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OF TRUE RELIGIOUS FAITH. 489
effects, and must be attributed to an anterior train of causes, and so on —it necessarily follows, that there must have been a first cause of the whole, uncreated, and from eternity. That this first cause is intelligent we learn from the innumerable evidences of design, with which all creation is filled. And, further, we conclude, from the perfect harmony of that design, that he is one; from the infinite skill and power displayed in its execution, that he is all-wise and omnipotent; from the actual happiness so abundantly bestowed on his creatures, that he is good; and, lastly, from the evident tendency of his providence, even here, that he is a moral governor—one who rewards the righteous, and punishes the wicked.
Now, as we cannot please our neighbour, or avail ourselves of his kind dispositions and intentions towards us, except we trust in him, so it is impossible that we should be acceptable to God, or enjoy his favour and protection, unless we exercise towards him that religious faith, of which he is the only proper object—unless we place on him the reliance of our soul, as on an infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, and merciful Being, who is able and willing to supply our spiritual need, to strengthen us to walk in the way of righteousness, and to bestow upon us the blessing of a happy immortality.
When we reflect on the various attributes of that perfect and infinite Being who created all things, visible and invisible, and who exercises an absolute dominion over the works of his own hands, and recollect our own condition of helplessness and dependence, we cannot fail to perceive how just and reasonable are the principles on which such a reliance is required of us. "Trust ye in the Lord for ever,
490 BY FAITH IN GOD
for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength," is the voice of sound sense, of enlightened reason, and of true philosophy. Above all, however, it is the voice of inspiration, and therefore the voice of God himself. When the Lord Jesus was conversing with his disciples, and displaying to them his miraculous powers, he enjoined them to " have faith in God" (Mark xi, 22;) and this fundamental precept of the practical code of Christianity, was in perfect correspondence with the principle recognized through all preceding ages of the world, among the Lord's children—namely, that "the just shall live by faith" Hah. ii, 4. Never, indeed, were the psalmists and prophets of ancient Israel more eloquent, than when they proclaimed the duty of ceasing from man " whose breath is in his nostrils," and of trusting with the whole heart in the God of mercy, wisdom, and truth. "As for God, his way is perfect," said David in his song of public thanksgiving: " the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him; for who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, save our God?" II Sam. xxii, 31,32. Again, he says, "The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants, and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate"— "They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion: which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever:" Ps. xxxiv, 22. cxxv, 1. And the prophet Jeremiah, after describing the cursed estate of him who "trnstcth in man, and maketh flesh his arm," thus depicts the peace and prosperity of the faithful believer in the only true God: "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and
MAN IS JUSTIFIED. 491
shall not see when heat coraeth, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit:" Jer. xvii, 7, 8; comp. Job xiii, 15; Ps. xl, 4; Prov. xxix, 25; I Tim. iv, 10, &c.
From these and a variety of similar passages, it is abundantly evident, that the childlike affiance of the soul of man in its almighty and merciful Creator, is Avell pleasing to God; and is the appointed means of drawing down on the frail, dependent, unworthy, creature, the blessings of forgiveness, grace, and salvation. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and independently of the deeds of the law, faith is justifying in the sight of God.
This doctrine is declared in terms at once very general and very explicit, by the apostle Paul: "Therefore," says that inspired writer, " we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith .... What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture: Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now, to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace> but of debt. But to bim that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness:" Rom. iii, 28—30. iv, 1—5.
When we calmly reflect on the evidences afforded to all mankind of the existence and moral govern
492 BELIEF IN GOD'S WORD
incut of God, and when we consider that the reception of these evidences in the mind is anterior to that of revelation, it is impossible for us not to allow that without the aid of the knowledge of revealed truth, man is capable of faith in the Supreme Being. And wherever this faith "worketh by love"—wherever it includes the reliance of the heart as well as the conviction of the understanding—wherever it is productive of the fear of the Lord, and of the fruits of righteousness,—there, undoubtedly, it obtains for man, the favour of his Creator, for " God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him :' Acts x, 34, 35; comp. Gen. iv, 7.
All the exhortations of Scripture, however, on the subject of faith, are especially addressed to that proportion of the family of man, whom God has been pleased to bless with the light of an outward revelation. That light was bestowed upon our 6rst parents —was imparted by successive communications to a chosen line of their descendants—and was at length more generally diffused among mankind, through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Now, I consider it to be a position at once consistent with reason, and agreeable to Scripture, that among all those persons to whom the truths of revealed religion are made known, a belief in those truths forms an essential part, or rather a necessary consequence, of an acceptable faith in God. If the trust of our souls is reallv placed on an all-wise and omnipotent Being; if we are convinced that he is a God of holiness, justice, and truth; and if, in accordance with such a conviction, we love and revere him as we ought to do, it necessarily follows that we shall believe
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his word—that we shall heartily accept his law, and steadily rely on his promises. Accordingly, this belief in the word of the Lord—this ready acceptance of his revealed truth—is often represented by the sacred writers as a duty positively required of us by our Heavenly Father, and as an indispensable link in that chain which is to terminate in our eternal salvation. "Believe in the Lord your God,"said king Jehosaphat to the assembly of his people, '^so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" II Chron. xx, 20. The "word preached" did not profit the Israelites, because it was not "mixed with faith in them that heard it;" and it was in consequence of their unbelief in that word, that they were forbidden to enter into the promised land—their "carcases fell in the wilderness:" Heb. iii, 17. iv, 1, 2. And so it is with that part of mankind to whom is revealed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If it is not mixed with faith in those who hear and read it, it cannot possibly profit them; and the fatal consequence is declared to be, that they fall or perish; (Heb. iv, 11 ;) that they are precluded from the privileges of Christians in this world, and from a blessed entrance into the mansions of rest and glory, in the world to come. "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel" was the cry uttered, at the very commencement of his ministry, by the greatest of preachers; (Mark i, 15 ;) and nothing surely can be more explicit—nothing more awfully instructive—than the declaration with which the ministry of Jesus was concluded: "Go ye," said he to his disciples, " into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned: Mark xvi, 15. 16.