In the matter of the knowledge of salvation, there are three great classes of religious doubters.
1. Those that think it right to be in uncertainty as to the future.
2. Those who believe it is possible to be sure, yet confess openly that they have no assurance.
3. Those who have serious doubts about their acceptance, though generally supposed to have none .
To the first class, that is, those who adopt uncertainty as part of their creed, we have little to say. That which God would make known to “every creature,” they would fain seal up under the title of “unknowable.” Wilful ignorance!
“Now for the Grand Secret,” said a dying tradesman, in Lincolnshire, to his sorrowing family, as they stood round his bed. “Grand Secret!” when God has plainly said “ Ye may know ” (1 John 5:13). “Grand Secret!” when “BE IT KNOWN unto you” (Acts 13:38) is heard ringing, in unmistakable distinctness, from the lips of an “ambassador” specially commissioned by the Lord of glory for this ministry!
Should such a doubter chance to read these pages, we would earnestly remind him that human opinions, when they contradict the word of God, are worse than nothing, and the end will surely prove it. Man is an important being in his own estimation; but death has to be faced, and “in that very day his thoughts perish.” Not so the truth of the gospel. “The word of the Lord endureth forever” (1 Pet. 2:25).
Between the next two classes there is one main difference. In the one case, the lack of the comfort of divine assurance is openly and unhesitatingly confessed. In the other, although the comfort is lacking, the lips are well-nigh sealed. Such souls seem to consider it hardly orthodox to say that they have a misgiving. Having once confessed that they are sure of salvation, what would their fellow-believers think if they now said otherwise? Besides, they once had some plain verses of Scripture pointed out to them as the ground of their assurance; and, like the limpet to the rock, for dear life they tenaciously hold on to them. For example, they have the “SHALL NOT come into condemnation” of John 5:24; the “ARE justified from all things” of Acts 13:39; the “HATH everlasting life” of John 3:36: and we heartily thank God with them that they have such unfailing reserves to fall back upon. But, at the same time, there is a good deal of inward struggle, which, if it were expressed on the lip, would certainly not sound like having the “full assurance of faith.” Such souls have almost to argue themselves into the propriety of continuing to confess that they are forgiven, for, in their honest judgment, there is most perplexing evidence to the contrary.
Now, the secret of all such inward restlessness lies in the lack of apprehension by the soul (whatever the head may know about it) that salvation is entirely on the ground of GRACE. In multitudes of cases, there is a secret clinging to the thought of merit. Not natural merit, perhaps, but merit notwithstanding—merit produced in them by the Holy Spirit. If they could only discover in themselves such longed-for merit they would rest satisfied; not finding it, they are, at best, ill at ease. What they see in the Scriptures would make them quite sure, if it were not that some lack in themselves makes them doubt.
Now, such souls have not yet fully seen that the believer's goodness, even if he could reach the standard he aims at, could not merit God's blessing: on the other hand, that all his discovered and confessed badness could not forfeit it. There would be a limit to the abounding grace of “the God of all grace,” if my badness were so great as to shut me out of blessing; and it would not be grace at all, if my goodness could bring me into it. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). The apostle could say of himself, after speaking of his blasphemous, persecuting, overbearing, Christ-hating course, “But the grace of our Lord surpassingly over-abounded” (2 Tim. 1:14).
If it was my badness that made Christ's death an absolute necessity, it was by the grace of God He tasted that death for me (Heb. 2:9).
If, therefore, my badness has been the occasion for the expression of His grace through Christ, my badness cannot, at the same time, be the means of shutting me out of the blessing.
We would ask any secret doubter to consider, prayerfully, the two following questions:—
1st. Is God righteously satisfied with the giving up of the life of His own Son as a ransom?
2nd. Are you so satisfied with the work accomplished that you cannot help desiring as your Saviour the blessed One who accomplished it?
Again we ask, Is not GOD satisfied? Never mind your own feelings about it—they are but of small account at best. Is GOD satisfied? Has He not raised and glorified Jesus on that very ground? He has, blessed be God, He has! Read the assurance of this in the words which fell from the Lord's own lips “ If God be glorified in him , God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him” (John 13:32).
All God's righteous requirements having been met, and, still more, His holy name glorified in the meeting of them (John 17:4), He is now, through the merit of Christ, free to gratify His own heart. He can bless the very chief of sinners and bless him righteously . Grace reigns, “ through righteousness .” That is, the sinner can be righteously blessed through grace, because grace has found One who was equal to the work of becoming righteously answerable for his sins.
Looking at Christ's cross, and at His crowns of glory, we can say, It is all of God's righteousness ; looking at ourselves, we can say, It is all of His grace .
“By grace are ye saved” (Eph. 2:8).
“We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace ” (Eph. 1:7).
Nor has grace done with us when our souls are redeemed and our sins forgiven, for “in the ages to come” He will show “ the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
Can you not say, spite of all your unworthiness and all Satan's subtilty, that God is so satisfied with Christ that He has crowned Him with glory and honour; and you so need Him, that you could not do without Him?
A glorified Saviour and a heart that cannot do without Him , are arguments which utterly confound the foe, and drive him from the field without another word. May some troubled reader so learn to overcome.