In the preceding number of the Quarterly there appeared an article, of far more than average ability, on the subject of faith. From much which that article contains the present paper will not be a dissent. Still it is thought that a few points there maintained may be profitably reconsidered, and in this way the whole article to be somewhat supplemented. To this important task the following pages will be devoted.
In the article just referred to, an air of originality in discussing the subject will be obvious to any one who carefully reads the article. This arises from two sources—the material introduced into the article, and the manner of handling it. Heretofore, in discussing faith, we have generally contented ourselves with popular views respecting it, without attempting to search it to the bottom. What is faith? is a question which have always asked with interest, but seldom with sufficient severity. Our answer for the most part has been hereditary and a tradition, and not drawn as strictly from the sacred fountain as it should have been. L. in his article has completely ignored the popular conventional methods of treating faith. His object has been to break wholly away from the ancient prescriptions in the case, and rest the investigation strictly on a scriptural basis. This it is that imparts to his article the air of which I speak. The circumstance is justly commendable, and worthy of general imitation. Many important topics of Christianity call loudly in the present day for a similar investigation. The real truth respecting them is, that we have derived our views of them from unauthoritative sources, and merely think we have them from the Bible, when such is not the fact. They urgently need to be rewritten, and our conceptions of them to be conformed more closely to the divine originals. Were this done, many a fine feature of Christianity, which now wears a dull inanimate appearance, would glow with vitality and be replete with power.
The passage which supplies the matter for L.’s article, and from which the contents of the present piece will be chiefly drawn, is the following: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. xi., 1.)
L. objects to calling this a definition, and insists that it is a description. I am not sure that in this he is helping much. Against it as a definition he says: “With a view to showing what faith is, how it comes, and what are its fruits, both internal and external, this passage is analyzed, its different terms explained, which, when put together, form, we are told, the apostle’s definition of faith. Ministers of the gospel who use the word definition in such a loose, empirical sense, should have, we think, a more correct conception of the true idea and office of a definition. Definition, from the Latin definitio, meaning literally the tracing of limits, the running off and laying down [of] a boundary, aims to determine a thing in its compass and extent, to point out the constituent parts of the essence of that which is to be defined; so that, strictly speaking, nothing is susceptible of definition which does not admit of the process of analysis and synthesis, either physically or metaphysically, really or ideally.”
This paragraph, which is a main one in L.’s article, is to my mind marred by some confusion, and yet in places it clearly exhibits the lines of truth. To define is to trace around a thing, material or the reverse, a line, actual or ideal, which separates it from all other things, and thus makes it stand apart by itself alone. This is the literal or etymological meaning of the word; and this is definition. But the object of definition is often slightly different from this, and is so always where it is twofold. 1. Its object may be simply to separate one thing from another, and thus show distinction. 2. It may be to determine the nature of a thing. That, properly, is definition; this, investigation. Now to my mind few things are clearer than this, that in the passage just quoted, and by it, faith is separated or distinguished from all other things, and its real nature determined. But this is the highest and best type of definition. I hence feel that the passage contains a definition. But L. says: “Definition aims to point out the constituent parts of the essence of that which it to be defined.” The word “essence” confuses this sentence. The whole is rendered clear thus: Definition aims to point out the constituent elements of the thing to be defined. But L. says further: “Nothing is susceptible of definition which does not admit of the process of analysis and synthesis.” This position I think utterly untenable. I can certainly define the word atom; and yet it is essential to the very notion it expresses that it shall not be susceptible of analysis. So with the word point. The mathematician defines it with great clearness. Yet it admits of neither analysis nor synthesis. Illustrations might be multiplied indefinitely, but these are enough. Now certainly it may be true of faith that it is insusceptible of analysis; but does it therefore follow that it can not be defined? I think not. Certainly it may be set apart by itself, or separated from everything else; so that the mind shall take cognizance of it as a simple or single thing. But this is definition. Hence, even allowing that faith can not be analyzed, it does not thence follow that it can not be defined. If it be a unit or simple thing, surely it can be exhibited as such; or if a compound, then can it be analyzed, and its elements pointed out. Therefore, from every view we can take of it, it still seems to be susceptible of definition.
