“But was strong in faith, giving glory to God.”
ABRAHAM is the father of the faithful. When children have a noble father it is a good thing for them to be fully conversant with his character and, therefore, we shall do well to consider the life of the great Patriarch, especially marking that grand excellence which makes him the father of Believers, namely, his faith. Nor should we fail to observe the strength of his faith, for in him it reached a very high degree. He was not only a Believer, but he was an unstaggering Believer. He did not only trust God, but he trusted God most firmly in the teeth of all contradiction–not so much as considering the difficulties–but believing in God without questioning.
Oftentimes I have exhorted unbelievers to faith, but now my word is directed to those who have faith already, bidding them manifest more faith. Where there is the root of faith, we plead for the growth of faith. Where there is life, our desire is that it may be found more abundantly. If you have not believed at all, then the Gospel cries to you, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!” But if you have believed, its voice is, “Grow in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
We cannot talk to unbelievers upon the subject of strong faith because they have none to begin with–if they had even the weakest faith, it would save them and become the germ of the highest assurance–but without a beginning, how can they be exhorted to increase? There must, first of all, be the seed of faith in the heart and then it will be wise to water it, but to water barren ground is lost labor. Have you given glory to God by believing in the Lord Jesus? Then you may glorify Him more by a stronger confidence, but not till then! Those who have faith in God are constantly to be exhorted to grow in all Graces and especially in the most important and fundamental Grace of faith. They are permitted to pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” with the assurance that, “He gives more Grace.”
My present address will have strong faith for its subject. Let those who have believed strive after it. Is it necessary for me to remind you that as faith, at first, is the work of the Holy Spirit, so must any real growth in it be of Divine operation? Any addition to faith which could come to you by or from the flesh, if such a thing were supposable, would be an adulteration of faith and not an increase of it! That which is born of the flesh is flesh and only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Even if an increase of faith could come to us by the will of man and not by Divine working, it would not be worth having, for it would be a counterfeit.
Only the sap of the trunk can make the branch grow. He who gave you faith at the first must give you more faith if you are to become strong in it. Yet there is the parallel Truth of God never to be forgotten–that while faith is the gift of God–it is, also, our own act! The Holy Spirit works faith in us, but we, ourselves, believe. The Holy Spirit does not believe for us–what has He to believe? It would be altogether absurd to conceive of the Holy Spirit as believing or repenting! Nor, if such a thing were possible, could it be of any benefit to us, for the faith which saves the soul must be personal and cannot be performed by proxy. Faith is both God’s gift and man’s act. The Lord is the Author of our faith, but we, ourselves, believe.
In the same manner, though the strengthening of our faith will come through the Spirit of God, yet must it be our own act and deed–we must, ourselves, believe more firmly, and our own heart must be exercised to attain to the highest privilege. As unbelief is a sin for which the unbeliever must be held responsible, even so is the feebleness of faith a fault for which we are blameworthy. We are duty bound to believe in God without wavering and if we neglect the matter we shall be held guilty concerning it. It is our duty to believe and to believe in the highest degree–and though some professors can never see the consistency of the two statements that faith is the gift of God and yet the duty of man–we are sure that
And so, while I shall earnestly refer you to the Spirit of God for strength in order to obtain more faith, yet I shall not apologize for unbelief, or treat strong faith as a work of our own, for which God has no claim upon us. I most earnestly declare the responsibility of each Believer and claim from him, as the righteous due of a faithful God, that he, from now on, believe in Him more fully than he has ever done. May the remarks I offer be used by the Holy Spirit to the increase and establishment of your confidence in God!
- Our first point is this–STRONG FAITH, WHEREVER IT EXISTS, IS SUPPORTED BY ABUNDANT REASONS. It is never chargeable with being unreasonable fanaticism or blind credence. It is a sound, prudent, justifiable thing. For, first, all the reasons which justify our believing in God at all, justify our believing in Him most firmly and continually. You do not need that I dwell upon this, because it is self-evident. It can never be right to believe unless the statements are true–and if true they deserve undivided faith. If you have trusted your soul with your Redeemer because of the efficacy of His atoning blood, that argument pleads with you to trust Him yet more steadfastly and confidently.
