It is evident, my friends, that Paul was the honored instrument in the hands of the Lord of planting the church of Christ at Galatia. He preached among them the word of the truth of the gospel, which he had received and been taught, not by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. And his labor among them was not in vain; for the Holy Ghost gave testimony to the word of his grace spoken by Paul, attending it with divine power, opening their hearts to receive the truth in the love of it. Most cordially and affectionately they received Paul as a minister of Christ; and such was their love to him for the truth's sake that if it had been possible they would have plucked out their eyes, and given them to him. And Paul dearly loved them; for, as he had begotten them by the word of truth, he knew they would be the crown of his rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus, as they were also the seals of his apostleship. On this account, therefore, he felt deeply interested in their present and eternal welfare.
But as the Apostle had other churches to water, there was a needs be for him to be absent from Galatia for a time. The Judaizing teachers, taking advantage of Paul's absence, found their way to Galatia, their object being to spy out the liberty they had in Christ Jesus, and to supplant Paul in the affections of the Galatians that they might make his labors among them unprofitable, and to bring the Galatians (before whose eyes Jesus Christ had been set forth crucified among them) into legal bondage. To accomplish their design, they exercise the wisdom of the serpent, and the caution of the fox; for they do not exclude Christ altogether; they knew that would be too barefaced; but, in addition to what Christ had done, they tell them, that "they must be circumcised and keep the law, or Christ will profit them nothing," which was as much as to say, 'Although you are justified by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, yet, unless you be circumcised and keep the law, you will not receive the least benefit whatever from what Christ hath done; it is true you are saved by Christ, and not by the works of the law, but there are certain things for you to observe and do; otherwise, what Christ has done will in your case be null and void.' This appears to me to be the tenor of their ministry: and their posterity to this day approve of their doings.
Now, as these Galatians were but babes in grace, and not men in understanding, they were not capable of detecting these ministers of Satan; and as there was something so feasible in what they preached, and being in their first love, rather than be excluded from any benefit in Christ, they would be circumcised again and again. Thus, as the serpent beguiled Eve, so were their minds beguiled (by these ministers of Satan) from the simplicity of the truth preached among them by Paul. But when Paul heard what was going on, he wrote this epistle to them; and, in the first place, he expressed his surprise that they should be so soon removed from him that called them into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. He also charged these ministers with the sin of witchcraft, and the Galatians with foolishness, in suffering these ministers to rule over them. But Paul finds that things have taken a turn; for the very same persons, who would have plucked out their eyes, and given them to Paul, now seek of him a proof of the Lord speaking by him; and he is become their enemy for telling them the truth. But none of these things move Paul; he loves them dearly still, and travails in birth again for them. But he will not connive at their folly in departing from the truth, nor give place to these ministers of Satan for one moment, that the truth of God might abide with them. He therefore wishes they were cut off that troubled them, and fearlessly pronounces a curse against either men or angels that should presume to preach any other gospel than that he had preached among them. He was at a point about what he preached; he knew from whence he received it, and by whom he was taught it; and tells them, that he received not his gospel of man, but was taught it by the revelation of Jesus Christ. He knew also, what the gospel had done for him, and for others through his ministry; he knew it to be the power of God unto salvation from experience; he knew it to be the ministration of righteousness, which delivers from the sentence of death in a broken law: from experience, he knew it to be the law of liberty, for it had freed his mind from the galling yoke of the law, and from all service in the oldness of the letter. This being the case, Paul was certain that this persuasion came not from God who had called them; he therefore wanted to know, 'If they are really so foolish, having begun in the Spirit to seek now to be made perfect in the flesh.' He then informs them of the consequence of submitting to the ordinance of circumcision; that by that act they became debtors to do the whole law, and by the law they would stand or fall. They preached, that unless a man be circumcised and keep the law, Christ would profit him nothing. Paul testifies to every one that is circumcised, that Christ is become of no effect unto him; for, says he, "whosoever among you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace," or apostatized from the doctrines of grace. And then, in order to show that justification is not by the works of the law, either moral or ceremonial, but by the free discriminating grace of God in Christ Jesus, he introduces the character of Abraham: and tells them, that "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness;" and "that all that are of faith are the children of Abraham." "And the scriptures foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed." "So then, they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."
Faith in Christ is essential to salvation; for "he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16) It is the gift of God to us, and stands alone in his power; it is the effect of his love to us, and of his ordaining us to life eternal before the world began; it is the witness within us that we have passed from death unto life never more to come into condemnation. It is faith that keeps a person from utterly fainting in the day of adversity, and from turning back to perdition in an hour of trial; and it is by this precious grace that the saints of God are kept unto eternal salvation, and without which it is impossible to please God; for "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23)
In speaking from the text, I will endeavor, first, to treat on faith; and secondly, on the blessing of Abraham.
In speaking of faith, I intend, 1, to treat on the work of faith; 2, on the trial of faith; 3, on the life of faith; and 4, on the triumphs of faith.
1. Now it is evident from scripture that the work of faith is to remove the bar of unbelief which bolts the heart against the truth. When this is done, the truth finds its way to the sinner's conscience, and makes him feel the state and power of truth; and what he feels that he believes. The word of God is said to be "quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword;" (Heb. 4:12) and he believes this, not merely because it is so recorded, but because he has found it to be so. It has quickened him to a feeling sense of his ruined state by nature and practice; it has been powerful in stopping him in his mad career, and bringing him to the bar of God with his sins standing in battle array against him. The wrath of God in his conscience; the arrows of the Almighty in his soul drinking up his spirit; the terrors of God make him afraid, and he trembles in himself that he might rest in this day of trouble. He confesses his sin, 'I have sinned, what shall I do?' He judges himself, "Woe is me, for I am undone!" He looks this way and the other way for a door of hope and way of escape, but there is none; the Lord has hedged him in, that he cannot get out. A solemn dread of the Almighty, a fear of death and dread of everlasting destruction, are subjects that occupy his mind both by day and night. This is faith in God, as he is revealed and made known to the sinner in a broken law; for, as yet, he has no faith in Christ the Mediator; his eye of faith has not yet seen the King in his beauty. No, that blessed vision is reserved to a future day.
