Now, the faith that receives Christ is the most direct, simple, and saving exercise of this marvelous grace, and the most lovely and precious exhibition of this fruit. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, is everything to the soul. An eternity of bliss is involved in it. Believe in Christ, and the treasures of heaven are swept into your bosom. Believe in Christ, and a present salvation is yours. Believe in Christ, and the hope of glory dawns upon your soul. Believe in Christ, and you are linked with the bliss of eternity.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience.” Romans 5:3
By a patient endurance of suffering for His sake, the Redeemer is greatly glorified in His saints. The apostle—and few drank of the bitter cup more deeply than he—presents suffering for Christ in the soothing light of a Christian privilege. “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” “But if you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you;” for thereby Christ is glorified in you. Believer, suffering for Christ, rejoice, yes, rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer shame for His sake. What distinction is awarded you! What honor is put upon you! What a favored opportunity have you now of bringing glory to His name; for illustrating His sustaining grace, and upholding strength, and Almighty power, and infinite wisdom, and comforting love! By the firm yet mild maintenance of your principles, by the dignified yet gentle spirit of forbearance, by the uncompromising yet kind resistance to allurement, let the Redeemer be glorified in you! In all that you suffer for righteousness’ sake, let your eye be immovably fixed on Jesus. In Him you have a bright example. “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your mind.” Remember how, for your redemption, He “endured the cross, despising the shame,” and, for your continual support, “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Remember, too, that it is one peculiar exercise and precious privilege of faith, to “wait patiently for the Lord.” The divine exhortation is, “Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” This patience of the soul is the rest of faith on a faithful God; it is a standing still to see His salvation. And the divine encouragement is, that in this posture will be found the secret of your real power. “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Be watchful against everything that would mar the simplicity of your faith, and so dim the glory of Jesus; especially guard against the adoption of unlawful or doubtful measures, with a view to disentanglement from present difficulties. Endure the pressure, submit to the wrong, bear the suffering, rather than sin against God, by seeking to forestall His mind, or to antedate His purpose, or by transferring your interests from His hands to your own.
Oh, the glory that is brought to Jesus by a life of faith! Who can fully estimate it? Taking to Him the corruption, as it is discovered—the guilt, as it rises, the grief, as it is felt—the cross, as it is experienced—the wound, as it is received; yes, simply following the example of John’s disciples, who, when their master was slain, took up his headless body, and buried it, and then went and poured their mournful intelligence in Jesus’ ear, and laid their deep sorrow on His heart; this is to glorify Christ! Truly is this “precious faith,” and truly is the “trial of our faith precious,” for it renders more precious to the heart “His precious blood,” who, in His person, is unutterably “precious to those who believe.”
“For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” 2 Corinthians 4:11, 13
What is the life of faith which the believer lives, but a manifestation of the life of the Lord Jesus? The highest, the holiest, the happiest life lived below, is the life of faith. But nature contributes nothing to this life. It comes from a higher source. It is supernatural—it is opposed to nature. It springs from the life “hid with Christ in God.” “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
Here is a glorious manifestation of the life of Jesus. If we desire any evidence that Jesus is risen, that He is alive again, and that He is the life of the soul, here it is! See the faith of a child of God sifted as wheat, yet not one grain falling to the ground—tried as gold, yet not one particle lost—though in the flame, yet never consumed. And why? Because Christ lives in the soul. Dear believer! your faith may be sharply tempted—severely tried—but never, never shall it quite fail; for Jesus lives in you, and lives in you forever.
Oh blessed trial of faith, that manifests in, and endears to, you the life of Jesus! It is the precious trial of “precious faith,”—a faith which the more deeply it is tried, the more deeply it manifests the risen life of its Divine “Author and Finisher.”
And what, too, are all the supports of the believer in seasons of trial, suffering, and bereavement, but so many manifestations of the life of the Lord Jesus? What is our path to glory, but the path of tribulation, of suffering, and of death? Our Lord and Master, in the expression of His wisdom and love, forewarns us of this—”In the world you shall have tribulation.” And His apostles but echo the same sentiment, when they affirm that it is “through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.”
But the life of our risen Lord is daily manifested in us. This it is that keeps the soul buoyant amid the billows, strong in faith, joyful in hope, soaring in love. Thus is Jesus the life of every grace, the life of every promise, the life of every ordinance, the life of every blessing; yes, of all that is really costly and precious to a child of God, Jesus is the substance, the glory, the sweetness, the fragrance, yes, the very life itself. Oh! dark and lonely, desolate and painful indeed were our present pilgrimage, but for Jesus. If in the world we have tribulation, in whom have we peace?—in Jesus! If in the creature we meet with fickleness and change, in whom find we the “Friend that loves at all times”?—in Jesus!
