Sermon 592. The True Position Of Assurance
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 2ND, 1864, BY C, H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that youbelieved, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."
MANY sincerely seeking souls are in great trouble because they have not yet attained to an assurance of their interest inChrist Jesus-they dare not take any comfort from their faith because they suppose that it has not attained to a sufficientstrength. They have believed in the Lord Jesusand they have His promise that they shall be saved, but they are not content with this-they want to get assurance and thenthey suppose they shall have a better evidence of their salvation than the bare word of the Savior.
Such persons are greatly mistaken. But as that mistake is a very painful one, and exercises the most injurious influence uponthem, we will spend this morning in trying, as God shall help us, to clear up their difficulty. We want them to see that ifthey believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, eventhough they should not have attained to the precious Grace of full assurance of faith, yet nevertheless they are saved!And being justified by faith, they may rightfully enjoy peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Their mistake seems to me to be this-they look for ripe fruit upon a tree in spring and because that season yields nothingbut blossoms, they conclude the tree to be barren. They go to the head of a river-they find it a little rippling brook, andbecause it will not float a "GreatEastern," they conclude that it will never reach the sea, and that, in fact, it is not a true part of the river at all.They look upon themselves as being little children and such they are-but because they cannot speak plainly on account of havingbeen so newly born, theytherefore conclude that they are not the children of God at all!
They see strong men in Christ Jesus performing great exploits. And because they, as yet, are but young and feeble, they concludethat they are not in the family of Grace. They compare themselves with giants in the Church of God and then, because theyrightly perceive the difference betweenthemselves and these mighty ones, they imagine that they are not saved-that they cannot be numbered among the faithful andhave no part nor lot in this matter. They put the last things first. They make comforts essentials. They consider that whichis the fruit of Grace to bethe root of Grace. And herein they pierce themselves through with many sorrows.
Perhaps they will not fall into this error again if they get a right understanding of the text before us. The Apostle Paulhere explains the process by which sealing-the sealing of assurance-is obtained. There are three steps by which the hallowedelevation is reached. The first ishearing-they heard first the preaching of the Word. The second is believing. And then, thirdly, "after that you believed,you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."
I. To begin then, faith comes by HEARING. The preaching of the Gospel is God's soul-saving ordinance. It has pleased God bythe "foolishness of preaching" to save them that believe. In every age God raises up men who faithfully proclaim His Wordand, as he departs, another arrives. Elijah ascendsto Glory, but his mantle falls upon Elisha. Paul dies not until Timothy is in the field. This true Apostolic successionis continued evermore, for when we know not where to find ministers, we may rest assured that in nooks and corners the Lordis preparing men for His work.
The true preacher has a claim upon men's attention. If God has sent him, men should receive him. If he comes as an ambassadorfrom the King of kings, let his commission be proved and he has a right to receive the careful and prayerful attention ofall who come in his way. No, more-God's trueambassador not only claims a hearing, but he wins it-for there is an attractiveness in his theme which holds men by theears! "I, if I am lifted up," said Christ, "will draw all men unto Me," and among the other drawings there is this peculiarfact that men are drawn to hearwhere Christ is preached!
He who preaches Christ has golden chains coming from his mouth with which he binds men's ears, if not their hearts. They arenot all bound to salvation, but bound somehow they shall be-the savor shall go forth even though it should be a savor of deathunto death and not of life unto life. Thepreacher claims a hearing and he wins it! What is that message which we are to hear in order to the attaining of faith,and, through faith, of full assurance?
Our text is very expressive, for it tells us, "You heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation." It is of littleuse to hear that which is not the Word of Truth-no, it is worse than useless-for by error we shall soon be misled. And ifthe preaching is not concerning the Wordof Truth, even though it should be a word of truth, yet it can be of no value to the getting of faith-it must be the Word-theWord peculiarly above all others having the Truth of God and substance in it. There is no doubt that the expression here isa Hebraism for, "thetrue Word," you heard the true Word.
O Brothers and Sisters, how joyous it is for us to know God's Word to be true! We have proved it in our own souls and thuscan bear our witness to you concerning it. If we speak not according to the true Word of God, reject us, for that which willbless you must have a, "Thus says the Lord," tosupport it and must be based upon the Revelation of the Most High-otherwise it cannot be of saving service, seeing it isnot the Word which is infallibly true!
