"And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." -- Acts 15:9.
Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And Peter says, "Put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." The distinction between thee two statements is this: Jesus tells you the blessedness of such a state, and Peter tells you how you may obtain it, "putting no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." When I enter a place for a short time, I often meet with a great many inquiries about this doctrine of purity. Indeed, the number of cases have been so numerous, I have been obliged to refuse attention to some. But, that I may atone for this seeming want of courtesy, I will on this occasion put my sermon in the shape of question and answer. I will endeavor to be conversational and simple, that all may understand.
Before I proceed, I want to ask a question or two. Now, if God shall set you at liberty, give you the direct witness of the Spirit, or purify your hearts, while I am preaching, or before I leave this place, will you meet me at the close of this service in the vestry of this chapel to let me know it? It does so comfort this poor heart of mine to know that my God is setting his seal to the work. My God is in this place; he is here; I feel him blessing this poor little heart; my soul is very happy. I believe we shall have many hearts purified before I leave this place, hallelujah! God can save all sorts of sinners, in all sorts of places. The Gospel can triumph anywhere out of hell. "Putting no difference between them and us, purifying their hearts by faith."
I. -- Does God purify the heart by faith?
God has told us that he purifies the heart by faith. And could we assign no other reason, this should be enough. The fact that God has said that he purifies the heart by faith ought to satisfy us that there are the very best of reasons for such a course. But is this the only reason we can assign? I answer, No. We give the two following reasons.
1. Man was ruined by believing the devil, and the great God has determined that he shall be saved by believing Him [God]. He [man] was lost by receiving the testimony of Satan, by believing the lie of the devil. He can only be saved by receiving Heaven's testimony, by believing the truth of God. O, accursed unbelief! What dost thou do for man? Thou dost sink him, corrupt him, damn him, link him to the devil, and plunge him in the deeps of hell. On the contrary, faith elevates him, purifies him, saves him, links him to God, places him on the everlasting throne, and makes eternal sunshine to settle on his head.
This doctrine distinguishes Protestantism from every spurious form of Christianity, from Romish Popery, German Rationalism, and English Puseyism. These three corrupt forms of Christianity aim a deadly blow at the great doctrine of justification by faith. These go to mix up man's merits with the merits of the blood of Christ. These place, as the ground of a sinner's hope, man's morality, instead of the Saviour's death. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the glory of Christianity. This doctrine is as old as the fall of man. It is worthy of remark, that on the very same day that man fell, the blessed God introduced the new system of salvation. In the cool of the evening, God walked in the garden, and said, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head;" the germ of it was there. The very first human spirit that entered heaven went there a martyr for the doctrine of justification by faith. See those two altars, side by side. One of them is piled up with the fruits of the earth; the other is laden with a poor little struggling lamb. By the one stands Cain, the father of the deist. He presents his offering to God, but no response is heard, no fire from heaven kindles the sacrifice, and his countenance falls.
By the side of the other stands Abel, pious, meek, and humble, looking through the gurgling blood of the Lamb, on to the summit of Calvary, on to God's Lamb bearing away the world's guilt, bearing away into eternal oblivion his own; and believing, he is justified by faith. It was by this doctrine of heaven that the Wesleys and Whitefield aroused the slumbering church, and awakened a half-damned world. Justification by faith is the glory of Protestantism. O, ye British Christians! hold it fast. Let neither Romanism, Germanism, nor Puseyism rob you of it. Talk about it to your children, as you sit around the hearths of your homes; tell it to your neighbors, as you walk by the way, and mingle with them in your daily calling; preach it, live it, and, if necessary, die for it. It will be the salvation of your soul, of your family, of your country, of your world. See that old building there. It is a moonlight scene. How antique and majestic it looks! How venerable with age! What a solemn grandeur seems thrown around it! Draw a little nearer. Ah! now you see the soft moonbeams peeping through. Light is gleaming through a crack here and an opening yonder. Owls and bats flutter about in the dim mist, and noisome things creep there. Ah! it looks around in the moonlight; but the day dawn shows its old dilapidated walls. It's a temple in ruin. See, see a little lad cast an acorn into its center! It grows silently, makes its way. It now pushes up its long gaunt arms and spreads abroad its branches; and, as it grows, it pushes its way through the moldering walls. Ah! there the entire building is tumbled down in ruins around its base, and the tree is standing in all its glory. The little acorn is justification by faith. It will push its way through the old antiquated forms of Popery, Rationalism, and modern-dressed Puseyism. These will all fall in ruins around the base of this tree. The crash may be loud, and earth and hell may roar as though its very foundations had given way, and even heaven may seem to tremble at the shock; but when not a vestige of the old temple is standing, the tree will bloom in all its glory.
