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practise, the grossest deception upon ourselves. If any man (says St. James) seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Here we have an exemplification of this doctrine, in a very extensive class of offences, which a man may commit, whilst he seems to be religious; and is therefore deceiving both himself and others in that respect. The offences of which the tongue may be guilty by falsehood, in swearing, in provoking to anger, and in all the endless modifications of those vices, with their dismal consequences, would present indeed a long and frightful catalogue. But they would still exhibit but a small part of those sins, which are but too frequently committed, by men who do not scruple to call themselves Christians, and who probably consider themselves to be justly entitled to that appellation.
But I by no means intend to insinuate or to assert, that it is every breach of Christian rules or morals, that will amount to a proof, that a man is insincere in his profession of that faith. Were this so, Christianity itself could be hardly said to have any existence. For
the same Apostle, whose doctrine I am stating, has also assured us, that in many things we offend all. It is not therefore the occasional, but the habitual and uniform violation of his precepts, that will exclude us from the benefits of our Saviour's sacrifice, and demonstrate that we are not worthy to be called his disciples. It is to be feared, that there are but few persons who have not to reproach themselves for the frequent neglect, or the inadequate performance, of some of the duties enjoined by our religion. So long as they do thus reproach themselves, there is room to hope that they may at length attain unto an effectual repentance, and an entire amendment, and become reconciled to their own consciences and to God. But should they go on from day to day (as too many do) in the total and deliberate omission of any one branch of Christian morals, without any
compunctious visitings” of remorse, or any serious intentions of a change of conduct; however regular may be their observance of the external forms of Christianity, and constant their declarations of adherence to its faith, it is but too certain that they are delud
ing themselves, with a vain expectation of partaking of the benefits of that covenant, the conditions of which they have failed to observe.
But faith not only cannot consist with bad conduct-it
may be endangered also by erroneous judgment. There have not been wanting those, who after wavering between errors of an opposite kind in this matter, have settled at last in Scepticism or Infidelity. It is of the utmost importance therefore, that we should bring to its consideration minds free from prejudice, and anxious only for the dis
66 What is truth ?” was a perplexing question to the Roman governor. And it will be equally so to us with regard to religion, if we do not seek it in the Scriptures alone, and reason upon them with clearness and simplicity. The diversity of doctrines that have been, and are deduced from them by equally able and good men, should teach us to exercise the utmost caution in forming our own opinions of them, and to treat with great
forbearance those, which we deem erroneous in others. Faith itself we know, is very differently understood by different denominations of Christians, and even by individuals of
covery of truth.
the same denomination. That we may fix our's upon a sound yet a rational foundation, it is necessary to form a correct notion of its nature. To understand both what it is, and what it is not. It is different from knowledge, though it may perhaps possess equal certainty. For “ that which is credible may be the object of faith in one person, of evident knowledge in another ?." They who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, knew it to be true: we who did not witness it, believe it upon their testimony. Now the credibility of testimony, depends entirely upon the ability and integrity of the witness. If we have no reason to doubt that he who testifies, knows the truth of what he affirms, and has no disposition to swerve from it, we naturally and almost inevitably believe him. The whole business of this world could be carried on upon no other principle. But still this is but human faith ; “And as the knowledge of all men is but imperfect, and their hearts deceitful, and consequently their integrity may be suspected, there can be no infallible ground of human faith?.” But in “ Divine faith,”
Bishop Pearson on the Creed--Article 1st.
that is, in revealed religion, the case is different. There the witness is “infallible,” for he can neither deceive nor be deceived, being no other than God himself. No matter what may be the nature of his communication ; if we are satisfied that he has made it, we are bound to believe it, and indeed can do no otherwise, though it may be partially, or even entirely, beyond the bounds of our comprehension. When he assures us, for instance, that he is a spirit, and that he has existed from eternity, we cannot hesitate to admit those propositions to be indisputably true; though we can form no ideas whatever, of the nature of a purely spiritual being, nor of that of eternal existence. The only question here is, has the Revelation been made ? And what were the proofs, by which it was supported ?
Now the only conceivable proofs in such a case are miracles. They have been called, and truly called, the “ proper credential of a messenger from heaven !." And accordingly they were granted in great abundance, both
Bishop Warburton's Sermon on 1 Cor. i. 30.Works, vol. ix. 83.