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Disc. XXIX. Christ's Charity Sermon [Intended
to have been preached at the Magdalen
The Birth and Growth of Faith."
Rom. i. 17. Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from
· faith to faith.
D H E light of the natural day is so ordered
by Providence as not to fall on the eye, all 1 at once, in its full lustre, but rises and encreases by insensible degrees, left that organ of fight should either be forced to shut itself up in voluntary darkness, or be exposed to the danger of losing its power of vision. In like manner, he who is stiled the East, the Light, and Righteousness, breaks not forth on us, at first in all his brightness, but discovers himself, bere a little, and there a little, and so fbinetb more and more unto the perfect day of that evangelical knowledge, which lays open too deep and too glorious a mystery of wisdom, power, and love, to be endured by the human mind, were it not gradually dispensed. Reason, weak reason, must have fled from, or been loft in, a light so over-powering, had it burst at the first moment in its full noon of brightness, on that naturally benighted and enfeebled faculty. From the beginning therefore it VOL. IV.
did did but dawn on the world through an obscure, but consolatory prophecy; shone somewhat more clearly through the promise made to Abraham ; emitted a still more distinguishable and steady ray through the typical institucions, and vicarious sacrifices of the Mofaical law ; became more characteristical in the prophecies of David, Ilaiah, and others; 'marked out the time of its' own meridian in those of Daniel ; grew more diffusive, in the repeated captivities of the Jews; and being preceded by its morning star the. Baprift, had its day-spring in the birth, and arose to its full height in the miracles, preachings, sufferings, and resurrection of Christ. Even in this fullest display of itself, a fingular fimplicity and plainness of dress, allaying its heat, and veiling its brightness, présents it to the mind through a Chili sky, so tempered as neither to scorch nor glare.
Thus was the gospel introduced ; and thus in that gospel, was the righteousness of God revealed in Cbrif,, whereby not only the rectitude, but the mercy also, of his dealings with men, is fully justified to us, and we to him. Here we see, how from the lowest degree of faith, excited by the least striking lights or proofs, a yet higher and stronger is produced, as the lights advance in number and fforce. - Parallel to this progress of faith among mankind in general, is another, made in the breast of every individual Christian, who first believes in the gospel history, as he does in any other, on the strength of the testimony afforded by its witnesses ; then resigning his heart to that which his judgment had pronounced fo true, and fo replete at the same time with God's infinite goodness to him, he soon finds his rational or human, improved into divine faith by the demonftration of the Spirit. He, like the church of God, is trained by dimmer lights to bear the more vivid; and as the eye of his mind is more and more familiarised to the light, that light pours on him in a stronger beam, and opens to his view the incomprehensible wonders of that original righteousness, which interpofing between the divine and human nature, justifies God to the reason of man, and man to the mercy of God.
If the faith of a Christian can be vindicated as rational, and well founded in the first step of its progress, and, in the second, as productive of real goodness and solid happiness, wherever it takes place ; I hope, it will be amply vindicated at the same time against the cavils of those infidels, who, to run down Christian faith, treat faith in general as a weak credulity, vilify both as not founded on argument, and endeavour to represent the former as rather a vice, if not supported by evidence ; at least as no virtue, if countenanced by that which is sufficient.
This good design, together with another, namely, to make faith somewhat more intelligible, than it is at present, among the profesfors of Christianity, will be attempted in a short series of discourses on that subject, which I intend, with God's permission, to deliver from this place. Whether the one or the other of these designs is of the greater consequence to truth, will not be known; till it is determined, which of the two, our senseless controversies about faith, or the artful attacks made on it by our common adversaries, have been the more fruitful fource of confusion.
Faith, as an inlet to, or a branch of knowledge, is well enough defined, and distinguished from the other inlets and branches, by logicians. But to this definition and distinction, our controvertists on the fubject of faith seem to pay little or no regard. Yet till knowledge, in its several branches, and in this particularly, is carefully analysed, and closely considered, there will be no end of mistakes. That we
may not therefore continue to talk at random on a subject of such infinite moment;
Let us first briefly delineate these branches, as
mutual connections, and find out the comparative dependence which we may safely have on each.
After this, let us lay down such rules for regulating our belief in all cafes, as may distinguish, in the cleareft manner, the credible from the contrary reports.
The use, nay the absolute necessity of doing both will evidently appear by applying that delineation, and these rules, to Chriftian faith in particular.
In the first place then, there are certain luminous truths, which we either receive through our senses, or more inwardly feel the force of, by immediate contact, as it were, with the very faculties of our minds. These truths of both forts, which I call, primary, carry their own evidence with them, and produce full conviction, without the help of borrowed lights or proofs. At the same time that they difcover themselves to all capacities by their own native lustre, they also enlighten and prove such other points, not evident in themselves, as are naturally
mind within the influence of their light. To give an instance of each ; one thing I knowo, faith he in the gospel, whom Christ cured of his blindness, that whereas I was blind, now I see. God heareth not finners, (the vileft impostors he means) so as to work miracles at their request.
This kind of knowledge, by an expression taken from a particular sensation applied to all our immediate perceptions of truth, whether external or internal, is called intuitive; is in its outward and proper sense enjoyed by man in common with the whole animal creation; and, in a metaphorical sense, but