Wednesday, January 12, 2011
"...he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only."
It was my intention to write no more upon Scripture texts, having many of my writings by me; but our ways are not God's ways, nor our thoughts God's thoughts; therefore, as providence has put it in my way, and the above text this morning came on my mind, I hope that the Lord will lead me on in an experimental way in it both as it respects spiritual and temporal things. My path is rough - but strength equal to by day I ever have found. May the Lord bless me in writing and my reader also in reading this little book, and may all the glory be given to his blessed Majesty.
The occasion of these words which I have chosen as a text was as follows: "And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue, and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house; for he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." Now all this time the ruler appeared to be neglected, which must have tried his faith not a little; and to help on the calamity, "while he (Jesus) yet spake, there came one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master." This was cutting work to the poor ruler, whose faith, it appears, went no further to the Lord Jesus Christ than a physician and not as the resurrection and the life. However, Jesus finding it just gone as it were, having the tongue of the learned, speaks a word in season, saying, "Fear not, believe only and she shall be made whole...And (Jesus) took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat" (Luke 8:41-55).
Having therefore introduced the text, I will, as the Lord shall assist me, treat a little about believing; and here I shall not confine myself to the word believing, seeing that it takes in faith in its various branches, such as looking, trusting, etc.
We will, therefore, treat:-
I. Of faith.
II. Speak of some of God's family who have gone into deep waters, to teach them experimentally the force of our text.
III. Show some of the things which this faith puts us manifestatively into the possession of.
I say, believing takes in all these various phrases; for a man that believes is a man that has faith, and a man that has faith is one that looks to the Lord, trusts in him, and sees clearly his dealings with him, both in providence and graces, for these things are closely connected together.
I. Faith. Whatever this faith is, it is what every natural man is destitute of whether professor or profane, for "God has concluded all men in unbelief." This is the conclusion of a just, righteous, and holy God, "all men have not faith." There is a faith in the world amongst the professor of the Gospel of Christ, and it is an assent and consent to the letter of truth; but this abstractedly will do you and me no good; for it is only in the head, and leaves the conscience untouched. This faith, which a false professor boasts so much of, a child of God is never without and thinks but little of it. The Apostle Paul declares that there is but "one faith;" that is, there is, there is but one real saving faith, and this never was found in any but God's elect. Hence you read that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed;" and yet we are told that many do "believe for a time, but in temptation fall away;" that is, they apostatize and turn their backs on the truth. A man may fall from his first love; he may fall from his steadfastness, and may be permitted to fall openly into sin; but God' elect never fall away; so that such a faith is not real saving faith.
Again. Christ is the author and finisher of real faith, and it is wrought in the souls of all the chosen family by the Holy Ghost; although by many it is thought but little of yet it is a very wonderful display of the almighty power of God. It is therefore called the arm of the Lord made bare: "Who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" (Isa. 53:1). Again. It is called "the exceeding greatness of God's power." "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raise him from the dead," etc. (Eph. 1:18-20). Thus you see that it is not only called his power, not only the greatness of his power, but the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, and is wrought by the same power which raised Christ from the dead.
Again. This faith is a sovereign, free gift of God to all his chosen people, independent of either worth or worthiness: "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9).
Once more. This faith is God's own work; and therefore when some asked Christ, saying, "What shall we do that we might work the works of God?" he answered and said, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." The Apostle Paul tells us, that "faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). It is the same as a perspective glass, for it brings distant things near, and realizes them, so that they are as clear to the believer as the eye of sense and reason is to the natural man.
This faith differs from all head notions, inasmuch as what it discovers it always applies and brings home to the heart; and therefore we will treat a little of the effects of this faith, which, if you and I have, we shall be enabled, I hope, to find out; and I shall advance nothing but what shall be proved by God's unerring Word.
This faith, then, believes that God is righteous, holy, just and good; it believes that everything in his Word will be punctually fulfilled, whether it be for us or against us; and therefore, when God is pleased to quicken our souls to feel, and give us the true light to see, he discovers to us our own hearts, and we believe what he says in his Word about the fall of man. The reason is, because we feel it; and when our feelings agree with God's testimony of the fall of man and the spirituality of his righteous law, this is real faith, as sure as you are born. Men may say they believe these things, but do they groan under the weight and burden of them, as some of the saints of old did? I need not say some, for I believe they all did. Hence David cries out, "My loins are filled with a loathsome disease;" "my wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness;" and the church by the prophet Isaiah says, "From the sole of the foot even to the head we are full of wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores."
But some may be ready to answer, "This was my case when God convinced me of sin; but since that I have led a holy life, and have kept God's commandments. I was once a sinner, but now I am a saint; neither do I see and feel myself as I was before." To this I answer, that God's family in their first love may go on so for a time; but if you continue in such a state always, and have no changes, depend upon it that yours is a false faith; for God's children see and feel themselves worse and worse until death. Depend upon it they never lose sight of the fountain of iniquity in their own hearts. Hence Paul says, "that Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief;" he does not say of whom I was chief, but I am; and really there are times when, by this painful teaching, I have been satisfied that I am a believer; because I feel God's testimony of the human heart, and can set to my seal that God is true in his description of it. I know it is generally a gradual work; for, as Paul says, "we acknowledge in part," and experience teaches us to acknowledge to the end. This faith is called a believing in God the Father; as Christ told his disciples. "Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God," etc. (John 14:1). We believe, as I said before, that he is just and we are unjust; that he is holy and we are unholy; that he is good and we are evil, unspeakably vile; that he is righteous and we are unrighteous; "that all our righteousness are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). We feel his terrible majesty in the law, and tremble for fear of his judgments, as David did (Ps. 55:5,6). Such a one would rejoice if he were a beast, and could end his days like animals, and often wishes that he had never been born. O the dreadful feelings which my soul has had! And this is real faith in God, as a sin avenging God, and a consuming fire; for under this teaching Christ is hid; and although there are respites, and we have lifts and encouragements, yet after these we generally sink lower, and our case appears more perilous. I might enlarge, but I forbear, having many things in view.
Now this is the new covenant law of faith, only the object of it is an angry God; and therefore Paul says, "There is one faith;" but in this deplorable state we are not left, and therefore faith shall work its way. Hence you read of the work of faith. Now the Holy Spirit testifies of Christ as an able, willing, and all-sufficient Savior; and we believe in his power generally a good while before we can believe in his willingness; like the poor man we read of, who said, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean;" and every now and then we feel, while under the Word, reading, or conversation with the godly, as if we were coming out; but alas! we are thrown back again and again, and appear further off the mark than ever. All this is done that our case and state may be very perilous; that we may be ready to perish, expecting to go down to the pit of hell; be brought to our wits' end; see no way of escape; and that our sins and iniquities may be a thick cloud, ready to break over our head. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," and this deep law teaching is very needful to strip and self-empty us; to demolish all our false hopes, refuges of lies, sandy foundation, fleshly confidence, and faith in the letter; and here we lie at the mercy of God whether to save or damn our souls; neither at times can we tell how it will turn out; but we greatly fear the latter. Now, after much up and down work in striving at this strait gate, the Lord Jesus Christ is pleased to come according to his commission, and this is done by the Holy Ghost drawing faith fully out to venture upon him, and setting the Savior clearly before us; also subduing unbelief and every other difficulty, so that every corruption appears to be conquered, and we feel quite still. And now the Son of God, God the Son, manifests himself to us, and faith brings him in, "that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith." "God revealed his Son in me," "and I travail again in birth till Christ be formed in you,"says Paul to the Galatians. When Christ comes, his reward is with him, and his work before him; and therefore he brings good tidings to the meek, binds up the broken-hearted, proclaims liberty to the captive, opens the prison doors to them who are bound, and gives "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isa. 61:1-3).
Now, as our text says, "Believe only," let us see whether faith in Christ does not bring all these things which his commission speaks of fully into the heart. O this is sweet work, I assure you.
1. Good tidings to the meek. These good tidings are the blessed Gospel and it is "made known unto all nations for the obedience of faith." Now faith brings these good tidings into the heart. Hence you read that when Paul and Silas said to the jailor. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thine house," that the jailor believed in God and rejoiced with all his house (Acts 16:31-34). How clearly we see here the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ; for Paul tells the jailor to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; in the 31st and the 34th verses it says he believed in God, which shows that Christ is the eternal God, that made heaven and earth, and the God of salvation; thus believing the glad tidings of the Gospel rejoices the heart. Hence you read, "Then they that gladly received the word were baptized,"etc.
2. Faith in the love of God binds up every broken heart, for charity is the bond of all perfect ness, and "charity believeth all things" that God has promised. Now as faith works by love, it binds up the broken heart: "We have believed the love which God hath towards us."
3. He proclaims liberty to the captives; that is, to serve God with a free spirit; for the Son having made us free, we are free indeed, and we serve him in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. We are told to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; but how are we to stand without faith? therefore Paul says, "Be not high minded, but fear; for by faith ye stand."
4. He is to open the prison doors to them that are bound; but "before faith came we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed" Gal. 3:23). Now, when it is said that he opens the prison doors, it is drawing forth faith in lively act and exercise upon himself. This is therefore called opening the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).
5. He is to give beauty for ashes. By beauty here I understand the new man; for old things are passed away and all things become new; and this is called "the beauty of holiness" in opposition unto sin, which is "ashes." Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, that is, in the fear of the Lord. Hence Paul says, "Perfecting holiness in the fear of God," and it is a filial child-like fear of him joined with a real love to him, "that we might be holy and without blame before him in love." Now then filial fear of the Lord and a love to him is holiness; but in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and confidence is faith, and this faith always works by love; so that real faith exercising upon the Lord Jesus Christ draws forth all this beauty, for he is the fountain of grace. "In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory and for a diadem of beauty unto his people;" and it is these things that make Zion the perfection of beauty.
6. The oil of joy for mourning. Many people have joy, but this is the oil of joy, or the Holy Ghost, the fountain of all real joy, and therefore real joy never can finally wither away and come to nothing; for "the ransomed of the Lord shall return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." This is what John calls an anointing from the Holy One; and when poured forth upon Christ it was called the oil of gladness, which he had above his fellows, because the Spirit was given to him without measure, but to us a measure is given to every man to profit withal. Now you and I must expect mourning all our days as well as this joy, for the heart is to know its own bitterness as well as its joys. It is when we get to the church triumphant above, and not before, that sorrow, sighing, and mourning are to flee away; but it is faith that receives this blessed Spirit as a Comforter - as the unction or as the oil of joy, for "we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
7. "The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Now by this garment of praise I understand the perfect, spotless righteousness of Christ imputed to us as the sole cause of our justification; and when by faith we lay hold of this blessed robe, we immediately praise the Lord. David, a man after God's own heart, and who had a rich experience of this righteousness, utters the following words: Open to me the gates of righteousness. I will go into them and I will praise the Lord" (Ps. 118:19). You see that it is righteousness imputed which makes men praise the Lord. "Yes," say you, "but David calls it a gate, and not a garment." That's very true, but it is all the same; and therefore hear what Paul says: "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Rom. 4-6-8). Thus you see this righteousness is called a robe to cover. To this aggress the church by the prophet Isaiah: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10). Now faith lays hold of this, for he that believeth is justified freely from all things, from which he never could be by the law of Moses; and to us it shall be imputed if we believe on him that raised Christ from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.
Then is not our text true, "Believe only," seeing that faith brings us into every part of Christ's commission in a manifest way?
Now the next thing I shall take up respecting the text, "Believe only," shall be, according to God's word, called looking, for looking is the same as believing; they are synonymous terms, and mean one and the same thing. Now, great are the benefits of a child of God which follow upon this looking to the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. If he is ever so grievously burdened and pressed down, either in a spiritual or temporal way, he will find by looking to the Lord some of the heavy weight removed, if not quite taken off. Hence David says, "They looked unto him, and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed" (PS. 34:5). You and I, as we go on in this waste, howling wilderness, gather together many weights and sore burdens, which arise from a complication of various things.
First. Sin is a sore burden, as David says, too heavy for us; and so we shall find it all our journey through, and shall often cry out with Paul, "O wretched man that I am," etc.; but by a look he gained ground, "I thank God through Jesus Christ;" etc.
Second. Oppression is a heavy weight and burden, whether from men or from devils, and you and I feel it often. Yet there is no relief for us but in Christ Jesus, for it is he only who can break in pieces the oppressor. How cruelly was Israel oppressed under Pharaoh by those taskmasters; and it went on for a length of time, till their burdens became intolerable; yet the Lord appeared, and fully brought them out with a high hand and a stretched out arm, which came in answer to the many groanings of Israel to the Lord: "I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, and am come down to deliver them." Now groanings are real prayer; hence David says, "I will direct my prayer to thee, and will look up" (Ps. 5:3), which in Psalm 6 he calls "groaning." But we are prone to look to second causes, and forget the Lord our Maker, fearing every day continually because of the fury of the oppressor as if he were ready to destroy. But the Lord asks, "Where is the fury of the oppressor?" and then tells of his dividing the sea; etc. (Isa. 51:9-15). Read carefully Psalm 37. Indeed, it is not to be wondered at, if we consider and pore over things according to fleshly reason. This is what Paul calls a looking at the things which are seen; but that is not looking to the Lord. Every natural man and every carnal professor lives this way, looking with the eye of sense and carnal reason; but Paul opposes the believer to such when he says, "The just shall live by faith;" and, "We walk by faith, not by sight;" so that you and I must not expect as we go on in the divine life to see things according to sense favouring us for any length of time, but rather a walking in darkness as it respects sense, to teach us to look to the Lord.
This is God's way. What does sense say? Why a large family requires great comings in. But faith says, "look to the Lord," and therefore the Lord lets us have but little. When family or bodily afflictions come on, sense says, "Look to the doctor or physician;" and sometimes we do, and we find, like the poor woman in the gospel, that we gain no ground, but things get worse and worse. But faith says, "Look to the great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ," and not only in outward things, but in darkness of soul. We are apt, under temptation, to run to a friend and to a guide; but we are told by the prophet Micah not to trust in such. And yet it must be sore trials and conflicts, and that for a length of time, that will bring us off and keep us off from looking and depending upon any one of the means which God has appointed, so as not to put the means in the place of Christ, for then it becomes a snare. I know that if God raises up a friend for you and me under very afflictive providences we shall at first bless him from our heart for so doing; indeed, this friend came through looking wholly to God under heavy burdens, pressed beyond measure. But, alas! we soon forget ourselves, and look to this friend, after a while, instead of looking to the Lord; thus we are ensnared, and out friend becomes and will be an idol. I know these things are true; and for this we have much furnace work; and so it is under spiritual concerns. After a long and gloomy walking in great darkness, with our life hanging in doubt, bordering upon despair, feeling as though we were given up of God, we go to hear the Word, looking only to the Lord, knowing that if we get any good, it must wholly come in a sovereign way, as an act of grace. The Lord appears, and sends the Word, either in a softening, encouraging, and refreshing way, compared to dew; or in a powerful way to carry all before it, compared to rain. We bless and praise his blessed Majesty for remembering us in our low estate, giving the whole glory to him. But we soon forget ourselves, for it is ten to one but we go the next time, not looking wholly to the Lord but to the preacher, and then we find the ordinance a dry breast. This is the way we make an idol of the instrument. But we are told to look unto the Lord wholly: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth; for I am God, and beside me there is no Savior." "They looked unto him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed."
