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ON THE ASSURANCE OF FAITH.
THERE is a subject, which for some time past has, to a very considerable extent, been engaging the attention of Christians;-to which some ministers of the gospel have been giving so marked a prominence, that it has been associated with their names as if they had been its originators;-and about which, as might have been anticipated, a vast deal has been said, in the private circles of the professing world, in which there has too frequently been little discrimination of thought, and sometimes still less of intelligible definiteness of expression. The simple-hearted believer has listened and inquired, with timid solicitude and painful perplexity; the doctrinal speculatist has made it the arena for his pugnacious self-sufficiency; and the shallow talker has found in it free scope for his empty and pointless volubility. The subject to which I allude has usually been designated by one word:-it has been called "the doctrine of ASSURANCE." And in the use of the term, there has been a great deal of illfounded confidence on the one hand, and of as groundless diffidence on the other, and, with occasional exceptions, of desultory vagueness on both. Scriptural conceptions regarding it, however, are not a little important, that the two evils thus alluded to may be shunned, the opposite evils of presumption and despondency; that neither may the true believer be needlessly disheartened, nor the mere professor be encouraged in delusive self-satis
faction, and vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. The despondency of the believer and the presumption of the professor are alike pernicious:-pernicious, I mean, not merely to the parties themselves, but to the observing world. The former gives an untrue and repulsive view of the gospel,-as if, although nominally good tidings, it did not make the believer of it happy, but left him still to "hang down his head like a bulrush, and spread sackcloth and ashes under him :"-while the latter presents a view not less false and calumnious, nor less stumbling andd etrimental to the souls of men,-filling the mouths of the ungodly with the sarcastic reflection, that, although professedly coming from the God of love and purity, it does not render those who receive it, and profess to be under its influence, either loving or pure-either humble, or peaceful, or holy. These are both very mischievous and deplorable effects,-against which it becomes our duty to oppose every possible means of prevention.
It might seem, from the very brevity of the designation, that this "doctrine of assurance" was confined to one simple point. But he who should think so would be widely mistaken. It either directly embraces, or touches collaterally, a number of interesting topics-and especially, it stands in close connexion with the first principles,-the simplest and most essential elements, of the doctrine of Christ, as well as with all that the Bible teaches respecting the influence of these principles upon the heart and character.
I shall take for the basis of the following brief treatise, in which it is my earnest desire that the Spirit of God may enable me to bring forward such views only as are in harmony with the statements of the written word, the only standard on all