How to Know if You are a True Believer - Part I
Adapted from a Sermon by Jonathan Edwards
(True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils, Sept 28, 1752)
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! James 2:19
How do you know if you belong to God? Or how do you know that you are a true believer? Can there be any more important question?
This was the subject of a sermon first preached by Jonathan Edwards in 1752 and of which, with small adaptations, we will hear, God willing the first of two parts this morning.
The sermon is based on verse 19 of the James chapter 2, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19)
I) First, we are led in these words, to the following observations, (there will be four and two supporting arguments):
1. First we see what some people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God.
Some people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church membership to show that God approves of them. There was an evangelism programme that was once in common use that asked people certain questions. One of the questions was, "Suppose you were to die today. Why should God let you into his heaven?" A very common response was, "I believe in God." Apparently the apostle James knew people who said the same thing: I know I am in God's favor, because I know these religious doctrines.
2. In the second place of course James admits that this knowledge is good.
Not only is it good, but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn't believe in God; and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for those who had the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle, someone who could tell them of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a person, who knew James, and then refused to believe in God! Certainly this would make their damnation greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the One God is only the start of good things because "anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Heb. 11:6.)
3. Then these words show us how James is very clear, that although this belief is a good thing, it is definitely not proof that a person is saved.
4. And finally we see the actual argument he uses which is: "You say you are a Christian and you are in God's favor. You think God will let you into heaven, and the proof of it is, that you believe in God. But that is no evidence at all, because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be punished in hell."
The demons believe in God, we can be very sure of that! They not only believe that He exists, but they believe that God is a holy God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth, who has promised judgments, and who will carry out his vengeance upon them. This is the reason the demons "shudder" or tremble--they know God more clearly than most human beings do, and they are afraid.
Nevertheless, nothing in the mind of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God's grace in our hearts.
This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have, or find within themselves, some proof of the saving work of the Holy Spirit within them. This would undo James’ argument. But this is impossible! The Bible makes it clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their believing in God does not take away their future punishment. Therefore believing in God is not proof of salvation for demons, and it is safe to say, not for people, either.
And so, that which is in the devils, can be no certain sign of saving grace.
This is the sobering message of this text.
Along with these four observations, here are two more arguments or reasons supporting the truth of this teaching.
I. The devils have no measure of holiness whatsoever. And therefore anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience.
The devil once was holy. But when he fell, he lost all his holiness and became perfectly wicked. "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning." (1 John 3:8 ) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:12)
So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they "shudder." But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it can also be true of the experience of men.
Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God's existence is more concrete than any man's knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion, in Matthew chapter 8, Jesus cast out some demons. "What have you to do with us, O Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torment us before the time?" (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.
Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn't make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly persuaded that Jesus will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God's grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way. Knowledge of God alone is no proof of salvation.
The second argument in support of the statement that that which is in the devils, can be no certain sign of saving grace is that
II. it is unreasonable to suppose that a person’s being in any way like the devil, should be a certain sign that he is very unlike and opposite to him, and will not in the end suffer the same end as him.
True saints are extremely unlike and contrary to the devil, both relatively and really.
They are contrary relatively. The devil is the greatest rebel, the chief enemy of God and Christ, the object of God’s greatest wrath, a condemned wrongdoer, utterly rejected and cast off by him, forever shut out of his presence, the prisoner of his justice, an everlasting inhabitant of the infernal world. The saints, on the contrary, are the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, members of the family of the glorious King of heaven, the children of God, the brethren and spouse of his dear Son, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, kings and priests to God.
And they are extremely different really. The devil, on account of his hateful nature, and those accursed dispositions which reign in him, is called Satan, the adversary, Abaddon and Apollyon, the great destroyer, the wolf, the roaring lion, the great dragon, the old serpent. The saints are represented as God’s holy ones, his anointed ones, the excellent of the earth, the meek of the earth, lambs and doves, Christ’s little children, having the image of God, pure in heart, God’s jewels, lilies in Christ’s garden, plants of paradise, stars of heaven, temples of the living God. The saints, so far as they are saints, are as different from the devil, as heaven is from hell. And much more contrary than light is to darkness. And their final eternal state is to the same extend different and contrary.
