions," the Scriptures represent the unregenerate man as being blind. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, we read: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." Here we are taught they are blinded by the god of this world. In Ephesians 4:17-19, we find this language: "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God,
In 1 John 2:11, we read: "But he that hateth his brother is in darkness and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes." Here we are told that the darkness of sin blinds the eyes of the sinner. From these, and other passages which we might quote, we are taught that man is spiritually blind. His inability to perceive the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and to see, and realize his own spiritual sight. Now suppose you have a boy who is blind. You take him to an occulist for treatment. He makes the boy sit down, and he proceeds to make a careful examination of his eyes. When this examination is through, you ask the occulist, if he thinks he can cure him. "Oh, yes," says the doctor, "I can cure him easy enough, I know just what is the matter with his eyes,' and he takes a seat by the boy and proceeds to dilate upon the pleasure and happiness of seeing. He expatiates upon the beauties of nature, and shows him how light falls upon the retina, bearing with it. the images of beauty around us, and how it passes along the optic nerve to the brain, and produces the sensation of sight. He explains to the boy how he has lost this by the disease that has affected his eyes, and tells him that when this disease is removed that he will be able to see, and appreciate all the beauties of nature around him. After he has explained the
If it is absurd to suppose that a man physically blind, could receive his sight, simply by hearing an occulist lecture upon the beauties of nature, and the process of seeing, it is equally absurd to suppose that a man can receive spiritual sight, merely by hearing a preacher explain the fall of man, and the process of his restoration, without any other power being exerted, except that which is in the written or spoken word. In Psalms 119:18 David realized his spiritual blindness, and he appealed to the proper source for relief. He cries, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." I tell you that if we would have this spiritual cataract removed, we must apply to the spiritual physician.
In the second place, the Scriptures represent man as a CAPTIVE.
In Isaiah 61:1 we read: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath annointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind' up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;" That this language does not refer to Jewish captivity, but does refer to spiritual bondage, and liberation effected through the meditation of Christ, is shown
In the next place we have man represented as being sick. Numerous Scriptures were quoted to show this. Now take the figure and apply it. A man is sick. He sends his son for a physician. Instead of going to see the sick man he simply diagnoses the case, the sick man says this just what is the matter with me, and I know just how I came to get sick, I know the prescription, and a knowledge of all this, is all that is necessary. I believe the doctor, knows all about my case, and now all I have to do is to be quiet, and I shall soon be restored to prefect health."
Now, the sinner is represented as being sick, and he not only needs to be informed of the nature of his disease, and that there is a remedy, but that remedy must be actually applied, else all his knowledge will never do him any good. Jesus Christ is the great physician, and his blood is the remedy, and that blood must be applied to the sinner's heart, to cleanse and purify it from sin, ere he can be restored to spiritual health. And as this is a spiritual work, it must require spiritual agency and power.
Now my friend may attach whatever meaning he pleases; to this idea of death, he may be wholly dead, or partly dead, but whatever interpretation he may place upon it, he cannot divest it of its real meaning. Death is the absence of life. A man who is dead is not alive, and so long as he has the least particle of life, in him, he is not dead. But when a man is dead, he is dead, he's got no life in him. Suppose you go and preach to a man who is dead, will your preaching do any good, unless there is some divine power to accompany your words? Would this simple preaching of the prophet in the valley of dry bones, have accomplished anything had there been no exercise of divine power?
You go and preach to these dry bones and
What good would the preaching or the prophesying have done, had not God accompanied it with his divine power? There were some in the days of the apostles who thought that they could perform the same miracles that the apostles did, without this divine power, but they signally
My second argument under this head is: "The specific statements of Scripture show man's condition to be such that direct, distinct, spiritual power is necessary for man's salvation.
The Scriptures declare his very origin to be sinful. The Psalmist declares (Psalm 51:5), "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Again he says (Psalm 5.8:3-4), "The wickend are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear."
In Genesis 8:21, he is said to be evil from his youth. "And the Lord said in his heart, I will not curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." And in Genesis 6:5, it is,declared that God saw — he didn't hear it — that "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart, was only evil continually." Not some imaginations, but every imagination — not evil sometimes and good at other times, but only evil continually. From man's standpoint of observation, man's spiritual condition may not be so bad after all, but let God look, and see, and tell us, just how it is. Psalm 14:2-3: "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek
These Scriptures teach us that man is terribly wicked and sinful, and that it is utterly impossible for him to restore himself to the favor of God unless aided by the distinct, personal power of the Holy Spirit upon his heart.
MY SECOND GENERAL ARGUMENT, is based on the prophetic promises of divine power in the salvation of men.
In Deuteronomy 30:6, we read: "And the Lord thy God will sircumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." Who is it that is to circumcise the heart? God does it. What is to be the result of this circumcision? Why, they are to love God with all the heart and with all the soul, that they may live!
[W. B. Barker, Memoirs of Elder J. N. Hall, 1907, pp. 225-246. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. — jrd]