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with many difficulties. Nature is always, like Philip, calculating the means required, and despising the present as inadequate-silently reproaching God for not providing more. Faith is required to assert, “ The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me;" and therefore we are to be content with such things as we have. When the widow cried unto the prophet, “ The creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen;" what answers Elisha? At first, as if embarrassed by this touching appeal, he replies, “What can I do for thee? Tell me" (he continues as if he had discovered the mode of relief), " what hast thou in the house?” God does not allow us to be placed in circumstances which bear no evidence of His providing mercies. They may be very small and scanty, yet faith appropriates them, and encouraging the soul in God, proclaims, “ the Lord is my helper," not outside His own mercies, but through them. The widow here borrows from abroad from her neighbours empty vessels. The testimony in asking the loan of an empty vessel was that she who was known to be in such abject circumstances had something to put into them. She might doubtless have been taunted that her poverty was notorious, and that it was folly to borrow empty vessels. She had only boldly to say, " The Lord is my helper!" Now this is an example of the simple action of faith in the use of
Nature would have despised the “pot of oil,” and sought unto the king and those in high estate, or to the lender for relief; but this is not God's way. God only wants to bring Himself into the scene, for He can touchingly appeal to His people, " What could have been done for my vineyard which I have not done for it?” Clearer still we see this trait and its difficulties in the case of David, when preparing to encounter the Philistine. Saul's armour was offered him (he even had not sought it), it was legitimate for him to accept. He did accept-was accoutred with it, and then renounced it, for he had not proved it. Now nature would loudly demand of him to retain it; how many arguments could be used for the prudence of doing so. The man of faith does not trust in means, and yet be does not despise
If I am
means; and this is just his difficulty as it was here to David. He had not proved the armour; it is renounced, but the stones of the brook, yea the smooth ones, too, with a sling are assumed in its place. These latter were the means naturally at his disposal. They were what a youthful shepherd had easily within his reach, and he knew God did not require to alter his position and circumstances to vanquish Goliath. As he was, God would use him, and not as the world might make him. He despised none of the mercies of God distinctly vouchsafed to him. The occurrence of trial did not require new and greater circumstances. God was with him in his own, and this faith could reckon on and know His succour through them. To require a new position because of the presence of a trial is but to say that God is not equal to it in my present one. trusting in God in my present one, and know Him, He is able to use it for iny deliverance. It is not position or circumstances-it is God; but I don't improve my position or means because simply I am there of God's providence, and through them God will deliver me if faithful to Him.
Another important trait of faith, and very valuable in our course, is that it does not forecast the mode or manner of God's succour and deliverance. Human reasoning
" Let him now come down from the cross and we will believe.” He who trusted, though forsaken, waited till the angel rolled away the stone from the sepulchre. When the soul reposes in God — for this is faith, the faith of the Son of God - the mode and manner of the succour or deliverance, is not our object. We do not want to be distinguished by it. We want to know and feel that it is God's act, and how it is to be effected is not the subject of faith. When we prescribe a plan to God, faith is forfeited and our wanderings are manifold. We read of one who "went away in a rage,” because the mode did not suit his ideas. Faith places us at the disposal of God, not God at ours. Faith
says1, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him." God achieves for us as it pleaseth Him. If I prescribe a certain mode I am not waiting upon God. I want some
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thing to signalise myself, as the sons of Zebedee asking the Lord to command fire from heaven.
Faith leaves the mode of succour or deliverance to God. It varies according to the claim of God's glory at the time. Thus God succoured Israel at Jericho and also at Ai, and yet how differently at each! The man of faith gloried in God in one as much as in the other, though, to human judgment, one only was a magnificent display of God's intervention in their behalf. The failure of Israel demanded this, but faith rejoiced in God, though an ambush was the means. If we recognised and felt our failure personally and corporately, we should neither presume nor expect very open manifestations of God's favour in our behalf. But these manifestations are not the objects of faith; God only is; and the manifestations neither add to nor detract from the strength and enjoyment faith always has in God; for Jesus, we do well to remind our souls, is the beginner and finisher of it, and hence by it we can reckon (however great has been our failure) on Him to sustain us in the race set before us.
