Page images

waters, he is safe. Faith trades in the deep waters of the fulness of the Godhead that dwells bodily in Christ, "made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;" and so it gets above doubts and racking fears of shipwreck but it is (I say) otherwise with sense; it deals with created grace, manifestations, experiences, and attainments. And thus I have cleared in some measure the difference between faith and sense. I go now to,

II. The second thing I proposed upon this exhortation, which was to press a life of faith upon believers by some motives or arguments; and I shall only insist a little upon


1. Then, Consider that the life of faith is adapted and suited to a wilderness-lot. And this will be evident, if we


1st, That the wilderness is a solitary place, where there is little communion or converse about the things of God: it is too frequent with the believer, that he cannot get a friend to whom he can open his mind in the world. Well, faith is adapted for such a case as this; for by faith believers see and converse with an invisible God, insomuch they are able to say, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." God has a way of speaking with the believer, and the believer has a way of talking and conversing with God through Christ by faith, even in the wilderness, a solitary land: "My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." And what is faith but just the echo of the soul, when it answers such words of grace, saying, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth: Behold I come unto thee, for thou art the Lord my God?"

2dly, The wilderness is a misty and foggy land, where the traveller is in danger of losing his way; he "walks in darkness, and can see no light." Clouds of desertion, clouds of sin, clouds of error cast up; so that the poor believer, in his way to glory, knows not what course to take. Well, faith is adapted to such a lot and condition as this; for it "is the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for: it can look through the mists and clouds that cast up in its way, and run its race, "looking unto Jesus" as its leader and commander. And when some are saying, “Lo, Christ is here; or, lo, he is there;" faith can distinguish between the voice of the true Shepherd and the voice of a stranger, and the voice of a stranger it will not follow.

3dly, The wilderness is a place of want; it is a dry, bar, ren, and thirsty land, where there is nothing for the support of the soul. Well, faith is adapted to such a case as this also; for, like the virtuous woman in the Proverbs, it fetches

its food from the land of glory, Emmanuel's land. It has meat to eat that the world cannot afford, and which the world knows nothing of. Though Christ, as to his human nature, be in heaven, yet faith has a way of eating his flesh and of drinking his blood, which is meat indeed, and drink indeed. Faith can bring manna out of the clouds, and water out of the flinty rock; the hand of faith will pluck the fruit of the 'tree of life which grows in the midst of the paradise of God, and find its fruit sweet to the soul's taste. Many a sweet and heartsome banquet and enjoyment has faith, when the world are feeding on husks. Oh, says Jeremiah, "Thy word was found by me, and I did eat it, and it was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart."

4thly, The wilderness is a place of danger; thieves and robbers, lions and leopards, frequent the wilderness. Well, faith is of singular use in this condition also. When the enemy's fiery darts are cast at the believer, faith is a shield with which he beats them back, and turns them off without any hurt: and when the poor soul is like to be overpowered by the might or multitude of its enemies, faith has a way of bringing in the aid of Heaven for its help, as Jehoshaphat did; "We know not what to do, but our eyes are upon thee." Faith has a way of wielding the arm of Omnipotence in a time of danger; and then it cries, "Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies. We will be joyful in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners." And when it is proper to make a retreat, faith turns into its strong-hold, which is the name of the Lord.


5thly, The wilderness is an unsettled place, where a person undergoes a variety of dispensations, turnings, and windings, in their lot. Well, faith is of particular use to the believer in this case, in regard that, like an anchor sure and steadfast, it enters within the veil, and keeps the soul steady and firm under all vicissitudes and temptations: hence, says Paul, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where, and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." Faith keeps the soul "steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that its labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”

6thly, A wilderness is a place of manifold thorns and trials: "In the world ye shall have tribulation." Now, faith is of singular use here also; for it sees and considers, that this is the lot that God has ordered; that he will bring good out of all afflictions; that they are but light, and "for a moment,

and not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed:" and with the views of this future glory it balances all the afflictions of the present life. Thus you see that a life of faith is adapted and suited to a wilderness-lot; and therefore let us take the example of the spouse here, come up from the wilderness, leaning upon the beloved, living by faith upon him.

Mot. 2. To encourage and engage you to a leaning on Christ by faith as you come up from the wilderness, consider, believer, that he is thy husband and bridegroom; there is a marriage-relation between thee and him; and should not this encourage you to live and lean upon him? It is under this consideration that the spouse here takes him she comes up, up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved. And, to encourage faith in him under this relation, you will only consider the particulars following:

1st, Consider, that he took thee for his bride and spouse when thou wast in a wretched and miserable plight, blind, poor, and naked, having the hue of hell upon thee: Ezek. xvi: "When I passed by thee, and saw thee in thy blood, I said unto thee, Live: and thy time was a time of love," &c. When thou wast lying among the pots, he loved thee; and he loved thee so dearly, as that he bought thee off from the hand of justice with the price of his precious blood: "He loved me, and he gave himself for me," says Paul. And should not this encourage thee to live and lean on him in thy journey through the wilderness?

