Vital Godliness: A Treatise on
Experimental and Practical Piety

By William S. Plumer


Everywhere in the Scriptures great stress is laid on faith. In scores of passages its absolute necessity is explicitly declared. With the word of God, Christian experience well agrees. The young convert had neither hope nor joy until he believed. His faith being weak, he manifests great instability. But as it increases, he grows stronger until he is undaunted, and cries, "Though he slays me, yet will I trust in him." Old Christians speak much of faith, and always love to have the truth concerning it clearly explained. But what is that faith on which the Scriptures so much insist? This is a matter of chief importance. An error here will affect our whole religious life. Faith is either human or divine.

In HUMAN faith we rely upon what men say. This we do by the constitution of our minds. Thus children rest upon what their parents tell them. Human faith is properly confined to things on which God has not spoken. Its basis is human testimony.

DIVINE faith rests on the testimony of God. It concerns things which are revealed from heaven.

A HISTORICAL faith is an intellectual assent to the truth of anything recorded in history, sacred or secular. Thus we believe that Caesar conquered Gaul, and that William of Normandy conquered Britain. But this belief has no effect in making us better or worse. Many thus believe that Moses, David, Paul, and Christ said and did all that is ascribed to them—yet this faith produces no change in their hearts. It is purely intellectual. Thus king Agrippa believed the prophets, as Paul declared. Acts 26:27.

The faith of MIRACLES was a belief that God could and would work a miracle. This faith has long since ceased to exist. Yet in the days of Christ and his apostles it was quite common. It had no saving power. Many thus believed and perished. Matt. 7:22, 23; 1 Cor. 13:2.

The faith of DEMONS is mentioned by James 2: 19: "The devils also believe and tremble." This is a reluctant belief. It is forced upon them. It is not confined to fallen angels. Men often have a belief of divine things which makes them very apprehensive. Thus Felix trembled under the terrors of conscience produced by Paul's preaching. Thus sinners often die in despair, choked with divine terrors. This faith has no love, no real penitence, no submission, no humility in it. It works wrath, terror, and alienation from God.

A TEMPORARY faith is a transient persuasion that the things of revelation are true, important, and interesting. It seizes upon the temporal benefits of the gospel, and fills the imagination with very vivid conceptions of the benefits of godliness, at least for this life. But it never truly engages the affections to divine things. A little tribulation or persecution kills it outright. Luke 8:13. It never changes the heart. It is not in its nature saving.

The faith of God's people, relates to things past, present, and to come. It believes that God made the world. There is the past. It believes that God is. There is the present. It believes that there will be a day of judgment. There is the future. Nor are these and other revealed truths believed by different kinds of faith, but all by one and the same faith. As with the same visual organ we look to the east, to the west, to the north, and to the south—at objects far from us or near to us, so with the same eye of faith we look at things thousands of years past, or thousands of years to come, or things now existing in the unseen world. Of old for thousands of years the pious believed in a Savior to come. In the days of his flesh, his disciples believed in a Savior then come. For nearly two thousand years God's people have believed in a Savior that has come. In all these cases the faith was the same in principle and in its effects also. The Westminster Confession says, "The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened. By this faith a Christian believes to be true whatever is revealed in the word for the authority of God himself speaking therein, and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory; growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith."

A little consideration of this account of faith will show how full, complete, and scriptural it is. The first thing asserted is that saving faith is not of earthly, but of heavenly origin; that it is not of man, but of God. Faith is the gift of God. It is expressly called a "faith of the operation of God." "Unto you it is given on the behalf of Christ to believe on him." "God has dealt to every man the measure of faith." When Peter said, 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God,' Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father who is in heaven." This faith is particularly ascribed to the Holy Spirit as its author. He produces it in the heart. So say the Scriptures. "The fruit of the Spirit is faith." "To another is given faith by the same Spirit." "We having the same Spirit of faith, also believe." The reason why saving faith endures, is because it is the incorruptible seed of God.