2. Everlasting salvation from hell torments comes to us in a manifest way by looking to the Lord, and not by working, either in whole or part; and that is the meaning of our Lord in the text, "Believe only." He does not mean that faith is a light and trifling thing, and that it is only to believe, as the Arminians say. No; this is not his meaning; for, as I told you in the beginning, faith is the exceeding greatness of God's power. But we are to understand him, when he says, "Believe only," that none of our own works are to be added to this faith. You know how a legal spirit often sets us to work; but this does no good, for we always find it a grand truth what Christ the lip of truth said, "Believe only." Faith in Christ does the whole. But you will say, "Does not the apostle James contradict this assertion when he says that 'faith without works is dead; being alone?'" No; by no means whatever. You and I must learn to distinguish between dead works and living works. Now all dead works performed under the influence of a legal spirit have nothing to do with a living faith; but when James is treating of faith with works, he is cutting at those who were Antinomians, and rested in a presumptuous confidence that they were God's family while they lived in sin, agreeably to what Paul said, "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him," etc. Now faith is not alone here, for we find a hope and love works at the back of this believing, although the act of faith is alone as it looks wholly to the Lord; and therefore says Christ, "Believe only." For although we have every grace implanted in regeneration, yet they are all hid; not that they are, strictly speaking, separate from faith. Yet we being so low and sunk down, Christ says, "Believe only;" therefore dead works are quite excluded from faith, and living works are hid from our eyes, they being out of sight. Well, "Believe only" for no works, either dead or living, are meritorious except the complete work of the Lord Jesus Christ; so that we must add neither of these to the Lord Jesus Christ, but believe only in him. You read of the work of faith; now if faith works, it is not dead, but has life in it, and if life is in it, it cannot be alone; but it is alone as it respects trusting to any one thing except Jesus Christ, and therefore believe only. I hope you understand me.
Now this looking is beautifully set forth in the Old Testament, as we read, "And Israel journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom, and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against the Lord and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water, and our soul loathed this light bread And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and much people of Israel died." After this they confessed to Moses that they had sinned, and Moses prayed to the Lord: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole, and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it shall live" (Num. 21:8). Now all this is typical of the Lord Jesus Christ and his elect, for Israel were only the children of God by natural adoption. But what may you and I learn from all this? I answer, that as Israel had all sinned, so have we also; and when we are bitten by these fiery serpents, (or devils), we feel it spiritually after God has quickened us, as Israel felt it literally. This leads us (under the management of God) to confession to God, as Israel confessed to Moses; and we have an answer, which you will find as follows, from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ, who spake as never man spake, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (that is, upon the cross), that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14,15). You see what is called looking in the Old Testament is called believing in the New. Now in vain was it for these Israelites to go to any earthly doctor or physician, or to prescribe any one thing among themselves, for looking only was to cure them effectually, and it would not do to add any one thing unto looking. No. Looking alone was sufficient. Neither is there anything said about good sight, but the grand thing was the leading of the mind that way; and so it is now. Christ Jesus is lifted up in a preached gospel; and we are told that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
Now, no pharisee can look here, for he never felt what it was to be bitten, consequently he expects heaven by his own performances; neither does a carnal professor of the gospel ever feel what it is to be bitten by the old serpent the devil, he has faith in the letter as you and I have in history. But God quickens his elect, and they feel that they have broken the hedge, and that a serpent has bitten them; they feel the force of truth, and know what they are exposed to by sin. Yes, and they labour hard in their own strength to break the yoke of their transgressions which are bound by God's hand. And those who are ignorant of the hard struggles which a child of God has against the reigning power and dominion of Satan, sin, and death, never will value, neither will they know the worth of saving faith or looking to the Lord. This is really the truth.
All our labour and toil in our own supposed strength is vain in order to accomplish the end, because this is not God's way; it is not a way cast up; and yet it is very needful in order for us experimentally to find out that we have no strength, for we all think that we have till we learn it this way. Jabez no doubt tried hard to keep from evil, and Ephraim to turn himself, but both were disappointed, and forced to cry to the Lord, which is looking to him; hence David says, "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help; my help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." Many of God's dear family are for years learning this one lesson, namely, that they can do nothing of themselves. I know it is easy to say so, and many do, but trial makes manifest whether we are shorn of all our supposed power, and none shut up or left.
Now, God has appointed this one way of looking to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ to obtain the victory over seven great difficulties, which are insurmountable any other way than by looking unto Jesus; and of these I hope to treat, for they are of the utmost importance, and will overcome us, unless by a living faith we overcome them. This is the path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen; the lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it (Job 28:7,8). Now let us, by the Lord's help, go over these seven things:
1. The world overcomes every natural man living, whether professor or profane. John tells us that all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are not of the Father but of the world. With these three things our first parents were overcome, and with these three Satan tempted Christ; but to no purpose; and here all men are, and here they wish to be, and every sinful pleasure may directly or indirectly be traced up here. This is evident enough in me. Some are overcome by the cares of this world, fighting hard against wind and tide to get hold of those things which providence crosses them in, so that a very fair appearance of godliness is upset. Hence you read that the cares of the world, and the deceitfullness of riches, with the lusts of other things, choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful; and Paul says, "They that will be rich fall into temptation" and many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. But this is our comfort (as the elect of God, however sorely we may be tempted, which we certainly shall), that Christ has overcome the world; yes, and for his people; and therefore you and I in all his victories must view the Lord Jesus Christ as the public Head and Representative of all the chosen family, O this is a precious, comfortable truth, the foundation of all real happiness and delight. "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." He that is now writing has had sore conflicts with this world, the cares of it, the poverty of it, the people of it, the snares, traps, gins, nets, and various perplexities of it, the religion of it, the frowns and flatteries of it, etc., and has times out of number expected to be overcome by it. But what is the cause I have not been so? I answer, Christ has overcome the world. But how do we overcome it? I answer, only by looking to him. "This is the victory that overcometh he world, even our faith." Faith as a grace looking at Jesus the object of faith, will overcome this world manifestly in our experience a thousand times, when we shall a thousand times fully expect to be overcome by it. But, as Paul says, it appears to be walking in jeopardy every hour; for it is not a victory once got and then done with, as a man may finish a piece of workmanship; but it is a victory which to obtain we shall be fighting for till death, although it is completely obtained by the Lord Jesus Christ over every enemy. Yet so it is; and I believe for this end, to humble us in the dust, to let us know well the great power that this world has over us, and how impossible it would be ever to overcome one of these enemies but by a living confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, the mighty Conqueror - God the Son in our nature. You and I think, while in our fist love, that we are wonderful champions in the things of God, and equal if not before an old established christian, until God puts our faith into the furnace; and when the fire is well heated, then we run to the other extreme, and conclude that we have no faith at all. I remember that I used to think I was on a level with Mr. H., an old, whether - beaten soldier. But this was my ignorance; I was a child, and thought as a child. You know children think they can do great things. However, God will teach us by painful experience that we can do nothing, and that our wisdom lies in looking on while the Angel of the Covenant does wondrously, as was the case with Manoah and his wife.
2. Victory over the flesh, or the old man, is also by looking at the Lord Jesus Christ and not by working. What hard and fruitless labour has there been in this world by all sorts of men (the elect not exempted) to overcome and master this old man. Various rules have been prescribed, resolutions made, and vows, bound down with oaths never to break them, never to fall again into the same sin; but as sure as they have been made, so sure have they been broken; for when the Ethiopian can change his skin, and the leopard his spots, then may we that are accustomed to do evil learn to do well; as Dr. Watts says:
"Where vice has held its empire long, 'Twill not endure the least control. None but a power divinely strong Can turn the current of the soul."
But God has appointed a way, a new and living way, which his dear Son has consecrated through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and that is the way of faith, which, although to some it may appear very easy, yet does not so to a soul that is quickened to feel this old man in all the limbs and members of him for years together, and little else, such as malice, murder, lust, pride, covetousness, rebellion, deceit, hypocrisy, hardness of heart, enmity, unbelief, self-love, idols of all sorts, false religion, blasphemy, uncleanness, self-righteousness, etc., for there is no end to the catalogue, neither is it possible to describe them; and therefore it is called "the mystery of iniquity;" and the root of it all is to be found in the brightest Christian that ever lived.
"Now how is all this to be overcome?" says the poor tried soul, "Surely it will overcome me! Sin certainly reigns, I am led captive by the devil at his will." But others, in order to encourage them, will say, "But you hate sin, and you would have it otherwise if you could." I answer, Yes; but there are particular beloved lusts that it is very hard to say we ever did hate. Look, fellow traveler, into thy heart at some of the bosom sins, the darling sins, that are as hard to part with as plucking out a right eye, or cutting off a right arm. No, no; here lies our greatest comfort, that we are to come as sinners again and again, until death, without money and without price; for coming is believing, and believing is looking, and this looking is at the cross of Christ, where this old man got his death blow. "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed," etc. Jesus Christ took our sins when he was eight days old; and we all (the whole body mystical) put them off. Hence Paul says, "We put off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ," which took place when he was eight days old.
Now in order that you and I may experimentally know his infinite worth, the Holy Ghost quickens us to feel what sin is, and lets us tug and toil for a long time that we may know its reigning and domineering power over us. This teaching makes Jesus Christ high in our esteem; yes, and the same Spirit sets us longing, thirsting, desiring, and hungering after him, and keeps these convictions alive, so that we cannot rest satisfied with anything short of him, and how many cries, groans, sighs, and earnest entreaties do we at certain times put up that he would break this power, and "save us from our sins." Neither is this at the first only, but all our journey through; for as Hart says:
"We are not call'd to sleep or play, But fight."
I well know what I am writing about. The apostle Paul, who was so highly favoured of God as to be the great apostle of the Gentiles, and had the grace of God abundant upon him, yet was not without changes, and therefore traveled this painful path. Take it from his own mouth: "I feel a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin that is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Paul was brought very low at this time; but the ever-blessed and Holy Spirit set Christ manifestly before him and drew forth his confidence to look at the cross as the only remedy to deliver him from the body of this death; so that he breaks out saying, "I thank God through, Jesus Christ our Lord." I thank God the Father "for the unspeakable gift" of his dear Son, as he says elsewhere; and I thank God the Holy Ghost for helping my infirmities and for testifying of Christ; and I thank God the Son who loved me and gave himself for me. I thank a Triune God, through Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for my sins; and as though he should say, "Now I see where the old man was conquered, and therefore I can triumph over him upon the cross, and I hope to live and die in the vision of faith. 'God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,'" etc. This was a blessed look for Paul. May the Lord be pleased to lead you and me, reader, more and more into this mystery.
3. The next thing I shall treat of is, victory over the devil, by looking to the cross of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now the devil is the fountain of all evil, and the old man is his child. His power is exceeding great; hence he called the god of this world, a king over all the children of pride, the prince of the power of the air; so that he is not confined to hell, but goeth up and down on the earth, to and fro. He reigns and rules in all the children of disobedience, and is too powerful for all the human race. You may see his description in Job 41. Job felt his power when God suffered him first to destroy his children and substance, and afterwards to afflict his body and torment his soul. But it is well for us that his power is limited. You may see it again in David's numbering the people, in Peter's denying his Lord, etc. But formidable as he really is, yet he is no more in the hand of the Son of God than a great dog; and therefore we read of his taking that old serpent the devil and binding him a thousand years, as you might tie up a great dog. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was made manifest in the flesh to destroy the works of the devil; and he did destroy the devil and all his works, insomuch that everything he does turns to the advantage of all the elect of God ultimately. Job gets twice what he had before, and his captivity turned. David declares that God favoured him, and he knew it because his enemy did not triumph over him. Peter is brought to true repentance, and loses what could well be spared, even fleshly confidence; and Paul, when buffeted by him, got this promise, "My grace is sufficient for thee, and my strength is made perfect in weakness;" so that he gloried in his infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest on him. Now we read that "though death Christ destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;" and our victory is faith in this mighty Conqueror.
If my reader is a tried Christian, he very likely has been in these combats with the powers of darkness; and if he has not I certainly have; yes, and bordering upon despair too, for fear the Lord should give me wholly up to him. This is trying work. I have, ere now, awaked in the morning early, and soon felt myself getting in a storm; Satan has accused, and I could not answer him. Many texts of Scripture has he suggested to my mind which belong to hypocrites. He has represented God as angry, and that he would never have mercy on my soul, that his chastisements were judgments, that my faith was presumption, that I had run upon the thick bosses of God's buckler, that I should be a scandal to my profession, a fugitive and vagabond on the earth, and my family come to the workhouse; and that I had brought it all on myself. These things, with many more, have filled me with slavish fear of God; so that if the wind has blown violently, I have lain groaning, crying, and trembling, expecting nothing but destruction; and the same if it has thundered and lightened, my hope has sunk more and more; and such hardness of heart, terror, and despair of God's mercy, all of which are the devil's own feelings. Now this is called, "the blast of the terrible ones, as a storm against the wall," it is, "the enemy coming in like a flood;" and it is also called, "our adversary, the devil, going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." We may try to excuse ourselves, and vow and resolve for the future, but all such attempts are useless. The best way that I know of is trying to look to Jesus. I know faith is not at our command, but that it is a sovereign display of power every time it is put forth; but still, if you have been much in these deep waters, as I have, you will try to look to Jesus, having proved him a true Friend; and you will go with a "Peradventure, if so be there may be hope;" and sometimes I have found that in this way the storm has gradually abated, while I have been struggling against wind and tide, expecting to go to the bottom; yet, in the faint attempt, I say the storm has blown over, and I have found a calm, peace, rest, and quietness. When this takes place, if you watch, you will find a going forth in faith; faith I say, will be in exercise, which brings into the soul the victories of the Savior's death; so that Satan is compelled to quit his hold, the prey is taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered. I have watched these things narrowly. Formerly, when these temptations have come, I have tried to excuse myself, and, in so doing, matters have got worse; but now I find it best, whether the charges against me be true or false, not to try in the least to excuse, but to get hold of Jesus as fast as I can; for you and I are never acquitted on the ground of innocence, but wholly upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence Paul says, "Who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us" which hope is the Lord Jesus Christ, set before us by the Holy Ghost, for it is he that lifts up this standard against Satan. This hope is felt in the soul as an anchor sure and steadfast, and it comes into the heart by faith, or by looking; as you read, "Looking for that blessed hope," etc. Hence the apostle James says, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." But how is this to be done? Peter tells us, "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith;" so that you see our text stands good, "Believe only," to get the victory over your adversary the devil. This is a way cast up; neither is there any other way, try what you will, according to the unerring Scriptures of truth.
