William Guthrie

The Christian's Great Interest - Part One

(The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ)

Since there are so many people living under the ordinances, pretending, without ground, to a special interest in Christ, and to His favour and salvation, as is clear from the words of our Lord--'Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.' (Matt. 7: 22, 23). 'Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.' (Matt. 25: 11,12.) 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.' (Luke 13: 24.) And since many who have good ground of claim to Christ, are not established in the confidence of this favour, but remain in the dark, without comfort, hesitating concerning the reality of godliness in themselves, and speaking little in the commendation of religion to others, especially in the time of their straits:--I shall speak a little respecting two things of the greatest concern:
The one is, How a person may know if he has a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he does lay just claim to God's favour and salvation.
The other is, In case a person fall short of assurance in this trial, what course he should take for making sure of God's friendship and salvation to himself.
Quest. I.--How shall a man know if he has a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he has, or may lay claim justly to, God's favour and salvation?
Chapter I.--Things premised for the better understanding of the trial itself
Before we speak directly to the question, we shall premise some things, to make way for the answer.
I A man's interest in Christ may be known
First, That a man's interest in Christ, or his gracious state, may be known, and that with more certainty than people conjecture; yea, and the knowledge of it may be more easily attained unto than many imagine; for not only has the Lord commanded men to know their interest in Him, as a thing attainable--'Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith' (2 Cor. 13: 5); 'Give diligence to make your calling and election sure' (2 Peter 1: 10)--but many of the saints have attained unto the clear persuasion of their interest in Christ, and in God as their own God. How often do they call Him their God and their portion? and how persuaded is Paul 'that nothing can separate him from the love of God?' (Rom. 8: 38, 39.) Therefore the knowledge of a man's gracious state is attainable. And this knowledge of it, which may be attained, is no fancy and mere conceit, but it is most sure: 'Doubtless Thou are our Father,' saith the prophet (Isa. 43: 16), in name of the Church.
It is clear from this:-1. That can be no fancy, but a very sure knowledge, which does yield to a rational man comfort in most real straits; but so does this-'When the people spoke of stoning David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.' (1 Sam. 30: 6.) He saith, 'He will not be afraid though ten thousands rise up against him.' (Psa. 3: 6.) Compare these words with the following: 'But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.' (Psa. 3: 3.) 'The Lord is my light, and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.' (Psa. 27: 3.) 2. That is a sure knowledge of a thing which maketh a wise merchant sell all he has, that he may keep it sure; that maketh a man forego children, lands, life, and suffer the spoiling of all joyfully; but so does this--Matt. 13: 44; Mark 10: 28, 29; Heb. 10: 34; Rom. 5: 3; Acts 5: 41. 3. That must be a sure and certain knowledge, and no fancy, upon which a man voluntarily and freely does adventure his soul when he is stepping into eternity, with this word in his mouth, 'This is all my desire' (2 Sam. 23: 5); but such a knowledge is this.
And again, not only may a godly man come to the sure knowledge of his gracious state, but it is more easily attainable than many apprehend: for supposing, what shall be afterwards proved, that a man may know the gracious work of God's Spirit in himself; if he will but argue rationally from thence, he shall be forced to conclude his interest in Christ, unless he deny clear Scripture truths. I shall only make use of one here, because we are to speak more directly to this afterwards. A godly man may argue thus, Whosoever receive Christ are justly reputed the children of God-'But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God' (John 1 12); but I have received Christ in all the ways which the word there can import: for I am pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, I agree to the terms, I welcome the offer of Christ in all His offices, as a King to rule over me, a Priest to offer sacrifice and intercede for me, a Prophet to teach me; I lay out my heart for Him and towards Him, resting on Him as I am able. What else can be meant by the word "receiving"? Therefore may I say, and conclude plainly and wsrrantably, I am justly to reckon myself God's child, according to the aforesaid scripture, which cannot fail.
II. Importance of having an interest in Christ
The second thing to be premised is, That a man be savingly in covenant with God is a matter of the highest importance: 'It is his life.' (Deut. 32: 47.) And yet very few have, or seek after a saving interest in the covenant; and many foolishly think they have such a thing without any solid ground. (Matt. 7: 14.) Few find, or walk in, the narrow way. This should alarm people to be serious about the matter, since it is of so great consequence to be in Christ, and since there be but few that may lay just claim to Him; and yet many do foolishly fancy an interest in Him, who are deceived by a false confidence, as the foolish virgins were. (Matt. 25.)
III. We must allow our condition to be determined by Scripture
The third thing to be premised is, Men must resolve to be determined by Scripture in this matter of their interest in Christ. The Spirit speaking in the Scripture is judge of all controversies'-To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them' (Isa. 8: 20)--and of this also, whether a man be savingly in covenant with God or not. Therefore do not mock God whilst you seem to search after such a thing. If we prove from Scripture, which is the uncontroverted rule, that you are gracious, and have made a covenant savingly with God, then resolve to grant so much, and to acquiesce in it; and if the contrary appear, let there be a determination of the controversy, else you do but mock the Lord.
(continued in part 2...)

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