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FAITH AND UNBELIEF - A, PREVIOUS LECTURE - NEXT SECTION - HELP - FACEBOOK
What evangelical faith is not.
1. The term faith, like most other words, has diverse significations, and is manifestly used in the Bible sometimes to designate a state of the intellect, in which case it means an undoubting persuasion, a firm conviction, an unhesitating intellectual assent. This, however, is not its evangelical sense. Evangelical faith cannot be a phenomenon of the intellect, for the plain reason that, when used in an evangelical sense, it is always regarded as a virtue. But virtue cannot be predicated of intellectual states, because these are involuntary, or passive states of mind. Faith is a condition of salvation. It is something which we are commanded to do upon pain of eternal death. But if it be something to be done a solemn duty, it cannot be a merely passive state, a mere intellectual conviction. The Bible distinguishes between intellectual and saving faith. There is a faith of devils, and there is a faith of saints. James clearly distinguishes between them, and also between an antinomian and a saving faith. "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:17-26). The distinction is here clearly marked, as it is elsewhere in the Bible, between intellectual and saving faith. One produces good works or a holy life; the other is unproductive. This shows that one is a phenomenon of the intellect merely, and does not of course control the conduct. The other must be a phenomenon of the will, because it manifests itself in the outward life. Evangelical faith, then, is not a conviction, a perception of truth. It does not belong to the intellect, though it implies intellectual conviction, yet the evangelical or virtuous element does not consist in it.
2. It is not a feeling of any kind; that is, it does not belong to, and is not a phenomenon of, the sensibility. The phenomena of the sensibility are passive states of mind, and therefore have no moral character in themselves. Faith, regarded as a virtue, cannot consist in any involuntary state of mind whatever. It is represented in the Bible as an active and most efficient state of mind. It works, and "works by love." It produces "the obedience of faith." Christians are said to be sanctified by the faith that is in Christ. Indeed the Bible, in a great variety of instances and ways, represents faith in God and in Christ as a cardinal form of virtue, and as the mainspring of an outwardly holy life. Hence, it cannot consist in any involuntary state or exercise of mind whatever.
What evangelical faith is.
Since the Bible uniformly represents saving or evangelical faith as a virtue, we know that it must be a phenomenon of the will. It is an efficient state of mind, and therefore it must consist in the embracing of the truth by the heart or will. It is the will's closing in with the truths of the gospel. It is the soul's act of yielding itself up, or committing itself to the truths of the evangelical system. It is a trusting in Christ, a committing of the soul and the whole being to Him, in His various offices and relations to men. It is a confiding in Him, and in what is revealed of Him, in His word and providence, and by His Spirit.
The same word that is so often rendered faith in the New Testament is also rendered commit; as in, "But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men" (John 2:24). "If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:11). In these passages the word rendered commit is the same word as that which is rendered faith. It is a confiding in God and in Christ, as revealed in the Bible and in reason. It is a receiving of the testimony of God concerning Himself, and concerning all things of which He has spoken. It is a receiving of Christ for just what He is represented to be in His gospel, and an unqualified surrender of the will, and of the whole being to Him.