Romans 8:16
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
Sermons
Christian AssuranceHomiletic QuarterlyRomans 8:16
The Believer's TestimonyT. J. Judkin.Romans 8:16
The Evidence of Christian SonshipE. L. Hull, B.A.Romans 8:16
The Sons of GodC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 8:16
The Spirit Testifying to the Believer's AdoptionO. Winslow, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Two WitnessesJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Two WitnessesElnathan Parr, B.D.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritThomas Horton, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritT. Kidd.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritP. Strutt.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritA. Maclaren, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritE. Cooper.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritJ. Parker, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritJ. Lancaster, M.A.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritD. Moore, M.A.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritD. Moore, M.A.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritMark Guy Pearse.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritW. Arthur, M.A.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritC. Hodge, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritJohn Wesley, M.A.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritJ. Donne, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the SpiritJ. Owen, D.D.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the Spirit AbidingRomans 8:16
The Witness of the Spirit InstantaneousS. Hulme.Romans 8:16
The Witness of the Spirit with Our SpiritsR. Watson.Romans 8:16
Varieties of Christian CharacterT. T. Shore, M.A.Romans 8:16
The Adoption in ChristT.F. Lockyer Romans 8:12-17
The Spirit of AdoptionR.M. Edgar Romans 8:12-17
The Privileges and Responsibilities of the Children of GodC.H. Irwin Romans 8:12-30
Moses displayed a beautiful absence of jealousy when he cried, "Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!" His wish is realized under the Christian dispensation, where "the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." This gift is the fulfilment of Christ's promise that his disciples should not be left "orphans," and our investiture with his Spirit is a testimony to the efficacy of the work of Christ. The Spirit operates silently but powerfully on the heart; though unseen, his presence is most real. Science acquaints us with subtle forces that work on matter. Place a bar of steel in the magnetic meridian with the north end downward, and, if struck with a wooden mallet, the bar will be magnetized. ]No outward difference is perceptible, yet the particles have assumed a uniform direction, have acquired new properties. So does the Spirit impart a new tendency, a new nature, and the whole man is changed. The Spirit works not like the influences of our environment from without inwardly, but from within outwardly.

I. THE LEADING FOR WHICH THAT OF THE SPIRIT IS SUBSTITUTED. It is called "self," or "the flesh," where the inimical power of the great adversary is the chief factor. The aim of the life may not be clear to the man possessed. He may seem to have no definable object of pursuit; led on now by one impulse, now by another, its force and persistency varying in all degrees. Some rely on their own native wisdom for the steerage of their course, others are governed by the maxims and customs of the society in which they move. The "spirit of the age" is a prevalent controlling force. In proportion as any one goal is kept in view, and "reached forth to' perseveringly, is the man esteemed strong and successful. And the Christian is strong according to the heartiness and fidelity with which he surrenders himself to the guidance of the Spirit. He acknowledges that "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."

II. THE ROAD TRAVELLED UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT. It is a heavenward journey; the affections are "set on things above." It begins with taking up the cross to follow Christ, and implies self-denial in order to please God. It is a pilgrimage. This world is not our rest, or our final home. It involves a warfare, for many foes beset our path, and there is no turning aside to By-path Meadows for the man under the influence of the Spirit. How the natural life is glorified and transfigured by this conception of the unseen hand impelling us! No man is ever harmed by the Spirit's leading, and if he falls into a snare it is because he has mistaken the Divine indications of his route.

III. ASCERTAINING THE MIND OF THE SPIRIT. We are not led blindfold and irresistibly; the reason is illumined, the emotions are quickened. All that strengthens the spiritual life contributes to the clearness with which we recognize the Spirit's prompting, and to the readiness with which we yield to his gentlest touch. Prayer keeps open the communication with the spiritual realm. Ask for guidance before, not after, commencing an enterprise; nor expect the Holy Spirit to come in as a deus ex machina to rectify your errors. Compare your judgment and conduct with the precepts and principles of Scripture, and with the example of good men, especially of Jesus Christ. We are taught in his school. Like an artist intently studying some work of genius and imbibing its spirit, so meditate on Christ till you catch his enthusiasm for goodness and consecration to the will of God. Make the most of the seasons when you are blessedly conscious that you are "in the Spirit," be it on "the Lord's day" or any other. It is sin that darkens our spiritual perceptions, as some accident to the body may blunt the finer sensations, may dull the hearing and dim the sight.

IV. THE FAMILY LIKENESS WHICH THIS GUIDANCE IMPARTS. The Spirit of God enables us to realize our sonship. Hatred and disobedience and fear are exchanged for glad communion and willing service. We become increasingly like our Father, like our elder Brother Christ, and like the rest of the redeemed children. It is not identical sameness, but similarity, which results. Members of the same home may differ much in exact lineaments, yet the stranger can discern a family likeness. By his Spirit is the Saviour preparing his brethren for their heavenly home, to enter with intelligent zest into its enjoyments, the society of the angels and of the blest, into holier worship and higher service than we can render here. - S.R.A.







The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit.
I. THE RESPECTIVE OFFICES OF THE TWO WITNESSES.

1. "The Spirit itself beareth witness."(1) The subject of the testimony is not that we have been awakened, that we have repented, that a number of moral changes have taken place in us, so that we may conclude that we are the children of God. Its direct and simple object is to assure us "that we are the children of God."(2) Of this the Spirit is the only competent witness. To this fact of our reconciliation to God, considered as a fact, our own spirits neither do nor can bear testimony. That the act of pardon takes place upon our believing in Christ; but this act of mercy is one which takes place in the mind of God. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." "For the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God." He, therefore, alone can be cognizant of the fact of forgiveness and adoption, to whom that fact is made known by the testimony of the Spirit.(3) How this testimony is borne may be difficult to describe, but it is that by which doubt is put away and the fact ascertained. For why else is a witness called in but to clear up some doubt? For what purpose do we bring forward witnesses but to come to the knowledge of some truth? Now, whatever be the method, the fact is communicated, and known, because communicated.

2. The witness of our own spirits. Why this? Certain it is that the Holy Spirit speaks with a voice by which the faithful soul cannot be deceived, yet there may be impressions not from Him, and which we may mistake for His sacred testimony. Against such delusion you must be carefully guarded. Nor are the means by which it may be detected difficult. Where the Spirit of God dwells He dwells as the author of regeneration. Of this change our own spirits must be conscious. If we love God and our neighbour, if we are spiritually minded, as having the fruits of the Spirit, then have we the witness of our own spirits to the fact that we have received the Spirit of God.

II. THE ERRORS CONNECTED WITH THIS DOCTRINE INTO WHICH MEN HAVE SOMETIMES FALLEN.

1. That there can be no certainty of our being now in a state of salvation. Well, if this blessing be not attainable, the state of good men under the New Testament dispensation is far inferior to the state of good men under the Old. "Enoch before his translation had this testimony, that he pleased God." Now, what was there peculiar in the case of Enoch? See the filial confidence that Abraham had in God from the time that his faith was counted to him for righteousness. When David prays, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation," did he not recollect that joy in the salvation of God which he had previously experienced? We may say, also, that this notion is contrary to all the words of Christ and His apostles. When our Lord says, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest," can such words be reconciled with the idea of our being in a state of uncertainty? Remember that that uncertainty implies this, "I am uncertain whether God be my friend or my enemy." Now, if this be the only state into which religion brings us, with what truth can Christ be said to have given rest to the soul?

2. That there is a great danger of fanaticism in this, and that, therefore, it will be much more safe to proceed in the way of argument and inference. But upon this theory what are we to do with the text? There are certain fruits of the Spirit, it is said, by the existence of which in ourselves we are to infer that we are the children of God. What are these fruits? If you examine them you will find that several are such as must necessarily imply a previous persuasion of our being in the favour of God, communicated by God Himself (Galatians 5:22, 23). Love to God directly implies the knowledge of His love to us. So, too, as to peace. Can we have this before we know whether we are at peace with God? The fruits of the Spirit flow from the witness of the Spirit.

3. That this is the privilege only of some eminent Christians. But there is no authority for this in the Word of God. This blessing is as common a blessing as pardon; it is put on the same ground, and is offered in the same general manner.

4. That this is an assurance of final salvation. I find no authority for this in the book of God. We are called to live in the comfortable assurance of the Divine favour, and to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; but this conveys to us no certain assurance of final salvation.Conclusion:

1. This doctrine may well lead those of you to consider your own condition who feel that you are under the Divine displeasure, that you are living carelessly, and neglecting the great salvation.

2. The subject applies itself to those whose conscience is burdened by the sense of guilt and sin. When once you get the faith that waits and pleads and prays it will not be long before God will hear your earnest prayer, and say unto you, "I am thy salvation."

3. Let those who have received the Spirit of adoption recollect both their privileges and their duties. Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called, and of the blessings you profess to enjoy.

(R. Watson.)

