Sermon 205. A Lecture for Little-Faith
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 18, 1858, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charityof everyone of you all toward each other aboundeth"-2 Thessalonians 1:3.
WE ARE BOUND to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet." Whether we shall praise God or not, is not left to ouropinion Although the commandment saith not, "Thou shalt praise the Lord," yet praise is God's most righteous due, and everyman, as a partaker of God's bounty, and especially every Christian, is bound to praise God, as it is meet. It is true we haveno authoritative rubric for daily praise; we have no commandment left on record specially prescribingcertain hours of song and thanksgiving; but still the law written upon the heart, teacheth us with divine authority thatit is right to praise God; and this unwritten mandate hath as much power and authority about it, as if it had been recordedon the tables of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai. The Christian's duty is to praise God. Think notye who are always mourning that ye are guiltless in that respect; imagine not that ye can discharge your duty to your Godwithoutsongs of praise. It is your duty to praise him. You are bound by the bonds of his love as long as you live to bless hisname. It is meet and comely that you should do so. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute duty of theChristian life to praise God. This is taught us in the text,-"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it ismeet." Let not your harps then hang upon the willows, ye mourning children of the Lord. It is your duty to strike them andbringforth their loudest music. It is sinful if you to cease from praising God; you are blessed in order that you may blesshim; and if you do not praise God you are not bringing forth the fruit, which he as the divine husbandman, may well expectat your hands. Go forth then, ye sons of God, and chant his praise. With every morning's dawn lift up your notes of thanksgiving,and every evening let the setting sun be followed with your song. Girdle the earth with your praises; surround it with anatmosphere of melody, so shall God himself look down from heaven and accept your praises as like in kind, though not equalin degree, to the praises of cherubim and seraphim. It seems, however, that the apostle Paul in this instance exercised praisenot for himself but for others, for the church at Thessalonica. If any of you should in ignorance ask the question why itwas that Paul should take so deep an interest in the salvation of these saints, and in their growth in faith, I would remindyou, that this is a secret known only to the men who have brought forth and nourished children, and therefore love them.The apostle Paul had founded the church at Thessalonica, most of these people were his spiritual offspring, by the words ofhis mouth, attended by the power of the Spirit, they had been brought out of darkness into marvellous light; and they whohave had spiritual children who have brought many sons unto God, can tell you that there is an interest felt by a spiritualfather,that is not to be equalled even by the tender affection of a mother towards her babe. "Ay," said the apostle, "I havebeen tender over you as a nursing father," and in another place he says he had "travailed in birth," for their souls. Thisis a secret not known to the hireling minister. Only he whom God hath himself ordained and thrust forth into the work, onlyhe who has had his tongue touched with a live coal from off the altar, can tell you what it is to agonize for men's soulsbefore theyare converted, and what it is to rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, when the travail of their souls is seenin the salvation of God's elect.
And now, beloved, having thus given you two thoughts which seemed to me to arise naturally from the text, I shall repair atonce to the object of this morning's discourse. The apostle thanks God that the faith of the Thessalonians had grown exceedingly.Leaving out the rest of the text, I shall direct your attention this morning to the subject of growth in faith. Faith hathdegrees.
In the first place, I shall endeavor to notice the inconveniences of little faith; secondly, the means of promoting its growth; and thirdly, a certain high attainment, unto which faith will assuredly grow, if we diligently water and cultivate it.
