A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life in a Year:
One example of the work of the Spirit is His witness in “the court of conscience,” testifying that the believer is a child of God (Rom. 8:16). [John Owen (1616-1683)] described this by way of the drama of courtroom prosecution and defense:
“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, that he belongs to God’s family; and for this end produceth all his evidences, every thing whereby faith gives him an interest in God.
“Satan, in the meantime, opposeth with all his might; sin and law assist him; many flaws are found in his evidences; the truth of them all is questioned; and the soul hangs in suspense as to the issue.
“In the midst of the plea and contest the Comforter comes, and, by a word of promise or otherwise, 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, kind and child-like; which is called ‘crying, Abba, Father’ (Gal. 4:6).”
Owen explained that the court case may last long before it is settled–even years, as Owen himself experienced–but when “the Holy Ghost by one word stills the tumults and storms that are raised in the soul, giving it an immediate claim and security, it knows his divine power, and rejoices in his presence.
(A Puritan Theology, p. 112)