SOME HINTS ON ASSURANCE
From the works of C.H. Spurgeon
Introduction by Glen Berry
IT IS SO VERY TRUE that some who claim to have full assurance of salvation should NOT have it; and some who tremblingly decry that they DO NOT have it, should have it. And then some would question whether or not ANYONE should have full assurance at all. Wherein lies the truth? Is it wrong or unbiblical for some to have assurance? Should it be a sought- after treasure of exceeding high value? Is the obtaining of it possible? Should anyone deny this treasure to others? Though “doubts” may assail, is it wrong and a matter of unbelief and rejection of TRUTH to make a “religion of your doubts”? Are not doubts contrary to faith and belief?
Some teach that continual doubts are necessary for anyone and everyone making a profession of salvation. Others teach that where there IS no assurance there is no salvation. What is the TRUTH in the matter?
We have published on this great subject before. Our purpose here is not to draw from many gifted men of the past and filling a book with their comments. But in this booklet you WILL find excerpts by that “prince of preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I will say this: his view on the subject is in harmony with views held by such spiritual men of the past like J. C. Philpot of England and John Newton, also of England, who was a minister of the Gospel and is well-known for his hymn, Amazing Grace.”
My concern and burden is that a child of God should NOT make a religion of his doubts but should not be satisfied WITHOUT FULL ASSURANCE but keep seeking it and asking the Lord to bless him with it. Don’t let any man rob you, causing you to “cast away your confidence” which the Scriptures warn against.
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. (Hebrews 10:35)
When we say some should NOT have “assurance,” it is alluding to those who base their assurance or their salvation on the fact of some works they have performed, or something they had done, even in a so-called “free-will decision” they have made in order to “let Jesus save them.” Thus they are in reality trusting in themselves rather than in the Lord Jesus Christ, and attributing the destiny of their souls on something meritorious that they have done. Such poor deluded souls think and imagine that since “Jesus has done all He can do,” as taught by some preachers, then they must help Him out and complete the transaction by their works or their decision in order to GET born again and finalize the purchase of salvation that Jesus Christ did not complete on the cross, but is just waiting for MAN to complete the work himself. But God will not share His glory with another, and true faith and trust is to be 100% in Christ’s complete work, not 99% trust in Christ and even 1% in man. The Word of God is plain and clear: “Salvation is of the Lord.” It is said of God,—
“And He saw that there was NO MAN, and wondered that there was no intercessor: THEREFORE HIS ARM BROUGHT SALVATION unto Him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion.. ” (See Isa. 59.)
‘And 1 looked, and there was NONE TO HELP; and 1 wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore MINE OWN ARM BROUGHT SALVATION. ” (63:5)
IS IT WRONG TO EXPECT DOUBTS? We are frail humans and they have varied degrees of faith. Doubts may come but you do not need to necessarily live in a state of doubt. In fact, if you are living in sin without repentance, your whole profession is suspect and it would be presumption to claim assurance. Or as stated before, if your salvation is based on your own inherent merit in any way, then you are deceived in your assurance. But yet even a true child of God may have cause from time to time to have doubts. The Lord knows we are but dust. For whatever cause, sometimes doubts may be legitimate; otherwise why would the Word of God tell us:
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves….. ” (2 Corinthians 13:5)?
On the other hand, in the process of this examination and all the while praying to our merciful God to grant assurance, if that assurance were not possible and even probable as normal spirituality, why would God tell us,—
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, GIVE DILIGENCE to make YOUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE.” (2 Peter 1:10)?
Do you not see as-SURE-ance in the word “sure”? Do you not see asSURance? So don’t just assume that anyone who claims to have assurance is being presumptuous. It should even be expected as a fruit of faith. Job said, I KNOW that MY Redeemer liveth. David said, The Lord IS MY Shepherd, I shall not want. Paul said, “Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I KNOW in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what which I have committed unto Him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)
Some declare they have a “hope,” AND that we can’t ‘go beyond hope.” But Christ IS our Hope, and a scriptural “hope” is a lively expectation of faith; it is MORE than just hoping you will be well enough to go to town next week! And consider, why did the apostle John say, “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. ”
READ ON. . . . .
The True Position of Assurance
(Taken from a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. I O, No 592 Il.
