Sermon 1744. Where The "If" Lies
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, October 14th, 1883, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."Â— Mark 9:23.
IÂ BELIEVE THAT OUR OWN Authorized Version conveys to the mind of the reader the sense intended by the Evangelist; it is,however, exceedingly probable that in exact words the Revised Version is nearer to the original. It runs thusÂ—"And Jesus saidunto him, If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth." Our own Version better expresses the sense to thegeneral reader, and the main object of a translation is to give the meaning. The father of the lunatic child had said to ourLord, "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us;" and our divine Master virtually replies, "If thou canstlies not with me, but with thee. It is not if I can, but if thou canst." Thus you see the word "believe" is implied if not actually expressed. Jesus would certainly go as far as ever theman's faith could go; but as the rule of the kingdom is, "According to thy faith, so be it unto thee," the man's unbeliefwould hamper the Lord in his working. If the suppliant could be rid of unbelief, Jesus would get rid of the devil from hischild. The difficulty of casting out the demon lay mainly in the want of faith in the father. Let it, then, be understoodas the teaching of this text, that the difficulties in the way of souls that would be saved do not lie with Jesus Christ,but with themselves. They need never ask the question, "Can Jesus forgive?" or "Can he renew?" there is a prior questionÂ—Canstthou believe that he can forgive, and that he can renew? If God's grace enables thee to say, "I can and do believe that Jesuscan work in me according to the full measure of my need," then all difficulty has vanished. Thy faith is the shadow of thecoming blessing, the token of the Lord's favor towards thee. When thy faith believes in Christ's omnipotence, he is omnipotentto thee, for "all things are possible to him that believeth."
I long at this time to get at some here who cannot get at Christ. I would to God that by his Spirit I may deal with theirdifficulties, so as to remove them once for all, so that they may come just as they are, and put their trust in Jesus, andfind eternal life this day.
I. The first subject we shall speak about is the vital questionÂ—WHAT IS BELIEVING? After all these hundreds of years of gospelpreaching, is this question necessary? I believe it is so necessary that, if faith were explained in every sermon, it wouldnot be too often spoken of. It is a good rule that every tract ought to contain the gospel; and it ought to be put in theplainest way, for still, despite all the gospel teaching which is around us, nothing is so little known or so little understoodas faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am also bound to admit that many explanations of faith are all explanation, but tendto make the subject darker than it was before; and I am fearful lest my own explanation should be of the like order. Certainly,I will do my best to avoid such a catastrophe, for I will speak very plainly.
Let us take the man before us as an example, and from him let us see what faith is. This man evidently believed that Jesuswas a healer, for he says, " I brought my son unto thee." He would not have brought his son to Jesus if he had not felt somemeasure of confidence in him. It is a good beginning of faith to know that if I am saved it must be through Jesus Christ alone; it is well to be aware that the salvation of the soul must come from the work of Jesus, and from no one else, since no othername is given among men whereby we must be saved. This man had also some slight faith in Christ's willingness to help him.It may not have been very strong, but still it was there, or else he would not have laid the stress of his prayer upon theLord's power; he did not say "if thou wilt thou canst," but "if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us."Looking up into that blessed face so full of singular tenderness, the man felt that he might say, "Have compassion on us."From some persons we could not ask compassion or fellow-feeling, because they do not appear to have any; they wear a harshlook, and a chill air surrounds them; but the Savior was not so; the man felt that Jesus was full of compassion his suit wasthat this compassion would show itself to him and his son. It is a good beginning to saving faith if thou believest that Jesus is witting to save thee. I trust that many of you have advanced as far as this.
