The Course of Faith, or
The Practical Believer Delineated

By John Angell James, 1852


"As sorrowful—yet always rejoicing; as poor—yet making many rich; as having nothing—and yet possessing all things!" 2 Cor. 6:10.

Earth is to its inhabitants, neither a paradise nor a desert. If it has not all the beautiful scenes and productions of a paradise—so neither has it all the dreariness and desolation of a desert. This world is called "a valley of tears," but it is not less true that it is sometimes a valley without the tears. It often wears a smiling aspect, and reflects the light of God's graciousness and bounty.

We know very well that man's chief portion lies in the blessings of salvation, and the hope of eternal glory. These are so vast as almost to reduce all else to nothing. Full pardon of sin, and the hope of an eternity of pure and perfect felicity, are such amazing expectations, as might seem to render us absolutely indifferent alike to poverty and riches; pain and ease; obscurity and renown.

How little would it signify to him who was going to take possession of a kingdom and a throne, whether he traveled through a desert or a garden—or whether he dined meagerly or sumptuously—or whether he had all best accommodations and conveniences along the way. His thoughts would be so engrossed with the permanent scenes of greatness, grandeur, power, and wealth before him—as to be almost insensible to the privations or comforts along the way. So it is, with a Christian traveling to glory, honor, immortality and eternal life!

It is incumbent upon Christians to let their spirit and conduct be consistent with the hope of eternal glory, in that eminent spirituality and heavenliness of mind, which are manifested in a supreme, constant, and practical regard to divine and eternal things.

"The time that remains is very short, so husbands should not let marriage be their major concern. Those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep. Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away." 1 Cor. 7:29-31.

Still, as we are made susceptible by our bodily organization of pain or ease; by our mental constitution of enjoyment or discomfort from surrounding objects; and by our social relationships of gratification or disturbance; we cannot be wholly unaffected by the circumstances in which we are placed. Stoicism is no part of Christianity. And even the very sight by faith of the glories of immortality, is not intended to annihilate the value of the blessings of this life.

It might seem to some that faith has nothing to do with the things of this world; that all its objects are invisible and eternal; and that the objects of sense cannot be the objects of faith. True it is, that faith's highest exercises relate to the world which the eye of sense cannot reach—but still as there may be and are some adjuncts—some circumstances of the things of this world, which are as much matter of faith, as the invisible realities of eternity—there is room for the exercise of faith even in reference to these.

That this is the case is evident from the fact that they are not only necessary for our maintenance and comfort in this world—that the lack or possession of them may be made subservient to our spiritual welfare; but they are also the subjects of promise under the New Testament, as well as under the Old. It is in the New Testament that we find the declaration– "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." 1 Tim. 4:8. It is there also we have the assurance, that if we seek first the kingdom of God, all other things shall be added to us. Matt. 6:33. It is not said, Seek the kingdom of God, and grace and glory shall be given you; but those things of which Christ had been speaking—food and clothing. It is admitted that promises of temporal blessings occupy a somewhat different place and a much smaller space under the New Testament, than they did under the Old. Under the latter, they were, so far as the Sinai covenant is concerned, the principal incentives to obedience, and the removal or withholding of them, the most frequent matter of warnings, threatenings, and punishments.

Plenty, health, peace, and family comfort—while yet the spiritual blessings of the covenant of grace were so imperfectly revealed, and therefore so dimly apprehended—were the more frequent subjects of promise to the Old Covenant Jews. This seemed to suit a dispensation in which God dwelt among the people by the visible symbols of his presence, and over which he presided as its political Sovereign and Head. And there is no doubt that the bestowment of temporal blessings was more closely associated with obedience to the Divine command, than is the case under the Christian economy.

The good things of the New Covenant are "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Ephes. 1:3. Hence the language, and its meaning, of the apostle, when speaking of Christianity as contrasted in this respect with Judaism– "But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." Heb. 8:6. No one can read the Old and New Testaments without being struck with the difference of the promised blessings in each—with the fact how little is said of spiritual blessings in the former, and how little is said of temporal ones in the latter. A fact which is replete with instruction, as showing not only the vast superiority of the Christian dispensation over that of the Jews; but also how much it is incumbent upon Christians to let their spirit and conduct answer to their dispensation, in that eminent spirituality and heavenliness of mind, which are manifested in a supreme, constant, and practical regard to things divine and eternal.

