who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and obtained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,
I. HOW THIS WRITER SPEAKS FROM FULLNESS OF KNOWLEDGE. AS one might think, he has already been tolerably copious, but he hints that there is really much more to tell. He has looked through all the records of God's people, and he finds faith everywhere. Thus has been produced in his mind a strong conviction of what man can do when he believes in the right way. And might we not attain to a similar fullness of knowledge? Reading ecclesiastical history, in the widest sense of the term, we should see how much stronger is the man of simple faith than the man of this world, with all his resources and ingenuity. As knowledge and experience of the right things grow, so must convictions with respect to them deepen.
II. HOW HE CLASSIFIES THE EXAMPLES OF FAITH. He shows us faith active and passive - what it can do and what it can bear. By his function the prophet had to be a man of action, and as the result of his action he had also to be a man of suffering. God sent him out to do special deeds - deeds beyond ordinary resources - and then he had also to make ready for sufferings out of the ordinary way. He who would do great things in the sight of God must be ready also to suffer great things. Live on the level of the world, and you may escape much in the way of toil and strain; but try to achieve the things which Christ sets before you, and then you will find you must not only have strong hands, but a brave and patient heart.
III. THERE IS PLENTY OF WORK FOR FAITH YET TO DO. There are kingdoms to be overcome, not by physical force, not by disciplined armies, but by those who, having yielded first of all to truth, know its claims and its power, and believe in persistent pressing of that truth on others. Righteousness has to be worked out, promises have to be appropriated; and if we would inherit the promises, we must accept the conditions of faith and patience. Our faith can achieve great things, and therefore great things are set before it. The faith of a simple, humble Christian has far greater things within its reach than anything to be attained by the unaided human intellect even at its best.
IV. SIMILARLY THERE IS PLENTY OF TRIAL FOR FAITH YET TO ENDURE. The more there is to be done, the more there is to be suffered. Ingenious torments and cruel deaths there may not be, but the spirit of the world is unchanging. Let a man persevere as seeing the invisible one, and he will have to suffer. He may not be stoned, but he will be pelted with the sneers of thoughtless and ignorant men. Those who through mere self-respect would refrain from a blow with the fist yet delight in the most cutting words. - Y.
Through faith subdued kingdoms.I. THEY SUBDUED KINGDOMS. Though this may agree to, and be affirmed of others; yet in this particular David seems to be most eminent, who subdued the Philistines, Edomites, Ammonites, and other of the Syrian kingdoms.
1. The cause of the conqueror was just.
2. He had warrant from God, and many times the warrant was extraordinary.
3. Sometimes he had directions from God, who was first consulted.
4. He depended not upon his own strength and policy but upon his God.
5. The victory was given by God upon the faith and prayer of the victorious party.
6. The Kingdoms subdued were not only enemies to God's people, but to God Himself and His laws; so that both the safety of the people, and also of religion, did much depend upon these victories, which were far more excellent because given upon the faith of such as trusted in their God.
II. THEY WROUGHT RIGHTEOUSNESS. The subduing of kingdoms was the exercise of their military power, and this may seem to be the use of the sword of justice. The duty of a prince is to defend his people from foreign enemies, and to protect their loyal subjects, and punish the injurious. This righteousness therefore is judicial, and their doing of righteousness their constant administration of justice.
III. BY FAITH THEY OBTAINED PROMISES. By promises understand things promised, and these not general but particular. To the patriarchs before Joshua the land of Canaan was promised; yet not given, not enjoyed; only their posterity under Joshua obtained that promise. Christ was promised to them all, yet they obtained not this promise; for He was not exhibited till many years after. These were more general promises. There were besides many eminent mercies, particular of victory, deliverance, peace, and other things, which by faith they obtained; yet so as that they used the means which God vouchsafed unto them, and these means without faith had been insufficient.
