By Richard Watson
BENEFITS DERIVED TO MAN FROM THE ATONEMENT-CONCOMITANTS OF JUSTIFICATION.
THE leading blessings concomitant with justification, are REGENERATION and ADOPTION; with respect to which we may observe generally, that although we must distinguish them as being different from each other, and from justification, yet they are not to be separated. They occur at the same time, and they all enter into the experience of the same person ; so that no man is justified without being regenerated and adopt ed, and no man is regenerated and made a son of God, who is not justified. Whenever they are mentioned in Scripture, they, therefore, involve and imply each other; a remark which may preserve us from some errors. Thus, with respect to our heirship, amid consequent title to eternal life, in Titus iii, 7, it is grounded upon our justification. " For we are justified by his grace, that we should be heirs according to the hope of eternal life." In 1 Pet. i, 2, it is connected with our regeneration. "Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance," &c. Again, in Roan. viii, 17, it is grounded upon our adoption-" If children, then heirs." These passages are a Sufficient proof, that justification, regeneration, and adoption, are not distinct and different titles, but constitute one and the same title, through the gift of God in Christ, to the heavenly inheritance. They are attained, too, by the same faith. We are "justified by faith ;" and we are the "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Accordingly, in the following passages, they are all united as the effect of the same act of faith. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, (which appellation includes reconciliation and adoption,) even to them that believe on his name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," or, in other words, were regenerated.
The observations which have been made on the subject, in the preceding chapter, will render it the less necessary to dwell here at length upon the nature and extent of regeneration.
It is that mighty change in man, wrought by the Holy Spirit, by which the dominion which sin has over him in his natural state, amid which he deplores and struggles against in his penitent state, is broken and abolished, so that, with full choice of will and the energy of right affections, he serves God freely, and "runs in the way of his commandments." "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." "For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace." "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." Deliverance from the bondage of sin, and the power and the will to do all things which are pleasing to God, both as to inward habits and outward acts, are, therefore, the distinctive characters of this state.
That repentance is not regeneration, we have before observed. It wall not bear disputing whether regeneration begins with repentance; for if line regenerate state is only entered upon at our justification, then all that can be meant by this, to be consistent with the Scriptures, is, that the preparatory process, which leads to regeneration, as it loads to pardon, commences with conviction and contrition, and goes on to a repentant turning to the Lord. In the order which God has established, regeneration does not take place without this process. Conviction of the evil and danger of an unregenerate state must first be felt. God bath appointed this change to be effected in answer to our prayers; and acceptable prayer supposes that we desire the blessing we ask; that eve accept of Christ as the appointed medium of access to God; that we feel and confess our own inability to attain what we ask from another; and that we exercise faith in the promises of God which convey the good we seek. It is clear that none of these is regeneration, for they all suppose it to be a good in prospect, the object of prayer and eager desire. True it is, that deep and serious conviction for sin, the power to desire deliverance from it, the power to pray, the struggle against the corruptions of an unregenerate heart, are all proofs of a work of God in the heart, and of an important moral change; but it is not this change, because regeneration is that renewal of our nature which gives us dominion over sin, and enables us to serve God, from love, and not merely from fear, and it is yet confessedly unattained, being still the object of search and eager desire. We are not yet "created anew unto good works," which is as special and instant a work of God as justification, and for this reason, that it is not attained before the pardon of our sins, and always accompanies it.
This last point may be proved, 1. From the nature of justification itself, which takes away the penalty of sin; but that penalty is not only obligation to punishment, but the loss of the sanctifying Spirit, and the curse of being left under the slavery of sin, and under the dominion of Satan. Regeneration is effected by this Spirit restored to us, and is a consequence of our par. don; for though justification in itself is the remission of sin, yet a justified state implies a change, both in our condition and in our dis. position: in our condition, as we are jam a state of life, not of death, of safety, not of condemnation; in our disposition, as regenerate and new creatures.
2. From Scripture, which affords us direct proof that regeneration is a concomitant of justification, "If any man be IN CHRIST, he is a new creature." It is then time result of our entrance into that state in which we are said to be IN CHRIST; and the meaning of this phrase is most satisfactorily explained by Rom. viii, 1, considered in connection with the preceding chapter, from which, in the division of the chapters, it ought not to have been separated. That chapter clearly describes the state of a person convinced and slain by the law applied by the SPIRIT. We may discover indeed, in this description, certain moral changes, as consenting to time law that it is good; delighting in it after the inward man; powerful desires; humble confession, &c. The state represented is, however, in fact, one of guilt, spiritual captivity, helplessness, and misery; a state of condemnation; and a state of bondage to sin. The opposite condition is that of a man "IN CHRIST JESUS:" to him "there is no condemnation;" he is forgiven; the bondage to sin is broken; he "walks not after the flesh, but after the SPIRIT." To be IN CHRIST, is, therefore, to be justified, and regeneration instantly follows. We see then the order of the Divine operation in individual experience: conviction of sin, helplessness and danger; faith; justification; and regeneration. The regenerate state is, also, called in Scripture sanctification; though a distinction is made by the Apostle Paul between that and being "sanctified wholly," a doctrine to be afterward considered. In this regenerate, or sanctified state, the former corruptions of the heart may remain, and strive for the mastery; but that which characterizes and distinguishes it from the state of a penitent before justification, before he is "in Christ," is, that they are not even his inward habit; and that they have no dominion. Faith unites to Christ; by it we derive "grace and peace from God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ," and enjoy "the communion of the Holy Ghost;" and this Spirit, as the sanctifying Spirit, is given to us to "abide with us, and to be in us," and then we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
ADOPTION is the second concomitant of justification, and is a large and comprehensive blessing.
