But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. John 1:12.
I began the sermon on "Assurance" by calling attention to the wide charity extended by the Baptists to mere opinions, and the broad margin allowed to interpretations of special texts, but showed that terms of salvation and conditions of admission to church ordinances and offices cannot come within the scope of such charity. These principles were applied to the doctrine of assurance, now being preached in Texas as a term of salvation and a condition of baptism. The imminent hazard to denominational unity threatened by such preaching was declared to be the occasion of the sermon. Its avowed object was to suggest such a timely and scriptural remedy as would avert what appeared to be a rapidly approaching separation. As a helpful preliminary to intelligent discussion the terms of the matter at issue were defined, and the issue itself clearly stated. The impracticability of settling so grave and vital a matter by compromise, or by putting the same label on two such entirely distinct and different things as faith and assurance was illustrated by reason, Scripture, and history.
As preliminary to the statement of a true remedy two propositions were submitted for discussion: (1) Historical; (2) Scriptural.
The historical proposition, to-wit: "Assurance, as a term of salvation and condition of baptism, is a vital and fundamental innovation on Baptist doctrine," was discussed at length and the evidence submitted. The sermon closed with the announcement that the scriptural proposition would be considered in another discourse. In accordance with this announcement we submit and maintain:
Proposition II. The Holy Scriptures, by prescribing repentance and faith as terms of salvation and conditions of baptism, thereby forbid the additional requirement of assurance
to these ends, however desirable, profitable, or mandatory it may be for other ends.
As an impregnable foundation we now submit, though briefly, the Scripture proof that repentance and faith are the prescribed terms of salvation and of baptism
1. These were the terms required by John the Baptist in "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God." "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus" (Acts 19:4). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36).
2. Jesus himself required the same terms. "Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John" (John 4:1). How he made these disciples before he baptized them appears from Mark 1:14, 15: "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.... He that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:16-18).
3. In the Great Commission Jesus commanded his disciples to first make disciples, and then baptize them, as they had seen him do. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them" (Matthew 28:19). They would not require more nor less than they had seen him require in making disciples, and we have just shown that he required repentance and faith. That they so understood and executed his will appears sufficiently from a few notable examples.
4. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, in response to the question, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" prescribed repentance and faith (Acts 2:38-41). And to the household of Cornelius he said: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). In both instances baptism followed their faith. But in this latter case it has been objected that Cornelius and his friends received the gift of the Holy Ghost before baptism, and this very fact was assigned as a reason for baptism: "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received
the Holy Ghost as well as we?" Therefore, the objector argues, we are justified now in forbidding baptism without this gift of the Holy Ghost, which is equivalent to assurance. I like to reply to such objections, and in this case will so reply that once will be sufficient.
(a.) This gift of the Holy Ghost was the extraordinary and miraculous gift of tongues. "For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God."
(b.) The miraculous gift of tongues was temporary, but faith was abiding. "Whether there be tongues they shall cease; - but now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three" (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13).
(c.) The gift of tongues was a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers. It was to authenticate a message to the lost and not as evidence of pardon to the believer (1 Corinthians 14:22).
(d.) The gift of tongues to the apostles and other disciples on the day of Pentecost, was bestowed long after their faith and long after their baptism. Therefore, if you find it in this one case coming before baptism, it does not prove to be a condition, but an incident, since in another given case it did not appear until long after the faith and the baptism.
(e.) But for argument's sake, let us admit that this special gift of the Holy Ghost meant more than the gift of tongues; in other words, that it also included full assurance. Let us admit that. What then? Was it a condition and law of salvation or of baptism? Will any man dare to say so? If any man will so dare I plant right in his path an invincible and insuperable scripture. Here it is: Acts, eighth chapter, from the fifth to the seventeenth verse. Now, listen to it carefully: "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them." That is good preaching. "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ" (that is good faith), "they were baptized, both men and women." That is good baptism. "Now, when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received
the Holy Ghost." Now, all the argument on the earth cannot break the force of that scripture. If some modern assurance preachers had gone down there instead of the apostles, they would have said to these men and women, whom Philip had baptized, "Have you got assurance?" "No." "Well, your baptism is invalid. You will have to do the whole thing over again." But fortunately they were apostles, and they kneeled down and prayed that the gift of the Holy Ghost might come on them. Now, I am admitting for argument's sake that this gift of the Holy Ghost includes assurance. Now, take another case, and it is more remarkable than that one: In the nineteenth chapter of the Acts, and from the second to the sixth verse. Paul came to Ephesus and he found there twelve disciples. You listen to the question: "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" And they replied that they had not even so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. Then they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and after they were baptized Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost. Look at the order of things. Now, I think I have answered that objection once and forever. So I will go on with the argument.
