Adapted from a Paper by
J.C. Ryle, 1879
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, (25) choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (26) He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Heb 11:24-26
The characters of God's most eminent saints, as drawn and described in the Bible, form a most useful part of Holy Scripture. Abstract doctrines and principles and precepts — are all very valuable in their way; but after all nothing is more helpful than a pattern or example. Do we want to know what practical holiness is? Let us study the picture of an eminently holy man.
In Moses, we have the history of a man who lived by faith and left us a pattern of what faith can do, in promoting holiness of character. He offers a prime example of what "living by faith" means.
Now the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, from which our text is taken, must have been most cheering and encouraging to a converted Jew. Surely no members of the early church found so much hardship in a profession of Christianity, as the Hebrews did. The way was narrow to all — but more so to them. The cross was heavy to all — but surely they had to carry double weight. And this chapter would refresh them; Its words would be "like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." (Prov 16:24).
The three verses before us are far from being the least interesting in the chapter. Indeed few, if any, have so strong a claim on our attention. And here is why.
Is it not so that the work of faith described in the story of Moses, comes home more especially to our own case? The men of God who are named in the earlier part of the chapter, are all examples to us beyond question. But we cannot literally do what most of them did, however much we may come close to them. We are not called upon to offer a literal sacrifice like Abel, or to build a literal ark like Noah, or to leave our country literally, and dwell in tents, and offer up our son Isaac like Abraham. But the faith of Moses comes nearer to us. It seems to operate in a way more familiar to our own experience. It made him take up a line of conduct such as we must sometimes take up ourselves in the present day, each in our own walk of life, if we would be consistent Christians. And for this reason, these three verses deserve a special consideration.
We will approach these verses in three simple steps: First we will dwell on the greatness of the things Moses did, and then the principle on which he did them. And finally we will consider the practical instruction which the verses appear to hold out to everyone who will receive it.
In terms of what Moses did, he refused some things and chose others.
1. To begin, what did Moses give up and refuse?
Moses gave up three things for the sake of his soul. He felt that his soul would not be saved if he kept them — so he gave them up. And in so doing, he made three of the greatest sacrifices that man's heart can possibly make. Let us see.
i. He gave up rank and GREATNESS.
He "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." We all know his history. The daughter of Pharaoh had preserved his life when he was an infant. She had gone further than that — she had adopted him and educated him as her own son.
Surely from his connection with Pharaoh's daughter, Moses might have been, if he had wanted, a very great man. If he had been content with the position in which he found himself at the Egyptian court, he might easily have been among the first (if not the very first) in all the land of Egypt.
Let us think, for a moment, how great this temptation was.
Here was a man of like passions with ourselves. He might have had as much greatness as earth can well give. Rank, power, place, honor, titles, dignities — all were before him, and within his grasp. These are the things for which many men are continually struggling. These are the prizes for which there is an never-ending race in the world around us to obtain. To be somebody, to be looked up to, to raise themselves in the scale of society, to be famous, successful — these are the very things for which many sacrifice time and thought and health and life itself! But Moses would not have them as a gift. He turned his back on them. He refused them. He gave them up!
ii. And more than this — he refused PLEASURE.
Pleasure of every kind, no doubt, was at his feet, if he had liked to take it up — sensual pleasure, intellectual pleasure, social pleasure — whatever could strike his fancy. Egypt was a land of artists, a residence of learned men, a resort of everyone who had skill, or science of any description. There was nothing which could feed the "the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life," (1 John 2:16) which one in the place of Moses might not easily have commanded and possessed as his own.
Let us think again, how great was this temptation also.
Millions live for pleasure. Hedonism is the great spirit that knows no boundaries, whether economical, social, political or cultural — pleasure is an idol enslaving the great majority of the world. The schoolboy looks for pleasure in his summer vacation; the young man in independence and business; the small business owner looks for it in success and retirement; and the poor man in the small comforts of home.
Pleasure and fresh excitement in politics, travel, amusement, in company, in books, in several vices too dark to mention — pleasure is the shadow which all alike are hunting; each, perhaps, pretending to despise his neighbor for seeking it, each in his own way seeking it for himself, each wondering why he does not find it, each firmly persuaded that somewhere or other it is to be found. This was the cup that Moses had before his lips. He might have drunk as deeply as he liked of earthly pleasure; but he would not have it. He turned his back upon it. He refused it. He gave it up!
iii. And more than this — he refused RICHES.
