§ 3. Different Kinds of Faith
Though the definition above given be accepted, it is to be admitted that there are different kinds of faith. In other words, the state of mind which the word designates is very different in one case from what it is in others. This difference arises partly from the nature of its objects, and partly from the nature or form of the testimony on which it is founded. Faith in a historical fact or speculative truth is one thing; faith in aesthetic truth another thing; faith in moral truth another thing; faith in spiritual truth, and especially faith in the promise of salvation made to ourselves another thing. That is, the state of mind denominated faith is very different in any one of these cases from what it is in the others. Again, the testimony which God bears to the truth is of different kinds. In one form it is directed especially to the understanding; in another to the conscience; in another to our regenerated nature. This is the cause of the difference between speculative, temporary, and saving faith.
Speculative or Dead Faith
There are many men who believe the Bible to be the Word of God; who receive all that it teaches; and who are perfectly orthodox in their doctrinal belief. If asked why they believe, they may be at a loss for an answer. Reflection might enable them to say they believe because others believe. They receive their faith by inheritance. They were taught from their earliest years thus to believe. The Church to which they belong inculcates this faith, and it is enjoined upon them as true and necessary. Others of greater culture may say that the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible, both external and internal, satisfies their minds, and produces a rational conviction that the Scriptures are a revelation from God, and they receive its contents on his authority. Such a faith as this, experience teaches, is perfectly compatible with a worldly or wicked life. This is what the Bible calls a dead faith.
Again, nothing is more common than for the Gospel to produce a temporary impression, more or less deep and lasting. Those thus impressed believe. But, having no root in themselves, sooner or later they fall away. It is also a common experience that men utterly indifferent or even skeptical, in times of danger, or on the near approach of death, are deeply convinced of the certainty of those religious truths previously known, but hitherto disregarded or rejected. This temporary faith is due to common grace; that is, to those influences of the Spirit common in a measure greater or less to all men, which operate on the soul without renewing it, and which reveal the truth to the conscience and cause it to produce conviction.
That faith which secures eternal life; which unites us to Christ as living members of his body; which makes us the sons of God; which interests us in all the benefits of redemption; which works by love, and is fruitful in good works; is founded, not on the external or the moral evidence of the truth, but on the testimony of the Spirit with and by the truth to the renewed soul.
What is meant by the Testimony of the Spirit
It is necessary, before going further, to determine what is meant by the testimony of the Spirit, which is said to be the ground of saving faith.
God, or the Spirit of God, testifies to the truth of the Scriptures and of the doctrines which they contain. This testimony, as has been seen, is partly external, consisting in prophecies and miracles, partly in the nature of the truths themselves as related to the intellectual and moral elements of the soul, and partly special and supernatural. Unrenewed men may feel the power of the two former kinds of testimony, and believe with a faith either merely intellectual and speculative, or with what may be called from its ground, a moral faith, which is only temporary. The spiritual form of testimony is confined to the regenerated. It is, of course, inscrutable. The operations of the Spirit do not reveal themselves in the consciousness otherwise than by their effects. We know that men are born of the Spirit, that the Spirit dwells in the people of God and continually influences their thoughts, feelings, and actions. But we know this only from the teaching of the Bible, not because we are conscious of his operations. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8.)
This witness of the Spirit is not an affirmation that the Bible is the Word of God. Neither is it the production of a blind, unintelligent conviction of that fact. It is not, as is the case with human testimony, addressed from without to the mind, but it is within the mind itself. It is an influence designed to produce faith. It is called a witness or testimony because it is so called in Scripture; and because it has the essential nature of testimony, inasmuch as it is the pledge of the authority of God in support of the truth.
The effects of this inward testimony are, (1.) What the Scriptures call “spiritual discernment.” This means two things: A discernment due to the influence of the Spirit; and a discernment not only of the truth, but also of the holiness, excellence, and glory of the things discerned. The word spiritual, in this sense, means conformed to the nature of the Spirit. Hence the law is said to be spiritual, i.e., holy, just, and good. (2.) A second effect flowing necessarily from the one just mentioned is delight and complacency, or love. (3.) The apprehension of the suitableness of the truths revealed, to our nature and necessities. (4.) The firm conviction that these things are not only true, but divine. (5.) The fruits of this conviction, i.e., of the faith thus produced, good works,—holiness of heart and life.
