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Text Sermons : ~Other Speakers M-R : Old Paths Magazine - Issue 23 : The Meaning Of Faith by Charles Price

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The Collapse Of Faith

WITHIN THE MEMORY OF most of us is the time when both the Church and the world seemed to possess certain of the elements of faith. With the dying of the Victorian era the Church seemed to be impregnated with the spirit of evangelism. The great preachers of Christendom thundered forth the truths of God; and in stately cathedral, as well as village chapel, worshipers listened to sermons that were vitalized with faith in God.

Even though they had long since passed away, the preachers who followed the great Reformation continued to live and to exert their influence in the lives of the men who had followed them. They might have differed on questions of church government, and in some instances on doctrinal interpretation, but every one of them could sing lustily, “Faith of Our Fathers,” and on the great fundamentals they stood together as one man.

The influence of that Church was felt throughout Christendom. As a matter of fact, the dynamics of its preaching exerted an influence in every country under the sun. In the chronology of God it was undoubtedly the era of Philadelphia. Without question it was the Philadelphian Church. It was the age that contributed more to revivals, to foreign missionary enterprise, to the opening of city missions, to street meetings--and to other channels of aggressive service--than any preceding age since the days of the apostles.

Illustrious Men Of Faith

Scintillating like stars in the heavens are the names of illustrious men of faith--firebrands of God's truth who crossed the burning sands of India, surmounted the great wall of China, penetrated the dark jungles of Africa, and raised the standard of the cross in every continent and on every isle of the sea. It was a day of aggressive Christianity. It was the time when the Holy Spirit, with miracles of confirmation, inspired thousands of soldiers of the cross to do wonderful exploits in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was, in short, an era of faith. God called it “Philadelphia.”

Then came the deluge. Like the breaking down of the walls of a mammoth dam, the floodwaters of unbelief, of doubt, and of fear surged, and raged, and roared as they flowed irresistibly on, carrying everybody and everything in their cataclysmic flow. Nobody escaped, in world or in church, except those who climbed to the spiritual high places and beheld with consternation, and with broken hearts, the raging, swelling waters that were at their feet.

They saw the things that they had built through the service of the past years collapse like a house of cardboard before the fury of the storm. Ideals, moral standards--the faith of the fathers--were all relentlessly carried away on the shoulders of the tempest to be deposited on the plains of Laodicea, or in the dark valleys of atheism and unbelief.

Previous to that time even the world had some degree of faith. Men who never entered church believed in it. There were some Voltaires and a few Thomas Paynes, but the average man on the street, even though he was unsaved, believed in God and acknowledged the power of salvation. The churches were well attended; the hymns that were sung vibrated with gospel truth; the prayers were fervent; and nearly everybody believed that God was in His Heaven though all was not well with the world. That, of course, was before the deluge.

The Collapse Of The Church

A great many people blame the World War [World War I--Editors] for the collapse of the church, and especially for the collapse of the faith of the average man in the church and in spiritual things. The World War was undoubtedly the climax, but there were many contributing factors that preceded it. There had been a battle for some time against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Thomas Payne, the agnostic, had called it an age of reason. Huxley, with his scientific turn of mind, had attacked the citadels of faith with the broadswords of his intellectual concepts. Darwin had given us his Origin of Species, and though he was ridiculed and repudiated by most of the church and many men of science, yet he kept pounding away with his theory until it began to take disastrous effect. The Church for a long time held its ground, although there were some minor surrenders on the battlefield of human life.

The universities entered into the conflict, and so-called professors began at first to insinuate their diabolic and unreasonable teaching, and by innuendo attempted to corrupt the rising generation of that day. Those boys were to become the cannon fodder on the battlefield of the greatest war that the world has ever known. The seed had been planted in the heart and mind, but it had not yet brought forth full fruitage. It is a fundamental law of the eternal God that if there is a sowing there must be a harvest. What a terrible and tragic harvest it was!

The Church had been preaching peace and safety. The philosophers of the world had declared that we were too highly civilized to slay each other upon the battlefield. I have been in the Peace Palace at the Hague; and as I walked along its corridors and beheld the contributions that the nations of the world made to its furnishings, the pictures on the wall seemed to laugh at me; the books held me in scorn (thousands of them were on the subject of international peace); and yet every one of them had stood upon the same shelves while their open ears could listen to the thundering of the artillery and the tramp, tramp, tramp of marching feet. The press and the pulpit had joined hands and both declared that war was an outlaw and would never be tolerated in a civilized world, but that the so-called civilized world was forgetting God.

