By J. G. Morrison, D.D.
THE PERFECTING OF OUR FAITH
Mankind is possessed with a faith faculty at birth. This automatically reaches out and connects itself with other human beings about us, and receives comfort, consolation and soul sustenance. Many persons can clearly remember when first they doubted the human beings around them. What dark dread and horror possessed the childish mind. Some children are so tricked and beguiled as to grow up without any faith in parents or neighbors. When properly reared, a child has natural and almost perfect faith in parents. This, when suitably trained may extend itself naturally to the great heavenly Father, and that child rejoice in a juvenile conversion that is real and delightful. Faith in God is begotten in one because of evidence. It may be the testimony of others, or the evidence that gathers around the Bible, but it is reasonable evidence that stirs one’s faith faculty. It continues to grow through consciousness of results that come to one by its exercise. If a person trusted God for some time and obtained no results, he would soon lose faith in God. But just as soon as a real cable of faith is extended to God, and He begins operating over it upon our hearts, there is at once a conscious result. The burden of sin is lifted, the sense of peace enters in, and the realization of the blessed Fatherhood of God, and the Saviorhood of Jesus Christ, is manifest and the presence and communion of the Holy Ghost is felt. All of this witnesses to one’s faith, and strengthens it. Faith grows by rehearsing these facts, or listening to others embrace them, hence the value of religious testimonies.
There is a sense in which our faith is perfected before we are regenerated. The seeker urged on by hearing the glowing testimonies of others or because of the exhortations and prayers of the workers, usually gets desperate, before he is able to offer to God a perfect enough faith, so that God can be released in power sufficient to forgive and regenerate that soul. It appears to be a fact that desperation or agony brings about a perfecting of the faith channel. People are often found who claim to be converted by what one might term “dry” faith, but there is always a question mark hanging over their experience in their own minds. The real fact seems to be that they did not get genuinely converted at all, but were blessed up a bit over the faith of the ones who were interested in them, and themselves never offered God a perfect faith channel over which He could give them the desires of their own hearts. Others have been noted who got desperate, and began agonizing, and seeking in such desperate earnestness that ere long they believed God with such whole heartedness and abandon that a perfect faith was offered, and a perfect case of obtainment was realized.
In this same way people seek holiness. Some seek a while, and then “take it by faith,” but this seems to be more of a head-faith than a heart-faith. At all events few, if any, such cases are satisfactorily baptized with the Holy Ghost, but are chronically dissatisfied. We contend that they never offered God a perfect faith for their entire sanctification, and because of this, never did release the necessary fire from the skies to burn out the old carnal nature, and fill them with the Holy Ghost. If they had done so, they would have received what they sought for, and been entirely satisfied, as well as entirely sanctified. The soul that gets sanctified wholly, is compelled, as a rule to develop a fine degree of desperation, and no little agony before it can perfect its faith enough so that God can operate over it, and pour upon it the “unquenchable fire” that eradicates the inbred sin nature and fills with perfect love.
This will explain to the reader, why it is that we are unable to achieve to any greater degree than we do. Our faith for achievement may be real, but it is much of the time very imperfect, and faulty. People will often begin grandly on some enterprise for God, and then at the first serious opposition, or misunderstanding, or lukewarmness on the part of helpers, or lessening of the finances, or some other obstacle, will give up, and turn toward something else. This means that their faith for accomplishing that particular thing was exceedingly thin, and brittle and easily broken. A real faith for the achievement of something, will hang on, retreating when it is compelled to do so, but returning as soon as possible to the attack, turning, twisting, seeking new avenues of approach, assaulting from some other direction, camping in the neighborhood while it prays and fasts, and believes God afresh, but finally wins! Why? Because it has offered to God a perfect channel, and He is operating, and bringing the matter to pass.