If anything is strong enough for you to trust your eternal destiny to, your trust ought not to be tinctured with suspicion, or soured with mistrust–it ought to be unalloyed as pure gold and immovable as a granite rock. Either no confidence or great confidence can be logically defended! A divided heart cannot be justified by reason. Dear Brothers and Sisters, little faith will save you if it is true faith, but there are many reasons why you should seek an increase of it, and among the best, this forcible one–Your conscience cannot justify the weakness of your faith, nor answer the question, “Therefore do you doubt?”
If you believe at all, why do you doubt at all? If God is worthy of trust, He is worthy of abundant trust! If it is well to lean on Him at all, it must be well to lean hard. Is the Lord faithful? Then do not both trust and mistrust, believe and disbelieve! Is the promise sure? Then do not believe it a little and doubt it a little! Elijah spoke concerning Jehovah and Baal, “If Jehovah is God serve Him, and if Baal is God serve him.” So, also, would I demand in this matter–if the Gospel is a lie, deny it. But if it is a Truth of God, believe it! Be no longer content to mingle unbelief with faith, as if this were the utmost credence that God’s children could give to their own Father! It is time that this mental twilight came to an end and that the day is known to be day and the night to be night.
Hesitating and questioning, hoping and fearing make but a lame walk for a Christian pilgrim and are unreasonable and indefensible. As the legs of the lame are not equal, so such a state of mind has not the balance which a wise man should seek after. If you go up to the ankles in the river of faith, go further, even up to the loins, or to full swimming depth, for, if it is right to enter into faith’s stream at all, every possible argument proves that the deeper you go, the better. Reasons for strong faith may be found in abundance in the Character of God. He is not like ourselves, for in Him is no mixture of truth and falsehood, wisdom and folly, power and weakness!
Our reliance upon man must be cautiously given and measured out with great prudence, for man is only man, but, “the Lord is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent.” His Character absolutely demands implicit faith, insomuch that while meditating upon this subject, I felt ashamed of myself that I should need to pray for faith in God. It is a clear evidence of our dire depravity that we should need to be helped to believe in One who cannot lie! It seems inevitable that a creature should trust its Creator and especially such a Creator! And it would be inevitable if that creature were not exceedingly depraved.
For a child to trust its father is natural, so natural that no one counts it a virtue. How astounding is our moral perversity that we should be so far gone out of our right condition of heart that we have to argue ourselves into believing our God–and even then succeed not till the Holy Spirit gives us faith! It ought to be a very difficult thing for a Christian to doubt his heavenly Father. In fact, it ought to be impossible, seeing that the Divine Character is incapable of falsehood! Beloved, should we not have strong faith who believe in a God whose very essence is pure truth? Where deception is inconceivable, doubt should be impossible!
You believe that a shadow of untruth never stained the Character of your God–why, then, do you not render to Him strong faith? You believe, also, that God is infinitely wise and, therefore, He has never spoken rashly nor promised what it might be wiser to withhold. The promise was not delivered in haste, or so unguardedly that it might be necessary to retract it and, therefore, no alteration can be supposed. The Covenant of Promise stands secure even as to its jots and tittles. If it had been foolish, it might pass away, but since it is ordered by eternal Wisdom, it will outlast the everlasting hills.
Come, then, Beloved, should not the utmost confidence be rendered to Him whose every Word is steeped in Infallibility? Should you not believe with all your heart and soul and strength in Him whose Truth stands fast like the great mountains? Moreover, O man of God, you believe in One who is Omnipotent and, therefore, your believing should be strong. You know how to answer that question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” for you believe that with God all things are possible. If it is so, then His true Word spoken in wisdom can readily enough be carried out. He has but to will it and it is done! God’s Word is fact–for Him to purpose is to perform–can there, then, arise any condition or circumstance which He cannot meet? Then why these doubts?
