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in his only Son Jesus Christ, than his faith, in all its parts and effects, was intended for a type and pattern of ours.
If he, through a firm persuasion that God best knows what every man ought to do, and hath an absolute right to determine what he shall do, subdued all his passions and affections to the will of God; we, through a like persuasion, must subdue ours also to the divine will, must 'deny ourselves,' and, if we are called to it, must' take up our cross, and follow Christ.' If he thus stifled the affections of his own heart, with a view, founded on the promises of God, to greater joys than the gratification of those affections could give him, and with an eye to his Redeemer, so we likewise, 'denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.'
If Abraham strengthened by his faith, and submitting to the will of God, renounced his country, kindred, and the lands he was actually possessed of, in a place corrupted with idolatry and wickedness, and travelled to a distant land, a land merely of promise; we, in like manner, actuated by our faith, and renouncing the things of this present sinful world, ought to fix our eyes on the future happiness hoped for, and be ready, as often as God requires it, to leave our houses, our brethren, our sisters, our fathers, our mothers, our wives, our children, our lands, for Christ's sake, and for the gospel's,' in hopes of receiving an hundred fold, now in this present time,' as Abraham did, if such shall be the will of God, and with a certainty of eternal life in the world to
You see how parallel our faith and duty are to those of Abraham, particularly in the resignation of our children, insomuch that every Christian, having, with Abraham, received the promises, ought, as he did, to offer up his onlybegotten’son, in case God should require him at his hands; 'for he that loveth son or daughter more than Christ, is not worthy of him,' nor of his Father, who surrendered him to death an offering for our sins. And as Abraham must have believed, against all human probability in the resurrection of the dead (for how otherwise could he have relied on the promises made to him in the posterity of that childless son he was going to kill ?) so it is necessary we likewise should
'believe, not only in him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, that the righteousness which is by faith may be imputed to us also,' but in the same doctrine of a resurrection, already past in regard to Christ, and yet to come in regard to ourselves, be this doctrine as mysterious as it will. As Abraham reasoned on the necessity of a resurrection in order to the hope of posterity by his son, before any instance of an actual resurrection had been given, or any promise (for ought appears) had yet encouraged that reasoning, so, now that both an instance and a promise are recorded, as assurances, that we shall rise again from the dead, our faith in an event so absolutely necessary to our entering into eternal life, hath every argument to support it, which the nature of that event will admit, and therefore is absolutely required. Our faith (no more than that of Abraham) is not to stagger at any degree of mysteriousness or improbability in the revelations or promises of God, for otherwise we cannot be the children of Abraham, nor believe as he did, nor be blessed with him.
Faith, you see, underwent no trial in Abraham, which it may not, one time or other, undergo in any believer. Nay, the faith of every believer is at all times tried, as that of Abraham was, though not always so severely. The promises of God are, or ought to be, always before our eyes, and in order to obtain the great things promised, there is always something amazing and unaccountable by reason to be believed, that the pride of our understandings may be humbled; there is ever something to be denied or subdued in ourselves that our rebellious passions may be mortified; something to be guarded against, or contended with, in the world; something too pleasing, that God hath forbidden, to be avoided ; or something hated by a corrupt nature, that he hath commanded to be performed; some houses, lands, or kindreds to be left; some journey to an unknown place of promise to be undertaken; some darling Isaac to be offered up, whom in gratitude we ought to offer, since God hath offered his Isaac, or only Son, for us. And any one of these may require all the vigour of a lively faith in him who is so circumstanced. Hence we may see that the faith of a Christian never wants exercise, never wants opportunities of offering up sacrifices to God, of offering up on some occasions, such sacrifices as
require an equal degree of trust in God, and resignation to his will, with those of Abraham, when he laid his only son on the altar. The things we are to sacrifice are often as dear to us as Isaac was to him, and require the cord, the knife, and a stern and unrelenting heart like his, to make them proper victims for the altar of God. Now nothing but a lively faith, and a steady expectation of the glory promised to us in Christ Jesus, can give us such a heart; and no other faith but this, will be counted to us for righteousness.' That faith which can produce no effects like these,
. is dead,' for it is without works, and may tremble, with 'the faith of devils, but it cannot hope, with that of Christians.
Thus ought we to reason and act under the single suppo-. sition of believing that the Scriptures are really the word of God, although we could not see either the fitness or benefit of injunctions so rigorous and hard to be obeyed, because it ought to be presumed, that there is sufficient fitness and benefit in every thing enjoined by God. But as in most cases the reasonableness of this obedience is, or may be, apparent to any considering mind, the heart that proves refractory is left without excuse. The severest precepts of the gospel are as far from being tyrannical, as the most indulgent. Their only tendency is to purify our corrupt affections, to raise them above the world, and to knit them eternally to God. Even reason and experience may teach us, that, without the benefit of such a discipline, we must for ever remain in our original impurity, and consequently incapacity of a union with the source of happiness. It is therefore only in a heart uninfluenced by right reason, that any opposition is given to the duty of imitating Abraham, either in faith or practice.
The Christian faith would be universally embraced, did every man find it as pleasant to perform its duties, as it is easy to believe in its evidences. But even among those who do profess it, and for such only this discourse is intended, the resistance given by a corrupt and refractory heart, saps its foundations in the understanding, and enfeebles it in its operations. Hence come all the disputes about its most necessary and evident principles, with all the doubts and cavils about its mysteries. One man finds it very difficult
to believe that God should command mankind to mortify those passions which he himself hath given them. Another cannot conceive himself obliged to believe in that which so great an understanding as his cannot account for. One is too refined to be good on hopes and fears. Another is too knowing to need a teacher, though sent directly from hea
Either therefore there were no miracles wrought to prove the truth of Christianity, nor is there any rectitude and force in its precepts; or else if this conclusion is refuted by the profits derived from a profession of Christianity, and not to be retained if that is renounced; then another course must be taken, and the reason of these cavillers must be vested with supreme authority to explain the Scriptures, and give such a convenient turn to every thing, that nothing shall be left to contradict their opinions, or bear too hard on their passions and pursuits.
Our reason, say they, is the directing and ruling power of our nature. By this, in matters of religion, as well as in all other things, God requires we should be both guided and governed; and therefore can never be supposed to offer any thing to us in his word, which we cannot perfectly understand, much less to require any thing of us, which our own judgment does not approve of. Nothing therefore in his word can be mysterious; and if any thing contained in it, appears however to be so, it is the business of our reason to fit it with a meaning more familiar to herself. Neither can any thing there make that right, which our reason tells us is wrong ; nor that
which our reason says is right. If any thing therefore in the Scriptures appears to do so, it is the office of our reason to prove this to be but an appearance, and to find out some sense for the words, more easily digested by the understandings which our Maker hath bestowed upon us.
Thus is the reason of these men set up by themselves above the word of God.
Both sides of a flat contradiction may as easily be true, as this deistical, can be a right plan, to proceed on in relation to religion. Your passions and desires so often solicit you to that which you know to be wrong, that it is just matter of wonder, how you can object to that restraint and mortification, when imposed by revelation, which the natural effects of those passions force common sense to have re
course to. You know a thousand things to be true, which you can, by no means, account for; what then hinders you from believing a few more of a nature still more incomprehensible, on the authority of God's word? Why will you discipline your child or servant by hopes and fears, by rewards and punishments, and yet cavil at God for dealing in like manner by his, though you are sensible, that the sensations of hope and fear were as certainly made a part of your nature by him, as the rest of your passions and desires ?
Reason is undoubtedly the ruling principle in man as to every thing that lies open to reason.
But there are many things which do not; which reason, left to herself, can form no idea of. If at any time some knowledge of these should become necessary, what forbids you to receive that knowledge from God, and to close with it as unquestionably true and right, on the authority of his word, if you are sure it is his word? Your reason, you say, is the only interpreter you have of his word. True; but then your reason is only to interpret, not to dictate, not to cavil, not even to demur, when there is no contradiction. You know what is true and false, right and wrong, in some things; in others you do not. God perfectly knows the distinction in all things. Will you not submit your own opinion to his knowledge in some things? May not that be right in some things, and on some occasions, which you think wrong? Nay, may not the giver of all laws, who himself is subject to none, sometimes dispense with laws of his own making? If he may not, what will become of
who have so often violated his laws, and can have no hope, but in dispensing mercy, for in an atonement you will not trust? Besides, consider
pray, that the faculty of reason, in different men, is endued with different degrees of strength, is more or less enlightened, more or less exercised, more or less biassed by their prejudices or passions; yet here as high prerogative is given to the meanest and most fettered understanding, as to the best. The reasoning faculty in all men hath suffered as great a crush from the fall, as any other faculty of the mind. In most men, the purer powers of the mind, imagination, memory, and judgment, but more especially the last, appear but too plainly, to have received a great diminution of their force from the corruption of human