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THE WITNESS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THE BELIEVER'S
(Concluded from page 623.)
CHAPTER VIII.—THE CONNEXION AND RELATION OF THE WITNESS
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND THE WITNESS OF OUR OWN
The connexion of the witness of the Holy Ghost with that of the believer's own spirit is of an important nature. In Rom. viii. 16, a twofold, conjoint witness is spoken of, according to the interpretation of the best biblical critics and commentators.* There is not only a witness to, but with, our spirit ; and the witness of our spirit is that of a good conscience; the consciousness of gracious effects wrought within, and of consistent Christian behaviour manifested by us. “ For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” (2 Cor. i. 12.) It is the rational evidence of our enlightened understanding recognising the scriptural marks of the children of God, and resolves itself into this : Those who have these marks are the children of God : But we have these marks: Therefore we are children of God. It is a consciousness of our having received, in and by the Spirit of adoption, the divine worker of regeneration, the tempers mentioned in the word of God, as belonging to his adopted children ; even a loving heart toward God, and toward all mankind; hanging with child-like confidence on God our Father, desiring nothing but him, casting all our care upon him, and embracing every child of man with earnest, tender affection : a consciousness that we are inwardly conformed, by the Spirit of God, to the image of his Son, and that we walk before him in justice, mercy, and truth, doing the things which are pleasing in his sight.of
This witness does not precede, but succeeds, and is entirely dependent upon, the direct witness of the Holy Ghost. Thus Mr. Wesley observes, “Then, and not till then,—when the Spirit of God beareth that witness to our spirit, God hath loved thee, and given
The following Commentators, however they differ in other respects in the interpretation of the text, agree in understanding it of a conjoint witness :-Willet, who confirms his opinion by referring to the Vulgate, to Vatablus, the great English Bible, Erasmus, Beza, Cajetan, Martyr, and Pareus. So also Calvin, Wilson in his Christian Dictionary, Perkins, Leigh, the Assembly of Divines, Hammond, Whitby, Wells, Henry, Wall in his Critical Notes, Guyse, Locke, Macknight, Pyle, Scott, Wesley, J. Benson, A. Clarke, Sutcliffe, Tholuck, &c.
+ See Wesley's Works, 3d edition, vol v., pp. 114, 115, 134, 144 ; vol. X., PP. 67–72. VOL. IV.-FOURTH SERIES.
his own Son to be the propitiation for thy sins; the Son of God hath loved thee, and bath washed thee from thy sins in his blood,'—'we love God because he first loved us ;' and for his sake we love our brother also. And of this we cannot but be conscious to ourselves : we know the things that are freely given to us of God. We know that we love God and keep his commandments; and “hereby also we know that we are of God. This is that testimony of our own spirit, which, so long as we continue to love God and keep his commandments, continues joined with the testimony of God's Spirit, that we are the children of God.'"*
Our adoption is attested by the direct witness of the Holy Ghost to our spirit; and while this attestation certifies such fact, it produces filial love to God, and all child-like and gracious dispositions and effects. Now, the mind recognises in these effects the evidences or proofs of its regeneration. The witness of our spirits founded upon such recognition, attests our regenerate state ; and as such state arises from, is dependent upon, and necessarily connected with, our adoption, it testifies this privilege also, in a secondary manner, and thus, joined with the direct witness of the Holy Ghost, it establishes the unquestionable certainty of our sonship, to which both adoption and regeneration are necessary. These witnesses are connected, that our satisfaction may be complete ; they effectually preserve from delusion, afford the highest confidence, and yield complete and sufficient evidence. Such twofold witness prevents enthusiastic conclusions from occasional joyous feelings unaccompanied by good works; and equally delivers from the mistakes occasioned by the imperfect judgment which alone respects the rational ordering and partial reformation of the life. Thus our filial confidence is established on evidence suited to the heavenly character of our adoption, and on the practical effects which result from the relation. “ The sure mark of our adoption is the inward certainty confirmed by the outward fruit.”
