« PreviousContinue »
never heaves but in mountains; and the vessel is chained in the dead calm, or whirled in the wild tempest:
But, to say no more on the great wisdom of an immediate and determined prosecution of our spiritual welfare, our common liabilities and certain destiny as human beings, call loudly upon us for forecast and a defensive preparation of the mind; and shameful is the abandonment of our reason if we give the warning no heed — if we stand in need of the actual experience of suffering as an incentive to repentance and a holy life. What! shall the fascinations of the world cease only with its pleasures? Can we not act upon knowledge and foresight in the greatest of our concerns ? nor stir in it till our convictions of its importance are fully realized to our feelings, and swell into emotions of terror? Can we not learn the uncertain hold which we have of all things here till they are actually wrested from our hands ? nor look upon death till we are pushed into his face? nor take refuge in our Redeemer till all other beings have sensibly forsaken us? Inhabitants of a region so underlaid with elements of destruction---so frequently, and almost periodically,visited with the earthquake,
shall we take no impression of insecurity till the ground beneath us is felt to tremble ? or shall we heed no warning till the tall edifices about us are seen to shake and totter, and are hurled from their foundations,—till the eye is filled with ruin, till the dread increases into wild dismay,--and, peradventure, the means of escaping are lost for ever!
JOHN VI. 47.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on
me hath everlasting life.
It has caused surprise, and appeared to demand explanation, that the everlasting happiness offered to our pursuit in the Gospel should be represented as dependent on an act of faith-that belief in Jesus Christ should be declared the medium of our acceptance with God, and be regarded as the assurance of eternal life—that it should be expressly and repeatedly affirmed, “ He that believeth shall be saved.” This fact, we say, has occasioned surprise, and appeared to demand explanation: for it were unquestionably consonant to our reason, and indeed agreeable to many declarations in the Bible itself, that a holy and upright life, or the discharge of our religious and moral duties in general, should commend us to the favour of God; and not the belief of propositions, of whatever kind and number, It were reasonable to conclude, that our condition in a future state would be determined by our conduct as the subjects of a moral law, or our exemplification, however defective, of love to God and love to man--that the Divine Being were the friend and patron of goodness, and the“ portion” of the devout and virtuous of all time. It is true that the Christian revelation has enforced by extraordinary sanctions the obligations to piety and virtue; but, nevertheless, it may be deemed singular that faith in Jesus Christ should be particularly specified as the condition of salvation; because it is far from being true, that those who believe the Gospel to be a divine communication are uniformly imbued with its spirit, or controlled by its precepts. Indeed, the history of Christendom abounds with enormous and revolting examples of immorality, in nations and individuals who were unshaken and even enthusiastic in their belief of Chris. tianity—at least, most tenacious of its peculiar doctrines, scrupulous in the observance of its external ordinances, and studious of parading its symbols. In our own time also, the belief and profession of Christianity are frequently dishonoured by practices which even the Heathen teachers of virtue condemned, and Christ himself expressly marked with his reprobation.
Now it will break the force of this apparently formidable objection to the special demand of faith in the New Testament, if, in the first place, we can make it evident that that belief in Jesus Christ which is so repeatedly declared to be essential to our justification before God, involves a conviction of the obligation, necessity, and reward of personal holiness, or the fulfilment of our religious and moral duties, as laid down and enforced in the discourses of Christ, and the writings of his Apostles; and that thus far the demand of faith in the New Testament quadrates with the presumption of reason, as well as the declaration of the Scripture itself, that "in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”*
But as it is one thing to believe and confess our obligation to the practice of holiness, and another to act upon that belief, it will yet remain to reconcile the stress laid upon faith in the sacred writings with the absolute neces
. * Acts x. 35. . . ,