IT may be that the reader feels a difficulty in believing. Let him consider.
We cannot believe by an immediate act. The state of mind which we describe as believing is a result, following upon certain former states of mind. We come to faith by degrees. There may be such a thing as faith at first sight; but usually we reach faith by stages: we become, interested, we consider, we hear evidence, we are convinced, and so led to believe. If, then, I wish to believe, but for some reason or other find that I cannot attain to faith, what shall I do? Shall I stand like a cow staring at a new gate; or shall I, like an intelligent being, use the proper means? If I wish to believe anything, what shall I do? We will answer according to the rules of common-sense.
If I were told that the Sultan of Zanzibar was a good man, and it happened to be a matter of interest to me, I do not suppose I should feel any difficulty in believing it. But if for some reason I had a doubt about it, and yet wished to believe the news, how should I act? Should I not hunt up all the information within my reach about his Majesty, and try, by study of the newspapers and other documents, to arrive at the truth? Better still, if he happened to be in this country, and would see me, and I could also converse with members of his court, and citizens of his country, I should be greatly helped to arrive at a decision by using these sources of information. Evidence weighed and knowledge obtained lead up to faith. It is true that faith in Jesus is the gift of God; but yet he usually bestows it in accordance with the laws of mind, and hence we are told that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If you want to believe in Jesus, hear about him, read about him, think about; him, know about him, and so you will find faith springing up in your heart, like the wheat which comes up through the moisture and the heat operating upon the seed which has been sown. If I wished to have faith in a certain physician, I should ask for testimonials of his cures, I should wish to see the diplomas which certified to his professional knowledge, and I should also like to hear what he has to say upon certain complicated cases. In fact, I should take means to know, in order that I might believe.
Be much in hearing concerning Jesus. Souls by hundreds come to faith in Jesus under a ministry which sets him forth clearly and constantly. Few remain unbelieving under a preacher whose great subject is Christ crucified. Hear no minister of any other sort. There are such. I have heard of one who found in his pulpit Bible a paper bearing this text, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Go to the place of worship to see Jesus; and if you cannot; even hear the mention of his name, take yourself off to another place where he is more thought of, and is therefore more likely to be present.
Be much in reading about the Lord Jesus. The books of Scripture are the lilies among which he feedeth. The Bible is the window through which we may look and see our Lord. Read over the story of his sufferings and death with devout attention, and before long the Lord will cause faith secretly to enter your soul. The Cross of Christ not only rewards faith, but begets faith. Many a believer can say — “When I view thee, wounded, grieving, Breathless, on the cursed tree, Soon I feel my heart believing Thou hast suffered thus for me.” If hearing and reading suffice not, then deliberately set your mind to work to overhaul the matter, and have it out. Either believe, or know the reason why you do not believe. See the matter through to the utmost of your ability, and pray God to help you to make a thorough investigation, and to come to an honest decision one way or the other. Consider who Jesus was, and whether the constitution of his person does not entitle him to confidence. Consider what he did, and whether this also must not be good ground for trust. Consider him as dying, rising from the dead, ascending, and ever living to intercede for transgressors; and see whether this does not entitle him to be relied on by you. Then cry to him, and see if he does not hear you. When Usher wished to know whether Rutherford was indeed as holy a man as he was said to be, he went to his house as a beggar, and gained a lodging, and heard the man of God pouring out his heart before the Lord in the night. If you would know Jesus, get as near to him. as you can by studying his character, and appealing to his love.
At one time I might have needed evidence to make me believe in the Lord Jesus; but now I. know him so well, by proving him, that I should need a very great deal of evidence to make me doubt him. It is now more natural to me to trust than to disbelieve: this is the new nature triumphing; it was not so at the first. The novelty of faith is, in the beginning, a source of weakness; but act after act of trusting turns faith into a habit. Experience brings to faith strong confirmation.
I am not perplexed with doubt, because the truth ‘which I believe has wrought a miracle on me. By its means I have received and still retain a new life, to which I was once a stranger: and this is confirmation of the strongest sort. I am like the good man and his wife who had kept a lighthouse for years. A visitor, who came to see the lighthouse, looking out from the window over the waste of waters, asked the good woman, “Are you not afraid at night, when the storm is out, and the big waves dash right over the lantern? Do you not fear that, the lighthouse, and all that is in it, will be carried away? I am sure I should be afraid to trust myself in a slender tower in the midst of the great billows.” The woman remarked that the idea never occurred to her now. She had lived there so long that She felt as safe on the lone rock as ever she did when she lived on the mainland.
As for her husband, when asked if he did not feel anxious when the wind blew a hurricane, he answered, “Yes, I feel anxious to keep the lamps well trimmed, and the light burning, lest any vessel should be wrecked.” As to anxiety about the safety of the lighthouse, or his own personal security in it, he had outlived all that. Even so it is with the full-grown believer. He can humbly say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
From henceforth let no man trouble me with doubts and questionings; I bear in my soul the proofs of the Spirit’s truth and power, and I will have none of your artful reasonings. The gospel to me is truth: I am content to perish if it be not true. I risk my soul’s eternal fate upon the truth of the gospel, and I know that there is no risk in it. My one concern is to keep the lights burning, that I may thereby benefit others. Only let the Lord give me oil enough to feed my lamp, so that I may cast a ray across the dark and treacherous sea of life, and I am well content.
Now, troubled seeker, if it be so, that your minister, and many others in whom you confide, have found perfect peace and rest in the gospel, why should not you? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Do not his words do good to them that walk uprightly? Will not you also try their saving virtue?
Most true is the gospel, for God is its Author. Believe it. Most able is the Savior, for he is the Son of God. Trust him. Most powerful is his precious blood. Look to it for pardon. Most loving is his gracious heart. Run to it at once.
Thus would I urge the reader to seek faith; but if he be unwilling, what more can I do? I have brought, the horse to the water, but I cannot make him drink. This, however, be it remembered — -unbelief is willful when evidence is put in a man’s way, and he refuses carefully to examine it. He that does not desire to know, and accept the truth, has himself to thank if he dies with a lie in his right hand. It is true that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”: it is equally true that “he that believeth not shall be damned.”