What is it really and savingly to believe in Jesus? The suppliant father had not yet reached that point of faith which wouldsecure the miracle. More was needed; what was it? He needed to believe in Christ's power in reference to his own case. The point in which his faith failed was our Lord's power as to the special case now before him, for he saidÂ—"If thou canstdo anything." Before you condemn the anxious father for his doubt, let me remind you that his son was in a very evil plight,and our Lord had just caused him to remember and review the sad features of the case. The father had sorrowfully dilated uponthe fact that "wheresoever the spirit taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pinethaway;" and then he had further told the Lord that the youth had suffered thus ever since he was a child; and he had gone stillmore into detail, saying, "Ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him." After that painfuldetail he added his pitiful "If thou canst." Do you wonder at it? Jesus seems to tell him, "If thou canst believe in the teethof all this, then thou shalt see the salvation of God." It is very easy to say, "I believe" when you have no sense of yoursin, and no consciousness of your danger. It is the easiest thing in the world to say, "Yes, Christ can save me," when youdo not really believe that you need saving. Faith, where there is no present sense of need, is but the image of faith, andnot the grace, which saves the soul. This is the question: can you, my dear hearer, at this moment trust Jesus to save you, though you feel that you are full of sin? Can you say, "Lord, I am possessed with the spirit of evil: I am under bondage to him, and have been so since I was a child?I have been driven to one sin and so cast into the fire, and then I have been hurled into the opposite sin, and so throwninto the water: I have been rent with passion, and torn with evil desires; I have sinned against light and knowledge, I havesinned against love and mercy; I have sinned in thought, and word, and deed; I have sinned grievously and continually, andyet I believe that thou canst pardon me, and that thou canst make me a new creature. Wicked as I am, I believe that thou canstdrive sin from the throne of my heart and cause me to love thee and to serve thee all my days." If thou canst believe in Jesusafter this fashion he will save thee, yea he has saved thee. If thou, as an undeserving sinner, canst so honor the mercy ofGod as to believe that through Christ Jesus he can blot out thy sin, it shall be done unto thee: only remember that this confidencemust not come unto thee because of thy forgetfulness of thy sin, but whilst thou art conscious of it and humbled on its account.If I persuade myself that I am merely a sinner in name, then I shall only find Jesus to be a Savior in name. If I am not sucha sinner as to deny that I am a sinner, but pay the Lord the compliment of saying, "Oh, yes, I am a sinner; we are all sinners,"then 1 am a sham sinner, and I shall become a sham believer, and the true Savior will have nothing to do with me. Jesus cameto save that which is really and truly lost. The downright sinner, who dares not deny his guilt, is the object of the Lord'ssaving search. In the teeth of thy conscious guilt, canst thou believe that Jesus can wash thee and renew thee? Then thouhast one main element of the faith which saves.
Yet, mark you, if this man could by any possibility have believed in Christ's power to save his son and yet had refused tobring him to Jesus for healing, he would have missed one of the essentials of true faith. For, hark. If thou wouldst get to the very heart and bowels of faith, thou hast it here: it is to trust the Lord. Trust! trust! that is the word. To believe that Christ is able to save thee is an essential, but to put thyself into hishands that he may save thee, is the saving act. Believe Christ's word to be true; then appropriate that word unto thyselfas spoken to thee: believe that it is true to thee, and rest in the truth of itÂ—that is saving faith. To see Christ as sucha Savior as thou needest, able and willing to save thee, is a right good sight, but thou must also take this Savior to bethine. Say heartily, "Into that hand which was nailed to the cross I commit my guilty soul, hoping and believing that Jesuswill forgive all my trespasses, and cause me to love all that is true and holy henceforth and for ever."
"Thou canst, thou wilt (I dare not doubt), The indwelling demons chase I trust thy power to cast them out, I trust thy pardoning grace."
He that trusts in Jesus is saved. I said not, "he shall be saved," but he is saved. "He that believeth in him hath everlasting life." "He that believeth in him is justified from all things, from whichhe could not be justified by the law of Moses."
