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



CHAPTER SEVENTH.


FAITH THE TRUE BOND OF UNION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN.


Faith the bond of man’s union with God. Difficulty of reconciling God’s supremacy with man’s moral responsibility. Inward life, which is not from God, the same thing with spiritual death. The true life is from God. The life of God in the soul implies concurrence or union with God, which exists by faith alone. And existing in this manner, it leaves all the glory with God. The subject illustrated from the case of a beggar.

AMONG the various views, in which it is interesting to contemplate the subject of faith, there is one, which seems to us to be especially worthy of notice. We have reference to the fact, that it is faith, more than any thing else, which constitutes the true bond of union between God and man.

2.—If God in his supremacy is first in time and first in power, if the true and only source of existence of power to all other beings resides in himself as necessarily involved in his own infinite nature; in other words, if God is God, then all other beings and all other things, sin only excepted, are from him and by him. It becomes, then, a great problem, in what way this supremacy, without which God cannot be God, shall exist and operate in God’s moral creatures, giving them life and power, and sustaining the life and power which it gives, and yet without a violation of their moral responsibility. In other words, the question or problem is, in what way shall men, consistently with their moral identity and responsibility, enter, (as all Christians who experience the highest results of religion do enter,) into the state of entire moral union or oneness with God.

3.—And in connection with the remarks appropriate to this inquiry, we observe in the first place, that men may be said to have a life in themselves. And it may be said further, with great truth undoubtedly, that they may not only have a life in themselves, but that they may be free in it, and that they may be responsible for it. But if this life in themselves is a life self-originated, if it be a life out of God and independent of God, as the terms seem to imply, then the stream is severed from its fountain, the bond of spiritual filiation is broken, and there is, and can be no real, no essential union. Such a life is not what the pious Scougal calls the “life of God in the soul of man.” And we cannot hesitate to say, that all moral life, wherever it may exist, is no better and no other, than moral and spiritual death, which is not drawn, moment by moment, from a divine source.

4.—But if there is a life, which is no better than spiritual death, there is also another life of higher and divine origin. This life, which is God’s power, God’s wisdom, and God’s heart of love, existing and operating in the very nature, and amid, if we may so express it, the very responsibilities of the human soul, exists and operates by
faith. If, renouncing our own strength and wisdom, we give ourselves to God, believing that he will be our strength, our wisdom, and our righteousness, according to the promise he has given, we may be assured that the result in our inward experience will correspond to the faith we exercise. But a soul, which combines righteousness or entire uprightness and purity of feeling with a divinely enlightened wisdom and a strength of purpose that aims unceasingly to do what the inward divine teaching imposes, is a soul that is stamped with the divine image, and has entered into true unity with God. It is in connection with such views as these, therefore, that we assert the proposition, which is the subject of this chapter, viz. that faith is the true bond if union between God and man.

5.—And in illustration of the subject, we remark further, that, in renouncing our own strength and any thing else which may be regarded as pertaining to ourselves, it is not meant, that we should be inactive and not employ those powers which God has given us; but that in their exercise, we should have no hope, no confidence in them, except so far as they exist in co-operation with an inward divine guidance, and are attended with the divine blessing; in other words, we should have no confidence in them, except so far as the human operation is one with the divine operation. Or to express the same thing again, in another shape, the great business of the creature is, not to be without action, but to act in concurrence with God, to harmonize with God. This was the prayer of the Savior, “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also
may be one in us.” To express the whole as simply and briefly as possible, the sum of religion is unity with God. And this unity, which cannot exist without the concurrence of the creature, is secured by faith. It is not possible for God to be in union with any being, that has not confidence in him. A want of confidence, which is the same thing as a want of faith, is itself disunion.

6.—Faith, then, is the tie, which binds us to our Maker. It does it effectually; and no other principle can take its place, or fulfill its office. And there is one reason for this remark, which should be noticed here. Faith can harmonize man with his Maker, and make him the recipient of what is necessary for the restoration and perfection of his nature, without involving the idea or the fact of moral merit on man’s part. That is to say, having strength, having wisdom, or any other inward and Christian grace from God in the exercise of faith, we cannot, as Christians, speak of it as our own wisdom and our own strength, and consequently cannot appropriate to ourselves any merit nor lay claim to any reward. And yet, in renouncing ourselves and in harmonizing with God in the exercise of faith, simple as these mental operations appear to be, and as they are in fact, there is obviously so much of free and of positive action as to involve and to secure our moral responsibility.

7.—A beggar at a certain time, hungry and destitute of clothing, went and asked aid from another person. He asked in
faith; that is to say, he asked in the exercise of entire confidence both in the ability and in the benevolent disposition of the person, to whom the application was made. And his faith being rightly placed, he received in accordance with his faith. But in thus placing himself in harmonious relation with the donor, viz.: in corresponding, in his sense of need, in his willingness to receive, and in the exercise of faith, with the donor’s generous disposition, no one can suppose that he ceased to exercise his own agency or to possess moral responsibility; and at the same time, being a mere recipient, no one can suppose, that he had any merit, which could detract from the fullness and freeness of the gift, or which could entitle him to reward. And so in the relations existing between man and God. If our own minds, in the sense of want and in the exercise of faith, are put into harmony and union with the Divine Mind, we shall receive what we need; but, being recipients and not the donor, we shall feel, as the beggar did, that the merit of all our mercies is in the giver of them; and at the same time it will be true, that we shall receive them without any infringement or loss of personal agency and accountability.

8.—It is desirable, that these views and principles should be remembered. They aid in justifying the representations of Scripture, which every where and most emphatically ascribe man’s spiritual restoration to faith. Nor can any other principle, considered as standing first and standing alone, take its place. Even the principle of love, noble and divine as it is, could not unite the soul to God, and could not even be pleasing to God, without faith as its antecedent and basis. In the full possession of faith, we at once enter into harmony with God, and we necessarily exercise, on their appropriate occasions, all those affections which are desirable. By a law of its own nature it propagates every thing else from its own bosom. Having once come into existence under the divine inspiration, it may be said instrumentally and in the natural filiation of the mental exercises, to make all, to secure all. But without faith, whatever else he may have, man is left of God and left of happiness.