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way, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts. And, consequently, before any man can be capable of walking in this way, his aversion to it must be destroyed : and who can do this but the Spirit of grace. Buť when –
(3.) We are renewed, until we be entirely so, we are often if not generally very weak, and much in need of the Spirit's aid; and when perfectly renewed, we can no more maintain our steps in this way, by and of ourselves, than we could find and get into it without help: And from what other source than the Spirit of God can this help be drawn? “That he would grant you,” etc. (Ephes. iii. 16.)
(4.) We cannot walk in God's ways without comfort as they sometimes, perhaps often, prove very exhausting to the mind; and whence can we fetch this comfort, but from the Spirit?“ Walking in the," etc. And observe
III. That all who are led of the Spirit of God are the sons of God. But how does this appear ? How? why
1. Because those who are led of the Spirit, must first be born again of him, and being so, are sons of God. (John i. 12, 13.) “ To as many as received him, to them gave he power, etc.
2. Because they have received the Spirit of adoption into their hearts, and he dwells in them: Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth,” etc. (Gal. iv. 6.) “Hereby know we,” etc. (1. John iv. 13.) This the Spirit attests. (Verse 16.)
3. And as they are taken into this relation, the dispositions that best accord with it, and most benefit it, are given to them. They love, reverence, and obey their heavenly Father. ** For he that loveth not, knoweth him not, for God is love.” (1. John iv. 8.) “And he that loveth God, loveth him that is begotten of him.” (1. John v. 1.) If such were not the case, we could not be exhorted to exercise that mind which was in Christ, and to be followers of God as dear children, (see Phil. ii. 5; Ephes. v. 1,) refraining from all conformity to our former lusts, and putting on the closest resemblance to our heavenly Father. (1. Peter i. 14-16.)
1. The Spirit does not operate mechanically, he leads sons, does not drive slaves.
2. The Spirit inspires no new revelation; nor does he bring what he never brought before ; avoid enthusiasm.
3. Take heed how you treat your guide : do not vex him; do not grieve him lest he depart, etc.
4. Consider and claim your privileges as sons, particularly at the throne of grace.
5. Take heed that you never act in a manner unbecoming the relation in which you stand.
“ O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ?” (Matt.
The great sin of worldlings and mere professors of religion is believing too much, seeing such believe without warrant; but the failing of God's people is in believing too little, fearing to believe, where they have God's warrant for doing so, as in the case before us: Peter had Christ's warrant for going to his master on the water, and for believing that he should be upborne on the waves. For awhile he did believe and walked, but at length his faith waxed feeble, and he began to sink and to cry, and was heard, and thus addressed. Where, observe,
I. Peter had thought himself possessed of strong faith. (Verse 28.)
Certainly but few would have ventured to do what he did; but he took his faith to be stronger than
And we often think our faith is strong before it is tried, and then we find it to be but feeble.
That is little faith which is exercised in the power, but not in the willingness of God to deliver and bless his people; for what weightier reasons have we for trusting in the power of God than in his goodness and readiness to help and save? Have we any ?
Let it not, however, be forgotten that what there is of faith, though it be but little, it is good, because it is genuine, and it will conduct us to Christ, and cause us to cleave to him. Peter did not call for a rope, or try to save himself by swimming.
And little faith will lead us to pray earnestly in our extremity. Peter cried, “ Lord save me.” But
II. Genuine faith, if little, will often be mixed with doubts and fears, as, –
When our necessity is very urgent, or our danger great, and strongly impressing the senses. Thus Jesus had bid Peter come to him, but the winds were whistling, and the waves were roaring and raging, hence his faith gave way.
You are now coming to Jesus, and coming at his bidding too, but what if an alarm were given, that the chapel is giving way and falling, what would your faith be ? *
2. Genuine faith, though little, will comfort and encourage you, so long and so far as you look to the power, the goodness, and the veracity of God: and it is only as the enemy shall succeed in turning your attention suddenly and closely to your unworthiness, great sinfulness, and rich desert of punishment, that faith will yield to fear. Be on your guard, therefore.
3. When the answer of your prayers and the grant of your expectations follow closely on their being offered and indulged, your faith, though little, will steadily support you; but when the Lord defers his answers and supplies, then faith, if little, like a slender twig, bends under the weight incumbent on it.
Peter expected to walk as cleverly as his Master on the water; but when the support was deferred, owing to his greater attention to the winds and waves than to his Master's command, his faith failed, and his power to tread the water ceased, in consequence of which he began to sink.
* This outline was very probably prepared or employed on some occasion of chapel opening. - EDIT.
And wherefore is it that we doubt of success, or safety, while acting under Christ's command? What reason have we for doing so, or can we have ? None whatever. Hence,
III. The reproof which is here given; for this is the language of reproof.
It is gentle reproof, it is true, compared with what is merited; for what reason for doubting have we now, that we have not always had ? And if ever our faith was commendable and necessary, it must be so at this time.
Can we have any ground for doubting of his care, while we give him credit for his love ?
And what reason have we to call his love in question? It was—
1. Love, not power, which brought him down fronı heaven to our help.
2. It was love to us that carried him through his sufferings for us.
3. It is love to us that induces him to make intercession for us.
4. It was his love for us that moved him to give to us such exceeding great and precious promises.
5. His love to men has taken millions of them to heaven, and certainly it will not leave you
behind. But see that
have true faith, be it ever so little ; rest not in light, however great, nor yet in good desires, however good; no, nor yet in godly purposes, however godly; for some have advanced thus far, and after all have perished.
But why should any be content with little faith, when they may have much? And may not all have much ? Shall we ever have better means for acquiring it? or can we have better means? Have we not those very means which have given rise to strong faith in many of our fellow christians ? and would they not do the same in us, if skilfully and prayerfully employed? Let us then pray, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
“ Walk in wisdom towards them that are without, redeeming the
ime." (Col. iv. 5, 6.)
The welfare of the church of Christ always requires that its members should walk in wisdom towards them that are within its pale, as, without this, the more fickle of its members would be made weaker, and stumbled, and the edification of itself in love would be iinpossible.
But it is not less necessary to its welfare that its members should walk in wisdom towards them that are without its pale, as without this the church could never be replenished, nor yet sinners be converted to God. Observe,
I. The behaviour which the Spirit of God commands the disciples of Christ to maintain towards those that are without, that is, without the church, unbelievers : these are never called christians in the New Testament, as that would be misnaming them.
Those that are within, the saints judge; but those that are without, God judgeth.
To walk in wisdom towards these, consists in pursuing a good end by the best means. Now one end is
(1.) That those without do us no hurt that are within.
It is not an easy matter to breathe in a contagious atmosphere,
infection. “ Evil communications corrupt good manners,” etc. “ To keep himself unspotted from the world."
(2.) Another end to be followed is, that we who are within do no hurt to them that are without. We hurt them if we deepen their prejudice, or harden them in sin ; and to avoid these, we must neither support their principles and practices, nor yet connive at them.
Nor must we render them obstinate and perverse in their offences, by adopting an undue severity towards them at any time, or on any account. On the contrary, we should endeavour to bring