FAITH’S FINAL AUTHORITY by Henry W. Frost; published 1920

TheGoodShepherdAlphaOmegaIt’s amazing to me how the Lord works, I can’t tell you how many times this sort of thing has happened to me. I found the following article because I went to look for a quote by Benjamin Harrison to make sure it was real, and to read it in its complete context. The book and only book brought up in the search contained the following article as titled above, and I as I began to read it, because that is what I do, it struck me once again that I had found something from history that could very well have been written for this day and time. It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord leads me unawares to things like this, it is simply astounding to me how often this kind of thing happens. The Lord is always performing small miracles if we only open ourselves up to them, he’s also still doing big miracles if you have faith growing as a mustard seed.

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” ~ Thomas Aquinas

BEGIN: FAITH’S FINAL AUTHORITY by Henry W. Frost; published 1920, in Record of Christian Work, Volume 39 By Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt

It is commonly acknowledged that these are days of intense and immense unsettlement. The foundation of things is being shaken and almost destroyed, and the cry is going up, “What can the righteous do?” The time has come when men’s hearts are failing them for fear, not knowing what the future will bring forth. What yesterday was certain, to-day is doubted and tomorrow will be disbelieved. The question is, What will remain? and, If there is certainty, where may it be found?

Moreover, this unsettlement and consequent disquiet exist amongst all classes of persons and in all the various relationships of life. Secular and religious periodicals indicate that the human mind is in a state of actual ferment, and this in respect to nearly every subject under the sun. Is monarchy or democracy the ideal government? Granting that democracy is the ideal, is it to be limited or unlimited? Is the proposed League of Nations from heaven and a gift from God, or is it from the pit and the work of Satan? Is the world getting better or worse? Is man immortal or only mortal? Is communion with the dead possible, and, if it is, is it lawful? Is Christ’s coming premillennial, postmillennial or nonmillennial? What part is the Christian to play in politics? Is he to abandon himself to them in the hope of saving the world, or is he to stand off from them as from a hopeless and contaminating task, giving himself to prayer and evangelization? What fellowship is a Christian to have with those who are not Christians, or with those who are, but are not true to Christ and His Word? What social pleasures are allowable? How is the Sabbath to be kept? What principles are to govern parents in the bringing up of their children? What is prayer? is it objective or simply subjective? What is the Word? is it inspired in whole, in part or not at all?  What is salvation? Is it to be obtained through service, suffering or sacrifice? And, if by sacrifice, by whose, one’s own or Christ’s? And who is Christ? Is He just Man or is He also God? If He is only Man, what can He do for men, or, if He is also God, what does He require of men?

And so the questions come in like a flood, from paper and magazine, from pew and pulpit, from quibbling minds and also from broken hearts. Some of us had thought that most of these matters had been settled long ago and that the issue of things had resolved itself simply into this: belief or unbelief. But we suddenly find that everything is once more in the melting pot; that serious-minded men and women are questioning realities: and that even Christians are demanding new solutions of old-time problems. We perceive, therefore, that every teacher of men is called upon to exercise infinite patience and to be ready to build again from the bottom upward; and, moreover, probably the teacher has problems of his own, which many years and much prayerful thinking have failed to solve. It is a time of mental and spiritual disorder in every sphere of life and in every part of the world.

And what makes the situation worse to many is that there seems to be no final court of appeal, especially in spiritual affairs, where cases may be argued and where just and final decisions may be obtained. There is a feeling that such a court should and must exist somewhere; but the question is, Where is it? So men conclude that herein is presented the greatest problem of all They declare that there are many voices in the world, each differing from the other, and no one knows which one is most Divine. Confusion is thus turned into what may only be described by Milton’s phrase:

“With ruin upon ruin, rout upon rout, Confusion worse confounded.”

And we have the spectacle thus of men stumbling forward in the dark, with their arms outstretched. They need a guiding hand, but they fail to find it. What, then, shall they do?

In this crisis, some say that we should turn to the pope. But if so, which one? Accepting Peter, for the moment, as the first pope, are we to test all the others by him, and if we are, what will be left of the others? But if we are not, which of the later-day popes are we to reckon as having spoken ex cathedra? This last is most perplexing, for there have been many popes, each one with a different dictum; twice over at the same time there have been two popes, each opposing the other; again and again a later-day pope has contradicted a former-day one, so that the benediction of the one has become the malediction of the other; and even the doctrine of papal infallibility, which one must accept if one turns to the Roman curia, was condemned as heresy by the popes themselves up to the time of Pius the Ninth, and by a large number of the cardinals even then; and to this day the theologians at Rome are not agreed as to what papal infallibility means. Tested by the necessary laws of harmony and unanimity we shall riot find final authority with the popes.