5. Paul also prescribed only repentance and faith as terms of salvation and conditions of baptism. Acts 20:21 "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." He thus showed the uniformity in the laws that he presented, and that it made no difference whether a man was of one nation or of another nation, that these laws secured salvation. "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38, 39). That shows that he made repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the terms of salvation. Now, let us see how it applies to both salvation and baptism. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their
stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway" (Acts 16:30-33). Now, here is a remarkable case. It is remarkable from the fact that this is the only place in the whole Bible where the precise question is asked, "What must I do to be saved?" And the answer is categorical and unequivocal, and immediately after compliance with the simple law that he prescribed, baptism followed at midnight. Paul writes to the Corinthians, "I delivered unto you first of all, how that according to the Scriptures, Christ died for our sins, and was buried and rose again." Now, that is what he delivered to them, and here is what history says about their reception of it: "And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (Acts 18:8).
Now, upon these several scriptures, showing what John the Baptist and Jesus and the apostles required as the terms of life and conditions of baptism, I take an immovable stand. This is law. This is divine law. This is the utterance of Almighty God, and on the very point in question. On this I make the following observations
1. This law is explicit, simple, uniform. Repentance and faith are its terms of life and its conditions of baptism.
2. There is no hint in these laws of assurance, not a hint. I defy any man living to take the words repentance and faith, assurance being left out, which is a different word, and in giving the terms of law and the law upon which salvation depends, and church ordinances and offices depend, and rightfully claim the liberty to construe into these simple terms meanings which do not belong to the terms themselves. Any man who has any conception of law, any man who ever studied in the least degree the words of a statute, knows that you are not allowed to put into those terms other than the usual meaning of the terms themselves.
3. From the scriptures which I have cited, baptism followed repentance and faith without waiting for anything else. You cannot interpose anything between these prescribed conditions and baptism, which is to follow them. You cannot put a hair's breadth of additional matter there. If you do, you have committed treason against God. I say that baptism followed instantly repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, without waiting for any of the effects of faith, or any of the enlargements of faith, or any of the consequences
of faith whatever. If assurance came quickly, as is alleged in the case of Cornelius, well. If assurance tarried, as in the case of the Samaritans and the disciples at Ephesus, still, well. Baptism did not tarry.
Now, I wish to digress long enough to answer, another objection. These preachers of assurance allege that the patriarchs and prophets, and even the apostles, before the day of Pentecost, may have doubted their acceptance with God, but after Pentecost and the gift of the Spirit they say no believer ever doubted. In other words, faith without assurance may have saved Abraham and John the Baptist. Faith without assurance might have been a sufficient condition of baptism before Pentecost, because the Spirit was not yet given, but not afterward. That is precisely their position, substantially in their words. I reply, I have shown you what was the gift of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. I have shown you two unequivocal passages of Scripture, the case of the Samaritans and the case of the disciples at Ephesus, who had genuine faith and genuine baptism before this gift of the Spirit was received at all. I reply next, that such an objection as this and you are bound to see it, you are bound to feel the force of it, -- that such an objection as this makes two plans of salvation, two laws of life, two laws of baptism, one operative before Pentecost and the other operative after Pentecost, and that people who are saved after Pentecost have to do more than people who were saved before Pentecost. For such a position there is not only no shadow of argument in the word of God, but there are abundant and positive and overwhelming scriptures against it. I have shown you that John the Baptist, before Pentecost, and Jesus Christ, in his personal ministry before Pentecost, required precisely the same things as terms of life and conditions of baptism that the apostles required after Pentecost. There is not the difference of the breadth of a hair between the two.
Again, the highest commendations ever paid to greatness of faith on this earth were paid to men before Pentecost -- or rather one of them was a woman. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." The next verse shows that this was saving faith that this man had. The other Scripture is where Jesus says to the Syro-Phoenician woman, "Oh, woman, great is thy faith."
These are the commendations of the Son of God, not to little faith, not to doubting faith, but to great, exalted, and mighty faith, and they both occurred before the day of Pentecost, and show that faith could be just as great before as after.
