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been thought of; nor indeed can he know that his state is safe, until he first has evidence, that he is reconciled to God, and that he loves him for his glorious holiness, and all his moral perfection.
The reader will see our views of this matter, illustrated in the following paragraph in the Life of President Edwards, when he speaks of his first religious comforts: "The first that I remember that I ever found any thing of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading these words, 1 Tim. i. 17. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever, and ever, Amen. As I read these words there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapt up to God in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him. I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of scripture to myself; and went to prayer, to pray to God that I might enjoy him; and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do, with a new sort of affection. But it never came into my thought, that there was any thing spiritual, or of a saying nature in this." In this experience, it is worthy of notice, that the glory which was discovered in the Divine Being, was the thing which drew forth love to this Being. It is also worthy of notice, that this love was exercised towards God, while it was not known, nor thought of, that he had become a reconciled God to him, who exercised the love.
Does not the above experience accord with the account, which the apostle gives of a saving work of the Spirit, 2 Cor. iv. 6. ? For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. The immediate effect of a gracious renovation of heart, is, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God: and as the glory of God is
more wonderfully displayed in the work of redemption, than in his other works, this glory is, in a pre-eminent sense, seen in the face of Jesus Christ. If the true God, in his true character, is seen to be glorious in being such a God as he is, and if he is delighted in, on account of his being such a God; it is certain, that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into the heart, to give the knowledge of this glory; for the carnal mind is enmity against God, and never can delight in him on account of his being such a God as he is.
As I have endeavored to show how unfounded, and how dangerous the sentiment is, which is entertained by our antagonists, concerning the direct witness of the Spirit, it may now be proper to show what we understand by the witness of the Spirit. Let it be clearly understood, that we believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the only standard of religious truth, and a sufficient guide for us, so long as we continue in this world. By this standard are to be tried all doctrines, all feelings, and whatever relates to practice. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psal. cxix. 105. The following text we consider as applicable to all who speak to us, whether by an audible voice to the ear, or by a secret whisper, or impression, to the mind: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isa. viii. 20. Therefore we make no dependence on any internal witness of the Spirit, which cannot be proved by the word to be a true witness. That which is contained in the Bible, is the written witness of the Spirit, since holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Here is the standing and unalterable testimony of the Spirit, with respect to the nature and effects of true religion, even that religion which God will approve. But my reading of this testimony of the Spirit, with an unrenewed heart, can give me no evidence that I am a child of God. On the contrary, it all stands against me, and testifies that I have no part nor lot in this matter. But when the Spirit condescends to write upon my heart the same religion, which he has reveal
ed in the scriptures, this may be called his living witness and it is known by our Spirit, that is, by our rational soul, to be his witness, and no delusion, by its agreement with his standing and unalterable testimony, which is given in the scripture of truth. Religion, as contained in the Bible, is something which is enjoined upon us, and its nature and effects are described; but religion when communicated to the heart by the Holy Spirit, is inward and outward obedience to these injunctions ;-it is feeling, and action. It is, in fine, the actual existence of the thing in life, which is there only described in words.
By what has been said, it will now be seen, that we make no distinction between what our theological opponents call the direct and indirect witness of the Spirit; and we are persuaded that no such distinction ought to be made. By the indirect witness of the Spirit, they mean the new nature imparted by the Spirit's influence, viz. love, repentance, faith, and other christian graces. But this we conceive to be the most direct witness, which by scripture can be known, to be any witness at all. But why is this called the witness of the Spirit? It is so called, because this new nature, these new affections, are produced by the Spirit; and they are good evidence, that we are the children of God. The Spirit is said to bear witness with our spirit, because it is by the power of self reflection, that we come to be acquainted with the internal witness of the Spirit of God. A man has power to search his own heart, therefore he can be acquainted with the witness, or, which is the same, with the fruits of the Spirit that are within him.
In the same chapter, where the apostle speaks of the Spirit, he says, "As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God," Here, the being led by the Spirit, is proof of the same thing, as the witness of the Spirit, in the other passage. But how does the Spirit of God lead us? We know how one man leads another but the Spirit of God does not lead exactly in
Rom. viii. 14.
the same manner. He leads by disposing us to walk : He draws and we run after him; and we know that we are led by him, when we find our own minds inclined to walk in right paths, even in the paths which the Spirit himself has marked out in the word.
In this same chapter, the Spirit itself is said to make intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered. But it is certain that the intercessions of the Spirit do not mean the same, as the intercessions made by Christ before the mercy seat. They evidently refer to those desires, which the Spirit excites in the hearts of the saints, when they pray in the Holy Ghost. Yet it is spoken of as the Spirit personally, and separately from the saints themselves, made intercession for them, when those intercessions were to be found only in their own hearts. With the same propriety, the Spirit itself is said to bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, though it is in our spirit alone, that we are to look for this witness of the Spirit of God; and this whether it be indeed the witness of the Spirit itself, is to be tested by his infallible witness in the word. And though this inward witness is to be looked for only in our hearts, yet it is proper to call it the witness of the Spirit, since no such thing would exist in our hearts, were it not for his gracious and special operations. Thus," he that believeth hath the witness in himself ;” since it is upon the table of his own heart, that the Spirit of God writes it. The sealing of the Spirit, which is a scripture phrase, is of the same import as the witness, and the leading of the Spirit. In sealing, the Spirit impresses the image of God on the heart and this image consists in love, and other holy affections. This is the seal by which the Lord knoweth them that are his ; and by which they know themselves to be his. This is the same as the water that Christ gives his people, which is in them a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
The subject concerning the witness of the Spirit, will be closed by two or three remarks, which, I hope, will not be deemed unimportant.
1. Very great injury may be done to the cause of truth, by overstraining the figurative language of scrip
ture. By this means, the popish doctrine of transubstantiation was introduced. Because the Saviour called the bread and wine of the sacramental feast, his body and blood, the papists have made it essential to salvation, to believe that these symbols were the real body and blood of the Lord. This mere conversion of a figure of speech, into a literal expression, has brought on the most bloody persecutions, and been the means of the death of many of the true disciples of Jesus. But to destroy men's bodies is not so great an evil as to destroy their souls. And is not the error, which we have in this section, been endeavoring to detect, peculiarly calculated to destroy souls? And has not this error crept in, by a perversion of the figurative language of the apostle, in that noted text, Rom. viii. 16; The Spir it itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God? We know that when two men bear witness together, though they may be perfectly agreed, yet their testimony is distinct, the one from the other. With this manner of witnessing in view, our opponents think they have ground for their distinction between the direct, and indirect witness of the Spirit. They are looking for the Spirit to speak, and bear witness in some way, entirely distinct from his sanctifying operations on the heart; which last they consider as a kind of inferior testimony. Thus, by an overstraining of this allusion to a human witness, they are led to look for some other evidence of adoption, besides the spirit of adoption ; and for some other evidence, that they belong to Christ, besides their having the spirit of Christ; and a life of conformity to him. By means of this misconception of the text referred to, do we not expose ourselves to be deceived by every spirit? Do we not, as it were, invite the enemy to deceive us?
2. Attention to this subject has led us to discover, (if we mistake not,) the cause why our opponents do not talk of false and delusive hopes, as taking place among their own people. It has been remarked by those, who have great opportunity to hear the Methodist preachers, that they do not preach, as if there were any danger that their converts would be deceived by a false hope. And is not this defect in their preaching,