Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

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communion in the altar. Christ our Passover is
sacrificed for us; and we eat the passover when-
ever we eat this bread and drink this wine in
remembrance of Him. In our communing thus
in the body and the blood of Christ we partake of


the altar, and are made beneficiaries of the sacrifice
He wrought out upon it.

The primary lesson of our text to-day is, then,
that in partaking of the Lord's Supper we claim a
share in the sacrifice which Christ wrought out on
Calvary for the sins of men. This is the funda-
mental meaning of the Lord's Supper as a sacri-
ficial feast. The bread and wine of the Lord's
Supper represent the body and blood of Christ;
but they represent that body and blood not abso-
lutely but as a sacrifice — as broken and outpoured
for us. We are not to puzzle our minds and
hearts by asking how His blood and body become
ours; how they, having become ours, benefit us;
and the like. We are to recognize from the be-
ginning that they were broken and outpoured in
sacrifice for us, and that we share in them only
that, by the law of sacrificial feast, we may partake
of the benefits obtained by the sacrifice. It is as a
sacrifice and only so that we enter into this union.
A second lesson of our text to-day is, that in
the Lord's Supper we take our place in the body
of -Christ's redeemed ones and exhibit the oneness
of His people. The text lays special stress on this.
The appeal of the Apostle is that by partaking of
these symbols Christians mark themselves on the
one hand off from the Jews and heathen, as a body
apart, having their own altar and sacrifice, and,
on the other hand, bind themselves together in
internal unity, for "by all having a share out of


the one loaf, we who are many are one body be-
cause there is (only) one loaf." The whole Chris-
tian world is a passover company gathered around
the paschal lamb, and by their participation in it
exhibiting their essential unity. When we bless
the cup of blessing, it is a communion in the blood of
Christ; when we break the loaf, it is a communion
in the body of Christ; and because it is one loaf,
however many we are, we are one body, as all shar-
ing from one loaf. The Apostle very strongly em-
phasizes this idea of communion here; and it is ac-
cordingly no accident that we have so largely come
to call the Lord's Supper the "Communion." It
is the symbol of the oneness of Christians.

Another lesson which our text to-day brings us
is that the root of our communion with one an-
other as Christians lies in our common relation to
our Lord. We are "many," says the Apostle;
that is what we are in ourselves. But we "all"
— all of this "many" — are "one" — one body, be-
cause there is but one loaf and we all share from
that one loaf. Christ is one and we come into
relations of communion with one another only
through our common relation to Him. The root
of Christian union is, therefore, the uniqueness,
the solity of Christ. There is but one salvation;
but one Christian Kfe; because there is but one
Saviour and one source of life; and all those who
share it must needs stand side by side to imbibe it
from the one fountain.


2 Cor. 4:13: — "But having the same Spirit of faith, according
to that which is written, I beUeved, and therefore did I speak;
we also believe, and therefore also we speak."

This verse is a declaration on the Apostle's
part of the grounds of his courage and faithfulness
in preaching the glorious Gospel of Christ. The
circumstances which attended his proclamation
of this Gospel were of the most oppressive. In
the preceding verses we have a picture of them
which is drawn by means of a series of declara-
tions which rise, one after another, to a most
trying climax. He says that in the prosecution
of his work he is in every way pressed, perplexed,
pursued, smitten down. Here is a vivid picture
of the defeated warrior, who is not only pressed
by the foe, but put at his wits, ends, — not merely
thus discouraged but put to flight, — not merely
pursued but smitten down to the earth. A lurid
picture of the befallings of Paul as a minister of
Christ amid the spiritual conflicts on this side and
that, in Galatia and in Corinth! Nevertheless
things have not come to an end with him. Side
by side with this series of befallings he places a
contrasting series which exhibits the marvellous
continuance of the Apostle in his well-doing, in
spite of such dreadful happenings to him. Though



he is in every way pressed yet he is not brought to
his last straits; though he is in every way per-
plexed, yet he has not gone to despair; though he
is pursued yet he is not overtaken; though he is
actually smitten down he is yet not destroyed.

