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should come not only to persuade the party which had done the wrong to be willing to be reconciled, but also to take the benefit of what he was ready to furnish to repair all the evil done, and to satisfy the other party. In such a case, it would not be unreasonable to ask confidence in himself, or to make this one of the conditions by which the favour might be available. In fact, it could not be consistently made available in any other way, or on any other condition; and unless there were faith in him, the negotiation could proceed no further.
Thus, we are required to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus. We are destitute of merit. We have violated the law of God, and can do nothing to repair the wrong. We are debtors to an incalculable amount to justice ; and we have nothing with which to pay the debt. We can do absolutely nothing to vindicate our own conduct; to repair the past wrong; to undo the evils that we have done; to make up for the dishonour which we have put the law of God, to atone for our thousands of faults and follies. At this point the Son of God appears, and he conies with the assurance that he has himself perfectly obeyed the law, and has done all the honour to it which can be done by obedience; that he has suffered a most bitter death--a death aggravated by every form of cruelty—as an expiation for our sins; that he will become the guarantee or surety that the law shall suffer no dishonour if we are saved, and that no injury shall result from our pardon ; that in fact all the good effects have been secured which could be by our being doomed to bear the penalty of the law ourselves; and that all that is needful for us now is to become united to him by an indissoluble bond, to put ourselves under his protection, and to be so identified with him that it will be proper to treat us as he is treated—to treat us as if we had personally obeyed the law, or borne its penalty. That which will constitute the closest union in the case, and which will do most to render this identity of treatment proper, is faith ; simple confidence in him as our Saviour, and reliance on his merits. If that exists, we are safe-safe as he is, and destined to the same glorious inheritance in heaven ; if that does not exist, we are left as we were without a Saviour, and the law is suffered to take its course, and we perish. The primary ground of condemnation is not that we have not believed on him--but it is, that we were before under condemnation for our sins, and should have been whether he had come to save us or not. That, however, is greatly aggravated, showing at once the justice of the previous ground of condemnation, and greatly enhancing it, that we did not embrace his offered conditions of deliverance : as when a man is sick, and is likely to die, and certainly will die if he does not take a certain medicine, and yet refuses to take it, the primary ground of the difficulty is not that he will not take the medicine ; the main, the essential difficulty preceded that, and would have existed whether the medicine had been provided or not-but, as a moral being, his case may be greatly aggravated by rejecting the only thing which would save him from the grave.
I have thus stated some of the reasons, as I understand theni, why faith in the Redeemer is required as one of the indispensable conditions of salvation. Two remarks may be suggested in conclusion:
(1.) The gospel is adapted to man. Its conditions are of such a nature as was clearly proper in a system of religion designed for man, as such, contemplating the race as made up of a great variety of classes and conditions—the rich and the poor ; the high and the low; the free and the bond; the learned and the ignorant. It was plain that the terms should not be such as would be adapted to one class to the exclusion of another, but should have such a reference to what was common to us as men, and what was practicable, that they might be embraced by all. Thus salvation resembles all the arrangements which God has made for the race and is like the air which we breathe, and the water which we drink at the fountain, and the fruit which we pluck from the tree ---adapted not to kings and philosophers only, but to children and peasants; not to princesses only that shine in courts, and delicate females that “ will not adventure the sole of the foot upon the ground,” but to her who has her home in the most secluded valley, or who, in the wildest sportiveness of nature, trips lightly over the hills. And to despise religion on this account; to pass it by neglected; to deem it unworthy of our notice because it has been embraced, and loved, and enjoyed by the poor, the uneducated, the unrefined-is as wise as it would be to refuse to breathe the air of heaven because those of humbler rank breathe it; or to taste the water of the fountain because
one on whom fair science never dawned" stoops down and drinks there ; or to refuse to find pleasure in the landscape, or the light of the sun, because some poor slave has seen beauty in the prospect, and felt his soul expand with the feeling that he was a creature of God--or because some poor wretch has looked out from the grated window of a dungeon, and felt a ray of comfort come into his soul as he was permitted to see the beams of the morning illuminate the tops of the distant hills.
