By John Angell James, 1859


Why is it, that so few professors of true religion, and even true Christians, enjoy and exhibit so little of that joy and peace in believing, which the New Testament declares to be their privilege, and which, it might be supposed, their state and condition warrant and demand? That the great mass of professors do appear destitute of this spiritual delight is too notorious to be denied. In affliction are they not as disconsolate as other men? Do not their troubles put out the lights of their comfort, and cause them to walk in darkness? In prosperity, how little of their happiness is derived from spiritual sources. The springs of their felicity lie in earthly, rather than in heavenly things. How rare is the case of one whose countenance is generally illuminated with a smile, and that smile the reflection of the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. How is this? Why is it that we do not let the light of our joy, as well as of our holiness, shine before men, and thus let our personal history stand as the index that points to the fountain of bliss? Why?

Because so many professing Christians, to allude to Bunyan's immortal allegory, are imprisoned in "Doubting Castle." How few are there who, if the question were proposed to them, "Are you assured you are a child of God?" would answer even in this modest language, "I believe I am, and am happy in this delightful persuasion." The greater number would hesitate, and tell you plainly and at once, that they have their doubts and fears about this matter, and cannot really persuade themselves that this is their state. Ought this to be so? Ought a real Christian to be in constant, serious doubt whether he is a Christian? The change produced by the converting grace of God might be supposed, from its nature and greatness, to be its own evidence. It is a change in a man's whole moral nature, if indeed, it really exists. It is a change so accurately described in the Word of God, that any one who will deal honestly with himself, look into his own heart, consult his own consciousness, and compare himself with the Word of God, might know his state. The features of a child of God and of a child of the devil, are not so like each other as to be hardly distinguished.

And as reason would lead us to conclude, the state of grace may be distinguished from a state of nature; the Scriptures everywhere assert that it may be, and suppose that it is. "We know that we have passed from death unto life," says the apostle, "because we love the brethren," 1 John 3:14. And in a subsequent passage of the same epistle, the apostle says, "These things have I written unto you who believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life," chap. 5:13. Would it not appear strange if there were really no means of knowing that we had really become Christians? How could it be said God was "more abundantly willing that we should have strong consolation," if we could have no knowledge he had forgiven our sins and received us to favor, until we reached the heavenly country? It is not only represented as possible that we may obtain this blessed knowledge now—but it is actually made a duty to seek it. "And we desire," says the apostle, "that every one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end," Heb. 6:11.

The state of mind here enjoined is not only hope—but the assurance of hope; not, only the assurance—but, the full assurance. This, observe, is not merely held out as a privilege—but enjoined as a duty; and not only a duty for some—but for every one; and a state not occasional—but habitual, not for a time—but "unto the end." This is in accordance with what another apostle enjoins—"therefore brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure," 2 Peter 1:10. That is, sure to ourselves. Let it then be distinctly understood that assurance is not only the privilege of a few—but the duty of all. And yet how few enjoy it. Why?

Ignorance of its nature keeps many from it. Hence the necessity of explanation. There are THREE KINDS OF ASSURANCE spoken of in the New Testament. "The full assurance of understanding," Col. 2:2. This means a clear, comprehensive, and soul-establishing acquaintance with divine truth. "The full assurance of faith," Heb. 10:22. By this we are to understand a strong, settled, unwavering conviction of the truth of the gospel. "The full assurance of hope." These three are intimately connected with each other, and one rises out of the other. Here is first a clear understanding of the gospel—then a firm belief of what is so understood—and then the hope of what is believed; a personal knowledge, a personal belief, a personal hope. And the reason why many do not possess the last, is that they do not clearly see, and constantly remember, that it can be obtained only by the two preceding ones.

