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NO EVIDENCE BUT THE TESTIMONY OF God. But, perhaps, faith may be considered as opposed to sigbt, more particularly, in three senses ; namely, to corporal sight, to the discoveries of mere reason, and to ultimate vision.
1. To walk by faith is opposed to walking by corporal sight. In this sense we shall find it plentifully used in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, concerning Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and oth
Thus Abel, by faith, offered a more excellent offering than Cain. God had said, in effect, once for all, that he would never speak, nor be spoken to, in a way of friendship, by any of the human race, but through a mediator. This was intimated, partly by man's being debarred from all access to the tree of life, partly by the promise of the woman's seed, and partly by the institution of sacrifices. Cain overlooked all these, and approached God without an expiatory sacrifice ; as if there bad been no breach between them, and so no need of an atonement. This was an instance of daring unbelief. Abel, on the contrary, took God at bis word, perceived the evil of sin, and the awful breach made by it; dared not to bring an offering without a victim for atonement; had respect to the promised Messiah ; and thus, by faith in the unseen Lamb, offered a more excellent offering than Cain.
Thus also it is said of Noah, By faith he being warned of God of THINGS NOT seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house ; by the which he condemned the world, &c. No doubt, the world were ready to despise Noah, while building his ark, as an enthusiast, whose faculties were probably deranged, wbo put bimself to a deal of trouble, and wanted to put other people to as much, merely through a notion that ran in his head, that the world should be drowned. Why, was there any thing in the world that looked like it, or seemed to portend such an event ? Nothing at all : all things seemed to continue as they were from the cre, ation. What, then, could induce Noah to do as he did ? Nothing but the testimony of God, which he credited, and acted accor. dingly.
So also it is said of Abraham, when called to go into another country, by faith he obeyed, and went out, NOT KNOWING WHITHER
A pretty errand it would seem, to his friends and
neighbours. It is possible that some of these, observing him preparing for a journey, might inquire whither be was going. 'Going? I am going to a land which the Lord is to show me.' And bave you ever seen this land ?' · No: I neither know the country, nor a step of the way to it.' *A fine tale, indeed! but seriously, what in the world can move you to such an undertaking ? * I rely upon the testimony of God. He bath said, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, unto a land THAT I SHOW THEE : I take him at his word, and act accordingly.'
These were cases in point for the Apostle to quote. The Hebrews seemed hardly contented with an unseen High-priest, an invisible religion. They had been used to priests and sacrifices that they could hear, and see, and handle, with their bodily senses. Like their fathers by Moses, therefore, they were ready to say of Jesus, "We know not where he is gone ; come, let us make us a captain, and return to Judaism.' • Judaism !' says the Apostle, • methinks true Judaism would condemn you. All your forefathers acted upon a principle which you seem about to abandon. They walked by faith, not by sight. They lived, they died, in the faith, even in the faith of that very Messiah of whom you make so light.
In this sense, it is easy to see, faith and sight are to be taken, in our Lord's rebuke to Thomas, when he says, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. It is as if he had said, 'You think
you have acted very prudently; but what must the Christian word do, in after ages, if they act upon your principle ? Christianity, in the whole of it, will depend upon testimony: whoever receives it after your death, yea, in your life time, besides yourselves, must receive it upon your testimony. Blessed are they that shall cordially so receive it; and blessed had you been, Thomas, to have set them the example, by believing the testimony of your brethren.'
2. Faith may be considered as opposed to the discoveries of mere reason, unassisted by revelation. In this sense it seems to be used in reference to Sarah. Through faith she received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. How Sa
rah should have a son, was not only indiscernible by the corporal eye, but by an eye of reason ; since it must be, if at all, entirely beside the common course of nature. She had nothing to rely upon, in this case, but the promise of God.
We do not suppose faith and right reason to be opposites : that be far from us. On the contrary, nothing is more evident, than that Christianity is entirely a rational system; and it is its glory that it is so. We should never have been required to give a reason for the hope that is in us, if there had been no reason to be given. But, though nothing in revelation be contrary to right reason, yet there are many things which our reason could never have found out, had they not been made known by the Supreme Intelligence. The plan of redemption by Jesus Christ, in particular, contains a set of truths which the eye had never seen, nor the ear heard, nor had they entered the heart of man to conceive, had not God revealed them to us by his Spirit. For all the pleasure that we enjoy, brethren, in contemplating these glorious truths, we are wholly indebted to the testimony of God. Indeed, so far are they from being discoverable by mere reason, that every blessing contains in it abundantly more than men or angels could bave asked or thought! It staggers our reason to receive it, even now it is told
At every pause we must stand and wonder, saying, Is this the manner of man O Lord!
Not only was our reason incapable of finding out many truths before they were revealed; but, even now they are revealed, they contain things above our comprehension. It is one thing to say, that scripture is contrary to right reason, and another thing to say, it may exhibit truths too great for our reason to grasp.* God
* May not the great disputes which have taken place concerning faith and reason, as if the one were opposite to the other, have arisen, in a great degree, from using the term reason without defining it? The word reason, like the word understanding has two senses. 1. It signifies the filness of things. So the apostles used it, when they said, It is not REASON that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables : that is, it is not fit, or proper. 2. It signifies our power or capacity of reasoning. So it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, that his reason returned to him: that is, his power or capacity of reasoning. Now, it is easy to see, that these are two essentially-different ideas: the one is perfect and immutable, remaining always the same: the other is shattered and broken by sin, and liable
must have told us nothing about his own existence, and infinite perfections, if he had told us nothing but what we could comprehend. In this case, it becomes us to know our littleness, and to bow our understandings to the Supreme Intelligence. It is the most rational thing in the world so to do. If God has said any thing, we ought to rest assured that so it is. In these cases, we ought to trust his eyes, so to speak, rather than our own, and be content to walk by faith, not by sight.
3. Faith may be considered as opposed to ultimate vision. The saints in glory are described as seeing Christ as he is ; as knowing even as they are known ; and as being citizens of a city where there shall be no night, and where they shall need no candle, neither light of the sun nor light of the moon, for the LORD GOD SHALL
Our knowledge of things there will be immediate and intuitive, and not, as it is here, through the medium of the word and ordinances. The sacred scriptures are to us, (with reverence be it spoken,) like a letter from a distant friend ;
BE THE LIGHT THEREOF.
to a thousand variations through blindness and prejudice. No divine truth can disagree with the former ; but it may be both above and contrary to the latter.
If people were to talk, in matters of science and philosophy, as some have affected to talk in religion, they would be treated as fools, and deemed unworthy of attention. A philosopher, for instance, tells an unlettered countryman, that it is generally thought, that the earth turas round, every day, upon its own axis, and not the sun round the earth. The countryman replies, 'I don't believe it.' Very likely,' says the philosopher, ' but why not?" It is contrary to my reason. Contrary to your reason, that may be; but I hope you do not think, that every thing contrary to your reason is contrary to right reason! Were men of the greatest understanding but to consider, that there is a far greater disproportion between some truths respecting the existence of a God and their capacities, than between any truths of human science and the capacity of the most ignorant rustic, they would be ashamed to disbelieve a truth, because it is not according to their reason.
It is right, and stands commended in scripture, to apply our hearts to understanding ; but it is wrong, and stands condemned in scripture, by the same pen, and in the same page, to lean to our own understanding. So, I apprehend, it is right to ahhere to right reason, and to use all means to find out what it is ; but it is wrong and presumptuous to set up our reason as a standard competent to decide what is truth and what is error; for that is the same thing as supposing, that our ideas of fitness and unfitness always accord with the real fitness of things.
but when we come face to face, ink and paper shall be needed no more. However, for the present it is otherwise. We are yet in the body; and, while such, as the Apostle observes in the verse preceding the text, we are absent from the Lord, and must be glad of these helps. Let us make much of this letter, and be thankful that we can walk by it through this world, as by a light in a dark place, till we come to a better, where we shall no more walk by faith, but by sight.
Thus far I have dwelt chiefly upon the terms ; but, that we may obtain a more comprehensive view of the thing itself, (namely, of a Christian's walking by faith, let us take a view of a few of those circumstances and situations, through which he has to pass, during the present life. It is in these that faith, as well as every other grace, is exercised. Allow me, then, to request your attention, brethren, to four or five observations on the subject.
1. There are many dark seasons in God's providential dealings with us, in which we can see no way of escape, nor find any source of comfort, but the testimony of God. God's friends are not dis. tinguished, in this world by an exemption from trying providences; he views that, methinks, as too trilling a badge of distinction. They shall be known by what is far more noble and advantageous ; namely, by patience, obedience, submission, and divine support under them. Moreover, as we profess to be friends of God, and to trust the salvation of our souls, with all our concerns, in his hands, he sees it proper to prove the sincerity of our professions, and the stability of our hearts. He brings us into such circumstances, therefore, as shall try us, whether we will confide in him or not.
Christ bas told his followers, once for all, that all power in heaven and earth is in his hands ; that he is head over all things to the
; church; that he will surely do them good ; that, however things may seem, all things shall work together for good to then that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose ; that, as to temporal things, let them but trust in the Lord, and do good, and they shall dwell in the land, and verily they shall be fed ; and, as to eternal things, if they have a few light afflictions, they shall last but for a moment and shall work for them a far more exceeding and