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destruction from his presence. " It is, in short, that gospel, which "he that believeth shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned."

And what tidings were ever so replete with joy? The most signal deliverances, the most complete victories, the most glorious acquisitions, enhanced by every thing that can be supposed to exhilarate the mind, are no more in comparison of this, than a twinkling star to the meridian sun. Even the angelic hosts, when they came to announce the wonderful event, proclaimed it as "glad tidings of great joy to all people." None ever believed the news, but he was instantly liberated from all his fears and sorrows, and filled with "joy unspeakable and glorified. "

Such then is the report referred to in the text: a report so marvellous, that it fills heaven and earth with wonder; so true, that we may as well doubt our own existence as entertain a doubt respecting it; so interesting, that all the concerns of time and sense are, in comparison of it, but as the dust of the balance; and so joyous, that it is a certain and inexhaustible source of happiness to all who receive it.

But as it seems to surpass all belief, we shall do well to enquire

II. In what way it obtains credit?

It is proper to observe that the credit, which is to be given to this, is very different from the speculative assent, which we give to other reports. A belief in the gospel comprehends in it, not only an acknowledgment that it is true, but a full persuasion that it is necessary, suitable, and excellent; and such a persuasion, as compels us to renounce every other ground of dependence, and to rest all our hopes of salvation on this alone. Such a belief as this is not the result of reasonings about the evidences of Christianity, but the effect of a divine operation on the soul of man; it is produced by an exertion of omnipotence; an exertion not less wonderful, than that which was put forth in raising Christ from the dead, and setting him at the right hand of God, far above all the principalities

d 2Thess. i. 8.

e Mark xvi. 16.

f 1 Pet. i. 8.

and powers of earth and heaven. If faith had been merely an assent founded on evidence, and necessarily arising from conviction, one can scarcely conceive, how the people, to whom our Lord preached, should have so generally rejected his testimony; seeing that, according to their own confession, "he spake as never man spake," and confirmed his word with the most stupendous miracles. But his opposers, though convinced and confounded, were as full of enmity against the truth as ever, because they wanted that divine unction, which was necessary to enlighten their minds and convert their souls: for want of a spiritual discernment they could not believe in Christ, or rightly apprehend the things of the Spirit. It was thus for several years with the apostles themselves: they had been taught by the ministry of Christ himself: yet, till he opened their understandings to understand the scriptures, they could not reconcile the events they had seen with the declarations they had heard. Nor would Lydia have yielded to the persuasive eloquence of the apostle, if the Lord himself had not opened her heart to attend to the things delivered by him.*


Faith then is, as we are repeatedly assured, "the gift of God." And the prophet marks this truth in the words before us; the revelation of God's arm is evidently used by him as an expression equivalent to the believing of the report of the gospel; the latter being only the fruit and effect of the former.

Nor is faith to be derived from God solely at the first: we are as much dependent on him for its continuance and increase, as for its first formation in the soul. If he for one moment leave us to ourselves, however confident we may have been in times past, we shall soon cry out in unbelief, Lord save us, we perish:" and every renewed difficulty will only prove to us our constant need of that petition, Lord, increase our faith." As we cannot embrace the truth, till "God make us willing in the day of his power," so neither can we hold fast our profession,

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Eph. i. 19--22.

i Luke xxiv. 45, 46.
1 Eph. ii. 8. Phil. i. 29.
n Luke xvii. 5.

b John. vi. 44. 1 Cor. ii. 14.

k Acts xvi. 14.

m Matt. viii. 25, and xiv. 28-30.

unless, he, who was "the author of our faith, be also the finisher."

