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FAITH; ITS TRAITS AND DIFFICULTIES. WHEN we weigh the importance of the words—“ Whatever is not of faith is sin,” it becomes a matter of deep anxiety how, ever and anon, we may walk simply under the action of that principle.
“ The fall” was perpetrated when Adam ceased to have faith in God. When he surrendered faith he resigned the key-stone to the vast arch of all his blessings. To abstract it from man was Satan's great aim. When once unbelief in God was engendered, all other sentiments were qualified and deteriorated. What sentiment could
you value from one in whom you had lost confidence? Adam lost confidence in God; and this poison, with electric precision, has reached every sentiment of the soul. Man is fallen, and his nature is the impregnation of unbelief. Be under the guidance of nature, and you must be at a distance from God. Be led by faith, that is, simple confidence in God, and you must be antagonistic to the natural mind. Faith is founded on a right estimate of God. The highest conceptions of nature are imperfect, because they are formed in ignorance and distrust of God. There could be no restoration of man to God without faith. Works and sentiments offered with distrust, however great and distinguished, must ever be questionable and inappreciable. To argue this seems superfluous; for if a position is lost by the surrender of any quality, how can that position (not to speak of a higher), be regained without it, unless one would have a position with an inferior capacity for enjoying it, which, in this instance, would be monstrous to suppose, because it would be asserting that man could endure nearness to God without confidence in Him, and nothing could be more miserable. Consequently, the first breathing of regeneration is faith, and where faith is, there regeneration and new birth must be, for it is not in the nature of man
-it is fallen! it is the repository of unbelief! When faith in a new power is at work, Jesus is the beginner as well as finisher of faith. If you will act, then, in the power of the new life, act in faith; for whatever is not of faith is sin, that is, it is the product of the flesh.
With these preliminary remarks, let us consider some of “the traits and difficulties of faith"; for it is plain, if we, who have been accustomed to walk according to the dictates of one principle, and that a natural one, are now called to adhere to a totally opposite one, and not natural to us—it is plain, I repeat, that we not only require uncommon shrewdness to apprehend the traits of the new, but also great prowess and steadiness in combating the difficulties which this new course must expose us to. Let us first enquire-- To what limit faith can be reckoned on? It is always offered adequate to the revelation, that is, it is sufficient to sustain the servant of God conformable to the nature of the dispensation, whatever it may be. This, I judge, should be a trait of the last importance, so that wherever I saw an assertion of faith not warranted by the dispensation, I should then hesitate to approve. I think it will be granted that we have not faith, nor is faith offered to us, such as the millennial saints shall enjoy, that is, their faith will be applicable (though all of God) to a different state of things from that with us: for instance, we could not believe that Satan is bound; they will, and act accordingly. Again, I should take exception on this ground to those who profess to carry on war in the name of the Lord. I cannot see such faith applicable to this dispensation, the revelation is against it; and they who argue for it have to refer to the dispensation under the law, which has been superseded by the dispensation under grace, in which we now are. Hence they are deceived, because they are unmindful that faith is only in conformity to the dispensation. I believe also benevolent associations, as well as any philanthropy which meets with public sanction and countenance, being of earthly recognition, is not consonant with the faith of this dispensation, which is heavenly, and therefore secretly and unseenly diffusing its influence and services. Though it would
be possible to dwell longer on this trait, yet enough is said to convince us, that if this is not observed in limine, all our course may be outside the path of faith, even though to men it may have a better appearance.
