05/15/15

More Evidence for Heaven

© Allan Swart | 123RF.com

© Allan Swart | 123RF.com

The anonymous female author of Evidence for Heaven (see another article titled: Evidence for Heaven) began her treatise with a catechism-like question: “How can I come to be truly, and infallibly assured of my salvation?” Her simple answer was by knowing you are united with Christ: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The follow up question, again mirroring a catechism, was how could you be certain? Her answer was to diligently examine yourself to see whether or not you have the Spirit of Christ.  “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

To be assured of your union with Christ, the author said you must diligently search and examine yourself for the operation of the Holy Spirit in your soul. He would be evident in the special sanctifying graces working in the hearts of the Elect. Among those special graces is faith—justifying faith. “Faith is the grace, and the only grace, whereby we are justified before God, by it we eat of the Tree of Life, (Jesus Christ) and live for ever.”

Satan knows this and would flatter the person to Hell by persuading them that their faith is good and true when actually it is what Christ described in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-8; 18-23). Conversely, when Satan seeks to overthrow all hope of Heaven, he seeks to convince the person that their faith is a counterfeit, pretended one. Therefore, it concerns all persons to thoroughly try their faith to see if it is a feigned or unfeigned faith, a temporary or justifying faith.

And when searching your soul for this grace of faith, value the truth of it more than the strength of it. Christ absolutely requires the truth of belief, but not the strength of belief. “He will not suffer that soul that hath but the least grain of true faith to miscarry.” But, what is this faith and how is it different from a temporary faith?

Justifying faith is a special work of the Spirit of God upon the Soul, causing a man to lay hold on the special promises of Mercy, and Salvation by Christ, and all other promises, which are, in him, yea, and in him, Amen, and rest upon him that hath promised, for the accomplishment of his word.

This Faith may be distinguished from other kinds of faith by the following properties. It is bred, fed, and nourished by the word preached. It is grounded on the written Word. It gives firm, absolute and unlimited assent to the whole Word of God. This Faith is seated in the heart. It is not merely head-assenting, it is heart-consenting. It is unfeigned, where a hypocrite’s faith is feigned. “This Faith is a Christ-receiving faith.” It embraces Christ as Savior and Lord—in all his offices as Prophet, Priest and King.

This Faith is a working Faith. As James says, Faith without works is dead (James 2:17).  It purifies and cleanses, not only the outer person, but the heart as well. It spurs you on to obedience—active, passive, sincere, universal and constant.  It makes you wait patiently on God, for Him to accomplish all the good he promised in his Word—by whatever means he has ordained.

It makes the person open-hearted and open-handed towards others—ready to do good to all in misery, but especially to the Godly. They do this not for their own glory, but for the honor of Christ and the Gospel. It makes a person industrious, laboring to keep a good conscience in all things; to walk inoffensively towards God and towards others in all things. This Faith is always accompanied by true repentance. “He that truly believes, unfeignedly repents.” It is always accompanied with new obedience.

This Faith is a world overcoming Faith. It is a flesh overcoming and a Devil-overcoming Faith. Although a true believer, “may be put to the worse” many times, and foiled by one or another of these enemies, in the end they overcome them all: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). It is permanent and persevering. It holds on to death, and it is never totally lost. “A true believer, as he lives in the faith, so he dyes in the faith.”

These words plainly evidence, that justifying faith is persevering faith, it holds out unto the death and ends in fruition, it can never be totally nor finally lost; and this indeed is it’s distinguishing property, and it is the property of every renewing grace; every renewing grace holds out unto the end; that grace which weares the Crown of Glory is persevereing (Revelations 2:10).

Sadly, it is not always so in appearance, but it is in truth. A true believer may at times seem both to himself and to others to have lost his faith and his other graces. However, as Job said: “The root of the matter is found in him”; it is found in his inward parts (Job 19:28; 38:36). A true believer may, for a time, lose his or her comfort of their grace and the power of acting on their grace. Yet they never totally lose the habit of renewing grace. “These gifts of God are without repentance.”

Wouldest thou then know, whether thy faith be sound and saving, and such as consequently demonstrates the holy Spirits saving habitation in thy soule; try and examine thy saith, by these properties and Scripture-Characters of a true justifying faith, and if it hold correspondency with them, know for thy comfort, that it is such as really demonstrates the holy Spirits saving habitation, and special operation in thy soul, thy Union with Christ, and eternal salvation by him, whatsoever Satan or thine own conscience abused by Satan, may at any time hereafter say to the contrary, and give the Lord the praise.

This anonymous author then goes on to speak of even more graces that demonstrate the assurance of your salvation. There is love, repentance, obedience, poverty of spirit, death to sin, being a new creature in Christ, being chastised by the Father, suffering as a Christian, and more.

As she concluded her treatise, she said she had traveled through the Holy Scriptures and searched to see what she might find therein that might entitle her to “the inheritance of the Saints of Light.” She noticed a variety of places in Scripture that were helpful for this purpose. Some of these she studied industriously, according to her poor ability and as God helped her. She committed what she found to writing for her present and future benefit and as a legacy to her children. Having done so, she committed this work and its reader “to the blessing of God, through Christ.”

If you or someone you know struggles with the assurance of their salvation, I’d encourage you to spend some time reading through and studying what she has shared in Evidence for Heaven.

