Imatges de pàgina
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the former is meant what is the subject of our own observation, by the latter what is received on the testimony of others. I will illustrate what I m We all agree that there is such a country as China. But the truth of China's existence is not brought in contact with our minds by our own perception. We did not come by it by walking the streets of its vast metropolis, or by eating the fruits of its fields. It is belief-faith in the testimony of others, which leads us to act and calculate that China does exist. Again, we agree that heat of a certain temperature is very painful—that fire will burn, and why? Not because others have told us; it is not faith by which this truth is realized. It is a matter of our own experience. We all know it, because we have all felt it. In the former case the truth was made to impress us by faith, in the latter by knowledge. And by one of these two ways we realize all truth. No matter how really any fact may exist, or however much our interest for time and eternity may depend upon proper calculations in reference to it, the mind will be no more affected by it than if it had never existed, unless it be conveyed to us through the testimony of others, or through some one of the different channels of our own personal perception.

But as was remarked, the dispensation of religion is mostly spiritual, and has relation to a great many things which are entirely be. yond the limits of our observation. Faith therefore becomes the only medium through which they can be conveyed to the soul. It is made the condition of salvation then, because no other condition from the nature of things would answer.

2nd. Faith is also more efficient than any other mode of realizing truth. It always incrcases its power to affect the mind by repeated exercise; while the subjects of personal observation grow less and less in their effect upon the soul every time they are experienced. By constant sight, the effect of objects seen grows less; by constant faith, the effect of objects believed in, grows greater. The probable reason of this is, that personal observation does not admit of the influence of the imagination in impressing the fact; while unseen objects, realized by faith, have the auxiliary aid of the imagination, not to exaggerate them, but to clothe them with living colors, and impress them upon the heart. Whether this be the reason or not, the fact is true, that the more frequently we see the less we feel the power of an object; while the more frequently we

dwell upon an object by faith, the more we feel its power.”! This then is another substantial reason why faith was made the condition of salvation.

3d. Faith is moreover the great determiner of our fortunes in worldly matters, and why shall it not be in spiritual matters? This proposition does not exactly fall in with the current dogmas of the world; but is it not true? Does not the belief of falsehood always bring with it disappointment and ruin? And does not the sincerity with which a man embraces error also furnish the exact measure of bis misfortune? A little reflection will enable you to reply correctly. Or take a case for illustration. Here is a man of extensive property, respectability, and benevolence. Here is another destitute of either, as well as all regard for truth. By misrepresentation and persuasion he induces the honorable man to embark all his fortune with him in certain speculations. He is advised of the vallainous character of his colleague, but places full confidence in his integrity and the truth of his statements. He discards the truth, believes and acts upon the falsehoods, and is consequently involved in distress and ruin. It was his faith which determined his fortune. Had he believed his friends he would have been saved; but he believed lies and was ruined.

Take another example, one from history. “When the English army under Harold, and the Norman under William the conqueror; were set in array for that fearful conflict which decided the fate of the two armies, and the political destinies of Great Britain, WilTiam, perceiving that he could not, by a fair attack, move the solid columns of the English ranks, had recourse to a false movement in order to gain the victory. He gave orders that one flank of his army should feign to be flying from the field in disorder. The officers of the English army believed the falsehood, pursued them, and were cut off. A second time, a false movement was made in another part of the field. The English again believed, pursued, and were cut off. By these movements the fortunes of the day were determined. Although the English had the evidences of their own senses, yet they were led to believe a falsehood-they acted in view of it; the consequence was, the destruction of a great part of their army, and the establishment of the Norman power in England.” 2

Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation, p. 127. ' Ibid.

The very

Had they believed differently, the result must also have been correspondingly modified.

Examples might easily be multiplied to show, that our faith, even in worldly matters where we are most concerned with things of sense, is the great determiner of our fortunes. In fact, all the complicated miseries which distress our world, are immediately or remotely the products of wrong faith. And if faith determines our fortunes in earthly things, why should it not be made the condition of eternal good? The truth is, that faith is the great condition of our happiness in all relations. It must necessarily control the dispositions of the heart-the conscience—the will—the imagination --and of course the entire life. Hence it is that this principle lies at the foundation of the christian system, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.”

