FAITH! Peter saith, faith, in the very trial of it, is much more precious than gold that perisheth. If so, what is the worth or value that is in the grace itself?
Faith is so great an artist in arguing and reasoning with the soul, that it will bring over the hardest heart that it hath to deal with. It will bring to my remembrance at once, both my vileness against God, and his goodness towards me; it will show me, that though I deserve not to breathe in the air, yet God will have me an heir of glory.
Faith is the mother-grace, the root-grace, the grace that has all others in the bowels of it, and that from which all others flow.
Faith will suck sweetness out of God's rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies.
Faith makes great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy.
Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up.
Unbelief may be called the WHITE DEVIL; for it often-times, in its mischievous doing in the soul, shows as if it was an angel of light; yea, it acteth like a counsellor of heaven.
It is that sin above all others that most suiteth the wisdom of our flesh. The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudent to question a while, to stand back a while, to hearken to both sides a while; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised in too bold a presuming upon Jesus Christ.
There is nothing like faith to help at a pinch; faith dissolves doubts, as the sun drives away the mists. And that you may not be put out, know your time of believing is always. There are times when some graces may be out of use; but there is no time wherein faith can be said to be so. Faith is the eye, the mouth, the hand, and one of these is of use all day long. Faith is to see, to receive, to work, or to eat; and a Christian should be seeing, or receiving, or working, or feeding, all day long. Let it rain, let it blow, let it thunder, let it lighten, a Christian must still believe.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked:" to quench them, though they come from him as kindled with the very fire of hell. None knows, save he that feels it, how burning hot the fiery darts of Satan are; and how, when darted, they kindle upon our flesh and unbelief; neither can any know the power and worth of faith to quench them, but he that hath it and hath power to act it.
There are three things in faith, that directly tend to make a man depart from iniquity.
1. It apprehendeth the truth of the being and great ness of God, and so it aweth the spirit of a man.
2. It apprehendeth the love of this God in Christ, and so it conquereth and overcometh the spirit of a man.
3. It apprehendeth the sweetness and blessedness of the nature of the godhead, and thence persuadeth the soul to desire here communion with him, that it may be holy, and the enjoyment of him when this world is ended, that it may be happy in and by him for ever.
There is a man sows his field with wheat, but as he sows, some is covered with great clods: now, that grows as well as the rest, though it runs not upright as yet; it grows, and yet is kept down. So do thy desires -- when one shall remove the clod, the blade will soon point upward I know thy mind; that which keeps thee that thou canst not yet arrive to this, to desire to depart and to be with Christ, is because some strong douht or clod of unbelief as to thy eternal welfare lies hard upon thy desiring spirit. Now let but Jesus Christ remove this clod, and thy desires will quickly start up to be gone.
UPON THE SWALLOW.
This pretty bird, O how she flies and sings! But could she do so if she had not wings? Her wings bespeak my faith, her songs my peace. When I believe and sing, my doubtings cease.
Why, this is the case, thou art bound for heaven, but the way thither is dangerous. It is beset everywhere with evil angels, who would rob thee of thy soul. What now? Why, if thou wouldst go cheerfully on in thy dangerous journey, commit thy treasure, thy soul, to God to keep. And then thou mayest say with comfort, "Well, that care is over. For whatever I meet with in my way thither, my soul is safe enough; the thieves, if they meet me, cannot come at that; I know to whom I have committed my soul, and I am persuaded that he will keep that to my joy and everlasting comfort against the great day."
When a tyrant goes to dispossess a neighboring prince of what is lawfully his own, the men that he employeth at arms to overcome and get the land, fight for half-crowns and the like, and are content with the wages; but the tyrant is for the kingdom, nothing will serve him but the kingdom. This is the case: Men, when they persecute, are for the stuff; but the devil is for the soul, nor will any thing less than that satisfy him. Let him then that is a sufferer, commit the keeping of his soul to God, lest stuff and soul and all be lost at once.
Now, to commit this soul to God, is to carry it to him, to lift it to him upon bended knees, and to pray him for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, to take it into his holy care, and to let it be under his keeping. Also, that he will please to deliver it from all those snares that are laid for it between this and the next world, and that he will see that it be forthcoming, safe and sound, at the great and terrible judgment, notwithstanding so many have engaged themselves against it.
FAITH AND HOPE.
No faith, no hope. To hope without faith, is to see without eyes, or to expect without grounds; for "faith is the substance of things hoped for," as well with respect to the grace, as to the doctrine of faith.
Faith has its excellency in this, hope in that, and love in another thing. Faith will do that which hope cannot do, hope can do that which faith cannot do, and love can do things distinct from both their doings. Faith goes in the van, hope in the body, and love brings up the rear; and thus now abideth faith, hope, and charity.
Faith is the mother-grace, for hope is born of her, but charity floweth from them both.
Faith comes by hearing, hope by experience. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, hope by the credit that faith has given to it. Faith believes the truth of the word, hope waits for the fulfilling of it. Faith lays hold of that end of the promise that is next to us, to wit, as it is in the Bible; hope lays hold of that end of the promise that is fastened to the mercy-seat. For the promise is like a mighty cable that is fastened by one end to a ship, and by the other to the anchor. The soul is the ship where faith is, and to which the hither end of this cable is fastened; but hope is the anchor that is at the other end of this cable, and "which entereth into that within the veil."
Thus faith and hope getting hold of both ends of the promise, they carry it safely ALL away.
Faith looks to Christ as dead, buried, and ascended; and hope to his second coming. Faith looks to him for justification, hope for glory.
Faith fights for doctrine, hope for a reward; faith for what is in the Bible, hope for what is in heaven.
Faith purifies the heart from bad principles, hope from bad manners.2 Peter, 3:11, 14.
Faith sets hope at work, hope sets patience at work. Faith says to hope, Look for what is promised; hope says to faith, So I do, and will wait for it too.
Faith looks through the word of God in Christ; hope looks through faith, beyond the world, to glory.
Thus faith saves, and thus hope saves. Faith saves by laying hold of God by Christ; hope saves by prevailing with the soul to suffer all troubles, afflictions, and adversities that it meets with betwixt this and the world to come, for the sake thereof. Take the matter in this plain similitude:
There was a king that adopted such a one to be his child, and clothed him with the attire of the children of the king, and promised him that if he would fight his father's battles and walk in his father's ways, he should at last share in his father's kingdom. He has received the adoption and the king's robe, but not yet his part in the kingdom; but now, hope of a share in that will make him fight the king's battles, and also tread the king's paths. Yea, and though he should meet with many things that have a tendency to deter him from so doing, yet thoughts of the interest promised in the kingdom, and hopes to enjoy it, will make him cut his way through those difficulties, and so save him from the ruin that those obstructions would bring upon him, and will, in conclusion, usher him into a personal possession and enjoyment of that inheritance.
Hope has a thick skin, and will endure many a blow; it will put on patience as a vestment, it will wade through a sea of blood, it will endure all things if it be of the right kind, for the joy that is set before it. Hence patience is called "patience of hope," because it is hope that makes the soul exercise patience and long-suffering under the cross, until the time conies to enjoy the crown.
Learn of Abraham not to faint, stumble, or doubt, at the sight of your own weakness; for if you do, hope will stay below, and creak in the wheels as it goes, because it will want the oil of faith.
Hope is the grace that relieves the soul when dark and weary. Hope calls upon the soul not to forget how far it is arrived in its progress towards heaven. Hope will point and show it the gate afar off; and therefore it is called the HOPE OF SALVATION.
True hope, in the right exercise of it upon God, makes no stumble at weakness or darkness, but rather worketh up the soul to some comfort by these. Thus Abraham's hope wrought by his weakness. And as for the dark, it is its element to act in that, "For hope which is seen is not hope."
Hope is a head-grace and governing. There are several lusts in the soul that cannot be mastered, if hope be not in exercise-especially if the soul be in great and sore trials. There is peevishness and impatience, there is fear and despair, there is doubting and misconstruing of God's present hand; and all these become masters, if hope be not stirring; nor can any grace besides put a stop to their tumultuous raging in the soul. But now, hope in God makes them all hush, takes away the occasion of their working, and lays the soul at the foot of God.
