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sary, 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 has 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, το καθαρισμα των παλαι αμαρσιων, 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 hira : 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 even pretends to any such thing And 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 uneasy they generally are, for want of knowing it; plainly showing that this cannot be knowr., in a satisfactory manner, by the bare testimony of our own spirit, without God's directly testifying that we are his children.
IV. But abur dance of objections have been made to this; the chief of which it may be well to consider.
1. It is objected first," Experience is not sufficient to prove a doc trine 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 plead for it who have the 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 the Spirit is the witness of the Spirit.” Not undoubted; thousands doubt of, yea, flatly 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 cases, 1. The total absence of the fruit of the Spirit.” And this is the
case, when the direct witness is first given : 2." The not perceiving it. But to contend for it in this case, is to contend for being in the VOL. I.
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 ungodly; 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, thar God inputes 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 known 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 :" nereby 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 joint testimony ; testifying with our spirit, that we are children of God. And who is able to prove, that it is not thus referred to in this very scripture: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves. Know ye not your ownselves, that Jesus Christ is in you ?" It is by no means clear, that they did not know this by a direct as well as a remoto witness. How is it proved, that they did not know it, first, by an inward consciousness; and then by love, joy, and peace ?
7. “ But the testimony arising from the internal and external change, is constantly referred to in the Bible.” It is so: and we constantly refer thereto, to confirm the testimony of the Spirit.
“Nay, all the marks you have given, whereby to distinguish the operations of God's Spirit from delusion, refer to the change wrought in us and upoil us. This likewise is undoubtedly true.
8. It is objected, fifthly, that " The direct witness of the Spirit does not secure us from the greatest delusion. And is that a witness fit to be trusted, whose testimony cannot be depended on ? that is forced to Ay to something else, to prove what it asserts ?". I answer: to secure
you or I
Yet I appre
us from all delusion, God gives us two witnesses that we are his chil
And this they testify conjointly. Therefore, “what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” And while they are joined, we cannot be deluded : their testimony can be depended on. They are fit to be trusted in the highest degree, and need nothing else to prove what they assert.
“ Nay, the direct witness only asserts, but does not prove any thing." By two witnesses shall every word 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 a 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
may be tried in such a manner, and so may any other child of God, that it will be impossible for us to keep our filial confidence in God, without 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 hottest contenders for it are both proud and uncharitable; but
of the firmest contenders for it, are eminently.mieek 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. hend whoever calmly and impartially 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 testifies 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 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. And whereas it is objected, that experience is not sufficient to prove a doctrine unsupported by Scripture ;-that madmen and enthusiasts 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 Scripture 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, does 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 ever 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 children of God, the immediate consequence will be the fruit of the Spirit, even “ love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, teniperance.' 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 thickest cloud. It is true, joy in the Holy Ghost may be withdrawn, during the hour of trial; yea, the soul may be “excerding sorrowful, while" the hour and power of darkness” continue; but even this is generally restored with increase, till we rejoice “with joy unspeakable 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 long suffering, of gentleness, of fidelity, meekness, temperance, (not a shadow thereof, but a real degree, by the preventing grace of God,) before 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 his 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 given ; so that there is no need that we should ever more be deprived of either the testimony of God's Spirit, or the testi our own, the consciousaess of our walking in all righteousness and true holiness.
Newry, April 4 1767
hony of SERMON XII.- The Witness of our own Spirit.
" This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, wo 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 therein. 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, how he that hath this testimony rejoiceth
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 treasures 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 name to this, and have chose to style it a moral sense. But the old word seems preferable to the new, were it ouly on this account, that it is more common and familiar