'The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.' (Isaiah 32:17.)
One reason why I glory in teaching Full Salvation is that it includes a religion of certainty. It brings a man to a place of sureness as to his religious relationships. A soul just awakened to a sense of responsibility is naturally full of wonderment and anxiety, and this must be disposed of. So that when we speak of a man obtaining Salvation, we say 'he found peace'.
Doubt is torment, and torment is the opposite of peace. The soul cannot rest if it is perpetually on the string. To enjoy religion the mind must be settled about the main facts of the case; there must be a feeling of sureness as to one's acceptance with God and His approval of our spiritual condition.
We have a wily old Devil to deal with, and I believe that nothing gives him more malicious delight than to get sincere souls into the bondage of fear as to their state and standing. I believe many sincere souls hesitate to claim the blessing, and say they have it, because they are afraid of deluding themselves or deceiving others by their testimonies.
Afraid to do right for fear of doing wrong, they go on, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, falling into discouragement and doubt, and allowing the Devil to get an advantage over them in this respect.
Now, we cannot dispute the fact that in the experiences of good people there are many points of difference. Temptations, surroundings, position, and work are the cause of these differences. But in the midst of all, there is the possibility and blessed privilege of being sure about one's own rightness before God.
I saw a reference the other day to Charles Spurgeon's method of treating this matter. He showed how disturbing and distressing it would be if, in our domestic life, we had elements of uncertainty such as many people have in regard to their spiritual relationships.
After quoting the old verse:—
'Tis a point I long to know,
Mr. Spurgeon made a humorous parody of the verse by making it read:—
'Tis a point I long to know,
Uncertainty about our religious condition is quite as unsatisfactory as any doubt about our most sacred domestic relationships. Sureness is vital to peace, and the truly sanctified soul will live in the region of certainty, Divine things and Divine revelations becoming definite and real to him. Temptations to doubt and fear will arise; but, in spite of them, those who are sanctified realize that the Blood cleanses and the Holy Spirit dwells within.
I will not ask whether you have any religion or not, because most of you are professors of religion, but I do ask, Has your religion got this element of 'sureness' in it? We must settle that point. You may say, 'If I am to be sure, I must have evidence'. Quite so. We will, therefore, glance together at several things about which you can either say, 'It is so', or 'It is not so', and thus arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to where you are. I will classify the evidence in this way:—
First, there is the testimony of one's own consciousness, or one's own spirit, as Paul puts it.
Second, there is the testimony of the Spirit of God—the Holy Ghost.
Third, there will be the results manifest to ourselves and to others; effects which testify just as reliably as the hanging fruit indicates the character and condition of any particular tree.
1. By the first class of evidence I do not mean a set of fanciful sensations, or frames of feeling, but such an exercise of our judgment, when we examine the facts before us, as will enable us to come to a sound and reasonable conclusion.
The witness of one's own spirit is largely a matter of consciousness and faith, and it works like this: 'I am not only conscious of God's revealed claims upon me, and my own duty to Him; but, as far as I understand, I have put myself in line with what He wants me to be and do. For instance, I am told that whilst God will sanctify me I am able to sanctify myself. I therefore ask, "Have I so far co-operated with Him as to come out and separate myself from evil?" If I am right I can say, "Yes, I have"; and as a further evidence of my sincerity I seek to abstain from all appearance of evil.'
I am also commanded to present myself for practical and joyful service, and I am told that I must believe such a sacrifice is acceptable because whatever touches the Divine altar is holy. Now, I can be quite sure as to my compliance with these demands, and my willingness to live as a sanctified soul ought to live. I know whether or not in these things I have done my part; and, if I know that I have, I can then reasonably trust God or reckon on Him to do His part. That is what Paul calls 'a good conscience toward God', and there is no presumption in such a conclusion.
