Evidences of Grace
James Smith, 1855
We sometimes look at our evidences — instead of looking to the Lord Jesus. This is sure to be injurious. We sometimes begin to look for our evidences in a season of darkness, or when laboring under violent temptations — this is as useless as it would be to attempt to use an hour-glass in the dark and dreary night.
Evidences are very useful in their place, and he who despises them, or never examines to see if he has any — is almost sure to be destitute of them. Signs of life — prove its existence; and evidences of grace — prove that we have grace. What believer does not ask:
Am I really born again?
Am I in Christ?
Am I a partaker of the grace of God?
The writer has proposed these questions a thousand times; and sometimes has obtained a very satisfactory answer — but at others has been left in doubt, and, not being able to go to God as a saint, but as been obliged to go as a sinner. And the best thing we can do, when our evidences are beclouded, or rendered questionable — is not to yield to doubt, or pore over the past — but to go to Jesus as warranted by his Word, and cast ourselves as guilty sinners into his gracious arms.
On one occasion, when deeply tried and dejected in spirit — I began to look for my evidences; examined them, and to my surprise found, and wrote as follows —
This morning, I felt low and depressed in spirit. My path was gloomy; my trials were painful. I endeavored to place myself in the presence of a heart-searching God; and, as under his piercing, penetrating eye — I have been looking for the evidences I have at this time (now, while I feel so low, and am so tried), of my being a child of God. And, as in his sight who tries the thoughts and the heart, and will judge me in the last day by Jesus Christ, I believe that I possess the following:
1. A feeling sense of sin. Yes, I do really feel myself a sinner — lost, ruined, and wretched in myself. I can find nothing in myself to trust to, to boast of, or bring before the Lord as a plea. I am indeed a wretched, polluted, and depraved creature. This I clearly see, deeply feel, and satisfactorily know.
2. I find a hatred to sin. I loathe myself on account of sin, I deeply deplore that I have been guilty of sin, and go mourning before God because I am the subject of sin. Yes, I feel, I know, I am certain — that I hate sin; and cannot but cry out in consequence of it, "O wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death!"
3. I feel willing to confess my sins to God, with grief on account of them, and cry for the pardon of them. Yes, nothing can satisfy me but the knowledge that my sins are forgiven me for Jesus Christ's sake.
4. I feel willing and desirous that God should search me and try me, chasten me for my folly, and purge away my iniquity from me. While I write, my very soul cries out, "Oh, that I were thus freed from sin!"
5. I find a love to, and a longing for, true holiness. Yes, I do indeed long to be like the holy Jesus. Oh, for every power and faculty of my soul to be conformed to him! Sin is my burden, inward corruption my plague! Holiness is the desire of my heart! Conformity to Christ the blessing for which I earnestly pray.
6. I find a fear lest I should dishonor God, disgrace his cause, and, by my misconduct, make the souls of the righteous sad. I would not for the world give the enemies of God an occasion to blaspheme. My inmost soul cries, "Lord, keep me, preserve me, and by your grace prevent my doing so."
7. I do feel a love to the Lord's people. However some of them have tried me, wronged me, and distressed me, I feel that I could heartily forgive every one of them — if I could only see Christian meekness, sorrow for sin, concern for pure holiness, and the prosperity of God's cause.
8. I feel an intense longing for submission, resignation, and acquiescence to the will of God. Oh, to be entirely resigned to the will of my good God and gracious Redeemer, and to say, from the bottom of my heart, "Not my will — but may yours be done!"
9. I find a spirit of prayer. I cannot live without prayer. Wherever I am, in whatever company, or however engaged — every now and then my soul is ascending to God. No set form, no stated times, no one kind of prayer will do. I must vent my feelings — and call to God every time I feel oppressed — and petition, silently or vocally, with All-Prayer. Prayer is now natural, and though I feel frequently lifeless, I never feel quite prayerless.
10. I find a turning from all, to God. I love the company of the Lord's people, especially godly ministers. I love my books. I love preaching, reading, and speaking of Christ; but none of them, nor would all of them — yield me satisfaction. I must at times turn from them all to God, for he alone is a sufficient portion for the soul — he must be our ALL.
11. I feel a dissatisfaction with everything without the presence of Christ. Nothing, no nothing, can be substituted for this. Jesus is the object of my love. His presence is the delight of my soul, and his presence alone can make me truly happy.
12. I find a love to the gospel. As God's good news to poor sinners — it just suits me. I feel grateful for it. I delight to preach it. I rejoice in any opportunity to spread it, and desire to diffuse it to the utmost of my power — by my tongue and pen.
13. I am the subject of the fear of God. I do fear to offend him, I love to please him, and I earnestly pray to be kept from dishonoring him.
