Faith in a Person

From “The Doubt of Thomas,” Sermons on Bible Subjects, 330-332 (1853).

It matters not how faith comes — whether through the intellect, as in the case of St. Thomas — or through the heart, as in the case of St. John — or as the result of long education, as in the case of St. Peter. God has many ways of bringing different characters to faith; but that blessed thing which the Bible calls faith is a state of soul in which the things of God become glorious certainties. It was not faith which assured Thomas that what stood before him was the Christ he had known; that was sight. But it was faith, which from the visible enabled him to pierce up to the truth invisible: ” My Lord, and my God.” And it was faith which enabled him through all life after, to venture everything on that conviction, and live for One who had died for him.

Remark again this: The faith of Thomas was not merely satisfaction about a fact; it was trust in a Person. The admission of a fact, however sublime, is not faith; we may believe that Christ is risen, yet not be nearer heaven. It is a Bible fact that Lazarus rose from the grave, but belief in Lazarus’s resurrection does not make the soul better than it was. Thomas passed on from the fact of the resurrection to the Person of the risen: ” My Lord, and my God.” Trust in the risen Savior — that was the belief which saved his soul.

And that is our salvation too. You may satisfy yourself about the evidences of the resurrection; you may bring in your verdict well, like a cautious and enlightened judge; you are then in possession of a fact, a most valuable and curious fact; but faith of any saving worth you have not, unless from the fact you pass on like Thomas, to cast the allegiance and the homage of your soul, and the love of all your being, on Him whom Thomas worshipped. It is not belief about the Christ, but personal trust in the Christ of God, that saves the soul.

There is another kind of evidence by which the resurrection becomes certain. Not the evidence of the senses, but the evidence of the spirit: ” Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” There are thousands of Christians who have never examined the evidences of the resurrection piece by piece; they are incapable of estimating it if they did examine; they know nothing about the laws of evidence; they have had no experience in balancing the value of testimony : they are neither lawyers nor philosophers; and yet these simple Christians have received into their very souls the resurrection of their Redeemer, and look forward to their own rising from the grave with a trust as firm, as steady, and as saving, as if they had themselves put their hands into His wounds.

They have never seen — they know nothing of proofs and miracles — yet they believe, and are blessed. How is this?

I reply, there is an inward state of heart which makes truth credible the moment it is stated. It is credible to some men because of what they are. Love is credible to a loving heart; purity is credible to a pure mind; life is credible to a spirit in which ever life beats strongly; it is incredible to other men. Because of that such men believe. Of course, that inward state could not reveal a fact like the resurrection; but it can receive the fact the moment it is revealed without requiring evidence. The love of St. John himself never could discover a resurrection; but it made a resurrection easily believed, when the man of intellect, St. Thomas, found difficulties. Therefore with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and therefore he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself, and therefore faith is the substance of things hoped for. Now it is of such a state, a state of love and hope, which makes the Divine truth credible and natural at once, that Jesus speaks: ” Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”

Frederick W. Robertson (1816-1853) was an English Anglican priest, one of the most famous preachers of his age. After serving parishes in Winchester and Cheltenham, he served for the final six years of his short life at Holy Trinity Church, Brighton, where he attracted great crowds with sermons famed for their deep insight into the spiritual life. Many were published after his death, including Sermons on Bible Subjects, first published in 1855.


Online Archives