<< PARADOX XII: Faith Grounded in Love, the Source of Christian Virtue >>

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.--Romans iii., 28.


Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.--2 James ii., 24.

FAITH is a living heart-felt confidence in God, and in Divine truth from Him. With the heart, says the Apostle, a man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth makes confession unto salvation. Faith lights up the human soul with rays from heaven. It is the shining of an inward fire. It is the flame of holy love. Faith illumines the dark passages of life with a flash of radiance which sustains hope, and steadies virtue. Faith is the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for.

While faith points out the path to heaven,
It firmly trusts Immanuel's love,
By whom alone all power is given
To reach the realms of bliss above

To judge by the important position this grace has awarded to it in the pulpit, in treatises, and in conversation among Christians, who speak constantly of salvation by faith, of every blessing depending upon faith, and FAITH ONLY, we might easily conclude that the whole mind and atmosphere of the world about us, were made up of and extremely favorable to this Divine virtue. But if we go a little below the surface, if we inquire really what is meant by the faith which is set forth, and ask whether there really is so much faith in truth, in God, and in doing His holy will, as the profession would imply, it is very much to be feared we shall find that the Lord's inquiry applies to the present time, at least, as powerfully as to any past epoch, And when the Son of Man shall come, shall he find faith in the earth?

What is faith? for faith can scarcely be a contested matter. If we really simply look at it in its own native character it is firm and loving truth in the truth. No one can surely contend that real faith is confidence in falsehood. A man may have a persuasion of what is false, and call it faith. But, superstition is not faith; irrationality is not faith; stupidity is not faith. Faith, says the Apostle, is the EVIDENCE of things unseen, the substance of things hoped for. Faith is itself an EVIDENCE. It is an acknowledgment of the heart that, what is true is TO BE BELIEVED AND DONE.

There is a harmony between goodness in the heart and truth in the intellect. When these two, like companions that have been separated, and yet are dearly attached to one another, come warmly together and are united, their union forms faith. It is truth in the intellect joined with love in the heart. If either of these two be wanting there is no faith. Charity, or Christian love, it is written, believeth all things. It is love that believes. It is love which believes on every subject. No child trusts the person whom it does not love. Let a stranger offer a child the fairest promises it will shrink from him, and take no heed until it has learned to love. Let the mother, let one whom the child has learned to trust come, and a ready belief is given. What the child shrank from as dangerous it will then dare to do, because it trusts where it loves. The basis of all faith is affection. Think of it in reference to any of the relationships of life; of friend with friend, of lover with lover, of husband with wife, of child with parent, you will find that just in proportion to the love, are the power and fervency of the faith.

In that grand old story of ancient times which relates the trial of Damon and Pythias, how strikingly is this proposition shown. Pythias took the place of the condemned Damon in the prison of a tyrant, that his friend might go and bid farewell to his wife, and arrange the affairs of his home. Pythias declared himself prepared to suffer in his friends stead, if he did not come back, because he valued, loved, and trusted him.

The crowd of his countrymen thought the conduct of Pythias was extravagant and absurd, and would be sure to be attended by the loss of his life. But no! the heart that could do such a thing would also understand that another would do it for him. He was calm and thankful. The days passed by and no Damon returned. At length he was brought out on the scaffold, and every one was expecting that the axe would now. have its victim, and that the confidence of friendship would torn out to be the direst folly. Pythias was trustful, he was quite sure that if his friend did not come back it would be because some accident, not to be overcome, had stayed him. He was thankful to be privileged to suffer in the loved Damons place. But before he could fall a victim to his generous confidence, the huzzas of the crowd in the distance wore heard, a rider was seen driving with all haste his foaming steed. Damon hurried to throw himself where death would prove his faithfulness, and justify the trust of his generous friend. Such was faith with them; a faith founded on love, and powerful enough to melt the tyrants heart, and procure pardon for them both. There is no such thing really as FAITH ONLY. Where there is faith only, there is not faith. There is only a profession of faith, only some talk of faith. Such a thing as FAITH ONLY is a non-entity; it cannot exist at all. Faith is trust, is confidence, is a steady reliance upon the truth which has been unfolded to us, and which we understand. The apostle Paul in the first text we have to consider, is really speaking in perfect harmony with this great truth, because faith, as he uses it, includes love, and implies Good works. We are justified by Christian faith, without Judaism, that is without the deeds of the law. It is not said, We are justified by FAITH ALONE without the deeds of the law.

