Jonathan Edwards and Assurance (or is it Perseverance?)

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Jonathan Edwards and Assurance (or is it Perseverance?)

nikolai_42
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nikolai_42
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February 19th, 2018, 10:00 pm #1

Out of my depth here (once again). I came across a sermon by Edwards that - I think - was only recently published. I confess that I haven't actually read it or listened to it (I don't have the book and could only find audio copies online). The sermon is entitled A Man May Eternally Undo Himself in One Thought of His Heart and references a couple of key passages - Hosea 4:17 and Acts 8:20-22.

 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
 
Hosea 4:17


But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
   Acts 8:20-22

Again - I haven't listened to it, but the references and title (and a little discussion I have found elsewhere online) make it seem that Edwards had a view of assurance (or, again, is it perseverance?) that was not simple. I found a paper that addresses this as well : Biblical Critique of Edwards' Doctrine of Assurance (I'd not heard of Rev. Saunders but a little research shows that he was Presbyterian at one point and is now pastor of a church that doesn't reference a denomination in their name but appears to be Reformed in flavor - if not actually).

 Specific questions :
 
1. Is Edwards' view of perseverance/assurance now generally considered problematic or is this an isolated view?
2. What of Calvin who seems to be treating of God's statement through Hosea as though there was hope and then there was none? Calvin says "...we ought ever to fear, lest he {God} should suddenly reject us...". Is Edwards in line with Calvin here but modern Reformed theology not aligned? Here is the full text :

As if wearied, God here bids his Prophet to rest; as though he said, “Since I prevail nothing with this people, they must be given up; cease from thy work.” God had set Hosea over the Israelites for this end, to lead them to repentance, if they could by any means be reformed: the duty of the Prophet, enjoined by God, was, to bring back miserable and straying men from their error, and to restore them again to the obedience of pure faith. He now saw that the Prophet’s labour was in vain, without any success. Hence he was, as I have said, wearied, and bids the Prophet to desist: Leave them, he says; that is, “There is no use for thee to weary thyself any more; I dismiss thee from thy labour, and will not have thee to take any more trouble; for they are wholly incurable.” For by saying that they had joined themselves to idols, he means, that they could not be drawn from that perverseness in which they had grown hardened; as though he said, “This is an alliance that cannot be broken.” And he alludes to the marriage which he had before mentioned: for the Israelites, we know, had been joined to God, for he had adopted them to be a holy people to himself; they afterwards adopted impious forms of worship. But yet there was a hope of recovery, until they became wholly attached to their idols, and clave so fast to them, that they could not be drawn away. This alliance the Prophet points out when he says, They are joined to idols
But he mentions the tribe of Ephraim, for the kings, (I mean, of Israel,) we know, sprang from that tribe; and at the same time he reproaches that tribe for having abused God’s blessing. We know that Ephraim was blessed by holy Jacob in preference to his elder brother; and yet there was no reason why Jacob put aside the first-born and preferred the younger, except that God in this case manifested his own good pleasure. The ingratitude of Ephraim was therefore less excusable, when he not only fell away from the pure worship of God, but polluted also the whole land; for it was Jeroboam who introduced ungodly superstitions; he therefore was the source of all the evil. This is the reason why the Prophet now expressly mentions Ephraim: though it is a form of speaking, commonly used by all the Prophets, to designate Israel, by taking a part for the whole, by the name of Ephraim.
But this passage is worthy of being noticed, that we may attend to God’s reproofs, and not remain torpid when he rouses us; for we ought ever to fear, lest he should suddenly reject us, when he is wearied with our perverseness, or when he conceives such a displeasure as not to deign to speak to us any more. It follows —
It seems (to me, anyway) that Calvin is using the sense of "if" with God in the first paragraph. God set Hosea over Israel to lead them to repentance. IF they could be reformed, God directed Hosea to do so. Then (says Calvin) "He now saw that the Prophet's labour was in vain...". Is it strange that Calvin would express it this way? In the sense of an unrealized potential from the standpoint of the Almighty?

3. The third question is one I don't quite know how to ask but have found some expressions in the .pdf I linked to that seem to skirt around the idea. Saunders says assurance should be personal, epistemological, existential and circumstantial. What does he (though he is quoting D.A. Carson, I think) mean by assurance is "existential"? I have often wondered if there is a belief that it is objective outside of the individual (before one finishes running the race) but find it tending towards a sort of Papal decree - and so shrink from thinking it might be. But if it is only objective to the believer himself, is that really objective and is this not a form of private interpretation? It may sound like I am just uttering nonsense - so even an explanation of what Carson means by "existential" here.