In the Presence of an Almighty Promiser, unbelief is as ridiculous as it is sinful. “The Strength of Israel will not lie,” neither may we treat Him with mistrust. You know, also, that your God is Immutable. All things change, but your God knows no shadow of a turning! He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Is He the same? He does not take back the Word that goes out of His mouth, nor reverse His Divine decree–why, then, question and suspect Him? Better far to believe immutably in an Immutable God! Can you not rest in Him who says “I am Jehovah; I change not”? You believe, also, that He is the God of Love, full of goodness, mercy and loving kindness. What a wanton insult it is to mistrust One who cannot be unkind, whose very Nature it is to bless His creatures and whose innermost soul is set upon loving and blessing His own elect!
Have you confided in Him? Then does He not assure you that He has engraved your name upon the palms of His hands? Has he not said that He has loved you with an everlasting love and, therefore, with loving kindness He has drawn you? Will you fly in the face of changeless love and coldly question it? Can it be possible to trust it too confidingly? Surely all these things and much more, in the glorious Character of the beloved God, demand of us the strongest imaginable faith! Then, again, when I turn my eyes from pure Deity to Him who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, even our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, it appears incongruous that the blessed Son of God should be received with meager confidence.
God dwelt among men in human flesh. You know it is true, that Jesus, the Son of God, abode upon the earth throughout a lowly life amidst poverty and shame! And, (wonder of wonders), at last He poured out His heart’s blood for our redemption! And can we entertain a doubt of His ability to save? Do we see those drops of blood from His hands and heart, sealing the Everlasting Covenant, and can we doubt? Abraham had strong confidence when he saw the smoking furnace and the burning lamp passing between the pieces of the slain victims. What ought our confidence be when we behold the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, ratifying the Eternal Covenant by His own death? Surely if the Patriarch could find rest in the sight of the type, only, we ought to rest without thought of fear. When faith beholds the Divine antitype, no thought of disquietude should ever arise again!
My Soul, what more do you need? Is there not, here, more than enough of solemn pledge and surety? Are not fountains of assurance opened in the bleeding Savior which are deeper than all fear and higher than all hope? That wondrous Sacrifice is as high above your thoughts, at their best, as the heavens are above the earth! And will you return doubts and fears as a fit recompense for such a Divine confirmation of eternal love? O Lord, help Your servants to be strong in faith! One other reason is, perhaps, of less weight than those which have gone before, but I cannot withhold it. It is this–we ought to give to God strong faith because there is no evidence to the contrary, nor any supposable evidence which could justify mistrust.
All down the ages those who have trusted in Him have never been confused. Our fathers trusted in Him and He helped them to suffer and to bear, to attempt and to accomplish, to live and to die. We read just now, in the 11 th Chapterof Hebrews, the record of what the Lord worked in those who believed in Him. Now, on the other side, per contra, there stands nothing. Has one child of God come forward wringing his hands and saying, “God has not fulfilled His Word and His promises are false”? We have stood, many of us, at the bedside of dying saints and the truth generally comes out there. But there is not one among us, most familiar with such scenes, who ever heard a solitary Believer declare that it is a mistake to confide in the blood of Jesus, or an error to rest in the faithfulness of God!
Somewhere, or other, this thing would have come out if it had been so! If the Lord had been false to one of His people we should have had a sure record of it! And I think we might have trusted the devil and his followers, who delight in infidelity, to have circulated such a report, pretty largely, all over the world–if they had known of one such an instance! But they have not one to report! “He forsakes not His saints.” Furthermore, I will appeal to your own experience–have you experienced anything which casts suspicion upon the Character of God? Has the Lord been a wilderness unto you? When you have trusted Him, has He failed you? Will you put your finger upon a promise which He has broken? Search the Bible through and through and find, if you can, one single Word of His against which you must write, “false.”
