TRUTH PASSES THROUGH FAITH INTO POWER

This entry is part of 21 in the series article 27

" Not being mixed with faith." HEBREWS iv. 2. 

THERE is always a pathetic interest, made up of 
sadness and hope together, in the sight of any good 
thing which fails of power and of its fullest life, be- 
cause it is a fragment and does not meet the other 
part which is needed to complete the whole. A 
seed that lies upon the rock and finds no ground ; 
an instrument that stands complete in all its mechan- 
ism but with no player's hand to call its music out ; 
a man who might do brave and useful things under 
the summons of a friend's enthusiasm, but goes 
through life alone; a nature with fine and noble 
qualities that need the complement of other quali- 
ties, which the man lacks, to make a fruitful life; a 
country rich in certain elements of character, such 
as energy, hopefulness, self-confidence, but wanting 
just that profound conscientiousness, that scrupu- 
lous integrity, which should be the rudder to these 
broad and eager sails; a Church devout without 
thoughtfulness, or liberal without deep convictions, 
where would the long list of illustrations end? 

Everywhere the most pathetic sights are these in 
which possibility and failure meet. Indeed, herein 
lies the general pathos which belongs to the great 
human history as a whole, and to each man's single 
life. Not with the quiet satisfaction with which we 
look at inanimate nature or at the brutes, not with 
the sublime delight with which we think of God, can 
our thoughts rest on man, the meeting-place of such 
evident power and such no less evident deficiency. 

The sadness does not disappear but rather in- 
creases as we lift up our eyes to the men who must 
be held to have succeeded best. From their height 
of success only a new range of unfulfilled possibility 
is opened. And the hope never wholly dies out, 
even for those who fail the worst. We follow them 
to their graves, almost looking to see them start 
from the dead and do the thing which they have 
always been upon the brink of doing. We dare to 
dream for them of another life when these powers, 
which the man has carried so long powerless, shall 
be mixed with the capacity or the motive which 
they have missed, and the life that never has been 
lived shall be at last begun. 

One of these failures is described in the words of 
the text. The whole passage, as it stands in the 
Epistle, is this: "The word preached did not profit 
them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard 
it," the mixture of faith which truth needs in order 
that it may become profitable power. I think that 
no one reads the words and does not feel his notion 
of what faith is enlarge. Evidently it is something 
more than mere assent, something more than simple 
acknowledgment that the truth is true. The essen- 
tial relations between truth and the nature of man 
are evidently comprehended in their whole com- 
pleteness. All that the nature of man might do to 
truth, all the welcome that it might extend, all the 
cordial and manifold relationships into which it might 
have entered with the word that was preached unto 
it, all this is in the writer's mind. It is the failure 
of all this together that he laments. All this is 
summed up in the faith which the truth has not 
found. Faith, as he talks about it here, seems to 
be simply the full welcome which the human soul 
can give to anything with which it has essential 
and natural relationship. It will vary for everything 
according to that thing's nature, as the hand will 
shape itself differently according to the different 
shapes of the things it has to grasp. And faith is 
simply the soul's grasp, a larger or a smaller act 
according to the largeness or smallness of the ob- 
ject grasped ; of one size for a fact, of another for 
a friend, of another for a principle, but always the 
soul's grasp, the entrance of the soul into its true 
and healthy relationship to the object which is 
offered to it. 

It is in the fact that there are such essential rela- 
tionships between man and the things which fill the 
world about him that the value and beauty of his 
existence lie. The application of any object to its 
faculty, the opening of the faculty to its object, 
that is what makes the richness of all life. In the 
open faculty the object finds its true mixture, and 
its higher life begins. You hold a bit of sweet food 
to the eye and it finds no welcome there. It is not 
"mixed with faith." Only when it touches the 
tongue it opens its possibilities, and becomes, first, 
pleasure, and then, nourishment. You play sweet 
music to the taste, and the taste cannot hear it. It 
makes no entrance. It is "not mixed with faith." 
For faith is another word for welcome, the cordial 
acceptance of any presence into the inmost chambers 
of our human nature where that particular presence 
has a right to go. 

How easy it is to carry this up from the physical 
structure to much higher things ! You bring a true, 
rich friend, and set him before a sordid man, a man 
of selfish ambitions, and how powerless he is ! He 
makes no entrance. He is "not mixed with faith." 
You take a great motive, one that has rung like a 
bugle in the ears of the noblest men that have ever 
lived, and you make it sound in the ears of a dull 
boy who has no ambition to be noble, and why is it 
that it falls dead? Because it is "not mixed with 
faith." It finds no answering manhood in this boy 
with which it may unite and make a noble man. 
Truth and a soul that is ready for truth meet like 
the fuel and the flame. They know each other. It 
is like the Lord's Parable of the Sower. The good 
seed finds the ground ready, and out of their quick 
union comes the plant that by and by crowns itself 
with the flower. The seed upon the stony ground 
comes to nothing, because it is "not mixed with 
faith." 