To suppose that the apostles take this term from the practice of the Greeks, Romans, and other nations who had the custom of adopting the children of others, and investing them with all the privileges of their natural offspring, is, probably, a refinement. It is much more likely that they had simply in view the obvious fact, that our sins had deprived us of our sonship, the favour of God, and our right to the inheritance of eternal life; that we had become strangers, and aliens, and enemies; and that, upon our return to God, and reconciliation with him, our forfeited privileges were not only restored, but heightened through the paternal love of God. They could scarcely be forgetful of the affecting parable of the prodigal son; and it is under the same simple view that St. Paul quotes from the Old Testament, "wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty."
Adoption, then, is that act by which we who were alienated, and enemies, and disinherited, are made the sons of God, and heirs of his eternal glory. "If children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ;" where it is to be remarked, that it is not in our own right, nor in right of any work done in us, or which we ourselves do, though it be an evangelical work, that we become heirs, but jointly with him, and in his right.
To this state belong freedom from a servile spirit; we are not servants but Sons; the special love and care of God our heavenly Father; a filial confidence in him; free access to him at all times and in all circumstances; the title to the heavenly inheritance; and the Spirit of adoption, or the witness of the Holy Spirit to our adoption, which is the foundation of all the comfort we can derive from those privileges, as it is the only means by which we can know that they are ours.
The point stated last requires to be explained more largely, and the more so as it has often been derided as enthusiastic, and often timidly explained away by those whose opinions are in the main correct.
The doctrine is, the inward witness or testimony of the Holy Spirit, to the adoption or sonship of believers, from which flows a comfortable persuasion or conviction of our present acceptance with God, and the hope of our future and eternal glory.
This is taught in several passages of Scripture.
Rom. viii, 15, 16, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." In this passage it is to be remarked, 1. That the gift of the Spirit spoken of, takes away 'fear," being opposed to the personified spirit of the law, or rather, perhaps, to the Holy Spirit in his convincing agency, called the spirit of bondage, producing "fear," a servile dread of God as offended. 2. That the " Spirit of Cod" here mentioned, is not the personified spirit or genius of the Gospel, as some would have it, but "the Spirit itself," or himself; and hence called in the Galatians, in the text adduced below, "The Spirit of his Son," which cannot mean the genius of the Gospel. 3. That he inspires a filial confidence in God as our Father, which is opposed to "the fear" produced by the "spirit of bondage." 4. That he produces this filial confidence, and enables us to call God our Father, by witnessing, hearing testimony with our spirit, "that we are the children of God."
Gal. iv, 4, 5, 6, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were tinder the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons; and because ye arc Sons God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
Here, also, are to be noted, 1. The means of our redemption from under (the curse of) the law, the incarnation and sufferings of Christ. 2. That the adoption of sons follows upon our actual redemption froth that curse, or, in other words, our pardon. 3. That upon our pardon, the " Spirit of his Son" is " sent forth," and that "into our hearts," producing the same effect as that mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans, filial confidence in God,-" crying, Abba, Father." To these are to be added all those passages, so numerous in the New Testament, which express the confidence and the joy of Christians; their friendship with God; their confident access to him as their God; their entire union, and delightful intercourse with him in spirit.
This doctrine has been generally termed the doctrine of assurance, and, perhaps the expressions of St. Paul,-" the full assurance of faith." and "the full assurance of hope," may warrant t he use of the word. But as there is a current and generally understood sense of this term among persons of the Calvinistic persuasion, implying, that the assurance of our present acceptance and sonship, is an assurance of our final perseverance, and of our indefeasible title to heaven: the phrase, a comfortable persuasion, or conviction of our justification and adoption, arising out of the Spirit's inward and direct testimony, is to be preferred; for this has been held as an indubitable doctrine of Holy Writ by Christians, who by no means receive the doctrine of assurance in the sense held by the followers of Calvin.
There is, also, another reason for the sparing and cautious use of the term assurance, which is, that it seems to imply, though not necessarily, the absence of all doubt, and shuts out all those lower degrees of per suasion which may exist in the experience of Christians. For, as our faith, may not at first, or at all times, be equally strong, the testimony of the Spirit may have its degrees of strength, and our persuasion or conviction be proportionately regulated. Yet, if faith be genuine, God respects its weaker exercises, and encourages its growth, by affording measures of comfort, and degrees of this testimony. Nevertheless, while this is allowed, the fulness of this attainment is to be pressed upon every one that believes, according to the word of God :-" Let us draw near," says St. Paul to all Christians, "with full assurance of faith."
