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menaces, whereon the
eye of faith is fixed, that a mere historical believer appears a phenomenon of the most amazing kind, when nothing but faith and reason are considered. But experience presents us with so many instances of such believers, as reduce this phenomenon to a common occurrence, and shew, that more than human aid is required to open a passage between the head and heart, for the descent and operation of conviction. To
every one thus believing, such is the goodness of God, this aid is afforded ; but many, such is the perverseness of human nature, and such the power of our enemy, barricade that passage against the Holy Spirit, who will not force his way
. In these, faith degenerates into fear; but rises and improves into hope in those, who, not satisfied, that their heads should pull one way, and their hearts another, are determined to go, with the whole man, in the way of salvation; and therefore pursuing the path of their own rational convictions, and heartily concurring with the great assistant, they give themselves up to meditation, devotion, mortification, and labour, which nothing can force them to intermit, till their hearts and wills are as warmly attached to the gospel of Christ, as their understandings are clearly convinced of its truths. The gospel, as a system, wherein the principles of faith and virtue are essentially incorporated, having taken an entire possession of these men, 'the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith to faith,' in the holiness and goodness of their lives, which give evident proofs of a power more than human.
Having already, I fear, exhausted the time usually given to discourses of this kind, in laying before you the nature, evidence, and progress of Christian faith, I shall conclude with exhibiting a small sample of its fruits.
St. Paul, in a catalogue of these, calls faith, 'the substance or support of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' His meaning is, that Christian faith, once received and perfected in the mind of a believer, serves as a principle or axiom for the establishment of many other comfortable truths, which can no otherwise be discovered or. proved; such, for instance, among others, as these, that through faith we obtain remission of sins,' peace with God,
and eternal life, the grant of all we pray for, comfort under afflictions, and victory over the world.
It is faith that cleanses our affections, raises them from ' things on earth, and sets them on things above,' by discovering to us their real natures, and teaching us how to choose on the comparison : though an unbeliever may by experience perceive, that the enjoyments of this world are uncertain, and unsatisfactory; yet he can hardly think any thing else of much consequence to him. But if lie ever becomes a convert to Christianity, how is he surprised to see, by the light of this faith, himself, and every thing about him, appear so very different from what they did before! to see the size, the weight, the colour of every thing changed ! to see gain and loss, good and evil, happiness and misery, shifting sides on his apprehension and judgment! to see the true cause of his former mistakes, namely, the great deceiver, and his four assistants, imagination, passion, appetite, and custom, transforming the things, as well as persons, of this world, in order to an universal masquerade! giving splendor to infamy, and contempt to merit! by an inverted art of painting bestowing beauty on deformity, and ugliness on that which is lovely! by a preposterous art of cookery infusing nauseousness into things the most delicious, and sweetening poison, seasoning ordure, and perfuming brimstone. He is amazed to see how the things of this world, are by these artists tinselled for the vain, gilded for the covetous, and aggrandized for the ambitious; and more amazed still, when he perceives into what a despicable meanness they are sunk again by that prospect of immortality and eternal life, which true faith sets before him.
It is this faith, which turns our very infirmities into virtues; our fear (God being made its object) into 'wisdom and strong confidence;' and our sense of shame into humility, chastity, and honesty. This derives redoubled vigour on the mind and conscience even from our falls, at once demonstrating and making perfect the strength of God in our weakness. This sweetens and sanctifies correction. This gives calm within, when all is tempest without. This makes day-light in the mind, when there is night only in the world, confusion in the pursuits of men, and mystery in the schemes of Providence. This clearly shews us our path, or safely leads us by the hand through that we cannot see. This, when the means of useful knowledge are afforded, rouses our attention, opens and sharpens the eyes of our understandings; and this, when the nature of God's works, the drifts of his providence, or the depths of his religion become, in any instance, unfathomable to the scanty line of our reason, this faith, this evidence of things unseen, shuts the eyes of the soul again, and lays it to rest on a downy resignation, and in the fortress of a comfortable trust, that all is right, or will be well.
