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was possible, though at other times who does not believe. He who is he doubted of it. “Lord, I believe, found distrusting the promise of God, help thou mine unbelief.”
cannot expect to have the blessings at. It is to the answer of our blessed tached to believing : he who is found Saviour to the first appeal of this father, trusting to his own efforts, and not to and then to the exclamation of the God, cannot expect the blessings : nei. father himself, that our attention is to ther can he who is indifferent to these be called this evening. Both of these things expect the blessings. They are verses contain important truths, in given to those who are neither dis. meditating on which, if God will grant trustful, presumptuous, nor indifferent. his presence and his blessing, we may “ All things are possible to him that derive instruction, important for us to believeth.” retain ; and may be led, perhaps, to It is material, however, to remark, some resolutions and efforts on which in the next place, that faith must always it is of consequence for us to act. be limited by the promises of God; because
From the first of these verses, namely, there is another kind of presumption, the expression used by our Saviour, we and that is, where persons trust to relearn this important truth—that all real ceiving blessings which are not progoodness is to be attained by the exercise mised, where they have no warrant of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “All from scripture. This, if it may be things are possible to him that be called faith or confidence at all, is cer. lieveth.” That is the first point we tainly not that kind of faith to which learn from the passage I have read. the blessing is attached. Where we Faith generally is opposed to three have a clear promise from Almighty things—to despondency and distrust in God, it is our duty to trust : where we the first instance; to presumption in have no such promise, there is no the second ; and to indifference in the ground of trust; and confidence is only third. It is plain, that wherever a presumption and enthusiasm. lively faith on any subject exists, these We must notice further, to the right other things will be removed. A per- understanding of what our Lord has son who has strong faith in any pro said, “ All things are possible to him mise that is given, cannot at the same that believeth,” that he clearly means time be affected with distrust with re- here, the blessing is attached to the exerspect to it. A person who exercises cise of faith in the particular blessing strong faith in another, for the ob- we are asking. All things are not postaining of any particular benefit, is not, sible to him who has a mere general on the other hand, presumptuous and faith. It is possible to have a faith in self-confident; he is not looking to ob- our Saviour's salvation without exertain the same result from his own cising faith for the particular blessing efforts ; and wherever faith is spoken we are seeking; and, therefore, if a of in the scriptures, it is on this sup- blessing is attached to believing, we position, that men are not looking to may be without that blessing. Of this themselves for the blessings expected. we have a remarkable instance in the It is equally opposed to indifference; passage before us. As this narrative for where a person is careless of any is given by St. Matthew, in the sevenblessing, it is possible, indeed, that he teenth chapter, we read, that, before may not have an active doubt with re- this demoniac child was brought to spect to the power of another to obtain our Saviour, the disciples had previously the blessing, but he is not exercising been asked to cast out the devil, and faith : faith remains dormant if it be they could not. On coming to our existing; and certainly it is not such blessed Lord, and asking, “Why could a kind of faith, as that which is con- not we cast him out ?” he says to nected with the blessing itself. He that them, “Because of your unbelief: for would attain any blessing must attain verily I say unto you, If ye have faith it, not by his distrust, but by the earnest as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall use of those means appointed by God. say unto this mountain, Remove hence If our Saviour, then, has declared, to yonder place; and it shall remove ; that all things are possible to him that and nothing shall be impossible unto believeth, it implies that all things are you.” Now, the disciples were benot possible, or rather, that no super-| lievers'; they were saved by trusting to natural blessing is possible, to him the Lord; they were converted by the
instrumentality of faith ; but they did all things are possible to him that benot exercise faith on this particular lieveth.” truth, that Jesus Christ had appointed In the next place, his reply to our them to work miracles in his name. Saviour will furnish us with some imThis was the unbelief with which he portant truths in connection with this. charged them, and the unbelief by “ Straightway the father of the child which they lost the very power he cried out, and said with tears, Lord meant to communicate. Because I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” of your unbelief ;”, therefore they could From which answer we clearly discern, not cast out the devil. On this par- that faith may be weak and partial in a ticular truth they had not faith even as real believer. When he said, “ Lord I a grain of mustard seed ; because if believe,” it is plain that this person did they had faith of that truth, in the receive Christ Jesus as the Messiah sent least degree, they would have been of God, that he did believe in his power able to do any supernatural work to generally to work miracles by the aid which he called or appointed them, of God: but when he said, “ Help though it were as wonderful as thou mine unbelief,” it is clear, likewise, moving the mountain which they saw, that he was conscious of a faltering in and casting it into the sea.
