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effect of claiming a direct revelation to the mind of the great truth of the reality and certainty of personal salvation, is the same. The belief of the most important of all facts, is made to
. rest, not on the revealed Word of God, but upon a new and special revelation, independent of that Word. No person now living, can find it revealed in the Word of God, that he is in fact pardoned ; and this is the very reason of the proneness of anxious minds to resort to this theory of the direct witness of the Spirit. The rational process of examining the revealed conditions of pardon, and the evidence of having complied with them, and thence deriving an assurance of salvation through the Word of Goil, does not satisfy the excited and anxious feelings of many. They desire something more personal, more sensible, more tangible. They long to hear God say directly to them: “ Thy sins are forgiven!” and under the influence of this desire, they forsake the safe grounds of humble faith in the Word of God, and plunge into the currents and whirlpools of the tumultuous sea of enthusiastic and fanatical excitement. All indeed are not ruined who believe in this principle. Often by a happy inconsistency they give to the Word of God an influence which this theory denies to it, and are thereby saved from shipwreck. But this is not because of the theory, but in spite of it, and in very many cases its worst tendencies are verified by fatal results.
Let us next consider the opposite extreme, into which many have fallen in avoiding this. It consists in the virtual exclusion, or actual denial of an action of the Spirit of God on our minds, of the effects of which we may be truly conscious, and properly refer to him, as plainly transcending our own power, and requiring him as the Author. It is both reasonable and Scriptural to suppose, that the Holy Spirit is able to exert a peculiar influence upon our intellectual powers, our imagination, our trains of thought, our emotions, and our belief, which shall impress us with a rational conviction that it is from without. Moreover, the nature and effects of this influence may be such, that we recognize in them a fulfilment of something described and promised in the Word of God, as effected by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the results may be directly opposed to all of the natural tendencies of proud, sensual, self-justifying minds. The mind may be filled with an overwhelming sense of sin, with terror in view of the threatened judgments of God, with penitence, faith. hope, joy, or ecstacy, by an an influence plainly superior to itself. The spirit of bondage to fear may be taken away; the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father, may be given. The things of the eternal world may be invested with a vividness and brilliancy, such as we feel incapable of producing by our own power. We may be unable to resist the impression that we are under the influence of a present, powerful, and holy Mind, who is aiming to transform us into the image of God.
Our faith may be raised to such degrees of certainty, that the things of the spiritual world shall seem like living, present realities, entirely outweighing and eclipsing the things of time and sense. Now it is plain, that if the Holy Spirit produces such states of mind, and if we recognize them as from him, and as a fulfilment of revealed promises, then by them he witnesses to us that we are the sons of God.
Now if all regard to such spiritual influences, felt to be from without, is excluded, and the attention is fixed simply upon a predominant purpose which we have formed to serve God, and upon our own general principles and conduct, then we are in the opposite extreme; for now there is plainly nothing left to which the words can be applied, “ the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
There is nothing now left but the solitary action of one spirit, instead of the concurrent action of two; and we thus in effect set aside the great Scriptural doctrine of a real and conscious communion with God. Now while we admit, that evidence of Christian character may be derived from inspecting the solitary action of our own minds; still, we hold that it is not possible to rise to that height of assurance which is implied in the witness of the Spirit, without that sensible communion with God which it is his peculiar prerogative to produce.
Turning then from the extremes that have been pointed out, let us proceed still further to illustrate the Scriptural doctrine that lies between them.
We are abundantly informed in the Word of God, that the human mind was not made to be perfected by its own independent activity, and without the aid of a divine and supernatural influence. It was made to be perfected by communion with God, and cannot secure its true life and development without him, any more than the plant can live and flourish without the sustain
ing power of the soil. So long as united to God, his vivifying influences preserve all the powers in a state of healthy activity and development. On the other hand, when separated from him by sin, the mind is at once pervaded and ruined by moral disease. The intellectual powers are darkened, the emotions become passionate and corrupt, and the will unreasonable and stubborn. The great end of God, therefore, is to restore such fallen minds, through Christ, to a state of moral health, purity, and rationality ; and to reëstablish that spiritual communion with them in thought and emotion, upon which depends their eternal life. This communion is reëstablished by the Spirit by influences which we often recog. nize as from without; but inasmuch as we cannot have direct and intuitive evidence that they are from God, we must seek for evidence in their tendencies and effects. Influences from without may proceed from two sources, the Spirit of holiness, on the one hand; and Satan changed into an angel of light, on the other. We are not, therefore, to regard all actings on our minds from without which transcend our power to produce them, as from God; but those only which primarily tend to produce spiritual life, by convincing of sin, humbling and purifying the soul, and restoring it to its normal state.
In the body, the distinction between health and disease, is perfectly obvious. The man who has a fever knows it ; and if he is healed, he recognizes with absolute certainty returning health. So also spiritual health, as opposed to spiritual disease, conveys evidence of its reality to the soul, which removes all doubt. If the consuming fires of unholy passion cease to exhaust the life of the soul, if holiness, humility, tenderness, meekness, and other Christian graces reign within, then the soul realizes the true joys of spiritual life, and is sure that it lives. It is no less sure that the influences through which it lives, are from God.
Hence to this result did our Saviour refer his disciples, as the evidence by which they might know that their communion was really with him. “ Because I live, ye shall live also.” And as the result of this, he immediately adds, “ At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” Llere more is promised than the solitary action of one mind. The promise ensures the indwelling of the believer in Christ, and of Christ in him, by holy spiritual communion ; and the proof that the communion is with Christ, is found in the fact that it produces
a supernatural spiritual life, which he only has power to produce. The Spirit, then, witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God, by producing communion with God, and the evidence that our communion is with God, and not with deceiving spirits, is found in its effects, in producing in us the true and spiritual life of God.
Let us next briefly consider the evidence that such communion is a reality, and that it does produce the highest possible assurance of our filial relationship to God.
Sufficient proof of the fact might be found in the promises of Christ to his disciples before he left the world. When the Deity became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, he interchanged thoughts and emotions with his disciples through the organs of the human body. Here was a real and sensible communion with them. Now, when communion in this form was about to cease, they feared lest they should be left in desolate solitude. To cheer them, he assured them that their communion with him should not
That he would come to them, manifest himself to them, dwell in them, and cause them to dwell in him, and so fill them with his joy that their joy should be full.
But these promises do not apply to them alone. Although there is no visible form through which God now communes with us, still there may be a real interchange of thoughts and emotions between him and us, attended with a mental consciousness that it
We may know that we are in him, and he in us. Nor is our ignorance of the mode in which God thus communes, an argument against the reality of the communion.
When one of the disciples inquired, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world, he gave no explanation of the mode, but simply reässerted the fact : “ If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him."
In accordance with these promises, the beloved disciple speaks of knowing and believing the love that God hath towards us, and of dwelling in God, and of God as dwelling in us ; Paul too, speaks of Chrisi as dwelling in the heart by faith, and of our knowing the height and depth, and length and breadth of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, and of being filled with all the fulness of God. The effects of such communion are also described. They are a perfect satisfaction of the soul. Christ's
joy is in us, and our joy is full, - it is joy unspeakable and full of glory.
The records of such experience in the Word of God are numerous and full, - David and Asaph, Isaiah and Paul, and the beloved disciple, have left on record their experience of this supernatural communion with God, their perfect joy while it continued, their longing after it when it ceased.
And in the experience of eminent uninspired saints, similar testimony is found. The account of his own experience by President Edwards so fully describes the idea of life in Christ, that it will not be amiss to quote it.
“Once, as I rode out into the woods, for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour ; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love, to trust in him, to live upon him, to serve and follow him, and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity. I have several other times had views very much of the same nature, and which have had the same effects." In another place he says: “God, in the communications of his Holy Spirit, has appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full, sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul ; pouring forth itself in sweet communications, like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and life.”
We do not quote such passages as furnishing an example of common Christian experience. President Edwards speaks of it as extraordinary in his own case. But we design by it to illustrate the power with which the Spirit can witness our sonship to VOL III.