In the first verse of this chapter Paul says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." There are blessed things to be hoped for; but there is a dead faith which contains nothing of this substance. James says that, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26) If faith be nothing more than an assent and consent, or an antinomian confidence, it is dead. This is a presumptuous confidence which does not realize Christ's intercession. It never brings us out of the world or out of ourselves, or as poor sinners to Christ. Thousands have this dry faith, that does not work by love. This no better than the faith of devils, for they believe and tremble, and that is more than many do. "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and his children shall have a place of refuge." (Proverbs 14:26)
"Sinners can say,
And none but they.
How precious is the Saviour,
The Holy Ghost hath made him so.
New life from him we must receive,
Before for sin we rightly grieve."
That is one whom the Holy Ghost has convinced of his sin. Then it is that the Holy Spirit helps our infirmities in prayer, and makes us cry out with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:13) And still more helps us when we are really sinking under the weight of sin, and are brought to appropriate Christ. "To you, therefore, which believe he is precious," (1 Pet. 2:7) in his person, in his offices, in his character. It is called the faith of God's elect, to distinguish it from all other kinds of faith--from dry doctrine or historical faith, which is a mere belief of the letter of the history.
"So far he's right, but let him know,
Further than this he yet must go."
There is also a temporary faith which you see set forth in Luke 8, under the figure of the seed which fell upon a rock. They who thus receive the word have no depth of earth, no spring of water; they are not rooted or grounded in love, and they fall away, though for awhile they believe. In John 8, we find the Lord saying to those Jews which believed in him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." They were already disciples by profession. Here Christ drew the line between the carnal Gospeler and the real Israelite. This gave offence, and manifested them not to be of the true stock. "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile." (John 1:47) Faith is a divine principle infused into the heart in regeneration. It is called the incorruptible seed. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again, unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Pet. 1:3) Thus we see true faith is born of God. Dear Hart says,
"True faith's the life of God;
Deep in the heart it lies:
It lives and labours under load;
Though dampt it never dies:
A weak'ning, emptying grace,
That makes us strong and full."
"Out of weakness were made strong." That is not a duty faith. Those who speak of a duty faith only, will leave you short of Christ. There is an account in this chapter of several worthies, and it is said, "These all died in faith;" (Hebrews 11:13) not merely lived in faith, but died in it: "Not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off." (Heb. 11:13) They desired a better country. Here was faith the substance. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6) First we have an account of Cain and Abel (two brothers) yet one shall be taken and the other left. Abel was one of God's elect. None others are ever made partakers of true faith, and therefore it is called the faith of God's elect. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed;" (Acts 13:48) Not one more nor one less. "This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." He that believeth hath the witness in himself." (1 John 5:10) That is, the Spirit testifieth that we are the children of God. (Rom. 8:16) "The people that do know their God, shall be strong and do exploits." "Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help." (Daniel 11:32-34) And Paul goes on, "What shall I say more, for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms." (Heb. 11:32,33) How many kingdoms did Joshua subdue by faith! "For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them." (Psalm 44:3) He was an extraordinary man of faith. Faith is of God. "They wrought righteousness;" not by the works of the law, but by laying hold of Christ, who was the end of the law for righteousness to them. (Rom. 10:4) "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Rom. 4:5) "Obtained promises." How many did this! Have you not obtained promises? I know one who has. The Lord once said to me when in deep trouble, "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." (Isa. 41:10) And also this, "They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee," (Jer. 1:19) Now this came as an answer to prayer. Have you got such an answer? It is a great token from God for good. God does not hear unregenerate sinners. The poor blind man, who had been under the teaching of grace a few days only, knew this, and confounded the Pharisees. "Ye know not from whence he is, and yet he that opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners." (John 9:30,31) Have you ever obtained an answer to prayer either in providence or grace, like the poor woman who had an issue of blood, and went through the press to the Lord, to touch his garment, and was made whole. It was not so easy a thing to get to the Lord as we suppose. He said some one has touched me, not the whole throng, but some one, and virtue has gone out of me. (Luke 8:41-46) This is what we must draw. Hart says,
"When to me that blood's applied,
'Tis then it does me good."
