The Spirits witness is not ordinarily an experience in the sense in which orgasm or shock or bewilderment or being “sent” by beauty in music or nature or eating curry are experiencesdatable, memorable, short-lived items in our flow of consciousness, standing out from what went before and what came afterward. Yet there are moments of experience in which the Spirits witness becomes suddenly strong.
Such was the famous experience of Blaise Pascal on November 23, 1654, the record of which he began thus:
From about half-past ten in the evening till about half-past twelve
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars (savants).
Certainty. Certainty (certitude). Feeling (sentiment). Joy. Peace.
Such too was Wesleys equally famous experience on May 24, 1738. While listening to Luthers preface to Romans, he felt his heart “strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Such experiences intensify a quality of experience that is real in some measure for every believer from the first. Paul speaks of the Spirits witness in the present tense, implying that it is a continuous operation that imparts permanent confidence in God. Though not always vividly felt and sometimes overshadowed by feelings of doubt and despair, this confidence remains constant. The Spirit himself sees to that!