By F.B. Meyer
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (HEBREWS 11.1).
SOCIETY rests on the faith which man has in man. The workman, toiling through the week for the wage which he believes he will receive, the passenger, procuring a ticket for a distant town, because he believes the statements of the timetables, the sailor steering his bark with unerring accuracy in murky weather, because he believes in the mercantile charts and tables, the entire system of monetary credit, by which vast sums circulate from hand to hand without the use of a single coin - all these are illustrations of the immense importance of faith in the affairs of men.
Nothing, therefore, is more disastrous for an individual or a community than for its credit to be impaired, or its confidence shaken.
There seem to be three necessary preliminaries in order to faith. First, some one must make an engagement or promise. Second, there must be good reason for believing in the integrity and sufficiency of the person by whom the engagement has been made. Third, there follows a comfortable assurance that it will be even so.
In fact, the believer is able to count on the object promised as being not less sure than if it had already come into actual possession. And this latter frame of mind is precisely the one indicated by the writer of this Epistle, when, guided by the Holy Spirit, he affirms that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the persuasion or conviction of things not seen. In other words, faith is the faculty of realising the unseen.
These three conditions are fulfilled in Christian faith. The same faculty is called into action with respect to the things of God. At the outset we are sure that a Voice has spoken to man from the page of Scripture. Not voices, but a Voice. Next, we are sure that this Speaker is infinitely credible. Our assurance rests on several grounds. We find that His words have ever come true in the experience of past generations. We have seen them accompanied by the introduction of miraculous phenomena, indicating in their beneficence and power the goodness and glory of the Worker. We discover in our own hearts the assent of our moral nature to their evident truth. And for all these reasons we hold that the Voice which speaks deserves our credence.
And therefore, lastly, we calculate on whatever has been promised as surely as if we saw it, and may reckon on it as certainly ours.
Let us emphasise again what has been said. We look on the words which God speaks to us from the Scriptures as being altogether different from any other words which may claim our attention from the lips of men, not only because of the character of the miracles which accompany them, but because they touch us as no other words do, and elicit the spontaneous assent and consent of our moral nature, though sometimes in condemnation of ourselves. That must be the Book of God which so exactly coincides with the best emotions and intuitions of our moral nature; and not of ours only, but of the noblest and best of our race
"The mighty God, the Lord has spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same." And if we are once assured of this, then there is no limit to the restful confidence, which not only counts the promise as credible, but actually begins to enjoy in anticipation the boons they offer.
The maxim of human experience runs thus: 'Seeing is believing'. But with the child of God the reverse is true: 'Believing is seeing'. We are as sure of what God had promised as we would be if we saw it already before our eyes. Our vision could not make us more sure than we are that God loves us, that there is a Father's house with its many mansions, and that some day our mortality is to put on immortality, so as to live forever in a state of existence which is absolutely sinless, sorrowless, and nightless.
Such faith as this is begotten in our souls, primarily by the study of God's Word, appealing, as we have seen, to our moral consciousness, which, as it is more and more developed, is more and more satisfied with the Book which called it into being, and has done so much for its education.
But sometimes faith seems to be given us in respect of some special matter which is not directly indicated in Scripture, but which we feel able to claim, yes, and as we pray and think over it we are still more able to claim it. And when we find such a conviction forming in our hearts, we may be perfectly sure of it. "Whoever will say to this mountain, Be removed, and be cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but believe that those things which he says will come to pass, he shall have whatever he says." Thus the child of God may begin to praise for blessings of which there is no outward sign, being as sure of them as though they had risen above the horizon, like the little cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, to Elijah's prayer. "We have the petitions that we desired of Him."
Do you want a greater faith? Then consider the promises, which are its native food! Read the story of God's mighty acts in bygone days. Open your heart to God, that He may shine in with His own revealing presence. Ask Him to give you this wondrous faculty to which nothing is impossible. Put away from you aught which might clash with the growth of your heart in faith and love.
FAITH MAKES MEN GREAT. Run through this roll-call of heroes. You must admit that those whose names are mentioned stand in the first ranks of our race, shining as stars. But their claim to be thus regarded was certainly not natural genius.
Enoch, for instance, and his line, being Sethites, may have been inferior to many of the family of Cain, so far as mere intellectual or artistic attainment went. But his faith lifted him out of the ranks of mediocrity to a species of primacy amongst men. And should faith become the master-principle of your life and mine, it would similarly enlarge and enrich our whole being.
