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Gospel tends to and requires, and that God also especially demands, this one thing,—that we devote ourselves entirely to the service of our neighbour, and so serve God; as the prophet saith, Psalm 1. “ Hear, 0 my people, I am God, even thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, (for all that thou hast or canst offer unto me was first mine.) For every beast of the forest is mine, and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills. Thinkest thou that I will eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" &c. And thus also he speaks unto us, · Behold, O Israel, I am a God to thee, and not thou to me. I will give unto thee, but thou canst give nothing unto me. Hear, O Israel, I will not be wrath with thee because thou dost not load me with many sacrifices : for whatever is in thy stalls or in thy folds, is mine: and it was I that gave them into thy folds.' Here however he rebukes the Jews, who pride themselves so much upon their sacrifices. As, therefore, he thus rejects their sacrifices, what does he wish to be substituted in their stead? Truly, that which follows in the same prophet; “ Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High,” &c. That is, I will have thine heart. Offer unto me thyself. Embrace me as a merciful and atoning God, and as thy God; and then, I shall be satisfied!
Wherefore hold thy faith in confidence and hope, and thou shalt have him an indulgent God : cleave only unto him, and, in extreme perils, fee only unto him as unto a holy anchor. Believe, venture a reliance upon him, and risk all upon that reliance. Hold it fast, and doubt not, and he will be a refuge for thee. And, when thou hast done this, then serve thy neighbour with a free and willing mind. Believe, I say. Commit thyself wholly unto God, and expect his aid with an unhalting mind, and he will help thee. The truth of God will, to all eternity, be consistent with itself, Psalm cxv.
CONCERNING TWO SORTS OF MEN IN RESPECT OF FAITH: AND WHAT TRUE FAITH IS.
HEBREWS xi. He that cometh unto God must believe, &c. You may find many men, who, if they experience not external help and comfort from God, immediately think that it is all over with them as to their salvation, and that they are utterly forgotten of God. The reason of which is this.-Men of this kind seek nothing but their own, and do not commit themselves wholly to the mere good-will of God. And such men as these, do not go on the straight road to happiness without looking aside into different paths as they go. They are not always in the same mind, whether they abound or whether they suffer and endure want, esteeming alike poverty and wealth ; as Paul did, who, (Philip. iv.) saith, “ I have learned both to abound and to suffer need.” But they Auctuate to and fro. They praise God, and endeavour to please him by their works, as long as he bestows benefits upon them: as the divine Psalmist saith, Ps. xlix. 18, “Men will praise thee, while thou doest good unto them.” But as soon as God hideth himself in order to try them a little, whether or not they will serve him and believe in him, the moment these external advantages and delights are taken away, and he thus withdraws for a time the rays of his goodness, and leaves them to their own naked opinion, and destitute of all things; then, an unwillingness seizes their minds to serve God any longer, and their love, their praise, and whole of
their worship of God, is frozen up together. And such characters as these, are exposed to the greatest perils : and for this reason. -Since they serve God for external advantage only, when he will no longer give them any thing, (and that justly, seeing that he owes them nothing,) then comes in upon them an evil spirit, and takes away their faith; and then, they begin to doubt whether or not they shall be saved; seeing that, they no longer receive any comfort from God in their troubles. And when they begin to doubt of this, then the devil has the victory in his own hands, how many works soever of a splendid show they may perform. For the apostle James, in the first chapter of his Epistle, saith, “ Let not him that doubteth, think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” This Satan well knows, and therefore he plies all his arts to accomplish this one thing, to extinguish faith; and when he has done this, he cares not what works are done afterwards without faith, how great and excellent soever they may be.
For where faith is wanting, there is nothing but darkness and a vain worship of God; even though you should wear yourself out even unto death by singing, or making a noise and howling. And yet, alihough these things are certain, yet will these men prefer these their works unto faith. But however, none but stupid sophists do this.
Now, even as these above-mentioned characters have a regard unto their private advantage only in all that they do; and do not, as they ought, set God before them in all their ways as their only object; so, these following characters, in whatever they do or leave undone, seek the honour of God only, and not their own advantage. And this is a kind of opposite distinction. These latter are content with this only:-- their knowing that God is good. And they cleave iinmovably to him alone, and to no created thing whatever; constantly remaining the same, which way soever their lot may turn. They love God and extol his goodness with praises as much when God deprives them of all those external supplies, as they do when he abundantly bestows these things upon them. They do not trust to their own works and to themselves when they are in possession of these things, nor, on the other hand, do they distrust God, when they are taken away.
In what state soever they may be, they give themselves up to the good-will of God; so that they can from their heart and inmost soul say, 'My Lord, and my most gracious Father! I have no will of my own, either to be or not to be, to live or to die, to know or not to know, to have or not to have;—thy will alone be done! I want not thine, but THEE thyself; Thou art not more dear unto me when all my affairs go well, nor art thou less dear to me when they go ill! It is just and right that thou shouldst oppose me, for thy power is as well above me as over me, but I have no right over thee!'-Now when a man descends thus deeply into himself, it will follow, that he will not dare to ask any thing of God, but that which he believes is to be given unto him as a free gift, and without any merit of his own: he will hold himself unworthy of all those things which God freely bestows upon him : and he will be persuaded, that all his words and works are, before God, nothing but mere folly and sin.
Men of this kind render the whole kingdom of Satan very narrow, nor can any thing whatever hurt them, because they stand by God alone more immovably than the Marpesian rock, leaning on him by steady faith. They ward off all the temptations which he levels against them, by faith, as with a shield, whereby all of them are overcome, as it is written Hebrews xi. And they are in truth real Christians and the sons of God, who are thus led by the Holy Spirit, as Paul testifies, Rom. viii.: for they seek not their own will, but follow on to do the eternal will of their Father who is in heaven: whom they serve, not to the end that he might give unto them heaven and temporal advantages, but on this account only,--because he is the great and ever blessed God! And therefore, if they knew for certainty that there were no heaven, no hell, 00 recompense of reward, yet would they nevertheless
be prepared to worship God, and that for God's sake only.- But in these matters, many men have not a right faith!
Wherefore, we will here speak a little upon these things: in order that the minds of men may be the more conveniently formed unto those paradoxes which we have just set forth.
Faith teaches us two things which the apostle Paul, Heb. xi. sets forth thus. “He that cometh unto God must believe that he is God, and that he is the rewarder of them that from their heart seek him.” First, when Paul saith, “must believe that he is God," he strikes at the root of all pride, presumption, rashness, boasting, and false confidence, either in himself or in any
other creature, and extols the one true God as omnipotent. It is easily said that “God is,” but to live a life fully corresponding with that saying, is hard indeed! Upon this one point, “God is,” rests the whole foundation of faith. For if there were no God, all the sorrows, the trials, the faith, and whatever pertains unto Christians, would be altogether vain and a thing of nought. There would be even no distinction between Gentiles, Jews, and Christians: and that would be altogether contrary to the scripture and to Paul, who distinguishes us who have faith from every thing that is destitute of faith, when he says, “ He that cometh unto God, must believe that he is," &c.
Moreover, the scripture commands, that all should refrain from the name of God, and not rashly meddle with it; much less therefore will it permit any one to arrogate it to himself, as the devil dared to do, Isaiah xiv.; who, assuming to himself the honour due unto God, desired to make himself equal unto the Most High. And if all are to refrain from touching the name of God, and no one is to arrogate it unto himself, then must he also refrain from those things which are God's, and which proceed from God, and not assume any of them unto himself. For God saith, Job xli., ‘All things under the heavens are mine. If therefore all things are God's, nothing belongs to any man, nor to any other creature.