The Way Made Plain

By James H. Brookes

Chapter 19



"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."—Romans x. 13.

Next to the inquiry, "What must I do to be saved?"1 perhaps the most important question is, "How may I know I am saved? "But important as is this question, there are probably in the Christian Church very many who have never seriously pondered it, and there are certainly very many more who are wholly unable to meet it with an intelligent and satisfactory answer. Such indifference to the interests of the soul on the part of unbelievers does not surprise us, for they are "dead in trespasses and sins;"2 but surely it should cause profound astonishment to find that there are multitudes claiming to be "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus"3 who are contented to travel on their way to eternity without knowing whither they are journeying. What would you think of a man hurrying along a highway if he were to inform you that he was escaping from a city doomed to destruction, and on being asked where he was going he should quietly reply, "I do not know; sometimes I am not without hope that I am going to a place of safety, but generally I have too much reason to fear that the road I am pursuing leads to fearful suffering and a terrible death; and really, I can tell you nothing about it "? You would justly suspect the sincerity or the sanity of such a man, and yet his supposed reply indicates precisely the state of thousands who profess to believe that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."4

They say they have listened to the voice of love warning us "to flee from the wrath to come,"5 but whether the road they have taken will conduct them to the unutterable horrors of that wrath, or to the ineffable glories of heaven, they confess is a matter of doubt, or at best of vague conjecture. It is the height of presumption, they think, for one who is perplexed with the cares and pressed by the engagements of worldly business to be confident of salvation, and they imagine that the assurance of forgiveness can be attained only by a privileged number who devote their undivided time to religious meditation and study and prayer. Hence, in answer to the question, "How may I know that I am saved? "they will either remain silent or reply that we can never know it unless we are conscious of superior holiness, and of fervent love for God, and of unceasing fidelity in His service. In other words, they make the reply to the question depend upon something done by us, instead of the work done for us by the Saviour; whereas the reply contained in the blessed Gospel is very simple, for it is written, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

The word "Lord" here refers, as stated in the previous chapter, to Jesus Christ, who "died for our sins according to the Scriptures," and "rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."6 A few years after His ascension His followers began to be termed Christians, and they are described by an inspired apostle as "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord."7 To call upon the name of the Lord is a Hebrew form of speech denoting the Lord Himself, and it signifies, therefore, to call upon Christ, who, "when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."8 It is obvious, however, that we cannot truly call upon Him unless we believe in Him; but if we sincerely believe in Him as our Saviour, we may know upon the best evidence possible—that is, upon His own infinitely trustworthy testimony—that heaven is certain, because He has said, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

All the knowledge we possess is derived from consciousness, or from the evidence of our senses, or from testimony; and the knowledge we gain from testimony may be entitled to as much credit as that which we obtain from consciousness or the evidence of our senses. We are conscious, for example, of certain thoughts and emotions, and we say without hesitation we know they really came into our minds and hearts. Or we see a great crowd assembled, and say we know that many persons have met together. Or we hear an entrancing melody, and say we know charming sounds are uttered. Or we taste honey, and say we know it is sweet. Or we lay hold of an object, and say we know we touch it. But surely we may say with equal confidence we know that George Washington, and Napoleon Bonaparte, and Oliver Cromwell, and Julius Caesar lived, although we are not conscious of their existence, nor have we seen them. He who would gravely express a doubt whether these men actually lived, because the fact has not been revealed to him by his consciousness or the evidence of his senses, would be held in merited contempt for his silly eccentricity, and no one could be induced to waste an argument upon his stupid mind. The testimony that proves their existence is not less certain and conclusive than that of which we are conscious, or which we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears. Indeed, it is more certain and conclusive; for while it is possible to believe that consciousness and our senses may sometimes deceive us, it is not possible to believe that Washington and Napoleon never had any existence whatever except in the imagination of fictitious writers. We know that they lived. We know that one was President of the United States and that the other was Emperor of France. We know that one died and was buried at Mount Vernon, and that the other died and was buried on the island of Saint Helena; and so of any other fact in their history of which we have clear and unequivocal testimony.

Suppose a jury of twelve intelligent, upright citizens were summoned to try a man indicted for homicide. If two witnesses, respected by the entire community for their strict truthfulness, should come into court and solemnly swear that they saw the prisoner at the bar strike the fatal blow which deprived his victim of life, would the jury bring in a verdict of "not guilty "on the ground that they did not and could not know that the defendant had committed the crime with which he was charged? Suppose that, in addition to the two witnesses, ten, twenty, fifty, or one hundred men of the highest character for veracity should swear the same thing, without the slightest rebutting evidence, would the jury still say to the judge, We cannot know that the prisoner is guilty? Surely not. Their action in the case would say in effect. We know that he is guilty; and although we would have gladly given him the benefit of a doubt if any had existed, and although we shrink from the dread responsibility of consigning a fellow creature to an ignominious death, we are bound to render a verdict according to the law and evidence, and therefore hand him over to the executioner. Their knowledge would not be derived either from consciousness or their own senses, but nevertheless they could not be more positive as to the fact if they had personally witnessed the murderous act.

