Category Archives: THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOUR

Three acts by which faith discovers itself in reference to prayer 1/3

  1. Act.Faith puts forth an exciting act, whereby it provokes the Christian and strongly presseth him to pray. And this it doth,

           (1.) By discovering to the creature his own beggary and want, as also the fulness that is to be had from God in Christ for his supply—both which faith useth as powerful motives to quicken the soul up to pray.  As the lepers said to one another, ‘Why sit we here until we die?  If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: come, and let us fall into the host of the Syrians,’ II Kings 7:3, 4.  Thus faith rouseth up the soul to prayer.  If thou stayest at thy own door, O my soul, thou art sure to starve and die. What seest thou in thyself but hunger and famine?  No bread there; no money to buy any in thy own purse.  Up therefore, haste thee to thy God, and thy soul shall live.  O sirs, are you pressed with this inward feeling of your own wants?  Press to the throne of grace as the only way left for your supply.  You may hope it is faith that sends you.  Faith is the principle of our new life.  ‘I live,’ said Paul, ‘by the faith of the Son of God,’ Gal. 2:20.  This life being weak, is craving and crying for nourishment, and that naturally, as the new-born babe doth for the milk.  If therefore you find this inward sense prompting and provoking of you to cry to God, it shows this principle of life—faith I mean —is in thee.

           Objection.  But, may not an unbeliever pray in the sense of his wants, and be inwardly pinched with them, which may make him pray very feelingly?

           Answer. We must distinguish of wants.  They are either spiritual or carnal.  It cannot be denied, but an unbeliever may be very sensible of outward carnal wants, and knock loud at heaven-gate for supply.  We find them ‘howling on their beds, and assembling themselves for corn and wine,’ Hosea 7:14.  There is the cry of the creature, and the cry of the new crea­ture.  Every creature hath a natural cry for that which suits their nature.  Hence, ‘The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God,’ Ps. 104:21. But, give the lion flesh, and he will not roar for want of grass; give the ox grass, and you shall not hear him lowing for flesh; so give the faithless, graceless person his fill of his carnal food—sensual enjoyments—and you shall have little complaint of spiritual wants from him.  They are therefore spiritual wants you must try your faith by.  If thou canst heartily pray for love to Christ, faith on him, or any other grace—feeling the want of them, as a hungry man doth of his food —thou mayest conclude safely there is this principle of new life, which, like the veins at the bottom of the stomach, by its sucking, puts thee to pain till it be heard and satisfied; for these graces being proper to the new creature, can be truly desired of none but one that is a new creature.

           (2.) Faith excites to prayer from an inward de­light it hath in communion with God.  ‘It is good for me,’ saith the psalmist, ‘to draw near to God.’  Now mark the next words, ‘I have put my trust in the Lord,’ Ps. 73:28.  We take delight to be often looking where we have laid up our treasures. This holy man had laid up his soul, and all he had, in God, by faith, to be kept safely for him; and now he delights oft to be with God.  He hath that which invites him into his presence with sweet content.  By faith the soul is contracted to Christ.  Now, being espoused to Christ, there is no wonder at all that it should desire com­munion with him.  And prayer, being the place of meeting where Christ and the soul can come the near­est on this side of heaven, therefore the believer is seen so oft walking that way.  Canst thou say, poor soul, that this is thy errand when praying—to see the face of God?  Can nothing less, and needest thou nothing more to satisfy, and recreate thy soul in prayer, than communion with God?  Certainly God hath thy faith, or else thou couldst not so freely bestow thy love on him and take delight in him.

