IN the 21st verse, Job requested his friends to show him some pity, saying, "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me." But, though even common humanity would say that pity should be shown to one in affliction, yet Job did not receive the least pity from his friends; for he saith, "These ten times have ye reproached me, and are not ashamed that ye have made yourselves strange to me." No: Job must tread in the steps of his dear Redeemer, who himself, in his deep soul-agony, looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for a comforter, but he found none; "Friend and lover thou hath put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness." And the Lord purposely does this to prevent his children, in times of trouble and distress, from putting confidence in man, in whom there is no confidence to be placed, nor help to be found; and that he may, from necessity, be constrained and enabled to put his trust in the Lord alone, who is a "a friend that loveth at all times, brother born for adversity, (Prov. 17:17) and sticketh closer than a brother;" (Prov. 18:24) and it is blessed indeed to find, when we are sinking in the deep mire where there is no standing, and in deep waters where the floods overflow, and all refuge fails us, and no man careth for us, then to have the Lord with us, to help, to strengthen, to support, and to uphold, saying to us, "Fear not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God;" this is to find a friend indeed; and O how it does endear the Lord to us, and begets in us that humble confidence, and we exclaim, "I will trust, and not be afraid." Job must drink in measure the bitter cup of his Lord and Master, and have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. Job, in his trouble, was as a lamp despised in the thoughts of his friends who were at ease. Job complained of one thing that was exceedingly bitter, viz., that the hand of God had touched him. It is painful to experience friends forsaking and turning against us, and to have the hand of oppression and scorn upon us; but to have the hand of God touching us and going out against us in every direction, and to feel and experience what the prophet did when he said, "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." (Lam. 3:3,7) These things call forth acute feelings of grief and sorrow, that the tongue can never express: it is blessed indeed to see the hand of the Lord towards us when in trouble, and his indignation against our enemies, but to be stripped of almost everything that was dear to man, as Job was, and to be given into the hand of the devil without any limit, (excepting his life) and to make his sorrow quite complete, (as Mr. Hart says, speaking of the Saviour) "by God forsaken too." Of all the acute feelings of soul I have ever had, nothing has ever been equal to the feeling that God was turning his hand against me. Could Job have looked upon what had befallen him as coming in the common course of things, and lost sight of the hand of God in the affliction, though we would have felt as man does under losses and bereavements, yet he would have avoided the most bitter drug in the bitter cup of affliction; but, it is God that has done it, it is the hand of God that has touched me, it is God that has cast me down, and not man; it is this view of it that makes it so bitter; and to add to his grief and sorrow, his friends persecuted him as God, and were not satisfied with his flesh; "But though my friends scorned me, mine eyes poured out tears unto God," and although these were physicians of no value, nay, worse, forgers of lies, and cared not for his soul--and although he deeply and most painfully felt the hand of God to have touched him, yet there were some sweet secret drops of comfort in his bitter cup of affliction: "I will not leave you comfortless" is the promise. It appears that Job's confidence, as touching his eternal state, was not greatly shaken; for though he did not know why these evils had come upon him, not seeing the end from the beginning, as God does, yet he saith, "I know that my Redeemer liveth!" Oh! what a rich cordial to his soul! Job, in the 23rd and 24th verses, saith, "O that my words were now written! O that they were printed in a book, that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever." And was his request granted? Yes: and handed down to us as a precious legacy. Thousands of the Lord's tempted and tried children have blessed God for leaving on record the deep afflictions through which he passed. Job has been a choice companion and counselor to many a bewildered child of God. "I know that my Redeemer liveth,"--"he that liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore, and hath the keys of death and of hell," (Rev. 1:18) is my Redeemer, and I know it, and as John saith, "We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding that we might know him that is true, (1 John 5:20) and such knowledge is saving knowledge, for this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3) But Job goes on to say, "And he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, mine eyes shall behold and not another, though my reins be consumed within me." Job as no Arian nor Socinian. By a spirit of prophecy, Job foresaw and spake of the coming of Christ, and his appearing in human nature. "Emmanuel, God with us," (Matt. 1:23) but the sweetness consists in this, "whom I shall see for myself," it is not merely seeing Christ as revealed in the Scriptures or set forth in the ministry of the Word, but seeing him for one's self, and knowing that he that redeemeth from death is "my Redeemer," and for a poor soul in trouble to have such a view of Christ the King in his beauty, will find that the light of the eyes will rejoice the heart.