I. In the first place, THE INCONVENIENCES OF LITTLE FAITH. When faith first commences in the soul, it is like a grain of mustardseed of which the Saviour said it was the least of all seeds, but as God the Holy Spirit is pleased to bedew it with the sacredmoisture of his grace, it germinates and grows and begins to spread, until at last it becomes a great tree. To use anotherfigure: when faith commences in the soul it is simply looking unto Jesus, and perhaps eventhen there are so many clouds of doubts and so much dimness of the eye, that we have need for the light of the Spiritto shine upon the cross before we are able even so much as to see it. When faith grows a little, it rises from looking toChrist to coming to Christ. He who stood afar off and looked to the cross by-and-bye plucks up courage, and getting heart to himself, he runnethup to the cross. or perhaps he doth not run. but hath to be drawn before he can so much as creep thither,and even then it is with a limping gait that he draweth nigh to Christ the Saviour. But that done, faith goeth a littlefarther: it layeth hold on Christ; it begins to see him in his excellency, and appropriates him in some degree, conceives him to be a real Christand a real Saviour, and is convinced of his suitability. And when it hath done as much as that, it goeth further; it leanethon Christ. it leaneth on its Beloved; casteth all the burden of its cares, sorrows, and griefs uponthat blessed shoulder, and permitteth all its sins to he swallowed up in the great red sea of the Saviour's blood. Andfaith can then go further still; for having seen and ran towards him and laid hold upon him, and having leaned upon him, faithin the next place puts in a humble, but a sure and certain claim to all that Christ is and all that he has wrought; and then, trusting alone in this, appropriating all this to itself, faithmounteth to full assurance; and out of heaven there isno state more rapturous and blessed. But, as I have observed at the beginning, faith is but very small, and there aresome Christians who never get out of little faith all the while they are here. You notice in John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," how many Little-faith's he mentions There is our old friend Ready-to-halt, who went all the way to the celestial city oncrutches but left them when he went into the river Jordan. Then there is little Feeblemind, who carried his feeble mind withhim all the way to the banks of the river and then left it, and ordered it to be buried in a dunghill that none mightinherit it. Then there is Mr. Fearing, too, who used to stumble over a straw, and was always frightened if he saw a drop ofrain, because he thought the floods of heaven were let loose upon him. And you remember Mr. Despondency and Miss Much-afraid,who were so long locked up in the dungeon of Giant Despair, that they were almost starved to death, and there was little leftofthem but skin and bone; and poor Mr. Feeble-mind, who had been taken into the cave of Giant Slay-good who was about toeat him, when Great-heart came to his deliverance. John Bunyan was a very wise man He has put a great many of those charactersin his book, because there are a great many of them. He has not left us with one Mr. Ready-to-halt, but he has given us sevenor eight graphic characters because he himself in his own time has been one of them, and he had known many others who hadwalked in the same path. I doubt not I have a very large congregation this morning of this very class of persons. Nowlet me notice the inconveniences of little faith.
The first inconvenience of little faith is that while it is always sure of heaven it very seldom thinks so. Little-faith is quite as sure of heaven as Great-faith. When Jesus Christ counts up his jewels at the last day he will taketo himself the little pearls as well as the great ones. If a diamond be never so small yet it is precious because it is adiamond. So will faith, be it never so little, if it be true faith, Christ will never lose even the smallest jewelof his crown. Little-faith is always sure of heaven, because the name of Little-faith is in the book of eternal life.Little-faith was chosen of God before the foundation of the world. Little-faith was bought with the blood of Christ; ay, andhe cost as much as Great-faith. "For every man a shekel" was of redemption. Every man, whether great or small, prince or peasant,had to redeem himself with a shekel. Christ has bought all, both little and great, with the same most precious blood.Little-faith is always sure of heaven, for God has begun the good work in him and he will carry it on. God loves him andhe will love him unto the end. God has provided a crown for him, and he will not allow the crown to hang there without a head;he has erected for him a mansion in heaven, and he will not allow the mansion to stand untenanted for ever. Little-faith isalways safe, but he very seldom knows it. If you meet him he is sometimes afraid of hell; very often afraid that the wrathofGod abideth on him. He will tell you that the country on the other side the flood can never belong to a worm so base ashe. Sometimes it is because he feels himself so unworthy, another time it is because the things of God are too good to betrue, he says, or he cannot think they can be true to such an one as he is. Sometimes he is afraid he is not elect; anothertime he fears that he has not been called aright. that he has not come to Christ aright. Another time his fears are that hewill nothold on to the end, that he shall not be able to persevere, and if you kill a thousand of his fears he is sure to haveanother host by to-morrow; for unbelief is one of those things that you cannot destroy. "It hath," saith Bunyan, "as manylives as a cat;" you may kill it over and over again, but still it lives. It is one of those ill weeds that sleep in the soileven after it has been burned, and it only needs a little encouragement to grow again. Now Great-faith is sure of heaven,and heknows it. He climbs Pisgah's top, and views the landscape o'er; he drinks in the mysteries of paradise even before heenters within the pearly gates. He sees the streets that are paved with gold; he beholds the walls of the city, the foundationswhereof are of precious stones; he hears the mystic music of the glorified, and begins to smell on earth the perfumes of heaven.But poor Little-faith can scarcely look at the sun; he very seldom sees the light. he gropes in the valley, and while allissafe he always thinks himself unsafe. That is one of the disadvantages of Little-faith.
