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1856. The History Of Little-Faith

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No. 1856-31:457. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Morning, August 23, 1885, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, and caught him, and said to him, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” {Mt 14:31}

For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 246, “Mr. Fearing Comforted” 239}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1856, “History of Little Faith, The” 1857}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2173, “Little Faith and Great Faith” 2174}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2925, “Reasons for Doubting Christ” 2926}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3247, “Unreasonable Reasons” 3249}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3562, “Peter Walking On The Sea” 3564}
   Exposition on Mt 14:13-36 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3046, “One of the Master’s Choice Sayings” 3047 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Mt 14:14-33 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2925, “Reasons for Doubting Christ” 2926 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Mt 14:22-33 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3128, “Good Cheer from Christ’s Real Presence” 3129 @@ "Exposition"}

1. There is only one word in the original for the phrase, “Oh you of little faith.” The Lord Jesus virtually addresses Peter by the name of “Little-Faith,” in one word. I do not suppose that Peter had ever before dreamed of that name as applicable to himself. Possibly he had thought in his heart that his faith was strong even to assurance. When so recently he had seen his Master feed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes, and had helped to gather up twelve baskets of fragments, he felt that his faith was equal to anything. He who could feed so many with so little, could do any kind of wonder; and how could Peter, brave, honest Peter, ever think of doubting his Lord? Oh brethren, we do not know ourselves! We imagine that we are rich and increased in goods, and, lo! in the time of trial we discover that we are naked, and poor, and miserable. Those who are strong in faith in their own opinion, may soon be brought into circumstances where their confidence will be grievously shaken. All is not gold that glitters, neither is all faith that speaks bravely. Peter is strong in faith on board the ship, strong in faith even as he walks the waters; but that unexpected gust of wind, which came howling down from the mountains, took him by surprise, staggered him, and caused his faith to reel. Then the waters yielded under his feet, and as he began to sink he discovered his own weakness, and had his discovery confirmed by the verdict of his Lord, who surnamed him Little-Faith. Let no man think of himself beyond his own experience. Experience is the true gauge; and he who boasts of an untried faith is puffed up with pride. Do not stretch your arm beyond your sleeve, lest it is frost-bitten. He who boasts in himself deceives himself. It is not an easy thing to endure the humiliation which must follow upon the collapse of untried confidence. Rest assured, brethren, that between here and heaven we shall need every ounce of faith that we have; and that whenever we feel too sure of our own strength we are making sure of what is frailty itself. Self-confidence is only the froth on the top of the cup; it is not the pure juice of the vine of truth. When a man begins to be secure in himself he will court temptation, he will rashly venture upon needless experiments, and in the end will need to cry in plaintive accents, “Lord, save me.” Learn, then, on the threshold of the text, that we are not as strong as we think we are, and that, when we are most brave and daring, we may not be quite so far removed from fear and trembling as we imagine. Alas! that unbelief should mar even Peter’s faith. Let him who thinks that he can walk the waves take heed lest he sinks beneath them.

2. In Peter’s character there was an unusual mixture of the strong and the weak: he rose to excellence and sank to littleness. Yet, why should I speak of this as exceptional? for we ourselves are made of much the same materials: in us also are mingled the iron and the clay. The best of men are men at the best. Since the old nature remains, though the new nature is born in us, there is in our soul a conflict between holiness and sin, faith and unbelief, strength and weakness. We walk the waters like our Lord, and immediately we sink like doubting Peter. The Christian man is very often a mystery to himself, and, therefore, it is no wonder that he is a mystery to other people. Notice how Peter speaks: he cries, “Lord, if it is you”: a speech which, if it is not censurable, is by no means praiseworthy, after his Lord had said, “It is I.” Hear him again: “Tell me to come to you on the water.” Here is courage almost blazing into rashness; and yet there is a measure of obedient deference, for he will not attempt to come unless he is told to do so. He will risk his life if he only has his Master’s permission. What different qualities meet in the same man! He proposes a rash venture, and yet is prudent enough to ask his Master’s permission.

3. See him walking the waves, and admire the strength of his faith! Could you do this? Then see him sinking because a fierce blast has blown in his face. Do you marvel at his unbelief? Would you have done better? He who knows himself knows that doubt dogs the heels of confidence. The Canaanite of doubt is still in the land, and shows himself always and immediately at unexpected times. Where the fairest flowers of faith, and hope, and joy do bloom, the deadliest serpents of doubt and suspicion may still be lurking. Abraham, that father of believers, still sinned twice by doubt when he did not acknowledge that Sarah was his wife.

4. Peter’s mixture of unbelief was not to be justified, nor may it be used as an excuse for ourselves. We shall speak of it as a matter of fact, but not as an example; for it was an improper and unreasonable thing. Peter could not answer the Lord’s question, “Why did you doubt?” His doubting was without basis or reason. If he believes at all, why does he doubt? The unbelief which makes faith little is to be confessed as a sin, and mourned over as such; it would be wrong to regard it as a mere infirmity, and invent excuses for it. The truth is that the Christian has no reason for doubting his Lord. The whole course of the Lord’s dealing is calculated to inspire confidence. He has done nothing to create a suspicion of his love, or truth, or power. If we never doubt until we have reason for doubting, our life will be rich with faith. It is concerning little faith, and its faults and its unreasonableness, that I have to speak at this time: may God grant that all the Little-Faith family may be helped to stronger confidence. May the Holy Spirit bless the word, and enable many a Ruth to pick up those handfuls that fall on purpose for the feeble folk who glean in these fields.

5. I. Our first topic will be LITTLE-FAITH’S HISTORY. It is sketched in the story of Peter. Each one of us is apt to act over again the part which Peter played in this narrative.

6. Little-Faith is a true disciple, though a faulty one. Not the littleness of the faith, but the faith itself is the gift of God. No one except God could make a grain of mustard seed; no one except God can give even the least particle of living faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, however feeble it may be, is a fruit of the Spirit of God, and a sign of the new birth. I may say of Peter on this occasion what the Lord Jesus said of him at another time, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Even the faith which can get no further than to touch the hem of Christ’s garment is the work of the Spirit of God: even that faith which cries, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” is, as for its existence, though not as for its infirmity, the creation of the most High. Therefore let us notice that Little-Faith is born in the new Jerusalem, and is an Israelite indeed; hence it has about it that immortal life of which our risen Lord has said, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

7. Very early in its life Little-Faith has great longings. See it in Peter’s case. He is on board ship with his brethren while Jesus is over there on the waters; and Peter is so earnest to come to his Lord, and be with him, that he is ready to plunge into the sea to reach him. Why could he not wait as the others did? His immediate duty was in the ship with his brethren; but his vehement desires carried him above commonplace toiling and rowing. Strong faith exhibits patience where Little-Faith is in a hurry. It was good to have longings for Jesus, but it would have been wiser to have waited while the Lord came walking over the sea to the ship. The quiet, self-possessed Christian has deep longings for his Lord; but he has the assured conviction that his Lord will come to him if he continues faithful in his present duty, and therefore he waits upon the Lord. Little-Faith, like Martha, runs to meet Jesus; but Strong-Faith, like Mary, sits still in the house. Little-Faith is feverish after immediate joy. Little-Faith wants to be in heaven tomorrow. Little-Faith would convert the world before the sun went down, and she grows faint because her zeal has not fulfilled her wish. Little-Faith must pick the promises while they are green, she is not content to wait until they become ripe and mellow. Yet I love her longings, and I wish that all men had them! However mistaken pressing desires for spiritual joy may be, they are things that do not come into unrenewed hearts. Those blessed longings after Christ which some of you feel, which make you cry, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” — you may thank God for them. Those who have greater faith know that they have found their Lord; they know that he is as the sun which cannot be hidden; they feel his warmth, and rejoice in his light; yet the keen hunger after Christ which goes with Little-Faith is an admirable thing, and the Lord himself has blessed it. I rejoice in the blossom of the apple tree; it is not so valuable as the fruit, but it is extremely beautiful; and, even so, the eager longings of a trembling heart after the Lord Jesus are full of loveliness and fragrance, and are by no means to be despised. It is the nature of Little-Faith that it should be of a thirsty and eager temperament, and hasty to make a dash for immediate fellowship with Christ.

8. Little-Faith was daring. Early in her life she had intense longings, and they grew so that Little-Faith was willing to venture everything to have her longings fulfilled. “If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water” — so Little-Faith cries to her Lord. These are big words, but they come out of a trembling heart. Men often venture all the more because their capital is so small. Souls who are little in faith are often driven to desperate measures to gain hope. Oh beloved, are there not some of you who would give your eyes and ears, and your very lives, to see Christ, and to taste his love? You have come up to the Tabernacle this morning feeling that if Christ told you to plunge into the sea to find him you would think nothing of it. You feel like Rutherford when he said he could swim through seven hells to get to Christ, and think them nothing if he might only lie at his feet.