If we turn to John's Epistle we shall see how plainly he puts the truth about assurance. 'If', says the Apostle, 'our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things'; but 'if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God'. Without this conscious sincerity it is useless to pray for the blessing, for God cannot sanctify us whilst we are clinging to any known wrong or compounding with some doubtful habit or folly. If, on the other hand, we are conscious that we have no reserves, and accept by faith the cleansing Blood as the cure for our heart's plague, we may with all reasonableness say, 'I have the testimony of my own spirit'.
2. Let us look at the second class of evidence, namely, the testimony of the Spirit of God—the assurance of the Holy Ghost.
If we are to be quite certain about the important things in relation to the soul, we must have the expression of God's mind and approval. Nothing is made clearer in the Apostolic writings than the fact that it is our blessed privilege to have this Divine testimony. Paul not only tells us that 'the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God', but speaks of the marvellous manifestations of God in saved souls in subsequent revelations: 'We have received the Spirit, which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.'
On first thought we might say, perhaps, that the gift would speak for itself. But the Lord goes beyond that by giving us not only the blessing itself, but also the Spirit to assure us that we have got the blessing. John is on the same line when he says repeatedly about those spiritual blessings, 'we know', 'we know that we know', and the secret of sureness is made clear, 'we know by the Spirit which He hath given unto us'.
When we speak of the witness of the Spirit, either to our conversion or our sanctification, we do not mean some audible voice or some miraculous demonstration, but an inwrought conviction as to the correctness of our words when, in all sincerity, and to the glory of God, we profess to have arrived at a certain point, or obtained a certain blessing. It is a conviction which removes doubt, and satisfies the soul on the question. The mode of this—the way in which the Holy Ghost does it—may be quite beyond our comprehension; but the fact is there, as far beyond dispute as with the assurance of the blind man, who said, 'This one thing I know, that whereas once I was blind, now I see'.
3. Then I also used the word 'results', as indicating a class of evidence without which all other professed experiences are but passing sentiments and sensations. In the character and life there must be results in the shape of those holy fruits of which I have so frequently spoken.
In a sense often described, and well understood, every child of God becomes at conversion the temple of the Holy Ghost; we are born of the Spirit; enlightened by the Spirit; our spiritual life is sustained by the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are therefore manifest in a greater or lesser degree, but the advantage to the entirely sanctified is that not only is the fruit-bearing power increased, but fruits of an opposite character are absent. In other words, the fully sanctified man is 'filled with the Spirit'. The fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, are abundant in him.
To illustrate my meaning, take one passage relating to that spiritual fruit described by the word love. 'We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.' Now, of course, that comes into operation at conversion; but in the fully sanctified this is love without admixture, pure love, without any feeling opposed to love. We can soon test ourselves. Think of love in the forgiveness of injury; the love which 'thinketh no evil', 'envieth not', the love which 'worketh no ill to his neighbour'. Where does grudge-bearing, backbiting, or uncharitableness come in? Pride, passion, self-assertion, and such things belong not to the results of sanctification; the opposites are found in those who bring forth 'fruits unto Holiness'.
I heard a good woman quote a passage with an application of her own which is true in point of fact, even if not the precise meaning of the original writer. 'Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.' She meant, literally, that, however she might be pained by the words or actions of those about her, she would not be 'offended'. This is a pretty high class of result, for nothing is more common than the readiness to take offence. But this refusal to take offence is, with the other fruits, clear proof that the heart and life are sanctified. So I might work out this law of results. These samples will, however, indicate my line of teaching.
Now, coming back to my thought at the beginning—the necessity for 'Sureness' in regard to religion, and especially in the experience of Holiness—let me ask, Where are we found? Have the testings confirmed that certainty of heart, or have my words disturbed self-satisfaction? Do not be afraid of facing the direct issue. If you have the evidences referred to, then be sure to go about proclaiming what God has done. But if not, then this unsatisfied and unsatisfactory condition cannot be persisted in when the Fountain which cleanses is open for all, and when the Holy Spirit is here to apply the Blood, and to take full possession of every soul. Let this be the hour when you come to the altar round which the cleansing stream so freely flows.