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EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our
spirits, that we are the children of God.
Many have understood this passage of Scripture as implying that the Holy Ghost does produce in the mind of every true Christian a persuasion that his sins are forgiven, or in other words, that he is in a state of favour and acceptance with God; and, in consequence of this doctrine, have refused to acknowledge any one to be a child of God, who was void of this persuasion.
The following considerations may throw some light on this important subject.
1. If this belief of forgiveness, derived solely from an impulse of God's Spirit, be necessary to constitute a man a child of God, then there is a necessity for a new revelation from God, and the Holy Scriptures do not contain all the truths needful for our salvation. Such a persuasion, produced in this manner, is a new declaration from God, that I (William Hey, for instance) am forgiven, which is a fact no where declared in the Bible. The word of God declares, that all who believe in Christ are forgiven ; and if I am conscious that I believe in Christ, I may conclude that I am forgiven: but if the Spirit of God tells me that I am forgiven, independently of any consciousness of my believing, then the Spirit of God makes a new revelation of something which the Bible does not contain. The supposed necessity of this impulse, which some have called the direct witness of the Spirit, certainly implies this conclusion, that the Holy Scriptures do not contain all the truths necessary to our salvation.
2. All that a man is conscious of with respect to this impulse, is, that he finds himself
persuaded that his sins are forgiven. He is not conscious that the Spirit of God works this persuasion ; this is a fact he must reason out, or conclude from some circumstances attending the persuasion. If you ask a reasonable man why he believes that the persuasion which he feels of his forgiveness is the work of God's Spirit, he will tell you, that he finds this persuasion accompanied with love to God and all 'mankind, and a propensity to all holy obedience : and that he therefore concludes this persuasion to be the effect of a divine influence. He will acknowledge, likewise, that he should have just cause to think himself deceived, did he not find this persuasion accompanied with these holy affections.
These things being allowed, it follows, that this supposed impulse of the Spirit is not necessary to our assurance of being in the favour of God. For if I am conscious of holy tempers and affections, the Scriptures assure me that I am a child of God. " He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” I need nothing more than a consciousness of holy affections and actions, and a belief of the Bible to produce an assurance that I am a child of God. This supposed impulse of the Spirit is not therefore necessary for