In the prosecution of Paul's work as a minister
of Christ, there is thus a marvellous co-existence
of experiences the most desperate and of deliver-
ances the most remarkable. It is as if destruc-
tion had continually befallen him; yet ever out
of destruction he rises afresh to the continuance
of his work. In this remarkable contrast of his
experiences the Apostle sees a dramatic re-
enactment of Christ's saving work, who died that
He might live and might bring life to the world.
In it he sees himself, he says, ever re-enacting the
putting to death of Jesus, that the life also of
Jesus may be manifested in his body. As Jesus
died and rose again, so he daily dies in the service
of Christ and comes to life again; and so, abiding
in life, he is ever delivered to death for Jesus'
sake that the life also of Jesus might be manifested
in his mortal flesh. Oh, marvellous destiny of
the followers of Christ, in the very nature and cir-
cumstances of their service to placard before the
world the great lesson of the redemption of
Christ — the great lesson of life by death ; to man-
ifest thus to all men the life of Jesus and the life
from Jesus springing constantly out of His death.
Thus the very life-circumstances of Paul become a


preached Gospel. They manifest Christ and His
work for souls. They manifest it. For the dying
is for Paul and the life for his hearers.

Now Paul gives a twofold account of those cir-
cumstances in which he preached the Gospel. He
assigns them ultimately to the purpose of God.
This great treasure of the glorious Gospel has been
put into such earthen vessels for the very pur-
pose of more fully manifesting its divine glory.
In contrast with its vehicle, the power of the mes-
sage is all the more discernible. It is just that
the exceeding greatness of its power may be seen
to be of God that it is delivered to men in vessels
whose exceeding weakness may be apparent. On
the other hand, that these earthen vessels are able
to endure the strain put upon them in conveying
these treasures, is itself from God. Paul at-
tributes it to God's upholding power, operating
through faith. That in the midst of such trials
he is enabled to endure; that though smitten down
continuously he is not destroyed; that though
dying daily he still lives with a living Gospel still
on his lips; it is all due to the support of his firm
conviction and faith. "So then, it is death that
worketh in us, but life in you, and having the
same Spirit of faith, according as it is written, I
believed and, therefore, did I speak; we also be-
lieve and therefore speak, since we know that He
that raised up Jesus shall raise us up also with
Jesus, and shall present us with you." Here are


the sources of the Apostle's strength and of his
courage. It is only because of his firm faith in
the Gospel he preaches that he can endure through
the trials into which its service has immersed him.
With a less clear conviction and less firm faith in
it, he would long ago have succumbed to the evils
of his life and his lips have long ago become dumb.
But he believed; and, therefore, though earth
and hell combined to destroy him, he could not
but speak. Let earthly trials multiply; beyond
the daily deaths of earth there was an eternal life
in store for him; and the more he could rescue
from death to that life, the more multiplied grace
would redound to increased thanksgiving and
abound to God's glory. In the power of this
faith the Apostle can face and overcome the trials
of life.

There are many important lessons that may
come to us from observing this declaration of the
Apostle's faith.

Beginning at the remoter side we may be sur-
prised to observe that he seeks the noi-m of his
faith in the Old Testament saints. "Having the
same Spirit of faith," he says, "according as it is
written, I believed, and therefore did I speak" —
referring for the model of faith back to the words
of this hero Psalmist. Now we may not be ac-
customed to think of the Old Testament saints as
the heroes of faith. The characteristic emotion of
Old Testament religion, we are accustomed to say^


was awe or even fear. The characteristic ex-
pression of it is summed up in the term, "The fear
of the Lord." The New Testament on the other
hand is the dispensation of faith. And if we have
consideration only for the prevaiHng language of
the Old Testament this is true enough. The
word "faith" is scarcely an Old Testament word;
it occurs but twice in the English Old Testament,
and it is disputable whether on either occasion
it fairly — or at least fully — represents the He-
brew. Even the word "to believe" applied to
divine things is rare in the Old Testament.

