Articles on Faith
AW Pink (1886-1952)
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THE EYE OF FAITH
Studies in the Scriptures April 1932
“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee” (Job 42:5). What did Job signify by this? Obviously, his words are not to be understood literally. No, by employing a common figure of speech, he meant that the mists of unbelief (occasioned by self-righteousness) had now been dispelled, and faith perceived the being of God as a glorious and living reality. “Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD” (Psa 25:15), by which is meant that his faith was constantly in exercise. Of Moses, it is said that, “He endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb 11:27). That is, his heart was sustained through faith’s being occupied with the mighty God.
Faith is frequently represented in Scripture under the metaphor of bodily sight. Our Lord said of the great patriarch, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (Joh 8:56), meaning that his faith looked forward to the day of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. Paul was commissioned unto the Gentiles to “open their eyes,…to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Act 26:18), or, in other words, to be the divine instrument of their conversion through preaching to them the Word of faith. To some of his erring children, he wrote, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently [plainly] set forth, crucified among you” (Gal 3:1).
Now, what we wish to point out in this article is that when Scripture speaks of faith, under the notion of bodily sight, its writers were doing something more than availing themselves of a pertinent and suitable figure of speech. The Author of Scripture is the One who first formed the eye—that marvelous organ of vision—and without a shadow of doubt, He so fashioned it as to strikingly adumbrate in the visible that which now plays so prominent a part in the Christian’s dealing with the invisible. Everything in the material
world shadows forth some great reality in the spiritual realm, as we should perceive had we but sufficient wisdom to discern the fact. A wide field is here opened for observation and meditation, but we shall now confine ourselves to a single example, namely, the eye of the body as it symbolizes the faith of the heart.
1. The eye is a passive organ. The eye does not send out a light from itself, nor does it give anything unto the objects it beholds—what can the eye communicate to the sun, moon, and stars when it gazes upon them! No, the eye merely receives the print or image of them into the mind (on the retina, which is then transmitted to the brain) without adding anything to them. Just so is it with faith. It gives nothing to God or to what it beholds in the Word of His grace. It simply receives or takes them into the heart as they are presented to the soul’s view in the light of the divine revelation. What did the bitten Israelites communicate unto the brazen serpent when they looked unto it and were healed? As little do we add unto Christ when we “look” unto Him and are saved (Isa 45:22).
2. The eye is a directing organ. The man that has the light of day and his eyes open can see his way, and is not so likely to stumble into ditches or fall into a precipice as a blind man, or one who walks at nighttime. So it is with faith. “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble,” but “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Pro 4:18-19). Of Christians, it is said that, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2Co 5:7). By “looking off unto Jesus” (faith’s viewing our Exemplar), we are enabled to run the race which is set before us.
3. The eye is a very quick organ, taking up things at a great distance. Within a fraction of a moment, I can turn my gaze from things lying on the ground, and focus it upon the mountains which are many miles away. Nay, more, I can look away altogether from the things of earth and mount up among the stars, and in a second view the entire expanse of the heavens. What an optical marvel is that! Equally wonderful is the power of faith. It is indeed a quick-sighted grace, taking up things at a great distance, as the faith of the patriarchs did, who saw the things promised “afar off” (Heb 11:13). So too, in a moment, faith may look back to an eternity past and view the everlasting springs of electing love, active on its behalf before the foundations of the earth were laid, and then, in the same breath, it can turn itself towards an eternity yet to come, and take a view of the hidden glories of an invisible world within the vail.
4. The eye, though it be little, is a very capacious organ. The man that has the light of day, and has his eyes open, may see all that comes within the range of his vision. He may look around and see things behind and forward and view things ahead, downward upon the waters in a well or a stream at the bottom of a deep ravine, upwards and gaze upon the bodies in the distant heavens. So is it with faith. It extends itself unto everything that lies within the vast compass of God’s Word. It takes knowledge of things in the distant past. It also apprehends things that are yet to come. It looks into hell, and penetrates into heaven. It is able to discern the vanity of the world all around us.
It is true that there may be a genuine faith that takes in but little of the light of divine revelation at first. Yet, here again, the earthly adumbration accurately shadows forth this spiritual truth. The eye of an infant takes in the light and perceives external objects, but with a good deal of weakness and confusion, until, as it grows more, its vision extends further and further. So it is with the eye of faith. At first, the light of spiritual knowledge is but dim. The babe in Christ is unable to see afar off. But as faith grows, it takes in more of God, more of Christ, more of things above. It wades deeper and deeper into the divine mysteries, until it comes, at length, to be swallowed up in open vision (Joh 17:24).
5. The eye is a very assuring faculty. Of the five bodily senses, this is the most convincing. What are we more sure of than what we see with our eyes! Some fools may seek to persuade themselves that matter is a mental delusion, but no one in his right mind will believe them. If a man sees the sun shining in the heavens, he knows that it is day. In like manner, faith is a grace which carries in its very nature a great deal of certainty. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Sceptics may deny the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, but when the eye of faith has gazed upon its supernatural beauties, the point is settled once for all. Others may regard the Christ of God as a pious myth, but once the saint has really beheld the Lamb of God, it can say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
6. The eye is an impressing organ. What we see leaves an impression upon our minds. That is why we need to pray often, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity” (Psa 119:37). That is why the prophet declared, “Mine eye affecteth mine heart” (Lam 3:51). If a man looks steadily at the sun for a few moments, an impression of the sun is left in his eye, even though he turn his eyes away from it, or shut them. In like manner, real faith leaves an impression of the Sun of righteousness upon the heart, “They looked unto him, and were lightened” (Psa 34:5). Even more definite is 11 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” As the mighty power of Christ will, in a coming day, transform the bodies of His people from mortality to life and from dishonour to glory, so also does the Holy Spirit now exert a moral transforming power on the character of those who are His, and that by calling faith into exercise, the activity of which more and more conforms the soul to the image of God’s Son.
7. The eye is a wondrous organ. Those, who are competent to express an opinion, affirm that this particular member is the most curious and remarkable of any part of the human body. There is much of the wisdom and power of the Creator to be discovered in the formation of the visive faculty. So too, faith is a grace that is curiously and wondrously wrought in the soul. There is more of the wisdom and power of the divine Workman discovered in the formation of the grace of faith than in any other part of the new creature. Thus, we read of the “work of faith with power” (2Th 1:11). Yea, that the same exceeding great and mighty power which was put forth by God in the raising of Christ from the dead is exerted upon and within them that believe (Eph 1:19).
8. The eye of the body is a very tender thing. It is soon hurt and easily damaged. A very tiny cinder will cause pain and make it weep—and it is very striking to note that that is the very way to recovery—it weeps out the dust or mote that gets into it. So too, faith is a most delicate grace, thriving best in a pure conscience. Hence, the apostle speaks of, “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (1Ti 3:9). The lively actings of faith are soon marred by the dust of sin, or by the vanities of the world getting into the heart where it is seated. And where ever true faith is, if it be hurt by sin, it vents itself in a way of godly sorrow.
[For most of the above, we are indebted to a sermon preached by Ebenezer Erskine, 1680-1754].
THE FIGHT OF FAITH
Studies in the Scriptures June 1932
There are some who teach that those Christians who engage in spiritual fighting are living below their privileges. They insist that God is willing to do all our fighting for us. Their pet slogan is, “Let go, and let God.” They say that the Christian should turn the battle over to Christ. There is a half truth in this, yet only a half truth, and carried to extremes, it becomes error. The half truth is that the child of God has no inherent strength of his own. Says Christ to His disciples, “Without me, ye can do nothing” (Joh 15:5). Yet this does not mean that we are to be merely passive, or that the ideal state in this life is simply to be galvanized automatons. There is also a positive, an active, aggressive side to the Christian life, which calls for the putting forth of our utmost endeavours, the use of every faculty, a personal and intelligent co-operation with Christ.
There is not a little of what is known as “the victorious life” teaching which is virtually a denial of the Christian’s responsibility. It is lop-sided. While emphasizing one aspect of truth, it sadly ignores other aspects equally necessary and important to be kept before us. God’s Word declares that, “Every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal 6:5), which means that he must discharge his personal obligation. Saints are bidden to, “Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2Co 7:1), and to, “Keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jam 1:27). We are exhorted to, “Overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). The apostle Paul declared, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1Co 9:27). Thus, to deny that a Christian is called upon to engage in a ceaseless warfare with the flesh, the world, and the devil, is to fly in the face of many plain Scriptures.
There is a very real two-foldness to the Christian life and every aspect of divine truth is balanced by its counterpart. Practical godliness is a mysterious paradox, which is incomprehensible to the natural man. The Christian is strongest when he is weakest, wealthiest when he is poorest, happiest when most wretched. Though unknown (1Jo 3:1), yet he is well known (2Ti 1:18). Though dying (1Co 15:31), yet, behold, he lives. Though having nothing, yet he possesses all things (2Co 6:10). Though persecuted, he is not forsaken. Cast down, he is not destroyed. He is called upon to “rejoice with trembling” (Psa 2:11), and is assured, “Blessed are ye that weep now” (Luk 6:21). Though the Lord maketh him to lie down in green pastures and leadeth him beside still waters, he is yet in the wilderness, and “in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psa 63:1). Though followers of the Prince of peace, Christians are to endure “hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ” (2Ti 2:3), and though “more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37), they are often defeated.
