The treatment of this subject, then, does not call for an apology. On the contrary, there are good reasons for discussing it. There are comparatively few Christians to-day, who really glory in the assurance of salvation. The note of heavenly joy seems to have died away out of the life of God’s people. It is true that it may sometimes be heard in Methodist revival meetings. But in such cases it is generally prompted only by momentary emotions, often proves to be of an evanescent character, and is frequently followed by reactions of the darkest gloom. Moreover, the assurance in which the Methodist glories always falls short of the assurance of salvation.
There are always large numbers of serious seekers after assurance in our churches, who are tossed to and fro by doubts and uncertainties. Some of them appear to be chronic doubters, who occasionally create the impression that they take a secret delight in their doubts and regard them as a mark of special piety. But the majority are of a different kind. They can readily be made to understand that the normal Christian life cannot be one of constant uncertainty, and that their doubts are due to a certain measure of unbelief, to weakness of faith, or to ignorance, and therefore cannot be condoned. As a rule they are in a teachable spirit, eager to receive instruction and help, and anxious to be led into the light. They need careful spiritual guidance and should always be the objects of tender solicitude.
But we also meet with some professing Christians to-day–and it is to be feared that their number is on the increase–who apparently do not think about the matter of assurance, or who, if they do, fail to take it seriously. They simply seem to take it for granted, and speak of it as a matter of course. They assert their assurance in an off-hand way, but leave the impression that they hardly know what it means. It is quite evident that the matter of personal assurance has not gripped their souls. Their spiritual life moves on the surface and is utterly lacking in real depth. In view of all this it can hardly be called superfluous to call attention to this important subject.
Louis Berkhof, The Assurance of Faith, 16-17, from Solid Ground books.