Will you please to notice about this man's faith that it was not perfect faith. Though it obtained for him the healing of his son, it "as weak faith, and for its weakness he was blamable; but the faultinessof his faith was not the destruction of his faith. A feeble faith can receive a mighty Savior, even as a beggar with a palsiedhand can receive a golden gilt. An heir to an estate has as good a title to. it when he is a child as he will have when heis grown up, and even so little faith possesses the inheritance, though as yet it be a babe. The anxious father had to cry,"Lord, help my unbelief," but that unbelief, confessed and lamented, did not shut him out of the blessing. The unbelief whichlingers around our faith is a thing to be got rid of by the help of Christ, but still it will not destroy the virtue of thefaith which we possess. So, dear friend, if thy faith in Jesus Christ amounts to this, that thou believest him able to save,and thou dost therefore trust him, thou art a saved man, even though thou mayest he staggered with a host of fears, and troubledwith a multitude of sins. Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace; for that faith of thine shall grow from a mustard-seed intoa far-spreading tree. I would that thou couldst take Jesus up into thine arms as Simeon did, for then wouldst thou say withfull assurance, "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation." But if thou canst not do so much as that, at least stretch out thy fingerand touch the hem of the Lord's garment; for if thou dost but touch his clothes thou shalt be magic whole. The faintest contactwith the ever-blessed Christ will open up a way by which saving power will flow out of him into thee. Oh, how blessed it isto think that God hath ordained this plain way of faith for poor sinners! It is of faith that it might be of grace, to theend that the promise might be sure to all the chosen seed.
This faith in the Lord Jesus ought to be to each one of us the easiest thing in all the world. If we were what we ought to be it would never occur to us to doubt our Lord Jesus; and our shameful unbelief of him is themost conclusive evidence of our need of him, for we must have become grievously wrong in heart to be forced to admit thatwe find it difficult to believe in Jesus. What an insult to him! What a crime on our part Remember the whole story of graceand blush for your wicked unbelief. God, the ever-blessed, whom we had offended sent his dear Son to be made in the likenessof sinful flesh, and he dwelt here among us as our brother, friend, and helper. In the fullness of time he took upon himselfour sin and sorrow, and went up to the cross with the awful load of our guilt. Though still the well-beloved Son of the Father,he suffered even unto death in the room and stead of his people, and God's record concerning him is that he has set him forthas the propitiation for sin. God has accepted his atonement; will not sinners accept it? This is the Savior; God has ordainedhim such: will not the sinner agree that Jesus should save him? If not, why not? If we were not fallen to the uttermost degreeof depravity we should cry out with delight, "Lord, we believe. Blessed be the dear name of Jesus, our Substitute, we canand do trust him. We are quite sure if the Lord God has made Jesus to be his salvation to the ends of the earth he must bea perfect salvation; therefore we accept him with joy and delight." But this is the curse of our nature, the inmate vice ofour hearts, that we cannot believe our God, thus making him a liar. Oh, the horror of suspecting his truth whom angels adorewith veiled faces! Oh, the daring presumption of questioning the promise of a faithful God! It is horrible, horrible, horribleto the last degree to mistrust the Almighty Father, to doubt his bleeding Son! There ought to be no room for an "if" whenwe know that in the Lord Jesus all fullness dwells. I am not at this moment speaking to those who reject the word of God,and deny the Deity of Christ: I can understand their position, and deal with them another time; but I am now speaking to youwho accept this Bible as Gods word, and unquestioningly believe that Jesus Christ is divine: to you I say that your refusalto put your trust in him is without excuse; at least, I cannot find an excuse for you. Remember those telling words of theLord JesusÂ—"if I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me?" If you believe Jesus to be the Son of God and the Saviorof men, why do you not trust your own soul with him? Why not at this moment confide in him whom you admit to be worthy ofyour trust.
II. I have tried thus to explain the nature of faith. I will now, in the second place deal with the startling question, HOWIS IT THAT FAITH CAN BE DIFFICULT? It certainly is difficult to some. It cannot be so in itself; yet many in trouble of heartfind it to be so, and those that labor to bring them to Christ, find themselves sore put to it.
Why, first, it is difficult to get the very idea of faith into some men's mindsÂ—not only difficult for them to believe, but even to know what it is to believe. I have met with persons who have attendeda place of worship regularly twenty or thirty years, and yet they have never made the discovery that faith is a childliketrust in Jesus. I, as a lad, was taught this blessed secret by the Spirit of God; but it was at the first a great wonder tome that I should have attended evangelical ministries for years, and yet should not have known what was meant by believingin Christ. That simple truth broke in upon my mind like a new revelation. I had read the Bible; there was no part of it withwhich I was not acquainted, and yet even from that blessed book I had not learned what believing in Christ meant. Is not thissingular? It is remarkable, and yet it is a general fact. We try by illustrations, by anecdotes, by parables, to drill thenotion of faith into men; but we cannot even get it unto their heads, much less into their hearts. Martin Luther complainedthat he thought he must take the Bible and bang it about his hearers' heads because he could not get them to see its clearteaching as to justification by faith. This idea of believing is alien to men's minds, and it can only dwell there by forcingits way against the tendency of human nature. Again, I say, that this is a sad proof of human depravity, since in itself itis no difficult idea: it is the simplest thought that can be uttered or accepted. Trust thou thy salvation with Christ, andChrist will save thee, is a lesson, which a babe may learn. Still, the unregenerate do not think so: they muddle it all up,and stick to their belief that faith is something to be felt, or seem, or done, or suffered. To trust their God, to rely uponthe atonement of his SonÂ—this is not to their mind, and so their foolish heart is darkened, and they cannot see the way whichlies straight before them.
When we get that thought into our hearers' heads, then there comes the next difficulty, to make them believe that faith can save them. It seems so difficult to believe this because the way is so easy. They sayÂ—What! am I, after thirty, forty, fifty years of sin, to be delivered from all the punishment of my transgressionsby simply trusting to the Lord Jesus Christ? If you were to tell them that they must go to a desert and live there as hermitson berries and cold water for the rest of their natural lives, they would believe the message. If they were bidden to scourgethemselves with whips of wire, they could expect some good result from such suffering, but not from mere believing. If theywere to hook at the idea of propitiating God by their personal suffering, it would soon become impossible of belief; yet fora time they incline to it rather than to the doctrine of salvation by trust in the great Substitute. Hideous imaginings, despairings,and dreads are also looked upon hopefully by many; they hope that by deep feelings they may arrive at forgiveness, and mayforce their way to heaven by the gates of hell; but to trust Christ, and to believe the promise of God, is a thing too simplefor them; they fear that safety is not to be found so soon! Ah! poor soul, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing,wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather then when he saith to thee, "Believe and live?"
I wish you would change your opinion as to what faith really is, for it is by no means so insignificant a matter as you suppose.Simple as it is there lies within it great excellence and value. Faith in God is the divinest exercise of the mind. To believein God and his Christ is to be reconciled to God and restored from enmity. We are in unison of heart with those we trust.To believe your God is to worship him: the essence of worship is faith. For a poor sinner to trust the Lord gives him morehonor than the cherubin can bring him with their loftiest notes of praise. In the teeth of all my sin and sinfulness, witha thorough sense of my guilt, I believe that the blood of Jesus has saved meÂ—is not this true praise? To confess scarlet sins,and yet to say, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow," gives unto the Lord great glory for his mercy and his power. Yetthe doctrine of "Believe and live" startles poor sinners because it is too easy.
When they get over the idea of its extreme ease, they say to themselves, "This news is certainty too good to be true. Do I really understand you, sir, that if I trust the Lord Jesus now I am at once delivered from sin and am made a new creaturein Christ?" Yes, you understand my teaching if that is the sense you find in my words. Yet you say it is too good to be true.Do you not see how poorly you think of your God? I know that pardoning grace is infinitely above your deservings or thoughts;but then does not the Lord say of himself, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways,and my thoughts than your thoughts?" Grace may be too good for you to expect, but it is not too good for God to bestow. Ohthat you would think better of God than you have done, and say of his amazing grace, "It is just like him!" Sing with me thesewordsÂ—
"Who is a pardoning God like thee? Or who hath grace so rich and free?"
Salvation pitched in such a key as this, given freely to whosoever believeth in Jesus! Why, that is like the Lord, and wewill accept it as having the divine stamp and impress upon it. He forgives like a God, and this does not stagger our faith,but confirms it.
Then, again, men are astounded by the rapidity justification. Shall fifty years sinning be forgiven in a moment? Shall an instant's believing end the guilty past, and commence a holyfuture? It is even so; in one instant a man begins a course of believing which introduces him into a new world. What is strangeabout this? Is it not God's way to do wonders in a short time? he took but a week to fit up the earth for man; nay, six dayssufficed, and on the seventh he rested. To make the light in which we rejoice, only needed for the Lord to say, "Let therebe light." In the case before us our Lord only said to the demon, "I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more intohim," and the deed was done. If we had all time at our disposal, we could not work such wonders, but to God there are no limitsas to length or brevity of time. A thousand years are to him as one day, and one day as a thousand years. He speaks, and itis done. Think of itÂ—salvation in a moment! The moment a sinner believes he hives unto God, and his trespasses are forgiven.Oh sinner! why shouldest thou doubt it? Yet we cannot get the conscience-stricken one to believe it.
If we lead our friends out of this difficulty, they plunge into another. They cannot be satisfied with the word of God atone as the ground for their faith. Why do I believe that I am saved? I know that I am saved because the word of God says, "He that believeth in him hath everlastinglife;" and I do believe in Jesus, and therefore I have everlasting life. "But," saith one, "if I had that word applied tome with power, then I could and would believe it." Just so; but until then you refuse to believe the promise of God, and treathim as a liar! God must, needs give you some pledge or bond beyond his promise, because his word is not good enough for you,though you admit that even with a good man his word is his bond. You cannot trust your God. "Oh, but if I had a dream." Justso. You would have more faith in a silly dream, perhaps caused by indigestion, than you have in the solemn word and writtenpromise of God. "Oh, sir, but if an angel were to speak to me, I could believe." Just so; and if God does not choose to sendthe angels, what then? Then he is not to be believed, but treated as a liar. What is this but saying "Lord, thou shalt bowto my whims, or else I will not believe a word thou sayest?" Is it come to this? Dare you demand signs of God? Then let meask youÂ—Is this Book God's word? Say "No," and I can understand your conduct; but if you believe, as I know you do, that thisis the very word of God, how dare you disbelieve? If all the angels in heaven were to march by me in a file, and assure methat God would keep his word, I should say, "I did not require you to tell me that, for the Lord never fails to be as goodas his word." God is so true that the witness of angels would be a superfluity. If my father were to make a statement, I certainlyshould not call in his servant to confirm it. If this book be dictated by the Holy Spirit, it is ours to believe it withoutdemanding confirmations or applications. Let us say, "That word is true, for God hath said it. Jesus Christ came into theworld to save sinners: I am a sinner, and I trust him to save me. Inasmuch as the word says, 'To as many as received him,to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;' I do believe on his name, and thereforeI have the power and privilege to become a child of God, and a child of God I am. God says so: that is enough for me." Wecannot get men to see that the word of the Lord is surer than all signs and wondersÂ—they want something in addition.