Luther in translating this passage for his German Bible, ventured to introduce the word alone into the text, although that very circumstance ought to have suggested that he did not understand it rightly, or it would have suited him as it was. When a man finds that the Scriptures do not state what he wants them to state, he should conceive not that the Scriptures are wrong, but that he himself is mistaken. If he cannot get the Scriptures to say what he wants them to say, he should correct his impressions and bow to the sacred volume.

Let us examine the passage before us a little closely. We are justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Faith is simply mentioned. It is a word, however, that implies something else associated with it. Faith in what? We have mentally to answer that question from other parts of Scripture. We are justified by faith, that is trust, confidence. But as we said before, in what? The answer, which is perfectly unimpeachable, is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in what He teaches.

We are justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He teaches. What does He teach? He teaches that God is good to all, and that His tender mercies over all His works. He teaches He that in His love and in His pity He redeemed us. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He invites all who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him, and has promised to give them rest unto their souls. He is the Good Shepherd who came to lay down His life for His sheep, and He did die and rise again for every man, that He might be Lord of the dead and the living. True faith is to believe all this as an undoubting evidence of the love of God, and His desire to regenerate and thus to save every one of us. To be justified we must have faith in this.

But the Lord Jesus teaches more than this, and true faith is to believe that also. He teaches that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil the law Himself, and thus to magnify it and make it honorable, and then to give us power to keep His commandments from a spirit of love.

Whosoever, He says, shall break one of the least of these commandments and teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. That is what we have to believe. He declares If ye love me, keep my commandments. Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. If we live this heavenly life, our Savior teaches, we shall never die. We are justified, that is made just, if we have faith in these Divine lessons; and we have faith in them, when we carry them out. True faith is not opinions about doctrines, but confidence in the truth which changes the life, and embodies the Divine will.

The man who does this, has faith in what the Lord teaches.

Merely to talk, however earnestly and persuasively, about what the Lord teaches, is not having faith in it; it is only having talk about it.

In the early part of this discourse me mentioned that, people measure belief by practice in all the other ways and purposes of life. For instance, we hear a person say the way to Charing-cross is in a certain direction, and he has to go there immediately. But the moment he leaves our presence he goes quite in another direction; you conclude he does not believe what he said. So, if a person professes to have a great regard for you and declares it will be the greatest pleasure on the earliest opportunity to recommend you, and be of use to you in life; but you know the opportunity has been offered, and he does nothing or does you harm. You pay no attention to his talk, you believe what he does. So it is really in religion. Hence the apostle James puts it precisely upon that ground, Show me thy faith without thy works. He says, show it me. How is the person thus addressed to show it? By profession only, he can only show that he talks. Unless he does the thing that he professes to believe there is no evidence that he does really believe. Show me thy faith without thy works, the Apostle says, and I will show thee my faith by my works.

Hence, Scripture always declares that, judgment in the eternal world is to be pronounced upon what each man does. No notice will be taken of what he professed to believe, what he argued, what he wrangled about. What he really believed was what HE DID. There are few persons who will not profess to believe in doing rightly. Ask any one. Now is it your faith that a person ought to do right? Do you not believe he ought to do to others as he would have others do to him? Ought he not to act in accordance with love to God and his neighbor? There is scarcely any person to be found who would not say, Yes, that is certainly right. I can believe in that at any rate. If however our professor is constantly in his life seeking only selfish objects, seeking to get ten times as much as he will ever need, by dishonest, unfair, and over-reaching means, is it not clear that, in his heart he despises kindness and honesty, and believes in cheating.

He believes in lying; he believes in grasping; he believes in covetously getting as much as he can. His life shews what he really believes in. Hence it is, as we have said before, that when the present age is judged by what we know to exist in public and in private life, the answer to the Divine question, When the Son of Man shall come, shall he find faith in the earth? must be, if in accordance with the truth, Lord help us to be stronger, for we are men of little faith.

The teachings of the Sacred Volume respecting faith are three-fold. First, TRUE FAITH is real confidence and heart-felt trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; in what the Scriptures declare Him to be, and what He really is. Secondly TRUE FAITH is heart-felt trust and confidence in the Lord's commands, as being essential to happiness and salvation. And thirdly, TRUE FAITH is heart-felt trust and confidence in the Lord's promises, as opening to us happiness and heaven.

Allow me, in the first place, to call your attention when considering what is the real character of faith, to its first part,--the belief in the Lord Jesus, as the Apostle has it in another place, that he is GOD MANIFEST. And as the Lord Himself expresses it, ye believe in God, believe also in me. Ye believe in God as the Creator, believe in Him now as your Redeemer. Ye believe in God, believe also in me.

