The Life, Walk, and Triumph of Faith
William Romaine, 1793
The LIFE of Faith
The WALK of Faith
The TRIUMPH of Faith
The design of this little Treatise is to display the glory and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to encourage weak believers to glorify Him more, by depending and living more upon His all-sufficiency. Whatever grace He has promised in His Word—He is faithful, and He is almighty to bestow; and they may receive it from Him freely by the hand of faith.
This is faith's use and office, as a hand or instrument, having first received Christ, to be continually receiving out of Christ's fullness. The apostle calls this "living by faith"—a life received and continued, with all the strength, comforts, and blessings belonging to it, by faith in the Son of God.
He also mentions the work of faith, its working effectually in the hearts and lives of believers, through Christ's strengthening them, and its growing in them, yes, growing exceedingly, from faith to faith, by the power of Him who loves them.
This is the subject.
Every genuine Christian has obtained this true faith, given them of God, and wrought in their hearts by His Word and Spirit. All Christians meet with many difficulties every day to try their faith, and to hinder them from depending continually upon the Lord Christ for all things belonging to life and so godliness. By what means these difficulties may be overcome, is plainly taught in Scripture, is clearly promised, and is attained by faith—which becomes daily more victorious, as it is enabled to trust that He is faithful who promised.
The strengthening of faith I have had all along in view, hoping to be the means, under God, of leading the weak believer by the hand, and of removing hindrances out of his way, until the Lord thoroughly settles and establishes him in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
But I must admonish the reader, that I do not expect this result merely from what I have written. It is too high and great a work for any mere man. Faith is the gift of God. And he alone who gives it, can increase it. The author of the faith, is also the finisher of it. We do not use the means to set the Lord of all means aside. No, we use the means that we may find him in them. It is his presence which makes the use of them effectual. By this, and this only, can any reader of this little book be rendered stronger in faith.
Being well assured of this, I have therefore looked up to him myself, and it will be for your profit also, reader, to look up to him in prayer for his blessing. Entreat him, of his grace, to countenance this feeble attempt to promote his glory and his people's good. Beg of him to make your reading of it the means of your growth in faith, and to accompany it with the supply of his Holy Spirit to every believer into whose hands it may fall. And forget not, in your prayers and praises, to remember the Author.
April 30, 1793.
Introductory Essay by Thomas Chalmers
"It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you." Philippians 3:1
"Keep reminding them of these things." 2 Timothy 2:14
Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught. And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live." 2 Peter 1:12-13
"Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking." 2 Peter 3:1
There is nothing of which some readers of religious books complain more grievously, than that they should be exposed to a constant and wearisome reiteration of the same truths; than that the appetite of the mind for variety should be left to the pain of its own unsated cravings, through the never-failing presentation of someone idea, with which, perhaps, it has long ago been palled and nauseated; than that, what they already know should yet again and again be told them—so as to subject their attention to topics that have become tasteless and threadbare, and their minds to a monotony of ideas, that may, at length, be felt to be quite insupportable.
This objection has sometimes been urged against Mr. Romaine's excellent Treatises on Faith; and that, precious and important as they acknowledge the truths to be on which he unceasingly delights to expatiate, yet, they consider the frequency of their recurrence has a tendency to produce in the mind a feeling, if not of weariness, at least of unnecessary repetition.
Now, Paul himself admitted, that to write the same things was not grievous to himself, however grievous it may have been felt by those whom he was in the habit of addressing. And, lest they should have felt his repetitions to be matter of offence or of annoyance, he tries to reconcile them to these repetitions, by affirming, that whether they were agreeable or not, at least they were safe. "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe."
A process of reasoning gives a most agreeable play and exercise to the faculties. Yet how soon would such a process, if often repeated, feel stale to the intellectual taste. Even the pleasure we had at the first, from the important, and, perhaps, unexpected result to which it had conducted us, would speedily wear off. It would, of course, instantly cease to be unexpected: and as to its importance, we know that this is a property of such truths as are most familiar and most generally recognized; and these, of all others, are least fitted to stimulate the mere understanding.