PATIENCE. "And he stayed yet other seven days." This staying shows us that lie exercised patience, waiting God's leisure till the flood should be taken away. This grace, therefore, has yet seven days' work to do, before he obtained any further testimony that the waters were decreasing. O this staying work is hard work. Alas, sometimes patience is accompanied with so much heat and feverishness, that every hour seems seven until the end of the trial, and the blessing promised be possessed by the waiting soul. It may be, Noah might not be altogether herein a stranger. I am sure the psalmist was not, in that he often under affliction cries, But how long, O Lord; for ever? Make haste. O Lord, how long?
Love is the very quintessence of all the graces of the gospel.
It seems to me as if this grace of fear was the darling grace, the grace that God sets his heart upon at the highest rate. As it were, he embraces and lays in his bosom the man that hath and grows strong in this grace of the fear of God.
This grace of fear is the softest and most tender of God's honor of all the graces. It is that tender, sensible, and trembling grace, that keepeth the soul upon its continual watch. To keep a good watch is, you know, a wonderful safety to a place that is in continual danger because of the enemy. Why, this is the grace that setteth the watch, and that keepeth the watchman awake.
A man cannot watch as he should, if he be destitute of fear: let him be confident, and he sleeps; he unadvisedly lets into the garrison those that should not come there.
This fear of the Lord is the pulse of the soul; and as some pulses heat stronger, some weaker, so is this grace of fear in the soul. They that beat best are a sign of best life; but they that beat worst, show that life is present. As long as the pulse beats, we count not that the man is dead, though weak; and this fear, where it is, preserves to everlasting life. Pulses there are also that are intermitting; to wit, such as have their times of beating for a little, a little time to stop, and beat again: true, these are dangerous pulses, which, nevertheless, are a sign of life. This fear of God also is sometimes like this intermitting pulse; there are times when it forbears to work, and then it works again. David had an intermitting pulse; Peter had an intermitting pulse, as also many other of the saints of God. I call that an intermitting pulse, with reference to the fear we speak of, when there is some obstruction by the workings of corruption in the soul: I say, some obstruction from and hinderance of the continual motion of this fear of God; yet none of these -- though they are various, and some of them signs of weakness -- are signs of death, but life. "I will put my fear in their heart, and they shall not depart from me."
Where the fear of the Lord and sin are, it will be with the soul as it was with Israel when Amri and Tibni strove to reign among them both at once. One of them must be put to death, they cannot live together. Sin must down, for the fear of the Lord begetteth in the soul a hatred against it, an abhorrence of it; therefore sin must die, that is, as to the affections and lusts of it.
"Thy heart shall fear and be enlarged" -- enlarged towards God, enlarged to his ways, enlarged to his holy people, enlarged in love after the salvation of others. Indeed, when this fear of God is wanting, though the profession be never so famous, the heart is shut up and straitened, and nothing is done in that princely free spirit, which is called "the spirit of the fear of the Lord," but with grudging, legally, or with desire of vain glory. Psa.51:12; Isa.11:2.
If a king will keep a town secure to himself, let him be sure to man sufficiently the main fort thereof. If he have twenty thousand men well armed, if they lie scattered here and there, the town may be taken for all that; but if the main fort be well manned, then the town is more secure. What if a man had all the parts, yea, all the arts of men and angels, that will not keep the heart to God.
But when the heart, this principal fort, is possessed with the fear of God, then he is safe, not else.
O they are a sweet couple, to wit, a Christian conversation coupled with fear.
Your great, ranting, swaggering roysters, that are ignorant of the nature of this fear of God, count it a poor, sneaking, pitiful, cowardly spirit in men to fear and tremble before the Lord. But whoso looks back to jails and gibbets, to the sword and the burning stake, shall see in the martyrs THERE the most mighty and invincible spirit that has been in the world.
