By William S. Plumer
II. "This certainty is not a bare and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, grounded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces, unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption.
III. "This assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it; yet being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.
IV. "True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin, which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit, by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of His countenance, and allowing even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light; yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair."
This view, set forth by the ablest body of divines which has met for several centuries, has been accepted by more Christian people than any other full statement of the same matter. It is eminently scriptural. Had the Westminster Assembly done no more than to give to the Church this one short paper, it would have deserved the respect and gratitude of the people of God.
The general idea running through the word assurance in the New Testament, is that of persuasion. He who is assured is persuaded. At least once assurance means belief, or ground of belief, as in Acts 17:31, where the Greek word is the same we commonly render faith. But when the New Testament speaks of assurance in the sense already explained, it uses a peculiar word (plerophoria) properly rendered full assurance, or much assurance. The four places where it occurs are Col. 2:2; 1 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 6:11; 10:22. The kindred verb is used in Luke 1:1, where it is rendered are most surely believed; in Rom. 4:21, where it is rendered being fully persuaded; and in Rom. 14:5, let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Some have defined assurance to be a firm persuasion of the certainty of anything, or a certain expectation of something future. Its general import is that of entire confidence, firm expectation, certain persuasion. In this discussion it is used in the sense of full confidence of one's interest in Christ ending in final salvation.
Respecting assurance, manyERRORS have been taught. From them have arisen great troubles in many minds. Let us briefly consider some of them:
A. Some have asserted that assurance is of the essence of faith; that whoever has true faith knows and feels that he has it, and is certain that it is the faith demanded by God's word. It must be admitted that from the sixteenth century to the present there have been writers who used rash language on this subject. But let us note a few things:
1. When many of these men wrote they were combating a dangerous idea very prevalent in their day, namely, that a true faith might be wholly inoperative, inspiring no solid and lively hopes, and producing no change in men's lives. The error which they opposed was common, dangerous, and, if persisted in, fatal. They warred against a dead faith, and we must admit that there can be no more dangerous state than to settle down in a faith which produces no saving or powerful change in time, and inspires no good hopes for eternity.
2. Some have not sufficiently admitted that, as in other Christian graces, so in true faith there are degrees. The word of God clearly admits that all the graces, faith in particular, may be very weak, even when genuine. So that we have the very phrase, weak in faith, with instructions how such shall be treated. Because of the feebleness of their believing, the disciples prayed, "Lord, increase our faith." Feeble faith may be as genuine as strong faith, though it administers comparatively little comfort in the day of trial; yet such "shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand" (Rom. 14:4). In Scripture we have also the phrase strong in faith.
3. It is not safe to deny that any man can have an exercise of mind or heart without being conscious of all that passes within him; but that is very different from knowing that such an exercise of the soul is true faith. All our exercises of soul are to be tested and proved by God's word. True faith purifies the heart, works by love, overcomes the world, and quenches the fiery darts of Satan. Time and self-examination by God's word must show what is the true nature of all fair appearances in religion. Besides, there is surely a great difference between a persuasion that Jesus Christ is the only and sufficient Savior of lost men; and believing that we are savingly interested in His righteousness and intercession.
4. On a careful examination of all that is said by those who teach that assurance is included in the very essence of faith—it is apparent that many of them confound reliance with assurance. It is certainly true that no man believes a promise of God if he does not rely on it, and that no man believes in Jesus unless he looks to Jesus, leans upon Him, and relies on Him. Reliance is therefore of the essence of faith; and if by assurance is meant no more than reliance, there is no error taught, albeit there is a very unhappy use of terms.
Still it cannot safely be denied that some have pertinaciously taken the ground that no man had true faith without assurance of a saving interest in Christ.
B. Another error maintains the opposite extreme, and asserts that assurance of our personal interest in Christ is not attainable, and that a claim to it is mere presumption. Now let it be said—
1. Perhaps those who have taken this ground have been led to do so by noticing that a certain class of vain pretenders, who give no evidence of being regenerate, and who have none of the fruits of the Spirit, make a boast of their confident expectation of eternal life. There are some under this strong and strange delusion to such an extent that it will stick to them to the last. Even at the judgment day they will hug their delusions, and plead them before the face of the Son of God (Matt. 7:22-23).
2. Then some have, perhaps, stated the doctrine of assurance in a loose or harsh way, as if a wicked life could not disprove any such profession, or as if known or allowed sin ought not to shake all confident expectations of eternal happiness.
