“Grace with assurance is no less than heaven let down into the
-BISHOP HOPKINS. 1680.
“I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure
is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I
have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge,
shall give me at that day: and not to me
only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2 TIM. 4:6-8)
In the words of Scripture, which head this page, you see the
Apostle Paul looking three ways: downward, backward, forward. Downward to the
grave,-backward to his own ministry,-forward to that great day, the day of
I invite you this day to stand by the Apostle’s side a few
minutes, and mark the words he uses. Happy is that soul who can look where Paul
looked, and then speak as Paul spoke!
downward to the grave, and he does it without
fear. Hear what he says.
“I am ready to be offered.” I am like an animal brought to
the place of sacrifice, and bound with cords to the very horns of the altar. The
wine and oil have been poured on my head, according to the custom. The last
ceremonies have been gone through. Every preparation has been made. It only
remains to receive the death-blow, and then all is over.
“The time of my departure is at hand.” I am like a ship about
to unmoor and put to sea. All on board is ready. I only wait to have the
moorings cast off that fasten me to the shore, and I shall then set sail and
begin my voyage.
Reader, these are glorious words to come from the lips of a
child of Adam like ourselves. Death is a solemn thing, and never so much so as
when we see it close at hand. The grave is a chilling, heart-sickening place,
and it is vain to pretend it has no terrors. Yet here is a mortal
can look calmly into the narrow house appointed for all living, and say, while
he stands upon the brink, “I see it all, and am not afraid.”
Let us listen to him again. He looks
backward to his
ministerial life, and he does it without shame. Hear what he says.
“I have fought a good fight.” There he speaks as a soldier. I
have fought that good battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil, from
which so many shrink and draw back.
“I have finished my course.” There he speaks as one who has
run for a prize. I have run the race marked out for me: I have gone over the
ground appointed for me, however rough and steep. I have not turned aside
because of difficulties, nor been discouraged by the length of the way. I am at
last in eight of the goal.
“I have kept the faith.” There he speaks as a steward. I have
held fast that glorious Gospel which was committed to my trust. I have not
mingled it with man’s traditions, nor spoiled its simplicity by adding my own
inventions, nor allowed others to adulterate it without withstanding them to the
face. “As a soldier,-a runner,-a steward,” he seems to say, “I am not ashamed.”
Reader, that Christian is happy who, as he quits this world,
can leave such testimony behind him. A good conscience will save no man,-wash
away no sin,-not lift us one hair’s breadth toward heaven. Yet, a good
conscience will be found a pleasant visitor at our bed-side in a dying hour. Do
you remember that place in “Pilgrim’s Progress” which describes Old Honest’s
passages across the river of death? “The river,” says Bunyan, “at that time
overflowed its banks in some places; but Mr. Honest, in his life-time, had
spoken to one, Good Conscience, to meet him there: the which he also did, and
lent him his hand, and so helped him over.” Believe me, there is a mine of truth
in that passage.
Let us hear the Apostle once more. He looks
the great day of reckoning, and he does it without doubt. Mark his words.
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me
only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” A glorious reward, he
seems to say, is ready and laid up in store for me: even that crown which is
only given to the righteous. In the great day of judgment the Lord shall give
this crown to me, and to all beside me who have loved Him as an unseen Saviour,
and longed to see Him face to face. My work on earth is over. This one thing now
remains for me to look forward to, and nothing more.
Reader, observe that the Apostle speaks without any
hesitation or distrust. He regards the crown as a sure thing: as his own
already. He declares with unfaltering confidence his firm persuasion that the
righteous Judge will give it to him. Paul was no stranger to all the
circumstances and accompaniments of that solemn day to which he referred. The
great white throne,-the assembled world,-the open books,-the revealing of all
secrets,-the listening angels,-the awful sentence,-the eternal separation of the
lost and saved,-all these were things with which he was well acquainted. But
none of these things moved him. His strong faith overleaped them all, and only
saw Jesus, his all-prevailing Advocate, and the blood of sprinkling, and sin
washed away. “A crown,” he says, “is laid up for me.” “The Lord Himself
give it to me.” He speaks as if he saw it all with his own eyes.
Such are the main things which these verses contain. Of most
of them I cannot pretend to speak, for space would not allow me. I shall only
try to set before you one point in the passage, and that is “the assured hope”
with which the Apostle looks forward to his own prospects in the day of
I shall do this the more readily, because of the great
importance which I feel attaches to the subject of assurance, and the great
neglect with which, I humbly conceive, it is often treated in this day.
But I shall do it at the same time with fear
trembling. I feel that I am treading on very difficult ground, and that it is
easy to speak rashly and unscripturally in this matter. The road between truth
and error is here especially a narrow pass, and if I shall be enabled to do good
to some without doing harm to others, I shall be very thankful.
Reader, there are four things I wish to bring before you in
speaking of the subject of assurance, and it may clear our way if I name them to
you at once.
I. First, then, I will try to show you that
hope, such as Paul here expresses, is a true and Scriptural thing.
II. Secondly, I will make this broad concession,-that a man
may never arrive at this assured hope, and yet be saved.
III. Thirdly, I will give you some reasons
assured hope is exceedingly to be desired.
IV. Lastly, I will try to point out some causes
assured hope is so seldom attained.
I. First, then, I will try to show you that
hope is a true and Scriptural thing.
Assurance, such as Paul expresses in the verses which head
this tract, is not a mere fancy or feeling. It is not the result of high animal
spirits, or a sanguine temperament of body. It is a positive gift of the Holy
Ghost, bestowed without reference to men’s bodily frames or constitutions, and a
every believer in Christ ought to aim at and seek after.
The Word of God appears to me to teach that a believer may
arrive at an assured confidence with regard to his own salvation.
I would lay it down fully and broadly, that a true Christian,
a converted man, may reach that comfortable degree of faith in Christ, that in
general he shall feel entirely confident as to the pardon and safety of his
soul,-shall seldom be troubled with doubts,-seldom be distracted with
hesitation,-seldom be distressed by anxious questionings,-and, in short, though
vexed by many an inward conflict with sin, shall look forward to death without
trembling, and to judgment without dismay.1
Such is my account of assurance. I will ask you to mark it
well. I say neither less nor more than I have here laid down.
Now, such a statement as this is often disputed and denied.
Many cannot see the truth of it at all.
The Church of Rome denounces assurance in the most unmeasured
terms. The Council of Trent declares roundly, that a “believer’s assurance of
the pardon of his sins is a vain and ungodly confidence;” and Cardinal
Bellarmine, the well-known champion of Romanism, calls it “a prime error of
The vast majority of the worldly among ourselves oppose the
doctrine of assurance. It offends and annoys them to hear of it. They do not
like others to feel comfortable and sure, because they never feel so themselves.
they cannot receive it is certainly no marvel.
But there are also some true believers who reject assurance,
or shrink from it as a doctrine fraught with danger. They consider it borders on
presumption. They seem to think it a proper humility never to be confident, and
to live in a certain degree of doubt. This is to be regretted, and does much
I frankly allow there are some
who profess to feel a confidence for which they have no Scriptural warrant.
There always are some people who think well of themselves when God thinks ill,
just as there are some who think ill of themselves when God thinks well. There
always will be such. There never yet was a Scriptural truth without abuses and
counterfeits. God’s election,-man’s impotence,-salvation by grace,-all are alike
abused. There will be fanatics and enthusiasts as long as the world stands. But,
for all this, assurance is a real, sober, and true thing; and God’s children
must not let themselves be driven from the use of a truth, merely because it is
My answer to all who deny the existence of real,
well-grounded assurance is simply this,-What saith the Scripture? If assurance
be not there, I have not another word to say.
But does not Job say, “I
know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my
skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God”? (Job xix. 25,
Does not David say, “Though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will
fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and
Thy staff they comfort me”? (Psalm xxiii. 4.)
Does not Isaiah say, “Thou wilt keep him in
whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee”? (Isaiah xxvi.
And again, “The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the
effect of righteousness quietness and
assurance for ever.” (Isaiah xxxii.
Does not Paul say to the Romans, “I am
neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things
present, nor things to come, not height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our
Lord”? (Rom. viii. 38, 39.)
Does he not say to
the Corinthians, “We
that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building
of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”? (2 Cor. v. 1.)
And again, “We are always
confident, knowing that
whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. v. 6.)
Does he not say to Timothy, “I
know whom I have
believed, and am
persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have
committed to Him”? (2 Tim. i. 12.)
And does he not speak to the Colossians of “the full
assurance of understanding” (Coloss. ii. 2), and to the Hebrews of the “full
assurance of faith,” and the “full assurance of hope”? (Heb. vi. 11; x. 22.)
Does not Peter say expressly, “Give diligence to make your
calling and election
(2 Peter i. 10.)
Does not John say, “We
know that we have passed from
death unto life”? (1 John iii. 14.)
And again, “These things have I written unto you that believe
on the name of the Son of God, that ye may
know that ye have eternal
life.” (1 John v. 13.)
And again, “We
know that we are of God.” (1 John v.
Reader, what shall we say to these things? I desire to speak
with all humility on any controverted point. I feel that I am only a poor
fallible child of Adam myself. But I must say, that in the passages I have just
quoted I see something far higher than the mere “hopes” and “trusts” with which
so many believers appear content in this day. I see the language of persuasion,
confidence, knowledge,-nay, I may almost say, of certainty. And I feel, for my
own part, if I may take these Scriptures in their plain, obvious meaning,
doctrine of assurance is true.