2. Faith secures all the glory to God. Yonder is a mighty mountain. See, there is a man hastening on to it; he is now walking in its dark shadow; he has in his hand a little rod. It looks but a simple little thing. At the base of that mountain there is a great camp of people, about a million and a half, perishing for water. Hark, how the cattle bleat! How intensely hot the atmosphere. How glaring and burning the rays of the sun! Scarcely a blade of grass is to be seen. Everything seems to droop and die. See, see how they are lying in groups, men, women, and children, dying for water! Hark! did you hear that sorrowful moan borne along on the sighing winds? Ah! it was the last groan of a perishing mortal. O! how fearful is a famine of water! But see, see, there is the man with his little rod, standing by the side of a great rock! He lifts his little rod, and strikes once, twice, three times: the stream of water is gushing out; it rolls down the mountain side, and runs through the camp. They are saved. Now, if God had given Moses a great sledge-hammer, and he had gone to the rock, pulled off his coat, and commenced work, the people would have said, "See what arms, what muscle, he has! There's power, there's strength. He knows the fissures of the rock. Ah! he knows where to strike, He has saved the people. Glory be to Moses!" But nobody, looking at the little insignificant rod, would say, glory be to Moses, but, glory be to God, the God of Moses, who doth all things well. So it is in the doctrine of salvation by faith. It secures all the glory to God. The poor, trembling, agitated penitent at the foot of Calvary, when his guilt is washed away by the hallowed stream, when his troubled spirit is hushed into a calm, when the fearful storm of wrath is past and the sunshine of heavenly peace opens upon his soul, when his soul bathes in the noontide love of God shed on him from Calvary's cross, when he slakes his thirst at the stream that rolls from the throne, when that memorable sentence of Jesus, "It is finished," comes rushing, rushing on his ear, borne down on the winds of eighteen centuries, he listens to it, believes it, and is saved by it. Then he cries, "Glory be to God!" The people of God, as they gaze on and see a fellow-mortal born a second time, cry, "Glory be to God!" The angels, who love to linger over such places, places where sinners are saved, as they see the first gushings of a renewed heart, as they see the streaming upturned eye fixed on Jesus, they cry, "Glory be to God!" The seraphim, the cherubim, the archangels, join in the chorus; the song widens and swells on from choir to choir, from rank to rank. It sweeps the outskirts of creation, now as soft as music of Eolia's harp, now in mighty thunderings, sounding forth from the trembling voice of the newly pardoned sinner to the fairest son of the morning, "Glory to God in the highest, a sinner saved by grace!" And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever." The glory is secured to God.
