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The Purifying Influence Of True Faith.
God purifies their hearts by faith.—Acts 15:9.
The property of true faith, is to purify the heart from the world, and all earthly, vain, and perishing desires; in a word, from all things in which corrupt nature delights itself, whether riches, honors, or pleasures. Faith fixes its eye upon those things only, that are invisible and eternal; and when all impediments are removed, a union quickly follows; and there can be no union of things, except they be alike. God is pure action, and wheresoever he finds a soul empty of the world, there he delights to operate, and manifest himself, as the spring of life and comfort to the afflicted longing soul. Therefore the usual language of Christ in the Gospel to the sick, whom he healed, was, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” Matt. 9:22; 15:28. His meaning was not, that this was the effect of the mere act of faith; but that faith had so cleansed, purified, and humbled the soul, that it was now fit for the more exalted manifestations of the divine power and presence. Hence, when our blessed Lord could find no souls so qualified in Nazareth, he could do no mighty works there. Mark 6:5. For where the creature is, God cannot enter; one hinders the other. No man can more heartily desire the assistance of God, than He desires to communicate it to a devout and well-disposed soul. For as God fills such a soul with his light, consolation, and gracious presence; so the longing soul rises as naturally towards God, as the fire burns. When God has once taken possession of such a habitation, he operates in it all the wonders of his grace, in which he rejoices as once he did in our Lord Jesus Christ; because in him he accomplished his own will, without any impediment. For no work or action can please him, which does not begin and end in him. And as God delights thus to operate in man, so he continually waits to see when we are fit to receive him; being more ready to give, than we are either to ask or to receive. Take heed, therefore, that thou neglect not the present opportunity. For 396 after this life is over, we shall all receive according to our works, and according to the principle of love that ruled in our hearts, whether it be good or bad, God or the creature. And this is so certain, that should all the saints of God intercede with tears of blood for any one man, it would be lost labor. For that which has possessed thy heart, and engrossed thy affections here, shall be thy lot and portion to eternity.
2. And as true faith purifies the heart from worldly love; so it does also from inordinate affections, as anger and impatience; planting meekness and patience in respect to our neighbor in their stead. For God works nothing in the souls of believers, but that which is agreeable to his own nature. Now what is He, but mere love, patience, and gentleness itself, as he has manifested himself in our blessed Lord Jesus Christ? As then the love of God overflows towards all men, having mercy upon all; so it produces the same love in every Christian soul, a love free and universal; making no difference either of friend or foe, but being equally united to God, and to the whole race of mankind. Moreover, this love rejoices in all the good things that God bestows upon man, and is pleased with that variety of gifts which are bestowed upon the several members of Christ's body; to each of which it pays a proper and proportionable respect. For as there is a mutual agreement between the several members of the natural body, in which the more ignoble parts, as the hands and feet, serve the more noble, as the head, the eyes, and the heart; so ought there to be the same agreement between the members of the spiritual body of Christ. Wherefore, if we meet with any member of Christ, who is more worthy than ourselves, we ought proportionably to love and esteem him more than ourselves. And the greater the portion of divine grace and favor which he has received from Jesus Christ, our supreme Head, is, the greater respect and love we ought to pay him. For this good is common to all, as being derived from our universal Head, Christ Jesus. But we cannot enjoy it without charity, which makes all our neighbor's blessing our own; and whatsoever we love in God, and for his sake, considered as a universal good, is properly ours. And as by charity, all our neighbor's blessings are made our own, therefore, how many, or how great favors soever God bestows upon a good man, they are no less mine than his, if I love them as the gifts of God, and for His sake. Yea, if any man receive the blessings of God with fear and humility, not being exalted with pride and arrogance; and if I can behold them in him, and love them for God's sake, and as proceeding from Him, they are as properly mine as his. This is the way by which we become spiritually rich in God, and are made partakers of all the blessings of heaven and earth; yea, and of all the happiness that is laid up in store for the children of God, by the mediation of our spiritual Head, Christ Jesus. So deep, so close is this union, that I am actually and properly possessed of all the blessings which our head Christ Jesus has diffused through all his members, whether men, or angels, in heaven and earth. And the effect of this inward love is patience, by which a man readily and willingly takes up his cross, as a preparation for very exalted gifts of God. For no cross comes without its special grace. This made one of the holy men of old exclaim: “Hail, bitter cross, full 397 of grace and glory.” And St. Peter says: “This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief.” 1 Pet. 2:19.
3. And they, who from love to the cross of Christ, willingly bear their own, are thereby made partakers of an eminent pleasure and of peace of mind. He, then, that labors under any cross, external or internal, and yet, although his heart may bleed, without complaining bears it patiently, for the sake of his suffering Redeemer, may rest assured, that his sufferings shall end in glory, and his sorrow shall be turned into joy. The divine consolations are ever at hand to the resigned and patient soul; which peace is that inestimable pearl, the riches of the inward man, which no man can explain or comprehend but he that has it. In a word, this is that “peace which passeth all understanding,” of which St. Paul speaks in Phil. 4:7.
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