All believers struggle at times with doubts and fears pertaining to their standing with God. This often descends upon one as a pall of inward discomfort and guilt issuing forth from no readily discernible source. Other times the source is known to the believer, i.e. sin. Maybe there are duties of obedience that are being neglected or sins that are being glossed over or "protected." Maybe what disrupts our peace are the subtle yet fiery darts of temptation from our Adversary the Devil that we mistake for our own sins. Inevitably though, one begins look within - automatically it seems - measuring, bargaining with God, and adjusting one's self as if to possibly rectify whatever is amiss and regain peace of mind. But at this point to focus on one's self is to look only with the lens of the law as if the law was a friend offering a remedy or power to change. Now this isn't all that odd considering we, by nature, are born under the law as a covenant of works. The promise of the law indeed is "Do this and live!" So understandably one is inclined to run to works and inner renovation (stop the bad, renew the good) as the law's promised road to peace and life. And this might be true except for that inconvenient reality of something called indwelling sin (Rom. 7.21). This legal path therefore leads only to a dead end of frustration and condemnation as one mistakenly looks away from the only source of comfort held out by God to sinners, that of Jesus Christ as presented in the gospel.
Today and for a time, I will occasionally be posting quotes from John Colquhoun's book, A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort (1814) which very helpfully addresses this normal yet distressing Christian experience. Here is the first installment:
"Peace of conscience is that inward serenity, or tranquility of mind, which arises from the faith and sense of being justified in the sight of God, or of being in a state of union with Christ, and of conformity to him. "Being justified by faith," says the apostle Paul, "we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." The peace, with which the God of hope filleth the hearts of the saints, is peace in believing*...
- *Luther says, that 'All things come from Christ to his church, in contraries : he is righteousness, but it is in sin felt : he is life, but it is in death : he is consolation, but it is in calamity.' Augustine likewise observes, that 'the Christian's life runs on between these two; our crosses and God's comforts.'
"When the blood of Christ is, by faith, applied to the conscience, the conscience is purged by it from dead works; and the heart also is, at the same time, sprinkled by it from an evil conscience. The subject of spiritual peace, is a conscience that is purged. Purity and peace are connected together in the conscience; and they are both necessary to render it a good conscience. When the conscience is sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, it is thereby set free from the dread of revenging wrath. The mind is not as formerly, disturbed with alarming fears of God’s indignation, - nor disquieted by his judgments. This is accompanied usually, with a cordial acquiescence in, the will of the Lord, founded on a persuasion of his wisdom and sovereignty, of his holiness and goodness : and so far as a man attains this holy acquiescence in the Divine will, he is secure from disappointment; and free from uneasiness. Now, this peaceful serenity of soul, is the first degree of spiritual comfort. When the Lord Jesus would comfort his disconsolate disciples, he said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me ye might have peace.""