II. -- What is faith?
I answer, a divine conviction of the realities of eternity, a mental discernment of the invisible things of which the Bible speaks, the mental eye piercing through the clouds that hang between time and eternity, an eye looking back and seeing in the center of the world's history, on the summit of Calvary, the Son of God dying for man, an eye that looks up and sees the everlasting God upon the throne of the universe governing all that is; sees Jesus as man's mediator, standing at the right hand of the Majesty on high, with his wounds, fresh, as it were, from Calvary, as a lamb newly slain, pleading for sinners; sees heaven with all its glory, hell with all its agonies, its horrors, its boundless woes. Eternity, in all its solemn and vast dimensions, in its unbegun, unfading, limitless duration, an eye looking onwards to death, judgment, to eternity, and all the consequences pending upon life's choice, spreading their influence over a boundless future. Indeed, faith is said to be the substance of things hoped for: in the language of another, not the fugitive shadow of a dream, or transient ignis-fatuus dancing along the horizon of our vision; not exactly the things themselves, but the substance of them, which the long arm of Faith can reach, even across the ocean of time; and that substance, too so much better adapted to our present state of being than "the things hoped for." It is angels' food, incarnated materialized for man, an aliment for his triune nature. When the soul reaches out its arm into eternity and feels in the palm of its God for a child's portion, it always brings it home in a substance to which all the senses and yearnings of human nature may sit down to feast. It never makes a journey to heaven without bringing back some choice things for each of the spiritual senses. To the sight it daguerreotypes on the mental eye the great city of God, the new Jerusalem, with its golden streets, its foundation stones of celestial water, its gates of pearl, the great white throne, the robes and ranks of the heavenly host, the river of life, the visions of indescribable magnificence. To another sense it spreads out the marriage supper of the Lamb, and fruits and flowers of immortal taste and bloom. To the ear it brings the melody of the golden harps, the strain of angel anthems. In short, it creates a heaven for every sense, and sets the whole family of them a-longing for it, and then feeds them with the substance of things hoped for. But is this saving faith, justifying faith? I answer, no. Saving faith may be included under two heads.
1. Assent: assent to such truths as the following: "He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification." "I am he that blotteth out thy sins." "Who is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."
2. Trust: and trust may be defined as of a two-fold character. Says one, "I trust I shall be saved some time, tomorrow, next year, on a dying bed." "I think," says another, "that none can be saved till a dying hour. I trust I shall be saved then." The trust connected with salvation is a trust in the merits of Christ for a present salvation, an enlightened, hearty, bold trust in Christ just now, exclaiming, with confidence, with the eye fixed on Calvary, on the dying Saviour, "Lord thou canst, thou WILT, thou DOST save."
"What, then," asks the penitent sinner, "must I believe, in order to obtain pardon and purity?" I answer, you have it in these words, "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." "What is the meaning of a propitiation?" I answer, a covering. He covered them, suffered for them, bore them, bore them away; as the Bible says, "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." Now one thing is clear as light, if he bore them, suffered for them, died for them, you need not bear them, suffer for them, die for them. "But, did he suffer enough? or, in other words, was the atonement complete?" Listen to God's word on this subject in Heb. 9:25, 26. "Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others. For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now, once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Do you, then, understand what he did for you when he died? that he satisfied the claims of a violated law, of insulted justice, for your sins? "But was this satisfaction complete, was God satisfied? Did he suffer enough?" I answer, this sacrifice was so complete that it cannot be mended. It was a more complete satisfaction than you could have made, if you had suffered in hell-fire a whole eternity. Yea, if all the angels were to come down from heaven and cover the hill of Calvary with crosses, and each one die as a sacrifice for your sins, they could not add one whit to the completeness of the atonement Christ made when he bowed his head and died. Then he suffered enough to save you. A minister once said to a brokenhearted woman, smiting on her breast, and groaning for salvation, "My friend, do you believe that Jesus, when he died on the tree, suffered enough for you, or would you have him to suffer a little more?" "O! no, sir, he suffered enough, he suffered enough." "Did he? did he?" said the minister. "Yes," said the woman; and as she believed it, her whole countenance changed, peace overflowed her heart, the great change was effected. Now, I ask you, do you believe that Jesus suffered enough for you? You cannot understand it, believe it, trust in it, and not be saved. "But," says the sinner, "did the Father accept of the death of Christ as an atonement for my sins?" I answer, was it not the burning love in the Father's heart that led him to give his Son to die? As the Bible says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Blessed words! they should be written in letters of gold, in letters of light, and should be hung up in your bedrooms, written up in every public way, that passing sinners may read them. Engrave them on your hearts. Then, it was the Father's own appointment that the Son should die? Do you want further proof that the Father accepted it? Go and stand by the tomb in the rock: the Son of God is laid a corpse in that tomb all is quiet. Twice the sun has gone down upon that tomb. The murdered Saviour sleeps quietly. The seal is unbroken, the starlight gleams upon the spears of the rude soldiers, as they watch the sepulcher; the morning star ushers in the first rays of golden day, and all is yet still as death. See! see! that bright light aloft, how beautiful! how soft! how unlike an earthly light! It comes rushing, rushing down. It is an holy angel! How those soldiers start! How pale they look! What! hath death blanched their countenances? The angel heeds them not, he snaps the seal, with one bound he rolls away the stone. Come, weeping sinner, come, saints, and look in upon the slain Lord!
