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Hebrews xi. i. ow faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen, I AM confident that any person, who would fairly and candidly bring his mind to the subject, could not fail to perceive, that there is an extraordinary inconsistency between the professed belief and the general practice of Christians ; an inconsistency so extreme, as to be utterly unaccountable on any common principle. If men rejected the Scriptures, and led a sinful or a worldly life, however wrong that state might be, it would be, nevertheless, accountable and of a piece. But for men to receive a revelation as coming from the great God, and to treat that with practical inattention, is what no one could believe possible, if facts did not irrefragably prove it I am anxious to direct your attention to this point For I am convinced, thkt seeing this matter as it is, might, in some instances, open new light to the mind, might lead it to suspect, at least, that there may be something of dangerous delusion in its state, when it is capable; on the most momentous of all subjects, of contradictions and absurdities, which, in lesser concerns.
2 SERMO I. would be pronounced as nothing short of madness. A few instances will, however, shew, that all who are not decided infidels, acknowledge things in religion as
true, which seem, in their own nature, calculated to produce the most powerful effects on the human mind ; but which, notwithstanding, exhibit none of those practical results so reasonably to be expected. All around us, for example, believe in God, and in His omnipresence. They believe that that awful Being, that supreme Majesty, that dread Sovereign, before whom the powers of heaven bow down in lowly reverence — that He is continually before us, observing every secret action we perform, and reading every thought that rises in our hearts. ow does not this one sublime, simple truth seem, of itself, sufficient to fill every capacity of the soul, to captivate every thought, to shame down all impurity, and to convert all that is within us into holiness to tJie Lord? But does it do so.? On the contrary, is it not notorious, that the presence of any great man, nay, of any common acquaintance, is, by the majority of Christians, more sensibly felt than the presence of God } Who, before an earthly prince, would not take good care to drop no expression unnecessarily, at least, which would make him frown.? Who would use his name, in any manner, against the rules of established courtesy.? And yet how often is God's name profaned, against His positive command, and avowedly before His face. Who is there (but a decidedly religious man), who would not be a thousand times more distressed, if a friend said to him, " Do you know that, without intending it, you affronted such or such a great man .?" than if he were to say, " You have thoughtlessly taken God's name in vain, which you know to be a dis-
SERMO I. 3 respect and insult to the Divine Majesty ?" ow, in all this, there would be nothing to wonder at, if you were thus boldly answered : " Why, I know beyond all doubt that this great man exists, and might injure or dis-
countenance me in society : but the being of a God I do . doubt, or, at all events, that He is the author of that Scripture which says, TJioii sJialt not take tJie name of the Lord thy God in vain!' But the wonder is, that the man who thus bows down to a fellow-mortal, and carelessly affronts the Almighty, will tell you, that he is as sure of God's existence, and of the truth of Scripture, and that God is present with him, and has power to save or to destroy him, as he is that he himself is a living and sentient being. Again, every one you meet with professes to believe in the immortality of his own soul ; and that its endless condition will be one, either of the purest happiness, or of the most insufferable misery : that in heaven there will be no more death, nor pain, nor crying; that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor imagination conceived, the delights and blessedness of that happy place : that, on the other hand, hell is an accursed banishment from God, and light, and tranquillity, and hope; wJiere tJie worm dieth noty and tJie fire is not quenched. This is, you all know, a part of the admitted creed in all Christian countries. In heaven or in hell, thus understood, every man will freely grant you that he himself must shortly be. Let him have to calculate the probable length of his life as a matter of business, and you will find what he thinks of it. He wants, suppose, to obtain an annuity for his life, and will gravely talk of six, seven, or eight years' purchase. Here, then, you have his own calculation of the space of time, in which,
4 SERMO I. in all fair probability, he will be in endless happiness or endless torments ; always allowing that even that space is uncertain, and that this night his soul may be required of him. ow, considering with what lively feeling and real dismay such a man would contemplate the loss of
any part of his property, or of even the most insignificant member of his body ; what shall we say to the strange insensibility and stupid unconcern with which the same person will risk the loss and ruin of his immortal soul ? But farther. What powerful emotions, in another way and of a higher kind, does the universally admitted fact, that Christ died upon the cross to save sinners, seem, in its nature, calculated to produce. Try men's hearts, and you will not find that they are generally dead to gratitude. Make for them some noble, gfenerous, disinterested sacrifice; and you will find that, in human matters, the heart of man is true to the touch of kindness and to the calls of friendship ; that it can feel an obligation to the quick ; that it can glow and kindle at the name of benefactor. What, then, are God's claims, His admitted claims, to all these softer affections of the soul.? What other friend has laid down his life for us? What other benefactor has delivered up his dear and only son for us? Herein is love: God commendeth his love toward tis, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Upon that blessed Being, upon that pure and sinless Lamb, were laid the shame and confusion, the guilt and punishment, of all our loathsome impurities and accursed wickedness. Hour after hour did that Object of God's eternal love present Himself in agonies before the eyes of His Father, and offer Himself as a spotless victim, to pay, with His own sufferings and tears and blood, the price of our redemp-