"The treasures of Egypt" is an expression that seems to tell of the boundless wealth which Moses might have enjoyed, had he been content to remain with Pharaoh's daughter. We may well suppose these "treasures" would have been a mighty fortune. Enough is still remaining in Egypt, to give us some faint idea of the money at its king's disposal. The mighty pyramids and obelisks and temples and statues are still standing there as witnesses. They testify to this day that the man who gave up Egyptian wealth, gave up something astonishing even to our modern minds.
Let us think once more, how great was this temptation.
Let us consider, for a moment, the power of money, the immense influence that "the love of money" exerts over men's minds. Let us look around us and observe how men covet it and what amazing pains and trouble they will go through to obtain it. Tell them of an island many thousand miles away where something may be found which may be profitable, if imported — and at once a fleet of ships will be sent to get it. Show them a way to make one percent more of their money — and they will count you among the wisest of men; they will almost fall down and worship you. To possess money seems to hide defects, to cover over faults, to clothe a man with virtues. People can get over much — if you are rich! But here is a man who might have been rich — and would not. He would not have Egyptian treasures. He turned his back on them. He refused them. He gave them up!
Such were the things that Moses refused — rank, pleasure, riches, all three at once.
Add to all this, that he did it deliberately. He did not refuse these things in a hasty fit of youthful excitement. He was forty years old. He was in the prime of life. He understood the consequences. He was a highly educated man, "instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22). He could weigh both sides of the question.
Add to it, that he did not refuse them because he was forced to. He was not like the dying man who tells us "he craves nothing more in this world"; and why? Because he is leaving the world and cannot keep it. He was not like the old man who boasts that "he has laid aside worldly pleasures"; and why? Because he is worn out and cannot enjoy them. No! Moses refused what he might have enjoyed. Rank, pleasure and riches did not leave him — but he left them.
And then judge whether it is not right to say, that his was one of the greatest sacrifices mortal man ever made. Others have refused much — but none, likely, so much as Moses. Others have done well in the way of self-sacrifice and self-denial — but he excels them all.
2. And now, in the second place, let us consider what Moses CHOSE
Moses chose three things for his soul's sake, and his choices are as astonishing as his refusals. The road to salvation led through them, and he followed it; and in so doing he chose three of the last things that man is ever disposed to take up!
i. Moses chose SUFFERING and AFFLICTION.
He left the ease and comfort of Pharaoh's court — and openly took part with the despised children of Israel. They were an enslaved and persecuted people — an object of distrust, suspicion and hatred; and anyone who befriended them, was sure to taste something of the bitter cup they were daily drinking.
Outwardly, there seemed no chance of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery, without a long and doubtful struggle. A settled home and country for them must have appeared a thing never likely to happen, however much desired. In fact, if ever a man seemed to be choosing pain, trials, poverty, need, distress, anxiety, perhaps even death, with his eyes open — Moses was that man!
Let us think how astonishing was this choice.
Flesh and blood naturally shrink from pain. It is in us all to do so. We draw back by a kind of instinct from suffering, and avoid it if we can. If two courses of action are set before us, which both seem right — we generally take that which is the least disagreeable to flesh and blood. We spend our days in fear and anxiety, when we think affliction is coming near us and use every means to escape it. And when it does come, we often fret and murmur under the burden of it; and if we can only bear it patiently, we count it a great matter.
But look here! Here is a man of like passions with ourselves, and he actually chooses affliction! Moses saw the cup of suffering that was before him if he left Pharaoh's court — and he chose it, preferred it and took it up!
ii. But he did more than this — he chose the COMPANY of a despised people.
He left the society of the great and wise, among whom he had been brought up, and joined himself to the despised children of Israel. He, who had lived from infancy in the midst of rank and riches and luxury, came down from his high estate and cast in his lot with poor men — slaves, oppressed, destitute, afflicted, tormented — labourers in the brick-kiln.
How wonderful, once more, was this choice!
Generally speaking, we think it enough to carry our own troubles. We may be sorry for others whose lot is to be poor and despised. We may even try to help them; we may give money to raise them up; we may speak for them to those on whom they depend; but here we generally stop.
But here is a man who does far more. He not merely feels for despised Israel but actually goes down to them, adds himself to their society and lives with them altogether! You would wonder if some great man today were to give up house and fortune and a position of power — and go to live on barely nothing in a slum, for the sake of doing good. Yet this would give a very faint and feeble notion of the kind of thing that Moses did. He saw a despised people, and he chose their company over to that of the noblest in the land. He became one with them, their fellow, their companion in tribulation, their ally, their associate and their friend.
iii. But he did even more. He chose REPROACH and SCORN.
