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Joined: 2005/5/19
Posts: 693

 Assurance or Assumption

Assurance or Assumption

Assurance or assumption holds a difference none to small
Assurance promised to a few assumed by nearly all
Not every way is guarded save but one and found by few
Who walk upright, with God in sight, His every word to do
For it is but assumption to presume God will defend
The wayward soul whose secret goal is seeking his own end

Alan and Dina Martin

 2011/11/14 15:20Profile

Joined: 2010/8/24
Posts: 1033

 Re: Assurance or Assumption

Profound word and rare truth.
Thank you.

Of this same thing Jonathan Edwards writes:

"And here I cannot but observe, that there are certain doctrines often
preached to the people, which need to be delivered with more caution and
explanation than they frequently are; for, as they are by many understood, they
tend greatly to establish this delusion and false confidence of hypocrites. The
doctrines I speak of are those of "Christians living by faith, not by sight; their
giving glory to God, by trusting him in the dark; living upon Christ, and not upon
experiences; not making their good frames the foundation of their faith:" which
are excellent and important doctrines indeed, rightly understood, but corrupt and
destructive, as many understand them. The Scripture speaks of living or walking
by faith, and not by sight, in no other way than these, viz., a being governed by a
respect to eternal things, that are the objects of faith, and are not seen, and not by
a respect to temporal things, which are seen; and believing things revealed, that
we never saw with bodily eyes; and also living by faith in the promise of future
things, without yet seeing or enjoying the things promised, or knowing the way
how they can be fulfilled. This will be easily evident to anyone who looks over the
Scriptures, which speak of faith in opposition to sight; as 2 Cor. 4:18, and 5:7, Heb.
11:1, 8, 13, 17, 27, 29, Rom. 8:24, John 20:29. But this doctrine, as it is understood
by many, is, that Christians ought firmly to believe and trust in Christ, without
spiritual sight or light, and although they are in a dark dead frame, and, for the
present, have no spiritual experiences or discoveries. And it is truly the duty of
those who are thus in darkness, to come out of darkness into light and believe. But
that they should confidently believe and trust, while they yet remain without
spiritual light or sight, is an anti-scriptural and absurd doctrine. The Scripture is
ignorant of any such faith in Christ of the operation of God, that is not founded in
a spiritual sight of Christ. That believing on Christ, which accompanies a title to
everlasting life, is a "seeing the Son, and believing on him," John 6:40. True faith
in Christ is never exercised, any further than persons "behold as in a glass the
glory of the Lord, and have the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ," 2 Cor. 3:18, and 4:6. They into whose minds "the light of the glorious
gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, does not shine, believe not," 2 Cor. 4:5.
That faith, which is without spiritual light, is not the faith of the children of the
light, and of the day; but the presumption of the children of darkness. And
therefore to press and urge them to believe, without any spiritual light or sight,
tends greatly to help forward the delusions of the prince of darkness. Men not only
cannot exercise faith without some spiritual light, but they can exercise faith only
just in such proportion as they have spiritual light. Men will trust in God no
further than they know him; and they cannot be in the exercise of faith in him one ace further than they have a sight of his fullness and faithfulness in exercise. Nor
can they have the exercise of trust in God, any further than they are in a gracious
frame. They that are in a dead carnal frame, doubtless ought to trust in God;
because that would be the same thing as coming out of their bad frame, and
turning to God; but to exhort men confidently to trust in God, and so hold up their
hope and peace, though they are not in a gracious frame, and continue still to be
so, is the same thing in effect, as to exhort them confidentially to trust in God, but
not with a gracious trust: and what is that but a wicked presumption? It is just as
impossible for men to have a strong or lively trust in God, when they have no lively
exercises of grace, or sensible Christian experiences, as it is for them to be in the
lively exercises of grace, without the exercises of grace.
It is true, that it is the duty of God's people to trust in him when in
darkness, and though they remain still in darkness, in that sense, that they ought
to trust in God when the aspects of his providence are dark, and look as though
God had forsaken them, and did not hear their prayers, and many clouds gather,
and many enemies surround them, with a formidable aspect, threatening to
swallow them up, and all events of providence seem to be against them, all
circumstances seem to render the promises of God difficult to be fulfilled, and God
must be trusted out of sight, i.e., when we cannot see which way it is possible for
him to fulfill his word; everything but God's mere word makes it look unlikely, so
that if persons believe, they must hope against hope. Thus the ancient Patriarchs,
and Job, and the Psalmist, and Jeremiah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech, and
Abednego, and the Apostle Paul, gave glory to God by trusting in God in darkness.
And we have many instances of such a glorious victorious faith in the eleventh of
Hebrews. But how different a thing is this, from trusting in God, without spiritual
sight, and being at the same time in a dead and carnal frame!
There is also such a thing as spiritual light's being let into the soul in one
way, when it is not in another; and so there is such a thing as the saints trusting
in God, and also knowing their good estate, when they are destitute of some kinds
of experience. As for instance, they may have clear views of God's sufficiency and
faithfulness, and so confidently trust in him, and know that they are his children;
and at the same time, not have those clear and sweet ideas of his love as at other
times: for it was thus with Christ himself in his last passion. And they may have
views of much of God's sovereignty, holiness, and all sufficiency, enabling them
quietly to submit to him, and exercise a sweet and most encouraging hope in
God's fullness, when they are not satisfied of their own good estate. But how
different things are these, from confidently trusting in God, without spiritual
light or experience!
Those that thus insist on persons living by faith, when they have no
experience, and are in very bad frames, are also very absurd in their notions of
faith. What they mean by faith is, believing that they are in a good estate. Hence
they count it a dreadful sin for them to doubt of their state, whatever frames they
are in, and whatever wicked things they do, because it is the great and heinous
sin of unbelief; and he is the best man, and puts most honor upon God, that
maintains his hope of his good estate the most confidently and immovably, when
he has the least light or experience; that is to say, when he is in the worst and
most wicked frame and way; because, forsooth, that is a sign that he is strong in
faith, giving glory to God, and against hope believes in hope. But what Bible do
they learn this notion of faith out of, that it is a man's confidently believing that he
is in a good estate?30 If this be faith, the Pharisees had faith in an eminent degree;
some of which, Christ teaches, committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy
Ghost. The Scripture represents faith as that by which men are brought into a
good estate; and therefore it cannot be the same thing as believing that they are
already in a good estate. To suppose that faith consists in persons believing that
they are in a good estate, is in effect the same thing, as to suppose that faith
consists in a person's believing that he has faith, or believing that he believes.
Indeed persons doubting of their good estate, may in several respects arise
from unbelief. It may be from unbelief, or because they have so little faith that they
have so little evidence of their good estate: if they had more experience of the
actings of faith, and so more experience of the exercise of grace, they would have
clearer evidence that their state was good; and so their doubts would be removed.
And then their doubting of their state may be from unbelief thus, when, though
there be many things that are good evidences of a work of grace in them, yet they
doubt very much whether they are really in a state of favor with God, because it is
they, those that are so unworthy, and have done so much to provoke God to anger
against them. Their doubts in such a case arise from unbelief, as they arise from
want of a sufficient sense of, and reliance on, the infinite riches of God's grace,
and the sufficiency of Christ for the chief of sinners. They may also be from
unbelief, when they doubt of their state, because of the mystery of God's dealings
with them; they are not able to reconcile such dispensations with God's favor to
them; or when they doubt whether they have any interest in the promises, because
the promises from the aspect of providence appear so unlikely to be fulfilled; the
difficulties that are in the way are so many and great. Such doubting arises from
want of dependence upon God's almighty power, and his knowledge and wisdom,
as infinitely above theirs. But yet, in such persons, their unbelief, and their
doubting of their state, are not the same thing; though one arises from the other.
Persons may be greatly to blame for doubting of their state, on such grounds
as these last mentioned; and they may be to blame, that they have no more grace,
and no more of the present exercises and experiences of it, to be an evidence to
them of the goodness of their state: men are doubtless to blame for being in a dead,
carnal frame; but when they are in such a frame, and have no sensible
experience of the exercises of grace, but on the contrary, are much under the
prevalence of lusts and an unchristian spirit, they are not to blame for doubting
their state. It is as impossible, in the nature of things, that a holy and Christian
hope be kept alive, in its clearness and strength, in such circumstances, as it is to
keep the light in the room, when the candle is put out; or to maintain the bright
sunshine in the air, when the sun is gone down. Distant experiences, when
darkened by present prevailing lust and corruption, never keep alive a gracious
confidence and assurance; but that sickens and decays upon it, as necessarily as
a little child by repeated blows on the head with a hammer. Nor is it at all to be
lamented, that persons doubt of their state in such circumstances: but, on the
contrary, it is desirable and every way best that they should. It is agreeable to that
wise and merciful constitution of things, which God hath established, that it
should be so. For so hath God contrived and constituted things, in his
dispensations towards his own people, that when their love decays, and the
exercises of it fail, or become weak, fear should arise; for then they need it to
restrain them from sin, and to excite them to care for the good of their souls, and
so to stir them up to watchfulness and diligence in religion: but God hath so
ordered, that when love rises, and is in vigorous exercise, then fear should
vanish, and be driven away; for then they need it not, having a higher and more
excellent principle in exercise, to restrain them from sin, and stir them up to
their duty. There are no other principles, which human nature is under the
influence of, that will ever make men conscientious, but one of these two, fear or
love; and therefore, if one of these should not prevail as the other decays, God's
people, when fallen into dead and carnal frames, when love is asleep, would be
lamentably exposed indeed: and therefore God has wisely ordained, that these two
opposite principles of love and fear should rise and fall, like the two opposite
scales of a balance; when one rises the other sinks. As light and darkness
necessarily and unavoidably succeed each other; if light prevails, so much does
darkness cease, and no more; and if light decays, so much does darkness prevail;
so it is in the heart of a child of God: if divine love decays and falls asleep, and lust
prevails, the light and joy of hope go out, and dark fear and doubting arises; and
if, on the contrary, divine love prevails and comes into lively exercise, this brings
in the brightness of hope, and drives away black lust, and fear with it. Love is the
spirit of adoption, or the childlike principle; if that slumbers, men fall under fear,
which is the spirit of bondage, or the servile principle; and so on the contrary.
And if it be so, that love, or the spirit of adoption, be carried to a great height, it
quite drives away all fear, and gives full assurance; agreeable to that of the
apostle, 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
These two opposite principles of lust and holy love, bring hope and fear into the
hearts of God's children, in proportion as they prevail; that is, when left to their
own natural influence, without something adventitious, or accidental
intervening; as the distemper of melancholy, doctrinal ignorance, prejudices of
education, wrong instruction, false principles, peculiar temptations, &c.
Fear is cast out by the Spirit of God, no other way than by the prevailing of
love; nor is it ever maintained by his Spirit but when love is asleep. At such a
time, in vain is all the saint's self-examinations, and poring on past experience,
in order to establish his peace, and get assurance. For it is contrary to the nature
of things, as God hath constituted them, that he should have assurance at such a
They therefore do directly thwart God's wise and gracious constitution of
things, who exhort others to be confident in their hope, when in dead frames;
under a notion of "living by faith, and not by sight, and trusting God in the dark,
and living upon Christ, and not upon experiences;" and warn them not to doubt of
their good estate, lest they should be guilty of the dreadful sin of unbelief. And it
has a direct tendency to establish the most presumptuous hypocrites, and to
prevent their ever calling their state in question, how much soever wickedness
rages, and reigns in their hearts, and prevails in their lives; under a notion of
honoring God, by hoping against hope, and confidently trusting in God, when
things look very dark. And doubtless vast has been the mischief that has been
done this way."