"To look on this when sunk in fears,
While each repeated sight,
Like some reviving cordial, cheers,
And makes temptations light."
I now come to the words of the text, "But ye should say why persecute we him, seeking the root of the matter is found in me." Job's poor body was filled with a loathsome disease, his substance in the earth taken from him, his children cut off in the midst of their days, and everything dear to him as a man and a parent was gone; but, as if this was not enough, his friends must add to his grief by heaping up words against him, and stricken him whom God had smitten, and talked to the grief of him whom God had wounded; "These ten times have ye reproached me, but is it right for you to do it, seeing the root of the matter is found in me." Ah, my friends, persecution is the portion of all that will live godly in Christ Jesus; it must be so as long as there are two seeds in the world, for "he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit, even so it is now." (Gal. 4:29) Why, because there is so little living godly in Christ Jesus. Did we live closer to God, studying in all things to show ourselves approved unto God, and to show, out of a good conversation, our works with meekness of wisdom, we should have to contend with more persecutions. Were we less conformed to this world, and made more conformable to the death of Christ, and in all things proving ourselves to be on the Lord's side, we should meet with more persecutions than we now do. It is true that the laws of the land prevent any persecuting unto death, but the devil is still "a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour."--The nature and disposition of the lion is not changed, for though he is a conquered and chained foe, yet he is the lion still, and his great object and aim is to worry God's sheep, and to distress those he cannot destroy. But it is a solemn and lamentable truth, that while there is one that suffereth persecutions for Christ's sake, there are ninety-nine who suffer as evil doers, and, instead of suffering for Christ's sake, are only buffeted for their faults. It is a mercy to suffer for Christ's sake, for "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matt. 5:11,12) When a person, for conscience toward God, endureth grief, suffering wrongfully, and, like the Hebrew midwifes, would sooner violate the king's command, in saving the life of the male child, than violate God's command and their own consciences, in taking its life away. Or like Daniel, who, rather than depart from his wonted mode and practice of worshipping his God, and thus betray his confidence, would go into the lions' den.--Or like the Hebrew Church, who took joyfully the spoiling of their goods rather than accept deliverance upon the terms it was offered them. (Heb. 11:35) This is suffering persecution for Christ's sake, but where is it to be found in this day? Paul suffered the loss of all things for Christ's sake, but he counted the cost and found it to amount to this: "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain; for our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. 4:17) Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season. "If ye, therefore, be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; but let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busy body in other men's matters; yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf. Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls unto him in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator."
Are there any of you suffering persecutions for Christ's sake? then, consider, "If we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together."
I now come to treat on the second and most important part of the text,--"the root of the matter." Whatever may be intended or included in this part of the text, one thing is quite certain--it is something within. Therefore, we have to do with internal things. We all know that the root is under ground, while that which springs up and is visible, are stems and branches. A tree cannot grow without a root, nor grain either; and it was from the want of this that those who received seed upon stony ground endured but for a while, but in time of temptation fell away; and it will be so with every one that hath no root in himself,--there must be an internal work:--
"True religion's more than notion--
Something must be known and felt."
And whatever is implied by "the root of the matter," though Job's friends could not discover this in him, yet Job knew, and knew it to his comfort, that it was found in him as a precious jewel put there by the Lord himself.
I will now endeavor to show you what I conceive to be intended, and what things are necessary to constitute "the root of the matter," and must leave you to judge if you possess them or not.
