WHEN faith first commences in the soul, it is like a grain of mustard seed, of which the Savior said it was the least of all seeds; but as God the Holy Spirit is pleased to bedew it with the sacred moisture of His grace, it germinates and grows and begins to spread, until at last it becomes a great tree. To use another figure: when faith commences in the soul it is simply looking unto Jesus, and perhaps even then there are so many clouds of doubts, and so much dimness of the eye, that we have need for the light of the Spirit to shine upon the cross before we are able even so much as to see it. When faith grows a little, it rises from looking to Christ to coming to Christ. He who stood afar off and looked to the cross by-and-bye plucks up courage, and getting heart to himself, he runneth up to the cross; or perhaps he doth not run, but hath to be drawn before he can so much as creep thither, and even then it is with a limping gait that he draweth nigh to Christ the Savior. But that done, faith goeth a little farther: it layeth hold on Christ; it begins to see Him in His exellency, and appropriates Him in some degree, conceives Him to be a real Christ and a real Savior, and is convinced of His suitability. And when it hath done as much as that, it goeth further; it leaneth on Christ; it leaneth on its Beloved; casteth all the burden of its cares, sorrows, and griefs upon that blessed shoulder, and permitteth all its sins to be swallowed up in the great red sea of the Savior’s blood.
Faith can go further still; for having seen and ran towards Him, and laid hold upon Him, and having leaned upon Him, faith in the next place puts in a humble, but a sure and certain claim to all that Christ is and all that He has wrought; and then, trusting alone in this, appropriating all this to itself, faith mounteth to full assurance; and out of heaven there is no state more rapturous and blessed.
But faith is but very small, and there are some Christians who never get out of little faith all the while they are here. You notice in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim ’s Progress, how many Little-faiths he mentions. There is our old friend Ready-to-halt, who went all the way to the Celestial City on crutches, but left them when he went into the river Jordan. Then there is little Feeble-mind, who carried his feeble-mind with him all the way to the banks of the river and then left it, and ordered it to be buried in a dunghill that none might inherit it. Then there is Mr. Fearing, too, who used to stumble over a straw, and was always frightened if he saw a drop of rain, because he thought the floods of heaven were let loose upon him. And you remember Mr. Despondency and Miss Much-afraid, who were so long locked up in the dungeon of Giant Despair, that they were almost starved to death, and there was little left of them but skin and bone; and poor Mr.
Feeble-mind, who had been taken into the cave of Giant Slay-good who was about to eat him, when Great-heart came to his deliverance. John Bunyan was a very wise man. He puts put a great many of those characters in his book because there are a great many of them. He has not left us with one Mr. Ready-to-halt, but he has given us seven or eight graphic characters because he himself in his own time has been one of them, and he had known many others who had walked in the same path.
Little-faith is quite as sure of heaven as Great-faith. When Jesus Christ counts up His Jewels at the last day He will take to Himself the little pearls as well as the great ones. If a diamond be never so small yet it is precious because it is a diamond. So will faith, be it never so little, if it be true faith, Christ will never lose even the smallest jewel of His crown. Little-faith is always sure of heaven, because the name of Little-faith is in the book of eternal life. Life-faith was chosen of God before the foundation of the world. Little-faith was bought with the blood of Christ; ay, and he cost as much as Great-faith. “For every man a shekel” was the price of redemption. Every man, whether great or small, prince or peasant, had to redeem himself with a shekel. Christ has bought all, both little and great, with the same most precious blood. Little-faith is always sure of heaven, for God has begun the good work in him and He will carry it on. God loves him and He will love him unto the end. God has provided a crown for him, and He will not allow the crown to hang there without a head; he has erected for him a mansion in heaven and He will not allow the mansion to stand untenanted for ever. Little-faith is always safe, but he very seldom knows it. If you meet him he is sometimes afraid of hell; very often afraid that the wrath of God abideth on him. He will tell you that the country on the other side of the flood can never belong to a worm so base as he.
Sometimes it is because he feels; himself so unworthy, another time it is because the things of God are too good to be true, he says, or he cannot think they can be true to such an one as he is. Sometimes he is afraid he is not elect; another time he fears that he has not been called aright, that he has not come to Christ aright. Another time his fears are that he will not hold on to the end, that he shall not be able to persevere; and if you kill a thousand of his fears he is sure to have another host by to-morrow; for unbelief is one of those things that you cannot destroy. “It hath,” saith Bunyan, “as many lives as a cat;” you may kill it over and over again, but still it lives. It is one of those ill weeds that sleep in the soil even after it has been burned, and it only needs a little encouragement to grow again. Now Great-faith is sure of heaven, and he knows it. He climbs Pisgah’s top, and views the landscape o’er; he drinks in the mysteries of paradise even before he enters within the pearly gates. He sees the streets that are paved with gold; he beholds the walls of the city, the foundations whereof are precious stones; he hears the mystic music of the glorified, and begins to smell on earth the perfumes of heaven. But poor Little-faith can scarcely look at the sun; he very seldom sees the light; he gropes in the valley, and while all is safe he always thinks himself unsafe. Strong-faith can well contest with the enemy. Satan comes along, and says, “All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” “Nay,” we say, “thou canst not give us all these things, for they are ours already.” “Nay,” says he, “but ye are poor, naked and miserable.” “Ay,” say we to him, “but still these things are ours, and it is good for us to be poor, good for us to be without earthly goods, or else our Father would give them to us.” “Oh,” says Satan “you deceive yourselves; you have no portion in these things; but if you will serve me, then I will make you rich and happy here.’ Strong-faith says, “Serve thee, thou fiend! Avaunt! Dost thou offer me silver? — behold God giveth me gold. Dost thou say to me, ‘I will give thee this if thou disobey?’ — fool that thou art! I have a thousand times as great wages for my obedience as thou canst offer for my disobedience.” But when Satan meets Little-faith, he says to him,” If thou be the Son of God cast thyself down;” and poor Little-faith is so afraid that he is not a Son of God that he is very apt to cast himself down upon the supposition. “There,” says Satan, “I will give thee all this if thou wilt disobey.” Little-faith says, “I am not quite sure that I am a child of God, that I have a portion among them that are sanctified;” and he is very apt to fall into sin by reason of the littleness of his faith. Yet at the same time I must observe that I have seen some Littlefaiths who are far less apt to fall into sin than others. They have been so cautious that they dared not put one foot before the other, because they were afraid they should put it awry: they scarcely even dared to open their lips, but they prayed, “O Lord, open Thou my lips;” afraid that they should let a wrong word out, if they were to speak; always alarmed lest they should be falling into sin unconsciously, having a very tender conscience.
Well, I like people of this sort. I have sometimes thought that Little-faith holds tighter by Christ than any other. For a man who is very near drowning is sure to clutch the plank all the tighter with the grasp of a drowning man, which tightens and becomes more clenched the more his hope is decreased. Little-faith may be kept from falling, but this is the fruit of tender conscience and not of little faith. Careful walking is not the result of little faith; it may go with it, and so may keep Little-faith from perishing, but little faith is in itself a dangerous thing, laying us open to innumerable temptations, and taking away very much of our strength to resist them. “The joy of the Lord is your strength;” and if that joy ceases you become weak and very apt to turn aside. Little-faiths have many nights and few days, very long winters and very short summers, many howlings, but very little of shouting; often playing upon the pipe mourning, but very seldom sounding the trump exultation.
Perhaps the only way in which most men get their faith increased is by great trouble. We don’t grow strong in faith on sunshine days. It is only in strong weather that a man gets faith. Faith is not an attainment that droppeth like the gentle dew from heaven; it generally comes in the whirlwind and the storm. Look at the old oaks: how is it that they have become so deeply rooted in the earth? Ask the March winds and they will tell you. It is not the April shower that did it, or the sweet May sunshine, but it was March’s rough wind, the blustering month of old Boreas shaking the tree to and fro and causing the roots to bind themselves around the rocks. So must it be with us. We don’t make great soldiers in the barracks at home; they must be made amidst flying shot and thundering cannon. We cannot expect to make good sailors on the Serpentine; they must be made far away on the deep sea, where the wild winds howl, and the thunders roll like drums in the march of the God of armies. Storms and tempests are the things that make men tough and hardy mariners. They see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. So with Christians. Great-faith must have great trials. Mr. Great-heart would never have been Mr. Great-heart if he had not once been Mr. Great-trouble. Valiant-for-truth would never have put to flight those foes, and have been so valiant, if the foes had not first attacked him. So with us: we must expect great trouble before we shall attain to much faith.