FAITH MIGHTILY AFFECTS OUR ORDINARY HUMAN LIFE. With most men you can determine pretty nearly how they will act in given circumstances. You can enumerate the influences at work, and their value. But you can never be sure in the case of the Christian, because his faith is making real much of which the world around takes no thought whatever.
The tyrant, anxious to save some young Christian confessor, approaches him with flatteries and promises, things that attract the young, and is surprised to find that they have no charm. He then approaches with suffering, obloquy, and death, things that sadden young hearts, and is equally astonished to discover that they cause no alarm. The cause is inexplicable, and is set down to obstinacy; but in point of fact the eyes of the young heart are opened on a world of which the tyrant has formed no conception.
Faith is not careless of time, but more mindful of eternity. Faith does not underrate the power of man, but she magnifies omnipotence. Faith is not callous of present pain, but she weighs it against future joy. Against ill-gotten gains, she puts eternal treasure; against human hate the recompense of reward; against the weariness of the course, the crown of amaranth; against the tears of winter sowing, the shoutings of the autumn sheaves; against the inconvenience of the tent, the permanent city.
None of these men would have lived the noble lives they did, had it not been for the recompense of reward and the gleams given them of the golden city amid the sorrows and straits of their lives.
FAITH IS POSSIBLE TO ALL CLASSES. In this list are women as well as men. Sarah and Rahab, as well as Abraham and Joshua, the widow of Shunem, and the mighty prophet who brought her son back to life, Moses, the student of Egypt's wisdom, Gideon, the husbandman, Isaac, the grazier, Jacob, the shrewd cattle breeder, Barak, the soldier, David, the shepherd, and Samuel, the prophet. Their Occupations and circumstances varied infinitely, but there was not one of them that did not live under the influence of this master-principle. Whatever may be a man's lawful calling, he may abide therein with God, under the influence of faith. Like the fir or pine, faith flourishes in any soil.
FAITH IS CONSISTENT WITH VERY DIFFERENT DEGREES OF KNOWLEDGE. It would be difficult to enumerate more varieties of religious knowledge than are summarised in. this catalogue of names. Abel's idea of sacrifice would differ widely from David's. The degree of acquaintance with God would be much intenser with Moses than Samson. And, compared with the clear views of truth held by these Hebrew Christians, those of the world's grey fathers were but as baskets full of fragments. But, notwithstanding all these differences, the same principle of faith leaped upward from each heart. And the woman who touched the hem of the garment was animated with the same spirit as that which in her sister elicited the wonder of Jesus: "0h woman, great is your faith!"
FAITH CAN MASTER INSUPERABLE DIFFICULTIES. It is difficult to be singular, but faith enabled Abel to offer a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. It is difficult to walk constantly with God, when wickedness is great on the earth, and all flesh has corrupted its way, but it is not impossible, for Enoch walked with God on the very margin of the Flood, and obtained the testimony that he pleased Him.
It is difficult to lead a pilgrim life, and such difficulties would be probably as keenly felt by the patriarchs, but what faith did for them it will do for others. It is difficult, amid the cares of business or public office, to keep the heart fresh, devout, and young, but it is not impossible to faith, which maintained the spirit of patriotism and devotion in the heart of Joseph, though sorely tempted to sink into an Egyptian grandee. It is difficult to face the loss of all things, and the displeasure of the great, but Moses did both, under the spell of faith in the unseen.
There are many difficulties before us all. Stormy seas forbid our passage, frowning fortifications bar our progress, mighty kingdoms defy our power, lions roar against us, fire lights its flaming barricade in our path, the sword, the armies of the alien, mockings, scourgings, bonds, and imprisonment - all these menace our peace, darken our horizon, and try on us their power; but faith has conquered all these before, and it will do as much again.
We will laugh at impossibility, we will tread the shores of the seas, certain they must make us a way, we will enter the dens of wild beasts and the furnaces of flame, sure that they are impotent to injure us, we will escape the edge of the sword, out of weakness become strong, turn to flight armies of aliens, and set at nought all the power of the enemy. And all because we believe in God.
Reckon on God's faithfulness. Look not at the winds and waves, but at His character and will. Get alone with Him, steeping your heart and mind in His precious and exceeding great promises. Be obedient to the utmost limit of your light. Walk in the Spirit, one of whose fruits is faith. So shall you be deemed worthy to join this band, whose names and exploits run over from this page into the chronicles of eternity, and to share their glorious heritage.