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Assurance is a primarily Protestant doctrine which states that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit allows the justified disciple to know that they are saved. Augustine was an early theologian to write about it. Assurance is a very important doctrine in Lutheranism, Calvinism and Methodism.

Wesley & Methodism

John Wesley believed that all Christians have a faith which implies an assurance of God's forgiving love, and that one would feel that assurance, or the "witness of the Spirit". This understanding is grounded in Paul's affirmation, " have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The same Spirit beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God..." (Romans 8:15-16, Wesley's translation). This experience was mirrored for Wesley in his Aldersgate experience where he "knew" he was loved by God and that his sins were forgiven.

"I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that He had taken my sin, even mine." - from Wesley's Journal

Early in his ministry Wesley had to defend his understanding of assurance. In 1738 Rev. Arthur Bedford had published a sermon in which he misquoted Wesley's teachings. Bedford had understood Wesley as saying that a Christian could be assured of persevering in a state of salvation, the Calvinist view.

In a letter dated September 28, 1738 Wesley wrote, "The assurance of which I alone speak I should not choose to call an assurance of salvation, but rather (with the Scriptures), the assurance of faith. . . . [This] is not the essence of faith, but a distinct gift of the Holy Ghost, whereby God shines upon his own work, and shows us that we are justified through faith in Christ...The 'full assurance of faith' (Heb 10.22) is 'neither more nor less than hope; or a conviction, wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, that we have a measure of the true faith in Christ..'"[1]

The Westminster Confession and the Larger Catechism

The Humble Advice of the Assembly of Divines,
now by Authority of Parliament
sitting at Westminster,
a Confession of Faith:
with the Quotations and Texts of Scripture annexed.
Presented by them lately to both Houses of Parliament.

The Larger Catechism[2] (p164ff) gives an abbreviated version of the section of the Westminster Confession (ch 18, p62ff) about Christian Assurance.

(The Discussion page has a note regarding the use here of wikisource Bible verses.)

Q[uestion]. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?

A[nswer]. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him,

1 John 2:3;

may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made,

1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 John 3:14,18,19,21,24; 1 John 4:13,16; Hebrews 6:11,12;

and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God,

Romans 8:16;

be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.

1 John 5:13;

Q. Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?

A. Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith,

Ephesians 1:13;

true believers may wait long before they obtain it;

Isaiah 50:10; Psalm 88:1-18;

and after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions,

Psalm 77:1-12; Song of Solomon 5:2,3,6; Psalm 51:8,12; Psalm 31:22; Psalm 22:1;

yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.

1 John 3:9; Job 13:15; Psalm 73:15,23; Isaiah 54:7-10;

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  1. The discussion of Wesley's understanding of assurance is a revision of information presented on the website "Days of Wesley", copyright 2004, Days of Wesley, Conrad Archer, Entry on Assurance.
  2. Westminster Assembly (1658), "The Humble Advice of the Assembly of Divines", viewed 13 December 2021 at,


  • Blessed Assurance: A Defense of the Doctrine of Eternal Security by Steven Waterhouse (ISBN 097024181X)
  • Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance by M. Charles Bell (ISBN 0905312473)
  • The Absurdity of Eternal Security Doctrine by Fidelis Nwaka (ISBN 1413404529)
  • Bad Fruit: The Result of Once Saved Always Saved by Timothy Williams (ISBN 1579215564)
  • The Believer's Conditional Security: Eternal Security Refuted by Daniel Corner (ISBN 0963907689)
  • The Myth of Eternal Security by Daniel Corner (ISBN 0963907662)
  • Once Saved, Always?: The False Doctrine Of Eternal Security by Benny Prince (ISBN 1418498556)



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