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Faith and it's Relation to Salvation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sylvester Hassell   

The Gospel Messenger—May 1898

Faith is “a divinely wrought, loving, and hearty re­liance upon God and His promise of salvation through Christ.” This is the best definition of evangelical faith that I have ever seen. It is the definition given in the latest, largest, and best dictionary of the English language—Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary. Like all the other results of the latest and highest scholar­ship of the world (which is nothing but the most exact attainable literary truth), it is a confirmation of the scriptural correctness of the doctrine of salvation held by the Primitive Baptists. The more closely and deeply persons who really desire to know the truth search the Scriptures, the more thoroughly are they convinced that salvation is wholly of the Lord—of His glorious purpose in eternity, His gracious redemption and regeneration in time, and His gracious consummation in the morn­ing of the resurrection. Faith itself, instead of being a work, wholly or partly of the sinner, and a condition or prerequisite of salvation, is divinely wrought, is the work of God in the sinner, and is thus an integral part and evidence of his salvation. Paul’s description (in Heb. xi. 1) of those characteristics of faith upon which he bases his exhortation to lifelong perseverance in the service of God, is in perfect accordance with the definition quoted from the Standard Dictionary. He says that “faith is the substance (the substantiation) of things hoped for, the evidence (the demonstration, the convinc­ing proof) of things not seen. Certainly no power but that of God can substantiate and demonstrate to His people, in every land and age, the absolute certainty of unseen, spiritual, and eternal realities, and enable them to live and labor and suffer and die in the steadfast con­viction of the great truths of eternity though not seen by the natural senses.

The Scriptures are so plain upon the subject that all of the ablest Protestant and even Catholic authors frankly admit that faith is the gift of God, the work of God, the fruit of His Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 3—11; 2 Cor. iv, 5, 13; Gal. v. 22; Eph. i. 19—23; ii. 8—10; Philip. i. 29; Heb. xii. 2: John i. 12. 13; vi. 29, 37, 44. 65; x.. 26—30; xvii. 1—3. 8—10: Acts xiii. 48; xiv. 27; 1 Joh v. 1.)

The word faith occurs two hundred and forty-seven times in the Scriptures; and a comprehensive view of all these passages shows that, as understood by the in­spired writers, faith is an experimental manifestation, a conscious realization of personal and spiritual union with Christ. It is the root-grace, from which spring all the other graces of the Spirit, reverence, fear, repen­tance, hope, love, joy, peace, thankfulness, contentment, humility, self-denial, patience, resignation, fortitude, zeal, and sincerity; and faith is blended with all these gracious emotions and their exercises. Even in that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, and in evangelical repentance towards God for sins against Him, there is latent of hidden faith, just as there may be in a liquid a dissolved and unseen solid; and this latent faith, while it does not comfort, yet does some­thing even more important in humbling the soul and caus­ing it to hate sin; we cannot fear God or repent toward Him unless we really believe in Him; it is simply an increase of true faith, when we not only fear and repent towards God, but also realize a loving and hearty trust in Christ as His perfect Son and our all-sufficient Saviour.

Faith has been called the eye, the ear, the tongue, the hand, and the foot of the renewed soul; it is the organ of the life of Christ in the soul—the method in which that life manifests itself. It is looking to Christ, hear­ing Him, tasting, eating, and praising Him, laying hold upon Him, receiving Him, coming to Him, fleeing unto Him, and resting upon Him. Evangelical faith is not merely intellectual belief: but, mingled with such be­lief, it is love, at the sight of an object who is altogether lovely; and gratitude, at the sight of an object who has done so much, even to the laying down of His life for us: and desire, at the sight of an object who in all re­spects is so desirable; and trust, at the sight of an ob­ject who has given such proofs of His trustworthiness; and wonder, when the soul hears Christ say, “Come unto Me, thou who didst pierce Me, come to this bosom which thou didst cause to bleed, and I will shelter and caress thee there”; and sorrow, when, through gushing tears, the witnesses of its contrition, the soul looks on Him whom it has pierced; and hope, for if this Saviour, so beneficent and so trustworthy, is ours, then what is there we may not hope for; and complacency, for now having found Christ Himself, the soul has found all its salvation and all its desire.” The blessed object of evangelical faith is always one and unchangeable—the eternal Son of God, our precious Saviour. “Just as the same sun which lights up the grey morning, also kindles the blaze of noonday, and floods with mellowed rays the evening sky, so is the same Jesus the object of faith from its commencement to its close—He is the first, and He is the last—its Alpha and its Omega. Its life-long exercise is to study Him; its life-long effort is to please Him; its life-long delight is to enjoy Him; and its life­long hope is, when life is over, to be with Him in His Father‘s house above. Yes, blessed Jesus, as my faith gathers experience, it will be of Thee; as it becomes more active, it will be for Thee; as it clings more, it will be to Thee; as it loves more, it will still be Thee. For­get Thee, 0 Jesus, my first, my truest Friend; grow weary of Thee, my constant and unchanging Benefactor: seek another than Thee, Thou chosen of my heart; turn away from Thee, who didst not turn from me when I came to Thee, a poor, miserable sinner; deny Thee, who didst not disown me when] was in misery and want and wretchedness; cease to devote my life, my all to Thee, who hast given Thy life and Thine all for me! No, exclaims faith, never can I forget Thee, never grow weary of Thee, never turn from Thee, or deny Thee, or cease to live for Thee. When the storms of affliction come, let me hear Thy voice, that Thou art near me; when my sky is bright, be Thou its sun; when I enter the sanctuary, be it Thy salutation to greet me with peace; when I kneel at the footstool, be Thy name upon my lips; when I partake of the bread and wine of the communion, be Thou present to me in these Thy sym­bols: while I lice, be Thou my life; when I die, be Thou my resurrection; when I enter heaven, be Thou the first to welcome me: and while through endless years I touch the golden harp, be Thou my theme, my first, my last, my only Saviour!”

