« PreviousContinue »
his hot blood, that knows no such thing as fear: And looking how much of the soul is empty of faith, so much it is filled with fear: “ Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Matth. viii. 26. Certainly, it is a rare advantage, to be freed from the common distraction, in times of common destruction; and this advantage the foul hath by faith.
2. It strengthens the soul to bear afflictions and hardihips ; not only by purging out its weakning distempers, but by turning itself to Christ, in whom all its strength lies; and that suitably to the several exigencies of the soul, in all its distreffes. Doth darkness, like the shadow of death, overspread the earth, and all the lights of earthly comforts disappear ? then faith supports the heart, by looking to the Lord, Micah vii. 7.
And this look of faith exceedingly
revives the heart, Psalm xxxiv. 5. and enlightens the soul. Doth God pluck away all earthly props from under your feet, and leave you nothing visible to reft upon? in that exigence faith puts forth a suitable act, viz. Resting or staying upon God, Isa. xxvi. 3. and by this the four comes to be quieted and establifhed, Pfalm cxxv. 1. tations strive to put off the soul from Christ, and discourage it from leaning upon the promise? Then it puts forth an act of resolution, Job xiii. 15. And so breaks its
And so breaks its way through that discouragement; or hath the soul been long seeking God for deliverance out of trouble, and still there is filence in heaven, no answer comes ; but instead of an answer comes a temptation, to throw
up the duty, and seek to deliver itself? Then faith puts.forth another act upon Christ, suitable to this distress, viz. An aft of waiting, Ifa. xlix. 23. which waiting is opposed to that finful haste which the foul is tempted to, Ila. xxviii. 16. Or doth God at any time call the soul forth to some difficult service, against which the flesh and carnal reason dispute and plead ? Now faith helps the foul, by putting forth an act of obedience ; and that whilst carnal reason stands by difiatisfied, Gal. i. 16. And hence it is, that obedience carries the name of faith
upon it, tó fhew its descent, kom. xvi. 26. Faith encourages the foul to obey, not only by urging God's command, but by giving it God's warrant for its indemnity, Heb. xi. 24, 25, 26. Or doth a poor believer find himself overmatched by troubles and temptations, and his own inherent strength begin to fajl under
the burden? Then faith leads him to an omnipotent God, and So secures him from fainting under his trouble, Pfalm lxi. 2. In the Lord is everlasting strength. El Shaddai, is a name of cncouragement to a feeble squl, Ifa. xl. 29, 30, 31. And thus
you see the first particular made good, viz. What a strengthen ning influence it hath upon a weak foul.
tals Secondly, In the next place, let us fee how it lightens the Christian's burdens, as well as Atrengthens his back to bear the
And certainly, this grace of faith doth strangely alter the to very nature of sufferings, taking away both the heavines and his borror of them; and this it doth divers
CM 1. By committing the bufiness to Chrift, and leaving the matter with him ; and fo quitting the foul of all these anxietia lei and perturbations, which are the very burden and weight of af
. fiction, Pfalm xxxvii. 5. For certainly, that which links w in days of trouble, is rather from within, from our unruly, it ditious, and clamorous thoughts, than from the troubles them
192 selves with which we conflict : But by committing the matter to God, the soul is quickly brought to reft.
"T 2. By discovering much present good in our troubles ; the more good faith discovers in a trouble, the more supportable and easy it makes it to the soul. Now faith brings in a com
6 fortable report, that they are not only evils, as the troubles de the wicked are, Ezek. vii. 5. but have an allay and mixture of much good, Heb. xii. 10. Ifa. xxvii. 9.
3. By foreseeing the end and final removal of them, and that near at hand, 2 Cor. iv, 17. That which daunts and a mazes men in times of trouble, is, that they can see no end of them. Hence the heart faints, and hands hang down through discouragement : But now faith brings the joyful tido ings of the end of troubles; and faith to the foul, “Why art “ thou cast down, O my soul? and why so disquicted and dil « couraged within me as if thy sufferings were like the fufa “ ferings of the damned, endless and everlasting, whereas they « are but for a moment; yet a little while, a very little while, « and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry," Heb. x. 37. Yet a little while, and then the days of thy mourning shall be over.
