There is perhaps at the present day as much said about Faith, and the term is as frequently used in modern theology as any other word used in our version of the Scriptures, but it is generally used in a sense entirely foreign to that of its legitimate scriptural meaning. Webster, guided undoubtedly by the decisions of learned (so called) Doctors of Divinity, defines the word thus: "Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another; the assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition advanced by another; belief, on probable evidence. And, in theology, the assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed. Evangelical, or justifying, or saving Faith, is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God's testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will, or approbation of the heart," &c. And this is about the view which is entertained by a very large majority of the religionists of the present day. No idea seems to be entertained by Webster, nor by the learned theologians, from whom he borrows his theory, that the mind of man is a carnal or fleshly mind, that it is at enmity against God, not subject to the law of God, neither indeed, can be. Indeed, the prevailing doctrine of all will-worshipers, and carnal religionists, is that regeneration, the new birth, and all that is involved in the christian experience, is only to give some new impulse to our old carnal faculties, a new direction to the old carnal mind, and a new inclination and direction to the affections and lusts of the flesh. To be born again, in their estimation is, as Watts says, to
"New model all the carnal mind,
And form the man afresh."
This is a fundamental error comprising the ground of difference between the religion which is of the world, and that which is of God. The worldly system, supposing that man is a free agent, possessing all requisite power to will and to do that which is necessary and indispensable to commend him to the favor of God, and to secure immortal glory beyond the grave, labors to influence the carnal or natural mind by moral suasion, that it would be advantageous and profitable to yield assent to such theories as tradition points out as pious, and calculated to secure the favor of God. The selfish inclinations of the unrenewed heart are appealed to, and such incentives, motives and allurements are presented, as the carnal mind can appreciate, to draw the corrupt, depraved, deceitful and desperately wicked propensities and imaginations of the mind into a new channel, without any radical change or implantation of any new principle. Under this delusion, Infant and Sunday Schools, Bible classes, and all the machinery to them belonging, are employed to bend the twig the way they wish the tree to grow, without observing that the nature and character of the twig is in no wise changed by such restraints; without heeding the immutable standard set up by Christ himself: First make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. A twig growing out of a corrupt tree will partake of the corruption of that tree, incline or bend it which every way we may. In all the Scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites detected and rebuked by our Lord, we have exemplifications of the carnal mind religionized by traditional influences. The influence may multiply converts to Judaism, or any other workmongrel religious persuasion and it is employed with the same results at the present time, as when the self-righteous pharisees compassed sea and land to make proselytes to their faith. Now if the assent of the natural mind of man to the force of testimony is the faith which accompanies salvation, why is it so called? What new principle does such an assent develop? Had not the natural, carnal, depraved mind of man in its most degraded condition the requisite faculty to yield an assent to any demonstrated proposition, set home by the force of overwhelming testimony? This theory, if it can be established, will be of great service to the whole Arminian world, because it calls for no more grace now to make a christian, than was formerly required to make a Jewish proselyte.
But let us not be deceived, God is not mocked; however plausible or palatable this theory may be in the estimation of men, it cannot stand the test of eternal truth. The Scriptures are regarded by us as they have always been by the church of God, as an infallible standard of our faith, both as to faith as a vital principle in the hearts of God's people, and the doctrine of the gospel embraced and comprehended by that faith. Then let us turn to the law and to the testimony, for if any speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. The Scriptures instead of representing faith as a creature of ours, expressly define it to be the gift of God. Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, that we should believe on him. We are bound to give thanks unto God always for you, brethren, beloved of God, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. And we are not only assured that faith is not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God, but we are also told that Jesus Christ is both the author and the finisher of faith which is unto life. Furthermore, we are informed that saving faith is the faith of the Son of God; it cannot, therefore, be an assent of the natural mind. Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who hath loved me and given himself for me." It is also distinguished from all other kinds of faith as that faith which is of the operation of God.
