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Book 3 - Chapter 11: Of the Spirit of Adoption - by Herman Witsius

The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)

Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).

Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.

This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.

Chapter XI: Of the Spirit of Adoption

I. HAVING thus explained the nature of adoption, as far as our design required, we are now carefully to inquire what the Spirit of adoption is: and this is the Holy Spirit, operating those things in the elect which are suitable to and becoming the sons of God, who love God, and are beloved by him.

II. This spirit differs from the spirit of bondage in this, that the spirit of bondage represents God as an austere master and a tremendous judge; hence it is that they, who are actuated by this spirit, in so for as they act thereby, perform the commands of their master from dread and terror. But the Spirit of adoption discovers God to the believing soul, as a kind and indulgent Father, and, by giving him assurance of the love of God, and sweetly cherishing the hope of the future inheritance, makes him, with alacrity and generous emotions of a filial reverence, willingly obey God, as an affectionate parent.

III. Moreover, seeing all believers were sons of God in every period of time; we may with propriety assert, that the Spirit of adoption was granted to them all in their measure and degree. For certainly what Paul says, Gal. 4:6. “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts,” and Rom. 8:9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” is true of all periods. All who are regenerated, are born of the Spirit, John 3:5, 6, 8. From the Spirit proceedeth faith, Gal. 5:22, by which they obtained εξουσία, a right, to become the sons of God. And if they had any degree of love, righteousness, peace, holiness, and the like, without which true faith cannot subsist, they could have them from no other but the Spirit. And as the Spirit they had was, doubtless, such as became their state; and they themselves were the adopted sons of God; why then should we not call it the Spirit of adoption?

IV. We more than once read in the Old Testament of that Spirit, as bestowed on believers at that time: such was that generous spirit in Caleb, which made him follow God fully, Numbers 14:24. Such that, concerning whom Nehemiah said, chap. 9:20, “Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them;” which we are to understand of the elect among the Israelites, in that perverse generation. Such was that, which David prayed might be given him, Psa. 143:10, “Thy Spirit is good, lead me into the land of uprightness;” and Psa. 51:10–12, “Renew a right spirit within me; take not thy Holy Spirit from me; uphold me with thy free spirit.” In short, as God said to Israel of old, “surely they are my people, children that will not lie:” so also, “he put his holy Spirit within them,” Isa. 63:8, 11.

V. Moreover, the operations of this Spirit may be considered either absolutely in themselves, or in relation to the distinct economies of the several periods. What the Spirit of adoption operates indiscriminately in the sons of God, are principally these things. As God has, ever since the very first sin of our first parents, proposed his gracious covenant, the summary whereof was, in all ages, handed down by the instruction of the patriarchs; it was a part of the office of the Spirit of adoption to stir up, and lead by the hand, the minds of believers to the knowledge, meditation, and apprehending of that saving grace; to intimate to the soul the things externally handed down by the tradition of the oracles, vouchsafed to the patriarchs and prophets, and thus impart some relish of divine love, first more sparingly, afterwards more abundantly. By this means, that horror or dread is banished, which the thunders of the law, a consciousness of guilt, and the just apprehension of divine vengeance had begot in the soul.

VI. While the Spirit does this, he by the same work inflames the hearts of the children of God, with returns of love; whereby they yield obedience to God, not any longer from a fear of punishment, but from a pure and sincere affection, and a generous reverence for their most beloved Father, and that with willingness, and alacrity, as becomes children of such an extraction; with a denial of their own will, and a diligent care to do nothing unworthy of that glorious condition.

VII. Besides this, the Spirit likewise presents to their view the promised inheritance, and confirms them in the expectation of it, by the word and sacraments, whose moral efficacy, as it is called, he accompanies with a supernatural, internal, and operative virtue; and gives them the enjoyment of it in hope: nay, sometimes he raises them on high, so that, by removing the veil, and drawing up the curtain, he in some measure, gives them a view of those good things, which are laid up for them in the heavenly country, whereby, with gladness and exultation, they “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” Rom. 5:2.

