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his Creator; in which he surrenders himself entirely into his hands, to be disposed of by him at his pleasure, and to be made the instrument of his glory.
REMARKS. 1st. This account of Evangelical faith, if admitted, puts an end to all disputes concerning the question, Whether Faith is a moral virtue.
So long as the nature of faith is unsettled, every question, depending on it, must be unsettled also. If we do not determine what the faith of the Gospel is, we are ill prepared to decide whether it is of a moral nature, or not. If the faith of the Gospel be a mere speculative assent to probable evidence, although we may indeed be virtuous in the disposition, with which we at times exercise it, as was, I trust, proved in the preceding discourse; yet, clearly, it is not necessarily virtuous; nor, if the mind stop here, can it be virtuous at all. In mere speculative belief, existing, by itself; that is, in merely yielding our assent to probable evidence; we are, as I observed in the same discourse, entirely passive, and in no sense virtuous. But if faith is confidence in God, of the nature here exhibited, it is beyond dispute virtue ; virtue of pre-eminent importance, and capable of existing in every possible degree. So far as I know, Confidence, in this sense, has ever been esteemed voluntary, and acknowledged, therefore, to be of a moral nature. Plainly this is its true character. Accordingly, it is approved, loved, and commended, by all mankind; and undoubtedly merits all the encomiums, given to it, both in profane writings and in Revelation.
One of the principal reasons, why the faith of the Gospel has been supposed to be a mere speculative belief, is probably this: speculative belief is the thing, intended by the term faith in its original sense. It is not very unnatural, therefore, when we begin to read the Scriptures, to consider this as the meaning of the word in these writings; nor is it very unnatural for men of a sanguine cast, men who have a system to defend, or men who change their opinions with reluctance, to retain an interpretation which they have once imbibed. We are not, therefore, to wonder, that this opinion has been extensively spread, or pertinaciously retained.
But the Scriptures give no countenance to this doctrine. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, is the sum of their instructions concerning this subject. He, who can believe, that a speculative assent to probable evidence, such as that which we yield to ordinary historical testimony, produced the effects ascribed to faith, in the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, can certainly believe any thing.
2dly. This doctrine explains to us the Manner, in which faith is spoken of in the Scriptures.
Particularly, we see abundant reasons, why it is spoken of as a Virtue; and is accordingly commanded in many forms, on many
occasions, and to all persons; and why it is promised a glorious and endless reward. At the same time, we have explained to us in the same satisfactory manner, the various scriptural accounts of its opposites, Distrust, or Unbelief ; and the reasons why it is pronounced to be sinful, is every where forbidden, and is threatened with endless punishment. This exhibition of faith, also, explains to us in the inost satisfactory manner, why faith is strongly and universally commended in the Scriptures; and why unbelief is reprobated in a similar manner; why saints are called believers and faithful; these names being considered as equivalent to the names holy and virtuous; and why unbelievers and infidels are terms used in the Scriptures, as equivalent to sinful, wicked, and ungodly. We learn, further, why faith, directed to the Word, Ordinances, and Providence, of God; to the Example, Atonement, Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation, of Christ; or directly to the Character of God and the Redeemer, is considered, in the Scriptures, as substantially of the same nature and as the same thing: the faith, exercised, being always the same moral act, springing from the same spirit, terminating in the same object, and producing the same effects. If, therefore, it exists with reference to one of these objects, it exists, also, in successive acts, invariably, towards them all. Finally, we see the reason, why faith in God, in Christ, or in divine truth, is exhibited as being, in a sense, the sum of all duty, and the foundation of all present and future, spiritual good; and why unbelief is presented to us, as, in a sense, the sum of all disobedience, and the source of all spiritual evil both here and hereafter.
These and the like representations, are easily explained, if by Faith we intend Confidence in the moral character of God and the Redeemer. This confidence is plainly the beginning, and the continuance, of union and attachment to our Creator ; while, on the other hand, distrust is a complete separation of the soul from the Author of its being. It is plainly impossible for him, who distrusts God, to have any moral union to him, or any devotion to his pleasure.
Confidence is also the highest honour, which an Intelligent crea. ture can render to his Creator. No act of such a creature can so clearly, or so strongly, declare his approbation of the Divine character, or his devotion to the Divine will, as committing ourselves entirely to him in this manner. In this act, we declare, in the most decisive manner, the character of God to be formed of such attributes, as will secure our whole well-being, and fulfil all our vindicable desires. Whatever can be hoped for from supreme and infinite excellence, we declare ourselves to expect from the character of God; and pronounce his pleasure to be, in our view, the sum of all that is excellent and desirable. In distrusting God, we declare in the same forcible manner precisely the opposite things;
and thus, so far as is in our power, dishonour his character, and impeach his designs.
3dly. This account of Faith, strongly evinces the Divinity of Christ.
The faith, which we are required to exercise in Christ, is as unqualified, as entire, and as extensive, as that which we are required to exercise towards God. The blessings, promised to it, are the same; and the evils, threatened to our refusal of it, are also the same. No mark of difference, with respect to these particulars, is even hinted at in the Scriptures. This must, I think, be inex. plicable, unless the attribute to which alone the faith is directed, and which alone render it our duty to exercise it, are in each case the same.
Besides, it is incredible, that an Intelligent being, rationally employed, should confide himself, his everlasting interests, his all, to any hands, but those of infinite perfection. Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, could not, I think, as he was leaving the world, have said to any creature, Lord Jesus, into thy hands I commend my spirit. No man, in the possession of a sound mind, could, as it seems to me, say this even to Gabriel himself.
4thly. We learn from these observations, that the faith of the Gospel will exist for ever.
We often speak of faith, as hereafter to be swallowed up in vision; and intend by this, that it will cease to exist in the future world. In a qualified sense, it is undoubtedly true; for many things which we now believe only, we shall hereafter know with certainty. But Confidence in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, will exist for ever. Moral character seems not, in its nature, to be an object of science, properly so called. Spirits by every eye, except the Omniscient, are discerned only through the medium of their actions; which are proof of their natural attributes, and expressions of their moral character. Moral character is the amount of all the volitions of a moral agent. As these are free and independent, they are incapable of being known, but by the voluntary manifestations of the agent himself. United, they form, and exhibit, the whole moral character. In parts, though they denote it truly, they denote it imperfectly.
In every age of Eternity it will be true, that, in the physical sense, it is possible for God to oppress, or destroy, even his obedient creatures. The proofs that he will not are found only in the disclosure of his moral character; and on these disclosures his virtuous creatures will for ever rely with undoubting confidence, and with the utmost propriety and wisdom. Knowledge, or science, in the strict sense, they will not, I think, be ever able to obtain of this immensely important subject; nor would they be benefited, were they able. Science is in no degree of a moral nature, nor of course attended by virtuous affections, nor followed by virtuous conduct. But confidence is in itself moral, and virtuous.
and capable of being the highest virtue of a rational creature. Amiable and excellent in itself, it is approved and loved by God; the foundation of delight in his character; the source of uninterrupted obedience to his will; an endearing and immoveable union to him; a similar union to the virtuous Universe; and the basis of everlasting friendship and beneficence, in all their mutual intercourse.
It will therefore revive beyond the grave; and with new vigour and perfection. With every new display of divine excellence, and created worth, it will rise higher and higher without end. The mind, in which it exists, will, in every stage of its progress, become wiser, nobler, better, and happier. Heaven in all its concerns; its inhabitants; and dispensations; will, from its influence, assume without intermission a brighter aspect; and the immense, eternal Kingdom of Jehovah continually become a more and more perfect mirror, reflecting, with increasing splendour, his supreme excellence and glory.
JUSTIFICATION.-THE INFLUENCE OF FAITH IN OUR JUSTIFI
Romans iii. 28. — Therefore we conclude that man is justified by Faith without works
HAVING shown, that we are justified freely by the grace of God; proved the duty of believing; and explained the nature of Evangelical Faith ; in the three preceding discourses ; I shall now proceed to examine the Connexion of Faith with our justification. The first of these discourses was employed in discussing that sohich is done in our justification on the part of God. In this discourse, I shall examine the Nature and Influence of that which is done on the part of man, towards the accomplishment of this important event. We are justified freely, or gratuitously. Yet we are justified conditionally: not in our natural, corrupt, and universal state; but in consequence of a new and peculiar state, denoted by the word faith.
In discussing this subject, I shall include the observations which I think it necessary to make, under the following heads :
1. The Manner, in which faith becomes, and,
II. The Propriety, with which it is constituted the Means of our justification.
1. I shall attempt to describe the Manner, in which Faith becomes the Means of our justification.
To exhibit this subject in the clearest light, it will be useful to return again to the Covenant of Redemption; in which the justification of mankind was originally promised. You will perhaps remember, that there are, as was formerly stated, three distinct promises, contained in this Covenant; beside the general one, which involves them all: that Christ shall see, or possess, a seed; that this seed shall prolong their days; or endure, or be happy, for ever; and that the throne, or dominion, of Christ, over them, shall be as the days of heaven: or in other words, eternal. The first of these promises, on which the other two are founded, is that Christ shall see, or possess, a seed: that is, he shall have a number, elsewhere said to be very great, of children, disciples, or followers, in consequence of making his soul an offering for sin ; or a propitiatory sacrifice.
The great question, naturally arising in this place, is, In what manner do Apostate Men, of whom his followers were to consist, become his seed? To this question I answer: By Faith. In explain