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Having shewn that by the Three Witnesses we are to understand the Triune God, we proceed to
II. What that is concerning which they bear record
We may well expect that the importance of the matter to which these Divine Witnesses have borne record, is suited to the majesty of the Witnesses themselves. Acccordingly we find, that,
Their testimony relates to the salvation that is in Christ Jesus
[God, who had passed by the angels that fell, has looked in mercy upon fallen man, and has given us eternal life, in and through his Son Jesus Christa. He sent his dear Son to die in our stead, and, by his own obedience unto death, to work out a righteousness whereby we might be saved. The merit whereby we are to be justified, and the grace whereby we are to be renewed, he treasured up for us in Christ; and he calls all men to receive these blessings out of his fulness. This way of salvation is open for all, and sufficient for all : but, this rejected, no other remains for us.
This is the sum and substance of the Gospel; and this it is to which the Sacred Three bear record.]
Nor is their testimony at all more than the subject requires
[If God himself had not revealed such things, who could ever have imagined them ? who could ever have thought of God becoming incarnate, and, by his own death, expiating the guilt of his own creatures ? Who could ever have devised a plan so calculated to exalt the perfections of God; so suited to answer the necessities of man; and so efficacious to renew us after the Divine image? Besides, supposing these things to have been reported, who would ever have believed them, if they had not been thus divinely attested ? Notwithstanding the testimonies given by the Sacred Three, there is yet reason to adopt that reiterated complaint,
" Who hath believed our report b?" Professions of faith indeed abound amongst us; but a true believer, whose feelings and conduct accord with his professions, is “ a sign and a wonder” in Christendom itself.]
It remains yet to be declared,
b Isai. liii. 1. John xii. 38. Rom. x. 16.
c Isai. viii. 18.
Each of these Divine Persons has borne record at divers times, and in different manners
[The Father thrice bore witness to Christ by an audible voice from heaven; declaring at the same time his acquiescence in him as the Saviour of men ; and requiring us at the peril of our souls to “ hear” and receive him in that characterd. Moreover, in raising Christ from the dead, he yet more emphatically testified, that he had discharged the debt for which he had been imprisoned in the grave, and was “able to save to the uttermost all that should come unto God through hime."
The Lord Jesus Christ continually bore witness to himself. When asked, “ If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly;" he answered, “I have told you, and ye believe me notë.” “Before Pontius Pilate he witnessed the same good confession®,” though he knew that it would issue in his death. After his resurrection, he called himself “ the true and faithful witness,” and testified, “I am he that was dead and am alive again, and have the keys of death and of hellh."
The Holy Spirit also bore witness to him, when he descended in a bodily shape, like a dove upon him: and again, when he came down in the likeness of fiery tongues upon the Apostles, and converted three thousand to the faith of Christ. Similar testimonies he still continued to give'; and at this very day, when any are converted to the faith, it is owing to the testimony which the Holy Spirit bears to Christ; “the Spirit testifies of him," and thereby produces conviction or consolation in the soulk.
Thus the Sacred Three bear record in heaven, and by their united testimony encourage our acceptance of the salvation offered us in the Gospel.] INFER1. How unreasonable and dangerous is unbelief!
[If only men, who are credible and competent witnesses, attest a thing, we think it right to believe them. What an insult then is it to the Sacred Three to doubt their testimony ! Yet this, alas! is the treatment which their record meets with in the world. Some reject it as
Some reject it as “a cunningly-devised fable;" while others, professing a regard to it in general, deny the most important part of it, the necessity of being saved by Christ alone. Even those who in their hearts approve the Gospel, are too apt to doubt the freeness and sufficiency of the salvation revealed in it. Let every one consider the extreme sinfulness of such conduct, and abhor the thought of making God a liar?”.]
d Matt. iii. 17. and xvii. 5. and John xii. 28.
8 1 Tim. vi. 13. h Rev. i. 18. and iii. 14.
i Acts x. 44, 45. k John xv. 26. and xvi. 7-11.
2. What obligation lies upon believers to bear an open testimony to the truth !
[It is evident how earnestly God desires that his dear Son should be known, and that the salvation wrought out by him should be embraced. Now believers are his witnesses in the midst of a blind deluded world. Ought they then to be ashamed or afraid to bear their testimony for God? What if the world agree to call the Gospel a delusion, and to consider all as hypocrites or fanatics who embrace it? Should that deter us from making a public profession of his truth? Should we not rather be the bolder in confessing Christ, in proportion as others are bold in denying him?
But let us not confine our profession to creeds and forms: the best and most acceptable way of declaring our affiance in Christ, is by manifesting to the world its efficacy on our hearts and lives. This will make them think that there is a reality in the Gospel; and may contribute to win many who never would obey the written word.]
3. How exalted must be the glory which believers will enjoy in heaven !
[It cannot be conceived that the Three Persons of the Godhead would have devised and executed such a wonderful plan of salvation, if the end to be accomplished by it were not exceeding glorious. Surely all that the love of the Father can devise, all that the blood of Christ can purchase, all that the Holy Spirit can impart, is prepared for us in the eternal world, and shall be bestowed on us according to our measure and capacity to receive it. Yes, in heaven we shall see God as he is, and have the brightest discoveries of his glory: and, while we have the richest enjoyment of his presence and love, we ourselves shall be witnesses for him, how far his mercy could reach, what astonishing changes it could effect, and what blessedness it can bestow on the most unworthy of mankind.]
THE BELIEVER'S INWARD WITNESS.
1 John v. 10. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the
witness in himself. THE truth of our holy religion is confirmed by every kind of evidence that the heart of man can desire. Not only was it established by an appeal to prophecy, but by miracles without number. Nay more, as the religion of Moses had at the very time different rites appointed in commemoration of the principal events with which that dispensation was marked; as the feast of the passover, to commemorate the destruction of the Egyptian first-born, and the preservation of Israel,—and the feast of Pentecost, to commemorate the giving of the law,—and the feast of tabernacles, to commemorate their living in tents in the wilderness ;-so has Christianity been attested by the Holy “Spirit” given to the Apostles, and “ the water” of baptism, which was administered on that very day, and “the blood” of the cross commemorated by the cup which is drank by all in the supper of the Lord.
But, convincing as these testimonies are, the true believer has one peculiar to himself, one abiding in his own bosom, arising from his own experience : “ He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself;" the witness of Christ, and of his salvation; of its necessity, its suitableness, its sufficiency. He has in himself the witness of, I. Its necessity
[The generality of persons see no need of such a salvation as the Gospel has provided. Many have no conception that they merit condemnation at the hands of God: or that there can be any occasion for more than a mere exercise of mercy, without any atonement offered to divine justice for their sins, or any righteousness to be imputed to them for their justification before God. But the believer has views of his own exceeding sinfulness, and of his utter incapacity to reconcile himself to God, and of his need of a Saviour to effect salvation for him. He is conscious, that no repentance of his can ever suffice to expiate his guilt, nor any good works of his prevail for the purchase of heaven: and hence he is in his own apprehension as much lost without a Saviour, as the fallen angels are, for whom no Saviour has been provided.] II. Its suitableness
(Looking into his own bosom to explore his wants, and then examining the Holy Scriptures to see what provision God has made for him, he sees that the one corresponds with the other as the wards of a lock with the key that opens it. He has no want in himself for which he does not see in Christ a suitable supply: nor does he behold in Christ any thing which he does not need. Is Christ both God and man? Such an one does the believer see that he stands in need of; even man to take on him what man was bound to do and suffer; and God to render that work effectual for our salvation. Did the believer need an atonement for his guilt, a righteousness wherein to stand before God? Did he need a divine power to renew his soul? Did he need an Advocate with the Father to intercede for him ? Did he need an Head of vital influence to impart unto him all seasonable supplies of grace? This, and ten thousand times more than this, does he find in Christ, whose fulness corresponds with his necessities, as an impression with the seal; in neither of which is there a jot or tittle either superfluous or defective. The every office of Christ, and every character is precisely that which the believer needs; to the hungry, Christ is bread; to the thirsty, a living fountain of water; to the sick, a Physician; yea and life to the dead.] III. Its sufficiency
[The believer feels in himself that he is a partaker of those very benefits which Christ came to bestow. He is alive from the dead, and is enabled to live as no unregenerate man can live. Let any one behold a river which a few hours ago was running down with a rapid current to the sea, running back again with equal rapidity to the fountain head; and will he doubt how this is effected ? He may not be able to say what influence that is by which it is produced, or how that operation is effected: but he sees that there is a power which has wrought this: he sees it in its effects, just as he sees the trees agitated by the wind, though he knows not whence that wind comes, or whither it goes. He cannot declare how the Spirit which Jesus has imparted to him, operates upon his soul: but he can no more doubt who it is that has thus created him anew, than who it is that formed the universe. He is a perfect wonder to himself; a spark kept alive in the midst of the ocean, a bush ever burning, yet never consumed. He is a living witness for