But this is comparatively an unimportant point. The real question is, not is faith definable, but what is faith? If we can only succeed in obtaining an answer to this question, we shall not be contentious as to the name we shall give the means through which we get it—as to whether we shall call it a definition, or a description. We are concerned with the thing, not with the channel which yields its true idea.
Of one thing we can speak with confidence—a definition of faith, if one be possible, is certainly a necessity. This is obvious from the confusion in which the subject is involved at this day. The endless disputes had over it, the countless efforts made to determine its nature and elucidate it, together with its high inherent and admitted value, certainly call for something which shall be final, and quiet the public mind respecting it. Nothing could so successfully effect this as a clear definition. It is strange if one is impracticable.
The value of every definition consists in this, that when enounced it shall raise in the mind of the hearer a view of the thing defined corresponding precisely to the view of him who constructs the definition; so that the two views, on being compared, shall answer to each other, just as face answers to face in a perfect mirror. Is this true of the definition in hand? Certainly it is not true of our translation of it. When I repeat the language, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” I hardly think the reader feels that the subject is clear to his mind. But where lies the difficulty, and does it admit of remedy? We must be patient in answering these questions.
But one course seems to be left us, and that is to take up and examine one by one the terms in which the apostle couches his conception of faith. If this course does not yield us the object we are in search of, we are not likely soon to attain it. With a feeling somewhat assured, but far from being too confident, we shall try it.
The first word demanding our attention is the Greek word hupostasis, rendered in the passage in hand substance: “Now faith is the substance (hupostasis) of things hoped for.” This is a compound word, from hupo (upo) under, and histemi (isthmi) I stand; and literally or primarily means standing under, an underprop, a support, a basis, ground, or foundation. This, I repeat, is the first or etymological meaning of the word. But the etymological meaning of a word is not necessarily, in a given case, its true meaning. This is certainly true. Yet, unless some circumstance exists requiring a different meaning, the etymological meaning is to be held, in every instance, as the true one. This is the rule in the case; and to set it aside is arbitrary and inadmissible. Is this, now, the meaning of the word in the passage in hand? I believe it is; and yet I am ready to say my mind is not wholly free from doubt. But, before we can reach our final conclusion, we must carefully examine the history or usage of the word in the New Testament. Only when our induction is complete can our final inference be held as exhaustive.
The word occurs in the Greek New Testament five times. These occurrences are very handsomely explained by L. Indeed, he treats them with a skill not often met with in one of his years. I am delighted with the hope which his keen pen inspires.
The first occurrence is in 2 Cor. ix., 4. In our common version it reads thus: “Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not you) should be ashamed in this confident (hupostasei) boasting.” By Bro. Anderson it is rendered thus: “Lest, possibly, should the Macedonians come with me, and find you unprepared, we (not to say you) might be made ashamed by this same confident (hupostasei) boasting.” By the Bible Union thus: “Lest haply, if Macedonians come with me, and find you not ready, we (that we say not ye) should be put to shame in respect to this confidence (hupostasei).” By Green thus: “Lest, should Macedonians come with me and find you unready, we—not to say you—should be put to shame in this hardihood (hupostasei).” Here now are four versions. In two of them the word is rendered confident; in one confidence; in the last, hardihood. This is enough to indicate that the word is not free from difficulty; and at the same time to show that no uniform rule has been followed in rendering it. These translations can not all be right; they may all be wrong; and if so, what is the sense of the word? Its original or etymological meaning we now have before us. Does a necessity exist for departing from this meaning? I am candid, yet modest, to say I do not see it. To depart from this meaning seems to me to be arbitrary and without rule. Indeed, may not this be the very circumstance which accounts for the many discrepant renderings of the word? Arbitrary renderings, of course, are without law. Hence, naturally, they are discordant.
