Let us draw near - in full assurance of faith. Hebrews 10:22.
All who read our Texas Baptist papers, and otherwise keep up with current facts, will understand, without explanation, the occasion of this sermon, and are in position to judge whether it is timely.
According to my own judgment there is a demand for it. It seems to me that the time has come when, as a people, we should take our bearings and ascertain our whereabouts, lest we thoughtlessly drift so far out of our course that a return to it may be seriously difficult. To speak plainly, the Baptists of Texas are imminently threatened with trouble on the subject of assurance and kindred matters.
Under such circumstances it is the part of wise men, Christian men, and charitable men, to seek out and apply some timely and scriptural remedy before it is too late for remedies to avail in averting schism and division. It is in this direction I speak to-day. Over matters of opinion our Baptist people have always spread a broad mantle of charity; and to interpretation of special texts they have allowed a wide margin of liberty.
For instance, while our Confessions of Faith have taught that our Lord will not come until after the millennium, yet through the centuries a comparatively few individuals have held and propagated the pre-millennial view without forfeiture of either Christian or church-fellowship.
Again, while the same Confessions have taught that the souls of the dead go at once to heaven or hell, individuals have been allowed perfect liberty to hold and teach the, doctrine of middle life, i.e., an intermediate place as a receptacle for souls until the resurrection and general judgment.
But if at any time the comparatively small minority had made the belief of Christ's pre-millennial advent, per the belief of the middle-life theory a condition of baptism,
church-membership, or salvation, then their dogmas would no longer have been classed with mere opinions, or allowable differences of interpretation.
In other words, if they had said to their charitable brethren of the majority, standing upon the Confessions of Faith:
"Unless you believe that our Lord comes before the millennium, and that the souls of the dead go to an intermediate place, you have no faith at all; you are not converted; you are on the way to hell; your baptism is invalid; you do not preach the gospel at all."
This would have been outright and downright schism. Whatever is made a condition of salvation or of admission to the church ordinances and offices is fundamental and vital. Those who differ on the terms of eternal life are not one people. A difference of one term or condition of salvation, however small, makes them two peoples of necessity. And the more conscientious they are in the matter of this difference, the greater the necessity of their separation.
To illustrate: Let us suppose that in a hitherto undivided church the question arises: On what terms shall we offer the blessings of the gospel to sinners, or what terms of salvation shall we require at their hands before receiving them to our fellowship as among the saved? and in answer to this question one party of the church should say, Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, these two and no more. And another party should say, Repentance, faith, and baptism are equal conditions of salvation; no man is saved, or can be saved, until he complies with all these three essentials of life. And still another party should say, Repentance, faith, and assurance, these three always, no more, no less. And a fourth party should say, Repentance, faith, and circumcision, for "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1).
Now, if all these parties were alike conscientious, none of them considering this a matter of opinion, but of eternal life or eternal death, and each therefore should consistently demand conformity to its own conditions in every sermon which offered the terms, and in every case of a candidate who proposed to accept the terms, how could the four parties walk or work together? There would be strife, inevitable and irreconcilable, in the call of every pastor; in the reception of
every member; in determining the validity of every ordinance; in the selection of every officer; in forming associational relations with other churches; in the sending out and instruction of every missionary. In the case of the proposed pastor or missionary, each party would be compelled to ask "Is he sound? Will he preach the real gospel? Will he publish, and require conformity to, the real and only terms of salvation, without addition, subtraction, or modification?"
It requires no stretch of the imagination to forecast the result. As between parties numbers one and two, this is not a supposititious case, but one of widely known and long-established history -- a history of sad divisions in churches and Associations. But as the issues were on vital and fundamental principles, not matters of opinion, they rightly separated. So between parties numbers one and four. (Acts 15:1-30; 16:4; Galatians 5:1-3.)
And now a juncture has arisen in Texas Baptist affairs that forces to the front the question: Is there likely to be just such an issue between parties one and three, i.e., the Repentance and Faith party, and the Repentance, Faith, and Assurance party?