his faith, that with respect to this parThis is the exercise of faith to which ticular blessing, which depended on our Lord directs our attention when he the exercise of faith, he felt misgivings. says,-“ All things are possible to him The blessing depended on the exercise that believeth.” All things for which of faith. "If thou canst believe, all God has given his plain promise are things are possible to him that believeth,” possible to those who exercise faith said our Saviour : that is, if thou canst upon that promise given by Almighty believe, I have the power and will to God-faith as opposed to distrust, pre- effect this cure ; exercise that faith, sumption, and indifference. If any and it shall be done. But this person, one exercise this kind of faith in the from conflicting doubts, felt a misgiving promises God has given, all things are in his soul, whether the blessing would put within his power: so that if any be granted ; therefore he said, “ Help Christian is found, from week to week, thou mine unbelief.” He showed this and from month to month, complain- faltering in his mind when he first ading of the weakness of his grace, his dressed our Lord; for his supplication liability to sin, his frequent falls, his was, “ If thou canst do any thing, have want of progress, he sees the cause; it compassion on us, and help us." Here is not that God is unwilling to give was nothing of that powerful faith of him strength, and grace, and victory; the Syrophenician woman, who folbut it is because he has been exercising lowed our Lord through all repulses little, faith in the promises God has and delays, assured that he was able, given. There is a general confidence and that he would cure her daughter ; which the Christian is well entitled to and this shows, that faith may be maintain, that God will give him all weak and partial, though it be genuine. things fully and without particulariz In ordinary cases our faith in any ing: but if he stands in need of a par- thing is proportioned to the evidence ticular blessing, he boldly pleads in we receive for it. Where any matter prayer for it, and rests assured that he of evidence on any point to be received shall have it in God's time. But it is just preponderates over the evidence of the greatest use, that we should be against it, there our faith is weak and well versed in the particular promises wavering; a little would change our God has given, and the method in minds, and induce us to alter our which God bestows them that we opinions. But even where the evishould notice how God gives these dence is overwhelmingly strong, our blessings, in order that our faith may minds may be in such a state as to be not fail, and that, through repeated unable to receive it. For however disappointments and long delay, we much some persons may talk of our may yet pursue after those blessings religious faith being the result of enwhich it is God's will eventually to quiry and evidence, and depending bestow. This is the first thing we learn solely on the power of the intellect, or from our Saviour's expression to this on its feebleness, we know well that Jewish father—"If thou canst believe, passion and prejudice, not only in reli
gious matters, but in all other matters he had a clear, unquestioned certainty where our interests or our passions are with respect to our Lord's divine involved, have a powerful influence in mission. He knew him to be from the formation of our opinions; and God, and nothing would persuade him wherever prejudice or excited passion to say.“ By Belzebub the prince of the exists, a much stronger degree of evi- devils he casteth out devils”-to that dence is required to fix our belief of a measure of unbelief nothing could thing, than were our minds perfectly compel his faith ; he wavered only on calm. It is so in religion. Now, this point, namely, as to the power of just as where evidence is in itself our Lord to cure his child. imperfect the faith may be feeble, If we now combine these two confrom the weakness of the understand-siderations-first, that the exercise of ing, or from the insufficiency of the faith brings all promised blessings evidence; just so where our prejudices within the believer's reach—and sehave been great, or deeply rooted, or condly, that it is possible to have a our passions strong, there again the genuine faith in our Saviour, and yet evidence may be such as to compel us that our faith should be weak, and in to a sort of doubtful opinion, and to many points partial—then we come to leave our faith weak, easily to be this next consideration, that if we warped, easily to be turned aside, would obtain great blessings it is of easily to lapse again into unbelief. consequence to us that we should be Faith, then, is weak, whenever it is of earnest for more faith. We perceive a wavering character, whenever we are this also in the narrative before us, found to-day confident, and to-morrow for when this Jewish father was condoubting, according to the varying vinced, by our Lord's word, that the forms of our mind, or the circum- cure he so earnestly desired depended stances in which we are placed. Of on the exercise of faith on that partithis kind was the faith of this Jewish cular promise, “he straightway cried father ; it was a wavering faith, in out with tears, Lord, I believe, help some moments feeling a confidence thou mine unbelief.” He cried out that our Lord Jesus could give him with tears ; he earnestly desired the that great blessing he was asking, at blessing, earnestly desiring the faith other times questioning, from its mag- to which it was attached : he quesnitude, whether it could be bestowed. tioned whether those lingerings of