But my answer, furthermore, to all who dislike the doctrine
of assurance, as bordering on presumption, is this: it can hardly be presumption
to tread in the steps of Peter and Paul, of Job and of John. They were all
eminently humble and lowly-minded men, if ever any were; and yet they all speak
of their own state with an assured hope. Surely this should teach us that deep
humility and strong assurance are perfectly compatible, and that there is not
any necessary connection between spiritual confidence and pride.3
My answer, furthermore, is, that many have attained to such
an assured hope as our text expresses, even in modern times. I will not concede
for a moment that it was a peculiar privilege confined to the Apostolic day.
There have been, in our own land, many believers who have appeared to walk in
almost uninterrupted fellowship with the Father and the Son,-who have seemed to
enjoy an almost unceasing sense of the light of God’s reconciled countenance
shining down upon them, and have left their experience on record. I could
mention well-known names, if space permitted. The thing has been, and is,-and
that is enough.
My answer, lastly, is, it cannot be wrong to feel confidently
in a matter where God speaks unconditionally,-to believe decidedly when God
promises decidedly,-to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest
on the word and oath of Him that never changes. It is an utter mistake to
suppose that the believer who feels assurance is resting on anything he sees in
himself. He simply leans on the Mediator of the New Covenant, and the Scripture
of truth. He believes the Lord Jesus means what He says, and
takes Him at His
Word. Assurance, after all, is no more than a
fall-grown faith; a
masculine faith that grasps Christ’s promise with both hands,-a faith that
argues like the good centurion, if the Lord “speak the word only,” I am healed.
Wherefore, then, should I doubt? (Matt. viii. 8.)4
Reader, you may be sure that Paul was the last man in the
world to build his assurance on anything of his own. He who could write himself
down “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. i. 15) had a deep sense of his own guilt and
corruption. But then he had a still deeper sense of the length and breadth of
Christ’s righteousness imputed to him.-He, who would cry, “O wretched man that I
am” (Rom. vii. 24), had a clear view of the fountain of evil within his heart.
But then he had a still clearer view of that other Fountain which can remove
“all sin and uncleanness.” -He, who thought himself “less than the least of all
saints” (Ephes. iii. 8), had a lively and abiding feeling of his own weakness.
But he had a still livelier feeling that Christ’s promise, “My sheep shall never
perish” (John x. 28), could not be broken-Paul knew, if ever man did, that he
was a poor, frail bark, floating on a stormy ocean. He saw, if any did, the
rolling waves and roaring tempest by which he was surrounded. But then he looked
away from self to Jesus, and was not afraid. He remembered that anchor within
the veil, which is both “sure and steadfast.” He remembered the word, and work,
and constant intercession of Him that loved him and gave Himself for him. And
this it was, and nothing else, that enabled him to say so boldly, “A crown is
laid up for me, and the Lord shall give it to me”; and to conclude so surely,
“The Lord will preserve me: I shall never be confounded.”5
I may not dwell longer on this part of the subject. I think
you will allow I have shown ground for the assertion I made,-that assurance is a
II. I pass on to the second thing I spoke of. I said, a
believer may never arrive at this assured hope, which Paul expresses, and yet be
I grant this most freely. I do not dispute it for a moment. I
would not desire to make one contrite heart sad that God has not made sad, or to
discourage one fainting child of God, or to leave the impression that men have
no part or lot in Christ, except they feel assurance.
A person may have saving faith in Christ, and yet never enjoy
an assured hope, like the Apostle Paul. To believe and have a glimmering hope of
acceptance is one thing; to have joy and peace in our believing, and abound in
hope, is quite another. All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance. I
think this ought never to be forgotten.
I know some great and good men have held a different opinion.
I believe that many excellent ministers of the Gospel, at whose feet I would
gladly sit, do not allow the distinction I have stated. But I desire to call no
man master. I dread as much as any one the idea of healing the wounds of
conscience slightly; but I should think any other view than that I have given a
most uncomfortable Gospel to preach, and one very likely to keep souls back a
long time from the gate of life.6
I do not shrink from saying, that by grace a man may have
sufficient faith to flee to Christ; sufficient faith really to lay hold on Him,
really to trust in Him,-really to be a child of God, really to be saved; and yet
to his last day be never free from much anxiety, doubt, and fear.
“A letter,” says an old writer, “may be written, which is not
sealed; so grace may be written in the heart, yet the Spirit may not set the
seal of assurance to it.”
A child may be born heir to a great fortune, and yet never be
aware of his riches; live childish,-die childish, and never know the greatness
of his possessions.
And so also a man may be a babe in Christ’s family; think as
a babe, speak as a babe; and though saved, never enjoy a lively hope, or know
the real privileges of his inheritance.
Reader, do not mistake my meaning, while you hear me dwell
strongly on assurance. Do not do me the injustice to say, I told you none were
saved except such as could say with Paul, “I know and am persuaded,-there is a
crown laid up for me.” I do not say so. I tell you nothing of the kind.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ a man
must have, beyond
all question, if he is to be saved. I know no other way of access to the Father.
I see no intimation of mercy, excepting through Christ. A man
his sins and lost estate,-must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation,-must rest
his hope on Him, and on Him alone. But if he only has faith to do this, however
weak and feeble that faith may be, I will engage, from Scripture warrants, he
shall not miss heaven.
Never, never let us curtail the freeness of the glorious
Gospel, or clip its fair proportions. Never let us make the gate more strait and
the way more narrow than pride and love of sin have made it already. The Lord
Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. He does not regard the
of faith, but the
quality. He does not measure its degree, but its
truth. He will not break any bruised reed, nor quench any smoking flax. He will
never let it be said that any perished at the foot of the cross. “Him that
cometh unto Me,” He says, “I will in no wise cast out.” (John vi. 37.)7
Yes, reader: though a man’s faith be no bigger than a grain
of mustard seed, if it only brings him to Christ, and enables him to touch the
hem of His garment, he shall be saved,-saved as surely as the oldest saint in
paradise; saved as completely and eternally as Peter, or John, or Paul. There
are degrees in our sanctification. In our justification there are none. What is
written, is written, and shall never fail: “Whosoever believeth on Him,”-not
whosoever has a strong and mighty faith,-“Whosoever
believeth on Him
shall not be ashamed.” (Rom. x. 11.)
But all this time, I would have you take notice, the poor
soul may have no full assurance of his pardon and acceptance with God. He may be
troubled with fear upon fear, and doubt upon doubt. He may have many a question,
and many an anxiety,-many a struggle, and many a misgiving,-clouds and
darkness,-storm and tempest to the very end.
I will engage, I repeat, that bare simple faith in Christ
shall save a man, though he may never attain to assurance; but I will not engage
it shall bring him to heaven with strong and abounding consolations. I will
engage it shall land him safe in harbour; but I will not engage he shall enter
that harbour in full sail, confident and rejoicing. I shall not be surprised if
he reaches his desired haven weather-beaten and tempest-tossed, scarcely
realizing his own safety, till he opens his eyes in glory.
Reader, I believe it is of great importance to keep in view
this distinction between faith and assurance. It explains things which an
inquirer in religion sometimes finds it hard to understand.
Faith, let us remember, is the root, and assurance is the
flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no
less certain you may have the root and not the flower.
Faith is that poor trembling woman who came behind Jesus in
the press and touched the hem of His garment. (Mark v. 27.) Assurance is Stephen
standing calmly in the midst of his murderers, and saying, “I see the heavens
opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts vii. 56.)
Faith is the penitent thief, crying, “Lord, remember me.”
(Luke xxiii. 42.) Assurance is Job, sitting in the dust, covered with sores, and
saying, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” (Job xix. 25.) “Though He slay me, yet
will I trust in Him.” (Job xiii. 15.)
Faith is Peter’s drowning cry, as he began to sink “Lord,
save me.” (Matt. xiv. 30.) Assurance is that same Peter declaring before the
Council in after-times, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you
builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in
any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we
must be saved.” (Acts iv. 11, 12.)
Faith is the anxious, trembling voice, “Lord, I believe: help
Thou mine unbelief.” (Mark ix. 24.) Assurance is the confident challenge, “Who
shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth?”
(Rom. viii. 33, 34.) Faith is Saul praying in the house of Judas at Damascus,
sorrowful, blind, and alone. (Acts ix. 11.) Assurance is Paul, the aged
prisoner, looking calmly into the grave, and saying, “I know whom I have
believed. There is a crown laid up for me.” (2 Tim. i. 12; iv. 8.)
life. How great the blessing! Who can tell
the gulf between life and death? And yet life may be weak, sickly, unhealthy,
painful, trying, anxious, worn, burdensome, joyless, smileless to the very end.
more than life. It is health, strength, power, vigour,
activity, energy, manliness, beauty.
Reader, it is not a question of saved or not saved that lies
before us, but of privilege or no privilege.-It is not a question of peace or no
peace, but of great peace or little peace.-It is not a question between the
wanderers of this world and the school of Christ: it is one that belongs only to
the school;-it is between the first form and the last.
He that has faith does
well. Happy should I be, if I
thought all readers of this tract had it. Blessed, thrice blessed are they that
believe. They are safe. They are washed. They are justified. They are beyond the
power of hell. Satan, with all his malice, shall never pluck them out of
But be that has assurance does
more, feels more, knows more, enjoys more, has more days like those spoken of in
Deuteronomy: even “the days of heaven upon the earth.” (Dent. xi. 21.)8
III. I pass on to the third thing of which I spoke. I will
some reasons why an assured hope is exceedingly to be desired.
I ask your attention to this point especially. I heartily
wish that assurance was more sought after than it is. Too many among those who
believe begin doubting and go on doubting, live doubting and die doubting, and
go to heaven in a kind of mist.
It will ill become me to speak in a slighting way of “hopes”
and “trusts.” But I fear many of us sit down content with them, and go no
farther. I should like to see fewer “peradventurers” in the Lord’s family, and
more who could say, “I know and am persuaded.” Oh, that all believers would
covet the best gifts, and not be content with less! Many miss the full tide of
blessedness the Gospel was meant to convey. Many keep themselves in a low and
starved condition of soul, while their Lord is saying, “Eat and drink
abundantly, O beloved. Ask and receive, that your joy may be full.” (Cant. v. 1.
