Assurance is requisite to the well-being of a Christian, but not to the being; it is requisite to the consolation of a Christian, but not to the salvation of a Christian; it is requisite to the well-being of grace, but not to the mere being of grace. Though a man cannot be saved without faith, yet he may be saved without assurance. God hath in many places of the Scripture declared, that without faith there is no salvation; but God hath not in any one place of Scripture declared, that without assurance there is no salvation. A man must first be saved, before he can be assured of his salvation; for he cannot be assured of that which is not: and a man must have saving grace, before he can be saved; for he cannot be saved by that which he hath not. Again, a man must be ingrafted into Christ, before he can be assured of remission, or salvation, but this he cannot be before he hath faith, therefore there may be grace, where there is no assurance. Christ went to heaven in a cloud, and the angel went up to heaven in the smoke and flame of the sacrifice, and so I doubt not, but many precious souls do ascend to heaven in clouds and darkness. Now a man may have grace, and yet want assurance, and that may arise many these causes.
A man may have grace, and yet want assurance, and that may arise from the exceeding littleness, and weakness of his grace. A little candle yields but a little light, and a little grace yields but a little evidence. Great measures of grace carries with them great and clear evidences, but little measures carries with them but little evidence. Some stars are so small that they are scarce discernible; so some saints’ graces are so small, that they can hardly see their graces to be graces. A little fire will yield but a little heat; a little grace will yield but a little comfort, and little evidence: a little grace will yield a man a heaven hereafter; but it is a great deal of grace that must yield us heaven here. A little stock will bring in but a little profit, a little grace will bring in but a little peace, a little jewel yields but a little lustre, a little glory, no more doth a little grace; and therefore it is that Christians that have but a little grace, have but a little of the shine and lustre of assurance, they have but little joy and comfort in this world. Yet that the spirits of weak Christians may not utterly faint, let me give them this hint, viz., that the weakest Christian is as much justified, as much pardoned, as much adopted, and as much united to Christ as the strongest, and hath as much interest and propriety in Christ, as the highest and noblest Christian that breathes, though he cannot make so much advantage and improvement of his interest and propriety as the strong Christian, who hath a greater degree of grace.
Hierom observes upon the beatitudes, that there are many of the promises made to weak grace, Matt. v. 3, 4. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit; v. 4. Blessed are they that mourn; and v. 5 “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst.” Weak saints, remember this, the promise is a ring of gold, and Christ is the precious tried stone in that ring, and upon that stone must you rest, as you would have grace to thrive, and your souls to be safe and happy. Weak souls, remember this, as Joseph sent chariots to bring his father, and his brethren to him, so God would have your weak graces to be as chariots to bring you to himself, who is the cherisher, strengthener, and increaser of grace: he that makes his graces to be servants, and handmaids to convey him to Christ, the fountain of grace; he shall find the greatest sweetness in grace, and the greatest increase of grace.
A man may have true grace, and yet want assurance, and this may arise from the resurrection of old sins; Ah, when those sins which were long since committed, and long since lamented, and long since loathed, and long since crucified, when those old sins, which hath cost a soul many prayers, and many tears, and many sighs, and many groans, and many complaints, when those sins that have been long buried, shall be again revived, and meet the soul, and stare upon the soul, and say to the soul, we are thine, and we will follow thee, we are thine, and we will haunt thee: ah, how will this cause a man’s countenance to be changed, his thoughts to be troubled, his joints to be loosed, and his heart to be amazed; David and Job meeting with the sins of their youth (long after they were lamented and pardoned) makes their hearts startle and tremble. Upon the new risings of old sins, the soul begins to question all, and thus to expostulate the case, surely my estate is not good, my pardon is not sealed; if it be, how comes these sins to be revived, to be remembered! Hath not God engaged himself in the promises of grace, that those sins that are pardoned, shall never be remembered! and surely if these sins be not pardoned, I have reason to fear that others be not pardoned; and if my sins be not pardoned, how shall I escape being destroyed! Surely my repentance was not sound, my sorrow was not sincere, the blow, the wound I gave sin, was not mortal, if it had, how comes it to pass that it now meets me like an armed enemy! Thus these new risings of old sins keeps many a man’s soul, and assurance asunder.
A man may have grace, and yet want assurance, and this may arise from his falling short of that perfection that the word requires, and that other saints have attained to: ah, says such a soul, surely I have no grace! Oh how short do I fall of such and such righteous rules, and of such and such precious Christians! ah how clear are they in their light, how strong are they in their love; how high are they in their attainments; how are their hearts filled with grace, and their lives with holiness; all their motions towards God, and towards man, speaks out grace, grace; they pray indeed like saints, and live indeed like angels. Now many poor souls comparing themselves with the perfect rule of righteousness, and with those that are in the highest forms in Christ’s school, and that are the noblest and choicest patterns for purity, and sanctity, and finding such a vast disproportion between their hearts, and the rule between their actions and lives, and the lives and actions of others, they are apt to sit down sad and discouraged.
A man may have true grace, and yet want assurance; and this may arise from that smoke and clouds, those fears and doubts that corruption raises in the soul, so that the soul cannot see those excellent graces that otherwise might be discerned, though there may be many precious gems and jewels in the house, yet the smoke may hinder a man from seeing them sparkle and shine: so though there be many precious graces in the souls of saints, yet corruption may raise such a dust, such a smoke in the soul, that the soul is not able to see them in their beauty and glory. The veil of water was near Hagar, but she saw it not till her eyes were opened by the Lord. So grace is near the soul, yea in the soul sometimes, and yet the soul doth not see it till God opens the eye and shews it. The Lord was in this place, said Jacob, and I knew it not; so many a precious soul may say, grace was in my heart, and I knew it not, I saw it not. Blessed Bradford in one of his epistles, saith thus, O Lord: methinks, I feel it so with me, sometimes, as if there were no difference between my heart and the heart of the wicked; my mind is as blind as theirs, my spirit as stout, stubborn, and rebellious as theirs, and my thoughts as confused as theirs, and my affections as disordered as theirs, and my services as formal as theirs, &e. Ah, Christians, have not many of your souls found it so? Surely yes; no wonder then, that though you have grace, yet you have not seen it sparkling and shining in your souls. Some have thought that their hearts have been void of grace, because they have been so full of fears and doubts. The best of saints are like the ark tossed up and down with waves, with fears, and doubts; and so it will be till they are quite in the bosom of Christ.
God may deny assurance long, and yet give it in to his children at last, after patient waiting. God appears to David, and brings him out of an horrible pit (or out of a pit of noise) and sets his feet upon a rook, and puts a new song into his mouth. After the church in the Canticles had run through many hazards and hardships; many difficulties and dangers, she finds him whom her soul loved. The prophet sits down and bewails his sad condition, thus, I am weary of my crying, my throat is dried, mine eyes fall while I wait for my God. And I am full of heaviness, and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. But at last, God appears, and then says he, I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him, with thanksgiving.
Mr. Frogmorton was as holy, and as choice a preacher as most was in England in those days, and he lived seven and thirty years without assurance, and then died, having assurance but an hour before he died; he went to die at Mr. Dod’s (who is now with the Lord) and did die there in full assurance of the justification of his person, the remission of his sins, and the salvation of his soul. God denied assurance a great while to Mr, Glover, though he sought it with many prayers and tears; and yet when he was in sight of the fire, the Lord shined forth in his favor so sweetly upon him, that he cries out to his friend, he is come, he is come, meaning the Comforter. So Mrs. Katherine Bretterge after many bitter conflicts with Satan, the day before she died, she had sweet assurance of that kingdom that shakes not, of those riches that corrupt not, and of that crown of righteousness that fades not away. I have read of three martyrs that were bound and brought to the stake, and one of them gets from under his chain to admiration, and falls down upon the ground, and wrestles earnestly with God for the sense of his love, and God gave it him then at that instant, and so he came, and embraced the stake, and died cheerfully, and resolutely, a glorious martyr. God delayed till he was bound, and then lets out himself sweetly and gloriously to him.
Now God doth delay the giving in of Assurance to his dearest ones, and that partly to let them know that he will be waited on, and that assurance is a jewel worth waiting for. The least smile from God when our last glass is running, will make our souls amends for all their waiting; and partly that we may know that he is free in his workings, and that he is not tied to any proportions or qualifications in the creature, but is free to come when he will, and go when he will, and stay as long as he will, though the soul doth sigh it out, how long Lord, how long will it be before my mourning be turned into rejoicing.
God delays the giving in of assurance, not because he delights to keep his children in fears and doubts, nor because he thinks that assurance is too rare, too great, too choice a jewel to bestow upon them, but it is either because he thinks their souls do not stand at a sufficient distance from sin, or because their souls are so taken up and filled with creature-enjoyments, as that Christ is put to lodge in an out-house, or else it is because they pursue not after assurance with all their might, they give not all diligence to make their calling and election sure; or else it is because their hearts are not prepared, are not low enough for so high a favour.—Brooks.