In the text itself there are two general parts considerable. First, the witnesses mentioned. Secondly, the thing itself, which they bear witness unto. The witnesses mentioned they are two. First, our own spirit. We begin with the former of these parts, viz., the witnesses themselves here mentioned, which are here expressed to be of two sorts. Our own spirit, and the Spirit of God with it. Each of these do bear witness to the truth of adoption in those who are true believers. First, our own spirit; that is, the spirit of the children of God considered by itself. This is one witness to them of their condition in grace, and of their relation to God as their Father. Our own spirit is not to be taken in a corrupt sense for our carnal spirit. This is sometimes too much our own, and so denominated, but such as is no competent judge or witness of such a business as this we now speak of. Nor, secondly, is it to be taken in a common sense, for our mere natural spirit, our soul in its physical consideration, for there is a witness (as we acknowledge) even in that of civil and natural actions. But it is to be taken in a more refined and spiritual sense. Our spirit, so far forth as sanctified and renewed by grace, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, and having His image stamped upon it, making up the regenerate part in us. This is our spirit in the sense of this scripture. Look, as this is the difference betwixt a man and other creatures, that he is able to reflect upon his actions, which another cannot; so this is the difference betwixt a Christian and other men, that he can reflect upon his own grace, which others are not able to do. The spirit of a regenerate person is a witness to him of his adoption. This is suitable and agreeable to other places of Scripture besides (2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 John 3:21). "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself" (1 John 5:10). "My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost," etc. (Romans 9:1). For the better opening of this point unto us we must know that a man's own spirit does witness to him his adoption, or state in grace, according to a threefold reflection. First, upon his primitive conversion, and the manner and carriage of that. Secondly, upon his habitual disposition, and the frame and temper of that. Thirdly, upon his general conversation, and the ordering and regulating of that. By reflecting upon each of these, in the right and due observation of them, does a man's own private spirit and conscience witness to him that he is a child of God. The second is the Spirit of God, and more expressly the Spirit of adoption, which we find to be mentioned in the close of the preceding verse of this chapter. The Spirit itself, or the self-same Spirit. This bears witness of our adoption and state in grace. And it may be conceived to do so two manner of ways. We begin in order with the first of these testimonies, which is that which is distinct and immediate, wherein the Spirit of God does without the intercurrence or mediation of any discourse on our part, or argument on His, signify His love and goodwill to such persons as are partakers of it. This is the testimony which we are now to speak of. First, to speak of the nature of it; what or what manner of thing it is. Now for this it is nothing else but a gracious hint or intimation given to the soul by God, assuring our hearts and consciences of His favour and love towards us, and of our atonement and reconciliation with Him through the blood of His Son. "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," "I am thy salvation," "thou art Mine," and the like. It is not a violent ecstasy or rapture of soul beyond itself, as illuminatists and enthusiasts, and such kind of people as those are, are sometimes deluded withal, but a sober and judicious and composed frame of spirit, which lies not at all in the fancy, as the subject of it, but in the heart. To speak distinctly of it we may look upon it under a threefold property, or qualification. First, this manner of testimony of the Spirit is secret and inexpressible, a hidden mystery, and such as is easier felt than described; as a man that tastes honey sweet cannot make another to conceive the sweetness of it, therefore it is called the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17). It is called unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8; 2 Corinthians 12:4). Secondly, it is certain and infallible. This it is like the witness of a prince, which puts all presently out of controversy. Thirdly, this witness of the Spirit, it is moreover inconstant and various, Rara hora brevis mora ( Bernard.). And is not always or at all times alike vouchsafed to those that receive it, and are partakers of it. Now the second thing here considerable of us is the discovery of it, whereby it may be known. This inquiry is very necessary for us in regard of the manifold mistakes and deceits which are in this particular. First, from the antecedents. In Ephesians 1:13 it is said, "After that ye believed, ye were sealed." Sealing comes after believing, that so it may not be a seal to a blank. The Spirit's witness of our salvation is consequent to His work of our conversion. And there are two reasons for it. First, because this witness of the Spirit is an act of special favour, therefore it is such as belongs only to those who are friends, and in a state of actual reconcilement unto Him. Secondly, because the judgment, and so also the witness of God, is according to truth. Never is a Spirit of consolation where it is not first a spirit of renovation. Secondly, we may take notice of it in its concomitants, and those things which do usually attend it. At first a reverend esteem of the ordinances. And then it is also accompanied with humility and meekness of spirit, and a holy care and fear of offending. And again, there is a holy boldness and confidence at the throne of grace which does accompany this testimony of the Spirit. "Seeing we have such hope, we use great freedom of speech" (2 Corinthians 3:12). Thirdly, for its consequences and effects. They are also various. Joy in the Holy Ghost; contempt of the world; comfortable thoughts even of death itself. From these and the like discoveries may we discern the testimony of the Spirit to be such as it is. But moreover, to make all clear, we must further know this much, that the Spirit of God bears witness to itself in its witnessing to us. As it is infallible in regard of the matter of its testimony, so it is convincing in regard of the evidence and manner of its proceeding. And it shows itself to be far different from all delusions and mistakes whatsoever. And it is a sufficient witness to itself, though there were no other besides; as the sun which discovers other things is also seen by the same light itself whereby it discovers them. The second is the conjunctive, or concurrent testimony. As the Spirit witnesses to us, so it witnesseth with us. And with us, not only by the way of concomitancy, but by way of assistance. His testimony has an influence upon ours; that is, He helps us to witness to ourselves. We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything to this purpose of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5). This is different from the former testimony of the Spirit of God in two regards. First, that in that He has no concurrence with us, neither are we, by way of activity, but merely passively any parties at all in it, but in this we are. Secondly, that in that He proceeds by way of simple assertion, but in this by way of argument and reason, clearing both the premises of the practical syllogism to us, and enabling us to infer the conclusion. Here we need His concurrence with us to help us out of those difficulties which are upon us. And this is that which through His grace and goodness we do receive from Him, as is here signified, while it is said that He bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. The second is the matter of this witness, or the thing itself witnessed unto. And that we have in those words, that we are the children of God. That there is such a thing as an assurance of our state in grace, and so of future salvation, here in this life. This it may be cleared upon these arguments which make for it, as first, from the description of faith itself in the highest notion and degree of it, which the Scripture does set forth to us, under terms of certainty and assurance, calling it the full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22); the full assurance of hope (Hebrews 6:11). Speaking of Abraham, it is said that he was fully persuaded (Romans 4:21). Secondly, from the exhortations which are given to Christians to this purpose. For trial and self-examination. "Examine yourselves, prove yourselves, know ye not your own selves," etc. (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 6:11). Lastly, this may be confirmed unto us from the manifest absurdity and inconvenience which does follow from the contrary doctrine.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

I. THE HIGH PRIVILEGE OF GOD'S PEOPLE. There is a sense in which all are His children, for "we are all His offspring." But all are not related to God as His children in the sense of the text. Certain Jews pretended that they were "the children of God." Jesus said unto them, "If God were your Father, ye would love Me"; but they loved Him not. Consequently He spoke still more plainly to them, "Ye are of your father the devil," etc. The same applies exactly to men in the present day. But let us observe what this high privilege denotes.

1. Distinguished honour. The Lord puts His name upon them. If this be our privilege we need envy none. The name of the ungodly, whatever rank they hold, shall be "blotted out."

2. Peculiar affection. There is no feeling so congenial to the heart of a father as affection for his children,

3. Constant care.

4. The most liberal kindness, "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts," etc.

II. THE WAY BY WHICH THIS PRIVILEGE IS ASCERTAINED AND ENJOYED. Two witnesses come forward —

1. The testimony of conscience — "our spirit." Have you, or have you not, a persuasion in your own breast that you are a child of God? "If our heart condemn us," that is, if the verdict of conscience be clearly against us, "God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. But if our heart condemn us not," if its verdict be impartially in our favour, "then have we confidence towards God."

2. But, secondly, here is the testimony of the Spirit of God, and this is more particularly to be regarded; but when both agree then the case is beyond all reasonable doubt. Many a man, sinfully partial to himself, hath the witness of his own spirit that he is a Christian, while the Spirit of God witnesses no such thing. Let us, therefore, consider this witness.This is given in two ways.

1. In the Scriptures. The Word of God describes the children of God, the mind compares itself with this, and so far as an agreement really exists an inference friendly to ourselves is fairly drawn.

2. But there is the Spirit's witness by supernatural influence, or direct impressions on the mind. If Satan, that evil spirit "which now worketh in the children of disobedience," has a pernicious and destructive influence, much more the Holy Spirit of God for saving purposes. The Spirit's witness may be distinguished —(1) By what precedes it. In vain does any one pretend to it unless he be first experimentally acquainted with —

(a)True repentance.

(b)Unfeigned faith.

(c)Sincere devotedness to God.(2) By what attends it. A high estimation of God's Word.

(3)By what follows it.

(a)Deep humility.

(b)Holy jealousy of self.

(c)Close walking with God.

(d)Holiness.

(T. Kidd.)

I. THE TESTIMONY. There must be a fact before there can be evidence. To be a child of God is a privilege marked —

1. By its greatness. It is a great privilege that commences in adoption, that is effectuated by regeneration, sustained by Divine nourishment, confirmed by Divine instruction, manifested by Divine resemblance, and witnessed by the Divine Spirit. Now, God has said, "If any man provide not for those of his own household, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel." We conclude that God, in proclaiming His own Fatherhood, will not be wanting towards the members of His own family.(1) He has a home for them (John 14:2). Wherefore He is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath provided for them a city.(2) He will provide for their pilgrimage and journey home.(3) He will afford them the special tokens of His love. "I will not leave you orphans."

2. By its distinguishing privilege. To be the children of God by adoption and grace is not a common privilege.

3. By its operative power. "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." The child of God longs to be like God.

4. By its evangelical influence. "Ye have received not the spirit of bondage."

II. THE WITNESSES. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word he established" (John 8:18).

1. Our own spirit. Not that it has always done so, nor that our actual safety is always in proportion to the assurance of safety. We may be safer than our fears will permit us to think. But there are times when our own spirit delivers no faint or hesitating testimony. "Should I thus love God if He were not more to me than He is to others? Should I thus run to Him in my sorrows, feel this delight in prayer, love His house, His day, His Word, His ministers — choose His people?"

2. But our hearts are deceitful. We need a second witness to confirm the testimony of our own. The Spirit is a fellow-witness. How does the Spirit bear witness?(1) By direct communication. But lest this should be thought to encourage a dreamy fanaticism —(2) By the doctrines and promises of the written Word. The voice of the Spirit within agrees with the voice without — to the law and the testimony.(3) By His effectual work as the Comforter and Sanctifier of the people of God, tempers, fruit.

III. TO WHOM DO THESE WITNESSES TESTIFY?

1. To ourselves for comfort. We are hard to satisfy. He thoroughly pleads our cause and argues it to us.

2. To the Church for communion.

3. To the world for usefulness.

(P. Strutt.)

The sin of the world is a false confidence — that a man is a Christian when he is not. The fault of the Church is a false diffidence — whether a man be a Christian when he is. The two are perhaps more akin than they look. Their opposites, at all events — the true confidence, which is faith in Christ; and the true diffidence, which is distrust of self — are identical. But there often is the combination of a real confidence and a false diffidence. Now this text is one that has often tortured the mind of Christians. Instead of looking to other sources to ascertain whether they are Christians or not, and then thinking thus, That text asserts that all Christians have this witness, therefore certainly I have it in some shape or other; they say, I do not feel anything that corresponds with my idea of the witness of God's Spirit, and therefore I doubt whether I am a Christian at all. Note —

I. OUR CRY "FATHER" IS THE WITNESS THAT WE ARE SONS. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit." It is not that my spirit bears witness that I am a child of God, and that the Spirit of God comes in with a separate evidence to say Amen; but that there is one testimony which has a conjoint origin; from the Spirit of God as true source, and from my own soul as recipient and co-operant in that testimony.

1. So far, then, as the form of the evidence goes, you are not to look for it in anything parted off from your own experience, but you are to try and find out whether there be a "still small voice," no whirlwind, etc., but the voice of God taking the voice and tones of your own heart and saying to you, Thou art My child, inasmuch as through Me there rises, tremblingly but truly, in thine own soul the cry, Abba, Father.

2. Then with regard to the substance of it, "The Spirit itself," by means of our cry, Abba, Father, "beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." The substance of the conviction is not primarily directed to our relation or feelings to God, but to God's feelings and relation to us. The two things seem to be the same, but they are not. Instead of being left painfully to search amongst the dust and rubbish of our own hearts, we are taught to sweep away all that crumbled, rotten surface, and to go down to the living rock that lies beneath it. There is all the difference in the world between searching for evidence of my sonship and seeking to get the conviction of God's fatherhood. The one is an endless, profitless, self-tormenting task; the other is the light and glorious liberty of the children of God.

II. THAT CRY IS NOT SIMPLY OURS, BUT IT IS THE VOICE OF GOD'S SPIRIT.

1. Our own convictions are ours because they are God's. Our own spirits possess them, but our own spirits did not originate them. This passage with Galatians 4:6 puts this truth very forcibly. In the one text the cry is regarded as the voice of the believing heart; and in the other the same cry is regarded as the voice of God's Spirit. And these two things are both true; the one would want its foundation if it were not for the other; the cry of the Spirit is nothing for me unless it be appropriated by me. And the whole doctrine of my text is built on this one thought — without the Spirit of God in your heart you never can recognise God as your Father. There is no ascent of the human desires above their source.

2. But if this principle be true it does not apply only to this one single attitude of the believing soul, it comprehends the whole of a Christian's life. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit" in every perception of God's Word, in every revelation of His counsel, in every aspiration after Him, in every holy resolution, in every thrill and throb of love and desire. Each of these is mine, inasmuch as in my heart it is experienced" and transacted; but it is God's, and therefore only has it come to be mine! And if it be objected that this opens a wide door to delusion, here is an outward guarantee. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God." The test of the inward conviction is the outward life, and they that have the witness of the Spirit within them have the light of their life lit by the Spirit of God, whereby they may read the handwriting on the heart, and be sure that it is God's and not their own!

III. THIS DIVINE WITNESS IN OUR SPIRITS IS SUBJECT TO THE ORDINARY INFLUENCES WHICH AFFECT OUR SPIRITS.

1. The notion often prevails that this Divine witness must needs be perfect, never flickering, never darkening. The passage before us gives us the opposite notion. The Divine Spirit, when it enters into the narrow room of the human spirit, condescends to submit itself to the ordinary laws and conditions which befall our own human nature. Christ came into the world Divine, but the humanity He wore modified the manifestation of the Divinity that dwelt in it. And not otherwise is the operation of God's Holy Spirit when it comes to dwell in a human heart. There, too, working through man, it "is found in fashion as a man." The witness of the Spirit, if it were yonder in heaven, would shine like a perpetual star; here in the heart on earth it burns like a flame, not always bright, wanting to be trimmed, and needing to be guarded from rude blasts. Else what does an apostle mean when he says, "Quench not the Spirit," "Grieve not the Spirit"?

2. And the practical conclusion that comes from all this is just the simple advice, Do not wonder if that evidence vary in its clearness and force. Do not think that it cannot be genuine because it is changeful. There are heavenly lights too that wax and wane; they are lights, they are in the heavens though they change. You have no reason to be discouraged because you find that the witness of the Spirit changes. Watch it, and guard it, lest it do. Live in the contemplation of the person and the fact that it calls forth, that it may not, You will never "brighten your evidences" by polishing at them. To polish the mirror ever so assiduously does not secure the image of the sun on its surface. The only way to do that is to carry the poor bit of glass out into the sunshine. It will shine then, never fear.

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

It is the high and distinguishing privilege of true Christians that they are the children of God; but there is a wide difference between possessing a privilege and knowing that we possess it. A man may have in law a clear title to an estate without feeling sure in his own mind that he has such a title. He may possess a real interest in some very beneficial concern, and yet may be ignorant of his claim, or perhaps have considerable doubts as to the justice of his pretensions. The text discloses the way by which the true Christian may attain to a strong and lively hope of his adoption — namely, through the testimony of the Spirit. What, then, is this witness of the Spirit?

I. IT IS A PRIVILEGE WHICH THE SPIRIT OF GOD FREELY BESTOWS; which He confers or withholds as He sees fit. Some may wait many years before they are favoured with it, and may afterwards lose it. Nor is the Spirit less free as to the degree of the testimony. To one He bears a weaker, to another a stronger witness.

II. IT IS A SECRET INWARD OPERATION of the Holy Ghost "with our spirit." Consequently it can be known only to the person to whom it is given. By his fruits others know him.

III. IT PERFECTLY AGREES WITH THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD; for the Spirit cannot contradict Himself — e.g., should a person pretend to have it whose life exhibited none of those marks with which Scripture distinguishes the children of God, it would be plain that he was mistaken in his pretensions. For could the Spirit witness to him a falsehood?

IV. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SUDDEN AND VIOLENT IMPULSES, new revelations, sensible impressions, etc. Let us not deny or overlook the real operations of the Spirit of God; but let us not blaspheme Him, nor bring them into contempt, by ascribing to His agency effects which are proofs of nothing but of error, weakness, or imposture.

V. WHEREVER THE SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS TO THE ADOPTION OF SONS, THERE HE HAS BEEN FIRST RECEIVED AS THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION (ver. 15).

(E. Cooper.)

Christ taught the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and St. Paul taught the complemental doctrine of a direct personal witness of the same Spirit to the soul that had become renewed. The act of regeneration is succeeded by the act of confirmation; which is the Divine method in nature. Not only did God create the heavens and the earth, but He followed each act of creation with the assurance that it was "very good." It is quite true that the works of nature are continually vindicating their own goodness, and it is not less true that spiritual sonship is its own witness in the presence of all men; yet the soul which has passed through the agonies of penitence and reconstruction needs just that word of tender assurance and comfort which is expressed in the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit.

I. THIS WITNESS BRINGS WITH IT COMFORT. In all the great experiences of life we need a voice other than our own to complete the degree of satisfaction which begins in our own consciousness. In common affairs we may be strong enough without external encouragement; but when life is sharpened into a crisis we need something more than is possible to our unaided powers. There are times when we need to hear our own convictions pronounced by the voice of another. Let that second witness be greater than ourselves, and his testimony will bring with it proportionate comfort; let him be the wisest of men, and still the consolation is increased: let that witness be not a man, but God Himself, and at once we are filled with peace and joy unspeakable.

II. Still, the very Divineness of this comfort clothes the witness with the severity of INEXORABLE DISCIPLINE. Sonship has responsibilities as well as enjoyments. "Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost?" Will any man make the temple of the Lord a temple of idols? We are to walk in the Spirit; to mind the things of the Spirit; and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. Otherwise there can be no comfort! If there is sweetness in the mouth, it is the taste of stolen honey. The comfort is not a spiritual luxury. The apostolic doctrine is that the promises of God should move the heart towards more and more purity (2 Corinthians 7:1). God's purpose as to character is growth. Let the sacred germ lie dormant in the heart, and the witness of the Spirit will decline in vividness and emphasis, and the germ itself will perish (Hebrews 6:4-6). Once interrupt the communion of the soul with the Father, and the soul may never be able to resume the fellowship: then (the apostle would say) "Pray without ceasing," if you would enjoy the permanent witness of the Spirit. Thus the argument arising out of Divine comfort in the human soul points stead-lastly towards discipline (vers, 5, 13).

III. YET WITH ALL THE COMFORT IS THERE NOT AN ASPIRATION HARDLY DISTINGUISHABLE FROM DISCONTENT, AND WITH ALL THE DISCIPLINE IS THERE NOT A HOPE WHICH MAKES IT EASY? The explanation is found in the fact that the present enjoyment of the Spirit is but an earnest of the coming fulness (ver. 23). The Church by mistaking the "earnest" for the "fulness," runs the risk of stating incomplete truths as final revelations. The "earnest" of the Spirit constitutes a lien upon the future service of the receiver; if the service be unperformed, the "earnest" will be withdrawn; whereas, if the service be lovingly rendered with the whole might of the heart, the measure of the gift will be filled up even to the sanctification of the "whole body, soul, and spirit." What is delaying the outpouring of the fulness of the Spirit? There is, indeed, a still sterner inquiry, Is not the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church less distinct to-day than in the apostolic age? Can modern piety enrich its history with such a passage as Acts 2:1-4; Acts 4:31? Is the Church baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire? Is it honourable to suggest that such manifestations were confined to the early Church? It was after those manifestations that the Apostle Paul described the measure of the Spirit already given as an "earnest," and if only an earnest where is the fulness which there is not room enough to receive? We may be said to receive more and more of the sun as noontide approaches, and to receive a "double portion" of the spirit of every author whose writings we study with admiring affection. Now, why has not a Church eighteen hundred years old a fuller realisation of the witness of the Holy Ghost than had the Church of the first century? Has the Church accomplished all the purpose of God, and passed for ever the zenith of her light and beauty? How, then, are men to know that they enjoy the witness of the Spirit? Partly by the anxiety with which they put the question, and partly, too, by the occasional comforts which suffuse the soul with inexplicable gladness, but mainly by the daily sacrifice of loving service, and by enrapturing expectation.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

How much there is in this chapter as to the work of the Holy Spirit. He helps against sin (ver. 2). He leads and guides (ver. 14), He aids in prayer (ver. 26). And (text) gives believers a happy sense of their acceptance. Not, indeed, by voice from heaven, nor by angelic messenger (Daniel 9:23), rather by revealing the Saviour's love and glory (John 15:26), and by bringing peace-giving words to remembrance (John 14:26, 27). Let us now consider the great happiness of possessing this witness.

I. IT COMFORTS IN TRIAL. How comforting to remember that these are a Father's dealings! (Hebrews 12:7; John 18:11).

II. IT ENCOURAGES TO PRAYER. Let it fill the mind, and then we know we are welcome. What a difference does this make!

III. IT RESTRAINS IN TEMPTATION. If we have a happy consciousness of our adoption, we shall fear to offend. We shall fear to bring a cloud over our joy.

IV. IT STIRS UP TO ACTIVE SERVICE. Joy makes one active.

V. IT SUPPORTS IN THE PROSPECT OF DEATH. Under such circumstances the valley becomes illuminated. Death is then going to a Father — going to a proper home.

(J. Lancaster, M.A.)

I. THE WITNESSES. The text suggests that we are entering upon a calm judicial process, in which the verdict can be obtained only by the testimony of two witnesses of tried competency and proved faithfulness.

1. The importance of having the Holy Spirit as the chief witness will appear from the nature of the facts to be witnessed to — namely, that we are the children of God, etc. For on the authority of no mere man could I receive this testimony. Wise he might be, and holy; but the subject is beyond his province. Neither could I take the testimony of an angel. Note the requirements essential to the competency of our witness. The counsels of God's will, the goings forth of His love and peace, must be naked and open to the witness with whom we have to do. He must know when the act of grace went forth, when the wandering spirit turned, and when the heart surrendered. These are things which must be known to the Holy Spirit, because of Him and through Him are all these effects wrought. Are the eyes opened? It is His to enlighten. is conscience awakened? It is His to reprove. Does the will yield? It is His to subdue. Is the heart at peace? It is His to seal.

2. The second witness is the spirit of the man himself — the responsive testimony of our own hearts echoing the silent utterances of the Holy Ghost, and giving us confidence toward God. This view of course supposes the witness of our own spirits to be of a derived and reflected kind. It is a witness to a witness — the interpreter of that testimony which is borne by the Spirit of God. Of themselves our own spirits can testify nothing.

II. IN WHAT LANGUAGE DOES THE SPIRIT SPEAK, AND IN WHAT SIGNS DOES THE HEART MAKE ANSWER? The joint witness is to be looked for in the inward peace arising from the discovery of certain tendencies and dispositions answerable to the state of sonship. And it is properly called a joint witness, because the same Spirit who forms these tendencies in us, also manifests their existence to us. We can only know that we are children when the Spirit reveals the existence of those moral dispositions which prompt us to act and feel as children, and these we find only in the written Word. But this still makes the Spirit of God the chief witness, because until He shines upon the Word it is a sealed book to us. But when He opens our understanding we find that the entrance of God's Word giveth light. And it is just the agreement between these two — the Scripture calling and the heart answering; the Spirit insisting on certain feelings, and our own spirits testifying that we have such feelings — that constitutes our double witness. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to My Word, it is because there is no life in them." But to what purpose does our text come in at the close of several of the most distinguishing marks of true grace which Scripture contains, if it be not to set the heart upon the inquiry whether, by the Secret illumination of the Spirit, these marks be discoverable in ourselves? Now it is manifest that if these marks be found in us we have the witness of the Word to our adoption; and what is the witness of the Word but the witness of the Spirit, who both indited the Word and gave us understanding to comprehend the truth? Conclusion: The text describes a real blessing, It is no visionary good. Do not let any difficulties connected either with its manifestation or its source affect your possession of it as a great spiritual reality. It is a witness, and a witness to a great fact. The heart's peace, the soul's comfort, life's prospects, death's fears, all hinge and turn upon the clearness of this twofold testimony. It brings with it heaven's credentials; it is stamped with heaven's seal; it leaves behind it heaven's peace; it is the witness of the Spirit of God.

(D. Moore, M.A.)

I. THE GENERAL ATTAINABLENESS OF THE SPIRIT. The sense of adoption, so far from being heaven's far-off prize held out to the highest saints, is a near, present good which babes in Christ may grasp, which is offered to the prodigal first returning from his wanderings and to the publican first humbled for his sins. This fact will appear in the exhortations to this assurance (Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22; 2 Peter 1:10). To these add the passages holding out to the believer the promise of peace (Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 32:17; Romans 5:1). Such a peace, it is manifest, could never be ours while doubt and misgiving hung over the great business and design of our existence. Peace in duty, in suffering, in our spiritual approaches, in the contemplation of the great future, not only is set forth in Scripture as attainable, but is commonly made to give forth an utterance as plain as a testimony addressed to the ear.

II. MUST IT BE ATTAINED? Let us ask, What is necessary to salvation? Faith, of course. But faith in what? In something done for us, or in something done in us? In the sufficiency of Christ's work, or in the sufficiency of our conscious interest in that work? The faith which justifies is an act of trust, exerted objectively upon the mediation of Christ, and justification is the instantaneous effect ensuing upon this act. But it may be long before we are made conscious of our new condition, or its resulting peace, e.g., a ship is labouring, and ill-piloted, on a dangerous coast. A spectator knows that if she once make a certain point, her danger is over. She does make this point, and is safe; but the crew do not know she is safe, and therefore they continue to be afraid where no fear is. Her deliverance takes place before the comfort of deliverance. And just so it will often be in our spiritual deliverance. It is not that a man has not faith, but he has not the comfort of faith. Faith, justification, peace, is the declared order of the Divine procedure. Between faith and justification there is no appreciable interval; but between justification and peace there may be a long and trying interval. And, further, to make our salvation depend upon any form of inward testimony, is to make the trust of the believer turn in part upon something within, rather than turning absolutely upon the finished work of Christ. And the difference to our spiritual safety, whether we exercise faith in Christ immediately, or mediately on some inward feeling which unites us to Christ, is as great as would be the difference to a drowning man whether he laid hold on a rock, or merely on a loose weed which was growing to the rock. We may have the faith of reliance when we cannot get the faith of assurance; and when through the weakness of the flesh we cannot lay hold on the witness that is within us, we may yet be saved by laying firm hold on the hope that is set before us.

III. HOW IS IT TO BE ATTAINED?

1. This witness is an impression of inward peace, the fruit of a certain comparison which the mind has been enabled by the Spirit to make between the statements of revelation and its own moral experience. But this done, the chief practical directions for gaining an inward assurance are that we cultivate a believing contemplation of gospel truth, and institute a frequent and close examination into the state of our own hearts.

2. And then there must be much of self-examination followed up by the repairing of all conscious deficiencies, and the renouncing of all discovered faults.

(D. Moore, M.A.)

I. TO WHOM IS THIS WITNESS GIVEN?

1. True religion is not a set of creeds, defined and believed just as a man may believe in the North Pole or the law of gravitation. The sphere of religion is not in the man's head, but in the heart. Nor is it a matter of forms of worship — singing hymns or saying prayers or hearing sermons. These things may be gone through, and all the time the real man may be unmoved and asleep. It is precisely here that a great many people make a mistake. They are not satisfied with their religious life. That which they have is unreal, outside. So they either set to work to examine their creed, or else they change it. Or else they think the form of worship is at fault. And at last they are ready to give up all in despair.

2. The only religion that can satisfy is the work of the Spirit of God in our spirits. By all means see that your creed stands square with the Word of God, and seek the forms of worship that help you to get nearest to God. But be sure of this, that creeds however true, and forms of worship however solemn and impressive, can never give you the religious life. We must be born of the Spirit. The manner of this new creation may differ in a thousand ways. With some it may be gentle and gradual as the dawn of day; with others it may be as a day when the noise of battle rolled.

3. Although this life is begotten of the Spirit of God, yet is He to be willingly received and submitted to (ver. 14). Now to such there is given the witness of the Spirit.

