Guthrie, The Christian's Great Interest. Part 5
They may confess sin openly to their own shame, as King Saul did--'Then
said Saul, I have sinned:Return, my son David; for I will no more do thee harm,
because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the
fool, and have erred exceedingly.' (1 Sam. 26: 21.)
3. They may humble themselves in sackcloth, with Ahab - 'And it came to pass, when Ahab heard these words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.' (1 Kings 21: 27.)
4. They may inquire busily after duty, and come cheerfully to receive it - 'Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God; they ask of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God.' (Isa. 58: 2.)
5. They may join with God's interest in a hard and difficult time, as Demas and other hypocrites, who afterwards fell away. 6. They may give much of their goods to God and to the saints, as Ananias, if not all their goods--'Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.' (Acts 5: 1, 2; 1 Cor. 13: 3.) Yea
7. It is not impossible for some such, being straitly engaged in their credit, to 'give their bodies to be burned,' as in the last cited place.
Thirdly, Hypocrites may advance far in the common and ordinary steps of a Christian work; such as the elect have when God leads them captive. As
1. They may be under great convictions of sin, as Judas was - 'Then Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.' (Matt. 27: 3-5.) So was King Saul often.
2. They may tremble at the word of God, and be under much terror, as Felix was--'And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.' (Acts 24: 5.)
3. They may rejoice in 'receiving of the truth, as he that received the seed into stony places.' (Matt. 13: 20.)
4. They may be in some peace and quiet, in expectation of salvation by Christ, as the foolish virgins were. (Matt. 24.)
5. All this may be backed and followed with some good measure of reformation, as the Pharisee--'The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.' 'The unclean spirit may go out of them.' (Matt. 12: 43; Luke 18: 11, 12.)
6. This work may seem to be confirmed by some special experiences and 'tastings of the good word of God.' (Heb. 6: 4.) Fourthly, Hypocrites may have some things very like the saving graces of the Spirit; as
1. They may have a sort of faith, like Simon Magus--'Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.' (Acts 8: 13.)
2. They may have a sort of repentance, and may walk mournfully--'What profit is it that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?' (Mal. 3: 14.)
3. They may have a great fear of God, such as Baalam had, who, for a house full of gold, would not go with the messengers of Balak, without leave asked of God and given. (Num. 22: 18.)
4. They have a sort of hope--'The hypocrite's hope shall perish.' (Job. 13: 13.)
5. They may have some love, as had Herod to John--'And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.' (Mark 6: 26.) I need not insist, as it is out of all question, they have counterfeits of all saving graces.
Fifthly, They have somewhat like the special communications of God, and the witnessing of His Spirit, and somewhat like 'the powers of the world to come, working powerfully on them, with some flashes of joy arising thence,' as Heb. 6: 4, 5 - 'For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.' Notwithstanding of all which, they are but 'almost persuaded,' with Agrippa, to 'become Christians.' (Acts 26: 28.) It were tedious to speak particularly to each of these things, and to clear it up, that they are all unsound; I shall point out some few things, wherein a truly renewed man, who is in Christ, does differ from hypocrites and reprobates.
1. Whatever changes be in hypocrites, yet their heart is not changed, and made new. The new heart is only given to the elect, when they are converted and brought under the bond of the covenant--'I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever.' 'A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.' (Jer. 32: 39; Ezek. 36: 26.) Hypocrites never apprehend Christ as the only satisfying good in all the world, for which with joy they would quit all; for then the kingdom of God were entered into them. 'The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goes and selleth all that he has, and buyeth that field.' (Matt. 13: 44.) The truly renewed man dare, and can upon good ground say, and has a testimony of it from on high, that his heart has been changed in taking up with Christ, and has been led out after Him, as the only enriching treasure, in whom 'to be found he accounteth all things else loss and dung.' (Phil. 3: 8, 9.)