2dly, He gave thee thy marriage clothes. When thou hadst not a rag to cover thee, he "clothed thee with white raiment, that the shame of thy nakedness might not appear:" hence is that song of the church, Is. Ixi. 10: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." And Ezek. xvi. 7, 10-13. Now, should not the consideration of this kindness encourage thee to lean on him as thy beloved?

3dly, Consider, that in the marriage-contract of the new covenant he has made over himself, and all that he is, and all that he has, to thee: "All things are yours; for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." There he says, "Thy Maker is thine Husband; I will betroth thee unto me for ever, in faithfulness," &c.

4thly, Consider the closeness and intimacy of the union between him and thee, and let this encourage thee to lean and live on him by faith. It is far more intimate and dear than

the union between husband and wife among men; for they indeed are one flesh, but he is one body and one spirit with his spouse; he is in them, and they are in him. And by virtue of this intimate union, thou hast a title to him and his whole purchase. As the wife, when married to a man of a liberal estate, may look to his lands and lodgings, and say, This house is mine, and this land is mine, and such and such things are mine, for they are my husband's, and he is mine, and I am his: so may the believer, by virtue of his marriage-union with the Son of God, when he looks to heaven, he may say, This is my habitation; when he looks to the earth, he may say, This inn; when he looks to the angels, he may say, These are my guards; when he looks round about him, he may say, All things are mine, for they belong to my blessed Husband, who is heir of all things, and I am heir of God through him; his righteousness is mine to justify me; his grace is mine, to sanctify me; his spirit is mine, to comfort me, his covenant is mine, for it was made with him, and with me through him, &c.

is my

5thly, Consider that thy blessed Husband, believer, calls thee to lean upon him, he counsels and encourages thee to depend on him as thou comest out of the wilderness; he speaks to his spouse in a kindly way, saying, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee: Cast all your cares upon him, for he careth for you: Trust in him at all times, ye people, pour out your hearts before him," &c.

6thly, To encourage thy dependence on him in the wilderness, consider his tender sympathy with thee under all thy ailments and infirmities. Thou art as dear to him as the very "apple of his eye," and he has "set thee as a seal on his heart and his arm," and he is "touched with the feeling of thy infirmities; he gathers the lambs with his arms, he carries them in his bosom, he gently leads those that are with young; and he giveth power unto the faint, and increaseth strength to them that have no might."

Lastly, If you do not lean on him, you will surely faint, and fag, and sit up in thy journey through the wilderness; but if thou lean and rest on him, "thou shalt renew thy strength, and mount up with wings as eagles," thou shalt run and not be weary, and walk and not faint, till thou come to Zion, with songs. Now, let all these considerations encourage you to come up from the wilderness leaning on your beloved.

III. To shut up this discourse, it may be asked, What advice do you give us, in order to our living a life of faith, or our leaning on the beloved, as we come up from the wilder

ness? I answer in general, that there is a threefold object that must be kept in view, in order to our living by faith; and every act of saving faith terminates upon all the three in their proper order. 1. There is the promise. 2. There is Christ in the promise. 3. Upon God in Christ. True faith can want none of them, and it is not a right faith that misses one of them. The promise is but a cipher, without Christ; and Christ is no Christ, unless we take God up in him. Faith cannot fix upon Christ without the promise, and it cannot fix upon God but as he is in Christ. Take away the promise, and you take away Christ; and take away Christ, and you take away God; for God is no God to a sinner, but as he is in Christ. So, then, of necessity these three grand objects of faith must be taken in, and taken up, in order to [live] a life of faith. And therefore I shall endeavour to show how faith is to act upon every one of them, by answering a threefold question. 1. How faith is to act upon the promise of the word, which is the next and immediate object of faith? 2. How it is to be acted upon Christ? 3. How it is to act upon a God in Christ?

Quest. 1. What counsel or advice do you give us, in order to our living by faith upon the promise, which is the next or most immediate object of faith?

I answer, in order to your living by faith upon the promise, I give you these few advices following:

In your reading of the scriptures, collect the promises, and gather them, pick them up; for "by these do men live, and in all these is the life of your souls." By the "great and precious promises" we are made "partakers of the divine nature."

Treasure them up in your minds, for they are the fuel of faith; and faith can as little act without the promise as fire can burn without fuel. And therefore let your minds be, like the pot in the ark, always full of the manna of the word. A promise hid in the heart will do you service when you have neither access to read nor hear.

Be frequently meditating on them, and rolling them like a sweet morsel under your tongue. "While I was musing, the fire burned," says David. Faith, which works by love, is set at work by serious meditation. The promises are the sweetest lines in Christ's love-letters to his spouse: there is majesty in the command, severity in the threatening; but love and mercy predominate in the promise."

prayer. The pro. to be pursued in "For these things

Be frequently pleading the promise in mise is God's bond, and God's bond is the court of grace, at the throne of grace: I will be inquired of that I may do it for them." This was

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »