THE TRUE FAITH
BY ORSON PRATT
FAITH THE RESULT OF EVIDENCE — JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH WITHOUT WORKS — JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH WITH WORKS — FAITH THE GIFT OF GOD — MIRACULOUS SIGNS ACCOMPANY TRUE FAITH IN ALL AGES — WHEN THE SIGNS CEASE, FAITH AND SALVATION CEASE.
1. — It is the intention of the author in this chapter to define and simplify the great principle, called FAITH. This is not an abstract principle, separate and distinct from mind, but it is a certain condition or state of the mind itself. When the mind believes or has confidence in any subject, or statement, or proposition, whether correct or incorrect, it is then in possession of faith. To have faith is simply to believe. Faith and belief, therefore, are synonymous terms, expressive of the same idea.
2. — Faith or belief is the result of evidence presented to the mind. Without evidence, the mind cannot have faith in anything. We believe that a stone will fall, when unsupported, on the evidence of past observation in relation to the falling of heavy bodies. We believe that day and night will continue on the evidence of past experience in regard to the uniformity of nature’s laws. We believe that space is boundless, and duration endless, on the evidence, presented by the mind itself, which at once perceives the absurdity of either space or duration being limited. We believe in all self-evident truths, on the evidence that all opposite propositions to these truths are absurd. We believe in all the great truths of science, either on the evidences of our own investigations, or on the researches of others. We believe in historical facts on the evidence of the historian. Faith in every fact, statement, truth, or proposition which we have confidence in, is, in all cases whatsoever, derived from evidence. Therefore, without evidence, faith can have no existence.
3. — Faith is of two kinds, namely, false and true. A false faith is the result of giving credence to false evidence: a true faith, the result derived from true evidence.
4. — The faith of Cain in offering the fruits of the ground was false, derived from some incorrect evidence, in relation to offerings, or in relation to the conduct necessary to obtain a blessing. The faith of Abel in offering the firstlings of his flock, was founded upon the evidence he had from the word of God that such an offering would please Him. The faith of the Egyptians in the doctrines of the magicians was the result of false evidence, strengthened, and, as they supposed, confirmed by the numerous miracles wrought by their evil hands. The faith of Israel in the doctrines of Moses was founded upon true evidence, and hence, was pleasing in the sight of God. Faith in idols and in the mythologies of the heathen, is the result of a false traditionary evidence. Faith in the true God is founded upon true evidence. Faith in false doctrines, and in the creeds and articles of religion, invented by human wisdom, is the production of traditionary evidence, not to be depended on. Faith in every word of God, whether ancient or modern, is always produced by evidence that is true, and calculated to give the greatest assurance to the mind.
5. — As evidence precedes faith, the latter should be weak or strong in proportion to the weakness or strength of the evidence. Where the evidence is accompanied by circumstances of a doubtful nature; or where it relates to things which are, in some degree, improbable in themselves; or where there is an opposing evidence of nearly the same influence or weight; or where there is only circumstantial evidence — faith should be weak. On the other hand, where the evidences are direct; where they relate to events or things, not improbable; where they are accompanied by favourable circumstances of a confirmatory nature; where no evidences, of any influence or weight, are in opposition — faith should be strong. The weakness or strength of faith will, therefore, in all cases, be in proportion to the weakness or strength of the impressions, produced upon the mind by evidence. It is often the case, that the judgment becomes so weak and beclouded, that the evidence, however great, and clear, and lucid, and demonstrative, produces no sensible impression upon the mind. Hence, faith does not always exist in impaired or vitiated minds with a strength proportioned to the degree or force of evidence.
6. — In our examination into the truth or falsehood of many subjects, we are exceedingly liable to be deceived. Man, through the influence of sophistry, or popularity, or surrounding circumstances, or tradition, or many causes, combined, may be biased in his judgment, partial in his investigations, and swayed from that searching analysis which is sometimes requisite in order to discover the truth or error of the subject, statement, or proposition, under consideration. Even his own senses, uncorrected by his judgment, often lead him astray. For instance; a man, looking through the cabin window of a vessel, perceives another vessel apparently moving. He hastily concludes that the other vessel is really in motion, while his own is standing still. In this, he is very liable to be deceived; for the fact may be directly opposite to the one he so hastily assumes; that is, his own vessel may be moving, though imperceptibly to him, while the one at the distance may be standing still; or the phenomenon may be occasioned, by the combined motion of both vessels. All the inhabitants of our globe were for many centuries, deceived in regard to the motions of the heavenly bodies. They believed that the sun, moon, planets, and stars, revolved around the earth daily, until Copernicus undeceived them, by proving that the appearances were the result of the simple diurnal rotation of the earth.
7. — Very many have been the deceptions palmed upon the world, under the names of science, theories, hypotheses, doctrines, etc. Hundreds of millions in all ages have been under the influence of false faiths, built upon false evidences. Among all the antediluvian world in the days of the flood, only eight persons had the true faith; all the rest perished with a false faith. In the cities of the plains which were overthrown, Lot and his two daughters were the only ones, having a true faith. Modern Christendom or the nations of great Babylon, have, for centuries, been under the influence of false faiths which will soon lead them to utter destruction.