VIII. These three things are the natural consequences of adoption. 1st, a persuasion of the greatest love of the adopter. 2dly, An obedience of love, agreeably to the laws of the family, into which the adopted is received, and to the nature and will of the new parent. 3dly, An expectation of the inheritance. The Spirit, therefore, who produces these things in the elect, is justly called the Spirit of adoption.

IX. The ancient believers had all these things; though God, in his wisdom, appointed degrees and limits, as the times required. Their soul exulted in the Lord, Psa. 4:7: they delighted themselves in the faith, hope, sense, and relish of divine love, Psa. 31:7, Psa. 51:14, Psa. 36:7–9, Psa. 63:5, [סוד אלוה the familiar converse] the secret of God was in (or upon) their tabernacles.” Job 29:4. They also loved God as their Father, Psa. 18:1, Psa. 116:1, and from love yielded obedience to him, Psa. 119:10, with readiness and delight in his commandments, Psa. 119:9, 11, 14, 16. They comforted themselves in adversity with the unfailing expectation of a blessed inheritance, Psa. 17:15. Which, though at a distance, yet God presented to their view, and gave them initial prelibations of, Psa. 31:19. As all these things follow upon adoption, and ought to be ascribed to the Spirit, they make it evident that the Spirit of adoption is, by no means, to be reckoned a peculiar benefit of the New Testament, as if the Old Testament believers were destitute of it; Paul himself expressly asserts, that “the same Spirit of faith,” by which we speak (which, certainly, is the Spirit of adoption) “was also in the fathers,” 2 Cor. 4:13.

X. However, it is not to be denied, that those operations of this free and noble Spirit, were of old, more rare and sparing than afterwards, and mixed with much terror. The legal economy was then in its vigour: as the covenant of grace was revealed more obscurely, and in much enigmatical darkness, so likewise it was not intimated to the conscience with such evidence of demonstration: a hand-writing, in the meantime, was also required to be renewed by the blood of daily sacrifices, as by so many subscriptions; a thirst after better promises was raised, though not yet to be quenched: by these means, those noble operations of the Spirit were so clouded in most, that, in comparison of the joyful abundance under the New Testament, the Spirit is said, John 7:39, not to have been under the Old. This is not to be understood in such a restricted sense, as to make us imagine, that the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, poured out on the day of Pentecost, are here only intended. For something is promised which is common to all believers in Christ, and which is said not to have been, before Christ was glorified. But what is that? It is the full and illustrious exhibition of the Spirit, which Christ deferred, till he took solemn possession of his kingdom, and which appeared in those visible gifts, as in so many mirrors, which is also to be extended to the gracious fruits of adoption: as Calvin has well observed on this place.

XI. And indeed, we often find in Scripture, that the Holy Spirit is so promised to the New Testament, as if there was no such thing under the Old, Isa. 35:6, 7, and 44:3, Ezek. 34:26, 27, Joel 2:28, Zech. 14:8, compared with Ezek. 47:1. All which things belong to the times of the Messiah’s kingdom, now manifested in the world. To this also we are to refer what John the Baptist said of Christ, Matt. 3:11, that he would baptize the children of Abraham with the Holy Ghost and with fire. For seeing the Baptist speaks this not to the apostles, but to the Jews that flocked to hear him; that miraculous effusion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, which our Lord himself calls “a baptism,” seems not to be exclusively denoted, but also that sanctifying grace of the Spirit, which had, and exerted a fiery efficacy on the hearts of believers, by penetrating, illuminating, setting on fire, purging, separating the dross from the pure gold, or the precious from the vile, and by elevating and transforming the object inflamed into its own nature: and with this passage it seems we should by all means compare what is said, Isa. 4:4, “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” Moreover, that extraordinary work which was wrought in the apostles contained the first-fruits and earnest of the fulfilment of the general promises concerning the Spirit, as appears from the application of the prophecy of Joel, and Peter’s explication of it, Acts 2:28, 39. Chrysostom therefore observes well, Homil. 11, that John, by this expression, signified the abundance, the vehemence, and the irresistibleness of grace.

