FAITH OF OUR FATHERS
Frederick W. Faber, 1814–1863
Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3)
If you don’t have a cause that is worth dying for, you very likely don’t have anything worth living for.
Often we fail to realize the great price many of our forefathers paid to establish and preserve the Christian faith. It is good for us to be reminded often that the history of the Christian faith is a rich heritage of countless people whose faith in God was considered more dear than life itself. Much could be said about the first century Christians and their persecution by the Roman Empire, or even the religious persecutions of our American forefathers in their quest for a new land where they could enjoy religious freedom.
The “faith of our fathers” referred to in this hymn, however, is the faith of the martyred leaders of the Roman Catholic church during the 16th century. Although he was raised as a Calvinist and later was a minister in the Anglican church, Frederick Faber left the state church and joined the Roman Catholic fold. He became known as Father Wilfrid. Faber began to make it his life’s mission to write hymns that promoted the history and teachings of the Catholic church. Frederick Faber wrote 150 such hymns before his early death at the age of 49. His “Faith of Our Fathers” text first appeared in 1849 in the author’s collection, Jesus and Mary; or Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading. It was always Faber’s hope that someday England would be brought back to the Papal fold.
The three stanzas found in our hymnals, however, are very usable for evangelical worship and can be reinterpreted to challenge our commitment and loyalty to the gospel that our spiritual fathers often died to defend:
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!
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, were still in heart and conscience free; how sweet would be their children’s fate if they, like them, could die for thee!
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: Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death.
For Today: Psalm 22:4, 5; 1 Timothy 6:13, 14; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 11
Reflect on the great gallery of Old Testament saints listed in Hebrews 11. Ask God to make your Christian faith something that future generations will want to emulate. Carry this tune with you—