29Mr. Shepard speaks of it, as a "presumptuous peace, that is not interrupted and broke by evil works." And says, that the "spirit will sigh, and not sing in that bosom, whence corrupt dispositions and passions break out." And that "though men in such frames may seem to maintain the consolation of the Spirit, and not suspect their hypocrisy, under pretense of trusting the Lord's mercy; yet they cannot avoid the condemnation of the world"; Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 139.

Dr. Ames speaks of it as a thing, by which the peace of a wicked man may be distinguished from the peace a godly man, "that the peace of a wicked man continues, whether he performs the duties of piety and righteousness or no; provided those crimes are avoided that appear horrid to
nature itself.' Cases of Conscience, Lib. III. Chap. vii.

30Men do not know that they are godly by believing that they are godly. We know many things by faith, Heb 11:3. 'By faith we understand that the worlds were made by the word of God.' Faith is the evidence of things not seen, Heb. 11:1. Thus men know the Trinity of persons of the Godhead; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; that he that believes in him will have eternal life; the resurrection of the dead. And if God should tell a saint that he hath grace, he might know it by believing the word of God. But it is not this way, that godly men do know they have grace. It is not revealed in the word, and the Spirit of God doth not testify it to particular persons.' Stoddard's Nature of Saving Conversion, p. 83, 84. 61


 2011/11/15 14:35Profile

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