I’m currently reading through Thomas Brooks book Heaven on Earth as discussed in my last post on the PRC: “PRC (7); Puritans, Assurance, and Preaching” and came across this pertinent quote on the issue of Arminians and assurance. Can the Puritan doctrine of assurance be likened to Arminianism? This quote would imply a definite no!
“By these ten arguments it doth evidently appear, that believers may in this life attain unto a well-grounded assurance of their everlasting happiness and blessedness. I shall apply this a little, and then close up this chapter.
“Use. This precious truth thus proved, looks sourly and wishly [with eager desire] upon all those that affirm that believers cannot in this life attain unto a certain well-grounded assurance of their everlasting happiness and blessedness, – as papists and Arminians: all know that know their writings and teachings, that they are in arms against this Christ-exalting, and soul-cheering doctrine of assurance. ‘I know no such thing as assurance of heaven in this life,’ saith Grevinchovius the Arminian. Assurance is a pearl that they trample under feet; it is a beam of heaven that hath so much light, brightness, and shining glory in it, that their blear-eyes cannot behold it. Assurance is glory in the bud, it is the suburbs of paradise, it is a cluster of the land of promise, it is a spark of God, it is the joy and crown of a Christian; the greater is their impiety and folly that deny assurance, that cry down assurance under any names or notions whatsoever. They are rather tormentors than comforters that say, poor souls may know that there is a crown of righteousness, but they must not presume to know that they shall have the honour to wear that crown; and that makes God like King Xerxes, who crowned his steersman in the morning, and beheaded him in the evening of the same day.
“Arminians are not ashamed to say, that God may crown a man one hour, and uncrown him in the next; they blush not to say that a man may be happy and miserable, under love and under wrath, an heir of heaven and firebrand of hell, a child of light and a child of darkness, and all in an hour. Oh what miserable comforters are these? What is this but to torment the weary soul? to dispirit the wounded spirit, and to make them most sad whom God would have most glad? Ah! how sad it is for men to affirm, that wounded spirits may know ‘that the Sun of righteousness hath healing in his wings,’ Mal. iv. 2; but they cannot be assured that they shall be healed. The hungry soul may know that there is bread enough in his Father’s house, but cannot know that he shall taste of that bread, Luke xv. 17. The naked soul may know that Christ hath robes of righteousness to cover all spots, sores, defects, and deformities of it, but may not presume to know that Christ will put these royal robes upon it, Rev. iii. 18. The impoverished soul may know that there be unsearchable riches in Christ, but cannot be assured that ever it shall partake of those riches, Eph. iii. 8. All that these men allow poor souls, is guesses and conjectures that it may be well with them. They will not allow souls to say with Thomas, ‘My Lord, and my God,’ John xx. 18; nor with Job to say, ‘My Redeemer lives,’ Job xix. 25; nor with the church, ‘I am my beloved’s, and his desire is towards me,’ Cant. vii. 10. And so they leave souls in a cloudy, questioning, doubting, hovering conditions, hanging, like Mahoment’s tomb at Mecca, between two loadstones; or like Erasmus, as the papists paint him, hanging betwixt heaven and hell. They make the poor soul a Magor-missabib, a terror to itself.
“What more comfortable doctrine than this? What more soul-disquieting, and soul-unsettling doctrine than this? Thou art this moment in a state of life, thou mayest the next moment be in a state of death; thou are now gracious, thou mayest the next hour be graceless; thou art now in the promised land, yet thou mayest die in the wilderness; thou art to-day a habitation for God, thou may to-morrow be a synagogue of Satan; thou hast to-day received the white stone of absolution, thou mayest to-morrow receive the black stone of condemnation; thou art now in thy Saviour’s arms, thou mayest to-morrow be in Satan’s paws; thou art now Christ’s freeman, thou mayest to-morrow be Satan’s bondman; thou art now a vessel of honour, thou mayest suddenly become a vessel of wrath; thou art now greatly beloved, thou mayest soon be as greatly loathed; this day thy name is fairly written in the book of life, to-morrow the book may be crossed, and thy name blotted out for ever. This is the Arminians’ doctrine, and if this be not to keep souls in a doubting and trembling, and shivering conditions, what is it? Well, Christians, remember this is your happiness and blessedness, that ‘none can pluck you out of your Father’s hand,’ John x. 29; that you are ‘kept,’ as in a garrison, or as with a guard, ‘by the power of God through faith unto salvation,’ I Peter i. 5. ‘That the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but the kindness of the Lord shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on you,’ Isa. liv. 10. ‘That Christ ever lives to make intercession for you,’ Heb. iii. 25; and that men and devils are as able, and shall as soon, make a world, dethrone God, pluck the sun out of the firmament, and Christ out of the bosom of the Father, as they shall pluck a believer out of the everlasting arms of Christ, or rob him of one of his precious jewels, Deut. xxxiii. 26, 27. I shall close up this chapter with an excellent saying of Luther: ‘The whole Scripture,’ saith he, ‘doth principally aim at this thing, that we should not doubt, but that we should hope, that we should trust, that we should believe, that God is a merciful, a bountiful, a gracious, and a patient God to his people.’
Thomas Brooks, Heaven on Earth, in the Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. II, 328 – 330