ment of the world, to suffer the devil so exactly to counterfeit the works of his own Spirit, as to leave no marks or evidences whereby to distinguish them from the impostures of Satan. Truth and holiness are the objects of the devil's hatred ; and though he may transform himself in some particulars into an angel of light, yet he brings along with him some peculiar evil badge, whereby he may be known or distinguished . And if christians will be sineere and honest, watchful and diligent, to examine not only the present impressions, but the succeeding effects of such sort of assurances of their adoption, together with earnest prayer to be kept from all delusions, I can hardly think that God will suffer his own people to be imposed upon in a matter of so sacred importance,

The fourth thing I proposed, was to mention briefly some characters of this extraordinary witness of the Spirit, wherein it differs from the ordinary witness.

1. The extraordinary testimony of our adoption is a more sensible and strong impression upon the soul; which seems to be distinguished in itself from the more slow, successive, and rational operations of the human faculties. The spirit of a christian searching out his own interest in the love of God, exercises his reasoning powers, lays down these propositions : He that believes in Christ, or he that loveth God, is a child of God. Again, I believe in Christ, or I love God: And then it infers this conclusion ; therefore I am one of his children. Now the Spirit of God in his ordinary and usual influences, does so gently, 80 secretly, and in such a con-natural manner, assist these operations of the soul, that it seems to be all our own work; and the influences of the Spirit are seldom sensibly distinguished from the operations of our own faculties; and we learn, that we have the assistance of the Holy Spirit herein, rather by the doctrine of scripture, and by its sanctifying effects, than by any powerful sensations of a superior influence on our souls : But in the extraordinary witness the case is otherwise: for the superior and external influence appears strong and sensible. The Holy Spirit impresses the conclusion, or the assurance of our adoption, with power apon the soul, without any successive deduction of it from any foregoing propositions, sets it in a bright liglit, and persuados the soul to believe it.

2. This extraordinary witness is usually short and sudden, the other is more durable; this is only a cordial to encourage us in an hour of danger, or support us in a fainting season ; the otlier is our common food, and our daily refreshment. It has been said of this favorir ; it is rara hora, brevis mora : A visit seldom bestowed, of short continuance.

3. The ordinary witness of the Spirit of God with our spirits, proving our regeneration and adoption in a rational way,

may in some measure be made out to others; but the extraordinary witness of the Spirit is like the white stone of absolution, and the new name written in it; Rev. ij. 17. which none knows but he that receives it. It is like hidden manna, with which God, at special seasons, may feed his children in secret.

4. Tlie extraordinary witness of the Spirit fills the soul with great and exceeding joy, and brings it, as it were, within the confines of heaven ; It is joy unspeukable, und glorified ; as the apostle Peter calls it; 1 Peter 1. 8. The other inaintains the soul in such a degree of peace, comfort, and well grounded hope, as carries the christian onward through the difficulties and duties of life, though without such raptures of inward joy. There is an unknown sensation of heavenly light and love, which funs through the spirit of a christian, under such extraordinary assurances of divine love; and it has been with a saint at such a time as it was with Peter in the mount, when he said, Lord, it is good for us to be here ; Mat. xvii. 4. When he was overwhelmed with revelation and pleasure, such a soul has felt more than feeble nature was able to bear, and has cried out, “ it is enough, Lord; or, it is too much for a state of flesh and blood; Lord, either withhold thy comforts, or enlarge the vessel ; for I cannot bear these joys.

5. This extraordinary witness of the Spirit doth not belong to every saint. Many a christian, it may be, passes the whole course of his life, and practises a regular faith and holiness for many years, without this excess of joy, this assurance of God's love. Believers are generally led ou in a rational way of evidence and hope; and walking in the paths of boliness, having goud hope through grace, hold fast an humble confidence unto the end. The extraordinary witness is exceeding rare and uncommon, at least in our days.

I proceed bow to finish this discourse, by offering to your thoughts a few advices concerning these witnessings of the Spirit of God, both in his ordinary and extraordinary ways.

1. Though you have never felt any such immediate influences of the Spirit of God, giving you an extraordinary assurance of your interest in his love, yet have a care of ridiculing and reproaching these peculiar and uncommon operations of the Holy Spirit : Take heed of pronouncing them all at once, the delusions of the devil, the visions of an heated fancy, or vain and idle dreams. It is certain that God has bestowed some such favours on men in the primitive days of christianity. It is certain also, that there is no place of scripture that declares, that these influences are utterly ceased, or that God will bestow no more such divine favours. It is certain yet further, that wise, and judicious, and holy mon, have had very extraordinary impressions of this kind made on their souls so that they were almost constrained to believe that they were divine; and the effects of these impressions have been holy and glorious: We should set a guard therefore on our hearts and our tongues, lest we cast a reproach and scandal on such sacred appearances, which the Spirit of God will hereafter ackuowledge to have been his own work.

