III. The means of its attaining assurance.
Let us, in conclusion, glance at some of the means of its attainment. PRAYER shall be the first we quote. For this great, comforting, and sanctifying attainment in grace the Lord will be inquired of to give it. It comes not forth but by prayer. As communion with God is the chief characteristic of the new creature, the life of God in the soul, so it is by this means that that life is kept vigorous, health, and progressive. The willful neglect of prayer―the soul withdrawing even from what is holy, that it might enter into the “Holy of Holies” for secret communion with the Invisible One―will seriously affect the assurance of our salvation. But closeness of walk with God, frequent communion with Jesus, will keep the heart in bloom, will nourish the germ of holiness, and so encompass the soul as with a shield as shall prevent the accumulation of these corroding doubts and fears around the heart which render its spiritual action sluggish and feeble. Then, give yourself to prayer! Draw near unto God, and He will draw near unto you. He inspires prayer, loves prayer, listens to prayer, answers prayer; and by prayer you shall live in the happy, holy experience of a present salvation, walking in the full assurance of your saving interest in Christ, of your adoption into the family of God.
Meditation on God’s Word essentially aids our comfortable assurance. The truth as it is in Jesus is the manna of the renewed soul, the spiritual nourishment of the life of God within us. “Your words were found, and I did EAT them; and your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceeds out of the MOUTH OF GOD.” There is nothing so nourishing to the new nature―nourishment so appropriate to the new man―as the pure wheat of God’s Word. Its glorious doctrines of grace strengthen it, its divine precepts mold it, its precious promises comfort it, its blessed hopes animate it. It is from this Divine granary that the true nutriment is drawn by which the new man lives. Hold fast God’s Word in its integrity, contend earnestly for the faith, live upon every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, let your soul stand in awe of His Word, read it meditatively, study it prayerfully, treat it reverentially, believe it fully―so shall it feed and nourish and render fruitful the new nature of God within your soul. Thus shall you be a man of God, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Nor would we fail to remark that full assurance is only found in the way of holy obedience. Speaking of the relation of Christian evidence with evangelical holiness, our Lord says, “If any man will DO His will, he shall KNOW of the doctrine whether it be of God.” By the same test―doing the Divine will―a man of God may know his heavenly calling. Ever remembering that, “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” reverence for the lowliest command of Christ will be a deep and prevailing sentiment of the true believer. Obedience to one divine command will be, in his estimation, of more importance than the costliest sacrifice. Now, in this path of holy, unreserved obedience the Lord meets His disciples with tokens of His favor.
In seeking to carry out the Lord’s will in the small as the great precepts of His Word, in the minor as the more important concerns of life, in all things and under all circumstances doing the will of God, the believer shall lack no evidence of his new birth. “You meet him that rejoices and works in righteousness, those that remember you in your ways.” Oh, rich the comfort, deep the peace, unclouded the assurance which will flow into his heart who seeks to stand complete in all the will of God.
Christian assurance and unreserved obedience are inseparably linked in the experience of God’s saints. This, perhaps, may suggest a defect in your walk, my reader. You have been seeking the assurance of your salvation, but not in the path that has been most honoring to the Divine commands as a child of God. Examine well your obedience! Is there any command of Christ wilfully dishonored, any divine precept knowingly slighted, any required cross daily neglected in your Christian walk? Then marvel not that the trembling fear, the anxious doubt, the darkling cloud intercepts the comfortable possession of your interest in the Savior. Take up the cross, however self-denying, and follow the Lord fully, and you shall know from most happy experience that in keeping His commands there is great reward.
To sum up the whole matter―prayerfully and watchfully avoid whatever tends to impair and becloud your assurance. A distant following of Jesus, much contact with the world, too close communion with cold-hearted, half-hearted Christians and inconsistent religious professors, trifling with conscience, neglect of confession of sin, dealing slightly with atoning blood, looking into self instead of looking unto Jesus, needless exposure to temptation, reserves in obedience, a shrinking from the cross, undervaluing the means of grace―because of these things many of the Lord’s people are weak and sickly, and many sleep, and walk not in the peaceful, joyous, holy experience of a present salvation.
But, beware of making a savior of assurance. This were to rob you of the blessing altogether. Whatever in the experience of the believer displaces Christ, casts a deep shadow upon his soul. Whatever is exalted above its proper place, or is exaggerated beyond its legitimate position in the plan of salvation, must materially affect the happiness of the Christian. Christ is all in our salvation. The alpha and the omega, the first and the last. Place assurance of salvation upon a level with salvation itself, and you have introduced a disturbing element. Exalt any part of Christian experience to a level with Christ, make it essential to salvation, and you dishonor the Lord Jesus, and veil the sun from your soul.
Assurance that you are saved is not an essential principle of your salvation. It may be necessary to your holy and happy walk to be fully persuaded that you are a believer in Christ, but it is not necessary to your standing with acceptance before God. Christ, and Christ alone. Christ, and nothing more. Christ, and nothing less. Therefore, in the absence of that full and comfortable persuasion of your eternal safety which you desire, still keep your eye intent upon Christ, who can save you, and is prepared to save you and bring you to His eternal glory, though in weeping and mourning, you follow Him to the grave. Mary weeping at the tomb had no assurance that her Lord was alive; and yet how she loved, and how He loved, and how near Jesus was to her! Look not, then, to your assurance, but―look simply, directly, and only to Christ.
