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and uncharitable ; but many of the firmest contenders for it, are eminently meek and lowly in heart; and, indeed, in all other respects also,
“ True followers of their lamb-like Lord.”
The preceding Objections are the most considerable that I have heard, and I believe contain the strength of the cause. Yet I apprehend whoever calmly and in partially considers those objections and the answers together, will easily see, that they do not destroy, no, nor weaken the evidence of that great truth, that the Spirit of God does directly, as well as indirectly, testify that we are children of God.
V. 1. The sum of all is this : The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the souls of believers, whereby the Spirit of God directly testifics to their spirit, that they are children of God. And it is not questioned, whether there is a testimony of the Spirit; but whether there is any direct testimony? Whether there is any other than that which arises from a consciousness of the fruit of the Spirit ? We believe there is ; Because this is the plain natural meaning of the text, illustrated both by the preceding words, and by the parallel passage in the Epistle to the Galatians; Because, in the nature of the thing, the testimony must precede the fruit which springs from it; and, Because this plain meaning of the Word of God is confirmed by the experience of innumerable children of God; yea, and by the experience of all who are convinced of sin, who can never rest till they have a direct witness; and even of the children of the world, who, not having the witness in themselves, one and all declare none can know his sins forgiven.
2. Aud whereas it is objected, That experience is not sufficient to prove a doctrine unsupported by Scripture ;—That madmen and cnthusiasts of every kind have imagined such a witness ;-That the design of that witness is to prove our profession genuine, which design it does not answer ;– That the Scripturc says, “The tree is known by its fruit; ” “examine yourselves; prove your ownselves ;” and, meantime, the direct witness is never referred to in all the Book of God;—That it does not secure us from the greatest delusions ; and, lastly,- That the change wrought in us is a sufficient testimony, unless in such trials as Christ alone suffered :-We answer, 1, Experience is sufficient to confirm a doctrine which
is grounded on Scripture: 2, Though many fancy they experience what they do not, this is no prejudice to real experience : 3, The design of that witness is, to assure us we are children of God; and this design it does answer: 4, The true witness of the Spirit is known by its fruit, “love, peace, joy; not indeed preceding, but following it: 5, It cannot be proved, that the direct, as well as the indirect witness, is not referred to in that very text, “ Know ye not your ownselves that Jesus Christ is in you ?” 6, The Spirit of God, witnessing with our spirit, docs secure us from all delusion : And, lastly, we are all liable to trials, wherein the testimony of our own spirit is not sufficient; wherein nothing less than the direct testimony of God's Spirit can assure us that we are his children.
3. Two Inferences may be drawn from the whole : The first, Let none crer presume to rest in any supposed Testimony of the Spirit, which is separate from the Fruit of it. If the Spirit of God does really testify that we are cbildren of God, the immediate consequence will be the fruit of the Spirit, even “ love, joy, peace, lougsuffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance.” And however this fruit may be clouded for a while, during the time of strong temptation, so that it does not appear to the tempted person, while Satan is sifting him as wheat; yet the substantial part of it remains, even under the thichest cloud. It is true, joy in the Holy Ghost may be withdrawn, during the hour of trial; yea, the soul may be “ exceeding sorrowful,” while “the hour and power of darkness” continue; but even this is generally restored with incrcasc, till we rejoice “ with joy mspeakable and full of glory.”
4. The second Inference is, Let none rest in any supposed Fruit of the Spirit without the Witness. There may be foretastes of joy, of peace, of love, and those not delusive, but really from God, long before we have the witness in ourselves; before the Spirit of God witnesses with our spirits that we have “ redemption in the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins.” Yea, there may be a degree of longsuffering, of gentleness, of fidelity, meekness, temperance, (not a shadow thereof, but a real degree, by the preventing grace of God,) before we “are accepted in the Beloved," and consequently, before we have a testimony of our acceptance: but it is by no means advisable to rest here; it is at the peril of our souls if we do. If we are wise, we shall be continually crying to God, until bis Spirit cry in our heart, Abba, Father ! This is the privilege of all the children of God, and without this we can never be assured that we are his children. Without this we cannot retain a steady peace, nor avoid perplexing doubts and fears. But when we have once received this Spirit of Adoption, this “peace which passes all understanding,” and which expels all painful doubt and fear, will “keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." And when this has brought forth its genuine fruit, all inward and outward holiness, it is undoubtedly the will of Him that calleth us, to give us always what he has once giren; so that there is no need that we should ever more be deprived of either the testimony of God's Spirit, or the testimony of our own, the consciousness of our walking in all righteousness and true holiness.
