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which are wrought in the saints, through the saving influence of the Spirit of God, there is a new inward perception or sensation of their minds, entirely different in its nature and kind from anything that ever their minds were the subjects of before. For, if God by his mighty power produces something that is new, not only in degree and circumstances, but in its whole nature, (and that which could be produced by no exalting, varying, or compounding of what was there before, or by adding anything of the like kind,) then, doubtless, something entirely new is felt or perceived. There is what some metaphysicians call a simple idea. And if there be in the soul a new sort of conscious exercises, wbich the soul knew nothing of before, and which no improvement, composition, or management of what it was before could produce; then it follows that the mind has an entirely new kind of perception or sensation. Here is, as it were, a new spiritual sense, or principle of new kind of perception or spiritual sensation, which is in its whole nature different from any former kinds of sensation of the mind, as tasting is diverse from any of the other senses. And something is perceived by a true saint, in the exercise of this new sense of mind, in spiritual and divine things, as entirely diverse from anything that is perceived in them by natural men, as the sweet taste of honey is diverse from the ideas men get of honey by only looking on and feeling it. This new spiritual sense, and the new dispositions that attend it, are no new faculties, but new principles of nature : not a new faculty of understanding, but a new foundation laid in the nature of the soul, for a new kind of exercises of the same faculty of understanding."*
The foregoing explication of the witness of the Spirit, as implying a direct testimony, has frequently been termed a novel one, devoid of the sanctions of ecclesiastical antiquity, and pronounced to be nothing more than a peculiarity of Methodism. This deserves attention, as novelties in religion are suspicious, if not invariably false. Few things more powerful can be brought against any professed interpretation of truth, than the proof of its being new; though it does not follow that every ancient interpretation is correct. We have, however, no difficulty in removing this imputation, and in demonstrating to every candid inquirer, most unequivocally, that it was not, as has been asserted, the invention of Mr. Wesley and his coadjutors; and that by a reference to the writings of the different ages of the Christian church. By some of the FATHERS the doctrine was unquestionably thus held and expounded : or, passing by remote antiquity, in order to meet the objection on the ground on which it is usually based, the REFORMERS, the ENGLISH MARTYRS, the FATHERS and EARLY DIGNITARIES of the NATIONAL CHURCH, and many of the PURITAN and NONCONFORMIST DIVINES, thus interpreted it, as a reference to their works, ample quotations from which are given at the end of the chapter, fully proves.t
* Part ii., section 1.
+ See note at the end of the chapter, p. 612.
Now, in the presence of evidence, afforded by so many witnesses, living in different ages of the church, and of various opinions and creeds, the objection of modern opposers of the explication given, asserting it to be an unsupported novelty, entirely fails, as proceeding rather from uninformed temerity or wilful misrepresentation, than from patient and candid investigation and honest statement ; and the interpretation appears to be a peculiarity of the Wesleyan theology, only as that theology has rescued it from the oblivion to which unfaithfulness had consigned it, or into which rationalists would have plunged it; only as it has distinctly revived and prominently maintained it. The preaching of this doctrine, and, if need be, its defence, is enforced upon the Wesleyans by the repeated exhortations and venerated example of their fathers; was highly honoured of God in their bright career of evangelical usefulness ; and the proofs of its divinity continue and multiply around us. Mr. Wesley says, “ It more nearly concerns the Methodists, so called, clearly to understand, explain, and defend this doctrine ; because it is one grand part of the testimony which God has given them to bear to all mankind. It is by his peculiar blessing upon them in searching the Scriptures, confirmed by the experience of his children, that this great evangelical truth has been recovered, which had been for many years well-nigh lost and forgotten.” *
It is certainly most important and necessary to give the utmost prominence to this doctrine in our thinkings, our prayers, and in our ministrations in the present day, when strenuous efforts are being made, in the revival of obsolete and erroneous dogmas, to undermine the foundations of Protestant theology and spiritual Christianity. Surely, amidst the insidious or less covert intrusions of an unscriptural system of externalism, of an arbitrary and servile form of Christianity, which attributes to the observances and sacraments of religion effects only to be produced by the power of God, it is indispensable that the claims of vital, heartfelt Christianity should be faithfully maintained and enforced. No better preservative against the heresy alluded to can be found, than the godly recognition of the direct witness of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. The theology which rejects the felt influence of the Holy Ghost, and the spirituallyascertained consolations of the Gospel, in connexion with faith in the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, vainly endeavours to supply this lack by the substitution of “ meats and drinks ;” of ceremonial and sacramental observances ; whilst it plunges its votaries into the bewildering mazes of superstitious attempts to prepare for an illdefined, remote, and uncertain justification. In the best days of the church, in primitive times, and during the struggles of the Reformation, prominence was given to the spiritual doctrines and privileges of the Gospel. Rome originated and accumulated her errors, and reared her temple of darkness, superstition, and blood, amidst the fatal neglect of vital godliness, and endeavoured to crush, as necessarily
* Works, 8vo. 3d edition, vol. v., p. 124.