Another branch of the work of faith, is to bring about a separation from the world; "Come out from among them, and be ye separate: touch not the unclean thing"--here is the command: "and I will receive you, saith the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:17)--here is the promise to induce them to comply with the command. But both commands and promises are ineffectual without faith; "Son, go work in my vineyard--here is the injunction; "I go, Sir" (Matt. 21:28-30) here is his promise to obey. But he went not. And why did he not go? For the want of that faith which overcometh the world; "For this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4) Which may be seen in Abraham leaving his native country; in Moses, in leaving Egypt; Ruth, in leaving Moab, and coming to a people that she knew not heretofore. Naomi's entreaties for her to cease from following her were useless; faith in her heart overcame the world, and it worked by love to Naomi, to her people, and to her God. It may be seen also in Matthew, in Zaccheus, and in the call of all the Apostles. John, as Peter saith, "forsook all" to follow Christ. And verily all such shall have their reward, "For I will be a Father unto them, and they shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord." (2 Cor. 6:18)
Another branch of the work of faith, is, to bring the ruined, helpless sinner to Christ for salvation with, "Lord, save, or I perish!" (Matt. 8:25) "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me," (John 6:37) saith Christ. "Every one that heareth and learneth of the Father cometh unto me." (John 6:45) But "he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6) Therefore, all who come to Christ must come by faith. We have an instance of this in the woman with the issue of blood; she had been afflicted with this malady for twelve years; she had tried many physicians, spent all her substance, and was nothing better, but rather grew worse. What conclusion could this poor creature come to, but that her malady was incurable! It had baffled the skill of every physician she had consulted, therefore it was an hopeless case. How frequently does the poor sensible seeking sinner draw the same conclusion respecting the state of his soul! He knows he is smitten with a dreadful malady; his loins are filled with a loathsome disease; the head is sick, and the heart faint, and his sore runs in the night, and ceases not; he tries many remedies, and consults many physicians; but the remedies are of no avail; and the physicians, if not forgers of lies, are physicians of no value. This is so discouraging, that he concludes that his wound is incurable, and that he shall go softly all his days in the bitterness of soul, and then lie down in sorrow. But, it appears, that just as the woman was giving up all hope of being cured, she hears of the fame of Jesus, that he went about doing good, and healing all manner of diseases among the people. "All manner of diseases"--mark that! This opens a door of hope; and what he doth is without fee or reward. How suitable! But this would have brought no comfort nor encouragement to her heart, had it not been for faith; and in her case faith came by hearing. It was good news and glad tidings brought to her ears, and in faith she received it. There are two striking features in this woman's faith; she believed her state to be entirely hopeless in respect to any help in, or from man; on the other hand, she as firmly believed, if she could but touch his garment, that she should be made whole. This made her to press through the crowd to get at the Saviour. In like manner, the poor coming sinner is fully convinced that he cannot help himself; and that "vain is the help of man;" but, on the other hand, that nothing is too hard for the Lord. He believes the righteousness of Christ is all-sufficient to justify; his blood to atone and cleanse from all sin, and redeem from going down into the pit; his love superabounding to pardon sin; and his mercy and strength all-sufficient to save the vilest of sinners; and he can say, in the language of the Poet--
"That He can, I nothing doubt,
Be it but His pleasure."
This will bring him to the Lord with, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean."
And this will lead to another branch of the work of faith, which is, to keep the sinner watching and waiting to know the will of God. He knows that, what the Lord can do, and what it is his pleasure to do, are two different things. He believes the Lord can save; but whether or not the Lord will display his power and manifest his mercy and save him, is what he is in anxious suspense waiting to know; and, if a person is kept long waiting here (and many are), faith is needed to prevent him from turning back, or sinking into hopeless despair, and thus fall after the same example of unbelief as those who brought up an evil report of the good land; and, on the other hand, to prevent them from rushing forward through pride into presumptuous sins, like those who went presumptuously up into the hill of the Lord. "He that hasteneth with his feet sinneth; (Prov. 19:2) but he that believeth shall not make haste." (Isa. 28:16)
Another branch of the work of faith, consists, in wrestling with the Lord. Hence arise those earnest cries; "Lord, have mercy upon me!" "Lord, help me!" "If thou canst do anything, have mercy upon me!" "Lord, save, I perish!" "O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me!" Faith will take no denial; for the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force of the prayer of faith. (Matt. 11:12) This may be seen in Jacob's case, when he wrestled with the Angel; and in the case of the Widow with the unjust Judge. Though for a time things were very discouraging, enough to dash all hope of success; yet her case being desperate, made her earnest in importuning the judge. And Christ tells us to "go and do likewise;" and saith, "Hear what the unjust judge saith; and shall not God avenge his own elect which cry unto him day and night? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily, although he bear long with them." (Luke 18:7,8) There is an appointed time to favor Zion; "The vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak, and not lie." (Habak. 2:3) For the Lord waits to be gracious; and he is exalted, that he may have mercy upon them; and he hath said, "Blessed are all they that wait for me!" (Isa. 30:18)
Another branch of the work of faith, consists, in laying hold of the Saviour; and in so doing, they lay hold on eternal life. Hence the counsel; "Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life." (1 Tim. 6:12) And John speaks of "handling the word of life." (1 John 1:1) There is much said by professors about taking hold of Christ, who is so freely given by the Father; and taking hold of the promises, so freely held forth in the word. But a man cannot take hold without a hand; nay, he may have a hand, but if that hand be paralyzed, he can do nothing; consequently, there is no taking hold of Christ, nor handling the word of life without faith. And there may be faith as a rooted principle in the soul, but the exercise of it depends upon the operation of the Holy Ghost. And when faith is not in exercise, (which is often the case), he can do no more in laying hold of Christ, and handling the word of life, than the man with his withered hand. But when the hand of faith is made strong by the Mighty God of Jacob, he can take hold of Christ; and hold him fast too; as the Church did, when she brought Him into her mother's house, and into the chambers of her that conceived her. He can also handle the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and that skillfully too. He can resist and withstand the devil with it; plead it before the Lord with success, and take the comfort of it to his own soul; in fact, nothing can stand before the word of God pleaded in faith; for "all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23)
Another branch of the work of faith, is, to clothe the soul with the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is revealed in the scriptures, and brought forth as the best robe in the ministry of the word. Faith, as an eye, views it; the soul craves an interest in it, and longs to be clothed with it. Faith, as a hand, receives it, and clothes the soul in it; for it is "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness;" (Rom. 10:10) it is "to all and upon all them that believe;" (Rom. 3:22) and in it "shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and in the Lord alone shall they glory." (Isa. 45:25) This is visible in the Church; for she saith, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and covered me with the robe of righteousness." (Isa. 61:10)
Another branch of the work of faith, is, to purge the conscience from dead works, from all hope and confidence in self, and in the dead letter of truth; to bring him off from every sandy foundation and out of every refuge of lies, that his whole trust and confidence may be in the Lord alone. And when this is done, he will serve the living and true God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. Faith will also, by applying the atonement of Christ, remove the burden and guilt of sin from the sinner's conscience, and produce in his soul joy and peace that is unspeakable and full of glory. He believes in the righteousness of Christ for justification, and in the blood of Christ for the pardon of sin, and deliverance from going down into the pit of hell. This is believing to the saving of the soul; and joy and peace is the blessed effect of such an act of faith. And, as faith works by love, it will purify the affections from idols; the love of the world will be cast out, the love of sin subdued, sinful and righteous self too will be dethroned, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
Another act of faith, is, to reconcile the sinner to God, and to all his dealings with him; to bring him into sweet submission to the will of the Lord, saying from the heart, "Not my will, but thine be done;" to enable him to trust in the Lord with all his heart, and not lean to his own understanding; looking to the Lord to make "darkness light, and crooked things straight," (Luke 3:5) according to his promise. Trusting in the Lord for "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come;" and to quietly wait and patiently hope for the Lord's appearing to deliver him out of all his troubles. These are some of the many acts of living faith in the heart.