It is next said that in working this faith in us, God puts honor upon his word as the ordinary instrument. With this also the Scriptures well agree. "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe." This is the foundation of all our encouragement in proclaiming the gospel. That which is sown in the weakness of man is raised in the mighty energy of the Holy Spirit. No wonder that such happy results flow from proclaiming the gospel—whenever God's Spirit attends it. It is thus the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. "God's gracious biddings are effectual enablings."

In like manner this faith is chiefly nourished by the ministry of the word and other ordinances, and by prayer. "Lord, increase our faith." The baptism of water is effectual—when accompanied by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The breaking of bread and drinking of wine are means of nourishment to all those who drink spiritually of the Rock which follows them, even Christ, and who by faith eat the true bread which comes down from heaven, even the Son of God. All the saints desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby.

True faith respects all God's word. It receives narratives, promises, threatenings, doctrines, precepts, warnings, encouragements, all as they were designed for its use. It obeys God's commands. They were given for that purpose. It is afraid of his threatenings. It trembles at his word. It relies upon the promises, both as they respect this life and the next. It takes warning from many parts of Scripture. It rejoices in solid scriptural encouragement. It relies upon God's word as testimony that is infallible. Whatever God speaks, faith believes. It receives all he has said. The word of God lives and abides forever. So faith receives it as his word, and not as the word of man. His authority is perfect.

But saving faith has special reference to Christ. So the Scriptures often teach. "Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" "If we accept the testimony of men, God's testimony is greater, because it is God's testimony that He has given about His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given about His Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn't have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:9-12) "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life." "He that believes on him is not condemned."

The great theme of God's word is Christ Jesus. "To him give all the prophets witness." "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." If to deny the Father is fatal, so is it also to deny the Son. If to do despite to the Spirit of grace involves the loss of the soul, to reject Christ as the Savior makes destruction inevitable. But to receive Christ, to rest upon him, to look to him, to come to him, to flee to him for refuge, to take him as our Sacrifice, as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and to do this heartily, is the great office of saving faith.

This faith is not of equal strength in all believers, nor in the same believer at all times. We read of "him who is weak in faith," of "little faith," and of "great faith." Faith grows by the divine blessing. The faith of some grows "exceedingly." Every true disciple says, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." It finally gains every needful victory. In some cases it is matured into full assurance. This is all through Christ, who begins, carries on, and perfects the work of faith in us by his Spirit and grace. This whole view of faith is consistent with itself and with all the Scriptures. It explains many things which otherwise would seem to us enigmatical. First, we see why faith always was and always will be necessary. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." This was the religion of those early times. "When the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?" This will be the religion of the last times. The reason why no man was ever able or shall ever be able to please God without faith, is, that unbelief at every step sets aside all that God has said and done for man's salvation. He who would be saved in unbelief, would put perpetual contempt on all the arrangements of heaven for the recovery of lost men. We also see how reasonable it is that faith should be required of us. "Have faith in God." "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established." "This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent." "Be not faithless, but believing."

These are but specimens of the authoritative tones in which God speaks to us on this subject. He could not say less if he sought our good. To permit us to live in unbelief would be to license all sin. We can also now understand why the minds of truly pious people are so ready to take up with God's offers of grace and mercy. Believing all God says, they of course receive as true all that he has alleged concerning their fallen and depraved condition. In other words, they find out that they are sinners—lost, guilty, vile, and helpless. To such the gospel is always good news. It is indeed life from the dead to a poor convinced sinner, to see the door of mercy wide open, and Christ standing ready to receive all that come to him. It is also clear that our friends can do for us nothing more kind than earnestly to pray that our faith may abound. As Paul says, "We pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power." Nor should we cease to implore the same blessing for ourselves. He who has right views in this matter will never lean on himself, nor trust in his own goodness, or wisdom, or power.

