By J. G. Morrison, D.D.
FAITH IN ITS RELATION TO SALVATION
The relation of faith to salvation is possibly better understood by our readers, than its relation to other matters. However for a complete discussion of the subject of faith in the light of the contention of this book, it is necessary to consider it.
The sacred writer states that the “just shall live by faith.” From this we gather that the first human beings in the Garden of Eden, must have sustained their spiritual and, ultimately, their natural lives in the same way that we are supposed to do, viz., by a momentary faith in God. Jesus said that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” And, inasmuch as “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” we can see the necessity of God’s frequent visits to the newly created pair, that they might have a continual faith in Him, by listening to His voice, in order to Jive.
When the Tempter came he attacked them at the point of their vital connection with God, that is, their faith. If this invisible cable or cord could be severed, then there was nothing to keep them alive spiritually, and they would naturally step out into open sin. This would eventually result (as it did) in their physical death also. Hence the attack was made at the point of their faith in God. “And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3: 4). Notice the implied questioning of God’s veracity. He had said that they surely would die. Satan by a shrewd implication, does not openly give the lie to God’s statement, yet nevertheless injects the necessary poison that breaks the woman’s faith. “For God doth know in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3: 5). With a half truth, that was in effect worse than a whole lie, the Tempter added to the woman’s doubt of God’s Word, till her faith broke completely, and later the faith of her husband also. Thus by severing the vital channel over which they drew their spiritual sustenance from God, and ultimately their physical sustenance as well, the enemy brought about the tragedy of the Garden. On a smaller, but no less vital scale, the same tragedy is enacted in every human life, when the years of accountability are reached.
In passing let us call the reader’s attention to the fact that it was at the same point that Satan made his chief assault on Jesus Christ. What is the significance of his question to the Master: “If thou be the Son of God, command these stones that they be made bread”? If this remark uttered by Satan is read with the emphasis on the “be,” it will bring the significance out more clearly. “If thou be the Son of God,” as much as to say, “I do not believe that you are. You will have to show me! Prove your divinity by a miracle! You are hungry, and need bread. Here are stones, much the size and shape of loaves, prove to me, now, that you are the Messiah, by changing one of these stones into bread!” The temptation lay, as we understand it, at two points. The first, and lesser, was the subtle inducement offered to the Master to supply His own wants by an exercise of His miraculous power, a thing that He never did, with the possible exception of paying His taxes (Matt. 17: 27). The second, and the greater, was the far more subtle assault on His faith. The same tactics that had ruined Eve, and had kept the human race, largely speaking, in his power from the dawn of creation was again employed, with even more gentle and solicitous subtlety. At the point where the first Adam fell, the “last Adam” stood His ground. Had He failed, there could have been no redemption for the race, because there would have been no one who could make a blood atonement for us or show us by example the way to reconnect our faith with God.
It is very interesting and significant to notice that when a soul is seeking God the faith link is the last one to be connected up. Confession is made, repentance entered upon, prayers and pleas indulged, the demands of restitution conformed to, and yet the seeking soul fails to find rest and forgiveness in a loving heavenly Father’s bosom—why? Sometimes all of these necessary preliminaries are continued for weeks, and in some cases they have been known to be fully met for years, and yet no peace, no sense of forgiveness, no realization of sonship. What is lacking? Why cannot such a humble, penitent, weeping sinner find forgiveness? Because of his lack of faith! Faith, be it remembered, is a law, which must be fulfilled. It is also, as we herein contend, a cable, a channel, a medium that must be offered to God before He is able to release the forgiving streams of mercy, and the renewing powers of regeneration upon the seeking soul. But the moment the law of faith is fulfilled, the moment a genuine channel of releasement is offered to God, instantly the fire falls. The “new creature in Christ Jesus,” is created! A child of God is born! Old things pass away, all things become new! The link that was severed in the garden of Eden, through the sin of Adam, and that was again severed in the first dawn of accountability by the individual on his own account, is restored. The life of God is restored. The life of God is flowing, over the channel of faith, into the being of that person. What joy, what satisfaction, what delight! No wonder his face shines, his step takes on an unwonted spring, his heart bounds, he testifies with a thrill, prays with a wondrous unction, and sings:
It would also seem to be a corroboration of the truth of our contention, to notice how frequently new converts are subjected to a slump in their Christian experience soon after they are converted. Not realizing the tremendous importance of maintaining the faith that obtained for them the new birth, they are often induced by the subtlety of the enemy to cease believing. Instantly the joy subsides and the glory fades. Listlessly they drag themselves to the services, and testify without unction, and without a thrill. Unless assistance comes promptly to such a convert, he will soon be again in “the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” What has happened? He has broken the faith channel, over which God saved him. The streams of divine life are no longer coursing through his being and he is slowly, but surely withering away. Induce him again to believe God, and the moment he does so, all is changed! Again he is saved, again he is joyful, again he is unctuously on fire.
