Question on Assurance of Faith

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De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi PBers,

I was hoping that you could help minister to my soul. There are times when I am sure I am not truly a Christian. I have expressed these sentiments before but they keep arising. It seems to be a constant battle. If I could describe my situation, I was hoping that perhaps you could show me some scriptures that could help minister to my heart. When I am in these pits of anxiety, I cannot think straight and I need others. During these times, I cannot think rational thoughts I get stuck in a rut wherein my heart is consumed by anxious thoughts (i.e. "you're not saved") and no matter how much I seem to pray it doesn't make the anxiety go away. This leads me to believe that God isn't hearing my prayer and that I am not His.

I want desperately to believe that God has started a good work in me, which he will complete. My desires at this point in my life (I'm 30) include things that I did not desire 10 years ago. I love Christian fellowship, and talking about the Bible. 10 years ago, I was more concerned with having a good time and had essentially no true Christian friends. I do try to live a Holy life, although I fail so often. Sometimes I still recognize in myself desires to do evil. I suppose this is the flesh rearing its head.

I have no hope for salvation other than through Jesus Christ. My works are not sufficient to save. They are full of selfish desires, and desires to self-preserve. Sometimes I fear that even my prayers to God for mercy are full of self-love rather than contrition. I feel as if I am a wretch in every way - like I cannot produce even one good thing, like even my prayers are an abomination to God. The idea that God is angry with me produces real anxiety in my heart. I know of God's sovereignty in salvation - I know that if I am to be saved He must do it, he must work. I know that to be saved is to receive God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. When I think of this, I can only think that I must not have this faith. And since faith is a gift of God, and I cannot conjure it up, I feel stuck. You may say, why don't you ask God for faith, for as a good father, he will not neglect to give such a good gift! Then my anxieties will creep in and say "yes, but God isn't your father - for Him to be your father, you would have to have faith!! - You're sunk".

Please help!
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
I have many of these same bouts, brother. I fully sympathize.

I don't want to be simplistic in my response. However, when I read your post, especially the last paragraph, I am noticing a morbid amount of first-person language. You are so focused on the self. Of course, with this, I want to say two things. First, we should never not be introspective. But second, introspection can get to the point where it's unhelpful, maybe even damaging. And, again, I know the draw to be morbidly introspective. But what often happens with people like you and me is that we become so self-absorbed that we totally neglect to think of Christ and who he is.

Instead of writing a long post further dissecting this issue, I would just suggest that you get this book. I have started reading it this year, and it has actually changed my life. I am not kidding. It opens up, as the subtitle says, the heart of Christ for sinners. Not the heart of Christ for Christians who fall a little here and there, but Christians who do not kid themselves about the sin that still entangles them.

The cure, I think, for your ailment is to look at Christ. And I am not trying to be trite or cliché in saying that. It really is the cure. The problem is that we often need help looking at Christ rightly, and the book I suggested really helps with that.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
Dear Izaak,