Another disadvantage is that Little-faith, while always having grace enough (for that is Little-faith's promise, "My grace shall be sufficient for thee") yet never thinks he has grace enough. He will have quite enough grace to carry him to heaven; and Great-heart won't have any more. The greatest saint, when heentered heaven, found that he went in with an empty wallet: he had eaten his last crust of bread when he got there. The mannaceased when the childrenof Israel entered into Canaan. they had none to carry with them there: they began to eat the corn of the land when themanna of the wilderness had ceased But Little-faith is always afraid that he has not grace enough. You see him in trouble."Oh!" says he, "I shall never be able to hold my head above water." Blessed be God he never can sink. If you see him in prosperity,he is afraid he shall be intoxicated with pride; that he shall turn aside like Balaam. If you meet him attacked by an enemy,he is scarcely able to say three words for himself; and he lets the enemy exact upon him. If you find him fighting thebattle of the Lord Jesus Christ he holds his sword tight enough, good man, but he has not much strength in his arm to bringhis sword down with might. He can do but little, for he is afraid that God's grace will not be sufficient for him. Great-faith,on the other hand, can shake the world. What cares he about trouble, trial, or duty?
He that helped him bears him through,
And makes him more than conqueror too."
He would face an army single-handed, if God commanded him; and "with the jaw-bone of an ass, he would slay heaps upon heaps,and thousands of men." There is no fear of his lacking strength. He can do all things, or can bear all sufferings, for hisLord is there. Come what may, his arm is always sufficient for him; he treads down his enemy, and his cry every day is likethe shout of Deborah, "Oh my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." Little-faith treads down strengthtoo, but he does not know it. He kills his enemies, but has not eye-sight enough to see the slain. He often hits so hardthat his foemen retreat, but he thinks they are there still. He conjures up a thousand phantoms, and when he has routed hisreal enemies he makes others, and trembles at the phantoms which he has himself made. Little-faith will assuredly find thathis garments will not wax old, that his shoes shall be iron and brass, and that as his day is so shall his strength be; butallthe way he will be murmuring, because he thinks his garments will grow old, that his feet will be blistered and sore;and he is terrified lest the day should be too heavy for him and that the evil of the day shall more than counterbalance hisgrace. Ay, it is an inconvenient thing to have little faith, for little faith perverts everything into sorrow and grief.
Again, there is a sad inconvenience about Little-faith, namely, that if Little-faith be sorely tempted to sin, he is apt to fall. Strong-faith can well contest with the enemy. Satan comes along, and says, "All these things will I give thee if thou wiltfall down and worship me." "Nay," we say, "thou canst not give us all these things, for they are ours already." "Nay," sayshe, "but ye are poor, naked and miserable." "Ay," say we to him, "but still these things areours, and it is good for us to be poor, good for us to be without earthly goods, or else our Father would give them tous." "Oh," says Satan, "you deceive yourselves; you have no portion in these things; but if you will serve me, then I willmake you rich and happy here." Strong-faith says, "Serve thee, thou fiend! Avaunt! Dost thou offer me silver?-behold God givethme gold. Dost thou say to me, "I will give thee this if thou disobey?-fool that thou art! I have a thousand times as greatwages for my obedience as thou canst offer for my disobedience." But when Satan meets Little-faith, he says to him, "Ifthou be the Son of God cast thyself down;" and poor Little faith is so afraid that he is not a son of God that he is veryapt to cast himself down upon the supposition. "There," says Satan, "I will give thee all this if thou wilt disobey." Little-faithsays, "I am not quite sure that I am a child of God, that I have a portion among them that are sanctified;" and he is veryaptto fall into sin by reason of the littleness of his faith. Yet at the same time I must observe that I have seen some Little-faithswho are far less apt to fall into sin than others. They have been so cautious that they dared not put one foot before theother, because they were afraid they should put it awry: they scarcely even dared to open their lips, but they prayed, "OLord, open thou my lips;" afraid that they should let a wrong word out, if they were to speak; always alarmed lest theyshould be falling into sin unconsciously, having a very tender conscience. Well, I like people of this sort. I have sometimesthought that Little-faith holds tighter by Christ than any other. For a man who is very near drowning is sure to clutch theplank all the tighter with the grasp of a drowning man, which tightens and becomes more clenched the more his hope is decreased.Well, beloved, Little-faith may be kept from falling, but this is the fruit of tender conscience and not of littlefaith. Careful walking is not the result of little faith; it may go with it, and so may keep Little-faith from perishing,but little faith is in itself a dangerous thing, laying us open to innumerable temptations, and taking away very much of ourstrength to resist them. "The joy of the Lord is your strength;" and if that joy ceases you become weak and very apt to turnaside. Beloved, you who are Little-faiths, I tell you it is inconvenient for you always to remain so; for you have many nightsand few days. Your years are like Norwegian years-very long winters and very short summers. You have many howlings, butvery little of shouting; you are often playing upon the pipe of mourning, but very seldom sounding the trump of exultation.I would to God you could change your notes a little. Why should the children of a King go mourning all their days? It is notthe Lord's will that you should be always sorrowful. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." Oh, ye that havebeen fasting, anoint your heads and wash your faces, that ye appear not unto men to fast. Oh, ye that are sad in heart,"Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Therefore rejoice for ye shall praise him. Say untoyourselves, "Why art thou cast down, Oh, soul and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praisehim, who is the light of my countenance and my God."
