Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article V

Article V.

Of the Holy Ghost.

THE Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

De Spiritu Sancto.

SPIRITUS Sanctus, a Patre et Filio procedens, ejusdem est cum Patre et Filio essentiæ, majestatis et gloriæ, verus et æternus Deus.

Section I. — History.

THE subjects of this Article to be treated on are — I. The Divinity; II. The Personality; III. The Procession, of the Holy Ghost.

Those early heretics who denied the Divinity of the Son of God, seem generally to have disbelieved the Personality of the Holy Spirit, and to have looked on Him not as a Person, but as an efficacy, power, or emanation from God.

This heresy appears to have been as early as Simon Magus himself, and his immediate followers, the Gnostics. The like opinion would, of course, naturally prevail among those speculators who afterwards acquired the name of Sabellians, such as Praxeas, Noetus, Sabellius, Beryllus, Paulus Samosatenus.[1]

The Arians, on the contrary, appear to have taught that the Spirit was a separate Person from the Father and the Son, but that He was, as they held the Son to be, but a creature. Nay, as they held the Son to be a creature created by the Father, so they are said to have taught that the Spirit was created by the Son, and hence called Him κτίσμα κτίσματος, the creature of a creature.[2]

Macedonius especially was considered the head of the Pneumatomachi, or impugners of the Divinity of the Spirit, being reckoned among the semi-Arians, orthodox about the person of the Son, but a believer in the creation of the Holy Ghost. He is said to have called the Holy Spirit the servant or minister of God.[3] This heresy of Macedonius was condemned by the second general council held at Constantinople, A. D. 381, which added to the Nicene Creed after the words, “And in the Holy Ghost,” the following, viz.: “The Lord, and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.”

Of the fathers, Origen and Lactantius have been charged with unsound doctrines concerning the Holy Ghost.

It is not easy to arrive at a just conclusion concerning the statements of Origen, owing to the fierce disputes which arose concerning them, the obscurity, and the mutilated condition of his writings. He has been accused of questioning whether, as “all things were made by” the Son, so the Holy Spirit may have been included in “all things,” and therefore created by the Son. The accusation, however, appears to be unjust, and to have been grounded on some inaccuracy of language and obscurity of reasoning, not on really heretical statements.[4]

Jerome more than once charges Lactantius with virtually denying the Personality of the Holy Spirit by referring His operation, through a Jewish error, to the Person of the Father or of the Son;[5] an heretical belief, which, he says, prevailed among many.

One of the strange forms which heresy is said to have assumed was that which is attributed to Montanus, namely, that he gave himself out to be the Paraclete, i. e. the Spirit of God. Nay, it is even said that he had his disciples baptized in his own name, as the third Person of the blessed Trinity;[6] though it appears to be doubtful whether Montanus really meant that he was an incarnation of the Spirit, or only that the Spirit dwelt more fully in him than in any former man.[7] Indeed, to some it appears that the Montanists were in their creed Sabellians, and that they thought that the Spirit which animated Montanus was but an emanation from God.[8]

A denial of the Personality of the Holy Ghost, and a belief that He was but an influence or energy, seem to have been general in later times with the Socinians, and may be considered as a necessary consequence of a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity in general.

But the most celebrated controversy which has ever arisen concerning the Holy Ghost was that which had reference to His Procession, and which led to the famous schism between the Eastern and Western churches.

The Council of Constantinople (A. D. 381) had inserted in the Creed of the Council of Nice (A. D. 325) the words “proceeding from the Father” (τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον); and the Council of Ephesus (A. D. 431) had decreed that no addition should be made to that creed thenceforth. Accordingly, the Greek fathers uniformly declared their belief in the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father.

The Latin Fathers, on the other hand, having regard to those passages of Scripture which speak of the Spirit of Christ, and of the Spirit as sent by the Son, continually spoke of the Holy Ghost as proceeding from the Father and the Son.[9] The Greek fathers, indeed, were willing to use language approximating to the words of the Latin Fathers, but shrank from directly asserting the procession from the Son. Thus they spoke of the Holy Ghost as “the Spirit of Christ, proceeding from the Father, and receiving of the Son.”[10] And it has been inferred that many of the earlier Greek writers held, as did the Latins, a real procession from both the Father and the Son, although they were not willing to express themselves otherwise than in the words of the Creed.

Theodoret, in the fifth century, appears to have been the first of the Greeks who brought the question out into bold relief; for, taking offence at some expressions of Cyril, who speaking of the Spirit had used the words ἴδιον τὸ Πνεῦμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, he declares, that, if by such an expression he meant “that the Spirit derived His Being either from or through the Son, then the saying was to be rejected as blasphemous and profane; for we believe the Lord when He saith, ‘the Spirit which proceedeth from the Father,’ and we believe St. Paul in like manner saying, ‘we have not received the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God.'”[11] St. Cyril, not directly replying to Theodoret, at least not entering fully upon the doctrine of the Procession, there appears to have been little controversy about it in the East, until attention was roused to the subject by the conduct of some portions of the Western Church. The question having been for some time discussed, whether or not the Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as from the Father, the Churches of France and Spain not only asserted such to be the case, but actually added to the Creed of Constantinople the words Filioque (“and the Son”), and so chanted the Creed in their Liturgies with the clause Credimus et in Spiritum Sanctum Dominum et vivificatorem, ex Patre Filioque procedentem.[12] In the early part of the ninth century Pope Leo III. was appealed to, and decreed in a Synod held at Aquisgranum, that no such addition ought to be made to the creeds of the Church. Nay, so important did he deem a strict adherence to the symbols in their original form, that he caused the Constantinopolitan Creed, in the very words in which it had been penned at the council, to be graven on silver plates, both in Latin and Greek, and so to be publicly set forth in the Church.[13]

Afterwards, however, Pope Nicolas the First had a violent controversy with Photius, patriarch of Constantinople. Ignatius, who had been deposed from that see, and succeeded by Photius, appealed to Pope Nicolas, who took the part of Ignatius, and excommunicated Photius; who in his turn assembled a council at Constantinople, in 866, and excommunicated Nicolas. Subsequently Ignatius having been recalled by Basilius the Macedonian, and Photius degraded, a council was held at Constantinople (A. D. 869), which is called by the Latins the eighth Œcumenical Council, in which the controversies between the Eastern and Western Churches were hushed for the time. Among the subjects which had been introduced into this unhappy discussion, the most prominent was the question concerning the Procession of the Holy Ghost; Photius charging the Latins with having adulterated the Creed of Constantinople by the addition of Filioque, and the Latins vigorously defending themselves concerning this and other charges.[14]

On the death of Ignatius, A. D. 878, Photius was again restored to the patriarchal see, when John the Eighth was Bishop of Rome. On his accession he again renewed the controversies with the West; and in a council held at Constantinople, A. D. 879 (owned by the Greeks as the eighth Œcumenical), it was declared that the addition of Filioque should be taken away. Leo the Philosopher afterwards again deposed Photius, and confined him in an Armenian convent, where he died in the year 891.[15]

The contest between the Churches, now suspended for a time, was revived in the year 1053, by Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople. Between him and Leo IX., Bishop of Rome, a violent contest arose, both on the subject of their respective jurisdictions and concerning the doctrines in dispute between the two great branches of the Church. Cerularius wrote, in his own name and that of Leo Bishop of Achrida, a strong letter to John Bishop of Trani in Apulia, charging the Latins with various errors. Leo therefore summoned a Council at Rome, and excommunicated the Greek Churches. Constantine Monomachus, the emperor, in vain strove to quench the flame of discord; and though legates were sent from Rome to Constantinople, instead of endeavouring to allay the strife, they solemnly excommunicated Cerularius, Leo of Achrida, and their adherents, who, in their turn, in a public council excommunicated them.[16] Thus arose the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, which has never since been healed.

Section II. — Scriptural Proof.

The first I. and second II. heads of this Article concern the Divinity and the Personality of the Holy Ghost.

Both these were treated under the First Article, and it is not necessary to repeat the arguments here. It may be enough to add that among the strongest passages of Scripture in proof of these doctrines will be found the following: —

Divinity. Matt. xii. 32. Acts v. 3, 4. 1 Cor. iii. 16; compare 1 Cor. vi. 19.

Personality. Matt. xii. 32; xxviii. 19. John xiv. 16, 26; xvi. 8, 13. Acts v. 3, 4. Rom. viii. 26. 1 Cor. xii. 11 Eph. iv. 30. 1 John v. 7.

III. The third division of the subject is concerning the Procession of the Holy Ghost; the Article, after the Latin versions of the Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Creed of St. Athanasius, asserting that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The distinction between the three Persons in the Godhead was set forth in treating on the First Article. The relation of God the Son to God the Father, how that from all eternity God the Son derived His being from God the Father, by a proper but ineffable generation, was set forth in the FIRST part of the Second Article.

Now, whereas it is certain that the Scriptures ever speak of the Second Person of the Trinity as the Son of God, and as begotten of the Father, so it is equally certain that they speak of the Spirit as coming forth or proceeding from the Father, but never as begotten of Him. The early Christians, observing this distinction, cautiously adhering to the language of inspiration, and striving to imbibe the notions conveyed by it, ever taught that it was peculiar to the Father to be underived and unbegotten; to the Son, to be begotten; to the Holy Ghost, to be proceeding.[17]

1. That the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father scarcely needs to be proved.

In Matt. x. 20, He is called “the Spirit of the Father.” In Rom. viii. 11, He is called “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead.” In John xiv. 26, “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,” is promised, as to be sent “by the Father in Christ’s name.” In John xv. 26, we read of the “Comforter . . . even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father.” Compare also Matt. iii. 16. Acts v. 9. 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11, 14; iii. 16; vi. 19, &c. Accordingly, there never has been any doubt, among those who admit the doctrine of the Trinity, that as the Son is begotten of the Father, so the Spirit proceeds from the Father.

2. But though the doctrine of the procession of the Spirit from the Father is thus unquestionable, it has been seen, that the Greeks doubted the propriety of saying that the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Son as well as from the Father. They doubted it, as it seems, merely because in John xv. 26, it is said “that the Spirit of truth proceedeth from the Father,” and there is no passage of Scripture, which, in the same express terms, says that the Spirit proceedeth from the Son.

Yet if we except this one expression of John xv. 26, every other expression whatsoever, from which we infer that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, is used in like manner concerning His relation to the Son. For example: —

(1) Is He called “the Spirit of God,” “the Spirit of the Father,” “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus?” In like manner He is called “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of the Son,” “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Thus we read, Rom. viii. 9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ;” where it is evident the Apostle means the Holy Spirit of God spoken of in the preceding sentence. Gal. iv. 6, “God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son.” Phil. i. 19, “The supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. i. 11, “The Spirit of Christ,” which was in the prophets.

And so surely is this the case, that the Greeks themselves were even willing to call the Holy Ghost the Spirit of the Son; confessing that “He proceedeth from the Father, and is the Spirit of the Son.” And hence many of our divines, and even divines of the Church of Rome, have concluded that their difference on this point from the Western Church was but in modo loquendi, in manner of speech, not in fundamental truth.[18]

(2) But, again, do we infer that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, because He is sent by the Father, and is breathed forth into the prophets by the Father? Still, in like manner, we read that the same Spirit is sent by the Son, and was by Him breathed upon His Apostles. Thus He says Himself, John xv. 26, “The Comforter, whom I will send unto you from the Father.” John xvi. 7, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” And in John xx. 22, after He had risen from the dead, “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”

Now, our principal reasons for concluding that the Spirit of God proceeds from God the Father are these: namely, that He is called the Spirit of the Father; that as the Father sends the Son, who is begotten of Him, so He sends the Spirit; and that He sends Him especially in that manner which in Scripture is called inspiring or breathing forth. From all this we conclude that, like as the Son is begotten, so the Spirit proceedeth of the Father. Yet the Scriptures set forth the relation of the Spirit to the Son, in all these respects, in the very same language in which they set forth the relation of the Spirit to the Father. Hence we conclude, that, as the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, so He proceeds from the Son.[19] And though we may question the wisdom of adding the words Filioque to a Creed drawn up by a General Council, without the authority of a General Council; we yet do not question the truth of the doctrine conveyed by these words, and which, we believe, was implicitly held by the divines of the Eastern Church, though they shrank from explicit exposition of it in terms.[20]


  1. See the account of these heretics, Art. I. § 1.; and the authorities referred to in the notes. See also Pearson, On the Creed, Art. VIII. p. 322, note. Suicer, II. p. 774.
  2. Τὸ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα κτίσμα κτίσματος ϕάσιν εἶναι. Epiphan. Hær. LXIX. 56, p. 778, Colon.; Suicer, II. p. 775. A synod held under Damasus at Rome decreed εἶ τις εἶποι τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ποιήμα ἣ διὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ γεγενῆσθαι ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. Apud Theodor. I. V. c. 11. See Pearson, On the Creed, p. 316, note. Suicer, as above; and the account given, Art. I. § 1. See also Lardner’s Works, IV. pp. 113, 114.
  3. Suicer, II. p. 774.
  4. The book in which Origen is especially accused of having spoken blasphemy concerning the Spirit of God is the first book of the Περὶρχῶν (De Principiis), ἐν ᾧ πλεῖστα βλασϕημεῖ, τὸν μὲν Υἱὸν ὑπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς πεποιῆσθαι λέγων, τὸ δὲ Πνεῦμα ὑπὸ τοῦ Υἱοῦ. Photius, Biblioth. cod. viii. We have this book only in the translation of Rufinus, who in his prologue to it says that he has omitted parts of the book, which had been foisted into it by heretics, and supplied the omissions from other portions of the genuine works of Origen. Jerome (Lib. I. Adv. Rufinum) accuses Rufinus of having mistranslated Origen, and he himself undertook to give a new translation. All but fragments of the latter are lost. If Rufinus has given at all a fair representation of his author, the following would show that Origen cannot have been very heretical concerning the Holy Ghost: “Ne quis sane existimet nos ex eo quod diximus Spiritum Sanctum solis sanctis præstari, Patris vero et Filii beneficia vel inoperationes pervenire ad bonos et malos, justos et injustos, prætulisse per hoc Patri et Filio Spiritum Sanctum, vel majorem ejus per hoc asserere dignitatem: quod utique valde inconsequens est. Proprietatem namque gratiæ ejus operisque descripsimus. Porro autem nihil in Trinitate majus minusve dicendum est, quum unius Divinitatis Fons Verbo ac Ratione sua teneat universa, Spiritu vero oris sui quæ digna sunt sanctificatione sanctificet, sicut in Psalmo Scriptum est Verbo Domini cœli firmati sunt et Spiritu Oris Ejus omnis virtus eorum.” — Origen. De Principiis, Lib. I. cap. 3, num. 7. Comp. num. 2.
  5. “Hoc ideo quia multi per imperitiam Scripturarum, quod et Firmilianus in octavo ad Demetrianum epistolarum libro facit, asserunt Spiritum Sanctum sæpe Patrem sæpe Filium nominari; et cum perspicue in Trinitate credamus, tertiam Personam auferentes non substantiam Ejus esse volunt, sed nomen.” — Hieron. In Epist. ad Galatas, cap. IV. Tom. IV. part 1. p. 268. See also Lardner, IV. p. 60.
  6. See Bingham, E. A. Book XI. ch. III. § 7.
  7. Mosheim, Cent. II. pt. II. ch. v. § 23; also, De Rebus ante Constantinum M. Sec. II. § 67; Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, 2d Edit. p. 22; Lardner’s Heretics, Book II. ch. 19. Manes, Mohammed, and others beside them, have professed to be the Paraclete promised by Christ to His disciples. Whether by the Paraclete they meant the Holy Ghost is questionable.
  8. See Bingham, as above.
  9. “Spiritus quoque Sanctus cum procedit a Patre et Filio, non separatur a Patre, non separatur a Filio.” — Ambros. De Sp. S. c. x. “Non possumus dicere quod Spiritus Sanctus et a Filio non procedat, neque enim frustra Spiritus et Patris et Filii Spiritus dicitur.” — August. De Trin. Lib. IV. cap. 20. See Pearson, p. 324, note. St. Augustine, more clearly and fully than any before him, asserted the procession from the Son. Hence the modern Greeks charge him with having invented it. See Waterland, Works, IV. p. 246. Oxf. 1823.
  10. Πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ, Πνεῦμα Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ λάμβανον. Epiphan. Hæres. LXIX. Tom. I. p. 788. Colon. 1682. See Suicer, I. 1070; Pearson, p. 324 note. Similar or stronger language used on this subject may be seen in the following: Εἰ τοίνον παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ, ϕησι ὁ Κύριος, λήψεται, ὅν τρόπον οὐδεὶς ἔγνω τὸν Πατέρα εἰ μὴ ὁ Υἱὸς, οὐδὲ τὸν Υἱὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ Πατὴρ · οὕτως τολμῶσι λέγειν (f. τολμῶ συλλέγειν) οὐδὲ τὸ Πνεῦμα εἰ μὴ ὁ Υἱὸς ἐξ οὗ λαμβάνει, καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ἐξ οὗ ἐκπορεύεται. Epiph. Hæres. LXXIV. 10, Tom. I. p. 898. Colon. — ζωὴ δὲ ὅλος ὁ Θεὸς, ουκοῦν ζωὴ ἐκ ζωῆς ὁ Υἱὸς, ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωὴ, τὸ δὲ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα παρἀμϕοτέρων, Πνεῦμα ἐκ Πνεῦματος . Hæres. LXXIV. 7, Tom. I. p. 895.