Like the element of water, they may be the most valuable, yet least prized truths by us; and certain it is, that by the unvarying announcement of them, they would, at length, fall in downright blunt-ness and insipidity on the ear of the inner man. It is thus that a train of argument, the mere object of which is to gain the conviction of the understanding, does not admit of being repeated indefinitely.
After having once carried the conviction, it ceases to be any longer needful—and as to the recreation which is thereby afforded to the intellectual powers, nothing is more certain, than that the enjoyment would speedily decay, should the very same reasoning, and the very same truths, be often presented to the notice of the mind, so as, at length, to flatten into a thing of such utter listlessness, that no one pleasure could be given, and no one power could be awakened by it.
And what is true of a train of argument addressed to the reason, is also true of those images and illustrations which are addressed to the imagination. Whatever delight may have been felt at the original presentation of them, would rapidly subside were they ever and always to be obtruded on the view. We know of nothing more exquisite than the sensation that is felt when the light of some unexpected analogy, or of some apt and beautiful similitude makes its first entry into the mind. And yet there is a limit to the enjoyment—nor would the attempt to ply the imagination at frequent intervals with one and the same picture be long endured. The welcome which it found from its own intrinsic loveliness, was enhanced by the charm of novelty; but when that charm is dissipated, then is it possible, that, by the mere force of repetition, the taste may decline into languor, or even into loathing. Both the reason and the imagination of man must have variety to feed upon; and, wanting this, the constant reiteration of the same principles, and the constant recital of the same poetry, would indeed be grievous.
Yet there are certain appetites of the mind which have no such demand for variety. It is not with the affections, or the moral feelings, as it is with other principles of our nature. The desire of companionship, for example, may find its abundant and full gratification in the society of a very few friends. And often may it happen of an individual, that his presence never tires—that his smile is the sunshine of a perpetual gladness to the heart—that in his looks and accents of kindness, there is a charm that is perennial and unfading—that the utterance of his name is at all times pleasing to the ear; and the thought of his worth or friendship is felt as a cordial, by the hourly and habitual ministration of which the soul is upheld. The man who expatiates on his virtues, or who demonstrates to you the sincerity of his regards, or who refreshes your memory with such instances of his fidelity, as indeed you had not forgotten, but which still you love to be retold—it is but one theme or one topic in which he indulges; and often will he retail in your hearing what substantially are the same things—yet they are not grievous.
And the tale of another's friendly and favorable inclination to you will not merely bear to be often repeated, because in the conscious possession of friendship there is a perpetual enjoyment, but also because there is in it a constant preservative, and a charm against the discomfort to which a mind, when left to other influences, or to itself, might else be liable.
When the heart is desolated by affliction, or harassed with care, or aggrieved by injustice and calumny, or even burdened under the weight of a solitude which it feels to be a weariness, who would ever think of apprehending lest the daily visit of your best friend should be grievous, because it was the daily application of the same thing? Would not you, in these circumstances, fondly cling to his person, or, if at a distance, would not your heart as fondly cling to the remembrance of him? Would not you be glad to bear up the downward and the desponding tendencies of the heart, by the thought of that unalterable affection, which survived the wreck of your other earthly hopes, and earthly interests? Would not you feel it a service, if any acquaintance of yours were to conduct him in person to you; and there to bring upon you the very smiles that a thousand times before had gladdened your bosom, and the very accents of tenderness that had often, in days which are past, soothed and tranquillized you? Or, if he cannot make him present to you in person, is not a service still rendered, if he makes him present to your thoughts? You have no doubt of the alleged friendship, but nature is forgetful, and, for the time being, it may not be adverting to that truth which, of all others, is most fitted to pacify and to console it. The memory needs to be awakened to it. The belief of it may never have been extinguished; but the conception of it may be absent from the mind, and for the purpose of recalling it, the voice of a remembrancer may be necessary.
It is thus that the opportune suggestion of a truth, which has long been known, and often repeated, may still the tumults of an agitated spirit, and cause light to arise out of darkness. And who can object to sameness, and to reiteration, in such a case as this?
The same position brought forward again and again, for the mere didactic purpose to convince or to inform, might, however important, soon cease to interest the understanding; and the same image, however beautiful, might, if often presented, soon cease to interest or to affect the imagination—but the affirmation of a friendship that is dear to your heart, may be repeated as often as is necessary to raise and to prolong the sense of it within you—and, although the theme of every day, still, instead of being grievous on that account, may it be felt like the renewed application of balsam to the soul, with as lively a sense of enjoyment as before, and with a delight that is utterly inexhaustible.
The same holds true of a moral principle. The announcement of it needs not to be repeated with a view to inform; but it may be repeated with a view to influence—and that on every occurrence of temptation or necessity. Were it our only business with virtue to learn what it is, it were superfluous to be told oftener than once, that anger degrades and discomposes him who is carried away by it, and ought to be resisted as alike a violation of duty and of dignity. But as our main business with virtue is to practice it, the very same thing of which by one utterance we have been sufficiently informed—might be often uttered, with propriety and effect, in order that we should be reminded of it.
And, accordingly, in some hour of great and sudden provocation, when another's fraud, or another's ingratitude would take full possession of the feelings, and shut out from the mind's regard every element that had influence to still or to arrest the coming storm, were it not well, if some friendly monitor were standing by, and bidding him be calm?
There might not, in the whole of the remonstrance, be one consideration employed, which has not often been recognized, nor one principle urged, which has not been admitted, long ago, into his ethical system, and is perfectly familiar to his understanding, as a sound principle of human conduct. Yet it is not superfluous again to urge it upon him.
A practical object is gained by this timely suggestion—and it is the highest function of practical wisdom, not to devise what is new, but seasonably to recall what is old. When, in the heat and the hurry of some brooding fermentation, there is one intense feeling that has taken exclusive occupation of the soul, it is well that some counteractive influence might be poured in, which shall assuage its violence. And this influence, generally, lies not with new truths which are then for the first time apprehended, but with old truths which are then brought to the remembrance. So that, while for the author to repeat the same things is not grievous, for the reader it may be safe.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ and him crucified, which forms the principal and pervading theme in the following Treatises, possesses a prominent claim to a place in our habitual recollections. And, for this purpose, it ought to be the topic of frequent reiteration by every Christian author; and it may well form the staple of many a Christian treatise, and be the leading and oft-repeated theme of many a religious conversation. It is this which ushers into the mind of a sinner the sense of God as his Friend and his reconciled Father.
That mind, which is so apt to be overborne by this world's engrossments—or to lapse into the dread and distrust of a conscious offender—or to go back again to nature's lethargy, and nature's alienation—or to lose itself in quest of a righteousness of its own, by which it might hinder the reward of a blissful eternity—stands in need of a daily visitor who, by his presence, might dissipate the gloom, or clear away the perplexity, in which these strong and practical tendencies of the human constitution are so ready to involve it.
There is with man an obstinate forgetfulness of God; so that the Being who made him is habitually away from his thoughts. That he may again be brought near, there must be an open door of entry by which the mind of man can welcome the idea of God, and willingly entertain it; by which the imagination of Deity might become supportable, and even pleasing to the soul. So that, when present to our remembrance, there should be the felt presence of one who loves and is at peace with us.
Now, it is only by the doctrine of the cross that man can thus delight himself in God, and, at the same time, be free from delusion. This is the way of access for man entering into friendship with God, and for the thought of God, as a Friend, entering into the heart of man. And thus it is, that the sound of his Savior's love carries with it such a fresh and unfailing charm to a believer's ear. It is the precursor to an act of mental fellowship with God, and is hailed as the sound of the approaching footsteps of Him whom you know to be your Friend.
When the mind, abandoned to itself, takes its own spontaneous and undirected way, it is sure to wander from God. Hence, if without effort, and without watchfulness, will it lapse into a state of insensibility in regard to him. While in the corrupt and earthly frame of our present tabernacle, there is a constant gravitation of the heart towards ungodliness; and, against this tendency, there needs to be applied the counterpoise of such a force as shall either act without intermission, or by frequent and repeated impulses.
The belief that God is your Friend in Christ Jesus, is just the restorative, by which the soul is brought back again from the lethargy into which it had fallen; and the great preservative by which it is upheld from sinking anew into the depths of its natural alienation. It is by nourishing this belief, and by a constant recurrence of the mind to that great truth which is the object of it, that a sense of reconciliation, or the felt nearness of God as your Friend, is kept up in the bosom.
And if the mind will not, by its own energies, constantly recur to this truth, it is good that the truth should be frequently obtruded on the notice of the mind. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice." If there be an aptitude in man, which undoubtedly there is, to let slip the things that belong to his peace, it is good to be ever and always presenting these things to his view, and bidding him give earnest heed unto them. It is not that his judgment would be thereby informed, nor that his imagination would be thereby regaled—but that his memory would be awakened, and his practical tendency to forget or fall asleep unto these things would be thereby made headway against. And thus there are certain things, the constant repetition of which, by Christian writers, ought not to be thought grievous, and at all events is safe.
And there is a perpetual tendency in nature not only to forget God, but also to misconceive him. There is nothing more firmly interwoven with the moral constitutions of man than a legal spirit towards God, with its aspirings, and its jealousies, and its fears. Let the conscience be at all enlightened, and a sense of manifold deficiencies from the rule of perfect obedience is altogether unavoidable; and so there is ever lurking in the recesses of our heart a dread and a misgiving about God—the secret apprehension of him as our enemy—a certain distrust of him, or feeling of precariousness; so that we have little comfort and little satisfaction while we entertain the thought of him.
Were that a mere intellectual error by which we hold the favor of God to be a purchase with the righteousness of man, and so failing in the establishment of such a righteousness, we remained without hope in the world; or were that a mere intellectual error by which we continued blind to the offered righteousness of Christ, and so, declining the offer, kept our distance from the only ground on which God and man can walk in amity together; then, like any other error of the understanding, it might be done conclusively away by one statement or one demonstration.
But when, instead of a fault in the judgment, which might thus be satisfied by a single announcement, it is a perverse constitutional bias that needs to be at all times plied against, by the operation of a contrary influence—then it might not be on the strength of one deliverance only, but by dint of its strenuous and repeated asseveration, that the sense of God as both a just God and a Savior is upheld in the soul. This might just be the aliment by which the soul is kept from pining under a sense of its own poverty and nakedness—the bread of life which it receives by faith, and delights at all times to feed upon. And just as hunger does not refuse the same viands by which, a thousand times before, it has been met and satisfied—so may the doctrine of Christ crucified be that spiritual food which is ever welcomed by the hungry and heavy-laden soul, and is ever felt to be precious.
The Bible supposes a tendency in man to let slip its truths from his recollection, and, in opposition to this, it bids him to keep them in memory, else he might have believed them in vain. It is not enough that they may, at one time, have been received. They must be at all times remembered. "And therefore," says Peter, "I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know them and are established in the present truth."
To know and to be assured is not enough, it would appear. They may at one time have consented to the words which were spoken, but the apostle presented them anew, in order that they might be mindful of the words which were spoken. Those doctrines of religion which speak comfort, or have an attendant moral influence upon the soul, must at first be learned; but not, like many of the doctrines of science, consigned to a place of dormancy among the old and forgotten acquisitions of the understanding.
They stand in place of a kind and valuable friend, of whom it is not enough that he has once been introduced to your acquaintance, but with whom you hold it precious to have daily fellowship, and to be in your habitual remembrance.
This is eminently true of that doctrine which is so frequently reiterated in these Treatises, "that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." It is the portal through which the light of God's reconciled countenance is let in upon the soul. It is the visitor that ushers there the peace and glory of Heaven, and, forcing its way through all those cold and heavy obstructions by which the legal spirit has beset the heart of proud yet impotent man—it is the sole truth which can at once hush the fears of guilt, and command a reverence for the offended Sovereign.
