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ASSURANCE OF FAITH AND SALVATION.
“ 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. THE beloved disciple seems never to have imagined that he could too frequently exhibit the object of saving faith. He wrote the gospel which is ascribed to him, that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing they might have life through his name. He wrote also his first Epistle he informs us for two reasons ; that sinners may believe on the name of the Son of God: and that all who thus believe may KNOW that they have eternal life.
To believe on the name of the Son of God, is to accredit that testimony which distinguishes him from every other person. His name was given to him, that by it his glorious person, character, and offices might be publicly known. The belief spoken of in the text, is an assent of the renewed mind, given through the supernatural agency of the Holy Ghost, to the statement of God, that the glo.
rious person called his Son, is anointed, or set apart, by the Lord, to the work of saving his people from their sins. To all who have this faith John has written his first Epistle, for the purpose of enabling them to know that they have eternal life. “ 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.” This knowledge that we have eternal life must proceed from knowing that we have faith, for John strenuously insists on this truth, that he who believeth on the Son, and he alone, hath eternal life. He considers, therefore, the knowledge of our having faith, and of our having eternal life, so inseparably connected, that we can have no assurance of salvation without a previous assurance of our believing on the Saviour: but if we know that we have faith, we may be certain that we shall be saved.
By an assurance of faith and eternal life, I would be understood to mean knowledge of the fact that we possess faith, and have a title to eternal life. Let any one know, or have such a persuasion of mind as excludes all doubt upon the subject, for the time, ihat he is a believer and shall be saved, and he will possess
the ASSURANCE OF FAITH AND SAL. VATION.
The assurance that we have faith, is distinct from that assurance of the truth of the proposition believed, which is of the essence of faith; for in these two different articles the mind is assured of separate things, and is em, ployed about objects which are so far from being the same, that they have no necessary connection. When I believe, that Jehovah can speak nothing but the truth, I am in that individual act of faith assured of his veracity; for it would be absurd to affirm that my
mind had any doubt of his veracity in the very moment in which I assented to a proposition, the tenor of which is," I am fully persuaded of Jehovah's perfect veracity." When I believe, Jesus is the Christ, my mind etertains at the time of believing, no doubt of the fact stated ; and the same is true of every other act of faith, whether it be denominated, temporary, historical, or saving.
The assurance, or the certain knowledge of our own minds that we do believe on Christ, seems not to have been the thing intended by the Apostle, when he said, "let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience ;'* but a full assurance of the truth of the things believed, and of which he was speaking; that Christ offered himself a sacrifice for sins, that he will apply the redemption which is by his blood, and that he he has entered into the holiest house of God, to be an High Priest for ever. “ With sin
* Hebrews X. 22.
cere affection, and unwavering belief of these things which are stated about Jesus,” said the Apostle, “let us draw near to him.” Elsewhere this same divinely inspired writer speaks of what has since been commonly denominated, very improperly, the faith of assurance; and expressing the unhesitating judgment of his own mind, that he exercised faith and should be saved, says, KNOW whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2Tim. i. 12.
Having offered these preliminary considerations about the doctrine of assurance, I shall attempt to convince my hearers,
Ist. Of the Duty,
Illly. Of the Means, of a Christian's knowing that he has faith and eternal life.
I. It is the duty of a Christian to know that he believes on Christ Jesus, and has eternal life.
The Christian of whom I now speak has some other religion than that which consists in baptism, profession, and form; for he ac. tually assents to the testimony of God concerning the way of salvation with all his heart. He believes through the Spirit, and he ought to know that he believes.
This may be proved from the infallible oracles of wisdom. “ Examine yourselves, whether
be in the faith; prove your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you except
ye be reprobates.” 2 Cor. xiii. 5. In this passage it is strictly enjoined as a duty incumbent on us to koow whether we are in the faith, or are still reprobates. You may object, that man is prone to deceive himself, that the heart is deceitful, and that many Christian graces are counterfeited in such a manner that it is difficult to distinguish the genuine, from the false : but still the Lord requires us to know what our state is, and be assured that we have some faith, or no faith in Jesus.
“Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” Gal. vi. 4. The import of this injunction undoubtedly is, that every man should fully know the nature of his own work, whether of faith, patience, or love, that from his own consciousness, and assurance arising from it, and not from the opinions of his fellow-men about his piety, he might have holy joy.
By the apostle Peter we are commanded to add to our virtue knowledge, which is a requisition to know ourselves, and the operations of our own minds, as well as the character and word of God. 2 Pet. i. 5. He saith also, “ give diligence to make your calling and election sure ; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall.” 2 Pet. i. 10. erally understood to be a command to make our calling and election certain, or clearly known, both to ourselves and others. Of
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