The inspired Paul, having analyzed poor, fallen, human nature, sums up its legitimate productions in striking contrast with the fruits of the Spirit: "Now, the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revilings, and such like." That is, all the other emanations from the flesh are like those above specified, and faith is not found among them. "But," he continues, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." - Gal. v. 19-23. Here we find gospel faith enumerated among the fruits of the Spirit, and in direct opposition to the works of the flesh.
Another inspired apostle, treating on the origin and power of the gospel faith, informs us that it is born of God, and that it overcomes the world. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." - 1 John v.4. If a faith originating in us, or born of the flesh, could overcome the world, it would show that the world is not equal to itself, that it contained in itself, and of itself, a power superior to, and capable of overcoming itself. This faith, being born of God, must be animated by the life and immortality and power of God. It is vital, but its vitality is of God, and not of the creature, hence it can and does overcome the world. The eleventh chapter to the Hebrews presents us with many examples of its power to overcome the world. After many illustrious examples of the power of faith in the patriarchs and prophets, says, "And what shall I more say? for time would fail me to tell of Gideon and of Barak, and of Samson, and Jephthae, of David also, and Samuel, and of all the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of the fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins; being destitute, afflicted and tormented. Now this faith, and all its power, is in this very connection, ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ. (Heb. xii. 2.)
As the faith which is peculiar to the children of God, is in all respects essentially different from the faith of men and of devils in regard to its origin, its nature, its vitality and its power, so it is equally distinct from theirs in all its workings, operations, perceptions and associations.
That of men is perfectly manageable by them, and they boast that they can exercise it at their pleasure; and why should they not? If they have given it being, they ought of course to be able to control it, and to have much, little, or none of it, as they please. But the faith of God's elect, being born of God, and his special gift, has a divine power over his children in whom its divine power is developed; they cannot exercise it, but they are exercised by it. That faith which is of the flesh, works by fear, and corrupts its possessors with all manner of delusion, causing them to believe a lie, and to suffer the consequences of their delusion, but that faith which is born of God, works by love, and purifies the soul, or him who is the happy recipient of it, for it enables him to discriminate between truth and error. Hence while the Arminian will-worshiper requires the preaching of terror, wrath, fire, brimstone, and such as is calculated to excite the carnal passions of the flesh, and produce fear and terror, the very melody of heaven, breathed forth by the Spirit of the gospel, and the melting strains of the gospel, which set forth the eternal, immutable, and transforming love of God, calls forth the active workings of the faith of the saints. And while the faith of the world inflates the pride of those who are under its influence, leading them to boast of their works, their piety, their zeal, and their benevolence, that faith which is of God, leads his children to worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Jesus Christ, and to have no confidence in the flesh. The perceptive qualities are equally dissimilar. The faith of the flesh looks for signs, like the Jews, and to seek after wisdom, like the Greeks; but that which is of God, is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, and it qualifies them to look not on the things which are seen, which are temporal, but directs them to the things which are not seen, which are eternal. It qualifies them to see the kingdom of God, and makes them experimentally familiar with the things of the Spirit, which are hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes.
The faith which is of the world has its associations with the theories, doctrines and commandments of men, the delusions, heresies, idolatry and spiritual wickedness of high places; it gives it possessors a place with the enemies of the cause of God and truth, and identifies them with those who stoned the prophets, crucified the Son of God, and slaughtered the apostles of the Lamb of God; holding then their place under the delusion that they ought to do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth, and that they do God service when they persecute his people and oppose his truth. On the other hand the faith of the gospel brings those who are born of God unto the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. They have one Lord, one faith and one baptism; they are but one body, having one Spirit, even as they are all called in one hope of their calling. The faith of Christ in his people, is inseparably associated with all the other fruits of the Spirit, as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, &c., and the end of this faith is the salvation of our souls. So far is this faith from receiving any support from the flesh, it is constantly opposed by the flesh and every power and faculty of the flesh, but as it overcomes the world, it shall ultimately triumph over all our corruption, doubts, fears, unbelief, and over sin and death, and bear the saints away from every opposition, to that divine abode in glory where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.
Middletown, N.Y., February 15, 1858.
Editorials of Gilbert Beebe
Vol. 4 Pgs 60 – 65