Now it is not reasonable to suppose that being in any respect like Satan is, or being the subject of any of the same properties, affections, or actions, that are in him, is any certain evidence that a person is therefore exceedingly different from him, and in such a different condition, and appointed to an eternal state so extremely contrary in all respects.
Wicked men are in Scripture called the children of the devil. Now is it reasonable to suppose, that men’s being in any respect like the devil can be a certain sign that they are not his children, but the children of the infinitely holy and blessed God?
We are told, that wicked men will in the end have their part with devils, will be sentenced to the same everlasting fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels. Now, can a man’s being like the devil in any respect be a sure token that he will not have his part with him, but with glorious angels, and with Jesus Christ, dwelling with him, where he is, that he may behold and partake of his glory?
We come to our second major heading:
II) Based on these truths there are several things that we can see are implied for our instruction. This morning I will bring to your attention these first four: four characteristics which are not signs of true grace in the soul:
I. Theoretical religious knowledge
II. An Assent to the truth of Scripture
III. experiencing very great distress and terrors of mind
IV. conviction of guilt with respect to the law.
I. In the first place, we may see from this, that no amount of theoretical knowledge of things of religion is any certain sign of saving grace.
The devil, before his fall, was among those bright and glorious angels of heaven, which are represented as morning-stars and flames of fire that excel in strength and wisdom. And though he is now become sinful, yet his sin has not abolished the faculties proper to the nature of angels. As, in the same way, when man fell, he did not lose the faculties of the human nature.
Sin has not destroyed the natural abilities of reasoning and understanding in the devil. On the contrary there are many Scriptures which imply great abilities in the devils.
We read in Ephesians 6 that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against ... cosmic powers” (Eph 6:12) and right at the beginning in Genesis 3 we read of Satan’s subtlety. (Gen. 3:1) And as the devil possesses great powers of reasoning, so he is able to have a great theoretical knowledge of the things of God, and the invisible and eternal world, as well as of other things.
And it is not surprising that he has a great understanding of these things, since they have always been before his eyes, and as his circumstances, from when he was created, have been such as have tended to engage him to apply himself to these things. Before his fall, he was one of those angels who continually beheld the face of the Father in heaven. And sin has no tendency to destroy the memory, and therefore has no tendency to blot out of it any theoretical knowledge that was formerly there.
As the devil’s subtlety shows his great capacity, so the way in which his subtlety is exercised and manifested — which is principally in his clever manipulations with respect to things of religion, his exceeding subtle representations, insinuations, reasonings, and temptations, concerning these things — demonstrates his great actual understanding of them. In the same way that, in order to be a very effective commentator in any science, though it may be only to confound and deceive those who know something of it, a person needs to have a great and extensive knowledge with the things which have to do with that science.
And so the devil has undoubtedly a great degree of theoretical knowledge in religion, having been, as it were, educated in the best religious school in the universe, that is the heaven of heavens.
His knowledge concerning the nature and attributes of God must be much greater and accurate, than we are capable of in our present condition. And he must have a far more extensive knowledge of the works of God, and of the work of creation in particular since he himself witnessed the creation of this visible world.
He was one of those morning-stars, who “sang together,” and of those “sons of God,” that “shouted for joy,” when God “laid the foundation of the earth,” and “determined its measurements,” and “stretched the line upon it.” (Job 38:4-7)
And so he must have a very great knowledge of God’s works of providence. He has been a spectator of the succession of these works from the beginning. He has seen how God has governed the world in all ages. And he has seen the whole train of God’s wonderful successive dispensations of providence towards his church, from generation to generation.
