The Ancient Faith

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Benjamin Lyon Smith

Our Lord and Redeemer has arranged this important matter himself. He has not left it to an Apostle under his direction, or as guided by the Holy Spirit. We shall now adduce the passages of Scripture relating to this subject, interspersed with observations pertinent to the occasion. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. x. 32, 33). “Whosoever shall confess me,” not himself, not his sins, nor anything under the skies but Jesus! As the great Apostle said, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”


The word Homologeoo, all critics say, means to speak as another speaks, and by implication, to profess the same things as another, and therefore, when one speaks as another, and professes the same things, one is considered his follower. “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem, to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.”


Here we see that John was impressed with the idea that Jesus would have to be confessed, and that publicly, and therefore he confessed that he was not the Christ. He preached, “That they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews; for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John ix. 22). The Jews, as well as John saw the great point involved in the claims of Jesus, and therefore they would allow them to confess that they were great sinners, and greatly burdened with guilt, or, in other words, they would have allowed all the points of a modern experience; but if they confessed him to be the Messiah, they must be cast out of the synagogue.

“Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also, many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43). Will the advocates of experiences, please observe, that these “rulers,” many of them, “believed” on him, but faith alone could not expel them from the synagogue, nor secure to them the favor of God!

“The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).  “The word of faith,” here, means, that which was preached for faith, in order that, when it was believed, it might be confessed. When a sinner believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, he has the means of salvation within his reach–he must confess with his mouth what he believes in his heart–and confess it “before men,” in order to salvation. Nothing of experience yet; all that we have seen relates to Christ, and to faith in Christ, and to the confession of his name!


“Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses:” Literally this would be, “And hast confessed a good confession.” It is the same word which in the next verse is rendered confession, “Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession:” Timothy had made that “good confession” before many witnesses, on the occasion of his baptism. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). “The apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” The apostle here clearly understands that his Hebrew brethren had confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, as sent of God to be the Saviour of men. He calls upon them to “consider” him, that is, to look at him, contemplate him, to attend to him through whom they have been reconciled to God by the death of his Son, that being reconciled, they may have eternal salvation by his intercession as the High Priest of the House of God.

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Heb. 4:14). That which they had confessed was, that Jesus was the Son of God, and therefore Paul exhorts them to hold it fast. “For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Jesus Christ” (II. Cor. 9:12, 13). Few passages in the Bible stand more in need of revision than this. The Apostle shows that the bounty they had sent to the poor saints, had not only relieved them, but caused much thanksgiving to God, and especially they had glorified God for your obedient confession of the gospel of Christ. Obedient confession is good English, and conveys definite ideas, but professed subjection does not.

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (Heb.10:23). Now here the translators of the Authorized Version were singularly unfaithful. They changed the word “hope” into “faith,” no doubt because they could not understand what a confession of hope was, while they know well what a profession of faith meant. In the original the word is hope, and not faith, and should have been so translated. The Apostle had spoken of entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a way, new and living, that is, ever accessible, and having a High Priest over the House of God, he exhorted them to “draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water;” he then naturally exhorts them to hold fast the confession of their hope. Faith laid hold upon the redemption they enjoyed through his blood, and Hope only could lay hold upon his work as intercessor. When a man confesses his faith in Christ and is baptized, he turns away from sin, and turns to God under Christ.

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” In this passage the words “giving thanks,” are a translation of the same word rendered elsewhere to confess, or to profess. Here it should have been, “confessing to his name.” We are to confess Jesus every day and everywhere. The public profession in baptism is, only introductory to a life of “confessing to his name.” In all our words and ways, we should confess our dear Lord, and most of all when we are reviled and misrepresented on account of our love for him, for his word, and for his appointments. If we were to remember that we had made our public profession, and were to forget that it was only of advantage as we lived to him whom we had confessed, we should be as unfortunate as those who tell a long and astonishing experience, and then look back and draw consolation from it all the days of life!

We have reserved the passage in Acts for the last in this paper. “And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered, and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” This is the special case of the New Testament. It has been demanded from us to produce a single case where the preacher ever put the question, Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? We reply that we can give what is equal to it, and that ought to suffice. When Peter made the confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “Upon this rock will I build my church.” Now he either did build the church upon it, or he did not. If he did, then his word stands forever, but if he did not, his word has failed. Moreover, John says, “Many other signs did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that believing, ye might have life through his name.”

“What doth hinder me to be baptized?” We contend that this question is obliged to bring out whatever hinders; and Philip, speaking by the Holy Spirit, said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Nothing hinders the penitent believer. Ingenuity may affirm the necessity of an experience to ascertain whether a person does really believe with all the heart, but Philip only heard a confession of faith, of the faith we referred to above–”I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” No personal experience or exercise of mind, but faith in Jesus Christ. The Athanasian creed, the Apostles’ creed, as it is ecclesiastically called, and all the creeds of men, could not purify the earth and sanctify the soul, but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, when it is publicly confessed, can. It is not faith as the act of the creature than can accomplish this, but the efficacy of that which is believed cleanses the soul.

The Apostles preached Christ for faith; they did not narrate, in the style of Bunyan, the workings and exercises of their own minds, that the people might learn from them how to be exercised in godliness. For the faith we preach nothing but the facts of the Word, for baptism nothing but a confession of the faith, and for the Lord’s table and Christian fellowship, nothing but baptism and a good life. [Published in 1860, page 682].    

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”