2. Whatever reformation or profession hypocrites attain unto, as it comes not from a new heart, and pure principle of zeal for God, so it is always for some wicked or base end; as, 'to be seen of men' (Matt. 6: 5), or to evade and shun some outward strait, to be freed from God's wrath, and the trouble of their own conscience--'Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and Thou sees not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge?' (Isa. 58: 3.) 'What profit is it that we have kept His ordinances, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts?' (Mal. 3: 14.) In testimony of this, they never have respect to all known commands, else they should 'never be ashamed' (Psa. 119: 6); nor do they, without guile in their own heart, resolve against every known iniquity, else they were free of heart-condemning, and so might justly 'have confidence before God.' (1 John 3: 21.) If from a principle of love unto, and of zeal for Christ, and for a right end, they did, in ever so small a degree, confess and profess Him, Christ were obliged by His own word to confess them before His Father. (Matt. 10: 32.)
3. Whatever length hypocrites advance in that work, by which people are led on unto Christ, yet they never 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.' (Matt. 6: 33.) 'The one thing that is necessary,' namely, Christ's friendship and fellowship, is never their one thing and heart-satisfying choice, else that 'better part would never be taken from them.' (Luke 10: 42.)
4. Whatever counterfeits of grace are in hypocrites, yet they are all produced without any saving work of the Spirit of Christ; and it is enough to exclude them from the benefit of this mark, that they are never denied to these things, nor emptied of them, but still do rest on them as their Saviour, so that they 'submit not unto the righteousness of God' (Rom. 10: 3); and that is enough to keep them at a distance from Christ, who will never mend that old garment of hypocrites with His fine new linen, nor 'put His new wine in these old bottles.' (Matt. 9: 16,17.)
5. We may say, Let hypocrites, reprobates, or atheists, have what they can, they want the three great essentials of religion and true Christianity--
1. They are not broken in heart, and emptied of their own righteousness, so as to loathe themselves. Such 'lost ones Christ came to seek and save.' (Luke 19: 10.)
2. They never took up Christ Jesus as the only treasure and jewel that can enrich and satisfy; and therefore, have never cordially agreed unto God's device in the covenant, and so are not worthy of Him: neither has the kingdom of God savingly entered into their heart--'The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he has, and buyeth that field.' (Matt. 13: 44)
3. They never in earnest close with Christ's whole yoke without exception, judging all His 'will just and good, holy and spiritual' (Rom. 7: 12); and therefore no rest is given to them by Christ--'Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' (Matt. 11: 29.) Therefore, whosoever thou art, who can lay clear and just claim to these three aforesaid things, Thou art beyond the reach of all atheists, hypocrites, and reprobates in the world, as having answered the great ends and intents of the law and gospel.
V.--Doubts because of prevailing sin considered
Object. I am clear sometimes, I think, to lay claim to that mark of the new creature; yet at other times sin does so prevail over me, that I am made to question all the work within me.
Ans. It is much to be lamented, that people professing the name of Christ should be so abused and enslaved by transgression, as many are. Yet, in answer to the objection, if it be seriously proposed, we say, The saints are found in Scripture justly laying claim to God and His covenant, when iniquity did prevail over them, as we find--'Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, Thou shalt purge them away.' (Psa. 65: 3.) Thus Paul thanks God through Christ, even while lamenting that a law in his members leads him captive unto sin. (Rom. 7: 25.) But for the right understanding, and safe application of such truths, we must make a difference betwixt gross outbreakings and ordinary infirmities or heart-evils, or sins that come unawares upon a man, without forethought or any deliberation. As for the former sort, it is hard for a man, whilst he is under the power of them, to see his gracious change, although it be in him: and very hard to draw any comfort from it, until the man be in some measure recovered, and begin seriously to resent such sins, and to resolve against them. We find David calling himself God's servant, quickly after his numbering of God's people; but he was then under the serious resentment of his sin--'And David's heart smote him after he had numbered the people. David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now I beseech Thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have done foolishly.' (2 Sam. 24: 10.) Jonah layeth claim to God as his Master under his rebellion; but he is then repenting it, and in a spirit of revenge against himself for his sin.' (Jonah 1: 9-12.)