And he has not been a passive spectator either. But the great opposition between God and him, in the whole course of those dispensations, has given him the greatest motivation to observe them very carefully.
He must know quite a lot concerning Jesus Christ as the Savior of men, and the nature and method of the work of redemption, and the wonderful wisdom of God in how it was established. It is that work of God in which, above all others, God has opposed him, and in which he has mainly set himself out to oppose God. It is in relation to this enterprise, that the mighty warfare has been going on, which has been carried on between Michael and his angels, and the devil and his angels, throughout all ages from the beginning of the world, and especially since Christ appeared.
The devil has had good reason to pay attention to the steps of divine wisdom in this work of redemption. For it is to that wisdom that he has opposed his subtlety. And he has seen and found, to his great disappointment and unspeakable torment, how divine wisdom, as exercised in that work, has baffled and confounded all his devices.
He has a great knowledge of the things of another world for he sees them directly and clearly. He has a great knowledge of heaven, for he has lived in that world of glory. And he has a great knowledge of hell, and the nature of its misery, for he is the first inhabitant of hell. And above all the other inhabitants, has experienced its torments and has felt them constantly for more than six thousand years.
He must have a great knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, as is clear from how he used the words of Scripture in his temptation of our Savior. And he must be very motivated to know them as best he can so that he may be better able to pervert and distort the Scriptures, and prevent the Word of God from having such an effect on the hearts of men, as will tend to overthrow his kingdom.
He must have a great knowledge of the nature of mankind, their capacity, their dispositions, and the corruption’s of their hearts. For he has been observing and experimenting on them for a long time. The heart of man is what he had chiefly to do with, in his subtle devices, mighty efforts, restless and untiring operations and endeavors, from the beginning of the world. And it is evident that he has a great theoretical knowledge of the nature of experimental religion, by his being able to imitate it so cleverly, and in such a way as to transform himself into an angel of light.
Therefore it is clear from our text and it’s teaching that no degree of theoretical knowledge of religion is any certain sign of being a true believer. Whatever clear notions a man may have of the attributes of God, the doctrine of the Trinity, the nature of the two covenants, the relationship of the three persons of the Trinity and the part which each person has in the affair of man’s redemption, if he can understand ever so well the offices of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, and the wonderful methods of divine wisdom, and the harmony of the various attributes of God in that way; if he can talk ever so clearly and exactly of the method of the justification of a sinner, and of the nature of conversion, and the operations of the Spirit of God, in applying the redemption of Christ, giving clear explanations, happily solving difficulties, and answering objections, in a manner tending greatly to enlighten the ignorant, to the edification of the church of God, and the conviction of opponents, and the great increase of light in the world. If he has more knowledge of this sort than hundreds of true saints of an ordinary education, and most theologians; yet all this is no certain evidence of any degree of saving grace in the heart.
Now it is true, that the Scriptures often speak of the knowledge of divine things as something that is peculiar to true saints. For example the Apostle John writes in chapter 17 “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Matthew chapter 11 verse 27 states “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” The Psalmist writes: “those who know your name put their trust in you.” (Psa. 9:10,) and to the Philippians the Apostle Paul writes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. 3:8) But then, this has to be understood to be a different kind of knowledge from that theoretical understanding which the devil has to so great an extent.
And it is also true that the spiritual saving knowledge of God and divine things, usually leads to deeper theoretical knowledge of the things of God, as it engages the mind in its search into things of this kind, and so leads to a better understanding of them. So that, other things being equal, they who have spiritual knowledge are much more likely than others to have a good doctrinal knowledge of the things of religion. And yet such knowledge cannot be taken as a distinguishing characteristic of true saints.
II. A second thing that can be implied based on the truths we have seen in our text is, that for a person to merely acknowledge that the doctrines of religion are true is no certain evidence of a state of grace.