14. I am panting for more spirituality. I am so carnal — this grieves me. I am so much like the world — this perplexes me. I am so unlike Jesus — this distresses me. I want to be spiritually-minded. I desire to be spiritual in my conversation, and to walk under the influence, direction, and guidance of spiritual principles.
15. I find I am the subject of spiritual warfare. The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. Yes, I do daily feel the two distinct and opposite principles working and warring in my soul. I cannot do the things that I would. I would love God supremely, obey his precepts perfectly, and walk with him in holy fellowship daily. But I am hindered, confused, and often cast down by the principles of depravity within me. Yet I rejoice to know that the elder shall serve the younger. Grace shall reign — and corruption become subordinate.
16. I am very jealous at times lest I should be wrong. This argues sincerity, and a desire to be right before God. Oh, how painful are the sensations which I feel, when the suspicious doubt is nourished. The Lord knows I would rather undergo any difficulty now — than be deceived and be found wrong forever.
17. I find in my heart a great desire to glorify God. I am willing that God should use me in any way to show forth his praise, exalt his dear Son, and spread abroad his glorious truth.
18. I have a love to poor sinners, especially for such, as I cherish the hope, that Christ died for. I would willingly lay myself out to be useful to them in any way — so that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
19. I feel a cleaving to Christ. My soul follows after Jesus, and I am determined to sink or swim with him. Can fallen human nature produce this? I think not.
20. I hate, detest, and abhor hypocrisy. Few things are to me more hateful. I desire to be sincere. I am, I must be sincere; therefore I often pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24
21. I do heartily and constantly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I love him, I confess him, I adore him as such. Now, John says, "He who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." I do believe and trust my soul's salvation in his hands.
22. I have been enabled, hitherto, to endure temptation. My trials have not been few; the solicitations to evil which I have experienced, have not been weak. James says, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him."
23. I have been, and am often chastened of the Lord, which Paul brings forward as a proof of sonship; and of our being judged by the Lord, that we would not be condemned with the world.
24. I have sometimes a desire to depart and be with Christ, which I am sure is far better than being here. I very often long for the second coming of Jesus, and especially, because I believe that he will then be glorified in his saints, and be admired in all those who believe. Oh, may I share in the first resurrection, and be favored with a place at the marriage-supper of the Lamb!
25. I cannot love, follow, or be at home with the ungodly world. They are not my company. I do heartily pray, "Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with men of blood."
26. I cannot approve of folly even when I detect it in myself — but desire to be truly wise, and thoroughly imbued with the wise and holy Spirit of Christ.
27. I do believe I have been, and am, at least at times — led by the Spirit. I find a secret, sacred, and powerful drawing out of my soul after Jesus, in prayer, praise, and confession. If I am not deceived, he at times bears his witness with my spirit, that I am born of God, and enables me to cry, "Abba, Father!"
28. I do know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, in a different and distinct manner to what I did once: and Jesus says, that "this is life eternal."
29. I have received, do hold fast, and in a measure obey, Christ's Word; and I long to obey it perfectly, universally, and perpetually.
30. I do disclaim all trust, confidence, or dependence in any one, or on anything of my own, and rely alone on Christ Jesus. He is my only foundation. His atonement is the ground of my hope. He is my ALL.
All these things I find within me — and yet I am low, discouraged, distressed, perplexed, and cast down. Satan could not produce them, nor would he if he could. I myself could not, for if I could, I might, and would banish every fear, conquer every doubt, and fill my soul with strong confidence in God. God himself must have wrought them.
But I must have tribulation. Trouble is my lot below. Still I incessantly cry, "Not trials from this quarter, not in this way, not in this part!" Lord, I am foolish. I confess it. I deplore it. My conduct seems to say that I have more wisdom than my God. But I renounce the idea. I reject the suggestion.
My soul, just ask:
Has my Heavenly Father ceased to love me?
Has Jesus left off to be concerned for me?
Has the Holy Spirit turned against me?
Oh no, my God is without variableness, and does not change like shifting shadows.
"Quiet, Lord, my froward heart." These thoughts are sweet, they have some influence upon my mind. I feel softened, soothed, and a little refreshed. O Lord, keep up a sense of your presence, your love, and my covenant interest in you, in my mind. Fill me with light, love, and spirituality; that I may run the race set before me, looking to, and rejoicing in, Christ Jesus.
Dear Lord, I cast on you my care,
For you have been my guide;
My sure resource in time of fear,
When all has failed beside.
Your promise often yields me joy,
And I your presence know;
But still there's something will annoy,
And tarnish all below!
Yet every cross a mercy is,
A blessing every thorn —
That tells me, here is not my rest,
I am for nobler born.
Your mercy sweetens my distress,
And, while I feel the rod,
Gives me abundant cause to bless
An all-sufficient God.
Soon, very soon you will appear,
With all your blood-bought sheep,
To wipe from every face the tear,
And I no more shall weep!