4. Another thing which, by looking to the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, we obtain victory over is, the law. When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world he came as the law fulfiller. Hence Paul says that he was made under the law for all his elect family: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal. 4:4). You see we all lay ruined and fast bound under the curse of a broken law by our first head Adam's transgression; for "by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation;" but God the Son, out of pure love, undertook to redeem us from this law and its curse. He therefore yielded obedience to it in his life and death, both active and passive. Hence you read by the prophet Isaiah, that he magnified the law and made it honourable, and thus restored the honour to that which he took not away. This was his active obedience; he fulfilled all righteousness. After this, he gave up himself into the hands of Divine justice, and was made a curse for us, for "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." This was his passive death of suffering. Now both of these he finished, and therefore, if you read John 17, you will hear him tell his Father, in that blessed prayer, that he had finished the work (in his obedient life) which he gave him to do; and his last words were, while on the cross, "it is finished," and he gave up the ghost. Thus his active life and passive death were both finished, and when he arose from the dead a full discharge was given to all the elect as considered in their covenant Head. This is the way we were redeemed from the law, who were under it, exposed to the vindictive wrath of God, according to the tenor of the old covenant. Now the end was that we might receive the adoption of sons; therefore when he arose from the dead he made known to some of his elect what he had done for the whole family, and the fruits and effects of this great work, saying, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Here is the eternal adoption of all the body mystical. Thus our dear Lord, in our nature joined to his Divine Person, wrought out a perfect righteousness for us in his life and death; so that in him God the Father accepts us as perfectly righteous as if we had obeyed the law in our own persons: "For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." But you and I know nothing of all this until God the Holy Ghost reveals it to us and in us; therefore he quickens our dead souls to feel that we are under the law as fallen sinners, according to the first covenant, and he brings home this law in its spirituality. Also he enlightens us to see what we are exposed to. This sets us in downright earnest about the salvation of our souls. We can no longer trifle with religion or make a plaything of it. We read, hear the Word, converse with the godly, read good books, the Bible, etc., until we understand that "every one is cursed that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them;" and that "for every idle word that a man shall speak he shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Such texts terrify and frighten us, for we are sure they belong to us. We see and feel that God is righteous, holy, just, and good, and that his law is like himself; and we cannot see how he ever can look upon such wretches as we. Now, as we go on, the light shines more and more into all the holes and corners of our hearts, to show us our true state; and every now and then the Lord gives us a little hope and an encouraging promise, either in hearing, reading, or conversation with his people, or perhaps in meditation; but these visits are so transient that we soon sink again, and appear worse that ever. I went up and down this way for a long time; yes, and had such a persuasion at times that I was one of God's elect as was wonderful, and yet I sank again lower that before; for sinkings, after these sweet times, are more keenly felt than before.
Now this is a brief account of the way which the Lord takes to instruct us in the fall of man experimentally, and the spirituality of his holy law; and in his own time he is pleased to reveal and make himself known to us as "the end of the law for righteousness," which is done by drawing forth faith to lay fast hold of the Lord Jesus Christ, as our law fulfiller. Hence it is that the Holy Spirit testifies to us of Christ, and shows us that all his finished work becomes ours by faith; and directly we are led to the cross of Christ we can clearly see that the "handwriting of ordinances" that was against us and contrary to us, which was the law of Moses, or Ten Commandments, Christ has taken out of the way and nailed to the cross. This delivers us at once from that legal working spirit; so that by believing we enter into rest, and cease from our own works, as God did from his. We now serve God from a principle of pure love, and delight in his service. Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. But Satan, who is called the fowler, and who is always ready to entangle us, if possible, now tries to get our eye off from Jesus Christ, which he does in the following way. Says he, "As the Lord has done so much for you; he expects now that you in return will do much for him, and therefore that you will keep the moral law." This looks well, and we think very reasonable indeed. We therefore take our eye from the Lord Jesus, and begin to obey these commands; and we soon find all our comfort fly, the debt-book open, and all our corruptions rising up innumerable. Now Satan turns accuser, and says, "Look at yourself; you are a Christian, are you not? This is good fruit is it not? This is your faith that you boasted of! It was nothing but daring presumption. See how covetous you are, and selfish; what enmity you feel both to God, his people, and all men! If your faith had been right these old things would have passed away once for all, and you would walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; but instead of that you are perverse, and nothing but an Antinomian." O what hard struggles have I had here! But after a time the Holy Spirit has testified of Jesus again; faith has gone out to his blessed cross, and all these inward devils have been gone, so that I have not seen one of them; but another thing sort, a better crop, has come, even love, joy peace, rest, humility, and a heart all on the stretch for heaven, a tender, filial fear, and a delighting in the Almighty. But shortly after, Satan has got me down again in the old hole; and although I have so often been caught this way, yet to this day I feel at times that he gets me down through looking within, which at best is only seeking the living among the dead. All our happiness lies in this, that Christ has obeyed the law for us, and that God the Father expects nothing from us, but looks to his Son, and is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; and delights in us as considered in him, but nowhere else. So that you and I cannot join the moral law to faith in Christ, for this is perverting God's way, and betrays us into a legal, self-righteous spirit, which God hates. You and I are to rest satisfied in Christ's obedience; therefore Christ says, "Thy law is within my heart," and there let it rest. All the conditional promises and commandments point to Christ all through the holy Word; and all the unconditional, they belong to God's elect made sensible of their need of them. They are to come to Christ continually by faith, again and again, not only at first but all their lives, as sinners, lost, perishing, vile, polluted, etc., and walk in him as they received him in the first actings of faith. This gives glory to him, and leads to a holy life, but no longer that I am living upon him and receiving grace from his fullness. I wish to be very particular indeed upon these points, because I well know by experience that legal spirit which we all are bent to, and which makes us pass through this world more like bond slaves.
Then, sons, and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, O that the Lord may bless this little work to this end.
Our text says, "Believe only," which shows that faith in Christ Jesus is enough, he having obeyed every part of God's holy and righteous law, magnified it, and made it honourable; so that although, as considered under the fist covenant, this text belonged to us as well as to the non-elect, viz., "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse;" yet Jesus Christ, the second Adam, having removed that curse from all the elect of God, they are, Gentile as well as Jew, all under the blessing which manifestatively is felt and enjoyed by a living faith. Hence Paul says, "That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through faith; and as many as are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
But you will say, Seeing Christ says, "Believe only," surely none can be so presumptuous (especially leaders, which are lights in the church) as to attempt to join our obedience to the law with or to a living faith? O yes; there are many such leaders in our day; and we read of such in the days of the apostles; as it is written, "But there arose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise (the people), and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe; and God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as he did unto us, and put no difference between them and us, purifying their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved, even as they" (Acts 15:5-11). From all which you may see how inconsistent it is to set the law of Moses before God's family, after they have believed through grace; besides, it argues a deficiency in the gospel of Christ; neither is it a way cast up, as the Holy Scriptures abundantly testify. Thus, looking to the cross of Christ obtains victory over the law; "for he that believes in Christ Jesus is justified freely from all things, from which he never could be justified by the law of Moses." Hence our Lord says, "I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love; do you keep my commandments, and abide in my love," which is faith, that worketh by love.
5. Victory over death and the fear of it, in all its branches, is obtained by looking to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Death is the worst enemy that an ungodly man has; because, when death comes everything is fixed; for, "as the tree falls, so it lies," as death leaves us, so judgment finds us; and therefore, at the appearance of it, what fears and terrors are there in men, insomuch as that the most covetous man will let all go to save his life. We are told that Satan has the power of death; but it was sin that gave it to him, for by sin came death. "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," says God to Adam and Eve. They disobeyed, and death seized every faculty of their souls, and after a while their bodies also. Now as Adam was the head of all the human race, and our representative, we being in him by vital union as our natural head, we all fell when he did under the sentence of death. So the apostle Paul tell us. Hence he says, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). From this root of original sin, imputed to men at the fall, spring all actual transgressions, which, if a man live and die in, terminate in the eternal damnation of soul and body; so that such are prepared for the devil and his angels, the second death having full power over them. But, blessed be God for the gift of his dear Son, who came into this lower world clothed in our nature, in order that he might abolish death, which he did, and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel, and therefore he tasted death for every man, that is, for every one of God's elect, for he laid down his life for his sheep, not for goats, serpents, or vipers. Therefore, as the elect of God were united to him from all eternity, when he died they all died, and suffered the sentence of the law in him; and when he arose from the dead they all arose, being fully acquitted from every charge by virtue of this union; and as his flesh could see no corruption, neither, as considered in him, could their flesh. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, and so were they, as considered in their covenant Head and Representative; for you and I are never to view him in any one instance as a private character, but a public Head in all things to all the election of grace. This is sweet work; and my soul has rejoiced in these times without number. Death natural is a separation of the soul and body, "For the body without the spirit is dead;" and death spiritual consists in having no motion Godward, but in a deep sleep, insensible of all danger, as a man may be when in bed and his house all in flames about him, so that he knows nothing about it. So are we all, as considered in the fall, "dead in trespasses and sins." This is called the sleep of death, "Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead," etc.; all of which shows how deeply we are buried in this spiritual death. Death eternal is a separation from the living God to all eternity, called the second death. Now Jesus Christ has fully delivered all the chosen family from death in every branch of it, insomuch as there is no ground to fear, for spiritual death is for ever gone the first moment that God quickens their souls. "You hath he quickened," etc.; and when quickened, they have spiritual and divine life, which manifests their union to Christ, their living Head. This life was hid in God from all eternity, "Your life is hid with Christ in God," and was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began; so that, as the quickened soul goes on in experience, by constantly looking at the cross again and again, he feels his deliverance more and more manifested to his soul. The weaker faith is, the more the fear of death will come in; hence you read of some who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. This is owing to the weakness of faith; yet Christ came into this world to deliver them.
Now when faith is strong, this faith, working by love, casts out all slavish fear; so that under such an influence the fear of death is completely removed, for such an one is fully persuaded that Christ has taken the sting away. Hence Paul declares, that neither life no death, angels, principalities, nor powers, etc., should separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is true there is nothing pleasing in natural death, and we may be called to suffer greatly in that trying hour, so as to have bands in our death. Yet, seeing that the sting is removed, which is guilty conscience, the worm that dieth not in the ungodly, - what has the believer to fear? Therefore death is called a sleeping in Jesus; "They that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." The eye of faith, looking at the cross, gains a full victory over this last enemy that is to be destroyed. But you and I are so prone to keep looking within, and so live below our privileges. The apostle Paul, eminent for this life of faith, got so strong as to say, "I am ready to die at Jerusalem for the sake of the Lord Jesus; and if I be offered up as a sacrifice upon the service of your faith," says he, "I joy and rejoice with you all;" for the love of Christ, sweetly enjoyed, constrained him. Seeing, then, that Christ has conquered Satan, who had the power of death, and made an end of sin, by which death came, wrought out an everlasting righteousness, which delivereth, as Solomon says, form death, and places it to the account of all believers, the handwriting of ordinances (the moral law)is taken out of the way, being nailed to his cross, which otherwise ministers death and condemnation; and being united to Christ Jesus there cannot be any condemnation whatever.
Then what have you and I to fear? O that the dear and blessed Spirit of all grace may lead you and me, reader, forth in continual actings of faith upon the victories of Christ's death on the cross till we come up to the apostle Paul in the following language which he uses, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, (seeing we have got a complete victory by his death), my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:55-58). All this is agreeable to a prophecy that went before by the prophet Hosea, where the Lord says, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plague; O grave, I will be thy destruction! Repentance shall he hid from mine eyes" (Hos. 13:14).
Now there is no other way than by looking to the cross which will manifestatively bring this victory over death into the soul.
6. Victory over our own hearts is manifestly obtained continually all our journey through by looking to the Lord Jesus Christ as the mighty Conqueror. You and I are very much mistaken in many things at our first seeking the Lord, for we really are looking and expecting things which he has not promised. Now for instance; when God blesses us with faith in exercise at first, after keen and cutting convictions for sin, we are delighted with this, and expect to go on better than we did before, and therefore, as we feel a good conscience by faith in Christ, peace, rest, joy, love, etc., we really expect to be inlaid with this, little thinking that these things are only enjoyed by virtue of a manifest union with Christ when faith is in exercise; so that when God tries this faith, hides his face, and all our corruptions rise, unbelief at the head, then we conclude that we are altogether wrong, for we have no idea of living by faith upon Christ Jesus all our days, to get above conscience, for no longer than we are manifestatively united to the Lord Jesus do we gain ground over our own hearts. This is a sore exercise and is done to make us diligent in God's ways; so that it is not my having had a good conscience, but I need it kept up by continual actings of faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a grand truth, and we do well to attend to it; but instead of that we get working in our own strength, and so ignorantly pervert God's way. The Lord knows we can do nothing; neither does he expect grapes from thorns nor figs from thistles. Now this will bring us into legal bondage; whereas, the best way that I know of is, honest confession of our sin, pleading the unconditional promises made to us in Christ Jesus, and praying for more faith, as we read the disciples did, saying, "Lord, increase our faith." Therefore it is that you and I labour so hard to get a good conscience, and pray to the Lord to help us out. There is no doubt but Jabez went this way long before he put up that hearty prayer to the Lord to keep him from evil, that it might not grieve him; and God granted him that which he requested. Whatever particular evil it might be, it is God that alone could subdue it and bring it down. Still, it is a good way that the Lord deals with his people, in letting them try their own supposed strength fist, that they may prove the truth of his Word experimentally. Hence you read that the Lord will repent himself concerning his servants, when he seeth that their power is all gone and there is none shut up nor left (Deut. 32:36). When matters get to the worst, so that all their schemes and plans are blasted, when they fall down and there is none to help, then they cry to the Lord, as poor Jabez did, in their trouble, and he saves them from all their distresses (Ps. 107:12).
Jabez complains that evil grieved him; and there cannot be a worse evil than unbelief; indeed it is at the head of all other evils. Hence you read of "an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;" and this Jabez well knew, for his prayer exactly agrees with Peter's declaration, as it is written, "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Jabez prays to be kept from evil; so that if a man is kept, Peter declares it is through faith. Again, the apostle John tells us that "if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts," etc.; (and it is because faith is not in exercise upon the Lord Jesus Christ, who is an Advocate with the Father, a propitiation for our sins, and whose blood cleanseth from all sin); "but if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God; "from all which you may see that the only effectual way to keep a good conscience is by constantly looking unto Jesus; and for this reason, that it is Christ's blood alone that cleanseth from all sin. It did this at first; and as we are bent to backslide, so we must get cleansed that way all our days; As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him," "having your hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." What can keep us clean but a continual looking to the fountain of blood, and having our hearts purified by faith? But again; you will find condemnation, or the sentence of the law, kept out only in this way, for although you and I may have been justified by faith, yet we do not always enjoy this; but when faith lays hold afresh of Christ as our righteousness, then with the heart we believe unto righteousness; so that you see what benefits arise from a life of faith, or looking unto Jesus, even victory over our own hearts and a legal, working spirit; for we that believe do enter into rest, and cease from our own works as God did form his.
7. Victory over innumerable fears is obtained only by looking at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. I know that neither my writing, talking, nor experience will go down in the present day in which we live; and the reason is this, men are gospel-hardened, and errors abound all over the nation; so that many that are really God's family are drawn aside and have fallen from their steadfastness. This is not a day to say "A confederacy," but to cleave close to the Lord in secret for real godliness is at a low ebb. Now there are many fears that God's dear family have.
