The Spiritual Comforts
of Believers in This Life –

by John Owen

The securing of the spiritual comforts of believers in this life is a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God, and their own advantage by the gospel. For God is abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should receive strong consolation, and He has provided ways and means for the communication of it to them; and their participation of it is their principal interest in this world, and is so esteemed by them.(Hebrews 6:17-20)

But their effectual refreshing enjoyment of these comforts is variously opposed by the power of the remainders of sin, in conjunction with other temptations. Hence, notwithstanding their right and title unto them by the gospel, they are ofttimes actually destitute of a gracious sense of them, and, consequently, of that benefit which such comforts are suited to afford in all their duties, trials, and afflictions.

What are the principal acts and operations of faith, whereby it will evidence its truth and sincerity in the midst of all temptations and storms that may befall believers in this world? And I shall insist on such alone as will bear the severest scrutiny by Scripture and experience.

The principal genuine acting of saving faith in us, inseparable from it, yea, essential to such acting, consists in the: choosing, embracing, and approbation of God’s way of saving sinners, by the mediation of Jesus Christ, relying thereon, with a renunciation of all other ways and means pretending unto the same end of salvation. (John 14:6)

This is that which we are to explain and prove. Saving faith is our “believing the record that God has given us of his Son,” 1 John 5:10, “And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son,” verse 11. This is the testimony which God gives, that great and sacred truth which he himself bears witness unto,–namely, that he has freely prepared eternal life for them that believe, or provided a way of salvation for them. And what God so prepares he is said to give, because of the certainty of its communication. So grace was promised and “given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began”.(2 Tim.1:9; Tit.1:2,3)

And that is so to be communicated unto them, in and by the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, that it is the only way whereby God will give eternal life unto any; which is therefore wholly in him, and by him to be obtained, and from him to be received. Upon our acquiescence in this testimony, on our approbation of this way of saving  sinners, or our refusal of it, our eternal safety or ruin does absolutely depend. And it is reasonable that it should be so: for, in our receiving of this testimony of God, we “set to our seal that God is true,” John 3:33; we ascribe unto him the glory of his truth, and therein of all the other holy properties of his nature, –the most eminent duty whereof we are capable in this world; and by a refusal of it, what lies in us, we make him a liar, as in this place, 1 John 5:10, which is virtually to renounce his being.

And the solemnity wherewith this testimony is entered is very remarkable, verse 7, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” The trinity of divine persons, acting distinctly in the unity of the same divine nature, do give this testimony: and they do so by those distinct operations whereby they act in this way and work of God’s saving sinners by Jesus Christ; which are at large declared in the gospel. And there is added hereunto a testimony that is immediately applicatory unto the souls of believers, of this sovereign testimony of the holy Trinity; and this is the witness of grace and all sacred ordinances: “There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one,” verse 8.

These are not essentially the same in one and the same nature, as are the Father, Word, and Holy Ghost, yet they all absolutely agree in the same testimony; and they do it by that especial efficacy which they have on the souls of believers to assure them of this truth. In this record, so solemnly, so gloriously given and proposed, life and death are set before us. The receiving and embracing of this testimony, with an approbation of the way of salvation testified unto, is that work of faith which secures us of eternal life.

On these terms there is reconciliation and agreement made and established between God and men; without which men must perish for ever. So our blessed Saviour affirms, “This is life eternal, that they may know thee” (the Father) “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” John 17:3. To know the Father as the only true God, to know him as he has sent Jesus Christ to be the only way and means of the salvation of sinners, and to know Jesus Christ as sent by him for that end, is that grace and duty which instates us in a right to eternal life, and initiates us in the possession of it: and this includes that choice and approbation of the way of God for the saving of sinners whereof we speak.


from  Gospel Grounds & Evidences of The Faith of God’s Elect (1695)

This has been called the “chiefest interests” and the Christian’s Great Interest – William Guthrie.

Related post : see Tillich’s “Ultimate Concern”.

 

 

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