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ant, and philanthropic spirit of the Gospel. It was believed that the best service which could be rendered to truth, was to bring men's minds into that dispassionate and benevolent frame, which is most congenial with truth. For this purpose, the work was committed to a gentleman distinguished by the mildness as well as ability with which he had conducted theological controversy, and who is universally acknowledged to have laboured with exemplary faithfulness to make the Disciple the minister of peace and kind affections. Unhappily his health, long declining, is now so impaired as to oblige bim to discontinue the superintendance of the work.
The publication will hereafter be conducted by several gentlenien, who wish to promote the mild and charitable spirit which distinguished its former editor, but who have thought that its usefulness requires an extension of its original plan. The work will be devoted, as before, to christian charity and practical religion, and at the same time to theological learning, biblical criticism, discussions of the doctrines of natural and revealed religion, and to Reviews of new publications. It will aim to point out the methods and sources of a right interpretation of the Scriptures; to throw light on the obscurities of those ancient records; to state and maintain the leading principles of christianity ; to vindicate it from the misrepresentations of friends, and the cavils of enemies; to illustrate its power in the lives of eminent christians; to give discriminating views of evangelical virtue, and of the doctrines most favourable to its growth; to weigh impartially the merits of theological works, and of other books which have a bearing on morals and religion ; and to furnish interesting information particularly in regard to the religious condition of the world.
In the present state of this country, periodical works are particularly valuable. We have many men, who can write well, but who want leisure to write volumes; inany who think deeply, but whose thoughts will die with them, unless publications like the present shall give them circulation. It is well known that not a few among us spend their lives in theological studies, and it is maiter of reproach that nothing more is contributed by us to the stock of just criticism, and of moral and religious truth. It is believed that this reproach may be removed in a degree, by opening new channels for the communication of original and interesting thought, and by multiplying in this way excitements to intellectual activity.
It does not become the conductors of the work to begin their labours with large promises. They will only say, that they wish to serve faithfully the cause of good learning and boly living. Though disposed to express freely their views of the doctrines which divide christians into parties, they seek a higher good than the building up of a seci. They wish to encourage and aid a serious and upright investigation of truth, and would especially do something towards extending the pow. er of christianity over men's minds and lives, by holding it forth in those rational, and amiable characters in which its Author first delivered it to the world.
WHAT IS FAITH?
The great importance given to Faith in the New Testament, makes it deeply interesting that we should have the most clear and just conceptions of its meaning, and its objects. It gives unspeakable interest to the inquiry, in every serious mind, is mine the faith required of a christian? What then is that faith, which is a condition of salvation ?
Faith, defined generally, signifies the assent of the mind to any proposition or fact, upon suitable testimony. Whenever we believe the testimony to be suitable, and there is no opposing interest or passion to bias our determination, we readily yield our faith to what is proposed to it; and conform our conduct to our belief with as strong an assurance, as we should to our actual knowledge. I believe a physician, of whose skill in bis profession I am satisfied, when he tells me that a certain part of my system is diseased; though I peither see the part, nor am sensible of pain in it. I believe my friend, in whose veracity I have confidence, when he informs me that he has been a witness of events, of tbe truth of which I should otherwise bave doubted ; and I repose all the reliance on his promises, wbich I can upon his ability to perform them, and upon the continuance of his life. If the question then be settled in our minds, that the Bible contains a revelation from God, it is perfectly reasonable in God to require of us, that we receive whatever He has taught, with as firm a persuasion, as if every circumstance and object were actually exposed to our senses. Every perfection of God is here, to my mind, a ground of reliance; and I am guilty of distrusting God, and of practical idfidelity, whenever, in my disposition or conduct, I disregard what He has taught me, and act in contradiction to what He has revealed of his character, His moral government, and His designs in judgment and eternity. I have indeed religions faith in no greater degree, than I have a perfect assurance that all which God has taught is true, and all that he has promised will be accomplished.
It may be objected, that many are firmly persuaded of the truths of revelation, or at least, acknowledge these truths without a doubt, who exhibit, and obviously feel little, of their practical influence. There are some also, and I beliere not a few, whose faith, as far as it consists in a conviction of the understanding, embraces every doctrine and duty of religion. But its influence is only occasional and partial. They alınost every day resolve, but soon forget their resolutions, and are overcome by templations. They feel that they are thus daily accumulating sins, in a conviction of which, they experience the pangs and the terrors of guilt; and as they are not sensible of weakness, or of deficiency in their faitb, they scarcely dare even to hope for improvement. But examine faith as a principle of action in the common affairs of life, and you will perceive that it affects conduct no further, than it obtains an ascendancy over the affections; and tbrough them, a control of our wills. The busbandman who ploughs bis field, and sows his grain, acts by faith. He believes, for he cannot know, that by these means he will obtain a harvest. Happily, however, he feels, and he feels strongly, that the support and comfort of himself and his family are essentially connected with these plans and labours. His love of property therefore, his love of life, and of a comfortable subsistence, and bis love of bis family, all co-operate to affect his will; and to induce him, in the belief of a harvest, to prepare bis ground, and to sow bis seed. And equally in religion, it is only through the affections that the convictions of faith can give a determination to the will, and thus secure a conformity of conduct; for it is with the heart man believeth anto righleousness.
