Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?—Proverbs 20.6

 
David Dickson's

Truth's Victory Over Error

Chapter XVIII.

Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation.

QUESTION I.

"MAY they who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him; may they, I say, be certainly assured in this life, that they are in a state of grace, and being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given them of God, may they without extraordinary revelation attain thereunto?"

Yes; 1 John 2.3. 1 John 3.14,18,19,21,24. 1 John 5.13. 1 Cor. 2.12. Heb. 6.11,12. Eph. 3.17,18.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, That no man can be sure (namely, sure by divine faith) of God's peculiar favour towards himself, without extraordinary revelation?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because the apostle commands us, saying, Brethren, give all diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, ye shall never fall; for an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. 1.10,11. Heb. 6.11.

2d, Because the apostle commands the Corinthians to examine themselves, whether they be in the faith, 2 Cor. 13.5.

3d, Because the Scriptures propose and set forth sure makes and tokens, by which a believer may be infallibly assured that he is one of the number of Christ's sheep, John 10.4,5,27,28. And that he is one of Christ's disciples; John 13.3,5. Nay, it is the scope of the whole first epistle of John to propose such sure marks to believers, whereby they may know that they have life eternal, 1 John 5.13.

4th, Because the true believer may be persuaded that neither death nor life, nor any other thing, can separate him from the love of Christ, Rom. 8.38,39. Where the apostle not only speaketh of himself, but of them to whom he writes.

5th, Because believers have received the Spirit of adoption whereby they cry Abba Father, and he himself witnesseth with their spirit, that they are the children of God, Rom. 8.15,16.

6th, Because believers have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they might know the things that are freely given to them of God, 1 Cor. 2.12.

Quest. II. "Is this certainty, a bare conjectural, and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope?"

No.

But is it an infallible assurance of faith?

Yes; Heb. 6.11,17,18,19.

Well then, do not the Papists and Arminians err, who maintain, That the assurance of salvation, is only conjectural, or at the most, only probable, which hath for its foundation, a failing and fading faith?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because assurance is from the testimony of the Holy Spirit witnessing with our spirits, that we are the children of God, Rom. 8.15.

2d, Because this assurance is founded on the promises of God, who cannot lie, Isa. 45.10. John 3.36.

3d, Because believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of their inheritance; but he that receiveth the earnest not only hath right to the possession, but knows assuredly, that he hath that right, and shall be put in the actual possession thereof, Eph. 1.13,14.

4th, Because God willing more abundantly, to shew unto the heirs of promise, the immutability of his council, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, Heb. 6.17,18.

Quest. III. "Is the infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, and upon the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made?"

Yes; Heb. 6.17,18. 2 Pet. 1.4,5. 1 John 2.3. and 1 John 3.14. 2 Cor. 1.12.

Well then, do not the Antinomians err, who maintain, That none ought or can gather any comfort or assurance of salvation from his own works of holiness; but that a believer ought to lean and rest upon the alone testimony of the Spirit, without any marks or signs; from which testimony he may, say they, be fully assured of the remission of his sins, and of his own salvation?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, From the example of the saints, who gathered their comforts from the fruits of faith, and works of holiness, as David did, Psalm 119.6. and as Paul did, 2 Cor. 1.12.

2d, From the reckoning up of marks, which are held out in Scripture, by which believers may be known from unbelievers, as mutual love, John 13.35. Observing and keeping his commandments, 1 John 2.3. doing of righteousness, 1 John 3.14. and loving the brethren.

3d, Because unless faith be proven by marks, true faith cannot be discerned from presumption, neither can assurance, rightly founded, be discerned from a delusion of Satan, 1 John 4.2.

4th, Because reason requires, that from the knowledge of the effect, we should come to the knowledge of the cause, according to that of Matt. 7.16.

5th, Because marks of grace have so much clearness in themselves, that they will even beget in others a judgment according to charity, concerning the election of others, therefore much more in these same very persons, who are able to discern, and know better their own hearts, 1 Thes. 1.3,4.

Quest. IV. "Doth this infallible assurance belong to the essence of faith?"

No.

"May a true believer wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it?"

Yes; 1 John 5.13. Isa. 50.10. Mark 9.24. Psalm 88. Psalm 77. to the 12. verse.

Well then, do not the Antinomians err, who maintain, That the assurance of salvation is faith itself? And that faith is nothing else but the echo of the soul answering the Spirit, my sins are forgiven me?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because the sealing of the Holy Spirit, which is the earnest of our inheritance, is given to believers after they have believed, Eph. 1.13,14.

2d, Because believers may sometimes not know that they have eternal life, 1 John 5.13. And he that feareth the Lord, obeying the voice of his servant, may walk in darkness, Isa. 50.10.

3d, Because if this assurance which takes away all doubting, as the Antinomians affirm, were of the essence of faith, there should not be any degrees of faith, which is contrary to Mark 9.24. Matt. 8.10. Matt. 15.28.

4th, Because there are evident examples in Scripture from the experience of the saints, as that of faithful Heman, who thus complained, Psalm 88., Why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? And of faithful Asaph, under very sad exercise, Psalm 77. to the 10th verse.

Quest. V. "Doth this assurance of salvation incline men to looseness?"

No; 1 John 2.1. Rom. 8.1,12. 1 John 3.2,3. 1 John 1.6,7. Rom. 6.1,2. Titus 2.11,12,14. 2 Cor. 7.1.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, That the doctrine of assurance of salvation, is of its own nature hurtful to true piety, and inclines men to sin and wickedness?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because the apostle Peter argues the contrary way, and infers a far other conclusion, namely, because believers know they are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, they ought to pass the time of their sojourning here in fear. 1 Pet. 1.17,18,19.

2d, Because the apostle Paul, who was certainly persuaded of his interest in Christ, rejects and abominates that conclusion with indignation and wrath, Rom. 6.1,2.

3d, Because from the promise that God is the Father of believers, the apostle exhorts the Corinthians by consequence, to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Cor. 7.1.

4th, Because they who are in Christ, to whom there is no condemnation, and are assured of it, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, Rom. 8.1,12,38,39.

5th, Because a believer knowing God to be merciful, concludes that God ought to be feared, Psalm 130.4.

6th, Because whosoever hath that hope, (namely, that he shall see Christ, and be made like unto him) he purifies himself, as he is pure, 1 John 3.3.

7th, Because it is evident from the example of those who were persuaded of their salvation, who yet lived piously and holily, as Paul, Rom. 8.38,39. compared with 2 Cor. 1.12. Acts 24.16. Next, we have the example of Abraham, Gen. 17.1. compared with Rom. 4.18-20.

Quest. VI. "Are true believers, when they fall into some special sin which woundeth the conscience, and grieveth the Spirit, destitute of the seed of God, and life of faith?"

No; 1 John 3.9. Luke 22.32.

Well then, do not the Quakers and others err, who maintain, That true believers falling into some special sin, can have nothing of the life of faith, and seed of God in them?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God, 1 John 3.9. For his seed remaineth in him; that is, doth not totally perish, but abideth thenceforward, working the fruits of regeneration once begun in them, Phil. 1.6.

2d, Because although Peter fell into that grievous sin of denying his master thrice, yet he still retained that seed of God, and life of faith, and love to Christ; because Christ had said unto him, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, Luke 22.32. The like may be said of David, and others of the saints of God, who by falling into some special sins, have wounded the conscience and grieved the Holy Spirit.