But what is the true nature of this assurance of hope? It must be distinctly borne in mind, that it is only the assurance of hope, not of possession. Let hope be as confident as it may, it is still but hope, and cannot have all the undoubting and absolute certainty of possession. The latter leaves no room for doubt or fear. The former may. By the state of mind therefore indicated by the phrase I am now considering, it is not meant that it consists in the Christian's being able to feel and to say he is as certain of getting to heaven as if he were already there. It is not meant that he possesses such an absolute and undoubting certainty as admits of no degrees; much less a kind of boastful, ostentatious, and vainglorious confidence of safety. It may be expressed thus—"The Word of God tells me that he who believes in Christ shall be saved; I am conscious that I have believed in Christ and have thus committed my soul to him; therefore I believe my sins are forgiven, and I hope for eternal salvation. I have such a persuasion of the reality of my faith, therefore of the pardon of my sins, and reconciliation to God, that I have no serious doubt of my being a child of God and an heir of glory." This I call assurance; such a persuasion of our having received the grace of God in our hearts, as excludes distressing doubts and fears. Still it is such a persuasion of our being true believers, as admits of degrees, for we find it so stated in the different passages which refer to it; we have "assurance," "full assurance," and "much full assurance," clearly proving, I repeat, that the word imports a state of mind which admits of various degrees of certainty. Of the very people who are represented as having "much full assurance," the apostle says that their "faith grew exceedingly," 1 Thess. 1:5. But if assurance meant a state of mind that entirely and forever excluded all doubt, how could it grow beyond full assurance?

I therefore again say that the Scripture does not warrant us to describe it as going beyond a pleasing and satisfactory conclusion that we have passed from death unto life; which, after all, is very different from that certainty which accompanies possession. How else can we harmonize it with the exhortation to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," or with the other admonition to "fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it." There is a wide difference between possessing a calm and comfortable enjoyment of this persuasion of true faith—and being forward to affirm it, and to glory in it before others. A believer may be in the full possession of an inward, tranquil, and even joyful persuasion of his state before God, and of his safety for eternity; and yet not stand ready when the question, "are you sure you are a child of God?" is put to him by a fellow creature, to reply with an unhesitating boldness, "I am as sure of it as if I heard a voice from heaven declare it." The right answer to such a question is the following—"I am a poor, sinful, guilty, lost creature—worthless, helpless, hopeless. But I believe the record God has given of his Son. On him, as the true and only foundation, I place all my hopes of eternal life, and I have therefore joy and peace in believing. Christ is my all. His finished work is the sole ground of my confidence. I think I am accepted by God. I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day. O to grace how great a debtor I am."

This I consider the scriptural assurance. It may fall short of the boast of some—but it accords best with the Word of God, and with the experience of God's saints in general. It is a knowledge that we have passed from death to life—though it is a knowledge which is less than that of the absolute and undoubting certainty which some contend for.

This is a blessed state of mind, and much to be desired. How blessed to have the great question thus satisfactorily settled, and to be relieved from painful solicitude and distressing fear about our safety for eternity. What, compared with this, is it to have fears about our health, or property, or liberty, or even life, removed? How great, how pure the joy afforded by such a persuasion as this—"Yes, I think I am a believer in Christ, a converted man, a child of God, an heir of glory, a traveler to heaven. I can say, with unfaltering tongue, O God, you are my God. Blessed Jesus, you know all things, you know that I love you."

O, what sunshine does such a persuasion throw over the landscape of life, illumining its barren wastes, and bringing out all the beauty, and verdure, and bloom of its Paradisaic spots. What privations may we not endure, what afflictions may we not bear, when we can say, "God is my Father, Christ my Savior, salvation my portion, and heaven my home!" This has carried consolation into the darkest recesses of human woe, the lowest depths of poverty and need. With this, confessors have made the walls of their prison echo with their songs, and martyrs have been happy on the scaffold and at the stake. With this, we may live in happiness and die in peace. It is a jewel worth infinitely more than all the gems which have ever blazed on beauty or royalty. The man who can rejoice in saying he is a Christian in reality, need not sigh over anything else that he is not.

Let us now consider how hope is to be obtained. We shall never have it, if we do not desire it. Surely if anything be desirable, it must be, or ought to be, this. The absence of all solicitude about such a matter indicates either the total lack—or the great weakness—of personal, vital religion. That they who are altogether careless about true religion should never trouble themselves about the matter, is natural enough—but that professors of religion should be indifferent to it, is indeed for a marvel. And yet, I fear it is a subject about which the great bulk of them give themselves no concern. Ask them if they have any good ground to conclude they are the children of God, and are living in the happy persuasion they are safe for eternity, and in multitudes of instances, they will tell you they really do not know, and tell it almost with such an air of levity, as too plainly shows how little interest they take in true religion altogether. Such people may well doubt of their state; they have good reason to doubt. Indifference to the question, "Am I indeed a child of God?" is a sad and sure indication of an unchanged heart. But even pious people are not so earnest about this matter as they ought to be. With them it is too generally left undecided, and in many cases because undesired. Is it not to be coveted that we should go on our way rejoicing to everlasting glory? Is it not desirable that, like Bunyan's Pilgrim, we should get out of Doubting Castle—and repose amid the beauties of the Delectable Mountains of assurance?

Self-examination is essential to this blessed state of mind. "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?"—2 Cor. 13:5. It is a matter of infinite and eternal importance that is at stake—the soul, and the soul's salvation. A mistake here is an appalling matter—an error that will require an eternity to understand—and an eternity to deplore! And the necessity for examination lies in the deceitfulness of the heart, in the liability of us all, and at all times, to false opinions of our state, and in the multitude that are thus deceived—See Matt. 7:20-23. We must therefore examine whether our faith be real or nominal; and we must also "prove ourselves." Now this proof is to be obtained partly by looking into our hearts with an earnest, anxious research, and a comparison of their habitual state with the Word of God—and especially by making trial of our faith in its influence upon our life.

It is of great consequence that we ever bear in mind that this assurance must be reached through the other two—the assurance of understanding and of faith—and will be in proportion to them. As is our knowledge of the gospel, for clearness, comprehensiveness, and decision—so will be our faith. The hesitating, doubting, wavering faith of many, arises from their dim and cloudy perception of divine truth. They do not see very clearly what they are to believe. The vague object is perceived like the outline of a coast seen from a great distance at sea—but which can hardly be distinguished from a cloud, and consequently the belief by the sailors that it is land is very feeble and fluctuating. Such, and such only, are the knowledge and faith of many real believers. They are not Bible students and proficients. It is impossible to found a confident expectation upon a feeble conviction; it would be like attempting to build a castle upon a quicksand. Christ, salvation, heaven, and eternity, must all be firmly believed as great and glorious realities before they can become matters of personal and individual expectation. A strong faith must, of necessity, be followed with a lively hope. All attempts to reach this blessed state of mind—but through the previous stages, seem like an effort to reach the top of the ladder without treading upon the intermediate steps.

It is apparent, then, that the assurance of hope is obtained in these two ways—by consciousness, and by examination. I am told in the Bible that every one who believes in Jesus Christ is pardoned, received to the favor of God, has a title to eternal life, and will be received up into glory. I am conscious I do believe. Knowing the acts of my own mind, I know that I commit my soul into the hands of Christ for salvation. Still, as I have said, the heart is deceitful above all things; and as I am liable to have my judgment imposed upon by self-love, I must not trust to this consciousness alone—but must subject that to a test. As far as I know myself, I am conscious of faith in Christ—but I will test that faith, and the hope which is founded upon it. How? "These things have I written unto you who believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life."—1 John 5:13. Consciousness, therefore, is not the only test—but what is written—the Word of God. We are to bring ourselves to this touchstone, and say, "Do my faith and hope answer to that? Do I see in my heart, life, and character, the stamp of Scripture? Has this seal of the Spirit left its corresponding impression upon my soul?"

