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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.” “We « 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 “ us.”2 « 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 “his 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
'1 John ii. 4, 5. 31 John v. 13, 19, 20.
? 1 John ii. 14, 24. .
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 as6 surance of hope?”
It may be supposed that those, who indiscri
'' 2 Pet. i. 10, 11.
minately proscribe all kinds of assurance of sal'vation,' are not prepared or disposed expressly to deny that such a persuasion and confidence. may in this manner be attained and preserved: the subject therefore rather needs explaining, and freeing from misapprehensions, than arguing ; and it is not requisite to enlarge. Many, who are totally averse to the doctrine of Calvinists respecting final perseverance, are at least as decided in respect of assurance as they are. But, however held, the true assurance must be sought and obtained by diligence; and perseverance also must be expected by diligence, not indolence. God, indeed, often indulges new and inexperienced converts with such encouragements and consolations as give present assurance, or satisfaction, previous to any long course of diligence: but stable peace and confidence cannot scripturally be expected, without persevering diligence in every means of grace, and unreserved active obedience to the commands of Christ: because that alone can shew our repentance genuine, our faith living, and our love sincere. The woman to whom our Lord said, “ Thy sins are forgiven;" “ Thy faith hath “ saved thee, go in peace;" would not have been able to deduce this encouraging assurance, from her consciousness of deep repentance, and much love and gratitude to Jesus, had he not expressly told her. And the paralytic to whom he said, “ Son be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee," might reasonably have retained some doubt of his own happiness, 2 if he had not been enabled to
“ take up his bed, and go to his house."! But neither of them could doubt of this afterwards without express unbelief.—Thus, if we be indeed inclined and enabled by the grace of God to do that, which of ourselves we have not the dispo
sition, and consequently not the ability to do; we also may know that “our sins are forgiven," and that “ our faith hath saved us." Yet, if afterwards either of these persons had turned aside "into the ways of sin, it would have been presumptuous in them, while living in those ways, without repentance, to infer their final salvation from the words spoken by our Lord; which certainly referred to their past, and not to their future, sins. Thus, if he who has indeed been 56 taught by the “ saving grace of God to deny ungodliness and “ worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously " and godly, in this present world;" and in this way to obtain an assurance of his acceptance in Christ; should afterwards turn from this course of life into the ways of ungodliness and wickedness; it would be presumption in him, continuing an impenitent worker of iniquity, to be confident of his final salvation on account of the past. In such a case, distressing fears of being self-deceived as to past experience, or of having fallen from a state of acceptance, would be a far more hopeful symptom. :
The sentiment, of maintaining assurance of salvation from either past experiences, or any of God's promises or decrees, while a man is living in impenitent disobedience, belongs no more to Calvin's system than to Arminius's : it is An
tinomian, enthusiastic, and abominable ; and all, < who fear God and trust in his mercy,” ought to combine together in execrating and reprobating it, as the worst of heresies and presumptions.In this view of the subject, in what way can the belief of assurance be inconsistent with exhortations and exertions? It must be sought by diligence, and preserved by diligence; and the apostle supposed that the possession of it would animate to diligence : “ Therefore my beloved brethren be “ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in “ the work of the Lord ; forasmuch as ye know “ that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” And so it infallibly will, if “the love of Christ con“ strain us;" if we are actuated by holy motives ; if our obedience be any thing better than mere selfishness, which will do no more than is necessary in order to escape hell,—no more than what is needful to keep up a hope of heaven. But “every man that hath” the true and holy “ hope" and especially “the full assurance of hope," “pu“rifieth himself even as his Lord is pure."2
SECTION XVII. On Sinless Obedience and Unspotted Purity in
It cannot be pretended, that this Article3 gives “any countenance to the Calvinistic notions of “sinless obedience and unspotted purity in the
elect; and of incorrigible pollution and inevitable wickedness in the reprobate.'4.