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FAITH VICTORIOUS OVER THE FEAR OF MAN:
DANIEL iii. 16, 17, 18. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to
the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to an. swer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, o king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
CORRECT summaries of doctrine, expressing the meaning and use of particular passages of scripture are condescensions and accommodations to wcak and little minds. The memory easily takes hold of thein, and lays them up in its treasury, and the heart feeds on them with knowledge and understanding, for aiding us in the exercises of piety and the duties of holiness. The usefulness of such summaries, introduced into the method of popular discourses, doctrine, and use; and, though it be not much observed now, I will bear a testimony to its propriety on this occasion, by saying, the doctrine in our text is
Faith in God, as our God in Christ, overcomes the fear of man, and strengthens the weak, to profess in the face of danger a good profession before many witnesses. In order to illustrate this proposition, or doctrine, it is proper first of all to represent before you the nature of true faith, by forth the Object, the ground, and the exercise of it. After the discussion of these particulars, we shall conclude this discourse with some inferences and exhortacions.
Concerning the Object of our faith, in the first place. In the nature of our faith the object is a principal consideration, and known by the revelation of himself in the scriptures: By these holy writings we know and acknowledge him to be the Lord our God in Christ.
First, He is the Lord, whose name alone is Jehovah. In. the light of the word his existence and glory are made known, and beheld with the cyes of the understanding.His existence. When Moses asked his name, this revelation was made, “I am that I am,” which imports that he is the existing One, who is, and who was, and who is to come, without variableness or shadow of turning. Art thou, O bearer, assured of an existing and eternal Power, the creator and governor of all? Assurance of his existence is an high attainment in the life of faith and essentially necessary to our worshipping and glorifying him as God. This we infor from the repetitions of these soleinn words, “Ye shall know that I am the Lord;” and from the words of the apostle, “He that cometh to God must “believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that “diligently seek him.”-His glory. The excellency of his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, is the glory in him which faith beholds, believes, acknowledges, admires, and adores. In the exercise of it, believers sometimes rejoice in one of his attributes, and sometimes in another, as these appearsuited to their temptations and trials. David sometimes praises his power, sometimes his mercy, and sometimes his truth. The three witnesses before the king of Babylon rested in his power, and goodness, and sovereignty: “Our God, whom "we serve, is able to deliver us." But faith embraces the whole of his excellencics, as the revealed and transcendent glory of its great object.
Secondly, The object of faith is the Lord our God. He says in the ear of his people, “Be not dismayed, for I am thy God;" and hearing his speech, they say, “This God," who speaketh in his holiness, is “Our God.” The language in which he speaks to thein is the elementary principle of theirs to him; and upon it they make broad and extensive claims,-claiming his power as their refuge, his l'uth as their shield, bis name as their defence, his goodness as their portion, and his all-sufficiency as their treasury. Would ye have an example? ye will see one in the
eighteenth Psalm: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, "and my deliverer; iny God, my strength, in whom I will "rusi; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my whigh tower."
Thirdly, The object of faith is the Lord our God in Christ. In the faith of sinners this consideration of him is essentially important. By nature we are sinners, and children of wrath; and, by wicked works, enemies, and alienüied from the life of God. Without a mediator of righteousness, atonement, and reconciliation, we have no intercourse with him in believing. “By Christ we believe in God, who raised him from the dead, that our faith and "bope might be in God.”. This consideration of the object of faith is not peculiar to the New Testament. Though the revelation of it was comparatively dark, the first believer, and all that followed, had it before them, and saw it truly. God was then, as he is now, in Christ. The witnesses in Babylon saw and believed in him as in Christ; and in the furnace had a sensible proof of it. Sinners who do not see God in Christ cannot believe, because their understandings are darkened, and their minds blinded. This -darkness is removed, and light concerning God in Christ created in the mind, by the Spirit in the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. For, saith an apostle, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shath shined in our heart, to give the light of the know“ledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
In the SECOND place, Concerning the ground of faith. The ground on which we stand and build in believing, is the record or testimony of God, revealing himself to us as the Lord our God in Christ. This record, testimony, or witness, faith believes to be true, receives as good, rests in as sure, and builds on with appropriation, according its address with full assurance of its stability. Would ye see a form of words revealing the object from faith to faith, or from the faithfulness of God to the faith of men? look to the seventh verse of tlie fiftieth Psalm: «Hear, O my peoople, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against “thee; I am God, even thy God.” This testimony is the ground on which faith stands and builds, and, as it can neirher be removed vor shaken, the confidence and the rejoicing of our hope ought to be held fast unto the end.