John xvi. 24.)
1. Let us remember, then, for one thing, that assurance is to
be desired, because of the
present comfort and peace it affords.
Doubts and fears have power to spoil much of the happiness of
a true believer in Christ. Uncertainty and suspense are bad enough in any
condition,-in the matter of our health, our property, our families, our
affections, our earthly callings,-but never so bad as in the affairs of our
souls. And so long as a believer cannot get beyond “I hope” and “I trust,” he
manifestly feels a degree of uncertainty about his spiritual state. The very
words imply as much. He says, “I hope,” because he dares not say, “I know.”
Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this
painful kind of bondage, and thus ministers mightily to his comfort. It enables
him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great
debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a
finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by
comparison small. In this way assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm
under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings; in every
condition content, for it gives him a FIXEDNESS of heart. It sweetens his bitter
cups, it lessens the burden of his crosses, it smooths the rough places over
which he travels, and it lightens the valley of the shadow of death. It makes
him always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet, and something firm
under his hands,-a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end.9
Assurance will help a man to bear poverty and loss. It will
teach him to say, “I know that I have in heaven a better and more enduring
substance. Silver and gold have I none, but grace and glory are mine, and these
can never make themselves wings and flee away. Though the fig tree shall not
blossom, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” (Habak. iii. 17, 18.)
Assurance will support a child of God under the heaviest
bereavements, and assist him to feel “It is well.” An assured soul will say,
“Though beloved ones are taken from me, yet Jesus is the same, and is alive for
evermore. Though my house be not as flesh and blood could wish, yet I have an
everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” (2 Kings iv. 26; Heb.
xiii. 8; 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.)
Assurance will enable a man to praise God, and be thankful,
even in a prison, like Paul and Silas at Philippi. It can give a believer songs
even in the darkest night, and joy when all things seem going against him. (Job
ii. 10; Psalm xlii. 8.)
Assurance will enable a man to sleep with the full prospect
of death on the morrow, like Peter in Herod’s dungeon. It will teach him to say,
“I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me to
dwell in safety.” (Psalm iv. 8.)
Assurance can make a man rejoice to suffer shame for Christ’s
sake, as the Apostles did. It will remind him that he may “rejoice and be
exceeding glad “ (Matt. v. 12), and that there is in heaven an exceeding weight
of glory that shall make amends for all. (2 Cor. iv. 17.)
Assurance will enable a believer to meet a violent and
painful death without fear, as Stephen did in the beginning of Christ’s Church,
and as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, and Taylor did in our own land. It will bring
to his heart the texts, “Be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after
that have no more that they can do.” (Luke xii. 4.) “Lord Jesus receive my
spirit.” (Acts vii. 59.)10
Assurance will support a man in pain and sickness, make all
his bed, smooth down his dying pillow. It will enable him to say, “If my earthly
house fail, I have a building of God.” (2 Cor. v. 1.) “I desire to depart and be
with Christ.” (Phil. i. 23.) “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the
strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”11 (Psalm lxxiii. 26.)
Reader, the comfort assurance can give in the hour of death
is a point of great importance. Believe me, you will never think assurance so
precious as when your turn comes to die.
In that awful hour, there are few believers who do not find
out the value and privilege of an “assured hope,” whatever they may have thought
about it during their lives. General “hopes” and “trusts” are all very well to
live upon, while the sun shines, and the body is strong: but when you come to
die, you will want to be able to say, “I
know” and “I
Believe me, Jordan is a cold stream, and we have to cross it
alone. No earthly friend can help us. The last enemy, even death, is a strong
foe. When our souls are departing there is no cordial like the strong wine of
There is a beautiful expression in the Prayer-book service
for the Visitation of the Sick: “The Almighty Lord, who is a most strong tower
to all them that put their trust in Him, be now and evermore thy defence, and
feel that there is none other name under
heaven, through whom thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The compilers of that service showed great wisdom there. They
saw that when the eyes grow dim, and the heart grows faint, and the spirit is on
the eve of departing, there must then be
Christ has done for us, or else there cannot be perfect peace.12
2. Let us remember, for another thing, that assurance is to
be desired, because
it tends to make a Christian an active working Christian.
None, generally speaking, do so much for Christ on earth as
those who enjoy the fullest confidence of a free entrance into heaven. That
I dare say, but it is true.
A believer who lacks an assured hope will spend much of his
time in inward searchings of heart about his own state. Like a nervous,
hypochondriacal person, he will be full of his own ailments, his own doubtings
and questionings, his own conflicts and corruptions. In short, you will often
find he is so taken up with this internal warfare that he has little leisure for
other things, little time to work for God.
Now a believer, who has, like Paul, an assured hope, is free
from these harassing distractions. He does not vex his soul with doubts about
his own pardon and acceptance. He looks at the everlasting covenant sealed with
blood, at the finished work and never-broken word of his Lord and Saviour, and
therefore counts his salvation a
settled thing. And thus he is able to
give an undivided attention to the work of the Lord, and so in the long run to
Take, for an illustration of this, two English emigrants, and
suppose them set down side by side in New Zealand or Australia. Give each of
them a piece of land to clear and cultivate. Let the portions allotted to them
be the same both in quantity and quality. Secure that land to them by every
needful legal instrument; let it be conveyed as freehold to them and theirs for
ever; let the conveyance be publicly registered, and the property made sure to
them by every deed and security that man’s ingenuity can devise.
Suppose, then, that one of them shall set to work to bring
his land into cultivation, and labour at it day after day without intermission
Suppose, in the meanwhile, that the other shall be
continually leaving his work, and going repeatedly to the public registry to ask
whether the land really is his own,-whether there is not some mistake,-whether,
after all, there is not some flaw in the legal instruments which conveyed it to
The one shall never doubt his title, but just work diligently
The other shall hardly ever feel sure of his title, and spend
half his time in going to Sydney, or Melbourne, or Auckland with needless
inquiries about it.
Which, now, of these two men will have made most progress in
a year’s time? Who will have done the most for his land, got the greatest
breadth of soil under tillage, have the best crops to show, be altogether the
Reader, you know as well as I do. I need not supply an
answer. There can only be one reply. Undivided attention will always attain the
It is much the same in the matter of our title to “mansions
in the skies.” None will do so much for the Lord who bought him as the believer
who sees his title clear, and is not distracted by unbelieving hesitations. The
joy of the Lord will be that man’s strength. “Restore unto me,” says David, “the
joy of Thy salvation;
then will I teach transgressors Thy ways.” (Psalm
Never were there such working Christians as the Apostles.
They seemed to live to labour. Christ’s work was truly their meat and drink.
They counted not their lives dear to themselves. They spent and were spent. They
laid down ease, health, and worldly comfort, at the foot of the cross. And one
grand cause of this, I believe, was their assured hope. They were men who could
know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in
wickedness.” (1 John v. 19.)
3. Let us remember, for another thing, that assurance is to
be desired, because
it tends to make a Christian a decided Christian.
Indecision and doubt about our own state in God’s sight is a
grievous one, and the mother of many evils. It often produces a wavering and
unstable walk in following the Lord. Assurance helps to cut many a knot, and to
make the path of Christian duty clear and plain.
Many, of whom we feel hopes that they are God’s children, and
have true grace, however weak, are continually perplexed with doubts on points
of practice. “Should we do such and such a thing? Shall we give up this family
custom? Ought we to go into that company? How shall we draw the line about
visiting? What is to be the measure of our dressing and our entertainments? Are
we never, under any circumstances, to dance, never to touch a card, never to
attend parties of pleasure?” These are a kind of questions which seem to give
them constant trouble. And often, very often, the simple root of their
perplexity is, that they do not feel assured they are themselves children of
God. They have not yet settled the point, which side of the gate they are on.
They do not know whether they are inside the ark or not.
That a child of God ought to act in a certain decided way
they quite feel, but the grand question is, “Are they children of God
themselves?” If they only felt they were so, they would go straightforward, and
take a decided line. But not feeling sure about it, their conscience is forever
hesitating and coming to a dead lock. The devil whispers, “Perhaps, after all,
you are only a hypocrite: what right have you to take a decided course? Wait
till you are really a Christian.” And this whisper too often turns the scale,
and leads on to some miserable compromise, or wretched conformity to the world.
Reader, I believe you have here one chief reason why so many
in this day are inconsistent, trimming, unsatisfactory, and half-hearted in
their conduct about the world. Their faith fails. They feel no assurance that
they are Christ’s, and so feel a hesitancy about breaking with the world. They
shrink from laying aside all the ways of the old man, because they are not quite
confident they have put on the new. Depend on it, one secret cause of halting
between two opinions is want of assurance. When people can say decidedly, “The
Lord He is the God,” their course becomes very clear. (1 Kings xviii. 39.)
4. Let us remember, finally, that assurance is to be desired,
it tends to make the holiest Christians.
This, too, sounds wonderful and strange, and yet it is true.
It is one of the paradoxes of the Gospel, contrary, at first sight, to reason
and common sense, and yet it to a fact. Cardinal Bellarmine was seldom more wide
of the truth than when he said, “Assurance tends to carelessness and sloth.” He
that is freely forgiven by Christ will always do much for Christ’s glory, and he
that enjoys the fullest assurance of this forgiveness will ordinarily keep up
the closest walk with God. It is a faithful saying in 1 John iii. 3: “He that
hath this hope in Him purifieth himself even as He is pure.” A hope that does
not purify is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare.15
None are so likely to maintain a watchful guard over hearts
and lives as those who know the comfort of living in near communion with God.
They feel their privilege, and will fear losing it. They will dread falling from
their high estate, and marring their own comforts, by bringing clouds between
themselves and Christ. He that goes on a journey with little money about him
takes little thought of danger, and cares little how late he travels. He, on the
contrary, that carries gold and jewels will be a cautious traveller. He will
look well to his roads, his house, and his company, and run no risks. The fixed
stars are those that tremble most. The man that most fully enjoys the light of
God’s reconciled countenance, will be a man tremblingly afraid of losing its
blessed consolations, and jealously fearful of doing anything to grieve the Holy
Reader, I commend these four points to your serious
consideration. Would you like to feel the everlasting arms around you, and to
hear the voice of Jesus daily drawing nigh to your soul, and saying, “I am thy
salvation”?-Would you like to be a useful labourer in the vineyard in your day
and generation?-Would you be known of all men as a bold, firm, decided,
single-eyed, uncompromising follower of Christ?-Would you be eminently
spiritually-minded and holy?-I doubt not some readers will say, “These are the
very things our hearts desire. We long for them. We pant after them: but they
seem far from us.”
Now, has it never struck you that your neglect of assurance
may possibly be the main secret of all you failures,-that the low measure of
faith which satisfies you may be the cause of your low degree of peace? Can you
think it a strange thing that your graces are faint and languishing, when faith,
the root and mother of them all, is allowed to remain feeble and weak?
Take my advice this day. Seek an increase of faith. Seek an
assured hope of salvation like the Apostle Paul’s. Seek to obtain a simple,
childlike confidence in God’s promises. Seek to be able to say with Paul, “I
know whom I have believed: I am persuaded that He is mine, and I am His.”
You have very likely tried other ways and methods and
completely failed. Change your plan. Go upon another tack. Lay aside your
doubts. Lean more entirely on the Lord’s arm. Begin with implicit trusting. Cast
aside your faithless backwardness to take the Lord at His word. Come and roll
yourself, your soul, and your sins upon your gracious Saviour. Begin with simple
believing, and all other things shall soon be added to you.16
IV. I come now to the last thing of which I spoke. I promised
to point out to you some
probable causes why an assured hope is so seldom
attained. I will do it very shortly.
This is a very serious question, and ought to raise in all
great searchings of heart. Few, certainly, of Christ’s people seem to reach up
to this blessed spirit of assurance. Many comparatively believe, but few are
persuaded. Many comparatively have saving faith, but few that glorious
confidence which shines forth in the language of St. Paul. That such is the
case, I think we must all allow.
Now, why is this so?-Why is a thing which two Apostles have
strongly enjoined us to seek after, a thing of which few believers have any
experimental knowledge? Why is an assured hope so rare?
I desire to offer a few suggestions on this point, with all
humility. I know that many have never attained assurance, at whose feet I would
gladly sit both in earth and heaven.
Perhaps the Lord sees something in
the natural temperament of some of His children, which makes assurance not good
Perhaps, in order to be kept in spiritual health, they need to
be kept very low. God only knows. Still, after every allowance, I fear there are
many believers without an assured hope, whose case may too often be explained by
causes such as these.
1. One most common cause, I suspect, is a
of the doctrine of justification.
I am inclined to think that justification and sanctification
are insensibly confused together in the minds of many believers. They receive
the Gospel truth,-that there must be something done IN US, as well as something
done FOR US, if we are true members of Christ; and so far they are right. But,
then, without being aware of it, perhaps, they seem to imbibe the idea that
their justification is, in some degree, affected by something within themselves.
They do not clearly see that Christ’s work, not their own work,-either in whole
or in part, either directly or indirectly,-is the alone ground of our acceptance
with God; that justification is a thing entirely without us, for which nothing
whatever is needful on our part but simple faith,-and that the weakest believer
is as fully and completely justified as the strongest.17
Many appear to forget that we are saved and justified as
sinners, and only sinners; and that we never can attain to anything higher, if
we live to the age of Methuselah.
renewed sinners doubtless we must be,-but sinners, sinners,
sinners, always to the very last. They do not seem to comprehend that there is a
wide difference between our justification and our sanctification. Our
justification is a perfect finished work, and admits of no degrees. Our
sanctification is imperfect and incomplete, and will be to the last hour of our
life. They appear to expect that a believer may at some period of his life be in
a measure free from corruption, and attain to a kind of inward perfection. And
not finding this angelic state of things in their own hearts, they at once
conclude there must be something very wrong in their state. And so they go
mourning all their days,-oppressed with fears that they have no part or lot in
Christ, and refusing to be comforted.
Reader, consider this point well. If any believing soul
desires assurance, and has not got it, let him ask himself, first of all, if he
is quite sure he is sound in the faith, if his loins are thoroughly “girt about
with truth,” and his eyes thoroughly clear in the matter of justification. He
must know what it is simply to believe before he can expect to feel assured.
Believe me, the old Galatian heresy is the most fertile
source of error, both in doctrine and in practice. Seek clearer views of Christ,
and what Christ has done for you. Happy is the man who really understands
justification by faith without the deeds of the law.
2. Another common cause of the absence of assurance is,
slothfulness about growth in grace.
I suspect many true believers hold dangerous and unscriptural
views on this point: I do not of course mean intentionally, but they do hold
them. Many appear to me to think that once converted, they have little more to
attend to, and that a state of salvation is a kind of easy chair, in which they
may just sit still, lie back, and be happy. They seem to fancy that grace is
given them that they may enjoy it, and they forget that it is given, like a
talent, to be used, employed, and improved. Such persons lose sight of the many
direct injunctions “to increase,-to grow,-to abound more and more,-to add to our
faith,” and the like; and in this little-doing condition, this sitting-still
state of mind, I never marvel that they miss assurance.
I believe it ought to be our continual aim and desire to go
forward; and our watchword at the beginning of every year should be, “More and
more” (1 Thess. iv. 1): more knowledge,-more faith,-more obedience,-more love.
If we have brought forth thirty-fold, we should seek to bring forth sixty, and
if we have brought forth sixty, we should strive to bring forth a hundred. The
will of the Lord is our sanctification, and it ought to be our will too. (Matt.
xiii. 23; 1 Thess. iv. 3.)
One thing, at all events, we may depend upon,-there is an
inseparable connection between diligence and assurance. “Give
says Peter, “to make your calling and election sure.” (2 Peter i. 10.) “We
desire,” says Paul, “that every one of you do show the same
the full assurance of hope unto the end.” (Heb. vi. 11.) “The soul of the
diligent,” says Solomon, “shall be made fat.” (Prov. xiii. 4.) There is much
truth in the old maxim of the Puritans: “Faith of adherence comes by hearing,
but faith of assurance comes not without
Reader, mark my words. Are you one of those who desires
assurance, but have not got it? You will never get it without diligence, however
much you may desire it. There are no gains without pains in spiritual things,
any more than in temporal. “The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing.”
(Prov. xiii. 4.)18
3. Another common cause of a want of assurance is,
inconsistent walk in life.
With grief and sorrow I feel constrained to say, I fear
nothing in this day more frequently prevents men attaining an assured hope than
this. The stream of professing Christianity is far wider than it formerly was,
and I am afraid we must admit, at the same time, it is much less deep.
Inconsistency of life is utterly destructive of peace of
conscience. The two things are incompatible. They cannot and they will not go
together. If you will have your besetting sins, and cannot make up your minds to
give them up; if you will shrink from cutting off the right hand and plucking
out the right eye, when occasion requires it, I will engage you will have no
A vacillating walk,-a backwardness to take a bold and decided
line,-a readiness to conform to the world, a hesitating witness for Christ,-a
lingering tone of religion,-all these make up a sure receipt for bringing a
blight upon the garden of your soul.
It is vain to suppose you will feel assured and persuaded of
your own pardon and acceptance with God, unless you count
all things to be right, and hate every sin,
whether great or small. (Psalm cxix. 128.) One Achan allowed in the camp of your
heart will weaken your hands, and lay your consolations low in the dust. You
must be daily sowing to the Spirit, if you are to reap the witness of the
Spirit. You will not find and feel that all the Lord’s ways are ways of
pleasantness, unless you labour in all your ways to please the Lord.19
I bless God our salvation in no wise depends on our own
works. By grace we are saved,-not by works of righteousness,-through
faith,-without the deeds of the law. But I never would have any believer for a
moment forget that our SENSE of salvation depends much on the manner of our
living. Inconsistency will dim your eyes, and bring clouds between you and the
. The sun is the same behind the clouds, but you will not be able to
see its brightness or enjoy its warmth, and your soul will be gloomy and cold.
It is in the path of well doing that the day-spring
of assurance will
visit you, and shine down upon your heart.
“The secret of the Lord,” says David, “is with them that fear
Him, and He will show them His covenant.” (Psalm xxv. 14.)
“To him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the
salvation of God.” (Psalm l. 23.)
“Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall
offend them.” (Psalm cxix. 165.)
“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have
fellowship one with another.” (1 John i. 7.)
“Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and
in truth. And hereby we
know that we are of the truth, and shall assure
our hearts before Him.” (1 John iii. 18, 19.)
“Hereby we do
know that we know Him, if we keep His
commandments.” (1 John ii. 3.)
Paul was a man who exercised himself to have always a
conscience void of offence toward God and toward man. (Acts xxiv. 16.) He could
say with boldness, “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith.” I do
not wonder that the Lord enabled him to add with confidence, “Henceforth there
is a crown laid up for me, and the Lord shall give it me at that day.”
Reader, if any believer in the Lord Jesus desires assurance,
and has not got it, let him think over this point also. Let him look at his own
heart, look at his own conscience, look at his own life, look at his own ways,
look at his own home. And perhaps when he has done that, he will be able to say,
“There is a
cause why I have no assured hope.”