From what has now been said, we observe that faith is altogether a reasonable demand which God makes upon us. laws of our nature forbid that he should bring down the condition of salvation any lower. Upon the same principle that we think it right and just to take medicine when sick, it is right and just that we believe, in order to be saved. Our physical systems are so constructed, that certain medicinal impressions are necessary in certain cases to correct derangement in the machinery of being, and thus preserve life. And such is our moral constitution, that certain truths which faith alone can reach must be made to diffuse their influence through it, or else it will putrify and go to utter ruin. And as in the one case we must use the hand—the lips--and the organs of the throat to bring medicine to act upon the system ; so in the other case we must exercise faith in the provisions which God has made, that is, put forth the mental hand and press the truth upon the heart, in order to realize in our souls any beneficial effects. And as we are not disposed to complain of the natural necessity of the thing in the one case, so we have no right to complain of it in the other. It is altogether reasonable and right, that we should be. lieve in order to be saved,

But we are led to observe further by the preceding discussion, that faith viewed in the light of duty, is easy. It is the most simple and easy exercise of the human mind. It may indeed go against the evil dispositions of the diseased heart. Religion is a thing which men in their fallen state do not have much taste for. It will

nauseate the soul that is drunk with iniquity. But what I mean is, that the exercise of believing is an easy matter. And if any one finds it difficult to overcome this disrelish, he must remember that God is not the author of it. It is a difficulty which he himself has created. But even that, if set about in the proper way, may be easily overcome. In the matters of life we often have to do things which we dislike; but when some important interest is at stake we can easily put that aside and set ourselves to the work. And so in this matter, if we will, we can easily set our hearts to believe the word of God, and to follow wherever it leads. If it were required of us to fulfill the whole law of God, then indeed the work would be difficult, and the enterprise hopeless. But faith only implies the sincere setting of the heart to keep the commandments. And if we come short after we have done what we could, the motive and intent will be taken for the execution, and we still shall be saved. Nor can there possibly be any great hardship in this for any one.

And then again, when we look at the character of the witness whose testimony we are to believe, it would seem that faith would follow as a matter of course. If he were a short-sighted, erring, and wicked man, there would be room to hesitate. But as it is there is none whatever. It is the testimony of the omniscient, infallible, and infinitely holy and merciful God which we are to believe and heed. And can he lie? Can he deceive us? How easy is it then to credit his declarations, and to calculate and proceed upon them without the least hesitation or doubt!

And finally we observe from this discussion, that unbelief is a radical and most alarming evil. It conflicts with all the laws of things. It jars and disarranges the whole moral machinery of the universe. And it comes in direct opposition to God and his will. “ Without faith,” it is said, “it is impossible to please God;” because unbelief shuts out all those truths from the soul which alone are sufficient to lead men into the path of Divine acceptance. It says to the soul: “ there is no God—the world is eternal—man is a thing of accident or chance—the Bible is a forgery-prophets and apostles and the Holy Ghost are liars—all religion is but superstition—all the noble army of saints and martyrs are but dupes--all spirits, angels and devils are but goblin fancies-heaven and hell, with all the glory of the one, and all the horror of the other, are

but dreams of the fevered imagination.” By listening to this voice, the infidel is cut loose from the noblest and happiest influences of the universe, and however vast of intellect or great of soul by nature, he at best is but a wreck-a cast out, melancholy, desolate ureck.

As some ill.guided bark, well built and tall,
Which angry tides cast out on desert shore,
And then retiring, left it there to rot
And moulder in the winds and rains of heaven;
So he, cut from the sympathies of life,
Is cast ashore from pleasure's boisterous surge,

A wandering, weary, worn, and wretched thing !” An influence like this we are all ready to pronounce evil, everywhere--always—and utterly evil. And yet there are thousands in the world—many in this community-and there may be some in this assembly, who are unsuspectingly cherishing the viper in their bosoms, whose venomous sting is to thrill the soul with unending anguish. Deluded men, beware, beware. Whilst yet you behold in it nothing but beauty and innocence—now while its deadly fangs lie sealed in icy coldness, dash it from you, and crush it beneath your heels. Listen not to the enchanting voice of infidelity, 'tis a siren that lures to the vortex of woe. Study well the natural necessity of faith to prosperity and happiness, and set yourselves to receive and observe the record which God has given. This moment let your penitential vow be formed. The Lord write it in heaven. The Lord give grace to follow it out. The Lord snatch you as brands from the funeral pyre of souls, rejoice your own hearts, and thus spread gladness through the church and through the skies! Amen.

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