II. Having thus noticed the inconveniences and disadvantages of little faith, let me give you A FEW RULES WITH REGARD TO THEWAY OF STRENGTHENING IT. If you would have your little faith grow into great faith, you must feed it well. Faith is a feeding grace. It does not ask you to give it the things that are seen, but it does ask you to give itthe promise of the things that are not seen, which are eternal. Thou tellest me thou hast little faith. I ask thee whetherthou art given to the meditation of God's Word, whether thou hast studied the promises whether thou art wont to carryone of those sacred things about with thee every day? Dost thou reply, "No?" Then, I tell thee, I do not wonder at thine unbeliefHe who deals largely with the promises, will, under grace, very soon find that there is great room for believing them. Geta promise, beloved, every day, and take it with you wherever you go; mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest it. Don't do assomemen do-who think it a Christian duty to read a chapter every morning, and they read one as long as your arm without understandingit at all; but take out some choice text and pray the Lord during the day to break it up to your mind. Do as Luther says:"When I get hold of a promise," says he, "I look upon it as I would a fruit tree. I think-there hang the fruits above my head,and if I would get them I must shake the tree to and fro." So I take a promise and meditate upon it; I shake it toand fro, and sometimes the mellow fruit fans into my hand, at other times the fruit is less ready to fall, but I neverleave off till I get it. I shake, shake all the day long; I turn the text over and over again, and at last the pomegranatedroppeth down, and my soul is comforted with apples, for it was sick of love. Do that, Christian. Deal much with the promises;have much commerce with these powders of the merchant: there is a rich perfume in every promise of God; taken; it is an alabasterbox, break it by meditation, and the sweet scent of faith shall be shed abroad in your house.
Again, prove the promise, and in that way you will get your faith strengthened. When you are at any time placed in distress, take a promise and seewhether it is true. Suppose you are very near lacking bread; take this promise, "Thy bread shall be given thee, thy watershall be sure." Rise up in the morning when nothing is in the cupboard, and say, "I will see whether God will keep this promise;"and if he does, do not forget it; set it down in your book; make amark in your Bible against it. Do as the old woman did, who put T and P against the promise, and told her minister thatit means "tried and proved;" so that when she was again in distress, she could not help believing. Have you been exercisedby Satan? There is a promise that says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Take that and prove it, and when youhave proved it, make a mark against it, and say, "This I know is true, for I have proved it to be so." There is nothing inthe worldthat can confirm faith like proof. "What I want," said one, "is facts." And so it is with the Christian. What he wantsis a fact to make him believe. The older you grow the stronger your faith ought to become, for you have so many more factswith which to buttress your faith, and compel you to believe in God. Only think of a man who has come to be seventy yearsof age what a pile of evidence could he accumulate if he kept a note of all God's providential goodness and all his lovingkindness.Youdo not wonder when you hear a man, the hairs of whose head are white with the sunlight of heaven, get up and say, "Thesefifty years have I served God, and he has never forsaken me I can bear willing testimony to his faithfulness, not one goodthing hath failed of all that the Lord hath promised, all hath come to pass." Now we, who are young beginners, must not expectthat our faith will be so strong as it will be in years to come. Every instance of God's love should make us believe him more;and as each promise passes by, and we can see the fulfillment of it at the heels thereof, we must be compelled and constrainedto say, that God has kept so many of these promises and will keep them unto the end. But the worst of it is that we forgetthem all, and so we begin to have grey hairs sprinkled on our heads, and we have no more faith than when we began, becausewe have forgotten God's repeated answers, and though he has fulfilled the promise we have suffered it to lie buried inforgetfulness.
