Faith versus Fear
The believer when he is brought into peace with God does not tremble at the thought of God’s power. He does not ask, “Will He plead against me with His great power?” But he says, “No, that very power, once my terror, and fear, is now my refuge and my hope, for He shall put that very power in me. I rejoice that God is Almighty, for He will lend me His omnipotence—’He will put strength into me.'” The very power which would have damned my soul, saves my soul. The very power that would have crushed me, God puts into me, that the work of salvation may be accomplished. No, He will not use it to crush me, but He will put that very strength into me. Dost see there the Mighty One upon His throne? Dread Sovereign, I see Thine awful arm. What, wilt Thou crush the sinner? Wilt Thou utterly destroy him with Thy strength? “No,” saith He, “come hither, child.” And if you go to His almighty throne, “There,” saith He, “that self-same arm which made thee quake, see there, I give it to thee. Go out and live. I have made thee mighty as I am, to do My works; I will put strength into thee. The same strength which would have broken thee to pieces on the wheel shall now be put into thee, that thou mayest do mighty works.”
Now, this great strength sometimes goes out in prayer. Did you ever hear a man pray in whom God had put strength? You have heard some of us poor puny souls pray, I dare say; but have you ever heard a man pray that God had made into a giant? Oh, if you have, you will say it is a mighty thing to hear such a man in supplication. I have seen him as if he had seized the angel, and would pull him down. I have seen him now and then slip in his wrestling; but, like a giant, he has recovered his footing, and seemed, like Jacob, to hurl the angel to the ground. I have marked the man lay hold upon the throne of mercy, and declare, “Lord, I will never let go, except thou bless me.” I have seen him, when heaven’s gates have been apparently barred, go up to them, and say, “Ye gates, open wide in Jesus’ name;” “and I have seen the gates fly open before him, as if the man were God himself; for he is armed with God Almighty’s strength. I have seen that man, in prayer, discover some great mountain in his way; and he prayed it down, until it became a very molehill. He has beaten the hills and made them like chaff by the immensity of his might.
Some of you think I am talking enthusiasm; but such cases have been, and are now. Oh, to have heard Luther pray! Luther, you know, when Melancthon was dying, went to his death-bed, and said, “Melancthon, you shall not die!” “Oh,” said Melancthon, “I must die! It is a world of toil and trouble.” “Melancthon,” said he, “I have need of thee, and God’s cause has need of thee, and as my name is Luther, thou shalt not die!” The physician said he would. Well, down went Luther on his knees, and began to tug at death. Old Death struggled mightily for Melancthon, and he had got him well-nigh on his shoulders. “Drop him,” said Luther, “drop him, I want him.” “No,” said Death, “he is my prey, I will take him!”
“Down with him,” said Luther, “down with him, Death, or I will wrestle with thee!” And he seemed to take hold of the grim monster, and hurl him to the ground; and he came off victorious, like an Orpheus, with his wife, up from the very shades of death; he had delivered Melancthon from death by prayer! “Oh,” say you, “that is an extraordinary case.” No, not one-half so extraordinary as you dream. Men and women have done the same in other cases; have asked a thing of God, and have had it; that have been to the throne, and showed a promise, and said they would not come away without its fulfilment, and have come back from God’s throne conquerors of the Almighty; for prayer moves the arm that moves the world.
“Prayer is the sinew of God,” said one, “it moves His arm;” and so it is. Verily, in prayer, with the strength of the faithful heart, there is a beautiful fulfilment of the text, “He will put strength in me.”