SERMO I. S tion. But I need not repeat this dismal tragedy. You know it all. But account for it, if you can, why all favours are valued more than God's favours ; why these things are just acknowledged in theory, but not felt in practice ; why God's unexampled and infinite proofs of love do not warm, nor soften, nor penetrate men's hearts ;
why those mysterious agonies, at which the sun was darkened, the rocks were rent, the earth did quake, and the graves delivered up their dead — why these can act with the energy of omnipotence on every thing but the souls for which those agonies were borne and suffered. For all these miracles of ingratitude there is but one way of accounting. Man, in his natural state, is dead to spiritual and eternal things. That principle or faculty which recognises and apprehends God and the things of God, so as to make them operative and influential on the mind and heart — that principle, I say, died in man at the fall, and is in action only where the Spirit of Christ has quickened the soul into the likeness of His resurrection. It is thus that the men of the world, surrounded as they are at every moment by the awful realities of eternity, feel no suitable impressions. God is around them and within them. Heaven and hell are straight before them. They grant it all. But the conviction slips from them. It has no power, no interest, no vitality. Let them hear that some fellow-man has suffered in their cause ; their heart answers to the call, and real living gratitude springs up. Tell them that Christ, their acknowledged Lord and Saviour, has died for them a death of unexampled pain, and they admit the obligation : but it has nothing of real life about it ; it does not reach the heart. These men want the faculty by which religious truths
6 SERMO I. are apprehended : and unless a thing is apprehended by its appropriate faculty, it cannot suitably affect us. If we see and handle a fine fruit, we may be pleased with its shape, its colour, and its smell. But unless we taste it, we have no notion of the real, peculiar, and distinctive excellence of the thing. A deaf man may behold a
grand display of orchestral arrangements and musical performers, and think it an imposing sight. But the thing intended by all this — the end of all this apparatus — the melodious enchantment — the harmonious sound — is still a stranger to his soul. Here, then, is the secret of that otherwise inexplicable riddle, that man — rational, immortal man — should value time above eternity, his body above his soul, the slightest favour from a fellowcreature above all the mercies and benefits which God can pour upon him. For the one class of objects, all men have the appropriate and discerning sense ; and for the other, most men have not that sense. Human and temporal things are apprehended and taken in by the ordinary exercise of our natural faculties; and finding in all men those natural faculties, they do not fail to make their suitable impressions. Eternal and divine things are, on the other hand, addressed to a faculty above nature, a principle dead, or dormant, in the great mass of mankind ; and, consequently, fall pointless and powerless upon the mind ; are like sounds to the deaf, or light and colours to the blind. The principle, then, which brings man fairly within the reach of religious influences, which gives eternal things their due weight in his practical estimation, which gives them the point and life of waking certainties and actual existences, is faith. Faiths says my text, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things
SERMO I. 7 not seen; the confident expectation of the one, the clear, heartfelt, and realizing conviction of the other. Faith is to the truths of Scripture, what the sun is to the face of nature. A stranger who passes through a fine country by night, may be told, and place full confidence in the information, of all the beauties with
which he is encircled. But let the day arise, and open to his view smiling valleys and resplendent rivers, the cattle feeding in their pastures, light and shade scattered upon the hills, woods and villages and glittering spires ; then he does not merely hear from others — ^he knows, and sees, and feels for himself, the paradise which lies around him. So it is with the truths of Scripture. The man who has not faith, may, in a certain sense, see, and hear, and give them his assent. But still the veil is upon his mind. There is a secret virtue in the Scripture, a life and spirit in God's Word, which he does not comprehend. For this, its spiritual meaning, he has eyes that see not, ears that hear not, and a heart that will not understand. But let faith once cast the beam out of his eye; let the day-star from above arise; let Him who caused the light to shine out of darkness, shine in his heart: and those truths which fell like blunted arrows from his soul, are now quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. They are not new truths, but they are seen by him with new eyes. They brighten into new light, and seem, as if by enchantment, transfigured into new existence. He believed before, like one asleep, that there is a God. But now that blessed truth bursts like new day upon his soul, and seems to fill all nature round him, and all his soul within him, with an all-sustaining, all-cheering, ever-present God.
