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lead to a ready compliance with his will in all things. Faith therefore worketh by the intervention of love to the production of good works. And love is a free and generous principle, fittcd to a free and moral agent.
Lastly-Against this opinion we appeal to experience. If the operation of faith be supposed necessary, it must of consequence be universal : and good works, as its necessary effect, must be inseparable from it. For it is supposed, that nothing depends on the concurrence or will of the agent, but that the principle is certain in its operation, and never liable to be defeated by any perverseness of man's disposition. It must therefore influence every part of our conduct alike. The faithful must be uniformly and invariably good, free from all sin, and superior to all temptation.
Thus will the believer be taken out of a state of probation ; being secured against all the dangers of temptation by the force of the principle within him. How repugnant this theory is to the true state of religion in the best of christians, an appeal to their own experience will best determine. Do they find themselves every where absolutely superior to the world, never moved by temptation, or in fact never overcome by it? Are no labors of their own required, no watchfulness over themselves ? Do they experience no conflict, no trial, no relapse? Do they find that faith overrules the freedom of their will to evil, and renders them necessarily good? They who pretend this,
must be confuted whenever they consult their own breasts. If they are hardy enough to assert thus much, their own actions will bear the strongest evidence against them, and prove to all the world, whatever may be their pretences, that even the best of men are not necessarily good.
But farther. If faith is supposed to produce good works necessarily, then there could be no degrees of christian goodness. Faith must produce its full effect instantly, and must raise the believer at once to the sublimest pitch of virtue. In that case, since there could only be one grand division of mankind into the faithful and the infidel, whilst the latter were aban. doned to every vice of corrupted nature, the former would be not only all virtuous, but all equally virtuous. Thus one half of the world would be all light and goodness, whilst the other half would be under one universal blot of depravity and corruption, But we find in fact in the christian world all the intermediate shades between the two extremes of purest light and total darkness: we find in the characters of mankind all possible intermixtures of light and shade; all degrees of goodness, varied from the reluctant performances of the first returning sinner, to the perfection of the saint. A fact which is absolutely inconsistent with the supposition of faith working in all its effects necessarily, since it must then work them uni.
versally, and every where alike. The variety - of christian characters then is totally irreconcileable to this theory of faith. It is a fact which can only be accounted for by admitting that we are free in the use of faith as of every other gift; and that this inward principle of goodness, when lodged in the heart is improveable by us in proportion to that attention we give to it, and to our industry in the work of religion; or declines and sinks to decay, like every other talent, by our neglect of it.
The result of all is, that the operation of faith is not necessary and mechanical, but that it works within us to the production of good works by such a tendency as is consistent with the nature of man, and leaves his free agency inviolate. It operates strongly by motives of the most powerful kind, but not irresistibly, so asto overpower the will,and destroy its freedom.
Thus is the way cleared for our third inquiry, “ What are the full effects of faith upon “the mind, where it is duly cultivated and “ improved ?" An inquiry which cannot fail of opening to us a field of much pleasing contemplation, as it will lead us to take a view of our nature breaking forth from its corrupt state, rising fast towards perfection, and clothed in its best attainments.
But before we proceed to this, I shall beg leave to point out in a few words, the use and importance of the doctrine which hath been just established.
They who suppose faith to produce good works necessarily, must be led to rest entirely in faith, and this being once acquired; to ac.
quiesce in it without any farther views, and to relax and suspend all endeavors after improvement in goodness. And this accounts for their conduct when both in their writings and public exhortations they dwell altogether on faith alone, and very rarely enter on the subject of good works. A conduct which must indeed be right, if the principle which they go upon were right, that good works are the invariable and necessary production of faith.
But if this theory of faith be wrong; if faith depends for its full effect, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, on the free-will of man, then we see the necessity of our own care and diligence in cultivating this principle of faith. We see in the strongest light the necessity of extending this care and vigilance unabated through the whole time of our probation here; of studying the scriptures, not only as a rule of faith, but as the only rule of life; aiming still at higher attainments in virtue, never vainly flattering ourselves, at any period of this life, that “ we have already attained, or are al“ ready perfect;" but, in a word, “ forgetting “.those things which are behind, and reaching “ forth unto those things which are before, of “ pressing onward toward the mark, for the “ prize of the high calling of GOD in Jesus
Of the Operation of Faith.
IN inquiring into the effects of faith upon the
mind, and the changes which it must there produce, where it is duly cultivated and improved, we have all the data to proceed upon that we can desire. We know the nature of faith, and we know the constitution of the mind. We have nothing to do but to attend to the result which must arise from the application of the one to the other, to watch the operation, and to observe the effect.
Had our minds remained in their state of original perfection, even then the introduction of sò new a principle into a system of affections, passions, and the several intellectual powers, could not have failed of producing great changes in it. The difficulty however would have been less to have given a right di. rection to.a mind rightly constituted. But our whole mental system was disordered. Our understanding was darkened, our will enslav, ed, and our affections attached to unworthy objects. Virtue had lost that influence over our minds which was originally given to it. No longer was it able, by its own force, to retain us in that regular course of duty in which we were appointed to move. We began to deviate from it, to break the harmony of our system, and to fly off from our central light,