Faith assurés us that He will sustain us; the plan and the way we happily leave to Himself. Gideon was as contented, through faith, with three hundred as with thirty-two thousand. Deborah sang as sweetly at the subdual of Israel's foes by the hand of Jael the Kenite, as if the armies of Israel had achieved it. The fact, and that it is of God, satisfies faith.
The man who was a welcome guest in the third heaven was here let down by the wall in a basket, and escaped his enemies' hands. Did this mode of deliverance shake his faith in God? See this faithful servant combating all the reasonings of unbelief in Acts xxvii. At first his advice is disregarded; the word of the man of God is set aside, because the owner and master (who, from interested motives, was not likely to give a deceitful opinion) did not agree with him. Nor did the majority. Nay more, the south wind and providential circumstances, corroborate their opinion;, but the man of faith can afford to be patient: and when the south wind changes to Euroclydon, and all hope that they should be saved was taken
away, he stands forth, increasing in confidence in God. As
human resources fail, he openly and largely draws upon God; and yet there was nothing magnificent in the mode of deliverance. It is commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: and the rest; some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.” Faith proclaimed that there should be no loss of any man's life among them: the mode of safety remained with God, and the believing soul honoured God for it, while the unbeliever had nothing to glory in. Nay a little after, a viper fastens on the hand of God's instrument in this deliverance, and he is stigmatised as a murderer; but he confided in God, and shook off the venomous reptile into the fire and felt no harm. Time and patience in well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; but Paul knew the hand of God, though man did not see it. We are constantly wanting man should see that God is on our behalf, and this is to magnify ourselves and not God. If we really desired our faith to increase, it is in circumstances when sight could glean nothing that it would best do so: he who trusts in God only wants Him, and counts it all joy when he falls into divers trials. To human judgment, trials indicate the desertion of God. If everything here was right there would be no trials, for every one would yield easily to the will of God; nothing or no one would prevent us. And if the world was of God, and not İying in the wicked one, His people might expect to be set up and gifted with it; and, moreover, it is no uncommon snare nor a new one to suppose that gain is Godliness, and, therefore, to measure God's favour by temporal mercies.
Perhaps no thought has tended more to displace the church from the humble sorrowing path which the disciples of Christ must ever traverse. If earthly acquisitions are an evidence to me of God's love, surely I must desire apart from human ambition to secure them. But the world lieth in the wicked one, and the Spirit of Christ in His disciple is struggling not only against it and its course and the power which influences it, but also against a disposition kindred to it in himself—yet we have not to conquer an unconquered foe, but we have to encounter that we may know the nature and the power of the victory. The ways of God are a trial to nature; but trial affords an opportunity to the Spirit of Christ to make known to us the strength of Christ; and therefore, we can take pleasure in infirmities, etc. We do not immediately see how this is. When Paul suffered from a thorn in the flesh and contrasted this with the elevation of glory to which grace had raised him, he besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from him. Though he had learned glory and the wondrous things there, too wondrous for man, yet he had not learned as soon to take pleasure in infirmities, etc. In fact it is here that discipleship is perfected - taking up the cross daily is requisite, though every visible affection and interest has already been surrendered, and here faith alone can sustain. For patience we always want faith. We cannot endure but as we are cast on God, and this the Apostle argues at such length and power in Hebrews x. to xii. After we have done the will of God we have need of patience, but who are they who do not draw back? Those who have faith to the saving of the soul; and hence we, when instructed in the qualities comprehended in faith, are exhorted to cast aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus the beginner and the finisher of faith. The leaven of Herod and the Pharisees is not to trust God when there is no visible indication of His succour. Of this the Lord warned His disciples when they had not in the ship more than one loaf; they blame themselves for their thoughtlessness and imprudence. He only chides them for want of faith. This want is always at the root of our difficulties. It is the sin which doth so easily beset us, and from it how often are our prayers unanswered.