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§ 2. The Psychological Nature of Faith.
Faith in the widest sense of the word, is assent to the truth, or the persuasion of the mind that a thing is true. In ordinary popular language we are said to believe whatever we regard as true. The primary element of faith is trust. The Hebrew word אָמַן means to sustain, to uphold. In the Niphal, to be firm, and, in a moral sense, to be trustworthy. In the Hiphil, to regard as firm, or trustworthy, to place trust or confidence in. In like manner the Greek πιστεύω (from πίστις, and that from πείθω, to persuade), means to trust, i.e., to be persuaded that a person or thing is trustworthy. Hence the epithet πιστός is applied to any one who is, and who shows himself to be, worthy of trust. In Latin credere (whence our word credit) has the same meaning. In mercantile matters it means to lend, to trust to; and then in general, to exercise trust in. “Crede mihi,” trust me, rely on my word. Fides (from fido, and that from πείθω), is also trust, confidence exercised in regard to any person or thing; then the disposition, or virtue which excites confidence; then the promise, declaration, or pledge which is the outward ground of confidence. In the cognate words, fidens, fidelis, fiducia, the same idea is prominent. The German word “Glaube” has the same general meaning. It is defined by Heinsius (Wörterbuch): “der Zustand des Gemüthes, da man eine Sache für wahr hält und sich darauf verlässt,” i.e., “that state of mind in which a man receives and relies upon a thing as true.” The English word “faith” is said to be from the Anglo-Saxon “fægan” to covenant. It is that state ef mind which a covenant requires or supposes; that is, it is confidence in a person or thing as trustworthy. “To believe,” is defined by the Latin “credere, fidem dare sive habere.” “The 43etymologists,” says Richardson, “do not attempt to account for this important word: it is undoubtedly formed on the Dut. Leven; Ger. Leben; A.-S. Lif-ian, Be-lif-ian; Goth. Liban, vivere, to live, or be-live, to dwell. Live or leve, be- or bi-live or leve, are used indifferently by old writers, whether to denote vivere or credere. . . . . To believe, then, is to live by or according to, to abide by; to guide, conduct, regulate, govern, or direct the life by; to take, accept, assume or adopt as a rule of life; and, consequently, to think, deem, or judge right; to be firmly persuaded of, to give credit to; to trust, or think trustworthy; to have or give faith or confidence; to confide, to think or deem faithful.”
The Primary Idea of Faith is Trust.
From all this it appears that the primary idea of faith is trust. The primary idea of truth is that which is trustworthy; that which sustains our expectations, which does not disappoint, because it really is what it is assumed or declared to be. It is opposed to the deceitful, the false, the unreal, the empty, and the worthless. To regard a thing as true, is to regard it as worthy of trust, as being what it purports to be. Faith, in the comprehensive and legitimate meaning of the word, therefore, is trust.
In accordance with this general idea of faith, Augustine6868De Prædestinatioe Sanctorum [II.], 5; Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1838, vol. x. p. 1849 b. says, “Credere, nihil aliud est, quam cum assensione cogitare.” Thus, also, Reid6969On the Intellectual Powers, Essay II. ch. xx.; Works, Edinburgh, 1849, pp. 237 b, 328 a, b. says, “Belief admits of all degrees, from the slightest suspicion to the fullest assurance. . . . . There are many operations of the mind in which . . . . we find belief to be an essential ingredient. . . . . Belief is an ingredient in consciousness, in perception, and in remembrance. . . . . We give the name of evidence to whatever is a ground of belief. . . . . What this evidence is, is more easily felt than described. . . . . The common occasions of life lead us to distinguish evidence into different kinds, . . . . such as the evidence of sense, the evidence of memory, the evidence of consciousness, the evidence of testimony, the evidence of axioms, the evidence of reasoning. . . . . They seem to me to agree only in this, that they are all fitted by nature to produce belief in the human mind.”44
The more limited Sense of the Word.
There is, however, in most cases a great difference between the general signification of a word and its special and characteristic meaning. Although, therefore, there is an element cf belief in all our cognitions, there is an important difference between what is strictly and properly called faith, and those states or acts of the mind which we designate as sight or perception, intuition, opinions, conclusions, or apodictic judgments. What that characteristic difference is, is the point to be determined. There are modes of statement on this subject current among a certain class of philosophers and theologians, which can hardly be regarded as definitions of faith. They take the word out of its ordinary and established meaning, or arbitrarily limit it to a special sphere of our mental operations. Thus Morell7070Philosophy of Religion. says, “Faith is the intuition of eternal verities.” But eternal verities are not the only objects of faith; nor is intuition the only mode of apprehending truth which is of the nature of belief. The same objections bear against the assertion that “Faith is the organ for the supernatural and divine; “or, as Eschenmayer expresses it,7171Die einfachste Dogmatik, Sec. 338; Tübingen, 1826, p. 376. “Ein vom Denken, Fühlen und Wollen verschiedenes, eigenthümliches Organ für das Ewige und Heilige; a special organ for the eternal and the holy.” The supernatural and divine, however, are not the exclusive objects even of religious faith. It is by faith we know that the worlds were made by the word of God; it was by faith Noah prepared the ark, and Abraham, being called of God, went out not knowing whither he went. The objects of faith in these cases are not what is meant by “eternal verities.” It is, moreover, an arbitrary assumption that faith is “a special organ,” even when things supernatural and divine are its object. Our nature is adapted to the reception of all kinds of truth of which we can have any idea. But it is not necessary to assume a special organ for historical truths, a special organ for scientific truths, and another for the general truths of revelation, and still another for “the eternal and the holy.” God has constituted us capable of belief, and the complex state of mind involved in the act of faith is of course different according to the nature of the truth believed, and the nature of the evidence on which our faith is founded. But this does not necessitate the assumption of a distinct organ for each kind of truth.45
Faith not to be regarded as simply a Christian Grace.
