« PreviousContinue »
three in heaven, which bear witness : it is on earth that they witness; but it is in heaven that these witnesses are in glory.
1. The Father witnessed of the Son, as by describing him in prophesies and promises, before his coming, so by many notable attestations at his birth, and afterwards sending a choir of angels to predicate and honour his nativity ; leading men to him by an extraordinary star, and other like means; and in an eminent manner at his more solemn entering upon his office, at his baptism, proclaiming him by a voice from heaven to be his Beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased; and to this testimony the text may seem to have sonie special respect : as also, he owned him by a voice from heaven, before his suffering. (John xii. 28.) And divers other ways.a
2. The Lord Jesus himself, the Word of the Father, hath fully attested his own office and doctrine, not by naked affirmations only (for if he so bore witness of himself, he tells us, his witness were nothing.) But by proving his mission and commission from the Father, by the prophets, by his doctrine, and by the works which he did : which were such as perfectly answered his commission, and such as no man else could do.
3. The Spirit bore witness to Christ and his truth, both in the mouths of those prophets that foretold his coming, and by a '
more full attestation, when he was come, when he was baptised, it lighted on him in the form of a dove ; in himself and his disciples, it gloriously appeared, as I have more largely expressed in the foregoing discourse.
But for the three witnesses on earth, though we are agreed in the matter, yet expositors are not of one mind about the sense of the words in this text; what is meant by Spirit, water, and blood. The first doubt is, what is meant by the Spirit ? If it be the Holy Ghost, then is not this witness on earth, the same with one of those in heaven? . To avoid this, some like those copies that leave out the 7th verse; some, as Piscator, by the Holy Ghost here, understand the Gospel : some take it only for the spirits which with the water and blood went out of the side of Christ on the cross. I rather judge that in the 7th verse, by the Spirit is meant the Holy Ghost considered, not as he is in heaven in glory, but witnessing on earth : but in the 8th verse is meant the same Holy Spirit, as he is and witnesseth here on earth. For as he appeared in the shape of a dove on Christ, and of fiery tongues on his disciples, so is he said to be, to dwell and work in the souls of believers.
* Matt. xvii. 5 ; xxxv. 17, and iii. 16; John v.32 ; viii. 18; v. 36 ; i. 1; iv. 26; v. 17, &c.; vi. 29, &c.; vii. 46; viii. 12, &c.; X. 24, &c., and i, 33, 34 ; 1 John i. l; Acts ii. 3, 4, 32, and ix. 3—6.
The cleansings in the law were by water and blood : by blood for expiation, and by water for actual abstersion. But as Christ was to be the true efficient of what these were the types, seeing the law itself could neither expiate nor cleanse a defiled soul, so especially was the gift of the Spirit, a thing beyond the compass of the law, and the eminent privilege of those Gospel times, and the special witness to the verity of his word. It is not unlikely, that in the 6th verse the apostle had respect to Christ's fulfilling the legal types, as Calvin, Piscator, and others judge, and so here also : but how was it that he fulfilled them? I see no reason why we should restrain the sense to any one act or passage of Christ's life, as many do, but more comprehensively expound it thus. It was both expiation of guilt, and abstersion of the filth of sin, that lost souls did need for their recovery : it was both which the law prefigured to be done by the Messias : it is both that he did ; and sent forth his Spirit in a most eminent, triumphant manner to do the one, and by wonders also to bear witness to his name in the world. He was himself baptised, first with John's baptism of water, and then by the Holy Ghost, descending on him as a dove, at the chief entrance upon his work; and lastly, by a baptism of blood in the Exitus, toward the finishing of his preparations on earth. He sweat water and blood in the garden in his agony. He shed water and blood from his side upon the cross. He lived accordingly, a life, first of pure innocency, without sin; secondly, a life of suffering, even to the death of the cross, both to expiate our sins, and to seal his testament, and to teach us self-denial and patience, by his example ; thirdly, he walked in the power of the Holy Ghost, doing wonders, and doing good, and was quickened and raised by the Spirit from the dead. And as these testimonies were left by him on certain record, so did he accordingly transcribe it upon the souls of his disciples, and do these works also on them, and drew out his image on their souls, and left his cures, and wondrous gifts thus visible on earth, to be witnesses of him in the world. b John x: 25, 36, 38; v. 32, 36; xiv. 2 ; xv.
v. 24, 26; xvi. 13, and xiv. 26; Acts xi. 22; I Cor. ii. 10, 11.
© John i. 28; Eph. v. 27; Tit. iii. 5; Heb. x. 22; Ezek. xxxvi. 25; Isa. i. 16; Jer. iv. 14.
d John xviii, 37; 1 Tim. vi. 13.
First, The Spirit he poured out on his church, even to the astonishment of the world, and the conviction of unbelievers, by the various and mighty works which were done; and he gave it to be resident in true believers, as his house and temple.
Secondly, He cleanseth them by his word and Spirit, from their former uncleanness, even the filth of sin.
