FAITH AND UNFAITH, BY SAMUEL COX

THE TWO MARVELS WHICH ASTONISHED CHRIST. " And he marvelled because of their unbelief." — Mark vi. 6. " When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." — • Luke vii. g. I SPOKE in my last Discourse of Faith as a condition of Salvation, and tried to shew how reasonable, how inevitable it was, and is, that this condition should be exacted. The task was not so difficult as it seems. For if, as Hartley Coleridge has said, Faith is an affirmation, and an act, Which bids eternal truth be present fact, how shall the eternal truths which Christ came to reveal become the present and ruling facts of our lives except by the affirmation and act of faith } How can we possibly be saved by them until they have become present and living facts to us? So, again, if faith be the only gate and avenue by

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which uc can pass into the invisible and spiritual world, or the powers of that world can pass to us, how should

these supernal powers come down into this visible world, and work signs and v/onders in it, save by this gate and avenue of the soul ? In the fact that faith is the only facult}- which gives the truths and forces of the spiritual world substance and power, and brings them home to us, we have a sufficient vindication of our Lord's constant and imperative demand for faith, whether He were about to " save " the body or the soul. In this same fact we have the key to both the passages I have just read from the writings of St. Mark and St. Luke, and to many similar passages. Like the Jews, like the Disciples, we marvel at miracles, at wonders wrought in the visible world, wonders which appeal to and dazzle the senses, rather than at the still greater wonders wrought in the world invisible. To heal a sick body by a word seems more astonishing to us than to restore health to a mind diseased ; to calm a tempestuous sea than to still the tumults of the heart ; to call the dead from the grave than to quicken a soul dead in trespasses and sins. Now what men marvel at indicates their character. It shews what manner of spirit they are of, on what level they are moving, how high they have risen, or how low they have sunk on the scale of being. And I do not know that we ever feel the immense interval between ourselves and the Son of Man more keenly than when we compare that which astonishes us with that which astonished II im. To us, as a rule, the word Miracles

riVO MARVELS WHICH ASTONISHED CHRIST. 201 denotes mere physical wonders ; and tliese arc so wonderful to us as to be well-nigh incredible, liut in Him they awake no astonishment. He never speaks of them with the faintest accent of surprise. He set so little store by them that He often seemed reluctant to work

them, and openly expressed his wish that those on or for whom they had been wrought would tell no man of them. So far from regarding them as strange or unnatural, or even as supernatural, they appeared to Him perfectly natural and simple. There is no sign of effort or strain about Him as He works them ; no, not even when He bids the storm be still, or summons Lazarus from his charnel cave. " He speaks, and it is done ; he commands, and it stands fast." And when the miracle is wrought, so far from boasting of it or appealing to it, or in any way making much of it, He makes light of it, or even takes pains to hush it up, lest it should leave a false impression of what He was and what He came to do. What does astonish Him is not these outward wonders so surprising to us, but that inward wonder, the mystery of man's soul, the miraculous power which we often exercise without a thought of surprise, the power of shutting and opening that door or window of the soul which looks heavenward, and through which alone the glories of the spiritual world can stream in upon us. Only twice are we told that He marvelled to whom all the secrets of Nature and Life lay open ; once at the unbelief of men, and once at their faith. When He came to his own, and they received Him not. He was driven from his wonted calm bv an immeasurable

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surprise : He marvelled at their unbelief. And, again, when He came to those to whom He was a Stranger, and they took Him in, He was beyond all measure astonished : He marvelled at their prompt and vigorous faith. How consistent it was with all we know of Him that the only wonders which amazed Him should lie in the

ethical workings of the spirit in man, and not in his control over the elements and forces of nature, and how high this intense and exclusive regard for ethical and spiritual wonders raises Him above us, I will leave you to judge for yourselves. For my present aim is not to convict you of your unlikeness to Him, but, if it be possible, to make you so far of one mind with Him as that you shall marvel at the only wonders which astounded Him. I. First, then, I would have you marvel at your own jmbelief. For Christ comes to " his own " whenever the eternal truths He taught appeal to those who have been trained to receive them by the activity of reason and conscience. And you have been thus trained. You know, for example, that the reason of man postulates God, though it cannot prove Him ; that, speaking generally, speaking of what it has done on a large scale, in the most cultivated races, and the most illuminated centuries, and the highest intellects, we may say that reason assumes the existence of an almighty all-ruling Spirit as the cause of all phenomena, as the secret of the order which pervades the universe. Speaking on the same scale, and taking no note of the exceptions which

TIVO MARVELS WHICH ASTONISHED CHRIST. 203 prove the rule, we may also say that reason assumes the existence of a spirit in man by which he is related to that infinite and creative Spirit which sits behind all phenomena and works through them all. You know, too, that what reason suggests and assumes, conscience confirms. In its censures and condemnations of our sins, in its fearful looking-for of a judgment to come, it bears no doubtful witness to the existence and rule of a Judge higher than itself, and prophesies with no doubtful voice of a life beyond the grave in which every man will receive the due reward of his deeds.