No less unsatisfactory are those descriptions of faith which regard it only in its character as a Christian and saving grace. Delitzsch, for example,7272Biblical Psychology, p. 174. describes faith as the most central act of our being; the return to God, the going out of our inner life to Him. “This longing after God s free, merciful love, as his own Word declares it, a longing, reaching forth, and grasping it; this naked, unselfish craving, feeling itself satisfied with nothing else than God’s promised grace; this eagerness, absorbing every ray of light that proceeds from God’s reconciled love; this convinced and safety-craving appropriation and clinging to the word of grace; this is faith. According to its nature, it is the pure receptive correlative of the word of promise; a means of approaching again to God, which, as the word itself, is appointed through the distance of God in consequence of sin; for faith has to confide in the word, in spite of all want of comprehension, want of sight, want of experience. No experimental actus reflexi belong to the nature of faith. It is, according to its nature, actia directa, to wit, fiducia supplex.” All this is doubtless true of the believer. He does thus long after God, and appropriate the assurance of his love, and cling to his promises of grace; but faith has a wider range than this. There are exercises of faith not included in this description, recorded in Scripture, and especially in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Erdmann7373Vorlesungen über Glauben und Wissen, von Johann Eduard Erdmann, Berlin, 1837, p. 30. says that religious faith, the faith on which the Scriptures lay so much stress, is, “Bewusstseyn der Versöhnung mit Gott, consciousness of reconciliation with God.” He insists that faith cannot be separated from its contents. It is not the man who holds this or that to be true, who is a believer; but the man who is convinced of a specific truth, namely, that he is reconciled with God. Calling faith a consciousness is not a definition of its nature. And limiting it to a consciousness of reconciliation with God is contrary to the usage of Scripture and of theology.
Definitions of Faith founded on its Subjective Nature.
The more common and generally received definitions of faith, may perhaps be reduced to three classes, all of which include the general idea of persuasion of the truth. But some seek the distinguishing 46character of faith in its subjective nature, others, in the nature of its object; others, in the nature of the evidence, or ground on which it rests.
Faith as distinguished from Opinion and Knowledge.
To the first of these classes belong the following definitions: Faith or belief is said to be a persuasion of the truth stronger than opinion, and weaker than knowledge. Metaphysicians divide the objects of our cognitions into the possible, the real, and the necessary. With regard to the merely possible we can form only conjectures, or opinions, more or less plausible or probable. With regard to things which the mind with greater or less confidence views as certain, although it cannot justify that confidence to itself or others, i.e., cannot demonstrate the certainty of the object, it is said to believe. What it is perfectly assured of, and can demonstrate to be true so as to coerce conviction, it is said to know. Thus Locke defines faith to be the assent of the mind to propositions which are probably, but not certainly true. Bailey7474Letters on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, London, 1855, pp. 75, 76. says, “I propose to confine it [belief or faith] first, to the effect on the mind of the premises in what is termed probable reasoning, or what I have named contingent reasoning — in a word the premises in all reasoning, but that which is demonstrative; and secondly, to the state of holding true when that state, far from being the effect of any premises discerned by the mind, is dissociated from all evidence.” To believe is to admit a thing as true, according to Kant, on grounds sufficient subjectively, insufficient objectively. Or, as more fully stated, “Holding for true, or the subjective validity of a judgment in relation to conviction (which is, at the same time, objectively valid) has the three following degrees: opinion, belief, and knowledge. Opinion is a consciously insufficient judgment, subjectively as well as objectively. Belief is subjectively sufficient, but is recognized as being objectively insufficient. Knowledge is both subjectively and objectively sufficient. Subjective sufficiency is termed conviction (for myself); objective sufficiency is termed certainty (for all).”7575Meiklejohn’s Translation of Critic of Pure Reason, London, 1855, p. 498. Erdmann7676Glauben und Wissen, Berlin, 1837, p. 29. says, “Man versteht unter Glauben eine jede Gewissheit, die geringer ist als das Wissen, und etwa stärker ist als ein blesses Meinen oder Fürmöglichhalten (z. B. ich glaube, dass es 47heute regnen wird).” “By faith is understood any persuasion which is weaker than knowledge, but somewhat stronger than a mere deeming possible or probable, as, e.g., I believe it will rain to-day.” This he gives as the commonly accepted meaning of the word, although he utterly repudiates it as a definition of religious faith.
It is urged in support of this definition of faith that with regard to everything of which we are not absolutely sure, and yet are persuaded or convinced of its truth, we say we believe. Thus with respect to things remembered; if the recollection is indistinct and uncertain, we say we think, e.g., we think we saw a certain person at a given time and place; we are not sure, but such is our impression. If our persuasion of the fact be stronger, we say we believe it. If we have, and can have, no doubt about it, we say we know it. In like manner the testimony of our senses may be so weak as to produce only a probability that the thing is as it appears; if clearer, it produces a belief more or less decided; if so clear as to preclude all doubt, the effect is knowledge. If we see a person at a distance, and we are entirely uncertain who it is, we can only say we think it is some one whom we know. If that persuasion becomes stronger, we say, we believe it is he. If perfectly sure, we say, we know it. In all these cases the only difference between opinion, belief, and knowledge, is their relative strength. The objects are the same, their relation to the mind is the same, and the ground or evidence on which they severally rest is of the same kind. It is said that it would be incorrect to say, “We believe that we slept in our house last night;” if perfectly sure of the fact. If a witness in a court of justice simply says, “I believe I was at a certain place at a given time,” his testimony would be of no value. He must be able to say that he is sure of the fact — that he knows it.
Objections to this Definition.
Of this definition of faith, it may be remarked, —
1. That the meaning which it assigns to the word is certainly legitimate, sustained by established usage. The states of mind expressed by the words, I think a thing to be true; I believe it; I know it, are distinguished from each other simply by the different degrees of certainty which enter into them respectively. The probable ground of this use of the word to believe, is, that there is more of the element of trust (or a voluntarily giving to evidence a greater influence on the mind than of necessity belongs 48to it), manifest in our consciousness, than is expressed by saying we think, or, we know. However this may be, it cannot be denied that the word belief often expresses a degree of conviction greater than opinion and less than knowledge.
2. But this is not the distinguishing characteristic of faith, or its differentia. There are exercises of faith into which this uncertainty does not enter. Some of the strongest convictions of which the mind is capable are beliefs. Even our assurance of the veracity of consciousness, the foundation of all other convictions, is of the nature of faith. So the primary truths which are, and must be assumed in all our researches and arguments, are beliefs. They are taken on trust. They cannot be proved. If any man denies them, there is nothing more to be said. He cannot be convinced. Sir William Hamilton7777Reid’s Works; edit. Edinburgh, 1849, note A, § 5, p. 760 b. says, “St. Austin accurately says, ‘We know what rests upon reason; we believe what rests upon authority.’ But reason itself must at last rest upon authority; for the original data of reason do not rest on reason, but are necessarily accepted by reason on the authority of what is beyond itself. These data are, therefore, in rigid propriety, beliefs or trusts. Thus it is that, in the last resort, we must, perforce, philosophically admit, that belief is the primary condition of reason, and not reason the ultimate ground of belief. We are compelled to surrender the proud Intellige ut credas of Abelard, to content ourselves with the humble Crede ut intelligas of Anselm.”