IV. BY FAITH THEY STOPPED THE MOUTHS OF LIONS. This is understood principally of Daniel. Samson slew a lion, and so did David; Daniel was saved from the hungry, fierce lions when he was cast into their den of purpose to be devoured. This he acknowledged as a great and special mercy from his God (Daniel 6:22). This preservation was miraculous, and a mercy obtained by faith. For his cause was just, he would not intermit his devotion unto his God though he should suffer death, and resolved to observe the just command of God, and refused to obey the unjust commander man, and was persuaded that God was able to deliver him, and therefore he cast himself wholly upon His mercy. This he could never have done without faith.
V. BY FAITH SOME OF THEE QUENCHED THE VIOLENCE OF FIRE. By this and the former we understand that divers of these particulars are not to be attributed to the faith of all and every one, but to some particular persons of them as severed from the rest. The former worthy intended was one of the prophets, and these might be such also, yet not so eminent; for these words are not meant of a single person, but of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego. By these two last examples we understand how easily God can, and how ready He is to deliver His believing servants out of greatest dangers.
VI. BY FAITH THEY, THAT IS SOME OF THEM, ESCAPED THE SWORD. The sword may here be taken synecdochically for any kind of destroying instrument used in either war or peace. In war David and many of the judges escaped the edge of the sword, and were saved from the fury of the enemy. In peace Elijah, Elisha, Jeremy, and others, were delivered out of the hands of those who intended to murder them. They were in danger because they served God, did His work, and gave no just cause of offence. They were delivered because whilst they were obedient to their God, they trusted in Him. No dangers can hurt those whom God will save; they are safe in the midst of greatest evils.
VII. BY FAITH OF WEAK SOME BECAME STRONG. This, by many, is understood of recovery from sickness and diseases; and the same sometimes mortal, and by man incurable; and some instance in Hezekiah, whom God upon his prayer of faith restored to perfect health; and because his disease was mortal therefore the cure was supernatural, and said to be obtained by faith. Others understand it of such as were weak in respect of warlike valour, and far inferior to their enemies for multitude, strength, prowess, policy; yet by faith in God few overcame many; the weak subdued the strong; the plain unskilful not only defended themselves, but terrified their enemies; and though at first they were fearful, yet by faith they strengthened themselves in God, and upon their prayers were encouraged against potent enemies.
VIII. WAXED VALIANT IN FIGHT. Many of God's saints, and some of the forenamed, were soldiers and men of mighty valour, who through faith were so encouraged that they feared neither the number nor the strength of their enemies. Valour is proper unto a good soldier, and in war is necessary, as cowardice is the ruin of many a goodly army. War is very dangerous and full of hazard, and the event uncertain. The more the danger and the difficulty the greater measure of fortitude is requisite. The nature of valour is not wholly to contemn dangers, but to foresee and resist them, and no ways to adventure upon them. It is the strength of the mind without which the strength of the body is to little purpose. This is not a blind boldness, nor merely moral and grounded only upon reason, but it is Divine. For when the cause was good, and they had a command with a promise, and sometimes with instructions from God, they had great reason to be valiant. These did not fight only for their estates, wives, children, and their country; but for their religion, the covenant, and the cities of their God. Their valour was grounded upon the goodness of their cause, and the promise of their God; which firmly supported their faith, as their faith did much increase their valour.
IX. THEY TURNED TO FLIGHT THE ARMIES OF THE ALIENS. These aliens were heathens and idolaters, and so enemies not only to their country but to their religion and their God. This made their cause the better, and the enemies' cause the more unjust. The event of their wars against these was that they routed them, and made them turn their backs and fly. For as they fought for God out of faith, so God fought for them according to His promise, which was the ground of their belief and confidence. If, in a just war, we have the like cause and the like faith, we may expect the like success. But now many wars are made amongst Christians, and sometimes against the same nation; and the cause is not just, but the quarrel is begun and continued out of pride, malice, cruelty, ambition, and desire of revenge; and they fight not out of faith against God's enemies, but against God's people.
