What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?…
The popular notion of faith is, that what a man does not deny, he believes; and that if he will maintain a doctrine in argument, he thereby proves that he believes it. Now this may not be faith in the true sense at all. The true notion of faith is, conviction in action, principles operating in the life, sentiments embodied in conduct. Faith is practically nothing so long as it is merely in the head. Head faith can save no man. This is exactly so in daffy life. There is no witchery or mystery in this doctrine at all. Faith cannot save you in commerce, any more than it can save you in religion. Faith cannot save the body, any more than it can save the soul. So let us save Christianity from the supposed mistake of setting up a fanciful scheme of salvation; let us be simply just to the Son of God, by showing that He requires only the very same common-sense conditions of salvation that are required by ourselves in the common relations of our daily life. A man believes that if he puts his money into certain funds he will get back good interest with the most assured security. Yet at the end of the year he gets literally nothing. How was that? Because, though he believed it, he did not put any money into the funds. Can faith pay him? A man thoroughly believes that if he takes a certain mixture, prescribed for him by good medical authority, he will be recovered from his disease; but he gets no better; because, though he believed in the mixture, he did not take it. Can faith save him? Yet this is the very thing which people want to do with religion! They get a certain set of notions into their heads; they call those notions orthodox, and they expect that those notions will save them! It is an insult to common sense. The question is not whether those notions are in our head, but, what effect have they upon our life? Do they find their way from the head to the heart, from the heart to the hand? Fine geographical knowledge will never make a traveller. An exact knowledge of the chemical properties of water will never make a swimmer. You must bring your faith to a practical application. If I really and truly, with understanding and heart, receive the truths of the Christian religion, is there anything in them, as such, likely to move my life in a practical direction? Are they too subtle and speculative for time? As a mere matter of fact, the truths of Christianity are infinitely practical. They touch life at every point. In the morning, they are a loud call to duty; in the evening, they are a solemn judgment upon the day: when we go to business, they say, "Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you." Here, a peculiar danger discovers itself. The man who wishes to avoid all that is most spiritual and holy in the Christian religion, inquires whether he cannot do all these duties as a mere moralist, without being what is distinctively known as a saint. He says he loves justice and mercy, benevolence and sympathy, and asks whether he cannot exercise or display them apart from what is called "saving faith in Christ." Let us consider that question. There is a conduct that is philosophical, and there is a conduct that is spiritual; that is to say, there is a conduct that is based on logic, on the so-called fitness of things, on self-protection; and there is a conduct based upon a spiritual conception of sin, upon a realisation of Divine oversight and Divine judgment; and it is undoubtedly open to us to Consider the respective merits of each theory of life. I accept the spiritual, because I believe it to be fundamental; it is not a clever theory, it is a living reality; it is not a self-pleasing speculation, it is a law, a judgment, an eternal quantity. I must have a moral standard which I did not set up, and which I cannot pull down; a moral law which will harmonise with my nature, and yet for ever be above it; a law that will judge me; a law acting through all time, applying in all lands, overriding all circumstances and accidents; far above me as the sun, round about me as the light; not a guess on the part of man, but a distinct and solemn and final revelation from God. This I have in Christ Jesus; and if I accept it by a living faith, it will come out in a holy, tender, wise, and useful life, and thus I shall be saved by faith.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?