8. — A false faith in regard to history, science, and many other subjects, is not so injurious to individuals and nations, as an incorrect faith in regard to the doctrine of salvation. To believe that a revelation or message, sent from God, is false, is attended with the most fearful consequences, involving the present and future happiness of the soul. So likewise, to believe human creeds and articles of religion, invented by uninspired men, to be of divine origin, is equally dangerous and fatal in its consequences.
9. — Faith most generally inspires the heart to actions or works of a nature similar and suitable to the belief. Faith in idolatrous systems leads to idolatrous works. Faith in false doctrines leads to false or wicked practices. Faith in the corrupt man-made systems of modern Christianity leads to many corrupt, abominable, and wicked works. Faith in a divine message or new revelation will lead to works in accordance with the requirements contained therein.
10. — When faith, either true or false, is sufficiently powerful to lead to action, it produces effects characteristic of the cause. The faith of Paul, that Jesus of Nazareth was an impostor, led him to persecute His followers with great zeal. Afterwards his faith that Jesus was the son of God, led him to endure all kinds of hardships for His sake. The faith of some led them to really suppose they were doing God service to kill the Apostles. The faith of others made them willing to die for their testimony concerning Jesus. The murderers of the Apostles, and the Apostles themselves, both had faith and works; both were sincere; the one having false faith and wicked works; the other having true faith and righteous works.
11. — Faith alone will not save men: neither will faith and works save them, unless they are of the right kind. Indeed the faith and works of the greatest portion of mankind will be the very cause of their damnation. True faith and righteous works are essential to salvation; and without both of these, no man ever was, or ever can be saved.
12. — Unless the true principles of salvation be revealed and established by sufficient evidence, there could be no true faith and works by which mankind could obtain salvation; for in the system of salvation, works follow faith, and faith follows evidence, and evidence accompanies the revealed truth. For instance, God reveals the great and sublime truths contained in the Book of Mormon. Next, He sends evidence sufficient to convince mankind of the divine authenticity of these truths. Thirdly, this evidence produces faith in the minds of those who candidly and carefully examine it. Fourthly, this faith will lead the honest to do the works required of them in that book. And lastly, through the atonement of Christ, these faith and works, combined together, will surely save them in the kingdom of God.
13. — The evidence which God always gives to establish the divinity of His revelations, is sufficient to produce faith in the heart of every person living, who examines it in a proper manner. Hence every creature in all the world, who has come to years of understanding, and who has evidence placed within his reach, is condemned if he does not believe it. There are some who say that, if the evidence were sufficient, they would be compelled to believe; but this is not true — the evidence may be sufficient, and yet they may refuse to examine it; or they may examine it with prejudiced minds, or they may be careless in their examinations, or they may refuse to examine it in the manner in which God has directed; or they may examine it with a determination not to embrace it, even though it be true; or they may be partial in weighing the evidence for, and apparently against it, with a most anxious desire and hope that they shall find it false. All these obstacles, and many others that might be named, prevent them from believing that which an honest, candid, unprejudiced, and prayerful mind would believe. Therefore it is not for the lack of evidence that they disbelieve, but it is their own evil hearts, and the darkness which they bring with them in their investigations. When God reveals a truth, as it is always accompanied with sufficient evidence, all people, because of their agency, can believe or disbelieve it, as they choose: and if they believe it, they can also obey or disobey it, as they choose: and herein is the condemnation of man, because they prefer unbelief to faith, and disobedience to obedience.
14. — When the Apostles were commanded to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, they were informed that he who believed the Gospel, and was baptised, should be saved, and he who believed not should be damned. To believe the Gospel, as the Apostles preached it, was not sufficient, but Jesus added the condition of baptism, clearly showing that their faith must be manifested by their works, otherwise it would be of no benefit to them. Jesus very well understood that the works necessary to salvation never would be performed without faith, which always precedes them; and, as this faith was in their power to obtain through the evidence offered by the preaching of His Apostles, He determined to damn every creature in all the world that would not believe the message they taught.
15. — There are some who believe that faith alone, unaccompanied by works, is sufficient for justification, sanctification, and salvation. But what would it benefit a hungry man, in a field, who believes that in the house there is a table spread for him, with an abundance of food, if he make no exertion to approach the house and obtain the blessing? What profit would it be to a rich man who has faith in the words of Jesus, concerning the feeding of the hungry and the clothing of the naked, unless he have works corresponding to that faith? What blessing would be obtained by believing the words which Christ has spoken, unless we do them? It is not the person who merely believes in the sayings of Christ, that is justified, but it is he who shows his faith by obeying them. When Jesus speaks of believers, he has reference, most generally, to those whose faith has been sufficiently strong to lead them to obedience. It is to this kind of believers that He refers in the following passages : “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “He that believeth on Him is not condemned.”
16. — Jesus here refers to a class of believers who should fully prove their faith by their obedience. Such, and such alone, should be freed from condemnation — should pass from death unto life — should become the children of God by having a faith that would lead them to obey. All other believers are without justification — without hope — without everlasting life, and will be damned, the same as unbelievers, because they profess to believe on the words of the Son of God, but will not obey them.
17. — Jesus says, “If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.” As a man’s love is manifested by his works, so is his faith.
