For that suggestion of words of scripture is no more divine, than the suggestion of the facts themselves; as has been just now demonstrated; and two effects together, which are neither of them spiritual, cannot make up one complex effect spiritual.

Hence it follows, from what has been already shewn, that those affections which are properly founded on such immediate suggestions, of secret facts, are not gracious affections. Not but that it is possible that such suggestions may be the occasion, or accidental cause of gracious affections; for so may a mistake and delusion ; but it is never properly the foundation of gracious affections : for gracious affections, as has been shewn, are all the effects of an influence and operation which is spiritual, supernatural, and divine. But there are many affections, and high affections, which have such revelations for their very foundation. They look upon these as spiritual discoveries; but they are a gross delusion; and this delusion is truly the spring whence their affections flow.

Here it may be proper to observe, from what has been said, that what many persons call the witness of the Spirit, that they are the children of God, has nothing in it spiritual and divine; and consequently that the affections built upon it, are vain and delusive. That which many call the witness of the Spirit, is no other than an immediate suggestion and impression of that fact, otherwise secret, that they are made the children of God, and so that their sins are pardoned, and that God has given them a title to heaven. This kind of knowledge, viz. knowing that a certain person, is converted, and delivered from hell, and entitled to heaven, is no divine sort of knowledge in itself. This sort of fact requires no more divine suggestion, in order to impress it on the mind, than what Balaam had impressed on his mind. It requires no higher sort of idea for a man to have the apprehension of his own conversion impressed upon him, than to have the apprehension of his neighbour's conversion, in like manner. God, if he pleased, might impress the knowledge of this fact, that he had forgiven his neighbour's sins, and given him a title to heaven, as well as any other fact, without any communication of his holiness. The excellency and importance of the fact, does not at all hinder a natural man's mind being susceptible of an immediate suggestion and impression of it. Balaam had as important facts as this immediately impressed on his mind, without any gracious influence; particularly, the coming of Christ, his setting up his glorious kingdom, the blessedness of the spiritual Israel in his peculiar favour, and their happiness living and dying. Yea, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, had God's special favour to Abraham, revealed to him, Gen. xx. 6, 7. He revealed to Laban his special favour to Jacob, see Gen. xxxi. 24. and Psal. cv. 15. VOL. V.



And if a truly good man should have an immediate revelation from God, in like manner, concerning his favour to his neighbour, or bimself, would it be any higher kind of influence? Would it be any more than a common influence of God's Spirit, as the gift of prophecy, and all revelation by immediate suggestion is? See 1 Cor. xiii. 2. And though it be true, that a natural man cannot have an individual suggestion from the Spirit of God, that he is converted, because it is not true; yet that does not arise from the nature of the influence, as too high for him. The inluence which immediately suggests this fact, when it is true, is of ao different kind from that which immediately suggests other true facts: and so the kind and nature of the influence, is not above what is common to natural men.

But this is a mean ignoble notion of the witness of the Spirit of God given to bis dear children, to suppose that there is nothing in the nature of that influence, but what is common to natural men, altogether unsanctified, and the children of hell; and that therefore the gift itself has nothing of the holy nature, or vital communication of that Spirit. This notion greatly debases that most exalted kind of operation which there is in the true witness of the spirit*. That which is called the witness of the Spirit, Rom. viii. is elsewhere in the New Testament called the seal of the Spirit, 2 Cor. i. 22. Eph. i. 13. and iv. 13. alluding to the seal of princes, annexed to the instrument, by which they advanced any of their subjects to some high honour and dignity, as a token of their special favour. Which is au evidence that the influence of the Spirit of the Prince of princes, in sealing his favourites, is far from being of a common kind; and that there is no effect of God's Spirit whatsoever, which is in its nature more divine; nothing more holy, peculiar, inimitable, and distinguishing of divinity. Nothing is more royal than the royal seal; nothing more sacred to a prince, and more peculiarly denoting what belongs to him; it being the very design of it, to be the most peculiar stamp and confirmation of the royal authority. It is the great note of distinction, whereby that which proceeds from the king, or belongs to him, may be known from every thing else.