If we compel them to own that the word of God is the only and sufficient basis of faith, they straightway begin to took at their own believing as if it were the Savior. They cry, "My faith is so weak; my faith is so variable; my faith is so shaken," and so forth. It is as if those who werebidden to look to the brazen serpent had, instead thereof, tried to see their own eyes. Here is a child thirsty, and thereis a flowing fountain; you give the child a cup that it may drink of the water. The child does not go to the fountain, butis so pleased with its empty cup that it tries to satisfy its thirst out of it. What a foolish child! Or suppose it shouldrefuse to go to the fountain because the cup was of earthenware, or of tin, would not that be a strange way for a thirstychild to act? A child needs the cup to drink out of, but it cannot drink out of an empty cup. Faith is the cup, but Christis the fountain. Faith is a secondary thing compared with Christ. We must have faith to be as the finger with which we touchthe hem of the Master's garment, but the finger does not work the cure. Shall I refuse to touch because perhaps I have notwashed my finger clean, or it has no gold ring upon it; or there are traces of rheumatism upon it? To attach so much importanceto the finger as to refuse to touch Christ's garment with it would be insanity. Do not mind your finger: touch the garment'shem. Sinner, get you to Christ somehow, anyhow; for if you get to him you will live. It is not, after all, the greatness northe perfection of your faith, it is his greatness and his perfection, which is to be depended on.
Then the next trial is, that we cannot get troubled sinners to see the difference between their faith and its fruits. "I would believe in Christ," says one, "if I were as holy as So-and-So, who is a believer, but then you see I am a sinner."Now mark, dear friend, that the person of whom you speak in that fashion does not think himself to be one particle more deservingthan you are. If you talk to that good man he will tell you that whatever holiness you can see in him is the work of grace,and that at the first he came to Jesus just as you must come, that is, as a sinner. Faith produces holiness; but when we cometo Jesus, at the first we come as unholy persons, and as such he receives us. Suppose that I have a number of bulbs whichI am told will produce most remarkable flowers; if I believe the statement I shall take care to have them properly planted.The gardeners are beginning to put such things into pots, that they may have hyacinths and other fair flowers in the winterand early spring. Suppose that I resolve not to plant my bulbs, because I use my own eyesight, and come to the conclusionthat as I cannot see a hyacinth or even the beginnings of one in any of the bulbs, therefore there can be no use in plantingthem. Why, everyone would tell me that in this matter I must go by faith, and plant my hyacinth in order that I may in duetime see it bloom. "That bulb will yield a beautiful blue flower," says one. I answer that it is a brown, dried-up sort ofonion, and that I shall throw it on the dunghill, for I can see no bud or flower in it. What a simpleton I should be if Italked so! Though I cannot see it, yet there is, closely compacted and quietly hidden away within that bulb, a slumbering thing of beauty which will wakeup at the call of spring. Even so, if thou believest in Christ, there is a holy life packed away within thy faith, and itwill gradually develop itself. Even within a feeble faith there are the elements of ultimate perfection. If thou dost trulytrust Christ, thy preparation for glory has begun. As the king was hidden in the oak so is Christ hidden in true faith. Donot, however, expect to see all this at the first: look to the root now and the growth will follow. You are not to come toChrist because you are healed, but to get healing; your faith must be a sinner's faith before it can be a saint's faith. TrustChrist while yet you are foul, lost, and undone, and he will wash, save, and restore you.
Still we find the awakened ones clinging to the idea that they must be something or feel something before they may trust Jesus.We cannot get them to see that the whole of their salvation lies in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone. We cannot weanthem from some sort of reliance upon their own feelings, or weepings, or prayers, or Bible-readings, or some other form ofworking. Why, they will even look to their own faith rather than to Jesus Christ alone. Know ye not that our Lord has offereda full atonement for sin, and brought in a perfect righteousness for his people? His propitiation is to be accepted as fulland complete, and his righteousness we are to wear as our own. Our whole trust must go to the perfect work of our Lord, itmust not even rest on our faith. To trust in our own trusting would be absurd. A wounded man has healing ointment given himand a piece of linen with which to bind on the ointment; now, if he were to wrap the linen around the wound and leave outthe healing agent, he could not expect a cure. Faith is the linen whereon the ointment of Christ is spread, and we must notput it out of its due place and order, or we shall be making it a rival to Christ. Oh, that I could clear up some of the difficultieswith which men surround themselves, so that they would consent to look out of themselves to Jesus only!