After hearing came BELIEF. We know that believing does not always follow hearing immediately. There is a case told of Mr. Flavel having preached a sermon which was blessed to a man, I think eighty-five years afterwards, so that the seed may lay long buried in the dust; yet had not that man heard that sermon, speaking after the manner of men, he had not received the quickening Word. You may have heard the gospel long in vain, and it should be to you a source of very serious enquiry If you have done so—it should set you trembling lest the Word should never be the savor of life unto you, but at the same time do not renounce the hearing because hitherto you have had no blessing, for faith cometh by hearing. Continue still to listen; continue still to search the Word; and, if your soul desireth faith, God denies not faith to any He has really implanted a desire after it. Faith will yet, we trust, come while you are hearing.
This belief, you observe, is called trusting. Kindly look at the verse: “In whom ye also trusted.” The translators have borrowed that word “trusted,” very properly, from the 12th verse. It IS not in the original, but being in the 12th verse it is very rightly understood here. Believing then is trusting…. trusting Christ.
A message comes to me upon good authority—I believe it; believing it, I necessarily trust it. My receiving of the message is so far good, but the essential act, the act essential to salvation is the trusting—the trusting Christ. The process of faith may be thus illustrated. You know a friend of yours to be perfectly reliable—you are in debt. He tells you that if you will trust him to pay the debt, he will give you on the spot a receipt for it. Now, you look at him, you consider his ability to pay it; you consider the probability that he means what he is saying. Having once made up your mind that he is truthful, you could not then say, “1 cannot believe you.” If you once know that person to be truthful, 1 utterly deny that you can hold any argument about your power to believe him. So, if Jesus Christ declares that He came the world to save sinners,” and, if He tells me, as He does tell me, that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”—if I am already enabled by God’s Spirit to believe in the perfect truthfulness of Christ, I should be lying unto my own soul if I said I had not power to believe in Him. Understand, power to believe in Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit has given that power to all men who know the perfect truthfulness of Christ. It must be so, if you just look at it for a moment—it must be so. If I know the perfect truthfulness of a man, I lie If I say to him, “I cannot believe you.” Why, it follows, as a matter of course, that I must believe if I am convinced that he is worthy of credit.
Just so, when I am assured of Christ that His testimony IS worthy Of my belief; I have no right to plead that I cannot believe Him. Mark, I am only speaking to those who have gotten as far as that, and there are hundreds of you who have; when you tell me you cannot believe, I reply, “My dear friend, you can believe. In the Holy Spirit’s giving you enough enlightenment to how that Christ is faithful and true, that enlightenment is your power to believe.” And this is according to the rules of common sense as well as according to the rules of experience. Do not stand, therefore, and say, “I cannot believe what Christ says.” Do you believe Him to be true? “Yes,” say you, “I dare not say otherwise.” Then you can believe what He says. But do you believe that Christ is true? I fear you do not. I believe that John discovered the secret of your unbelief when he said, “He that believeth not hath made God a liar, because he hath not believed on His Son.” That is the bottom of it. You really do think God to be a liar! Do you shrink from that charge? Ah! But I must bring it against you again, for if you know God to be true, I insist upon it, that your own reason tells you it is so, that you cannot help believing in a person you know to be true. I fear that you are making God a liar; and if you deny that charge, then I arrest you at the other point at once, and demand of you that you do now exercise faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is trusting Christ that saves a soul.
Now a few remarks about believing. Faith in Christ is the work of God’s Holy Spirit. In proof of this we have many Scriptures. No man ever did yet believe in Christ until the Holy Spirit had quickened him and illuminated his understanding, so that he perceived the truthfulness of Christ’s character and was then led to trust Him. But in the next place, although faith is the work of the Spirit, it is the act of man. The Holy Spirit does not believe for me: there is nothing for Him to believe. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit does not repent; He has nothing to repent of. He works in me to will and to do, but I will and I do: He does not will nor do what I ought to will and do.
If I have a person here who is ignorant and I teach him, when he acquires knowledge, that knowledge is my gift to him and my work in him. At the same time he acquires that knowledge him- self, and it would never have been his if he had not yielded up his faculties to be taught. Man believes; and whenever persons say to you, “Well, if it be the work of the Holy Spirit, how can it be the duty of man?” remind them that while it is the work of the Holy Spirit, it is not the act of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not believe, it is the man who believes. The Spirit moves upon us, and by His mysterious agency takes away the natural unbelief of the soul and then we believe; but man is not passive in the act of believing. A dead man does not believe, the man IS quickened, and then his quickened spirit lays hold of revealed truth.