4. In more specific terms, how does this idea run into Philippians 1:6 ?

As always, I am grateful for any response.
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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nikolai_42
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February 20th, 2018, 2:04 pm #2

A note : I started listening to that sermon on SermonAudio last night, but it was a little late for me and I fell asleep early on. That said, he seemed very quickly (and with great emphasis) to be going in the direction hinted at by the sermon title. He spoke to the fact that the salvation of man is dependent on the will of God (nothing surprising there) but it sounded like he was saying (and I could be corrected) that there are those who are drawn by the Spirit of God who sin away the grace of that overture by even a single thought. It's not the single thought that made me wonder, but that it sounded like a weakening of irresistible grace. Not an overthrow of it but that the grace of God was not efficacious for those that "eternally undo" themselves by a single thought, word or deed. He seems (if I heard it correctly) to place the failure to be saved at least partly in their court - that God might have saved them if they hadn't sinned. That takes me back to my surprise at the way Calvin words his commentary on Hosea 4:17.

 Again...this is just intermediate interjection on my part. I have not listened to the full sermon and probably need to do some extra reading. But I was caught off guard by Edwards and Calvin in this instance.
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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SupermanFan
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February 20th, 2018, 4:59 pm #3

nikolai_42 wrote: Out of my depth here (once again). I came across a sermon by Edwards that - I think - was only recently published. I confess that I haven't actually read it or listened to it (I don't have the book and could only find audio copies online). The sermon is entitled A Man May Eternally Undo Himself in One Thought of His Heart and references a couple of key passages - Hosea 4:17 and Acts 8:20-22.

 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
 
Hosea 4:17


But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
   Acts 8:20-22

Again - I haven't listened to it, but the references and title (and a little discussion I have found elsewhere online) make it seem that Edwards had a view of assurance (or, again, is it perseverance?) that was not simple. I found a paper that addresses this as well : Biblical Critique of Edwards' Doctrine of Assurance (I'd not heard of Rev. Saunders but a little research shows that he was Presbyterian at one point and is now pastor of a church that doesn't reference a denomination in their name but appears to be Reformed in flavor - if not actually).

 Specific questions :
 
1. Is Edwards' view of perseverance/assurance now generally considered problematic or is this an isolated view?
2. What of Calvin who seems to be treating of God's statement through Hosea as though there was hope and then there was none? Calvin says "...we ought ever to fear, lest he {God} should suddenly reject us...". Is Edwards in line with Calvin here but modern Reformed theology not aligned? Here is the full text :

As if wearied, God here bids his Prophet to rest; as though he said, “Since I prevail nothing with this people, they must be given up; cease from thy work.” God had set Hosea over the Israelites for this end, to lead them to repentance, if they could by any means be reformed: the duty of the Prophet, enjoined by God, was, to bring back miserable and straying men from their error, and to restore them again to the obedience of pure faith. He now saw that the Prophet’s labour was in vain, without any success. Hence he was, as I have said, wearied, and bids the Prophet to desist: Leave them, he says; that is, “There is no use for thee to weary thyself any more; I dismiss thee from thy labour, and will not have thee to take any more trouble; for they are wholly incurable.” For by saying that they had joined themselves to idols, he means, that they could not be drawn from that perverseness in which they had grown hardened; as though he said, “This is an alliance that cannot be broken.” And he alludes to the marriage which he had before mentioned: for the Israelites, we know, had been joined to God, for he had adopted them to be a holy people to himself; they afterwards adopted impious forms of worship. But yet there was a hope of recovery, until they became wholly attached to their idols, and clave so fast to them, that they could not be drawn away. This alliance the Prophet points out when he says, They are joined to idols
But he mentions the tribe of Ephraim, for the kings, (I mean, of Israel,) we know, sprang from that tribe; and at the same time he reproaches that tribe for having abused God’s blessing. We know that Ephraim was blessed by holy Jacob in preference to his elder brother; and yet there was no reason why Jacob put aside the first-born and preferred the younger, except that God in this case manifested his own good pleasure. The ingratitude of Ephraim was therefore less excusable, when he not only fell away from the pure worship of God, but polluted also the whole land; for it was Jeroboam who introduced ungodly superstitions; he therefore was the source of all the evil. This is the reason why the Prophet now expressly mentions Ephraim: though it is a form of speaking, commonly used by all the Prophets, to designate Israel, by taking a part for the whole, by the name of Ephraim.
But this passage is worthy of being noticed, that we may attend to God’s reproofs, and not remain torpid when he rouses us; for we ought ever to fear, lest he should suddenly reject us, when he is wearied with our perverseness, or when he conceives such a displeasure as not to deign to speak to us any more. It follows —
It seems (to me, anyway) that Calvin is using the sense of "if" with God in the first paragraph. God set Hosea over Israel to lead them to repentance. IF they could be reformed, God directed Hosea to do so. Then (says Calvin) "He now saw that the Prophet's labour was in vain...". Is it strange that Calvin would express it this way? In the sense of an unrealized potential from the standpoint of the Almighty?