05/1/15

Evidence for Heaven

© Allan Swart | 123RF.com

© Allan Swart | 123RF.com

“Faith is the grace, and the only grace, whereby we are justified before God, by it we eat of the Tree of Life, (Jesus Christ) and live for ever.” (Edmund Calamy)

The above quote introduced “Evidence of Heaven,” the February 22nd daily meditation for Day by Day with the English Puritans. In typical Puritan fashion, the full title of the original work was: “Evidence for Heaven: Containing Infallible Signs and Real Demonstrations of our Union with Christ and Assurance of Salvation.” Day by Day listed Edmund Calamy as the author, and a Google search found a link to a digitized copy of the original work here. Evidence for Heaven was attributed to the Puritan preacher, but Calamy himself said its true author was an anonymous female member of his church.

While the author’s anonymity will seem odd to moderns, it was unusual for a ‘gentlewoman’ in 1657 to write and then publish something she wrote. As Clamay said in his introduction: “I hope no man will condemn this Book, because written by a Woman but rather admire the goodnesse, love, and power of God, who is able to do such great things, by such weak instruments.” He added that it was her “great desire” that her name be concealed. If anyone were to reap a spiritual advantage by reading it, “she hath obtained the height of her ambition.”

In the Preface, the author said it was her intention to “lay down some rules” by which a person that wants to have some assurance, or “Evidence for Heaven” can know that they have been chosen (predestined) to eternal life. They must seek it in Christ and in union with Christ, which is the only true touchstone we have to try ourselves. If they were to go to someone else or from person to person—like a bee goes from flower to flower—to find assurance of their salvation, the world would say: “We have heard of the fame thereof, but know not what it is.” Even God’s people would say, “We thirst after it, but know not where to find it.”

Her counsel was to go to Scripture: “it will tell thee in the Word.” She urged her readers to frequent the Word preached; to read the Word printed; to seek evidence in renewing grace; to seek it in the narrow way. “These are the paths wherein the flock of Christ have gone before us, and which they have trodden out unto us; follow their foot steps, if thou wouldest attain assurance.” And this search must be done diligently, orderly, humbly and perseveringly.

First is the need for diligence. As it says in 2 Peter 1:10, we are to be “all the more diligent” to confirm our calling and election. We should seek assurance as a treasure laid hidden deep in the bowels of Scripture. As Solomon taught us to strive for wisdom and understanding, we should: “seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures” (Proverbs 2:4).  We should labor for it as those who work in the silver-mines.

Second is the need for the right order; we must follow the vein. We must begin with the branches of regeneration and justification for they issue out of predestination, which is the root of salvation. When Jesus instructed Nicodemus about his spiritual estate, he did not send him to Heaven “to read the records of the celestial court.” Rather, he sent him to search his own heart and life—to consider whether he was regenerate and born again. If someone wants good evidence of the love of God and their own salvation, they must begin with the workings of God in and upon themselves.

That he that would get assurance of his Election, must seek it in the workings of God, in, and upon himself; he must consider, how his justification is evidenced by his sanctification, and his election by both. Sanctification is Gods work in us, justification is Gods work upon us, both together are certain pledges of his good will towards us

Third, the person who seeks assurance should do it humbly; with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Although it is possible for a child of God to know their estate, it is very difficult. A seeker of assurance must seek it with a holy fear and jealousy—humbly on their knees.

Fourthly, they must seek it perseveringly; never giving over until they have received. Never giving over until they find what they seek. They must follow the example of the Bride searching for her beloved (Song of Solomon 5:6f). They should persist like the Canaanite woman, who did not rest until she got her answer (Matthew 15:22-28). The Scripture exhorts all Christians to labor for assurance; to be diligent to confirm their calling and election (2 Peter 1:10).

They should make every effort to supplement their faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Assurance is a thing of incomparable worth, a thing which no man knoweth, but he that hath is, a thing that no man prizeth so much, as he that wants it; in a word, it is a thing of such incomparable worth, that a man cannot buy it at too deare a rate: Could a man but know its goodnesse, and taste its sweetnesse, he would think no labour too much to attain it, no sinne too sweet to part with for it, no sufferings too much to preserve it, no care and industry too much to increase it; for it is (indeed) next grace, the most precious and delectable love token, that we can possible receive from Jesus Christ the Bridegroom of our souls, in his bodily absence. And if this will not persuade thee, Reader, to seek after it, I leave thee to him to persuade, who persuaded Japhet to dwell in the tents of Shem; what God hath bin pleased to impart unto me on this Subject, I have committed to writing, more than this, I dare not do, for going out of my sphere, and lesse then this, I could not do, least I should be blamed of my Heavenly Father, for hiding my Talent in a napkin, and burying divine love in a dunghill; if ever this little draught of Evidence, which I penned for my own use, and hope to leave to my Children for theirs, should by any providence come abroad to publique view, my desire and hope is. That this little draught of Evidence may (through Gods Blessing) be helpful to some of Christ’s Lambs, to some poor souls, which thirst after assurance on Scriptures-grounds, and invite others of profounder judgments, and greater abilities, to search the Scriptures, by them to make discovery of the way to get this precious and invaluable Jewel of sound assurance.

There are still people today who struggle with doubt regarding their salvation. They would do well to spend time reading the thoughts of this anonymous gentlewoman, a member of the congregation of Alderman-bury. Our anonymous author suffered from an affliction for over thirty years that kept her, in great measure, from public and private spiritual helps which others enjoyed. And yet she could write of the assurance of salvation with confidence that speaks to us over 350 years after it was published.