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Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

EVERY one, who has ever heard so much as the very name of Christianity, knows how much the word Faith has to do with it: he may not know what it means, still less may he know all that it means; but still he knows that it has a great deal to do with religion, that a great deal of stress has been laid upon it, and a great deal said and written for and against it. He knows too that it is a word of which he does not hear much, except as connected with religion: that it is not like honesty, honour, courage, wisdom, kindness, cruelty, &c.; that is, a thing which is continually brought forward in common life, which all seem to understand, and all in word, at least, to value. He knows, in short, that it

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is something peculiar to religion, and in an especial manner peculiar to the religion of Christ.

So in truth it is: it is among the most perfect proofs of God's wisdom, to those who can understand, that in his revelation to man he has taken hold in a manner, if I may so speak, of that one part of our nature which was lying most neglected, and yet in which the seed of our highest perfection is alone to be found. Faith is indeed that which most raises us from a state of brute selfishness and brute ignorance, and leading us on gradually, according to our gradual growth, from one high object to another, ends by offering to the mind of the Christian the most perfect object of all, even God himself, our Father, and Saviour, and Sanctifier. And again, as faith is so powerful and so excellent when once awakened, and steadily kept alive, so it is that part of our nature in which the effects of our corruption are seen most strongly. Infinitely different as are the causes which check and destroy it at different ages, in different stations, and in different characters, still all of us at every part of our lives must feel that it is in a manner our weak point; and all of us have the greatest need to join

in the prayer of the original disciples of Christ, and to say to him as they did, "Lord, increase our faith."

But now comes the question, What is faith? And as an answer to it I have chosen the words of the text; "It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." That is to say, it is that feeling or faculty within us, by which the future becomes to our minds greater than the present; and what we do not see more powerful to influence us than what we do see. But perhaps some few common instances will explain what I mean more fully.

I will take, first, one of the simplest and lowest. A child is told by his parents to be careful and tidy; he is threatened with punishment if he is not so; he is promised some little reward if he is. The parents are not present; the punishment and the reward are not actually before the eyes of the child; while the temptation is: that is to say, he feels that it is a trouble to put his things together, and that at the very moment when he sees something which he wishes to be doing immediately. Now, then, if he thinks more of the future reward and punishment than of the present trouble and pleasure; if he cares more for his

parents, whom he may not see for an hour or two, than for the plaything which lies before his eyes; if he accordingly puts his things together, and is careful and tidy, then this child has, after his humble measure, acted by faith; he has gained some experience of that principle which, if he is a follower of Jesus, must be the guide of his life till that hour when all earthly things shall pass away.

I have purposely begun with an instance of the humblest kind; let us now ascend a step higher. A boy is told by his parents that over eating and drinking will make him ill; it may be not immediately, but that he will in all probability feel the effects of it before he has gone on long. Here the evil threatened is not only more distant, but it is not absolutely certain. The trial of faith then is somewhat greater for the temptation here, as in all cases, is present and before his eyes; the evil of yielding to it is future, and he can only see it with his mind. Here too, if the future prevails over the present, the unseen over that which is seen, the boy has acted by faith, and in proportion as the faith had to look to a more distant object, so it was stronger and more advanced than that of the child.

We will proceed a little further still. A boy is told by his parents to exert himself in learning his lessons: he is told that habits of idleness will become stronger the longer he indulges them; that much of his future prospects in life will depend on his own conduct now; that the study which is now so irksome to him will in time, if steadily pursued, reward him by the pleasures of knowledge, which he will then find abundantly worth all the trouble it cost him to arrive at them. Here again the good thing promised is not only still more distant, but it is of a nature which the boy to whom it is offered cannot fully understand. In the other case, he knew what it was to be sick; he fully understood that it was painful and disagreeable; but of the pleasures of knowledge, or the inconveniences of ignorance, he can have but a very faint and vague idea. If then, although the good thing promised him be not only distant, but is one which he cannot fully understand; if believing what his parents tell him, he overcomes the present temptation of idleness in the hope of a distant and indistinctly understood reward, here is an instance of faith yet stronger and of a fuller stature; and every one sees that the character is in a high degree

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