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Saul, that in the plain of Tabor, there should meet him three men going up to God to Bethel, (1 Sam. x. 2, 3.) though one of these things was future, and the other was not. So when Elisha told the king of Israel the words that the king of Syria spake in his bed-chamber, it was by the same kind of revelation with that by which he foretold many things to come.
It is evident that this revelation of secret facts by immediate suggestion, has nothing of the nature of a spiritual and divine operation, in the sense fore-mentioned. There is nothing at all in the nature of the ideas themselves, excited in the mind, that is divinely excellent, above the ideas of natural men; though the manner of exciting the ideas be extraordinary. In those things which are spiritual, as has been shewn, not only the manner of producing the effect, but the effect wrought is divine, and so vastly above all that can be in an unsanctified mind. Now simply the having an idea of facts, setting aside the manner of producing those ideas, is nothing beyond what the minds of wicked men are susceptible of, without any goodness in them; and they all either have or will have, the knowledge of the greatest and most important facts that have been, are, or shall be.
And as to the extraordinary manner of producing the perception of facts, even by immediate suggestion, there is nothing in it, but what the minds of natural men are capable of; as is manifest in Balaam, and others spoken of in the scripture. And therefore it appears that there is nothing appertaining to this immediate suggestion of secret facts that is spiritual, in the sense in which it has been proved that gracious operations are so. If there be nothing in the ideas themselves, which is holy and divine, and so nothing but what may be in a mind not sanctified, then God can put them into the mind by immediate power, without sanctifying it. As there is nothing in the idea of a rainbow of a holy and divine nature; so God, if he pleases, and when he pleases, immediately, and in an extraordinary manner, may excite that idea in an unsanctified mind. So also, as there is nothing in the idea or knowledge that such particular persons are forgiven and accepted of God, and entitled to heaven, but what unsanctified minds may have, and will have concerning many at the day of judgment; so God can if he pleases, extraordinarily and immediately suggest this to, and impress it upon an unsanctified mind now. There is no principle wanting in an unsanctified mind in order to make it capable of such an impression; nor is there any thing in them necessarily to prevent such a suggestion.
And if these suggestions of secret facts be attended with texts of scripture, immediately and extraordinarily brought to mind, about other facts that seem in some respects similar; that does not make the operation to be of a spiritual and divine nature.—
For that suggestion of words of scripture is no more divine, than the suggestion of the facts themselves; as has been just now demonstrated; and two effects together, which are neither of them spiritual, cannot make up one complex effect spiritual.
Hence it follows, from what has been already shewn, that those affections which are properly founded on such immediate suggestions, of secret facts, are not gracious affections. Not but that it is possible that such suggestions may be the occasion, or accidental cause of gracious affections; for so may a mistake and delusion; but it is never properly the foundation of gracious affections for gracious affections, as has been shewn, are all the effects of an influence and operation which is spiritual, supernatural, and divine. But there are many affections, and high affections, which have such revelations for their very foundation. They look upon these as spiritual discoveries; but they are a gross deJusion; and this delusion is truly the spring whence their affections flow.
Here it may be proper to observe, from what has been said, that what many persons call the witness of the Spirit, that they are the children of God, has nothing in it spiritual and divine; and consequently that the affections built upon it, are vain and delusive. That which many call the witness of the Spirit, is no other than an immediate suggestion and impression of that fact, otherwise secret, that they are made the children of God, and so that their sins are pardoned, and that God has given them a title to heaven. This kind of knowledge, viz. knowing that a certain person, is converted, and delivered from hell, and entitled to heaven, is no divine sort of knowledge in itself. This sort of fact requires no more divine suggestion, in order to impress it on the mind, than what Balaam had impressed on his mind. It requires no higher sort of idea for a man to have the apprehension of his own conversion impressed upon him, than to have the apprehension of his neighbour's conversion, in like manner. God, if he pleased, might impress the knowledge of this fact, that he had forgiven his neighbour's sins, and given him a title to heaven, as well as any other fact, without any communication of his holiness. The excellency and importance of the fact, does not at all hinder a natural man's mind being susceptible of an immediate suggestion and impression of it. Balaam had as important facts as this immediately impressed on his mind, without any gracious influence; particularly, the coming of Christ, his setting up his glorious kingdom, the blessedness of the spiritual Israel in his peculiar favour, and their happiness living and dying. Yea, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, had God's special favour to Abraham, revealed to him, Gen. xx. 6, 7. He revealed to Laban his special favour to Jacob, see Gen. xxxi. 24. and Psal. cv. 15.
And if a truly good man should have an immediate revelation from God, in like manner, concerning his favour to his neighbour, or himself, would it be any higher kind of influence? Would it be any more than a common influence of God's Spirit, as the gift of prophecy, and all revelation by immediate suggestion is? See 1 Cor. xiii. 2. And though it be true, that a natural man cannot have an individual suggestion from the Spirit of God, that he is converted, because it is not true; yet that does not arise from the nature of the influence, as too high for him. The influence which immediately suggests this fact, when it is true, is of no different kind from that which immediately suggests other true facts and so the kind and nature of the influence, is not above what is common to natural men.
