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he has done and suffered for us, without loving him; and if we love him, we shall keep his commandments, we shall desire to be like him, we shall hate sin as he did, we shall studiously endeavour to form ourselves after his spirit, that we may ever dwell in him, and he in us; we shall lift up our hearts and affections to that holy place where he is, and look forwards with joy to the time when we shall depart hence, and be more immediately present with our adored Lord. Is not this a holy faith? Who can feel and act in this way, that encourages one known sin? Do not pretend to faith, if universal holiness, a perfect conformity to the image of Christ in whom you believe, is not the object of your desire. I mean, Do not pretend to a justifying, a saving faith. Another sort of faith you may indeed possess—a dead, an inactive, an unfruitful faith; a faith therefore, which so far from justifying you, condemns you; a faith which instead of inspiring hope, ought to fill you with fear; a faith which though it should be strong enough to remove mountains, yet, coupled with an ungodly life, will not avail to remove so much as the smallest sin from your burthened souls.
Labour then, my brethren, above all things to acquire that true faith, whereby alone you can obtain a personal interest in the merits and mediation of Christ; labour for it in the way which the scriptures point out, by prayer and by hearing and reading the word of God. “ Lord, increase our faith," was the prayer of the apostles, and will you neglect the means which those holy men thought it necessary to use ? No : earnestly beseech of God to impart to you that his greatest and most valuable gift, for if he gives you faith, with it he gives you every thing, hope, holiness, love, pardon, eternal life. But use the appointed means also, “ faith cometh by bearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Beware lest the “word preached do not profit you, not being mixed with faith in
you that hear it;” but implore the divine blessing upon this ordinance, that it may be effectual to the holy and important purpose for which it is designed. And study the holy scriptures continually, for the knowledge of them is able to make you wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus, nor ever rest satisfied with that false faith, which consists in mere notions and opinions, while the heart and life are uninfluenced by it; but “ giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity, for if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To all, who by the mercy of God have attained such a living and saving faith as this, I conclude with the encouraging words of St. Peter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for
who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of
your FAITH being much more precious than the gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” i Peter, i. 3, &c.
A CONSCIENCE VOID OF OFFENCE.
ACTS xxiv. 16.
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.
These words form a part of St. Paul's memorable defence of himself against the accusation of his enemies before Felix, the Roman governor. As I wish to confine myself to the considerations suggested by the text itself, I shall not enter into any of the particulars either of the accusation or of the defence; but I will not miss the opportunity, which this passage of the sacred history presents, of exhibiting to you, by a striking example, the great superiority of a good conscience over an evil one. It will be a suitable introduction to the rest of my discourse, and will perhaps, by God's blessing, prepare your minds to admit the truth of the observations which I shall afterwards make.
You will remark in this admirable address of the apostle, that he uses great boldness and freedom of speech; he expresses himself life a man perfectly devoid of fear; he denies the justice of the charges laid against him; he challenges his enemies to come forward and prove any crime against him, if they can; he does not scruple to profess again the very same faith, the avowal of which had before excited the uproar, which was the only ground of accusation against him; in fact, he admits the only offence that could be truly imputed to him, and justifies his conduct in that respect. Now who was this bold speaker, and what was his condition? You would suppose he was some great man of influence and authority, likely to impress with respect the assembly which he was addressing. No: he was brought before the court in chains as a prisoner to be tried; he had been apprehended as “a ringleader of the sect of Nazarenes," as he was contemptuously called ; i. e. as a principal preacher of the despised religion of Him, who had lately been crucified as a malefactor, Jesus of Nazareth ; a religion ridiculed and persecuted by the great body both of the Jews and Romans. There was probably hardly one friendly eye turned towards him among the whole multitude collected to witness his trial, and to triumph in his condemnation ; yet, he dis