I believe the passage is correctly translated by retaining the literal meaning of the word. Paul had given orders that aid should be collected for the poor saints in Jerusalem. In this work the Achaians showed great promptness. The promptness caused Paul to boast of them to the Macedonians, in order to incite the latter to like deeds. It was the very ground, the hupostasei, of his boasting. But should Macedonians come with him and find the Achaians not ready, this the ground of his boasting would, of course, become his shame. This he desired to avoid, and hence sent brethren beforehand to have them in readiness. The whole passage may, at the instant, be tolerably rendered thus: For as to the aid which is for the holy it is needless for me to write you. For I know your promptness which I boast of in your behalf to Macedonians, that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has aroused many. But I sent the brethren that our boasting which is in your behalf might not be in vain in this item, that, as I said, you might be ready; lest, should Macedonians come with me, and find you not ready, we, let me not say you, should be put to shame on this ground. Therefore it was necessary, etc. Hence it appears that the true meaning of the word is ground—ground of boasting, and not confidence. This, I believe, may be accepted as falling near the truth.
The second occurrence of the word is in 2 Cor. xi., 17. It stands thus in the common version: “I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. What I speak, I speak not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly in this confidence (hupostasei) of boasting.”
The Bible Union read it thus: “I say again, Let no one think me a fool; but if it can not be so, yet receive me even if as a fool, that too may boast myself a little. What I speak, I speak not after the Lord, but as in foolishness, in this confidence (hupostasei) of boasting.”
Bro. Anderson reads the phrase: “in this same confidence of boasting.” Mr. Green: “in this hardihood of boasting.” Thus, in three of these cases hupostasei is rendered by confidence, in the remaining one by hardihood.
It would be idle to say that these authors had not reasons which, in their judgment, necessitated the renderings they have given. Still, whether these reasons were really sufficient or not can hardly be held as a closed question. To my mind, I am free to say they are not. On the contrary, since I see no necessity for departing from the literal meaning of the word, I hesitate not to render it literally. I would read it thus:
Again I say, Let no one deem me to be foolish; but if not, still as foolish receive me, that I too may boast a little. What I say, I say not according to the Lord, but as in foolishness, on this ground (hupostasei) of boasting.
The third occurrence of the word is in Heb. i., 3, where its sense is difficult indeed. But this difficulty arises not out of the word itself, but from the subject-matter to which it is applied. It is used to denote the nature or being of God. It should therefore be no matter of wonder that the sense of the word is uncertain. I would translate it, as in the common version, by its exact Latin equivalent, substance, thus: God, having anciently spoken in many places and many ways to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds, who being the effulgence of his glory and the representation of his substance (hupostasei), and sustaining all things in his mighty word, etc. Possibly the word substance may here not express the exact sense, but it would be hard to find a word of which the same could not be said. It is better in such cases to translate ad verbum than ad sensum, unless we felt sure as to the sense.
The fourth occurrence of the word is in Heb. iii., 14. Here the sense is clear; and it is hardly doubtful that the word ground or foundation exactly expresses it. Still I shall give the manner in which others render it, that the reader may have ample premises before him on which to rest his final conclusion.
The Bible Union give it thus: “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence (hupostaseos) firm to the end.”
T.S. Green thus: “For partners of Christ have we become, if only we hold fast the beginning of our assurance (hupostaseos) steadfast to the last.”
Bro. Anderson thus: “For we are partakers of the Christ, if we hold our begun confidence (hupostaseos) firm to the end.”
To all these I shall add the following, as expressive of my own conviction, only making it a little free for the sake of perspicuity: For we have become partakers of Christ, provided we hold our first ground (hupostaseos) firm to the end.
From these premises I believe we may afford to draw the conclusion, as very probably correct, that hupostasis is used in the New Testament in its simple primary sense, as denoting a ground or foundation. I shall hence, till better advised, take it in this sense. The weight of authority, I grant, is against me; but the weight of reason and the sanction of etymology I feel to be with me. By these, for the present, I think it safest to stand. It is but just to add, that L. reaches almost the very same conclusion, from the same premises, in the article to which this will merely be an addendum.
I come now to consider the last occurrence of the word, and practically, perhaps, its most important occurrence. The passage containing it is variously rendered by different authors, as will appear by the following examples. True, the differences are not great, consisting, as they do, rather in the mode of expression, than in the matter. Still they are differences, and the cautious student will want to benefit by studying them.
Long ago Bro. Campbell rendered the passage thus: “Now faith is the confidence of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.” It is curious that one with so nice an appreciation of power in composition as our lamented brother had, and who was so averse to enfeebling redundancies, should yet have admitted the word and between the clauses.
The Bible Union: “Now faith is a grounded assurance of things hoped for, a clear warrant of matters not seen.” It is deeply to be regretted that this fine author should be unwilling to express anything without using a style often obscure and always injuriously affected. He seems incapable of saying even plain things as other people would say them, and as they should be said.
Bro. Anderson: “Now, faith is a sure confidence with respect to things hoped for, a firm persuasion with respect to things not seen.” This rendering is certainly perspicuous, but it greatly suffers from too many words.
Among these renderings, were I compelled to select one, I should certainly take that of the Bible Union. With slight exceptions, I think it faultless. Other specimens of translations might be presented indefinitely, but with little other effect than to increase variety. I shall hence content myself with a few, and these such as I suppose my brethren are most familiar with.
Now, in lieu of all the preceding, but as varying only slightly from some of them, I submit the following, as a severely literal rendering of the passage, and, as I feel, strictly just to its sense: Now faith is the ground of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith, then, is the ground (hupostasis) of things hoped for, and not confidence nor assurance respecting them. Basis here would be a fine word for hupostasis, and not so hard as ground, thus: Now faith is the basis of things hoped for. To this I should strongly incline, on account of its greater softness and equal elegance. It would be hard, in my judgment, to improve it. But the definition admits, as I deem, of just one more improvement. The word faith should give place to the word belief. We should then have, Now belief is the basis of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It will be long, in my candid opinion, before a change can be rung on this for the better. This the reader may call bold; I know it to be modest.
But I must now turn back and subject some of the foregoing renderings to the test of criticism. After this I shall analyze the apostle’s definition, and then assign reasons for preferring the word belief to the word faith. My work, though not then done, will be far advanced.
The reader will observe that hupostasis is represented in the preceding translations respectively by the words “confidence” and “assurance,” and by the phrases “grounded assurance” and “sure confidence.” Dropping the epithets “grounded” and “sure,” as adding neither strength nor clearness to the sense, and the renderings vary one from another only as confidence varies from assurance. Substantially they agree; for the difference between confidence and assurance is rather in sound than meaning. Is faith, then, correctly defined confidence? Before we can answer this question we must carefully note the fact that faith is not here defined generally, but exclusively with reference to things hoped for. The question is not what is faith generally, or what is faith with reference to the past, but what is faith with reference to the future, what is it with reference to things hoped for, or things which are the objects of hope? The answer is, it is confidence. Is this right? I do not believe it; and for so saying, assign the following reasons:
1. Confidence can never be shown to be the meaning of hupostasis in the New Testament. That it can be so rendered, and the sense made good, I readily grant; but good sense in a translation is not necessarily the true sense. Confidence, if a meaning of hupostasis at all, is so remote a meaning that nothing but the most obvious necessity can justify its use. I hence reject it.
2. Faith is from fido; confidence from confido, which is merely fido intensified by con. Hence to define faith by confidence is not to define one thing by another equivalent thing better understood, but to define a word by itself a little strengthened. It is as if we said, Faith is faith indeed as to things hoped for. And if the preceding renderings mean anything more or less than this, or anything different from it, I am not able to perceive it. They simply define faith by the use of an identical proposition, which is no definition at all.
But before we can fully appreciate the apostle’s definition, and hence, perhaps, before we can precisely translate it, we must analyze it, and learn the several elements which enter into it, together with all the circumstances to which these elements stand related. For a little while this must now be our task.
