Eric Rivera. Christ Is Yours: The Assurance of Salvation in the Puritan Theology of William Gouge. Lexham, 2019. See here to purchase the book.
William Gouge (1575-1653) was an English Puritan clergyman and author. In Christ Is Yours, Eric Rivera discusses Gouge’s views on the Christian’s assurance that he or she is saved.
Some thoughts and observations:
A. From this book, it seems to me that Gouge’s view on assurance was that he strongly advocated that Christians trust in the divine promise that they are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, yet he did not do away with subjective grounds of assurance, namely, a holy and sanctified life. Gouge also held that regular prayer and confession of sin could strengthen a believer’s assurance. Rivera’s discussion reminded me of something a Christian told me years ago: that, the longer you are walking on the right path, the greater becomes your assurance that you are on the right path. I am ambivalent about this sort of view. On the one hand, part of me thinks that including any subjective grounds of assurance in the equation undermines assurance, since can I seriously look at my life and conclude that it is holy? We are all flawed, so how flawed do we have to be before we can conclude that we are not truly saved? On the other hand, Christianity indeed is a walk and a relationship, not just a moment of decision, so it makes sense that one would develop and become stronger in assurance as one grows in one’s walk with the Lord, making use of the means of grace.
B. Related to (A.), a question in my mind is how well Gouge holds the tensions in his thought together. On assurance, he does so fairly well. When he tries to reconcile God’s continuing forgiveness of sin with the forgiveness of sins that takes place at justification, he does not do as well. It seemed to me like he was saying that Christians need to mollify God’s wrath, then backs away from that at the realization that Christians are no longer under God’s wrath due to justification.
C. The book gets into other interesting details. There is Gouge’s life, with makes me marvel at his ability to cope with so much pain with faith and productivity. There are the perceived strengths and weaknesses of his renowned, mammoth commentary on Hebrews, which I found online. There is the story of the Christian who left the faith under Turkish Muslim persecution, then returned, and Gouge’s sermon about that. There was the Puritan association of morning devotions with the morning sacrifices of the Torah. There are the beliefs about the millennium in those days, as King James I actually felt politically threatened by premilliennial beliefs. Why, I am not entirely clear, since the idea was that Jesus would rule the earth during the millennium, not some other human ruler.
Overall, this is an engaging book to read, although parts of it were repetitive of the conventional Christian spiel. Rivera also effectively summarized the main points in the conclusion.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.