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thereto : hence it appears that the evidence of the Spirit is not any secret inspiration, or any assurance conveyed to the mind, but the evidence of works, such as by the Spirit we perform : hence also, it appears that some go too far on the other side, by denying that any man may know himself to be in a state of grace : for all the children of God are in that state ; and the evidence of the Spirit of God and our own spirit may certain, when they concur, that we are the children of God: if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. But lastly; this certainty does not extend to future and final salvation : for to be in a state of grace, is to be an heir of salvation ; but an heir may be defeated, if by any åfter-act he incapacitate himself to inherit: our certainty reaches to our present condition, which is enough to keep our minds easy : other certainty than this might make us remiss: this may encourage us to run with patience the race that is set before us.
ROMANS, CHAP. VIII.- VERSE 16.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the
children of God.
To be the children of God is the greatest privilege under the gospel, and, consequently, implies in it all the advantages that belong to, and all the qualities necessary to make, a good Christian. Thus our Apostle argues : 'if children, then heirs ; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.' As this is a new state, which belongs not to us by nature, so our entrance into it is styled a new birth; and we are said to be born again,' and ' to be begotten again,' to these hopes : he, from whom we receive these hopes, is the Father that begets us, and his children we are: and therefore, as we receive our spiritual life from the gift and mercy of God, he is our father, and we are his children. Thús St. Peter tells us, • that we are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever :' 1 Pet. i. 23. This new life we receive by the ministration of the Spirit: the powers which belong to this life, and in which it consists, depend on the influences of the Spirit: and therefore we are said “to be born of the Spirit.' He is the earnest of our inheritance, the pledge and security which we receive from God of our future immortality: our right of inheritance depends on the relation we bear to God of sons and children : and therefore the Spirit of adoption, by which we are born to God, is the pledge and security of our inheritance, as he is styled by our Apostle.
But the difficulty is, how to make the first step, and to know assuredly that we are the children of God.
When once we are sure of this, it will not be hard to believe that God will provide for his own children, and secure to them an inheritance that fadeth not away. And here the Apostle tells us, that the
Spirit itself,' that is, the same Spirit by which we are made children, • beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God.' It is matter of great dispute, what sort of evidence the Apostle here means, and what kind of certainty arises from it. Some have placed this evidence among the gifts of the Spirit, and supposed it to be given on purpose to assure the elect of the certainty of their salvation. Others maintain that no man, unless it be specially revealed to him by God, can ever know that he is in a state of security in this life : and this opinion was received and confirmed by the Council of Trent, as may be seen at large in the sixth session. It will not be worth my pains or your patience to enter into the niceties of this controversy; and therefore I shall confine myself to St. Paul, and endeavor to show you his meanmg in the text, which will go a great way towards giving us right notions and apprehensions in this matter. In order to this, I
three things to be considered :
First, How many witnesses St. Paul points out to us in the text, and who they are.
Secondly, What kind of evidence each of them gives in this
Thirdly, What the result of their evidence is, and with what kind of certainty we know that we are the children of God.'
First, We are to consider how many witnesses St. Paul points out to us in the text, and who they are. As our translators have represented St. Paul's meaning, there is no room for dispute concerning the number of the witnesses, which are evidently two : 'the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit :' the Spirit itself, that is, the Spirit of adoption, which Christians receive, is one witness; and our own spirit is the other witness. But the vulgar Latin, and several other translators, render the words to this effect: the Spirit itself beareth witness to our spirit.' According to this sense, which is maintained by Grotius and Crellius, and some others, there is but one witness, the Spirit of adoption, who bears evidence to our spirit. But the words in the original evidently imply the sense which our translators follow: Αυτό το Πνεύμα συμμαρτυρεί τω πνεύματι pār. Suyuaprupeiv signifies to be a fellow-witness, or to witness the same thing that another does : and so the word constantly
signifies in Scripture, and is never used but where there is a concurrent evidence of two witnesses. We meet with the same word in Rom. ii. 15. • which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.? And to this place Grotius sends us, to show that the word is used of one single witness only; as here the conscience only is said to bear witness. But a little attention will show us in this place another witness : the Apostle proves from the evidence of conscience, that the Gentiles had the work or matter of the law written in their hearts: the law testifies to men what is good and what is evil : if conscience testifies the same thing to be good and just which the law does, then conscience proves the matter of the law to be written in the heart; if it testifies any thing else, so be it : but no other evidence will prove the Apostle's assertion, that the Gentiles have the work of the law written in their heart. And therefore the Apostle's argument stands thus : the Gentiles show the work of the law to be writ. ten in their heart by the testimony of their conscience, which agrees with the testimony of the law; their conscience and the law both allowing and forbidding the same thing. So that the Apostle's argument plainly supposes the concurrent evidence of the law and of conscience. And therefore, even here the word ouuuaprupeiv points out two witnesses to us. The
ame word is used by St. Paul in the first verse of the ninth chapter of the Romans : 6 I
the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness,' auppaproposons uou. But here evi
, συμμαρτυρούσης μοι. dently are two witnesses to the same thing. When a man does not speak the truth, it is certain that he witnesses one thing, and his conscience witnesses another, and are therefore two distinct witnesses : so are they likewise when a man speaks truth; for the same evidence will not make two witnesses to be one witness. And therefore here also there are two witnesses; St. Paul, who witnessed his affection to his countrymen; and his conscience, which witnessed for his sincerity. The word is used but once more in the New Testament, and that is in the last chapter of the Revelations ;* and there it is used with
* Griesbach however has in this instance altered the text, and substituted μαρτυρώ for συμμαρτυρούμαι. Ed.
respect to a testimony, in which Christ, and his Angel whom he sent to the churches, and even St. John, were concerned. So that the word is every where used of the concurrent evidence of two or more witnesses. And this being the constant use of the word, there can be no reason given why it should not be taken in the same sense here, and rendered, “The Spirit itself beareth witness,' not “to, but with,' or ' together with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Here then are two witnesses; and who they are is next to be considered. Who the first Spirit is, must be learnt from what goes
before. In the second verse of this chapter we read of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which hath made us free from the law of sin and of death :' in the ninth verse he is called “the Spirit of God and of Christ;' in the eleventh verse, “the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead ;' in the fifteenth verse, • the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry Abba, Father.' In the verse of the text reference is had to this Spirit: “the Spirit itself, that is, the Spirit which has made us free in Christ Jesus, the Spirit by which we have received adoption, does itself bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. But the question then is, whether Spirit in all these places be the name of a person, or whether it denotes only a quality and temper belonging to Christians; so that the Spirit of Christ shall signify no more than the mind of Christ does in another place, “Let the same mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus;' that is, the same temper and disposition. This sense Crellius maintains, and others after him; and thus he explains the text: our evangelical spirit, that is, as he explains himself in another place, our evangelical temper, is a sufficient argument to our own minds that we are the children of God. I mean not to dispute this point with Crellius and his brethren, the Socinians; which would be to run into a great controversy : but since the Spirit of Christ may and does sometimes signify both
ways, I shall endeavor to point out to such as have no private prejudices to be maintained, which sense is here to be followed. First then, this Spirit is the Spirit of life, by which we are made free; that is, by which we are regenerated in Christ Jesus, and set at liberty from the heavy yoke of sin, which the Apostle had been describing in the foregoing chapter. Now, an evangelical temper is not the cause, but the conse