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THE FAITH OF THE SAMARITANS.
John iv. 39—42.
39. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them : and he abode there two days.
41. And many more believed because of his own word ;
42. And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying ; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
All Scripture is profitable for instruction. And this account of the inhabitants of Sychar may serve a very important purpose. It furnishes a striking example of the two sorts of faith which may exist in the mind, and which it is highly needful to distinguish. THE FIRST, is a belief grounded
is a belief grounded on the report of others. Many believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
THE SECOND sort of faith goes further, and depends on personal experience and conviction. Now we believe, not because of thy saying ; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. It will be useful to examine this.
The faith of the Samaritans, in the first instance, when they went out from the city and came unto Jesus, had its foundation in the report which the woman made. She had assured them that Jesus had proved himself to be acquainted with all the acts of her life. It could only be accounted for in one way. Is not this the Christ? Can this man, to whom all hearts are open, and from whom no secrets are hid, be any other than he whom we were looking for, who was to come into the world?
They concluded that it must be so, and believed at her saying.
This is the foundation of all faith in Christ. It is far from being all that is meant by “receiving him and believing in his name :" but it is the basis of it, and, as such, good, nay, needful. We believe that a Saviour of the world had been promised : had been foretold by .prophets : had been prefigured by types : had been expected by devout men : and at last appeared in man’s nature about eighteen hundred years ago. We believe that he did many miracles : healed the sick, restored the dead : taught an excellent doctrine, exhorted sinners to repent : suffered death upon the cross, but rose again from the tomb, and ascended to the place which he had left in the bosom of the Father. This we believe ;—on the report of others; -on the report of those who lived at that time, and witnessed these things. They delivered these facts to their children and contemporaries : these
handed them down to the generation that came after; and in this way they have always been believed by Christians, who could not possibly know the facts in any other manner, unless the Christ were to appear in every age. It was thus with the Samaritans. They believed first on the woman's report. They could not have known, for themselves, whether Jesus had declared to her the secret actions of her life. But she assured them so; and they believed her.
Now this is the sort of faith in which the inhabitants of a Christian country grow up. They know that they have been baptized in the name of Jesus. They know the principal circumstances of his life. They know that he suffered death upon the cross.
And they have a vague idea that his death was a great benefit to mankind.
Such is the belief of children; and the belief of many who are no longer children goes no further. The belief which they have is good. They must believe that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us ;” that he “ died for our sins, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures." And these things they can only believe on the testimony of those who witnessed them. If the people here had not attended to their country-woman, saying, Come, and see a man, who told me all things that ever I did, they would never have heard him for themselves at all. But still we must bear in mind that this is only
1 See 1 Cor. xv. 3, 4.
the beginning of that faith, by which“ being justified, we have peace with God.”
A person may believe all this, and feel no doubt of its truth : 2 and yet may be no way influenced by it in his heart and life. It is the same with belief in the existence of God. How few are found ready to deny that “ there is one God!” And yet how few live as if they believed it; and either love, or fear, or reverence, or obey him ? Nothing is more easy, and nothing more common, than to believe that Jesus was sent from God, that he was “
approved as such by signs and wonders and mighty deeds,” that he most unjustly suffered a cruel death :-and yet to have none of that faith by which men are justified before God; and of which Jesus so frequently declared, “ Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” It is one thing to know a man to be an excellent physician ; it is another thing to apply to him, and follow his counsel. So it is one thing to believe in the history of Jesus, as related in the Bible: and another thing to rely on him as “ the Christ, the Saviour of the world,” by whom alone we obtain health or salvation.
But to this real and justifying faith the Samaritans proceeded, being led on to it by their own inquiry and experience. Now we believe, not for thy saying ; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. On the testimony which the woman gave, they had besought him that he would tarry
2 See James ii. 19.
with them. And he abode there two days. And during those two days, though his discourses are not preserved, we may feel sure what their subject
He would tell them, that “except they repent, they must all perish.” But that they need not perish. “For God had sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
" He that believeth on him is not condemned, but hath everlasting life.” These things he was often repeating, and those to whom he addressed them, cavilled at his words : or “ went back, and walked no more with him.' But here was more of that “ honest and good heart,” which the Lord opens, so that it
understands the things that are spoken.” So that many believed because of his word: and said, We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
And all must be able to affirm the same, who have any scriptural right to peace or hope as being " reconciled to God” through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
They must have understood the description of Christ as suited to themselves, and the promises of Christ as offered to themselves.
In infancy they had been enrolled within his covenant: in their youth they had named the name of Christ, and believed on their parent's word, or their country's creed. But now they have sought further, and learnt more, and themselves discovered that this is indeed the Christ. They can assume the language of the apostle, “I know in whom I have believed, and that he is able