This grace of fear can make the man that in many other things is not capable of serving God, serve him better than those that have all else without it. Poor Christian man, thou hast scarce been able to do any thing for God all thy days, but only to fear the Lord. Thou art no preacher, and so canst not do him service that way: thou art no rich man, and so canst not do him service with outward substance: thou art no wise man, and so canst not do any thing that way; but here is thy mercy, thou fearest God. Though thou canst not preach, thou canst fear God. Though thou hast no bread to feed the belly, nor fleece to clothe the back of the poor, thou canst fear God. O how blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, because this duty of fearing of God is an act of the mind, and may be done by the man that is destitute of all things but that holy and blessed mind.
Blessed, therefore, is that man; for God hath not laid the comfort of his people in the doing of external duties, nor the salvation of their souls, but in believing, loving, and fearing God. Neither hath he laid these things in actions done in their health, nor in the due management of their most excellent parts, but in the receiving of Christ, and fear of God; the which, good Christian, thou mayest do, and do acceptably, even though thou shouldst lie bedrid all thy days; thou mayest also be sick and believe, be sick and love, be sick and fear God, and so be a blessed man.
And here the poor Christian hath something to answer them that reproach him for his ignoble pedigree, and shortness of the glory of the wisdom of the world. True, may that man say, I was taken out of the dunghill, I was born in a base and low estate; but I fear God. I have no worldly greatness, nor excellency of natural parts, but I fear God.
When Obadiah met with Elijah, he gave him no worldly and fantastical compliment, nor did he glory in his promotion by Ahab the king of Israel, but gravely and after a gracious manner said, "I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth." Also, when the mariners inquired of Jonah, saying, "What is thine occupation, and whence comest thou; what is thy country, and of what people art thou?" this was the answer he gave them: "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land." Jonah 1:8, 9.
Indeed this answer is the highest and most noble in the world, nor are there any, save a few, that in truth can thus express themselves, though other answers they have enough: most can say, I have wisdom, or might, or riches, or friends, or health, or the like; these are common, and are greatly boasted in by the most; but the man that feareth God can say, when they say to him, "What art thou?" "I thy servant do fear the Lord:" he is the man of many, he is to be honored of men, though this, to wit, that he feareth the Lord, is all that he hath in this world. He hath the thing, the honor, the life, and glory, that is lasting; his blessedness will abide when all men's but his is buried in the dust, in shame and contempt.
Dost thou fear God? The least DRACHM of that fear giveth the privilege to be blessed with the greatest saint: "He will bless them that fear the Lord, small and great." Psalm 115:13. Art thou in thine own thoughts, or in the thoughts of others, of these last small ones, small in grace, small in gifts, small in esteem upon this account? Yet if thou fearest God, if thou fearest God indeed, thou art certainly blessed with the best of saints. The least star stands as fixed as the brightest of them all, in heaven. "He shall bless them that fear him, small and great." He shall bless them, that is, with the same blessing of eternal life. For the difference in degrees of grace in saints doth not make the blessing, as to its nature, differ. It is the same heaven, the same life, the same glory, and the same eternity of felicity, that they are in the text promised to be blessed with. Christ at the day of judgment particularly mentioneth and owneth the least: "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least." The least then was there, in his kingdom and in his glory, as well as the greatest of all.
Dost thou fear God? Why, the Holy Ghost hath on purpose indited for thee a whole psalm to sing concerning thyself. So that thou mayest even as thou art, in thy calling, bed, journey, or whenever, sing out thine own blessed and happy condition to thine own comfort, and the comfort of thy fellows. The psalm is called the 128th Psalm.
"Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; he is their help and their shield." Psalm 115:11. Now what a privilege is this: an exhortation in general to sinners, as sinners, to trust in him, is a privilege great and glorious; but for a man to be singled out from his neighbors, for a man to be spoken to from heaven as it were by name, and to be told that God has given him a license, a special and peculiar grant to trust in him, this is abundantly more; and yet this is the grant that God has given that man that feareth the Lord.
"O fear the Lord, ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord" -- that fear him -- "shall want no good thing." Psalm 34:9, 10.
Not any thing that God sees good for them, shall those men want that fear the Lord. If health will do them good, if sickness will do them good, if riches will do them good, if poverty will do them good, if life will do them good, if death will do them good, then they shall not want them; neither shall any of these come nigh them, if they will not do them good.