I leave the three matters I have just mentioned to your own
private consideration. I am sure they are worth examining. May you examine them
honestly. And may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
1. And now, in closing this important inquiry, let me speak
first to those readers who have not given themselves to the Lord, who have not
yet come out from the world, chosen the good part, and followed Christ.
I ask you, then, to learn from this subject
and comforts of a true Christian.
I would not have you judge of the Lord Jesus Christ by His
people. The best of servants can give you but a faint idea of that glorious
Master. Neither would I have you judge of the privileges of His kingdom by the
measure of comfort to which many of His people attain. Alas, we are most of us
poor creatures! We come short, very short, of the blessedness we might enjoy.
But, depend upon it, there are glorious things in the city of our God, which
they who have an assured hope taste, even in their life-time. There are lengths
and breadths of peace and consolation there, which it has not entered into your
heart to conceive. There is bread enough and to spare in our Father’s house,
though many of us certainly eat but little of it, and continue weak. But the
fault must not be laid to our Master’s charge: it is all our own.
And, after all, the weakest child of God has a mine of
comforts within him, of which you know nothing. You see the conflicts and
tossings of the surface of his heart, but you see not the pearls of great price
which are hidden in the depths below. The feeblest member of Christ would not
change conditions with you. The believer who possesses the least assurance is
far better off than you are. He has a hope, however faint, but you have none at
all. He has a portion that will never be taken from him, a Saviour that will
never forsake him, a treasure that fadeth not away, however little he may
realize it all at present. But, as for you, if you die as you are, your
expectations will all perish. Oh, that you were wise! Oh, that you understood
these things! Oh, that you would consider your latter end!
I feel deeply for you in these latter days of the world, if I
ever did. I feel deeply for those whose treasure is all on earth, and whose
hopes are all on this side the grave. Yes: when I see old kingdoms and dynasties
shaking to the very foundation,-when I see, as we all saw a few years ago,
kings, and princes, and rich men, and great men fleeing for their lives, and
scarce knowing where to hide their heads,-when I see property dependent on
public confidence melting like snow in spring, and public stocks and funds
losing their value,-when I see these things I feel deeply for those who have no
better portion than this world can give them, and no place in that kingdom that
cannot be removed.20
Take advice of a minister of Christ this very day. Seek
durable riches,-a treasure that cannot be taken from you,-a city which hath
lasting foundations. Do as the Apostle Paul did. Give yourself to the Lord Jesus
Christ, and seek that incorruptible crown He is ready to bestow. Take His yoke
upon you, and learn of Him. Come away from a world which will never really
satisfy you, and from sin which will bite like a serpent if you cling to it, at
last. Come to the Lord Jesus as lowly sinners, and He will receive you, pardon
you, give you His renewing Spirit, fill you with peace. This shall give you more
real comfort than the world has ever done. There is a gulf in your heart which
nothing but the peace of Christ can fill. Enter in and share our privileges.
Come with us, and sit down by our side.
2. Lastly, let me turn to all believers who read these
pages, and speak to them a few words of brotherly counsel.
The main thing that I urge upon you is this,-
have not got an assured hope of your own acceptance in Christ, resolve this day
to seek it. Labour for it. Strive after it. Pray for it. Give the Lord no
rest till you “know whom you have believed.”
I feel, indeed, that the small amount of assurance in this
day, among those who are reckoned God’s children, is a shame and a reproach. “It
is a thing to be heavily bewailed,” says old Traill, “that many Christians have
lived twenty or forty years since Christ called them by His grace, yet
doubting in their life.” Let us call to mind the earnest “desire” Paul
expresses, that “every one” of the Hebrews should seek after full assurance and
let us endeavour, by God’s blessing, to roll this reproach away. (Heb. vi. 11.)
Believing reader, do you really mean to say that you have no
desire to exchange hope for confidence, trust for persuasion, uncertainty for
knowledge? Because weak faith will save you, will you therefore rest content
with it? Because assurance is not essential to your entrance into heaven, will
you therefore be satisfied without it upon earth? Alas, this is not a healthy
state of soul to be in; this is not the mind of the Apostolic day! Arise at
once, and go forward. Stick not at the foundations of religion: go on to
perfection. Be not content with a day of small things. Never despise it in
others, but never be content with it yourselves.
Believe me, believe me, assurance is worth the seeking. You
forsake your own mercies when you rest content without it. The things I speak
are for your peace. If it is good to be sure in earthly things, how much better
is it to be sure in heavenly things. Your salvation is a fixed and certain
thing. God knows it. Why should not you seek to know it too? There is nothing
unscriptural in this. Paul never saw the book of life, and yet Paul says, “I
know, and am persuaded.”
Make it, then, your daily prayer that you may have an
increase of faith. According to your faith will be your peace. Cultivate that
blessed root more, and sooner or later, by God’s blessing, you may hope to have
the flower, You may not, perhaps, attain to full assurance all at once. It is
good sometimes to be kept waiting. We do not value things which we get without
trouble. But though it tarry, wait for it. Seek on, and expect to find.
There is one thing, however, of which I would not have you
-You must not be surprised if you have occasional doubts after
you have got assurance. You must not forget you are on earth, and not yet in
heaven. You are still in the body, and have indwelling sin: the flesh will lust
against the spirit to the very end. The leprosy will never be out of the walls
of the old house till death takes it down. And there is a devil, too, and a
strong devil: a devil who tempted the Lord Jesus, and gave Peter a fall; and he
will take care you know it. Some doubts there always will be. He that never
doubts has nothing to lose. He that never fears possesses nothing truly
valuable. He that is never jealous knows little of deep love. But be not
discouraged: you shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved you.21
Finally, do not forget that assurance is a thing that
be lost for a season, even by the brightest Christians, unless they take
Assurance is a most delicate plant. It needs daily, hourly
watching, watering, tending, cherishing. So watch and pray the more when you
have got it. As Rutherford says, “Make much of assurance.” Be always upon your
guard. When Christian slept, in Pilgrim’s Progress, he lost his certificate.
Keep that in mind.
David lost assurance for many months by falling into
transgression. Peter lost it when he denied his Lord. Each found it again,
undoubtedly, but not till after bitter tears. Spiritual darkness comes on
horseback, and goes away on foot. It is upon us before we know that it is
coming. It leaves us slowly, gradually, and not till after many days. It is easy
to run down hill. It is hard work to climb up. So remember my caution,-when you
have the joy of the Lord, watch and pray.
Above all, grieve not the Spirit. Quench not the Spirit. Vex
not the Spirit. Drive Him not to a distance, by tampering with small bad habits
and little sins. Little jarrings between husbands and wives make unhappy homes,
and petty inconsistencies, known and allowed, will bring in a strangeness
between you and the Spirit.
Hear the conclusion of the whole matter.
The man who walks with God in Christ most closely will
generally be kept in the greatest peace.
The believer who follows the Lord most fully will ordinarily
enjoy the most assured hope, and have the clearest persuasion of his own
1 “Full assurance that Christ hath delivered Paul from
condemnation, yea, so full and real as produceth thanksgiving and triumphing in
Christ, may and doth consist with complaints and outcries of a wretched
condition for the indwelling of the body of sin”
-Rutherford’s Triumph of
2 “We do not vindicate every vain pretender to ‘the Witness
of the Spirit;’ we are aware that there are those in whose professions of
religion we can see nothing but their forwardness and confidence to recommend
them. But let us not reject any doctrine of revelation through an over-anxious
fear of consequences."-
Robinson's Christian System.
“True assurance is built upon a Scripture basis: presumption
hath no Scripture to show for its warrant; it is like a will without seal and
witnesses, which is null and void in law. Presumption wants both the witness of
the Word and the seal of the Spirit. Assurance always keeps the heart in a lowly
posture; but presumption is bred of pride. Feathers fly up, but gold descends;
he who hath this golden assurance, his heart descends in humility.”-
Body of Divinity. 1650.
“Presumption is joined with looseness of life; persuasion
with a tender conscience: this dares sin because it is sure,
not for fear of losing assurance. Persuasion will not sin, because it cost her
Saviour so dear; presumption will sin, because grace cloth abound. Humility is
the way to heaven. They that are proudly secure of their going to heaven, do not
so often come thither as they that are afraid of going to
Second Epistle of Peter. 1633.
3“They are quite mistaken that think faith and humility are
inconsistent; they not only agree well together, but they cannot be parted.”-Traill.
4 “To be assured of our salvation,” Augustine saith, “is no arrogant
stoutness; it is our faith. It is no pride; it is devotion. It is no
presumption; it is God’s promise.”-
Jewell’s Defence of the
“If the ground of our assurance rested in and on ourselves, it might justly
be called presumption; but the Lord and the power of His might being the ground
thereof, they either know not what is the might of His power, or else too
lightly esteem it, who account assured confidence thereon presumption.”-
Whole Armour of God. 1647.
“Upon what ground is this certainty built? Surely not upon anything that is
in us. Our assurance of perseverance is grounded wholly upon God. If we look
upon ourselves, we see cause of fear and doubting; but if we look up to God, we
shall find cause enough for assurance.”
-Hildersam on John iv. 1632.
“Our hope is not hung upon such an untwisted thread as, “I imagine so,” or
“It is likely;” but the cable, the strong rope of our fastened anchor, is the
oath and promise of Him who is eternal verity. Our salvation is fastened with
God’s own hand, and Christ’s own strength, to the strong stake of God’s
Rutherford’s Letters. 1637.
5 “Never did a believer in Jesus Christ die or drown in his
voyage to heaven. They will all be found safe and sound with the Lamb on mount
Zion. Christ loseth none of them; yea, nothing of them. (John vi. 39.) Not a
bone of a believer is to be seen in the field of battle. They are all more than
conquerors through Him that loved them.” (Rom. viii.