True faith is prayerful

 

           Second Property.  True faith is prayerful.  Prayer, it is the child of faith; and as the child bears his father’s name upon him, so doth prayer the name of faith.  What is it known by but by ‘the prayer of faith?’ James 5:15.  Prayer, it is the very natural breath of faith. Supplication and thanksgiving—the two parts of prayer—by these, as the body by the double motion of the lungs, doth the Christian suck in mercy from God, and breathe back again that mercy in praise to God. But, without faith he could do neither; he could not by supplication draw mercy from God; ‘for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,’ Heb. 11:6.  Neither could he return praises to God without faith.  David’s heart must be fixed before he can sing and give thanks, Ps. 56.  Thanksgiving is an act of self-denial, and it is faith alone that will show us the way out of our own doors; and as the creature cannot pray—I mean acceptably—without faith, so with faith he cannot but pray. The new creature, like our infants in their natural birth, comes crying into the world; and therefore Christ tells it for great news to Ananias of Saul, a new-born believer, ‘Behold he prayeth.’  But is that so strange, that one brought up at the foot of Gamaliel, and so precise a Pharisee as he was, should be found upon his knees at prayer? Truly no, it was that his sect gloried in—their fasting and praying—and therefore, he, being strict in his way, was no doubt acquainted with this work as to the exterior part of it, but he never had the spirit of prayer, till he now had the Spirit of grace, whereby he believed on Jesus Christ.  And therefore, if you will try your faith, it must not be by bare praying, but by some peculiar characters which faith imprints prayer withal.  Now there are three acts by which faith dis­covers itself in reference to this duty of prayer.  1. Faith puts forth an exciting act, whereby it stirs up the Christian to pray.  2. Faith hath an assisting act in prayer.  3. Faith hath a supporting act after prayer.

Two Characters Distinguishing True Faith’s Obedience 2/2

 

  1. Character.  The obedience of faith is full of self-denial.  Faith keeps the creature low; as in what he hath, so he doth.  ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ Gal. 2:20.  As if he had said, ‘I pray, mistake me not; when I say, ‘I live,’ I mean, not that I live by myself, but Christ in me.  I live, and that de­liciously, but it is Christ that keeps the house, not I. I mortify my corruptions, and vanquish temptations, but I am debtor to Christ for the strength.’  None can write here, as one did under Pope Adrian’s statue —where the place of his birth was named, and those princes that had preferred him from step to step till he mounted the pope’s chair, but God left out of all the story—‘nihil hic Deus fecit’—God did nothing for this man.  No, blessed Paul, and in him every be­liever, acknowledgeth God for sole foun­der, and benefactor too, of all the good he hath and doth. They are not ashamed to acknowledge who they are beholden to for all.  ‘These are the children which God hath graciously given me,’ said Jacob. And these the services which God hath graciously assisted me in, saith Paul; ‘I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me,’ I Cor. 15:10. All is ex dono Dei—from the gift of God. O how chary are saints of writing themselves the authors of their own good works, parts, or abilities!  ‘Art thou able,’ said the king to Daniel, ‘to make known unto me the dream which I have seen?’ Dan. 2:26.  Now mark, he doth not say, as the proud astrologers, ‘We will show the interpretation,’ Dan. 2:4.  That fitted their mouths well enough who had no acquaintance with God, but not Daniel’s—the servant of the living God.  Though at the very time he had the secret revealed to him and could tell the king his dream, yet he was careful to stand clear from any filching of God’s glory from him; and therefore he answers the king by telling him what his God could do rather than himself.  ‘There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets,’ &c.  And what makes Daniel so self‑denying? Truly it was because he had obtained this secret of God by faith at the throne of grace; as you may perceive by chapter 2:15-17 compared.  That faith which taught him to beg the mercy of God, enabled him to deny himself, and give the entire glory of it from himself to God.  As rivers empty their streams again into the bosom of the sea, whence they at first received them; so men give the praise of what they do unto that by which they do it.  If they attempt any enterprise with their own wit or industry, you shall have them bring their sacrifice to their wit or net.  No wonder to hear Nebuchadnezzar—who looked no higher than himself in building his great Babylon—ascribe the honour of it to himself, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built…by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?’ Dan. 4:30. But faith teacheth the creature to blot out his own name, and write the name of God in its room, upon all he hath and doth.  When the servants came to give up their accounts to their Lord, every one for his pound; those that were faithful to improve it how humbly and self-denyingly do they speak! ‘Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds,’ saith the first, Luke 19:16.  ‘Thy pound hath gained five,’ saith another, ver. 18.  Mark, not ‘I have gained,’ but, ‘thy pound hath gained ten and five.’  They do not applaud themselves, but ascribe both principal and increase to God; thy talent hath gained, that is, thy gifts and grace, through thy assistance and blessing, have gained thus much more.  Only he that did least comes in with a brag, and tells his Lord what he had done. ‘Behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin.’  Least doers are greatest boasters.

