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the testimony of the Spirit, and the witness within you: yea, perhaps, you have been taking the testimony of Satan, instead of the testimony of the Spirit of God; for Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, while you may reckon that you have the testimony of the word applied, not by the Spirit of God, but by your own spirit, or by an evil spirit.
Quest. How shall we know the witness of the Spirit, from Satan transforming himself into an angel of light?
Answ. Múch hath been said for the discovery of this already ; and therefore look back to what has been of. fered. Satan's witnessing doth exalt self: the Spirit's witnessing doth tend to self-humiliation. Satan's wit. nessing encourages carnal liberty ; the Spirits witnessing destroys the liberty of the flesh. Satan's witnessing confounds a man, and his natural darkness and ignorance continues; the Spirit's witnessing convinces, clears, and enlightens the man, by internal, gracious revelation. Satan's witnessing defiles and deforms the sou) more and more in the issue of it; the Spirit's witnessing is of a heart-purifying, sin-mortifying nature. But the text being directed especially to believers, therefore I would address myself,
-2dly, To believers, who have the witness in themselves. I would offer you these following directions, in order to the strengthening and maintaining of the witness within yourselves.
1. O sirs, wait for the Spirit who is the principal witness, by asking him of the Father ; “ If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father, give bis holy Spirit to them that ask him ?" Luke xi. 13. Neither the water nor the blood, neither promises nor graces will witness without the irradiation of the Spirit; for, « The Spirit searches all things; yea, the deep things of God, and reveals them to us, and makes us know the things that are freely given us of God," I Cor. ii. 10. 12. A true dial hath an aptitude and fitness to shew us the hours of the day; but unless the sun shine, you can know nothing by it; so, it may be day-light with your
soul, and you may have precious graces, that have a fitness and aptitude to witness your being a child of God; but they cannot do it, without the shining of the Spirit upon his own work. It is said, that the Sabin stone is of a dark duskish colour, till it be sprinkled with oil, and then it will burn of a light fire; so, graces and experiences are of a duskish colour, till the oil of the Spirit be poured upon them; then they will burn forth with brightness, so as to witness to the soul its adoption and reconciliation with God.
2. Mark the deposition of the witness, and take not the testimony of any other witness, but in an agreeableness with this. It hath been sometimes an objection among serious souls, “Oh! I have found my “ heart deceiving me, in passing judgment about other “ matters ; and I had as many symptoms of my being “ led by the Spirit of God to these conclusions, as I s have of his leading me in this, that concerns my “ eternal state; and therefore I fear I be deceived in all:" Now, what shall we say to this? Why, in general, it is the work of the Spirit to discover both the sincerity and deceitfulness of the heart. Seeds of hypocrisy are in the best, as well as other sins: grace doth not totally destroy the being of any one sin. Peter's heart did deceive him when he was upon high resolutions for Christ; and yet he was a believer. But never does a soul see more of the deceitfulness of his heart than upon the discovery of divine love, Job. xlii. 5, 6. Isa. vi. 5. Ezek. xvi. 63.-But further, upon this head, you would remember, that the believer may be deceived about some circumstances, and about the parti. cular ends of some dispensations, and yet his judgment may be right in the main; and therefore, particular mistakes are not to be made general rules. Peter had a clear testimony of his adoption, and that from the mouth of Christ himself, Matth. xvi. 17. ; yet this did not preserve him from a delusion of Satan, that came afterwards, verses 22, 23.; the same mouth that blessed him, quickly called him Satan. Christ's testimony was enough to secure him of divine love; and yet it did not secure him against a false confidence, in a par.
ticular case; nor against á sad fall, Matth. xxvi. 35.70. 172. If your heart then has deceived you in some particular thing, do not conclude, that you are deluded in all; but let your particular mistakes provoke you to mark the deposition of this witness, and to watch against the delusions of Satan, and your own spirit, that you take not the testimony thereof,
Perhaps you may say, How shall I know these de lusions.
. We have hinted at these already ; take these parti. culars, in short, as symptoms of a delusion, and beware of them.
(1.) Whatever hath a natural tendency to promote sin and unrighteousness, is a delusion: unholiness cannot be from the holy Spirit. Beware of that which gives encouragement to corruption.
(2.) That which arises from, and leads to security, is a delusion, Rev. iji, 17. 22. The Laodiceans, there, thought they wanted nathing; but the Spirit of God thought otherwise : and tells them, that they wanted all things.