Still there are promises of temporal blessings contained in the better covenant, and therefore room for faith in reference to them. And then the various degrees in which God bestows these blessings, and the various exercises of mind which this difference of dispensation calls for, together with the helps or hindrances these things may furnish to the divine life of the soul, furnish ample room and opportunity for the activity of this holy principle of confidence in God.

By the blessings of this life, we are to understand health, success in one's occupation, wealth, and whatever pertains to our comfortable abode in the present world. The question now is—in what way faith is maintained in regard to these. This may be done,

I. In regard to THE AUTHOR and BESTOWER of all temporal blessings. God is the source of all created good—not only the Maker of all creatures—but of all the good that is in them. He is not only the Creator of all things—but by his Providence the Disposer of all events. All individual beings—all their relations to each other—all their adaptations to man's comfort, are to be traced up to God's wisdom, power, benevolence, and arrangement. "In him we live, and move, and have our being." We not only believe the world is governed by invariable laws of cause and effect—except in the case of miracles; but at the same time we believe that the mechanism of nature and Providence is not like that of a clock, which, when wound up, may be left to go of itself; but is rather like that of a machine which requires the constant superintendence of the engineer, whose attention can never be dispensed with for a moment. Property, success in business, health, relationships, standard of living, renown—are all at God's disposal. So true are the words of the apostle– "The living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy." 1 Tim. 6:17.

Faith shuts out 'chance' and regards 'Providence' in everything. Faith is not enthusiastic and visionary, regardless of natural laws; so neither is it Pantheistic, resolving all into natural laws. It adds Providence to nature, and recognizes God the Overlooker, Ruler, Regulator—as well as God the Creator. Faith stops not in second causes—but ascends to the first cause—and traces every ray of prosperity, and every shade of adversity, to God as its Source. It admits the operation, and employs the instrumentality of all means for an end which are suggested by reason—recommended by science—and approved by experience—and then ascribes results to God. This is the especial province of faith. Science goes no farther than the established order of nature—but faith goes on to Him who established it. Faith, without interfering with science—soars above it. Science stops in the vestibule of the temple—faith led by Scriptural revelation goes in and adores the Deity who is there enshrined.

There may be metaphysical and logical difficulties connected with the bestowment of temporal blessings, or the averting of evils, under a governmental system of natural laws, affecting the doctrine of Providence and its special interpositions—but the believer does not trouble himself with these. He may not be able to state how God can interfere on his behalf, either without disturbing general laws on the one hand, or actually performing miracles on the other. It is enough for him to be persuaded by the Word of God that there are such interferences, and in this he confides, blessing God for the bestowment of every good as a gift of his hand, and submitting to every affliction as his wise and gracious appointment.

II. Faith regards the MEDIUM of all temporal blessings—and that is, the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Man could no more have received temporal blessings with out a Mediator than he could spiritual ones. But for the scheme of redeeming mercy, our race must have ended with the destruction of the first man. In the garden of Eden the sepulcher of Adam must have been raised, and with it the tomb of all humanity in him, beneath the branches of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In the garden of Eden, there must have begun and ended, the history of man. But God had purposes of grace and mercy, and man was spared, with reference to the coming of Him, whose advent was announced in the mystic terms of the first promise. This world from that hour was to become the scene of discipline and probation for eternity. To such a discipline and probation, a 'mixed condition' seemed most adapted, in which much that is pleasurable to human nature should be united with much that is painful, in which much that calls for submission on the one hand—and for gratitude on the other; much that is the type of better things—and much that foreshadows more bitter pains in the world to come, should be blended.

