The Genesis of Faith

Rom. 10:17.---' So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ'

Faith has its own history. It has its hour of advent in the soul, and the growth of its energy throughout the whole being. A great believer is a man in whom faith has become the splendid and daring dynamic of life. Here St. Paul deals with the genesis of faith, and sets it down in a way which simply declares what he suggests every believer knows. 'So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.'

'Faith cometh by hearing.'---There is a spiritual condition of unbelief, and that unbelief is due to the fact that the soul has not heard the Word of Christ. There have been great epochs of unbelief when men seemed unable to realize that Christ has spoken. A haze settled upon the whole spiritual horizon and the great certainties became insecure. In the eighteenth century the religion of England sank into a mere Deism, and the truth of the gospel was boldly denied by men who had not ears to hear. There are men who find it difficult to escape the darkening shadows of doubt. Those who know the wistful and pathetic feeling after the certainties of God and of His grace which was never fully satisfied. To many men faith is no more than passively compliance. They are never quite sure of the verities of the Christian revelation.

But 'faith cometh by hearing.' A voice speaks within the soul and the conviction of things unseen, the assurance of God and His grace shine out in clear certainty. As Paul says it is not simply the truth of the Word which evokes this faith. The message of God and of His being and power may be borne in upon the mind with conclusive proof. The truth of the gospel may be so clearly perceived and so strongly held that it can be taught with cogent power. It is only too easy to describe the form of godliness and to deny its power. A voice must be heard by a finer organ than the outer ear. It must be acknowledged by a higher power than the conscience. It must be a voice within the soul. 'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.' When the spirit of the contrite man hears the voice of Christ speaking within, then, and not till then, has faith been born. There is a mood, a season, a moral and spiritual condition in which we believe, and it is then the voice of Christ utters an appeal, and as we hear, He comes in as the guest of the soul.

If we take up the Old Testament and recall the coming of faith to its outstanding witnesses, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Samuel, to all the psalmists and prophets, we find it true that their faith came by hearing. If we read our New Testament we mark how many heard the Word of Jesus, sometimes to be held in admiring wonder and sometimes to be moved to derision and scorn. But only those who heard with the inner ear believed. A woman by a well, a publican by the roadside, a devout spirit sitting at Christ's feet, heard not merely the Words on His lips, but the inner accent of His Spirit, and they believed. Today multitudes can bear testimony that in some hour when they listened to the story of His Cross, or in some time when God made a silence in their lives, or in some moment when a call rang through the soul, they found it true that faith cometh by hearing.

'And hearing by the Word of Christ.'---The Word of Christ---the message of God in Christ, and through Christ, does not come to every man in the same way. "God's love is as various as man's need," writes an English theologian, and God's grace is as wise as infinite wisdom can devise. In all likelihood, every one has a unique experience in the moment in which faith is born within. It is always a solitary experience, and always colored by our temperament and affected by our past.

It is the hearing of the Incarnate Word.---'The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' What is this glory of the Word? It is the fullness of grace and truth. It is the stainless character of Jesus. As Christ went about doing good, as men beheld His even when no word fell from His lips, that Incarnate Word spoke to conscience and heart, and men believed.

The Word is still incarnate, though in the frail vessel of humanity, and it still creates faith. It is not often that sanctity brings forth faith in a vivid and dramatic experience. Yet could we recall and estimate our past, as we may one day be able to do, we might find ourselves those who have been led into faith in God and in His Son by the life of some humble believer. Those who have lived with gracious and loyal spirits speak of the contagion of faith. But the contagion of faith is really the uprising of faith in response to the testimony of a life in which Christ's holiness walks once more among men. It is impossible for a young heart at least to live with one who overcomes temptation, endures suffering, resists all mean thoughts, and abounds in gentleness and kindness, all of which are the fruit of faith in Christ, without also becoming unconsciously a believer.

It is hearing of the Mystic Word.---Nothing irrational, or occult, or unreal, is meant by the mystic Word. It is the statement of the truth that the Word of Christ speaks within us and quickens faith at times, in an action too subtle and delicate to be easily explained. The astronomer exposes a delicately sensitized plate for a whole night to the star-strewn heavens. In the morning he finds recorded there the light of stars beyond the power of even his telescope to discover. So the Word of Christ comes to us, sometimes all unaware. The voice of Nature which entrances the poet of the nineteenth Psalm may be the medium of the voice of Christ. A man may find that God has made a silence in his life, and new thoughts, new rebukes, new hopes, new desires, coming he knows not how, are knocking at his soul. A man may enter an atmosphere in which the noise and bustle of the world is stilled, and a new peace falls upon the spirit. Men do not know what the miss because they will not be still. It is always in some time of stillness that we fall into a mood of yearning, are visited by truer conceptions of ourselves and our lives, by a peculiar tenderness towards the things of Christ, and then there comes to us Christ's whisper, or even Christ's look, and faith in Him is born with all its wondrous energies and its eternal peace.

'Have they not heard?' asks Paul. His answer is that they have heard with the hearing of the ear, but not with the hearing of the heart, that inner core of desire and will, and, therefore, they have not believed. That was the pathetic reproach of Christ. 'Who hath ears to hear, let him hear,' is the constant Word on His lips. That was why the sower's harvest was so meager. How shall men secure that heart which believeth unto righteousness? The man who will do the will of God as he knows it, and pray that God will lead him into light and truth, will not wait long until he find that One who hearkens has crossed his threshold, and that faith which is the saving grace is born within his soul.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha