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speak, with our own eyes, and not to have implicitly followed the directions of God, no doubt so it would have been ordered. But he who perfectly, and at once, saw the beginning and end of all things, judged otherwise. With the highest wisdom, no doubt, he formed the resolution, the just shall live by faith. It may be impossible for us, in the present state, to find out all the reasons for this resolution; but two or three seem to present themselves to our view.
1. Such a life brings great glory to God. Confidence is universally a medium of honour. To confide in a fellow-creature, puts honour upon him in the account of others, and affords a pleasure to himself; especially if he be a wise and upright character, as it gives him an opportunity of proving his wisdom and fidelity. Though the great God cannot be made more honorable than he is, by any thing that we can do, yet his honour may, by this, be made more apparent. We honour him, so far as we form just conceptions of him in our own minds, and act so as to give just representations. of him to others. God is graciously pleased to declare, that he takes pleasure in those that hope in his mercy; and why? surely, among other things, because it gives him occasion to display the glory of his grace. And, as he takes pleasure in those that hope in his mercy, and rely upon it; so he takes pleasure in ordering things so that we may be put to the trial, whether we will rely on him, or not. It was this which induced him to lead Israel through the wilderness rather than by the ready road to Canaan. He knew they would be in fact, dependent upon him, let them be where they would; but they would not be sensible of that dependence, nor have so much opportunity of entirely trusting him, in any way as in this; and so it would not be so much for the glory of his great name. He therefore would lead a nation, with all their little ones, into an inhospitable desert, where was scarcely a morsel of meat to eat, and, in many places, not a drop of water to drink; a land of deserts and of pits, of scorpions and fiery flying serpents: here, if any where, they must be sensibly dependant on God. They must be fed and preserved immediately from heaven itself, and that by miracle, or all perish in a few days! Here God must appear to be what he was here mercy and truth must appear to go with them indeed!
What an opportunity was afforded them to have walked these forty years by faith; what grounds for an entire confidence: but, alas, their faithless hearts perverted their way, and, in the end, proved their ruin! Ten times they tempted God in the desert, till, at length, he sware, concerning that generation, that, for their unbelief, they should die in the wilderness, and never enter his rest. Few, if any, besides Joshua and Caleb, would dare to trust him, notwithstanding all his wonders and all his mercies! They, however, for their part, took hold of his strength, and thought themselves able, having God on their side, to encounter any thing! Their spirit was to walk by faith, and not by sight; and herein it is easy to see how they glorified God.
O brethren! let the glory of God lie near our hearts! Let it be dearer to us than our dearest delights! Herein consists the criterion of true love to bim. Let us, after the noble example of Joshua and Caleb, follow the Lord fully. Let us approve of every thing that tends to glorify him. Let us be reconciled to his conduct, who suffers us to hunger, that we muy know that man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. If he should bring us into hard and difficult situations; situations to an eye of sense impossible to be endured, let us remember, that it is that he may give us an opportunity of glorifying him, by trusting him in the dark. The more difficult the trial, the more glory to him that bears us through; and the greater opportunity is afforded us, for proving that we can indeed trust him with all our concerns; that we can trust him, when we cannot see the end of his present dispensations.
Those very much dishonour God, who profess to trust him for another world, but, in the common difficulties of this, are perpetually murmuring, peevish, and distrustful. How different was it with Abraham, in offering up his son Isaac. What, offer up
Isaac ! my son, my only son of promise! Why, is not the Messiah to spring out of his loins? What are to become of all the nations of the earth, who are to be blessed in him? How natural and excusable might such questions have seemed; much more so than most of our objections to the divine conduct. case, had it been consulted, must have entered a thousand protests.
Sense, in this
But the father of the faithful consulted not with flesh and blood, not doubting but God knew what he was about, if he himself did not. (0 that we may prove ourselves the children of faithful Abraham!) Against hope, in appearance, he believed in hope of divine all-sufficiency; fully persuaded, that what God had promised he was able to perform, he stretched forth his obedient arm; nor had he recalled it, had not heaven interposed: he was strong in faith, GIVING GLORY TO GOD.
