Your idea of faith, I suppose, has been something like this. You have looked upon it as in some way a sort of thing, either a religious exercise of soul, or an inward gracious disposition of heart; something tangible, in fact, which, when you have got, you can look at and rejoice over, and use as a passport to God’s favor, or a coin with which to purchase His gifts. And you have been praying for faith, expecting all the while to get something
like this, and never having received any such thing, you are insisting upon it that you have no faith. Now faith, in fact, is not in the least this sort of thing. It is nothing at all tangible. It is simply believing God, and, like sight, it is nothing apart from its object. You might as well shut your eyes and look inside to see whether you have sight, as to look inside to discover whether you have faith. You see something, and thus know that you have sight; you believe something, and thus know that you have faith. For, as sight is only seeing, so faith is only believing. And as the only necessary thing about seeing is, that you see the thing as it is, so the only necessary thing about believing is, at you believe the thing as it is. The virtue does not lie in your believing, but in the thing you believe.
When a believer really trusts anything, he ceases to worry about that thing which he has trusted. And when he worries, it is a plain proof that he does not trust. Tested by this rule how little real trust there is in the Church of Christ! No wonder our Lord asked the pathetic question, “When the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?” He will find plenty of activity, a great deal of earnestness, and doubtless many consecrated hearts; but shall he find faith, the one thing He values more than all the rest?
Scary indictments, yet I fear only too true. The book was written in 1875, but it feels like it could have been written yesterday (apart from the archaisms in the language). We could substitute programs for activity, and it would describe the average church today.
It seems strange that people, whose very name of Believers implies that their one chiefest characteristic is that they believe, should have to confess to such experiences. And yet it is such a universal habit that I feel if the majority of the Church were to be named over again, the only fitting and descriptive name that could be given them would be that of Doubters. In fact, most Christians have settled down under their doubts, as to a sort of
inevitable malady, from which they suffer acutely, but to which they must try to be resigned as a part of the necessary discipline of this earthly life.
Ouch! And we’re only halfway through the book! Stay tuned for next week’s installment, or buy/download the book for yourself and read it.