« AnteriorContinuar »
broad seal of apostacy has been planted on the forehead of numbers who seemed to promise much more fair than I do; and if so many have "perished for lack of knowledge” who esteemed themselves wise in the things pertaining unto life; ab, who can tell whether "the light that is in me be not darkness!" whether I also may not turn aside, while
my hope, like "the hypocrites — shall perish!”
It is easy for professors of religion to indulge a kind of general hope, and to talk about it too, while they see little probability of its being speedily put to the test, and while the things of eternity are but faintly recollected; but when a sense of them becomes deeply impressed upon the mind, the importance of the subject annihilates its distance, and the unutterably momentous interests it involves, while they render them above all things anxious for a solid assurance of their safety, almost deprive them of the hope that such assurance can ever be obtained. The 'example of hypocritical professors, of heretics, of apostates, stares them in the face; and the known deceitfulness of their own hearts, and the power of their corruptions, form an additional bar. rier to their wishes. Difficult, however, as it may be to arrive at the desired conclusion, the thing is not impossible. In the text we find an instance of one who triumphcd in the hope of a joyful immortality, even in an age when the way of life and the ministration of the Spirit were little known, and at a time too when every circumstance apparently concurred to overthrow the best established confidence. Compared with his amazing, but most delightful hope, the unusual complication of his griefs, and the unexampled patience with which they were endured, shrink into matters of ordinary note. Our hearts can enter into all his feelings when we hear him recount his paips
and losses, or mourn the still more grievous absence of his God:
: we think we can in some measure understand his meaning when the accents of humble resignation dwell upon his lips: but when the strong expressions of his confi-dence salute our ear, when in the midst of all his sorrows we hear him cry, in the plenitude of his assurance, “I know that my Redeemer liveth," we wonder and adore, but dare not think of imitation. O, if, like Job, I knew "bat my Redeemer liveth,” says many an heir of heaven, like him I too could be patient in tribulation," and, like him, I could rejoice in the prospects of eternity, though the "candle" of the Lord did not "shine upon my head." But was not this an extraordinary assurance vouchsafed in compliance with an extraordinary case? Or is it possible that a common christian may reach such full persuasion that his Redeemer liveth? And if it be, what are the allowed scriptural grounds on which it may be rested? These questions are of the utmost moment. They involve the peace and prosperity of millions. To prove that full assurance is attainable, and to point out the ground on which it must be built, are the objects of this discourse.
1. We are to prove that full assurance is attainable.
The truth of this position will appear from the following considerations.
In the first place: The nature of the dispensation of grace admits of full assurance. Were the salvation provided for mankind a something entirely disconnected from our present state and feelings, there could be no way of our obtaining assurance of an interest in it without the intervention of a revelation immediately from God. On this account we find that, however ready people of no religion may be to entertain a hope that all either is, or eventually
shall be well with them, yet there are few instances in which it ever enters into their thoughts that certainty about this point may be expected in the present life. Igporant of the real and close connexion that subsists between the church on earth and the church in heaven, between the state of a believer's soul in this world and the state to which he shall be ultimately advanced, and between the individual members that are upon the earth and their glorious head in heaven,-ignorant of all these things, what imaginable foundation could they have for the idea that complete assurance of an interest in Jesus is attainable?
The true state of the case, however, is very different. Instead of being kept locked up among the inscrutable purposes of God, to be conferred upon we know not whom, when the disembodied spirits shall appear before the throne, the salvation of which a sinber is made partaker is proffered for his individual acceptance in this present life, and it is only in this life that he can obtain an interest in it. “This commandment," says God to the children of Israel, “this commandment, which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off: it is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? but the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” “That is,” says the apostle Paul, “the word of faith which we preach; that 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.” And that same dispensation of grace which puts the issues for eternity upon our conscious, voluntary acceptance or rejection of the remedy proposed, has likewise made provision for fitting those who have believed in Jesus for the full possession and enjoy. ment of that inheritance to which they have thus secured a title. Now then, if the saved sinner upon earth hold by the same title with the triumphant saint in heaven; if God, even this world, "put a” marked, an essential “diference between the clean and the unclean," between him that feareth the Lord, and him that feareth him not; and if these be things about which a man's own mind and heart must be conversant, so that they fall directly within the compass of his observation; it clearly follows that the nature of the dispensation of grace, so far from militating against the possibility of full assurance, not only allows complete room for its existence, but in fact affords a strong presumption in its favour.
In the second place: The scriptures teach us that it is attainable. The first epistle of John is full and explicit in its testimony to this truth. “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. And whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight.--And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him and he in him: and hereby we know that he abideth in us by the spirit which he hath given us." And in the last chapter of that same epistie, having descanted at some length on brotherly love, the obedience of faith, the testimony of the Spirit, and union with the Lord Jesus, under the special idea that they are marks and essential properties of the new nature, the apostle winds up the whole with this declaration, “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.”
The apostle Peter likewise gives testimony in favour of this doctrine. "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts," says he, in the third chapter of his first epistle; "and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” And, again, in the first chapter of his second epistle, he exhorts believers to "give diligence to make their calling and election sure: for if ye do these things,” says he, "ye shall never fall." The apostle could not mean that they should give diligence to bring about 'the fact of their calling and election; for, passing by the circumstance that he was writing to “brethren,” “to them who had obtained like precious faith” with himself, it is evident that their "calling and election" must necessarily precede the exertion of any diligence at all; and as both these flow immediately out of the good pleasure of God, it would be talking nonsense to make them the subjects of human exertion. If therefore the apostle mean any thing at all he must mean that christian professors should labour to assure themselves of the fact that they are indeed the chosen and called of God: and the reason he subjoins for giving this exhortation accords exactly with our view of the exhortation itself. It is that by thus giving diligencé, "an entrance shall be administered unto them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
The apostle Paul holds up the doctrine of assurance as a motive to perseverance in good works. Having com•