 

Two Characters Distinguishing True Faith’s Obedience 1/2

           Question.  But, you may ask, what stamp is there to be found on faith’s obedience which will distinguish it from all counterfeits—for there are many fair semblances of obedience, which the devil will never grudge us the having?

           Answer.  Take these two characters of the obedi­ence of faith.

  1. Character. Faith’s obedience begins at the heart, and from thence it diffuseth and dilates itself to the outward man, till it overspreads the whole man in a sincere endeavour.  As in natural life, the first part that lives in the heart, so the first that faith sub­dues into obedience is the heart.  It is called a ‘faith which purifieth the heart,’ Acts 15.9.  And the believing Romans ‘obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to them,’ Rom. 6:17.  Whereas a false faith, which apes this true faith—as art imitates nature—begins without, and there ends.  All the seeming good works of a counterfeit believer, they are like the beautiful colour in a picture’s face, which comes not from a principle of life within, but the painter’s pencil without.  Such were those, John 2:23, who are said to ‘believe on Christ,’ ‘but Jesus did not commit himself unto them,’ ver. 24.  And why? ‘for he knew what was in man,’ ver. 25.  He cared not for the painted porch and goodly outside: ‘for he knew what was in man,’ and by that knowledge he knew them to be rotten at core, naught at heart, before they were specked on the skin of their exterior conversation.

           Question (1.) But how may I know my obedience is the obedience of the heart?

           Answer.  If it comes from love then it is the obedience of the heart.  He commands the heart that is the master of its love.  The castle must needs yield when he that keeps it, and hath the keys of it, submits.  Love is the affection that governs this royal fort of man’s heart. We give our hearts to them we give our love to.  And indeed thus it is that faith brings the heart over into subjection and obedience to God, by putting it under a law of love; ‘faith worketh by love,’ Gal. 5:6.  First, faith worketh love, and then it worketh by it.  As first the workman sets an edge on his tools, and then carves and cuts with them; so faith sharpens the soul’s love to God, and then acts by it.  Or, as a statuary, to make some difficult piece, before he goes about it, finding his hands numb with cold, that he cannot handle his tools so nimbly as he should, goes first to the fire, and, with the help of its heat, chafes them till they of stiff and numb become agile and active, then to work he falls; so faith brings the soul—awk and listless enough, God knows, to any duty—unto the meditation of the peerless, matchless love of God in Christ to it; and at this fire faith stays the Christian’s thoughts till his affections begin to kindle and come to some sense of this love of God, and now the Christian bestirs himself for God with might and main.

           Question (2.)  But how may I know my obedience is from love?

