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were, a definite and permanent habitation. The name they give to this unknown existence, we have translated “substance;" and St. Paul, who was well acquainted with the philosophy of his times, uses precisely the same word, when he terms faith, “the substance of things hoped for.”
According to this, faith is that principle, or essence, which, as it were, binds and fixes our hopes ; which reduces them from a state of evanescence and confusion, into a settled and consistent form, by means of which, the hopes and promises respecting eternity become incorporated with us, and form a part of our very being, and without which, the hope of a hereafter
may dart through the mind without settling there, and the promises of God may appeal to the heart, and make no lodgment within it, “not being," as the Apostle says, « mixed with faith in them that heard." But faith is also the evidence of things unseen, and it is by being such an evidence that it has become the substance of things hoped for. It is the evidence of things unseen. The word which we translate “ evidence,” signifies full and perfect conviction, it is demonstration, or such full and clear evidence as brings conviction to the mind. Thus, when you speak of the evidence of your senses, you speak of the knowledge derived from them of the existence or nature of external things; and as you would define sight, the evidence of things seen, the Apostle defines faith, “ the evidence of things not seen,” so that we may conclude, that the faith by which the just man shall live, the faith which is “ the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," is a conviction by which the world to come is as powerfully and as vividly apprehended by the soul, as the existence of the world in which we live, is manifested through the
Having thus defined what faith is, the Apostle proceeds to shew what it has power to do, and places before us many instances of its efficacy; some proving that it has made man acceptable to God, and others setting forth examples of heroic virtue, which the faithful were enabled to exhibit in the sight of man. Amongst these examples, the most splendid instance of faith, and that from which we can most fully understand its power, is exhibited in the conduct of the Patriarch Abraham. In his extreme old age, the Lord promised him a son, in whose name his posterity should be called, and through whose seed all nations should be blessed. Neither his own age his wife prevents him from relying on the
promises of God. The child is born, and a new and powerful affection is awakened in the heart of the aged parent.
Again the Lord spake to him and said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt-offering, upon one of the mountains which I shall tell thee of.” Now as a man and a father, Abraham must have felt the pleadings of nature earnest against such a command. We can imagine also, that his reasoning faculties might have been seduced into the service of his affections, and have furnished plausible arguments against obedience. He could not, as we could, object, that the direction was contrary to the written commandments; but he might have considered how God had promised that this son Isaac was to be the father of mighty nations; he might have argued, that by obeying the present command, he must frustrate the past decrees; and, he might therefore conclude, (in the same manner as many reasoners amongst us) that God could not possibly have issued the command, because he could not discover the wisdom of it.
This would be the reasoning adopted by the natural man, but faith pursued a different course of inquiry. Abraham having first ascertained that it was God who spoke to him, did not commune with flesh and blood, as to whether he should obey. He was to put his child to death-the child he loved the child upon whose life the promises seemed to depend; but his faith was strong that God would confirm the assurance he had given; he knew that he could restore as well as take away, and thus with a steady faith, he hoped against hope, “believing in a God who quickeneth the dead, “ and calleth those things which be not, as though they were.”
Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness; he believed when beyond all rational expectation, a child was promised; he believed when it was announced, that from this child a great posterity should descend ; and when the same God who made this promise, commanded him to perform an act by which, according to human calculation, the promise must be defeated, Abraham conferred not with flesh and blood, but proceeded to obey the command, steadily believing that God would vindicate his own ways, and that, by means beyond the thought or imagination of man, his word of promise would conquer all seeming impossibility, and stand fast for ever. Such was the belief which was accounted to Abraham for righteousness ; such the strength of that sublime principle by. which the just man shall live.
This view of Abraham's faith, while it shews in a strong light, what that principle is, will also serve to illustrate the propriety of allotting to it so important a place in the fabric of the Christian religion. The practical object of religion is to restore us to the state from which we have fallen away, to remove the curse under which we were lying, and to heal the corruption of our nature. But the Scriptures intimate that all evil came upon man in consequence of the sin of unbelief. God had said, “Of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden thou shalt not eat--and “in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” And the serpent said, “ye shall not surely die.” The result you all know, the serpent was believed, the word of God was disbelieved, and death came into the world. Is there not, therefore, a harmony in the economy of the Divine Institutions, that, since the disbelief of our parents brought sin and evil upon themselves and their posterity, the belief of Abraham should be accounted to him for righteousness, and should make all nations blessed in his seed ; that as the want of faith in our first parents caused them and us to die, so the possession of this prin