* The late venerable Stoddard in his younger time, falling in with the opinion of some others, received this notion of the witness of the Spirit, by way of immediate suggestion : but in the latter part of his life, when he had more thoroughly weighed things, and had more experience, he entirely rejected it; as appears by his treatise of the nature of saving conversion, p. 84. " The Spirit of God doth not leslify to particular persons, that they are godly. Some think that the Spirit of God doth testify it to some; and they ground it on Rom. viii. 16. The Spiril itself bear. oth wilness roith our spirit, that we are the children of God. They think the Spirit reveals it by giving an inward testimony to it; and some godly men think ibey have had experience of it: but they may easily mistake ; when the Spirit of God doth eminently stir up a Spirit of faith, and sheds abroad the love of God in the heart, it is easy to mistake it for a testimuny. And that is not the meaning of Paul's words. The Spirit reveals things to us, by opening our eyes to see what is revealed in the word; but the Spirit doth not reveal new truths, not revealed in the word. The Spirit discovers the grace of God in Christ, and thereby draws forth special actings of faith and love, which are evidential; but it doth not work ia way of testimony. If God do but help us to receive the revelations in the word, we shall hare comfort enough without new revelations."

And therefore undoubtedly the seal of the great King of heaven and earth enstamped on the heart, is something high and holy in its own nature, some excellent communication from the infinite fountain of divine beauty and glory; and not merely making known a secret fact by revelation or suggestion; which is a sort of influence of the Spirit of God, of which the children of the devil have often been the subjects. The seal of the Spirit is an effect of the Spirit of God on the heart, of which natural men while such, can form no manner of notion. Rev. ii.

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name uritten, which no man knorreth, saring he that receireth it. There is all reason to snppose that what is here spoken of, is the same evidence, or blessed token of special favour, which is elsewhere called the seal of the Spirit.

What has misled many in their notion of that influence of the Spirit of God of which we are speaking, is the word WITNESS, its being called the witness of the Spirit. Hence they have taken it to be not any work of the Spirit upou the heart, giving evidence from whence men may argue that they are the children of God, but an inward immediate suggestion, as though God inwardly spoke to the man, and told him that he was his child, by a kind of secret voice, or impression. The manner in which the word witness, or testimony, is often used in the New Testament, viz.holdiug forth evidence from whence a thing may be argued and proved to be true. Thus, Heb. ii. 4. God is said to bear witness with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost. Now these miracles, are called God's witness, not because they are of the nature of assertions, but evidences and proofs. So Acts xiv. 3. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gare testimony unto the word of his grace, und granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. And John v. 36. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. Again, chap. I. 25. The works that I do in my Father's name, they

x bear witness of me. So the water and the blood are said to bear witness, 1 John, v. 8. not that they asserted any thing, but they were evidences. So God's works of providence, in rain and fruitful seasons, are witnesses of God's being and goodness, i. e. they were evidences of these things. And when the scripture speaks of the seal of the Spirit, it is an expression which proper

ly denotes—not an immediate voice or suggestion, but—some work or effect of the Spirit, left as a divine mark upon the soul, , to be an evidence, by which God's children might be known. The seals of princes were their distinguishing marks: and thus the seal of God is his mark, Rev. vii. 3. Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have scaled the servants of our God in their foreheads; Ezek. ix. 4. Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof. When God sets his seal on a man's heart by his Spirit, there is some holy stamp, some image impressed, and left upon the heart by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax.

And this holy stamp, or impressed image, exhibiting clear evidence to the conscience, that the subject of it is the child of God, is the very thing which in scripture is called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness, or evidence of the Spirit. And this mark enstamped by the Spirit on God's children, is his own image. That is the evidence by which they are known to be God's children; they have the image of their father stainped upon their hearts by the spirit of adoption. Seals anciently had engraven on them two things, viz. the image, and the name of the person whose seal it was. Therefore when Christ says to his spouse, Cant viii. 6. Set me as a scal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: it is as much as to say, let my name and image remain impressed there. The seals of princes, moreover, were wont to bear their image; so that what they set their seal and royal mark upon, had their image left on it. It was their manner also to have their image engraven on their jewels and precious stones; the image of Augustus engraven on a precious stone, was used as the seal of the Roman emperors, in the times of Christ and the apostles*. The saints are the jewels of Jesus Christ, the great Potentate, who possesses the empire of the universe : and these jewels have his image enstamped upon them by his royal signet, which is the Holy Spirit. And this is undoubtedly what the scripture means by the seal of the Spirit; especially when it is fair and plain to the eye of conscience; which is what the scripture calls our spirit. This is truly an effect that is spiritual, supernatural and divine. This is in itself of a holy nature, being a communication of the divine nature and beauty. That kind of influence of the Spirit which gives and leaves this stamp upon the heart, is such as no natural man can have. If there were any such thing as a witness of the Spirit by immediate suggestion or revelation, this would be vastly more noble and excellent, and as much above it as the heaven is above the earth. This the devil cannot imitatet.