Another plan I would recommend for the strengthening of your faith, though not so excellent as the last, is to associate yourselves with Godly and much-tried men. It is astonishing how young believers will get their faith refreshed by talking with old and advanced Christians. Perhapsyou are in great doubt and distress. you run off to an old brother, and you say, "Oh my dear friend, I am afraid I am nota child of God at all, I am in such deep distress, I have hadblasphemous thoughts cast into my heart; if I were a child of God I should never feel like that." The old man smiles,and says, "Ah! you have not gone very far on the road to heaven, or else you would know better. Why I am the subject of thesethoughts very often. Old as I am, and though I hope I have enjoyed the full assurance for a long time, yet there are seasonswhen if I could have heaven for a grain of faith, I could not think heaven was mine, for I could not find so much as a graininme, though it is there." And he will tell you what dangers he has passed, and of the sovereign love that kept him; ofthe temptations that threatened to ensnare him, and of the wisdom that guided his feet; and he will tell you of his own weaknessand God's omnipotence; of his own emptiness, and God's fullness; of his own changeableness, and God's immutability, and ifafter talking with such a man you don't believe surely you are sinful indeed; for "out of the mouth of two witnesses, thewholeshall be established," but when there are many such who can bear testimony to God, it would be foul sin indeed if we wereto doubt him.
Another way whereby you may obtain increase of faith is to labor to get as much as possible free from self. I have striven with all my might to attain the position of perfect indifference of all men. I have found at times, if I havebeen much praised in company, and if my heart has given way a little, and I have taken notice of it, and felt pleased, thatthe very next time I was censured and abused. I felt the censure and abuse very keenly, for the very fact that Itook the praise rendered me liable to lay hold upon the censure. So that I have always tried, especially of late, to takeno more notice of man's praise than of his censure, but to fix my heart simply upon this-I know that I have a right motivein what I attempt to do, I am conscious that I endeavor to serve God with a single eye to his glory, and therefore it is notfor me to take praise from man nor censure, but to stand independently upon the one rock of right doing. Now the same thingwill apply to you. Perhaps you find yourself full of virtue and grace one day, and the devil flatters you: "Ah! you area bright Christian; you might join the church now, you would be quite an honor to it; see how well you are prospering." Andunconsciously to yourself you believe the sound of that syren music, and you half believe that really you are growing richin grace. Well, the next day you find yourself very low indeed in godly matters. Perhaps you fall into some sin, and now thedevilsays, "Ah! now you are no child of God; look at your sins." Beloved, the only way in which you can maintain your faithis to live above the praise of self and the censure of self; to live simply upon the blood and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.He who can say in the midst of all his virtues, "These are but dross and dung; my hope is fixed on nothing less than JesusChrist's finished sacrifice"-such a man, when sins prevail, will find his faith remain constant, for he will say "I once wasfull of virtue and then I did not trust in myself, and now I have none still do I trust in my Saviour, for change as Imay, he changeth not. If I had to depend on myself in the least degree then it would be up and down, up and down, but sinceI rely on what Christ has done, since he is the unbuttressed pillar of my hope, then come what may my soul doth rest secure,confident in faith. Faith will never be weak if self be weak, but when self is strong, faith cannot be strong, for self isverymuch like what the gardener calls the sucker at the bottom of the tree, which never bears fruit but only sucks away thenourishment from the tree itself. Now, self is that sucker which sucks away the nourishment from faith, and you must cut itup or else your faith will always be little faith, and you will have difficulty in maintaining any comfort in your soul.
But, perhaps, the only way in which most men get their faith increased is by great trouble. We don't grow strong in faith on sunshiny days. It is only in strong weather that a man gets faith. Faith is not an attainmentthat droppeth like the gentle dew from heaven; it generally comes in the whirlwind and the storm. Look at the old oaks: howis it that they have become so deeply rooted in the earth? Ask the March winds and they will tell you. It was not the Aprilshower that did it, or the sweet May sunshine, but it was March's rough wind, the blustering month of old Boreas shakingthe tree to and fro and causing its roots to bind themselves around the rocks. So must it be with us. We don't make greatsoldiers in the barracks at home; they must be made amidst flying shot and thundering cannon. We cannot expect to make goodsailors on the Serpentine; they must be made far away on the deep sea, where the wild winds howl, and the thunders roll likedrumsin the march of the God of armies. Storms and tempests are the things that make men tough and hardy mariners. They seethe works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep. So with Christians. Great-faith must have great trials. Mr. Great-heartwould never have been Mr. Great-heart if he had not once been Mr. Great-trouble. Valiant-for-truth would never have put tofight those foes, and have been so valiant, if the foes had not first attacked him. So with us: we must expect great troublesbeforewe shall attain to much faith.
