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glorified together." His meaning evidently is, the Holy Spirit of God, whose gifts and graces we Christians experience, confirms the testimony of our hearts and consciences that we are the children of God, and, if children, then heirs, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be, (or upon this condition, that, like our Redeemer, we pay a dutiful obedience to the will of our Heavenly Father, in bearing patiently the sufferings which may befal us in the cause of righteousness; for then, and only then, we shall be glorified together with Christ. Thus then it is very clear that this text bears not the most distant reference to the assurance of individual Christians respecting their own particular salvation. It solely and entirely refers to the general assurance which all Christians have, an assurance built in their hearts and consciences by faith in the promises and reliance on the merits of Christ, and confirmed by the encouraging influence of the Holy Spirit, that, if they perform the duties which their religion requires, they will be owned and received as the adopted children of God, and rewarded with admission into that glorious inheritance which He has promised to His obedient servants,
In adverting to other scriptural authorities which have been alleged in support of the doctrine I am considering; it will readily be allowed
that several passages occur, which speak of our knowing that we are in God, of our knowing that we have eternal life, that we have passed from death unto life. A very brief consideration, how
of these particular texts will satisfactorily prove to us that all these expressions imply a general knowledge of the advantages which result from the Gospel dispensation; a full trust in the completion of the gracious promises therein made by God to his faithful servants; a strong and well grounded hope of future happiness, which must ever flow from sincere endeavours after holiness of life; but that they, in no instance, countenance the notion of a positive conviction and conscious assurance in the minds of individuals, that their salvation has been secured.
Thus St. John in his first Epistle says, “"whoso keepeth His word, in him is verily the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in Him." He is discoursing in this passage on the necessity of our proving, by keeping the commandments of Christ, that we are His true disciples, and have a real and lively faith in His atoning merits. He had said in the verse preceding, “ He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.". But he adds, on the other hand,
A John xi, 5.
ON THE ASSURANCE
“ Whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in Him.” In this sentence, it is very evident, that he is stating a general truth, opposed to that of the preceding verse; viz., that he who duly keeps the word of God, shews forth in his practice the perfect love of God; and “ hereby," he says,—that is, by keeping the word of God, which is the fruit of a sincere and perfect love of God,-we and all Christians know that we dwell in Him, that we become true members of His church, that we become really united to Him in heart and affection, and may have well grounded hopes, through the merits of our Redeemer, of obtaining from His favour final and everlasting rewards.
Again, says the same Apostle, 60 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Here, as in other parts of this general epistle, he is addressing not particular individual Christians, but the Christian body at large. Now surely it can scarcely be supposed that he is informing or reminding all whom he addressed, that “because they love the brethren," they have arrived at a state, in which every individual has received a full assurance of his own salvation. Heis pointing out the consolations which
el John iii. 14.
all true Christians derive from their faith under trial and persecution. “ Marvel not,” were his words in the verse immediately preceding, “my brethren, if the world hate you: we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren;" where he evidently tells them that, because they have shewn forth the sincerity of their Christian faith, by cultivating that cardinal Christian virtue, charity towards their fellow-creatures, they know that “ they have passed from death unto life,” that they have exchanged a state in which death would have been their portion, in which no compensation for present suffering would have awaited them in futurity, for a state, in which they are animated to the steady endurance of present evil, and to the zealous discharge of duties enjoined upon them, by the firm and solid hope of obtaining the blessings of eternal life.
Another text of the same Apostle will illustrate more fully the sense in which these and similar expressions are to be understood. “ These things, he says, I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” He is here manifestly stating the motive which had induced him to address them, and this motive was, that they might“ know that they have eternal life.” Now it is impossible for a moment to believe the Apostle's meaning to be, that his
p 1 John v, 13.
purpose in writing to them was, that every individual amongst them who should attend to what he had written would receive an undoubted internal assurance of his salvation. Unquestionably, in conformity with what is necessarily required by the context, and with what is alone consistent with rational views of the subject, we must understand him to mean, that he wrote for the
purpose of conveying to them a knowledge of eternal life; a knowledge of those saving trnths, the true and efficacious belief of which would lead to their everlasting salvation.
But the Apostle St. Paul, in a passage of his epistle to the Hebrews, affords a no less clear illustration of the manner, in which scriptural expressions of this nature are to be understood.
“9 Ye had compassion on me in my bonds —knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” In this passage, it is evident that he is stating the great and worthy motive, by which they were induced to shew compassion towards him in his bonds. He cannot certainly be supposed to say, that they displayed this kind and Christian tem
9 Heb. x. 34.