Extracts from English divines, showing that there is a
difference between faith and assurance,-that a believer may be justified and
accepted with God, and yet not enjoy a comfortable knowledge and persuasion of
his own safety,-and that the weakest faith in Christ, if it be true, will save a
man as surely as the strongest.
1. “Is it not necessary to
justification to be assured that my sins are pardoned, and that I am justified?
No: that is no act of faith as it justifieth, but an effect and fruit that
followeth after justification.
“It is one thing for a man to have his salvation certain,
another thing to be certain that it is certain.
“Even as a man fallen into a river, and like to be drowned,
as he is carried down with the flood, espies the bough of a tree hanging over
the river, which he catcheth at, and clings unto with all his might to save him,
and seeing no other way of succour but that, ventures his life upon it. This
man, so soon as he has fastened on this bough, is in a safe condition, though
all troubles, fears, and terrors are not presently out of his mind, until he
comes to himself, and sees himself quite out of danger. Then he is sure he is
safe, but he was safe before he was sure. Even so it is with a believer. Faith
is but the espying of Christ as the only means to save, and the reaching out of
the heart to lay hold upon Him. God hath spoke the word, and made the promise to
His Son: I believe Him to be the only Saviour, and remit my soul to Him to be
saved by His mediation. So soon as the soul can do this, God imputeth the
righteousness of His Son unto it, and it is actually justified in the court of
heaven, though it is not presently quieted and pacified in the court of
conscience. That is done afterwards: in some sooner, in some later, and by the
fruits and effects of justification
.”-Archbishop Usher’s “Body of Divinity.”
2. “There are those who doubt, because they doubt and
multiply distrust upon itself, concluding that they have no faith, because they
find so much and so frequent doubting within them. But this is a great mistake.
Some doubtings there may be, where there is even much faith; and a little faith
there may be, where there is much doubting.
“Our Saviour requires, and delights in a strong, firm
believing on Him, though the least and weakest He rejects not.”-
Leighton’s Lectures on the first nine chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
3. “The mercy of God is greater than all the sins in the
world. But we sometimes are in such a case, that we think we have no faith at
all; or if we have any, it is very feeble and weak. And, therefore, these are
two things; to have faith, and to have the feeling of faith. For some men would
fain have the feeling of faith, but they cannot attain unto it; and yet they
must not despair, but go forward in calling upon God, and it will come at the
length: God will open their hearts, and let them feel His goodness.”-
Latimer’s Sermons. 1552.
4. “I know, thou sayest, that Jesus Christ came into the
world to save sinners: and that ‘Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life.’ (John iii. 15.) Neither can I know but that, in a sense
of my own ‘sinful condition, I do cast myself in some measure upon my Saviour,
and lay some hold upon His all-sufficient redemption: but, alas, my
apprehensions of Him are so feeble, as that they can afford no sound comfort to
“Courage, my son. Were it that thou lookest to be justified,
and saved by the power of the very act of thy faith, thou hadst reason to be
disheartened with the conscience of the weakness thereof; but now that the
virtue and efficacy of this happy work is in the object apprehended by thee,
which is the infinite merits and mercy of thy God and Saviour, which cannot be
abated by thine infirmities, thou hast cause to take heart to thyself, and
cheerfully to expect His salvation.
“Understand thy case aright. Here is a double hand, that
helps us up toward heaven. Our hand of faith lays hold upon our Saviour; our
Saviour’s hand of mercy and plenteous redemption lays hold on us. Our hold of
Him is feeble and easily loosed; His hold of us is strong and irresistible.
“If work were stood upon, a strength of hand were necessary;
but now that only taking and receiving of a precious gift is required, why may
not a weak hand do that as well as a strong? As well, though not as forcibly.”-
Hall’s “Balm of Gilead.” 1650.
5. “Many formerly, and those of the highest remark and
eminency, have placed true faith in no lower degree than assurance, or the
secure persuasion of the pardon of their sins, the acceptation of their persons,
and their future salvation.
“But this, as it is very sad and uncomfortable for thousands
of doubting and deserted souls, concluding all those to fall short of grace who
fall short of certainty, so hath it given the Papists too great advantage.
“Faith is not assurance. But this doth sometimes crown and
reward a strong, vigorous, and heroic faith; the Spirit of God breaking in upon
the soul with an evidencing light, and scattering all that darkness, and those
fears and doubts which before beclouded it.”-
Bishop Hopkins on the Covenants.
6. “If any persons abroad have thought that a special and
full persuasion of the pardon of their sin was of the essence of faith, let them
answer for it. Our divines at home generally are of another judgment. Bishop
Davenant and Bishop Prideaux, and others, have shown the great difference
between recumbence and assurance, and they all do account and call assurance a
daughter, fruit, and consequent of faith. And the late learned Arrowsmith tells
us, that God seldom bestows assurance upon believers till they are grown in
grace: for, says he, there is the same difference between faith of recumbence
and faith of assurance, as is between reason and learning. Reason is the
foundation of learning; so, as there can be no learning if reason be wanting (as
in beasts), in like manner there can be no assurance where there is no faith of
adherence. Again: as reason well exercised in the study of arts and sciences
arises to learning, so faith, being well exercised on its proper object and by
its proper fruits, arises to assurance. Further, as by negligence,
non-attendance, or some violent disease, learning may be lost, while reason doth
abide; so, by temptation, or by spiritual sloth, assurance may be lost, while
saving faith may abide. Lastly, as all men have reason, but all men are not
learned; so all regenerate persons have faith to comply savingly with the gospel
method of salvation, but all true believers have not assurance.”-
Sermon by B.
Fairclough, Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in the Morning Exercises,
preached at Southwark. 1660.
7. “Weak faith may fail in the applying, or in the
apprehension and appropriating of Christ’s benefits to a man’s own self. This is
to be seen in ordinary experience. For many a man there is of humble and
contrite heart, that serveth God in spirit and truth, yet is not able to say,
without great doubtings and waverings, I know and am fully assured that my sins
are pardoned. Now shall we say that all such are without faith? God forbid.
“This weak faith will as truly apprehend God’s merciful
promises for the pardon of sin as strong faith, though not so soundly. Even as a
man with a palsied hand can stretch it out as well to receive a gift at the hand
of a king as he that is more sound, though it may be not so firmly and
Exposition of the Creed, by William Perkins, Minister of Christ
in the University of Cambridge. 1612.
8. “A want of assurance is not unbelief. Drooping spirits may
be believers. There is a manifest distinction made between faith in Christ and
the comfort of that faith,-between believing to eternal life and knowing we have
eternal life. There is a difference between a child’s having a right to an
estate and his full knowledge of the title.
“The character of faith may be written in the heart, as
letters engraven upon a seal, yet filled with so much dust as not to be
distinguished. The dust hinders the reading of the letters, yet doth not raze
Discourses by Stephen Charnock, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
9. “This certainty of our salvation, spoken of by Paul,
rehearsed by Peter, and mentioned by David (Psalm iv. 7), is that special fruit
of faith which breedeth spiritual joy, and inward peace which passeth all
understanding. True it is, all God’s children have it not. One thing is the
tree, and another thing is the fruit of the tree: one thing is faith, and
another thing is the fruit of faith. And that remnant of God’s elect which feel
the want of this faith have, notwithstanding, faith.”
-Sermons by Richard
Greenham, Minister and Preacher of the Word of God. 1612.
10. “You that can clear this to your own hearts that you have
faith, though it be weak, be not discouraged, be not troubled. Consider that the
smallest degree of faith is true, is saving faith as well as the greatest. A
spark of fire is as true fire as any is in the element of fire. A drop of water
is as true water as any is in the ocean. So the least grain of faith is as true
faith, and as saving as the greatest faith in the world.
“The least bud draws sap from the root as well as the
greatest bough. So the weakest measure of faith doth as truly ingraft thee into
Christ, and by that draw life from Christ, as well as the strongest. The weakest
faith hath communion with the merits and blood of Christ as well as the
“The least faith marries the soul to Christ. The weakest
faith hath as equal a share in God’s love as the strongest. We are beloved in
Christ, and the least measure of faith makes us members of Christ. The least
faith hath equal right to the promises as the strongest. And, therefore, let not
our souls be discouraged for weakness.”-
and Royalties of Faith,
by Samuel Bolton, D.D., of Christ’s College, Cambridge. 1657
11. “A man may be in the favour of God, in the state of
grace, a justified man before God, and yet want the sensible assurance of his
salvation, and of the favour of God in Christ.
“A man may have saving grace in him, and not perceive it
himself; a man may have true justifying faith in him, and not have the use and
operation of it, so far as to work in him a comfortable assurance of his
reconciliation with God. Nay, I will say more: a man may be in the state of
grace, and have true justifying faith in him, and yet be so far from sensible
assurance of it in himself, as in his own sense and feeling he may seem to be
assured of the contrary. Job was certainly in this case when he cried unto God,
‘Wherefore bidest Thou Thy face, and boldest me for Thine enemy?’ (Job xiii.
“The weakest faith will justify. If thou canst receive Christ
and rest upon Rim, even with the weakest faith, it will serve thy turn.-Take
heed thou think not it is the strength of thy faith that justifieth thee. No,
no: it is Christ and His perfect righteousness which thy faith receiveth and
resteth upon that doth it. He that hath the feeblest and weakest hand may
receive an alms, and apply a sovereign plaster to his wound, as well as he that
hath the strongest, and receive as much good by it too.”
-Lectures upon the
fifty-first Psalm, preached at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, by
Minister of Jesus Christ. 1642.
12. “There are some who are true believers and yet weak in
faith. They do indeed receive Christ and free grace, but it is with a shaking
hand. They have, as divines say, the faith of adherence: they will stick to
Christ, as theirs; but they want the faith of evidence,-they cannot see
themselves as His. They are believers, but of little faith. They hope that
Christ will not cast them off, but are not sure that He will take them up.”-
of Sweetness, or Consolation for Weak Believers, by John Durant, Preacher in
Canterbury Cathedral. 1649.