It may serve, also, to remove an objection sometimes made to the doctrine, and to correct an error which sometimes pervades the statement of it, to observe that this assurance, persuasion, or conviction, whichever term be adopted, is not of the essence of justifying faith that is, that justifying faith does not consist in lime assurance that I am now forgiven, through Christ. This would be obviously contradictory. For we must believe before we can be justified; much more before we can be assured, in any degree, that we are justified; and this persuasion, therefore, follows justification; and is one of its results. We believe in order to justification; but we cannot be persuaded of our forgiveness in order to it, for the persuasion would be false. But though we must not only distinguish, but separate this persuasion of our acceptance from the faith which justifies, we must not separate but only distinguish it from justification itself. With that come as concomitants, regeneration, adoption, and as far as we have any information from Scripture, the "Spirit of adoption," though, as in all other cases, in various degrees of operation.
On the subject of this testimony of the Holy Spirit there are four opinions.
The first is, that it is twofold; a direct testimony to, or "inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God; that Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me, that 1, even I, am reconciled to God ;" ( Wesley's Sermons;) and an indirect testimony, arising from the work of the Spirit in the heart and life, which St. Paul calls the testimony of our own spirits; for this is inferred from his expression, And the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit," &c. This testimony of our own spirit, or indirect testimony of the Holy Spirit by and through our own spirit, is considered as confirmatory of the first testimony, and is thus explained by the same writer :-" How am I assured that I do not mistake the voice of the Spirit? even by the testimony of my own spirit, 'by the answer of a good conscience toward Cod:' hereby you shall know that you are in no delusion, that you have not deceived your own soul. The immediate fruits of the Spirit ruling in the heart, are love, joy, peace; bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, meekness, gentleness, long suffering. And the outward fruits are, the doing good to all men, and a uniform obedience to all the commands of God."
The second opinion acknowledges, also, a twofold witness; the witness of time Spirit, which consists in the moral effects produced in him that believes, otherwise called the fruits of the Spirit; and the witness of our own spirits, that is, the consciousness of possessing faith. This they call "the reflex act of faith, by which a person, conscious of believing, reasons in this manner, I know that I believe in Christ, therefore I know that I shall obtain everlasting life." (Dr. Hill's Lectures.)
The third opinion is, that there is but one witness, the Holy Spirit, acting concurrently with our own spirits. "The Spirit of God produces those graces in us which are the evidence of our adoption; it is he who, as occasion requires, illuminates our understandings and assists our memories in discovering and recollecting those arguments of hope and comfort within ourselves. But God's Spirit doth witness with, not with. out our spirits and understandings; in making use of our reason in considering and reflecting upon those grounds of comfort, which the Spirit of God hath wrought in us, and from them drawing this comfortable conclusion to ourselves, that 'we are the Sons of God." (Bishop Bull.) With this notion is generally connected, that of the entire imperceptibility of the Spirit's operations as distinguished from the operations of our own mind, "so that we could never have known, unless it had been communicated to us by Divine revelation, that our souls are moved by a Divine power, when we love God and keep his commandments." (Mant and D'Oyley's Commentary.)
The following passage from the Rev. Thomas Scott's Commentary agrees with Bishop Bull in making the witness of the Spirit mediate through our own spirit; and differs chiefly in phraseology. It may be taken as the view of a great part of those called the evangelical clergy of the present day. "The Holy Spirit, by producing in believers the tempers and affections of children, as described in the Scriptures, most manifestly attests their adoption into God's family. This is not done by any voice, immediate revelation, or impulse, or merely by any text brought to the mind, (for all these are equivocal and delusory,) but by coinciding with the testimony of their own consciences, as to their uprightness in embracing the Gospel, and giving themselves up to the service of God. So that, while they are examining themselves as to the reality of their conversion, and find Scriptural evidence of it, the Holy Spirit, from time to time shines upon his own work, excites their holy affections into lively exercise, renders them very efficacious upon their conduct, and thus puts the matter beyond doubt; for while they feel the spirit of dutiful children toward God, they become satisfied concerning his paternal love to them."
A fourth opinion allows the direct witness of the Spirit, as stated above; but considers it only the special privilege of a few favoured persons; of which notion it is a sufficient refutation, that the apostle, in the texts before quoted, speaks generally of believers, and restrains not the attainment from any who seek it. He places it in this respect on the ground of all other blessings of the new covenant.
Of the four opinions just adduced, the first only appears to express the true sense of the word of God; but that the subject may be fully exhibited, we may observe, 1. That by all sober divines it is allowed, that some comfortable persuasions, or, at least, hope of the Divine favour, is attainable by true Christians, and is actually possessed by them, except under the influence of bodily infirmities, and in peculiar seasons of temptation, and that all true faith is, in some degree, (though to what extent they differ,) personal and appropriating.
