And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
I. THE APPROACH OF THE SOUL TO GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR PLEASING HIM. "Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God," etc. Having asserted that apart from faith man cannot please God, the writer proceeds to show this by affirming that he who comes to God must believe certain truths concerning him, thus clearly implying that we cannot please God without coming to him.
1. Coming to God implies distance from him. The unrenewed soul is far from God by sin. Sin against him generates suspicions concerning him, dread of him, and so banishes the soul far away from him. Like the prodigal son, the sinner wanders away from the gracious Father "into a far country." The expression, "them that seek him," also suggests that the seekers have not the consciousness of his presence and favor; they do not always realize his nearness unto them, or they would not need to seek after him.
2. Coming to God is the approach of the soul unto him. As the implied distance from him is not local but moral, so the coming to him is not physical but spiritual. It is the soul drawing near to him in thought and desire, in affection and devotion. The penitent thus comes to him with confession and prayer for pardon. The poor and needy, with petitions for succor and supply. The thankful, with warm tributes of gratitude and praise. The pious, with lowly loving adoration.
3. This approach of the soul to God is gratifying unto him. That his creatures, created in his image and for fellowship with himself, should stand aloof from him in distrust, or suspicion, or indifference, or by reason of absorption in other things, is painful to him. His fatherly heart yearns for the confidence and love of his children. He welcomes the first approach of the penitent sinner to him, even as the father of the returning prodigal saw him "while he was yet afar off, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." He is pleased when his children regard him with assured confidence and warm affection, and come to hint in their necessities and satisfactions, their sorrows and joys, etc.
II. THE EXERCISE OF FAITH IN GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR APPROACH TO HIM. "For he that cometh to God must believe that he is," etc. Ebrard says wisely concerning this faith, "Precisely the faith that there is a God, and One who will reward those who seek after him, found place in Enoch, and could find place in him. Far front intending to ascribe to Enoch the New Testament faith, the author defines the faith here in its general form as it applied to the time of Enoch." The faith which is essential to the approach of the soul to him is:
1. Faith is, his Being. "Must believe that he is." And we have the amplest anti firmest ground upon which to base this article of our faith. The Bible says "that he is;" the universe witnesses to the same great truth; and human consciousness confirms the testimony.
2. Faith in his entreatableness. "That he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him." This implies faith in his accessibility; the belief that we may approach unto him; that our prayers will reach his ear. He hears the sigh of sorrow, the moan of misery, and the whispered aspiration of the pious heart. He is perfectly acquainted with the godly "soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed." He not only hears prayer, but he also answers it. The teaching of the sacred Scriptures on this point is both full and explicit (Psalm 37:4; Psalm 50:15; Matthew 7:7-11; Matthew 18:19; Matthew 21:22; John 15:7; John 16:23, 24; James 1:5, 6; James 5:16-18; 1 John 5:14, 15). The testimony of the godly is no less clear and decisive. "He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him." This means more than that the exercise of prayer to God in itself exalts and enriches, calms and cleanses the praying soul. The reflex benefits of prayer are undoubtedly very great and precious, but their existence depends upon the belief that God hears and answers prayer. Prayer would lose its reality and become a mere pretence, offensive to all honest souls, if we had not faith in God as "a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him." But the seeker must be diligent; he must be earnest. "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." The prayer must be fervent and persevering, or it may fail of its reward. "When prayer mounts upon the wing of fervor to God, then answers come down like lightning from God." Thus we see that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Our subject shows:
1. The necessity of cultivating and exercising faith in God.
2. The advantages of believing prayer to God. - W.J.
Without faith it is impossible to please Him.I. THIS NATURE OF FAITH IN GENERAL. NOW the term, faith, "expresses a confidence or persuasion of the truth of anything not self-evident, received upon the testimony of another." To have faith in the subjects of human testimony, requires a certain comprehension of the nature of the subjects, and a confidence in the credibility of the testimony under which those subjects are presented to our knowledge. Precisely the same circumstances appear to take place in reference to Divine testimony. We are satisfied as to the credibility of the testimony — that it comes from God. But the objects presented to us upon that testimony will become the actual objects of our faith, exactly to the extent and no further in which we understand them. Our comprehension of the object will always be the limit of our faith; and this faith will diminish or augment in the very degree in which our perception is clear or confused. But it is needful here to remark that the Divine testimony, though depending upon precisely the same process of mind as to its existence, and growth, and contraction, is far more difficult of acquirement and of retention than faith in human testimony. Is it inquired wherefore? The answer is that sin has crippled our power of judgment — that sin has deadened the spiritual sensibility which is absolutely essential to the perception of Divine truth. Supposing, therefore, the powers of understanding and of imagination to be equal in any two persons, he will comprehend the Christian revelation the most clearly who has the purest affections, who is in the highest degree detached from human objects, and who is the most conversant with the objects of the heavenly world. The purity of God; the evil of sin; the love of Christ; the manifestation of that Jove to the human soul; the hidden and holy intercourse of the heart with God; the necessity for atonement; the freeness of Divine grace; the renovation of the heart by the power and compassion of the great Comforter; the value of prayer; the fervour of gratitude; the desire to be with Christ; the secret calm of confidence in His eternal love — these, and many other subjects embodied in the testimonies of God, are subjects with which an unholy, earthly heart cannot come into full contact. There may be a distant perception, indeed, even of these; but the affections that are low and sensual cannot perceive them so as to taste their value. And such is essential to their perception. The value which the Scriptures attach to faith, is hence no ground of surprise to him who has felt Christianity to be dear and healing to his heart. It has been by a Divine influence that he has come into contact with the spiritual meaning of Christianity; and his faith in that spiritual meaning has been the medium through which he came into such contact. He is therefore aware that no language can do justice to the worth of faith. It will thus appear that to faith belong all the essential blessings of Christianity. We come into intercourse with God; we rest under the shelter of the atonement; we are renewed in our tastes and inclinations; we acquire a home, a refuge; we regard the future as serene and bright; these blessings we acquire by faith, and by faith only. Nor is there any other conceivable way of embracing all the great and consoling realities of the gospel. Faith is, hence, the confidence of the penitent, and devout, and affectionate heart, as it reposes its weary sensations amidst the gracious assurances of God! It is farther evident from these statements, that faith will be often progressive, and often retrograde. Let the true Christian become unduly eager about earthly emoluments; let him diminish voluntarily the time he passes in secret converse with God; let him call away his thoughts from the character and friendship of his Saviour; let him thwart the precious influences of the Holy Spirit — and his faith will necessarily contract its operations; the finer and more ethereal parts of Christianity will begin to grow indistinct; his affections will be disordered; he will believe less, in reference to God and eternity, than he did before; his faith will shrink, or will vacillate as to real good and evil. On the other hand, let him grow more familiar with the lofty thoughts and aspirations of the gospel; let him discover more of the glory of Christ; let him derive from Him larger accessions of holy peace and joy; let the earth remove farther from his interior fellowship — and heaven, with all its bright anticipations, come into closer union with his understanding and his affections; and he will necessarily believe more of Christianity than he did before — he will know more of its hidden worth, as the increased purity of his affections is throwing down more of the barrier which sin had interposed between his soul and God; or, which is the same thing, between him and the richer parts of Christianity.
