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I. That “by thus habitually contemplating “ the Gospel, we shall come to perceive, through w our own very reason, the absolute necessity of " FAITH, as a primary and distinct practical prin“ciple in man; and of an inward spiritual as“sistance of divine grace to direct us unto ac“i ceptable obedience.”
For we affirm, that the Gospel now makes its appeal to us as spiritual beings; that is to say, as beings, of a capacity and a destiny, beyond and superior to the things, even the very best things, which we now see, and amongst which we live; as beings that have really and assuredly souls that shall live for ever; and a destiny, by which, if we will fitly cherish these souls, and prepare them by a certain course of discipline, only for a season, we shall, as surely, be ad
mitted in due time into the fulness of all know1 John iii. ledge, and shall even see God as he is.
: Suspend, then, the thought of revelation for a moment; and consider whether or no these of its propositions that follow, correspond with positive experience.
Is it, then, or is it not, a matter of positive experience, (by which I mean, here, an existing reality, immediately perceptible, and to be judged of by ourselves, independently of all testimony,) that we have souls ? At least, that we have a principle within us, of which we know not the full account, nor how it is united with the body;
but of which we do know, and may continually feel, that it is the power which moves us to think, and meditate, and understand; of which we may know, that it is curious and restless ; and that it is susceptible of pain or pleasure, unconnected with the body, at least so far as that it can rejoice, when the body is in suffering; or be grieved, when that is revelling in every apparent outward comfort. Is this, or is it not, a matter of positive experience ; perceptible, and to be judged of, by ourselves ?
Again: is it not matter of experience also, (though of another kind, and dependent upon other testimony,) that the nature of this lively and incorporeal principle has, of old, been the most interesting subject of their highest knowledge and inquiry, to men of the loftiest views, and most enlarged measures of unassisted human reason? and that, after all balancing of doubts and difficulties, the wisest among these have come to the conclusion, (conjectural, indeed, but still their conclusion,) that it is an immortal principle, having its home elsewhere than in the body, where it is only a lodger for a season? And has not an accompanying object of the same spirit of research been, to ascertain the “ first Great Cause,” and the constitution of all things ? in fact, (under whatever title,) to comprehend the arrangements and perfections of the Deity?
14. xi. 10, 16. 2 Cor. v.l.
That such inquiries have failed, (as“ reason” must surely be pronounced still likely to fail in them, seeking in its own strength alone,) does not concern our present question. What concerns this, is simply the fact of their having existed; of their having sprung naturally, as it were, out of the disposition of man. - .
When Scripture, therefore, comes, and positively reveals to us, that these aspirations and
conjectures, as far as they can go, are right and Heb. xiii. true; that we are the citizens of another state;
that our home is distant and invisible; that we 1 Cor. xiii. shall hereafter know all things, whatever we de9, 10, 12. i John iii: sire to know ;-does it call us to the belief of CE. Phil. iii. strange or unreasonable things? Rom. viii. Surely, in regard to these main points them16.
selves, it must be admitted, that it does not!
Neither does it, (I venture to advance a step, and affirm further,) neither does it offer violence to our reason, when, in connection with the positive knowledge of these great doctrines, it calls us to belief of others with them, of a kindred character: such as our hereditary proneness to sin, and Christ's atonement ; our continual need, as well of illuminating as of sanctifying grace ; and the necessity of watchfulness against unseen, spiritual enemies.
“ Mysterious” such doctrines are, it were unavailing not to acknowledge: yet are they (if the expression be allowable) rationally mysterious.
For seeing that the great elementary point itself (namely, “ that we are the subjects of an "everlasting destiny, and only travellers and “ pilgrims through this present state of exist“ ence”) is not only not repugnant to reason, but its very own loftiest conclusion ; it appears no longer a disproportionate claim, either upon wisdom or consistency, to ask this further concession ; “ that travellers should surely be pro“ vided with, and know where to look for, “ strength and refreshment upon their journey, “ sufficient to support them through it; and that " they must derive that strength from the repo“sitory, where is really their home.”
It is from “home” we take our means of provision, when we enter on an earthly journey. And the chapter from whence the text is taken seems abundantly to justify the spirit of the analogy,—that so must our supply be sought from a like quarter, for the way wherein we walk by faith, and not by sight.
Now, we think, that he who has placed the souls of those whom he hath called unto belief, . in this present life, as in a scene of trial, hath
vouchsafed unto them a certain knowledge of mysterious and transcendent things, as their proper sustenance and consolation. Is this unreasonable, on the one part? On the other, is it any more unreasonable, that mysterious and transcendent things should require corresponding capacities and strength to apprehend them? We behold, then, in the DISPENSATION OF THE SPIRIT, the necessity of Faith displayed, as a result of the deepest and best researches of pure reason ; and learn at once, together with our faith, to acknowledge the indispensable necessity of PRAYER, and of a simple dependence upon the AID OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, as that which alone can continue with us, as a sure defence, in all our temptations a
II. But let us proceed to a second consequence of this same view of revealed truth; viz. 6 that it will assist us to reconcile to ourselves “ (with a resigned, though melancholy, compre“hension) the afflicting sight which is so conti“ nually presented to us in either of two ways: “ first, by the practically unbelieving; the dis66 obedient and rebellious, whom we still see de
a By parity of reason, we shall hereby learn also to admit, upon a broad ground of rational conviction, that which we can never account for in detail, and which still appears a stumbling-block of so great offence to many; the reality, and literal construction of what the New Testament so clearly teaches concerning the devil, and our spiritual enemies. To allegorize whatever we do not understand, is a method, which, as far as concerns the theory of our religion, will silence no ob. jector, and only deceive ourselves: as far as relates to its spirit and practice, surely.it is most unwise, by doubting the personal reality of an enemy, whose effects, at least, (as attributed in the same record which describes himself,) we feel to be real, to cast away the only sword and shield with which we may prevail against him.