A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, July 15, 1877, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *8/3/2012
But was strong in faith, giving glory to God. [Ro 4:20]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 733, “Unstaggering Faith” 724]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1367, “Strong Faith” 1358]
Exposition on Ro 3:19-4:21 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3038, “Justice Vindicated, and Righteousness Exemplified” 3039 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ro 3; 4:16-25 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2357, “Two Pillars of Salvation, The” 2358 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ro 4:1-20 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3462, “To the Rescue” 3464 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ro 4:1-5:2 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3154, “Concerning the Forbearance of God” 3155 @@ "Exposition"]
1. Abraham is the father of the faithful. When children have a noble father it is a good thing for them to be totally familiar with his character; and therefore we shall do well to consider the life of the great patriarch, especially noting that grand excellence which makes him the father of believers, namely, his faith. Nor should we fail to observe the strength of his faith, for in him it reached a very high degree; he was not only a believer, but he was an unstaggering believer. He did not only trust God, but he trusted God most firmly, in the teeth of all opposition, not so much as considering the difficulties, but believing in God without questioning. Often I have exhorted unbelievers to faith, but now my word is directed to those who have faith already, asking them to show more faith. Where there is the root of faith we plead for the growth of faith; where there is life our desire is that it may be found more abundantly. If you have not believed at all, then the gospel cries to you, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved”; but if you have believed, its voice is, “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” We cannot talk to unbelievers about the subject of strong faith, because they have none to begin with; if they had even the weakest faith, it would save them, and become the seed germ of the highest assurance, but without a beginning how can they be exhorted to increase? There must first of all be the seed of faith in the heart, and then it will be wise to water it, but to water barren ground is lost labour. Have you given glory to God by believing in the Lord Jesus? Then may you glorify him more by a stronger confidence, but not until then. Those who have faith in God are constantly to be exhorted to grow in all graces, and especially in the most important and fundamental grace of faith. They are permitted to pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” with the assurance that “he gives more grace.” My present address will have strong faith for its subject, let those who have believed strive after it.
2. Is it necessary for me to remind you that just as faith at first is the work of the Holy Spirit, so must any real growth in it be of divine operation? Any addition to faith which could come to you by or from the flesh, if such a thing were supposable, would be an adulteration of faith, and not an increase of it; for evermore what is born by the flesh is flesh, and only what is born by the Spirit is spirit. Even if an increase of faith could come to us by the will of man, and not by divine working, it would not be worth the having, for it would be a counterfeit. Only the sap of the trunk can make the branch grow; he who gave you faith at the first must give you more faith if you are to become strong in it. Yet there is the parallel truth never to be forgotten, that while faith is the gift of God it is also our own act. The Holy Spirit works faith in us, but we ourselves personally believe; the Holy Spirit does not believe for us — what does he have to believe? It would be altogether absurd to conceive of the Holy Spirit as believing or repenting! Nor if such a thing were possible could it be of any benefit to us, for the faith which saves the soul must be personal and cannot be performed by proxy. Faith is both God’s gift and man’s act. The Lord is the author of our faith, but we ourselves believe. In the same manner, though the strengthening of our faith will come through the Spirit of God, yet it must be our own act and deed; we ourselves must believe more firmly, and our own heart must be exercised to attain to the highest privilege. Just as unbelief is a sin for which the unbeliever must be held responsible, even so is the feebleness of faith a fault for which we are blameworthy. We are duty bound to believe in God without wavering, and if we neglect the matter we shall be held guilty concerning it. It is our duty to believe, and to believe in the highest degree; and though some professors can never see the consistency of the two statements that faith is the gift of God and yet the duty of man, we are sure that the one is as true as the other; and so while I shall earnestly refer you to the Spirit of God for strength in order to obtain more faith, yet I shall not apologise for unbelief, or treat strong faith as a work of supererogation, [a] for which God has no claim upon us. I most earnestly declare the responsibility of each believer, and claim from him, as the righteous due of a faithful God, that he henceforth believes in him more fully than he has previously done. May the remarks I shall offer be used by the Holy Spirit to the increase and establishment of your confidence in God.
3. I. Our first point is this: STRONG FAITH, WHEREVER IT EXISTS, IS SUPPORTED BY ABUNDANT REASONS. It is never chargeable with being unreasonable fanaticism or blind credence; it is a sound, prudent, justifiable thing.
4. For, first, all the reasons which justify our believing in God at all justify our believing in him most firmly and continually. You do not need that I dwell upon this, because it is self-evident; it can never be right to believe unless the statements are true, and if true they deserve undivided faith. If you have trusted your soul with your Redeemer because of the efficacy of his atoning blood, that argument pleads with you to trust him even more steadfastly and confidently. If anything is strong enough for you to trust your eternal destiny to it, your trust ought not to be tinctured with suspicion, or soured with doubt; it ought to be unalloyed as pure gold, and immovable as a granite rock. Either no confidence or great confidence can be logically defended, but a divided heart cannot be justified by reason. Dear brother, little faith will save you if it is true faith, but there are many reasons why you should seek an increase of it, and among the rest this forcible one, — your conscience cannot justify the weakness of your faith, nor answer the question, “Why do you doubt?” If you believe at all, why do you doubt at all? If God is worthy of trust, he is worthy of abundant trust; if it is good to lean on him at all it must be good to lean hard. Is the Lord faithful? then do not both trust and doubt, believe and not believe. Is the promise certain? then do not believe it a little and doubt it a little. Elijah spoke concerning Jehovah and Baal, “If Jehovah is God serve him, and if Baal is God serve him”; so also I would demand in this matter; if the gospel is a lie, deny it, but if it is a truth, believe it. Do not be content any longer to mingle unbelief with faith, as if this were the utmost credence that God’s children could give to their own Father. It is time that this mental twilight came to an end, and that the day was known to be day, and the night to be night. Hesitating and questioning, hoping and fearing, only make a lame walk for a Christian pilgrim, and are unreasonable and indefensible. As the legs of the lame are not equal, so such a state of mind does not have the balance which a wise man should seek after. If you go up to the ankles in the river of faith, go further, even up to the loins, or to full swimming depth, for, if it is right to enter into faith’s stream at all, every possible argument proves that the deeper you go the better.
5. Reasons for strong faith may be found in abundance in the character of God. He is not like ourselves, for in him is no mixture of truth and falsehood, wisdom and folly, power and weakness. Our reliance upon man must be cautiously given and measured out with great prudence, for man is only man; but “the Lord is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent.” His character absolutely demands implicit faith, insomuch that, while meditating upon this subject, I felt ashamed of myself that I should need to pray for faith in God. It is a clear evidence of our dire depravity that we should need to be helped to believe in one who cannot lie. It seems inevitable that a creature should trust its Creator, and especially such a Creator; and it would be inevitable if that creature were not exceedingly depraved. For a child to trust his father is natural, so natural that no one considers it a virtue. How marvellous is our moral perversity that we should be so far gone out of our right condition of heart that we have to argue ourselves into believing our God, and even then not succeed until the Holy Spirit gives us faith. It ought to be a very hard thing for a Christian to doubt his heavenly Father; in fact, it ought to be impossible, seeing that the divine character is incapable of falsehood. Beloved, should we not have strong faith who believe in a God whose very essence is pure truth? Where deception is inconceivable doubt should be impossible. You believe that no shadow of untruth ever stained the character of your God, why then do you not render to him strong faith? You believe also that God is infinitely wise, and therefore he has never spoken rashly nor promised what it might be wiser to withhold. The promise was not delivered in haste, or so unguardedly that it might be necessary to retract it; and therefore no alteration can be supposed. The covenant of promise stands secure even concerning its jots and tittles. If it had been foolish it might pass away, but since it is ordered by eternal wisdom it will outlast the everlasting hills. Come, then, beloved, should not the utmost confidence be rendered to him whose every word is steeped in infallibility? Should you not believe with all your heart and soul and strength in him whose truth stands firm like the great mountains?
6. Moreover, oh man of God, you believe in one who is omnipotent, and therefore your believing should be strong. You know how to answer that question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” for you believe that with God all things are possible. If it is so, then his true word spoken in wisdom can readily enough be carried out; he only has to will it, and it is done. God’s word is fact; for him to purpose is to perform; can there then arise any condition or circumstance which he cannot handle? Why these doubts? In the presence of an Almighty Promiser unbelief is as ridiculous as it is sinful. “The strength of Israel will not lie,” neither may we treat him with doubt.
7. You know also that your God is immutable. All other things change, but your God knows no shadow of a turning; he is “the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” Is he the same? He does not take back the word that goes out of his mouth, nor reverse his divine decree; why then question and suspect him? It is better by far to believe immutably in an immutable God, Can you not rest in him who says “I am Jehovah; I do not change?”