Thomas Boston well says, "Faith goes out of itself for all its needs." Its trust in Another is at war with all self-reliance. Thus saving faith always begets humility. It brings down the haughty to a sense of dependence. It takes away vain-glorious notions and boastings. Henry Venn says, "Faith, though it be weak and imperfect, instead of exalting itself against the justice of God, and standing before him in the confidence of a lie—puts all from itself, and gives the whole glory of our salvation where it is due. So that as faith goes abroad in quest of supplies, so it goes forth of itself to bestow its honors. Its unceasing language is, "Not unto us, not unto us, but to your name give glory."

We can also see the difference between implicit and explicit faith. Implicit faith takes God at his word, obeys, and is at peace. Explicit faith would have everything explained, and all difficulties removed, before it would trust the promise or obey the command. Implicit faith first relies, then proves. Explicit faith would first prove, then trust. This made Bishop Hall say, "With men it is a good rule to try first, and then to trust; but with respect to God it is otherwise. I will first trust him as most wise, omnipotent, and merciful, and try him afterwards. It is as impossible for him to deceive me as not to be." "The school of God and nature require two contrary manners of proceeding. In the school of nature we must understand, and then believe; in the school of God we must first believe, and then we shall understand. He that believes no more than he understands, can never be a Christian; nor he a philosopher that assents without understanding. In nature's school we are taught to elicit the truth by logical discourse; but God cannot endure a logician. In his school, he is the best scholar that reasons least and assents most. In divine things, I will understand what I can; the rest I will believe and admire. Not a curious head, but a believing and plain heart is accepted with God."

The same is strongly expressed in other words by Thomas Goodwin: "Of all acts of faith, this of pure trust does honor God most, and has indeed more of faith in it: the purer the trust is, the greater the trust is; and the greater the trust is, the greater the faith is; and the greater the faith, the more honor comes to God." Mason also says, "Men would first see, and then believe; but they must first believe, and then see." Our Savior said, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed."

Of course, implicit faith in man, or in any system of doctrines taught by men, is great folly. There we have a right to demand explanation, reasons, proof. But when God says a thing is so, the more simply, promptly, and firmly we believe what he says the better. It is the height of wisdom to receive every word of God as pure and true, asking no questions expressive of doubt or distrust. And yet faith, even the simplest and strongest, is not irrational, nor foolish. No man acts so wisely as he who implicitly believes God. Abraham never showed that his faculties were so well regulated and orderly as when he went straight forward at God's bidding to sacrifice Isaac. He asked no reasons, he stated no difficulties; he simply did as he had been commanded, and staggered not through unbelief. The reason why faith is so wise is, because it reposes confidence in God—who cannot lie, cannot change, cannot fail, cannot be deceived, thwarted, or even perplexed; who sees the end from the beginning, who loves beyond all names of love known to mortals, or even to angels; a God and Savior who never trampled on a broken heart, who never despised the cry of the humble, who never left the penitent to perish in their sins, and who will infallibly bring to eternal glory all who take refuge in atoning blood. Implicit faith in each God and in all His teachings in Scripture, is the height of wisdom and virtue; though implicit faith in any other, even in an angel from heaven, would be folly. Jer. 17:5; Gal. 1:8.

