Few, I believe, read the history of Israel's deliverance
from Egypt, passage through the Red Sea, and daily miraculous provision in
the wilderness; on the one hand—with their doubts, quarrels, complaints,
murmuring, and rebellion; yet on the other hand—but are ready to cry out, O
hard-hearted Jews! O unbelieving Israelites, to doubt in the midst of such a
glorious display of divine goodness! Well, then l truly believe that no
Christian ever lived any while below but one time or other had providences
exercised towards him in such a manner as forbade him any more to doubt.
Therefore, we may convert our cry against the Jews into a complaint against
ourselves, and condemn our own unbelieving hearts, which can, in the midst
of so many exceeding great and precious promises, under the sunshine of so
much tender mercy and loving kindness—cry out, 'I perish, I perish!'
How horrid, how hateful, and how hurtful
a sin is unbelief! It spits in the face of the promise, and
accounts the faithfulness of God a lie. Unbelief forgets all the great
things which God has done before—and despairs of ever seeing again the like
displays of divine power. Unbelief heightens the calamity, doubles the
distress, and concludes deliverance impossible. As the prayer of faith opens
heaven—so the despondence of unbelief shuts it. Unbelief starves the soul,
and disturbs sweet tranquility of mind. Unbelief musters fears, multiplies
enemies, and says, like Solomon's sluggard, "There is a lion in the way, I
shall be slain." As strong faith glorifies God most, so great unbelief
dishonors him to the highest degree. It binds up the very arm of God, who
cannot, who will not do many mighty works where unbelief prevails.
Unbelief draws death out of the book of life, by
gathering up the threatenings, and passing over the promises. As the most
perfect degree of faith, which is assurance, is heaven begun below—so the
highest degree of unbelief, which is despair, is hell begun in time. How
daringly does it contend with God, and dispute the matter with the Most
High! Says God, "Put me in remembrance of my promise," but says unbelief,
"You have forgotten to be gracious, and in your wrath have shut up your
tender mercies." Says God, "Remember what enemies consulted against you, and
what enemies answered, that you may know the righteousness of the Lord;" but
says unbelief, "This evil is from the Lord, why should I wait for him any
longer?" Says God, "I have blotted out your sins as a cloud, and your
iniquities as a thick cloud;" "No!" says unbelief, "they are marked before
you in a book, for time to come, forever and ever!"
Now, shall I harbor such a monster in my bosom—which
would turn my whole soul into confusion? Shall I circumscribe that power
that has often displayed its glory in my deliverance? Shall I deny the
merits of the sufferings of the Son of God, or the virtue of his blood?
Shall I be afraid that his grace be not sufficient to strengthen me for the
performance of every duty to which he may call me? It is not only
ungenerous—but sinful, to entertain thoughts so detracting from the glory of
God, and so destructive to my own soul's comfort. Henceforth, let me be
strong in the faith, giving glory to God. Let me lift my eyes from growing
difficulties of every kind, on every hand, and look to God—so shall the
mountain become a plain, and over the 'stream of affliction' I shall go dry
But why condemn Israel, and not myself? The God who did
those wonders, is the same with whom I have to do. As I believe them to be
true, I am as much bound to believe as they were who saw them—seeing he
changes not, nor faints, nor is weary, and since his care over his church
and saints is the same in all ages. And though I am not to expect miracles,
by which he confirmed the church to himself in those times, yet I am with as
great confidence to depend on that God, to whom miracles are as easy as the
common course of nature—as if I were governed by the interposition of
miracles. Let me not, then myself commit, what I condemn in others—but learn
spiritual wisdom from spiritual folly! Yes, how flagrantly guilty shall I be
if I retain a transgression in my right hand, for which I have seen, in the
sacred records, men so awfully punished, and with which God has shown
himself so highly displeased!
And no wonder, for unbelief strikes against God; whatever
the language of other sins be—this still speaks against God, even in every
murmuring whisper! Unbelief speaks against his faithfulness, as if
his promise might not be depended on, nor his record received! Unbelief
speaks against his power—as if he could not perform and bring to
pass! Unbelief speaks against his wisdom—as if he could not foresee!
Unbelief speaks against his providence—as if he could not protect,
defend, provide! Unbelief speaks against his Counsel—as if he could
not direct! Unbelief speaks against his mercy—as if he had no
compassion! Unbelief speaks against his conduct—as if he could err!
In a word, unbelief speaks against all his glorious perfections—as if he
were not God!
If my unbelief respects my sin, I look more to the
demerit of my transgressions—than to the dignity of the divine Redeemer, who
takes away the sin of the world. Now, as the Creator is infinitely greater;
so the Savior, who is Immanuel, God with us—is infinitely above the sinner,
and from eternal wrath can save to the uttermost, all who come to God
through him. It is but cruel unbelief at the bottom, however I may pretend
to put honor on the holiness of God—when I say that my sins are too
atrocious to be satisfied for, by the death and sufferings of our incarnate
God—and too black to be washed away by the blood of the Lamb of God.
Again, if my unbelief respects the affairs of this life—I
measure omnipotence by my weakness, infinite wisdom by my folly, and God by
myself. So, when I am bewildered—unbelief thinks that God is also
perplexed—else why should I be disquieted in any condition, were not my
thoughts of this detestable stamp; seeing he can rescue his people out of
all distress? Then let me look, in all cases and afflicting
circumstances—beyond the appearance—above the probability—yes, above
apparent impossibilities—to God alone, and I shall never repent my
confidence, nor be ashamed of my hope!