In the same way as we have described the reception of the new birth, so believers are sanctified wholly. The law of faith does not permit of a soul receiving more than just the thing for which he believed. Hence it is, that people are justified before they are sanctified. We are not discussing now whether God is able to confer both works of grace upon a believing soul at one time. Neither are we entering into the discussion as to whether a well instructed person might believe for both of them at the same time, we are merely calling attention to the fact that it never happens. No one reports the case of a person who was able to believe for more than one work of grace at a time. One experience is all that one receives by that one act of faith. But the law of obtainment is the same. No matter how well consecrated, one may be, no matter how completely dead to self, no matter how fully surrendered to the Holy Ghost, no matter how unreservedly one lays oneself on the altar for the crucifixion of the “old man carnality,” no fire descends, no baptism of the Spirit takes place, no crucifying of the self life is realized, no fullness is experienced, till again the faith channel is erected to God for that particular thing, and the moment it is done, the moment that faith is perfect enough so that God can operate over it, there is an instant and automatic response, and the carnality is burned away with “unquenchable fire,” released over your faith from God’s own limitless resources, and the heart is sanctified wholly, and filled with perfect love.
In this brief analysis we can see why the people who stated that they did “take it by faith,” did not receive. Their faith was not perfect, nor genuine. If it had been, the fire would have fallen, because faith is an automatic law. The trouble with them is, that they need to have their faith perfected, for it is only over the perfect faith that God can operate successfully. He may confer a feeble glow, a sense of “feeling better,” over the imperfect faith that such a seeker is exercising, but the actual carnality killing baptism cannot be conferred over anything but a perfect faith. A discussion of how to perfect one’s faith, will follow in a succeeding chapter of this book.
All backsliding begins at the point of one’s faith. Just as the enemy approached Eve, so he approaches each one of us. He knows that if he can ruin our faith connection he will be victorious. That, as long as he can keep us from firmly believing God, regardless of seeming, feelings, and circumstances, he will keep us down. That, if he cannot break our faith completely, but can keep it feeble, fluctuating and intermittent, then he keeps us from having a satisfactory experience, he can constantly becloud us with gloom and despondency, and prevent our Christian lives from being of the sort that any unsaved person would desire. When one has a triumphant, perfect faith, one is more than a match for all the demons of hell. God’s power and salvation is being constantly delivered in mighty streams onto the soul of the perfect believer, and he can bid defiance to the arch-adversary himself. When one’s faith is strong, the fire burns! Then the enemy is afraid of us. Holy fires flaming from that triumphant heart combats and resists hell fire. Any attack on the believer who has a perfect faith-cable between him and God, results in the fire of God burning the filthy fingers of our fell adversary. “The wicked one toucheth him not.” But when one’s faith is down, then he is beaten before the battle begins. God can no longer precipitate Himself upon that person, not having any connection over which to operate, and the man is whipped. The devil browbeats him with suggestions, overwhelms him with inducements to commit open sin, leaps upon him, throws his dark wing over him, hypnotizes him with the dark mesmerism of hell, leads him in the ways of the damned, and finally triumphs over him in the pit of perdition. As Jesus said to Peter, when he saw the boisterous waves, “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” So it can be said, a real faith would have brought that demon assailed man through the most troubled experiences, and landed him safe in heaven, it is not too much to say, that if a person believes God perfectly he will never backslide. “For his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” That “seed” is placed there by faith. It is maintained there by faith. As long as it is there, one is safe from sinning against God. But the enemy trains his heaviest guns on the convert’s faith-cable, and when he severs that, then all else in the sin line is easy, natural and inevitable. The contact that maintained the “seed of God” in the heart is broken. The erstwhile believer is now adrift from God. The life-line has been cut. There can be no salvation, no victory, no reclamation till that line is again connected, and the life of God again deluging that soul. When one’s faith is down, the chief adversary can take a holiday so far as that man is concerned. He can then detach the puniest imp in all his realm to take care of him who once was a child of God. Like Samson, when he had broker. faith with God, the Spirit can no longer fill him. He, who had slain lions single handed, who had dragged brass gates from their hinges, who had slain a thousand men with a bone suddenly picked up from the refuse heap of the town, who had been more than a match for an entire nation in arms against him, when his faith was perfect, is later, when his faith has been destroyed, made to grind a grist for his enemies, whipped to his task by a Philistine child! But remember, he ceased perfectly to believe God, before he disobeyed Him. Had he perfectly trusted, perfectly believed, he never would have disobeyed!
What a pitiful shame that we are weak and helpless and almost defeated when God’s cloud of salvation, and power, and divine ability is just overhead, swelling toward us and waiting, ready, to pour its torrents of salvation, and power and fire upon the one who will only look up and believe! “Fear not, believe only,” said the Master, when the centurion faced the fact of the death of his daughter. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth,” He cried again, to the man who sought the healing of a demoniac child. “He that believeth, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water,” the same blessed lips declared, to the people as they with parched hearts gathered “on the great day of the feast.” Oh, reader, will you not do it right now! Make sure that all is really on the altar, and then look up and believe God. Believe for the best experience that you have ever had. Believe for it now! Claim it by a perfect faith. Release God in copious streams of holy power upon your own heart! The salvation, the power, the holiness is all there, and it is waiting for your faith to release it, or else there is no truth in the Book! Paul catches a vision of this when he shouts: “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe!” (Eph. 1: 19).