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and thus he went forward joyfully, "fighting the good fight of faith." Moreover, he saw an infinitely brighter crown than his,—and he was eager to return love for love, and suffering for suffering, in gathering new jewels for the diadem of his Almighty Redeemer..
Here, then, we see the operation of faith to great advantage ;—not in one victory, however splendid, nor yet in a series of brilliant triumphs of a single class :-no, here is victory upon victory-triumph upon triumph, in every variety of conflict, through a long course of years. Not one defeat in the whole time. Not one inglorious wound. Not one tremor of cowardice ;--as if God would show how much a single Christian can do and suffer under the strong impulse of gospel faith.
From the preceding works of faith it would seem not difficult to ascertain,
II. SOME OF ITS LEADING CHARACTERISTICS.
In the first place, it is a belief in divine testimony respecting unseen things, with corresponding affections, purposes, and actions. So far as the things believed are lovely and desirable, "faith works by love” to obtain them. So far as they are unlovely, or objects of dread, faith works by aversion or fear to avoid them:-thus Noah's faith operated through the passion of fear, when he built the ark. So far as the things believed afford ground of confidence, faith leads the soul to trust in them. So far as they relate to Christ, the bright center of revealed truth, and the hope of a lost world, faith prompts to a reliance upon him, as a divine, all-sufficient, altogether lovely and glorious Savior. So far as they require outward action, faith urges on to this result; and without external works is not made perfect. And as the entire system of truth presented to the eye of faith is most pure and holy, persons under its influence do of course "purify themselves by faith." Do any object to this definition as too complex? I ask, if one more simple would include the whole idea of faith, as gathered from its works? Is it defined, “the simple belief of the simple truth?"-an exercise of the understanding merely separate from affection, volition, and action-having complete existence by itself? Such faith, "being alone,” an apostle has declared "dead." It is not the thing we are now considering. That, as we have seen, has vitality. It works. It brings into action the various faculties of soul and body. In its higher exercises, it exerts a controlling influence over the whole man. This "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;" it leads its possessor, in his feelings, purposes, and actions, to regard "the things that are seen and temporal," far less than "the things that are unseen and eternal." It conducted Noah, Moses, Daniel, and Paul up to heaven: it will be a safe guide thither in all future time.
2. Faith is a reasonable thing. Some, with a contemptuous smile, would mark it as the essence of fanaticism-a delusion of the weak or the ignorant. But is not the process highly rational, by which its nature is ascertained? Is it not the favorite mode of sound philosophy to learn the properties of things by their effects? Besides, what is more rational than a belief in the sayings of Him who cannot lie? a belief, too, that wakes up the affections and controls the life? And what more rational than a sacrifice of present good for something better in sure prospect?
Such faith, enthusiasm! Far from it. No, it is the perfection of reason to believe, not this false world, not the father of lies, but God; and especially to believe Him on subjects of too large grasp for our puny minds, and quite beyond the range of our senses, not excepting his declarations on the high mysteries of the Trinity, and the atonement of his well-beloved Son. It is the perfection of reason to prefer the more excellent things; and such are the objects of faith-in kind and duration far superior to the objects of sense, and better suited to our deathless souls. The way of faith is then the way of truth and soberness. The man who takes it has no cause to blush. No, it is the opposite character -he who believes not "the true sayings of God"--he who feels not and acts not in accord with these announcements of Heaven; this man's course is glaringly irrational; for he rejects the very best of testimony.
3. Faith is bold and unbending. It gives decision and inflexibility of purpose and action, not from obstinacy, ambition, or other unworthy motive-but simply because it rests on immutable truth. A child of stern principle, not of circumstances, its recreation is to meet and surmount obstacles. The hardy plant can flourish amid snows, and mountains, and tempests. Yet a person under its influence may be meek as Moses, while firm as Daniel. He may even imitate "the meekness and gentleness of Christ," with none of that pliancy of conscience which sacrifices the plain will of God to considerations of interest or expediency. The man of sterling faith has his eye raised from earth to heaven. His ear is less open to the voice of man than of God. In time of emergency, he asks not, with pale and palpitating solicitude, What course will expose me to least danger? What will best secure my own ease, reputation, or pecuniary interest? What will gratify friends? What will this man of wealth or that man of influence approve? What will be popular in the community? Were these the chief questions, Noah had never built an ark, Moses had not turned his back on the glittering throne of the Pharaohs, and Daniel had failed to be "greatly beloved" of God. But, with the man of faith, the first and the last great question is, What is the mind of God? This point settled, he lays his course, and turns not to the right hand to grasp a crown, or to the left to escape a wheel of torture.