Then he who would have great faith, must exercise what he has. I should not like to-morrow to go and shoe horses, or to make horse shoes on an anvil. I am sure my arm would ache in thefirst hour with lifting the heavy hammer and banging it down so many times. Whatever the time might be, I should not be ableto keep time. The reason why the blacksmith's arm does not tire is, because he is used to it. He has kept at it all day longthese many years, till there's anarm for you! He turns up his sleeve and shows you the strong sinew that never tires, so strong has it become by use. Doyou want to get your faith strong? Use it. You lazy lie-a-bed Christians, that go up to your churches and chapels, and takeyour seats, and hear our sermons, and talk about getting good, but never think about doing good; ye that are letting hellfill beneath you, and yet are too idle to stretch out your hands to pluck brands from the eternal burning; ye that see sinrunningdown your streets, yet can never put so much as your foot to turn or stem the current, I wonder not that you have to complainof the littleness of your faith. It ought to be little; you do but little. and why should God give you more strength thanyou mean to use. Strong faith must always be an exercised faith, and he that dares not exercise the faith he has shall nothave more "Take away from him the one talent and give it to him that hath, because he did not put it out to usury." In Mr.Whitfield's life, you do not often find him complaining of want of faith, or if he did, it was when he only preached ninetimes a week; he never complained when he preached sixteen times. Read Grimshaw's life: you do not often find him troubledwith despondency when he preached twenty-four times in seven days; it was only when he was growing a little idle and onlypreached twelve times. Keep always at it, and all at it, and there is not much fear of your faith becoming weak. It is withourfaith as with boys in the winter time There they go round the fire, rubbing and chafing their hands to keep the bloodin circulation, and almost fighting each other to see which shall sit on the fire and get warm. At last the father comes,and says, "Boys, this won't do, you will never get warm by these artificial means run out and do some work." Then they allgo out, and they come in again with a ruddy hue in their cheeks their hands no longer tingles and they say, "Well, father,we didn'tthink it half so warm as it is." So must it be with you: you must set to work if you would have your faith grow strongand warm. True, your works won't save you; but faith without works is dead, frozen to death; but faith with works growethto a red heat of fervency and to the strength of stability. Go and teach in the Sunday school, or go and catch seven or eightpoor ragged children; go and visit the poor old woman in her hovel; go and see some poor dying creatures in the back streetsof ourgreat city, and you will say, "Dear me, how wonderfully my faith is refreshed just by doing something." You have beenwatering yourself whilst you were watering others.
Now my last advice shall be this-the best way to get your faith strengthened is to have communion with Christ. If you commune with Christ, you cannot be unbelieving. When his left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embraceme, I cannot doubt. When my Beloved sits at his table, and he brings me into his banqueting house, and his banner over meis his love, then indeed I do believe. When I feast with him, my unbelief is abashed and hides its head. Speak,ye that have been led in the green pastures, and have been made to lie down by the still waters; ye who have seen hisrod and his stay, and hope to see them even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death; speak, ye that have satat his feet with Mary, or laid your head upon his bosom with the well-beloved John; have you not found when you have beennear to Christ your faith has grown strong, and when you have been far away, then your faith has become weak? It is impossibleto lookChrist in the face and then doubt him. When you cannot see him then you doubt him; but if you live in fellowship withhim, you are like the ewe lambs of Nathan's parable, for you lie in his bosom, and eat from his table, and drink from hiscup. You must believe when your Beloved speaks unto you, and says, "Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away." There isno hesitation then; you must arise from the lowlands of your doubt up to the hills of assurance.