The view already given of faith harmonizes well with the definitions given of it by all sound writers. The following is a good definition: "Justifying faith is a saving grace wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness therein held forth for the pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation." Haldane says, "Justifying faith is the belief of the testimony of Christ, and trust in him who is the subject of that testimony. It is believing with the heart." Mason says, "Reliance is the essence of faith. Christ is the object, the word is the food, and obedience the proof; so that true faith is a depending on Christ for salvation, in a way of obedience, as he is offered in the gospel." Archibald Alexander says, "A full persuasion of the truth revealed is faith in every case; but when the truth believed is a divine promise, this persuasion is of the nature of trust or confidence." Dwight says, "The faith of the gospel is that emotion of the mind which is called trust or confidence, exercised towards the moral character of God, and particularly of the Savior." Charnock says, "Faith is a receiving the testimony of Christ in the certainty of it and in the extent of it—the testimony of God's promises to encourage us, of his precepts to direct us, of his threatenings to awe us and make us adhere faster to him—a resting in this testimony as certain, as the center of our souls, the only foundation of our hopes. God is the ultimate object of faith, Christ the immediate object of faith. Christ gives the testimony; God is the subject of that testimony. When the witness Christ gives of the things he has seen and heard, is received to be rested in as the ground of our hope and the rule of our walk, this is faith." Hodge says, "Faith is not the mere assent of the mind to the truth of certain propositions. It is a cordial persuasion of the truth, founded on the experience of its power, or the spiritual perception of its nature, and on the divine testimony. Faith is therefore a moral exercise. Men believe with the heart in the ordinary scriptural meaning of that word; and no faith which does not proceed from the heart is connected with justification."

John Owen, speaking of the way of life by Christ Jesus, says, "That faith which works in the soul a gracious persuasion of the excellency of this way, by a sight of the glory, wisdom, power, grace, love, and goodness of God in it, so as to be satisfied with it as the best, the only way of coming unto God, with a renunciation of all other ways and means unto that end, will at all times evidence its nature and sincerity."

Without further comparing formal definitions on this subject, it may be said that sound writers fully agree with the Scriptures in representing faith as a simple act of the mind, in which both the understanding and will are united; that the light of knowledge goes before it so far as to reveal the mind of God, and so it is not blind and credulous, but sober, watchful, and intelligent; and that it is the fruit of warm affections, and so is not cold, speculative, and without practical effect. Archibald Alexander says, "Faith is one simple exercise of the mind, including, however, both the understanding and will." John Calvin says, "The seat of faith is not in the brain, but in the heart; not that I wish to enter into any dispute concerning the part of the body which is the seat of faith, but since the word heart generally means a serious, sincere, ardent affection, I am desirous to show faith to be a firm, efficacious, and operative principle in all the emotions and feelings of the soul—not a mere naked notion of the head." Nearly all sound and lucid writers are careful to express in so many words their view of faith, as being more than mere assent of the mind to the truth proposed. "With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Rom. 10:10. Mason says, "Assurance sets the notion of faith too high, assent too low." John Newton says, "Assent may be the act of our natural reason; faith is the effect of immediate almighty power. Assent is often given where it has little or no influence upon the conduct. Faith is always efficacious."

The effects of saving faith are many and of great value. Indeed they are so important, that without them salvation in any of its benefits is impossible.

1. True faith is the instrument of a sinner's JUSTIFICATION before God. So the Scriptures abundantly teach. "The just shall live by faith." "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." "If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain." Here is a grand result. Sin is forgiven and the sinner is accepted simply by believing on Him who is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

This is indeed a mystery and an offence to many. "Justification by sanctification is man's way to heaven, and he will make a little serve the turn. Sanctification by justification is God's method of salvation. God's way is as mighty as it is wise. There is great historical verity in the statement of James Mackintosh, that "the Calvinistic people of Scotland, Switzerland, and New England have been more moral than the same classes among other nations. Those who preached faith, or in other words, a pure mind, have always produced more popular virtue than those who preached good works, or the mere regulation of outward works." Justification by faith alone, is a doctrine highly promotive of holiness.

2. ADOPTION is also by faith. "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name." "You are all the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ." What an amazing change is this! A child of the devil becomes a child of God, an heir of perdition is changed into an heir of glory—and all by reliance on the word of God, and by confidence in the person and merits of Jesus Christ. No wonder believers have ever celebrated the wonders of faith.

3. Besides obtaining justification and adoption, we also by faith are made partakers of the Holy Spirit to all the ends of illumination, sanctification, and encouragement in the Lord. Christ says, "He who believes on me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water. This he spoke of the Spirit, which those who believe on him would receive." There is no success, progress, or comfort in piety, but through this blessed Spirit. To receive him in his fullness of grace, is to secure the pledge of all good things, the pledge of heaven itself. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him." But if a man have the Spirit of Christ, nothing can prove him a castaway, a reprobate, an enemy.