"The third part of repentance is faith, whereby we do apprehend and take hold upon the promises of God, touching the free pardon and forgiveness of our sins; which promises are sealed up unto us, with the death and blood shedding of his Son Jesus Christ. For what should it avail and profit us to be sorry for our sins, to lament and bewail that we have offended our most bounteous and merciful Father, or to confess and acknowledge our offences and trespasses, though it be done never so earnestly, unless we do steadfastly believe, and be fully persuaded, that God, for his Son Jesus Christ's sake, will forgive us all our sins, and put them out of remembrance and from his sight? Therefore, they that teach repentance without a lively faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ, do teach none other but Judas's repentance." (Homily on Repentance.)
"Faith is not merely a speculative but a practical acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ,-an effort and motion of the mind toward God; when the sinner, convinced of sin, accepts with thankfulness the proffered terms of pardon, and in humble confidence applying individually to himself the benefit of the general atonement, in the elevated language of a venerable father of the Church, drinks of the stream which flows from the Redeemer's side. The effect is, that in a little, he is filled with that perfect love of God which casteth out fear,-he cleaves to God with the entire affection of the soul." (Bishop Horsley.)
"It is the property of saving faith, that it hath a force to appropriate, and make Christ our own. Without this, a general remote belief would have been cold comfort. 'He loved me, and gave himself for me,' saith St. Paul. What saith St. Chrysostom? 'Did Christ die only for St. Paul? No; non exciudit, sed appropriat;' he excludes not others, but he will secure himself." (Bishop Browning.)
2. By those who admit, that upon previous contrition and faith in Christ, an act of justification takes place, by which we are reconciled to God, and adopted into his family, a doctrine which has been Scripturally established; it must also be admitted, that this act of mercy on the part of God is entirely kept secret from us, or that, by some means, it is made knowable by us. If the former, there is no remedy at all for doubt, and fear, and tormenting anticipation, which must be great, in proportion as our repentance is deep and genuine; and so there can be no comfort, no freedom, no cheerfulness of spirit in religion, which contradicts the sentiments of all Churches, and all their leading theologians. What is still more important, it contradicts the Scriptures.
To all true believers, the Almighty is represented as the "God of peace and consolation;" as "a Father;" as "dwelling in them and walking in them." Nay, there is a marked distinction between the assurances of grace and favour made to penitents, and to believers. The declarations as to the former are highly consolatory; but they constantly refer to some future good designed for them by the God before whom they humble themselves, for the encouragement of their seeking prayers, and their efforts of trust. "To that man will I look, (a Hebraism for showing favour,) saith the Lord, who is poor, and of a contrite spirit." The "weary and heavy laden" are invited to Christ, that he may "give rest unto their souls." The apostles exhorted men to repent and be baptized, in order to the remission of sins. But to all who, in the Christian sense, are believers, or who have the faith by which we are justified, the language is much higher. "We have peace with God." "We joy in God by whom we have received the atonement." They are exhorted "to rejoice in the Lord always." "The spirit of bondage" is exchanged for "the Spirit of adoption." They are "Christ's." They are "children, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." They "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." They are "always confident, knowing, that while at home in the body, they are absent from the Lord, but that when absent from the body, they shall be present with the Lord."
3. If then we come to know that this great act of forgiveness has taken place in our favour; that it is vouchsafed to us in particular, and know this with that degree of conviction, which lays a sufficient ground of comfort and joy, the simple question is, by what means the knowledge of this is attained by us? The general promise of pardon alone is, in all the schemes just stated, acknowledged to be insufficient for this purpose; for since that promise is suspended upon conditions, they all profess to explain the means by which we may conclude that we are actually and personally interested in the benefit of the general promise, the conditions being on our part personally fulfilled. The first opinion attributes this to a double testimony, a direct one of the Holy Spirit to our minds, and an indirect one of the same Spirit, through our own minds, and founded upon his moral work in them: or, what is the same thing, the testimony of our own spirit. This twofold testimony we think clearly established by the texts above quoted. For the first, the Spirit itself," and the "Spirit of his Son," is manifestly the Spirit of God: his office is to give testimony, and the object of the testimony is to declare that we are the sons of God. When also the apostle in Ro. mans viii, 16, says that this Spirit bears witness "with" our spirit, he makes our own minds witnesses with him to the same fact, though in a different manner. For though some writers will have the compound to be used here for the simple form of the verb, and render it "to witness to our spirit;" and instances of this use of the compound verb do occur in the New Testament; yet it agrees both with the literal rendering of the word, and with other passages to conjoin this testimony of the Holy Spirit with those confirmatory proofs of our adoption which arise from his work within us, and which may, upon examination of our state, be called the testimony of our own mind or conscience. To this testimony the Apostle Paul refers in the same chapter, "They that are after the Spirit, (do mind) the things of the Spirit." "But ye are not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you: now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." And again, in Galatians, "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy," &c.
