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faithfulness, fidelity, express character and conduct deserving of confidence. In this respect it is parallel with the Latin word fides, and the Greek isós; which, in all their ramifications, retain the idea of a trust and confidence reposed, or of a character and conduct deserving of confidence.
3. The term Faith has always a respect to some Good, possible, probable, in expectation, or promised. This is invariably implied, when we repose our trust and confidence in any one. Hence its close affinity with Hope. The expec tation of an Injury from another, is never said to inspire a confidence that it will be inflicted. Such an expectation inspires dread; and if we trust in any thing it is in some means of escaping.
These characteristics manifestly discriminate faith from Belief, abstractedly considered. We believe in an infinitude of truths, with which we have no immediate concern; from which we expect not to derive benefit ; and which inspire no confidence. It is still more remote from notions, opinions, conjectures, which may be true, or may be false. But it is nearly connected with the word sentiment, as explained in a preceding disquisition. This, we observe, relates to moral character. It is because we entertain worthy Sentiments of the object, that we have
faith and confidence in him ; and we rely upon his favourable sentiments respecting us.
4. The Character being once established in our opinion, we are not only encouraged, but we are compelled by reason, to entertain a confidence, in some cases where appearance may be very unfavourable; contrary to the usual tenour of our sentiments and our expectations. This disposition is an honourable and acceptable testimony of a trust, in the worthy object of our faith. His character is so firmly established in our hearts, that incidental circumstances, of a contrary aspect, will not suggest unfavourable suspicions. We shall be disposed to ascribe his non-compliance with our desires to any cause, rather than to negligence, or to the want of disposition: and we shall be more disposed to suspect our own ignorance, than his good will towards us.
5. Rational faith always supposes that the confidence and hopes which it inspires hath a solid foundation. It implies that we are in possession of some satisfactory proofs that the object of our faith, is both disposed and able to befriend us that he is not deficient either in power, wisdom, or benignity. If we believe without any proofs that these exist, we may presume, but we have no right to repose a con
fidence. A confidence thus placed, may be an act of temerity, of weak credulity; a phantom of the imagination, and a dangerons error; but not a legitimate act of Faith.
These are the principles admitted in the intercourse of man with man; and they perfectly correspond with the description of that faith which is required of us in the revelation of God. "Faith," says the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, "is the ground, the basis of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him."* All the illustrations adduced from the conduct of Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, &c. &c. manifest a strong belief in the existence and providence of God; a confidence reposed in his wisdom, power, and goodness, and in a faithfulness to his promises, which influenced them to a cheerful compliance with his injunctions; notwithstanding, in many of the instances stated, appearances were so unfavourable to the desired issue.
*See Heb. xi. passim.
The above statement of the nature and characteristics of faith, will immediately discover to us the reason, why it is so forcibly enjoined in the Gospel Dispensation. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is not an arbitrary requisition. It is not intended merely as a complimentary honour to the Saviour of the world, without any farther object; but it is, in its own nature, a pre-requisite to the enjoyment, and the diffusion of the Blessings of the Gospel.
It has been remarked, that a discreet Son will always entertain a filial confidence in the dispositions and conduct of his worthy Parents. This is not only reasonable in itself, but it flows spontaneously from the connection, if no impediment presents itself to the performance of this duty. His parents are always before him. He enjoys blessings and advantages every day and every hour, which he knows cannot be derived from any other source. Thus it would be almost superfluous to say that a son has faith in the wisdom and kindness of his father. He has ocular demonstration of his parental attentions. But the great Parent is invisible. Surrounding objects have a tendency to exclude him from our thoughts. We perceive the immediate operation of natural causes, in the various events of our lives; and upon these
the imagination is prone to rest, as if they were the sole agents. The evidences of his Existence are not obvious to our senses. They are to be obtained alone by consideration and reflection. They are the results of an inference, which demands the exercise of the reason and judgment. The knowledge of the Perfections and Agency of God, and of his intimate Relation to all the creatures of his power, is derived from the same source; and it equally demands the exercise of the understanding, to inspire conviction, and render them the objects of our belief. Thus, although a firm belief in such a character must inspire a confidential hope, yet it demands a certain process before it can be obtained. As a pre-requisite to coming to God with á filial confidence, we must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of those that diligently seek him. This, both in the language of reason and of Scripture, is an act of faith.
In like manner, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, must be a necessary pre-requisite for receiving all the blessings of Christianity. In the ancient world, those who believed not in him, continued Jews or Gentiles. They were in a state of Nature, which is always opposed to a state of Grace. They were yet in their sins; and consequently they continued in the