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ness are round about him, justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.

This belief is a necessary principle to form our judgments, and direct our conduct, and has always actuated the minds of the faithful in every age of the world. By its influence, a firm persuasion has been produced, that he who has created and still sustains the universe and all its inhabitants, is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, and that he will be the support of his people to all generations. By it the patriarchs of old, who en. dured many hardships in their earthly pilgrimage, were enabled to confide in the overruling protection of their heavenly Father, who would guide them by his counsel while they lived, and afterwards receive them to glory. By it the saints who lived in obedience to the divine commandments under the law, were led to expect acceptance with God, through that Messiah who was promised in the times of the gospel. By it, we whose lines are fallen in these latter days, are taught to credit the testimony which God has given of his son; to receive the message of reconciliation delivered in his name, to believe all the doctrines which he hath revealed, to assent to the truth of those narratives respecting his life and actions, death and resurrection, which are preserved in the writings of the evangelical historians. By it also we are instructed to regard him as our intercessor at the right hand of God, through whom we may present our supplications with success, by whom is conveyed to us every blessing of a spiritual nature, by whom the affairs of his church are conducted, and by whom the world will at last be judged with impartial righteousness.--By faith, in short, we are enabled to realize to our view, every object which revelation has discovered, and to apprehend things that are unseen and eternal, with as full conviction as if they were seen and temporal. And under the influence of this principle we draw nigh to God with assurance and confidence, and perform every act of religious service with becoming solemnity, conscious that he who searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins of the children of men, requireth uprightness in the inward part. For, without faith it is impossible to please God; but by its possession, every office we perform in the Christian life ascends up in sweet memorial before the throne of the Majesty on high. Since faith is so indispensably necessary for all the purposes of true religion, it will be an important inquiry to consider this subject more fully in detail; and therefore I propose to shew in the following discourse,

1. The nature of that religious principle, denominated faith.

II. The means by which it is established in the mind.

III. The effects which it produces on the heart and life.

IV. The application of the subject.

I. The general acceptation of the term faith, requires to be explained, that we may understand its nature and properties. There have been many strange and mystical notions entertained respecting this principle, which are altogether inexplicable in themselves, and inconsistent with the experience of mankind, or the declarations of scripture. Some theologians who have treated of this subject, have darkened counsel by words without knowledge, and involved it in a maze of scholastic subtleties; and such is the disposition of many persons to consider every religious topic as containing some metaphysical nicety, that the more unintelligible any doctrine is represented, so much the more does it seem to partake of a sacred character. But we have not so learned to understand the Christian religion; as the whole system of revealed truth is a series of propositions conceivable by the human mind, and intended to influence our lives and actions.-If this be the case, then faith must be of such a nature, as to contain in it a practical efficacy which may be useful in directing human conduct.

Accordingly, scripture teaches us, that “we walk by faith, not by sight,” and that true Christians “ look not so much at the things which are seen and temporal, as at those which are unseen and eternal.”

This gracious endowment, however, is not the offspring of a heated imagination, but a rational principle establish

ed in the mind upon a solid foundation. It may be defined, a firm persuasion of religious truths, obtained from evidence sufficient to convince him who believes them, and producing a corresponding effect on his heart and life. This evidence arises from certain criteria, which vary according to the nature of the subject propounded to our investigation. Thus, one criterion of evidence consists in the report of our senses concerning any object of perception presented to our view. When we see any thing happen before our eyes, we are convinced of its reality, and cannot suffer ourselves to doubt of it, any more than of our own existence. Such a belief


