Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

cause I am one of the rational creatures of the supreme Lord. But how shall I know that the promises belong to me, short of my possessing the character to which they are made? For example; the promise of forgiveness is made to the penitent: 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 scripture?

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 Spirit of God, who makes this revelation to me; whe thus directly tells me, that I am in favor with God? The command is, Believe nɔt every spirit; but try the spirits whether they are of God. Is there any discriminating mark, by which an anxious mind may know how to distinguish the direct witness 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 be taught how te

1

distinguish this direct witness of the Spirit from 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.

6

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 have said that Satan can counterfeit every christian grace, and love among the rest; yet I have shewn the difference between the real, and the counterfeit graces. I have shown, that supreme regard to self, is the ground work of all that love, repentance, faith, submission, joy, zeal, &c. 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 all 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 the other is the greatest, which 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 direct 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 witness of the Spirit precedes the existence of the 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,,

but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We love him because he first loved us." Further on it is said, "There is a necessity of knowing his love, who first loved us, without which we cannot love him again." We are not here told how we can know that we are justified, previous to our exercising love to Christ. I know it is said, that we are before this justified by faith: but I cannot see how this faith can be any evidence of a justified state, so long as there is no love to Christ included in it. A faith which has no love in it, may be possessed by graceless men, and even by devils. Therefore we conclude, that this knowledge of our justified state, which precedes our love to God and Christ, must be derived from what they call the direct witness of the Spirit. And this direct witness of the Spirit, if we understand them, is, as it were, an immediate message from heaven, revealing to a certain man, or woman, his or her acceptance with God, while as yet there is no love in the heart; but that upon this revelation being made, love immediately flows forth in return for the favor received.

And now, my dear reader, is this the truth of God? is this the experimental religion which makes us new creatures, and which fits us for the kingdom of heaven ? If this be truth, God forbid that I should oppose it; but if it is an error, ruinous to souls, would to God that I might be enabled effectually to expose and destroy it! The idea, That we cannot love Christ until we know ourselves to be in a justified state, and that this knowledge is the very cause of our love to him, to me appears one of the most false and dangerous sentiments which can be advanced. It seems to be wholly founded on the principle, That it is right for every man to make himself the ultimate end of all his affections and pursuits that it is right for him to love himself more than God. The idea supposes; that there is nothing in Christ to draw forth our love until we know that we are justified and pardoned. Now, if the sinner can be pardoned and justified, and have the witness of the Spirit, before he has any love to Christ, what will hinder his loving Christ, even with his sinful, selfish heart? for Christ himself has said, Sinners also love those that

love them. It is an inspired proverb, A gift in secret pacifieth anger; and a reward_in_the_bosom, strong wrath. According to the scripture testimony, sinners hate God. Awakened and convinced sinners see, and know that they hate God. But if, according to the scheme of our opponents, God can send them first the direct witness of the Spirit, to assure them of their justified state, will not this, like a gift in secret, pacify their anger, and like a reward in their bosom, will it not allay their strong wrath and soften down their bitter enmity? Saul, with all his rooted enmity against David, felt emotions of love towards him, once and again, while he saw that David had spared his life, when he could casily have taken it away. Now sucl. a love as this can be exercised towards God, as well as towards our fellow men. The whole congregation of the children of Israel were much affected with the goodness of the Lord, in delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh They sang his praise, but they soon forgat his works. When Christ fed the five thousand with five loaves, they appeared to have a great love to him, and were about to take him by force and make him a king; but he told them, that they sought him because they did eat of the loaves and were filled. This was as much as to tell them, that their love to him originated wholly from the favors which they had received, and which they expected to receive from him.

But it will be said, Does not the apostle John represent God's love towards us, as being before our love to him; and does he not say, "We love him because he first loved us?" The apostle John, and all the other apostles and inspired writers teach us, that our salvation, from first to last, is the fruit of the most gracious and unbounded love of God. As Christ designed to keep down the pride of his disciples, when he said; "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you :" so the beloved disciple designed to teach, that we should never have loved God, if he had not first loved us, not with the love of delight, but with a benevolent pity; and had he not sent his son to die for us, and his Spirit to renew our hearts to the exercise of holy love to him

[ocr errors]

self. Holy love in us is caused by his power, and is wholly the fruit of his grace.

It is also true, that the objective ground, or cause of our love to God, is the excellence of his character; which excellence is most clearly manifested in the gift of his Son to die for our apostate world. It is also true, that I may exercise a holy gratitude to God, for a favor bestowed on me in particular; but to lay the foundation for such gratitude, I must love God independently of this favor bestowed. If this favor bestowed on me, and because it is bestowed on me in distinction from another, be the first exciting cause, and if it lie at the foundation of my love to God, it is not the excellence of his character which I love: indeed it is not God which I love, but myself. Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

The reason why we are required to exercise the love of complacence towards the God of Israel, is, that he is the true God; the great Lord of heaven and earth, whose understanding is infinite, and whose heart is perfectly benevolent. He has manifested his character to us, that we may love, trust in, and obey him. He tells us what he has made, and what he has done, as a display of his greatness and goodness. He reveals his law, and he reveals the gospel of his grace. The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes, and by the rich displays of his mercy. When he would draw forth the approbation, and complacence of his creatures, he pourtrays before them all these varied manifestations of his power and holiness. In view of the whole character which he has displayed, in all his works, and in all his word, he requires their love. And tho' the carnal heart is enmity against God, yet when it is renewed after the divine image, it goes forth in love to this great and fearful name, "THE LORD OUR GOD." The same character, which had always been displayed before the mind, and hated, is now loved, and that for its own divine excellence. The thing, which makes the Divine Being appear excellent and altogether desirable to the new born soul, is not a belief, that he is now a reconciled God to him; but that he is a great and a holy God. His own safe state has not

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »