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not themselves, which he himself but by glimpses and at times realizes, and which he pursues from the intensity, not the steadiness of his view of them. And so in all things, great objects exact a venture, and a sacrifice is the condition of honour. And what is true in the world, why should it not be true also in the kingdom of God? We must “launch out into the deep, and let down our nets for a draught;" we must in the morning sow our seed, and in the evening withhold not our hand, for we know not whether shall prosper, either this or that. “He that observeth the wind shall not sow, and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” He that fails nine times and succeeds the tenth, is a more honourable man than he who hides his talent in a napkin; and so, even though the feelings which prompt us to see God in all things, and to recognize supernatural works in matters of the world, mislead us at times, though they make us trust in evidence which we ought not to admit, and partially incur with justice the imputation of credulity, yet a Faith which generously apprehends Eternal Truth, though at times it degenerates into superstition, is far better than that cold sceptical critical tone of mind, which has no inward sense of an overruling ever-present Providence, no desire to approach its God, but sits at home waiting for the fearful clearness of His visible coming, whom it might seek and find in due measure amid the twilight of the present world.
To conclude : such is Faith as contrasted with
Reason ;-how it is contrasted with Superstition, how separate from it, and by what principles and laws restrained from falling into it, is a most important question, without settling which any view of the subject of Faith is of course incomplete; but which it does not fall within my present scope to consider.
LOVE THE SAFEGUARD OF FAITH AGAINST
John X. 4, 5.
“ The sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. And a
stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.”
FAITH, considered as an exercise of Reason, has this characteristic,—that it proceeds far more on antecedent grounds than on evidence; it trusts much to presumptions, and in doing this lies its special merit. Thus it is distinguished from Knowledge in the ordinary sense of that word. We are commonly said to know a thing, when we have ascertained it by the natural methods given us for ascertaining it. Thus we know mathematical truths, when we are possessed of demonstrative evidence concerning them; we know things present and material by our senses. We know the events of life by moral evidence; we know
things past or things invisible, by reasoning from certain present consequences of the facts, such as testimony borne to them. When, for instance, we have ascertained the fact of a miracle by good testimony, the testimony of men who neither deceive nor are deceived, we may be said to know the fact; for we are possessed of those special grounds, of that distinct warrant in its behalf, which the nature of the case assigns and allows. These special grounds are often called the Evidence; and when we believe in consequence of them, we are said to believe upon Reason.
By Reason, indeed, is properly meant any process or act of the mind, by which from knowing one thing it advances on to know another; wbether it be true or false Reason, whether it proceed from antecedent probabilities, by demonstration, or on evidence. And in this general sense it includes of course Faith, which is mainly an anticipation or presumption; but in its more popular sense (in which, as in former Discourses, I shall here for the most part use it) it is contrasted with Faith, as meaning in the main such inferences concerning facts, as are derived from the facts in question themselves, that is from Evidences, and which lead consequently to Knowledge.
Faith, then, and Reason, are popularly contrasted with one another; Faith consisting of certain exercises of Reason which proceed mainly on presumption, and Reason of certain exercises which proceed mainly upon proof. Reason makes the particular fact which is to be ascertained the point of primary im
portance, contemplates it, inquires into its evidence, not of course excluding antecedent considerations, but not beginning with them. Faith, on the other hand, begins with its own previous knowledge and opinions, advances and decides upon antecedent probabilities, that is, on grounds which do not reach so far as to touch precisely the desired conclusion, though they tend towards it, and may come very near it. It acts, before actual certainty or knowledge, on grounds which, for the most part, near as they may come, yet in themselves stand clear of the definite thing which is its object. Hence it is said, and rightly, to be a venture, to involve a risk, to be against Reason, to triumph over Reason, to surpass or outstrip Reason, to attain to what Reason falls short of, to effect what Reason finds beyond its powers; or again, to be a principle above or beyond argument, not to be subject to the rules of argument, not to be capable of defending itself, to be illogical, and the like.
This is a view of Faith on which I insisted before now; and though it is a subject which at first sight is deficient in interest, yet I believe it will be found to repay attention, as bearing immediately on practice. It is, moreover, closely connected with the doctrine laid down in the text, and with the great revealed truth which we commemorate at this Season, and with a view to which the Gospel for the day, of which the text forms a part, has been selected.
To maintain that Faith is a judgment about facts in matters of conduct, such, as to be formed, not so