I’ve decided to take a break this week from posting on John so that I can hash out some theological issues that I’ve been grappling with for the past couple of months. One of these issues is that of assurance of salvation. Lordship Salvation proponents would have an individual look inwardly for the proof of his justification before God, but is this what the Reformer’s held?If it is my deeds that prove that I am justified before God, then will I ever have assurance? Considering the apostle Paul’s own struggle within himself post-conversion (cf. Romans 7), am I to think of myself as better off than him in living a life of holiness unto to the Lord? A holiness so rich that I am assured by my works that I am a child of God?
Horatius Bonar, in the below excerpt of his essay on the doctrine of assurance, likens the protestant navel-gazing he witnessed during the mid to late 1800’s to the “Romish” position on this matter. If you have any helpful suggestions in evaluating this matter more in depth, let me know :)
Enjoy the quote! At the end of the quote, I’ve provided a link to the essay in its entirety.
The Romanists held that a man is to believe in the mercy of God and the merits of Christ, but that this belief brought with it no assurance of justification; though possibly, if the man lived a very holy life, God might before he died reveal his grace to him, and give him assurance; which is precisely what many Protestants hold.
In opposition to this, our forefathers not only maintained that a man is justified by faith, but that he ought to know that he is justified, and that this knowledge of justification is the great root of a holy life. The Romanists did not quarrel with the word assurance; they did not hold it to be impossible: They held that men might get it, nay, that some very holy men had got it. But they affirmed that the only means of reaching the grace of assurance was by a holy life; that with the slow development of a holy life, assurance might develop itself; and that in the course of years, a man by numbering his
good deeds, and ascertaining the amount of his holiness, might perhaps come to the conclusion that he was a child of God; but perhaps not. They were very strenuous in contending for this life of religious suspense, sad and dismal as it must be; because conscious justification, such as Luther contended for, shut out priesthood and penance; giving a man the joy of true liberty and divine fellowship at once, without the intervention of another party or the delay of an hour.
This conscious justification started the man upon a happy life, because relieved from the burden of doubt and the gloom of uncertainty; it made his religion bright and tranquil, because springing so sweetly from the certainty of his reconciliation to God; it delivered him from the cruel suspense and undefined fears which the want of assurance carries always with it; it rescued him from all temptatons to self-righteousness, because not arising from any good thing in himself; it preserved him from pride and presumption,
because it kept him from trying to magnify his own goodness in order to extract assurance out of it; it drew him away from self to Christ, from what he was doing to what Christ had done; thus making Christ, not self, the basis and the center of his new being; it made him more and more dissatisfied with self, and all that self contained, but more and more satisfied with Jesus and his fulness; it taught him to rest his confidence toward God, not on his satisfaction with self, not on the development of his own holiness, not on the amount of his graces and prayers and doings, but simply on the
complete work of him in whom God is well pleased.
-Horatius Bonar, Assurance of Salvation
You can find the document in its entirety here.