“Fight the good fight of faith” (1Ti 6:12). We are called upon to engage in a ceaseless warfare. The Christian life is to be lived out on the battlefield. We may not like it, we may wish that it were otherwise, but so has God ordained. And our worst foe, our most dangerous enemy, is self, that “old man” which ever wants his way, which rebels against the “yoke” of Christ, which hates the “cross.” That “old man” which opposes every desire of the “new man,” which dislikes God’s Word and ever wants to substitute man’s word. But self has to be “denied” (Mat 16:24), his affections and lusts crucified (Gal 5:24). Yet that is by no means an easy task. O what a conflict is ever going on within the true Christian. True, there are times when the “old man” pretends to be asleep or dead, but soon he revives and is more vigorous than ever in opposing that “new man.” Then it is that the real Christian seriously asks, “If it be so (that I truly am a child of God) why am I thus?” Such was Rebekah’s puzzling problem when “the children struggled together within her” (Gen 25:22).
What a parable in action is set before us in the above Scripture! Do we need any interpreter? Does not the Christian have the key which explains that parable in the conflicting experiences of his own soul? Yes, and is not the sequel the same with you and me, as it was with poor Rebekah? “She went and inquired of the LORD” (Gen 25:22). Ah, her husband could not solve the mystery for her. No man could, nor did she lean unto her own understanding and try and reason it out. No, the struggle inside her was so great and fierce, she must have divine assurance. Nor did God disappoint her and leave her in darkness. “And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). But the meaning of such a verse is hid from those who are, in their own conceits, “wise and prudent.” But, blessed be God, it is revealed to those who, taught of the Spirit, are made to realize they are babes, that is, who feel they are ignorant, weak, helpless—for that is what “babes” are.
And who were the two nations that “struggled together” inside Rebekah? Esau and Jacob, from whom two vastly different nations descended, namely, Edom and Israel. Now, observe closely what follows. “And the one people shall be stronger than the other.” Yes, Esau was so strong that Jacob was afraid of him and fled from him. So it is spiritually, the “old man” is stronger than the “new man.” How strange that it should be so! Would we not naturally conclude that that which is “born of the Spirit” is stronger than that which is “born of the flesh” (Joh 3:6)? Of course, we would naturally think so, for, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” (1Co 2:14). But consider the matter from the standpoint of spiritual discernment. Suppose the “new man” were stronger than the “old man”—then what? Why, the Christian would be self-sufficient, proud, haughty. But God, in His infinite wisdom, allows that “new man” in His children to be weaker than the “old man.” Why? That they may depend upon Him. But it is one thing to know the theory of this, and it is quite another to put it into practice. It is one thing to believe the “new man” (Jacob) is weaker than the “old man” (Esau, who was born first!), and it is quite another thing to daily seek and obtain from God the needed strength to “fight” against the “old man.” That is why it is called the “good fight of faith,” for faith treats with God.
“Fight the good fight of faith” (1Ti 6:12). Our circumstances are the battleground. The “flesh” is never long satisfied with the “circumstances” in which God places us, but always wants to change them, or get into another set than we are now in. Thus it was with Israel of old. The “circumstances” into which God had brought the children of Israel was the wilderness, and they murmured, and wished they were back in Egypt. And that is written as a warning for us! The tendency of circumstances is to bind our hearts to the earth. When prosperous, to make us satisfied with things. When adverse, to make us repine over or covet the things which we do not have. Nothing but the exercise of real faith can lift our hearts above circumstances, for faith looks away from all things seen, so that the heart delights itself and finds its peace and joy in the Lord (Psa 37:4). This is never easy to any of us. It is always a fight, and only divine grace (diligently sought) can give us the victory. Oftentimes we fail. When we do, this must be confessed to God (1Jo 1:9), and a fresh start made.
Nothing but faith can enable us to rise above “circumstances.” It did so in the case of the two apostles, who, with feet fast in the stocks, with backs bleeding and smarting, sang praises to God in Philippi’s dungeon. That was faith victorious over most unpleasant circumstances. We can almost imagine each reader saying, “Alas, my faith is so weak.” Ah, ponder again this word, “Fight the good fight of faith”—note the repetition! It is not easy for faith to rise above circumstances. No, it is not. It is difficult, at times, extremely difficult. So the writer has found it. But remember, a “fight” is not finished in a moment, by one blow. Oftentimes the victor receives many wounds and is sorely pounded before he finally knocks-out his enemy. So we have found it, and still find it. The great enemy, the “flesh” (self) gives the “new man” many a painful blow, often floors him, but, by grace, we keep on fighting. Sometimes the “new man” gets the victory, sometimes the “old man” does. “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Pro 24:16).
Yes, dear reader, every real Christian has a “fight” on his hands. Self is the chief enemy which has to be conquered, and our circumstances, the battleground where the combat has to be waged. And each of us would very much like to change the battleground. There are unpleasant things which, at times, sorely try each of us, until we are tempted to cry with the afflicted Psalmist, “O that I had the wings like a dove! for then I would fly away” (Psa 55:6). Yes, sad to say, the writer has been guilty of the same thing. But, when he is in his right mind (spiritually), he is thankful for these very “circumstances.” Why? Because they afford an opportunity for faith to act and rise above them, and for us to find our peace, our joy, our satisfaction, not in pleasant surroundings, not in congenial friends, nor even in sweet fellowship with brethren and sisters in Christ. But—in God! He can satisfy the soul. He never fails those who truly trust Him. But it is a fight to do so. Yes, a real, long, hard fight. Yet, if we cry to God for help, for strength, for determination, He does not fail us, but makes us “more than conquerors.”
There is that in each of us which wants to play the coward, run away from the battlefield—our “circumstances.” This is what Abraham did (Gen 12:10), but he gained nothing by it. This is what Jacob did (Gen 28), and in consequence, his trials were multiplied. This is what Elijah did (1Ki 19:3), and the Lord rebuked him for it. And these instances are recorded “for our learning” (Rom 15:4), as warnings for us to take to heart. They tell us that we must steadfastly resist this evil inclination, and call to mind that exhortation, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you [act] like men, be strong” (1Co 16:13).
“Fight the good fight of faith.” Nor does the Lord call upon us to do something from which He was exempted. O what a “fight” the Captain of our salvation endured! See Him yonder in the wilderness, “forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts” (Mar 1:13), and all that time without food (Mat 4:2). How fiercely the devil assaulted Him, renewing his attack again and yet again. And the Saviour met and conquered him on the ground of faith, using only the Word of God. See Him again in Gethsemane. There the fight was yet fiercer, and so intense were His agonies that He sweat great drops of blood. Nor was there any comfort from His disciples. They could not watch with Him one hour. Yet He triumphed and that on the ground of faith, “When he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” (Heb 5:7).
Those two instances are recorded for our instruction, and, as ever, their order is beautifully significant. They teach us how we are to “fight the good fight of faith.” Christ Himself has “left us an example”! And what do we learn from these solemn and sacred incidents? This—the only weapon we are to use is the sword of the Spirit, and victory is only to be obtained on our knees—“with strong crying and tears.” The Lord graciously enables us so to act. O that each of us may more earnestly seek grace to fight the good fight of faith. We shall have happy and peaceful fellowship together in heaven, but before we get there, the “fight” has to be fought, and won or we shall never get there at all (2Ti 4:6-8).
Studies in the Scriptures February 1933
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6); “But the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb. 4:2). The linking together of these verses shows us the worthlessness of all religious activities where faith be lacking. The outward exercise may be performed diligently and correctly, but unless faith be in operation God is not honored and the soul is not profited. Faith draws out the heart unto God, and faith it is which receives from God;—not a mere intellectual assent to what is revealed in Holy Writ, but a supernatural principle of grace which lives upon the God of Scripture. This the natural man, no matter how religious or orthodox he be, has not; and no labors of his, no act of his will, can acquire it. It is the sovereign gift of God.
Faith must be operative in all the exercises of the Christian if God is to be glorified and he is to be edified. First, in the reading of the Word: “But these are written that ye might believe” (John 20:31). Second, in listening to the preaching of God’s servants: “The hearing of faith” (Gal. 3:2). Third, in praying: “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6). Fourth, in our daily life: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7); “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20). Fifth, in our exit from this world: “These all died in faith” (Heb. 11:13). What the breath is to the body, faith is to the soul; for one who is destitute of faith to seek to perform spiritual actions is like putting a spring within a wooden dummy and making it go through mechanical motions.
Now an unregenerate professor may read the Scriptures and yet have no spiritual faith. Just as the devout Hindu peruses the Upanishads and the Mohammedan his Koran, so many in “Christian” countries take up the study of the Bible, and yet have no more of the life of God in their souls than have their heathen brethren. Thousands in this land read the Bible, believe in its Divine authorship, and become more or less familiar with its contents. A mere professor may read several chapters every day, and yet never appropriate a single verse. But faith applies God’s Word: it applies His fearful threats and trembles before them; it applies His solemn warnings, and seeks to heed them; it applies His precepts, and cries unto Him for grace to walk in them.
It is the same in listening to the Word preached. A carnal professor will boast of having attended this conference and that, of having heard this famous teacher and that renowned preacher, and be no better off in his soul than if he had never heard any of them. He may listen to two sermons every Sunday, and fifty years hence be as dead spiritually as he is today. But the regenerated soul appropriates the message and measures himself by what he hears. He is often convicted of his sins and made to mourn over them. He tests himself by God’s standard, and feels that he comes so far short of what he ought to be, that he sincerely doubts the honesty of his own profession. The Word pierces him, like a two-edged sword, and causes him to cry “O wretched man that I am.”
So in prayer. The mere professor often makes the humble Christian feel ashamed of himself. The carnal religionist who has “the gift of the gab” is never at a loss for words: sentences flow from his lips as readily as do the waters of a babbling brook; verses of Scripture seem to run through his mind as freely as flour passes through a sieve. Whereas the poor burdened child of God is often unable to do any more than cry “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Ah, my friends, we need to distinguish sharply between a natural aptitude for “making” nice “prayers” and the spirit of true supplication: the one consists merely of words, the other of “groanings which cannot be uttered”; the one is acquired by religious education, the other is wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit.
Thus it is too in conversing about the things of God. The frothy professor can talk glibly and often orthodoxly of “doctrines,” yes, and of worldly things, too: according to his mood, or according to his audience, so is his theme. But the child of God, while being swift to hear that which is unto edification, is “slow to speak.” Ah, my reader, beware of talkative people; a drum makes a lot of noise, but it is hollow inside! “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness; but a faithful man who can find?” (Prov. 20:6). When a saint of God does open his lips about spiritual matters, it is to tell of what the Lord, in His infinite mercy, has done for him; but the carnal religionist is anxious for others to know what he is “doing for the Lord.”
The difference is just as real between the genuine Christian and the nominal Christian in connection with their daily lives: while the latter may appear outwardly righteous, yet within they are “full of hypocrisy, and iniquity” (Matt. 23:28). They will put on the skin of a real sheep, but in reality they are “wolves in sheep’s’ clothing.” But God’s children have the nature of sheep, and learn of Him who is “meek and lowly in heart,” and, as the elect of God, they put on “mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). They are in private what they appear in public. They worship God in spirit and in truth, and have been made to know wisdom in the hidden parts of the heart.
So it is on their passing out of this world. An empty professor may die as easily and as quietly as he lived—deserted by the Holy Spirit, undisturbed by the Devil; as the Psalmist says, “There are no bands in their death” (73:4). But this is very different from the end of one whose deeply-plowed and consciously-defiled conscience has been “sprinkled” with the precious blood of Christ: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psa. 37:37)—yes, a peace which “passeth all understanding”: having lived the life of the righteous, he dies “the death of the righteous” (Num. 23:10).
And what is it which distinguishes the one character from the other, wherein lies the difference between the genuine Christian and he who is one in name only? This: a Godgiven, Spirit-wrought faith in the heart. Not a mere head-knowledge and intellectual assent to the Truth, but a living, spiritual, vital principle in the heart—a faith which “purifies the heart” (Acts 15:9), which “worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6), which “overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4). Yes, a faith which is Divinely sustained amidst trials within and opposition without; a faith which exclaims “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
True, this faith is not always in exercise, nor is it equally strong at all times. The favored possessor of it must be taught by painful experience that as he did not originate it neither can he command it; therefore does he turn unto its Author, and say, “Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.” And then it is that, when reading the Word he is enabled to lay hold of its precious promises; that when bowing before the Throne of Grace, he is enabled to cast his burden upon the Lord; that when he rises to go about his temporal duties, he is enabled to lean upon the everlasting arms; and that when he is called upon to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, he triumphantly cries, “I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” “Lord, increase our faith.” A.W.P.
Studies in the Scriptures May 1936
It is the bounden duty of all who hear the Gospel to savingly trust in Christ, otherwise their rejection of Him would be no sin. Many of our readers will be surprised to hear that this self-evident truth is denied by some who are, otherwise, sound in the Faith. They reason that it is “inconsistent” to call upon the spiritually dead to perform spiritual duties. A certain denomination in England have the following among their Articles of Faith: “We deny duty-faith and duty-repentance—these terms signifying that it is every man’s duty to spiritually and savingly repent and believe (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Matt. 15:19; Jer. 17:9; John 6:44, 65). We deny also that there is any capability in man by nature to any spiritual good whatever. So that we reject the doctrine that men in a state of nature should be exhorted to believe in or turn to God (John 12:29, 40; Eph. 2:8; Rom. 8:7, 8; 1 Cor. 4:7).
Therefore, that for ministers in the present day to address unconverted persons, or indiscriminately all in a mixed congregation, calling upon them to savingly repent, believe, and receive Christ, or perform any other acts dependent upon the new creative power of the Holy Spirit, is, on the one hand, to imply creature power, and, on the other, to deny the doctrine of special redemption.”
As some of our readers have imbibed this error, we are anxious to be of help to them. We have therefore decided to follow the article by John Newton on “Ministerial Address to the Unconverted” in the March issue by first giving brief quotations from the writings of the Reformers and Puritans, to show how the framers of those Articles of Faith departed from the path and policy followed by so many eminent saints of God who preceded them.
“The mercy of God is offered equally to those who believe and to those who believe not, so that those who are not Divinely taught within are rendered inexcusable” (John Calvin—1552—”The Eternal Predestination of God” p. 95). “A slight acquaintance with Paul will enable anyone to understand, without tedious argument, how easily he reconciled things which they pretend to be repugnant to each other. Christ commands men to believe in Him, yet His limitation is neither false nor contrary to His command when He says ‘No man can come to Me except it were given him of My Father.’ Let preaching therefore have its force to bring men to faith” (Calvin’s “Institutes” Book 3, chap. 18, par. 13).
“The first part then of Christianity is the preaching of repentance, and the knowledge of ourselves . . . A man, therefore, is made a Christian not by working but by hearing; wherefore, he that will exercise himself to righteousness must first exercise himself in hearing the Gospel. Now, when he hath heard and received the Gospel, let him give himself to God with a joyful heart, and afterwards let him exercise himself in those good works which are commanded in the law” (Martin Luther—1540—on Galatians, pp. 104 and 185).
“When we meet with a precept, we should simply endeavour to obey it, without inquiring into God’s hidden purpose . . . . Notwithstanding God’s predestination is most certain and unalterable, so that no elect person can perish, nor any reprobate be saved, yet it does not follow from thence that all reproofs and exhortations on the part of God, or prayers on the part of men, are useless” (J. Zanchius—1562—”The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination,” pp. 49 and 120).
“With the promises there is joined an exhortation or command to believe, which is more general than the promise; because the promise is only made to believers; but the commandment is given to believers and unbelievers also. For the elect are mingled with the wicked in the same assemblies, and therefore the ministers of the Gospel ought indiscriminately to exhort all and every one to repent.” “In very truth, if thou goest forth of this world being no repentant sinner, thou goest damned to Hell: wherefore delay not one minute of an hour longer, but with all speed repent and turn unto God” (W. Perkins—1595—Vol. 1, p. 379; Vol. 2, p. 692).
“Let us be stirred up to repent immediately. Doth not God now warn you? Is it not dangerous living one hour in a state that we would not die in? May God justly strike us on the sudden? Do but purpose to live in sin one quarter of an hour; may we not be taken away in that quarter?” (R. Sibbes—1620—Vol. 6, p. 212).
“We are expressly commanded to believe, and that upon the highest promises, and under the greatest penalties. This command is that which makes believing formally a duty. Faith is a grace as it is freely wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, the root of all obedience and duties, as it is radically fixed in the heart. But as it is commanded it is a duty; and these commands, you know, are several ways expressed, by invitations, exhortations, propositions” (John Owen—1650—Vol. 14, p. 223).
“I say there is no simulation at all of God in this: that which He proposeth is but this; ‘Whosoever believeth shall be saved, and whosoever believeth not shall be damned.’ He sends His ministers to preach this, and to beseech them to believe, and to be reconciled unto God, yea, all they meet with.” “He commands them to preach promiscuously unto all, persuade all, exhort all, unto faith and repentance” (W. Twisse—1653—”The Riches of God’s Love” pp. 73 and 169).
“My counsel (to his unsaved hearers) is this: Stir up your souls to lay hold on the Lord Jesus and look up to Him, wait on Him from whom every good and perfect gift comes, and give Him no rest till He hath given thee that jewel faith” (Thomas Brooks—1653—Vol. 1, p. 144).
“This condition of faith and repentance is suited to the consciences of men. The law of nature teaches us that we are bound to believe every revelation from God when it is made known to us; and not only to assent to it as true, but embrace it as good.” “Our rejection of Christ, and the way of His appointing, is a high contempt of God . . . . It is a ‘making light’ of a rich feast of God’s providing” (S. Charnock—1660—Vol. 3, pp. 68 and 469).