8 SERMO I. He believed before, if indeed belief it could be called, in the immortality of his own soul. But he now feels a deathless principle within his breast He feels congenialized to the eternal world. He feels the quickenings of a spiritual nature, and the throbs of immortality. He is assured that the life he now lives will know no end ; that it is the morning of a never-ending day ; that it is
none other than the gate of heaven. He believed before, but without a heart, that Christ had shed His precious blood for him. But he now can trust Him with his whole salvation. His soul magnifies the Lord, and his spirit rejoices in God his Saviour. On that altar, where the atonement for his sins was made, he swears uncompromising allegiance and devoted love. On that cross, where his Lord and Master bled and died for him, all his earthly affections and desires are crucified. He part5 with, and casts for ever from him, the allurements, the vanities, the interests, and the friendship of a vain, an unhappy, a perishing, and an ungrateful world. Of the practical effects of a realizing faith this eleventh chapter to the Hebrews affords abundant instances. It was by the active power of this principle that oahy being warned of God of things not seen as yety moved with fear^ prepared nn ark to the saving of his house. Others were warned as well as he. The same deluge was threatened to all. But in oah's case alone the revelation was mixed with faith in him that heard it. Planting and building, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, the bustle, the variety, the nearness, and the distinctness of present objects, effaced from , that devoted generation all thought or recollection of the impending ruin. But into oah's mind the impression
SERMO I. 9 entered deeply. The evidence of things not seen as yet was clear to his soul as the daylight to his eyes. The horrors of the deluge — the vengeance of the Almighty — these were present to his mind in all the terrors of real life and certainty. He was moved with fear ; he was influenced to action ; he built his ark ; he saved not only
his house, but his soul ; and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By the same victorious principle did Abraham leave his country, his kindred, and his father's house; his fondest recollections, the friends of childhood, the haunts of early innocence, and every earthly tie that bound his heart — ^he left them all at the call of God and duty. He went out, not knowing whither he went, that he might sojourn in a foreign land, and wander for the rest of his life as a stranger upon earth. What, then, was his support.^ It was not a common and languid belief, but a peculiar, animated, and divine persuasion that there is another and a better world. It was t/ie substance of things hoped for. He tookedy says the Apostle, /^r a city which hath foundations^ whose builder and maker is God, By fait hf also, Moses y when he was come toy ears y when all that could fire ambition or make temptation irresistible glittered round him, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter — to be introduced in that splendid court as the centre of its interest, fashion, excitement, and attraction ; choosing rather y says St. Paul, to suffer affliction with the people of Gody than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. And this choice he made, not as a painful sacrifice to duty, but with all the fulness of his heart, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. And why ? Because a glorious immortality, and a present God, were opened to his faith.
10 SERMO I. He had respect unto the recompence of the reward. He endured as seeing Him who is invisible. Of faith thus fruitful of all good, it is expressly stated that without it it is impossible to please God. The fall of man has rendered him a stranger to the Divine ature.