That there are but few who thus believe the gospel will appear, if we consider

III. What reception it meets with in the world?

We might naturally have expected that so glorious a testimony should have been universally received with joy and gratitude: but the very reverse of this has been the effect of its publication in every age, and in every place. What the prophet Isaiah experienced in his day, all succeeding ministers have complained of. Our Lord, who wrought such unnumbered miracles in confirmation of his word, quoted the very passage before us in reference to himself, declaring that it was accomplished in the people of that generation. The apostle Paul also, the most honoured of all the apostles in that great work of converting souls to God, after he had planted many churches, yet found occasion to adopt the same expression, because those who received his message were scarcely to be discerned amidst the myriads who rejected it. And is there not as much reason now to make the same complaint? If indeed all who repeat the creed, and who say, I believe in Jesus Christ, were true believers, we should have reason to rejoice: but if faith in this divine record be a resting upon it as true, as suitable, as necessary, and as excellent, then are there few indeed who believe. Let us only ask, Who hath believed our report? Are there many to whom Jehovah's arm has been revealed? many, who, through the mighty working of his power, have been made to feel an interest in these tidings in some measure suited to their importance? On the contrary, do not the generality consider them as idle tales? And when they are enforced with earnestness, are not many ready to exclaim, like Ezekiel's hearers, “Ah, Lord God, doth he not speak parables? Let us but cast our eyes around, and we shall have abundant proof of this melancholy fact: the contempt poured both on those who publish and those who

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profess the gospel, is a certain indication, that the report of it is but little credited, and its influence but little felt. And, if any further proof were necessary, the total absence of all the fruits of faith would demonstrate the want of that vital principle in our hearts.

Let this subject then lead us to self-examination.

It is not without reason that the apostle says, Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves. All imagine themselves believers, because they have been educated in a Christian land. But, if we have no other faith than what has been instilled into us in the course of our education, we have yet to learn, what true faith is. We might profitably enquire into the fruits of faith, in order to ascertain its existence in our souls: but the text leads us rather to enquire, How did we obtain our faith? Was it wrought in us by the mighty power of God? Was his arm stretched forth to slay our pride, our self-righteousness, our unbelief; and to form this divine principle within us? Let us carefully distinguish between a living and a dead faith; between a speculative and a saving faith; between the faith of God's elect, and the faith of devils. The question will be of infinite importance in the day of judgment, Who among you believed our report? let it then appear to us of importance now; and, while the gospel yet sounds in our ears let us cry, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.""

If we have indeed believed, let us abound in thankfulness to God.

The gift of faith, next to the gift of God's dear Son, is the greatest that God himself can bestow; because, with that, every other blessing flows down into the soul. Has God made bare his arm, and shewn the exceeding greatness of his power in enabling us to believe? there is nothing else which we may not expect him to accomplish for us. Why is it said that "all things are possible to him that believeth?" The believer is, in himself, as weak as other men: but he has Omnipotence engaged for his support: and whatever Omnipotence can effect, that shall be effected for him, provided he earnestly desire it, and

2 Cor. xiii. 5.

Jam. ii. 19, 20. u Mark ix. 24.

it be conducive to his best interests. While therefore we aspire after the highest degrees of faith, let us be thankful for the lowest. If we have ever so little faith, if it be only "as a grain of mustard seed,” yet, provided it be genuine and of divine origin, "it shall remove mountains:" all our guilt shall be cancelled; all our lusts shall be subdued; all our graces shall be perfected; and, in due time, faith shall be turned into sight, and hope into enjoyment.

* Matt. xvii. 20.



Isai. liii. 2, 3. For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness: and, when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we hid as it were our faces from him: he was despised, and we esteemed

him not.

WE find in almost every branch of science, that truth can be discovered only by deep and serious investigation. If we rest in superficial enquiries, we shall be led into numberless and fatal mistakes. In what relates to religion more especially, an impartial examination is necessary, because the doctrines of revelation are confessedly repugnant both to the prejudices and passions of mankind. Yet, strange as it may appear, there is no other science, wherein men form their opinions on such slender information, as in that. The generality adopt the notions that are current in their day, without ever considering whether they be right or wrong: the natural consequence of which is, that, in many instances, they embrace error in preference to truth. This was too much the habit of the Jews in reference to their Messiah. Our Lord had cautioned them not to judge according to appearance, but to judge righteous judgment; nevertheless they paid more

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