I. Real conversion is a self-evidencing fact.
By a self-evidencing thing we, of course, mean that which is of itself so convincing and demonstrative, as to require no process of reasoning to establish. We say of the Bible that its divinity is self evidencing; that, apart from collateral proof of its Divine inspiration, to an honest and intelligent mind it possesses in itself the proof and evidence of its divinity, cumulative and conclusive; so that, no ingenuous and devout inquirer can rise from its study without the overwhelming conviction that it demonstrates and authenticates its Divine authorship―as the book of God. Now, the new birth admits of a similar line of proof. The moral change it produces is so great and radical, so spiritual and divine, its happy subject knows that he is a new creature―that he is regenerated, adopted, pardoned, justified beyond the shadow of a doubt, and can say, “I KNOW whom I have believed.”
That we are not placing too lofty a Christian attainment before the reader, the following few declarations of God’s Word, which seem to inculcate the state of assurance as attainable by the believer, we think will show. “We KNOW that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” “We KNOW that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.” “KNOWING, brethren beloved, your election of God.” In Col. 2:2, the apostle speaks of “the full assurance of understanding.” In another place he employs this language―”Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.” Thus it will be seen that the doctrine of assurance is a truth of Divine revelation, that it rests upon the Bible as its basis. Corresponding with these divinely-inspired declarations is the experience of God’s saints in all ages of the world. Job could say with assurance, “I KNOW that my Redeemer lives.” David could exclaim with assurance,”When I pass through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” How full of sweet and holy assurance was the exclamation of Thomas, “My Lord, and my God!” We need not multiply these quotations; they are sufficient to convince the mind that the feeblest believer in the Lord Jesus may arrive at a moral certainty that he is born again of the Spirit.
But the point of light in which we desire to place this subject is that of a present salvation―a truth as replete with comfort as it is with sanctification. Our object will be to confirm the believer in the assurance of the fact that he is saved―saved now―saved as certainly as he will be when the redemption of the body shall be as complete as the redemption of the soul. We predicate this fact upon the declaration of the Lord, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on Him that sent me, HAS everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but HAS PASSED from death unto life.” The language of the apostle speaks as assuringly of the same fact―”By grace you ARE SAVED.” Such is the truth we present. We earnestly desire to confirm you in the scriptural assurance of your present standing before God, knowing how much your comfort and holiness are involved in its experience.
Take, for example, the state of PARDON in which Divine grace places the believer. Is it a present or a future pardon of sin which he receives? Most assuredly apresent one. If pardoned, it is a pardon now, a pardon full, and a pardon forever. It is not a blessing we have to hope for or expect. If we are truly converted, really born again, Divine and sovereign grace has put us in a present forgiveness, in the personal and holy enjoyment of which it is our privilege to walk. How consonant with this truth is the Word of God, which alone could reveal it. “You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has He quickened together with Him, HAVING FORGIVEN you all trespasses,” (Col. 2:13.) And what the language of Jesus to the penitent woman bathing His feet with tears? Did He dismiss her still laden with guilt, still polluted with sin? No! Listen to His words―oh, words none more precious!―”And He said unto her, Your sins ARE FORGIVEN.” Need we multiply, which we could to a great extent, these proofs?
Beloved, knowing your election of God, we write these things unto you. If your souls are really regenerate, the blotting out of your sins is not a thing to be realized and experienced at some future period of your life, but is a present blessing, and should be a present enjoyment. If washed in the atoning blood of Jesus, you are clean every whit. Not more fully pardoned are the glorified spirits in heaven than you are at this moment. For this you have the Divine asseveration―”I HAVE blotted out as a thick cloud your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins.” He has done it, and having done it, He will never undo it. Once pardoned, fully pardoned; pardoned freely, and pardoned forever. Oh, realize your present standing as a pardoned sinner! Do not keep going over the great debt as still existing against you.
Suppose that the original amount has been fearfully augmented by superadded debts―debts infinite in number and aggravated in character? Be it so. Still it is written―”Having forgiven you ALL trespasses.” “Your sins ARE FORGIVEN you for His name’s sake,” (1 John 2:12.)
Do not think that God, whose work is perfect, works this His master-work partially and imperfectly. Is it like Him to exercise this the highest prerogative of His moral government and the greatest act of His grace in a way that would lower its dignity, impair its power, and neutralize its effects? No! His pardons are worthy of His infinite greatness and love. He pardons like a God. “Who is a God like unto You, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?”