"Come, saints, and drop a tear or two, On the dear bosom of your God; He shed a thousand drops for you, A thousand drops of richer blood. But in what sudden joys I see! Jesus the dead revives again; The rising God forsakes his tomb; The tomb in vain forbids his rise, Cherubic legions guard him home, And shout him welcome to the skies."
Here's a proof that the Father hath accepted the atonement. He hath, by raising up Jesus Christ from the dead, furnished an unanswerable proof to earth, to heaven, to hell, to the universe, that the great atoning work was complete. O, how the love of God shines out in the gift of Christ; how it pervades every part of redemption! It says, in language louder than thunder, "Mercy's free."
In Ireland, a grayheaded and pious father had a very wicked son. The old man had often prayed and wrestled with God on his behalf; but he became worse and worse. Never, I believe, did that father close his doors against the returning prodigal. Some of his neighbors, one day, addressed the father with considerable severity, saying, "Why harbor that reprobate son of yours? Why don't you turn him out of doors and banish him from your house?"
"Ay, ay," said the aged saint, his gray locks trembling with emotion, "you can all turn him out, but [not] his own father." It may be, penitent sinner, you have long been a rebel, and years have passed away while the long-suffering of God has borne with you. Now, if all the devils were to say, turn him out, yea, if all the saints on earth, and all the angels in heaven, were to say to the merciful God, "Why dost thou not turn that reprobate son of thine out of doors, and banish him from thy house?" the bowels of divine compassion would say, "Ay, ay, you can all turn him out of doors, but [not] his own father." Now, why should you not believe, and this moment rejoice in God? I will press home this matter and bring you to the test. I ask, do you believe that Jesus by his death completely satisfied God for every sin you have committed; that the Father accepted the death of Christ as an atonement? "O," you say, "I dare not doubt that. If I did, a thousand voices from the Bible would condemn me." Then hold fast that truth. I have a passage of God's word to present to you. Remember God hath spoken it; moreover, it is a passage that you cannot believe without being saved. As sure is the Bible is not a lie, and God is true, you will have salvation, if you believe it. You will find it in the first epistle of John 1:7, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." It does not say that God has cleansed you from sin in time past. You may believe that and not be saved. It does not say that he will cleanse you in some time to come; but that he doeth it, cleanseth, that is the word, in the present tense. Again, I ask, do you believe it? If you do, you are saved. If you are not saved, you do not believe it. O! why doubt? why dishonor God? why make him a liar?
"O believe the record true, God to you his Son hath given; Ye may now be happy too, Find on earth the life of heaven.
"Believe in him that died for thee; And sure as he has died, Thy debt is paid, thy soul is free, And thou art justified."
Every blessing is thine by faith, not only pardon, but purity and heaven, "putting no difference between them and us, purifying their hearts by faith."
III. What is the difference between faith and knowledge?
I answer, faith and knowledge are distinct; they certainly do not mean one and the same thing. We will try to make this plain. A man promises you one hundred pounds tomorrow at twelve o'clock, exactly at twelve o'clock, on condition that you meet him precisely at that time on the Exchange. The man is an honest man, and you have full confidence in his word. As you are retiring to bed you say, "Tomorrow at twelve o'clock I shall have one hundred pounds." The morning comes, and the clock strikes eight; "In four hours more I shall have the one hundred pounds." Ten o'clock arrives, and you exclaim, "In two hours more the one hundred pounds will be mine." Ten minutes to twelve o'clock finds you on your way to the Exchange. As you see the man waiting for you, you say, "Ah! I thought you would keep your word." The gentleman, according to promise, gives you the check for the one hundred pounds' "Ah!" say you, "I have faith in your word."
