The Two Great Instruments Appointed for the Propagation of the Gospel
Romans 10:17
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.


1. As all is suspended upon God, and as He reigns with as supreme a dominion in the heart of man as in the world around us, all relating to the salvation of the soul is His work. But on the ether hand, it is evident that though it be God alone that worketh, yet He worketh by instruments. None were more impressed than Paul with the pious sentiment that all depends upon God; yet he says "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." If, in that extraordinary age, when the Author of nature broke in upon the constancy of its operations by miracles, one of His own inspired messengers does not overlook the use of instruments, it would ill become us to overlook them.

2. Now observe that the operation of the two instruments laid before us in the text is somewhat different at present from what it was in the days of the apostles. Those were the days of inspiration; and faith came by the hearing of inspired teachers; and hearing came by the "Word of God — for the apostles spake only as God put the word into their mouth. But whatever is capable of being spoken is capable of being written also; and it was not long before the Christian teachers committed to writing the doctrine of salvation; and if you read what they wrote with the impression that it is the genuine production of inspired men, you are in circumstances likely for receiving faith. Now, however, there is a change in one of the instruments. Instead of the messenger delivering the message in person, you have the substance of it in a written communication. And now faith comes by reading, and reading by the Word of God.

3. We are not to suppose, however, that reading is substituted for hearing. True you can no longer hear the immediate messengers of heaven; but you can hear the descendants of these messengers. And although you have the inspired documents, heaven still gives a saving influence to the living energy of a human voice.

4. In no age of the Church, indeed, does it appear that the one instrument ever superseded the other. Nehemiah not only "read in the book of the law of God distinctly, but gave the sense, and caused the people to understand the reading." And this reading and expounding of the law from the days of Ezra formed a permanent institution among the Jews. We meet with traces of its existence in the New Testament (Acts 13:14, etc.; Luke 4:16, etc.). And it has descended, without interruption, through all the ages of Christian worship. The apostles deemed it necessary to leave something more than the written volume of inspiration behind them. They left teachers and overseers; and to this very day, the readings, and the explanations, and the sermons of Christian pastors, are superadded to the silent reading of Christian people; and both are found to be instruments of mighty operation, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

5. Neither instrument is to be dispensed with.

(1) If you have hearing without reading, you lay the Church open to all the corruptions of Popery. You have priests, but you have no Bibles. You take your lesson from the wisdom of man, and throw away from you all the light and benefit of revelation. Keep fast, then, by your Bible. Let not your faith come by hearing alone; but let your hearing be tried by the Word of God. Let it not be said that what you believe is what you have heard merely.

(2) But if you have reading without hearing, you throw away the benefit of a public ministry — an institution sanctioned by the Bible. Though you have no knowledge to receive, you have memories to be refreshed; minds which, however pure, need to be stirred up by way of remembrance.

II. ITS APPLICATION TO THE EVANGELISATION OF THE WORLD. The propagation of the gospel is a cause the maintenance of which consists of the providing of Bibles, and the providing of human agents. The latter, by teaching them to read, teaches unlettered people to use one of the instruments of the text; and to the latter belongs the exclusive office of bringing the other instrument to bear upon them — the instrument of hearing. The society whose office it is to provide the former is the Bible Society. The society whose office it is to provide the latter instrument is the Missionary Society. It is the duty of a Christian public to keep both instruments in vigorous operation. Each of these societies has mighty claims upon you. The two go hand in hand. The one ploughs while the other sows; and let no opposition be instituted betwixt their claims on the generosity of the public.

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

WEB: So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The Faith Hearing the Word of God
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