9. Those vehement and burning desires within your spirit after your Lord and Master are sharp but extremely blessed things: you need not repress them, even though they urge you to venture everything for Christ’s sake. Love’s ventures for Christ will end in great profit. How shall it harm a man if he loses the whole world and gains his Saviour? What loss could there be to a man though he himself sank in the sea, as long as his Lord stood there to stretch out his hand and snatch him from destruction? Little-Faith can still be a true hero when the Lord says to her, “Come.” It is not the sea she fears: her concern is lest the Lord should frown on her.

10. At times Little-Faith accomplishes great wonders. Peter, when his Master said, “Come,” went down upon the waters and walked the waves with ease. The Lord exerts his strength even when we reveal our own weakness of faith. Peter took one step, and then another on the rolling wave, wondering all the while how it could ever be. Has not your little faith done this? I remember the first step of faith I took, how I wondered about it, and wondered about myself. Have you not also been amazed at yourselves? Do you remember when you believed that God had saved you, since you had faith in Christ? Then, though you knew it to be true, you could hardly tell whether you should laugh for joy or cry for fear, when you thought upon the possibility of your being saved in Christ Jesus. You dared to believe that you were adopted into the family of God, and recoiled as your heart said, “How can he put me among the children?” Do you remember reading the doctrine of election in Holy Scripture, and at last saying, “Surely, I am one of the chosen: the Lord has loved me with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness he has drawn me?” Was it not a piece of daring to you? Walking on the water could not have been more venturesome. You stood upright when tempted; you held on, though severely beset by the enemy; you walked towards Jesus, though the way seemed to be on the sea; a high exhilaration raised your spirit up, you rose outside of yourself, but yet down deep within there was a latent fear, a half-developed apprehension that your confidence was too good to last, that your joy was presumptuous. In your very heart you were afraid of sinking; and it was no wonder that eventually your fear became a matter of fact.

11. But now comes in another bit of our history: Little-Faith is too apt to look away from the Lord. Peter, as he walked those billows, took his eye off from his Master, and just then a tremendous gust of wind rushed boisterously into his face, and poor Peter was alarmed. He had thought of the fickleness of the waves, but he had overlooked the fury of the wind. When he spoke to the Lord, he said, “If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water”; and so his faith had dealt with the water, but it had not counted on the force of the wind. That mysterious and subtle agent took him by surprise. He had forgotten that he had both winds and waves to contend with; and now the wind comes upon him as a new trial; as the blast came full in Peter’s face, it chilled him to the bone, and chilled his heart too. He heard the wind, but forgot the voice which said, “It is I; do not be afraid.” This is the danger of Little-Faith. Little-Faith, at the outset, is scarcely comprehensive enough; it does not take a full view of all the possible dangers and difficulties; and so, when what it has omitted comes to the forefront, it is very apt to be severely troubled. Little-Faith, your hope lies in keeping your little self wholly dependent on your great Lord. If you begin to measure circumstances, it will go badly with you, poor trembling creature that you are! What have you and I to do with measuring? There is one who measures with a span the whole world, and weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. With unmeasured faith let us leave ourselves in the hands of our immeasurable God, so our souls shall be kept in perfect peace, sustained on him. I walk the waves; yet not I, but Jesus: therefore I will not look at the winds, but at Jesus; neither I will think of sinking, but see him standing and hope in him.

12. Now, the moment he took his eye off his Master and thought of the wind, Little-Faith began to sink. You see him going down; he is ready to perish — the proud waters prevail against him; he has no power whatever to help himself. I should suppose that Peter being a fisherman, could swim. Why did he not strike out? Notice this, when a man begins to live by faith, if his faith fails him, even his natural ability fails with his faith. He who could swim with no faith originally, will not swim when once by faith he has begun to walk the waters. Should he fail in his walking he cannot fall back on his swimming. “Beginning to sink” is a terrible condition. Poor Little-Faith never counted on this! Deep experiences are all the more dreadful because unlooked for. When Peter left the boat, and slid down the side of the barque, and touched the sea, his first miraculous footsteps so elated him that he hardly thought it possible that he would before long be on the verge of drowning; but now down he goes, like lead in the mighty waters. The billows open wide their great mouths to swallow up poor Little-Faith, and down he goes. Is that the condition of any child of God here this morning? I must confess it has sometimes been mine. There was a step, and scarcely a step, between me and death. What bore me up appeared to give way, and the waters came in even to my soul.

