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Faith shows us the infant church struggling with persecution, interests us in all its changes, its depres. sions and its power, its declension and its reformation, till we see at length, from the handful of dis. ciples, who stood gazing in astonishment at their master ascending into heaven, there is sprung an innumerable multitude of christians, of all people, and nations, and languages; and the religion, which once found shelter in the breasts of only a few unlettered Jews, is now the religion of the civilized world. :
These are some of the past events in the dispensa. tions of God's providence, to which faith transports us back through the long vista of a thousand years. How great and interesting are they, when compared with the ordinary occurrences of history! But the invisible things of the passing moment are presented to us, by faith, in a clear and affecting light. We learn, habitually, to see God, the father of all, sitting undisturbed at the head of his works, where nothing escapes his notice, or surprises his precaution. The hairs of our heads, we believe, are numbered by his omniscience; and not a sparrow falls to the ground, but he discovers it; not a lily spreads its solitary beauties to the sun, but he clothes it in its colours ; not a blade of grass withers unperceived on the field.
What though, in our times, empires are daily blotted out of being, and the constitution of society seems labouring with convulsions; though the long established boundaries of nations are changing with the changes of the moon, and the records of human transactions present nothing but unexpected elevations and depressions, triumphs and defeats; though the astonishing march of events baffles all your cal. culations, and sets at nought your sagacity; now, now is the moment, when faith will bear you away to the secret place of the Most High, and cover you with the shadow of the Almighty. She assures us, . there is one being, to whom all this mysterious and complicated system of vicissitudes is plain, and who, by the simple motions of his will, guides the conflicting movements of matter and mind steadily to the conclusions he desires; and who comprehends the grand catastrophes of national and imperial contests with the same facility that he discerns the natural termination of an individual's life. To the counsels of such a being as this faith admits us'; and where she cannot make us comprehend, she gives us confidence. We trust, and we are safe ; for though we see no further than to assure us, that God's views are unobscured by distance, and his throne unshaken by revolutions, it is enough.
But the future realities, which faith discloses, are yet more interesting, more inspiriting, more awakening and awful. Some of them contain consolations, which ages of sorrow would not be able to exhaust, and others bring with them terrors, which ages of security in vice could never entirely efface.
Faith discloses to our view the future condition of society, and cherishes the delightful hope, that the time is approaching, when the mild influences of the gospel of Jesus shall subdue the passions of men, soften the rudeness of the uncivilized, assuage the resentments of the powerful, break the rod of the oppressor, and lift the lowly from the dust; when the lamb shall lie down by the side of the lion, and a little child shall lead them together ; when knowledge shall enlighten, virtue ennoble, prosperity cease to corrupt, and peace to enervate the human race. .
Faith transports us, also, beyond the successive generations, which now people this portion of the world, to the day, when the caverns of the earth are breaking up, and the tombs are pouring forth their inhabitants, when the sea renders up the dead that are in her vast repositories, and the races of men, who have slept for ages in forgetfulness,
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awake to appear before God. Faith places us in the midst of this vast assembly of the reanimated. Small and great are there. The books are opened, and the world are judged, and pass off on each hand towards the region of their final destination. Beyond, we see an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant; and, throned in light inaccessible, we dare even to lift our thoughts to the seat of Jehovah. To the eye of faith hell, also, is open, and destruction hath no covering. But further faith fears to carry us; and we find, too soon for our impatient spirits, that the provinces of faith and imagination are distinct, and that it is too great temerity to venture to confound them.
Thus, my friends, I have attempted to enumerate some of the most remarkable facts, which faith presents to our conceptions. You see, it is the province of this principle of our minds to impress us with the reality of things invisible, whether in past scenes, in present transactions, or in the fathomless abyss of futurity. It is truly the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If the human mind had been constructed without a principle like this, it would have been always employed about the mere objects of the senses, and the present consciousness of its own existence. The human faculties could never have been improved, and the capacity of intelligence would have been for ever shrunk up within boundaries as narrow as those, which limit the brutal creation. Let us bless God, then, that he has, to the capabilities of the human mind, added all the advantages of religious faith, so that we can live as if we saw things which are invisible, that we can reap delight from the contemplation of his character, triumph in the past displays of his wisdom, trust unreservedly in the present operations of his hand, and enjoy the delights
of religious anticipation. By this principle eternity links itself to time, and there is no chasm in our existence. Heaven joins itself to earth; and God, the grandest existence, about which our faculties can employ themselves, is no longer the subject of our bewildered reasoning, or the unknown object of our fears, but the hope, the trust, the joy, the salvation of his faithful people.
HEB. XI. 1.
NOW FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS
The next point we are to consider, according to our proposed division of the subject, is the REASONABLENESS of religious faith.
It is a common artifice of those, who wish to depreciate the value of this essential principle of a christian's life, to represent faith as something opposed to reason. So far is this from being true, that faith is, in fact, the most reasonable thing in the world; and, wherever religion is not concerned, the universal practice of mankind evinces, that such a princi. ple is indispensable to the most common exercise of the understanding, and to the daily conduct of life. Faith is reasonable, because it is the involuntary homage which the mind pays to the preponderance of evidence. Faith, that is not founded on testimony, is no longer faith.
You, for example, believe that you have been supernaturally furnished with the sentiments you entertain, but if you cannot explain to others the evidence on which you rest this assurance, be not surprised, if they continue incredulous. You may have been instructed in dreams, or been favoured with happy