(G. Lawson.)I. THE DAILY DOERS OF WHAT IS RIGHT ARE AMONG TRUE HEROES.
1. They meet the same difficulties.
2. They are inspired by the same motives. They exert the same influence — glorifying God, and blessing men.
II. FAITH IS THE ONLY WAY TO THE DAILY DOING OF WHAT IS RIGHT.
1. Faith in the right.
2. Faith in God.
3. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the incarnation of right, the revealer of God, and the helper of souls.
(U. R. Thomas.)
Obtained promises.I. INQUIRE WHETHER THERE ARE NOT PROMISES MADE TO US WHICH WE DO NOT OBTAIN.
1. The great promise of justification by faith in Christ is made to you. This blessing is promised to every one that believeth. The inquiry then is, Have I Scriptural evidence to conclude that this has taken place as to me? Is the sense of guilt removed? Does the Spirit of adoption dwell in me crying, Abba, Father? Do I love Him, knowing that He hath loved me, and given Himself for me? And do all the fruits follow — "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance"?
2. We have the promise of constant supply of spiritual life, Christ came that we "might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly." The effect of all this is spiritual vigour, and a relish in the application of our minds to Divine things. With this are also connected holy thoughts, lively affections, cheerful and persevering service.
3. A third class of promises relate to our deliverance from the worldly spirit. Do we so see the hand of God in the events of life, as to rest from anxiety? so enjoy inward and sweet communion with God, as to rest in Him with entire satisfaction?
4. A fourth class of promises relate to victory over temptation. The Lord is "able to keep you from falling"; He will " bruise Satan under your feet shortly"; and every regenerate man is said to "keep himself," so that "the wicked one toucheth him not." "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Now the question with every one of us ought to be, "Am I a conqueror; or am I a conquered man? Am I overcome by temptation, or do I preserve 'a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man?'"
5. There are promises of growth and progress in all religious habits and acts. All the commands on this subject, to "grow in grace," and to "go on unto perfection," have in them the nature of promises. I am directed to grow; and the command implies an engagement to supply the power. We are directed also to abide in Christ, the source of fruitfulness. All the apostolical prayers are promises, because they relate to God's gracious engagements. Every one of us ought, therefore, to inquire whether we "obtain" these promises. Do I grow in grace, so as to be completely delivered from the corruptions of my nature, and to love God with all my heart, and mind, and soul, and strength?
II. INVESTIGATE THE CAUSE OF THIS SAD FAILURE.
1. Faith may be defective as wanting its Scriptural concomitants. We are justified, and obtain all the promises, by faith alone; but saving faith is not alone. One concomitant of true faith is a sense of danger. It credits the whole revelation of God, the threatenings as well as the promises. Here is the ground of the grand failure in many. They are not awakened. Another concomitant of true faith is a broken spirit. Many persons have fear and remorse; but they have not that godly sorrow which worketh repentance. A sense of unworthiness is another concomitant of true faith. We can claim nothing at the hands of God's justice. Mercy, from first to last, is our only plea. Another concomitant of true faith is strong desire after these blessings. Intense hungerings and thirstings after righteousness. Another concomitant is persevering prayer. This is the ordinance of God's appointing as the visible expression of faith; and He will honour it. Now, has our faith failed in these concomitants?
2. Faith may remain feeble and powerless because we nourish it not by its proper food, the Word of God.
3. We may fail in the actings of faith. In addition to this general confidence, there must be an act of special trust in God for the present communication to us of those blessings which we particularly need, and which the promises of His Word authorise us to expect.
