Why Professors Have No Assurance
James Smith, 1860
How many professed Christians I meet with who have no confidence in the goodness of their state, no assurance of their acceptance with God, no certainty of being forever with the Lord. How is this? It does not appear to have been so with primitive Christians. It does not appear to be the proper state of believers in Christ. We ought to know if we are born again. We ought to know if we are in Christ. We ought to know if the Spirit of God dwells in us. Or in a word, if we are Christians, we ought to be satisfied of it, and rejoice in it.
How is it that so many are uncertain, uneasy, and almost always in doubt and fear. Perhaps they do not look simply to Jesus. Now, Jesus is presented to us to be the object of our faith. He has all that we need — or can need. He is willing to bestow all upon us — and do all for us that we require. It is for us therefore to look to him for all we need — and away from all we fear. We are to look to him at all times, and under all circumstances, remembering that he changes not. Now if I look to Jesus to be my present, perfect, and everlasting salvation — I shall have peace. If I look to him for all I need at present and in future — I shall enjoy confidence.
We must trust alone in his atoning blood. That blood cleanses from all sin. That blood justifies the sinner before God. That blood gives an unquestionable title to everlasting life. That blood is set before us in the gospel, that we may trust in it, plead it before God, and expect to be saved by it. Now, if I receive God's testimony concerning the blood of his Son, and if I place my simple and entire dependence on that blood — I shall enjoy certainty, and my soul will be at ease. But, if I am not satisfied with the blood of Christ alone — but must look into myself for something else, or to my conduct for something beside, as the ground of my confidence before God — I shall never be happy for long together.
We must rely on his word alone. The word of Jesus to the sinner is, "Come unto me." "Him that comes I will never cast out." "He who believes shall be saved." Coming to Christ is believing on him, and believing on him is coming to him. For faith is the outgoing of the heart to Christ, relying on Christ, and entrusting its eternal interests to Christ. The word of Jesus to the soul who has come to him, or believes on him, is, "He who believes on him has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation." Now if I come to Jesus, I shall be received, to doubt this, is to question the truthfulness of Christ. If I believe in Christ — I have everlasting life, and shall never come into condemnation; not to believe this, is to make the Son of God a liar. If therefore, I am uncertain about my salvation, or uneasy about my state, either:
I do not simply look to Jesus, or
I do not really trust in his atoning blood, or
I do not rely on his infallible word.
But why is this? Well, it may be that self-righteousness is not destroyed. If we look to self at all — we cannot look wholly to Jesus. If we depend on self at all — we cannot depend on Christ alone. We must therefore renounce all dependence on our good works, and pleasant feelings — and take Christ to be our perfect Savior. And it is as necessary to take the eye off our feelings — as our works; and to renounce all dependence on the one as on the other, if we would enjoy settled peace, and constant confidence in God.
Perhaps the world is not wholly given up. If not, there can be no positive assurance of our acceptance with God, for the friendship of the world is enmity with God; if any man therefore will be the friend of the world, he is the enemy of God. While therefore, there is a clinging to the world, its pleasures, its customs, its fashions, and its spirit — there can be no settled peace. But, if perceiving that the world is at enmity with God, and is doing all it can to dishonor God, we come out of it, and we separate from it — God will receive us, become a Father to us, and send the Spirit of adoption into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father!" Therefore says the Apostle John, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for if any man loves the world — the love of the Father is not in him."
Or perhaps, the warrant of the gospel is not seen. The gospel warrants any sinner, and every sinner to believe in Jesus; and gives to every one who believes, the positive assurance of everlasting life. If therefore I believe in Jesus, the gospel warrants me to feel assured that eternal life is mine — that I am saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation.
If then I am in a state of uncertainty as to my state, if I am uneasy about my salvation, let me inquire, is self-righteousness destroyed in me? Is the world fully given up by me? Do I understand the warrant the gospel gives me to believe in Jesus, and then to feel assured of my salvation? If so, do I look to Jesus, trust in his atoning blood, and rely on his infallible word? If so, to doubt, fear, or feel uncertain — is unscriptural, and improper.
What is needed in many cases of uncertainty? Self-despair. Until we are brought to despair of all help and hope in ourselves, and in everything we can do or suffer — we shall never trust in Christ alone. Slight convictions of sin, or faint impressions of divine truth, do not bring us to this; and therefore it is that so many hang between works — and grace, between their own feelings — and the blood of the Lamb, between self — and Christ. We must be brought to despair, absolutely to despair of ever doing anything to recommend us to God, or of suffering anything, in whole, or in part — to satisfy the claims of his law and justice. Self-despair drives us out of self entirely — and then we build on Christ wholly and alone.
The work of the Holy Spirit is needed. It is his work to strip us of everything of our own. To empty us of self entirely. To lead us entirely away from self. To enable us to cast ourselves upon Christ. To apply the blood to our consciences. To assure our hearts, and to bear witness with our spirits — that we are the children of God. Until there is a deeper work of the Holy Spirit in many doubters — they will not have confidence, or enjoy settled peace. And yet they are not to look at the work of the Spirit, in order to have peace — but at the work of Jesus.
Our peace was made on the cross. Our peace flows from the cross. And peace flows into our souls — by our looking to the cross. Yet, realizing the fact that we need the teaching, enlightening, and enablings of the Holy Spirit — we may, and should pray for the same. But even while we do so, we should endeavor to keep the eye fixed on what Jesus has done for sinners, and look for pardon through his blood, acceptance through his righteousness, and life through his death.
To conclude, the more we look away from self — the better! The more we are taken up with the person, sacrifice and death of Christ — the better. For it is only by looking away from self, and being taken up with Jesus — that we shall enjoy peace of conscience, confidence toward God, and certainty in the prospect of eternity.
Holy Spirit, teach us to look simply to Jesus, enable us to trust alone in his blood, and bring us to rely confidently on his word. Destroy all our self-righteousness, bring us clean out of the world, and instruct us that we may clearly and fully understand the gospel warrant. Bring us to feel self-despair, and empty us, and strip us of everything of our own — and fill us with Christ, clothe us in the garments of salvation, and cover us with the robe of his righteousness. Fill, O fill us, with all joy and peace in believing — that we may abound in hope, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and live in the joyful expectation of eternal life through his glorious work!