2. Let not humble christians, who walk with God according to the ordinary methods of his grace, be discouraged, though they have never found this extraordinary witness of the Spirit, nor tasted of these peculiar favours. Value the evident marks and characters of the children of God, wrought in your hearts, more than ecstacies of joy and pleasure. Value mortification to sin more than raptures; for mortification is a certain sign that the Spirit of God dwells in us, and that we are heirs of life ; Rom. viii. 13. If you by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh you shall live. Heaven is the place of complete joy; heaven is the state where sight and seose shall be exercised; but we are here ordained to live by faith; 2 Cor. v. 7. We may have the assisting presence of the Spirit of adoption, and by that Spirit may say unto God, Abba, Father, without the extraordinary witnessing of that good Spirit.

3. Dare not believe any sudden raptures to proceed from this extraordinary testimony of the Holy Spirit, unless you find some considerable measure of those sanctifying effects of them which I have described; I have granted that in partioular seasons of trial when the natural spirits sink and fail, and temptations are exceeding strong, God may give this immediate testimony, on purpose to bear up the soul from sinking; yet we should not dare to trust such sort of vehement im. pressions, and pronounce them divine, if we neither find any of the plain scriptural marks of the children of God upon us, before or after thesc impressions. There is great danger of depending upon such raptures, if they leave no evident and lasting effects of sanctification behind them. Where the Spirit shines with such a divine light, he will warm the heart with uncommon love, and the soul must be conscious of some such rational evidence of adoption, such a love to God in the heart, as will effectually prove that God has first loved us. Per haps this is one reason why some christians fall under so many doubts and fears, because they live more upon their inward sensations of joy, their transports of pleasure in religion, which they call the extraordinary witness of the Spirit, than they do upon the characters of the children of God, which should be written in their hearts, and by which they should endeavour to search out and to evidence their interest in the favour of God.

4. Let every believer wall. humbly before God, in all the

[ocr errors]

paths of holiness. Take heed lest at any time you resist the blessed Spirit, in his sanctifying influences, lest he withdraw your comforts of every kind. Be not deceived, for the Spirit of God will not be trifled with. If you sow to the flesh, after you have received any witnessings. of the Spirit, you may expect to reap desertions, sorrow, pains, and long mourning keep a conscience tender, and afraid of every sin ; grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption ; Eph. iy. 30.

5. Wait on God in all his holy ordinances, and wait for the manifestations of his love. It is in a regular attendance on the public and private duties of religion, that we may hope to meet with the witnessing Spirit; there the principles of grace are wont to be awakened, and called forth into lively exercise ; and where your love to God your Father, and to Jesus your Saviour, is excited, and your souls exert themselves as becomes the children of God, you have most reason to expeet the presence of the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to your adoption, and to your interests in his love. He will never bestow consolations of an ordinary or extraordinary kind, where there is a wilful neglect of the duties he has prescribed. Frequent the services of his holy temple; the out-goings of God our King are in his sanctuary. and glory, his grace and kindness are made visible in his house. There has he promised his own presence; and where his presence is, he often brings with him the witnessing Spirit.

His power


On the Powers and Contests of Flesh and Spirit.

It is agreed by all the more sober and thinking part of the world, that man is a compounded creature, and it is made evident from this plain and easy observation, viz. that he puts forth hourly such different kinds of action, as one simple being could never perform. Flesh and spirit are the two ingredients that go to the composition; yet they keep their own natures still distinct, nomingled, and unconfounded. By the flesh we eat, drink, walk, and sleep, and are a-kin to brute animals : by the spirit we think, know, and chuse, and hold kindred with angels.' It appears to every careful observer, that each of these parts of the man have their particular and distinct natures, qualities, and operations.

The flesh, or body, includes in it the limbs, blood, and breath, with all the grosser and finer materials, solid or fluid; that make up the animal; it has many inward ferments and appetites of its own; it has several visible, as well as hidden motions; and it receives various impressions, made by outward objects of sense, which are proper to itself, and in which the spirit has no share. On the other hand, the soul or spirit includes the understanding and will, which are its chief powers: It has its thoughts and conceptions, its judgments and reasonings, its acts of choice, aversion, and desire, in great variety; which are peculiarly its own, and belong not to the flesh.

But while we dwell in this present world, there is such a Dear and special union between soul and body, that there are very fow operations or affections of the mind, which do not receive a sensible turn or influence from the qualities and ferınents, the impressions, powers, and passions, of flesh and blood.

Sometimes these animal motions attend or follow the acts or exercises of the mind, and yet even then they increase them in many cases : So when the soul is ashamed, the blood flushes in the face, and the shame is doubled ; when the spirit is angry, the cheeks kindle, or grow pale, and the inward wrath burns

ficroer. So in a fit of fear, the blood retires, the flesh trembles, the natural spirits flutter, or sink into faintness, and the soul is more terrifics and overwhelmed. At other times these inward ferments of the juices of the body are entirely beforehand with the soul; those motions or impressions of the flesh, and sense, and animal

« ElőzőTovább »