Real heart-felt faith is a confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, as to what the Sacred Volume teaches Him to be, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Regenerator,--the Everlasting Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,---the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Jehovah who would come into the world, and who did come, yet how little faith there is in this, in the world. Yet Scripture teaches this, plainly. He Himself declares, whosoever sees the Lord Jesus Christ, sees the Father, All things that the Father hath are mine. All mine are thine, He says, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. The Lord Jesus Christ is the present God everywhere; the Regenerator of human souls everywhere.: Behold, I stand at the door and knock, He says, if any man will open the door I will come into him, and sup with him, and he with me. Abide in me, and I in you. I give you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and all the power of the enemy. But who believes this?

The Scriptures teach, and in the plainest, simplest, directest manner, that the Lord Jesus Christ is ALL IN ALL to the real Christian. In him, dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him, who is bend of all principality and power; not one in a million believes that. Where then is your faith? Faith is to believe the Lord Jesus Christ, when He tells us that He and the Father are one. It is to believe that He is all sufficient. He tells us that not only without Him we can do nothing, but that with Him we can do all things:--that ALL POWER is His in heaven, and on earth. The greatest mass of men do not think that He is half as powerful as self-love, as treachery, or lust, as the instigations and impulses of passion in our fallen natures. How common is it to talk as if sin were a thing that could not be conquered, as if each particular evil, our bad temper, our impatience, our insolence to others, our covetousness, or our contempt of right was omnipotent. We excuse ourselves, by saying these cannot be overcome; they are such terrible things. We are men of little faith. We are poor weak creatures. The Son of Man has come, but has He found faith in the earth?

Had we faith we should take His Word, depend upon it, live upon it, and act from it. When He says, Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest, we should believe that it is so, go to Him and receive the peace that passeth all understanding.

Secondly, true faith is a heart-felt confidence in the Lord's commandments; and these are of the most simple and direct kind. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate yen, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. Thus it is not only the teaching of the Lord, but the teaching of the whole Word. It is the grand unfolding of Divine truth from first to last. Oh, that there were such a heart in them, it is said by the Lord in the Book of Deuteronomy, that they would fear me and keep my commandments always, that it would be well with them and with their children for ever. When the Lord Jesus came into the world He reiterated the same sacred truth; only He taught that His commandments were to be kept from a deeper ground than they heel been regarded before. Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall IN NO CASE enter into the kingdom of heaven, IN NO CASE.

There are no exceptions; there cannot be.

No one can be warmed without fire, no one can see without light. Only fish can live in water, and they cannot live in air. It is quite impossible that any but those who have become heavenly, can go to heaven. If a person whose heart was ingrained in lust were to go to heaven it would be no heaven to him. To him the highest heaven would be the most terrible of hells. Yet, although the Lord so simply and so strikingly teaches us, that me are so to obey His Divine commandments, and thus to become heavenly, the infidelity of the evil heart constantly puts forth the strange phantasy that, the Lord's commandments are something too hard to be kept. What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God. All misery comes from breaking the commandments, not from keeping them. It is a mere darkening phantasy in the soul that we cannot obey those blessed laws. The only translation of that phrase is that we are not disposed. That is all. There is no cannot in the business; a person might just as well pretend that he cannot walk, although the Lord has given him excellent legs: that he cannot work, although the Lord has given him two excellent hands. Our whole being has been created to find happiness in obeying the Divine will. The astonishment is, that a man will try to avoid keeping the commandments.

What is the very first command? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul, and mind and strength. If any human being were to do one-millionth part for us that the Lord does for every one of us, we should deem ourselves the most ungrateful persons in the world if we did not glow towards that individual with love and respect. Suppose that we had only one non, and some admirable physician were to come and be able to give us another, should we not take good care that that no one should see on our part anything but affection towards so excellent a benefactor. But the Lord has given to every ordinary human being two arms, two eyes, two hands, and so with all the rest of our bodies, and all the faculties of our soul. Ho has given us two worlds, the world of matter and the world of mind, to poor out their blessings upon us and around us.

And, all is given without charge. All that Divine Love desires is, that we should live obediently, and to allow Him to give us something more, in continual progression. When we come to worship the Lord, it is only that me may open our minds and hearts, that He may flow in and bless us more. He wishes to give us more virtue, more intelligence, more heavenly-mindedness. Is it then hard to love this Gracious Being? How can we do anything else? We ought to detest the selfishness that holds us back from adoring this Glorious One with all our hearts. What should we have thought of Josephs brethren, when they not only got all the corn they asked for, but every time they went they got their money back at the same time, if they had been ungrateful and insolent to him? But this is precisely what happens, though immeasurably aggravated, when we withhold our grateful homage to the God of love, from whom we are every moment receiving mercies. Oh no! let us on the contrary rejoicingly confess Oh give thanks unto the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.

