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Faith is not, as is often affirmed, trying to believe things on a venture, yet, only as we can do no other than venture, have we faith. When, as often happens, men say in effect, This is true, but I don't hold with it; this is trustworthy, but I am not so simple as to entrust myself to it; this is God's way, but I won't risk taking it, they are merely deceived by words. What you hold with is your real truth; what you entrust yourself to your real faith; the power whose way you take your real God.

As God's goodness is not mere benignity, a purpose of good, the will to do His will must be fundamental for all right faith in it. To benignity sentiment might be a sufficient response; but who can imagine that mere benignity can explain this world, either its worst or its best, or sentiment be an enduring link with anything that could sustain us throughout life's weary day? A good God, adequate to experience, can only be a God whose power is manifested in love, and whose love is interpreted by conscience, and in whom, therefore, no one can have faith without measuring life by goodness in the moral sense.

Our faith in God is a saving faith, because, faith being this practical trust, to believe in God is identical with committing to Him our salvation; and we show 198 what manner of belief we have in Him by the kind of salvation we expect. An expectation of ease from distress of body or conflict of soul, though sought by way of the hardest asceticism, merely means that we hope, after breaking through the hard shell of life, to find the sweet kernel of beneficence. Only the expectation of a moral victory from which sin could neither draw us nor drive us, marks a true faith in the goodness of God. But that hope is manifestly unreal and perverse and hypocritical, if divorced from moral purpose.

The succour of faith in God through Jesus Christ, so far from replacing this moral requirement, most intensifies and deepens it, unless we evade its appeal by separating belief in Christ from belief in every thing for which He stood. Otherwise we could not look in the one unblurred mirror of God's gracious relation to His children, without seeing in it the one perfect manifestation of our true moral relation to God and man, and having an overwhelming sense of its moral requirement. To call Jesus Saviour -- if we really trust that to which we entrust our salvation -- is in the same breath to call Him Lord. To say we believe in Him without standing for what He stood for and forsaking the opposing possessions and devices by which men seek to safeguard their lives, is merely to use Jesus, as we can most easily misuse the highest, to deceive ourselves.

Nevertheless, grace is grace precisely because, though wholly concerned with moral goodness, it does not at all defend on how moral we are.


This indirect way Phariseeism in all ages has failed to grasp, with disastrous results both for its religion and for its ethics; and, so long as we relate faith and works directly, we escape a Pharisaic salvation for 'the visibly righteous only to run into an Antinomian salvation unrelated to righteousness.

Yet the true situation is perfectly simple as soon as we realise the personal nature of the grace whereby we are saved. God's gracious relation to us can have no meaning for us without moral sincerity. But, as it is while we are yet sinners, and to deliver us from sin, to make our moral goodness its condition would be to defeat its purpose. The condition of faith in it is penitence, and not any form of self-approbation, however well founded.

As soon as this fact comes home to us, it is only too common to conclude that our first duty must be to work up a sense of being miserable offenders. The most approved means is to employ the darkest superlatives in confession, which, however, no sensible person is ever to dream of turning into even moderately unpleasant concrete instances. The result is seldom real spiritual abasement. More frequently it reinforces spiritual pride by making our self-acquired moral humiliation, at the cost of nothing that really humiliates, appear our easiest, yet most meritorious attainment.

Not carefully manufactured self-depreciation, but sincerity with ourselves in the light of reality, is the condition of true penitence. Towards that we do not 200 advance by a "voluntary humility," a purposeful persuading of ourselves to think ourselves other than we are. To deprecate any hold we have on truth, to make light of any self-discipline we have won, to undervalue any capacity we have for moral tasks, particularly if it mean excusing ourselves from their performance, is false, not true humility. An unreal emotion about his own depravity would not have improved the young ruler who had kept all the commandments from his youth; and when Jesus loved him for such obedience, He was neither lowering His standard of righteousness nor altering His conception of sin.

No depreciatory estimate of our moral state will give true penitence, but only a wholly different estimate of ourselves in respect even of our highest attainments. Yet this estimate must be wholly of simple truth; for truth requires no working up, nothing except to see things as they really are.

To see things as they are, however, is to see all our privileges as responsibilities; whereas the essence of hypocrisy is to regard them as merits. The beam of hypocrisy which perverts all our judgment of ourselves and of others, is the identification of privilege with merit and not with responsibility.

Moral comfort and self-approval can then be won from events utterly irrelevant to any element of character. Thus a man feels his moral consequence increased and his moral responsibility diminished, because an event, so independent of him as the death of a relative, has put money in his purse. Self-esteem 201 is made easier through the esteem of others, and life less of a responsibility through deliverance from the pressure of need. Ability, training, even dull acceptance of good form, nay mere terror of social reprobation, may all be mistaken in this way for moral worth. By thus taking appearance for reality all conventional moral judgments are formed. But, with conventional moral judgment, there can be no true penitence, because, being the beam which clouds our moral vision and leaves us in an utterly unreal moral world, it perverts God's whole testimony to us through reality.

Could that beam be removed, penitence would need no manufacturing, but would come, as truth can alone come, by being seen. As soon as we see our privileges as of God's goodness, and in no way of ours, our virtues turn out to be the goodness and long-suffering of God, which have shielded us from ourselves and hedged us round with restraining influences. But, instead of employing the goodness of God for its proper end of making us more sensitive to His true judgment of us, we use it to create for ourselves an armour of self-esteem to ward off any suggestion of our unworthiness.

To be without that mail of proof is necessarily to be penitent, for it is to be without protection from the assaults of conscience. The language about being poor and miserable and blind and naked, and about all our righteousness being filthy rags, may still not come naturally to our lips, and it is vain to attempt 202 self-hypnotising by confessions we do not feel. Little of it, however, will seem mere hyperbole, so soon as we see how our good opinion of ourselves has been formed in a world of perverted moral esteem, where we can turn even the privileges, which, having been misused, are our chief condemnation, into our own merit. Except in this unreal moral world, in which our own consciousness of truth, our own conscience of right, our own sense of responsibility have no chance of straight speech with us, no one can maintain a steady self-approval: but there we can divert attention from our true characters, which constantly resist the truth in unrighteousness, to the outward respectability, which permits us to esteem ourselves through reflecting the opinions of others, who cannot look upon our hearts. Unprotected by this superficial and external estimate, we should be exposed to the judgment from which Jesus alone never wavered, that hypocrisy is our supreme error and spiritual hindrance, in comparison with which even a gross vice is a small obstacle. Once delivered from this blindness, we should have no need to exaggerate our sins and shortcomings, for only by its aid can we cherish the vanity and folly which allow us to judge God's goodness as though it were our own. Nothing is needed except to escape from it, in order to discover that there never could be any good news of God which depended on our goodness or which was capable of being good news at all, unless it were preached to the poor, preached simply to man's moral need.


To repent, therefore, is nothing else than to see ourselves as we are in the real moral world, apart from the hypocrisy which refracts our vision till we can esteem our privileges, however misused, as requiring even the God who gave them to regard us with approbation. Without such repentance faith cannot give blessedness in face of all reality, seeing that moral reality, which is the most important of all kinds of reality, is both perverted and evaded.

But, if penitence is only another name for moral sincerity, it is plain that we cannot repent merely on demand, and by mere moral effort, and as a preliminary condition for having faith. If we were utterly sincere, we should, of course, be wholly open to the testimony of reality to itself and so necessarily believe the truth and the truth alone. The whole difficulty regarding God's gracious relation to us lies in our refusal to face reality, for its victory would be won, were that effected.

Thus repentance is not a preliminary to faith, but an integral part of it. To see a gracious personal relation of God to us is as necessary for true penitence, as penitence for seeing that God is gracious. "Repent and believe" does not mean repent first and afterwards believe. In the real movement of the spirit there is no such before and after. Each is necessary to each, so that no one can lay himself open to reality without faith or have faith without laying himself open to reality.

This living union of repentance and faith is what 204 finds itself succoured in Jesus Christ, who alone perfectly sets our failure in the light of our possibilities as children of God, thereby at once manifesting its sinfulness and giving hope of victory over it.

Whether He Himself was without sin is a universal negative only omniscience could prove beyond cavil; and whether His moral interests were beyond all limitation from His situation or His age involves a universal affirmation which must always be at the mercy of private judgment. But it is not dubious that wheresoever men meet Him, in Scripture or in His true followers, conventional moral judgments are overturned. Responsibilities are attached to privileges, and moral compromises lose their appearance of wisdom and present themselves as purblind foolishness. Then our sense of our amazing moral failure is only equalled by our sense of our amazing moral possibilities.

In His presence men realise that they are of unclean lips and dwell amid a people of unclean lips, even as the prophet did who saw God in His temple, because, in the presence of Christ, penitence and the vision of God are one inseparable experience.

With whatever critical questions of text or narrative the life of Christ may be beset, this effect abides, and not always least with those who realise the difficulties most, and not always greatest with those whose relation to Him has the completest, most formal ecclesiastical expression. Nothing in history is more certain and nothing in experience more impressive than His 205 influence in enabling men to estimate themselves with true humility, not by making them resolve to be penitent and abased, but by setting them before the great spiritual realities, which at once expose hypocrisies and give hope in truth. Where that effect fails, it is because men do not lay themselves open to the appeal. Till, by doing so, they are taught of Him, they do not believe in Him, even though, according to all the orthodoxies, they accept the doctrines regarding Him and, according to all the organised traditions, are counted His followers and called by His name. But, where it is present, He is a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, not apart and in succession, but in identity and intimate interaction.

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