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whither I must refer you. And so I return to the third caution.
I have in the forementioned book told you, what the office of the Spirit is in assuring us, and what the use of marks ·
The Spirit witnesseth first objectively, and so the Spirit and marks are all one. For it is the Spirit dwelling in us that is the witness or proof that we are God's sons ; for he that hath not his Spirit is none of his. And the Spirit is not discerned by us in its essence, but in its workings; and therefore to discern these workings, is to discern the Spirit, and these workings are the marks that we speak of : so that the Spirit witnesseth our sonship, as a reasonable soul witnesseth that you are a man and not a beast. You find by the acts of reason, that you have a reasonable soul, and then you know, that having a reasonable soul, you certainly are a man. So you find by the works or fruits of the Spirit, that you have the Spirit (that is, by marks; and Paul enumerates the fruits of the Spirit to that end), and then by finding that you have the Spirit you may certainly know that you are the child of God. 2. Also, as the reasonable soul is its own discerner by the help of the body (while it is in it) and so witnesseth our humanity effectively as well as objectively (but first in order objectively, and next effectively); so doth the Spirit effectively discover itself to the soul, by illuminating us to discern it, and exciting us to search, and giving us that spiritual taste and feeling of its workings, and so of its presence, by which it is best known. But still it witnesseth objectively, first, and its effective witnessing is but the causing us to discern its objective witness. Or (to speak more plainly), the Spirit witnesses first and principally, by giving us those graces and workings which are our marks; and then, secondly, by helping us to tind and feel those workings or marks in ourselves; and then, lastly, by raising comforts in the soul upon that discovery. Take heed therefore of expecting any such inward witness of the Spirit, as some expect, viz.' a discovery of your adoption directly, without first discovering the signs of it within you; as if by an inward voice he should say to you, Thou art a child of God and thy sins are pardoned.'
This that I described to you, is the true witness of the Spirit. This mistake is so dangerous, that I had thought to have made it a peculiar direction by itself, to warn you of
it; and now I have gone so far, I will dispatch it here. Two dangerous consequents I find do follow this unwarrantable expectation of the first immediate efficient revelation that we are adopted.
1. Some poor souls have languished in doubtings and trouble of mind almost all their days, in expectation of such a kind of witness as the Spirit useth not to give; when in the mean time they have other sufficient means of comfort, and knew not how to improve them; yea, they had the true witness of the Spirit in his inhabitation and holy workings, and did not know it; but run as Samuel did to Eli, not knowing the voice of God; and look for the Spirits testimony when they had it, as the Jews for Elias and the Messias.
2. Others do more dangerously err, by taking the strong conceit of their own fantasy for the witness of the Spirit; as soon as they do but entertain the opinion that it must be such a witness of the Spirit, without the use of marks, that must assure men of their adoption, presently they are confident that they have that witness themselves. It is scarce likely to be God's Spirit that is so ready upon the mere change of an opinion. The devil useth to do as much to cherish presumption, as to destroy true faith and assurance. It is a shrewd sign that our persuasions of our truth of grace is a delusion, when we find the devil a friend to it, and helping it on. And it is a probable sign it is a good persuasion, when we find the devil an enemy to it, and still troubling us and endeavouring our disquiet.
And here I remember the scruple that troubleth some about the spirit of bondage, and the spirit of adoption. But you must understand, that by the spirit of bondage is meant that spirit, and those operations on the soul which the law of works did naturally beget in those that were under it; which was to be partly in bondage, to a task of ceremonious duties, and partly to the curse and obligation to punishment for disobedience, without any power to justify. They were said therefore to be in bondage to the law; and the law was said to be a yoke, which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear : Acts xv.
And by the spirit of adoption is meant, 1. That spirit, or those qualifications or workings in their souls, which by the Gospel God giveth only to his sons. 2. And which raise
in us some childlike affections to God, inclining us in all our wants to run to him in prayer, as to a Father, and to make our moan to him, and
open our griefs, and
cry dress, and look to him, and depend on him as a child on the father. This spirit of adoption you may have, and yet not be certain of God's special love to you. The knowledge only of his general goodness and mercy, may be a means to raise in you true childlike affections. You may know God to have fatherly inclinations to you, and yet doubt whether he will use you as a child, for want of assurance of your own sincerity. And you may hope God is your Father, when yet you may apprehend him to be a displeased, angry father, and so he may be more your terror than your comfort. Are not you ready in most of your fears, and doubts, and troubles, to go to God before all other for relief? And doth not your heart sigh and groan to him, when you can scarcely speak ? Doth not your troubled spirit there find its first vent? And say, ' Lord kill me not : forsake me not; my life is in thy hands; O soften this hard heart; make this carnal mind more spiritual ! O be not such a stranger to my soul ! Wo to me that I am so ignorant of thee! so disaffected to thee! so backward and disinclined to holy communion with thee; Wo to me, that can take no more pleasure in thee! and am so mindless and disregardful of thee! O that thou wouldst stir up in me more lively desires, and workings of my soul towards thee! and suffer me not to lie at such a distance from thee! Are not such as these the breathings of your spirit? Why these are childlike breathings after God! This is crying ‘Abba, Father.' This is the work of the spirit of adoption, even when you fear God will cast you off. You much mistake (and those that tell you so) if you think that the spirit of adoption lieth only in a persuasion that you are God's child, or that you may not have the spirit of adoption, without such a persuasion of God's adopting you. For God may adopt you, and give you that spirit which he gives only to his children, and possess you with true filial affections towards him, before ever you know yourself to be adopted ; much more, though you may have frequent returning doubts of your adoption.
