Faith Versus Sight
No. 677. Delivered by C. H. Spurgeon, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7
I think the apostle is here explaining how it was he could say, that while he was at home in the body, he was absent from the Lord; and why he
felt that this present life was not the state in which he wished forever to be in. Having been possessed, and actuated, and moved by the principle of faith, he was not content to tabernacle in a body which could only be dwelt in satisfactorily through the influence of the faculty of sight. The apostle, however, mentions here a great general principle– "We walk by faith, not by sight" and, in talking upon this text this evening, we shall, without pretending to go into it fully, speak, first of all, upon the posture mentioned; then upon the two principles contrasted; and then upon a certain caution which is here implied.
I. First, a word or two about THE POSTURE MENTIONED– WALKING. Paul, speaking of believers, says– "We walk by faith, not by sight." Walking is, of course, a posture, which implies the possession of life. You can make a dead man sit in a certain position, or even stand in a chosen posture. But to walk necessitates the possession of inward life. It becomes with us, therefore, a question in the first place, whether we have the life of God within us. In the sense in which the term "walk" is here used, the ungodly man does not walk at all. He hastens after his own lusts, and he treads in the way of the flesh. But in a spiritual sense he is, and always must be, a stranger to "walking" until God has quickened him. When we shall see corpses walking along our highways, and pass them at eventide in our streets, then shall we expect to see Christian feelings, Christian emotions, and Christian character exhibited by unconverted men, but not until then. There must first be an inward life, before there can be the outward sign of it.
But, walking is a position, which also signifies actively. You would suppose, from the way in which some Christians deport themselves, that their whole life was spent in meditation. It is a blessed thing to sit "With Mary at the Master’s feet;" but we walk as well as sit. We do not merely learn, but we practice what we know. We are not simply scholars, but, having been taught as scholars, we go on to show our scholarship by working in the vineyard, and wherever else the Master may be pleased to place us. The quietists and mystics are a class of people who have a peculiar attraction for my mind; and I suppose the mention of such a name as that of Madame Guyon, who, among females, stands at the very head of the school, will awaken in many of you many sweet remembrances of times enjoyed in reading her blessed hymns, and her sweet and admirable life. But, after all, it is not the highest style of Christian living to be a mystic or a quietist. "We walk."
Some Christians seem as if they always sat; but "we walk." You would gather, indeed, from what others say, that the whole life of a Christian is to be spent in prayer. Prayer, it is true, is the vitality of the secret parts of Christian life, but we are not always on our knees, we are not constantly engaged in seeking blessings from heaven. We do "continue in prayer," but we are also engaged in showing forth to others the blessings which we have received, and in exhibiting in our daily actions the fruits which we have gathered on the mountain-top of communion with God. "We walk," and this implies activity. Oh! I would that some Christians would pay a little attention to their legs, instead of paying it all to their heads. When children’s heads grow too fast it is a sign of disease, and they get the rickets, or water on the brain. So, there are some very sound brethren, who seem to me to have got some kind of disease, and when they try to walk, they straightway make a tumble of it, because they have paid so much attention to perplexing doctrinal views, instead of looking, as they ought to have done, to the practical part of Christianity. By all means let us have doctrine, but by all means let us have precept too. By all means let us have inward experience, but by all means let us also have outward "holiness, without which no man can see the Lord." "We walk." This is more than some can say. They can affirm– "We talk; we think; we experience; we feel;" but true Christians can say, with the apostle Paul, "We walk." Oh that we may ever be able to say it too! Here, then, is the activity of the Christian life.
In the posture of walking there is also implied progress. A man does not walk unless he make some headway. We are not always practicing the goose-step; we are not always lifting our foot, and then putting it down in the same place. This may do very well for the beginners in the awkward squad at drill, but I am afraid that a great many of us are still in that squad.
But the Christian, who has got through his childhood, and has grown somewhat, makes progress. There are some who will tell you that they do not know that they have made any progress; or, if they do not say this, you can see that they have made none. They are as bad-tempered as when they first joined the Church. They are as changing, as illiberal, as critical, or as easily "carried about with every wind of doctrine" as they were at first.
