Dear Sir: Not having been a reader of your paper, I may in the following question repeat one which during your editorial labors you have often had propounded. It is on the subject of faith. Will you, or some of your correspondents, be so kind as to give your views on the proposition whether the creature can or does have anything to do with the creation or operation of his faith, or whether it be the exclusive gift of God? If your time and space will permit, your answer in the “Signs of the Times” will be very welcome.
R.W. Monroe. Evansville, W. Va.
By faith, we presume our correspondent means evangelical or gospel faith, that faith without which it is impossible to please God. According to Webster, and other standard lexicographers, the term may be variously applied, and the Scriptures speak of the faith of God, the faith of Christ, and faith of God’s elect, and also of the faith of men, of devils, of living faith, and of dead faith. The Spirit of inspiration has through the apostles particularly described the origin, nature, power and vitality of the faith of the gospel, as faith that works by love and purifies the heart, which subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens, etc. From all that is said in the Scriptures of true, living and triumphing faith, we may infer that there is in the world a spurious, false, lifeless and deceptive faith, or what is called faith, and so received and regarded by the religious world. In the creation and operation of the faith of men and of devils, men and devils have much to do, and we need only to sum up their own testimony to show that it is a creature of their own; indeed, it bears their image and their superscription. So indeed they seem to understand it, and to speak of it as something which is required of and to be produced by ungodly sinners, as a price or condition of salvation. As in their appeals to the unregenerate, they represent that however destitute sinners may be of faith, they can originate it if they will, and that, too, without much cost or labor. It has often been asserted by their preachers that it is as easily produced as for a man to turn his hand over. The very presentation of the appeal of our correspondent for our views affords evidence that the power of the creature to create faith, and when created to put it in motion and control its operation, is contended for by many, and it is well known to be a cardinal doctrine in every Arminian work-mongrel creed. Of that kind of faith it would be folly for us to deny the power of creatures to create and manage. The machinery of anti-christ is apparent to every intelligent observer. History points us to ecclesiastical councils, in solemn convocation from time to time, under the protection of human powers organized expressly for the purpose of making creeds, to be enforced by pains and penalties, flames and faggots, racks and tortures, upon the children of this world, and their humanly devised creeds are received by millions as saving faith. In modern times, and in our own country, the machinery for the manufacturing of faith and piety embrace infant schools, Sabbath Schools, Bible classes, catechisms, scientific lectures, Theological Seminaries, and even our public district schools are almost universally used for the same deceptive purposes. All these, beside the drilling, forging and blowing, so common at excitement meetings, anxious benches and other means-using appliances, are in requisition. The kind of faith engendered by the power and ingenuity of men, by whatever means, mode or machinery, like the idols of the ancients of which we read, is destitute of vitality. There is no breath in the midst of it, unless it be the inspiration of delusion, fanaticism and will-worship, breathing slaughter against the cause and people of the living God. According to the solemn predictions of inspired wisdom the faith of anti-christ in the last days should be greatly facilitated by signs and lying wonders, and by all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (II Thessalonians 2:11,12).” (See also Revelation 13:12-14.) But the faith of which we understand our friend to inquire is as distinct and opposite to the faith of men and devils as holiness is opposite to and distinct from sin, as heaven is from hell. No creature can have anything to do, or in other words, can do anything in its creation or its operation.