Reason was rooting up the flowers of faith from the garden of the soul, and planting in their places the brambles and the cacti of doubt and unbelief. Then, I say, came the final conflagration. A world that went to bed under the smiling of the summer sun was awakened by the roaring and raging of the god of war. When the fighting was over--when the millions of corpses had been buried--when the green fields of France had been dyed a crimson hue--when the stately cathedrals of more than one ancient city had been demolished--when the cries of the widows and orphans and homeless had sounded around the world--what was left of the manhood of Christendom came limping home. From that day it was a different world. Bitterness was in the heart and unbelief in the soul. “If there was a God,” they reasoned, “how could He allow such things?“

Savage Instincts Of Man

Underneath the exterior of culture they had beheld the savage instincts of man and they began to declare that Darwin was right. God was not our father--we came from the apes. They had seen the snarl of the gorilla on more than one human face. A world that had become deluged in blood and that had experienced such venomous hate could never have been created as recorded in the Book of Genesis by the will of an eternal and omnipotent God. Having thrown that out they started whirling around in the space of their own misconceptions. So things went from bad to worse!

It was bad enough when the young manhood and young womanhood of the years of the war began to harbor its thoughts and feelings. It was worse when the teachers carried it into the public schools. But it was tragic and blasphemous when it climbed the pulpit steps and started to speak through human lips to congregations who had supposedly come to worship God. One of the troubles with humanity is that it is of times too lazy to do its own thinking. We ride in the automobile somebody else has made for us. Many a young man will tear along the country road at 75 miles an hour, knowing nothing whatever about the principle of internal combustion or the relationship of piston displacement to drive shaft and gear. Many a man will ride in the car of the creed of another's manufacture, without knowing anything about the machine in which he rides.

When the preachers mounted the pulpit steps of what was once a church but had now deteriorated into a social club or an academy of science, the people started assimilating their teaching because they had been used to allowing the preachers to do their thinking for them. This condition, as I have before stated, was not brought about overnight, but it was the result of years of premeditated attack upon the Church by the forces of infidelity and darkness.

The Eternal Son Of God

The eternal Son of God Himself had looked down the corridors of the years and beheld this very day and hour, and asked the question: “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” The inferential answer, of course, is no. That does not mean, however, that there will be none at all, but it does mean that most of it will be gone. It does declare that what the Church once had it would have lost, to a large extent at any rate.

That statement is proved by the context as contained in Luke 18:1-8. The blessed Master in this Scripture was telling of the widow who importuned the judge over and over again until he avenged her of her adversary. The argument that left the lips of the Man of Galilee was that if an earthly judge would do that, merely because a woman kept coming again and again with her petition to him, would not our heavenly Father avenge that little company who would be true to Him in those days of lack of faith and spiritual declension that would precede the second coming of Jesus?

Some Faith Left!

Thank God, there will be some faith left! Thank God for the great fact that there will be a spiritual ecclesia preceding the second coming of Jesus, just as there was a called-out company immediately following the first physical presence of our dear Lord on the earth. Thus it was the deluge came. Thus we see reason enthroned in our schools and colleges to the overthrow of faith. Thus it is I feel led by the Spirit to charge the modernistic preacher of our day with high treason to the King of glory and with spiritual assassination of tens of thousands of our people.

Thus it is that the devil laughs at a world that has lost its faith in the Church--and jeers at a Church that has lost its faith in the living God-- and beckons them both to his fiery and eternal domain. Thus it is that the Sunday theaters are crowded and the preachers wring their hands and cry, “What shall we do?” as they gaze at their empty pews. Thus it is that the automobile siren has drowned out the pealing of the church bell and the highways are full and the house of God is practically empty.

Thus it is that the angels have hid their faces with their wings as they have beheld the church rolling down the mountainside of time from the peaks of Philadelphia until, bruised and battered and bleeding, it has found itself in the dark, dismal valley of Laodicea.

Still Some Preachers

But there is another side of this story: Thank God for that! There are still some preachers left who believe that Jesus was born of a virgin-- and I am one of them. There are still some ministers left who declare that salvation is through the shed blood of Jesus on Calvary's cross--and I am one of that number. There are still some people left who are willing to be called fools and imbeciles and nitwits, because they believe that Daniel was put into a lion's den and that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. I am one of that number. There are still some heralds of gospel truth that have beheld the light through the darkest night and are bold enough to proclaim the breaking of millennial day. I belong to that holy company.

That is why I am writing this book. That is why I pray that it will fall into the hands of boys and girls, of high school students, of young men and women, of old men and old women, who are nearing the sunset of their lives--and that it will be a help and an inspiration for them to cling to the faith of their fathers. Every cloud has a silver lining and there is a garment of light hidden away behind the dark shadows of our day.

James Russell Lowell, in his poem, “The Present Crisis,” declares: “Ceaseless seems the great avenger,History's pages but record, One death struggle in the darkness. Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, Keeping watch above his own.”

Defining Faith

For centuries men have been trying to define faith. Dictionaries and encyclopedias have given us their definitions, but in every one of them there is something lacking. That something is the presence of the Holy Spirit, without whose illumative power no man can understand the meaning of faith.

In Hebrews 11:1 the Bible defines it in a two-fold way. It declares that it is “the substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen.” These were the definitions of a man who had been closeted with God for three years somewhere in the Arabian wilderness, and who for the past 30 years had been led by the Spirit into the deeper revelations of Christian experience and life.

No wonder that the unregenerate man does not understand these Pauline statements. It is not at all strange that the majority of people are unable to drop the plumb line of their thinking to the profound depths of these great truths. The fact of the matter is that faith covers such a tremendous territory and operates in so many ways that it is almost impossible to define it in twentieth-century language. But let us pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate our hearts and minds and reveal to us by His power those things that could never be apprehended or understood because of our human limitations.

Basis For That Belief

First of all, faith is a persuasion of the mind resting upon evidence. God never asks us to believe anything unless He furnishes a basis for that belief. God never would ask us to believe a lie. So to be sure we do not believe a lie He gives us the truth. He tells us in what to place our faith. “Come let us reason together, saith the Lord” is a truth that can be found on every page of the Bible. Faith must have a foundation upon which to rest. In the very nature of things there must be some cause for its operation and some premise upon which it can manifest itself. A great many people have never understood the difference between presumption and faith. Presumption is belief without evidence and faith is belief in action with it.

Let me illustrate what I mean. Some years ago when I was in a certain Canadian city a scoffer approached me when I was spending a quiet day at the beach. I had been preaching “faith” to thousands of people in a great arena. In spite of the fact that many miracles of healing were wrought by the power of God, there were numbers who were so blinded by the god of this world that they could not see the thing that was happening before their eyes. This man was one of them.

    Approaching me as I was reclining on the beach he said, with a sarcastic sneer in his voice, “Oh, you man of faith, why don't you walk out on the water? If you walk out on the water I will believe--I'll stand up tonight before your audience and confess I have been wrong, and I'll give up my job and start preaching.”

What would have happened if I had been foolish enough to have taken that man at his word and attempted to have walked on the sea? To have done so would have been presumption. You say that I might have had faith in God and that He would have borne me up. I do not believe it.

Testing And Trusting

There is a great deal of difference between testing God and trusting Him. I would sink, and what is more, I would deserve to sink. There was no promise of God--no scriptural foundation, nothing in Heaven or in earth that would authorize me to attempt so foolhardy a thing.

Yet Peter walked on the sea and the waves held him up. He based his faith on the call of Jesus. In other words, he was persuaded in his mind--he believed--because the Lord told him to do it. The statement of Jesus-- the invitation of the Christ--was the foundation upon which Peter's faith was built. The difference between Peter and myself regarding the challenge of the man to my walking on the sea and Peter's actual doing the same, was that he had some foundation for his faith and I had absolutely none.
There is nothing more sure--there is nothing in Heaven or in earth any more reliable than the multitudinous promises contained in the Word of the Lord.  “How firm a foundation, Ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith In His excellent Word!” 

That Eternal Omnipotence

What God has said, He means. Back of every one of the promises of the Bible is that eternal omnipotence that created every material thing that exists in all the universe. The God who made the things that are out of nothing, and who brought cosmos out of chaos, is the author of His promises and the omnipotence behind every one of them.

The Scripture teaches us that the man who comes to God with his supplications must first believe that He is. That means that he must believe that there is a God--eternal--omnipotent--omnipresent. The man who denies Him cannot possibly have faith in Him. The man who does not believe in Him cannot possibly have the superstructure of faith in his life, for God alone is the author of faith. You cannot rest upon nothing. Only God Himself would have the power of accomplishing that. Jesus, we know, is the author and finisher of our faith. The Bible rings with the clarion call, “Have faith in God--have faith in Christ,” thereby signifying that God Himself should be the foundation and the basis for all of our faith. There can be no faith in God without God Himself. Without God Himself faith would be presumption. Faith always proves itself. It is a leap into the dark, but it lands you in the light. It is a journey into the unseen, but it leads to the heavenly vision. It may be sometimes mysterious in its processes, but it always proves itself in its ultimates. It cannot operate without accomplishment. To continue to exercise faith without some degree of manifestation of its operation means there is something wrong somewhere, and we must find out both how and why.  

The Walls of Jericho

Long and hard had been the years that had elapsed since the Children of Israel halted at Kadesh-Barnea. Forty summers had come and gone and forty winters had they endured since last they were at the portals of the Promised Land. Out on the vast Arabian desert the bones of thousands of them bleached beneath the burning sun, for only the small boys of 40 years ago were men now at the doorway to the land of promise.

