Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Direction XI (pp.153-155)
[Speaking of those whom Satan urges to delay believing]
Others imagine that, after they have heard the gospel of salvation by Christ, they may lawfully defer the believing it until they have sufficiently examined the truth of some other different doctrine, or until God be pleased to afford them some other means to assure them fully of the truth of the gospel. Thus they that are called ‘seekers’ misspend the day of grace, ‘ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7). But the truth of the gospel so clearly evidences itself by its own light that, if people do not wilfully shut their eyes, or blind themselves by their own pride, and love their lusts, they would easily perceive that it is the truth of God, because the image of His grace, mercy, power, justice and holiness appears manifestly engraven upon it. It is a sign people are proud when they consent not to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the ‘doctrine which is according to godliness’ (1 Tim. 6:3). If they were humble and sincerely inclined to do the will of God, they would ‘know whether the doctrine is of God, or no’ (John 7:17); they would quickly be persuaded of the truth by Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles, spoken to them in the Scripture. And if they will not hear them, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead, or whatever other miracle be wrought to confirm the divine authority of the gospel (Luke 16:31).
Another sort of people there are that delay the great work of believing, to the ruin of their souls, resting in an attendance upon the outward means of grace and salvation, instead of any endeavours to receive Christ by faith, though they be convinced of the truth of the gospel. This they call waiting upon God at the doors of His grace and salvation, in the use of means appointed by Him, and sitting under the droppings of the sanctuary. But let them know that this is not the right waiting on God required in Scripture. It is rather disobedience to God, and to the means of His appointment, who requires that we should be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves’ (James 1:22), and that we should come in to the spiritual feast (Luke 14:23), and not only stand at the door, or sit under the droppings of the house of God, lest Christ repute us no better than eavesdroppers. That holy waiting on the Lord commended to us in Scripture is ever accompanied with believing and hoping in the Lord, and depends thereon: ‘I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord’ (Ps. 27: 13, 14). ‘It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lam. 3:26 ).
What is it that these deluded ones wait for, before they perform the duty of believing? Is it for more knowledge of the gospel? The way to increase your knowledge, as well as any other talent, is to make use of what you have received already. Believe heartily on Christ for all your salvation, according to that little knowledge of the gospel which you have, and you will have an interest in the promise of knowledge contained in the new covenant: ‘They shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, says the Lord’ (Jer. 31:34). Is it for the appointed time of your conversion that you wait? Then you wait as those impotent folk that lay at the pool of Bethesda , waiting for the season when the angel will come down and move the water. Know, then, that if you enter into Christ now by faith, you shall find in Him waters of life, and the Spirit moving them for the healing and quickening of your soul. God has appointed, by His work, that it shall be your duty to endeavour that the present time shall be the time of your conversion: ‘As the Holy Ghost says, Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart’ (Heb. 3:7,8 ). And you shall never know at what time God has purposed, in His secret council, to give faith to you, until you actually believe.
Do you wait for any manifestations or flowings in of God’s saving love to your soul? Then the way to obtain it is to believe that the ‘God of hope may fill you with all joy and peace in believing’ (Rom. 15:13 ). You have sufficient manifestation of God’s love to your soul by the free promises of life and salvation by Christ. Do but ‘trust on the name of the Lord, and stay upon your God’, when you ‘walk in darkness, and see no light’ of sensible comforts any other way, otherwise you wait for comforts in vain, and this shall ‘you have at the Lord’s hand, you ‘shall lie down in sorrow’ (Isa. 50:10, 11). Do you wait for any qualifications to prepare you for the work of believing? If they be good and holy qualifications, you cannot have them before faith, but they are rather included in the nature of faith, or they are fruits of it – as has been largely proved. If they be bad and sinful, it is strange that any should wait for them, and yet no more strange than true. Some foolishly wait to be terrified with a sense of God’s wrath, and despairing thoughts, and these they call the pangs of the new birth; though, in their own nature, they are rather the pangs of spiritual death, and bring forth hatred to God, rather than holiness, and, therefore, we should strive to prevent them by believing God’s love in Christ, rather than to wait for them. It is true, God makes these despairing thoughts, as well as other sins, work for good to them that are delivered from them by faith in Christ; they are moved thereby to hate sin, and to prize Christ the more and the comforts of His gospel, and to loathe and abhor themselves; yet many are brought to Christ without them, by God’s giving them the knowledge of their own sins and of Christ’s salvation together. Several examples of these were above-mentioned, who received the Word with joy at the first hearing of it. And we must not desire or wait for any evil or sin, such as these despairing thoughts are, that good may come of it; neither should we expect to be worse before we be better, when we may and ought to be better presently, by believing on Christ.