In the next place, I will take a case that will settle the question forever. It is one about which there can really be no intelligent dispute, the case of Abraham. In the fourth chapter of Romans, and from the sixth to the twenty-fourth verse, the Apostle Paul discusses the case. This case is in the remote past. He calls Abraham the father of the faithful. He commends Abraham's faith as an example for our faith. He says that Abraham's faith was of a kind that secured the imputed righteousness of Christ. And then he says this wad not written for his sake alone, but for our sakes also, to whom it will be imputed, if we have faith like faithful Abraham. I do not know an error that I regard as any graver than the error that men entered salvation by one door back yonder, and by another door now, and that faith meant anything different then from what it means now. Now, I reply to it in the next place, that the theory is just as much at fault on the subject of assurance as it is on faith, for you can prove just as clearly that some had the assurance of faith before Pentecost as you can prove that others had it after Pentecost, so that Pentecost does not touch the question at all. Abraham had undoubting, unstaggering faith (Romans 4:19, 20). Enoch and Elijah had faith enough to be translated without death. Job too had assurance (Job 19:23-27).
Now, the question arises, Why did any one ever take that position about Pentecost? There must have been some reason to prompt any man to take it. I can give you the reason exactly. It was an expedient to hedge against indisputable cases of faith mingled with doubt, before Pentecost, that no man on earth could get around. I never have seen a man try to get around them, and therefore, as they could not be evaded, a theory must be invented that would strip them of force. Now, what are the cases? Well, take the case of John the Baptist. This man, who was so great that the Saviour said that none born of woman is greater; this man who was under the influence of the Holy Spirit in his mother's womb, and leaped at the recognition of the mother
of his Lord; this man who saw the Holy Ghost in the likeness of a dove resting upon the head of Jesus, identifying him as the Messiah; this man who heard God's voice, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" this man who said to his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;" when he was arrested, when he was taken out of public life, when he was cut off from the joy of working -- which is a terrible trial when it comes on any good man-when he was shut up in a prison, he doubted. And he sent his disciples to Jesus, instructing them to ask this question: "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" Oh, how tenderly Jesus looked upon the doubt. He did not say, "You go back and tell John that he is a lost soul." But to confirm and strengthen his wavering faith, he says, "You go back and show John what things you have seen and heard; that the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them, the lame walk, the blind see. Go show that to John and let him be assured that I am he, and that he need not look for another."
Take another case -- Peter. Peter said at Caesarea-Philippi, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," calling forth the rejoinder, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Here is faith, the kind of faith upon which Christ proposes to build his church, the kind of faith against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, and yet Peter wavered after that. What is the proof? When they came up to him and said, "Art thou not one of these Galileans? Did I not see thee in the garden with Christ?" What did he say? I quote the Scriptures: "He began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak." Well, it was quite important to get rid of a case like that.
Of similar purport is the case of Thomas, a case that has given him a name in history as Doubting Thomas. Now I say that this theory that makes Pentecost a dividing line between two plans of salvation, was a mere expedient to get rid of the invincible logic as bearing upon this proposition,
of such cases as have been cited. But the very climax of absurdity is reached by this theory when it takes this scripture -- now listen: "These, all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" and makes the "promise" and that "better thing" mean assurance. I say that is the climax of absurd biblical interpretation.
I have now submitted the divine law, which discloses the terms of salvation and the conditions of baptism, answering some objections by the way. In view of this law, how can any man say assurance is a necessary condition of baptism? There can be only one of two ways by which this can be proved; first, by showing from God's word, plainly and unequivocally, that assurance is an essential element of faith, so that without it there is no faith. This is a heavy burden for any man to assume. Or, by showing from God's word that it is such an instantaneous and ever-continuous accompaniment of faith that we are never at any time warranted to recognize in ourselves or in others, anything as faith that is not so accompanied. Hence, under this last position, while it is not an element of faith, yet it is the instant, everlasting, and infallible proof and manifestation of faith. Such a position compels you, therefore, in every case of professed faith, to require the demonstration of this assurance before you concede that a man is saved, or before you will baptize him. Now, in order to reply to those two points! am going to analyze my text. Hear it again. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." Now here are two terms that are interchangeable, "receive" and "believe." As many as received him, that is, as many as believed in him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God. By this text I desire to annihilate both positions by showing what is saving faith. Assurance has been defined; now let us define faith. I mean saving faith. If there is any other kind I have nothing to do with that here. The precise thing for ascertainment is that faith, or that particular act of faith, which secures justification, life; which puts us in Christ and which makes us children of God. Faith which does not reach unto these ends is not saving faith, and so much of it
as extends beyond these ends is not a part of saving faith, since it saved before it got to them. All the elements necessary to these ends must be in saving faith; none of the enlargement or consequences beyond these ends constitute any part of the saving faith. Whoever has this much faith, great or small, or this kind of faith, is ready for baptism, without anything else in the wide world. The command to be baptized takes hold of him right then, when he is justified, when he is saved, when he is a child of God.
