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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Is the firm persuasion we have of the certainty of any thing, or a certain expectation of something future. Assurance of the Understanding is a well-grounded knowledge of divine things founded on God's word. Colossians 2:2 .
Assurance of Faith does not relate to our personal interest in Christ, but consists in a firm belief of the revelation that God has given us of Christ in his word, with an entire dependence on him. Hebrews 10:22 .
Assurance of Hope is a firm expectation that God will grant us the complete enjoyment of what he has promised. Hebrews 6:11 . The doctrine of assurance, 1: e. the belief that we have an interest in the divine favour, has afforded matter for dispute among divines. Some have asserted that it is not to be obtained in the present state, allowing that persons may be in a hopeful way to salvation, but that they have no real or absolute assurance of it: but this is clearly refuted by facts as well as by Scripture. That it is to be obtained is evident, for we have reason to believe many persons have actually obtained it. Job 19:25 . Psalms 17:15 . 2 Timothy 1:12 . The Scriptures exhort us to obtain it, 2 Corinthians 13:5 . Hebrews 6:11 . 1 Thessalonians 5:21 . The Holy Spirit is said to bear witness of it, Romans 8:16 . The exercise of the Christian graces is considered as a proof of it, 1 John 3:14 . 1 John 2:3 . We must, however, guard against presumption; for a mere persuasion that Christ is ours is no proof that he is so.
We must have evidence before we can have genuine assurance. It is necessary to observe also, that it is not a duty imposed upon all mankind, so that every one, in whatsoever state he may be, ought to be fully persuaded of his salvation. "We do not affirm, " says Saurin, "that Christians of whose sincerity there may be some doubt have a right to assurance; that backsliders, as such, ought to persuade themselves that they shall be saved; nor do we say that Christians who have arrived to the highest degree of holiness, can be persuaded of the certainty of their salvation in every period of their lives; nor, if left to their own efforts can they enjoy it; but believers, supported by the Divine aid, who walk in all good conscience before him, these only have ground to expect this privilege." Some divines have maintained that assurance is included in the very essence of faith, so that a man cannot have faith without assurance; but we must distinguish between assurance and justifying faith. The apostle, indeed, speaks of the full assurance of faith; but then this is a full and firm persuasion of what the Gospel reveals; whereas the assurance we are speaking of relates to our personal interest in Christ, and is an effect of this faith, and not faith itself.
Faith in Christ certainly includes some idea of assurance; for, except we be assured that he is the Saviour, we shall never go to or rely upon him as such: but faith in Christ does not imply an assurance of our interest in him; for there may be faith long before the assurance of personal interest commences. The confounding of these ideas has been the cause of presumption on the one hand, and despair on the other. When men have been taught that faith consists in believing that Christ died for them, and been assured that, if they can only believe so, all is well; and that then they are immediately pardoned and justified, the consequence has been, that the bold and self- conceited have soon wrought themselves up to such a persuasion, without any ground for it, to their own deception; whilst the dejected, humble, and poor in spirit, not being able to work themselves to such a pitch of confidence, have concluded that they have not the faith of God's elect, and must inevitably be lost. The means to attain assurance are not those of an extraordinary kind, as some people imagine; such as are ordinary; self-examination, humble and constant prayer, consulting the sacred oracles, Christian communication, attendance on the divine ordinances, and perseverance in the path of duty; without which all our assurance is but presumption, and our profession but hypocrisy.
Assurance may be lost for a season through bodily diseases which depress the spirits, unwatchfulness, falling into sin, manifold temptations, worldy cares, and neglect of private duty. He, therefore, who would wish to enjoy this privilege, let him cultivate communion with God, exercise a watchful spirit against God, exercise a watchful spirit against his spiritual enemies, and give himself unreservedly to Him whose he is, and whom he professes to serve.
See Saurin's Ser. vol. 3: ser. 10. Eng. edition; Case's Sermons, ser. 13; Lambert's Sermon John 9:35; Hervey's Theron and Aspasia, dialogue 17; Howe's Works, vol. 1: p. 342, 348; Brooks Burgess, Roberts, Baxter, Polhill, and Davye on Assurance; Horae Sol. vol. 2: p. 269.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Assurance'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/a/assurance.html. 1802.