The question is a grave one. Let us all hope and pray that such an issue may not be precipitated. But we cannot prevent such a calamity by shutting our eyes to facts. I cite some of the recent facts:
1. In a recent number of the "Texas Baptist and Herald," one of the assurance preachers declares that there are two families of Baptists in Texas, the assurance and anti-assurance Baptists, and then concludes by saying that they cannot be together in this world or the next.
2. Nearly all the extremists of this view in the whole Baptist denomination have appointments to evangelize in Texas this summer. It is not a question of locality, and of a pastor teaching in his church, where he lives and where he is responsible and where time will test the ripe fruits of a doctrine, but it is rapid itineracy which scatters seeds far and wide, and leaves them to grow up here and there and everywhere.
Some of the partisans of the doctrine do not hesitate to declare that those who differ from them, do not preach the gospel at all, are not converted, and their baptisms are invalid;
and they seem to glory in forcing the issue publicly and privately, orally and in print.
3. Troubles on account of the matter seem to increase, rather than diminish. How, then, shall an issue of separation be forestalled?
Says one: By mutual compromise or alternate concession. In order to test this method of adjustment, let us suppose that the two parties in any given church agree to alternate in the call of a pastor, one yielding this time and the other the next time. In accordance with this agreement, those who oppose the assurance increment to the terms of life, call first, and the pastor offers to sinners salvation on the sole requirements of repentance and faith. Members are received to baptism and fellowship on compliance with these terms. But when his term of office expires, an assurance pastor follows by the stipulations of compromise. Now the conditions of life are enlarged. Salvation is offered on the terms of repentance, faith, and assurance. No one now can be admitted to baptism unless he absolutely knows he is saved without the shadow of a doubt. Not only this, but members who had been received in the former pastorate, are informed from the pulpit that they are not converted, are not baptized, and are on the road to hell. What, let me ask you, would be the practical effect of such a compromise method of forestalling an issue?
But says another: I have a better plan. Let the assurance party say that they also require only repentance and faith. That assurance is an essential element of saving faith. That when they say faith and assurance they mean only faith, i.e., where there is no assurance, no certainty, no absolute freedom from doubt that we are of the elect, or of our present and eternal salvation, then we have no faith at all. In other words, let us settle this question by calling three things two things! I don't know how it started, but I do know that an old saying has wide circulation, to-wit: "Whipping the devil around the stump." And I think the foregoing proposition is an apt illustration of the fitness and force of the aforesaid proverb.
Moreover, past experience should warn us against this method of settling a question which is not one of labels, but of what is under the labels. For precisely this method was
resorted to by some in the historical issue between parties one and two, i.e., when the repentance and faith conditions were opposed by the repentance, faith, and baptism conditions. It was then said that faith and baptism were virtually one condition, since baptism only made faith perfect. It was only a step of faith. It was only the obedience of faith, and faith without obedience was no faith at all. It was dead. It seemed, then, to be a pity that a theory so ingenious and plausible should be sophistical and would not work. It seems to be a pity in this similar case, but it will not work now any better than before. Unfortunately for the theory, then, baptism and faith were different words and signs of different ideas. They were two distinct things. No more so, however, than faith and assurance.
Let us take some examples: Isaiah 32:17 (often quoted by the assurance people), "The effect of righteousness (shall be) quietness and assurance forever."
Now, on the assumption (?) that righteousness in this text means the imputed righteousness of Christ, then it must always be preceded by faith. How, then, can faith and assurance mean the same thing? One precedes righteousness, the other succeeds it, as an effect. And, mark you, a future effect "shall be." If assurance and faith are equivalents, let us supply the ellipsis and read: "The effect of faith is righteousness, and the effect of righteousness is faith forever." Or, "the effect of assurance is righteousness, and the effect of righteousness is assurance forever." Or, still more to the point: How can you make assurance a condition of righteousness or justification, when it is expressly declared to be a future effect of righteousness? Effects are in the habit of following, not preceding, causes.
And as whoever is righteous or justified is saved, therefore salvation precedes assurance. And as nothing great or small should be interposed as a condition between justification and baptism, therefore to impose assurance as a prerequisite is to add to the word of God. (See Acts 8:12; 16:30-33; 18:8.)