3. All sober writers, who maintain the truth on this subject, agree that there are degrees of assurance, some being sufficient to produce calmness, others a high degree of boldness, and others leading to a triumphant defiance of all fears and foes, and to a joyful expectation of all good.
But it is neither safe nor scriptural to maintain that one cannot be on good and scriptural grounds assured of an interest in Christ, and of life eternal consequent thereon.
The way is now open to say, that none but ignorant or carnal people will say—that there is no man who is grounded and settled in the truth of the Christian religion, in the divine inspiration and canonical authority of holy scripture; no man who walks by faith and not by sight; no man who has proven every doctrine he holds, and can give with meekness and fear a reason of the hope that is in him; no man who can say that the life he now lives, he lives by the faith of the Son of God; no man who can truly, modestly and unswervingly say that the Lord Christ is precious to his soul; no man who does constantly renounce all self-righteousness as filthy rags, and esteem himself the least of all saints; no one who can safely say, Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You; no one who does heartily and joyfully take the Lord Jesus Christ as his sole Mediator, his only Prophet, Priest, and King, as all his desire and all his salvation; no one who does truly and habitually say, I shall be satisfied when I awake with Your likeness, and until then I shall never rest contented with my state; no one who can say, I have a hearty respect to all God's commandments, and I do hate all sin in myself and others, but especially in myself; I do repent and humble myself for all my known sins; yes, I do abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes, as I often have clear discoveries of the glory of God, especially in the person of Christ; no one who can truly say, I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness; no one who habitually and prevailingly loves the light and comes to the light, both to find the path of duty and to detect his own secret faults; no one who hungers and thirsts after holiness more than he longs for necessary food and drink, and who is willing and ready at all times to crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts; no one who is in the fear of the Lord all the day long, who lives as seeing Him who is invisible; no one who has a just and abiding sense of the vanity of all earthly things, of the shortness of time and, of the nearness and solemnity of eternity; no one who can be calm and quiet in God when all the world is in an uproar; no one who delights himself in God's being, name, perfections, government and glory; no one who, in the depth of his trials, says, Your will, O God, not mine, be done; no one who can say, This is my rejoicing, the testimony of my conscience, that in simplicity and Godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I have my conversation in the world; no one who gives all diligence to make his calling and election sure; no one who is clothed with humility, and abhors pride and all its hateful ways; no one who is vigilant day and night, never trusting in his own wisdom or strength, but habitually looking to the Most High for light and might; no one who has made up his mind to follow Christ even unto death, and not count his life dear if he may but win Christ and be found in Him; no one, who can either explain sufficiently to his own satisfaction the dark dispensations of God's providence, or with adoring reverence say, What I know not now, I shall know hereafter; no one whose character is well proportioned, especially leading him to trust in God alone for every victory; no one who is so intent on doing and suffering the will of God that he is more anxious to know what will please God than what will please himself and all his fellow men; no one who blames himself more for wronging his fellow man than he blames another for injuring him, and who absolutely refuses to carry in his own bosom a grudge against any mortal; no one who so fears God as to be able habitually to maintain a control over his thoughts, affections, words, and actions; no one who is delighted with conversation and discourses which abase him in the dust and exalt his Redeemer, and lift his own thoughts to God's right hand, where are pleasures forever more; no one who loves his neighbor as himself, is fruitful in devices of usefulness, and counts that day lost on which he has done nothing for human virtue and happiness; no one who loves God's people with a love so tender and constraining that all who know him see that he is a lover of godly men; no one whose word is as good as his bond or his oath, and who says what he means, and means what he says; no one who is peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, and is full of kindness, even to slanderers and persecutors; no one who is unblamably observant of relative duties as husband, parent, child, subject, citizen, magistrate.
Can any sober, honest person say that such people cannot be found on earth? Well, if they can be found here, why should they not attain the assurance of grace and salvation? Does any say that while there are some such professors of religion on earth, yet the number of such is not large? In reply, it may be said, with sorrow, that there are not very many consistent, devoted, thorough-going followers of the Lamb. But the greater is the pity, and the greater is the shame. But let us go to the highest authority.
The word of God speaks of full assurance of understanding. The language is very strong: "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2-3). The word rendered understanding in this place is so translated in every verse where it is found in the New Testament. Assurance of understanding supposes that intellectual doubts of the truth of the Bible, and of the system of doctrine really taught in the Scriptures, are all gone; and that if any difficulties on any branch of revealed truth remain, they are not such as to weaken confidence in the word of God; and the godly man is willing to give God His own time to make plain either hard texts or dark providences, not doubting that the Lord can easily do so at the right time.
Then the Scripture speaks of the full assurance of faith: "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22). This assurance does not chiefly relate to one's personal interest in Christ, but rather to the undoubted veracity of God in all He has spoken, particularly in the unerring truth of all He has told us in His word respecting the scheme of salvation, and a hearty and cordial reliance upon Christ as thus revealed. This assurance has every needed basis. It is most reasonable firmly to believe all God has said. It is a great dishonor to God when we lack a "thorough conviction of the truth of what is revealed in Scripture," or entertain "a cherished disposition to doubt or question the doctrines of the gospel." "The faithfulness of God is above all faithfulness." To question it is a sin. We ought steadfastly to believe everything God has made known to us. We ought to come to Him in full assurance of faith.
Then we have the full assurance of hope. Paul says, "And we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. That you be not slothful, but followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:11-12). The Scriptures say much of hope. "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God;" "Hope makes not ashamed." "We are saved by hope." "You are called in one hope of your calling." "Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel." "Take for a helmet the hope of salvation" (Rom. 5:2, 5; 8:24; Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:23; 1 Thess. 5:8). These are mere samples of what abounds in the word of God. Though faith is always accompanied by hope, yet they are not the same. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." The Syriac reads, "Faith is the persuasion of things in hope." That is, faith gives to things hoped for a present subsistence in the soul. "Faith credits the promises, hope looks to the things promised, and expects them. . . . Faith, eyeing the power and veracity of God, gives credit to the promises; hope, viewing them as not actually accomplished, desires them, delights in them, longs for their fulfillment, and expects it in faith." Another judicious writer says, "Faith is the credit we give to the truth of what is testified or promised in the gospel, and is founded on the veracity and faithfulness of God. The hope which attends this faith is a mixture of desire and joy, and an anticipation of enjoyment."
In the order of nature, assurance of understanding precedes assurance of faith, and both of these precede assurance of hope. When we have all three, we are happy indeed, and can defy all the assaults of fear and temptation.
But there are other forms of speech found in the word of God, which show that some of God's people, under every dispensation, have attained assurance. Thus, among the patriarchs, Enoch walked with God, and was not; for he "was translated, that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Heb. 11:5). His translation was a great event; but it was preceded by a satisfactory and full persuasion, founded on good testimony, that he pleased God. The testimony was to himself, and preceded his translation. Then, too, another patriarch, the man of Uz, in the midst of as dark providences as ever surrounded a mere man, still held fast his confidence in the Son of God, saying "I know that my Redeemer lives" (Job 19:25). Not only was he confident that there was a Redeemer to others, but he was sure that that Redeemer was his Redeemer, and should accomplish all He had led His people to expect; and not merely that this great person should at some future time live, but that He was then living; as Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am." Here, then, under the patriarchal dispensation, we have two clear cases of full assurance.
Under the Mosaic dispensation David often expresses his assurance. Over and over again he says, "O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant" (Ps. 116:16; 119:125; 143:12). In other terms no less confident does he declare the same thing in the twenty-third, the seventy-first, and the eighty-ninth Psalms, thus: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." "In You, O Lord, do I put my trust." "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever"—and many like phrases. Even poor Asaph, a man of a sorrowful spirit, and sometimes sunk in despondency and perplexity, did sometimes rise to the heights of a sublime assurance. Hear him: "You shall guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart fails; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." One can hardly find a more solemn or joyful declaration of blessed assurance than this. All this is in accordance with that glorious truth taught us by the evangelical prophet: "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever" (Isa. 32:17).
Under the gospel dispensation we have abundant proofs that assurance is attainable. Thus, poor Peter, though he had not long before behaved very badly, yet, having bitterly repented of his sad fall, said to the Searcher of Hearts, the Son of God Himself: "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You" (John 21:17). In his last epistle, written shortly before his death, he says much of assurance, and tells Christians how they may attain unto it. In like manner blessed Paul, in his very last epistle, professes his assurance: "I know whom I have believed; and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day. . . . I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day" (2 Tim. 1:12; 4:7-8). From other things said by Paul and by the beloved John, it seems clear that assurance was a common attainment in the primitive Church. (See Rom. 8:14-17, 35; 2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 3:12; 1 John 3:14, 19; 4:13; 5:19). The reader can easily refer to these several passages, where strong confidence is expressed, the words we know frequently occurring.
Nor can one examine with care the writings of the early Christians or of the Reformers without seeing that the confessors and martyrs of the early Church, and the heroes of the sixteenth century, did, to a large extent, attain to a blessed assurance. It is a question worthy of careful consideration whether, for the last hundred and fifty years, there has not been an error in some godly men in "preaching a low experience." Even our hymnology has been modified from the same cause.