At the bottom of our whole conception of what 
faith is, must lie its personality. There are some 
things which I can have no faith in, while you may 
take them into your very heart of hearts. There 
are other things which I could not live without, but 
to which you give no welcome. One loves to think 
of the quick combinations that are going on all 
around us. Everywhere truths, objects, characters, 
are falling into men's lives, and, finding faith there, 
are entering on their own higher lives as convictions, 
powers, and inspirations. In one man, one truth 
finds its waiting faith, and in another man another. 
It is the sublime prerogative of God's Fatherhood 
that He alone can ask for faith in every man. Only 
He can stand and look over the worldful of His 
children, and cry to every one, "My son, give me 
thy heart," and know that in every heart there 
ought to be a welcome for Him to its very inmost 
chambers. 

As soon as we understand what the faith is which 
any object or truth must find and mix itself with 
before it can put on its fullest life and power, then, 
I think, we are impressed with this, that men are 
always making attempts which never can succeed 
to give to objects and truths a value which in them- 
selves they never can possess, which can only come 
to them as they are taken home by faith into the 
characters of men. We hear men talk about the 
progress of our country, and by and by we find that 
they mean the increase of its wealth, the develop- 
ment of its resources, the opening of its communi- 
cations, the growth of its commerce. These do not 
make a country great ; they are powerless until they 
are mixed with faith, until they give themselves to
the reinforcement of the human qualities of which 
any real national life, like any real personal life, is 
made, and make the nation more generous, more 
upright, and more free. They may do that. It is 
in the power of a nation, as of a man, to grow 
greater by every added dollar of its wealth; but a 
dollar is powerless until it mixes itself with faith and 
passes into character. 

And so of far more spiritual things than dollars. 
You say, "How headlong my boy is! Let me 
give him a wise friend, and so he shall get wis- 
dom." You say, "Here is my brother who has 
been frivolous. Behold, a blessed sorrow is gather 
ing about him, and out of the darkness he will 
come with a sober heart." You say, "This man 
is coarse and brutish; let me set him among fine 
things, and he will become delicate and gentle." 
You say, "This selfish creature has not cared for his 
country in what seemed her soft and easy days, but 
let the storm come, let the war burst out, or the 
critical election, big with disgrace or honor, rise up 
like a sudden rock out of the calm sea, and patriot 
ism will gather at his heart, and set his brain to lofty 
thoughts, and strengthen his arm for heroic deeds." 
Forever the same anticipations from mere circum- 
stances! the same trust in mere emergencies, in 
facts, events, and things; and forever the same 
disappointment ! forever the same reiterated answer 
from all experience, like the perpetually repeated 
answer that the moaning rocks give to the querulous 
tide, which is always creeping back to hear it once 
again, the answer that no crisis, no event, no fact, 
no person, is of real value to the soul of any man, 
unless it really gets into that soul, compels or wins 
its welcome, and passes, by the mixture of faith, 
into character. So, and so only, does a wise friend 
make your boy wise, or sorrow make your brother 
noble, or fine and gentle circumstances make the 
coarse man fine, or the need of his country make 
the selfish man a patriot. 

Now, all this is peculiarly true with reference to 
religion. Think how it runs through the Bible. 
Remember the course of the sacred History which 
is a perpetual parable of that other no less sacred 
history which is in the life of every religious man. 
The story of the Bible is simply the record of God, 
the great eternal Circumstance, the vast Surrounding 
that always encompasses the life of man ; constantly 
offering Himself to that life and testing its capacity 
to receive Him. At the beginning comes the mys- 
terious story of Genesis. The Creator walks with 
the new Humanity among the trees of the New 
Garden. But the Humanity, as yet unripened by 
experience, untrained by suffering, unenlightened 
by the discovery of its own essential feebleness, self- 
confident and superficial, cannot take the Divine 
society into its deepest heart. Adam and Eve 
the young and untrained Earth and Life take God 
into the society of their happiness, but they do not 
claim Him in the inmost chambers, into the govern- 
ment of their wills and the consolation of their 
sorrow. 