           Answer. I will send to St. John to be resolved of this question, ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous,’ I John 5:3.  Speak, soul, what account have you of the commandments?  Do you look upon them as an iron chain about your legs, and think yourselves prisoners because you are tied to them? or do you value them as a chain of gold about your neck, and esteem yourselves favourites of the King of heaven, that he will honour you to honour him by serving of him?  So did as great a prince as the world had: ‘Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly,’ I Chr. 29.  Not, ‘Who am I, that I should be a king over my people?’ but ‘that I should have a heart so gracious to offer willingly with my people.’  Not, ‘Who am I, that they should serve me?’ but, ‘that thou wilt honour me with a heart to serve thee with them?’  The same holy man in another place speak of sin as his prison, and his obedience as his liberty: ‘I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts,’ Ps. 119:45.  When God gives him a large heart for duty, he is as thankful as a man that was bound in prison is when he is set at liberty, that he may visit his friends and follow his calling.  The only grievous thing to a loving soul is to be hindered in his obedience.  This is that which makes such a one out of love with the world, and with being in it —because it cumbers him in his work, and many times keeps him from it.  As a conscionable faithful servant, that is lame or sickly, and can do his master little service, O how it grieves him!  Thus the loving soul bemoans itself, that it should put God to so much cost, and be so unprofitable under it.  Speak, is this thy temper?  Blessed art thou of the Lord!  There is a jewel of two diamonds, which this will prove thou art owner of, that the crown-jewels of all the princes of the world are not so worthy to be valued with, as a heap of dust or dung is to be compared with them. The jewel I mean, is made of this pair of graces —faith and love. They are thine, and, with them, God and all that he hath and is.  But, if the commandments if the commandments of God be ‘grievous,’ as they are to every carnal heart, and thou countest thyself at ease when thou canst make an escape from a duty to commit a sin, as the beast doth when his collar is off and he in his fat pasture again; now thou art where thou wouldst be, and can show some spirits that thou hast.  But when conscience puts on the trace again, thou art dull and heavy again.  O, it speaks thee to have no love to God, and therefore no faith on God, that is true.  That is a jade indeed who hath no mettle but in the pasture.

The properties of true faith, when it is wrought

           Second Direction.  We know what faith is, and how to judge of it, from its properties when it is wrought in us buy the Spirit.  We shall content ourselves by noticing three.

  First. True faith is obediential.  Second. It is prayerful.  Third. It is uni­form in its acting.

True faith is obediential:

           First Property. This choice excellent faith is an obediential faith; that is, true faith on the promise works obedience to the command.  Abraham is fa­mous for his obedience; no command, how difficult soever, came amiss to him.  He is an obedient servant indeed, that, when he doth but hear his master knock with his foot, leaves all and runs presently to know his master’s will and pleasure.  Such a servant had God of Abraham: ‘Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot,’ Isa. 41:2.  But what was the spring that set Abraham’s obedience a going?  See for this, Heb. 11:8 ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheri’tance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.’  As it is impossible to please God without faith, so it is impossible not to desire to please God with faith.  It may well go for an idol faith, that hath hands but doth not work, feet, but doth not walk in the statutes of God.  No sooner had Christ cured the woman in the gospel of her fever, but it is said, ‘She arose, and ministered unto them,’ Matt. 8:15.  Thus the believing soul stands up and ministers unto Christ in gratitude and obedience. Faith is not lazy; it inclines not the soul to sleep, but work; it sends the creature not to bed, there to snort away his time in ease and sloth, but into the field. The night of ignorance and unbelief, that was the creature’s sleeping time; but, when the Sun of righteousness ariseth, and it is day in the soul, then the creature riseth and goeth forth to his labour.  The first words that break out faith’s lips, are those of Saul in his hour of conversion: ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ Acts 9:6. Faith turns the Jordan, and alters the whole course of a man.  ‘We were,’ saith the apostle, ‘foolish’ and ‘disobedient,’ ‘but after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,’ Titus 3:3, 4, then the case was altered, as it follows.  And, therefore, take your foul fingers off the promise, and pretend no more to faith, if ye be chil­dren of Belial—such whose necks do not freely stoop to this yoke of obedience. The devil himself may as soon pass for a believer as a disobedient soul.  Other things he can show as much as you.  Dost thou pre­tend to knowledge? thou wilt not deny the devil to be a greater scholar than thyself, I hope, and that in Scripture  knowledge.  Dost thou believe the Scripture to be true? and doth not he more strongly?  Dost thou tremble? he much more.  It is obedience he wants, and this makes him a devil, and it will make thee like him also.

