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PART I. SOME OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL AND SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLES AND DOCTRINES OF FAITH.



CHAPTER SIXTH.


ON THE CONNECTION OF FAITH WITH FEELING.


Faith the foundation of feeling. Illustrated in the case of natural faith, which is the foundation of natural feeling. Religious faith followed by religious feeling. Faith and feeling correspond to each other in degree. Explanation of the faith of the heart. Those, who have Christ’s faith, will have Christ’s heart. And this by a necessary law of our nature.

FAITH is the source, the parent of all true feeling. And in saying this, we ought to add, that we use the term feeling in a general sense; meaning by it not merely the emotions, to which it is sometimes limited, but those other modifications of our sensibilities, which we include under the denomination of the desires and affections.

2.—And it is proper to say here, that faith is the source, the parent of all true feeling and affection in the natural sense, as well as in the religious sense. Certain it is, that this statement admits of an easy and a satisfactory illustration in the case of the affection of love. It requires no proof to sustain the assertion, that natural love is based upon natural faith. If we have entire confidence in another, if we believe him to be amiable and pure in feeling, and upright in principle, it is the natural result of such confidence, that we shall love him. And on the other hand, it will be very difficult, and I think we may say, it will be found naturally impossible for a person to love another, (except, perhaps, with that lower form of love, which is synonymous with pity or sympathy,) in whom he has no faith. And the same confidence, the same faith, which inspires the affection of love in the first instance, gives it permanency in time to come. The one perpetuates itself in company with the other. Suggestions may arise, and temptations may assail us, but love will live, if confidence does not perish. But how soon does our love to a person, to whom we were once devotedly attached, cease, when our faith in him ceases! No sooner is the confidence, which we reposed in his amiability, in his truth and honor, and other estimable qualities, taken away; in other words, no sooner is our
faith in the existence of these traits taken away, than the love, which rested upon it, falls at once to the ground.

3.—The law of the religious affections is the same. They always imply the antecedent existence of faith. Religious faith, sustained by the Holy Spirit, but operating in a manner entirely analogous to the operations of natural faith, is undoubtedly the true basis of religious love. Without the key of faith the foundation of divine love, which refreshes and gives beauty to the whole soul, would never be opened within us. It would be impossible; because it would obviously be a result, not only without reason, but against reason. It is because we believe or have faith in God as just, benevolent and holy, as possessed of every possible perfection calculated to attract and secure our love, that we love him.

4.—And there is another great truth or law, closely related to that which has just been stated. Love not only requires faith as its basis, but it is equally obvious and equally certain, that our love will rise and fall, just in proportion to our faith. If, for instance, our hearts are full of love to God at the present moment, and we should the next moment cease to believe in him as a God of truth, goodness, and justice, our love would necessarily terminate at once. Or if our faith should not cease entirely, but should merely become perplexed and weakened for some reasons, our love would become perplexed and weakened just in the same degree. Such is the great law of our intellectual and moral being; and such is the doctrine of the Scriptures.

5.—These principles help us to understand what is meant by
the faith of the heart; a form of expression which we frequently hear. Properly speaking, or perhaps we should say, speaking psychologically or mentally, faith seems to be an attribute of the intellect, rather than of the heart; an act or state of the understanding rather than of the sensibilities. And yet it must be admitted, that, in the order of mental sequence, it is a state of mind, which, in consequence of being subsequent to perceptions, lays nearer the heart, is in much closer proximity with it, than some other intellectual states or acts. But this is not the only or the most important particular to be considered here. The important fact, and the only one which can give a satisfactory explanation of what is denominated the faith of the heart, is the law of mental relation and action just now stated, viz.: that religious affection is consequent on religious faith, and that they correspond to each other in degree. A faith of the heart, then, is a faith, which affects the heart. A faith of the heart is a faith, which works by love. “In Jesus Christ,” says the Apostle, “neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 5:6.

6.—I suppose, that there may be, and that there probably is a sort of faith, either so general and unspecific in its nature, or so weak in its degree, that it does not produce love. A man, for instance, may believe in Jesus Christ as a mere man, as an inhabitant of Judea in the time of Pontius Pilate, and as a very remarkable and good man. But this belief, which does not seem to differ from that which we have in Confucius and Socrates, never is, and never can be the source of such feelings, as those which naturally follow our belief in Christ as one sent from God, as the beloved son of the Father, as an authorized teacher, and as an atoning sacrifice. And then, again, our faith, even if it be right in other respects, may be so weak, so vacillating, so closely allied to actual skepticism, as to fail of being followed by that love, which purifies the heart; the only love which can be acceptable to God. The faith of the heart, therefore, is that faith, which makes a new heart; in other words, which inspires new affections; such affections, as are conformable to God’s law and will.

7.—And faith has power to do this. Faith can make a new heart; and nothing but faith can do it. In saying this, it will be naturally understood, that we speak of the mind and of mental sequence; in other words, of that which takes place in the mind and in the mental order, and not of any thing which takes place out of it and above it. We speak of secondary relations and agency; and not of him, who, in being the primary agent, is the life of the mind itself. We say, therefore, that, in the order of mental succession, and in the gradation of mental influence, faith stands
first; first in time, and first in power; and that, in this view of the subject, we may properly speak of faith as having a creative agency, and as making a new heart. If faith be imperfect in degree, it will of course be followed by imperfect issues; it will make a heart imperfect as itself. But if it be strong, if it be assured, it will give a strong, an assured heart. If it be Abraham’s faith, it will give Abraham’s heart. If it be Paul’s faith, it will give Paul’s heart. If it be the faith which Christ had, a faith, which Satan’s arts could not shake, and man’s hostility could not perplex, and even the hiding of his Father’s countenance, could not discourage, we cannot hesitate to say with reverential gratitude, that it will give Christ’s consecrated heart; a heart which never falters in the cause of truth and duty; a heart that can be nailed to the Cross for God’s name and God’s glory.

8.—And this takes place, as we have already intimated, not accidentally, but by an immutable law. Eternal law is at the bottom; and, therefore, eternal truth is in it. It is the law of men, the law of angels; and we might add, with the simple modification that what is faith in the human mind becomes knowledge in the divine mind, that it is the law of God. God loves, and he can love, only what he knows to be a proper object of love. In men, who are not the subjects of absolute knowledge, faith takes the place of such knowledge; and they love, and can love, only as they believe. “Believe,” says Archbishop Leighton, “and you shall love. Believe much, and you shall love much.” And carrying out the principle to its legitimate issues, I think we may add with safety, Believe with all your powers of belief, and you will love with all your powers of love. Believe with assurance of faith, and you will love with assurance of love. In other words, believe perfectly, and you will love perfectly.