4. Two witnesses, and a twofold testimony is then sufficiently established; but the main consideration is, whether the Holy Spirit gives his testimony directly to the mind, by impression, suggestion, or by whatever other term it may be called, or immediately by our own spirits, in some such way as is described by Bishop Bull in the extract above given; by "illuminating our understandings and assisting our memories in discussing and recollecting those arguments of hope and comfort within ourselves," which arise from "the graces which he has produced in us ;" or, as it is expressed by Mr. Scott, by "shining upon his own work, exciting their affections into lively exercise, rendering them very efficacious upon their conduct," and "thus puts the matter beyond doubt, for while they feel the spirit of dutiful children toward God, they become satisfied concerning his paternal love to them."
To this statement of the doctrine we object, that it makes the testimony of the Holy Spirit in point of fact but the testimony of our OWN spirit; and by holding but one witness contradicts St. Paul, who, as we have seen, holds two. For the testimony is that of our own consciousness of certain moral changes which have taken place; no other is admitted; and therefore it is but one testimony. Nor is the Holy Spirit brought in at all, except to qualify our own spirit to give witness by assisting its "discernment and memory," according to Bishop Bull, and. by "shining upon his own work," according to Mr. Scott; and so there is but one witness, and that ourselves: for though another may assist a witness to prepare and arrange his evidence, there is still but one deposition, and but one deposer. This is made still stronger, since it is supposed by both these writers, that there is no impression or revelation from the Spirit of the fact of our adoption, and that he does not in any way which we may distinguish from the operation of our own minds, assist us to prepare this evidence; for if this assistance, or shining upon his own work, could be ascertained to be from him distinctly, and with intention to assure us from these moral changes that we are adopted into the family of God, then an immediate collateral impression or revelation would be supposed, which both reject. It follows, therefore, that we have no other ground to conclude those "graces and virtues" which we discern in ourselves to be the work of the Spirit, than the general one, that all good in man is of his production, and our repentance and contrition might as well, on this general ground, be concluded to be the evidence of pardon, although they arise from our consciousness of guilt, and our need of pardon. The argument of this opinion, simply and in fact, is, that the Holy Spirit works moral changes in the heart, and that these are the evidence of our sonship. It goes not beyond this; the Holy Spirit is not excluded by this opinion as the source of good in man, he is not excluded as qualifying our minds to adduce evidence as to certain changes being wrought within us; but he is excluded as a witness, although he is said so explicitly by the apostle to give witness to the fact, not of a moral change, but of our adoption.
5. But farther, suppose our minds to be so assisted by the Holy Spirit as to discern the reality of his work in us; and in an investigation, whether we are or are not accepted of God, pardoned by his mercy, and adopted into his family, we depose this as the evidence of it; to what degree must this work of the Spirit in us have advanced before it can be evidence of this fact? We have seen that it were absurd to allege contrition, and penitence, and fear, as the proofs of our pardon, since they suppose, that we are still under condemnation; what farther work of the Spirit, then, is the proof? The reply to this usually is, that though repentance should not be evidence of pardon, yet, when faith is added, this becomes evidence, since God has declared in his word, that we are "justified by faith," and "whosoever believeth shall be saved."
To this we reply, that though we should become conscious of both repentance and faith, either by "a reflex act of our own minds," or by the assistance of the Spirit "shining upon his own work," this would he no evidence of our forgiveness; our spirit would, in that case, witness the fact of our repenting and believing, but that would be no witness to the fact of our adoption. Justification is an act of God; it is secret and invisible; it passes in his own mind; it is declared by no outward sign; and no one can know, except the Holy Spirit, who knows the mind of God, whether we are pardoned or not, unless it had been stated in his word, that in every case pardon is dispensed when repentance and faith have reached some definite degree, clearly pointed out, so that we cannot fail to ascertain that they have reached that degree; and, also, unless we were expressly authorized to be ourselves the judges of this case, and confidently and comfortably to conclude our justification. For it is not enough that we have faith. Faith, both as assent and confidence, has every possible degree; it is capable of mixture with doubt, and self dependence; nor without some definite and particular characters being assigned to justifying faith, could we ever, with any confidence, conclude as to our own. But we have no such particular description of faith; nor are we authorized, any where, to make ourselves the judges of the fact, whether the act of pardon, as to us, has passed the mind of God. The apostle, in the passages quoted above, has assigned that office to the Holy Spirit; but it is in no part of Scripture appointed to us.
If, then, we have no authority from God to conclude that we are pardoned when faith, in an uncertain degree, is added to repentance, the whole becomes a matter of inference; and we argue, that having "repentance and faith," we are forgiven; in other words, that these are the sufficient evidences of pardon. But repentance and faith are exercised IN ORDER to pardon; that must, therefore, be subsequent to both, and they cannot, for that reason, be the evidence of it, or the evidence of pardon might be enjoyed before pardon is actually received, which is absurd. But it has been said, "that we have the testimony of God in his word, that when repentance and faith exist, God has infallibly connected pardon with them from the moment they are perceived to exist, and so it may be surely inferred from them." The answer is, that we have no such testimony. We have, through the mercy of God, the promise of pardon to all who repent and believe; but repentance is not pardon, and faith is not pardon, but they are its prerequisites; each is a sine qua non, but surely not the pardon itself, nor, as we have just seen, can either he considered the evidence of pardon, without an absurdity. They are means to that end; but nothing more: and though trod has "infallibly connected" the blessing of pardon with repentance and faith, he has not connected it with any kind of repentance, nor with any kind of faith; nor with every degree of repentance, nor with every degree of faith. How then shall we ever know, whether our repentance and faith are accepted unless pardon actually follow them? And as this pardon cannot be attested by them, for the reason above given, and must, therefore, have an attestation of higher authority, and of a distinct kind, the only attestation conceivable which remains, is the direct witness of the Holy Spirit. Either this must be acknowledged, or a painful uncertainty as to the genuineness or the required measure and degree of our repentance and faith, quite destructive of "comfort," must remain throughout life.