"Faith, man!" replies the gentleman; "you have the check; read for yourself; you no longer believe, but know you have what was promised; it is not faith, but knowledge." It was faith at eight o'clock, at ten o'clock, at ten minutes to twelve o'clock; but the very moment you received the check, it was faith no longer, but knowledge. Ah! I know the reason why you wish to confound these two things, why you ask what difference is there between faith and knowledge. It is because you wish to feel first, and believe afterwards. But there is a distinction between the two, and faith must precede knowledge. Why are you afraid to trust God for the fulfillment of his word? You put confidence in the word of fallible man. You are not afraid to risk your wealth, your health, even your life, on the word of a fallible human creature. Why, then, do you want to receive the gift of God, and then believe afterwards?
Did ever God deceive you? Did he ever deceive in one single case since the world began? Did he ever deceive the philosopher in any one of the laws relating to time? Have not like effects followed like causes through the whole history of time and around the entire globe? Every time nature has been put to the test, she has given a faithful response; and the God of the system of creation is the God of the economy of grace. Did God ever deceive a penitent sinner? Has one ever trusted in Christ and not been saved? Can infidels point to one case in the past six thousand years? We defy them to do it. When, then, you find out that heat won't expand, that cold won't contract, that fire won't burn, that poison won't kill, that bodies won't gravitate towards their center, that light does not follow the rising sun, then you may begin to fear that a penitent may trust in Christ and not be saved. God is as true in grace as in nature; yea, though the heavens and the earth may pass away, not one jot or tittle of his word will fall to the ground. He has magnified his word above all his name.
IV. What degrees of faith are necessary to salvation?
I answer, I do not know, because God has nowhere said in his book how much, or how little, a man must have in order to be saved. He has, however, said, that he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoking flax. He has said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed (and that is small enough), and shall say to this mountain, be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in your heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, ye shall have whatsoever he saith." I do not mean to say that you must understand and believe every truth in the Bible, in order to be saved; but I do say you must understand what Christ did for you when he died on the cross; and you must understand and trust in his sacrificial death. If the blessing you are seeking is purity, then your faith must rise high enough to embrace the Saviour, not only as your wisdom and righteousness, but [also] as your sanctification.
What, then, are you waiting for? Are you still looking for something in yourself to recommend you to Jesus? What a legal creature you are! You need not wait for any further preparation; though your faith be but like a grain of mustard seed, it will hurl mountains out of your way. It will secure to you all the tremendous glories hid under that little word "saved." "What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." I believe as firmly in the truth of God's promise as in his Godhead, in the faithfulness of Christ's word as in his divinity. Many of you say, "I believe that he is able and willing, and willing now, to save, and just there you stop, and stopping there, you stop short of salvation. You must trust in Christ for a present salvation.