Such persons give some cause for suspicion as to whether they know much about the divine life at all, because they who have the divine life truly in them can say– "We walk." They go from strength to strength– every one of them appears in Zion before God. They are not satisfied with being in the right way; they desire also to walk in the way. God does not say to us– "This is the way," and then stop. But he says– "This is the way, walk in it." We are always to be making advances– we are to be going from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections– from faith to assurance– from assurance to full assurance– from full assurance to full assurance of hope–
from full assurance of hope to the full assurance of understanding– and thus onward, waxing stronger and stronger. There is a progress to be made in every Christian grace; and he who carefully marks the terms used about Christian graces will discover that there are degrees in all of them, while each of them are degrees one above the other. Walking implies progress; and the genuine Christian, when he is in a healthy state, may truthfully say– "We walk."
Walking also implies perseverance. When a man goes along a step or two and then stops, or returns, we do not call that walking. The motion of the planets, as seen by the eye, has been described by the poet as "progressive, retrograde, and standing still." I am afraid there are many people of whom this would be a true description. But the true Christian keeps on; and though there may often appear to be times when he stops, and seasons when he goes back, yet the Scripture is not broken where it says that "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day." The Christian’s motto is, "Upward and onward." Not as though he had already attained, either were already perfect, he presses forward to the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. We are not true Christians if we stop, or start, or turn aside. As an arrow from a bow that is drawn by some mighty archer speeds straightway towards its goal, such is the Christian life as it is, such is it as it always should be. We make progress, and we persevere in so doing.
I think, however, that by the term "walk" the apostle meant to signify, that, in the ordinary and customary actions of life, we are actuated by faith.
You know, walking is the common way of moving. You do not often talk of a child’s walking. You do speak of it, of course; but you generally say, "There are the little ones running about the house." You do not say that they are "walking about the house," because the way of moving with the young is generally running, inasmuch as they have a great deal of extra life, and have not yet got into the wear and tear of life. You do not find lambs walking at all, in the ordinary way in which sheep do. Now, it is very easy, in the beginning of the Christian life, to run in the ways of the Lord with rejoicing. But running, after all, is not the most manly form of progress– it is not that which can be kept up for long, for running fatigues and tires you.
But walking is that kind of progress in which a man continues hour after hour; and after his night’s rest he rises again to walk on as before, and until he reaches his goal. In Scripture we often read of men who, by faith, did great exploits– "By my God I have broken through a troop; by my God I will leap over a wall." Now, this is a very great thing to do; and some Christians are always fixing their eyes upon exploits of faith. The apostle Paul did cut through troops and leap over walls. But in this place he speaks of the common actions of life. It is as if he said– "I not only leap walls by faith, but I walk by faith; I not only break through troops by faith, but I go and do my business by faith." That man has not yet learned the true spirit of Christianity who is always saying, "I can preach a sermon by faith." Yes, sir, but can you make a coat by faith? "I can distribute tracts, and visit the district by faith." Can you cook a dinner by faith? I mean, can you perform the common actions of the household, and the daily duties, which fall to your lot, in the spirit of faith? This is what the apostle means. He does not speak about running, or jumping or fighting, but about walking.
He means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man– that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does. It was not a bad saying of one who said, that he "did eat and drink, and sleep eternal life." We do not want a home-spun religion, but a religion that was spun in heaven, and that will do to wear at home and about the house. "We walk by faith." The Mohammedan worships God at the "holy hour;" the true Christian calls all hours "holy" and worships always. Some set apart the seventh day of the week, and therein do well, but in setting apart all the seven days, and living to God, and entering into rest throughout them all, we do better still. When our souls cannot keep our religion for the tabernacle and the pew, and the closet, and the open Bible, and the bended knee; but when that religion becomes the atmosphere in which we live, the element in which our soul breathes, when God dwells in us, and we dwell in him, when we feed upon Christ, not as a special dainty, but as "the bread of heaven," and drink of him, not as a luxury, but as "the water of life;" when we wear our piety, not as some holiday garment, but as our every-day dress, then it is that we get into the spirit of true religion.
Summing up all, then, the whole of the Christian life, which is implied in the term "walk," is here spoken of, and it is influenced by the principle of faith, which we are now about to speak of.
