Faith of Our Fathers by Frederick Faber, 1849.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” (Hebrews 11:1–2, ESV).
Faber’s great hymn points to Hebrews 11, which is often called “The Hall of Faith.” The writer recounts the names of those who preceded us in faith, beginning with Abel and continuing through until today.
The ancient faith was preserved, Peter says, for our benefit. It was revealed to (the prophets) that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:12).
The Bible progressively reveals God’s redemption plan, and the climax is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Our fathers” saw this dimly and persevered, both for their sake and ours through their Spirit given faith in the promises of God.
Verse 1 speaks of the faith of those who directly passed the gospel to us.
Faith of our fathers! living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword.
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Paul writes to Timothy. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5). Surely Timothy’s heart “beat high with joy,” remembering “that glorious Word” of the gospel taught to him as a child.
Faith of our fathers! we will strive
To win all nations unto thee.
And through the truth that comes from God
We all shall then be truly free: [Refrain].
We remember the “task unfinished” from yesterday, which Faber mentions here, but stanza’s three and four are noteworthy. For Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b–32).
Hopefully, the constant encouragement to understand that “waiting time is not wasted time” has led you to deeper communion with God through Christ. While we may feel trapped, we are freer than ever when we abide in God’s Word. Loving Christ, by keeping his unburdensome commands leads us to the final verse.
Faith of our fathers! We will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife,
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life: [Refrain].
Without question, the gospel is advanced by the power of God working in the harmony of his people. Paul urges us, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3).
It was the unity through God’s Spirit revealed truth and the bond of peace through careful study of the scriptures to determine the sound doctrine that is the “Faith of our Fathers.” The Nicene Creed provides four marks that historically have defined the true Christian Church. “We believe in one, holy, universal, and apostolic Church” (Nicene Creed, section III, line 5).
Through the power of your Spirit, we will be true to thee, Jesus, ‘till we join you at our death or your return. That is our prayer and song today.
Blessings, Pastor Don