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and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
But now, in pursuing this exhortation a little, I shall,
1. Endeavour to illustrate and clear it, in answering a few questions.
2. Enforce it with a few motivés. 3. Conclude with a few directions.
I. I would illustrate this exhortation, by answering a few questions. And
The first question which may be offered is this: You exhort us to a life of faith on Christ; but pray tell us, in the first place, what is it to live upon him by faith, and what influence faith has upon our journey while in the wilderness?
This question was in some measure answered already, in giving the import of the expression in the text, the spouse's leaning on her beloved. I shall farther add, that this life of faith, does not lie in one single act of believing, but in the continuation of faith or believing through the whole course of your
life in the world: “ The life I live in the flesh," that is, while I am in the body, “ is by faith on the Son of God.” Some are ready to imagine, that, when they have once believed in Christ, they have no more to do but to look back on their first closing with Christ; and upon that act of faith they rest, as their security for life and salvation, without any great concern to repeat and renew it. I am afraid if this be your way of doing, you are yet strangers both to faith in the first and after actings of it." Men are called believers, not because they have put forth one single act of faith, but because they are or should be continually believing. It is true, the first act of faith ties the knot between Christ and the soul, that shall never be loosed through eternity; but where this act of faith has been exerted, there will be frequent attempts towards the repetition of it. Faith is called an “cating the flesh, and drinking the blood of the Son of man." Now, you know, it is not a man's taking one single meal in bis whole life that will subsist his body, but he must be eating and drinking every day, and frequently through the day; otherwise his natural life would soon languish: so here, there must be a continual feeding upon the incarnation and satisfaction of Christ, in order to the preservation and maintenance of the spiritual life of the soul; the life of the soul can no more be maintained by one act of faith, than the life of the body can be maintained by one meal for any long space of time. Faith is called a " drawing water out of the wells of salvation,” Is, xii. 3. It will not do our business to come once to the well, the water in the cistern will soon be spent; and
therefore we must be daily coming back to the fountain for new water: so here, the life of faith is a continual coming to Christ, and a "receiving out of his fulness grace for grace.”
" Grace received into the vessel of the soul will, like water, soon stagnate by reason of the corruption of the vessel, and it will soon be spent; what we get this day will not serve us the next: and therefore there must be a continual application to him for new supply, a continued drawing “ water out of the wells of salvation.” The branches live every day upon their root; the branches draw, and the root communicates sap to them for their nourishment and growth: so here, “ As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can ye,” says Christ, “ except ye abide in me.” This continued believing in Christ is called (Col. ii. 19,) a s holding the head, from which the whole body, as by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth wi the increase of God.” The members of the natural body, are continually receiving life, and spirit, and conduct, from their head; so, by the faith of God's operation by which we are united to Christ, we ase continually receiving that grace and fulness that is in him, 66 till we come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And this is the life of faith that I exhort you to, in order to your comfortable journey through the wilderness of this world.
There are two ways by which your life will be maintained and nourished from Christ through eternity; one in this world, and another in the world to come. So long as we are in this world, we are like children in the mother's womb, entirely nourished and maintained by faith, (like the string by which the unborn infant is nourished in the mother, which sucks in the life, righteousness, and fulness of Christ into the soul: but no sooner do we pass out of this world into the life of glory, but the string of faith is cut, and then we come to be nourished another way, namely, by immediate vision of the Lord. As the child is nourished in the womb till it is fully ripe for the birth; so faith nourishes the soul till it be fully ripe for glory; and then faith is turned into full fruition, and immediate enjoyment.
To illustrate this matter, I shall in a few particulars show the influence that faith has through the whole of the Christian's work and warfare in the wilderness, from first to last.
1. It is faith that gives the soul the first sight of Christ, and of the way of salvation through him; it is the eye that first spies him out, as the all-sufficient Saviour provided by God the Father. When the poor soul has been as it were beaten, battered, and tossed among the waves and tempests of law-terrors, and apprehensions of eternal wrath and ven
geance, in which case it has been as it were casting its most valuable goods overboard, its own righteousness, morality, civility, its duties, abilities, legal attainments, and every thing else: now, while the soul is in this condition, every moment expecting to be swallowed up in the great deeps of the sea of God's wrath, faith as it were steps up to the top of the mast, and gets a view of Christ, and of salvation in him; and thereupon
soul cries out, Oh there is Christ, let me get aboard of him; Oh there is the rock of ages, I will venture my all upon him; Oh there is a strong hold and a refuge, I will fee in unto him; Oh “this is my rest
, here will I dwell, soul desires it.” Thus, I say, it is by faith that we first enter into a state of grace, peace, and righteousness; according to that word of the apostle, Rom. v. 2: “We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” When the soul was surrounded with nothing but the black thoughts of despair and ruin, faith lands the soul in a safe harbour: therefore " he that hath believed" is said to have “entered into his rest," Heb. iv. 2. It is by faith that the union is made up between Chríst
Indeed there is a radical union that we have with Christ before faith; for he takes hold of us first by his Spirit, before we take hold of him by faith; but yet the union is made up on our part by faith; it is that which ties the marriage knot. It is not love, but consent, that makes marriage between man and woman: so here, it is the soul's coming off from the law, and all other husbands; its coming off from its own righteousness, and submitting to Christ as a Saviour, a Husband, and a Surety; this is it that makes up the union, and this is done by faith. There are two things that marry Christ and the soul together, as is plain from Hos. ii. 19, 20. The first is on God's part; he says to us in the covenant, and by his Spirit, “I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and in loving-kindness: there, I say, is God's part. But what is it on our part that makes the marriage? It follows, “and thou shalt know the Lord,” that is, thou shalt believe in him; for this is the way that faith is very commonly expressed by in the Old Testament; namely, by the knowledge of the Lord. It is faith that brings Christ to the heart, and reveals him to the soul in all his glory and excellency.