No doubt that the expression signifies the highest truth, truth as much the truth among other truths, as the Bible is thebook above all other books. What I must hear for my salvation is not an important doctrine which may or may not be believed,but the Word without which men must perish in theirsins. We may also remind you that the "Word of Truth" is a phrase peculiar to the contradistinction to the Law. Comparethe Revelation of Christ with that of Moses-Moses revealed much Gospel Truth, but it was in shadows, not by a plain word ofteaching-and therefore wenow declare that the Law was given by Moses-but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.
Christ is the Substance of all those shadows which Moses had to bring before the people's minds. And therefore there is anemphasis about the Gospel as being not metaphorical Truth, but solid Truth-the essential Truth of God. As the mountain towershigh above the surrounding plain, so thegreat Truth that, "God was made flesh and dwelt among us"-the faithful saying that, "Jesus Christ came into the world toseek and to save sinners"-towers above all other Truths of God and demands our first and our best thoughts. And as the sunoutshines all other lights,even so the manifestation of Truth in the Gospel of Christ excels all other Revelations. It is the Word of Truth.
But the text also adds, "the Gospel"-"the Gospel of your salvation." You are to listen to the Gospel-to that which is goodnews-to a something totally new to the world's natural religion-a something which came fresh from God-God's great novelty-somethinggood-good in the deepest sense-infinitely good-good for your soul's best interests-good in answering the craving appetiteof your poor hungry spirit. It must be good news-it must be evangelical doctrine to which you must listen if you would getfaith!
Faith does not come by seeing. Men do not get faith by looking at a priest manipulating bread and wine, or sprinkling dropsof baptismal water. The symbols of the Church of Rome do not beget faith. They may beget attention. They may please the fancyand delight the taste, but they do not beget thefaith of God's elect. It is the Gospel-the Gospel preached and heard which does this through the power of the Holy Spirit!We do not get faith through ordinances-no matter if God Himself prescribed them. They are not the channel through which faithcomes. The Apostleexpressly declares that, "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."
It is not through eye-gate, but through ear-gate, that salvation comes to us. God may, and doubtless does, infuse Grace intous by channels other than the sense of hearing. But, at any rate, the usual way in which Grace comes streaming into the soulis by hearing-and that is the hearing ofthe Gospel-not the hearing of tradition! Not the hearing of supposition! Not the hearing of poetic imaginations, but thehearing of that old evangel, which was first proclaimed by Jesus on the Mount and afterwards by His Apostles and to this dayis still proclaimed withtrumpet-tongue by those who know its quickening power!
You must hear the Gospel-and observe it is called "the Gospel of your salvation." You will never get faith, dear Friends,unless you look upon the Gospel as the great means of salvation and come earnestly enquiring and desiring that it may be madeto you the Gospel of your salvation! Not ofanother man's, but of your salvation. I cannot say to every unconverted man, "This Gospel will save you," but I can saythis-if you receive this Gospel, it certainly will-and that the moment it is accepted by the heart it is the Gospel of yoursalvation.
Reject it-it will be a savor of death unto death to you! But if the Holy Spirit shall come with it and command your will andwin your assent and consent, then it is, indeed, the Gospel of your salvation. Are you a sinner? "Christ Jesus came into theworld to save sinners." Inasmuch as this isworthy of all acceptance, it is worthy of your acceptance and is, in a sense, even now the Gospel of your salvation! Weknow that Christ came to "seek and to save that which was lost." Are you lost? Then in a sense it is the Gospel of your salvation,seeing that you are lost. If youcan grasp that cheering Word with the hand of faith, you will say, "Yes, lost as I am, I believe Christ came to save thelost and I trust Him alone to save me." Then it is the Gospel of your salvation in a very high and special sense, seeing thatnow you have been saved by it!
The great end, it seems to me, of the preaching of the Gospel is just this-the preacher should always be aiming so to preachit that he may find out those souls to whom this is the Gospel of their salvation-so laboring to bring it home, both by persuadingby the terrors of the Law andby the love of Jesus! Then men shall-through the Spirit of God accompanying the Word-be led, through hearing, to lay holdupon Christ and so to be saved! Thus I have set forth what you have to hear.
May I beg you carefully to judge every preacher, not by his gifts, not by his elocutionary powers, not by his status in society,not by the respectability of his congregation, not by the prettiness of his Church, the grandeur of the ceremonies, or thepeculiar beauty of his vestments, but bythis-does he preach the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation? If he does, your sitting under his ministry may proveto you the means of getting faith. But if he does not, you cannot expect God's blessing, for you are not using God's ordinancebut the ordinance of man.
The hearing of the Gospel involves the hearer in responsibility. It is a great privilege to hear the Gospel. You may smileand think there is nothing very great in it. The damned in Hell know! Oh, what would they give if they could hear the Gospelnow-if they could come back and entertain buta shadow of a hope that they might yet escape from the wrath to come? The saved in Heaven estimate this privilege at a highrate, for, having obtained salvation and eternal life through the preaching of this Gospel, they can never cease to blesstheir God for calling them by HisWord of Truth.
that you knew it! On your dying beds the listening to a Gospel sermon will seem another thing than it seems now. Now youmay come out of curiosity, and go away and forget it. But when grim Death and you shall stand face to face, you will findit quite another thing to have had God's Word spokento you and you will hear such a word as this, "You stumbled at the Word because you were disobedient and therefore woe hascome upon you to the uttermost." I must also add that if hearing is really so gracious an ordinance, it becomes Christianmen and women to pray the Lord to sendforth laborers into His vineyard-to entreat Him to bless all efforts used to train our young ministers for future conflict.
1 beg you not to forget to aid our Pastor's College both with your gifts and your prayers! It should bring afresh to the thoughtsof all of you the duty of praying for those who are engaged in preaching the Word, for their preaching is nothing, exceptas the Spirit goes with it. And though, whenthe Spirit goes with it the shout of the King is heard in our camps, let Him withdraw and there is nothing but disappointmentand dismay in the hosts of God. Pray for us, Brethren!
We trust we have a good conscience and endeavor to free ourselves of the blood of souls. We want our hearers to pray for usand hold up our hands as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses on the mount. Be diligent in hearing the Word. If you aresaved, still listen to it for your soul's health.If you are not saved, neglect no opportunities of listening. Lie at this pool of Bethesda-who can tell but you may yet stepin when the angel does move the waters-or Jesus Himself may come and walk through those five porches and bid you take up yourbed and walk?
Waste no Sunday in going where you cannot hear the Gospel! And when you hear the Gospel, hear it with all your ears-give yourwhole soul to it-as the thirsty earth drinks in the descending showers, so drink in the Word of God! As new-born babes receivethe unadulterated milk of theWord, so receive that which is able to save your souls! And through hearing may faith come and through faith may you gainthe assurance which you so earnestly desire.
II. After hearing came BELIEF. We know that believing does not always immediately follow hearing. There is a case told ofMr. Flavel having preached a sermon which was blessed to a man, I think eighty-five years afterwards, so that the seed maylay long buried in dust! Yet, had not that man heardthat sermon, speaking after the manner of men, he had not received the quickening Word of God!
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-itshould set you trembling lest the Word should never be the savor of life unto you. But at the same time do not renounce thehearing because up to now you have had noblessing, for faith comes by hearing. Continue to listen! Continue to search the Word. And if your soul desires faith, Goddenies not faith to any in whom He has really implanted a desire after it. Faith will yet, we trust, come while you are hearing.This belief, you observe, iscalled trusting. Kindly look at the verse-"In whom you also trusted."
The translators have borrowed that word, "trusted," very properly, from the twelfth verse. Do not, because you see it in italics,think that it is not properly there. It is not in the original, but being in the twelfth verse it is very rightly understoodhere. Believing, then, is trusting. If youwant it summed up in the shortest word, it is just this-trusting Christ. A message comes to me upon good authority-I believeit. Believing it, I necessarily trust it. My receiving of the message is so far good, but the essential act, the act essentialto salvation is thetrusting-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 tellsyou 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. Youconsider his ability to pay it. You considerthe probability that he means what he is saying. Having once made up your mind that he is truthful, you could not then say,"I cannot believe you." If you once know that person to be truthful, I utterly deny that you can hold any argument about yourpower to believe him!
So, if Jesus Christ declares that He came into the world to save sinners, and, if He tells me, as He does tell me, that "whoseverbelieves in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life"-if I am already enabled by God's Spirit to believe in the perfecttruthfulness of Christ, I should belying unto my own soul if I said I had not power to believe in Him. Understand, power to believe in Christ is the gift ofthe 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 Isay to him, "I cannot believe you." Why, it follows, as a matter of course that I must believe if I am convinced that he isworthy of credit. Just so, when I am assured ofChrist that His Testimony is worthy of my belief-I have no right, then, to plead that I cannot believe Him. Mark, I am onlyspeaking to those who have got as far as that and there are hundreds of you who have! When you tell me you cannot believe,I reply, "My dear Friend, youcan believe. In the Holy Spirit's giving you enough enlightenment to know that Christ is faithful and true, that enlightenmentis 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," you say, "I dare not say otherwise." Thenyou can believe what He says. But do you reallybelieve that Christ is true? I fear you do not. I believe that John discovered the secret of your unbelief when he said,"He that believes not has made God a liar, because he has not believed on His Son." That is the bottom line.
