And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
I. THE DIFFICULTY OF BELIEVING. That which requires the greatest power and strength to effect it, is no easy thing. But believing requires the greatest power to effect it. Therefore it is no easy thing to believe. I prove the assumption; namely, that the greatest power in heaven and earth is required to raise up faith in us.
1. Because faith deals with the power of God only about .those things which it believes. Bears itself up upon that; and when God is about to persuade a sinner to believe His free grace, He first convinces him of His power, that He is able to perform His promises.
(1) God asserts His power. He declares Himself to be an Almighty God. So to Abraham (Genesis 17:1); and in the New Testament He often asserts His power, that all things are possible to Him.
(2) God doth exert and put forth His power in some visible exemplification of it, that fully demonstrates His omnipotency, and can signify nothing less. Such an instance we have in the text, in the resurrection of Christ. This overt act speaks out His infinite power; it is matter of fact, and cannot be denied.
(3) God gives the saints some feeling and experience of the exceeding greatness of His power put forth in their own souls, by working faith in them.
2. Because no natural principle in man can take in the objects of faith. Flesh and blood cannot reveal them to us. Faith is an act above reason.
3. That which makes believing so difficult, is the seeming contradictory acts of faith. It seems not to consist with itself. Here I take faith more generally, as it has for its object the whole Word of God, the law and the gospel. The special object of faith, as saving, is the promise; saving faith seeks life, which is not to be found in commandments and threats, but in a promise of mercy. Faith, acting upon the whole Word of God, seems to contradict itself; for faith believes, a sinner is to die according to the law, and that he shall live according to the gospel. Faith has the Word of God for both, both for the death and life of a sinner; and both are true. The law must be executed, and the promise must be performed; but how to reconcile this is not so obvious and easy to every one. "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid" (Galatians 3:21). It is impossible both should be accomplished in the person of a sinner; he cannot die eternally, and live eternally; yet both are wonderfully brought about by Jesus Christ, according to the manifold wisdom of God, without any derogation to His law and justice.
4. The reigning unbelief that is among the generality of men. So it was in our Saviour's time: the Jews, who had been the only professors of the true religion for many ages, in opposition to all idolatry and false worship — they stumble at the gospel; the Greeks, who were the more learned sort of the heathen world — they counted it "foolishness."
5. The notorious apostasy of many professors this day, who have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:19), may convince you all that it is no easy matter to believe; so to believe as to persevere in the faith.
6. Believers themselves find it a difficult matter to act their faith. If their lives lie upon it, they cannot act it at their pleasure, without the special aid and assistance of the Spirit. It is God [that] must "work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
II. THE REASON WHY MANY PROFESSORS COUNT IT AN EASY THING TO BELIEVE. The main reason is this, and I will insist upon no other; namely, because they mistake a formal profession of faith for real believing. A formal profession is general; takes up religion in gross, but is not concerned in any one point of it. But real believing is particular; brings down every gospel truth to ourselves, shows us our concernment in it.
III. THEY WHO COUNT IT AN EASY MATTER TO BELIEVE, ARE DESTITUTE OF SAVING FAITH. I prove it thus —
1. They who have never found any conflict in themselves about believing, are destitute of saving faith: but they who count it an easy matter to believe, have never found any conflict in themselves about believing: if faith did not act in opposition to carnal reason, and carry it against all the strong reasonings of the flesh to the contrary, supernatural truths would never enter, never be admitted, never find acceptance in the soul; we should never be brought over to assent to them, so as to make them the sure ground of our trust and confidence in God. Bat faith captivates all rebellious thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5), as if they could disprove all that the gospel says; but the demonstrations of the Spirit are with that power, that we cannot resist them.
2. They who were never convinced of the sinfulness of sin, and of the dreadfulness of God's wrath against sinners, are destitute of saving faith: but they who count it an easy matter, etc. I do not mean that all must pass under the like terrors of conscience: some have a more easy passage from a state of nature to grace, from death to life, from terror to comfort; they may sooner get over their fears, and attain to peace, than others may.
3. Those who have never been tempted to unbelief, are destitute of saving faith: but those who count it an easy matter to believe, were never sensible of any temptation to unbelief. No man ever got over temptation to unbelief without difficulty. Unbelief has much to say for itself; and it will be sure to say all it can to hinder the soul from closing in with Christ.
4. He who is not much in prayer, much in the use of all means to increase and strengthen his faith is destitute of saving faith. But he who counts it an easy matter to believe takes no pains this way, but thinks he can believe at any time. Then thou canst do that which flesh and blood never did, that no mortal man ever did in his own strength.
5. He who does not look upon a life of faith to be a careful, studious, laborious life, is destitute, etc. Faith has new rules, counsels, and methods of living, that a man was never acquainted with before: he meets with many scruples: doubts, and intricate cases, that put him to it, to find out the right way of pleasing God; for that is the great design of faith.
(T. Cole, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,