The Faith of the Heart

I. There is A CERTAIN BLESSING OR PRIVILEGE HERE SPOKEN OF — “then have we confidence toward God.” Confidence, literally fulness of speech, because this is one of the principal ways in which confidence displays itself; the heart is enlarged, the mouth is opened, and thus the whole soul pours forth its feelings without restraint and without disguise. It is a very remarkable part of our nature this, in virtue of which we are impelled to make those whom we love and confide in the depositaries of the most sacred treasures of our breasts. As confidence is enkindled, reserve disappears, like as the winter’s frost that binds up the bosom of the earth is melted before the summer’s sun. And as it is in the intercourse between man and man, so is it in the intercourse between man and God. The degree in which we can reveal to Him all our sins, wants, and sorrows will ever be in proportion to our confidence in Him. It is a most blessed state of mind; if we are believers we must know it in some measure. There is a firm foundation laid for it in the gospel; the atonement realized by faith will produce this in the soul, and nothing else will.

II. NOTICE A CERTAIN HINDRANCE SPOKEN OF as standing in the way of the enjoyment of confidence toward God. “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” There is something in the very constitution of our nature which would shake our confidence toward God, if our own heart condemned us.

III. A CERTAIN INDISPENSABLE QUALIFICATION for the enjoyment of confidence toward God: “If our heart condemn us not.” This is discouraging at first sight. It seems to place us at a hopeless distance from this blessing. You say, perhaps, you look into your heart, and you see there nothing but sin, darkness, disorder, unbelief; nothing that a holy God can approve of. Indeed! Nothing? No grace evident there, no repentance, no love to the Saviour, no spirituality, no desire after communion with God? A most extraordinary kind of religion yours! And what is the tendency, and I fear actual effect of a one-sided experience like this? It is twofold: First, as affects the people of the world. They say, What difference is there between us and those who call themselves the Lord’s people?

2. And then as affects Christians themselves. For this exclusion of all inward evidence tends to beget a want of watchfulness, and leads more or less to the losing sight of the moral element in Christianity. It prevents them from cultivating that personal holiness which is indispensable to the fruition of a spiritual being.

IV. A CERTAIN PRACTICAL TEST on which the heart’s verdict of itself must be based, favourable or unfavourable, “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” “Hereby.” This carries us back to something going before. We cannot trust to mere emotions, however deep. These emotions must be brought to some practical test; and here it is. What are we doing for the brethren? We say, perhaps, we love God. But let us test the genuineness of this emotion. He that loveth God, loveth his brother also. If you lack assurance it is not a simpler faith you need, nor a freer gospel, but a faithful dealing with your conscience as to particular sins of omission and commission. You must do more for God. You must do more for your fellow creatures.

V. A CERTAIN MORAL OR ETHICAL GROUND ON WHICH GOD ANSWERS PRAYER — “Whatsoever we ask we receive, because we keep His commandments,” etc. I think we are too apt to view faith as the only condition of acceptable prayer. There are two elements in prayer that never must be lost sight of — the evangelical, and the ethical or moral. When we view faith only as the condition of acceptable prayer, we are keeping hold only of the evangelical element. But mark, how to correct this error, this one-sided view of prayer, the passage before us brings under our notice the ethical element, “Because we keep His commandments and do those things that are well pleasing in His sight.” Ah! don’t we need this? We think we can do great things with our simple faith — and so we would were it the faith that worketh by love, purifieth the heart, and overcometh the world. But this bare, naked faith of ours, which looks only to promises and aims only at what we call salvation, is imperfect, and will not answer all ends.