Christian Assurance is Freely Yours!

How to Obtain Certain Knowledge of the Forgiveness of Sins

by George Muller

[Editor's Note: We here present a brief extract from the Autobiography of George Muller, 1905 print. This brief section among the book's inspiring reminisces, concerns the teaching of assurance, that is, how the believer may be certain of his/her salvation. I am a huge admirer of George Muller and I am really happy to be able to present this to our readers. Muller lived 1805-1898 and during the 19th century people sometimes explained Christian/theological matters by the use of very long sentences and difficult words, Muller, however, is generally very good here, but, on just a very few occasions, I have changed the odd word, or even sentence, even adding a sentence at one point in order to make this wonderful writing more fully accessible to the modern reader. Muller also wrote in very long paragraphs (again, typical for his day), I have also tried to break these down to more 'readable' smaller paragraphs. The emphases in the text, by the way, and all the points, continue to be those of Muller; my changes are minimal].

George Muller (1805-1898)

Recognised by Christians the world over as one of the most outstanding examples of a man of faith of all time, Muller founded and run five orphanages in Bristol, England during the 19th century. He did this despite having no money of his own nor even any promises of ongoing financial support. Neither did this German-born man believe in making his financial needs generally known outside of a tiny group of prayer labourers. Muller insisted that it should be God alone who should be made aware of needs. During his life, many thousands of pounds came in to establish and run the orphanges, all as a direct result of answers to prayer; Neither did the Muller children ever go without a meal. Muller's achievements are well-documented and provide the perfect answer to those who reject the power of prayer, or question the existence of God.

A sister in the Lord in Ireland, who did not see her acceptance before God, and who was habitually without the assurance that she is a child of God, that she is born again, that her sins are forgiven, and that she will be saved, in her distress of mind wrote to me about this time [1841].

As her case is by no means a solitary one, but as there are so many children of God who do not know that they are the children of God; as there are so many whose sins are forgiven who do not know that they are forgiven, and as there are so many who will be saved, who do not know that they will be saved, and who are continually afraid of what would become of them were they to be taken out of the world. I have thought it well to say something here on this most important subject.

Question: How may I obtain the knowledge that I am a child of God, or that I am born again, or that my sins are forgiven, or that I shall not perish, but have everlasting life?

Answer: Not by my feelings, not by a dream, not by my experience being like this or [like that]. But this matter is to be settled, as all other spiritual matters, entirely by the revealed will of God, the written Word of God, which is the only rule, the only standard for believers. This is how we must proceed.

Question: By what passages, then, for instance, may I make out that I am a child of God, or born again?

Answer: In Galatians 3:26, it is written: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." The question is: Do I believe in the Lord Jesus? Do I depend upon Him alone for the salvation of my soul? If so, I am a child of God, whether I feel it or not. Feelings are not a true guide.

In John 1:11-13, it is written of the Lord Jesus, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power (or the right or the privilege) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The question here again is simply this, Have I received the Lord Jesus, i.e., Do I believe in His name? If so, I am born of God, I am a child of God, else I should never have believed in the Lord Jesus; for none but the children of God do believe in Him.

Question: How may I know that my sins are forgiven? Have I to wait till I feel that they are forgiven, before I may take comfort concerning this matter? Or must I wait till I have, in some powerful way or other, a portion of the Word of God applied to my mind, to assure me of it?

Answer. This point is again only to be settled by the Word of God. We have not to wait till we feel that our sins are forgiven - I myself have now been a believer for more than nineteen years (i.e., in the year 1845). How long it is, since I have had no doubt whatever about the forgiveness of my sins, I cannot tell with certainty; but of this I am quite sure, that ever since I have been in England, which is now about sixteen years, I have never once had a single moment's doubt that my sins are all forgiven; and yet I do not remember that I ever once have felt that they were forgiven. To know that they are forgiven, and to feel that they are forgiven, are two different things. The way to settle, whether our sins are forgiven, is to refer to the Word of God alone with reference to this matter.

In Acts 10:43, it is written concerning the Lord Jesus, "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." So all the prophets, speaking under the immediate power of the Holy Spirit, bore testimony that through the obedience and sufferings of the Lord Jesus, whereby He becomes our Saviour, all who believe in Him for salvation, who depend upon Him and not upon themselves, who receive Him to be the One whom God declares Him to be, should receive the forgiveness of their sins.

The questions therefore to be put to ourselves are simply these: Do I walk in utter carelessness? Do I trust in my own exertions for salvation? Do I expect forgiveness for my sins on account of living a better life in future? Or, do I depend only upon this, that Jesus died upon the cross to save sinners - and that Jesus fulfilled the law of God to make sinners righteous? If the latter is the case, my sins are forgiven, whether I feel it or not. In fact, what one may 'feel,' is little to do with the matter! I already have forgiveness. I shall not have it merely when I die, or when the Lord comes again; I have it now, and that for all my sins. I must not wait to feel that my sins are forgiven, in order to be at peace, and in order to be happy; but I must take God at His word, I must believe that what He says is true. He says, "That whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus should receive remission of sins." When I believe what God says, peace and joy will be the result.

