Page images
[ocr errors]

own essential nature and perfections, and the righteousness of his law and government. In the same manner, he obtains information respecting the creation of the world, the entrance of sin and misery, the fall of man, the evil and desert of sin, the deceitfulness and wickedness of the human heart, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the future judgment, and an eternal state of happiness or misery. Men may conjecture and dispute on these subjects ; but faith, receiving the testimony of God with the teachableness of a child, satisfies the mind and influences the conduct, as if we saw the things believed. It is therefore impossible, thus to credit these doctrines, and not take warning to “ flee from the wrath to come.” Faith must, in this case, produce fear of threatened punishment: and, as it is always accompanied with some feeble discoveries of mercy, it will also in some degree soften and humble the heart to repentance, and excite earnest inquiries after salvation.

But we are especially called upon to believe the testimony of God concerning his Son. “This is “ the record, that God hath given to us eternal “ life, and this life is in his Son : he that hath the “ Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of “ God hath not life.” The numerous and decisive declarations of scripture on this subject have induced some persons to speak of faith, as exclusively meaning a reception of Christ for salvation : and no doubt this is the grand exercise and use of it. Yet in fact, unless we believe many other revealed truths with true humiliation of heart, we never can believe in the Son of God in a saving manner. We may assent to the doctrines of grace,

and abuse them; but we cannot understand their nature, glory, and suitableness to our case and circumstances.

True faith simply credits the divine record concerning the person of Emmanuel; his essential and eternal Deity, and his voluntary incarnation, that he might be our brother and surety,“ God manifest in the flesh;" his obedience of infinite value, and the atoning sacrifice of his death upon the cross; his resurrection, ascension, and intercession in the presence of God for us; his several offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; and all the various particulars, concerning his power, truth, love, fulness of grace, mediatorial authority, and future coming to judgment. This belief cannot be separated from a cordial compliance with his invitations, a thankful reception of him in all his characters and offices, an habitual dependence on him for salvation, and a constant application for all the blessings procured for us by his sufferings and death. Thus we spiritually“ eat his flesh and “ drink his blood ;" which are “ meat indeed and “ drink indeed :” and thus we feed on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.'

"To you that believe he is precious.” In proportion to our faith, Christ becomes to us the

pearl of great price ;” and we grow more and more solicitous lest we should come short of him and his salvation. This renders us decided in renouncing other confidences, “counting all but loss “ that we may win Christ, and be found in him ;" diligently using all the means of grace, observing the directions given us, and making every sacrifice necessary for the securing of this main concern. Joyful hope will animate us with most lively gratitude. Advancing knowledge and 'matured experience will render our dependence more simple ; and, receiving continually from the fulness of Christ the supply of all our wants, he will become more and more glorious in our eyes and precious to our hearts : while increasing sanctification, and abundant diligence in the work of the Lord, will enhance our sense of obligation, without in the least deducting from our simplicity of reliance on him as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemp“ tion.”—“ We are crucified with Christ: never“ theless we live ; yet not we, but Christ liveth in

us : and the life that we live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us." I

True faith has likewise respect to the "exceed“ing great and precious promises” of scripture. These are sure testimonies of God ratificd by all the

engagements of the new covenant, in the blood of the great Mediator ; and the promised blessings belong to all true believers, and to them exclusively, though they cannot always perceive their own title to them.

The doctrines and promises of scripture relate very much to the person, offices, and influences of the Holy Spirit. If then we truly believe these divine testimonies, with application to our own wants, and perceive the value of these life-giving, illuminating, sanctifying, and comforting influences ; we shall certainly depend on them continually. Thus we shall believe in the Holy Ghost,


I Gal, ii, 20.

and honour him together with the Father and the Son, as the triune God of our salvation.

“ Faith is ” likewise “the evidence of things “not seen." It perceives the hand of God, and hears his voice, in all the varied events of providence; it realizes his holy, heart-searching, and gracious presence in all places; it penetrates invisible things ; lays heaven and hell open to our view: contemplates the world of good and evil spirits with which we are surrounded; and looks forward to judgment and eternity, as just at hand. Thus, it supplies the want of sight and sense. “We “endure, as seeing him that is invisible.”

“We “ look not at the things which are seen, but at the

things which are not seen.” We set God before us in our daily conduct and conversation; we perceive his special presence with us in his sacred ordinances ; we speak to him in prayer and praise; we hear his word of instruction and direction ; we have “ fellowship with the Father, and with his “ Son Jesus Christ;" we“ walk with Godby faith ; we stand, we war, we run, we obey, and endure by faith : believing, we rely on God for strength, help, protection, support, and comfort according to his word; and thus are emboldened and enabled to face danger, resist temptation, renounce the world, bear the sharpest sufferings, and persevere in the hardest services, to which we can be called. 1

It is evident that faith alone can answer these purposes ; and that no other grace of Christianity, however excellent and necessary, can supply its

Heb. xi.

place. Faith alone can appropriate the instructions of scripture; form our relation to Christ, that we may be " made the righteousness of God in “ him :" seek supplies of every blessing from his fulness ; rely on the faithfulness of God for the performance of his promises ; supply the want of sight, and give nearness and certainty to invisible and eternal things.-But it is also evident that an assent to certain historical facts, or a system of inactive notions, or a groundless confidence of the divine favour, cannot be the faith of which such things are spoken. For this is a living and operative principle: it calls forth fear, hope, desire, aversion, love, gratitude and every other affection of the soul, into most vigorous and abiding exercise ; and by their combined or varied energies overcomes the world, the flesh, and the devil, fights a good fight, and obtains a most honourable victory.

We proceed next to consider the peculiar nature, exercise and use of hope.

Hope is the expectation of future good, real or supposed. We may believe and expect what we dread and would escape: we may desire, what we despair of obtaining : but we hope for those things alone, which we desire and in some measure expect. In one form or other it is the chief solace of human life: no man is happy at present; but all hope for happiness, and pursue it according to their different notions. The hope and pursuit afford some pleasure, and keep the mind from preying on itself: but disappointment is certain to all who seek happiness in worldly things, whether

« PreviousContinue »