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But some will say, perhaps, ' Faith is a powerful comforter : but I, poor wretch, had need to be comforted concerning my faith. I find the pulse of it weak, and sometimes it intermits, as if it beat not at all. Methinks I am not drawn near to Christ, or that I am so far off, that I cannot embrace him.' Some such infirmity may seem to have been in the Thessalonians; and therefore, St. Paul says, “I have sent Timotheus to establish you, and to comfort you, concerning your faith.”
Now, to turn this water into wine, and the trembling of this objection into peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, conceive as if these questions were put to you: • Do you often accuse yourself of a weak faith in secret unto God?' I like it for a good symptom ; for an hypocrite doth not use to accuse himself.- And do you bewail your want to the Lord, because you would have it better supplied ?' That is a good sign too, for it is the same as to thirst for the living God. They that have not the gift of faith, do not miss it; but they that have it, though but in a little, do insatiably desire the increase of it.
But do you find that the more you put forward to come to Christ, the more you are put back by doubts and temptations? It is right the resemblance of him that was sick of the palsy ; † fain he would have been brought to Christ, but could not come at him for the press. This press that stops you, are the snares of the world, vain imaginations, nay, perhaps humility, a broken heart, and a tender conscience : yet find out a way to come to your Saviour, though the throng be cumbersome. If there be no other way, untile the house, break down the roof to be brought unto him ; call unto the Lord to dissolve this house of clay, that thy soul may see him clearly without all impediment. But at the worst of all, do you lie in a swoon, as it I Thess. iii. 2.
+ Mark ii, 4.
were ? do you think there is no life, no motion in your faith ? do you fear the light of grace is so eclipsed, that you have lost all communion with Christ? Remember, and be assured, that you could not miss Christ so much, unless Christ were in you. Because God loves you, he seems to leave you; and withdraws out of the way for a time, because he would be found ; and makes you desire to seek him, that you may hold him the surer to you, when you enjoy him.
A mother that hath conceived, may think, not long after, that she perceives some tokens of her conception; in a while, she doubts of it again, and wisheth some signs of better satisfaction: she hangs long under many assays of fear and persuasion : at last, she finds the babe spring in her womb, and is utterly confirmed. So it is with them in whom Christ is born anew; they have found the Lord-yet sometime, as it is in the Canticles, “ He is behind the lattice,” that we miss him by a spiritual jealousy, and fall into many of these fits, as if he were quite departed. And in this state of trepidation we must be exercised, that we may know, that holy fear and a troubled spirit are heavenly qualities, that may consist with faith.
Yet I have more to ask. Do you look dejectedly upon your faith, because you apprehend it is not full of life in the root, nor laden with fruit in godly practice ? Woe be to them that are not sensible of those infirmities. It is one of the best lessons in the New Testament, “ Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus ;'
;"* but it is one of the hardest. God gives a measure of faith to all in the covenant, that call upon him ; but we have this gift in earthen vessels, and taint it with the affections of our carnal mind. The best faith is weak and wavering, short-sighted, riseth and falls like a tune in music. Therefore, to
• 2 Tim. ii. l.
encourage a perplexed mind, hearken to Isaiah, * “ Say to them that are of a sorrowful heart, Be strong, fear not." For though it be but an infant faith, it is a true faith : as an infant is a true man in the essence of a man, though not a man in growth ; perfect in the real being, though not in the degrees, wherein we must strive to grow up more and more. To prove the truth of it, believe all the word of God, and it can be no wider; and for the soundness of it, believe in Christ, and look for salvation in him alone; then it is as legitimate and true-born as is the faith of any saint that is far more noble. A dim or a blear eye, that looked upon the brazen serpent, did procure a remedy for a wound, as much as a clear and wellconditioned eye; and a little faith, casting its weak beams on Christ and his death, will go far. The quantity of a grain of mustard-seed hath warmth and virtue in it to spread abundantly. If faith on earth hath shaken off all frailty, and comprehended the joys of heaven, without casting its eye aside to the love of this world, I do not conceive how the body could subsist any longer here, but that the soul, in that ecstasy, would be dissolved, and fly away.
Lastly. As God sees such sins in you as you cannot see, so he sees such graces in you as you cannot perceive. The charitable, to whom Christ speaks when they are at his right hand, t do deny such good things to be in them, as Christ did profess they had. The Canaanitish woman found no better in herself than the vileness of a dog, that waited for crumbs under the table ; but Christ commends her for her great faith. The centurion I saw nothing but unworthiness in his person : but Christ gave him the praise above all those, to whom he had preached in Israel. Confess then, and be not ashamed to say, Chap. xxxv. 4. + Matt. xxv. 34.
I Matt. viii. 10.
“ Lord, I believe; help my unbelief !” And take consolation, that water-springs shall flow out of a barren ground, which suspected itself to be parched and dry. Though you see but little by your own light, it is because it is put into the lantern of humility. And let these be the consolations of faith.
THAT A CHRISTIAN'S COMFORT FLOWS FROM THE GRACE OF HOPE.
THE OBJECT OF HOPE IS, I. THAT WHICH IS GOOD. II. A GOOD ABSENT. III. THOUGH ABSENT, YET POSSIBLE; AND THAT FOR THREE REASONS. IV. THOUGH POSSIBLE, YET DIFFICULT. AN ACCOUNT OF TWO SORTS OF DIFFICULTIES, WITH PARTICULAR ENCOURAGEMENTS AGAINST THEM.
Yer know that faith never rides single, but it carries hope before it. “ Faith is the substance of things hoped for.' No scripture doth better contain them both in a little than Titus :f the apostle says, that “ the faith of God's elect,” first, "acknowledgeth the truth ; " secondly, that "it is according to godliness ;" thirdly, “it is in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised, before the world began.' When you see a weight of iron tied to a line, wound upon a wheel from the ground to the top of a house, -remember it is like the heart of a sinner, leaden and heavy, lying upon the ground, and wound up in this text, with the line of hope, to the top of heaven. Heaven then is the express and fair object of hope, and God, in his promise, is the procurer. mise," I say; for we do not grope for heaven blindfold, and fall upon it out of our own head without a warrant: but our assurance is incomparably the best that can be given, and in the best manner; a
promise made before the world began;" that is, freely, unrequested, when we could have no being to ask * Heb. xi. I.
+ Chap. i. 1, 2.