Brethren Editors: – I will write some of my reflections to submit to your consideration, hoping that there may be points of interest and profit got hold of. The subject that is now upon my mind is one that has been discussed for centuries by men of talent and zeal, and embracing many different orders and classes of men, so that we might suppose that there remained no mere to be said, it is the subject of faith. And much as has been said and written discussing faith, there is yet mere or less confusion about it upon the minds of many sincere and honest inquirers, it might do to suggest that some who have written and discoursed upon subjects that were comparatively plain, have “darkened counsel” and mystified the subject, rather than to simplify and elucidate it. There is a life of faith; and if we are living that life we ought to be able to speak intelligibly and profitably of it. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good.” It is said that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” And also, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” This seems to present faith as the test and turning-point upon which all that, is right and approved of God rests. It is an underlying principle, characterizing all devotional exercise and action. Suppose we call it sincerity. I think we shall not be far wrong in so doing. There is much ado in the world about prayer. Many men seem to suppose that they are entirely at liberty in prayer, not being at all restrained by the word or will of God; but that the divine arrangement can be brought into conformity to their selfish desires. People say prayers as a duty, repeating words like a parrot, and suppose that they are pleasing God by so doing. Others pray to be seen of men, parading their piety and zeal in public places; and others again are coming to God with their meuth, and uttering his name with their lips, when their heart is not in it. We might suppose that even natural men would know that God could not be mecked with insincere and heartless approaches. While “whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” meck worship and hypocrisy encounter the mest bitter and terrible denunciations of any of all the multifarious developments of human depravity. Prayer may then be said to be in faith when it is sincere, and the utterance of heartfelt desires for blessings that God alone can give. The Spirit of supplication is God-given; and the utterances and aspirings of that Spirit are provided for with abundant promise. Such prayers God has promised to hear and to answer; and so they may be said to be in faith in another sense; that those who pray do not pray in vain, for they are not asking for anything but what God has abundantly promised to bestow.
The apostle adds a comment to the sentence that I quoted from Hebrews, viz., “Without faith it is impossible to please God;” going on to say “that he that cometh to God must believe that he is,” &c. As this is the apostle’s comment on faith, it will very properly require some attention. And is this one of the conditions that unregenerate men are supposed to be called upon to perform? or is it a condition imposed upon anybody? Men in nature do not go to the Scriptures to learn; but they have their own theories first; and if they “go to the Scriptures at all, it is for support of the theory previously fixed in their own minds. It would be difficult to conceive of anything mere senseless and absurd than the imposing as a condition that one must believe something. The condition may be the warrant to a great reward, or an escape from dire calamities. Still the absurdity will be apparent, however the condition may be pressed, or the reward magnified. Those who believe in conditional salvation have, I think, invariably held up faith as one of the conditions. Will some one who believes that salvation is hinged upon conditions that rest with the sinner, and that this is one of them, please tell me how one is going to believe what he does not believe? He may take of the mest trivial of natural things, and apply it to all the results and researches of theological schooling, and explain to us how a man is to believe what he knows is not true, or even to believe anything with regard to subjects of which he has no knowledge. Will anybody try it among men with regard to the things of this life? Let rewards he offered and punishments threatened as inducements to believe something that we do not believe, or about which we know nothing, and would it not at once excite contempt and ridicule? Has anybody ever yet believed anything in that way? On the other hand, we believe what we know, and about that belief we have no discretion. We know it is truth. The apostle couples pleasing God, and coming to God, together, as implying the same things. Enoch had the evidence that he pleased God; “but without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God,” &c It is not that God occupies some place or location to which place we must go to find him, or to get to him. We should find it about as difficult to get to him that way as to believe what we do not believe. Well, what then? Why, if people come to God at all, they come in spirit. He says he occupies the mercy seat; and the mercy seat is in every place where there is a suppliant crying for mercy. It was said of the publican that he stood afar off; and yet in spirit he was near. He came unto God believing. It was not a matter of volition with the publican to be in such distress. But he had come to it nevertheless. People cannot come to these things in spirit and in experience without believing them. They believe them because they know them to be true.
He that comes to the Savior comes to that experience that is embraced in the work of grace. It is the character and mission of the Savior to bind up the broken-hearted, and to liberate the captives; and those that come to know their captivity, and to be broken-hearted, have come to him, as they have come already to be subjects of his grace. No man knoweth the Son but the Father, and no man can come to him unless drawn by the Father. The Spirit of God within them alone can bring them to Christ. This is what I understand by his being revealed. As no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him, these things must be experienced to be known. They are revealed unto us in an experience of them. No man conies to be poor in spirit, and to hunger and thirst after righteousness, of his own volition, nor of the persuasion of others. They come because led and drawn by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no coining to Christ without knowing and believing these things. The knowledge and experience of these things is coming to Christ, and to the knowledge of his salvation. There is a great deal in this captivity and sense of condemnation and helplessness that one mast believe, and they never know the Savior or come to his salvation without tasting of the bitterness of sin and of their lost condition; and these now are things that they must believe; and also, if saved, that their salvation is all of grace. They now believe in the riches of his grace as they never could have believed from being told about it. There is no coming to Christ without believing all those blessed things that are said of him, and that results in their loving him supremely, and loving all those sincerely that are born of his Spirit. Their faith is an effect. They have come to him to believe that he is the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely. His reward is with him, and when they have come to him they believe in all that he is as a Savior, and in all that reward that is with him when he satisfies them with the goodness of his house. In regard to this expression of coming to God, I have thought about it as shown in coming to the church. It is not coming to some place where the church meets, nor some action on our part in reference to the church, but rather coming to be what the church is, by having been taught the same lessons, and being subjects of the same experience. We have come to the church in this sense when far away from her assemblies; but we did not come to her in this sense without believing that she is, and that there is a blessed reward to all those that come to her in her blessed experience. There is no sin in such faith as this, neither is there in any of its fruits. With its sacrifices and offerings God is well pleased. The above is submitted.
State Road, Delaware, Dec, 1896.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 65. , No. 1.
JANUARY 1, 1897.