Next, as for those sins of infirmity, and daily incursions of heart-evils, such as those whereof (it is like) Paul does complain; we shall draw out some things from the seventh chapter to the Romans, upon which Paul maintains his interest in Christ, and if you can apply them it is well.
1. When Paul finds that he does much fail, and cannot reach conformity to God's law, he does not blame the law, as being too strict, so that men cannot keep it, as hypocrites use to speak; but he blames himself as being carnal; and he saith of the law, 'that it is good, holy, and spiritual.' (Rom. 7: 12,14.)
2. He can say, he failed of a good which he intended, and did outshoot himself, and he had often honestly resolved against the sin into which he fell--'For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.' (Rom. 7: 15,18,19.)
3. He saith that the prevailing of sin over him is his burden, so that he judgeth himself wretched because of such a body of death, from which he longeth to be delivered. (Rom. 7: 24.)
4. He saith, that whilst he is under the power and law of sin, there is somewhat in the bottom of his heart opposing it, although overcome by it, which would be another way, and when that gets the upper hand it is a delightsome thing. (Rom. 7: 22-25.) Upon these things he 'thanks God in Christ that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.' (Rom. 8: 1.) Now, then, see if you can lay claim to these things.
1. If you blame yourself, and approve the law, whilst you fail.
2. If you can say that you often resolve against sin honestly, and without known guile; and do so resolve the contrary good before the evil break in upon you.
3. If you can say, that you are so far exercised with your failings, as to judge yourself wretched because of such things, and a body of death, which is the root and fountain of such things.
4. If you can say, that there is a party within you opposing these evils, which would be at the right way, and, as it were, is in its element when it is in God's way, it is well: only be advised not to take rest, until, in some good measure, you be rid of the ground of this objection, or, at least, until you can very clearly say, you are waging war with these things. Now, a good help against the prevailing power of sin is to cleave close to Christ Jesus by faith, which, as it is a desirable part of sanctification, and a high degree of conformity to God's will, and most subservient unto His design in the gospel, should be much endeavoured by people, as a world pleasing unto God--'The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God.' (Gal. 2: 21.) 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.' (John 6: 29.) This is the ready way to draw life and sap from Christ, the blessed root, for fruitfulness in all cases, as in John 15: 4, 5--'Abide in Me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.'
VI.--Doubts arising out of a want of Christian experience considered
Object. I do not partake of those special communications of God mentioned in the Scripture, and of those actings and outgoings of His Spirit, of which gracious people are often speaking, and whereunto they attain. The want of these things maketh me much suspect my state.
Ans. I shall shortly point out some of these excellent communications, and I hope, upon a right discovery of them, there will be but small ground left for the jealous complaints of many gracious people.
1. Besides those convictions of the Spirit of God, which usually usher Christ's way into the souls of men, and those also which afterwards do ordinarily attend them, there is a seal of the Spirit of God spoken of in Scripture, the principal thing whereof is the sanctifying world work the Holy Ghost, imprinting the draughts and lineaments of God's image and revealed will upon a man, as a seal or signet does leave the impression and stamp of its likeness upon the thing sealed. So it is--'The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His; and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.' (2 Tim. 2: 19.) And thus I conceive the seal to be called a witness--'He that believeth has the witness in himself' (1 John 5: 10); that is, the grounds upon which an interest in Christ is to be made out and proved, are in every believer; for he has somewhat of the sanctifying work of God's Spirit in him, which is a sure, although not always a clear and manifest witness.