2. It is productive of great good to us. The glory of God, and the good of those that love him, (thanks be to his name!) always go together. It is equally to their benefit as to his honour, for instance, to lie low before him, and to feel their entire dependence upon him. It is essential to the real happiness of an intelligent creature, to be in its proper place, and to take a complacency in being so. But nothing tends more to cultivate these dispositions than God's determining, that, at present, we should walk by faith, and not by sight. Faith, in the whole of it, tends more than a little to abase the fallen creature; and to walk by faith, (which is as much as to acknowledge that we are blind, and must see with the eyes of another,) is very humbling. The objects of our desire being, frequently, for a time, withheld, and we, being at such times, reduced to situations wherein we can see no help, and thus obliged to repose our trust in God, contributes more than a little to make us feel our dependence upon him. Agur saw that a constant fullness of this world was unfriendly to a spirit of entire dependence upon God; therefore he prayed, Give me not riches; lest I be full and deny thee. Whatever tends to humble and try us, tends to do us good in the latter end.
Great and wonderful is the consolation that such a life affords. In all the vicissitudes of life and horrors of death, nothing can cheer and fortify the mind like this. By faith in an unseen world, we can endure injuries without revenge, afflictions without fainting, and losses without despair. Let the nations of the earth dash, like potsherds, one against another; yea, let nature herself approach towards her final dissolution; let her groan, as being ready to expire, and sink into her primitive nothing; still the believer lives?
His all is not on board that véssel! His chief inheritance lies in another soil!
'His hand the good man fastens on the skies,
And bids earth roll, nor feels her idle whirl!'
3. It will make vision the sweeter. It affords a great pleasure, when we make a venture of any kind, to find ourselves at last not disappointed. If a considerate man embark his all on board a vessel, and himself with it, he may have a thousand fears, before he reaches the end of his voyage; yet should he, after numberless dangers, safely arrive, and find it not only answer, but far exceed his expectations, his joy will then be greater than if he had run no hazard at all. What he has gained will seem much sweeter than if it had fallen to him in a way that had cost him nothing. Thus believers venture their all in the hands of Christ, persuaded that he is able to keep that which they have committed to him against that day. To find at last, that they have not confided in him in vain; yea, that their expectations are not only answered, but infinitely out-done, will surely enhance the bliss of heaven. The remembrance of our dangers, fears and sorrows, will enable us to enjoy the heavenly state with a degree of happiness impossible to have been felt, if those dangers, fears, and sorrows had never existed.
My hearers! We all of us live either by faith or by sight; either upon things heavenly or things earthly. If on the former let us go on, upon the word of God; everlasting glory is before us! But, if on the latter, alas, our store will be soon exhausted! All these dear delights are but the brood of time, a brood that will soon take to themselves wings and, with her that cherished them, fly away. Oh, my hearers ! is it not common for many of you to suppose that those who live by faith in the enjoyments of a world to come, live upon mere imaginations? But are ye not mistaken? It is your enjoyments, and not theirs, that are imaginary. Pleasures, profits, honours, what are they? The whole form only a kind of ideal world, a sort of splendid show, like that in a dream, which, when you wake, all is gone! At most, it is but a fashion, and a fashion that passeth away. To grasp it, is to grasp a shadow; and to feed upon it, is to feed upon the wind. O that you
may turn away your eyes from beholding these vanities, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the substantial realities beyond the grave, for your never-failing portion!
But if not, if you still prefer this world, with its enjoyments, to those which are heavenly, how just will it be for the Lord Jesus to say to you, at the last great day,' Depart! Depart, you have had your reward! you have had your choice; what would you have? You never chose me for your portion: you, in effect, said of me and my interest, We will have no part in David, nor inheritance in the son of Jesse; see to thyself, David.' Ah, now, see to thyself,
Christians, ministers, brethren, all of us, let us realize the subject. Let us pray, and preach, and hear, and do every thing we do, with eternity in view! Let us deal much with Christ and invissible realities. Let us, whenever called, freely deny ourselves for his sake, and trust him to make up the loss. Let us not faint under present difficulties, but consider them as opportunities afforded us to glorify God. Let us be ashamed that we derive our happiness so much from things below, and so little from things above. In one word, let us fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life!