Oh, no! The promise tarries sometimes, but it never lies! There is a waiting time for the testing of your faith, but in the end it will be seen that He has withheld no good thing from them that walk uprightly and you will have to say, at last, like gray-headed Joshua, “There failed not one of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” Brothers and Sisters, ought we to doubt our God when we have no cause to show for it? Is there any apology for little faith since we cannot remember any instances of prayers unheard, deliverances denied, or mercies refused? We have nothing of the kind to quote and, therefore, when we doubt the Lord we are guilty of wanton distrust–may the Lord forgive us and deliver us from it!
So much upon that first point, the strongest faith is supported by abundant reasons.
II. And now, secondly, according to the text, STRONG FAITH PRODUCES THE MOST DESIRABLE RESULTS. We have not time to go into many of these, but we will dwell upon one, the one mentioned in the text, “Strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Why, this is what we live for–to glorify God! Every man who is truly a child of God feels that he has no objective which at all approaches to this in importance–his chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Well, then, since strong faith answers to that end, we ought earnestly to desire it! But how does it appear?
Well, strong faith glorifies God because it treats Him like God. Unbelief is practical atheism–denying the truthfulness of God, it takes away what is a part of the essential Character of God and mars His very existence. I would not say a word to grieve those who have but little faith, for the least faith is saving and is most precious, but still, weak faith does not treat God like God–it bounds and limits the Holy One of Israel! It believes Him up to a point, or under such-and-such circumstances–which questions His Omnipresence and Omnipotence!
Strong faith treats God according to His infinite Character. It does not suspect Him, because it knows Him to be the God of Truth. It does not doubt the possibility of His accomplishing His promises because it knows Him to be God AllSufficient. It does not question His faithfulness, because it knows Him to be absolutely Immutable. Alas, we often deal with God as if He were like ourselves, or like our fellow men. We are fickle and we suppose that He is also. Our fellow men promise and fail us, and we act as if our God were like the sons of man, who are but worms. O Beloved, it robs God of His Glory when we act towards Him otherwise than as He is! But it glorifies Him when wegain a Scriptural conception of what He is and act towards Him under that aspect–and what is that but to trust Him without staggering? To me, when I look at it calmly, the strongest faith does not appear to be a wonder–it is only what the Lord has a right to receive. Considering the folly and depravity of man, faith is a marvelous production of Divine Grace. Yet looked at from the Godward side of it, the strongest possible faith in God is only what God may justly claim! Do you agree with me, O Believers? Does not your Lord deserve to be trusted at all times?
Further, strong faith brings glory to God because it treats Him as a Father and acts towards Him in a childlike spirit. It is very beautiful to see the confidence which our children repose in us. Why, even when the man is utterly unworthy of respect, you will see the little child still believing in his father. And as for those who are favored with parents who are wise and gracious, there is–there should always be–an implicit reliance upon father’s judgment. I have known boys quote their father with as implicit a reliance as Christians quote Scripture, or as confidently as a Catholic quotes a bull of the Pope. Indeed, what is a father, after all, but the papa, the pope, of His child, to a very great degree, and though that confidence may be mistaken, yet it is natural to the child to feel it. And it is a sad pity that it should too often be rudely repressed by the father’s folly.
Now, every child of God ought to have unlimited confidence in God. Is He not my Father? Can my Father do an unkind thing to me? Can my Father be untrue? Can my heavenly Father be false or changeable? Impossible! The child of God does not boast of his faith, for it is only a simple childlike trust, yet it glorifies God more than all the efforts of proud reason, for it calls Him by the name which He loves and it puts Him into the place which He delights in, namely, that of Father to His own chosen.
Again, strong faith honors God because it strengthens all the other Graces and these all bring glory to God. Without the Graces of the Spirit in him, a man cannot glorify God. Therefore, that which will produce in our character all those various lights which are the reflections of the Divine excellence as it shone in the Lord Jesus, is the chief means of our glorifying God and is to be prized. Faith is the root of whatever things are lovely and pure and of good repute. And in proportion as it is strong, all these precious things flourish. Therefore it greatly tends to magnify the Lord. Strong faith peculiarly glorifies God because it gives a striking testimony to the world.
