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who has the deepest knowledge of God. Suppose when Paul answered before Agrippa, the wise Roman had said, “ Thou talkest of hearing the voice of the Son of God. How dost thou know it was his voicc ? By what Criteria, what intrinsic marks, dost thou know the voice of God ? Explain to me, the manner of distinguishing this from a human or angelic voice? ” Can you believe, the Apostle himself would have once attempted to answer so idle a demand? And yet, doubtless, the moment he heard that voice, he knew it was the voice of God. But how he knew this, who is able to explain ? Perhaps neither man nor angel.
11. To comc yet closer: Suppose God were now to speak to any soul, “ Thy sins are forgiven thee,”-he must be willing that soul should know his voice; otherwise he would speak in vain. And he is able to effect this; for, whenever he wills, to do is present with him. And he does effect it: that soul is absolutely assured, “this voice is the voice of God.” But yet le who hath that witness in himself, cannot explain it to one who bath it not: nor indeed is it to be expected that he should. Were there any natural medium to prove, or natural method to explain, the things of God to unexperienced men, then the natural man might discern and know the things of the Spirit of God. But this is utterly contrary to the assertion of the Apostle, that “he cannot know them, because they are spiritually disccrued ;"even by spiritual senses, which the natural man hath not.
12. “ But how shall I know that my spiritual senses are rightly disposed ? ” This also is a question of vast importance; for if a man mistake in this, he may run on in endless error and delusion. “And how am I assured that this is not my case; and that I do not mistake the voice of the Spirit ? ” Even by the testimony of your own spirit; by “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” By the fruits which he hath wrought in your spirit, you shall know the testimony of the Spirit of God. Hereby you shall kuow, that you are in no delusion, that you have not deceived your own soul. The immediate fruits of the Spirit, ruling in the heart, are “ love, joy, peace, bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, meekness, gentleness, longsuffering.” And the outward fruits arc, the doing good to all men; the doing no evil to any; and the walking in the light,-a zealous, uniform obedience to all the commandments of God.
13. By the same fruits shall you distinguish this voice of God, from any delusion of the Devil. That proud spirit cannot humble thee before God. He neither can nor would soften thy heart, and melt it first into earnest mourning after God, and then into filial love. It is not the adversary of God and man, that enables thee to love thy neighbour ; or to put on meekness, gentleness, patience, temperance, and the whole armour of God. He is not divided against himself, or a destroyer of sin, his own work. No; it is none but the Son of God who cometh “ to destroy the works of the Devil.” As surely therefore as holiness is of God, and as sin is the work of the Devil, so surely the witness thou hast in thyself is not of Satan, but of God.
14. Well then mayest thou say, “ Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” Thanks be unto God, who giveth me to “know in whom I have believed;” who bath“ sent forth the Spirit of his Son into my heart, crying, Abba, Father," and even now,“ bearing witness with my spirit that I am a child of God!” And see, that not only thy lips, but thy life, show forth his praise, He hath sealed thee for his own; glorify him then in thy body and thy spirit, which are his. Beloved, if thou hast this hope in thyself, purify thyself as he is pure. While thou beholdest what manner of love the Father hath given thee, that thou shouldest be called a child of God; cleanse thyself “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God;” and let all thy thoughts, words, and works be a spiritual sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God through Christ Jesus !
THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
“ The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirić, that we are
the children of God.” Rom. viii. 16.
1. 1. Nove who believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God, can doubt the importance of such a truth as this ;-a truth revealed therein, not once only, not obscurely, vot incidentally; but frequently, and that in express terms; but solemnly and of set purpose, as denoting one of the peculiar privileges of the children of God.
2. And it is the more necessary to explain and defend this truth, because there is a danger on the right hand and on the left. If we deny it, there is a danger lest our religion degenerate into mere formality : lest, “having a form of godliness," we neglect, if not “ deny the power of it.” If we allow it, but do not understand what we allow, we are liable to run into) all the wildness of enthusiasm. It is therefore needful, in the highest degree, to guard those who fear God from both these dangers, by a scriptural and rational illustration and confirmation of this momentous truth.