In an act of faith, of course it is not God who believes (for God believes nothing, He knows all things, but it is the creature who believes; yet the Scriptures already cited prove that the revelation and power of God cause the faith, whether we regard faith as a feeling, act, principle, habit, or state of the soul. And when the Scriptures state that we are saved, justified, sanctified, or kept by or through faith, the language is of an experimental nature, and the meaning is that, by or through believing in God, we experience or realize our interest in His saving, justifying, sanctifying, and keep­ing power—faith is the manner in which the power of God, the life of Christ, in our souls, manifests itself in our salvation. When Paul, quoting from Moses (Rom. iv. 3—25; Gen. xv. 6), says that Abraham’s faith was counted or imputed to him for righteousness, he plainly means as shown by the context and other Scriptures (Rom. iii. 21—31; v. 15—21; 1 Cor. i. 30, 31; 2 Cor. v. 2 1; Philip. iii. 3—11), that, not the act but the object of Abraham’s faith, the righteousness of God, the right­eousness of Christ, His active and passive obedience, all that Christ did and suffered, were imputed to Abra­ham for righteousness, and Abraham by faith realized, experienced such an imputation. The most intelligent and honest conditionalists admit that our faith does not really justify us, and that nothing but the merits of Christ, His obedience, death, and resurrection justifies us in the sight of God McClintock and Strong’s Cyclo­pedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Litera­ture. Vol. III, page 459: Vol. IV, page 1102). According to the Scriptures, our justification is gratuitous (Rom. iii. 24; Eph. ii. 5; Tit. iii. 7); Christ is our Surety (Heb. vii. 22; Isa. liii. 6, 11; 2 Cor. v. 21; 1 Pet. ii. 24); He is our propitiation (Rom. iii. 25; 1 John ii. 2: we are justified through Christ, or for His name, or His sake, or by his blood (Acts x. 43; xiii. 38, 39; Eph. i. iv. 32: Rom. v. 9; 1 John ii. 12); Christ is called ‘our righteousness’ (Jer. xxxiii. 0; 1 Cor. i. 30; Rom. x. 4); we are justified by His obedience or righteousness (Rom. v. 18, 19); and the righteousness that justifies us in God’s and Christ’s, as opposed to ours (Rom. i. 17; iii. 22; Philip. iii. 9).

We are said to be justified nor for or on account of our faith as a cause, but by or through faith, as a medium by or through which we realize our union with Christ and our interest in His righteousness. Our faith is imperfect; but God’s holy law requires a perfect obedience, such as only Christ could render. It is for nothing done by us and nothing done in us, that God justifies us, but only for the righteousness of Christ. It is the very essence of faith to utterly renounce all dependence upon self, and to rely entirely upon Christ. His righteousness, wisdom, and strength, for salvation.

Richard Watson, the ablest of Arminian theologians, in the article on “Faith.” in his Biblical and Theological Dictionary, well says: “Faith acknowledges on earth. as it will he perpetually acknowledged in heaven; that the whole salvation of sinful man, from the beginning to the last degree thereof, whereof there shall be no end, is from God’s freest love, Christ’s merit and intercession, His own gracious promise, and the power of His own Holy Spirit.” And in his article on the “Covenant,” he says: “By the covenant of grace there is conveyed that grace which enables a man to comply with the terms of it; the very circumstances which ren­dered the new covenant necessary, take away the pos­sibility of there being any merit upon our part : the faith by which the covenant is accepted is the gift of God; and all the good works by which Christians con­tinue to keep the covenant, originate in that change of character which is the fruit of the operation of His Spirit.”

 he faith of God’s elect is the effect and evidence of regeneration or the new birth (John i. 12. 13; iii. 3—16; 1 Pet. i. 21—23; 1 John v. 1); and it is the source or spring of obedience (2 Cor. iv. 13; Gal. v. 6; 1 Thess. i. 3; 2 Thess. i. Ii; Tit. iii. 8: Heb. xi; James ii.) Mere theoretical or historical or intellectual or moral faith or the faith of miracles are natural and perishing things (Mark i. 24; v. 7; James ii. 14—26; Matt. xiii. 20, 21; Mark iv. 16, 17; Luke viii. 13; Matt. vii. 22, 23; x. 1, 4; 1 Cor. xiii. 2); but true evangelical faith is spiritual and imperishable (John xvi. 13, 14; 1 Cor. xii. 3; Gal. v. 22; Matt. xvi. 16, 17; 2 Cor. iv. 5; Luke xxii. 32; John iii. 15, 16; vi. 47; x. 27—30; xvii. 3: Acts xiii. 48; Heb. x. 39; xii. 2; 1 Pet. i. 1—5, 9; 1 John ii. 27).

 he clear teaching of the Scriptures in regard to the salvation of sinners, is, that (1) God is the efficient cause: (2) His free grace or unmerited love or mercy is the moving cause; (3) the righteousness of Christ is the meritorious and procuring cause: (4) the regenerating and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit is the experi­mental cause; and (5) faith in the internal, and (6) obe­dience the external, evidence of God’s salvation; for which (7) all the glory belongs to God alone.


S.H.

 

 

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