You will find a number here on the Puritan Board (myself included) struggle with these things so be comforted that you are not alone. I have a few random thoughts of things I have used to help my own soul over the years.
  1. This is important - do you have a godly pastor you can discuss these matter with? A godly pastor who can sympathise and comfort is a tremendous blessing.
  2. You talk about God doing a good work in you. Meditate on Phil 1:6 "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus". That is a comfort. God will not leave you. You have the promise of His word that He will complete the work He has started in you.
  3. Talking of meditation, read a good book on Biblical meditation. Two particularly Reformed ones are "God's Battle Plan for the Mind" or the great Puritan Thomas Watson's "Christian on the Mount"
  4. Talking of the mind you might find Martyn Lloyd-Jones great classic "Spiritual Depression" a help. Lloyd-Jones was a great pastor and medical doctor and he gives much advice on how to discipline the mind (using Psalm 42) and also a number of chapters on dealing with anxiety. This book is precious to me. The sermons that formed the basis of his book are also available online
  5. Meditate much on the Psalms. They will be a big help to you. I was recently reading Psalm 142 during a time of trial and it brought great comfort to my own soul. Also get a good Psalter and sing the Psalms
  6. In terms of fear that God is angry with you read "Gentle and Lowly". It speaks much about the gentleness of Christ's heart and His great love for His people. Much comfort there.
  7. In terms of general godly living and assurance of faith, I have gained much help from two Dutch works "The Spiritual Life" and "The Path of True Godliness".
  8. Meditate on 2 Tim 4:7-8 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." Note Paul calls it a good fight. The fact you are struggling suggests your genuine desire to fight a good fight. Paul would say keep fighting my friend. The fight is a good fight and victory is sure because of the blood and righteousness of Christ.
There are a number of books listed here, all of them have been tremendous help to me. I like to select one or two that speak to me present spiritual need, read prayerfully and carefully, and treat the book like a godly friend. If you have read Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, you will know that Christian went through many doubts and struggles. He even lost his assurance at one place. But the important point Bunyan makes was that he persevered.

Finally the beloved Pastor and hymnwriter John Newton knew what it was like to struggle in the Christian fight with sin. He wrote this great hymn. Let this be an encouragement to you:

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
 

Branson

Puritan Board Freshman
As was stated above, keep your eyes on Christ. He is your wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption!

William Cowper, who also struggled with assurance, wrote this hymn:

“The LORD will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow:
Then tell me, gracious GOD, is mine
A contrite heart, or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel;
If ought is felt, 'tis only pain,
To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclined
To love thee, if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that's good.

My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry, "My strength renew,"
Seem weaker than before.

Thy saints are comforted I know,
And love thy house of prayer;
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.

O make this heart rejoice, or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it, if it be.”

Remember that the struggle, though difficult, is often a good sign.

Warfield writes the following:

“Is there a conflict of sin and holiness in you? asks Paul. This very fact that there is conflict in you is the charter of your salvation. Where the Holy Spirit is not, there conflict is not; sin rules as undisputed lord over the life. That there is conflict in you, that you do not rest in complacency in your sin, is a proof that the Spirit of God is within you, leading you to holiness. And all who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ Jesus.”
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
Here is another comforting quote from JC Ryle's wonderful book "Holiness"

“A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work and office is the life, heart and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.
He sees by faith an unseen Savior, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him, and appears in heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God.

He sees Jesus and clings to Him. Seeing this Savior and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul. He sees his own many sins, his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy devil; and if he looked only at them, he might well despair.

But he sees also a mighty Savior, an interceding Savior, a sympathizing Savior—His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood—and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him, he cheerfully fights on, with a full confidence that he will prove more than conqueror through Him that loved him (Rom. 8:37).”
 

Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
To add a footnote to the great posts above, you must be willing to wait upon the Lord in times like these. Sometimes the Lord withdraws the influence of his Spirit from us for a season, for innumerable reasons; to test our faith, to prove us and see whether we could keep his commands or no, to reveal to depths of that verse without me, ye can do nothing; but above all, God oft withdraws himself from us, that we would pursue and draw closer to him.

In this season, wait upon the Lord, not apathetically, but expectantly. Continue pursuing the means of grace by which your faith and assurance may increase. Do not force strange fire in your devotions, but come as a child to his father waiting to receive whatever he is willing to give, whether it be a feast, or bread crumbs. As Thomas Brooks once said, he who improves of that little grace he has, will not long be stuck with little grace.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I have no hope for salvation other than through Jesus Christ. My works are not sufficient to save. They are full of selfish desires, and desires to self-preserve. Sometimes I fear that even my prayers to God for mercy are full of self-love rather than contrition. I feel as if I am a wretch in every way - like I cannot produce even one good thing, like even my prayers are an abomination to God. The idea that God is angry with me produces real anxiety in my heart. I know of God's sovereignty in salvation - I know that if I am to be saved He must do it, he must work. I know that to be saved is to receive God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ

Dear Izaac,

You are indeed on the right path with what I have quoted above. The confession says that some may have to wait long and go through many struggles to achieve this assurance. But it also teaches that full assurance is attainable and should be sought for in this life by all believers. What you think of as God's anger towards you can and will be overcome through the regular use of means. What you think of as anger, I assure you is pure zealous unmitigated radical eternal love for you. He won't cast away anyone who comes to Him. Grace is greater than all our sin. And I had to learn the hard way of the dark side of sin in me. I found darkness that I could almost wish others would not see. But discovering the Jeremiah 17:9 truth within has the benefit of causing us to despair entirely of ourselves and hope only in Christ. That's what He's after, for he is a jealous God.

I am 69 years old, and over the past six or seven years, I've come to what I trust is full assurance of faith, which has made me a contented man, often filled joy unspeakable and full of glory, and the peace that passes understanding. Sometimes I feel like I'm the happiest man in the world. I have written here and there on the Puritan Board on this subject. So rather than try to say anything new to you here, except with Christ as your only hope, you cannot go wrong. You certainly are on the right track, my friend.

You might want to search the PB for the term "full assurance" by member "Ed Walsh." If you use the advanced search, it might be good to search by relevance rather than date. I don't guarantee that you'll find one gem after another, but if you look, you will at least see and hear what is possible. As you seek the Lord consider the final two verses of Psalm 119. In the end, you will find that it is God that is seeking you and yearning for you. And that He has been from all eternity and will to all eternity.

Now I will pray for you.

Ed Walsh

If you think that anything I said here or in your search results was helpful, I would love the privilege of talking to you personally. I work from my home office most of the time. My telephone number is (570) 476-7986. Or if you prefer, you could private message me, and we could set up a time to talk. Oh, how He loves you.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Does your church give an "assurance of pardon" in the liturgy? I'm assuming it does.

That element of worship has become very precious to me in the past several years.

Maybe take some time to meditate on it and prepare your soul to fully receive it the next time you hear it, accompanied by the relevant passages of Scripture, from your pastor's lips?

Hear the words coming to you from outside yourself, through the voice of another sinner just like you, and accept that you are loved and forgiven.
 
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dhh712

Puritan Board Freshman
There's not much I can, if anything, to the godly counsel you received in the above posts dear brother; I just wanted to echo that for a Christian, the struggle against sin is a constant battle--it's a fight and it wears on us; though we take refuge in Jesus and gird ourselves with his armor and shield, we are still there in it and we feel the effects. To not feel that struggle, to be indifferent to the sin that still is in you, would be more of concerned as to whether or not your salvation is sure.

I identify with how you feel about prayer and what appears to be selfish motivations to come to the Lord; it seems that nothing I bring to him and nothing I do is pure or as pure as it could be--it is tainted with selfishness. Brother, God in his infinite wisdom does not remove all our sin from us here in this world though we desperately wish he would do that for it can plague us dreadfully. As the others have said however, we must not look (I love how Taylor puts it) inward to ourselves to a morbid degree--but look and know that Jesus has won our righteousness. No matter how we feel, our Heavenly Father looks upon us as he looks upon his Son and says "You are my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased". How can that be?? It is due to the amazing work of God, the profound love of Jesus--to set his love upon wretched creatures as we are, though we are no longer thus in his sight but he loves us as he loves his only Son.

To know that he sees nothing of our sin is just too incredible for words; it should make our hearts burst in love and praise to our Heavenly Father--to know that Jesus took our sins upon him and nailed them to the cross, that he became sin for us so that we can have the righteousness of God. That verse in "All is well with my soul" always brings me to tears, "My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin not in part but the whole--Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord Oh my soul!" Lord God how incredible that is! How can anyone turn away from such profound love, such pure and stunning sacrifice!