II. And now, secondly, in the text we have TWO PRINCIPLES CONTRASTED. There is walking by faith, and there is walking by sight. The most of men, all men, indeed, naturally walk by sight. They have a proverb that "Seeing is believing," and they are wise men, for they trust people as far as they can see them, and no further. The world thinks itself uncommonly knowing in always depending upon its own sight. The highest degree of worldly wisdom seems to be just this- see everything for yourself, and do not be taken in; do not be led by the nose by anybody, but follow your own understanding. This is the text which the world’s Solomons always preach from– "Self-made Men" – that is the title of their book. Self- reliance– that is the name of their principle, and, according to the world, the best and grandest thing that a man can do is to have faith in himself!
Their maxim is- ‘Know things for yourself; look after the main chance; make money- make it honestly if you can, and honorably if possible, but, if not, make it anyhow, by hook or by crook." "Take care of Number One," – this is the world’s learned dictum. Now the Christian is the very opposite of this. He says, "I do not care about looking after the things that are seen and are temporal– they are like dissolving views, or the scenes from a child’s magic lantern; there is nothing in them; they are but phantoms and shadows. The things that are not seen influence me, because they are eternal– they endure, remain, abide, and therefore they affect a creature which has learnt that it has, not mortality alone, but immortality, and who expecting to live for ever, therefore seeks for things which will are consistent with its own existence."
Now, since the world thinks itself so very wise for holding everything it can, and thinks the Christian such a great fool for giving up what he can see for what he cannot see, in contradiction to the world’s proverb, that
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," – let us just see wherein the wisdom of this matter is, and wherein it is not.
In the first place, we notice that walking by sight is a very childish thing. Any child can walk by sight, and so can any fool too. We know how a child feels when it looks at a mountain, and we have all felt the same when we have gone to Switzerland and other places. I had a friend with me, who said of a certain mountain– "I will undertake to be at the top in half an
hour." It took us five hours and a half steady toiling, and we did not go slowly either. Of course my friend judged by his sight, and, not being accustomed to mountains, and not knowing that sight is a very different thing when it comes to deal with different landscapes- not knowing that a judgment which would be pretty accurate in England would be totally wrong in the mountains of Wales, and still more erroneous in Switzerland- not knowing all this, I dare say he would be startled at eventide, expecting to find himself at the top before the sun went down, whereas he would not have reached it until the middle of the night. A child always judges of everything by what he sees. You give him a number of coins; they are all spurious, but he is so pleased with them that he does not care about having real sovereigns; he is just as glad to have those he has, for they look quite as good; you offer him sixpence, and when he is yet a youngster he will give you your sixpence back for a penny, because the penny is the larger of the two. He judges by sight, which, you see, is a childish principle altogether.
When a man grows up he no longer judges so much by sight. He has learned a great many things in this world, and he has discovered that his eyes may be very greatly mistaken at times. He needs to correct his eyes. The child says- "How quickly these stars move! How fast the moon hastens through the cloud!" The man says- "No, no– it is the clouds that are moving." The child says that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, and admires its motion; but the man knows that the sun does not move at all, and that it is the earth that is moving. He believes this, and thus in a certain degree he has faith, because he cannot see the world move.
Hodge once said he would not believe the world moved at all, because he found that his house still stood in the same place, and Hodge proved himself to have been thus only a big child. But it is a very manly thing to believe something, which you cannot see. Even in common philosophy it is so. The children all sat at home in England, and in Spain, and in France, and they said– "Oh! this is all the world there is" and they had their Mediterranean Sea in the middle of the earth. But there was A MAN among them who said he did not believe it, but thought the world was round, and that there was another half to it. "You are a fool," said they.
"Fool or not," he replied, "I believe it;" and Columbus stood up, head and shoulders taller than the rest of his fellows, and got a few to go with him and started- a company of fools they were called. They could not see anything! They sailed on, and on, and on, for many weary days, and the doubters said they had better go back. There were several pieces of sea weed floating about which looked as if they came from some other shore, or had been washed down some not far distant river. Columbus did not care much for these sea-weeds, because he believed, and believed firmly, that there was another half of the globe; and when the land-birds came and lighted on his ship, though they gladdened his heart, yet they did not make him believe any the more. And when he saw America, and stood on the sand of the land of gold, he still only had to keep on as he had done.
