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and the removal of which would occasion its fall or annihilation; it is from the promise, therefore, that we have taken our definition, which nevertheless is not at all at variance with that definition, or rather description, of the apostle, which he accommodates to his argument; where he says, that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (o) For by varestarts, which is the word he uses, and which is rendered substance, he intends a prop, as it were, on which the pious mind rests and reclines; as though he had said, that faith is a certain and secure possession of those things which are promised to us by God. Unless any one would rather understand wrorrari; of confidence, to which I shall not object, though I adopt that idea which is the more generally received. Again, to signify that even till the last day, when the books shall be opened, these objects are too sublime to be perceived by our senses, seen with our eyes, or handled with our hands; and that, in the mean time, they are enjoyed by us only as we exceed the capacity of our own understanding, extend our views beyond all terrestrial things, and even rise above ourselves; he has added, that this security of possession relates to things which are the objects of hope, and therefore invisible. For “hope that is seen (as Paul observes), is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” (p) But when he calls it an evidence, or proof, or (as Augustine has frequently rendered it) a conviction of things not seen (for the Greek word is extyxes); it is just as though he had called it the evidence of things not apparent, the vision of things not seen, the perspicuity of things obscure, the presence of things absent, the demonstration of things concealed. For the mysteries of God, of which description are the things that pertain to our salvation, cannot be discerned in themselves and in their own nature; we only discover them in his word, of whose veracity we ought to be so firmly persuaded, as to consider all that he speaks as though it were already performed and accomplished. But how can the mind elevate itself to receive such a taste of the divine goodness, without being all inflamed with mutual love to God? For the plenitude of happiness, which God hath
(o) Heb. xi. 1. (p) Rom. viii. 24.
reserved for them who fear him, cannot be truly known, but it must at the same time excite a vehement affection. And those whom it has once affected, it draws and elevates towards itself. Therefore we need not wonder if a perverse and malicious heart never feel this affection, which conducts us to heaven itself, and introduces us to the most secret treasures of God and the most sacred recesses of his kingdom, which must not be profaned by the entrance of an impure heart. For what the schoolmen (q) advance concerning the priority of charity to faith and hope, is a mere reverie of a distempered imagination, since it is faith alone which first produces charity in us. How much more accurately Bernard speaks! “I believe,” says he, “that the testimony of conscience, which Paul calls the rejoicing of the pious, consists in three things. For it is necessary to believe, first of all, that you cannot have remission of sins but through the mercy of God; secondly, that you cannot have any good work, unless he bestow this also; lastly, that you cannot by any works merit eternal life, unless that also be freely given.” (r) Just after he adds, “that these things are not sufficient, only as a beginning of faith: because in believing that sins can only be forgiven by God, we ought at the same time to consider that they are forgiven us, till we are also persuaded, by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, that salvation is laid up for us: because God forgives sins; he also bestows merits; he likewise confers rewards; it is not possible to remain in this beginning.” But these and other things must be treated in the proper places; it may suffice, at present, to ascertain wherein faith itself consists. XLII. Now wherever this living faith shall be found, it must necessarily be attended with the hope of eternal salvation as its inseparable concomitant, or rather must originate and produce it; since the want of this hope would prove us to be utterly destitute of faith, however eloquently and pompously we might discourse concerning it. For if faith be, as has been stated, a certain persuasion of the truth of God, which can neither lie, nor deceive us, nor be frustrated; they who have felt this assurance, likewise expect a period to arrive when
(g) Lombard. (r) Bernard. Serm. I. in Annunciat.
