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ACTS XV. 9. COMPARED WITH GAL. V. 6.
Purifying their hearts by faith,-faith which
worketh by love.
The church of Christ, chosen out of the world to bear his cross and to partake of his holiness, has, from the very nature of her vocation, many obstacles to surmount, and many foes to vanquish. A warfare, on the issue of which are staked her privileges, her consolations, her everlasting hope, opens an ample field for exertion, and ought to concentrate her strength and wisdom. Unhappily, however, controversies about things which do not involve her substantial interests, have at at all times interrupted her peace, and marred her
, beauty. Weakness, prejudice, and passion found their way into the little family of the Master VOL. I.
himself; and, even after the descent of the Spirit
Το us, my brethren, not less than to those early professors of the cross, is the heavenly oracle addressed. We, too, have our weaknesses, our prejudices, our passions, which often embark us in foolish and frivolous litigation. We, too, have immortal souls of which the whole world cannot repay the loss, and which are hastening to the
bar of God's righteousness. Come, then, let us endeavor to collect our wandering thoughts, to shut out the illusions of external habit, to put a negative on the importunities of sense, and try whether our religion will endure the ordeal of God's word. If our faith is genuine, it purifies the heart, and works by love. Precious faith, therefore, in its effects upon spiritual character; that faith which draws the line of immutable distinction between a believer and an unbeliever, and without which no man has a right to call himself a Christian, is the subject of our present consideration. And while the treasure is in an earthen vessel, may the excellency of the power be of God!
Before we attempt to analyze the operations of faith, we must obtain correct views of its nature,
Some imagine it to be a general profession of Christianity, and a decent compliance with its ceremonial. They accordingly compliment each other's religion, and are astonished and displeased if we demur at conceding that all are good Christians who have not ranged themselves under the banners of open infidelity.
Others, advancing a step farther, suppose that faith is an assent to the truth of the gospel founded on the investigation of its rational evidence. Without asking what proportion of the multitudes who profess Christianity have either leisure, or means, or talents, for such an investigation, let us test this dogma by plain fact. Among those legions of accursed spirits whom God has delivered into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment, and their miserable asso- . ciates of the human race who have already perished from his presence, there is not one who doubts the truth of revelation. Men may be sceptics in this world, but they carry no scepticism with them into the bottomless pit. They have there rational evidence which it is impossible to resist; evidence, shining in the blaze of everlasting burnings, that every word of God is pure. That faith, then, by which we are saved, must be altogether different from a conviction, however rational, which is yet compatible with a state of perdition. If any incline to set light by this representation, as taking the advantage of our ignorance, and retreating into obscurity which we cannot explore, let him open
eyes on the common occurrences of life. He may see, for there is not even the shadow of concealment, he
may see both these good Christians of fashion, and these good Christians of argument, without God in the world—He may see them betraying those very tempers, and pursuing those very courses, by which the Bible describes the workers of iniquity-He may see them despising, re
proaching, persecuting that profession and practice, which, if the scriptures are true, must belong to such as live godly in Christ Jesus. Of both these classes of pretended Christians the faith is found to be spurious, and at an infinite remove from the faith of God's elect: for in neither of them does it purify the heart, or work by love. The scriptures teach us better.
As faith, in general, is reliance upon testimony, and respects solely the veracity of the testifier; so that faith which constitutes a man a believer before God, is a simple and absolute reliance upon his testimony, exhibited in his word, on this solid and SINGLE ground, that he is the God who cannot lie. It was not a process of reasoning which riveted in Abraham's mind the persuasion that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed, and procured him the appellation of the father of the faithful. It was an act of NAKED TRUST in the veracity of his covenant-God, not only without, but above and against, the consultations of flesh and blood. Abraham BELIEVED God, believed him in hope, against hope; and it was counted to him for righteousness. It is the same at this hour. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it-must silence every objection, and cut short every debate. And they who do not thus receive the scriptures, cannot give another proof that they believe in God, as a promising God, at all.