III. IF, THEN, YOU FAIL IN OBTAINING THE PROMISES WHICH IMMEDIATELY RELATE TO YOUR PERSONAL SALVATION, LET ME EXHORT YOU —
1. That you cry mightily to God for a broken and contrite heart.
2. That you set before you all that God has promised as designed for you.
3. That, with your prayers, you stir up yourselves to the actings and exercise of faith. Lay hold upon the promises.
(R. Watson.)I. It is certain that holy men of old, and that good men now, do BY FAITH OBTAIN PROMISES. If we have had a little promise, and up till now have realised it, and made it the stay of our souls, surely God will give us a greater one, and so, from promise to promise speeding our way, we shall find the promises to be rounds of the ladder which Jacob saw, the top whereof shall reach to heaven.
II. By faith these men obtained not merely the giving of the promise, but THE FULFILMENT OF IT. There are three ways of "obtaining the promise." Many of them only need the outstretched hand to grasp them; you may go with faith at once and take the promise, "Ask and ye shall receive." There are many of the promises so readily attainable that if you are in Christ you may this morning see them fulfilled by simply believing them. Believe them to be true, and you shall have what they promise you. Some of God's promises are like cheques, you present them at the counter and the cash is given; you have but to take the promise stamped by God's own hand, signed and sealed, believe it to be God's, and you shall have the mercy now. This is true of a very large number of the promises. Of some others you must not simply believe them, but exercise importunate prayer about them. "Knock and it shall be opened." You are certain to have the blessing if you know how to wrestle with the angel, and declare that you will not let him go unless he shall bestow it upon you A third kind of these promises are not even to be fulfilled by prayer or by faith alone; you must obtain them by earnest seeking after them. "Seek and ye shall find." Where God has appended to the promise a something that is to be done, diligently do it, and you shall obtain the blessing.
1. Child of God, babe in grace, wouldst thou obtain the promises? Take this advice first — meditate much upon them. There are promises which are like grapes in the wine-press; if thou wilt tread them the juice will flow.
2. Secondly, young man in Christ Jesus, do not only meditate upon the promise, but seek in thy soul to realise it as being the very word of God.
3. Then be sure that thou doest, in the power of the Spirit of God, what the precept annexed to the promise asks of thee.
4. Some of the promises thou wilt not inherit even so, unless thou shalt imitate the men who by faith and patience inherit the promise.
5. In the next place take care if you would get the promise that you select some one that is suitable to your own ease. Again, young believer, would you obtain the promise?
6. Then be careful that you are thankful for promises you have already obtained.
7. And lastly, if you would have your faith stirred up, look at the examples of all who in olden times, and in our own times, by faith have obtained the promise.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Out of weakness were made strong.1. See, first, how universal was the presence of this mark, in each of its two especial parts — of weakness growing into strength. Look back in thought on all. How surely did all begin in weakness! How was Samuel chosen in the weakness of childhood, and how was even that childhood strengthened till it bore all the burden of the prophet's office! How was Moses called amid great straits of external difficulty and internal self-distrust, and how was he made able to endure the burden of all the multitude, that gainsaying and stiff-necked generation which was committed to his guidance! Again, how did the weakness from which they were being rescued show its remaining presence in the partial unbelief of Abraham, and the deep fall of David, and in St. Peter's denial of his Master! Yet how evidently was there a process of strengthening going on in each one of these very saints, even until they were perfected! How firm was the faith of Abraham — how dear to David was the will of God! How strong was the courageous love of this same Peter, who once had trembled before a maid-servant.
