"Without faith it is impossible to please Him." HEBREWS xi.6. "Follow peace with all...and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." HEBREWS xii. 14.
Faith in Christ. Faith is that act of the soul whereby it rests on Christ crucified for pardon and life, and that upon the warrant of the word. The person of Christ is the object of faith as justifying: secondly, Christ as crucified. First, the person of Christ, not any axiom or proposition in the word;--this is the object of assurance, not of faith. Assurance saith, I believe my sins are pardoned through Christ: faith's language is, I believe on Christ for the pardon of them....Not every one that assents to the truth of what Scripture saith of Christ doth believe on Christ.
This believing on Christ implies trusting recumbency on Christ. It is not the sight of a man's arm stretched out to a man in the water will save him from drowning, but the taking hold of it. "Let him take hold of my strength" (Isa. xxvii. 5). "I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim. i. 12). None will readily trust a stranger that he is wholly unacquainted with. Abraham went indeed he knew not whither, but he did not go with he knew not whom.
Faith and repentance. Repentance, this is a sweet grace, but set on work by faith. Nineveh's repentance is attributed unto their faith (Jonah iii. 5): "The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth." All is silence and quiet in an unbelieving soul: no news of repentance, no noise of any complaint made against sin, till faith begins to stir.
Faith and love. Love is another heavenly grace; but faith gathers the fuel that makes this fire. Speak, Christian, whose soul now flames with love to God, was it always thus? No, there was a time when thy hearth was cold, not a spark of this fire to be found on the altar of thy heart. How is it, then, Christian, that now thy soul loves God, whom before thou didst scorn and hate? Surely thou hast heard some good news from heaven, that hath changed thy thoughts of God, and turned the stream of thy love into this happy channel. And who can be the messenger besides faith, that brings any good news from heaven to thy soul? It is faith that proclaims the word, opens Christ's excellencies, pours out His name, for which the virgins love Him. When faith hath drawn a character of Christ out of the word, and presented Him in His love and loveliness to the soul, the Christian hath a copious theme to enlarge upon in his thoughts, whereby to endear Christ more and more to him."Unto you therefore which believe He is precious" (l Pet. ii. 7); and the more faith, the more precious.
Faith and a good conscience. "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck" (l Tim. i. 19). Wouldst thou preserve thy faith, look to thy conscience. A good conscience is the bottom faith sails in; if the conscience be wrecked, how can it be thought that faith should be safe? If faith be the jewel, a good conscience is the cabinet in which it is kept; and if the cabinet be broken, the jewel must needs be in danger of losing.
The Christian's care should be to keep, as his conscience pure, so his name pure, which is done by avoiding all appearance of evil. Bernard's three questions are worth the asking ourselves in any enterprise: An liceat? an deceat? an expediat? "Is it lawful?" May I do it and not sin? "Is it becoming me, a Christian?" May I do it and not wrong my profession? Lastly, "Is it expedient?" May I do it and not offend my weak brother?
Faith and prayer. True faith is prayerful; prayer is the child of faith. As the creature cannot pray without faith, so with faith he cannot but pray. The new creature (like our infants in their natural birth) comes crying into the world: and therefore Christ tells it for great news to Ananias of Saul, a new-born believer, "Behold, he prayeth!"
Faith enables the soul to persevere in prayer. "Will [the hypocrite] always call upon God?" (Job xxvii. 10). No, he prays himself weary of praying; something or other will in time make him quarrel with that which he never inwardly liked; whereas the sincere believer hath that in him which makes it impossible he should quite give over praying, except he should also cease believing: prayer is the very breath of faith; stop a man's breath, and where is he then?
Faith may live in a storm, but it will not suffer a storm to live in it. As faith rises, so the blustering wind of the discontented troublesome thoughts go down. Faith relieves the soul in prayer of that which oppresses it; whereas the unbelieving soul still carries about it the cause of its troubles, because it had not strength to cast forth its sorrows and roll its cares upon God.
Weak faith. Weak faith will as surely land the Christian in heaven as strong faith; but the weak, doubting Christian is not like to have so pleasant a voyage thither as another with strong faith. Though all in the ship come safe to shore, yet he that is all the way seasick hath not so comfortable a voyage as he that is strong and healthful.
As melancholy men delight in melancholy walks, so doubting souls most frequent such places of Scripture in their musing thoughts as increase their doubts.
"Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith!" (Matt. viii. 26). You see the leak at which the water came in to sink their spirits: they had "little faith." It is not what God is in Himself, but what our apprehensions at present are of God, that pacifies and comforts a soul in great straits. If a man fear the house will fall on his head in a storm though it be as immovable as a rock, yet that will not ease his mind till he thinks it so.
Bold faith. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. xiii. 5)_there is the promise; and the inference, which he teacheth us to draw by faith from this, follows (ver. 6), "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper." We may boldly assert it in the face of men and devils, because He that is almighty hath said it.
Faith is a right pilgrim-grace; it travels with us to heaven, and when it sees us safe got within our Father's doors it takes leave of us.
Holiness and happiness. "He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy" (Eph. i. 4). Mark, not because He foresaw that they would be of themselves holy, but that they should be holy; this was that God resolved He would make them to be. Consider it is not necessary that thou shouldst be rich; but it is necessary thou shouldst be holy, if thou meanest to be happy. You may travel to heaven with never a penny in your purse, but not without holiness in your heart and life also.
Holiness and contentment. "Godliness with content is great gain." The holy person is the only contented man in the world. Paul tells us "he had learnt in whatsoever state he was to be content."
Holiness in the home. It is in vain to talk of holiness if we can bring no letters testimonial from our holy walking with our relations. O, it is sad when they that have reason to know us best, by their daily converse with us, do speak least for our godliness! Few so impudent as to come naked into the streets: if men have anything to cover their naughtiness they will put it on when they come abroad. But what art thou within doors? Pray not only against the power of sin, but for the power of holiness. His zeal is false that seems hot against sin, but is cold to holiness.
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