After many months, I am still making my way through J. C. Ryle’s Holiness. It is not that it is not a good book; it is an excellent book. It is simply that I come back to it as a way of refreshing my soul when it grows heavy. That being said. . . in one of the chapters, the one on Assurance, I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would. However, when I got to the end of the chapter, Ryle included notes from other theologians, authors, and pastors. As I read those, I realized all that Ryle was seeking to say, but in my opinion did not say it as well as these other men. One of my favorites in the notes was Thomas Brooks. Here is what he wrote:
A man may have true grace that hath not the assurance of the love and favour of God, or the remission of his sins, and salvation of his soul. A man may be God’s, and yet he not know it; his estate may be good, and yet he not see it; he may be in a safe condition, when he is not in a comfortable position. All may be well with him in the court of glory, when he would give a thousand worlds that all were but well in the court of conscience.
Assurance is requisite to the well-being of a Christian, but not to the being; it is requisite to the consolation of a Christian, but not to the salvation of a Christian; it is requisite to the well-being of grace, but not to the mere being of grace. Though a man cannot be saved without faith, yet he may be saved without assurance. God hath in many places of the Scripture declared that without faith there is no salvation; but God hath not in any one place of Scripture declared that without assurance there is no salvation.
This was quoted in Holiness, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016, p. 172-173) from Thomas Brooks’ Heaven on Earth.
For those who struggle with assurance, I hope Brooks’ words are of some comfort. It is faith, however small it may be, however weak it may seem, that saves. It is not large faith nor strong faith that saves. It is simply faith without qualifiers. Assurance is, in one sense, a luxury that many do not receive. At the same time, it is a luxury that some may have no business of owning, as they have assurance without the faith which is far, far deadlier and detrimental.