James Smith, 1856
A man of integrity, uprightness, and proven character — always considers it an insult to be suspected, or to have his word doubted — especially when solemnly and deliberately given. Nor are we in the habit of doubting the word, or suspecting the character of an old, tried, and generous friend. We would think it beneath us to do so. But what we would be ashamed to do in reference to men — we are constantly doing in reference to God! Who has not suspected God? Who is there who never, under any circumstances, suspects him? Alas! the unbelief of our hearts is continually manifesting itself thus. Look around, and as you look on various characters, ask, "Does such an one, and such an one, believe God? Is there no suspicion of God there?"
Look at the lost sinner. He goes on in sin. He lives without prayer. He is unthankful and unholy. Day after day finds and leaves him in a careless state. He has no harassing fears. He has no dread of Hell. He has no desire for holiness. Does he know that God has threatened sin? Yes! Does he know that God has pledged to send the impenitent sinner to Hell? Yes! At least he has heard so, and he has read the same in the Bible. How is it then that he has no fear? How is it then that he does not seek to "escape the damnation of Hell?" Just because he suspects God. He does not believe that God means him; that the threatening refers to his sin; or that God can find it in his heart to send him to Hell. He thinks that, in some way, God will excuse him, extend mercy to him, or spare him.
O sinner, sinner! You are suspecting God's veracity. You doubt God's faithfulness. You undermine God's character. What! does not God mean what he says? What! is not God honest when he threatens to punish the hardened sinner? Will God allow you to go on in sin, slighting His mercy, rejecting His Son — and then take you to Heaven at last? Impossible! If you did not think God to be altogether such a one as yourself, if you did not suspect his truthfulness, or unchangeableness — you never could go on prayerless and careless as you do. You live suspecting God — but you will find His word true, perhaps too late, "I will reprove you, and set in order before you the things that you have done. Now consider this, you that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver!"
Look at the seeker. He really desires to find grace, to obtain a saving interest in Christ, and to be made fit for Heaven. He reads the Bible. He hears the gospel. He grieves over his state as a sinner. He prays. At times he hopes. But he is harassed with doubts. He is tormented with fears. He is often filled with gloom. But why is this? Is not God waiting to be gracious? Is not the invitation of the gospel free? Is not the promise of God plain, positive, and absolute? Yes. Does not the Lord delight in mercy? Is not his Word promised, "Him that comes, I will never cast out?" Yes. Why then is he not confident? Why not happy?
Ah, he suspects God! He does not take his Word as just meaning what it says, as absolutely true, as sure of fulfillment. There is a secret suspicion, "It may fail in my case. I am not the the person. My feelings are not right. I do not come as I ought." That is, though God says, "No money, no price." Though God speaks in words as simple, and in terms as strong as it is possible to do — yet you have an idea that something on your part is necessary. You must do something, or feel something, or bring something — instead of receiving salvation as the free gift of the freest grace.
Ah, seeker, you are suspecting God! you do not take His word as addressed to you, and believing it, expect it to be made good in your experience. You do not understand the doctrine of salvation, which is, "man Nothing — God Everything." Or, you are not yet brought to like the terms, and made willing to be saved, as a pauper, on the footing of free and sovereign grace. When the Holy Spirit destroys all your suspicions of God, rolls you in the dust before God, and shows you that there is nothing between you and the flames of Hell, but the blood of Christ — then you will be glad to be saved freely, and you will cast yourself as a lost sinner at the feet of Jesus, and be at peace.
Look at the tried Christian. He is tossed to and fro like the locust. He is harassed with doubts. His rest is disturbed by night, and his peace by day. Why?
O, he is so tried.
His burdens are so heavy.
His crosses are so many.
His disappointments are so painful.
His griefs are so great.
His pains are so severe.
But has not God promised, "As your day — so shall your strength be." Has not Jesus assured you, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Has not the Most High said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Yes. Why then, do you not boldly say, "The Lord is my helper — I will not fear!" Why then do you not sing, "God is my refuse and strength, a very pleasant help in trouble!" Why?
Ah, you say, "My weakness is so great, my corruptions are so strong, my foes are so many, my unworthiness stares me in the face!" The fact is — you suspect God. You are suspicious of him. You do not believe that he will be true to his Word, and faithful to his promise. If you did, you would call on him, wait for him, and expect him to glorify his grace, and make good his Word in your experience. You would say, "The Lord Almighty is with me, the God of Jacob is my refuge; therefore will I not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea!" You would cast all your care on him, believing that he cared for you; and the peace of God would keep your heart and mind, through Christ Jesus. But this anxiety, this gloom this perturbation, plainly declares that you are suspecting God.
Look at the industrious Christian. He is working for God, employing his talents in the cause of God, seeking to advance the kingdom of God. He sows good seed, even God's Word. He uses his tongue, his pen, his purse, and the printing-press. Yet at times he is cast down, dispirited, and almost ready to relax in his efforts. He fears that all will be vain — that little good is or ever will be done by him. But has not God said, "He who goes forth and weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him?" Has not the Holy Spirit exhorted and promised, "Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not." Did not the apostle appeal to the knowledge of the Corinthians, when he would stimulate to firmness and diligence, saying, "Be steadfast, immoveable. Always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."
How then can we yield to discouragement, or relax our efforts, or suspend our operations? If we do so — it is because we suspect God. For if God's Word is true, if God himself is faithful — it is impossible to run in vain, or labor in vain. We must succeed. Our work will be rewarded. A crop is sure. The harvest will certainly come. We shall bind up our sheaves and carry them to the garner. Brother, sister, toil on. Yield to no discouragement. Only let . . .
the seed be God's Word,
the motive God's glory,
the object the good of souls,
the end the Savior's honor,
and then sow on!
Write letter after letter. Give tract after tract. Never faint, never weary. Remember God has said, "As the rain and the snow comes down from Heaven, and returns not there — but waters the earth, and causes it to bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth, it shall not return unto me void — but it shall accomplish that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." God is faithful. Heaven and earth may pass away — but His Word shall never pass away. He is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that He should change His mind; He has said — and He will do it; He has spoken — and He will make it good. Go on; plough in hope, sow in hope, and you shall be a partaker of your hope. Never, never, never suspect God. He is worthy of your highest, strongest confidence.
Fellow-laborer, cheer up; the soil may be dry, the clouds may refuse to drop their precious treasures, and there may be much to try your faith, patience, and determination — but go on, let nothing discourage you. You cannot labor in vain. In God's service, it is impossible to spend your strength for nothing. The Spirit will come down secretly, silently, and suitably; and His power will make your feeble efforts efficient. As in salvation, so in carrying on God's cause, the motto is, "Man Nothing — God Everything!" Therefore God must have all the glory. This is the reason why he chooses to work by the weak things, the base things, and things that are despised — that he who glories may glory only in the Lord. The grace of God is infinite, the work of Christ is perfect, the inspired Word is true, and our salvation and reward, as diligent believers, is sure.