13. Let me not finish this history of Little-Faith without saying that Little-Faith knew how to pray. Though Peter did not know how to come to Christ on the waters, he knew how to come to him by prayer. Though his faith was not what it ought to be, it was where it ought to be, for his cry was to his Lord alone. He did not appeal to his brethren in the vessel, but only to his dear Master who stood so firmly on the rolling wave. He did not cry, “John, save me!” but “Lord, save me.” It was a short prayer, but it was a comprehensive one. It expressed his need of salvation; it proved his faith in the Lord’s will to save him; it acknowledged Jesus to be his Lord, and it tacitly admitted that the Lord could save him, and no one else. In his prayer Peter abandons all other hope, and looks entirely and solely to Jesus, crying, “Lord, save me!” His faith quotes what the Lord had done for others in healing, feeding, and saving them, and now he cries, “Lord, save me!” He asks Jesus to act as his name implies he would do: he practically says, “Saviour, save me.” He appeals to his authority: “You are my Lord, and you told me to come; therefore as Lord save your own servant. Save me.” His short cry is full of force. Let us imitate both its shortness and its fulness. Whenever faith is weak let prayer be strong. When you cannot do anything else but cry, then cry with might and main. If it is less the cry of faith, let it be all the more the cry of agony. “Beginning to sink, he cried, ‘Lord, save me.’ ” Little children are good at crying, if at nothing else, and so is Little-Faith. When Jacob was greatly afraid, he became bold enough to wrestle at Jabbok. Even Little-Faith has prayer for its vital breath, its native air. Where there is life, there is breath; and where there is faith, there is prayer. Oh soul, are you sinking? Then cry, “Lord, save me!”

14. Now in this little picture, have any of you recognised yourselves? Do you long for Christ? Would you risk all things for his dear sake? Do you trust him? Have you enjoyed happy moments when by faith you have accomplished things impossible to mere sense? Have you sometimes believed, and in that belief found a support for your spirit that made you more than conqueror? Then, if at this moment there should be a collapse, and your faith should waver, pray to the Lord. He stands firm if you do not. It is your wisdom to cry mightily in your time of need; and as surely as the Lord lives, he will come to your rescue. Among all the carcasses that shall be washed up on the shore of the Red Sea there shall never be found the corpse of Little-Faith. Though Little-Faith has often said, “I shall one day fall by the hand of the enemy,” no weapon has yet been forged that can strike its heart, or break its bones. He who believes even with a little and a trembling believing, is safe beneath the guardian care of the Eternal God. “He shall cover you with his feathers, and you shall trust under his wings: his truth shall be your shield and buckler.”

15. At the end Little-Faith will grow to full assurance, and will come up into the vessel, yes, to heaven with Christ. Little-Faith shall find its way across the Jordan, and stand in its lot in the end of the days; and perhaps among the most rapturous song that shall ever greet the Redeemer’s ear will be the song of those who were weak and trembling when they were here below, and yet were kept to the end. Therefore, have confidence!

16. II. I come now to the second point of my discourse, which is an interesting one — LITTLE-FAITH ACKNOWLEDGED BY THE LORD.

17. In my text you will observe the Saviour did not say, “Oh you of no faith,” or “Oh you of pretended faith,” but “Oh you of little faith.” There are times when we would give all that we have if we could only have our Master’s assurance that we have even a little faith. If he only acknowledges that it is faith, then the root of the matter is in us. I would rather have great faith than little faith; but I would rather have little faith than have great presumption, and mistaken it for holy confidence. It ought to have comforted Peter, even as it rebuked him, to hear his Lord, who could not make a mistake, acknowledge that he had faith.

18. In following up this subject, notice that little faith is faith, and little faith is true faith. A grain of mustard seed has life in it as surely as the tree beneath whose spreading boughs the birds of the air find shelter. A spark is as truly fire as the conflagration which burned down a city. Little faith is not such powerful faith as great faith, but it is quite as true faith. Oh soul, if you have a ray of light, it came from the sun; if you have a pulse of life, it comes from the heart; if you have any measure of faith, it is the work of the Spirit of God. A pearl is a pearl, though it is no bigger than a pin’s head. God’s signature is as valid when he writes it small as when he uses capitals.

