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time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” What I have threatened concerning the Chaldeans shall be accomplished. Wait in patience. Thou shalt find it so.
“ Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Faith is in its nature a humble thing; the very contrary to pride. Thou must submit to the word of God. Let not any thing of man, his righteousness, his counsel, or his strength be taken into the account. That is the work of vain pride; such a heart is not right with
Wouldst thou be comforted indeed, believe my
word. Be humble like a little child : and looking out of thyself to me, behold me the Almighty, the living and true God, and stagger not at my promises. Refrain thyself and keep thy soul low. Do not exercise thyself in great matters, which are too high for thee: Let thy soul be as a weaned child, and trust in the Lord at all times.
Such is the life of faith recommended by God to his Prophet, as precisely suitable to the particular trial of his mind, spoken of in his first and second chapters. But, as a medicine, however valuable in itself, will not answer a valuable end unless constantly applied, as circumstances require; so Habakkuk, like other holy men, would find perpetual occasion to apply the same remedy. Therefore the particularity of the expression, “ live by faith," should be attended to. In truth, we are naturally
, in a state of death. By the Redeemer a title to life was obtained for Habakkuk and all believers, whether they lived before or after our Lord's appearance on earth. This life, which he bought for them with his blood, is essentially a happy and a holy life: And the blessed happiness and holiness, which belong to it, are begun here; grow and advance in degree; and after death are completed, and continue through eternity. By faith it is received and enjoyed all along. Neglect the use and exercise of faith in the promises, and do what you please besides, with a view to cure the raging distemper of human misery, and you do nothing to the purpose. So long as we are exposed to corruption and temptation in this imperfect state, so long the best have need to live by faith. For even when the Holy Ghost convinces a man of the extensive purity and the strict severity of the law of God, and applies the condemning power of the commandments to his conscience, it will often happen that internal principles of sin, which before were dormant, will now show themselves impatient of restraint; and break out in perverse workings, and rebellious exertions ; and thus the recovery of spiritual joy and health, though begun in the soul, will be impeded. So St. Paul, in the 7th chapter to the Romans, bitterly* laments his evil nature, which was capable of being irritated, by “that which was good,” to discover still greater strength of sin and greater depths of malignity. Here is then the grand
grand “secret of the Lord,” which is with them that fear him. It is the life of faith, which conveys out of Christ's fulness that astonishing power, wisdom, and virtue to the soul; that victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil; that peace, joy, and love; and that heaven on earth, of which the firmest believer has the first enjoyment; but of which every believer has a measure. This will issue at length in a complete restoration of the health of the soul. As to unbelievers, they may think all is well with them. No small part of their misery lies in this their want of feeling. But the curse of sin is consuming them; and if they die thus, their worm will not die, neither will their fire be quenched.
* See Rom. vii. 8, to the end of the chapter.
How clearly then is the remedy of human misery set forth to us even in the Old Testament; "the just shall live by faith.” You are guilty, blind, miserable, corrupt; what is to be done? How shall you be happy? A Saviour, a Physician of the soul is set forth ; but how shall I prevail on him to assist and deliver me? The answer is, Believe in him : Receive him in all his offices. Lost in your own view, depend on him for recovery. What you look for at his hands, you shall obtain : You shall have pardon, wisdom, the peace of God, strength against sin, true joy, and every thing that deserves the name of Good.
O Christianity! How glorious are thine offers ! How little art thou understood or regarded in the world! Did we know thee better, did we feel the malady of our nature, and did we apply the medicine, what a paradise would even this corrupt world become! What prospects of a happy eternity would gladden the hearts of thousands ! But few believe,--and therefore few are holy and happy.
Now the grand object of this faith is the Lord Jesus Christ, as the satisfier of the Divine Law for man and the procurer of bliss to their souls from his reconciled Father. In the New Testament he is set forth as already come, and as having completed his work; in the Old he is only promised. Therefore, on this, as well as other accounts, the
life of faith begins to be more clearly set forth in the former than in the latter. Hearken to St. Paul, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” Rom. i. 16, 17. The word Gospel signifies good news. The news is of a Saviour. No other can be called good news to sinners. The Saviour becomes yours by believing, and is continued yours in the same way: we set him forth to you, praying you to accept him; and as
. ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God*.
Our Text is quoted also in Gal. iii. 11. “ That no man is justified by the law is evident: for, the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Living by faith, then, is a state of dependance on Jesus as a free Saviour, without any dependance on ourselves. We renounce the best of our performances as a ground of hope. Christ's offering is our whole redemption from the curse; and when we are brought to this, we become real Christians; and when we have learnt to put no trust at all in our works, we become enabled, through the assistance of an invisible Saviour, to live a holy life, and to do good works indeed, and not before.
But this life of faith requires the exercise of much patience. Observe then the third place where our
* 2 Cor. V. 20.
Text is quoted, Heb. x. In the latter end of this chapter, the Apostle observes the happy effect which the assurance of faith had on the minds of the believing Hebrews. “ Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves, the expression is remarkable ---that ye have in heaven
, a better and an enduring substance.” Yet, because they were still liable to much suffering in this state, and it might please God to permit them to be long exercised with it, therefore, says he,“ ye have need of patience; that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith.”
Thus that exercise of faith in Habakkuk, relating to the destruction of the Chaldean tyranny, which required so much patient waiting for, though sure to be accomplished at length, is, in nearly the same words, applied in the epistle to the Hebrews, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the world. That is the event which is to complete the happiness of the Christian : That is what the Hebrews are exhorted to wait for in patient faith: And, by faith in this Lord, and in full dependance on the word of his grace, that he would come at length to deliver them gloriously, completely, and everlastingly, they were to live, and be fitted for all the services and sufferings to which they should be called in this state of pilgrimage.
We are now then prepared to set forth to you, what a life of faith is. He who lives it indeed, becomes Just, or justified by faith. It is in the merit of the Lord Jesus alone that he is justified, and glories, and has full acceptance with God. As