Sinner, hast thou deferred to fear the Lord? Is thy heart still so stubborn as not to say yet, Let us fear the Lord? O, the Lord hath taken notice of this thy rebellion, and is preparing some dreadful judgments for thee. "Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord; shall not my soul be avenged of such a nation as this?"
Sinner, why shouldst thou pull vengeance down upon thee? why shouldst thou pull vengeance down from heaven upon thee? Look up; perhaps thou hast already been pulling this great while, to pull it down upon thee. Oh, pull no longer; why shouldst thou be thine own executioner? Fall down upon thy knees, man, and up with thy heart and thy hands to the God that dwells in the heavens; cry, yea, cry aloud, "Lord, unite my heart to fear thy name, and do not harden mine heart from thy fear." Thus holy men have cried before thee, and by crying have prevented judgment.
I take the pinnacles on the top of the temple to be types of those lofty, airy notions, with which some delight themselves, while they hover like birds above the solid and godly truths of Christ. Satan attempted to entertain Christ Jesus with this type and antitype at once, when he set him on one of the pinnacles of the temple, and offered to thrust him upon a false confidence in God, by a false and unsound interpretation of a text. Matt.4:5,6; Luke 4:9-11.
You have some men who cannot be content to worship in the temple, but must be aloft; no place will serve them but pinnacles -- pinnacles, that they may be speaking in and to the air, that they may be promoting their heady notions, instead of solid truth -- not considering that now they are where the devil would have them be. They strut upon their points, their pinnacles; but let them look to it: there is difficult standing upon pinnacles; their neck, their soul, is in danger. We read, God is in his temple, not upon these pinnacles. Psalm 4; Hab.2:20.
It is true, Christ was once upon one of these; but the devil set him there, with intent to dash him in pieces by a fall; and yet even then told him, if he would venture to tumble down, he should be kept from dashing his foot against a stone. To be there, therefore, was one of Christ's temptations; consequently one of Satan's stratagems: nor went he thither of his own accord, for he knew that there was danger; he loved not to clamber pinnacles.
This should teach Christians to be low and little in their own eyes, and to forbear to intrude into airy and vain speculations, and to take heed of being puffed up with a foul and empty mind.
The loaves or showbread in the temple were to have frankincense strewed upon them as they stood upon the golden table, which was a type of the sweet perfumes of the sanctification of the Holy Ghost.
They were to be set upon the pure table, new and hot, to show that God delights in the company of new and warm believers. "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth; when Israel was a child, I loved him." Men at first conversion are like to a cake well baked, and new taken from the oven; they are warm, and cast forth a very fragrant scent, especially when, as warm, sweet increase is strewed upon them.
"When the showbread was old and stale, it was to be taken away, and new and warm put in its place, to show that God has but little delight in the service of his own people, when their duties grow stale and mouldy. Therefore he removed his old, stale, mouldy church of the Jews from before him, and set in their room upon the golden table the warm church of the Gentiles."
Zeal without knowledge is like a mettled horse without eyes, or like a sword in a madman's hand; and there is no knowledge where there is not the word.
Repentance carries with it a divine rhetoric, and persuades Christ to forgive a multitude of sins committed against him.
One difference between true and false repentance lieth in this: the man who truly repents crieth out against his heart; but the other, as Eve, against the serpent, or something else.
There are abundance of dry-eyed Christians in the world, and abundance of dry-eyed duties too -- duties that never were wet with the tears of contrition and repentance.
Take heed that a sin in thy life goes not unrepented of, for that will make a flaw in thine evidence, a wound in thy conscience, and a breach in thy peace; and a hundred to one if at last it doth not drive all the grace in thee into so dark a corner of thy heart, that thou shalt not be able, for a time, by all the torches that are burning in the gospel, to find it out to thy own comfort and consolation.
As vices hang together, and have the links of a chain, dependence one upon another, even so the graces of the Spirit also are the fruits of one another, and have such dependence on each other that the one cannot be without the other.
No faith, no fear of God: devil's faith, devil's fear; saints' faith, saints' fear.