At the other end of the Bible is the New Jerusa- 
lem, and there what have we? Man, rich in all the 
fearful and beautiful experience of life; humanity 
with all its history of grief and comfort, of sin and 
redemption ; humanity mellowed, softened, hum- 
bled, deepened by all the experience of the long, 
slow day in which the ages of human history have 
been the creeping hours. And lo ! in this beaten 
and ripened humanity the doors are all wide open. 
Even into the deepest chambers enters the ever- 
present God, and finds in each chamber a new faith 
with which He mixes Himself and becomes the soul's 
life. "The Throne of God and of the Lamb shall 
be in it, and His servants shall serve Him, and His 
name shall be in their foreheads". Between the 
two ends of the Bible, there is the story of God's 
perpetual offer of Himself to the soul of man, and 
of His entrance into it just so far as He finds faith 
to welcome Him. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, 
the Prophets, John the Baptist, Nicodemus, John 
the disciple, Paul, each marks some access of the 
Divine Presence to our human life. And each bears 
witness how impossible it is even for God to enter 
into a humanity that has not faith, to enter any hu- 
manity farther than that humanity has faith to take 
His blessed Presence in. 

There is indeed another truth which always min- 
gles with this, and softens the harshness which 
would be in it if it stood alone. That other truth 
is that every approach of God to man has a true 
tendency to create the faith, without which the ap- 
proach can never become a real entrance. As the 
face of your unforgotten friend, coming towards 
you, reclaims you for himself, and has a true power 
to make you give that welcome to his love which 
still, at the last, nothing but your own willing love 
can give, and without which he, love you as warmly 
as he may, cannot enter ; so the first truth of religion 
always must be that there is such an essential and 
original belonging between God and man, that as 
God comes to man He makes, as far as any power 
outside man's own will can make, the faith which 
is to be His welcome. If this were not truth, life 
would be very dark and hope would be a mockery. 

Yet, still the truth remains that only into faith, 
only into a fitness and receptivity of soul, can even 
God come with His blessed Presence. And if it is 
true of God, it is true, certainly of every truth of 
God, and of all the forms of sacred influence which 
His Presence takes. They cannot enter the real life 
of a man until they are "mixed with faith." Just 
think how this convicts of superficialness a very 
large part of our labor and expectation for the ex- 
tension of religion and the benefit of man. We put 
confidence in our organizations. "Let us plant our 
church in this remote village," we say. "Let our 
beloved services be heard among those unfamiliar 
scenes. Let our ministry be known in the far West, 
and so men shall be saved." We have not too 
much confidence, but the wrong kind of confidence, 
in the objective truth: "Let this, which I know 
is verity, come to this bad man's life, and he must 
turn." 

There is all about us this faith in the efficacy of 
ideas over character. The orthodox man believes 
that if you could silence all dissent from the old 
venerated creed, the world would shine with holi- 
ness. The unbeliever thinks that if you could tear 
the old creeds out of the belief of men, the crushed, 
creed-ridden heart of man would spring up and en- 
thusiastically claim its privilege of goodness. How 
like it all sounds to the cry which we hear in the 
Parable, coming forth from the still unenlightened 
ruin of a wasted life: "Nay, Father Abraham, but 
if one went unto them from the dead, they will re- 
pent." Ideas are mighty. There is no real strength 
in the world that has not an idea at its heart. To 
declare true ideas, to speak the truth to men, is the 
noblest work that any man can covet or try to do. 
To attempt to gain power over men, which shall not 
be really the power of an idea is poor, ignoble work. 
But yet it is none the less certain that no man does 
really tell the truth to other men, who does not al- 
ways go about remembering that truth is not profit- 
able till it is mixed with faith, that the final power 
of acceptance or rejection lies in the soul. It is the 
forgetfulness of this which has made the useless 
teachers of every kind the teachers from whom the 
scholars have gone away unfed, the faithful but fruit- 
less ministers, the dreary books, the disappointed, 
unsuccessful reformers. 

I have been talking thus far as if a truth which 
did not meet with faith simply remained inoperative. 
"The word preached did not profit them," writes 
the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "not 
being mixed with faith." But we must go farther 
than this. The mind of man is far too delicate and 
sensitive for anything unappropriated, and not made 
a part of itself, to lie in it without doing it harm. 
Everything that is there must enter into some re- 
lation with the humanity which holds it ; and if the 
relation be not one of fellowship and help, it will 
certainly be hostile and injurious. How universal 
is this necessity ! The person whom a man has 
studied and understood, but has not learned to 
sympathize with and love, becomes an irritation, 
all the more irritating as his life is pressed more 
closely on the unsympathetic and unloving heart. 
His motives are distorted. His excellencies excite 
jealousy, instead of admiration. His failings are 
exaggerated, and make the observer glad instead of 
sorry. 