It has frequently been observed, “ that when the evidence of the first or direct witness must be supported by that of a second before it can be fully relied on, it appears to be by no means of a decisive and satisfactory character, and that it might be as well to have recourse at once to the evidence of our own minds, which, after all, seems to sustain the main weight of the cause.” In addition to what has been before stated on this subject, we shall quote the Rev. R. Watson. I “ The answer is not difficult; if it were, it would weigh nothing against an express text of Scripture, which speaks of the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the witness of our own spirits. Both must, therefore, be concluded necessary, though we should not see their concomitancy and mutual relation. The case is not, however, involved in entire obscurity. Our own spirits can take no cognizance of the mind of God as to our actual pardon, and can bear no witness to that fact. The Holy Spirit only, who knows the mind of God,
can be this witness; and if the fact that God is reconciled to us can only be known by him, by him only can it be attested to us. It cannot, therefore, be as well to have recourse at once to the evidence of our own minds,' because, as to this fact, our own spirits have no evidence to give. They cannot give direct evidence of it ; for we know not what passes in the mind of the invisible God. They cannot give indirect evidence of the fact; for no moral cbanges of which our spirits can be conscious have been stated in Scripture as the proofs of our pardon. They prove that there is a work of God in our hearts ; but they are not proofs of our actual forgiveness. Our own spirits are competent witnesses that such moral effects have been produced in our hearts and character as it is the office of the Holy Spirit to produce; they prove, therefore, the reality of the presence of the Holy Spirit with us and in us. That competent and infallible sitness has borne his testimony that God is become our Father; he has shed abroad his holy comfort, the comfort which arises from a sense of pardon; and his moral operation within us accompanying or immediately following upon this, making us new creatures in Christ Jesus, is the proof that we are in no delusion as to the witness who gives this testimony being the Spirit of God.”
In judging of the effects wrought within us by the transforming operation of our regeneration, and in concluding satisfactorily upon the evidence which they afford, that we have passed from death unto life, the mind is not left to its own efforts, but is continually assisted by the light and instruction of the Holy Ghost, who shines upon his own work, and sets it before the perception in strong and convincing demonstration. Thus the tendencies to mistake which are found in the eccentricities of imagination, in the inordinances of self-love, or in any of the infirmities or perversions of the understanding, are successfully counteracted; and all those qualifications are supplied which enable us to know the things which are produced in us by the grace of God. The believer, in any acquired habits of correct thinking, or in any vigour or sobriety of mind which have resulted from the discipline of the Holy Spirit, does not conclude upon his own religious state aright as the necessary consequence of such habits or state of mind ; but because the indwelling of the divine Spirit preserves each act of the mind, so qualified and disciplined, from error, and enables it to arrive in each effort at the right conclusion. On this subject, Bishop Hopkins * well observes :
“ That marks and signs of our regeneration in which the Scripture abounds, are of themselves insufficient to raise us to a full assurance without the testimony of the Spirit of God. Because most of the signs and evidences of true grace may be so exactly counterfeited by hypocrites, that the judgment we pass upon ourselves by these alone will still leave place for perplexing doubts and fears, lest all our graces, and all our signs of them, too, should be but hypocritical delusions. So, then, unto a full assurance, there is necessarily required an inward
* Works, fol., 1701, pp. 552, 553.
peremptory witness of the Holy Ghost : signs and marks without his infallible testimony are insignificant and unsatisfactory things. Again, that assurance which Christians have of their regeneration, is not wrought in them merely by the testimony of the Spirit without the help of signs and marks. The usual way is, assurance is obtained by both. Let us, therefore, look to marks and signs for a testimony in our consciences, without which all our assurance may be well suspected for enthusiasm ; and let us also beg the testimony of the Spirit, without which all marks and signs will be but vain and unsatisfactory."
