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was but where unbelief hath once prevailed, how rarely is it corrected! The Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem had principles of their own, which would not suffer them to believe Jesus Christ to be the true Saviour; their pride would never give up their own false wisdom; and their covetousness would not give up the world so all the miracles of Christ could not convince them. But publicans, and harlots, and all others to whom sin was burthensome, and judgment frightful, believed and were saved. Every man that will not believe, has some wicked reasons for it; and he can never believe, till those reasons are given up: on which consideration, it is necessary that repentance should go before faith. What those reasons were in particular, which hindered the people of Jericho from believing, it may now be hard to enumerate: long established idolatry, with the habitual vices attending jt, was sufficient; in which pride and presumption are among the chief. I believe, their high walls, and their miraculous downfall, were alluded to in those words of the apostle, where he says; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Such weapons as men use in war, are called carnal: these were not employed against Jericho; but such only as were figurative and mystical, but which, nevertheless, are mighty through God to the casting down the walls of this proud city; such weapons as could have no effect but what he gave them. The Gospel is such another weapon: it is sounded by priests; and with the same effect the high thoughts of man are brought down,
and all imaginations fall before it*. In such wicked imaginations did the people of Jericho persist; and therefore they could not understand what was coming upon them. But observe, that though they continued firm to the last in their unbelief, they were far from being easy. The terror of destruction was upon them, and their hearts melted within them. Thus it is with wicked men they suffer fear and terror from the state they are in; but it does them no good: they neither grow wiser nor better. What a deplorable case is this! but it was the case almost universally of those wicked nations of Canaan, when they had filled up the measure of their iniquities: and such is the natural end, and last effect of sin: when it has blinded the eyes, it hardens the heart, and then there is no recovery to be expected. The judgments of God are then certain, and his justice is inflexible. When judgment is come, mercy is past; according to that terrible declaration by the prophet Amos; I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good. How dreadful is it, when it comes to this! when God is determined upon punishment, then it soon appears what it is to fall into the hands of the living God.
But whatever a sinner may have been, if he returns and makes his peace while the day of mercy lasts, he is never cast out. This doctrine is exemplified in the case of Rahab; who was received to mercy when the city perished. This case, before it is well considered, may seem to give encouragement to sin. What? hath a wicked harlot nothing to do, but to believe and be saved? Here we are too hasty: for when she believed; what did she? She did not sit still to be idle and
See Isaiah, ii. 14.
worthless; but as she believed, so she acted: she received the spies with peace and saved their lives at the hazard of her own. Surely then, if he who gives only a cup of cold water as a testimony of his faith, is entitled to a reward; he who saves the life of another on the same principle, must be entitled to a greater.
This case of Rahab has given occasion to some reasonings in the Scripture, which often are not rightly understood. In the text the apostle teaches us, that by faith the hariot Rahab perished not: but St. James asks; was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? There is here an apparent contradiction in words; but there is none in point of fact; for faith, and the work of faith, are in reality but one and the same thing: the faith produces the work; and the work proves the faith; and neither of these can be certain without the other. Faith which does not work is dead; and a work, if a work of faith, justifies indeed faith itself is a work in the heart of man, and so the expression of St. James imports; for he says of Abraham, that faith wrought with his works; and so it was a working, that is, a living faith. But the most express declaration to this purpose is the answer of Christ to that question of the Jews; what shall we do, that we might work the works of God? to which he answered, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. So that the dispute which men have raised about faith and works, is without foundation. When these two are asunder, they are nothing: when they are together, they are. but the same thing. Faith that is alive will work; and the work will be good, because it is the work of a believer.
They who never considered the power and value of faith toward salvation, may learn how great it is from the history of Rahab's deliverance. When we are told, that Abraham was justified by faith, we do not wonder: we can believe any good of our father Abraham. But that it should avail to the saving of Rahab is extraordinary, and never to be accounted for by the man of the world. The just live by faith; that is, they are not saved for their justice, but for their faith and if the best are not accepted without faith, the worst may not be condemned if they have it. But why is faith preferred in this manner above all things? I will tell you some of the reasons. Faith in God is a cure, because it is contrary to man's native distemper. Man began to sin with believing a lie: and he believed it when told by an enemy; by the enemy of God; as he is still disposed to do at this day; with what propriety of justice then can God receive the man, who refuses to believe нIм upon his word? Faith in the Enemy brought him to ruin, and keeps him in it: nothing can restore him, but its contrary; which is faith in God.
Another reason is, that the way of faith is contrary to the way of man's own wisdom; and is therefore the hardest trial that he can be put to. It is after the wisdom of God: but it has nothing of man's wisdom in it: it is contradictory to it all. This the wise man cannot bear to hear of; and he therefore pronounces it to be folly. There are in the world two contrary descriptions or characters of men: the one has faith, the other has none; and they are so different in their conception of things, that each is considered as unwise by the other. The man of the world makes it a rule to believe nothing but what he sees: but the
faith of the believer is a sight of the mind, which gives evidence of things not seen. There is no doetrine upon earth which mortifies the pride of man, like this of salvation by faith; it is therefore appointed as the great test by which man is proved. He cannot endure the thought, that his wisdom should be foolishness, and that his ostentatious virtues should be good for nothing. But he who cannot bear this mortification, he who will not freely make an offer of his mind to God, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven. He persists in that rebellious desire of the mind, which first drew him away from God: and to shew him his mistake, God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty. How is the worldly-wise offended, when the Gospel tells him of a malefactor, translated from a cross to paradise! What rage will torment him, when he shall see the harlot Rahab admitted, and himself shut out! But such are the ways of God: he exalteth the weak, and putteth down the mighty. Men may glory for a while in the appearance of their greatness but their high walls will come to the ground. They may despise Rahab; but the best and the greatest of them all must submit to be saved, upon the same terms with that repentant and believing sinner of Jericho. They may talk to one another in high strains about virtue, and right, and degrees of credibility but God regards them not: his salvation is bestowed upon the poor penitent, who believes that Jericho will soon fall; that destruction is coming upon the world of the ungodly; that the JUDGE standeth at the door; and who makes provision accordingly; securing an interest against the day of vengeance, They who would not be found, but persecuted the