I feel that whatever difficulty there is in determining the sense of hupostasis, is a difficulty growing out of the word (elpizomenwn) elpizomenon, with which it stands immediately connected. This word, though not a compound word, is expressive of a compound thought; or rather, though one word, it carries in itself two thoughts, which, being wholly different, remain distinct. The word is a participle, plural, genitive, passive, and present, and hence means precisely, things which are being hoped for. It carries, therefore, the two ideas of hope, and the things which the hope respects. To these two objects faith stands related, and with relation to them is a hupostasis. It is not a hupostasis generally or universally, but only a hupostasis elpizomenon, a hupostasis of things hoped for. And since it is a hupostasis, not absolutely, but only with reference to hope and the things which the hope respects, it therefore follows that it must be the hupostasis either of the hope by itself or of the things by themselves, or of the two jointly and together. There remain no other alternatives.
1. Is it the hupostasis of the two things—the hope and things hoped for, jointly and together? This is L.’s opinion; and it is entitled to high consideration. It may be true. He argues that things hoped for have no existence as things hoped for except to faith; and that hence where there is no faith there are no things hoped for. In this case they are simply non sunt, exist not. The things themselves may exist without faith, but as things hoped for they can not. This is, beyond all question, correct; but whether this is what Paul meant to say is the point of doubt with me. The view looks more like it belonged to metaphysics than to the Bible. Still it is not therefore false, nor on that ground to be rejected. Between a true metaphysics and the Bible there can exist no antagonism, only we are not to transplant from that into this.
But this view would clearly require us to render hupostasis by the word ground, basis, or foundation—its literal etymological meaning. Things hoped for have no existence except to faith. It is hence the very basis for their existence—not the basis of their existence simply as things, but only as things hoped for. We should hence be compelled to render the first part of the definition, as previously said, thus, Now faith is the basis of things hoped for. Hardly could we err were we to pause on this as final.
2. Can faith be the basis of these things? Simply as things it can not. Only as things hoped for can it be their basis. As mere things, certainly the objects of hope may exist without faith. I conceive of an object of hope. I next conceive of faith which stands related to it as an object of hope. Now I conceive of the extinction of this faith; but this does not necessitate the extinction of the object. Hence faith is not the basis of the things.
3. Is it, then, the hupostasis simply of the hope? Certainly faith is the basis of hope, in all cases its basis; hence where there is no faith there can be no hope. But whether it is the basis of hope only is the question. But let it be first shown that faith is certainly the basis of hope. A few illustrations will render this clear.
A farmer prepares a plot of ground in his field, and on it sows a handful of wheat. Does he hope to reap the reward of his labor? That he does is intuitively clear. Here, then, is hope. Hence there must be faith; otherwise faith is not the universal basis of hope. But faith can not exist without an object; in other words, we can not believe without something to believe. What, then, in the present case is the thing believed? What the proposition—for all faith has respect to propositions? The wheat will grow. This is the proposition. This proposition the farmer believes, and hence his hope. On the contrary, if he does believe the proposition he can have no hope. This the following will render clear:
He prepares another plot of ground in his field, and on it sows another handful of wheat. In this case he has no hope; but how is this? He has no faith; but why? Every grain of wheat is rotten. Hence he can have no faith that it will grow, and being without faith, he is consequently without hope.
Again: A. executes to me his note for the sum of five dollars, payable ninety days after date. This note contains a promise. This promise I believe; and believing it, hope to receive the thing promised at the end of the time named. But C. also executes to me his note for the same sum, payable at the same time. This note likewise contains a promise, but this promise I do not believe. The reason is that C. is insolvent and wholly unable to pay his debts; besides, he is notoriously false and would not pay if he could. I hence have no faith in his promise, and having no faith in his promise, I have no hope that I shall receive the sum promised. My want of faith determines my want of hope. And this is true universally in all the conditions and walks of life. Faith is the basis of hope. There is this distinction to be drawn in the case of a promise. The promise itself is one thing; the thing promised a different thing. My faith respects that, my hope this. I believe the promise, but hope for the thing promised.
Let me now briefly apply this in the matter of religion. I hope to rise from the dead to the happiness of a spiritual body. But why? Christ has left me a promise to this effect. I believe this promise, and hence my hope for that body. But the atheist does not believe this promise; hence he has no hope as to a spiritual body. My faith is the ground of my hope; he is without the ground, and consequently without the hope.