Perhaps it will be said, this is an wearisome, tedious, and doubtful method after all. But is it scriptural? This is evident by an appeal to the Bible. "We know," says the apostle, "we have passed from death unto life." How? By consciousness only? By revelation, impression, dream, or vision? No—"Because we love the brethren." We cannot know it without this; we may know by it. And I may remark in passing, that this love to the brethren is of itself, when rightly understood, a decisive proof of true Christian piety. But what is this love? Not a love to those of our congregation, our denomination, our relations—but to all real Christians; for he who loves not all, does not love any as Christians—nor is it merely a love to them as containing many pleasing, amiable, and useful qualities; nor merely a love to the more lovely of them—but a love to even the more unattractive of them, and all this because God loves them—because they belong to him, and really love him; a love to them because they are holy, and bear God's image—a love that overleaps the barriers of sect, and party, and church, and nation, and that says, and feels what it says, "Show me a human being whom God loves, and that loves God, and bears his image; and no matter the nation, or the church to which he belongs; no matter the color of his skin, or his rank in life; he may be a Negro or a pauper; he may have some unlovely external aspects—but I own, I love, and I will help that man as a brother in Christ. I feel myself identified with him, and can say, and do feel what I say, 'Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.'" The man who can say this, is a Christian, and has the assurance of hope. Similar language we find in a subsequent chapter of the same epistle, 5:1-3.

I am aware that a shorter and more direct manner of arriving at this conclusion is contended for by some, who bring forward for this purpose the words of the apostle, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."—Rom. 8:16. The idea which many entertain of this witness is, that it is a direct and immediate suggestion, impression, and revelation to the individual who receives it—that his sins are pardoned, and that he has received a title to heaven.

Now I think this a mistaken view of the apostle's meaning, and for the following reasons—In this revelation or impression, there is nothing necessarily holy in its nature. An impression or revelation may be made to an unholy mind, as was done in the case of Balaam, and many others. Then, as a revelation from God, it would seem to require something to authenticate it as such. This view is also contrary to the other parts of God's Word, which represent the evidence of pardon, true personal godliness, and safety—to consist of what is practical in us. It seems calculated to lead to great delusion; for how liable would we be to confound such a direct revelation with the mere impression of our own minds. Many who profess to have received it, have, by their subsequent conduct—proved that they were deluded; while multitudes of those who are true Christians—are not conscious of any such testimony. Moreover, it is inharmonious with the context of the passage on which it is founded, which is entirely practical; the design of the apostle, from the beginning of the chapter, being to show that holiness is the evidence of our being united to Christ by faith, and that the spirit of the gospel, as distinguished fruit the spirit of the law, is a spirit of adoption, and not of bondage. Now this spirit of adoption, or the spirit of a child, is itself the witness of the Spirit. The spirit of a child is love, confidence, freedom; this is also the spirit of a child of God, and the production of it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul.

Understand, then, that the witness of the Spirit is our possessing this filial disposition, which characterizes every child of God. It has been well said, that in a true Christian's devout aspiration, it is not from instruction or habit—but from spontaneous impulse, that he exclaims, "Our Father." His thoughts go out after God. His heart yearns for him. His soul longs with unutterable longings for his abiding presence. He comes with a truly filial spirit before God, and it is perfectly easy and natural for him to say, "Our Father." He is the child of God, and he does or may know it. Being the child of his Father and away from his Father's house, he thinks of it with pleasure, and dwells with delight on his going home at last, and is sometimes homesick—as children that are kept at school away from their parents think of the day of their vacation, when they shall go home. These yearnings are the testimony of the Spirit that we are the children of God. The man who has these feelings habitually, need not hesitate to call himself a child of God.

This is laid down in the Word as descriptive of the Spirit's work in the heart, and thus the conformity of the Spirit's work in the Word and in his soul being ascertained by the believer, he comes to the knowledge of his state. "The case," says Dr. Wardlaw, "stands thus—The Holy Spirit speaks in the Word. The same Spirit operates in the heart. There must be a consistency between his testimony in the Word, and his operation in the heart. The evidence lies in this congruity. We take the divine Word as dictated by the Spirit, and containing a declaration of his mind; we see there what he testifies, we see especially the description which he gives of the faith and character of God's children; if 'our spirits,' in the court of conscience, and before the Father of our spirits, bear witness to a congruity between this description and what has been effected in us by the Divine Agent, then there is a concurrence of the testimonies. The testimony of God's Spirit and the testimony of our spirits agree. The one witnesses or evidences to the other. In proportion as we have the inward consciousness of this harmony do we possess the witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God."