Firstly. The indwelling of the Spirit as a well-spring of living water springing up into everlasting life. Where this is not, "the root of the matter" is not to be found; for you must be born again, and "except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" and if the kingdom of God cannot be seen without it, it must be a part, at least, of "the root of the matter;" and we are told that "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his;" but on the other hand, "Ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you." (Rom. 8:9) But there is a great difference between the Spirit of God coming on a man as it did on Balaam, Saul, and others, "thy seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and thine offspring among the people, and all that see them shall acknowledge that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed;" (Isa. 61:9) and all religion short of the indwelling of the Spirit of God in a man's soul, is like a body without a soul, or a shell with the kernel. It is indeed a shadow, not a substance: and is as a house without a foundation, and therefore cannot stand. "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Christ from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit which dwelleth in you; (Rom. 8:11) and we know that God is in us by his Spirit which he hath given us:" (1 John 3:24)--"And I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be unto them a God, and they shall be unto me a people, saith the Lord." (2 Cor. 6:16) This is one important part of the root of the matter.
Secondly. Wisdom is another thing in which the "root of the matter consists." The wise man's counsel is to get wisdom because it is the principal thing; for all things that can be desired are not to be compared to wisdom. This primarily refers to Christ, who is the wisdom of God, but not to the exclusion of divine and heavenly teaching by the Spirit; through which a person is "made wise unto salvation." And "all scripture is given by inspiration of God;" and is profitable for doctrine, for correction and instruction, and is sufficient through the Spirit's teaching to make one wise to salvation. But who gets this wisdom? not the wise, but the fool; where does he get it? from heaven: for it cometh down from the Father of lights; how does he get it? in answer to prayer: for "if any lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." What are its effects? it makes him wise to salvation, and prevents him erring in the pathway to heaven; for it is written, "the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein, (Isa. 35:8) whilst that that are wise in their own eyes, like Israel in the wilderness, do always err in their hearts, not knowing the way of life;" which is above to (them that are made truly) wise, that they may depart from hell beneath. And neither knowing how nor the way to the city, go on stumbling upon the dark mountains of ignorance and unbelief; and as these fools who are wise in their own conceit, hate knowledge and despise instruction, they continue in the way of unbelief and error, and at last, as fools, die for the want of knowledge both of themselves and of God. Whilst the poor, weak, stumbling, fearing child of God is often going to God to ask for wisdom for every step of the way, and entreating the Lord to lead, to teach him, and to keep him even as the apple of the eye, and to lead him in the way everlasting, and to guide him into all truth here, and afterward receive him to glory, knowing that if left to his own free-will and carnal reason, he shall wander out of the way of understanding; and for the encouragement of such poor, weak, fearing, trembling things, that know not to speak, much less to do more, as Hart says:--"the Lord has promised to lead the blind by a way they know not, and in paths they have not known; and to guide the meek in judgment, and teach sinners in the way that he shall choose." Solomon's counsel is not only to get wisdom, "but with all thy getting get understanding." Mr. Huntington saith, "many a person has got wisdom, which is the principal thing, but for the want of understanding, does not know that he possesseth this precious jewel." For as Mr. Hart saith,
"We pray to be new born,
But know not what we mean."
We think it something very great, something that is undiscovered yet. We need the veil of ignorance to be removed from our minds, and the spirit of understanding given us; for until the Spirit shines into our hearts, we do not know, at least, not fully satisfied, that we possess this precious jewel; but when he shines into our hearts, we can say with John, "we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we might know him that is true;" (1 John 5:20) therefore, "get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding." Remember the first step to true wisdom is to know and feel thyself in the things of God to be a very fool; as it is written, "if any man among you that seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise, for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God;" but true wisdom is comprised in two things: a right knowledge of ourselves, and a saving knowledge of Christ; and it is by the Spirit's teaching alone that these are known.