2. There is communion with God much talked of among Christians, whereby they understand the sensible presence of God refreshing the soul exceedingly. But if we speak properly, communion with God is a mutual interest between God and a man, who has closed with him in Christ. It is a commonness, or a common interest between God and a man: not only as a man interested in God Himself, but in all that is the Lord's; so the Lord has a special interest in the man, and also all that belongs to him. There is a communion between husband and wife, whereby they have a special interest in each other's persons, goods, and concerns: so it is here. There is such a communion with God; He is our God, and all things are ours, because He is ours. This communion with God all true believers have at all times, as we shall show afterwards. I grant there is an actual improvement of that communion, whereby men do boldly approach unto God and converse with Him as their God with holy familiarity; especially in worship, when the soul does converse with a living God, partaking of the divine nature, growing like unto Him, and sweetly travelling through His attributes, and, with some confidence of interest, viewing these things as the man's own goods and property: this we call communion with God in ordinances. This indeed is not so ordinarily nor frequently made out to men, and all His people do not equally partake of it: and it is true that what is in God, goes not out for the benefit of the man to his apprehension equally at all times: yet certainly communion with God, properly so called, namely, that commonness of interest between God and a man who is savingly in covenant with Him, does always stand firm and sure; and so much of communion with God in ordinances have all believers, as that their heart converseth with a living God there, now and then, and is, in some measure, changed into that same image; and there needeth not be any further doubt about it.
3. There is also fellowship with God, which is often mistaken amongst believers. If by fellowship be meant the walking in our duty, as in the sight of a living God, who sees and hears us, and is witness to all our carriage, it is a thing common unto all gracious men; they all have it habitually, and in design--'I have set the Lord always before me.' (Psa. 16: 8.) Yea, and often they have it actually in exercise, when their spirit is in any good frame: they walk as if they saw God standing by them, and have some thought of His favour through Christ--'Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.' (1 John 1: 3.) If by fellowship we mean a sweet, refreshing, familiar, sensible, conversing with God, which does delight and refresh the soul (besides what the conscience of duty doth); it is then a walking in the light of His countenance, and a good part of sensible presence: and although it seemeth Enoch had much of it, whilst it is said, 'He walked with God' (Gen. 5: 24); yet it is not so ordinary as the former, nor so common to all Christians; for here the soul is filled as with marrow and fatness, following hard after its guide, and singularly upheld by His right hand-- 'My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness: and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips. My soul followeth hard after Thee, Thy right hand upholdeth me.' (Psa. 63: 5, 8.)
4. There is also access unto God; and this I take to be the removing of obstructions out of the way between a man and God, so that the man is admitted to come near. We are said to have access to a great person when the doors are cast open, the guards removed from about him, and we admitted to come close to him: so it is here. Now this access, in Scripture, is sometimes taken for Christ's preparing of the way, the removing of enmity between God and sinners, so as men now have an open way to come unto God through Christ--'For through Him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.' (Eph. 2: 18.) Sometimes it is taken for the actual improvement of that access purchased by Christ, when a man finds all obstructions and differences which do ordinarily fall in between him and God removed: God does not act towards him as a stranger, keeping up Himself from him, or frowning on him, but the man is admitted to 'come even to His seat.' (Job 23: 3.) Of the want of which he complains, whilst he saith, 'Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backwards, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He does work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him.' (Job 23: 8, 9.) The first sort of access is common to all believers: they are brought near by the blood of the covenant, and are no more afar off, as the deadly enmity between God and them is removed; but access in the other sense is dispensed more according to the Lord's absolute sovereignty and pleasure, and it is left in the power of believers to obstruct it to themselves, until it please the Lord mercifully and freely to grant it unto them again; so it is up and down; and there needs be no question as to a man's state about it.
