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forward we must aspire, we learn--we cannot but learn that genuine humility and self-abasement, which are the first elements of a new nature. The masters of wisdom in every art have instructed us, if we would excel, to study continually the highest models, that we may learn to be dissatisfied with our own performances, and to conceive that ideal beauty which the most perfect specimens of human taste and genius have indeed never perfectly expressed, though they approach to it the most nearly. The principle which has ever been approved in earthly pursuits, Christianity has sanctified; but the model which it has presented to our minds, is not a dull image or a mouldering pillar, a poem or a picture-imperfect patterns of limited excellence; but a living object of admiration and affection; a Saviour and a Prince; a High Priest, such as indeed “became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;" who “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” And “we all with open face beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Faith is a practical principle. Indeed the very contrary seems to be the idea generally entertained by the opposers of Christianity; who speak of faith as if it were something perfectly abstract, superseding the common duties of morality. "M. Turgot" (says the Marquis de Condorcet, his biographer,) “was too enlightened to expect that any thing but abuses could arise from any scheme of religion, that, loaded with speculative dogmas, makes the salvation of men depend upon their creed.” But Monsieur de Condorcet would have had no difficulty in
admitting, that a man who believes diligence and honesty to be the road to wealth, is likely to be diligent and honest. He would freely have acknowledged, that, to convince men of the benefits which ultimately result from the regulation of their appetites and passions, is a very rational and sober method of inculcating the principles of morals. He would have confessed without hesitation, that the authors of l'Encyclopédie were animated in their undertaking, by a persuasion that the destruction of prejudices would tend to the general prosperity; and that when M. Turgot undertook the administration of the finances, he believed he should be able to render material service to the public. And probably, after having made these ad missions, he would not have denied that the characters and conduct of men, and therefore their well-being in this life, is very materially influenced by the opinions they entertain; or, in other words, “depends upon their creed.”, And after all these acknowledgments, surely any body, except Monsieur de Condorcet, would confess, that a religion which says that the well-being of men in another world, or, in a single word, their “salvation, depends upon their creed,” is not upon the face of it false and chimerical. The truth is, as any one upon a moment's reflection must admit, that men, so far as they are under the direction of reason, always act with reference to something they believe. Why do we rise in the morning? Because we believe it to be moral, healthful, necessary. Why do we go to rest at night? Because we believe that we shall be refreshed by repose. Why do we attend in our shops, or prosecute diligently our professions? Because we believe that it will conduce to the advancement of our fortunes. Why do we travel into foreign parts? Because
we believe that there is something to be learned or to be enjoyed. And thus, through every department and subdivision of human life, it is most plain that a previous persuasion of some nature must precede every voluntary action whatsoever. Can it then be doubted, that a serious and cordial recognition of all those momentous truths which revelation has taught us, will bring with it important practical consequences? Is it nothing to know that we are sinners, and that the end of sin is death? Is it nothing to be convinced that the only begotten Son of God has died for our offences, and “ever liveth to make intercession for us?” Can we be persuaded that all who turn to him in penitence and gratitude shall be accepted, sustained, and blessed, without being in the faintest measure affected by the intelligence? Is it credible that any one should thoroughly believe that to be conformed to the image of his Redeemer is an appointed mean and indispensable condition of happiness, yet remain in willing bondage to sin and Satan? Nothing but the strange contradiction between the professions and practice of Christians could ever have introduced the smallest difficulty into this subject. The faith of many of us is so faint, that its fruits are scarcely visible; but therefore to doubt its power, is as if the shivering Laplander should deny the heat of a solstitial summer. None, whose hearts have been deeply impressed with the declarations of the Gospel, ever questioned their practical efficacy; and none surely, who have experienced their efficacy, can cease to pray with the deepest fervour for the increased energy, within their souls, of that blessed principle by which they first embraced them; the source of holiness and the foundation of hope.
How then may we hope to grow in this truly Christian grace? The Holy Scriptures have not been silent in this particular; their language is equally plain for instruction and consolation. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” “ He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” The way to increase in faith, is to increase in practical holiness. The more earnestly we desire and labour to be conformed to the image of our Saviour, the more clearly shall we discern the excellence of that scheme of salvation which he has provided, the more sensibly shall we feel the reality of heavenly things. This blessedness is sealed to us by the unfailing promises of God. It is laid, too, in the unalterable constitution of things, which his hand has formed, and which the declarations of his Spirit discover and sanction. How should it be otherwise? While, in humble and fervent prayer, we seek for strength and knowledge from on high, will not our near approach to God be accompanied with a more powerful and penetrating perception of his presence, his providence, his parental care and kindness? While our eyes are fixed on the Redeemer, and our hearts are awakened to joy and gratitude in the remembrance of his unutterable mercies; while we feel our weakness sustained, our wants supplied, our sorrows lightened, and our wavering spirits refreshed, directed, and sanctified, by the effusion of that grace which his sufferings have purchased for us; shall we doubt the merits of his blood, the efficacy of his intercession, or the inviolable sanctity of his promises? While we walk in the
path which Christ has trod before us, our steps directed heavenwards, our thoughts and desires soaring above this perishable orb, and our hearts already arrived at the land of our everlasting rest; while we daily discover more plainly the wisdom of the whole plan and constitution of Providence, and mark the coincidence of design visible in all his dispensations; while we discern more manifestly, and feel more practically, the excellency of that holiness which the terrors of the Law and the mercies of the Gospel bave alike exalted; while the soul is daily more conformed to that temper which the Holy Spirit of God breathes into us, purified and adorned as a hallowed temple to receive its celestial visitor; while we taste the very pledges of his bounty, and prelibations of that perfect bliss which his presence diffuses through the realms of glory; while every thing within, and every thing around, concurs to attest the truth of those blessed assurances which fill our hearts with gladness and our tongues with praise; is it possible we should cast towards them the jealous glance of an unquiet scepticism; is it possible that we should not hold to them as to the anchor of the soul, and "grapple them to our hearts with links of steel?” If natural causes tend to their consequences, if increased evidence be allied to increased conviction, if the heart have any influence on the understanding, if there be one rational principle in man, or truth in his Maker, thus it must be. In this world, men are soon persuaded wherever their wishes precede their inquiries; their understandings easily become the converts of their feelings. Let us love the Gospel en. tirely, and there can be no doubt that we shall cordially believe it.
The value of a lively faith is, perhaps, never felt more