You really think God is a liar! Do you shrink from that charge? Ah, but I must bring it against you again, for if you knowGod to be true, I insist upon it and your own reason tells you it is so-that you cannot help believing in a person you knowto be true! I fear that you are making God aliar. And if you deny that charge, then I arrest you at the other point at once and demand of you that you do now exercisefaith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ! It is trusting Christ that saves the 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 heperceived the truthfulness of Christ's Characterand 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. TheHoly Spirit does not believe for me-there is nothing for Him to believe! Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit, but theHoly Spirit does notrepent-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 Iought 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 mywork in him. At the same time he acquires that knowledge himself, and it would never have been his if he had not yielded uphis faculties to be taught. Man believes. Andwhenever persons say to you, "Well, if it is the work of the Holy Spirit, how can it be the duty of man?" remind them thatwhile 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 theman who believes.
The Spirit moves upon us and by His mysterious agency takes away the natural unbelief of the soul and then we believe. Butman is not passive in the act of believing. A dead man does not believe-the man is quickened and then his quickened spiritlays hold of the revealed Truth of God. Observethis, 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 you can give to Christ- to doubt Him. I tell you that all His sufferings on the tree didnot insult Him so much as whenyou say, "I cannot trust You."
What? Not trust the eternal arm on which the earth hangs? Not trust the bleeding hands which have opened the gates of Heavenfor the very chief of sinners? Not trust the streaming side out of which there gushes blood and water to cleanse the guiltand the power of sin? Not trust God's own Son, theMighty God, the Redeemer of Men? It is due to Him that you should, with your whole heart, lean upon Him and give Him allyour confidence. This faith is essential to salvation. Assurance is not essential, but no man can be saved unless he trustsin the Lord Jesus Christ. You may getto Heaven with a thousand doubts and fears-you may get to Heaven without some of those Graces of the Spirit which are theornaments of the Believer's neck! But you cannot get there without the life-giving Grace offaith.
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 sealto God's Word, God will never set Hisseal to your faith. Remark, again, this faith is not required in any particular degree. In order to salvation, it is notdeclared in Scripture that you are to believe to a certain strength-if you have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed-ifthat is a mountain-movingfaith, surely it shall be a soul-saving faith!
Faith is not to be estimated by its quantity but by its quality. If you have no more faith than a smoking flax has of fire,yet He will not quench you-if you have no more power of faith than a bruised reed has of strength, yet He will not break you!If you are not a man, but an infant inGrace-no, if you are scarcely a healthy infant, if there is but faith in you, though you are cast out as unswaddled andunwashed-yet He passes by and looks upon you! Can you but trust Him? THAT is the thing. If you do but trust Him as a drowningman clutches a rope. Ifyou look to Jesus, as it were, out of the corner of your eye, though there are so many tears in your eyes that you cannotsee Him so completely as you desire-though you cannot see Him at all to your comfort-yet you see Him to salvation! If youhave received Him, desiregreat faith, but remember that little faith will carry you 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, butit will come to a flood again. When faith is at its flood, the man is not, therefore, more saved! And when faith is at itsebb, the man is not, therefore, 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 totouch the hem of Jesus' garment andthat 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 comebehind Him in the throng, all timid and afraid-but faith, if it is faith, let it change as it may-still saves. Faith-if itis faith-let it sink as itmay, 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 lives and abides in him forever. This faith is worked in us by the Spirit of God, according to the laws of themind.