Most of the knowledge we possess is derived from testimony, but still it is knowledge, and not conjecture, nor guessing, nor supposition, nor surmise. All our knowledge of past events in the history of the world is due entirely to testimony; all our knowledge of present events that are occurring on the face of the earth beyond the narrow range of our own observation is due entirely to testimony; all our knowledge of the discoveries made in various departments of science as the result of patient thought and careful investigation is due, in most instances, entirely to testimony; and yet we do not hesitate to rely upon it with the utmost confidence. We are so constituted that we are compelled to believe the testimony of competent witnesses—that is, witnesses who know whereof they affirm, and whose word is worthy of credit. If a thousand such witnesses should declare that they had visited some place of which we had never heard before, we could no more doubt their statement than we could call in question the evidence of our sight. Nay, if one man of spotless reputation communicates to us a fact that fell under his personal observation, we are prepared to assert that we know it to be true simply and singly upon our faith in his veracity. Every day we are gaining knowledge in this manner from intercourse with friends; and if, on repeating information thus obtained, it should be disputed, we would regard the denial as an insult to ourselves or to those from whom we received the statement. Visiting a member of the church recently who is rapidly approaching the eternal world, she told me that her distressing cough had deprived her of sleep during the previous night, and that she was suffering greatly. My reply was, "Cheer up! for you will soon be where ' there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.'"9 "Oh," she exclaimed, with touching anxiety depicted on her face, "if I only knew that! How can I know it?" "Suppose," I answered, '' when I leave your house, I meet an acquaintance who asks, 'How is Mrs. S_______ today? ' I tell her that you coughed nearly all night and feel very badly. She then says, ' How can I know that? ' "What should I reply?" "You would inform her," she answered, "that I told you." "Precisely so, and God tells you in His word that if you believe on His dear Son you shall certainly be saved. If I can believe you without a moment's hesitation, will you not believe the blessed God? "

My object in these arguments and illustrations is to show that we may know that of which we have no evidence either from consciousness or from our own senses, merely upon credible testimony. It is in this way the believer knows he is saved. He knows it upon the sure testimony of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and who, "willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast."10 The testimony of the eternal Jehovah is more worthy of credit than the testimony of the entire human race of all generations combined, and He has given both His promise and His oath to save with an everlasting salvation every soul that trusts in Jesus Christ. "How, then, does the believer know that he is saved?"He knows it because God has said and sworn that we shall come off '' more than conquerors through him that loved us."11 "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself;"12 and—glory to His name!—He still lives to swear by Himself, "to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all."13 Observe, the promise might be sure to all the seed.

Ponder a few of the words of Jesus, and then decide whether a believer may know upon such testimony that he is saved beyond the shadow of a doubt. "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."14 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."15 "He that believeth on the Son hath ever-lasting life"16—not life for a few weeks, or months, or years—not life to be bestowed and taken away, to be gained and lost—but everlasting life, and he has it now and has it forever. "Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation [judgment]; but is passed from death unto life."17 "Because I live, ye shall live also."18 "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."19

Do you still ask how you may know that you are saved? I still reply. By believing the sure testimony of God's word. You know you were a condemned and ruined sinner by believing that word; you know Christ came to die for a lost world by believing that word; and you may know you are saved, if you trust in Jesus Christ, by believing the same word. Let me ask a few plain questions that may present this important subject in a clearer light to your mind. How do you know that the law of God has pronounced a curse against every one who continues not in the strict performance of all the Divine commandments in all their extent, reaching to the most secret emotions of the soul? You know it only by believing His word. How do you know that He who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, emptied Himself of His visible glory, and was born of the Virgin Mary, and performed many wonderful miracles, and preached many sublime and sweet truths, and died upon the cross, and rose from the tomb, and ascended up to heaven? You know it only by believing His word. How do you know that He is to come again to judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and kingdom? You know it only by believing His word. How do you know that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin? You know it only by believing His word. How, then, do you know that, not relying upon yourself, nor upon forms and ceremonies, but upon Christ alone, you shall certainly be saved? Obviously, in the same way—only by believing His word.

You cannot feel that the Saviour was born in Bethlehem of Judea, and that He suffered on Calvary, for this occurred more than nineteen hundred years ago; but you can know it upon the unimpeachable testimony of God. And so you are not called to feel that you can be saved in order to obtain assurance of salvation, but to know it upon the sworn testimony of God revealed in His word; or, to put it in another shape, you cannot know that you are saved because you feel it, but you will feel it because you know it. If you hear good news, you do not first feel that it is true, and then believe it, but you first believe it, and then feel happy. If you are anxious to obtain a favor from a friend who promises to grant your request, you do not first feel that he will do it, and then believe him, but you first believe him, and then feel glad and grateful. If you have lost your sight, and a successful operation has been performed to remove the obstruction from your vision, you do not turn your attention within to examine the optic nerve, but you open your eyes to look without, and thus discover that you can see. If you have been deaf, and something is done to relieve you of the affliction, you do not begin to study the structure of the tympanum or eardrum, but hearken to the sounds that are going around you, and thus discover that you can hear. In like manner, if you would know that you are saved, you must fix your gaze upon Christ, and listen to His precious declarations in the Gospel, instead of seeking for comfort amid the darkness and disease that not only belong by nature to the "old man," but will continue to cling to it until it is laid down at the grave, or left behind at the second coming of the Lord. The Westminster Confession of Faith well says, "This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and all the motions thereof are truly and properly sin."