THE WITNESS OF OUR OWN SPIRIT.
“ This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in
simplicity and guily sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” 2 Cor. i. 12.
1. Such is the voice of every true believer in Christ, so long as he abides in faith and love. “He that followeth me,” saith our Lord, - walketh not in darkness :" and while he hath the light, he rejoiceth tlierein. As he hath “received the Lord Jesus Christ,” so he walketh in him; and while he walketh in him, the exhortation of the Apostle takes place in his soul, day by day, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.”
2. But that we may not build our house upon the sand, (lest when the rains descend, and the winds blow, and the floods arise and beat upon it, it fall, and great be the fall thereof,) I intend in the following discourse to show, What is the Nature and Ground of a Christian's Joy. We know, in general, it is that happy peace, that calm satisfaction of spirit, which arises from such a testimony of his conscience, as is here described by the Apostle. But, in order to understand this the more thoroughly, it will be requisite to weigh all his words; whence will easily appear, both What we are to understand by Conscience, and What by the Testimony thereof; and also, Ilow he that hath this testimony Rejoiceth Evermore.
3. And, first, What are we to understand by Conscience ? What is the meaning of this word that is in every one's mouth? One would imagine it was an exceeding difficult thing to discover this, when we consider how large and numerous volumes have been from time to time wrote on this subject; and how all the trcasures of ancient and modern learning have been ransacked, in order to explain it. And yet it is to be feared, it has not received much light from all those elaborate inquiries. Rather, have not most of those writers puzzled the cause; “darkening counsel by words without knowledge; perplexing a subject, plain in itself, and easy to be understood ? For, set aside but hard words, and every man of an honest heart will soon understand the thing.
4. God has made us thinking beings, capable of perceiving what is present, and of reflecting or looking back on what is past. In particular, we are capable of perceiving whatsoever passes in our own hearts or lives; of knowing whatsoever we feel or do; and that either while it passes, or when it is past. This we mean when we say, Man is a conscious being : he hath a consciousness, or inward perception, both of things present and past, relating to himself, of his own tempers and outward behaviour. But what we usually term Conscience, implies somewhat more than this. It is not barely the knowledge of our present, or the remembrance of our preceding life. To remember, to bear witness either of past or present things, is only one, and the least office of Conscience: its main business is to excuse or accuse, to approve or disapprove, to acquit or condemn.
5. Some late writers indeed have given a new pame to this, and bave chose to style it a Moral Sense. But the old word seems preferable to the new, were it only on this account, that it is more common and familiar among men, and therefore easier to be understood. And to Christians it is undeni. ably preferable, on another account also; namely, because it is scriptural; because it is the word which the wisdom of God hath chose to use in the Inspired Writings.
And according to the meaning wherein it is generally used there, particularly in the Epistles of St. Paul, we may understand by Conscience, A faculty or power, implanted by God in every soul that comes into the world, of perceiving what is right or wrong in his own heart or life, in his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions.
6. But what is the Rule whereby men are to judge of right and wrong? whereby their conscience is to be directed ? The rule of Heathens, as the Apostle teaches eslewhere, is “the law written in their hearts.” “These," saith he, “not having the soutward) law, are a law unto themselves : who show the work of the law (that which the outward law prescribes) written in their heart; [by the finger of God ;] their conscience also bearing witness, (whether they walk by this rule or not,)