Thirdly. The fear of the Lord is another thing in which the "root of the matter" consists; and this was found in Job, for he was a perfect and upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil; and this is found in every one born of God, "for I will put my fear in their hearts, saith the Lord, and they shall not depart from me, (Jer. 32:40) but shall, by that fear, depart from iniquity." For it is in the heart as a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death. It is not a carnal, servile fear and dread of God, though Job was not a stranger to this, but it is a filial fear. Some correct idea of this fear in the heart, and its influence may be gathered from the following quotations:--"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil," which a carnal slavish fear does not, though it makes the soul tremble at the thought of the consequences." The fear of the Lord is clean enduring for ever, and is a part of one's treasure; therefore must form a part of the "root of the matter;" for it is written, "and wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times and strength of salvation." The fear of the Lord is his treasure. Mr. Hart says,
"This fear, a rich and endless store,
Preserves the soul from poisonous pride;
The heart that wants this fear is poor,
Whatever it possesses beside."
"But to you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing under his wings; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels." (Mal. 4:2; 3:17) This is also another branch of wisdom; for Job saith, "where is wisdom to be found, and where is the place of understanding? it cannot be gotten from gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof; whence then cometh wisdom, and where is the place of understanding?" Seeing it is hid from all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air, it is evident that this wisdom which Job says is the fear of the Lord, (Job 28:28) is a rich treasure in the heart of a child of God, but hid from all others.
"This treasure was by Christ possessed,
In this his understanding stood;
And every one that's with it blest,
Has free redemption in his blood."
Fourthly. The new birth, or being born again "not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible," (1 Peter 1:23) by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever is another part of the root of the matter. The incorruptible is, by Peter, in another place, called the divine nature; and it is with this seed that sinners are begotten of God through the gospel; and John says, "he that is begotten of God sinneth not," his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. It is the seed in his heart is incorruptible, and remaineth there, it must be the root of the matter. John does not mean that he that is born of God does not commit sin in any sense or way, for he himself says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; (1 John 1:8) for there is not a just man on earth that doeth good and sinneth not; (Eccle. 7:20) for in many things we offend all." (James 3:2) But John's meaning appears to be this, that he that is born of God cannot live in sin as before; and for this reason, the word of God forbids it, and the grace of God in his soul prevents it; for how can we who are dead to sin live any longer therein? And secondly, he that is born of God cannot sin unto death. There is a sin unto death. I do not say he shall pray for it--all unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin unto death. He that is born of God cannot commit this sin, his seed that remaineth in him keepeth back his soul from this great transgression; though many a poor, tempted, fearing child of God has been greatly tried and cast down through fear of having sinned this sin unto death. But to return:--all that are begotten of God, will, in the Lord's time and way, be brought forth into the liberty and enjoyment of gospel blessings, but not without previous labor and travail of soul, more or less; and it was for these that were in soul travail that the King requested an interest in the prophet's prayer, saying, "it is a day of trouble, of rebuke and blasphemy, for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth; put up thy prayer for the remnant that is left, and if the Lord hath begotten thee with the incorruptible seed, he will go on to be gracious unto you and will not leave you; but will assuredly bring thee forth to the light, and thou shalt behold his righteousness.