"What," says Jonathan Edwards, "has led to the notion of a direct witness of the Spirit apart from this consciousness of conformity of his work in the heart, and with his testimony in the Word, is the word 'witness' of the Spirit. Hence they have taken it to be, not any work of the Spirit upon the heart giving evidence whence men may argue that they are the children of God—but an inward immediate suggestion, as though God invariably spoke to man and told him that he was his child, by a kind of secret voice or impression. The manner in which the word 'witness' or testimony is often used in the New Testament, is the holding forth of evidence from whence a thing may be argued and proved to be true, examples of which may be found in Heb. 2:4; Acts 14:3; John 5:36, 10:25. When the Scripture speaks of the seal of the Spirit, which means the same as the witness, it is an expression which properly denotes not an immediate voice or suggestion—but some work or effect of the Spirit, left as a divine mark upon the soul, to be an evidence by which God's children are to be known. When God sets his seal upon a man's heart by his Spirit, there is some holy stamp, some image impressed and left upon the heart by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax. This mark enstamped by the Spirit upon God's children is his own image, and this is the very thing which in Scripture is called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness or evidence of the Spirit." (Jonathan Edwards on the Religious Affections, vol. 4, p. 132.)

Still, I will not deny that there are seasons when the Spirit of God shines in, by his gracious and sovereign illumination, upon his own work in the soul, enabling the believer to recognize, with unusual clearness, his spiritual state as a child of God—assisting him to come to a more unhesitating, undoubting conclusion that he is going on to heaven, and shall finally reach it through all opposition and difficulties. At such times God does come to them with his richest consolations, to be his own present witness in the believer's soul, to disperse doubts, to dissipate fears, and to assure his heart. Surely you who read this know something about it. Times have been, if they are not now, when you felt these comforts in your soul, and rose into the exclamation, "I have found it, I have found it!" God came to you—he soothed, softened, and persuaded your heart. Perhaps you were in the closet, observing a season of humiliation and prayer, or engaged in some difficult and self-denying service, or on a bed of sickness, or at the Lord's supper; still it was something more than mere impression, it was the Spirit, shining upon his own work; bringing out, in strong relief the characters he had impressed on the soul, and assisting you to say, with an unwavering tongue, "I am my beloved's—and he is mine."

A question, perhaps, will here be asked by some, whether this assurance may be obtained at the time of conversion, or must be waited for, and sought in the progress of sanctification. No doubt it may be, and in many cases is, the blessed privilege of some in the very first stage of their religious history. The Philippian jailor, no doubt, possessed it on the very night of his conversion. The three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost appear to have possessed it at the time of their reception of the gospel. They believed, rejoiced and hoped. They were conscious they believed, and seem to have had no doubt of their faith. These, however, were sudden conversions, in one case from Paganism and the other from Judaism, in each of which the change was so great, so clear, and so decisive, that the consciousness of the internal renovation must have been all but absolute and undoubting certainty. And in many modern cases of sudden conversion, the same conclusive evidence must appear to the subjects of it. Such people are too apt to suppose that all who really believe, must, as soon as they believe, have a full assurance of both faith and hope; forgetful of the very slow steps by which many who have all their lives enjoyed gospel privileges, come to the persuasion that they have "the faith of God's elect." To affirm that every sinner, on his first believing apprehension of the gospel, must have this full assurance, this undoubting confidence, is to affirm that the discernment and faith of all believing sinners must, at the very outset, be the same, and that in all it must be perfect. In very many cases, even the assurance of faith is not attained until after long struggles with doubt, and long struggles after holiness; and until there be a settled consciousness of faith, there can be no assurance of hope.