First. No creature can have anything to do in creating it, because we are expressly told in the sacred record that Christ is the author and the finisher of it. (Hebrews 12:2) This declaration leaves no room for creatures to operate in its creation. He who is the author is also the finisher. As in the creation of the world, God began and God finished the work, leaving no other beings room to claim that they had participated in its creation, so creatures are equally excluded from participation in the creation or production of the faith of the Son of God. He did not merely begin, and leave creatures to finish the work, for all his works are perfect, and that which is perfect cannot be improved. 1. Creatures, or created beings, are natural, all their powers and perceptions are natural, and must fail to comprehend or perform spiritual things; and faith is a spiritual and vital principle; it is therefore beyond the sphere of creature agency. All the faith that men can create is like themselves - natural. As a spider cannot spin a web from any material that it does not possess in its own filthy bowels, so the faith produced by creatures is not in whole nor in part the faith of the Son of God. 2. The faith of the gospel is spiritual, for it is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). All fruits of the Spirit must be spiritual. That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit (John 3:6); and the faith of the saints is born of God (I John 5:4); and it must therefore be spiritual, for being born of God, it must possess the life, power and immortality of God, and therefore is able to, and does overcome the world. 3. Creatures can have no part in the creation of the faith of Christ, nor can they even bring themselves into possession of it, or under its power, for the apostle positively declares that it is not of themselves, but it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9). 4. If it were the creature or production of men it would be the property of men, whereas the Scriptures declare that it is the faith of the Son of God. Galatians 2:20 says, “And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Paul had not therefore had anything to do in its creation. Again, it is called the faith of God, (Romans 3:3) as it could not be called if it were of the creature.
The second inquiry submitted is, whether the creature can or does have anything to do with the operation of his faith? The answer to this, as well as the other inquiry, must depend on what is intended by “his faith.” If the creature is a member of Christ, and, like Paul, living by the faith of the Son of God, then, as a member of the body of Christ, the faith of the Son of God is his faith, for of Christ’s fullness has he received, and grace for grace, because Christ in all his fullness is given to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, and the fullness of him that filleth all in all. In this relation the faith of the Son of God, as the life, righteousness, sanctification and redemption of Christ, is his, and he is the author and finisher of his faith. As there is but one Lord, so to the head and body of the church there is but one faith and one baptism, and the redeemed of the Lord shall all come in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:5,13).
Having already shown that the faith of human origin must be operated by the power which gave it being, we shall now consider the inquiry to be concerning the operation of the faith of the Son of God, as existing in the children of God. To answer the question then requires that we consider, What is faith? And what are its operations? And by what power are they controlled? 1. The faith of which we now speak is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It is that living principle in the quickened family of God which realizes and actualizes to them those spiritual things which no human power or discernment can comprehend, by which the saints “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (II Corinthians 4:18).” Even as Moses by faith endured as seeing him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27). It is to the child of God what the eye is to the natural body. As our natural eye beholds natural objects which we could not see without the eye, so faith looks within the veil, beholds the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and makes real to us that which without vital faith would only be at the best a vain speculation. It is through faith that the Spirit reveals all spiritual things to the saints; while here we live by faith, we walk by faith and are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation; hence it is evidence of things not seen, things which the eye hath not seen, things which the vulture’s eye hath not seen, which God hath hidden from the wise and prudent, but hath revealed to the faith of his children. 2. The operations of faith are confidence in God, reliance on his counsel, wisdom, goodness and grace, perceptions of his power and glory, confident trust in his gracious promises, discoveries of his dealings, the revelation of Christ in all his Mediatorial fullness and glory, a clear apprehension of his truth, and of all things pertaining to his purpose and grace in the salvation of his people. Faith also in its operation suppresses fear, triumphs over doubts and infidelity, strengthens and confirms the Christian’s hope, overcomes the world and all worldly powers and influences which war against the soul. It glories in the cross of Christ, it discovers and points out the pathway of holiness, directs to the throne of grace, inclines those who possess it to follow Christ in his ordinances, to obey him in all his precepts and makes them dearly love his service. It inspires courage to face the enemy, to endure hardness as good soldiers, to suffer the loss of all things and to count not their own lives dear unto themselves, so that they may finish their course with joy. The operations of faith are most gloriously exemplified in the cloud of witnesses presented in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, in the patriarchs, prophets and men of God, from the days of Abel until the apostolic age, and from that period the subjects of this holy faith have known and testified of the power and triumphs of faith over all the opposing powers of darkness in their lives and in their deaths. How often have some of us witnessed the powerful operation of faith making the dying bed of the saints feel softer than the downy pillow, in disarming death of all terror and the grave of victory, lighting up the otherwise dark, dreary and gloomy passage with immortal radiance and refulgent glory. These are what we understand to be some of the operations of the faith of the Son of God, as it operates in and upon the saints until they shall need to walk by faith no longer; until
“They shall see and hear and know,
All they desired or wish’d below,
And every power find sweet employ
In the eternal world of joy.”