be denominated the faith obtained by actual perception.Another criterion of evidence is that which is derived from the deductions of experience. Thus, we have found that at certain seasons of the year, heat or cold most generally prevails, but we cannot be certain that these atmospheric changes will invariably occur; the most that we can reckon upon is, that such effects will probably continue to be produced in their usual vicissitudes. Such a belief may be designated, probablé evidence arising from experience of past events. A third criterion of evidence is that of reason, which enables us to infer certain causes from effects which result from their operations. Thus, when we observe any mechanical instrument adjusted in its several parts with dexterity and skill, we conclude that some person has employed his ingenuity in its contrivance and formation. Such a belief may be termed, the faith derived from the deductions of reason.-A fourth criterion of evidence is that of testimony. Thus, when a person of accredited veracity affirms any fact, which he had an opportunity of knowing, and when no sinister motive could induce him to falsify his word, we credit his relation without scruple, and hesitate not to believe such a true and faithful witness. This belief may be described as faith founded on the evidence of testimony.- A last criterion of evidence is, that of demonstration. Thus, when mathematicians aver, that the whole is greater than its part, such a proposition is assented to at once, because it appears self-evident to every one capable of the least reflec


tion. The belief excited in the mind by such a discovery, is faith obtained from demonstrative conclusion.

Now, since these are the media, by which every truth proposed to the mind must be judged of; it is easy to ascertain the nature of faith, when applied to every subject of investigation.-Even religious truths themselves will be found to be corroborated by one or another of these species of evidence, and our belief in them must be derived from some of these sources of knowledge now mentioned. There are various objects on which faith is exerted, that render the nature of it complex, and somewhat different in its several operations. Thus, the first principles of natural religion are received by faith as indubitable truths which are cognizable by the human understanding, and sufficiently evident to produce conviction in the mind. The existence of God, and his physical attributes are proved beyond a doubt by the creation of the world, for “ the invisible things of him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”

Whoever contemplates the works of nature, and considers their wise adaptation to the purposes for which they are subservient, must be convinced that some mighty Intelligence presides over the universe, and upholdeth all things by the word of his power. Therefore, though we never saw God at any time, yet mankind have always believed in a Supreme Being.

In like manner, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, are other principles of natural religion which are objects of faith. The arguments derived even from the light of nature to prove these doctrines are highly probable, and have convinced reflecting men in every age of the world of their apparent truth. Thus, the immateriality of the soul, and its capacity of thought and action independent of corporeal sensations, its tendency to progressive and indefinite improvement, and the necessity of vindicating the justice of God, by treating men ultimately according to their works, have ever been esteemed undeniable proofs, that after death, the souls of men will exist in another state of

being, and be happy or miserable, according to the deeds now done in the body. This dictate of nature has since been confirmed by revelation, which hath brought life and immortality to light. As far, however, as these truths were discoverable by the investigation of the human mind, our faith in them arises also from the deductions of reason, and though we are not acquainted with a future state, yet we believe it.

But there are other objects of faith, than those which reason discovers, peculiar to revelation. Such are all the discoveries respecting the existence and agency of good and evil spirits, the confirmation of the former in a state of blessedness, and the defection of the latter from their heavenly Sovereign, together with the punishment inflicted for their impious rebellion; the seduction of our firs parents from primeval innocence by the temptation of Satan, the deplorable condition of the human race by the introduction of sin, the method adopted for rescuing them out of it by the mediation of Christ, the efficacy of his mission into our world for restoring all who believe in him to the favour of God, the offices he now executes in the court of-heaven in our behalf, the influences which the Holy Ghost exerts on the minds of the faithful, and the final destiny of the righteous and the wicked at the day of judgment.

These and other truths which are contained in the scriptures, could never have been known unless communicated by revelation from above. The subjects of this revelation may be classed under several particulars, which comprise the substance of the faith once delivered to the saints, and they are each proved by evidence peculiar to the nature of the truth discovered. Thus, one species of subject is a historical narration of facts which happened, or the lives of individuals recorded for our example and instruction in righteousness. Now, our faith in these is founded on a persuasion, that the writers of the sacred volume were acquainted with the matters which they relate, and that their narrative has been faithfully transmitted through successive generations to the present day. The evidence, therefore, on which we credit the historical

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