Who can imagine the torrent of mockery and ridicule that Moses would have to endure, in turning away from Pharaoh's court to join Israel? Men would tell him that he was mad, foolish, weak, silly, out of his mind. He would lose his influence; he would lose the favour and good opinion of all among whom he had lived. But none of these things moved him. He left the Egyptian court — and joined the slaves!
Let us think again, what a choice this was!
There are few things more powerful than ridicule and scorn. It can do far more than open hostility and persecution. Many a man who would march up to the battlefront, or lead a hopeless expedition, or storm a fortress— has found it impossible to face the mockery of a few companions, and has flinched from the path of duty to avoid it. To be laughed at! To be made a joke of! To be ridiculed and sneered at! To be considered weak and silly! To be thought a fool! There is nothing alluring in all this, and many, sadly, cannot make up their minds to undergo it!
Yet here is a man who made up his mind to it and did not shrink from the trial. Moses saw reproach and scorn before him, and he chose them and accepted them for his portion.
Such then were the things that Moses chose:
the company of a despised people,
Consider beside all this, that Moses was no weak, ignorant, illiterate person, who did not know what he was about. We are specially told he was "mighty in his words and deeds," (Acts 7:22) and yet he chose as he did!
Consider, also, the circumstances of his choice. He was not forced to choose as he did. No one compelled him to take such a course. The things he took up did not force themselves upon him against his will. He went after them; they did not come after him. All that he did, he did of his own free choice — voluntarily, and of his own accord.
And then judge whether it is not true that his choices were as wonderful as his refusals. Since the world began, perhaps, no one ever made such a choice as Moses did in our text.
And now we come in the third place to
3. The PRINCIPLE which moved Moses
How can this conduct of his be accounted for? What possible reason can be given for it? To refuse that which is generally called good, to choose that which is commonly thought evil, this is not the way of flesh and blood. This is not the manner of man; this requires some explanation. What will that explanation be?
We have the answer in the text. Remarkable for its greatness and its simplicity; It all lies in one little word, and that word is "FAITH."
Moses had faith. Faith was the mainspring of his astonishing conduct. Faith made him do as he did, choose what he chose and refuse what he refused. He did it all — because he believed.
God set before his mind’s eye, His own will and purpose. God revealed to him that a Savior was to be born of the stock of Israel, that mighty promises were bound up in these children of Abraham — and yet to be fulfilled, that the time for fulfilling a portion of these promises was at hand; and Moses put trust in this, and believed. And every step in his wonderful career, every action in his journey through life after leaving Pharaoh's court, his choice of seeming evil, his refusal of seeming good — all, all must be traced up to this source; all will be found to rest on this foundation. God had spoken to him — and he had faith in God's Word.
He believed that God would keep His promises — that what He had said — He would surely do, and what He had covenanted — He would surely perform.
He believed that with God, nothing was impossible. Reason and sense might say that the deliverance of Israel was out of the question: the obstacles were too many, the difficulties too great. But faith told Moses that God was all-sufficient. God had undertaken the work, and it would be done.
He believed that God was all wise. Reason and sense might tell him that his line of action was absurd, that he was throwing away useful influence and destroying all chance of benefiting his people by breaking with Pharaoh's daughter. But faith told Moses that if God said, "Go this way," it must be the best way.
He believed that God was all merciful. Reason and sense might hint that a more pleasant manner of deliverance might be found — that some compromise might be had, and many hardships be avoided. But faith told Moses that God was love and would not give His people one drop of bitterness beyond what was absolutely needed.
Faith was a telescope to Moses. It made him see the pleasant land afar off — rest, peace and victory — when dim-sighted reason could only see trial and barrenness, storm and tempest, weariness and pain.
Faith was an interpreter to Moses. It made him pick out a comfortable meaning in the dark commands of God's handwriting — while ignorant sense could see nothing in it but mystery and foolishness.
Faith told Moses that all this rank and greatness was of the earth, earthy — a poor, vain, empty thing, frail, fleeting, and passing away; and that there was no true greatness like that of serving Him. God was the king — and he was the true nobleman, who belonged to the family of God. It was better to be last in Heaven — than first in Hell!
Faith told Moses that worldly pleasures were "pleasures of sin."
They were mingled with sin,
they led on to sin,
they were ruinous to the soul,
and displeasing to God.
It would be small comfort to have pleasure — while God was against him. Better to suffer and obey God — than to be at ease and sin.
