« AnteriorContinuar »
to be thus zealous of good works, in order to live thus soberly, righteously, and godly, the corruption of man's nature must be subdued, its bent or bias to evil must be overcome, some of his strongest passions and appetites and desires must be resisted and denied. To prevail upon him to do this, very powerful motives are necessary; and such motives, the most powerful and prevailing possible, are supplied by faith. "Faith," says the apostle, " is the sub"stance of things hoped for, and the evi"dence of things not seenethat is, a lively faith " gives such a reality, certainty, "and present being, to things hoped for "and yet to come, as if they were visibly "seen and actually enjoyedf." Such faith alarms our fears on the one hand, by the threatening of never-ending torments, and invites our hopes on the other, by the promise of eternal happiness: and, by the contemplation of the awful humiliation of the Son of God, and of his dreadful sufferings for our sake, excites a hatred of sin, and enforces obedience and holiness of
living by the strongest motives to thankfulness and love. Indeed, so essential is faith to genuine holiness of living, that (as we are taught by the Scriptures, and from them by our- Church) no works, however fair they may be in outward appearance, are really good and acceptable to God, unless they proceed from a principle of faith. Conduct or actions, proceeding entirely from worldly views and motives, must not look beyond this world for their recompense. They have their reward, if they have it at all, here, and here only. As they have nothing to do with the motives, so they have nothing to do with the promises of religion.
But farther; the necessity of faith appears most strongly, from the consideration, that faith is the instrument or condition of our justification. As sinners, (and if we say that we are not sinners, we may be sure that we deceive ourselves, and that the truth is not in us ;)—as sinners, I say, we are liable to God's wrath and condemnation. Now, if we at all believe the word of God, we must know, that we have no wellgrounded hope of escaping that condemnation, excepting what we derive from the atonement made by the death of his Son. The benefits, however, of that atonement (in the case of those at least to whom the Gospel is preached) are extended to those only who believe in it, to those only who have faith. Hence it is that justification is by the Scriptures, and from the Scriptures by our Church, attributed to faith; by which word they mean, not a barren speculative assent of the understanding, but a belief which has effect on the heart, by producing holy dispositions and affections; and on the conduct, by producing good works ;—faith, in short, which worketh by love, love both to God and man.
Since therefore faith is so necessary; since without faith there can be no real religion; since faith is so essential to good works and holiness of living; since without faith it is impossible to please God, impossible to be justified; the enquiry whether we are in the faith, becomes of the very greatest importance. Allow me then, my friends, to adopt the admonition of the apostle, and anxiously and earnestly to exhort you to "examine yourselves,