When, therefore, Christ comes to you. He comes to his 0ZU71. When He reveals a God who is your Father, and who cares for you and guides you through all the intricacies of change and time ; when He speaks to you of a God who is your Saviour, who is ever seeking to redeem you from your bondage to sin and weakness ; when He invites you to turn to the God who loves you and to let Him redeem you from your bondage, to trust in Him and cast all your care on Him — He simply invites you to believe, i.e., to affirm and to act on, the eternal truths which reason and conscience have already made familiar to you. The assumptions of reason and the forebodings of conscience hav'e not sufficed to make these eternal truths real to you, so real as that they have become the present and governing facts of your lives, so real that you have adventured your whole fortune and fate upon them, whether for this world or for the world to come. And yet you can only be saved by them, saved from care, saved from fear, saved from guilt, saved

204 FAITH AND UNFAITH. even from the censure of your own reason and the sting of your own conscience, as you affirm them with your whole heart and act upon them with an undivided energy. Because He would save you, Christ demands faith of you, faith in the truths which alone can save you. For how can He save you from the forebodings of guilt until you trust in the forgiving and redeeming love of God your Saviour .'' How can He save you from the fret of care and the tremours of fear except by winning you to trust in the tender and gracious providence of God your Father t He looks into your souls and sees that there is but one faculty by which you can so lay hold of the eternal truths He has revealed or confirmed as to make them

the present, ruling, and redeeming facts of your daily life. He sees that though you have some dim perception of them, they can only trouble and rebuke you until, at the touch of faith, they waken into life and clothe themselves with power. He sees that only by the door of faith in these truths can you pass in out of the reach of care and fear, guilt and shame. He sees that even you yourselves are aware that there is no other way of escape from them. How, then, should He not marvel at your unbelief — your unbelief in the very truths which you know to be the only truths worth living for and dying for ? Here is a door beyond which you will find, and know that you will find, the rest you crave, rest from the cares which fret and fever your spirit, rest from that haunting fear of guilt and shame which casts its cold shadows on your soul ; and yet }'0U will not go

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through it ! Can you marvel that He marvels to see you stand shivering and reluctant on this side of an open gate through which you may pass, and know that you may pass, into a new world — a world in which care and fear and guilt arc unknown ; you who are so weary of your cares, so sick of your fears, so ashamed of your very shame ? As you think of it, do not you yourselves marvel at the very unbelief which grieves and amazes Him? It is not as if you doubted the eternal truths which He beseeches you to make present facts. You believe that there is a God. You look for a I'fe and a judgment to come. You confess that nothing can be more reasonable and just than that, sooner or later, every man should get the due reward of his deeds, although you may dread to receive the reward of many of the deeds

you have done. You even believe that, despite }-our sins, God is still your Father and cares for you, and has sent his Son to prove his love for you and to save you from your sins. To act on these truths and to rest in them, to draw them down out of the invisible world into this present world of home, business, politics, would be, as you admit, your salvation. And yet you do not act on them, do not rest in them ! Nay, even those of you who do believe in them, do not so believe in them as to let them save you from all sin, from all anxiety, from all fear ! Even to you the eternal truths have not become present, all-ruling, all-conquering facts. You marvel and are ashamed of your own unbelief: and Christ marvels at it even more than you.

2o6 FAITH AND UNFAITH. 2. If self-condemnation will rouse you to a more resolute faith in the truths you admit or believe, you will do well to rebuke and condemn yourselves for your want of faith, or for the weakness of your faith. But mere self-condemnation, if it stand alone, is by no means likely to rebrace the energies of a halting and irresolute soul. Suffer me, then, to remind you that, if you are wondering at and condemning yourselves, you are at least so far forth of one mind with Christ as that ^02t marvel at the very wonder which astonished Him. Let me also remind you that He marvelled at the /att/i of men as well as at their unbelief. When the Roman centurion professed that all the forces of Nature and of Life were as much at the control of Jesus, and stood as ready to obey his word, as the soldiers of his own cohort or the servants of his own household to obey his commands, Jesus marvelled at the greatness of his faith. And when the witty Syrophoenician woman, admitting that she was not one of the children of God whom He could ask to his table,

pleaded that Christ might at least throw her a crumb from that bountiful board, once more He was astonished at a faith so unexpected and so strong. For these two, the Roman master and the Syrophoenician mother, were not " his own " in the sense in which the sons and daughters of Israel were his own. " The adoption, and the Shekinah, and the covenants and the law, and the worship, and the promises, and the fathers," did not pertain to them. They had not been trained in the Divine household. They did not inherit the pious instincts and

