by James Smith, 1860
So spoke Jesus to one whose faith was feeble, whose anxiety was great, and whose fears were strong. He had applied to Christ for his daughter; on the road to his house, they were detained, the case became, as he thought, desperate — but Jesus comforted and encouraged him by saying, "Be not afraid, only believe." Thus it is, methinks, that Jesus speaks to us. He bids us have faith, and assures us that all things are possible to him that believes. Let us ask four questions.
First, WHAT are we to believe?All that God has revealed in his word; but there are three things to be especially believed, and to be believed at all times.
1. What God is. We often take into our minds partial, and incorrect views of God. But we ought to receive his own representations of himself — and no other. His nature is spiritual. God is a spirit. His character is lovely and inviting, for God is the good One. He is merciful and gracious, just and true. In him majesty and mercy, greatness and goodness, justice and grace, holiness and compassion, truth and pity, meet and dwell in infinite perfection. He is not unjust — but love. He is not darkness — but light. He is not cruel — but kind. He is all that Jesus represented him to be. We should believe this also,
2. What Jesus has done. He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. He took up sin, as it lay in the way between God and the sinner, and expiated it, made an atonement for it, so that it shall never be imputed to any who believes on his name. He was delivered for our offences — to give satisfaction to divine justice for them; and he was raised again — to prove that he had done so, and that we might be justified by faith in him. Jesus has done all, suffered all, and procured all, that is necessary for the salvation of the sinner — any sinner, be he who or what he may, that believes in him. We should believe this also,
3. All that the gospel says. The gospel is good news. Good news for every creature. It tells of the love of God, of the grace of Jesus, of a free salvation, of everlasting life by faith in Jesus. The gospel should be believed, its invitations, its promises, its doctrines; each and all should be received as the very word of God, which lives and abides forever.
Do I believe that God is love? Do I believe that Jesus is the able, willing, and all-sufficient Savior? Do I believe the gospel, God's gospel, as I find it in his own book, expressed in his own words?
Second, HOW are we to believe?We are to give full credit to what we hear or read on the subjects aforesaid. As if a loving and truthful father did send a letter to his son — that son reads it and gives full credit to it, without doubt or gainsaying; so should we trust God's word.
We are to confide in him who speaks. The message, the revelation, is from the God of truth; and is sent to us by Jesus, who is the faithful and true witness. We may therefore place implicit confidence in what is delivered to us, and in him who delivered it.
We are to trust in what is spoken. If Jesus invites us to him, and promises to give us rest — we should believe that he will give us rest. If he bids us to come unto him and drink — we should believe that he will give us the living water, even the Holy Spirit. If he promises that he will never cast out — we should believe that he will receive us, pardon us, and save us with an everlasting salvation.
We are to expect what is promised. As Abraham believed, that what God had promised — he was able also to perform — so should we believe, that God will make good his word, and perform in our experience every good word which he has spoken. Jesus says to us, "Only give credit to what you read in my word — only confide in me as speaking to you — only trust what I have said — only expect what I have promised — and I will make it good.
Third, WHY should we believe?There are almost endless reasons why we should believe, though there are none why we should doubt, or disbelieve.
We should believe, because then our sins are pardoned. All the prophets witness, that through the name of Jesus, every one that believes on him, should receive remission of sins. Every believer, the moment he believes, is forgiven all trespasses — his sins are all blotted out of God's book — they are cast behind God's back, that so they may be out of his sight — they are cast into the depths of the sea, so that they may not be produced against him forever.
We should believe, because then our works are accepted. The works of an unbeliever cannot be accepted of God. God cannot approve of what is done by an unbeliever, any more than the Sovereign can approve of what is done by a rebel, while in open rebellion against him — or by a traitor, who is committing treason against him. But if the rebel is reconciled, if the traitor becomes loyal — then his work may be approved, and his offerings accepted. So the imperfect works of a believer are approved of God — and are accepted with pleasure, passing as they do through the nail-pierced hands of Jesus!
We should believe, because then our prayers will be answered. If we cannot believe God, if we have no confidence in God, if we place no dependence on the word of God — we cannot expect to receive favors from God. But, if receiving his gospel, confiding in the merits of his Son, and believing his precious promises, we come boldly to his throne of grace, we shall find, that whatever we ask in faith believing — we shall receive. Without faith, prayer has no power — the pleader has no promised — God is under no engagement to bestow.
We should believe, because then, our supplies are certain, for God will make good his word. Our foes will be conquered, for the shield of faith will quench all the fiery darts of the devil — and our conduct will be consistent, for faith works by love, purifies the heart, and produces the fruit of holiness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.
Fourth, WHO should believe?To whom is the gospel addressed? YOU should believe, whoever you are, because unto you is the word of God's salvation sent. The sinner, as a sinner should believe, and should believe that with the Lord there is mercy, mercy for him if he applies for it; and with him is plenteous redemption, so that believing he shall find redemption in the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins.
The most unworthy should believe, because God does not speak to us as worthy — but sends to the poor, the halt, the maimed, and the blind — the outcasts, who are only to be found in the highways and hedges. The gospel is for sinners, the chief of sinners. Jesus came to save sinners, even the chief. Therefore sinners, the vilest, the basest, the most unworthy, the chief of sinners should believe.
Those who have doubted and feared, should believe. No one can find any warrant for doubting in the gospel. No one can find any just pretense for fearing, in the word of salvation. To all such Jesus says, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Why! What reason do you have? How can you justify your doubting? How can you excuse it? "Only believe!"
Observe, this is the first thing that God How requires. Therefore to every inquirer we say, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ — and you shall be saved." This is the last thing man will do. Prescribe almost anything else, and he will set about it! But say, "only believe," and if, like Naaman the Syrian, he does not turn away in a rage — he will demur, or treat the direction with neglect, or contempt.
Sincere faith is the thing which Satan hates most, and therefore he always opposes it, and throws every obstacle possible in its way. This is what many professors think little of. Of feelings or works they are proud, and therefore of them they talk — but only believing, is what they do not understand or value. Yet, this is the root of all true holiness, every grace of the Spirit, and every Christian virtue springs from this root! It brings the will into conformity to God's will, and the life into conformity with God's word, as it leads us to ask of God and expect from God. It brings us to yield hearty obedience to God — and even to venture all for God.
Reader, do you believe? Do you now believe? Jesus bids you, as he did Jairus — and if you do not, he will chide you as he did Peter. Do you find it difficult? Then cry to the strong for strength, as one of old did, "Lord, I believe — help my unbelief" — or as the disciples, "Lord, increase our faith." The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of faith, he works it, he strengthens it, he increases it, he perfects it, and he crowns it; therefore apply to the Holy Spirit to work it in you, and to make you strong in faith, that you may glorify God!