6. But if neither our repentance, nor even a consciousness of faith, when joined with it, can be the evidence of the fact of our adoption: it has been urged, that when all those graces, which are called the fruits of the Spirit, are found in our experience, they, at least, must be sufficient evidence of the fact, without supposing a more direct testimony of the Holy Spirit. The "fruits" thus referred to, are those enumerated by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians "But the fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness," &c. Two things will here be granted, and they greatly strengthen the argument for a direct testimony of the Holy Spirit :-that these fruits are found only in those who have been received, by the remission of their sins, into the Divine favour; and that they are fruits of the Spirit of adoption. The first is proved from the connection of the words which follow: "And they that ARE CHRIST's have crucified the flesh," &c. For to be "Christ's," and to be "in Christ," are phrases, with the apostle, equivalent to being in a state of justification :-" There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." The second is proved by the connection of the words with verse 18, "But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law," for these words are exactly parallel to chap. iv, 5, 6, "To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons; and because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." These are, then, the fruits following upon a state of pardon, adoption, and our receiving the Spirit of adoption. We allow that they presuppose pardon; but then they as clearly presuppose the Spirit of adoption, "sent forth into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father;" that is, they not only presuppose our pardon, but pardon previously attested and made known to us; the persuasion of which conveyed to the mind, not by them, but by the Spirit of adoption, is the foundation of them; at least, of that "love, joy, and peace," which are mentioned first, and must not be separated, in the argument, from the other. Nor can these "fruits" result from any thing but manifested pardon; they cannot themselves manifest our pardon, for they cannot exist till it is manifested. If we "love God," it is because we know him as God reconciled; if we have "joy in God," it is because "we have received the reconciliation;" if we have peace, it is because "being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." God, conceived of as angry, cannot be the object of filial love; pardon unfelt, supposes guilt and fear still to burden the mind, and guilt and "joy" and "peace" cannot exist. But by the argument of those who make these the media of ascertaining the fact of our forgiveness and adoption, we must be supposed to love God, while yet we feel him to be angry with us; to rejoice and have peace, while the fearful apprehensions of the consequences of unremitted sin are not removed; and if this is impossible, then the ground of our love, and joy, and peace, is pardon revealed and witnessed, directly and immediately by the Spirit of adoption.
It has been said, indeed, that love to God may be produced from a consideration of God's general love to mankind in his Son, and that, therefore, the force of the above argument is broken; but we reply, that, in Scripture, Christians arc spoken of as "reconciled to God;" as "translated into the kingdom of his dear Son;" as "children," "heirs," &c; and, correspondently with these relations, their love is spoken of as love to God as their Father,-love to God as their God in covenant, who calls himself "their God," and them "his people." This is the love of God exhibited in the New Testament; and the question is, whether such a love of God as this can spring from a knowledge of his "general love to man," or whether it arises, under the Spirit's influence, from a persuasion of his pardoning love to us "individually." To clear this, we may divide those who hear the Gospel, or Christians by profession, into the following classes :-the carnal and careless;-the despairing ;-the penitent, who seek God with hope as well as desire, now discouraged by their fears, and sunk under their load of conscious guilt, and again encouraged by a degree of hope ;-and, lastly, those who are "justified by faith, and have peace with God." The first class know God's "general love to man;" but it will not be pleaded that they love him.-The second know the "general love of God to man;" but, thinking them selves exceptions from his mercy, cannot love him on that account.- The third admit the same "general love of God to man," and it is the foundation of their hope; but does this produce love? The view of his mercy in the gift of his Son, and in the general promise, may produce a degree of this emotion, or perhaps more properly of gratitude; but do they love his justice, under the condemnation of which they feel themselves; and his holiness, the awful purity of which makes them afraid? If not, they do not love God as God; that is, as a whole, in all his perfections, the awful as well as the attractive, the alarming as well as the encouraging; which is, doubtless, the character of the love of those who are justified by faith. But, leaving thin nicer distinction, the main question is, do they love him as a Father, as their God in covenant; with the love which leads up the affections of "peace and joy," as well as gentleness, goodness, and fidelity?"-for in this company, so to speak, the apostle places this grace, where it is a "fruit of the Spirit,"-" the Spirit which they that believed on him should receive." This is impossible; for these seeking, though hoping penitents, do not regard God as their Father in that special sense in which the word is correlative "to children and heirs;"-they do not regard him as their God in that covenant which says, "1 will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities I will remember no more; and I will be to their a God, and they shall be to me a people." This is what they seek, but have not found; and they cannot love God under relations in which they know, and painfully feel, that he does not yet stand to them. They know his "general love to man," but not his pardoning love to them; and therefore cannot love him as reconciled to them by the death of his Son. It follows, therefore, that the last class only, the "justified by faith," bear that love to God, which is marked by the characters impressed upon it by the apostles. He is their Father, and they love him as his children: he is their God in covenant; and, as they can, in this appropriating sense, call him their God, they love him correspondently, though not adequately. Their love, therefore, rests upon their persuasion of their personal and individual interest in his pardoning, adopting, and covenant-fulfilling mercy to them; and where these benefits are not personally enjoyed, this kind of love to God cannot exist. This, then, we think sufficiently establishes the fact, that the Scriptures of the New Testament, when speaking of the love of believers to God, always suppose that it arises from a persuasion of God's special love to them as individuals, and not merely from a knowledge of his "general love" to mankind.