First. The fear of death, that is, eternal death; and this is greatly increased by Satan's suggestions that the work which God has done in our souls is a fictitious work, that our convictions never were like God's children's, and that our comforts are only the same as false professors have; and we, feeling our corruptions working so strong for the mastery, expect to make shipwreck of faith; therefore various texts of scripture are brought to mind to distress us. I have, years back, interpreted the whole of Job 20 against myself, and have trembled with fear of eternal destruction. Ah! none can tell but those who wade through these deep waters how tottering and defenceless such a soul feels himself; he expects nothing but destruction. This, I believe, is the master fear, if I may so express myself, for it swallows up everything, and we conclude that God will not have mercy on us. You read of some who "through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Now, although Christ's errand into this world was to deliver such, yet reading or hearing of this will not do, but faith only in exercise. While this influence lasts, you and I feel satisfied; but shortly after this a change takes place, unbelief preveils, and up comes the fear of death. Job, though so confident at one time as, amidst all his sufferings, to say, "I shall see him for myself, and not for another, though my reins be consumed within me;" yet at another time, through this fear, says, "I know thou wilt not hold me innocent."
Secondly. We are afraid of Satan, for we know that he has great power. O what fears have I had of Satan, so as really to expect he would appear to me. When we conclude that God has left us, we expect nothing but that Satan will drive us on to distraction and desperation. That text has often distressed me where it is said that the Lord left king Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. O how my soul has sunk lest I should be like that man! This David calls the fear of the enemy: "Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer; preserve my life from fear of the enemy" (Ps. 64:1); and Christ in the parable expressly calls the devil by this name. Hence you read, "The enemy that sowed the tares is the devil."
Thirdly. We have many sorrows, and we are very suspicious that they are not of the right sort. There is the sorrow of the world that worketh death, and we read of a day of grief and desperate sorrow. Now we fear lest our sorrows should be of this kind, as Job once did, "I am afraid of all my sorrows." No doubt it tried him sorely to lose all his property and children, and it would work on him that such sorrow was common to worldly men; and sometimes his speeches were in desperation, as he says; so that Job was afraid of these sorrow. Hence he told his friends, "Will ye imagine to reprove words and the speeches of one that is desperate?" I have found these fears many a time.
Fourthly. The corruptions of our nature, such as are pleasing to the flesh, and which, in a natural state we used to indulge. Now, when grace has conquered these, and we have thought they have gone for ever, to find these old lusts work up strong, and to fall by them secretly, O what fears arise at the back of such unclean desires indulged! We think of what Zophar told Job respecting a hypocrite, that "his bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him" (Job 20:11-14). O it does look as if we were slaves to our lusts, and that sin had full dominion. What distress these inward enemies have caused me again and again, and filled my soul with slavish fear of God; for we cannot believe that a Christian can ever fall into the things we do. That text has often terrified me, "Promising liberty to others while themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, to the same he is brought into bondage." Truly, it is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against God, and will occasion many fears to arise, whether we are not deceived after all; whether Satan has only gone out of the house, and not been cast out; whether we are not such as the Scriptures speak of that work all uncleanness with greediness. A backsliding heart will bring on many fears. O what have I suffered from this vile, apostate nature! slipping into one thing after another, so that in my own eyes I really have feared that I was only an Antinomian.
Fifthly. Fear of men, as a rod in God's hand, knowing that we have procured the whole to ourselves; and finding, according to his holy Word, that he has used such a scourge to his family for their wretched backslidings; as we may see in Solomon, David, and others, who have gone into forbidden paths.
Sixthly. There is a fear of God's judgments, that he will cast us quite off; that we are hypocrites, and shall be made manifest as such. David knew the Lord long before he uttered those words, "Fearfullness and trembling have taken hold of me. I am afraid of thy judgments." And Job also, "When I consider, I am afraid of him." Indeed, to tell all the fears which we have is impossible; but I well know that there is no victory over them but by looking to Jesus; for where we fond every enemy conquered, there is the place to look for help continually. David tells us that he sought the Lord, and he heard him, and delivered him from all his fears (Ps. 34:4). But how came the Lord to hearken to a sinful man, and to answer his prayer? I answer, through Jesus Christ, the great Mediator of the new covenant who has stood in the gap, and made up the breach which otherwise would have been for ever open. "Whatsoever you ask of the Father, ask it in my name, and I will do it." No, Christian reader, you and I are wholly indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ for all the answers we ever get to our poor broken petitions, for we never could have drawn nigh to an absolute God. God is a consuming fire. But Christ having by his blood shedding made up this breach, "he ever liveth to make intercession for us;" so that the groundwork of all these dreadful fears is quite removed, although we are and ever shall be, while in this time state, subject to them. Yet the Lord ever will rebuke them; and it has sometimes been a comfort to me that those very characters, so eminent in God's Word, and so highly favoured of the Almighty, were nevertheless subject to these fears; and therefore, as I said, the Lord rebukes them: "Fear not Abram, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15:1). Isaac also: "Fear not (Isaac), for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed, for my servant Abraham's sake" (Gen. 26:24). So I might go on; for the Scripture is full of it. "Fear not, Moses;" "Fear not Joshua;" "Fear not, Daniel, greatly beloved;" Fear not," to the shepherds, at Christ's birth, for, says the angel, "behold!" I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11). But if Jesus never had undertaken and completed the great work, there would have been just ground to fear the wrath of God for ever. To our Lord's mother the angel says, "Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God, and thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus," etc. After his sufferings and death, how were his disciples filled with fear, as it is written in Luke 24. Read it carefully through, and you will see that a sight of Christ as our mighty Conqueror fully delivers the soul from all these groundless fears, which otherwise will come in and alarm us greatly. "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them; and they found the stone rolled away, but found not the body of the Lord. Then they were much perplexed; and two men stood by them in shining garments; and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said to the women and the rest, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen," etc. And these angels said, "Remember how he spake unto you, when he was yet in Galilee, about his sufferings, death, and resurrection on the third day. And they remembered his words." If you read to the end of the chapter, you will find all their fears removed by faith, and they return, after worshipping him, to Jerusalem with great joy. But Mark words it thus: "And after the Sabbath was past (that is, the Jewish Sabbath), then, very early in the morning, came Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, and brought spices, etc.; and they entered into the sepulchre, and they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified; he is risen; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go your way; tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre, for they trembled and were amazed; neither said they anything to any man, for they were afraid" (chapter 16:1-8). You see that all these fears and perplexities were about Jesus. I know that a believing view of him will remove all these terrible fears and sinkings of soul. Hence, when his disciples were in a ship, and the wind was boisterous, they were filled with fears; but Jesus said, "It is I; be not afraid."
Now you and I are not to suppose that any of these fears which are rebuked are the fear of God, for that is implanted in the heart by the Holy Spirit; neither does perfect love cast it out as some presumptuously affirm, but it casts all slavish fear, and not filial, out of the conscience; for slavish fear hath torment, having for its object an angry God, a broken law, and our sins; but a filial fear is sweet and delightful, and stands with this looking to or believing in the Lord Jesus, for in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence. This fear is peculiar to sons, and not to bond servants. Hence Solomon says, "My son, be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long;" "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;" and those who would attempt to set it aside, reader, flee thou from them as thou wouldst from the devil, whether preachers or hearers, for they are Antinomians in reality, let them pretend to what they may.
II. Having treated of seven particular things which we receive by faith in the victories of the cross of Christ, we will now show, according to Scripture, some of God's family who have gone into deep waters, to teach them experimentally the force of our text, "Believe only;" and if the Lord should bless this feeble attempt, to him be all the glory; for he that is now writing feels ready to slip with his feet, walks in much jeopardy, and feels the path to glory very rough. O if it had been left to myself, I certainly should have run away altogether. But, blessed be God, he has kept me on to the present moment, and given me strength equal to my day, though at times it is unperceived by me. "The righteous (in Christ) shall hold on his way," etc.
Now let us look a little at Abraham. You know he is called the father of the faithful; and we read that God called him to go to a place which he was afterwards to receive for an inheritance; and he went out not knowing whither he went (Heb. 11:8). Now reason and sight are opposite to faith, and therefore Paul says, "We walk by faith, not by sight." Faith cannot see how the thing can be accomplished, neither does it want to know, but it can trust a faithful God. I do know some little of this, and but little; yet bless God for any. I know that this faith ever will be tried. How long did the Lord try Abraham before he had Isaac insomuch as that all hope in nature was gone, Abraham being a hundred years old, and Sarah ninety. All this long trial was after God had made him the promise of a numerous seed, showing him the stars, and asking him if he could count them, and that so should his seed be. "And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." Now you and I, under long trials and sore afflictions, which, having continued so long with us, appear to be immoveable, do well to consider how the Lord has dealt with his family in all ages. It is said of Abraham, that "against hope (in nature) he believed in hope," (that is, in God's faithful promise). And after he had got the promise the trial was not over, for he is ordered to take his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved, to a mountain, and offer him up as a sacrifice. "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac, and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son" (Heb. 11:17). Read the account at large in Genesis 22. Now as you and I are to cleanse our way by taking heed thereto according to God's Word, and as our trials will be very great, it is well for us to consider these things in these days of adversity, for the Scriptures of truth abound with such accounts. You know that the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles through faith; and if we are blessed with Abraham's faith, we must expect some of the trials of faith also. It is called the steps of the faith of our father Abraham, and the footsteps of the flock or church of God. "Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon; for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" This is a prayer put up to the Lord Jesus from a real sense of need, as you may see by the preceding verses. "Draw me," for I feel I cannot move one step of myself. "I am black," etc. "The sun hath looked upon me; my mothers children were angry with me," etc. Then comes this earnest cry to the Lord, "Tell me," etc. The answer is, "If thou knowest not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents" (Song of Sol. 1:7,8). From all which we may learn that we must lack wisdom before we can prevail with God in prayer. "If you know not," if you feel yourself a fool, I will lead you right; for the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err in this path. Hence Paul says "If any man will be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise." You and I have a great deal of this fleshly wisdom, not only at the first of our seeking after God, but after we have been brought to a knowledge of him. Now by these footsteps I understand the acting of faith, so that every time faith is in exercise, there is a fresh step taken. Abraham is called the father of the faithful; and it is worth our while to take notice of some of the steps which he took, for we are told to look to Abraham our father, and to Sarah that bare us. Abram was an idolater, and so are all we. We love idols, and after them we will go. Now he is ordered to forsake all: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee" (Gen. 12:1). And what does God say to us? Why, "Come out from amongst them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17:18). It is said that Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him; and he was seventy-five years old when he left Haran; and Lot went with him, and Sarai, and the souls that he had gotten, and substance, and they went forth in faith to the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came. Now Paul tells us that when Abraham was called to go to a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, he obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. But there lay a mystery in the promise which God made to Abraham, for Abraham was not to have this promise fulfilled as carnal reason might suppose. No. Therefore Stephen tells us that God gave him none inheritance in it, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him and to his seed after him for a possession, when as yet he had no child. (Read Acts 7:1-8).
Now it is evident from all this that a life of faith is quite opposed to sight; for Abraham went on, though there was no appearance of his having any seed for twenty-five years after he had left Haran, neither had he any part of Canaan, as Stephen says; but the apostle Paul tells us, in Hebrews 11, that he looked for a city that had foundations, whose builder and maker is God, a heavenly country. It is plain that this is the spiritual meaning of the promise; and therefore all real believers shall come to the land which flows with milk and honey.
I will now take notice of Moses, for there are particular things recorded about him. Moses, we all know, was the adopted son of Pharaoh, and bid fair for the crown; but this living confidence which God had put in his heart made him cast off his adoption as a thing nothing worth, and we are told that "he esteemed the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect to the recompense of the reward." But what natural man, what carnal professor would act as this man did, to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God, when, to all appearance, he might have been a great man, and lived easy and comfortable; no, flesh and blood will never make such a choice; and no doubt but at times it was a great trial to him, for he was a man of like passions with us. Yet faith shall surmount all difficulties, and work its way through all opposition; although we may often, while under the trial, see nothing before our eyes but destruction, and, like Moses, wish God to kill us outright, rather than deal thus with us, and not let us see our wretchedness. Yet the very next time faith is in exercise, when he brings us forth to the light, and when we behold his righteousness, then we believe that all is right, and bless his dear name for all the trials and afflictions which the Lord in love has laid on us; for we well know that it is "as many as he loves he rebukes and chastens," and that the rod of God is not upon the wicked. Moses was a very meek man, but meekness is a fruit of God's Spirit. Natural and fleshly meekness there may be where God's Spirit never was. But this was not the case with Moses; his meekness was of God, and it was well tried in the furnace, for he had the charge of some thousands of the most stiff-necked, perverse, rebellious, obstinate, murmuring, and unbelieving people that ever lived in the world, after that great deliverance from Pharaoh in bringing them all safe through the Red Sea, and destroying all their enemies, so that they saw them all lie dead on the sea shore. Yet this was soon forgot when they wanted water; and after this they wanted flesh, and said, "Can God give flesh to his people? can he furnish a table in the wilderness?" and then said, "Would God we had died in the land of Egypt, or would God we had died in this wilderness." But I need not go on with all this; you may read it in the Word of God; and if you know well your own heart you may read it all there, for you and I cannot throw one stone at any of them. However, none of these trials destroyed that blessed confidence in either Abraham or Moses; for as it respects Abraham's faith it is said that he obeyed, and this is called the obedience of faith (Rom. 16:26). Again, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. All hope in nature was cut off, apparently; yes, but against hope in nature he believed in hope of God's promise (Rom. 4:18); for he was not weak but strong in faith, giving glory to God; and was fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform (Rom. 4:21). Again, he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; and looking is believing (Heb. 11:10). Christ tells the Jews that he rejoiced to see his day, and he saw it, and was glad (John 8:56); in which I believe that Christ particularly alludes to Abraham offering up his son Isaac. He could clearly see with the eye of faith that the Lord Jesus would become a sacrifice for his sins, of which Isaac was a type, and this rejoiced his soul. He saw it, and was glad; and if he rejoiced in the Messiah that was to come, it was in faith, for there is joy and peace in believing. At last Abraham died in faith (Heb. 11:13); and Peter tells us that the end of faith is the salvation of the soul. Thus you see that from his first call to the end of his life, he lived and walked by faith; so that our text stands good, "Believe only."
"But," say you, "there is one difficulty that I never can get over; and that is, to reconcile Paul and James; for Paul in Romans 4, declares that Abraham was justified by faith only, and James declares that works perfected his faith, so that he was justified by works, and not by faith only (chapter 2:24)." To this I answer, that all the faith that ever a man can have will never justify him before men; nor all the good works that ever were performed by any mere man will justify a sinner before God. Nothing can justify a sinner in God's sight by faith in the righteousness of the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle James is contending against an Antinomian faith, which is a presumptuous confidence, a dead faith, which never moves and has no fruits; and Paul is contending against a pharisaical faith, a looking to the law for righteousness. You and I should act as these men did, according to the characters we have to do with; if with an Antinomian, we must show that such a faith will never justify him, for it is not the faith of God's elect; for they do not live and delight in sin, but groan under its burden. And were we contending with a Pharisee, we should insist upon it that faith in Christ's righteousness is the only way in which we can be justified before God.
