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nor always by an inward voice, although lie may do this sometimes. Neither do I suppose, that he always applies to the heart, (though he often may,) one or more texts of Scripture. But he so works upon the soul l>y his immediate influence, and by a strong, though inexplicable operation, that the stormy wind and troubled waves subside, and there is a sweet calm; bhe 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 1' Not whether there be a witness or testimony of the Spirit? Not whether the Spirit docs testify will) our spirit, that we are the children of God? None can deny this, without flatly contradicting the Scriptures, and charging a lie 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 arc the children of God. This is ncariy, 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 speaking, it is a conclusion drawn partly from the Word of God, and partly from our own experience. The Word of God says, every one who has the fruit of the Spirit is a child of God; experience, or inward consciousness, tells me, that I have the fruit of the Spirit; and hence I rationally conclude, therefore I am n child of God. This is likewise allowed on all hands, and so is no matter of controversy.
/. 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 equally 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?
III. 1. I believe there is; because thai is the plain, natural meaning of the text, "The Spirit, ii-,t|j' bearcih witness with our spirit, 'lia< we are the ( hildrcn f»f d'ud." |i i- manifest. here are two witnesses mentioned, who together testify the same thing; the Spirit of God, and our own spirit. The late Bishop of London, in his sermon on this text, seems astonished that any one can doubt of this, which appears upon the very face of the words. Now, "The testimony of our own spirit (says the Bishop) is one, which is the consciousness of our own sincerity;" or to express the same thing a little more clearly, the consciousness of the fruit of the Spirit. When our spirit is conscious of this, of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, it easily infers from these premises, that we are the children of God.
2. It is true, that great man supposes the other witness to be, "The consciousness of our own good works." This, he affirms, is the testimony of God's Spirit. But this is included in the testimony of our own spirit; yea, and insincerity, even according to the common sense of the word. So the Apostle, "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity wc have had our conversation in the world :" where it is plain, sincerity refers to our words and actions, at least as much as to our inward dispositions. So that this is not another witness, but the very same that he mentioned before; the consciousness of our good works being only one branch of the consciousness of our sincerity. Consequently here is only one witness still. If therefore the text speaks of two witnesses; one of these is not the consciousness of our good works; neither of our sincerity; all this being manifestly contained in the testimony of our spirit.
3. What then is the other Witness? This might easily be learned, if the text itself were not sufficiently clear, from the rerse immediately preceding: "Ye have received, not the Spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." It follows, "The Spirit itself bcareth witness with our spirit, that wc are the children of God."
4. This is farther explained by the parallel text, (Gal. iv. 6,) "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Is not this something immediate and direct, not the result of reflection or argumentation? Does not this Spirit cry, "Abba, Father," in our hearts, the moment it is given, antecedently to any reflection upon our sincerity; yea, to any reasoning whatsoever? And is not this the plain, natural sense of the words, which strikes any me as soon as he hears them? All these texts then, in 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 mind is enmity against God. I have no joy in the Holy Ghost: my soul is sorrowful even unto death. I have no peace: my 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 true holiness; "him that worketh not," thatworketh nothing that 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 wc 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,—
8. Every one therefore who denies the existence of such a testimony, docs in effect denyjustification by faith. It follows, that cither he never experienced this, either he never was justified, or that he has forgotten, as St. Peter speaks, T» xaSaqiofjM rut 7r«Xct» a/xagr/wv, 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 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 arc forgiven; no knowledge that they are the children of God. Yea, the more sincere they are, the more uneasy they generally arc, 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 testifying that we are his children.
IV. But abundance of Objections have been made to this; the chief of which it may bo well to consider.
1. It is objected first, " Experience 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 docs 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, docs not prove that there arc no real kings.
"Nay, many who pleaded strongly for this, have utterly decried the Bible." Perhaps so; but this was no ncccssaiy 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 witnc- N liibi ^iven: J. "The not perceiving it.