19. In Peter’s case little faith was faith with a very solid reason behind it. Oh child of God, little as your faith may be, yet if you believe in Christ you have faith most proper and justifiable; in fact, so strong is the basis of your little faith that the Saviour even asks you, “Why did you doubt?” As much as to say, “You have every reason for your faith, but what reason do you have for doubting?” Oh, dear heart, if you do come to Christ and cast yourself on him you are doing the best and most correct thing that you can do, and no one can question your conduct. Indeed, if you even swoon away on the dear bosom of the eternal love, no one shall tear you off, no one shall separate you, even in your feebleness, from Christ. He has said that he who comes to him he will in no wise cast out; who, then, can dismiss you from his presence? You are not presumptuous, you are not going beyond what is permitted you when you do trust yourself and your all on Christ your Lord. Do it again, and do it again more thoroughly, and you shall never be ashamed of having done it; indeed, it shall be your glory that you dare to trust your Lord. His promise shall never be outdone by your faith. Open your mouth wide, and he will fill it. Ask for more faith, and he will give more faith, and fulfil greater promises for you; go from faith to faith, and you shall receive blessing upon blessing. There is no limit to your Lord’s love; be free with it; there is no reason why you should hesitate. Christ acknowledged little faith to be faith with a solid reason behind it when he said, “Why did you doubt?”

20. Our Lord Jesus acknowledged little faith because, little as it was, it ventured all for him. Peter had thrown himself into the sea to come to his Master and the Lord recognised that fact. He who ventures all for Jesus and on Jesus shall not find it to be a losing speculation. Though you dare not say that you have strong faith, yet you give up the world’s pleasures, and its sinful gains, and its pleasing smiles, for Christ; you would not deny him for all the treasures of Egypt: well, then, our Lord will acknowledge you as his, and bear you safely to the end. That little faith, which is real faith, knows nothing of the timidity which haunts the heart of the hypocrite. Little-Faith fears lest it should not be accepted at the last, but it is not afraid of being persecuted for Christ’s sake. No, only let me know that I am his and he is mine; I will go through fire, and through water, to be with him.

21. Little-Faith, in the case of Peter, was coming to Jesus all the while. Peter, when he left the ship, left it to come to Jesus, and for that purpose only. The first step he took upon the sea was towards Jesus, and every other step was towards Jesus; and when he began to sink he sank that way, leaning towards his Master, and crying as he went down, “Lord, save me!” Now, the Lord Jesus always acknowledges a faith which comes towards him, however lame it may be. If you have a faith which looks to yourself, a curse rests on it. If you have a faith which looks to priests, it is superstition. If you have a faith which looks to ceremonies, creeds, prayers, and feelings, it will fail you when you most need help. But if you have a faith whose eyes are towards Jesus, whose longings are for Jesus, whose hopes are all centred in Jesus, whose steps all tend towards Jesus, then you have a faith upon which Jesus sets his seal, and though he calls it “little,” yet he calls it “faith.” Be sure that what the Lord himself admits to be faith is faith, even though for the present it leaves you damp with the brine from which you are recently rescued.

22. Once more, the Master acknowledges this faith; for, before long Little-Faith came to walk with Jesus on the sea. I think I have seen a picture of Peter sinking and Christ stooping to save him; but I wish that some eminent artist would paint the two walking together in peace, Peter and his Lord. What joy to think that Little-Faith, once drawn from the deep, stands on those foaming waves side by side with the great saving Lord! Now Peter is conformed to his Lord. Now the servant is clothed with the might of his Master. We have previously seen the Son of God walking in the fire with the three holy youths, and now we see the other side of the coin — a saint walking on the water with the Son of Man. Is it not a splendid, reassuring truth, that Little-Faith can grow to act like Christ? The day shall yet come when the Lord shall have so strengthened Little-Faith that the things that the Lord does Little-Faith shall do also, and the word shall be fulfilled, “Greater works than these you shall do; because I go to my Father.” You tell me that you cannot rejoice today; but Jesus will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice. You cannot go out to Christian service, for you are lame through spiritual weakness; but the day comes when the lame man shall leap as a hart. The Healer of his people will lay his hand upon you, and make you “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” You have a greater consciousness today of your inability in yourself than you have of your ability in the Lord; but it shall not always be so; the time will come when in rapt fellowship with him, by the strength of his grace, you shall be in this world even as he is, and that glorious life which in the person of Christ trod on the sea as though it were a sea of glass, that same life shall be in you, so that you shall overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.

23. I feel very glad to have even a little faith. I am truly sorry that it is so little when I know that my Lord deserves all possible confidence; but yet I am glad that it is given to me to believe in his name, for it has brought me near to him, and will bring me even nearer, and will eventually bring me to be with him where he is, and to behold his glory.

24. So I have shown you that our Lord acknowledged little faith. He did not break the bruised reed, nor disown the infant faith; but he called it faith, answered its prayer, and made it to stand with him in the fellowship of power.

