Edwards, Religious Affections, in Works, 3:83-91, says the witness of the Spirit is not a new word or suggestion from God, but an enlightening and sanctifying influence so that the heart is drawn forth to embrace the truth already revealed, and to perceive that it embraces it. ?Bearing witness? is not in this case to declare and assert a thing to be true but to hold forth evidence from which a thing may be proved to be true. God ?beareth witness by signs and wonders? ( <580204>Hebrews 2:4). So the ?seal of the Spirit? is not a voice or suggestion, but a work or effect of the Spirit. It is left, as a divine mark upon the soul to be an evidence by which God?s children may be known. Seals had engraved upon them the image or name of the persons to whom they belonged. The ?seal of the Spirit,? the ?earnest of the Spirit,? the ?witness of the Spirit,? are all one thing. The childlike spirit, given by the Holy Spirit, is the Holy Spirit?s witness or evidence in us.
See also illustration of faith and assurance, in C. S. Robinson?s Short Studies for S. S. Teachers, 179, 180. Faith should be distinguished not only from assurance, but also from feeling or joy. Instance Abraham?s faith when he went to sacrifice Isaac and Madame Guyon?s faith, when God?s face seemed hid from her. See, on the witness of the Spirit, Short, Bampton Lectures for 1846; British and For. Evan. Rev., 1888:617-631. For the view, which confounds faith with assurance, see Alexander, Discourses on Faith, 63-118.
It is important to distinguish saving faith from assurance of faith, for the reason that lack of assurance is taken by so many real Christians as evidence that they know nothing of the grace of God. To use once more a well-worn illustration: It is getting into the boat that saves us but not our comfortable feelings about the boat. What saves us is faith in Christ, not faith in our faith, or faith in the faith. The astronomer does not turn his telescope to the reflection of the sun or moon in the water, when he can turn it to the sun or moon itself. Why obscure our faith, when we can look to Christ?
The faith in a distant Redeemer was the faith of Christian, in Bunyan?s Pilgrim?s Progress. Only at the end of his journey does Christian have Christ?s presence. This representation rests upon a wrong conception of faith as laying hold of a promise or a doctrine, rather than as laying hold of the living and present Christ. The old Scotch woman?s direction to the inquirer to ?grip the promise? is not so good as the direction to ?grip Christ.? Sir Francis Drake, the great English sailor, had for his crest an anchor with a cable running up into the sky. A poor boy, taught in a
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