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Now does not every one recognize an essential difference between the faith of these two individuals? The faith of the one is as unlike that of the other as thought is unlike choice. But what is the difference? It is, that, while the one is only intellectually convinced of the truth, while he simply assents to it, the other voluntarily yields himself to it-consents to rely on God in accordance with it-and confidently expects its realization. The faith of the one is mere intellectual belief, while that of the other is voluntary trust, or confidence.
II. Show the conditions of exercising each of these kinds of faith.
1. Properly, there is but one condition of exercising mere intellectual faith-the perception by the mind of some degree of evidence respecting its object. Without some degree of evidence, real or apparent, to give an intellectual assent to any proposition, statement or inculcation is quite impossible; but with it, it is necessary.
2. But the attitude of the will has much to do with admitting evidence to, or excluding it from the eye of the mind; and, on this account, may be considered as another condition of intellectual faith. It is a fact attested by universal experience, that the attitude of the will in relation to any moral subject does influence the action of the intelligence in relation to it. Who has not seen men reject evidences in favor of subjects against which they were committed, which would be "demonstrations, strong as proofs from holy writ," to those whose will was perfectly upright; while, on the contrary, they incontinently yield to those which support a position they are in favor of, although to others who are impartial they seem as insubstantial as the flitting gossamers or even utter fictions and absurdities? This is so common and palpable that it is only an instance and illustration of it for any one to deny it! There never was a proposition more utterly contrary to fact than that mankind cannot but believe as they do. Were they universally perfectly candid, it would undoubtedly be the fact that they would always believe intellectually just as the balance of evidence on every subject required; but such is the case with very few, and consequently the above proposition is true of very few. The fact is, no selfish mind ever was or ever can be candid and unbiassed in relation to subjects which, in its estimation, interfere with its selfishness. As soon may streams flow back to their sources. Hence it is common, among all men, to account for biassed beliefs and opinions by ascribing them to the influence of passion or prej
udice, or party affinity or interest, or some other sinister source. All courts of justice keep this fact in view in all their examinations of witnesses, and should they overlook it they would deserve annihilation. This principle accounts for many beliefs. "What we wish to be true we easily believe;" and "if you convince a man against his will, he is of the same opinion still."
The conditions of voluntary faith are two:
1. Of these the first is intellectual belief. No one, for example can trust or confide in God on the ground of his promises, who does not intellectually assent to the truth "that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that dilligently seek Him." To trust or confide in any being with an intellectual belief in his existence and trustworthiness, would be to trust or confide in nothing-and to rely on a promise without an intellectual belief in its validity, would be to rely on nothing -nay, is impossible.
2. The other condition of voluntary faith is self-determination. To say that faith is voluntary, is only to say that it is self-determined. It is a simple matter of fact that mankind do universally determine their own trust or distrust in God; and it is also a simple matter of fact, that they do actually refuse to trust in God, although they intellectually assent that He is trust-worthy. This is the basis of the guilt of voluntary unbelief.
Having thus shown the conditions of these two kinds of faith, we proceed to show
III. That that which we have denominated intellectual faith is not, and that which we have denominated voluntary faith is the faith which is enjoined in the Bible as the essential condition of justification, sanctification, and eternal salvation.
1. That mere intellectual faith is not the faith enjoined in the Bible, is demonstrated by the fact that it is involuntary, and cannot therefore be, in itself, an object either of requirement or prohibition, and hence involves no virtue. Being the necessary assent of the intelligence to the evidence or proof before it in relation either to abstract propositions, or to declarations of any kind, and being exercised by the wickedest men and devils as really as by saints or angels, it is not, and cannot be virtuous-it is not and cannot be compliance with the command to believe-it is not, and cannot be the condition of justification, sanctification, and eternal salvation. Multitudes give an intellectual assent to
every important principle of the Divine Government and plan of Salvation, who never, in their lives, repose the least confidence in God or any of his promises. "Faith without works is dead, being alone." (See James ii: 14-26.)