Look now at three other scriptures: "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding" Colossians 2:2); "and we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence
to the full assurance of hope unto the end" (Hebrews 6:11); "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:22). Here we have three assurances all expressed by the one Greek word, plerophoria.
The assurance of understanding (sunesis).
The assurance of hope (elpis).
The assurance of faith (pistis).
There is a difference in word and idea between assurance and understanding, between assurance and hope, and equally so between assurance and faith. Those already having understanding are exhorted to attain assurance of understanding. Those having hope already, are likewise exhorted to use diligence to attain its assurance. And those who had faith now a long time, are exhorted on the basis of a labored argument to exercise the assurance of faith. They had faith, but they were babes, "unskillful in the word of righteousness" (Hebrews 5:11-14). They were poorly prepared for Paul's arguments on Christ's high-priesthood. And yet it was through their knowledge and reception of that priesthood, that the assurance of faith must come. A present salvation they might see without this. But they could not know how they were to be saved "to the uttermost" except through his ever living priesthood (Hebrews 7:25).
And now, having explained to these believers the doctrine of the high-priesthood of Jesus, and basing his exhortation on his argument, he says:
"And having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised" (Hebrews 10:21-23).
Here unquestionably the holding fast the profession of faith without wavering was dependent upon their knowledge and hearty reception of this higher doctrine, this strong meat, unfit for children. And mark you, this is the only passage in the Bible which expressly mentions the "assurance of faith." So that from these scriptures it is evident that the expedient suggested for settling this question by calling three things two things will not answer in theory or practice. These Hebrews were wavering in their faith. They were not assured in their hearts
of their final salvation, because they did not even know God's provision for their salvation "to the uttermost." But having made this known to them, Paul exhorts them to exercise what they never had before, "the assurance of faith." So that in etymology, logic, and the word of God, faith and its assurance without wavering may be far apart.
If, therefore, this issue of separation now forced on our people concerning assurance is satisfactorily settled and unity maintained, some wiser measure than compromise, or than calling three things two things, must be devised. And I here declare it the object of this sermon to suggest the true remedy. As a necessary preliminary, let us first clearly understand the meaning of the terms.
Webster defines assurance: "The state of being assured; firm persuasion; full confidence, or trust; freedom from doubt; certainty"; and cites our text as an example of its usage. The assurance of faith, therefore, would be faith without a doubt, or as Paul expresses it, "without wavering." Their faith had been mixed with doubt. It was little faith. As when Jesus said to Peter, "O, thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" The assurance of salvation means such a certainty in our own hearts that we are saved and will be saved to the uttermost as is absolutely free of doubt. Those who make the assurance of salvation an essential element of faith and necessary condition of baptism, divide the world into two classes: 1. Those who know they are saved without a doubt now or hereafter. 2. Those who are lost, no matter what or whom they believe, and no matter what their lives, and no matter what other fruit of the Spirit they may possess. Everything turns on the doubt.
Doubt proves that you are lost. And this is not doubt of the truth of the Bible or of Jesus Christ, but of your acceptance.
Now, with these definitions, what is the issue?
1. It is not whether a Christian may have or ought to have assurance. The Bible certainly teaches that, as we may have and ought to have the assurance of understanding and the assurance of hope, so we may have and ought to seek the assurance of faith and the assurance of salvation. There is no dispute here among Baptists.
2. It is not whether some Christians or many Christians
have attained this joyous and glorious assurance. There is no dispute here among Baptists.
3. But this is the issue: Is assurance necessary to being a Christian at all? Is it such an essential element of saving faith that where it is lacking there is no saving faith? Or, if you prefer it, is assurance such an instantaneous and continuous effect of saving faith that the one can never be, even for a moment, without the other? So that where there is no such assurance you may positively know there is no faith. And hence, being a universal and everlasting and infallible accompaniment of faith, you may require assurance as a condition of baptism in every case. And you must announce to every church-member whose assurance may hereafter waver, flicker, or be subject to doubt, that he is a lost soul, his baptism invalid, and he must repudiate his old profession, commence at the beginning, be converted and be baptized. And every time in all the future he doubts his acceptance with God he must repeat the process, go over the whole thing, though he has been baptized a thousand times. A doubt, for one moment, that he is a child of God, vitiates all preceding professions and baptisms, even though by the frequency of his baptisms his way to heaven is like the road up the Bosque, which goes into the creek every mile or two.