ruinous to her inventions, pretensions, and usurped authority, the revival of that simple and evangelic teaching, which led men from tradition to the Scriptures ; from ceremonies and imperfect observ. ances to faith in the atoning blood ; and from the gloomy shadows of distressing uncertainty to the light and comfort of the favour of God disclosed by the witness of the Holy Ghost within them. And if we would resist Rome successfully, or effectually counteract the mistaken or dishonest designs of that school of theologians, who in their professed “middle way” exhibit unequivocal tendencies towards the Papal Antichrist, we shall best do so by the use of those weapons which were employed by the Apostles against the Judaizing teachers and other seducing spirits ; by the Reformers, in restoring Christianity to her simplicity and spiritual efficiency; and by our fathers, in their successful revival of vital godliness. A belief in the operation of the Holy Ghost as necessary and vouchsafed to impart Christianity and to maintain it within us, will preserve from delusive dependence upon sacramental observances, and will establish a right use of them in their fitting subordination, and in their legitimate and profitable instrumentality ; whilst the possession of the “Spirit of adoption," in his witnessing and regenerating acts, will give to the soul demonstration of God's mercy, and consequent joy, too full to need the aid of external and circumstantial confirmations, and too well established and satisfactory to be abandoned for the substitutions of men who have widely departed from the “ faith once delivered to the saints." It is our duty to keep the privilege of the witness of the Spirit continually in view ; to take heed that its simplicity be not disfigured; to assert its importance in the formation of Christian character, as the foundation of Christian morality, and as the warrant of Christian hope ; and in all to preserve its possession. Thus shall we consistently perform the duty to which the admonitions of our fathers direct us, and behave as those who are “ set for the defence of the Gospel :" and though we may expect the stigma of enthusiasm, it iš incumbent upon us to bear this testimony through evil and through good report.
NOTE. (Page 610.)
THE FATHERS. Clement, (A. D. 96,) in his Epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of those who “religiously serve God in the assurance of a good faith.” (Abp. Wake's A postolic Fathers, 8vo., 1833, page 93.)
Novatian, (A. D. 250,) in his work on the Trinity, speaks very distinctly of the Holy Ghost as the author of regeneration, the pledge of the promised inheritance, and, as it were, the handwriting of eternal salvation.
Chrysostom, (A. D. 398,) whose opinion was adopted at different subsequent periods by Sedulius, Haymo, and Ecumenius, teaches that the testimony declared (Rom. viii. 16) “ is not the voice of the gift or grace which is conferred upon us, but of the comforting Spirit, inwardly assuring us that we are the sons of God.”
Anselm (A. D. 1093) on Rom. viii.: “ The Holy Ghost declareth unto our hearts, by an evident testimony, that we are children of God.”
Bernard (A. D. 1115): “ That which lieth hid concerning us in the heart of the Father, may by his Spirit be revealed unto us, and the same Spirit testifying unto us may persuade our spirits that we are the sons of God.” (Sermon v.)
“What soul among you all but hath at some times felt the Spirit of his Son in his secret conscience, crying, Abba, Father?” (8th Lect. on the Canticles.)
CONFESSIONS OF FAITH.
Confession of Augsburg. (a.d. 1530 ; revised and enlarged 1538.) “Such, therefore, as teach nothing concerning this faith, whereby we receive remission of sins, but will have men's consciences stand in doubt, whether they obtain remission or no, are justly condemned.” (Sect. v.) “He that knoweth that the Father is merciful to him through Christ, this man knoweth God truly.” (Sec. xx.)
Saxon Confession. (^. D. 1551.)—In this Confession, presented by the Lutherans to the Council of Trent, we read in Article VIII., on Good Works, “We know assuredly, that these benefits are procured for us, as it is most sweetly said by Zechariah. (xii. 10.) He calls it the Spirit of grace, because in this consolation the Son of God bears testimony by sealing us with the Holy Spirit, that we are in grace, and that we are delivered from the pains of the damned.”
Confession of Bohemia. (A. D. 1573.)—“Now, they that attain to this justification by Christ our Lord, are taught to take unto themselves true and assured comfort, out of this grace and bounty of God, to enjoy a good and quiet conscience before God, to be certain of their own salvation." (Chap. vi.)
