Faith is essential to human life. The natural faith, such as unconverted men have in men and things is useful to society, to the ends of business and to the comfort, not to say, the subsistence, of families. It is always useful so far as it goes, yet it is not virtue, for it does not have respect to God, to his character, or his law. It may be good and useful, yet not be virtue, for it co-exists with selfishness and with enmity to God.
It is not saving faith, for it does not save men from sin, does not fit men for heaven.
Faith is the key to life in heaven and those who live therein must also exercise faith. Faith is perfect in heaven. Faith being perfect there, the state of society and the happiness of sentient beings there must be perfect. If faith were not perfect, society even in heaven could not be. All is right there because faith is perfect and universal.
All men who come to the knowledge of the gospel ought to live a life of faith. Strange that men do not see its value and its excellence. In studying the great truths which they claim to believe, one can account for the way Christians live by the nature of what they believe. Believing that Christ died for them, how can they do otherwise than love him and live to please and serve him? Believing so, they must, rationally, act so. This belief must be of the utmost value to them, so long as they live in this world, whether the things they believe are true or false.
A little more reflection on the matter, and the very fact of the universal utility of the faith proves its divine origin and the divine truth of the things believed. Christian faith does in fact fit men for heaven; this proves its doctrine to be divine. It cannot be a lie; for no lie could have such results. It is impossible that a system can be false, which, believed, makes men so pure and holy. The fruits of Christian faith prove the Bible true, therefore, unless we accept the absurdity that to believe a lie will lift men above the world, will renovate their hearts and restore them to God’s own image; and who can believe this?
Anyone who does not know that true Christian faith is the essential condition of perfect society either in this world or the world to come must have intellectual problem. Christian faith must be the necessary condition of the mind’s being in a perfect state. It must be ever present in that society which constitutes heaven.
The life of faith in Christ is too peculiar to be mistaken. It is said of Christians that they are a “peculiar people.” They have a peculiar faith. They believe things which elevate the soul, purify the heart, raise the mind above the influence of sordid things and place it aloof from the debasing influences of sensuality, and all things low and mean. Faith in Christ must produce a life which will be its own witness. Look over society any where, and your eye must recognize the man who lives by faith. Such faith as the true Christian has must create a life so peculiar as to be readily distinguished from every other life.
Saving faith is in its very nature saving. Many think of this saving as only future and as only rescuing the soul at death from final perdition. This is a great and a grievous mistake. This Christian faith is that by which men live, not that by which they die. They are saved here first, and saved hereafter, because they are first saved here. If faith ever saves the soul, it must be first here. It saves them into happiness in heaven because it has first saved them into holiness on earth.
All men, not grossly ignorant, can see the nature and value of gospel faith. A man must be exceedingly stupid who can live in a world where faith is exhibited before his eyes, talked of all around him; and yet not be interested in the inquiry: What is this? How are these results produced? If he looks into this matter, he cannot but see that the truths taught in the gospel need only be believed, and the results will be of the very greatest value to the soul.
Let me ask that sinner whose aims hitherto have never risen above the mere enjoyments of time; suppose you were not to believe the gospel for yourself, understanding it in a good degree as it is; you give it full credence, embracing it with all its precious provisions and promises;do you think it would be strange if you should then say,”I have enjoyed more in one hour than in all my life before”? those who are still in their sins can know but little yet of the great things of the gospel.
You have never yet believed things which could give you more than a feverish pleasure, transient and deceptive. You have never yet believed any thing high, inspiring, ennobling. Now take your stand-point of vision above the great ocean of truth. Ascend the “Delectable Mountains,” from whence you can take in a broad and clear view of the “Celestial City.” Lo, there is a palace, built of God, for his saints from earth. Did you ever see a royal palace? Have you ever scanned the lofty walls, the glittering towers, the artificial lakes, the gardens, lawns and trees and flowers? Then if so, you said how noble to be owner of this! To be able to survey it all and say “This is mine”
But when you become a true Christian and open your heart to a Christian’s faith, you can say: All this will not begin to compare with my Master’s palace to which He will take me home after a few days. This, compared with that, is only as the merest dunghill! “In my Fathers’ house are many mansions.” Jesus said he was going to get them ready for us, and then would take us all home. Then we shall indeed be “at home in the presence of Jesus.” He can tell us ten thousand things that took place ages before we were born. If you believed that you were to be there, would it be strange if you were too happy to sleep tonight? How many times have I heard it said within a few months by one and another and I have been too happy in God to sleep.
One of the most active business men of the city who had been skeptical was brought to see his sins and to be greatly concerned for himself. After attending meetings many evenings, he finally said to his wife “It does me no good to go to these meetings; I must stop”. I am going out of town today. He went accordingly to meet the cars, but lo, they had gone! Upon his return his wife said: “Now please go with me to the meeting once more”. He consented; the truth took hold of his soul with power. She had been praying for him for many years; and now he is converted. What is the result? She is too happy to sleep and so is he! They have a thousand things to talk over, to recount the mercies of the Lord and to celebrate his love. There was no sleep in that house for at least one night. And here was another most beautiful result; their two children are also converted, and they “rejoice, believing in God, with all their house.”
The reason why people live as they do is that they lack faith. They fail to trust in God. They do not realize the great things of God’s promises and of his love.
Finally, none can be happy even in heaven, without faith. Unless they can confide in God, it were vain to suppose they can be quiet and blessed even there. For, in that world, perhaps even more than in this, there will be things brought before their minds which they cannot understand. Under the government of an infinite God there must always be things done or permitted by the Great Ruler of all which minds so small and short-sighted as ours can by no means fathom. There is no alternative then but either to trust, or to rebel. Faith or sin: this is the only alternative.
How wise, therefore, that God should train his children to faith before he ventures to take them up to heaven! And let them all take care that they do not even ask to go there, until they have faith enough to trust God as revealed here! It must be a fearful thing to go to heaven unprepared to endure its discipline. God will take none there, till He sees they can bear it.