18. — John says that, “Whosoever beiieveth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” It is evident, from the whole Epistle in which these words are contained, that none were to be considered as really believing that Jesus was the Christ, only those who manifested it by keeping His commandments; for he further says, “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.” And again, he says, “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him.” “Whosoever doeth not righteousnes is not of God.” “He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him.” “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” “He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.” “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because, as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us.” “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous [to us].”
19. — From all these passages, it is easy to perceive that salvation depends upon our loving God; and that loving God is the keeping of His commandments; and the keeping of His commandments is the only sure evidence of our really believing that Jesus is the Christ. Let no persons, therefore, flatter or deceive themselves with the idea that they believe from their heart, that Jesus is the Christ, or that they are born of God, or that they have passed from death unto life, or that they love God, unless they are certain that they have kept His commandments and sayings. Millions are deceiving themselves with a false faith and with a false hope — deluding themselves with the notion that they are born of God, when they have not attended even to the first commandments in relation to their adoption. All such will meet with a bitter disappointment.
20. — The first effect of true faith is a sincere, true, and thorough repentance of all sins; the second effect is an immersion in water, for the remission of sins; the third is the reception of the ordinance of the laying on of the hands for the baptism of the Holy Ghost: these are the first commandments in the Gospel. No man has a saving faith without attending to these three requirements. No person can be a believer in Christ, in the Scriptural sense of that term, without complying, in the strictest manner, with these commandments; without receiving these, it will be in vain for him to pray for a forgiveness of sins, or for the baptism of the Spirit, or for salvation: and if he flatters himself that he loves God, or that he can obtain eternal life without obeying these first commandments, he is woefully deceived. Indeed these are the introductory principles, and the only principles by which men and women can be born into the kingdom of Christ, and become His sons and daughters. After attending to these, there are other commandments for them to obey; but if they undertake to obey the others first, they will find their endeavours [inadequate] in the sight of God. For instance, God requires His sons and daughters to keep the Sabbath day holy; but no man can [completely] keep the Sabbath holy until he has attended to the first three commandments of the Gospel, after which he can keep the Sabbath according to the mind of God, but not before. There are many commandments which none but those who are born of God can keep [such as receiving the Holy Ghost]. And for a man to undertake to keep them before attending to the first three, would be like a child’s undertaking to read before it had learned the alphabet. [God finds every form of repentance and commandment-keeping acceptable; but, it requires the keeping of all God’s commandments and ordinances to form a repentance sufficient enough or adequate enough to gain a person entry into the Kingdom of God here on this earth and entry into the Celestial Kingdom in heaven. You must do the works that Christ has done in order to go where Christ has gone. In all things, Jesus Christ and the Apostles set the example for us.]
21. — A faith, then, that brings remission of sins or justification to the sinner, is that which is connected with repentance and baptism. Faith alone will not justify; faith and repentance alone will not justify; faith and baptism alone will not justify; but faith, repentance, and baptism will justify and bring remission of sins through the blood of Christ. What does Paul mean when he says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?” He means that faith is the starting point — the foundation and cause of our repentance and baptism which bring remission or justification; and being the cause which leads to those results, it is not improper to impute justification to faith. What does that Scripture mean which says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation?” It means that real faith in the heart is that which leads to obedience; for a man who does not obey, only has a degree of faith, and not a living faith in the heart, which in all cases will lead to repentance, confession, baptism, laying on of hands, etc. All will admit that to believe with the heart leads to and includes repentance. Why not also admit that it includes every other commandment of the Gospel? Because believing with the heart in the resurrection of Christ is the moving cause of obedience which brings salvation, it may well be said that salvation is the result of faith [which is demonstrated by complete obedience to God].
22. — There has been much dispute among mankind in regard to justification. Some have supposed that we are justified by the blood of Christ by simple faith alone, without performing any works either of the law or Gospel. Others suppose that we are justified by the blood of Christ by simply adding repentance to our faith without any further works. Others contend that all mankind will be justified and saved through the blood of Christ, without either faith or works. All these admit that the atonement of Christ is necessary to justification. The only dispute seems to be in regard to the conditions required of the creature by which he receives the justification purchased by the atonement. Those who believe that simple faith alone, without works, is the only condition required, generally urge the following passages in support of that view; “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” (Rom. iv. 2 — 6) Those who believe works necessary to justification, quote the following : “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he have faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, when he had offered Isaac, his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works, is dead also.” (James ii. 14 — 26.) Paul and James seem apparently to contradict each other; and this has been the cause of differences of opinion in our day: but these apparent contradictions can easily be reconciled, if we take into consideration the two different subjects upon which they were writing. Paul was writing to a people who were inclined to believe in circumcision, and other works of the ancient law which had been done away in Christ. And he shows clearly that circumcision and many of those ancient laws were given in the earlier ages, not to take away past sins, nor to justify those to whom they were given, but for various other purposes: and that by complying with those works, they did nothing more than what they were indebted to do, and that the reward attached to these acts was “not reckoned of grace, but of debt”; or, in other words, the reward of grace is a forgiveness of past sins; but the reward of debt is a freedom from the condemnation, not of past sins, but of the sins which would exist in the case we refused to pay the debt: for instance, God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males of his house, not to justify himself or his house of past sins, but for another purpose. When this commandment was given, it brought Abraham under obligations to obey it; it was a debt he owed to the Lord; if he paid it, there would be no condemnation arising from disobedience in relation to that particular commandment, and he would have the reward of a clear conscience, so far as the payment of that particular debt was concerned; but in all this there is no reward of grace manifested in the forgiveness of any sins which may have previously been committed. Therefore as obedience to these particular laws did not bring remission of sins, Paul could with propriety say that Abraham and others were not justified by works, that is, by such works of the law as circumcision, etc, which were given for a very different purpose than that of justification. It was very necessary that Abraham should do those works, though they were not works intended to bring remission of sins or justification, yet the performance of them would prevent the sin of negligence, and would also bring such blessings as were attached to them by way of promise. But after these laws and circumcision were done away in Christ, then Paul could say, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” If those laws and ordinances which were given to Abraham to perform, were not intended to justify him of his past sins, much less would they justify those who lived after Christ when they were done away. After Christ, these works given to Abraham to perform, were not considered even as a debt binding upon any: they were works, therefore, that would be sinful to perform. The faith of that man that “worketh not” that is, that does not perform works that are done away, “is counted for righteousness.”
