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I. R. BUTTS.......PRINTER.......2 SCHOOL STREET.

THE

NATURE, REALITY, AND POWER

OF

CHRISTIAN FAITH,

THE distinction between Faith and Sight, between what we believe and what we know, is a very familiar one; and its nature is sufficiently obvious. It refers not so much to the certainty of an opinion or fact, as to the evidence on which it rests. One may be equally certain of that which he believes, as of that which he knows; but he has arrived at his confidence by a different evidence. I am as certain that there is a mosque at Constantinople, as that there is a church here; but in the one case it is the certainty of Knowledge, in the other, the certainty of Faith. Knowledge is derived from consciousness, from sensation, from demonstration; Faith springs from testimony, and from analogy. I know, because I am conscious, because I see, feel, observe, follow the reasonings of science. I believe, because I am told by witnesses, and because analogy renders it probable. But I am just as certain in the one case, as in the other. My faith, that Columbus lived and visited America, has no

more doubt in it, than my consciousness that I live myself. My assurance that the huge bones of the mammoth belonged to a creature having lungs and muscles; and that the splendid ruins of Palmyra were built and once inhabited by men, is as strong from analogy, as my confidence in the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid, from demonstration. So that when the Christian believer speaks of his "Faith," he uses a term which expresses not one whit less confidence, than when he speaks of what he he "knows." Indeed, in religious affairs, these are for the most part convertible terms; religious knowledge, with scarcely an exception beyond what relates to a man's private experience, is precisely religious faith; it is a knowledge, founded, like men's knowledge of distant countries and past ages, on testimony; and he walks by it just as confidently as if he walked by sight.

This being so, it is obvious that the word Faith, as applied to matters of religion, has precisely the same meaning which it has when applied to other subjects or affairs; in other words, it is the same exercise of the mind. The Christian believes by the same constitution and process of mind, by which the merchant believes that there are cities which he has never seen, and the scholar credits the tale of an historian who died two. thousand years ago. It belongs to the human mind to believe on evidence; and on sufficient evidence, to believe with the confidence of knowledge. It is all the same, so far, whether the subject be sacred or profane, this world or the next; the state and process of the human mind is in each case the same.

Therefore the New Testament does the most natural thing in the world, the most reasonable, the most inevita

ble thing, when it builds up the Christian Religion on Faith, and declares it essential to salvation. It could not be otherwise. In the nature of things, there can be no religion, excepting through Faith. No man can come to God, except he believe that He is. No doctrine can be received as from God, except the testimony which establishes it be believed. No teacher can be followed, no futurity sought, no retributions expected, except through Faith. The beginning, progress, and end of the soul's existence on earth is, and must be, a pure process of faith. For it has to do with the past, the absent, the distant, the future, the invisible; and there is no possible way for man to do with either, except through Faith. Try the experiment, and determine for yourself. What knowledge have you of things past, distant, absent, future, invisible, excepting what you have derived through Faith? Wherefore Christianity, rightly, necessarily, and reasonably, founds itself on Faith-demands Faith of those who receive it-and insists that, without Faith, all is vain. It would be merely preposterous, it would be a bare absurdity, to suppose that one may worship an invisible God, may receive the advantages of Christ's teaching and mediation, may have the influences, consolations, and hopes of a spiritual and everlasting life, without believing in it all. The obligation of Faith is, therefore, absolute and incontestable; and it becomes a matter of unspeakable moment to us to ascertain aright what it is, that we may truly cherish and exercise it.

Let us, therefore, cursorily glance at its Nature, Reality, and Power.

The Nature of Faith has been in a good degree set forth in the remarks already made. We must add, how

VOL. XI.

NO. 125.

1*

ever, to what has been said, that its characteristics vary with the point of view from which it is regarded. The fundamental idea is belief; but other ideas pertain to it; and in order to the full development of the principle, it will be necessary to arrange and classify these ideas. We may thus distribute them into four classes.

First,

Faith is a principle of the Understanding. It is the rational assent to evidence. The understanding listens to testimony, weighs probabilities, compares arguments, and decides to believe or disbelieve, according to the result. And it cannot, strictly speaking, decide contrary to the strength of evidence, or rather, to its own apprehension of the strength of evidence. A man cannot refuse to believe what seems to him proved to be true, nor can he hold as true what he thinks proved to be false. Hence it is plain, that in Faith, as a principle of the understanding, there is no moral quality. It is neither virtuous nor vicious, neither blamable nor praiseworthy, to assent to what passes before one's eyes, and what he cannot disbelieve if he tries. For which reason Historical Faith, as it is called-that is, a mere acknowledgment that the gospel history is true, and that Christ is the Saviour of the world—is no where spoken of as having any value, is not that which the Scriptures applaud. Thomas declared that he would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, unless he should see and touch him. He saw and touched, and then was not faithless, but believing. Did his master praise that faith? Not at all; but rather the contrary. "Because thou hast SEEN, therefore thou hast believed? Blessed are they who have NOT and yet have believed."

seen,

In the second place-Faith is a principle of the Affec

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