4. Saving faith is an infallible sign of regeneration. None ever thus believed but those who "were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." Genuine faith being ours, our regeneration is no longer doubtful. Charnock says, "Faith is of absolute necessity to regeneration. Faith is a radical, vital grace; as blood in the veins is to the body, so is faith to the soul. No regeneration without the Spirit; and faith is the first grace the Spirit infuses.

5. The powerful effect of true faith in purifying the heart is among its transcendent blessings. This chiefly makes the difference between saving faith and the faith of devils. Saving faith awakens intense hatred of sin, eager longings after holiness, blessed hopes of attaining complete conformity to God, and a purpose to do right, whatever may be the result. There is no effectual purifying of the heart but by faith—by faith laying hold of Christ, and obeying the truth. Hooker well says, "To make a wicked and sinful man most holy through his believing—is more than to create a world of nothing."

6. Another effect of true faith is to enkindle the affections. "Faith works by love." It draws out the heart intensely after Christ. "To you who believe he is precious;" or, as it might be rendered, "preciousness." Saving faith indeed causes a wholesome fear of God; but its reigning power is not that of terror, but of love. This sways everything, counts no sacrifice for Christ too great, and gladly yields all to him. "The love of Christ constrains us."

7. Another effect of faith is, that it overcomes the world, and so is unlike every kind of dead faith. 1 John 5:4. To gain a victory over the world is more than philosophy ever did; more than unaided nature ever made a tolerable show of doing; more than ever was done but by one who had the faith of Jesus. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are too strong for any—except for the power of God working by the Spirit in the hearts of believers. Therefore, God saves no man but by working this faith which overcomes the world, in him. Thus we read, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." If God designs any saving good to you, the first infallible evidence of it will be, that he will work faith in you.

8. Faith is the great foster-parent of all that belongs to scriptural piety. It begets true worship, godly fear, devout thanksgiving, genuine humility, Christian boldness, holy joy, evangelical repentance, enlarged liberality, fervent love, a pure conscience, a holy life, victory over the world, and eternal glory. Arrowsmith says, "Faith can support when nature shrinks; faith can call God Father when he frowns, and make some discovery of a sun through the darkest cloud." I had rather be able to walk in darkness, and have no light, and yet trust in the Lord, than to work miracles and subdue kingdoms.

There are no offerings like those of faith. It makes no conditions. It makes no reserves. It cavils not. It falters not. Faith gazes upon the cross until the course of the new nature is set on fire with heavenly love! It best of all promotes its own interest by utterly forgetting itself, and so realizes what a class of writers have asserted, that "true greatness is unconscious." The believer rises by throwing over all that could weigh him down to earth. And as faith is self-renouncing, so it goes forth to glorify God. John Owen says, "It is the proper nature of faith to concentrate on the admiration of that which is infinite." It consents to be as nothing, that God may be all and in all. It excludes boasting. Rom. 3:27. It is as jealous for Gods honor as it is for personal salvation. Like the sun in nature, so faith in the new nature serves and warms all around it and under its influence. It begets repentance. Jonah 3:5. It kindles love to an unseen Savior. 1 Pet. 1:8. It brings forth forgiveness to enemies. Luke 17:3-5. It is the great means by which the God of hope fills his people with all joy and peace. Rom. 15:13. It gives all the stability we have. It nourishes other graces, as did Joseph his brethren in Egypt. It ever claims and clings to a fullness in Christ. It makes the soul willing to wait a thousand years for an explanation of an act of providence. It is ever laying its crown at the feet of Immanuel, and giving God the glory. It puts things in their proper place. It abases the sinner in the dust. It sets God on the throne of universal dominion, and Christ upon the mercy-seat. It pronounces all God's ways just and equal. It consents to the law that it is holy, just, and good. It receives the gospel as glad tidings of great joy, and cries, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace; that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation, that says unto Zion, Your God reigns."

