Fact! Faith! Feeling!
by F.B. Meyer
Now I have found the ground wherein
Sure my soul's anchor may remain --
The wounds of Jesus, for my sin
Before the world's foundation slain;
Whose mercy shall unshaken stay,
When heaven and earth are fled away.
These three words stand for three most important factors in character and life. We all have to do with them in one form or another, but it is above all things necessary that we should place them in the right order.
Most people try to put Feeling first, with as much success as if they tried to build the top storey of a house before laying its foundations. Their order is --
Others seek Faith first, without considering the Facts on which alone Faith and Feeling can rest. They resemble a man who, desiring to get warm on a frosty night, refuses to approach the fire which burns brightly on the hearth.
The only possible order that will bring blessing and comfort to the heart is that indicated in our title.
God's Facts, laid like a foundation of adamant.
Our Faith, apprehending, and resting on them.
Joyous Feeling, coming, it may be, at once, or after the lapse of days and months, as God will.
The facts of which we are told in the Bible are like stepping-stones across a brook Before you reach the shallows where they lie, you wonder how you will get over, but, on stepping down to the margin of the water, they span the space from bank to brae. When you have reached one you can step to another, and so across. It is absurd to consult feeling, or look for faith, whilst still at a distance from the brookside, or if you persist in going above or below that primitive bridge of stones. You must come down to them, consider them, see how strongly fixed they are in the oozy bed, notice how easily the villagers pass and repass; then you will feel able to trust them, and finally, with a light heart and great sense of relief, step from one to another.
Let us recall a few facts which may help us first to faith, and then to feeling.
God loves us
It is a fact that God loves each of us with the tenderest and most particular love. You may not believe or feel it; the warm summer sun may be shining against your shuttered and curtained window without making itself seen or felt within; but your failure to realise and appreciate the fact of God's love toward you cannot alter it being so.
We are forgiven and accepted
It is a fact that, in Jesus, every obstacle has been removed out of the way of your immediate forgiveness and acceptance. God was in the dying Saviour, putting away sin, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, reconciling the world to Himself. You may not believe this, or feel the joy of it, but that does not alter the fact that it is so.
After the peace was signed between the North and the South in the great American war, there were soldiers hiding in the woods, starving on berries, who might have returned to their homes. They either did not know, or did not credit, the good news, and they went on starving long after their comrades had been welcomed by their wives and children. Theirs was the loss, but their failure in knowledge or belief did not alter the fact that peace was proclaimed, and that the door was wide open for their return.
A friend may have paid all my debts in my native village, from which I have fled, fearing arrest and disgrace; he may have done it so speedily that my credit has never been impaired, nor my good name forfeited; there may be all the old love and honour waiting to greet me; and he may have told me so; but, if I still absent myself, and refuse to return, my folly in this respect cannot undo those beneficent acts, though it perpetuates my misery.
We are in God's family
It is a fact that direct;y a soul trusts Christ it is born into God's family, and becomes a child. There is no doubt about this. You may not feel good, or earnest, or anxious; you may even be conscious of recent failure; you may be spending your days under a pall of sombre depression; but if you have received Christ, and have truly trusted in Him, you have been born again, not of man, or of the will of the flesh, but of God (John 1:12). You may be a prodigal or inconsistent child, but you are a child. If you were wise, you would take the child's place at the father's table, and enjoy his smile; they await you, but if you still remain out in the cold, as the elder brother in the parable, you do not alter the fact that your place is ready for you to occupy when you will.
God takes what we give
It is a fact that God takes what we give, and as soon as we give it. There is no long interval; when we let go, He receives; when we place ourselves on his altar, we are immediately sealed as his; when we consecrate ourselves, He accepts. The divine act is instantaneous. You may not be aware of this, and continue giving yourself day after day. If you do, you burden yourself with needless anxiety; you continue offering what is not now yours to give, and you lose the blessedness of realising what it is to be the absolute property, chattel, and slave of the blessed Master; but your mistake cannot alter the fact that God took you at your word when first you made yourself over to Him in a solemn act of dedication. "Shall our want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God?"
We are seated in the heavenlies
It is a fact that in Jesus Christ we are seated in heavenly places. We cannot alter this. We may not believe it, or avail our selves of all the privileges which it implies, or enjoy the blessedness of nearness to Jesus; but such is, nevertheless, our rightful position in the divine order. If we are united with Jesus, by the slenderest strand of faith, we are as much one with Him as the loftiest saints; and where the Head is, there is also the Body.