2. The next thing we have to notice, is, the trial of faith. We are told, "the Lord trieth the righteous;" (Ps. 11:5) and "all the churches shall know that I am the Lord that trieth the hearts and reins;" in fact, "every man's work shall be tried of what sort it is." (1 Cor. 3:13) Therefore Peter cautions the saints "not to think it strange concerning the fiery trial which was to try them, as though some strange thing had happened unto them;" (1 Pet. 4:12) and tells them, that "the trial of their faith is much more precious than gold that perisheth." (1 Pet. 1:7)
But the Lord has various ways of trying the faith of his children. The Lord has promised to "pour out upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a spirit of grace and supplication;" (Zech. 12:10) and to give his good Spirit to instruct them in prayer; and to lead them with weeping and supplication to himself. But how frequently does the Lord delay to answer their prayers, until "hope deferred makes the heart sick;" (Prov. 13:12) and they conclude, with the king, that they shall "not see the Lord, even the Lord in the land of the living." (Ps. 27:13) In this way the Lord tried Habakkuk; for he said, "How long shall I cry, and thou will not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!" (Habak. 1:2) It appeared to him as if the Lord disregarded his cry altogether, and was determined not to grant him the least relief; and when he did answer, it was only to inform him that "the vision was yet for an appointed time." David was tried in the same way; for he said, "Save me. O God! For the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me; I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried; mine eyes fail while I wait for my God." (Ps. 69:1-3) "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God! I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not, and in the night season, and am not silent." (Ps. 22:1,2) The woman who came to Christ for a cure for her daughter was tried in this way. She cried, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me; for my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word; and the disciples, so far from assisting her, request the Lord to send her away, because she was a trouble to them. But he will not send her empty away, nor will he at present grant her request. He saith to his disciples, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 15:22-24) This was by no means encouraging to the woman, she being a Gentile by nation and birth, but was enough to damp her hope; still she cries, "Lord, help me!" And receives the following answer, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to the dogs." She saith, "Truth, Lord; yet dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their Master's table." "O woman, great is thy faith! Go in peace; and her daughter was made whole in that very hour." (Matt. 15:25-28) Thus, after the Lord had tried her faith, he answered her to the joy of her heart. It may be, I have some here this morning who have been convinced of sin, quickened to newness of life, led with weeping and supplication to Christ, and have sought the Lord with strong cries and tears; but can find no access to him, nor obtain any answer from him. The enemy tells you, 'That your prayers are but the prayers of the hypocrite; for, if the Lord was on your side, he would now arise for your help, and make your habitation prosperous; but as he does not appear for your help, that is a proof that your prayers are not the effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man; for they prevail not with God.' This is very trying; but faith endures the trial. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!" (Job 13:15) "Lord, to whom shall I go, for thou hast the words of eternal life!" (John 6:68) "I will cry unto God Most High!" "I will look again toward thy holy temple!" (Jonah 2:4) "I give myself unto prayer!" (Ps. 109:4) This is the language of faith in his heart. And, the circumstance of the Widow prevailing with the unjust Judge--Jonah being heard, and delivered out of the belly of hell, when, as he thought, the earth with her bars was about him for ever--Hezekiah prevailing with the Lord, when under the sentence and in the very agony of death:--these, and other similar instances of prevailing with God in prayer, under the most discouraging circumstances, are left on record to encourage perishing sinners to "continue instant in prayer;" and, as Paul affirms, "in due time ye shall reap, if ye faint not." (Gal. 6:9)
Again. The Lord sometimes trieth the faith of his children on the promise given. There may be some here this morning who have so far prevailed with God in prayer as to obtain a promise, as in Abraham's case. The Lord heard his prayer; and promised him a son; but he had to wait many years for the accomplishment of this promise, and against hope to believe in hope--against all hope in himself, and natural causes. He hoped in the Lord: and the promised power and faithfulness of his God was the anchorage of his hope. So it may be, you have received a promise in faith; and, like a little child, have hung on the promise--watching, waiting, and expecting the Lord to fulfill the promise; and have, again and again gone to the Lord, saying, "Be it unto me according to thy word!" "Remember the word unto thy servant on which thou hast caused me to hope!" (Ps. 119:49) But the Lord delays--things get darker, and seem to forbid the accomplishment of the promise: Satan comes in with, 'Ah! Where is now the promise of his coming!' (2 Pet. 3:4) And tauntingly saith, "Where is now thy God?" Unbelief falls in with Satan's suggestion; and the poor soul begins to fear that he is deceived altogether--that the Lord hath forgotten to be gracious--that his mercies are clean gone from him, and that his promise fails for evermore. In this trial he would utterly faint without faith; and what Mr. Hart saith of faith is a blessed truth--
"It lives and labours under load;
Though damp'd, it never dies."
It appears, that David was much tried in this way; for he saith on one occasion, "My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope in thy word!" (Ps. 119:81) Here we have the ground of his hope--God's word--first, Christ, the Incarnate Word; and secondly, the promise of God made to Christ and his seed for evermore. Christ dwelt in David's heart by faith; and in faith he had received the promise which gave rise to hope and expectation. But the Lord delays to fulfill his promise, till David's eyes fail, and his heart faints--so that he earnestly enquires when the Lord will comfort him? Joseph was likewise tried in this way. The Lord made known to him in two remarkable dreams that he would promote him to great honor: Joseph received these dreams as coming from the Lord; he anticipated their accomplishment, and he was not in the end disappointed. But before the word of the Lord came (that is, its accomplishment) the word of the Lord in the dreams tried him--for he had to wait thirteen years before his dreams were realized: he was seventeen years old when he had the dreams, and he was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh. What a dark, crooked, mysterious, intricate, and trying path was this young man led in during those thirteen years! Truly the Lord brought him by a way that he knew not, and led him in a path unknown to him. It was made known to him in the dreams that he should be brought to honor; but the pathway to this honor was not revealed to him in the dreams--that he had to learn by sorrowful and heartfelt experience. What a mysterious path he had to walk in! Sometimes it seemed impossible for his dreams to be fulfilled. Instance the case of his brethren casting him into the pit, saying, 'Let us do this thing; then we shall see what will become of his dreams?' And what could there be before the eyes of the lad at this time but speedy death? But the Lord raised him a friend in one of his brethren; and he was delivered out of the pit, and brought safely into Egypt, where he obtains favor in the eyes of his master. This was an opening in providence that appeared favorable for the accomplishment of the dreams; and, I doubt not, but Joseph pondered these things in his heart. But what a death-blow comes upon this! He is falsely accused of a crime, the punishment for which was death by law: no one to plead his cause, and prove his innocency, but the Lord. For this crime he was cast into prison, where he remained for upwards of two years with both body and soul in irons: nevertheless the Lord was with Joseph. The changes which he passed through were but so many links in the uniform chain of events to bring about the determinate counsel of God; and, as "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4)--"Be of good cheer: wait on the Lord, and he shall strengthen thy heart," all ye that hope in him: call upon his name--plead his promise--commit your way to him--look for his kind hand in all things, and watch unto prayer, and you will prove in the end that his promise can never fail; "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord!" (Ps. 107:43)
Again. The law in the members warring against the law of the mind, is another way in which the Lord trieth the faith of his children. The Canaanites that were left in the land were pricks in the eyes and thorns in the side of Israel; and by these things the Lord proved them. These were a plague and snare to Israel. Through them they were frequently drawn aside into forbidden paths, which brought the judgments of God upon the land, the rod of God upon their persons and substance, and bondage into their souls. The Canaanites were always laying in wait to beguile Israel into idolatry; and as Israel had a natural propensity thereto, they were easily entrapped in that snare. So the child of God has within a heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked. And how often does this deceitful wicked heart betray him into sin? His carnal mind he feels to be enmity against God, and not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom. 8:7) In a word, he feels that he has a flesh in which dwelleth no good thing, but every species of evil; pride, lusting after evil things; envious at the foolish; rebelling against the word, ways, and dealings of God with him; fretting against the Lord; murmuring, discontent, hard thoughts of God, and self-pity, which is the parent of rebellion and desperation, together with many more evils that lurk within. In consequence of these things, he cannot do the things that he would. He would do good, but evil is both present and prevalent; so that the good he would he does not, but the evil that he would not that he does. (Rom. 7:19) "Oh wretched man that I am!" Is the language of his heart--"Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24) Is the solemn inquiry. This is very trying; and his experience is fully described in the following lines by Mr. Hart.