13. “The act of faith is to apply Christ to the soul; and
this the weakest faith can do as well as the strongest, if it be true. A child
can hold a staff as well, though not so strongly, as a man. The prisoner through
a hole sees the sun, though not so perfectly as they in the open air. They that
saw the brazen serpent, though a great way off, yet were healed.
“The least faith is as precious to the believer’s soul as
Peter’s or Paul’s faith was to themselves, for it lays hold upon Christ and
brings eternal salvation.”-An
Exposition of the Second Epistle General of
Peter, by the Rev Thomas Adams, Rector of St. Gregory’s, London. 1633.
14. “Many of God’s dear children for a long time may remain
very doubtful as to their
eternal condition, and know
not what to conclude, whether they shall be damned, or whether they shall be
saved. There are believers of several growths in the Church of
young men, children, and babes; and as in most families there are more babes and
children than grown men, so in the Church of God there are more weak, doubting
Christians than strong ones, grown up to a full assurance. A babe may be born,
and yet not know it; so a man may be born again, and yet not be sure of it.
“We make a difference betwixt saving faith, as such, and a
full persuasion of the heart. Some of those that shall be saved may not be
certain that they shall be saved; for the promise is made to the grace of faith,
and not to the evidence of it, to faith as true, and not to faith as strong.
be sure of heaven, and yet in their own sense not assured of
-Sermons by Rev. Thomas Doolittle, of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge,
and sometime Rector of St. Alphage, London, in the Morning Exercises, at
15. “I find not salvation put upon the strength of faith, but
the truth of faith; not upon the brightest degree, but upon any degree of faith.
It is not
said, If you have such a degree of faith you shall be justified
and saved; but simply believing is required. The lowest degree of true faith
wilt do it; as Romans x. 9: ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord
Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved.’ The thief upon the cross had not attained to such high
degrees of faith: he by one act, and that of a weak faith, was justified and
saved. (Luke xxiii. 42.)”
-Exposition of t
he Prophet Ezekiel, by
William Greenhill, Rector of Stepney, London, and Chaplain to the Dukes of York
and Gloucester. 1650.
16. “Weak faith is true faith,-as precious, though not so
great, as strong faith,-the same Holy Ghost the Author, the same Gospel the
“If it never proves great, yet weak faith shall save, for it
interests us in Christ, and makes Him and all His benefits ours. For it is not
the strength of our faith that saves, but truth of our faith; nor weakness
of our faith that condemns, but the want of faith,-for the least faith layeth
‘hold on Christ, and so will save us. Neither are we saved by the worth or
quantity of our faith, but by Christ, who is laid hold on by a weak faith as
well as a strong. Just as a weak hand that can put meat into the mouth, shall
feed and nourish the body as well as if it were a strong hand; seeing the body
is not nourished by the strength of the hand, but by the goodness of the meat.”-
Doctrine of Faith, by John Rogers, Preacher of God’s Word at Dedham, in
17. “Though your grace be never so weak, yet if ye have truth
of grace, you have as great a share in the righteousness of Christ for your
justification as the strong Christian hath. You have as much of Christ imputed
to you as any other.”
-Sermons by William Bridge, formerly Fellow of Emmanuel
College, Cambridge, and Pastor of the
Church of Christ, in Great
18. “It is confessed weak faith hath as much peace with God,
through Christ, as another hath by strong faith, but not so much bosom peace.
“Weak faith will as surely land the Christian in heaven as
strong faith, for it is impossible the least dram of true grace should perish,
being all incorruptible seed; but the weak, doubting Christian is not like to
have so pleasant a voyage thither as another with strong faith. Though all in
the ship come safe to shore, yet he that is all the way sea-sick hath not so
comfortable a voyage as he that is strong and healthful.”-
The Christian in
complete Armour, by William Gurnall, sometime Minister at Lavenham, Suffolk.
19. “A man may have true grace that hath not the assurance of
the love and favour of God, or the remission of his sins, and salvation of his
soul. A man may be God’s, and yet he not know it; his estate may be good, and
yet he not see it; he may be in a safe condition, when he is not in a
comfortable position. All may be well with him in the court of glory, when he
would give a thousand worlds that all were but well in the court of conscience.
“Assurance is requisite to the well-being of a Christian, but
not to the being; it is requisite to the consolation of a Christian, but not to
the salvation of a Christian; it is requisite to the well-being of grace, but
not to the mere being of grace. Though a man cannot be saved without faith, yet
he may be saved without assurance. God hath in sunny places of the Scripture
declared that without faith there is no salvation; but God hath not in any one
place of Scripture declared that without assurance there is no salvation.”-
on Earth, by Thomas Brooks, Preacher of the Gospel at St. Margaret’s, Fish
Street Hill, London. 1654
20. “We must distinguish between weakness of faith and
nullity. A weak faith is true. The bruised reed is but weak, yet it is such as
Christ will not break. Though thy faith be but weak, yet be not discouraged. A
weak faith may receive a strong Christ: a weak hand can tie the knot in marriage
as well as a strong; a weak eye might have seen the brazen serpent. The promise
is not made to strong faith, but to true. The promise doth not say, Whosoever
hath a giant faith that can remove mountains, that can stop the mouth of lions,
shall be saved; but whosoever believes, be his faith never so small.
“You may have the water of the Spirit poured on you in
sanctification, though not the oil of gladness in assurance; there may be faith
of adherence, and not of evidence; there may be life in the root where there is
no fruit in the branches, and faith in the heart where no fruit of assurance.”-
Body of Divinity, by Thomas Watson, formerly Minister of St. Stephen’s,
Walbrook, London. 1660.
21. “There is a weak faith, which yet is true; and although
it be weak, yet, because it is true, it shall not be rejected of Christ.
“Faith is not created perfect at the first, as Adam was, but
is like a man in the ordinary course of nature, who is first an infant, then a
child, then a youth, then a man.
“Some utterly reject all weak ones, and tax all weakness in
faith with hypocrisy. Certainly these are either proud or cruel men.
“Some comfort and establish those who are weak, saying, ‘Be
quiet: thou hast faith and grace enough and art good enough; thou needest no
more, neither must thou be too righteous.’ (Eccles. vii. 16.) These are soft,
but not safe, cushions; these are fawning flatterers, and not faithful friends.
“Some comfort and exhort, saying, ‘Be of good cheer: He who
hath begun a good work will also finish it in you; therefore pray that His grace
may abound in you; yea, do not sit still, but go forward, and march on in the
way of the Lord.’ (Heb. vi. 1.) Now this is the safest and best course.”
Observations, etc., upon the Gospel according to St. Matthew, by Richard Ward,
sometime Student at Cambridge, and Preacher of the Gospel in London. 1640.
22. “Be not discouraged if it doth not yet appear to you that
you were given by the Father to the Son. It may be, though you do not see it.
Many of the given do not for a long time know it; yea, I see no great danger in
saying that not a few of the given to the Son may be in darkness, and doubts and
fears about it, till the last and brightest day declares it, and till the last
sentence proclaims it.
“If therefore any of you be in the dark about your own
election, be not discouraged; it may be, though you do not know it.”
on the Lord’s Prayer, by Robert Traill, Minister of the Gospel in London, and
sometime at Cranbrook Kent. 1690.
23. “Some rob themselves of their own comfort by placing
saving faith in full assurance. Faith, and sense of faith, are two distinct and
separable mercies; you may have truly received Christ, and not receive the
knowledge or assurance of it. Some there be that say, ‘Thou art our God,’ of
whom God never said, You are my people; these have no authority to be called the
sons of God: others there are, of whom God saith, ‘These are my people,’ yet
they dare not call God ‘their God;’ these have authority to be called the Sons
of God, yet know it not. They have received Christ, that is their safety; but
they have not yet received the knowledge and assurance of it, that is their
trouble.…The father owns his child in the cradle, who yet knows him not to he
Method of grace, by John Flavel, Minister of the Gospel at
Dartmouth, Devon. 1680.
24. “The faith necessary and sufficient for our salvation is
not assurance. Its tendency, doubtless, is to produce that lively expectation of
the Divine favour which will issue in a full confidence. But the confidence is
not itself the faith of which we speak, nor is it necessarily included in it:
nay, it is a totally distinct thing.
“Assurance will generally accompany a high degree of faith.
But there are sincere persons who are endued with only small measures of grace,
or in whom the exercise of that grace may be greatly obstructed. When such
defects or hindrances prevail, many fears and distresses may be expected to
The Christian System, by the Rev. Thomas Robinson, Vicar of St.
Mary’s, Leicester. 1795.
25. “Assurance is not essential to the being of faith. It is
a strong faith; but we read likewise of a weak faith, little faith, faith like a
grain of mustard seed. True saving faith in Jesus Christ is only distinguishable
by its different degrees; but in every degree, and in every subject, it is
universally of the same kind.”-
Sermons, by the Rev. John Newton, sometime
Vicar of Olney, and Rector of St. Mary’s. Woolnoth, London. 1767.
26. “There is no reason why weak believers should conclude
against themselves. Weak faith unites as really with Christ as strong faith,-as
the least bud in the vine is drawing sap and life from the root, no less than
the strongest branch. Weak believers therefore have abundant cause to be
thankful; and while they reach after growth in grace, ought not to overlook what
they have already received.”-
Letter of Rev. Henry Venn. 1784.
