Sunday, January 9, 2011

William Gurnall on 1 Peter 1:8

As faith succours the Christian when his other graces fail him most, so it brings in his comfort when they most abound. Faith is to the Christian as Nehemiah was to Artaxerxes, Neh. 2:1. Of all the graces this is the Christian’s cup-bearer. The Christian takes the wine of joy out of faith’s hand, rather than any other grace. ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,’ Rom. 15:13. It is observable, I Peter 1, to see how the apostle therefore doth, as it were, cross his hands, as once Jacob did in blessing his son Joseph’s children, and gives the pre-eminence to faith, attributing the Christian's joy to his faith, rather than to his love ver. 8: ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Mark, ‘believing, ye rejoice.’ Here is the door, the Christian’s chief joy, yea, all his fiduciary joy comes in at. It is Christ that we are in this respect allowed only to rejoice in, ‘For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,’ Php. 3:3,—where Christ is made the sole subject of our rejoicing fiduciarily, in opposition to all else, even our graces themselves, which become flesh when thus re­joiced and glorified in. Christ’s blood is the wine that only glads the heart of God by way of satisfaction to his justice, and therefore only that can bring true gladness into the heart of man. When Christ prom­iseth the Comforter, he tells his disciples from what vessel he should draw the wine of joy that he was to give them: ‘He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you,’ John 16:15. No grape of our own vine is pressed into this sweet cup. As if Christ had said, When he comes to comfort you with the pardon of your sins, ‘he shall take of mine,’ not anything of yours—my blood by which I purchased your peace with God, not your own tears of repentance by which you have mourned for your sins. All the blessed priv­ileges which believers are instated into, they are the fruits of Christ’s purchase, not of our earnings. Now, the Christian's joy flowing in from Christ, and not anything that he, poor creature, doth or hath; hence it comes to pass, that faith, above all the graces, brings in the Christian’s joy and comfort, because this is the grace that improves Christ and what is Christ's for the soul’s advantage. As of grace, so of comfort. Faith is the good spy, that makes discovery of the excellences in Christ, and then makes report of all to the soul it sees in him and knows of him. It is faith that broaches the promises, turns the cock and sets them a running into the soul. It doth not only show the soul how excellent Christ is, and what dainties are in the promises; but it applies Christ to the soul, and carves out the sweet viands that are dished forth in the promises. Yea, it puts them into the very mouth of the soul; it masticates and grinds the promise so, that the Christian is filled with its strength and sweet­ness. Till faith comes and brings the news of the soul's welcome, O how maidenly and uncomfortably do poor creatures sit at the table of the promise! Like Hannah, ‘they weep and eat not.’ No, alas! they dare not be so bold. But, when faith comes, then the soul falls to, and makes a satisfying meal indeed. No dish on the table but faith will taste of. Faith knows God sets them not on to go off untouched. It is though an humble yet a bold grace, because it knows it cannot be so bold with God in his own way as it is welcome.


The more the Christian can lose or suffer upon the credit of the promise, the stronger his faith is. If you should see a man part with a fair inheritance, and leave his kindred and country where he might pass his days in the embracements of his dear friends and the delicious fare which a plentiful estate would afford him every day, to follow a friend to the other end of the world, with hunger and hard­ship, through sea and land, and a thousand perils that meet him on every hand, you would say that this man had a strong confidence of his friend, and a dear love to him, would you not? Nay, if he should do all this for a friend whom he never saw, upon the bare credit of a letter which he sends to invite him to come over to him, with a promise of great things he will do for him; now, to throw all his present possessions and enjoyments at his heels, and willingly put himself into the condition of a poor pilgrim and traveller, with the loss of all he hath, that he may come to his dear friend, this adds to the wonder of his confidence. Such gallant spirits we read of—‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice,’ I Peter 1:6-8. Observe the place, and you shall find them in sorrowful plight —‘in heaviness through manifold temptations’—yet, because their way lies through the sloughs to the en­joyment of God and Christ, whom they never saw or knew, but by the report the word makes of them, they can turn their back off the world's friendship and enjoyments—with which it courted them as well as others—and go with a merry heart through the deep­est of them all. Here is glorious faith indeed. It is not praising of heaven, and wishing we were there, but a cheerful abandoning the dearest pleasures, and embracing the greatest sufferings of the world when called to the same, that will evidence our faith to be both true and strong. 

—William Gurnall