FAITH AND WORKS
On the Firth of Forth there was an old ferryman, a man of thought and observation, but of few words; a constant student of the Bible and a firm believer in its truths. Among his patrons were two talkative companions, whose business led them across the river once a week.
One of them was, as he supposed, a notional Calvinist, the other imagined himself to be equally well-grounded in the tenets of Arminius. Their conversation always turned upon some doctrinal point. The ferryman was frequently annoyed by the repetition of faith on one side and works on the other, because they were used in a sense so different from their real import, and so detrimental to their Scriptural harmony. At length the patient old man felt obliged to interfere. He said nothing, but fell upon the following expedient. Upon one of his oars he painted the word “FAITH,” upon the other “WORKS.” It was not long before the zealous, but
friendly disputants applied for a passage over the Forth. Upon entering the deepest part of the river, where the swollen water rushed down with fearful violence, the ferryman took out “FAITH” and pulled away with “WORKS” with all his might. The boat went round and round, much to the annoyance and terror of the passengers. “Put out the other oar,” said one of them, in a loud voice. “Very well,” was the calm reply of the old man – at the same time taking out “WORKS” and relying on “FAITH” alone. The experiment with this oar produced the same result, and drove the witnesses of it to the conclusion that the ferryman was out of his head. The old man, however, continued his practical demonstrations on the water, until he thought the two friends were prepared to see two things in connexion. He then called their attention to the names of his oars: “I have tried your way,” said he – “and yours, and you have seen the result. Now, observe my way.” And giving a steady hand to each oar, the little boat soon acknowledged the power of their harmonious strokes, by the straight and rapid flight which it took for the landing. (Read James 2. 14-26).