When adversity comes as a wintry blast, and lays low our comforts, when the cloud is upon our tabernacle, when health, and wealth, and influence, and friends are gone—in whom do we find the covert from the wind, the faithful, tender “Brother born for adversity?”—in Jesus! When temptation assails, when care darkens, when trial oppresses, when bereavement wounds, when heart and flesh are failing, who throws around us the protecting shield, who applies the precious promise, who speaks the soothing word, who sustains the sinking spirit, who heals the sorrow, and dries the tear?—Jesus! Where sin struggles in the heart, and guilt burdens the conscience, and unbelief beclouds the mind, whose grace subdues our iniquities, whose blood gives us peace, and whose light dispels our darkness?—Jesus!
And when the spark of life wanes, and the eye grows dim, and the mind wanders, and the soul, severing its last fetter, mounts and soars away, who, in that awful moment, draws near in form unseen, and whispers in words unheard by all but the departing one, now in close communion with the solemn realities of the invisible world—”Fear not; I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die”?—still, it is Jesus! “
“For you, O God, have proved us: you have tried us, as silver is tried.” Psalm 66:10
FAITH has its trials, as well as its temptations. Affliction is a trial of faith; sorrow in any of its multitudinous forms is a trial of faith; the delay of mercy is a trial of faith; the promise unfulfilled is a trial of faith; the prayer unanswered is a trial of faith; painful providences, mysterious dispensations, straitened circumstances, difficulties, and embarrassments, all are so many trials of faith, commissioned and designed by God to place the gold in the crucible, and the wheat in the sieve, that both may be purified and tried.
Ah, is it no trial of the believer’s faith, when the foundation upon which it rests is assailed? Is it no trial of faith to have distorted representations of God presented to its eye, dishonoring thoughts of God suggested to the mind, unbelieving apprehensions of Jesus, His love, His grace, and His works, foisted upon the heart? To entertain for one moment the idea that God is unfaithful to His word, or that in His dealings He is arbitrary and unkind? That Jesus is not what He represents Himself to be, an all-sufficient Savior of the lost, the healer of the broken in heart, the tender, gentle Savior, not breaking the bruised reed, but supporting it, not quenching the smoking flax, but fanning it? Oh yes, these to a holy mind are painful trials of faith, from which the tender conscience shrinks, and the sensitive heart recoils.
It is only true grace that is really tried. No man puts mere dross into his furnace, or mere chaff into his sieve. All his toils and pains-taking would go for nothing, for it would come forth in its nature unaltered and unchanged—the dross would still be dross, and the chaff would still be chaff. Now the Lord tries, and Satan tempts, nothing but genuine grace. It is the wheat, and not the tares, that is made to pass through the fiery trial. Thus do afflictions and trying dispensations prove tests of a man’s religion. When there is nothing but tinsel in a profession of Christianity, the fire will consume it; when there is nothing but chaff, the wind will scatter it. The furnace of temptation and the flail of affliction often prove a man’s work of what sort it is, long before the discovery is made in a world where no errors can be corrected, and when it will be too late to rectify mistakes. Thus it is that so many professors, who have not the root of the matter in themselves, but endure for awhile, are offended and fall away when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word.
And why is the “wheat” thus sifted? Why is so Divine and precious a grace subjected to a process so humiliating and severe? Certainly not because of any intrinsic impurity in the grace itself. All the graces of the Spirit, as they proceed from God, and are implanted in the heart, are pure and holy; as essentially free from sin as the nature from where they flow. But in consequence of the impurity of the heart, and the defilement of the nature in which they are deposited—the body of sin and death by which they are incased—they become mixed with particles of earthliness and carnality, the fine gold with dross, and the pure wheat with chaff. To purify and separate the graces of the Holy Spirit from these things, so foreign to their nature, the Lord permits these temptations, and sends these trials of faith.