But now as it respects Moses. Several things are said about his faith also. The first thing that appears in Mose's faith was a casting off his adoption; hence Paul tells us that "by faith he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." Now this was contrary to nature, for it is very suitable to the natural pride of our hearts to be called sons or daughters of great people, people that are rich, wealthy, noble, etc.; but by faith, or believing only, he was helped to surmount this difficulty. Now the trial comes. Two things appear to be set before him: whether he will be king of Egypt, and be a great man, or whether he will go through a scene of affliction; and by faith he chooses the latter, "choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward," and therefore "by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing him (by the eye of faith) who is invisible (to bodily eyesight)."
Now, after Moses fled from Pharaoh he appears to have been in trying circumstances, for it says that he dwelt in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well; then Jethro's daughters came to water their father's flock, and the shepherds drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them. When they went back, their father asked them how they got back so soon; they answered that an Egyptian delivered them from the shepherds. He said, Where is he? Call him that he may eat bread. After this, Moses dwelt with the man, and was content so to do, and he gave him his daughter Zipporah to wife. And the king of Egypt died. And Moses kept the flock of Jehtro his father-in-law, and led them to the back side of Horeb. I mention all this to show that this life of faith is not so easy as some may think. Then the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush, and told him he would send him to Pharaoh, and by him he would deliver Israel (Ex. 3:10). Again, we are told that, "Through faith Moses kept the Passover and sprinkling of blood lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them" (Heb. 11:28). After this we have his faith in going through the Red Sea, etc. (verse 29); so that our text stood fast then, and so it ever will, "Believe only." That will do without the riches, honours, and pleasures of sin.
I will now treat a little about Job. That Job was a real believer we have the testimony of God, who declared him to be "a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil." If he feared God he must be a believer, for "in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence;" and no man can depart from evil without faith, for to the unbelieving there is nothing clean, mind and conscience both being defiled. But Job had to go into such a furnace, for the trial of his faith, as before he was a stranger to; and it was for a threefold use: 1. That he might know what faith could cope with, and never finally give up. 2. That his friends might know the sincerity of his soul; and, 3. That God himself might have all the glory. Now, before this trial came on, Job might think, "Why, God's providence favours me in my profession of his name; they both run in one channel. I fear there is something wanting, for God's family are a tried people. I fear I shall some of these days be brought into some sore afflictions with which as yet I have been unacquainted." Therefore he says, "The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest neither was I quiet, yet trouble came" (chapter 3:25,26). Now, all along Job had been highly favoured; but what if God takes all away, then where will Job's faith, trust and confidence be? Well, now, God will let Job prove this by experience. Again, it was a query with his friends before this trial, although they kept it, perhaps, to themselves, before this trial, I say. Yet now they load him pretty well, and make him out a mercenary hypocrite, agreeing with Satan, that he did not serve God for naught, and therefore they say, "Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways? Who ever perished being innocent; and when were the righteous cut off? and again, "For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty." All this was Eliphaz; and then he goes on describing a hypocrite, and applies it to Job; and Zophar bears as hard upon him in chapter 20. So they were apprehensive that his faith was a feigned faith after all. Lastly, Job takes all the glory which belonged to God to himself. (See Huntington upon this, in his "Child of Liberty." He treats beautifully upon it). Read Job 31. Job certainly had got into a self-righteous spirit (chapter 31:1). But God strips the man of everything of a temporal nature, all his ten children killed at once, all his cattle, some taken by the Sabeans, some by Chaldeans, and the rest destroyed; himself smitten with sore boils from head to foot, sitting on dunghill, scraping himself; his friends become enemies, worldly people and children mocking him, his wife turned atheist, and the devil triumphing over him; God appearing against him in the law, and revealing his wrath, terrifying him with dreams and visions, and persecuting him also. And yet, for all this, if you read the book of Job carefully, you will find it true what Christ told Peter, and that is, his faith did not fail; so that amidst all his unbelief you may pick it out, as for instance, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, but I will maintain my own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation, for an hypocrite shall not come before him. Behold, now, I have ordered my cause; I know I shall be justified" (chapter 13:15-18). "Also now behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high" (chapter 16:19). "Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite; the righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger" (chapter 17:8,9). It is plain that in these two verses he applies every part to himself except the hypocrite, which he never takes to himself all through the book. I say he never calls himself a hypocrite. "I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and tough after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me. The root of the matter is found in me" (chapter 19:25-29). From all this you may see that although his faith was at times obscured, yet it was by no means lost any more than Peter's was, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." This was teaching Job a life of faith. All these lifts and encouragements that he had in his trouble were brought in by faith; yes, and all the dreadful sinkings of soul that Job had were brought in by a living faith also; only the difference lay here, the sweet lifts and encouragements were faith in the mercy of God through Christ; and when his soul sunk again, it was faith in the holiness and justice of God, a broken law and fresh discoveries of his won vileness. I will maintain that there is but one faith; the difference wholly lies in the objects. After all this Elihu comes to him, and silences both Job and his friends, justifies Job in what was right and condemns what was wrong. Job confesses that he is vile; he prays for his friends, and they bring their sacrifices to Job; and God turned Job's captivity. Thus you see that our text stands fast as it respected Job, "Believe only," for all that he spake in faith came to pass.
I will now treat a little about David. David was the youngest son of Jesse, and kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear and took a lamb out of the flock, and David went after the lamb, and smote both the lion and the bear, and delivered him out of their mouth. This was a wonderful act indeed. Now, after all this a monster rises up, a Philistine, Goliath, of Gath, six cubits and a span high; and he defies the armies of Israel, the people of God. Now this child of the devil wishes to fight with any one man that they choose; and this monster presents himself forty days to Israel, so that every one was on the look out. King Saul goes to the battle, and Jesse's three eldest sons followed him; David went, but he returned to feed the sheep. "And Jesse said unto David, Take now an ephah of this parched corn and these ten loaves, and run to the camp, to thy brethren; and carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand. And David did so; and he came to the trench as the host was going forth to the fight and shouted for the battle. And David spake to the men, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine; and who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people said, So shall be done to the man that killeth him." Now Eliab, his eldest brother, hearing all this, felt the old grudge arise in his heart against David, because he was anointed king; he the least in his faither's house, and all the rest rejected; and he says, "Why camest thou down hither, and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride and the naughtiness of thy heart, for thou art come to see the battle. And David said, Is there not a cause?" David was to prove the truth of our text, "Believe only." The Lord gave David victory in faith over this monster before it actually took place. After this, they bring David before Saul; and David said, "Let no man's heart fail because of him. Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine." Then he declares the circumstance about the lion and the bear that he killed, and says this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them. Now really it is wonderful, the power there is in a living faith. "Believe only" carried David through it all. David said, moreover, "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." Saul therefore armed David with his armor, helmet, coat of mail, and sword. But David having never proved confidence in the flesh to do him any good, reflects it altogether, and he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, even in a scrip, and his sling was in his hand, and he drew nigh to the Philistine; but the Philistine disdained him, for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. Now take notice of David's faith. "Thou comest to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a shield, but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand, and I will smite thee and take thy head from thee, and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know there is a God in Israel; and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear, for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands." And every particular of this came to pass, which proved that it was real faith. Read 1 Samuel 17, and you have the whole account. But David is sorely tried after this by Saul's seeking his life, and through fear, it is said, he flees. "And David fled from Naioth, in Ramah" (1 Sam. 20:1). And David said to Jonathan, "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between be and death" (verse 3). You see he had not that faith in exercise now. O no! The fear of man had brought a snare, so that unbelief gained ground.
But it is not my intention to trace the whole of David's life. I shall leave that to my reader. Yet I will mention a few more things as recorded in David's Psalms. David's faith had to cope with a multitude of inbred corruptions; hence he says, "iniquities prevail against me, my sins have gone over my head, a sore burden, too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness; my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there is no soundness in my flesh;" and he tells us, "I had utterly fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." "But I have believed," says he, "and therefore have I spoken;" and sweet language he utters, all of which proceeded from a living faith: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; and who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies" (Ps. 103:1, and following). Thus faith purified his heart. Again, faith brought him up out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay. Say you, How do you know? I answer, Because God heard his prayer, and it is whatsoever we ask, believing, that we are to receive. Hence David says, "He set my feet upon a rock, established my goings, and put a new song into my mouth." "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything agreeable to his will he heareth us, and if he hear us, we know we have the petition we desired of him" (1 John 5:14,15). Again, faith in the Lord conquered every enemy which David had; hence he says, "In the Lord put I my trust, I will not fear what man can do unto me. In the Lord put I my trust, why say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" Read Psalm 18 carefully. "For by thee have I run through a troop; and by my God (mark that, - my God)have I leaped over a wall. I have pursued mine enemies and overtaken them; neither did I turn again till they were consumed. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, so that my feet did not slip." The same steps as Abraham had, and the church of God in all ages, called the steps of faith. Again, this faith put the righteousness of Christ upon David; hence he tells us that his sin was not only forgiven but covered: "Blessed is the man whose sin is covered, and to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Ps. 32:1). Sometimes he got into very deep waters; hence you hear him cry out, "Let not the water flood overflow me; let not the deep swallow me up, neither let the pit shut her mouth upon me" (Ps. 69:15). Again, "O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan and of the Jermonites, from the hill Mizar. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts, all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." But faith makes a move, and he says, "Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer to the God of my life" (Ps. 42:6-8).
Again, faith in God was a refuge or place of safety for David in the midst of all his troubles; hence he says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen and stand upright." "Walk about Zion, and go round about he; tell the towers thereof; mark ye well her bulwarks; consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generation to come; for this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even unto death." "I will love thee, O Lord my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I will trust, my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower" (Ps. 18:1,2). Take notice, David does not say the Lord is a rock, a fortress, etc., but he speaks in faith, my rock, etc.; and in Psalm 46, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will we not fear though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, and the earth be removed;" and therefore you read that "the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went." In vain we look for refuge and safety anywhere else but in Israel's God; hence Solomon tells us, "The horse is prepared for battle, but safety is of the Lord.
Faith in the Lord God of Israel always makes men glorify God, bless, praise, and make their boast wholly of him, so that our text stands good, "Believe only," in order to glorify God. This was clearly to be seen in Abraham, the father of the faithful, for he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. And this was evident in David; hence he tells the Lord, "Thou art a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter up of my head." "I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth; my soul shall make her boast in the Lord,"etc. Take away faith, and all these things fall to the ground.
I will now treat a little about Gideon. Gideon was the son of Joash the Abi-ezrite, and was raised up as a deliverer to Israel, who for their sins were seven years under the Midianites; and these Midianites were like grasshoppers, or as the sand on the seashore for multitude, and used to devour everything Israel had, so that they were greatly impoverished. "And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah; and Gideon was threshing wheat, to hide it from the Midianites, by the winepress. And the angel said, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." But Gideon, viewing things according to carnal reason and the unbelief of his heart, says, "Why is all this befallen us? Where be all the miracles which our fathers told us of? But now the Lord hath forsaken us," etc. And the Lord looked upon him, and said, "God in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent thee?" You see with this look he inspired a confidence into his heart, and yet let unbelief keep struggling for the mastery, as it ever will; for he tells the angel that his family is poor, and that he is the least in his father's house; and then asks the angel for a sign. So he prepares a kid and unleavened cakes; the flesh he put in a basket, and the broth in a pot, and the angel poured it on a rock, touching it with the end of a staff which he had, and fire consumed it. Then Gideon cried out, "Alas! O Lord God." He was full of fear, and expected to die. "And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not, thou shalt not die." Now what may you and I gather from all this? Why, First, then, Gideon received the Holy Ghost. "Go in this thy might," says the angel; and this might is the Holy Ghost. Hence the prophet Isaiah calls him "the Spirit of counsel and might" (chapter 11). But how is this Spirit of might received? "We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Well, then, if this might saw given to Gideon, and Gideon received it by faith, then Gideon was a believer; yes he was, and had the Spirit of faith. Again, "Peace be unto thee;" the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace; and there is joy and peace in believing. Again, "Fear not, thou shalt not die;" just the same as what is joined to our text, "Fear not; believe only;" for "he that believeth hath everlasting life," and never shall die eternally." And although, through the prevalent unbelief of his heart, he tried the Lord with the fleece, yet the Lord tried him with the people that he had gathered together; first, he reduced them from twenty-two thousand to ten thousand, then from ten thousand to three hundred; and with these the Lord delivered Israel. Now, although Gideon's faith was encouraged by the fleece, this must have tried it not a little; therefore the Lord says to him, "If thou fear to go down; go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host, and thou shalt hear what they say, and afterwards shall thy hands be strengthened." This was agreeable to what Paul says, "strengthened with the Spirit's might in the inner man;" so that he should be strong in faith, and yield the obedience of faith, which he did, as you may read. The way this was brought about was by a dream that one of the people had, and which another of them interpreted, of a barley cake falling into Midian. There appears something particular also in the lamps and pitchers that Gideon used, and the trumpets likewise. By the trumpets you and I spiritually may understand the gospel of salvation. "And if ye go to war in your land with the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets, and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies" (Num. 10:9). These trumpets were also for calling an assembly, and for the journeying of the camp, and they were made of silver (Num. 10:2); so that Gideon acted exactly agreeable to God's command by Moses. Now, what victory can you and I get over our enemies without the gospel of our salvation? By the pitchers I understand men; and by being empty I understand being self-emptied of all our pride, vain-glory, wisdom, strength, and self-righteousness. The prophet Jeremiah says that the sons of Zion are esteemed as earthen pitchers (Lam. 4:2); by breaking them we may understand a broken and a contrite heart, for no victory ever will be obtained with a whole heart. By the lamp I understand salvation; the oil in the lamp the oil of joy; and the flame the love of God; all of which must be in a broken and contrite heart, which God will not despise, but ever look to and dwell with, although he is the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity. "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isa. 62:1).
Thus I have treated briefly about Gideon. The apostle Paul ranks him among the worthies, "For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Sampson, etc., who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness" etc. (Heb 11:32,33). "These all obtained a good report through faith."
