Monday, 31 December 2012

Christian Assurance

In his Memoirs Guthrie talks about one of his parishioners, a weaver named 'James Dundas' who lived on the north-west boundary of the Arbirlot Parish.  Guthrie claims Dundas lived an isolated existence and had no society (beyond his wife) but that of God and nature.  Like others in rural Scotland at that time Dundas was known as a bit of a poet and known for 'lofty thoughts, and a singularly vivid imagination.'  Guthrie relates a story about Dundas and a loss of assurance on a Communion Sabbath;

'He rose, bowed down by a sense of sin, in great distress of mind; he would go to the church that day, but being a man of a very tender conscience, he hesitated about going to the Lords table; deep was answering to deep at the noise of God's waterspouts, and all God's billows and waves were going over him; he was walking in darkness, and had no light.  In this state he proceeded to put himself in order for church, and while washing his hands, one by one, he heard a voice say, "Cannot I, in my blood, as easily wash your soul, as that water wash your hands?" "Now Minister," he said, in telling me this, "I do not say there was a real voice, yet I heard it very distinctly, word for word, as you now hear me.  I felt a load taken off my mind, and went to the Table and sat under Christ's shadow with great delight" (Memoir and Autobiography, 1896, p 115).   

Assurance is a huge subject and one which many Christians struggle with.  We must distinguish between how we experience Christ on a daily basis (which can vary with our moods and emotions) and the ground of our salvation which is free unmerited grace of God which cannot be shaken by our feelings.  Professor John Murray very helpfully says; 'When we speak of the grounds of assurance, we are thinking of the ways in which a believer comes to entertain this assurance, not of the ground on which his assurance rests.  The grounds of salvation are as secure for the person who does not have full assurance as for the person who has (Collected Writings, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth 1980).

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