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butes, and uniform in the methods of his government, the experience of his present goodness is the firmest ground of future hope. But of the reality of that improved state of sentiment and manners from which the merciful interposition of God's Spirit is inferred, every man's own spirit, that is, his conscience, is the judge; and the judgment of conscience must be taken from the sensible effects of godly dispositions and a holy life.
But is this all? Is the believer's assurance of his sanctification nothing more at last than an inference of his own mind from the favourable testimony of his conscience? This is indeed the case. Yet this assurance is no inconsiderable thing; for the inference is certain and infallible. "Beloved," says St. John, “if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God." And the rule by which the heart must judge is this: "He that practiseth righteousness is righteous, in like manner as he, that is as Christ, is righteous." And "every one that practiseth righteousness is born of him." And to the same purpose our Lord himself:-" If any one love me, he will keep my word and the Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Thus, you see, he that keeps Christ's commandments is in the love of Christ and of the Father: he that doeth righteousness is born of God: he that is absolved by his conscience may be confident God absolves him. And yet St. Paul assures us, that he "who has not the spirit of Christ is none of his." And St. John, that the evidence that we are in his love and under the protection of his providence is, "that he has given us of his own Spirit." In these texts the very same things are denied of him who shall be without the
Spirit, which, in those before alleged, are affirmed of him whose conscience shall be pure. Evidently, therefore, the connection is necessary and constant between a good life and a regenerate mind; and where there is a conscience void of offence, there is the sanctifying Spirit of the Lord.
Many, it is true, pretend to something more than this, and speak of the action of the Holy Ghost upon their minds as something of which they have an immediate and distinct perception independent of the testimony of conscience; and they describe it as something that they know by what they feel to be the internal operation of the Spirit. This is, indeed, a bewitching doctrine, which may easily steal upon the unwary, upon men of a sanguine temper and a weak judgment, because it seems to open a new source of comfort. But this persuasion is not of Him that calleth us. It is visionary and vain. We have the express declaration of Him who alone has a perfect understanding of man's nature and of God's, and who alone, therefore, understands the manner in which the Divine Spirit acts on man's; -- we have the express declaration of Him who sends the Spirit into the hearts of his disciples, that its operation is no otherwise to be perceived than in its effects. He compares it to the cause of those currents of the atmosphere of which the effects are manifest and notorious, though the first efficient is what no sense discerns, and the manner of its operation what no philosophy can explain:-"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit."
Lord, stand for a perception of the Spirit independent of conscience, it is to be supposed are little aware that no greater certainty of the Spirit's operation would arise from the feelings they describe, were it real, than conscience may afford without it. For of the reality of this feeling, could we suppose it real, conscience still must be the judge, because conscience is the seat of all internal perception. Conscience is the faculty whereby the mind, in every moment of its existence, perceives itself, with every thing that either naturally belongs, or for the present time is incident to its being and condition; its present thoughts, its present designs, its present hopes, fears, likings, and aversions. Of these or any other circumstances of its present state, of any thing itself may do, or of any thing which may be done to it,-the mind can have no feeling but by this faculty. Whatever may excite or impress the feeling, conscience is the place, if the expression may be allowed, where it must be felt. A perception, therefore, of the mind of any thing done to itself, distinct from the perceptions of the conscience, is no less an absurdity, in the very first conception, than an object that should be seen without meeting the eye, or a sound that should be heard without striking on the ear. It is something to be internally perceived otherwise than by the faculty of internal perception. And it is in vain to allege God's power for the production of such feelings, because no power can effect impossibilities. If, therefore, that internal feeling, to which enthusiasts pretend, were real, it would, indeed, be a new matter of employment for the conscience; but it would add nothing to the security of our present condition, or to the certainty of our distant hopes. For, consider how the case
stands without these feelings. Conscience attesting that the life is innocent and the heart sincere, Faith draws the conclusion that this upright heart and blameless conduct is the work of the Holy Spirit of God. And thus, in the sensible effect of a reformed life and regenerate mind, it discovers a token of God's present favour. Consider, on the other hand, how far the case will be altered by the supposition of an internal feeling of the Holy Spirit's influence. All that could be felt would be the effect, an impression on the mind. This impression the conscience alone could feel. That this impression felt in the conscience should be from God's Spirit rather than from any other agent, would still be a conclusion to be made by faith. And by what sign or token could faith discern between the Divine Spirit and another, but by those good works which the Divine Spirit claims as his proper and his constant fruits? You see, therefore, that the accession of these pretended internal feelings would neither change the ground nor improve the certainty of the Christian's hope. The ground of his hope would remain what it has been shown to be without them, — the conclusions of faith from the testimony of conscience. Only this difference is to be observed between the fictitious and the real case, that no internal feeling, other than the consciousness of good qualities, and holy habits, and dispositions, could be interpreted by a true and unenlightened faith as a part of the Spirit's sanctifying influence. Because, the express doctrine of the Gospel being what it is, it is no less the part of a true faith to disbelieve the reality of any immediate perception of the mysterious intercourse between God's Spirit and the human soul, than to embrace, with all thankfulness,
the belief of a constant unperceived communion. For the one is denied by the very same authority by which the other is asserted. And to disbelieve what Christ hath denied, no less than to believe what he hath af firmed, is an essential part of the faith in Christ.
If I have delivered myself with the perspicuity at which I have aimed, you will be sensible that we neither abolish nor weaken the testimony of the Spirit by bringing it to rest upon the testimony of conscience. This does by no means reduce the hopes of the Christian to what they might be, if the testimony of the Spirit were removed. To perceive this the more clearly, make the supposition for a moment, that the doctrine of the Gospel being in all other points exactly what it is, this article of the Spirit's general and ordinary influence had been kept entirely out of sight; there is no absurdity in supposing that God might have acted just as we are taught he does upon the hearts of the faithful, although man had never been made acquainted with this wonderful part of the scheme of his salvation. And, notwithstanding his ignorance in this particular, the good Christian would still have found in the favourable testimony of his conscience a solid ground of future hope. But this hope, though, perhaps, not less firm, must have been by many degrees less vigorous and animating than that which he now derives from the belief of the Holy Spirit's constant operation on his heart. For on the supposition of his ignorance upon this point, his conclusion concerning his own future condition must have been drawn from a persuasion of the truth of God's general promises, to all persons of that reformed character, which he might understand to be his own. Whereas, with the knowledge that he