[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)
No testimony, no faith: for faith is only the belief of testimony, or confidence in testimony as true. To believe without testimony, is just as impossible as to see without light. The measure, quality, and power of faith are always found in the testimony believed.
Where testimony begins, faith begins; and where testimony ends, faith ends. We believe Moses just as far as Moses speaks or writes: and when Moses has recorded his last fact, or testified his last truth, our faith in Moses terminates. His five books are, therefore, the length and breadth, the height and depth, or in other words, the measure of our faith in Moses. The quality or value of faith is found in the quality or value of the testimony. The certainty of faith is the certainty of testimony. If the testimony be valid and authoritative, our faith is strong and operative. "If," says John, "we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater," stronger and more worthy of credit. The value of a bank bill, is the amount of the precious metals which it represents, and the indisputable evidence of its genuineness; so the value of faith is the importance of the facts which the testimony presents, and the assurance afforded that the testimony is true. True, or unfeigned faith, may be contrasted with feigned faith, but true faith is the belief of truth; for he that believes a lie, believes in vain.
The power of faith is also the power, or moral meaning of the testimony, or of the facts which the testimony represents. If by faith I am transported with joy, or overwhelmed in sorrow, that joy or sorrow is in the facts contained in the testimony, or in the nature and relation of those facts to me. If faith purifies the heart, works by love, and overcomes the world, this power is in the facts believed. If a father has more joy in believing that a lost son has been found, than in believing that a lost sheep has been brought home to his fold, the reason of this greater joy is not in the nature of his faith, but in the nature of the facts believed. 
Here I am led to expatiate on a very popular and pernicious error of modern times. That error is, that the nature, or power and saving efficacy of faith, is not in the truth believed, but in the nature of our faith, or in the manner of believing the truth. Hence all that unmeaning jargon about the nature of faith, and all those disdainful sneers at what is called "historic faith"--as if there could be any faith without history, written or spoken. Who ever believed in Jesus Christ, without hearing the history of him? "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" Faith never can be more than the receiving of testimony as true, or the belief of testimony; and if the testimony be written, it is called history--though it is as much history when flowing from the tongue, as when flowing from the pen.
Let it be again repeated, and remembered, that there is no other manner of believing a fact, than receiving it as true. If it is not received as true, it is not believed; and when it is believed, it is no more than regarded as true. This being conceded, then it follows that the efficacy of faith is always in the fact believed, or the object received, and not in the nature or manner of believing.
"Faith was bewildered much by men who meant
To make it clear, so simple in itself,
A thought so rudimental and so plain,
That none by comment could it plainer make.
All faith was one. In object, not in kind,
The difference lay. The faith that saved a soul,
And that which in the common truth believed,
In essence, were the same. Hear, then, what faith,
True, Christian faith, which brought salvation, was:
Belief in all that God revealed to men;
Observe, in all that God revealed to men,
In all he promised, threatened, commanded, said,
Without exception, and without a doubt."
|--Pollok's Course of Time, Book viii., p. 189.|
This holds universally in all the sensitive, intellectual, and moral powers of man. All our pleasures and pains, all our joys and sorrows, are the effects of the objects of sensation, reflection, faith, etc., apprehended or received, and not in the nature of the exercise of any power or capacity with which we are endowed. We shall illustrate and confirm this assertion by an appeal to the experience of all.
Let us glance at all our sensitive powers. If on surveying with the eye a beautiful landscape, I am pleased, and on surveying a battlefield strewed with the spoils of death, I am pained, is it in accordance with truth to say, that the pleasure or the pain received was occasioned by the nature of vision, or the mode of seeing? Was it not the sight, the thing seen, the object of vision, which produced the pleasure and the pain? The action of looking, or the mode of seeing, was in both cases the same; but the things seen, or the  objects of vision, were different;--consequently, the effects produced were different.
If on hearing the melody of the grove I am delighted, and on hearing the peals of thunder breaking to pieces the cloud, dark with horror, hanging over my head, I am terrified, is the delight or the terror to be ascribed to the manner or nature of hearing, or to the thing heard? Is it not the thing heard, which produces the delight and the terror?
If I am refreshed by the balmy fragrance of the opening bloom of spring, or sickened by the fetid effluvia of putrid carcases, are these effects to be ascribed to the peculiar nature or mode of smelling, or to the thing smelt? Or when the honey or the gall come in contact with my taste, is the sweet or the bitter to be regarded as the effect of my manner of tasting, or to the object tasted? And when I touch the ice, or the blazing torch, is the effect or feeling produced to be imputed to the manner of feeling them, or to the thing felt? May we not, then, affirm that all the pleasures and pains of sense; all the effects of sensation, are the results, not of the manner in which our five senses are exercised, but of the objects on which they are exercised? It maybe said, without in the least invalidating this conclusion, that the more intimate the exercise of our senses is with the things on which they are exercised, the stronger and more forcible will be the impressions made; but still it is the object seen, heard, smelt, tasted, or felt, which affects us.
Passing from the outward to the inward man, and on examining the powers of intellection one by one, we shall find no exception to the law which pervades all our sensitive powers. It is neither the faculty of perception, nor the exercise of perception, nor the manner of perception, but the thing perceived, that excites us to action: it is not the exercise of reflection, but the thing reflected upon: it is not memory, nor the exercise of recollection, but the thing remembered: it is not imagination, but the thing imagined; it is not reason itself, nor the exercise of reason, but the thing reasoned upon, which affords pleasure or pain--which excites to action--which cheers, allure, consoles--which grieves, disquiets, or discommodes us.
Ascending to our volitions and our affections, we shall find the same universality. In a word, it is not choosing, nor refusing; it is not loving, hating, fearing, desiring, nor hoping; it is not the nature of any power, faculty, or capacity of our nature, nor the simple exercise of them, but the objects or things upon which they are exercised, which give us pleasure or pain; which induces us to action, or influences our behaviour. Faith, then, or the power of believing, must be an anomalous thing; a power sui generis; an exception to the laws under which every power, faculty, or capacity of man is placed,  unless its measure, quality, power, and efficacy, be in the things believed, in the facts which are testified, in the objects on which it terminates.
There is no connection of cause and effect more intimate; there is no system of dependencies more closely linked; there is no arrangement of things more natural or necessary, than the ideas represented by the terms fact, testimony, faith, and feeling. The first is for the last, and the two intermediates are made necessary by the force of circumstances, as the means for the end. The fact, or the thing said or done, produces the change in the frame of mind. The testimony, or report of the thing said or done, is essential to belief; and belief of it, is necessary to bring the thing said or done to the heart. The change of heart is the end proposed in this part of the process of regeneration; and we may see that the process on the part of heaven is, thus far, natural and rational: or, in other words, consistent with the constitution of our nature.
|Alexander Campbell. "Faith." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 4 (August 1833): 342-345.|
[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)