There you have the witness of the Spirit. "Stopped the mouths of lions." (Heb. 11:33) David, when a shepherd's boy, had to cope with a lion and a bear. He smote both, and rescued the lamb. The Holy Spirit prompted him, and strengthened him to this work, and he ascribed all glory to God in his account of it to Saul. "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." (1 Sam. 17:37) Samson did so, for he caught a lion by the beard, and smote him; and look at Daniel in the den of lions. He testified this, "God has sent his angel, and shut the lions' mouths." (Dan. 6:22) That is, the angel of the new covenant. "Quenched the violence of fire." (Heb. 11:34) It does not say extinguished the fire. No doubt this refers to the three worthies whom Nebuchadnezzar put into the furnace. The king said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods?" (Dan. 3:14) No, they could not do that. Now mark their modest answer, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter; our God is able to deliver us, and he will deliver us out of thy hands, O king." (Dan. 3:16,17) Thus faith was the substance of the thing hoped for. Nothing short of Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, can give this assurance of faith. Perhaps we may be cast into some fiery temptation. If so, don't let us think we can extinguish it, and find it altogether quenched for a time. God preserves and keeps you in the fire. It was no less a miracle to preserve them in the fire than it was to deliver them out of it; and so for the Church to be preserved 400 years in Egypt was as great a miracle as their being brought out of it. And so I think of myself, in my present state, preserved from day to day as I am. I never read of any one so half dead as I am, being called upon to go through the labors that I have been, for more than thirteen years, and enabled to perform them.
The words of my text have a particular reference to those worthies who have been enumerated in the former part of the chapter, those who had been brought to some saving knowledge of Christ. It implies that they were brought to a state of great weakness, and made to feel it, too. "Let the weak say I am strong." (Joel 3:10) "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth." (Jer. 9:23,24) God will bring all his people to a state of weakness. David says, "He weakened my strength in the way." (Ps. 102:23) How does he reduce his children to weakness? One way is to give us a perception of our sin and depravity. In Psalm 38, David says, "My loins are filled with a loathsome disease." This I humbly conceive to be original sin, which he was made to perceive. The Psalmist also says, "My sore ran in the night." (Ps. 77:2) Here again we have set forth to us original sin working and fermenting within us. A running sore in the flesh will soon run all our strength away. "In the night," that is in spiritual darkness. This will reduce us to great weakness. David also says, "Iniquities prevail against me," (Ps. 65:3) and Paul says, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members." (Rom. 7:23) A daily sense of the depravity of our nature, makes us as weak as water, and keeps us from vain confidence.
"Corruptions make the mourners shun
Presumption's dangerous snare;
Force us to trust to Christ alone,
And fly to God by prayer."