See Chamber's Dictionary, under the word ENGRAVING. + Mr. Shepard is abundant iu militating against the notion of men's knowing

The seal of the Spirit is called the earnest of the Spirit, in the scripture. 2 Cor. i. 22. Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. And Eph. i. 13, 14. In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Now the earnest is part of the money agreed for given in hand, as a token of the whole to be paid in due time; a part of the promised inheritance granted now, in token of full possession of the whole hereafter. But surely that kind of communication of the Spirit of God, which is of the nature of eternal glory, is the highest and most excellent kind of communication.

It is something in its own nature spiritual, holy, and divine ; and therefore their good estate by an immediate witness of the Spirit, without juilgin: by any effect or work of the Spirit wrought on the heart, as an evidence and proof that persons are the children of God. (Parab. I. P. 134, 135, 137, 176, 177, 215, 216. P. II, 168, 169.

Again, in his Sound Believer, there is a long discourse of sanctification as the chief evidence of justification, from p. 221, for many pages following ; I shall transcribe but a very small part of it. “Tell me, how you will know that you are justified. You will say, by the testimony of the Spirit. And cannot the same Sprit shine upon your graces, and witness that you are sanctified, as well? 1 John ir. 13, 24. 1 Cor. ii. 12. Can the Spirit make the one clear to you, and not the other? Oh lelored, it is a sad thing, to hear such questions, and such coid answers also, that sanctification possibly may be an evidence. May be! Is it not certain ?

Mr. Flavel also much opposes this notion of the witness of the Spirit by immediate revelation. Sacramental Meditations, med. 4, speaking of the sealing of the Spirit, be says," In sealing the believer, he doth not inake use of an audible voice, nor the ministry of angels, nor immediate and extraordinary revelations; but he makes use of his own graces, implanted in our hearts, and his own promises, written in the scripture: and in this method, he usually brings the doubting trembling heart of a believer to rest and comfort.” Again, ibid. “ Assurance is produced in our souls by the reflexive acts of faith : the Spirit helps us to reflect upon what hath been done by him formerly upon our hearis; hereby we know thal we know him, 1 John ii. 3. To know that we know, is a reflex act. Now it is impossible there should be a reflex, before there hath been a direct aci. No man can bave the evidence of his faith, before the habit is infused, and the vital act performed. The object matter, to which the Spirit seals, is his own sanctifying operation." Asterwards, ibid. he says, " Immediate ways of the Spirit's sealing are ceased. No man may now expect, by any new revelation, or sign from heaven, by any voice, or extraordinary inspiration, to have his salvation sealed; but must expect that mercy in God's ordinary way and inethod, searching the scriptures; examining our own hearts, and waiting on the Lord in prayer. The learned Gerson gives an instance of one that had been long upon the borders of despair, and at last sweetly assured and settled : be answered, Non ex nora aliqua revelatione ; not by any new rerelalion, but by subjecting my understanding to, and comparing my heart with the written word ; and Mr. Roberts, in his treatise of the covenants, speaks of another, that so vehemently panted after the sealinys and assurance of the love of God to his soul, that for a long time he earnestly desired some voice from heaven ; and sometimes walking in the solitary fields, earnestly desired some miraculous voice from the trees or stones there. This was denied him: but in time, a belter was afforded, in a scriptural way.' Again, ibid, “ This method of sealing, is beyond all other methods in the world. For in miraculous voices and inspirations, it is possible there may subesse falsum, be found some cheat, or impostures of the devil : but the Spirit's witness in the heart, suitable to the revelation in the scripture, cannot deceive us,"

« ElőzőTovább »