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suit, in addition to the sacred volume itself, Edwards on the Affections, if he has not done it already. There is so much light reflected by this book, on the interesting subject of experimental religion, that there can be but few books, besides the Bible, more worthy of our attention. Especially is it worthy of the careful attention of of all those who watch for souls. I have thought that no spiritual guide, who lives where he can have access to this book, could hardly be innocent, in not availing himself of this excellent help, to aid him in his work of guiding souls in the path of life. Edwards had great acquaintance with the Bible, with his own heart, and with men. He was greatly .experienced in religious awakenings. He most fully believed in such a thing, as seasons of the special out-pouring of the Spirit ; and «id all he could to promote stich a good work. Among the means to promote it, he took great pains to observe and note the distinction between a genuine work of the Spirit of God, and all the counterfeit works of the prince of darkness. His book on Religious Affections, appears- to be the result of all his studies on this subject, and of all the observations which he had opportunity to make, by means of extensive acquaintance with the religious revivals and awakenings, which were then in the land. In compassion to immortal souls, which are so exposed to be lost, by means of false, delusive' experiences, we would entreat spiritual guides of every communion, to search thoroughly into this subject, lest they should heal spiritual wounds slightly, and speak peace to them to whom God has not spoken peace.
OBSERVATIONS ON TUB WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT, DESIGNED TO EXPOSE WHAT WE DEEM TO BE DANGEROUS SENTIMENTS ON THIS SUBJECT J WHICH ARE FOUNB IN MR. BANGS* SIXTH LETTER; AS ALSO IN THE BOOK OF METHODIST DOCTRINES AND DISCIPLINE.
The author of the Letters complains, that in the sermon on Satan's transformation, I have dealt in negative marks, without giving positive signs of a genuine conversion. _ " It is true," says our author," you say it may be known to God, and to the person himself; but you give no mark by which it may be known, otherwise than by saying,' Regeneration is a real change of heart from sin to holiness.' But holiness is a very vague term, and needs much explanation to understand it." p. 265. I acknowledge that this abjection would have had weight in it, ii' that sermon had been published by itself; but it immediately followed a sermon, the express object of which was to point out the difference of character between the unconverted and the converted, as consisting in sufireme regart to selfrand supreme regard to God. To this sermon the reader was referred, for the distinguishing marks of 'a genuine conversion. And whether these marks were scri/iturai in the view of the reader, or not, he could not say that they were not explicit.
After complaining of my deficiency, our author proceeds to give Ms views of the evidences of a genuine conversion. He states> that the true convert has a i
OBSERVATIONS, fcc. 195
three-fold testimony, that he is an heir of God; "'1. The direct witness of the Spirit, which bears witness with his spirit that he is born of God.—2. Its indirect witness which are its fruits—3. His external deportment, called keeping the commandments, which perfectly corresponds to the internal dispositions of the heart." p. 268. The two last of these testimonies appear intelligible. By the connexion he makes it evident, that by the fruits of the Spirit, which he calls its indirect witness, he intended religion in the heart. But what did he intend by the direct, witness of the Spirit? I do not see that he has told us, or given us any clue, by which we shill find out what he intended: and yet he seems to make this the most material witness ;'for he not only places it first in order, but he says, concerning the indirect witness, namely, the fruits of the Spirit, that it " cannot exist where the direct evidence is wanting, no more than there can be fruit on a tree destitute of life." What then can be meant by this direct witness of the Spirit I Does it mean regeneration itself? This we should be led to conclude from the description just given of it. But surely this could not be the idea of our author, because he is teaching us how to know that we are regenerated. By the direct witness of the Spirit, he does not mean the love of God, shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost; nor any other holy affection of the heart, produced by the Spirit; for all these he refers to the second class of testimony, which he calls the indirect witness. I see not then, but that it must mean a direct revelation, made by the Spirit to a certain person, declaring to him, that he is an heir of God ; just as if a visible messenger should be sent from God, to make this declaration, without exhibiting any other proof of it, than that God said it was so.
