The Apostle's Creed: I Believe in the Holy Ghost

John Lewis
Catholic Maryland 1750-10-18, 1753-5-13, 1757-5-30
GTM.000002, American Catholic Sermon Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Georgetown University


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Credo in Spiritum Sanctum


good for Whit-Sunday or Monday.


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Credo in Spiritum Sanctum


I believe in the holy Ghost.


When St. Paul, upon his arrival at Ephesus, inquired of the faithful he found there, whether they had received the holy Ghost since their baptism, they were startled at the Query & ingenuously answered, that they had never heard of a Holy Ghost. Sed neque si Spiritus Sanctus est, audivimus (Acts 19:2) . This would have been [Dear Christians] a great ignorance in them had they been Christians, which they were not; they were only disciples of St. John Baptist, baptized by his baptism which could not give the holy Ghost. Now if the same Question were put to my Hearers I fear there would not be found too many of them, who to the shame of Christianity which they profess, might return the like but far more criminal Answer & confess their Ignorance of a matter in which they cannot be too thoroughly Interested. Neque si Spiritus Sanctus est, audivimus (Acts 19:2) . To exclude & banish far from You [Dear Christians] so pernicious an ignorance my present task shall be to teach you what we are bound to believe concerning this third Person of the Adorable Trinity commonly styled Holy Ghost.


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And to proceed methodically I will divide my discourse into the three following Points In my first I will allege the various texts both from the Old & New testament which prove the divinity of this 3rd Person of the blessed Trinity: in my 2nd: I will show: why he is called holy Ghost: in my 3rd We will inquire into the Effects & Gifts of the Holy Ghost: & lastly for a conclusion we will examine what we are bound to do in order to receive him into our Souls. Behold here the subject of this day's discourse and your favorable Attention.


There have not been wanting, in former Ages, Men of a proud and presumptuous Spirit, who have denied the divinity of the holy Ghost, Such as Arius, Macedonius & others alleging some texts of Scripture in defense of their Heresy: Our own unhappy times have likewise produced several of this same Opinion: the divine Providence so ordering it, that the same Scripture, which to some, is an odor of Life unto Life should be to others an odor of death unto death. Now lest this should be the unhappy Lot of any here present, I will endeavor to prove to you that this so necessary a truth has been revealed so clearly in the sacred writing, that we must cancel their Authority before we can call


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in Question the truth of this Mystery. Since then the Spirit of God and the holy Spirit is often mentioned in the inspired texts, & some times with those adjuncts, which cannot possibly be applied to any pure Creature. As when it is said, that the Spirit searches all things, even the hidden counsels of God: That the Spirit gives Life, Sanctification, and grace: & that the Prophets and holy men spoke by the Inspiration of the holy Spirit: So that you see, what in one Place of Scripture is ascribed to God; in another is referred to the holy Ghost: & this plainly shows that one and the same thing is meant under both Appellatives. But [Dear Christians] the testimony of St. John is beyond all exception, in which he clearly resolves the whole mystery of the Trinity; saying, there are three, that bear Record in heaven; the Father, the word & the Holy Ghost: and these three are one (1 John 5:7) . Hence the Apostles were commanded to baptize all Nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19) . that as the divinity is the same, so the Effect of Baptism may be looked upon as the joyous operation of all & Christians be instructed to adore three in One and One in three


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Hence likewise we are taught by the Apostles in this Eighth Article of the Creed, to believe and put our heart in the Holy Ghost, the 3rd Person of the blessed Trinity, who, as being one & the same god with the Father and the Son, is equally to be adored and glorified with them.