We now take up another inquiry of great interest and importance. "How is it, that so many professors do not possess this assurance?" Very many ought not to possess it. They have no right to it. They are better without it. In their case it would be sheer presumption and delusion. They are but nominal believers; yet even many of those, I am aware, have a vague and general persuasion of safety. They are professors; church members; have been admitted to the sacrament—and conclude, without fear or concern, that all is safe. There are many church members who have a false assurance—the assurance of ignorance, of delusion, of profession—not the assurance of understanding, not the assurance of faith, not the assurance of hope in the Scriptural meaning of the term. Theirs is but "the hope of the hypocrite, which will perish in the day when God takes away his soul." The extreme worldliness of a large proportion of professors of all denominations, too clearly proves that their hearts cannot be right in the sight of God—that they are going on with their profession as a lie in their right hand, and with that confident expectation of heaven, which will end in the bitter anguish of disappointment. And thus, when they hoped to awake up from the sleep of death in Paradise—they will lift up their eyes in the torments of the bottomless pit!

Among real Christians there is, as we have already said, a lamentable degree of uncertainty about their spiritual state. Comparatively few are living in the happy persuasion of their eternal safety, and are comforted with the idea that they are going to glory. Of these, some are too lukewarm and too worldly in the habitual frame of their minds, too partially sanctified in their temper and spirit—for their faith to be self-evident to their consciousness. There may be the root of the matter in them, the principle of faith—but it is so deeply covered over with obstruction as not to be allowed to sprout—or so choked with thorns when it begins to grow that its life can be scarcely discerned. The cares of business or of domestic life, the taste for luxurious ease and indulgence, the practice of worldly amusements now too common among professors, wither and shrivel their piety. How can they, amid such circumstances, be assured of their eternal happiness?

No wonder if, when asked whether they really believe they are children of God, they shake their heads and say they have no assurance. Scriptural hope is a heavenly exotic, and cannot grow in such soil and in such an atmosphere. They must have a stronger faith in things unseen and eternal—a faith that overcomes this world by the belief of another—before they can rejoice in an assured hope of life eternal. Doubts and fears are the weeds indigenous to the barren soil of lukewarm piety. These lukewarm professors almost make a merit of their doubts and fears, and by a most fatal delusion seem to think they offer amends for their lack of spiritual religion, by a spurious kind of humility. You will not infrequently hear them say to more vigorous and happy Christians, "Ah, it is all very well for you to talk about assurance, though it seems almost presumptuous for you—but as for me, I am content to go humbly to heaven, and shall think myself well of if I can get within the doors, just over the threshold. My language is ,

"A guilty, weak and helpless worm,
On your kind arms I fall;
O be my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all."

What, in many cases, is the meaning of all this? Why, "I have so little true religion and so much of the world mixed up with it—that I do not know whether I have any at all." It is the resort and refuge of the lukewarm, the careless, and the indolent—the piteous cry of the spiritual sloth.

There are, I am aware, timid, yet spiritual minds to whom this will not apply; whose doubts and fears are the natural product of their physical organization, or the partial understanding of their privileges, and who shrink from this happy persuasion of safety as from unwarranted presumption. So did not the prophet Habakkuk, when he said, "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet as hind's feet, and he will make me to walk upon my high places." Christians should all seek, like the gazelle upon the mountain, bounding from height to height, to ascend the high places of Christian experience, and go from one eminence of holy joy to another.

Ignorance, I repeat, of what assurance really means, is the cause why many do not enjoy it. They want, and suppose they are warranted to expect, a certainty of reaching heaven as undoubting as if they were within its gates. They hear many, in somewhat ostentatious language, boasting of this undoubting certainty, speaking as confidently as if they not only stood upon the threshold of heaven—but had passed through its gates. "If this be assurance," say they, "I know nothing of it." They had better know nothing of it, for it savors of presumption. Toplady's couplet is not borne out by Scripture, where when speaking of God's people, he says,

More blessed—but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven.