But the word and the thing are different matters.
And it may be doubted whether the conceptions
of awe, fear, and of faith, trust, are so antagonistic
as is commonly represented. Certainly rever-
ence and faith are correlative conceptions. A
God whom we do not fear with religious rever-
ence, we cannot have such faith in as the Apostle's.
And certainly the New Testament writers do
always look to the Old Testament saints as the
heroes of faith. This is the burden of one of the
most magnificent passages in the New Testament,
the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. And of others
too. It is the faith of Abraham which is the
standing model of faith to both Paul and James;
and it is he who both in the subjective and ob-
jective senses of the word is represented to us as
the Father of the Faithful. Let it be allowed
that these heroes of faith lived in the twilight of


knowledge; knowledge and faith stand in rela-
tion to one another, but are not the measure of
one another. If there can be no faith where there
is no knowledge, on the other hand it is equally
true that the realm of dim knowledge is often the
region of strong faith, — for when we walk by sight,
faith has no place. No; he that believes in Jesus
whom he has seen, must yield in point of heroism
of faith and the blessedness promised to it, to
him who having not seen yet has believed. Those
great men of God of old, not being weak in faith,
believed in the twilight of revelation, and waxing
strong, died in faith; and we could wish nothing
higher for ourselves than that we might be like
them in their faithful faith.

It is observable next that the Apostle attributes
the faith of the Old Testament heroes to whom he
would direct our eyes as the norm of faith, to the
work of the Holy Ghost. He felicitates himself
not merely on having the same quality of faith
with them. He looks deeper. The ground of
rejoicing in their fellowship is that he shares with
them the "same Spirit of faith." "Having the
same Spirit of faith," he says. It may be doubted,
once again, if we should have naturally spoken in
this way. We may be accustomed to think of the
Holy Spirit as an esssentiall}' New Testament pos-
session; and to conceive, in a more or less for-
mulated manner, of the saints of the Old Testa-
ment as left to their own native powers in their


serving of God. Heroes of faith as they were, it
would be peculiarly difficult, however, to believe
that they reached the height of their pious at-
tainment apart from the gracious operations of
the Spirit of God. Or shall we say that only in
New Testament times men are dead in sin, and
only in these days of the completed Gospel and
of the New Covenant do men need the almighty
power of God to raise them from their spiritual

Certainly the Bible lends no support to such a
notion. Less is said of the gracious operations of
the Spirit in the Old Testament than in the New,
but to say less of it is one thing and its absence is
quite another. And there is enough in the Old
Testament itself — by prayer of Psalmist that the
Holy Spirit should not be taken away from him,
by statement of historian that through the Spirit
God gave this one and that one a new heart, by
assurance of prophet that the Spirit of God is the
author of all right belief and of all good conduct, —
to assure us that then, too, on Him depended all
the exercises of piety, to Him was due all the holy
aspirations and all the good accomplishments of
every saint of God. And certainly the New Tes-
tament tells us in repeated instances that the Holy
Spirit was active throughout the period of the Old
Dispensation, in all the varieties of activities
which characterize the New. The difference be-
tween the two lies not in any difference in the utter


dependence of men on Him, or in the nature of
His operations, but in their extent and aim with
reference to the Hfe of the Kingdom of God. Our
present passage is one of those tolerably numerous
New Testament ones in which the gracious oper-
ations of the Spirit in the Old Covenant are as-
sumed. Paul here tells us that the faith of the
Old Testament saints was the product of God's
Holy Spirit; and he claims for himself nothing
more than what he asserts for them. "Having
the same Spirit of faith," he says. He is content —
nay, he is full of joy — to have the same Spirit
working faith in him that worked faith in them.
He claims no superiority in the matter. If he
has a like faith, it is because he is made by God's
grace to share in a like fountain of faith. The one
Spirit who works faith is the common possession
of them and of him; and therein he finds his high-
est privilege and his greatest glory. What David
had of the operations of the Spirit, that is what
Paul represents as the height of Christian privi-
lege to possess.

