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there is an end of all they have to do with it. There is, with many, a most mischievous repose of mind upon this subject. They know that by faith they are saved, and they look to the attainment of this faith as a terminating good, with the possession of which, could they only arrive at it, they would be satisfied; and they regard the articles of a creed in much the same light that they do the articles of a title-deed, which may lie in their repository for years, without once being referred to; and they have the lurking impression, that if this creed were once fairly lodged among the receptacles of the inner man, and only produced in the great day of the examination of passports, it would secure their entry into heavenjust as the title-deed in possession, though never once looked to, guarantees to them a right to all that is conveyed by it. The mental tablet on which are inscribed their articles of belief, is consigned, as it were, to some place of concealment within them, where it lies in a kind of forgotten custody, instead of hanging out to the eye of the mind, and there made the subject of busy and perpetual observation. It is not like a paper filled with the principles and standing rules of a court, and to which there must be a daily reference for the purpose of daily procedure and regulation. It is more, to make use of a law term, like a paper in retentis—perhaps making good to them certain privileges which never will be questioned, or ready to be produced on any remote and distant occasion, when such a measure may be called for. Now this is a very great misconception; and whenever we see orthodoxy contentedly slumber
ing over its fancied acquisitions, and resting securely upon the imagination that all its business is now settled and set by, we may be very sure that it is something like this which lies at the bottom of it.
To rectify this wrong imagination, let it never be forgotten, that every where in the Bible, those truths, by the belief of which we are saved, have this efficacy ascribed to them, not from the mere circumstance of their having once been believed, but after they are believed, from the circumstance of their being constantly adverted to.
The belief of them on the one hand is indispensable; for let this be withheld, and the habitual occurrence of the mind to them is of no more use, than would be its constant tendency to dwell on such fancies as it knew to be chimerical. But this habitual occurrence is just as indispensable; for let this be withheld, and the belief of them were of no more use, than would be that of
other salutary truth, forgotten as to the matter of it, and therefore utterly neglected as to its application. The child who is told of his father's displeasure, should he spend that hour in amusement which is required to be spent in scholarship, may believe this at the time of the announcement.
But when the hour comes, should the intimation slip from his memory, he has believed in vain. And from the Apostle's declaration, who assures us, that unless we keep the truth in memory we have believed in vain, may we gather what that is which forms the true function and design of the faith that is unto salvation. It is not that, by the bare possession of the doctrines which it appropriates as so many materials, salvation may be purchased; it is that by the use to which these materials are put, we may come into a state of salvation. It is not that truths lying in a state of dormancy within us, form so many titles in our behalf to the purchased inheritance: it is that truths ever present to the waking faculties of our mind, (and they never can be so without being remembered,) have an influence and a power to make us meet for the inheritance.
On this important truth, so indispensable to secure the saving and salutary influence of the other truths of Christianity, when known and believed, we shall make three observations. The first regards the kind of effort that should be made, either by an inquirer or a Christian, in the business of prosecuting his salvation. The second regards the nature of that salvation. And the third regards the power of the truth, when summoned into the mind's presence by an act of recollection, to keep it in that right train, both of purpose and desire, which prepares and carries it forward to the enjoyment of heaven.
I. With regard to the kind of effort that should be made by an inquirer, he does not, we will venture to say, set earnestly out in quest of salvation without its coming primarily and prominently into his notice, that he is saved by faith. And hence very often a straining of the mind after this acquirement—an anxious endeavour to believe-a repeated attempt to grasp that truth, by the possession of which it is, that we obtain a right to life everlasting; and as the accompaniment of all this, a frequent work of inward search and contemplation, to try if that principle be there, on which there hinges so important a consum
mation as the favour of God, and the forgiveness of all trespasses. Now it is worth the remarking, on this subject, that there is no such thing as forcing the belief of the mind beyond what it sees of proof and evidence. We may force the mind to attend to a matter; or we may force it to conceive that matter; or we may force it to persevere in thinking and in dwelling upon it: but beyond the light of evidence you cannot force it to any kind of belief about it. Faith is not to be arrived at in this
way; and we can no more command the mind to see that to be truth on which the light of evidence does not shine, than we can command the eye to behold the sun through a dark impalpable cloud, that mantles it from human observation. Should a mountain intervene between our eye and some enchanting scene that lies on the other side of it, it is not by any piercing or penetrative effort on the part of the eye, through this solid opaque mass, that we will obtain the sight after which we are aspiring. And yet there is a way of obtaining it. A mere effort of the
eye will not do; but the effort of ascending the mountain will do. And, in like manner, a mere straining of the mind after any doctrine, with a view to apprehend it, will never, without the light of evidence, bring that doctrine into the discernment of
But such is the proclaimed importance of belief, as carrying in it an escape from ruin everlasting, and a translation into all the security of acceptance with God, that, to the acquisition of it, the effort of an inquirer is most naturally bent: and he is apt to carry this effort beyond the evidence;
the mind's eye.
way of it.
and the effort to behold beyond evidence is of a nature so fruitless and fatiguing, that it harasses the mind, just as any overstretch does toward that which, after all, is an impossibility. And yet there is a line of effort that is productive. There is a path along which the light of evidence will dawn; and that which is impossible to be seen without it, will be seen by it; and that, too, without distortion or unnatural violence upon the faculties. . We are bidden seek the pearl of great price, and there must be a
It is quite obvious, and not at all impracticable, to read the Bible with attention, and to wait upon ordinances, and to give vent to the desirousness of our hearts in prayer, and to follow conscience in the discharge of all known duties—and the truth which is unto salvation, and by the knowing and believing of which we acquire everlasting life, a truth that never can be seen while an opaque and impenetrable shroud is upon it, will at length break out into open manifestation. It does not do to be so urged by a sense of the necessity of faith, as to try the impracticability of making faith outrun the evidence. But it does well to be at the post, and along the path of inquiry and exertion, where it is promised that the light of this evidence will be 'made to shine upon us.
If we keep by our duties and our Bibles, like the apostles who kept by Jerusalem till the Holy Ghost was poured upon them, there is not one honest seeker who will not, in time, be a sure and triumphant finder.
And we ought to commit ourselves in confidence to this course, assured of the prosperous result that must come out