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By Hearing

Faith is the work of God (Ephesians 2:8–9), but, as David Clarkson writes, “he works it not immediately, but in the use of appointed means.” The means he uses cannot work but that the Holy Spirit works through them, but neither does the Spirit work to bring faith outside the appointed means. “It is his power that works faith; but in that way, and by those means, which he has prescribed. Though he has not absolutely tied and confined himself to them, yet he has tied and confined us. Though he is free, yet the means are necessary to us.” The primary means is the hearing of God’s word.


This is a means of the Lord’s appointing, and which he ordinarily uses for this end, John xvii. 20. He prays for some that were to believe afterwards, but were to believe through the word in the ministry of his servants. And all that the Holy Ghost mentions afterwards as believers were brought to believe by the ministry of the word. The Jews, Acts iv. 4; the Gentiles, Acts xiii. 48; the Ephesians, Eph. i. 13; the Corinthians, Acts xviii. 8. And therefore the ministers of the gospel are called ‘ministers by whom they believed,’ 1 Cor. iii. 5. And the word preached is called ‘the word of faith,’ Rom. x. 8. He shews the necessity of this means by a gradation, verse 14, 15. There must be a mission, that there may be preachers; there must be preaching, that there may be hearing; there must be hearing, that there may be believing; and so he concludes his discourse, verse 17.

Those that will have faith without hearing would have it out of God s way, and are such ever like to find it? If the word be not preached it cannot be heard. The Lord may work it in an extraordinary way, but can it be expected the Lord should step out of his ordinary path to meet those who shew so much contempt of God and of their souls as they will not wait on him for faith in the way that he has appointed? Will God work miracles to save those who so much despise him and his great salvation? Nay, the Lord will have the ministry of the word more honoured in this respect than miracles. He has used miracles sometimes for to startle and humble sinners in order to faith, but has referred those persons at the same time to the ministry of the word for the working of faith. We find not that ever the Lord so much honoured miracles as to work faith by them without the word, though we find the Lord ordinarily so far honouring the ministry of the word as to work faith by it without miracles. Miracles are ceased many hundred years ago, yet the Lord has been working faith in all ages by the ministry of the word. And when miracles were in use, they were but used as subservient to the word, to prepare for faith, which the Lord would work by hearing the word. Saul was struck down and humbled in a miraculous way, but he was sent to hear Ananias, that he might be possessed with the Spirit of faith; he was not filled with the Holy Ghost till then, it descended on him in his ministry, Acts ix. 6. The jailor was humbled by a miraculous earthquake, Acts xvi. 27, 28, but the Lord would not work faith in him by that miracle, he reserved the honour of that work to the ministry of Paul and Silas, ver. 30, 31, 32, 34.

Hearing the word is the ordinary means to attain faith, and was the ordinary means when the Lord appeared in extraordinary and miraculous dispensations.

—David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:170–171.

Posted 2017·09·07 by David Kjos
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Posted in: David Clarkson · Evangelism · Ordinary Means · Works of David Clarkson

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