Such is the true issue. And on this issue we unhesitatingly align ourselves with the "anti-assurance family of Baptists," as the only family of Baptists known to us. Before suggesting the remedy, which is the main object of this discussion, we first submit and maintain two certain propositions of history and Scripture.
1. Such Assurance is not Baptist Doctrine
This is a question of fact to be settled by the evidence of history. And I am perfectly confident when you consider the evidence you will join me in saying that anything akin to this theory of assurance is a vital and fundamental innovation on Baptist doctrine. It has always been the custom of our people to "set forth in order the things which are most surely believed among us." Hence, there will be no difficulty in gathering, sufficient historical evidence to establish the proposition. The only difficulty in the way arises from the superfluity of the testimony causing embarrassment by abundance
and making it difficult to determine how much to leave out. First in order, as most official and authoritative, are Confessions or Declarations of Faith. These symbols embody in a terse form and show forth to the world the substance of our belief on the main points of Bible teachings. They are very important historical witnesses of doctrine.
The most venerable symbol of American Baptist doctrine is the Philadelphia Confession, "adopted by the Baptist Association met at Philadelphia September 25, 1742," and "printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1743." The historical basis of this Confession, in the main, was the London Confession of 1689.
On the Philadelphia Confession nearly all the early Baptist Associations of America were founded. I now introduce this venerable witness of Baptist doctrine, as it appears in Cathcart's "Baptist Encyclopedia." Art. XVIII., "On the Assurance of Grace and Salvation," is as follows:
"1. Although temporary believers and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God and state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet, such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
"2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith, founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ, revealed in the gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and upon the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.
"3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be a partaker of it; yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of means, attain thereunto; and
therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, in the proper fruits of this assurance. So far is it from inclining men to looseness.
"4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation in divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God's withdrawing the light of his countenance and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light; yet are they never destitute of the seed of God and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are preserved from utter despair."
Such is the full text, section by section, of this famous article, which expressly and in every detail, treats of the very matter in hand.
Art. XIV, which defines saving faith and also distinguishes between it and assurance, declaring that this faith "may grow up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ."
Art. XVI, "On Good Works," declares that they "strengthen assurance."
Art. XVII, "On the Perseverance of the Saints," declares of true believers, "through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them," and that they "may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments on themselves."
Now, on these quotations we observe:
1. They teach a clear distinction between saving faith in Christ and an assurance that we are saved by Christ.
2. That assurance is attainable and ought to be diligently sought by Christians.
3. That many Christians wait long and have many conflicts before they attain it.
4. That even when attained it may be clouded and intermitted.
This was the doctrine of our Baptist fathers in England and in the colonies before the Revolutionary War, on the subject of assurance.
Let us look at the history a little more closely. I have here the "History of the Philadelphia Baptist Association" for one hundred years, from 1707 to 1807, a rare and precious volume of nearly five hundred pages, published by the American Baptist Publication Society in 1851. I read from pages sixty-nine and seventy of a certain session:
"The elders and messengers of the congregations, baptized on profession of faith in Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, met in association at Philadelphia, the 16th of October, 1753." This was one hundred and forty years ago. Now, consider the first recorded item of business at this session:
"1. Query from the church at Kingwood: Whether the assurance of faith be absolutely necessary in order for admission to baptism."
Now, we have here the precise question under consideration to-day, formally before this mother Baptist Association. Let us therefore note the answer: "The judgment of this Association is: It appears to us, both from Scripture and experience, that true saving faith may subsist where there is not assurance of faith. Therefore, in answer to the second query, that a person sound in judgment, professing his faith of reliance on Christ for mercy and salvation, accompanied with a gospel conversation, ought to be baptized?"
It also appears from page two hundred and eighty-four that the same Association being in session October 2, 1791, something over a hundred years ago, a circular letter was read by Rev. Joshua Jones, on "The Assurance of Grace and Salvation. Confession of Faith, Art. XVIII.," the very article we have quoted. This circular letter was approved by the Association, printed in its Minutes, and I have the
full text of it here before me. The circular discusses the whole subject at considerable length, under the following heads:
(1) There are degrees in assurance.
