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THE CHRISTIAN LIFE A LIFE OF FAITH.
$ 1. TT is said respecting the author of the Night Thoughts,
I that in his garden he had the painting of a seat, which, at a distance, appeared really a seat, but when the spectator drew near, he perceived the deception, and read the words,
Invisibilia non decipiunt.
The things unseen do not deceive. How true! how important!
“ All, all on earth is shadow, all beyond is substance,
“How solid all where change shall be no more !" The Christian, while described as devoted to God, is represented as actuated by a principle, which makes him familiar with things unseen, more familiar than with the things of time and sense. That principle is Faith.
Faith in all cases, means confidence in the truth of certain propositions which are presented to the view of the mind. I am told there is such a country as India. The evidence of this proposition is such, as convinces my mind of its truth. I believe, or I have faith, in the statement. When convinced of this truth, I might be unwilling to take a voyage to India, but if willing to undertake it, should have no apprehension of finding that no such country existed.
In this case, and many others, what is faith but confidence in the truth of certain propositions? Confidence, resting upon suficient evidence. Less than this may be thinking a statement probable, but it is not believing. I may think it probable that a certain person will prove a kind friend, and this may influence my conduct, but I do not actually believe this, till the evidence convinces my mind that he is indeed a friend.
If the truths thus presented to my view are truths which immediately concern myself, belief in them produces corre
THE NATURE OF FAITH. spondent emotions and conduct. I am told of some impend. ing danger, that threatens me with ruin. Belief in the statement excites concern, alarm, and endeavours to avoid the threatening evil. I am told of some important advantage offered to me. Belief in the statement leads me to embrace the offer, and seize the proffered good. If I merely think it probable that such danger threatens, or such good is offered, I cannot be said to believe either the one or the other. I think it likely, that is all; and the mere likelihood, though it may excite some degree of alarm or desire, will probably do nothing more.
Saving faith contains a confidence in the truth of those statements, which the gospel makes respecting the Lord Jesus Christ; in other words, the mind is convinced of the certainty of the discoveries of the Scripture respecting him, and his salvation. That in this case, as well as where the subjects of time are concerned, this confidence is a principal part of faith, is evident from the divine word.
In saving faith, with this conviction of the truth of the great discoveries of the gospel, is united the cordial acquiescence of the heart in this way of salvation. The Scriptures declare that it is with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. When the believing patriarchs are represented as persuaded of the promises, it is added, and embraced them.c Jesus Christ appears to represent coming to him as the same thing as believing on him,d and believers on him are said to receive him. As the heart is represented as the seat of the affections, to believe with the heart, suggests not merely the idea of confidence in a truth proposed, or a friend revealed, but the cordial affectionate reception of that truth. And such is the case with every believer in the Son of God. Am I convinced that sin has undone me? Am I anxious for that salvation, which I feel beyond the attainment of human efforts? While in this state of mind, am I convinced that it is indeed a faith
ful saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sine ners? This is a declaration full of comfort. I feel it suited P to my condition. I perceive the Son of God such a Saviour
as my wants require. My heart welcomes this Saviour, and cordially acquiesces in this scheme of mercy; I rest on his (a) Rom. iv. 30–22. Heb. xi. 13. Heb. xi. 1. (6) Rom. x. 10.
(c) Heb. xi. 13. (d) Jolin vi. 35.
THE CHRISTIAN JUSTIFIED BY FAITII. promise, and intrust my all for eternity to his care. Now I can say, Lord, I believe.
Let it not be imagined that the view now given of saving faith, would insinuate that God is not its giver. He is strictly its author, as he enlightens the mind, and disposes it to form a correct judgment respecting the certainty of gospel truths, and as he disposes the heart to acquiesce in the gospel scheme of salvation, and leads the penitent to commit his eternal all to the Lamb that was slain.
$ 2. The Christian lives by faith, as by faith in the Son of God he is delivered from condemnation, and made the heir of eternal life, and as faith directs his conduct and governs his life.
While believers are thus represented as forgiven, justified, and accepted with God through faith; the Scriptures explicitly declare that this is not in consequence of some virtue existing in faith itself, but in consequence of what the Son of God has done and suffered, whose people they become by faith. Before they believe they are ungodly, and after they believe are still unworthy.
The atonement of the blessed Jesus, is that on which justifying faith more especially fixes. Hence it is described as FAITH IN HIS BLOOD.8 The expression is remarkable. It is not faith in his divine commission, faith in his rich benevolence, faith in his gracious promises, faith in his lovely character, but FAITH IN HIS BLOOD. And as a propitiation for sin it is, by faith in his blood, that the soul enjoys the benefits he bestows. The Socinian has faith in his divine commission: what will it avail him ? the Mahometan has the same. The humble disciple has faith in his blood. The importance of a faith which thus fixes on the atoning death of the Saviour, appears inculcated by himself, in the most solemn manner, when he, in a figurative discourse, represented his flesh and blood as the meat and drink of his disciples.
$ 3. The nature of faith is illustrated in the word of God by a reference to its effects. It is represented as a strong confi. dence in the truth of divine declarations or promises ; a confidence doubtless resting on the divine character, and so strong as to lead its possessors cheerfully to follow wherever God directed them to go, and cheerfully to perform whatever God
(5) Roin. v. 9, 10. Eph. i. 7. (c) Rom. iii. 25.
EFFECTS OF FAITH. directed them to do. Faith influenced Noah. Perhaps a century before the deluge, God announced that tremendous judgment, and commanded him to build the ark. At that time, and probably for many succeeding years, no indications of the flood were seen. Seed-time and harvest, suminer and winter, pursued their usual course. Sun and moon, and all the heavenly bodies, moved in their accustomed order. But God had spoken, and assured of God's faithfulness and veracity, Noah prepared for the dreadful day, which he was sure would come. He built the ark—the day of destruction arrived—but he was safe. Of Abraham, the father of the faithful, it is added, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went."" “ He knew not whether the people would be friends or enemies, kind or cruel.” Whether sorrow or comfort awaited him in that strange land. But assured of the wisdom and goodness of God, he confided fully in the promise that God made him. God had commanded him to forsake his country. This was sufficient. Wherever he might roam, God would be his guide. This was enough to render him safe and happy.
$ 4. In the account given by the word of God respecting faith, it is represented as producing effects similar to those which sight would produce. What sight is with respect to this world, faith is with respect to the next.
As faith in regard to eternal things, is similar to sight with respect to those of time, so it produces effects exactly similar. Were the Christian to see the Son of God expiring for his sins, what more could sight effect, than lead him to abhor himself, to hate his sins, and to yield himself a living sacrifice to his crucified Lord ? All this faith effects, wherever it is genuine. Were the glories of eternity unveiled to the believer's eye, and the bliss of heaven presented to his sight, what more could the sight effect, than lead the soul to seek its portion above, to slight the trifles of time, and to feel and act as a pilgrim upon earth? Where faith is possessed, all this will be effected; not with feelings as lively, or perceptions as vivid, as those produced by sight, but the choice will be as real, and the affections as truly turned to heaven, and fixed and centring there.
(h) Heb. xi. 8.
EFFECTS OF FAITH Were the scenes of eternal judgment, or the dark prison of eternal misery, presented to the Christian's sight, what could it effect more than lead him earnestly to flee from the wrath to come, and to prepare to render his last account? And this too faith effects on all that feel its saving power.
Were a dying Saviour, a blissful heaven, the awful judgment-throne, and a miserable hell, presented together to the Christian's view, what more could the sight effect, than lead him so earnestly to flee the dreaded evil, so devoutly to seize the proffered good, that, compared with this, health, and liberty, and friends, and life, should seem things of no account in his esteem? Could sight do more than lead him to resign all these, and to choose pain, and bonds, and death, so that he might but win Christ and heaven ? All this faith has done; and done not only in one solitary instance, but in millions of instances. It has been supposed that since Christianity arose, not less than fifty millions of martyrs have laid down their lives for its sake. Thus even when sufferings or death are in the way, faith still leads the true Christian forward: It is an unseen heaven that he seeks, an unseen hell that he dreads, an unseen God that he loves, and an unseen Saviour to whom he resigns himself. Yet, while all that in his esteem is most dreadful or most alluring is unseen, he avoids or pursues these unseen things, with a resolution as strong, and a heart as decided, as that of the most inveterate worldling, who is pursuing the visible objects of earth and time. It may rather be said, with a stronger resolution and a firmer decision. For let almost certain death stand between the worldling and his object, and he shrinks from the pursuit ; but he, whose faith is genuine, strengthened from above, will not shrink from the pursuit of Christ and heaven, though painful bonds, or certain death, obstruct his way.
In the illustrations of the effects of faith, which have already been adduced from the word of God, it is plain that its effects were such as sight would have produced. Had Noah seen the deluge, could he have done more than build the ark? Had Abraham seen the country to which God would lead him, and beheld even a thousand attractions, could he have yielded a more ready obedience to the divine command ?
In the case of Moses what could sight have done, which faith did not effect? Could he have suffered with more reso