3. The third question is one I don't quite know how to ask but have found some expressions in the .pdf I linked to that seem to skirt around the idea. Saunders says assurance should be personal, epistemological, existential and circumstantial. What does he (though he is quoting D.A. Carson, I think) mean by assurance is "existential"? I have often wondered if there is a belief that it is objective outside of the individual (before one finishes running the race) but find it tending towards a sort of Papal decree - and so shrink from thinking it might be. But if it is only objective to the believer himself, is that really objective and is this not a form of private interpretation? It may sound like I am just uttering nonsense - so even an explanation of what Carson means by "existential" here.

4. In more specific terms, how does this idea run into Philippians 1:6 ?

As always, I am grateful for any response.
He would have seen in in the same vein as Dr Sproul, correct?
ttps://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reforme ... nce-saints
David Chase
Pastoral Prayer team
Utica StoneyCreek Baptist Church
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nikolai_42
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February 20th, 2018, 5:29 pm #4

SupermanFan wrote:
nikolai_42 wrote: Out of my depth here (once again). I came across a sermon by Edwards that - I think - was only recently published. I confess that I haven't actually read it or listened to it (I don't have the book and could only find audio copies online). The sermon is entitled A Man May Eternally Undo Himself in One Thought of His Heart and references a couple of key passages - Hosea 4:17 and Acts 8:20-22.

 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
 
Hosea 4:17


But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
   Acts 8:20-22

Again - I haven't listened to it, but the references and title (and a little discussion I have found elsewhere online) make it seem that Edwards had a view of assurance (or, again, is it perseverance?) that was not simple. I found a paper that addresses this as well : Biblical Critique of Edwards' Doctrine of Assurance (I'd not heard of Rev. Saunders but a little research shows that he was Presbyterian at one point and is now pastor of a church that doesn't reference a denomination in their name but appears to be Reformed in flavor - if not actually).

 Specific questions :
 
1. Is Edwards' view of perseverance/assurance now generally considered problematic or is this an isolated view?
2. What of Calvin who seems to be treating of God's statement through Hosea as though there was hope and then there was none? Calvin says "...we ought ever to fear, lest he {God} should suddenly reject us...". Is Edwards in line with Calvin here but modern Reformed theology not aligned? Here is the full text :

As if wearied, God here bids his Prophet to rest; as though he said, “Since I prevail nothing with this people, they must be given up; cease from thy work.” God had set Hosea over the Israelites for this end, to lead them to repentance, if they could by any means be reformed: the duty of the Prophet, enjoined by God, was, to bring back miserable and straying men from their error, and to restore them again to the obedience of pure faith. He now saw that the Prophet’s labour was in vain, without any success. Hence he was, as I have said, wearied, and bids the Prophet to desist: Leave them, he says; that is, “There is no use for thee to weary thyself any more; I dismiss thee from thy labour, and will not have thee to take any more trouble; for they are wholly incurable.” For by saying that they had joined themselves to idols, he means, that they could not be drawn from that perverseness in which they had grown hardened; as though he said, “This is an alliance that cannot be broken.” And he alludes to the marriage which he had before mentioned: for the Israelites, we know, had been joined to God, for he had adopted them to be a holy people to himself; they afterwards adopted impious forms of worship. But yet there was a hope of recovery, until they became wholly attached to their idols, and clave so fast to them, that they could not be drawn away. This alliance the Prophet points out when he says, They are joined to idols
But he mentions the tribe of Ephraim, for the kings, (I mean, of Israel,) we know, sprang from that tribe; and at the same time he reproaches that tribe for having abused God’s blessing. We know that Ephraim was blessed by holy Jacob in preference to his elder brother; and yet there was no reason why Jacob put aside the first-born and preferred the younger, except that God in this case manifested his own good pleasure. The ingratitude of Ephraim was therefore less excusable, when he not only fell away from the pure worship of God, but polluted also the whole land; for it was Jeroboam who introduced ungodly superstitions; he therefore was the source of all the evil. This is the reason why the Prophet now expressly mentions Ephraim: though it is a form of speaking, commonly used by all the Prophets, to designate Israel, by taking a part for the whole, by the name of Ephraim.
But this passage is worthy of being noticed, that we may attend to God’s reproofs, and not remain torpid when he rouses us; for we ought ever to fear, lest he should suddenly reject us, when he is wearied with our perverseness, or when he conceives such a displeasure as not to deign to speak to us any more. It follows —
It seems (to me, anyway) that Calvin is using the sense of "if" with God in the first paragraph. God set Hosea over Israel to lead them to repentance. IF they could be reformed, God directed Hosea to do so. Then (says Calvin) "He now saw that the Prophet's labour was in vain...". Is it strange that Calvin would express it this way? In the sense of an unrealized potential from the standpoint of the Almighty?

