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Art. 1.-EVILS OF A WANT OF FAITH.
A SERMON BY THE EDITOR.
John xx. 25.-Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and pat my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
This was said by Thomas when he was told that Jesus, whom he had seen executed on the cross, a few days before, had appeared in living fleshly shape, and conversed with his disciples. He would not believe it except on the evidence of his senses.
Was this right or wrong in Thomas? Was it merely a proper caution in an important matter, a just incredulity-or was it a bad sort of scepticism, a faithlessness, a distrust of God and his power? I think the latter-I think it showed a wrong state of mind—a want of that faith which is the rational foundation of all religion, and without which there is no use in pretending to religion-the faith which Jesus was always commanding his disciples to cherish and increase. My reasons for thinking so I will give, but will first state what í conceive faith to mean in the Bible. As faith is a fundamental, a most important part of religion, it is of the utmost consequence that we should have right ideas in regard to it. Regarding the subject of Faith in this light, and thinking it a point very apt to be darkened and misunderstood to be placed in opposition to Reason, as if a faithful Christian must be half out of his senses—to be made to refer to doctrines and creeds and matters which belong to the understanding to determine, instead of the feelings and heart—it can hardly be too often explained and defended on the right grounds.
When I say then, that you ought to have faith, that you and all men are very deficient in it, and that only in propor
tion as you gain it, can you be noble, or strong, or free, or happy in your mind's state.
mind's state. I am not urging you to believe any doctrines, or opinions, or creeds whatever. I am not commanding you to be a Unitarian, or a Trinitarian; a Universalist or a Baptist. All that is the business of the understanding to settle. Think for yourselves, judge for yourselves, decide for yourselves, which of these creeds, and sets of opinions is the right one. Neither I nor any other human being has a right to interfere, in any possible way with your decision on these points—for Reason in the mind of man is the inspiration of God's Spirit, and it is the duty, the positive duty of every man not to tamper with his reason, nor suffer others to tamper with it, but to employ it faithfully in discovering the truth.
But what I mean by having Faith, is this—Realize your connexion with the world of spirits. Remain not looking constantly at the earth-clinging always to the soil— believing yourself merely an animal of flesh, and blood, and bones. Think not so much of earthly things, more of heavenly things. You have a soul as well as a body-no, I am mistaken. You are a soul. All of you are souls—and these bodies, these outward forms, are tents in which we dwell-clothing with which we are clothed upon—they belong to us, they are not us. You cannot deny this—now realize it. Make it more and more a real conviction, and then you will have Faith. Be. lieve that a man is not profited who gains the whole world and loses his own soul. We know this now
w—it is plain and eri. dent, but we do not believe it so as to act upon it. If we did, we should have Faith.
We should believe in our soul's existence quite as much, or more, than that of our body, and hence we should also believe more firmly in the fixed and certain nature of the laws of our mind than of the world about us. I can conceive that a person might believe more firmly in the existence of certain truths than in the world of sense-for instance, in the being of a God, and I think this faith would be perfectly rational and well founded.
Others say, however, We will only believe on the evidence of our senses—we will not, and ought not, to believe any thing of which our bodily senses do not inform us and testify. Now I say the mind has its senses as well as the body. For instance, it perceives its own existence; so it perceives its own thoughts and feelings. It perceives its own ideas-it is a great deal more sure of their existence than it is of the existence of the tree or the house which seems to be standing be
fore its eyes. The bodily senses may be deceived—for instance, panoramas, or pictures of cities may be painted so skilfully that it is impossible for us to realize that the actual houses and streets and palaces are not before our eyes. So that in the natural phenomena called the mirage, the sailor sees rising up before him a beautiful shore covered with lofty trees and glancing steeples and tall towers, when he knows that there is nothing but ocean all around him. In these cases and many others like them, we do not believe the testimony of our senses, we believe in the conclusions of our reason.
So too when we see the tricks of a juggler-how he appears to swallow knives and do other wonderful things, we disbelieve our senses because our reason tells us that he cannot have the power of breaking through the laws of nature. We thus see that Reason is more to be relied in than the bodily senses; it is placed above them and judges of their testimony.
Faith, then is a confidence in those truths whose evidence is not to be found in the outward world but in the everlasting reason of mankind-things not to be seen or heard, or touched with the bodily eye, ear, or hand-invisible to sense, but living and real to the thoughts and to the heart. This confidence does not come of itself; it can never come to those who remain busy with this outward world, and forgetting the whole world within them. There is a bright sun shining over our heads, but we cannot see' it if we will not look up, but keep our eyes fastened on the dust around our feet.