So with every other commandment. They are all LAWS OF HAPPINESS. It is the breach of these commandments that has made all the miseries that exist in the world. Neither disease nor sorrow would have existed had not sin preceded them. Our own follies, or the follies of those who have gone before us, have sown the seeds of sickness. Disease, war, poverty, do not belong to the creation in its true order. Everything from God is made according to justice and truth. Justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne. All his works are done in truth. A heart-felt faith in the Lord's commandments as being the laws of happiness and the laws of heaven, is the FAITH THAT JUSTIFIES, or makes man just.

But, thirdly, real faith is a similar heart-felt confidence in the Lord's promises. The Apostle teaches, the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to deliver from the fear of death those who had been all their life time in bondage.--Heb. ii., 13. Has the Christian world been delivered horn the fear of death? Is there one in a million now that has no fear of death? Yet one true and proper result of our Lord's coming into the world is the deliverance of us from the fear of death. Now, real heart-felt faith is such a confidence in the Lord that we have no fear of death, but a triumphant assurance of heaven.

True faith trusts in the fact that death is really nothing but the step to a higher life. There is no death for any one in whom sin is conquered. He that believes His Word, the Lord says, is no longer under condemnation, but HAS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE. What we ordinarily call death, is not death. He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die. The real man does not die. The immortal being does not die, he merely puts off the outward case. He rises a more noble being than he was before. The just man becomes a just man made perfect. He who has been an angelic man in his life has the beauty of intelligence, the beauty of goodness in him, the sublimest beauty of all. When a person has loved the Lord, and walked in the sacred steps of right, the beauty of goodness becomes more and more perfect; and, like those trees which strip their bark but magnify their strength, the trees of righteousness peel off their outer coats but bloom with a Divine delicacy, more beautifully than ever. He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die, the Lord says. God giveth them bodies as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

Now true faith is to be confident that this is so. We are not to have fellowship with worms. Earth goes to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, but the real man rises to his immortal friends. He is not here, he is risen, said the angels of the Lord. They are not here, they have risen, we say of all the good who have gone to their rest. They are in a nobler and a higher state of being. True faith has no fear, no anxiety, no doubt, but rather the confiding, unswerving hope, that says, For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain. This world has been a good world, but that is a grander and a happier one. This is faith, to smile at the approach of death and feel it to be the touch of an angels scepter; the palm in the hand of the herald of everlasting life. It is to feel as if our Lord were bending over us and saying, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of everlasting life. With a regenerate soul like this, there is no death, nor fear of death, but a smile of confidence that expresses, I have no concern whether I stay here a little longer, or go to the better home; my only desire is to he a ministering servant of my Master, either here or there. Now, with such a faith we may well say, therefore a man is justified by faith--not faith alone, but faith grounded in love, faith, shining with the light of many truths, faith doing the Lord's works.

By such a faith in the Lord, and what He teaches, we are justified without the deeds of the law.

But what are the deeds of the law? They were Judaism. The apostolic age of the church was the transition age from Judaism to Christianity. Jewish righteousness, of meritorious deservings; circumcision and Jewish customs--these were the deeds of the law. And of course we are justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. These deeds of the law now are scarcely mentioned, but they were a terrible stumbling block to Christians then. Refer to the early accounts of the Church, and mark the views and feelings which prevailed then, and you will understand this phrase, the deeds of the law. In the twenty-first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, you will find from the 20th to the 24th verse the very best exposition of what is meant by the deeds of the law. It was the age of transition, in which there were great numbers who received Christianity, and who nevertheless believed it was a sort of addition to Judaism. These maintained, Christians would still need to be circumcised, to practice the washings, the shavings, the outward sacrifices, and the rituals belonging to Judaism. The apostle Paul, and a large number of those who were single-hearted in their reception of Christianity said,--Christianity is complete in itself. The Christian faith involves love, and produces virtue. Christianity is a new dispensation, it has nothing at all to do with the old outward observances. We have left the old Church, we have entered the new. The Church of faith in the Lord Jesus is complete. Ye are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power.