The same is true in other spheres. The effect on the mind produced by human testimony is universally recognized as faith. If that testimony is inadequate it does not preclude doubt; but it may be so strong as to make all doubt impossible. No sane man ean doubt the existence of such cities as London and Paris. But to most men that existence is not a matter of knowledge either intuitive or discursive. It is something taken on trust, on the authority of others; which taking on trust is admitted by philosophers, theologians, and the mass of men, to be a form of faith. Again, in some moral states of mind a man’s conviction of the reality of a future state of reward and punishment is as strong as his belief in his own existence, and much stronger than his confidence in the testimony of his senses. And yet a future state of existence is not a matter of knowledge. It is an object of faith, or a thing believed. We accordingly find that the Scriptures teach that there is a full assurance of faith; a faith which precludes 49the possibility of doubt. Paul says, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Tim. i. 12.) As Job had said ages before, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” The Apostle declares, Hebrews xi. 1, faith to be an ὑπόστασις and ἐλεγχος, than which no stronger terms could be selected to express assured conviction. The power, also, which the Bible attributes to faith as the controlling principle of life, as overcoming the world, subduing kingdoms, stopping the mouths of lions, quenching the violence of fire, turning to flight the armies of the aliens, is proof enough that it is no weak persuasion of the truth. That definition, therefore, which makes the characteristic of faith to be a measure of confidence greater than opinion, but less than knowledge, cannot be deemed satisfactory.
Faith not a Voluntary Conviction.
A second definition of faith, founded on its nature, is that which makes it “a voluntary conviction or persuasion of the truth.” This is a very old view of the matter. According to Theodoret,7878Græcarum Affectionum Curatio, sermo. i. edit. Commelinus, Heidelberg(?) 1592, p. 16, lines 11, 12. πίστις ἐστὶν ἑκούσιος τῆς ψυχῆς συγκατάθειτις, i.e., “a voluntary assent of the mind.” And Thomas Aquinas says,7979Summa, II. ii. quæst. ii. art. 9, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 8 b, of third set. “Credere est actus intellectus assentientis veritati divinæ ex imperio voluntatis a Deo motæ per gratiam.”8080Ibid. quæst. i. art. 4, pp. 3 b, 4 a, of third set. He distinguishes between knowledge and faith by representing the former as the conviction produced by the object itself seen intuitively or discursively (“sicut patet in principiis primis, . . . . vel . . . . sicut patet de conclusionibus”) to be true; whereas in the latter the mind is not sufficiently moved to assent “ab objecto proprio, sed per quandam electionem, voluntarie declinans in unam partem magis quam in alteram. Et siquidem hæc sit cum dubitatione et formidine alterius partis, erit opinio. Si autem sit cum certitudine absque tali formidine, erit fides.”
This definition admits of different explanations. The word “voluntary,” if its meaning be determined by the wide sense of the word “will,” includes every operation of the mind not purely intellectual. And therefore to say that faith is a voluntary assent is to say that faith is not merely a speculative assent, an act of the judgment pronouncing a thing to be true, but includes feeling. Nitsch, therefore, defines faith to be a “gefühlsmassiges Erkennen.” 50“Die Einheit des Gefühls und der Erkenntniss;8181System der Christlichen Lehre, Einl. II. A. § 8. 3, 5th edit. Bonn, 1844, p. 18. a knowledge or persuasion of truth combined with feeling, — the unity of feeling and knowledge.” But if the word “will” be taken in the sense of the power of self-determination, then nothing is voluntary which does not involve the exercise of that power. If in this sense faith be voluntary, then we must have the power to believe or disbelieve at pleasure. If we believe the truth, it is because we choose or determine ourselves to receive it; if we reject it, it is because we will to disbelieve it. The decision is determined neither by the nature of the object nor by the nature or degree of the evidence. Sometimes both of these meanings of the word voluntary seem to be combined by those who define faith to be a voluntary assent of the mind, or an assent of the intellect determined by the will. This appears from what Aquinas, for example, says when he discusses the question whether faith is a virtue. He argues that if faith be a virtue, which he admits it to be, it must include love, because love is the form or principle of all the virtues; and it must be self-determined because there could be no virtue in faith if it were the inevitable effect of the evidence or testimony. If a virtue, it must include an act of self-determination; we must decide to do what we have the power not to do.
Remarks on this Definition of Faith.
This definition of faith contains many elements of truth. In the first place: it is true that faith and feeling are often inseparable. They together constitute that state of mind to which the name faith is given. The perception of beauty is of necessity connected with the feeling of delight. Assent to moral truth involves the feeling of moral approbation. In like manner spiritual discernment (faith when the fruit of the Spirit) includes delight in the things of the Spirit, not only as true, but as beautiful and good. This is the difference between a living and dead faith. This is the portion of truth involved in the Romish doctrine of a formed and unformed faith. Faith (assent to the truth) connected with love is the fides formata; faith without love is fides informis. While, however, it is true that faith is often necessarily connected with feeling, and, therefore, in one sense of the term, is a voluntary assent, yet this is not always the csse. Whether feeling attends and enters into the exercise of faith, depends upon its object (or the thing believed) and the evidence on which it is founded. When the object of faith is 51speculative truth, or some historical event past or future; or when the evidence or testimony on which faith is founded is addressed only to the understanding and not to the conscience or to our emotional or religious nature, then faith does not involve feeling. We believe the great mass of historical facts to which we assent as true, simply on historical testimony, and without any feeling entering into, or necessarily connected with it. The same is true with regard to a large part of the contents of the Bible. They, to a great extent, are historical, or the predictions of historical events. When we believe what the Scriptures record concerning the creation, the deluge, the calling of Abraham, the overthrow of the cities of the plain, the history of Joseph, and the like, our faith does not include feeling. It is not an exercise of the will in either sense of that word. It is simply a rational conviction founded on sufficient evidence. It may be said, as Aquinas does say, that it is love or reverence towards God which inclines the will to believe such facts on the authority of his Word. But wicked men believe them, and cannot help believing them. A man can hardly be found who does not believe that the Israelites dwelt in Egypt, escaped from bondage, and took possession of the land of Canaan.
