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assuredly be productive of all the benefits which are here traced to it.
But, notwithstanding all that is said of this principle in the Holy Scriptures, and the indispensable necessity of it to the salvation of the soul, how few condemn themselves for their want of it! How few pray to God for it, or are even conscious of their need of it! What greater proof can there be of the blindness with which Satan has blinded the whole world! Men will readily enough acknowledge their need of holiness ; but of faith they feel no need: they think they have as much of it as is necessary for their salvation. But, if they would only see how totally inoperative their supposed faith is, they would see at once that they are as destitute of real faith as are even the beasts that perish. Dear brethren, be aware of this: and cry mightily to God to impart unto you this spiritual gift. It is, in all who have it, the gift of God. No man can produce it in his own heart: it is not a mere conviction founded upon reasoning, but a principle infused into the soul : and it is by that living principle alone you can ever be brought to a state of acceptance with God in this world, and the enjoyment of his favour in the world to come. May God in his mercy create it in all our hearts! and may its fruits within us now be a pledge and earnest of its yet richer blessings in the realms of glory.]
THE NATURE OF faith. Heb. xi. 1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen. CONSIDERING how much the Scriptures speak of faith, one is surprised that the subject of faith so little occupies the attention of the world at large, or even of the religious world. But the truth is, that the nature of faith is but little known. The world at large consider it as no more than assent upon evidence; whilst the religious world confine their views of it almost exclusively to the office of justifying the soul before God. But faith is of a far more comprehensive nature than even good men generally suppose. It extends to every thing that has been revealed; and is the one principle that actuates the Christian in every part of the divine life. From not adverting to this, the description given of faith in our text has been frequently misunderstood. The precise import of the passage will best appear by considering the context. The Apostle is encouraging the believing Hebrews to hold fast their profession. He tells them that faith is the only principle that will enable them to do this: he then proceeds to shew them in a great variety of instances, how faith will act, and how certainly, if duly exercised, it will prevail for the carrying of them forward even to the end. .
It is in this general view, and not in the light of justifying the soul, that the Apostle calls it, “ the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”
Let us then in this enlarged sense consider, I. The nature of faith
Within its proper and legitimate scope is all that God has revealed in his blessed word
[Faith comprehends within its grasp the past, the present, and the future. By it, the Christian knows that the universe, but a few thousand years ago, had no existence, and that it was created out of nothing by the word of God. By it, he sees every thing upheld and ordered by the hand that formed it, and not so much as a hair of our head falling to the ground without his special permission. By it, he foresees that all the human race which have in successive ages passed away shall be recalled into existence at the last day, and be judged according to their works.
But more particularly faith views that great mysterious work, the work of redemption. It beholds the plan formed in the eternal councils of the Father and of the Son; and in due season with gradually increasing light revealed to man. It sees the incarnation, the death, the resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sending forth of the Holy Spirit in all his miraculous and new-creating powers, to attest that the work was finished, and to render it effectual for the salvation of a ruined world. This work it still beholds carrying on in heaven by the Lord Jesus as our great High-priest within the vail, and as the living and life-giving Head of his Church and people. And, carrying its eye forward to future ages, it sees the Redeemer's kingdom universally established, and every subject of his empire seated with him upon his throne of glory.
nority senses we faith only:nd of a believer his sight.
All intermediate matters it beholds fulfilled in their season, and is assured, that, of every thing that God has spoken, not one jot or tittle shall ever fail to the ground.]
Of all this it brings a full conviction to the mind, and, as far as it can be desired, a full experience to the soul
[Faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” By “ evidence” is meant such a proof as silences all objections. Of the past, the present, or the future, what could reason declare? Nothing with any certainty. Of the mystery of redemption more especially, it could determine nothing. With our bodily senses we could ascertain nothing. Every thing is apprehended by faith only. Yet is it therefore uncertain ? No: it is as clear to the mind of a believer, as if it had been demonstrated to his reason, or subjected to his sight. Having assured himself from reason, that the Scriptures are the word of God, and that the great mystery of redemption, as apprehended by him, is revealed in them, he has no doubt concerning it: his fall in Adam; his recovery by Christ; his restoration to the Divine image through the influences of the Holy Spirit; these things appear so worthy of God, and so suitable to man, that no doubt respecting them exists in the mind : and all the objections which pride and ignorance have raised against them are scattered like mists before the rising sun.