I do not think the world notices, much, the common faith of ordinary Christians. The faith which ordinarily relies upon God in good times, the outside world does not think much of. But even carnal minds are compelled to view with astonishment the faith which glories in God when all temporal things are swept away. The faith which can practice eminent self-denial, or which can achieve, through the power of God, enterprises which appear foolhardy to mere reason–that is the faith which attracts the eyes of men! Then they see your strong faith and they glorify your Father which is in Heaven! I pray God that we may always have such a faith that it may be worthwhile for men to study it.
I have known some faith which would have required a man to put a microscope to his eye to be able to perceive it at all. And when we have declared that little faith saves the soul, the worldling has replied, “Well, it is a very small concern, at any rate.” Brothers and Sisters, ask that your faith may grow! Let it embrace God heartily! Let it rest in Him without fear and even the ungodly will be obliged to confess that this is the finger of God! Strong faith glorifies God, again, because it enables Him to work great works in us and through us. As our Savior could not do many mighty works in a certain place because of their unbelief, so is God hampered with regard to some of us because we have such little confidence in Him.
He has given to some men all the abilities necessary for the conversion of many souls, all the knowledge, all the utterance and a large part of the zeal–but they do not believe in Him and, therefore, they are not established. Some men’s words actually create distrust in the minds of others, for they, themselves are so diffident in spirit that they rather hinder the children of God in their progress than help them to advance in the Divine life. Search, O my Brothers and Sisters, whether it is not so! He who has little faith will be made useful according to the littleness of his faith, but, if he had more, the Master might use him more. If we trusted more, our life would be holier, happier, serener, more close with God and more useful. And why should we not? Give me a reason why we should not! Oh, Spirit of the living God, why should we not? Help us, now, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God!
III. Now I advance to a third observation which, I trust, may give some comfort to those who are little in Israel. STRONG FAITH, WHICH GIVES GLORY TO God, MAY BE EXERCISED BY PERSONS WHO ARE OTHERWISE EXCEEDINGLY WEAK. What a joy this is to you who are sufferers in body! You do not often creep out of your bed which is now growing so hard through your having laid upon it these months. It is quite a holiday for you to be found in the House of God now and then. Well, dear Brother, dear Sister, you cannot do Apostolic work and range a continent, fervently blazing out the Truth of God, but you can have strong faith in God!
You may exhibit a placid patience, a sweet resignation, a sacred hopefulness as to the future. You may exhibit a Divine disdain as to the fear of death and, if these abound in you, the circle of friends who know you and tenderly watch you, are receiving from your example the utmost benefit and, perhaps, though you may not be able to enter into active service, you may be tutoring others by the strength of your faith–and they may accomplish great things as the result of your example. At any rate, the weakness of your body need not prevent your exercising the strong faith which glorifies God.
So, too, dear Friends, you may have but few talents. You may be conscious that you have no brilliance of intellect, that you are not persons of remarkable parts or attainments and, yet you may glorify God by strong faith! You need not be a genius in order to give glory to God, for the strength of your faith will do it! Many a man who is of slender intellect glorifies God far more than your great thinkers do because the great thinker is too often filled with a high conceit of his own thoughts and will not follow God’s Word. The poor unintellectual Believer rises superior to him by taking the intellect of God to be his guiding star.
You can glorify God, dear Brothers and Sisters, by holding firmly to the Truth of God which you understand so little, but which you love so heartily. Though you do not know the whole of its meaning, you are in much the same condition as your more advanced Brethren, for who knows the whole meaning of God’s mind? What you do know, you are resolved to hold with an iron grip and, by so doing, you greatly honor your Lord. Some saints are conscious of weakness of every sort, but they must not, therefore, think that they cannot honor God by strong faith. Abraham, of whom the text is spoken, was a special instance of this. He was so old that his body was now dead and yet he believed that he would be the progenitor of the chosen seed! He knew that death was written upon him as to all that matter and yet he was quite certain that God, who had promised, would certainly perform.
