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Others again have run into the opposite extreme. In the confusion of their minds, they have declaimed against the merit of good works, with such indiscriminate vehemence as to discourage the practice. They pray earnestly for Holiness, but inveigh against Virtue and Morality; without considering that Holiness can be no other than the practice of virtue from religious motives; and no man can practise holiness without understanding the nature of virtue, and the extent of its ramifications.
On the filial Confidence of a Christian; or the
Nature of Faith.
We see in what manner, and to what an extent, the Divine Being displays his relative character, to his moral and intelligent offspring. He has graciously assumed the character of a Father; and he is conducting himself towards us like a wise and affectionate Parent, who, in every respect, consults the true interest of those to whom he has communicated the gift of life; and who are necessarily dependent upon him. He not only supplies their immediate exigencies, but superintends their education, and promotes their improvement, in all those qualifications, upon which he knows their future welfare will depend. He indulges no partial fondness, which excludes correction; but he frequently manifests his love by his chastisements. He provides for them a future inheri. tance; and he prepares them for the enjoy. ment of it.
When the whole tenour of conduct in a Parent, fully indicates the Wisdom and Benevolence of his character, the two great duties of punctual Obedience to his injunctions, and implicit Confidence in his superintendence and direction, are indispensably required from his offspring
Disobedience is rebellion against legitimate authority. It is a rebellion fomented by perverseness of temper, and ungovernable passions. The want of Confidence in such a parent, is the union of ignorance, vanity, and ingratitude. It opposes crude conceits to mature discernment; inexperience to experience; and the most consummate ignorance, to extensive knowledge. It is impossible for Minors to comprehend the plans of their intelligent Sire ; to judge of the propriety of all the means he may have adopted ; or to devise the issue. Nor could the Sire lose his title to wisdom and discre.. tion more effectually, than by complying with their desires, and acting conformably to their opinions. The application is obvious; but the evidences of impropriety and folly, in disobeying the commands of Heaven, increase propor
tionably to the distance between the wisdom of the Most High, and that of the imperfect children of men.
The obedient and acquiescent state of mind, to the commands, and the decrees of Heaven is, in the language of Scripture, denominated Faith. It is a disposition which is peremptorily required in almost every page. Christians are said to live by faith.—We are justified by faith.— Without faith it is impossible to please God.We are exhorted to hold fast the profession of our faith.--Jesus is termed the author and finisher of our faith. The term is incessantly repeated in the New Testament, because its import is of infinite importance. It consequently demands minute examination.
If we enquire into the nature of Faith, we shall find that it contains the following characteristics.
1. Faith implies a firm belief in the existence and agency of some intelligent Being, who is the object of it. By this it is distinguished from the simple belief of a fact. The term is never applied to our belief in the Existence of inaniinate bodies, or of any particular species of Animal. We believe in the existence of several
planets; and many believe that they are inhabited, but it would be improper to say that we have faith in their existence. We may alone apply the term to our confidence in the opinion or authority of one, whom we suppose to be competent to know the facts. Nor, in any other mode, do we express our belief in the existence of any particular species of animal, which we have not seen. We believe that it exists, because we have faith in the knowledge and veracity of the narrator. Concerning the facts themselves we may at first entertain vague and confused ideas or notions ; these may ripen into firmer opinions, and may finally become constituent parts of our knowledge ; but they are not the subjects of our faith.
2. Faith implies a certain degree of Confidence in the character and conduct of this Agent. We suppose that he can be trusted. We rely upon his capacity, honour, integrity, veracity; and if we have expectations from him, we depend upon his good dispositions towards us. From a knowledge of his good qualities, we entertain hopes that he will befriend us, and if he has promised, we rely upon his veracity, for the performance. These peculiarities seem to constitute the germ of the word faith, if we may so speak. All its derivatives, faithful,