James Fraser of Brae on Assurance

Every now and then (particularly for those of us who are committed to reading work from previous centuries) one comes across words that are as quotable and as edifying as – though shorter than – the title of the book from where they came. One example:

‘The Doctrine of the universal Extent of Christ’s Death doth yield a clear Ground and an infallible Evidence for the strongest Faith, so as to remove all doubting, and to fill the Heart with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ These words were written by James Fraser of Brae in his A TREATISE on JUSTIFYING FAITH, Wherein is opened the GROUND of BELIEVING, or the Sinners sufficient Warrant to take hold of what is offered in the everlasting GOSPEL. Together with an APPENDIX concerning, the OBJECT of CHRIST’S DEATH, unfolding the dangerous and various pernicious Errors that hath been vented about it (Edinburgh: William Gray, 1749), 201. While lengthy titles like this are no friend of those working on a tight word limit, you just gotta love ‘em all the same!

Unlike that crippling and anxiety-producing theology of federal Calvinism which finally bids believers to turn towards themselves (and their works) for assurance, James Fraser of Brae (like Calvin and Knox before him) entreats us to look to Christ alone as the objective mirror of our election in whose incarnate person and atoning work we know liberating assurance, all doubting is removed, and hearts are filled ‘with joy unspeakable‘. Nearly 200 years later, that same evangelical Gospel would erupt from the lips and pen of another Scot, PT Forsyth:

Now for this tremendous certainty there is no other foundation than the historical revelation and salvation in Christ as the eternal and comprehensive object of God’s loving will and choice, the Captain of the elect. We have not sufficient ground outside that for believing or trusting such a God. We cannot start with a view of God reached on speculative or other similar grounds, and then use Christ as a mere means for confirming it or giving it practical effect. That would mean a certainty higher than Christ’s, and the superfluity of Christ when the end had been reached. Which is not the Christian Gospel, be that Gospel right or wrong. In that Gospel our final certainty can never be detached from what Christ did, what He is and does for eternity. The eternal election is in Christ, “Mine elect in whom My soul delighteth”; and only in Christ does faith at every stage realise it. Hence it has been well pointed out that we must not preach election to produce the certainty of Christian faith, but preach Christ and faith in Him to give us the certainty of our election. (The Principle of Authority, 353)

‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God’. (John 6:68-69)

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