Seeing that these things are so,why is it, that in our day so few have assurance of grace and salvation? This is a solemn and a practical question. Let us dwell upon it a little.
1. Some, who seem assured that they are now in a state of grace, do, sometimes from bad instruction, fear that God will at last forsake them, and leave them to perish. They seem assured of grace, but not of final salvation. Such do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Jehovah says such things as these: "As your days, so shall your strength be." "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." "My grace is sufficient for you." "The weak brother shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand." "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand." Whole pages might be filled with quotations from God's word just as appropriate to the cases we are considering as those already given. Evidently, therefore, what this class of doubting souls needs is a better acquaintance with Scripture and a firmer reliance on the plain and precious promises.
2. Others do not make proper distinctions in their own case. If they find their strength to be small, they infer that they have none at all. Weak faith may be as genuine as strong faith. Faint hope may be as truly from God as the most joyful expectation. Quality, not quantity, should be the first matter of inquiry. An infant is as truly a human being as its giant father. It is a great matter to be raised above tormenting fears; but it is better to be disturbed with alarms than to live in carnal security. It is true that it is of the nature of all real graces to advance. We are required to see to it that they do grow. God has provided for such increase. But let no one say, "I am a man of the world and a child of perdition," because he is not as bold as Peter, as tender as John, or as zealous as Paul. The main question for such is, Have I any true faith, any lively hope, any real humility, any godly sorrow for sin, any measure of the Spirit of Christ?
3. Then some have naturally feeble minds. They cannot reason soundly and logically. They are almost like children all their days. True religion has a tendency to rectify the disorders of our minds, but it would be a physical, and not a moral regeneration, to make a powerful reasoner out of a simple soul. Probably not a few of those who live in uncertainty of their final salvation are thus afflicted. Oftentimes you cannot tell them the real cause of their sadness. If they cannot see it themselves, you can hardly persuade them of it.
4. Others have morbid minds. They have a "slough of despond" in them. It seems almost impossible to get them to take cheerful views of anything concerning their religious state. In some such cases a good physician, or a change of diet, or a change of scene, is more needed than labored Biblical instruction. Great tenderness should be shown them by their spiritual guides. Much prayer should be made for them by their friends. They should be exhorted and encouraged to take fast hold of the covenant and promises of God. They should be taught that humility, if genuine, is pleasing to God; but that distrust of Him is a sin. They should be taught earnestly to call on their souls to hope in God. If melancholy is their master, but little can be done for them by pious teachers. If reason is not quite dethroned, they should be encouraged to visit the poor and the needy, and to practice self-denial in attempts to benefit others. "He who waters shall be watered himself."
5. It is a strange and troublesome opinion, more or less prevalent, that uncertainty of our own salvation is a mark of humility. I know not how such a notion ever gained prevalence. But I have often met it among professors of considerable respectability. It is right to avoid presumption and vain boasting. God's word strongly condemns false hopes and unwarranted confidences. But it is not humility; it is rather distrust in God to continue in doubt about anything concerning which God has given us ample means of attaining at least a degree of certainty.
6. Then there is a class of volatile minds, which, as soon as they reach a state of light and cheerfulness on religious subjects, seem to be almost invariably carried into frivolity. To keep such sober minded, the Lord seems to see it necessary to leave them very much under the power of beneficial fears. When they wax fat, they kick; when they mount, they fly away. By this painful discipline God often checks or cures worldly-mindedness, vanity, and levity. Anything is good for us, if without it we would lead lives of levity, or be high-minded.
7. Others are in habitual uncertainty about their eternal happiness, because they are ignorant of what is and what is not evidence of genuine piety. Perhaps they have regarded their fondness for frequenting religious assemblies as proof of a new heart. Then they discover that others, who make no pretensions to piety, are as regularly at the house of God as they are, and this ground of confidence is destroyed. A relish for the spiritual worship of God's house, and a desire of communion with Him, are sure tokens of a renewed nature. But these people fail to make such useful distinctions as seem to be called for. Should such read Ezek. 33:31-32, they would be apt to see that the people there described by the prophet had, or seemed to have had, more piety than these modern doubters. Oh that men would study the marks of true piety, so as to be able to apply them when necessary! It is sad when men judge of themselves by their neighbors, measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves. Such are not wise (2 Cor. 10:12).
