« AnteriorContinuar »
The seal of the Spirit is called the earnest of the Spirit, in the scripture. 2 Cor. i. 22. Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. And Eph. i. 13, 14. In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Now the earnest is part of the money agreed for given in hand, as a token of the whole to be paid in due time; a part of the promised inheritance granted now, in token of full possession of the whole hereafter. But surely that kind of communication of the Spirit of God, which is of the nature of eternal glory, is the highest and most excellent kind of communication. It is something in its own nature spiritual, holy, and divine; and therefore
their good estate by an immediate witness of the Spirit, without judging by any effect or work of the Spirit wrought on the heart, as an evidence and proof that persons are the children of God. (Parab. I. P. 134, 135, 137, 176, 177, 215, 216. P. II. 168, 169.
Again, in his Sound Believer, there is a long discourse of sanctification as the chief evidence of justification, from p. 221, for many pages following; I shall transcribe but a very small part of it. "Tell me, how you will know that you are justified. You will say, by the testimony of the Spirit. And cannot the same Sp rat shine upon your graces, and witness that you are sanctified, as well? 1 John iv. 13, 24. 1 Cor. ii. 12. Can the Spirit make the one clear to you, and not the other? Oh beloved, it is a sad thing, to hear such questions, and such cold answers also, that sanctification possibly may be an evidence. May be! Is it not certain?
Mr. Flavel also much opposes this notion of the witness of the Spirit by immediate revelation. Sacramental Meditations, med. 4, speaking of the sealing of the Spirit, he says, " In sealing the believer, he doth not make use of an audible voice, nor the ministry of angels, nor immediate and extraordinary revelations; but he makes use of his own graces, implanted in our hearts, and his own promises, written in the scripture: and in this method, he usually brings the doubting trembling heart of a believer to rest and comfort." Again, ibid. Assurance is produced in our souls by the reflexive acts of faith: the Spirit helps us to reflect upon what hath been done by him formerly upon our hearts; hereby we know that we know him, 1 John ii. 3. To know that we know, is a reflex act. Now it is impossible there should be a reflex, before there hath been a direct act. No man can have the evidence of his faith, before the habit is infused, and the vital act performed. The object matter, to which the Spirit seals, is his own sanctifying operation." Afterwards, ibid. he says, " Immediate ways of the Spirit's sealing are ceased. No man may now expect, by any new revelation, or sign from heaven, by any voice, or extraordinary inspiration, to have his salvation sealed; but must expect that mercy in God's ordinary way and method, searching the scriptures; examining our own hearts, and waiting on the Lord in prayer. The learned Gerson gives an instance of one that had been long upon the borders of despair, and at last sweetly assured and settled: he answered, Non ex nora aliqua revelatione; not by any new revelalion, but by subjecting my understanding to, and comparing my heart with the written word; and Mr. Roberts, in his treatise of the covenants, speaks of another, that so vehemently panted after the sealings and assurance of the love of God to his soul, that for a long time he earnestly desired some voice from heaven; and sometimes walking in the solitary fields, earnestly desired some miraculous voice from the trees or stones there. This was denied him: but in time, a better was afforded, in a scriptural way." Again, ibid, "This method of sealing, is beyond all other methods in the world. For in miraculous voices and inspirations, it is possible there may subesse falsum, be found some cheat, or impostures of the devil : but the Spirit's witness in the heart, suitable to the revelation in the scripture, cannot deceive us."
