Of Faith

  1. In the preceding lectures we treated of what faith was and of the object on which it rested; agreeably to our plan we now proceed to speak of its effects:
  2. As we have seen in our former lectures, that faith was the principle of action and of power in all intelligent beings, both in Heaven and on earth, it will not be expected that we will, in a lecture of this description, attempt to unfold all its effects; neither is it necessary to our purpose so to do, for it would embrace all things in Heaven and on earth, and encompass all the creations of God with all their endless varieties. For no world has yet been framed that was not framed by faith, neither has there been an intelligent being on any of God’s creations who did not get there by reason of faith as it existed in himself or in some other being, nor has there been a change or a revolution in any of the creations of God but it has been effected by faith. Neither will there be a change or a revolution unless it is effected in the same way in any of the vast creations of the Almighty, for it is by faith that the Deity works.
  3. Let us here offer some explanation in relation to faith that our meaning may be clearly comprehended. We ask, then: What are we to understand by a man’s working by faith? We answer: We understand that when a man works by faith, he works by mental exertion instead of physical force; it is by words, instead of exerting his physical powers with which every being works, when he works by faith — God said, Let there be light, and there was light — Joshua spake and the great lights which God had created stood still — Elijah commanded and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months so that it did not rain; he again commanded and the heavens gave forth rain — all this was done by faith; and the Savior says, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, say to this mountain, Remove — and it will remove, or say to that sycamine tree, Be ye plucked up and planted in the midst of the sea — and it shall obey you. Faith, then, works by words, and with these its mightiest works have been and will be performed.
  4. It surely will not be required of us to prove that this is the principle upon which all eternity has acted and will act, for every reflecting mind must know that it is by reason of this power that all the hosts of Heaven perform their works of wonder, majesty, and glory: Angels move from place to place by virtue of this power — it is by reason of it that they are enabled to descend from Heaven to earth. And were it not for the power of faith, they never could be ministering spirits to them who should be heirs of salvation, neither could they act as Heavenly messengers, for they would be destitute of the power necessary to enable them to do the will of God.
  5. It is only necessary for us to say that the whole visible creation, as it now exists, is the effect of faith — it was faith by which it was framed, and it is by the power of faith that it continues in its organized form, and by which the planets move round their orbits and sparkle forth their glory. So then faith is truly the first principle in the science of theology, and when understood, leads the mind back to the beginning and carries it forward to the end, or in other words, from eternity to eternity.
  6. As faith, then, is the principle by which the Heavenly hosts perform their works and by which they enjoy all their felicity, we might expect to find it set forth in a revelation from God as the principle upon which his creatures here below must act in order to obtain the felicities enjoyed by the saints in the Eternal world, and that when God would undertake to raise up men for the enjoyment of himself, he would teach them the necessity of living by faith and the impossibility there was of their enjoying the blessedness of eternity without it, seeing that all the blessings of eternity are the effects of faith.
  7. Therefore, it is said, and appropriately too, that without faith it is impossible to please God. If it should be asked, Why is it impossible to please God without faith? — the answer would be, Because without faith it is impossible for men to be saved. And as God desires the salvation of man, he must of course desire that they should have faith, and he could not be pleased unless they had, or else he could be pleased with their destruction.
  8. From this we learn that the many exhortations, which have been given by inspired men to those who had received the word of the Lord to have faith in him, were not mere commonplace matters, but were for the best of all reasons, and that was because without it there was no salvation — neither in this world nor in that which is to come. When men begin to live by faith they begin to draw near to God. And when faith is perfected, they are like him; and because he is saved, they are saved also, for they will be in the same situation he is in because they have come to him; and when he appears, they shall be like him, for they will see him as he is.