4. By comparing our sufferings with the sufferings of others which exceedingly diminisheth and shrinks them
up; fe times the believer compares his sufferings with Christ's
, and then he is alhamed that ever he should complain and droog t under them. Oh ! faith he, what is that, to that which the Lord Jefus fuffered for me? He fuffered in all his members,
fis head, hands, fide, feet, from all hands, friends and enemies, in all his offices ; yea, in his soul, as well as in his body: Arid indeed the fufferings of his soul, were the very foul of his sufferings: Sometimes he coinpares them with the fuf
ferings of others of the saints in former ages: When he reads in faith the history of their perfecutions, he is shamed out of his complaints, and faith, "Am I better than my fa.
thers?' Sometimes he compares them with the sufferings of the damned: Oh what is this to everlasting burnings! What ' is a prison to hell? How light and easy is it to suffer for
Chrift, in comparison of those sufferings which are from • Christ ?' And thus the soul is quieted, and the terror of sufferings abated:
5. Faith entitles Christ to the believer's sufferings, and puts them upon his score, and so it exceedingly transforms and alters them: Ah! it is no small relief, when a man can hold up the Bible, as that martyr did at the stake, and say, .This
is that which hath brought me hither ' Or as the Plalmift; « For thy fake we are killed all the day long :" Or as the apo. ftle, Col. i. 24. “I fill up that which is behind of the fuffer, “ ings of Christ in my fleih."
6. Lastly, Faith engages the presence of God, to be and 2 bide with the soul in all its folitudes and sufferings : It lays hold upon the promises made to that purpose, Psalm xxiï. 2. Ifa. xliii. 2. Heb. xiii. 5. John xiv. 18. And whilft a poor soul enjoys this, the very fense of troubles is swallowed up.
And thus I have given some brief hints, how faith relieves and itrengthens the soul in a suffering hour: The next thing is to direct you how to improve this excellent grace, that it may do you such service as this in a time of need: And, in order thereunto, I shall give you thefe feven directions.
1. Attend diligently upon the ministration of the gospel, which is not only the procreant, but also the conserving cause of faith, 1 Pet. ii. 2. The doctrine of faith, is the food and nutriment of the grace of faith: There are its rules, its encouragements, its cordials: Thence faith takes and treasures up its michtams, to which it hath recourse in times of need: Every attribute, command, or promise, that shines forth there, is a dish for faith to feed on; but all together are a royal feast, Pfalm lxii. 5. Some say the land of Judea is called " the land of the living,” in Psalm xxvii. 13. in respect of the ordinances of God, which that people enjoyed. Certain it is, they are the great instruments of quickning fouls at first, and preserving chat life it so begat in them : But then be fure they have Christ's stamp upon them, and that they be miniftred by his own officers, and in his own way: And so you may reasonably expect more fruits and influences from them,
than from all private gifts and helps in the world : “For the
6.KE “ Lord loveth the gates of Zion, more than all the dwellings
be the o of Jacob,” Psalm lxxxvii. 2. And all private helps may fay, in comparison of Christ's public ordinances, as Gideon said to the men of Ephraim, Judges viii. 2. “What have we “ done in comparison of you ?"
2. Improve well your facrament feasons, those harvest-days of faith : This ordinance hath a direct and peculiar tendency to the improvement and strengthening of faith. It is a pledge fuperadded to the promise for faith's fake : Heavenly and fu. blime mysteries do therein stoop down to your senses, that may have the clearer apprehenlions of them; and the clearer the apprehenlions are, the stronger the assent of faith must needs be : By this feal also the promise comes to be more ratified to us; and the firmer the promise appears to the soul, the more bold and adventurous faith is in cafting itself upon it : Oh! how many poor doubting trembling fouls have in such a season gathered the full ripe fruits of aflurance, from the top-boughs of that ordinance!
