But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is…
I. THIS NATURE OF FAITH IN GENERAL. NOW the term, faith, "expresses a confidence or persuasion of the truth of anything not self-evident, received upon the testimony of another." To have faith in the subjects of human testimony, requires a certain comprehension of the nature of the subjects, and a confidence in the credibility of the testimony under which those subjects are presented to our knowledge. Precisely the same circumstances appear to take place in reference to Divine testimony. We are satisfied as to the credibility of the testimony — that it comes from God. But the objects presented to us upon that testimony will become the actual objects of our faith, exactly to the extent and no further in which we understand them. Our comprehension of the object will always be the limit of our faith; and this faith will diminish or augment in the very degree in which our perception is clear or confused. But it is needful here to remark that the Divine testimony, though depending upon precisely the same process of mind as to its existence, and growth, and contraction, is far more difficult of acquirement and of retention than faith in human testimony. Is it inquired wherefore? The answer is that sin has crippled our power of judgment — that sin has deadened the spiritual sensibility which is absolutely essential to the perception of Divine truth. Supposing, therefore, the powers of understanding and of imagination to be equal in any two persons, he will comprehend the Christian revelation the most clearly who has the purest affections, who is in the highest degree detached from human objects, and who is the most conversant with the objects of the heavenly world. The purity of God; the evil of sin; the love of Christ; the manifestation of that Jove to the human soul; the hidden and holy intercourse of the heart with God; the necessity for atonement; the freeness of Divine grace; the renovation of the heart by the power and compassion of the great Comforter; the value of prayer; the fervour of gratitude; the desire to be with Christ; the secret calm of confidence in His eternal love — these, and many other subjects embodied in the testimonies of God, are subjects with which an unholy, earthly heart cannot come into full contact. There may be a distant perception, indeed, even of these; but the affections that are low and sensual cannot perceive them so as to taste their value. And such is essential to their perception. The value which the Scriptures attach to faith, is hence no ground of surprise to him who has felt Christianity to be dear and healing to his heart. It has been by a Divine influence that he has come into contact with the spiritual meaning of Christianity; and his faith in that spiritual meaning has been the medium through which he came into such contact. He is therefore aware that no language can do justice to the worth of faith. It will thus appear that to faith belong all the essential blessings of Christianity. We come into intercourse with God; we rest under the shelter of the atonement; we are renewed in our tastes and inclinations; we acquire a home, a refuge; we regard the future as serene and bright; these blessings we acquire by faith, and by faith only. Nor is there any other conceivable way of embracing all the great and consoling realities of the gospel. Faith is, hence, the confidence of the penitent, and devout, and affectionate heart, as it reposes its weary sensations amidst the gracious assurances of God! It is farther evident from these statements, that faith will be often progressive, and often retrograde. Let the true Christian become unduly eager about earthly emoluments; let him diminish voluntarily the time he passes in secret converse with God; let him call away his thoughts from the character and friendship of his Saviour; let him thwart the precious influences of the Holy Spirit — and his faith will necessarily contract its operations; the finer and more ethereal parts of Christianity will begin to grow indistinct; his affections will be disordered; he will believe less, in reference to God and eternity, than he did before; his faith will shrink, or will vacillate as to real good and evil. On the other hand, let him grow more familiar with the lofty thoughts and aspirations of the gospel; let him discover more of the glory of Christ; let him derive from Him larger accessions of holy peace and joy; let the earth remove farther from his interior fellowship — and heaven, with all its bright anticipations, come into closer union with his understanding and his affections; and he will necessarily believe more of Christianity than he did before — he will know more of its hidden worth, as the increased purity of his affections is throwing down more of the barrier which sin had interposed between his soul and God; or, which is the same thing, between him and the richer parts of Christianity.
II. THE MORE LIMITED SENSE OF THE TERM FAITH, in the passage of Scripture before us. Faith in this chapter has special reference to those tenets of Christianity which unveil the future world — the triumph and the" rest" of the righteous; and in the text it seems to refer more specially to the confidence of the soul as to God's intentions to render it eternally happy. The man who thus confides believes that God is, not simply that He exists, but that He exists as a kind, compassionate, generous God, to the soul that seeks Him.
III. THE INFLUENCE OF THIS FAITH UPON OUR HABITUALLY PLEASING GOD. NO one can read the Scriptures with attention without being struck by the intense anxiety of God to produce and perpetuate confidence in His mercy and grace. The whole of God's intercourse with man is to excite his gratitude and attachment; to prove to him that God's thoughts, in reference to generosity and Compassion, are far higher than the thoughts of men; and to rectify the fatal mistake that happiness lies in external objects, and in the emoluments of earth. Christianity is the exhibition of the Divine character. Its chief feature is holy mercy. Hence faith is essential to our intercourse with God. He who doubts God's goodness, he who voluntarily severs himself from God's care, and casts himself as an orphan upon his own resources, thus forces back the hand which is lifted up in his defence, and rejects the succours of omnipotence. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Is it then presumption to believe God's assurances, and to rest the full burden of our hopes upon His promises? Shall we still cling to the deceptive assurances of the world, and rest upon the poor broken reeds of earth? Earthly blessings, moderately enjoyed and gratefully received, may embellish and smooth in part the rugged journey of life; but they cannot build up a final dwelling-place; they cannot occupy the place of God in the heart; they cannot fill up the deep void which sin has left in the human soul. They can have no fellowship with all its inner necessities. They can carry no balm to the wounds of conscience; they can draw out no sting from death; they can achieve no victory over the grave. This is the work of God; this is the victory of Jesus Christ! Thrice happy those whom God has made willing to confide in His power. "Their defence is the munition of rocks." The outward walls may crumble to decay; but nought can touch "their citadel of peace in Jesus's blood."
(G. T. Noel, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.