I will now notice a little about Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The first account which we have is very remarkable, and shows what a confidence these four men had in the blessing of God being everything, and not the food which men ate; for they were very tender of the honour and glory of God, denying self and casting off all confidence in the flesh. "And the king spake unto Ashpenaz, the master of the eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes, children in whom is no blemish, but wee-favoured and skillful in wisdom, etc., to stand in the king's palace, etc. And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank," so nourishing them three years, etc. Amongst these were Daniel, with his three friends. Now, Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the King's meat, having a living confidence in God, which made him tender of his honour. Daniel therefore said to the prince of the eunuchs, "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days, and let them give us pulse to eat and water to drink." So he consented, and found at the end of the ten days that their countenances appeared fairer and fatter than all the rest. So he took away their portion of meat and wine, and gave them pulse. Thus God helped them to honour him, and then he fulfilled his promise to them, "Them that honour me I will honour," as we shall have occasion afterwards to show. "Believe only." The next account is, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, and he calls in the magicians, astrologers, etc., to tell him the dream and its interpretation, which if they did they were to have great gifts and honour, but if not, they were to be cut in pieces, and their houses be made a dunghill. They argue the point with the king, till at last he made a decree to slay all the wise men, and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. Daniel therefore went in and spake to the king to give him time, and he would show the king the interpretation. Thus, "Believe only" stood fast, for Daniel only had it at present in faith. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to his three friends, that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon; and God heard, and made the secret known unto Daniel. "Whatsoever you ask, believing, you shall receive." Then Daniel was brought before the king, and honoured the Almighty by telling the king that there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets. Thus faith glorified God. He then tells the dream and the interpretation, and comes to great honour, and speaks a good word to the king for his friends, which showed that his faith worked by love; and they also were promoted.
After this, Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold; and a decree went forth that at the sound of the music, all nations, people, and languages should fall down and worship this image. But certain Jews, that is, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednege, are accused by the Chaldeans to the king because they would not worship this image. Then the king, in a rage, ordered them to be brought, and asked them if it was true, and told them if they did not they should be cast into a burning, fiery furnace. "And who is that God," says he, "who can deliver you out of my hand?" They answered, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter; if it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace." There is real faith. "Believe only." But faith being opposed directly by unbelief; they say, "and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king; but if not, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Now the king is filled with rage, and orders the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual; and they were bound together and cast into the furnace. But the Lord fulfils his promise, and therefore he is with them there; so that when they walk through the fire they are not burned, neither does the flame kindle upon them (Isa. 43:2). "Then the king was astonished, and said, Did not we cast three men bound into the fire? and lo! I see four men loose, walking; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." So they took them out and not a hair of their head was singed, nor the smell of fire upon them. "Believe only." Hence Paul says, "Who through faith quenched the violence of fire."
But again. Daniel has to go through a heavy trial by himself; as his three companions had been through one by themselves, and therefore, in the days of Darius, the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel, but could not, forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Therefore they came round the king in a crafty way to make a decree according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not, that if any man asked a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of the king, he should be cast into the lion's den. But Daniel constantly opened his windows, which looked toward Jerusalem, kneeled down, and three times a day he prayed to the living God, as he did aforetime. Then they accuse Daniel to the king, and Daniel is cast into the den of lions, and a stone laid on the mouth of the den; but God sent his angel, and shut the lions' mouths. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. "Believe only." Hence Paul says, "Who through faith stopped the mouths of lions." Daniel was greatly beloved; and at last the Lord told him, "But go thou thy way," which way is faith in Christ Jesus, the Messiah that was to be cut off; and that was revealed to Daniel as he that should finish transgression, make an end of sin, make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in an everlasting righteousness. This was Daniel's way. "Go thou thy way until the end be, for thou shalt rest," which he did every time faith was called into exercise, for "we that believe do enter into rest;" and at last enter into rest. "They shall rest in their beds" (Isa. 57:2). But who shall thus rest? Why, the righteous, all those that are justified by faith in the righteousness of Christ; and he adds, "stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (Dan. 12:13).
We will now take notice of poor Jonah. Jonah is ordered by the Lord to go to Nineveh, and cry against it, saying, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown;" but he flees to Tarshish. God sends a great wind into the sea, but Jonah lies fast asleep in the sides of the ship. They awake him; he tells them the cause, and they cast him overboard. God prepares a fish to swallow him up, and he is in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. But what has all this, say you, to do with your text, "Believe only?" This you shall see as we go on. "Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly, and said, "I cried by reason of my affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me. Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice; for thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about; all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of they sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple." His looking again shows us that he had looked before, and yet had not succeeded. It is plain that he looked, and likewise that the Lord heard his voice (chapter 2:2). But matters are to get worse before deliverance comes, and therefore he declares himself cast out of God's sight. "Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple." This temple in the type was Solomon's; and in the consecration of it he brings forth many afflictions, troubles, sins, etc., that if Israel got into, let their straits be what they might, if they looked toward this temple, God would hear and deliver them. The Lord approved of all that Solomon had said, and gave testimony unto his prayer with fire from heaven (2 Chron. 6:7). Now although Daniel might literally look toward this temple, yet Jonah could not, for how could he tell which way he looked while in the belly of the fish? But both of them looked higher than Solomon's temple. The Lord Jesus, or the Messiah that was to come, was the object of their faith and the truth of that temple: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews, being in nature's darkness, reply to the Saviour, "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and thou sayest that in three days thou wilt raise it up;" and so he could, for all things are possible with God, and he was God. But he had no such meaning; he spake of the temple of his body. Thus, Christ crucified, in union with his divine person, is this temple, and where both Daniel and Jonah looked with the eye of faith, and in vain we look for help elsewhere. "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh mine help; mine help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,"etc. But how did Jonah succeed? Why, he was greatly afflicted still: "The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; the depth closed me round about; the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever; yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God." You see how strong his faith was, even while he was in the fish's belly, that God was his God, and that corruption should not be his ruin, but that he had divine life. After this he faints: "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord;" and now he has another look: "And my prayer came in unto thee, into thy holy temple." Now comes honest confession to the Lord: "They that observe lying vanities (as I have done)forsake their own mercies; but I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving. I will pay that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited Jonah out on dry land."
After this, God ordered Jonah, as before, to go to Nineveh, and he obeyed in faith, and went. "Yet forty days, and Niveveh shall be overthrown. And the people believed God, and repented; and God repented of the evil, and he did it not." But Jonah is angry at this. What desperate wickedness is there in our hearts! To be angry at the goodness and mercy of God to others! Yet so it is, reader; neither you nor I can cast a stone at Jonah. Therefore it was that he fled to Tarshish, because God was merciful; and then he would appear in their eyes to be a false prophet. Thus he observed lying vanities, etc. Now he prays the Lord to take away his life; but God is long-suffering, or he would never bear with such wretches as we are. God said, "Doest thou well to be angry?" and he then raised up a gourd to be a shadow and to deliver him from his grief.
Now Jonah had no orders to stay and watch to see the event of his prophecy. This was all in rebellion. Well, Jonah is quite glad of the gourd; but the Lord removed it, and then the wind and sun beat upon Jonah that he fainted, and wished again to die. God kindly reasons with him, "Doest thou well to be angry?" And he answered, "I do well to be angry, even unto death." A shocking answer, indeed; but we are very devils in our nature, notwithstanding grace. However, God spared Nineveh, in whom it appears were more that six score thousand infants. Thus I have showed a little of Jonah; and notwithstanding that he was so crooked and perverse, yet he was a believer, and one that feared God, and in that fear is "strong confidence;" neither found he any happiness to equal that of looking to the Lord "Believe only."
I will now treat a little about Hezekiah. He was the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, and he did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that David his father did. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; he clave to the Lord, and the Lord was with him. Now all this was in faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin. But this faith must be tried, and a heavy trial was to come upon Hezekiah. "Therefore Sennacherib, king of Assyria, purposed to fight against Hezekiah, king of Jerusalem; and when the king first heard of it, he strengthened himself, built up the wall that was broken, and made darts and shields in abundance; and he set captains of war over the people, and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong, and very courageous; be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him, for there be more with us that with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles for us. And the people rested themselves upon the word of Hezekiah, king of Judah." Now here is strong confidence; but it must go into the fire, for the trial of faith is much more precious than of gold that perisheth. If you watch narrowly you will find that his faith did not fail, although he was brought very low indeed. Rabshakeh comes forth from the king of Assyria with a most presumptuous and blasphemous speech to Hezekiah, bidding defiance to him and his God, and tries to weaken the hands of the people by telling them, "Let not Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver this city. Hearken not to him. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? But the king commanded them to answer him not. Now when Hezekiah heard it, he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, and Shebna, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet, saying, This day is a day of trouble, rebuke, and blasphemy, for the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring forth. It may be the Lord thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh; wherefore, lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left." You see his faith does not appear so strong as at first, for he says, "it may be," not, "I am sure;" and again, he says, "the Lord thy God," twice, but not "my God." Thus you see how the trial of his faith went on. Isaiah sent an answer, telling him not to be afraid of his words wherewith he had blasphemed the Lord. "Behold, I will send a blast upon him, etc., and cause him to fall by the sword in his own land." After this, Hezekiah receives a letter, and reads it, and spreads it before the Lord, and prays to the Lord as follows: "O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, etc., thou art the God, even thou alone, etc. Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hear all the words of Sennacherib, etc. Now, therefore, O Lord our God," (you see, faith gains ground - our God),"save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only." Now comes a full answer to his prayer, put up in faith: "Therefore, thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it, for I will defend this city to save it. Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning they were all dead corpses;" and Sennacherib's two sons killed him and made their escape as he was worshipping an idol god. You see the power of a living faith in God. "Believe only." And how very insufficient is every enemy, let their power be never so great, who set themselves against that soul, however weak, that trusts in him.
But the trial is not over yet with Hezekiah, for he is now sick unto death, and God leaves him, that he may know all that is in his heart; and Isaiah the prophet comes to him, saying, "Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live." Then the king prayed to the Lord, and he heard his prayers, and added fifteen years to his life. Now Hezekiah discovers all the corruptions of his nature, and feels the power of unbelief, etc; but he found the blessed effects of real faith, and therefore says, "Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption, for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back." "The living, the living shall praise thee, as I do this day. The Lord was ready to save me, therefore we sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of my life in the house of the Lord" (Isa. 38:20). Thus I have hinted a little at Hezekiah's faith; and Paul says that by faith they "escaped the edge of the sword." "Believe only."
Let us now, in a brief way, take a view of the prophet Micah, the Morasthite, who was in Hezekiah's days. He first shows the wrath of God against Judah for idolatry, and exhorts them to mourning; speaks against oppression and injustice, of the cruelty of the princes, the falsehood of the prophets, and the carnal security they were all in. He has a wonderful view of the peace, glory, and victory of the church, notwithstanding all her conflicts. Then he tells us of Christ's birth, kingdom, and conquest; of God's controversy with his people Israel; and that there is a voice in the rod: "The Lord's voice crieth unto the city; and the man of wisdom shall see thy name. Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it." But in the last chapter, he speaks chiefly about himself; and begins it thus: "Woe is me, for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage; there is no cluster to eat; my soul desired the first-ripe fruit." By the first-ripe fruit he certainly means his first love, which is the sweetest time a Christian ever has, and which he never can forget; it is most like heaven that it is likely he ever will have again in this world, so that we need not wonder that the prophet desired it; but now he has a keen appetite and no food to eat. Now what is more painful literally? And yet a keen appetite shows much life. So it is spiritually; if a man hungers and thirsts after righteousness, for the living God, for Christ the bread of life, it is a good sign, and such shall surely get satisfied. But until they do, the more life the more painful the feelings, I assure you. Now, this was a living faith in the prophet, for faith and an appetite always go together. "He that believeth hath everlasting life." So he may, and yet not be satisfied. It is not the desire that is sweet to the soul, but the desire accomplished; yet life lies in such a desire. Hence God has promised to satisfy the desire of every living thing, that is, of every soul that he has quickened to feel its need.
But again. By "the first-ripe fruit" we may understand a believing view of the Lord Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for our sins; such as Micah formerly had when, by the eye of faith, he saw him standing in his saw place, undertaking his cause, his Surety and Mediator, Advocate and Intercessor. Hence Paul calls Christ the First-fruits (1Cor. 15:23)> Now, such a banquet as this is very desirable: "My soul desired the first-ripe fruit." Micah had sinned against the Lord, and was at this time in a hot furnace. It appears that he had a very bad wife, and he had told her several things which she now tells to others; and, look which way he would, everything appeared against him. First, he turns his thoughts to good men, and he says, "The good man is perished from the earth, and there is none upright among men." Then he views the prince and the judge, and declares that the best of them is as a briar, the most upright sharper than a thorn-hedge. Then he says, "Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom;" by which I gather that he had been at all this, and proved such to be broken cisterns that can hold no water. And who more proper to caution others than those who have tried it themselves? But he adds, "The son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies are the men of his own house. Therefore" - mark that, therefore, seeing every other way of confidence in the flesh is stopped up - "therefore I will look unto the Lord," for all other looking is vain. Agreeable to this is Jeremiah, "As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help; in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us" (Lam. 4:17).
Well, Micah having proved it the same, says, "I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me." 1."I will wait." This shows he did not expect an immediate answer or deliverance; and God told the prophet Habakkuk that the vision was for an appointed time; and though it should tarry, to wait; and then says, "The just shall live by faith." Micah and Habakkuk are in some respects alike. 2."The God of my salvation." Here is the full assurance of faith, that God had saved his soul. 3."My God will hear me." He has not a doubt about God's hearing his prayer, and answering it in his own time; and therefore he will wait. This is blessed experience. 4.He predicts his future rising, and that, he says, will take place when he falls and sits in darkness; by which it appears he expected to go deeper into the furnace, and had not got to the bottom yet. Indeed, the promise of God is made to such, for when men are cast down, then there is lifting up. "He raises the poor from the dust (of sin), and the beggar from the dunghill (of self);" but the prophet adds, "When I sit in darkness," that is, When I see no way whatever of being delivered out, and am brought to my wits' end, "then the Lord will be a light unto me:" for he makes darkness light, and crooked things straight; and therefore, "rejoice not against me, O mine enemy;" and if you do, "the triumphing of the wicked is but for a moment" (Job 20:5). "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause and execute judgment for me; he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." 1.Here is a submission to God's will, and an acknowledgment of his righteous acts, "I will bear the indignation (wrath or anger) of the Lord." 2.A confession honestly of the cause, "I have sinned against him." 3.A confidence in the Messiah that was to come as his Advocate and Intercessor, "until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me. He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." In all which there is no doubting, but the full assurance of faith, and also of understanding as it respects the office character of Christ. He then speaks about the certain destruction of his wife, by which I suppose she had been one that not only persecuted him, but was a scorner of sacred things, for he says, "Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is now thy God? Mine eyes shall behold her; now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets." Thus he could see and believe that "God's hand should be known towards his servants, and his indignation towards his enemies." In the margin it read, "And thou wilt see her that is mine enemy, and cover her with shame." But I believe that in all this the prophet Micah was a sign, as we may gather from the following verses, "The nations shall see and be confounded," etc. Thus the church is triumphing over her enemies.
