II. The way this assurance may be attained
The question now arises, how may the believer arrive to this assurance of his personal and present salvation? That it is attainable, we have shown from the precepts and examples cited from the Word of God. The question is, how may I attain unto this grace?
1. We answer, first, by a direct and simple dealing with the Lord Jesus. An assurance of salvation must necessarily spring from the great Object of salvation. We only know that we are in the light by coming to the light. No one immured in a dungeon can speak of the warmth and radiance of the sun experimentally. He must emerge from his darkness and stand in the light. A sick man could hardly expect to derive healing but from the process of healing. He could not reasonably expect to be cured but by the remedy prescribed for the cure. Now, how may we arrive at a comfortable assurance that we are saved? By dealing with the Lord Jesus, by whom and in whom we are saved. We derive light only from the sun, vitality only from the air, sustenance only from the bread. It is by a personal, believing, simple apprehension of Christ, looking only to Him, resting only in Him, receiving only from Him, that we can possibly know that we are saved.
Assurance will never arise from looking at ourselves, or from mixing up anything with Christ. How can we possibly know that our guilt is cleansed, but as we wash in the blood? how that our people are justified, but as we put on the righteousness? how that God has accepted, and delights in us, but as we know that we stand in the Beloved? This is assurance of salvation―the full, unqualified acceptance of Christ. Approaching as a poor, empty, miserable sinner, and standing in this Divine Sun, all bathed in His light, all invested with His beams, all covered with His glory, we shall no more question the fact of our being saved, saved now, and saved forever, than we should, in our right minds, doubt the fact that the sun shines at noon while gazing upon its meridian splendor. This is assurance of salvation, looking believingly at the Savior.
What ground have we for knowing that we are saved, but as we see our great debt paid by the offering and sacrifice of Jesus? our sins forgiven through His atoning merit? our persons justified, and we counted as righteous through the imputation of His obedience? We must in faith behold the Lord Jesus answering for all as our Surety, undertaking all as our Mediator, accomplishing all as our Divine Redeemer, before we can possess a firm persuasion that we are saved. The blood and righteousness of the Lord constitute the basis of assurance. Taking our stand upon this, we can exclaim with humble assurance, “‘I KNOW whom I have believed.’ I believe in Jesus, that He has merited all, suffered all, perfected all for me―paying all my debt, enduring all my punishment, endowing me with all His wealth, and investing me with all His glory.”
You have, perhaps, dear reader, long been in want of the assurance that you are saved. But you have sought it in yourself, and not in Christ. You have been searching for evidences amid the shadows and the taint of your own heart, the imperfect traces of your own doings, the varied exercises of your mind, and have sought them in vain. But now try the experiment―an experiment that has never failed one poor soul―of finding the evidence of your present salvation in a believing looking to a present Savior. Rest in Jesus from the burden and the guilt of sin; rest in Jesus from the conflict with doubt and fear; rest in Jesus from the fear of death and the dread of condemnation; rest in Jesus from your entire self; rest in His finished work, in His accepted sacrifice, in His boundless grace, in His unchanging love, and present intercession, and your assurance will be built upon a rock, against which no force of Satan or unbelief shall ever prevail.
The chief instrument by which assurance is obtained is, FAITH. It flows through the channel of believing. Indeed, the best definition of assurance of present salvation is, a lively and continuously-acting faith on the Lord Jesus. Assurance is believing, and nothing more. Believing that Jesus died for sinners―believing the record God has given concerning His Son―believing that His death was a sufficient atonement, and that His resurrection was its acceptance of the Father―simply, unquestioningly believing this―faith laying hold of the great salvation with a believing and assured grasp―hope sweetly and firmly resting upon it, yes, as sweetly and as firmly as upon the everlasting hills―assurance of salvation will follow, as any effect follows its cause. Now, according to the degree and strength of your faith will be the degree and strength of your assurance of salvation. In proportion as you believe in the Lord Jesus, faith will bring into your soul the peace, joy, comfort, and hope which ever follow in its channel; and the deeper and the wider the channel, the deeper and the wider will be theblessings which it conveys to your soul. It shall be unto you according to your faith.
Oh, then, cease to do, and labor, and desire―all which exercise profits nothing. Cast overboard the oars with which you have impelled your bark against the tide, and spread your canvas to the heavenly gale. Trust to the irresistible power of believing prayer. Let your faith, dropping every other confidence, take hold of Christ―His person, His love, His word of promise. And the sun which shines, and, in its shining, warms into life, loveliness, and fertility the landscape of nature, will not diffuse more vitality, gladness, and song, than will that simple faith which clasps its arms around the Savior, and so brings the ocean-fullness of a present salvation into your soul.
In proportion, then, to the simplicity of your faith in the Lord Jesus will be the personal conviction of your safety. Brood not over your sins, but confess them with a humble, lowly, and believing heart to Jesus, and the assurance of pardon will follow. Be not dismayed at your demerit, but take it to the infinite merits of Christ, and the assurance of acceptance will follow. Rescued by a lifeboat from drowning, I am saved; if, however, I have any doubt of the fact that I am actually within the rescuing vessel, my conviction and joy of safety must be seriously diminished by that doubt. But, firmly believing that I am in the vessel, floating securely and calmly upon the foaming billows, at which now I smile, the assurance that I am actually saved, and the transport springing from that assurance, will be unimpaired and unclouded by a doubt. In proportion to the hold which your believing heart has upon the Lord Jesus―the Divine Lifeboat of the soul―for He came into the world to save sinners―will be the strength and the joy of your personal salvation. Believe that you are actually in Christ―realize your union with Him―deal only with the infinite sufficiency of His person and the complete fullness of His work―receive Him as a sinner all guilty, as a bankrupt having nothing to pay, as sin-diseased, having resorted to every physician, having tried every remedy, and as being nothing bettered but rather grown worse―dealing simply, and fully, and only with Jesus the Savior―and, with the holy apostle, you, also, shall triumphantly exclaim, “I KNOW whom I have believed.”
In addition to the assurance of salvation which a believing apprehension of the Lord Jesus imparts, we have the witness of the Holy Spirit testifying to our possession of the new nature. Having formed this new and divine nature within us, it is His office, as His delight, always to authenticate its existence and unveil its glories. In the new creation of the soul, the noblest achievement of His creative power, He has made His personal and permanent abode. “He [the Spirit] shall ABIDE with you forever.” “The Spirit himself bears WITNESS with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Thus we have the highest source of assurance―the testimony of God the Holy Spirit Himself. Earnestly seek it. His seal, His attestation, His endorsement will quell every fear, annihilate even doubt, and not the shadow of a shade shall veil the existence or becloud the luster of God’s new creation in your soul.
Eternal and blessed Spirit! though I have slighted, grieved, and wounded You times without number, stifling the still small voice of Your love, and checking the gentle constraints of Your grace, yet shine upon Your new creation in my soul, awaken the joys of God’s salvation in my heart, dispel my sadness, dissolve my darkness, and turn my night of weeping into a morning of joy!
Such are some of the channels through which the assurance of a present state of salvation flows to us.