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PART III. ON THE RELATION OF FAITH TO THE DIVINE GUIDANCE, OR THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE SOUL.

CHAPTER THIRTEENTH.


OF THE LIFE OF FAITH AS COMPARED WITH THE LIFE OF NATURE.


Import of the phrase natural life. The life of nature and the life of faith different in their central principle. The natural life sees only what is addressed to the natural vision. The life of faith sees beyond it. The natural life full of desires. The life of faith hungers and thirsts after righteousness. Comparison of the life of nature and the life of faith in other respects.

THERE is a life of nature, which is good; and there is a life of nature, which is evil. Nature, as God first formed it, was good. It was pronounced good by its maker himself. It has become evil by its degeneracy; and so long as it remains degenerate, it is properly characterized as evil. And accordingly, when we use the phrase the life of nature, in distinction from the life of faith, we mean the natural life degenerated; we mean the natural life without the restoring and purifying grace of sanctification; we mean nature living or attempting to live in its own strength; the soul of man without the life of God in it.

2.—The natural life has, for its interior principle, self. The life of faith has, for its inward and central principle, God. They start from two centres, which are entirely different from each other; they take an opposite and conflicting course; they terminate in positions as entirely variant, as light and darkness, as life and death.

3.—The natural life sees only what is addressed to the natural vision. It sees the earth in its richness, the firmament in its beauty. The life of faith sees that which is beyond the power of natural vision; and recognizes the author in his works. It refuses to separate the thing made from its maker. To Him who has faith, the heavens are not only beautiful; but, in the language of the Psalmist,
“they declare the glory of God.”

4.—The life of faith knows nothing of itself. Its constant teacher is the Holy Ghost. It walks, blindfold, moment by moment, in the track of God’s providences. The life of nature, has man’s knowledge, but not God’s knowledge; and rendered vain in its own conceit, is puffed up with that pride of spirit, “which goes before a fall.”

5.—The natural life is full of desires. Wherever it finds an object, that promises pleasure or honor or any other worldly good, it puts forth its attachments. The life of faith, while it recognizes the fact and the desirableness of earthly good, first of all, and as necessary to the regulation of all other desire, “hungers and thirsts after righteousness.”

6.—The life of nature gives birth to all those various feelings, the hopes and the fears, the attachments and the aversions, the love and the hatred, which are appropriate to the natural life. The life of faith is the parent of the spirit of meekness, of long-suffering, of forgiveness, of love both for friends and enemies, and of all other feelings and graces, which are appropriate to those, who are born of the Spirit.

7.—The life of nature either puts no restraint, or but a very inconsiderable and imperfect restraint, upon the natural passions; permitting them to arise on a multitude of occasions, and to exist in great strength. The life of faith, which cherishes the love of God, as the supreme inward principle, allows of no desire, no emotion, no passion, which is inconsistent with this love.

8.—The life of faith gives peace to the conscience, because it brings union with God, who reconciles the world to himself through Christ, “not imputing to men their transgressions.” The life of nature is goaded, moment by moment, by inward remorse. Or if it sometimes stupifies the conscience, and lulls it in a deceitful calm, it is a calm which will be followed sooner or later by a storm the more terrible for this deceitful prelude.

9.—The life of nature, as it has no real confidence in anything out of itself, seeks for signs and manifestations. It trusts neither men nor God, except so far as it sees, or thinks it sees. The life of faith, which has no confidence in any thing out of God, desires nothing and seeks nothing, as the foundation of its action and its hopes, but God’s word alone.

10.—The life of nature, which rests upon itself as its foundation, or upon other human instrumentality, is full of doubts. It doubts of its rectitude, and of course doubts of its happiness. It doubts for the past and the present, and of course doubts the future. It is the very nature of the life of faith to be cheerful. It looks upon the past as forgiven, upon the present as approved, and upon the future as sprinkled over with hope and with glory.

11.—The life of nature trusts to human instrumentality. In all its efforts it looks to man, to man’s wisdom, to man’s strength, and to all that littleness of selfish calculation and policy, which such a reliance is calculated to engender. The life of faith rejects all methods and instrumentalities, which are dissociated from God. Its methods and its instruments are such as are presented in God’s Providence, and such as are authorized by God’s approbation.

12.—The life of nature does not pray. He, who has no faith, has no power to pray. He, may desire, but he cannot pray, because he does not believe in the favorable disposition of the Being, to whom his prayer should be directed. The life of faith prays always. He, who believes, rejecting all self dependence, naturally looks somewhere else for support. And trusting in God, as the only adequate source of support, it is to God that he naturally offers up his supplications.

13.—All life is, or ought to be, in the present moment. The natural life lives in the present moment, considered as a source of present gratification. Its language is, “let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” The life of faith lives in the present moment, attentive to all its facts and responsive to all its obligations, because the present moment involves the fulfillment of present duty. Its language is, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

14.—The life of nature takes pleasure in the suggestions and tendencies of the human will. It is in the exercise of his own will especially, that it feels its strength and indulges its pride. The life of faith, in this as in every thing else at variance with the life of nature, takes no pleasure but in the will of God.

15.—The life of nature, unrestrained by any principle, out of and above itself, is the subject of strong and variable impulses, and is violent and noisy in its action. The life of faith, regulated by a principle not its own, and living by a life which exists in another, moves calmly at the divine bidding, without agitation and clamor for the present, and without foreboding and fear for the future.

16.—The life of nature begins in self, and ends in self. The life of faith begins with God, and ends with God. The one, therefore, is compressed within the smallest possible limit, regarding nothing and loving nothing beyond its own interest; the other assimilated and baptized into the divine nature, expands itself with the divine presence and the divine benevolence.

17.—The life of nature and the life of faith might be contrasted in many other particulars. The points of difference are many; the points of assimilation and union, none. We do not propose to pursue the subject further, except to say, that those, who live a life of faith, are accepted of God; those, who live the life of nature, can find no acceptance, no happiness, no reward, except what they find
out of God. To be without God is to be lost. To possess God is to possess salvation and everlasting life.