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ennobled and improved by acting under its influence.
I have been speaking hitherto of Faith; yet I have spoken of it as quite distinct from Religion or Christianity. It is very true, that if we knew nothing of God, still there would be the same feeling of preferring the future and the unseen to the present, and to that which is seen; and that this feeling, wherever it existed, would raise and improve the mind. And it is true, also, I think, that God intends us to learn how we ought to feel towards him, by feeling first so towards our parents : they are a child's first appointed objects of faith, and hope, and love. But the moment that we are told of God, we see at once that He is an object of faith, far more excellent than
any other, and that it is when directed towards him, that the feeling can be brought forwards to its full perfection. I supposed, that the commands given to the child in the three former instances, were given by his parents ; that is to say, by persons whom he knew to be worthy of belief, because they loved him dearly, and wished his good, and understood how to take care of him far better than he did himself. It is a very necessary part of faith, that the thing which we believe be told
us by some one whom we have reason for believing ;—some one whom we know to be, so far as we are concerned, good and wise. Now a child's parents are to him so good and so wise, that it becomes properly an act of faith in him to take their word; yet still we know, and children very soon learn to know, that parents are very far from being quite good and quite wise: they may therefore hold out hopes and fears which it may not be quite safe to build upon. But the moment
. we are told of God,-so perfect in wisdom, so perfect in goodness, so perfect in power,
, we find one on whose assurance we may rely with a most certain trust; and whose commands will be as good and wise, as the fulfilment of his threats and promises will be sure. Our heavenly Father is, in this respect, all that our earthly parents are or can be to us, and all in a degree infinitely more excellent. Again, I said it was a greater trial of faith when the good or the evil expected was distant, and still greater, when it was not only distant, but imperfectly understood. Now the good and evil which God promises and threatens to Christians is so distant, that it will only come after our earthly lives are over: it is so imperfectly understood, that eye has not seen, or ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God has prepared for them that love him ;nor yet, I may add, the wrath which he has prepared for those who do not love him. So, then, faith in God, in his promises, and his threatenings, seems to be perfect in all the points required to perfect it: it rests on the word of Him who is all good, all wise, and all powerful ; it points to objects so distant, that faith must be strong and well matured, in order to reach to them; it encourages and terrifies, by blessings and miseries so far removed from our present conceptions, that the faith must be far more powerful which can overcome actual temptations by dwelling on objects, which our understandings are as unable to grasp fully, as our bodily eyes and ears to see and to hear them.
This, then, is religious faith ;—but there is yet a peculiar species of religious faith, which is more excellent and more powerful than all the others, and which, therefore, is not unfrequently called in scripture, in a particular manner, by the common name of Faith. I am now speaking of Christian Faith ; that is, not only a faith in God, our heavenly Father, but a faith in God, as he has revealed himself
to us in the New Testament; that is, in God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the reason why this christian faith is so much more excellent than any other kind, even of religious faith, is because it shows us more of God's perfections than any other; and from that view becomes even yet stronger, and more pure, and more self-abandoning. I know well enough, that here I am approaching ground on which, unhappily, I cannot, to all my hearers, make myself fully understood. Many there are, and ever will be, in every congregation, to whom the word of salvation through the blood of Christ, will be as hard and as uninteresting a saying, as it was to those Jews who followed Christ by the sea of Galilee, because they had eaten of the loaves and were filled, but who turned back and walked no more with him, when he spoke of the bread of life; and yet more when he told them, that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. I know that all cannot receive the words of the kingdom of heaven, because their hearts and minds are so little heavenly. Of faith in our parents' promises we can all understand, however little we practise it ;—even religious faith, in its more general sense, is not wholly out of our reach : but when we come to Christian faith, so simple and so natural to those who have first believed their parents' word, and have early learnt from them to believe and love God's also, we find it hard and wholly unattractive to those who have never been in the habit of believing either. How can such understand the excellence of Christian faith, which shows to us God so pure, that he must punish the sinner, and yet so loving to us, that he gave his only-begotten Son to save us from our sins? How can they, who are so vain of every little good thing they do, and who so quickly forget every thing that they do evil; how can they understand a faith which has learnt so much of God and of itself, as to feel that all its good deeds are less than nothing, when compared with an eternal reward—that its evil deeds are so many and so hateful to God, that it finds not in itself how to escape from the sentence of his Justice? In short, how can they, who live wholly by sight, who do not practise even the lower kinds of faith, how can they so much as understand the highest ? Yet, as without that highest faith we cannot be saved,-as you, all of you, and I, too, are living either in and by this faith, or in the