high above any thing of the nature of inspiration, or revelation of hidden facts by suggestion of the Spirit of God, which many natural men have had. What is the earnest and beginning of glory, but grace itself, especially in the more lively and clear exercises of it? It is not prophecy, nor tongues, nor knowledge, but that more excellent thing, charity that never faileth, which is a beginning of the light, sweetness, and blessedness of heaven, that world of love or charity. Grace is the seed of glory; the earnest of the future inheritance. What is the beginning or earnest of eternal life in the soul, but spiritual life? and what is that but grace? The inheritance that Christ has purchased for the elect, is the Spirit of God; not in any extraordinary gifts, but in his vital indwelling in the heart, exerting and communicating himself there, in his own proper, holy or divine nature. The Father provides the Saviour, and the purchase is made of him; the Son is the purchaser and the price; and the Holy Spirit is the great blessing or inheritance purchased, as is intimated, Gal. iii. 13, 14. and hence the Spirit is often spoken of as the sum of the blessings promised in the gospel*. This inheritance was the grand legacy which Christ left his disciples and church, in his last will and testament, John, chap. xiv. xv. xvi. This is the sum of the blessings of eternal life, which shall be given in heavent. It is through the vital communications and indwelling of the Spirit, that the saints have all their light, life, holiness, beauty, and joy in heaven: and it is through the vital communications and indwelling of the same Spirit, that the saints have all light, life, holiness, beauty and comfort on earth; but only communicated in less measure. And this vital indwelling of the Spirit in the saints, in this less measure, is the earnest of the Spirit, the earnest of the future inheritance, and the firstfruits of the Spirit, as the apostle call it, Rom. viii. 22. where, by the first-fruits of the Spirit, the apostle undoubtedly means the same vital gracious principle, that he speaks of in all the preceding part of the chapter, which he calls Spirit, and sets in opposition to flesh or corruption. Therefore this earnest of the Spirit, and first-fruits which has been shewn to be the same with the seal of the Spirit, is his vital, gracious, sanctifying influence, and not any immediate suggestion or revelation of facts‡.
"Luke xxiv. 49. Acts i. 4. and chap. ii. 38, 39. Gal. iii. 14. Eph. i. 13. † Compare Johu vii. 37, 38, 39, and John iv. 14, with Rev. xxi. 6. and xxii. 1, 17.
"After a man is in Christ, not to judge by the work, is not to judge by the Spirit. For the apostle makes the earnest of the Spirit to be the seal. Now, earnest is part of the money bargained for; the beginning of heaven, of the light and life of it. He that sees not that the Lord is his by that, sees no God his at all. Oh therefore, do not look for a spirit, without a word to reveal, nor a word to reveal, without seeing and feeling of some work first. I thank the Lord, I do but pity those that think otherwise. If a sheep of Christ, oh, wauder not. Shepard's Par. P. 1. p. 86.
And indeed the apostle, when (Rom. viii. 16.) he speaks of the Spirit bearing witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God, sufficiently explains himself. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God: for ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear: but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father: the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God. Here, what the apostle says, if we take it together, plainly shews, that what he has respect to, when he speaks of the Spirit giving us witness or evidence that we are God's children, is his dwelling in us, and leading us, as a spirit of adoption, or of a child, disposing us to behave towards God as to a Father. And what is that, but the spirit of love? There are two kind sof spirits of which the apostle speaks, the spirit of bondage, that is fear; and the spirit of adoption, and that is love. The apostle says, we have not received the Spirit of bondage, or of slaves, which is a spirit of fear; but we have received the more ingenuous, noble spirit of children, a spirit of love, which naturally disposes us to go to God, as children to a father. And this is the witness which the Spirit of God gives us that we are children. This is the plain sense of the apostle. The Spirit of bondage works by fear, the slave fears the rod; but love cries Abba, Father; it disposes us to go to God, and behave ourselves as children. So that the witness of the Spirit of which the apostle speaks, is far from being any whisper, or immediate suggestion; but is that gracious, holy effect of the Spirit of God in the hearts of the saints, the disposition and temper of children, appearing in sweet child-like love to God, which casts out fear. It is plain the apostle speaks of the Spirit, over and over again, as dwelling in the hearts of the saints, as a gracious principle, in opposition to the flesh or corruption; as in the words that immediately introduce this passage, ver. 13. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live.
Indeed, it is past doubt with me, that the apostle has a more special respect to the spirit of grace, or of love, or the spirit of a child, in its more lively actings; for it is perfect love or strong love only, which so witnesses, or evidences that we are children, as to cast out fear, and wholly deliver from the spirit of bondage. The strong and lively exercises of evangelical, humble love to God, give clear evidence of the soul's relation to God, as his child; which very greatly and directly satisfies the soul. And though it be far from true, that the soul in this case judges only by an immediate witness, without any sign or evidence; yet the saint stands in no need of multiplied signs, or any long reasoning upon them. And though the sight of his relative union with God,
and being in his favour, is not without a medium, viz. his love; yet his sight of the union of his heart to God is immediate. Love, the bond of union, is seen intuitively; the saint sees and feels plainly the union between his soul and God; it is so strong and lively, that he cannot doubt of it. And hence he is assured that he is a child. How can he doubt whether he stands in a childlike relation to God, when he plainly sees a child-like union between God and his soul, and hence cries Abba, Father.
And whereas the apostle says, the Spirit bears witness with our spirits: by our spirit here, is meant our conscience, which is called the spirit of man; Prov. xx. 27. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly. elsewhere read of the witness of this Spirit, or of conscience, 2 Cor. i. 12. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience. And 1 John iii. 19-21. And hereby do we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. When the apostle Paul speaks of the Spirit of God bearing witness with our spirit, he does not mean two separate, collateral, independent witnesses, but that by one, we receive the witness of the other. The Spirit of God gives the evidence, by infusing and shedding abroad the love of God, the spirit of a child, in the heart; and our spirit, or our conscience, receives and declares this evidence for our rejoicing.
Many mischiefs have arisen from that false and delusive notion of the witness of the Spirit, that it is a kind of inward voice, suggestion, or declaration from God to a man, that he is beloved, pardoned, elected, or the like, sometimes with, and sometimes without a text of scripture; for many have been the false and vain (though very high) affections that have arisen from hence. It is to be feared that multitudes of souls have been eternally undone by it; I have therefore insisted the longer on this head.But I proceed now to a second characteristic of gracious affections.
The first objective ground of gracious affections, is the transcendently excellent and amiable nature of divine things, as they are in themselves; and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or self-interest.
say, that the supremely excellent nature of divine things is the first, or primary and original objective foundation of the spiritual affections of true saints; for I do not suppose that all relation which divine things bear to themselves, and their own particular interest, are wholly excluded from all influence in their gracious affections. For this may have, and indeed has, a secondary and consequential influence in those affections that are truly holy and spiritual; as I shall shew by and by.
It was before observed, that the affection of love is as it were the fountain of all affection; and particularly, that Christian love is the fountain of all gracious affections. Now the divine excellency of God, and of Jesus Christ, the word of God, his works, ways, &c. is the primary reason, why a true saint loves these things; and not any supposed interest that he has in them, or any conceived benefit that he has received, or shall receive from them.
Some say that divine love arises from self-love; and that it is impossible in the nature of things, for any man to love God, or any other being, but that love to himself must be the foundation of it. But I humbly suppose, it is for want of consideration they say so. They argue, that whoever loves God, and so desires his glory, or the enjoyment of him, desires these things as his own happiness; the glory of God, and the beholding and the enjoy ing of his perfections, are considered as things agreeable to him, tending to make him happy; he places his happiness in them, and desires them as objects which, if obtained, would fill him with delight and joy, and so make him happy. And so, they say, it is from self-love, or a desire of his own happiness, that he desires God should be glorified, and desires to behold and enjoy his glorious perfections. But then they ought to consider a little further, and inquire how the man came to place his happiness in God's being glorified, and in contemplating and enjoying God's perfections. There is no doubt, but that after God's glory, and beholding his perfections, are become agreeable to him, he will desire them, as he desires his own happiness. But how came these things to be so agreeable to him, that he esteems it his highest happiness to glorify God, &c.? is not this the fruit of love? Must not a man first love God, or have his heart united to him, 17