We’ve all had moments of despair in our life; where the blackness of our heart is laid open and we are forced to come to terms with how deeply sinful we truly are. Dr. Luther had a term for these moments he aptly called, “Anfechtung”, which are inward trials of the agony of conscience and painful desperation. Where then in these moments of “Anfechtung” should we turn so that we may seek comfort and assurance of our salvation? In what, or better yet, in whom do we take refuge? In this excerpt from a letter written by Anglican Evangelical William Romaine (1714-1795), the answer does not rest in our “personal commitment to Christ”, and doesn’t even rest in our faith; but rather, our comfort, hope, consolation, shelter, and assurance rests not in faith, but in the object of our faith, Jesus:
“For you are looking, not at the object of your faith, at Jesus, but at your faith. You would draw your comfort, not from Him, but from your faith. And because your faith is not quite perfect, you are as much discouraged as if Jesus was not quite a perfect Savior… But, besides this mistake, I can see one of the greatest sins in your way of reasoning, and yet finely cloaked under a very specious covering. I pulled it off; and behold there was rank treason under it, against the crown and majesty of my Lord and God; for you are kept looking at your act of believing. What is this for? Why, certainly, that you may be satisfied with it. What then? No doubt you will then rest in it, and upon it, satisfied now that Christ is yours, because you are satisfied with your faith. This is making a Jesus of it, and is in effect taking the crown of crowns from his head, and placing it upon the head of your faith. Lord grant you may never do this any more!
I observe… how, by this mistake, and by this great sin, the sin of sins, you are robbed of the sweet enjoyment of the God of all comfort. You lose what you seek, and lose it in the way of seeking. You want comfort, and you look to your faith for it. If faith could speak it would say, ‘I have none to give you, look unto Jesus, it is all in Him’ Indeed my friend it is. The Holy Ghost, the Comforter, will not glorify your faith. He will not give it the honour of comforting you. He takes nothing to comfort with but the things of Christ – and His things, not as used by you, but as given by Him, who is all yours… I grant you, and I know it well, that much faith brings much comfort from Christ, and carries much glory to Him; but the way to get much faith is not to look at it, as you do, but at the Savior; not to look at your hand, but at Jesus; not how you hold Him, but that He is yours , and holds you, and your faith too, and therefore you shall never perish, but shall have everlasting life.”