Here I would ask, how it is that the Spitit makes this revelation to any man, that he is an heir of God? Does he make use of any words, in bearing this direct witness? If he does, are they the words which have been already revealed, and which are contained in the scriptures; or are the words new, as well as the thing revealed? If they are the words of scripture, how shall I know that they belong to me in particular? I know that the commands of the scripture belong to me, be
cause I am one of the rational creatures of the supreme Lord. But how shall I know that the firomise* belong to me, short of my possessing the character to which they are made? For example; the promise of forgiveness is made to the fienitent: how shall I know that my sins are forgiven, unless I have evidence that I am a penitent? If this promise, Thy sins are forgiven thee, should seem to be sounded in my ears; would it be any proof that my sins were forgiven? Would not this be what my antagonist disclaims, viz. the placing of the evidence of conversion, on the application of particular texts of scrip'ure?
Does the Spirit then reveal this fact; that I am an heir of God, in new words, not taken from the book of revealed truth? But how shall I know, that it is the Sfiirit of God, who makes this revelation to me; who thus directly tells me, that I am in favor with God? The command is, Believe n-jt every tfiirit j but try the s/iirits whether they are of God, Is there any discriminating mark, by which an anxious mind may know how to distinguish the direct wiiness of the Spirit, from the deceitful workings of the grand adversary, the spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience?
Does the Spirit bear witness with the spirit of the child of God, that he is a subject of the new birth, -without the use of words, either new, or taken from scripture; and what kind of a witness is this? It is not that which results from exercises of the new heart, for this, according to the system of Mr. B. would fall under the indirect witness of the Spirit. It must then be an unaccountable impression made upon the mind, declaring, without words, and without the divine nature imparted, that I am a child of God And is there no danger that the enemy will counterfeit this impression? If he should, how shall I distinguish between the impression which is from the Spirit of God, and that which is from the spirit of delusion? Does the scripture any where mark the difference? If the impression which is from the Spirit of God, be not known by its holiness, (and it cannot be, according to Mr. B's scheme,) by what mark is it to be made known? This is a matter which so nearly concerns every one of us, that it is of infinite importance, that we should bj taught how to distinguish this direct witness of the Spirit lrom all delusions. The glory of God, as well as our own safety, is greatly concerned in our being furnished with discriminating marks, by which to distinguish his infallible testimony from the-subtle wiles of the devil.
If it should be said by my antagonist, ' The.same objection lies against your own scheme, for you have said that Satan can counterfeit every grace of the Spirit, not excepting even love itself ;' I answer, Tho' I h ;ve said that Satan can counterfeit every christian graccj and love among the rest ; yet I have shewn the difference between the real, and the counterfeit graces. I have shown, that supreme regaril to self, is the ground work of all that love, repentance, faith, submission, joy, zeal, 8tc. which exist in natural men ; while su- preme regard to God, and unfeigned delight in holiness, lie at the bottom of all the true graces of the Spirit, and of ail evangelical obedience;- However difficult, through the deceitfulness of the heart, it may be to detect a false hope, yet it is not through any deficiency in the rules laid down, by which to distinguish a false, from a true hope. The difference between a supreme regard to one's own self, and a supreme regard to the glory of God and the good of his kingdom, is as great a difference of character as can possibly exist. The one is the least object, which any creature can seek, and tlie other is the greatest, w hich any created being, or even God himself can seek.
The distinction which Mr. B. has made between the witness, and the fruit of the Spirit ; or between the rfj- .
. red and indirect witness, we find in the writings of Mr. Wesley, and they are contained in the book of Methodist Doctrines and Discipline. In this book it is stated, that by the direct witness of the Spirit we may know that we are justified, and perfectly sanctified, and that we shall never finally fall away. According to this book, as far as we are able to understand it, this direct wit*
tness of the Spirit precedes the existence of ihe fruits of the Spirit in the heart of the believer, and is the cause of all his love to Christ. Thus it is written in this book, p. 76, " Our knowing ourselves justified by faith is the cause of our love to Christ, as appears from these scriptures, Herein is love, not that we loved God,