The Mystery of Faith, Sermon 3Andrew Gray (1634-1656) - A Powerful Preacher Who Died at a Young Age
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It was a command that Solomon gave unto his son, Prov. xxii. 26, that he should not be surety for debt, nor should be one of those that striketh hands; but O, what spotless breaches of that command hath our blessed Lord Jesus committed, when he did condescend to be surety for our debt, and to pay what was impossible for us to satisfy? Hath not Christ made a precious exchange with sinners? He wreathed about his own precious neck that bond and yoke of our iniquities, and hath given to us that unweariable ease, and portable yoke of his commandments; among which this is one, that we shall believe on him. Spotless Christ was made sin for us, that sinful we might be the righteousness of God in him: and is not this the condemnation of the world, that will not believe in him? That we will not delight ourselves in loving of him?
And I would say this to you, that though you should weep one half of your days, and pray the other half, yet, if ye want this noble grace of faith, your righteousness shall be but like a menstruous cloth and filthy rags before him: for what is praying without believing, but a taking of his blessed name in vain? What is conferring upon the most divine and precious truths of God, without believing? Is it not a lying to the Holy Ghost, and a flattering of God with our mouth? And we would have you knowing this, that there is a sweet harmony that is now made up betwixt Moses and Christ, betwixt the law and the gospel. The law bringeth us to Christ as a Saviour, and Christ bringeth us back again to the law, to be a rule of our walk to which we must subject ourselves.
So then, would ye know the compend of a Christian’s walk? It is a sweet travelling betwixt Mount Sinai and Mount Sion, betwixt Moses and Christ, betwixt the law and the gospel. And we conceive that the more deep that the exercise of the law be in a Christian’s conscience before his closing with Christ, there is so much the more precious and excellent advantages waiting for him.
I. There is this advantage that waiteth on the deep exercise of the law, that it is the way to win to much establishment in the faith when once we begin to close with Christ. O Christians, would ye know that which maketh the superstructure and building of grace to be within you, as a bowing wall, and as a tottering fence? (So that oftentimes ye are in hazard to raze the foundation 🙂 It is this, ye were not under the exercise of the law before your believing in Jesus Christ. There are some who do not abide three days at Mount Sinai, and these shall not dwell many days at Mount Sion.
II. There is this advantage that waiteth on the deep exercise of the law, it maketh Christ precious to a man’s soul. What is that which filleth the soul of a Christian with many high and excellent thoughts of Christ? Is it not this, to have the law registrating our bond, and putting us (as we use to speak) to the horn, that is, to have the law cursing us, and using the sentence of condemnation against us? That which maketh us to have such low and undervaluing thoughts of precious Christ is, because the most part of us are not acquainted with the deep and serious exercise of the law that is a mystery to the most part of Christians’ practice.
Ye know that there were four streams which went out from the paradise of God, into which man was first placed: and so we may say that there are four golden streams, by which lost and destroyed men are brought back again to this Eden and Paradise of everlasting delights.
First, There is the precious stream of Christ’s righteousness, by which we must be justified. And,
Secondly, There is the stream of his sanctification, by which we must be purified.
Thirdly, There is the stream of the wisdom of Christ, by which we must be conducted through this wilderness wherein we have lost our way. And,
Fourthly, There is the stream of Christ’s redemption, by which we must be delivered from the power of our enemies, and must turn the battle in the gate. It is by the redemption of Christ that we shall once sing that triumphant song, O death, where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory? O but all these streams will be sweet and refreshing to a soul that is hotly pursued by the law, so long as we see not the ugliness of our leprosy in the glass of the law, we have our own Abana and Pharpar, that we think may do our turn; but when once our case is truly laid open to us, then we will be content to wash ourselves in Jordan seven times.
III. There is this advantage that waiteth on the deep exercise of the law, that it maketh a Christian live constantly under the impression of the sinfulness of’ sin. What is it that maketh sin exceeding sinful to a Christian? Is it not this, he hath been forty days in Moses’ school? And we conceive that the ground why such fools as we make a mock at sin is, because we know not what it is to be under the power of his wrath, and the apprehensions of the indignation of God.
But now to come to that which we intend to speak of: we told you, the first occasion that we spake of these words, that there were many excellent things concerning the grace of faith holden forth in them.
The first thing (which was holden forth concerning this radical grace of faith) was the infinite advantage that redounded to a Christian through the exercise of faith, and giving obedience to this command, which we cleared to be holden forth, not only from the scope, but also from the nature of this command. And now to speak a little to the point, we shall propose these considerations that may abundantly shew how advantageous a thing this excellent grace of faith is.
The first consideration that speaketh it is this, that faith maketh Christ precious to a soul, according to that word, 1 Pet. 3:7, to ‘you that believe, Christ is precious. And we would have you knowing this, that faith maketh Christ more precious to a soul, than sense or any other thing can make him. And,
First, Faith maketh Christ more precious than sense, because the estimation which the grace of faith hath of Christ is builded upon the excellency of his person. But the estimation of sense is builded upon the excellency of’ his actings : so that because he is such to theirs, therefore they love and esteem him. But that heroic grace of faith taketh up the excellency of Christ’s person, and that maketh him precious to them,
Secondly, Faith maketh Christ more precious than sense, because sense looketh to that love which Christ manifesteth in his face, and in his hands, and in his feet, but faith looketh to that love which is in his heart. Sense will cry forth, Who is like to thee? whose countenance is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars, whose hands are as gold-rings, set with beryl, and whose legs are like pillars of marble set in sockets of gold. Sense will look to the smilings of Christ, and will wonder: it will look to his dispensations and actings, and will be constrained to cry out, Who is like unto thee? But the grace of faith solaceth itself in the fountain from whence all these springs and sweet inundations of love do flow.
Thirdly, Faith maketh Christ more precious than sense; because faith looketh not only to what Christ is presently, but unto what Christ is from eternity before time, and what Christ shall be unto eternity after time, but sense only doth look to what Christ is presently. And ye must conceive, that the sweet travellings of faith betwixt infinite love from eternity before, and infinite love unto eternity after, must make faith to fall in a sea of wondering, and raiseth the thoughts to the highest pitch of desire and estimation.
Fourtly, We may likewise add, that the impression of the preciousness of Christ, which sense maketh upon the soul, is not so constant, nor so single, as that which faith doth make. O but the grace of faith giveth the Christian a broad look to Christ, and letteth him see Christ clothed with ornaments of glory and divine majesty. Sense followeth Christ rather that it may see his miracles, and love, and that it may be fed with loaves; but faith follows Christ, for himself above all.
11. The second consideration, to speak the advantage of it, is, that the grace of faith hath as it were an arbitrary power with God; so that whatsover a Christian shall seek in faith, he shall receive it. It is the noble gift that was once given to faith, that it should never seek anything and be denied, according to that word in Matth. xxi. 22, – And all things whatsoee’er ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive it. And that word in John 15:7, – Abide in me, that is, believe; and the promise is annexed to this, Whatsoever ye shall ask, ye shall receive. And it is clear likewise from the preceding verse of our text, that if we obey this commandment of faith, Whatsoever we shall ask of God, we shall receive it. And I would speak these two things to you from this
First, That sometimes Christ putteth a blank in a Christian’s hand, who is much in the exercise of faith, according to that in Matth. 20:32. Is there not an ample blank put into that man’s hand? What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? Christ desireth him to fill up that blank with what he would. And
Secondly, There is this, which is one of the greatest steps of Christ’s matchless condescendency, that oftentimes, when his own have sought in their presumption a blank to be put in their hand, Christ condescendeth to give it, according to that strange passage in Mark 10:35, 36. The two disciples who presented this desire to Christ, we desire, say they, That whatsoever we ask, thou should give it unto us. And presently that is answered, What will ye that I should do for you? Christ hath an infinite goodwill to satisfy the desires of’ his own : and that which yet more speaketh out Christ’s boundless goodwill to satisfy the desires of all that belong to him may be cleared in that word, John 16:24, where he chargeth his disciples with this, Hitherto, saith he, have ye asked me nothing,’ ye must not suppose that Peter, James, and John, never sought a suit of Christ; but the meaning of that expression is this, ye sought nothing in comparison of that which I was willing to give, and which your necessity did call for at my hands, which ye should have sought.