XII. As these things were promised, so they were also fulfilled under the New Testament. For the Spirit of God then produced a clearer manifestation of the covenant of grace, a higher sense of divine love, a more delightful freedom of the kingdom of God, a more confident boldness, more abundant consolations, a stronger assurance, more spiritual holiness, and who can pretend to recite all? This will appear, if we make a just comparison of heroes with heroes, and of more ordinary believers with others of the same kind; according to the prophecy of Zech. 12:8. See Tit. 3:5, 6.

XIII. Meanwhile, we are to observe, that, in the beginning of the New Testament, God distributed much more plentifully to believers, than afterwards. Certainly, nothing can be spoken with greater pomp of language, than what Paul often declared concerning himself and other believers in his day. For, as to consolation, and tranquillity of soul, what can be more excellent, than what he assured the Philippians, even peace which passeth all understanding, Phil. 4:7. Agreeable to this is what Peter writes: that they who love Christ and believe in him, rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorious, full of glory. 1 Pet. 1:8. And what John also says, that perfect love, such as is produced by the gospel, casteth out all fear, 1 John 4:18. And really it seems evident, that in a peace so noble and serene, in a joy almost so incredible, there can be no room for any unruly passion, fear, or trembling.

XIV. And then, the apostle gives such excellent encomiums of their holiness, as may be judged very far to transcend the measure of our days: when he thus declares concerning himself, that he was crucified with Christ, that he did no longer live, but Christ lived in him; as if his spirit and life, like that of an inferior order, were swallowed up in the more illustrious spirit and life of Christ, as the sun in the heavens extinguishes the light of the stars; and all the life he lived flowed from no other principle, but the faith and love of the Son of God. Gal. 2:20. Nay, he openly declares his contempt of all the things which other men so highly value, and that he prizes Christ alone; and that, forgetting the things which are behind, he presses forwards with a large pace and a most speedy course to perfection, Phil. 3:7, 8, 14. Who of us will deny that he does not come far short of these high attainments?

XV. The apostle every where openly professed an incredible hope and assurance of the future inheritance: and he undoubtedly describes his assurance, towards the close of the eighth chapter to the Romans, in such magnificent language, that nothing more emphatically strong can be conceived. Let that animated exultation in the Lord be attentively read, and we shall see, that it sets forth, in an extraordinary pomp of words, the immense abundance of the Spirit inhabiting his noble breast, and the sparkling flames of the love of God kindling in his heart. He also clearly displays his hope, 2 Cor. 5:1, 2. 2 Tim. 4:8. Phil. 1:23, whereby he was so far from fearing death, at the mention of which most people are ready to tremble for fear, that, on the contrary, he embraced it with open arms, and longed to be dissolved, that he might have the more full enjoyment of Christ.

XVI. Indeed, if any one shall compare these magnificent expressions, with what is observed among believers at this day, he will be obliged to own, that they come far short of that eminence and excellence; they are so mean, poor, and fading in comparison of these unparalleled expressions, which with astonishment we admire in the apostle. But doubtless the Spirit bloweth when, how, and where he listeth: it does not become us to set bounds to him. In the beginning of the gospel God showed what he can do, and what on the other hand he will do when he shall restore life, as it were, from the dead, Rom. 11:15. Ἐξεχʼ ἒξεχ Σὠ φίλ ἥλιε· “arise, arise, thou charming friendly sun.”

XVII. To this Spirit the apostle principally ascribes two effects, Rom. 8:15, 16; the former of which is, the making us cry, “Abba, Father;” the latter, that, “together with our Spirit, itself beareth witness, that we are the children of God:” and as these two things contain the highest consolation, it will not be improper to explain them with all the accuracy we are able.