  9. As all the visible creation is an effect of faith, so is salvation also (we mean salvation in its most extensive latitude of interpretation, whether it is temporal or spiritual). In order to have this subject clearly set before the mind, let us ask: What situation must a person be in in order to be saved? Or what is the difference between a saved man and one who is not saved? We answer from what we have before seen of the Heavenly worlds: They must be persons who can work by faith and who are able, by faith, to be ministering spirits to them who shall be heirs of salvation. And they must have faith to enable them to act in the presence of the Lord, otherwise they cannot be saved. And what constitutes the real difference between a saved person and one not saved is the difference in the degree of their faith — one’s faith has become perfect enough to lay hold upon eternal life and the other’s has not. But to be a little more particular, let us ask: Where shall we find a prototype into whose likeness we may be assimilated, in order that we may be made partakers of life and salvation? Or in other words, where shall we find a saved being? For if we can find a saved being, we may ascertain without much difficulty what all others must be in order to be saved — they must be like that individual or they cannot be saved. We think that it will not be a matter of dispute that two beings who are unlike each other cannot both be saved, for whatever constitutes the salvation of one will constitute the salvation of every creature which will be saved. And if we find one saved being in all existence, we may see what all others must be or else not be saved. We ask, then: Where is the prototype? Or where is the saved being? We conclude as to the answer of this question there will be no dispute among those who believe the Bible that it is Christ. All will agree in this, that he is the prototype or standard of salvation, or in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interrogation, and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be, because he is a just and holy being. And if he were anything different from what he is he would not be saved, for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else. For if it were possible for him to change in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority, and glory, which constitutes salvation. For salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power, and dominion which Jehovah possesses, and in nothing else, and no being can possess it but himself or one like him. Thus says John in his first epistle, 3:2,3 [1 John 1:13]: Behold, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And any man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure. Why purify himself as he is pure? Because if they do not, they cannot be like him.
  10. The Lord said unto Moses, Leviticus 19:2 [Lev. 9:1]: Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel and say unto them, Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. And Peter says, first epistle, 1:15,16 [1 Pet. 1:3]: But as he who has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation, because it is written: Be ye holy, for I am holy. And the Savior says, Matthew 5:48 [Matt. 3:26]: Be ye perfect, even as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect. If any should ask, Why all these sayings? — the answer is to be found from what is before quoted from John’s epistle, that when he (the Lord) shall appear, the saints will be like him, and if they are not holy as he is holy, and perfect as he is perfect, they cannot be like him, for no being can enjoy his glory without possessing his perfections and holiness, no more than they could reign in his kingdom without his power.
  11. This clearly sets forth the propriety of the Savior’s saying, recorded in John’s testimony, 14:12 [John 9:7]: 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, because I go unto the Father. This, taken in connection with some of the sayings in the Savior’s prayer, recorded in the 17th chapter, gives great clearness to his expressions. He says, in the 20–24 [John 9:21]: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their words, that they all may be one as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one — I in them and thou in me — that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
  12. All these sayings, put together, give as clear an account of the state of the glorified saints as language could give — the works that Jesus did they were to do, and greater works than those which he did among them should they do, and that because he went to the Father. He does not say that they should do these works in time, but they should do greater works because he went to the Father. He says, in the 24th verse [John 9:21]: Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory. These sayings, taken in connection, make it very plain that the greater works which those that believed on his name were to do were to be done in eternity where he is going and where they should behold his glory. He had said in another part of his prayer that he desired of his Father that those who believed on him should be one in him, as he and the Father were one in each other: Neither pray I for these (the apostles) alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their words, that they all may be one. That is, they who believe on him through the apostles’ words, as well as the apostles themselves: that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.
  13. What language can be plainer than this? The Savior surely intended to be understood by his disciples, and he so spake that they might understand him. For he declares to his Father in language not to be easily mistaken that he wanted his disciples, even all of them, to be as himself and the Father: for as he and the Father were one, so they might be one with them. And what is said in the 22nd verse [John 9:20] is calculated to more firmly establish this belief, if it needs anything to establish it. He says, And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one. As much as to say that unless they have the glory which the Father had given him, they could not be one with them, for he says he had given them the glory that the Father had given him, that they might be one, or in other words, to make them one.
  14. This fills up the measure of information on this subject and shows most clearly that the Savior wished his disciples to understand that they were to be partakers with him in all things, not even his glory excepted.
  15. It is scarcely necessary here to observe what we have previously noticed, that the glory which the Father and the Son have is because they are just and holy beings, and that if they were lacking in one attribute or perfection which they have, the glory which they have never could be enjoyed by them, for it requires them to be precisely what they are in order to enjoy it. And if the Savior gives this glory to any others, he must do it in the very way set forth in his prayer to his Father: by making them one with him as he and the Father are one. In so doing he would give them the glory which the Father has given him; and when his disciples are made one with the Father and the Son, as the Father and the Son are one, who cannot see the propriety of the Savior’s saying, The works which I do shall they do, and greater works than these shall they do, because I go to the Father?
  16. These teachings of the Savior most clearly show unto us the nature of salvation, and what he proposed unto the human family when he proposed to save them: that he proposed to make them like unto himself, and he was like the Father, the great prototype of all saved beings. And for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved, and to be unlike them is to be destroyed. And on this hinge turns the door of salvation.