3. The power which conducts the operations of faith must be at least as great as the faith and its operations are. As we have seen that this faith of the Son of God, which is born of God, overcomes the world, if we believe the testimony we cannot admit that the world has any power to control its operations. As there is a divine power in faith, as it is the faith of the Son of God, the faith of God, as well as the faith of God’s elect, it cannot be governed or controlled by any power out of itself. Even the Christian who has often felt its power, labors in vain to control its operations. God, its author, has ordained that it shall be tried, for the trial of it is precious, and shall result in its final victory and his declarative glory. The Christian would naturally desire to be always exulting in its victories, or rejoicing in its discoveries; dreads, but cannot prevent, the fiery ordeal by which it is to be tried. The Christian to whom God has given the precious faith of his dear Son, although he has no power to create or control it, yet has much to do with its operations; but let us understand, although he cannot govern its operations, he can and must be governed by it. He cannot exercise faith, but faith can exercise him. This much he has to do with the operation of faith: he has to feel it, to love it, to cherish it, to testify of it, to be led by it, to walk by it and to live by it. Yea, the children of God are called to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, and labor to suppress all their carnal corruptions of the flesh which are at war with it, by crucifying the old man with its affections and lusts, and when the powers of the flesh seem to prevail, and doubts, and fears, and darkness, and temptations make them tremble and faint, they then have something to do; they are constrained to cry out, in the full conviction of their own weakness and inability to exercise faith, Lord, increase my faith. Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief. Thus they acknowledge God’s power in keeping them is through faith unto salvation.
In conclusion, we will give some discriminating marks by which the honest inquirer after truth, if God has given him an ear to hear, and a heart to understand the truth, may distinguish between the faith of the Son of God and that which can be produced by men. The true is born of God, and lives and abides with hope and charity in the hearts of God’s quickened children; the false is a bastard, and shall dwell in Ashdod (Zechariah 9:6). The true is a living or vital faith; the false is dead, or totally destitute of spiritual life. The true conquers the sinner, and prostrates him as a willing and joyful captive at the feet of Jesus; the false is conquered by the sinner, and wholly under his control and management. The true humbles its possessor before the majesty of the lord; the false inflates with pride and self-importance. The true is immediately from God; the false is from the devil. The true leads the child of God through great tribulations up to the paradise of God; the false leads down to the chambers of death. The true makes the penitent publican stand smiting on his breast; the false inclines the Pharisee to boast of his own works. True faith inclines the heart to listen to what God the Lord has said, to believe what God has said and to rely alone on what God has done for life and immortality. False faith leads men to reject the testimony of God, to trust to their own vain imaginations and rely upon their own works for acceptance with God. True faith works by love, and purifies the heart; false faith works by the carnal, depraved impulses of the mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. True faith stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God; false faith stands in the wisdom of men and in the power of darkness, of freewill and human agency. True faith relies on what God has done; false faith on what men intend to do. True faith looks for redemption, justification and acceptance with God, through the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, while false faith confides in human merit, self-righteousness and will-worship. True faith feeds on every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God, while false faith thrives upon false doctrine, false philanthropy, false worship and feeds and fattens on its own flesh. The faith of the Son of God leads those to whom it is given to his church, his people, his ordinances, his precepts and his examples, but false faith leads men to seek the society which is more suited to their depraved taste, and which they find in the various branches or departments of Babylon. True faith purifies the heart, but false faith vitiates the heart, and fills it with envy, wrath, hatred, malice, revenge, murder, seditions, heresies and all that is vile and abominable.
May 15, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 191 - 197