The preceding remarks sufficiently refute Dr. Pusey, who asserts that the Wesleyans have an “exclusive reliance upon their feelings as tests of their love to Christ, and make their Christian life to concentrate in them.”* They do, indeed, believe that feeling forms an essential part of religion, as feeling is necessarily connected with man, upon whom it operates ; but they judge of it by the opinions and principles with which it is connected, and by the effects which it produces. And, instead of its being correct, that they “lose out of sight, as carnal and legal, its ordinary and hourly duties,” they consider the continual practice of them, whether personal or relative, religious or civil, necessary to the proof of the genuine character of the feelings which are associated with repentance and love to God; and do not admit any profession to be satisfactory which is not accompanied by the observance of such duties. Their whole theology, of which the Doctor is either ignorant, or which he has knowingly misrepresented, and which, in either case, he treats with a recklessness truly Antinomian and palpably Jesuitical, connects vital with practical religion, as the Sermons and Notes of Mr. Wesley abundantly testify, With apparent candour, the Doctor adds: “ These tendencies are doubtless checked in individuals, despite their system ;' but it will be evident to those who thoroughly examine “their system” of doctrine, instead of hastily accusing and maligning it, that it is in every way calculated to check these tendencies effectually; and wherever it is operative, such tendencies are not only checked, but cured; whilst contrary ones are promoted, energized, and made successful. Their system is not an Antinomian one ; but one which, without despising meats and drinks on the one hand, or magnifying them into Tractarian and unscriptural importance on the other, holds that “the kingdom of God is righteousness” of faith and practice, “and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," and, in accordance with the English Protestant Church, that “ holy desires, good counsels, and just works " are connected with that “peace which the world cannot give." The Wesleyan theology has always taught, and still teaches, that justification is always accompanied by conversion of the heart ; that this comfort, this assurance, remains the portion only of the humble and spiritual, and is uniformly and exclusively connected with a sanctifying and obedient faith. It declares the fruits of the Spirit to be love, joy, peace, as well as gentleness, goodness, meekness, and faith; but it also teaches, that all who are not living under the constant influence of the latter, fatally deceive themselves by any pretensions to the former. *
* Letter to the Bishop of Oxford.
+ For further information on the questions at issue between Dr. Pusey and the Wesleyans, the reader is referred to the admirable Letter to Dr. Pusey, by the Rev. Thomas Jackson, in which the Doctor's calumnies are fully and triumphantly refuted. 8vo. 1842.
The term AssURANCE, in its application to the experience of the Christian, has obtained a varied interpretation in different schools of theology, and is either extended to include a certainty of perseverance, and, consequently, of everlasting enjoyment, or restricted to the certainty of the present good estate of its possessor. The word is used by St. Paul in immediate connexion with the work of grace upon the heart, in Col. ii. 2; Heb. x. 22; vi. 11, where he speaks of “the full assurance of understanding ;” the “ full assurance of faith ;” and " the full assurance of hope.”
The Greek wan,po popice implies the certain knowledge of a thing. It denotes the carrying of a ship forward with her sails spread and filled with the wind. It is used to express such an entire conviction, as causes men to act steadily and uniformly in all matters which have any connexion with that conviction. Dr. Hammond, in a learned note on Luke i. 1, says, that the word rendered “ assurance” “ comes ordinarily to signify boldness,' or 'confidence :' as in Heb. vi. 11, 'confidence of hope ;' Heb. x. 22, 'confidence of faith.” Wickliffe renders the word, by “plentee” and “ fillynge.”
“ The full assurance of understanding,” denotes the entire confidence of the understanding in the absolute truth and relative importance of the “doctrine of Christ:" and this upon the authority of divine revelation, apprehended as indubitably certain and sufficient, in that illumination of mind, and by that faculty of spiritual perception and judgment, which result from the operations of the Holy Ghost in the believer. Such assurance respects the truth of Christian doctrine, in its suitable and comprehensive manifestation of God to man; in its enforcement of human duty; and in its discovery of man's privileges, through Jesus Christ, in this world, and in a future state. It is obtained, not as the result of any scientific process or rational demonstration, but by the spiritual perception of the divine authority combined with a disposition to receive the doctrines from God, and thus to admit their indisputable truth by the secret force of internal persuasion. In this process the Holy Ghost is the efficient worker, who employs the instrumentality of the written word and oral Christian instruction, in accordance with, and in subordination to, that word; and his own immediate, invisible, and powerful operation in the mind; removing the obscurity and perversions of its ignorance ; curing its prejudices; implanting, by regeneration, a love of the truth within it; and, by his gracious indwelling, producing an intellectual and spiritual capacity to perceive the meaning, and conclude upon the certainty, of his revealed lessons and disclosures, and to abide firmly