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A man already has some faith, who truly feels his need of faith, and his dependence on Christ for it. So this prayer

offered by the apostles was one of the most satisfactory proofs that faith was in their hearts, and that it was a growing principle, however small at first. We all need to come to Christ with this prayer, but oftentimes we know not what we are praying for, and the apostles themselves hardly knew what they were praying for, when they begged for an increase of their faith. They were in truth praying that our blessed Lord would take what means he might find necessary to produce a stronger faith in their hearts. They thought they were praying for a direct communication from his Spirit, a direct and positive and immediate exercise of his power in their souls, without any waiting, or working, or difficulty on their part. But they were very greatly mistaken; and as he saw in them a true sincerity in that request, although mingled with much error, he answered their prayer in his own way and time, not theirs ; according to his own wisdom and grace, not their short-sightedness.

They had formed the habit of walking by sight, not faith, and they were carrying that habit even into spiritual things. They wished all their acquisitions to be present ones, and they would have present proof that their prayers were answered. They had no idea upon what a sea of trying discipline their supplications would launch them forth. The true increase of their faith comprised an amount of trial from which they would have shrunk back, could they have foreseen it. And when it came, they saw not then its meaning, they thought it was the wrong way. The increase of faith comprises methods of discipline, both inward and external, which to sight seem very mysterious. At the very time when God is administering the very remedies that are to work in us a greater faith, when Christ, our great Physician, is taking our case in hand, and putting us under the necessary regimen, it may seem to us as if our prayers were neither heard nor answered. Prayer, sometimes, seems to bring nothing but difficulty, seems to do nothing but stir up our ill humours, seems to reveal nothing but our guilt and misery. Then we think God has deserted us, or we have never known the way of his mercy, or have no right to hope in it, and no reason for encouragement. We are almost ready to turn back, perhaps, because of the very discipline by which God would carry us forward. We know not God's methods, and can see but little

way

Sometimes the direction of those methods seems to sight directly contrary to the way of our progress. But in spiritual things we often have to go down in order to go up, just as in climbing a high mountain you often have to descend in one place in order to ascend in another. So it is in God's discipline. And our habit of judging

before us.

by sight, and of asking for sight, or rather of expecting sight in spiritual things, when we have been asking for faith, is very preposterous. So is the habit of being discouraged by present difficulties, inward or external, instead of looking to God, trusting all with Christ, and pressing onwards.

If a traveller were passing through a vast reach of country to gain a destined point, to arrive at some great city, where his business is to be accomplished, what would be thought of his conduct, if, happening upon a barren tract of landscape, a desert, or a rocky ridge of mountains, he should say, I will give up my journey for the present, till the country becomes more favourable ; or if he should conclude and say, This cannot be the right road to the city, it is not possible that the path can lead through this desert, or over this mountain ; or if he should

say, If this were the right path, it would certainly lead through a more interesting region, and I should find the landscape more delightful. He would be thought to have taken leave of his senses, if he should stop travelling till the road became more interesting. But the Christian traveller is still more inconsiderate and foolish, who says within himself, every time that the spiritual landscape wears to him an uninteresting aspect, every time that prayer becomes a burden, and the reading of the Bible a leaden duty that has lost its charm, every time that his soul melteth for hea

argue and

viness, and cleaveth unto the dust, or wandereth in darkness, or in stormy weather, or over craggy mountains : who says within himself, I cannot be in the right way; if I were, it would be more interesting ; this cannot be the way to the city; there must be some other way; this cannot be God's way. If a soul should pause

and argue in this way, what would become of it? But no! the soul is bound to make progress over rough places as well as smooth ones, and through uninteresting landscapes, and in dark and stormy weather. It is God's way, though these feelings of despondency, or impatience, or discouragement, or unbelief, are not God's feelings. The way of duty is the way of God's appointment; but the feelings that throw their own colouring over it are the feelings of an imperfect and distrustful or discontented human heart; the Christian pilgrim is not to give way to them, but to resist them; and for him the discipline of faith is to go forward, notwithstanding those feelings, looking to the end.

Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” The way itself may in reality be a wilderness; and there have been memorable cases in which, the soul of the pilgrims being much discouraged because of the way, they have turned aside to seek a better way. But the way that for the present seems easier, leads in the end to a place that is infinitely worse than all the evils in the way through the wilderness. The Castle of Despair receives the pilgrims at the end of the wrong way, the way that seemed easier; and the evil experience in that Castle is incomparably worse to bear, than all the discouragements which made the soul of the pilgrim to faint within him in the right way.

The discouragements themselves afford a discipline to faith. How, indeed, should faith be disciplined, if there were not difficulties to be overcome, discouragements to be struggled with? The enjoyment of serene weather, perpetual sunshine, and a flowery path, may be a discipline for gratitude, but leaves no opportunity for the trial of faith.

Faith itself, the habit of faith, gained by doing duty, is one of the rewards of faith. To him that hath, and that putteth his money in active use for his Master, shall be given the more ; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have. From the discourse of Christ following the prayer of the apostles, it would seem probable that they had been looking for the rewards of faith beforehand. It may have been a miraculous faith, which they desired for present exercise, for present power in Christ's service. But our Blessed Lord told them that they could not receive so great a gift, except through and after a course of faithful obedience. They must do their work of faith for their Lord and Master, and then they should eat

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