(2) Assurance is attainable in this life, because
(a) it is a privilege of all believers;
(b) we are commanded to make our calling and election sure.
(3) The source of assurance.
(4) It is not of the essence of saving faith, which may exist without it.
(5) There is a counterfeit assurance against which we are to guard.
(6) The utility of assurance.
It is, on the whole, a magnificent historical document, which I would be glad to see republished in full in our Texas Baptist papers, that some modern men may see what is old fashioned Baptist doctrine.
I now introduce the "New Hampshire Confession of Faith," written by John Newton Brown, and which is the Confession of most Texas Baptist churches. The matter in hand is treated in "Art. IX., of God's Purpose of Grace," which declares that election "may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly believe the gospel; that it is the foundation of Christian assurance, and to ascertain it with regard to ourselves demands and deserves the utmost diligence."
On which article observe:
(1) That election is the eternal purpose of God by which he saves us.
(2) That we may ascertain whether we are of the elect.
(3) That this ascertainment comes by studying the effects of religion on us and in us.
(4) That the knowledge of our own election is the foundation of the assurance that we are saved.
(5) That this ascertainment demands and deserves our utmost diligence.
Manifestly this accords with the Philadelphia Confession so far as its terser statements go. Just as much as the other it opposes the thought that every Christian has this assurance as soon as he believes. It is attainable, but utmost diligence is requisite. I have quoted these creeds as the historical witnesses of doctrine, because our first proposition re-dates to history. There are some nowadays who decry all use of creeds. These always have a creed of their own which they wish to impose in the place of the one they decry. Spurgeon well says on this point:
"The arch-enemy of truth has invited us to level our walls
and take away our fenced cities. He has cajoled some truehearted but weak-headed believers to advocate this crafty policy - 'Away with creeds and bodies of divinity!' This is the cry of the day. Ostensibly, it is reverence for the Bible, and attachment to charity which dictates the clamorous denunciation; but at the bottom it is hatred of definitive truth.... As Philip of Macedon hated the Grecian orators because they were watchdogs of the flock, so there are wolves who desire the destruction of our doctrinal formularies, that they may make havoc of the souls of men by their pestilent heresies."
I introduce as the next historical witness, our theological seminaries. For brevity I introduce just now only two.
1. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The position of this great institution in the hearts and judgment of Southern Baptists requires no statement from me. We put it first in the world.
Now here is the text-book on systematic theology, which every student of that seminary is required to almost memorize.
It was prepared by our lamented brother, Dr. James P. Boyce, to whom a superior was not left on earth when he was called up higher. After treating of the position, meaning, objects, and synonyms of saving faith, he further proceeds to show its nature by contrasting it with some things attempted to be substituted for it. Among these unscriptural substitutes he places:
(1) Romish belief in the church.
(2) Historical faith.
As what he says on the last head directly applies to the matter before us, we quote it entire. "Abstract of Theology," pp. 390-392:
"Assurance of personal interest in Christ's salvation, so that one may say, I know that Christ died for me, that I am one of his elect, that my sins were removed by him, and I have been reconciled to God by him. Such cannot be the nature of saving faith, because (1) This is not the experience of an early, but of an advanced stage of Christian life. (2) Because this is not the object of Christian faith. That object is Christ, and the statements of God's truth concerning him
Those statements are general, so far as the revelation is made. They are made personal by our acceptance. But our faith enters into that condition. If we can satisfy ourselves that our faith is undoubtedly genuine, not merely temporary, but actually one rooted in Christ, we may gain this assurance, but that assurance would rest not on God's word, on Christ's salvation, but on the evidence afforded by the Spirit's work on our hearts (see Hodge's 'Outlines,' p. 478).
(3) The Scriptures give an example in Paul of a true Christian who could say, 'I buffet my body and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected' (1 Corinthians 9:27. See also Philippians 3:12-14).
(4) 'From the exhortations addressed to those who were already believers, to attain to assurance as a degree of faith, beyond that which they already enjoyed' (Hodge's 'Outlines,' p. 478).
