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IV. We remark, once more, that, while THE EXERCISE OF FAITH IS DIFFICULT, IT IS MOST HIGHLY HONOURED.
To walk by faith, and not by sight, is the most painful of all duties: yet it is that particular walk, and the exercise of that particular grace, on which God puts most distinguished honour. Said I not, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? As if he had said, "Martha! look not into the grave: think not of the state of Lazarus's body: believe not your senses in this case, contrary to my report. Credit me: and, however difficult it may be to believe that a putrid carcase shall be raised to perform all the functions of life; yet, if you can trust me, you shall see the fact."
Here Nature stands stripped of its pride. The language of the opposers of Scripture rests upon this principle: "Do not my eyes, do not my ears tell me this and that? Am not I to rest on the reason which God has given me?" Remember, that, when God speaks, we must take his word for a certainty; his promise, for a reality. Here nature stands stripped: but it is that it may be clothed with a better garment. Nature is apt to vex and fret: its language is like Naaman's: it stands up in its pride, and says, "Are not Arbana and Pharpar better than all the waters of Israel? And why dip seven times? Why more than once? And Naaman went away in a rage." But a truly
humble man would have said, "What are Arbana and Pharpar to me, who am charged to wash in Jordan? Such would have been the sentiments of Martha, had she remembered who spoke : "What are apparent impossibilities here? The Lord God Almighty stands before me, clothed in human nature, and says, Martha! Trust me, and you shall see my power."
In this way, we must use God's word. Does he say, Call upon me in the day of trouble?—it is not for us, then, in seeming impossibilities, to limit the power of the Holy One of Israel: to say He has provided bread, but can he give flesh also? as the murmuring Jews did. The true posture, Brethren, of dependent and needy creatures, like us, is to relinquish the reasonings of sense, to believe God's Word, and to wait for its fulfilment.
When Abraham, the father of the faithful, took Isaac his son, and offered him up, in intention, and therefore actually in the sight of God, it is said, in the x1th chapter to the Hebrews, that he believed God was able to raise him up even from the dead. As though he had said, Surely, he, in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed, is not now to be cut off! God will fulfil his word, and raise him from the dead."
To-morrow, about this time, said Elisha, Kings vii.) shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria: that is, there shall be great
abundance, instead of the present famine. But, a lord, on whose hand the king leaned, asked, with scorn, If the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?— Behold, said the prophet, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eať thereof.
. I mention not these things to shew the ignorance, the weakness, and the depravity of this or that man; but the blindness, the weakness, and depravity which degrade your heart and mine. I know what it is to offend herein, and to say, "This is impossible! How shall I escape this difficulty?" But he, who speaks thus, forgets the power and the faithfulness of God. The path of duty is before us: we must sow our seed in the morning, and in the evening withhold not our hand: we must sow the seed of spiritual instruction among our children: we must not say, "How can I give life to this dead child? how can I turn this prodigal from the error of his ways? We must do our duty to our children, servants and connections, and wait for the day-spring from on high to shine on the work, and raise up the seed. We must say, "What I cannot do, God can. All things are possible with him."
The very trials, then, which we meet with in life, are in the hand of God, our spiritual instructors.
Have you, like Martha, waited through days of darkness and weeks of perplexity? Have you
suffered in your spirit; and been ready to despair, through a powerful temptation and an unbelieving heart?-May heart? May not the Lord of Life say to you, as he did to Martha," Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, and go forward in the path of duty, under my direction, resting on the truth and honour of my character, thou shouldest see the glory of God, notwithstanding the darkness and crookedness of the way? Ask yourselves what God has said; what assurance he has given you; what assurance he has given to every one to whom he has given his word. Said he not to thee something on every point interesting to thee? I challenge you to say that he has not. There is not a man on earth, to whom he has not given counsel, and direction, and consolation in his Word. Did you ever repent, in time past, your putting honour on this Word? Are not many of us witnesses, that, in the most necessitous cases, we have had cause to say, "He has heard me in the day of trouble, when I called upon him at his command; and he delivered me out of all my distresses !"
Oh, that men who are dying out of this world, who must soon come into the state in which Lazarus was, of each of whom it will soon be said, He has been dead these four days-Oh, that you and I could now listen to the Lord of Life in what he here says! For he speaks not of Lazarus alone; but he speaks to us all: Thy brother shall
rise again. I know, says Martha, that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.-I, said he, am the resurrection and the life. He, that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.
Behold our remedy for the misery of the grave! Though it be dark, a beam of light is let into it, Here is comfort for a dying bed: not the lying comfort of the Atheist, the Moralist, or the Philosopher, who tells us, "It is the debt of nature!" What consolation does that thought yield? But here is the Prince of Life, saying, "Though thou art dying, though there is a bottomless pit infinitely more dreadful than the grave, yet come ye unto me, Why will ye die?"
Who, then, is he that thinks religion a melancholy thing? It is the only friend that can help us in life or death. God grant that we may adopt its principles, and walk in its practices; and he, that believes and trusts it, shall see the glory of God,