II. THE MORE LIMITED SENSE OF THE TERM FAITH, in the passage of Scripture before us. Faith in this chapter has special reference to those tenets of Christianity which unveil the future world — the triumph and the" rest" of the righteous; and in the text it seems to refer more specially to the confidence of the soul as to God's intentions to render it eternally happy. The man who thus confides believes that God is, not simply that He exists, but that He exists as a kind, compassionate, generous God, to the soul that seeks Him.
III. THE INFLUENCE OF THIS FAITH UPON OUR HABITUALLY PLEASING GOD. NO one can read the Scriptures with attention without being struck by the intense anxiety of God to produce and perpetuate confidence in His mercy and grace. The whole of God's intercourse with man is to excite his gratitude and attachment; to prove to him that God's thoughts, in reference to generosity and Compassion, are far higher than the thoughts of men; and to rectify the fatal mistake that happiness lies in external objects, and in the emoluments of earth. Christianity is the exhibition of the Divine character. Its chief feature is holy mercy. Hence faith is essential to our intercourse with God. He who doubts God's goodness, he who voluntarily severs himself from God's care, and casts himself as an orphan upon his own resources, thus forces back the hand which is lifted up in his defence, and rejects the succours of omnipotence. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Is it then presumption to believe God's assurances, and to rest the full burden of our hopes upon His promises? Shall we still cling to the deceptive assurances of the world, and rest upon the poor broken reeds of earth? Earthly blessings, moderately enjoyed and gratefully received, may embellish and smooth in part the rugged journey of life; but they cannot build up a final dwelling-place; they cannot occupy the place of God in the heart; they cannot fill up the deep void which sin has left in the human soul. They can have no fellowship with all its inner necessities. They can carry no balm to the wounds of conscience; they can draw out no sting from death; they can achieve no victory over the grave. This is the work of God; this is the victory of Jesus Christ! Thrice happy those whom God has made willing to confide in His power. "Their defence is the munition of rocks." The outward walls may crumble to decay; but nought can touch "their citadel of peace in Jesus's blood."
(G. T. Noel, M. A.)I. WE WILL CONSIDER THE CAUSE OF FAITH, OR THE ARGUMENT WHEREBY IT IS WROUGHT.
1. Sense; hence it is commonly said that "seeing is believing," that is, one of the best arguments to persuade us of anything. That faith may be wrought by this argument appears both from the nature of the thing, nothing being more apt to persuade us of anything than our senses, and from several expressions in Scripture. I will instance in one for all (John 20:8).
2. Experience, which, though it may be sensible, and then it is the same argument with sense, yet sometimes it is not, and then it is an argument distinct from it. As for example, a man may by experience be persuaded or induced to believe this proposition — that his will is free, that he can do this, or not do it; which is a better argument than a demonstration to the contrary, if there could be one.
3. Reasons drawn from the thing; which may either be necessary and concluding, or else only probable and plausible.
4. The authority and testimony of some credible person. Now two things give authority and credit to the relation, or testimony, or assertion of a person concerning anything; ability and integrity.
II. The second thing to be considered is THE DEGREES OF FAITH, AND THE DIFFERENCE OF THEM. NOW the capacity or incapacity of persons are infinitely various, and not to be reduced to theory; but supposing a competent capacity in the person, then the degrees of faith or persuasion take their difference from the arguments, or motives, or inducements which are used to persuade. Where sense is the argument, there is the firmest degree of faith, or persuasion. Next to that is experience, which is beyond any argument or reason from the thing. The faith or persuasion which is wrought in us by reasons from the thing, the degrees of it are as the reasons are: if they be necessary and concluding, it is firm and certain in its kind; if only probable, according to the degrees of probability, it hath more or less of doubting mixed with it. Lastly, the faith which is wrought in us by testimony or authority of a person takes its degrees from the credit of a person, that is, his ability and integrity. Now because "all men are liars," that is, either may deceive, or be deceived, their testimony partakes of their infirmity, and so doth the degree of persuasion wrought by it; but God being both infallible and true His testimony begets the firmest persuasion, and the highest degree of faith in its kind. But then it is to be considered, that there not being a revelation of a revelation in infinitum, that this is a Divine testimony and revelation we can only have rational assurance; and the degree of the faith or persuasion which is wrought by a Divine testimony will be according to the strength of the arguments which we have to persuade us that such a testimony is Divine.
III. For the efficacy or operation of faith we are to consider, THAT THE THINGS WE MAY BELIEVE OR BE PERSUADED OF ARE OF TWO SORTS. Either,
1. They are such as do not concern me; and then the mind rests in a simple belief of them, and a faith or persuasion of such things has no effect upon me; but is apt to have, if ever it happen that the matter do concern me: or else,
2. The thing I believe or am persuaded of doth concern me; and then it hath several effects according to the nature of the thing I am persuaded of, or the degree of the persuasion, or the capacity of the person that believes or is persuaded. If the thing believed be of great moment the effect of the faith is proportionable, and so according to the degree of the persuasion; but if the person be indisposed to the proper effects of such a persuasion by the power of contrary habits, as it often happens, the effect will be obtained with more difficulty, and may possibly be totally defeated by casting off the persuasion; for while it remains it will operate, and endeavour and strive to work its proper effect.
IV. FOR THE KINDS OF FAITH, THEY ARE SEVERAL, ACCORDING TO THE VARIETY OF OBJECTS OF THINGS BELIEVED. I shall reduce them all under these two general heads.
1. Faith is either civil or human, under which I comprehend the persuasion of things moral, and natural, and political, and the like; or,
2. Divine and religious; that is, a persuasion of things that concern religion. I know not whether these terms be proper, nor am I very solicitous, because I know none fitter, and tell you what I mean by them.
(Abp. Tillotson.)I. A PERSUASION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL RELIGION, such as the light of nature could discover; such are the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state.
1. Whether it may truly and properly be called faith or not? If the general notion of faith which I have fixed before, viz., that it is a persuasion of the mind concerning anything, be a true notion of faith, then there is no doubt but this may as properly be called faith, as anything can be; because a man may be persuaded in his mind concerning these things that there is a God, that our souls are immortal, that there is another state after this life. But besides this, if the Scripture speaks properly, as we have reason to believe it does, especially when it treats professedly of anything as the apostle here does, then this question is fully decided; for it is evident to any one that will but read this verse that the apostle doth here in this place speak of this kind of faith; that is, a belief or persuasion of the principles of natural religion.
2. What are the arguments whereby this faith, or the persuasion of these principles of natural religion, is wrought? They are such reasons as may be drawn from things themselves to persuade us hereof; as either from the notion and idea which we have of a God, that He is a being that hath all perfections, whereof necessary existence is one, and consequently that He must be; or else from the universal consent of all nations, and the generality of persons agreeing in this apprehension, which cannot be attributed reasonably to any other cause than to impressions stamped upon our understandings by God Himself; or (which is most plain of all) from this visible frame of the world, which we cannot, without great violence to our understandings, impute to any other cause than a Being endowed. with infinite goodness, and power, and wisdom, which is that we call God. As for the other two principles of natural religion, the immortality of the soul, and a future state, after we believe a God we may be persuaded of these from Divine revelation; and that doth give us the highest and firmest assurance of them in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
3. Whether this faith or persuasion of the principles of natural religion admit degrees or not? And what differences are observable in them? That it does admit degrees, that is that a man may be more or less persuaded of the truth of those principles, is evident from the heathens, some of whom did yield a more firm and unshaken assent to them; others entertained them with a more faint persuasion of them, especially of the immortality of the soul and a future state, about which most of them had many qualms and doubts. Of all the heathens Socrates seems to have had the truest and firmest persuasion of these things; which he did not only testify in words, but by the constancy, and calmness, and sedate courage which he manifested at his death. So that this faith and persuasion admits of degrees the difference whereof is to be resolved partly into the capacity of the persons who believe, and partly into the strength, or at least appearance of strength, in the arguments whereby it is wrought.
4. What are the proper and genuine effects of this faith or persuasion? Now that, in a word, is natural religion which consists in apprehensions of God suitable to His nature, and affections towards Him suitable to these apprehensions, and actions suitable to both.
5. In what sense this faith or persuasion of the principles of natural religion may be said to be Divine? In these two respects:(1) In respect of the object of it, or matters to be believed, which are Divine, and do immediately concern religion, in opposition to that which I call a civil and human faith, which is of such things as do not immediately concern God and religion.(2) In respect of the Divine effect of it, which are to make men religious, and like God.
II. The second sort of faith, which I call A PERSUASION OF THINGS SUPERNATURALLY REVEALED, OF THINGS WHICH ARE NOT KNOWN BY NATURAL LIGHT, BUT BY SOME MORE IMMEDIATE MANIFESTATION AND DISCOVERY FROM GOD. Thus we find our Saviour (Matthew 16:15-17), opposeth Divine revelation to the discovery of natural reason and light.
1. Whether this may truly and properly be called faith? And that it may is evident, because the general definition of faith agrees to it; for a man may be persuaded in his mind concerning things supernaturally revealed; and the Scripture everywhere calls a persuasion of these matters by the name of faith. Bat besides this, it seems this is the adequate and only notion of faith as it hath been fixed by the schools, and is become a term of art. For the definition that the schools give of faith is this, that it is an assent to a thing credible, as credible. Now, say they, that is credible which relies upon the testimony of a credible person; and consequently a human faith is that which relies upon human testimony; and a Divine faith that which relies upon the testimony or authority of God.
2. What is the argument whereby this faith or persuasion of things supernaturally revealed is wrought in us? And this, by the general consent of all, is the testimony or authority of God some way or other revealing these things to us; whose infallible and unerring knowledge, together with His goodness and authority, gives us the highest assurance that He neither can be deceived Himself, nor will deceive us in anything that He reveals to us.
3. As to the degrees of this faith. Supposing men sufficiently satisfied that the Scriptures are the Word of God, that is, a Divine revelation; then all those who are sufficiently satisfied of this do equally believe the things contained in the Scriptures. Supposing any man be unsatisfied, and do make any doubt whether these books called Holy Scriptures, or any of them, be the Word of God, that is a Divine revelation; proportionably to the degree of his doubting concerning the Divine authority of the Scriptures, there will be an abatement of his faith as to the things contained in them. And upon this account I think it is that the Scripture speaks of degrees of faith; of growing and increasing in faith; of a strong faith; and of a weak faith, that is such a faith as had a great mixture of doubting; by which we are not to understand that they doubted of the truth of anything of which they were satisfied by a Divine revelation; but that they doubted whether such things were Divine revelations or not.
4. What are the proper and genuine effects of this faith? The proper and genuine effects of the belief of the Scriptures in general is the conformity of our hearts and lives to what we believe; that is, to be such persons and to live such lives as it becomes those who do heartily believe, and are really persuaded of the truth of the Scriptures. And if this be a constant and abiding persuasion it will produce this effect; but with more or less difficulty according to the disposition of the subject, and the weakness or strength of contrary habits and inclinations. More particularly the effects of this faith are according to the nature of the matter believed. If it be a history or relation of things past, or prophecy of things to come, it hath an effect upon men so far as the history or prophecy doth concern them. If it be a doctrine, it hath the effect which the particular nature and tendency of such a doctrine requires.
5. In what sense this faith of things supernaturally revealed may be said to be a Divine faith? blot only in respect of the matter and object of it, which are Divine things, such as concern God and religion and in respect of the Divine effects it hath upon those who believe these things (for in these two respects a persuasion of the principles of natural religion may be said to be a Divine faith); but likewise in respect of the argument whereby it is wrought, which is a Divine testimony.
(Abp. Tillotson.)I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY A DIVINE REVELATION. A supernatural discovery or manifestation of things to us. I say supernatural because it may either be immediately by God, or by the mediation of angels; as most if not all the revelations of the Old Testament were; a supernatural discovery or manifestation, either immediately to our minds and inward faculties, or else mediately to our understandings, by the mediation of our outward senses; as by an external appearance to our bodily eyes, or by a voice and sound to the sense of hearing.
II. WHETHER A PERSUASION OF A DIVINE REVELATION MAY PROPERLY RE CALLED FAITH? To this I answer, that according to the narrow notion of faith which the schools have fixed, which is an assent to anything grounded upon the testimony and authority of God revealing it, a persuasion of a Divine revelation cannot properly be called faith, because it is irrational to expect that a man should have another Divine revelation to assure him that this is a Divine revelation; for then, for the same reason, I must expect another Divine revelation to assure me of that, and so without end. But according to the true and general notion of faith, which is a persuasion of the mind concerning anything, a persuasion of the mind concerning a Divine revelation may as properly be called faith as anything else, if men will but grant that a man may be so satisfied concerning a Divine revelation, as verily to believe and be persuaded that it is so.
III. How WE MAY COME TO BE PERSUADED OF A DIVINE REVELATION THAT IT IS SUCH; or by what arguments this persuasion is wrought in us?
1. As to those persons to whom the revelation is immediately made, the question is by what arguments or means they may come to be assured that any revelation which they have is really and truly such, and not a delusion or imposture.(1) God can work in the mind of man a firm persuasion of a thing by giving him a clear and vigorous perception of it; and if so, then God can accompany His own revelations with such a clear and overpowering light as shall discover to us the divinity of them, and satisfy us thereof beyond all doubt and scruple.(2) God never persuades a man of anything that contradicts the natural and essential notions of his mind and understanding. For this would be to destroy His own workmanship, and to impose that upon the understanding of a man which, whilst it retains its own nature and remains what it is, it cannot possibly admit.(3) Supposing the thing revealed do not contradict the essential notions of our minds, no good and holy man hath reason to doubt of anything, whether it be revelation from God or not, of which he hath a clear and vigorous perception, and full satisfaction in his own mind that it is such.(4) A good and holy man reflecting upon this assurance and persuasion that he hath may be able to give himself a reasonable account of it, and satisfy himself that it is not a stubborn belief and an obstinate conceit of things without any ground or reason.
2. What assurance can other persons, who have not the revelation immediately made to them, have of a Divine revelation? To this I shall answer by these propositions:(1) That there are some means whereby a man may be assured of another's revelation that it is Divine.(a) Otherwise it would signify nothing, but only to the person that immediately had it; which would make void the chief end of most revelations, which are seldom made to particular persons for their own sakes only, but, for the most part, on purpose that they may be made known to others, which could not effectually be done unless there be some means whereby men may be assured of revelations made to another.(b) None could be guilty of unbelief but those who had immediate revelation made to them. For no man is guilty of unbelief that is not obliged to believe; but no man can be under any obligation to believe anything, who hath not sufficient means whereby he may be assured that such a thing is true.(2) The private assurance and satisfaction of another concerning a revelation made to him can signify nothing at all to me, to assure me of it. For what satisfaction is it to me that another may say he hath a revelation, unless I have some means to be assured that what he saith is true? For if I must believe every spirit, that is every man that says he is inspired, I lie open to all possible impostures and delusions, and must believe every one that either foolishly conceits or falsely pretends that he hath a revelation.(3) That miracles wrought for the confirmation of any Divine testimony or revelation made to another are a sufficient means whereby those who have not the Divine revelation immediately made to them may be assured that it is Divine; I say these are sufficient means of assurance in this case. But here we must distinguish between doubtful and unquestionable miracles.
IV. WHETHER THIS FAITH CONCERNING A DIVINE REVELATION MADE TO OTHERS NO ADMIT OF DEGREES? That it doth is evident from these expressions which the Scripture useth, of "increasing faith," of "growing in it," of "a weak and strong faith," all which plainly supposeth degrees. And here it will be proper to inquire what is the highest degree of assurance which we can have concerning a Divine revelation made to another, that it is such; whether it be an infallible assurance, or only an undoubted certainty.
1. That infallibility is not essential to Divine faith, and necessarily included in the notion of it; which I prove thus. Divine faith admits of degrees, as I have showed before; but there can be no degree of infallibility. Infallibility is an impossibility of being deceived; but there are no degrees of impossibility, one thing is not more impossible than another; but all things that are impossible are equally so.
2. That the assurance which we have of the miracles wrought for the confirmation of the gospel is not an infallible assurance.
3. That an undoubted assurance of a Divine revelation that it is such, is as much as in reason can be expected. No man pretends to a Divine revelation that there is a God; but only to have rational satisfaction of it, such as leaves no just or reasonable cause to doubt of it. And why then should any desire greater assurance of a Divine revelation than he hath of a God?
4. An undoubted assurance is sufficient to constitute a Divine faith. Do not men venture their estates in traffic to places they never saw, because they have it from credible persons that there are such places, and they have no reason to doubt their testimony; and why should not the same assurance serve in greater matters if an undoubted assurance of a lesser benefit and advantage will make men venture as much? Why should any man desire greater assurance of anything than to have no just reason to doubt it; why more than so much as the thing is capable of? I shall only add this: that nothing hath been more pernicious to Christian religion than the vain pretences of men to greater assurance concerning things relating to it than they can make good; the mischief of which is this — that when discerning and inquisitive men find that men pretend to greater matters than they can prove, this makes them doubt of all they say, and to call in question Christianity itself. Whereas if men would be contented to speak justly of things, and pretend to no greater assurance than they can bring evidence for, considerate men would be apt to believe them.
V. WHAT IS THE PROPER AND GENUINE EFFECT OF THIS FAITH OF A DIVINE REVELATION? I answer, a compliance with the design and intention of it.
VI. IN WHAT RESPECT THIS MAY BE CALLED A DIVINE FAITH. TO this I answer, not only in respect of the object of it, and the argument whereby it is wrought, and the effect of it; but, likewise, in respect of the author and efficient of it, which is the Divine Spirit.
(Abp. Tillotson.)I. IN RESPECT OF THE OUTWARD EVIDENCE WHICH THE SPIRIT OF GOD GIVES US TO PERSUADE US TO BELIEVE. And if this be not that which divines mean by the testimony of the Spirit in this matter, yet I think it is that which may most properly be so called. Now the Spirit of God did outwardly testify concerning Jesus, that He was the Messias, and came from God; and that the doctrine which He taught was Divine.
1. In the voice from heaven, which accompanied the descending of the Spirit upon Him (Matthew 3:17).
2. In those miracles which Christ Himself wrought by the Spirit of God, which were so eminent a testimony of the Spirit of God, that the resisting of the evidence of those miracles, and the attributing of them to the devil, is by our Saviour called a blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
3. In the great miracle of His resurrection from the dead.
4. In the effusion of the Spirit upon the apostles, who were to preach Christ and His doctrine to the world; and that it might carry its evidence along with it.
II. FAITH IS IN A PECULIAR MANNER ATTRIBUTED TO THE SPIRIT OF GOD, IN RESPECT OF THE INWARD EFFICACY AND OPERATION OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT UPON THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THOSE WHO SINCERELY AND EFFECTUALLY BELIEVE AND ENTERTAIN THE GOSPEL.
1. By strengthening the faculty, that is, raising and enabling our understanding to yield assent to the gospel. God is said, in Scripture, to "enlighten the eyes of our understandings," which we may, if we please, understand in this sense; although that may be done by propounding such truths to us as we were ignorant of before, and could not have discovered, unless they had been revealed.
2. By enlightening and discovering the object, or thing to be believed. In the case we are speaking of, the object or thing to be believed is the gospel: now we may imagine the Spirit of God may work a faith or persuasion of this in us, by revealing or discovering to us this proposition, that the gospel is true.
