"To him that worketh not, but believeth."--Romans
THERE seem to be many, in our day, who are seeking God. Yet they appear to be
but "feeling after him in order to find him," as if he were either a distant or
an "unknown God." They forget that "he is NOT FAR from every one of us," (Acts
xvii. 27); for "in him we live, and move, and have our being."
To know that He is not far; that he has come down; that he has come nigh; this
is the "beginning of the gospel." It gives direct denial to the vain thoughts of
those who think that they must bring Him nigh they by their prayers and devout
performances. He has shewn himself to us, that we may
know him, and in knowing him find the life of our souls.
With some, who name the name of Christ, religion is a very unfinished thing. It
is by no means satisfactory either to the man himself, or to the onlookers.
There is much awanting. The man is anxious and earnest, but if he has not "peace
with God," he has not what God calls "religion."
Acceptance with God lies at the foundation of all religion; for there must be an
accepted worshipper, before there can be acceptable worship. Religion is with
many merely the means of averting God's displeasure, and securing his favor. It
is often irksome, but they do not feel easy in neglecting it; and they hope that
by it they will obtain forgiveness before they die.
This, however, is the inversion of God's order, and is in reality the worship of
unknown God. It terminates in forgiveness; whereas as God's religion begins with
it. All false religions, though outwardly differing very widely, are made up of
earnest efforts to secure for the religionist the divine favour now, and eternal
life at last.
The one true religion is seen in the holy life of those who,
having found for themselves forgiveness and favour, in believing the the record
which God has given of his Son, are walking with him from day to day, in the
calm but sure consciousness of being entirely accepted, and working for him with
the happy earnestness of those whose reward is his constant smile of love; who
having been much forgiven, love much, and shew forth, by daily sacrifice and
service, how much they feel themselves debtors to a redeeming God, debtors to
his Church, and debtors to the world in which they live. (Rom. i. 14.)
But if this be true religion, how much is there of the false?
It is not good that men should be all their life seeking God, and never finding
him; that they should be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge
of the truth.
It is not good to be always doubting; and, when challenged, to
make the untrue excuse that they are only doubting themselves, not God; that
they are only dissatisfied with their own faith, but not with its glorious
It is not good to believe in our own faith, still less in our own
doubts, which some seem to do, making the best doubter to be the best believer;
as if it were the gold of the cup, not the living water which it contains, that
was to quench our thirst; and as if it were unlawful to take that precious water
from a poor earthen vessel, such as our imperfect faith must ever be.
thing, surely it is with the water and not with the vessel that the thirsty soul
has to do? What matters it though the vessel be one of skin, or
earthenware,--nay, though it be but "a skerd to take up water from the pit,"
(Isa. xxx. 14). It is not the quality of the vessel, but the quality of the
water, that the thirsty soul thinks of; and he, whose pride will not allow him
to drink out of a soiled and broken pitcher, must die of thirst. So he who puts
away the sure reconciliation of the cross, because--of an imperfect faith, must
die the death.
He who says, "I believe the right thing, but I don't believe it
in the right way, and therefore I can't have peace;" is the man whose pride is
such, that he is determined not to quench his thirst save out of a cup of gold.
Some have tried to give directions to sinners "how to get converted,"
multiplying words without wisdom, leading the sinner
away from the cross by setting him upon doing, not upon believing. Our business
is not to give any such directions, but, as the apostles did, to preach Christ
crucified, a present Saviour and a present salvation. Then it is that sinners
are converted, as the Lord himself said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all
men unto me," (John xii. 32).