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believe God," &c. It is so with Christian faith: it is founded upon a special communication from God.
And of that communication we may remark :
First : That it comes to man in his greatest extremity. The angel voice addressed Paul with assurance of safety when all human means of self-preservation were wanting. They had tried many plans of escape from destruction, and all had proved vain. In this extremity God interposed, and their deliverance was promised. It was when reason and intellect had done all they could ; when the world by wisdom knew not God; that He himself stepped forth to save man.
“ When there was no eye to pity,” &c.
Secondly : That it is adapted to all men's spiritual wants. The communication made to Paul was suited to the circumstances in which he and his companions were placed. It told them what they must do to be saved. The Divine message to man in the Gospel is precisely of this nature. It is specifically adapted to all the moral necessities of our nature-it makes known a complete salvation for lost humanity. It supplies the means of obtaining pardon, purity, peace, and eternal life. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ : for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”
Thirdly: That its divine origin is most evident. The apostle knew that it was a divine announcement which had been made to him. It was no dream-no fancy of a heated imagination, but a true and indubitable revelation of the Divine will. He could say it was of God—“I believe God.” It is thus the Christian can speak of the Gospel. He has the evidence of his own consciousness, of its power and efficiency. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself;" he knows that it is "the glorious Gospel of the ever-blessed God.”
From this passage we observe :
II, THAT THE CHARACTER OF GOD INSPIRES THE BELIEVER WITH CONFIDENCE IN HIS WORD. Paul was in the midst of
the surging waters-on the shattered deck of a sinking ship, and yet felt confident of safety. God had said they should be saved if they obeyed His will, and the apostle felt that what He had said He would perform. “I believe that it shall be even as it was told me.” It was the character of God which inspired him with confidence, and there is the same reason for the Christian's confidence now.
First : Because what God says He wills. The message Paul received was a revelation of the will of God. As such it was accepted. He knew that the will and the communication were coincident. God's word is the expression of His will. It assures us that it is His will that all who obey the Gospel shall be saved. “ This is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seek the Son and believeth on him should have everlasting life.”
Secondly: Because He is able to do what he promises. The danger to Paul and those with him was great. The storm was raging, the waves rolled furiously, the breakers were foaming, and the rocks were nigh ; but God was greater than the sea and mightier than the storm. He was able to fulfil His word and rescue them. “ The arm of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save.”. There are great and mighty obstacles in the way of men's salvation; but, “ Christ is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.”
Thirdly: Because the mind of God is unchangeable. There was reason for Paul's confidence, because he felt that he had to do with the word of One who changeth not—whose purposes were not unsettled and vacillating. He might well be assured that it should“ be as it was told him.” The purposes of God, made known to us for our salvation, are those of “the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness neither the shadow of turning.” “He is not man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent.” There is ground for Christian confidence in the character of God. It makes the fulfilment of His word sure to all who obey Him.
From this passage we observe :
AND TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES.
III. THAT THE VALUE OF FAITH IS BEST SEEN IN DIFFICULT
What a difference there was between Paul and those around him! What made the difference? It was his faith. In this the value of faith is illustrated. It appears :
First : In the calmness of mind it produces. The seamen, used as they were to plough the deep, were terrified and unmanned by the fury of the storm ; the soldiers of Rome were paralyzed with fear. Not so, Paul: he was calm and self-possessed amidst all the rage of the elements. Faith gives to the Christian's soul, calmness and peace when the wildest storms of trial beat upon him, and enables him to grapple with the last enemy and smile at his terrors.
Secondly: In the final safety it ensures. Had that vessel gone down with all on board, Paul would still have been safe ; but what of those who knew not Paul's Saviour. The Christian is safe, let what will befall him ; safe in his highest interests amidst the most painful circumstances-and safe, though death should assail him in its most terrible forms. This faith “lays hold on eternal life,” and makes him ever
“I know whom I have believed,” &c. Thirdly : In the honor it puts upon God. What honor Paul's faith put upon God; Listen to him as he addresses the
poor trembling men around him—“I believe God,” &c. He was a noble witness for God amidst those godless beings. The Christian honors God by his confidence in Him. When he is “strong in faith, " then does he most effectually and most acceptably “give glory to God.” This stamps faith with inexpressible value, when it is seen triumphant in difficulty and peril, honoring God in the reliance which is reposed on His promises.
From this passage we observe :
IV. THAT TAE POSSESSOR OF CHRISTIAN FAITH MAY BE A GREAT BLESSING TO OTHERS. It was a great advantage and
blessing that such a man as Paul was on board that ship. He was the means of guiding and saving all that were with him. The faith of the Christian is often a great benefit to others.
First: By directing their thoughts to God. “I believe God.” Paul directed the attention of the godless men about him to God. He thus threw a ray of divine light upon their dark souls. Every Christian is fitted by his faith to direct men to God as the Creator, Ruler, Saviour, of mankind ; to lead them to that divine source of hope and salvation he has found in the Gospel ; to “hold forth the word of life” to the lost and perishing.
Secondly : By enabling him to cheer the downcast. Paul could speak words of encouragement to the despairing
in the storm-beaten ship. “Sirs, be of good cheer.” They were rendered more calm and composed by these words of faith. Christian faith fits its possessor to pour the balm of consolation into the wounds of the troubled spirit, and direct the downcast to the Great source of safety and
peace. It qualifies him to "" bind up broken hearts” and give relief to the afflicted and desponding.
Thirdly : By effecting their salvation. On one of his associates, in that hour of danger, the faith of Paul made a deep impression. The Centurion at least felt its power, and is it not probable that many besides experienced its influence ?
True Christian faith has a mighty effect on such as witness its exemplification. It makes them feel that the Christian has a better foundation to build on, both for time and for eternity, than they have ; and it is often the means of awakening their convictions, and leading them to believe and be saved.
Brethren, it is a great thing to possess an earnest Christian faith :- -it is the general source of strength, courage, hope, and moral power. Seek above all things an increase of faith,
S. A. BROWNING.
SUBJECT ;-The Barren Fig Tree; or, a Fruitless Life.
“He also spoke this parable : A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon,” &c.—Luke xiii. 5--10.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Seventeenth.
This is a pictorial representation of three objects : the Jewish nation; the great God; and the merciful Redeemer of man. The first is represented by the barren fig tree; the second, by the owner of the vineyard in which it grew; the third, by the vinedresser, who intercedes for its continuance, and resolves on special efforts for its improvement. We shall look upon the parable in a wider application, and seek to derive from it practical instructions for ourselves. The great idea I wish to bring out before you and impress upon your hearts is, that of a fruitless human life. Let us notice :
I. THE UNREASONABLE CHARACTER OF A FRUITLESS LIFE. There are three facts connected with this fig tree which justified the owner in expecting fruit. A good position, a cultivating agent, and a sufficiency of time. First: It had a good position. It was planted not in a barren desert, not in a wild wilderness, not on an unprotected common, but in a “vineyard." The Jewish nation had a splendid position : “ Thou hast brought a yine out of Egypt,” &c. Psalm lxxx. 1–11. "He planted it with the choicest vines, and built a tower in the midst of it, also a vinepress thereon," &c. Isaiah v. 2. Palestine, the land in which they lived, was full of moral significance; the spirit of poetry and of God overhung its mountains and breathed through its valleys.
Secondly : It had a cultivating agent. “ The dresser of his vineyard." This vinedresser may represent the whole machinery of spiritual means ;-—the temple that stood in Palestine for ages, with its gleaming Shekinah and suggestive ceremonies; the priests that offered sacrifices; the prophets