by J. Gresham Machen
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The preacher says: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved." But how can a man possibly act on that suggestion, unless he knows what it is to believe. It was at that point that the "doctrinal" preaching of a former generation was far more practical than the "practical" preaching of the present day. I shall never forget the pastor of the church in which I grew up. He was a good preacher in many ways, but his most marked characteristic was the plainness and definiteness with which he told the people what a man should do to be saved. The preachers of the present time allude to the importance of becoming a Christian, but they seldom seem to make the matter the subject of express exposition; they leave the people with a vague impression to the effect that being a Christian is a good thing, but this impression is difficult to translate into action because definite directions are absent. These preachers speak about faith, but they do not tell what faith is.
It is to help in some small way to supply this lack that the present little book has been written. If the way of salvation is faith, it does seem to be highly important to tell people who want to be saved just what faith means. If a preacher cannot do that, he can hardly be a true evangelist.
How, then, shall we obtain the answer to our question; how shall we discover what faith is? At first sight it might seem to be a purely philosophical or perhaps psychological question; there is faith other than faith in Jesus Christ; and such faith no doubt is to be included with Christian faith in the same general category. It looks, therefore, as though I were engaging upon a psychological discussion, and as though I ought to be thoroughly familiar with the epistemological and psychological questions that are involved.
Undoubtedly such a treatment of the subject would be highly useful and instructive; but unfortunately I am not competent to undertake it. I propose therefore a somewhat different method of approach. How would it be if we should study the subject of faith, not so much by generalizations from various instances of faith in human life (though such generalizations will not be altogether absent), but rather by a consideration of faith as it appears in its highest and plainest manifestation? Such concentration upon a classic example is often the best possible way, or at any rate one very fruitful way, in which a subject can be treated.
But the classic example of faith is to be found in the faith that is enjoined in the New Testament. I think that there will be widespread agreement with that assertion among students of psychology whether Christian or not; the insistence upon faith is characteristic of New Testament Christianity; there is some justification, surely, for the way in which Paul speaks of the pre-Christian period as the time "before faith came." No doubt that assertion is intended by the Apostle as relative merely; he himself insists that faith had a place in the old dispensation; but such anticipations were swallowed up, by the coming of Christ, in a glorious fulfilment. At any rate, the Bible as a whole, taking prophecy and fulfilment together, is the supreme textbook on the subject of faith. The study of that textbook may lead to as clear an understanding of our subject as could be attained by any more general investigation; we can learn what faith is best of all by studying it in its highest manifestation. We shall ask, then, in the following chapters what the Bible, and in particular the New Testament, tells us about faith.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. Faith in God
III. Faith in Christ
IV. Faith Born of Need
V. Faith and the Gospel
VI. Faith and Salvation
VII. Faith and Works
VIII. Faith and Hope