25. III. In the third place I want you to notice LITTLE-FAITH’S DELIVERANCE.

26. Little-Faith began to sink, but it was only a beginning. The sinking did not end in Peter’s drowning, but in his Lord’s saving. The text says, “beginning to sink”; and truly that is the whole matter. None of God’s people shall go beyond “beginning to sink.” We may be “ready to perish,” but we shall not actually perish. Our steps may be “almost gone,” but “almost” is not “quite.” A man may be near death, and yet live; he may begin to sink, and yet be saved. Friend, it may be that for some time you have been “beginning to sink”; but you have not sunk yet. Not yet are you consumed, not yet is the Lord’s mercy entirely gone for ever: not yet has he forgotten to be gracious. Often “beginning to sink” with us, is with Christ beginning to stretch out his hand. The beginning of a clear sense of our own weakness, is often the beginning of the display of the power of God.

27. Little-Faith received its deliverance entirely from the Lord. As I have already said, it was not Peter’s swimming that got him out of his trouble, nor was it any revival of Peter’s faith which did it, but the Lord came to the rescue, and proved his power to help in a desperate situation. So shall it be with you, oh trembling heart: in the hour of your extremity God shall appear to you. The Lord will provide. Out of weakness you shall be made strong; for he has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

28. It was from the Lord, and therefore it was immediate. Will you kindly notice that word in the text, “and immediately Jesus stretched out his hand.” Before he rebuked him for his little faith, he delivered him from his peril. Oh Little-Faith, you only have to cry, and the Lord will help you. Do not delay your crying, and he will not delay his helping. The Lord may let the matter proceed some considerable distance until we think it is all over with us; but in the nick of time he will appear for our deliverance. In that dark moment when we read our own death-warrant amid the roar of the tempest, the prompt relief of the Lord of love will arrive. No wings of cherubim can be more swift than the Lord’s right hand when he intends to draw his people from great waters.

29. It is added, “immediately he stretched out his hand.” It was an instructive action on the part of Jesus that stretching out of his hand; as if he was arousing himself to the utmost energy, and reaching beyond himself to rescue his servant. An outstretched hand denotes the exercise of all the power of the person acting like this. In the case of God’s people, it has often been necessary that he should bring them out with a high hand and with an outstretched arm. Peter had his exodus from the water as Israel from Egypt. Who is to know the might of God’s arm if he does not stretch it out? And why should it be stretched out unless there is a need for it? So that our perils produce the opportunity for God to stretch out his hand, and so they turn out to be the comforting means of grace for us. Our needs are the doors through which the Lord’s great bounty comes to us. If Little-Faith did not lift up its cry of dismay, the Lord’s hand would not be lifted up for its rescue.

30. It is added, he “caught him.” So the Lord came into personal contact with his servant. See, he holds him up. The whole weight of Peter is on Christ. If Peter sinks, Jesus must sink too; for he will not release his grip. For the time Peter and Christ are joined; they have only one standing, and that standing is all in Christ. Oh Little-Faith, you do feel a closer union to Christ in your hour of danger than ever before. It comes to this, that when Jesus intervenes to save Little-Faith, he exerts all his strength for the deed, and takes hold of the sinking one with a grip so strong and firm, that the two must sink or stand together. All the weight of Peter was on Jesus — all the security of Jesus was bestowed on Peter. Little-Faith holds Jesus while Jesus upholds Little-Faith. A half-hoping, half-despairing soul lays hold on Jesus with an iron grip, and on such a poor feeble one the hold of Jesus is equally tight and strong. He will never let the sinking sinner die when once that prayer has been uttered, “Lord, save me.” I hardly know of a more conscious union between a man and Christ than what happens when in sinking times the grip of the crucified hand is felt as our sole rescue from death. “Hallelujah, who shall part Christ’s own bride from Christ’s own heart?” Who is he who shall separate the most timid and trembling of all the believing company from that eternal hand which is sworn to deliver? “I give to my sheep eternal life,” he says, “and they shall never perish”; nor shall they although the heavens and the earth should pass away. The Lord must and will stretch out his hand and catch the sinking one, and grant him the same standing as himself.

