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Uriah Smith 1832 - 1903

Statements about the Holy Spirit

J. W. W. Asks: “Are we to understand that the Holy Ghost is a person, the same as the Father and the Son? Some claim that it is, others that it is not.”

Ans.—The terms “Holy Ghost”, are a harsh and repulsive translation. It should be “Holy Spirit” (hagion pneuma) in every instance. This Spirit is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ; the Spirit being the same whether it is spoken of as pertaining to God or Christ. But respecting this Spirit, the Bible uses expressions which cannot be harmonized with the idea that it is a person like the Father and the Son. Rather it is shown to be a divine influence from them both, the medium which represents their presence and by which they have knowledge and power through all the universe, when not personally present. Christ is a person, now officiating as priest in the sanctuary in heaven; and yet he says that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there in the midst. Mt. 18:20. How? Not personally, but by his Spirit. In one of Christ’s discoursed (John 14-16) this Spirit is personified as “the Comforter,” and as such has the personal and relative pronouns, “he,” “him,” and “whom,” applied to it. But usually it is spoken of in a way to show that it cannot be a person, like the Father and the Son. For instance, it is often said to be “poured out” and “shed abroad.” But we never read about God or Christ being poured out or shed abroad. If it was a person, it would be nothing strange for it to appear in bodily shape; and yet when it has so appeared, that fact has been noted as peculiar. Thus Luke 3:22 says: “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him.” But the shape is not always the same; for on the day of Pentecost it assumed the form of “cloven tongues like as of fire.” Acts 2:3, 4. Again we read of “the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6. This is unquestionably simply a designation of the Holy Spirit, put in this form to signify its perfection and completeness. But it could hardly be so described if it was a person. We never read of the seven Gods or the seven Christs. (Uriah Smith, October 28, 1890, Review & Herald)

Five months after this article appeared in the Review & Herald, Uriah Smith delivered a sermon before the General Conference. In this sermon he comes to a place where he realizes the necessity of explaining some things about the Spirit of God.

Note: Uriah Smith described the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. He referred to this Spirit using the word “it”rather than “He” sixteen times in this one paragraph. Just seven paragraphs later he makes the following statement.

"It may not then be out of place for us to consider for a moment what this Spirit is, what ITS office is, what ITS relation to the world and to the church, and what the Lord through this proposes to do for his people. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God; IT is also the Spirit of Christ. IT IS THAT DIVINE, MYSTERIOUS EMANATION through which they carry forward their great and infinite work. IT is called the Eternal Spirit; IT is a spirit that is omniscient and omnipresent; IT is the spirit that moved, or brooded, upon the face of the waters in the early days when chaos reigned, and out of the chaos was brought the beauty and the glory of this world. IT IS THE AGENCY through which life is imparted; it is the medium through which all God’s blessings and graces come to his people. IT is the Comforter; it is the Spirit of Truth; IT is the vital connection between us and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; for the apostle tells us that if we “have not the Spirit of Christ,” were are “none of his.” IT is a spirit which is tender; which can be insulted, can be grieved, can be quenched. IT IS THE AGENCY through which we are to be introduced, if ever we are introduced to immortality; for Paul says that if the spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead dwell in you, he shall quicken also your mortal bodies by that Spirit which dwelleth in you; that is, the Spirit of Christ. Rom. 8:11…. You will notice in these few verses the apostle brings to view the THREE GREAT AGENCIES which are concerned in this work: God, the Father; Christ, his Son; and the Holy Spirit…. (Uriah Smith, “The Spirit of Prophecy and Our Relation To It,” The General Conference Bulletin, IV March 18, 1891 pg 146, 147).

Note: This statement is very interesting as it explains that the Pioneers understood the use of the term, “three great agencies” in a way that is in harmony with the teaching that the Holy Spirit is not a third, separate being, but rather the Spirit of the Father and His Son.

“1. We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Matt. 28:19. By this we express our belief in the existence of the one true God, the mediation of his Son, and the influence of the Holy Spirit.” (Uriah Smith, 1858, The Bible Students Assistant, pages 21, 22)

“Do the Scriptures warrant the praise or worship of the Holy Spirit? IF NOT, DOES NOT THE LAST LINE OF THE DOXOLOGY CONTAIN AN UNSCRIPTURAL SENTIMENT? D. H.

