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into the kingdom of heaven. There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth ; and the alóne individual who has warranty for reckoning himself pardoned and accepted through Christ, is the individual who can trace such a revolution in the whole inner man, as demonstrates him born again of an incorruptible seed. And what we now contend for is, that there is no variation between the representations thus given of the evidence which proves a man a believer in Christ, and that furnished by the words which form our subject of discourse. We contend, that the individual who may not be able to make good his title to immortality on the witness of an altered life and in increasing sanctification, has no right to shield himself, on the authority of our text, under another kind of witness, and that a secret and mysterious one. If he cannot bear the test which other scriptures furnish, he must not appeal to what St. Paul says of the witness of the Spirit, as if there were afforded a different criterion. We contend that the criterion is altogether the same, and that it is through the fruits, produced by the operation of the Holy Ghost, that the Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God.
Let us consider, for a moment, what a converted man, who sits in judgment on himself and his condition, may observe with regard to the influences of the Spirit; and we shall have little difficulty in discovering that concurrent testimony spoken of by the Apostle. This man may perceive, that, whereas, he was born with the love of sin, there has passed on him such a change that he desires nothing more than being conformed to the image of Christ, who was “ holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” Whatever the failures in obedience which he has to lament, the relapses into practices which he had professed to forsake, the inconsiderable progress in heavenly things which he makes, he can yet determine that he is not what he was, and that his affections have found a new home, a new centre. If he be a converted man, it is not possible that there be no signs of conversion on which he may fasten. The signs may indeed be occasionally obscured, and one cause or another may produce fear and suspicion ; but he cannot have been converted, without having been transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of Christ, and where this transfer has been effected, there must be a change in disposition which will be manifested by a change in deportment; and the man, if not quite overborne by melancholy and distrust, may gather proofs enough from the bent of his will and the object of his labours, that he has been the subject of a great spiritual renovation. And thus, as he prosecutes inquiry into his
state before God, there is presented to him much of broad and tangible material, out of which he may form a decisión. He does not love sin, and he does not commit sin, as he once loved it and once committed it. He is no longer its slave; though there are yet times when it struggles for mastery. He finds that he prefers the future to the present; so that, though not so detached as he would be from the earthly and the perishing, he nevertheless can honestly declare, that his heart is in heaven, where is also his treasure. He perceives in himself a growing sensitiveness to evil, a strengthening perception of what is hateful in God's sight: so that he is continually inclined to draw back the boundary line between the lawful and the un lawful, and to reckon as forbidden more and more what he had reckoned indifferent. He can find in his heart an increasing solicitude for the well-being of others; a solicitude, which, while it overlooks not their temporal interests, is mainly turned on their eternal ; the love of Christ constraining him produces a desire which may be apparent to an individual that a world lying in wickedness may be roused to repentance and faith. He can trace indications that there are produced in him those graces which St. Paul gives as “the fruits of the Spirit,” “ love, joy, peace; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."
And we do affirm, that whensoever a man can find these fruits in himself, the Spirit may be said to “bear witness with his spirit" that he is one of God's children. It is the Holy Spirit who possesses the fruits, and thus furnishes the material, out of which a decision must be made ; and then his own spirit sits in judgment on those fruits, examining them by scriptural tests, and determining whether they constitute a proof of that renewal of nature, which is indispensable to salvation. The Holy Spirit has wrought an alteration in the man; and then his own spirit searches out this alteration, compares it with all the Bible says of the second birth, weighs it and measures it, to see whether it comes up to the divine standard; so that the alteration, though wrought, is no evidence to the man, until he have made it matter of diligent inquiry, subjected it to the searching and sifting processes which are used by those who would separate the true from the false. And when his own spirit has decided on the genuineness of the tokens submitted to its scrutiny, and determined that the evidences presented are those prescribed by the Bible, then may it emphatically be declared, that “the Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit” to his adoption. It is the Holy Spirit which has furnished the material of proof, for through that Spirit has he been renewed, and enabled to bring forth the fruits of godly living; and then it is his own spirit which has sat in judgment on that material of proof, examining it by the scriptural criterion, and weighing it in the scriptural balances. When, therefore, a decision is made, that there is ground for believing himself no longer a stranger, but a fellow-citizen with the saints and with the household of God, is it not undeniable, that the divine Spirit and the human have concurred, to give the witness of adoption ? Without the workings of God's Spirit, there could have been no material of proof; and without the workings of man's spirit, there could have been no employment of that material: and what then shall we say of this witness, but that it is the testimony of one Spirit witnessing with the other? It were of all things the easiest to work you up an impassioned description, and to give you a glowing account of enjoyments vouchsafed to the faithful in Christ, when, in moments of special communing with God, they seem to escape the present contracted scene, and already to take their place with the myriads around the throne; and we feel, that we should be exhibiting religion under an aspect of far richer beauty and far greater fascination, if we gave you this magnificent anticipation of heaven as the testimony furnished by