CHAPTER 23 -- The Stability of Faith
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for." Heb. 11 [Note: The Dutch version has, "Now faith is a firm foundation of the things which we hope for," etc.]
Many people think that faith is something which at its best is but very uncertain: not so certain, for example, as sight or hearing. They appear to think that faith is a sort of imagination by which we must take pains to be assured in our own hearts that we shall be saved. The result of this erroneous conception is that they often attempt to exercise it, but find no rest in it, or perhaps even come to regard all assurance of faith as conjecture, self-deception, or presumption. They do not understand what faith is.
The Epistle to the Hebrews might have taught them. There faith is represented as the highest certainty, as a sure foundation on which one can build and safely trust oneself. In faith there
is nothing that moves or can be moved: faith is a strong basis, and that indeed for the simple reason that faith depends upon what stands more firmly than rocks or mountains, namely, the word of God. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of God endures to eternity. And on this account it is that to come to rest, peace, and stability, the soul has simply to ask, "What has God said?" Is there anything that God has commanded me to believe? Has He spoken anything that is directed to every sinner, and that every sinner is bound to believe? If so, then it is my duty to search out this and to receive it as being the word of the true God, and therefore sure and certain.
And what is it, then, that every sinner is to believe I Simply this -- that Christ has been given by God also to him as a Savior. "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ is come into the world to save sinners," -- all sinners without distinction, even the chief. Let the sinner that longs to be saved only hold fast that truth, and be occupied with it. Let him go out of himself, so as to be hemmed in with this thought, until his heart be filled with it: Jesus is come to save sinners, even me; Jesus is given by God also to save me: Christ is certainly for me. Not because I have believed all this or have been converted; no, but because I am an ungodly one. And, whether I believe it or not, it remains truth that Christ is offered by God also to me. Before I believe it, it is the truth: the truth of it thus does not depend on anything in me that is yet to take place. The truth of it is grounded on the fact that God has said it. I have, therefore, nothing to do but to hear according to the word of God, and to receive it in my soul, until it becomes with me a settled conviction: it must be true, Christ is a Savior also for me, for God has said it. Every questioning in the form of, Are you already converted ? or, Are you worthy of it? or, Are you indeed sincere? I bring to silence with the simple answer: Whoever or whatever I may be, Christ is for the sinner, is also for me. And according as I day by day accustom myself simply to ask, Am I sure that God has said it? shall I experience that faith is a firm foundation. Standing on this basis, I cannot waver, but I come to an ever clearer insight into the truth that faith is nothing but a receiving and committing of oneself to the word of the true God. Hence it cannot be otherwise than that "faith is a firm foundation."
And now, anxious one, why do you not believe? O, faith is no imagination that you too are a chosen one, but a laying of yourself down on the immovable rock of the word of the Lord. “God loved the world,” “Christ died for the ungodly”; and now He comes to ask you -- see to it, I entreat you, that you give Him an answer: “If I speak the truth to you, why do you not believe?”