And so it is with books. The book which you 
have studied, but whose heart you have not taken 
into your heart, makes you not a wise man but a 
pedant. And so it is with institutions. The gov- 
ernment under which you live, but with whose ideas 
you are not in loyal sympathy, chafes and worries 
you, and makes you often all the more rebellious in 
your heart, the more punctiliously obedient you are 
in outward action. And so, especially, it is in all 
that pertains to religion. What is the root and 
source of bigotry, and of that which goes with 
bigotry, partisanship, the desire that a belief, 
whether the belief be true or false should prosper 
and prevail, not because it is true, but because it is 
ours? 

Is not the real reason of these morbid substitutes 
for healthy belief always this that truth has been 
received, but not "mixed with faith," not deeply 
taken into the very nature of the man who has re- 
ceived it? Take any truth, the truth for instance 
of the Lord's Incarnation. Let it be simply a 
proved fact to a man, and how easily he comes to 
hate or to pity the men who do not hold it, how 
ready he is to seek out and magnify the shades of 
difference in the statements which men make of it 
who hold the great truth along with him ! But let 
that same truth be "mixed with faith," let it enter 
into those depths of a man's nature where it is 
capable of going, let it awaken in him the deep, dear 
sense of the unutterable Love of God, let it reveal 
to him his human dignity, his human responsibility, 
his human need, and then how impossible it will be 
for him to be a bigot ! How all men, believers and 
unbelievers alike, will be seen by him within the 
glory of his great truth ! How he will pity the men 
who do not know it ! How he will welcome and re- 
joice in any half-knowledge of it, any guess that he 
sees men making at it, though it be very blind and 
crude! How he will have fellowship with any man 
who really does believe it, though the form in which 
that man has conceived and stated it may be differ- 
ent from his own ! It is possible for us to believe 
the same everlasting truths which the bigots and the 
persecutors believed, and yet escape their bigotry 
and intolerance. But we must do it, not by believ- 
ing less deeply, but by believing more deeply than 
they did. The path to charity lies not away from 
faith, but deep on into the very heart of faith ; 
for only there true, reasonable, permanent charity 
abides. 

How heavily all this pressed upon the heart of 
Jesus Christ ! He sat with His disciples at the 
quiet Passover, and His thoughts ran back over all 
the multitudes to whom His words had come, and 
in whom they had found no faith. "If I had not 
come and spoken unto them," He said, "they had 
not had sin." He looked the Pharisees in the face 
as if He pitied them so while He rebuked them that 
He would almost, if He could, have plucked away 
again the truth which He had taught them. "If ye 
were blind," He cried, "ye should have no sin." 
How He must look at some of us! The sorrow 
with which He wept over Jerusalem must be forever 
newly wakened in His heart. He sees men believ- 
ing all wrong, because they do not believe enough. 
He sees us taking with one part of our nature what 
was meant for the whole, taking with our wills what 
our affections ought to take, taking with slavish fear 
what we ought to embrace with glowing love. Can 
we not almost hear Him say, as if He pitied us for 
the very richness of the truth which He has offered 
us, the very richness with which He has offered us 
Himself, the old sad words, "How is it that ye have 
no faith? " 

The whole of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ 
is full of emphasis laid on the value of the soul and 
its personal life. Two words describe the work that 
He is always declaring that He has come to do for 
men revelation and regeneration, the opening of 
divine truth and power to men, and the making of 
men fit for the divine truth and power; truth for 
men and men for the truth. He says to Nathaniel, 
"Thou shalt see greater things than these"; He 
says to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again" ; and 
He declares that He Himself is the force by which 
both shall be accomplished when He cries in the 
Temple, "I am come a Light into the world, that he 
that believeth on me should not abide in darkness." 

As we read the story of the men who have tried 
to help the world, we see the divine supremacy of 
Christ in the proportion which these two offers, 
these two promises, revelation and regeneration, 
always held to one another in His mind and teaching. 
There have been many teachers whose one idea was 
revelation, and their truth has passed away and left 
men unlifted, unaroused. There have been other 
teachers whose one idea was regeneration, the mak- 
ing of new men ; but they brought no truth which 
could at once feed and fasten the character which 
they tried to inspire. Jesus Christ comes with both. 
And yet always the new manhood is the great, 
supreme thing. Revelation always demands regen- 
eration, and then its whole work is to complete it 
and to make it permanent. 

