A Voice from the Past:
James Hall Brookes on Assurance
From Salvation: The Way Made Plain
Originally published in 1871 by
American Sunday-School Union, Philadelphia.
You know whether you are trusting in Him alone for salvation, or whether you expect to enter heaven on any other ground; and if you can truthfully say that your trust is in Jesus, and in none but Jesus, you may know that you have passed out of death into life, because it is written, “ He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47).
The question here is not whether you are a sinner, for it is certain that you are a sinner, and that you will remain a sinner as long as you live; but it is simply this, Do you believe in Christ as your Saviour? If you do, although the flesh is still in you, “ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9). In other words, although you are a sinner, you are not a sinner; and if you say this is a contradiction in terms, so it is a contradiction in terms to say that you are mortal and at the same time immortal, and yet both statements are strictly true.
As the great Bacon has described the believer in one of his striking Christian “paradoxes and seeming contradictions,” “He hath within him both flesh and Spirit, yet he is not a double-minded man; he is often led captive by the law of sin, yet it never gets dominion over him; he cannot sin, yet can do nothing without sin.” Or, as saith the Holy Spirit by John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8); but the same apostle says, “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).”Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.” If the Christian had not leaven in him, he could not be told to purge it out; and yet the very reason assigned for purging it out is that he has not leaven.
The truth is, our “old man” is essentially corrupt, but our “new man” which is created in Christ Jesus is essentially holy; and the moment we are in Him by faith alone, twenty things are said of our sins. First, they are blotted out (Isa 43:25); second, they are borne by another (1 Pet 2:24); third, they are cast behind God’s back (Isa 38:17); fourth, they are cast into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19); fifth, they are washed away with cleansing blood (1 John 1:7); sixth, they are covered (Rom 4:7); seventh, they are finished (Dan 9:24); eighth, they are forgiven (Col 2:13); ninth, they are not beheld (Num 23:21); tenth, they are not imputed (Rom 4:8); eleventh, they are not remembered (Heb 8:12); twelfth, they are pardoned (Mic 7:18); thirteenth, they are passed away (Zech 3:4); fourteenth, they are purged (Heb 1:3); fifteenth, they are put away (Heb 9:26); sixteenth, they are remitted (Acts 10:43); seventeenth, they are removed (Ps 103:12); eighteenth, they are subdued (Mic 7:19); nineteenth, they are sought for and not found (Jer 1:20); twentieth, they are taken away (Isa 6:7). The believer in Christ may know upon the sure testimony of God that all this is true as it respects both the sin of his nature and the sins of his life; and hence the believer may know in the same way that he is saved.
But it may be asked whether there are not certain evidences of conversion found in the Scriptures. Undoubtedly there are, but they are not given that we might derive from them the assurance of salvation. It was never intended that we should receive assurance by believing ourselves to be Christians, but by believing that Christ is our all-sufficient Saviour. Look at any of the evidences of regeneration mentioned in the Bible, and a moment’s reflection will convince you that they were not designed to furnish assurance, for which so many sad hearts are longing and striving. Take, for example, the text, “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7). This cannot give assurance, for there is not a Christian in the world whose love does not fall far below the measure of his desire and his duty.
Take the text, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). This cannot give assurance, for there is no test to decide who are the brethren, and no standard to determine how fervent our love must be, or how far it must extend in covering the faults of those who claim to be Christians. Take the text, “He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him” (1 John 3:24). This cannot give assurance; for every true Christian, unless deluded by Satan, will confess that he fails to observe them in many particulars; that when he would do good evil is present with him; and that “no mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed.” Whatever purpose, therefore, these evidences may serve, it is a selfrighteous and fruitless task to look to them for assurance.
Still, it may be urged that we are commanded to examine ourselves. But not, I reply, to discover whether we are Christians. Self-examination is right enough, and daily should we consider our ways: not, however, to find a ground of assurance, but to confess and forsake all that is evil as judged by the Word of God.
It may, however, occur to the reader that there are numerous passages in the Scriptures which warn us against the danger and deception of apostasy. Want of space forbids an examination of these passages, but without going into details, it is sufficient to state that Scripture cannot contradict itself; and having already shown by the abundant testimony of the Holy Ghost the safety of the believer in Jesus, it is certain that the same Spirit cannot teach a directly contrary doctrine. Such passages are sometimes given to expose hypocrites, and sometimes to put true Christians on their guard “against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11), but never to shake the confidence of the believer. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi” (Phil 1:1) [the home of the redeemed and rejoicing jailer], the inspired apostle writes, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12, 13). In other words, God had worked salvation in them, and now they were commanded to work it out—to work, not for salvation, but from salvation already received; to work, not for life, but from life already bestowed. And if anything can arouse us to ceaseless activity, to sustained enthusiasm, to practical holiness, and to personal love in the service of our Divine Master, it is the knowledge of the fact that through His pitying grace and precious blood He has freely, fully, and forever saved us. Then we will understand the deep meaning of the words,
I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
And Jesus Christ is my all in all.