8. You believe also that he is the God of love, full of goodness, mercy, and lovingkindness. What a wanton insult it is to doubt one who cannot be unkind, whose very nature it is to bless his creatures, and whose innermost soul is set upon loving and blessing his own elect. Have you confided in him? then does he not assure you that he has engraved your name upon the palms of his hands, that he has loved you with an everlasting love, and therefore with lovingkindness he has drawn you. Will you fly in the face of changeless love, and coldly question it? Can it be possible to trust it too confidingly? Surely all these things, and much more, in the glorious character of the ever beloved God, demand from us the strongest imaginable faith.
9. Then, again, when I turn my eyes from pure deity to him who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, even our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, it appears incongruous that the blessed Son of God should be received with meagre confidence. God lived among men in human flesh, you know it to be true that it was so; Jesus, the Son of God, lived upon the earth throughout a lowly life amid poverty and shame, and, (wonder of wonders), at last he poured out his heart’s blood for our redemption; and can we entertain a doubt of his ability to save? Do we see those blood drops from his hand and heart, sealing the everlasting covenant, and can we doubt? Abraham had strong confidence when he saw the smoking furnace and the burning lamp passing between the pieces of the slain victims, and what ought our confidence to be when we behold the Lord Jesus Christ himself ratifying the eternal covenant by his own death? Surely if the patriarch could find rest in the sight of the type only, we ought to rest without thought of fear. When faith sees the divine antitype, no thought of turmoil should ever arise again. My soul, what more do you want? Is there not here more than enough of solemn pledge and surety? Are not founts of assurance opened in the bleeding Saviour which are deeper than all fear and higher than all hope? That wondrous sacrifice is as high above your thoughts at their best as the heavens are above the earth, and will you return doubts and fears as an appropriate reward for such a divine confirmation of eternal love? Oh Lord, help your servants to be strong in faith!
10. One other reason is perhaps of less weight than those which have gone before, but I cannot withhold it. It is this; we ought to give to God strong faith, because there is no evidence to the contrary, nor any supposable evidence which could justify doubt. All down the ages those who have trusted in him have never been confounded. Our forefathers trusted in him, and he helped them to suffer and to bear, to attempt and to accomplish, to live and to die. We read just now, in the eleventh of the Hebrews, the record of what the Lord accomplished in those who believed in him. Now, on the other side, per contra, there stands nothing. Has one child of God come forward wringing his hands and saying, “God has not fulfilled his word, and his promises are false?” Many of us have stood at the bedside of dying saints, and the truth generally comes out there, yet there is not one among us, most familiar with such scenes, who ever heard a solitary believer declare that it is a mistake to confide in the blood of Jesus, or an error to rest in the faithfulness of God. Somewhere or other this thing would have come out if it had been so; if the Lord had been false to one of his people we should have had a valid record of it, and I think we might have trusted the devil and his demons, who delight in infidelity, to have circulated such a report, pretty largely, all over the world, if they had known one such case; but they do not have one to report. “He does not forsake his saints.”
11. Furthermore, I will appeal to your own experience, — have you experienced anything which casts suspicion upon the character of God? Has the Lord been a wilderness to you? When you have trusted him has he failed you? Will you put your finger upon a promise which he has broken? Search the book through and through, and find if you can one single word of his against which you must write “false.” Oh, no; the promise tarries sometimes, but it never lies. There is a waiting time for the testing of your faith, but in the end it will be seen that he has withheld no good thing from those who walk uprightly, and you will have to say at last, like hoary headed Joshua, “There did not fail any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel; all came to pass.” Brethren, ought we to doubt our God when we have no reason to show for it? Is there any apology for little faith since we cannot remember any examples of prayers unheard, deliverances denied, or mercies refused? We have nothing of the kind to quote, and therefore when we doubt the Lord we are guilty of wanton doubt, — may the Lord forgive us and deliver us from it.
12. So much upon that first point, the strongest faith is supported by abundant reasons.
13. II. And now, secondly, according to the text, STRONG FAITH PRODUCES THE MOST DESIRABLE RESULTS.
14. We do not have time to go into many of these, but we will dwell upon one, the one mentioned in the text, “Strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Why, this is what we live for — to glorify God. Every man who is truly a child of God feels that he has no purpose which at all approaches to this in importance; his chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” Well, then, since strong faith answers to that end we ought earnestly to desire it; but how does it appear?