31. IV. I close with LITTLE-FAITH REBUKED. That comes last.

32. After the poor soul is safely rescued, and set on a sure footing, then comes the loving chiding: “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” This is such a gentle rebuking that it almost seems to me that the Master might say as much as this to us when we enter Paradise with him. It might not be unkind even there to say, “Why did you doubt?” When you and I have come up from our death-beds, and left all pain, and poverty, and sorrow, far behind, we shall find ourselves in the golden-streeted city, and the Well-Beloved with us, and we shall look back on all the way where he led us; and then he may lovingly whisper in our ear, “Why did you doubt?” Look back on your pilgrim way. There is the Slough of Despond dried up; there is Giant Despair’s head on a pole; there is Apollyon bound with chains; there is the river whose chilly stream so often frightened you, glittering in the eternal light. “Why did you doubt?” You doubted about nothing. You made mountains out of molehills. Where everything was working for you, you said with trembling Jacob, “All these things are against me.” Will our Lord not produce a rapture within our spirit while he brings to mind his unchanging love, his immutable truth, his immovable faithfulness? We shall eternally wonder about our own doubts. What if our Lord should say, “Did you not come up from the wilderness leaning upon me as your beloved? Did I ever fail you? Did I ever give you a cross word? Say, did I ever leave you or forsake you? Why did you doubt?” Then we shall sweetly chide ourselves to think we ever had a moment’s doubt concerning our dear Lord, the Bridegroom of our souls, in whom our faith ought to have been as constant as the day.

33. Notice, dear friends, with regard to this question, “Why did you doubt?” that it is an inconsistent thing for a believing man to doubt his God, or doubt the power of the Lord Jesus. You do believe, and if you believe, why doubt? If faith, why little faith? If you doubt, why believe? And if you believe, why doubt? Oil and water will not mix. Oh, how should faith and unbelief unite? Yet they are often found together in deadly warfare. “Oh,” said a dear sister in Christ to me the other day, “I cannot doubt my God.” Yet she also expressed a fear lest she should be wrong at the last. This was an odd mixture in one who knew so well the glorious gospel; but then we are all odd in some way or other. In any case it is not fitting that we believe and yet doubt. Shall a fountain send out both sweet water and bitter? Begone you doubts! Oh that they would go at my bidding! What business have you here at the festival of faith? Begone, you harpies, {a} who devour the bread of the Lord’s table, and defile our dainty things! What right have you to enter the holy abodes of faith?

34. While doubts are so inconsistent, are they not also most dishonouring? Why should we doubt our Lord? Shall it be known to the world that we cannot trust Christ? Shall it be said that those who are saved by him, nevertheless, say it is hard work to believe him? Hard to believe him who has proven his love by the agony and bloody sweat! My Lord, I will sooner doubt my brother, and doubt my father, and doubt my wife, than doubt you! My Lord, I will doubt my eyes, and doubt my ears, and doubt the beating of my heart, sooner than doubt you! I will doubt the laws of nature, I will doubt everything that seems certain, I will doubt the conclusions of mathematics; but you, oh why, why, should I doubt you? Indeed, let us hold on to the love of Jesus and cling to him, even though he should frown and chasten. May it be ours to trust a scourging God! Yes, say, “Though he kills me, yet I will trust in him”

35. Once again, how inexcusable is this doubting among you who do believe! The only excuses worth mentioning are these. Some excuse themselves because they desire to be humble. “I dare not think that these good things are true of me, I know that I am altogether unworthy of them, and I am afraid of being proud if I appropriate them.” Do you not know, dear friend, that the greatest pride in all the world is doubting God? and it is the sweetest humility to trust in God as a child trusts his father. It is the lowliest action of the heart to say, “These things are good, extremely good, and I am most unworthy; but then the Lord has said that he gives these gracious gifts to the unworthy; and, if he has said it, God forbid that I should question him.” Who am I that I should dare to raise a doubt about the bona fides of the Lord Jehovah? I must, I will cease from all such proud questionings and artful doubtings and be even as a new-born babe, drinking in the unadulterated milk of the Word.

36. I am persuaded that unbelief is sometimes occasioned by ignorance. I urge you, do not let such ignorance remain in you. Be diligent in searching Holy Scripture. If you do not know the Lord, nor know his providence, nor know the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints nor know the covenant of grace, why, then you may be staggered — but learn those things so that you may be established.

37. I have no doubt that unbelief is caused not only by ignorance, but by forgetfulness. We forget the Lord’s past mercies. If the Lord has plucked you like a brand out of the fire, can he not pluck you out of the sea? He who delivered you from the deadly power of sin, can he not deliver you from every temptation? In fact, the Lord has done more for us already than he ever will have to do for us in the future; for he will never have to die again upon the bloody tree, and he will never have to offer himself again as an atonement for our sin. Nine hundred and ninety-nine parts out of a thousand are ours already. We only have to shut our eyes and open them in heaven, and the rest will be ours. Our salvation is nearer today than when we believed. We are almost home! Within sight of the white cliffs of the better land! Shall we tremble now? Shall we not begin to rejoice with joy unspeakable? Does not Little-Faith begin to mount into assurance?

