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PART SECOND. ON FAITH, AND THE UNION OF GOD AND MAN IN FAITH.



CHAPTER IV.


THE LIFE OF FAITH IN DISTINCTION FROM THE LIFE OF DESIRE.

Of the disproportion between desire and faith in Christians. — Illustrations of this disproportion. — The life of desire and faith contrasted — Transition from one to the other.— Characteristics of this state of transition. — Instances of the life of faith.

IN order satisfactorily to understand the nature of the
life of faith, it is necessary to distinguish it in some particulars from the life of desire. It is by these last expressions that the state of Christians, in the more common forms of experience, may well be described. Undoubtedly the description will apply with still more truth and emphasis to those whose hearts have never been brought in any degree under a truly religious influence. Of Christians, however, as well as of those who are not so, it can be said, with too much reason, that their life, which ought to be more fully sustained by a higher principle, is a life of desire. If they will examine carefully, they will be surprised to find the great disproportion which there is between their desires and their faith.

2. They desire, for instance, those temporal things which are convenient for them, without exercising a correspondent degree of faith, and without looking, as they ought to do, to the great and only Giver of all good. They desire, with feelings partly natural and partly, the progress of God's work in the world; but they have but little faith, certainly far less than they ought to have, that his work will be carried on. They have desires, perhaps earnest desires, that individuals, with whom they are acquainted, should become the devout followers of God; — but they have not faith in proportion to their desires. It is oftentimes the case that their desires are various, multiplied, and perhaps violent, when they are scarcely conscious of any degree of faith. Indeed, it seems sometimes to be the case that desires are strong and impetuous in proportion to want of faith.

3. This is a subject at which persons have not always looked with care. And it must be admitted that it is one of some difficulty. In order to understand it the more easily, it may be proper, in some particulars, to place the two states under consideration in contrast to each other. It will be recollected, however, that in speaking of desire here, we mean desire as it exists in those whose minds, in being but partially sanctified, are not in full harmony with God.

The life of desire has its centre in the creature. The life of faith has its centre in God. The life of desire has its origin in the wants of man's fallen condition. It is the natural expression, the voice of those wants. The life of faith has its origin in the fulness of God. It is the expression, the voice of that fulness. The life of desire, originating in the creature, is bounded in its horizon. It selects particular objects, such as it can see, and appreciate, and cling to. The life of faith seeks nothing in its own will; but expanding its view to all objects and all relations of objects, it chooses, without knowing what is best for itself or others, only what God chooses.

The life of desire is variable. It takes a new appearance, and operates in a new direction, with every new object to which it attaches itself. The life of faith is invariable, always exhibiting the same aspect and looking in the same direction, because the object which inspired it never changes and never can change. The life of desire is a
multiplied one, because it seizes successively upon the multiplied objects of desire by which it is surrounded. The life of faith is simple, because, tracing effects to causes and losing sight of the littleness of the creature in the infinity of the Creator, it rests upon God alone.

The life of desire asks; the life of faith satisfied. Desire is the voice, the petition of the creature; faith is the expression of God's answer. Desire, restless by its very nature, seeks to accomplish its object by positive and aggressive efforts. Faith, in the consciousness of its strength, conquers by being in harmony with the divine movement, and by the attractions and power of its innate purity and repose.

4. In these contrasted statements, which, in being introduced chiefly for the purpose of illustration, are designedly made in a manner somewhat unqualified, we may obtain, if not a perfect, at least an approximated view of the subject. We now proceed to say, that in the progress of the soul's renovation and of its restoration to God, the mind gradually removes from its first central position in
desire to a new and permanent centre in faith. And in accordance with this view, it will be found, on examination, that there is always a period, if the progress in sanctification is such as it ought to be, which may be described as the period of transition from the life of desire to the life of faith. This important and decisive period is characterized by two things, which are worthy of notice here.

The first is, that the desires, at first so numerous, are simplified and brought into unity. They may either be described as
lost in, or, what is the same thing, as made one with the desire of the accomplishment of God's will. The language of the heart, whenever it is brought to this period in its history, is, Thy Will be done. In the great and overruling desire involved in this language, every other inclination, every other desire, is harmonized and it is easy to see that it cannot well be otherwise. The necessity of a simplification of the desires is to be found in God's nature. It is obvious that all desires, all purposes, must be made one with his, or they can never meet with his approbation. He can never fulfill the plans of any being which are distinct from and at variance with his own.