  11. Pearson, On the Creed, p. 325, note. Suicer, I. 1070.
  12. In very early Latin Councils this addition of the Filioque is made: as in the first Council of Bracara, A. D. 411, and in the third Council of Toledo, A. D. 589, where the Constantinopolitan Creed is recited. (Bingham, Bk. x. ch. IV. § 16.) The Council of Toledo was that which first ordered the Constantinopolitan Creed to be used in the Liturgy of the Spanish Church. (Bingham, ibid. § 7.) With regard to the insertion of the words Filioque in the Confession of the Council of Bracara, it now appears that they are not genuine, but foisted into it in later times. See Waterland, Hist. of Athan. Creed, Works, IV. p. 133, note.
  13. Pearson, On the Creed, p. 325; Mosheim, Cent. IX. pt. II. ch. III. § 18.
  14. The famous Ratramn, whose book on the Eucharist exercised so important an influence on the English Reformation, was a principal champion of the Latins in this dispute.
  15. Mosheim, Cent. IX. pt. II. ch. III. §§ 27‒32; Pearson, as above.
  16. Mosheim, Cent. XI. pt. II. ch. III. §§ 9‒11.
  17. διον Πατρὸς μὲν ἡ ἀγεννησία, Υἱοῦ δὲ γέννησις, Πνεῦματος δὲ ἡ ἔκπεμψις. — Greg. Naz. Orat. XXIII. Tom. I. p. 422. Colon. Suicer, I. p. 1069.
  18. Laud, Conference with Fisher, p. 19 (Oxf. 1839), Sect. 9, who quotes Damascene (Lib. I. Fid. Orth. c. 11) as saying, “Non ex Filio, sed Spiritum Filii esse dicimus.”
  19. “Nec possumus dicere quod Spiritus Sanctus et a Filio non procedat: neque enim frustra idem Spiritus et Patris et Filii Spiritus dicitur. Nec video quid aliud significare voluerit, cum sufflans in faciem discipulorum ait, Accipite Spiritum Sanctum. Neque enim flatus ille corporeus, cum sensu corporaliter tangendi procedens ex corpore, substantia Spiritus Sancti fuit, sed demonstratio per congruam significationem, non tantum a Patre sed et a Filio procedere Spiritum Sanctum,” &c. — August. De Trinitat. Lib. IV. cap. XX. Tom. VIII. p. 829. “De utroque autem procedere sic docetur, quia ipse Filius ait, De Patre procedit. Et cum resurrexit a mortuis et apparuisset discipulis suis, insufflavit et ait, Accipite Spiritum Sanctum, ut Eum etiam de Se procedere ostenderet. Et ipsa est Virtus quæ de Illo exibat, sicut legitur in Evangelio, et sanabat omnes.” — Ibid. Lib. XV. cap. XXVI. p. 998. See also, De Civitate Dei, Lib. XI. c. XXIV. Tom. VII. p. 290; where S. Augustine, showing that the Holy Spirit is a Person, doubts if He can be called the goodness of the Father and the Son; but observing that the Father is a Spirit and holy, and the Son is a Spirit and holy, and yet the Third Person of the Trinity is called the Holy Spirit of the Father and of the Son, he supposes that that Third Person may be called the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son, and the Holiness both of the Father and of the Son, but yet a substantial Holiness, consubstantial with both.
  20. The great objection which the Eastern Church makes to the Filioque, is, that it implies the existence of two ἀρχαὶ in the Godhead: and, if we believe in δύο ἄναρχοι, we, in effect, believe in two Gods. The unity of the Godhead can only be maintained by acknowledging the Father to be the sole Ἀρχὴ or Πηγὴ θεοτήτος , who from all eternity has communicated His own Godhead to His co-eternal and consubstantial Son and Spirit. This reasoning is generally true. But, as the doctrine of the Procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son presupposes the eternal Generation of the Son from the Father, it does not follow that that doctrine impugns the Catholic belief in the Μίαρχή.


E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.

'Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article V' has 1 comment

  1. February 16, 2022 @ 1:16 pm Ven. Job Serebrov

    This book should not be overlooked as Maximus the Confessor presented a scripturally and orthodox solution to the Filioque matter: The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology) (Reprint Edition) by A. Edward Siecienski



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