“BY grace are ye saved.” Because God is gracious, therefore sinful men are forgiven, converted, purified, and saved. It is not because of anything in them, or that ever can be in them, that they are saved; but because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy, and grace of God.
Tarry a moment, then, at the well-head. Behold the pure river of water of life as it proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. What an abyss is the grace of God! Who can fathom it? Like all the rest of the divine attributes, it is infinite. God is full of love, for “God is love”; God is full of goodness, and the very name “God” is but short for “good.”
Unbounded goodness and love enter into the very essence of the Godhead.
It is because “His mercy endureth for ever” that men are not destroyed; because “His compassions fail not” that sinners are brought to Himself and forgiven. Right well remember this, for else you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself.
Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost. “No man cometh unto Me,” saith Christ, “except the Father which hath sent Me draw him.” So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation, and faith, important as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved “through faith,” but it is “by grace.” Sound forth those words as with the archangel’s trumpet: “By grace are ye saved.”
Faith occupies the position of a channel or conduit-pipe. Grace is the fountain and the stream: faith is the aqueduct along which the flood of mercy flows down to refresh the thirsty sons of men. It is a great pit when the aqueduct is broken. It is a sad sight to see around!\parHOW CAN WE OBTAIN AND INCREASE OUR FAITH? A very earnest question this to many. They say they want to believe but cannot. A great deal of nonsense is talked upon this subject. Let us be practical in our dealing with it. “What am I to do in order to believe?” The shortest way is to believe, and if the Holy Spirit has made you honest and candid, you will believe as soon as the truth is set before you. Anyhow, the Gospel command is clear: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
But still, if you have a difficulty, take it before God in prayer. Tell the great Father exactly what it is that puzzles you, and beg Him by His Holy Spirit to solve the question. If I cannot believe a statement in a book I am glad to inquire of the author what he meant, and if he is a true man his explanation will satisfy me; much more will the divine explanation satisfy the heart of the true seeker. The Lord is willing to make Himself known; go to Him, and see if it be not so.
Furthermore, if faith seem difficult, it is possible that God the Holy Spirit will enable you to believe if you hear very frequently and earnestly that which you are commanded to believe. We believe many things because we have heard them so often. Do you not find it so in common life, that if you hear a thing fifty times a day, at last you come to believe it? Some men have come to believe that which is false by this process: I should not wonder but what God often blesses this method in working faith concerning that which is true, for it is written, “Faith cometh by hearing.”
If I earnestly and attentively hear the Gospel, it may be that one of these days I shall find myself believing that which I hear, through the blessed operation of the Spirit upon my mind.
The Samaritans believed because of what the woman told them concerning Jesus. Many of our beliefs arise out of the testimony of others. I believe that there is such a country as Japan: I never saw it, and yet I believe that there is such a place because others have been there. I believe I shall die: I have never died, but a great many have done so whom I once knew, and I have a conviction that I shall die also; the testimony of many convinces me of this fact. Listen, then, to those who tell you how they were saved, how they were pardoned, how they have been changed in character: if you will but listen you will find that somebody just like yourself has been saved. If you have been a thief, you will find that a thief rejoiced to wash away his sin in the fountain of Christ’s blood. You that have been unchaste in life, you will find that men who have fallen that way have been cleansed and changed. If you are in despair, you have only to get among God’s people, and inquire a little, and some who have been equally in despair with yourself will tell you how He saved them. As you listen to one after another of those who have tried the word of God, and proved it, the divine Spirit will lead you to believe. Have you not heard of the African who was told by the missionary that water sometimes became so hard that a man could walk on it? He declared that he believed a great many things the missionary had told him; but he never would believe that. When he came to England it came to pass that one frosty day he saw the river frozen, but he would not venture on it. He knew that it was a river, and he was certain that he would be drowned if he ventured upon it. He could not be induced to walk the ice till his friend went upon it; then he was persuaded, and trusted himself where others had ventured. So, mayhap, while you see others believe, and notice their joy and peace, you will yourself be gently led to believe. It is one of God’s ways of helping us to faith.
A better plan still is this, — note the authority upon which you are commanded to believe, and this will greatly help you. The authority is not mine, or you might well reject it. It is not even the Pope’s, or you might even reject that. But you are commanded to believe upon the authority of God Himself. He bids you believe in Jesus Christ, and you must not refuse to obey your Maker. The foreman of a certain works in the north had often heard the Gospel, but he was troubled with the fear that he might not come to Christ. His good master one day sent a card round to the works — “Come to my house immediately after work.” The foreman appeared at his master’s door, and the master came out, and said, somewhat roughly, “What do you want, John, troubling me at this time? Work is done; what right have you here?” “Sir,” said he, “I had a card from you saying that I was to come after work.” “Do you mean to say that merely because you had a card from me you are to come up to my house and call me out after business hours?” “Well, sir,” replied the foreman, “I do not understand you, but it seems to me that, as you sent for me, I had a right to come.” “Come in, John,” said his master, “I have another message that I want to read to you,” and he sat down and read these words: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Do you think after such a message from Christ that you can be wrong in going to Him?”
The poor man saw it all at once, and believed, because he saw that he had good warrant and authority for believing. So have you, poor soul; you have good authority for coming to Christ, for the Lord Himself bids you trust Him.
If that does not settle you, think over what it is that you have to believe, — that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the room and place and stead of men, and is able to save all who trust Him. Why, this is the most blessed fact that ever men were told to believe: the most suitable, the most comforting, the most divine truth that ever was set before men. I advise you to think much upon it, and search out the grace and love which it contains. Study the four Evangelists, study Paul’s epistles, and then see if the message is not such a credible one that you are forced to believe it.
If that does not do, then think upon the person of Jesus Christ — think of who He is and what He did, and where He is now, and what He is now; think often and deeply. When He, even such an one as He, bids you trust Him, surely then your heart will be persuaded. For how can you doubt Him?
If none of these things avail, then there is something wrong about you altogether. Submit yourself to God! May the Spirit of God take away your enmity and make you yield. You are a rebel, a proud rebel, and that is why you do not believe your God. Give up your rebellion; throw down your weapons; yield at discretion; surrender to your King. I believe that never did a soul throw up its hands in self-despair, and cry, “Lord, I yield,” but what faith became easy to it before long. It is because you still have a quarrel with God, and intend to have your own will and your own way, that therefore you cannot believe. “How can ye believe,” said Christ, “that have honor one of another?” Proud self creates unbelief. Yield to your God, and then shall you sweetly believe in your Savior.