15. Well, strong faith glorifies God because it treats him like God. Unbelief is practical atheism; because, denying the truthfulness of God, it takes away what is a part of the essential character of God, and so far mars his very existence. I would not say a word to grieve those who have very little faith, for the least faith is saving and is most precious; but still faith where it is weak does not treat God like God, it bounds and limits the Holy One of Israel! It believes him up to such a point, or under such and such circumstances, and this is not to act towards him as omnipresent and omnipotent. Strong faith treats God according to his infinite character; it does not suspect him, because it knows him to be the God of truth; it does not doubt the possibility of his accomplishing his promise, because it knows him to be God all-sufficient; it does not question his faithfulness, because it knows him to be absolutely immutable. Alas, we often deal with God as if he were like ourselves, or like our fellow men. We are fickle, and we suppose that he is so; our fellow men promise and fail us, and we act as if our God were like the sons of man, who are only a worms. Oh beloved, it robs God of glory when we act towards him otherwise than as he is, but it glorifies him when we gain a scriptural conception of what he is, and act towards him under that aspect, and what is that except to trust him without staggering? To me, when I look at it calmly, the strongest faith does not appear to be a wonder, it is only what the Lord has a right to receive. Considering the folly and depravity of man, faith is a marvellous production of grace; yet looked at from the Godward side of it, the strongest possible faith in God is only what God may justly claim. Do you not say so, oh believers? Does your Lord not deserve to be trusted at all times?
16. Further, strong faith brings glory to God, because it treats him as a Father, and acts towards him in a childlike spirit. It is very beautiful to see the confidence which our children place in us. Why even when the man is utterly unworthy of respect you will see the little child still believing in his father. And as for those who are favoured with parents who are wise and gracious, there is, there should always be, an implicit reliance upon father’s judgment. I have known boys quote their father with as implicit a reliance as Christians quote Scripture, or as confidently as a Catholic quotes a bull of the Pope. Indeed, what is a father after all but the papa, the pope, of his child to a very great degree; and though that confidence may be mistaken, yet it is natural to the child to feel it, and it is a sad pity that it should too often be rudely repressed by the father’s folly. Now, every child of God ought to have unlimited confidence in God. Is he not my Father? Can my Father do an unkind thing to me? Can my Father be untrue? Can my heavenly Father be false or changeable? Impossible! The child of God does not boast about his faith, for it is only a simple childlike trust, yet it glorifies God more than all the efforts of proud reason, for it calls him by the name which he loves, and it puts him into the place which he delights in, namely, that of Father to his own chosen.
17. Again, strong faith honours God because it strengthens all the other graces, and these all bring glory to God. Without the graces of the Spirit in him a man cannot glorify God. Therefore what will produce in our character all those various lights which are the reflections of the divine excellence as it shone in the Lord Jesus, is the chief means of our glorifying God, and is therefore to be prized. Faith is the root of whatever things are lovely and pure and of good repute, and in proportion as it is strong all these precious things flourish, therefore it greatly tends to magnify the Lord.
18. Strong faith particularly glorifies God because it gives a striking testimony to the world. I do not think the world notices very much the common faith of ordinary Christians; the faith which relies upon God ordinarily in good times the outside world does not think much of; but even carnal minds are compelled to view with astonishment the faith which glories in God when all temporal things are swept away. The faith which can practise eminent self-denial, or which can achieve, through the power of God, enterprises which appear foolhardy to mere reason, that is the faith which attracts the eyes of men; they see your strong faith, and they glorify your Father which is in heaven. I pray God that we may always have such a faith that it may be worth while for men to study it. I have known some faith which would have required a man to put a microscope to his eye to be able to perceive it at all, and when we have declared that little faith saves the soul, the worldling has replied, “Well, it is a very small concern, at any rate.” Brethren, ask that your faith may grow; let it embrace God heartily, let it rest in him without a fear, and even the ungodly will be obliged to confess that this is the finger of God.
19. Strong faith glorifies God again because it enables him to work great works in us and through us. Just as our Saviour could not do many mighty works in a certain place because of their unbelief, so God is hampered with regard to some of us, because we have such little confidence in him. He has given to some men all the abilities necessary for the conversion of many souls, all the knowledge, all the utterance and a large part of the zeal; but they do not believe in him, and therefore they are not established. Some men’s words actually create doubt in the minds of others, for they themselves are so diffident in spirit that they rather hinder the children of God in their progress than help them to advance in the divine life. Search, oh my brothers and sisters, whether it is not so. He who has little faith will be made useful according to the littleness of his faith, but, if he had more, the Master might use him more. If we trusted more, our life would be holier, happier, more serene, more close with God, and more useful; and why should we not? Give me a reason why we should not. Oh, Spirit of the living God, why should we not? Help us now to be strong in faith, giving glory to God!
