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may be deceived? Is it not possible that we are preparing all this disappointment and ruin for ourselves? I put these questions, not to inflict needless pain, but to give seasonable warning. We need not be deceived. We are under no necessity of urging our way onward to the judgment with a lie in our right hand.' Some of the more common grounds of deception and disappointment have been pointed out. Are we resting on them? Let every reader search his deceitful heart to the bottom, and determine for himself. There is a hope which, in the hour of trial, will be as an anchor to the tossed soul; and there is a hope which is as the spider's web. There is a hope of more value than worlds; and there is a hope which is worse than nothing. Both, reader, are before you. Both are within your reach. Give all diligence, and you may secure the one; sleep on in false security, and you must hold to the other. Every thing invites to instant watchfulness, examination, and effort. The suggestions of reason, the whispers of conscience, the decisions of God's word, all unite in saying, 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' Heaven lifts its portals to allure you upward; hell warns you with terrific murmurs to turn away and come not thither; while a voice from the throne of judgment, loud as seven thunders, breaks upon the ear, 'Prepare to meet thy God.'
HOPING, YET TREMBLING.
My soul would fain indulge a hope
I hope to hear, and join the song,
But oh-this dreadful heart of sin!
The scene must then forever close,
No gospel grace can reach me there,
Come then, O blessed Jesus, come,
And bid a sinner live.
PUBLISHED BY THE
AMERICAN DOCTRINAL TRACT SOCIETY. PERKINS & MARVIN, AGENTS,
Depository, 114, Washington Street, Boston.
NATURE AND INFLUENCE
ALTHOUGH the nature of faith seems to be very simple and obvious, and the language of the inspired writers respecting it very intelligible; there is perhaps no subject, which has been more perplexing to the minds of men, or on which they have entertained more obscure and erroneous conceptions. This deplorable fact may be accounted for by the following considerations.
1. The objects of faith are remote from the province of our senses. Our earliest attention is directed to the present world. As creatures of sense, we form a habit of looking at the things which are seen. When therefore we attempt to get right views of faith, we are under the necessity of casting off the dominion of our early habits; of counteracting the influence of temporal things; of breaking away from the enchantments of sense, and turning the current of our thoughts and feelings into a new channel. No person, who has in earnest attempted this, needs to be told with what difficulties it is attended. 2. Another thing, which renders it difficult for us to get clear and operative views of faith, is, that the language which describes it has been so often heard and spoken by us without any correspondent conceptions or feelings. This custom of speaking or hearing the words of inspiration, and of Christian piety, without the conceptions which those words ought to excite, creates a Lew difficulty. For whenever that language is repeated, the mind is apt to lie in the same listless state, as formerly. We find it hard to bring ourselves to attend in earnest to a subject, which has often passed before us without exciting attention.
3. It is still more to the purpose to observe, that such is the nature of faith, that it cannot be rightly apprehended without being experienced and felt. Christian faith does not consist chiefly in a speculative discernment of external objects. It is, in a great measure, a matter of affection. But how can an affection be properly known, except by those who have been the subjects of it? And even as to real believers, faith exists in them in so low a degree, that they are exposed to something of the same difficulty. For how can they form lucid conceptions of that, which operates in their own minds so feebly, that it is hardly visible ?—But
4. It is most of all important to observe, that right apprehensions of faith are prevented, and mistaken ones occasioned, by dispositions opposed to faith. The corrupt affections of the heart render us blind to spiritual, holy objects. They not only prevent us from exercising faith, but make us averse to perceive what it is; because such perception would lead to self-reproof and self-condemnation. In this case it is eminently true, "that the natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit; for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." And sinful affection, so far as it prevails, hinders spiritual discernment in Christians, as really as in the impenitent.
Such considerations as these may help us to account for the obscure and erroneous views which are commonly entertained of faith, and for the peculiar difficulty which attends all our efforts to make it well understood.
My present object is to illustrate the nature and practical influence of faith. And in doing this, I shall avail myself particularly of the instructions contained in Hebrews, xi.
The sacred writer begins his description thus. faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The original word here rendered substance, primarily signifies a pillar or basis, on which any thing is firmly supported, so that it cannot be moved aside or fall. Nearly allied to this is the metaphorical sense; firm trust, confidence, a certain, unshaken hope, on which, as a basis, the mind rests. Faith is as full a persuasion of those things which God has re
vealed, as can in other things be produced by the evidence of our senses. It gives present subsistence and reality to the objects of hope.
Faith is also the evidence of things not seen. It is, as the original word signifies, a proof, or demonstration, made by certain evidence. As here used, it is rather the effect produced in the mind by evidence; the full persuasion which results from the most satisfactory proof.
You will perceive that the faith here spoken of, respects not only the future good, which is made known by the promises of God, and is the proper object of hope, but other invisible things, even things past, which God has made known to us. The very first instance of faith here mentioned, relates to past events. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were made by the word of God."
The foundation of faith is the moral perfection of God, particularly his veracity. The understanding of God is infinite; therefore he cannot mistake. God is infinitely holy and good; and therefore he cannot lie. In the exercise of faith, we fix our eye upon a Being of absolute perfection. We know that whatever such a Being declares, must be truth. In this general view, faith seems to have as real a concern with the manifestations which God makes in his works, as with the declarations of his word. When we observe the works of God in creation and providence, we believe that the manifestations he there makes, and the instructions he gives, are true. We know that a Being of perfect moral excellence will no more deceive us by the aspect of his countenance, or by the motion of his hand, or by the characters which his finger inscribes on his works, than by the words which he utters.
It is evident that the ultimate foundation of religious faith is more sure, than that of the most confident human belief in various other instances. Does our belief rest on the opinion or the testimony of man ? Man may be mistaken, or may deceive. Does it rest on the deductions of reason? Those deductions may be fallacious. But the word of the LORD is infallible truth; and so it becomes a foundation for the most certain faith. The foundation of religious faith must be the word of God.
It must be a declaration, for the truth of which