June / July 2015 - Vol. 80
receive the Holy Spirit 
The Holy Spirit Keeps Us in Perfect Peace
by John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890 AD)
[Note: Minor changes, including capitalization style, were made to allow the text to be more accessible to modern readers. Sub-headings were also added. Editor]

The Holy Spirit reveals the Father to us

1. The heavenly gift of the Spirit fixes the eyes of our mind upon the divine Author of our salvation.

By nature we are blind and carnal; but the Holy Spirit by whom we are new-born, reveals to us the God of mercies, and bids us recognize and adore him as our Father with a true heart. He impresses on us our heavenly Father's image, which we lost when Adam fell, and disposes us to seek his presence by the very instinct of our new nature. He gives us back a portion of that freedom in willing and doing, of that uprightness and innocence, in which Adam was created. He unites us to all holy beings, as before we had relationship with evil. 

He restores for us that broken bond, which, proceeding from above, connects together into one blessed family all that is anywhere holy and eternal, and separates it off from the rebel world which comes to nothing. Being then the sons of God, and one with him, our souls mount up and cry to him continually. This special characteristic of the regenerate soul is spoken of by St. Paul soon after the text. “You have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Nor are we left to utter these cries to him, in any vague uncertain way of our own; but he who sent the Spirit to dwell in us habitually, gave us also a form of words to sanctify the separate acts of our minds. Christ left his sacred prayer to be the peculiar possession of his people, and the voice of the Spirit. If we examine it, we shall find in it the substance of that doctrine, to which St. Paul has given a name in the passage just quoted. We begin it by using our privilege of calling on Almighty God in express words as “Our Father.” 

We proceed, according to this beginning, in that waiting, trusting, adoring, resigned temper, which children ought to feel; looking towards him, rather than thinking of ourselves; zealous for his honor rather than fearful about our safety; resting in his present help, not with eyes timorously glancing towards the future. his name, his kingdom, his will, are the great objects for the Christian to contemplate and make his portion, being stable and serene, and “complete in him,” as beseems one who has the gracious presence of his Spirit within him. And, when he goes on to think of himself, he prays, that he may be enabled to have towards others what God has shown towards himself, a spirit of forgiveness and loving-kindness. 

Thus he pours himself out on all sides, first looking up to catch the heavenly gift, but, when he gains it, not keeping it to himself, but diffusing "rivers of living water" to the whole race of man, thinking of self as little as may be, and desiring ill and destruction to nothing but that principle of temptation and evil, which is rebellion against God; – lastly, ending, as he began, with the contemplation of his kingdom, power, and glory ever-lasting.

This is the true “Abba, Father,” which the Spirit of adoption utters within the Christian's heart, the infallible voice of him who “makes intercession for the Saints in God's way.” And if he has at times, for instance, amid trial or affliction, special visitations and comfortings from the Spirit, “plaints unutterable” within him, yearnings after the life to come, or bright and passing gleams of God's eternal election, and deep stirrings of wonder and thankfulness thence following, he thinks too reverently of “the secret of the Lord,” to betray (as it were) his confidence, and, by vaunting it to the world, to exaggerate it perchance into more than it was meant to convey: but he is silent, and ponders it as choice encouragement to his soul, meaning something, but he knows not how much.

The Spirit glorifies the Son

2. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit raises the soul, not only to the thought of God, but of Christ also. 

St. John says, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." And our Lord himself, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him" (1 John 1:3; John 14:23). Now, not to speak of other and higher ways in which these texts are fulfilled, one surely consists in that exercise of faith and love in the thought of the Father and Son, which the Gospel, and the Spirit revealing it, furnish to the Christian. The Spirit came especially to “glorify” Christ; and vouchsafes to be a shining light within the Church and the individual Christian, reflecting the Savior of the world in all his perfections, all his offices, all his works. 