27. “Salvation, and the joy of salvation, are not always
contemporaneous; the latter does not always accompany the former in present
“A sick man may be under a process of recovery and yet be in
doubt concerning the restoration of his health. Pain and weakness may cause him
to hesitate. A child may be heir to his estate or kingdom, and yet derive no joy
from the prospect of his future inheritance. He may be unable to trace his
genealogy, or to read his title deeds, and the testament of his father; or with
a capacity of reading them he may be unable to understand their import, and his
guardian may for a time deem it right to suffer him to remain in ignorance. But
his ignorance does not affect the validity of his title.
“Personal assurance of salvation is not necessarily connected
with faith. They are not essentially the same. Every believer
indeed infer, from the effect produced in his own heart, his own safety and
privileges; but many who truly believe are unskilful in the word of
righteousness, and fail of drawing the conclusion from Scriptural premises which
they would be justified in drawing”-
Lectures on the Fifty-first Psalm, by the
Rev. Thomas Biddulph, Minister of St. James’s, Bristol. 1830,
7 “He that believeth on Jesus shall never be confounded.
Never was any; neither shall you, if you believe. It was a great word of faith
spoken by a dying man, who had been converted in a singular way, betwixt his
condemnation and execution: his last words were these, spoken with a mighty
shout,-‘Never man perished with his face towards Christ Jesus.’-Traill.
8 “The greatest thing that we can desire, next to the glory
of God, is our own salvation; and, the sweetest thing we can desire is the
assurance of our salvation. In this life we cannot get higher than to be assured
of that which in the next life is to be enjoyed. All saints shall enjoy a heaven
when they leave this earth; some saints enjoy a heaven while they are here on
9 “It was a saying of Bishop Latimer to Ridley, “When I live
in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, methinks then I
am as bold as a lion. I can laugh at all trouble: no affliction daunts me. But
when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearful a spirit, that I could run
into a very mouse-hole.”-
Quoted by Christopher Love. 1653.
‘‘Assurance will assist us in all duties; it will arm us
against all temptations; it will answer all objections; it will sustain us in
all conditions into which the saddest of times can bring us. ‘If God be for us,
who can be against us?’-
Bishop Reynolds on Hosea xiv. 1642.
“We cannot come amiss to him that hath assurance: God is his.
Hath he lost a friend?-His Father lives. Hath he lost an only child? God hath
given him His only Son. Hath he scarcity of bread?-God hath given him the finest
of the wheat, the bread of life.-Are his comforts gone?-he hath a Comforter.
Doth he meet with storms?-he knows where to put in for harbour.-God is his
portion, and heaven is his haven.”-
Thomas Watson. 1662
10 These were John Bradford’s words in prison, shortly before
his execution. “I have no request to make. If Queen Mary gives me my life, I
will thank her; if she will banish me, I will thank her; if she will burn me, I
will thank her; if she will condemn me to perpetual imprisonment, I will thank
This was Rutherford’s experience, when banished to Aberdeen.
‘How blind are my adversaries, who sent me to a banqueting house, and not to a
prison or a place of exile.” “My prison is a palace to me, and Christ’s
11 These were the last words of Hugh Mackail on the scaffold
at Edinburgh, 1666. “Now I begin my intercourse with God, which shall never be
broken off. Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations; farewell, the
world and all its delights; farewell, meat and drinks; farewell, sun, moon, and
stars. Welcome, God and Father; welcome, sweet Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the
new covenant; welcome, blessed Spirit of grace and God of all consolation;
welcome, glory; welcome, eternal life; welcome, death. O Lord, into Thy hands I
commit my spirit; for Thou hast redeemed my soul, O Lord God of truth.”
12 These were Rutherford’s words on his death bed. “O that
all my brethren did know what a Master I have served, and what I have this day!
I shall sleep in Christ, and when I awake, I shall be satisfied with his
These were Baxter’s words on his death bed. “I bless God I
have a well-grounded assurance of my eternal happiness, and great peace and
comfort within.” Towards the close he was asked how he did? The answer was,
“Almost well.” 1691.
13 The least degree of faith takes away the sting of death,
because it takes away guilt; but the full assurance of faith breaks the very
teeth and jaws of death, by taking away the fear and dread of it.”
Sermon in the Morning Exercises.
14 “Assurance would make us active and lively in God’s
service; it would excite prayer, quicken obedience. Faith would make us walk,
but assurance would make us run; we should think we could never do enough for
God. Assurance would be as wings to the bird, as weights to the clock, to set
all the wheels of obedience a-running.”
“Assurance will make a man fervent, constant, and abundant in
the work of the Lord. When the assured Christian hath done one work, he is
calling out for another. What is next, Lord, says the assured soul: what is
next? An assured Christian will put his hand to any work, he will put his neck
in any yoke for Christ; he never thinks he hath done enough, he always thinks he
hath done too little, and when he hath done all he can, he sits down, saying, I
am an unprofitable servant.” -
15 “The true assurance of salvation, which the Spirit of God
hath wrought in any heart, hath that force to restrain a man from looseness of
life, and to knit his heart in love and obedience to God, as nothing else hath
in all the world. It is certainly either the want of faith and assurance of
God’s love, or a false and carnal assurance of it, that is the true cause of all
the licentiousness that reigns in the world.”
-Hildersam on 51st Psalm.
“None walk so evenly with God as they who are assured of the
love of God. Faith is the mother of obedience, and sureness of trust makes way
for strictness of life. When men are loose from Christ, they are loose in point
of duty, and their floating belief is soon discovered in their inconstancy and
unevenness of walking. We do not with alacrity engage in that of the success of
which we are doubtful: and therefore when we know not whether God will accept us
or not, when we are off and on in point of trust, we are just so in the course
of our lives, and serve God by fits and starts. It is the slander of the world
to think assurance an idle doctrine.”
-Manton’s Exposition of James. 1660.
“Who is more obliged, or who feels the obligation to
observance more cogently,-the son who knows his near relation, and knows his
father loves him, or the servant that hath great reason to doubt it? Fear is a
weak and impotent principle in comparison of love. Terrors may awaken; love
enlivens. Terrors may ‘almost persuade;’ love over-persuades. Sure am I that a
believer’s knowledge that his Beloved is his, and he is his Beloved’s (Cant. vi.
3), is found by experience to lay the most strong and cogent obligations upon
him to loyalty and faithfulness to the Lord Jesus. For as to him that believes
Christ is precious (1 Peter ii. 7), so to him that knows he believes Christ is
so much the more precious, even the ‘chiefest of ten thousand.’” (Cant. v. l0)-
Sermon in Morning
“Is it necessary that men should be kept in continual dread
of damnation, in order to render them circumspect and ensure their attention to
duty? Will not the well-grounded expectation of heaven prove far more
efficacious? Love is the noblest and strongest principle of obedience: nor can
it be but that a sense of God's love to us will increase our desire to please
Robinson’s Christian System.
16 “That which breeds so much perplexity is, that we would
invert God’s order. ‘If I knew,’ say some, ‘that the promise belonged to me, and
Christ was a Saviour to me, I could believe:’ that is to say, I would first see,
and then believe. But the true method is just the contrary: ‘I had fainted,’
says David, ‘unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord.’ He believed
it first, and saw it afterwards.”
“It is a weak and ignorant, but common, thought of
Christians, that they ought not to look for heaven, nor trust Christ for eternal
glory, till they be well advanced in holiness and meetness for it. But as the
first sanctification of our natures flows from our
faith and trust in
Christ for acceptance, so our further sanctification and meetness for glory
flows from the renewed and repeated exercise of
faith on Him.”
17The Westminster Confession of Faith gives an admirable
account of justification. “Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely
justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their
sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any
thing wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by
imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other Evangelical obedience,
to them, as their righteousness: but by imputing the obedience and righteousness
of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by
18“Whose fault is it that thy interest in Christ is not put
out of question? Were Christians more in self-examination, more close in walking
with God; and if they had more near communion with God, and were more in acting
of faith, this shameful darkness and doubting would quickly vanish.”-
“A lazy Christian shall always want four things: viz.,
comfort, content, confidence, and assurance. God hath made a separation between
joy and idleness, between assurance and laziness, and therefore it is impossible
for thee to bring these together, that God hath put so far asunder.”-
“Are you in depths and doubts, staggering and uncertain, not
knowing what is your condition, nor whether you have any interest in the
forgiveness that is of God? Are you tossed up and down between hopes and fears,
and want peace consolation, and establishment? Why lie you upon your faces? Get
up: watch, pray, fast, meditate, offer violence to your lusts and corruptions;
fear not, startle not at their crying to be spared; press unto the throne of
grace by prayer, supplications, importunities, restless requests: this is the
way to take the kingdom of God. These things are not peace, are not assurance;
but they are part of the means God hath appointed for the attainment of
Owen on the 130th Psalm.
19 “Wouldest thou have thy hope strong?-Then keep thy
conscience pure. Thou canst not defile one without weakening the other. The
godly person that is loose and careless in his holy walking will soon find his
hope languishing. All sin disposeth the soul that tampers with it to trembling
fears and shakings of heart.”
“One great and too common cause of distress is the secret
maintaining some known sin. It puts out the eye of the soul, or dimmeth it and
stupifies it, that it can neither see nor feel its own condition. But especially
it provoketh God to withdraw Himself, His comforts, and the assistance of His
“The stars which have least circuit are nearest the pole;
and men whose hearts are least entangled with the world are always nearest to
God, and to the assurance of His favour. Worldly Christians, remember this. You
and the world must part, or else assurance and your souls will never meet.”-
“They are doubly miserable that have neither Heaven
nor earth, temporals nor eternals, made sure to them in changing times.”
21 “None have assurance at all times. As in a walk that is
shaded with trees and checkered with light and shadow, some tracks and paths in
it are dark, and others are sunshine: such is usually the life of the most
“It is very suspicious that that person is a hypocrite that
always in the same frame, let him pretend it to be never so good.”
Bulletin Board, P.O. Box 119, Columbus, NJ, 08022, USA