3. By propounding and offering to us such arguments and evidence as are apt to persuade us of the truth of the gospel. And this, the Spirit of God, which inspired the writers of the Scripture, doth mediately by the Scriptures, and those characters of Divinity which are in the doctrines contained in them; and by those miracles which are there credibly related to be wrought by the Spirit of God, for the confirmation of that doctrine. And besides this, the Spirit of God may, when He pleaseth, and probably often doth, immediately suggest those arguments to our minds, and bring them to our remembrance.
4. By holding our minds intent upon this evidence, till it hath wrought its effect upon us.
5. By removing the impediments which hinder our effectual assent to the gospel. And in this and the last particular I conceive the work of the Spirit of God, in the producing of faith, principally to consist.
6. By furthering and helping forward the efficacy of this persuasion upon our hearts and lives, in the first work of conversion and regeneration, and in the progressive work of sanctification afterward, both which the Scripture doth everywhere attribute to the Spirit of God, as the author and efficient cause.Lessons: —
1. We may learn from hence to attribute all the good that is in us, or that we do in any kind, to God.
III. THOUGH "FAITH" BE "THE GIFT OF GOD," YET THOSE THAT BELIEVE NOT ARE FAULTY UPON THIS ACCOUNT, THAT THEY QUENCH AND RESIST THE BLESSED MOTIONS OF GOD'S SPIRIT, and the influence and operation of the Spirit of God, which accompany the truth of the gospel to the minds of men, and produce their effect wherever they are not opposed and rejected by the prejudice and perverseness of men.
IV. Let us depend upon God for every good gift, and EARNESTLY BEG THE ASSISTANCE AND INFLUENCE OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT, WHICH IS SO NECESSARY TO US TO BEGET FAITH IN US, AND TO PRESERVE AND MAKE IT EFFECTUAL UPON OUR HEARTS AND LIVES. Bread is not more necessary to the support of our natural life, than the Holy Spirit of God to our spiritual life. For our encouragement to ask this gift of God's Holy Spirit, our Saviour hath told us that God is very ready to bestow it upon us (Luke 11:11-13).
(Abp. Tillotson.): —
I. WITHOUT FAITH THERE CAN BE NO RELIGION. And this will appear by inquiring into the nature of all human actions, whether civil or religious; and this is common to both of them, that they suppose some kind of faith or persuasion. For example, husbandry, or merchandise; no man will apply himself to these, but upon some belief or persuasion of the possibility and necessity, or at least usefulness and convenience, of these to the ends of life. So it is in Divine and religious things; nothing is done without faith. No man will worship God unless he believe there is a God; unless he be persuaded there is such a being, which, by reason of his excellency and perfection, may challenge our veneration; and unless he believe the goodness of this God, that "He will reward those that diligently serve Him." So likewise no man can entertain Christ as the Messias and Saviour of the world, and yield obedience to His laws, unless he believes that He was sent of God, and ordained by Him to be a Prince and a Saviour. So that you see the necessity of faith to religion.
II. THE INFLUENCE THAT A DIVINE FAITH HATH UPON MEN TO MAKE THEM RELIGIOUS.
1. A true Divine faith supposeth a man satisfied and persuaded of the reasonableness of religion. He that verily believes there is a God, believes there is a being that hath all excellency and perfection, that is infinitely good, and wise, and just, and powerful, that made and preserves all things. Now he that believes such a Being as this, cannot but think it reasonable that He should be esteemed and adored by all those creatures that are sensible and apprehensive of these excellences; not only by constant praise of Him, but by a universal obedience to His will, and a cheerful submission to His pleasure. For what more reasonable than gratitude? And seeing He is truth itself, and hath been pleased to reveal His will to us, what can be more reasonable than to believe all those discoveries and revelations which " God, who cannot lie," hath made to us, and to comply with the intention of them? And seeing He is the original pattern of all excellency and perfection, what can be more reasonable than to imitate the perfections of the Divine nature, and to endeavour to be as like God as we can? And these are the sum of all religion.
2. A true Divine faith supposeth a man satisfied and persuaded of the necessity of religion; that is, that it is necessary to every man's interest to be religious; that it will be highly for our advantage to be so, and eminently to our prejudice to be otherwise; that if we be so we shall be happy, if we be not we shall be miserable and undone for ever.(1) From the nature and reason of the thing. Every man that believes a God, must believe Him to be the supreme good; and the greatest happiness to consist in the enjoyment of Him; and a separation from Him to be the greatest misery. Now God is not to be enjoyed but in a way of religion. Holiness makes us like to God, and likeness will make us love Him; and love will make us happy in the enjoyment of Him; and without this it is impossible to be happy.(2) Every man who believes the revelations which God hath made, cannot but be satisfied how much religion is his interest from the promises and threatenings of God's Word. APPLICATION:
1. This shows why there is so little of true religion in the world; it is for want of faith, without which it is impossible for men to be religious. If men were verily persuaded that the great, and holy, and just God looks continually upon them, and that it is impossible to hide from Him anything that we do, they would not dare to commit any sin in His sight, and under the eye of Him who is their Father and Master, their Sovereign and their Judge, their Friend and Benefactor; who is invested with all these titles, and stands to us in all these relations, which may challenge reverence and respect. Did men believe that they shall live for ever, and that after this short life is ended they must enter upon eternity; did men believe this, would they not with all possible care and diligence endeavour to attain the one and avoid the other? Did men believe the Scripture to be the Word of God, and to contain matters of the highest importance to our everlasting happiness, would they neglect it and lay it aside, and study it no more than a man would do an almanac out of date.
2. If faith have so great an influence upon religion, then the next use shall be to persuade men to believe. No man can be religious that doth not believe these two things:(1) The principles of natural religion — that there is a God; that His soul is immortal; and that there are future rewards.(2) That the Scriptures are the Word of God; or, which comes all to one, that the doctrine contained in them is a Divine revelation. Therefore whoever would persuade men to be religious, he must begin here; and whoever would improve men in religion and holiness, he must labour to strengthen this principle of faith.
I. First, for the EXPOSITION. What is faith?
1. The first thing in faith is knowledge. "Search the Scriptures," then, "for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Christ"; and by reading cometh knowledge, and by knowledge cometh faith, and through faith cometh salvation.
2. But a man may know a thing, and yet not have faith. I may know a thing, and yet not believe it. Therefore assent must go with faith; that is to say, what we know we must all agree unto, as being most certainly the verity of God.