Also, should anyone think that perhaps they are not called of God, that perhaps God did not elect them but decided to pass them over--recall the words that our beloved Saviour spoke, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden..." and "All who come to me I will in no way cast out". If we do turn to the Lord in sincerity and plead with him to take our sins from us and see them as nailed to the cross with Jesus, then we are one of the elect. It is a Sovereign work of God and he sovereignly ordained that we turn to him.

Always look to Jesus, dear friend. When the wretchedness of your sin overwhelms you, look to him and know the incredible depths of his love.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
Remember that assurance has both an objective and a subjective part, the latter being subservient to the former. Look to Christ and his promises. All who come to him, he will in no wise cast out. In him is reconciliation with the Father, and you are in him by FAITH. He chastised Thomas for doubting and said, "blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed." And Luther said to Melanchthon when he struggled with assurance, "the gospel is outside of you". Calvin said that looking inward is often a labyrinth of despair. Be cautious of putting the cart before the horse. Yes, we want inward assurances from fruit. But that only follows from a solid faith and assurance from the gospel and his promise to "whosoever will".

Also, as we get close to Christ, we often see more of ourselves than we did before. All of our actions, thoughts, and desires are still mixed with sin, and it becomes more visible in the light. Satan will use this to cause us despair, and to take our eyes off of Christ. Romans 7 is the best it gets for us this side of heaven. But, Romans 8:1 is our comfort.

A good work on this was once recommended to me by a good man here on the PB, called The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall. The original preface to it is no longer in print, but is telling of Walter Marshall's own struggles with assurance, and how he attained it.

Here it is:

"PREFACE. READER, Mr. Walter Marshall, composer of these Directions how to attain to that practice and manner of life which we call holiness, righteousness, or godliness, was educated in New College of Oxford, and was a fellow of said college, and afterwards he was chosen a fellow of the college of Winchester, but was put under the Bartholomew Bushel,* with near two thousand more lights, (a sin not yet repented of) whose illuminations made the land a Goshen. He was esteemed a Presbyterian, and was called to be pastor to a people at Gosport in Hampshire, where he shined, though he had not the public oil. The substance of these meditations were there spun out of his own experiences; he having been much exercised with troubled thoughts, and that for many years. He had, by many mortifying methods, sought peace of conscience ; but notwithstanding all, his troubles still increased. Whereupon he consulted others, particularly Mr. Baxter, whose writings he had been much conversant with; who thereupon told Mr. Marshall, he took them too legally. He afterwards consulted an eminent divine, Dr. T. G. giving him an account of the state of his soul, and particularizing his sins, which lay heavy upon his conscience; who, in his reply, told him that.,he had forgot to mention the greatest sin of all, the sin of unbelief in not believing on the Lord Jesus for the remission of his sins, and sanctifying his nature. Hereupon he set himself to the studying and preaching Christ, and attained to eminent "holiness, great peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Mr. Marshall's dying words were these, " The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord having but just before, said to those about him, "That he now died in the full persuasion of the truth, and in the comfort of that doctrine which he had preached." The sum whereof is contained in the ensuing Discourse. Some time since he was translated by death, Elijah-like, dropping these sheets as his mantle for succeeding Elishas to go forth with, for the conversion of sinners, and comfort of drooping souls. These papers are the profound experiences of a studious holy soul, learned of the Father, coming from his very heart; and smell of no party or design, but for holiness and happiness. Yet, it is to be feared, they will scarcely go down with the heady notionalists of this age, who are of the tribe of Reuben, wavering with every wind of modish doctrine; but in Judah they will be praised. And we hope that many shrubs and cedars may hereby advance in knowledge and comfort. But, not to detain you, longer, read over all these Directions, that you may fully understand the Author, or read none. If you do it with the serious humble, spirit in which they were wrote, it may be hoped, (the matter being so weighty, and from so able a hand) through the grace of God, they will sink into thy conscience, and, make thee a solid christian, full of faith, holiness, and consolation, N.N. July 21, 1692.

