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9. THE INTERNAL WITNESS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We declare, therefore, and we continue to repeat the declaration, till the gates of hell re-echo the sound, "that the Holy Spirit, by whose inspiration holy men of God have spoken this word, and by whose impulse and guidance they have, as his amanuenses, consigned it to writing; that this Holy Spirit is the author of that light by the aid of which we obtain a perception and an understanding of the divine meanings of the word, and is the Effector of that Certainty by which we believe those meaning to be truly divine; and that He is the necessary Author, the all sufficient Effector." (1.) Scripture demonstrates that He is the necessary Author, when it says, "The things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. ii. 11.) No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor. xii. 3.) (2.) But the Scripture introduced him as the sufficient and the more than sufficient Effector, when it declares, "The wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory, he hath revealed unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Cor. ii. 7, 10.) The sufficiency, therefore, of the Spirit proceeds from the plenitude of his knowledge of the secrets of God, and from the very efficacious revelation which he makes of them. This sufficiency of the Spirit cannot be more highly extolled than it is in a subsequent passage, in which the same apostle most amply commends it, by declaring, "he that is spiritual [a partaker of this revelation,] judgeth all things," (verse 15,) as having the mind of Christ through his Spirit, which he has received. Of the same sufficiency the Apostle St. John is the most illustrious herald. In his general Epistle he writes these words: "But the anointing which ye have received of Him, abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him." (1 John ii. 27.) "He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself." (1 John v. 10.) To the Thessalonians another apostle writes thus: "Our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. (1 Thess. i. 3.) In this passage he openly attributes to the power of the Holy Ghost the Certainty by which the faithful receive the word of the gospel. The Papists reply, "Many persons boast of the revelation of the Spirit, who, nevertheless, are destitute of such a revelation. It is impossible, therefore, for the faithful safely to rest in it." Are these fair words? Away with such blasphemy! If the Jews glory in their Talmud and their Cabala, and the Mahometans in their Alcoran, and if both of these boast themselves that they are Churches, cannot credence therefore be given with sufficient safety to the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, when they affirm their Divine Origin? Will the true Church be any less a Church because the sons of the stranger arrogate that title to themselves? This is the distinction between opinion and knowledge. It is their opinion, that they know that of which they are really ignorant. But they who do know it, have an assured perception of their knowledge. "It is the Spirit that beareth witness that the Spirit is truth" (1 John v. 8,) that is, the doctrine and the meanings comprehended in that doctrine, are truth."
"But that attesting witness of the Spirit which is revealed in us, cannot convince others of the truth of the Divine word." What then? It will convince them when it has also breathed on them: it will breathe its Divine afflatus on them, if they be the sons of the church, all of whom shall be taught of God: every man of them will hear and learn of the Father, and will come unto Christ." (John vi. 45.) Neither can the testimony of any Church convince all men of the truth and divinity of the sacred writings. The Papists, who arrogate to themselves exclusively the title of "the Church," experience the small degree of credit which is given to their testimonies, by those who have not received an afflatus from the spirit of the Roman See.
"But it is necessary that there should be a testimony in the Church of such a high character as to render it imperative on all men to pay it due deference." True. It was the incumbent duty of the Jews to pay deference to the testimony of Christ when he was speaking to them; the Pharisees ought not to have contradicted Stephen in the midst of his discourse; and Jews and Gentiles, without any exception, were bound to yield credence to the preaching of the apostles, confirmed as it was by so many and such astonishing miracles. But the duties here recited, were disregarded by all these parties. What was the reason of this their neglect? The voluntary hardening of their hearts, and that blindness of their minds, which was introduced by the Devil.
If the Papists still contend, that "such a testimony as this ought to exist in the Church, against which no one shall actually offer any contradiction," we deny the assertion. And experience testifies, that a testimony of this kind never yet had an existence, that it does not now exist, and (if we may form our judgment from the scriptures,) we certainly think that it never will exist.