Not only may the faith of a child of God be severely assailed, but there are times when that faith may greatly waver. Is this surprising? No, the greatest wonder is, that with all these severe shocks, through which it passes, it does not entirely fail. Nothing but the Divinity that dwells within that grace keeps it. Were it not Divine and incorruptible, fail entirely it must. Look at Abraham—on one occasion in the strength of faith offering up his son, and on another occasion in the weakness of faith denying his wife! Look at David—in the strength of faith slaying Goliath, and in the weakness of faith fleeing from Saul! Look at Job—in the strength of faith justifying God in the severest of His dealings, and in the weakness of faith cursing the day that He was born! Look at Peter—in the strength of faith drawing his sword and smiting a servant of the high priest’s, and in the weakness of faith forced by a little maid to deny the Lord whom he had but just defended! Oh! the wonder of wonders is, that there remains a single grain in the sieve, or a particle of metal in the furnace, or a solitary spark in the ocean—that all is not utterly scattered, consumed, and annihilated! Nothing but the power of God and its own incorruptible and imperishable nature, preserve it.
For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it has pleased the Lord to make you his people. I Samuel 12:22
GOD rests in the immutability of His love. It is a love that knows no change in its character, and no variation in its degree. There never has been a period in which the love of God in Christ towards His people has been more or less than it is at this moment. It must have been great before conversion, because then it was that He gave His only begotten Son, that they might live through Him. Then, too, it was He sent His own Spirit to regenerate their minds, and to make them new creatures in Christ Jesus. If He thus loved them before conversion, when they were yet sinners, do you think, dear reader, that His love can be less since conversion! Impossible!
God rests in the unchangeableness of His love towards His saints. Nothing can move Him from it. When He set His heart upon His people, He foresaw and foreknew all that was in them. He knew when they would revolt, when they would start aside like a broken bow, when they would startle and fall. He knew all their waywardness, folly, and ingratitude. “I knew that you would deal very treacherously,” says God. And yet He loved them.
Acquainted with their sin, does He not chasten it? and in chastening, does He withdraw His love from them? Listen to His own words—”If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” What language can more strongly set forth the Lord’s determination to correct the departures of His people, while yet resting in the unchangeableness of His love towards them?
If God thus rests in His love towards us, how jealous ought we to be of the fervor and fidelity of our love to Him! Ah! how inconstant, wavering, and restless have been our affections! How little have we rested in our love to Christ! Other objects have attracted us away from it; we have been as changeable as the wind, and as unstable as the sea. But let us watch over this holy affection, apart from which God takes no pleasure in our sacrifices or services. Let it be our aim to yield up whatever rivals Christ. He sacrificed all for the love He bore us; let us sacrifice all that He requires for the love we bear Him.
Jesus is worthy—oh how worthy!—of our deepest, strongest, most self-consuming affection. And God, who gave us His Son, asks nothing in return but that we give Him our hearts. Let His love, then, constrain us to a more unreserved obedience, to a holier walk, to a more ardent, inseparable attachment to Him, to His people, and to His cause. Let us, in this day of easy and abounding profession—this day of papal encroachment and of popish imitation—this day of exaltation of human authority above the word of God—this day of error, of rebuke, and of blasphemy—this day of rapid and of excited action—this last solemn dispensation of the world, the events of which are rapidly ushering in the coming of the Son of man—let us, under the influence of more simple faith, more fervent love, and brightening hope, “go forth unto Jesus without the camp, bearing His reproach,” resting amid our conflict and our toil, where the Father rests—where the sinner rests—where we may rest—in Jesus.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, until he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20
SURELY, it is a question of all others the most interesting and important, “Am I, or am I not, a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?” We do not say that the state of doubt and uncertainty from which this inquiry arises necessarily invalidates the evidence of grace which already exists; nor would we have it inferred, that the question itself indicates a healthy, vigorous tone of mind. But what we affirm is, that where there exists the principle of life, and a growing acquaintance with the plague of the human heart, with a conscience increasingly tender, the question will sometimes arise—”Am I a living soul in Christ?”
In enabling us to meet and satisfy this inquiry, how kind and condescending is God the Holy Spirit! A state of uncertainty as to his personal salvation cannot be regarded by the believer as the most favorable for the cultivation of personal holiness. He, indeed, is the most heavenly-minded, happy, and useful child of God, who, with the lowly confidence of the great apostle, can say, “I know in whom I have believed.” But we must admire the love of the Spirit in providing for the necessities of the weakest state of grace.