3. But a man may have all this, and yet not possess true faith; for the chief part of faith lies in the last head, namely, in an affiance to the truth; not the believing it merely, but the taking hold of it as being ours, and in the resting on it for salvation. Recumbency on the truth was the word which the old preachers used. You will understand that word. Leaning on it; saying, "This is truth, I trust my salvation on it." Now, true faith, in its very essence rests in this — a leaning upon Christ. It will not save me to know that Christ is a Saviour; but it will save me to trust Him to be my Saviour.
II. And now we come to the ARGUMENT — why, without faith, we cannot be saved.
1. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." And I gather it from the fact that there never has been the case of a man recorded in Scripture who did please God without faith.
2. But the next argument is, faith is the stooping grace, and nothing can make man stoop without faith. Now, unless man does stoop, his sacrifice cannot he accepted. The angels know this. When they praise God, they do it veiling their faces with their wings. The redeemed know it. When they praise God, they cast their crowns before His feet.
3. Faith is necessary to salvation, because we are told in Scripture that works cannot save. To tell a very familiar story, and even the poorest may not misunderstand what I say: a minister was one day going to preach. He climbed a hill on his road. Beneath him lay the villages, sleeping in their beauty, with the cornfields motionless in the sunshine; but he did not look at them, for his attention was arrested by a woman standing at her door, and who, upon seeing him, came up to him with the greatest anxiety, and said, "Oh, sir, have you any keys about you? I have broken the key of my drawers, and there are some things that I must get directly." Said he, "I have no keys." She was disappointed, expecting that every one would have some keys. "But suppose," he said, "I had some keys, they might not fit your lock, and therefore you could not get the articles you want. But do not distress yourself, wait till some one else comes up. But," said he, wishing to improve the occasion, "have you ever heard of the key of heaven?" "Ah! yes," she said, "I have lived long enough, and I have gone to church long enough, to know that if we work hard and get our bread by the sweat of our brow, and act well towards our neighbours, and behave, as the catechism says, lowly and reverently to all our betters, and if we do our duty in that station of life in which it has pleased God to place us, and say our prayers regularly, we shall be saved." "Ah!" said he, "my good woman, that is a broken key, for you have broken the commandments, you have not fulfilled all your duties. It is a good key, but you have broken it." "Pray, sir," said she, believing that he understood the matter, and looking frightened, "What have I left out? .... Why," said he, "the all-important thing, the blood of Jesus Christ. Don't you know it is said, the key of heaven is at His girdle; He openeth, and no man shutteth; He shutteth, and no man openeth"? And explaining it more fully to her, he said, "It is Christ, and Christ alone, that can open heaven to you, and not your good works." "What, minister," said she, "are our good works useless, then?" "No," said he, "not after faith. If you believe first, you may have as many good works as you please; but if you believe, you will never trust in them, for if you trust in them you have spoilt them, and they are not good works any longer. Have as many good works as you please, still put your trust wholly in the Lord Jesus Christ, for if you do not, your key will never unlock heaven's gate."
4. Again: without faith it is impossible to be saved, and to please God, because without faith there is no union to Christ. Now, union to Christ is indispensable to our salvation. If I come before God's throne with my prayers, I shall never get them answered, unless I bring Christ with me.
5. "Without faith it is impossible to please God," because it is impossible to persevere in holiness without faith.
III. And now in conclusion, THE QUESTION, the vital question. Have you faith?
1. He that has faith has renounced his own righteousness.
2. True faith begets a great esteem for the person of Christ.
3. He that has true faith will have true obedience.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE APOSTLE ASSERTS THAT FAITH IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO THE PLEASING OF GOD.
1. For, first, without faith there is no capacity for communion with God at all. The things of God are spiritual and invisible; without faith we cannot recognise such things, but must be dead to them.
2. Without faith the man himself is not pleasing to God. Faith in Christ makes a total change in our position towards God — we who were enemies are reconciled; and from this comes towards God a distinct change in the nature of all our actions: imperfect though they be, they spring from a loyal heart, and they are pleasing to God.
3. Remember that, in human associations, want of confidence would prevent a man's being well-pleasing to another. When the creature dares to doubt his Creator, how can the Creator be pleased?
4. Unbelief takes away the common ground upon which God and man can meet. According to the well-worn fable, two persons who are totally different in their pursuits cannot well live together: the fuller and the charcoal-burner were obliged to part; for whatever the fuller had made white, the collier blackened with his finger. If differing pursuits divide, much more will differing feelings upon a vital point. It is Jesus whom Jehovah delights to honour; and if you will not even trust Jesus with your soul's salvation, you grieve the heart of God, and He can have no pleasure in you.
5. Want of faith destroys all prospect of love.
6. Want of faith will create positive variance on many points.
7. By what means can we hope to please God, apart from faith in Him? By keeping all the commandments? Alas! you have not done so. If you do not believe in Him you are not obedient to Him. We are bound to obey with the mind by believing, as well as with the hand by acting. Remember the impossibility of pleasing the Lord without faith, and do not dash your ship upon this iron-bound coast.
II. THE APOSTLE MENTIONS TWO ESSENTIAL POINTS OF FAITH. He begins by saying, "He that cometh to God must believe that He is." Note the key-word "must": it is an immovable, insatiable necessity. Before we can walk with God, it is clear that we must "come to God." Naturally, we are at a distance from Him, and we must end that distance by coming to Him, or else we cannot walk with Him, nor be pleasing to Him. Believe that God is as truly as you are; and let Him be real to you. Believe that He is to be approached, to be realised, to be, in fact, the great practical factor of your life. Hold this as the primary truth, that God is most influential upon you; and then believe that it is your business to come to Him. But there is only one way of coming to Him, and you must have faith to use that way. Yet all this would be nothing without the second point of belief. We must believe that "He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." We seek Him, first, when we begin by prayer, by trusting to Jesus, and by.calling upon the sacred name, to seek salvation. Afterwards we seek God by aiming at His glory, by making Him the great object for which we live.
III. WE WILL NOW GATHER A FEW LESSONS FROM WHAT THE APOSTLE HAS TAUGHT US.
1. First, then, the apostle teaches us here by implication that God is pleased with those who have faith The negative is often the plainest way of suggesting the positive.
2. Learn, next, that those who have faith make it the great object of their life to please God.
3. Next, note, the apostle teaches us here that they who have faith in God are always coming to God; for He speaks of the believer as "He that cometh to God." You not only come to Him, and go away from Him, as in acts of prayer and praise; but you are always coming; your life is a march towards Him.
4. God will see that those who practise faith in Him shall have a reward. God Himself is enough for the believer.
5. Those who have no faith are in a fearful case.
(C. H. Spurgeon.): — A New-Year's wish of Romaine for his people and for himself was: "God grant that this may be a year famous for believing." That is a wish that the most advanced century will never outgrow. Such a year will be famous indeed. Mighty works and mighty men are found where there is famous faith. The measure of the possibility of a year great in believing is the measure of the Infinite God Himself.