Fifthly. Let the word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; but the word of God cannot dwell richly in us unless it be received with power; but Paul says, "our gospel came not to you word only, but in power in the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance." (1 Thess. 1:5) Here again we have the root of the matter: our Lord said to the Jews, "I know you, that my word hath no place in you;" (John 8:37) but of his sheep he saith, "I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them;" (John 17:8) and again, receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save the soul." If we look at the parable of the sower and the seed, we shall see how many different ways there are of receiving the word; some received the seed by the way side, and the birds of the air picked it up; so some hear the word, but immediately the devil cometh and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts or consciences. Others received seed on stony ground, but when the sun arose it withered for want of moisture and deepness of earth; so some hear the word, and with joy receive it, but having no root in themselves, endure but for a time. That religion which begins with joy is like the crackling of thorns under a pot, makes a great noise and a great blaze, but soon goeth out. There were others received the seed among thorns, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches sprang up and choked the word; but some of the seed fell into good ground; so the word of God by some is received in an honest and good heart, and there it is kept; and what is this honest and good heart? why a heart prepared by God to receive the truth. Man's heart by nature is like an uncultivated piece of land, not in a state to receive seed; sow seed on the soil in its natural state, and both seed and labor will be lost; either the birds will carry the seed away, or weeds, the natural produce of the soil, will spring up and choke it; hence the counsel and the caution. Break up the fallow ground, sow not among thorns; but this the Lord's work, for Christ says, "my Father is the husbandman;" no farmer thinks of sowing his seed until he has first ploughed and cleaned the land, so the Lord ploughs up the fallow ground of the heart with spiritual conviction, and discovers to the sinner his guilt and filth, and then sets about the work of cleansing him from all his filth and from his idols, he humbles his proud heart and lays his honor in the dust; he also brings down his heart with labor, and he falls down and there is none to help; for his comeliness is turned into corruption, and himself without strength, and the fiery law of God in his conscience will burn up the rubbish of free-will, and self-righteousness in his soul, and when this is done, the soul is in measure prepared to receive the word. Thus the Lord first prepares the heart, then he soweth the seed and openeth the heart to receive it; thus it is written of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened to listen to, and receive that which Paul preached; and no doubt the previous discipline and exercise of her mind prepared her to receive Paul's testimony of Christ, so that it was indeed to her, good news and glad tidings; she listened with pleasure and astonishment to hear the very things brought forth by Paul that her soul wanted; and as the earth drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, so Paul's preaching was to her as a cloud of the latter rain, and her soul drank it in as a thirsty land. The entrance of thy word giveth light, and by felt darkness the soul is prepared to receive it. Thy words were found and I did eat them; but there must have been an appetite in his soul for the word, "for the full soul loatheth the honey and the honey-comb." God sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions," and a felt sense of the malady prepared their minds to receive the remedy. "For the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; do;" and will bless the Lord for the healing when it cometh. I would then ask, hath the Lord prepared your heart to receive the word of the truth of the gospel? has he enabled you to receive it in the love of it, and to esteem it as Job did above his daily food? Is a full, free, and finished salvation, wholly of grace, that which alone can reach or suit thy condition? and do you thirst for this salvation? or if you have received it, and know it for yourself is not the language of your heart: "I will pay that that I have vowed; salvation is of the Lord." (Jonah 2:9) In a word, have you received the truth? and are you living upon the truth? and walking in the ways of truth? and do you know something either in the want of, or in the enjoyment of, that liberty which truth brings into the soul of a poor captive? or saying with David, "remember thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." If you know these things by experience, the word of God dwelleth in you, and constitutes a portion of the root of the matter.
