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One word more, and I have done. Recollect that the criminal had nothing whatever to say in his defence. “He was speechless.” Now, my brethren, you have entered this day into the palace of the Great King, and most assuredly if he should come in to see the guests there is not one amongst this congregation that would escape his eye; no, not if any could seek a hiding place in the lowest depths of the ocean, or in the central caverns of the earth. For all, therefore, there is but one question: Were he to come suddenly, without a note of warning or preparation, as he came to the hundreds of our slaughtered countrymen-if he were to come now to us, in what garment would he find me arrayed ? Now, in answering this question, I would say to the veriest worldling here present, tax all your ingenuity in order to impose upon yourself, try all you can in order to be deceived by others, make the powerful simplicity of God's word as weak and as unmeaning as you cando all that can be done by philosophy and vain deceit to neutralize and thwart the energy of Scripture truth, and then ask, in your own acceptation of the phrase, provided you are not an idiot or a madman, are you possessed of the wedding garment ? Are you as holy as, bearing the name of Christ, you yourself think you ought to be, were you your own judge? On your own interpretation of the principles of the Bible, would you pronounce your own acquittal? Would you not rather, in the presence of the Holy One, be speechless, self-accused, self-convicted, self-condemned ? My brethren, there is not an honest trifler, a candid worldling here, who would not judge himself as God would judge him, who would not be condemned out of his own mouth. Oh! then, make the inquiry before the king shall enter in. God in his mysterious providence may visit Britain with the pestilence, as he hath visited India with the sword; but in whatever way he may come, oh! leave not the putting on of the wedding garment till the time when you shall require its protection. “Now," when it “is the accepted time," “now," when it “is the day of salvation,” draw nigh to him who is ever ready to draw nigh in mercy unto you; and let this be the confession of your lips, and let this be the conviction of the heart—“ Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”
A LECTURE FOR LITTLE-FAITH.
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.”-II Thessalonians i. 3. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet." Whether we shall praise God or not, is not left to our opinion. Although the commandment saith not, “ Thou shalt praise the Lord,” yet praise is God's most righteous due; and every man, as a partaker of God's bounty, and especially every Christian, is bound to praise God, as it is meet. It is true, we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise; we have no commandinent left on record specially prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving; but still the law written upon the heart, teacheth us with divine authority that it is right to praise God; and this unwritten mandate hath as much power and authority about it, as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai. The Christian's duty is to praise God. Think not ye who are always mourning that ye are guiltless in that respect; imagine not that ye can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. It is your duty to praise him. You are bound by the bonds of his love as long as you live to bless his name. It is meet and comely that you should do so. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute duty of the Christian life to praise God. This is taught us in the text,—“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet.” Let not your harps then hang upon the willows, ye mourning children of the Lord. It is your duty to strike them and bring forth their loudest music. It is sinful in you to cease from praising God; you are blessed in order that you may bless him; and if you do not praise God you are not bringing forth the fruit, which he as the divine husbandman, may well expect at your hands. Go forth then, ye sons of God, and chant his praise. With every morning's dawn lift up your notes of thanksgiving; and every evening let the setting sun be followed with your song. Girdle the earth with your praises; surround it with an atmosphere of melody, so shall God himself look down from heaven and accept your praises as like in kind, though not equal in degree, to the praises of cherubim and seraphim.
It seems, however, that the apostle Paul in this instance exercised praise not for himself but for others, for the church at Thessalonica. If any of you should in ignorance ask the question why it was that Paul should take so deep an interest in the salvation of these saints, and in their growth in faith, I would remind you, that this is a secret known only to the men who have brought forth and nourished children, and therefore love them. The apostle Paul had founded the church at Thessalonica; most of these people were his spiritual offspring; by the words of his mouth, attended by the power of the Spirit, they had been brought out of darkness into marvellous light; and they who have had spiritual children, who have brought many sons unto God, can tell you that there is an interest felt by a spiritual father, that is not to be equalled even by the tender affection of a mother towards her babe. “Ay,” said the apostle, “I have been tender over you as a nursing father;" and in another place he says he had “travailed in birth," for their souls. This is a secret not known to the hireling minister. Only he whom God hath himself ordained and thrust forth into the work, only he who has had his tongue touched with a live coai from off the altar, can tell you what it is to agonize for men's souls before they are converted, and what it is to rejoice with
Joy unspeakable, and full of glory, when the travail of their souls is seen in the salvation of God's elect.