Ah, my dear friends, we have not caught at all the 
real heart of the Saviour unless we hear perpetually 
in everything He does and says the beating of that 
absorbing sense of the infinite importance of the 
soul and its condition. "Keep thy heart with all 
diligence, for out of it are the issues of life " : those 
calm and philosophic words of Solomon turn in the 
soul of Christ into an eager, vivid, passionate anxiety 
over the spiritual readiness of the men before whom 
He stood with His untold blessings, "Let your 
loins be girt about, and your lights burning, and ye 
yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord. 
Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he 
cometh shall find watching." Truth cannot feed 
the soul, nor power strengthen it, nor love soften 
it, nor mercy save it, unless the soul is ready to 
welcome it and "mix it with faith." 

It is good for us, I think, to believe that many 
and many a man to whom the doctrines of Chris 
tianity are very dark, does yet catch from the whole 
aspect of Christ, and from all He says, this great 
and deep conviction of the value of the soul, and of 
the infinite importance that it should be kept pure 
and true and ready. That is the beginning of the 
healthiest process of the new life. To the soul so 
guarded and so open, all truth shall come. For be- 
fore the faith which receives truth and turns it into 
power, there must come the other faith which 
knows that the soul is made for truth and waits 
expectant of its coming. And when this deepest 
and first faith is really present, the other sooner or 
later cannot fail to come. 

Think for a few moments of the rich light that 
this truth on which we have been dwelling the 
truth of the dependence of everything upon the 
central soul of man and its condition throws upon 
two or three subjects which are often before our 
minds. Just see how vast a future it opens to 
humanity. We think sometimes that we have come 
in sight of the end of progress, that we live where 
we can at least foresee an exhausted world. Our 
ships have sailed the sphere around. Our curiosity 
has searched to the roots of the mountains and 
swept the bottoms of the seas. Men have played 
every role before us which imagination and ambi- 
tion could suggest. What can there be before the 
ages which are to come when we are gone, but end- 
less reiteration of old things? Is not the interest of 
life almost used up ? But no ! " this truth declares ; 
"the interest of life is not in the things that hap- 
pen, but in the men who see." If man be capable 
of perpetual renewal by ever-increasing faith, then 
to the ever-new man the old world shall be forever 
new. It will not need strange things. The things 
that we call common, the things that have been long 
familiar, the things which have been, and have been 
done, over and over since the world began, will 
shine forever with new light. There must be a 
limit to the wonders that this world has to show, 
the stories that it has to tell; but the relations 
which may exist between this world and the soul of 
man ever growing in receptive faith are practically 
without limit ; and so the everlasting interest of life, 
the perpetual progress of humanity, are sure. 

Consider also what a light this throws upon the 
life which many a fellow-man is living now close by 
our side. How much richer than we can begin to 
know the world must be to our brother who has a 
faith which we have not. According to our faith, 
so is the world to each of us. I dare to give my 
pity to some man who seems to me to live a meagre 
life. How few things happen in his days! How 
little light there is in his dark house! How dull 
the voices are that break his silence ! But who am 
I that I should give him pity? Let me know that 
it is not what he has but what he is that makes the 
poverty or richness of his life. It may well be that, 
while I pity him, his deeper faith is seeing visions 
and hearing music in familiar things of which I have 
no dream. The world is more to every true, un- 
selfish man when he knows that his limited percep- 
tion is no measure of its wealth, but that the deeper 
souls are all the time finding it rich beyond all that 
he has imagined. 

And yet again, think of the same truth as it gives 
us some light upon the everlasting life, the life be- 
yond the grave. The Revelation tells us of golden 
streets and gates of pearl. It tells us also of beings 
who shall walk in them with a precious and mystic 
name written on their foreheads. Let us be sure 
that the new name in the forehead is what makes 
the reality of Heaven far more than the gold under 
the feet. The new circumstances shall be much, 
but the new man shall be more ! Only by knowing 
that can we be truly getting ready for Heaven here. 
We can do nothing now to build the streets and 
gates, but by God's grace we can do much, very 
much, now, to begin to become the men and women 
to whom Heaven shall one day be possible. Then 
Heaven, when it comes, will not be strange. Only 
a deepening of the faith, by which we sought it, 
shall receive and absorb and grow in and by its rich- 
ness forever and forever. 

Have you faith, my friends? Ask yourselves in 
the sight of God, and pray to Him to give it to you 
if you have it not, and pray to Him to increase it if 
you have it, for, just as far as you have it, everything 
is yours, this world and its richness, the world 
eternal with its promises, Christ Jesus with His 
measureless culture and His satisfying Love! 
May we all grow in Faith !
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