In the second place, it is true not only that faith is in many cases inseparable from feeling, but also that feeling has much influence in determining our faith. This is especially true when moral and religious truths are the objects of faith. Want of congeniality with the truth produces insensibility to the evidence by which it is supported. Our Lord said to the Jews, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” (John x. 26.) And in another place, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” (vii. 17.) And the Apostle says of those that are lost, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor. iv. 4.) The truth was present, attended by appropriate and abundant evidence, but there was no susceptibility. The defect was in the organ of vision, not in the want of light. The Scriptures uniformly refer the unbelief of those who reject the gospel to the state of their hearts. There can be no doubt that all the true children of God received Christ as their God and Saviour on the evidence which He gave of him divine character and mission, and that He was rejected only by the unrenewed and the wicked, and because of their wickedness. 52Hence unbelief is so great a sin. Men are condemned because they believe not on the only begotten Son of God. (John iii. 18.) All this is true. It is true of saving faith. But it is not true of all kinds of even religious faith; that is, of faith which has religious truth for its object. And, therefore, it cannot furnish the differentia or criterion to distinguish faith from other forms of assent to truth. There are states of mind not only popularly, but correctly called belief, of which it is not true that love, or congeniality, is an element. There is such a thing as dead faith, or orthodoxy. There is such a thing as speculative faith. Simon Magus believed. Even the devils believe. And if we turn to other than religious truths it is still more apparent that faith is not necessarily a voluntary assent of the mind. A man may hear of something most repugnant to his feelings, as, for example, of the triumph of a rival. He may at first refuse to believe it; but the testimony may become so strong as to force conviction. This conviction is, by common consent, faith or belief. It is not sight; it is not intuition; it is not a deduction; it is belief; a conviction founded on testimony. This subject, i.e., the connection between faith and feeling, will come up again in considering other definitions.
In the third place, if we take the word voluntary in the sense which implies volition or self-determination, it is still more evident that faith cannot be defined as voluntary assent. It is, indeed, a proverb that a man convinced, against his will remains unconvinced. But this is only a popular way of expressing the truth just conceded, namely, that the feelings have, in many cases, great influence in determining our faith. But, as just remarked, a man may be constrained to believe against his will. He may struggle against conviction; he may determine he will not believe, and yet conviction may be forced upon him. Napoleon, at the battle of Waterloo, hears that Grouchy is approaching. He gladly believes it. Soon the report reaches him that the advancing columns are Prussians. This he will not believe. Soon, however, as courier after courier confirms the unwelcome fact, he is forced to believe it. It is not true, therefore, that in faith as faith there is always, as Aquinas says, an election “voluntarie declinans in unam partem magis quam in alteram.” There is another frequent experience. We often hear men say they would give the world if they could believe. The dying Grotius said he would give all his learning for the simple faith of his unlettered servant. To tell a man he can believe if he will is to contradict 53his consciousness. He tries to believe. He earnestly prays for faith; but he cannot exercise it. It is true, as concerns the sinner in relation to the gospel, that this inability to believe arises from the state of his mind. But this state of the mind lies below the will. It cannot be determined or changed by the exercise of any voluntary power. On these grounds the definition of faith, whether as generic or religious, as a voluntary assent to truth, must be considered unsatisfactory.
Definitions founded on the Object of Faith.
The preceding definitions are all founded on the assumed subjective nature of faith. The next definition is of a different kind. It is founded on the nature of its object. Faith is said to be the persuasion of the truth of things not seen. This is a very old and familiar definition. “Quid est fides,” asks Augustine,8282In Joannis Evangelium Tractatus, XL. 9; Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1837, vol. iii. p. 2088 b. “nisi credere quod non vides.” And Lombard8383Liber Sententiarum, III. xxiii. B., edit. 1472(?). says, “Fides est virtus qua creduntur quæ non videntur.” Hence faith is said to be swallowed up in vision; and the one is contrasted with the other; as when the Apostle says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” And in Hebrews, eleventh chapter, all the objects of faith under the aspect in which it is considered in that chapter, are included under the categories of τὰ ἐλπιζόμενα and τὰ οὐ βλεπόμενα, “things hoped for, and things not seen.” The latter includes the former. “We hope,” says the Apostle, “for that we see not.” (Romans viii. 25.) The word sight, in this connection, may be taken in three senses. First, in its literal sense. We are not said to believe what we see with our eyes. What we see we know to be true. We believe that the planet Saturn is surrounded by a belt, and that Jupiter has four satellites, on the unanimous testimony of astronomers. But if we look through a telescope and see the belt of the one and the satellites of the other, our faith passes into knowledge. We believe there is such a city as Rome, and that it contains the Colosseum, Trajan’s Arch, and other monuments of antiquity. If we visit that city and see these things for ourselves, our faith becomes knowledge. The conviction is no stronger in the one case than in the other. We are just as sure there is such a city before having seen it, as though we had been there a hundred times. But the conviction is of a different kind. Secondly, the mind is said to see when it perceives an object of 54thought to be true in its own light, or by its own radiance. This mental vision may be either immediate or mediate — either intuitive or through a process of proof. A child may believe that the angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles, on the authority of his teacher. When he understands the demonstration of that proposition, his faith becomes knowledge. He sees it to be true. The objects of sense-perception, the objects of intuition, and what we recognize as true on a process of proof, are not, according to this definition of the term, objects of faith. We know what we see to be true; we believe when we recognize as true what we do not see. It is true that the same thing may be an object of faith and an object of knowledge, but not at the same time. We may recognize as true the being of God, or the immortality of the soul, because the propositions, “God is,” “the soul is immortal,” are susceptible of proof. The arguments in support of those propositions may completely satisfy our minds. But they are truths of revelation to be believed on the authority of God. These states of mind which we call knowledge and faith, are not identical, neither are they strictly coexisting. The effect produced by the demonstration is one thing. The effect produced by the testimony of God’s word, is another thing. Both include a persuasion of the truth. But that persuasion is in its nature different in the one case from what it is in the other, as it rests on different grounds. When the arguments are before the mind, the conviction which they produce is knowledge. When the testimony of God is before the mind, the conviction which it produces is faith. On this subject Thomas Aquinas says,8484Summa, II. ii. quæst. ii. art. 4, edit. Cologne, 1636, pp. 6 b, 7 a, of third set. “Necessarium est homini accipere per modum fidei non solum ea, quæ sunt supra rationem: sed etiam ea, quæ per rationem cognosci possunt. Et hoc propter tria, Primo quidem, ut citius homo ad veritatis divinæ cognitionem perveniat. . . . . Secundo, ut cognitio Dei sit communior. Multi enim in studio scientiæ proficere non possunt. . . . . Tertio modo proptor certitudinem. Ratio enim humana in rebus divinis est multum deficiens.”