3. Frequent actings of faith, are rare and special means of improving it: “To him that hath,” (i. e.) that improves and uses what he hath, “shall be given," Matth xxv. 29.
This was the way by which Paul thrived in faith, and every other grace fo exceedingly, that he outgrew them that were in Chrift before him, 1 Cor. xv. 10. It is true, its beginning in the
Strele foul, is not after the manner of other habits, either moral, or natural: This is not of natural acquisition, but by divine infusion : But yet its improvement is in the fame manner. Oko then! if ever you would have a flourishing faith, rouze it up out of the dull habit, and live in the daily exercise of it.
4. Go to Jesus Christ, who is the Author and finisher of faith, and cry to him, as Mark ix. 24. “ Lord, increase my « faith :" Yea, beg the assistance of others prayers in this behalf, as the apostle did, 1 Theff. ii. 10. 2 Theff. i. 11. faith animates prayer, and prayer increaseth faith.
5. Improve times of affliction for the increase of faith : For certainly, sanctified afflictions do notably exercise and increase this grace, 1 Pet. i. 7. In times of prosperity, we know not what stock of faith we have : We live so much
things feen, that we cannot many times tell whether we have faith or no: But when difficult days come, then we must get out our whole subsistence and livelihood by faith, Hab. ii. 4. Yea, then we have many proofs and experiments of God's fidelity in the promises, which is a choice help to faith, 2 Cor.i, 1o.
6. Keep catalogues of all your remarkable experiences; treafure them up as food for your faith in time to come : Oh! it is a singular encouragement and heartening to faith, when it can turn over the records of God's dealing with you
years past, and say as Joshua, "Not one thing hath failed,” Joshua xxiii. 14. When it can say fo of promises, that have already had their accomplishments, then they will be apt to say concerning those yet to be accomplished, as Elizabeth said to Mary, Luke i. 45. “Blefsed is the foul that believeth, for there shall be “ a performance of those things which are told it by the Lord.”
These experiments are the food of faith : Pfalm lxxiv. 14. « Thou breakeft the heads of Leviathan in pieces, and gaveft “ him to be meat to thy people inhabiting the wilderness," (i.e.) That famous experience of the power and love of God in their red-fea deliverance, where he destroyed that sea-monster Pharaoh, and his hoft, was meat to the faith of God's Ifrael in the wilderness afterwards. We often find Christ charging the peoples unbelief on a bad memory, Matth. xvi. 8, 9. And, hence it was, that the Lord commanded the Israelites to keep journals of every day's occurrences, Numb. xiii. 1, 2.
It is a thousand pities such choice helps should be loft. Oh! if you could but remember, how the Lord hath appeared for you in former exigencies, and how often he hath shamed you for your unbelief, it would exceedingly animate your faith, both in present, and future distresses, Micah vi. 5.
7. Lastly, Beware of fense, which is the supplanter of faith. O if you live upon things earthly, you put your faith out of its office: Things earthly have an enmity to faith. “This is the “ victory by which we overcome the world, even our faith," ! John v. 4.' Overcoming denotes a conflict, and conflicts infer oppositions. . Oh you that live so much by sight and sense on things visible, what will you do when in David's, or Paul's case, Psal. cxlii. 4. 2 Tim. iv. 16. when all outward encouragements and stays fhall utterly fail? What had Abraham done, if he had not been able to believe against hope, i. e. such an hope as is founded in sense and reason.
Reader, I advise and charge thee in the name of the Lord, and as thou hopeft to live when visible comforts die, that thou be diligent in the improvement and preparation of this excellent grace of faith: if it fail, thou faileft with it, and as thy faith is, so art thou. Consult all the cloud of witnesses, and see if thou canst find a man amongst them, that did not atchieve the victory by his faith. Had they not all been run down by the