III. We must now speak to the last point. Oh, you that are seeking rest, dwell upon each word as it is now lovingly deliveredto you. WHAT IS IT THAT CAN MAKE FAITH EASY? The Holy Spirit alone can do that; but he does so by bringing certain truthsto remembrance. Faith is rendered easy to a man by the Holy Spirit when, first of all, he sees clearly the infallible certainty of the sacred record; and this is the record that God gave concerning his Son, that he that believeth in him hath everlasting life. Is this Bibletrue or not? I believe in every letter of it: I accept it as God's word in the most unreserved sense, and so do you to whomI now speak. Well, if that be so, then it remains no longer difficult to believe what is plainly taught in this book. If Godhath spoken then questions are ended. It may be a hard saying, it may be a dark saying; it may seem to be too good to be true;but what of that? Do we dare to question the Lord? He is not a man that he should he, nor the Son of man that he should repent.He has said that whosoever believeth in Jesus shall not perish, but have everlasting life; and if we have so believed, eternallife is ours.
The next thing that the Spirit of God helps us to see is the applicability of that record to ourselves: that is to say, we read, " Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners," and we conclude that as we are just such, wemay look to him to save us. We read, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." We laborand are heavy laden, and therefore we come, and he gives us rest. We read that "in due time Christ died for the ungodly";and knowing that we are ungodly, we yet take heart and come to him who justifies the guilty through his righteousness. Weread again, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." We feel that to will is present with us, and thereforewe freely take the living water. We read once more, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;" andas we are creatures, we conclude that the gospel has something to say to us. On one or other of these accounts we see thatthe gospel is directed to us, and so we receive it. It is better for us that the promise should be directed to us in termsof character than that it should mention our actual names. Is your name John Brown? "Well, if the gospel came in a letterto you, directed to John Brown, what might you not say if you were tempted to doubt? You would think to yourself that thereare many more John Browns besides yourself, and therefore the message might not be for you. If it was directed to your address,you might then fear that another John Brown once lived at that house, before you were born, and so you would fear to appropriatethe message lest it should prove to be out of date. Even supposing that your name was there, and the address, and the date,you might be mistrustful enough to fancy that there was a mistake, or that some other person of your name had used your addressfor the day. If you mean to ride on the back of unbelief any fancy will do for a saddle. But when the promise comes "to himthat believeth in Jesus," there can be no question that it is ours if we believe. We read, "If we confess our sins, God isfaithful and just to forgive us our sins;" is it not clear that if we have confessed our sins, mercy is ours? It is a blessedthing for us when the Spirit of God leads us to see that the gospel is free to all who are made willing to receive it.
Another thing that makes faith easy is when the Spirit of God shows us the glory of Christ's person. Our Savior is truly God, and this fact helps us to believe in him. It strikes me that the poor anxious father may have beenmuch helped to believe in our Lord by that peculiar majesty which shone about him through his having just come down from themount of transfiguration. It was a very hard case which exercised the poor man's mind, and therefore our Lord appeared tohim with an unusual splendorÂ—a splendor of which we readÂ—"when they saw him they were amazed." A sight of our Savior's facehelped the trembler to cry, "Lord, I believe." Oh, if the Spirit of God will lead you to read the Scriptures till you geta clear idea of the Godhead and perfect manhood of the Lord Jesus, you will feel that everything is possible with an AlmightySavior. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Our Lord is gone up unto his glory, and he is able to save unto the uttermostthem that come unto God by him. Oh, could you but grasp the idea that he who asks your trust is the Son of the Highest, whohas all power in heaven and in earth, you could not, you would not withhold your confidence! As for myself, knowing beyondall doubt my Lord's divinity it seems easy enough to rely upon him. I have told you before what John Hyatt said on his dyingbed, when his deacons said, "Mr. Hyatt, can you trust your soul with Christ now?" "One soul!" said he, "I could trust a millionsouls with him if I had them." Even so could I trust the Lord Jesus not only with my soul, but with all the destinies of earthand heaven, time and eternity. Every child of God may safely say that. I could trust Jesus with all the souls that ever livedor shall live, if they were all mine. Surely, he is able to keep that which we have committed to him.
