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see whether they had “faith to be healed;" he appealed to that whole body of opinion, affection, and desire, which made up, in each man, his moral self; which, distinct from all guesses and random efforts, set him forward steadily in one direction, which, if it was what it should be, would respond to the Apostle's doctrine, as the strings of one instrument vibrate with another, which, if it was not, would either not accept it, or not abide in it. He taught men, not only that Almigbty God was, and was every where, but that He had certain moral attributes; that He was just, true, holy, and merciful; that His representative was in their hearts; that He already dwelt in them as a lawgiver and a judge, by a sense of right and a conscience of sin; and that what he himself was then bringing fulfilled what was thus begun in them by nature, by tokens so like the truth, as to constrain all who loved God under the Religion of Nature to believe in Him as revealed in the Gospel.
Such, then, under all circumstances, is real Faith ; a presumption, yet not a mere chance conjecture,a reaching forward, yet not of excitement or of passion,-a moving forward in the twilight, yet not without clue or direction ;-a movement from something known to something unknown, kept in the narrow path of truth by the Law of dutifulness which inhabits it, the Light of heaven which animates and guides it, -and which, whether feeble and dim as in
the Heathen, or bright and vigorous as in the Christian ; whether merely the awakening and struggling conscience, or the “minding of the Spirit;" whether as a timid hope, or in the fulness of love; is, under every Dispensation, the one acceptable principle commending us to God for the merits of Christ. And it becomes superstition, or credulity, or enthusiasm, or fanaticism, or bigotry, in proportion as it emancipates itself from this spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and ghostly strength, of knowledge and true godliness, and holy fear. And thus I would answer the question how it may be secured from excess, without the necessity of employing what is popularly called Reason for its protection: I mean processes of investigation, discrimination, discussion, argument, and inference. It is itself an intellectual act, and it takes its character from the moral state of the agent. It is perfected, not by mental cultivation, but by obedience. It does not change its nature or its function, when thus perfected. It remains what it is in itself, an initial principle of action; but it becomes changed in its quality, as being made spiritual. It is as before a presumption, but the presumption of a serious, sober, thoughtful, pure, affectionate, and devout mind. It acts because it is Faith ; but the direction, firmness, consistency, and precision of its acts, it gains from Love.
Let these remarks suffice, insufficient as they are in
themselves, on the relation and distinction between Faith and Superstition. Other important questions, however, remain, which have a claim on the attention of all who would gain clear notions on an important and difficult subject.
EXPLICIT AND IMPLICIT REASON.
Preached on St. Peter's Day, 1840.
1 Pet. iii. 15.
“ Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to
give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
St. PETER's faith was one of his characteristic graces. It was ardent, keen, watchful, and prompt. It dispensed with argument, calculation, deliberation, and delay, whenever it heard the voice of its Lord and Saviour: and it heard that voice even when its accents were low, or when it was unaided by the testimony of the other senses. When Christ appeared walking on the sea, and said, “ It is I,” Peter answered Him, and said, “ Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.” When Christ asked His disciples who He was, “ Simon Peter answered and said,” as we have read in the Gospel for this day, “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and obtained our Lord's blessing for such clear and ready Faith. At another time, when Christ asked the Twelve whether they would leave Him as others did, St. Peter said, “ Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And after the Resurrection, when he heard from St. John that it was Christ who stood on the shore, he sprang out of the boat in which he was fishing, and cast himself into the sea, in his impatience to come near Him. Other instances of his faith might be mentioned. If ever Faith forgot self, and was occupied with its Great Object, it was the faith of Peter. If in any one Faith appears in contrast with what we commonly understand by Reason, and with Evidence, it so appears in the instance of Peter. When he reasoned, it was at times when Faith was lacking. “ When he saw the wind boisterous he was afraid ;” and Christ in consequence called him, “Thou of little faith.” When He had asked, “ Who touched Me?” Peter and others reasoned, “ Master,” said they, “ the multitude throng Thee, and press Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me?" And in like manner, when Christ said that he should one day follow Him in the way of suffering, “ Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now?” — and we know how his faith gave way soon afterwards.