4. Faith is very powerful. We have seen the proof, not in abstract reasoning, but in facts--in its actual works, exhibited by sundry devoted servants of God. Here is not theory but experiment, triumphant experiment, in accord with the inspired declarations; "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith"--"Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” have just now seen how faith prompts its possessor to take his elevated course, in spite of the world's frown or smile, and to overcome all that is in it, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." It is thus a conqueror of the world, not like Alexander, but in the highest and best sense.
Let the world bring out her whole array of power. Let her display the nameless attractions of home and country, and add to these the strongest endearments of relationship, and attempt to confine within such limits the affections and the desires: what can it avail with one who has
taken Christ for his Master and Lord, and who hears him say; "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me?" Or let the world spread out her hills and valleys, her flocks and herds, her gold and silver and diamonds, her ease and her luxuries; let her come, too, with her learning and titles, her crowns, her pompous magnificence, to allure the man of faith from the path of duty; and let Satan concentrate in one fascinating spot "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them," and offer immediate and full possession-the bribery utterly fails; -faith lifts the soul above the whole, as if they were children's toys : it counts them as nothing and vanity in its eager pursuit of the real, endless glories of heaven.
Unsuccessful here,-let the world now suddenly change her smiles for frowns. Let her point at the believer her finger of scorn, and toss up her head, and look down upon him with contempt, and add poverty to reproach; let her bring forth the terror of her laws and customs, with the strength of her kings and armies, to compel obedience; let her set open the foul and dark recesses of her prisons, and show her instruments of torture, and heat her furnaces, and make her lions roar fearfully: 'tis all in vain. Faith, like the servant of the son of Shaphat, still sees a more powerful array with her than against her. She has often triumphed over such foes, and she can again. Yes; and if the world could bring out far brighter charms and darker frowns than are now in her storehouse, faith would still get the victory.
5. Another attribute of faith is sublimity. The scene spread out before its eye, how vast! how boundless! even the whole circle of revealed truth. For "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Here is the unseen world in all past ages-so far as the Scriptures place it before us—and added to this, the unseen world as it now exists; and then the prophetic view, down to the end of time, and onward for endless ages. Yes, the eye of faith ranges back to the beginning, and forward for ever and ever, upward to heaven, downward to hell. What length, and breadth, and height, and depth! And then, the stupendous exhibitions of power and wisdom, of grace and justice, of bliss and wo, that come within the view! The perfections of Jehovah, with their grand results! Here are things vast to be admired, things excellent to be loved and sought, things revolting to be shunned. How unlike the trifles of earth! How suited to expand the intellect, to improve the moral feelings, to ennoble the whole man! Here is room for the largest grasp of mind. How then can the believer, whose "eye affecteth his heart," dwell amid these scenes-be familiar with them, and not be wakened to intense interest? How can his mind fix, as in a trance, upon his own Redeemer, the bright center of this scene of magnificence, and his soul not burn with a holy desire to be clothed in his likeness? Such was the fact with Paul, and such has been the truly heroic and sublime course of not a few kindred spirits. The sons of earth may misname the objects and the works of faith low and contemptible; but the light of a burning world will show alike the dignity of these and the vanity of all inferior things.
6. Another obvious characteristic of faith is its moral excellence. The
gospel has had to encounter much obloquy from the allegation, that it offers its blessings on a condition which has no moral quality. The objector defines faith an exercise of the understanding simply—a necessary result of evidence presented to that faculty, and without connection with the heart or practice. Hence a favorite maxim of infidelity; "No matter what a man believes, if his practice be good." But genuine faith is not thus "dead, being alone." It is a most efficient principle. We have seen how it " wrought righteousness." "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." Faith has then a' part in all actions pleasing to God. And in no case can the existence of saving faith be proved, where there is no moral excellence-nay, without this, it has no existence; For, "with the heart"-not with the understanding merely-" man believeth unto righteousness." What! no moral quality in a belief which never exists without holy feelings! which is always in happy accord with sound and enlightened reason! No moral quality in a faith which secures the mortification of all the unholy affections and lusts! None in a faith which always prompts to that right-forward course, which the finger of God points out for man, through this crooked and ensnaring world! Where is moral excellence to be found, if not here? if not in the Noahs, and Abrahams, and Pauls ? And what more suitable condition of eternal life could be proposed, than a faith which influences the wanderer from God and happiness to return, with true penitence and love, to his Father's house?