"The dungeon op'ning foul as hell,
Its loathsome stench emits;
And, brooding in each secret cell,
Some hideous monster sits.
"Swarms of ill-thoughts their bane diffuse,
Proud, envious, false, unclean;
And every ransack'd corner shows,
Some unsuspected sin.
"Our stagg'ring faith gives way to doubt,
Our courage yields to fears;
Shock'd at the sight, we straight cry out,
Can ever God dwell here?"
David was also tried in this way; for he saith, in one of the Psalms, that his loins were filled with a loathsome disease; that his wounds stank and were corrupt; that his sore ran in the night, and ceased not. (Ps. 38:5-7) This was the cause of his trouble, his great casting down, and of his going mourning all the day long, saying, "All my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee; my heart panteth; my strength faileth; as for the light of mine eyes it also is gone from me." (Ps. 38:9,10) But faith endures the trials, and saith, "He will turn again: he will subdue our iniquities: and thou shalt cast them into the depth of the sea." (Micah 7:19)
Again. The Lord trieth faith by hiding himself in times of trouble; setting darkness in the midst of our path; hedging up our way with thorns, and causing the enemy to triumph over us. "Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself from the house of Israel, O God the Saviour!" (Isa. 45:15) This the prophet knew from personal experience. And David says, "Why standest thou afar off, O God? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?" (Ps. 10:1) (When thy presence is most needed.) David goes on to say, "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? For ever? How long shall thy wrath burn like fire? How long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? Where are thy former loving-kindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth? Where is thy zeal, and the sounding of thy bowels towards me? Are they restrained?" Job experienced the same, and wants to know, "Why light is given to a man whose way is hid; and life to the bitter in soul, whom God has hedged in?" (Job 3:23) And there are none who fear God, but know what it is to walk at times in darkness, and have not light upon their path. The way before them is dark, and so is the path behind; for they see not their signs, nor tokens for good. The days of prosperity are forgotten; and nothing but the wormwood and gall is remembered in this day of adversity. But faith endures, and exclaims, "This I call to mind, therefore have I hope. It is of thy mercies that I am not consumed, because thy compassions fail not; they are new every morning. Great, O Lord, is thy faithfulness." (Lam. 3:21-23)
Again. The Lord trieth faith by dark, trying, conflicting, and bereaving providences; his hand going out against us in everything we do; upsetting our projects, and blasting our prospects; till we are brought into the very spot where the Prophet was, when he said, "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath! He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, and not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day; he hath hedged me about that I cannot get out. He hath made my chain heavy; he hath enclosed my way with hewn stone; he hath made my path crooked." (Lam. 3:1-9) And very many crooks there are in this path, that none but the Lord can make straight.
One crook in this path, is, the Lord smiling in a way of providence upon the wicked; so that they who tempt God are delivered; while those who fear God, have not (like their Lord and Master,) where to lay their head. This was a knotty thing to Jeremiah, and he ventured (but with deep humility) to expostulate with the Lord upon the subject. Job evidently saw this to be the case; for, speaking of the wicked, he says, "The rod of God is not upon them; their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf." (Job 21:10) This was Asaph's trial; he saw the wicked with their eyes standing out with fatness, who had more than heart could wish; but himself chastened every morning, and plagued all the day. As soon as he opened his eyes in the morning, the straits and difficulties with which he was surrounded occupied his mind and thoughts; and as every day brought its trials, and presented new difficulties, he was plagued from morning till night. Others, as well as Asaph, have had to walk in this path, to drink of this bitter cup, and to contend with the crook the Lord hath made in the path; and many times have been so worn out with this heavy cross, that they have chosen strangling and death rather than life.
Another crook in this path, is this, the dispensations of God seem to clash with the word of God. The Lord's testimony of Job was, that "he was a perfect and upright man; one that feared God, and eschewed evil." This testimony was true; and yet the hand of God went out against him in body, soul, and circumstances. He was brought down from the pinnacle of prosperity into the depth of adversity; his children taken away by an untimely death; his body smitten with affliction; his wife turned against him; and all his familiar friends become to him like a brook that faileth; none to comfort or console him; and to add grief to his sorrow, the Lord withdraws from him, and his soul is laid in irons; He seeks the Lord, but cannot find him; he calls, but there is none to answer. Now the question is started, 'When were the righteous cut off?' When did any suffer being innocent? If you were the righteous character that you have appeared to be, would these heavy trials have come upon you?' Satan says, no; reason says, no; unbelief says, no; bystanders, both professed friends and open enemies, say, no. Thus "he that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thoughts of those who are at ease in Zion." (Job 12:5) In how many things did the providence of God towards his servant Job appear to run counter to the promise? For instance; "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Ps. 50:15)--here is the promise; Job calls, but there is none to answer--here is the conflict. "Seek, and you shall find--here is the promise; Job sought the Lord, but could not find him. "Who shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" (1 Pet. 3:13) Job is the character: and yet all these evils have befallen him! "The Lord God is a sun and shield; he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Ps. 84:11)--Job is the man; and yet he is stripped of everything that is dear to him both as a man and a christian, (except a good conscience;) and a full cup of wormwood and gall is wrung out to him! "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that walketh in his ways, for thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands; happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee; thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house; thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord!" (Ps. 112:1)--Job is the man; and yet the reverse of his was his experience! These things are very trying; and so Job found them. But it will not do to reason upon them. The Lord's "ways are in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known." (Ps.77:19) He that knoweth the end from the beginning knows how to bring out of evil; how to reconcile things that to us seem contradictory; and how to make darkness light and crooked things straight.
But it may be asked, 'Why does the Lord deal in this way with his children?' It is to try their faith, and exercise their patience; to prove their love to him, and their confidence in him; to purge away their dross and tin; to hide pride from man; to wean them from the world, from an arm of flesh, and from all confidence in the flesh; to show them the difference between a form of godliness and the power of it--between the knowledge of the truth in the letter, and an experience of it in the heart. It is to weaken our strength, to destroy our false hopes and carnal confidence, to confound our wisdom; and to give the Lord an opportunity to display his power when our strength is all gone; and his wisdom, when ours is confounded. In this way the Lord gets the glory, and we reap the benefit: and it is "By these things men live, and in all these things is the life of our souls."
The other part of the text I must leave till the Afternoon. May the Lord bless what has been said. Amen.
Those of you who were present this morning will recollect that these are the same words I then read as a text; and that I purposed speaking from them under the two following heads: first, to treat on faith; and secondly, on the blessing of Abraham. In speaking on the first head, namely, faith, I purposed, first, to treat on the work of faith; secondly, the trial of faith; thirdly, the life of faith; and fourthly, the triumphs of faith. You will recollect, also, that I concluded in the morning, after having spoken on the work and trial of faith. I will now, by the Lord's assistance, treat on the life and triumphs of faith; and then pass on to the blessing of Abraham.
