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ciple should cause him in whom it operates to live.
But the importance of faith is manifested more clearly than it would be by attending only to this fitness in the economy of the Divine Government. The object of the scheme of redemption was two-fold. It was to effect blessings for us, it was to perform a change in us. It was to open the gates of Heaven to receive us, and it was to make us meet that we might enter therein. It is with these latter graces that our business lies. Man lying in corruption is to be purified by religion, and it is not difficult for us to comprehend that the nature of the corruption with which we are afflicted, demands the operation of a lively faith as a means by which it can be healed.
For what is the nature of all human corruption? May I not, in one brief sentence express it to be, a devotion to the things of sense, and an estrangement from what is spiritual ? Think for an instant upon the character of human corruption, and see whether this definition does not perfectly describe it. The change in our nature produced in consequence of the fall, appears to consist in the increased power of all that savours of mortality in us, and the consequent feebleness, and almost deadness, into which
the spiritual affections have been reduced. Hence it is, that the power of this present world is so influential upon us, and that the power of the world to come operates so feebly. There is within us, naturally, no principle which vividly convinces us of the power and the presence of God in all that we see or feel ; and, consequently, we are, in general, slaves to the influence of what can be seen, and what is present, because we are not conscious of the power of what is unseen, or what is to come. Will you not find, the consequence of such a state, that even those natural affections we most cherish, continually lead us into evil? Look with a calm eye upon half of the sin committed in the world, and you
will perhaps trace it to a source which we are apt to consider interesting or pure. How many times will you find friends, parents, kindred, committing for each other what they term trivial ills, that they may secure the prospect of what they consider great good—and how shall those things be remedied? If even the best of our natural affections may lead us to transgress, what shall be instrumental to restore and reclaim us ? Evidently the principle of faith—the principle which makes us feel the power of the world to come, and the presence of God—the feeling which gives the hope of immortality a settled residence within us—the principle which becomes a counterpoise to the influence of the world, by keeping ever in the mind a full conviction that there is a better world to come. This is the principle through which our restoration can alone be effected; which is of power to direct all our affections; to chain up all evil propensities ; to make God's law the standard of our actions, and cause us to shudder at the thought of ever violating it, however splendid and tempting the visions may be, which would seduce us from our duty.
You have seen how it was exemplified in the conduct of Abraham ; that his hopes and affections, and the appearance of natural impossibility could not shake his obedience towards God, or cause him to transgress. Compare this with that conduct by which Jacob obtained his father's blessing, and see how the want of faith led to a deception which God punished by the separation of the mother and her son, and by the fears and disappointments which frequently harassed the mind of Jacob. It had been promised to Rebecca, that her younger child should bear rule over the elder ; she had seen that this promise was in progress towards fulfilment, in the renunciation which Esau voluntarily made of his birthright; and yet, when Isaac sends forth his son, and promises that he will upon his return bless him, her faith fails; she does not reflect upon the fixedness of God's promise; she does not feel in how many ways the purpose of God may be made to stand fast, and the designs of Isaac may be frustrated; she does not apprehend that the voice of God himself might call upon him and command him to bless his younger born; and, therefore, because the affection for her younger child is strong, and because the hope of his prosperity is dear to her, she, distrusting God's power, and unconscious of his presence, makes an act of dissimulation one of the means by which the promise of God is fulfilled.
Thus, a hope derived from the Divine promises, and the purest of all earthly affections, became the source from which crime proceeded. But had the faith of Rebecca been well fixed, no weak temptation would have had power to move her. She would have relied upon the Lord's promise--she would have waited patiently the developement of his designsshe would have been conscious of his presence, and would have respected the moral law, which he had impressed upon her heart, too highly, to debase herself, and offend her God, by counselling falsehood or imposture.
power it has
Thus, we have seen what faith is, and what
It is a belief in the unseen realities, as powerful, and as constraining, as the belief we have in the external world. It has the power, by raising the mind to the contemplation of eternal things, to overcome all that in the natural man is enmity against God, and to regulate and restrain those affections and desires which may, under proper guidance, be conducive to our improvement and our happiness, but which, if not under the controul of a lively faith, from the infirmity of our nature, will frequently lead to evil.
But you have, I dare say, already observed that the faith we have been considering, is not that which contains the peculiarity of the Christian doctrine. We have considered rather what the Christian has in common with the believers in a natural religion, than that which is peculiar to himself. We have been considering, if I may use such an expression, the faith of nature, rather than of revelation. The faith of Plato, rather than of Paul.“ He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek him.” This is the faith upon which the religion of nature rests, which we must admit was gloriously illustrated by many a noble Heathen. But there is a faith