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ries, as are revealed to them, that are servants of Christ, and yet we do nothing, that is commanded us as a condition to obtain them. No man could work a day's labour without faith but because he believes, he shall have his wages at the day's or week's end, he does his duty. But he only believes, who does that thing, which other men, in the like cases, do, when they do believe. He, that believes money, gotten with danger, is better than poverty with safety, will venture for it in unknown lands or seas: and so will he, that believes it better to get heaven with labour, than to go to hell with pleasure.
6. He that believes, does not make haste, but waits patiently, till the times of refreshment come, and dares trust God for the morrow, and is no more solicitous for the next year, than he is for that which is past and it is certain, that man wants faith, who dares be more confident of being supplied, when he hath money in his purse, than when he hath it only in bills of exchange from God; or that relies more upon his own industry than upon God's providence, when his own industry fails him. If you dare trust to God, when the case, to human reason, seems impossible, and trust to God then also out of choice, not because you have nothing else to trust to, but because he is the only support of a just confidence, then you give a good testimony of your faith.
7. True faith is confident, and will venture all the world upon the strength of its persuasion. Will you lay your life on it, your estate, your reputation, that the doctrine of Jesus Christ is true in every article? Then you have true faith. But he that fears men more than God, believes men, more than he believes in God.
8. Faith, if it be true, living, and justifying, cannot be separated from a good life; it works miracles, makes a drunkard become sober, a lascivious person become chaste, a covetous man become liberal, "it overcomes the world-it works righteousness," and makes us diligently to do, and cheerfully to suffer, whatsoever God hath placed in our way to heaven.
2 Cor. xiii. 5. Rom. viii. 10.
The means and instruments to obtain Faith are,
1. A humble, willing, and docile mind, or desire to be instructed in the way of God: for persuasion enters like a sun-beam, gently, and without violence: and open but the window, and draw the curtain, and the Sun of righteousness will enlighten your darkness.
2. Remove all prejudice and love to every thing, which may be contradicted by faith. "How can ye believe (said Christ), that receive praise, one of another?" An unchaste man cannot easily be brought to believe, that, without purity, he shall never see God. He, that loves riches, can hardly believe the doctrine of poverty and renunciation of the world: and alms and martyrdom and the doctrine of the cross is folly to him, that loves his ease and pleasures. He, that hath within him any principle contrary to the doctrines of faith, cannot easily become a disciple.
3. Prayer, which is instrumental to every thing, hath a particular promise in this thing. "He that lacks wisdom, let him ask it of God:" and, "If you give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Spirit to them, that ask him?"
4. The consideration of the Divine omnipotence and infinite wisdom, and our own ignorance, are great instruments of curing all doubting, and silencing the murmurs of infidelity".
5. Avoid all curiosity of inquiry into particulars and circumstances and mysteries: for true faith is full of ingenuity and hearty simplicity, free from suspicion, wise and confident, trusting upon generals, without watching and prying into unnecessary or indiscernible particulars. No man carries his bed into his field, to watch how his corn grows, but believes upon the general order of Providence and nature; and, at harvest, finds himself not deceived.
6. In time of temptation, be not busy to dispute, but rely upon the conclusion, and throw yourself upon God; and contend not with him but in prayer, and in the presence, and with the help, of a prudent untempted guide: and be sure to esteem all changes of belief, which offer themselves in the time of your greatest weakness (contrary to the persuasions
* In rebus miris summa credendi ratio est omnipotentia Creatoris. St. Aug.
of your best understanding) to be temptations, and reject them accordingly.
7. It is a prudent course, that, in our health and best advantages, we lay up particular arguments and instruments of persuasion and confidence, to be brought forth and used in the great day of expense; and that especially, in such things, in which we use to be most tempted, and in which we are least confident, and which are most necessary, and which commonly the devil uses to assault us withal, in the days of our visitation..
8. The wisdom of the church of God is very remarkable in appointing festivals or holy days, whose solemnity and offices have no other special business but to record the article of the day; such as Trinity Sunday, Ascension, Easter, Christmas day; and to those persons, who can only believe, not prove or dispute, there is no better instrument to cause the remembrance and plain notion, and to endear the affection and hearty assent to the article, than the proclaiming and recommending it by the festivity and joy of a holy day.
Of the Hope of a Christian.
