What's FAITH? (part 1)
I like Calvinists ... and I certainly like and appreciate Spurgeon. If I had to say that I didn't like another Christian just because they express some non-essential doctrine that I don't like or that I don't see the way they do, then I would have to leave my church! That is just silly.
Anyway, below is a great sermon by the (sometimes rejected by Calvinists and sometimes rejected by non-Calvinists) Spurgeon. It is long, but I entreat you to read it. On the subject of faith, which has generated so much discussion as to where it comes from, what it is, (is it a gift? is it some mystical vision or view into truth? does it follow the new birth? etc...) this just made such good sense to me! I'm sorry to say, I gave the article to a friend [:~)] ... and my brother, and neither thought this description of faith was good enough. It was just too simple. I have yet to hear back from my pastor about his thoughts on this sermon.
Faith Very Simple - Spurgeon
TO MANY, FAITH SEEMS a hard thing. The truth is, it is only hard because it is easy. Naaman thought it hard that he should have to wash in Jordan; but if it had been some great thing, he would have done it right cheerfully. People think that salvation must be the result of some act or feeling, very mysterious, and very difficult; but God's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways. In order that the feeblest and the most ignorant may be saved, he has made the way of salvation as easy as the A, B, C. There is nothing about it to puzzle anyone; only, as everybody expects to be puzzled by it, many are quite bewildered when they find it to be so exceedingly simple. The fact is, we do not believe that God means what he is saying; we act as if it could not be true.
I have heard of a Sunday-school teacher who performed an experiment which I do not think I shall ever try with children, for it might turn out to be a very expensive one. Indeed, I feel sure that the result in my case would be very different from what I now describe. This teacher had been trying to illustrate what faith was, and, as he could not get it into the minds of his boys, he took his watch, and he said, "Now, I will give you this watch, John. Will you have it?" John fell thinking what the teacher could mean, and did not seize the treasure, but made no answer. The teacher said to the next boy, "Henry, here is the watch. Will you have it?" The boy, with a very proper modesty, replied, "No, thank you, sir." The teacher tried several of the boys with the same result; till at last a youngster, who was not so wise or so thoughtful as the others, but rather more believing, said in the most natural way, "Thank you, sir," and put the watch into his pocket. Then the other boys woke up to a startling fact: their companion had received a watch which they had refused. One of the boys quickly asked of the teacher, "Is he to keep it?" "Of course he is," said the teacher, "I offered it to him, and he accepted it. I would not give a thing and take a thing: that would be very foolish. I put the watch before you, and said that I gave it to you, but none of you would have it." "Oh!" said the boy, "if I had known you meant it, I would have had it." Of course he would. He thought it was a piece of acting, and nothing more. All the other boys were in a dreadful state of mind to think that they had lost the watch. Each one cried, "Teacher, I did not know you meant it, but I thought—"No one took the gift; but every one thought. Each one had his theory, except the simple-minded boy who believed what he was told, and got the watch.
Now I wish that I could always be such a simple child as literally to believe what the Lord says, and take what he puts before me, resting quite content that he is not playing with me, and that I cannot be wrong in accepting what he sets before me in the gospel. Happy should we be if we would trust, and raise no questions of any sorts. But, alas! we will get thinking and doubting. When the Lord uplifts his dear Son before a sinner, that sinner should take him without hesitation. If you take him, you have him; and none can take him from you. Out with your hand, man, and take him at once!When inquirers accept the Bible as literally true, and see that Jesus is really given to all who trust him, all the difficulty about understanding the way of salvation vanishes like the morning's frost at the rising of the sun.
Two inquiring ones came to me in my vestry. They had been hearing the gospel from me for only a short season, but they had been deeply impressed by it. They expressed their regret that they were about to remove far away, but they added their gratitude that they had heard me at all. I was cheered by their kind thanks, but felt anxious that a more effectual work should be wrought in them, and therefore I asked them, "Have you in very deed believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you saved?" One of them replied, "I have been trying hard to believe." This statement I have often heard, but I will never let it go by me unchallenged. "No," I said, "that will not do. Did you ever tell your father that you tried to believe him?" After I had dwelt a while upon the matter, they admitted that such language would have been an insult to their father. I then set the gospel very plainly before them in as simple language as I could, and I begged them to believe Jesus, who is more worthy of faith than the best of fathers. One of them replied, "I cannot realize it: I cannot realize that I am saved." Then I went on to say, "God bears testimony to his Son, that whosoever trusts in his Son is saved. Will you make him a liar now, or will you believe his word?" While I thus spoke, one of them started as if astonished, and she startled us all as she cried, "O sir, I see it all; I am saved! Oh, do bless Jesus for me; he has shown me the way, and he has saved me! I see it all." The esteemed sister who had brought these young friends to me knelt down with them while, with all our hearts, we blessed and magnified the Lord for a soul brought into light. One of the two sisters, however, could not see the gospel as the other had done, though I feel sure she will do so before long. Did it not seem strange that, both hearing the same words, one should come out into clear light, and the other should remain in the gloom? The change which comes over the heart when the understanding grasps the gospel is often reflected in the face, and shines there like the light of heaven. Such newly enlightened souls often exclaim, "Why, sir, it is so plain; how is it I have not seen it before this? I understand all I have read in the Bible now, though I could not make it out before. It has all come in a minute, and now I see what I could never understand before." The fact is, the truth was always plain, but they were looking for signs and wonders, and therefore did not see what was nigh them.
