By J. G. Morrison, D.D.
WHAT IS FAITH?
Permit us further to amplify the thought as to what faith is. We are fully agreed that it is a trust or confidence in the person, words or deeds of another. But we also feel clear that it is much more than this. The apostle says that it is the “substance of the things hoped for.” The word “substance” here, means the ground, or basis, for the hoped for things. This cannot mean, merely, what we understand today by the word basis, or ground. Faith cannot be just the ground on which we can exercise a hope. Because we know that we can hope for things that we have no faith for—we can, for instance, hope for a revival in a certain community, when, frankly, we do not believe that we are going to have one. Indeed, we do not believe it is possible to have one there, and yet we are in great hope that one will come!
The word “substance,” in its root meaning, carries the idea that it is something that stands in under (sub-sto, to stand under) that for which we hope. We use the expression “underwrite” with this meaning. In other words, the thing that guarantees or assures, our hoped for or desired matters. Now we are approaching more nearly the meaning of faith. For if faith guarantees or makes certain, the things we hope for, then it must have some means of bringing them about. An attitude, merely, of confidence and trust has no means of bringing anything to pass. It must depend on whether the one trusted is willing and ready. This might be urged as the truth in matters wholly Christian, and within the will of God. But how can it explain the law of faith, as found in operation outside the will of God? There must be something in addition to trust and confidence. We hold that the faith that guarantees the things we hoped for, is a literal, automatic medium, reaching out into realms invisible, and gathering there from power for bringing desired things to pass. No other view will explain the accomplishments of faith within and without the Christian realm.
The further expression, “evidence of things not seen,” means in the Greek, the “title deed,” to the unseen things that one is hoping for. A person can have a deed to a piece of property that he has never seen. By means of that deed he has fastened that property to him with the unseen bands of the law of the land. He can trade or sell it. He can hold it there, and never go and look at it. He can visit it, and build and improve it, but it is no more his when he has stepped upon it, than it was before he visited it. The deed fastened it to him. So faith is, we believe, the invisible band that reaches out into the unseen, and grasps the very thing for which it is exercised, and holds it there, allowing the invisible forces to play over this channel and to operate for the bringing of the very thing to pass that the person is believing for.
We are sure, that a great deal that passes for faith in these days, never rises above a hope. If you say to a minister going to a new pastorate: “Will you have success there?” The usual answer that is received is this: “I surely hope so!” Faith for the place has not yet been generated. All that man has is a hope, and there is a vast difference between hope and faith. Hope desires and longs for a thing. It is a necessary preliminary to faith. But one can hope all his life for an object, and never really believe for it. Faith puts up a “wire” along which God can operate to bring the desired thing to pass. Faith guarantees what hope longs for. Faith seizes it with the “title deeds” of steel, and hangs on, never wearied by any discouragement, never loosening its grip by any apparent defeat, never letting up, or subsiding, or giving way, but with that potent medium between it and omnipotence complete, it awaits the coming of the desired end, confident that God is bringing it to pass.
Many revival meetings are begun merely on hope. Ask the workers: “Will we have any results?” and you will get the reply: “I hope so!” showing that no faith is yet generated. If results are, later on, obtained, it is because a bit of faith has been generated after the meeting got under headway. Real faith never says “I hope so,” nor “I wonder if,” but puts up a channel for the results while they are yet invisible, and “laughs at impossibilities and cries it shall be done!”
One man succeeds where another man fails. Why? One had his faith “wire” up, and the other did not. One hoped he would win but was not sure of it. The other refused to look at the difficulties in the way, set aside all discouragements, believed without a doubt “in his heart,” (Mark 11: 23) and offered God such a perfect faith that He could operate over it, and soon the things hoped for came into view.
One man’s faith can be more perfect than another. A magazine recently stated that a common iron fence wire would lose 80 % of an electric current passing over it. This periodical alleged that a change to a galvanized wire would decrease the loss to 60 %. A further change to a copper wire decreased the loss to 30 %. A silver wire, it declare, would convey all but 20 %, while a gold one would deliver the entire current with a negligible loss. So with the faith channels all over the world. Some people put up nothing better than a fence-wire faith, and get fence-wire results, some have a galvanized-wire faith, and get more done, some rise even to a copper-wire faith, and mighty things are brought to pass, while rare souls like George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, Holy Ann, and others rise to the silver-wire faith, and possibly, on occasions, to the perfect, pure gold kind.
What would not happen, throughout the holiness movement, if God’s people generally (for we are pleading only for a faith exercised within, and in accordance with, the divine will), were to put up a faith medium likened to copper, silver and gold! What experiences would come to us, to which we now are strangers! How God would operate over these perfect faith-wires to precipitate upon us refreshings we have never known! What mountains of transfiguration would be ours! What Jerusalem refreshings would we not have, where “the place was shaken where they were gathered together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost!” What revivals would we not precipitate? What depleted exchequers would we not replenish! What villages, towns and cities would we not ignite with holy flame!
