Page images
PDF
EPUB

Dr. Mant says, 'To represent conversion as universally necessary to all Christians, because it 'was universally necessary to all men before they • became Christians, &c. is a distinguished and

fundamental error in the Methodistical creed.' If indeed any persons, baptized in infancy, have not' neglected the portion of grace vouchsafed to · them at the time of their baptism ;' but have from childhood lived a truly Christian life ; they need not the entire conversion which others do: but surely all others need it as much as the circumcised Jews did when addressed by Peter ; and indeed, by the Bishop's concessions, nearly as much as the gentiles did.

2

SECTION XVI.

On Assurance of Salvation.

' Is such earnestness, in enforcing the duty and necessity of active exertion, consistent with that 'passive waiting for the impulses of the Spirit, which modern enthusiasts recommend to their hearers; or with that assurance of salvation, ' which they so confidently inculcate ?'3

It may be left to those ‘modern enthusiasts,' who recommend to their hearers' passive waiting

for the impulses of the Spirit,' to answer the former part of this quotation : and all those, in whose sermons or books such passive waiting' is recommended, may fairly be classed with that company. Upon a full investigation, however, a very small number, either of modern Calvinists, or of the evangelical clergy, will be found at all concerned. They also 'who confidently inculcate • the assurance of salvation' as essential to faith, or as every one's duty, (which many have done, and some still do,) must answer for themselves : but this involves a subject which requires some cxplanations and distinctions, and which holds no obscure place in the scriptural delineation of Christianity.

1

Mant's Tracts, 64.

? Acts iii. 19.

* Ref. 58.

The word ASSURANCE is here used in the popular sense, not as denoting that absolute certainty which admits of no degrees, and excludes all possibility of doubt; for we have that kind of assurance in only few things; but as meaning a persuasion and confidence, though capable of fluctuation, which gives habitual satisfaction and peace, and, from time to tiine, joy and exultation to the soul. Higher assurance than this we do not possess in any of the dearest interests of this life ; concerning few of them so high. This kind and degree of assurance we suppose to be intended by the apostle, when he thus exhorts his brethren ; “ We desire that every one of you

do give the same diligence to the full assurance of “ hope unto the end :"? clearly intimating both how it is to be obtained, and how preserved ; and thus answering distinctly his Lordship’s question. Indeed, without some prevailing confidence of this kind, how could we be patient in tribula

tion, and joyful in hope?” So far is assurance,

1 Heb. vi. 11.

thus explained, from belonging exclusively to enthusiasts, ancient or modern, to Calvinists or Anticalvinists, that no man ever had a due sense of the immense importance of the words ETERNAL SALVATION and ETERNAL DAMNATION; no man ever had any adequate views of his guilt, and exposure to the latter, or any right value for the attainment of the former, who could rest satisfied without it. The uncertainty of life, and the infi- ', nite concern which depends on our state towards God when called hence, must excite urgent and almost intolerable anxiety, while the whole is considered as altogether uncertain: that is, should we die this night, whether we should open our eyes in heaven or in hell! This distressing solicitude, it is readily allowed, exposes a man to many temptations; and, if not led on by scriptural instruction to seek and find a well grounded assurance of salvation, he will be in great danger of taking shelter in some of those “refuges of “ lies,” which superstition and enthusiasm abundantly set before his anxious mind. Here then is the Christian teacher's wisdom and duty: instead of exclaiming against all assurance as enthusiastical, and calling it, as one does, the demon of assurance;' to distinguish between

I “ the pre“ cious and the vile ;” and to shew in what way the scripture teaches men to seek “a hope,” con-nected with “joy and peace,” “and which maketh “ not ashamed." 2 “ For the work of righteous“ ness shall be peace; and the effect of righteous“ness quietness and assurance for ever.”3

'Dr. Whitaker's Visitation Sermon.

; Isa. xxxji. 17.

· Rom. v, 3-5. xv. 13.

« We

All assurance grounded on impulses, impressions, new revelations; all, of which no scriptural reason can be assigned; we unite in proscribing : nay, all which renders • exhortations on the preacher's part, and exertion and diligence on the hearer's, unnecessary or inconsistent.

But we suppose that the word know, in the language of the apostles, implies assurance, as it is above explained: and this shews that neither the word nor the idea is unscriptural. “ Hereby,” says the apostle John, “ 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.” 1 “ know that we have passed from death unto life, “ because we love the brethren." “Hereby we “ know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our 5 hearts before him.” Hereby we know that he “abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given

“ 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.” “ We know that we are of God.” “We know “ that the Son of God is come, and hath given us

an understanding that we may know him that “is true: and we are in him that is true, even in “ bis Son Jesus Christ.” 3 Is there nothing in these texts like 'assurance of salvation,' at least in that qualified sense in which it has been described? And is there any thing which limits this knowledge to the apostles, or to those endued with miraculous powers? Rather is it not

66

US.”2

66

? 1 John iii. 14, 24.

!1 John ii. 4, 5.
' 1 John v. 13, 19, 20.

connected with those things which are common to all true Christians ?

The apostle Peter, after other urgent and particular exhortations, adds,“ Wherefore the rather, “ brethren, give diligence to make your calling “ and election sure: for, if ye do these things ye “ shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be “ ministered unto you abundantly into the ever

lasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus “ Christ.”! Let our opponents, for the present, put their own meaning on the word “ election :" it is evident that the apostle judged that, by diligence, Christians might obtain assurance of their “ calling" or conversion ; and, by continued diligence, of their final salvation. The former is in this section exclusively our topic. I therefore argue from these scriptures, that by diligence regulated according to the word of God; and by a consciousness of loving and obeying God, and of loving the brethren, and of other holy dispositions, connected with a holy tenour of conduct; true Christians may attain to such an assurance of their acceptance, and of “ having passed from death to life,” as shall suffice for their joy and comfort in all troubles, sufferings, and dangers : according to the apostle's prayer for the Romans ; “ Now the God of hope fill you

with all peace and joy in believing, that ye may abound in hope by “ the power of the Holy Ghost :"2—for what is it to “abound in hope," but to possess the “ full as“surance of hope?'

It may be supposed that those, who indiscri

? 2 Pet. i. 10, 11.

2 Rom. xv. 13.

« PreviousContinue »