All our blessings, therefore, flow to us through the medium of the cross—which is the grand reservoir of all temporal blessings as well as spiritual ones. Not a ray of mercy illumines the dark domain of devils—it never did and never can—for Jesus did not died for them. Everything on earth that is good and pleasant, proclaims that we are in mercy's domain—all points to the cross as its medium, and to heaven as its design. The beauties of nature—and the bounties of Providence—as well as the richer blessings of grace—all are the expression of a Divine benevolence—tokens of God's good-will—and evidences to the purposes of his heart toward us, as regards a still brighter and happier world. The health that glows in our bodily frame should remind us of the better health of the soul which his grace is willing to establish; the success which follows our industry, and increases our wealth, is a memento to seek the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to lay up treasures in heaven; the respect or prestige which we acquire among our fellows is an incentive to seek the honor which comes from God; while the possessions of earth, taken as a whole, are motives to seek also "the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away."

All God's dealings in Providence with us here on this earth, have reference to, and are connected with, his purposes of grace; and both together have reference to the mediation of Christ. It is indeed delightful, most delightful, to see all flowing to us—our health—our property—our friends—our respectability—all emanating from the love which was manifested in our redemption—all gilded with the glory of that cross on which the Savior loved and died. So that it seems evident from this, that all men, the whole world, partake in some sense and in some degree of the benefits of Christ's death. The whole earth is the domain of mercy, because our Lord Jesus has come upon it to mediate between God and man. The whole world is invited to possess themselves of the spiritual blessings of his redemption, and do actually possess many temporal blessings. He causes his sun to rise upon the just and the unjust. Even the poor blaspheming infidel, who denies and reviles his gospel, is daily in the receipt and enjoyment of many blessings, not one of which he could possess—but for that Savior whom it is his horrid business to deny and traduce. Yes, even he comes in for a share of the blessings of the cross, while with ungodly ingratitude he insults the hand that bestows them. But to the Christian, the God of Providence is as truly an object of belief as the God of Grace, and every mercy of a temporal nature is additionally precious, as being redolent with the fragrance of that Name which is above every name.

III. Faith is exercised in the manner of SEEKING the blessings of this life. The blessings of this life, are in themselves legitimate objects of pursuit. Who will deny that a man may seek health, or success in his lawful calling, or the respect and esteem of his friends and the public, or even renown by discoveries in science and inventions of art? These things are all right and good in themselves, and are only wrong when sought with inordinate desire by improper means, or for wrong ends. Here then is the first operation of faith in seeking a temporal blessing—a persuasion that we are authorized to seek it, because it is one of those things which God has promised to bestow. This only can warrant us to seek it—to ask it in prayer—or to expect it. So that the first question we should ask ourselves, is this– "Am I really authorized to desire and pursue this object? Is it such as my circumstances, and situation, and the Word of God, warrant me to expect? If a man were to desire such success in business as shall secure him immense wealth; or such advancement in life as shall raise him to the high places of the earth; it is evident that he is indulging a wrong desire and is setting out in pursuit of that which he has no warrant to expect.

Having then settled with himself that the object he desires is a lawful one, his faith will express itself in prayer to God. What the prayer of faith is in reference to temporal blessings has been already explained in a previous chapter, to which the reader is referred. That it is lawful to make temporal things the subject of our petitions to God is evident from our Lord's prayer, where we are taught to say– "Give us this day our daily bread;" and also from the apostle's exhortation– "Be anxious for nothing—but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God." Phil. 4:6. Of course our prayers should be chiefly for spiritual things, and God is most pleased with such as are so; but they may and should also embrace temporal concerns; and God does not despise even these.

A kind father loves most, the request of his little child which asks for instruction in what will most please his parent or improve his own mind; but he does not reject the solicitation for some innocent gratification, some infantile toy. Prayer, when sincere, even in reference to temporal things, is itself an expression of faith, and a very high one too. It is acknowledging God in his existence, his attributes, his government, his providence. And how sweet a relief is it to the Christian's own mind to say– "I have laid it down at the feet of my Father who is in heaven. I have committed it into his hands. He has the charge and disposal of it now. Infallible in wisdom, omnipotent in power, and infinite in benevolence, he must and will decide for the best."

Prayer does not, however, discharge the Christian from the obligation to use the proper means to obtain a blessing. If he seeks health, he will take advice and medicine. If he seeks success in business, he will be diligent. If he seeks the friendship of man, he will employ conciliation. To use means without prayer is atheism; and to use prayer without means is superstition; while to use both is faith. To those who use means without prayer, we say– "Fall down and worship God!" To those use prayer without means, we say– "Up and be doing!"