20. III. Now I advance to a third observation, which I trust may give some comfort to those who are little in Israel. STRONG FAITH WHICH GIVES GLORY TO GOD MAY BE EXERCISED BY PEOPLE WHO ARE OTHERWISE EXCEEDINGLY WEAK.
21. What a joy this is to you who suffer in body. You do not often creep out of your bed which is now growing so hard through your having laid upon it these months. It is quite a holiday for you to be found in the house of God now and then. Well, dear brother, dear sister, you cannot do apostolic work and range a continent, fervently blazing out the truth, but you can have strong faith in God; you may exhibit a placid patience, a sweet resignation, a sacred hopefulness concerning the future, a divine disdain concerning the fear of death; and if these abound in you the circle of friends who know you and tenderly watch you are receiving from your example the utmost benefit, and perhaps, though you may not be able to enter into active service, you may be tutoring others by the strength of your faith, and they will accomplish great things as the result of your example. At any rate, the weakness of your body need not prevent your exercising the strong faith which glorifies God.
22. So, too, dear friends, you may have very few talents, you may be conscious that you have no brilliancy of intellect, that you are not people of remarkable talents or attainments, and yet you may glorify God by strong faith. You need not be a genius in order to give glory to God, for the strength of your faith will do it. Many a man who is of slender intellect glorifies God far more than your great thinker, because the great thinker is too often filled with a high conceit of his own thoughts, and will not follow God’s word, whereas the poor unintellectual believer rises superior to him by taking the intellect of God to be his guiding star. You can glorify God, dear brethren, by holding firmly to the truth of which you understand so little, but which you love so heartily. Though you do not know its entire meaning you are in much the same condition as your more advanced brethren, for who knows the entire meaning of God’s mind? What you do know you are resolved to hold with an iron grip, and by so doing you greatly honour your Lord.
23. Some saints are conscious of weakness of every kind, but they must not, therefore, think that they cannot honour God by strong faith, for Abraham, of whom the text is spoken, was a special example of this. He was so old that his body was now dead, and yet he believed that he would be the progenitor of the chosen seed. He knew that death was written upon him concerning all that matter, and yet he was quite certain that God who had promised would certainly perform. Do you feel this morning almost dead spiritually? Dear lover of Jesus, have you wandered from him, so that your consciousness of life in him is dimmed and you hardly know whether you are in him or not, for you are so lethargic, your soul cleaves to the dust? Now is the time to trust him; when sin abounds, when fears are thickest, when temptations are most furious, when poverty comes upon you like an armed man, now is the time to trust in God. Summer weather faith is poor stuff, but a faith which burns on through the long, dark, dreary winter, a faith which is not dampened by the rain nor buried by the snowstorm, — this is faith indeed, and glorifies God. The depth of your weakness is just the height of your possibilities of honouring the Lord. If you are nothing, there is all the more room for God to be everything; if you are unworthy, there is all the more room for confidence in the righteousness of Christ; and if you are dead, you are all the better able to prove the truth of your Lord’s words concerning the believer, “though he were dead, yet he shall live.” May God grant us grace that whatever our circumstances or conditions, we may have the same conquering faith towards God.
24. IV. Now, fourthly, THIS STRONG FAITH VARIES CONCERNING ITS MANNER OF WORKING, very much according to the person and his circumstances.
25. There is one thing that strong faith does not do which some think it would be sure to do — it never blusters, and it never talks big and boasts about what it will accomplish. “Though all men should forsake you, yet I will not,” is not the language of strong faith, that is the prattle of Master Peter with his pride uppermost. Some men are in their own opinion in such a fine condition that they could push the whole world before them, and drag the church after them; I do not know what they could not do. Yes, but there is a great deal of difference between confidence in yourself and confidence in God. I have noticed that the faith which goes out against the world with the dauntless courage of a lion is the very faith which lies down like a lamb at Jesus’ feet. The next thing to “I can do all things” is “Without Christ I can do nothing.” Consciousness of personal weakness attends a brave reliance upon God, and shows itself in modesty and tranquillity of manner. Barking dogs do not often bite, and those men who promise much very seldom perform. Strong faith has a quiet tongue, and does the daring deed without preliminary boasting. It does not advertise its coming victories, but falls upon the Midianites at dead of night, and with its lamps and pitchers puts them to the rout. Point me to one boastful word that ever fell from Abraham. All the scriptural heroes of faith were doers, and not blusterers. David said little to his envious brothers, but he brought home the giant’s bleeding head, and caused its dumb mouth to tell of what he had done.