23. — But as Abraham was justified by faith, it may not be improper to inquire whether there were any other class of works, connected with his faith, that were of a justifying nature. Paul says, “The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying “In thee shall all nations be blest.” — (Gal. iii. 8.) From this we learn that the same Gospel that was to justify the heathen through faith, and bless all nations, was actually preached to Abraham. Now in the Gospel there are certain works to be connected with faith for justification: by these works of the Gospel, he manifested his faith and obtained justification: and not by the works of the law, such as circumcision, etc. Paul says, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned, when he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised: that righteousness might be imputed unto them also; and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. — (Rom. iv. 9 — 12.) From these passages we learn, that Abraham was justified before circumcision, consequently the Gospel of justification must have been preached to him before that law was given. That there were works connected with the Gospel preached to Abraham, is evident from the fact that all the heathen nations who lived in the Apostles’ days, could be justified and become His children by walking, as Paul says, “in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham.” There were certain steps pertaining to the Gospel and faith of Abraham, in which he walked; otherwise he could not have been justified. Whatever works these steps of justification included, the very same were required of the heathen after Christ. These steps of the Gospel, since Christ, we have already observed, are Repentance and Baptism, which bring remission of sins and justification, being the results of faith, or, in other words, the steps of faith that Abraham walked in. Therefore, “to him that worketh not” the works of circumcision and other laws that are done away, but performeth the works of the Gospel, “his faith is counted for righteousness,” the same as Abraham’s was, who walked in the steps of the same Gospel, and was justified in the same way. This view of the subject perfectly reconciles the teachings of both Paul and James, and shows most clearly that both were correct, when their statements are applied to the two different subjects upon which they were writing.
24. — Faith is the gift of God. In what manner does God give faith? Does He impart this gift to the mind by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit independent of any other means? Does He bestow it unsought for and irrespective of the preparation of the mind? Does He confer it independent of the agency of man? To say that man obtains this gift without preparing himself, or without the exercise of any agency, is to deprive him of all responsibility in regard to whether he has faith or not. This condition would free him from all blame or condemnation for unbelief. If agency is in no way concerned in obtaining faith, it would be the highest act of injustice to punish the unbeliever: there would be no more responsibility about him than there is about the dumb brute. What would be thought of the justice of a man who would punish his horse because he was not harnessed? If the animal were endowed with the power of speech, would he not say that he was an irresponsible being, that he had no power or agency to harness himself, that the gift of harnessing belonged to a higher and superior being to himself, and that he considered it very cruel, and unjust, and tyrannical for that higher being to punish him for not exercising a faculty with which he was not endowed, which was far beyond his capacities, and which was a condition that man alone was capable of bestowing? If faith is the gift of God, and man has no agency in obtaining this gift, then he stands in the same relation to God in regard to having faith, as the horse does to the man in regard to being harnessed; and if it would be unjust and cruel in man to punish his horse for not being harnessed, it would be equally unjust and cruel for God to punish man for not having faith, if he be considered a being incapable of the exercise of such a faculty.
25. — That faith is the gift of God there is no dispute; but that God bestows this gift unsought for, and without any preparation or agency on the part of man, is not only unscriptural and unreasonable, but extremely absurd, when we consider that man is to be punished for his unbelief. But some may inquire, has not God the power and right to do with man as He pleases? Has not He power to withhold faith, and punish whomsoever He will, whether they deserve it or not? We reply that whatever power God has, it is certain that He will not exercise it contrary to the principles of Justice and Mercy, or contrary to the revealed character which He has given of Himself. If it were possible for Him to change or deviate from His word, then He would cease to be God. If He would punish the innocent and acquit the guilty, He would be a Being altogether unlovely and undesirable — a Being to be feared, but not to be loved. Therefore we may rest assured that He will never punish a man for his unbelief, unless man has the power to obtain faith through the exercise of his own free will.
