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Mark, xi. 22.
Faith is undoubtedly the essence of Christianity. It is therefore highly reasonable that we should endeavour to get a true notion of it; and the more so, as it has been misrepresented, not only by weak Christians, but by ignorant and designing men.
Malicious libertines despise it, and make it the subject of ridicule. Weak Christians mistake it, and represent it in a very false and absurd light.
Thus faith, which is the principal support and foundation ot religion, suffers as much by its injudicious friends as it does by its malignant enemies. The weak Christian gives himself up to a blind credulity without reason or consideration, and is therefore justly termed au enthusiast. The malicious libertine, by an obstinate and capricious humour, denies every thing that wants the evidence of sense to support it; and therefore is very justly styled a sceptic. Now, in order that we may arrive to a true notion of faith, I shall make it the business of this discourse,
First, To shew what it is that we, as Christians, are bound to believe.
Secondly, I shall point out wherein this doctrine of faith is misunderstood by the iriends and by the enemies of Christianity.
Lastly, I shall conclude with some inferences suitable to the subject.
First, then, I am to shew what it is that we as Christians, are bound to believe.
In order to this, I shall take notice of several very remarkable instances of faith, recorded in scripture, for our instruction.— The 11th chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews treats entirely of faith. It begins with telling us, that " Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Now it is very evident, that the things hoped for by. the patriarchs were the rewards that God had promised. to the upright, as we shall see very plain when we read this chapter, which is as follows. "By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive as an inheritance, obeyed" "Through faith also Sarah had a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised." "By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come."—"By faith Jacob when he was a dying blessed both the sons of Joseph" "By jaith Joseph when he died, made mention of the departing of tke children of Israel " i.e. be beldeved God <tb«t lie would, notwithstanding they were then in Egypt, bring them into the land of Canaan, as he had promised. "By faith, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharavh's daughter; chose to safer affliction, esteemed the reproach of Christ more than the treasures of Egypt.'* 4« By faith the Israelites passed through the Red Sea.'* "By faith the wails of Jericho fell down." "By faith the harlot liahab was saved." And many t)ther instances we have of Gideon, Barak and Sampson; of David also, and Samuel, " Who through faith subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths oj lions, turned armies to fight, endured -cruel mockings and scourgings, and wandered about clad in skins of sheep and goats, - of whom tiie world was not worthy, and for whom God had prepared a city" These are eminent instances of faith. And did not this faith consist in a trust in the promises of God? yes, they believed him faithful Avho had promised, and they were not disappointed.
When Abraham, as we read in the 12th chapter of Genesis, left his country, and. his kindred, and his futJier's house, to go into a land uihich the Lord had. promised him, -what was it but that he believed and trusted in the promises of God r He believed that his gracious benefactor vas able and would certainly give hinv the promised blessings.
"Abraham -believed in Cod, and it was ac* cmtntcd'unto him fur righlevusness;" not because he believed there *vas a God, but because v hen God had promised him a son in lus okl &ge, he beli ved that he could and would stive him the blessing which he had promised: and upon this account righteousness was imputed to him.
When Moses despised the honours anrl treasures of Kgypt, what was it for? He did not despise them because it was a pooi honour to govern a parcel of slaves; no, but he had respect unto the recompence,of reward. He had his eye upon the promised blessings; an I' this, without any earthly assistance, made him forsake Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king. Through faith, therefore, he endured as seeing him who is invisible. He saw the arm of God, by faith, stretched out for his deliverance, and that encouraged him to encounter the many difficulties and objections which he made when he received his commission.
In short, when Gideon, and Barak, and the rest of the judges of Israel; and Saul, and Pavid, and the other kings of Israel; I say, whenever1 they went forth against their enemies, under a promise from God that he would deliver them into their hands, they trusted in the promises of God, and therefore were always victorious.
From all these lemarkable instances of faith, it evidently appears that a true faith consists in a firm belief of the promises of God, a sure persuasion and steady confidence thai God can, and certainly will, peribim what he promises.
But this is not all that a Christian is bound to believe. A Christian must believe the doctrines of the gospel relative to Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. And they are, that Christ is the only begotten son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds; came into the world lo save sinners; suffered death upon the cross, so as to die no more; ascended (in the presence of many) into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of God, where he now reigns and intercedes for his faithful followers, and will continue to do so to the end of the world: that he will come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and will reward them according to their deeds here on earth; will doom the wicked to hell, where they shall, for ever, undergo the most inconceivable torments; and will welcome the righteous into heaven, where they shall enjoy an uninterrupted duration of endless felicity and glory: and to sum up all, he mnst believe that the miracles of Christ, and the doctrines of the apostles, proceed from the power of the holy Spirit of God.
But the blessings annexed to faith' do not proceed only from a bare' persuasion of the existence of God, or the incarnation and sufferings of Jesus Christ; but fr6m 'a firm and steady confidence that God can, and'will surely perform what he promises. It was this t at placed the apostles on so many thrones to judge the twelve tribes 6f ' Israel; they had in view those glorious rewards prtfirrised