Not only in prayer, but in duty, the man who has great faith in God, and whom God has girded with strength, how gigantic does he become! Have you never read of those great heroes who put to flight whole armies, and scattered kings like the snow on Salmon? Have you never read of those men that were fearless of foes, and stalked onward before all their opposers, as if they would as soon die as live? I read of a case in the old kirk of Scotland, before that King James who wished to force “the black prelacy” upon them. Andrew Melville and some of his associates were deputed to wait upon the king, and as they were going with a scroll ready written, they were warned to take care and return, for their lives were at stake. They paused a moment, and Andrew said, “I am not afraid, thank God, nor feeble-spirited in the cause and message of Christ; come what pleases God to send, our commission shall be executed.” At these words the deputation took courage, and went forward. On reaching the palace, and having obtained an audience, they found his majesty attended by Lennox and Arran, and several other lords, all of whom were English. They presented their remonstrance. Arran lifted it from the table, and glancing over it, he then turned to the ministers, and furiously demanded, “Who dares sign these treasonable articles?” “We dare,” said Andrew Melville, “and will render our lives in the cause.” Having thus spoken, he came forward to the table, took the pen, subscribed his name, and was followed by his brethren. Arran and Lennox were confounded; the king looked on in silence, and the nobles in surprise. Thus did our good forefathers appear before kings, and yet were not ashamed. “The proud had them greatly in derision, yet they declined not from the law of God.” Having thus discharged their duty, after a brief conference, the ministers were permitted to depart in peace. The king trembled more at them than if a whole army had been at his gates; and why was this? It was because God had put His own strength into them to make them masters of their duty. And you have some such in your midst now. Despised they may be; but God has made them like the lion-like men of David, who would go down into the pit in the depth of winter, and take the lion by the throat and slay him. We have some in our churches—but a remnant, I admit—who are not afraid to serve their God, like Abdiel, “faithful amongst the faithless found.” We have some who are superior to the customs of the age, and scorn to bow at mammon’s knee, who will not use the trimming language of too many modern ministers, but stand out for God’s gospel, and the pure white banner of Christ, unstained and unsullied by the doctrines of men. Then are they mighty! Why they are mighty is because God has put strength in them.
“And shall I hold on to the end?” says the believer. Yes, thou wilt, for God’s strength is in thee. “Shall I be able to bear such-and-such a trial?” Yes, thou wilt. Cannot Omnipotence stem the torrent? And Omnipotence is in thee; for, like Ignatius of old, thou art a God-bearer; thou bearest God about with thee. Thy heart is a temple of the Holy Ghost, and thou shalt yet overcome. “But can I ever stand firm in such-and-such an evil day?” Oh, yes you will, for He will put His strength in you!
I was in company, some time ago, with some ministers; one of them observed, “Brother, if there were to be stakes in Smithfield again, I am afraid they would find very few to burn among us.” “Well,” I said, “I do not know anything about how you would burn; but this I know right well, that there never will be any lack of men who are ready to die for Christ.” “Oh!” said he, “but they are not the right sort of men.” “Well,” said I, “but do you think they are the Lord’s children?” “Yes, I believe they are, but they are not the right sort.” “Ah!” said I, “but you would find them the right sort, if they came to the test, every one of them; they have not got burning grace yet. What would be the use of it.” We do not want the grace till the stakes come; but we should have burning grace in burning moments. If now a hundred of us were called to die for Christ, I believe there would not only be found a hundred, but five hundred, that would march to death, and sing all the way. Whenever I find faith, I believe that God will put strength into the man; and I never think anything to be impossible to a man with faith in God, while it is written, “He will put strength in me.”
Cæsar could not swim the Tiber, accoutred as he was; and dost thou hope to swim the Jordan with thy flesh about thee? No, thou wilt sink then, unless Jesus, as Æneas did Anchises, from the flames of Rome, upon his shoulders, lift thee from Jordan, and carry thee across the stream, thou wilt never be able to walk across the river; thou wilt ne’er be able to face that tyrant and smile in his face, unless thou hast something more than mortal. Thou wilt need then to be belted about with the girdle of divinity, or else thy loins will be loosed, and thy strength will fail thee, when thou needst it most. Many a man has ventured to the Jordan in his own strength; but oh! how he has shrieked and howled, when the first wave has touched his feet! But never weakling went to death with God within him, but he found himself mightier than the grave. Go on, Christian, for this is thy promise, “He will put strength in me.”
“Weak, though I am, yet through His might,
I all things can perform.”
Go on; dread not God’s power, but rejoice at this, He will put His strength in you; He will not use His power to crush you.