It is an especial business of faith in seeking any earthly blessing, to keep us from using any improper and forbidden means to obtain it. This divine grace is too lofty and noble to stoop to base shifts and wicked devices—too holy either to get good or avoid evil—by sin. It will rather trust God, though it has nothing, and sees not how the blessing is to come, than go to forbidden means and sources to seek a supply. Says the proverb– "It is better to be poor and godly—than rich and dishonest. Proverbs 16:8. This is a beautiful aphorism, and as true as it is beautiful; and expresses the disposition of a holy man never to help himself out of straits and difficulties by unjust or improper means; but to wait any time, in any necessities, in the way of God and duty.

"Faith," says Manton– "looks upon unjust gain as a certain loss; like flesh stolen from the altar with a burning coal in it, which fires the nest of the bird which steals it." This may be read by some people in great perplexity and trouble about some temporal blessing of a monetary nature, and who are anxiously looking around for some means of relief—a situation as pregnant with danger as it is with solicitude. In such a case, some forbidden but very probable means of assistance present themselves. "Do that," says the tempter– "and you are extricated at once!" "No!" says the Christian– "I believe in God—in Providence—in the Bible—in truth and justice; and I cannot, I will not, dare not do it; but I will wait my time until God sends relief by better means; and if he does not, I will hold fast my integrity until I die. I will have peace of conscience, though I am ruined." I believe the man who has faith enough thus to wait for God's appearance, will never wait in vain.

What scandals have been brought upon the Christian profession, and what disgrace upon some men's characters, as well as distress into their hearts, by means of relieving themselves from financial difficulties, not absolutely fraudulent in intention—but dishonorable in their nature, and disreputable in general estimation—they had not faith enough in God to believe that he would help them in his way; and under the power of unbelief they helped themselves in their own way—and brought a blot upon their character. Had they given themselves to agonizing prayer, and to a hopeful expectation—had they believed as they might have done, that if God did not avert the impending ruin, he would support them under it—they would have been saved from disgrace, and very probably have been helped out of their difficulties.

The same trust in God will keep down UNDUE CARE and WORRY. It will enable the person to say– "Well, I have now done all that diligence, prudence, and great exertion can do—all I dare do—all that can be done to obtain the object of my desire. So that if I do not succeed, I shall have the testimony of my conscience that my failure will not be attributed to myself. And at the same time, my faith assures me that success or failure lies with God, who does not see fit to grant me the desire of my heart. Why therefore should I go burdened with solicitude, or torment myself with unnecessary care? I will lay the burden upon the Lord, and calmly and peacefully wait his will." This is faith.

IMPATIENCE is another state of mind which belief in God's superintending Providence will suppress. There is nothing more likely to rise up in our mind when pursuing an object with strong desire and which is yet withheld from us, than this– "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." The eagerness of our wishes can bear no delay. We fretfully and murmuringly say– "How long?" To which God chidingly yet gently replies– "Dear brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the Lord's return. Consider the farmers who eagerly look for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They patiently wait for the precious harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near." James 5:7-8. To this the believer replies– "I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the Lord will say to me and how he will answer my complaint. But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed." Habakkuk 2:1, 3.

"The calm of expectation—has stolen into my bosom, and has tranquilized my fears, soothed my anxieties to rest, and made me serenely wait to see how it will go with me."

In seeking the advantages and comforts of the present life, we are in danger of ENVY. Others may succeed earlier and better than we, and may be in possession of what we desire; and this may give rise to the most dreadful and tormenting passion that can possess the human bosom. Now "love does not envy"—and love is the work of faith. If we really believe that God disposes of man's lot—the lot of our neighbors as well as our own—and that God is wise, sovereign, just, and benevolent, in all his dispensations; such a conviction will do much to extinguish those heart-burnings which are produced by the sight of another's superiority. Do you really believe that God has made the difference—that he had a right to give to your neighbor and withhold from you—that he does all things well—that he consults your good rather than your ease—that what is good for another might be bad for you—that he has given you far more than you deserve—that he has blessed you with richer blessings than temporal ones—that perhaps your spiritual blessings exceed those of the one you envy? Do you believe this—all this? Then surely such faith will in proportion to its strength extinguish this dreadful passion. If you give yourself, professing Christian, up to the indulgence of envious feelings, either you have no faith at all, or your faith must be very weak.