These are mourners in Zion, not those who roll sin round the tongue. Can you trust yourself when you perceive sin to be a boiling pot within you? "In me (says Paul,) that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." (Rom. 7:18) Those who talk of the old man being nothing more than a nonentity, know no more of divinity than my handkerchief. The thoughts of the heart, and every imagination of it, are only evil, and that continually. "All our righteousness are as filthy rags." (Isa. 64:6) A daily sight of my sin keeps off all confidence in myself. Another way the Lord takes, is to let the enemy buffet us. I don't think that Job had that deep sense of his weakness and sin before his affliction as he had afterwards; and Paul says, "Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me." (2 Cor. 12:7) He prays that it might depart from him,--does he get a direct answer? No, My grace is sufficient for thee;" (2 Cor. 12:9) and then afterwards Paul says, "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Cor. 12:10) This is being reduced indeed. Another way the Lord takes is by heavy trials and afflictions. "Again they are minished and brought low, through oppression, affliction, and sorrow." (Ps. 107:39) "Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses." (Ps. 107:6) This is to prevent all boasting. "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16) If you are not weak, you don't want help. Asa says, "We have no power against this multitude." (2 Chron. 14:11) This leads us to the Rock. This is the way the Lord brings us down. Another way is the Lord letting his people fall into the slough, as Bunyan calls it. Bunyan was a sound divine; he adorned the doctrines of God his Saviour. God taught him. He walked tenderly before God, and near to him. "Ye that love the Lord hate evil." The faith we now speak of purifies the heart. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." "Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down," (Ps.37:23,24) This shows he is liable to fall. "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again; but the wicked shall fall into mischief." (Prov. 24:16) Now look at David whom God suffered to fall externally and internally--externally into adultery. This taught David his weakness. You say, You are not going to justify David in his fall? I am not going to justify any fall. You see David's penitential confession in Ps. 51, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions." He felt his sin. "Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice." The bones are the spiritual strength that was broken. His heart was broken with godly sorrow, that leadeth to repentance. He fell internally, when he fled from Israel, after the many deliverances God had wrought for him there, and went to Achish. He said "in his heart," not outwardly, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines: and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel; so shall I escape out of his hand." (1 Samuel 27:1) This is falling through infidelity. His faith failed him. "I said in my haste, all men are liars." He gets strong in Gath, and obtains Ziklag, where he gets nested, and no doubt felt quite settled and comfortable with his wives and people about him. He also seems a little pleased at going in the expedition against Israel, and said to Achish, "Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do." This shows the vain confidence he had got. But God would have the Amalekites to come and burn him out of his nest at Ziklag. "Again they are minished and brought low." David and the people wept till they had no more power to weep. "And now he is weak indeed, without power to weep, and yet is made strong,"--not strong in himself, but made so. "He encouraged himself in the Lord his God."
"'Tis to hear the Holy Spirit,
Prompting us to secret prayer."
"Shall I pursue after this troop (he enquires of God,) shall I overtake them?" (1 Samuel 30:8) See how tenderly he moves now. This is the secret prompting of the Holy Spirit. "Ye people, pour out your hearts before him." David shows in the 142nd Psalm when this is done, "I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord." And the Lord now gives him an answer, and grants him more than he asks for: not only "overtake," but "without fail, recover all." My friends, God has a bigger heart to give, than we have to receive, and therefore he says, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." (Ps. 81:10) David did not open his mouth wide enough. I often find this because I feel myself so poor and vile a sinner, that I am forced to say with Abraham, "Let not my Lord be angry and I will speak," (Gen. 18:30,32) or with Gideon, when he sought the second sign, "Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once." (Judges 6:39) Perhaps you may say, you are not afraid of God's being angry at your prayers? But I am. Oh for that tenderness and filial fear that was in Abraham! "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." (Heb. 12:28) "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." (Ps. 2:11) "Come ye children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord." (Ps. 34:11) If there be no fear there is no grace.
I am indebted to my God for being kept steady to this point for more than thirty years. I have not swerved from it a hair's breadth. "The Lord is thy keeper, the Lord is thy shade on thy right hand." (Ps. 121:5) "I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it; I will keep it night and day." (Isa. 27:3) I should have wandered away to every "lo here" and "lo there," if God had not kept me. Job says, "I have sinned, what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men?" (Job 7:20) What a mercy it is if God preserve you from the errors of the day, or from carnal confidence. I am continually blessing God, both for myself and you for this mercy. This falling internally is through the unbelief of the heart; here I fall continually,
"Pity a helpless sinner, Lord,
Who would believe thy gracious word,
But own my heart with shame and grief,
A sink of sin and unbelief."