According to this view of the subject, Saint Thomas was deficient in Fuith. When the disciples came and told him, that their master who had been crucified and buried, had been seen by them alive—he looked upon the story as so very improbable as not to be credited except upon the strongest testimony. But was it so very improbable? Had he not seen in his long intercourse with his Master any tokens of divine power? Had his eyes been closed, and his ears dulled, so that he could not see with his eyes and hear with his ears, all the wonderful deeds and marvellous words which his master had done and spoken in the presence of his nation? Could he have followed so long in the steps of Jesus, and never thought of asking what was the object, what was to be the end of all this toil and travel and suffering? He wanted faith—-faith in the Almighty Father in whom Jesus trusted --Faith in the power and promises of God—the faith which would continue to hope in the darkest hour, when all human expectations seemed baffled, that God was able to give life to stones, and breathe a spirit into the cold corpse, and that he would, in this or some
other way maintain his good cause. If this had been his state of feeling, and this ought to have been bis state of feeling, he would have been in expectation of some such event as that of the resurrection, and have been ready to believe, because the event was rational and probabie, without waiting till his assent was forced from him by testimony which he could not resist.
I will now describe some of the evils which result from a want of Faith.
1. A want of Faith is the principal source of a disbelief of Christianity. In other words, the main source of deism is a want of confidence in spiritual truths of any kind-a disposition to believe certainly only in the visible world. Tnis is the chief source of Deism, and Deism or disbelief in any revelation from God is a great evil. I wish to explain these positions and illustrate them a little. Some Christians look on Infidels with horror—others look on them with anger. These two feelings seem to me misplaced. I think we should look upon an Infidel with pity.
When a person is very much shocked and filled with horror at meeting with any of the forms of infidelity, it seems to indicate that his own faith is not perfectly sound and secure. To see another man denying, disturbs him because he is not perfectly confident in the grounds of his belief. He feels himself a little shaken. But one who has considered and examined, and knows why he believes, is not so easily moved. The faithful Christian would not bo shocked though all the world but himself should turn heathen and deny all religion. He would mourn, but would continue unmoved, firm as a rock in his own belief. If a man, at midday, tell me that there is no sun in the heavens, and that the earth is shrouded in darkness, it does not disturb me. Because he is blind and cannot see it, he does not remove it from the sky. And so when an unbeliever tells me that he sees no proof of a revelation being made by Christ, if I know that the heavenly life, which is the light of men, does shine out from the words of these gospels, bis denial throws no shroud over it to darken and hide it. Let him say—there is no God let him blaspheme his name, and devote himself to the work of rooting out all reverence for Him from the hearts of men. By all his mad endeavor he cannot injure the Infinite one. God is giving him the very powers by which he blasphemes his name. There is nothing dreadful in Infidelity-no cause for dread.
Therefore the Christian need not feel horror, and he ought not to feel anger against the Infidel. The main source of In
fidelity, to be sure, in most men, is a blameable want of confidence in their own spiritual nature-blameable, because they might have increased their Faith in unseen things by contemplation, self-examination, and prayer. If all the world were spiritual and holy, and religious, I do not doubt that they would all be Christians. Still, in the present state of mankind, there are many other causes of infidelity over which a man has no power.
Association with Christians whose lives contradict their profession-being educated in a country where the spirit of Christianity is lost in its form-corruptions of scripture doctrines which teach as christianity, absurdities and contradictions which disgust the understanding, or statements which shock all the best moral feelings. These things are a source of a great deal of infidelity; and for infidelity springing from such sources, no man is to be blamed. And it is wholly out of our power to say when Infidelity does become blameable, because we can never distinguish with any certainty in particular cases. God alone can tell the bounds of innocent error and guilty wandering—let us leave it to him to judge.
But though Infidelity is not a thing to be looked upon with horror nor with anger, it is always to be regarded with pity, because it is a great evil. Look at the effects of a belief in Christ in the present world only, and we shall be convinced that a firm and rational religious faith is the greatest blessing which can be conferred on a human being. It changes sorrow and pain into joy-guides him steadily through all the perplexities of his earthly way-gives him an object for which to striveunfolds his mind—enlarges his feelings—fills him with constant confidence and peace. He who disbelieves revelation wants all this. His soul wants a support, his life an aim.
We are still to show how it is that a want of faith produces disbelief in Christianity. The great cause of Deism is a reluctance to believe in miracles. These are the difficulties—the stumbling-block to a modern unbeliever. He would rest his argument on the statement of Hume.—“It is more likely that human testimony should be false, than that a miracle should be true.” Now this, stated thus generally, is as much as to say, that no testimony could prove a miracle, or that it is impossible that a miracle should ever have taken place; that it is impossible in the nature of things, for the laws of nature ever to have been interrupted. Therefore, God himself could not have interrupted them-hence the unbeliever must think of God not as the author and supporter of the laws of nature, but as himself subject to them. He cannot therefore be considered as supreme. Now what a view this is to take of the most Highland on what grounds