In seeking temporal blessings, faith will impose moderation of desire, and repress inordinate ambition. "Do you seek you great things for yourself? Seek them not." Jer. 45:5. This advice of the prophet to Baruch, is a word in season for us all. It is our over-fondness for the good things of this life that makes us impatient under its evil ones; and our ambition for greatness that makes us so indifferent about goodness. Men who are anxious to make great notoriety in the world, usually make small attainments in godliness. As the tops of high mountains are usually barren, while fruits and flowers grow in the valleys below—so the elevations of earthly things are as commonly bare—of spiritual verdure—of the flowers of piety—and the fruits of righteousness. Belief in God will repress this immoderate anxiety after wealth. It yields obedience to the injunction– "Let your moderation be known to all men." "This is the victory which overcomes the world—even our faith."

Faith fixes its eye upon better blessings, even spiritual and heavenly ones. It says to the Christian– "You are seeking a heavenly crown, and will you inordinately desire a large share of earthly baubles? Will you hinder yourself in the race, of which eternal life is the prize—by loading yourself with the cares and anxieties necessary to amass great wealth?" He who has opened his heart to such ambition must surely have let down his belief of a glorious eternity.

DEPENDENCE is another thing which will undoubtedly spring from a belief that all blessings, even temporal ones, come from God. Much wisdom and strength; prudence and patience; are necessary to succeed in life; and to succeed upon Christian principle, much forbearance, self-denial, and resolution to resist temptation. For all this we must depend upon God, and all this God has promised. "My grace is sufficient for you," is an assurance which everyone may apply to his own case; that is, everyone who wishes to be industrious without being covetous—who desires to be led in the middle path between ambition and indolence; and who in the pursuit of honest things, would not be led on to things superfluous; superfluous at least for all purposes but the indulgence of pride and the gratification of vanity. For this, let us depend upon God's promised assistance, and cherish in all our exertions a feeling of entire reliance upon him.

It is the work of faith to desire nothing that may be injurious to our spiritual interest. With a true Christian, his soul's salvation is his great thing—his one thing needful; and he considers that only as really good which is good for his soul. He has believed in Christ for eternal life. His heart has grasped this, and will not loose its hold upon it; and therefore whatever is incompatible with this, he wishes not to have in his possession, and prays not to be allowed to let go his tenacious adhesion to this supreme object. This is his prayer– "As much as I desire this object of my pursuit, yet if in my ignorance I have mistaken that for a good which you O God deem to be evil for my spiritual interests—if you see it would bring a blight upon my soul—if it should cool my love for you, or enfeeble my spiritual strength, or deaden my hope of glory everlasting—do in mercy withhold it; for I had better be denied anything—than be allowed to depart from you, or for you to depart from me." This is faith.

And the same state of mind will of course prepare us to bear the denial of our requests, and the failure of our efforts with submission, contentment, and cheerfulness. It is faith to ask blessings with fervor from God; but it is greater faith to take denials with placid resignation. If things fall out contrary to our expectations—they are not contrary to his wisdom. If things fall out against our wills—yet they are in accordance with his. If things fall out against our desires—yet they are not against our salvation. We shudder at the horrid blasphemy of him who said, if he had been present when God made the world, that he would have ordered things a great deal better than they now are. Yet is there not a degree of this impiety in our murmuring thoughts, when things turn out otherwise than we desired? Do we not feel as if WE could have ordered matters better? It is a beautiful sight and one too rarely beheld, to see a Christian calm and satisfied amid the wreck of his hopes, and the bitterness of disappointment, and to hear him say– "I have lost my object—but I am sure it is all right."

IV. We are to consider how faith exercises itself in the condition of those who possess the blessings of this life in considerable ABUNDANCE.

