Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Comfort of Belief
By Robert Leighton (16111684)
From A Sermon on the Believers Blessedness
EVERY one trusts to somewhat. As for honour and esteem and popularity, they are airy, vain things; but riches seem a more solid work and fence, yet they are but a tower in conceit, not really. The rich mans wealth is his strong city and as a high wall is his own conceit; but the name of the Lord is a strong tower indeed (Prov. xviii. 10, 11). This is the thing that all seek, some fence and fixing; and here it is. We call you not to vexation and turmoil, but from it, and as St. Paul said, Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you. Ye blindly and fruitlessly seek after the show and shadow instead of the substance. The true aiming at this fixedness of mind will secure that, though they that aim fall short, yet, by the way they will light on very pretty things that have some virtue in them, as they that seek the philosophers stone. But the believer hath the thing, the secret itself of tranquillity and joy, and this turns all into gold, even iron chains into a crown of gold: while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen (2 Cor. iv. 17, 18).
This is the blessed and safe estate of believers. Who then can think they have a sad, heavy life? Oh! it is the only lightsome, sweet, cheerful condition in the world. The rest of men are poor, rolling, unstayed things, every report shaking them, as the leaves of trees are shaken with the wind; yea, lighter than these, they are as the chaff that the wind drives to and fro at its pleasure (Isa. vii. 2; Psa. 14). Would men but reflect and look in upon their own hearts, it is a wonder what vain childish things the most would find there, glad and sorry at things as light as the toys of children, at which they laugh and cry in a breath. How easily is the heart puffed up with a thing or a word that pleaseth us, bladder-like, swelled with a little air, and it shrinks in again in discouragement and fear, upon the touch of a needle point, which gives that air some vent.
What is the life of the greatest part but a continual tossing betwixt vain hopes and fears? All their days are spent in these. Oh! how vain a thing is man even in his best estate while he is nothing but himselfhis heart not united to and fixed on God, disquieted in vain! And how small a thing will do it. He needs no other than his own heart; it may prove disquietment enough to himself: his thoughts are his tormentors.
I know some men are, by a stronger understanding and by moral principles, somewhat raised above the vulgar, and speak big of a certain constancy of mind; but these are but flourishes, an acted bravery. Somewhat there may be that will hold out in some trials, but it will fall far short of this fixedness of faith. Troubles may so multiply as to drive them at length from their posture, and may come on so thick, with such violent blows, as will smite them out of their artificial guard, disorder all their Seneca and Epictetus, and all their own calm thoughts and high resolves. The approach of death, though they make a good mien and set the best face on it, or if not death, yet some other kind of terror, may seize on their spirits, which they are not able to shift off. But the soul trusting in God is prepared for all, not only for the calamities of war, pestilence, famine, poverty, or death, but in the saddest apprehensions of soul, beyond hope, believes in hope; even in the darkest night casts anchor on God, reposes on Him when it sees no light.