Again. "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy." 1.Then the prophet knew God as a sin-pardoning God, and this is manifested by a living faith, for "God purifies the heart (or conscience)by faith." 2.He "passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage." This remnant is all the whole election of grace, and none else; and the reason that he, God the Father, passes by their transgression is, because Christ undertook their cause, and became responsible for them. "Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" from the stroke. Hence Daniel says, "He shall finish the transgression" (chapter 9:24). When Christ was apprehended, and taken to Pilate's bar, he says, "If ye seek me, let these go their way." Thus he stood in our law place, and was made sin for us (by imputation)that knew no sin. God therefore passes by the elect, but not the Surety: "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd." "It pleased the Lord to bruise him" (Isa. 53:10). 3."He retaineth not his anger for ever." This shows that he is angry with them as sinners in the law; and so the church says, "Thou wast angry with me: (Isa. 12:1). But this was fatherly anger, and not vindictive wrath, for that was fully executed upon the Lord Jesus Christ. God ever will visit sin with a rod, but he will not content for ever, neither will he be always wroth. No; "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment," etc. 4."Because he delighteth in mercy." Mercy is an attribute of God which we should never have known but for the Lord Jesus Christ; for in him mercy and truth met together; so that now God's covenant name is gracious and merciful, and yet not at the expense of justice, "for he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting; and mercy is to be built up for evermore in the glorification of the whole body mystical. "He will turn again; he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities. And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." You see that all this, as before, so now, is the full assurance of faith. 1."He will turn again." Although at resent he is angry, yet it will not be so always. He is always angry in the law, but never in Christ Jesus. He was wroth with Ephraim, and smote him, in the law; but did earnestly remember him still in Christ Jesus. He was angry with the church, in the law; but his anger turned away and he comforted her, in Christ Jesus. His anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life; "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." How did he turn to Ephraim: "Is Ephraim my dear son, is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him (as I ever must for his sins, in the law)I do earnestly remember him still (in Christ Jesus). I will surely have mercy on him. I have seen his ways, (in the law, and very bad they are),and yet I will heal him," for my Son's sake; for he is my way upon earth, my saving health among all nations; and therefore "I will bring it health and cure; and I will cure him, and reveal unto him the abundance of peace and truth." "He will turn again." 2. He will have compassion," for "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." "But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not" etc. (Ps. 78:38). "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget thee; I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." 3. "He will subdue our iniquities;" and therefore "sin shall not have dominion," although it strives hard for the mastery; still grace shall reign. They shall yet put off the old man, and put on the new, for the elder shall serve the younger; sin shall be subservient unto grace; and although iniquities at present prevail against them, "yet as to their transgression, I will purge them away," for "there is a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness." "I also will renew them in the spirit of their mind, and put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me; and I will cause them to walk in my statutes and judgments to do them." 4. "And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." By this sea I understand Christ's atoning blood and God's everlasting love. It was love in God which made him give his Son: "God so loved the (elect) world, that he gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity," etc. And it is love in the Spirit, which testifies of him. Now, as it is when anything is literally cast into the sea, it is gone for ever when it reaches the bottom, so when Christ shed his precious blood, which was the fruit and effect of love, all our sins were for ever done away. Hence he says, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins. Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee." All this is fulfilling his covenant, which he sware to our fathers from the days of old. This prophet was blessed with much faith, for I do not find him speaking anywise doubting; so that our text stands good, "Believe only."
I will next treat a little about Habakkuk's faith. "The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear; even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save?" Then he speaks of wrong judgment and cruel oppression. This has puzzled the church in all ages. Jeremiah was tried here: "Righteous, O Lord, art thou when I plead with thee, yet let me talk to thee of thy judgments. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?" (chapter 12:1). Asaph also: "They have more than heart could wish; but I am plagued every day," etc. Malachi also: "And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up." But it appears from God's Word in other parts that such are suffered to do so to fill up the measure of their iniquity, and so ripen themselves for destruction. Hence Paul calls them "vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction." But God's elect are well humbled under all this cruel treatment; so the soil that each of these is in answers the end, the one is lifted up with pride, and pride goes before destruction; the other is brought down low to the feet of Jesus, and learns of him who was meek and lowly in heart, the affliction being sanctified to this purpose. But although Habakkuk was so tried about their violence, yet God shines upon his path, and he breaks forth in humble confidence, as you read, "Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and O,mighty God, thou hast established them for correction."
Now none can tell the worth and value of such a confidence springing up in the heart when, just before, the soul sinks greatly, and is ready to give up all for lost. Asaph got a lift in like manner, when he went into the sanctuary. Then it was that he understood the end of the wicked, and breaks out, saying, "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." Thus the prophet believed that God was his God, his Holy One; that he should not die, as the devil, unbelief, and carnal reason had suggested, but that the end of it was correction; that the wicked were a rod in God's hand. But in the next verse, and to the end of the chapter, he gets down again, so very powerful is unbelief.
Now in chapter 2, Habakkuk expects reproof and rebuke for all this; but the reproof is not for him, but for enemies. "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak and not lie. Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." It may tarry in your account, but it is not so in mine, for there is an appointed time; agreeable to what our Lord said when upon earth, "Your time is always ready, but mine is not yet full come." "Behold, his soul, which is lifted up, is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." I believe it means this: His soul that is lifted up to idols is not upright in him, for the upright love God and not idols; but the just or upright man is opposed to such an one, and he loves his God, and is a believer; for faith works by love, not to idols, but to the living and true God; so that this reproof was for the Chaldeans, for their covetousness, cruelty, drunkenness, and idolatry; and for Nebuchadnezzar, their king; and five woes the prophet pronounces against him, not woes of pity but woes of wrath: "Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his, and ladeth himself with thick clay; woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high. Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, etc. Woe to him that giveth his neighbour drink, etc. Woe to him that saith to the wood, Awake, to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him." Here he has another believing view of God manifested in Christ, and by faith beholds this holy temple. In chapter 3 he trembles at God's majesty, and this is the same faith, only, in the law: "O Lord, I have heard thy speech,(respecting these dreadful judgments which are to come upon the Chaldeans), and I was afraid." He then finds a declension, withering, and as if he should die away altogether, and puts up a prayer to the Lord for a fresh revival: "O Lord, revive thy work." But what work did he mean? Why, I believe he means faith, for that is called God's work: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." God has promised to revive this work, therefore it is right to pray for it. Hence he says, "They shall revive as the corn, grow as the vine, and cast forth their roots as Lebanon." "O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy." After this he has another view of God in his terrible majesty, which almost shook him to pieces: "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself that I might rest in the day of trouble; when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops." From all which you may see what a state it is possible for a poor child of God to get into after having been enabled to claim God as his God in the fullest assurance of faith, and yet get out of such a state and be stronger than ever, wholly casting off all confidence in the flesh.
Here again our text comes in, "Believe only." "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet," etc. So that faith in exercise on the Lord Jesus is sufficient, for he is the heir of all things, both in providence and in grace. "Believe only."
Lastly. I shall take a little notice of the faith of Joshua as recorded in the prophecy of Zechariah. "And he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him" (chapter 3:1). Now Joshua here is a type of all the elect of God, when arrested by Divine justice, and brought to book; what Peter calls, "judgment beginning at the house of God," and Job calls, "bringing him into judgment with God." It is a trial for eternity, which no soul living ever goes through but the chosen family of God. When this good work begins, they all are brought as individuals to stand before the Lord, as Joshua their type was showed in vision to this prophet standing before the Lord. And Satan is always ready to resist them. But why? I answer, Because they are all clothed with filthy garments, as Joshua was, who stood before the Angel. These filthy garments are afterwards called "iniquity." Man, by the fall, has lost his original righteousness; and since that he has, in conjunction with the devil, trumped up what is called self-righteousness. This is clothing himself with a covering, but not of God's Spirit; and in so doing he adds sin to sin, for God declares, "There is none righteous, no, not one;" so that to say there is, is giving the lie to the judge of quick and dead. Well, the sinner, being made sensible of his lost estate, and feeling the accusations of Satan, law, and conscience, is liberated: "Take away his filthy garments." Isaiah calls them "filthy rags," and Paul, "dung and dross." "And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head." "And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee." Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now, whether my reader believe it or not, it is in this way, as set forth by Joshua, the high priest, that all the elect of God, as I said, are dealt with; and they are exposed to six fires in this world, which, if not plucked out of will bring them to everlasting fire at last. I shall go over these six fires briefly.
1. The law of God. This we are all exposed to as transgressors: "The Lord came from Sinai and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law for them: (Deut. 33:2). It is in this law that his anger burns to the lowest hell: "And behold, the Lord God called to contend by fire" (Amos 7:4). Now this anger is against us all as sinners and transgressors of God's law: "The law worketh wrath, and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men."
2. God's Word. If we remain in our sins, that Word is against us: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die;" "If any man hear my word, and do it not I judge him not; the words which I have spoken the same shall judge him in the last day;" "Is not my word like as a fire?" (Jer. 23:29); "Behold, I will make my word in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them" (Jer. 5:14).
3. Self-righteousness, and those that are wrapped up in it, are a smoke and a fire, which, however pleasing it may be to nurse the pride of the human heart, is a smoke and a fire in the nostrils of the Almighty; for that which is highly esteemed among men, as self-righteousness is, is abomination in the sight of God. Hence we are told that they say, "Stand by thyself, come not near unto me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day" (Isa. 65:5).
4. The tongue, when under the influence of the flesh. Solomon tells us that a man's lips are the snares of his soul. The tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison, and with this member is the great transgressions committed; neither can it be without; so that James might well say as follows: "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, that defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell" (chapter 3:6).
5. The old man, in full growth, working in all directions. Hence the prophet Isaiah says, "For wickedness burneth as the fire...Through the wrath of the Lord is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire" (chapter 9:18,19).
6. Persecution and temptation. This is called a fire. Hence we are told that when the sun waxed hot, some were scorched; and because they had no root they withered away. Hence you read, "A fire not blown shall consume him" (Job 20:26).
But you will be ready to say, What has all that you have been going on with about Joshua, the high priest to do with your text, "Believe only?" Surely you are running quite away from it are you not? No, I am not. Only give me time, and I will prove that faith brought to Joshua all the good which he had, and delivered him from all the evil that he was delivered from, and therefore it is called "the work of faith."
Joshua and all the elect are brought to stand before the Lord, and this standing is by faith. Hence Paul says, "By faith ye stand." Here they all are, with a confidence in their fallen, corrupt and polluted state, feeling filthy as Joshua did. A faith also in the holiness of God; they know that he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; the justice of God; they do not expect mercy at the expense of justice, and they know they are unjust; and they believe also that he is unchangeable, so that it is not possible to turn the Almighty. Job, when standing here, says, "He is of one mind, and none can turn him." Well, here we are, exposed to all this, as a brand in the fire; but how is it that we are plucked out of the fire. Why, Jesus Christ undertook their cause, stood in their law place, magnified the law and made it honourable, died, the just for the unjust, to bring them to God; so that by his life and death he wrought out a righteousness for them, and bore their sins in his own body on the tree. But although he has finished the whole work, yet they know nothing of themselves or of him until the Holy Ghost quickens them to feel, and works faith in the heart to believe their lost and undone state.
And now let us see if this faith will not bring them through all these trials, and bring them off victorious. "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan;" and then Satan skulks off. So that where Satan stood at the right hand, as an accuser, there stands the Lord Jesus Christ as an Advocate. "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith;" "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Thus faith drives Satan off; yes, and faith brings the Advocate into the heart, and his peace is felt in the conscience; for Paul positively declares that "Christ dwells in the heart by faith." Then our text stands good, "Believe only." But again, "Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee." But how is this done? I answer, By faith in the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ; for God purifies the heart or conscience by faith. Thus the filthy garments are manifestly taken away by faith in the blood of him that "made an end of sin and removed the iniquity of that land (or all the elect)in one day." Moreover, "I will clothe him with change of raiment" that is, the imputed righteousness of Jehovah Jesus, God the Son, who wrought it out in our nature; but faith puts it on, "for the righteousness of Christ is unto all and upon all that believe;" and then we are called righteous; "By his obedience shall many be made righteous," yes, the righteousness of God; but mind, "in him;" that "in" is union, being united to Christ; for "in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and in him they shall all glory." "Believe only," to get rid Satan, the accuser of the brethren; "Believe only," to get an experience of Christ as an Advocate; "Believe only," to be cleansed in his blood; and "Believe only," to put on an everlasting righteousness.
But this is not all, for Joshua, or all the elect is compared to a brand plucked out of the fire. Now all the elect of God are plucked out of this fire, which I took up in six particulars; and if you will attend to the Word, you will find that their liberation is by faith. Take notice, then, of the first, "a fiery law." Christ has delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; and now we are under the blessing which is manifested by faith, for "as many as are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham;" so that from this fiery law, by faith in Christ the law-fulfiller, they are delivered, plucked out of the fire. But God's Word utterly cuts off all that remain disobedient, as you may clearly see in Jeremiah, and therefore such are called wood, and God's Word fire. But God's elect are not wooden vessels, but vessels of gold and silver; and God works faith in them, which by Paul is called the obedience of faith. It is true they were sometime foolish, disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures; but it is not so now, for they are plucked out of the fire, and yield the obedience of faith.
Now, I told you that self-righteousness was a smoke and a fire in God's nostrils, but they are plucked out of that fire by a living faith in the fall of man, not notionally, but experimentally, as you may see in Asaph and Job. Asaph acknowledges that he cleansed his heart in vain, for he was plagued all the day long. Thus he had faith in the fall of man, and declares himself a beast; no such confession ever came out of a pharisee's mouth. No, they are in this fire. Again, his sore ran in the night, and ceased not; but a pharisee is whole. Job also works hard, but at last confessed that if he made himself never so clean, yet God would plunge him into the ditch, and his own clothes would abhor him. What! Did God make Job fall into sin? O no, that is not the meaning; but God plunged his faith into the old man, for that is the ditch, and then he saw and felt what a vile wretch he was. Hence he says, "Behold, I am vile." Thus God plucked him out of the fire. Were you and I destitute of living faith altogether, we should admire ourselves, though as vile as hell.
The tongue is also plucked out of the fire, and instead of its being engaged and wholly delighting in foolish talking and jesting, making a trade of lying, and with the tongue using deceit wholly and altogether, there is a change made; and therefore "the tongue of the just is as choice silver," and they tell all those that fear God what he hath done for their souls; they speak often one to another, and the Lord hears them. But what makes them thus speak? I answer, Faith; as it is written, "I have believed, and therefore have I spoken;" and Paul says, "We believe, and therefore speak;" for they are plucked out of the fire. "Believe only."