When God works upon matter, He works according to the laws of matter. I do not find, apart from miracles, that God violatesgravitation-that He breaks any of the great laws with which He has stamped matter. And when the Spirit of God comes to workon man, He does not break the laws with whichHe regulates the mind. Now, it seems to be one of the laws of the mind that a man should believe a thing not by trying tobelieve it, but by force of evidence. If you now sit down, for instance, and try to believe in the explosion of the powdermagazines yesterday-if you haveany doubt about it, you may try, as long as you like, to believe it-you cannot do it by trying. You must go through anotherprocess. 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 newspapersand as I read the account-I believe it. Or I meet with certain persons who either heard the explosion, or saw some of theeffects produced thereby and now Ibelieve without any effort at all-I cannot help believing! Belief comes necessarily from my having confidence in those whotell me so. Now, the Spirit of God, when about to produce faith, frequently leads men to think about Christ. Christ is setforth 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 HisSon-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 sufferedas Man and now pleads His infinite meritsbefore the Throne of God-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 that true? I look at the thing itself-does it look like truth?" I ask friends who have tried andproved it and theytell me that they have tasted that He is gracious. Upon this evidence and specially upon perceiving the power of this Truthof God in my own soul, I believe the Word of God. The Spirit of God, working thus, leads me from the evidence given, to believethe testimony borne and Ibelieve it.
Dear Friends, if you want to get faith, it must come through the Spirit of God! But it usually comes in this way-if the Wordis not blessed to you in hearing it and meditating upon it at home-thinking much of Christ and His great work-what you havebeen doing is this-youhave been thinking of your sins only. What would you think of a judge who sat upon a bench and who would listen to all thecomplaints against a criminal, but as soon as the advocate arose to plead his cause, would say, "No, I do not intend to listento that"? You have been doingthat. Your poor soul stands on trial and you have been listening to the accusations of Satan and your own sins!
And the moment Christ gets up to show you His great Atonement-the moment the promise is quoted-you say, "It is presumptionfor me to hope." My dear Friends, it is never presumption to listen to the Truth of God. If it is true that in due time Christdied for the ungodly. If it is truethat he who comes to Him He will in no wise cast out. If it is true that He has said, "Though your sins are as scarlet,they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." If it is true that He has said,"I have blotted out, as a thick cloud,your transgressions and, as a cloud, your 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 promiseof 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 itnow all through this. Here have I been hurrying to and fro, looking after faith and assurance instead of looking to the Crossfor 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 manythings as I could into the time. Now we are to have a few words about assurance.
III. The text says, "You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." I cannot take the fourteenth verse, except to hintat it-we will try and preach on that this evening. Sealing, which is another name for assurance, for the witness of the HolySpirit with our spirit-that we are bornof God, is evidently distinct from faith. Please observe that-for the text says, "After that you believed, you were sealedwith the Holy Spirit of promise." Believing, then, is not this sealing.
And assurance, although it is akin to believing, is not believing. There is a distinction between the two things. I want youto notice the distinction. In faith the mind is active. The text uses verbs which imply action-"you trusted," "you believed."But when it comes to sealing it uses quiteanother verb-"you were sealed." I am active in believing-I am passive when the Holy Spirit seals me. The witness of theSpirit is a something which I receive, but faith is a something which I exercise as well as receive. In faith my mind doessomething-in beingsealed my faith receives something. If I may say so, faith writes out the document-there she labors-but the Holy Spiritstamps the seal Himself and there is no hand wanted there except His own. He stamps His own impression to make the documentvalid. Notice thedifference 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 dutyas well as a privilege, but assurance a privilege only. I never find any man exhorted to get the sealing of the Spirit. Ibelieve that every Christian should pray forit and seek it, but I know of no command. It is a gift, a priceless gift and, unlike faith, it does not constitute a subjector command. Again, we read in Scripture that men are saved by faith and live by faith, but neither salvation nor living areever imputed to sealing or toassurance. We are not saved by assur-ance-we do not even live by assurance. The vital principle is couched in faith. Thatis 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 had 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 assurancefollows faith-"after that youbelieved." The Apostle does not say how soon. I believe that many souls get full assurance with faith. I have known convertswho 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 thecase always-perhaps not often.
Brookes gives the case of a Mr. Frogmorton who was one of the most valuable ministers of his day, but was thirty-seven yearswithout any assurance of his interest with Christ. He trusted Christ, but his ministry was always a gloomy one, for he couldnot read his title clear to mansions in theskies. He went to the house of a dear friend, Mr. Dodd, to die. Just before he died, the light of Heaven streamed in-henot 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 tothe fire to be burnt, just as he saw the stake, he cried, "He is come! He is come!" And instead of being heavy of heart ashe had been in prison, he went to the stake with alight step! Three martyrs were once chained to the stake, two of them rejoicing. But one was observed to slip from underthe chains for a moment and prostrate himself upon the firewood and wrestle with God and then coming back to the stake, hesaid, "The Lord has manifested himselfto me at the last and now I shall burn bravely." And 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 thereare not some of them who even, like some children, are put to bed in the dark. Christ went up to Heaven in a cloud-Gideonsaw the angel ascending in the smoke of theincense and many a good man ascends with clouds of darkness round about him-but still he goes to Heaven! I hope these casesare very few-still we bring them forward to show you that assurance is not to be looked for before faith. You might as welllook for the pinnaclebefore the foundation, for the cream before the milk, for the apples before you plant the tree-for the harvest before yousow 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 observethose two words, "in whom"-"in whom you also trusted"-"in whom you were sealed." So that as I get my faith out of Christ,so I must get my assurance outof Christ. The virtual means of my faith is Christ Himself and the virtual means of my assurance must be the same. As Ithink of what He did for me, I believe in Him. As I continue to meditate upon that same thing, I have assurance of interestin Him. You must feed upon the fleshand blood of Christ if you would grow into strong men in Christ Jesus. A touch of Christ will heal you from all disease-butyou 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 a Heaven upon earth!Do not be content with faith-be thankful for it, rejoice in it-but ask to have more. And when you want to have more, go toChrist for it-the same fountainwhich first quenched your thirst must be that which shall quench it till you are taken up to drink of the River of Lifewhich 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. "You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." He does thisin various ways. Sometimes we get the seal of the Spirit through experience. We know that God is true because we have provedHim. Sometimes this comes through the hearing ofthe Word-as we listen our faith is confirmed. But there is doubtless, besides this, a special and supernatural work of theHoly Spirit whereby men are assured that they are born of God. You will observe in one place the Apostle says, "The Spiritalso bears witness with ourspirit, 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 depending upon Christ and then I know, 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 heavenlycalm as you meditated upon your stateand condition in Christ? You wondered where it came from. It was not the result of protracted devotion but it stole overyou-you knew not how it was-you were bathed in it as in sunlight and you rejoiced exceedingly. You rejoiced in Christ-thatwas your basis ofconfidence, and that confidence came through the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit.
This has occurred sometimes in the midst of sharp conflicts just when dark despair seemed ready to overwhelm you. You mayhave 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 You are with me (in a special sense) You are with me." The Holy Spirit, then, must give it tous, and we must wait upon Him to set His seal. And so to conclude, this is desirable to the highest degree, for it is theearnest of the inheritance. It is a partof Heaven on earth to get an assurance worked by the Spirit!
It is not merely a pledge, for a pledge is given back when you get the thing itself, but it is an earnest. It is one clusterfrom 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 fromthe harps of angels? It is a drop ofthe spray from the fountains of life. It is one ingot of gold from the pavement of Heaven. It is one ray of heavenly lightfrom the eternal Sun of Righteousness. O Christian, if you have ever known assurance, you will pant till you have it again!You can never, after seeing thesunlight, put up with the candlelight of your doubts and fears in the dungeon of despondency.
But if assurance is gone, still hang onto Jesus-
"When your eye of faith is dim, Still hold onto Jesus, sink or swim. Still at His footstool bow the knee, And Israel's Godyour peace shall be." If you cannot feel His love in your heart, still trust Him! Oh, it was grand of Job-"Though He slayme, yet will I trust Him." Truly, the vitalityof faith is such that if He should spurn me from His Presence-if He never gave me another look of love this side of Heaven-ifHe 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 truethat I dare not even,then, doubt Him. Blind unbelief would do so, but victorious faith says, "Never! He cannot lie. Let God be true and everyman a liar."
When faith is at her very worst, she is glorious and sparkles like a jewel in the dark mine and God will come and take herup out of all the depths and set her in His own crown as a precious jewel. "Your faith has saved you," says Jesus. No, Lord,it is not faith that has done it, it is Yourself.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 poorfeeble woman's faith. "Your faith has saved you: go in peace." And so will God do with your tempest-tossed and exercised faith!He will put the crown upon it andthat faith of yours shall sing in Heaven!
Do not tell me that we shall have no faith in Heaven-nonsense! "Now abides faith, hope, charity, these three. But the greatestof these is charity." We shall find faith to be our sweet companion there. Shall I not believe God when I get to Heaven? ShallI give up trusting my God when I getthere? No, I shall trust Him for my resurrection body! I shall trust Him for the millennial splendor! I shall trust Himfor the gathering of the elect! Trust Him for an eternity of bliss! Trust Him for my safe standing where He has brought me.And so, happy faith, imperishablefaith, shall live and reign when sense and sight are gone past recall. The Lord give you to hear the Word, to believe init and afterwards to be sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.