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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 chris
But this we conceive to be the most direct witness, which by scripture can be known, to be any wiiness 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 spir. it, 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 : Ile draws and we run after him ; and we know that we are led by him, when we find our own minds inclined 10 walk in right paths, even in the paths which the Spir-, it 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 ut. tered. 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 if 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, aere 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 wiines8, 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 chę 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 muth, by overstraining ihe figuraltve language of scripture. By this means, the popish doctrine of transub. stantiation 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 fig. ure 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 Spirit 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 tesiimony 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 speaks 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 adoplion ; 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 had 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, the fruit of their mistaken notions about the witness of the Spirit? Their converts all have the direct witness of the Spirit, which does not depend on any obedience of the heart or life ; and this is the most material witness, without which, according to their doctrine, the other kinds of witness cannot exist. If any one declare that he has this witness, we do not see how we can reason with him concerning its genuineness, for it. is nothing which is described in the word of God, or which can be defined by man : It is neither holiness in the heari, nor holiness in the life. If any of their converts utterly apostatize, even then there are no doubts entertained of the genuineness of their conversion.They are all represented as having fallen from a state of real grace ; none of them are considered, as even now making it manifest, that they took lamps without oil. And all this appears to us, to be the natural result of their mistake about the witness of the Spirit.
We hope these remarks will not be considered, as prompted by an unkind and contentious spirit. How could we say less, and clear our skirts of the blood of souls ? We are not seeking to destroy our antagonists, but to save them. We hope they will candidly review this matter, and that if they become convinced, that their sentiments on this point are of a dangerous tendency, they will renounce them. If their experimental religion should prove to be essentially defective, how great will be the defect?
3. We would add another remark, which shall close the section : The remark is this ; That if the witness, and the fruits of the Spirit, are the same, it is natural to expect, that the evidences of our justified staie should increase, or diminish, according to the degrees of sanctification of which we partake. Hence the exhortation, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure." The Spirit's witness in our favor, is in proportion to his gracious work on our hearts, for it is by this alone that he bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. In proportion therefore, as our hearts and lives are brought into a conformity to the attested and indubitable witВу
ness of the Spirit, in the written word, we have well grounded evidence, that we are born of God. bringing forth much of the fruits of the Spirit, we not only glorify our heavenly Father, but make it evident that we are the disciples of Christ. In this, and in no other way, may we all seek to enjoy a full assurance i hope un the end!