Faith told Moses that these pleasures after all were only “fleeting." They could not last; they were all short-lived; they would weary him soon and he must leave them all in a few years.
Faith told him that there was a reward in Heaven for the believer — far richer than the treasures in Egypt; durable riches, where rust could not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. The crown there would be incorruptible; the weight of glory would be exceeding and eternal, and faith called him to look away to an unseen Heaven — if his eyes were dazzled with Egyptian gold.
Faith told Moses that affliction and suffering are not real evils. They are . . .
the school of God, in which He trains the children of grace for glory;
the medicines, which are needful to purify our corrupt hearts;
the furnace, which must burn away our impurity;
the knife, which must cut the ties which bind us to the world.
Faith told Moses that the despised Israelites were the chosen people of God. He believed that to them belonged the adoption and the covenant and the promises and the glory: that from them the seed of the woman was one day to be born, who would bruise the serpent's head; that the special blessing of God was upon them; that they were lovely and beautiful in His eyes, and that it was better to be a doorkeeper among the people of God — than to reign in the palaces of wickedness!
Faith told Moses that all the reproach and scorn poured out on him, was "the reproach of Christ," (11:26) that it was honorable to be mocked and despised for Christ's sake; that whoever persecuted Christ's people — was persecuting Christ Himself; and that the day must come when His enemies would bow before Him and lick the dust. All this, and much more, Moses saw by faith. These were the things he believed, and believing — he did what he did.
He was persuaded of them, and embraced them;
he looked upon them as certainties;
he regarded them as deep truths;
he counted them as sure as if he had seen them with his own eyes;
he acted on them as realities —
and this made him the man that he was. He had faith. He believed.
Do not wonder that he refused greatness, riches and pleasure. He looked far forward. He saw with the eye of faith . . .
kingdoms crumbling into dust,
riches making to themselves wings and fleeing away,
pleasures leading on to death and judgment,
and Christ alone and His little flock enduring forever.
Do not wonder not that he chose affliction, a despised people and reproach. He beheld things below the surface.
He saw with the eye of faith . . .
affliction lasting but for a moment,
reproach rolled away, and ending in everlasting honor, and
the despised people of God reigning as kings with Christ in glory.
And was he not right? Does he not speak to us though dead, this very day? The name of Pharaoh's daughter has perished, or at any rate is extremely doubtful. The city where Pharaoh reigned is not known. The treasures in Egypt are gone. But the name of Moses is known wherever the Bible is read, and is still a standing witness that whoever lives by faith is the one who is truly happy!
4. Lastly we have some PRACTICAL LESSONS to consider
"What has all this to do with us?" some will say. "We do not live in Egypt, we have seen no miracles, we are not Israelites, we are tired of this subject."
Yet our subject is a considerable and weighty one, which we should not easily dismiss. It is particularly relevant to anyone desiring salvation for many reasons:
1. If you would ever be saved, you must make the choice that Moses made — you must choose God before the world.
Mark well what I say. Do not overlook this, though all the rest is forgotten. It is not that the statesman must throw away his office, and the rich man forsake his property. Let no one imagine that this is what is meant. But what is meant is that, if a man would be saved, whatever be his rank in life — he must be prepared for tribulation. He must make up his mind to choose much which seems evil — and to give up and refuse much which seems good.
This may sound like strange language to some. There are many who have a certain form of religion, and find no trouble in their way. There is a common worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have — a cheap Christianity . . .
which offends nobody,
which requires no sacrifice,
which costs nothing — and is worth nothing!
I am not speaking of religion of this kind.
But if you really are in earnest about your soul, if your religion is something more than a mere fashionable Sunday dress, if you are determined to live by the Bible, if you are resolved to be a New Testament Christian — then you will soon find that you must carry a cross. You must endure hard things; you must suffer in behalf of your soul, as Moses did — or you cannot be saved.
The world in the twenty first century — is what it always was.
The hearts of men are still the same.
The offence of the cross is not ceased.
God's true people are still a despised little flock.
True evangelical religion still brings with it reproach and scorn.
A real servant of God will still be thought a fanatic and a fool by many.
But the matter comes to this. Do you wish your soul to be saved? Then remember, you must choose whom you will serve. You cannot serve both God and money. You cannot be on two sides at once. You cannot be a friend of Christ — and a friend of the world at the same time. You must come out from the children of this world — and be separate. You must put up with much ridicule, trouble and opposition — or you will be lost forever. You must be willing to think and do things which the world considers foolish — and to hold opinions which are held by only a few. It will cost you something. The stream is strong — and you have to resist it. The way is narrow and steep — and it is no use saying that it is not. But, depend on it, there can be no saving religion, without sacrifices and self-denial.
