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required to believe in an especial manner, as indispensably necessary for obtaining salvation. That is the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world, to seek and to save us who were lost. We must credit the record which God hath given of his Son, by his inspired apostles, and set to our seal, that all the declarations of scripture respecting his mediatorial offices, are true, and worthy of acceptation. If we are informed of his miraculous birth, and exemplary life, his extraordinary miracles, and heavenly doctrines, his ignominious death, and glorious resurrection, his prevalent intercession at the right hand of God, and the authority with which he is invested to govern his church and people; such intimations must be received “ with full assurance of faith." And this assurance is not an implicit credulity, but derived from the most unexceptionable evidence. For the apostles, who relate every thing which he did and taught, were eyewitnesses of the facts, as they accompanied him during the course of his ministry ; and no opposite testimony has been given by those who did not believe Christianity; but the historical narrative of our Lord's life was received as genuine, at a time, when if it had been false, it might have been contradicted. But, as this has not been done, we are authorized to conclude, that the evangelists “spaké the things which they saw and heard.”
Therefore, though we have not seen Jesus Christ live and die, and rise again, according to the scriptures, yet we believe that these events happened.
In like manner, we are justified in believing all that the apostles have delivered respecting the nature of his meritorious sufferings for the expiation of human guilt, and our acceptance with God through his mediation, be cause they were instructed in those doctrines by divine inspiration, and appointed to communicate the knowledge of them to mankind.- If we require a proof of their inspiration, it is rendered evident by the miracles which they were enabled to perform to attest their divine commission; as no man could do those miracles which they did, except God were with him.-Therefore, though we have not seen the Holy Spirit revealing the whole
counsel of God respecting the redemption accomplished by Christ Jesus our Lord, yet we believe it. But this faith will induce us to apply to him for those benefits which he hath purchased, and of which we stand in need; it will excite us to trust in his merits for the pardon of our sins, in his righteousness for the justification of our persons, in his intercession for the acceptance of our services, and in his grace to strengthen us with might in the inner man, and in his protection to keep us through faith unto salvation.
While faith is thus the evidence of things not seen, it is also the substance of things hoped for.
There are many discoveries in scripture of future events, and future scenes, which we believe shall be realized at some distant period. There is another world, in which the spirits of just men shall be made perfect, and in which they shall be advanced to far greater happiness, than eye hath seen, or ear heard, or ever entered into the heart of man even to conceive. The prospect of thiş hath been the joy and the rejoicing of all good men, in this land of their earthly pilgrimage. And their expectations of it are not the delusive dreams of imagination, but derived from the unerring testimony of him who came down from heaven, and knew what mansions are prepared for the righteous beyond the grave. As we therefore credit the relation of a traveller respecting the state of foreign countries which we never saw, because he has visited them ; so we have the same reason to believe all that Christ hath declared or revealed, concerning that better country which he now inhabits. The descriptions of it are indeed obscure, and the employments of those who are admitted there, but imperfectly discovered. Yet as we are only permitted to know in part, while we sojourn here on earth, we must supply our want of definite conceptions by the exercise of faith in those invisible realities, which shall hereafter be disclosed.
tion and faith which is now assigned us as a part of our moral discipline, and which is necessary to overcome the world. But, as the merchantman dispatches his cargo across the main, in hopes of wealth from the sale of his productions; so the Christian engages in working out his salvation by the practice of faith and obedience; assured, that in due season he shall reap if he faint not. He is persuaded, that his chief interest is distant and future, and therefore 'he does not satisfy himself with present gratifications; he is aware, that the lust of the flesh must be often denied, if he would secure the welfare of his spirit, and that while the world would induce him to take up his rest in its pleasures and enjoyments, he must 'be'looking forward to a better and more enduring substance eternal in the heavens. Thus, he walks by faith, not by sight, and has less regard to the things which are 'seen and temporal, than to those which are unseen and are eternal. In these various respects, then, faith is the substance of things hoped for; and the evidence of things not seen.