John Bunyan (1675) in his “The Heavenly Footman”; or a “Description of the man that gets to Heaven,” which is addressed to “All the slothful and careless people,” being an exposition and application of “So run that ye may obtain” (1 Cor. 9:24), closes with, “If thou dost not know the way, inquire at the Word of God; if thou wantest company, cry for God’s Spirit; if thou wantest encouragement, entertain the promises. But be sure thou beginnest betimes; get into the way, run apace, and hold out to the end, and the Lord give thee a prosperous journey.”
“Preach the Gospel to every creature: yet this is not the Gospel to be preached—that God hath promised to save every creature; though upon promulgation of them, it becomes the duty of everyone to come to Christ, and a command is laid upon men to do it” (T. Goodwin—1680—Vol. 8, p.245).
“Fire burneth where it meeteth with matter combustible, but a reasonable creature needeth to be exhorted to perform acts agreeable to his principles” (T. Manton—1670—Vol. 19, p. 247).
“It is our duty to endeavour what is impossible by our own endeavours to attain—so sin has made it; to avoid all sin, to perform perfect obedience, to love with all the heart” (David Clarkson, associate pastor with John Owen—1682—Vol. 2, p. 131).
“But you will say, if unregenerate men be dead men, to what purpose is it to persuade them to arise and stand up? This difficulty is solved in this very text (Eph. 5:14): though the duty is ours, yet the power is God’s” (J. Flavell—1680—Vol. 2, p. 423).
“It is the known duty of a sinner under the Gospel to turn to God through Christ; and it is also declared in the same Gospel that none can of themselves turn to God and believe in His Son without the help of special efficacious grace; it must hereupon be a man’s duty also to pray for that grace which may enable him thereto” (J. Howe—1690—Vol. 2, p. 346).
“This (Gospel) call contains the command of faith by which all men without exception, to whom God vouchsafes the same, are enjoined to believe in Christ, in that way and manner which is revealed in the Gospel: ‘look unto Me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth’: Isaiah 45:22” (H. Witsuis—1690—Vol. 3, p. 353).
“Neither will this assertion make it a vain thing to preach the Gospel to natural people, and to exhort them to true repentance and faith in Christ for their conversion and salvation” (W. Marshall—1692—”The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification,” so highly commended by James Hervey, p. 121).
“And even not coming to Christ, and believing in Him in this spiritual manner, when He is revealed in the external ministry of the Word, as God’s way of salvation, is criminal and blameworthy, notwithstanding men’s want of both will and power” (John Gill—1735—”The Cause of God and Truth,” p. 87).
We could add quotations from others, but the above are from well known, representative, sound, Calvinistic divines; several of them high Calvinists. Yet their holding firmly to the spiritual inability of the natural man, to unconditional election, particular redemption, and the effectual call of the Spirit, did not tie their hands in preaching the Gospel freely, pressing upon their hearers their responsibility, and calling upon them to repent and believe.—A.W.P.
Studies in the Scriptures August 1936
“We believe that it would be unsafe, from the brief records we have, of the way in which the Apostles, under the immediate direction of our Lord, addressed their hearers in certain special cases and circumstances, to derive absolute and universal rules for ministerial addresses in the present day under widely different circumstances. And we further believe that an assumption that others have been inspired as the Apostles were, has led to the grossest errors among both Romanists and Protestants. Therefore, that for ministers in this present day to address unconverted persons, or indiscriminately all in a mixed congregation, calling upon them to savingly repent, believe, and receive Christ, or perform any other acts dependent upon the new creative power of the Holy Ghost, is, on the one hand, to imply creature power, and on the other to deny the doctrine of special redemption.”
The above are two of the “articles of faith” (quoted by us in full) of an English denomination which still has considerable membership and influence. With almost all their other Articles of Faith we are in hearty accord, as with their marked separation from the world, and the simplicity of their worship. Nor have we one particle of sympathy with the delusive errors of creature ability or general redemption, rather do we unhesitatingly brand them both as lies of the Devil. In his unregenerate state, fallen and depraved man is so completely the slave of sin and the captive of Satan, that he is altogether unable to deliver himself or take one step toward that deliverance; yea, his heart is so corrupt and his mind so at enmity against God, that he has no desire to be brought out of darkness into His marvelous light. Not until the Holy Spirit performs a miracle of grace upon the soul, does its possessor have any spiritual appetite or aspirations; and that miracle He performs only in those for whom Christ died—God’s elect.
Now if we resort to human reasoning it will logically follow that it is quite useless to exhort the unregenerate to turn unto God or come unto Christ; yea, to exhort those who are utterly incompetent to respond, will appear to be most inconsistent and the height of absurdity. But, my reader, the things of God cannot be encompassed by human reason, and the moment we attempt to measure them by the line of our “logic,” we open the door for Satan to deceive by his subtleties. He will tell us that if the Lord our God be one Lord then He cannot be a plurality of Persons, and that if we hold to three Divine Persons we are most “inconsistent” in affirming the unity of God. Satan will tell us that if God be Love then He will never banish any of His creatures to everlasting woe, and that if we hold to eternal punishment of the wicked we are altogether “inconsistent” in believing in the Divine benevolence.
What, then are we to do? This: repudiate all reasoning upon spiritual things as utterly worthless, and believe with the simplicity of a child whatever God’s Word teaches. The Apostles held firmly the revealed truth of a glorious and victorious Messiah, and they could not “harmonize” with that fact a humiliated Messiah that would be crucified: the two things appeared to be altogether “inconsistent” and contradictory. But to them Christ said, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). That, my reader, should be a lasting warning to us of the utter inadequacy of human logic and philosophizing upon Divine things! We must turn from the vain reasonings of the Unitarian, and while holding fast to the Unity of the Divine nature, we must also believe there are three co-equal Persons in the Godhead. We must turn from the vain reasonings of the Universalist, and while holding fast to the love of God, we must also believe in the eternal punishment of His enemies. And why? Because Holy Scripture teaches both!
In like manner, we must turn from the vain reasonings (as in the above Articles of Faith) of the hyper-Calvinist, and while holding fast to the total depravity and the spiritual inability of the natural man, we must also believe in his moral responsibility and accountability to God. It is the bounden duty of God’s servants to tell the unregenerate that the reason why they cannot repent evangelically is because their hearts are so wedded to their lusts; that the reason why they cannot come to Christ is because their sins have fettered and chained them; that the reason why they hate the Light is because they love the darkness. But so far from this excusing them, it only adds to their guilt; that so far from rendering them objects of pity it exposes them as doubly deserving of damnation. It is the preacher’s business to show wherein spiritual inability consists: not in the lack of soul faculties, but in the absence of any love for Him who is infinitely lovely. Far be it from us to extenuate the wicked unbelief of the unregenerate!
The compilers of the above Articles of Faith were very largely influenced by a piece written by William Huntington in 1791, “Excommunication: and the Duty of all men to believe weighed in the balance.” We have space to quote only one paragraph: “When Peter said, ‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out’ (Acts 3:19), He that is exalted to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, sent His Spirit and Grace with the Word to work repentance and conversion in His own elect. And though they spoke the Word, promiscuously to all, yet He only spake it to His own. It was sent with the power of the Spirit. It never was sent with the Spirit of Faith to any but His own: ‘When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed’ (Acts 13:48). This is the lifegiving commandment of the everlasting God, in the mouth of Zion’s King. But what effect has it, or what power attends it, from the mouth of Mr. Ryland or the mouth of Mr. Fuller, when they make it the rule of a dead man’s duty? Just as much as the adjuration of the sons of Sceva the Jew, when they abused the name of the Lord Jesus in commanding the spirit, who left the man and mastered them; and so these labour for the unconverted till they get into the gall of bitterness themselves . . . . Ye might just as well go to the gates of the grave and tell the sleeping dust it is their duty to come forth as Lazarus did. Mr. Ryland may just as well do the one as the other.”
What a confused jumble is that! Confounding the Word of Power (Heb. 1:3) on the lips of Christ, with the Word of Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18, 19) in the mouths of His servants. What the Lord does, is none of our business. The commission He has given His servants is to preach the Gospel to every creature, and they certainly have not fully obeyed until they bid their hearers “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Whom God quickens, is His own affair; ours is to faithfully warn the unsaved, to show wherein their sins consists (enmity against God), to bid them to throw down the weapons of their warfare against Him, to call upon them to repent (Acts 17:30), to proclaim the One who receives all who come to Him in faith. In allowing that Peter “spoke the Word promiscuously to all” Mr. Huntington pulled down what he laboured so hard to build up.
To affirm that the ministry of the Apostles (recorded in the Acts) furnishes no precedent for God’s servants today, is as foolish, as “inconsistent,” and unwarrantable, as it would be to say that Acts 6 supplies no present rule for deacons to be governed by! The physical condition of those in the cemetery is vastly different from the moral state of the unregenerate still upon the earth. The former cannot sin, cannot reject Christ; the latter can and do. The former cannot read their Bibles or call upon God for mercy; the latter should! It is because the natural man possesses the same faculties of soul as does the regenerate that he is an accountable creature, responsible to use them for God instead of against Him. —A.W.P.