Thirdly, under the “things not seen,” some would include all things not present to the mind. A distinction is made between presentative and representative knowledge. In the former the object is present at the time; we perceive it, we are conscious of it. In representative knowledge there is an object now present, representing an absent object. Thus we have the conception of a person or thing. That conception is present, but the thing 55represented is absent. It is not before the mind. It belongs to the category of things not seen. The conception which is present is the object of knowledge; the thing represented is an object of faith. That is, we know we have the conception; we believe that the thing which it represents, does or did exist. If we visit a particular place while present to our senses we know that it exists; when we come away and form an idea or conception of it, that is, when we recall it by an effort of memory, then we believe in its existence. “Whenever we have passed beyond presentative knowledge, and are assured of the reality of an absent object, there faith . . . . has entered as an element.”8585McCosh, Intuitions of the Mind, part II. book ii. ch. 1, edit. New York, 1860, p. 197.
Sir William Hamilton8686Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic, vol. i. “Metaphysics,” lect. xii. sub fin., edit. Boston, 1859, pp. 152, 153. says, “Properly speaking, we know only the actual and the present, and all real knowledge is an immediate knowledge. What is said to be mediately known, is, in truth, not known to be, but only believed to be.” This, it may be remarked in passing, would apply to all the propositions of Euclid. For they are “mediately known,” i.e., seen to be true by means of a process of proof. Speaking of memory, Hamilton says, “It is not a knowledge of the past at all; but a knowledge of the present and a belief of the past.” “We are said,” according to Dr. McCosh, “to know ourselves, and the objects presented to the senses and the representations (always however as presentations) in the mind; but to believe in objects which we have seen in time past, but which are not now present, and in objects which we have never seen, and very specially in objects which we can never fully know, such as an Infinite God.”8787Intuitions of the Mind, p. 198.
Objections to this Definition.
According to this view, we know what is present to the mind, and believe what is absent. The first objection to this representation is the ambiguity of the words present and absent as thus used. When is an object present? and when is it absent? It is easy to answer this question when the object is something material or an external event. Such objects are present (“præsensibus”) when they affect the senses; and absent when they do not. A city or building is present when we actually see it; absent, when we leave the place where it is, and recall the image of it. But how is it with propositions? The Bible says all men are sinners. The truth thus announced is present to the mind. 56We do not know it. We cannot prove it. But we believe it upon the authority of God. The Scriptures teach that Christ died as a ransom for many. Here, not only the historical fact that He died is announced, but the purpose for which He died. Here again, we have a truth present to the mind, which is an object of faith.
The second objection is involved in the first. The terms present and absent are not only ambiguous in this connection, but it is not true, as just stated, that an object must be absent in order to be an object of faith. The differentia, in other words, between knowledge and faith, is not found in the presence or absence of their objects. We can know what is absent, and we can believe what is present.
The third objection is, that the conviction we have of the reality or truth of what we distinctly remember is knowledge, and not distinctively faith, unless we choose to establish a new and arbitrary definition of the word knowledge. We know what is perceived by the senses; we know what the mind sees, either intuitively or discursively, is and must be true; and we know what we distinctly remember. The conviction is in all these cases of the same nature. In all it resolves itself into confidence in the veracity of consciousness. We are conscious that we perceive sensible objects. We are conscious that we cognize certain truths. We are conscious that we remember certain events. In all these cases this consciousness involves the conviction of the reality or truth of what is seen, mentally apprehended or remembered. This conviction is, or may be, as strong in any one of these cases as in either of the others; and it rests in all ultimately on the same ground. There is, therefore, no reason for calling one knowledge and the other belief. Memory is as much a knowledge of the past, as other forms of consciousness are a knowledge of the present.
The fourth objection is that to deny that memory gives us the knowledge of the past, is contrary to established usage. It is true we are said to believe that we remember such and such events, when we are uncertain about it. But this is because in one of the established meanings of the word, belief expresses a less degree of certainty than knowledge. But men never speak of believing past events in their experience concerning which they are absolutely certain. We know that we were alive yesterday. No man says he believes he has seen his father or mother or any intimate friend, whom he had known for years. Things distinctly remembered are known, and not merely believed.57
The definition which makes faith to be the persuasion of the truth of things not seen, is, however, correct, if by “things not seen” are meant things which are neither objects of the senses, nor of intuition, nor of demonstrative proof. But it does not seem to be correct to include among the “things not seen,” which are the special objects of faith, things remembered and not now present to mind. This definition of faith, while correct in limiting it as to its objects to things not seen, in the sense above stated, is nevertheless defective in not assigning the ground of our conviction of their truth. Why do we believe things to be true, which we have never seen and which we cannot prove? Different answers are given to that question; and, therefore, the definition which gives no answer to it, must be considered defective.
Definitions founded on the Nature of the Evidence on which Faith rests.
