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IV. Every man is conscious that he is a free agent in believing or in disbelieving, and, consequently, feels that belief in the testimony of God is an act of obedience which he is bound to render. As we are in no case required to believe beyond the weight of evidence, so are we capable, in every case in which our faith is required, of weighing the sufficiency of evidence. More especially does this remark hold true, in regard to the varied and ample testimony which attests divine revelation. The majority of mankind, indeed, cannot, from want of opportunity, investigate the body of evidence on which the truth and divine authority of christianity rests; but they are quite capable of knowing, from their excellency, suitableness, and tendency, whether the doctrines be of God. They may also discover from the rich provision which the gospel makes for their spiritual necessities, whether it has proceeded from the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift. In this way they may have the witness in themselves.
Is not every man, whatever be his talents or opportunities, bound to bring the gospel to this experimental test ! If this be the duty of all, it must be the duty of all to believe. Capable as they are of distinguishing the truth and divine authority of revelation, they are capable of receiving it, and consequently of giving it that entertainment which God demands for it.
V. The mind in believing or disbelieving, wherever the passions are concerned, is very much influenced by the state of the heart. We know from history,
observation, and experience, that it yields or withholds assent, in every such case, not so much according to the weight of evidence, as according to the dispositions called into exercise. But surely it will not be denied by any, save those who degrade the nature of man into the level of a mere mechanical contrivance, that we are accountable to God for the dispositions which we entertain; and that should we allow
l our feelings and wishes so far to influence us in a case of deep and of eternal moment, as to bias the understanding against the light of truth, or against the use of those means by which this light might shine into our hearts, we are chargeable with great guilt before God, and in the estimation of our own conscience.
Is it not, however, to an eyil state of heart, and even to enmity against God, that the Scriptures ascribe the unbelief of sinners in the glorious gospel ? Do they not affirm that the will is disinclined to give it a favourable reception, and, therefore, the mind makes choice of darkness rather than light? "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life. How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? The carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
VI. Faith, as an act of the human mind, is represented throughout the Scripture as in a high degree virtuous and praiseworthy, and unbelief in the testimony of God as extremely criminal. Faith is there set forth as an act of obedience, as the confidence of the heart given to God,-as a principle which is essential to the exercise of true virtue, which controls and regulates the affections and desires, and gives to what is yet future and unseen the reality of what is present and observed. But unbelief is exhibited as the opposite of this, as a withholding from God the love and confidence of the heart, as a denial of the truth of God, and direct rebellion against his authority
* St. John, v. 44. Rom. vii. 8.
All its criminality it is impossible for us to estimate. It sets aside as unworthy of credit and of confidence the testimony which God has given of his Son, and, therefore, to use the language of Scripture, makes God a liar. It is the act and indication of a mind in immediate hostility to his character, his truth, and purposes. It is a wilful, and therefore most wicked, rejection of an unspeakable gift, the expression of infinite wisdom, love, and power.
Its immediate effect is, to shut out the light of God from the mind, to exclude from the efficacy of the propitiation of Christ, to bar the heart against the influences which can soften and renew it, and to prepare for a final and eternal separation from the gracious presence of God.
Section III.-Obedience to God considered as an
act of cordial submission.
This form of obedience to the will of God is ex. pressed by the words submission, and resignation :a duty peculiarly required from sinful creatures, whose mortal career is characterized as of few days, and full of trouble.
As to the nature of this duty, it should be remarked, that it consists not in a submission to evils, but to the wise and gracious will of God in their appointment. We may, very consistently with the most dutiful acquiescence, have a lively sense of the extent of the afflictions which we are called to endure; and it is not improper in us to wish, and to use all lawful methods, to escape them. We may feel the deepest distress from our sufferings, and earnestly pray for deliverance from them, and yet be truly resigned to the will of God. We have a most instructive example of this in the case of our Lord himself in the garden of Gethsemane, when being in agony his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground; he fell on his face, and prayed, my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." He deprecated the sufferings which were approaching him, and the pain, and the ignominy of the cross ; but notwithstanding he perfectly submitted to the will of his Father.
In true submission, then, there may be a very lively sense of sufferings, and great anguish experienced under them, while, at the same time, the heart cordially acquiesces in the good pleasure of God. Indifference to them, were this possible, is incompatible with the exercise of this duty. For all afflictions, whatever be the source from which they immediately spring, are the expressions of the will of God in his government of this world ; and indifference in any case to the expressions of his will, especially when these immediately relate to ourselves, must be highly
unbecoming and sinful in us. My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.” It was the complaint of the prophet that Israel disregarded the discipline and rebukes of the Almighty. “O Lord, thou hast struck them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return."
In a cordial submission to the dispensations of God, because they are of his appointment, there is an approval of the understanding, arising from the conviction that all which God does is good, as well as holy and just; and that though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies ; for he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. There is a subjection of the heart and will to God in the discipline of his providence, and an ordering of the affections and temper of mind in accordance with the frowning aspect of the divine government. If, says the person who is thus truly resigned, I shall find favour in his eyes, , he will remove this painful visitation; but if he shall say, I have no delight in thee, behold here I am, let
I him do to me as seems good in his sight.
It is scarcely necessary to prove that resignation is an act of obedience which man is bound to render unto God. Consider, I. His unquestionable right to dispose of us, and
He is the sovereign Lord, Ruler, and Proprietor of all things, who has given us being, and who continues to bestow on us life, and breath, and