Faith and Means
THERE is one kind of faith which God never requires the Christian to exercise.
He never requires him to believe that a blessing will follow neglect of duty even though prayer be offered to that end. We are taught to have confidence in God as a hearer of prayer even when human probabilities do not help our expectation and even when obstacles lie in the way of a blessing provided those obstacles are not chargeable, to ourselves. If they are to be found at our own door, whether they consist in cherished sins or neglected duties, they will prove insurmountable stumbling-blocks. We cannot in such a case pray believingly. Conscience will condemn the inconsistency of our requests even before they are uttered. It is morally impossible for either an Achan or a Jonali to offer the prayer of faith. The sin must first be given up or the duty performed, then we can pray. It is said of Henry Martyn that "he so lived that he could pray."
It may be regarded as a general principle, that so far as we are able to render circumstances favorable to a blessing, we are required to do it.
If they are unfavorable from providential necessity, and there is no more that we can do, then no matter how dark the prospect to our eye, we may wait with assurance on the Lord. If there are no tithes that we can bring into the storehouse, then we may still pray, and still expect that a blessing will be poured out.
But if we have such tithes, then until they are brought we are not prepared to wait in hope.
We must arrange the sails and cordage of the ship, while we wait the breeze.
We must carefully prepare the soil and sow the seed, then look to God for the early and the latter rain. Prayer should crown every Christian effort, and give it warrant of success; but it is not designed to take the place of any thing which we can and ought to do. We are not to send our petitions over the heads of a thousand neglected duties. If an individual or a church is not doing all that it can to increase the human probabilities of success in winning men to Christ, then it is not yet in an attitude to wait in confidence for the choicest blessings of the Lord.
How forcibly and beautifully is this point illustrated in the experience of Jacob at the Ford Jabbok! He was about to meet his injured brother Esau, and was afraid for his life had been threatened. And yet
as he must encounter him, he hastened to arrange his caravan in the very best manner, imploring a blessing as he went.
He shrewdly planned every thing in such a way as to make the most pacific impression on his brother, sending fine presents in advance.
He divided his household into companies, directing them minutely what to say, and
then when his best possible plans had been made and his resources all arranged to the best advantage - when he had done all, had sent his family over the brook - then he went and prayed, then he threw himself with unyielding
faith upon the mercy of the Lord, and waited in very deed, wrestling with the angel till the break of day. - Gen. Evangelist.