3. As union, so our communion with Christ is by faith. There are two things requisite in order to our having fellowship with another; the first is, to make the person real and present; and the second is, to have a familiar access with boldness unto him. Now, it is faith that does both these. (1.) It is faith that makes God in Christ present to the soul: for it * sees him who is invisible:" yea, it brings Christ and God in
him, down from heaven unto the heart; hence Christ is said to “ dwell in our hearts by faith.” It is not love that can make another person present; it may, indeed, set the fancy at work to frame the picture and image of the person beloved; but it is only faith that can view God in Christ as present in and with the soul. And then, (2.) It is faith that gives us familiarity and boldness of access to the Lord: Eph. iii. 12: “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” And, 2 Cor. iii. 18: “Beholding him with open face,” we come to him; “with open face,” that is, with confidence and boldness: Psal. xxxiv. 5: “ They looked unto him,
. and were lightened:” and what follows ? " Their faces were not ashamed;" that is, when they viewed Christ by faith, they had boldness of access to God in him. The communion that we have with Christ is frequently compared to eating and drinking, John vi. because it is faith alone that fetches nourishment from Christ, and makes a person to find the sweetness that is in him, and draws virtue from him: and thus it has the most close and intimate union and communion with him, insomuch that he is one with the soul, and the soul one with him.
4. As faith brings us into union and communion with Christ, so faith brings the Spirit of God down into the heart. I own indeed, that, in the work of regeneration and conversion, he is like the rain, that " waits not for the sons of men;" he comes unsent for, or unsought for; "he is found of them that seek him not;" faith has no instrumentality there; faith itself is a part of the new creature, that is formed by the hand of the Spirit. But, I say, faith brings the Spirit into the heart, as a Spirit of sanctification, and of consolation, Eph. i. 13: “In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Gal. iii. 14, we are said to “re
. ceive the promise of the Holy Spirit through faith.” All the fulness of the Spirit dwells in Christ, for the use of his mystical body; now, it is by faith that this fulness is received, even
grace. 5. I might tell you, farther, that our standing in a state of grace is by faith. As we have access or entrance into a state of grace, so we have standing in that state by faith, Rom. v. 2; 2 Cor. i. ult. “By faith ye stand.”
By faith ye stand.” 1 Pet. i. 5, we are said to be “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” There you see, that faith is joined in commission with the power of God, to keep the believer. Does the
power of God keep you? so does faith. God is not shy of ascribing that to faith, which is peculiar only to himself, because faith ascribes all to the power of God, and gives him the honour of every thing that it does: hence we are said to
be “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” When other graces, such as love, repentance, &c. fag and fail, and have as it were their heels tripped up, faith will stand its ground: hence, Eph. vi. 16, there is a particular mark of distinction put upon faith beyond all the other pieces of armour; 6 Above all, take the shield of faith.” When a man's head-piece is cracked, his sword, his breastplate, and other armour is taken from him; yet his shield will do him good service, he will lie under it, and thereby defend himself against all the strokes and blows that are levelled at him. Let the devil, corruption, and hell, rage and roar as they will, yet faith will keep its gripe, and maintain its ground: let Satan cast his fiery darts, faith quenches them, Eph. vi. 16: let indwelling sin roar and rage, faith will say, Let it rage, yet it shall never reign; for God has said, that “ sin shall not have dominion:" yea, let God himself carry as an enemy, and set himself in battle-array against the soul ; yet even then faith will look in his face, and say, “ Though thou shouldst even kill me, yet will I trust in thee,” Job xiii. 15. When other graces are fainting, and crying, “ We know not what to do;" faith will say, Mine
toward thee: I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of
salvation: my God will hear me: Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto me,” &c. When other graces, like poor faint-hearted things, stand as it were trembling, and crying, “ Who shall deliver us?" faith will lift up the head, and cry, “ Thanks be to God, which giveth me the victory, , through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
6. It is faith that fetches in peace and quiet to the soul in the midst of trouble, whether from without or from within. When nothing but storms from heaven, earth, and hell, are blowing on the soul, faith will cast out its anchor of hope, and keep the soul steady and quiet, saying with David, Psal. xlii. 11: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me ? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him.”. To the same purpose is that famous text, Is, xxvi. 3: “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee,” And how is the mind stayed on the Lord but by faith? Oh, says faith, let me have what tribulation I will win the world, yet in Christ I shall have peace.—This man shall be my peace, when the Assyrian comes into the land."
7. Faith not only brings peace, but joy into the soul, amidst all other disturbances from without: hence we are said to be filled with joy, as well as peace, in believing. And, 1 Pet. i. 8:
Whom having not seen, we love; in whom though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable,