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A WORD TO THOSE WHO FIND A DIFFICULTY IN
BY THE REV. S. BORTON BROWN, B.A. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word."-Rom. x. 17.
THERE are perplexed souls who discuss with themselves with considerable eagerness, not so much what faith is, as how to get it. Sometimes it seems to them that they have naturally the faculty of faith, and that they have only to exercise it, when and where they like, and that faith is altogether under control; and then again they are indefinite in their ideas, and therefore weak, for they think,
" What am I to believe ? Whom am I to believe? I must believe something or some one."
This, of course, is so; for the mere faculty of believing, the mere power of being able to believe, is insufficient so long as it believes nothing. And while we are simply possessing the power of faith we may actually think we have no power of faith, and even run about wringing our hands, crying out, "I wish I had more faith, I don't seem to believe at all." But really, how can a soul know whether it has the faculty of faith or not, till it has something directly before it, which it either believes or does not believe ? We must have something definitely before the mind; then we can be certain about this matter.
Now this faith upon which so much stress is laid by Christ is essentially faith in a person, and in the word of that person. And if a soul goes to and fro saying, “I wish I could believe,” the question might be very pertinently asked, “Believe what? believe whom ?” Because while there is simply an indefinite idea that the soul would like to have the consciousness of a great faculty of faith for believing great things, it can never be properly exercised. And until the soul has something definitely before it, to believe or not to believe—some statement, some word, some promise, some threatening, some great truth, or some person-how can it believe or know that it believes ?
There is something very definite when the soul sits down before the Book of books, turns over its leaves, and reads of One who speaks with authority and says: “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of
or, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in ME, though he were dead, yet shall be live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in ME shall never die. Believest thou this ?
and then says to itself, “ Now, do I believe this word or do I not ? have I sufficient confidence in this Being who utters such a magnificent truth to believe what He says ?-in fact, do I believe in Him, and therefore in His word ?" In some such way we can test ourselves whether we really
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have faith or not. Bat it is vain wearying work to sit down without such a test, and wonder whether we have faith, or mourn because we think we have none.
“ The Word was made flesh and dwelt among men, the glory of the only begotten full of grace and truth.” But shall a soul say, "I must consider whether I have faith or not before I go to the Word ; it is no use to go to the Word before I know whether I could believe or not when I went”? Certainly not, because there is one very remarkable fact in connection with this very statement of God's Word : "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word.” If I go down on the knees of my heart in true humility, desiring to listen to the Word of God, and in that humility, while I read or listen to the Word of the living Lord, gay, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," I am sure to hear some word, which, while it speaks to the soul, will bring its own living assurance, like light to the eye. The soul may even live in a poor
but “ the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”
That Word, I know it in no uncertain way, is in itself wonderfully inspiriting and life-giving, like water to a thirsty soul, or bread to a famishing creature. We do not sufficiently consider this quickening power of the Word. As God speaks He quickens life. That is why Christ thought so highly of the faith of the centurion. “ Speak the Word only, and my servant shall be healed.” If we properly understand the inherent power of the Word, we may understand God's displeasure with Moses who thought he must needs strike the rock when God had distinctly said, "Speak to the rock.” Because if the Word is not sufficient when God says, "Speak," and it needs a rod in addition, it is a poor Word. So to timid Jeremiah, who had not strong enough faith in the Word, God said, “I will make my Word in thy mouth fire." So Christ can say : “My Words they are spirit and they are life." Let any poor soul hungry of the Word, well-nigh dead for want of its quickening power, come and place itself before these mighty words of the Lord of life, and he will find “ faith cometh by hearing and hear. ing by the Word."
Is there no power in the Word itself as it comes from the living God? Wbat is a spoken word, even in its physical form, but a force or vibration of the voice containing thought, entering through the nerves of the ear, and acting in a mysterious way upon the brain and upon the consciousness? And even in its written form, what is the word but something which contains the thoughts, the force of the mind of some one, wrapped up in the symbols of visible words? This mental force is now transmitted through the eye, instead of through the ear, and this word, setting the nerves of the eye in vibration, affects again the brain and acts upon the consciousness, and the whole being of the man is touched. A man can be moved in the very centre of his being by a spoken or a written word. A word is spoken, and a
man flashes up into anger, or becomes heated into great love, or is calmed down into a soothed state of comfort. Even a human word can be marvellously powerful for good or evil.
A mother's touching, penetrating word, conveying a living meaning and force from the depths of her own heart, speaking to the heart of the child, either through her spoken voice or through a written letter, will wonderfully affect the whole being of the child. Who does not know how much a mother's word can touch the whole being, and how easy for a child to discern a true mother's word, from one which has no power? A shriek, a cry, a soothing word, an encouraging tone, a rebuke--how touching and real and effective they can all be !
And now go a step further. " The still small voice”—what is that ? What is the voice that speaks neither to the eye nor to the ear, and yet penetrates in the same way to the brain and consciousness, and vibrates through the whole being, so that the man must be moved ? Who does not know the power, not of the thunder and fire, not of the earthquake, but of the still small voice ?
I am not so sure that the Spirit of God does not speak directly, by the force and vibration of His Spirit to man's spirit, without intervention of eye and ear. Nay, I am sure that He does do it, in a most wonderful way. Is there no power in the spiritual Word itself, as it comes from the living Lord ? What was the power which raised Lazarus from the dead? Was it action or vibration on the eye or ear or brain of Lazarus ? or was it the Spirit of the Lord of life-the WORD speaking direct to the spirit of Lazarus in the land of the dead ? “ Lazarus come forth." And he that was dead came forth !