The Prophet saith, "The soul that is lifted up is not upright within him; but the just shall live by faith." (Habak. 2:4) It is evident, therefore, that those who live by faith, do at the same time walk humbly with God: Paul quotes these words, and says, "The just shall live by faith." The soul does not feed on faith, but by faith. Faith is not the food, but that which brings the food into the soul; faith, as an eye, discovers the food; and as a hand, receives it, and feeds the soul with it. Every description of life requires food suitable to that life. Our natural life is fed with the fruits of the earth; and Solomon saith, "It is good for a man to eat and drink, and enjoy the fruit of his labour;" (Eccle. 3:13) and adds, "Whatsoever cometh more than this is vanity." Our old man being earthly, sensual, and devilish, and totally corrupt through its deceitful lusts--can relish nothing but earthly, sensual, and devilish things, which things God has forbidden. The Lord told Adam, that "Of all the trees in the garden he might freely eat, except the tree in the midst of the garden." These trees were quite sufficient for food for his life; but the serpent, through his subtlety, presented this one tree to the woman in such a point of light, as to beget lust in her heart after it; and when lust was conceived in her heart, sin was actually brought forth in her partaking of it; and thus, lust, and lusting after evil things, is in the hearts of all men, both good and bad; and the desires of this old man are enlarged as hell; and there are those properties in the life of this old man, that you can neither starve him nor satisfy him; you may fast till you have not strength to stand, and the old man will be found as vigorous as ever; and, as hell and destruction are never full, so the heart of man is never satisfied--"Give, give," is the language of the heart; but it never saith, "it is enough!" That which is sweet and strengthening to the old man, is poison, or, at least, sorrowful meat to the quickened soul; and when the old man has a feast, the soul fasts; when the old man rejoices, the soul mourns; when the old man gets the mastery, the soul is laid in irons; when the old man triumphs, the soul trembles; when the old man is lively and strong, the soul is covered with the shadow of death. These things, my friends, some of us have learnt, and are still learning day by day by sorrowful experience. But to return. There are some, and perhaps not a few in the religious world, who are seeking salvation by the works of the law; these bring forth fruit to themselves, and depend on their own resources: and, like the elder brother, who transgressed not at any time his father's command; or, the young man, who had kept the law from his youth up: or, the Pharisee at the temple who was not like other men; or the ninety-and-nine just persons, who had no need of repentance--all these ate their own bread, and wore their own apparel: their hope of heaven is grounded on a covenant of works,--their moral life; their outward, though partial observance of its rules, is that which feeds and keeps alive their hope. But, if ever the grace of God reaches their hearts, or even the law in its spirituality, it will destroy this hope in them root and branch; and, if it is not destroyed before, it will most assuredly be destroyed in death, and both they and their hope will everlastingly perish. There are others in the religious world, who have a name to live, and but the name; a knowledge of the scriptures generally, and of the doctrines of grace particularly--a natural faith in the letter of truth, and going in company with the saints of God, gives rise to this name; legal convictions for sin, and that labor and sorrow which it occasions, passes away like an untimely birth; and, on the other hand, false delusive joy in the soul, when the natural passions are wrought upon, together with the witness and applause of men, these are some of the many things that feed this life, and keep hope alive in the souls of these foolish virgins; and, if grace prevent not, their lamp will go out in obscurity; their hope will give up the ghost, and they will lie down at last in sorrow.
But the life of faith is spiritual life, and is one of those "good and perfect gifts that cometh down from the father of lights." (James 1:17) It is the gift of the Father to Christ, and then of Christ to all his sheep; "for it hath pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell;" (Col. 1:19) and David says, "Grace is poured into his lips," (Ps. 45:2) and that "with Him is the fountain of life." (Ps. 36:9) And Paul says "Out of his fulness have we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16) But I shall have occasion to speak more on this when I come to the next head of the text. Now, as this life is the gift of God, he will maintain it; as David saith, "Thou hast brought up my life from the grave; thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down into the pit." (Ps. 30:3) And as this life is spiritual, it must be fed with spiritual food: and as those who are made alive are born from above, they must have their food from thence; and faith is the grace that brings the provision from far, and feeds the soul with it; and it is in this way the soul lives by faith. There is nothing in this world that can satisfy the cravings of an immortal spirit, or feed the soul of a sinner quickened to spiritual life. Israel, during their forty years' journey through the wilderness, did not even once eat of the fruit, or produce of the country through which they passed; for when their dough was all gone, the Lord rained bread from heaven, and the children of Israel did all eat manna forty years, till they came to a land inhabited. The clouds of heaven were employed to convey the manna to the camp of Israel, figurative of the ministers of the gospel, who carry the bread of life to the household of faith; I mean, the Lord's own sent and spiritually taught servants; for all others are "wells without water, and clouds without rain." (2 Pet. 2:17) This manna was a figure of Christ. "I am," saith Christ, "the bread that cometh down from heaven." "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. And again, "He that eateth me shall live by me;" and "Except ye eat my flesh, and drink my blood, ye have no life in you; but he that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:51-54) Christ crucified is the feast of fat things, of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined, (Isa. 25;6) which the Most High provided in Zion for all people, or, people of all nations, kindreds, and tongues under heaven. Spiritual life requires this food; spiritual hunger craves it; and a spiritual palate will relish it, which is seen in the prophet; for he saith, "Thy words were found and I did eat them; and thy word," Christ, "was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." (Jer. 15:16) The Lord has not only made the provision, but he has blessed it, and promised to satisfy the poor with bread. Ah, my friends, we see Christ to be the bread of heaven; we may see, and believe that life eternal is the effect of partaking of it; we may feel our need of it, feel ready to perish for the want of it, and cry to God for it, opening our mouths wide like a thirsty land (all which things are marks of life;) but if faith is not in exercise, and we are shut up through the power of unbelief, we are debarred from eating of this bread. But when it is in exercise, then, in proportion to the strength of our strength of our faith, we feed on this bread, and in this way we learn the difference between merely believing that Christ died for sinners, and being favored to feed by faith on Christ crucified, as Paul did, when he said, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) This is a sweet way of living. Precious provision! Delicious fare! "Lord, evermore give us this bread."
But again; the life of faith consists in living upon the word of God; for man is not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. The word of God will not feed our bodies, although it does at times strengthen our faith in him as a God of providence, and we are enabled to trust him for the bread that perisheth. But the word of God affords delicious food to the perishing sinner, when by faith he can feed thereon. How often has the babe in Christ hung on the sweet invitations given in the scriptures to the poor and needy, hungry and thirsty soul, like a child on the breast! And when faith operates in his soul, he milks out, and is delighted with Zion's breast of consolation. But, when faith is not in exercise, he will, like the sucking child, cry with the breast in his mouth; he cannot draw the milk for want of faith; but pinching hunger, and desiring the sincere milk of the word, causes him to hang on the word. And how often has a sweet and suitable promise, received by faith in the soul in time of trouble, refreshed, strengthened, supported, and revived the soul! It was faith in the promise, "that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head," (Gen. 3:15) that kept alive in the patriarchs and prophets the expectation of the coming of Christ in human nature. It was faith in the Lord's promise that Abraham should have a son, that fed his hope of having the son. But, in the case of Zacharias, when the angel was sent to tell him that his prayers were heard, and that his wife should bear him a son, he, for the want of faith in exercise, could not feed on the word of the Lord spoken by the angel, but wanted something in addition to it, as a sign; and, although his unbelief did not make the word of God of none effect, yet it deprived him of the present comfort of it. And it is so, my friends, to this day. The word of God received in faith, will feed, encourage, strengthen, support, and comfort the soul, and cause hope to abound. On the other hand, when shut up in unbelief, like Zacharias, the word is to us a dry breast; we cannot feed on, nor rest in what the Lord has said. And it is in the experience of these things, my friends, where duty-faith gives up the ghost.