Sixthly. A living faith in the heart is another part of the root of the matter; "for he that believeth shall be saved," and it is with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. If faith is in the heart, and with the heart, a man believes, and believing is saved; faith must be the root of all this matter in the heart; but this faith cometh from God, and is a firm persuasion of the mind that what he hath said is true, and what he hath spoken he will make good, and do as he hath said, and this faith is the gift of God, and stands alone in God's power, for none but God can persuade the heart, so as for the poor sinner to believe to the saving of his soul. Some speak and preach about faith as though it was as easy to believe as it is for a person to put on his top coat, but I do not think many find it so easy a matter to believe, when the Lord brings them into fiery trials for the purpose of trying their faith; faith has in the heart an opponent, which is unbelief, and that makes it so difficult against hope to believe in hope. What will ye see in the Shulamite? as it were the company of two armies! a dead faith has nothing to oppose it, but a living faith has to combat with the world, the flesh, and the devil; and there is no overcoming these foes but with the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony; and this is not at their command; and unless the Lord strengthens the spoiled against these powerful foes, we are overcome at the very onset of the battle. I know that faith is the victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil; but for me who feel so much of the world in me, and know that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing, and feel so much of the effects of the devil's influence on my heart, to believe that I shall, notwithstanding all these things, come off more than a conqueror, I find is no easy matter; and for a poor guilty, filthy, burdened sinner, condemned by the law and his own conscience, to believe that he shall be saved is no easy thing, and for a sinner whose sins are as an heavy weight on his mind, too heavy for him to bear, will not find it an easy thing to believe that they are all forgiven him; and when the hand of God goes out against us, as in Job's case, and in others beside in a less degree, it is not very easy to believe that all these things shall work together for good; at least, I find it is difficult so to believe as to have the comfort of it, and really to believe that Christ hath cleansed us, though the leprosy remain, is as supernatural as for Peter to walk on the sea; but what is impossible with man is possible with God; and all things are possible to him that believeth. By faith Moses forsook Egypt; his faith gave him victory over the root of all evil, the treasures of Egypt or the love of money; and the same may be seen in the chief of the publicans, Zaccheus; Ruth said, "entreat me not to leave thee, for where thou goest I will go, and where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; the Lord do so to me and more also if aught but death part thee and me." Here is faith working by love to Naomi, to her people and to her God, and the same is seen in those Peter wrote of, saying, "whom having not seen ye love," and it is so even now, "for to you that believe, Christ is precious." It was in faith the poor woman came to Christ for a healing, for she said in herself, "if I may but touch his garment I shall be made whole." Was this the native language of her mind? I think not, but she spake as she was moved by the Holy Ghost as the spirit of faith in her heart. It was in faith that the leper called upon the Lord for a healing, saying, "if thou wilt thou canst make me whole," and it was unto him according to his faith. Where Christ is precious to the sinner, there is true faith; and when he kisses us with the kisses of his mouth, and ravishes our hearts with his dying love, we exclaim, "whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on the earth that I desire beside thee."
But I have often noticed that those who have been the most eminent in believing have been equally so in unbelief; and they that have been strong in faith, at times have been the most powerfully assailed with unbelief; see, for instance, the case of Abraham, who, when the Lord promised him a son, considered not his own body dead, nor the deadness of Sarah's womb, but was "strong in faith, giving glory to God;" for he was persuaded that he who had promised was able to perform, and against hope believed in hope, for early five-and-twenty years; and after he had patiently endured, he received the promised son. Yet at another time, was so much under the influence of unbelief that he could not trust his handsome wife with the Lord; no, nor himself either; Job at one time could believe that when the Lord had tried him he should come forth as gold; but at another time he said, "If I call upon him and he answereth me, yet will I not believe that he has hearkened to my voice." The plain English to this is, how do I know that what has taken place, or what I have received, was in answer to prayer? might it not, would it not have been so even if I had not prayed for it? This is unbelief. Mary believed that there would be a performance of the things that were told her from the Lord, though she could not see how it could be; but Zachariah could not believe that Elizabeth his wife would bare him a son, though they had both prayed for it, and an angel was sent from heaven to assure him that he should have the son; and yet they were both righteous before God. When the women returned from the sepulchre, and told the glad tidings of their risen Saviour, it was to them as idle tales, though in the mouths of two or three, and especially such witnesses as these every word should be established; and yet, marvelous as it is, many of the Samaritans believed on him for the saying of the woman who said, "he told me all things that ever I did;" and while the disciples cannot believe the testimony of the women of their own company, the Samaritans believed a woman whose previous character would not bear investigation. What shall we say to these things? must we not say that faith is the gift of God, and stands in the power of God? And I verily believe that he that is a stranger to the spirit and power of unbelief, is equally a stranger to the spirit and power of faith.