When, therefore, a Christian is asked, Why he believes the Scriptures and the doctrines therein contained, his simple answer is, On the testimony or authority of God. How else could he know that the worlds were created by God, that our race apostatized from God, that He sent his Son for our redemption, that faith in Him will secure salvation. Faith in such truths can have no other foundation than the testimony of God. If asked, How God testifies to the truth of the Bible? If an educated man whose attention has been called to the subject, he will answer, In every conceivable way: by signs, wonders, and miracles; by the exhibition which the Bible makes of divine knowledge, excellence, authority, and power, If an uneducated man, he may simply say, “Whereas I was blind, now I see.” Such a man, and indeed every true Christian, passes from a state of unbelief to one of saving faith, not by any process of research or argument, but of inward experience. The change may, and often does, take place in a moment. The faith of a Christian in the Bible is, as before remarked, analogous to that which all men have in the moral law, which they recognize not only as truth, but as having the authority of God. What the natural man perceives with regard to the moral law the renewed man is enabled to perceive in regard to “the things of the Spirit,” by the testimony of that Spirit with and by the truth to his heart.
Proof from Express Declarations of Scripture
1. That this is the Scriptural doctrine on the subject is plain from the express declarations of the Scriptures. Our Lord promised to send the Spirit for this very purpose. “He will reprove the world of sin,” especially of the sin of not believing in Christ; “and of righteousness,” that is, of his righteousness,—the rightfulness of his claims to be regarded and received as the Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, and the Saviour of the world; “and of judgment,” that is, of the final overthrow of the kingdom of darkness and triumph of the kingdom of light. (John 16:8.) Faith, therefore, is always represented in Scripture as one of the fruits of the Spirit, as the gift of God, as the product of his energy (πίστις τη̂ς ἐνεργείας του̂ Θεου̂) (Colossians 2:12). Men are said to believe in virtue of the same power which wrought in Christ, when God raised Him from the dead. (Eph 1:19, 20.) The Apostle Paul elaborately sets forth the ground of faith in the second chapter of First Corinthians. He declares that he relied for success not on the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but on the demonstration of the Spirit, in order that the faith of the people might rest not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Faith was not to rest on argument, on historical or philosophical proof, but on the testimony of the Spirit. The Spirit demonstrates the truth to the mind, i.e., produces the conviction that it is truth, and leads the soul to embrace it with assurance and delight. Passages have already been quoted which teach that faith rests on the testimony of God, and that unbelief consists in rejecting that testimony. The testimony of God is given through the Spirit, whose office it is to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us. The Apostle John tells his readers, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things … The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you: and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 John 2:20, 27.) This passage teaches, (1.) That true believers receive from Christ (the Holy One) an unction. (2.) That this unction is the Holy Ghost. (3.) That it secures the knowledge and conviction of the truth. (4.) That this inward teaching which makes them believers is abiding, and secures them from apostasy.
1 Corinthians 2:14.
Equally explicit is the passage in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” The things of the Spirit, are the things which the Spirit has revealed. Concerning these things, it is taught: (1.) that the natural or unrenewed man does not receive them. (2.) That the spiritual man, i.e., the man in whom the Spirit dwells, does receive them. (3.) That the reason of this difference is that the former has not, and that the latter has, spiritual discernment. (4.) This spiritual discernment is the apprehension of the truth and excellence of the things discerned. (5.) It is spiritual, as just stated, both because due to the operation of the Spirit, and because the conformity of the truths discerned to the nature of the Spirit, is apprehended.
When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God, our Lord said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17.) Other men had the same external evidence of the divinity of Christ that Peter had. His faith was due not to that evidence alone, but to the inward testimony of God. Our Lord rendered thanks that God had hidden the mysteries of his kingdom from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes. (Matt. 11:25.) The external revelation was made to both classes. Besides this external revelation, those called babes received an inward testimony which made them believers. Hence our Lord said, No man can come unto me except he be drawn or taught of God. (John 6:44, 45.) The Apostle tells us that the same Gospel, the same objective truths, with the same external and rational evidence, which was an offence to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek, was to the called the wisdom and the power of God. Why this difference? Not the superior knowledge or greater excellence of the called, but the inward divine influence, the κλη̂σις, of which they were the subjects. Paul’s instantaneous conversion is not to be referred to any rational process of argument; nor to his moral susceptibility to the truth; nor to the visible manifestation of Christ, for no miracle, no outward light or splendour could change the heart and transform the whole character in a moment. It was, as the Apostle himself tells us (Gal. 1:15, 16), the inward revelation of Christ to him by the special grace of God. It was the testimony of the Spirit, which being inward and supernatural, enabled him to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The Psalmist prayed that God would open his eyes that he might see wondrous things out of his law. The Apostle prayed for the Ephesians that God would give them the Holy Spirit, that the eyes of their souls might be opened, that they might know the things freely given to them of God. (Eph. 1:17, 18.) Everywhere in the Bible the fact that any one believes is referred not to his subjective state, but to the work of the Spirit on his heart.
Proof from the Way the Apostles acted
2. As the Scriptures thus expressly teach that the ground of true or saving faith is the inward witness of the Spirit, the Apostles always acted on that principle. They announced the truth, and demanded its instant reception, under the pain of eternal death. Our Lord did the same. “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18.) Immediate faith was demanded. Being demanded by Christ, and at his command by the Apostles, that demand must be just and reasonable. It could, however, be neither unless the evidence of the truth attended it. That evidence could not be the external proofs of the divinity of Christ and his Gospel, for those proofs were present to the minds of comparatively few of the hearers of the Gospel; nor could it be rational proof or philosophical arguments, for still fewer could appreciate such evidence, and if they could it would avail nothing to the production of saving faith. The evidence of truth, to which assent is demanded by God the moment it is announced, must be in the truth itself. And if this assent be obligatory, and dissent or unbelief a sin, then the evidence must be of a nature, to which a corrupt state of the soul renders a man insensible. “If our gospel be hid,” says the Apostle, “it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them … [But] God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:3–6.) It is here taught, (1.) That wherever and whenever Christ is preached, the evidence of his divinity is presented. The glory of God shines in his face. (2.) That if any man fails to see it, it is because the God of this world hath blinded his eyes. (3.) That if any do perceive it and believe, it is because of an inward illumination produced by Him who first commanded the light to shine out of darkness.
Proof from the Practice in the Church
3. As Christ and the Apostles acted on this principle, so have all faithful ministers and missionaries from that day to this They do not expect to convince and convert men by historical evidence or by philosophical arguments. They depend on the demonstration of the Spirit.
Proof from Analogy
4. This doctrine, that the true and immediate ground of faith in the things of the Spirit is the testimony of the Spirit, producing spiritual discernment, is sustained by analogy. If a man cannot see the splendour of the sun, it is because he is blind. If he cannot perceive the beauties of nature and of art, it is because he has no taste. If he cannot apprehend “the concord of sweet sounds,” it is because he has not a musical ear. If he cannot see the beauty of virtue, or the divine authority of the moral law, it is because his moral sense is blunted. If he cannot see the glory of God in his works and in his Word, it is because his religious nature is perverted. And in like manner, if he cannot see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, it is because the god of this world has blinded his eyes.
No one excuses the man who can see no excellence in virtue, and who repudiates the authority of the moral law. The Bible and the instinctive judgment of men, condemn the atheist. In like manner the Scriptures pronounce accursed all who do not believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. This is the denial of supreme excellence; the rejection of the clearest manifestation of God ever made to man. The solemn judgment of God is, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” (1 Cor. 16:22.) In this judgment the whole intelligent universe will ultimately acquiesce.
Faith in the Scriptures, therefore, is founded on the testimony of God. By testimony, as before stated, is meant attestation, anything which pledges the authority of the attester in support of the truth to be established. As this testimony is of different kinds, so the faith which it produces, is also different. So far as the testimony is merely external, the faith it produces is simply historical or speculative. So far as the testimony is moral, consisting in the power which the Spirit gives to the truth over the natural conscience, the faith is temporary, depending on the state of mind which is its proximate cause. Besides these, there is the inward testimony of the Spirit, which is of such a nature and of such power as to produce a perfect revolution in the soul, compared in Scripture to that effected by opening the eyes of the blind to the reality, the wonders, and glories of creation. There is, therefore, all the difference between a faith resting on this inward testimony of the Spirit, and mere speculative faith, that there is between the conviction a blind man has of the beauties of nature, before and after the opening of his eyes. As this testimony is informing, enabling the soul to see the truth and excellence of the “things of the Spirit,” so far as the consciousness of the believer is concerned, his faith is a form of knowledge He sees to be true, what the Spirit reveals and authenticates.
~Hodge, C. (1997). Systematic theology (Vol. 3, pp. 67–74). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.