Again, in Acts 15:8-9, it is written in reference to us Gentiles sinners: "And God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Here we see how guilt is to be removed from the heart, how we can get a clean heart, obtain the forgiveness of sins - even by faith in the Lord Jesus. This depending upon the sufferings of the Lord Jesus in the room of sinners, and depending upon His obedience in fulfilling the law of God. In this way, His sufferings are considered as endured by us, His obedience as if found in ourselves; In Him (if we believe in Him) we are considered to have hung on the cross, thereby being punished in Him, on account of which God, though perfectly holy and just, can forgive us our sins for Jesus' sake, as well as reckon us righteous, through faith in the Lord Jesus, Who - in the room of those who believe on Him - fulfilled the law of God.

Question: How may I know that I shall be saved?

Answer: In John 3:16 it is written: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Notice here in particular:

  1. It matters not how great a sinner I am.
  2. The promise is positive concerning my (and your) salvation, if we believe in the Lord Jesus.
  3. I have only to believe in the Lord Jesus, no matter how it may have been with me hitherto. If you and I trust in Jesus for salvation now, we may be confident of Eternal Life.

Further, in Acts 16:30-31, it is written, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved."
Several of these people were Gentiles and no questions (as far as we know) were even asked about their earlier lives. Even more, in John 3:36, it is written, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

So real belief in the Lord Jesus Christ to the depth of our souls, then being prepared to act upon that belief, is what opens the door to everlasting life; now, this is not just some vague, misty, sentimental thing. it's no good saying, "Okay, well if that's what it takes, I hereby 'believe' in Jesus from now on." Oh no, this means some solid life changes and at least some open profession of belief.

The test is: If your boss says, "If you become a Christian, you will be fired from your job!" Would you then say, "Well, I might be fired but I would rather hold onto Christ. After all, He even feeds the sparrows of the air." Or would you say, "I can't afford to be a Christian; if I lose my job I could starve. Perhaps, if I become wealthy I will look at this matter again."

But if we truly believe, everlasting life is already ours! If we don't believe, the Scripture is clear: the wrath of God remains upon us. It is impossible for such people to inherit everlasting life. Belief leads to everlasting life, disbelief - eventually - must lead to eternal destruction.

Question: How may I know that I am one of the elect? We read of election in Scripture. How may you or I know that we are surely chosen, or surely elected? That we are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God?

Answer: It is written: "As many as were ordained (i.e., appointed), to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48). The question, therefore, is simply this: Do I believe in the Lord Jesus? Do I take Him to be the One whom God declares Him to be? That is, His beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased? If so, I am a believer, and I should never have believed except I had been appointed by God to eternal life - made to be a vessel of mercy. Therefore the matter is a very simple one: If I believe in the Lord Jesus, I mean the Lord Jesus of the Bible, not some modern variation, then I am a chosen one - appointed to eternal life; if you believe in the same manner, it is the same with you. God - who cannot lie - has already spoken, indeed, He has already elected! So, as we continue believing, we are on the path to eternal life.

Again, in Romans 8:29-30, it is written: "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them he also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified." How are we justified, or counted just ones before God? By faith in the Lord Jesus Romans 3:20-26. Therefore if I believe in the Lord Jesus, it follows (on account of what we just read, that is, the inseparable connection of all those precious things which Paul wrote about in those verses of Romans 8), that I have been foreknown by God, that I have been predestinated by Him to be conformed to the image of His Son, that I have been called, that I have been justified, and that, in the sight of God, I am already as good as glorified, though I am not as yet in the actual possession and enjoyment of the glory. I have this confidence and I trust that you may have it too.

Now mark this part very carefully: The reason why some persons who renounce confidence in their own goodness for salvation, only trusting in the merits of the Lord Jesus, still - nevertheless - do not know that they are the children of God [lack assurance] generally arises from one of these things:

  1. They do not know the simplicity of the Gospel. There are some persons who prefer the complicated, but the main ingredients of the Gospel - though of utter splendour - are not complicated.
  2. They seek to settle it by their feeling, feelings or emotion.
  3. They wait for some powerful impulse, or maybe dream, or vision, maybe a 'voice from heaven,' to assure them of it, or maybe some Scripture becoming powerfully imprinted on their mind.
  4. Because they are living in sin so they know no real peace. Now there may be found much weakness and many infirmities even in the believer who has assurance on these points; but the Holy Spirit does not comfort us, and will not comfort us, if we habitually indulge in those things which we know are contrary to the mind and will of God. Never seek to justify sin, as long as we battle against it, God supports us. Our Lord does not want you and I to go into retreat because of human weakness, setting up camp further from Him and closer to the world; He wants you in 'holy camp' where He promises to help you.

It is true that knowledge alone cannot save, yet a deeper knowledge of the promises of Scripture will lead to Christian Assurance.

Now there are some who claim to know and love Jesus but they don't believe in the Christian Gospel but in another message; that will not do, they must believe the Jesus of the Bible not some other Jesus, but they might be on a journey and will find the real Jesus in time.

If we understand and employ these principles we can have real Christian assurance about our salvation, yes, even on our bad days and we will continue to have those.

(The foregoing is adapted from George Muller's Autobiography, printed in 1905, seven years after his death).