Yet in this thing you did not believe the LORD your God,
These are the great battles of the world. Not the clang of swords and the roar of kingdoms, but the conflict of man with God, — man calling God a liar; these are the disastrous and fatal wars. We think ourselves refined because we shrink from the taste of hot blood, and then go and secretly disobey the God that made us. We are often called upon to contemplate what may be called partial faith. We have faith in spots; we are mainly bruises of unbelief, wounds of unconfessed but deadly atheism; yet here and there, leopard-like or zebra-like, we are studded with pieces of detached piety. How true this is let every man bear witness on his own account. We do believe some things, but generally they are things of no importance. We believe things that cost us nothing. Who believes the thing that has a Cross. Wet with red blood in the middle of it? We are all partially religious, whimsically religious, religious after a very arbitrary and mechanical fashion. It is marvellous how the conscience is trained in little dots and short lines, and how the total manhood is left in a practically atheistic condition. We see what is meant by partial faith when we contemplate a vision which comes before us every day of our life, and that is the vision of partial character. Where is there a man that is all reprobate? The son of perdition occurs but now and then in the rolling transient centuries. Who is there who has not some good points about him? How we magnify those points into character. The chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Would you trust a chain thirty links long if you were sure that one of the links was very weak? You are no stronger than your weakest point; study that weak point; repair, amend, or remove it, or replace it by some point worthy of the rest of the character. That would be common sense, that would be downright logic worthy of the market place. Why not accept it and realise it? We all believe in providence. Which providence? how much providence? in what seasons do we believe in providence? We are great believers in blossoming time, but what faith have we when the snow upon our path is six feet deep and the wind a hail and frost? The Lord has many fine day followers. When a man has had ten thousand pounds unexpectedly left to him, he is prone to sing, "God moves in a mysterious way." He is mayhap, notwithstanding his psalm singing, a hypocrite; he does not understand the meaning of faith, which is self-transformation into the very bosom of God. We often hear of some persons who are remarkably sound on certain doctrines. I dread to hear of any man who is particularly sound, on any one doctrine, because I have the suspicion that he is magnifying his soundness upon that doctrine that he may ingratiate himself into my confidence so far as to inoculate me with some peculiar heresy of his own. As we have said before, what would be thought of any man who was partial to certain letters of the alphabet, and remarkably sound upon the consonants, or who held two of the vowels with most pious and clinging faith, who would lay down his intellectual life for the vowel a and for the vowel o, but who would take leave to cherish his own suspicions with regard to the soundness of the other vowels? What of the man who is strong upon the letter b, but a little heretical upon the letter z? This is God's charge against us by the mouth of His prophets and apostles — "Yet in this thing ye did not believe." We must not only be careful about what we do believe, but about what we do not believe. Do we really believe in providence? — in the shepherdly God, in the fatherly God, in the motherly God, in the God of the silent step, who comes with the noiselessness of a sunbeam into the chamber of our solitude and desolation? Do we really believe in the God who fills all space, yet takes up no poor man's room, and who is constantly applying to broken or wounded hearts the balm that grows only in old sweet Gilead? Do we believe that the very hairs of our head are all numbered? I am not so old in faith as mighty Habakkuk, I could see many trees blighted without losing my faith; but there is ,one tree, if aught should happen to any single branch or twig of that tree, my soul's faith would wither. What, then, can be my faith, if it is true, and it is true, that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link? We believe in prayer. How much? At what time do we believe in prayer? Are there not periods of agony in life in which we dismiss all around, and look with dumb sorrow upon the unheeding heavens? It is in vain that we say we believe in prayer, and that we lament for those who do not pray, if our prayer does not stand us in good stead in the hour and article of life's extremest agony. Remember the possibility of our having a partial faith, a partial faith in providence, a partial faith in prayer, and remember that the chain is no stronger than its weakest point; and if in this thing or that we do not believe the Lord our God, we may strike the rest of our faith dead as with a sword stroke. Lord, save me, or I perish! What we want, then, is an all-round faith; in other words, what we want is an all-the-year-round faith. But our faith comes in fits and starts. Perhaps this may be accounted for by the fact that we have confounded the word creed with the word faith. Creed is weather, faith is climate; creed is a variable alphabet, faith is an eternal poetry. We live on faith, we walk by faith; without faith we have no life. As to our creed, take it, leave it, read it, despise it, adopt it, do what you like with it, but faith abides for ever, sometimes requiring new words and new modes, but never changing its inward and Divine substance and meaning. Let every man apply this text to himself. Let no man charge another about this merely occasional or spasmodic faith. Now and again we hear men say, My faith could not rise to that height. Sometimes I may ask for a little patience, now and again I may say, Give me time. Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee. That is the true faith. So long as that love lingers in the heart hell shall not have thee, nor the gates of hell prevail against the rock on which you build. This is very serious. This reflection makes life very solemn. Some of us have thought too much that we could take up our faith and set it down, that we may believe a little of this and a little of that; some of us have not thought much of the roundness of the orb of faith. Let us not give way to censoriousness upon others. You do not know how hard it is for some men to believe. It may be comparatively easy for you and me to believe. But we who are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak; we should be patient with the slow, we should desire that other men may know the joy and the blessedness and the triumph and the glory of the full life.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,