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cometh, nor whither it goeth. Men of great learning and ingenuity, inquiring, like Nicodemus, How these things could be, but inquiring by their own self-sufficient light, have lost themselves in a profound, which they had not line enough to fathom. The salvation of some, the preterition of others, and the lapse of all, have been and still are enigmas, which no philosopher, however acute, has been able, on the principles of corrupt reason, to settle or explain. And God refuses to indulge, if not prohibits, the exercise of that fallen faculty, while he commands faith to receive the whole upon his own testimony, which limits all "curious and carnal" researches, by, I have said;-I have done ;t-I have made known;-And, Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.§
This name then, FAITHFUL, given to the children of God, is not an idle sound, meaning little or nothing, like the compliments and titles of men, but carries with it an idea of vast and sublime importance. They are faithful, because they live in and by faith, because they walk in faith, act by faith, hope in faith, rejoice in faith, wait patiently by faith, fight the good fight of faith, hold on and hold out by faith, gain the victory by faith, overcome death and the devil by faith, and at last by faith inherit the promises. Thus (according to the apostle) whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world, or all creatures which oppose salvation: and this is the
* Art. xvii. of the Church of England.
Jer. xl. 3. Deut. v. 27. Isa. xlv. 7. xlvi. 11.
↑ 1 Chron. xvii. 19. Prov. i. 23. Col. i. 27.
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith; because that unconquerable faith is born or produced in the soul by the unconquerable Spirit of God. The flesh is not set to fight the flesh, or the world, or the devil: it has neither will nor power for such a work. Faith, springing from a divine agent, and looking to a divine Lord, can alone perform this mighty task. These are great and wonderful things; and the precious faith of God's elect performs them all. It can remove mountains and cast them into the sea; that is, no difficulty or opposition to its life and interest can be so vast, but it is able to overwhelm and reduce it to nothing. And this it can do, because the almighty Christ by his Spirit is in it, gives it, works it, works in and by it; and finally makes those, who have it, conquerors, and more than conquerors, through HIMSELF that loved them. When a worldling attempts to conceive of faith, he takes it to be a mere notion, a bare assent to something credible and it amazes him when he hears or reads, that such mighty operations, as those abovementioned, are ascribed to the power of faith.* But the children of God know it to be substance indeed, and have experimental demonstrations of its power and reality; for the bestowment of which upon themselves they can bless their Saviour, though they cannot impart the blessing to others. This grace and benefit God hath reserved in his own hands, and bestows according to the good pleasure of his will through Jesus Christ.
The life of faith is a life of meek, quiet, childlike, dependence upon the covenanted truth and mercies of God * Heb. xi, 1.
in the Saviour of sinners. It is a life given, not earned. It is indeed impossible to earn that, which must be given before it can act, and, consequently, before it can pretend to earn: and when it is given, it is so far from presuming on its own merit or earning, that it runs to Christ for Fighteousness, grace, holiness, and every thing that is good. Nothing leads a man so entirely out of himself as true faith; and from this self-renunciation, as much, perhaps, as from any other exercise of it, may be discovered its real vigor and progression. The life of sense, or corrupt reason, on the contrary, proceeds upon self, and to self-determination, and consequently makes the mind its own factor to the augmentation of its own pride. He that lives thus upon self is and must be high-minded and full of his own importance; though, at the same time, all his conceit is vanity, and no solid certainty can arise from his reason in spiritual and heavenly things.*
When I ponder upon these matters, and upon all the manner of God's working in the hearts of his people for salvation, I cannot but breathe out an earnest prayer, that thus the Lord would accomplish in me, a poor helpless worm, all this his blessed work of faith with power. The more I look into myself, and especially under the liveliest impressions of his presence; the more wisdom, love, mercy, and unvarying benevolence do I perceive in this conduct of his beginning, continuing, and
*"'Tis not easy to conceive (said a very ingenious man) how widely reason may be mistaken; I mean the truest and best enlightened reason: or, what deceptions men may put upon themselves; I would say, the most accomplished and intelligent among men." BALZAC. Arist. disc. iv.
ending faith, within my own soul and the souls of his people. When I can act faith the most, then my prayers are most fervent, my activity and zeal the most ardent, my soul the most steady, and my desires for Christ, and none but Christ, the most animated and holy. Without faith, or its preception, all is drooping, dull, and dismal; and I may shake myself as at other times, like Samson, or employ myself in every means; but no strength or spirit remains for any exercise or trial of love and duty. I may go through the form indeed as before, and appear the same to other men; but I cannot be satisfied with this, or with any thing short of a tender access unto God, with the confidential liberty of a child, by the faith of Jesus.
Believer, I am persuaded, that I speak thy experience as well as mine. Thou art sensible of thine own weakness and manifold infirmities, by which thou art humbled in thyself, and driven to the Saviour. The law of works, broken, leaves thee no hope but in the law of faith, which preaches nothing but thy Redeemer. Thou canst, then, with the apostle, most gladly glory in thine infirmities; not for their own sake, but for the effect which grace produceth from them, in leading thee to the power of Christ, and in sheltering thee under his banner. Thus, when thou art weak, thou art strong; and when least in thyself, the greatest, and the safest, and most happy in him. Blessed paradox! none can explain it, but through a wisdom not their own: none desire it, but from the love of Christ, richly shed abroad within their hearts. O mayest thou, dear soul, go on with speed and success in this blessed way; and, by thy
earnest diligence of a lively faith, cleave with more and more full purpose of heart unto the Lord! He is faithful to his own faith bestowed, and will never cease till he crowns it with his glory, Look to him, then, with a single and patient eye; trust to him with a resigned simplicity and affection of heart: He will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. He cannot deny himself; he cannot relinquish his workmanship, his husbandry, his building: it shall never be charged upon him, that he was worse than his word, or that any one of the good things, which he hath promised for earth or heaven, hath not been fully made good to his redeemed, his faithful. Go on, I venture to beseech thee; go on, with all the privileged courage of faith; and, by faith, hold fast the beginning of thy confidence to the end. Soon shall all be answered; soon the truth of every promise proved; and soon thy soul made blissful and perfect for ever. O desirable state!-A state, for which thou art living, if living in thy right mind; and to which thou art hastening, in the Lord's own way and time. O may he bless thee, and receive thee at last to himself, among the Spirits of just men made perfect; the FAITHFUL, whose names are written in heaven!