(2.) It follows, that if there are conditions proposed for salvation, if these conditions are not complied with, then there is no rational ground for hope of eternal life. So we feel and know about other things; and why shall we not about salvation ? We avail ourselves of the conditions on which property, health, reputation, may be obtained; and feel that the only rational basis
hope in the case is, that we comply with the terms on which these things are offered to men. If we are unwilling to comply with these conditions, and the favour is withheld, we feel that we have only ourselves to blame. But these terms are not as easy as those on which salvation is offered. It is easier for a man to be certain of going to heaven, than it is to be certain of being rich, or of enjoying health, or of being honoured. A very small part of the toil which the merchant or the farmer endures to procure wealth ; a very small part of the self-denial which the soldier practises to obtain honour; a very small part of the painstaking which the invalid resorts to when he goes to other lands to restore himself to health and often in each case in vain—would secure beyond doubt the salvation of the soul. The means appointed are more easy; the result is more certain from the voice of experience ; the promise is more sure.
But if man will not employ those means, why should he not fail of salvation, just as certainly as he must be poor, or sick, or unhonoured, if he gives himself up to indolence, and makes no effort to be rich, vigorous in body, or honoured? And if at last he perishes, when the conditions of salvation were so easy and so available, whom shall he blame but himself? And how can he avoid perishing if he will not avail himself of the only terms on which God has ever promised eternal life? In view, then, of all these considerations, I repeat once more the solemn declaration of Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” your final Judge and mine: “ He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned."
THE VALUE AND IMPORTANCE OF FAITH,
HEB. xi, 6.-"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
THERE are two points of inquiry respecting faith which I next propose to consider :-one is, the place which faith occupies in the system of revealed religion; and the other, the reason why such a degree of prominence has been given to it.
I. The place which faith occupies in the system of revealed. religion.
No one can mistake as to this. It is declared to be indispensable to salvation; the whole question of life or death is made to depend on it; it is necessary in order to avail ourselves of the benefit of the death of Christ; the opposite of faith, i.e. unbelief, is condemned in the most unambiguous manner, and it is solemnly declared that the want of it shall for ever exclude from the kingdom of God. It is unequivocally stated in the New Testament, that where there is not faith there is no true religion, and that no one can approach God with any hope of acceptance without it. It is made one of the conditions of salvation which are never dispensed with ; and whatever else a man may have, if he have not this, it is declared that he cannot be saved.
The following passages of the New Testament will show the place which faith occupies in the Christian system, and, though familiar, seem necessary to be repeated in order to prepare for the remarks which I have to make in explanation of the subject. “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned," Mark xvi. 16.
16 He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God," John iii. 18. “He that believeth hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,” John iii. 36. believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins; and where I am, thither ye cannot come,” John viii. 24, and vii. 34. So the text:
66 If ye
“ Without faith, it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.''
Such passages settle the question in regard to the prominence which faith occupies in the system of revealed religion, and show that, in that system, the whole subject of man's salvation is made to depend on it. It is one of the two indispensable things on which the salvation of any of the race is made to rest.
Now to this view of the importance of faith in a system of religion, I need not say that numerous objections at once occur to many minds. The prominence given in Christianity to faith has been a standing objection urged by infidels against the system; and even in minds not inclined to scepticism there are difficulties which are not easy to be removed. Mr. Hume, in his Essay on Miracles, remarks with a sneer, that “ our most holy religion is founded on faith, not on reason;" and then proceeds to show that it is not safe to subject it to any severe test of reason.
The most material objections, and those which involve real difficulty in regard to the prominence given to faith in the system of Christianity, are the following :
(1.) That it is an arbitrary arrangement; that faith in itself has no such essential prominency and importance as to make it proper to select this as a condition of salvation ; that as a mental exercise it has no peculiar dignity or value over other mental exercises which should have led to its selection; and that, in itself considered, there is no more reason why faith should have been selected as a condition of salvation than why, for example, hope, or fear, or love should have been.
(2.) That salvation should not be made to depend on any mere mental operation; that the rewards of heaven and hell should be apportioned rather to the character and conduct than to any mere state of mind, that we judge of men, not by what they believe, but by what they do; that the retributions of this world necessarily, in courts, in families, in holding offices, and in the measure of prosperity which men enjoy, or the reverses which they experience, are not determined by what men believe or do not believe, but by what they do, or fail to do; and that there is a propriety that the same rule should be observed in the retributions of the future state.
(3.) That faith, as a mental operation, is beyond our control; that we are so made that we cannot help believing where proper evidence is presented, and cannot make ourselves believe wliere there is not; and that as men have no control over their faith, they are not responsible for their belief.