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salvation by means of Christ's redemption : and all who are made partakers of that salvation are so blessed through the same operations of the same Spirit. The extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, of which this witness is, by some, erroneously supposed to be one, existed for particular purposes, and were confined to the early age of the church ; but to none of the objects contemplated in their existence do the inspired writings make this witness necessary. The Apostles were commissioned by Christ himself, and were qualified for their office by their knowledge of the facts of his history, and by the bestowment of miraculous powers upon them. Paul was constituted an Apostle by the appointment of Christ, whose glory he beheld on his way to Damascus; he received similar qualifications to those possessed by his predecessors in the apostolate, and was strengthened in his eventful course by heavenly manifestations. But nowhere is this witness referred to as the seal of apostolic authority, or as the mode or any part of the means by which such commission was either received or confirmed. Had this been the case, it would have been defined as the exclusive privilege of the Apostles ; nor would it have been invariably connected with enjoyments, to the attainment of which the church generally were exhorted, or on the possession of which believers were congratulated by the Spirit of God. “Grant it of the Apostles, that they knew their own adoption, and we may infer that this knowledge is a privilege of all believers, as well as theirs : for the faith whereby they were assured was ordinary ; the grounds of assurance common to them with all true believers ; the benefit itself general, not in any special manner appropriated. What promises soever concerning life and happiness were made to the Apostles, the same are made to all believers, and confirmed and sealed in the same manner; for they have one God, one Christ, one Spirit ; they are under one covenant, and live by the same faith. The adoption of believers is confirmed on God's part unto them by the witness of the Spirit with the graces thereof." *
In extending this privilege to any or to all who were contemporary with the Apostles, it is affirmed by Dr. Macknight to be the testimony arising from the bestowment of miraculous gifts upon the infant churcb, demonstrating the truth and divinity of Christianity, to the establishment and comfort of its members, and especially assuring the Gentiles of their sonship, or right to be considered God's people, equally with the Jews. We admit that the miracles of Christ, his resurrection, and the signs and wonders subsequently wrought by the Apostles, were intended to confirm the faith of that and of every succeeding age in the divine authority of Christianity, and rejoice that they fully answer the purpose of their existence ; but it is for the supporters of the opinion just stated, to show, that this witness is spoken of as the result of these miraculous gifts, or that it was ever employed for such general and public confirmation. In the enumeration of such gifts it is not mentioned, but is rather referred to as one of the personal advantages flowing from Christianity, which, by other manifestations of the Holy Ghost, is proved to be divine. The Apostle Paul proves the right of the Gentiles to Christian privileges, in his Epistle to the Romans : this witness, however, is not involved in his argument, but is mentioned as one of the consequences of the faithful apprehension and individual improvement of such general conclusion. Mr. Wesley thus quotes from Origen : “Every one that is born of God, and doth not commit sin, by his very actions saith, Our Father which art in heaven,' the Spirit itself bearing witness with their spirit, that they are the children of God ;” and observes, “ According to Origen, therefore, this testimony of the Spirit is not any public testimony by miracles, peculiar to the first times, but an inward testimony, belonging in common to all that are born of God."*
* Ball on Faith, 4to. 1632. P. 256.
of the opinion of Theodoret, whose views concerning the Holy Ghost were opposed by Cyril, and condemned by a Council at Ephesus,t that “it is the truth or doctrine which confirmeth us as the sons of God,” it may suffice to observe, that the language of the Epistles clearly indicates an internal testimony, and does not refer to external doctrine. The text (Rom. viii. 16) is explicit, and distinguishes between the doctrines of inspiration and the immediate agency of the Holy Ghost : “the Spirit itself beareth witness," not mediately by his word, but directly by his divine power, “that we are the children of God.” It is admitted that the Spirit, in the word, testifies to the true character of those who are born of God; but love to God, which is a prominent characteristic, cannot be felt by us till we know God to be our Father in particular, and not merely the Father of all mankind. Of this relation the mind must be satisfactorily persuaded before the rule can be at all applicable. We cannot discover what has taken place in the mind of God, relating to our personal justification and adoption, from general descriptions of the character of his children ; nor can we realize love to a reconciled God, whilst we have trembling apprehensions of his just judgment. No; it is the Holy Spirit that “knoweth the mind of God," and that can alone seal upon the conscience, or assure the mind of, the divine decision concerning our personal forgiveness and adoption. We do not then infer our sonship from the contemplation of the inspired word in connexion with our moral state ; but the Holy Ghost directly testifies the fact unto us, and thus assuredly persuades or certifies our minds.
The witness of the Spirit is also made to consist in the “fruit of the Spirit” within us ; in the religious effects produced in believers : and the witness of our own spirit is said to be the “consciousness” we possess of the existence of such effects. I This opinion, which agrees with the Popish doctrine of the annotations on the Rhemish Testament, that this witness is nothing else “but the inward good
* Wesley's Works, 3d edition, vol. viii., p. 94.
+ See Clarke's Succession of Sacred Literature, vol. ii., p. 154; Pearson on the Creed, 8vo. Oxon. 1797, vol. i., p. 492; and Willet's Comment on Romans viii. 16, folio, 1611.
Dr. Wardlaw on Assurance, p. 104.
motions, comfort, and contentment of spirit which the children of God do daily feel more and more,” excludes the witnessing operation of the Holy Ghost to the believer's adoption, and makes his comfort to depend on the recognition of gracious effects wrought within him, by what some consider the imperceptible workings of the Holy Spirit. In Mant and D’Oyly's Commentary we read, “We never could have known, unless it had been communicated to us by a divine revelation, that our souls are moved by a divine power, when we love God, and keep his commandments.'” Trapp, in his “ Sermons on being Righteous over-much,”* observes, “That there is such a thing as the operation and influence of the Holy Spirit upon our souls, (for what else is God's grace, without which we can do no good thing ?) though we cannot distinguish it from the operations of our own minds, is granted and insisted upon by all sincere and judicious Christians.” In a sermon against the Methodists, entitled, “The Operations of the Iloly Spirit imperceptible, and how Men may know whether they are under the Guidance and Influence of the Spirit,” preached by T. Dockwray, at Newcastle, 1741, the following observations occur :-“All reasonable and sober Christians believe that the Holy Spirit works his graces in an imperceptible manner, and that there is no sensible dif. ference between this and the natural operation of our minds.” In Bishop Gibson's Fourth Pastoral Letter, we read : “ The ordinary gifts and influences of the Spirit, however real and certain in themselves, are no otherwise discernible than by their fruits and effects, as these appear in the lives of Christians;” and Mant maintains, that “we feel the influences of the Spirit no otherwise than we do our thoughts and meditations; we cannot distinguish them, by their manner of affecting us, from our natural reasonings.”+ Of all such interpretations, it may suffice to observe, that in assuming the operations of the Holy Ghost to be undistinguishable from those of our intellect, they confine the witness altogether to the believer's own spirit, contrary to the obvious and literal meaning of the terms in which the Apostle describes it.
Dr. Paley, in his Sermons on Spiritual Influence, I in which its universal necessity, reality, and present bestowment upon the church are energetically maintained, and which contain many valuable observations, says, “ The agency of the Spirit distinctly perceived (or distinguished from the operations of our own mind) is, properly speaking, a miracle. Now, miracles are instruments in the hand of God of signal and extraordinary effects, produced upon signal and extraordinary occasions. Neither internally nor externally do they form the ordinary course of his proceeding with his reasonable creatures.” The Doctor means, by “miracle," an effect above human or natural power; or an event contrary to the established constitution or course of things; or a sensible suspension, controlment of, or deviation from, the known laws of nature ; wrought by the immediate act, by the concurrence, or by the permission of God, for the proof of some particular
* 8vo., 1739, p. 44.
+ Bampton Lectures, p. 299. Works, edition 1823, 8vo., vol. V., p. 210.
doctrine; or in attestation of the authority of some particular person. He pleads the “constitution of the human soul ” and “experience” against such perception; and these appear to be the established constitution and course of things regarded in his argument. Now, to enable us to decide against the internal perception and distinctness of the operations of the Holy Ghost, we must possess perfect acquaintance with all the laws of spiritual influence, with all the properties and capabilities of the human soul, and especially of the soul when acted upon by the power of God the Holy Ghost. To such knowledge, we presume, no pretension is made, and, therefore, against the possibility of such distinct perception no argument can be successfully maintained ; as there may be laws not discovered by the metaphysics of the objector, which do or may qualify the mind for this perception. Nor can the objection be better supported by any argument from the established order of things, or the experience which we have of their order; as the before-mentioned laws require certain positions and circumstances of mind, into which positions and circumstances the mind of the objector has, it is more than probable, never been brought. He has not entered into the sphere in which these laws develope themselves; and knowing only the established order of his own things, he should not hastily conclude that this, his order, is universal ; or that experience differing from his own does not exist apart from his recognition. Indeed, no argument against the possibility of this perception, from the established order of things, can be successful, unless the objector can first show, that his experience of such established order is commensurate with that order, in all possible arrangements, combinations, influences, and effects of all things, both divine and human. But if he have not such cognate and congruous acquaintance, such all-perfect knowledge, out of which to produce the principles of his judgment, then may we reasonably conclude, that, beyond his discoveries, there are modes of existence and action, unions and distinctions, influences and emanations, of a more perfectly spiritual nature and greater efficiency; and such as he has no faculty subtle enough to conceive of distinctly, nor any principles sufficiently congruous to qualify him to pronounce confidently upon professions of experience contrary to or beyond his own. We think, therefore, that this objection to the distinct perception of the operation of the Holy Spirit fails; that such perception is not miraculous ; and that it does not imply “a dispensation of constant miracles” to affirm, that Christians may and do so perceive the difference between the Spirit's operation, and the operations of their own minds. No deviation from the laws of spiritual influence, which are, in this case, the “laws of nature,” is, or can be proved to be, necessary to such perception ; and against the experience of those who assert the contrary, we oppose the more extended and fitting experience of the many who rejoice in their own discovery of such difference between the one and the other. The plea of experience against this recognition may thus certainly be fairly met by the testimony of counter-experience in its favour : nor will the evidence thus appear to be merely balanced; for unless it can
be shown, that some one or more of our mental attributes or laws render this distinction impossible, without miraculous interference in their suspension or arbitrary control, the testimony in favour of its possible and certain existence must preponderate, and, with divinely illuminated minds, will be conclusive.
This witness is considered by Leigh, Bishop Bull,* and Scott, corroborative of, and subsequent to, the testimony of conscience. “The Holy Ghost coincides with the testimony of believers' consciences, as to their embracing the Gospel, and giving themselves up to the service of God: so that whilst they are examining themselves as to the reality of their conversion, and find scriptural evidence of it, the Holy Spirit from time to time shines upon his own work, excites their holy affections into lively exercise, renders them very efficacious upon their conduct, and thus puts the matter beyond doubt ; for while they feel the spirit of dutiful children towards God, they become satisfied concerning his paternal love to them.”+ Here the finding of scriptural evidence of conversion as the result of examination, in which the Holy Ghost assists by “shining on his own work,” without any direct testimony, is made the entire witness. It is also confounded with, or lost sight of in, its effects, by Parkhurst, in a Tract on this subject, addressed to the Rer. John Wesley, I who teaches, that it is “the spirit of love to God, or a loving spirit;" by Tholuck, who understands it of the “reign of love within us;" by Stuart, who affirms it to be “the imparting of a filial spirit to us ;” and by Ambrose, who makes it “the impulse of prayer in the believer.” Such are, undoubtedly, the results of the grace of adoption, and invariably arise in the heart which is certified of its participation in this privilege. But they belong to the secondary and indirect evidence of our own spirits, and their existence depends upon the primary and direct testimony of the Holy Ghost. Mr. Wesley fully meets and, to our mind, refutes these opinions. He observes : “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 own spirit.” So also speaks Calvin :$ “The Apostle undoubtedly teaches
* In a letter addressed to his brother Samuel by Mr. Wesley, on the subject now under consideration, written in the year 1738, we have the following remarks :-“I think Bishop Bull's sermon on the witness of the Spirit (against the witness of the Spirit, it should rather be entitled) is full of gross perversions of Scripture, and manifest contradictions both to Scripture and experience.” (Clarke's Wesley Family, 12mo. vol. ii., p. 210.) + Scott.
8vo., 1753. & Comment on Rom. v. 5.