Yet, justification by a holy faith is not of works, but of grace. For it is the faith of a transgressor; and when a person has once broken the law, no subsequent obedience, however strict, can avert the curse. "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." By the law, then, "no flesh can be justified." Besides, every believer regards his own imperfect righteousness as filthy rags." In his best deeds, he sees no meritorious ground of acceptance with God. He fixes his eye solely on the merit of Christ. Here is all his dependence for pardon and eternal life. He therefore expects salvation, not by deeds of law, but entirely by grace, through the precious blood of a Redeemer.
Such, brethren, as appears from its operations, is the Christian grace, to which, in the matter of salvation, the Bible has given a marked preeminence. And now, in conclusion, we may notice,
First, its divine origin. If it were not classed with "the fruits of the Spirit;" if it were not expressly called "the gift of God;" if Jesus were not styled "the Author and Finisher of our faith;" its very works and leading features would reveal its high source. Who can fail to see the broad, deep stamp of Heaven on a principle so entirely at variance with the spirit and course of this world, so stern and uncompromising, so holy, 66 SQ unlike every thing human?" Truly," this is the finger of God," the result of his transforming power. Nor does the fact excuse unbelief. For, a refusal to believe the well-attested, " true sayings of God," so as to feel and act in accordance with them, can have no apology. It is manifestly irrational. It betrays great perversity of heart. "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar." The sin is "red like crimson." And the fact, that "all men have not faith," proves an unwilling ness to have it-demonstrates human depravity.
A second remark is, that saving faith is the same in every age and nation. It may differ in the number of its objects, and in its degree of strength; for our Savior speaks of "great faith," and "little faith." The form, also, of its conflicts and trials may vary with circumstances. But its distinctive character is invariable. It is always an influential belief in divine testimony. We have found it in Noah before the flood, and in Abraham and Moses before the giving of the law; in Daniel and his companions under the Jewish economy, and in Paul under the Christian dispensation. These specimens of faith, selected from the different dispensations under which God has seen fit to train men for heaven, are of course genuine. They come attested by the hand and seal of Jehovah. With the exception of Paul, the examples have all been taken from those worthies so happily grouped in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, as having obtained a good report through faith." The marked agreement between them alike supports the apostle's definition of faith, at the opening of the chapter, and evinces the fact that there is but " one faith," as well as "one Lord." They are in truth of a high order, but not too high for imitation. While we may well inquire, if we have "the like precious faith," we should consider that these ancient saints had far less light and privilege than ourselves. We have not only "Moses and the prophets," but Christ and his apostles, together with the more abundant "ministration of the Spirit ;" and shall our faith be of a slender and sickly growth? shall it suffer in comparison with those bright specimens from less favored times?
Thirdly, contemplate some of the victories which faith is called to achieve at the present day, and in future. And what are the leading forms of opposition in our beloved country? Not a tyrant's dungeon "with bread of affliction and water of affliction." Not a despot's heated furnace; for this is a land of religious freedom. She is neither called to "stop the mouths of lions," nor to "quench the violence of fire." Her foes are of quite other stamp-less terrific, yet more subtle, and possibly more dangerous.
Sitting as we do under our vines and fig-trees, the enemy appears with deceitful smiles, kind looks, and "words softer than oil." Now, he displays, with not a little address, the pleasures of sense. Now, ease, or honor, or property, is the lure. And now, again, he puts on the grave and wise look of philosophy, and doubts the divine origin of the Bible, offers a plea for vice, casts a sneer at divine institutions, or in some other way encourages departure from truth and holiness.
Under our free government, we hear much of the omnipotence of public opinion. If this opinion quadrate with Christian doctrine and practice, well; the greater its influence, the better. But if it take its shape in no small measure from worldly men and worldly maxims--if it is in fact the opinion of a corrupt community, and a standard of moral sentiment and conduct quite unlike and quite below the high standard of Scripture, it becomes a rock on which there is great danger of making “shipwreck of faith and a good conscience." And such it has ever been, to large extent, in this unholy world. Even on these fairest plains of Christendom, where our lot is kindly cast, public opinion, especially of late, has seemed to make silent and gradual departure from the pure and unbend