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faith, exercised by the saints of the Old Testament, is the same with the faith of the Gospel ; and this is not only generally called trust in the Old Testament itself ; but, as has been already proved in several instances, and, were there time or necessity, might be proved in all, is no other than the confidence which I have specified. All these persons confided in the promise of God, and in the moral character of him by whom they were given.
4. The nature of the case, and the situation of the penitent, when he exercises faith in Christ, clearly evince the truth of the doctrine.
The sinner is condemned and ruined. By the Law of God all hope of his recovery and salvation is precluded. Left to himself therefore, in his present situation, he cannot be saved. While he is in this miserable condition, Christ declares that he is able, willing, and faithful to save him; and that to this end the sinner must, indispensably, surrender himself into his hands, or give himself up to him, and consent to be saved by him in his own way. Now what can induce the sinner, in a case of this infinite magnitude, thus to give himself into the hands of Christ ? Nothing but an entire confidence in his character, as thus able, willing, and faithful to save. But how shall the singer know this? Or if he cannot know it, how shall he be persuaded of it? Know it in the proper sense of knowledge, he cannot; for it is plainly not an object of science. The word of Christ is the only ultimate evidence by which he must be governed ; and this word depends, for all its veracity and convincing influence, on the moral character of Christ; on his goodness, faithfulness, and truth. Whenever the sinner, therefore, gives himself to Christ, according to his proposal, and in obedience to his commands, he does it merely because he places an entire confidence in his moral character, and in the declarations which he has made. In these he confides, because they are the declarations of just such a person, possessing just such a moral character. On this he trusts himself, his soul, his eternal well-being.
If he trusts in the instructions, precepts, and ordinances of Christ (for our faith is not unfrequently said to be exercised towards these,) it is only because they are the instructions, precepts, and ordinances of such a person. Some of them, indeed, he may discern to be true, and right in themselves;
but for the truth of others, and the wisdom and safety of obering them all, he relies, and must rely, only on Christ's character as their author. If he believes in the righteousness of Christ, and the acceptableness of it to God, as the foundation of pardon and peace to sinners, he believes or trusts in it only because it is the righteousness of just such a person,
The same things are true of his faith in the invitations, promises, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, government, intercession, presence, protection, and universal blessings of the Redeemer. The faith of the Christian is exercised towards all these things. But all of them, separated from his moral character, are nothing to the believer.
From these considerations it is, I think, sufficiently evident, that the faith of the Gospel, whatever may be its immediate object, is no other than confidence in the moral character of God, especially of the Redeemer. If I am asked, “ What is confidence in moral character !”
" I answer, look into your own bosoms, and examine what is that exercise of mind in which you trust a man for the sake of what he is; a parent, for example, or a friend. In this exercise you will find a strong illustration of the faith of the Gospel.
Confidence, or trust, is a complex emotion of the mind, and involves good will to its object. We cannot thus confide in any person, whom we do not love.
It involves also, complacency in the object, or approbation of his character. We cannot thus trust any person whom we do not esteem.
It involves a conviction, that the attributes which awaken our confidence, really exist in the person whom we trust.
It involves a persuasion, that, in the case, and on the terms proposed, the person in whom we confide is ready to befriend us. Until this is admitted by us, there will be nothing about which our confidence can be exercised.
It involves a sincere delight in every exercise of it. No emotion yields higher enjoyment than confidence.
It involves a cheerful devotion to the interests and pleasure of the object trusted; a disposition to promote those interests, and to conform to that pleasure. Towards a superior, it is thus the foundation of constant and ready obedience.
Generally: It is the true and supreme attachment of a
creature to his Creator ; in which he surrenders himself entirely into his hands, to be disposed of by him at his pleasure, and to be made the instrument of his glory,
1. This account of evangelical faith, if admitted, puts an end to all disputes concerning the question, Whether faith is a moral virtue.
So long as the nature of faith is unsettled, every question depending on it must be unsettled also. If we do not determine what the faith of the Gospel is, we are ill prepared to decide whether it is of a moral nature, or not. If the faith of the Gospel be a mere speculative assent to probable evidence, although we may indeed be virtuous in the disposition with which we at times exercise it, as was, I trust, proved in the preceding Discourse; yet, clearly, it is not necessarily virtuous, nor, if the mind stop here, can it be virtuous at all. In mere speculative belief, existing by itself, that is, in merely yielding our assent to probable evidence, we are, as I observed in the same Discourse, entirely passive, and in no sense virtuous. But if faith is confidence in God, of the nature here exhibited, it is beyond dispute virtue; virtue of pre-eminent importance, and capable of existing in every possible degree. So far as I know, confidence, in this sense, has ever been esteemed voluntary, and acknowledged, therefore, to be of a moral nature. Plainly this is its true character. Accordingly, it is approved, loved, and commended by all mankind; and undoubtedly merits all the encomiums given to it, both in profane writings, and in Revelation.
One of the principal reasons why the faith of the Gospel has been supposed to be a mere speculative belief, is probably this: speculative belief is the thing intended by the term, faith, in its original sense. It is not very unnatural, therefore, when we begin to read the Scriptures, to consider this as the meaning of the word in theso writings ; nor is it very unnatural for men of a sanguine cast, men who have a system to defend, or men who change their opinions with reluctance, to retain an intorpretation which they have once imbibed. We are not, therefore, to wonder that this opinion has been extensively spread, or pertinaciously retained.
But the Scriptures give no countenance to this doctrine. • With the heart man believeth unto righteousuess,' is the sum of their instructions concerning this subject. He who can believe that a speculative assent to probable evidence, such as that which we yield to ordinary historical testimony, produced the effects ascribed to faith in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, can certainly believe any thing.
2. This doctrine explains to us the manner in which faith is spoken of in the Scriptures.
Particularly, we see abundant reasons why it is spoken of as a virtue; and is accordingly commanded in many forms, on many occasions, and to all persons; and why it is promised
; a glorious and endless reward. At the same time we have explained to us, in the same satisfactory manner, the various scriptural accounts of its opposite, distrust, or unbelief ; and the reasons why it is pronounced to be sinful, is everywhere forbidden, and is threatened with endless punishment. This exhibition of faith also explains to us, in the most satisfactory manner, why faith is strongly and universally commended in the Scriptures, and why unbelief is reprobated in a similar manner; why saints are called believers and faithful, these names being considered as equivalent to the names holy aud virtuous; and why unbelievers and infidels are terms used in the Scriptures as equivalent to sinful, wicked, and ungodly. We learn, further, why faith, directed to the word, ordinances, and providence of God, to the example, atonement, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ, or directly to the character of God and the Redeemer, is considered in the Scriptures as substantially of the same nature and as the same thing: the faith exercised being always the same moral act, springing from the same spirit, terminating in the same object, and producing the same effects. If, therefore, it exists with reference to one of these objects, it exists also in successive acts, invariably towards them all. Finally we see the reason why faith in God, in Christ, or in divine truth, is exbibited as being, in a sense, the sum of all duty, and the foundation of all present and future spiritual good; and why unbelief is presented to us as, in a sense, the sum of all disobedience, and the source of all spiritual evil both here and hereafter.
These and the like representations are easily explained, if by faith we intend confidence in the moral character of God and the Redeemer. This confidence is plainly the beginning and the continuance of union and attachment to our Creator ; while, on the other hand, distrust is a complete separation of the soul from the author of its being. It is plainly impossible for him who distrusts God, to have any moral union to him, or any devotion to his pleasure.
Confidence is also the highest honour which an intelligeut creature can render to his Creator. No act of such a creature can so clearly or so strongly declare his approbation of the divine character, or his devotion to the divine will, as committing ourselves entirely to him in this manner. In this act we declare, in the most decisive manner, the character of God be formed of such attributes, as will secure our whole well being, and fulfil all our vindicable desires. Whatever can be hoped for from supreme and infinite excellence, we declare ourselves to expect from the character of God; and pronounce his pleasure to be, in our view, the sum of all that is excellent and desirable. In distrusting God, we declare in the same forcible manner precisely the opposite things; and thus, so far as is in our power, dishonour his character and impeach his designs.
3. This account of faith strongly evinces the divinity of Christ.
The faith which we are required to exercise in Christ, is as unqualified, as entire, and as extensive as that wbich we are required to exercise towards God. The blessings promised to it are the same, and the evils threatened to our refusal of it are also the same. No mark of difference with respect to these particulars is even hinted at in the Scriptures. This must, I think, be inexplicable, unless the attributes to which alone the faith is directed, and which alone render it our duty to exercise it, are in each case the same.
Besides, it is incredible that an intelligent being, rationally employed, should confide himself, his everlasting interests, his all, to any hands but those of infinite perfection. Stephen, • full of the Holy Ghost,' could not, I think, as he was leave ing the world, have said to any creature, Lord Jesus, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' No man in the possession