2. And now mark next how, in all who bear the true mark, this marvellous change is accomplished. Clearly it is wrought by a power beyond themselves — for out of weakness they "were made strong." It was not of their own doing. A power out of themselves was moulding them; a higher Will was drawing up into its own blessed truth the lower and capricious actings of their weakened, dishonoured, and distorted will. A mighty love was brooding over and transforming them. The acting of that Holy Spirit to which they yielded was renewing and sanctifying them. He strengthened them to resist temptation, and in their resisting it He purified them. And then observe, further, what there was in them which thus brought them under the working of His strengthening power. All this chapter speaks of it; but it is gathered up into the fewest possible words. All this mystery of strength is revealed in this one utterance, "Who through faith." With more or less of clearness, as God had revealed it to them, they saw that He had laid help for them upon One that was mighty; and they clave to Him, and in them the mystery was accomplished; they sought to cast themselves in their weakness upon Him; and His mighty presence stood beside them. He was in them, and they who without Him could do nothing found His strength "perfected in" their "weakness." In each one of the saints this is the pattern character. Every one passes from weakness into strength through cleaving for himself to Christ. And what they were that we are — weak, faltering, unworthy, tempted souls, far beneath His love, infinitely unworthy of His care; ever ready to sink before any enemy, to be over-mastered by every temptation; ever ready to fall away utterly, yet held up by His hand, and from the crumbling brink of perdition brought safely through to crowns and to His presence. Oh, unutterable wonders of the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God! Oh, mysterious deep of His counsels of redemption! Oh, blessed work of the life. giving Cross and bitter agony of Christ our Lord! Oh, glorious hope for every one who cleaveth closely to His righteous life for acceptance and for strength! But there is another application of this truth, which we may profitably make; for this which we have seen to be a special note of the separate spiritual life of every saint of God, is also the character of the corporate acts of the Church which is their common body. From her earliest planting this note has been especially stamped upon all which has concerned her spread and upgrowth. Thus, when our blessed Lord Himself, in His earthly ministry, gathered in the first fruits of His elect, He so veiled His glory in the likeness of our flesh that in Him there was for the common eye of men no "beauty that we should desire Him"; and so, plainly, He meant that it should be with those who bore His commission to their brethren. His chosen followers were fishermen of Galilee; and when He sent out the seventy, He sent them "two and two," with no outward accompaniment of power or presence to challenge the attention of the world. How could the note of an external weakness be more plainly stamped upon the infant Church? Yet what a manifest strength sprang out of all that weakness! And so it has been ever since. It would not be difficult to produce a multitude of instances in which it would be clear that whenever the Church has made any signal advance, it has been not by the strength of any arm of flesh, but through the power of God's grace working mightily through feeble instruments. So (to touch merely upon one example) it was manifestly when the goodness of our God towards this land enabled our fathers here to cast off that long accumulation of corruptions in doctrine, discipline, and conduct which had been heaped upon her truth, and well nigh choked her life. By what unlikely instruments, and with what an apparent feebleness of means, did the arm of God begin and carry through amongst us the blessed work of the Reformation. So that we may take this as an undoubted mark of His working in His Church, that the work may be seen to be wrought "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord"; and that we may even expect to find the chief instruments of her increase marked with this character, that "out of weakness they have been made strong."
(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
I. MENTION CASES OF CURE. I shall not now cite cases from the Old Testament of bodily cures which have been wrought by faith, though I might mention Hezekiah. In the apostolic times it was through faith that many sicknesses were made to fly before the healing touch of the apostles. That power of healing has probably become extinct, or is lying dormant in the Church; yet there are still indications that faith has some power in that direction. I cannot but think that when honest John Wickliffe, raising himself up in the bed of sickness, said to the monks who surrounded his couch expecting him to die and tempting him to recant, "I shall not die, but live to declare the wicked deeds of the monks" — I cannot but think that his faith had much to do with his cure; had he been a man of a timorous, wavering frame of mind, his sick-bed might have been his death-bed, but the vital forces were all thrown into energetic action by the mental energy of his faith, and the crisis was safely passed. I do not know how far faith may still operate upon the bodily frame, for there is certainly an intimate connection between the soul and the body. That faith strengthens Christian men has been proved often in the history of the Church of God. The Church's weakness springs mainly and mostly from a want of faith in her God, and in the revelation which God has entrusted to her. When men believe intensely they act vigorously, and when their principles penetrate their very souls, and become precious to them as life itself, then no suffering is too severe, and no undertaking is too laborious, and no conflict too heroic. This seems to me to be the great work which Luther did in his day, under God the Holy Spirit's power. He brought back the Church to the strength of faith, and then her whole force returned. What has been proved upon the largest scale has been true in all other instances. For instance, the weakness of depraved human nature always gives way before the energy of that faith which the Spirit works in us. The same is true of subsequent spiritual debility. Christians who are alive unto God, and are endowed with some Divine strength, are attacked at times with a spiritual, universal decline. Just as we sometimes see a strong and healthy person growing pale, losing appetite, and falling into sickness, until he becomes a mere skeleton, so have I seen it with Christians; they do not lose life, but they do lose all their energy. Then they can scarce walk, much less run, and mounting with wings as eagles were quite out of the question. Such persons will bear witness that the only way of recruiting their strength is by faith. They must come again to the first principles, and trust their souls anew with Jesus, believing over again with a novelty of energy the old doctrines of the gospel. They must go to God as to a real God in believing prayer, and they will not long remain weak.