XVIII. The Holy Spirit is never idle, where he is; there the heart “רחש דבר טוב brings forth a good speech,” Psa. 45:1. The Spirit is that mystical new wine, which “makes the virgins cheerful (eloquent),” Zech. 9:17; “and causeth the lips of those that are asleep to speak,” Cant. 7:9. They who have the Spirit of faith, “as they believe, so they speak,” 2 Cor. 4:13.

XIX. Nor do they only speak, muttering like the ventriloquists, who speak from the belly, or like those who scarce speak out what they have conceived in their mind, fear having restrained their faltering tongue; but they confidently cry out with a loud voice. Nor is it in vain that the apostle, both here and Gal. 4:6, uses the term crying. It denotes that boldness, freedom, and courage with which we are commanded to approach the throne of grace, Heb. 4:16, and present our requests there.

XX. But what does he principally teach us to cry? “Abba, Father!” Servants and hand-maids of old were not suffered to call their masters by the name of Father, as the very learned Selden, de Successionibus, c. 4 has shown from the law of the Hebrews. But the servants and hand-maids of God, both under the Old and New Testament, are allowed this privilege; as was shown above from Isa. 63:16, Job 34:36. To which I now add Isa. 64:1, and Jer. 3:4. When Christ commanded his disciples to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” he used an expression well known to, and very common among, the Jews. Thus Maimonides in Tephilloth: “אבינו שבשמים, our Father, who art in heaven, so deal with us as thou hast promised by the prophets.”

XXI. And the doubling of words, “Abba, Father!” both here and in the Epistle to the Galatians, is very emphatical. The former being of Hebrew, and the latter of a Greek original. Did not the apostle, by this, intend to teach us, that, under the influence of the Spirit, God was now to be called Father by believers of whatever nation, or in whatever language? For the reason of this repetition seems here to be different from that in Mark 14:36; where we have a summary of Christ’s prayers, and the latter may be imagined to be added by Mark, as an explanation of the former. For Christ spoke not in Greek, as Paul wrote in that language. The observation of the celebrated Lightfoot, on Mark 14:36, is worth mentioning: that though אבי Abbi may, indeed, denote, not only a natural, but also a civil father, as an elder, a lord, or master, a teacher, a magistrate; yet אבא Abba, only a natural or adopting father. For the proof of this he gives us a great number of examples. Thus, therefore, Christ calls God Abba in the strongest sense; and believers also, according to their condition.

XXII. Unless we rather say, that this repetition of the word is an evidence that the appellation was pleasant and familiar. For ἅππα Appa, which differs not much from Abba, was not in that sense unknown even to the Greeks. Thus Callimachus, in his hymn to Diana, brings her in as a little girl playing in the bosom and arms of her father Jupiter, and calling him in a familiar and enticing manner Appa. Hence also Abare, which in Ausonius stands for ἀδελφίζειν, and signifies to address one in a kind manner, as one brother does another. See what Ludov. Capellus has learnedly collected to this purpose, in his Spicilegium on Mark 14:36.

XXIII. Nor does this appellation consist in bare words, as if we flattered God only with our lips: but if we are really partakers of adoption, it shows that there is faith, and the full assurance of it, in the heart. And, by making a profession of it, we honour God, and celebrate the glory of his grace, whereby he hath raised us, the most unworthy of mortals, to such a high degree of honour. We also profess, that we pray in faith, and expect from him, what children ought to expect from a most indulgent father. And at the same time, by calling him father we bind ourselves to an obedience, a reverence, and a love becoming such a father. And therefore, when the apostle says, that by the Spirit, we cry Abba, Father! he thereby teacheth us, that this Spirit is the author of faith, boldness, confession, piety, and sincere obedience.

XXIV. But let us now consider the other effect of the Spirit, which, according to the apostle, consists in this that he “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Here we have two witnesses, agreeing in one testimony: the one of a lower rank, our spirit; the other of the highest, the Spirit of adoption, who is the Spirit of the Son of God, Gal. 4:6. Both may be well qualified for this, but each in his own measure, degree, and order.