  17. Who cannot see, then, that salvation is the effect of faith? For as we have previously observed, all the Heavenly beings work by this principle, and it is because they are able so to do that they are saved, for nothing but this could save them. And this is the lesson which the God of Heaven, by the mouth of all his holy prophets, has been endeavoring to teach to the world. Hence, we are told that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that the salvation is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed. Romans 4:16 [Rom. 1:20]. — And that Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, for they stumbled at that stumbling stone. Romans 9:32 [Rom. 1:45]. And Jesus said unto the man who brought his son to him to get the devil who tormented him cast out, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Mark 9:23 [Mark 5:9]. These, with a multitude of other scriptures which might be quoted, plainly set forth the light in which the Savior, as well as the Former Day Saints, viewed the plan of salvation, that it was a system of faith — it begins with faith and continues by faith. And every blessing which is obtained in relation to it is the effect of faith, whether it pertains to this life or that which is to come. To this all the revelations of God bear witness. If there were children of promise, they were the effects of faith, not even the Savior of the world excepted: Blessed is she that believed, said Elizabeth to Mary when she went to visit her, for there shall be a performance of the things which were told her of the Lord. Luke 1:45 [Luke 1:7]. Nor was the birth of John the Baptist the less a matter of faith, for in order that his father Zacharias might believe he was struck dumb. And through the whole history of the scheme of life and salvation, it is a matter of faith: every man received according to his faith — according as his faith was, so were his blessings and privileges, and nothing was withheld from him when his faith was sufficient to receive it. He could stop the mouths of lions, quench the violence of fire, escape the edge of the sword, wax valiant in fight, and put to flight the armies of the aliens; women could, by their faith, receive the dead children to life again — in a word, there was nothing impossible with them who had faith. All things were in subjection to the Former Day Saints according as their faith was — by their faith they could obtain Heavenly visions, the ministering of angels, have knowledge of the spirits of just men made perfect, of the general assembly and church of the Firstborn (whose names are written in Heaven), of God, the judge of all, of Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and become familiar with the third Heavens, see and hear things which were not only unutterable, but were unlawful to utter. Peter, in view of the power of faith, 2nd epistle, 1:2–3 [2 Pet. 1:1] says to the Former Day Saints, Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us unto glory and virtue. In the first epistle, 1:3–5 [1 Pet. 1:2] he says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.
  18. These sayings, put together, show the Apostle’s views most clearly, so as to admit of no mistake on the mind of any individual. He says that all things that pertain to life and godliness were given unto them through the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. And if the question is asked: How were they to obtain the knowledge of God? (for there is a great difference between believing in God and knowing him — knowledge implies more than faith; and notice that all things that pertain to life and godliness were given through knowledge of God) — the answer is given: Through faith they were to obtain this knowledge; and having power by faith to obtain the knowledge of God, they could with it obtain all other things which pertain to life and godliness.
  19. By these sayings of the Apostle we learn that it was by obtaining a knowledge of God that men got all things which pertain to life and godliness, and this knowledge was the effect of faith. So that all things which pertain to life and godliness are the effects of faith.
  20. From this we may extend as far as any circumstances may require, whether on earth or in Heaven, and we will find it the testimony of all inspired men or Heavenly messengers that all things that pertain to life and godliness are the effects of faith and nothing else: all learning, wisdom, and prudence fail, and everything else as a means of salvation but faith. This is the reason that the fishermen of Galilee could teach the world — because they sought by faith and by faith obtained. And this is the reason that Paul counted all things but filth and dross — what he formerly called his gain he called his loss; yea, and he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord. Philippians 3:7–10 [Phil. 1:12]. Because, to obtain the faith by which he could enjoy the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord, he had to suffer the loss of all things. This is the reason that the Former Day Saints knew more and understood more of Heaven and of Heavenly things than all others beside, because this information is the effect of faith — to be obtained by no other means. And this is the reason that men, as soon as they lose their faith, run into strifes, contentions, darkness, and difficulties. For the knowledge which tends to life disappears with faith, but returns when faith returns, for when faith comes, it brings its train of attendants with it — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All these appear when faith appears on the earth and disappear when it disappears from the earth. For these are the effects of faith, and always have and always will attend it. For where faith is, there will the knowledge of God be also, with all things which pertain thereto — revelations, visions, and dreams, as well as every other necessary thing, in order that the possessors of faith may be perfected and obtain salvation. For God must change, otherwise faith will prevail with him. And he who possesses it will, through it, obtain all necessary knowledge and wisdom until he shall know God and the Lord Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom to know is eternal life. Amen.