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We are so.
most obvious meaning, describe a direct testimony of the Spirit.
5. That the testimony of the Spirit of God must, in the very nature of things, be antecedut to the testimony of our own spirit, may appear from this single consideration : We must be holy in heart and lilc, before we can be conscious that
But we must love Gou beiore we can be holy at all, this being the root of all holiness. Now we cannot lure God, till we know he loves us : “We love him, because he first loved us:" and we cannot know his love to us, till his spirit witnesse's it to our spirit. Till then we cannot believe it ; ile cannot siy, “ The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gare himself for me.”
· Then, only then we feel
Our interest in his blood,
Thou art my Lord, my God." Since, therefore, tiie testimony of his Spirit must precede the love of God, and all holiness, of consequence it must precede our consciousness thereof.
6. Indbere properly comes in, to confirm this scriptural doctrine, the Experience of the children of God; the experience not of two or three, not of fer, but of a great multitude which no man can number, It has been confirmed, both in this and in all ages, by a clond of living and dying witnesses. It is confirmed by your experience and wine. The Spirit itself bore witness to my spirit, that I tras a child of God, gave me an evidence hercof, and I immediately cried, Abba, Father! And this I did, (and so did yoll,) before I reflected on, or was couscious of, any fruit of the Spirit. It was from this testimony reccived, that love, joy, peace, and the whole fruit of the Spirit Nowed. First I heard,
" Thy sins are forgiven ! Accepted thon art ! -
heart.” 7. But this is confirmed, not only by the experience of the children of God; thousands of whom can declare, that they never did know themselves to be in the favour of God, till it was directly witnessed to them by his Spirit ;---but by all those who are convinced of sin, who feel the wrath of God abiding on them. These cannot be satisfied with any thing less than a direct testimony from his Spirit, that he is “ merciful to their
unrighteousness, and remembers their sins and iniquities no more.” Tell any of these, “You are to know you are a child, by reflecting on what he has wrought in you, on your love, joy, and peace ;” and will he not immediately reply, “ By all this I know I am a child of the Devil. I have no more · love to God than the Devil has : my carnal inind is enmity against God. I have no joy in the Holy Ghost: my soul is sorrowful even unto death. I have no peace: iny heart is a troubled sea : I am all storm and tempest.” And which way can these souls possibly be comforted, but by a divine testimony (not that they are good, or sincere, or conformable to the Scripture in heart and life, but) that God justifieth the ungodly ?him that, till the moment he is justified, is all ungodly, void of all truc holiness ; “him that worketh not,” that worketh nothing tha is truly good, till he is conscious that he is accepted, “ not for (any) works of righteousness which he hath done,” but by the mere, free mercy of God; wholly and solely, for what the Son of God hath done and suffered for him. And can it be any otherwise, if" a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law ?” If so, what inward or outward goodness can he be conscious of, antecedent to his justification ? Nay, is not the having nothing to pay, that is, the being conscious that “there dwelleth in us no good thing,” neither inward nor outward goodness, essentially, indispensably necessary, before we can be “ justified freely, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ?” Was ever any man justified since his coming into the world, or can any man ever be justified, till he is brought to that point,
“I give up every plea beside,
Lord, I am damn'd; But thou hast died ?” 8. Every one therefore who denies the existence of such a testimony, does in effect deny justification by faith. It follows, that either he never experienced this, either he never was justified, or that he has forgotten, as St. Peter speaks, to xafagious twv nadal quagtiw, the purification from his former sins ; the experience he then had himself; the manner wherein God wrought in his own soul, when his former sins were blotted out.
9. And the experience even of the children of the world here confirms that of the children of God. Many of these have a desire to please God: some of them take much pains to please him : but do they not, one and all, count it the
highest absurdity for any to talk of knowing his sins are forgiven ? Which of them cren pretends to any such thing? Aud yet many of them are conscious of their own sincerity. Many of them undoubtedly have, in a degree, the testimony of their own spirit, a consciousness of their own uprightness. But this brings them no consciousness that they are forgiven; no knowledge that they are the children of God. Yea, the more sincere they are, the more measy they generally are, for want of knowing it; plainly showing that this cannot be known, in a satisfactory manner, by the bare testimony of our own spirit, without God's directly testisying that we are bis children.
IV. But abundance of Objections have been made to this; thic chicf of which it may be well to consider.
1. It is objectců first, “ Espericucc is not sufficient to prove a doctrine which is not founded on Scripture.” This is undoubtedly true; and it is an important truth); but it does not affect the present question: for it has been shown, that this doctrine is founded on Scripture: Therefore experience is properly alleged to confirm it.