3. It may seem, something of this kind is the more needful, because so little has been wrote on the subject with any clearness, unless some discourses on the wrong side of the question, which explain it quite away. And it cannot be doubteil, but these were occasioned, at least in a great measure, by the crude, uuscriptural, irrational explication of others, who “knew not what they spake, nor whereof they affirmed.”
4. It more nearly concerus the Methodists, 50 called, clcarly to understand, explain, and defend this docuine; because it is one grand part of the Testimony, which God has given them to bear to all mankind. It is by his peculiar blessing upon them in searching the Scriptures, confirmed by the experience of his children, that this great evangelical truth has been recovered, which had been for many years well nigh lost and forgotten.
II. 1. But what is the Witness of the Spirit ? The original word uagtupia, may be rendered either (as it is in several places) the witness, or less ambiguously, the testimony, or the record : so it is rendered in our translation, (1 John v. 11,) “ This is the record,” [the testimony, the sum of what God'testifies in all the inspired writings,] “ that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” The testimony now under consideration is given by the Spirit of God to and with our spirit: he is the Person testifying. What he testifies to us is, “ that we are the children of God.” The immediate result of this testimony is, “ the fruit of the Spirit ;” namely, “ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness :” and without these, the testimony itself cannot continue. For it is inevitably destroyed, not only by the commission of any outward sin, or the omission of known duty, but by giving 'way to any inward sin ; in a word, by whatever grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
2. I observed many years ago, “ It is hard to find words in the language of men, to explain the deep things of God. Indeed there are none that will adequately express what the Spirit of God works in his children. But perhaps one might say, (desiring any who are taught of God, to correct, soften, or strengthen the expression,) By the Testimony of the Spirit, I mean, an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit. of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.”
3. After twenty years' further consideration, I see no cause to retract any part of this. Neither do I conceive, how any of these expressions may be altered, so as to make them more intelligible. I can only add, that if any of the children of God will point out any other expressions, which are more clear, or more agreeable to the Word of God, I will readily lay these aside.
4. Meantime let it be observed, I do not mean hereby, that the Spirit of God testifies this by any outward voice ; no,
nor always by an inward voice, although he may do this sometimes. Neither do I supposc, that he always applies to the heart, (though he often may,) one or more texts of Scripture. But he so works upon the soul by his immediate influence, and by a strong, though inexplicable operation, that the stormy wind and troubled waves subside, and there is a sweet calm ; the heart resting as in the arms of Jesus, and the sinner being clearly satisfied that God is reconciled, that all his “iniquities arc forgiven, and his sins covered.''
5. Now what is the matter of dispute concerning this ? Not whether there be a witness or testimony of the Spirit ? Not whether the Spirit docs testify with our spirit, that we are the children of God ? None can deny this, without flatly contradicting the Scriptures, and charging a lic upon the God of truth. Therefore that there is a testimony of the Spirit, is acknowledged by all parties.
6. Neither is it questioned, whether there is an indirect witness, or testimony, that we are the children of God. This is ncarly, if not exactly, the same with the testimony of a good conscience towards God; and is the result of reason, or reflection on what we feel in our own souls. Strictly spcaking, it is a conclusion drawn partly from the Word of God, and partly from our own experience. The Word of God says, cvery one who has the fruit of the Spirit is a child of God; experience, or inward consciousness, tells mc, that I have the fruit of the Spirit; and hence I rationally conclude, therefore I am a child of God. This is likewise allowed on all hands, and so is no matter of controversy.
7. Nor do we assert, that there can be any real testimony of the Spirit without the fruit of the Spirit. We assert, on the contrary, that the fruit of the Spirit immediately springs from this testimony ; not always indeed in the same degree, even when the testimony is first given; and much less afterwards. Neither joy nor peace is always at one stay; no, nor love ; as neither is the testimony itself always cqually strong and clear.
8. But the point in question is, Whether there be any direct testimony of the Spirit at all? Whether there be any other testimony of the Spirit, than that which arises from a consciousness of the fruit ?
VII. 1. I believe there is; because that is the plain, natural meaning of the ICSI, “ The Spirit in elf berreth winess with Our pirit, that we wild thic bilelicdrif God," li in manifest,