No wonder, then, that its presence should be so much courted by all who have been touched with the reality and the magnitude of eternal things—by all who have ever made the question of their acceptance with God a matter of earnest and home-felt application; and who, urged on the one hand, by the authority of a law that must be vindicated, and on the other, by the sense of a condemnation that, to the eye of nature, appears inextricable—must give supreme welcome to the message that can assure them of a way by which both God may be glorified and the sinner may be safe.
It is the blood of Christ which resolves this mystery, and it is by the daily application of this blood to the conscience that peace is daily upheld there. When the atoning sacrifice by Christ is out of the mind, then, on the strength of its old propensities, does it lapse either into the forgetfulness of God, or into a fearful distrust of him. And therefore it is, that every aspiring Christian prizes every intimation, and every token of remembrance, by which to recall to his mind the thought of a crucified Savior.
And he no more quarrels with a perpetual sense of him who poured out his soul unto the death, than he would with the perpetual sunshine of a brilliant and exhilarating day. And just as a joy and a thankfulness are felt at every time when the sun breaks out from the clouds which lie scattered over the firmament—so is that beam of gladness which enters with the very name of Christ, when it finds its way through that dark and disturbed atmosphere which is ever apt to gather around the soul.
The light of beauty is not more constantly pleasant to the eye—the ointment that is poured forth not more constantly agreeable in its fragrance—-the relished and wholesome food not more constantly palatable to the ever-recurring appetite of hunger—the benignant smile of tried and approved friendship not more constantly delicious to the heart of man—than is the sense of a Savior's sufficiency to him of spiritual and new-born desires, who now hungers and thirsts after righteousness.
This may explain the untired and unexpended delight with which the Christian hangs upon a theme which sounds monotonously, and is felt to be wearisome by other men: and this is one test by which he may ascertain his spiritual condition. There is much associated with religion that is fitted to regale even a mind that is unrenewed, if open to the charms of a tasteful, or emotional, or eloquent representation. And thus it is, that crowds may be drawn around a pulpit by the same lure of attraction which fills a theater with raptured and applauding multitudes. To uphold the loveliness of the song, might the preacher draw on all the beauties of nature, while he propounds the argument of nature's God; nor need the deep, the solemn interest of tragedy be wanting, with such topics at command as the sinner's restless bed, and the dark imagery of guilt and vengeance with which it is surrounded. And again, may the fairest tints of Heaven be employed to deck the perspective of a good man's anticipations; or the touching associations of home be pressed into the service of engaging all our sympathies, with the feelings, and the struggles, and the hopes of his pious family.
It is thus that the theological page may be richly strewed with the graces of poetry, and even the feast of intellect be spread before us by the able champions of theological truth. Yet all this delight would require novelty to sustain it, and be in full congeniality with minds on which the unction of living water from above had never yet descended.
It is altogether diverse from that spiritual taste, by which the simple application of the cross to the sinner's conscience is felt and appreciated—by which the utterance of the Savior's name is at all times welcomed like the sound of sweetest music—by which a sensation of relief enters, with all the power and freshness of a new feeling, so often as the conception of his atoning blood, and of his perfect righteousness, is made to visit us—by which the reiteration of his sacrifice upon the ear, has a like effect to disperse the habitual distrust or lethargy of nature, that the ever-recurring presence of a friend has to disperse the gloom of a constitutional melancholy.
It is no evidence of his vital Christianity, that a man can enjoy a kindred recreation in those embellishments of genius or literature of which the theme is susceptible. But if its simple affirmations be sweet unto him—if the page be never lovelier in his eye than when gemmed with Bible quotations that are both weighty and pertinent—if when pervaded throughout by a reference to Christ and to him crucified, it be felt and rejoiced in like the incense of a perpetual savor; and he, withal a son of learning and generous accomplishment, can love, even in its homeliest garb, the oft-repeated truth; and that, purely because the balm of Gilead is there—this we should hold the evidence of one who, so far at least, has been enlightened, and has tasted of the heavenly gift, and has been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit, and has tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.