Studies in the Scriptures June 1939
“It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). From the preceding verse it is clear that the Apostle was having reference to the ministers of Christ, those whom He has appointed to act as officers in His churches. Other virtues are desirable, but fidelity is imperative. No matter how gifted a man may be, if he is untrue to this trust, he is an offense unto Christ and a stumblingblock to His people. Ministerial faithfulness includes loyalty to his Master, devotion to His interests, steadfast adherence to the preaching of His Word, dispensing the Truth unto those whose souls are committed to Him, not mixing it with speculations, much less substituting false doctrine. A far higher motive than the pleasing of his hearers must actuate and regulate ministerial service.
Those who have been much used of God have ever been men in whom this grace of faithfulness was outstandingly prominent. The father of all who believe is expressly designated “faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:9). Concerning Moses the Lord testified, “who is faithful in all His house” (Num. 12:7). What a blessed witness is that borne to Daniel: “Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom, but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful” (Dan. 6:4). Of himself Paul wrote, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Tim. 1:12). Concerning Timothy he testified, “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17). What is now being recorded in the Lord’s “book of remembrance” of you and me, fellow-minister?
Loyalty to God has always been a costly matter, but individual faithfulness has never involved more personal sacrifice than it does in this day of abounding disloyalty, hypocrisy and compromise. Faithful preaching will render the minister unpopular, and will empty, not “fill” churches. It will close doors against him, and if he be without a charge he will find his services are not wanted. It cost Joseph something to be faithful! It did Daniel; it did Paul; and it does every minister of Christ in this degenerate and adulterous age. How necessary it is then for the minister to strengthen his heart by laying hold of those promises which are specially given to faithfulness. Here is one of them: “the LORD preserveth the faithful” (Psa. 31:23)—from those rocks upon which so many self-seekers make shipwreck.
“He that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully” (Jer. 23:28): no matter how unpalatable it may be to the flesh, how much of a weariness to those who wish to have their ears tickled with novelties, or how loud be the outcry against it. “A wicked messenger falleth into mischief; but a faithful ambassador is health” (Prov. 13:17): that is, he maintains his own soul in good health, and exerts a healing influence upon others. “A faithful witness will not lie” (Prov. 14:5): he who maintains a pure conscience before God will not dare to give forth a testimony which he knows to be untrue. Nor will he to obtain the good-will of men represent anything to be other than it is. Consequently, “He that speaketh truth showeth forth righteousness” (Prov. 12:17): that is, by making conscience of veracity and integrity, he makes it clear that he is governed by the principle of righteousness.
How much there is in Scripture to stimulate the minister unto fidelity! “A true (Hebrew, “faithful”) witness delivereth souls” (Prov. 14:25), and he is the only one who ever does so. Souls are caught fast in the meshes of Satan’s lies, and nothing but the sword of God’s Truth can cut them free. However unpopular he may be among men, the faithful witness is approved of and is pleasing to God. “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters” (Prov. 25:13). Yes, such are “a sweet savour to God” (2 Cor. 2:15). What holy encouragement is there here for the hearts of the Lord’s servants! What rich compensation for the slights and sneers of men!
For there is no faithfulness in their mouths . . . . they flatter with their tongues” (Psa. 5:9). There is the identifying mark of the “hireling,” the false witness. He aims at pleasing his hearers, making them feel satisfied with themselves, ever patting them on the back. But what are the springs from which integrity and fidelity issue? First, faith. It is striking to note that both in the Hebrew and the Greek the same word does duty for both “faith” (the noun) and “faithfulness” (the adjective). Unbelief, then, is the root of unfaithfulness.
Second the fear of God: “I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many” (Neh. 7:2). There is nothing like the fear of God to deliver us from the fear of men. Third, love of God, for where that is warm there must be the desire to please Him at all costs.
But let not the reader suppose that this grace is something restricted to Christ’s ministers: not so, God requires it from all His people. This is clear from the opening verses of Ephesians, which is distinctly addressed to “the faithful in Christ Jesus.” Much of what has been said above applies with equal force to the rank and file of the saints. They, too, will find that loyalty to God and fidelity to His Word will cost them not a little in the world today, where there is so much pretence, sham, and double dealing. It will result in their receiving the “cold shoulder” even from many of those who profess to be fellow-Christians. But this must not deter them: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10), is the grand word to lay hold of.
Faithful people have always been in a marked minority. “Help, Lord, for the godly men ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men” (Psa. 12:1), cried David. Note how those two characteristics are conjoined, for piety and honesty are inseparable—compare “good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23). So, too, Solomon exclaimed, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find” (Prov. 20:6). Why is this? Because it is the part of fallen human nature to take the line of least resistance and choose the path easiest to the flesh. But remember, my reader, whoever you be, “lying lips are abomination to the LORD; but they that deal truly (Hebrew, “faithfully”) are His delight” (Prov. 12:22). Here is another of the Divine promises specially addressed to the faithful: “A faithful man shall abound with blessings” (Prov. 28:20): the true way to be happy is to be holy and honest. He who is true to God and man will be blest of Him. O that it may be said of us, “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers” (3 John 5).—A.W.P.
THE WORD OF FAITH
Studies in the Scriptures November 1943
“The Word of Faith that we preach” (Rom 10:8). We shall not here attempt an exposition of that interesting passage, but rather deal with this expression topically, suggesting different reasons why the Word of God is so termed.
First, because faith is the principal thing required by the Word. Being a Divine revelation nothing less than our hearty acceptance of it is its manifest due. Being the Word of Him that cannot lie it is fully entitled to our credence. It is not a mark of wisdom or superior mental acumen, but of spiritual imbecility, to discredit and disdain this celestial communication: “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). The Scriptures are “worthy of all acceptation.” Faith in its simplest form is receiving “the witness of God” (1 John 5:9). God has spoken, and faith cannot doubt or question what He has said. The soul that reverently and confidently accepts the Divine testimony “hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33), and until he does so, his skepticism makes out God to be a liar (1 John 5:10). Faith, then, is its legitimate demand.
Second, because it is the foundation on which faith rests. However black may be my record, however vile I appear in my own eyes or those of my fellows, when faith appropriates that word “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37,38) it has firm ground to stand upon. Faith rests upon the promise of the faithful and immutable God. Faith builds upon His sure Word, knowing that He will never alter one thing which has gone forth from His mouth. Said David, “And now, O Lord God, Thou art that God and Thy words be true, and Thou hast promised this goodness unto Thy servant” (2 Sam 7:28): he knew that such an One would neither deceive nor fail him. “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be confounded” (Rom 9:33). When God has promised a thing it is infallibly certain of accomplishment, and we may rest thereon in the greatest perplexities and extremities. When faith “lays hold of the hope set before us” it becomes “as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb 6:18,19).
Third, because it is the sphere in which faith operates. Faith has nothing to do with feelings, impulses, or the dictates of carnal reason: the Word of God is the realm in which it lives, moves, and has its being.
Faith soars high above the opinions of the world, or “the voice of the Church”: it moves within the circle of Divine revelation. It recognizes no duty except what Holy Writ enjoins. It cherishes no desires save those which the Divine Oracles inspire. It realizes that to act without an express “thus saith the Lord” is to act either presumptuously or in blind credulity. In prayer its language is “Remember the word unto Thy servant upon which Thou hast caused me to hope” (Psa 119:49): concerning which Matthew Henry pertinently said, “Those that make God’s promises their portion, may with humble boldness make them their plea.”
However opposed its dictates to human wisdom, the language of faith is “nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5). When God speaks that is enough; where He is silent, faith refuses to move.
Fourth, because it is the means by which faith is informed. Faith is not self-sufficient, but dependent. It is like a dutiful but ignorant child who desires to please his father, yet knows not how until his will is made known. If we had not the Word of God in our hand faith would be completely at a loss—like a mariner without chart or compass. This is not sufficiently realized. It is true that unless the Word be mixed with faith it profits us not; it is equally true that faith cannot function aright unless informed by the Word. Faith is the eye of the spirit: but something more than sight is needed—light is equally essential, for the keenest vision is useless in a darkened room. Hence the Psalmist declares “The entrance of Thy words giveth light: it giveth understanding unto the simple” (119:130), that is, to the one who receives them with childlike simplicity, which is exactly what faith does. The Scriptures, then, are the Word of Faith because they instruct it. “For the Commandment is a lamp and the Law is light” (Prov 6:23); “the Commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psa 19:8).
Fifth, because it is the food by which faith is nourished. Faith is a creature, or at any rate a part of the new creation, and like every other creature it stands in need of that which will minister to its maintenance. Since God be its Object, His words are what it feeds upon. Said one of the prophets, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jer 15:16). That was not only the language of faith, but it describes both the means and the process by which faith is nourished. Faith makes a personal appropriation, taking unto itself what God has said. Faith proceeds to a mastication of what is placed before it. God’s Word is made up of words, and on them faith ruminates and meditates. Faith issues in assimilation, so that the Word is actually taken up into the soul, and strength and energy is supplied thereby. Thus will faith aver “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). And thus also do we read of being “nourished up in the words of faith” (1 Tim 4:6).