Others there are who, in adverting to these fruits of the Spirit, overlook "love, joy, and peace," and fix their attention only on "gentleness, goodness, meekness, fidelity, and temperance," as those graces which make up our practical holiness, and thus argue justification from regeneration, which is an unquestionable concomitant of it. The reply to this is, that the fruit of the Spirit is undivided; that all attempts at separating it are, therefore, criminal and delusive; and that where there is not "love, joy, and peace," we have no Scriptural reason to conclude that there is that gentleness, that goodness, that meekness, &c, of which the apostle speaks, or, in other words, that there is that state of regeneration which the Scriptures describe; at least not ordinarily, for we leave seasons of deep spiritual exercise, and cases of physical depression, to be treated according to their merits. Thus this argument falls to the ground. But the same conclusion is reached in another way. Persons of this opinion would infer forgiveness from holiness; but holiness consists in habits and acts of which love to God is the principle, for we first "love God," and then "keep his commandments." Holiness then is preceded by love as its root, and that, as we have seen, by manifested pardon. For this love is the love of a pardoned sinner to God as a Father, as a God in actual covenant, offered on one part, and accepted on the other; and it exists before holiness, as the principle exists before the act and the habit. In the process then of inferring our justified state from moral changes, if we find what we think holiness without love, it is the holiness of a Pharisee without principle. If we join to it the love which is supposed to be capable of springing from God's general love to man, this is a principle of which Scripture takes no cognizance, and which at best, if it exist at all, must be a very mixed and defective sentiment, and cannot originate a holiness like that which distinguishes the "new creature." It is not, therefore, a warrantable evidence of either regeneration or justification. But if we find love to God as a God reconciled; as a Father; as a God who "loves us;" it is plain that, as this love is the root of holiness, it precedes it: and we must consider God under these lovely relations on some other evidence than "the testimony of our own spirits," which evidence can be no other than that of the Spirit of God.
Thus it is established, that the witness of the Spirit is direct and not mediate; and the following extracts will show that this is no new or unsanctioned doctrine. Luther "was strengthened by the discourse of an old Augustine monk, concerning the certainty we may have that our sins are forgiven. God likewise gave him much comfort in his temptations, by that saying of St. Bernard, 'It is necessary to believe, first of all, that you cannot have forgiveness but by the mercy of God; and next, that through his mercy, thy sins are forgiven thee.' This is the witness which the Holy Spirit bears in thy heart, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee.' And thus it is, that according to the apostle, a man is justified freely through faith." (Life of Martin Luther, by John Daniel Hersmchmid.)
"In the 88th Psalm is contained the prayer of one, who, although he felt in himself that he had not only man, but also God angry toward him; yet he by prayer humbly resorted unto God, as the only port of consolation; and, in the midst of his desperate state of trouble, put the hope of his salvation in him whom he felt his enemy. Howbeit, no man of himself can do this, but the Spirit of God that striketh man's heart with fear, prayeth for the man stricken and feared, with unspeakable groanings And when you feel yourself, and know any other oppressed after such sort, be glad; for after that God hath made you know what you be of yourself, he will doubtless show you comfort, and declare unto you what you be in Christ his only Son; and use prayer often, for that is the means whereby God will be sought unto for his gifts." (Bishop Hooper. See Fox's Acts and Monuments.)
"It is the proper effect of the blood of Christ to cleanse our con sciences from dead works to serve the living God; which, if we find it doth, Christ is come to us as be is to come; and the Spirit is come, and puts his teste, (witness.) And if we have his teste, we may go our way in peace; we have kept a right feast to him, and to the memory of his coming. Even so come, Lord Jesus, and come, 0 blessed Spirit, and bear witness to our spirit that Christ's water, and his blood, we have our part in both; both in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, and in the blood of the New Testament, the legacy whereof is everlasting life in thy kingdom of glory." (Bishop Andrew. Sermon of the sending of the Holy Ghost.)