Another great help to faith is to perceive the completeness of the divine work and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. He took our sin upon himself, and in his own body on the tree was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousnessof God in him. Only let your eyes behold the Son of God suffering the death-agony for guilty man, and you must believe inhis power to redeem. I have thought that if men had been more sinful than they are, and if they were a million times as numerousas they are, and if every star that studs the midnight sky were a world, and all crowded full of sinners, yet the sacrificeof God himself must from the glory of his nature be such a vindication of the law that it might well suffice as a reason forforgiving a rebel universe! Shall the infinitely holy suffer for the guilty? Shall the Eternal take upon himself humanity,and bow his head to death? Then the sacrifice must possess such boundless efficacy that none may fear that it will fall shortof their need. No limit can be set to the power, which lies in the divine expiation. My God, I see that thou hast given thineown Son to die, and surely in his precious blood there is more than sufficient reason for my faith in thee.
If that does not lead you to believe perhaps the Spirit of God will go to work in another way. Some have been helped to believein Jesus by the sight of others converted, justified and made happy. When someone like yourself is saved you take courage. "I have been a thief," says one.
"The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day And there may you, though vile as he, Wash all your sins away."
"I have been an adulterer," saith one. Alas! so was David, but he said, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." "I havebeen a murderer," sobs a third. So was Manasseh, who shed innocent blood very much. "But I have been a persecutor and a blasphemer."So was Saul of Tarsus, yet he obtained mercy. "But I seem to have far more of the devil in me than anybody else." So had MaryMagdalene, out of whom Christ cast seven devils. You think you are a sinner all by yourself, but there have been others likeyou, and the door through which others have passed into mercy is open for you. If I had been a little rabbit in the day whenNoah brought the living creatures into the ark, I do not think I should have been troubled about whether there was room forme to enter the ark; but if I had been so timid I should have forgotten all my fears when I saw the elephant come up and hismate with him, and had seen them go tramping through the doer. Then I should have known assuredly that there was room forme. Oh, you who have been kept moral and upright, and therefore are not outwardly great sinners, surely you may enter wherethe chief of sinners have found ready admission. The salvation of others is often a sweet encouragement to sinners to trustin Christ.
Lastly, I will tell you one thing, which will make you trust him, and that is, desperation as to all other hopes. It is a singular thing that despair is often the mother of faith, but the mother dies when the child is born. We were manyof us led to believe in Jesus because we had nothing else to trust in. When we are driven to the last extremity, then it iswe come to Jesus, and take him to be our all in all. A boy was awakened in a house, which had taken fire. He could be seenfrom the street, poor child, and his danger was great indeed, He rushed to the window: his father stood below and called tohim to drop into his arms; but it was a long way down, and the child was afraid. He clung to the window, but dared not drop.Do you know what made him let go his hold and fall into his father's arms? There came a burst of fire out of the window andscorched him and then he dropped directly. I wish that some of you would get just such a touch of the fires of despair asto compel you to say:
"I can but perish if I go; I am resolved to try, For if I stay away I know I must for ever die."
Years ago one of our students was greatly emaciated with what seemed to be consumption. He had heard of a certain medicine,which was said to be useful in such cases, but he had no faith in it. When he was growing worse and worse I said, "Brother,you are at death's door; try that man's stuff. There may he something in it. At any rate, nothing else does you any good."He took the medicine through sheer despair, of all other prescriptions, and God blessed it to him so that he is alive at thisday. He would never have tried the remedy if he had not felt that there was no other hope. Even so, it will be well for youto be driven into a corner as to your soul's estate, that you may believe in Christ Jesus and say within his disciples inold time, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Here is a closing verse for you to sing at home by yourself
"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm, On Christ's kind arms I fall He is my strength and righteousness, My Jesus and my all."
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONÂ— Mark 9:2-29.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"Â—249, 498 551.