Having thus shewed you how far you may expect the witness of the Spirit, and how far you may and must make use of marks and qualifications, or actions of your own, for
the obtaining of assurance and settled peace, I shall add an · answer to the principal objections of the Antinomians against this.
Object. They say, This is to draw men from Christ to themselves, and from the Gospel to the law; to lay their comforts, and build their peace upon any thing in themselves, is to forsake Christ, and make themselves their own saviours : and those teachers that persuade them to this, are teachers of the law, and false prophets, who draw men from Christ to themselves. All our own righteousness is as a menstruous cloth, and our best works are sin; and therefore we may not take up our assurance or comforts from them. We shall be always at uncertainties, and at a loss, or inconstant, up and down in our comforts, as long as we take them from any signs in ourselves : also our own graces are imperfect, and therefore unfit to be the evidences for our assurance.
Ausw. Because I am not now purposely confuting the Antinomians, but only forearming you against their assaults; I shall not therefore give you half that I should otherwise say, for the explication of this point, and the confutation of their errors, but only so much as is necessary to your preservation : which I do, because they pretend to be the only preachers of free grace, and the only right comforters of troubled consciences; and because they have written so many books to that end, which if they fall into your hands may seem so specious, as that you may need some preservative. I suppose you remember what I have taught you so oft, concerning the difference of the law of works, and the law of grace, with their different conditions. Upon which supposition I explicate the point thus. 1. No man may look at his own graces or duties as his legal righteousness; that is, such as for which the law of works will pronounce him righteous. Nor yet may he take them for part of his legal righteousness, in conjunction with Christ's righteousness, as the other part; but here must go wholly out of ourselves, aud deny and disclaim all such righteousness of our
We have no works which make the reward to be not of grace but of debt. We must not once think that our graces, duties, or sufferings, can make satisfaction to God's justice for our sin and unrighteousness; nor yet that they are any part of that satisfaction. Here we ascribe all to Christ, who is the only sacrifice and ransom. 4. Nor must we think that our duties or graces are properly meritorious ; this also is to be left as the sole honour of Christ. 5. Yet that we may and must raise our assurance and comforts from our own graces and duties, shall appear in these clear reasons following, which shew also the grounds on which we
may do it.
1. Pardon, justification, and adoption, and salvation, are all given to us in the Gospel only conditionally (if we believe), and the condition is an act, or rather several acts of our own. Now till the condition be performed, no man can have any certainty that the benefit shall be his, nor can he by any other means (ordinarily) be certain of the benefit, but by that which ascertains him that he hath performed the condition. God saith, “ He that believeth shall be saved." No man can know then that he shall be saved, till he first know that he believeth. Else he should know either contrary to that which is written, or more than that which is written; and justification and adoption should be given some other way than by the Gospel promise, (for that promise giveth them only conditionally, and so suspendeth the actual right, upon the performance of the condition). But if any can shew any other way, by which God maketh over pardon and adoption, besides the Gospel promise, let them do it; but I will not promise suddenly to believe them, for it was never yet shewed as I know of. Also, if men must not look at their own performance of the condition, to prove their right to the benefit, then either all or none must believe that they have that right; for the promise saith,“ He that believeth shall be saved.” And this is a promise of life conditionally to all. If all must believe that they shall be saved, then most of the world must believe a lie. If the true believer may not therefore conclude that he shall be saved, because he performeth the condition of the promise, then no man may believe it. And for that absolute promise of the new heart, no man can, or may believe that it is his, till he have that new heart which it promiseth ; that is, till it be fulfilled. For there is no mark by which a man can know whether that promise belong to him or no beforehand, and if all should believe that it belongs to them, most would find it false.
2. God hath not redeemed us by his Son to be lawless.