Now let us look at the text and emphasize a sentence. I will put it in italics. I hope you will put it in capital letters. The receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ is the vital and saving act of faith. As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God. Receiving implies a gift. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth -- that is, receiveth him -- shall not perish, but have everlasting life. You may believe that there is one God; so does the devil. You may believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; so did the lost demons. You may believe that the Bible is true and that there is a heaven and a hell so do many very godless men. You may be sure in your own mind that you are saved and be certain of heaven; so have many been assured who are now lost. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is death." You may believe anything you please about Jesus Christ -- that he is divine, that he is the Son of God, that he is the Saviour, but unless you receive him you have no faith.
Now, I want to strip this question to-day of every external. I want to get before you the isolated and naked and unaccompanied thing, that is saving faith. In order to get the benefits of God's gift, you are not so much to admire it as to take it. To as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God. To as many, no matter how many or whom, to that many, whether Jew or Greek, he gave the power to become the sons of God. As many as received him, so many, neither less nor more, had faith. What kind of believing then is faith? Believing that receiveth; that is the saving faith. Mark you! I wish you would mark it. Saving faith is receiving him, not receiving what. It has no respect to a proposition, but to a person.
Paul says, "I know whom I have believed," not "what." And all this logical presentation of plans, and getting a man to see through a plan and calling that faith, is foreign to its essential and fundamental idea, which takes hold of a person and not of a proposition. Christ does not say, "Come unto my doctrine;" he says, "Come unto me." To believe Christ is to receive Christ. Now mark this as bearing on this question before us -- it is not at all of the essence of saving faith to take hold of any of the benefits which flow from Christ, any one of them. It is not saving faith, necessarily, nor a part of its essence, to take hold of justification, to take hold of heaven, to take hold of sanctification, to take hold of redemption; but saving faith receives him, and with him these other things. Faith unites to Christ.
Now, I want to prove that by answering the most plausible argument that any man on this earth ever made for assurance, as a condition of baptism, and it is the one that relates to the witness of the Spirit. Listen carefully to certain scriptures. I want to show you that you do not get the witness of the Spirit until you first have saving faith. Now listen "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Mark you, because you are sons. But you are not sons until you receive Jesus. "For as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God." Therefore, faith, and saving faith, in every essential feature of it, comes before you are a son at all -- precedes it. I appeal to inspiration. You are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is the instrumentality that puts you into the family. Faith gives you the power to become a son, and after you are a son, then, because you are his son, there is sent forth into your heart this spiritual testimony. How soon after, the Scriptures never say. How, then, can any one maintain that this Spirit-witness is identical with faith, or that it is simultaneous with it? It is absolutely impossible. It is unscriptural, intensely unscriptural, as well as unphilosophical and illogical, to make faith and the witness of the Spirit either identical or simultaneous. Hear the great Andrew Fuller, in a sermon that he preached on this very text. Here is what he said "But if God first give Christ, and with him freely all things, we must first receive Christ, and with him all things freely.
The first exercise of faith, therefore, does not consist in receiving the benefits resulting from him, or in a persuasion of our sins being forgiven, but in receiving Christ; and having received him we with him receive an interest in those benefits. Hence the propriety of such language as this: 'He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life.' It is on this principle that union with Christ is represented as the foundation of an interest in his benefits, as in the following passages: 'Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.' 'That I may be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.' . . . The sum is, that receiving Christ is the great turning point of salvation or that by which we obtain a revealed interest in all the blessings of the gospel." 1 Dr. Fuller then goes on to show that you must first be in Christ and that the effect of saving faith is to put you there. To illustrate:
A hope is set before men. And they say, that seems to be a splendid hope. We admire it very much. We believe it is a good thing. But saving faith lays hold of the hope set before it, and does not stand off and admire it. Here is a City of Refuge, which was a type of Christ. It is not saving fait to stand off and say it was a wise thing to have such cities. It is not saving faith to say, I think that is a good and secure place, but it is saving faith to enter into it. It is the appropriating, the receiving, and the taking part that constitutes its essence, and if you are in there, why all these other things are blessings that flow from that relation, every one of them. When in Christ Jesus, he is made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. These the Spirit applies to us on account of our union with Christ; not all at once, nor all by the same methods. Righteousness and sanctification and redemption are not applied alike nor simultaneously; the first is applied instantaneously by imputation; the second is gradual and progressive, culminating at death; the third at the resurrection. The title to all belongs to us when united to Christ. The application by the Spirit is when and
1 Fuller's Works, Vol. I, pp. 268, 269.
how and where he will. Our realization and assurance of the application of any part of it is still a different thing. The reflex follows the direct. Subjective and objective are not the same.