A daily sense of the unbelief of your heart will keep you as weak as water. Peter, though a true disciple, did not know his weakness at first, but was brought to it. I know what this is; when God brought me to a knowledge of Christ, it worked humility. I loathed myself as a sinner; I found this gradually wear off, but still I held my confidence. Did this bring humility and contrition? No, these were wanting, and when you find this to be the case you may suspect yourself. Does this bring victory over the world and yourself when you thus keep your confidence? No, this is the devil's snare. If there be any boasting it is carnal confidence, that the devil has cheated you with. This was so with Peter when he was caught, "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." (Matt. 26:33) Here was carnal confidence. There was a necessity for purging this away. Was there not true faith in this man? Yes; but this did not prove it. God lets men fall into the Slough of Despond, to destroy their carnal confidence--God's word must stand. Peter fell before a servant maid. This reduces the man to weakness. He became as weak as water. What brought him up again? "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." (Luke 22:32) His eye of faith caught the look of Christ, and he went out and wept bitterly. "Out of weakness were made strong." Jacob is an illustrious example of this. God said to him, "Go back to thy country." He had now got an authority to leave Laban. He would not go before. He would not break prison. Let God go before you, and then you will go safely. Jacob's wives obeyed him; they were godly women, and showed themselves so in this obedience. I read in the Word, "Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands as unto the Lord." (Eph. 5:22) The Lord's Word is to be our guide. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word." (Ps. 119:9) Jacob in this yielded the obedience of faith, and yet though he had received so many tokens of God's love, his fears rose very high when he heard of his brother's approach. He had his fears as we have. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." (Ps. 56:3) This is good when our fears lead us thus. Jacob says, "I greatly fear." This was being reduced to perfect weakness. He was left alone, and here he was a type of Christ, who trod the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with him. (Isa. 63:3) He said, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night." (Matt. 26:31) A man wrestled with Jacob. This I humbly conceive to be Christ, who appeared in a human form. He is spoken of here as an angel and a man. Jacob "had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us." (Hos. 12:4) This, I think, was the angel that Jacob confessed on his death bed, "The angel that redeemed me." Let me go, says Emmanuel. I will not let thee go, says Jacob, being strengthened in the inner man to hold him. Wrestling is straining work, and brings every muscle into exercise; but the Lord, to show Jacob that it was not his strength that could prevail, touched the hollow of his thigh, and put it out of joint, and he became a halting man. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." (Zech. 4:6) What is thy name? My name is Jacob--a poor man dwelling in tents. But the Lord says, "Thy name shall be called Israel, for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." (Genesis 32:28) Have you ever been reduced to perfect weakness, so that you have prevailed with Christ to obtain help, and an answer to prayer? This is what I daily find. You will see that Gideon's army, after they were much reduced, were still too many, lest, said the Lord, Israel vaunt itself. Oh, my friends, we shall be sure to vaunt ourselves, if not brought down to perfect weakness.
I wish to pick up a few of the things which I left untouched in my former discourse on this subject. It is always with me as is said in the Church Prayers, "I have left undone those things which I ought to have done, and I have done those things which I ought not to have done." In thinking over my subjects again after preaching, something says to me, You ought to have said so and so, and this you ought to have left out. Now I said nothing of those worthies particularly mentioned in this chapter. I spoke a little of the Lord's making his people sensible of their weakness. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." (Isa. 40:29) If we don't come to this broken-down state, the promise don't belong to us. Sometimes the Lord grants to us such a sight and sense of our depravity, that we are brought to great weakness, as Paul was when he said, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." Has the Lord brought you to see that you cannot exercise one good thought or desire? Then the promise is sure to you, "Hath he said, and shall he not do it; or, hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19) One word cannot fail. God cannot deny himself. It does not depend on our being able to believe at all times, though our comfort does. Though we don't believe the promise, yet it is sure. David (or Asaph) in the 77th Psalm says, "My sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted." This is the sore of sin, which ran or boiled up. Sometimes by his falling into the slough. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand." (Ps. 37:23,24) This was the case with David and Peter. When Peter had got a good deal of carnal confidence about his steps, the Lord withdrew his hand and let him go down. This teaches us how to pray; thus, "Hold thou me up and I shall be safe." (Ps. 119:117) "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall." (1 Cor. 10:12) If you think you can stand in yourself, you are on slippery ground indeed. When I begin to think I can surmount such a thing, the Lord lets me go into the Slough of Despond, or the pit of corruption, till "my own clothes abhor me." (Job 9:31) Sometimes we are "minished and brought low," then we cannot do anything with these things. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might. Let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me." (Jer. 9:23,24) It is an easy thing to say, I can do nothing. So to say the Lord's Prayer is easy, but not to feel it. To say from the heart, "Give us our daily bread," is mortifying to the flesh.