2. But the intrinsic nature, the implications and bearings of voluntary faith, comprehended as they are, demonstrate at once the negative and the positive of the proposition under consideration. The nature of this faith we have already illustrated. The very fact that it is voluntary, evinces that it is a proper object of requirement, and is essentially virtuous; and the fact that it actually embraces and directs all the moral energy of the soul that exercises it, for the time being, while merely intellectual faith has no such efficiency, proves that it is the only faith which is evangelical. That it has the efficiency we ascribe to it is attested both by experience and the word of God. It is universally assumed and acted on, as a first truth-an axiom, admitting of no exceptions, that where we have gained one's confidence, we possess the very fortress of his heart, and have seated ourselves upon the throne of his activities. It is the axle of all the intercourse and commerce of the world-of all love and all obedience. Hence, the world has ever conspired in heaping curses on the heads of those who violate it. When Charles I, in 1628, “gave his full and solemn assent to that celebrated instrument, the second great charter of the liberties of England, known by the name of the Petition of Right, and thus bound himself to raise no taxes without consent of Parliament, to imprison no man except by legal process, to billet no more soldiers on the people, and to leave the cognizance of officers to the ordinary tribunals," and thus obtained subsidies which would not otherwise have been granted, and then, in perfect disregard of all his pledges, persisted in the very things he had solemnly bound himself not to do, that moment he dissolved the basis of his throne and commenced his progress towards the scaffold, laden with the scorn and execrations of the mass of his deceived and insulted people, and a monument of baseness for future ages. Had he been true to his pledges, the Great Revolution had never occurred.
The case of Abraham, the father and prototype of all the faithful, most strikingly illustrates and confirms our position as a universal law of mind, that, whenever we do actually confide in God or any other being-whenever we do actually rely on his professions or pledges, we do, unexceptedly, act accordingly-we
do, as fur as our relations demand it, lay our whole moral energy as a tribute at his feet. The apostle Paul informs us that "by his works was his faith made perfect;" that is, as I understand it, his works proved his faith genuine, by the fact of being in exact accordance with it. And how obviously was this the case. Nothing else could have originated them. See him forsake his original home to wander a stranger in an unknown land, confidently anticipating its possession by his offspring, on no other ground than that of promise. See him, against all natural grounds of hope, believing, in hope, that he would become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, "So shall thy seed be." "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body, now dead, when he was about an hundred years old; neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform." See him, "when he was tried," offering up Isaac, "of whom it was said: That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence he also received him in a figure;"-see him, from the hour of his first summons, "to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance," till the end of his marvelous history, the exact opposite of the whole unbelieving world, contemporaneous or subsequent;—see him looming up before the eyes of all following generations, distinguished by no ravaging conquests, no subverted kingdoms, no earthly pomps, but simply by that faith which is the victory that overcomes the world-that faith which the history of prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and saints of all ages, has demonstrated and blazoned, not only before a wondering world, but also before admiring and approving heaven, as the bond of alliance between man and his Maker, and the vital source of all sacred virtue.
On the contrary, the history of the whole impenitent world attests, with equal positiveness, that whoever lacks this faith, however much intellectual belief he may have, will also act accordingly. Look, for example at the Israelites in the wilderness. Could their conduct possibly have flowed from any other fountain than distrust of God? Could they have de⚫ meaned themselves as they did?-could they so repeatedly have relapsed into idolatry?-could they have so murmured, and rebelled, and vexed the Holy Spirit?-and could they
have so shrunk back with fear on the borders of Canaan, the land of oft repeated promises, if they had actually reposed any confidence in God?-and, could impenitent men, to whom the gospel is preached, or otherwise made known, be so reckless of the will of God-so unalarmed by the threatened penalties of sin-so unallured by the promised rewards of the just-so unsubdued by the attractions and power of the cross-so indifferent to each other's eternal weal-so perversely devoted to selfish ends and interests, if they actually believed the declarations of Jehovah? Could they restrain prayer, and withhold effort, and live on in sin, and die impenitent, regardless alike of threatening and promise, if they actually expected every jot and tittle of his word to be fulfilled? Impossible!
This point will receive further illustration from what we design to show, under our fifth division, is essentially involved in true faith.
We now proceed to show,
IV. The main grounds constituting the warrant and obligation to exercise this true faith.
The apostle Paul informs us that "without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." This divine declaration epitomizes the grand topic of our present attention. GoD, as made known in his WORKS, WORD, and PROVIDENCES, and in his PAST FAITHFULNESS to all his professions and pledges, is the sole object of the faith required of us in order to salvation, and THESE REVELATIONS of Himself are its GROUND.
The testimonies of these incorruptible witnesses respecting the eternal character of God-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost-concurrently and ceaselessly affirming that "He is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all"-are the warrant and obligation for every one to confide in Him with all his heart; and the obligation of every one so to do is always in exact proportion to his ability to comprehend them. It is through these alone that the glorious disc of his infinite benevolence shines in eternal brightness on the vision of all who are willing to gaze upon it; and even gleams out, at least occasionally, upon the eyes of those who "love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil, notwithstanding the "dim suffusion" with which they have veiled them.