Take this scripture, Romans 5:1: "Being therefore justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Revision.) Here "let us have" instead of "we have," is based on all the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. In the Greek the difference is between short o (echomen) and long o (echomen). The latter means let us have," and is supported by the Vatican, Sinaitic, and Alexandrian manuscripts. The agreement of these three is almost absolutely conclusive as to the true text of any passage. An old writer says: "That only is saving faith which is
(1) in all true believers, (2) in true believers only, (3) which is in true believers at all times."
He then shows that mere assent of the mind falls short, and that assurance goes too far, and by a masterly argument on the Scripture and experience demonstrates that all true believers have not assurance, and that those who have it do not always retain it.2 I now submit, without elaboration, a series of unanswerable Scripture arguments.
1. Spiritual life begins like natural life, by a birth. Its subjects at first are babes, not grown people (Hebrews 5:13, 14; 1 Peter 2:2). Spiritual life, like natural life, is a development. First the blade, then the stalk, then the ear, then the full ear of corn. A heathen legend indeed, teaches that Minerva burst from the brain of Jove fullgrown, and panoplied from head to foot. She was never a baby. But this is not a Bible story, but a heathen myth.
2. The word of God warns us to be tender with these "little ones." "But, whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). But these modern assurance men would out-herod Herod in slaying the innocents. "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations" (Romans 14:1).
3. The Bible teaches that genuine believers are to be confirmed, established, and rooted in the faith. "Paul said unto
2 See Flavel's Methods of Grace, pp. 129, 141.
Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. . . . And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches" (Acts 15:36, 41). "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith" (Colossians 2:6, 7). "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory .by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:10).
All these scriptures are in perfect harmony with our Confessions of Faith and our theological text-books, but are out of harmony with the instantaneous and everlasting assurance preached by some, which never doubts, needs no confirmation, no establishing, no rooting, no settling.
4. One of the most attractive characteristics of Jesus is expressed in the scripture: "A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax (wick) shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory" (Matthew 12:20). But these assurance brethren are eager to break every reed of hope that is bruised and put out forever every wick of faith that does not give clear, bright, and steady light.
5. God has always been tender with the "hands which hang down" and the "weak knees" (Isaiah 35:3 and Hebrews 12:12). I wish all Baptists would read Spurgeon's great sermons on these texts. There are many who in affliction or despondency cry out: "Why art thou cast down, oh, my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, for the help of his countenance." In these dark days of doubt the hands of faith are so weak they cannot hold on. And the knees of prayer are so feeble they cannot hold out to importunity. We may not deny life to these suffering ones. They need not to be denounced, but to be comforted and encouraged.
In his sermon before the Southern Baptist Convention at Nashville, Dr. W. E. Hatcher showed how an old-fashioned Virginia Baptist treated such a text as: "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed." He graphically showed how the hope at conversion, like the untried enthusiasm of a raw recruit, might make us ashamed; but the assured hope that
comes to the old battle-scarred veteran, the hope whose sire was experience, whose grandsire was patience, and whose great grandsire was tribulation; the hope with such a pedigree never makes a man ashamed. "Let not him that girdeth on the harness boast as he that putteth it off." "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." It was a precious sermon, in full accord with God's word, with the Confessions of Faith, and with human experience. But no modern assurance preacher could have preached it.
6. Such an idea of assurance as we have been controverting, can never be reconciled with the scripture: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Corinthians 13:5.) Why should Christians be exhorted to examine themselves, whether they be in the faith, if every Christian, as soon as converted, knows then and forever, without the shadow of a doubt, that he is saved?
7. Nor with the exhortation: "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). This is the text referred to by both the Philadelphia and New Hampshire Confessions. It is addressed to those who "have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ." They are exhorted to add to or supply with their faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, on the express and double assurance, that "if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is near-sighted, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
8. Such preaching unquestionably makes some sad whom the Lord has not made sad, and by false assurance makes some glad whom the Lord hath not made glad (Ezekiel 13:10-22). This charge is sustained every time a true child of God, though only a child weak in the faith, has been denounced as lost, and every time one has been comforted by an assurance, which is not from God. Both the Bible and our Confessions of Faith point out the marks of a true assurance.
(a) It is indicated by meekness, humility, and lowliness of spirit-selfdistrustful. False assurance is arrogant, assertive, dogmatic, and disputatious. (b) True assurance is manifested in practical piety, conformity in life to God's holy word, and is full of the sweet spirit of charity. False assurance keeps the eye on dogmas and propositions and logic, instead of the daily life. It can unfold the plan of salvation unto the ninth part of a hair without being famous in illustrating salvation in daily walk and conversation. (c) True assurance is ready for every good word and work. It is the mainstay in pastoral support, in Sunday-school work, in missions, and in education. Every denominational enterprise obtains its prayers and secures its help. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him" (1 John 3:18, 19). False assurance is too much given to dogmatics to care much for these things. (d) True assurance builds and unifies a church; false assurance pulls down or splits a church. (e) True assurance is spiritually minded; false assurance is brazen and braggart, given more to argument than prayer. (f) True assurance comes from many battles, trials, and temptations, and is rich and ripe in experience. False assurance belongs to the novice, who is confident and boastful without trial or battle. So Peter, poor, inexperienced Peter: "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. . . . If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise." Ah! me, when Satan sifts untried, but over-confident people, what a fall is there.
After all, brother, it counts more that God knows us than that we know God; that Jesus hold us than that we hold Jesus. So Paul: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend (lay hold of) that for which also I am apprehended (laid hold of) of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-14). Also: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are
his" (2 Timothy 2:19). The foundation does not stand sure because we know him.
Again. "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God," etc. (Galatians 4:9). "But if any man love God, the same is known of him" (1 Corinthians 8:3). These scriptures prove that the test of salvation is God's knowing us. When Jesus apprehended, i.e., laid hold on us, he had many and glorious objects in view. We, in our imperfections, may not apprehend, i.e., lay hold of all these objects, and none of them perfectly, but his apprehension i.e., laying hold on us, never relaxes or varies, as ours may, and never fails ultimately to bring us safely to all things for which he apprehended us.
Let us consider the remedy. We have found that the requirement of assurance as a term of salvation and condition of baptism is a vital and fundamental innovation on Baptist doctrine; that it is, for such ends, unscriptural; that the issue may neither be compromised nor disguised by labels. What then? If the unity of our people is preserved and the peace and fellowship of the churches are maintained, they must rest on this basis
(1) A recognition of the importance of the issue and a realization of our own concern with its solution. (2) That as the Bible teaches the doctrine of assurance we ought to teach it. (3) That as the Bible teaches that Christians may attain to it in this life, we ought to teach that possibility. (4) That as the Bible exhorts to its attainment, we should impress the obligation to seek it on all our believing hearers. (5) That as the Bible has not made it a condition of salvation or of baptism, it is a sin for us to so require it. (6) Therefore, that as the apostolic church refused to recognize as gospel preaching the requirement of circumcision as a condition of salvation (Acts 15), and as our fathers would not recognize as gospel preaching a similar misplacing of baptism, so we now will not recognize as gospel preaching a misplacing of assurance.
We will stand by the old terms of discipleship: Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. These two, and no more. We will wear no yoke the Lord has not imposed, but will stand fast in the liberty wherewith the Redeemer has made us free. That between faith and salvation, and between faith and baptism we
will not admit any other imposition, though no heavier than thistledown and no wider than a spider's thread. That if brethren insist on any other condition whatever and cannot conscientiously yield, then no remedy can avail against separation. Indeed, in that case, being two widely distinct peoples, we ought to separate. And the sooner the better.
No Baptist church can invite a man into its pulpit who requires assurance as a condition of salvation or baptism, without becoming a partaker of his sin -- without surrendering the old Baptist landmark: repentance and faith only. If you once open the door of conditions, where will you stop? I repeat, therefore, that an issue is on us. We must meet it unflinchingly, squarely, and once for all. The only remedy that can avert separation and put an effectual stop to church troubles and strifes is to demand that every one, whether preacher or layman, shall put assurance where it belongs and shall not, from a Baptist platform, require as a condition of baptism or salvation any other thing than "Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." These two. Both of these. Both of these only. =============
[From B. H. Carroll, Sermons and Life Sketch, compiled by J. B. Cranfill, 1893; reprint 1986, pp. 247-264. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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