8. Even where there is some sound knowledge of the true rules by which to judge of Christian character, they are sometimes so little applied to one's own case that a cloud of uncertainty still hangs over one's prospects. One may have a good plummet and square, but he must often apply them to the wall he is building, or they will be of no service. It would not seem surprising that one whose spiritual state was very bad should be strongly disinclined to search and try his ways. But when one has been born again, and has the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance in some good measure abounding in him, it seems strange that he does not use every proper means to make his calling and election sure. Perhaps, however, he still finds so much that is bad in his case that self-examination is painful. It discloses so much that is wrong. But if the poor polluted heart is ever to be thoroughly cleansed, we must not be driven from our heart-searchings by unpleasant sights.
9. Many are kept in comparative darkness as to their acceptance with God because they have so very imperfect views of the glorious riches of divine grace. They are like a man born and reared among high mountains, who has never seen any great body of water. Ask him if there is water enough in the world to cover the peaks of his native region, and he promptly says, No. But take him across the Atlantic; let him witness the deep soundings and the interminable waste of waters for thousands of miles around him; and then ask him about covering the heights in sight of which he was born, and he will tell you, O yes, they could very easily be buried here.
Just so, we often look at our sins. We have long seen them rising like mountains to heaven. But we have not duly considered the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of that love of God which passes knowledge. God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts, is a glorious truth uttered to enlarge our conceptions of the divine mercy in the pardon of our sins. Study, oh study the fullness, the richness, the freeness, and the everlasting glories of divine grace.
10. Others live on in uncertainty about their eternal happiness, because they pursue some sinful or at least doubtful course, which takes away their comfort. To doubt of the lawfulness of a course, and yet pursue it, is to bring condemnation on our own souls (Rom. 14:23). Such, of course, burden their consciences. Much more will anyone destroy his peace who clearly condemns himself in that which he practices. It is mercy in God not to let such a one have peace like a river. Perhaps the sin that burdens the conscience is one of omission. Let everyone do his whole duty; let him meet every obligation; shun every sin and every course of doubtful propriety; and see if there is not soon a change for the better.
11. We all know what a tyrant fashion is; and religious fashions are perhaps as tyrannical as any others. Now it has become fashionable for many professors to live in confessed uncertainty about their eternal well-being. When a sinner is converted, he for a while perhaps seems lively in religion. At some unhappy hour he wounds his conscience by some unguarded step. He falls into distress. He prays. He consults some professed believer, who daubs up the wall with untempered mortar, and heals slightly the hurt. From that day perhaps religious declension begins.
The sum of the whole is that most men doubt their piety because it is doubtful, or because it is feeble, or because they have none at all.
How, then, may we attain to this happy state of full assurance of understanding, of faith, and of hope?This is a practical and most weighty inquiry.
1. One means is love sincere, ardent love—to God and His people. Paul would have the hearts of his Colossians "comforted, being knit together in love, and unto the full assurance of understanding." There is no way in which this can be done if we live in malice or bitterness, or in coldness towards spiritual things. Love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who loves not, knows not God; for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8). For this grace there is no substitute. Let us not deceive ourselves, and think that we can attain to a blessed assurance, if we do not lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, and cultivate that charity so well described in 1 Cor. 13:4-8.
2. If we would have a permanent and delightful assurance of acceptance with God, we must die unto sin; we must be crucified unto the world, and the world must be crucified unto us. Sin must die—or our souls must die. Our obedience to God's law must be prompt, hearty, universal. So says David: "Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all Your commandments" (Ps. 119:6). Jesus Christ taught the same when He said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Compare John 14:21; 15:14. "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves" (Rom. 14:22). Are you walking in any course condemned by God's law or your own conscience? Turn from it—forsake it utterly!
3. Practice entire consecration to God's service. Keep back no part of the price. Give Him all your powers. Hear Paul: "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1). Hear him again: "Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of grace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:22-23). Our duty, our comfort, and our usefulness all urge us to lives of holiness—scriptural holiness, not holiness falsely so called, the rules of which are invented by men.
4. In all this business we must use great diligence (Heb. 6:11; 2 Pet. 1:5-10). We have a great undertaking on our hands. Let us say so to ourselves, and act accordingly. The Christian's life is a race, and a race well run is not easy. It is a wrestling with flesh and blood; and, more than all, with spiritual wickedness in high places; and wrestling is not easy. It is a fight—a good fight to be sure, but a fight; and fighting never was easy.
The prize set before every godly man is worthy of his best efforts. It is a crown—a crown of life, a crown of righteousness, an unfading crown of glory. "For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay." (1 Peter 1:4)