Now are you making any sacrifices? Does your religion cost you anything? I sincerely and earnestly put it to your conscience. Are you, like Moses, preferring God to the world, or not? I urge you not to take shelter under that dangerous word, "we" — "we ought," and "we hope," and "we mean," and the such. I ask you plainly, what are you doing yourself? Are you willing to give up anything which keeps you back from God; or are you clinging to the Egypt of the world and saying to yourself, "I must have it, I must have it! I cannot tear myself away!"
Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly-mindedness around you? Or is all smooth and rounded off and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion? Do you know anything of the afflictions of the gospel? Is your faith and practice, ever a subject of scorn and reproach? Are you thought a fool by anyone because of your soul? Have you left Pharaoh's daughter — and heartily joined the people of God? Are you venturing all on Christ? Search and see!
These are hard investigations and rough questions. But they cannot be helped. They are surely founded on Scripture truths. Remember that it is written: "great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:25-27). Many, sadly, would like glory — who have no wish for grace. They would gladly have . . .
the wages — but not the work;
the harvest — but not the labor;
the reaping — but not the sowing;
the reward — but not the battle.
But it cannot be! As Bunyan says, "The bitter must go before the sweet." If there is no cross — there will be no crown!
2. Nothing will ever enable you to choose God before the world, except faith.
Only faith enables you, nothing else, whether you have knowledge, feel strong emotions, read and pray regularly, or have good friends. Faithless religion does something — but it isn't enough; it is a clock without springs or a battery; its face may be beautiful, you may turn its hands around — but it will not work. Religion of substance which stands, has as its foundation the firmness of faith.
There must be a real heartfelt belief that God's promises are sure and to be depended on — a real belief that what God says in the Bible is all true, and that every doctrine contrary to this is false, whatever anyone may say. There must be a real belief that all God's words are to be received, however hard and disagreeable to flesh and blood, and that His way is right — and all others wrong. This there must be, or you will never come out from the world, take up the cross, follow Christ and be saved.
You must learn to believe . . .
promises — better than possessions,
things unseen — better than things seen,
things in Heaven out of sight — better than things on earth before your eyes,
the praise of the invisible God — better than the praise of visible man.
Then, and then only — you will make a choice like Moses, and prefer God to the world.
Now the most important question that can be is: "Do you have this faith?" If you have, you will find it possible to refuse seeming good — and choose seeming evil. You will think nothing of today's losses, in the hope of tomorrow's gains. You will follow Christ in the dark, and stand by Him to the very last. If you do not have this faith, I warn you — you will never fight successfully in this war and "run that you may obtain" the prize. You will soon be offended, and turn back to the world.
Above all this, there must be a real abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The life that you live in the flesh — you must live by faith in the Son of God. There must be a settled habit of continually . . .
leaning on Jesus,
looking unto Jesus,
drawing out of Jesus and
using Him as the food of your soul.
You must strive to be able to say, "to me to live is Christ." "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 1:21; 4:13).
This was the faith by which the old saints obtained a good report. This was the weapon by which they overcame the world. This made them what they were.
This was the faith that made . . .
Noah go on building his ark — while the world looked on and mocked;
Abraham give the choice of the land to Lot — and dwell on quietly in tents;
Ruth cling to Naomi — and turn away from her country and her gods;
Daniel continue in prayer — though he knew the lions' den was prepared;
the three Hebrew children refuse to worship idols — though the fiery furnace was before their eyes;
and Moses forsake Egypt — not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh.
All these acted as they did — because they believed. They saw the difficulties and troubles of this path. But they saw Jesus by faith and above them all — and they pressed on.
Our subject is relevant thirdly because,
3. The true reason why so many are worldly and ungodly people, is that they have no faith.
We must be aware that multitudes of professing Christians would never think for a moment of doing as Moses did. It is useless to speak smooth things and shut our eyes to the facts. That man must be blind, who does not see all around him those who are daily preferring the world — to God; placing the things of time — before the things of eternity; and the things of the body — before the things of the soul. We may not like to admit this, and we try hard to overlook the fact. But so it is.
And why do they do so? No doubt they will all give us reasons and excuses.
Some will talk of the snares of the world,
some of the lack of time,
some of the peculiar difficulties of their position,
some of the cares and anxieties of life,
some of the strength of temptation,
some of the power of passions,
some of the effects of bad companions.
