Anne Dutton's Letters on Spiritual Subjects
Grace unto you and peace be multiplied. . . .
I hear you say, "I greatly want to know whether I am one of those who are born again." There are two ways whereby a soul comes to know that it is born again. The first is by the revelation of the Spirit bearing witness to the soul in some word or other where this truth is declared. The second is by His enabling the soul to discern its own acts in Divine light, and to draw conclusions from its discerned acts of grace that it has the principle; and in both these ways the Lord can give you satisfaction in an instant if it pleases Him. But, generally speaking, it is some time before a child of God can draw steady conclusions of its being new-born from its own feelings of the new life; and therefore you may be new-born though you do not know it!
A living infant, you know, when first born into the world has life, but it does not know it. It had a secret life from its first quickening in the womb, and from thence a secret motion; but as soon as it is born it begins to live visibly to others, but yet the child itself knows nothing of the matter. It cries, desires the breast, tastes the milk, and is satisfied, sees the light and feels the heat with pleasure, all of which are visible demonstrations of its life to bystanders, but the child knows nothing of it, because it is not capable of self-reflection.
And thus it is with a newborn soul; there is a secret work of God upon all the heart, a principle of life given, and from thence some secret motions and faint stirrings now and then, under begun convictions, before it is brought forth into the visible life of grace, which discovers itself as soon as ever the soul is born again, in the breath or cry of the new creature, its desires, its discernings, and its enjoyments, which, when communicated to grown Christians, they know such a soul is one of Christ's new-born babes, although this child itself is not yet capable so to reflect upon its own acts as to conclude its life from thence.
And if this be your case, that you can not pass a judgment from what you have experienced that you have the life of grace, or are newborn, then tell me, as a rational creature, how it is with you, for as such you can tell what the feelings of the soul have been, although as a new creature you may not yet be come to such an exercise of your spiritual senses as to know those feelings to be feelings of grace, and a certain demonstration of your being born again.
Well, a living child sees. What have you seen? Have you seen yourself to be a sinner by nature as well as by practice, in heart as well as life, and that you are utterly undone, and must perish forever without a saving interest in Jesus Christ, as being utterly unable to do anything to deliver yourself from the wrath to come? Have you seen your own righteousness to be but filthy rags, and your own strength to do any good but weakness? Again, have you seen as excellency in Christ, as a complete Savior, that is exceedingly suitable to your case as a lost sinner? And have you any discernings of the glory of God's free grace and mercy in Christ? You have then the new creature's eye, discerning faith, even the faith of God's elect.
And from these discernings have you been made to cry unto the Lord, to lament your sinfulness before Him, and to supplicate His Throne for mercy, praying Him to give you Christ whatever He denies you of? You have then the new creature's breath, which flows from none but those that have the new creature's life.
Again, what are your desires? Are the longings of your soul after the free grace and mercy of God in Christ, as held forth in the Promises, those breasts of consolation? You have then the new creature's appetite, and are certainly born of the Word and Spirit of God.
Once more, What are your enjoyments? What satisfies and pleases your soul best? Has the free grace of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ been sweet and savory to you in a promise or in an ordinance, to the refreshing and satisfying of your soul for some moments, just so long as you have had the breast in your mouth, the grace of the promise milked out to you? Then you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and are one of Christ's new-born babes.
And have you ever felt any refreshing warmth and comfort in the love of God, which, like fire, has warmed and heated your cold soul? You have then that sensation which is proper to a new creature, and it is evident in these respects that you are certainly born again, and as such you shall see, that is, enjoy the kingdom of God as a kingdom of grace here, which is a kingdom of power, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; and you shall enter into the kingdom of glory hereafter, as being made fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light; for he who is your God has prepared for you a city, and wrought your soul for this self-same thing, there being never a soul in the world that is thus wrought upon but is a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory, by a saving work of the Holy Spirit upon it, as well as in the purpose of God concerning it.
Go on, therefore, as a new-born babe, to desire the sincere milk of the Word—the unmixed grace of the Gospel—that you may grow thereby, for it is on purpose for you to maintain and increase the begun life of grace in your soul, until it is perfected in the life of glory. Rejoice, then, you lamb of Christ, for you are exceedingly safe under your kind Shepherd's care. He will gather you with His arm, and carry you in His bosom; He will lead you into green pastures, beside the still waters, and make you to lie down safely.