Again. The Lord has promised to send "pastors after his own heart, to feed the people with knowledge and understanding." (Jer. 3:15) Here faith is needful again; for "the word preached did not profit some, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." (Heb. 4:2) Which shows, that there must be faith mixed with the word, in order for the people to be profited by the word preached; and this we know to be a truth from experience. You may believe what the man preaches to be the word of the truth of the gospel from the force and power that attends it, as well as from its being in accordance with the scriptures; and you may have your path cast up and proved by the word to be the way to the kingdom; you may have your experience traced out, and proved by the word to be the experience of a child of God; and yet, if faith is not in exercise, unbelief will canvas it all over, and start a thousand questions and objections unfavorable to the soul; and though the word is suitable, and the discourse every way adapted to your case, and your soul is engaged in prayer to God for a blessing, and ready to perish with hunger, or swallowed up of overmuch sorrow, or sinking into hopeless despair, yet all this avails nothing without faith to bring home what is preached by way of application. On the other hand, when faith is in exercise, the word drops with dew, savor, unction, and power into the soul, like honey dropping from the honeycomb, and doth good like a medicine; the soul drinks in the word as the earth drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it. The word coming into the soul, with power in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance, carries all before it; breaks down every opposition; answers and silences every objection, and puts every accuser to flight; the thoughts are brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The Lord persuades the mind, and then we believe: in faith we receive the truth delivered; and by faith we feed on it; the soul is strengthened thereby, and we go from the house of God refreshed in soul; and can say with the Prophet, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word is to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Love to the preacher, love to the truth, and love to its author, will now possess the soul; blessing, praising, and adoring God for his discriminating and undeserved mercy will be the pleasing employment of the mind. Thus, I have given you a brief outline of what I conceive to be the life of faith.
And, connected with this, is the walk of faith; or, walking by faith and not by sight. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) The path in which a person walks by faith, is the path of obedience, and not the sinner's own crooked and evil way, or walking according to Paul's rule; my friends, there is no need for us to go to the moral law for a rule to walk by, seeing that the gospel furnishes us with a perfect one. If you read the four Evangelists, and Paul's epistles to the different churches, you will find a rule to walk by and act upon in every station in life; in every department, both in the world and in the church: so that no one who is familiar with the scriptures can plead ignorance, as to knowing how he ought to walk; and it is in, not out, of this path of obedience, that a person walks by faith. Mr. Hart clearly describes the path in the following lines:--
"The true believer fears the Lord,
Obeys his precepts, keeps his word;
Commits his works to God alone,
And seeks his will before his own."
If we turn aside into dear Bunyan's by-path meadow we that moment cease walking by faith, and commence walking by carnal reason, sight, and sense; and, when this is the case, Jonah's path of experience is not very unlike ours. We are told, that the Lord prepared a gourd, and made it come up over Jonah; and this was done out of love and in compassion to his servant, (for the Lord loved him, though he was determined to take vengeance of his inventions.) This gourd afforded him both shade and shelter; and Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd; but God prepared a worm which smote the gourd. It was no come-by-chance thing; the gourd withered; the sun beat on his head; Jonah fainted, and grew desperate, and requested that he might die. And in all these things he proved the truth of his own doctrine, namely, "That they who observe lying vanities forsake their own mercies." (Jonah 2:8) So the Lord does and will wither all our gourds, blast our prospects, upset our schemes and bring us to shame and confusion. When the Lord does this we fret, murmur, and rebel against the Lord, and grow desperate like a wild bull in the net, full of the fury of the Lord, and rebukes of God. In these things we reap the fruit of our doings in turning aside from the path of obedience to God's word. Hence, we find that those who have been most eminent for walking by faith have been the strictest observers of the precepts of the gospel. The Lord said to Abraham, "Get thee out, and go to a land that I will shew thee." (Gen. 12:1) Abraham obeys, and goes at the Lord's bidding. Paul says, "not knowing whither he went." (Heb. 11:8) Here, we see Abraham in the path of obedience walking by faith, and not by sight. Had Abraham been well acquainted with the place he was going to, and the pathway to it, it would not be walking by faith, as his knowledge of the way would have been a sufficient guide; but not knowing either the place or the way, he went forth depending on the Lord for direction and protection in the way. He erected an altar, and called on the name of the Lord; and the Lord honored his faith, leading him forth in the right way. It was the same with Abraham's servant, when sent in search of a wife for Isaac; he went in obedience to his master, not knowing whether or not the Lord would speed his way. He called upon the Lord and looked to the Lord for wisdom to direct, and for a blessing on his journey; and, in simplicity, asked a sign of the Lord; and then tells us, that he being in the way, (that is, in the path of obedience to his master,) the Lord led him (by faith) to the house of his master's brother. This is "walking by faith." It may be I have some of you here this afternoon, who have been constrained, from an irresistible power put forth in your souls, to leave the world, and to come out at the Lord's bidding; yet are far from knowing that the path of experience you are walking in will lead to eternal glory; therefore, you are necessitated to commit your way, and beg direction of him, casting yourself with all your cares upon him; and by prayer and supplication, intreat the Lord to guide you by his counsel, and afterwards receive you to glory: thus--
"Walk depending on the Lord,
By faith and not by sight."
And Mr. Hart says,
"That christian walks the safest here
Who seldom sees his path."
Daniel, again, is another instance of walking by faith in the path of obedience. He must restrain prayer for thirty years, or go into the lion's den. The former he cannot, he dare not do; the consequences of the latter he is enabled to leave with the Lord. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are instances of the same. There is a golden image set up in the plains of Dura; they are commanded to worship it; and, if not, they are to be cast into a fiery furnace. They cannot, they dare not, they will not worship the image; and, as to going into the fire, that they leave with the Lord. And they tell the king, the God whom they serve is able to deliver them, and will deliver them out of the hand of the king. "But if not, (supposing the worst,) we will not worship the image which thou hast set up, O king!" It may be, that some of you have found, and still find, your path to be very dark, trying, and mysterious; at times walking in darkness, and having no light; and, like Job, are saying, "Wherefore is light given to a man whose way is hid, and life to the bitter in soul." (Job 3:23) Light to see your ruined state by nature and practice; but not light to see your interest in salvation by grace; life to feel the bitter effects of sin, but not favored with feeding on the paschal Lamb. Your way, perhaps, hedged up with thorns, both in providence and grace, that it seems, humanly speaking, impossible for you to escape and hold on your way--so many trials, troubles, and difficulties, either felt or feared, that you know not what to do. Satan, perhaps, comes on thee like a roaring lion to devour thee; or, like a flood, to drown thee in hopeless despair; or, it may be as a tempter to draw thee aside from the right way; but the paternal care of God will preserve thee from Satan's paws; a good hope through grace will keep thee from sinking into black despair; and the fear of God, and a tender conscience, will keep thee from turning aside. So that now, enabled to walk in obedience to God, leaving consequences with him, committing thyself and all that concerns thee into his hand, (not partially, but wholly,) whether you sink or swim, are saved or lost--simply trusting, resting, and depending on the Lord--is "to walk by faith."