Again, we press upon you the realization of your present state as standing in God’s sight, washed in the blood of Christ from all past, present, and future sin. Never was there a more entire annihilation, a more perfect canceling of anything, than the forgiveness of sin which has passed upon all God’s people. “In those days, and in that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be NONE; and the sins of Judah, and they shall NOT BE FOUND―for I will pardon them whom I reserve,” (Jer. 50:20.) “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” (Micah 7:19.) Timid child of God! loving disciple of Christ! see your sins all cast into these unfathomable depths. Sought for by justice, by the law, by Satan, by yourself, you shall never find them―all,all entirely and eternally forgiven―annihilated by God Himself. Walking in the happy sense of a present forgiveness, you will walk carefully, circumspectly, holily, hating your sins, and the sin still dwelling within you, all the more that God, your sin-pardoning God, has entirely and forever forgiven you.
Take the state of ACCEPTANCE. Is it a present or a future blessing? Is it a state the believer first enters into when he enters into glory? or, does he enter into itnow, as the condition and the earnest of that glory? Most assuredly, if we are not brought into a state of justification by grace here, we have no pledge of a state of justification in glory hereafter. The act of justification passes upon the believing soul in this life, and is his title-deed to the inheritance of the life which is to come. The language of the Holy Spirit is confirmatory of this truth―”To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He HAS MADE US ACCEPTED in the Beloved.” “BEING JUSTIFIED by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And then we have the statement respecting the righteousness of Christ, which justifies. It is declared to be, “unto all and UPON all those who believe.” Believe this to be your present state before God. Not more fully, though more openly and declaratively, justified will you be when the Lord shall extend the welcome, “Come, you blessed of my Father,” than you are now if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to the salvation of your soul. “ACCEPTED”―present time―not may be, or shall be, but, “ACCEPTED in the Beloved.”
Oh, what peace will follow from the Spirit’s witness to this your present condition as in the sight of God! Realizing that you are clothed in white garments―that God looks upon you only in Christ, lovely through His loveliness put upon you―you will daily clasp the belt of prayer and faith round the robe of righteousness, and so walk with Jesus in all the growing holiness of a full, a free, a present justification of your soul by Jesus Christ our Lord.
A present salvation, also, involves a present act of ADOPTION. This cannot possibly be a future, remote exercise of God’s love. If we are in a state of regeneracy, born again by the Spirit of adoption, then, beloved, “Now are we the sons of God.” “And because you ARE Sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” It is on the basis of this our present adoption that we draw near unto God as our Father who are in heaven. We call Him “our Father”―we feel Him to be our Father―He responds to us as a Father, and when we depart out of this life, in the words of Jesus, our Elder Brother, we “go to the Father.”
Walk, then, with God, beloved, in the sweet, holy consciousness of your present adoption. Not more fully adopted, not more really will you be a child of God when you arrive in heaven and see your Father there, than at this present moment, if, born again, you have received in faith the Lord Jesus Christ. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power [or privilege] to BECOME THE SONS OF GOD, even to those who believe on His name.” Such is your present filial standing before God. Oh, what a motive to walk worthy of so high a relationship!―what an encouragement to draw near to God as to a Father, acknowledging sin, unveiling sorrow, revealing need, and in all circumstances and places―in mental sadness, in heart-grief, in temporal need―pouring all into that Father’s ear, embosoming all in that Father’s heart!
Equally, also, is our SANCTIFICATION by the Spirit a present attainment of grace. It is of great importance to keep this prominently before us, since our holiness here is our fitness for our glory hereafter. “Sanctification, indeed, unlike the parts of the new creation we have referred to, is a gradual work, yet, seminally, it is a complete thing. In its growth progressive, yet in its nature perfect. Still, gradual and incomplete, as our personal holiness is, it is an actual and a present grace, and may be advanced to a high standard of culture. “This is the will of God, even your SANCTIFICATION.” Again we read, “God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through SANCTIFICATION of the Spirit.”
For this high attainment let us press onward. Possessing in the renewed nature the germ of perfect holiness―its perfection arrived at only in glory―let us seek its development and growth, that we may be more holy, more separate from the ungodly world, more decidedly on the Lord’s side, fairer copies of the mind, the loveliness, and example of Christ, maturing in grace here, amid all its opposition and difficulty, for the glory that is to be revealed in us at the coming of the Lord Jesus.