Having thus described the nature of faith in general, I proceed to consider,
II. The means by which it is established in the mind,
These are, the due exertion of our intellectual powers, and moral dispositions, accompanied by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. There is a preposterous notion entertained by many, that faith is the immediate gift of God, as much as any of those mental faculties with which we are endowed. They conceive it to be some sort of ' miraculous principle infused into the soul, which supersedes all necessity of enquiry on our part, in order to obtain it. Faith is indeed the gift of God, inasmuch as he has supplied the materials on which it is exercised, endowed us with capacities by which it is acquired, and blesses the application of them to establish it in our minds. But, the attainment of this grace is no more miraculous, than the knowledge of any science which we learn to understand by study rendered effectual through the divine blessing, or the acquisition of any virtue which is
strengthened within us by divine assistance. As in the natural, so in the moral world, certain means are requisite to be employed, for cultivating those religious principles, which make us wise unto salvation. As the husbandman must till his ground, and cast in his seed, if he expects to reap in the harvest the food which perisheth; so the Christian must examine the scriptures, and imbibe their truths deeply in his heart, if he would digest that spiritual food which may nourish up his soul unto life eternal.
Hence, we meet with innumerable exhortations to such an exercise, in various places of the sacred writings. Thus, we are required “ to have faith in God; to build up ourselves in our most holy faith; to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith ; to abound in the faith, and to hold fast the profession of it without wavering.” St. Paul enjoins on his converts, “ to be examples of faith, to be followers of them, who through faith and patience are now inheriting the promises, and to add to their faith virtue,” and every amiable quality; " that these being in
' them and abounding, they may neither be barren nor unfruitful in good works.”—As there are many truths revealed in the scriptures as objeets of our faith, their evidence should be fully investigated by the understanding, and the conviction thereby produced should influence'thre will and affections to a corresponding practice. The assent of the mind must first be produced, and the persuasion of the heart should follow as a natural consequence. Both these are necessary to a well founded, and efficient faith. For, unless the reason be satisfied by sufficient evidence, our faith of divine truths shall be weak and wavering; and unless our resolutions after well-doing are thereby confirmed, our faith shall be dead, and our profession unavailog. Our belief therefore should be rational, that it may be steady; and it should be operative, that it may be saving.
In order, that these requisites may be united, let us consider the ineans to be employed in establishing this principle in the mind. Thus, if we would obtain a firm conviction of the attributes of God as manifested in his
works, we should often contemplate the wonderful arrangements which the universe exhibits, both in its mag. nificent and minuter parts; and examine the wise relations of things which come within the reach of our researches. If we look up to the heavens, we cannot but perceive how well adapted the sun is to enlighten the earth, and the rain to fructify the soil; if we investigate the properties of organized bodies, both animal and vegetable, we shall soon be persuaded with what consummate skill they are fashioned every one of them; and if we reflect on the provision afforded for man and beast, we shall be constrained to acknowledge, that, the Lord is good to all, and that his tender mercies are over all his works. Thus, our faith in the power and wisdom and goodness of God may be easily confirmed, by an appeal to the perceptions of our own senses.
In like manner, a belief in the superintending providence of the Almighty may be excited, by considering the regular vicissitudes of the seasons as they revolve, in the natural world; and the distribution of good or evil which befals mankind according to certain laws established in the moral.
And if we would believe in a judgment to come, and an eternal state, those doctrines which revelation hath unfolded, may be corroborated by the sentiments which reason entertains respecting the design of our present existence, which is evidently appointed as a season of probation, when the characters of men are in some measure formed, and we are rendered proper objects of rewards or punishments. In order, therefore, to establish our faith in the doctrines of natural religion, we should frequently ponder those probable arguments which reason affords, til they be deeply infused into the mind, and become incorporated with the leading principles which actuate our conduct.
If, also, we would be firmly persuaded of the truth of revelation, it should be our care to investigate the evidence by which every subject contained in it is supported. -Thus, if it discloses to us the existence of spiritual beings, good and bad, superior to us in intellectual capa