In Him we died on the cross, and so met the righteous demands of the holy law; in Him we lay in the grave, and so passed out of the region ruled by the Prince of the Power of the air; in Him we rose and ascended far above all might and dominion, principality and power. Is Satan under Christ's feet? In God's purpose he is under ours also. Are death and the grave for ever behind Christ? So, in God's purpose, we have passed to the Easter side of them both, and are to the windward of the storm. As far as their sting or terror is concerned, they are like the Egyptians dead on the sea-shore. Has the great High Priest passed through the heavens within the veil? So, in the purpose of God, we, too, have passed from the outer Court into the Holy Place, where we offer gifts, sacrifices, supplications, and intercessions for all men.
All this may appear unreal and impossible, as the idea of being the bride of a prince, to a poor Cinderella, but it is, nevertheless, our true position. These are the facts of the eternal world whether you avail yourself of them or no: There are not a few cases on record of slaves starving in bondage because they would not avail themselves of freedom and of noble men living a hard and difficult life because they would not claim their rights!
We share in the gift of Pentecost
It is a fact that there is a share in the gift of Pentecost waiting for each member of Christ. He received gifts even for the rebellious. To each grace has been given. The promise of the Holy Ghost is to as many as the Lord our God shall call. Without doubt you have a share in that infilling, that divine unction, that marvelous power in service, which transformed the apostles from being timid sheep to lions in fight. You may never have put in your claim, but there is no grace that others have which you may not obtain. All things are yours. God has made over to you the unsearchable riches of Christ. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, all the stores of grace, and love, and power which are yours in Christ, accumulating for you in the Divine Deposit Bank. It seems a thousand pities that you should live a beggar's life when such wealth and power are yours; but if you persist in doing so your folly and blindness do not alter the fact that the fulness of God is yours in Christ.
These are some of those facts, made known to us in the Word of God, which will conduct us over the brook of turbid emotion to firm standing-ground. Let us give up worrying about our faith, or feeling the pulse of emotion, and come to rest on them, assured that they are more stable than heaven or earth.
If you want a true faith, do not think about it, but look away to the facts of which we have been speaking. We find no difficulty in trusting our friends, because we open our hearts, like south windows, to their love; we recall all their interpositions in our behalf; we remember all they have promised and performed. Where would be our difficulty about faith if we ceased worrying about it, and were occupied with the object of faith -- Jesus Christ our Lord?
More than a creed
Faith is more than Creed. In a creed we believe about a person or circumstance; but in faith we repose our trust upon a person. We must not believe about Christ only, but in Him, as Livingstone did, when, on one occasion, he was opposed at nightfall by an army of infuriated savages, and was tempted to steal away in the dark; but his eye lit on the promise, "I will be with you all the days," and he wrote, "I went to sleep because I knew it was the word of a perfect gentleman." Do not believe about Christ, but in Him.
Concerns a person
Faith concerns itself with a person. We are saved and blessed by the faith that passes through the facts of our Saviour's life to Himself. We rest not on the atonement, but on Him who made it; not on the death, but on Him who died; not on the resurrection, but on Him who rose, ascended, and ever liveth to make intercession; not in statements about Him, but in Him of whom they are made. Many a time the question is asked by the inquirer, "Have I the right kind of faith?" It is a needful question, because there is a dead and spurious faith, which will fail us in the supreme crisis, as the badly-tinned meats did the Arctic exploration party, who, on returning to their cairn of stores, found them useless, and starved.
There is one simple reply, "All faith that turns towards Jesus is the right faith." It may bring no conscious rapture; it may be as weak as the woman's touch on His garment's hem; it may be small and insignificant as a grain of mustard seed; it may be despairful as Peter's cry, "Lord, save, or I perish!" But if its deepest yearning be Christ -- Christ -- Christ, it is the tiny thread which will bring the lost soul through subterranean passages, in which it had been well-nigh overwhelmed, into the light of life.
True faith reckons on God's Faith. In earlier life I used to seek after greater faith by considering how great God was, how rich, how strong; why should He not give me money for His work, since He was so rich? why not carry the entire burden of my responsibilities, since He was so mighty? These considerations helped me less, however, than my now certain conviction that He is absolutely faithful. Faithful to His covenant engagements in Christ; faithful to His promises; and faithful to the soul that, at His clear call, has stepped out into any enterprise for Him. We may lose heart and hope, our head may turn dizzy, and our heart faint, lover and friend may stand at a distance the mocking voices of our foes suggest that God has forgotten or forsaken, but He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself; He cannot disown the helpless child, which He has begotten, because it ails; He cannot throw aside responsibilities He has assumed; He has made, and He must bear.
Oftentimes I have gone to God in dire need, aggravated by nervous depression and heart-sickness, and said, "My faith is flickering out, its hand seems paralysed, its eye blinded, its old glad song silenced for ever, but Thou art faithful, and I am reckoning on Thee." The soul loves to go behind the promises of God to Himself who made them, as the wife needs not quote the pledges made by her husband in the marriage service on their wedding-morning, when she is sure of him, and feels the pressure of his hand.
Do not trouble about your Faith; reckon on God's Faithfulness. If He bids you step out on the water, He knows that He can bring you safely back to the boat. When an Alpine guide takes you over a ragged piece of ice, he considers whether, in the event of your utter collapse, he is not able to carry you through by the strength of his iron grasp and sinewy frame. What iron is to the blood, that the thought of God's faithfulness is to faith. "Sarah received power... since she counted Him faithful that promised:" "Abraham waxed strong through faith giving glory to God."
Faith bears fruit
Faith bears Fruit. It cannot help it, because it links the soul with Christ, so that the energy of His life pours into it through the artery of faith, and, as it comes in, so it must make a way for itself out. Fruit is, so to speak, forced from the believing soul. Why does the lark sing? It cannot help it, because the spirit of spring has been poured into its heart. Why does the branch bear fruit? It cannot help it, because the life forces are ever pouring up from the root. Why does a child run to meet its mother? It cannot help it, because its heart has imbibed her nature. So, the believer, united to Christ, receives grace upon grace from His heart, and from the abundance of His in dwelling his life speaks.
It is not difficult to obtain faith like this. Put your will on the side of Christ -- not a passing wish, but the whole desire and choice of your being. Be willing to believe; or be willing to be made willing to believe. Lift your eyes towards Christ; if you cannot see Him, look towards the place where you think He is. Remind Him that He is the author of faith, and that it is His gift. Claim it from Him, and reckon that, in answer to your appeal, He does confer this priceless boon. You may not feel faith, but you will find yourself unconsciously thinking of Christ, counting on Christ, going out towards Christ; and that engagement of the soul with Christ is faith.
Be careful of the tender plant which has thus been planted within you. Give it plenty of sunshine. Live outside yourself in the consideration of what Christ is. Feed faith on her native food of promise, and let her breathe her native air on the hills of communion. Treat all suggestions of doubt as you would questions as to the fidelity of your dearest friend. Avoid the cold blast that sets in from sceptical books and talk. Be sure to live up to your highest conceptions of duty towards God and man. Your faith will be in exact proportion to your obedience. Inability to trust almost always denotes some failure to obey. If faith is faltering, ask yourself whether you have not dropped the thread of obedience, and go back to the place where you lost it. Christian could not face the lions till he had sorrowfully retraced his steps to the arbour where he slept, and had recovered his roll.
Faith is receptivity
Faith is pre-eminently the receptive faculty. It not only reckons that God gives, but it stretches out its hand to take. "As many as received .... even to them that believed" (John 1:12). We receive the at-one-ment from the Lord who died, and we receive the abundance of God's grace from the Lord who ever lives, so that we reign in this mortal life as we hope to reign when the heavens and earth have fled away, and there is no more sea to divide us from our beloved (Romans 5:11,17). The beautiful garments are prepared, faith arrays herself in them; the armour hangs on the wall, faith girds herself in it; the water of life gushes at her feet, but faith catches it up as did Gideon's three hundred men. Faith thus deals definitely with God. She does not simply see His Gifts as the passer-by the jewels in the shop window, but she knows that all the regalia of God's kingdom are hers, and she takes them as she will. She hears the voice of her father saying: "Thou art ever with Me, and all that I have is thine."
It was not enough that God should give the land of Canaan by promise and covenant to the chosen race They had to go in to possess it, to put their foot down on its soil, to till its acres, and to live on its rich products.
So it must be with the believer. He is first united with Jesus by a living faith, which rests in Him as Saviour, Friend, and King; then he reckons that the Son of God is well able to make him His joint-heir of all His boundless wealth; and, lastly, he learns the art of receiving and using the plenteous heritage, and year by year presses the fences of his possession further back, taking in more and more of that vast extent of territory which has been assigned to Him in Jesus. Oh! settler on the boundless continent of God's fulness in Jesus, get thee up into the high mountain. Look northward, southward, eastward, and westward, over the lengths, and breadths, and depths, and heights of the love of God. It is all yours from the river of Time, which rises at your foot, to the utmost sea of Eternity. Be not slack to go up and possess the land, and to inherit all which God has freely bestowed on you in the Son of His love.