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younger than the Church by some centuries, has aged before it. And so in like manner, in spite of the duration of the Christian name hitherto, much there is to try our faith at this moment, who cannot see the future, and therefore cannot see the short duration of what shows proudly and successfully now. We at this day see a number of philosophies, sects, and parties, thriving and extending, and the Church seems poor and helpless, as if its very place were to be insulted, and its very calling to give way. We see men in one department of philosophy rejecting the accounts, for instance, of the Creation or the Deluge, as they stand in the Old Testament; others setting aside the precepts of almsgiving, and the like, as given in the New; others disputing the historical narratives contained in the Old; and others denying those interpretations of the doctrinal portion of Scripture which have ever been received. We see imperfect forms of Christianity made the religion of states and nations, and apparently bringing forth good fruit; nay, apparently flourishing more than many forms which are more perfect and catholic. We see the Church in slavery apparently flourishing more than the Church free. We see sects apparently flourishing more than the Church. We see wrong principles, unsound doctrines, apparently making men what Christians should be, and what the true Gospel can alone really make any one.
We find the teachers of what we must call heresy, and the ministers of division, doing what the Church does not, or cannot do; we find dissenting bodies sending missions to the heathen, and apparently succeeding in converting them. I do not speak of the
fact, that good men are found among bodies which are not in communion with the Church. This is no difficulty to faith.
That God who raised up Elijah and Elisha in Israel, has no where said He will not now also extend His mercies wider than His promises : but I speak of the apparent infringement of His promises in the visible disorders of the Church, and the triumph of other bodies over it. When we dwell on such facts as these, I do think it requires some special faith in those who are exposed to the temptation, to keep close to the ancient ways of the Church Catholic, and to remain untouched by the sophistries and unmoved by the successes, of this world which surrounds us.
3. Another instance in which Experience and Faith are seriously opposed to each other, though the contrast is not exhibited on so open or so wide a field, is to be found in the case of those who deny the doctrine of the Ever-blessed Trinity, or the Incarnation, or the Atonement, or original sin, or eternal punishment. These persons, indeed, are often such in their tempers and lives as to be no difficulty to the Christian. They are men of immoral habits, or at least grossly self-indulgent; or men who for years have never thought any thing of religion, and then just at the last consider that they must take up some profession, and adopt whatever meets their taste; or they are evidently worldly, insincere men, as far as we can judge of others, or overbearing men and unamiable. But this is not always the case. meet with persons of unsound faith so adorned with interesting traits of character, as to try us severely. Of course we are not called on to judge any one abso
lutely ; we leave that to God. But I can fancy a case of the following kind. A man on the one hand strong in his contempt for the most sacred subjects; not believing the doctrines of original sin, everlasting punishment, and the Atonement; having no formed opinion concerning our Lord, whether He was really God or not; never partaking in Holy Communion, and seldom going to Church : and I can conceive the same man, not merely amiable, benevolent, and friendly—this might easily be allowed—but showing forth (at least to our perceptions) an integrity in his daily business, an honourable view of things, a correctness, a delicacy of sentiment, a considerateness and generosity of conduct, and, in a certain sense, a reliance upon Providence, a feeling of the greatness of religion and of its awfulness, a knowledge and admiration of Scripture, and when he comes into trouble, a recurrence to it, and a touching application of its words to himself;—the while his doctrinal views are to all appearance as unsatisfactory as before. And to those who see this, is it not a trial of Faith, quite as great as the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration can be, how a person apparently with open eyes, can deny the power and the grace of our Saviour, and the great need of His coming on earth, and yet have so much religious feeling and principle as he has ? Is such a man acting under the influence of God's grace or not? If not, how is it be practises so much ? and if he is, how is it he does not believe more ?
4. One more instance shall be mentioned, of this opposition between Christian Faith and the Experience of life. We are expressly told in Scripture that the im
penitent shall go into fire everlasting. Now this, though 80 plainly stated by our Lord Himself, that one would think no one, believer or not, can deny that He has said so, nevertheless is a hard thing surely to receive, where men will not believe, and will go by sight. It is, indeed, no difficulty for any one to sit at home and believe the doctrine ; it is no trial to his faith if he live among books, or be blessed with a religious circle of friends, oi happily be under a parent's roof, or, like young Samuel or aged Anna, live almost in the temple of God: but if he is thrown upon the world, if he has an opportunity of coming very near profligate, or hardened, or worldly, or unbelieving men, or, which is the same thing, if he has any particular tie connecting him with any such, then will he feel how hard a saying it is that any one, even the most wicked of men, can be destined to eternal punishment. There is no man ever so bad but to our erring eyes has some redeeming points of character. There is no man but has some human feelings or other; and those very feelings impress us with a sort of conviction that he cannot possibly be the destined companion of evil spirits. Hell is the habitation of no human affections. Let a man be ever so blood-stained, so awfully blasphemous, or so profligate, yet at least, at times, perhaps when in pain or weariness, he shows something to excite our interest and pity. And if not, then his very pain seems to plead for him. His capability of pain, and his showing that he feels it, seem to connect him with us, and to disconnect him with those fallen spirits, who have no sympathies, no weaknesses, but are impenetrable and absolute evil, even though they suffer.
Even the witch of Endor showed some compassion for Saul, and moves us by showing it. We are told, “ And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in my band, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me. Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee, and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way. But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice ?." Such was the conduct of one who avowedly dealt with familiar spirits. Oh miserable we then, if we are of the number of those who prefer sight to Faith! Oh, miserable, if when our Saviour, the very Word of God, and the True Witness, speaks plainly one way, we listen to the serpent's voice, saying, “ Ye shall not surely die!” We have no right indeed, surely not, to say absolutely that this or that man whom we see and can point at, is destined to future punishment. God forbid ! for we can but judge by outward appearance, and God alone seeth the hearts of men. But we are expressly told that there are persons so destined ; we are told that the finally impenitent, whoever they shall be, are so destined ; and whatever the sight of things may tell us, however the weaknesses and
waywardnesses of our hearts may plead against such awful truths, however our feelings, and imaginations, and reason inay be assailed, yet “let God be true, and every
11 Sam. xxviii. 21--23.