5. There is also liberty before God; and this properly is freedom, or free speaking unto God. Many do much question their state, because of the want of this now and then, since the Scripture has said, 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,' (2 Cor. 3: 17); but they do unjustly confine that liberty spoken of there unto this free speaking before God. I grant, where the Spirit of the Lord savingly discovers God's will in the Scriptures to a man, there is liberty from any obligation to the ceremonial law, and from the condemning power of the moral law, and from much of that gross darkness and ignorance which is naturally on men's hearts as a veil hiding Christ in the gospel from them. I grant also, that sometimes even this liberty, which is a free communing with God, and 'ordering of our cause before Him, and filling of our mouths with arguments' (Job 23: 4), is granted to the godly, but not as liberty taken in the former senses. Although the Lord has obliged Himself to 'pour out the spirit of prayer upon all the house of David' (Zech. 12: 10), in some measure, yet this communication of the Spirit, which we call liberty or free speaking unto God, dependeth much on the Lord's absolute pleasure, when, and in what measure to allow it. This liberty, which we call freedom or free speaking with God in prayer, is sometimes much withdrawn as to any great confidence in the time of prayer, at least until it draw towards the close of it. It standeth much in a vivacity of the understanding to take up the case which a man is to speak before God, so that he can order his cause; and next there be words, or verbal expressions, elegant, suitable, and very emphatical, or powerful and pithy. There is also joined a fervency of spirit in prayer, of which the Scripture speaks; the soul is warm and bended, and very intent. There is also ordinarily in this liberty a special melting of the heart often joined with a great measure of the 'spirit of grace and supplication.' (Zech. 12: 10.) So the soul is poured out before God as for a firstborn. Such is the liberty which many saints get before God, whilst, in much brokenness of heart and fervency of spirit, they are admitted to speak their mind fully to God, as a living God, noticing (at least) their prayer. Sometimes this liberty is joined with confidence: and then it is not only a free, but also a bold speaking before God. It is that 'boldness with confidence' (Eph. 3: 12)--'In whom we have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of Him.' This is more rarely imparted unto men than the former, yet it is ordinary: it has in it, besides what we mentioned before, some influence of the Spirit upon faith, making it put forth some vigorous acting in prayer. There is a sweet mournful frame of spirit, by which a man poureth out his heart in God's bosom, and with some confidence of His favour and goodwill, pleadeth his cause before Him as a living God; and this is all the sensible presence that many saints do attain unto. There is no ground of doubt concerning a man's state in the point of liberty before God, in this last sense, because there is nothing essential to the making up of a gracious state here: some have it, some want it; some have it at sometimes, and not at others; so that it is much up and down; yet I may say gracious men may do much, by a very ordinary influence, in contributing towards the attaining and retaining, or keeping of such a frame of spirit.
6. There is also an influence, or breathing of the Spirit. This gracious influence (for of such only do I now speak) is either ordinary: and this is the operation of the Holy Spirit on the soul, and the habits of grace there, whereby they are still kept alive, and in some exercise and acting, although not very discernible. This influence, I concede, does always attend believers, and is that 'keeping and watering night and day, and every moment,' promised Isaiah 27: 3. Or, this influence is more singular and special, and is the same to a gracious, although a withered soul, as the 'wind and breath to the dry bones' (Ezek. 37: 9, 10); putting them in good case, and 'as the dew or rain to the grass,' or newly-mown field and parched ground. (Psa. 77: 6.) Such influence is meant by the 'blowing of the south-wind, making the spices to flow out.' (Cant. 4: 16.) When the Spirit moveth thus, there is an edge put upon the graces of God in the soul, and they are made to act more vigorously. This is the 'enlarging of the heart,' by which 'a man does run in the ways of God.' (Psa. 119: 32.) This influence is more discernible than the former, and not so ordinarily communicated. Also here sometimes the wind bloweth more upon one grace, and sometimes more discernible upon another, and often upon many of the graces together; and, according to the lesser or greater measure of this influence, the soul acteth more or less vigorously towards God; and since faith is a created grace in the soul, this influence of the Spirit is upon it, sometimes less, sometimes more, and accordingly is the assurance of faith small or great.