Faith is confined within the limits of the dispensation, for faith is confiding in God as He reveals Himself, and the dispensation is the manner of the revelation. pass on to consider whether faith is so supplied as to be applicable to every contingency. We must acknowledge that it is offered to the limit of the dispensation, but how is it offered? Is it offered as the abilities of life, or as the chain of powers which are not co-existent, but may be independent of one another,-or in other words that because a person has a certain power of faith (I speak not now of gifts, as such, but faith in practice), which suits him in a certain contingency that does not prove that he may reckon on another power of faith, when in a new and another contingency-or again more simply—is faith the action of life, or is it a special creation for special circumstances? If faith is the action of life, that is, the principle on which it acts, it is evident that, no matter what the circumstance that may arise, if life acts, it acts conformably to the dispensation, manifesting confidence of God, and giving testimony to Him therein, though never called on in a like manner before; and the soul having this conviction moves onward placidly because the resources are sufficient and they are vested. If, on the other hand, faith is to be specially created or bestowed as special need arises, then the soul is not without anxiety as to whether the power will be given or not, confidence is disturbed, uncertainty is damaging us at the moment when immovable reliance in possession of necessary power is of all importance; and makes the decree that " whatever is not of faith is sin,” not to rest on our responsibility to use a power committed to us, but on divine favour, irrespective of our responsibility, which, to say the least, is not the
way of God's dealing with us in grace. But what is the Apostle's argument to the Hebrews? Is it not that they ought to endure; that they are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of faith (see Greek) unto the saving of the soul - that is, they have a fund of faith which is able to supply them with strength in any emergency-and hence he enumerates many of the qualities of faith, component parts of the faith of which we are partakers, and then sums up (since the time would fail him to trace all its powers) with this exhortation: “Let us cast aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us (unbelief], and run with patience the race set before us (that is conformable to the dispensation] looking unto Jesus the beginner and finisher of faith”—not our faith, but faith in the abstract. Now the answer to this question is by no means immaterial. I fully admit faith is the gift of God, but it greatly concerns me whether the life I am sustained in by the Holy Ghost is one, which as flowing from Jesus Christ risen, has in itself inherently all the necessary abilities of faith for me in my race: if it has, I feel bound to acknowledge that God has not left me without resource, and that I have no right when difficulty arises, when my dispensational position, that is, my testimony, is challenged, to say, “I can't proceed, I have not faith.” Could I say I had not life-if I act in life it is faith-if I act without life it is sin. I may not, I admit, be in the energy of faith, but then I ought not to act denying it, as is generally the case when we use the plea of not having faith-in fact I am in nature; and in running the race set before
am not able (as exhorted) to cast aside unbelief. The Lord says He prayed that Peter's faith might not fail; that the energy of new life might triumph in his soul; not that a special power should be administered at the moment, but a true exertion of that already existing.
This is a great comfort to know that there is vested in me, through Christ, a power to meet every shade of circumstance which affects my race here. I am not looking out for it, I am depending on that within, which is of Christ; and here a grievous difficulty arises to the action of faith. If I am not clear as to my vested resources, through the life of Christ, I am looking for some manifestation on which to depend. It is not God simply that is my dependance, which the life of Christ in the Spirit leads to, it is the cry of unbelief—“Let us see a
sign.” When our confidence in God rests on anything but Christ, who reveals God, there is no permanency. It may serve for an occasion for God meeting our weakness, but it is not power in life. Whenever faith falls short of reckoning on God, because from knowledge of Him, then faith has lost virtue or energy, which the apostle lays down as the addition to faith. When we seek a sign, or judge by appearances, it is not a knowledge of God sustains us, but an evidence of His power controlling our senses and helping us to conviction. I doubt much if the faith so formed is attended with much vigour to ourselves; certain it is, that it does not seal strength to our souls. Jonathan, confirmed by a sign, successfully assaults the Philistines. It served him for the occasion, God meeting him in his weakness; but when, a little after, called upon to assert the honour of Israel against the proud defier of their armies and their God, he is not to be had, not from indifference, for we find none owned more largely or eagerly the victor and the victor's deeds. He was not confirmed in God as David, who could say—
My God, who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and the bear, will deliver me out of thine hand.” Faith can speak of God when there are no signs, and signs neither deter nor are regarded. Faith does honour unto God: it says, “ All my springs are in Thee.” Thus the Lord Jesus glorified the Father. In the wilderness and on the cross He judged not God by the circumstances around- not by what He saw, but by what He knew of God. All earthly blessings—God's witnesses of Himself to manwere overlooked by Adam in the hour of his unbelief. The blessed Son had not even one, but a terrible reverse, in the great declaration of His faith. He judged God by Himself intrinsically, and not by aught else; and this was Job's lesson. Satan thought, and well he might, that Job's judgment of God was founded on the memorials of His kindness and mercy which surrounded him. Surely we may see, then, the slow and painful process by which the soul arrives to count God above every gift, and is established in Him and nought else; for this the sequel of Job's history teaches. When God fills his soul he rises above personal considerations, and prays for his