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



CHAPTER I.


ON FAITH AS AN ELEMENT OF THE DIVINE NATURE.


Explanations of Faith.— Faith a necessary element of the Divine Nature. — Reasons for this view.— Reference to the Scriptures.— Operations of the principle of faith in the Divine Mind. — Its relation to love. — Of the excellency of faith.

GOD exists by the necessities of his nature. Perhaps, however, this is no more than to say that he has always existed. The fact is evident, but the manner of it is inexplicable. It is obvious, nevertheless, that, being what he is, he must have faith in himself as such. Faith, as really as knowledge and power, is an original element of the divine existence.

2. With God there is no time. The present, past, and future, are one. So that God, in possessing the powers or attributes of God from eternity, has had faith in them from eternity. In other words, God's faith is not only commensurate with the nature of his attributes, but is commensurate, also, with their duration. Before all time, and in all time, he has always had faith in himself as existing from eternity, as having all power, all wisdom, all goodness, all truth. Eternity, therefore, is not more predicable of God's attributes than it is of faith in his attributes. Both, in being infinite, have the same extent, — in being eternal, have the same origin.

3. These general views can hardly fail to commend themselves to enlightened reflection and reason. Faith, as an element of the divine nature, is as necessary as the divine existence. If we predicate necessity of the one, we must predicate it of the other. The idea of God without faith in himself
as God, would be something inconceivable, a contradiction, a nullity. It is the principle of faith, underlaying and supporting the action of the will, which not only constitutes the foundation of his unity, but renders his various perfections active and available in their appropriate spheres. God without faith would be as destitute of unity of character and energy of action, as man without faith. In human action it is constantly seen that no amount of knowledge will supply the place of confidence. The commander of a vessel, for instance, with all the knowledge and capacity requisite to guide her into port, but having no confidence in his power, and actually made incapable of consistent and right action, by unbelief in his capacity of action, takes a wrong course, and inevitably makes shipwreck. And, in like manner, the attributes of God would not enable him to conduct the affairs of the universe, if he had not faith in them as equal to the emergency. If it were possible for unbelief to enter into his nature, instead of being sustained by them he would be frightened by the extent of his own power, and would tremble in the presence of his own infinite justice. The weight of his attributes, unsustained by the faith they were calculated to inspire, and incapable of any profitable direction, would fall in, if we may so express it, upon the centre of his being, so that he would present the aspect of an infinite imbecility, a God in ruins.

4. Nor is this faith, which God has in himself, as being what he is, the product of observation, or the result of comparison and deduction; for that would imply that there was a time when he was without it. Nor could it have been communicated from any source exterior to himself. There is no other God who could be the source of such communications. On the contrary, existing without being given, because the idea of its being given implies a time when it did not exist, it is what we have already represented it to be, something coeternal with the Divine Mind, a part of the Divine Nature.

5. There are passages of Scripture which indicate more or less explicitly God's faith in himself. " And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you" — a declaration which, in excluding all uncertainty, and still without assigning any reason for such confidence except the reference to his own existence, obviously implies the fact of faith as an element of the Divine Nature. It was enough for Moses to announce that the I AM, the Divine Existence, had sent him; which, in being the true and original existence or life, could not fail to verify and establish its messages and purposes. The apostle Paul makes express mention of God's faith. Rom. iii. 3: "Shall their unbelief," he says, "make the
faith of God without effect?" The faith of God, in this place, is sometimes understood to mean the declaration or promise of God. May it not also imply that confidence in himself which enabled him to make the promise'? In the next chapter, the apostle represents God in the exercise of faith, as "calling those things which are not, as though they were." Overleaping the boundaries of time, and by its mysterious energy converting the possible into the actual, it realizes the future in the present and the non-existence of the fact in the existence of the conception.

6. Again, it is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater,
he sware by himself." Heb. vi. 13. An oath is an appeal to a higher power. God, therefore, being the highest possible existence, could swear only by himself, which, however, he obviously could not do, if he had not possessed faith in himself. In the same Epistle, xi. 3, we have the following remarkable passage: "Through faith we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."

If we understand this passage correctly, the import of it is this: — God, in the exercise of
faith, namely, faith in his ability to create worlds, created them by his word, so that things seen or visible were made from things unseen. The context of the passage, when properly examined, seems to require this interpretation of it, although it is, perhaps, different from that which is generally received. The sacred writer, in giving, as it were, the genealogy of faith, begins with God himself; not only as being first among the "elders," but as furnishing, in the fact of creation, the most striking illustration of the definition of faith he had just given.

And undoubtedly it is a great truth, as the passage obviously implies, that God himself could not have originated creation without faith. "Darkness was upon the face of the deep." The wide-spread and formless chaos lay before him, out of which an universe of form, of relations, and of beauty, was to spring to light. If he had been destitute of faith in his ability to give it birth, the volition, the
inward word, would never have been uttered. The most reliable knowledge which we have of mental operations, associating as it always does the fact of volition with the condition of antecedent belief, clearly indicates that it would have been impossible. But having faith, he acted, when the time of action came. He believed and he spake: "He commanded, and it stood fast."

7. With perfect faith in himself, God becomes a perfect administrator. He lays the vast plans, which are being accomplished in the universe, because he has faith in his ability to accomplish them. He sees the end from the beginning, and adapts the wisest means to the most beneficial results, because he has faith in his wisdom. He everywhere dispenses justice, rewarding the good and restraining and punishing the evil, because he has faith in the rectitude of his intentions, and has no fear in regard to any of his acts that wrong will or can be done by them. And, above all, it is faith in himself as having power in himself to sustain the right against the wrong, and to "justify the ways of God to man," which enables him, by mediatorial plans, which he alone can comprehend, to pardon the guilty and to do good to his enemies.

8. These views tend to elevate the principle of faith. If it is true that man lives by faith, it is not less true that God lives by faith. So that faith, as an element of the life of moral beings, is taken out of the list of things which are created, and is placed among those which are uncreated and eternal. It is a principle which has everlasting life. God, who could not exist without faith, lives by
having faith in himself; and man lives by having faith in God. In marching in the high road of faith, we have God for our leader. We follow a captain who is without fear; and that is the source of our own hope and courage. God's faith is as substantial and permanent as God is, because it is a part of his nature. Man's faith is substantial and permanent only as it elevates itself above the weaknesses of humanity and reposes upon God.