This Point therefore I think I have sufficiently proved that the holy Ghost is truly and perfectly God; id est neither inferior in Power, nor posterior in Time; nor unequal in any manner of Perfection to the Father and the Son: because the same indivisible Essence of the divine Nature is common to all the 3 Persons: 1 the order of my discourse requires of me now to show why this 3rd Person of the Blessed Trinity, is styled Holy Ghost, or the Spirit, since this name is common to the father and the Son: For the Father is a most holy Spirit; and the Son is a most holy Spirit, or to speak more properly: the order of my discourse requires of me to show why a proper name is not given to the third Person: as there is to the first and second: for the 2nd Person has therefore a proper name and is called Son because his eternal birth of the Father is properly called Generation: as therefore that birth


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is signified by the name of Generation so that Person that is generated we properly call Son & him that generates we properly call Father. Now as we are forced to borrow from Created things, those names which we give to God: & we knowing no other way of communicating of Nature or being but by virtue of generation: for this cause it is that for want of a proper word, we call this third Person who proceeds from both Father & Son, by the common Name of Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit. But of this sufficient. It remains that we inquire into the Effects and Gifts of this Holy Spirit. These are enumerated in a particular manner by the Apostle St. Paul to the Galatians: But the Fruit of the Spirit, says he, is Charity, Joy, peace, patience, Benignity, goodness, Longnanimity, mildness, Faith, modesty, continency, Chastity (Galatians 5:22-23) . And by the Prophet I say the gifts of the Holy Ghost are thus variously described: the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding: the Spirit of counsel and Fortitude, the spirit of knowledge & piety, & the Spirit of fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2) . And to comprehend all in few words, the most signal Effects of God’s Love to Mankind are usually ascribed to the Holy Ghost.


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as the ineffable Mystery of Christ’s Incarnation (than which no greater argument of the divine Love could possibly be given us) is attributed by the Evangelists to the Power & overshadowing of the divine Spirit: The whole Economy of our Sanctification & grace is referred to him. And this last gift of the Holy Ghost viz. Justification & grace, is so great & necessary that I may venture to say that — without it all other benefits would have been but of small profit to us: The work of our Creation: which is ascribed to the Son would have been fruitless & to no purpose. In the creation indeed God gave us being: he made and designed for our Service all the Creatures of this world: but our Savior tells us What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he lose his own Soul (Matthew 16:26) : and he will lose it infallibly if the Holy Ghost sanctifies him not. The Incarnation likewise & death of the Son of God would not avail us much without we receive this holy Spirit, for the torments of Jesus would have made him die & not have made us live: they might satisfy for our Sins and not restore us to the dignity from whence, we


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were fallen. From what has been said you see how much we are indebted to the 3rd Person of Blessed Trinity, & how much it concerns every one to receive the holy Ghost. But what must we do in order to make ourselves worthy of this divine Guest? We must imitate the examples of the Apostles on whom this holy Spirit descended visibly as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. We must make those preparations these blessed men did for his reception. We must ask this favor with confidence; for for the Father will give from heaven (as our Blessed Savior promises) his holy Spirit to those who ask it. We must withdraw our selves from the conversation of Men and retire sometimes from the hurry of worldly cares as they did: & then seriously consider the Present state of our Souls. It is impossible to bring to a happy Conclusion an Enterprise attended with many difficulties, unless with a mature deliberation & cool thoughts we examine it with all the accompanying circumstances & pitch upon some efficacious means to break thro all oppositions. Our Salvation with-


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out doubt is a concern of Importance because an Eternal misery or happiness lies at stake. The weakness of our Will, the Blindness of our Understanding and corruption of our heart make it extreme difficult; & then the violence of our Passions, the force of ill habits, the alluring Impressions of sense, & the craft of the devil increase it beyond Imagination. We cannot hope for success without a particular attention: without continual Endeavors to obtain those graces that must support us against these Enemies of our Salvation: Whilst we are engaged in the concerns of the world, it is hard to spend a thought on those that regard Eternity. Retirement that is the only means to give us a clear prospect of our danger & Leisure to find a way to avoid it. This means the holy Apostles made use of: and, as we read in the Acts, after about tens days retreat in continual Expectation of the so often promised holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost suddenly there was made a sound from Heaven as of a vehement wind coming; & it filled the whole House where they were sitting:


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and there appeared to them parted Tongues as it were of fire; and it sat upon every one of them; and they were all replenished with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:1-4) . This descent of the holy Spirit in a moment changed the Apostles into other Men’s.