7. There is the hearing of prayer, often spoken of in Scripture; and many vex themselves about it, alleging that they know nothing of it experimentally. I grant there is a favourable hearing of prayer; but we must remember it is twofold. Either,
1. It is such as a man is simply to believe by way of argument on scriptural grounds; as if I had fled unto Christ; and approached unto God in Him, praying according to His will, not regarding iniquity in my heart, exercising faith about the thing I pray for absolutely or conditionally, according to the nature of the thing and promises concerning it; I am obliged to believe that God heareth my prayer, and will give what is good, according to these scriptures--'Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.' (John 14: 13.) 'This is our confidence, that whatsoever we ask according to His will He heareth us.' (1 John 5: 14.) 'Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.' (Mark 11: 24.) 'If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.' (Psa. 66: 18.) Then, if I regard not iniquity, I may believe that He does hear me.' Or,
2. A man does sensibly perceive that God hearth his prayer; it is made out to his heart, without any syllogistical deduction. Such a hearing of prayer Hannah obtained-- 'Her countenance was no more sad.' (1 Sam. 1: 18.) Surely the Lord did breathe upon her faith, and made her believe she was heard: she could not make it out by any argument; for she had not grounds whereupon to build the premises of the argument, according to Scripture, in that particular: God did stamp it some way upon her heart sensibly, and so made her believe it. This is but rarely granted, especially in cases clearly deducible in Scripture; therefore people ought to be much occupied in exercising their faith about the other, and ought to leave it to God to give of this latter what He pleaseth. A man's gracious state should not be brought into debate upon the account of such hearing of prayer.
8. There is assurance of God's favour by the witnessing of our own spirits; which assurance is adduced by way of argument syllogistically, thus--Whosoever believeth on Christ shall never perish: but I do believe on Christ; therefore I shall never perish. Whose has respect unto all God's commandments shall never be ashamed; but I have respect unto all His commandments; therefore I shall never be ashamed. I say, by reasoning thus, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, a man may attain unto a good certainty of his gracious state. It is supposed (1 John 3: 18, 19) that by loving the brethren in deed and in truth, we may 'assure our hearts before God;' and that a man may rejoice upon the testimony of a good conscience. (2 Cor. 1: 12.) A man may have 'confidence towards God, if his heart do not condemn him.' (1 John 3: 21.) We may then attain unto some assurance, although not full assurance, by the witness of our own spirits. I do not deny, that in this witnessing of our spirits concerning assurance, there is some concurrence of the Spirit of God: but, I conceive, there needeth but a very ordinary influence, without which we can do nothing. Now this assurance, such as it is, may be reached by intelligent believers, who keep a good conscience in their walk. So, I hope, there needs by no debate about it, as to a man's gracious state; for if a man will clear himself of heart-condemnings, he will speedily reach this assurance.
9. There is a witnessing of God's Spirit, mentioned as 'bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.' (Rom. 8: 16.) This operation of the Spirit is best understood, if we produce any syllogism by which our spirit does witness our sonship; as for example, Whosoever loveth the brethren is passed from death to life, and consequently is in Christ: but I love the brethren; therefore I am passed from death to life. Here there is a threefold operation of the Spirit, or three operations rather. The first is a beam of divine light upon the first proposition, evincing the divine authority of it, as the word of God. The Spirit of the Lord must witness the divinity of the Scriptures, and that it is the infallible word of God, far beyond all other arguments that can be used for it. The second operation is a glorious beam of light from the Spirit, shining upon the second proposition, and so upon His own graces in the soul, discovering them to be true graces, and such as the Scripture calleth so. Thus we are said to 'know by His Spirit the things that are freely given unto us of God.' (1 Cor. 2: 13.) The third operation is connected with the third proposition of the argument, or the conclusion, and this I conceive to be nothing else but an influence upon faith, strengthening it to draw a conclusion of full assurance upon the foresaid premises. Now, with submission to others, who have greater light in the Scripture, and more experience of these precious communications, I do conceive the witness of the Spirit, or witnessing of it, which is mentioned, 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God' (Rom. 8: 16), is not that first operation upon the first proposition; for that operation is that testimony of the Spirit by which He beareth witness to the divinity of the whole Scripture, and asserts the divine authority of it unto the souls of gracious men; and such an operation may be upon a truth of Scripture, which does not relate to a man's sonship or interest in Christ at all. The Spirit may so shine upon any truth, relating to duty, or any other fundamental truth, impressing the divinity of it upon and unto the soul, and speak nothing relating to a man's interest in Christ. Neither is the third operation of the Spirit, by which He makes faith boldly draw the conclusion, this witnessing of the Spirit; for that operation is nothing else but an influence upon faith, bringing it out to full assurance; but that upon which this full assurance is drawn or put out, is somewhat confirmed and witnessed already. Therefore I conceive the second operation of the Spirit, upon the second proposition, and so upon the graces in the man, is that witness of God's Spirit, that beam of divine light shining upon those graces, whereby they are made very conspicuous to the understanding. That is the witness, the shining so on them is His witnessing: for, only here, in this proposition, and in this operation, does the Spirit of God prove a co-witness with our spirit: for the main thing wherein lies the witness of our spirit is in the second proposition, and so the Spirit of God witnessing with our spirits is also in that same proposition.