Now in the expression “things hoped for” indisputably there is hope. Of necessity, then, there must be faith; since without faith hope is impossible. Of this hope faith is and can not but be the basis. The faith is the hope’s hupostasis; and no more can the hope exist without the hupostasis than can vision without eyes, or an effect without a cause. Hence from the mention of hope we should have been compelled to infer a hupostasis. He had in his mind the complex conception of hope and the objects of it. He wished to state the relation of faith to these things. But to the objects of hope faith sustains no immediate relation. It is related immediately only to hope. To the objects of hope it is related only mediately and through hope, and then only in so far as hope exists. Destroy the hope, and you destroy the relation which faith sustains to the objects of it. Hence it was necessary to define only the relation of faith to hope, and not the relation of faith to the objects of hope, since the existence of that relation necessitates the existence of this. But to hope faith is related as a hupostasis. Hence the definition: Now faith is the basis of things hoped for. But this can be made still more plain by taking elpizomenon, resolving it into its two component elements, and arranging these in due relation to each other and to faith. First, then, as already said, we have in elpizomenon hope and its objects, or hope and the things hoped for. Of these it is only to the hope that faith stands as a hupostasis. Let now hope be separated from its objects and placed between them and faith. The whole sentence then becomes perfectly clear, thus: Now faith is the basis of hope in things. In this we distinctly preserve both the things of the elpizomenon and the hope; we also represent the true relation of faith to hope; and these things and this relation exhaust the apostle’s expression. Our work with it seems to be done.
There is this still to be added, that the above rendering expresses the contents of elpizomenon actively, whereas they are expressed passively in the original. There we have hope and its objects; but the objects are being hoped for. This is passive. But in the rendering we first give to hope a simple positive existence, and then make it look actively to its objects. By this, however, nothing is lost. For if the objects of hope are passively being hoped for, of necessity there must be some one actively hoping for them. The difference is simply in the mode of expression, not in the things expressed.
Again: the penetrating reader will observe that the apostle’s expression amounts not so much to a definition of faith as it does to a statement of the use of it. Faith is not in itself and absolutely a hupostasis. It is so only relatively to hope. What faith is in itself in every case we are told in the second part of the definition, not in the first. In the first part we are told the use of faith. It is to be the basis of hope. But the best of all definitions is that which both tells us what a thing is and then the use of it. Hence to this class belongs the apostle’s.
Now when we reflect on the influence which our hope exerts over our conduct, and the relation it bears to our happiness, we must all feel how great the necessity is that it should rest on some deep, and, if possible, imperishable foundation. The proposition that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is the sublimest proposition known to the world: the proposition that he is the Saviour of men the most important. Faith in that proposition is the sublimest faith; faith in this, the most important that can dwell in human hearts. The hope of immortality and eternal life rises in measureless degrees over all the hopes that have ever caused a thrill in human breasts. Now how exquisite the conception which lays down that faith as the basis of this hope. I am enraptured with its grandeur and simple beauty.
But I promised to assign reasons for preferring the word belief to the word faith. This is the proper place to redeem that promise. But first let me assure the reader that I have no prejudice against the word faith. As a mere word I prefer it to belief, and wish it could be retained; but it can not without the violation of two most fundamental principles in translating.
In the original we have two words, both derived from the same root, and having precisely the same meaning, except the difference between a noun and its closely cognate verb. These words are pistis and pisteuo. Pisteuo, in all its forms, we render by the word believe, and can render it by no other. To this we are pinned down by necessity. If now pisteuo means I believe, and we are compelled to use the word believe to express its meaning, then indisputably does pistis mean belief, and the word belief should be used to express it. This gives us a translation which is uniform and faultless. To translate pisteuo by believe, and pistis by faith, leads the reader to think that there must be a difference in meaning between the original words, and hence, of course, between the English; whereas, such is not the case. Believe and belief, therefore, are the true and proper words to represent the originals. We should then get rid of the word faith as a Bible word. To this no Christian ought to object; for about that word has gathered a world of confusion and mysticism; and to part from these is no matter of grief to him who delights in the perspicuity of holy writ. For these reasons, were I translating the Scriptures, I should never use the word faith.