(Sword and Trowel.)
He that cometh to God.
I. The first postulate of prayer is BELIEF IN THE PERSONALITY OF GOD. If I think of God as a universal ether, as a highly-sublimated steam which pervades and works the machine of the universe, I can no more pray to Him than I could pray to the steam of the locomotive to put me down at such and such a station. If I think of God as an unconscious something, idea, or what else, which is necessarily and unconsciously developing itself into the universe, I can no more pray to that than I can to the principle of evolution. If God be not a person, if He be a mere force, as pray to that I might as well say to gravitation, which has broken my head, "Heal me," or to time, which has left me behind, "Wait for me."
II. We must not only believe that God is, but also that He is the rewarder of them that seek after Him, which involves as a second postulate of prayer that GOD HAS POWER TO HEAR AND ANSWER PRAYER. Prayer, it is said, has a great reflex action. It certainly has. Going over and giving .thanks for God's mercies excites my gratitude, even though there be no God to receive my thanks. But I would not so befool myself as to give thanks, if I did not believe God is to reward my thanks by receiving them. A celebrated scientific lecturer, while insisting on the operation of law, once said: "The united voice Of this assembly could not persuade me that I have not at this moment the power to lift my arm if I wished to do so." And if, in spite of gravitation, man has this power, surely we cannot deny a corresponding power to God. In answer to my child's prayer I can lift my arm, though gravitation operates to keep it down. And in answer to my prayer, God my Father, being no less personal than I, can do what is analogous to my lifting my arm. He can subordinate, combine His laws according to His mighty power and wisdom, so that, without dishonouring, but rather honouring them in using them, He brings about the result, which is the reward of my prayer.
III. But to reward, there must be something more than the power; there must be the grace. We note, then, as the third postulate of prayer, GOD'S WILLINGNESS TO REWARD. Some, learning that this earth is but a small part of the solar system, and the solar system but a mote in the sunbeam of the universe, say, with more than the psalmist's meaning: Well, what is man that God should be mindful of him, or the son of man that God should visit him? Why should God answer the prayers of one so insignificant? The question would have force if man were nothing more than matter. But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of God hath given him understanding; we are His offspring. A solar system, therefore, might expire, but it would touch God less than the cry of one of His children. Insignificant man is materially, but not spiritually. He has a quality transcending all matter; he has a life which shall flourish with immortal energy when the fires of the sun are sunk into cold ashes. God will hear His child, though the child be small. Ah, but we are sinful, and He is holy; will He suffer us to come near Him? Verily, God is willing that the sinful, being penitent, should draw near to Him. Why, has He not drawn near to them in every inviting word and gracious deed of prophet and saint? Has He not drawn near to them in Christ Jesus? Yea, does He not draw near to us sinful now? What is that loathing of sin which sometimes comes upon the sinner? What is that sense of shame and feeling of disgust which sometimes fills him? What is that longing for good, that wistful looking back to the days when the heart was pure? What are these but God coming to the sinner? What are our hungerings for righteousness, our longings for truth, our aspirations for goodness, but God in us, working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure? To meet, then, such operations is to fulfil His own desires; to reward such feelings is to satisfy Himself. If God has come thus to us, how can we doubt that He will reward us coming to Him? How can He deny our prayer, when to fulfil it is to fulfil His own will?
(A. Goodrich, D. D.)1. First, the belief in His existence is universal, and what is a universal belief has the force of a law of nature. This belief we see alike in the savage and the highly civilised. The soul has it sunk into itself that it is an uncompounded spiritual substance. But this impersonalness in the soul implies a personalness in Him who made it.
2. Our moral nature attests the same thing. Conscience in every man says: "Thou shalt and thou shalt not." We are conscious of responsibility, and this implies a personal being to whom we are responsible. This is the testimony of the moral nature. Besides, there is an instinct of the infinite in every mind. This, indeed, is the highest part of our nature. Unless there is an answering reality in God, that part is an enigma — eyes without light, lungs without air.
3. We see, thirdly, a progress in history. It is absurd to suppose that all the tangled elements of early European history — Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Scythian — of themselves made Europe's present civilisation, as to suppose that a combat of Arctic and Tropic winds could have made the Yale College of now.
4. We see, fourthly, the Scriptures coming to assert a God, not proving Him, but bringing Him to light; affording an explanation of all things in Him, and it is in a sense a proof.
5. We have, fifthly, evidence that God is of the highest purity and holiness. We must have that answering fact in Him, for it is in us. This leads us to ask how we may find Him? Discern Him? It is the greatest of questions, for all of our highest living depends on it.(1) We cannot find Him by the senses. We cannot see gravitation steady the mountains; we cannot hear light drop on the world, with its vivifying power. We can see the jewel, but not the crystallising power. Life shows itself in the flushing cheek, the beaming eye, the bounding step, but we cannot see it. We could not see it go if it should fly away from our dearest one. It eludes us, and so does God.(2) We cannot find Him by physical analysis. In Shakespeare's brain, the knife finds no Othello; in Raphael's, no mother and child; in Angelo's, no high poised dome; in Napoleon's, no moving armies, as if they were but fingers. That scientists cannot find God thus must grieve them, till they can pull out genius with a pair of forceps, or showy character and probe.(3) We cannot find Him by metaphysical analysis. We are to find Him rather through our highest part; through that in us which accords with Him. Love finds love. "The pure in heart shall see God." We see now why scientists do not find God. They do not use the right instruments. We cannot find love with a microscope, nor sweep up music with a broom. We see why the failures of scientists to find God do not discourage believers. It matters not to him who has seen them that a man pronounce Naples a dream of the fancy; Venice, that dream in stone, reposing ever in blessed stillness on its lagoons, a myth; Merit Blanc, as seen from Geneva, gleaming like the very throne of God on earth, a speculation. We see what a magnificent democracy God has set up on earth to come to this sublimest knowledge in the universe. No university lore, and no grand diploma are essentials. The poorest, the humblest, may have it. We see the sphere of the Church. The objective point is to bring to the world the capability of so seeing God, and then by all good ordinances and methods to develop this seeing of Him and growth toward Him.
(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)I. IT IS THE NATURE OF FAITH TO MAKE A MAN COME TOWARDS GOD, AND TO GET COMMUNION WITH HIM THROUGH CHRIST.
1. "What it is to come to God. Coming to God notes three things, for it is a duty always in progress.(1) The first address of faith. To come to God is to desire to be in His favour and covenant — to be partakers of His blessings in this life, and of salvation in the life to come (Hebrews 7:25).(2) Our constant communion with Him in holy duties. In all exercises of religion we renew our access to Christ, and by Christ to God; in hearing, as a teacher; in prayer, as an advocate for necessary help and supply; in the Lord's Supper, as the Master of the feast (Proverbs 9:2).(3) Our entrance into glory (Matthew 25:34).