"But perhaps the Holy Ghost, who is the Author and Effector of this testimony, has entered into an engagement with the Church, not to inspire and seal on the minds of men this certainty, except through her, and by the intervention of her authority." The Holy Ghost does, undoubtedly, according to the good pleasure of his own will, make use of some organ or instrument in performing these his offices. But this instrument is the word of God, which is comprehended in the sacred books of scripture; an instrument produced and brought forward by Himself, and instructed in his truth. The Apostle to the Hebrews in a most excellent manner describes the efficacy which is impressed on this instrument by the Holy Spirit, in these words: "For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. iv, 10.) Its effect is called "Faith," by the Apostle. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. x. 7.) If any act of the Church occurs in this place, it is that by which she is occupied in the sincere preaching of this word, and by which she sedulously exercises herself in promoting its publication. But even this is not so properly the occupation of the Church, as of "the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers," whom Christ has constituted his labourers "for the edifying of his body, which is the Church.’" (Ephes. iv. 11.) But we must in this place deduce an observation from the very nature of things in genera], as well as of this thing in particular; it is, that the First Cause can extend much farther by its own action, than it is possible for an instrumental cause to do; and that the Holy Ghost gives to the word all that force which he afterwards employs, such being the great efficacy with which it is endued and applied, that whomsoever he only counsels by his word he himself persuades by imparting Divine meanings to the word, by enlightening the mind as with a lamp, and by inspiring and sealing it by his own immediate action. The Papists pretend, that certain acts are necessary to the production of true faith; and they say that those acts cannot be performed except by the judgment and testimony of the Church—such as to believe that any book is the production of Matthew or Luke—to discern between a Canonical and an Apocryphal verse, and to distinguish between this or that reading, according to the variation in different copies. But, since there is a controversy concerning the weight and necessity of those acts, and since the dispute is no less than how far they may be performed by the Church— lest I should fatigue my most illustrious auditory by two great prolixity, I will omit at present any further mention of these topics; and will by Divine assistance explain them at some future opportunity.
My most illustrious and accomplished hearers, we have already perceived, that both the pages of our sacred Theology are full of God and Christ, and of the Spirit of both of them. If any inquiry be made for the Object, God and Christ by the Spirit are pointed out to us. If we search for the Author, God and Christ by the operation of the Spirit spontaneously occur. If we consider the End proposed, our union with God and Christ offers itself—an end not to be obtained except through the communication of the Spirit. If we inquire concerning the Truth and Certainty of the doctrine; God in Christ, by means of the efficacy of the Holy Ghost, most clearly convinces our minds of the Truth, and in a very powerful manner seals the Certainty on our hearts.
All the glory, therefore, of this revelation is deservedly due to God and Christ in the Holy Spirit: and most deservedly are thanks due from us to them, and must be given to them, through the Holy Ghost, for such an august and necessary benefit as this which they have conferred on us. But we can present to our God and Christ in the Holy Spirit no gratitude more grateful, and can ascribe no glory more glorious, than this, the application of our minds to an assiduous contemplation and a devout meditation on the knowledge of such a noble object. But in our meditations upon it, (to prevent us from straying into the paths of error,) let us betake ourselves to the revelation which has been made of this doctrine. From the word of this revelation alone, let us learn the wisdom of endeavouring, by an ardent desire and in an unwearied course, to attain unto that ultimate design which ought to be our constant aim—that most blessed end of our union with God and Christ. Let us never indulge in any doubts concerning the truth of this revelation; but, "the full assurance of faith being impressed upon our minds and hearts by the inspiration and sealing of the Holy Spirit, let us adhere to this word, "till[at length] we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Ephes. iv. 13.) I most humbly supplicate and intreat God our merciful Father, that he would be pleased to grant this great blessing to us, through the Son of his love, and by the communication of his Holy Spirit. And to him be ascribed all praise, and honour, and glory, forever and ever. Amen.
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