26. Faith exercises itself as in the case of Abraham, by believing God’s word. God had said many things to Abraham, and Abraham believed them all. That is a rare thing nowadays. The school of modern thought, which considers itself to be the most infallible thing now extant, always cuts and shapes divinity according to its own views of what it ought to be; in fact, it has a God of its own, cut out of the brown paper of its philosophies — a God of soft effeminacy, who is no more like the Jehovah of Abraham than the Venus of Paphos. These men believe, not what the Bible says, but what they imagine it ought to say. Their doctrinal views are like the camel which was evolved by a German philosopher out of his own mind; he had never seen one, but he produced it according to his own notion of what it ought to be, and he was very strong against humps; he would never believe that a real camel had a hump, because his mind did not suggest such a thing. Much of intellectual religion nowadays is just that; we have certain gentry around who evolve a gospel out of their own brain, and of course they utterly despise the gospel which actually exists because it is not like their model. We are asked to bow down and worship the calf which comes out of their furnace, but we shall not do that while our faith is strong. We believe God’s every word as far as we know it. If I know a doctrine to be in God’s word, it is infallible to me. If I have ever in thought gone beyond what is revealed, I do heartily repent of such presumption; brethren, do you not also say so? If I see in God’s Book two truths which I cannot square with each other, I believe them both. There is a middle term somewhere, though I do not know where to find it; and for the present I believe without that explanatory truth. There are the two things, God has said them, and they must be true, and it is mine to believe them. Let God be true and every man a liar. This is the place where strong faith is needed in these days; we need a settled creed, and a clear, comprehensive view of revealed truth, even if we should as a result be called old-fashioned or imbecile. We need to be more old-fashioned than ever. I am a Radical in many things, but in the doctrines of the gospel I would have you to be Conservative to the backbone, not for an hour yielding any point of truth to the most brilliant thinker that the world can produce. Thinkers are not appointed to tinker up a gospel for us; thank God, we have a perfect gospel already. Their shifting gospel changes about every ten years, and comes out spick and span as a new theology, but we have grasped the old infallible truth, and we mean to hang onto it for dear life, being strong in faith, giving glory to God.
27. But Abraham’s was not only receptive faith; his was a faith which obeyed the precept. The test of his obedience was the strange command to take his only son and offer him up for a sacrifice, but he went to do it, and in God’s account he did do it, for he had the will to do it at God’s command. You and I must be willing to do what God tells us, as God tells us, when God tells us, because God tells us, but only strong faith will be equal to such complete obedience.
28. Then Abraham’s faith awakened in him great expectations. He was looking for an heir, an heir from whom should spring a seed as the stars of heaven for multitude; he expected that quite as confidently as you and I expect tomorrow. We shall be full of expectation if we have strong faith; looking for blessings, expecting prayers to be answered, and promises to be fulfilled. We shall not cry “How wonderful!” every time a prayer is answered, but we shall consider it a matter of necessity that God should stand by every word that comes out of his mouth. May the Lord give you such strong faith as this, and may it work in this manner.
29. But time chides me, as it did the apostle when he entered upon this subject. You may well pardon me if I am lengthy, for even so he was, until he said, “Time would fail us to speak of Gideon and Jephthah,” and so on.
30. V. Our last point is, FAITH IS ESPECIALLY TO BE EXPECTED IN CERTAIN QUARTERS. Here I wish to speak very pointedly and personally to all my brothers and sisters in Christ.
31. Dear friends, there ought to be strong faith in us who know God. “Those who know your name will put their trust in you, for you, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you”; and if he does not forsake the seekers, much less will he forsake those who have found him and trusted in him. Brethren, there are some men you can trust until you know them, but if it is true that when you do know them you can no longer trust them, it proves that they have a bad character. Now, you who know the Lord ought never to throw your God under such a suspicion. If you know him, trust him. I know you will.
32. We expect strong faith next from those who have had a long experience of him. We can almost forgive you young people who have just started in the Christian life if you are vexed with doubts and fears, though truly God does not deserve them even from you; but when your fathers begin to doubt, what shall we say of them? What, have you known him fifty years and can you not trust him yet? What, my dear brother, has the Lord kept you until you are seventy! How long do you expect to live? To eighty? Well, he has been good to you for seven tens, can you not trust him for the last ten? What, tested him over and over again, and never found a flaw in his fidelity — been in deep waters and kept from sinking, and yet are you doubtful? What are those things upon your feet? Shoes of iron and brass. He said they should be. Are you afraid that after all you will be footsore and shoeless? He promised, “as your days so shall your strength be.” How has it been? Why, you say, “It has been so up to this moment”; then why not to the end? Speak well of the bridge which has carried you over so many times. As I have already said, you cannot put your finger upon a single example in which the good Lord has deceived you, and if you never doubt your Lord until you have reason for it you will never doubt him at all. Come, come, let those of us who have been twenty-five years in the ways of God put aside our childish doubts. Yet I warrant you this is easier said than done; and, though we talk like this, and we know it is true and right, alas, our nature goes readily astray into a wicked and provoking doubt of God.
33. Further, dear friends, those ought to trust him who have lived in fellowship with him. If you have been on the top of Tabor; if you have known the kisses of his mouth and tasted of his love, which is better than wine; if you have been enraptured in his arms, in the full assurance of faith and the enjoyment of perfect love; why should you come down from the mountain and doubt him? God forbid that we should do this. May the memory of the hill Mizar and the Hermonites come freshly over our minds this morning, and may we rest in our God.
34. Those who are getting near to heaven ought not to doubt him. I see upon some of you the signs of the coming end. The snowflakes of many winters lie on your brows, indeed, the wind has blown even those away from some of you and left the summit bare. You will soon behold your Lord, your eyes will soon see the King in his beauty in the land that is very far off. Do not let it be among the last memories of earth that you doubted your Beloved. Oh, you who have known him from your youth, and have proven his faithfulness until you have come to palsied age, do not now begin to suspect your gracious God. You do not doubt the partner of your bosom, who has shared your sorrows for half a century and has been the comfort of your life, — you do well to trust in her, for it is said of such, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her”; but surely she is not to be relied upon so implicitly as your God! Oh, dear aged brother, permit one who is only a little child compared with you to entreat you. Console and cheer the younger people by the display of confidence and serenity accomplished in you by strong faith.
35. Lastly, we who are teachers of others ought to have strong faith in God. I think we may at times profitably mention our own doubts and fears for the encouragement of those who are terribly downcast, but it ought always to be done with very great prudence and much regret. I remember once speaking of my own tremblings, when preaching, and a venerable brother said to me afterwards, “I do not think, dear pastor, that you were right in speaking of your own transgressions so freely. You encouraged the people certainly by what you said about yourself, but I hardly think they ought to be encouraged. Now, suppose you were to go into the pulpit and say ‘there are some of you who are thieves; it is very wrong of you, but still do not despair, for I steal a little myself.’ Why, you know,” he said, “you would not be doing good, but harm; and yet thieving is not more truly a sin than doubting God, in fact there is the utmost sin in unbelief.” I replied to my good brother that he was right, and I thanked him for the correction. Whenever, dear hearers, you catch any of us who are teachers doubting and fearing, do not pity us, but scold us. We have no right to be in Doubting Castle. Please do not visit us there. Follow us as far as we follow Christ, but if we get into the horrible Slough of Despond, come and pull us out by the hair of our heads if necessary, but do not fall into it yourselves. Never say, “My beloved pastor went there, and therefore I may go there.” No, but say, “Even our minister fell into that error, and therefore I will keep as far from it as I ever can, for if the teacher slips the disciple may easily do so, and therefore I must very carefully watch against unbelief.”
Brethren, we shall never succeed in winning sinners to faith if we
preach what we do not intensely believe. I do truly believe that the
sinner is lost, and that unless grace saves him, he is lost for ever.
I believe that eternal punishment will fall upon him unless he
repents and believes in Jesus Christ. I do believe that Jesus shed
his precious blood, and that whoever believes in him is saved beyond
all fear of destruction, saved by the blood of the Lamb. We must
preach in a believing manner, knowing our message to be true, or else
men will die in unbelief. And, what is more, I do not think we shall
have many conversions unless we expect God to bless the word, and
feel certain that he will do so. We must not wonder and be astonished
if we hear about a dozen or two conversions, but let the astonishment
be that thousands are not converted when they hear such divine truth,
and when we ask the Holy Spirit to attend it with divine energy. God
will bless us in proportion to our faith. It is the rule of his
kingdom. — “According to your faith so be it to you.” Oh God, give your
ministers more faith! Let us believe you firmly! Oh, that we could
believe you up to the fullest possible measure of faith, and never
doubt you again. If the enemy numbers in the thousands, give us the
faith of Samson to throw ourselves upon them, and in the name of God
to strike them, and though we ourselves with respect to all power to
convert others are as dead men, and though the sinner is dead, yet
help us to believe that souls can be begotten again by the preaching
of the gospel, and let us preach with confidence in the divine power.