(5) 'From the experience of God's people in all ages' (Hodge's 'Outlines,' p. 478).
"Rem. 1. The assurance, however, which is not thus a part of saving faith, is one which can be attained, and doubtless frequently has been attained: (a) This is directly asserted (Romans 8:16; 2 Peter 1:10; 1 John 2:3; 3:14; 5:13); (b) scriptural examples are given of its attainment (2 Timothy 1:12; 4:7, 8); (c) 'many eminent Christians have enjoyed an abiding assurance of the genuineness of which their holy walk and conversation was an indubitable seal' (Hodge's 'Outlines,' p. 478).
"Rem. 2. The grounds upon which a man can be assured of salvation are: (a) The divine truth of the promises of salvation; (b) the inward evidence of those graces unto which those promises are made; (c) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15, 16), witnessing with our spirits that we are children of God, which spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22) is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption (Westminster Confession, chap. 18, quoted in Hodge's 'Outlines,' p. 479).
"'This genuine assurance,' says Hodge ('Outlines,' p. 479), maybe distinguished from that presumptuous confidence which is a delusion of Satan, chiefly by these marks: True assurance (a) begets unfeigned humility (1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 6:14); (b) leads to ever-increasing diligence in practical
religion (Psalm 51:12, 13, 19); (c) to candid self-examination and a desire to be searched and corrected by God (Psalm 139:23, 24); (d) to constant aspirations after nearer conformity and more intimate communion with God (1 John 3:2, 3):"
Such is Baptist doctrine, if Dr. Boyce knew anything about it. His successor in the chair of systematic theology unswervingly follows the teaching of Boyce.
2. Rochester Theological Seminary.
A newspaper notice of the last anniversaries of our Northern Baptist brethren, held in Denver, states as a part of the programme that Dr. Augustus H. Strong, president of Rochester Theological Seminary, preached a sermon before the body on Faith and Assurance, emphasizing the distinction between them as quite important, and showing that true faith may exist without assurance. Seeing the notice of the sermon I wrote to Dr. Strong for the sermon, or a sketch of it. His reply states that it was extemporaneous, but that the substance of his views are embodied in his book of "Systematic Theology," giving the pages. I quote somewhat from the pages indicated by him, referring you to the invaluable book itself for the matter in detail:
"The ground of faith is the external word of promise. The ground of assurance on the other hand, is the inward witness of the Spirit that we fulfill the conditions of the promise (Romans 4:20, 21; 8:16; Ephesians 1:13; 1 John 4:13; 5:10) - True faith is possible without assurance of salvation. But if Alexander's views were correct, that the object of saving faith is the proposition, God, for Christ's sake, now looks with reconciling love on me, a sinner, no one could believe, without being at the same time assured that he was a saved person."
Upon the true view, that the object of saving faith is not a proposition, but a person, we can perceive not only the simplicity of faith, but the possibility of faith, even where the soul is destitute of assurance, or of joy. Hence those who already believe are urged to seek for assurance (Hebrews 6:11; 2 Peter 1:10).
Following his proof-texts on the Spirit's witness, he adds: "This assurance is not of the essence of faith, because believers are exhorted to attain it," etc. There is not a Baptist theological seminary on earth that teaches either (1) the
identity of faith and assurance, or (2) that assurance is the instantaneous effect and never-failing accompaniment of faith.
All our leading denominational papers are in accord on this point. Our hymns also perpetuate the doctrine of the Confessions and seminaries if such evidence does not establish our historical proposition, then no historical proposition can be established by evidence. One may say, if he chooses, that the Baptists are wrong on this point of doctrine, but he cannot deny that it is Baptist doctrine. That this is Baptist doctrine is as certain as that immersion as the act of baptism is Baptist doctrine. Hence, we say that to require assurance either
(1) as a condition of salvation or
(2) as a condition of baptism is a vital and fundamental innovation on Baptist doctrine.
[B. H. Carroll, Sermons and Life Sketch, compiled by J. B. Cranfill, 1893; reprint 1986, pp. 231-246. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
More on B. H. Carroll
Baptist History Homepage