Do you feel, this morning, almost dead spiritually? Dear lover of Jesus, have you wandered from Him so that your consciousness of life in Him is dimmed and you hardly know whether you are in Him or not? Are you so lethargic your soul cleaves to the dust? Now is the time to trust Him! When sin abounds, when fears are thickest, when temptations are most furious, when need comes upon you like an armed man–then is the time to trust in God! Summer weather faith is poor stuff, but a faith which bums on through the long, dark, dreary winter–a faith which is not dampened by the rain nor buried by the snowstorm–this is faith, indeed, and glorifies God!
The depth of your weakness is just the height of your possibilities of honoring the Lord. If you are nothing, so much the more room for God to be everything! If you are unworthy, the more room for confidence in the righteousness of Christ! And if you are dead, you are the better able to prove the Truth of your Lord’s words concerning the Believer, “though he were dead, yet shall he live.” God grant us Grace that whatever our circumstances or conditions, we may have the same conquering faith towards God.
IV. Now, fourthly, THIS STRONG FAITH VARIES AS TO ITS MANNER OF WORKING, very much, according to the person and his circumstances. There is one thing that strong faith does not do which some think it would be sure to do–it never blusters and it never talks big and boasts of what it will accomplish. “Though all men should forsake You, yet will not I,” is not the language of strong faith–that is the prattle of Master Peter with his pride uppermost! Some men are, in their own opinion, in such a fine condition that they could push the whole world before them and drag the Church after them–I do not know what they think they could not do!
Yes, but there is a great deal of difference between confidence in yourself and confidence in God. I have noticed that the faith which goes forth against the world with the dauntless courage of a lion is the very faith which lies down like a lamb at Jesus' feet. The next thing to, “I can do all things,” is, “Without Christ I can do nothing.” Consciousness of personal weakness attends a brave reliance upon God and shows itself in modesty and quietude of manner. Barking dogs do not often bite and those men who promise much, very seldom perform. Strong faith has a quiet tongue and does the daring deed without preliminary boasting. It does not advertise its coming victories, but falls upon the Midianites in the dead of night–and with its lamps and pitchers puts them to the rout.
Point me to one boastful word that ever fell from Abraham. All the Scriptural heroes of faith were doers–not braggarts. David said little to his envious brothers, but he brought home the giant’s bleeding head and bade its dumb mouth tell of what he had done. Faith exercises itself, as in the case of Abraham, by believing God’s Word! God had said many things to Abraham and Abraham believed them all. That is a rare thing nowadays! The school of modern thought, which considers itself to be the most infallible thing now extant, always cuts and shapes divinity according to its own views of what it ought to be. In fact, it has a god of its own, cut out of the brown paper of its philosophies–a god of soft effeminacy who is no more like the Jehovah of Abraham than the Venus of Paphos.
These men believe not what the Bible says, but what they imagine it ought to say. Their doctrinal views are like the camel which was evolved by a German philosopher out of his own consciousness. He had never seen one, but he produced it according to his own notion of what it ought to be and he was very strong against humps. He would never believe that a real camel had a hump because his consciousness did not suggest such a thing! Much of intellectual religion nowadays is just that–we have certain gentry about who evolve a gospel out of their own brain–and of course they utterly despise the Gospel which actually exists because it is not like their model. We are asked to bow down and worship the calf which comes out of their furnace, but that we shall not do while our faith is strong.