3. The third question is one I don't quite know how to ask but have found some expressions in the .pdf I linked to that seem to skirt around the idea. Saunders says assurance should be personal, epistemological, existential and circumstantial. What does he (though he is quoting D.A. Carson, I think) mean by assurance is "existential"? I have often wondered if there is a belief that it is objective outside of the individual (before one finishes running the race) but find it tending towards a sort of Papal decree - and so shrink from thinking it might be. But if it is only objective to the believer himself, is that really objective and is this not a form of private interpretation? It may sound like I am just uttering nonsense - so even an explanation of what Carson means by "existential" here.

4. In more specific terms, how does this idea run into Philippians 1:6 ?

As always, I am grateful for any response.
He would have seen in in the same vein as Dr Sproul, correct?
ttps://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reforme ... nce-saints
That's part of my conundrum. Dr. Sproul's article is perfectly in line with what I know of TULIP (specifically perseverance). And his position that perseverance isn't something we do but that is effected only by God is something that I have always recognized. But when I read Calvin's take on Hosea 4:17 and Edwards' statement of being "Eternally Undone" by a single thought, act or intent (which I agree is sin) places what seems like over-emphasis on the specific sin as opposed to the condition of sin. One who is regenerate may sin, but they are not eternally undone by that sin {i.e. specific act}. One who is unregenerate sins - but it is simply because that is what and who they are - inveterate, unregenerate, God-hating sinners who don't know any better and don't care to. So one act of rebellion isn't going to change their condition, is it? And when Calvin writes of the prophet's role in attempting to bring Ephraim to repentance, I can accept that God would have him do so with the realization and understanding that it won't work - that it will prove what God already knows. That is, that Ephraim is given over to idols (and I think Edwards would agree that it was God who effected that giving over). But when Calvin says that God "now saw" that Ephraim was not going to turn back, he does so in a context that makes it clear that if God had known sooner (or so I read it) that He would have told Hosea to leave them alone sooner. It's as if God didn't know, for example, that Abraham feared and trusted God until Abraham obeyed the instruction to sacrifice Isaac. God did say "Now I know..." but do any commentators say that God didn't know (at least those that don't hold to Open Theism)? In what I heard from Edwards, there is a strain of that as well. He plays with the sin itself being the straw that breaks the camel's back where God says "Okay. I'm done. You've had your chance to respond" and then consigns them to either eternal damnation or at least to suffering that will bring them to repentance (eventually). Edwards seems not to know. What I couldn't say is whether he might have asserted that the grace with which these men might have been blessed, was not that irresistible grace of God unto salvation - but rather a more common grace that makes men aware of sin even if it doesn't irresistibly enable them to turn from it.

 So as I listen to Edwards and read Calvin on this point, I don't hear the same tenor or emphasis that I do in Sproul. I need to check out Gill as well...

(Edited for clarification of "that sin" as a specific act.)
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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February 20th, 2018, 9:36 pm #5

Expressions used by Calvin and the WCF related to assurance are differing. Calvin's classical definition of faith was  knowledge, assent, and trust, as aligned with all the Reformed. To Calvin, however, assurance was tightly coupled to faith, sometimes spoken of being the essence of faith. But think about the times around him. The teachings of assurance was not something readily available apart from special revelation, like the stigmata. Calvin in these times was making it clear that ordinary Christians could, should, and did enjoy assurance; that it was no mere presumption to claim one possessed assurance.

