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Faith is Essential for Christians

Faith is foundational for a Christian.  Satan knows this and makes faith his primary target.  The Bible is our shield and sword in this  war   “The Doubting Believer” teaches us how to fight.

THE DOUBTING BELIEVER by Obadiah Sedgewick (1600-1658) is subtitled (A Puritan Treatise on Assurance). It is a textbook on doubt, its causes, and its cures.

Faith is foundational for a Christian.  We are saved by grace through faith.  Satan knows this and makes faith the primary target of his attacks.

Faith is assailed today as it was in the 17th century.  Puritans fought for their faith, and so do we.  The Bible is both our shield and sword in this ongoing spiritual warfare.   “The Doubting Believer” teaches us how to fight.  It is a textbook on doubt, its causes, and its cures.

Sedgewick’s faith:

Obadiah Sedgewick (1600-1658) was a PURITAN MINISTER AND MEMBER OF THE WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY, a group of 121 ministers tasked with reforming the Church of England. As you can see from The Doubting Believer, he had a legislative mind.

His religion was intertwined with public policy, and he lived his whole life fighting against the bishops and the Church of England.

He was on the victorious side of Oliver Cromwell*(1599-1658) and the Puritan army, which won the Civil War, executed King Charles I, and set up the Protectorate.

*indicates that person's biography is included in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES

Faith was a much bigger deal in those days, as you can see from this dedication of the book:

A renewed heart is a very heaven in our little world and faith the only sun in that heaven.

Sedgewick saw faith as a great and eternal gift:

I cannot conceive of a more compendious way for any Christian’s full and constant revenues than this: to get faith, and still to use it: the sum or product of which would be this: grace and glory, heaven and earth are ours.

Faith drove England’s civil war:

Indeed, his life and the lives of the successful “roundheads” played out this way in the Civil War and its aftermath.

Above all, Obediah Sedgewick was a Puritan, Reformer, and fighter. With faith as the precious jewel, he saw a great need to protect it from its enemies and their General:

“It is well-known to Satan what a serviceable channel faith is for all of our traffic, either for our ship to launch out into duties, or for God’s ship to arrive unto us laden with mercies—and therefore there is no other grace that he assaults as much as he does our faith.
If the foundation is weakened or shaken, it has a spreading influence throughout the whole building.
A Christian’s faith cannot be wronged without the entire spiritual frame quickly becoming sensible of the wrong and loss.”

Faith on the chessboard of our lives

The battleground here, once referred to as a chessboard, is “doubt,” which Sedgewick sees as the middle ground between Faith and Unbelief.

FAITH ——-doubt——-UNBELIEF HEAVEN —-earth———HELL

Using Jesus' words, he is quick to point out that doubt is possible in a believer, especially when faith is weak, and that the devil will use all his devices to tip the balance in his favor, i.e., to unbelief.

Faith on the defense

Sedgewick’s primary efforts are defensive. Like a general defending the castle of FAITH, he first seeks to identify all the threats from the coming siege in the first 4 chapters of the book (51 pages). He concludes this portion of the treatise with these 14 “Springs of Doubtings” or vulnerabilities.

  1. Original Sin

  2. Imperfection in Faith

  3. The Life of Sense

  4. Restraining of Faith

  5. Special Sins after Conversion

  6. Spiritual Indispositions

  7. Fruitless Endeavors

  8. Imbecility of Judgment

  9. Ignorance of the Doctrine of Justification

  10. Disputation against the Promises

  11. Suspension of Divine Favor

  12. Crediting of Satan’s Testimony

  13. New Risings of Old Sins

  14. Silence in Conscience

Faith as a treatment and cure

Then, like a physician, he prescribes treatments and cures. He provides these in detail on pages 52-168, which we have no space to cover here. Instead, we will look at the examples he finds in characters of the Bible and draw our “treatments and cures” from there.

He begins with Jesus' words to Peter*(1 BC-67 AD) from Matthew 14:31:

O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

We all know the story. Jesus was walking on the water, and Peter asked him to come and walk with Him. Jesus simply said, “Come.” And Peter came and walked on the water. He did it. He had the faith it took. But when he took his eyes off Jesus and saw the waves and the wind, he began to sink.

Sedgewick notes that Peter had faith, but it was weak and needed strengthening. That came by walking with Jesus, but it was fully realized when he was baptized by the Holy Ghost.

Doubt vs Faith in the New Testament

Luke gives us 2 examples of doubts by believers in the first chapter of his Gospel. Both characters are visited by an angel who promises them a son. Both had doubts. But there is a marked distinction between Zacharias*(50 BC- ??) and Mary*(18 BC?- c 43 AD):

And Zacharias said unto the angel,

Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. Luke 1:18

Zacharias seems to have doubted the truth of the Angel’s message and is asking for a sign. The Angel gives him one, but not one he is happy with: he is silent and cannot speak until the promised son is born. Doubting can result in grieving the Lord and losing His favor.