The next thing we have to notice is, the triumphs of faith; for which Paul thanks God, saying, Thanks be to God who causes us always to triumph in Christ." (2 Cor. 2:14) And, connected with this, is, the fight of faith; for, if there are no enemies to encounter, no afflictions to endure, no dangers to escape, no evils to avoid, no battles fought and victories gained, no sensible support in temptation and deliverance out of trouble, no prevailing with God in prayer; if there is no conquest over our external, internal, and infernal enemies--no laurels gained, nor spoils taken--I hardly know what ground there is for triumph. But certain it is, that every poor, sensible sinner, has many foes to encounter, many temptations to endure, many afflictions to wade through, and many battles to fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil--a combined army, that wars against the soul. These foes are many, powerful, and subtle; and the poor sinner feels that he has neither wisdom to escape, nor power to withstand. But faith is all-sufficient; for faith is the victory over the world. Through faith, sin and Satan are resisted and withstood. The poor sinner may fear he may faint, or fall, or be overcome; but he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord will come to his rescue, and through faith strengthen the spoiled against the strong. The Saviour has overcome every enemy, death not excepted, and his victory secures the victory of the whole household of faith. Faith views this conqueror, rests upon his pledges, fights under his banner, and shouts victory through him. His victory does not depend upon his courage, wisdom, power, or skill; but upon the power, faithfulness, promise, love, and skill of the God of armies; as may be seen in Israel fighting with the Amalekites. God declared he would have war with Amalek for ever, and blot out his name from under heaven; and this was for smiting the hindermost of Israel, when he came out of the land of Egypt; therefore, Moses is sent to contend with them in battle, and a determined battle it was, and lasted the whole of the day, to the going down of the sun; neither army would yield, for sometimes Israel prevailed, then again Amalek prevailed; and this depended not on the power or skill of either of the armies, but on the arm of Moses; for when his arm was outstretched Israel prevailed; but when his arm fell Amalek prevailed: and we are told, that Aaron held up the arm of Moses to the going down of the sun, consequently, victory was declared on the side of Israel. Moses is a striking type of Christ; his arm, of the Lord's power; and his arm outstretched, figurative of the power of Christ displayed on the behalf of poor sinners. This battle lasted the whole day, to show that the law in the members, and the law in the mind, will be at war the whole day, even to the going down of the sun; so that there will be no rest from war until we have accomplished as a hireling our day. And how often, so far as the poor sensible sinner is capable of seeing, does this war hang in doubt; for, at times, sin predominates in his soul, do what he will, and he is brought into captivity to the law of sin in his members. The cares of the world, the trials of life, the difficulties of the way, the opposition he has to contend with, the troubles he has to wade through, together with the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life--the poor sinner is at times so beset and bewildered with these things, that he is caught, and as fast held in these briars and thorns, as Abraham's ram was in the thicket, and Satan, like a roaring lion, comes against his soul, and he fears in this day of evil, and concludes that he shall one day perish by the hand of these enemies: like Gad, he is for a time overcome, and the enemy shouts; but the Lord appears when his strength is all gone, and displays his power, and strengthens him with strength in his soul. Then he exclaims with the Prophet, "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy; for though I fall, I shall rise again; though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto me!" (Micah 7:8) Here is shouting victory over the enemy. Paul saith, "The wages of sin is death; but thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:57) This is triumphing over sin and death through the blood of the Lamb. In a word, by faith in Christ the poor sinner overcomes the world, Satan, death, hell, and the grave; and, as Mr. Hart says, "Overcomes heaven by prayer;" and shouts victory before the battle is ended, saying, 'I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord.' Now, my friends, you may perhaps know something of the work of faith, of the trial of faith, and of the life and walk of faith; and yet but very little, if anything, of the triumph of faith. Let me tell you, the former will lead to the latter; therefore, "Wait on the Lord; be of good cheer, and he shall strengthen thine heart, all ye that hope in him!" (Ps. 27:14)
II. I now proceed to the second head of our text, namely, the blessing of Abraham. Faith is not the condition, but the evidence; not the cause of being blessed, but the effect. The blessing takes its rise in the love of a Triune God, and was given to all the seed of Abraham in Christ before the world began. For so Paul declares, saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus;" (Eph. 1:3) and "who hath saved us, and called us, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Tim. 1:9) There is not a single blessing that concerns this life, or that which is to come, but what was given in Christ, and flows freely to the spiritual seed of Abraham through Christ, and Him alone.
1. The first blessing that I shall notice, and the most important, is, life. And this blessing of Abraham comes upon us Gentiles through Jesus Christ; for so the Apostle declares saying, "God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son;" and "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son, hath not life; but the wrath of God abideth in him." (1 John 5:11,12; John 3:36) It is evident, therefore, my friends, that this invaluable blessing is in, and flows from Christ alone. David speaks the same things, and saith, "With thee is the fountain of life." And, "Grace is poured into thy lips." And Paul saith, "It hath pleased the Father that in Christ all fulness should dwell." And then puts this question, "have we not all out of his fulness received, and grace for grace?" This life, given to the church in Christ, is the one great blessing; for there is no blessing so valuable as life; for "All that a man hath will he give for his life." And out of this, as from a great river, flows many streams; or, as from a great tree many branches: I will endeavor, therefore, to notice a few of them. But, having occupied so much of your time in speaking on faith, I must be brief on each particular.