Faith welcomes, and does not pervert, the doctrine of a gratuitous salvation. It says of the Savior, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." It cries, "God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yes, it counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of God's dear Son! No marvel that inspired writers so much celebrate a grace that brings such good to man, and such glory to God. They call it "precious faith." They say it is common to all the people of God. They declare a man blessed who has even the least saving faith. They say, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." That is, "it gives the object hoped for at some future period, a present reality in the soul, as if already possessed." "Faith is also the evidence, the internal conviction, the demonstration of all unseen things." A believer acts as really upon the existence of things invisible, future, eternal, and hoped for—as he does upon his past experience or his intuitive perceptions.

Even "the trial of your faith" is said to be "much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire;" and shall "be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." When inspiration would hold up God's sovereignty to the admiration of all right-minded men, it says, "Hearken, my beloved brethren, has not God chosen the poor of this world, to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him?" In short, a scheme of religion without faith would be as futile and powerless as a scheme of mercy without a Savior.

It is indeed true that faith shall not, like love, last and flourish forever; but like hope, it shall give place to a new state. Faith shall be changed into sight, and hope into enjoyment. In this sense, love is greater than either of these graces. 1 Cor. 13:13. But this is not to their discredit. In this life, they do what no other graces can accomplish. In particular, faith unites to Christ, lays hold of salvation, conquers every foe, brings every blessing into the soul, pronounces death abolished, crying, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Oh it is worth a lifetime of toil, suffering, and self-denial, to be able in the end to say with Paul, "I know whom I have believed; and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day;" or, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but also unto all those who love his appearing."

One of Halyburton's dying sayings was, "The little acquaintance I have had with God within these two days, has more than ten thousand times repaid the pains I have in all my life taken with religion. It is good to have God to go to, when we are turning our face to the wall. He is known for a refuge in the palaces of Zion; a very present help in trouble."

In APPLYING this discussion of saving faith to practical use, observe,

1. The life of a Christian is one of war. The powers of darkness and the powers of light make his soul the arena of deadly strife, the battlefield where their legions contend for victory. There is nothing good, but it has its opposite. Arrayed against God, is Satan. If God has given his law, Satan also issues his precepts. Many, very wicked, and false are the great principles, the common maxims of Satan's kingdom—which are endorsed by the lives of wicked men, and pleasing to the natural heart. Who can resist their power? No one who is left to his own strength. Without living faith in God, every man will fully serve the wicked one. Without faith in Christ, the love of sin cannot be overcome. In this war we shall utterly fail—without faith in God—without the help that comes from God by faith in Christ Jesus. William Bridge well says, "True, saving, justifying faith carries the soul through all difficulties, discouragements, and natural impossibilities—to Jesus Christ!" Be not cast down because the war lasts long, or because the conflict is terrible. Fight on. Do not entangle yourself with the things of this world. Be of good courage. Be courageous like men. Be strong.

2. See the wisdom of submitting all our sentiments and practices to God's word in the spirit of humble teachableness. "Do not teach the Bible, but let the Bible teach you." Come not to the study of God's word as a judge or a critic, but as a child and humble learner. The world is full of mournful cases of people who believed what was agreeable to their natural bias, and rejected everything else. The result has always been sad. Many examples might be given. An authoress somewhat celebrated, who had declared her preference for the god of 'Thomson's Seasons' or of 'Hutchinson's Ethics' over the God revealed in the Scriptures, in her old age thus wrote: "What does life offer past eighty? For my own part, I only find that many things I knew, I have forgotten; many things I thought I knew, I find I knew nothing about; some things I know, I have found not worth knowing; and some things I would give—Oh, what would I not give?—to know what is beyond the reach of human thought. The powers of man strive—how vainly!—to penetrate the veil, to pierce the thick darkness which covers the future. Life seems of no value but for what lies beyond; and yet our views of the future are perhaps cheerful or gloomy, according to the weather or our nerves." Lo, this is the

woman who preferred the God of nature to the God of grace; whose imagination ruled her creed; whose fancy governed her faith.

