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Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character
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Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character

by

Faithlife 2007

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Overview

Gardiner Spring (1785-1873) tackles the difficult question of How do I know I am saved? Spring’s thesis is that there are distinguishing traits to show that one has been saved, traits that indicate God has begun a good work in the believer. Relying on scripture passages such as 1 John 5:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Matthew 7:21 and others, the author insists those who claim to be saved must do as Paul suggests and examine themselves to prove they are “in the faith.” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Spring has written eighteen short, practical chapters to show the Christian how to prove inwardly that one has been saved. He is cautious to remind us that our works must be grounded and our hopes riveted on the cross of Christ. The conclusion clearly states Mr. Spring’s purpose: that the reader becomes devoted unreservedly to Jesus.

What must I do to be saved? How may I know that I am saved? It is obvious that these are two different questions, and it is just as clear that the Bible gives a specific answer to each of them.

In answer to the first question, the Biblical directive is unmistakable. One must repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ the Lord if he is to be saved (Acts 20:21). But the second question demands a different answer. How one may know that he has truly repented and believed is not a question touching the ground or means of one’s acceptance before God, but rather the proof and evidence of one’s saving relationship to Him in Christ. The Bible’s answer to this question is that we must continually examine our spiritual lives. Accompanying that command the same Scriptures lay out objective evidence of the fruits of true repentance and faith.

Great confusion and subsequent delusion has flooded the professing church in our generation through a failure to distinguish the difference in the Bible’s answer to these two questions.

In most Evangelical circles today anyone who asks the question “How may I know that I am saved and that I have truly repented and believed?” is encouraged to simply rest on a text which declares that all believers are saved. But this is circuitous reasoning and fails to come to grips with the real issue.

The answer given to this vital question by author Gardiner Spring proceeds along a different line of evidence, one which has far more of the sanction of the Bible and of historic Christianity. His thesis is that there are what he terms “distinguishing traits” evidenced in the true sons of God, which traits are the accumulative indication that God has begun a good work in the soul. Thus he begins his essays by stating some of those things which are not an evidence that we have been savingly joined to Christ, and he concludes his treatise by setting forth those traits of life and character which form conclusive evidence of the work of God in the heart of a man.

Relying on scripture passages such as 1 John 5:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Matthew 7:21 and others, the author insists those who claim to be saved must do as Paul suggests and examine themselves to prove they are “in the faith.” (2 Cor. 13:5). It is also apparent that the author drew heavily from the basic outline and concepts as set forth in Jonathan Edwards’ classic work on The Religious Affections. In fact, one might say that Dr. Spring has taken the cream of Edwards’ immortal work and made it accessible and readable for the average layman.

Spring has written eighteen short, practical chapters to show the Christian how to prove inwardly that one has been saved. He is cautious to remind us that our works must be grounded and our hopes riveted on the cross of Christ. The conclusion clearly states Mr. Spring’s purpose: that the reader becomes devoted unreservedly to Jesus.

From the Book's Introduction

It is our prayer that God may use this book in the following ways: (1) to confirm the faith of such as are the true children of God, but who lack assurance based upon Biblical principles. (2) To strip away the false hopes of such as are deluded and whose delusion has been confirmed by the erroneous teaching on the subject of assurance which is so prevalent in our day. (3) To clarify these issues to those who stand in that awesome place of being expositors and teachers of God’s Holy Word, so that they may find fuel for the fires of their own hearts and for their public ministry of the Scriptures. With such an end in view we commend this volume to each reader for his careful and prayerful study, convinced that the sovereign God who has led to the rediscovery of this particular work will attend its republication with His blessings to the accomplishment of His own purpose.

—Albert N. Martin and Ernest C. Reisinger

Contents

  • Visible Morality
  • Speculative Knowledge
  • Form of Religion
  • Eminent Gifts
  • Conviction for Sin
  • Strong Assurance
  • The Time of Your Supposed Conversion
  • Love to God
  • Repentance for Sin
  • Faith in Christ
  • Evangelical Humility
  • Self-Denial
  • Devotion to Divine Honor and Glory of God
  • The Spirit of Prayer
  • Brotherly Love
  • Separation from the World
  • Growth in Grace
  • Practical Obedience

Praise for the Print Edition

This little work was first published in 1813. In the view of the Author, it was exceedingly doubtful whether the principal part of the edition would not lie up on the shelf of the Bookseller. But through the favour of a kind of Providence, it has passed through several editions; and as he has reason to believe, been made in some instance, the power of God to salvation. This has embolden him, amidst an unusual pressure of labour, to make some alterations an additions to the work, and commit it to the public in somewhat a different form. Imploring the Divine favour, that it may be “a sweet savour unto God in them that are saved,” he solicits for it the kind indulgence and serious attention of the reader.

New York, April, 1829

How might a Christian benefit by reading a book such as 'The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character'? Where God has truly begun a work of grace reading a book that sets forth the marks of Christian character can help strengthen the readers assurance of faith...

—Amazon.com Reviewer

About Gardiner Spring

Dr. Gardiner Spring (1785-1873) was the distinguished pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City for over fifty-five years. From the infancy of the United States and through the tumultuous years of the Civil War, Dr. Spring's guidance was even sought by some of the nation's founding fathers. According to his obituary, "Dr. Spring's style of preaching was vigorous, simple, and always interesting. He ignored everything vapory, florid, or whatever might produce transient excitement, basing his preaching altogether on the simple truth, as enunciated by Christ." For more information on the life of Dr. Gardiner Spring read his obituary in the New York Times.

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