"The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits." The works spoken of in this chapter were all done by faith. If you have not faith, you are not of God; but if you have one grain of true faith, it will bring you right. If you have that faith it will bring you out of self, and out of the world; therefore examine your faith.
Now look at the history of Gideon. In my text it says they were made strong. They were not strong in themselves. I love to confirm everything I say from the precious Word of God. Gideon was appointed to deliver his people from the Midianites, who had been permitted to rule over and oppress them because of their sin. They were greatly impoverished and oppressed. Now they begin to breathe forth their souls unto God. First, A godly man spoke to them. Then an angel was sent to Gideon and calls him a mighty man of valor; but see the difference between this expression and Gideon's own feelings. (Judges 6:12,13) He says, "If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?" He did not consider himself a mighty man of valor. "Now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." He drew bad conclusions against himself. We often err exceedingly when we draw conclusions, except they are according to God's Word. The Lord said to Gideon, "Go in this thy might." Why, he was as weak as water. So much the better. God will not give his glory to another. It was God's look to Gideon that melted his heart. Do you know what this look is? How it brings you to the Saviour's feet, and makes you little in your own eyes. But Gideon don't get strong upon this. He says, "Wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor, and I am the least in my father's house!" God is teaching me practically every day what this is to be least. "Before honor is humility." God will empty before he fills. Gideon says in effect, I am the most unlikely person. So much the better. "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." (1 Cor. 1:27) "Thou shalt save Israel." (Judges 6:14) How? "I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the midianites as one man." Always take notice whatever you engage in, that you have God with you. Always engage him first. "If thy presence go not with me carry us not up hence."; Here is where people err. They don't engage God on their side. I find I get into my own experience when I consider these things. He always has helped me since the time he called me out of the world with an holy calling, and I am not afraid he will forsake me in my old age. David prays, "Now when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not." (Ps. 71:18) God generally gives strength in this way. "To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." (Eph. 3:16) Dell wrote upon this subject, and calls his book "Christ's Spirit, the Christian's Strength." I like the book and its title. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Rom. 8:14) If the Spirit of God dwell in you, it will "make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful." (2 Peter 1:8) 'Tis the indwelling of the Spirit that does the work. Gideon feels his insufficiency like Moses, who, when God would send him to the children of Israel, objected that he could not speak.
First, Gideon is strengthened to ask of God a sign. What, did he want a sign to know that God talked with him? I believe you will want this sometimes. Have you no fears on this ground--it may not be the Lord who speaks, it may be the devil transformed into an angel of light? If you are a tried child of God, you won't object to this nor be offended at it. "Try the spirits; for many false spirits are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) I know what this is in my own experience. I sometimes feel the Lord drawing high, and melting my heart, and then it changes, and where am I? Why, with Gideon, wanting a sign. I talked with a poor man yesterday who is exceedingly simple and taught of God, and yet much tried on this very point. He cannot be sure for himself, though I am sure for him.