TIVO MARVELS WHICH ASTONISHED CHRIST. 207 traditions of a long ancestral line. They had not been nurtured and illumined by special disclosures of Truth and Grace. Yet they cast themselves on Christ with a faith such as He had not found in Israel itself In them, faith was in very deed "an affirmation and an act which bade eternal truth be present fact." Now I am very far from wishing to palliate your want of faith, or to set you on excusing the weakness of your faith. Nevertheless I must, in common fairness, ask you to consider whether there is no heathen or Pagan element even in you ; whether, besides the reasonable, moral, and spiritual nature in you, there is not a carnal nature which is adverse to it, a nature which takes many forms and lusts against the spirit in many ways. Ah, you know only too well that in the complex being which you inherit from your fathers, if there is much that is good, there is also much which is evil ; and that if many of your conditions have been favourable to the development of your higher nature, many of them have tended to foster that which is lowest in you, and even that which is most hateful to you. You have inherited taints of blood, and defects of will, and stings of sensual desire. There is that in you which instantly and strongl}responds to the temptations of the world around you.

You are tormented by passions, cravings, tempers, evil bents and inclinations of nature, which render it very hard for you to live above the world and the world's law, and to commit yourselves without reserve to the promptings of your spiritual part, so that you shall see God everywhere and serve Him in all }'ou do.

2o8 FAITH AND UNFAITH. In how many worlds do wc all live ! The world of home, the world of business, the worlds of literature and art, of thought, of imagination, of the affections, the worlds of fashion, of neighbourhood, of civic and political life. All these worlds, and many more, have some claim upon us, and lay their hands on some inward bent which responds to their touch. And how hard is it for us to rise, sheer through them all, straight to God, and then to come back into them all bringing Him with us, to guide us through them, and so to sustain us in them as to sanctify them all to the growth and culture of the spirit. Yes, there is much to hold us back from the life of faith. And when you walk unspotted by the taints of the several worlds through which you have to take your way, content amidst poverty because of your inward wealth, at rest under stress and care because you have a Friend in heaven who cares for you, cheerful under your burden of sorrow because you believe that even sorrow is but joy in the making, fearless in death because you know that death is but birth into a new and larger life, O, then, I think that God Himself must marvel at your faith as much as you sometimes marvel at your unbelief And yet, when you have attained this faith, and have felt that it is life, strength, rest, peace for the soul, how mere a trifle will suffice to bring you down from the

height to which you have soared. Some new access of desire, some new object of affection, some new form of activity, or some new prospect of success in business ;

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or, on the other hand, some unexpected loss, or some new anxiety for yourselves or for those whom you love : in short, any cloud, however small, that sails for a moment between you and the sun, and you, who but now were singing in the sweet clear air of heaven, sink down to earth, shudder back into your old fears and cares, and forget the very God whom you have seen and the salvation in which He has caused you to trust. If, then, your faith is to be maintained and to do its perfect work upon you, saving you from all fear, all care, all sin, it must be your constant study and effort to translate the eternal truths into present facts. You give, and rightly give, much thought to the toils of your daily occupation, to the cultivation of your minds, to the management of public affairs. Whether you give as much time and thought to the study of the Scriptures in which you know you have eternal life as to the reading of your newspapers and magazines ; whether you are as bent on a close and tender intercourse with the Father of your spirits and the Saviour of your souls as with the wife, husband, friend, child, whom you love best ; whether you are as resolute to serve God and to get his pure and kindly will done in your daily business as you are to succeed in it and to make money by it, I must leave you to determine for yourselves. But I am bound to warn you that, standing as you do amid many temptations, exposed to many distractions, liable to many changes and cares and fears, the life of the soul

— that faith in God and in the truth and love of God 15

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which alone can redeem you from all care and fear and guilt — is not to be maintained save by much study, stedfast and vigorous endeavour, and many devout prayers, not for Divine help alone, but also for grace to use it when it comes. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

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