Faith gratefully acknowledges the bounteous hand which bestows all of its blessings. It does not say– "My own hand has gotten these!" but– "God has given them to me." It traces up every stream of comfort to him as the Divine Fountain. The believer is entirely convinced that he owes everything to God's unmerited goodness. He does not merely look around with delight upon all he has—but looks up with gratitude to his heavenly Father, from whom comes every good and perfect gift. His enjoyment of his temporal mercies is elevated and sweetened by the assurance that they are the gifts of a Father's hand, and not the results of chance, or even the products of his own skill, diligence, and industry! He loves to view God in all things—and all things in God. His comforts are so many mirrors from which the Divine benevolence is reflected upon him from every side. As he lies down on his bed in health he says– "Return unto your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." As he takes his seat at his well-spread table, he exclaims– "You make my cup to overflow." As he walks in his garden and enjoys his calm retreat, he lifts his heart in grateful acknowledgment for the Eden of his delight. As he moves onward amid peace and plenty, respect and regard, he gives utterance to his feelings in the language of the psalmist– "what shall I render unto God for all his benefits towards me?"

Nor does it stop here, for faith enjoys them as well as receives them, as the gifts of God—as blessings given to be enjoyed. When God was about to bring his people into the land of promise he commanded them by the lips of Moses– "to rejoice in every good thing which the Lord their God had given them." And to the same effect is the language of the apostle, where in opposition to the ascetic doctrines of those who forbid the lawful enjoyment of God's gifts, he declares that "since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it. We may receive it gladly, with thankful hearts. For we know it is made holy by the word of God and prayer." 1 Tim. 4:4, 5.

There is no faith—but much explicit unbelief in a stoical indifference to the bounties of Providence. It is the province of faith to preserve the due medium between idolizing and despising these lesser temporal mercies. Faith does not eradicate our natural desires and delights—but directs their growth, prunes their luxuriance, and prevents their attaining a strength which would impoverish the 'plants of grace', and a height which would chill them with their shadow. When Adam was perfect before his fall, he lived in a Paradise—yes, and enjoyed it too. And he to whom God has given a garden of Eden now, or anything approaching it, may enjoy it also, provided, like Adam in his innocence, he sees God in everything, and allows everything to lead him to God. If a man does not enjoy his blessings, he cannot be grateful for them.

That temporal blessings are to be viewed in subordination to spiritual blessings is very true—but this does not prove that they have no value. That a Christian derives his chief bliss from spiritual blessings is quite clear. He is no Christian who in the midst of the greatest abundance does not say– "Whom have I in heaven but you; and there is none upon earth I desire besides you!" But to forbid a subordinate delight in the good things of this world, is sanctioned neither by reason nor revelation. The true frame of mind is that which "the poet of the sanctuary" has thus expressed,

"Thanks to your name for earthly things,
 But they are not my God!"

Yes, it is the promise and power of faith to lift up the 'possessor of earthly things'—to heavenly things; and perhaps this is almost its greatest achievement. For a man to take delight in heaven, and find his chief happiness in spiritual things—when he has nothing else to delight him; to repair to the 'fountain'—when all the 'cisterns' are broken and the water all spilled out; to turn for relief to the light of God's countenance—when every other light is put out; to give up the world—when it has become a desert, and enter the garden of the Lord; is a far less triumph of faith than to be spiritually-minded amid temporal possessions; to use the world and not abuse it; to enjoy an earthly Paradise much—but still to enjoy the hope of a heavenly one more! To him who can do this, we say– "O man, great is your faith! What but the realization of 'the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen'—could enable you thus to overcome the world when it seemed all but certain it would conquer you by its smiles?"

It is by faith, that temporal blessings are sanctified to our spiritual good. That afflictions should do us good; that the lack of temporal blessings should be sanctified to our good, is easily conceived, for it often occurs. But how seldom is prosperity the means of raising the tone of our piety—and increasing the power of godliness. This is the Spirit's rarest work. In this respect, the works of nature and grace seem to be unlike each other. The flowers and fruits of tropical climates grow with great luxuriance, and attain to considerable magnitude and beauty; while those of alpine regions and arctic temperature are dwarfish and stunted. But in the spiritual world, it is amid the cold blasts and the hard frosts of adversity, that the trees of righteousness and the plants of grace attain to their greatest stature and beauty; while they wither and droop under the warm sun of prosperity.

