How stands our faith?
These mighty thoughts and words of consolation -- are they really believed, felt, trusted in, rejoiced over?
Christian, |Believest thou this?| Art thou really looking to this exalted life-giving Saviour? Hast thou in some feeble measure realised this resurrection-life as thine own? Hast thou the joyful consciousness of participating in this vital union with a living Lord? In vain do we listen to these sublime Bethany utterances unless we feel |Jesus speaks to me,| and unless we be living from day to day under their invigorating power.
He had unfolded to Martha in a single verse a whole Gospel; He had irradiated by a few words the darkness of the tomb; and now, turning to the poor dejected weeper at his side, He addresses the all-important question, |Believest thou this?|
Her faith had been but a moment before staggering. Some guilty misgivings had been mingling with her anguished tears. She has now an opportunity afforded of rising above her doubts, -- the ebbings and flowings of her fitful feelings, -- and cleaving fast to the Living Rock.
It elicits an unfaltering response -- |Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.|
Remarkable confession! We should not so much have wondered to hear it after the grave, hard by, had been rifled, and the silent lips of Lazarus had been unsealed; or had she stood like the other Mary at her Lord's own sepulchre in the garden, and after a few brief, but momentous days and hours, seen a whole flood of light thrown on the question of His Messiahship.
But as yet there was much to damp such a bold confession, and lead to hesitancy in the avowal of such a creed. The poverty, the humiliations, the unworldly obscurity of that solitary One who claimed no earthly birthright, and owned no earthly dwelling, were not all these, particularly to a Jew, at variance with every idea formed in connexion with the coming Shiloh?
Was Martha's then a blind unmeaning faith? Far from it. It was nurtured, doubtless, in that quiet home of holy love, where, while Lazarus yet lived, this mysterious Being, in an earthly form and in pilgrim garb, came time after time discoursing to them often, as we are warranted to believe, on the dignity of His nature, the glories of His person, the completeness of His work. It was neither the evidence of miracle or prophecy which had revealed to that weeping disciple that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. With the exception of Micah's statement regarding Bethlehem-Ephratah as His birthplace, we question if any other remarkable prediction concerning Him had yet been fulfilled; and so far as miracles were concerned, though she may and must have doubtless known of them by hearsay, we have no evidence that she had as yet so much as witnessed one. We never read till this time of their quiet village being the scene of any manifestations of His power. These had generally taken place either in Jerusalem or in the cities and coasts of Galilee. The probability, therefore, is that Martha, had never yet seen that arm of Omnipotence bared, or witnessed those prodigies with which elsewhere He authenticated His claims to Divinity.
Whence then her creed? May we not believe she had made her noble avowal mainly from the study of that beauteous, spotless character -- from those looks, and words, and deeds -- from that lofty teaching -- so unlike every human system -- so wondrously adapted to the wants and woes, the sins, the sorrows, and aching necessities of the human heart. All this had left on her own spirit, and on that of Lazarus and Mary, the irresistible impression and evidence that he was indeed the Lord of Glory -- |the Hope of Israel, and the Saviour thereof.|
And is it not the same evidence we exult in still? Is this not the reason of many a humble believer's creed and faith -- who may be all unlettered and unlearned in the evidences of the schools -- the external and internal bulwarks of our impregnable Christianity? Ask them why they believe? why their faith is so firm -- their love so strong?
They will tell you that that Saviour, in all the glories of His person, in all the completeness of His work, in all the beauties of His character, is the very Saviour they need! -- that His Gospel is the very errand of mercy suited to their souls' necessities; -- that His words of compassion, and tenderness, and hope, are in every way adapted to meet the yearnings of their longing spirits. They need to stand by the grave of no Lazarus to be certified as to His Messiahship. His looks and tones -- His character and doctrine, -- His cures and remedies for the wants and woes of their ruined natures, point Him out as the true Heavenly Physician.
They can tell of the best of all evidences, and the strongest of all -- the experimental evidence! They are no theorists. Religion is no subject with them of barren speculation; it is a matter of inner and heartfelt experience. They have tried the cure -- they have found it answer; -- they have fled to the Physician -- they have applied His balm -- they have been healed and live! And you might as well try to convince the restored blind that the sunlight which has again burst on them is a wild dream of fancy, or the restored deaf that the world's joyous melodies which have again awoke on them are the mockeries of their own brain, as convince the spiritually enlightened and awakened that He who has proved to them light and life, and joy and peace -- their comfort in prosperity -- their refuge in adversity -- is other than the Son of God and Saviour of the world!
Reader, is this your experience? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious? Have you felt the preciousness of His gospel, the adaptation of His work to the necessities of your ruined condition? -- the power of His grace, the prevalence of His intercession, the fulness and glory and truthfulness of His promises? Are you exulting in Him as the Resurrection and Life, who has raised you from the death of sin, and will at last raise you from the power of death, and invest you with that eternal life which His love has purchased?
Precious as is this hope and confidence at all times, specially so is it, mourners in Zion! in your seasons of sorrow. When human refuges fail, and human friendships wither, and human props give way, how sustaining to have this |anchor of the soul sure and steadfast| -- union with a living Lord on earth, and the joyful hope of endless and uninterrupted union and communion with Him in glory! Are you even now enjoying, through your tears, this blessed persuasion, and exulting in this blessed creed? Do you know the secret of that twofold solace, |the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings?| -- the |fellowship of His sufferings| telling of His sympathy with your sorrows below; -- the |power of His resurrection| assuring you of the glorious gift of everlasting life in a world where sorrow dare not enter. Rest not satisfied with a mere outward creed and confession that |Jesus is the Saviour.| Let yours be the nobler formula of an appropriating faith -- |He is my Saviour; He loved ME, and gave Himself for ME.| Let it not be with you a salvation possible, but a salvation found; so that, with a tried apostle, you can rise above the surges of deepening tribulation as you glory in the conviction, |I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.|
Sad, indeed, for those who, when |deep calleth unto deep,| have no such |strong consolation| to enable them to ride out the storm; who, when sorrow and bereavement overtake them -- the lowering shadows of the dark and cloudy day -- have still to grope after an unknown Christ; and, amid the hollowness of earthly and counterfeit comforts, have to seek, for the first time, the only true One.
Oh! if our hour of trial has not yet come, let us be prepared for it -- for come it will. Let us seek to have our vessels moored now to the Rock of Ages, that when the tempest arises -- when the floods beat, and the winds blow, and the wrecks of earthly joy are seen strewing the waters -- we may triumphantly utter the challenge, |Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?|
|Say, ye who tempt
The sea of life, by summer gales impell'd,
Have ye this anchor? Sure a time will come
For storms to try you, and strong blasts to rend
Your painted sails, and shred your gold like chaff
O'er the wild wave. And what a wreck is man,
If sorrow find him unsustain'd by God!|