How strong is the contrast between such faith and such dark views of life and those of that eminent servant of God, Mrs. Hannah More, who at eighty says, "I have nothing to do but to trust in Him who governs all worlds. I bless God I enjoy great tranquility of mind, and am willing to depart and be with Christ when it is his will; but I leave it in His hands who does all things well." Still later in life she exclaimed, "God of life and light, whom have I in heaven but you? Happy, happy are those who are expecting to meet in a better world. The thought of that world lifts the mind above itself. O glorious grace! It is a glorious thing to die."

If you desire a useful life, a pleasant old age, a comfortable death, or a blissful immortality—believe God, trust to his grace, rely on his Son. Mingle not human and divine helps and hopes. Rely on God alone as your Father, on Christ alone as your Redeemer, on the Holy Spirit alone as your Comforter.

Charnock says, "He who has many things to trust to, is in suspense which he should take hold of; but when there is but one left, with what greediness will he clasp about that. God cuts down worldly props—that we might make him our stay."

John Newton says, "Grace and faith can make the lowest state of life supportable—and make a dismissal from the highest desirable."

Yield your understanding to be taught of God; yield your heart to be purified and educated for God; yield your life a sacrifice to God. All this is your reasonable service. To do less is to rob God. Remember that nothing will stand the test of experience, but that which will endure the trial of a fair comparison with Scripture. Always believe just what God has revealed for your salvation. If some things are not pleasant at first, they may still be useful through life, and in the end become a fountain of joy.

3. It may be proper here to say that ASSURANCE, or freedom from all doubt, is not of the essence of faith. "There is as much difference between faith and assurance, as there is between the root and the fruit," says Mason. He who says that one without assurance has no faith, might as well say that an infant is not a human being. The greatest source of unhappiness to the pious, is the weakness of their faith. It was sad to hear Jacob crying out, "All these things are against me!" They were in fact all for him and for his family.

Assurance may be lost. Genuine faith cannot be lost. David lost his assurance, but he did not cease to be a believer. Assurance is a flower that opens with the sun, and shuts at night. But faith grows and flourishes in cloudy weather, in the shade, and even in total darkness. Assurance indeed is the faith which has matured, full-grown, perfected. Assurance is every way desirable and vastly consolatory, and certainly attainable. We should all seek it, pray and labor for it; and if we attain it, take good heed that we lose it not. We should never forget that assurance is as purely the gift of God, as the least degree of faith. It is greatly to be lamented that the faith of so many seems sickly. Strong faith is one of the best gifts. Yet let none forget that little faith, when genuine, is pleasing to God, and eternally unites to Christ. "Assuredly the least exercise of true faith in Christ constitutes a man his disciple," says Dr. Scott. To be able to come trembling and touch the hem of Christ's garment, as surely proves us in the covenant, as to have a faith that will remove mountains.

This view is the more important, as true believers are always modest, and have a low opinion of their own attainments in all respects. There is many a man who cannot deny that he has some faith, who yet regards himself as the least of all saints, the most faltering of all the true friends of God. This may be the case with the most eminent saints. Let us never teach nor embrace a doctrine which would fill such with sadness.

4. The great guilt and misery of the unconverted are found in their utter lack of true faith. Unbelief is their great sin. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light." The Spirit convinces the world of sin chiefly in this—that they do not believe in Christ.

The unhappiness of a state of unbelief is also fearful. It leaves the soul without any resource in difficulties—without God in this troublesome world.