But the second part of the translation now demands our consideration. Repeating the word faith, and it stands thus in the common version: “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” In the Bible Union’s thus: “Faith is the conviction of things not seen.” In Bro. Anderson’s thus: “Faith is a firm persuasion with respect to things not seen.” Bro. Campbell, as follows: “Faith is the conviction of things not seen.” Green thus: “Faith is a clear warrant of matters not seen.”
The word which is here so variously rendered is, in the original, elencoc, pronounced elenkos. Four different words, it will be perceived, are employed to represent it, namely, evidence, conviction, persuasion, and warrant. Of these four Bro. L. prefers evidence. This I think the most serious blemish in his article. To my mind conviction is clearly the proper word. In the original I do not see even the semblance of evidence. I hence think L.’s exposition utterly erroneous. As a piece of composition, it is clear and excellent; but as a criticism, I deem it wholly unsound.
Evidence is from ex or e and video, which literally means, I see from, or, more fully, I see one thing from another, or one thing by another. Hence evidence is that by means of which I mentally see things, which could not be seen without it. A person, for example, is accused of a crime. On simply hearing the accusation I can not say whether he is guilty or not; in other words, I do not see his guilt. But the evidence is adduced. In kind it is such as the nature of the case requires, and ample in amount. I now see the guilt of the man. Before I could not see it, because I had not the evidence—the medium of my mental sight; now I can, because I have that evidence. But in this, as well as in the case of the passage in hand, the evidence is external to me, and not internal. The mind sees, not by means of anything in itself, by means of any power, capacity, or faculty it possesses, but by means of what is wholly exterior to it. In the language of L., the evidence is not subjective, but objective.
In what sense, I ask, unless it be in some loose rhetorical sense, can my faith be said to be evidence of the fact of Christ’s resurrection? To me certainly my faith is not the evidence of the fact, much less can it be to any one else. On one condition only can faith be viewed as the evidence of an unwitnessed or unseen fact. If the faith could not exist without the fact, then the faith would prove the fact, would be the evidence of it. But too often does faith exist without the fact or thing believed to enable us to argue thus. Faith is not the evidence of things not seen. Faith is an effect, not evidence, to which evidence bears the relation of cause. Evidence produces faith—this I deem the better view.
But I have already said that conviction is the true word; and this, of course, would imply that conviction is the thing expressed by the language in hand. I hence agree with Bro. Campbell and the Bible Union, and dissent from all the others. Faith is the conviction of things not seen. This is the word; this the thought. But this is resting the conclusion on assertion, not on evidence.
The verb elenko, from which comes elenkos, the word in question, I have never thought a word susceptible of the very easiest definition. To me there seems something hazy about it, which leaves it not severely clear and definite. It occurs in the New Testament seventeen times, elankos twice. The former varies in its meaning generally between rebuke and convince. To these its other meanings are closely akin. If any one, of all the places in the New Testament where elenko occurs, has any bearing on the passage in hand, that place is John xvi., 8. Here elenko clearly means to convince. The following will give the sense of the verse: And when come, he will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. No word but convince will answer here. It gives the idea with faultless clearness and precision. Now a safe rule in translating is this: find a passage in which the meaning of the word you have in question is certain, is one, and can be nothing else. Then take the word in this same sense in every reoccurrence of it, till you are compelled to depart from it. We can follow no safer rule than this. Now in John xvi., 8, elenko indisputably means to convince. The noun derived from it, then, ought to mean conviction. At least it would be far safer to take the noun in this sense than in some different arbitrary sense; especially where nothing forbids it, and where the resulting meaning is clear and good. Hence I have no hesitation in so rendering it. Besides, that this is its meaning in the only other place where it occurs admits of little doubt. I would then render the clause in hand thus: Faith is the conviction of things not seen.
