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



CHAPTER V.


OF THE UNION OF GOD AND MAN IN FAITH.

On the degree of faith necessary to constitute the union of God and man in faith. — Man should believe in God just as God believes in himself. — Illustrations of this view.— inferences from the general views of' this subject. — Faith the gilt of God.— Faith the basis of knowledge. — Faith the source of strength. — Faith the basis of right action. — Reference to the Scriptures.

WE have already had occasion to show, in one of the previous chapters, that faith is the constitutive element of human and divine union. That is to say, without faith on the part of man it is impossible that union between God and man in other respects should exist. Faith is the element which is indispensable in the formation of union; but the question still remains, what degree of faith is necessary?

The answer is, man will be united with God in other respects, in love, in wisdom, and in will, just in proportion to that faith which is the constitutive element of union; and he will be perfectly united in these respects when he is perfectly united in faith. And if the question recurs, when may he be said to be perfectly united in faith — the answer is, when he believes in God with that unwavering confidence with which God believes in himself.

2. For instance, God has faith in his omnipotence. He has the power to do all things, and he believes that he can do all things. The faith of that man, in whom the principle of faith is perfectly restored, harmonizes with God's faith, and he also perfectly believes that God can do all things.

Again, God has perfect faith in his own wisdom; never doubting in the least that he sees the end from the beginning, and that nothing is or can be beyond the reach of his knowledge. The faith of the man, in whom the principle of faith is perfectly established, harmonizes, in this instance also, with God's faith, and he never doubts, and never can doubt while he remains in this state, of the perfection of the divine wisdom.

Again, God has perfect faith in his own perfect rectitude, believing that he shall always do right under all circumstances, and without the least variation. The faith of the man of perfect faith harmonizes with God's faith, so that he never doubts that the omnipotence of God is pledged to the support of the right, and that all things will work together for the good of those who love him.

3. Man's faith, when it is in a state of perfect restoration, rests upon God's faith, as upon an unchangeable rock. The divine faith is eternal; it is a part of the divine existence, and is as unchangeable as it is eternal. And when the divine and human faith are brought into perfect harmony, the stable and divine character of the one is communicated to the other. God's faith, for instance, in his own truth is perfect. It never enters his conceptions as a thing possible that he should utter a falsehood. To believe it possible would be a belief in his own degradation and ruin. So man's faith, when in perfect union with God's faith, accepts undoubtingly God's truth; both the truth of his general nature, and the truth of his specific declarations. The stability of the one is communicated to the other.

4. In connection with this subject, a number of remarks may properly be made. Some of these remarks have already been anticipated in part; but we wish to repeat them here, and to leave them fixed in the mind. And one is this; as God's faith in himself is not founded on experience, but, in the order of nature and, in fact, is antecedent to experience, so man, in his unfallen state, does not create his faith by reasoning founded on experience, but being formed in the image of God, was created, in the beginning of his existence, in the possession of faith. Religious faith, that faith which recognizes and realizes the existence and perfections of God, relating as it does to things which must always be beyond direct human cognizance, is, and must be, a gift of God. And such, as has already been remarked, it is represented to be in the Scriptures.

5. Another remark is, that faith given is and necessarily must be the basis of human knowledge. To ascertain the basis or true foundation of knowledge, has been considered one of the most difficult problems of human philosophy. Philosophy, instigated by the pride and confidence of research, has sought for other foundations, but without success. It has been obliged, after long and earnest inquiries, to adopt the conclusion, humbling though it may be to the natural pride of the intellect, that all certainty rests upon
faith; — namely, faith in our mental powers as the sources of knowledge, and also, and chiefly, faith in God as the giver of those powers. It is this principle, harmonizing precisely with the doctrines of the Bible and with all religious experience, which bridges over and shuts that great gulf in mere human philosophy, which separates the states of mind from the knowledge involved in those states, perceptions from the objects perceived, the subjective from the objective.

6. A third remark is this: As faith is the basis of knowledge, so it is the basis of power. Power in the Divine Mind is rendered available by faith. Power in man rests upon the same basis, and man may be said to be powerful in proportion as he believes. It will be found true, in relation to all moral beings, that faith is a necessary element of existence. To believe or to perish is their destiny. All inquiries point in that direction. They must have faith in something, or they necessarily die. And if faith is necessary to existence, it is still more necessary to power and the manifestations of power. Formed in the image of God, the strength of man, like that of his Maker, rests on the column of belief, and his highest degree of strength is realized, when human faith. is intertwined and made one with divine faith, and when he believes in God just as God believes in himself.

7. Again, faith is, and should be, the true basis of human action. As God never doubts, so he never acts in a state of doubt. Whatever he does is in full faith not only of his ability to do it, but of the rectitude of its being done. And so man, when he is in harmony with God, acts, and must act, in faith. When we propose to do a thing, and have not full faith in its rectitude and propriety, then it is a thing not to be done. We must wait until God, by his Word, Spirit, and Providences, clears up our way, and gives us faith. "Whatever is not of faith, is sin."

8. In the light and with the aid of such views, we can appreciate more fully than we might otherwise be able to do, various expressions of the Saviour, such as are found, for instance, in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Mark. "And Jesus answering, saith to them,
Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith. Wherefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."

True faith is the gift of God; and when it is given, it is just as certain that the result believed in will follow, as it is certain that God is true. So far as we have faith in God, we have a portion of the divine life, and, of course, a portion of the divine power. When the human soul is linked to God by faith, it is difficult to place a limit to its power, because it operates by moving the divine arm. All the miracles of Christ were by faith. It is not wonderful, therefore, that the Scriptures everywhere ascribe so much power to it.

Faith creates worlds, raises the dead, changes the heart, makes wise above human wisdom, renovates man's physical as well as his spiritual nature, "quenches the violence of fire" by rendering hurtful things unhurtful, "stops the mouths of lions" by reconciling the antagonisms and passions of the animal world, destroys the sting and the power of death, conquers Satan, unites the soul with God, gives everlasting life.