And now, beloved, having thus given you two thoughts which seemed to me to arise naturally from the text, I shall repair at once to the object of this morning's discourse. The apostle thanks God that the faith of the Thessalonians had grown exceedingly. Leaving out the rest of the text, I shall direct your attention this morning to the subject of growth in faith. Faith hath degrees.
In the first place, I shall endeavour to notice the inconveniences of little faith; secondly, the means of promoting its growth; and thirdly, a certain high attainment, unto which faith will assuredly grow, if we diligently water and cultivate it.
I. In the first place, THE INCONVENIENCES OF LITTLE FAITH. When faith first commences in the soul, it is like a grain of mustard seed, of which the Saviour said it was the least of all seeds; but as God the Holy Spirit is pleased to bedew it with the sacred moisture of his grace, it germinates and grows and begins to spread, until at last it becomes a great tree. To use another figure: when faith commences in the soul it is simply looking unto Jesus, and perhaps even then there are 80 many clouds of doubts, and so much dimness of the eye, that we have need for the light of the Spirit to shine upon the cross before we are able even BO much as to see it. When faith grows a little, it rises from looking to Christ to coming to Christ. He who stood afar off and looked to the cross by-and-bye plucks up courage, and getting heart to himself, he runneth up to the cross; or perhaps he doth not run, but hath to be drawn before he can so much as creep thither, and even then it is with a limping gait that he draweih nigh to Christ the Saviour. But that done, faith goeth a little farther: it layeth hold on Christ; it begins to see him in his excellency, and appropriates him in some degree, conceives him to be a real Christ and a real Saviour, and is convinced of his suitability. And when it hath done as much as that, it goeth further; it leaneth on Christ; it leaneth on its Beloved; casteth all the burden of its cares, sorrows, and griefs upon that blessed shoulder, and permitteth all its sins to be swallowed up in the great red sea of the Saviour's blood. And faith can then go further still; for having seen and ran towards him, and laid hold upon him, and having leaned upon him, faith in the next place puts in a humble, but a sure and certain claim to all that Christ is and all that he has wrought; and then, trusting alone in this, appropriating all this to itself, faith mounteth to full assurance; and out of heaven there is no state more rapturous and blessed. But, as I have observed at the beginning, faith is but very small, and there are some Christians who never get out of little faith all the while they are here. You notice in John Bunyan's “ Pilgrim's Progress," how many Little-taith's he mentions. There is our old friend Ready-to-hali, who went all the way to the celestial city on crutches, but left them when he went into the river Jordan. Then there is little Feeble. mind, who carried his feeble mind with him all the way to the banks of the river and then left it, and ordered it to be buried in a dunghill that none might inherit it. Then there is Mr. Fearing, too, who used to stumble over a straw, and was always frightened if he saw a drop of rain, because he thought the floods of heaven were let loose upon him. And you remember Mr. Despondency and Miss Much-afraid, who were so long locked up in the dungeon of Giant Despair, that they were almost starved to death, and there was litile left of them but skin and bone; and poor Mr. Feeble-mind, who had been taken into the cave of Giant Slay-good who was about to eat him, when Great-heart came to his deliverance. John Bunyan was a very wise man. He has put a great many of those characters, in his book, because there are a great many of them. He has not left us with one Mr. Ready-to-halt, but he has given us seven or eight graphic characters because he himself in his own time has been one of them, and he had known many others who had walked in the same path. I doubt not I have a very large congregation this morning of this very class of persons. Now let me notice the inconveniences of little faith.
