In a book I was reading this week, there was a distinction made between faith and assurance.
The author certainly asserted that not only is there such a thing in the Bible as assurance, but that it is most earnestly to be desired and sought. However he made it clear that in his opinion, and the opinion of many authors (he quoted 30!), many can have faith without assurance. Faith as small as a mustard seed will save. Such faith may not be accompanied by assurance.
Here are but two of the thirty quotes (mainly from the Puritans). What do you think?
“We must distinguish between weakness of faith and nullity. A weak faith is true. The bruised reed is but weak, yet it is such as Christ will not break. Though your faith be but weak, yet be not discouraged. A weak faith may receive a strong Christ; a weak hand can tie the knot in marriage as wells as a strong; a weak eye might have seen the brazen serpent. The promise is not made to strong faith, but to true…
You may have the water of the Spirit poured on you in sanctification, though not the oil of gladness in assurance: there may be faith of adherence, and not of evidence; there may be life in the root where there is no fruit in the branches, and in faith in the heart where no fruit of assurance.” (Thomas Watson, London, 1660)
“Many of God’s dear children for a long time may remain very doubtful as to their present and eternal condition, and know not what to conclude, whether they shall be damned or whether they shall be saved. There are believers of several growths in the church of God – father, young men, children and babes; and as in most families there are more babes and children than grown men, so in the church of God there are more weak, doubting Christians than strong ones, grown up to a full assurance. A babe may be born, and yet not know it; so a man may be born again, and yet not be sure of it…
We make a difference between saving faith, as such, and a full persuasion of the heart. Some of those that shall be saved may not be certain that they shall be saved: for the promise is made to the grace of faith, and not to the evidence of it – to faith as true, and not to faith as strong. They may be sure of heaven, and yet in their own sense not assured of heaven.” (Thomas Doolittle, Cambridge, 1661)
The difference is between real faith and certainty that you have such faith. The difference is between real faith that saves and the quality of that faith.
Assurance is to be greatly desired. All Christians should grow in faith to the point where they have such assurance. But, these authors say, you can indeed have real faith without such assurance. Are they right? What do you think?