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have constant assurance, that he is a believer, and shall be saved. Were his graces in high and constant exercise, and acted out in all proper ways; and were his moral corruptions consequently in a great measure subdued and mortified, he could not have a doubt, he must be sure that he is a friend to Christ, and does most cordially embrace the gospel ; and is interested in that everlasting covenant, that is ordered in all things and sure.
9. It is the duty of every christian to have and maintain a constant assurance that he is a christian, and shall be saved ; and it is, therefore, wholly his fault, for which he can have no excuse, if he be at a loss, and doubts whether he be a believer in Christ, or not.
This follows from what has been observed under the last head.
For if it be the duty of christians to live in the constant vigorous exercise of every grace, and clear discerning of spiritual things, and mortify all their lusts ; with which assurance is connected ; then it is their duty constantly to have and maintain this assurance, and they cannot fail of it, unless they come vastly short of their duty. It is indeed their duty to be perfectly holy, and every thing short of this is so far sinful; but the exercise of holiness, which is greatly short of perfection, is sufficient to assure the christian, that he is really holy, and shall be saved.
It has been observed above, that the believer is entirely dependent on God, for every degree of holiness, and especially for that degree which is necessary in order to a well grounded assurance. But it cannot be inferred from this, that it is not the duty of christians to be holy to such a degree, as to render them sure they shall be saved ; unless such dependence on God be inconsistent with any possible duty, or sin, which cannot be asserted consistent with reason, or the Bible. There is no truth asserted more clearly and constantly in the holy scripture, than these two, viz. Man's entire dependence on God for all moral good or holiness : and his obligation to be holy, as God is holy; that this is his duty, and all neglect, and every thing in him, contrary to this, is his crime. He, who denies either of those, does so far renounce the Bible.
1. From what has been observed on this subject, we learn, that they embrace a great and dangerous delusion, who think they are assured of salvation, without the least evidence that they are sanctified, in any degree, or looking inwards to find any holy exercise ; and that to build such assurance upon our good frames, and holy exercises of heart, is a low, legal way of getting assurance, and is not the proper assurance of a christian. That true christian assurance is built upon a more firm foundation, upon Christ, and the word and promise of God, and not upon the uncertain and changeable feelings and impressions of the heart.
If the assurance, for which they plead, and which they think they have, be examined, it will appear to be built on a sandy foundation, or rather upon nothing. To whom is Christ a Saviour, and to what are the promises of the gospel made ? Christ saves them who believe in him, and them only; and the promises are made to a certain character, to that faith in Christ, which implies all the branches of christian holiness; and to no person who has not this character. And no man can have the least evidence, or reason to believe, that he has an interest in any of the promises of the gospel, or shall be saved by Christ; who has not that holiness which is implied in saving faith, and unless he has evidence of this, in his own mind, by seeing what passes in his own heart, and what are the exercises of that. If assurance of salvation be not founded upon the knowledge of our own character, it is built upon nothing, and is mere delusion.
II. We learn that no person can have assurance of salvation from any thing, any circumstance or attainment, which is merely external. Real holiness, or sanctification, is the only evidence that any one can have, that he shall be saved : But this consists in the exercises of the heart, and not in any thing external, any farther than it comes from the heart, and is an expression of what takes place there. Men may make a profession of religion ; attend on all the ordinances and institutions of Christ; and their whole external behaviour may they make high pretensions to this, whose lives are in no measure answerable ; and make no proper appearance of living in the constant and lively exercise of true religion, in a strict, conscientious, holy walk, they are to be considered as poor, mistaken, deluded creatures.
IV. We learn that the believer's assurance of salva. tion has no tendency to lead him to live a careless, ungodly life, but the contrary. It is not consistent with such a life. It necessarily supposes strong, lively exercises of holiness, and zeal to live a holy life ; and can continue no longer than these continue: Whenever his zeal for good works abates, and is not perceived, and carelessness and sloth take place, the christian will lose his assurance, in a great degree at least, if he were before assured that he was a christian; and doubts will of course arise. The assured christian, therefore, is the most lively, holy christian, and most engaged to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts. And he sees more clearly than others, or than he did before, the necessity of persevering in this way, not only in order to maintain his assurance, but in order to be saved ; and feels the great and peculiar obligations he is under, to this, and to love Christ and keep his commandments, who has loved him, and given himself for him; “ That he should not hence forward live unto himself, but unto him who died for him, and rose again."* Every assured christian can espouse the language of an eminent ancient christian, who, when he had full assurance of salvation, said : “I run, not as uncertainly : So fight I, not as one that beateth the air : But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest that, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.”+
V. The doctrine of assurance, as it has been now stated and explained, may assist persons to determine whether they be believers, or not, and point out the way to obtain assurance that they are such.