(3.) That which springs from a supposed self-sufficiency, or, in its own' nature, leads to self-advancement, is a delusion; "In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved,” Psalm xxx. 6. David was confident, that he should not be unoved, because of his outward accommodations for self-defence; therefore he checks and corrects himself, verse 7. “ By thy favour my mountain standeth strong.” So, if you overcome this or that temptation, and thereupon conclude, that you are able to encounter with any; it is but the voice of your own spirit: and it may be, a small temptation will surprise you shortly; yea, very quickly : and so, if it tend to make you aspiring, as Gen. iji. 5. suspect it as a delusion.
(4.) That which begins not with, and ends not in Christ, is a delusion. Peter engages for Christ, but not in the strength of Christ; and so he fell. Therefore, we say, mark the deposition of the witness, and take not the testimony of any other.
3. Beware of grieving your principal witness that you have within you, either by rejecting his testimony or indulging sin. There are several things that tend to keep off from assurance, which you should beware of.-Beware of thinking that assurance is not attainable; that it is attainable, see Isaiah xlv. 24. Ixiii. 16. 2 Cor. v. 1. 6. Rom. viii. 39. Some think it is their dutyto live doubting, and imagine they would sin, if they would seek assurance; but it is a duty commanded as well as other duties : “ Wherefore, brethren, give all diligence to make your calling and election sure," 2 Pet. i. 10. Beware of limiting the Lord to your time; wait his leisure. Beware of grieving the Spirit, and resisting his motions ; “ Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption," Eph. iv. 30. Beware of yielding to carnal and unbelieving reasonings ; reason your heart rather out of unbelief, saying, “ Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God,” Psalm xlii. 11. Beware of spiritual sloth and security, Heb. vi. 11.; or of nourishing any sin, Heb. x. 22. Seek to be sprinkled from particular corruptions, by the blood of Christ.
4. Be inuch in the exercise of these duties of religion that have a tendency to cherish the witness within you. e.g. Frequent self-examination hath a tendency
". Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves, how Christ Jesus is in you, except ye be repro: bates ?” i. e. unapproved or rejected, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Satan endeavours to beat off from this duty, because the end of it is to help the soul to the right understanding of its condition; but exercise yourself much in it, especially when your eyes are clear, and not dim with desertion. Also a careful observing of the Lord's dealing with your soul, hath a tendency towards this. God's end towards the Israelites in their temptations, and miraculous preservation in the wilderness, was, that they might know that the Lord was their God, Deut xxix. 3.-6. A multitude of experiences must needs conduce much to clear up the state.
the state. Renewed actings of faith
have a special tendency this way also; all opportunities that are offered, even for the most eminent acts of faith, are to be improved. Abraham's slaying of his son Isaac, seemed to be contrary both to God's command, that he should not kill; and to God's promise, that in Isaac his seed should be called; yet his faith got over all, and he had a bright appearance of Christ after it, Gen. xxii. 11, 12. 16. Perhaps you' are in an ili frame, a sad condition, and dare not act faith on the promise ; but it is your duty to believe, whatever your condition be, were it even a desperate, hopeless-like condition : why, faith may then be most gloriously acted, when against hope, you believe in hope. Though the particular promise fail; though sensible experience fail
, so that it is a midnight darkness' with you: yet there is the name of God still to run to; such as that, Exodus
xxiv. 5, 6. that he is the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious. When you cannot see that be is gracious to you, or that he hath forgiven your sin ; yet, through grace, essay to stretch forth the withered hand, and to put forth an act of faith upon him through Christ; and in that way wait for his being gracious, and for his forgiving your sin. A new act of faith is the best way to recover all.
But, perhaps, you cannot believe; mountains of difficulties are in the way of believing: if you could get believed, you would not complain. But know, that the Lord himself may cast in matter of discouragement in the way of your believing, purposely to draw out the acts of faith, Rom. iv. 19, 20. Matth. xv. 24. Why, how could Abraham believe an apparent impossibility, he being old, and Sarah's womb dead ?--How could the woman believe? Christ called her a dog; and tells her, “ I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Seeming impossibilities may be in the way of his mercy, and yet it may be intended for the trial of faith, and not for the hinderanee thereof: but in such cases, the Lord holds up the heart; as this woman was the more importunate, the more repulses and seeming denials she had.
Christ never contradicts his own command, to forbid