2. There is no coming to God but by Christ (John 10:9), "I am the door"; there is no entrance but through Him (John 14:6).(1) By His merit. As paradise was kept by a flaming sword, so all access to God is closed by His justice; there was no pressing in till Christ opened the way, God became man, drawing near to us by the veil of His flesh (Hebrews 10:19, 20).(2) By His grace.
II. THAT THE FIRST POINT OF FAITH, IF WE WOULD HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOD, IS TO RELIEVE THAT THERE IS A GOD. This is the primitive and supreme truth, therefore let me discuss it a little; the argument is not needless.
1. Partly because the most universal and incurable disease of the world is atheism; it is disguised under several shapes, but it lies at the root, and destroys all practice and good conscience.
2. Because supreme truths should he laid up with the greatest certainty and assurance. Christians are mistaken very much, if they think all the difficulty of religion lies in affiance, and taking out their own comfort, and in clearing up their own particular interest. Oh, no; a great deal of it lies in assent; there is a privy atheism at the root, and therefore doth the work of God go on so untowardly with us — therefore have we such doubtings and so many deformities of life and conversation.
3. I would handle this argument, that there is a God, because it is good to detain the heart a little in the view of this truth, and to revive it in our souls.(1) That there is a God may be proved by conscience, which is as a thousand witnesses.(2) As conscience shows it, so the consent of all nations. There are none so barbarous, but they worship some God.(3) It may be evident also by the book of the creatures. Surely there is a God, because these things are made in such exactness and order.(4) Providence also discovers a God.
(T. Manton, D. D.)1. Only: "Aut Caesar, aut nullus" — Him only shalt thou serve. We must not with Ahaziah seek to Beelzebub, the god of Ekron: but to Jehovah, the God of Israel.
2. We must seek Him diligently, as Saul did his father's asses, the woman her lost groat: there must be no stone unrolled, as the Ninevites, who cried with all their might.
3. At all times. In health, in wealth, in honour (Hosea 5.). "In their affliction they will seek Me diligently: in health as well as in sickness." We will seek to a man so long as we need him: we need God at all times, therefore at all times let us seek unto Him.
4. In time, not as the five foolish virgins, who sought too late, and could have no admittance into the marriage feast.
(W. Jones, D. D.)
Believe that He is."they that worship God, must worship Him in spirit and in truth"; and that "there is none other name given among men, whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus"; you will perceive that the individual who unhappily abandons himself to spiritual indifference, must be necessarily, meanwhile, far from the kingdom of heaven. And if he believes not, therefore, in the God of the Bible, in what terms shall we address him, and what course shall we mark out for his guidance? Oh! the man must indeed be directed to "come to God"; but nothing beyond what is essential will be uttered, when, at the same time, he is informed that before he can "come to God," he "must believe that God is." And how frequently is it the case, that the most solemn words of prayer are repeated by the lips, and yet quite unfelt by the heart! Now, is it not so manifest as scarcely to require to be dwelt upon, that if God have connected a large amount of efficacy with earnest prayer, then they who, notwithstanding the proclamation, persist in disbelieving, either wholly or in part, the fact, do not recognise, in the object of their nominal adoration, the prayer-hearing "Lord of all power and might"; that imagination has created an unfaithful representation of Him; that thus the Divine reality is kept out of view; and that, accordingly, before they can "come to God," they must, in the first place, "believe that He is." Such, as you will perceive, is the doctrine of our text; wherein the apostle, who had, in the preceding verses, given two instances of the happy results of faith, remarks parenthetically, ere continuing his list, that, if destitute of this gift, man cannot possibly find acceptance; since, in order to his doing so, he must recognise the Deity — recognise Him, of course, as described in His holy Word; and must thus approach Him as "a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
(H. B. Moffat, M. A.)
(Dean Vaughan.)Jonah 1:5), every man to call upon his god; and lest they might all mistake the true God, they awaken Jonah to call upon his God.
(J. Trapp.)Thou to my God, as you do!"
(C. Stanford, D. D.)
(J. Home.)marvellous glory of all created things; therefore he comes to the conclusion that there is no God. So may the mole, who has never seen them, make sure there is neither king nor palace. Thou atheistic mole, who hast never travelled nor inquired enough to decide there is no God, all thou canst say is, that thou hast not yet seen Him, and hast no desire to see. How knowest thou that His existence is not so manifest beyond the river of death, and throughout the whole realm of eternity, that denial or even doubt is impossible. The mole may, of course, maintain that there is no Grand Lama in Thibet, because he has never been so far in his travels; but his testimony would have no sort of value. So the atheistic worm must have been through all the regions of death, misery and destruction, and explored all the realms of happiness through the Heaven of heavens, embracing in the circuit of his travels the whole of time and eternity, and able also to comprehend all the modes and forms in which it is possible for Deity to exist, before he can successfully deny the existence of a God.
(Christmas Evans.)your sister read the Bible?" "Because if she should once read it, I am sure it would do her good, and she would be converted and be saved." "Do you think so, Johnny?" "Yes,! do, sir, and I wish the next time there's a prayer-meeting, you would ask the people to pray for my sister that she may begin to read the Bible." "Well, well, it shall be done, John." So the teacher gave out that a little boy was very anxious that prayer should be offered that his sister might begin to read the Bible. John was observed to get up and go out. The teacher thought it very rude of the boy to disturb the people in a crowded room, and so the next day when the lad came, he said, "John, I thought it was very rude of you to get up in the prayer-meeting and go out. You ought not to have done so." Oh, sir," said the boy, "I did not mean to be rude; but I thought I should just like to go home and see my sister reading her Bible for the first time." Thus we ought to believe, and watch with expectation for answers to our prayer.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. G. Salter.)
Proctor's Gems.Canon Wilberforce, referring to the struggle preceding the abolition of the slave trade, said he was in a position to state that the leaders in that great movement never took a single step in it without earnest and constant communion with their Lord. On the very night when the leader went down to the House of Commons to plead with silver voice and tender eloquence for the abolition of the evil, on that very night in a little chamber there was gathered a band of praying men; and that night was the night of victory in the House of Commons.
A Rewarder. —
1. That every one might have a reward. No creature can be too great to be rewarded of Him, and the greatest needs His reward. On the other side, God is so gracious, as He accounteth none too mean to be rewarded of Him (1 Samuel 2:8; Luke 16:21, 22).
3. That the reward might be worth the having. For God in His rewards con-sidereth what is meet for His Excellency to give, and accordingly proportions His reward.
(W. Cilpin, M. A.)
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