But faith may also be partial. We doubt he felt would not hinder him of are quite conscious that our faith may, the blessing he so greatly desired; in some matters, be perfectly fixed and therefore he earnestly desired more strong; and yet, with regard to other faith. Well may we imitate him in truths, to some minds equally plain, this also ; for if, indeed, the greatest equally plain in God's holy word, and spiritual blessings are to be obtained which we ought to receive free from by the exercise of strong faith, of how doubt-whether our attention has not many blessings shall we be deprived if been so strongly turned to those points, our faith is weak and partial. The or we have had, from circumstances, lowest degree of saving faith, of real more powerful prejudices, or whatever spiritual belief in the Lord Jesus, be the cause, of the fact we are con which is the accepting of Christ as our scious, that our faith may be partial. Saviour, does indeed bring us into And here we must observe, that strong vital union with him, grafts us on the faith is also more apt to be partial stock of that parent stem, gives us an than weak faith ; because the same inheritance among all his followers, disposition of mind that leads us heart- makes us partakers of everlasting grace, ily to credit anything that God has admits us to all the privileges of the said, that leads us heartily (if I may children of God, and ensures to us use a familiar expression) to take him our Father's care to all eternity. “In at his own word, would lead us equally him all that believe are justified from to trust him on all other occasions all things,” says the apostle : they where he has given us a plain demon- have a full and complete pardon. He stration of his will and purpose to do us came to save to the uttermost them good. This Jewish father was an in- that believe on him. But, notwithstance also of partial faith, because when standing, the lowest degree of faith he said, “ Lord I believe,” it seems as if | has these Almighty and eternal bless
ings connected with it: it is we have faith is weak, is occupied continually seen, the strong exercise of faith in with his own evils, with his own unGod's promises to us that ensures our happiness; he is constantly perceiving comfortable walk, and our progress in his deficiencies, but grievously failing knowledge, in grace, and in virtue, continually in duty ; feeling a thouwhile we are here below. Of all these sand anxieties and alarms; there is a blessings, attached to the exercise of continual restlessness of spirit: whereas faith in God's particular promises, he who exercises strong faith is ready shall we be deprived if our faith is to diffuse far and wide the blessing he weak and partial.
himself enjoys ; he becomes a blessing My brethren, of how much conse to others; the promise is dear to him, quence is it to us that we should and heaven seeming within his reach, desire strong and universal faith. God his own interest secure, that man is has given many great and exceeding able, and that man does, in fact, lay promises, ensuring to his people large himself out for the good of others; supplies of grace, virtue, comfort and whereas the other is always shrinking strength, even here below. Of how within those evils by which he is so much consequence is it to us that we beset and harassed. should not by our own failings be Christians are placed in this world deprived of these large supplies, and in an inclement atmosphere; and there go on our road to heaven feeble, in- is as real a difference between him firm, and unhappy, through our own who exercises strong faith, and he who neglect to lay hold of God's almighty is a weak and partial believer, as there strength, who has commanded us, is between the hardy and daring moun“ Be you strong in the Lord”-Be taineer when he carols in the mounyou filled with the Spirit”—“ Walk tain air, and the poor consumptive in the Spirit”-and many other such sufferer, who shivers in the summer like precepts.
The one is able to shrink There is as real a difference between from no temptation, he is so languid; the strong believer and the weak, or he feels that his soul is sick, he feels rather I should say, between the be- that he has nothing of the vigour and liever who exercises strong faith, and thriving of a well ordered soul: whereas, the believer who has but a partial and the other, who exercises strong faith, weak faith, as there is among the is growing more and more powerful, armies that fight human battles—be- experiencing the promise of God, tween the veriest coward that ever dis They that wait upon the Lord shall graced the standard under which he renew their strength ; they shall mount fought, and the bravest soldier who up with wings as eagles ; they shall was the admiration of his friends and run and not be weary; and they shall foes ; for the one who exercises strong walk, and not faint." faith is ready to fight the strong fight Now, if there is this difference, or of this world : on the contrary, the any thing like it, (and I have but feebly, man who is not able to exercise faith most feebly described the real diffein God's promises is scarcely able to rence that exists between them,) how hide himself from those foes which important it is for us earnesly to desire, surround him ; his thoughts are not especially if we are conscious of that in achieving victory—his state is not feebleness of faith which is constantly fit for fighting the good fight of faith—erring, that we should desire the he is altogether occupied in resisting stronger faith which it is God's will to those temptations, to which his unbe- bestow. The strong believer is ready lief is daily exposing him.