 

The Spirit’s Particular Addresses To The Soul When Working Faith In It 2/2

1

2           (3.) The convinced sinner doth not only condemn himself for what he hath done and is, but he despairs of himself as to anything he can now do to save himself.  Many, though they go so far as to con­fess they are vile wretches, and have lived wickedly, and for this deserve to die; yet, when they have put the rope around their  neck by a self-condemning act, they are so far from being convinced of their own im­potency, that they hope to cut the rope with their re­pentance, reformation, and I know not what bundle of good works, which they think shall redeem their credit with God and recover his favour, which their former sins have unhappily lost them.  And this comes to pass, because the plough of conviction did not go deep enough to tear up those secret roots of self-confidence with which the heart of every sinner is woefully tainted.  Whereas every soul, thoroughly convinced by the Spirit, is a self-despairing soul; he sees himself beyond his own help, like a poor condemned prisoner, laden with so many heavy irons, that he sees it is impossible for him to make an es­cape, with all his skill or strength, out of the hands of justice.  O friends! look whether the work be gone thus far in your souls or no.  Most that perish, it is not their disease that kills them, but their physician. They think to cure themselves, and this leaves them uncurable.  Speak, soul, did the Lord ever ferret thee out of this burrow where so many earth themselves? Art thou as much at a loss what to do, as sensible for what thou hast done?  Dost thou see hell in thy sin and despair in thyself?  Hath God got thee out of this Keilah, and convinced thee if thou wouldst stay in the self-confidence of thy repentance, reformation, and duties, they would all deliver thee up into the hands of God’s justice and wrath, when they shall come against thee?  Then, indeed, thou hast escaped one of the finest snares that the wit of hell can weave.

           (4.) The convinced sinner is not only convinced of sin, so as to condemn himself, and despair of himself, but he is convinced of a full provision laid up in Christ for self-condemned and self-despairing ones.  ‘He shall convince the world of sin, and of righteousness,’ John 16:9, 10.  And this is as necessary an antecedent for faith as any of the former.  Without this, the soul convinced of sin is more like to go to the gallows with Judas, or fall on the sword of the law—as the jailer attempted to do on his when he thought his condition desperate—than think of com­ing to Christ.  Who will go to his door that hath not wherewithal to relieve him?

  1. The third and last faculty to be dealt with is the will,and on this, for the production of faith, the Spirit puts forth an act of renovation, whereby he doth sweetly, but powerfully, incline the will, which before was rebellious and refractory, to accept of Christ, and make a free deliberate choice of him for his Lord and Saviour.  I say a ‘free’ choice, not only cudgelled into him with apprehensions of wrath, as one may run under an enemy’s pent-house in a storm, whose door he would have passed by in fair weather, and never looked that way.  Speak, soul, dost thou please thyself in choosing Christ? dost thou go to Christ, not only for safety, but delight?  So the spouse: ‘I sat under his shadow with great delight,’ Song 2:3.  I say a ‘deliberate’ choice, wherein the soul well weighs the terms Christ is offered on, and when it hath considered all seriously, likes them, and clos­eth with him.  Like [as it was with] Ruth, who when Naomi spake the worst she could to discourage her, yet liked her mother’s company too well to lose it for those troubles that attended her.  Speak, soul, hath the Spirit of God thus put his golden key into the lock of thy will, to open the everlasting door of thy heart to let Christ the King of glory in?  Hath he not only opened the eye of thy understanding, as he awaked Peter asleep in prison, and caused the chains of senselessness and stupidity to fall off thy conscience, but also opened the iron gate of thy will, to let thee out of the prison of impenitency, where even now thou wert fast bolted in; yea, brought thee to knock at heaven-door for entertainment, as Peter did at the house of Mary, where the church was met.  Be of good comfort, thou mayest know assuredly that God hath sent, not his angel, but his own Spirit, and hath delivered thee out of the hand of sin, Satan, and justice.