We know of no Treatises where this evangelical infusion so pervades the whole substance of them as those of Romaine. Though there is no train of consecutive argument—though there is no great power or variety of illustration—though we cannot allege in their behalf much richness of imagery, or even much depth of Christian experience. And, besides, though we were to take up any of his paragraphs at random, we should find that, with some little variation in the workmanship of each, there was mainly one ground or substratum for them all—yet the precious and consoling truths, which he ever and always presents, must endear them to those who are anxious to maintain in their minds a rejoicing sense of God as their reconciled Father. He never ceases to make mention of Christ and of his righteousness—and it is by the constant droppings of this elixir that the whole charm and interest of his writings are upheld.
With a man whose ambition and delight it was to master the difficulties of an argument; or with a man whose chief enjoyment it was to range at will over the domains of poetry—we can conceive nothing more tasteless or tame than these Treatises that are now offered to the public.
Yet, in spite of that literary nakedness which they may exhibit to the eye of the natural man, who possesses no spiritual taste, and no spiritual discernment—let such a man have his eye opened to the hidden glories of that theme, which, of all others, was dear to the bosom of their Author; and, whether from the press or from the pulpit, was the one theme on which he ever loved to expatiate—let the sense of guilt but fasten upon his conscience, and the sure but simple remedy of faith in the atoning work of Christ recommend itself as that power of God which alone is able to dissolve it—let him be made to feel the suitableness that there is between this precious application, and that inward disease of which the malignity and the soreness have now been revealed to him—then, like as it is at all times pleasing, when there is laid over a bodily wound the emollient that relieves it, so is it all times pleasing, whenever the spiritual malady is felt, to have recourse upon that unction by the sprinkling of which it is washed away.
A feeling of joy in the Redeemer will be ever prompting to the same contemplations, and to the utterance of the same things. To a regenerated spirit, that never can be a weariness in time, which is to form the song of eternity.
But it is of importance to remark, that the theme on which Mr. Romaine so much loves to expatiate, is a purifying as well as a pleasing theme. It is not only not grievous to indulge in it, but, most assuredly, to every true-hearted Christian, it is safe.
We are aware of the alleged danger which some entertain of the tendency of such a full and free exhibition of the grace of the gospel, to produce Antinomianism. But the way to avert this, is not by casting any part of gospel truth into the shade. It is to spread open the whole of it, and give to every one part the relief and the prominence that it has in Scripture. We are not to mitigate the doctrines of a justifying faith, and an all-perfect righteousness, because of the abuse that has been made of them by hypocrites—but, leaving to these doctrines all their prominence, we are to place by their side the no less important and undeniable truths, that Heaven is the abode of holy creatures, and that, before we are qualified for admittance there, we must become holy and heavenly ourselves.
Nor is there a likelier way of speeding this practical transformation upon our souls, than by keeping up, through the blood of Christ, a peace in the conscience, which is never truly done, without a love in the heart being kept up along with it. Those who are justified by faith in the righteousness of Christ, and, in consequence of which, have that peace with God which this Author labors so earnestly to maintain in the mind, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and that man's faith in the offered Savior is not real, nor has he given a cordial acceptance to that grace which is so freely revealed in the gospel, if he does not demonstrate the existence of this faith in his heart, by its operation in his character.
A hypocrite may pervert the grace of the gospel, as he will seek a shelter for his iniquities, wherever it can be found. But because he receives it deceitfully, this is no reason why it should be withheld from those who receive it in truth. The truths which he abuses to his own destruction, are, nevertheless, the very truths which serve to aliment the gratitude and the new obedience of every honest believer, who gives welcome acceptance to all things that are written in the book of God's counsel, and finds room enough in his moral system for both of the positions—that he is justified by faith, and that he is judged by works.