The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Nothing is more important in this life, and in this world, as that we should be absolutely certain that we are the children of God.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): What concerns us most to be assured of [is] whether we have experimentally known the power of His resurrection; that is, whether or not we have received the Holy Ghost, and by His powerful operations on our hearts, have been raised from the death of sin, to a life of righteousness, and true holiness.
JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Surely the graces of the Holy Ghost are not of so little force as that we cannot perceive whether we have them or not. If we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us, which He will not do unless we be regenerate, certainly we must be sensible of it. If we never can have any certainty of being in a state of salvation, good reason is it that every moment should be spent, not in joy, but in fear and trembling; and then, undoubtedly, in this life we are of all men most miserable. God deliver us from such a fearful expectation as this.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: That brings me to say just a little more about this whole question of assurance, because in many ways it was the distinguishing mark of Methodism and the same thing that was common to [Calvinistic and Arminian] Methodism. They divided over holiness teaching, and over other matters, but here there was this great unity, this teaching concerning assurance. What was it? It was this, that our assurance of salvation is not only―and not merely―something that is to be deduced from the Scriptures. They agreed that was part of it. I would say that the bulk of evangelical people today, in this and other countries, stop at that. That is their only assurance, that which you deduce from Scriptures. “Whosoever believeth in Him is not condemned.” So they say, “Do you believe in Him?” “Yes.” “Very well, you are not condemned, and there is your assurance. Do not worry about your feelings.”
Now Methodism taught the exact opposite. That is the point at which you start, and you can go on and test yourself in terms of the teaching of the first Epistle of John. As you do, you will get a better assurance; an assurance which will save you from a kind of “believism,” or an intellectualism that just says that it believes and accepts all this, and [on to a better assurance] which emphasizes the importance of evidences of new life.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Has the Lord God wrought a change of heart in thee, and a change of life as a consequence of that?
JOHN WESLEY: A holy life is the best evidence of a gracious state.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: But these men were concerned to go on to a further source of assurance, which to them was the one that they desired and coveted above everything else. That was the direct witness of the Spirit himself to the fact that they were the children of God. So they made much, of course, of Romans 8:15 and 16; and also of Galatians 2:20: “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” This, I repeat, was common to all of them. We are all familiar with the experience of John Wesley in Aldersgate Street on May 24, 1738.
JOHN WESLEY: My heart was strangely warm, and I did know that my sins had been forgiven.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD: The most of you may have peace, but for Christ’s sake examine upon what this peace is founded, and see if Christ be brought home to your souls, if you have had a feeling application of the merits of Christ brought home to your souls. Is God at peace with you? Did Jesus Christ ever say, “Peace to you”—“Be of good cheer”—“Go thy way, thy sins are forgiven thee”—“My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”—Did God ever bring a comfortable promise with power to your soul? And after you have been praying, and fearing you would be damned, did you ever feel peace flow in like a river upon your soul? so that you could say, Now I know that God is my friend, now I know that Jesus is my Saviour, now I can call him, “My Lord and my God;” now I know that Christ hath not only died for others, but I know that Jesus hath died for me in particular.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): If [assurance] is expected as an instantaneous impression of the Spirit of God upon the mind, independent of His Word, or to arise from some sudden and powerful application of a particular text of Scripture, this persuasion will end in disappointment. For though it must be allowed that the Lord does at times favour His people with peculiar manifestations of His goodness, and perhaps seal some promise especially suited to their present circumstances, with a remarkable sweetness and evidence upon their minds; yet these do rarely produce the [firm] assurance we are speaking of. These are but visits, seldom vouchsafed, and quickly suspended; and those who depend chiefly upon such impressions, instead of endeavouring to grow in the Scriptural knowledge of Christ, are generally as changeable in their hopes as in their frame. While their affections are thus engaged, “their mountain stands strong, and they think they shall never be moved;” but when the cause is withdrawn, the effect ceases, and they presently relapse into their former fears and inquietudes.
HUGH LATIMER (1483-1555): When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, methinks I am as bold as a lion. I can laugh at all tribulation: no afflictions daunt me. But when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearful a spirit that I can run into a very mouse-hole.
OCTAVIUS WINSLOW (1808-1878): Vague and fanciful impressions, visions and voices, received and rested upon as evidences of salvation are fearful delusions.
ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): Suppose, for example, a person to be under great dejection and fear respecting his interest in Christ, and while he is poring over his case the passage is suggested to his mind, “I am thy salvation,” Psalm 35:3. Some would suppose this was no other than the voice of God speaking peace to his soul, and that for him to question the goodness of his state after this would be unbelief…Godly persons are not the only characters who have passages of Scripture impressed upon their minds, and that “with power,” as it is often termed.*
JOHN NEWTON: Expectations of this sort have a tendency to great inconveniences, and often open a door to the delusions of enthusiasm [mysticism] and dangerous impositions; for Satan, when permitted, knows how to transform himself into an angel of light.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Of all the Diabolians that ever stole into the city of Mansoul, Mr. Live-by-feeling was one of the worst of villains, though he had the fairest face. Brethren, you had better live by works than live by feelings; both are damning forms of trust, but the one is more deceptive and more delusive than the other by far. You are justified by faith, not by feelings; you are saved by what Christ felt for you, not by what you feel; and the root and basis of salvation is the cross, and “other foundation shall no man lay than that which is laid;” and even though he place his experience there, he builds “wood, hay, and stubble,” and not the corner stone, which is Christ Jesus the Lord.
WILLIAM TYNDALE (1490-1536): Remember―Christ only is our resting-place, and He is our peace.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): The best thing is, to judge not by the manner of the operation, but the influence itself, and its effects, or by the fruit of the Spirit; and the “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”
*Editor’s Note: Remember, the Spirit of God actually came upon Balaam, a false prophet, and spoke a true prophecy through him (Numbers 24). King Saul also prophesied by the Spirit of the Lord, and yet was an ungodly man (I Samul 10:6-10). In the New Testament, Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, spoke a similar true prophecy concerning Christ, (John 11:49-52), and then immediately began to plan Christ’s murder. Given these Scriptural examples, one would be very wise to be wary of basing his assurance of salvation solely upon a strong Scripture impression.