26. — But if faith cannot be obtained, unless sought for properly, how can the sayings of Paul to the Ephesians be reconciled with this idea? “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” — (Eph. ii. 8 — 10). We are to understand from these passages, that the grace and faith by which man is saved, are the gifts of God, having been purchased for him not by his own works, but by the blood of Christ. Had not these gifts been purchased for man, all exertions on his part would have been entirely unavailing and fruitless. Whatever course man might have pursued, he could not have atoned for one sin; it required the sacrifice of a sinless and pure Being in order to purchase the gifts of faith, repentance, and salvation for fallen man. Grace, Faith, Repentance, and Salvation, when considered in their origin, are not of man, neither by his works; man did not devise, originate, nor adopt them; superior Beings in Celestial abodes, provided these gifts, and revealed the conditions to man by which he might become a partaker of them. Therefore all boasting on the part of man is excluded. He is saved by a plan which his works did not originate — a plan of heaven, and not of earth.
27. — Well might the Apostle declare to the Ephesians, that these gifts were not of themselves, neither of their works, when the God and Father of our spirits, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, was the great Author of them. But are these great gifts bestowed on fallen man without his works? No! Man has these gifts purchased for and offered to him; but before he can receive and enjoy them he must exercise his agency and accept of them: and herein is the condemnation of man, because when he was in a helpless fallen condition, and could not by his own works and devices atone for the least of his sins, the only Begotten of the Father gave his own life to purchase the gifts of faith and salvation for him, and yet he will not so much as accept of them.
28. — Faith therefore is the gift of God, but man cannot have this choice heavenly treasure only in God’s own appointed way. Among the means that God has ordained through which man may receive this great and precious gift, may be mentioned the preaching of the word by men called and inspired by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost: for saith the Apostle, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?” “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” — (Rom. x. 14, 15, 17.) Though faith be the gift of God, yet it comes by hearing the word. Through this medium man makes himself acquainted with the evidence in favour of the divinity of the word; the evidence being of divine origin as well as the word. This evidence begets faith in the mind; and this faith, though it be obtained through the exercise of the free will and agency of the creature, is still the gift of God, granted through the evidence accompanying the preached word. In the Apostles’ days, when the art of printing was unknown, and the great majority of mankind could not read the word, the principal means of obtaining faith was by the process of preaching and hearing, but in these days, in many instances, faith comes by reading as well as by preaching: for a man called and inspired of God can both preach and write by the power of the Holy Ghost, and when the honest humble soul either hears or reads that which is given by the Spirit, the light that is in him witnesseth that it is of God; for light cleaves to light, and truth to truth; the Spirit gives light to every man that comes into the world, and if he loves the light that is in himself, he will love all other light that is presented to his mind, and embrace it. Light cannot be presented to the mind of a candid, honest person, without being perceived to be light; but if he receive it not, he extinguishes in a degree the light that is in him, and darkness still greater ensues, and he is left to commit evils of a greater magnitude, until the light that was in him has entirely fled, and darkness reigns triumphantly: this darkness brings misery and wretchedness in this world and eternal torment in the world to come. This is the state of man who rejects light and truth, and will not exercise faith in that which the light that is in him teaches him is truth.
29. — The word and the evidence accompanying it are both the gifts of God; but besides these, the light that is in every man who comes into the world is also the gift of God through Christ. For if Christ had not purchased this gift for man by his atoning blood, man would have been destitute of all light. Darkness alone would have reigned, and our world would have been a hell — the miserable abode of fallen spirits and fallen man: no ray of light could have penetrated the darkened understanding: the extreme of misery would have been the result. But saith our Saviour, “I am the light and the life of the world;” all light that is in the world came by Him through His atonement; it is the gift of God to fallen man. If the light that is in man be the gift of God, surely all additional light offered to him, must be the gift of God also. By faith man should lay hold of this light, wherever he may discover it.
30. — The only way to receive additional faith and light is to practise according to the light which we have: and if we do this, we have the promise of God that the same shall grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day. Every word of God is light and truth. He that saith, that he is in the light, but obeyeth not the words of truth, is deceiving himself, and is in darkness; for none are the children of faith except such as walk in the light, and obey its laws. How many millions in Christendom profess to be Christians, and say that they are in the light and have been born of God, and yet they have never obeyed even the first principles of the light; they have never repented properly and been immersed in water for the remission of sins by the ministration of one whom God has authorized; and yet they pretend that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven their sins. How blindly deceived! And how vain their faith and hope of salvation! God has not forgiven their sins; neither will He forgive them, until they obey the message of the Gospel according to the precise order which He has revealed. Faith is the gift of God, and is one of the means of salvation; but none can have this gift except in the way that God has ordained: and all who pretend to have faith and obey not that form of doctrine which God has revealed, will find that their faith is of no effect, and that they will be damned with unbelievers: for God will not confer saving gifts upon the disobedient.