XXV. By our spirit is understood, the mind and conscience of every believer, whereby he may be conscious of what passes in his own heart. In this sense the apostle said, “what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” 1 Cor. 2:11. It is otherwise called “the heart of man, condemning or acquitting him.” 1 John 3:20, 21; or “συνειδησις συμμαρτυροῦσα, conscience joining to bear witness, and thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another,” Rom. 2:15.

XXVI. The testimony of our spirit consists in an exact representation of our state by certain marks, and a full assurance of faith, which is followed by a most quiet tranquillity of soul, and a joy unspeakable. For as the spirit which beareth witness, and the man to whom he does so, are in effect all one, no other testimony needs here be thought of, than the composure of the soul which, by infallible marks, is conscious of its own happiness. Accordingly our apostle, when he would tell us he was fully persuaded that he spoke in sincerity, affirms that his “conscience bears him witness,” Rom. 9:1: whose witness can be no other than a representation of the truth plainly perceived by it.

XXVII. It is, indeed, very requisite, that this testimony, which is given of an affair of the greatest moment, be solid and well-grounded. We are therefore above all to attend to two things. First, it is necessary, that our spirit be very exactly instructed from the word of God, about the marks, by which a child of God may be known and distinguished. The word of God alone is the silver, seven times purified and refined. By this rule we are both to think and speak of the things that relate to salvation: all the dictates of our spirit are to be tried by it, neither must we admit any thing as worthy of credit in the matters of salvation, which does not, in the exactest manner, agree therewith. Then, a most careful self-examination should be added, whether we have the marks which God has given of his children in the Scripture.

XXVIII. The marks of the children of God are of two kinds. First, a certain good habit or disposition of soul, with the consistent tenour of a pious life: then, peculiar acts of God towards his beloved people, which he vouchsafes only to those whom he loves as a father.

XXIX. The marks of the former kind are such as these: 1st. The impression and expression of the divine image, with a holy conformity to our father and elder brother. For what is more natural, than for a son to resemble his father, and one brother be like another? As, therefore, the natural Son of God is “the brightness of the Father’s glory,” Heb. 1:3; it is fit that we, in our order and measure, be so too. As corrupt Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image,” Gen. 5:3; so likewise when God begets children, he forms them in his own likeness, “in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph. 4:24. And, indeed, this likeness of God is gradually perfected by familiar intercourse with him; till, having obtained that adoption, of which the apostle speaks Rom. 8:23, we are become perfectly like him, 1 John 3:2.

XXX. 2dly, A new life, that is worthy of God, and the effect of the Spirit of adoption, who is “the Spirit of life,” Rom. 8:2. As is the spirit of the creatures, so is their life. The natural man has not a more noble spirit, nor a more excellent principle of life than his soul: consequently he only lives an animal or soul-like life. But as the children of God are endowed with that free spirit, Psa. 51:12, who is the Spirit of Christ, Gal. 4:6, so in their measure they live, as Christ formerly lived, imitating his example and pattern to the utmost of their power; that what Christ declared in the highest degree of himself, may in some measure be applied to them, “the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doth the Son likewise,” John 5:19. Paul’s exhortation is excellent, Eph. 5:1, “Be ye followers of God as dear children.”

XXXI. 3dly, A true and sincere love of God. Even nature teacheth this. For what genuine son doth not love his father? This law is not only written, but born with us. And this love arises, partly from the consideration of the most amiable perfections of God, which his children are admitted to contemplate in a familiar way, seeing the king in his beauty, Isa. 33:17, Psa. 63:2. Partly, from the rays of the divine love reflected upon them, whereby they cannot but be inflamed, 1 John 4:19. They never attentively reflect on this love, but they look upon the whole capacity of their soul, as insufficient to make due returns of love.