ANSWER.--- WE KNOW OF NO PLACE IN THE BIBLE WHERE WE ARE COMMANDED TO WORSHIP THE HOLY SPIRIT, AS WAS COMMANDED IN THE CASE OF CHRIST (HEB 1:6) OR WHERE WE FIND AN EXAMPLE OF THE WORSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AS IN THE CASE OF CHRIST. LUKE 21:52. YET in the formula for baptism, the name " Holy Ghost," or "Holy Spirit," is associated with that of the Father and the Son. And if the name can be thus used, why could it not properly stand as a part of the same trinity in the hymn of praise, " Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost " (Uriah Smith, RH Oct 27, 1896)

Statements about the Personality of God

“In 1 Cor. 15, I find that it is not the natural man that hath immortality; yet Paul assures the Romans that by patient continuance in well doing all could obtain immortality and eternal life. The doctrine called the trinity, claiming that God is without form or parts; that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the three are one person, is another. Could God be without form or parts when he “spoke unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh unto a friend?” [Ex. 33:11] or when the Lord said unto him, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live? And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by; and I will take away my hand and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen. Ex. 33:20, 22, 23. Christ is the express image of his Father’s person. Heb. 1:3.” (Uriah Smith, July 10, 1856, Review & Herald, vol. 8, no. 11, page 87, par. 33)

“To the Lamb, equally with the Father who sits upon the throne, praise is ascribed in this song of adoration. Commentators, with great unanimity, have seized upon this as proof that Christ must be coeval with the Father; for otherwise, say they, here would be worship paid to the creature which belongs only to the Creator. But this does not seem to be a necessary conclusion. The Scriptures nowhere speak of Christ as a created being, but on the contrary plainly state that he was begotten of the Father. (See remarks on Rev. 3:14, where it is shown that Christ is not a created being.) But while as the Son he does not possess a co-eternity of past existence with the Father, the beginning of his existence, as the begotten of the Father, antedates the entire work of creation, in relation to which he stands as joint creator with God. John 1:3; Heb. 1:2. Could not the Father ordain that to such a being worship should be rendered equally with himself, without its being idolatry on the part of the worshiper? He has raised him to positions which make it proper that he should be worshipped, and has even commanded that worship should be rendered him, which would not have been necessary had he been equal with the Father in eternity of existence. Christ himself declares that “as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” John 5:26. The Father has “highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” Phil. 2:9. And the Father himself says, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Heb. 1:6. These testimonies show that Christ is now an object of worship equally with the Father; but they do not prove that with him he holds an eternity of past existence.” (Uriah Smith, 1882, Daniel And The Revelation, page 430)

“God alone is without beginning. At the earliest epoch when a beginning could be,—a period so remote that to finite minds it is essentially eternity,—appeared the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1. This uncreated Word was the Being, who, in the fulness of time, was made flesh, and dwelt among us. His beginning was not like that of any other being in the universe. It is set forth in the mysterious expressions, “his [God’s] only begotten Son” (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), “the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14), and, “I proceeded forth and came from God.” John 8:42. Thus it appears that by some divine impulse or process, not creation, known only to Omniscience, and possible only to Omnipotence, the Son of God appeared. And then the Holy Spirit (by an infirmity of translation called “the Holy Ghost”), the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the divine afflatus and medium of their power, representative of them both (Ps. 139:7), was in existence also.” (Uriah Smith, 1898, Looking Unto Jesus, page 10)

“When Christ left heaven to die for a lost world, he left behind, for the time being, his immortality also. but how could that be laid aside? That it was laid aside is sure, or he could not have died; but he did die, as a whole, as a divine being, as the Son of God, not in body only, while the spirit, the divinity, lived right on; for then the world would have only a human Saviour, a human sacrifice for its sins; but the prophet says that “his soul” was made “an offering for sin.” Isa. 53:10.” (Uriah Smith, 1898, Looking Unto Jesus, pages 23, 24)

Did Uriah Smith change his views on Trinity?