31. — Every thing that is good comes from God and is the gift of God. God has given revelation upon revelation unto man for his benefit; and the generations to whom He has given His word will be judged by that word at the last day. God raised up a prophet in our day, and gave him the Urim and Thummim, and revealed a flood of light and truth through him to this generation. This generation will be judged out of the books and revelations which God gave through this prophet. If they exercise faith in these revelations, and obey the same, they will be justified and saved; but if they disbelieve them, and harden their hearts against them, they will surely be damned; for the Almighty reveals not His word in vain. What doth it benefit this generation to offer them a heavenly gift, and reveal to them more light and truth if they receive it not? The gift benefits those only who receive it. The rest will receive a greater condemnation. When the honest read that heavenly treasure — the Book of Mormon, they are filled with joy unspeakable, because God has again spoken to man as in ancient times; their souls feast upon the contents of that holy and divine book; and so great is their joy, that they cannot find language adequate to express the overflowings of their hearts. But how different are the feelings of those who reject it; light and truth flee from them, and they feel angry to think that God should again speak to man. But God will show them by His Almighty power that His word cannot be rejected with impunity. The judgments that have befallen ancient generations and nations who have rejected His word, ought to be a solemn warning to those now on the earth. But alas! The pride, high-mindedness, and great wickedness of man cause him to hate the light because his deeds are evil. And thus this generation will, for the most part, perish in unbelief and disobedience to one of the greatest and most important messages that God ever sent for the salvation of the people. Oh, poor fallen man! How eager for happiness, and yet how unwilling to receive it upon righteous principles! Oh, that thou didst but know the day of thy visitation, and wouldst incline thine ear, and hearken to the voice of God, and harden not thy heart, for then it would be well with thee! But thou knowest not, neither dost thou consider the fearful judgments that await thee, if thou turnest a deaf ear to the last great message of mercy, now revealed from the heavens, for thy good! Oh, turn unto the Lord, and exercise faith in Him, that thy light and joy may be increased — thy faith and love become perfected, that all of the gifts of God may abound in thee, that thou mayest finally obtain eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God to man.
32. — Without true and genuine faith it is impossible to please God; and Jesus expressly says that, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that every man examines himself in the most careful and rigid manner to see whether he be in the faith or not. The only sure and perfect standard with which to compare his faith is the word and Spirit of God.
33. — Reader, are you sincerely desiring salvation, and do you wish to enter into a most thorough and searching examination of your faith? Are you willing to have your faith compared with and measured by the divine oracles? Are you a believer in the word of God? If so, you must be aware, that you are commanded in the most emphatic terms, to repent of all your sins. This is the very first act required of a Bible believer. Have you repented sincerely, and humbly, and with all your heart? Have you confessed all your sins unto God with a broken heart and contrite spirit? Have you, not only confessed, but forsaken every sin? Have you made sufficient acknowledgement and satisfaction to those whom you may have in any way injured? Have you covenanted with and promised the Lord that you will sin no more? If you have not repented in this manner and reformed your conduct, then you are not a true believer; your faith is vain, and your hopes are vain, and you are yet in your sins, not having complied with even the very first requisition of faith.
34. — But, if you have most sincerely repented and put away your evil deeds, then you have taken the first permanent step towards a true and saving faith. You are now humble and contrite in your feelings; your heart is tender, and you feel grieved that you have ever sinned against God. You feel determined that henceforth you will reform. You are a believing penitent sinner; and your great desire is to obtain a pardon of your sins. You ask the Lord to forgive you, but He does not grant your request. You pray much, but still you have no evidence that your sins are forgiven. You go forward to be prayed for by your ministers and friends, but find no relief. You become discouraged and perhaps fall back into sin, thinking that there is something wrong, or that there is no hope for you; or perhaps you may be persuaded by your minister that your sins are forgiven, and you try to fancy that it is so; though you have no certainty that you are pardoned, yet you hope that such is the case; this false hope causes you to be somewhat easy in your feelings and you fancy all is well.
35. — But let me tell you plainly that you are deceiving yourself. Your sins are not forgiven. It is true, you have believed the word of God, and have repented; but repentance is only the first step towards obtaining forgiveness. You have another great step to take, before you can expect your sins to be pardoned. You must be immersed in water, by one having authority from God, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, for the remission of your sins. Then, and not till then, your sins will be forgiven; for these are the two grand steps, to be joined with your faith, in order that your sins may be washed away, by the atoning blood of Christ. Faith, without repentance and baptism, will not bring you pardon; neither will repentance bring you forgiveness; neither will faith and repentance, both together, be sufficient to bring remission of sins; but Faith, Repentance, and Baptism, are sure to put you in possession of a complete justification of all past sins.
36. — Faith leads you to repentance and to the waters of baptism for the remission of sins. Faith, connected with repentance alone, is not a justifying faith. In order to be justified by faith, Baptism as well as repentance must be coupled with faith: these three joined in one, constitute the Faith of Justification; where either is wanting, there justification does not exist, and the penitent believer is yet in his sins.
37. — Are you, dear Reader, anxious that your sins should all be blotted out? If so, seek not to obtain this choice blessing, contrary to the Gospel; delude not yourself with the vain hope that you are already pardoned, when you have done nothing more than to repent. God will not accept your repentance, unless you be baptized for the remission of your sins [into the true church of God]. Have you ever gone down into the water and been buried therein, as penitent believers did in ancient times? Have you ever buried the deeds of the old man in a watery grave, as the body of Christ was buried? Did you by such burial, become dead to sin, as Jesus became dead, as it regards his mortal body? Have you ever arisen from the watery tomb to newness of life, as Jesus arose from the tomb of mortality to immortality? Unless you have done this, both your faith and hope are vain.
38. — Again, if you have been immersed by one whom God has not sent, and to whom God has not spoken and given authority to baptize; or if you have been baptized by any one who denies new revelation, and does away any of the miraculous gifts of the Gospel, and says, they are unnecessary in these days, then know assuredly, that your immersion is illegal, and will in no wise be accounted as baptism to you. Therefore your only hope of obtaining pardon will be, to search after one whom the Lord has truly authorized, and receive this sacred ordinance under his hands; and then your sins shall be forgiven you, and you will, so far as these first steps are concerned, have the true genuine Gospel faith.
39. — You have now, by complying with repentance and baptism, been set free from all past sin. You have been born of the water, but not of the spirit. Though justified, you yet lack a most essential and important blessing, namely, The Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
40. — God hath ordained ordinances through which Gospel blessings are granted to believers. We have already stated, that the ordinance of Baptism when ministered by proper authority, is that through which pardon comes to the penitent believer; so likewise, God hath ordained the laying on of the hands of His authorized servants, as the sacred ordinance through which He will bestow upon baptized believers the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
41. — The Baptism of the Holy Ghost cannot be dispensed with by the believer, any more than the baptism of water. To be born of the water, only justifies the sinner of past sins; but to be born, afterwards, of the Holy Ghost, sanctifies him and prepares him for spiritual blessings in this life, and for eternal life in the world to come. To be born of the water does not qualify him to enter into the kingdom of God, but to be born, first, of the water, and afterwards, of the spirit, fully qualifies him to enter and dwell in that kingdom. Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born of the water and of the spirit, he can in no wise enter into the kingdom of God.” A man may believe, repent, and be immersed in water, or in other words, be born of water, and yet, according to the word of Jesus, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, without also being born of the spirit.
42. — The ordinance of the Laying on of Hands for the birth of the Spirit is, therefore, essential to salvation.
43. — The men and women of Samaria were born of the water several days before they were born of the spirit. Peter and John were under the necessity of performing a journey from Jerusalem to Samaria, to lay hands on the baptized believers of the latter city, that they might also be born of the spirit, even as they had been born of the water several days before.
44. — The baptized believers at Ephesus were born of the spirit through the laying on of the hands of Paul. Paul also was born, first of the water to wash away his sins; (Acts xxii. 16,) and secondly, of the Spirit by the ministration of Ananias. (Acts ix. 17, 18.)
45. — Having by faith received forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, the believers begin with greater assurance to lay hold of every blessing promised in the Gospel. They read that certain miraculous signs shall be given to believers. (Mark xvi. 15, 18.) They consider that they have the right to enjoy these signs, according to the promise which Jesus made. And they soon find that, through faith, they, in the name of Jesus, can cast out devils, speak in new tongues, overcome deadly poisons, heal the sick, dream heavenly dreams, see open visions, prophesy of future events, receive revelations, control the powers of nature, and, in short, do anything that is necessary for their welfare and the glory of God. All these blessings are obtained by faith; and without faith no spiritual gifts can be received.
46. — The gift of the Holy Ghost, with all its miraculous powers, is one of the great distinguishing differences between Gospel believers and unbelievers. Jesus has been pleased to promise to the one class miraculous signs, and to the other damnation. All persons who wish to thoroughly examine their faith by the word of God, can at once determine to which of these two classes they belong. All who find themselves in possession of the signs, know of a surety that they are believers, and consequently subjects of salvation. But all who find themselves destitute of these signs, know at once, that they are unbelievers, and, therefore, subjects of damnation.
47. — The nations of apostate Christendom are deceiving themselves with the vain and foolish idea, that they are Gospel believers, without the promised accompanying signs. They suppose that they have the true faith without enjoying the promised miraculous effects of that faith: thus they have been deluding themselves with a false faith, and unfounded hope, for some seventeen centuries past. Where faith exists, these miraculous signs exist. If the signs have ceased, then faith has ceased also. Without these signs, no church, either Catholic or Protestant, can be saved; for they are not believers.
48. — Faith, though the gift of God, is not only obtained by the exercise of the agency of man, but is also increased and perfected by the same agency. Obedience to the ancient Gospel will necessarily impart the ancient Faith: and Faith will necessarily have the same power to prevail with God, in one age as in another. If, through Repentance, Baptism, and Laying on of Hands, in ancient times, Faith was so increased as to obtain Remission of Sins, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Miraculous Signs, why will not obedience, in this age, to the same three requirements, impart the same degree of Faith? And why not also the same three Gospel blessings, follow the same Faith?
49. — Can any one show any reason, or present any evidence from the divine oracles, why obedience to the ancient Gospel will not give the same Faith now as in ancient times? Will not Repentance, in all ages, have the same moral effect upon the mind? Is not Gospel Baptism now the same as anciently? Is not every step of obedience to the Gospel the same now as ever? All Bible believers will, at once, answer, that every requirement of the Gospel is the same; and that all can still yield the same acceptable obedience to each requirement; this being the case, does it not necessarily follow, that the same obedience will impart the same Faith; and still further, that the same Gospel Faith will bring the same Gospel blessings? Nothing is more certain.