Now this I hold to be the proper definition of faith. Absolutely it is conviction. This is the thing itself—faith, in nature and degree. Determine that, and you determine this; for the two are identical, and hence the complement of each other. With reference to hope faith is a hypostasis, a basis or foundation; absolutely and in itself it is elenkos, conviction. That has already been shown to be certainly true; can not this also be?
Conviction is from con, intensive, in vinco, I conquer. But how from these can we get conviction in the sense of a firm mental assurance that a thing said is true? With reference to any given proposition I can occupy one of only three positions—I believe the proposition, I am indifferent to it, or hostile. The first position is excluded, as implying the fact which it is now designed to show. But I am indifferent. In this case the object is to overcome my indifference, and this is a victory. Or I am hostile. In this case the object is to overcome my hostility, which is also a victory. So that in every case of conviction there is in fact a victory. But conviction, as the definition of faith, means simply a firm mental persuasion that a thing said is true. Nor does it matter whether the thing said is a simple affirmation or a promise. In the former case, my faith is my conviction that the affirmation is true; in the latter, that the promise will be kept, but in both cases equally and alike it is conviction. True, conviction implies the highest degree of mental assurance that a thing is true. When I say I am persuaded that a thing is true, I express myself mildly; indeed it can hardly be said that I express a faith at all. When I say I believe, this is stronger. But when I say I am convinced, I express a degree of assurance which can not be intensified. This is faith—the conviction that a thing is true. It is not strong conviction nor feeble conviction, deep conviction, nor shallow, but simply and precisely conviction. In all cases and under all circumstances this is faith. Leave it unqualified. Use none of the preceding epithets. They serve no purpose but to darken the subject and bewilder the seeker after truth. They are not of the sacred book, but from a very different source.
From what is now before us, it will be perceived that the apostle’s definition looks both to the past and to the future—to the past so far as it is embraced in history, to the future so far as it is embraced in prophecy and promises; and history and prophecy and promises embrace all knowable time by us, except the passing moment. The definition therefore covers all time, the past and the future. Like a sublime arch, it sweeps over it all. Hence, in the very nature of things, there can be but one faith. This embraces all the past and all the future; what portion of time, then, could a second faith embrace? The thought is absurd. And if there can be but one faith, what becomes of the popular doctrine of various kinds of faith, as historic faith, evangelic faith, etc.? Plurality is the very basis of kinds. Where there is just one thing, of course, we can not have kinds. But there is “one faith,” so decided by inspiration; hence kinds is impossible. If there was but one horse in the world, we could not talk of the various kinds of horses; if but one tree, not of the various kinds of trees. No more complete delusion ever took possession of the popular mind than the notion of different kinds of faith. Faith is conviction without regard to object. Whether the affirmation be divine or human, whether it belong to mathematics or history—faith is simply the conviction that it is true. Here then, for the present, we leave the subject to the silent thoughts of the reader.
To our Scholars — Brethren, has the time not now come when we should unite in an effort to perfect for ourselves and others a translation of the New Testament? This work will never be done for us; we must do it for ourselves. Why not, then, do it as soon as practicable? I believe we are now in possession of the necessary literary aids, and that the men are among us who can do the work. I hence see not the reason in postponing it. Could we not at an early day have a conference of “chief men,” and take the question seriously into hand? Could we not in said conference consider first the question, Do we need the proposed translation? 2. How many men should be selected to undertake it? 3. Who should they be? 4. How can we best raise the funds to carry on the work? Shall we not hear from Bro. Milligan, Bro. Anderson, Bro. Pendleton, Bro. Loos, Bro. Proctor, Bro. McGarvey, Bro. Pettigrew, and other wise and competent men in the premises? I am profoundly anxious to see a translation of the New Testament, as nearly perfect as the age in which we live will allow, placed in the hands of every human being who will either buy it or accept it as a gift and read it. My motto is, Let the translation be made, and trust to its merits and to Christ to give it currency. I see not how in any other way it is ever to attain it.
Volume IV: July, 1867 of the Quarterly
This article is Moses E. Lard’s reply to “The Two Apects of Faith” by J.M. Long, published on pages 129-138 of the April 1867 edition of the Quarterly.