Faith shows the soul the glorious, invisible things of God and of His grace, and brings them near unto the soul. It was a hard thing for Moses to leave all the pleasures and profits and preferments of Egypt. He did it though, choosing rather the afflictions of Pharaoh with God’s people. Why? Says Hebrews 11: “He saw Him that is invisible”. But how did he see Him? By faith, says the text: “By faith he saw Him that is invisible”. Faith opens the eyes for to see that a man hath more with him than against him. And the works of God in Christ are not seen by the world; God’s pardoning mercy is not seen by the world; the union with Jesus Christ and the privilege thereof are not seen by the world; the satisfaction of Jesus Christ for a poor sinner is not seen by the world; the great power of God is not seen – or if so, at a distance, where it does not much affect the soul. “Faith is the substance . . . of things not seen” (Heb 11:1); it does not only show a man things that are otherwise unseen, but brings them near – salvation near, pardoning mercy near, the privileges of union with Christ near, Christ’s satisfaction near. And so, when difficulties and discouragements do arise, the soul says through faith: “Why should I not be satisfied with any condition, seeing Christ hath satisfied for me? I am one with Christ. When Christ died, I died; when Christ rose, I rose; when Christ ascended, I ascended; because Christ sits in heaven, I sit there.” Thus faith raises up the soul into heaven; it carries it over all the difficulties and discouragements that it can meet with.
Again, true, saving faith tells the soul that all things are its own. “All things are yours;” says the apostle, “life or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours” (1 Cor 3:22). Faith speaks the same language: all things are yours, soul, all things are yours: difficulties are yours, and natural impossibilities are yours; things present are yours, and things to come are yours. Will you be afraid of that which is your own? Will the owner be afraid of his own dog? A mastiff falls upon a stranger and worries him, and the stranger is afraid of him; but the owner is not afraid, the mastiff leaps and fawns upon him, but he does not worry him. Says faith: All these difficulties and all these temptations are your own; they will not worry you; they may leap upon you, they may fawn upon you, but they will not worry you; they are all your own, part of the purchase that Jesus Christ hath made for you. Faith holds this steadily upon the soul, and so a man breaks through difficulties.
Again, true, saving, justifying faith shows a man greater excellencies in Christ than all difficulties and natural discouragements can amount unto on the other side. You know how it is with a dog, if the greyhound sees the game a great way off, he gives it over; but when it comes near, he will rush through the very bushes for to take the hare, throw himself upon his back that he may take it; a natural hope makes him do it. So faith raises a mighty hope in the soul, presents the soul with many excellencies, and raises a mighty hope in the soul for the obtaining of them; it spreads more excellencies before the soul than can be lost by the hand of difficulties. For example, if a man hath been a prodigal and now is returning to Christ, the world says, friends say, If you take this course you will lose all; you will lose all your acquaintance, lose your liberty, lose your estate, maybe lose your life. Be it so, says faith, though thou losest thy friends, thou shalt gain better; and though thou losest thy liberty, thou shalt gain better, and though thou losest thy life itself, thou shalt gain a better. It is but a while, says faith, that thou shalt lose these things and thou shalt have them better, in a better form. When a man’s eyes are open to behold the excellencies of Christ, then they are shut up to outward discouragements. When a man hath beheld the sun in its glory, his eyes dazzle to the things that are below; now faith opens a man’s eyes to see the excellencies of Jesus Christ, and so the soul is carried through difficulties and discouragements, though they be never so many.
Again, true, saving faith enables the soul to leave the success and the event of all unto God Himself. Nothing strengthens the hands of difficulties and discouragements so much as solicitude about the success and event of things. True, saving faith helps a man to leave the success to Christ; it commits the soul unto God, unto Christ; there is a mutual committing between Christ and a believer: Christ commits Himself unto a believer, and a believer commits himself again unto Christ. Christ commits Himself unto a believer: you know what is said in the Gospel, “Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men” (John 2:24), arguing that He did commit Himself unto others that did believe Him. And believers commit themselves unto Jesus Christ. “Commit thy way unto the Lord” (Ps 37:5). There is a mutual way of committing: Christ commits His grace, He commits His Spirit, He commits His truth unto a believer; a believer commits his estate and his name and himself again unto Christ. Christ commits His work unto a believer; and a believer again commits the success of the work unto Jesus Christ. Faith now leaves the event and the success again unto Jesus Christ.
Difficulties and natural discouragements arise and say, “What wilt thou do now? What wilt thou do now to be preserved? What wilt thou do to continue now? What wilt thou do to be delivered now? What will become of you now?” Then a believer may answer, “O Satan, thou hast mistaken the question; my question is not, What shall become of me? I have left the success of things to God. But my question is, What shall I do for God? My question is, How shall I love Jesus Christ? My question is, How shall I be like unto Jesus Christ? My question is, How shall I serve my generation and own Jesus Christ in these times? This is my question.” Faith – true, saving faith – leaves the success and the event of things unto Christ, and so thereby the soul is carried through all difficulties and natural discouragements unto Jesus Christ.
True, saving faith is that grace whereby the soul takes up the yoke of Christ and the burden of Christ upon his soul. Christ’s burden does unburden all other burdens; the very taking of Christ’s burden upon a man does ease him of all other burdens. This may seem strange to you, that the taking of a new burden should ease one of the former. If a man be carrying coals or wood, the taking of a new burden would not ease him of the former; but the burden of Christ, beloved, is of another nature. Augustine distinguishes them: there is a burden burdening, and a burden supporting. He expresses it thus: the feathers that a bird or a fowl is clothed with have a weight in them – a pound of feathers is as heavy as a pound of lead – yet, notwithstanding, they bear up the burden of the body. Or, as it is with your coaches, the wheels are heavy; yet notwithstanding, being fastened unto the body of the coach, they make the body to go away the lighter, though they be heavy in themselves. So now it is here, the burden of Jesus Christ makes all other burdens to go away the lighter. True, saving faith is the grace that takes up the burden of Christ upon the soul, and so thereby all other burdens are made the lighter, and difficulties and discouragements are overcome.
True, saving faith does teach a man to pick out the love of God from under the anger of God. God never makes His pills so bitter, but He mingles some sugar withal, and true faith can find it out. When our Lord and Saviour Christ said, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4,5), the next words that she says are to the servants, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it”. They wanted wine; she came to Him for wine, and He answered her so. It may seem a hard answer, yet she says to the servants, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it”. For our Saviour had said, “My hour is not yet come”, implying therefore that He would do it. Implication is enough for faith – for Mary’s faith. Faith acquaints a man with the ways of God; it tells the soul that, when Christ seems to be the greatest enemy, He intends the greatest friendship. He, says faith, does then intend to raise us up when He seems most to cast us down. Whereupon, when difficulties and discouragements do arise, a believing soul asks, “Is this His way indeed? Why then should I be borne down with so many discouragements, though they be never so many?”
True, saving, justifying faith fills the soul with God’s infinity. God’s way is not as your way, says faith, nor His thoughts as your thoughts; but as the heavens are above the earth, so are His thoughts beyond yours, and His ways beyond yours. Faith lodges this principle into the soul, that God is infinite. Difficulties and discouragements arise which say, “You see now into what distress you are brought; now you see there is no hope at all for your deliverance”. “True indeed,” says the believer; “through the strength of faith, I see there is no way in any one reason but that God is infinite. I see many difficulties, but God is infinite.” The soul being filled by faith with the apprehension of God’s infiniteness is hereby carried through all difficulties and discouragements to Jesus Christ.
1. An extract from the Works of the Puritan minister of Great Yarmouth.