The apostle Paul was understood to be the chief leader of those who taught that Christianity was itself sufficient for everyone, and the Jews were extremely exasperated at their fellow-countryman for taking such a position. At length, after some fourteen years of absence and labor in different parts of the world, the apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem, which he had left as a persecutor. Such was the bitter state of excitement that prevailed there the Apostles met together, and considered what they should do. They were afraid that Paul's life would be in danger. They sent messengers to meet Paul, and requested he would conform himself to some extent to these people, who were so zealous for keeping the law.

And they said, This thing would we advise thee to do--take four men and let them shave their beads and wash themselves, and do according to the customs, and so will they know that thou art faithful and keepest the law. Here, you have this very expression, all this washing and shaving and the rest of the changes as it was said, all these were to be done, and then he would be considered all right, and to keep the law. Acts xxi., 20 to 24. The Apostle did so. He felt it to be necessary at the time, and complied. Yet Paul was like Galileo, who, to avoid continual imprisonment, signed a declaration that the earth did not move, although he had proved fully that the earth moved diurnally and the sun stood still. He signed his retraction, compelled by the bigoted Pope and theologians of his time; and then threw his pen on the floor, and said It moves yet! So when the apostle Paul was compelled to submit to these trivial accommodations to the prejudices of the Jews at the time, he still declared But faith is quite enough, without any of these deeds of the law. Faith in the Lord Jesus, faith in doing His will, faith in the grand principles of truth and right, the righteousness which. existed from God's eternal nature before circumcision, before Sinai. Justice existed in the very nature of things, before the law, under the law, and would continue to exist for ever. Faith in the Lord's righteousness, truth, and mercy; this will do without the deeds of the law. So he preached, and so he wrote.

This is the purport of the text, and the very essence of Christianity.

When, therefore, the apostle James says, A man is justified by works and not by FAITH ONLY, he is speaking in perfect harmony with what Paul taught; for James by works means Christian, the works of faith, the works of love, the works of real righteousness and truth. What St. James means, as essential proofs of faith, are the works of true Christianity, and Paul teaches the same thing.

The deeds of the law, were the outward washings, the trifling observances, and the circumcision of the Jewish law, or even obedience to the ten commandments, if kept from a desire for merit or gain, that is, from Jewish notions; for this is only self-love masquerading in the form of religion.

If a man keep the commandment Thou shalt not steal, or every other commandment, only to make God his debtor, or for fame or gain, it is a deed of the law, self-righteousness, it is not a solid Christian virtue. Such righteousness is corrupt and selfish. A selfish man, however fair his life, is inwardly impure. The true principle, from which we ought ever to act, is to love the Lord because He is the fountain of love; to do good because it is good; to have faith in right, to shun evil, because it is sin; to ask nothing further when the truth shows us what we ought to do, but to do it. This is Christian faith.

What doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to do justly--be very strict with thyself, but be very gentle and forbearing with others: love mercy--do not be hard and harsh and premature, but be gentle, excusatory, consolatory, and loving: love mercy, and then, do not give thyself airs, but walk humbly with thy God. This is that faith that encloses love, that lives in heavenly works, and of which the apostle James says, a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. The apostle Paul is just as plain and as emphatic. God he says, will render to every man according to his deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. You will read in the last chapter of the same epistle He that loveth fulfilleth the law. Owe no man anything but love, for love worketh no ill to his neighbor, but whether it be thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not hill, or whatever else it be, it is briefly comprehended in this saying: Love thy neighbor as thyself. Love is the fulfilling of the law. To the Corinthians he said, Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing; but keeping the commandments of God.--l Cor. vii., 10. The faith that WORKETH by love, is, with this Apostle equally as with James, the only faith that avails in the sight of God; and the Christian who works out his salvation with fear and trembling the only true Christian.

The fruit of the Spirit, he says, is love, joy, pence, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Against such there is no law.--Galatians v., 22, 23.

Work then while it is day. Work against the evils of temper, of avarice, of passion, and of lust, until you have finally overthrown them. Work in the ministrations of tenderness and mercy to mitigate human sorrow, and to multiply human comforts. Work in your daily duty, whatever your office or employment, for the sake of the God of order and use. Be sure He will sustain you. Then will your wilderness become like Eden, and your desert like the Garden of God.

Never forget, that the very essence of life, the very soul of purity and order, the very spirit of all that is happy on earth, or heavenly in the eternal world, is to love the Lord our God with all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Upon these two commandments hangs all the law and the prophets. Believe these and do them, from the love of Him who created you, died for you, and who every moment gives you power; to overcome evil, and walk in the path of purity and heaven.


Author: Jonathan Bayley---Scripture Paradoxes -Their True Explanation (1868)

site search by freefind advanced


Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.