"The Spirit which God hath given us to assure us that we are the Sons of God, to enable us to call upon him as our Father." (Hooker. Sermon of Certainty of Faith.)
"Unto you, because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, to the end ye might know that Christ hath built you upon a rock immovable, that he hath registered your names in the book of life." (Hooker. Sermon on Jude.)
"From adoption flows all Christians' joy; for the Spirit of adoption is, first, a witness, Rom. viii, 16; second, a seal, Eph. iv, 30; third, the pledge and earnest of our inheritance, Eph. i, 14, setting a holy security on the soul, whereby it rejoiceth even in affliction, in hope of glory." (Archbishop Usher. Sum and Substance of Christian Religion.)
"This is one great office of the Holy Ghost, to ratify and seal up to us the forgiveness of our sins. 'In whom, after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,'" &c. (Bishop Brownrigg's Sermon on Whitsunday.)
"It is the office of the Holy Ghost to assure us of the adoption of sons, to create in us a sense of the paternal love of God toward us, to give us an earnest of our everlasting inheritance. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. And because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. As, therefore, we are born again by the Spirit, and receive from him our regeneration, so we arc also assured by the same Spirit of our adoption; and because being sons, we are also heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, by the same Spirit we have the pledge, or rather the earnest of our inheritance. For he which establisheth us in Christ, and hath anointed us in God, who hath also sealed us, and hath given us the earnest of his Spirit in our hearts; so that we are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased pos session." (Bishop Pearson on the Creed.)
"This is that pneuma uioqesia~, that Spirit of adoption which constituteth us the sons of God, qualifying us so to be by dispositions resembling God, and filial affections toward him; certifying us that we are so, and causing us, by a free instinct, to cry, Abba, Father; running into his bosom of love, and flying under the wings of his mercy in all our needs and distresses; whence, as many as are led by the Spirit, they (saith Paul) are the sons of God, and the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God." (Dr. Isaac Barrow's Sermon on the Gift of the Holy Ghost.)
The second testimony is, that of our own spirits, "and is a consciousness of our having received in and by the Spirit of adoption, the tempers mentioned in the word of God, as belonging to his adopted children; that we are inwardly conformed by the Spirit of God, to the image of his Son, and that we walk before him in justice, mercy, and truth, doing the things which are pleasing in his sight." (Wesley's Sermons.) But this testimony, let it be observed, is not to the fact of our adoption directly, but to the fact that we have, in truth, received the Spirit of adoption, and that we are under no delusive impressions. This will enable us to answer a common objection to the doctrine of the Spirit's direct witness. This is, that when the evidence of a first witness must be supported by that of a second, before it can be fully relied on, it appears to be by no means of a "decisive and satisfactory character; and that it might be as well to have recourse at once to the evidence, which, after all, seems to sustain the main weight of the cause." The answer to this is not difficult: if it were, it would weigh nothing against an express text of Scripture, which speaks of the witness of the Holy Spirit and the witness of our own spirits. Both must, therefore, be concluded necessary, though we should not see their concomitancy and mutual relation. The case is not, however, involved in entire obscurity. Our own spirits can take no cognizance of the mind of God, as to our actual pardon, and can bear no witness to that fact. The Holy Spirit only, who knows the mind of God, can be this witness; and if the fact, that God is reconciled to us, can only be known to him, by him only can it be attested to us. It cannot, therefore, be "as well for us to have recourse at once to the evidence of our own spirits;" because, as to this fact, our own spirits have no evidence to give. They cannot give direct evidence of it; for we know not what passes in the mind of the invisible God: they cannot give indirect evidence of the fact; for no moral changes, of which our spirits can be conscious, have been stated in Scripture as the proofs of our pardon; they prove that there is a work of God in our hearts, but they are not proofs of our actual forgiveness. Our own spirits &re competent witnesses that such moral effects have been produced in our hearts and character, as it is the office of the Holy Spirit to produce; they prove, therefore, the reality of the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, and in us. That competent and infallible witness has borne his testimony that God is become our Father; he has shed abroad his holy comfort, the comfort which arises from the sense of pardon,-and his moral operation within us, accompanying, or immediately following upon this, making us new creatures in Christ Jesus; is the proof that we are in no delusion as to the witness who gives this testimony being, in truth, the Spirit of God.
Of the four opinions on this subject entertained by divines, the first alone is fully conformable to the Scriptures, and ought, therefore, to be believed and taught. The second opinion is refuted in our examination of the third; for what is called "the reflex act of faith," is only a consciousness of believing, which we have shown must be exercised in order to pardon, but cannot be an evidence of it. The third opinion has been examined in all its parts, except the reference to "voices and impulses," in the quotation from Scott's Commentary, which appears to have been thrown in ad captandum. To this we may reply, that however the fact of his adoption is revealed to man by the Holy Spirit, it is done by his influence and inexplicable operation, producing clear satisfaction and conviction, that God is reconciled; that "our iniquities are forgiven, and our sins covered." The fourth opinion was refuted when first stated.