God will accomplish his promises, which, according to their persuasion, cannot but be true: so that, in short, hope is no other than an expectation of those things which faith has believed to be truly promised by God. Thus faith believes the veracity of God, hope expects the manifestation of it in due time; faith believes him to be our Father, hope expects him always to act towards us in this character; faith believes that eternal life is given to us, hope expects it one day to be revealed; faith is the foundation on which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith. For as no man can have any expectations from God, but he who has first believed his promises; so also the imbecility of our faith must be sustained and cherished by patient hope and expectation, lest it grow weary and faint. For which reason, Paul rightly places our salvation in hope. (s). For hope, while it is silently expecting the Lord, restrains faith, that it may not be too precipitate; it confirms faith, that it may not waver in the divine promises, or begin to doubt of the truth of them; it refreshes it, that it may not grow weary; it extends it to the farthest goal, that it may not fail in the midst of the course, or even at the entrance of it. Finally, hope, by continually renewing and restoring faith, causes it frequently to persevere with more vigour than hope itself. But in how many cases the assistance of hope is necessary to the establishment of faith, will better appear, if we consider how many species of temptations assail and harass those who have embraced the word of God. First, the Lord, by deferring the execution of his promises, frequently keeps our minds in suspense longer than we wish; here it is the office of hope to obey the injunction of the prophet, “though it tarry, wait for it.” (t) Sometimes he not only suffers us to languish, but openly manifests his indignation: in this case it is much more necessary to have the assistance of hope, that, according to the language of another prophet, we may “wait upon the Lord that hideth his face from Jacob.” (u) Scoffers also arise, as Peter says, and inquire, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (w) And the
(s) Rom. viii.24. (r) Heb. ii. S. (u) Isaiah viii. 17. (v) 2 Pet. iii.4.
flesh and the world whisper the same things into our ears. Here faith must be supported by the patience of hope, and kept fixed on the contemplation of eternity, that it may consider “a thousand years as one day.” (x) XLIII. On account of this union and affinity, the Scripture sometimes uses the words faith and hope, without any distinction. For when Peter says that we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed,” (y) he attributes to faith, what was more applicable to hope; and not without reason, since we have already shewn, that hope is no other than the nourishment and strength of faith. Sometimes they are joined together, as in a passage of the same epistle, “that your faith and hope might be in God.” (z) But Paul, in the Epistle to the Philippians, (a) deduces expectation from hope; because in patient hope we suspend our desires till the arrival of God’s appointed time. All which may be better understood from the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, (b) which I have already cited. In another place, Paul, though with some impropriety of expression, conveys the very same idea in these words: “We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith;” (c) because having embraced the testimony of the Gospel concerning his gratuitous love, we wait till God openly manifests what is now concealed under hope. Now it is easy to see the absurdity of Peter Lombard, in laying a twofold foundation of hope; the grace of God, and the merit of works. Hope can have no other object than faith; and the only object of faith, we have very clearly stated to be the mercy of God; to which both its eyes, if I may be allowed the expression, ought to be directed. But it may be proper to hear what kind of a reason he advances. If, says he, you venture to hope for any thing without merits, it must not be called hope, but presumption. Who is there that will not justly detest such teachers, who pronounce a confidence in the veracity of God to be temerity and presumption? For whereas it is the will of the Lord that we should expect every thing from his goodness, they assert that it is presump
tion to depend and rely upon it. Such a master is worthy of such disciples as he has found in the schools of wranglers! But, as for us, since we see that sinners are enjoined by the oracles of God to entertain a hope of salvation, let us joyfully presume so far on his veracity as to reject all confidence in our own works, to depend solely on his mercy, and venture to cherish a hope of happiness. He, who said “According to your faith be it unto you,” (d) will not deceive us. A
THOUGH we have already shown, in some respect, how faith possesses Christ, and how by means of faith we enjoy his benefits; yet the subject would still be involved in obscurity, unless we were to add a description of the effects which we experience. The substance of the Gospel is, not without reason, said to be comprised in “repentance and remission of sins.” Therefore, if these two points be omitted, every controversy concerning faith will be jejune and incomplete, and consequently of little use. Now since both are conferred on us by Christ, and we obtain both by faith, that is, newness of life and gratuitous reconciliation; the regular method of instruction requires me, in this place, to enter on the discussion of both. But our immediate transition will be from faith to repentance; because, when this point is well understood, it will better appear how man is justified by faith alone and mere pardon, and yet that real sanctity of life (so to speak) is not separated from the gratuitous imputation of righteousness. Now it ought not to be doubted that repentance not only immediately follows faith, but is produced by it. For since pardon, or remission, is offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, liberated from the tyranny of Satan, from the yoke of sin, and the
(d) Matt. ix. 29.