We know, that "the wages of sin is death!" Death temporal, spiritual, and eternal, is the sentence of God on man for his sin. A deliverance from the sentence of death in a broken law, and from going down to the pit of hell, which is the second death, and man's desert; a deliverance from a state of death in trespasses and sins, and kept alive by the power of God's grace in the soul, and made an heir according to the hope of eternal life; or, "an heir of all things"--an heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ. (Heb. 1:2; Rom. 8:17) Christ says, "I will redeem them from death;" (Hosea 13:14) and the Apostle saith, "We are redeemed by his blood as of a lamb without blemish;" (1 Pet. 1:19) and, "We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins;" (Eph. 1:7) The soul that sinneth it shall die." (Ezek. 18:4,20) Sin is the cause, as well as the sting of death; but Christ has not only condemned sin in the flesh; (Rom. 8:3) but put it away by the sacrifice of himself. (Heb. 9:26) Thus, the Lamb without spot is offered an offering of a sweet-smelling savor unto God; and, by this one offering, the life of the first-born is redeemed; and God saith, "Deliver him from going down into the pit, I have found a ransom." (Job 33:24) This is, with a witness, receiving life from the dead, and is the free gift of God, and a blessing that cometh down from above; and Christ came into this world that his sheep might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
But, the sheep of Christ are not only dead in law, but are dead in soul to God by nature; and, in this state, they live until quickened to newness of life. But Christ says, "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." (John 5:25) "Never man spake as this man;" for his words are with power. "My sheep," saith Christ, "hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them (in the present tense) eternal life, and they shall never perish." (John 10:27,28) And again; "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words which I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63)
Spiritual life in the soul of a sinner is both the essence and earnest of eternal life. It is the same in nature, and only differs in measure. The one is, the stream; the other, the fountain; the one is the first-fruits; the other, the harvest: the one, is the earnest penny; the other, the inheritance. As "faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;" (Heb. 11:1) and the one thing hoped for is "eternal life;" as the Apostle saith, "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2)--faith views this blessing, as may be seen in Moses;--towards this mark the soul presses, as may be seen in the Hebrew Church, who "for the joy that was set before them, endured the Cross, and despised the shame." (Heb. 12:2) Of this blessing, faith lays hold. Hence, "fight the good fight of faith; lay hold of eternal life." (1 Tim. 6:12) And every one who is of faith, whether he be of little faith, or strong in faith, shall at the end of his pilgrimage be put in full possession of this blessing." He that believeth shall be saved;" "Kept by the power of God, through faith to eternal salvation." (1 Pet. 1:5) "The wicked shall be driven away in his wickedness." (Prov. 14:32) "These shall go into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." (Matt. 25:46)
2. Another blessing consists, in God's choice of his people in Christ before the world began. Hence we read, that "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance!" (Ps. 33:12) And Paul saith, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen us in him! (Eph. 1:3,4) The cause of their being chosen is God's love to them; the end to which they are chosen is eternal salvation; and the means to accomplish this end is also ordained and appointed of God. And, it is as much the work of God to bring these many sons to glory, as it was his act to choose them thereto. The means, as set forth in the word, is, sanctification of the spirit, obedience, and belief of the truth, together with the sprinkling of the blood of Christ; and to effect these things, the Spirit of God takes possession of the sinner's heart. God the Father hath chosen us to salvation; God the Son hath wrought salvation work for us; and God the Holy Ghost works all those works in us, in which our meetness for this kingdom consists. Thus God does the whole work. We receive the benefit, and the Lord has all the praise, and the sinner can with heart and hand subscribe to the following words, "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and thy truth's sake." (Ps. 115:1)
3. Another blessing consists in the Lord's not imputing iniquity to us. For David saith, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile!" (Ps. 32:2) This Paul quotes, and tells us, that this blessing came upon the uncircumcision, as well as upon the circumcision; therefore, it is another of the blessings of Abraham that come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. All the sins of God's elect were by the Father imputed to Christ; he caused all their sins to meet on him; and he was made sin for them. He bore their sins in his own body on the tree, and for ever put them away by the sacrifice of himself. The ram is caught, and offered for a sacrifice, and Israel is let go free; for, as the Poet says--
"Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine."
Christ died for sin; and the pardon of sin is the blessed effect of it; and, if Christ saith, "Son be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee" (Matt. 9:2)--who can disannul it? And, if God acquits the guilty at the bar of equity, who dare bring a second indictment against him? Balaam saw the safety of Israel under this blessing; and saith, "The Lord hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him; and the shout of a King is among them." (Num. 23:21) Balak sends for Balaam to come and curse Israel; Balaam attempts to do so through an enchantment. But upon trial, he finds that there is no enchantment against Jacob, nor divination against Israel; that the Lord hath blessed them, and he cannot reverse it; for whom the Lord blesses, they are blessed; and what he doth is done for ever; for "He is not a man, that should repent." (1 Sam. 15:29) And this, my friends, is a great blessing: for if the Lord does not impute sin to us; nay, if but one sin--and that only a vain thought--was imputed to us, it would sink us into the nethermost hell. Therefore, that person must be blessed indeed to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. "And, as many as be of faith are blessed" with it; and, in the Lord's time, shall be blessed with a knowledge of it.
4. Another blessing consists, in the gift of righteousness without works. "All men have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Rom. 3:23) and in many things we continue all to offend: for "there is not a just man on earth that doeth good and sinneth not." (Eccle. 7:20) But Christ has put away the sin of his people, and made an end of them. And when sin is put away from man, he is left a righteous man, and this exempts him from condemnation; for the Lord will not condemn a righteous man. Impute the righteousness of Christ to him, and he becomes the righteousness of God in it. This is the righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, and is the sinner's justifying righteousness before God; his interest in it entitles him to the kingdom of heaven; and being clothed with it, he is a fit and welcome guest to sit down at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. In this robe, the bride, the Lamb's wife, will be presented to the Father by her invaluable Husband. And David appears to have had a most glorious view of this; for he saith, in Psalm 45., "The King's daughter is all-glorious within, and her clothing is of wrought gold; she shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework; the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the King's palace." And when this takes place, it may be said truly, "In thy righteousness shall they be exalted." (Ps. 89:16) And what makes it so great a blessing is, it is irrespective of man's works altogether; for "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works." (Rom. 4:6)
5. Another blessing consists in our being made the sons of God. This blessing seems to have struck John with amazement; for, he says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" (1 John 3:1) And it is truly astonishing, that we, who are aliens by nation, nature, and practice, should be taken and made heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. It is a great thing to be pardoned and delivered from going down into the pit of hell; but to be made sons of God by adoption and grace, owned as such by him, and enabled to claim him as our God and Father in Christ Jesus, is a blessing indeed! And, as many as be of faith, are blessed with an interest in God, in the relation of a father; and shall, in the Lord's own time, be enabled to claim him as such; for, "How shall I put thee among the children and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly name of the hosts of nations? And I said, thou shalt call me my Father, and shalt not turn away from me." (Jer. 3:19)
6. Another blessing is, peace. Peace with God, and peace in our own consciences: joy and peace in believing; peace procured by Christ the God of peace, and the peace-maker; peace proclaimed in the gospel, and peace brought into the soul by the Spirit of God. This is a blessing that the worldling is a total stranger to; for "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." (Isa. 57:21) "The way of peace they know not;" and the blessing of peace they enjoy not; they seek rest and peace, but they find it not. 'But, I will,' saith God, 'bless my people with peace.' "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." (Isa. 54:13) God's covenant with Zion was a covenant of life and peace. Peace was the legacy that Christ left his disciples. "Peace!" Saith the Saviour, "I leave with you!" My peace I give unto you!" "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but in me ye shall have peace!" (John 16:33) "Be of good cheer," therefore, "for I have overcome the world." And we are to "Mark the perfect man, and to behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace;" (Ps. 37:37) and such enter into uninterrupted peace in God; peace in our own consciences; joy and peace in believing, even when in the midst of trouble; peace in death, and then to enter into everlasting peace--Oh, my friends, what a blessing is this! And "as many as be of faith" are blessed with this blessing also. These are some of the most important blessings wherewith the Lord blesses those who are of faith.
There are many more blessings; but time forbids my going into them. It is a blessing to be turned away from our iniquities. It is a blessing to be chastened for our sins. It is a blessing to have our way hedged up that we cannot pursue our lovers. It is a blessing to be made sick of the world, sin, and self. It is a blessing to be stripped of our righteousness, and to be clothed in the Lord's. It is a blessing to be laid and kept humble at the feet of Christ, knowing no will but his. It is a blessing to become fools for Christ's sake. In a word, it is a blessing to feel that we are nothing, and Christ is all and in all.
Thus, my friends, I have endeavored to give you some account of the work, trial, life, and triumphs of faith--and of the blessing of the Lord, wherewith those who are of faith are blessed.
Here I conclude; and may the Lord bless what has been delivered. Amen.