Why, then, do you tarry longer? Why do you doubt? What can you wish for in Christ that is not in him? Is it power and greatness? All power is in his hands: he rolls along the stars; he balances the motions of the planets; he commands the sun; storms howl or hush at his word; lightnings do his bidding, and all hell stands in awe of him. Is it greatness? He is the Most High; greater than Moses; greater than Solomon; and even the bright forms of angels are thrown into the shade, when compared with him. Is it humility and tenderness? He wore a servant's form; his ear was never closed to a tale of woe, and the veriest outcast was never refused by him; "Jesus wept." Is it wisdom? In him dwelleth all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom. Is it durability? He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When all other lights are dimmed with age, when the sun of every other sky is blotted out, this light will shine out in unclouded splendor, this sun will shine on forever and ever. Everything you need is in him. I ask, why, then, do you doubt? Why mistrust him? Why cast a shade on his glorious redeeming work? In this little simple instrument, this grain of mustard seed, slumbers a tremendous power. It is the key that opens the treasures of the Godhead; it lets in on the souls of men all the mighty energy of truth. God has put a power in his word. "All things are possible to him that believes." "As a will conveys an immense fortune," says John Fletcher, "and a death warrant a capital punishment, so does the Word of God convey unsearchable riches of Christ to obedient believers, and the dreadful punishment of the damned to obstinate unbelievers. I readily grant that a bank note is not gold, that a will is not an estate, and that a death warrant is not the gallows; nevertheless, so strong is the connection between these seemingly insignificant signs and the important things which they signify, that none but fools will throw away the bank notes, or the will of their friends, as waste paper, none but madmen will sport with a death warrant as with a play bill. Now, if the written word of men, who, through forgetfulness, often break their engagements, can, nevertheless, have such force, how exceedingly foolhardy are sinners that disregard the word of the King of kings, who cannot lie! the proclamation of the God of truth, with whom no work is impossible! the will and testament of the Almighty, who says, 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot of my word shall fall to the ground!' Let but the general speak, and an army marches up, through clouds of smoke, and flames of fire, and volleys of iron balls, to form a heap of dead bodies. An admiral gives the word of command, it may be hoisting the flag, and a fleet is under sail. Artificial clouds and thunders are formed over the sea; the billows seem to mingle with fire; and the king of terrors flies from deck to deck in the most dreadful and bloody forms. If such is the power of the word of man, who is but a worm, how almighty must be the word of God!" There is a power in the word of God, to startle, to awaken, to convince. The bodily eye does not see those eternal realities; the ear does not hear the sounds of the spirit world; but let faith look calmly and get a distinct view of the realities of eternity. Come, draw aside the curtain for a moment and look in on the regions of hell. There no pleasure, no friendship, no love enters; before them hope never blooms, and to them mercy never comes; on them the Sabbath never dawns. Indeed, their "sun of mercy" has set in blushing sorrows at their sins; their day of grace has closed upon them forever. No sound of mercy, nor sigh of sympathy, will ever soothe their bitter woe. They neglected the great salvation; they believed not the truth; they knew not God; they died in their sins; they denied the Lord that bought them. He called, they refused. They would not hear, and he ceased to call; they would not look to him, and he ceased to beckon. Their guardian angel, who, by divine appointment, shielded their thoughtless charge from their ghostly enemies, sighed and left them; and the devil and his angels laughed a horrible grin of triumph, and dragged their struggling victim down, to darkness, fire, and pains, while saints and angels mourned, and said, "the precious soul is lost, forever lost." But when the guilty spirit was driven away in his wickedness, those who wetted the parched lips, watched the dying gasp, and heard the last groan saw not the seizure of the guilty spirit when it was delivered over to the tormentors, who hauled it away from earth, and friends, and mercy, to cast it into hell. The attendant in the chamber of death heard not the departed spirit plunge into that lake that burns with fire and brimstone. No! it was a disembodied spirit that fell. The bonds of iniquity, and the chains of sin, were not heard to clank, when the unsaved spirit fell down from the high precipice of mercy, into the lake of fire. Not a sound was heard, it was all the silence of death. Only those ears which death had opened could hear the angry tempest and the storms of wrath which raise the raging billows on the lake of fire and dash with burning fury on their guilty souls. However loud the thunder may roar among the gloomy caverns in those regions of horror and vengeance, we cannot hear the sound thereof. However bright may be the flashes of the lightnings of divine wrath, darting across the deep glooms of hell, we cannot see them. Let faith look through the gates of hell, shut, forever shut! and see those countless multitudes of lost souls, enduring the stings of awakened, guilty consciences; and oh! what anguish can be compared to that of a spirit, when it thus grovels in shame, rouses in fury, lowers in disappointment, pines in jealousy, stagnates in apathy, crouches in fear, and congeals in despair! What arrows could be so sharp? What poisons so deadly? The past burning in light to its remembrance, and yet yields no ray; consciousness filling up its solitude, yet finds no rest; alone with its thoughts and reproaches, surrounded by others alike wretched, having no secret, explored and covered with shame, when there is nothing it loves, and nothing that loves it." Let faith, we say, look through the infernal gates, and get a distinct view of these fearful realities; or take the doctrine of the glories of heaven, or the great atonement, and view them in all their bearings on its interests, and how powerful will be the faithful vision, in its influence on the soul! Thus faith derives power from its objects, objects compared with which earth is an atom, time a moment, and the present universe a passing shadow.
