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at once an act of the purest credit on the one hand, and of the utmost self-renunciation on the other, that can be shown by a mortal creature. When we are the agents or active, we do and are seen to do; and there is in this an assumption of hope or confidence from the act in ourselves : this, liowever, is not so much faith, as sense, and tends not to magnify God simply and entirely, but ourselves, at least in part, or in some subordination to him. By doing, a man is in danger of trusting more or less in himself; and, by being employed in acts of goodness, seems to have a little whereof to glory: but by believing, he disclaims himself, and confides in God; and the more simply and entirely he confides, the purer is the glory which he offers to the Divine Truth and Majesty. The highest honour a creature can render, is to believe in and depend upon the Lord for all in all. I say this of the purest actions of the most fervent Christians; for as to the world at large, their activities are low and gross, and (having no faith for their principle) are and must be sensual and selfish. Faith, therefore, is the purest grace, which can actuate the mind of man upon earth. It strips him of self, drives him from the world and sin, enables him to roll all upon his Lord with a holy complacency and resignation, and to give up into his hands the full management of what belongs to him for earth or heaven. And, without faith, it is impossible to do the least of these things.
Upon this account it seems to be, that the word of God is full of encomiums and examples of faith. According to our faith, so is every thing else. All things arepossible to him that believeth : but, without faith, it is impossible to please Gud.
Corrupt nature may be quickly engaged to attempt any thing, or every thing: but to believe, to go out of self, to cease from creatures for aid, and to act faith in a steady, simple, passive recumbence upon the truth and fidelity of God; this is no work for flesh and blood. The human heart rejects and abhors it altogether.
It seems easy in a way of reason to take God at his word, and right that it should be so: but reason is not faith, and can never ascend this holy mountain, nor perform, when the trial comes, this apparently easy and reasonable thing. Faith is a gift, which cometh down from above; and, wherever it is bestowed, it causes the soul to crucify that fleshly wisdom, that presumptuous and intruding * reason, which, not holding Christ the head, nor drawing grace and instruction from him, but from corrupt nature only, is in spiritual things the plague and enemy of every real Christian, because it is ever arguing against the life of grace in him, and troubling him with such cogitations of all kinds, as tend to draw away his heart, or to weaken his hand, in the course of his duty. They, who know not the conflicts of their carnal mind with the faith which God. bestows, may well suspect whether they have faith or not; or, rather, whether they have not deceived themselves with speculations about godliness, instead of enjoying the real life and experience of it.
Abraham obtained faith in God; and the obedience of faith followed the life and possession of it. When the Lord commanded him to leave all and to come out from his kindred and the world; by faith he went out, not knowing whither he went. He reasoned not upon the
matter, nor asked the why or the wherefore; but gave himself up in devotedness to God. The same is said of him, when he was about to offer up his son Isaac ; and the same is said of those, who are recorded, as examples of pure and lively faith, in that “golden legend” inscribed to the Hebrews. All of them did, what they did, by FAITH: and it is so repeatedly and expressly put down, lest we should mistake the works for the principle, the effect for the cause, the mere action for the life; as we are prone to do. Had these gracious persons been left to themselves for the execution of any one of those deeds, which they performed; that is, if faith had not been granted them for the very purpose above their own natural powers, it is more than probable, that every one of them had been an apostate in the very thing they were enabled to do, and that, like Cain, Esau, or Judas, they would have given up God and his truth for the world, or for their own present convenience in it.
If any reader doubt of this, let him try to detach himself from the spirit of the world, to become a stranger and pilgrim upon earth, to crucify the affections of his flesh and spirit from what they naturally seek after, to give up his reputation, his interest, and inviting prospects among men, to live in devotedness of soul to God, and to desire above all things the promotion of the honour and glory of a crucified Saviour, and the spiritual welfare and salvation of others. I say, let him try, not merely to approve and talk of, but to put all this into practice. He will, I believe, either censure me as too rigid for such a proposal, or endeavour to explain it away and soften it into nothing. He will own, if he be honest to himself,
that it is impracticable upon the principles of natural strength and reason, or of (what men call) that common good sense, which leads them above all things to establish an interest here. At any rate, he will be no more able to comprehend how salvation can flow through such a simple grace, as faith will appear to be to him, than a carnal Israelite in the wilderness could have accounted for the restoration of health from the sting of a serpent, only by looking on a brazen one suspended on a cross or pole. The antitype, or thing signified, stands equally inexplicable to mere professors of Christianity now, as the type stood to the worldly and nominal Israelites of old. Those, who have faith in God and are living for heaven, know how extremely difficult this business of living by faith is to them at all times, and what a real warfare is carried on by that life against themselves; and these will humbly own, that they can never hope to prevail in any instance, or at any time, but through that faith in the Son of God, which draws down his almighty power continually to their relief.
I may further observe, in this place, that these things do not appear to the believer, nor are they acquired by him, in an abstract, metaphysical way, full of groping uncertainty; but in the demonstration of the Spirit and with power, which works such trust in him, and gives such evidence to him, as nature can neither work nor give. “God hath said this very thing; therefore it is true;" is made, in the first instance, as certain a proposition to his mind, as any mathematical demonstration can be to his sight: and, “ God hath wrought what he said, therefore it is right or perfect;” is, in the next
instance, rendered as plain a matter of fact to him as his own existence. The truth of the Bible stands upon these grounds, and hath in this way been confirmed from age to age. “ JEHOVAH said; the ALEHIM said ; Jesus said;" with the infallible signs following what was said ; are the communications which God hath afforded to man, without descending otherwise to inform his judgement or reason, till he hath kindled and excited his faith. When we through grace believe, then we further understand, in these things, what to carnal reason alone, is, was, and ever will be, incomprehensible.
The creation of the world is, by its existence, obvious to every man. But the mode or manner of this creation, even in the things which are cognizable by sense, how incompetent is reason to explain? The theories, some of them presumptuous enough, which men have conjectured, are so numerous and contradictory, as prove but too plainly, that human reason may easily darken counsel without knowledge, but cannot find out God, nor study the Almighty, or his works, to perfection. If we come to redemption, which is a more elevated and spiritual theme; here reason usually fails at the very threshold, and blunders as she proceeds in a world of mysteries.* Nor concerning the office of the divine Spirit is she able, with more advantage, to inform herself. Here, the wind bloweth where it listeth, and she heareth the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it
• " Reason is an intellectual defect. For those beings, as God and the spirits above, who have the full force of intellection, need not reason; but apprehend truth by mere intuition." Aquin. 2a. 2æ. q. 49. a. 5.
by merece of interings, as