We believe God’s every Word as far as we know it. If I know a doctrine to be in God’s Word, it is Infallible to me. If I have ever, in thought, gone beyond that which is revealed, I do heartily repent of such presumption. Brothers and Sisters, do you agree with me? If I see in God’s Book two Truths which I cannot square with one another, I believe them both! There is a middle term somewhere, though I know not where to find it. And for the present I believe without that explanatory Truth of God. There are the two things–God has said them and they must be true–it is mine to believe them. Let God be true and every man a liar! This is where strong faith is needed in these days–we need a settled creed and a clear, comprehensive view of the revealed Truth of God–even if we should, in consequence, be called oldfashioned or imbecile, we need to be more old-fashioned than ever!
I am a Radical in many things, but in the doctrines of the Gospel I would have you to be Conservative to the backbone–never yielding any point of the Truth of God to the most brilliant thinker that the world can produce! Thinkers are not appointed to tinker up a gospel for us! Thank God, we already have a perfect Gospel! Their shifting gospel changes about every 10 years and comes out spick and span as a new theology–but we have grasped the old Infallible Truths of God and we mean to hang on to them for dear life, being strong in faith, giving glory to God!
But Abraham’s was not only receptive faith. His was a faith which obeyed the precept. The test of his obedience was the strange command to take his only son and offer him up for a sacrifice. But he went to do it and, in God’s account, he did do it, for he had the will to do it at God’s bidding. You and I must be willing to do what God tells us, as God tells us, when God tells us, because God tells us–and only strong faith will be equal to such complete obedience. Then Abraham’s faith awakened in him great expectations. He was looking for an heir, an heir from whom should spring a seed as the stars of Heaven for multitude!
He expected that quite as confidently as you and I expect tomorrow. We shall be full of expectation if we have strong faith. If we are looking for blessings, expecting prayers to be answered and promises to be fulfilled, that is strong faith. We shall not cry, “How wonderful!” every time a prayer is answered, but we shall reckon it a matter of necessity that God should stand to every ord that comes out of His mouth. May the Lord give you such strong faith as this and may it work in this fashion. But time chides me, as it did the Apostle when he entered upon this subject. You may well pardon me if I am wordy, for even so was he until he said, “Time would fail us to speak of Gideon and Jephtha,” and so on.
- Our last point is, FAITH IS ESPECIALLY TO BE EXPECTED IN CERTAIN QUARTERS. Here I wish to speak very pointedly and personally to all my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Dear Friends, there ought to be strong faith in us who know God. “They that know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken them that seek You.” And if He does not forsake the seekers, much less will He forsake those who have found Him and trusted in Him! Brothers and Sisters, there are some you can trust till you know them, but if it is true that when you do know them you can no longer trust them, it proves that they have a bad character. Now, you who know the Lord ought never to throw your God under such a suspicion! If you know Him, trust Him! I know you will.
We expect strong faith, next, from those who have had a long experience of Him. We can almost forgive you young people who have just started in the Christian life if you are vexed with doubts and fears, though truly, God does not deserve them even of you! But when your sires begin to doubt, what shall we say of them? What? Have you known Him 50 years and cannot trust Him? What? My dear Brother, has the Lord kept you till you are seventy? How long do you expect to live? To eighty? Well, He has been good to you for 70 years, cannot you trust Him for the last ten? What? tested Him over and over again and never found a flaw in His fidelity–you have been in deep waters and kept from sinking–and yet are you mistrustful?
What are those things upon your feet? Shoes of iron and brass! He said they should be. Are you afraid that after all these years you will be footsore and shoeless? He promised, “as your days so shall your strength be.” How has it been? “Why,” you say, “it has been so up to this moment.” Then why not to the end? Speak well of the bridge which has carried you over so many times! As I have already said, you cannot put your finger upon a single instance in which the good Lord has deceived you! And if you never doubt your Lord till you have reason for it, you will never doubt Him at all! Come, come, let those of us who have been 25 years in the ways of God put aside our childish doubts! Yet I guarantee you this is easier said than done and, though we talk thus and we know it is true and right, alas, our nature goes readily astray into a wicked and provoking distrust of God!