the Spirit to the believer, than when we tie you down to a rigid and even painful calculation, and require you to gather from the study of the Bible and strict comparison of your lives with its statements, your evidence of adoption into the family of God. So general and so strong is the disposition to erect frames and feelings into witnesses of our spiritual condition, and so prone are the best to seek comfort in their experience, that we know that we should carry many with us, as eager and delighted auditors, if we applied our text to enraptured emotions and excited sensibilities. And you may be inclined to charge us with advocating a cold and over-prudent theology ; but we count it matter for the very heartiest thanksgiving, that the scriptural tests of our condition require of us calculation, and are not to be resolved into feelings. For nothing are we more grateful than for the fact that the evidences of justification are not made to fall within the province of imagination. We see nothing which could follow, but the throwing open, as we before said, the door to all kinds of delusion, if it were once established that our state before God must be judged by a secret consciousness, a mysterious impression, an incommunicable sense of election unto life: we should have the sanguine and enthusiastic confident when they ought to tremble, the humble and timid alarmed in the midst of security. And, therefore, however pleasing it might be to any of you to hear our text applied to a hidden and choice intercourse between God and the soul, and however they may have been accustomed to expound it of some whispered testimony falling on the mind's ear in beautiful melody, when the world is all shut out, and heaven breaks upon the gaze, we rejoice that the grammar of the words, and the plain meaning of the words, are quite against the high-wrought explanation of the expression, and that, when fairly interpreted, it gives as little play to the fancy, and as little room to the enthusiasm, as any of those expressions which treat of evidence, or 'the declaration, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” We fasten you down to the fact, that the alleged testimony is that of two witnesses combining to give evidence: we exclude, therefore, all testimony which is not the joint testimony of the divine Spirit and the human. And when we are asked, where that joint testimony is to be found, we turn at once to the life of the renewed man, marked as that is with the tracings of the Spirit of God: and we require the man to bring all those graces to tne bar of his own spirit. What the divine Spirit has wrought must be submitted to the inquiries of the human, that there may be a decision on scriptural ground as to the reality of the conversion ; and if what God's Spirit hath effected, man's spirit can prove accordant to the inspired accounts of the results of justification, then, indeed, there is a witness to the being a member of God's family, which the two spirits concur in producing. And not more certain could the individual be of his adoption, if favoured with an immediate revelation, than when, after careful examination of the tokens of a renewed nature which are furnished by his conduct, he finds cause to class himself with those who can say, “ The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
But we are willing to allow, and we wish to explain before we conclude, that “the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, in
a yet more direct and intimate manner than has been hitherto indicated. It is not only the province of the Spirit to produce in us the fruits of righteousness, but so to enlighten our understandings, that they may discern the fruits when produced. We account for much of that anxiety and disquietude which we observe and deplore amongst believers in Christ, on the principle that they do not sufficiently look at the Spirit to enable them to discover his own work in their souls. The case is far from uncommon, of men who can but dimly, if at all, perceive in themselves the tokens of conversion and renewal, whilst to all around they are too plain to be overlooked : the man remains in painful doubt of his spiritual state, though others, who watch earnestly his conduct, find proofs in abundance that he is on the
way to heaven. Thus many go mourning all their days, never venturing to feel confident of their adoption, whilst their ministers or their friends see cause for most thorough assurance that God has gathered them into the membership of his invisible church. And one great reason of this appears to us to be, that men do not observe that the evidence of their condition is to be partly furnished by their own understandings, and that it is one office of the Holy Ghost to assist their understandings in performing this duty. They do not see that their own spirits are not to be inactive, but must diligently concur with God's Spirit in framing the testimony that is essential to their comfort; and they do not therefore apply to God's Spirit that their own may be aided to do its part in the witnessing work. Herein however is one great way in which the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirits, and we must bring it into the account, if we would truly explain St. Paul's statement in our text. When a man would sit in judgment on himself, wishing to ascertain his spiritual condition, he has to bring before him his own motives and his own actions, and infer from these the genuineness of his faith; and this is a work in which he is just as likely to err on one side as on the other, in not allowing the motives and the actions to be as pure and upright as they really are, as in ascribing to them what they do not really possess. The very fears may lead to his so depreciating all his motives, and all his actions, that they shall not seem to him, whilst they actually are, suggested by God's Spirit, and performed through his assistance. It is a great error, to think that the danger of forming a wrong judgment on our state is wholly on the side of supposing ourselves children whilst yet aliens ; there is to the full as much risk, though the consequences are not equally dangerous, of our reckoning ourselves aliens, whilst yet children. In the one case the understanding may have misrepresented the evidence of the life; or it may have substituted imaginary and fugitive evidence for that which is real and apparent : whilst in the other, it may have overlooked the evidences of the life, or not allowed them their due weight, or not traced them to their right origin. But if the aids of God's Spirit were simply relied on, when the believer in Christ is inquiring into the evidence of his adoption, there would not, we are persuaded, be the thousandth part of that doubt or distrust, by which numbers are harassed all their days. The Holy Spirit would