I told you that the old man in full growth is called a fire: "Wickedness burns like a fire." But we are plucked out of this; and therefore there is a new man to oppose him. This new man is love, and the old man enmity; but faith always walks with love; they go hand in hand together. Neither persecution nor temptation can overcome a believer. Hence the Lord says, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." But how do we walk through it at all? Why, by faith; for we walk by faith, and not by sight. Plucked out of the fire. But after all this was done, there was to be a fair mitre put upon Joshua's head. And what may you and I learn from this? I answer, That Christ is the Head of the church; and as the high priest in his office was a type of Christ, and had this plate of holiness to the Lord engraven upon it, it shows us that all our holiness is in Christ, and in vain we look for it in ourselves; and every time faith has a view of him, then we see ourselves complete. As this mitre was made of linen, which linen prefigures the perfect righteousness of the Son of God, (as it is written, "And to her," the Lamb's wife, "was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the white linen is the righteousness of the saints,") and as the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, with "Holiness to the Lord" written upon it, was fastened to this mitre, it shows us that he was the Holy One in truth, of whom the high priest was a type. 1. As Jehovah or God: "There is none holy as the Lord;" and 2. By the outpouring of the Holy Ghost without measure upon him to his sacred office: "For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity, but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore" (Heb. 7;28). And as he is consecrated, so also is the way to him; as it is written, "By a new and living way which he has consecrated through the veil, that is to say, his flesh," which is faith. Hence he is the author and finisher of faith. It is a new way, opposed to the law of works; it is a living way, for "he that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life;" it is a way of holiness, "Building yourselves up in your most holy faith;" it is though his flesh, for if he had never become incarnate, there never would have been such a way as faith. Well, then, as this mitre was to be put upon his head, it teaches us to look wholly and altogether to the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness and holiness, he being the fountain head, and we receiving all that we have from his fullness by faith. Again, it teaches us where to ascribe all honour, glory, power, thanksgiving, blessing, and praise, even to God the Son, who is Head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
Now I think that all this is very clear in Joshua, as a type, in a threefold state: 1. As the church when fallen, in her sin and in her blood; and therefore he has filthy garments, iniquity, etc., and is compared to a brand in the fire. 2. As the church when pardoned and justified; and therefore this iniquity is taken away, and he is clothed with change of raiment. 3. As a type of Christ, for the church has no other Head; she is not a head to herself. Therefore when this fair mitre is put upon Joshua's head, here I say we must look higher than the church, even to Christ and thus "anoint our Head," etc. The wise man's eyes are in his covenant Head, and with these eyes, which the Holy Ghost will draw forth into lively act and exercise, we are to look to him for all. By these eyes I understand faith: "By faith Moses saw him that is invisible;" and he is invisible to the carnal mind, "despised and rejected of men;" but to the church, "the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." Again, understanding is called eyes, because it is joined with faith, both of which are the work of the Holy Ghost called the Spirit of faith, and the Spirit of revelation and understanding in the knowledge of Christ; "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe" (Eph. 1:18,19). Futhermore, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, if thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts; and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by." Now here, I think, the Lord is speaking to Joshua as an individual. But after this the Lord says, "I will bring forth my servant the Branch," agreeable to the prophet Isaiah, and which means the Lord Jesus Christ: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold" (Isa. 42:1). He came as a Servant under the law, and obeyed it in all its branches for us; and we are told to behold him with the eye of faith as having done all this for us. But again he is called the Branch, "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isa. 11:1). This is the child born and the Son given, the "Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace;" and then he is called the stone; and depend upon it this stone is Christ as God;l never let that go: "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation." This was the stone that all the Jewish scribes and pharisees did and ever will reject. "Set at naught of you builders," says Peter; but he adds, "Neither is there salvation in any other;" and Paul says, "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus." Hence Christ told Peter that upon this rock, the Son of the living God, or Jehovah the Son, he would build his church, and the gates of hell, or infernal counsels of devils, should not prevail against it. Therefore, if he is a rock, and the church is to be built upon him, he is God in every sense of the word, Jehovah; for, as David says, "Who is God save the Lord? and who is a rock save our God?" Build upon him any way short of this, and your building is as sure to fall as the man's did who built upon the sand.
"For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua." Now here Joshua comes in again as typical of all the whole mystical body of God's elect, for this stone is laid as a foundation before Joshua, or God's elect, to behold with the eye of faith: "Behold the stone, etc.; and upon this one stone shall be seven eyes," by which I understand Jehovah the Holy Ghost, for seven is a perfect number; and these eyes are called spirits; as it is written, "And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb, as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth" (Rev. 5:6). By seven horns I understand almighty power, and by seven eyes almighty wisdom and perfection. Now this slain lamb, or Christ crucified, had these seven spirits, just the same as the stone had which was laid before Joshua: "And the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Isa. 11:2). This is the foundation stone that stands sure, having this seal, namely, the Holy Ghost. Hence Christ says to his disciples, "labour not for the bread that perisheth," that is, with over-anxiety; but labour with over-anxiety "for the bread which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed." He is sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, as all his elect are, only he has the Spirit without measure, and they have a measure of the Spirit to profit withal. "Believe only;" or look at my Servant as under the law in your room and stead; look at him as the Branch, the Child born, and Son given; look at him as the foundation for every sensible sinner to build his hope upon for time and eternity. "Believe only." But it is added, "Behold, I will engrave the graving thereof;" by which I understand an everlasting union between Christ and all the elect. "I will engrave the graving thereof." Now you and I can only see this with the eye of faith; for when we get unto a fit of unbelief we are for speaking the same language as the church of old did: "But Zion said, My Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, saith the Lord, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee," Then mind the engraving: "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." Thus Zion being engraven shows that eternal union which there is between Christ and the elect and which never can be dissolved, but was ratified and confirmed by the sufferings and death of the Son of God; for it is added, "And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day." To this agrees the same prophet, "And one shall answer him, saying, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. Awake, O sword" etc. (Zech. 13:6,7).
Now we are told to behold or look with the eye of faith at this engraving. Look at the cross, "Behold the Lamb, of God," and look at that indissoluble union ratified by his death. "Believe only." Now God the Father's choice of us in Christ, and Christ as a sacrifice for our sins, are of one date. Take notice, and you will see this engraving very clear: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath" - mark that - "hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence" (Eph. 1:4,8). To this agrees Peter's vision of the sheet let down full of creeping things, fowls, and four-footed beasts. Peter calls them unclean; but God says they were cleansed, that is, in his eternal purpose. So that God's choice and our cleansing by virtue of our union with Christ are of the same date, and from eternity. But you and I live too near home; we cannot see afar off, being so shortsighted. "Believe only."
III. I will now, by the Lord's help, show some of the many things this faith puts us manifestatively in the possession of. Faith to the soul is what the hand is to the body. Of this I hope to treat a little, and so conclude.
1. This faith purifies the heart all through our life after we are called by grace; for we are bent to backslide, the old man still remaining in us every way complete, as it respects its inbeing, only it is subdued and kept down, so that it shall not reign though it strives hard for the mastery; and thus a war is continually going on more or less in the believer's heart. The unbelief of his fallen nature works strongly against this faith, so that it is called faith's fight: "Fight the good fight of faith;" and that man or woman who boasts of faith's triumph, and is unacquainted with faith's fight, is most awfully deceived. Here you may sink and rise in your feelings sometimes twenty times a day, struggling hard to lay hold of the precious blood of Jesus to cleanse you from fresh-contracted guilt, filth, and pollution, from its heavy weight and burden which sink the soul, and from the heavy bondage which you feel and groan under; but if you can tell us that it is true you were a sinner once, but now you are a saint, and are not plagued this way, but get holier and holier, the devil has deceived you as sure as you are born; for such a faith is not the faith of the elect of God and Bible saints. O the sore conflicts that a child of God has to keep a good conscience! And thus, when faith goes out upon the Lord Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for my sins, (which is a sovereign display of the power of God the Holy Ghost every time it is thus in exercise), then we see and feel ourselves clean under that influence, but no longer. Thus faith purifies the heart; for the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, only can cleanse us from all sin.
I wish my reader to recollect that this exercise will go on all along until death, and therefore you will see and feel yourself worse and worse, when faith on the atonement of Christ is not in exercise, for then this faith exercises itself experimentally upon the fall of man. This is the way we are self-emptied, and this way makes Christ exceeding precious to our souls; every other way to get rid of sin proving abortive but this one way, this new and living way which he has consecrated through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.
2. Faith in the perfect spotless righteousness of the Son of God justifies us freely from all things again and again all our journey through. You and I therefore must often feel much condemnation from all quarters, so teach us to live a life of faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ both as our atonement and as our righteousness; for these lessons are to be well learnt, and we are very dull scholars. How was it that poor Job was exercised here after having such a glorious testimony from God, but to teach him a life of faith upon the Son of God? Hence he says, "Thou renewest thy witnesses against me, and increasest thine indignation upon me; changes and war are against me." Hence also you read, that "they go down again to the depths," which plainly shows that they had been there before; also, if witnesses were renewed against Job, it shows us that he had had them before, and therefore Job cries out for a daysman, a surety, etc. Now, if my reader expects a time to come in his experience when he shall be so established that he shall be delivered manifestatively from all condemnation, - I say, if he expects such a deliverance here below, so as never to feel condemnation more, he is expecting what he will never attain to, only when faith is in exercise upon Christ as the end of the law for righteousness, which is not always the case. This manifest union with Christ both purifies the heart and keeps condemnation out. But this is a path that we are not always in, for there must be likewise a feeling sense of our condemned state continually going on, more or less, to teach us to cleave to Christ, and to abide in him in a manifest way. Away, then, with such notions of being so fully delivered from condemnation as never to feel it more! for it is not the path of Bible saints. No longer, therefore, than the Holy Ghost draws faith forth in exercise upon the Lord Jesus Christ in a manifestive way, no longer are we clear of all condemnation; for our enemies are treading on our heels as we slacken from the Lord Jesus Christ.
These things I have long watched in my experience, and the Bible bears me out; for in this world we ever shall have changes; and as there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not, you will often find conscience condemn you, Satan condemn you, the world condemn, hypocrites condemn, God's Word condemn, and, in short, you will feel plenty of condemnation. But the very moment faith goes out upon the Lord Jesus Christ, all this condemnation is gone, and then you can say, with Paul, "There is, therefore, now"-mark that, now, while faith is in exercise on the Lord Jesus Christ "there is now no condemnation," for I am now manifestatively in Christ Jesus; and he that believes is justified freely from all things; so that what our Lord says in the text ever will stand good, "Believe only."
3. There must be faith in exercise to enable us to walk in the fear of the Lord. It is not my having the fear of the Lord in my heart that will keep me, from evil, but having that fear in exercise upon the Lord Jesus Christ for "in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence." All this you may see in David and Nehemiah. David was tempted, and he fell; but what was the cause? Why, say you, he had not the fear of God. Yes, he had; he had it as a grace in his heart, but it lay dormant it was not in exercise. Had he felt this fear in lively actings on the Lord Jesus, he certainly would not have fallen; for Joseph had the very same temptation, and resisted it, saying, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" But it pleased God to keep Joseph, and this keeping was by faith in Christ; and he permitted David to fall to cause him to feel his own weakness, and to close his mouth; for he had been boasting that he would not have a wicked man in his kingdom. Then, say you, David was not to blame. O yes, he was; and that he sorely felt, saying, "I have done this evil in thy sight." At the same time we all know that power to stand belongs to God; but he is a sovereign, and is under no obligation to keep us always from falling. He will let us know well our poor, weak, and helpless state without him. Nehemiah also did not oppress the people as the former governors did, because of the fear of the Lord.
Now, in order to our standing steadfast in the truth, steadfast against Satan, this world, our old man, and all the errors, snares, traps, etc., that Satan will lay in our way, we do well constantly to entreat the Lord to bless us with a strong faith in him as our fear, so as to set the Lord always before us. Hence the prophet Isaiah says, "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."
4. Faith in exercise will lay hold of God's everlasting love, and in so doing will keep all slavish fear of God out of the conscience. But you and I are not to expect that we never shall feel slavish fear any more, for if we do, we are greatly mistaken. David well knew what a deliverance from shavish fear was before he uttered those words, "Fearfullness and trembling hath taken hold of me." Job also: "Even when I remember, I am afraid;" and Habakkuk: "When I heard, my belly trembled." These men well knew what the love of God did, that it cast out all shavish fear and torment. But when faith is tried with various difficulties, you will find unbelief very strong, so that you will question this love to you; and often this slavish fear will work. I believe I once enjoyed this perfect love to the full, as much as any one; and yet, since that, I have been filled with terror, dread, and slavish fear, many and many a time, and expect the same again. But when faith is in exercise upon Christ, and I can see God in him, I have no slavish fear, but a filial fear, which I ever wish to have, for it is an evidence of my adoption. Hence Solomon says, (or God, by him), "My son, be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long." Perfect love does not cast out filial fear, as some fools say, who are blinded by the devil to pervert Scripture, and are led on in presumption.
5. It is only when faith is in exercise that we can comfortably feel the witness of God's Spirit, so as to call God our own covenant God and Father. You and I may have had this hold upon God; but that does not argue that we always can hold, so as for us to enjoy it; O no. Therefore we shall need the blessed Spirit again and again all our days, to witness with our spirits that we are the children of God: "He that believeth hath the witness in himself;" and every time this is done it is a fresh display of Almighty power: "God fulfill in you the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power;" "To as many as received him, to them gave he power," which power lies in faith, "to become the sons of God," that is, manifestatively. This is called "being strong in faith;" and this will remove the accusations of Satan, sin, law, and conscience; neither can these enemies show their heads until another fit of unbelief comes.
6. This faith ever will work by love to God's family as well as to God, for he that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. But this affection is not felt comfortably at all times, for faith is not always in exercise; if it were, the heart would always flow with love to God, to his truth, to his family, and to all men. But painful experience teaches us to the contrary; for when unbelief preveils, which it often does, we then feel either cold to these things, or a carnal mind, which is enmity to God. You do well to watch these things, and not to expect such a thorough change, so as always to feel this love; nor yet to be too hasty in drawing conclusions about your own state or the state of others, knowing that Satan will often stir up the old man in such a powerful way as is shocking; see Jonah, Moses, Jeremiah, and others. Yet after all, this "faith shall work by love," for many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."
7. Finally. Wherever this faith is, Jesus Christ is very highly esteemed. He will be the chiefest amongst ten thousand, and altogether lovely. But all this will be sorely tried, and in a way that you and I little think; therefore various idols will the devil set up, and work upon our corrupt affections, and that constantly, to try to dethrone Christ. Wife and children will sometimes stand in the way, house, lands, property, and worldly men, who shall be remarkably kind. It is no easy matter to stand firm against all these things. Add to this, nothing but beggary, ruin, and destruction for ourselves and family if we persist in this singular way. Balaam had great light and knowledge, but the love of money upset him. Judas went with the rest to preach and work miracles, but it upset him also. Demas forsook Paul, having loved this present evil world; and they find it a very hard thing to stand who do stand. Solomon was drawn to love many strange wives; David fell by Bathsheba, Samson by Delilah; the incestuous person by his father's wife; Ephraim by covetousness; for the love of money is the root of all evil. Every evil is still in our hearts, and will work up in one way or other unless subdued and kept down by the power of the Holy Ghost momently. Now Christ says, "He that loveth father, mother, wife, children, or his own life, more than me, is not worthy of me; yea, he that will not forsake all that he hath cannot be my disciple."
Now, although you and I have hard fighting, and many a time we may expect to be overcome, yet faith will work through all these things, for faith is of Divine origin; neither is it possible for a believer finally to be overcome with any one difficulty; his faith will work through all storms, and lay fresh hold of Christ again and again; so that what Peter says shall stand good, "Unto you that believe, he is precious;" and Peter had been well tried when he uttered these words; and thus, the text is a glorious truth: "Believe only."
The Lord bless this feeble attempt, which I desire to cast as a mite into the treasury for the encouragement of his own family. And to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be all the praise.
By John Rusk