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deep things of God." Indeed, there are none thai will adequately express what the children of Cod experience. But perhaps one might say, (desiring any who arc taught of God, to correct, to soften, or strengthen the expression,) The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the .soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; and that all my sins arc blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.
8. That this testimony of the Spirit of Cod must needs, in the very nature of things, be antecedent to the testimony of our own spirit, may appear from this single consideration: We must be holy of heart, and holy in life, before wc can be conscious that we are so; before we can have the testimony of our spirit, that wc are inwardly and outwardly holy. But we must love God, before wc can be holy at all; this being the root of all holiness. Now wc cannot love God, till we know he loves us. "We love him, because he first loved us." And we cannot know his pardoning love to us, till his Spirit witnesses it to our spirit. Since, therefore, this testimony of his Spirit must precede the love of God and all holiness, of consequence it must precede our inward consciousness thereof, or the testimony of our spirit concerning them.
9. Then, and not till then—when the Spirit of God beareth that witness to our spirit, " God hath lovcth thee, and given his own Son to be the propitiation for thy sins; the Son of (iod hath loved thee, and hath washed thee from thy sins in his blood ; "—" we love (iod, because he first loved us ; " and, for his sake, wc love our brother also. And of this we cannot but be conscious to ourselves : we " know the things that are freely given to us of God." We know that wc love God and keep his commandments; and "hereby also we know that we are of God." This is that testimony of our own spirit, which, so long as we continue to love God and keep his commandments, continues joined with the testimony of God's Spirit, "that wc arc the children of God."
10. Not that I would by any means be understood, by any thing which has been spoken concerning it, to exclude the operation of the Spirit of God, even from the testimony of our own spirit. In no wise. It is he that not only workcth in us every manner of thing that is good, hut also shines upon his own work, and clearly shows what '>e has wrought. Accordingly, this is spoken of by St. Paul, as one great end of oar receiving the Spirit, "That we may know the things which are freely given to us of God :" that he may strengthen the testimony of our conscience, touching our "simplicity and godly sincerity j" and give us to discern, in a fuller and stronger light, that we now do the things which please him.
11. Should it still be inquired, How does the Spirit of God "bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," so asto exclude aUdoubt,and evince the reality of our sonship,—the answer is clear from what has been observed above. And first, as to the witness of our spirit: The soul as intimately and evidently perceives when it loves, delights, and rejoices in God, as when it loves and delights in any thing on earth. And it can no more doubt, whether it loves, delights, and rejoices or no, than whether it exists or no. If, therefore, this be just reasoning,
He that now loves God, that delights and rejoices in him with an humble joy, and holy delight, and an obedient love, is a child of God:
But I thus love, delight, and rejoice in God j
Therefore, I am a child of God :— Then a Christian can in no wise doubt of his being a child of God. Of the former proposition he has as full an assurance as he has that the Scriptures are of God; and of his thus loving God, he has an inward proof, which is nothing short of self-evidence. Thus, the testimony of our own spirit is with the most intimate conviction manifested to our hearts, in such a manner, as beyond all reasonable doubt to evince the reality of our sonship.
12. The Manner how the Divine Testimony is manifested to the heart, I do not take upon me to explain. Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me : 1 cannot attain unto it. The wind bloweth, and I hear the sound thereof; but I cannot tell how it cometh, or whither it goeth. As no one knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man that is in him; so the manner of the things of God knoweth no one, save the Spirit of God. But the fact we know; namely, that the Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption, that while it is present to the soul, he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship, than he can doubt of the shining of the sun, while he stands in the full blaze of his beams.
II. 1. How this Joint Testimony of God's Spirit and our spirit, may be clearly and solidly distinguished from the presumption of a natural mind, and from the delusion of the Devil, is the next thing to be considered. And it highly imports all who desire the salvation of God, to consider it with the deepest attention, as they would not deceive their own souls. An error in this is generally observed to have the most fatal consequences; the rather, because he that errs, seldom discovers his mistake, till it is too late to remedy it.
2. And first, how is this testimony to be distinguished from the presumption of a natural mind? It is certain, one who was never convinced of sin, is always ready to flatter himself, and to think of himself, especially in spiritual things, more highly than he ought to think. And hence, it is in no wise strange, if one, who is vainly pulled up by his fleshly mind, when he hears of this privilege of true Christians, among whom he undoubtedly ranks himself, should soon w ork himself up into a persuasion that he is already possessed thereof. Such instances now abound in the world, and have abounded in all ages How then may the real testimony of the Spirit with our spirit, be distinguished from this damning presumption?
3. I answer, the Holy Scriptures abound with marks, whereby the one may be distinguished from the other. They describe, in the plainest manner, the circumstances which go before, which accompany, and which follow, the true, genuine testimony of the Spirit of God with the spirit of a believer. Whoever carefully weighs and attends to these will not need to put darkness for light. He will perceive so wide a difference, with respect to all these, between the real and the pretended witness of the Spirit, that there will be no danger, I might say, no possibility, of confounding the one with the other.
4. By these, one who vainly presumes on the gift of God might surely know, if he really desired it, that he hath been hitherto " given up to a strong delusion," and suffered to believe a lie. Tor the Scriptures lay down those clear, obvious marks, as preceding, accompanying, and following that gift, which a little reflection would convince him, beyond all doubt, were never found in his soul. For instance, the Scripture describes Repentance, or Conviction of sin, as constantly going before this witness of pardon. So, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. iii. 2.) "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel." (Mark i. 15.) "Repent, and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of sins." (Acts ii. 38.) "Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted ont." (Actsiii. 19.) In conformity whereto,our Church also continually places Repentance before Pardon, or the witness of it. w He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel." "Almighty God—hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them, who, with hearty repentance and true faith, turn unto him." But he is 8 stranger even to this repentance: he hath never known a broken and a contrite heart: "the remembrance of his sins" was never "grievous unto him," nor "the burden of them intolerable." In repeating those words, he never meant what he said; he merely paid a compliment to God. And were it only from the want of this previous work of God, he hath too great reason to believe, that he hath grasped a mere shadow, and never yet known the real privilege of the sons of God.
5. Again, the Scriptures describe the being born of God, which must precede the witness that we are his children, as a vast and mighty change; a change " from darkness to light," as well as " from the power of Satan unto God ;" as a "passing from death unto life," a resurrection from the dead. Thus the Apostle to the Ephesians; "You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." (ii. 1.) And again, "When we were dead in sins, he hath quickened us together with Christ; and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (ver. 5, 6.) But what knoweth he, concerning whom we now speak, of any such change as this? He is altogether unacquainted with this whole matter. This is a language which he does not understand. He tells you, "He always was a Christian. He knows no time when he had need of such a change." By this also, if he give himself leave to think, may he know, that he is not born of the Spirit; that he has never yet known God; but has mistaken the voice of nature for the voice of God.
6. But waiving the consideration of whatever he has or has not experienced in time past; by the present marks may we easily distinguish a child of God from a presumptuous selfdeceiver. The Scriptures describe that joy in the Lord which accompanies the witness of his Spirit, as a humble joy, a joy that abases to the dust; that makes a pardoned sinner cry out, ■ I am vile! What am I, or my father's house? Now mine
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