So these two witnesses having confirmed and witnessed one and the same thing, namely, the truth and reality of such and such graces in the man, which our own spirit or conscience does depone according to its knowledge, and the Spirit of the Lord does certainly affirm and witness to be so, there is a sentence drawn forth, and a conclusion of the man's sonship by the man's faith, breathed upon by the Spirit for that purpose; and this conclusion beareth the full assurance of a man's sonship. It may be presumed that some true saints do not partake of this all their days--'And deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.' (Heb. 1: 15.)
10. I speak with the experience of many saints, and, I hope, according to Scripture, if I say there is a communication of the Spirit of God which is sometimes vouchsafed to some of His people that is somewhat besides, if not beyond, that witnessing of a sonship spoken of before. It is a glorious divine manifestation of God unto the soul, shedding abroad God's love in the heart; it is a thing better felt than spoken of: it is no audible voice, but it is a ray of glory filling the soul with God, as He is life, light, love, and liberty, corresponding to that audible voice, 'O man, greatly beloved' (Dan. 9: 23); putting a man in a transport with this on his heart, 'It is good to be here.' (Matt. 17: 4.) It is that which went out from Christ to Mary, when He but mentioned her name-- 'Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.' (John 20: 16.) He had spoken some words to her before, and she understood not that it was He: but when He uttereth this one word "Mary", there was some admirable divine conveyance and manifestation made out unto her heart, by which she was so satisfyingly filled, that there was no place for arguing and disputing whether or no that was Christ, and if she had any interest in Him. That manifestation wrought faith to itself, and did purchase credit and trust to itself, and was equivalent with, 'Thus saith the Lord.' This is such a glance of glory, that it may in the highest sense be called 'the earnest,' or first-fruits 'of the inheritance' (Eph. 1: 14); for it is a present, and, as it were, sensible discovery of the holy God, almost wholly conforming the man unto His likeness; so swallowing him up, that he forgetteth all things except the present manifestation. O how glorious is this manifestation of the Spirit! Faith here riseth to so full an assurance, that it resolveth wholly into the sensible presence of God. This is the thing which does best deserve the title of sensible presence; and is not given unto all believers, some whereof 'are all their days under bondage, and in fear' (Heb. 2: 15); but here 'love, almost perfect, casteth out fear.' (1 John 4: 18.) This is so absolutely let out upon the Master's pleasure, and so transient or passing, or quickly gone when it is, that no man may bring his gracious state into debate for want of it.
11. There is what we call peace, about which many do vex themselves. This peace is either concerning a man's state, that he is reconciled unto God by Jesus Christ; or it is relating to his present case and condition, that he is walking so as approved of God, at least so far as there is no quarrel or controversy between God and him threatening a stroke. Both of these are either such in the court of Scripture, and consequently in God's account, or in the court of a man's own conscience. Peace with respect to a man's state, as being in Christ, is sure in the court of Scripture and of heaven, when a man does by faith close with Christ and the new covenant. 'Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.' (Rom. 5: 1.) It being sure and solid in the court of Scripture, it should hold sure in the court of a man's conscience, if it be rightly informed; for, in that case, it still speaks according to Scripture.
(Continued in part 6...)
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