The apostle defines faith to be the union of two parts, or principles – substance and evidence. – Hebrews xi:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The things hoped for by the Christian are, perseverance here, victory over sin and death – a glorious resurrection of this body and the image of Christ, the Captain of our salvation, and eternal glory in His everlasting Kingdom, &c. Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen, in whom all fullness dwells, who is the Life, the Light, the Head and Husband; the Strength and Salvation of the church is the Author and Finisher, the end and substance of faith. He is the essential power, Spirit, Life and substance of saving faith. The Scriptures, the ministry of the Word, the miracles wrought by Christ, the prophecies and their fulfillment, with every recorded or circumstantial evidence which comes within the purview of a rational mind as testimony, going to prove the Truth of the proposition that Jesus is the Christ, is the evidence, or word of faith, which we preach. The union of these is faith. Christ, the substance of this faith, is the essential Word of God: He is the substance of the Truth, the Logos, or Divine Word, the Spirit of prophecy, and the Spirit or Living substance of living or active faith; while the written or preached Word, in all its communications, either directly or indirectly, is but the outward exhibition or outward and rational evidence of the unseen glories and person of Christ and Divine things, setting these things before the eye of a rational mind in general, and developing Him in all His fitness as a Savior to a spiritually enlightened soul. The Gospel is a well authenticated evidence or body of testimony to a renewed soul, of the fullness and suitableness of Christ as the Savior of the sinner, helpless and unworthy in itself. It is also a rational and incontestable evidence to the rational mind of every reasonable being, who examines without prejudice, its separate and combined testimony. The force of this testimony when properly appreciated is sufficient to remove from the rational mind, all reasonable doubt, as to the Truth of the Gospel proposition and the Truth of which it treats. This credence or rational conviction of a reasonable mind, produced by the force of rational evidence the Apostle James calls “faith,” but distinguishes it from “living faith” by the likeness it bears to the body without the Spirit, which is dead, being alone, and of course like a dead body, it is without works. As the body without spirit is but one part or principle of animal existence, and this not the animation life-inspiring part, but only the grosser outward form, and is dead when separated from the spirit; so the rational credence of a reasonable mind, convinced by the irresistible force of evidence and persuasion, is only the outward form, body or features of this kind of faith. This form of faith being the result of testimony, argument and persuasion, is but evidence, and when not united to its more essential part, - Christ the Spirit, Life and substance, it is also dead, being alone. Hence we find nominal Christians possessing moral suasion, which they are persuaded is “evangelic faith.” We presume the foregoing explanatory remarks will show with sufficient clearness, the importance of the essential substance of living faith.
This dead form of faith, like a dead body, may possess the features and appearance in many respects, of living faith. It may show much orthodoxy, but is after all, but a dead Calvinistic form, being void of the living substance. Man can make forms of men, strongly to resemble a living man, and cause them to perform many acts mechanically, strongly resembling the acts of the living – but still they are dead, being destitute of the spirit of life, and this life man can never supply – preacher or no. So in reference to faith, or that form of faith – “moral suasion” – which is the act of the creature, is only a matter of evidence, or the result of rational testimony, upon a rational mind; it has no living substance – it is the creature of circumstances, produced by a rational agency, under the force of reasonable testimony. It moves only as human agency propels it – it is under the control of the human will, and only performs its actions in obedience to the volition of that corrupt will – if human agency is withdrawn, all its motions cease; it is but evidence without the substance, and like the body without the spirit is dead, being alone. Its acts are mechanically performed – they are like itself - produced by human agency, and suspended at human pleasure. They change according to human caprices, and lie dormant at human will. This dead form of faith, being dead in itself, and entirely under the control of rational man, its author, only moves by the exertions and at the pleasure of man. It being only evidence, or the form of testimony on a rational mind, which is always enmity against the law of God, proving the truth of a rational proposition, is common to all intelligent beings, good or bad, whether they be men, angels or devils, who come within the range or development of this testimony.
This weight of evidence proves the Gospel proposition to be a fact, beyond a reasonable doubt, to every reasonable intelligent being, which weighs the evidence, whether the fact is loved or abhorred. This is as far as evidence can go of itself – it cannot quicken the spirit of the mind, or change the moral taste, for it is dead, being alone without substance. From the above illustrations, we see evidence, however strong, being alone, is dead, and can never of itself, constitute living, saving faith; being but the form or outward appearance, it only acts mechanically, as human agency moves it, and can never work by love, purifying the heart, overcoming the world, or give us the victory; therefore, is without acceptable works, and is fitly compared to a body without the spirit, and is dead, being alone. However, skillful men, understanding the human will, can and do move it to performance by using rational evidences, and thus deceiving multitudes to action without spiritual life or evangelic faith.