Do you want a proof of the power of faith? Read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews; there you will see its amazing effects. Do you want a proof of the power of faith? Look up among the blessed, survey their dignity, their purity, their glory, and remember it was by faith they were justified, purified, preserved, by faith they entered heaven.
We have considered why God saves by faith, the nature of faith, the difference between faith and knowledge, the amazing power of faith. Now, we ask, penitent sinner, do you believe for pardon? Those of you who are seeking the witness of the Spirit and purity of heart, are you believing for the blessing you need? My God is in this place. He is purifying some of your hearts. "What things soever ye desire when ye pray," etc.
Unconverted man, do you believe in the great verities of religion? You are shut up to the faith, or to damnation! Two ways open before you, faith that leads to Calvary and heave, and unbelief that leads to hell. You are shut up to one or the other of these. You may tremble between the two, and refuse to decide, but death will soon decide for you. You are on the narrow ridge of sand, and the waves of time are silently, but surely, washing it away, sand by sand. You cannot occupy your present position long. A decision will soon be imperative upon you. Procrastination may prove destruction; delay may be death. Spurn the allurements which entice you from your Saviour; burst the fetters which bind you; lift your eye to Calvary; believe and live.
Says a late writer, when appealing to sinners: "On a part of the British coast where beetling cliffs from three to five hundred feet in height overhang the ocean, some individuals during a certain season of the year obtain a solitary livelihood by collecting the eggs of rock-birds, and gathering samphire. [samphire n: an umbelliferous maritime rock plant, Crithmum maritimum, with aromatic fleshy leaves used in pickles. -Oxford Dict.] The way in which they pursue this hazardous calling is as follows:
The man drives an iron crowbar securely into the ground, about a yard from the edge of the precipice. To that crowbar he makes fast a rope, of which he then lays hold. He next slides gently over the cliff, and lowers himself till he reaches the ledges and crags, where he expects to find the object of his pursuit. To gain these places is sometimes a difficult task; and when they fall within the perpendicular the only method of accomplishing it is for the adventurer to swing in the air, till, by dexterous management, he can so balance himself as to reach the spot on which he wishes to descend. A basket, made for the purpose, and strapped between the shoulders, contains the fruit of his labor; and when he has filled the basket, or failed in the attempt, he ascends, hand over hand, to the summit.
On one occasion a man who was thus employed in gaining a narrow ledge of rock which was overhung by a higher portion of the cliff secured his footing, but let go the rope. He at once perceived his peril. No one could come to his rescue, or even hear his cries. The fearful alternative immediately flashed on his mind: it was, being starved to death, or dashed to pieces four hundred feet below! On turning round, he saw the rope he had quitted, but it was far away. As it swung backwards and forwards, its long vibrations [pendulum-swings] testified the mighty efforts by which he had reached the deplorable predicament in which he stood. He looked at the rope in agony. He had gazed but a little while, when he noticed that every movement was shorter than the one preceding, so that each time it came the nearest, as it was gradually subsiding to a point of rest, it was a little further off than it had been the time before. He briefly reasoned thus. "That rope is my only chance of life; in a little while it will be forever beyond my reach; it is nearer now than it ever will be again; I can but die; here goes!" So saying, he sprang from the cliff, as the rope was next approaching, caught it in his grasp, and went home rejoicing."
Sinner, you tremble at this incident; believe me, yours is greater peril! Beneath you yawns the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; stand where you are, you cannot; time will force you thence. Salvation is set before you; it is near, perhaps nearer now, than ever it will be again; lay hold of it; cling to it with the firmness of a death grasp. This is your only chance of safety; and it is not a chance alone; it is a certainty, a glorious certainty; and the only danger is that, refusing to embrace it, you will defer escape until it becomes impossible. Then, make that plunge at once; beneath you are the everlasting arms; believe, and feel his purifying power.