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'giving glory to God.' To be established in believing, is to give God the greatest glory possible. Every staggering thought that ariseth from this root of unbelief, robs God of his glory.
[1.] It robs him of the glory of his truth. He that believeth not, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not his record ;' 1 John v. 10. Let men pretend what they please (as most an end we give in specious pretences for our unbelief), the bottom of all is, the questioning of the truth of God in our false hearts.
[2.] It robs him of the glory of his fidelity or faithfulness in the discharge of his promises. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins;' 1 John i. 9. He hath engaged his faithfulness in this business of the forgiveness of iniquities, he whose right it is; calling that in question, calls the faithfulness of God in question.
[3.] It robs him of the glory of his grace. In a word, if a man should choose to set himself in a universal opposition unto God, he can think of no more compendious way than this. This then is the fruit, this the advantage of all our staggering; we rob God of glory, and our own souls of mercy.
Use 5. Be ashamed of, and humbled for, all your staggerings at the promises of God, with all your fleshly reasonings, and carnal contrivances issuing therefrom. For the most part we live upon successes, not promises: unless we see and feel the print of victories, we will not believe; the engagement of God is almost quite forgotten in our affairs. We travel on without Christ, like his mother, and suppose him only to be in the crowd ; but we must return to seek him where we left him, or our journeying on will be to no purpose. When Job, after all his complaining, had seen the end of the Lord, he cries out, Now I abhor myself in dust and ashes.' You have seen the end of the Lord in
of his promises; oh, that it might prevail to make you abhor yourselves in dust and ashes, for all your carnal fears, and corrupt reasonings upon your staggerings! When David enjoyed his promised mercy, he especially shames himself for every thought of unbelief that he had whilst he waited for it: 'I said,' saith he,ʻin my haste, that all men were liars : and now he is humbled for it. Is this to be thankful, to forget our provoking thoughts of unbelief, when the mercy is enjoyed ? The Lord set it home upon your spirits, and give it to receive its due manifestation.
(1.) If there be any counsels, designs, contrivances on foot amongst us, that are bottomed on our staggering at the promise under which we are, oh, let them be instantly cast down to the ground. Let not any be so foolish, as to suppose that unbelief will be a foundation for quiet habitations. You are careful to avoid all ways that might dishonour you, as the rulers of so great a nation; oh, be much more careful about such things as will dishonour you as believers ; that is your greatest title; that is your chiefest privilege. Search your own thoughts, and if any contrivance, any compliance be found springing up, whose seed was sown by staggering at the promise, root them up, and cast them out before it be too late.
(2.) Engage your hearts against all such ways for the future. Say unto God, How faithful art thou in all thy ways ! how able to perform all thy promises ! how hast thou established thy word in heaven and earth! Who would not put their trust in thee? We desire to be ashamed, that ever we should admit in our hearts the least staggering at the stability of thy word.
(3.) Act as men bottomed upon unshaken things, that are not at all moved by the greatest appearing oppositions.
He that believeth, will not make haste: be not hasty in your resolves in any distress; wait for the accomplishment of the vision, for it will come. So long as you are in the way of God, and do the work of God, let not so much as your desires be too hasty after appearing strengthenings and assistance. Whence is it, that there is amongst us such bleating after the compliance of this or that party of the sons of men, perhaps priding themselves in our actings upon unbelief; as though we proclaimed, that without such and such we cannot be protected in the things of God ? Let us, I beseech you, live above those things, that are unworthy of the great name that is called upon us.
Oh, that by these, and the like ways, we might manifest our self-condemnation, and abhorrency, for all that distrust and staggering at the word of God, which arising from unbelief, hath had such deplorable issues upon all our counsels and undertakings !
THE STRENGTH OF FAITH.
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief ; but was strong
in faith, giving glory to God.-Rom. iv. 20. In this chapter the apostle singleth out a signal example, to make good the conclusion which by sundry convincing demonstrations he had proved in the foregoing chapter ; namely, that the justification of a sinner could by no means be brought about, nor accomplished, but by the righteousness of faith in Christ. This, I say, in the example of Abraham, and from the testimonies given concerning him, and the way whereby he was justified before God, the apostle proves from the beginning of the chapter to the end of ver. 17. From thence, to the end of ver. 22. he describes that faith of Abraham, whereby he obtained acceptation with God, that in all things he might propose him as an example, and an encouragement unto us.