In many theaters, the electric lights are adjusted with a “dimmer” on them, so that special effects can be realized by turning the lights very low. The effect of the “dimmer” is to lessen the current of electricity, and the full effect of the dynamo is checked. This seems to be the condition of the faith-cable of most believers, especially for achievement. In many places we are satisfied to sow seed, and leave the reaping of the harvest to some one else, we do not know whom. Others are satisfied with a soul now and then. Still others are complacent over the almost total failure of their evangelistic efforts, and instead of locating the difficulty in their own lack of faith, they comfort themselves with the thought that it was not God’s time. Most of us are satisfied with little. Just enough experience to keep us from actual defeat satisfies us in our souls, and instead of exercising a great faith for a mighty, spilling, splashing, “joy-unspeakable-and-full-of-glory” experience, we are satisfied to jog along, no better, and sometimes worse, than we were years ago. In achievement, we are comforted if the church bills are paid, and the salary coming in. If we can get a few accessions from the Sunday school, so that we can show a little growth in church membership each year, we let it go at that. Instead of realizing that the lack of achievement is due almost totally to our lack of achieving faith, or due to the lamentable quality of what faith of that description we had, and bestirring ourselves to perfect that faith, we creep lazily along. and blame the age, and the peculiar character of humanity in these days, for our failure. The simple fact of the matter is, we have a “dimmer” on our faith for achievement. If we will throw that “dimmer” back, and release the whole of God’s mighty Spirit onto ourselves and onto the propositions for which we labor, we will be able to “stand still and see the salvation of our God!” A recent translation of one of David’s psalms makes it read thus: “Trust in the Lord, and He will work!” This is our contention throughout this little volume. God works over our faith. No faith, no work. Little faith, little work. Perfect faith, great achievement! The special theme for this chapter is to show the reader how to throw the “dimmer” back from his faith, and release the full power of God.
We have said above, that few, if any, ever received conversion, until they became desperate, and agonized for it. We have shown that not many, if any, ever became sanctified wholly, till they perfected their faith by agony, so now we desire to call the attention of our readers, to the fact that when it comes to the matter of achievement, there is very little agony. In regard to the salvation of the other fellow, we can remain very complacent, and allow him to perish in multitudes around us, and seldom or never weep, or fast, or grow desperate over his lost condition. Does not the Holy Book declare that “he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him?” This shows that there is some relation between “weeping” and ‘sheaves bringing.” There is not much weeping over the lost. There is comparatively little agony over the hell-bound millions. For this reason we offer a very faulty faith-channel to God, and He can do but little to change the situation, and usher in a mighty awakening.
Our chief difficulty today, seems to be that we can scarcely bring ourselves to become desperate in the matter of putting the cause of salvation across. The circumstances of our lives are so convenient, we live so comfortably, we are protected on almost every side, cushions, rocking chairs and deeply upholstered autos abound; food is plentiful, danger for the most part at a distance, electricity floods our homes with light, luxurious trains, with diners and sleepers, bear us swiftly across the country; not much is exacted of us that is grinding, hard, or taxing, and our faith has grown so flabby, that many cannot keep themselves decently saved, to say nothing of endeavoring to accomplish anything. We look for a Christianity that moves along the lines of least resistance, that disturbs us not, that continues to lull us to sleep, and to keep things going easy. Our efforts at achievement are largely damned because of the innate laziness that has afflicted the age, and through the age, entered the fiber of our own souls. Our faith becomes infected with the ease-loving tendency of the times, and we cannot offer a perfect channel for achievement to God, and hence the mighty commissions of His Word mean little or nothing to us. When He states: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do, shall he do also,” we gape, and wonder, and try to imagine a variety of things that this can mean other than what it says, and then relapse again into our spiritual comatose condition, and sleep on. Little wonder that Jesus said, “When the Son of man cometh, will he find faith on the earth?”
In order to perfect our faith we must divorce ourselves, in our thinking, from anything that will prevent us from living the crucified life. It is said that George Mueller spent many months in humble, self-crucifying prayer, waiting before God, to be sure that he was, himself, dead to all self, and selfish exaltation, before he began to believe for the support of an orphanage. He knew that if his effort was successful, fame would come to him, and consequently he waited in agony, to know that God had killed Mueller sufficiently, so that He could trust him with the necessary notoriety and fame, that success was bound to bring. It is recorded of him that to the day of his death he was the same humble, lowly, plain George Mueller that he was at the very beginning. The self-crucifixion so perfected his faith, that he was able to release God in the terms of thousands and, finally, millions of dollars. How few of us can God trust! How speedily, the least bit of God’s power and ability conferred on us puffs us up! Scarcely does He dare to endow anyone with the power of divine healing, in these days, than he at once sets himself up as a superior being among us. Hardly any one can make any sort of success of any line of religious work, without getting spiritually proud, religiously boastful, denominationally conceited, or hopelessly astray in some fanatical way as to doctrine. No one, so we contend, can offer God a perfect faith Within the matters of His will, without living a lowly, humble, sell-crucified life.
