I. First, for the
The old writers, who are by far the most sensible—for you will notice that the books that were written about two hundred years ago, by the old Puritans, have more sense in one line than there is in a page of our new books, and more in a page than there is in a whole volume of our modern divinity—the old writers tell you, that faith is made up of three things: first knowledge, then assent, and then what they call affiance, or the laying hold of the knowledge to which we give assent, and making it our own by trusting in it.
1. Let us begin, then, at the beginning. The first thing in faith is knowledge. A man cannot believe what he does not know. That is a clear, self-evident axiom. If I have never heard of a thing in all my life, and do not know it, I cannot believe it. And yet there are some persons who have a faith like that of the fuller, who when he was asked what he believed, said, "I believe what the Church believes." "What does the Church believe?" "The Church believes what I believe." "And pray what do you and the Church believe?" "Why we both believe the same thing." Now this man believed nothing, except that the Church was right, but in what he could not tell. It is idle for a man to say, "I am a believer," and yet not to know what he believes; but yet I have seen some persons in this position. A violent sermon has been preached, which has stirred up their blood; the minister has cried, "Believe! Believe! Believe!" and the people on a sudden have got it into their heads that they were believers, and have walked out of their place of worship and said, "I am a believer."…
3. But a man may have all this, and yet not possess true faith; for the chief part of faith lies in the last head, namely, in an affiance to the truth; not the believing it merely, but the taking hold of it as being ours, and in the resting on it for salvation. Recumbency on the truth was the word which the old preachers used. You will understand that word. Leaning on it; saying, "This is truth, I trust my salvation on it." Now, true faith, in its very essence rests in this—a leaning upon Christ. It will not save me to know that Christ is a Saviour; but it will save me to trust him to be my Saviour. I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come by believing that his atonement is sufficient, but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge, and my all. The pith, the essence of faith lies in this—a casting one-self on the promise. It is not the lifebuoy on board the ship that saves the man when he is drowning, nor is it his belief that it is an excellent and successful invention. No! He must have it around his loins, or his hand upon it, or else he will sink. To use an old and hackneyed illustration: suppose a fire in the upper room of a house, and the people gathered in the street. A child is in the upper story: how is he to escape? He cannot leap down—that were to be dashed to pieces. A strong man comes beneath, and cries, "Drop into my arms." It is a part of faith to know that the man is there; it is another part of faith to believe that the man is strong; but the essence of faith lies in the dropping down into the man's arms. That is the proof of faith, and the real pith and essence of it. So, sinner, thou art to know that Christ died for sin; thou art also to understand that Christ is able to save, and thou art to believe that; but thou art not saved, unless in addition to that, thou puttest thy trust in him to be thy Saviour, and to be thine for ever. As Hart says in his hymn, which really expresses the gospel—
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good."
This is the faith which saves; and however unholy may have been your lives up to this hour, this faith, if given to you at this moment, will blot out all your sins, will change your nature, make you a new man in Christ Jesus, lead you to live a holy life, and make your eternal salvation as secure as if an angel should take you on his bright wings this morning, and carry you immediately to heaven. Have you that faith?