Our text tells us that the devils believe. And as they believe that there is one God, so they believe the truth of the doctrines of religion in general. The devil is orthodox in his faith. He believes the true scheme of doctrine. He is no Deist, Arian, Pelagian, or antinomian. The articles of his faith are all sound, and in them he is thoroughly established.
Therefore, for a person to believe the doctrines of Christianity merely from the force of arguments, as discerned only by the force of reason, is no evidence of true grace.
It is probably a very rare thing for unregenerate men to have a strong persuasion of the truth of the doctrines of religion, specially such of them as are very mysterious, and much above reasoning abilities. Yet a person may be very confident of the truth of Christianity and its doctrines, and be able to very effectively argue in their favor, but in this he does nothing more than what the devil can do, who doubtless has a great knowledge of the rational arguments by which the truth of the Christian religion and its several principles are expressed.
And therefore when the Scripture speaks of believing that Jesus is the Son of God, as a sure evidence of grace, as in 1 John 5:1, and other places, it must be understood, not of a mere rational assent, but of another kind and manner of believing, which is called “the faith of God’s elect.” (Tit. 1:1) There is a spiritual conviction of the truth, which is a believing with the whole heart, peculiar only to true saints which we will look into more deeply a little later.
III. In the third place, it may be inferred from the doctrine which has been insisted on that it is no certain sign of persons being savingly converted that they have experienced very great distress and terrors of mind, through the anticipation of God’s wrath, and fears of damnation.
That the devils have great terrors, through the anticipation of God’s wrath, and fears of its future effects is implied in our text, which speaks not only of their believing, but shuddering. It must be no small degree of terror which should make those principalities and powers, those mighty, proud, and sturdy beings, to shudder.
Many terrors that some people who are concerned for their salvation have, are not from any proper awakenings of conscience, or taking hold of the truth, but from weakness or frightful impressions on their imagination, or some groundless fears, and the delusions and false suggestions of Satan.
But even if they had the greatest and long continued terrors from real awakenings, and convictions of truth, and views of things as they are, this is no more than what is in the devils, and will be in all wicked men in another world. However thoughtless and senseless most ungodly men are now, every single one will be effectually awakened at last. There will be no such thing as slumbering in hell. There are many that cannot be awakened by the most solemn warnings and awful threatenings of the Word of God — the most alarming sermons from the pulpit, and the most awakening and awful providences leave them drowsy and unmoved — but everyone will be thoroughly awakened by the sound of the last trumpet and the appearance of Christ in judgment.
All will then be filled with most amazing terrors, from a realization of the truth, and seeing things as they really are, when “the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, (such as were the most lofty and hard-hearted, most ready to treat the things of religion with contempt) hid(e) themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17) — Therefore if people have been first awakened, and afterwards have had comfort and joy, it is no certain sign that their comforts are of the right kind, because they were preceded by very great terrors.
IV. In the fourth place, it may be further inferred from the doctrine, that no work of the law on men’s hearts, in conviction of guilt, and the just deserving of punishment, is a sure argument that a person has been savingly converted.
Not only are no awakenings and terrors any certain evidence of this, but no mere real work whatsoever, however great it may be. Nothing in which there is no real grace or spiritual light, but only the mere conviction of natural conscience, and those acts and operations of the mind which are the result of this — and so are, as it were, merely forced by the clear light of conscience, without the involvement of the heart and resonance with that light — is any certain sign of the saving grace of God, or that a person was ever savingly converted.
The evidence of this, from our text and its teaching, is evident because the devils are the subjects of these thing. And all wicked men that in the end will perish, will be the subjects of the same things.
Natural conscience does not disappear in the damned in hell, but, on the contrary, it grows all the more stronger, and does its work most perfectly, most fully to fill its proper role as God’s delegated ruler of the soul, to condemn those rebels against the King of heaven and earth, and expose God’s just wrath and vengeance, and by that means to torment them, and be as a never-dying worm within them.
Wretched men find all kinds of ways in this world to blind the eyes and stop the mouth of conscience, this delegated ruler of a sin-revenging God. But they will not be able to do that forever. In another world, the eyes and mouth of conscience will be fully opened. God will from then on make wicked men to see and know these things from which now they work so hard to hide their eyes. As Isaiah writes: “If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.” (Isa 26:10-11)
This expression often accompanies God’s threatenings of wrath to his enemies; “Then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezek 6:14, 25:11, 26:6) This will be accomplished by their own unhappy experience and clear light in their consciences, by which they will be made to know, whether they want to or not, how great and terrible, holy and righteous a God Jehovah is, whose authority they have despised.
And they will also know that he is righteous and holy in their destruction. This, all the ungodly will be convinced of at the day of judgment, by the bringing to light of all their wickedness of heart and practice, and setting all their sins, with all their aggravations, in order, not only in the plain sight of others, even of the whole world, but in the sight of their own consciences.
This is threatened at the end of Psalm 50, “These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.” (Psa. 50:21) The purpose of the day of judgment is not to find out what is just, as it is in human courts of law. But it is to manifest what is just; to make known God’s justice in the judgment which he will execute to men’s own consciences, and to the world. And therefore that day is called in Romans “the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2:5)
Now sinners often argue against the justice of God’s dispensations, and particularly the punishment which he threatens for their sins, excusing themselves, and condemning him. But when God comes to manifest their wickedness in the light of that day and to call them to an account, they will be speechless. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” (Matt 22:11-12)
When the King of heaven and earth comes to judgment, their consciences will be so perfectly enlightened and convinced by the all-searching Light they will then stand in, that their mouths will be effectually stopped, as to all excuses for themselves, all pleading of their own righteousness to excuse or justify them, and all objections against the justice of their Judge, that their conscience alone will fully condemn them.
Therefore it follows, that it can be no certain sign of grace, that people have had great convictions of sin. Suppose they have had all their sins, with their aggravations, remarkably set before them, so as greatly to affect and terrify them. And from this, have had a great sight of the wickedness of their hearts, the greatness of the sin of unbelief, and of the inexcusableness and heinousness of their most secret spiritual iniquities. Perhaps they have been convinced of the utter insufficiency of their own righteousness, and they despair of being recommended to God by it. They have been convinced that they are wholly without excuse before God, and deserve damnation. And that God would be just in executing the threatened punishment against them, though it be so dreadful. All these things will be in the ungodly at the day of judgment, when they will stand with devils, at the left hand, and will be doomed as accursed to everlasting fire with them.
What is more, there will be no submission in them. Their conscience will be convinced that God is just in their condemnation. But yet their wills will not be bowed to God’s justice. There will be no compliance of mind to that divine attribute of justice, no yielding of the soul to God’s sovereignty, but the highest degree of hatred and opposition. And therefore, we see here one thing which must be peculiar to true converts and that is a true submission of the heart and will to the justice and sovereignty of God. This is something which the devils and damned souls are, and ever will be, far from. And to which a mere work of the law, and convictions of conscience, however great and clear, will never bring men.
When sinners are the subjects of great convictions of conscience, and a remarkable work of the law, it is only the business of the day of judgment playing itself out in the conscience before-hand. God sits enthroned in the conscience, as at the last day he will sit enthroned in the clouds of heaven. The sinner is charged as it were at God’s bar. And God appears in his awful greatness as a just and holy, sin-hating and sin-revenging God, as he will then. The sinner’s iniquities are brought to light. His sins set in order before him. The hidden things of darkness, and the thoughts of the heart are revealed, as it will be then. Many witnesses do as it were rise up against the sinner under convictions of conscience, as they will against the wicked at the day of judgment; and the books are opened. Particularly the book of God’s strict and holy law is opened in the conscience, and its rules applied for the condemnation of the sinner, which is the book that will be opened at the day of judgment, as the grand rule to all such wicked men as have lived under it.