Before they were not able to understand those truths our Savl Savior had taught them three whole years with no less charity then Patience; They understood none of these Things. But now replenished with the Holy Ghost they not only understood, but believed them. They began from that time to practice the duties of the most sublime Perfection: and those very men who would have dissuaded their Master from dying on a Cross as ignominious, Suffered contumelies, Reproaches, and stripes, not only with Patience, but even with joy and Pleasure.


This same divine Spirit will enter into our Souls likewise, if we prepare ourselves for his reception in a due manner & will work in our hearts a no less surprising Change. Of Persons indolent in the Service of God unconcerned for his glory, indifferent in Religion, afraid to profess it & negligent in the Practice of its duties


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he will infuse in us a desire to advance god’s Glory and courage to surmount all obstacles. He will raise us above fear above human Respects & turn all terrene affections into a love of heavenly things.


O divine Spirit! how often have you called upon us to receive a Visit. And how often have we refused to receive You? You have knocked at the door of our hearts by a thousand Inspirations, & we as often have denied them admittance, to entertain objects often sinful & always vain or frivolous.


Christians! what do you now expect but that to close up this discourse I join my voice to that of the Holy Ghost and become his advocate, who pleads for himself to your heart, & that I beg of you once with my Lips, what he does every moment by his Grace: For his & your own sakes have not as yet given him Entrance by a faithful obedience to his Call, that you would hear his voice even this day and put an End to your Reluctances and Resistance Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis nolite obdurare corda vestra (Psalms 94:8) .


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It is crime enough to have hitherto resisted his Inspirations, Stopped your Ears against his calls, rejected his Counsels, & trampled upon his Commandments: Put an End now to your Rebellion, while you may find mercy: for if you hearken not to his Counsels now it will be too late, hereafter if you acknowledge not his Commandments you will be lost for ever. For it is an undoubted truth that there is a certain number of Sins, which filled up, chase him away irrevocably there is a certain number of Calls, which being Rejected, You shall call, says he, and I will not hear. and there is a certain number of Graces summed up & recorded by the hand of Justice, after which no more are given, or at Least, so imperfect & weak as they leave the Soul in a moral Impossibility to break her Chains, or shake off her Evil habits.


Nay Perhaps, [Dear Christians] this is the last opportunity that shall ever be presented you: perhaps this is the last time you shall ever hear the holy Ghost speaking to your hearts, calling upon you to Repentance the last and peremptory term of Grace beyond which it shall never be accepted extended


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& on the acceptance of which depends your Eternal Predestination or Reprobation.


If this be so have we not all reason enough to prepare our hearts & solicit heaven this very day for receiving the holy Ghost; that by his powerful influence we may be secured against all the dangers of our own weakness: That by Light our Understandings may be opened, by his flames this fire of charity & divine Love which is the fulfilling the Law, may be kindled in our Breasts. These happy effects of the holy Spirit we want every day of our lives & it’s for a want of, we take so many false steps, as if we had neither faith nor Reason to direct.


Come then O holy Spirit take profession of our heart: & enrich us with thy heavenly gifts. Veni pater pauperum, veni dator munerum, veni lumen cordium. 2 Grant us the Gift of wisdom in respect to the sublime mysteries of our faith. Understanding to discern the truth of things. Counsel to resolve in doubts what is for the best: Fortitude to surmount all difficulties in the way to Salvation.


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knowledge to learn the practical duties of our State. Piety to delight in the divine service and may the fear God be always before our Eyes that we may dread nothing more than his displeasure. But above all grant us that charity & sanctifying grace whereby we are made the Children of God & heirs of his Kingdom Grant that we so live as never to lose this grace, that so we at length arrive to that happy region, where in we shall see & love thee for all Eternity & which


Preach at Bohemia the 3rd Sunday of 10r. 1750


At Newtown on Whitsunday 1753


At J. Wright's 1757 Pentecost-Monday


Footnotes

1. Leo, "Letter to Flavian," in On Faith and the Creed: Dogmatic Teaching of the Church of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries, ed. Charles A. Heurtley (London: 1886), 196.

2. "Veni Sancte Spiritum," in The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings, ed. Eugene F. Rogers, Jr. (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 175.