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338 ON THE HABIT OF JUDGING UNRIGHTEOUSLY.
humility, and gradually prepare us for the exercise of Christian charity. The properties of that virtue you shall hear in the ardent and energetic language of an inspired Apostle: “Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not, vaunteth not itself, does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but in the truth, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” May this charity, in its full extent, and with all its blessed effects, take possession of your hearts ! Then you will check the violence of false tongues, and“ follow, as much as lieth in you, peace with all men.” You will lay up for yourselves the wellearned reward of esteem from your fellow-creatures, and the well-grounded hope of approbation from your Heavenly Father, as faithful guardians to the reputation of the virtuous, as useful promoters of tranquillity and good will in families and neighbourhoods, and as sincere followers of your most holy and benevolent Redeemer!
EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS xi. 6.
But without Faith it is impossible to please him ; for he that
cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them who diligently seek him.
The instructive and comprehensive import of these words deserves our serious attention, whether we consider them as employed to illustrate the reasoning of the sacred writer in this and a preceding chapter upon the facts which he has there stated, or as presenting to us concisely and perspicuously the fundamental principles of all religion, whether speculative or practical, whether natural or revealed.
Enoch, before his translation, had this testimony, that he pleased God; but that he pleased God was a proof of his faith, and his translation was the recompence of that faith exercising itself in correspondent works—of a principle fixed in the understanding and ruling the will—a principle, convincing Enoch that God is, and impelling him to please Godas the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Now, in opposition to the infidel who ridicules the intellectual weakness of faith, and the fanatic who contends for its exclusive efficacy, I must observe to you, that the Faith of which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks, though in some part it includes the belief of a Messiah, must not be confined to the signification of mere assent to the evidences of Christianity, but extends to the persuasion of the human mind upon all those subjects and doctrines, in which the existence of a Deity, his attributes, his moral government of the world, and his protection of righteous men, both in the ordinary and extraordinary dispensation of his providence, are concerned; and, indeed, by a logical series of consequences, leads us to the consideration of a future life, in which the justice, wisdom, and benevolence of God will become conspicuous by the happiness he will confer on those, who seek him earnestly, and obey him constantly.
* July 1812
Faith, we are told, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; and in this explanation the present, you find, is distinguished from the future, belief from knowledge, expectation from possession. The word substance, as some learned men suppose, corresponds to the expression which the Septuagint translạtors have used in rendering two Hebrew words, Tuhelit and Tequa, which originally meant confidence or reliance, say they. Thus in the Greek Old Testament, we have the same word which occurs in the Epistle to the Hebrews, UTOSTAOIS, my hope is in thee. But I would rather adopt the opinion of a judicious commentator, who, like Grotius, Whitby, and Bishop Conybeare, rejecting substance as vague and unsound, understood by it the ground or foundation of belief. Thus in Psalm xxxix. 7. “ the ground of my hope is in thee;" in Ezekiel xix. 5. “when she saw that she had waited, and the ground of her hope was lost.” Thus too St. Paul, in the ninth and the eleventh chapters of the second Epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of the confidence (as you read) that is the ground-work of boasting. Thus too in the third of the Epistles to the Hebrews —we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence, or rather the ground of our expectation, steadfast unto the end.
I need not apologize for this attempt to give clearer conceptions than what the word substance can supply on so weighty a subject; and you will do well to contrast what you now hear with the clamorous boastings, and senseless jargon, of certain evangelical preachers, who are ambitious of vaulting into the chair of criticism, as the illuminated expositors of a very
a very difficult Epistle.
Of Faith, then, as implying the fixed expectation of its object, you in the chapter of the text have an example in Noah, who relied upon the promise of God to protect him and his family from the approaching deluge. Of Faith, as relating to the evidence, that is, the argument or proper proof of things not seen, you have an illustration in the general belief that the worlds were formed by the word of God,-for so you read in our English ver
sion. Here, as some learned men hold, the original word, rendered worlds, is employed because it was familiar to the Hellenistic Jews, and signified
ages, and the dispensations that occurred to them. Hence some interpret the words thus --not the worlds were formed, but the ages were fitted—they were put into such order of succession as was adapted to the gracious designs of God; and such was the age or dispensation of religion from Adam to the Flood, that from the Flood to the Patriarchs, that from the Patriarchs to the Law, that from the Law to the coming of Christ, and from this grand event to the end of the world. That God ordained these ages, not worlds, was an object of faith. Others consider the expression as meaning worlds, and then our faith is directed to the whole system of the universe, and its consummate order ; for the idea of such order, though imperfectly conveyed to you in your English translation, is certainly included in the original word; and here, my brethren, would be presented to your faith the magnificent spectacle of all created beings, animate and inanimate, visible and invisible, moral and intellectual, as they have existed, do exist, and will exist, through the immeasurable expanse of space, from the first energies of their omniscient and omnipotent Maker, in continued succession through end
Now, by the laws of association, the direct objects of our senses become eventually the objects of faith, when traced to their cause. The visible world was formed by the invisible God; but if our conviction were to stop at this point-if we