XXXII. 4thly. A filial fear and obedience, Mal. 1:6, 1 Peter 1:17, flowing from the before-mentioned love, which forbids them to do any thing that may displease God, and cannot bear to see his honour impaired by any other, Psa. 42:3, 10. On the contrary, it makes the person cheerful and ready in all the duties of religion, John 14:21, does not suffer him to be at rest, if haply by any ill-advised conduct he should provoke God, and be deprived of the sight of his blessed and gracious face as formerly. In fine, this constrains him to fall down in profound reverence at the feet of his father, and, with sorrow and tears plead for the pardon of his offences, and promise a more careful observance for the future, Luke 7:38.

XXXIII. 5thly, Unfeigned brotherly love, which he entertains for all those in whom he observes the image of God, and a participation of the same grace with himself. As that natural affection of Joseph for his brother Benjamin discovered itself by the most evident tokens, Gen. 45:14, 15, so likewise, while other marks are often indiscernable, this brotherly love gives to the doubting soul an evidence of its state, 1 John 3:14: for the love of the brethren cannot be separated from the love of God. Whoever loves the original will also love the copy: whoever loves God, will also love him who belongs to God, and in whom he observes the virtues of God, and whom he believes to be loved by God, 1 John 4:20. Our spirit ought to be well assured of these things before it can testify any thing about our state; and likewise to know, that all these things are to be found with the sons of God, and with them only, as the effects of the regenerating Spirit.

XXXIV. But besides, there are some special acts of divine love, which God vouchsafes only to his own children. “The Lord, indeed, is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works,” Psa. 145:9. But he reserves a certain peculiar and unparalleled goodness for his elect, of which the Psalmist says, Psa. 73:1, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart”. Hence it is, that while they are sometimes ravished on high by his Spirit, he surrounds them with the beams of his super-celestial light, gives them a view of his face, shining with the brightest love, kisses them with the kisses of his mouth, admits them to the most endearing, mutual intercourse of mystical love with himself, and, while he plentifully sheds abroad his love in their hearts, he gives them to drink of rivers of honey and butter, and that often in the greatest drought of the parched soul, when expecting no such thing. There are many more mysteries in this secret intercourse with our heavenly Father, which believers sometimes see, taste, and feel, and which no pen of the learned can represent as they deserve. And it is not fit that the spirit of man should be unacquainted with these things, since it is admitted as a witness of his state: for though this is not the lot of all the children of God, nor the case at all times, nor indeed frequently, yet they, whose lot it has at any time been, are certainly the children of God.

XXXV. After our spirit is well instructed about all these things, it is further necessary it make a strict scrutiny concerning itself, and, as under the eye of an omniscient God, diligently search every particular without dissimulation or disguise, to see whether these things which we said were the marks or characteristics of the children of God, are to be found in us: as also whether, at any time, we have experienced, in prayer or other exercises of devotion, the peculiar favour of the most gracious God, exciting, inflaming, comforting, and carrying heavenwards our otherwise dull and drowsy hearts. For when our spirit discovers these things by evident indications, then it confidently testifies that we are the children of God, represents that truth to our minds, and gives us to know it, and enable us to say, “this I know, for God is for me,” Psa. 56:9.

XXXVI. These things, indeed, tend greatly to the consolation of God’s children; but when, both by Scripture and experience, they know that our heart is deceitful, and that they are assured by the wisest of kings, that “he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool,” Prov. 28:26; and as there is nothing in which they would less wish to be deceived than in this, which of all others is of the greatest moment: then at length they entirely acquiesce, when to the testimony of their own spirit is superadded that of the Spirit of God. This is what David wrestled for by earnest prayer with God. Psa. 35:3, “Say unto my soul thou art my salvation”.

