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Written by Wilson Thompson   


On the Work of the Spirit after Justification.

As we have seen in the foregoing discourse, how the atonement affected the justification of the church, we shall attempt in this discourse to show, how the spirit in its work, follows the atonement and prepares the justified for heaven, for as the very being and nature of love effected our union with Christ, and this union gave him the right of making the atonement and the church the right of being justified by it, so the atonement by clearing the church from under the ministration of condemnation and death, places the church under grace, or the ministration of the spirit; and the work of the spirit prepares them for the enjoyment of God and heaven.

First, in speaking on this subject we shall show the state of man before regeneration. – Secondly, What he may experience, and not be under the work of the spirit. – Thirdly, what is the work of the spirit, and what are the evidences of it.

1. We are to show the state of man before regeneration. Before regeneration man is dead in trespasses and in sin, children of wrath, enemies to God, hateful and hating one another, all gone out of the way, none doing good, no not one; vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts are darkened, they call darkness light, and light darkness, they have no fear of God before their eyes; the way of peace they have not known, and this is the state of all Adam’s offspring without distinction of elect or none elect, for all that were in Adam, when he represented his whole posterity, fell with him into the same state, for by the disobedience of one man judgment came upon all men unto condemnation; and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, for all have sinned; that is all have sinned in that one man’s sin; and so death passed through him upon all his seed; this was the state of all Adam’s race; when he sinned they sinned, when he fell they fell; when he became exposed to death they became exposed to death; not a spiritual death as some say, but a natural one that is, man being a compound of soul and body, or consisting of both soul and body, was exposed to death and as the soul could never be destroyed by death, it must suffer the pains of death eternally, and thus a natural death, must constitute an eternal death, or eternal dying, and in this exposed state all mankind stand until regeneration takes place, for it has long been proved, that all are under sin, and in this situation, they hate the light, because it shows their evil deeds; and love darkness because it gives them opportunity to work the works of darkness; it is over them as a covering, for darkness hath covered the earth, and gross darkness the people; this is the sate of all men in Adam the first, and in themselves as sinners in Adams sin. Thus the elect are both condemned and justified at the same time, condemned in, with, and by Adam the first; but justified in, with, and by Adam the second, for as condemnation unto death came by the first Adam, so the free gift unto justification of life came by the second Adam, and as all that were in the first Adam fell under condemnation in him, as their head and representative, so all that were in Christ the second Adam were justified in him, as their head and representative; and so by nature they are children of wrath even as others, but being given to Christ they are his, and so heirs according to the promise. Thus we have shewn the state of man before regeneration, all condemned under the law by virtue of relationship with the first Adam; and all the elect justified by the blood of Christ by virtue of relation with him the second Adam.

2. We shall now proceed to show what men may experience and not be under the work of the spirit of grace. He may feel all that weight of guilt which the law of God charges upon him; and yet not be a subject of the spirits operation, for the law is the ministration of condemnation and death. When the law was given, the people of Israel were awfully alarmed, with the terriffic sight, the mountain covered with fire and smoke, the shafts of death flying, so that if so much as a beast touched the mountain it was stoned, or thrust through with a dart, and the people were sore affraid, yet not under the work of the spirit, for they could unite in making a golden calf to worship. Men may experience very severe and bitter sensations under the sentence of the law, and mourn with aching and heavy hearts, under the ministration of condemnation and death, and all be like the mourning of the murderer that is condemned to be hanged for his crime; he mourns for the miseries that he is exposed to, and not for the heinous nature of his crime; this sort of mourning has self-love for its parent, the thundering of the law has affrighted it; the fears of hell terrify it; and the thoughts of death and judgment fill it with dismay; so when Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment, Felix trembled. This sort of conviction leads men to act like Esau, who has sold his birth right; but when he saw that he was cut off thereby, he sought for a place of repentance in Isaac, but found none though he sought it carefully with tears; so men under this kind of conviction set about to seek for some place of repentance in God, by which the law of condemnation may be repealed, and its sentence revoked, and if they can imagine that they have prevailed on God to love them, and revoke the sentence of the law, upon conditions of what they have done, and what they now promise faithfully to do, they may conclude that they are christians, and upon their faithfully performing those conditions, all will be well with them; and thus they may have as much zeal for God as Israel had and no more according to knowledge than was theirs; in a word, if the fears of hell bears the greates weight on the mind, we do not believe it to be the work of the spirit, or if our comforts are conditional, and depend on any thing done by us, or any of our faithful performances in future life, we do not believe it to be the work of the spirit; neither have we any right to believe, any thing to be the work of the spirit, but that which teacheth in the truth, and as we cannot pretend to show all the impressions that men may pass through, and not be under the work of the spirit; we shall in the third place proceed to speak of the impressions of those who are under the work of the spirit positively.

3. We are to show what is the work of the spirit, and what are the evidences of it. The work of the spirit is to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us; and surely as we are blind, our eyes must be opened, ere we can see those things; and if the blessings of the spirit, are spiritual blessings, we must be spiritual in order to our seeing them, or receiving them, for the natural man understandeth not the things of the spirit, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; but when our eyes are opened by the spirit, we see what is a truth respecting ourselves, that is, we see that we are rebels against God, and that we are not fit to be in heaven; we see that God is the fountain of real happiness; but our sins have separated between us and him: - we see the justice of the law in condemning us for our sins, but although we know that hell is the just demerit of our rebellion, yet that punishment is but a small part of our distress, when compared with the weight of our minds for being rebels against God, a sense of being averse to God, an enemy to him, and unqualified for his service, possessing a heart full of evil, a mind prone to wander from God, full of wicked and presumptuous thoughts, and an uncontrollable enmity against God that rises in spite of the endeavours of the creature; these are the things which bear the heaviest on the mind under the work of the spirit, while the subject of this work, is lead to feel something of the weight of his own corruption, and see something of the glory of God, he is compelled to give up all hopes of being saved by any works of righteousness of his own, either as meritorious or conditional, for when he would do good evil is present with him, and he cries, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death; now he needs no one to tell him, that he is hlpless, for he knows it for himself, here he feels himself condemned in every thing that he attempts, and like the Publican, stands at a great distance, and smiting on the breast, as if he meant, O that this hard, this rebellious, this unrelenting heart was broken into tenderness and love, he cries, God be merciful to me a sinner; for no power but thine can slay this enmity, and I am unworthy, I have no claim on thee, for I am a sinner; have mercy on me, for I cannot help myself, nor recommend myself to thee, but of necessity I am compelled to acknowledge that the fountain of rebellion is in my breast and as a pensioner on thy clemency to cry, God be merciful to me a sinner, thus he is convinced of his standing in himself as one of the depraved children of the first Adam. He is convinced of the impossibility of ever being saved by his own works or of every fulfilling any conditions upon which to be accepted of God, and thus he is prepared to receive grace for grace, and nothing else but grace; and when the spirit hath fully convinced the creature of his own inability to help himself, and has cut him off from all his false hopes and every refuge of lies; then it reveals to him the second Adam, as his representative, with his fullness of grace. It gives him faith which evidences to his justification, by the blood of Christ; leads him to understand the gospel plan of salvation, through the mediation of Jesus Christ; Thus they are convinced of the truth as it respects their standing in themselves as sinners, condemned by virtue of the sin of the first Adam, and them in him, and also of their standing in Christ the second Adam, and their justified state in him, and this is their state ever afterwards; they always feel condemned in themselves, and feel the opposition of a depraved nature lusting against the spirit, and bringing them into captivity to sin which is in their members, but looking to Christ, who is made of God unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.

This change wrought by the spirit, is called regeneration because it is begetting them unto a divine nature. The first work of the spirit on the heart is regeneration, or the implanting of that incorruptible seed with cleaves to holiness, and so it is sometimes called quickened, because this is a living seed, that causes the motions of life to appear, and this is always followed by the new birth which is effected when the soul is enabled to view Christ by faith, and lay hold of the comfort contained in the gospel, and so they are said to be born again, not of corruptable seed, but of an incorruptable seed, by the word of God. Born of the spirit they are spirit; they live on spiritual food; and they serve God in the newness of the spirit; but this divine nature does not destroy the old man, but is the forming of Christ in you the hope of glory; now there is two in one, the old man and the new, or flesh and spirit, and these being contrary the one from the other, maintain a constant warfare, as long as animal life continues; but the spirit is certain of victory, and must conquer the world, for the greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Some have thought that this work of the spirit, emulates against our views of justification, but we think it is a strong proof of it; for when they felt themselves condemned under the sentence of the law it was by comparing themselves with the law, without having any knowledge of Christ as the end of the law, in their behalf; and faith makes no alteration here, for let Paul or the greatest saint in the world compare themselves with the law, without a mediator, and they are as much condemned as even in themselves, and must acknowledge the law is holy, but I am carnal sold under sin, but when they can look to Christ, they can see their justification al complete in him not by a new act of God for their justification, nor by any act of faith effecting their justification, nor by any recent act of the spirit, securing their justification, but by the blood of Christ which was offered in the atonement, answering every demand of the law in their behalf, and thereby removing the curse from them. Now faith is so far from justifying us that it affords us the strongest evidence that we are justified by the blood of Christ; and thus true faith is an evidence of justification in the very sense that we have spoken of it, and the work of ht spirit, is to take of the things of Christ, and shew them unto us, and when his righteousness is shown unto us we rejoice to it; but it was as complete before we saw it as since; so when faith evidences our justification, we rejoice in it, but it was as complete before faith bore evidence to it, as it is since, or else the evidence of faith could not have been true; for we must agree that whatever bears testimony to a thing that is not true, before it gives its testimony; must bear false witness; so if our faith does not witness that our justification was a truth before we believed, it is a false faith, that is, if our justification was not a truth, before, faith gave any evidence of it, then faith must have given a false evidence and of course, must be a false faith; so we see that the work of the spirit, is to reveal to us the truth, as it respects our standing in the first and second Adam, condemned in the first, and justified in the second lost in the first, but saved in the second Adam, condemned in the first, and justified in the second, lost in the first, but saved in the second, enemies to God by the first, but reconciled by the second, under the law by the first, but under grace by the second, and being partakers of the depraved nature by the first the spirit makes us partakers of the divine nature through the second, and thus we are both flesh and spirit. And now we shall close this discourse by offering some evidences to prove this work or rather to prove ourselves to be the subjects of the work of the spirit, The apostle shows us love, as an evidence; we love him because he first loved us; here love to God is an evidence that we are and have been loved of God; but how shall we know whether we love God or not. He that loves God will love his brother; for if we love not our brother whom we have seen, how shall we love God whom we have not seen; thus love is an evidence both to ourselves for our comfort, and to others respecting us; for by this shall ye know that ye have passed from death unto life because ye love the brethren; and by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples when ye have love for one another; thus love is an evidence of the work of the spirit. Again faith is an evidence of this work; for it is one of the spirits gifts, & always one of its attendants; therefore it witnesses that the spirit has been teaching us to know the truth; but sometimes our faith is weak, and we see so much evil in our own nature, so much darkness in our own minds, such a natural aversion to good, and such a strong propensity to evil, we are constrained to cry, surely if I was born of the spirit, I should not be so full of sin, and imperfections; here the man is trying to find something good in himself, but he cannot; and there is a good reason for it; for in me, that is, in my flesh dwelleth no good thing: and to know this truth is one good evidence of a gracious work: and so we may say, that one of the strongest evidences, of our being under the work of the spirit, causes us to doubt it the most; that is, seeing the evil of our own corrupt nature, is one strong evidence of our being under the light of the spirit getting a sight of those corruptions still remaining in us in all their strength, make us think surely I have been deceived; for I am the very same rebel that I have always been: but these trials are peculiar to the subjects of the spirit’s work; and these are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness; and they shall be filled.

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