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66 witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God;" that Jesus Christ hạth loved me, and given himself for me: and that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.
8. That this “ Testimony of the Spirit of God” 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 we can be conscious that we are so; before we can have “ the testimony of our spirit,” that we are inwardly and outwardly holy. But we must love God, before we can be holy at all; this being the root of all holiness. Now we 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 loved thee, and given his own Son to be the propitiation for thy sins; the Son of God hath loved thee, and hath washed thee from thy sins in his blood :” “ We love God, because he first loved us," and for his sake we 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 we 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 we are the children of God.”
10. Not that I would, by any means, be 'understood, by any thing which has been spoken conceruing 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 worketh in us every manner of thing that is good, but also shines upon his own work, and clearly shews what he has
wrought. Accordingly, this is spoken of by St. Paul, as one great end of our 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
simplicity and godly sincerity," 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 as to exclude all doubt, and evidence 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 not, than whether it exists, or not. If therefore this be just reasoning,
He that now loves God, that delights and rejoices in him, with a humble joy, a holy delight, and an obedient love, is a child of God:
But I thus loye, delight, and rejoice in God;
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 sunship.
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: I 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 man, and from the delusion of the devil, is the next thing to be considered. And it highly im. ports 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 man? 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 puffed up by his fleshly mind, when he hears of this privilege of true Christians, among whom he undoubtedly ranks himself, should soon work himself up into a persuasion, that he is already possesed 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. For the Scriptures lay down those clear, obe vious marks, as preceding, accompanying, and following that gift, which a little reflection would convince him, be yond 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 out,” iii. 19. In conformity whereto, our Church also continually places Repentance before Pardon, or the witness of it. “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, return unto him." But he is a 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 burthen 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," i. 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,” 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 wbich 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 waying the consideration of whatever he has or has not experienced in time past; by the present marks we may easily distinguish a child of God, from a presumptuous self-deceiver. The Scriptures describe that joy in the Lord, which accompanies the witness of bis Spirit, as a humble joy, a joy that abases to the dust; that makes a pardoned șinner cry out, “ I am vile! What am I, or my father's house? Now mine eye seeth thee, I abhor myself in dust and ashes!” And wherever lowliness is, there is meekness, patience, gentleness, long-suffering. There is a soft, yielding spirit; a mildness and sweetness; a tenderness of soul which words cannot express. But do these fruits attend that supposed testimony of the Spirit, in a presumptuous man? Just the reverse. The more confident he is of the favour of God, the more he is lifted up; the more does he exalt himself; the more haughty and assuming is his whole behaviour. The stronger witness he imagines himself to have, the more overbearing is he to all around him; the more incapable of receiving any reproof, the more impatient of contradiction. Instead of being more meek, and gentle, and teachable, more swift to hear, and slow to speak, he is more slow to hear, and swift to speak, more unready to learn of any one; more fiery and vehement in his temper, and eager in his conversation. Yea, perhaps, there will sometimes appear a kind of fierceness in his air, his manner of speaking, his whole deportment, as if he were just going to take the