Hence then, it is a glorious work of grace to grow holy by health, wealth, and renown. Yet there are such cases, though they are few, of Christians whose temporal mercies inflame their gratitude and love to God, increase their devotedness, and draw them into nearer communion with God. This should be the case with all in prosperity. Ought we not to love God, and hate sin more and more, in proportion as he blesses us? Ought we not to make his goodness to us, a means of increasing our love to him? Ought we not to realize from his gifts to us—so many new views of the sinfulness of sin which is committed against a being of so much kindness, and gain so many motives for crucifying our sins? Ought we not by a spirit of mortification to pluck up the weeds of our hearts, and bring them out to wither and die in the sunbeams of his goodness? But what can lead to this short of the power of an ever-active faith in God—in Christ—in heaven—in eternity? And this can! As the bee wanders over the garden, and extracts the materials of honey from every flower—so does faith go through the earthly Eden of the Christian, and draw the materials of holiness from every comfort and blessing. It is well therefore to recollect that though the lack of earthly comforts is a great judgment; to abuse our earthly comforts and blessings, is a greater evil. So the possession of earthly comforts we account a great mercy—but the holy use of our earthly comforts, is a greater blessing.

Belief in the Scriptures leads the possessor of the good things of this life to employ them for God's glory and the good of others. Christian charity is in every case the work of faith. Why don't the 'men of the world' employ their talents, wealth, rank, knowledge, and influence for the honor of him who gave them these blessings? Why do they lavish all God's gifts upon themselves? Because they do not believe that God gave them; or if they admit this, because they do not consider that they were given to be employed for his glory—nor that an account must be rendered to him in the day of judgment for the use of them.

And why is it that professors of religion are so backward in their zeal, and so stinted in their liberality? Why is it necessary to use so much persuasion to induce men to give up their time, labor, and property, for the promotion of God's cause? Why? Because their belief in God's Word is so feeble! Did they really believe that God had bestowed all this upon them, for the promotion of his cause in the world; that he will require at the last day, a strict account of every penny; and that he will reward with his gracious approbation every act, and sacrifice, and gift, and labor—which is done in simplicity for his glory—would they not give largely and freely—just as he has given to them? A stronger faith in the church of Christ would render useless and unnecessary, much of that begging which is now employed to get resources for our various institutions. When professors shall look upon their possessions with the 'eye of faith', the 'hand of liberality' will at once be widely spread, and all that is necessary will flow forth without the begging of man. It is a beautiful act of faith, to write "holiness to the Lord" on all our property. "But in the end her businesses will give their profits to the Lord. Her wealth will not be hoarded but will be used to provide good food and fine clothing for the Lord's priests." Isaiah 23:18. "On that day even the harness bells of the horses will be inscribed with these words: 'Set apart as Holy to the Lord.' And the cooking pots in the Temple of the Lord will be as sacred as the basins used beside the altar." Zech. 14:20.

The completion of this work of faith in reference to the possession of earthly blessings, is to be willing to surrender them to God when he calls for them. We believe he gave them; we believe he preserves them to us; and we believe that he alone can take them from us. If health decays—it is God who touches our bodies! If riches take to themselves wings and fly away—it is from his hand we receive them, and at his command they take their flight! Hence, the believer says– "I am immortal until God calls me hence. I am secure of my possessions until he takes them from me. And as he does nothing but what is wise, and just, and good, and does not afflict willingly—nor grieve his children—I am sure that he will not call me to give up any one good thing I possess—but for a sufficient reason and in a proper time." There is something pleasant in this. A believer may cast away all undue solicitude about losing his temporal mercies, and may sit down with an easy, calm and unworrying mind—assured that they will never be removed from him but by God—and not even by him but for the best reason.