And hence arises superstition in all its forms. Hence it is that God is every day offended by impure worship, by empty ceremonies, by prayers just uttered from the lips, by lifeless services and dead works. As if He needed any thing; as if He were vain and could be flattered; as if He were a tyrant and loved to see us cringe like slaves ; as if He were some senseless image, well befitting all this stupid mockery. Perseveringly as the world would force, as it were, these services upon God, He everywhere in Scripture indignantly disclaims them. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto mef saith the Lord. When ye come to appear before m£y who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and sabbaths y the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with : it is iniquity y even the solemn meeting. The main point of God's own revelation is that we cannot save ourselves, but that He is both able and willing to save us. The very essence of salvation is holiness and happiness dwelling in the soul. But who can make himself holy or happy } He may long for that blessed frame of mind, and dig for it as for hid treasure ; but what power has man at his control, which can expel the spirit of uncleanness from his soul, or say to the storms and heavings of a troubled heart, Pecu:ey be still f o, my brethren, we cannot save ourselves. But salvation to the uttermost is freely offered ; salvation from the
SERMO I. II guilt of sin in the atoning blood of Jesus, and deliverance from the power of sin by the operation of His HolySpirit God has no design respecting us but to make us happy. This was His object in creating ys, and it is His object in redeeming us. All that He desires is that
we should accept His mercies, without money and without price ; that we should receive tJie blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from tlie God of our salvation. And is it any wonder if the man who rejects these gracious offers, who meets with cold suspicion such unspeakable generosity and such unbounded goodness, and who transacts with God as if He were altogether such an one as himself and were incapable of doing good without some valuable consideration ; is it any wonder that such distortion of mind and heart cannot be acceptable to the Divine ature ? Is it any wonder that without full and filial confidence we cannot be acceptable to that Being, all whose requisitions are briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, My son, give me thine heart; or, in other words, that witJiout faith it is impossible to please God? ay, is it any wonder that the Scriptures should declare, in still sterner accents, that without faith there is no salvation ; that he that believeth not shall be damned; that he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. And now, my brethren, these would be hard sayings if faith were a gift partially bestowed or capriciously denied. But it is not so; all shall have it that will. The means are simple and easy to be understood. Of these means I shall briefly mention two, and then conclude. The first of these is, living up to the light we have ; that is, conscientiously practising to the best of our
12 SERMO I. power what our hearts tell us is our bounden duty. All is, indeed, of Divine grace. We can, in reality, do nothing of ourselves but sin. Every good thought and word and work descends from the Father of lights.
But still it is evident from experience, that God does, to all practical intents and purposes, put much in our own power, even before we fully feel the more immediate operations of His Holy Spirit. Thus, for instance, we may not be able to cast out the spirit of envy or of unlawful desire from our souls; but we are able to control the outward actings of sin. We may not be able to love our enemies after the similitude of the Divine forgiveness ; but we can bless those that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. We may not from experience know all the pleasures of a Christian Sabbath, and call it a delight. But we can remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy ; we can abstain scrupulously from doing, or even talking of ordinary business ; we can be punctual in public and private duties ; our whole deportment may shew that we honour and reverence the Lord's Day. Such are a few of those numberless instances in which every conscientious man can act, though he may not have his feelings at command. Let him thus patiently continue in well-doing, and his labour will not be in vain. Let him be assured that God indulgently beholds the feeblest efforts, if they be sincere; that a cup of cold water given for His sake will not lose its reward; that this obedience will brighten into a happy intercourse with God ; that from being servants, we shall receive the adoption of sons, and become the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.
SERMO I. 13 But the great means for the attaining that faith which works by love and bears every blessed fruit, is prayer. You perceive that I cannot mean by this the going over some barren form of words, as the daily morning and evening task. But I mean the language
of the heart: that importunity which men weir know how to use, when driven by distress to supplicate a fellow-creature ; but which always finds in God a mind and nature prone to mercy, gentle, and easy to be entreated ; and whose delight it is to pity, to relieve, to give more than we can either ask or think. Enter then into your closet, and when, withdrawn from every other eye, you find yourself alone with God, pour out your heart before Him. These prayers may appear for a time unfruitful. But be patient, be fervent, be persevering : and the heavens will soften ; the clouds will pour down their genial showers ; Christ will manifest Himself to your souls ; and faith, the substance of things hoped for y the evidence of things not seen^ will open all its treasures. Have you ever seen one of the captive fowls of the air, immured and pining in imprisonment, when some door of escape is opened dart like an arrow from its cage, that it may again sing among the branches, and drink in the breath of the pure heavens ? So will you find that faith can emancipate the soul, call it forth from the bondage of the flesh and sin, into its connatural element and native air, there to walk at liberty, and exult in the open daylight of eternity.
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