But it is not only as true that faith presents these things to the mind, but as good, as desirable, and as promised: and it so apprehends them, as to give them an actual subsistence in the soul : it is “ the substance of things hoped for." These things, as far as they are good, and future, are the objects of hope; and therefore, as we might suppose, unpossessed. But, though future, they are made present by the exercise of faith; and, though only hoped for, are actually enjoyed. This is a wonderful property of faith. Consolations, victories, triumphs, glory, though remote in ultimate experience, are by anticipation rendered present, so that the first-fruits, the pledge, the earnest, the foretaste are in actual possession; and whilst the grapes of Eschol assure the soul of the final possession of its inheritance, the views of Pisgah transport it thither, and enable it to realize its most enlarged hopes and expectations.]
From this description of faith we may see, 11. Its aspect on the welfare and stability of the
soulAs entering into every part of the divine life, its influence might be pointed out in an almost infinite variety of particulars. But we will content ourselves
with specifying two, which will, to a certain degree, give an insight into all :
1. It renders us indifferent to all the concerns of time and sense
[Whilst we are in the body we cannot be absolutely indifferent to earthly things; but comparatively we may. The unbeliever has respect to nothing else: he sees nothing, knows nothing, cares for nothing, but what is visible and temporal. He is “ of the flesh,” and “ savours only the things of the flesh.” His hopes, his fears, his joys, his sorrows, are altogether carnal. So it once was with the believer: but it is now so no longer. By faith he now views other things, which fully occupy his mind, and engage all the powers of his soul. Earthly vanities once appeared as grand and glorious as the starry heavens. But they are fled from his sight: they are all eclipsed by the splendour of the Sun of Righteousness which has arisen upon his soul. There indeed they are ; and were the light of God's truth withdrawn from his soul, they would again resume a measure of their former importance. But they are now reduced to insignificance: and the things which“ once appeared glorious in his eyes, have now no glory by reason of the glory that excelleth.” Ignorant persons are ready to impute the believer's withdrawment from the world to superstition, to moroseness, to pride, to enthusiasm, to gloom and melancholy. But he renounces the world as an empty vanity, and an ensnaring "lie,” that deceives all who follow it, and ruins all who trust in it. Once " a deceived heart had turned him aside, so that he could not deliver his soul, or say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?" but now he knows, that what he formerly grasped, was a mere shadow; and that there is nothing substantial but what is apprehended by faith. Hence “ What was once gain to him, is now accounted loss; yea all things are now but as dung, that he may win Christ, and be found in him.” Such are now his views of the cross of Christ, and of the glory that shall be revealed, that “ the world is crucified to him, and he is crucified unto the world a."]
2. It strengthens us both for action and for suffering in the service of our God
[Before that faith has brought a man to a view of the things which are invisible and eternal, he has no zeal for God, no fortitude to suffer shame for the sake of Christ. But when once the realities of the eternal world are open to his view; when once heaven with all its glory, and hell with all its terrors, are apprehended by him ; who shall stop him ? who shall
intimidate him ? who shall persuade him? Bid him relax his diligence, and give way to carnal ease and pleasure; he will say, 'Go, offer your advice to one that is running in a race, or fighting for his life: will he listen to you? expect not me then to listen, who am running for eternity, and fighting for my soul.' Is he called to suffer ? He knows for whose sake it is that he is called to take up his cross; and he takes it up with cheerfulness, and “rejoices that he is counted worthy to bear it." Has he made considerable advance in the ways of God ? He does not on that account relax; but “ forgetting what is behind, and reaching forward to that which is before, he presses on towards the mark for the prize of his high calling of God in Christ Jesus b." These are the things which are chiefly insisted on throughout the whole of this chapter : and, as such were the operations of faith in the days of old, such also they are at this hour; and such will they be to the very end of time.] See you not then, beloved,
1. How little there is of true faith in the world ?
[If you will believe the report which men give of themselves, there is no want of faith at all. Every one who calls himself a Christian, considers it as a matter of course that he possesses faith. But how would faith operate under other circumstances? Let a man believe that a house in which he is sitting is on fire; or that a vessel in which he is embarked is ready to sink; will he not evince the truth of his faith by some efforts to escape ? But here men profess to believe all that God has spoken about the danger of their souls, and the way opened for their deliverance, and yet are as unconcerned about either the one or the other as the beasts that perish. Alas! how fearfully do they deceive their own souls!
But even in the religious world there is an awful want of faith. For how little are men actuated by the truths which they profess to believe! How strong is the hold which earthly things yet retain of the believer's soul, and how faint are his impressions of eternity! --- Well might our Lord say, “ When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Know ye, brethren, that “ if you had faith but as a grain of mustard-seed, it should remove mountains:" and, consequently, you may judge of the smallness of your faith by the slender effects which it has produced upon your souls. Pray ye then to Him who alone can give you faith ; " Lord, help my unbelief;" “ Lord, increase my faith.”]
2. In what way alone you can hope to vanquish all your spiritual enemies ? Phil. iii. 13, 14.
© Luke xviii, 8.