If saints of advanced stature in Christ can but little sympathize with the timidity, the fearfulness, and the weakness of children of more dwarfish proportions, not so the loving, faithful Spirit of God. He is never above His own work. The smallest part is too precious to His heart, to allow of the withdrawment of His eye from it for a single moment. It is not the extent of the territory which He has subjugated to Himself in the soul, that most thrills His heart with delight—this He is sure to perfect—but it is His having at all effected an entrance, and established Himself permanently there. This is the ground of his greatest triumph, the source of His highest joy—that after all the opposition and the difficulty, He should at last have gotten Himself the victory. Is it possible, then, that the tenderest bud of grace, or the faintest glimmering of light in the soul, can be a matter of indifference to Him? Ah no! Would Titian have despised a painting, upon whose outline He had stamped the impress of his genius, because its pencilings were not complete? Would Canova have destroyed his sculpture, almost breathing with life, because its chiselings were unfinished? And will the Holy Spirit, in drawing the moral likeness of God upon the soul, in modeling the mind for heaven, slight this, His master-piece of wisdom and of power, because of its present incompleteness? No!
The faintest outline of the Divine image, the roughest shaping of the Divine nature in man, presents to His eye more beauty, and symmetry, and skill, than the finest pencilings of nature, or the most perfect modelings of are. The universe of loveliness and of wonder contains nothing that can compare with it.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
RICH is the provision which God has made for poor broken-hearted, humble, penitent sinners “God so loved the world.” Oh what love was that! This is the love to which, as a trembling sinner, I invite you. And what has this vast and astounding love provided? A “Savior and a great one.” Jesus is that Savior!
Has the Spirit convinced you of sin? Do you feel guilt a burden, and does the law’s curse lie heavy upon you? Then He is your Savior. Believe in Him, embrace and welcome Him. See, how He points to His atoning blood, and bids you bathe in it! See, how He shows you His wounded side, and invites you to take refuge in it! Hear Him say, “Come unto me, all you that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Oh come to Jesus!
A full Christ, a willing and an able Christ, a precious Christ, a tender, compassionate, loving Christ is He. There is a fullness of pardon, a fullness of righteousness, a fullness off grace, a fullness of love in Jesus; enough for you, enough for me, enough for every poor, penniless comer. Your vileness, your unworthiness, your poverty, your age, are no hindrance to your coming to Jesus. Where can you take your guilt, your burden, your sorrow, but to Him? Go, then, nothing doubting of a welcome. “Only believe,” and you are saved. Free, free as God’s grace can make it, is the blessing of salvation. Your own righteousness will avail you nothing in the procurement of Divine forgiveness. Coming, building on any work of your own, you will be as surely rejected, as he who comes building on Christ’s work alone will be surely received. “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” “By grace you are saved, through faith.”
Oh, glad announcement to a poor bankrupt sinner!—without works! without merit! without money! without worthiness! Of faith! By grace! The Spirit of comfort speaking these words to your broken heart, you may exclaim in an ecstasy of joy, “Then I am saved!” God is mine, Christ is mine, salvation is mine, heaven is mine! Such, my reader, is the Lord Jesus. Oh! for a thousand tongues to tell of His dying love to poor sinners—the readiness and the gentleness with which He heals a broken heart, binds up a wounded spirit, soothes a disconsolate mind, and gives the “oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” “Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.”
But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 1 Cor. 2:10
THERE is no darkness which God’s own Spirit cannot scatter, no difficulty which He cannot remove, no portion of the word which He cannot explain. All that is necessary to your salvation is revealed in the word, all that can be known of Jesus is there discovered; and all this the blessed Spirit stands prepared to make known to you. He it is who leads you to Jesus; Jesus lifts the veil and reveals the Father; and the Father, when revealed, appears full of love, mercy, and forgiveness, to the poor returning prodigal, who, in penitence and lowliness, seeks an asylum in His heart.
And, oh! how ready is the Spirit to instruct you! Such love and grace has He in His heart, the Heavenly Dove seems ever poised upon the wing, ready to fly to that soul who but sighs for His inward teaching. Does He see one oppressed with a sense of guilt, He hastens to apply the atoning blood of Jesus. Does He mark one weary with his fruitless toil? He seals the promise of the Savior on the heart, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give yore rest.” Does He observe one combating with temptation, tormented with fear, harassed with doubts, struggling with infirmity, halting through weakness? Oh, how ready is He to show that soul where its great strength, and comfort, and grace lie—even in the fullness of a most loving, precious, and all-sufficient Savior!
Oh, then, in the name of Jesus, seek this glorious gift of God. Seek Him as a life-giving Spirit, as making Jesus known to you—as leading you into the deep things of God’s word—as deeply sanctifying you—as imparting to you the love, confidence, and consolation of an adopted child—as comforting you in every sorrow—as strengthening the divine life in your soul—as being to you the earnest and the seal of eternal glory.