But what does it come to after all? There is a far shorter way to account for the state of their souls — they do not truly believe! One simple sentence, like Aaron's rod, will swallow up all their excuses — they have no faith!
They do not really think that what God says is true. They secretly flatter themselves with the notion: "It will surely not be fulfilled. There must surely be some other way to Heaven beside that which ministers speak of. There cannot surely be so much danger of being lost. Surely all will be well in the end." In short, they do not put implicit confidence in the words that God has written and spoken — and so do not act upon them. They do not thoroughly believe . . .
in Hell — and so do not flee from it;
nor Heaven — and so do not seek it;
nor the guilt of sin — and so do not turn from it;
nor the holiness of God — and so do not fear Him;
nor their need of Christ — and so do not trust in Him nor love Him.
They do not feel confidence in God — and so venture nothing for Him. Like the boy Passion, in Pilgrim's Progress, they must have their good things now. They do not trust God — and so they cannot wait.
Now how is it with ourselves? Do we believe all of the Bible? Let us ask ourselves that question. Be assured of this — it is a much greater thing to believe all the Bible than many realize. Happy is the man who can lay his hand on his heart and say, "I am a believer."
The secular world today is awash in atheism. But there is a vast amount of practical atheism in Christian circles which is just as dangerous. There are many who Sunday after Sunday declare their belief in assenting to the gospel and participating in ordinances.
And yet these very people will live all the week as if Christ had never died, and as if there were no judgment, and no resurrection of the dead, and no life everlasting at all. There are many who will say, "Oh, we know all that," when spoken to about eternal things and the value of their souls. And yet their lives show plainly, they know nothing as they ought to know; and the saddest part of their state is, that they think they do!
It is a dreadful truth, that should be carefully considered, that Bible knowledge not acted upon — is not merely useless and unprofitable. It is much worse than that. It will add to our condemnation and increase our guilt in the judgment day! A faith that does not influence a man's practice — is not worthy of the name. There are only two classes in the church of Christ — those who believe, and those who do not. The difference between the true Christian and the mere outward professor just lies in one word; the true Christian is like Moses: "he has faith"; the mere outward professor has none. The true Christian believes — and therefore lives as he does; the mere professor does not believe — and therefore is what he is. By the mercy of God, let us not be faithless — but believing.
Our subject is relevant fourthly because
4. The true secret of doing great things for God — is to have great faith.
We are all very prone to err on this point. We think too much, and talk too much, about graces and gifts and achievements— and do not sufficiently remember that faith is the root and mother of them all. In walking with God, a man will go just as far as he believes, and no further. His life will always be proportioned to his faith. His peace, his patience, his courage, his zeal, his works — all will be according to his faith.
You read the lives of eminent Christians, of such men as Whitefield or Baxter or Mcheyne, and we are prone to say, "What wonderful gifts and graces these men had!" But we should rather give honor to the mother grace which God puts forward in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews; we should give honor to their faith. You can be sure that faith was the driving force in the character of each and all.
Someone might say, "They were so prayerful — that made them what they were." But why did they pray much? Simply because they had much faith. What is prayer — but faith speaking to God?
Another perhaps will say, "They were so diligent and hard working— that accounts for their success." But why were they so diligent? Simply because they had faith. What is Christian diligence — but faith at work?
Another will tell me, "They were so bold — that made them so useful." But why were they so bold? Simply because they had much faith. What is Christian boldness — but faith honestly doing its duty?
And another will say, "It was their holiness and spirituality — that gave them their weight." But again, what made them holy? Nothing but a living realizing spirit of faith. What is holiness — but faith visible and faith incarnate?
If you would be like Moses, making it as clear as noonday that you have chosen God before the world — what does Christ ask of you? Would you produce an abundance of fruit? Do you want to be eminently holy and useful? It goes without saying that every believer would reply with a resounding, "Yes! This is my desire!"
Then take the advice offered you this day: go and cry to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the disciples did, "Lord, increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5) Faith is the root of a real Christian's character. Let your root be right — and your fruit will soon abound. Your spiritual prosperity will always be according to your faith. He who believes shall not only be saved — but . . .
shall never thirst,
shall be established,
shall walk firmly on the waters of this world
and shall do great works!
And if you believe the things you have heard today, and desire to be a thoroughly holy man or woman or child — begin to act on your faith. Take Moses for your example. Walk in his steps. Go and do likewise.