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CHAPTER XXV.


Relation of Faith to Salvation.


1.— It is one of the doctrines of the Christian religion, as those doctrines are accepted and expounded by the great mass of its professors, that salvation is by means of faith. “He that believeth shall be saved.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” These and numerous other sayings and passages express or imply this fixed relation between salvation considered as a result, and faith as a means leading to that result. The doctrine of salvation by faith is not only an affirmation of the Scriptures; but when carefully looked into, will be found to harmonize with the philosophy of the mind, and is entitled to be received as an affirmation of enlightened reason. And if so, the doctrine which is announced in the Scriptures, and the doctrine of the Absolute Religion on the subject, are not at variance; but the former is accepted and illustrated by the latter.

2.— In saying, however, that salvation is by means of faith, and that the doctrine of salvation considered as thus originated, is in harmony with the requisitions of reason and sound philosophy, it is necessary to inquire, in the first place, what we are to understand by salvation. We read in the wonderful prayer, recorded in the latter part of John’s Gospel; “Neither pray I for these alone; but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they
all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Union with God, — a state or condition of mind extending to the most interior depths of our nature, in which the human affections and the human will are fully harmonized, and made one with the heart and will of the Infinite,—was Christ’s prayer for his people. A prayer uttered in circumstances which show that he understood the union which he prayed for, as not only indicating the highest and noblest of all possible inward or psychical processes, but as including the highest possible good. And this, setting aside what may be said, and to some extent rightly and profitably said, of a local heaven, which may be regarded as only an incident of salvation and not identical with its essential nature, is our definition of it, namely, UNION WITH GOD; a state of the soul; a heart, wherever it may be found, and whether in earth or in heaven, throbbing in all its pulsations, in harmony with the divine heart, in unity of thought, in unity of feeling and purpose, and in unity of life. Such is salvation; and he who is the subject of this experience is saved.

3.— Salvation as thus defined is and must be by faith. It is well known that the doctrine or philosophy of faith, in itself considered, implies and requires an object to which faith attaches itself. In every case where there is an exercise of faith, there is and must be something which is believed in. To believe and yet with nothing believed in, is an absurdity in the philosophy of the operations of the mind, analogous to a contradiction in mathematics. And accordingly the first experience in the series of mental conditions, which constitute the great fact of unity with God, is belief or faith in the existence of God. We must believe that God is. It requires no argument to show, that without such belief as this, the mental experience, called union with God, becomes in the mental sense, which is the only true and essential sense, an impossibility.

4.— Again, we must believe not only in the existence of God but in his rectitude; in other words that he will do what will be right towards us; that he will dispense and withhold, that he will guide and sustain us, or at times leave us without perceptible guidance and without perceptible support, and do anything and everything else, always and under all circumstances in accordance with what is right. And the reason is this, the human mind is so constituted, that it naturally and necessarily forms the idea of rectitude or right. And not only this, on any subject on which it is properly enlightened, it may be said always to approve the right and to love it; and on the other hand always to disapprove the wrong, and to have feelings of aversion towards it. It is impossible, therefore, that man should enter into a state of harmony or union with God, without having faith in the divine rectitude. God is mind, and man in his essential nature is mind; and with man’s innate convictions and feelings in relation to rectitude, and without a full belief in God’s rectitude, the true basis of harmony is wanting, and union with God under such circumstances cannot possibly exist. And therefore salvation fails.

5.— And this is not all. In order to reach the salvation which is involved in a unity with the divine life, it is further necessary to believe that God accepts us, loves us, protects us, and is and will be a friend and father to us. This is one of the highest and most important acts of faith. But such are the laws and the generation of thought, that it is logically and mentally impossible for us to do this, unless we renounce evil in ourselves, or in the Scripture expression repent of sin. The harmony of ideas requires this. No man ever did or ever can believe in God as a friend and father to himself personally, and in the sense of an acceptance of himself into the relation of unity of life, so long as he is inwardly conscious of doing things willfully, which God disapproves and forbids. It is intuitionally evident to the man who is in the habit of meditating mental problems, that the states of mind,—namely, an inward consciousness of deliberately sinning against God, and a belief at the same time that God accepts, approves, and loves us and unites himself with us,—are not only antagonistic, but are mutually exclusive and destructive of each other. In other words, to believe that God unites himself with us, when we are inwardly and mentally conscious of hostility to him, is to believe in contradictions. Belief, therefore, must not only exist in reference to its appropriate object, namely, a God who is not only righteous, but is recognized as righteous by ourselves; but in taking a direction which will receive him into the intimacies of living and personal friendship, it must be a faith which will antecedently demand and will secure, as it gradually struggles into existence, all those conditions of repentance and spiritual renovation which render such a great result possible.

6.— Such are some of the relations and applications of faith in the matter of salvation. They are worthy of serious attention, and in their application involve some of the most important acts of the soul. They are not only Scriptural announcements, and entitled to acceptance on the ground of the source from which they come; but are in harmony with the laws of the mind, and commend themselves to any reasonable philosophy.