It is my earnest desire and effort to turn your thoughts entirely away from yourself to the Saviour, for it is the most melancholy business that can engage even a redeemed sinner to be probing into his own soul to find some assurance that he is saved. You can never find it there, but only in the word; and, thank God! having once seen it in the word, you can see it every day and every hour, and as often as you read and believe what Jesus says. Nor is this assurance the privilege exclusively of ministers or of a favored few who have made higher attainments in holiness than the common crowd can ever hope to reach, but it is the privilege of every one without exception who believes the testimony of God's word addressed alike to all. The merchant plunged in the noisy whirl of trade; the mechanic working at his bench; the professional man in the wearisome routine of his daily duties; the wife and mother harassed with the anxieties and cares of her household; the child of affliction bowed under the burden of a well-nigh insupportable sorrow,—may all rejoice in this cheering assurance, and know by simply and sincerely believing God that they are forever saved. Christ died for one as much as another of His people, and "he that believeth on him is not condemned,"20 no matter what may be his circumstances in life. To believe this is to know that we are saved.

Hence, in some of the chief confessions and catechisms which express the doctrinal views of Christians, assurance is represented as the common experience of all who believe in Jesus. Thus in the celebrated Heidelberg Catechism, in answer to Question 21, "What is true faith? "the answer is, "True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the Gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits." So again in the equally celebrated Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, in answer to Question 36, "What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? "the answer is, "The benefits which in this life [in this life, observe] do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end." These questions and answers are heard in a thousand Sunday-schools every Lord's day, but the meaning of the words they contain is seldom understood or even considered; for there are very few in our time who believe, according to their own standards, that true faith is "a certain knowledge "and "an assured confidence," or that the benefits which in this life do accompany justification are "assurance of God's love," etc.

The multitude regard it as impious presumption when they hear Christians at rare intervals say they know they are saved, but they do not regard it as impious presumption to make God a liar, as they do by their doubts and fears; for "he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."21 They seem to think that it is only a preeminently holy walk that can secure assurance of faith; whereas it is only assurance of faith that can secure a preeminently holy walk. They seem to think that to obtain this priceless boon they must struggle hard and long, and refer as an illustration to Jacob wrestling all night with the Lord, whereas a glance at the passage in Genesis would show them that it was the Lord who wrestled with Jacob; just as He is now wrestling with their ungenerous and unworthy unbelief, seeking to cast it down by the precious word of His grace. They seem to think that it is a token of becoming humility and self-abasement when they lament their wretched condition as sinners, or, at best, indulge a faint hope that they will be admitted, after they are judged, to "the lowest seat in heaven," whereas it is a token of pride and self-righteousness that keep them from seeing how totally lost they really are, and so prevent them from resting at once and fully upon the finished work of Christ for eternal life.

They are not "altogether without hope," they say; but if they believe in Christ (and this is a simple matter of consciousness), why do they not say they know they are saved according to the Scriptures? A young lady teaching her class in Sunday-school found the lesson for a certain day embracing the Saviour's declaration, "Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that believeth on me hath everlasting life."22 A little girl inquired, "Is that true—is it surely true?" "Oh, yes! "replied the teacher, "it is surely true, for Christ says so, and whatever He says is true." "It must be very nice," said the child, "to have everlasting life, and to know that whatever comes you are saved, and saved even now." "Yes," answered the teacher, "it is a great blessing indeed." "Then you are saved, are you not? "asked the interested scholar. "I hope so," was the reply. "Hope so! "exclaimed the child; "why, I thought you told me just now it was sure enough? "The conversation is said to have led the young lady to see her folly, and to cast herself with undoubting confidence upon Christ for a present, complete, and assured salvation. So it would be with numbers of professed Christians who seek to lead souls to the Saviour, if they would reflect for a moment upon the absurdity of telling the inquiring sinner, upon the infinitely trustworthy testimony of Jehovah, that through faith in Jesus he shall certainly be saved, while they themselves, although saying they believe, are filled with doubt and fear concerning their own state and standing before God.



1) Acts xvi. 30.

2) Eph. ii. 1.

3) Gal. iii. 26.

4) Rom. i. 18.

5) Luke iii. 7.

6) 1 Cor. xv. 3, 4.

7) Cor. i. 2.

8) Heb. i. 3.

9) Rev. xxi. 4.

10) Heb. vi. 17-19.

11) Rom. viii. 37.

12) Heb. vi. 13.

13) Rom. iv, 16.

14) John vi. 39, 40.

15) John x. 27-30.

16) John iii. 36.

17) John v. 24.

18) John xiv. 19.

19) John xvii, 24.

20) John iii. 18.

21) John v. 10.

22) John vi. 47.