THERE are few principles less understood than that of faith. It is about the last exercise that people in general would be willing to call scientific. But it is absolutely so.
The statement so often made by Jesus: “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” is a true and exact declaration of a logical process which is as reasonable today as it was in the ancient time.
With many faith is supposed to be a kind of unreasonable credulity, or perhaps simply a vague hope. In Hebrews 11:1 Paul calls it: “The assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen.” Assurance and proving are strong terms. While faith relates to things which are not yet outwardly manifest, they are sure to become so if lawful, just in proportion to the measure of faith in which they are held.
We live in what is called a scientific age. In great degree, it is also an unbelieving and faithless era. We pride ourselves upon proof and demonstration. The proof of a proposition in physical science or chemistry may be witnessed by the organs of sense, but spiritual laws and principles which are no less veritable are often denied, even after practical demonstration. It is thought that some other possible explanation for the result must be found. If none appears one is usually imagined.
While during the days of the primitive Church there was far less intellectual development and technical acquirement in material things than at the present time, there was more prevailing faith, and therefore more “wonderful works” which came as the result of its exercise. We look back upon that age as simple and childlike, and in many respects such a view is true, but we might learn much from it. With all our feeling of great superiority and intellectual pride, the decay of faith involves an irreparable loss.
When so-called faith becomes cold and formal it is not faith at all, and its power is gone. People can get no warmth and vitality out of the New Thought unless they put some in.
Only “eternal vigilance” and constant thought consecration will keep one from being cast down by the lower currents of our mental environment. We rarely get more than we positively expect.
Nothing above the commonplace can be made perfectly rational to a sluggish and unbelieving mind. The strong and united testimony of others should make us willing to have faith in some things that we may not fully understand. Thomas would not accept the positive statements of his friends and brethren, but relied only upon his own physical senses. Let us not be so selfish and narrow.
A new day of Pentecost is needed. Only a fresh baptism of faith can kindle a more potent healing agency. If we hold faith in disrespect because we think it antiquated, it is our loss. Over and over again the greatest Teacher the world has ever known affirmed its infinite power and practicality. Even He could do no “mighty works” where it was lacking. Throughout the Biblical records, and since, it has been cultivated by great souls with grand results.
Zeal and enthusiasm need not include fanaticism or anything that is irrational, but they constitute the motive power of the soul.
Myriads of healing ministries which are based upon faith crowd all history. The vitality of the primitive Church was drained and lost when religion became a matter of State, creed, external ordinance and observance. Occasionally faith has burst restrictions and melted barriers, so that its beneficent outcroppings have flashed forth during the ages of formalism and spiritual lethargy.
Conventional intellectualism counts faith mainly as an emotional glow destitute of a scientific basis, a vaporous something outside of law and rationality. The ecclesiastical estimate is better theoretically, but practically not so very different. It is true that the fruits of faith in concrete external manifestation have been more marked and dramatic in simple, credulous, and unintellectual ages than in a sceptical, intellectual, and scientific era like the present. A congenial atmosphere is important. The former results were more startling because the human mind was more open and not so totally pre-empted by external lore and the clatter of technicality. Until the validity of the soul and its workings can be made evident by the microscope or the X-ray, science—so called—will continue to count it as a property of organizcd matter.
Faith is scientific in a true sense, because it is a law; philosophical, because it reveals a method of operation; and an art, because it has a cultivable adaption of means to ends. But in modern life there is “no room in the inn,” and it must be domiciled in a manger. History repeats itself.
Faith, far from being a mere emotion, is really concentrated spiritual and psychical momentum, and this momentum has tremendous potential force. But the modern consciousness, being dense and heavy with objective lading and “learning,” is not easily lifted out of its unbelieving inertia.
The simple soul lays down a disorder at Lourdes, while the learned sceptic looks on with contempt and unbelief and keeps his own ailment. In reality, such a fact involves no premium upon ignorance or superstition. Though less dramatic, an intelligent and rounded faith would be far better, and its results more secure and lasting. It would be a solid growth rather than an emotional episode. The shrine, in itself, has no power, but it is the seen fulcrum or occasion for the awakening and fusing of the spiritual consciousness in the individual.
When crowds thronged about [Francis] Schlatter at Denver a few years ago with some marked results, their belief invested his person with power. Likewise the “brazen serpents” were put upon poles in the wilderness, where they could be seen. Nothing less than some dramatic ritual outside can kindle saving force in an undeveloped soul.
In some guise there must be outward visible saviors because the inmost faith, divinity or Christ does not appeal to the sensuous nature. Hence the worship of physical personality of Jesus which he himself vainly tried to transfer and spiritualize.
Owing to the influence of prevailing materialism, it may be admitted that the “intelligent” man of today may not be able, on demand, to invoke a great genuine faith; but he can, if he will divine its laws, steadily work toward the ideal. A steady recognition of the spiritual power which is stored within his own being, and its vital oneness with the Universal, develops the desired result.
If Jesus’ declaration, “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” were ever true, it expressed a law which is not subject to change. Faith and unbelief cannot coexist. No man can ever reap the fruits of faith from its opposite.
The dominant thought of the present time ignores faith, or at least places no dependence upon its power. Accomplish what we may in the luxuries of a material civilization, man will yet be restless and unhappy. He may penetrate the earth, travel under water, navigate the air, and pile up invention without limit, but with all he will be miserable so long as be lacks a simple faith.
There must be spiritual momentum toward actual accomplishment,—not in the sense of special divine interposition, formally begged for, but through simple accord with the inner law. Living faith must often oppose itself to appearances and sensuous evidence. Only its activity behind them will transform them, and it must be renewed, “day by day.” Like its twin companion, love, it “never faileth.” There is no safety in anything less than a constant advance.