Observe this, further, that faith is due to Christ. The faithful and true witness demands of me that I should believe what He says. Sinner, this is the unkindest cut thou canst give to Christ—to doubt Him. I tell thee that all his sufferings on the tree did not insult Him so much as when thou sayest, ‘I cannot trust Thee.’ What, not trust the eternal arm on which the earth doth hang! Not trust the bleeding hands which have opened the gates of Heaven for the very chief of sinners! Not trust the streaming side out of which there gushes blood and water to cleanse the guilt and the power of sin! It is due to Him that thou shouldst with thy whole heart lean upon Him and give Him all thy confidence.
This faith is essential to salvation. Assurance is not essential, but no man can be saved unless he trusteth in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may get to Heaven with a thousand doubts and fears; you may get to Heaven without some of those graces of the Spirit which are the ornaments of the believer’s neck, but you cannot get there without the lifegiving grace of faith. You must have that, and so long as you continue to say, “I will not trust Christ; I want dreams, visions, experiences, revelations; I want terrors of conviction; I want this, I want the other”; so long you shut yourself out of peace. Till you set your seal to God’s Word, God will never set His seal to your faith.
Remark, again, this faith is not required in any particular degree. In order to salvation, it is not declared in Scripture that you are to believe to a certain strength, but if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed—if that be a mountain-moving faith, surely it shall be a soul-saving faith. Faith is not to be estimated by its quantity but by its quality. If thou hast no more faith than as smoking flax of fire, yet He will not quench thee: if thou hast no more power of faith than a bruised reed hath of strength, yet He will not break thee; if thou be not a man, but an infant in grace—nay, if you be scarcely a healthy infant, if there be but faith in thee, though thou be cast out as unswaddled and unwashed, yet He passeth by and looketh upon thee. Canst thou but trust Him? That is the thing. If thou dost but trust Him as a drowning man clutches a rope; if thou lookest to Jesus, as it were, out of the corner of thine eye, though there are so many tears in thine eye that thou canst not see Him at all to thy comfort, yet thou seest Him to salvation. If you have received Him, desire great faith, but remember that little faith will carry thee to Heaven through Jesus Christ.
Observe, further, that this faith is very variable, but it is not perishable. Faith may go to an ebb, as the tide does, but it will come to a flood again. When faith is at its flood, the man is not therefore the more saved; and when faith is at its ebb, the man is not therefore the less saved; for, after all, salvation does not lie in faith, but in Christ; and faith is but the connecting link between the soul and Christ. Faith may take Christ up in its arms, like Simeon, and it is true faith; but, on the other hand, faith may only venture to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and that faith makes men whole. Some of us can look the Savior in the face, and even kiss Him with the kisses of our mouth, and others may only venture to come behind Him in the throng, all timid and afraid—but faith, If it be faith, let it change as it may, still saves. Faith—if it be faith—let it sink as it may, never can drown: it may live in the flames, but it shall never be burned. He who once gets this incorruptible seed, shall find it live and abide in him forever.
This faith is wrought in us by the Spirit of God, according to the laws of mind. When God works upon matter, He works according to the laws of matter. I do no find, apart from miracles, that God violates gravitation—that He breaks any of the great laws with which He has stamped matter; and when the Spirit of God comes to work on man, He does not break the laws with which He regulates mind. Now, it seems to be one of the laws of mind, that a man should believe a thing not by trying to believe it, but by force of evidence. If you now sit down, for instance, and try to believe in the explosion of the powder magazine yesterday, if you have any doubt about it, you may try, as long as you like, to believe it—you cannot do it by trying. You must go through another process. You cannot pump faith up from your own mind. How do I get to believe in the explosion of the powder mills? There are certain newspapers—I have confidence in those newspapers, and as I read the account, I believe it. Or I meet with certain persons who either heard the explosion, or saw some of the effects produced thereby, and now I believe without any effort at all—I cannot help believing. Belief comes necessarily from my having confidence in those who tell me so.
Now, the Spirit of God when about to produce faith, frequently leads men to think about Christ. Christ is set forth before them crucified. They perceive that “Here is a great wonder—God clothed in human flesh to suffer for human sin!” The mind thinks, “There is something here which meets my conscious needs. I can see how God can be just, for He punishes His Son—and how He can be gracious, for He forgives sin. I find it stated that if I trust myself in this Son of God, who suffered as man, and now pleads His infinite merits before the Throne—if I trust in Him I shall be saved.” I cannot trust in Him by simply saying I will try to do it, but I look at the Bible—is it true? I look at the thing itself—does it look like truth? I ask friends who have proved it, and they tell me they have tasted that He is gracious. Upon this evidence, and specially upon perceiving the power of truth in my own soul, I believe the Word of God. The Spirit of God, working thus, leads me from the evidence given, to believe the testimony borne, and I believe it.
Dear friends, if you want to get faith, it must come through the Spirit of God; but it usually comes in this way:—Sit down, if the Word be not blessed to you in hearing it, and ruminate upon it at home; think much of Christ and His great work. Now what you have been doing is this—you have been thinking of your sins only: but what would you think of a judge who sat upon a bench, and who would listen to all the complaints against a criminal, but as soon as the advocate arose to plead his cause, would say, “No, I do not intend to think of that”? You have been doing that. Your poor soul stands on trial, and you have been listening to the accusations of Satan and your own sins, but the moment Christ gets up to show you His great atonement, the moment the promise is quoted, you say, “It is presumption for me to hope.”
My dear friends, it is never presumption to listen to truth. If it be true that in due time Christ died for the ungodly; if it be true that he who cometh to Him He will in no wise cast out; if it be true that He has said, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”; if it be true that He has said, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins,” why not listen to that as well as the other? Surely you must look at the fair side as well as the foul; and while your ear is hearing of the work of Christ and the promise of God, you will be able to cry—
“I do believe, I must believe,
That Jesus died for me.”
I could not have thought it. Oh! It melts me; I have been trying to get a soft heart and could not get it, but I have it now all through this. Here have I been hurrying to and fro, looking after faith and assurance instead of looking to the cross for it, but now I see it all, and I am saved, for I trust in Jesus Christ alone.
I have said as much as may be needed this morning upon faith. I have tried to be brief upon each point, and packed as many things as I could into the time. Now we are to have a few words about assurance.
III. The text says, “Ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise ” I cannot take the 14th verse, except to hint at it: we will try and preach on that this evening.
Sealing, which is another name for assurance, for the witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit—that we are born of God, is evidently distinct from faith—will you please observe that—for the text says, “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Believing, then, is not this sealing; and assurance, although it be akin to believing, is not believing. There is a distinction between the two things.
I want you to notice the distinction. In faith the mind is active. The text uses verbs which imply action: “ye trusted,” “ye believed”; but when it comes to sealing it uses quite another verb: ‘ye were sealed,” I am active in believing—I am passive when the Holy Spirit seals me. The witness of the Spirit is something which I receive, but faith is something which I exercise as well as receive. In faith my mind does something, in being sealed my faith receives something. If I may say so, faith writes out the document, there she labors, but the Holy Spirit stamps the seal Himself, and there is no hand wanted there except His own. He stamps His own impression to make the document valid.
Notice the difference between the activeness and the passiveness. Then, again, man is commanded to believe in Scripture, in many places, but he never was commanded to be sealed. Faith is a duty as well as a privilege, but assurance is a privilege only. I never find any man exhorted to get the sealing of the Spirit. I believe that every Christian should pray for it and seek it, but I know of no command. It is a boon, a priceless boon, and, unlike faith, it does not constitute a subject or command. Again, we read in Scripture that men are saved by faith, and live by faith, but neither salvation nor living are ever imputed to sealing or to assurance. We are not saved by assurance: we do not even live by assurance. The vital principle is couched in faith. That is the shell which holds the kernel of the inner spiritual life. I may be saved though I never had assurance; but even if I fancied I had assurance, I could not be saved if I have not faith. To faith we say salvation is promised, but to assurance such a promise is not given.
