A lack of assurance has hampered the testimony and undermined the joy of many of the Lord’s people down the centuries. The author of this little book certainly experienced this, as he notes in the introduction: ‘I find that it has been [the tempter’s] first and greatest object to make me doubt of my conversion.’
This book, in the Banner of Truth’s Pocket Puritans series, is an extract from the memoirs of James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698), in which he sets out twenty ‘grounds’ for doubting his conversion, together with his answers to them.
Some of the grounds overlap slightly and many indicate a high degree of spiritual sensitivity, and perhaps an excessive introspection, though his answers are always robustly clear and biblical.
In the course of addressing his doubts, Fraser deals helpfully with a number of related topics, such as the problem of apparently unanswered prayer (ground 9), the struggles between the flesh and spirit (11), and the problem of indwelling sin (15). The writer was a Puritan and this is reflected in the language, but the style is still relatively simple and the text laid out clearly.
At the back of the book is a brief sketch of Fraser’s life. This is interesting and would perhaps have been better placed at the start of the book, particularly as the author is probably not the most well-known James Fraser in church history.
Also appended is a useful article by Alexander Whyte discussing Fraser’s use of the word ‘conversion’ to cover the whole of a Christian’s life. But one questions Whyte’s wisdom in likening Fraser to the Tractarian John Keble, without qualification.
The book could be a help to believers tempted to doubt their standing in Christ because of their own felt inadequacies, though there is the danger that a person struggling with this could be tempted to add ‘ground 21’ for doubts –– namely, that he or she has not had the deep exercises of soul that James Fraser had!
Let any such deal with this doubt as Fraser would have done, by recalling that ‘Heaven comes by grace, by Christ’s blood, and not by works; works are not your title to glory’ (p.60) –– not even the work of spiritual self-examination!