Thursday, June 14, 2007
( Entire Sermon [pdf] )
FAITH is not only the door by which we enter into the way of salvation, as it is written, “He has opened the door of faith unto the gentiles,” but it likewise describes the entire path of Christian pilgrimage, “that we also walk in the steps of that faith.” We are not only quickened by faith at the outset of our spiritual career, but we are supported and sustained thereby in all our subsequent experience—“the just shall live by faith.” As it is by faith that we come out from the world and begin to tread the heavenly road, so it must be by faith that we walk all the journey through.
Till we lay down this veil of flesh, till the angel of death shall rend the curtain and we shall see him face to face, let us not hope to walk by sight or sense but only by faith in the living God. A life of faith is always very singular—often it seems very foolish to the carnal man. The man who acts by faith often acts imprudently in the eyes of the world. He appears unbusiness-like, because he observes not the maxims of his times, but holds fast by those statutes which God has given us for all time.
Faith and patience often encourage a man to go the very way that caution and prudence would tell him not to go. And not infrequently, those who are weak in the faith will hold up their hands with astonishment, even if they do not speak with some degree of indignation, at the daring way in which the man strong in faith challenges the promises of God and acts as if he believed them to be quite as true as though they were already fulfilled. You know little, my Brothers and Sisters, of what it is to walk by faith, if you do not find it to be a way that you know not and a path which you have not seen.
We saw the last step not until we had taken it, but the foundation on which faith is to put its foot for the next we cannot see. We do, as it were, tread on clouds and find them firm. We put our feet on mists and find them adamant beneath our feet. Happy is that man who, steadfast, upright, cheerful, goes from strength to strength, believing his God! Trusting in his God, he knows no care! Resting in his God he knows no impossibility!
But, it seems, from our text, that we have one or two lessons to learn. And the first is, that the strongest faith has its seasons of wavering. Even Abraham, “the father of the faithful,” had his seasons of distrust, when expediency rather than integrity prompted him. Most of those eminent saints who are mentioned in Scripture as exhibiting faith in its greatness, appear to have sometimes showed the white flag of unbelief. There may have lived—I will not dare to say to the contrary there may have lived some man who did never once doubt his God.
But I think I have never had the privilege of putting my eyes upon him. There may be, and I hope there are, some Christians who through their whole career never doubted their interest in Christ and who never had to say—
“It is a point I long to know,
Often it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no,
Am I His, or am I not?”
But, I must say, I think such Brethren are few. I think you might travel far before you should meet with any. God forbid I should speak lightly of unbelief! It is the most damnable of sins. God forbid I should say a word in its favor, or encourage its propagation. There cannot be a greater villainy out of Hell than doubting the promises of God.
There cannot be a greater act of treason than to mistrust the love, the faith, the tenderness, the Truth of the God who has helped us up to now. But still the confession must be made, humiliating though it is—we do know that even those Believers whose hearts are true and whose souls are clad in the panoply of Heaven, do sometimes find their loins loose and their strength fail them. Mr. Pilgrim thought Mr. Great-Heart never had a doubt. ( from The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan ) And so is it with some of our hearers. They fancy that their pastors certainly never have any trials as to their union with Christ. They can always read their titles clear.
Ah, Beloved but if you should ask those men, they might say with Elijah, “I am not better than my fathers.” There are times when the high-soaring eagle droops to the earth, and when he who could scale the stars has to lay flat upon his face in dust and ashes, crying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These reflections are illustrated by the narrative of our text. Manoah certainly was strong in faith. He did not even see the angel but he believed— “Blessed is he that has not seen and yet has believed”—and when he entreated that he might see the angel, there seemed to be more curiosity than wavering in his faith.
He believed God, and no doubt, settled in his own mind that he would be obedient to the heavenly vision. Yet even he begins to entertain misgivings when he says, “We shall surely die, for we have seen an angel of the Lord.” Good Lord! Of what small account are the best of men apart from You! How high they go when You lift them up! How low they fall if You withdraw Your hand! It is our joy amidst distress when You enables us to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” But if You take away Your Spirit, we cannot even trust You in the brightest day. When storms gather around us, we can laugh at them if You are with us. But in the fairest morn that ever glowed on human heart, we doubt, and we miscarry if You are not with us still, to preserve and strengthen the faith which You have Yourself bestowed.
- C. H. Spurgeon