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don." We are likewise taught that without God, that is without the co-operation of his Spirit, we can do nothing. We cannot, therefore, by our own strength alone, seek him diligently or effectually. Yet does faith teach us that he will reward us if we seek him diligently; the search must, however, be preceded, as the prophet instructs us, by forsaking the way of wickedness and the thoughts of unrighteousness. But, being born in sin, in sin must we remain; in the ways of wickedness must we continue, unless we come unto Christ to conduct us out of them, and this we shall not do unless we believe that he is enabled to afford us the assistance which our condition requires : we have no authority, however, for believing that Christ will extend to us his helping hand, in this our state of need and distress, unless we comply with those conditions which at all times accompany his promises of assistance. Now I conceive that these conditions are concisely summed up in the commencement of our Lord's sermon on the mount : “ Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they
* Isaiah, lv. 6.
which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
In the foregoing address of our Saviour, we have a code of morals delivered to us which may be termed purely Christian, inasmuch as, before the appearance of Christ in the flesh, such had never been proclaimed to the world by any teacher what
In this address, moreover, we perceive the divine blessing promised to those who shall act according to its injunctions, in respect of their several situations: and in what, I would ask, does the
faith,” that is, the true faith as it is in Jesus, consist, other than in a belief of the truth of this his opening address? Yet, brethren, the faith of a Christian likewise teaches him that, by man in a state of nature, unaided and unredeemed by divine grace, the acts which are here implied cannot possibly be performed: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven;" but though with man such things are impossible, yet “ with God are all things possible.” Therefore was it that our Saviour afterwards, though on the same occasion, instructed the multitudes who were assembled about his person, that they were to pray
a St. Matthew, v. 3—12.
for the assistance of God, in order that “his kingdom might come, and that his will might be done in earth as in heaven.”
But the faith of a Christian further teaches him, that the works of righteousness already named, can alone be rendered acceptable to God by means of the blood of his only Son shed upon the cross : “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is, therefore, not merely a belief in the moral precepts of our Saviour, but likewise a full and implicit belief in the efficacy of his atonement, in which the right faith consists. Works, indeed, will not bring any one unto God, unaccompanied by a reliance on the divine love as exemplified in the death of Christ; neither will a reliance on this divine love in the least avail us, unless we shew a reciprocal love for him who first loved us, by performing the works of his commandments, and treading in the steps of Christ our Saviour, so well and so justly represented to us as the “ Lamb without blemish, and without spot.”
Faith, therefore, in its strict and truly Christian acceptation, is a firm reliance on the promises of God conveyed to mankind through his only Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is, as we have already observed on the testimony of St. Paul, recorded in his epistle to the Hebrews, the “ substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The things hoped for, and the
things not seen, in respect of the Christian disciple, are the heavenly reward to which he looks forward, when time shall have given place to eternity; and by faith such an one is induced to exert himself to the utmost extent, and to pray for God's Holy Spirit to assist him in his exertions, that through the merits of Christ he may attain this reward. He believes that this great reward, a thing at present hoped for, though at present unseen, will hereafter be realized in his behalf: nay, more than this, he not only believes it, but he knows of a certainty that if he perform his part of the Christian covenant, God will most assuredly perform His part; and that the things hoped for, and the things not seen, are as substantially and as evidently his, as though he were actually at the present moment in possession of all the joys and all the privileges of the kingdom of Heaven.
Such is clearly the nature of that faith for which the entire body of the Christian church is called on to contend. And it is indispensable that we should possess a correct understanding of this faith, lest we should in our mistaken zeal enter on a contest in behalf of error, rather than to support and uphold the truth. It is, moreover, not only necessary that we should be enabled to distinguish the true faith from a false one, but we must likewise well discriminate between a defective or erroneous faith, and him who in our judgment may be defective or erroneous in his method of propagating the true faith. I would urge all to recollect that every one
is more or less prone to error. Error, indeed, is the great characteristic of our present imperfect nature. In literature and the sciences, in the arts, and in the habits of ordinary and domestic life, errors and misapprehensions have ever been found to prevail ; dogmas, which perhaps had been estalished for centuries, have been overthrown; and theories, which one individual or one generation has received as true, have been regarded by another individual or a subsequent generation as insignificant and false. And as it has ever been with these dif. ferent branches of human knowledge, so is it also with religion. Notwithstanding the great truths which have been revealed to us, those things which have not been clearly revealed are certainly, to some extent, liable to error and misconception; or, perhaps, to speak more correctly, they are distinguished, without oftentimes being altogether erroneous, by the various and comparative degrees of perfection which they may have attained.
Permit me here further to remind you, that the faith for which you are called upon to contend, is at all times to be understood to comprehend that great Christian virtue which must be familiar to every reader of the writings of St. Paul. The following extract from this apostle's first epistle to the Corinthians, with which I shall conclude this discourse, will at once evince the absurdity of those who profess to contend for the faith, when by their own personal acts they. trample under foot one of its most divine and essential ingredients : “ Though I have