2. “But madmen, French prophets, and enthusiasts of every kind, have imagined they experienced this witness." They have so; and perhaps not a few of them did, although they did not retain it long: but if they did not, this is no proof at all that others have not experienced it; as a madman's imagining himself a king, does not prove that there are no real kings.
“Nay, many who pleaded strongly for this, have utterly decried the Bible.” Perhaps so; but this was no necessary consequence: thousands plcad for it who have thc highest Esteem for the Bible.
“Yea, but many have fatally deceived themselves hereby, and got above all conviction.”
And yet a scriptural doctrine is no worse, though men abuse it to their own destruction.
3. “But I lay it down as an undoubted truth, the fruit of thic Spirit is the witness of the Spirit.” Not undoubted; thousands doubt of, yea, fatly deny it: but let that pass. “If this witness be sufficient, there is no need of any other. But it is sufficient, unless in one of these cascs, ], The total absence of the fruit of the Spirit.” And this is the case, when thic virect witues is first sivil: 2. ^ The nut percciving it. But to contend for it in this case, is to contend for being in the favour of God, and not knowing it." True, not knowing it at that time any otherwise, than by the testimony which is given for that end. And this we do contend for; we contend that the direct witness may shine clear, even while the indirect one is under a cloud.
4. It is objected, secondly, “The design of the witness contended for, is to prove that the profession we make is genuine. But it does not prove this.” I answer, the proving this is not the design of it. It is antecedent to our making any profession at all, but that of being lost, undone, guilty, helpless sinners. It is designed to assure those to whom it is given, that they are the children of God; that they are “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” And this does not suppose that their preceding thoughts, words, and actions, are conformable to the rule of Scripture; it supposes quite the reverse ; namely, that they are sinners all over; sinners both in heart and life. Were it otherwise, God would justify the godly; and their own works would be counted to them for righteousness. And I cannot but fear that a supposition of our being justified by works, is at the root of all these objections; for, whoever cordially believes, that God imputes to all that are justified righteousness without works, will find no difficulty in allowing the witness of his Spirit, preceding the fruit of it.
5. It is objected, thirdly, “One Evangelist says, Your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him. The other Evangelist calls the same thing 'good gifts;' abundantly demonstrating that the Spirit's way of bearing witness is by giving good gifts.” Nay, here is nothing at all about bearing witness, either in the one text or the other. Therefore till this demonstration is better demonstrated, I let it stand as it is.
6. It is objected, fourthly, “The Scripture says, “The tree is knowu by its fruits. Prove all things. Try the spirits. Examine yourselves.”” Most true: therefore, let every man who believes he “hath the witness in himself,” try whether it be of God; if the fruit follow, it is; otherwise it is not. For certainly “the tree is known by its fruit:" hereby we prove if it be of God. “But the direct witness is never referred to in the Book of God.” Not as standing alone; not as a single witness; but as connected with the other; as giving a
june listingly; training with our spirit, that we are children oille. Ein in alie to prove, that it is not true referred 15...51: Scriprure: "Examinit yourselves whether ye be Lista... picit :113.-15€, BILO Orownputs, * Jus Chri- ini ?" Itis !! chai - ciear, that
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7. " the testimony arising from the internal and exterual change, is constantly referred in in the Bible.” It is so: and no constantly refer thereto, to confirm the testimony of the Spirit.
"Vai, ail the marks you have given, whereby to distinguint the operations of Gud's Spirit from delusio?), refer to the chance wrought in us and upon us." This like rise is undoubtedly true.
8. It is objecten, tichly, that “ Tie direct witness of the Spirit does not secure us from the greatest delusion. And is that a witness fit to be trnsted, whose testimony cannot be depended on? that is forced to tly to something else, to prove what it asserts:"" I ansier: To secure us from all delusion, God gives us to witnesses that we are his children. And this they tentify conjointly. Therefore, “what God bath joined together, let not man put asunder.” sind while they are joined, we cannot be deluded: their testimony can be depended on. They arc fit to be trusted in the highest degree, and need nothing elie to prove what they assert.
" Vak, ibie direct wildes, only asserts, but does not prove inny thing." By into witnesses shall every orl be established. And when the Spirit witnesses with our spirit, as God designs it to do, then it fully proves that we are children of God.
9. It is objected, sixthly, “You own the change wrought is it sufficient testimony, unless in the case of severe trials, such as that of our Saviour upon the Cross; but none of us can be tried in that manner.” But you or I may be tricd in such a manner, and so onay any other child of God, that it will be impossible for its to keep our filial confidence in God, withont the direct witness of his Spirit.
10. It is objected, lastly, “The greatest contenders for it, are some of the proudest and most uncharitable of men." Perhaps some of the hotest contenders for it are both proud