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"For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22)


"When FEAR knocks on your door, send FAITH to answer it."

The Wavering Christian:
Rev. Father Edward Caswall (1846)

"But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” - St. James 1:6

It appears from these words, that even in the times of the Apostles there were persons who, although they did not omit praying, prayed nevertheless to no purpose. Their prayers were not heard; or rather, were heard and rejected. They obtained nothing from the Lord, although they prayed to Him: and doubtless thence arose, even in those days, many cavillings against the Christian profession; many relapses into sin, through a despair of God’s aid; and many false estimates of the true nature and object of prayer.

Numbers in our own times are, it is to be feared, daily led into similar errors, from observing in their own cases the apparent neglect with which their prayers are received by the Almighty. Let us, then, hearken to the Apostle St. James, pointing out to us one principal cause why the prayers of so many are sent up in vain, and produce, to all appearance, no benefit.

The cause of this, he informs us, lies in the habit, common to many, of wavering in their religious course; a habit so pernicious in its consequences, that it checks the very ascent of prayer on its way to heaven, and taints that incense which, when rightly hallowed by earnest faith, is well pleasing to God, through the merits of the great Intercessor. “Let him ask in faith,” says the Apostle, “nothing wavering.” And then, to strengthen the point which he desires particularly to enforce, namely, that wavering in religion is the great cause why so many prayers are rejected, he adds a comparison at once clear and forcible, shewing in its true light the character of a wavering Christian. “He that wavereth,” he says, “is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

This inspired comparison will remind you of some other parts of Scripture, in which the same thought is contained. Thus, of the wicked, Isaiah says that they are “like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” - 1 Isaiah 57:20

St. Jude, again, describes some of his own day as “raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;” (Jude 13) and Jacob, on his deathbed, at once foretels the fate and describes the character of Reuben in these words, “unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.” - Genesis 49:4

Now, in considering the comparison of the Apostle, we find three points of view in which a wavering Christian resembles a wave of the sea. First, a wave is driven with the wind; driven, that is to say, by every wind that blows: so also is the wavering Christian. Secondly, a wave of the sea is tossed, as the Apostle expresses it; that is to say, restless, disturbed, and disquieted: so also is the wavering Christian. Thirdly, a wave of the sea spends itself in vain: so also does the wavering Christian: - such a man “must not expect to receive any thing of the Lord.” Let us consider these three points in their order.

And, first, a wave of the sea is driven at the mercy of every wind that blows. Here paint to your minds what many of you have doubtless often witnessed - I mean, the face of the great deep. Imagine to yourselves the winds of heaven strug gling for the mastery upon it. At one time the north wind has its full sway, at another the south, at another the east, at another the west. Before each the waves bend obediently, turning their course in the direction of the gale. As one wind dies away, and another rises from an opposite quarter, so do the long furrows of the waves correspondingly alter their course. Each billow yields to the force of every new breeze that blows, having no direction of its own. Alternately it changes from one point to another, with every succeeding blast. And so it is for ever. Wind after wind springs up on the surface of the deep; wave after wave courses onward, the sport of every storm that beats from every quarter under heaven.

Now, how true is the Apostle in comparing this to the state of a wavering Christian, who, no more than the waves, has a fixed course of his own; but is blown about by every breath of doctrine, by every imagination that enters his heart, by every object that strikes his senses! Sometimes believing one - thing, sometimes believing another thing; sometimes holding very strongly to one opinion, sometimes to another quite opposite; sometimes obstinate in adhering to a view which he has formed in his own mind; and then of a sudden, at the mere chance-suggestion of another person, giving up his former view for a new one: his mind shifting like a weathercock towards every fresh object that presents itself; unresolved and fluctuating in his creed,— his notions, even of morality, unsteady, and based on no certain foundation; with no fixed religious habits: sometimes attending to his prayers for several days, sometimes omitting them for weeks together; sometimes reading his Bible by large quantities at a sitting, sometimes altogether neglecting it for months; irregular in his religious observances; the sport of his feelings; and influenced in general by the last person with whom he conversed; — how well does such a character resemble a wave of the sea driven with the wind!

Far different he who has fixed principles by which to direct himself, who has received the truth in the love of it; and having so received it, swerves from it no more. Such a man, instead of being like a wave of the sea, rather resembles some gallant ship, steered steadily through storm and through tempest; and if obliged for a short time to pause by the greatness of the waves, not drifting along with the wind, but casting an anchor fixed and immovable, not in the shifting sand of human opinions, but in the unshaken Rock of Ages.

