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on Faith. Deference to the law of Conscience, indeed, is of the nature of Faith ; but it is easily perverted into a kind of self-confidence, namely, a deference to our own judgment. Here, then, Revelation provides us with an important instrument for chastening and moulding our moral character, over and above the matter of its disclosures. Christians as well as Jews must submit as little children. This being considered, how strange are the notions of the present day concerning the liberty and irresponsibility of the Christian! If the Gospel be a message, as it is, it ever must be more or less what the multitude of self-wise reasoners declare it shall not be,-a law; it must be of the nature of what they call a form, and a bondage; it must, in its degree, bring darkness, instead of flattering them with the promise of immediate illumination; and must enlighten them only in proportion as they first submit to be darkened. This, then, if they knew their meaning, is the wish of the so-called philosophical Christians, and men of no party, of the present day; namely, that they should be rid altogether of the shackles of a revelation : and to this assuredly their efforts are tending and will tend, -to identify the Christian doctrine with their own individual convictions, to sink its supernatural character, and to constitute themselves the prophets, not the recipients, of Divine Truth ; creeds and discipline being already in their minds severed from its substance, and being gradually shaken off by them in fact, as the circumstances of the times will allow.
Let us, then, reflect that, whatever be the trial of those who have not a revelation, the trial of those who have is one of Faith in opposition to self-will. Those very self-appointed ordinances which are praiseworthy in a heathen, and the appropriate evidence of his earnestness and piety, are inexcusable in those to whom God has spoken. Things indifferent become sins when they are forbidden, and duties when commanded. The emblems of the Deity might be invented by Egyptian faith, but were adopted by Jewish unbelief. The trial of Abraham, when called on to kill his son, as of Saul when bid slay the Amalekites, was the duty of quitting the ordinary rules which He prescribes to our obedience, upon a positive commandment distinctly conveyed to them by revelation.
And so strong is this tendency of Revealed Religion to erect positive institutions and laws, that it absorbs into its province even those temporal ordinances which are, strictly speaking, exterior to it. It gives to the laws of man the nature of a divine authority, and where they exist makes obedience to them a duty. This is evident in the case of civil government, the forms and officers of which, when once established, are to be received for conscience-sake by those who find themselves under them. The same principle is applied in a more remarkable manner to sanction customs originally indifferent, in the case of the Rechabites; who were rewarded with a promise of continuance as a family, on the ground of their obser
vance of certain discomforts and austerities, imposed on them by the simple authority of an ancestor.
With these principles fresh in the memory, a number of reflections crowd upon the mind in surveying the face of society, as at present constituted. The present open resistance to constituted power, and (what is more to the purpose) the indulgent toleration of it, the irreverence towards Antiquity, the unscrupulous and wanton violation of the commands and usages of our forefathers, the undoing of their benefactions, the profanation of the Church, the bold transgression of the duty of Ecclesiastical Unity, the avowed disdain of what is called party religion, (though Christ undeniably made a party the vehicle: of His doctrine, and did not cast it at random on the world, as men would now have it,) the growing indifference to the Catholic Creed, the sceptical objections to portions of its doctrine, the arguings and discussings, and comparings and correctings and rejectings, and all the train of presumptuous exercises, to which its sacred articles are subjected, the numberless discordant criticisms on the Liturgy, which have shot up on all sides of us; the general irritable state of mind, which is every where witnessed, and craving for change in all things ; what do all these symptoms show, but that the spirit of Saul still lives? — that wilfulness, which is the antagonist principle to the zeal of David,—the principle of cleaving and breaking down all divine ordinances, instead of building up. And with Saul's sin, Saul's portion awaits his fol
lowers,—distraction, aberration; the hiding of God's countenance ; imbecility, rashness, and changeableness in their counsels; judicial blindness; fear of the multitude; the persecution of good men and faithful friends; subserviency to their worst foes, the kings of Amalek and the wizards of Endor. So was it with the Jews, who rejected their Messiah only to follow impostors; so is it with infidels, who become the slaves of superstition; and such is ever the righteous doom of those who trust their own wills more than God's word, in one way or other to be led eventually into a servile submission to usurped authority. As the Apostle says of the Roman Christians, they were but slaves of sin, while they were emancipated from righteousness. “What fruit,” he asks, “had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed ?”
These remarks may at first sight seem irrelevant in the case of those who, like ourselves, are bound by affection and express promises to the cause of Christ's Church ; yet it should be recollected that very rarely have its members escaped the infection of the age in which they lived: and there certainly is the danger of our considering ourselves safe, merely because we do not go the lengths of others, but protest against the extreme principles or measures to which they commit themselves.
FAITH AND REASON, CONTRASTED AS HABITS OF
Preached on the Epiphany, 1839.
Heb. xi. 1.
“Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen.”
THE subject of Faith is one especially suggested to our minds by the event which we this day commemorate, and the great act of grace of which it was the first fruits. It was as on this day that the wise men of the East were allowed to approach and adore the infant Saviour, in anticipation of those Gentile multitudes who, when the kingdom of God was preached, were to take possession of it as if by violence, and to extend it to the ends of the earth. To them Christ was manifested as He is to us, and in the same way; not to the eyes of the flesh, but to the illuminated mind, to their Faith. As the manifestation of God accorded to the Jews was circumscribed, and addressed to their senses, so that which is vouchsafed to Chris