It is clear from the context that assurance follows faith: “after that ye believed.” The apostle does not say how soon. I believe that many souls get full assurance with faith. I have known converts who have been as certified of their Interest in Christ as though they had been seventy years experimentally walking with Him. But, mark you, this is not the case always, perhaps not often. Brooks gives the case of a Mr. Frogmorton, who was one of the most valuable ministers of his day, but was thirty-seven years without any assurance of his Interest with Christ; he did trust Christ, but his ministry was always a gloomy one, for he could not read his title clear to mansions in the skies. He went to the house of a dear friend, Mr. Dodd, to die, and just before he died, the light of Heaven streamed in. He not only expressed his full assurance of faith, but triumphed so gloriously, that he was the wonder of all round about him. He also tells us of one Mr. Glover, who had been for years without assurance of his Interest in Christ; but when he came to the fire to be burnt, just as he saw the stake, he cried, ‘He is come! He is come!” And Instead of being of heavy heart as he had been in prison, he went to the stake with a light step. Three martyrs were once chained to the stake, two of them rejoicing; but one was observed to slip from under his chains for a moment and prostrate himself upon the fagots and wrestle with God, and then coming back to the stake, he said, “The Lord has manifested Himself to me at the last, and now I shall burn bravely.” So, indeed, he did, bearing his witness for his Lord and Master. So it seems there are some of God’s saints who do not get assured till even the last moment, and I will not say that there are not some of them who even, like some children, are put in bed in the dark. Christ went up to Heaven in a cloud. Gideon saw the angel ascending in the smoke of the incense, and many a good man ascends with clouds of darkness round about him, but still he is gone to Heaven. I hope these cases are very few; still we bring them forward to show you that assurance is not to be looked for before faith. You might as well look for the pinnacle before the foundation; for the cream before the milk; for the apples before you plant a tree; for the harvest before you sow the seed. Assurance follows faith.
Observe in the next place — and it is worthy of your notice— that assurance is to be found where faith was found. Do observe those two words, “in whom” —”in whom ye also trusted”— whom ye were sealed.” So that as I get my faith out of Christ, so I must get my assurance out of Christ. The virtual means of my faith is Christ Himself, and the virtual means of my assurance must be the same. As I think of what He did for me, I believe in Him; as I continue to meditate upon that self-same thing, I have assurance of interest in Him. You must feed upon the mesh and blood of Christ if you would grow into strong men in Christ Jesus. A touch of Christ will heal you from all disease, but you must hold Him fast if you would enjoy spiritual health perpetually. To believe in Christ will save you from Hell; to be assured of your interest in Christ will give you Heaven upon earth. Do not be content with faith: be thankful for it, rejoice in it, but do ask to have more; and when you want to have more, go to Christ for it, for the same fountain which first quenched your thirst, must be that which shall quench it till you are taken up to drink of the river of life which flows through the midst of paradise, which is no other than the presence of Christ as a refreshment to His people.
This assurance, like faith, is the work of the Spirit of God. ‘Ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” He does this in various ways. Sometimes we get the seal of the Spirit through experience. We know that God is true because we have proved Him. Sometimes this comes through the hearing of the Word—as we listen our faith is confirmed. But there is doubtless besides this, a special and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, whereby men are assured that they are born of God. You will observe in one place the apostle says, “The Spirit also beareth witness with our spirit, that we are born Of God”; so that there are two witnesses—first, our spirit bears witness, that is, by evidences: I look at my faith, and see myself de- pending upon Christ, and then I how, because I love the brethren, and for other reasons, that I am born of God. Then there comes over and above the witness of evidence, faith and feeling—the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit. Have you not felt it? I cannot describe this to you, but you who have felt it know it. Did you not the other day feel a heavenly calm as you meditated upon your state and condition in Christ? You wondered where it came from. It was not the result of protracted devotion, but it stole over you, you knew not how it was, you were bathed in it as in sunlight, and you rejoiced exceedingly. You rejoiced in Christ—that was your basis of confidence, but that confidence came through the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit. And this has occurred sometimes in the midst of sharp conflicts just when dark despair seemed ready to overwhelm you. You may have enjoyed this comfort under peculiar trials, and losses of friends, and you may expect to have it when you come to die. Then, if ever in your life you should be able to say, “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me (in a special sense) Thou art with me.” The Holy Spirit, then, must give it to us, and we must wait upon Him to set the seal.
And so to conclude, this is desirable to the highest degree, for it is the earnest of the inheritance. It is a part of Heaven on earth to get an assurance wrought by the Spirit. It is not a pledge merely, for a pledge is given back when you get the thing itself, but it is an earnest; it is one cluster from the vines of Eshcol—one shekel of the eternal wage-money of the free- grace reward—what If I say it is a stray note from the harps of is a drop of the spray from the fountains of life; it is one ingot of gold from the pavement of Heaven; it is one ray of heavenly light from the eternal Sun of Righteousness.
O Christian, If you have ever la-town assurance, you will pant till you have it again. You can never, after seeing the sunlight, put up with the candle-light of your doubts and fears in the dungeon of despondency. But if assurance be gone, do still hang on Jesus.
When your eye of faith is dim,
Still hold on Jesus, sink or swim;
Still at His footstool bow the knee,
And Israel’s God thy peace shall be.