XXXVII. That testimony is given principally in this manner: First, the Spirit of God makes those holy habits, which, we said, were the distinguishing marks of the children of God, and which at times are often involved in much darkness, and covered with much rubbish and filth, to shine with clearness in their soul, and, as it were, readily present themselves to the contemplation of the mind, when examining itself; and then excites our spirit, otherwise ready to faint, to the diligent observation of the things in our mind, both transacted in and by it; enlightens the eyes of the understanding with supernatural light, to prevent our being deceived by what is specious rather than solid, or our overlooking those things, on the observation of which our consolation depends. There is, moreover, a certain internal impulse, which no human language can explain, immediately assuring God’s beloved people of their adoption, no less than if they were carried up to the third heavens, and had heard it audibly from God’s own mouth, as the apostles formerly heard in the holy mount, “a voice from the excellent glory,” 2 Pet. 1:17. Lastly, Seeing no testimony is stronger than that which is proved by facts, the Spirit of God does not leave himself without witness in that respect; for he excites generous motions and the sweetest raptures in believers, and delights them with consolations so ravishing and ecstatical, and even exceeding all thought, that they cannot consider them in any other light than as so many testimonies of their adoption.

XXXVIII. Nor is there any reason to apprehend the children of God will, in this case, suffer themselves to be imposed upon, or admit, for a testimony of the Holy Spirit, what is a lie and mere illusion of the deceiving spirit. For in this voice of the Spirit of God, there is so much clearness, majesty, and efficacy, whereby it penetrates, with an irresistible power, into the bottom and inmost recess of the heart, that they who have been accustomed to that voice, can easily distinguish it from all others. The world, certainly, cannot receive this Spirit, “seeth him not, neither knoweth him,” John 14:17: but Christ’s sheep know the voice of their shepherd, John 10:4. And when it sounds, not so much in their ears as in their hearts, they joyfully exclaim, “This is the voice of my beloved, behold! he cometh,” Cant. 2:8. As formerly, in extraordinary appearances, God gave such clear indications of his majesty to the prophets, as to leave no room for doubt; so, in like manner, the Spirit, the comforter, irradiates the minds of the elect with such beams of light, that they can easily distinguish him from the spirit of darkness. But, as the proper sound of any voice cannot be distinguished but by the hearing of it, so these things are only to be learned by experience.

XXXIX. But the spirit of God does not usually comfort the elect with such glad tidings, unless their hearts are first broken by a long-continued acknowledgment of their sins, and a deep sense of their misery, Isa. 61:1, 3, and 57:15, 18. Generally a boisterous wind goes before the rending of mountains, and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord, and an earthquake and a fire before the still small voice is heard, 1 Kings 19:12. This balm is poured only into the broken heart, Psa. 51:8.

XL. And the souls of the elect are never refreshed with the sweet consolation of the Spirit, but they are, at the same time, inflamed with the love of God, and excited to the vigorous exercise of strict religion. The same Spirit, who is the comforter, is also, by the same act, the sanctifier, Psa. 51:12, 13. Nor can it be otherwise. When the soul is assured, by the Spirit himself, of the infinite love of God towards him, he bursts out into a flame of mutual love, breaking out into the warmest thanksgivings, saying, “Lord, hast thou honoured me in a manner so extraordinary and undeserved, that thou takest me for thy son? Hast thou thyself declared this so familiarly unto me, by shedding abroad thy love in my heart by the Holy Spirit, which thou hast given me? and shall I not love, worship, honour, and obey thee to the utmost of my power? O! that I was emptied of every thing else, that I might be filled only with thy love!” And this is an undoubted token of the Holy Spirit, when the man, who rejoices in soul, is, at the same time, become more ardent in love to God, and more cheerful in his worship. The spirit of the flesh and of hell, with its deceitful allurements, has ends exceedingly different from this.

XLI. We have, indeed, in a very imperfect manner, delivered these things on this mystical subject, which is the marrow of internal Christianity; which that the Holy Spirit himself may inwardly teach those who are consecrated to God, and exhibit to their eyes, ears, and taste, we ardently pray. So be it Lord Jesus! AMEN.

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Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind