.....But we have lately seen that none are dearer to the heart of the Redeemer, nor enjoy a larger portion of his tenderness and care; than the humble, the brokenhearted, the feeble-minded, who are walking in darkness, and going mourning without the sun. And it must now be added, that unless the heart is sprinkled from an evil conscience, and peace obtained through the soul's reliance on the righteousness of Christ; to manifest calmness and tranquility and confidence, so far from being a favourable sign, is one of the most fatal and alarming symptoms that any wretched mortal can discover.
Salvation is an object of infinite importance. It augurs well of a man to hear him complaining of his doubts and fears about his eternal welfare. This shews that he has some concern about this subject, and encourages the hope that he is laying it seriously to heart. It is a most alarming circumstance to find any man, in an affair of such magnitude, too calm and confident. It naturally excites a suspicion that he has neither part nor lot in the matter; for if he were aware of its immense value, he would from time to time discover a solicitude to examine the foundation of his hope and ascertain the safety of his state. If you see two travellers; the one, without ever looking after his luggage, making a great noise about the treasure which it contains; and the other, without saying much about the matter, frequently examining if his baggage be secure; you would be at no loss to pronounce which of them acted the most rational part, and was likely to be possessed of the greatest wealth. And the man who says least about his hopes, but gives the greatest diligence to make his calling and election sure, is generally more alive to religion, and far nearer the kingdom of heaven, than the professor, who matters himself on the safety of his state, but is careless about the means of advancing his growth in grace, and promoting his progress in holiness and spirituality.
Anxiety and alarm are distressing and painful; but they are at the same time salutary. If the man is already savingly converted, they will soon pass away, and the end will be peace: but if he is not yet reconciled to God, if they are of a sound and genuine nature, they will never leave him till he is established in the faith.....
The cause always precedes the effect. We must be in a state of grace before we can discover the fact: and be possessed of faith before we can enjoy assurance. While we are without faith, we are without God, without Christ, and without hope. We are of the works of the law, and under a curse. But when faith comes, we are no more under a curse. We are the children of God, and the heirs of promise. The word of Him who cannot lie, declares, "He that believeth shall be saved."
Now, faith is not merely a belief of the gospel as true, but an approbation of it as infinitely excellent, and exactly adapted to our circumstances. It is a receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ in all his offices, and a resting on him for our own salvation. It leads us to renounce every other dependence, and cleave to him simply, and confide in him alone.
And while we cast on him all our care, and rely on him for righteousness and strength: is it credible that we never can ascertain whence we look for safety, and where we have fixed our trust? We may at times doubt our acceptance. The number and enormity of our offences, our frequent falls and deplorable imperfections, may occasionally inspire a fear of the genuineness of our faith, and create a suspicion he will reject our application. But amidst all our weakness and inconsistency, our views never change of his glory and grace. Our souls still lean on him entirely, and our hearts continue to follow hard after him. We dare not let go our hold, nor change the foundation of our hope: but hearing the general calls and invitations of the gospel, we apply them to our own case; and never can be satisfied till we have cleared up our own interest in their provisions and our personal right to the rich and precious blessings which they proclaim. The grand ambition of the believer is to convert the general and indefinite language of revelation into special, individual addresses; and as he travels through the sacred pages to be able to say, "This promise is mine, this mercy and that blessing are my own: the pardon, the peace, the righteousness, and strength of which I read belong to me; Jesus has loved me, and given himself for me: this God is my God for ever and ever.
And though he may not at all times possess the object of his desire, it surely is attainable. The language of the gospel is as general as that of the law. And if he knows, from the indefinite language of the law, though he is named neither in its precepts nor penalties, that he is under its obligation and answerable to its authority: when the Spirit of all grace unfolds the glorious import, and illustrates the universal extent of the gospel calls and promises; can the believer be at a loss, though he finds his name in none of its announcements, to argue from its general unlimited invitations, his own right to its offers, and his own warrant to embrace all its invaluable provisions?
W. Hamilton, D. D.