50. — The same Jesus that promised to the believer the Remission of Sins, as a Gospel blessing, also promised to the same believer Miraculous Signs, as Gospel blessings. What authority has the Gospel believer to claim one Gospel blessing, and reject the others? Would not this be indirectly rejecting the whole Gospel? He that offends in one point of the law, is, by our Saviour, represented as guilty of the transgression of the whole. He who has no faith to obtain Gospel signs, has no faith to obtain Gospel pardon. He who would thus pervert the Gospel is most woefully deceived, if he supposes himself in possession of any Gospel blessing. Jesus has made no Gospel promises to be trifled with, or to be rejected with impunity by professed believers.
51. — Faith in all ages, and under all dispensations, has always prevailed with God. By faith, signs, miracles, and manifestations of the power of God, were abundantly shown forth under the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him that believeth.” — (Mark ix. 23.) Again He said, “Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” — (Mark xi. 22, 23, 24.) In another passage He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” — (John xiv. 12.)
52. — None of these passages limit the miraculous effects of Faith to the Apostles, or to any particular class of true believers, or to any particular age of the world. But on the contrary; each of these promises was made on the broadest terms, general and unlimited as to time or place. The terms, “He that believeth”, “Whosoever shall say”, et cetera, are applicable to all believers, in all ages, and in all the world, unto the latest generations, or to the end of time. No other Gospel blessings were more unlimited in their application. No other more positively and definitely expressed. No other that we have any more right to claim or seek after by Faith.
53. — Indeed, the miraculous gifts were to be the effects — the results — the signs of faith, by which the true believer could, by the most infallible evidence distinguish himself from an unbeliever. By these gifts he is confirmed; and he obtains the most satisfactory knowledge and absolute certainty of the divinity of the doctrine which he has embraced. By these tokens, he knows that he is in reality a true genuine Gospel believer, that his sins are surely forgiven, and that he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and is, indeed, an heir of Salvation.
54. — While on the other hand, without these gifts, he knows that he is not a believer — that he has no genuine gospel faith — that he has no claim to any of the other Gospel blessings — that he is classified with unbelievers, and with them he must be damned.
55. — Jesus has made the contrast so great, and the distinguishing marks so apparent, between true and genuine Gospel believers and unbelievers, that it is impossible for any man who examines his own faith by the word of God, to be deceived.
56. — Reader, are you a believer or an unbeliever? Do signs follow you, according to the promise of Jesus in the last chapter of Mark? Have you ever cast out devils in the name of Jesus? Have you ever spoken with another tongue by the power of the Holy Ghost? Have you ever had faith to prevail against deadly poisons? Have you ever healed the sick in the name of Jesus, by the laying on of your hands? Have you ever obtained any of the promised miraculous gifts of the Spirit? If you have not, then you are not a Gospel believer, and are included in that class which Jesus says, shall be damned. Your condition is a fearful one indeed, without the true faith, without hope, without salvation, exposed to the wrath which must fall upon unbelievers.
57. — Do you inquire what you must do? The answer is, become a Bible believer; forsake the false, corrupt, and powerless systems of uninspired men; follow not after any religion because of its popularity; but seek after the faith of the Saints, such as is so clearly defined in the Bible. Seek for the blessings enjoyed by all true believers in Christ; rest not satisfied until you are in possession of the signs of a believer; for know assuredly if you stop short of this, you can in no wise be saved. It is the word which God has spoken, and which He will not revoke.
58. — Now, dear reader, we have plainly pointed out to you the nature of faith; we have proven to you that faith, like all other good things, is the gift of God to man; we have clearly shown you, how to obtain a true and genuine Gospel faith; we have also told you, how to examine your faith to know whether it be the right kind: we have referred you to the miraculous signs which Jesus says shall follow all believers throughout the world; we have proved that without these signs, there can be no believers, no faith, no Church of Christ, no salvation. And now we close this subject by telling you plainly, that God has again restored His Church to the earth, by revealing the Book of Mormon, containing the everlasting Gospel; by sending His angels as predicted by His servant John on Patmos; by restoring Apostles, and all other officers of the Priesthood; and by setting up His latter-day kingdom, as foretold by Daniel the prophet.
59. — As many as have received this message with all their hearts, have been blessed with the signs promised to believers; and we know of a surety, and bear record that God is the same, faith is the same, the Gospel is the same, and that all the miraculous gifts thereof are the same, as in ancient days; and that the faithful Saints enjoy all blessings now, as in days of old.
60. — Let me earnestly entreat you to break off all your sins, and to bow before your Father in Heaven, and ask Him, if what you have now read, is true. If you will do this with a sincere and humble heart, God will manifest the truth of these things to you by the power of the Holy Ghost.
TRUE FAITH IS KEEPING ALL OF GOD’S COMMANDMENTS.
1 Nephi 3: 16: Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord.
True faith is being faithful to the commandments of God. You have to find out what the commandments and ordinances of God are, and then you have to faithfully keep them or obtain them in order to be saved and exalted in the Celsetial Kingdom. You have to own it in order to become it.
John 14: 15: If ye love me, keep my commandments.
This is the same thing as saying, “If you have faith in me, you will keep my commandments.” If you truly have faith in God, you will keep all of His commandments and ordinances.
Acts 2: 38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
2 Nephi 9: 23-24:
23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
24 And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.