He had walked by faith before, and he could continue in the same course now. When he came back, everybody said- "What a wonderful man is Columbus!" Just 50– all the rest were children, and he was the only true man among them. Now the Christian is a man; I mean to say he is "a man" in the scriptural sense of the term. He has become a full-grown man in Christ Jesus, and while the worldling says- "This is all the world– let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die– let us get money, and spend it and enjoy ourselves, this is the end of the world." "No!" says the Christian; "there must be another half to the world– I am sure there must be another land beyond the sea, so I will loose my anchor, and turn my helm, and try to find it. I will leave this world to you children, and will seek another and a more heavenly one." So we sail away, and by-and-by we see the bits of sea-weed, and when at last the angelic messengers come, like birds of Paradise, and light upon the masts of our vessel, then we thank God that we were ever enabled, with true manly courage, to loose our anchor, to set out upon our voyage, and to turn our helm towards the sea, because we believed in God, and were actuated by a noble principle of faith, compared with which the world’s wisdom is but the folly of the child. This, then, is the first thing we have to say about these true principles, that the one is childish while the other is manly.
Again, living by sight is groveling while living by faith is noble.
I think the world must be pretty well ashamed of itself if it still considers this poor earth to be all that a soul has to live for. I feel as if I could not talk upon the matter. Solomon tried everything there was in this world-riches, power, pleasure– every sort of delicacy and delight he had even to satiety, and what was his verdict upon it all? – " Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" A man earning his bread all day long- what is he? Is he better than the donkey that I saw a little while ago, pumping up water and always going round? What more is he than that? "Well, but he makes money, and acquires houses and land." Yes, and there is only so much more probate duty to be paid when he dies, and I suppose the worms know no difference between a man who died worth three hundred thousand pounds, and a poor wretch who was buried by the parish! It does not come to anything more than that!
The children go to the sea-side with their little wooden spades and build up a pier of sand, but the tide comes and washes it away, and this is just what men do. They build with heavier stuff, which gives them more care, and not half so much merriment in piling up as the youngsters have in digging up their sand. But the end is just the same; only the children live to build again, while these big children, these grovelers, are washed out to sea with all their works, and perish everlastingly.
You perhaps have walked upon the beach when the sea has gone down. If you have, you will have seen those hundreds of little mounds there are all over the beach, where the worms have come up and made a number of small heaps. That is all we do, and it is all that the world is--just a big place covered all over with little heaps of dirt that we have all piled up. But where have we gone? If there be not another world to live for, I must say that this life is a most unutterably empty kind of thing. It is not worthy of a man! But oh! to believe what God tells me, that there is a God, but that God became flesh to bear me up to himself, to believe that I am God’s son, that I have an immortality within myself which will outlast the stars, that I shall one day see his face, and sing his praise for ever with cherubim and seraphim- why, there is something here.
The man who believes this feels as if he began to grow; he bursts the poor engrossments of his flesh, and expands into something worthy of a man who is made in the image of the Most High. The principle of seeing everything, and of liking only to get what I can see, and touch, and handle, is the poor instinct of beasts and birds, but the principle of living upon what I cannot see, and upon something that I can believe, is one worthy of a man. As much as man is higher than the beast, so much and yet more a thousand-fold, is the life of faith superior to that of mere sight and feeling.
Again; there is something exceedingly ignorant about believing only what I can see.
What, then, shall I believe? Even in common life the man who walks by sight must necessarily be a fool- I say necessarily, because nine out of ten things in the world that are the most wonderful and potent cannot be seen, at least not by the eyes. A man who will not believe in electricity- well, what can you make of him in these days? Such a man will believe in the vapor that puffs from the steam-engine, but since nobody ever did or could see steam, inasmuch as it is an invisible agent, he cannot ever believe in that. He lives in the midst of a great world, and he cannot account for most things in it because he will not believe in anything beyond what he sees; and if he carries this principle out, the marvels of other countries, and the wonders of other ages, are all shut out from his poor purblind mind.
