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souls. And if either of you be deficient in them, set it down as an unfailing certainty, that there is yet something wanting to make you a real christian, or to fit you for the society of heaven. And what I have to say to those of you who know yourselves to be deficient in these things, I will present in the striking language of the prophet, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Another lesson taught in the text, which may serve as the second proposition of this discourse, is, that christians are not to stand still in their profession, but go on to “ the full assurance of hope.”“And we desire," says the apostle, “that each one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the
In reading the Scriptures, we often meet with phrases which are peculiarly and purely Hebrew in their origin. Thus—“the rod of his power”_" the assurance of faith,” &c. By which is to be understood “his powerful rod,” and “a-sure faith.” The expression “assurance of hope” comes under the same class, and means a sure hope, or such a hope as shall not disappoint. Burkitt says, (Notes in loc.) "a full assurance of hope, is such a fixed, constant, and prevailing persuasion, concerning the good things promised, and our certain enjoyment of them, as will support us under, and carry us through all the difficulties and troubles that we conflict with.” Barnes says, (Notes in loc.) “the full assurance of hope exists where there is the highest desire of heaven, and such corresponding evidence of personal piety as to leave no doubt that it will be ours.” It is that exalted stage of christian persection, in the enjoyment of which we realize the certainty of final blessedness and glory, to a degree which full fruition cannot increase. It is for the christian to be as sure that he will be saved, as if he were already saved. That this state is attainable in this life I think can be clearly shown
1st. The Scriptures represent it as attainable. It is so represented in the text. It is so represented by Peter where he exhorts us to make our “calling and election sure." It is so represented by Paul where he declares, “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.” It is so represented by John where he says, “ Beloved, now are we the sons of God,
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Job declared, “I know that my. Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” David too exclaimed in his confidence, “ As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." And also Paul, “ Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous. Judge will give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” And if such is the voice of the Scriptures on the subject, who will venture to deny that a state of full assurance of hope is attainable in the present life!
2nd. It is possible for us in temporal matters to have hope and faith as sure and satisfactory as possession. Take this as an example. You furnish your friend with the funds, and send him out into the beautiful country which surrounds us to purchase for you a farm. He returns to you with an accurate discription of the whole situation. He brings you the deed all legally signed and sealed and places it in your possession. Everything to render your title valid is properly adjusted. In this case is your certainty that you have such a farm any the less than if you had both seen it, and gone through the whole transaction of purchasing it? Is it anything less than if you were already all comfortably situated on it? Certainly not. You perceive then that even in temporal matters it is possible to have evidence equally strong with that of sight or possession, And why not the same in spiritual things? Christ Jesus bas been sent by the Father to purchase for us an eternal inheritance. He has done so. The price is paid. The deed of the New Testa. ment all signed and sealed in a legal way giving both a discription of it and the title to its possession to all those who comply with certain plain and easy terms, has been placed in our hands. And though we have never seen the heavenly country; yet, what is there. to hinder our being as certain that we shall finally inherit it, as though our eyes had scanned its whole territory, or our souls were even now rejoicing in its full fruition?. I can see none.
3d. The steps of conversion and sanctification are moreover so clearly and distinctly marked out, as to leave no room for us to doubt for a moment whether we have made those advances or not.
The Lord has so arranged it that every stage of the work of the Spirit stands out in our experience in unmistakeable prominence.His first operation is to convince of sin; i. e. to make us see that we are sinners. He neither creates nor reveals anything new, but simply makes us feel what was previously known. The prodigal son knew that he was sinning against a kind, fond and forgiving father, and criminally squandering what had been graciously given him; but the Spirit brought these things home to his heart-it made him feel them—and induced in bim the determination to return in humble confession of his wickedness. And may we not know with a very great degree of certainty whether we have had such convictions, and been made to feel that we are guilty before God! There may be a spurious sorrow for sin with which the Spirit has nothing to do. Judas furnishes an example of this. But it may be easily detected. That of the prodigal melted, but that of Judas hardened—the former felt his vileness, but the latter only his wretchedness—the one fled to the mercy-seat for forgiveness, the other to the halter for deliverance—the one leads to Christ though denial and death be the consequence, but the other drives away from him. And can we not tell the bearing of our experience on this subject ?
And so also with the next step, called conviction of righteousness. That is, our utter destitution and need of it.