Is this not the difficulty that confronts the cause everywhere? Our faith is so imperfect! We desire, we pray, but we do not believe with a perfect faith. We believe a little, or we believe for a while, and then we quit. We pray much, and ask for many things, that deep down in our own hearts we do not believe we will get. If cornered up, and made to confess we will admit that “I didn’t believe that we could do anything there!” Sure enough, and this was the very reason that nothing was done (Matt. 13: 58). We took our faith-wire down, and God had nothing over which He could operate, and the divine power was stayed. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering,” the “wavering” faith, like the broken electric wire, gives intermittent results, that are ineffective.
The radio is teaching us many things. By it, electrical impulses can seize upon a literal and spoken word, and hurtle it through the air with the speed of light, making a literal, though invisible channel half way around the world. Now they are able to convey all sorts of powers over this wireless wave. So is there an invisible channel between the believing heart and Omnipotence. Over it He can operate. Along it He can send His power. Apply this thought to salvation. As soon as the faith channel for regeneration is thrust through, immediately the work is done. What happiness! What joy! One moment a refugee from divine wrath, the next a forgiven soul! What did it? God! How? Over the real faith of the penitent seeker! But ere long a break occurs. Joy is gone. Depression takes place. Sadness prevails. We ask what the matter is, and the person does not know. Has he sinned? Not that he knows of. But now, we may know what has happened. He has taken down his faith cable. God’s power is no longer delivered onto his heart. He is in "Doubting Castle.” He is now an easy prey for further assaults of the devil. By earnest prayer and skilled instruction he is again induced to believe. The moment the faith wire again touches the divine Dynamo, the lights begin to burn! Joy returns, the heart bubbles over, God is operating over his faith, and he is reclaimed.
The first pair in the garden, lived by their faith in God. The very first offense that was committed was to doubt Him. Thus they broke the invisible channel whereby they lived. Disobedience was wrapped up in doubt, and doubt, the moment it had opportunity flowered into disobedience. The first break of the race with God was at the point of faith. This is also the last connection to be made, when a soul returns to God. We first do everything else in our process back to Him, but believe. When that is done the connection is made! In order to continue to live a Christian life, we must continue to believe. “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1: 17). That is, live by releasing God, moment by moment, upon their own souls, over their faith channel. Our first break with God (if we do break with Him) is at the point of faith. Our steps downward are the same as those of the Mother of all living. First doubt, then disobedience. All backsliding begins with doubt. It is not too much to say that if we would continue perfectly to believe God, that we would never fail. There would be precipitated upon us over our faith channel such power, such grace, such obedience, such likeness to Jesus, such humility, such devotion, as forever to preclude us from lapsing from the life of God.
And why do we not accomplish more for the Kingdom of God? If our contention be true, that faith is a literal connection over which the power of God is released upon us and upon the work we are seeking to do, the answer is very obvious. Because we have no faith, or at best only a little, Jesus said: “He that believeth, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water!” The believer’s faith released them from God, and they flowed out through him onto the parched and barren regions round about. Who of us have not felt, times without number, the need of just such rivers? We have confronted the burned up regions of sin, and sighed, and asked, and prayed for the “rivers,” that we might quench the fires and then make fruitful the burned and barren soil. But we failed to ask definitely for them, and then to BELIEVE with a perfect faith. Had we done so, God would have to turn them loose or break His word!
Again He said: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father.” And we read it, and are stunned and stupefied. Do we pray healing down on the sick? A few, but not many. Do we cast out demons? No, our insane hospitals are full of them. Do we raise the dead? No, no one dreams of trying any more. But there stands the Lord’s statement. If you reject it, you make Him a falsifier. If you accept it, you condemn yourself, for who is doing what He did, to say nothing of greater things? But the secret, no doubt, lies in the first clause: “He that believeth!” For with a perfect faith-channel, untold powers could be released covering any field we felt God’s will to indicate. Did He not also say: “All things are possible unto him that believeth”?
Good reader, have you been praying much, and believing little, or none at all? Have you been satisfying yourself that you had confidence toward God, and trust in His Word, when really you had seldom put a genuine, conscious, faith-channel through to Him? One that He could operate over, and one that was perfect enough so that He could use it? Have you frequent spells of heart depression, and incipient backsliding? You can now diagnose your own case, and see what the matter is. Have you ‘accomplished little or nothing, and laid the pleasing unction to your soul that you were in no wise to blame? Now you can lay the blame exactly where it belongs, on your own lack of faith.