Page images

Incarnation of the Son of God was a Means abfolutely neceffary to bring about Man's Redemption; by our Blessed Saviour's Death and Paffion an Attonement was made for our Sins, and the Punishment due to their Demerits was removed; by our Saviour's Refurrection a compleat Victory was gained over the great Enemies of Mankind, Sin and Death; and a firm Belief of thefe and other Articles are made in their Nature, a Condition of our obtaining the bleffed Effects of them. Now there is nothing in any of thefe Facts themselves which may not be thoroughly embraced, but the Duties confequent on our Belief are the mighty ftumbling Blocks in our Way; the crucifying the old Man, the mortifying our Members, the dying unto Sin, and the fitting loose to this World, are the Doubts and Scruples which clog and damp the Evidences afforded us : Paffions and Prejudices clap a Biafs upon the Mind and incline it to believe contrary to the Dictates of right Reason and the common Rules of Judging. It is plain therefore that in Matters of Faith the Will must be prepared

pared as well as the Judgment inform'd ; and the Bleffedness here fpoken of is confequent upon that Preparation of the Will, upon a pious Difpofition of Mind to receive the facred Truths of Divine Revelation, like little Children: He that requires fenfible Evidence for his Conviction, and allows only fo much Affent for fo much Demonftration, believes not out of Virtue, but Force; and fuch a neceffary Faith can no more avail him than necessary Actions: Our Obedience to God is as much fhewn by believing what he declares, as by doing what he commands; and it is an Argument of no great difference to the Almighty to require, that whatever He proposes to our Affent fhould be fully proved. Our Religion would be unworthy its Author, if Senfe and Reason were compleat Judges of the Truth of it: Such contracted Principles would be productive of no other than a narrow Degree of Happiness; but Christianity, which is intended in an eminent Degree to enlarge and exalt our Soul, makes Faith the Principle of our Actions, and God's Word the


Foundation of our Faith. A true Believer therefore thankfully accepts the Doctrines of Chriftianity upon fuch Evidence as the Almighty hath vouchfafed, Reafon directs him to the Discovery of what God hath revealed, and then his Faith takes place, and gives its entire Affent; an humble Modefty, a tractable Meeknefs, are the Tempers of Mind which recommend God's Word to his Belief, and likewife his Belief to God's Acceptance; and thus it is that his Faith, by being attended with the entire Choice and Approbation of the Mind, is counted unto him for Righteousness.

THAT fullen Obftinacy, which stands out against every thing less than Demonftration, it is to be feared, will act even against Demonftration; that Hardness of Heart which prevents the renewing of our Minds by the Purity of Faith, will prevent likewife the renewing of our Lives by the Purity of Holiness. The Jews many of them were fufficiently perfwaded of the Truth of our Lord's Refurrection, but wanted Integrity to confefs him the Son of God, because they wanted

wanted Goodness to obey his Commandments; for Virtue it is that must raise our Faith, and then reciprocally will our Faith exalt our Virtue. The History of the Bleffed Jefus is not design'd for our Amusement, but for our Inftruction and Amendment; the Nature and Certainty of the Articles ought to affect us in the highest Degree, and a Life of true Holinefs is the genuine Refult of our being thus perfwaded of the Truth of them, and affected by their Importance: Vaftly fuperior are the Influences of religious above those of any common Faith, when improv'd through God's Grace into the very Substance of things hoped for, the very Evidence of things not feen: Thoufands of People have with Patience run the Race of a perfecuted Life in the stedfaft Profeffion of this Faith, and with Joy embraced the Tortures of the moft cruel Deaths in Confirmation of it; not that the Terms of Credibility were greater then than they are now, we enjoy the fame Clearness of Evidence which they did, and were we enrich'd with the fame Degree of Sincerity, it would improve into a Principle


a Principle of equal Conftancy and Fortitude. The Evidence indulged to us is sufficient for all the Purposes of Holy Living; wherefore then should we expect or defire greater? It was neceffary for the Apostles to fee, because they were appointed Witneffes of these Things : It is our Duty to believe without feeing, and therefore it is neceffary for us not to fee: Doubts indeed may arife in the Minds of the moft fincere; but the Circumftance which gave Occafion to the Words before us cannot but convince us, that God will be favourable to their Weaknefs; Slownefs of Heart will engage God's Grace to affift its Unbelief, but Hardness of Heart will prefumptuoufly refift it: The Truths of the Gospel are fo credibly fet forth, that whenever we abate of the Firmness of our Faith, or fall fhort of the Practice of our Duty, it is not that the Evidence is infufficient, but our Application of it is not hearty and fincere: Would we then fo perfectly and without all doubt believe, that our Faith in God's Sight may never be reproved, we must attentively confider whatever is contain'd

« PreviousContinue »