The Spirit’s Particular Addresses To The Soul When Working Faith In It 1/2

  1. The Spirit makes his approach to the under­standing, and on it he puts forth an act of illumination.The Spirit will not work in a dark shop; the first thing he doth in order to faith, is to beat out a window in the soul, and let in some light from heaven into it.  Hence, believers are said to be ‘renewed in the spirit of their minds,’ Eph. 4:23, which the same apostle calleth being ‘renewed in knowledge,’ Col. 3:10. By nature we know little of God, and nothing of Christ or the way of salvation by him.  The eye of the creature therefore must be opened to see the way of life, before he can by faith get into it.  God doth not use to waft souls to heaven, like passengers in a ship, who are shut under the hatches, and see nothing all the way they are sailing to their port.  If [it had been] so, that prayer might have been spared which the psalmist, inspired of God, breathes forth in the behalf of the blind Gentiles ‘That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations,’ Ps. 67:2.  As faith is not a naked assent without affiance  and innitency on Christ; so neither is it a blind as­sent without some knowledge.  If, therefore, thou continuest still in thy brutish ignorance, and knowest not so much as who Christ is, and what he hath done for the salvation of poor sinners, and what thou must do to get interest in him, thou art far enough from believing.  If the day be not broken in thy soul, much less is the Sun of righteousness arisen by faith in thy soul.
  2. Again, when the Spirit of God hath sprung with a divine light into the understanding, then he makes his address to the conscience, and the act which passeth upon that is an act of conviction;‘he shall convince the world of sin,’ &c, John 16:8.  Now this conviction is nothing but a reflection of the light that is in the understanding upon the conscience whereby the creature feels the weight and force of those truths he knows, so as to be brought into a deep sense of them.  Light in a direct beam heats not, nor doth knowledge swimming in the brain affect.  Most under the gospel know that unbelief is a damning sin, and that there is ‘no name’ to be saved by but the name of Christ; yet how few of those know this con­vincingly, so as to apply it to their own consciences, and to be affected with their own deplored state, who are the unbelievers and Christless persons?  As he is a convicted drunkard in law, who, in open court, or before a lawful authority, upon clear testimony and deposition of witnesses, is found and judged to be such; so he, scripturally, is a convinced sinner, who, upon the clear evidence of the word brought against him by the Spirit, is found by his own conscience —God’s officer in his bosom—to be so.  Speak now, poor creature, did ever such an act of the Spirit of God pass upon thee as this is? which that thou mayest the better discern of, try thyself by these few characters of a convinced person.

           (1.) A sinner truly convinced is not only convinced of this sin or that sin, but of the evil of all sin. It is an ill sign when a person seems in a passion to cry out of one sin, and to be senseless of another sin. A parboiled conscience is not right, soft in one part, and hard in another.  The Spirit of God is uniform in its work.

           (2.) The convinced sinner is not only convinced of acts of sin, but of the state of sin also.  He is not only affected [by] what he hath done—this law bro­ken, and that mercy abused by him—but with what his state and present condition is.  Peter leads Simon Magus from that one horrid act he committed to the consideration of that which was worse—the dismal state that he discovered him to be in.  ‘I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,’ Acts 8:23.  Many will confess they do not do as they should, who will not think by any means so ill of themselves that their state is naught—a state of sin and death; whereas the convinced soul freely puts himself under this sentence of death, owns his condition, and dissembles not his pedigree.  ‘I am a most vile wretch,’ saith he, ‘a limb of Satan, full of sin as the toad is of rank poison.  My whole nature lies in wickedness, even as the dead rotten carcass doth its slime and putrefaction.  I am a child of wrath, born to no other inheritance than hell-flames; and if God will now tread me down thither, I have not one righteous syllable to object against his proceedings, but there is that in my own conscience which will clear him from having done me any wrong in my doom.’