Thirdly, He washeth them in his blood by the application of it, in its fruits, from the guilt of sin : he bringeth them to so much self-denial, as in preparation and resolution, to lay down their lives, and shed their blood for him: and when he calleth them to it, he wonderfully sustaineth them, so that his people are living witnesses of his power and truth. The Spirit of power on the first churches, and the Spirit of holiness on all, is his infallible witness ; his sanctified ones, that are cleansed from their former wickedness, are his witnesses ; his pardoned, justified, adopted ones, are his witnesses. And as they are thus objectively a threefold witness to him, so are they actually, effectively, and expressly. They give him themselves, and fullest testimony in a threefold baptism as it were. They are baptised with water, and there openly own him, and take him for their Redeemer : they are ofttimes baptised with blood in actual martyrdom, and so own him to the death : and in the sacrament of his supper they feed upon his blood, and renew their resignation, and their testimony of him. They are baptised with the Holy Ghost, and then exalt him in the throne of their souls, and his kingdom is set up within them.
And thus we see what are the three witnesses on earth, viz. the Spirit, water, and blood.
Sect. II. Let us now see what is that, “Witness in ourselves," which the text in hand mentioneth : I see no reason to restrain this neither, to any one way of having the witness in ourselves, but shall take it more comprehensively.
1. He that believeth hath a witness in himself, in that he hath received God's testimony of his Son; and so that which was external, is admitted within, and that which was an object aptitudinal, offered, propounded, and the reception of it com
e Acts i, 5, 8, and ii. 1.
f In the first age, and long after, the churches used to mix wine and water in the sacrament: as appears in 'Justin Martyr's Apology,' and many others,
manded, is now become an object actually believed and entertained. And thus all believers have the witness in themselves, as the object is in the present act, and so in the recipient agent.
Obj. That is no more than to say ; 'He that believeth doth believe.'
Answ. It is to declare what believing is; it is the reception of the divine testimony: and so upon our believing, that which was before only without us, written in our books, or spoken by men, is now within us, transcribed by the Spirit of grace upon our hearts : but, yet, though this be part of the sense, I take it not for the whole, therefore I add :
2. He that believeth, hath the witness in himself, in a radicated habit of the aforesaid belief, supposing him to be a sound believer; for it is the Spirit of Christ that worketh this faith ; that not only revealeth the object from without, but useth it also on the soul, as a man doth a seal by impressing it on the wax : and the same Spirit confirmeth and maintaineth this habit, having made it his office to be the sanctifier of believers, and the finisher of their faith : so that as he believeth, so he shall believe; the Spirit of life, being the preserver and maintainer of his faith.
3. He hath, also, the witness in himself, more confirmedly, in that the same Spirit is at hand to be the exciter of his faith; and not only to give him a habit, or power; but, also, to cause him to bring it forth into act, so that it is no small advantage against tempations to infidelity, which he that soundly believeth, hath already in himself.
4. He that believeth, hath, by the same Holy Spirit, not only his understanding thus cleared and persuaded, but, also, his will effectually inclined to Christ, and to God the Father, by him : and his heart affected so much with the goodness that is in him, and the goodness that hath flowed from him; in the wonders of love, which he hath manifested to sinners; and with the goodness, which he is in hope of, when the promises are all fulfilled ; that there is by these, as it were, a new nature within him : he hath new thoughts, new designs, new desires, hopes, love, delights; he is now driving a new trade in this world, for another world, and set upon a work which before he was a stranger to; so that he is now become in Christ a new creature: “Old things are passed away, and all things are become new. (2 Cor. v. 17.) He that would now tempt him to infidelity, and persuade him from Christ, must not only persuade him against his radicated, maintained belief, but also against his
love, his desire, his hope, his joys, against his very heart, and new nature.
5. And it increaseth his' advantage, that this love, desire, hope, and whole new disposition, is radicated, maintained, and excited by the same Holy Spirit, who dwelleth in the soul, and manageth it for Christ, even as its belief itself is; and the very radication, maintaining, and exciting of true belief, is the radication, confirmation, and exciting of these, as the moving of the first wheel is the moving of the rest.
6. But the most observable part of the sense, is this : that all these received impressions on the soul, are a standing testimony
us, which we may have recourse to for the future, for the repelling of temptations, and the confirmation of our faith. They are a witness within us, as the objects or evidence, for our future belief, and not only, as I said before, as the received object of our present belief. Our present actual, and habitual faith, and renovation of our souls, and the sacred inclinations and actions therein contained, are a standing evidence within us; as the written word and the miracles of Christ are without us ; from which we may soundly argue for the verity of Christianity, and may look on them as an infallible testimony for Christ. For none but the sacred Redeemer of the world, approved by the Father, and working by his Spirit, could do such works, as are done on the souls of all that are truly sanctified.
7. And I suppose it is not the least part of the apostles' meaning, “That he that believed then, had that extraordinary Spirit of wonders, in one kind or other, which was purposely then given to be a seal to the christian verity, and the great witness of Christ;” (Mark xvi. 17;) for the promise was fulfilled then in one sort or other, in one measure or other, to all believers; at least to all morally, that is, to the generality, or ordinarily.
I shall not add here, that immediate witness of the Spirit within us, which some assert is only sufficient; which is neither an objective testifying from without, nor an objective testifying by the aforesaid works of grace within; nor an effective testimony, by producing our belief of the objective, all which I have asserted; but is moreover, first, either another inobjective testimony, as by an inward word or enunciation of another to our mind; secondly, or else an efficient testifying, by causing us to believe without the objective evidence; or, only upon this last supposed internal enunciation of his own : for these enthusiasms or inspirations, let them boast of them that have them; but let them not blame me, if I prove them