UNBELIEF is the great parent and supporter of other forms of wickedness. It fills the mind with wicked and violent prejudices against truth—as in the case of the unbelieving Jews in the time of our Savior, as in the case of unbelievers in our own day. It begets and nourishes a strong voluntary preference for the things of time—above those of eternity; for the riches of earth—above the unsearchable riches of Christ; for the honor which comes from man—above the honor which comes from God; for the pleasures of sin for a season—above the pleasures for evermore at God's right hand. It nourishes above all other things, PRIDE—pride of intellect, of family, of learning, of ability, of manliness, of personal virtue. It begets sloth, dullness of understanding, lack of sincere inquiry. It generates stubborn perversity. It makes men walk contrary to their convictions, and their avowed principles. It mars or renounces all the duties of spiritual religion. It is revengeful, and will not forgive injuries. It is self-willed, and refuses to bow to the authority of God. It begets feelings of disloyalty to God. It prevents all true spiritual worship. It annihilates the promises and abrogates the covenant of God in the case of all in whose hearts it has sway. It makes the death of Christ of no effect. It scornfully rejects the remedy provided for us, in our ruined condition. It is no wonder that God has said, "He who believes not—shall be damned!"

For men to profess to be 'educated' when they say that they believe what they see and no more, is very absurd. Apply this rule to the things of this world, and who can properly believe that there is or ever was any man, city, island, or country, except those which he has seen? When God testifies in His word, unbelief is as uneducated as it is wicked. How absurd for a creature to make an argument with the Creator; for a worm of the dust to revise the decisions of infinite wisdom; for a sinner to reject the Savior because there are in the plan of salvation some things too deep to be sounded by the line of human intellect. There can be nothing blacker than unbelief. It impeaches God's wisdom, power, goodness, justice, mercy, truth, and faithfulness. It holds up the God of truth as unworthy of believing. It makes him a liar. It charges him with perjury. It derides all his goodness and despises all his mercy. It makes light of the bloody sweat and dying agonies of his dear Son. It is a sin against the law, against the gospel, against the divine attributes, against every Person in the Godhead, against the highest testimonies, against our own best interests, against the only way of life and salvation. Without faith it is impossible to please God.

5. Let all labor for an increase of faith. Resort to all lawful endeavors for the growth of this vital principle of faith. Venn says, "Solitude is a great nourisher of faith; were we more alone to pray and look back upon ourselves, not to find any good, but to observe more of the amazing blindness of heart, unbelief, selfishness, and vile idolatry, which so benumb our feelings of the love of Christ; were we to be more alone for these purposes, we would enjoy more of the presence and joy of God." The reading of good pious biography, and in particular of the sufferings of the martyrs, does, with the divine blessing, mightily strengthen the faith of God's people. For the same reason we should rejoice in all tribulation, because under God it strengthens the faith of all his people. Blessed is the man who by faith lays up a good foundation against the time to come.

6. We should especially so live and labor that we may die in faith. How blessed is he who is permitted to close his earthly existence in the confidence of that holy belief which disarms death of all stings and terrors. But this is not to be expected after a life of carelessness. Good old Willison gives "these advices" to all who would be so happy as to die in faith:

1. Be careful to get faith beforehand; for death is a time to use faith, not to get it. They were foolish virgins, who had their oil to buy when the bridegroom was close at hand.

2. Study to live every day in the exercise of faith, and be still improving, and making use of Christ in all his offices, and for all those ends and uses for which God has given them to believers.

3. Frequently clear up your evidences for heaven, and beware of letting sin blot them.

4. Record and lay up the experiences of God's dealings with you, and be often reflecting upon them, that you may have them ready at hand in the hour of death.

5. Lastly, meditate much on those promises which have been sweet and comfortable to you in the time of trials—and beg that the Lord may bring them to your remembrance when you come to die.

In short, a life of faith is the only sure pledge of dying in faith; and a death without faith is a death without hope.

"Faith lights us through the dark to Deity;
|Faith builds a bridge across the gulf of death,
To break the shock that nature cannot shun,
And lands thought smoothly on the further shore."