38. You who have not believed in Jesus, I have tried to show the way of salvation by faith in Christ. You who have believed inly tremblingly, I have pointed out to you much that ought to comfort you. And to you who can believe with full assurance, I would say, “Guard that full assurance with great care; it is heaven below, it is the beginning of heaven above.” May the Lord, the Holy Spirit, be with you all, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Mt 14:13-36]
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Attributes of God — The Truth Of God The Promiser” 191}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Final Perseverance — Preserved In Jesus” 739}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love — ‘I Will Never Leave Thee’ ” 733}


{a} Harpy: A fabulous monster, rapacious and filthy, having a woman’s face and body and a bird’s wings and claws, and supposed to act as a minister of divine vengeance. OED.

God the Father, Attributes of God
191 — The Truth Of God The Promiser
1 Praise, everlasting praise, be paid
   To him that earth’s foundation laid;
   Praise to the God, whose strong decrees,
   Sway the creation as he please.
2 Praise to the goodness of the Lord,
   Who rules his people by his word;
   And there, as strong as his decrees,
   He sets his kindest promises.
3 Firm are the words his prophets give,
   Sweet words, on which his children live:
   Each of them is the voice of God,
   Who spoke, and spread the skies abroad.
4 Each of them powerful as that sound
   That bid the new made world go round;
   And stronger than the solid poles
   On which the wheel of nature rolls.
5 Oh, for a strong, a lasting faith,
   To credit what th’ Almighty saith!
   T’ embrace the message of his Son,
   And call the joys of heaven our own.
6 Then should the earth’s old pillars shake,
   And all the wheels of nature break,
   Our steady souls should fear no more
   Than solid rocks when billows roar.
7 Our everlasting hopes arise
   Above the ruinable skies,
   Where th’ eternal Builder reigns,
   And his own courts his power sustains.
                        Isaac Watts, 1709.


The Christian, Privileges, Final Perseverance
739 — Preserved In Jesus
1 Rejoice, believer, in the Lord,
      Who makes your cause his own;
   The hope that’s built upon his word
      Can ne’er be overthrown.
2 Though many foes beset your road,
      And feeble is your arm,
   Your life is hid with Christ in God,
      Beyond the reach of harm.
3 Weak as you are, you shall not faint;
      Or fainting, shall not die;
   Jesus, the strength of every saint,
      Will aid you from on high.
4 Though sometimes unperceived by sense,
      Faith sees him always near,
   A guide, a glory, a defence;
      Then what have you to fear?
5 As surely as he overcame,
      And triumph’d once for you;
   So surely you that love his name
      Shall triumph in him too.
                        John Newton, 1779.


The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love
733 — “I Will Never Leave Thee” <11s.>
1 Oh Zion, afflicted with wave upon wave,
   Whom no man can comfort, whom no man can save;
   With darkness surrounded, by terrors dismay’d,
   In toiling and rowing thy strength is decay’d.
2 Loud roaring the billows now nigh overwhelm,
   But skilful’s the Pilot who sits at the helm,
   His wisdom conducts thee, his power thee defends,
   In safety and quiet thy warfare he ends.
3 “Oh fearful! oh faithless!” in mercy he cries,
   “My promise, my truth, are they light in thine eyes?
   Still, still I am with thee, my promise shall stand,
   Through tempest and tossing I’ll bring thee to land.
4 “Forget thee I will not, I cannot, thy name
   Engraved on my heart doth for ever remain:
   The palms of my hands whilst I look in I see
   The wounds I received when suffering for thee.
5 “I feel at my heart all thy sighs and thy groans,
   For thou art most near me, my flesh and my bones,
   In all thy distresses thy Head feels the pain,
   Yet all are most needful, not one is in vain.
6 “Then trust me, and fear not; thy life is secure;
   My wisdom is perfect, supreme is my power;
   In love I correct thee, thy soul to refine
   To make thee at length in my likeness to shine.
7 “The foolish, the fearful, the weak are my care,
   The helpless, the hopeless, I hear their sad prayer:
   From all their afflictions my glory shall spring,
   And the deeper their sorrows, the louder they’ll sing.”
                           James Grant, 1784, a.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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