II. ANALYSE THE MEDICINE. The subject is so very wide that I must confine myself to one instance, and shall speak of the medicine as it would be mixed for a man struggling at very dreadful odds against a gigantic system of evil. He was very weak, but through faith he becomes strong. One of the first ingredients of faith's medicine is a sense of right. Everybody admits that when a man is sure that right is on his side, he finds strength in that belief. Faith is a belief in the rightness of that which God reveals, a trusting in its truth, and who wonders that a man who believes, therefore becomes strong? A second ingredient is heavenly authority. Everybody knows that a man who is naturally weak will often act very bravely when he has authority to back him. Let the Christian combatant feel that he is armed with Divine authority, and you will not wonder if from a dwarf he rises to a giant. Mixed with this is a consciousness of heavenly companionship which makes the believer courageous. Many a man who would have been afraid to go to battle alone has marched along very cheerily because of the many thousands who are hurrying to the same attack. The Christian feels that he has the companionship of his God and Saviour. In addition to all this, faith has an expectation of supernatural help. Faith hears the wheels of Providence working on her behalf. I must not omit one powerful ingredient in faith's life-draught — the prospect of ultimate reward.
III. ADMINISTER THIS MEDICINE. I cannot do it. You must go to Him who compounded it, namely, the blessed Spirit of the living God, and take with you this prayer, "Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief," and this other one, "Lord, increase our faith"; but I will just give you a few hints. Some of you are going through a present personal difficulty; you are embarrassed in money matters, or a child is sick, or the wife is dying, or some other providential trim is vexing you — you are saying, "I cannot bear it! " I will not pray with you that you may be comforted in that sinful weakness, but I do beseech you to ask for faith in that Father's hand which wields the rod, that you may get out of the weakness, and may now be made strong to suffer with holy patience what your loving Father's wisdom appoints for you. Others have a spiritual duty before you, but you are shirking it because of its difficulty. You do not like to "go through the ordeal "-that is what you call it. You are disobediently timid. Now, I shall not ask God to comfort you in that weakness; you know your Master's will, and you do it not; may you be beaten with many stripes, and may the stripes be blessed to you. I will ask that, knowing your duty, you may rise out of that weakness by believing that God will help you to obey, and so out of weakness you may be made strong.
IV. PRAISE THE PHYSICIAN, and who is this? Who is it that has taught us to believe? It is our Father who is in heaven, who has taught us and bidden us trust Him; blessed be His name.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. It has been exemplified, in every age, apart from all fancy and all fanaticism, in the body. There are cases on record in medical history, in which the perfect peace of a soul entirely prepared for either alternative has actually arrested the march of disease, and made the patient literally out of weakness strong. There are cases on record in which it has been said by the physician to the sufferer, desirous to depart and to be with Christ, "Sir, in this state of joyous anticipation you cannot die." But while we believe that there is a true sense of the words in reference to the restoration of bodily health, we read them with even more pleasure in other applications — still in the region of the body — of which none can challenge the certainty or the consolation. For example, there are persons marked from infancy to old age with this sign alone of disease or mortality, that they are "weak" — "without strength." There are those whose days and years are divided between the positive seclusion of the chamber and the comparative seclusion of the home. The life so truly described as that of an "invalid" — in other words, of one without strength — makes a very peculiar demand upon the faith and patience of the sufferer. Natural good sense, conscious or unconscious self-interest, the mere habit of suffering, may do something to check murmuring, to teach silence, even to induce resignation and self-control; but there is a grace beyond these, which is the gift of Christ alone — by virtue of which the negative passes into the positive, making the physical weakness spiritual strength, and the home of the invalid a very "house of God" to inmates and visitants taught (as St. Peter says) "without the word" by the mere "conversation," that is, the tone and spirit and demeanour, of the sufferer.
2. We pass, by no violent transition, to a weakness, not physical, but mental, and would say a word upon cases in which an intellectual inferiority has been strengthened by a Divine power into a robustness not natural to it. We can recall companions of our boyhood who have done nothing, as the phrase is, in the world. They were regarded with admiration in that young community, in which gift is everything and attainment nothing; in which facility is the idol, and toil a synonym for dulness. Side by side with this unfulfilled hope and this broken promise, we place a career opposite to it in each particular — alike in the poverty of the expectation and in the richness of the result. Diligence, earnestness, perseverance, have won the day, and the saying, "Out of weakness were made strong," has received its fulfilment even before we pass entirely out of the region of man and the world. How much more when we bring God in — when we think of a case in which a true turning of the heart, a resolute faith in Christ, and a humble looking in all things to the present help of the Holy Spirit, has changed the barrenness of nature and of the Fall into the blessed harvest of grace and the gospel.
3. But if in all these ways the text has had its fulfilment — in the body, in the mind, which God the Creator has fashioned in His wisdom, has endowed out of His fulness, yet could not — the one thing He cannot do — create into independence of Himself; how much more is it witnessed in the spirit; in that part of the man, which is capable of communion with God, of action for God, but which, above even the two other, bears the impress of the defectibility, of the weakness, of the corruption of the Fall. I cannot doubt that there are persons who feel that the word "weakness" is the true description of their present spiritual state. The sense of duty is in them — but how to perform that which is good they find not. The "weakness" which they deplore is a weakness of will; they would be Christians indeed, and they cannot; they would be servants of God, and they find themselves, on the contrary, the servants of sin. Is there yet hope for this despair — strength for this weakness? When St. Paul asks, "Who shall deliver me?" he is able to answer, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." And the text says, "Out of weakness were made strong." By the strong motive of the Cross and Passion, drawing us to God "with cords of a man, with bands of love" — by the mighty power of His Holy Spirit, actually giving the strength which is obedience — thus is the work done. Thus St. Paul found himself emancipated, quickened, transformed. Thus all who in any age have given themselves, like him, to the seeking, have found, have attained, have conquered. The words are sweet, are attractive, are strong. But let us not rest in the words — let us press onward to the thing signified. "Out of weakness were made strong." Think with yourselves, each one, where and what is your weakness? Is it in some duty which flesh shrinks from? Is it in some affection, not lawful, or not moderate, or not compatible with the supreme Love? Is it in the difficulty of prayer — the heart flying back from the work of seeking and grasping and communing with the Invisible? Is it in some revelation which you cannot receive — something in the ways or in the works or in the will of God, which contradicts your present idea of the just, the wise, or the good? Bring that particular weakness to God in Christ for His strengthening. Delay not, dally not, try not again and again the miserable, the hopeless experiment of your own strength, your own will, your own endeavour. Come as weak, and be thou strong!
(Dean Vaughan.)1. As believers in the Lord Jesus, we are called to two things, namely, to do and to suffer for His name's sake. There are warriors on the field of conflict, and sentries in the box of patience.
2. Both in doing and in suffering, if we are earnest and observant, we soon discover our own weakness.
3. Our longing is to be able both to do and to suffer for our Lord, and to do this we must have strength from above, and that strength can only come to us through faith.
I. FAITH MAKES MEN STRONG FOR HOLY DOING.
1. The first duty of a Christian man is to obey God. Who among us can do this, unless a power outside of himself shall come to his aid? Faith alone takes hold of the Divine strength; and only by that strength can we obey. Hence faith is the essential point of holiness.
2. Taking another view, we would remark that faith makes us strong to fulfil the relationships of life. We are not alone by ourselves, and we can neither live nor die apart, for God has linked us with others. We either curse or bless those around us. If we have faith ill God, we shall bless our children, as Isaac and Jacob blessed their sons. If you have faith in God, you may bless your brothers while you live, as Joseph did: faith has housed many a family which else had starved. If you have faith in God, you can lead others out of the bondage of sin, and through the wilderness world, as Moses led the children of Israel; for faith is a great guide.
3. There is a high and blessed duty and privilege — I will call it both — which is to every Christian the necessity of his life, and that is to pray.
4. Faith is the great force which is needed by those whose principal work is to overcome sin. You will never be able to cut down this huge upas tree except with the axe of Christ's atoning sacrifice. Take that, and every blow will tell, but no other instrument will avail. God strengthening you, you shall out of weakness be made strong to overcome sin, though backed by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
5. Permit me to speak to some aspiring spirit here, and say — Dear friend, would you like to do something great for God? Have you heard the motto of our early missionaries: "Attempt great things for God"? Does that thought burn within your heart? Do you long to be of some use? "Oh, yes," says one, "I would attempt great things for God, but I am terribly weak." Make the attempt by faith in God; for it is written, "Out of weakness were made strong." If you feel incapable, throw yourself upon the infinite capacity of God.
6. I would make one more application of my text, which is capable of being used in a thousand directions. "Out of weakness were made strong "i this will be experienced in bearing witness for the truth of God. It is for us in our weakness to go forward as the Lord leads us; and the day of the resounding timbrels and the twinkling feet will come in due time, and Jehovah will be magnified when even humble maidens "sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously."
II. FAITH MAKES MEN STRONG FOR PATIENT SUFFERING. The patience of hope is a very important part of Christian life, and faith is the essence of it.
1. Many are called to suffer much in daily life. Commend me to firm faith for power to bear the daily cross. He that believeth hath everlasting life, and the joys which come of it. Thy faith out of weakness shall make thee strong.
2. Certain saintly ones are called to bear great physical pain, and I commend to them, from practical experience, the power of faith in God under acute agony. Give thyself up to Him, and thou shalt yet sing of His lovingkindness and tender mercies.
3. But there are other forms of suffering than these. Possibly I speak to some who are suffering the evils of persecution. Do not attempt to escape by yielding what is right and true; but ask the Lord to help you to stand fast for Him. If it be true that the Lord has His martyrs still, let it be seen that they are as brave as ever.
4. We have among us those who are not exposed to persecution, but have to stand against assaults of unbelief. Do not try to answer cavillers; but if you do, mind that faith is your weapon.
5. Again, it may be that I am speaking to sad ones who suffer under mental depression. Be assured, beyond all questioning, that he that believeth in the Lord Jesus is not condemned. Believe in Him, though you see no flashes of delight nor sparkles of joy. We are safe, because we are in the city of refuge, and not because we are, in ourselves, ill or well.
6. It may be that certain of you are called to suffer in your minds, not because of any wrong thing in yourselves, but for the sake of others. If you are chosen to be a leader and a helper, or a mother in Israel, be satisfied to endure hardness with the full belief that it is all right, and that God will not only bring you through, but will also bless somebody else by the means of your tribulations.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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