If thou canst not feel His love in thy heart, still trust Him. Oh! It was grand of Job—”Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’ Truly, the vitality of faith is such, that if He should spurn me from His presence—if He never gave me another look of love this side Heaven—if He gave me up to the lowest depths , and bade all His waves and billows go over me, yet is He such a faithful God, and so true, that I dare not even then give Him the lie. Blind unbelief would do so, but victorious faith says, “Never! He cannot lie. Let God be true and every man a liar.”
When faith is in her very worst, she is glorious, and sparkles like a jewel in the dark mine, and God will come and take her up out of the depths, and set her in His own crown as a precious jewel. “Thy faith hath saved thee,” says Jesus. No, Lord, it is not faith that has done it, it is Thyself. He takes the crown royal of salvation’s glory, lifts it right off from His own head, and puts it on the head of the poor feeble woman’s faith. “Thy faith hath saved thee—go in peace.’
And so will God do with your tempest-tossed and exercised faith—put the crown upon it, and that faith of yours shall sing in Heaven.. The Lord give you to hear the Word, to believe in it, and afterwards to be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
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Helps to Full Assurance
“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, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)
Dear friends, if this be the design of the inspired apostle, let us not be slow to co-operate with him; but let us pray this morning for the full assurance of faith, that we may know of a surety that eternal life is pulsing in our hearts..
To unbelievers this text is not written: it is for all who trust in Jesus; but it is for none beside. If you enquire why it is not ad- dressed to unbelievers, I answer, simply because it would be preposterous to wish men to be assured of that which is not “He that believeth not shall not see life.” . . . As with a drawn sword of fire, John’s words guard the way like the cherub at the gate of Paradise: his words, “these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God,” keep back every man who has not believed in Jesus from dreaming that he has eternal life. What hast thou to do with the rest, and the peace, and the blessedness of full assurance, unless thou hast received the appointed Savior into thy heart’s trust..
Certain Christians believe that even if they are now saved they may yet be lost: that even If they have the life of God in them, that life may die out. Beloved, I pray for you that you may how that you have eternal life, and not a temporary life. The life which the Holy Spirit imparts to the believer is not a thing of days, and weeks, and months, and years: its dwelling-place is in the region of eternity. It is practically a divine life which God puts into us, whereby we are made “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” This much I will declare—that to me the very crown and glory of the gospel, that if I receive Jesus into my soul, and the Holy Spirit imparts to me the new life, I have received an everlasting blessing. Has not Jesus said, “1 give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any … pluck them out of My hand”?
. . . The grace-life is the glory-life in the bud: the same life, only less developed. We shall not in the article of death receive another life than that which we have while we are sojourning here below. Death sets a seal on that which is, but it produces nothing. There is a very palpable change wrought upon the body; but as to the spirit, the life of God which is in it now is the life which will dwell in it throughout eternity. Our believing life is eternal life. . . .
When you hear brethren assert that a person who is not assured that he believes must necessarily be an unbeliever, you may say to yourself, “That friend does not know everything.” There is no estimating the possible inconsistency and contradiction of the human mind. I have been in a state of mind in which I have questioned the possibility of there being a grain of grace in me, and yet I have clung to Jesus with a death grip. At such times my mind has worked morbidly, and its way had been turned upside down. Bunyan speaks of being “much tumbled up and down in his thoughts”; and that nearly hits my mental condition. It is very possible for a man to be a very strong believer and yet to question whether he has a spark of faith…. I am personally taught to be tender of poor doubters, for I have often been one myself. I would sometimes give all that I have to be able to feel myself to be even the least in the Lord’s family. Just now I enjoy full assurance, but I am not always on the mount; and therefore I have bowels for others because I am myself compassed with infirmity…. The prayer of John is that such people, yea, and all believers, may know of a surety beyond all doubt that they have eternal life.
The Church of Rome teaches that no man can be assured that he has eternal life, except some few to whom supernatural revelations may be given. That sort of doctrine lingers in the air of Protestantism; many people think the same, though they do not say so. Impossible to know that you are quickened! It ought to be impossible to have any doubt about it. Rationally, a living man should know that he is alive. No man should give sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids while he has a doubt about his eternal state..