It may not be wholly needless to observe further
the naturalness of Paul's ascription of faith to the
working of the Holy Spirit — whether under the
Old or the New Dispensation. He means to ex-
press the confidence he has in the glorious Gospel
which he proclaims. He does not say, however,
simply "having a confident faith." He says,
"having the Spirit of faith," the same Spirit of


faith which wrought in the Psalmist. So much
was faith to him the product of the Spirit that
he thinks of it in terms of its origin. Clearly to
him, no Spirit, no faith. Faith is, therefore, most
absolutely conceived by the Apostle as the product
not of our own powers but of the Spirit of God,
and it is inconceivable to him that it can exist
apart from His gift.

We may sometimes fall short of the Apostle's
conception and fancy that we can — nay, that we
must — ^first believe before the Spirit comes to us.
No, it is the Spirit who gives faith. Faith is the
gift of God in its innermost essence; and the
Apostle continually thanks God for it, as His gift.
We find it enumerated in Gal. 5:23 among the
fruits of the Spirit; in 1 Cor. 12:7 we find it among
the gifts which the Spirit distributes to men. In
our present passage it is emphasized as the work
of the Spirit, by its being used as a characterizing
description of the Spirit. We do not describe
or define a thing by something which is common
to it and others. The possession of a vertebral
column will not define a man; and we should
never use the designation of vertebrate as a syn-
onym of man. That the Spirit is called the
"Spirit of faith" means that faith does not exist
except as His gift; its very existence is bound up
in His working. Just as we call Him the Spirit of
life, the Spirit of holiness, and the like, because
all life comes from Him and all holiness is of His


making, so, when Paul calls Him the Spirit of
faith, it is the evidence that in Paul's conception
all faith comes from Him.

It matters not where faith is found — under
the Old Testament or the New — in Psalmist or in
Apostle — or in the distant believers of the Twenti-
eth Century, — it matters not what degree of faith
is present, weak, timid faith which scarcely dares
believe in its own existence, or strong faith that
can move mountains, — it matters not what of
divine things be its object, God as our Ruler and
Governor, the Scriptures as His Word, Christ as
our Saviour; if it exists at all, in any time, in
any degree, the Holy Ghost has wrought it. He
is the Spirit of faith and faith is His unique

Finally, it will be of interest to us who are
charged with the same duty of proclaiming the
Gospel of salvation with which the Apostle was
charged, to take especial note that he attributes
that supreme faithfulness and steadfastness which
pre-eminently characterized his work in the Gos-
pel to a Spirit-wrought faith in the Gospel which
he preached. The secret, he tells us, of his ability
to continue throughout his dreadful trials in the
work to which he had been called; the secret of
his power to faint not, that is, not to play the
coward, but to renounce the hidden things of
shame and refuse to walk in craftiness or handle
the Word of God deceitfully; the secret of his


power to preach a simple Gospel in honest faith-
fulness in the face of all temptations to please
men, and to preach the saving Gospel in the face
of all persecution — was simply that he had a
hearty and unfeigned faith in it. When we really
believe the Gospel of the Grace of God — when we
really believe that it is the power of God unto
salvation, the only power of salvation in this
wicked world of ours — it is a comparatively easy
thing to preach it, to preach it in its purity, to
preach it in the face of a scoffing, nay, of a trucu-
lent and murdering world. Here is the secret —
I do not now say of a minister's power as a preacher
of God's grace — but of a minister's ability to preach
at all this Gospel in such a world as we live in.
Believe this Gospel, and you can and will preach
it. Let men say what they will, and do what they
will, — let them injure, ridicule, persecute, slay, —
believe this Gospel and you will preach it.

Men often say of some element of the Gospel:
"I can't preach that." Sometimes they mean
that the world will not receive this or that. Some-
times they mean that the world will not endure this
or that. Sometimes they mean that they cannot
so preach this or that as to win the respect or the
sympathy or the acceptance of the world. The
Gospel cannot be preached.^ Cannot be preached.'^
It can be preached if you will believe it. Here is
the root of all your difficulties. You do not fully
believe this Gospel! Believe it! Believe it! and


then it will preach itself! God has not sent us
into the world to say the most plausible things we
can think of; to teach men what they already
believe. He has sent us to preach unpalatable
truths to a world lying in wickedness; apparently
absurd truths to men, proud of their intellects;
mysterious truths to men who are carnal and can-
not receive the things of the Spirit of God. Shall
we despair? Certainly, if it is left to us not only
to plant and to water but also to give the increase.
Certainly not, if we appeal to and depend upon
the Spirit of faith. Let Him but move on our
hearts and we will believe these truths; and, even
as it is written, I believed and therefore have I
spoken, we also will believe and therefore speak.
Let Him but move on the hearts of our hearers
and they too will believe what He has led us to
speak. We cannot proclaim to the world that
the house is afire — it is a disagreeable thing to
say, scarcely to be risked in the presence of those
whose interest it is not to believe it? But be-
lieve it, and how quickly you rush forth to shout
the unpalatable truth ! So believe it and we shall
assert to the world that it is lost in its sin, and
rushing down to an eternal doom; that in Christ
alone is there redemption; and through the Spirit
alone can men receive this redemption. What
care we if it be unpalatable, if it be true? For
if it be true, it is urgent.


2 Cor. 6:11-7:1. — "Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinth-
ians, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are
straitened in your own affections. Now for a recompense in like
kind (I speak as unto my children), be ye also -enlarged. Be not
unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have right-
eousness and iniquity.? or what communion hath light with dark-
ness.'' And what concord hath Christ with Belial.? or what portion
hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a
temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living' Ood;
even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I
will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come
ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and
touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be to you
a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord
Almighty. Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness
in the fear of God."

It is not easy to determine with exactitude the
circumstances which gave occasion to this striking
paragraph, which stands out so prominently
on the pages of Second Corinthians as almost to
separate itself from its context and form a whole
of its own. Of two things, however, we may be
reasonably sure. There was a party in the Corin-
thian Church which we may perhaps fairly de-
scribe as the party of the Libertines; and out of
this party, too, there had arisen an opposition to
the leadership of Paul, and a tendency to accuse
him of insincerity and self-seeking in his work



at Corinth. We must picture the Apostle, there-
fore, as compelled to defend himself and the pur-
ity of his ministry, in this Epistle, not only against
a narrow Judaistic formalism, with its touch not,
taste not, handle not, but also against a loose
worldliness which was inclined to adapt its Chris-
tianity to the usages current in the heathen society
about it. Differing in everything else, both par-
ties agreed in unwillingness to subject themselves
unreservedly to the guidance of Paul; and in de-
fence of themselves represented hfm as acting
towards the church from interested motives.

Bearing this in "mind, we may readily under-
stand how, when in the course of his self-defence
the Apostle has been led to dwell upon the hard-
ships he had suffered in the prosecution of his
mission, he should break off suddenly with an
appeal to his Corinthians to separate themselves
from heathen practices and points of view, and
themselves to walk worthily of the Gospel they
professed. "See, O Corinthians," he exclaims,
"how freely I am speaking to you, how widely
open my heart is to you. You find no constraint
on my part with reference to you; the only con-
straint there is between us lies in your own hearts.
Give me what I give you — I am speaking as to my
children; open wide your heart to me. Seek not
your standards of life in the unbelievers about you.
Remember who you are and what you should be
as organs of the Holy Spirit; and be not content


until you have attained that perfect holiness
which becomes the children of God." So the
Apostle transforms his defence of his ministry
into an exhortation to his readers, in which he
again exercises his ministry of love in a disinter-
ested plea to them to walk worthily of the Gospel
of hohness.

Dr. James Denney in his commentary on this
Epistle, published in "The Expositor's Bible,"
heads the chapter in which he deals with this
section, "New Testament Puritanism." On the
face of it, this is a very good designation for it.
The note of Puritanism, which is the note of sep-
aration, certainly throbs through the section.
"Come ye out from among them and be ye sep-

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Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 14 of 27)