1. The true believer desires no assurance of his salvation, but that which has its foundation in holy exercises, and consists in them, so that the former cannot be obtained without the latter. Assurance of salvation would be worth nothing to him, if he could have it, without
• Gal. ii. 20. 2 Cor. v. 15. f 1 Cor. ix, 26, 27.
holiness, or while he had no stronger and more sensible exercises of love to Christ, &c. than he now has. He therefore does not ask for such assurance, nor desire it. It pleases him, that assurance cannot be obtained in any other way, than in the lively and sensible exercise of holy affection.
There are some, who earnestly desire and long for assurance that they shall be saved, and feel that if they could obtain this, they should be happy, while holiness is not so much the object of their desire and pursuit. These are not seeking the assurance which the christian desires, nor can it be true assurance, or of any real worth, were it obtained, without holiness. Such assurance will satisfy a selfish person; because, if he can be assured that he shall be happy, he cares for no mores and in his idea of happiness, holiness is not included. But not so the true believer.
2. From the preceding particular, it follows, that the true believer prizes holiness more than assurance, and is more concerned to obtain the former, than the latter. To be conformed to Christ, and obedient to him in all things, earnestly and constantly devoted to his service and honour, and filled with strong, benevolent love to God, and to man, is a thousand times more the object of his desire and prayer, than to be assured, that he shall be saved. Therefore, he desires no other assurance of salvation, than that which is implied in such holiness, as has been observed. Indeed, the true christian, in the exercise of holy affection, or disinterested benevolence to God and man, is seeking more important objects and events, than his own salvation, and they have the first place in his heart. He seeks first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.
On the contrary, the selfish person desires and seeks his own personal interest, his own happiness, as the most important and supreme good ; and if he can be assured of his own happiness, he has all he wants. Therefore, when persons prize and desire assurance of their own salvation, more than holiness, it is a sign that they are not true believers.
3. The true christian can have joy and peace in believing, or the joy of faith, without assurance of salva
this favour. This must be determined by God; for there is no other being that has a right to determine it, or that can do it ; and it is impossible that God should not determine it. He is infinitely powerful and wise, he knew what was best to be done, and it wholly de. pended on him to determine and do that which is on the whole wisest and best. It belonged to him to de. cide and fix every thing respecting this matter," who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.
II. It is infinitely best, and most desirable, that this should be determined by God. He only is infinitely wise and good ; therefore, whatever he determines shall be done, and take place, is perfectly right, most wise and best. It is therefore infinitely desirable, that he should order every thing that takes place, and all events ; but more especially those things that relate to the eternal existence and endless happiness or misery of man, whether any shall be saved, or all lost; and if only a part of mankind be saved, how many, and what particular persons, shall be included in this number. This is a matter of great importance, and not of indifference, whether this person shall be saved, rather than another, and it requires infinite wisdom to determine it right, so as to answer the best ends. Were any creature to de termine it, in any one instance, especially, apostate man, the event might be undesirable, and of infinitely evil consequence. Were man to decide it, independent of God, and were this possible, it would be most undesira. ble and infinitely dreadful to the wise and good; and they rejoice that this important affair, with all others, is in the hand of him who is infinitely wise and good ; who has a right, and to whom it belongs to decide the state of every man, whether he shall be saved or not; and that he has done it, by an unalterable decree.
III. It is certain from the scripture, that God has determined not to save all mankind; but only a part, and a particular number of them. The Redeemer him. self has declared this expressly, and it is abundantly asserted in the Old Testament, and in the New. A number are to go away into everlasting punishment, where their worm djeth not, and the fire is unquencha,