V. We now consider the case of those who are DESTITUTE of many temporal blessings. And these are the larger number in the family of God. Such people are often in considerable perplexity. They read in the Bible certain promises, such as we have already adverted to, and they do not seem, at least in their experience, to be fulfilled. They do not possess these blessings. To relieve their solicitude and help them out of their perplexity, we would make one or two remarks—

Promises of temporal blessings are not absolute—but conditional. They are made with an implied restriction that we shall have them in such kind, measure, and season—as God sees best! "Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." Psalm 34:10. But then it must be left for God to determine what things are good. And ought it not to be left with him? Would we not wish it to be left for the all wise God to determine what is good for us? That is best for us—which is best for our interest and God's glory. Who can judge of this but God himself? Who would not rather have the matter put thus generally and conditionally, than to have it said, They shall lack nothing they desire; but have everything they ask for?

The promises of temporal blessings are sometimes fulfilled in our posterity. "The just man walks in his integrity, and his children are blessed after him." Prov. 20:7. The blessing seems to lie asleep for awhile, and then it rises up in the children of the godly man, as if the more vigorous for its slumber. It may be, he is put to hard times, and much labor, and great concern to provide for the needs of his family, and dies and leaves little behind him. But that little God wonderfully blesses, and so his end is accomplished, though not during his life.

The promises of temporal blessings which seem sometimes to fail—fail on our part, rather than on God's. We neglect to perform the conditions on which the blessings are suspended, and lose the benefit through neglect of the means. We are not promised health without care to preserve it. We are not promised success in business without ability, industry, frugality, and perseverance.

And now, how will faith operate in those who after using all proper means to obtain temporal blessings—are still destitute of them, at least to a considerable extent?

They too must have recourse to the doctrine of an overruling, all-wise, all-disposing Providence. The Providence and Sovereignty of God, extends alike to all—to those who have, and those who want. They must conclude this—that the God who gives to others, denies to them—and does it in the exercise of the same wisdom and the same love. He could have given temporal blessings to them—if he desired. And he would have given temporal blessings—if it had been best that he should. He has not—therefore it is right. It is a quaint but true remark of Manton– "That is best for us which is fittest, not what is largest. If you were to choose a shoe for your child's foot you would not choose the largest but the fittest." Would you not choose by the same rule for yourself?

The armor of Goliath, weighty as it was, would not suit David—even Saul's armor did but encumber him. Adaptation is the essence of a blessing, all else is but secondary. Thus is the language of faith– "That is best to me—which is best for me. And God gives what is best." This is wonderfully strengthened by the words of the apostle– "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32. The logic of this reasoning, a child may understand. He who gave us in wonderful, mysterious kindness Jesus Christ, his own, well-beloved Son, to die for us upon the cross, to obtain for us salvation—how shall he not give us anything, everything, all things which are necessary for our eternal welfare?

What, asks the believer, did he give heaven's richest jewel for me, and will he deny me a little of earth's dust? Did he give me in Christ eternal salvation, and will he deny me a little present temporal comfort—if it were for my good? I could as soon believe a monarch would give me his crown and deny me a crumb. No! His cross is to me a guarantee that I shall lack nothing else, that is for my good. I may be destitute of some things which others have; but having Christ, I must have all else, however little it may seem to be—which is necessary for my eternal well-being.

Hence the believer is conscious that if he is without many temporal blessings, he has all spiritual blessings in heavenly things and places in Christ Jesus. "Christ has been made unto him wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30. To him the apostle says, and he believes the declaration– "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come—all are yours!" 1 Cor. 3:21-23. He believes that this is true in reference to him, and in the exercise of this belief he can bear the privation of many things which others possess.

And then he looks up and sees all heaven opening to receive him, and pour its fullness into his soul! He looks forward and sees eternity with all its ages waiting to swallow up mortality in eternal glory! He feels that he needs but little here on this earth—and shall not lack that little which he truly needs; and that his present privations will only prepare him more exquisitely to enjoy the fullness of delight which is in the presence of God, and the pleasures of eternal glory! "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11.

Under the influence of all these considerations he bows down—not only with submission—but with contentment in his earthly lot. His faith reconciles him to every privation, and enables him to say, and triumph as he says it– "As sorrowful—yet always rejoicing; as poor—yet making many rich; as having nothing—and yet possessing all things!" 2 Cor. 6:10.