III. And now, in conclusion, there is A CERTAIN HIGH ATTAINMENT TO WHICH FAITH MAY, IF DILIGENTLY CULTIVATED, CERTAINLY ATTAIN.Can a man's faith grow so strong that he will never afterwards doubt at all? I reply, no. He who has the strongest faith willhave sorrowful intervals of despondency. I suppose there has scarcely ever been a Christian who has not, at some time or other,had the most painful doubts concerning his acceptance in the Beloved. All God's children willhave paroxysms of doubt even though they be usually strong in faith. Again, may a man so cultivate his faith that he maybe infallibly sure that he is a child of God-so sure that he has made no mistake-so sure that all the doubts and fears whichmay be thrust upon him may not be able at that time to get an advantage over him? I answer, yes, decidedly he may. A man may,in this life, be as sure of his acceptance in the Beloved as he is of his own existence. Nay, he not only may, but thereare some of us who have enjoyed this precious state and privilege for years; we do not mean for years together-our peacehas been interrupted, we have now and then been subjected to doubts; but I have known some-I knew one especially, who saidthat for thirty years he had enjoyed almost invariably a full sense of his acceptance in Christ. "I have had," he said "veryoften a sense of sin, but I have had with that a sense of the power of the blood of Christ; I have now and then for a littletime had great despondency, but still I may say, taking it as a general rule, that for thirty years I have enjoyed thefullest assurance of my acceptance in the Beloved." I trust a large portion of God's people can say that for months and yearsthey have not had to sing,
"Tis a point I long to know."
But they can say, "I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed tohim." I will try to depict the state of the Christian, he may be as poor as poverty can make him, but he is rich; he has nothought with regard to the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. He casts himself upon the providenceof God; he believes that he who clothes the lilies, and feeds the ravens, will not allow hischildren to go starving or barefooted. He has but little concern as to his temporal estate; he folds his arms and floatsdown the stream of providence singing all the way whether he float by mud bank, dark, dreary, and noxious, or by palace fairand valley pleasant, he alters not his position; he neither moves not struggles; he has no will nor wish which way to swim,his only desire being to "lie passive in God's hand, and know no will but his." When the storm flies over his head he findsChrist to be a shelter from the tempest; when the heat is hot he finds Christ to be the shadow of a great rock in a wearyland. He just casts his anchor down deep into the sea, and when the wind blows, he sleeps; hurricanes may come about his ears,the masts creak, and every timber seems to be strained and every nail to start from its place, but there he sleeps. Christis at the helm. he says, "My anchor is within the vail, I know it will keep its hold." The earth shakes beneath his feet;buthe says, "Though the earth be removed and mountains be cast into the sea, yet will not we fear, for God is our refugeand strength, and a very present help in time of trouble." Ask him about his eternal interests, and he tells you that hisonly confidence is in Christ, and that die when he may, he knows he shall stand boldly at the last great day clothed in hisSaviour's righteousness. He speaks very confidently though never boastingly; though he has no time to dance the giddy danceofpresumption, he stands firmly on the rock of confidence. Perhaps you think he is proud-ah! he is a humble man; he lieslow before the cross, but not before you, he can look you boldly in the face, and tell you that Christ is able to keep thatwhich he has committed to him. He knows that-
"His honor is engaged to save
The meanest of his sheep
All that his heavenly Father gave,
His hands securely keep."
And die when he may he can lay his head upon the pillow of the promise, and breathe his life out on the Saviour's breast withouta struggle or a murmur, crying-"Victory," in the arms of death; challenging Death to produce his sting, and demanding of thegrave its victory. Such is the effect of strong faith; I repeat, the weakest in the world, by diligent cultivation may attainto it. Only seek the refreshing influence of the Divine Spirit, and walk in Christ'scommandments, and live near to him; and ye that are dwarfs, like Zaccheus, shall become as giants; the hyssop on the wallshall start up into the dignity of the cedar in Lebanon, and ye that fly before your enemies shall yet be able to chase athousand, and two of you shall put ten thousand to flight. May the Lord enable his poor little ones so to grow!
As for those of you who have no faith in Christ, let me remind you of one sad thing-namely, that "without faith it is impossibleto please God." If thou hast not put thy trust in Christ, then God is angry with thee every day. "If thou turn not he willwhet his sword, for he hath bent his bow and made it ready." I beseech thee, cast thyself on Christ; he is worthy of thy trust;there is none other to trust to, he is willing to receive thee; he invites thee; he shed hisblood for thee; he intercedes for thee. Believe on him, for thus his promise runs, "He that believeth and is baptizedshall be saved." Do both of these things. Believe on him, and then profess thy faith in baptism; and the Lord bless thee,and hold thee to the end, and make thee to increase exceedingly in faith, to the glory of God. May the Lord add his blessing!