II. WHAT THIS WITNESS IS.

1. There is much significance in the emphatic assurance with which St. Paul speaks. He bids us take it for granted that if we are the children of God this witness of the Spirit is ours. Children do not know what the estate is worth, but they do know that it is theirs, and whatever there is in it belongs to them. Think of a child saying, "I am going to see what I am heir to," and spending all its time in prying into everything with a microscope to make sure that it is there. Since the realm of the religious life is in the spirit, do not let us be always analysing and defining and perplexing ourselves about all sorts of mysteries. There are some people who always begin to tell me their symptoms, and ask me what I think of them and what they ought to do. Well, forget that you have any constitution. Give up the luxury of a liver. Work hard at some outdoor work so that you have not time to think about yourself; and then when you get very hungry, eat; and when you have got very tired, sleep. There are spiritual dyspeptics, too, who are always talking about their symptoms, and who think they have not got any religion at all unless they are finding something to worry themselves and other people about. Come, let us be bold to say, "Well, whatever the witness of the Spirit is, if Jesus Christ is mine, this too is mine." And yet, on the other hand, let us honour the Giver of the estate by seeking to make the most of it; finding out how rich and blest we are. Now there are some who think of the witness of the Spirit as a kind of revelation from heaven, or a thrill of rapture — something which lifts us up above other people and singles us out as the favourites of God. If anything could make a man a Pharisee it is surely that. It is the very root of that Pharisaism which the Lord denounced. The witness of the Spirit is not to our spirits that we are the children. It is with our spirits that God is our Father. He is to take of the things of Christ and manifest them unto us. There is in Jesus Christ a sight of our sin that humbles and shames us, yet there is a sight of love that overwhelms us. The Spirit puts us in possession of that love as our own; and in loving tenderness the Father bends over us so pitiful, so careful for us that all the heart cries, "Abba, Father." A blessed consciousness is thus wrought within us, which has no room for pride, but only for self-forgetfulness, wonder, gratitude, and glad obedience.

III. THIS WITNESS IS NO LESS DIVINE BECAUSE IT MOVES ON THE ORDINARY AND NATURAL LINES OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE. There are men and women who help to create within us a new experience. Their influence is at once distinct yet indistinguishable. We cannot mark exactly the influence, how it came and how it wrought. Now it is in this quiet and natural way for the most part that the witness of the Spirit is given. The idea is of a blending of spiritual influence. The Gulf Stream may be taken as a parable of this. For some eight months of the year our seas ought to be frozen over so that no ship could approach our shores. Our islands should be a rough rude tract of country where only the hardiest forms of life could survive — a land of forest where wild furry beasts should roam, and where the deep snows should make agriculture almost impossible. What mystery is this which delivers us? Away in the distant southern world, in the fierce heat of the tropics starts the Gulf Stream. It gathers the warmth of the sun and sends it for thousands of miles across the seas to lave our shores. And thus the arctic winter is driven from us; and our ports are open all the year round; over us stretch the kindlier skies; about us blow the gentler winds; our fields are covered with grass, the valleys are thick with corn, But where is this Gulf Stream which does such wonders? Can you see it? No, we cannot see it, but it is there. The parable is a many-sided illustration of the truth. Of nature, of ourselves, we do dwell in a land of winter — frozen and well-nigh dead; without the energy to put forth any life of God. But lo, we know not how, but by the Holy Spirit of God there is breathed about us and within us the love of God, softening, transforming, bringing to us a new heaven and a new earth. And now do grow and flourish blessed things which before we knew not. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace," etc.

(Mark Guy Pearse.)

I. THERE ARE MANY TERMS WHICH DESCRIBE OUR NATURE AND CONDITION WHEN WE ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD. "The children of the world," "children of the night," "children of iniquity," "children of the devil," "children of wrath."

II. CONTRASTED WITH ALL THIS THERE IS THE TEXT "CHILDREN OF GOD," they whose nature is derived from the parentage of heaven, whose character is formed by that nature, whose actions and prospects spring from that nature.

1. And this state is clearly set before us not as a thing that comes by nature, or by accident, or unawares. It is not that we are all the creatures of God; the pebbles are that. Nor is it that we are merely objects of the Divine benevolence; God is good to the worst man living. Nor merely that we are the offspring of God — those whose origin was from Him and who will always bear in them some characteristics of that origin, such as immortality, conscience, etc. The fallen angels have all that. "I know," said the Lord in speaking of the Jews, "that ye are the seed of Abraham," but then in the same breath He denied it. They were the offspring of Abraham, but they ceased to be his children, or they would have shown forth his nature. But God was "able of those stones to raise up children unto Abraham"; God was able to take those fallen Jews and restore them to the place that they had lost in the family of faith. And so with any unconverted man, any teacher who is teaching a pardon and a peace that he has never experienced; God is able out of the very stones to raise up children to God.

2. And this was the glory of our Saviour's mission among men that to them that received Him He gave power to become the sons of God: and to be constituted the children of God always implies the double idea of adoption and regeneration, the restoration of the soul to the favour of God, the restoration of the name to its place in the family roll.

III. THIS GRACE, HOW SHALL WE TELL IT, OR WHO CAN TELL IT?

1. "Eye hath not seen," etc. Then should they remain unknown? It is very certain that the eye cannot see when God forgives the soul. You may hearken as you will, but you will never hear it. And as to the heart imagining it, it passes in another world. Am I to say, then, if I cannot see it or hear it, etc., I cannot believe it? The apostle meets you at once. He says, "The things of a man knoweth no man, save the spirit of man that is in him." A son was wandering disinherited in America. The father says to an uncle, "Will you be my executor?" "Yes, on condition that you restore the name of your eldest son." "He is dead," says the father. "He is not dead," says the uncle. "Put in his name and I will be your executor." The father puts in his name, and actually the boy is restored to his rights and titles of inheritance. He knows nothing about it. That mind of his father's is as much an invisible world to him as is God's to us. The only question is, Had his father any power of putting what was in his mind into the mind of his boy? No; because he did not know where his boy was, and the boy never got his inheritance, for the father again altered his will, thinking the boy was dead, and dead he was not. There is the simple ease supposed in 1 Corinthians 2:11. Just as the spirit of the father knew the acts of the father, although the Son did not, so doth the Spirit of God know the acts of God. But then the difference was this, that man's spirit did not search all things; it could not tell where his son was. But the Spirit searcheth all things, not only the deep things of God, but the deep things of your heart and your ways. "Eye hath not seen," etc., but God doth reveal them unto us by His Spirit.

2. A witness is simply one who has witnessed a transaction, and who bears witness of that transaction to another who did not witness it. How doth the Spirit bear witness? I do not know, any more than I know how the father held up his hand to write the name of his son. I do not know how that is done. I know that you and I can do it. I do not know how it was that one day when in my house they were anxiously inquiring whether a certain ship from America was nearing the shore, a telegram came, and we knew the ship was there a couple of hours before the telegram came from the ship itself. Those that were on the ship had no means of communicating it; but the people on shore had seen, and they could send the news of what they had seen right into the minds of people here in London, and produced within those minds all the change and all the impression that was wanted to be produced by that piece of intelligence. So it is the mission and office of the Holy Ghost, as the revealer of Christ and of the Father, to uncover the pardoning countenance of God, and to make that countenance shine upon His forgiven child. Conclusion: If you need the Holy Spirit to bear witness with you that you are the children of God, the world needs a witness, and that witness you can give only in your actions, in your conduct. The world will not believe your word, and it ought not to believe your word if that word is not supported by your conduct and your character. But if your conduct and character bear upon them the Divine stamp, then your word will not be an empty sound. When you have made that impression upon the hearts of men, you have gone far towards testifying that there is such a thing as being a child of God. To the Church you can testify your sonship in Christ by the one proof of your love to the brethren. No other proof will avail. And if the Spirit is really bearing witness with your spirit that you are the child of God you will love Him, and loving Him you will take delight in pleasing Him; and you will love all that are begotten of Him; you will love His cause, His kingdom, His glory, and the witness of the Spirit filling your soul with light from above will illuminate your whole conduct, and that conduct shall be that of a child of the light.

(W. Arthur, M.A.)

I. THE THING TESTIFIED To — that we are the children of God. There is the same difference between τέκνον, and ὑιὸς as there is between child and son; the former applies to either sex, and is more tender, We are born of God, i.e., we are produced by Him. This does not refer to us as creatures, nor as rational creatures, but as regenerated; so that we are partakers of the Divine nature.

1. It expresses the relation in which we stand to God as the objects of His love and as loving Him. This filial spirit on our part includes —

(1)Confidence in His love to us.

(2)Reverence.

(3)Zeal for His glory.

(4)Devotion to His service.

2. It indicates the privileges arising from this relation. We are heirs of God, partakers of all the blessings which He has provided for His children.

II. THE NATURE OF THE TESTIMONY. It is not involved in our filial feelings, but is —

1. Direct or immediate. The Spirit assures us just as He produces the assurance of the truth.

2. Mysterious, but not more so than the operations of the Spirit, nor indeed than the action of mind on matter or of one created spirit on other created spirits.

3. Self-evidencing, i.e., it reveals itself as the testimony of God. Just as the voice of God in the heavens, in conscience, in the law, in the gospel, reveals itself in His Word; so when the Spirit speaks to the soul it is known to be the Spirit.

4. Infallible, and produces assurance. This is not inconsistent with doubt and anxiety, because —

(1)This witnessing is intermittent, more or less.

(2)This voice of God may vary from the slightest, almost inaudible whisper, to the most clear and articulate enunciation.

5. Sanctifying. That is its nature. It produces that effect, just as fire burns, or light dispels darkness. It is never given where it is not true. And where it is true, where the soul is regenerated, then to banish doubt and fear and anxiety is to infuse new life and vigour. It is to give peace and call out graces.

(C. Hodge, D.D.)

How many, not understanding what they spoke, have wrested this scripture to their great loss! How many have mistaken the voice of their own imagination for this witness, and presumed that they were the children of God while they were doing the works of the devil! These are the enthusiasts. Who, then, can be surprised if many reasonable men seeing the dreadful effects of this delusion should regard this witness as exclusively an extraordinary gift of the apostolic age? But we may steer a middle course, and keep a safe distance from enthusiasm without denying the privilege of God's children.

I. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT WITH OUR SPIRIT.