Let it be your encouragement to remember that God knows His own work in your heart; and not only does He know, but He acknowledges it; and not only does He acknowledge, but He delights in it. Your faith may be feeble, your strength small, your grace but little, your knowledge limited, your experience defective; yet, if by the Eternal Spirit you have been led out of yourself, to take refuge in Christ, you are one over whom God rejoices with joy. Beauteous to His eye, and dear to His heart, is that mark of holiness in your soul.
What is it but the product of His own power, the germ of His own grace, the fruit of His own Spirit, the outline of His own image? Will He, then, despise, overlook, or turn His back upon it? Never! never! Have you been made willing in the day of His power? Have you laid upon His altar the richest and the best of the sacrifice? Oh, honored servant you! Oh, rich, costly, and acceptable offering! Your God delights in it; yes, delights in you! Ask, and you shall receive a fuller teaching and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Possessing Him, your path to glory will grow brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if you continue in the faith grounded and settled. Colossians 1:22, 23.
NEXT to an ardent desire to be assured that he possesses the truth—the believer in Jesus will feel anxious for establishment in the truth. It will not suffice for him to know, upon evidence he may not gainsay, that he is a converted man; He will aim to be an advancing Christian.
Just to have touched the border of the Savior’s righteousness, and obtained the healing, will not satisfy his conscience; with a strong and growing faith he will strive to wrap the robe more closely around him, in that full assurance of his “acceptance in the Beloved,” of his “completeness in Christ,” which supplies the strongest incentive to a walk worthy of his heavenly calling.
The Christian’s faith includes not merely what we are to believe, but also what we are to practice. It embraces not only the doctrines of Christ, but equally the precepts and commandments of Christ. The true Christian desires to stand “complete in all the will of God.” No longer under a covenant of works, but under the law of Christ, He aspires to be an obedient disciple, manifesting his love to Jesus by observing the commands of Jesus. He needs Christ to be his King, as he needs Him to be his Priest; to govern him, as to atone for him; to sanctify, as to save him.
His faith is characterized by the apostle Jude as our “most holy faith.” Its nature is holy, its principle is holy, its actings are holy, its tendencies are holy, its fruits are holy. It seeks to “bring every thought into obedience to Christ;” nor will it cease its mighty work—opposed, thwarted, and foiled, though it be—until the soul it sanctifies takes its place “without fault before the throne,” perfected in the image of God and of the Lamb.
Establishment in the faith is a matter of great moment in the experience of a child of God. The relation of stability in the truth with progress in the Divine life, is the relation of cause and effect. It is impossible that there can be any progress of the inner life in connection with unsettledness and instability of opinion on the great points of the Christian faith. Hence the especial stress which the Spirit of truth has laid upon it. What says the Scripture? “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught.” “Now He which establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God.” “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established.”
Welcome all God’s dealings, as designed and as tending to build you up on your most holy faith, and thus advance the life of God in your soul. A hallowed possession of trial is a great mean of soul-advancement. Affliction is God’s school. Every true child of God has been placed in it. Every glorified saint has emerged from it. “Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of Your law.” Chastening—the school; instruction—the end. Humbling and painful though the process be, who, to secure such an end, would not meekly welcome the discipline?
Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Co2. 2:2.
FAITH, picturing to its view the cross, the Holy Spirit engraving it on the heart in spiritual regeneration, the whole soul receiving Him whom it lifts up, as its “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” gently and effectually transforms the spirit, that was chafed and restless, into the “meekness and gentleness of Christ.” Oh what calmness steals over his ruffled soul! oh what peace flows into his troubled heart! oh what sunshine bathes in its bright beams his dark spirit, who, from the scenes of his conflict and his sorrow, flees beneath the shadow and the shelter of the cross!
The storm ceases—the deluge of his grief subsides—the Spirit, dove-like, brings the message of hope and love—the soul, tempest-tossed, rests on the green mount, and one unbounded spring clothes and encircles the landscape with its verdure and its beauty. Child, chastened by the Father’s love, look to the cross of your crucified Savior; and as you fix upon it your believing, ardent, adoring gaze, exclaim—
“Wearily for me you sought,
On the cross my soul you bought;
Lose not all for which you wrought.”
What is your sorrow compared with Christ’s? What is your grief gauged by your Lord’s? Your Master has passed before you, flinging the curse and the sin from your path, paving it with promises, carpeting it with love, and fencing it around with the hedge of His divine perfections. Press onward, then, resisting your foe resolutely, bearing your cross patiently, drinking your cup submissively, and learning, while sitting at the Savior’s feet, or leaning upon His bosom, to be like Him, “meek and lowly in heart.”