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of Christ to the soul. The temple is purged of its idols, to be a fit habitation for the Lord of Hosts. As there is but one sun in the firmament, so there is but one Saviour to lost souls. All other ways of getting to heaven will be rejected and forsaken, when Christ is revealed as the way; and those who are brought to rejoice in him, will from henceforth have no confidence in the flesh. Their language will be, Ashur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses, neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy-What things were gain to me, my partial obedience and pharisaical righteousness, by which I gained the applause of men, and hoped to gain acceptance with God, I counted loss for Christ. I looked upon them no longer as an advantage, but a disadvantage. I esteemed them as loss that would utterly ruin me; as dung that would only defile me. Have we then this evidence of faith? Do we no longer sit under the shadow of our own vines and fig-trees, but the large, overspreading and refreshing shadow of Christ?
3. What is the disposition of our minds with respect to real godliness? The true believer is a lover of holiness. Faith unfeigned, and a pure heart, are joined together. (1 Tim. 1. 15.) The gospel is a doctrine according to godliness. All its promises, and all its doctrines, lead to a holy practice. True faith overcomes the world; represents it as a bubble that will one day burst, a vapour that soon vanishes, a gawdy piece of scenery that is passing away. It also purifies the heart, and works by love. No acceptable obedience can be without faith; that is the animating and quickening principle, which stirs up to and makes us zealous of good works. It derives strength from Christ, and employs that strength for him. It bows the will to him, as well as draws out the desires and affections after him. In a word, it makes us watchful against sin, and diligent in the
discharge of duty.-Now, do you who make a profession of faith, feel its enlivening influence? David said, "I have believed, and therefore have I spoken:" and can you say, I have believed, and therefore I have fasted, prayed, crucified the flesh, with all its deceitful lusts; and have given my whole self up to Christ, to be governed by his laws, and disposed of at his pleasure? It is fit here that I should put you in mind, that all those things which are marks of unregeneracy, are also signs of unbelief.
4. Is Christ no longer a stone of stumbling, and rock of offence, but exceeding precious in our esteem? This the apostle mentions as a sure and infallible evidence of saving faith. (1 Pet. ii. 7.) Unto you that believe he is precious; an ornament, an honour, or rather preciousness itself. Such have eyes to see his excellence, have tasted of his love, have received out of his fulness, and are interested in the blessings purchased by his blood. He has done that for them, wrought that in them, and promised that to them, which greatly enhances their esteem. Father, mother, house and land, nay, life itself is not so precious to them as Christ. Not that Christ, though always alike precious in himself, is equally so to all the saints, or to the same saint at all times; but in proportion to the degree of faith, and the vigour or remissness of its exercise, will be the preciousness of Christ. Faith, by fixing the thoughts upon Christ, draws out the heart after him. To such he is altogether lovely. In a word, it is impossible but that the true believer should have a high value for Christ. He is the wise merchant-man, who having found this pearl of great price, sells all and buys it. Like Moses, he esteems the reproach of Christ as preferable to all earthly riches. His presence is delightful to him, his withdrawments are distressing; he rejoices when he is glorified, grieves when he is dishonoured, goes to his house and table hoping to meet him there,
and longs to be in heaven that he may be like him, by seeing him as he is. Now if Christ be thus precious to us, we have no reason to doubt of the reality of our faith; but having this incontestible evidence of it, may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
5. What do we know of that peace of God which passeth all understanding? We read of peace in believing. We that have believed (says the apostle) do enter into rest. The jailor also rejoiced, believing in God, with all his house. As spiritual sorrow arises from a sense of sin, so spiritual joy arises from believing views of the atonement; for that which is the foundation of our faith and hope is also that of our joy and triumph. Faith sometimes lifts the soul above the region of clouds and storms, so that the believer can rejoice when all the world is mourning around him. Whilst others shake at every report, and tremble at every rumour, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. He has, it is true, his doubts and fears, his dark and gloomy seasons, trying temptations and frightful apprehensions; but it is certain that there will be some degree of comfort where faith is in exercise. Ask thyself, then, oh my soul, though thou often sighest, canst thou sometimes sing? Is conscience in some measure freed from its distressing terrors? Dost thou know any thing of the witnessing of the divine Spirit? And though thou groanest in this tabernacle being burdened; yet canst thou look through the chinks that age and disease have made in it, and rejoice in hope of that glory which shall be hereafter revealed? Then thou art a believer in Christ.
6. Is it our concern, not only to have faith, but to live by it, so as to go forth to Christ every day in renewed exercises of faith? To whom coming (says the apostle) as unto a living stone. True faith is not described as one act, never to be repeated, but as the daily reiterated act of the lively christian; so that it
is not so properly represented by a being come to him, as by a continual coming for pardon, peace, comfort, grace, strength, and salvation. The question in our text is not, Hast thou believed; but dost thou believe? The life which Paul lived in the flesh, was by the faith of the Son of God. If we content ourselves with having once believed on Christ, it is to be feared that the faith we suppose we then had was no better than a presumptuous confidence, and will be found at last a sad and fatal delusion. On the contrary, fresh acts of faith prove the reality of it, and our keeping close to Christ is a strong evidence that we have indeed closed with him. Whose house are we (says the apostle) if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Will a man (says the prophet) leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field; or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken? No: so he that has once tasted the sweetness of Christ will never depart from him. He that has once found the benefit of a vital faith, would always be in a believing frame.
And now, oh man, dost thou believe on the Son of God? No enquiry can possibly be more interesting, or more solemn. Put it then to thyself. Hast thou faith; how camest thou by it? What value dost thou set upon it? What use dost thou make of it? Where is thy faith; in thy head, or in thy heart? What are the fruits of it; is it sensible to thyself, and visible to others? Oh, depart not from this place till conscience has returned an answer to this important question! If upon good ground thou canst say, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief, thou mayest go on thy way rejoicing. But remember, he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotton Son of God. John iii. 18.
Waiting on God.
HAB. ii. 3.
Though it tarry, wait for it.
THE thing here spoken of is called a vision, that is, what God had graciously revealed to the prophet concerning the deliverance of his people from the Babylonish captivity; and it may be applied to any other promise, or expected blessing; such as, pardon and peace, growth in grace, victory over particular corruptions, a sight of Christ in this world, and the enjoyment of him in the next. This vision is for an appointed time. Those things which seem casual and contingent to us, are predetermined of God. We may say, as David did, "My times are in thine hand." The time of our distress, and the time our comfort; how long we shall sow in tears, and when we shall reap in joy. It is added at the end, it shall speak, and not lie. It may be silent a great while: it may speak to others, but not to us. Yet at length it shall speak to us, and what it speaks may be depended upon : for it shall not lie. It shall faithfully deliver God's message, and fully answer, nay, exceed all our expectations. Then it follows, though it tarry, wait for it. Though it shall not tarry beyond the appointed time; yet it may beyond the expected time. A short season often seems long to persons in an afflicted state.