And this is most decidedly the case with regard to spiritual things. If you only walk by sight, and only believe what you see, what do you believe? You believe that while you ore living here it is a good thing to make the best you can of it, and that then you will die and be buried, and this will be an end of you! What a poor, miserable, ignorant belief this is! But when you believe in what God reveals, and come to walk by faith, how your information expands! Now, riddles are all unriddled, and enigmas are all solved, and now you begin to comprehend things in a way, which you never could have, done had you walked only by sight. Now you can understand those trials and troubles that come to you; now you can understand the complexity of your nature, and the inward conflicts that you feel within you. You could never have done this on the principle of sight, but believing what God says, you have got into a state in which you shall be educated and taught until you become wise, and able to have fellowship with the only wise God.
Let me say, again, that walking by sight is such a very deceptive way of walking.
After all, the eye does not see anything; it is the mind that sees through the eye. The eye in every man has some sort of defect in it; it needs to be educated for a long time before it tells the truth, and even then there are a thousand things about which it does not always speak truly. The man who walks by his eye will be deceived in many ways. The angler baits his hook, and casts his fly upon the water, and the silly fish, which jumps by sight, has the hook in its jaws in a moment. You can ever more, if you will, go from bad to worse in unseen danger if you will judge according to the sight of the eyes. The world is wise enough to say that "Honesty is the best policy." The world was not quite itself when it said that, for mostly it is present gain that Satan sets before us, and present pleasure. "Snatch the hour as it passes," says Satan; "these things are sure; you do not know what may come afterwards." And so is the poor soul deceived by judging according to what he thinks he sees. Whereas the man who has a God to go to, and to believe in, is never deceived. The promise to him always stands fast; the person of Christ is always his sure refuge, and God himself is his perpetual inheritance.
Let me add, again, that the principle of sight is a very changeable one.
You can see well enough, you know, in the day, but what will you do in the night, when you cannot see? It is well enough to talk of walking by sight in the light, but what will you do when the darkness comes on. It is very well to talk about living on time present while you are here, but when you go upstairs and lie on your dying-bed, what about the principle of living for the present then? When you cannot stay here any longer, when, notwithstanding all the ties which held you to earth, Death begins to drag you away, and you cry to him, "Let me stay– I cannot leave wife, and children, and business yet!" But when Death remorselessly tears you away from all that is dear to you– how about the principle of sight then? It is a strange principle to die with, but, let me say, on the other hand, that the principle of faith does best in the dark, he who walks by faith can walk in the sunlight as well as you can, for he walks with God-enlightened eyes, but he can walk in the dark as you cannot, for his light is still shining upon him. He trusts in the unseen and in the invisible, and his soul rejoices when present things are passing away.
We will not tarry longer upon this point, except to say one thing, namely, that those who walk by sight walk alone. Walking by sight is just this- "I believe in myself" whereas walking by faith is- "I believe in God." If I walk by sight I walk by myself; if I walk by faith then there are two of us, and the second one- ah! how great, how glorious, how mighty is he- the Great All-in-all-God-all-sufficient! Sight goes to war on its own wages and becomes a bankrupt, and is defeated. Faith goes to war on the wages of the King’s Bank, and there is no fear that Faith’s bank shall ever be broken.
Sight builds the house from its own quarry, and on its own foundation, but it begins to build and is never able to finish, and what it does build, rests on the sand and falls. But faith builds on the foundation laid in eternity, in the fair colors of the Savior’s blood, in the covenant of grace. It goes to God for every stone to be used in the building, and brings forth the top-stone with shoutings of "Grace, grace unto it." Beloved, when you say "I will do so-and-so," you may be very proud, but when you can say, "God will do so-and-so, and I believe it," then you will be humble, and yet you may glory and boast as much as you will, because there are two of you together. It is not "the sword of Gideon," but "the sword of the Lord and of Gideon," and Jehovah cannot be defeated. "The life that I live I live not, but Christ hides in me," and this is the grand advantage.
In living by sight you have to get your own wisdom, your own judgment, your own strength, to guide you. And when you get into trouble you must be your own deliverer, and your own comforter, and your own helper, or else you must run to somebody as weak as yourselves, and who will only send you deeper down into the mire. But when you walk by faith, should there seem to be a mistake you have not made it; should anything seem to go wrong, you did not steer the ship; and if the ship should run aground, you are not answerable, and will not be blamed. It is yours to be watchful and careful, and to believe that all things work together for the good of those who love God, and are the called according to his purpose. But besides this, we know that nothing can go wrong while God is in the vessel. Blessed be God, when Christ is on Gennesaret’s lake, there may come a stormy night, but every vessel gets safe to port, and we can always sing,
"Begone, unbelief, my Savior is near,
And for my relief will surely appear;
By faith let me wrestle, and he will perform,
With Christ in the vessel I smile at the storm."
III. And now, having contrasted the two principles, I am about to close
by noticing THE CAUTION IMPLIED in the text. The apostle says positively, "We walk by faith," and then he adds, negatively, "not by sight." The caution, then, is--NEVER MIXTHE TWO PRINCIPLES.
Some of you will not know what I am talking about, but I will try to make you understand it. Some of you are actuated in what you do by something that you can see. You can see your children, and you will work for them. You can see money- you will strive for that. You can see such and such temporal good- you will seek after that. Now, the Christian believes in God, and he lives to God– he lives as if there were a God, and you live as if there were no God. He believes in a hereafter, and you say you do; but you live as if there were no hereafter. While the Christian lives as if there was one.
He believes in sin, and so you say you do, and yet you never weep about it; while the Christian lives as if sin was a real disease, and he could not bear it. You say you believe in Christ the Savior, but you live as if you did not believe in him. The Christian hives upon his belief that there is a Savior. All that he does is affected and acted upon, not by what he sees, but by what he does not see, and yet believes, and he walks according to that faith.
Now, the thing that neither you nor I can understand is this– how is it that the man who has once learned to walk by faith can be so stupid as ever to mix the two principles together? You may go a journey by land, or you may go by water, but to try to swim and walk at the same time would be rather singular. A drunken man tries to walk on both sides of the street at once, and there is a sort of intoxication that sometimes seizes upon Christians, which makes them also try to walk by two principles. They cannot do it; it is like trying to go due east and due west at the same time. The principles themselves are antagonistic to one another, and yet there are some Christians who attempt it.
Shall I show you what I mean by this? You say– "I believe God loves me; I have prospered in business ever since I have been a Christian." Yes; the first part of that is faith; but the second part of it is sight. Suppose you had not prospered in business, what then? Why, according to your way of reasoning, you would have said- "I do not believe that God loves me, for I have not prospered in business since I have been a Christian;" so that, you see, you would really be walking by sight. Genuine Christian reasoning is this– "I have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ; he says that as many as receive him are the sons of God; I have received him, and I am therefore a son of God. Now, whether my Father kisses me or flogs me, I know that I am his son; I am not going to be guided by my state and condition, but by my faith as to the promise of the Word; he says that if I have received Christ, I have the privilege to be a child of God; then, whether I am rich or poor, whether I am sick or healthy- all these are matters of sight. I do not bring them into the calculation; I take the naked word as it stands, that I am God’s child; if he slay me I am his child; if he lets me go to prison, if he should allow me to rot in a dungeon, or to burn at the stake, I am still his child; I do not look upon circumstances as at all affecting my position." Oh! beloved, if you once begin calculating your position before God according to your temporal circumstances, where will you be? Do not talk any more of believing; you have given it up, and you are really walking by sight.
Perhaps many of you do not make precisely this mistake, but there is another way of doing it. "Now," says one, "I have believed in Jesus Christ, but I am afraid I am not saved, for I feel tonight so depressed in spirits, and so unhappy." "Oh," says another, "you need not tell me that I have trusted in Jesus Christ, for I am sure I am saved, because I feel so happy." Now you are both wrong, as wrong as wrong can be. When you said you trusted in Christ- so far, so good; but when you said you were afraid you were not saved, because you were so unhappy; or, on the other hand, that you were sure you were saved because you were so happy- that is walking by sight.