Later, in the same chapter, the Virgin Mary has a doubt concerning the wonderful news she has been given:

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Luke 1:34

Sedgewick calls this a doubt “of admiration.”

In these, the mind does not gainsay simply (i.e., deny or contradict); no, it believes, and is only solicitous about the hidden manner or way of performance or accomplishment.
“She does not doubt that it is to happen, but asks how it can happen,” said St. Ambrose.

Old Testament Lessons on Faith

Doubts are not sins and often occur in Believers. Our author includes some examples of Old Testament saints who experienced doubt but overcame it.

Observe Abraham himself, the father of the faithful, yet we find him winding and turning, shuffling, and doubting, more than once if we read Genesis 12 and 15:2-3, and Genesis 20.

And Abraham*(1996-1821 BC) is not alone:

So, David*(1085-1015 BC) had his trembling, his fainting, his suspicions, all in him was not faith. He, in his haste, falls out with some for liars, who yet spake nothing but the truth of God; and so again in his hast, he is cut off from before the eyes of God, who yet heard the voice of his supplication.

The most extended example is in Job*(1650-1440 BC):

Job, also, a man of great sorrows and of great faith, yet had he not his qualms, his shakings, his questionings?
Indeed, in some places, he seems heroic in his faith, graciously victorious over all calamities, and riding above all waves, yet in other places we find the man as well as the believer.
He staggers; he fears; he is giving up.

Sedgewick offers up David’s answer:

Thou didst hide Thy face, and anon I was troubled. Psalm 30

This is the main and principal source of doubting in believers. We cannot see His face. Sedgewick gives the example of Elisha’s servant who panicked when the Assyrian army had them surrounded and cried:

Alas, my Master! How shall we do?

But his master had that spiritual vision and replied:

Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha*(925? -839 BC) prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.
And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. – 2 Kings 6:16

There is a double lesson here: 1) pray for open eyes to see beyond the natural, and 2) seek the help of other Believers who can lift us and show us the spiritual landscape.

The Faith Struggles of Joseph

The natural landscape looked bad for both Josephs, in the Old Testament and in the New.

Sedgewick remarks on Joseph’s*(1745-1635 BC) unjust imprisonment due to Potiphar’s wife:

“Joseph’s charity appeared to his master under the nature of abominable uncleanness when he took the testimony of it from his filthy wife.”

Unbelievers attribute unjust motives when God has mighty plans. Consider David’s brothers who thought he was just playing hooky from his shepherd’s job when God brought him on the scene to conquer Goliath and deliver Israel.

Joseph*(50 BC?-20AD?), Mary’s betrothed, heard what people were saying about his pregnant wife-to-be and was ready to divorce her until the Angel delivered the truth to him:

Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:20-23

The WORD OF GOD always conquers doubt, and we are blessed to have the Bible and its comforting promises.

Faith is the Victory

The big takeaway I have from studying The Doubting Believer is that the outcome of the struggle between faith and doubt all depends on where we get our information and our day-to-day, nay, hour-to-hour communications.

If it is from the Lord, our faith grows; if from the world, it shrivels, and doubt grows and even turns to unbelief.

A daily help in this is the promises of scripture. St. Peter tells us that God has given us these promises to make our calling and election sure:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:4

Sedgewick, too, sees the immense value of the promises in our contest with doubt:

The promises are to faith as ground unto the anchor. Cast out an anchor and, if it has no ground to fasten or hitch in, the ship rolls still. This is a truth: if faith cannot pitch and fix, the soul cannot be quiet and settled….
…the promises are called the breasts of consolation. When the child is hungry and distempered, nothing quiets it but the breast; and, assuredly, if the promises do not still the soul, nothing can.

Here, I would part with Sedgewick’s verdict. Jesus can always still the soul. Sometimes it is through the promises we meet Him; other times, we simply answer His call:


Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

We also have our faith strengthened and doubts driven away from hearing the Word of God from sermons and fellowship with other Believers. In Sedgewick’s day, Puritans could hear 15,000 HOURS OF SERMONS/teaching, the equivalent of 10 college educations!

Those days are gone. The greatest need today is to hear/read the Word of God.
This, St. Paul*(5-67) told the Romans, is the way to get faith. And with this encouragement I close.
Read the Word. Devour it. Faith will carry us to eternal life and victory over sin, self, doubt, and the devil.

Always remember: Faith brings Victory!

This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4

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