1. The witness of our spirit.(1) The foundation of this is laid in those scriptures which describe the marks of the children of God. Every man applying these marks to himself may know whether he is a child of God. If he know —(a) "As many as are led by the Spirit of God" into all holy tempers and actions, "they are the sons of God."(b) I am thus "led by the Spirit of God"; he will easily conclude "therefore I am a son of God," Agreeable to this are all those plain declarations of St, John in his First Epistle (1 John 2:3, 5, 29; 1 John 3:14, 19; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 3:24).(3) But how does it appear that we have these marks? I would reply, How does it appear to you that you are alive, and in ease, not in pain? Are you not immediately conscious of it? By the same consciousness you will know if your soul is alive to God; if you are saved from the pain of proud wrath and have the ease of a meek and quiet spirit.

2. The testimony of God's Spirit is an inward impression on the soul whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses with my spirit that I am a child of God; "that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given Himself for me; and that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God."(1) That this testimony must needs be antecedent to the other appears from the fact that we must be holy of heart and life before we are conscious that we are so. But we must love God before we can be holy, and we cannot love Him till we know He loves us, which we cannot know till God's love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.(2) Not that the operation of the Holy Spirit is to be excluded even from the testimony of our own. He not only works in us every manner of good, but also shines upon His own work and clearly shows what He has wrought. Accordingly one great end of our receiving the Spirit is "that we may know the things which are freely given us of God.(3) If it be inquired how the Spirit bears witness, such knowledge is too wonderful for us. "The wind bloweth where it listeth!" But the fact we know, viz., that the Spirit of God does give the believer such a testimony of His adoption, that while it is present to the soul, he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship than he can doubt of the shining of the sun while he stands in the full blaze of his beams.

II. HOW THIS JOINT TESTIMONY MAY BE DISTINGUISHED FROM —

1. The presumption of the natural mind. The Scriptures abound with marks whereby we may distinguish the one from the other; and whoever carefully attends to them will not put darkness for light.(1) Repentance precedes this witness (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19), but the natural mind is a stranger to this. The being born again — that mighty change from darkness to light, death to life, etc. (Ephesians 2:1, 5, 6), must also precede; but what knoweth he of this? It is a language he does not understand. He has always been a Christian, and knows no time when he had need of such a change.(2) Humble joy in God accompanies it, and meekness, patience, gentleness, etc. But do these fruits attend the supposed testimony in the presumptuous man? The more confident he is of the favour of God the more does he exalt himself. It is also accompanied with the love which rejoices to obey (1 John 5:3; John 14:21). But this is not the character of the presumptuous pretender to the love of God. But how may one who has the real witness distinguish it from presumption? How do you distinguish day from night? or the light of a glimmering taper from that of the noonday sun? In like manner there is an essential difference between spiritual light and darkness, and between the light wherewith the Sun of Righteousness shines upon our heart, and the glimmering light which arises from "sparks of our own kindling." To require a more minute and philosophical account is to make a demand which can never be answered, or else the natural man would be able to discern the things of the Spirit of God.

2. The delusions of the devil. By the same fruits. That proud spirit cannot humble thee before God, or melt thy heart into filial love, or enable thee to put on meekness, etc. As surely, then, as holiness is of God and sin of the devil, so surely the witness thou hast in thyself is not of Satan but of God.

(John Wesley, M.A.)

There are here —

I. TWO PERSONS.

1. The Spirit.(1) He is God, and if so, equal to the Father and the Son. This is proved inasmuch as —(a) The essential name of God is given Him (Isaiah 6:9; cf. Acts 28:25).(b) The Divine attributes — eternity (Genesis 1:2); omnipresence (Psalm 139:7); omniscience (1 Corinthians 2:10).(c) The works of God — creation (Job 33:4); miracles (Isaiah 63:14); the calling and sending of the prophets (Isaiah 48:16) and of Christ Himself (Luke 4:18); prophecy (Acts 1:16); illumination (John 16:14); justification (1 Corinthians 6:11); conviction of sin (John 16:8); comfort (Acts 9:31); resurrection (Romans 8:11); the earnest and seal of our evidence (Ephesians 1:13); spiritual refreshment (John 4:14); zeal (Matthew 3:11); prayer (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 8:26); gladness (Hebrews 1:9); spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4). He is God, because the essential name of God is His; therefore let us call upon His name, because the attributes of God are His; therefore let us attribute to Him all might, majesty, dominion, etc., because the works of God are His; therefore let us co-operate with Him: then shall we be of the same spirit with Him.(2) He is a distinct person in the Godhead. He is not the highest and powerfullest working of God in man not the breathing of God into the soul of man; these are only His gifts and not Himself. It is not the power of the King that signs His pardon, but His person.(3) He proceeds from the Father and the Son (ver. 9; Galatians 4:6). As to the manner of this, when we are able to tell how the Spirit proceeds which beats in our pulse, we shall be able to explain that.

2. Our spirit. The word is applied either to the soul itself, or to its superior faculties in the regenerate. In Hebrews 4:12 the soul is that which animates the body, and enables the senses to see and hear; the spirit is that which enables the soul to see God and hear His gospel (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:25). The soul is the seat of affections, the spirit is rectified reason or the conscience (Romans 9:1).

II. THEIR OFFICE — to testify.

1. The testification of the Holy Ghost Himself. A witness ever testifies of some matter of fact. The Spirit here witnesses that we are the children of God. Now, if a witness prove that I am a tenant to such land or lord of it, I do not become so by this witness, but his testimony proves I was so before. I have, therefore, a former right to be the child of God — i.e., the election of God in Christ Jesus. The Holy Ghost produces the decree of this election. And upon such evidence shall I give sentence against myself? I should not doubt the testimony of an angel, and when God testifies to me it is a rebellious sin to doubt. But though there be a former evidence for my being a child of God, a decree in heaven, yet it is not enough that there is such a record; it must be produced; and by that, though it do not become my election then, it makes my election appear.

2. But even that Spirit will not be heard alone. He will fulfil His own law "in the mouth of two witnesses." Sometimes our spirit bears testimony without the Spirit. The natural conscience has much to say about sin, and God and our relation to Him (Acts 17:28). And the Holy Spirit testifies when ours does not. How often He presents to us the power of God in the mouth of the preacher, and we bear witness to one another of the preacher's wit and eloquence, and no more! How often He bears witness that such an action is odious to God, and our spirit bears witness that it is acceptable to men! How often He bears witness for God's judgments, and our spirit deposes for mercy by presumption, or He testifies for mercy and ours for judgment in desperation! But when the Spirit and our spirit agree; when He speaks comfortably to my soul and my soul hath apprehended comfort; when He deposes for the decree of my election, and I depose for the seals and marks of that decree, these two witnesses —

3. Induce a third witness — the world itself to testify what is the testimony of the text.

III. THE TESTIMONY — "that we are the children of God."

1. The Holy Ghost could not express more danger to a man than when He calls him "the child of this world" (Luke 16:18); nor a worse disposition than when He calls him "the child of diffidence and distrust in God" (Ephesians 5:6); nor a worse pursuer of that ill disposition than when He calls him "the child of the devil" (Acts 13:10); nor a worse possessing of the devil than when He calls him "the child of perdition" (John 17.); nor a worse execution of all this than when He calls him "a child of hell" (Matthew 23. 15).

2. So it is also a high exaltation when the Spirit draws our pedigree from any good thing, as when He calls us "the children of light" (John 12:36); "the children of the bridechamber" (Matthew 9:15); but the highest of all is "the children of God." This is an universal primogeniture, and makes every true believer heir of the joys, the glory, the eternity of heaven.

(J. Donne, D.D.)

Sometimes the soul, because it hath somewhat remaining in it of the principle that it had in its old condition, is put to question whether it be a child of God or not; and thereupon, as in a thing of greatest importance, puts in its claim, with all the evidence it hath to make good its title. The Spirit comes and bears witness in this case. It is an allusion to judicial proceedings in point of titles. The judge being set, the person concerned lays his claim, produces his evidences and pleads them, his adversaries endeavouring all that in them lies to disannul his plea. In the midst of the trial a person of known and proved integrity comes into the court, and gives testimony fully and directly on behalf of the claimer, which stops the mouth of all his adversaries, and fills the man with joy and satisfaction. So is it in this case. The soul, by the power of its own conscience, is brought before the law of God; there a man puts in his plea that he is a child of God, and for this end produceth all his evidences, everything whereby faith gives him an interest in God. Satan, in the meantime, opposeth with all his might; many flaws are found in the evidences; the truth of them all is questioned, and the soul hangs in suspense as to the issue. In the midst of the contest the Comforter comes, and overpowers the heart with a comfortable persuasion, and bears down all objections, that his plea is good, and that he is a child of God. When our spirits are pleading their right and title, He comes in and bears witness on our side, at the same time enabling us to put forth acts of filial obedience, crying, "Abba Father."

(J. Owen, D.D.)

Believers have a double testimony, one without, and one within; and this witness within us will go with us, which way soever we go: it will accompany us through all straits and difficulties. The external testimony may be taken from us, our Bibles, our teachers, our friends; or they may imprison us where we cannot enjoy them: but they cannot take from us the Spirit of Christ. This witness within is a permanent, settled, habituate, standing witness.

( Ambrose.)

— The witness of the Spirit, from its nature as a witness, must be instantaneous. A witness deposes to a particular fact; and there must be a particular instant of time when his testimony is given. The mathematician slowly, by the use of single cyphers and symbols, works out his problems in order to find a result concerning which he is altogether in doubt; the chemist slowly and cautiously conducts experiments to find out the nature of substances concerning which he is totally ignorant; but a witness enters a court to depose to a fact of which he has already a full knowledge, and whose testimony the court is now waiting to hear. He who believes in Jesus Christ is in a scriptural condition to receive the witness of the Spirit that he is a child of God; and the case neither requires nor admits that the witness should be gradually imparted. When a parent has forgiven his child he does not gradually reveal that fact to him, but gives immediate proof in his countenance and actions, if not in words, that he again loves him.

(S. Hulme.)

I. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

1. Direct.

2. Divine.

3. Manner unknown.

4. Distinct from and anterior to the witness of our own spirit.

5. Attested by Scripture.

6. Confirmed by reason.

7. If no such witness, no assurance, all induction.

II. THE WITNESS OF OUR OWN SPIRIT.

1. Inward consciousness.

2. Holy tempers.

3. Obedience.

4. Peace and confidence.

5. Flowing from repentance and faith.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

The witness of the Holy Ghost is the work of faith, the witness of our spirits the sense of faith wrought. This is better felt by experience than expressed by words, known altogether and only to them which have it. For me to speak of this to them which have it not, were as if I should speak a strange language. The witness is that "we are the children of God." Not that we shall be, or may be, but are. And what though my very name be not written in the Scripture, thou Thomas, thou John? It is not convenient. What a huge volume should the Bible be if every saint's name were there written! It is not necessary, because all particulars are included in their generals; as he that saith, "All my children are here," means every one in particular, though he name them not; so God, that saith all believers shall be saved, means every one as though they were named. And yet the Scripture doth speak in particular (Romans 10:9). When the law saith, Thou shall not kill, steal, etc., every one is to take it as spoken to himself, as if he were named. Why should not such particulars in the gospel be also so taken? True, say the Papists, if you believe you shall be saved; but where does the Scripture say that you do believe? Ridiculous! The act of faith is not set down in the Scriptures, but the object. The faith which I believe is in the Bible. The faith whereby I believe is in my heart, and is not believed (for that were absurd), but known by feeling. We do not believe that we believe, but we feel it (2 Timothy 1:12). If man should witness, or an angel, there might be doubt; but when there is such a witness as is the Spirit we ought not to doubt. If a man of a weak brain were on the top of some high tower, and should look down, it would make him wonderfully afraid; but when he considers the battlements that keep him from falling his fear abates. So fares it with the regenerate when we look on our sins, and so down and down to hell. Alas! whose heart quails not? But when we consider the brazen wall of the love, truth, and promise of God in Christ, we may be assured without fear. Look upon thy defects, but forget not the truth and power of God. Pretend not the testimony of the Holy Ghost without thine own spirit: nor contrarily, for they go together. Faith, repentance, etc., are the testimony of God's Spirit; if from these thy spirit witnesseth, then it is current. But if thou beest a drunkard, a Sabbath-breaker, unclean, etc., and sayest the Spirit witnesseth thy salvation, it is not God's Spirit, but a lying spirit, for such works are of the devil. God's Spirit indeed witnesseth; but the witness is that they which do such things shall be damned.

(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

Having affirmed the Divine relationship of the believer, the apostle now proceeds to adduce the Divine evidence of a truth so great.

I. IT IS NOT STRANGE THAT THE FACT OF HIS ADOPTION SHOULD MEET WITH MUCH MISGIVING IN THE CHRISTIAN'S MIND. The very stupendousness of the relationship staggers our belief. To be fully assured of our Divine adoption demands other than the testimony either of our own feelings or the opinion of men. Our feelings may mislead, the opinion of others may deceive. There exists a strong combination of evil tending to shake the Christian's confidence in the belief of his sonship.

1. Satan is ever on the watch to insinuate the doubt. He tried the experiment with our Lord (Matthew 4:6).

2. The world, too, presumes to call it in question (1 John

3. I). Ignorant of the Divine original, how can it recognise the Divine lineaments in the faint and imperfect copy?

3. But the strongest doubts are those gendered in the believer's own mind. There crowd upon it thoughts of his own sinfulness, and unworthiness of so distinguished a blessing. And when to this are added the varied dispensations of his heavenly Father, often wearing a rough garb, it is no marvel that, staggered by a discipline so severe, the fact of God's love should sometimes be a matter of painful doubt.

II. BUT GOD HAS GRACIOUSLY AND AMPLY PROVIDED FOR THIS PART OF CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE IN THE WITHESS OF THE SPIRIT.

1. The perfect competence of the Spirit is assumed. Who can reasonably question it?(1) Is verity essential to a witness? He is the "Spirit of truth."(2) Is it essential that he should know the fact whereof he affirms? Who so competent to authenticate the work of the Spirit in the heart as the Spirit Himself?

2. As to the truth thus witnessed, we are not to suppose that the testimony is intended to make the fact itself more sure; nor for the benefit of our fellowcreatures, still less for the satisfaction of God Himself, but for the assurance and comfort of our own hearts.

3. But the question arises, What is the mode of His testimony? Not by visions and voices; not by heats and fancies; nor by any direct inspiration, or new revelation of truth. By —

(1)Begetting in us the Divine nature.

(2)Producing in us spiritual fruits.

(3)Breathing in our souls a desire for holiness, the Spirit conducts us to the rational conclusion that we are born of God.

(O. Winslow, D.D.)

The value of any testimony is determined by the character of the person who gives it. To be spoken of for our knowledge by a fool is of idle account; whilst a word from the wise, how good is it! To be spoken of for our valour by a coward is a vain matter; whilst the commendation of the hero is of great moment. Now in this way the greatest and best of all testimonies are those to the soul of the believer by the Spirit of God.

I. THE AUTHOR OF THE BELIEVER'S TESTIMONY — the Spirit! The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit.

1. Secretly in the sense which He conveys of our personal interest in the great scheme of Christ's atonement, by the gift of faith.

2. Openly before the eyes of the world, that the world may take knowledge of His work.

II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE TESTIMONY — "that we are the children of God." In what way does this testimony discover itself? There will be a filial —

1. Love to God's person through Christ.

2. A trust and dependence upon His supplies.

3. Lowliness.

4. Fear.

5. Confidence in His wisdom.

6. Resignation to His will.

7. Obedience.

8. Likeness.

9. Delight in His presence.

III. THE DEDUCTION FROM THIS TESTIMONY — "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ."

1. Not one in a family, but all heirs — not heirs who may lose their inheritance by premature death, or be defrauded of it, or have it wasted away by the delays and chicaneries of law, but an heirdom where the possession is certain as universal, and full as certain.

2. The heir of God! To the heir of a king what glorious expectancies are there! — of a throne, a crown, a treasury, a nation! But how poor are these to the objects before the heir of God! The heir of God! — of all things temporal, spiritual, and eternal, of all which God can devise and bestow for our good.

IV. THE CONDITION OF THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE TESTIMONY. It is a suffering condition — "if so be that we suffer with Him." The disciple is not above his Lord, nor the servant his master.

V. THE EXALTATION OF THOSE WHO ARE AFFECTED BY THE TESTIMONY — "that we may also be glorified together."

(T. J. Judkin.)

I. ITS NATURE.

1. Paul draws a distinction between God's Spirit and our spirit; it is not our spiritual life that bears this testimony, but the Spirit of God. There are those who conceive that a feeling suddenly rises in the Christian, which is a conviction of his election, and that this is the witness of the Holy Spirit. Hence men have waited for it with anxiety. Of course a sudden emotion may come, but to rely on any emotion is to rely upon our own spirit bearing witness with itself. Man is not saved by feeling that he is saved. Nor has he the witness of sonship by feeling that he is a son of God; but by the Spirit of God apprehending and quickening his soul.

2. The apostle is speaking of continued evidence. If men imagine that certain ecstatic spiritual emotions are proofs of the witness of sonship, the witness is fitful and transient; for the inner life is as full of changes as an April day, and if a man founds his assurance on this, he will to-day believe in his sonship, and to-morrow utterly doubt it. Paul, in the former part of this chapter, has spoken of being freed from condemnation; of being spiritually minded; of being led by the Spirit; all these are continued facts of Christian life, therefore the witness of the Spirit is equally continued.

3. The ground on which Paul bases the evidence of sonship is that of a Divine Spirit, greater than the emotions of our souls, consciously acting upon us. But how do we know this? When we feel conscious not so much of possessing a life, as of a life possessing us.(1) This distinction holds through all the higher forms of human life. The man who proclaims the truth he holds is never the highest kind of preacher; he who speaks because the truth possesses him leaves an impress on the ages. The true artist is not the man who depicts his own ideas, but he who is tilled by a mighty inspiration which compels him to paint the forms of beauty which he sees glowing around him.(2) Passing to the moral life, we find the same distinction. He who does right because he may give pleasure, and fears to do wrong because it is painful, is never, in the highest sense, a moral man at all; but he only is such who does right because filled with a life grander than his own.(3) So in spiritual life. When we are led by a Spirit of life greater than our own, we know that the Divine Spirit is acting upon us. That is a witness of sonship founded on the rock of God's eternal truthfulness.

4. The manner in which this evidence rises in the soul. Observe how the text is woven into the chapter. Paul speaks of the action of God's Spirit as —(1) Deliverance from the carnal (ver. 13). Here, then, is the witness — when the old affections are being uprooted and a deep desire is created after perfect purity.(2) The spirit of prayer (ver. 26).(3) The spirit of aspiration (ver. 23). The feeling that here there is no rest — the whole life becoming one prayer for more light, greater power, deeper love; not, mark, the cry for happiness, but the cry — "Nearer, my God, to Thee."

II. ITS NECESSITY.

1. To enable us to enter into perfect communion with God. Till we can feel His power possessing us — till we can see His smile behind every sorrow, we shall fear Him.

2. To realise our spiritual inheritance. You know the feeling of sadness which comes when gazing at night into immensity — the thought that this short life will soon be over, and we shall be swept away and forgotten. Then how grandly comes the witness to our sonship, saying, "Thou cast down? Look up into immensity, it is all thine, fear not, thou art a child of the Infinite."

3. In order to comprehend the glory of suffering. Mark the connection in Paul's words between the sufferings of this life and the glory to be revealed hereafter, as if he had said, "As the suffering is great, so also shall be the glory." None but the man who has the "witness of the Spirit" is able to look through the sorrow to the blessedness hereafter.