This evidence, proving the Gospel proposition to be a Truth beyond a reasonable doubt, when united to Christ, the quickening Spirit and Living Substance, is active in itself – or in other words, when this Living Substance exerts its quickening influence in renewing the soul, and inclining the mind to obedience and holy desires, it pants for the Savior, suitable to its helpless and lost condition – then the Gospel evidence points to Christ- proves His fullness and suitableness as a Savior; and this evidence joined to Christ, the Living Substance, is both substance and evidence, which constitutes living and saving faith, and will distinguish and show itself by the works of faith and labor of love. This living substance, like the spirit in the body, will prompt the soul to good works, and fill it with confidence in God, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, and enable it to walk by faith, and not by sight. To know you are saved upon the basis of a dead faith, or moral suasion, is walking by sight: it is not of faith. It is not evidence alone, then, but it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Alas! How many in this dark day of error and apostasy are rejecting the living, saving substance of faith, and with great zeal and clamor, extol the body, form or evidence alone, as all that is necessary to produce obedience and Salvation? This dead form, this lifeless body – this inactive corpse – which only moves as human agency propels it, has a long, and crowded train of deluded admirers, who, by the law-works, and decisionism of free agency, endeavor by all human means and power, to keep it in motion. They are conscious that if they suspend their exertions, it will cease to act or move. Hence they must be prodded on constantly – “keep them busy”. They claim it to be the act of the creature, their own act, their own duty, and the duty of all men, and at their option, and under their control – “by their own freewill.” These agents and admirers of this dead body, first put it into motion, and then sound the fame of its mighty deeds, and extol its matchless merits. The sons and daughters of our darkened and bewildered race, are deluded, when they behold the zeal with which this dead body is kept in motion, and suppose it to have life in itself. They hail this dead body or form of faith, as a conditional work of salvation, as the only prerequisite for Baptism and the remission of sins. This dead faith being the act of the carnal creature, the result of rational testimony on a rational mind, is of course under the control of human agency – by this it is put into motion, and of course moves and acts in subservience to the dictates of the corrupt human will, and is liable to change at the pleasure of human caprice.
Like a vessel at sea, it is exposed without any pilot but human sagacity, to all the blustering winds of error – “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” These winds blow a gale from every point – the sea of Rome and Mystery Babylon are put into motion; worldly means are employed freely – human benevolence is enlisted – human agency is resorted to – money, learning and sophistry are called in. Human sagacity can keep the course no longer – the ship, with its crew and cargo is driven before the tempest, until it adds another miserable and warning wreck to the accumulating mass of ruins which crowd the waters, which cast up mire and dirt.
Some of these wrecks once bore the white flag of Gospel peace, and sounded the notes of salvation by free and sovereign grace; but, alas! Anti-Christian enterprise – the praise of the ungodly world – the love of money, and the friendship of the great, have enticed them. By feigned words and fair speeches, they have been beguiled. The spirit of seduction and speculation has ensnared them. False philosophy, under the imposing garb of devotion to God, and benevolence to men, coupled with vain deceit – the rudiments of the world will-worship, and the traditions of men, with all the cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive – have been more than a match for human sagacity and firmness, while the strong winds of error have drifted them as warning wrecks, into the sea where the “beast and the false prophets” were seen by John. Of these, it is said truly, “as concerning the faith, they have made shipwreck”, not of the faith, but concerning it. Let these be considered by us as a solemn warning and admonition to examine and try ourselves, whether we be in the faith; for surely we ourselves do know, that except Christ, the Living Substance of faith, be in us, we are reprobates. Let us ever pray – “Lord increase our faith, help us to fight the good fight, and keep the faith.”
Christ was made a quickening Spirit – He is the Author and Finisher of saving faith – He is the Substance and end of faith, even the salvation of the soul. He is the Righteousness of faith, its Spirit and Life, its Object, strength and substance. By this living substance, it is powerful to overcome the world, it is our Victory – it works by love and purifies the heart. By it we now live in the flesh, yet not we, but Christ liveth in us, and so the life we now live in the flesh, we live by the “faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave Himself for us,” This faith is not only the evidence of things not seen, but is also the substance of things hoped for. It is not only an evidence that Christ exists as a full and complete Savior; but also partakes of Him as its substance; He is the Living Bread and Water, the Rock of its security, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the living and life-sustaining substance of faith.