And I go a little further: it is our duty to obtain full assurance. We should not have been commanded to give diligence to make our calling and election sure if it were not right for us to be sure. I am sure it is right for a child of God to know that God is his Father, and never have to question in his heart as to his sonship. I know it is right for a soul that is married unto Christ to know the sweet love of the Bridegroom, and never to tolerate a cloud of suspicion to come between the soul and the full enjoyment of Christ’s love. Wherefore, I would urge you onward to know that you have eternal life. My brethren, John, being dead, yet speaketh out of this Book: he calls upon you to know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him to be true, and that we are m Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. He bids us as believers firmly re- pose our souls upon the promise of our faithful God.
The matter which may be argued about is this: “Do I believe in Jesus? Am I a believer in such a sense that I have eternal life?” Let us look at the epistle for help in this enquiry.
You will find, first, that John mentions as an evidence truthful dealing with God, in faith and confession of sin. Naturally men walk in darkness or falsehood towards God; but when we have believed in Jesus we come to walk in the light of truth. Read in the first chapter of the epistle from verse 6 to 9. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The believer does not attempt to deal with God as if he had no sin; for that were to make Christ useless, seeing there would be no need of His blood to cleanse. He does not say that he now lives without sin; for that were to make his cleansing a thing of the past, whereas the Spirit teacheth that it is a present matter, concerning our present walk with God. To claim to live without sin is to walk in the dark; for the claim is a false one. The man who walks in the light comes before God as a sinner, whom the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin. so, then, you may take this as an evidence that you are a saved man, if you deal truthfully with God: if you confess your guilt before God, then you have come to act towards God on the line of truth, and He accepts you. You that are not a believer in Christ may try to for- get that you have any sin, or by forms and ceremonies to offer some kind of palliation of your sin: but when you are brought into the honest light you will make a clean breast of it, and cease to act a borrowed part. Your cry will be, “Search me, O God, and try me,” and your appeal will be to the boundless mercy of God in Christ Jesus.. “Father, I have sinned,” is the cry of a true-born child. “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” is the prayer of the man who goes down to his house justified.
Next, John gives us obedience as a test of the child of God. And hereby we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” come, then, beloved brethren, do you obey the will of the Lord from your heart? Is holiness the aim and object of your life? Do you strive to do as Jesus bids you? Do you set your clock by the heavenly sun? Do you try to order your ways and your steps according to the law of the Lord? Do you delight yourself also in the law of God after the inner man? Do you press forward after perfect holiness? Then His servant you are whom you obey. Rest assured beyond all question that you are one of Christ’s sheep, for He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” “He that doeth righteousness is righteous.” If grace has made you obedient, it has given you eternal life.
Follow me as I call attention next, to the evidence of me in the “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, heart.. is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. ‘ ‘We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” This will greatly help you to decide your case. Do you hate anybody? Are you seeking revenge? Are you unforgiving? Then you are not dwelling in the light: you are of Cain and not of Christ. Do you feel that you love your enemies, and that, in fact, you are no man’s enemy, because love is the principle Of your life? “Love IS of God; and every one that loveth is born Of God, and knoweth God.” We must feel a general benevolence towards all men, and a still more intense love and complacency towards all who are in Christ. This love must be practical, and lead us to help and succor our brethren. Have you this love? DO you feel a delight in the company of the brethren because they belong to Christ, however poor or illiterate they may be? You would not feel love reigning in your spirit if true faith had not come to dwell there. A loving spirit evidenced by a loving life is a true sign that you belong to God, whose name is love. Be Of good courage and enter into full assurance, O ye whose bosoms glow with the sacred flame of fervent love to God and men.
Next to that comes separation from the world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15) This is backed up by the first verse of the third chapter: ‘Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” Have you met with opposition from the ungodly? Have you discovered that Ishmael still mocks Isaac? Do you find when you go out to work that your shopmates who used to drink with you are inclined to avoid you? Are you pointed at as a hypocrite because you are a Christian? Then there is a difference between you and others, and the world can see it. The serpent’s seed will hiss at the seed of the woman: God has put enmity between the two. Do not therefore be surprised at it. Did not our Lord say, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were Of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you”? Thus slander, abuse, and other forms of persecution may turn to your comfort by showing you of that sect which is everywhere spoken against.
Next to that, in the second chapter, we have the evidence of continuance in the faith. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it IS the last time. The longer a Christian is enabled to persevere in holiness, the more confident may he become that his religion is the work of the Spirit of God in his soul. “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Perseverance in holiness is a sure mark of election. It is the righteous who hold on their way; but mere pretenders are as wandering stars and fading flowers…. The Holy Spirit abides permanently in true believers.