But others say that we should turn to the Church. If so, which Church? Shall it be the Roman, Greek, Armenian, Syrian, Nestorian, or Coptic? For, mark it, it will have to be a choice between these since they do not agree with one another even in things fundamental. Or, if we shall turn away from the historic churches to the reformed, where fundamental agreement is found, which Protestant Church shall it be? Shall it be the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Episcopal, Reformed Episcopal, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist, Methodist or the Salvation Army? For, mark it, again, while these agree in essentials, they vastly disagree in nonessentials, which with the conscientious man are often tremendously vital. Or shall we make another effort and turn to the apostolic, simple and devoted people, the Plymouth Brethren? But to which party among these shall we go; the close, open or loose; the Darbyites, Newtonites, Cecilites, Ravenites, or Grantites? for we must differentiate even here. Alas I it is manifest that we shall not find union and unanimity even in the Church, historic or reformed; and this is certain, that we shall never get the harmonious note of authority from Scriptural and spiritual discord.

But still others say that we should seek to hear the authoritative word outside of organized ecclesiasticism, in that great consensus of opinion expressed by individuals through the ages and brought into full expression in these last days of grace. But can we place this consensus? Do any two men interpret and formulate it alike? Is it possible from book or sermon to define and express it? Even where it may be partly vocalized, is it clear, comprehensive and final? For instance, was the consensus voice in apostolic days the same as it was in mediaeval? and was it then what it is now, since men have been to war and slain the great dragon? And, in passing, what was the great dragon? Was it Kaiserism or sin in the human heart? And, if it was sin, was this slain and is it dead? If, then, sin is not dead, who knows what the consensus has to say about it, in national, social and personal life?

Moreover, what is this consensus which is so much talked about? is it a person or thing? Is it living or dead? Is it truth or shibboleth? Is it Divine or human? If it proves at last to be just human, then evidently we are back where we were at, the beginning, and in this case we are in the grip of the greatest religious mastodon of the ages, the genus homo, that is, our fallible selves. And, clearly, no one can hope that final spiritual authority will come out of a condition such as this. In short, if we may not go farther than we have gone, we shall find no final authority anywhere, and hence, we shall remain of all men the most miserable.

It is a relief now to turn away from such uncertainties, which are but vagaries, to a nearer, surer and more soul-satisfying consideration. There is a Book [the Holy Bible] which claims to be divinely authoritative, and we may affirm that there are facts about it which substantiate this claim, among which are the following:

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First, it is an old Book, all of it old and some of it very old, and no neglect, nor hatred, nor persecution, has ever been able to destroy it; which suggests that God fashioned it and has preserved it.

Second, the Book has proved to be a regenerating, transforming and comforting influence, through thousands of years, with millions of persons and in behalf of individuals of diverse characteristics and needs; which indicates that it has had within itself a power beyond the human.

Third, the Book touches upon history, art, poetry and science, formulates theology and expands experimental religion, and these diverse elements have been presented by men of different times, countries, races, social position, political environment and national and personal aspiration, and all this without a false or conflicting statement within it, and with a perfect harmonization and development of truth: which implies the presence and power of the miraculous.

Fourth, the Book is prophetic in the major portion of it. and its foretellings have often anticipated thousands of years, multitudes of people and a multiplicity of events, including the largest possible national movements and also the smallest possible personal details, and its utterances have never yet failed nor been once discredited: which manifests elements of foreview and predetermination which are nothing less than Divine.

And. finally, it is beyond doubting that whatever measure of infallibility there has been amongst men has come from the Book, and that all past and present confusion has developed, not from it, but only from man’s failure to understand and interpret it aright; which proves beyond controversy that the Book is a light shining in a dark place, a voice which has a divinely certain sound, a sacred dictum, an ultimate dogma, the ex cathedra [with authority] utterance of the living God. Here, then, faith may rest, for here is final authority.

Here, however, the heart falters. For each of us rightly asks: Who am I that I should think myself to be better than other men? And what chance of success in interpreting the Bible may I hope for when men at large have so widely disagreed concerning it? This indeed is searching and solemnizing; it is even discouraging and disheartening, particularly since the very Book whose authority we recognize tells us plainly that to the end we shall see in part and, therefore, prophesy in part.

It is to be remembered, however, that this is not all of the truth and that what remains is most encouraging and enheartening. For these things are also facts. The Master promised that the Spirit through the Book should guide us into truth. We know that whatever of truth has been discovered has been found by searching the Book. It is evident that thousands of persons have been made both wise and godly by meditating on the things contained in the Book. It is true, even if we may not know everything in the Book, that we may know much of it and that this will ever be for our own and others’ profit. And, finally, it is manifest that the apprehension of truth is not so much in proportion to one’s knowledge of the Book as it is to one’s obedience to it. In view of prevailing Scriptural misinterpretation and spiritual confusion, it behooves us to walk through life with humble and contrite hearts. We must keep in mind that others besides ourselves have the fullness of the Spirit, and, instead of ourselves, may have the right interpretation of the revelation. And we are never to forget that finality of knowledge and teaching will never be found with us. since we, too, are only men. At the same time, there is every reason to be assured that it is our sacred privilege to come to the Bible as God’s infallible Word; to regard it is the Divine mandate in respect to human life and conduct; to study it as the one revelation which will illuminate the soul and transform the life; and to hold it as the decisive word in all controversy. By doing these things, in spite of all personal infirmity and even in these confused and confusing times, we shall increasingly discover that God’s truth is ever fixed and final and also that he who does the will of God will certainly know of the doctrine.

But to get the benefit of the Book, we need to deal practically with it When one is sick and goes to a medicine chest for a remedy, he does not take the first medicine which chances to come to hand, nor does he take all of the medicines which the cupboard may contain; he selects his remedy according to his need and for the time being shuts himself up to it. The Bible is a sacred medicine chest,’ and it holds in behalf of those spiritually sick, remedies for every disease.

God expects us, however, to show spiritual discernment, not to speak of common sense, in dealing with it. If we wish to know about earth, we do not want to study about heaven; and if we desire to know about heaven, we do not want to study about earth. Again, if we want to understand about spiritual experiences, we ought not to turn to prophecy; and if we want to understand prophecy, we ought not to study about spiritual experiences. We are called upon, first of all, to discover our spiritual need, and then to deal with that portion of the Word which has to do with this. If one is impure, let him consider the purity of Christ and His ability to displace fleshly sin. If one has a temper, let him consider the gentleness of Christ and His power to give love and patience. If one is uncertain about fundamental truth, let him study what the Word has to say about inspiration, the Deity of Christ, the Atonement, the Resurrection and other like subjects. If one is not interested in foreign missions, let him dwell upon the great commission of Christ, the acts of the Holy Spirit variously recorded and the missionary life of Paul. If one is doubtful about eschatology, let Him take up faithfully and fearlessly the teachings which concern future things and found his convictions on the revelation of the Bible rather than upon the comments of lesser books. In other words, we need to deal sanely with the Book in order that the Book may deal sanely with us. To do this is to become, in the best sense, a Bible Christian. And the man who is this is not shaken by every wind which blows and every wave which beats, but stands unmoved and unmovable through every storm. Mr. Moody made one text, “He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,” the guide of his life; and he became like his text. But he only got to know God’s will by close and prolonged study of God’s Word and this from the standpoint of his personal need.

A last word needs to be spoken. We must be careful not to divorce knowledge and action. It is terribly possible for us to know much and yet to put little into practice. One may approve of clothing and yet go unclothed. One may admire food and yet remain hungry. One may glory in the sun and yet walk in the dark. One may agree with truth and yet abide in falsehood. One may swear by the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, and yet not know, or else forsake, its plainest precepts. Faith only overcomes the world by turning theory into practice, by first knowing and then doing. The heretics of life are not only those who depart from revealed truth, but also those who search it, understand it, praise it—and then neglect or disobey it. At every turn of life, in every crisis of life, for every purpose of life, we need to come to the Word as to God’s final utterance and faith’s full resting place. But having done this, we need, above all else, to set our hearts to keep that which is written therein. There was once on earth a Man Who was God’s great Dogmatist, [Jesus Christ] and He said: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures”; and, be it remembered, this Holy One added: “If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.”

In “The Monastery,” the White Lady speaks to Glendinning these quaint but most true words:

“Within that awful volume lies
The mystery of mysteries!
Happiest they of human race,
To whom God has granted grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch and force the way;
And better had they ne’er been born
Who read to doubt or read to scorn!”

One thought on “FAITH’S FINAL AUTHORITY by Henry W. Frost; published 1920

  1. Pingback: Authority | Quality of Life Ministries

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