Further, dear Friends, those ought to trust Him who have lived in fellowship with Him. If you have been on the top of Tabor. If you have known the kisses of His mouth and tasted of His love, which is better than wine, if you have tasted unprecedented joy in His arms, in the full assurance of faith and the enjoyment of perfect love–why should you come down from the mountain and distrust Him? God forbid that we should do this! May the recollection of the hill Mizar and the Hermonites come freshly over our minds, this morning, and may we rest in our God! Those who are getting near to Heaven ought not to distrust Him. I see upon some of you the marks of the coming end. The snowflakes of many winters lie on your brows, no, the wind has blown even those away from some of you and left the summit bare!
You will soon behold your Lord! Your eyes will soon see the King in His beauty in the land that is very far off. Do not let it be among the last memories of earth that you doubted your Beloved! Oh, you who have known Him from your youth and have proved His faithfulness till you have come to palsied age, do not, now, begin to suspect your gracious God! You do not doubt the partner of your bosom who has shared your sorrows for half a century and has been the comfort of your life–you do well to trust in her, for it is said of such–“The heart of her husband does safely trust her.” But surely, she is not to be relied upon as implicitly as your God! Oh, dear aged Brother, permit one who is but a little child compared with you, to entreat you. Console and cheer the younger people by the exhibition of confidence and serenity worked in you by strong faith!
Lastly, we who are teachers of others ought to have strong faith in God. I think we may, at times, profitably mention our own doubts and fears for the encouragement of those who are terribly downcast, but it ought always to be done with very great prudence and much regret. I remember once speaking of my own trembling, when preaching, and a venerable Brother said to me afterwards, “I do not think, dear Pastor, that you were right in speaking of your own transgressions so freely. You encouraged the people, certainly, by what you said about yourself, but I hardly think they ought to be encouraged. Now, suppose you were to go into the pulpit and say, ‘there are some of you who are thieves. It is very wrong of you, but still do not despair, for I thieve a little myself.’ Why, you know,” he said, “you would not be doing good, but harm! And yet thieving is not more truly a sin than doubting God–in fact there is the utmost sin in unbelief.”
I replied to my good Brother that he was right and I thanked him for the correction. Whenever, dear Hearers, you catch any of us who are teachers doubting and fearing, do not pity us, but scold us! We have no right to be in Doubting Castle! Pray do not visit us there. Follow us as far as we follow Christ, but if we get into the horrible Slough of Despond, come and pull us out by the hair of our heads if necessary, but do not fall into it yourselves! Never say, “My beloved pastor went there and, therefore, I may go there.” No, but say, “Even our minister fell into that error and, therefore, I will keep as far from it as ever I can, for if the teacher slips, the disciple may easily do so and, therefore, I must very carefully watch against unbelief.”
Brothers and Sisters, we shall never succeed in winning sinners to faith if we preach what we do not intensely believe. I do verily believe that the sinner is lost and that unless Grace saves him, he is lost forever. I believe that eternal punishment will fall upon him unless he repents and believes in Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus shed his precious blood and that whoever believes in Him is saved beyond all fear of destruction, saved by the blood of the Lamb. We must preach in a believing manner, knowing our message to be true, or else men will die in unbelief! And, what is more, I do not think we shall have many conversions unless we expect God to bless His Word and feel certain that He will do so. We must not wonder and be astonished if we hear of a dozen or two conversions, but let the astonishment be that thousands are not converted when they hear such Divine Truth and when we ask the Holy Spirit to attend it with Divine energy.
God will bless us in proportion to our faith! It is the rule of His Kingdom. “According to your faith so be it unto you.” O God, give Your ministers more faith! Let us believe You firmly! Oh, that we could believe You up to the fullest possible measure of faith and never doubt You again! If the enemy number thousands, give us the faith of Samson to throw ourselves upon them and in the name of God to smite them! And though we, ourselves, as to all power to convert others are as dead men–and though the sinner is dead–yet help us to believe that souls can be begotten, again, by the preaching of the Gospel–and let us preach with confidence in Your Divine power. O Lord, grant this to us, for Jesus' sake. Amen.