You see you are mixing up the two principles, which will no more go together than fire and water. If I have believed in Jesus Christ, I may at this moment, through disease of body, or some other present temporal affliction, be very heavy in spirit, but I am saved notwithstanding. "He that believes on him is not condemned." I may be very troubled; I may see a great deal in myself that may make me distressed, but if I believe, I am not condemned, and cannot be. Or, if I have strong faith and am possessed of great joy, that is no proof of my being saved. It is my believing that is the proof of that. I do not hang upon my feelings, I rely simply upon Christ; and I must learn the difference between feeling and believing, or else I shall always be blundering and making mistakes. You sometimes get taken by the Lord to the mountain-top, and you have such sweet communion with him, and then you say- "My mountain stands firm, I shall never be moved." Ah! poor simpleton, you do not know what you are saying, for in a short time you may go down into the depths and cry- "All your waves and your billows have gone over me." You think that God has forgotten to be gracious, and you begin to write bitter things against yourself; whereas that is the very time to "have faith in God."
"When we in darkness walk,
Nor feel the heavenly flame,
Then is the time to trust the Lord,
And wait upon his name."
You think that you will use your candle in the day-time, but candles were made for the night. Faith is not meant for sweet frames and feelings only,
it is meant for dark frames and horrible feelings. Do you think that the minister has no changes? If he had no changes within he would know himself to be a Moabite and not an Israelite, for it is Moab that is settled on his lees. What, then, is the way to maintain peace when there are changes within the soul; when we are sometimes taken up to heaven and are anon cast down? Why, the only way is never to be unduly elated by prosperity without or within, and never to be unduly depressed by adversity or by doubts and fears, because you have learned to live neither upon things without nor upon things within, but upon things above, which are the true food for a new-born spirit. What is your title for heaven, Christian?
Every evidence will one day be taken from you except that which is comprised in these three words: "It is written." The genuine foundation upon which I may rest for salvation is this: "God has said it," not "I have experienced it," for there will often be times when I shall be afraid that my experience is a delusion; but if "God has said it," we can never be afraid. On the oath and covenant of the Most High we must, every one of us, come and build, and if we do that, all shall be well with us. But this is a work so far above human nature that human nature does not even understand it; and though I have tried to speak very plainly, I am conscious that I have spoken in riddles to many of you. God himself must open the eye to understand what living faith means, and then he must give that living faith and perpetuate it; or else, as Israel went back in their hearts to Egypt, so shall we go back to the garlic and onions of the things that are seen, and have but little of the manna which comes from an unseen heaven.
And now, in closing, I would affectionately bid you take heed to one thing. You must mind if you do walk by faith, that you walk by the right faith.
I mean you must mind that it is faith in Jesus Christ. If you put faith in your dreams, as some of you still do, or in anything you thought you saw when you were walking, or in a voice you thought you heard from the clouds, or in texts of Scripture coming to your mind- if you put faith in anything else but Christ- I do not care how good it may be or how bad it may be– you must heed, for such a faith as that will give way. You may have a very strong faith in everything else but Christ, and yet perish.
There was an architect who had a plan for building a lighthouse on the Eddystone Rock. It quite satisfied his mind, and as he sat by the fire looking at his plans, he was quite sure that no storm that ever came could shake the building. He applied for the contract to build the lighthouse, and did build it, and a very singular-looking place it was. There were a great many flags about it and ornaments, and it looked very promising. Some shook their heads a little, but he was very, very firm, and said he should like to be in it himself in the worst wind that ever blew. He was in it at the time he wanted to be, and he was never heard of again, nor was anything more ever seen of his lighthouse. The whole thing was swept away. He was a man of great faith, only it happened to be founded on mistaken principles.
Now, sometimes, because there is a way of talking which looks very much like assurance, you may say, "I am not afraid; I never had a doubt or a fear; I know it is all right with my soul; I am not afraid of the test of the day of judgment."
Well, whether you wish it or not, that test for the labor of your lighthouse will come, and if it should prove that you built it yourself, it will be swept away, and you with it. But if your soul takes God’s Word, and reads that Word, believing it, and being willing to be taught its inward meaning– if you take that Word as it stands, and rest upon it, and act upon it with all your heart and soul, the worst storm that ever blew shall never shake your rock and refuge, nor you either; but you shall be safe when earth’s old columns bow, and all her wheels shall go to wreck and confusion.
Rest you in the Lord Jehovah. Depend on the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ for all that you need, and rest wholly in him with the whole weight of your soul and spirit, and then there shall be no fear but what you shall see God’s face with acceptance.
May God teach us faith on the right principle, and may we walk by it, and not by sight, and then the Lord shall give us that reward which is given to those who walk by faith in the living God.