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the other. Therefore, till this demonstration is better demonstrated, I let it stand as it is.
6. It is objected, fourthly, "The Scripture says, tree is known by its fruits. Prove all things. Try the spirits. Examine yourselves."" Most true: therefore, let every man who believes he "hath the witness in himself," try whether it be of God; if the fruit follow, it is; otherwise, it is not. For, certainly "the tree is known by its fruit:" Hereby we if it be of God. "But the direct witness is never reprove, ferred to, in the book of God." Not as standing alone, not as a single witness, but as connected with the other: as giving a joint testimony, testifying with our spirit, that we are children of God. And who is able to prove, that it is not thus referred to in this very scripture, " Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith: prove your ownselves. Know ye not yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?" It is by no means clear, that they did not know this, by a direct as well as a remote witness. How is it proved, that they did not know it, first, by an inward consciousness, and then by love, joy, and peace?
7. "But the testimony arising from the internal and external change, is constantly referred to in the Bible." It is so. And we constantly refer thereto, to confirm the testimony of the Spirit.
"Nay, all the marks you have given, whereby to distinguish the operations of God's Spirit from delusion, refer to the change wrought in us and upon us." This likewise is undoubtedly true.
8. It is objected, fifthly, that "The direct witness of the Spirit does not secure us from the greatest delusion. And is that a witness fit to be trusted, whose testimony cannot be depended on? That is forced to flee to something else, to prove what it asserts?" I answer. To secure us from all delusion, God gives us two witnesses that we are his children. And this they testify conjointly. Therefore, "what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." And while they are joined, we cannot be deluded: their testimony
can be depended on. They are fit to be trusted in the highest degree, and need nothing else to prove what they
66 Nay, the direct witness only asserts, but does not prove any thing." By two witnesses shall every word be estab lished. And when the Spirit "witnesses with our spirit," as God designs it to do, then it fully proves that we are children of God.
9. It is objected, sixthly, "You own the change wrought is a sufficient testimony, unless in the case of severe trials, such as that of our Saviour upon the cross. But none of us can be tried in that manner." But you or I may be tried in such a manner, and so may any other child of God, that it will be impossible for us to keep our filial confidence in God, without the direct witness of his Spirit.
10. It is objected, lastly, "The greatest contenders for it, are some of the proudest and most uncharitable of men." Perhaps some of the hottest contenders for it are both proud and uncharitable. But many of the firmest contenders for it, are eminently meek and lowly in heart: and, indeed, in all other respects also,
"True followers of their lamb-like Lord."
The preceding objections are the most considerable that I have heard, and, I believe, contain the strength of the cause. Yet I apprehend whoever calmly and impartially considers those objections and the answers together, will easily see, that they do not destroy, no, nor weaken the evidence of that great truth, that the Spirit of God does directly, as well as indirectly testify, that we are children of God.
V. 1. The sum of all is this. The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the souls of believers, whereby the Spirit of God directly testifies to their spirit, that they are children of God. And it is not questioned, whether there is a testimony of the Spirit? But whether there is any direct testimony? Whether there is any other than that which arises from a consciousness of the fruit of the Spirit? We
believe there is because this is the plain natural meaning of the text, illustrated both by the preceding words, and by the parallel passage in the epistle to the Galatians: because, in the nature of the thing, the testimony must precede the fruit which springs from it, and because this plain meaning of the word of God is confirmed by the experience of innumerable children of God: yea, and by the experience of all who are convinced of sin, who can never rest, till they have a direct witness: and even of the children of the world, who not having the witness in themselves, one and all declare, none can know his sins forgiven.
2. And whereas it is objected, that experience is not suf ficient to prove a doctrine unsupported by Scripture: that madmen and enthusiasts of every kind, have imagined such a witness; that the design of that witness is to prove our profession genuine, which design it does not answer: that the Scripture says, "The tree is known by its fruit; examine yourselves; prove your ownselves;" and mean time the direct witness is never referred to in all the book of God: that it does not secure us from the greatest delusions: And, lastly, that the change wrought in us is a sufficient testi mony, unless in such trials as Christ alone suffered. We answer, 1, Experience is sufficient to confirm a doctrine, which is grounded on Scripture: 2, Though many fancy they experience what they do not, this is no prejudice to real experience: 3, The design of that witness is, to assure us we are children of God: and this design it does answer: 4, The true witness of the Spirit is known by its fruit, love, peace, joy; not indeed preceding, but following it: 5, It cannot be proved, that the direct, as well as the indirect witness, is not referred to in that very text, "Know ye not your ownselves that Jesus Christ is in you?" 6, The Spirit of God "witnessing with our spirit" does secure us from all delusion: And, lastly, we are all liable to trials, wherein the testimony of our own spirit is not sufficient; wherein nothing less than the direct testimony of God's Spirit can assure us that we are his children.
S. Two inferences may be drawn from the whole. The first, let none ever presume to rest, in any supposed testimony of the Spirit, which is separate from the fruit of it, If the Spirit of God does really testify that we are children of God, the immediate consequence will be the fruit of the Spirit, even, "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance." And, however, this fruit may be clouded for a while, during the time of strong temptation, so that it does not appear to the tempted person, while Satan is "sifting him as wheat," yet the substantial part of it remains, even under the thickest cloud. It is true, joy in the Holy Ghost may be withdrawn, during the hour of trial; yea, the soul may be "exceeding sorrowful," while "the hour and power of darkness" continue. But even this is generally restored with increase, till we rejoice" with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
4. The second inference is, let none rest in any supposed fruit of the Spirit without the witness. There may be foretastes of joy, of peace, of love, and those not delusive, but really from God, long before we have the witness in ourselves, before the Spirit of God witnesses with our spirits that we have" redemption in the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins." Yea, there may be a degree of longsuffering, of gentleness, of fidelity, meekness, temperance, (not a shadow thereof, but a real degree, by the preventing grace of God), before we are "accepted in the Beloved;" and, consequently, before we have a testimony of our acceptance. But it is by no means advisable to rest here; it is at the peril of our souls if we do. If we are wise, we shall be continually crying to God, until his Spirit cry in our heart, Abba, Father! This is the privilege of all the children of God, and without this we can never be assured that we are his children. Without this we cannot retain a steady peace, nor avoid perplexing doubts and fears. But when we have once received this Spirit of Adoption, this peace which passes all understanding, and which expels all painful doubt and fear, will "keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." And when this has brought forth its genuine fruit,
all inward and outward holiness, it is undoubtedly the will of him that calleth us, always to give us what he has once given. So that there is no need that we should ever more be deprived, of either the testimony of God's Spirit, or the testimony of our own, the consciousness of our walking in all righteousness and true holiness.
Newry, April 4, 1767.