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foolish propensities, and moderating our attachments to worldly objects, if we would pass through life with peace and satisfaction.-And if we consider, that our present existence is only a state of probation, in which we may be prepared for a happier scene of things, then Christianity will recommend itself as peculiarly adapted to aid us in the prosecution of this important design. For it is a dispensation entirely calculated to enlighten the minds, to purify the hearts, and amend the morals of mankind in general, and to render those who live according to its laws, qualified through the merits of their Saviour for admission into the more perfect society of saints and angels, where they shall gradually advance to greater degrees of holiness and happiness through the interminable ages sof immortality. Such is the gracious plan proposed by the Christian religion, and such the purpose for which Christ came into the world; well therefore may we say, that he hath the words of eternal life.
It now only remains, to apply the subject to our edifi cation and instruction in righteousness.
1. Let us be thankful for the knowledge communicated by the gospel, respecting every subject of natural and revealed religion. While the nations of the earth are igno rant of the living and the true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent; while they know not how they should conduct themselves as rational beings in this world, nor what shall be their fate in the world to come; we are instructed by revelation concerning the whole economy which is carrying on by the divine Being for the govern ment of his intelligent creatures. We are taught to wor ship our Maker in spirit and in truth; to rely on our Redeemer as mighty to save; and to trust that divine provi dence will guide us through the vicissitudes of this mortal state, till we arrive at happiness in the paradise above. Blessed are they who know the joyful sound which has reached our ears: let us walk worthy of so many mercies, and manifest our gratitude by lives and conversations becoming the gospel.
2. Let us study to prepare ourselves for that future state awaiting us, by attaining those qualifications which
are requisite to render ourselves partakers of it. Let us cultivate a habit of piety and devotion; let us believe all the discoveries which the scripture unfolds; let us obey all the precepts which it inculcates; let us abstain from all the sins which it prohibits; let us repent of the transgressions of which we have been guilty, and endeavour to maintain a conscience void of offence; and from a consciousness of our unworthiness in the sight of God, let us hope for acceptance at his tribunal through the merits of that Saviour, who is preparing mansions for the righteous, that where he is, there we may be also, even to behold his glory.
3. Let us rejoice that the author and finisher of our faith has afforded evidence of his mission from on high, by the works which he did in his Father's name, and by the gracious words which proceeded from his mouth; let us believe in him as the son of God manifested in the flesh, who was sent to declare to us the whole counsel of God; and that we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we credit the message which he hath delivered, which is able to make those who receive it wise unto salvation. Let us therefore be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding: giving thanks to God, through Jesus Christ, who by him hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
ON CHRISTIAN FAITH.
HEB. XI. 1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen.
IN the present limited state of our mental faculties, we cannot have such demonstrative evidence of every species of knowledge in which we are concerned, as we shall hereafter attain, when that which is perfect is come, and that which is in part shall be done away. We now see, as through a glass darkly, many truths which, in a more advanced stage of intellectual improvement, shall be perceived with intuitive certainty. In that celestial world, to which the faithful are admitted after death, the most mysterious subjects, which now perplex the human understanding, will be fully unfolded to our view, and appear in the clearest light. The whole scheme of providence, by which mankind have been ruled from the beginning to the end of time, will exhibit the most exact distribution of good and evil, wisely adapted to their respective condi. tions, and necessary for promoting their general welfare. Now, indeed, many discoveries respecting the administration of the Deity are obscure to our conceptions, and many apparent disorders prevail in the natural and moral condition of the human species. These we cannot often reconcile with the goodness and mercy of our beneficent Creator, and in these he displays his sovereign authority exerting itself in dispensations which are inscrutable and past finding out. Yet, as we are taught by experience and scripture, that his tender mercies are over all his works, therefore we believe that while clouds and darkness are round about him, justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
This belief is a necessary principle to form our judgments, and direct our conduct, and has always actuated the minds of the faithful in every age of the world. By its influence, a firm persuasion has been produced, that he who has created and still sustains the universe and all its inhabitants, is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, and that he will be the support of his people to all generations. By it the patriarchs of old, who en. dured many hardships in their earthly pilgrimage, were enabled to confide in the overruling protection of their heavenly Father, who would guide them by his counsel while they lived, and afterwards receive them to glory. By it the saints who lived in obedience to the divine commandments under the law, were led to expect acceptance with God, through that Messiah who was promised in the times of the gospel. By it, we whose lines are fallen in these latter days, are taught to credit the testimony which God has given of his son; to receive the message of reconciliation delivered in his name, to believe all the doctrines which he hath revealed, to assent to the truth of those narratives respecting his life and actions, death and resurrection, which are preserved in the writings of the evangelical historians. By it also we are instructed to regard him as our intercessor at the right hand of God, through whom we may present our supplications with success, by whom is conveyed to us every blessing of a spiritual nature, by whom the affairs of his church are conducted, and by whom the world will at last be judged with impartial righteousness.--By faith, in short, we are enabled to realize to our view, every object which revelation has discovered, and to apprehend things that are unseen and eternal, with as full conviction as if they were seen and temporal. And under the influence of this principle we draw nigh to God with assurance and confidence, and perform every act of religious service with becoming solemnity, conscious that he who searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins of the children of men, requireth uprightness in the inward part. For, without faith it is impossible to please God; but by its possession, every office we perform in the Christian life ascends up in sweet memorial before the throne of the Majesty on high. Since faith is so indispensably necessary for all the purposes of true religion, it will be an important inquiry to consider this subject more fully in detail; and therefore I propose to shew in the following discourse,
I. The nature of that religious principle, denominated faith.
II. The means by which it is established in the mind. III. The effects which it produces on the heart and life.
IV. The application of the sulject.
1. The general acceptation of the term faith, requires to be explained, that we may understand its nature and properties. There have been many strange and mystical
. notions entertained respecting this principle, which are altogether inexplicable in themselves, and inconsistent with the experience of mankind, or the declarations of scripture. Some theologians who have treated of this subject, have darkened counsel by words without knowledge, and involved it in a maze of scholastic subtleties; and such is the disposition of many persons to consider every religious topic as containing some metaphysical nicety, that the more unintelligible any doctrine is represented, so much the more does it seem to partake of a sacred character. But we have not so learned to understand the Christian religion; as the whole system of revealed truth is a series of propositions conceivable by the human mind, and intended to influence our lives and actions.-If this be the case, then faith must be of such a nature, as to contain in it a practical efficacy which may be useful in directing human conduct. Accordingly, scripture teaches us, that “ we walk by faith, not by sight,” and that true Christians “ look not so much at the things which are seen and temporal, as at those which are unseen and eternal.”
This gracious endowment, however, is not the offspring of a heated imagination, but a rational principle establish