FAITH differs from hope, in the extension of its object, and in the intention of degree. St. Austin thus accounts their differences. Faith is of all things revealed, good and bad, rewards and punishments, of things past, present, and to come, of things that concern us, of things that concern us not; but hope hath, for its object, things only, that are good, and fit to be hoped for, future, and concerning ourselves: and because these things are offered to us upon conditions of which we may so fail, as we may change our will, therefore our certainty is less than the adherences of faith; which (because faith relies only upon one proposition, that is, the truth of the word of God) cannot be made uncertain in themselves, though the object of our hope may become uncertain to us, and to our possession. For it is infallibly certain, that
f Enchirid. c. 8.
there is heaven for all the godly, and for me amongst them all, if I do my duty. But that I shall enter into heaven, is the object of my hope, not of my faith; and is so sure, as it is certain I shall persevere in the ways of God.
The acts of Hope are,
1. To rely upon God with a confident expectation of his promises; ever esteeming, that every promise of God is a magazine of all that grace and relief, which we can need in that instance, for which the promise is made. Every degree of hope is a degree of confidence.
2. To esteem all the danger of an action, and the possibilities of miscarriage, and every cross accident, that can intervene, to be no defect on God's part, but either a mercy on his part, or a fault on ours: for then we shall be sure to trust in God, when we see him to be our confidence, and ourselves the cause of all mischances. The hope of a Christian is prudent and religious.
3. To rejoice in the midst of a misfortune or seeming sadness, knowing, that this may work for good, and will, if we be not wanting to our souls. This is a direct act of hope, to look through the cloud, and look for a beam of the light from God and this is called in Scripture," rejoicing in tribulation, when the God of hope fills us with all joy in believing." Every degree of hope brings a degree of joy.
4. To desire, to pray, and to long for, the great object of our hope, the mighty price of our high calling; and to desire the other things of this life, as they are promised; that is, so far as they are made necessary and useful to us, in order to God's glory and the great end of souls. Hope and fasting are said to be the two wings of prayer. Fasting is but as the wing of a bird; but hope is like the wing of an angel, soaring up to heaven, and bears our prayers to the throne of grace. Without hope, it is impossible to pray; but hope makes our prayers reasonable, passionate, and religious; for it relies upon God's promise, or experience, or providence, and story. Prayer is always in proportion to our hope, zealous and affectionate.
5. Perseverance is the perfection of the duty of hope, and its last act and so long as our hope continues, so long we
go on in duty and diligence: but he, that is to raise a castle in an hour, sits down and does nothing towards it: and Herod, the sophister, left off to teach his son, when he saw that twenty-four Pages, appointed to wait on him, and called by the several letters of the alphabet, could never make him to understand his letters perfectly.
Rules to govern our Hope.
1. Let your hope be moderate; proportioned to your state, person, and condition, whether it be for gifts or graces, or temporal favours. It is an ambitious hope for persons, whose diligence is like them, that are least in the kingdom of heaven, to believe themselves endeared to God as the greatest saints: or that they shall have a throne equal to St. Paul, or the blessed Virgin Mary. A stammerer cannot, with moderation, hope for the gift of tongues; or a peasant to become learned as Origen; or if a beggar desires, or hopes, to become a king, or asks for a thousand pound a year, we call him impudent, not passionate, much less reasonable. Hope, that God will crown your endeavours with equal measures of that reward, which he indeed freely gives, but yet gives, according to our proportions. Hope for good success according to, or not much beyond, the efficacy of the causes and the instrument; and let the husbandman hope for a good harvest, not for a rich kingdom, or a victorious army.
2. Let your hope be well founded, relying upon just confidences; that is, upon God, according to his revelations and promises. For it is possible for a man, to have a vain hope upon God: and, in matters of religion, it is presumption to hope, that God's mercies will be poured forth upon lazy persons, that do nothing towards holy and strict walking, nothing (I say) but trust, and long for an event besides, and against, all disposition of the means. Every false principle, in religion, is a reed of Egypt, false and dangerous. Rely not in temporal things upon uncertain prophecies and astrology, not upon our own wit or industry, not upon gold or friends, not upon armies and princes; expect not health from physicians, that cannot. cure their own breath, much less their mortality use all lawful instruments, but expect nothing from them above their natural or ordinary efficacy, and, in the use of them, from God expect a blessing. A hope, that