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This same faith may be so manifested to others, as to afford evidence of the truth of gospel doctrines, concerning “ things
When the infidel perceives, that one, who was formerly a scoffer like himself, has become obedient to the gospel, were he to obey the dictates of reason, he would acknowledge the finger of God, and
say, “these miracles of grace are sufficient evidence of the truth of Christianity.” Indeed, the faitly produced in re. bellious men, and made visible in their conduct, has been, to multitudes, evidence which they could not resist, of all the unseen realities asserted in the Bible.
Faith, then, is more than simple assent to truth. It is not enough to credit divine testimony. We must feel divine power, exercised in changing the heart from enmity to love. We must have faith that will be evidence of the truth of the doctrines of grace. We must have that faith, which “ is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen."
We come now, SECONDLY, to the consideration of
FAITH IN OPERATION.
Faith is one in principle, but various in operation. Faith, in essence, is such a disposition as will lead the person possessing it, to receive and obey, imperfectly here, and perfectly hereafter, all that moral truth which God, in any manner, reveals to his una derstanding
“ Faith," says Saurin, “is a disposition of mind, that changeth-according to the various objects which are proposed to it.
Things not seen” is a scriptural phrase, of definite signification, for things divinely revealed. They are neither the objects of the natural eye, nor of our own consciousness. They are not external objects, seen in material light, nor things within us, seen by the faculty of reflection. They are the spiritual things, which are exhibited in the word of God. Faith perceives them with a perfect conviction of their reality.
If the object presented to faith be a particular object, faith is a particular disposition; and if the object be general, faith is a general virtue.”
Similar sentiments are expressed in the Presbyterian Confesa sion of Faith. “ By this faith, a christian believeth to be true, whatsoever is revealed in the word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein ; and acteth differently, upon that which
1 each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory; groweth up in many to the attainment of full assurance through Christ who is both the author and finisher of our faith.”
The whole of the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews gives a similar representation of the various operations of faith. By manifesting this benevolence of disposition, the “ elders obtained a good report.” Their good and honest heart was manifested in their piety of life, so that a good report of the ancient friends of God has come even to these latter ages.
Infidels, of proud, unrenewed temper of soul, deny the Mosaic history of the creation; but we, who have been renewed in heart, “ understand,” from the testimony of God, “ that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that the things which are seen were not made of things which did” previously “appear." To give credence to the divine testimony, respecting the creation of the world, is one operation of faith, peculiar to those who enjoy, either by tradition or written revelation, this divine ground of faith.
Aye! would he had framed his whole discourse according to that summary.
One changed in heart by the Spirit of the Lord, might be left without any evidence, except conjectural, that the things now seen, were made of nothing. In such a case his saving faith would not lead him to understand, what was not revealed. Whatever truth is clearly revealed to one, who has a right disposition, will be admitted and obeyed: but a truth not known, can be the object, neither of love to the new heart, nor of hatred to the carnal mind. According to the believer's knowledge will be his exercises of faith.
“ By faith, Abel," having the love of God, which induces obedience, " offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain," for Abel conformed to the divine command, and offered, as typical of the Lamb of God, the “ firstlings of his flock;" while Cain, following his own inventions, because he was destitute of love, brought what was not required, * " of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.”
Enoch was renewed in the spirit of his mind, and through the possession of this saving faith, so pleased God by exemplary obedience, that he “ was translated.”
“ Without this faith," which consists in rectitude of disposition, it is impossible to please God," by any external obedience.
So much knowledge is essential to the existence of the « obedience of faith," as shall constitute us accountable creatures. If we have “ the spirit of faith,” 2 Cor. iv. 13. or a new heart," all which is necessary to the performance of such actions as will please God, is the knowledge that God exists, and is a moral governor of the world.
“ He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." If the dying infant should have the new heart, he might in heaven have the communication of such knowledge, as should inspire deeds of faith, or the emotions of love to God, and gratitude to Jesus, on whose account the babe of apostate parents was taken away from actual evil, and exalted to the abodes of purity and bliss.
* How do you know that, Sir ? You have no evidence but Dr. LEE's opinion. It was faith, and not the matter of the offering, which made the difference between Cain and Abel's oblation. It is easier to invent some new doctrine than to support it by the scriptures.
This knowledge, in addition to faith in essence, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and many other holy people possessed in this life ; so that by many actions they pleased God. It was the same right disposition which led all these, in various ways, according to knowledge and circumstances, to the performance of the divine will. All did not understand the same truths, because more was revealed to some than others. All did not perform the same actions, because duty did not require in all the same operations of faith. Noah believed in hearty the testimony of God, concerning a deluge which he had not
He credited the word of the Most High, so as to make the future destruction by water present to his mind ; and he
! prepared an ark for his security, This was one operation of Noah's faith. Had his heart been unsanctified, he had disre. garded the threatenings of Jehovah, and perished with his impenitent neighbours.
We see the operation of Abraham's faith in his abandonment of his native country, and in his preparations for offering to God in sacrifice his beloved Isaac. Abraham's faith, however, did not make provision for an universal deluge ; nor did Noah's faith operate in the consecration of a son.
Having that confidence in God, which is exercised by every renewed mind, the parents of Moses disregarded the unjust mandate of the Egyptian king, and preserved the life of their
This son gave evidence of much love to God, by refusing princely honours and gratifications ; " choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” Time would fail, were I to attempt a representation of the operations of faith in those, “who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence
of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens."
Ye see, brethren, that this saving faith, operated in the ancients according to the knowledge they possessed, and to the circumstances in which the providence of God placed them. Some endured trials of mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonment, while others were stoned or sawn asunder, or “tortured, not accepting deliverance," to the shipwreck of faith. The operations of faith are as various now as they were in the time of the patriarchs. Some, like Abraham, may love God, according to their knowledge, while in uncircumcision, while destitute of the ordinances of revealed religion. 6 We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness,” when he was in uncircumcision. “For he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised ; that he might be the father of all them that believe,"** “ with the heart, unto righteousness,"'t “though they be not circumcised ; that righteousness might be imputed unte them also.”
Others, like Cornelius, a Roman, a converted heathen, who prayed from a new heart, before he knew the way of salvation by Jesus, may, in our age, experience the influences of the Spirit, so as by their conduct to extort from Peter the exclamation, “of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him."
Believers who enjoy the written word of God, differ in the powers of their understanding; and consequently must differ in those truths which are the objects of faith. Many things are revealed in the word of God to some, which are not revealed to others, because they have neither the same strength of mind, nor the same opportunity for searching and understanding the scriptures, Some revealed truths are adapted to the weakest capa