Now, secondly, observe the natural consequences of this wavering condition. And these consequences I conceive to be expressed by the Apostle in the word “tossed.” “Driven with the wind,” he says, “and tossed.” If you have ever observed the waves, you must have remarked this peculiarity with regard to them—namely, how very restless and disturbed a thing a wave is; ever rising and sinking, heaving and swelling, tossed and disquieted as though it had no peace. And this too is the case with the wavering Christian: he too has no peace. The very fact of his wavering produces a disquietness and unhappiness in his mind, as a natural consequence of his unsettled condition. His thoughts are ill at ease. All that his wavering has done for him has been this, to make him miserable. While others, resting calm and quiet in the faith of their Saviour, duly discharging, in a Christian manner, the daily calls of their life, knowing that God cannot deceive, and with the temper of a child submitting to Him all the cavillings of their minds, — while these, and such as these, poor in spirit, humble in thought, obedient in conduct, have obtained that peace which the world cannot give, what has the wavering Christian been doing for himself all this while but heaping up sorrow, and trouble, and vexation of spirit? He will of himself confess to you that he is not at peace, that his habit of yielding to impressions from whatever quarter has dimmed his faith, and destroyed the integrity of his judgment.

We come now to the third point in which he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea — namely,that each is spent in vain, and dashed to pieces to no purpose.

Here let me call to your remembrance some such scene as the following, which you may have before now witnessed — a low sandy shore, indented here and there with rocks, on which the waves of the sea are continually dashing. By such a place you may have stood at times of your life, and musingly watched wave after wave rolling forwards in endless succession. There was much noise; there was much foam; there was the appearance of great things: but how did all this end? What resulted from so great a tumult? Why, simply nothing. The waves which dashed on the rocks broke them selves in pieces, and there was an end of them. And those which rolled in upon the sand, little by little diminished away, leaving nothing behind but a narrow line of shrivelled foam.

And such also is the result of the uncertain, fluctuating advances which the wavering Christian makes in his course. All that he does is in vain. “Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

Like the waves which spend themselves away on the beach, such has been the course of his years. Let him but look back upon his past life, and what will he behold but a countless succession of hopes, fears, troubles, anxieties, labours, all rushing on one after another like so many waves. There has been perhaps much noise, much show; he may have made even a name in the world, or he may have amassed wealth, or he may have enjoyed pleasures beyond other men. But where is his true gain? What one incorruptible, imperishable treasure has he secured? He himself perceives, on looking back, that he has obtained nothing commensurate with the anxieties endured; that wave after wave his life has hurried on, surging, swelling, heaving, rising, sinking, vexed, tossed, and disquieted, for nothing else but to break itself over and over again in atoms and shivers upon the rocky strand of this world, or on its barren shore, leaving no result but a little spray.

Thus far we have followed out the comparison of St. James. It remains for me to address a few words to those whose conscience tells them that they are more or less in the condition of the waver ing Christian here described.

Whoever, then, you are who now hear me, and stand convicted by your own conscience of an infinite waste of years, thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, anxieties, — all of which, while wavering between this world and the next, you nevertheless have been content to spend deliberately on this world alone; you, whoever you are, who yet having been baptised, have been irrevocably called for once and for ever to the high profession, the lowly thoughts, the self-denying life, the painful cross, the glorious crown of the Christian faith, – consider, I beseech you, whither you are tending.

You complain that your prayers are not heard, that you receive nothing from God in answer to them.

Now, in the first place, it may be that, after all, God may be attending to your prayers more than you think, and may be reserving an answer to them in His own good time. But, in the second place, honestly ask yourself whether it is reasonable, considering the customary habits of your life, that your prayers should be heard; especially when on this point the Scriptures are so very plain in declaring that a wavering Christian shall not obtain any thing of the Lord. Remember, “God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (St John 4:24)

God also is a jealous God. He cannot be pleased with the prayer of lukewarm indifference. The supplications which He expects of His creatures are very far removed from those of a wavering mind, such as is yours.

Suffer me to warn you of the danger in which you stand. For years you have been continuing a life of wavering obedience; which is, in fact, but another term for simple disobedience. Be not deluded by the idea that fresh years as they come will of themselves necessarily alter your character in this respect. Believe me, there is but one way, – He that is to all “the way, and the truth, and the life.” (St John 14:6) To Him be earnest in confessing this particular habit of your life. Confess that you have wavered too long and too often even to hope that He will now give you power to turn from your dangerous course. Confess this again and again, beseeching of Him “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” (St James 1:17) imploring Him “who is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) that of His infinite mercy He will not suffer you to go on thus changing and wavering, but, through His own immutable, eternal Spirit, will pour into your heart the power tochange no more.

Then, to prove to your Saviour that you really mean what you say (though even this He knowsfar better than yourself), hasten to commit yourself to some definite acts of obedience. Give up some things in which you at present indulge yourself. Exert some self-denials. Enter upon practical duties. Are you wealthy?—increase your charities; and besides those which you discharge in public, do others in secret, which shall only be known to your God. Are you poor? You may still “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and keep yourself unspotted from the world.” (St James 1:27) To these acts, and such as these, the lowly duties of a Christian, humbly commit yourself in faith. In them patiently continue. And He who knows all hearts, and sees that you really desire to alter your ways, doubt not but He will at last have mercy upon you, “stablish, strengthen, and settle you;” (1 St Peter 5:10) that “henceforth you be no more a child tossed to and fro,” but “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” - Ephesians 4:14


- Pax Tecum


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