Sixth, because it is the Rule by which it is directed. Though this approximates closely to what was considered under our fourth point, yet it is to be distinguished from it. The Word of God is more than informative: it is authoritative, and therefore is it designated “The Faith which was once [for all] delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), which they are exhorted to “earnestly contend for.” The Word is the alone Rule which faith has to walk by. But is not the Christian also prompted and guided by the Spirit? Such a question betrays sad confusion of thought and much harm has been wrought among those giving place to it. How often we have heard different ones make the claim that the Spirit moved them to perform such and such an act—for example, a woman to preach to or lead in prayer before a mixed congregation, which is forbidden by 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34. The Spirit quickens and empowers, but He never prompts to anything contrary to Scripture. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:7), i.e. as it is recorded in the alone Rule of Faith.
Seventh, because faith is the key which opens the Scriptures. Yet how little is this realized. The chief hindrance to our lack of perception of spiritual things is neither mental dullness nor lack of what the world terms “education.” Proof of that is seen in the fact that men endowed with the keenest of intellect and equipped by the highest standards of “modern scholarship” find the Word of God a sealed book to them.
Many an illiterate rustic possesses far more spiritual understanding of the things of God than do thousands of those who possess a M.A. or D.D. degree. It is unbelief which prevents admittance into the Temple of Truth. The Word of God obtains no entrance into minds which are closed by self-conceit and prejudice, nor into hearts blocked by indifference or distrust. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light,” and it is faith which opens the door to admit them. When faith receives the first three chapters of Genesis it has more light upon creation and the course of human history than all the pseudo scientists and false philosophers put together. The miracles which stumble the sceptic present no difficulty to the humble believer. “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). —AWP
FAITH AS A MASTICATOR
Studies in the Scriptures July 1945
In the last two issues, we sounded an alarm unto our brethren against the danger of so yielding to the active and hostile principle of unbelief―which is still within us, that it should obtain complete dominion over us; and then, we should only be described as those marked by “an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12)―that is, as apostates. It is therefore fitting that we should now consider the grand remedy and preventative. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb 4:1-2).
The exhortation begun at Hebrews 3:12 is not completed unto Hebrews 4:11. The connecting link between the two chapters is found in the words, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19)―that was what gave point to the exhortation of 3:12, and that is also made the basis of the warning of Hebrews 4:1 and the injunction of 4:11. Israel had a promise of entering into Canaan, but it profited them not, because they did not mix faith with it (Heb 4:2). We, too, have a promise of entering the antitypical Canaan, but it will advantage us nothing if it be received with unbelief. The promise made to Israel is recorded in Exodus 6:6-8, yet the fact remains that―excepting only Caleb and Joshua―none of the adult Hebrews who were delivered from Egypt ever entered Canaan! Did then the promise of God fail of its accomplishment?
No. Why not? First, because that promise of Exodus 6 was made to Israel generally and collectively, as a people―it did not specify that all, or even any, of that particular generation were to enter in. Second, though no condition was expressly named, yet, as the event proved, it was necessarily implied: The promise must be “mixed with faith” (Heb 4:2)—as the threat of Jonah 3:4 could only be averted by repentance. Had an absolute and unconditional promise been made to that particular generation, it must have been performed. Instead, the fulfilment of that promise was suspended on their believing and acting accordingly. Thus, it was a promise addressed to human responsibility. God made no promise to Israel that He would bring them into Canaan―whether they believed and obeyed, or no. Nor did their unbelief make the promise of God of none effect. It was accomplished to the next generation, who believed God and obeyed the instructions of His servant―see Joshua 21:43.
God’s dealings with the Hebrews furnish an analogy of the principles which operate in connection with the promise of the Gospel, which is addressed to sinners as moral agents. The promise is indeed “sure to all the [chosen] seed” (Rom 4:16), for every one redeemed by Christ will verily enter the purchased possession. Yet, the Gospel itself does not testify directly to any individual that Christ so died for him in particu1ar, that it is certain he shall he saved by His death. Instead, it proclaims, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mar 16:16). It is only by my believing the Gospel that I am secured of eternal life, and it is only as I hold fast the Truth and am regulated by it, that I can legitimately enjoy the comfort of the Gospel. In other words, I can only spell out my election, as I put my trust in the atoning blood of Christ, and then serve Him.
The Gospel is addressed to human responsibility. It demands a believing acceptance from those who hear it. The proclamation that Christ is a Saviour for Hell-deserving sinners avails me nothing, until I make personal appropriation of it. It avails me nothing, until I regard the Gospel as being addressed to me individually. It avails me nothing until I mix faith (Heb 4:2) with it―that is, until I accept God’s verdict that I am a Law-condemned, lost, and bankrupt sinner, and come to Christ owning myself to be such, and put my trust in the sufficiency of His atoning sacrifice.
Then, it is that―on the authority of Him who says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Act 16:31)―I have Divine warrant to be assured that He is my own Saviour, and to say with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25)―not because I deem myself of God’s elect, but because I have received the sinner’s Saviour.
God’s Word, whether it be the hearing or the reading of it, only profits the soul as it is “mixed with faith” (Heb 4:2). Faith is so many-sided, and its operations so diverse, that (in condescension to our weakness) it has pleased the Holy Spirit to use quite a number of varied figures to set forth its operations and acts. It is likened unto looking (Isa 45:22), unto setting to our “seal” (Joh 3:33), fleeing “for refuge” and laying “hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18), eating (Jer 15:16), drinking (Joh 7:37), and committing “unto him” (2Ti 1:12). In our text, the similitude of mixing faith (Heb 4:2) is taken from the mingling of the saliva with our food, which―through chewing it thoroughly and rolling it about in our mouth―is an aid unto digestion; and to the mixing of the juices of the stomach, so that the food is duly assimilated and becomes part of our bodies.
If our food be not properly chewed and mixed with our salvia, it will cause indigestion, and so far from being assimilated and nourishing the body, it will upset us. So it is with our hearing of the Gospel: If we mix not faith therewith, not only will the soul receive no profit, but it will add to our condemnation in the Day to come. We may listen to God’s servant and be duly impressed with his solemnity, or stirred by his earnestness, we may admire the logic of his arguments and the eloquence of his diction, we may be moved by the forcefulness of his illustrations and brought to tears by his descriptions of Christ’s sufferings―and yet, obtain no spiritual benefit therefrom. Why? Because we were occupied only with the preacher and his preaching, admiring a sermon. Because we failed to mix “with faith” the Word―and faith has to do solely with God.
Faith, my reader, brings in God. He is its sole Object. Faith has to do not with reasonings, feelings, or inward impressions and impulses―but with God and His Word. When a convicted sinner hears the Gospel and mixes faith with it, he realises that God is speaking through the minister, that God is speaking directly to him, that God is addressing his own immortal soul. It is now that he begins to realise the force of that Word, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luk 8:8). “Let him hear” means “let him heed”: Let him take home to himself what he hears and be suitably affected thereby. It is the same if I am reading the Word. If we would “mix [it] with faith,” then I must regard that Word as God speaking through it, speaking directly and personally to me, speaking that which is true and for my good, and I must respond thereto and act accordingly.
The Feast is spread and the broad call is made, “Come; for all things are now ready” (Luk 14:17). That invitation is freely made to all who hear it, and there is a place assured at that Feast to every one who responds. In order to respond, I must mix faith with it―that is, I must thankfully recognise that invitation is made to me, utterly unworthy and unfit though I feel myself to be. I must believe that God means what He says, and promptly avail myself of His gracious overture. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1Ti 1:15). It is not as one who has reason to believe his name is written in the Book of life, nor as one who feels a qualifying work of grace has begun in him, but simply as a sinner, I am to come to Christ for salvation. Receive that Truth into your heart as a little child, as addressed to you, and you have mixed faith with it, and masticated the Gospel.
FAITH AS A MASTICATOR (Cont)
Studies in the Scriptures August 1945
What we said in our last month’s issue under this title was designed chiefly for “seekers”―or awakened sinners―longing for peace of soul. For this occasion, it is to the young Christian we would more especially address our remarks―and to him, we would say, ‘The secret of success in the Christian life is to continue as you began. As you obtained the pardon of your sin in the first case by mixing faith (Heb 4:2) with the Gospel, so you will only grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by mixing faith with the Word of God. Only by so doing, will you become a fruitful branch of the Vine; only thus will you obtain strength for he production of good works; only thus will you glorify God in your spirit and body which are His, adorn your profession, and be a real help to your fellows.
While we may not be able to fully analyse and understand the whole process of physical nutrition, yet there is no mystery about it―for it is regulated by certain laws of dietetics appointed by our Maker. The growth and development, the health and strength of the body is determined, in the first instance, by our regular partaking of food―wholesome food properly masticated. The analogy holds good spiritually. The food which God has provided for our souls is His own Word, the heavenly manna; and that Word does not act upon us magically, but according to fixed principles instituted by God―the first of which is that it must be received by faith. For that reason, it is called “the word of faith” (Rom 10:8)―it is the Word to which faith is due, the Word which profits us not until received by faith. For the same reason, we read of being “nourished up in the word of faith” (lTi 4:6)―that is, the Word broken up into words and “mixed with faith.” Seed which is cast into the earth brings forth no fruit, unless it incorporates the fructifying virtues of the soil. And the Word of God, as it falls on our ears, or beneath our eyes, will produce no fruit―unless it be mixed with faith. It is faith which admits the Word into our hearts and gives it a subsistence in the soul. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). That is not a definition of what faith is, but a description of what faith produces.