And the sentence of the law is pronounced against the sinner, and the justice of the sentence made evident, as it will be at the day of judgment. The conviction of a sinner at the day of judgment will be a work of the law, as well as the conviction of conscience in this world. And the work of the law (if the work be merely legal) is never carried further in the consciences of sinners now than it will be at that day, when its work will be perfect in thoroughly stopping the sinner’s mouth. And “we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Rom 3:19) Every mouth will be stopped by the law, either now or in eternity; and all the world come to know it is guilty before God, guilty of death, deserving of damnation. And therefore, if sinners have been the subjects of a great work of the law, and have thus become guilty, and their mouths have been stopped, it is no certain sign that ever they have been converted.
Indeed the lack of a thorough sense of guilt, and of deserving punishment, and conviction of the justice of God in threatening damnation is a sign that a person never was converted, and truly brought with the whole soul to embrace Christ as a Savior from this punishment. For it is easily shown, that there is no such thing as entirely and earnestly accepting an offer of a Savior from a punishment which we think we do not deserve. And yet having such a conviction is no certain sign that people have true faith, or have ever truly received Christ as their Savior. And if some have great comfort, joy, and confidence suddenly let into their minds, after great convictions, it is no infallible evidence that their comforts are built on a good foundation.
There is a danger of being deceived and established in this false hope. And sadly there have been multitudes of instances to confirms this. It may be safely said that great convictions of conscience are usually a very good sign of true life. And that more generally when the Spirit of God goes so far with sinners, in the work of the law, as to give them a great sight of their hearts, and of the heinousness of their spiritual iniquities, and to convince them that they are without excuse, and that all their righteousness can do nothing to merit God’s favor, but they lie justly exposed to God’s eternal vengeance, with mercy, a work of saving conversion often follows.
But we can have no right to think that it is always the case, or to lay it down as an infallible rule, that when convictions of conscience have gone this far, saving faith and repentance will always follow.
Look at it this way: Where in Scripture do we find support for making legal convictions, or any method or order of successive events in a work of the law, and resulting comforts, a sure sign of regeneration? The Scripture is abundant, in expressly mentioning evidences of grace, and of a state of favor with God, as characteristics of true saints. But where do we ever find such things as these among those evidences? Or where do we find any other signs insisted on, besides grace itself, its nature, activities, and fruits? These were the evidences that Job relied upon. These were the things that the Psalmist everywhere insists upon as evidences of his sincerity, and particularly in the 119th Psalm, from the beginning to the end: these were the signs that Hezekiah trusted to in his sickness.
These were the characteristics of those that are truly happy given by our Savior in the beginning of his sermon on the mount. These are the things that Christ mentions, as the true evidences of being his real disciples, in his last and dying discourse to his disciples, in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John, and in his intercessory prayer in chap. 17. These are the things which the apostle Paul often speaks of as evidences of his sincerity, and sure title to a crown of glory. And these are the things he often mentions to others, in his epistles, as the proper evidences of real Christianity, a justified state, and a title to glory. He insists on the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control as the proper evidences of being Christ’s, and living in the Spirit: Gal. 5:22-25.
It is that divine love, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy, that he insists on, as the most essential evidence of true godliness. Without which, all other things are nothing. Such are the signs which the apostle James insists on, as the proper evidence of a truly wise and good man. Jam. 3:17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” And such are the signs of true Christianity, which the apostle John insists on throughout his epistles. And we never have anywhere in the Bible, from the beginning to the end of it, any other signs of godliness given, except such as these.
If persons have such things as these apparent in them, it ought to be determined that they are truly converted, without its being first known what method the Spirit of God took to introduce these things into the soul, which is often altogether untraceable. All the works of God are in some respects unsearchable. But the Scripture often describes the works of the Spirit of God as peculiarly so. Isa. 40:13, “Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel?” Ecc. 11:5, “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
By the grace of God, may all of us here present be of that blessed company, born of the Spirit of God,