III. ITS ATTAINMENT. In order to acquire this witness, carry into action every spiritual power you possess — translate every emotion into life. Remember you have to "work together with God." Take care that you "grieve not the Holy Spirit." Feel that every point gained in spiritual life is a point to be maintained. Take care that when you are brought nearer to God by suffering, you do not allow yourself to fall back; if you do, the light of the Spirit will fade. "If then ye live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit."

(E. L. Hull, B.A.)

I. A SPECIAL PRIVILEGE. "We are the children of God."

1. This is an act of pure grace. No man has any right to be a son of God. If we are born into His family it is a miracle of mercy.

2. This is a great dignity. The archangels are the most favoured of God's servants, but not His children. Speak of pedigrees, thou, poor Christian, hast more than heraldry could ever give thee, or all the pomp of ancestry could ever bestow.

II. A SPECIAL PROOF — "The Spirit itself beareth witness," etc. Notice that there are two witnesses. It is as if a poor man were called into court to prove his right to some piece of land which was disputed. He standeth up and beareth his own faithful testimony; but some great one of the land confirms his witness.

1. Our spirit bears witness —(1) When it feels a filial love to God; when we can boldly say, "Abba, Father." If I were not a child, God would never have given to me that affection which dares to call Him "Father."(2) By trust. In the darkest hour we have been able to say, "The time is in my Father's hands; I cannot murmur; I feel it is but right that I should suffer, otherwise my Father would never have made me suffer." "Though Thou slay me, yet will I trust in Thee."(3)And are there not times when your hearts feel that they would be emptied and void unless God were in them? You feel you must have your Father, or else the gifts of His providence are nothing to you. That is, your spirit beareth witness that you are the child of God.

2. The Holy Ghost graciously condescendeth to say "Amen" to the testimony of our conscience. And whereas our experience sometimes leads our spirit to conclude that we are born of God, there are times when the eternal Spirit descends and fills our heart, and then we have the two witnesses bearing witness with each other that we are the children of God. Perhaps you ask me how is this.(1) The Holy Spirit has written this Book, which contains an account of what a Christian should be, and of the feelings he must have. I have certain experiences and feelings; turning to the Word, I find similar experiences and feelings recorded; and so I prove that I am right, and the Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am born of God.(2) But, again, everything that is good in a Christian is the work of the Holy Ghost. When at any time, then, the Holy Spirit comforts you, instructs you, opens to you a mystery, inspires you with an unwonted affection, an unusual faith in Christ, these are the works of the Spirit. Now, inasmuch as the Spirit works in you, He doth by that very working give His own infallible testimony to the fact that you are a child of God. If you had not been a child, He would have left you in your natural state.(3) But I must go further. There is a supernatural way in which, apart from means, the Spirit of God communicates with the spirit of man. He assures and consoles directly, by coming into immediate contact with the heart.

III. A NOBLE DIGNITY.

1. "Heirs of God" with Christ.(1) It does not always follow in human reasoning "if children, then heirs," because in our families but one is the heir. All God's children are heirs, however numerous the family, and he that shall be born of God last shall be as much His heir as he who was born first.(2) And see what it is that we are heirs of; not of God's gifts and God's works, but of God Himself. It was said of Cyrus that when he sat down at meat, if there were aught that pleased his appetite, he would order it to be given to his friends with this message, "King Cyrus found that this food pleased his palate, and he thought his friend should feed upon that which he enjoyed himself." This was thought to be a singular instance of his kindness to his courtiers. But our God doth not send merely bread from His table; He gives Himself — Himself to us. Talk we of His omnipotence? — His Almightiness is ours. Speak we of His omniscience? — all His wisdom is engaged in our behalf. Do we say that He is love? — that love belongs to us.

2. "Joint heirs with Christ." That is, whatever Christ possesses, as Heir of all things, belongs to us. He gives us His raiment, and His righteousness becomes our beauty. He gave to us His Person; we eat His flesh and drink His blood. He gives us His inmost heart, His crown, His throne. "All things are yours," etc. We must never quarrel with this Divine arrangement. "Oh," say you, "we never shall." Stay; for when all that is Christ's belongs to you, do ye forget that Christ once had a cross, and that belongs to you? "If so be that we suffer with Him that we also may be glorified together."

IV. THE SPECIAL CONDUCT naturally expected from the children of God. In the golden age of Rome, if a man were tempted to dishonesty, he would stand upright, look the tempter in the face, and say to him, "I am a Roman." It ought to be a ten times more than sufficient answer to every temptation for a man to be able to say, "I am a son of God; shall such a man as I yield to sin?" I have been astonished, in looking through old Roman history, at the wonderful prodigies of integrity and valour which were produced by patriotism or love of fame. And it is a shameful thing that ever idolatry should be able to breed better men than some who profess Christianity.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

This witness of the Spirit varies —

I. IN THE SAME INDIVIDUAL.

1. "There have been moments," says some weary soul, "when I have had that witness — in some time of great spiritual struggle, when through my very weakness there came a strength which made me conquer even myself, and also in moments of great spiritual exaltation; but there has come a reaction after the victory, a depression after the joy, and the evidence which seemed so strong has worn gradually away. If that had been the witness of God's strong unchanging Spirit, surely it could not have been so?"

2. Yes, it could be, and is so; for God's Spirit bears witness with our spirit. It is just as, in natural things, the sun in heaven bears witness with our human sight to the existence of physical objects; and its shining is constant and unchanging, but the evidence of it varies with the conditions of our vision. It cannot but be so when there is so intimate a connection between our body and spirit, and the one acts on, and is reacted on, by the other. We know how a depressed or nervous physical condition will tinge our feelings, will make us take a widely different view of things from that which we had taken before. Who is there who has not experienced the difference of a bright spring morning and a dull November day? Our spiritual nature has its noontide, when we work in the light and rejoice in the brightness of God's love; and it will have its night, when we can only see the light, as it were, coming from some passionless moon, or from the cold steel stars in some far-off heaven.

3. Those moments of dulness and of coldness in our religious life are times of peril. There is a danger of despair, and the remedy is a more perfect trust in God. There is danger of turning to spiritual stimulants. Never try by physical means, or so-called religious exercises, to galvanise yourself into feeling what you know you do not feel. The true remedy is to strengthen and improve generally your spiritual nature, instead of nervously looking for artificial tests of its vitality. More earnest communing with God; more thoughts of Him and His great love, and less of ourselves and of our feelings; more study of the deep meaning of His Word; more seeking to do His will; more use of the means of grace will be helps to us in such moments. The keen appetite and the clear vision will return with the increasing health of the spiritual man in us, and again and again those glad moments will be ours, when we feel the Spirit bearing "witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God."

II. IN DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS.

1. The witness of the Spirit must vary, as do our individual natures. The boat in the harbour is none less safe because it has not come across the storm-swept sea, but only down some inland river with no grand convulsions, but still with strange, commonplace, yet fascinating dangers of its own. It is a perilous and a very wrong thing to set up some one, sole, exclusive, monotonous standard of spiritual evidence and of spiritual life. There is no rigid rule of uniformity in God's treatment of souls.

2. The risen Lord came under great variety of circumstances, and with every differing kind of evidence of His presence, to each and all of His disciples. First, He came to the loving hearts of women, whose words seemed only "idle tales" to the apostles themselves; and then with logical demonstration to the cold reasoning intellect of St. Thomas; now to individual disciples walking on the common highway, and who only saw Him when He broke and blessed the bread, and it revealed to them why their hearts had so burned within them on the way; and then to the assembled Church with words of benediction and of peace. And thus still He and His Holy Spirit's witness come — now to some tender soul who cannot reason, but can only love, with simply an angel's message, which not only the world, but the Church, may for a moment think but an "idle tale"; and again to some consummate, lordly intellect, which is at last convinced by touching the nail-print and the riven side. Now He comes to solitary individuals on the dusty highway of life, who know not whence sprang every earnest pulsation of their burning hearts, till some day, perhaps in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, they see at last that it must have been He that was with them; and, again, He is present to the assembled Church when in some hour of danger it has shut the door, and then found that He is with them in the midst.

3. Do not think that you are not near to Christ, that He does not love you, because you have not had some one else's experience, because you are not like some saint whose biography you admire. There has been a terrible tendency to magnify, in every age, some one sole idea of Christian usefulness and beauty. At one time it has been solely the ascetic, and again solely the active life. At one time it has been the purely contemplative, and again the exclusively intellectual. This has done much to rob many a sweet life of its hopefulness; to create in others an almost unconscious hypocrisy. Surely the Master's life is a protest against it: "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" — all utterly different and unlike natures. We are too ready to unduly exalt Mary at the expense of her sister and her brother. Many a Lazarus and many a Martha are full of sorrow and even despair because they are not like Mary.

(T. T. Shore, M.A.)

Homiletic Quarterly.
is —

I. THE BASIS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Inasmuch as —

1. By it we have the first testimony of our filial relation to God.

2. It notifies to us all the benefits of the New Testament.

3. By it all that is involved in Christianity is made living and real to us.

II. THE SUSTAINING POWER OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. As the inward spiritual testimony is our encouragement against defection.

2. As it is an effective solace in the hour of trial.

3. As it is the communion of that Spirit who is the strength of righteousness.

4. As it renders us non-susceptible in the hour of temptation.

III. THE PLEDGE OF THE FUTURE BLESSEDNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. The fact of such a relation subsisting between God and the soul gives the highest warrant of eternal life. "If children, then heirs," etc.

2. The character of this assurance as the work of the Divine Spirit is a testimony to its possible perpetuity.

3. In this assurance is involved the idea of a pledge — "the earnest of the Spirit" (ver. 11).Learn:

1. To cherish this assurance, especially by cultivating an obedient sensibility to the Holy Spirit's suggestions.

2. To guard against anything that would grieve or quench the Holy Spirit.

(Homiletic Quarterly.)

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