The Divine, spiritual heavenly and supernatural objects, which are presented to us in the Word, appear intangible and nebulous to the unbeliever―but faith gives them substance and reality. Though the things hoped for be invisible; yet future, faith makes them sure and solid and gives them a real subsistence in the soul. Faith does for us spiritually what fancy does for us naturally. Faith gives the things promised by God a present actuality in the heart, and makes Christ and Heaven more certain than if seen by the physical eye.
The material food that we eat only advantages us as it is duly mixed with our saliva, swallowed, and then digested by the juices of the stomach. When that food is masticated and assimilated, it becomes a means of strength within us, being made a part of our bodies. In like manner, when the Word is properly meditated upon, “mixed with faith” and assimilated, it is a means of spiritual energy within us and becomes a part of our lives. When Truth is really believed, it becomes so united to the faith which receives it, that it is incorporated with it, is realized in the soul, and is taken up into that new nature whereby we live unto God. Only as the words of God are personally appropriated and spiritually digested do they become a living principle within us, energizing unto obedience. Faith is not a mere assent to the truth of the things presented, but is such a reception thereof, as gives them a real being in the soul so that they produce their proper effects.
We are bidden to “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word” (Jam 1:21). As a “graft” draws all the sap of the stock unto itself, so when the Word is “engrafted” into us, it causes the faculties of the soul―our thoughts, affections, energies and wills―to serve God. When Christ spoke of His disciples as branches of the Vine, He said, “the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine.” To which, He added, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you” (Joh 15:4, 7)―not only do our persons need to be engrafted into Christ, but in order to fruitfulness, His words must be engrafted into bs.
By receiving the Word in faith and meekness, it becomes incorporated with the soul; and as the nature of the stock and graft become one common principle of fruit-bearing, so the Word received by faith into the soul becomes one common principle of obedience. We are also exhorted to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16), and that can only be done by “mixing faith” with it. One great aid to that is to ruminate frequently upon some portion of Scripture. The word “ruminate” signifies to “chew the cud,” as all clean animals do―that is, those that were “clean” under the Mosaic law. But the counterpart in us is to muse upon what we have heard or read, which is the best aid there is for a weak memory. Meditation stands to reading, as mastication does to eating. If we are to “mix faith” with the words of God, we must fix the mind on them. That is the force of the contrast presented in James 1:23-25―the ideal and profitless hearer of the Word is likened “unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass,” but “straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” “But whoso looketh [bows down and inquires] into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
As we meditate upon the Word and mix faith therewith (appropriate it to ourselves), it sets love a-work: “While I was musing the fire burned” (Psa 39:3)! As the Truth is believed, and its purity, its sweetness, its value, its suitability unto our case is realised in the soul―under such a consideration of it, love is drawn forth unto its Author, and obedience becomes easy. In this way, a delight for the things of God is increased within us, and we perceive them to be excellent and precious. Faith makes the soul in love with spiritual things, and love fills us with the desires after them. By the Word being incorporated into the soul, its natural operations are changed and moved to the production of spiritual effects; unto which, previously, it had no virtue, no desire, no strength. Finally, as faith is mixed with the Word of God, it transmutes it into earnest prayer. What has been pointed out above of the Word in general, pertains to each part of it in particular.
Take its doctrinal parts: They will profit you nothing, unless faith be mixed with them; that is, until carnal reasoning on them is completely set aside, and I receive them unhesitatingly as a part of Divine revelation unto me personally. So it is with its precepts. Said the Psalmist, “I have believed thy commandments” (Psa 119:66); that is, he regarded them as addressed to himself personally, as Divine laws which must regulate his life, and he applied them to his own walk. So with the promises: Where they are given in the plural number, faith puts in its claim and individualizes them; and for the personal pronouns, substitutes my own name. Equally so with the Divine warnings and threatenings: Not until I view them as meaning what they say, and as addressed to myself individually, do they have any effect upon me; but when I mix faith with them, I tremble at God’s Word (Isa 66:2).
FAITH AS A SHIELD
Studies in the Scriptures September 1945
A shield is a weapon of defense, held in front of the person to prevent the missiles of the foe injuring the body. A “shield” then is a means of protection. In Scripture, it is used as a metaphor of that which affords security against the assaults of the Devil. Varied indeed are the shifts and shields which professing Christians employ. Some trust in the sufficiency of carnal reasoning to repel the attacks which Satan makes on their souls. Some shelter behind human traditions―and poor protection they give! Some seek refuge beneath the shield of fatalism, but get sorely wounded.
It is indeed blessedly true that whatsoever cometh to pass was eternally foreordained by God;
yet, that truth was not revealed in Scripture as a rule for us to walk by. Others attempt to hide behind an avowed inability to do anything to help themselves, though they act very differently when menaced by physical perils! Others take presumption for their shield: Heedless of warnings and reckless of dangers, they imagine themselves to be strong and proof against the attacks of Satan. Peter fell through self-confidence!
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph 6:16). This is one of the seven pieces of the “armour of God,” which the Christian is bidden to “take unto” himself and “put on,” in order that he may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil (Eph 6:11-17)―here likened unto “fiery darts” because his temptations are noiseless, swift, piercing, and dangerous, designed to enflame our lusts. And as we are exhorted to “resist stedfast in the faith” (1Pe 5:9), our Adversary the Devil, who “as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1Pe 5:8), so here, we are told “above all, [to be] taking the shield of faith” (Eph 6:16), for that is the only effectual “shield” which will stand the soul in good stead when the Enemy launches his attack upon us. The “above all” has a double force: First, it means over all the other pieces of armour, serving as a protecting roof above them. The shield of the ancients was made of light but hard metal, having a loop attached to the inner side, through which the hand was thrust to secure a firm hold; and then, the shield could be raised or lowered according as need required.
The different pieces of armour represent the various spiritual graces of the Christian, and the “above all” in our text signifies, second, pre-eminently, chiefly, supremely. It is an all-important and essential thing that we should take the shield of faith. First, because it is to guard the whole man. Satan assaults the head, seeking to deceive with subtle error and false doctrine, or by unsettling us with doubts. Nothing but faith will enable us to retain what we have received from the Word. When Satan calls that Word in question, faith will interpose with “It is written,” written by Him who “cannot lie” (Ti 1:2)―and that is an effectual shield. He assails the heart, seeking to get us to question the love of God in the day of adversity, or to draw out our affections world-ward in the day of prosperity; but faith declares, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15), and will esteem “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb 11:26).
Or he may direct his fiery darts at your knees, telling you it is vain to pray, for God will not hear you; but faith lays hold of one of the prayer promises and betakes itself to the throne of grace. But the “above all” signifies not only that “the shield of faith” is for guarding the whole man, but also that it is essential for the preservation of our other graces. As Spurgeon well said in his sermon on this verse, “The man of God is to put on the girdle and the breastplate, and he is also to be shod and wear his helmet. Though these are all armour, faith is an armour for his armour; it is not only a defence for him, but a defence for his defences.” In other words, unless faith be kept healthy and active, the other graces will languish and be helpless. As Charnock says, “Other graces may fail and the soul recover, but if faith failed, all would be lost.” Satan will attack our sincerity by attempting to sever the girdle of truth (Eph 6:14), and only faith in exercise will preserve our sincerity. He will attack our practical righteousness or holiness, seeking to batter in “the breastplate” (Eph 6:14); and only faith will enable us to say with Joseph, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9)! All the Christian graces need Divine grace to preserve them, and that grace is given in response to the exercise of faith.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith” (Eph 6:16). The faith which God has given to His child is to be made use of. It is to perform varied duties and is fitted to accomplish many useful ends. Itis not only the instrument by which the soul feeds on God’s Word, but it is also the grand defensive weapon for protecting the soul against Satan’s temptations. Since the Christian’s faith was imparted by God, it turns to God as its Object. Such a faith is not grounded on fancies and feelings, dreams and visions, but is based upon and built up by the Word. Faith credits the testimony of Holy Writ: It does not regard the Devil as a fiction, but as a solemn reality; and views sin not as a trifle, but as that “abominable thing” which God hates (Jer 44:4). It does not look upon the warnings and threatenings of Scripture as mere bogies, but as danger-signals, which we disregard at our peril. And therefore, as the Psalmist declared, “His truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (Psa 91:4). If the saint be “girt about with truth” (Eph 6:14), his soul would will be more secure against the fiercest assault of Satan than was the body of the knight of old who went forth into battle clad in this coat of mail.
Now, as the best of shields is of no value to the soldier in the day of battle, unless he uses it, so faith is of no avail to the Christian when tempted by the Devil, unless he has it in exercise. There is a sacred art in being able to handle the shield of faith, and that art consists of having God’s Word stored in our hearts, and then drawing promptly upon the same in the hour of need.