The next evidence (l John 3:3) namely, purification. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Do you every day endeavor to keep clear of sin; and, when you have sinned, do you at night go with bitter repentance to God, and beg to be delivered from it? Are you fight- mg against your besetting sins? Do you contend against the customs of the world? Have you come to be a warrior against evil? Let that be an evidence that there is in you a new spirit which was not there by nature, and let that prove to you that you are quickened into newness of life. Conflict and victory are evidences of grace. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that over- cometh the world, even our faith.”
Another clear evidence: a clear conscience. (3:21)—”If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” They say of us that we seek ourselves, or that we are hypo- crites; but if we can lay our hand upon our heart and say, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love nee,” we have the best ground for full assurance. A conscience purged from dead works to serve the living God is one of the seals of the Holy Ghost upon that epistle which He has written m our hearts. This divine witness is a privilege which none possess but the regenerate. Prove yourself clear in the court of con- science that ye may know that ye have eternal life.
Adherence to the truth is another help to full assurance. Read the whole fourth chapter: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” In the sixth verse he says, ‘We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.” I read in a certain learned divine the other day a declaration that the evangelical doctrine which we preach is not Christianity, but Paulinism. By that utterance this divine condemned himself. John saith, “We are of God: he that howeth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby how we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.’ He who hears not the apostles hears not their Master. He who dares say that Paul has not given us the gospel is not of Christ: for Jesus saith, “He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.” The testimony of the Holy Ghost by apostolic lips is as sure as the testimony by the son of God Himself; and it is flat rebellion against the Holy Ghost to graduate His utterances, whether they be through prophets, apostles, or the Christ Himself. He who makes this to be true and that to be false, or this true and that truer still, has disparaged the Spirit of God, who speaketh as He pleases, but is always infallible. He that questions what the Spirit saith hath not the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. If you have taken Scripture to be your guide, and hold fast by the truth of God, you are one of Christ’s sheep, of whom He saith, “A stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers.” Against the detestable spirit of this age, and against everything else that would corrupt the gospel of Christ, it is the mark of the true seed to stand opposed. If you bear witness to the truth, the truth bears witness to you. Blessed are those who are not removed from the hope of their calling.
One of the Best Evidences of True Faith: Holy familiarity with God. . “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” God never made a man to know Him and love Him, and then cast him away. Eternal life is surely in you if you have entered into the secret place of the tabernacles of the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. When you have no longer that slavish fear which makes you stand back, but that childlike confidence which draws you nearer and yet nearer unto God, then are you [assured of being] His child. The spirit of adoption is one point of sure witness from the Spirit of God. He who can call God his exceeding joy is among the living in Zion.
- I would now finish, only I dare not leave out the last point— the appendix to John’s design. The apostle puts it, “That ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” I think he means this: You are never to get into such a state that you say, “I have eternal life, and therefore I need not trust simply in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Years ago I was born again, and so I can now live without the daily exercise of faith.” “No,” says the apostle, “I am writing this to believers, and I tell them that while they may have full assurance, it cannot be a substitute for habitual faith in the Lord Jesus.” Personally, I wish to say,—it is some thirty-four years since I first believed in the Christ Jesus, and then I came to Him as having nothing in myself, and I took Him to be my all. At this moment I possess a comfortable and clear assurance that I have eternal life; but my ground of confidence today is exactly what it was when I first came to Christ. I have no confidence in my confidence, I place no reliance upon my own assurance. My assurance lies in the fact that ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners,” and that “whosoever believeth in Him hath everlasting life.” I do believe in Him, and therefore I know I have eternal life. Brethren, do not stir beyond that. Keep to your first faith.’ However far you go in other directions, stand fast in your undivided-faith in Jesus. If you think it wise to examine these signs and evidences which I have given you, do so; but if yóu think to get food out of them you will find a bare cupboard. If you think you can live without Christ, on what you have known in the past, you are greatly mistaken. It is like trying to live on stale manna; None of you would have done that in the wilderness; you would soon have turned up your noses at it. When it was more than a day old it “bred worms and stank,” Everything you look to apart from Christ will rot in due time, so that you will loathe it.
Beloved, every vessel, whether it be a great flagon or a little cup, must hang upon the one nail which is fastened in – a sure place. If you get [away] from Jesus, you wander into a land of darkness and of the shadow of death.
Whether I be a child of God or not is a question I will not discuss today. I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came to save sinners; and they that trust in Him are saved. Therefore I trust Him! , Blessed be His name forever and ever. Amen.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
(Excerpted from Metrópolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 30, No. 1791)
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