They were about to engage in a battle. They had lost one 40 years before. They had fought no army--there had been no attack of infantry; there had been no battalion of soldiers arrayed against them on the hillside-- but they had been defeated just the same. Disorganized, whipped, and discouraged, they had turned their backs upon the land that they might have possessed and had lost themselves in the barren vastnesses of the wilderness. Only two men who were grown at the time of that defeat were now standing before the gates of Jericho. Those two men--Joshua and Caleb--had been warriors of faith. They were here now because God had not forgotten the hoisting of the banner of faith as it fluttered in the breeze of unbelief, waving defiance against all the forces of darkness.

The Battlefield Of Their Hearts

What was the battle that they had lost? It was not fought upon the battlefield of Kadesh-Barnea. It was not waged in the vales of Eshcol. The battle that they lost was fought on the battlefield of their hearts. Reason had overthrown faith, and had defeated the purpose of God. If they had only known it faith would have been the victory. Faith is the victory now, even as it was then.

Faith cried, “Those men are as grasshoppers before us”; but reason shouted, “They are giants and they will overwhelm us.” Faith opened its ear to the voice of an eternal Father as He called upon His children to go forward and to trust Him. Reason listened to the growling and sneering of the sons of Anak while the fogs of unbelief hid their vision of God. Faith remembered the pillar of cloud and had not forgotten a pillar of fire that had guarded and guided them on their pilgrim way. But reason had seen the fire in the eyes of the giants of the walled cities and had forgotten the fire that came from the throne of Heaven. Faith had discerned the form of God as He wrapped the cloud around Him for a garment, but reason had looked so long at the walls of the fortified cities; in its mind the cloud was so big it blotted out all vision of Heaven.

Faith Is The Only Victory

So the years had come and gone. I wonder how many times Moses had told them, as they wandered through the wilderness, that faith was the only victory. I wonder on how many different occasions he had declared that only in the strength of a God who could deliver could they ever conquer. Perhaps this generation that had been born during the pilgrimage would believe more than had their fathers in the integrity of the divine word and the omnipotent power that was behind it. The Bible account does not tell us, but if it is true that man is but a composite of his yesterdays, then something must have happened to the new soldiers who found themselves at the doorway of the Promised Land, or was it, perhaps, that man's extremity was at last to prove God's opportunity?

Exhausted Every Other Resource

Was it that having exhausted every other resource and having found nothing but blind ends to every trail, they had turned back to the God of their emancipation? Forty years wandering in the wilderness must have incapacitated them as soldiers. Men do not walk over the burning sands without feeling the burning in their feet.

Late one night Joshua, the general, left the camp. Two miles away he could see in the pale moonlight the grim citadel of Jericho, with its walls standing like sentinels, crying, “They shall not pass.” His heart must have been filled with anxiety and with bewilderment.

During the past 40 years the problem had not changed one bit. The traveling through the wilderness had not removed the difficulty. If anything, it might have increased it. Of what was he thinking when in the loneliness of that hour he surveyed the distant walls of Jericho? The city was to be taken. There could be no doubt about that. The city must be taken. Of that thing he was certain and sure. Suddenly, perhaps from beneath the shadows of a nearby palm grove, there appeared by his side a man who had a drawn sword in his hand. Quick as a flash of lightning the challenge fell from Joshua's lips. Marvelous and wonderful indeed is it to know that obedience will bring courage, and walking in the light will banish fear.

Beautiful and yet firm were the words of the enigmatic stranger, “Nay, but as captain of the Lord's host am I come.” The heart of Joshua bounded within him. Here indeed was the angel of the covenant. Here was the positive proof that God had not forsaken his people. Faith was the victory that was to storm the walls of Jericho, and unfurl the flag of Israel from the topmost peaks of the citadel. Then the two had a conference. The captain of the host of the Lord outlined the plans for the taking of the city. The battle was to be the Lord's, and the children of Israel were to walk in the light of faith and leave the results with God. What strange military tactics these two planned together! The like of that plan had never been known in human history, and the method of taking the city was one that every general in the world except Joshua would have laughed to scorn. There was to be no fighting--just walking in obedience.

Walking In Obedience

There could have been no walking in obedience if there had been no God in whom Joshua could have placed his faith. What a test it must have been for Joshua in this particular case. “Faith is the victory,” rang the bells in Joshua's heart. “Faith is the victory,” sang the choirs of Heaven, and the strains must have floated down to the ears of the lonely man who stood gazing at the distant walls on that moonlit night.

The walls were actually up around old Jericho, but they were down in the spiritual vision of Joshua. Faith was even then the substance of things hoped for. Back he went to camp. “We have won the victory,” declared Joshua. “Are the walls down?” answered the soldier. “Have the inhabitants of the city fled?” “No, they are still there, but nevertheless the Lord has delivered the city into our hands.” 

Charles Price (1887-1947) - Dr. Price was known for his simple preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. He was used mightily in revival in Western Canada and other parts of the world.

Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
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