Let us be very simple and practical. If tempted to covetousness, I must use that Word, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Mat 6:19). If solicited by evil companions, I must heed that injunction, “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Pro 1:10), and that will prove an effectual shield. If the Devil seeks to enkindle anger or bitterness against a brother or sister, and I lay hold of the precept, “Be kindly affectioned one to another” (Rom 12:10), his fiery darts will be quenched. It is because the details of Scripture have so little place in our meditations that Satan trips us so frequently. How pertinent was the Saviour’s responses to the wiles of Satan! Without modification, could He say, “By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Psa 17:4).
But faith is not only to deliver from Satan’s solicitations to evil, but also from his temptations to fears and frights, despondency and despair; and therefore, it must make use of the Divine promises, as well as precepts. There must be full confidence in God’s faithfulness and power to make good His pledges. The Devil will tell you, ‘Things will be so bad after the war is over, and the coffers of the government so empty, that you will starve;’ but faith will repel his dart with, “My God shall supply all your need” (Phi 4:19). He may argue, ‘Things will come to such a pass that no servant of Christ will be allowed to minister unto the saints;’ but faith will quench that dart with the grand promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb 13:5). He may answer,
‘But your corruptions will prove too strong for you;’ ‘No,’ replies faith, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phi 1:6). ‘But,’ continues Satan, ‘you are weak, and I shall yet destroy you!’ ‘No,’ says faith, ‘Christ gives to the feeblest of His sheep eternal life, and none shall pluck them out of His hand’ (Joh 10:28-29). That is what we understand by using faith as a shield.
Some may be inclined to object unto what is said above, by pointing out that the implication throughout is that the Christian has it in his own unaided power to make use of faith whenever he pleases; whereas, in fact, he is as much dependent upon God for the motions of his faith, as he was for the original impartation of it. That is not disputed; but is it relevant? We are not discussing the Christian’s ability or his inability, but rather, are pressing one phase of his accountability; nd in so doing, we are but emulating the apostle. After telling the saints they were opposed by the whole of the organized forces of Satan, he bade them, “Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Eph 6:13); and then, specified the use they were to make of each particular part of their armour. Therein, he was enforcing the Christian’s responsibility, and he did not weaken―or rather, annul the same―by adding, ‘though of yourselves, ye are incapable of so doing.’ Not so did the Divinely-inspired teacher act!
While it is true that the Christian is wholly dependent upon God; yet, it is not true that he is wholly impotent as the non-Christian―to insist that he is, is to deny that regeneration has effected any radical change in him, that there is an essential difference between those who have been made new creatures in Christ, and those who are dead in trespasses and sins. If the Christian’s faith be weak and sickly, the fault is entirely his own. The way to obtain more faith is to exercise that which we already have―see Luke 8:18. The best way to exercise the faith we have is to expectantly ask the Lord for an increase of it―Luke 17:5. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phi 4:13).
FAITH AS AN OVERCOMER
Studies in the Scriptures October 1945
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1Jo 5:4). Four questions call for answer: Why “whatsoever” rather than “whosoever”? What is “the world” which is to be overcome? How does faith overcome it? What is the extent of its victory? The persons spoken of are the regenerate, and “whatsoever” is used because it takes in whatever may be their station or situation in this life. Whosoever is born of God, no matter what his rank or situation, “overcometh the world.” Regeneration is wrought equal and alike in all, and it produces the same fruits and effects in all, as it respects the essentials of godliness. It is not drawn forth into exercise and act in all alike, for there are particular duties to be performed and particular graces to be exercised―according to such times and places as are personal, but not universal―as, for example, one called to endure martyrdom. But whatsoever [person] is born of God [no matter how distinguished from others by His providence] overcometh the world.”
The “world” is a term which is used in Scripture with many shades of meaning. Sometimes it means the earth; at others, the Church of Christ; at others, empty professors. When used in an ethical or religious sense, it denotes that system over which Satan presides as “prince” (Joh 14:30) or as “god” (2Co 4:4)―the supreme director of all false religions. Since there is nothing which the Devil hates so much as the Gospel, his main activities are engaged in the corrupting of it, in deceiving souls by plausible counterfeits. But that “faith” in Christ and His salvation―as results from a Scriptural knowledge of Him, imparted to the spiritual mind by the light and teaching of the Holy Spirit―sees through Satan’s imitations. Only by a believing reception of the Truth can error be overcome. One of the fruits of the new birth, then, is a faith which not only enables its possessor to overcome the sensual and sinful customs, and the carnal maxims and policies by which the profane world is regulated, but also the lying delusions and errors by which the professing world is fatally deceived.
1 John 5:4 opens with “For,” which intimates the reason why that to the regenerate the commandments of God “are not grievous” (1Jo 5:3); so in this verse, “the world” signifies whatever has the effect of rendering the Divine precepts distasteful to men. The “world” is in direct antagonism to God and His people, and we may detect its presence and identify it with certainty by perceiving the effect it produces on our hearts in this way: The world is that which ministers to the carnal nature―be it persons or things―and which tends to render obedience to God irksome and unpleasant. Any one or any thing which draws your heart away from God and His authority is for you “the world.” Whatever lessens your estimate of Christ and heavenly things, and hinders practical piety is, for you, “the world”―be it the cares of this life, riches, receiving honour from men, social prestige and pomp, the fear of man lest you be dubbed “peculiar” or “fanatical” is, for you, “the world”―and either you overcome it, or it will fatally overcome you.
Now, the only thing which will or can “overcome the world” is a God-given, but self-exercised faith. And faith does so, first, by receiving into the heart God’s infallible testimony of the same. He declares that “the world” is a corrupt, evanescent, hostile thing, which shall yet be destroyed by Him. His Holy Word teaches that the world is “evil” (Gal 1:4), that “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1Jo 2:16), that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1Jo 5:19) and shall yet be “burned up” (2Pe 3:10). As faith accepts God’s verdict of it, the mind is spiritually enlightened; and its possessor views it as a worthless, dangerous, and detestable thing. Second, by obeying the Divine commands concerning it, God has bidden us, “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2), “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1Jo 2:15), and warns us that “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jam 4:4). By heeding the Divine precepts, its spell over the heart is broken.
Third, by occupying the soul with more glorious, soul-delighting and satisfying objects. We often hear and see 2 Corinthians 4:16 or 17 quoted, but rarely the explanatory words which follow.
The daily renewing of the inner man and our afflictions working for us an eternal weight of glory are qualified by: “While we 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” (2Co 4:18). The more the substance of the world to come engages the heart, the less hold will the shadows of this world have upon it. Thus, faith wrought in the saints of old: “For ye…took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb 10:34). “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:9-0).
Fourth, by drawing out the heart unto Christ. As it was, by fleeing to Him for refuge that the soul was first delivered from the power and thraldom of this world, so it is throughout the Christian life. The more we cultivate real communion with Christ, the less attraction will the baubles of this world have for us. The strength of temptation lies entirely in the bent of our affections, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:21). While Christ is beheld as “the chiefest among ten thousand” (Song 5:10) as “altogether lovely” (Song 5:16), the things which charm the poor worldling will repel us. Moreover, as faith beholds in the mirror of the Word, the “glory of the Lord,” the soul itself is “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2Co 3:18). The world gains the victory over the unregenerate by captivating their affections and capturing their wills; but the saint overcomes the world, because his affections are set upon Christ and his will yielded to Him.
What is the extent of the Christian’s victory? Through temporary weakness of faith, he may neglect the means of grace and fall into sin, yet his soul will be so wretched that he will return to Christ for cleansing and fresh supplies of grace. “Though the conflict of grace with corrupt nature, and the attractions and terrors of the world, is often very sharp, and though regenerate men may be baffled, cast down, and appear slain in the battle; yet the Divine life within him, being invigorated by the Holy Spirit, will again excite him to arise and renew the conflict with redoubled fortitude and resolution; so that at length, the victory will be his decidedly” (Thomas Scott, 1747-1821). The life of faith is a “fight” (1Ti 6:12), a warfare in which there are no furloughs or “leaves,” and our success therein depends upon renouncing our own strength and counting solely on the sufficiency of Christ’s grace.
Here, then, we have a sure criterion by which we may determine our Christian progress or spiritual growth. If the things of this world have a decreasing power over me, then my faith is becoming stronger. If I am holding more lightly the things most prized by the ungodly, then I must be increasing in an experimental and soul-satisfying knowledge of Christ. If I be less cast down when some of the riches and comforts of this world be taken from me, then that is evidence they have less hold upon me. If I find the company of the most cultured and charming worldlings have a dampening effect upon my spirit, and I am happy when relieved of their presence, then my faith is overcoming the world. Yet the tense of the verb must not be overlooked: Faith which “overcometh the world” (1Jo 5:4)―not which “has overcome.” So far from being an immediate achievement, it is a lifelong business, a prolonged and continuous strife.
“O may my heart be occupied,
So wholly, Lord, with Thee,
That with Thy beauty satisfied,
I elsewhere none may see.”