A second necessity in the perfection of one’s faith-channel, is to sacrifice the conveniences of life. At this point we are very liable to be misunderstood. We do not mean literally to do away with conveniences, but we mean not to be enslaved by them. Like the soldier at the front in the World War, when he was in the rest camp at the rear, awaiting his turn to take the trenches, he enjoyed, if he had them, the means of comfort, and cleanliness. Rocking chairs, soft beds, hammocks, plentiful and unusual food were all his, in case they were to be had, and no one objected to his enjoying every ease that was within his reach, while resting there. But what was expected when the bugle sounded? He would don his muddy uniform, lace up heavy boots and leggings, strap his helmet to his head, and seizing his arms, march for the trenches eager in the performance of his duty. He left his soft bed, and slept gladly on the ground. He abandoned cleanliness and secured what little he could while on duty. He bade goodby to his choice foods and ate hard bread and drank stale water, till his turn came again to rest in the camps at the rear. This is something of what we mean. Can we not have conveniences, and even some luxuries, without being enslaved by them? When the call of God’s house, God’s day, and God’s revival meetings, sounds, can we not leave our comforts, and conveniences, and fare forth, as soldierly, to a genuine self-sacrificing campaign for souls, as ever did soldiers in the great war? Are we not in the midst of a great rebellion now? Is not the holiness movement about the only thing that has not succumbed to the enemy? Are we not fighting a desperate rear-guard action, to keep the whole cause from being swallowed by the foe? Then, we ought to be ready, at all times, to leave home, fireside, soft bed, gentlerocking chair, interesting book or magazine, choice food, soft raiment, and all else, for the strenuousness of a battle for souls. Clothe yourself in garments in which you can kneel on any floor and wrestle with God for the lost. Forget everything but the fury of the fight. Call for your muddy uniform, your heavy helmet, and your arms, and fare forth as joyously as the men of literal battles, and the God of spiritual contests will be with you. In this way you can so perfect your faith as to offer a channel that God can honor.
It is quite possible that this age will have examples of so-called holiness people who will be among the list labeled at the judgment, “Damned by a Rocking Chair!” or “Trundled to Hell in a Limousine!” or “Ruined by Beautiful Pictures and Soft Rugs!” or “Out of Commission through Surfeiting and Drunkenness!” Downright laziness is a real vice among the folks who call themselves God’s people, these days. Too lazy to pray much. Too indolent to fast. Too weary of doing their own work, to work much for souls. May God stir our hearts till we throw off the sloth of spiritual ease, and enable us to perfect our faith, to the end that achievement may be ours!”
A third method of perfecting one’s faith is fasting. How little we practice it! Yet there is something about the hunger of the body, that assists in a better realization of the necessary agony of soul, such as brings a perfect medium between one and God. The whole subject of fasting is difficult, because no scheduled rule can be laid down that will fit every case. Some are ill, and cannot endure fasting. Some are working hard, and must adjust their fast to that. Others find it difficult to fast regularly because of its relation to those with whom they chance to come in contact. Nevertheless all should do something at this blessed matter, and make it as regular as they can. Jesus clearly intimates that there is a certain kind of demon that cannot be dislodged without the perfect faith that only fasting brings. May we be stirred to undertake more of it, and to follow it more systematically!
A fourth method that affects one’s faith-channel, is financial faithfulness. Any lack at this point, and a direct blow is struck at a perfect faith. How can one fully believe God, when there is the essence of disobedience in the matter of finance? Consecrate all to God, and administer that trust as faithfully and devotedly, as though it were not your own at all, but belonged to Him, and the ability to pray the prayer of faith will be greatly increased. An honest tithe should be the minimum, which should be increased with offerings and lovingly, loyally, laid at His feet. The “storehouse” tithing, which brings into the church, of which you are a member, your tithes and offerings, thus making it your “storehouse,” is a happy arrangement. Financial faithfulness will not only enable you to perfect your faith, but will also place funds at the disposal of God, so that as He operates over your faith, He will also have some resources, of a material kind, to use in connection with His operations. Much of the work of God’s church is stalled and hindered, because His people do not faithfully recognize their obligations to Him in the matter of money.
A final step in faith perfection is to cultivate the “sufferings of Christ.” Paul in his epistles has something to say about fellowshipping the sufferings of Christ (Phil. 3: 10), as though they were, in some manner, needful for the performance of the highest service. Again (2 Tim. 2: 11) he says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him,” as though the possibility, of being included in the sacred number of the Bridehood, might depend on whether we had advanced into the mysterious fellowship of His sufferings. Just all that this may mean, we do not pretend to know, but we feel sure that it indicates some sort of soul travail for the salvation of the lost, that comparatively few of us ever participate in. It indicates that there is such a union of mind and heart, between ourselves and the Lord Jesus Christ, as to enable us to enter into the heart agony that He had to endure, and that He must be enduring yet, and that He will continue to endure until the sin problem of the world is ultimately settled. It involves the idea of intercession, that takes upon itself something of the woes and sorrows, heartaches and miseries, of the ones for whom it intercedes. This identifies us so fully with Jesus Christ in His Saviorhood, and fills up so completely our lives with that “which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ,” as to enable us to offer Him a perfect faith for achievement and to release God’s power, almost one hundred per cent, upon any given enterprise. The story of “Praying Hyde,” a missionary to India, and how he would spend hours in prayer, till he forgot meals, rest, and all else, in his heart to heart communion with our blessed Lord; how he would pray for a certain number to be saved, and realize that very number in meeting after meeting; how he asked for one soul a day on an average for the year, and got it; how he advanced year-by-year to two souls a day, then to three, and finally to four, and saw the results as he prayed and believed, will illustrate the point at hand, and give us a shining example of the cultivation of the “sufferings of Jesus,” at its best. The life of David Brainerd, and his wonderful work among the Delaware Indians, wherein he ate their nauseous food, slept in their filthy cabins, prayed in the snow drifts till he acquired tuberculosis, preached to them, loved them, lived with them, led them to Jesus by thousands, and was then carried to the settlements to die, arriving on a stretcher, like a warrior from the gory field of battle, laying down his life while still in the thirties, adds another to the list that illustrates the entrance into the sufferings of Jesus, and the perfecting of a faith, that delivered God in mighty power on the hearts of the savages.
The wife of General J. B. Gordon, a distinguished soldier in the Civil War, followed her husband to the battlefield, and tells how, when she was overlooking a battle in which he was engaged, she saw the Federal artillery trained on her husband’s troops, and knew that he was about to receive from those death dealing guns a discharge that might mean his instant destruction, that the flash of the guns carried to her own heart, a stab like that of a knife. Again and again, when the gray smoke burst from the artillery nozzles, and the boom rolled over the hills, that fearful pain shot athwart her heart, as she suffered with him. This is something of what we mean. Can we not get so close to Jesus, and feel so keenly His death grapple with the sin of this world, as to love somewhat as He loves, labor a bit as He labored, and suffer in unison with Him? In this way, all imperfections in the faith channel can be removed, and with a pure faith lifted to the Omnipotence of the skies, we can perfectly achieve.
Let the reader but think for a moment of the souls unsaved, because we are failing to do this. Of the millions who are marching to hell, because so few of us are desperately enough in earnest. Will not the Judgment Day reveal some things, that will compel us to give our account, at that great occasion, with grief and not with joy! Are there not a few more who will offer themselves to God for the perfecting of their faith, in this age, so that we may precipitate a great awakening, a great shower of the “latter rain,” before the days of the Tribulation set in? Have not the holiness churches been called into being for such a time as this? They have the greatest experience known to the Bible, and the highest religious standards the world has ever seen, why, then, can we not develop a faith that will release the restrained Pentecosts of God, and win untold thousands to Him before the sun sets for this age? We can, if we will! May God grant that it may be—WE CAN AND WE WILL!