Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.…
What a mighty thing as a motive-power this faith must be! If a man is possessed by it, that something can be done; in some sure sense, it is done already, and only waits its time to come into visible existence in the best way it can. Just as one of those noble groups John Rogers fashions for us is done the moment the conception of it has struck his heart with a pang of delight, though he may not have so much as the lump of clay for his beginning; while I might stand with the clay in my hand to doomsday, and not make what he does, because I could not have the " Faith... the evidence of things not seen." What cannot be done, cannot be of faith. There can be no real faith in the soul toward the impossible; but make sure that faith is there, and then you can form no conception of the surprises of power hidden in the heart of it. And, trying to make this thing clear to you, I know of no better way to begin, than by saying, that faith is never that airy nothing which often usurps its place, and for which I can find no better name than fancy — a feeling without fitness, an anticipation without an antecedent, an effect without a cause, a cipher without a unit. A mere fancy, to a pure faith, is as the "Arabian Nights" to the Sermon on the Mount. Then faith is not something standing clean at the other extreme from fancy, for which there is no better name than fatalism — a condition numbers are continually drifting into, who, from their very earnestness, are in no danger of being sucked into the whirlpools of fancy; men who glance at the world and life through the night-glass of Mr. Buckle; who look backward and there is eternity, and forward and there is eternity; and feel all about them, and conclude that they are in the grasp of a power beside which what they can do to help themselves is about what a chip can do on the curve at Niagara. And yet their nature may be far too bright and wholesome to permit them to feel that the drift of things is not on the whole for good. They will be ready even to admit that "our souls are organ-pipes of diverse stop and various pitch, each with its proper note thrilling beneath the self-same touch of God." But, when a hard pinch comes, they smoke their pipe, and refer it to Allah, or cover their face and refer it to Allah; but never fight it out, inch by inch, with all their heart and soul, in the sure faith that things will be very much after all what they make them — that the Father worketh hitherto, and they work. And these two things — the fancy that things will come to pass because we dream them, and the fatalism that they will come to pass because we cannot avoid them — are never to be mistaken for faith. It is true that there is both a fancy and a fatalism that is perfectly sound and good — the fancy that clothes the future to an earnest lad with a sure hope; that keeps the world fresh and fair, as in nature like that of Leigh Hunt, when to most men it has become arid as desert dust; — the bloom and poetry, thank God, by which men are converted, and become as little children. And there is a fatalism that touches the very centre of the circle of faith — which Paul always had in his soul. When sounding out some mighty affirmation of the sovereignty of God, he would go right on, with a more perfect and trusting devotion to work in the line of it. Fancy and fatalism, are the strong handmaidens of faith; happy is the man whose faith they serve. But what, then, is faith? Can that be made clear? I think it can. A young man feels in his heart the conviction, that there in the future is waiting for him a great destiny. Yet that destiny depends on his courage, and that courage on his constancy; and it is only when each has opened into the other, that the three become that evidence of things not seen, on which he can die with his soul satisfied — though all the land he had to show for the one promise was a graveyard; and all the line for the other, a childless son. Another feels a conviction, that here at his hand is a great work to do — a nation to create out of a degraded mob, and to settle in a land where it can carry out his ideas and its own destiny. But the conviction can be nothing without courage; and courage, a mere rushing into the jaws of destruction, without constancy. Only when forty years had gone, and the steady soul had fought its fight, did conviction, courage, and constancy ripen into the full certainty which shone in the eyes of the dying statesman, as he stood on Nebo, and death was swallowed up in victory. And yet it is clear, that, while courage and constancy in these men was essential to their faith, faith again was essential to their courage and constancy. These were the meat and drink on which the faith depended; but the faith was the life for which the meat and drink were made. A dim, indefinable consciousness at first it was, that something was waiting in that direction, a treasure hid in that field somewhere, to be their own if they durst but sell all they had, and buy the field. Then, as bit by bit they paid the price in the pure gold of some new responsibility or sacrifice, the clear certainty took the place of the dim intimation, and faith became the evidence of things not seen. This is the way a true faith always comes. Conversing once with a most faithful woman, I found that the way she came to be what she is lay at first along the dark path, in which she had to take one little timid step at a time. But, as she went on, she found all the more reason to take another and another, until God led her by a way she knew not, and brought her into a large place. Yet it was a long while before any step did not make the most painful drafts on both her courage and constancy. And so the whole drift of what man has done for man and God is the story of such a leading — first a consciousness that the thing must be done, then a spark of courage to try and do it; then a constancy that endures to the end; and then, whatever the end may be — the prison or the palace, it is all the same — the soul has the evidence of things not seen, and goes singing into her rest. Now, then, we want to make sure of three things, then we shall know that this faith is our own —
1. That God is at work without me — that is, the Divine energy — as fresh and full before I came, as the sea is before the minnow comes.
2. That He is at work through me — that is, the Divine intention — as certainly present in my life as it was in the life of Moses; and —
3. That what we do together is as sure to be a success as that we are striving to make it one. There may be more in the graveyard than there is in the home. In the moment toward which I have striven forty years with a tireless, passionate, hungry energy, my expectation may be cut off, while my eye is as bright and my step as firm as ever. It is no matter. The energy is as full, the intention as direct, and the accomplishment as sure, as though God had already made the pile complete. And when, with the conviction that t can do a worthy thing, and the courage to try and the constancy to keep on, I can cast myself, as Paul did, and Moses and Abraham, into the arms of a perfect assurance of this energy, intention, and accomplishment of the Eternal — feel, in every fibre of my nature, that in Him I live and move and have my being — I shall not fear, though the earth be removed, because —
"A faith like this for ever doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow, and ever-during power,
And central peace, subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation."
(R. Collyer, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.