... Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.—Revelation 15.3.
TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN
C.W. HEISLER, A.M.
The Lutheran Publication Society.
TRUE FAITHITS NATURE AND PROPERTIES.
True Faith is Living and Victorious.
CONSIDER, O my beloved soul, the excellency of Faith, and then give thanks to God, from whom alone it comes. Faith alone unites us to our Saviour, so that we derive our spiritual life, our justification, and our salvation, from Him, as the branches draw all their sustenance from the vine (John 15.4). Adam fell from God's grace, and lost, by his unbelief, the Divine image; but we are received into a state of grace, and are formed anew in the Divine image by faith. Through faith Christ becomes ours and dwells in us (Eph. 3.17); but where Christ is there is the grace of God; and where the grace of God is, there is the heritage of life eternal. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Heb. 11.4); so by faith we offer spiritual sacrifices to God, that is, the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13.15). By faith Enoch was translated (Heb. 11.5); so faith, even while we tarry in this life, exalts us above the mere companionship of men into blessed fellowship with God. For even now Christ dwells in us; we have already eternal life, although hidden (Col. 3.3). "By faith Noah prepared an ark" (Heb. 11.7); thus by faith we enter the Church of Christ and our souls are saved, while those who remain in the vast ocean of the world miserably perish. By faith Abraham left his own idolatrous country (Heb. 11.8); so by faith we come out from the world, forsaking parents, brothers, kindred, and clinging to the word of Christ, who calls us to Himself. By faith he sojourned in a strange country, looking for the land of promise; so by faith we look forward to Jerusalem that is above (Rev. 21.2), which God hath prepared for us in heaven. We are strangers and sojourners upon earth (Ps. 39.12), and by faith we desire and hope to come by and by to our heavenly inheritance. By faith Sarah in her old age received strength to bear Isaac, her son (Heb. 11.11); So by faith, though spiritually dead, we receive strength to bring forth Christ in our lives. For as Christ was once conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, so is He daily born in the faithful soul that keeps itself pure and free from worldly defilement. By faith Abraham offered up Isaac (Heb. 11.17); so also do we by faith offer up in sacrifice our own will, that beloved son of our soul; for he who desires to follow Christ must deny himself (Matt. 16.24), that is, he must renounce his own will, his own honor, his own affections. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob (Heb. 11.20); so by faith we are made partakers of all God's blessings; for in Abraham's seed, that is in Christ, all nations of the earth are blessed. By faith Joseph prophesied concerning the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, and gave commandment concerning his bones (Heb. 11.22); so by faith we look forward with glad hearts to our departure from this world, our spiritual Egypt, and to the glorious resurrection of our bodies. By faith Moses was hid three months of his parents (Heb. 11.23); so faith hides us from the dreadful tyranny of Satan, until at length we shall be led into the royal palace of our God, and adopted as a child by the King of glory. By faith Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God (Heb. 11.25), than to live in the glory of Egypt; so by faith we may despise the glory and honor and riches of this world, while our hearts are stirred by longing desires for the heavenly kingdom. By faith we choose rather to suffer shame with Christ than all the treasures of this world. By faith Moses forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the King (Heb. 11.27); thus faith inspires and confirms us so that we do not fear the threats of any of earth's tyrants, but with a courageous and resolute spirit obey the voice of our God. By faith Israel kept the Passover (Heb. 11.28); so also do we celebrate our paschal supper by faith. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5.7); whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed (John 6.65). By faith the Israelites passed through the Red Sea (Heb. 11.29); so by faith do we pass through the troublous waves of this world. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down (Heb. 11.30); so by faith may we lay low all the strongholds of Satan (2 Cor. 10.5). By faith Rahab was preserved alive (Heb. 11.31); so in the universal ruin that shall overtake this world we shall by faith be saved from destruction. By faith the fathers subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire (Heb. 11.33,34); so by faith we may destroy Satan's kingdom, escape the snares and fury of that infernal lion, and be delivered from the awful fires of hell.
But faith is not a mere opinion or empty profession; it is a living and efficacious apprehension of Christ as He is set forth in the gospel. It is a most hearty conviction of God's grace to us, a confident tranquility of heart, and an undisturbed peace of conscience relying upon the merit of Christ. Such a faith springs from the seed of the divine word; for faith and the Spirit are one, but the word is that by means of which the Holy Spirit is conveyed into our souls. The fruit is of the same nature as the seed. Faith is a divine fruit; therefore the divine seed, that is, God's word, must always be present. Just as at the creation, light appeared at the word of God, for God said, "Let there be light," and there was light (Gen. 1.3); so the light of faith arises from the light of the divine word. "In Thy light shall we see light," says the Psalmist (Ps. 36.9).
Since faith unites us so closely to Christ, it is really the mother of all virtues in us. Where faith is, there Christ is; where Christ is, there is a holy life, namely true humility, true gentleness, true love. Christ and the Holy Spirit are never separated; and when the Holy Spirit is present in a soul there is true holiness. Therefore, where the life is not holy, the sanctifying Spirit must be absent; and if the Holy Spirit be absent, Christ cannot be there; and if Christ is not there, then neither is true faith there. Any branch that draws not its life and succor from the vine cannot be considered as united with the vine (John 15.4); so we are not united to Christ by faith unless we derive all our spiritual life and strength from Him.
Faith is our spiritual light; it illumines our hearts; it sheds abroad the genial influence of its rays in our good works; and where good works, those bright beams of the spiritual life, are wanting, there the light of true faith hath not yet arisen. Evil deeds are the works of darkness (Rom. 13.12); but faith is light; and what communion hath light with darkness (2 Cor. 6.14)? Evil works are Satan's seed (Matt. 13.25). Faith is Christ's seed. And what concord hath Christ with Satan (2 Cor. 6.15)? Faith purifies our hearts (Acts 15.9); but how can there be inward purity of heart where impure words and impure deeds appear outwardly? Faith is our victory (1 John 5.4); how then can there be true faith, where the flesh rules the spirit and leads it captive at its will? Through faith we have Christ dwelling in us, and in Christ we have life eternal; but no impenitent sinner, continuing in his sin, has any part or lot in eternal life; how then can he have Christ in him? How can he lay any claim to true faith? Enkindle in us, O blessed Christ, the light of true faith, that through faith we may obtain eternal salvation!