• This alludes to the Act of Parliament, after the restoration of Charles II. 1660. ejecting a vast number of eminent faithful ministers from their charges, because they could not comply with prelacy."

The entirety of the book is here:

...and can be purchased here and other places:


Blessings and prayers...
 

Minh

Puritan Board Freshman
Brother, while I cannot offer sound counsel, I can sympathize with you because I am also in the same situation. Remember to enjoy and believe in Christ rather than to earn favour with Him.

I second Taylor’s recommendation of the book. Try kindle version so that you can carry it everywhere on your phone.
 

Minh

Puritan Board Freshman
Talking of the mind you might find Martyn Lloyd-Jones great classic "Spiritual Depression" a help. Lloyd-Jones was a great pastor and medical doctor and he gives much advice on how to discipline the mind (using Psalm 42) and also a number of chapters on dealing with anxiety. This book is precious to me. The sermons that formed the basis of his book are also available online
@De Jager I just brought this book in Kindle format for about $7 as sale price on Amazon.ca. You should definitely have it. Link.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
I want to chime and first of all say thank you to you all for your posts. It really means a lot. I want to make sure I take the time to read and digest them. My anxiety levels have been reduced since Monday which is a blessing. These threads can be a help even in the future, as I sometimes look back on them in future times of struggle.

I have ordered the Book "Gentle and Lowly" from a local(ish) reformed book dealer here in Ontario. I am looking forward to reading that. It is helpful to even consider the mere 3 words "gentle and lowly", and know that they are Christ's descriptive of himself, and that "He who has seen me has seen the Father". Again, so many thanks to all of you. Just because I have not interacted with all your posts does not mean I am not helped by them!!!
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I want to chime and first of all say thank you to you all for your posts. It really means a lot. I want to make sure I take the time to read and digest them. My anxiety levels have been reduced since Monday which is a blessing. These threads can be a help even in the future, as I sometimes look back on them in future times of struggle.

Dear Izaac,

I have been reading through a great commentary in Isaiah.
PREACHING THE WORD
ISAIAH
God Saves Sinners
Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.​

Although there is much in the first 11 chapters of Isaiah that is very encouraging, I am attaching (as a PDF) the author's Chapter 13 (on Isaiah chapter 12). There are two books in Isaiah with only six verses. Chapter 4 and this chapter 11. By word-count, chapter 4 is a little shorter, but chapter 12:1-6 is a kind of summary of the first 11 chapters. If you like this excerpt, I would gladly send you a copy in paper or Logos if you have it. Let me know. Pardon my highlights, as Logos included them by default when outputting a PDF. I also included the Title page and the Contents so you can get a feel for the book. It is about 500 pages long.

Below are two paragraphs; the first one I highlighted on page 12 (or the PDF) and the paragraph below. For me, they were the heart of what the Ortlund is trying to communicate. I don't know if the second paragraph describes you, but it surely described the way I used to be. But now I am free and God is all in all.

Isaiah spent his life trying to persuade people to trust in God and not
be afraid and not give themselves to false saviors. His book makes the
question unavoidable for us today: Will we trust God through our crises?
Or will we fearfully surround our trust in God with mechanisms of self-help,
just in case God fails? Do we feel secure with God alone?
One of the striking things about this testimony, this voice out of the
future, is its simplicity. We complicate our trust in God. We mix in other
things. We trust in our trust in God. We trust in our theology of God. We
trust in our worship of God. We cling to God, plus whatever makes us feel
comfortable and superior. And the more props we need, the more insecure
we become. But when the grace of God overrules our folly, real faith
comes alive, and our outlook is simplified so that we say, “Behold, God is
my salvation. He is enough. Period.” We then discover that we have been
safe all along.
For the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation. (v. 2b)

God bless you,

Ed Walsh
 

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kodos

Puritan Board Junior
Dear brother, I have prayed for you. You have gotten good counsel. A quick glance through this thread did not see it cited, so I will leave Chapter 18 of the Westminster Confession of Faith for you. I have counseled many men and women by this chapter (and its Scripture proofs). I have yet to find a better summary of the realities of the spiritual struggle for assurance you are experiencing as well as the hope of remedy.



CHAPTER XVIII—Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation

1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation (Job 8:13–14, Micah 3:11, Deut. 29:19, John 8:41) (which hope of theirs shall perish): (Matt. 7:22–23) yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, (1 John 2:3, 1 John 3:14,18–19,21,24, 1 John 5:13) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. (Rom. 5:2,5)

2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; (Heb. 6:11, 19) but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, (Heb. 6:17–18) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, (2 Pet. 1:4–5, 10–11, 1 John 2:3. 1 John 3:14, 2 Cor. 1:12) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, (Rom. 8:15–16) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption. (Eph. 1:13–14, Eph. 4:30, 2 Cor. 1:21–22)

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 partaker of it: (1 John 5:13, Isa. 50:10, Mark 9:24, Ps. 88, Ps. 77:1–12) 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 ordinary means, attain thereunto. (1 Cor. 2:12, 1 John 4:13, Heb. 6:11–12, Eph. 3:17) And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, (2 Pet. 1:10) that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, (Rom. 5:1–2, 5, Rom. 14:17, Rom. 15:13, Eph. 1:3–4, Ps. 4:6–7, Ps. 119:32) the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness. (1 John 2:1–2, Rom. 6:1–2, Tit. 2:11–12, 14, 2 Cor. 7:1, Rom. 8:1, 12, 1 John 3:2–3, Ps. 130:4, 1 John 1:6–7)

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation 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: (Cant. 5:2, 3, 6, Ps. 51:8, 12, 14, Eph. 4:30, 31, Ps. 77:1–10, Matt. 26:69–72, Ps. 31:22, Ps. 88, Isa. 50:10) yet are they never utterly destitute of that 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; (1 John 3:9, Luke 22:32, Job 13:15, Ps. 73:15, Ps. 51:8, 12, Isa. 50:10) and be the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair. (Micah 7:7–9, Jer. 32:40, Isa. 54:7–10, Ps. 22:1, Ps. 88)
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation (Job 8:13–14, Micah 3:11, Deut. 29:19, John 8:41) (which hope of theirs shall perish): (Matt. 7:22–23) yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, (1 John 2:3, 1 John 3:14,18–19,21,24, 1 John 5:13) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. (Rom. 5:2,5)
This first paragraph of chapter 18 is so important and helpful. It’s almost as if it were written by pastors who knew their Bibles!

Anyway, it’s important to note how it begins: addressing hypocrites who vainly deceive themselves. This used to scare me. How do I know that I’m not just a hypocrite? Do hypocrites know they’re hypocrites? But this wasn’t written to scare folks into doubting their salvation and motives perpetually. Rather, I understand this hypocrisy to be obvious. Living in the so-called “Bible Belt,” I see this hypocrisy all the time—people who walk about in wickedness every day, yet attend church on Sundays and thus convince themselves that, because they are “good people,” they’re good. The OP doesn’t strike me as this kind of person.

The second important thing is the middle portion. I think the order in which the Divines present the characteristics of a regenerate man is important. Note that it doesn’t begin, “Yet all those endeavoring to walk in good conscience before God,” but rather precedes this with 1) faith in Jesus and 2) love for Jesus. I think this is deliberate on the Divines’ part, because they knew that though our walk with God will have ups and downs, and sometimes we may even have times of significant backsliding, nevertheless there will always be a tangible love for Jesus and faith in him, however faint. Again, I see both of these—love for and faith in Jesus—in the OP.

Be encouraged, brother!
 
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