Oh Lord, grant this to us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Heb 11]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 125” 125 @@ "(Song 2)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Covenant — The Covenant God Extolled” 229]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Work of Grace as a Whole — All Mercies Traced To Electing Love” 230]
[a] Supererogation: Performance of more than duty or circumstances require. OED.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 125 (Song 1)
1 Unshaken as the sacred hill,
And firm as mountains be,
Firm as a rock the soul shall rest
That leans, oh Lord, on thee.
2 Not walls nor hills could guard so well
Old Salem’s happy ground,
As those eternal arms of love
That every saint surround.
3 Deal gently, Lord, with souls sincere,
And lead them safely on
To the bright gates of Paradise,
Where Christ their Lord is gone.
4 But if we trace those crooked ways
That the old serpent drew,
The wrath that drove him first to hell
Shall smite his followers too.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 125 (Song 2)
1 Who in the Lord confide,
And feel his sprinkled blood,
In storms and hurricanes abide
Firm as the mount of God.
2 Steadfast and fix’d and sure,
His Zion cannot move;
His faithful people stand secure,
In Jesus’ guardian love.
3 As round Jerusalem
The hilly bulwarks rise,
So God protects and covers them
From all their enemies.
4 On every side he stands,
And for his Israel cares;
And safe in his almighty hands
Their souls for ever bears.
5 But let them still abide
In thee, all gracious Lord,
Till every soul is sanctified,
And perfectly restored.
6 The men of heart sincere
Continue to defend;
And do them good, and save them here,
And love them to the end.
Charles Wesley, 1741.
God the Father, Acts, Covenant
229 — The Covenant God Extolled <6.8.4.>
1 The God of Abraham praise
Who reigns enthroned above,
Ancient of everlasting days,
And God of love!
Jehovah, great I AM!
By earth and heaven confest;
I bow, and bless the sacred name,
For ever blest!
2 The God of Abraham praise,
At whose supreme command,
From earth I rise, and seek the joys
At his right hand:
I all on earth forsake,
Its wisdom, fame, and power;
And him my only portion make,
My shield and tower.
3 The God of Abraham praise,
Whose all sufficient grace
Shall guide me all my happy days
In all his ways:
He calls a worm his friend,
He calls himself my God!
And he shall save me to the end,
Through Jesus’ blood.
4 He by himself hath sworn,
I on his oath depend;
I shall, on eagles’ wings upborne,
To heaven ascend:
I shall behold his face,
I shall his power adore,
And sing the wonders of his grace
THE SECOND PART.
5 Though nature’s strength decay,
And earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan’s bounds I urge my way
At his command:
The watery deep I pass
With Jesus in my view,
And through the howling wilderness
My way pursue.
6 The goodly land I see,
With peace and plenty blest;
A land of sacred liberty,
And endless rest:
There milk and honey flow
And oil and wine abound,
And trees of life for ever grow,
With mercy crown’d.
7 There dwells the Lord our King,
The Lord our righteousness!
Triumphant o’er the world and sin,
The Prince of Peace.
On Sion’s sacred height,
His kingdom still maintains;
And glorious with his saints in light,
For ever reigns.
8 The whole triumphant host
Give thanks to God on high,
“Hail Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”
They ever cry:
Hail, Abraham’s God, and mine!
I join the heavenly lays;
All might and majesty are Thine,
And endless praise.
Thomas Olivers, 1772.
The Work of Grace as a Whole
230 — All Mercies Traced To Electing Love <148th>
1 Indulgent God! how kind
Are all thy ways to me,
Whose dark benighted mind
Was enmity with thee;
Yet now, subdued by sovereign grace,
My spirit longs for thine embrace.
2 How precious are thy thoughts,
That o’er my bosom roll:
They swell beyond my faults,
And captivate my soul;
How great their sum, how high they rise,
Can ne’er be known beneath the skies.
3 Preserved in Jesus, when
My feet made haste to hell;
And there should I have gone,
But thou dost all things well;
Thy love was great, thy mercy free,
Which from the pit deliver’d me.
4 Before thy hands had made
The sun to rule the day,
Or earth’s foundation laid,
Of fashion’d Adam’s clay,
What thoughts of peace and mercy flow’d
In thy dear bosom, oh my God.
5 Oh! fathomless abyss,
Where hidden mysteries lie:
The seraph finds his bliss,
Within the same to pry;
Lord, what is man, thy desperate foe,
That thou shouldest bless and love him so?
6 A monument of grace,
A sinner saved by blood:
The streams of love I trace
Up to the Fountain, God;
And in his sacred bosom see
Eternal thoughts of love to me.
John Kent, 1803.