I think the first essential mark of the difference between true and false assurance is to be found in the fact that the true works humility. There is nothing in the world that works such satanic, profound, God-defiant pride as false assurance; nothing works such utter humility, or brings to such utter self-emptiness, as the child-like spirit of true assurance. Surely this can be known. If a person is self-confident, there is self-assurance; if there is any evidence of pride in connection with his claim, it is a most deadly mark- it is the plague-spot which marks death and corruption. But if there is utter humility, you have the sign of the true spirit.
This will manifest itself in connection with another mark. If one is really united to Christ in a union so established that Christ is indeed in possession of the soul, the whole consciousness will be taken up with what I would call Christ-consciousness, and there will be no self-consciousness. Little children are very prompt to show their character. There is a great difference in them. Bring a child into a room. She comes thinking about nothing in particular, looking at her mother, then looking at the guests or anything that objectively strikes her, not thinking of herself. That is pure, sweet, and lovely. She grows older, and she comes to think of herself and what people think of her, and her manner has lost its unconsciousness. A great deal of what you call bashfulness is rottenness at the heart; it is self-consciousness. Nothing in the world so tends to defile the imagination, to pervert the affections, and to corrupt the morals, as self-consciousness. You know it is connected with every diseased and morbid action of the body.
A young woman told me that she wanted the witness of the Spirit, and she talked about it everlastingly; she wanted to tell her own experience and feelings always. I told her she must forget herself, not think of her own feelings. The man who is talking about his love unceasingly has no love; the man who is talking about his faith unceasingly has no faith: the two things cannot go together. When you love, what are you thinking about? Are you not thinking about the object of your love? And when you believe, what are you thinking about? Why, the object that you believe. Suppose you ask yourself, ‘Am I believing?’ Why, of course you are not believing when you are thinking of believing. No human being believes except when he thinks about Christ. Am I loving? Of course I am not loving when I am thinking about loving. No human being loves except when he is thinking about Christ as the object of his love.
In Virginia I once saw one human being in whom there was the perfect work of grace, as far as I could see as her pastor…Even on earth she was one of those who had made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb, and she seemed always to walk upon the verge of heaven. I never heard her speak of any one particular of her character or of her own graces. I have come out of the pulpit when the congregation had gone, and have found her upon her knees in her pew, absolutely unconscious of all external objects, so far was she absorbed in worship. When I roused her from her trance, she cried instantly, ‘Is He not holy? Is He not glorious? Is He not beautiful? is He not infinite?’ She did not speak of her own love or of her feelings.
A great deal of Perfectionism is rotten to the core. All self-consciousness is of the very essence and nature of sin. Then, again, true confidence leads necessarily to strong desires for more knowledge and more holiness, for unceasing advances of grace.
I was told once, in a congregation where I preached, that I need not tell a certain young man anything about religion; he had finished it – that is, that, having finished it, he found nothing else to do. That is what the word ‘perfect’ means. Now, when a man has finished eternal life, when he has finished learning all the revelation of God, when he has experienced all the infinite benefits of Christ’s redemption, when he has finished all the mysterious work of the Holy Ghost in his heart, he ought to be annihilated. There is no place in heaven or on earth for such a man.
But a man who really has the love of God in his heart is always reaching forward to the things which are before. The more he loves, the more he wants to love; the more he is consecrated, the more consecration he longs for. He has grand ideas and grand aims, but they lie beyond him in heaven.
A.A. Hodge (1823-1886) was an American Reformed Presbyterian theologian who, like his father the eminent Charles Hodge, both served as a professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey as well as serving as its principal between 1878 and 1886.
(Article credit: Grace Online Library)