Old men often look for their spectacles when they are on their foreheads; and it is commonly observed that we fail to see that which is straight before us. Christ Jesus is before our faces, and we have only to look to him, and live; but we make all manner of bewilderment of it, and so manufacture a maze out of that which is plain as a pikestaff.The little incident about the two sisters reminds me of another. A much-esteemed friend came to me one Sabbath morning after service, to shake hands with me, "for," said she, "I was fifty years old on the same day as yourself. I am like you in that one thing, sir; but I am the very reverse of you in better things." I remarked, "Then you must be a very good woman; for in many things I wish I also could be the reverse of what I am." "No, no," she said, "I did not mean anything of that sort: I am not right at all." "What!" I cried, "are you not a believer in the Lord Jesus?" "Well," she said, with much emotion, "I, I will try to be." I laid hold of her hand, and said, "My dear soul, you are not going to tell me that you will try to believe my Lord Jesus! I cannot have such talk from you. It means blank unbelief. What has HE done that you should talk of him in that way? Would you tell me that you would try to believe me? I know you would not treat me so rudely. You think me a true man, and so you believe me at once; and surely you cannot do less with my Lord Jesus? Then with tears she exclaimed, "Oh, sir, do pray for me!" To this I replied, "I do not feel that I can do anything of the kind. What can I ask the Lord Jesus to do for one who will not trust him? I see nothing to pray about. If you will believe him, you shall be saved; and if you will not believe him, I cannot ask him to invent a new way to gratify your unbelief." Then she said again, "I will try to believe"; but I told her solemnly I would have none of her trying; for the message from the Lord did not mention "trying," but said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." I pressed upon her the great truth, that "He that believeth on him hath everlasting life"; and its terrible reverse—"He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." I urged her to full faith in the once crucified but now ascended Lord, and the Holy Spirit there and then enabled her to trust. She most tenderly said, "Oh, sir, I have been looking to my feelings, and this has been my mistake! Now I trust my soul with Jesus, and I am saved." She found immediate peace through believing. There is no other way.
God has been pleased to make the necessities of life very simple matters. We must eat; and even a blind man can find the way to his mouth. We must drink; and even the tiniest babe knows how to do this without instruction. We have a fountain in the grounds of the Stockwell Orphanage, and when it is running in the hot weather, the boys go to it naturally. We have no class for fountain-drill. Many poor boys have come to the Orphanage, but never one who was so ignorant that he did not know how to drink. Now faith is, in spiritual things, what eating and drinking are in temporal things. By the mouth of faith we take the blessings of grace into our spiritual nature, and they are ours. O you who would believe, but think you cannot, do you not see that, as one can drink without strength, and as one can eat without strength, and gets strength by eating, so we may receive Jesus without effort, and by accepting him we receive power for all such further effort as we may be called to put forth?
Faith is so simple a matter that, whenever I try to explain it, I am very fearful lest I should becloud its simplicity. When Thomas Scott had printed his notes upon "The Pilgrim's Progress," he asked one of his parishioners whether she understood the book. "Oh yes, sir," said she, "I understand Mr. Bunyan well enough, and I am hoping that one day, by divine grace, I may understand your explanations." Should I not feel mortified if my reader should know what faith is, and then get confused by my explanation? I will, however, make one trial, and pray the Lord to make it clear.
I am told that on a certain highland road there was a disputed right of way. The owner wished to preserve his supremacy, and at the same time he did not wish to inconvenience the public: hence an arrangement which occasioned the following incident. Seeing a sweet country girl standing at the gate, a tourist went up to her, and offered her a shilling to permit him to pass. "No, no," said the child, "I must not take anything from you; but you are to say, 'Please allow me to pass,' and then you may come through and welcome." The permission was to be asked for; but it could be had for the asking. Just so, eternal life is free; and it can be had, yea, it shall be at once had, by trusting in the word of him who cannot lie. Trust Christ, and by that trust you grasp salvation and eternal life. Do not philosophize. Do not sit down, and bother your poor brain. Just believe Jesus as you would believe your father. Trust him as you trust your money with a banker, or your health with a doctor.Faith will not long seem a difficulty to you; nor ought it to be so, for it is simple.
Faith is trusting, trusting wholly upon the person, work, merit, and power of the Son of God. Some think this trusting is a romantic business, but indeed it is the simplest thing that can possibly be. To some of us, truths which were once hard to believe are now matters of fact which we should find it hard to doubt. If one of our great grandfathers were to rise from the dead, and come into the present state of things, what a deal of trusting he would have to do! He would say tomorrow morning, "Where are the flint and steel? I want a light;" and we should give him a little box with tiny pieces of wood in it, and tell him to strike one of them on the box. He would have to trust a good deal before he would believe that fire would thus be produced. We should next say to him, "Now that you have a light, turn that tap, and light the gas." He sees nothing. How can light come through an invisible vapor? And yet it does. "Come with us, grandfather. Sit in that chair. Look at that box in front of you. You shall have your likeness directly." "No, child," he would say, "it is ridiculous. The sun take my portrait? I cannot believe it." "Yes, and you shall ride fifty miles in an hour without horses." He will not believe it till we get him into the train. "My dear sir, you shall speak to your son in New York, and he shall answer you in a few minutes." Should we not astonish the old gentleman? Would he not want all his faith? Yet these things are believed by us without effort, because experience has made us familiar with them. Faith is greatly needed by you who are strangers to spiritual things; you seem lost while we are talking about them. But oh, how simple it is to us who have the new life, and have communion with spiritual realities! We have a Father to whom we speak, and he hears us, and a blessed Savior who hears our heart's longings, and helps us in our struggles against sin. It is all plain to him that understandeth. May it now be plain to you!