The development of the Westminster Standards was a century afterwards where many true believers struggled with assurance, often overwhelmed in battles with the flesh, the world, the devil. The focus of the Westminster divines was different than that of Calvin, who was dealing with the effects of Romanism all around. There was no denial that we can have assurance, or even should have assurance, rather dealing with the psychological realities of lacking assurance. The point being, just because someone does not have full assurance does not mean there is no true saving faith.

Edwards was working in a culturally Christian setting that often lacked vital faith. Calvin's situation in Geneva was very precarious and different than Edwards's in Northampton when the Reformed Church was establish far more. Edwards viewed assurance as the effect of faith. Not that such a view is totally wrong, for if we do not exercise faith we have no assurance, nor do we get assurance without exercising faith. Unfortunately, in my opinion, what Edwards did in his writings with these views is problematic.

Edwards spent time discussing the distinguishing marks of regeneration necessary for their to be assurance with the view that assurance is obtained by action, more so than self-examination. Edwards held that very few people would actually be saved. His concern was that anyone claiming to be believers do so by pointing to their good works, which also implied the difficulties of detecting these signs of re-birth. Now Edwards can be pleasantly contradictory with himself, too. For example: http://www.puritansermons.com/sermons/edwards1.htm#top ;)

A life spent in morbid introspection can only lead to despair and non-assurance in my opinion. We end up seeing ourselves close to Hitler than to Christ, as RC Sproul once wrote. But Sproul's point was not to make worthless the Holy Spirit's work in our lives such that we will persevere and may come to full assurance (not all will do so). Rather his point was that how holy the righteousness of Christ really is. Here Sproul is quite correct. We are all closer to Hitler than to Christ. If I am to take up Edwards's view, I am quite certain I would never come to full assurance, despite Scripture's teaching that we may know (1 John 5:13). Trust in God, not our fickle feelings.

Per our confession and catechisms, even true believers may have their assurance of faith shaken by several things; it may be diminished or even interrupted; such as negligence in preserving it, by falling into sins which wound the conscience and grieve the Holy Spirit. Also, these things can happen by some sudden or particularly vile temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of His face, or suffering the same things that cause fear to those who walk in darkness having no light (Psalm 31:22; 51:8, 12, 14; 77:1-10; Eph. 4:30-31; Matt. 26:69-72; Luke 22:31-44). 

However, the true believer is never totally destitute of the seed of God and the life of faith that in the end their love of Christ and the church having a conscience to their duties by operation of the Holy Spirit will in due time be restored (1 John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Psa. 51:8, 12; 73:15). In the meantime, they are supported to keep them from utter despair (Micah 7:7-9; Jer. 32:40; Isa. 54:7-14; 2 Cor. 4:8-10).

In his wonderful little book, available here and here, Berkhof notes:
 
“It was one of the great mistakes of the Pietism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that, in seeking the assurance of faith, or of salvation, it divorced itself too much from the word of God. The basis of assurance was sought, not in the objective promises of the gospel, but in the subjective experience of believers. The knowledge of the experiences that were made the touch-stone of faith, was not gathered from the word of God, but was obtained by an inductive study of the subjective states and affections of believers. In many cases these were not even put to the test of Scripture, so that the true was not always distinguished from the counterfeit. Moreover, there were unwarranted generalizations. Individual experiences and experiences of a very dubious character were often made normative, were set forth as the necessary marks of true faith. 

"The result was that they who were concerned about the welfare of their soul turned attention to themselves rather than to the word of God, and spent their life in morbid introspection. It is no wonder that this method did not promote the assurance of faith that fills the heart with heavenly joy, but rather engendered doubt and uncertainty and caused the soul to grope about in a labyrinth of anxious questionings, without an Ariadne-thread to lead it out. This method made seeking assurance by looking within rather than by looking without, to Jesus Christ as he is presented in Scripture, and made the experiences of others, especially those who are regarded as ‘oaks of righteousness’ normative..."

I believe assurance can be gained in our walk of faith from feeding our faith and starving our doubts by not neglecting daily Scripture study, rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer (Romans 12:12), fellowship with other believers, keeping stewardship of the secular and spiritual gifts God has given us, and with regular assembly with others to worship God, receive instruction, access the ordinary means of grace, and be subject to discipline.
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SupermanFan
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February 20th, 2018, 10:26 pm #6

The full assurance comes to us when we indeed stay grounded in the promises of God towards us, as those now in Christ He cannot forsake, and His Holy Spirit has been given to us as the earnest pledge that God will one day complete what he started in us, as in Romans 8.
When we take our gaze off Jesus and the Bible, and focus on how well we are doing walking the walk, no wonder we go up and down in how assured of salvation we might be feeling.
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Markus Leoninus
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February 21st, 2018, 5:37 am #7

I am very happy to see that Patrick has brought the Westminster Standards into view here.
http://thewestminsterstandard.org/the-w ... onfession/
These standards are to my mind the most succinct, concise, and precise statements of fundamental Christian doctrine ever yet produced in the Reformed tradition. They constitute a fairly complete body of divinity, a systematic theology, in relatively short compass. And, what is more, they are intensely practical. They cut to the chase and quickly provide the gist of what the essential doctrines dealt with mean, and how each one applies to us. At the same time, they stimulate a desire to dig even more deeply; i.e., to pick up standard Reformed commentaries (for instance, Hodge, Haldane, Hendriksen, Murray, and Lloyd-Jones on Romans) and reference works, such as the theologies of the Hodges, Turretin, Dabney, Shedd, Bavinck, Berkhof, Reymond, Boyce, Gill, Dagg, and a few others... in order to see even further into the great truths all brought forward to a considerable degree already by the Westminster divines.
The Standards of course deal with each soteriological head of doctrine, to include assurance and perseverance. They start, soteriologically, in chapter III under the heading of God's eternal decree, or purpose, in which they connect up every link in the golden chain of salvation.
 http://thewestminsterstandard.org/the-w ... n/#Chapter III
Note sections V & VI.
Note also how they connect things up in Chap. VIII on Christ the Mediator, section I:
http://thewestminsterstandard.org/the-w ... n/#Chapter VIII
In these places they mention each one of the "five points of Calvinism" as they've come to be known in theology... but which are just the Gospel as set forth in Scripture. They weren't invented by Calvin, of course, but were rediscovered and set forth by him in systematic fashion and with peculiar clarity and force; thus bearing his name ever since.
The divines at Dort also did a tremendous job in setting the record straight from Scripture:
The Canons of Dort, (1618-1619 AD)
http://thewestminsterstandard.org/canons-of-dort/
In fact, The Canons of Dort go into great detail on each head, and in a very pastoral way, I might add.

Ultimately the Westminster Standards and the Canons of Dort deal with the fall, God's covenant, Christ the Mediator, free will, effectual calling and regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, saving faith, repentance, perseverance, assurance, and so on, step by step. Each doctrine is set forth one by one in due place, and the connections between each are made, so that by the time one gets through each one individually, and the connections are seen, there is a wonderful, a powerful, accumulative effect upon the heart and mind of the reader.
These things... and I'm certain so as particularly to stress... these things must be seen and understood together, and in their fundamental connections, or there will be imbalances of both a theoretical and practical nature in the lives of professing believers.
It especially seems to me that if one's grasp of the doctrine of justification is not as clear as it should be, and if one loses sight of the things connected to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator, on one's behalf... then one is subject to struggle a very great deal with assurance of salvation.

We're certainly called to self-examination, as these Standards make clear; but we must take great care to distinguish this from morbid introspection that loses sight of Christ. We must be careful that in looking at ourselves we do not lose sight of Christ. Otherwise, our experience will be like that of Peter when encouraged by Jesus to approach Him on the stormy sea (Mt. 14:22-33). At first, Peter was actually walking on the water to Jesus. How? By focusing upon the Creator and Sustainer of every atom and cell and particle of the entire universe, both of the seen and unseen elements! But then he got distracted by the tossing and turning of the waves, by what was such a whistling and howling and force of high wind as to sound something like a locomotive throttling through at top speed. He lost sight of Jesus, and began to sink. He then cried out for Jesus to save him. Our Lord, supporting His own weight perfectly on top of the water, reached out His hand and pulled Peter up as well. Peter probably weighed at least 150 pounds, perhaps as much as 200. I figure he was of average size; a fisherman handling heavy nets and boats daily, probably quite lean and strong, and so on. In any event... behold the mighty power of the Lord Christ, not bound by any element of any size and force at all... and more than able to do as He did here!!!

There are several good Reformed reads of a very helpful nature on the subject of assurance and perseverance. Patrick mentions Berkhof's book above. I haven't read that little work by Berkhof yet. I shall have to secure it at Patrick's recommendation. I've been reading from his Systematic Theology for years, and consider it the best such work of the past century. Berkhof is never novel, but sticks closely to the historic Reformed faith. He's a great historian of theolgy, also; and something tells me that his gifts as a pastor will shine in the book recommended by Patrick. I'm glad he mentioned this from Berkhof. 🙂

May I recommend, also:
Jonah's Prayer: The Conflict of Faith and Sense; An extract from Hugh Martin's commentary on the book of Jonah
http://www.covenantofgrace.com/martin_jonah2.htm
Three Sermons by C.H. Spurgeon on Assurance:
http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/7813 ... 3/assu.pdf
The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes
http://www.onthewing.org/user/Sibbes%20 ... pdated.pdf
The Soul's Conflict and Victory Over Itself by Faith, by Richard Sibbes
http://www.archive.org/stream/soulsconf ... 5/mode/2up
Heaven on Earth, by Thomas Brooks
http://www.gracegems.org/Brooks/heaven_on_earth.htm


One might better understand Edwards's position on assurance of salvation by going over this piece at the Monergism site:
Hope And Comfort Usually Follow Genuine Humiliation And Repentance, by Jonathan Edwards
https://www.monergism.com/hope-and-comf ... repentance
Edwards points out in that sermon that Christ must be our foundation in this matter, though even the title of his piece indicates where a great deal of his focus is in this instance.

Of course, the most extensive examination penned by Edwards involving genuine religion, therefore things like true assurance of salvation, is his book
The Religious Affections
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/affections.toc.html
For me, Edwards is a must read if one is to go beneath the surface of things. It seems to me that if one grasps Edwards's thesis on the religious affections, one can be equipped to avoid two basic extremes within the realm of professing Christendom... (1) a dead theoretical orthodoxy, coupled with antinomian tendencies on the one hand, and (2) sheer, or mere, emotionalism, on the other, that has little or no foundation in basic, fundamental doctrine.
A man of towering intellect, as well as intense personal experiences as are on record, Edwards (rightly called "the theologian of revival") possessed a power of analysis and logic that is second to none, probably, in the whole history of Christian theology and practice.
But he is not an easy read. There is a certain vigor in Edwards, and strength of analysis, that requires one to be able to focus very, very intently on his every line, and to be able to work with him, point by point, without losing sight of the whole. Thus, in the case of one who is struggling very deeply, is currently very weak, and so troubled in the matter of assurance that they can barely even think clearly or speak coherently... I would not send them immediately to Edwards. They are simply too distracted at that point; not intellectually incapable, necessarily, but so emotionally strung out as to be at the moment unable to pick up and move along except in very slow and halting steps, and with an experienced pastor, or strong believer(s) directly on hand to tenderly guide them in this matter, in connection with any particular problems they might notice in person.

To be sure, I love Jonathan Edwards. Next to a man of his stature I'm like a little sparrow hawk compared to the mighty bald eagle. Lol... I don't even come close to him. There's a granduer about his material, a loftiness of mind about the man and the way he expresses himself, an intense zeal and love for God, for Christ, for the workings of the Spirit, that one does not meet with as often as might be desired in our day. He does offer a goldmine of instruction and counsel in the area of assurance. But it is indeed on a rather sublime level. A deeply troubled soul may not be able to follow him so well in the beginning.


My first inclination is to make sure that one struggling with assurance understands the basics as set forth in the Westminster Confession on Christ the Mediator and on Justification by free grace through a God-given faith focused exclusively upon the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners otherwise condemned. The chapter from the Westminster Confession on Christ the Mediator is a most grand statement; and, for me, a very endearing one. One cannot help but become enamored of so wonderful a Savior if, by God's illuminating grace, one really gets hold of that treatment of Christ's Person and Work for us.
Of course, if one is unclear about justification, so vitally a part of the Person and Work of Jesus, one will struggle with assurance.
But it seems to me that the ideal here, the ultimate goal, is to get folk versed in how all the doctrines of grace connect and interrelate, and thus to strike that balance necessary for a healthy mind, heart, and life.
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