This living substance, is the saving, working and distinguishing property of faith. This is peculiar to God’s chosen people, and therefore is called the “faith of God’s elect.” The agency, and moving, working power of it, is Divine and not human – hence it is called “the faith of the operation of God.” It is stamped, formed or impressed in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and so is denominated “the fruit of the Spirit.” Because it is not of the types, works, ceremonies, or conditions of the law, and cannot live by, or look to it as the Jews, as a school master – it leaves them all for Christ, its fulfilling end – hence Christ the substance is called “Faith, who is come, and we have no need now of a school master.” – While the dead body, form or evidence is common to all intelligent beings, this living substance, united with the evidence, is peculiar to souls that are spiritually enlightened and renewed; and is therefore called “the faith which was once delivered to the Saints,” and for which they are exhorted earnestly to contend. By this faith, we have peace with God – by it we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory – by it we have access into the grace of Justification – we receive its end, “even the salvation of our souls.”
Now if true living faith, the faith of God’s elect, differs so essentially from a dead decisional faith, that the latter is only the effect or force of rational evidence upon a rational mind, producing rational conviction as to the Truth of rational proposition, and all this produced in a creature morally dead, or dead to spiritual things; while the former is of the operation of God, a fruit of the Spirit, has a Living Christ as its substance, its righteousness, and all to it, that the spirit is to the body in life, we plainly see the importance of this living substance to saving faith, and also the poverty and weakness of that dead form of faith, which is more evidences, and when separated from the substance, is dead, and can produce no works acceptable to God. When faith partakes of both evidence and substance, it is Living faith; it is a living, active, working, overcoming and victorious grace. It presents its living substance to the sinner, as the end of the law for righteousness; it also produces its evidence of pardoned sin; it testifies of Christ, and to the Truth of the Gospel proposition; it gives the soul oppressed with sin and guilt, a sufficient warrant to trust in Him for salvation. Its substance is applied to sustain the soul in all its trials, doubts and fears. With this living substance it feeds the hungry and supplies the thirsty, as with the bread and water of eternal life.
This is surely much better than only the rational evidence that these things exist in fact. Christ being the end and substance of the faith of God’s elect, is the only way to the Father, the Truth of all prophecies and promises – He is the Rock of our Salvation – our strong tower and hiding place – our strength and shield – our Law-giver, Kinsman Redeemer, King and Savior – the object and end of our faith. This being the power of that precious faith, which was once delivered to the saints – it exerted its mighty agency in performing all those heroic deeds, which evidence alone could never do. Christ, the true substance of faith, was the Agent by which all was done. Out of weakness, they were made strong – they waxed valiant in fight – put to flight the armies of the aliens – escape the edge of the sword – women received their dead raised to life again. By this substance of faith, the mouths of lions were stopped – the violence of fire was quenched. Others tortured not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. In this living and powerful substance of faith, which is Christ, with all His fullness, we now recognize all we hope for.
By Him as the substance and righteousness of faith, we are justified from all things from which we could not be justified by the Law of Moses. By it the Elders obtained a good report; by it they obtained promises and wrought righteousness. By it the children of God are now distinguished from the unbelieving reprobate world. By it the true Church of Christ and its ministers are separated from all the multiform train of Anti-Christ’s noisy and blustering sons. These are divided into many factions; yet all contend for their dead form of faith, which is dependent on the will, act or agency of the natural creature. While they all oppose the true Gospel church, and reject the substance of living faith, still they are in battle array against each other – they aim at each other’s destruction, while agreeing basically in the universal love of God to the reprobate world, a god attempting feats he cannot perform, and they all possessing freedom of will. Thus broken by turmoils, and divided and sub-divided among themselves, according to human caprices, and human ambition. They seek a thousand different plans to destroy each other, and add their numbers to their own party. Now by all this we know they cannot stand; “for a house, or kingdom divided against itself must come to naught.” They all oppose the true church of Christ, which proves they are not of it – they must fall finally, as their present divisions now evince. Then let the true Gospel church, which is built upon the imperishable Rock of Truth and cannot be shaken, stand aloof from these parties, in doctrine, in practice, in communion, in ordinances, and especially in faith; contending earnestly for this precious faith; let their warning voices be heard in defense of the Truth of God’s absolute sovereignty over His vast dominion, and in extolling the riches of this sovereign and reigning grace.
Now, dear brethren, as you are blessed with living faith, stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free; and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Stand fast in one spirit, striving together for the faith of the Gospel. While the sons of Mystery Babylon, with their various schemes, both old and new, are compassing sea and land to make proselytes, and are spending their strength and their thousands of treasure, to preach a failing salvation by the faith which is the act of the creature, the result of rational testimony, the duty of all men to perform, or originate, which is at best, only a salvation by works – let all the true ministers of Christ preach Him, and Him crucified, as the Way, the Truth and the Life – the animating spirit and living substance of faith. Let all who know and love the Truth of a complete and finished salvation, humbly walk in it, live in love and in peace, and the God of Love and Peace shall be with you. – Amen.
Wilson Thompson, – 1842.