But, make sure work of conversion! Let not this essential, all-important, all-momentous change be a dubious, uncertain, unauthenticated matter with you. So long as you remain unconverted, your condition is one of imminent peril. What, if leaving your home in the morning radiant with life, before nightfall you are borne back to it―a corpse? For what is life but a vapor? And among all uncertainties what more uncertain than it? “In the morning it flourishes and grows up, in the evening it is cut down and withers.” What, if amid the still hours of midnight, the summons should be heard, “Your soul is required of you?” and, before morning light, your body lies a ‘ruined tent’ upon the ground? Are you in readiness to meet the solemn change? We beseech you, then, make sure work of the NEW BIRTH. Take nothing for granted in a matter involving interests so momentous and precious. Be satisfied only with LIFE in your soul. All things new, the divine image restored, Christ precious, the new nature blooming and fruitful, maturing beneath the Sun of Righteousness for its native paradise on high. But scorn it, trifle with it, postpone it if you will?
“This fearful truth will still remain,
The sinner must be BORN AGAIN,
Or sink to endless woe!”
Thus living upon a present Savior―present ever at your side, in all places and at all times―you will live upon a present salvation. It is with the present, fleeting though it be, rather than with the future, we have more immediately to do. The present is more solemn and momentous than the future, since the future is all that the present makes it. A present of grace involves a future of glory. The Lord has graciously provided for the present of the believer in the life of faith He has appointed him to live. The life he now lives in the flesh, with all its needs, sorrows, and trials, is by the faith of the Son of God. So live! Go and tell the Lord Jesus every present need, perplexity, and trial. “To whom COMING.” Coming now―coming incessantly―ever coming―coming with the same trials and needs, the same backslidings and infirmities, the same sins and sorrows―never ceasing to come so long as the heart has a corruption to be subdued, earth a sorrow to be comforted, or life a service to be done.
What an evidence is afforded of the DIVINITY of the Savior in the assurance which the apostle expresses, and into which we desire to mold every Christian reader of this volume! What was the treasure which Paul committed to Jesus Christ? It is something personal, something valuable, something precious. What was it? What but his immortal soul―his redeemed body―his whole interests for eternity? Would he entrust this deposit―a deposit compared with which the wealth of the universe were as the dust in the balance―to a creature―a man―a mere man―an arm of flesh―a human savior? Oh, extreme of folly! Oh, dream of madness! He knew whom he believed. He knew Him to be GOD―absolute God―the “Almighty God”―the only-begotten Son of God―the “brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His person”―”God manifest in the flesh.” To no other hands but those of a DIVINE REDEEMER can we safely confide our undying soul.
Who that possesses a sense of the value of his soul―that has an enlightened view of its relation to eternity, its sinfulness, its accountability, its immortality, its exposure to an ever-living death―would confide its deathless interests to any than to Deity? My reader, Paul never dreamed of entrusting the keeping and salvation of his soul to a created Redeemer. Man, though Christ was, Paul knew that the light of Divinity gleamed from His eye, that the thunder of Divinity slumbered in His arm, and that the words and power of Divinity were upon His tongue. Well, also, did he know that, possessing all the essential attributes of God, Christ had attested His Divinity by the miracles which He wrought. He transformed water into wine, fed thousands with a few loaves, raised the dead, restored the paralyzed, healed the sick, ejected demons, controlled the elements, and trod the earth, as a province of His empire, with the keys of the invisible world pendent from His belt. And then dying, all nature testifying her sympathy with her expiring Creator, He burst from the imprisonment of the grave, and was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. We marvel not at the bold, triumphant language of Paul, “I know whom l have believed.”
To that same Divine Redeemer, as unto a faithful Creator, you too, O believer, have entrusted the salvation of your soul; and with like precious faith, and with like full assurance, you may confide your interests for time and for eternity―your present of grace and your future of glory―confidently and safely in the hands of Jesus. Oh, do you think that He will not securely keep what you have committed to His care against the great day of judgment? Do you think that he will not guard, as with unslumbering eye, the soul for which he sorrowed and sobbed in Gethsemane―suffered, bled, and died on the cross? Stagger not, then, at this Divine and precious truth through unbelief. Command your doubts to be gone. Give your fears to the winds. Jesus will keep to the end, and will conduct in safety and in triumph from grace to glory, the lowest, weakest of His saints. Not one shall perish. The hand that touched with trembling faith the border of His robe, shall sweep the golden harp of heaven to His praise. The eye that caught the dimmest view of His cross of humiliation, shall gaze with unclouded vision upon the throne of His ineffable glory. Christ shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied, and both the Savior and the saved shall rejoice together through eternity. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Accessed from: http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/winslow/gracetoglory/assurance.htm on April 15, 2015.