Some of the definitions of faith, as we have seen, are founded on its subjective nature; others on its objects. Besides these there are others which seek its distinguishing characteristic in the ground on which the conviction which it includes, rests. The first of these is that which makes faith to be a conviction or persuasion of truth founded on feeling. This is by many regarded as the one most generally received. Hase8888Dogmatik, 3d edit. Leipzig, 1842, p. 307. says, “Every cultivated language has a word for that form of conviction which, in opposition to the self-evident and demonstrable, rests on moral and emotional grounds.” That word in Greek is πίστις; in English “faith.” In his “Hutterus Redivivus,”8989Sixth edit. Leipzig, 1845, p. 4. he says, “The common idea of faith is: unmittelbar Fürwahrhalten, ohne Vermittelung eines Schlussbeweises, durch Neigung und Bedürfniss,” i.e., “A persuasion of the truth, without the intervention of argument, determined by inclination and inward necessity.” He quotes the definition of faith by Twesten, as “a persuasion or conviction of truth produced by feeling;” and that of Nitzsch, given above, “the unity of knowledge and feeling.” Strauss9090Dogmatik, § 20, edit. Tübingen and Stuttgart, 1840, vol. i. p. 282. says, “The way in which a man appropriates the contents of a revelation, the inward ascent which he yields to the contents of the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Church, not because of critical or philosophical research, but often in opposition to them 58overpowered by a feeling which the Evangelical Church calls the testimony of the Spirit, but which in fact is only the perception of the identity of his own religious life with that portrayed in the Scripture and prevailing in the Church, — this assent determined by feeling — in ecclesiastical language, is called Faith.” Again,9191Dogmatik, edit. Tübingen and Stuttgart, 1840, vol. i. p. 298. he says, “The pious man receives religious truth because he feels its reality, and because it satisfies his religious wants,” and, therefore, he adds, “No religion was ever propagated by means of arguments addressed to the understanding, or of historical or philosophical proofs, and this is undeniably true of Christianity.” Every preacher of a new religion assumes in those to whom he presents it, an unsatisfied religious necessity, and all he has to do is to make them feel that such necessity is met by the religion which he proposes. Celsus, he tells us, made it a ground of reproach against the Christians that they believed blindly, that they could not justify the doctrines which they held at the bar of reason. To this Origen answered, that this was true only of the people; that with the educated, faith was elevated into knowledge, and Christianity transformed into a philosophy. The Church was divided between believers and knowers. The relation between faith and knowledge, between religion and philosophy, has been the subject of controversy from that day to this. Some took the ground of Origen and of the Alexandrian school generally, that it is incumbent on educated Christians to justify their doctrines at the bar of reason, and prove them to be true of philosophical grounds. Others held that the truths of revelation were, at least in many cases, of a kind which did not admit of philosophical demonstration, although they were not on that account to be regarded as contrary to reason, but only as beyond its sphere. Others, again, taught that there is a direct conflict between faith and knowledge; that what the believing Christian holds to be true, can be shown by the philosopher to be false. This is Strauss’s own doctrine, and, therefore, he concludes his long discussion of this point by saying, “The believer should let the knower go his own way in peace, just as the knower does the believer. We leave them their faith, let them leave us our philosophy. . . . . There have been enough of false irenical attempts. Henceforth only separation of opposing principles can lead to any good.”9292Ibid. p. 356. On the same page he admits the great truth, “That human nature has one excellent characteristic: what any man feels is for him a spiritual necessity, he allows no man to take from him.”59
Remarks on this Definition.
With regard to the definition of faith which makes it a conviction founded on feeling, it may be remarked, —
First, That there are forms of faith of which this is not true. As remarked above, when treating of the cognate definition of faith as a voluntary assent of the mind, it is not true of faith in general. We often believe unwillingly, and what is utterly repugnant to our feelings.
Secondly, It is not true even of religious faith, or faith which has religious truth for its object. For there may be faith without love, i.e., a speculative, or dead faith.
Thirdly, It is not true of many of the exercises of faith in good men. Isaac believed that Jacob would be preferred to Esau, sorely against his will. Jacob believed that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt. The prophets believed in the seventy years captivity of their countrymen. The Apostles believed that a great apostasy in the Church was to occur between their age and the second coming of the Lord. The answer of Thomas Aquinas to this, is, that a man is constrained by his will (i.e., his feelings) to believe in the Scriptures, and then he believes all the Scriptures contain. So that his faith, even in the class of truths just referred to, rests ultimately on feeling. But this answer is unsatisfactory. For if the question is asked, Why did the prophets believe in the captivity, and the Apostles in the apostasy? the answer would be, not from the effect of these truths upon their feelings, but on the authority of God. And if it be further asked, Why did they believe the testimony of God? the answer may be because God’s testimony carries conviction. He can make his voice heard even by the deaf or the dead. Or, the answer may be, because they were good men. But in either case, the question carries us beyond the ground of their faith. They believe because God had revealed the facts referred to. Their goodness may have rendered them susceptible to the evidence afforded, but it did not constitute that evidence.
Fourthly, It is admitted that the exercise of saving faith, i.e., of that faith which is the fruit of the Spirit and product of regeneration, is attended by feeling appropriate to its object. But this is to be referred to the nature of the object. If we believe a good report, the effect is joy; if an evil report, the effect is sorrow. The perception of beauty produces delight; of moral excellence, a glow of approbation, of spiritual things, in many cases. a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.60
Fifthly, It is also true that all these truths, if not all truth, have a sell-evidencing light, which cannot be apprehended without a conviction that it really is what it is apprehended as being. It may also be admitted, that so far as the consciousness of true believers is concerned, the evidence of truth is the truth itself; in other words, that the ground of their faith is, in one sense, subjective. They see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and therefore believe that He is God manifested in the flesh. They see that the representations made by the Scriptures of the sinfulness, guilt, and helplessness of fallen man, correspond with their own inward experience, and they are therefore constrained to receive these representations as true. They see that the plan of salvation proposed in the Bible suits their necessities, their moral judgments and religious aspirations, they therefore embrace it. All this is true, but it does not prove faith to be a conviction founded on feeling; for there are many forms of faith which confessedly are not founded on feeling; and even in the case of true believers, their feelings are not the ultimate ground of faith. They always fall back on the authority of God, who is regarded as the author of these feelings, through which the testimony of the Spirit is revealed to the consciousness. “We may be moved and induced,” says the “Westminster Confession,”9393Chapter i. § 5. “by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverend esteem of the Holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellences, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.” The ultimate ground of faith, therefore, is the witness of the Spirit.
Faith a Conviction of the Truth founded on Testimony.
The only other definition of faith to be considered, is that which makes it, a conviction of truth founded on testimony. We have already seen that Augustine says, “We know what rests upon reason; we believe what rests upon authority.” A definition to which Sir William Hamilton gives his adhesion.9494See page 46. In the 61Alexandrian School also, the Christian πίστις, was Auctoritäts-Glaube, a faith founded on authority, opposed, on the one hand, to the heathen ἐπιστήμη, and on the other to the Christian γνῶσις, or philosophical explanation and proof of the truths believed. Among the school-men also, this was the prevalent idea. When they defined faith to be the persuasion of things not seen, they meant things which we receive as true on authority, and not because we either know or can prove them. Hence it was constantly said, faith is human when it rests on the testimony of men; divine when it rests on the testimony of God. Thomas Aquinas9595Summa, II. ii. quæst. 1. art 1. Cologne, 1640, p. 2, a, of third set. says, “Non fides, de qua loquimur, assentit alicui, nisi quia est a Deo revelatum.” “Faith, of which we speak, assents to nothing except because it is revealed by God.” We believe on the authority of God, and not because we see, know, or feel a thing to be true. This is the purport of the teaching of the great body of the scholastic divines. Such also was the doctrine of the Reformers, and of the theologians of the subsequent age, both Lutheran and Reformed. Speaking of assent, which he regards as the second act or element of faith, Aquinas says, “Hic actus fidei non rerum evidentia aut causarum et proprietatum notitia, sed Dei dicentis infallibili auctoritate.” Turrettin9696Institutio, XV. ix. 3, edit. Edinburgh, 1847, vol. ii. p. 497. says, “Non quæritur, An fides sit scientia, quæ habeat evidentiam: Sic enim distinguitur a scientia, quæ habet assensum certum et evidentem, qui nititur ratione clara et certa, et ab opinione, quæ nititur ratione tantum probabili; ubi fides notat assensum certum quidem, sed inevidentem, qui non ratione, sed testimonio divino nititur.” De Moor9797Commentarius in Johannis Marckii Compendium, cap. xxii. § 4, Leyden, 1766, vol. iv. p. 299. says, “Fides subjectiva est persuasio de veritate rei, alterius testimonio nixa, quomodo fides illa generatim descripta, scientiæ et conjecturæ opponitur. . . . . Dividitur . . . . in fidem divinam, quæ nititur testimonio divino, et humanam, quæ fundata est in testimonio humano fide accepto.” Owen,9898Doctrine of Justification, ch. i. edit. Philadelphia, 1841, p. 84. “All faith is an assent upon testimony; and divine faith is an assent upon a divine testimony.” John Howe9999Works, vol. ii. p. 885, Carter’s edition, New York, 1869. asks, “Why do I believe Jesus to be the Christ? Because the eternal God hath given his testimony concerning Him that so He is.” “A man’s believing comes all to nothing without this, that there is a divine testimony.” Again,100100Ibid. p. 1170. “I believe such a thing, as God reveals it, because 62it is reported to me upon the authority of God.” Bishop Pearson101101An Exposition of the Creed, 7th edit. London, 1701, p. 3. says, “When anything propounded to us is neither apparent to our sense, nor evident to our understanding, in and of itself, neither certainly to be collected from any clear and necessary connection with the cause from which it proceedeth, or the effects which it naturally produceth, nor is taken up upon any real arguments or reference to other acknowledged truths, and yet notwithstanding appeareth to us true, not by a manifestation, but attestation of the truth, and so moveth us to assent not of itself, but by virtue of the testimony given to it; this is said properly to be credible; and an assent unto this, upon such credibility, is in the proper notion faith or belief.”
This View almost universally Held.
This view of the nature of faith is all but universally received, not by theologians only, but by philosophers, and the mass of Christian people. The great question has ever been, whether we are to receive truth on authority, or only upon rational evidence. Leibnitz begins his “Discours de la Conformité de la Foi avec la Raison,” by saying, “Je suppose, que deux vérités ne sauroient se contredire; que l’objet de la foi est la vérité que Dieu a révélée d’une manière extraordinaire, et que la raison est l’enchainment des vérités, mais particulièrement (lorsqu’elle est comparés avec la foi) de celles où l’esprit humain peut atteindre naturellement, sans être aidé des lumières de la foi.”102102Théodicée, Works, edit. Berlin, 1840, 1839, part ii. p. 479.
It has already been admitted that the essential element of faith is trust; and, therefore, in the general sense of the word to believe, is to trust. Faith is the reliance of the mind on anything as true and worthy of confidence. In this wide sense of the word, it matters not what may be the objects, or what the grounds of this trust. The word, however, is commonly used in reference to truths which we receive on trust without being able to prove them. Thus we are said to believe in our own existence, the reality of the external world, and all the primary truths of the reason. These by common consent are called beliefs. Reason begins with believing, i.e., with taking on trust what it neither comprehends nor proves. Again, it has been admitted that the word belief is often and legitimately used to express a degree of certainty less than knowledge and stronger than probability; as when we say, we are not sure, but we believe that a certain thing happened.63
The Strict Sense of the Word “Faith.”
But in the strict and special sense of the word, as discriminated from knowledge or opinion, faith means the belief of things not seen, on the ground of testimony. By testimony, however, is not meant merely the affirmation of an intelligent witness. There are other methods by which testimony may be given than affirmation. A seal is a form of testimony; so is a sign. So is everything which pledges the authority of the attester to the truth to be established. When Elijah declared that Jehovah was God, and Baal a lie, he said, “The God that answereth by fire, let him be God.” The descent of the fire was the testimony of God to the truth of the prophet’s declaration. So in the New Testament God is said to have borne witness to the truth of the Gospel by signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost (Heb. ii. 4); and the Spirit of God is said to witness with our spirits that we are the children of God (Rom. viii. 16). The word in these cases is marture, w, to testify. This is not a lax or improper use of the word testimony; for an affirmation is testimony only because it pledges the authority of him who makes it to the truth. And therefore whatever pledges that authority, is as truly of the nature of testimony, as an affirmation. When, therefore, it is said that faith is founded on testimony, it is meant that it is not founded on sense, reason, or feeling, but on the authority of him by whom it is authenticated.
Proof from the General Use of the Word.
That such is the foundation and the distinctive characteristic of faith, may be argued, — 1. From the general use of the word We are said to know what we see or can prove; and to believe what we regard as true on the authority of others. This is admitted to be true of what is called historical faith. This includes a great deal; all that is recorded of the past; all that is true of present actualities, which does not fall within the sphere of our personal observation; all the facts of science as received by the masses; and almost all the contents of the Bible, whether of the Old or of the New Testament. The Scriptures are a record of the history of the creation, of the fall, and of redemption. The Old Testament is the history of the preparatory steps of this redemption. The New Testament is a history of the fulfilment of the promises and types of the Old in the incarnation, life, sufferings, 64death, and resurrection of the Son of God. Whoever believes this record has set to his seal that God is true, and is a child of God.