6. The second thing characteristic of this transition state, is, that the principle of faith will be so simplified in its action as to embody itself and rest in a single proposition merely; — namely, that God
does now give, and, that he always will give, to his believing people that which is best for them; — a result which will be fixed and inflexible, just in proportion as they are able, without asking anything in their own will, to rest believingly in this great truth. Desire, in its spiritual simplification, uniting all objects in one, says, THY WILL BE DONE. This is its continual prayer. Faith, simplified by the same grace so as to correspond to the simplicity of the desire, says, in reference to ALL WHO BELIEVE, Thy will is done. His people give themselves to God; — he gives himself to them. Their will is, that his will, and not their own, may be accomplished in themselves and in whatever concerns them. And as they believe in him as a God of wisdom, goodness, and truth, the accomplishment of it, whatever it may be, makes them happy.

6. These views aid in explaining some peculiarities of inward experience. Antonia Bourignon, for instance, speaking of some forms of prayer which she had been accustomed to go through, says, at a certain time, that they became burdensome to her, and difficult to be repeated. [Parole de Dieu, p. 31. See also Boudon's Relp e de Dieu. Livre III. Cha. 5, 8.] Her mind, fixing upon no particular object of want or desire, was greatly drawn to inward silence. In her alarm she hardly knew what to think; but was inclined to adopt the trying conclusion, either that she had become indifferent to religion, or that God had abandoned her. She laid the case before God. The answer, which she speaks of having received, or perhaps more properly the conclusion to which her spirit was promptly led by a divine operation, was embodied in the concise but significant inward expression,
"Cease, and I will do all."

The import of this divine response was this: Cease from the useless multitude of petitions with which you now weary me; leave, in the exercise of faith, all your cares and sorrows and wants in my hands,
and I will take care of you. In other words, it was the transition point from a life of desire to a life of faith; and, instead of being a state of indifference or declension in religion, was really one of great advancement.

7. These views explain, in part at least, some expressions which are found in Bishop Burnet's account of the religious experience and life of the Earl of Rochester; though the form of experience is a little different in some respects from that which has just been mentioned. In this distinguished but very irreligious man, the power of divine grace was very remarkable, after he had once learned the way of truth and purity. The turbulent life of nature was withered and consumed under the blaze of holy love. In the closing part of his life, his religious state, raised above all anxieties and all ordinary forms of desire, was characterized chiefly by triumphant faith, and the spirit of devout and exalted praise. In admiration of the boundless goodness of God, he exclaimed, "Oh, why these favors to me, Lord! why to me?
Praise is now my work. Oh, help me to praise him! I have nothing else to do. I have done with prayer. I shall presently stand upon Mount Zion, with an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of the just made perfect. I shall hear the voice of multitudes, and be one among those who say, Hallelujah! Glory, and honor, and power unto the Lord our God!"

The experimental or interior history of the church presents many cases, which bear a resemblance more or less close to these, and which illustrate these views. Leighton, Ken, Edwards, Gregory Lopez, Guthrie, Brainerd, Carvosso, Payson, — all, in all ages of the world, who have attained assurance of faith, are instances.

8. Especially do the lives of the pious men who are mentioned in the Scriptures, whatever may be true of their desires, exhibit the predominance of this great principle. Remove the mighty attribute of faith — and what would be left worthy of especial notice to the religious man, in the sublime characters of Abraham, Moses, and Daniel, of Paul and John? The Saviour, in particular, who is our great pattern, is the most perfect exemplification of the life of faith. It is true that in his state of humanity he had, like other men, the desires which are common to man's nature; — but these desires were always, and in all cases, subordinated to the desire that God's will might be done. "Lo, I come to do thy will." "Not my will, but thine be done." In this overruling desire that God's will might be accomplished, all other desires were harmonized and made one.

But this was not all. The strength of the Saviour's faith corresponded to the simplicity and the exalted nature of his desire. His desire, checked and controlled by his confidence in God, never degenerated into anxiety, never changed to selfishness. Faith overshadowed and sanctified it. It was faith which laid the foundation of the perfect adjustment of his own character. It was by faith that he ruled both men and nature; — healing the sick, controlling the storms, and walking upon the sea. It was faith that gave him strength to consummate the mighty sacrifice which saved a world. In his faith, more than in any other of his mental attributes, was the
" hiding of his power."