He came for the purpose of unfolding what was yet hidden, while Christ was on earth; and speaks on the house-tops what was delivered in closets, disclosing him in the glories of his transfiguration, who once had no comeliness in his outward form, and was but a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. First, he inspired the holy evangelists to record the life of Christ, and directed them which of his words and works to select, which to omit; next, he commented (as it were) upon these, and unfolded their meaning in the Apostolic Epistles. The birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Christ, has been the text which he has illuminated. 

He has made history to be doctrine; telling us plainly, whether by St. John or St. Paul, that Christ's conception and birth was the real Incarnation of the Eternal Word, –  his life, “God manifest in the Flesh,” – his death and resurrection, the atonement for sin, and the justification of all believers. Nor was this all: he continued his sacred comment in the formation of the church, superintending and overruling its human instruments, and bringing out our Savior’s words and works, and the apostles’ illustrations of them, into acts of obedience and permanent ordinances, by the ministry of saints and martyrs. Lastly, he completes his gracious work by conveying this system of truth, thus varied and expanded, to the heart of each individual Christian in whom he dwells. Thus he condescends to edify the whole man in faith and holiness: “casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

By his wonder-working grace all things tend to perfection. Every faculty of the mind, every design, pursuit, subject of thought, is hallowed in its degree by the abiding vision of Christ, as Lord, Savior, and Judge. All solemn, reverent, thankful, and devoted feelings, all that is noble, all that is choice in the regenerate soul, all that is self-denying in conduct, and zealous in action, is drawn forth and offered up by the Spirit as a living sacrifice to the Son of God.

And, though the Christian is taught not to think of himself above his measure, and dare not boast, yet he is also taught that the consciousness of the sin which remains in him, and infects his best services, should not separate him from God, but lead him to him who can save. He reasons with St. Peter, “To whom should he go?” and, without daring to decide, or being impatient to be told how far he is able to consider as his own every Gospel privilege in its fullness, he gazes on them all with deep thought as the church's possession, joins her triumphant hymns in honor of Christ, and listens wistfully to her voice in inspired Scripture, the voice of the Bride calling upon and blest in the Beloved.

The Spirit keeps us in perfect peace

3. St. John adds, after speaking of “our fellowship with the Father and his Son:” “These things we write to you, that your joy may be full.”

What is fullness of joy but peace? Joy is tumultuous only when it is not full; but peace is the privilege of those who are “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:3). It is peace, springing from trust and innocence, and then overflowing in love towards all around him. What is the effect of mere animal ease and enjoyment, but to make a man pleased with everything which happens? “A merry heart is a perpetual feast”; and such is peculiarly the blessing of a soul rejoicing in the faith and fear of God. He who is anxious, thinks of himself, is suspicious of danger, speaks hurriedly, and has no time for the interests of others; he who lives in peace is at leisure, wherever his lot is cast. 

Such is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, whether in Jew or Greek, bond or free. He himself perchance in his mysterious nature, is the Eternal Love whereby the Father and the Son have dwelt in each other, as ancient writers have believed; and what he is in heaven, that he is abundantly on earth. He lives in the Christian's heart, as the never-failing fount of charity, which is the very sweetness of the living waters. For where he is, "there is liberty" from the tyranny of sin, from the dread, which the natural man feels, of an offended, unreconciled Creator. Doubt, gloom, impatience have been expelled; joy in the Gospel has taken their place, the hope of heaven and the harmony of a pure heart, the triumph of self-mastery, sober thoughts, and a contented mind.

How can charity towards all men fail to follow, being the mere affectionateness of innocence and peace? Thus the Spirit of God creates in us the simplicity and warmth of heart which children have, nay, rather the perfections of his heavenly hosts, high and low being joined together in his mysterious work; for what are implicit trust, ardent love, abiding purity, but the mind both of little children and of the adoring seraphim!

[see longer version of this homily, The Indwelling Spirit]
John Henry Newman, 1801-1890, was an influential Christian writer and a major figure from the Church of England in the Oxford Movement. In 1845 he became a Roman Catholic priest and was made a Cardinal late in life in 1879. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

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