I do not know which, but I am prepared to believe it could have been either. Because there is no difficulty with me in believing that life is really communicated by the Word. Life is a vital mode of motion, just as much as heat is a mode of motion, and can be communicated by a sufficient cause that is, by a cause which can transmit or communicate that kind of vital force. Is it not true that Christ, who is THE WORD, is also THE LIFE? It is nothing extraordinary that the Word should be life-giving. The Word speaks and life is communicated. It might have been, for what I know, through the dead ear of the body of Lazarus that the Word put vital force into the dead body through nerves and brain, making it a living body again, fit for the habitation of the spirit of Lazarus. Or if the Word were to the spirit of Lazarus, that spirit at the bidding of Christ could come back and find a body simultaneously vivified at his rehabitation of it.
“Stretch forth thy hand,” said the Word to the man with the withered hand, and at the life-giving command he stretched it forth, and it was restored whole as the other. The Word is a life-giving Word.
“Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour in the which Jesus had said to him, Thy son liveth, And himself believed and his whole house,
“ Speak the Word only, and my servant shall be healed. . . When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee, and his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.”
The Word which comes thrilling from the Source of all life must bring life as it penetrates the soul. It matters nothing whether it go through the eye, or through the ear, or into the inner being direct; in every case it must be a vibration of life corresponding in power with the Source and Power from which it comes.
One of the most wonderfully quickening and instructive illustrations of the power of the Word of God is the one in which we hear Him speak by His prophet to the heap of dry sun-bleached bones : “Say unto them, o ye dry bones, hear ye the Word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones ; Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live : And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin and put breath in you, and ye shall live ; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” To poor human seeming, was there ever anything more unlikely, anything more absurd, than to speak, not even to dried-up mummies, but to dislocated bones, gnawed by beasts of prey, washed by storms, well-nigh corroded into holes and dust ? And yet all that is as nothing, if God's Word really speaks. Either our God is a poor make-believe, and we are of all men most miserable, or He can do that, and more wonderful things still. I do believe that with my whole being. And all, it seems to me, that I have to do, is to get within range of that Word willingly, with its quaking quickening sound, which can vibrate through every fibre of my being and rouse it into life. “HEAR and your soul shall LIVE. O dear, good, loving God, speak to me, only speak to me, and my whole being shall tremble into life. I shall have no difficulty in believing Thee, if Thou only really speakest. Speak to me by Thy Son, in these last days. O Christ, the Life, I place myself at Thy feet and listen to Thee as Thou sayest now : "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my Word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when THE DEAD shall hear the voice of the Son of God : and they that hear shall live. ..." Read the whole of this wonderful Word of Christ.
And now just read the process in the seventh and following verses of the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel. “As I spoke out the Word of the Lord [prophesied], there was a noise, and behold a shaking and the bones came together bone to his bone. In that marvellous picture I see the process of the life-giving Word in the soul. Bare thought comes to bare thought until there is completeness of idea, and then the breath of life is breathed into them, and they become living
powers within. The poor soul is a disorganised confused heap of dead spent forces till the true life speaks, and gathers them into unity of life and organised power. Only speak, Thou mighty Lord of life, to poor dried withered souls. I know Thy Word shall not return unto Thee void, but shall accomplish that which Thou pleasest and prosper in the thing whereunto Thou hast sent it. Dear soul, say with me,
Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
How important, then, to stand face to face with God, listening to the voice of His Word ! We need have no fear, if we will but, as intelligent and responsible creatures, have the hearing ear and the willingness to understand. The very dead in their graves shall hear, if necessary, when the Lord speaks to the dead, just as Lazarus heard in the land of the dead. How much more shall they hear who stand and listen! Will our loving Lord be dumb to the poor waiting soul hungering for the Word which is so precious?
And is it to be wondered at that the listening ear hears when the Lord speaks, any more than the seeing eye sees when the light flashes in upon
it? And is it to be wondered at that faith should come by hearing, and hearing by the Word? The wonder would be, if we understood it, that it should not be so.
Just in conclusion, let us take one illustration. A very thirsty soul says: “I am parched with desire for the Spirit of God to be continually rising ap in fresh living streams, within all my inner life to refresh it, and to flow out of me in living thoughts and words, in loving sympathies, in self-denying offices of loving ministry. Oh, for faith that it might be so !” This longing for faith, and even great thirst, will not be sufficient, for the energy of the life may be spent in vain sighs and fruitless aspirations. But let the soul stand before the Lord, and hear Him say with all the love and energy of His Being, “ If any man thirst let him come to me and drink, and he that believeth in me, as the Scripture saith, out of him shall flow rivers of living water,"—“This spake he of the Spirit which they should receive who believe on him,"—is it possible that such a living Word as that should not evoke faith in any truly listening thirsty soul ? Could such a promise, so rich in love and graciousness, so clear and absolute, be otherwise than believed and fulfilled ?
Dear thirsty soul, stand before the Lord and hear it and believe; and out of you shall flow rivers of living water.
The gist of the whole matter is just this, my brother : the best way to get faith is not to try to work yourself up to faith, or even to confine yourself to praying for it very earnestly, but rather to go and stand before the Lord and say, " Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." And then, listening to the definite promises and rich life-giving truths which come to the soul chiefly through the now written Wordthe record of the living Word—you will find," faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word."