Misunderstanding of Uriah Smith's statement explained

"Do the Scriptures warrant the praise or worship of the Holy Spirit?... in the formula for baptism, the name " Holy Ghost," or "Holy Spirit," is associated with that of the Father and the Son. And if the name can be thus used, why could it not properly stand as a part of the same trinity in the hymn of praise, " Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost " (Uriah Smith, RH Oct 27, 1896)

Some have used the above statement to claim that Uriah Smith has changed his position on the doctrine of Trinity. But the full context of the noted statement which originally appeared in the Review and Herald Oct. 27, 1896 (as a response to a question) proves to be otherwise.  The omitted portions in the above statement are emphasized by the words in caps below:

“Do the Scriptures warrant the praise or worship of the Holy Spirit? IF NOT, DOES NOT THE LAST LINE OF THE DOXOLOGY CONTAIN AN UNSCRIPTURAL SENTIMENT? D. H.

ANSWER.--- WE KNOW OF NO PLACE IN THE BIBLE WHERE WE ARE COMMANDED TO WORSHIP THE HOLY SPIRIT, AS WAS COMMANDED IN THE CASE OF CHRIST (HEB 1:6) OR WHERE WE FIND AN EXAMPLE OF THE WORSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AS IN THE CASE OF CHRIST. LUKE 21:52. YET in the formula for baptism, the name " Holy Ghost," or "Holy Spirit," is associated with that of the Father and the Son. And if the name can be thus used, why could it not properly stand as a part of the same trinity in the hymn of praise, " Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost " (Uriah Smith, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | October 27, 1896 digital library pdf 9/16)

 
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Note: The entire context of the statement should leave no doubt as to what Uriah Smith's view was at the time he wrote this statement. But even so, the use of the expression, "trinity" is certainly notable and one has to wonder why he used this term as it relates to the doxology. Smith used the word “trinity” because that word, when used with a little “t,” simply means a group of three, as it will be demonstrated from inspiration:

It is interesting to note that while some claim Ellen White to be a trinitarian, she only use the expression, "trinity" once, in her approximate 25 million words of testimony.

“This warning now comes to you, and what will you do with it? Will you say, “Have no fear of me?” But beware of that which the old writers called the world’s trinity—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. If you trifle and tamper with these, they will prove your ruin….{Lt43-1898.25}

Note: The expression, “world’s trinity” was used to merely list 3 types of sinful desires in the world - the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. Thus, the expression, Mrs. White use did not refer to the doctrine of trinity rather it was simply use to denote a group of 3 and it's quite probable that this was also the case with her contemporaries.

So the point here, considering what position he clearly held with regard to the doctrine of Trinity, when Uriah Smith wrote of the name of the Holy Spirit being found in the baptismal formula as his reason for it to “properly stand as a part of the same trinity in the hymn of praise”, he was talking about a trinity (a group of three) in the context of a song. He was not in anyway endorsing the doctrine. 

As to the question, "DOES NOT THE LAST LINE OF THE DOXOLOGY [Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost] CONTAIN AN UNSCRIPTURAL SENTIMENT?" The original source do not show Smith addressing this particular question. 

More on the doxology:

Those who believe Ellen White's position changed from non-trinitarian to trinitarian, say Mrs. White was “already speaking of the Spirit as worthy of worship” in 1881. What they are referring to is Mrs. White’s reference to the doxology:

"I appeal to the congregation that regularly assemble at our Tabernacle: Will you not bring in your offerings to lift the debt from the Lord’s house? I appeal to those who send their children to Battle Creek, where they unite with us in the worship of God: Will you not assist us to lift this debt? I invite all to be especially liberal at this time. Let cheerful freewill-offerings be brought to the Lord, let us consecrate to Him all that we are, and all that we have, and then may we all unite to swell the songs, {RH January 4, 1881, Art. C, par. 18}

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; 

Praise him, all creatures here below; 

Praise him above, ye heavenly host; 

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” {"The New Year" RH January 4, 1881; Art. C, par. 19}

Now, if Mrs. White was “speaking of the Spirit as worthy of worship” by quoting the doxology hymn then this was actually the case in Seventh-day Adventism going back to 1849 via James White. 

Back in 1849 James White published the hymn book “Hymns for God’s Peculiar People, that Keep the Commandments of God, and the Faith of Jesus.” It contained 53 hymns and what concerns us is the 53rd.

"HYMN 53.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him all creatures here below;

Praise Him, above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

AMEN!”

Again, if Mrs. White's mention of the doxology is to be understood as her endorsing the trinity doctrine then there is just as much evidence to suggest that James White was also endorsing the idea of the Spirit as worthy of worship. Maybe that is possible but not probable knowing that James White was a clear anti-trinitarian.

In 1886 a SDA Hymnal was produced that was called “The Seventh-day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book.” And while the hymn “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty” found on pg 99 was edited to remove the God in three Persons reference (the church was non-trinitarian) the Doxology on pg 256 still read “Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Thus it was just like James White’s original 1849 hymnbook. And guess who was the secretary for the committee that was in charge of making this 1886 hymnbook? You guessed it! Uriah Smith! Quoting now from the relevant GC minutes:

“The committee on new hymn book reported as follows:--

"We, your committee to consider plans for the production of a new hymn book, would submit the following report:--

"1. That a committee of twenty-five, of whom Elder George I. Butler shall be chairman and Elder U. Smith secretary, shall be chosen to gather up both hymns and music, and each individual, after due examination of what he collects, shall send it to the secretary of the committee. (GC Minutes Fourteenth Meeting, November 19, 1884, 2:30 P.M.)

The point here is that Uriah Smith, somewhere in the interim between 1884 to 1886, approved the usage of the doxology as a part of this committee! The hymns were sent to him. That was clearly his position back in at least 1886 and, arguably, maybe even going back so far as 1849! There does not appear to be any real change in his doctrine here at all.

While some may argue that doxology may contain elements of trinitarian sentiments and therefore those who sang it must believed trinity. But historical evidence shows that the SDA non-trinitarian church had no problem with praising the holy Spirit in a song... and that did NOT make them believers in the doctrine of the trinity. Unfortunately there are some who try to argue for SDA doctrine based off of hymnals but that is not really a sound argument to make. If it were the case then you could prove that they were trinitarians back in 1849!

Additional thoughts on doxology-Argument for worshipping the Holy Spirit

"Now a little point. As the saints in the kingdom of God are accepted in the beloved, they hear: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And then the golden harps are touched, and the music flows all through the heavenly host, and they fall down and worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And then what? What next did I see? One meets another; and they say, as they fall right upon their necks with their faces shining with the glory of God, “It was you, it was you that brought the truth to me, and I would not hear it at first, but, O I am so glad.” Now that will be acted all through the heavenly courts, thanksgiving and praise to God for those that have been the means of winning others to the truth, that they should come and have an interest for them, and then they are united among the saved. O what a meeting! what a meeting! {Ms 139-1906.32}

As the quote above states there is worship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit that Mrs. White mentions among the saved in heaven. This is the only direct quote in the SOP that speaks to the issue. However the issue is also indirectly broached via the doxology. In order to understand this we need to understand this first. 

"Music forms a part of God’s worship in the courts above. We should endeavor in our songs of praise to approach as nearly as possible to the harmony of the heavenly choirs... {ST June 22, 1882, par. 18}

"As a part of religious service, singing is as much an act of worship as is prayer... {Ed 168.3}

As the quotes above indicate music is a part of the worship of God in heaven above. And singing, when a part of religious service, is as much an act of worship as is prayer. With that established we now must consider these quotes:

"As I ceased speaking Brother Hoskins started the doxology, and the whole congregation rose to their feet and poured out their voice in {Ms39-1892.36}

“Praise God from whom all blessing flow, 

Praise Him all creatures here below, 

Praise Him above ye heavenly host, 

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” {Ms39-1892.37}

It seemed a fitting response. I never listened to words in sacred song that came forth with more earnestness and power. I know that many were fed with rich morsels from the treasury of God. {Ms39-1892.38}

Putting two and two together we see that Mrs. White taught that singing/music was a form or worship and she endorsed the doxology, which includes ascribing praise in song to the holy Ghost along with the Father and Son.

On Matthew 28:19

“We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Matt. 28:19. By this we express our belief in the existence of the one true God, the mediation of his Son, and the influence of the Holy Spirit” { U. Smith, The Bible Students Assistant, pp. 21, 22. 1858}