Proof from Consciousness.
2. In the second place, consciousness teaches us that such is the nature of faith not only when historical facts are its objects, but when propositions are the things believed. The two indeed are often inseparable. That God is the creator of the world, is both a fact and a doctrine. It is as the Apostle says, a matter of faith. We believe on the authority of the Scriptures, which declare that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” That God set forth his Son to be a propitiation for our sins, is a doctrine. It rests solely on the authority of God. We receive it upon his testimony. So with all the great doctrines of grace; of regeneration, of justification, of sanctification, and of a future life. How do we know that God will accept all who believe in Christ? Who can know the things of God, save the Spirit of God, and he to whom the Spirit shall reveal them (1 Cor. ii. 10, 11)? From the nature of the case, “the things of the Spirit,” the thoughts and purposes of God, can be known only by revelation, and they can be received only on the authority of God. They are objects neither of sense nor of reason.
Proof from Scripture.
3. It is the uniform teaching of the Bible that faith is founded on the testimony or authority of God.
The first proof of this is the fact that the Scriptures come to us under the form of a revelation of things we could not otherwise know. The prophets of the Old Testament were messengers, the mouth of God, to declare what the people were to believe and what they were to do. The New Testament is called “The testimony of Jesus.” Christ came, not as a philosopher, but as a witness. He said to Nicodemus, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.” (John iii. 11). “He that cometh from above is above all. . . . . And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true (verses 31-33). In like manner the Apostles were witnesses. As such they were ordained (Luke xxiv. 48). After his resurrection, and immediately before his ascension, our Lord said to them, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is 65come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts i. 8). When they declared the death and resurrection of Christ, as facts to be believed, they said, “Whereof we are witnesses” (Acts ii. 32, iii. 15, v. 32). In this last passage the Apostles say they were witnesses not only of the fact of Christ’s resurrection but that God had “exalted” Him “with his right hand to be a prince and a saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” See Acts x. 39-43, where it is said, “He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
The great complaint against the Apostles, especially in the Grecian cities, was that they did not present their doctrines as propositions to be proved; they did not even state the philosophical grounds on which they rested, or attempt to sustain them at the bar of reason. The answer given to this objection by St. Paul is twofold: First, that philosophy, the wisdom of men, had proved itself utterly incompetent to solve the great problems of God and the universe, of sin and redemption. It was in fact neither more nor less than foolishness, so far as all its speculations as to the things of God were concerned. Secondly, that the doctrines which He taught were not the truths of reason, but matters of revelation; to be received not on rational or philosophical grounds, but upon the authority of God; that they, the Apostles, were not philosophers, but witnesses; that they did not argue using the words of man’s wisdom, but that they simply declared the counsels of God, and that faith in their doctrines was to rest not on the wisdom of men, but on the powerful testimony of God.
The second proof, that the Scriptures teach that faith is the reception of truth on the ground of testimony or on the authority of God, is, that the thing which we are commanded to do, is to receive the record which God has given of his Son. This is faith; receiving as true what God has testified, and because He has testified it. “He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” The Greek here is, οὑ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἣν μεμαρτύρηκεν ὁ Θεὸς περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὑτοῦ, “believeth not the testimony which God testified concerning his Son.” “And this is the testimony, 66(ἡ μαρτυρίαν) that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life ii in his Son” (1 John v. 10, 11). There could hardly be a more distinct statement of the Scriptural doctrine as to the nature of faith. Its object is what God has revealed. Its ground is the testimony of God. To receive that testimony, is to set to our seal that God is true. To reject it, is to make God a liar. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his son.”
Such is the constant teaching of Scripture. The ground on which we are authorized and commanded to believe is, not the conformity of the truth revealed to our reason, nor its effect upon our feelings, nor its meeting the necessities of our nature and condition, but simply, “Thus saith the Lord.” The truths of revelation do commend themselves to the reason; they do powerfully and rightfully affect our feelings; they do meet all the necessities of our nature as creatures and as sinners; and these considerations may incline us to believe, may strengthen our faith, lead us to cherish it, and render it joyful and effective; but they are not its ground. We believe on the testimony or authority of God.
It is objected to this view that we believe the Bible to be the Word of God on other ground than testimony. The fulfilment of prophecies, the miracles of its authors, its contents, and the effects which it produces, are rational grounds for believing it to be from God. To this objection two answers may be made: First, that supernatural occurrences, such as prophecies and miracles, are some of the forms in which the divine testimony is given. Paul says that God bears “witness both with signs and wonders” (Hebrews ii. 4). And, secondly, that the proximate end of these manifestations of supernatural foresight and power was to authenticate the divine mission of the messengers of God. This being established, the people were called upon to receive their message and to believe on the authority of God, by whom they were sent.
The third proof, that the Scriptures teach that faith is a reception of truth on the ground of testimony, is found in the examples and illustrations of faith given in the Scriptures. Immediately after the fall the promise was made to our first parents that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. On what possible ground could faith in this promise rest except on the authority of God. When Noah was warned of God of the coming deluge, and commanded to prepare the ark, he believed, not because he saw the signs of the approaching flood, not because his moral judgment assured him that a just God would in 67that way avenge his violated law; but simply on the testimony of God. Thus when God promised to Abraham the possession of the land of Canaan, that he, a childless old man, should become the father of many nations, that through his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed, his faith could have no other foundation than the authority of God. So of every illustration of faith given by the Apostle in the eleventh chapter of his epistle to the Hebrews. The same is true of the whole Bible. We have no foundation for our faith in a spiritual world, in the heaven and hell described in Scripture, in the doctrines of redemption, in the security and ultimate triumph of the Church other than the testimony of God. If faith does not rest on testimony it has nothing on which to rest. Paul tells us that the whole Gospel rests on the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. If Christ be not risen our faith is vain, and we are yet in our sins. But our assurance that Christ rose on the third day rests solely upon the testimony which God in various ways has given to that fact.
This is a point of great practical importance. If faith, or only persuasion of the truths of the Bible, rests on philosophical grounds, then the door is opened for rationalism; if it rests on feeling, then it is open to mysticism. The only sure, and the only satisfying foundation is the testimony of God, who cannot err, and who will not deceive.
Faith may, therefore, be defined to be the persuasion of the truth founded on testimony. The faith of the Christian is the persuasion of the truth of the facts and doctrines recorded in the Scriptures on the testimony of God.
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