The truth is, faith can neither stand nor build on any other ground. Unless we have his own testimony before us, we cannot glorify him in believing. It would be presuming, and not believing, to call him our God on any other ground. But after he hath spoken, and testified in his holiness, saying, “I am God, even thy God,” it is obee dience, and not presumption, to say, with the witnesses in the text, “Our God, whom we serve.” The ground of faith being firm and clear in the testimony, the Object finds fault with our shyness to venture on it, in firm and resolute believing"Wilt thou not from this time cry uni“to me, my father; thou art the guide of my youth?" And then, in the authority of a promiser and lawgiver, prescribes it as the obedience of faith-Thou shalt call “me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me."
Though the faith of believers doth not fix them always on the same passage, they always build on some passage of the revealed testimony. They never change their ground, but do not alway build on the same spot. These variations in their exercise are consequences of their infirmities, temptations, perplexities, and necessities, which are numerous and various; but they never change their ground nor their object. Today their faith may fix on “I am God "even thy God;" and without being moved away from it, they may fix to-morrow on another revelation in the same testimony, the whole of which is so wisely and graciously laid, as to accommodate its various parts to their varying necessities.
In the Testimony which is the ground of faith there is an order that ought not to be overlooked, since according to it the exercise of faith is to be regulated. The glorj. ons Ohject, in the front of the law, says, “I am the Lord: “thy God;" and the body of the particular commandment, which turned to his witnesses in tbe plain of Dura for a testimony, he repeats it, saying "I the Lord thy God "am a jealous God." Upon hearing this gracious declaa ration from his throne, saith proceeds, and boldly advances its claiin, saying, “This God is our God.” In this very order the witnesses proceed, and add to their faith virtue. Recollecting the words, “I am the Lord thy God,” in the Front of the law, and the commandments following them, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. Thou shalt not make, nor bow down to nor serve any graven image, they come forward, boldly and firmly, saying, "Our Gochy "whom we serve."
Thirdly, Concerning the exercise of faith. In its exercise the following particulars, which we shall illustrate distinctly, have place,--the knowledge of the glorious Object, in the revealed grant that he makes of himself asthe Lord our God in Christ;ra persuasion that this divine grant is faithful and true;- hat every one to whom it is revealed is warranted and commanded to believe it, and the trust, or rest, of the heart in it, as worthy of all. acceptation.
In the exercise of faith there is, First, The knowledge of its glorious Object, in the revealed grant which he makes of himself in Christ, as the Lord our God, True faith includes true knowledge of its object, the only living and true God. Though iis exercise is on things distant and unseen, it hath no exercise on that which is not. “He "that cometh to God must believe that he is." Neither doth it set its seal to that which is not known, like the Athenians, who had an altar to an unknown God. The Object of faith hath both inacle himself known, and made a grant of himself, not only in bis sovereign purpose, but in his holy word; and thereby prevented all excuses of unbelief on the foot of ignorance. This appears to have been well understood by the man after. God's heart, when giving his last charge to his successor: “Thou, Solomon, wmy son, know thout the God of thy father; and serve him, wwith a perfect heart and with a willing, mind." And these witnesses understood what they affirmed, when they said, “Our God, whom we serve.' They knew their God, understood the grant he had made of himself to them, and believed that in receiving it they were not setting theirseal to an untruth.
Secondly, In the exercise of faith there is a persuasion that the divine grant is faithful and true. The persuasion is wrought in the heart by the Spirit of faith, and grounds itself upon the grant in the word of faith. From the veracity and immutability of the glorious Speaker the ground is firm and broad; and every one to whom he reveals and addresses bimself in it, should honour him with a full persuasion that what: he says is faithful and true. In some Dassages of his word, you will observe pot only a truth