This may be true in reference to the purpose of God—but not in reference to our condition, for we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Modesty keeps some from this state of mind. Modesty, when nothing more than self-jealousy arising out of the knowledge of the heart's deceitfulness, is a salutary and proper condition of the soul. "Blessed is the man that fears always." But the modesty that keeps the soul from the enjoyment of its privileges, and also the performance of its duties, which holds it in despondency, and causes it to go sorrowing when it should go rejoicing, is a fault, yes, a sin. I know that it is an infinite and eternal matter that is at stake—that a mistake in such a concern is also an infinite and eternal mischief—and that many do mistake—but surely even these considerations should not hinder you from the enjoyment of assurance, if you are really conscious of the sincerity of your faith, and that consciousness is upheld by the practical love of God. Do not deem this happy state of mind, presumption in you. You are authorized, invited, yes, even commanded to indulge it. Be humble; for you ought to be—but be joyful.

See to it that you are building upon the only true foundation, which is Christ, and are adding to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness, and love; and then look up, even with the consciousness of many imperfections and shortcomings, to the glory to be revealed, and exultingly say, "It is mine." Do not be afraid of your privileges. Remember that the exercise of your affections towards Christ is not your justifying righteousness—but Christ himself—when, though you love him sincerely, you can never love sufficiently.

There are many who profess to have this full assurance of hope. They are confident of their safety. I have no objection to this state of mind when it is well founded and properly expressed. When antinomianism was more prevalent than happily it now is, there was a spurious assurance among its professors which rested in a strong presumption of their election by God. They valued themselves on their supposed soundness in the doctrines of grace, and looked with arrogant contempt on those who really built heir hope of salvation upon Christ—but did not go all lengths with them in their views of a divine sovereignty in the salvation of sinners. They were loud in their boasts of being delivered from the bondage of slavish fears, of the certainty of their election, and of their reaching heaven at last. "They were pharisaical foes of pharisaism, uttering the spirit of the pharisee in the language of the tax-collector, humbling themselves in words with a conscious self-elation at their humbling themselves so well. Whatever were their professions, they built their assurance, not on the rock of ages—but on a concealed part of self. There was no great difference between them and the legalists, whom they despised, and against whom they bitterly inveighed; those thought to gain heaven by doing—these by knowing—which they mistook for believing. They proposed to build their hopes upon Christ—but forgot that he must be a Christ believed in, loved, and obeyed—as well as talked of. They were so valiant for the truth that many of them contended for it at the tavern and upon the ale bench."

Happy, I say, this sect has sunk—but perhaps some near akin to it still remain, who need to be reminded that no assurance is of a right kind which does not make its possessor holy—instead of being worldly and careless about sin; humble—in opposition to pride; modest and retiring—instead of being ostentatious and obtrusive; and loving and charitable—instead of being intolerant, censorious, and contemptuous.

Before I conclude this chapter, I would say a few words concerning that excessive solicitude about their spiritual state, and that constant exercise of introspection in which some really pious people and spiritually-minded Christians indulge. They are too much like some disgruntled patients who are distressingly nervous about their health. These people are ever anxiously feeling their pulse, minutely watching their symptoms, and studiously consulting books on dietetics and disease. The least variation of their sensations occasions alarm, as if some mortal disease had just put out a prognosis of death. How much better, and how much more comfortable would these self-distressed and often inert patients be, if, after having ascertained, which by medical help they might do, that there was no serious disease, they went forth into the world and gave their fears to the wind.

There are nervous patients in the spiritual world as well as the natural one—pious people, whose whole life nearly is spent in looking into their hearts, analyzing their spiritual symptoms, and drawing hopeful or unfavorable conclusions concerning their eternal safety; now hoping—then fearing; today all cheerfulness—tomorrow all gloom; at one time, because a little more free and earnest in prayer, or happy in feeling, going on their way rejoicing—and, at another time, journeying with downcast looks, because of supposed indifference and lukewarmness. Far be it from me to take off the attention of any one from "keeping the heart with all diligence," or abating one atom of that godly fear and jealousy which we ought all to maintain over ourselves, or letting down our watchfulness, or slackening our diligence. But surely having examined ourselves and come to a well founded conclusion that we have passed from death unto life, our Christian life ought not to be spent in this state of spiritual nervousness; and I advise such sufferers to be looking more to Jesus, and less to themselves; to employ themselves in all the activities of the Christian life, and they may be assured that exercise will as certainly promote the health of the soul as it does that of the body.