Behold here that tree of life, to which all may come, striking its roots deep into the rock of God's promises ; rising towards heaven with a strong and lofty stem ; defying the blasts of persecution in one age, of sophistry in another, and of ridicule in all; sheltering virtue and civil society under its extended branches ; feeding the Christian, to the stature of a saint, with its fruits of hope, charity, peace, contentment, patience, joy; and crowning the martyr with its leaves.
Having said enough for the present on this necessary, and inexhaustible subject, I shall here finish with beseeching the God of hope to fill you with all joy and peace in believing,' through • Christ Jesus; the author, and finisher of our faith,' to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.
INFIDELITY IS OF THE HEART.
HEB. 111. 12.
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief. The exhortation here, to take heed, had been impertinent and absurd, were it not in some measure within the power of the persons exhorted, to shun the thing to be heeded or guarded against. To bid a man beware of an evil, is to suppose, he may by taking care, avoid it, if he pleases. Now, the thing we are cautioned in this precept to beware of, and to prevent or correct in ourselves, is 'an evil heart of unbelief, in which caution there is nothing of depth or obscurity, as soon as the word, heart, is once rightly understood, I mean, in the apostle's use of it, who in other passages
makes the heart the seat of faith, and consequently here, of its opposite, unbelief.
By this word the Scriptures of both testaments frequently express the whole mind or understanding, as well as particularly the passions and affections, to which latter sense it is, that the custom of speaking hath now commonly confined its meaning. In Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and, I believe, in the generality of cultivated languages, there are, at fewest, three words to express that in man, which is taken for the principle of thought, life and action. There are three also in English, spirit, soul, and mind. It is probable this diversity of terms was not owing to accident, nor the use of it introduced at random, not only in regard that so many knowing nations have given into it, and, when they speak precisely, apply the terms with some variety of meanings; but because a like distinction is observable in the operations of thought itself. Almost all the learned ancients, and many among the moderns, observing, that in man there is a rational spirit, an animal soul, and, as it were, between these, a mind or will, which is sometimes determined from above, by the rational powers, and sometimes from below, by the animal affections ; have distinguished these by those names, and asserted the real existence of three immaterial substances, united into one human person, or man.
Such proofs may be given for the truth of this theory, as are sufficient to place it on a level with other approved systems, struck out by rational speculations on the internal part of our nature. One simple principle, whether of thought, motion, or action, always produces simple uniform effects, never clashing with, or counteracting itself. But there is no man, who does not, on many occasions, experience in his own breast a good deal of dispute and opposition in forming his judgments or opinions, and in taking his consequent resolutions.
In moral matters more especially, we frequently find reason pleading within us for one thing, and passion or affection, for another, for the contrary; and the will, at first suspended between both, and then determined, sometimes by the former, and sometimes by the latter, as either occasionally preponderates, the baffled disputant, for a while at least, after the decision, discovering a sensible reluctance. This, well considered, will go near to evince the probability of three immaterial principles, now expressed as distinct, and then as constituting, by an union wholly mysterious, but one person, in every individual; and this perhaps will be found the best reason for saying, that man is formed in the image of God. The Scriptural writers, particularly St. Paul, give great countenance to this way of thinking
That apostle speaks, 1 Thess. v. 23. of the spirit, soul and body, as distinct; and in many places puts the body, or flesh, for the brutal or animal soul, from whence we have our sensations, appetites, affections and passions. This last is what we call the heart, and what in my text he means peculiarly by the word, as appears by his ascribing to it an evil disposition or reluctance to faith. Accordingly elsewhere he catalogues heresy, or a lower degree of unbelief, among the works of the flesh, the heart, or the animal ingredient in man.
Faith is plainly a principle of no power in morality, but in proportion as it is able to determine the will; and it can