It is no presumption at times to ask a sign in child-like simplicity. No sign shall be given to the Pharisees, because they seek it from a carnal desire. But is there in the Word of God anything said against the children asking a sign? "Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God. But Ahaz said, I will not ask neither will I tempt the Lord." (Isa. 7:11,12) You base hypocrite, you need a token from the Lord. Go into your closet and ask it, like the harlot Rahab, "Give me a true token." (Joshua 2:12) She wanted to be made sure. Will the angel be detained while Gideon prepares an offering? Yes; this Christ does: mark His love. Gideon prepares his offering, and offers it on the rock; but when he fully perceives who the angel is, he sinks in heart, and exclaims, "Alas, O Lord God!" And the Lord said unto him, "Peace be unto thee; fear not, thou shalt not die." Then Gideon built an altar, which he called Jehovah Shalom, "The Lord of peace." Have you never obtained an answer of peace? This is a sign. Now he gives strength to Gideon for a little while. Don't think it strange if, after obtaining strength, you soon get weak again. Gideon asks another sign. He would have the dew on the fleece. Does the Lord seem angry? No. He knew the child-like simplicity of Gideon. It depends on the motives that actuate you. Have you never entreated the Lord that the dew might come on your fleece? Have you never asked for his favor as dew that it might distil on your heart? Moses says, "Give ear, O ye Heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O Earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb." (Deut, 32:1,2) Job says, "They waited for me as for the rain, and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain." (Job 29:23) Have you never asked for such a token as this when going to the house of the Lord--"O Lord direct thy servant to speak to my case." If you have not grace He will give you no answer. If you can prevail with God you have got faith in your heart. Gideon asked the Lord to let the dew be on the fleece only and not on the earth, and it was so, for in the morning he wrung out of the fleece a bowl full of water. God has given me numbers of these tokens. Now Gideon is still weak and soon down in heart again. The dew seems to be dried up again very shortly. He was afraid of asking a second sign. "Let not thine anger be hot against me." We are not to tempt God or satisfy vain curiosity. A presumptuous hypocrite cannot even get to God. He does not ask of God. Gideon received the second sign, and it was dry upon the fleece. But he is still weak. He ties his hands from asking any more signs. "I will speak but this once." I don't dare to ask further, and said, "Let not my Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once." I don't dare to ask any more signs, because I am met with conviction of sin in so doing. "How long will ye not believe my signs." Abraham was afraid to ask further, and said, "Let not my Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once." But God had not told him to stop. God will give Gideon another sign without his asking for it. "Go with thy servant down to the host and thou shalt hear what they say, and afterwards shall thine hands be strengthened." His ear was opened to hear the dream and his heart to believe it, and immediately he said to his soldiers, "Arise, for the Lord hath delivered into your hands the host of Midian." Thus was faith the substance of the thing hoped for and the evidence of the thing not seen. If he had waited till it was done, that would not have been faith. "Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith." (Mark 11:23) According to your faith be it unto you." I hope you know this in drawing near to God, and how the assurance comes. Watch this and see the answer. This is faith. "Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God." Was Midian delivered into their hands? Yes. So was the dream of the heathen soldier fulfilled. It was not the dream alone that was the help, but God's power that applied it. Gideon's army was also reduced like himself to a state of weakness. They numbered at first 32,000. The Lord said, "The people are too many, lest Israel vaunt themselves." Don't you see how jealous God is of his glory. I only hint at this history; but there is a mystery in it for us to lay to heart. The Lord begins to reduce them. "Whosoever is fearful and afraid let him return." And 22,000 of them went back. The unbelieving will not enter into heaven. I don't mean those who say--
"Pity a helpless sinner, Lord,
Who would believe thy gracious word;
But own my heart, with shame and grief,
A sink of sin and unbelief."
If you feel a desire not to dishonor God with these fears, you are not of that party who go back; but God says to you, "Fear not, for I am with you." And I think I hear some of you say, I'm very glad you talk a little about this, for I thought I was with the unbelieving party. But "Fear not little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32) God has got babes. The Lord said, "The people are yet too many, I will try them for thee." And this time 300 only are left. "Again they are minished and brought low." God knows when you are weak enough. They waxed valiant in the fight, and were made strong out of weakness. I feel the approbation of the Almighty in thus setting forth faith. Don't you find this in your own experience. First you are made to cry. Perhaps an answer is given, and then you are lifted up. Now you will be made happy by the Lord's putting you down again, and afterwards in due season raising you up. May God give you grace to discover that you are not amongst those that run away, and who are not found in the day of battle on the Lord's side.