Seventhly. A good hope through grace is another part of the "root of the matter," for that is an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast. It keeps the vessel of mercy afloat, counteracts despair in the mind, and buoys up the soul amidst all the tempests and storms of life; for we are saved by hope. A revelation of Christ to the soul, deliverance out of trouble and eternal life at the end of our race; are some of the things hoped for: and Christ, his work, blood, and righteousness, together with the promise, power, faithfulness, love, and oath, of Israel's triune Jehovah constitute the ground and foundation of all hoping souls. A godly sorrow for sin or sorrowing after a godly manner is another part of the "root of the matter," and this was found in Job. "For I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes, then shall you remember your own evil ways and your doings which are not good and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your abominations, when I am pacified toward you, saith the Lord;" this is repentance to life, and the long suffering, mercy, and goodness of God in the soul leads to it, for the goodness of God leadeth men to repentance. But I must pass on to notice what I consider to be the tap-root of the matter, for there is, as I daresay you all know, to every oak tree a main or principal root which in Sussex is called the tap-root and this is the principal support of the tree, and is the reason why we seldom if ever see an oak blown down; and the three following things appear to me to constitute the tap-root of the matter in the soul of those led and taught of God, and first the everlasting love of God in the soul; "for tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us;" we know and have believed the love God hath to us; God is love, and he that loveth is born of God, and he that loveth him that begat, loveth them also that are begotten of him; for he that loveth God, loveth his brother also, and "we love him because he first loved us." To have the love of God shed abroad in the heart, and the heart circumcised to love God and live, and to love one another as Christ hath loved us, and receive the love of the truth, and the truth in the love of it, is to dwell in love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him: and this God has promised; for, "I will dwell in them and walk in them saith the Lord;" O the wonders of grace! that the bodies of the saints should be the temple of the living God; but so it is, and marvelous it is in our eyes, this is that charity which never faileth; for now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity. Charity is the best gift, the greatest blessing, and the more excellent way: and to have an experience, an enjoyment of it in the soul is to have the tap-root of the matter. Again; Christ dwelleth in the heart by faith, "Christ in you the hope of glory;" ( Col. 1:27) mark, it is not Christ in the Bible but Christ in the heart: and again, "He that separated me from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, and revealed his Son in me." Mark, not Christ revealed in the scriptures, but God's dear Son revealed in Paul's soul, not only so; but, "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) If Christ has been revealed to your soul, and dwells in your heart by faith, and liveth in you, and you live by faith on him, there must be the "root of the matter" in thy soul; this was found in Job. "For I know that my Redeemer liveth," (Job 19:25) as much is if he had said I know him and what is better still, I know him for myself; and nothing short of this personal knowledge of him, will satisfy the soul of a poor, lost, ruined, guilty, filthy, condemned sinner; for he knows that eternal life consists in knowing him. Lastly, he that believeth hath the witness in himself, and it is nothing short of God the Holy Ghost bearing witness with our spirits that we are children of God, and because ye are sons God hath sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts crying Abba Father, (Gal. 4:6) this is the Spirit's witness in the heart to the sinner's sonship, and truly this witness of God is greater than the witness even of all men, good or bad, and not only so but as "there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost," so there are three that bear witness in earth: the spirit, the water and the blood, (1 John 5:7,8) the water of regeneration and the washing of water by the word preached, the blood of sprinkling, or the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience with the blood of Christ, and the Spirit setting his seal to his own work in sealing the soul up to the day of redemption. This is a threefold witness, and to possess it is to possess the real "root of the matter." You will notice that all along I have had my eye upon the indwelling, grace-teaching influence, and operations of God the Holy Ghost in the sinner's soul; as to externals however good and right they may be in their proper places, they form no part of the "root of the matter" they are at most only the branches. If you have an experience in your own soul of these precious things; then I believe it will be found that the "root of the matter" is in you; but if these things are all missing, I think you will find it difficult to prove on scriptural ground (and all besides is boggy ground) that the "root of the matter" is found in you. I now leave the subject and may the Lord add his blessing. Amen.