Confession of France. (A. D. 1559 and 1566.)—“ We shall always be unquiet, because we are not at peace with God, till we be certainly persuaded that we are loved in Jesus Christ.” (Article xiii.)
THE REFORMERS. Luther (A.D. 1540) “ was strengthened by the discourse of an old Augustine Monk, concerning the certainty we may have that our sins are forgiven. God likewise gave him much comfort in his temptations by that saying of St. Bernard, 'It is necessary to believe, first of all, that you cannot have forgiveness but by the mercy of God; and next, that through his mercy thy sins are forgiven thee. This is the witness which the Holy Spirit bears in thy heart.'” (Life of Luther, by John D. Hermschmid. See also Perkins's Works, fol., vol. i., p. 542.)
“Let us assure ourselves that God sendeth the Holy Ghost into our hearts. This I say to confute that pernicious doctrine of the Papists, which taught that no man certainly knows whether he be in the favour of God or no; whereby they utterly defaced the doctrine of faith, tormented men's consciences, banished Christ quite out of the church, and darkened and denied all the benefits of the Holy Ghost." (Comment on Galatians iv. 6. See also Luther, on Avoiding the Doctrines of Men, sec. v. 2.)
Calvin. (A. D. 1539.)—“St. Paul means, that the Spirit of God gives such a testimony to us, that he being our guide and teacher, our spirit perceives our adoption of God to be certain. For our own mind, of itself, independent of the preceding testimony of the Spirit, (nisi præeunte Spiritûs testimonio,) could not produce this persuasion in us. For whilst the Spirit witnesses that we are the sons of God, he at the same time inspires this confidence
into our minds, that we are bold to call God our Father.” (On Rom. vii. 16. See also on Rom. v. 5.)
“The Fathers, under the Old Testament, were certain of their adoption. This adoption is the cause, and must have preceded the testimony of adoption given by the Holy Spirit, which is the effect. In venturing to call God Father, you have the advice and direction of the Spirit of Christ ; therefore it is certain that you are the sons of God. (2 Cor. i. 22; v. 5.) It is not what the persons themselves, in the foolish judgment of the flesh, may venture to believe, but what God declares in their hearts by his Spirit. Let it be observed, that Paul ascribes this universally to all Christians; for, where this pledge of divine love towards us is wanting, there is assuredly no faith.” (On Gal. iv. 6. See also Calvin's Institutes, book iii., chap. ii., sec. 36–39.)
Melancthon. (A. D. 1540.)—“ The Holy Spirit is sent into the hearts of believers, that he may kindle new light, righteousness, and life eternal : he witnesses, bears testimony within us, that we are received into favour.” (Loci Præcip. Theolog., 1543.)
« Let converted persons, therefore, retain their assurance, nor yield to doubts which produce profaneness or despair ; let them conclude that they have both the reconciliation (atonement) and the Holy Spirit as a pledge or earnest.” (Answer to the Articles of the Bavarian Inquisition, 1559.)
Bullinger. (A. D. 1560.)—“The faith whereof we speak is, not only an imagination or thought concerning things past and exceeding our capacity, but a most certain assurance and feeling of heavenly things received within us to our great commodity.” (5th Decade of Sermons. These Decades were ordered by a Convocation, Oct., 1586, to be provided, in addition to a Bible, by every Minister under the degree of A.M. and LL.B., for his personal study. See Strype.)
Arminius. (A.D. 1603.) —“With regard to the certainty (or assurance) of salvation, my opinion is, that it is possible for him who believes in Jesus Christ to be certain and persuaded, and, if his heart condemn him not, he is now in reality assured, that he is a son of God, and stands in the grace of Jesus Christ. Such a certainty is wrought in the mind, as well by the action of the Holy Ghost inwardly actuating the believer, and by the fruits of faith,—as from his own conscience and the testimony of God's Spirit witnessing together with his conscience.” (Declaration of the Sentiments of Arminius, Nichols's Translation of his Works, vol. i., p. 603. The inquirer will find a most elaborate and valuable note on this subject in this page of Mr. Nichols's Translation.)
Grotius (A. D. 1610) approves of the doctrine of assurance. (See the note of Mr. Nichols, above-named.)
THE ENGLISH MARTYRS. The triumphant confidence of the “noble army” of English martyrs, of which an account has been preserved by the laborious Foxe and others, affords satisfactory evidence of the identity of their views of the Spirit's direct witness with those which we entertain.
Bilney (who suffered A. D. 1531) writes: “I met with these words of the Apostle, This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, whereof I am the chief.' O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul! This one sentence, through God's instruction and inward working, did so exhilarate my heart, which before was wounded with the guilt of my sins, and almost in despair,