The first inconvenience of little faith is that while it is always sure of heaven it very seldom thinks so. Little-faith is quite as sure of heaven as Great-faith. When Jesus Christ counts up his jewels at the last day he will take to himself the little pearls as well as the great ones. If a diamond be never so small yet it is precious because it is a diamond. So will faith, be it never so little, if it be true faith, Christ will never lose even the smallest jewel of his crown.' Little-faith is always sure of heaven, because the name of Little-faith is in the book of eternal life. Little-faith was chosen of God before the foundation of the world. Little-faith was bought with the blood of Christ; ay, and he cost as much as Great-faith. “For every man a
shekel” was the price of redemption. Every man, whether great or small, prince or peasant, had to redeem himself with a shekel. Christ has bought all, both little and great, with the same most precious blood. Little-faith is always sure of heaven, for God has begun the good work in him and he will carry it on. God loves him and he will love him unto the end. God has provided a crown for him, and he will not allow the crown to hang there without a head; he has erected for him a mansion in heaven, and he will not allow the mansion to stand untenanted for ever. Little-faith is always safe, but he very seldom knows it. If you meet him he is sometimes afraid of hell; very often afraid that the wrath of God abideth on him. He will tell you that the country on the other side the flood can never belong to a worm so base as he. Sometimes it is because he feels himself so unworthy, another time it is because the things of God are too good to be true, he says, or he cannot think they can be true to such an one as he is. Sometimes he is afraid he is not elect; another time he fears that he has not been called aright, that he has not come to Christ aright. Another time his fears are that he will not hold on to the end, that he shall not be able to persevere; and if you kill a thousand of his fears he is sure to have another host by to-morrow; for unbelief is one of those things that you cannot destroy. “It hath,” saith Bunyan," as many lives as a cat ;” you may kill it over and over again, but still it lives. It is one of those ill weeds that sleep in the soil even after it has been burned, and it only needs a little encouragement to grow again. Now Great-faith is sure of heaven, and he knows it. He climbs Pisgah's top, and views the landscape o'er; he drinks in the mysteries of paradise even before he enters within the pearly gates. He sees the streets that are paved with gold; he beholds the walls of the city, the foundations whereof are of precious stones; he hears the mystic music of the glorified, and begins to smell on earth the perfumes of heaven. But poor Little-faith can scarcely look at the sun; he very seldom sees the light; he gropes in the valley, and while all is safe he always thinks himself unsafe. That is one of the disadvantages of Littlefaith.
Another disadvantage is that Little-faith, while always having grace enough (for that is Little-faith's promise, “ My grace shall be sufficient for thee") yet never thinks he has grace enough. He will have quite enough grace to carry him to heaven; and Great-heart won't have any more. The greatest saint, when he entered heaven, found that he went in with an empty wallet: he had eaten his last crust of bread when he got there. The manna ceased when the children of Israel entered into Canaan; they had none to carry with them there: they began to eat the corn of the land when the manna of the wilderness had ceased But Little-faith is always afraid that he has not grace enough. You see him in trouble. “Oh!” says he, “ I shall never be able to hold my head above water.” Blessed be God he never can sink. If you see him in prosperity, he is afraid he shall be intoxicated with pride; that he shall turn aside like Balaam. If you meet him attacked by an enemy, he is scarcely able to say three words for himself, and he lets the enemy exact upon him. If you find him fighting the battle of the Lord Jesus Christ he holds his sword tight enough, good man, but he has not much strength in his arm to bring his sword down with might. He can do but little, for he is afraid that God's grace will not be sufficient for him. Great-faith, on the other hand, can shake the world. What cares he about trouble, trial, or duty ?
“ He that helped him bears him through,
And makes him more than conqueror too." He would face an army single-handed, if God commanded him; and “ with the jaw. bone of an ass, he would slay heaps upon heaps, and thousands of men.” There is no fear of his lacking strength. He can do all things, or can bear all sufferings, for his Lord is there. Come what may, his arm is always sufficient for him; he treads down his enemy, and his cry every day is like the shout of Deborah, “O! my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.” Little-faith treads down strength too, but he does not know it. He kills his enemies, but has not eye-sight enough to see the slain. He often hits so hard that his foemen retreat, but he thinks they are there still. He conjures up a thousand phantoms, and when he has routed his real enemies he makes others, and trembles at the phantoms which he has himself made. Littlefaith will assuredly find that his garments will not wax old, that his shoes shall be iron and brass, and that as his day is so shall his strength be; but all the way he will be murmuring, because he thinks his garments will grow old, that his feet will be blistered and sore; and he is terrified lest the day should be too heavy for him, and that the evil of the day shall more than counterbalance his grace. Ay, it is an
inconvenient thing to have little faith, for little faith perverts everything into sorrow and grief.
Again, there is a sad inconvenience about Little-faith, namely, that if Littlefaith be sorely tempted to sin, he is apt to fall. Strong-faith can well contest with the enemy. Satan comes along, and savs, ** All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me." "Nay,” we say, “ thou canst not give us all these things, tor they are ours already." Nay,” says he, “but ye are poor, naked and miserable." Ay," say we to him, “ but still these things are ours, and it is good for us to be poor, good for us to be without earthly goods, or else our Father would give them to us.' “Oh,” says Satan, “ you deceive your elves; you have no portion in these things; but if you will serve me, then I will make you rich and happy here.” Strong-faith says, “ Serve thee, thou fiend! Avaunt! Dost thou offer me silver?-behold God giveth me gold. Dost thou say to me, “I will give thee this if thou disobey?'—fool that thou art! I have a thousand times as great wages for my obedience as thou canst offer for my disobedience.” But when Satan meets Littlefaith, he says to hin, “ If thou be the Son of God cast thyself down;" and poor Little-faith is so afraid that he is not a son of God that he is very apt to cast himself down upon the supposition. “ There," says Satan, “I will give thee all this if thou wilt disobey." Little-faith says, “ I am not quite sure that I am s child of God, that I have a portion among them that are sanctified;" and he is very apt to fall into sin by reason of the littleness of his faith. Yet at the same time I must observe that I have seen some Little-faiths who are far less apt to fall into sin than others. They have been so cautious that they dared not put one foot before the other, because they were afraid they should put it awry: they scarcely even dared to open their lips, but they prayed, “ O Lord, open thou my lips;" afraid that they should let a wrong word out, if they were to speak; always alarmed lest they should be falling into sin unconsciously, having a very tender conscience. Well, I like people of this sort. I have sometimes thought that Little-faith holds tighter by Christ than any other. For a man who is very near drowning is sure to clutch the plank all the tighter with the grasp of a drowning man, which tightens and becomes more clenched the more his hope is decreased. Well, beloved, Little-faith may be kept from falling, but this is the fruit of tender conscience and not of little faith. Careful walking is not the result of little faith; it may go with it, and so may keep Little-faith from perishing, but little faith is in itself a dangerous thing, laying us open to innumerable temptations, and taking away very much of our strength to resist them. “The joy of the Lord is your strength;" and if that joy ceases you become weak and very apt to turn aside. Beloved, you who are Little-faiths, I tell you it is inconvenient for you always to remain so; for you have many nights and few days. Your years are like Norwegian years-very long winters and very short summers. You have many howlings, but very little of shouting; you are often playing upon the pipe of mourning, but very seldom sounding the trump of exultation. I would to God you could change your notes a little. Why should the children of a King go mourning all their days? It is not the Lord's will that you should be always sorrowful. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” Oh, ye that have been fasting, anoint your heads and wash your faces, that ye appear not unto men to fast. Oh ye that are sad in heart, “Light is Bown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Therefore rejoice, for ye shall praise him. Say unto yourselves, Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the light of my countenance and my God.”
II. Having thus noticed the inconveniences and disadvantages of little faith, let me give you A FEW RULES WITH REGARD TO THE WAY OF STRENGTHENING IT. If you would have your little faith grow into great faith, you must feed it well. Faith is a feeding grace. It does not ask you to give it the things that are seen, but it does ask you to give it the promise of the things that are not seen, which are eternal. Thou tellest me thou hast little faith. I ask thee whether thou art given to the meditation of God's Word, whether thou hast studied the promises, whether thou art wont to carry one of those sacred things about with thee every day? Dost thou reply, “ No?” Then, I tell thee, I do not wonder at thine unbelief. He who deals largely with the promises, will, under grace, very soon find that there is great room for believing them. Get a promise, beloved, every day, and take it with you wherever you go; mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest it. Don't do as some men do—who think it a Christian duty to read a chapter every morning, and they read one as long as your arm without understanding it at all; but take out some choice text, and pray the Lord during the day to break it up to your mind.