But this is a mean ignoble notion of the witness of the Spirit of God given to his dear children, to suppose that there is nothing in the nature of that influence, but what is common to natural men, altogether unsanctified, and the children of hell; and that therefore the gift itself has nothing of the holy nature, or vital communication of that Spirit. This notion greatly debases that most exalted kind of operation which there is in the true witness of the spirit. That which is called the witness of the Spirit, Rom. viii. is elsewhere in the New Testament called the seal of the Spirit, 2 Cor. i. 22. Eph. i. 13. and iv. 13. alluding to the seal of princes, annexed to the instrument, by which they advanced any of their subjects to some high honour and dignity, as a token of their special favour. Which is an evidence that the influence of the Spirit of the Prince of princes, in sealing his favourites, is far from being of a common kind; and that there is no effect of God's Spirit whatsoever, which is in its nature more divine; nothing more holy, peculiar, inimitable, and distinguishing of divinity. Nothing is more royal than the royal seal; nothing more sacred to a prince, and more peculiarly de
The late venerable Stoddard in h's younger time, falling in with the opinion of some others, received this notion of the witness of the Spirit, by way of immediate suggestion: but in the latter part of his life, when he had more thoroughly weighed things, and had more experience, he entirely rejected it; as appears by his treatise of the nature of saving conversion, p. 84. The Spirit of God doth not testify to particular persons, that they are godly. Some think that the Spirit of God doth testify it to some; and they ground it on Rom. viii. 16. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. They think the Spirit reveals it by giving an inward testimony to it; and some godly men think they have had experience of it: but they may easily mistake; when the Spirit of God doth eminently stir up a Spirit of faith, and sheds abroad the love of God in the heart, it is easy to mistake it for a testimony. And that is not the meaning of Paul's words. The Spirit reveals things to us, by opening our eyes to see what is revealed in the word; but the Spirit doth not reveal new truths, not revealed in the word. The Spirit discovers the grace of God in Christ, and thereby draws forth special actings of faith and love, which are evidential; but it doth not work in way of testimony. If God do but help us to receive the revelations in the word, we shall have comfort enough without new revelations."
noting what belongs to him; it being the very design of it, to be the most peculiar stamp and confirmation of the royal authority. It is the great note of distinction, whereby that which proceeds from the king, or belongs to him, may be known from every thing else. And therefore undoubtedly the seal of the great King of heaven and earth enstamped on the beart, is something high and holy in its own nature, some excellent communication from the infinite fountain of divine beauty and glory; and not merely making known a secret fact by revelation or suggestion; which is a sort of influence of the Spirit of God, of which the children of the devil have often been the subjects. The seal of the Spirit is an effect of the Spirit of God on the heart, of which natural men while such, can form no manner of notion. Rev. ii. 17. To him that overcometh will I give to cat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. There is all reason to suppose that what is here spoken of, is the same evidence, or blessed token of special favour, which is elsewhere called the seal of the Spirit.
What has misled many in their notion of that influence of the Spirit of God of which we are speaking, is the word WITNESS, its being called the witness of the Spirit. Hence they have taken it to be not any work of the Spirit upon the heart, giving evidence from whence men may argue that they are the children of God, but an inward immediate suggestion, as though God inwardly spoke to the man, and told him that he was his child, by a kind of secret voice, or impression The manner in which the word witness, or testimony, is often used in the New Testament, viz.— holding forth evidence from whence a thing may be argued and proved to be true. Thus, Heb. ii. 4. God is said to bear witness with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost. Now these miracles, are called God's witness, not because they are of the nature of assertions, but evidences and proofs. So Acts xiv. 3. Long time therefore abode they speaking bolly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. And John v. 36. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. Again, chap. x. 25. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. So the water and the blood are said to bear witness, 1 John, v. 8. not that they asserted any thing, but they were evidences. So God's works of providence, in rain and fruitful seasons, are witnesses of God's being and goodness, i. e. they were evidences of these things. And when the scripture speaks of the seal of the Spirit, it is an expression which proper
ly denotes-not an immediate voice or suggestion, but-some work or effect of the Spirit, left as a divine mark upon the soul, to be an evidence, by which God's children might be known. The seals of princes were their distinguishing marks: and thus the seal of God is his mark, Rev. vii. 3. Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads; Ezek. ix. 4. Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof. When God sets his seal on a man's heart by his Spirit, there is some holy stamp, some image impressed, and left upon the heart by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax. And this holy stamp, or impressed image, exhibiting clear evidence to the conscience, that the subject of it is the child of God, is the very thing which in scripture is called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness, or evidence of the Spirit. And this mark enstamped by the Spirit on God's children, is his own image. That is the evidence by which they are known to be God's children; they have the image of their father stamped upon their hearts by the spirit of adoption. Seals anciently had engraven on them two things, viz. the image, and the name of the person whose seal it was. Therefore when Christ says to his spouse, Cant viii. 6. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: it is as much as to say, let my name and image remain impressed there. The seals of princes, moreover, were wont to bear their image; so that what they set their seal and royal mark upon, had their image left on it. It was their manner also to have their image engraven on their jewels and precious stones; the image of Augustus engraven on a precious stone, was used as the seal of the Roman emperors, in the times of Christ and the apostles*. The saints are the jewels of Jesus Christ, the great Potentate, who possesses the empire of the universe and these jewels have his image enstamped upon them by his royal signet, which is the Holy Spirit. And this is undoubtedly what the scripture means by the seal of the Spirit; especially when it is fair and plain to the eye of conscience; which is what the scripture calls our spirit. This is truly an effect that is spiritual, supernatural and divine. This is in itself of a holy nature, being a communication of the divine nature and beauty. That kind of influence of the Spirit which gives and leaves this stamp upon the heart, is such as no natural man can have. If there were any such thing as a witness of the Spirit by immediate suggestion or revelation, this would be vastly more noble and excellent, and as much above it as the heaven is above the earth. This the devil cannot imitatet.
*See Chamber's Dictionary, under the word ENGRAVING.
+ Mr. Shepard is abundant in militating against the notion of men's knowing