There is an emptyness of soul which makes the righteousness of Christ as acceptable, as the sight of a physician to a sick man. The sinner under this influence of the Spirit goes to the Savior as the Syrophenician woman, not to be denied, and yet feeling that the place of dogs more becomes him. And this feeling is constant and habitual with him through the whole course of christian life. And can there possibly be any insuperable difficulty in deciding whether this is our feeling?
4th. It seems to me too a very unjust reflection upon the completeness of the work of our salvation to suppose such a state of 66. fut) assurance” to be beyond our reach in the present life. We are taught to look upon redemption as a perfect work. The Savior provided is a perfect Savior. The Spirit to sanctify us is perfect. The book of God is perfect. All the means of grace are so complete, that the man who shall add to, or diminish them shall sink under the curse of God. Moses and the prophets have spoken plainer than one rising from the dead. The converted sinner is made a
new creature in Christ Jesus. All things become new to him. His views, of himself-of God—of Christ-of the word, his feelingstastes-desires-objects of life—all are new. As he advances his christian character becomes more vigorous and decided; and the light in his path grows brighter and brighter. The whole plan is complete, and the sinner redeemed, goes from strength to strength, till the angel lifts the latch, and opens the door, and he passes into the mansions of glory. But is there not a very marked imperfection if the saint may not be, and is not, if faithful to himself, advancing in the assurance of hope” until the certainty of his salvation becomes so strong as to bavish every fearful doubt?
From these considerations I am constrained to insist, that it is intended by the great Author of our religion that we shall arrive in this life to such a state of christian perfection as to be as certain that we shall be saved as if we were already saved.
Of course the certainty of our salvation is realized on earth by an entirely different process from that by which it is realized in heaven. Here we are brought to this state by looking at the completeness of what Christ has done for us, and the immutability of the Divine promises, associated with certain experimental facts; but there we will be brought to it by hearing, seeing, and feeling that we are saved, Our evidence here may be strong and certain ; but it is hope—it is faith. In heaven it is sight.
Nor is it necessary to the enjoyment of this “full assurance of hope” that it be always glowing with the same degree of strength, or continue without interruption. On the contrary, the fluctuations to which we are here exposed, and the moaning of the Bible saints lead us to believe that cloudy skies will sometimes come. Nor do I say that some may not be christians, who, like the sweet Cowper, are all their lives distressed with fears and doubts and darkness; but I do suppose that this ought not to be. It is the christian's blessed privilege to find in Christ, a complete Redeemer, who can and will now deliver us from our fears. And if we do not at times at least rise to such a full assurance as that all our doubts are gone, I feel it my duty to say, it is our own fault. In the days of Owen and Baxter, this doctrine was preached to the church with great power and success. The churches almost universally had the faith of assurance.? Of late the privilege and necessity has been so lit
See remarks by Dr. Todd in Vol. I. of “Christian World.”
tle insisted on, that it has almost become part of our creed that the christian must be harassed and distressed with doubts all his life. The great reason assigned is, that it has been abused. But have not all the doctrines of the Bible been counterfeited and abused ?But this does not do away the necessity of still preaching them and insisting on them. Nor does the fact that some with more zeal than religion or knowledge of themselves have declared themselves sanctified-free from all sin-and sure of heaven, do anything to supercede or nullify the doctrine under discussion. I believe that it is within the reach—the privilege—the duty of all to be certain of their salvation; and that we are coming far short of what we might and should be, if this is not our state.
Probably there are few or none present who have the full assurance of hope on Scriptural grounds. But, my brethren, it is our sins and nothing else which separate between us and God. We load ourselves with thick clay, and then conclude that Jehovah never designed that we should rise. We grieve the Holy Spirit, and then think we were never called into the liberty of the sons of God. I do then most sincerely wish and beseech all now present, to resolve in the strength of God so to live-so to conform to his will, that you may have no more doubt of your good estate than had Paul when he stood ready to be offered, and went to the grave shouting “victory."
What I have yet to say upon this subject relates to the practical question, how may this exalted christian excellence be attained ?" And we desire,” says the apostle in the text, “that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
Three particulars are here enumerated for our observance. The first is persevering diligence ; i. e. à continual striving and careful attention
Aye, no wonder then that 80 many are always troubled with doubts and fears, when we look at the lethargy which prevails in the churches. No marvel then that some never rise to the full assurance of hope. Would to God that they felt much more disturbed and apprehensive than they do! If you wish to have this blessed consolation you must diligently exert yourselves for it. Not only drag along in the wearisome form of duty, but with a lively and earnest spirit enter into the reality and power of your religion.