for doing or suffering : he stands where Believers are also citizens of this God places him, ready for all hazards, world, placed here by God to be ac- and all emergencies.' In short, there tive in their different spheres; and is nothing stronger in this lower world there is as real a difference between a than a firm believer in the power and man who exercises strong faith and he goodness of God. Such achievements who is but weak, as there is between he shall work, and he alone, as are that poor man who is anxious under recorded of those worthies whose names the apprehension of an approaching are placed in an imperishable shrine in bankruptcy, and the liberal benefactor the eleventh of the Hebrews. Whereas, of a province. For the one, he whose a feeble believer, whatever his natural
endowments, or original strength of before them the strong evidence to the mind, will be certainly, in his religious truth, that they expected it; these they course, weak and indolent, sensual and might have had, and yet remained as worldly, anxious and fretful, if he be feeble in their faith as before: but it not altogether callous and indifferent was by a direct influence on the heart, to the welfare of his own soul, and the by a sweeping away of prejudices, by souls of his fellow men.
calming the impetuous passions. In Have you not found it so that this this way they expected their faith should universal malady, this malaria of the be healed and increased; and so it must mind, if I may so express myself, does be with us. wither up all their best energies and My brethren, in this, and in this graces, and prevent them from execut- way only, can we expect to have our ing a thousand projects, by which they faith, from day to day, strengthened might have advanced the cause of their and enlarged. It always will be so, as Redeemer in their own families or the apostle says in the second chapter circles, in their own neighbourhood or of Colossians, where he terms faith of country. Know, my brethren, it is the operation of God. Believers, he our business, with this Jewish father, says, are risen with Christ “ through earnestly to desire that we may attain the faith of the operation of God, who a much stronger faith than we have hath raised him from the dead.” It is hitherto enjoyed. Straightway he in this way alone that faith can be cried out, and with tears said, Lord, I increased, when faith is of the operabelieve, help thou mine unbelief.” tion of God. To him, therefore, must
Our text, however, does not leave believers continually go for the augmen.. us here; it adds one other material tation of that which they confess, in its point of information, and that is, if we origin, was received from him. The tould obtain a strength of faith, it must very first beginnings of faith were his be by persevering prayer. Conscious own gift. He himself imparted it in that his faith was weak, and fearful its feeble origin to our minds ; and it that through its weakness he should is his prerogative to increase it perpelose the promised blessing, the Jewish tually till it becomes the full assurance father exclaimed, “ help thou mine un of sight in heaven. But for our combelief." It was well for him that he fort, when we look on it as the gift of did not look to himself for the produc- another, we may learn that he is most tion of this blessing; and yet it shows willing to bestow. It is his own dethat there was much of faith that he sire-his own delight, to see his people should come to the Saviour who stood exercising a strength of faith in him. before him to increase his faith. It Jesus is willing to increase our faith ; shows that he had confidence in the and if therefore any one here is laboursupernatural power of him, of another ing under this moral disorder, oh, that man, the humble teacher, that stood he might but be persuaded to come before him, to ask him to increase a with the same earnestness of desire to sentiment in his own mind, which in the Lord Jesus for this blessing, and he crease of sentiment he could not him- will doubtless obtain it. If there be a self produce. He could not produce a feeble believer here, and I doubt not strong belief-how should that teacher there are many, let such a one rememwho stood before him produce it? He ber, that if he can find in the whole must have had a powerful conviction circle of his religious friends one who that that Saviour was appointed, and is possessed of eminently strong faith, able, to heal the maladies of men, or and by the strength of faith has athe never would have said “ help thou tained other graces in equal eminencemine unbelief." It was so with the that very person can trace his course disciples of our Saviour, and it is the back to the time when he had no true and only way in which a believer stronger faith than you have, to the in Jesus shall attain the additional | time when his spiritual maladies were faith he needs. The disciples came to as inveterate and as universal as yours ; our Lord, saying, “ Lord increase our he can trace it to that time when his faith"-an attribute, it must be con- present attainments might seem as hopefessed, of one superior far to man, to less to him as they might seem now to increase the faith of another. It was you. not by argument; it was not by setting Let every person here, who feels, in