III. There is this third consideration, to point out that advantage of faith: it is that grace that keepeth all the graces of the spirit in life and exercise. Faith is that higher wheel, at the motion of which, all the lower wheels do move :- if so we may speak, faith is that which first moves and turns about all the lower graces of the spirit, according to that, 2d Pet. 1:5,-Add to your faith, virtue, and to your virtue, patience, and to your patience, brotherly kindness.
First, The grace of faith keepeth in exercise the grace of love, as is clear, Eph. 3:17, where these two graces are sub- joined; as likewise from Rom. 5:.1, compared with verse 5th, Being justified by faith, then this effect followeth upon it, the love of God is shed abroad in our own hearts. And so it is certain, that faith keepeth love in life, faith being the spy of the soul, and that intelligencer and precious messenger goeth out and bringeth in objects unto love. Faith draweth aside the veil, and love sitteth down and solaceth itself in the discoveries of faith.
Secondly, The grace of faith likewise keepeth the grace of mortification in exercise, as is clear, not only from Eph. 6:6, but from 1 John 5:4, – This is our victory whereby we overcome the world, even our faith. And it is certain, that faith keepeth mortification in exercise, and advanceth holiness, not only because of this, that faith is that grace that presenteth to a Christian, the absolute purity and spotless holiness of Jesus Christ ; but also because it asketh them esteem their idols tasteless, as the white of an egg, and they become unto them as their sorrowful meat. The best principle of mortification is this, the discoveries of the invisible virtues of Jesus Christ : that mortification which arises from the lovely discoveries of the excellencies of Jesus Christ, is most real and abiding ; as these waters which arise from the highest springs, are not only constant, but likewise most deep and excellent.
Thirdly, Faith likewise hath influence upon mortification, as it doth take hold of the infinite strength that is in Christ, by which a Christian is enabled to mortify his corruptions.
Fourthly, Faith likewise maketh application of the blood of sprinkling, by which we are purified from dead works,
Fifthly, Likewise the grace of faith keepeth in exercise the grace of’ humility, as is clear, Rom. 8:27. By what law, saith he, is boasting excluded? It is not by the law of works, but by the law of faith.
Sixthly, Faith keepeth in exercise the grace of joy, as is clear, Rom. 15:.13, Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing. So that ye see the proper fruit of faith is joy in the Holy Ghost : and certainly did we believe more, we should rejoice more.
Seventhly, and lastly, Faith keepeth in exercise the grace of hope, for it is impossible for hope to be in lively exercise, except faith once be exercised, which may be a shame unto you, for how can we hope to attain the thing that is promised, except our faith first close with the promise? So there is this difference betwixt the grace of faith, and the grace of hope; the grace of faith closeth with the promises – but the grace of hope closeth with the thing that is promised.
IV. There is this fourth consideration, that may speak out the excellency of the grace of faith, – it is that grace by which a Christian doth attain to most divine fellowship and constant correspondency with heaven. Would ye have that question resolved and determined, what is the best way? Not to stir up our beloved, or awake him till he please. It is this, be much in the grace of faith; this is clear from Eph. 3:17, That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith: by the exercise of all other graces, Christ is but a sojourner, that turneth aside to tarry but for a night; but by the exercise of this grace, he cometh to take up house with us. I will tell you what faith is – it is a ladder that reacheth between heaven and earth: by the steps of which a Christian doth daily go up to heaven, and converse with the higher house; faith is that grace (as the Apostle speaketh) by which we have access to the throne of his grace. Faith ushers in the believer to the throne, and without it he cannot have access there, nor joy when he is there.
V. Here is this advantage that attendeth the exercise of faith. A believing Christian is a praying Christian: according to that word in Mark 9:24, where these two are conjoined together, Lord, I believe, and then he falleth to his prayer presently after that confession, Help thou my unbelief. And it is clear, from Psalm lxiii. 1, O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee, my soul thirsteth for thee! And sometimes faith is a most impatient grace: but we may always say of it that it is a most diligent grace. O! is it not the neglect of this precious exercise of faith, and of the duty of secret prayer, that makes our leanness testify to our face, and maketh our souls a barren wilderness ? I am persuaded of this, that since Christ had any followers, and since ever this everlasting gospel was preached in Paradise, the exercise of secret prayer was never so much neglected. We have turned over all our prayers into compliments with God. We know not what it is To rise at midnight and call upon God, and to enquire after our Maker under the silent watches of the night. O ! but it is a sweet diversion from sleep, to retire ourselves (in the silent seasons of the night) from all thoughts about worldly matters, and to converse with that invisible Majesty.
VI. There is this sixth consideration to point out the advantages of faith: that faith is that grace that doth facilitate a Christian’s obedience, and maketh it most pleasant and easy: this is clear, from Heb. 11:8, By faith Abraham, when commanded to go to a strange land, obeyed and went out, not knowing whither he went. The word may be rendered, – He did cheerfully obey. And verse 17, By faith he offered up his only son. Would ye know the reason why his commands are your burden, and why his precepts are your crosses? It is because of this, ye do not believe. And so it is most certain, that it is impossible for a Christian to attain to a pleasant way of obedience, without the exercise of faith. Faith holdeth up the crown to a Christian, and his crown maketh him to obey. Faith gathereth strength from Christ, and that strength maketh obedience very easy. Faith taketh up the excellency of Christ, and this maketh a Christian to look upon his duty more as his dignity than his duty. And we are persuaded of this, that our chariot-wheel should move more swiftly (like the chariots of Aminadab,) if we were more in the exercise of the grace of faith. Would ye know an answer to that question, what is first more requisite for a Christian while here below? Faith. And what secondly is most requisite ? Faith. And what thirdly is most requisite for a Christian ? Even Faith; Faith above all things, and above all things, Faith.
VII. There is another advantage of it, that by faith our service and prayers are accepted of God. Would ye know what is the prayer of a Christian that is not in faith? It is a smoke in his nostrils and afire that burneth all the day. The unbeliever’s sacrifice is an abomination to the Lord. This is clear from Heb. 11:4, By faith Abel ofered up unto God a more acceptable 8acrfice than Cain – and we conceive that there are many unanswerable prayers which we do put up, because we want that noble exercise of faith.
VIII. And lastly, We shall likewise add this, that faith is that grace by which a Christian hath that perfect and immediate sight (as it were) of great things that are promised to him ; faith bringeth a Christian within sight of Heaven, and faith bringeth a Christian within sight of God, according to that word, Heb. 11:1. Faith is the evidence of things not seen; and that noble paradox that is said of faith, Heb. 11:27, By faith Moses saw him that was invisible. Is it not an impossible thing to see that which cannot be seen? But the meaning of it is this, that faith’s discoveries of God are as certain and sure, as the discoveries of our bodily eyes are: faith is an intelligent grace; yea, it is a most sure and infallible grace: what will faith not do? And what can we do who want faith?
Now, to enforce the advantages and excellencies of faith a little more, we shall propose to you the disadvantages of that woeful sin of unbelief.
I. There is this disadvantage of the sin of unbelief, that all the actions that proceed from an unbeliever, are impure and defiled, according to that in Titus, 1:15, But unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. Their prayer is unclean: yea (as Solomon speaketh) their ploughing is sin – yea, their going about the most excellent duties (for matter) is an abomination to God, according to that word, Rom. 14:23, Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. So the want of faith is the great polluter of all our actions, and of all our performances.
II. There is this second disadvantage of disbelief, that it is impossible for one in the exercise of unbelief, to mortify a lust or idol: and we may allude unto these words in Math. 17:20, when his disciples came to him, and asked this question, Why could we not cast out this devil? That was given as an answer, Because of your unbelief: unbelief is that which taketh up arms for our idols, and doth most strongly defend them: for there is nothing that will kill corruption so much, as the exercise of faith : and when all this is laid aside, we have laid by our weapons, and have in a manner concluded a treaty of peace with our idols, that we shall not offend them, if they offend not us.
111. There is this disadvantage that waiteth upon the sin of unbelief, that such an one cannot win nor attain to the grace of establishment, But is always as the waves of the sea, tossed to and fro, until once he win to the exercise of faith, as is clear from Isa. 7:2, Except ye believe, ye shall not be established.
IV. There is this disadvantage that waiteth on it, it is the mother of hardness and stupidity of heart, according to that word in Mark 16:14, where he upbraideth them because of their unbelief: and then what danger followeth? to wit, hardness of heart : this is clear also from Acts 19:9, where these two sister devils are conjoined and locked together, unbelief and hardness of heart, because it is unbelief indeed that hindereth all the graces by which the grace of tenderness must be maintained.
V. There is this disadvantage in the sin of unbelief, that it is big with child of apostacy from God, and of defection from him, according to that word, Heb. 3:12, Beware lest there be in. any of you an evil heart of unbelief (and the fruit of it) to depart from the living God. And certainly it is no wonder that unbelief travail in birth till that cursed child of apostacy be brought forth ; not only because of this, that an unbeliever loseth the thoughts of the excellency of Christ, but also because he increaseth in his thoughts of love towards his idols: for Christ doth decrease in those who misbelieve, and their idols do increase in their love, and in their desires, and in their estimation.
VI. There is this sixth disadvantage in the sin of unbelief – it hindereth the communication of many signal workings and tokens of the love and favour of the Most High, according to that sad word that is in Matth. 13:58, at the close, He could not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Unbelief, as it were, laid a restraint upon Christ, that he could not effectuate these things which he was willing to perform:
and (to shut up our discourse at this time) I would only add these two aggravations, which may somewhat enforce what we have spoken; (I say) there are these two aggravations in the sin of unbelief, even in his own who have a right (and also his call) to believe.
1. That after Christ bath given most sensible discoveries of himself, Wherein ye have seen him, as it were, face to face, yet ye will not believe; this is clear from John 6:36, Though ye have seen me, saith Christ, yet ye do not believe in me. There is not a manifestation of Christ’s presence, but it is a witness against you, because of your unbelief. Would you hear the voice of sense, that is rectified ? It is this, believe on the Son of God.
2. That notwithstanding of the signal demonstrations of the power of Christ, yet though it were the mortifying of some lust and idol within them, yet they will not believe, but, upon new temptations, will doubt of his love to them. Christ preacheth faith by his word, he preacheth faith by his sufferings, he preacheth faith by his dispensations, he preacheth faith by his promises, he preacheth faith by his rods; and if these five instruments will not engage your hearts to believe, what can move them? Do not his two wounds in his precious hands preach out this point of faith, Believe him? Doth not that hole opened in his side preach this doctrine, That we should believe in him? And these two wounds that he received in his precious feet, do they not preach this, That we should believe on. a crucified Saviour?
And we would only say this, That sometimes it is the case of his own, that after the convictions of this, that it is their duty to believe, and also, after some desire to close with Christ, yet they find inability to close with him. Is it not certain that to will (to believe) is sometime present with you? But how to perform ye know not. And I would have a Christian making this fourfold use of such a dispensation as that, (which is most ordinary) when convictions of our duty to believe, and some desires to close with Christ, is not followed with actual performance.
1. To study to have your convictions more deeply rooted within you; for it doth sometimes follow, that resolutions and mints to believe, are not blest with actual believing : because the conviction of our duty to believe is not deeply imprinted upon our conscience.
2. Be convinced of that desperate enmity (and that mystery of iniquity) that is within you, that you can have some will to do, without ability to perform. We confess it is not an ordinary disease in these days to have such a contrariety betwixt a Christian’s will and his practice, our will for the most part being no better than our practice; but sometimes it is, which may make you cry forth, O wretched man. that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?
3. That ye would be much in the employing of Christ, that as he hath given you to will, so also he might make you to do. Christ is about to convince his own in such a dispensation as that, That faith is the gift of God. Faith is so noble a grace, that it can not be spinned out from our resolutions, nor from our endeavours: faith is such a divine point as the Father’s right hand must plant in our souls.
4. Let it convince you of the excellency of the grace of faith, (for the difficulty of attaining to anything, may speak out the excellency of that thing) there is no sin but it may be easily win at; there is an easiness and facility to overtake the paths of our idols: but the graces of the spirit are so excellent things, that we must fight before we attain them: and you who are strangers to Christ Jesus (and have never known what it is to close with him) we would request you in Christ’s name to be reconciled to him. What know ye, O men (or rather athiests) but this shall be the last summons ye shall get to believe? And because ye disobey this precious summons, there shall be one presented to you that ye cannot sin.
I remember of one man, who looked upon many thousands that were under his command, weeping over them, when he considered how that within a few years all these should be laid in their graves, and should be in eternity. O! but it were much of our concernment, to be trying ourselves how it is with us. We are not afraid that it is a breach of charity, to wish that but one of each ten that are within these doors, were heirs of the grace of life, and had the solid and spiritual expectation of heaven. I think if Christ were to come presently to speak to us, he might not only say to each twelve that are here, One of you shall betray me; but we are afraid he would say to each twelve that are here, Eleven of you shall betray me, and but one only shall pass free. O! doth it not concern you, to inquire where you shall rest at night, when the long shadow of the everlasting evening shall be stretched out upon you? I think there are some that are so settled upon their lees, that if they were one day in hell, and saw all the torments that are there, and were brought from it the next day to live on earth they would not repent. And more, there are some, that take them up one day to see the joys of heaven, and bring them back again, they would not pursue after these blessed and everlasting enjoyments. O is not Christ much undervalued by us? But I must tell you this, One woe is past, but behold another woe is fast coming. O! the shrieking of these spirits that are entered into their everlasting prison-house, out of which there is no redemption.
What shall be your choice, when Christ shall come in the clouds? I am persuaded there are many, to whom at that day, this doctrine would be ravishing, viz. That there were not a death, that there were not a God, and that there were not an eternity. O! will ye believe that the sword of the justice of God is sheathed in heaven, and shall come down to make a sacrifice, not in. the land of Idumea, nor in the land of Bozra, but he is to make a sacrifice among the people who seemed to make a covenant with him by sacrifice. Ah, ah, shall we say that? If that argument were used to many, that within forty days they should be at their long and everlasting home, they would yet spend thirty-nine of these days in taking pleasure upon their lusts. I am persuaded of this, that there are many who think that the way betwixt heaven and earth, is but one day’s journey ; they think they can believe in one day, and triumph at night; but O! it shall be a short triumph that such believers as these shall have. Therefore, O study to close with a crucified Saviour, rest on him by faith, delight yourselves in him with love, and let your souls be longing for the day when that voice shall be heard in heaven, (and O how sweetly shall it be sung?) Arise, arise, my love, my dove, my fair one, and come away; for behold your winter is past, and your everlasting summer is come, and the time of the singing of birds is near: when Christ shall come over these mountains of Bether, he shall cry Behold I come: and the soul shall sweetly answer, Come, blessed Lord Jesus, Come. O what a life shall it be; that with these two arms, ye shall eternally encircle Christ, and hold him in your arms, or rather be encircled by him? Wait for him, for he shall come, and his reward is with him, and he shall once take home the wearied travellers of hope.
Andrew Gray was an exceptionally gifted young preacher. This work is a set of 5 treatises to establish the heart of believers in Christ and give them assurance. Gray is one of the easiest Scottish puritans to read.