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which it comes in contact. The object of faith is the whole word of God, exclusively and inclusively; and particularly the gospel of Christ, or Christ Himself. The act of faith is threefold; it comprehends knowledge, approbation, and reliance. The understanding receives the truth, the heart approves it and depends on it. The necessity and suitability of the saving truth which the gospel discloses, are discerned by the genuine believer. He perceives that it is the
. only way, and that it is admirably adapted by Divine wisdom and grace to his state as a guilty, helpless, and undone sinner. As therefore the corresponding internal superficies of any mate- . rial substance which has been suddenly split without any mutilation of the parts, agree nicely with each other in a manner which no work. man's tool could produce; so does the provision of the gospel exactly meet the wants of a convinced sinner. The reciprocal correspondence which exists between these two things proves the Divinity of the gospel-plan, and produces in the soul a cordial acquiescence in it. The believer therefore embraces Christ with ardent affection as the sole foundation of human hope, and, renouncing his own righteousness, fixes
, his confidence exclusively on the atonement and righteousness of Jesus.
The principal office of faith is the justification of the soul before God' And this it doth, not meritoriously or by virtue of its own excellence, but instrumentally, as it embraces and applies that which is the sole meritorious cause of our acceptance with God, the righteousness of Christ. “ For by Him all who believe are jus“ tified from all things, from which they could “not be justified by the law of Moses," whether
ceremonial or moral. But, though this is the chief office of faith, yet at the same time it becomes the parent of “hope and charity,” and thus is itself “ justified by works," as St. James has fully declared.
Hope is the necessary effect of faith. It is an expectation of salvation founded on the promises of God and the merits of the Divine Mediator. It differs from faith as the effect from the cause. Faith receives the testimony of God that Christ has atoned for all sin and fulfilled all righteousness on the behalf of transgressors, and that, in consequence of this Divine atonement and righteousness, “God can be just and the justifier of him " that believeth in Jesus.” On this testimony and its reception into the heart as “faithful and
worthy of all acceptation,” hope builds her fabrick of glorious expectation that all the fruits of Christ's death and passion shall finally and in due succession be produced. The object of faith in this case is the Divine promise on which it rests. The object of hope is the thing promised which it expects.
“We through the Spirit wait “ for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Gal. v. 5.) The blessings about which hope is occupied are the result of our Redeemer's obedience unto death. In this faith trusts; and hereby an expectation of receiving the hope of righteous“ness" is formed within the bosom : while both faith and hope owe their existence and activity to the agency of the Divine Spirit.
The office of hope is the consolation of the believing mind both in life and death, the progressive purification of the heart from all carnal and worldly lusts, and its confirmation in its course both of active and passive obedience to the will of God. Christian hope is distinguishable from
the hope both of the worldling and the hypocrite, by the excellency of its object, the stability of its foundation, and the sanctifying effect of its exercise. It is “the hope of salvation.” It is “an • anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast." And “he that hath this hope in him purifieth “ himself even as Christ is pure.” May “the “ God of hope fill” both the writer and reader of
- with all joy and peace in believing, " that they may abound in hope through the
power of the Holy Ghost.”
CHARITY is the supreme love of God as the chief Good—as possessed of all perfection in Himself intrinsecally, and as being extrinsecally the fountain of all happiness to us.
It is the necessary product of faith and hope, and shews itself by an uniform and unlimited obedience to all God's commandments. It is the sum of the commandments, and the end of the moral law. Its office is to glorify God, to prove before men the sincerity of our faith, and to qualify us both for the service and enjoyment of God. As a former collect* afforded us an opportunity of discussing this branch of our present subject, we shall not now enlarge on it.
We proceed therefore to consider the order of these cardinal graces, which is a matter of high importance. In this the author of our collect hath not arbitrarily followed the dictate of his own imagination, but was directed and sanctioned by an inspired Apostle. (1 Cor. xiii. 13.) Faith justly takes the precedence on account of its office and priority of action. For it acts alone and independently of hope and charity in its instrumentality as the mean of reconciliation with God, as it is the hand that lays hold on Christ for
* See the Collect for Quinquagesima Sunday.
pardon and justification. After faith follows hope, its first-born child; and charity brings up the rear of the lovely train. We cannot hope for prot mised blessings until we believe in Jesus Christ, and receive the promises which are “in Him Yea “ and in Him Amen." Nor can we love God, until, by believing in Jesus Christ and hoping for good through Him, we behold God as reconciled to us and as become to us the author of eternal salvation. Yet charity, though the last in the series, is the first in dignity and importance as the end both of faith and hope, and intended to survive both, living and acting in the heavenly state when the necessity of faith and hope shall have ceased for ever.
The indissoluble connection of these Christian virtues is also a matter of importance. For though in the order of nature they follow each other, they are co-existent and reciprocally dependent. God hath joined them together, and no man can put them asunder. Impious therefore is the attempt both of the pharisee and the antinomian; the former of whom is an advocate for works without faith, and the latter for faith without works. “. Knowest thou not, O vain pharisee, that love is the soul of every good work, that love cannot exist without reconciliation with God, and that reconciliation with God is exclusively the effect of our Redeemer's righteousness which is to be embraced by faith?” “Knowest thou not, O vain antinomian professor, that faith, while it views and embraces a crucified Redeemer, and beholds God in Him reconciled to us by the blood of the cross, must necessarily produce gratitude and devotedness to God, and all the effects which naturally flow from a conviction
that we are “not our own, but bought with a “ price?” Thy “ faith being without works is « dead." It is a mere notional assent to truths in which thou art uninterested, and from which thou deriyest no benefit." Without faith there
” can be no legitimate hope or genuine charity; and faith necessarily produces both. Yet these graces are by no means to be confounded with each other, nor is the office of the one to be attributed to the other. They are co-existent, but not co-essential. Like the senses of the human body, these spiritual senses act together in unison, but not for the same specific ends. Like light and heat, they cannot be disunited; but they produce distinct effects.
The fountain from which these graces are all derived is God. This is implied in our collect; for while we implore from Him their increase, we acknowledge Him to be their author. And the doctrine is scriptural. “For to us it is given, “ on the behalf of Christ, to believe in Him." (Phil. i. 29.) The obedience of Christ is the meritorious cause of faith, which is freely given to us of God through His mediation. “It is there“ fore asserted by our Lord, that no man can “come to Him, except the Father draw him.” (John vi. 44.) And St. Paul has informed us, that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but “ by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Cor. xii. 3.) He therefore ascribes faith intirely to "the operation “ of God.” (Col. ii. 12.) Now if faith be of Divine original, hope must spring from the same source ; for hope is the product of faith. God is therefore called “the God of hope;" and its exercise is ascribed to “the power of the Holy “ Ghost.” (Rom. xv. 13.) A “good hope through
grace" is expressly called the gist of God our