Among the many excellencies which are given in, in the description of this faith of his, arising from its cause, object, matter, and manner, not now to be insisted on, this is none of the least which is mentioned in my text: 'He staggered not.
There is a uelwors in the words, wherein by a negation, the contrary to what is denied, is strongly asserted. He staggered not by unbelief, that is, he was steadfast in believing; or as it is expounded in the close of the verse, he was strong in faith.'
The words may yield us these two observations :
Observation 1. All staggering at the promises of God is through unbelief.
Saith the apostle, ‘he staggered not through unbelief.' Men are apt to pretend many other reasons, and do use other pleas; but the truth is, all our staggering is through
unbelief. But this poposition from these words I have long since in another way proved, evinced, and applied.*
There is another proposition lies in the text, and that I shall now apply myself unto, which is this :
Observation 2. Steadfastness in believing the promises is exceeding acceptable unto God.
In treating upon this subject I shall do these two things :
1. There is the object concerning which the affirmation is laid down : • The promises,' the promises of God. The promises of God are the declaration of the purposes of his grace towards his elect, according to the tenour of the covenant. That pointed unto in my text, was the old great promise of Christ, which contains in it all others; because in him all the promises of God are yea and amen;' 2 Cor. i. 20. So that although I shall speak nothing but what will be true with reference to every promise of God whatever; yet I shall bear a chief respect to the promises that exhibit Christ, and the free grace of God in him unto sinners: steadfastness in believing these promises.
2. There is the act that is exercised about this object : and that is, believing. It is steadfastness in believing we speak of.
I shall not make it my design to insist much on the nature of faith, and to debate the differences that are among men about it; only so much must be spoken concerning it, as may give us an acquaintance with that whereof we are treating
How many have been the disputes of men about the nature of faith? The subject, proper object, formal reason of it, all know. And how little the church of God is beholding to men, who have made it their business to involve things of general duty and absolute necessity unto all believers in intricate disputes, men that will duly weigh it may easily know. By some men's too much understanding others are brought to understand nothing at all. He that would have the things of his own spiritual experience and daily
• See the preceding sermon.
duty made unintelligible to him, let him consider them as stated in men's philosophical disputes about them. Thus some place faith in one distinct faculty of the soul, some in another, and some say there are no such things as distinct faculties in the soul. Some place it in both the chief, the understanding and the will; and some say, it is impossible that one habit should have its residence in two faculties.
For my part, my intention principally is to speak to such as God chooseth, the poor and foolish of the world; and the means whereby he will bring them to himself, are not, I am sure, above that understanding which the Son of God hath given them; 1 John v. 20. And whereas the general way in treating of faith, is, for the most part, to use strictness of expression, that so it may be delivered in a philosophical exactness; the constant way of the Holy Ghost is by metaphorical expressions, accommodations of it to things of sense and daily usage in the meanest, to give a relish and perception of it, to all that are interested in it. And so shall I labour to speak, that every one that doth believe, may know what it is to believe.
Only observe this by the way: that I speak of believing and of faith in respect of that end, and to that purpose only, in reference whereunto Paul here treats of it; that is, in respect of justification, and our acceptation with God. I say then,
(1.) That faith, or believing, in this restrained sense doth not consist solely in the assent of the mind to the truth of the promises, or of any promise. When one affirms any thing to us, and we say we believe him, that is, that the thing he speaks is true, then there is this assent of the mind, without this there is no faith; but this alone is not the faith we speak of. This alone and solitary the devils have, and cannot choose but have it; James ii. 19. They believe that which makes them tremble, on the authority of God who revealeth it.
But you will say, The devil believes only the threats of God; that which makes him tremble; and so his belief is not a general assent, but partial, and is thereby distinguished from our assent, which is to all that God hath revealed, and especially the promises.