Nor do these expressions inply werely, ibat faith, to be effectual, must be sincere. Sincerity, without doubt, is indispensible to the efficacy of faith ; but sincerity alone will not secure its efficacy. What wonderful effects, for example, may we reasonably believe would be produced, by a due application only of the doctrines of the omnipresence of God, and of our individual accountableness? Yet who will say, that this due application always follows the sincere belief of these doctrines? For wbat is sincerity, applied to belief? Does it import any thing more, than that our belief is unmingled with doubt? He who neglects to cultivate his ground, and wastes the time for successful labour in indolence, or squanders it in rice, believes as sincerely that a crop might be secured by industry, as he does, who actually toils to obtain it. But while his affections are otherwise engaged, his sincere belief is even more unproductive, than his uncultivated fields. And so is it with our religious faith. We must feel our happiness, our very life, to be concerned in it. In the heart, in the affections, is that spring, which sets in motion all our desires, and produces all our actions. Hence said our Lord to the Pharisees, “how can ye, being evil, speak good things ; for of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things.
The sentiment is deeply laid in the principles of our nature. When we greatly love an object, we pursue it, while there is a reasonable hope of its attainment. If we cease from the pursuit, while the object may be obtained, it is because some other object has obtained a stronger hold on our affections. And if we cease from fearing that which we once dreaded, and bave still equal reason to dread, it is either because our attention and concern are diverted for a time by some other object, in which we have become more interested; or because our hearts have become too much hardened, easily to receive again the impression, by which our fears were excited. If, for example, I believe that I must account to God, and my affections are actually fixed on the things above, I shall certainly seek the objects I bope for in heaven, by endeavouring faithfully to conform my dispositions and conduct to the known will of God. If I relax in my endeavours to act as an accountable being, in the same proportion has some other object taken possession of the affections, which were attached to God and to heaven. Or if I cease from dreading the divine displeasure, (the feeling of having incurred which, once humbled me to the dust, when I knew that I had offended, it is because I have become more interested in some other object, than the approbation of God; or because my heart resists the impressions, of which it was once so susceptible. The language of the New Testament is conformed to these obvious principles of our nature.* From the good treasure of a good heart, good proceeds; and evil from the treasure of an eril heart; for as a man thinketh in his heart, whether it be good or evil, so is bis character here ; and so reason, as well as revelation teaches us, will be his condition bereafter.
But let us not be misunderstood, in attaching this importance to the affections in religion. Let it not be supposed ibat religion consists only of certain feelings, or of certain affections. The affections are indeed but a part of our moral constitutions. But they are a most important part. We see their wonderful influence in the common affairs of life. What is the spring of patriotism, but love of country? What are the bonds of domestic life, but conjugal, parental and filial love? What is it that characterises the worldly minded man, but his supreme love of the world ? And what, through all the classes of the vicious, peculiarly distinguishes them, but love of the peculiar causes, in which they seek their happiness? Hence, in religion, love is the first and great commandment, because we shall seek the objects and blessings of religion, only when we love them. Faith in the mind will be as ineffectual as the winter's snow upon the ground, till, warmed by the affections, it penetrates the thoughts, and spreads its fertilizing power, and awakens desires of piety and virtue, which spricg up, and thrive, and bear the imperishable fruits of obedience to God. Faith, without the affections, bas been compared to the sun, without its life-giving heat; and it is as true ibat the affections, without the principles of an enlightened faith, become a consuming fire to the soul. But it is the glory of our religion, that in requiring faith, it fixes it upon the noblest objects that can engage the interests of immortal beings. The objects of our faith are the objects of the love of angels, and of holy spirits, in the abodes of the blessed; objects, of which not one will be disappointed, who sincerely loves, and earnestly seeks them.
* See Luke viji. 15. zii. 9.
Acts xi. 2, 3. Rom. vi. 17. Heb. x. 22.
From this view of faith, it is apparent, first, that as a cause, it is equal to all the moral effects ascribed to it in the New Testament.
Religious faith comprehends all that is unseen in the doctrines of religion; all that is hoped for in its promises. The universal and constant presence of God; His moral government; our responsibility; His mercy revealed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, on the conditions of the gospel; and a life of eternal union with Himself, and with the good ; of everlasting improvement, and of eternally increasing happiness; and indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, if we are disobedient. These are among the objects of which faith gives an equal assurance, as if they were all exposed to the judgment of our senses. And here too are objects of desire and of dread; here are interests, compared with which, all others are as the dust of the balance. See then with what fidelity men pursue the objects of their affections, when those objects are to be seen, and felt, and tasted. And will faith in religion, working by love, will confidence, made perfect by the support of the affections, will the dependence of the heart for its hap