Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

“A peasant may believe as much
As a great clerk, and reach the highest stature:
Thus dost thou make proud knowledge bend and crouch,
While grace fills up uneven nature.”

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” – 1 John v. 10.

John enunciates the test of our Christianity on evidence intelligible to ourselves, and within our own reach ; a test applicable to antediluvians as to us; in other words, he says that no man need be ignorant of the way he walks in, of the destiny he is wending to, of the character he sustains, and of the nature and the foundation and the strength of those hopes which he now cherishes. A man cannot well be a Christian without in some degree knowing it. He that believeth on the Son of God has the reflex influence of that belief by having the witness in himself. How important is this statement l No one need remain long ignorant of what he is, or indeed even be doubtful of what he is. Cain knew he was no saint. There are data in which, and by which, each may ascertain whether he be a Christian, or a mere child of the world. Let us proceed to enumerate them. Faith, as we have already seen, plays an important part in the gospel. We cannot read the New Testament, or the previous chapter of this work, without seeing that there is ascribed to faith so much, that it seems the leading grace of the Christian character. It is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is “the victory that overcometh the world.” It worketh by love, it purifieth the heart. The vital idea of faith is not an intellectual conviction that lies cold and inoperative in the mind, but an inward moral feeling, that constrains, and kindles, and sanctifies the heart. In faith there is as much of a moral as of an intellectual element. It means the trust, or leaning of the heart, that feels its safety to be in doing so, rather than the conviction of an intellect that believes it orthodox, or right, to believe so. In other words, faith is as much a feeling as a conviction. It is more trusting in something we believe will sustain us, than mere credence of a dogma that we believe to be true. It relates more to the heart than to the head, and indicates its birthplace by the plastic power it exercises on the whole tone and temperament and conduct of the human character. Faith in Christ is not a substitute, or meant to be a substitute, for morality, but the root of it. When we hear one person say, we are saved by faith, and another person say, we are saved by works, it seems at first as if the one were just the correlative of the other; and as works are the foundation of one man's hopes, right or wrong, so faith is the foundation of another man's hopes, true or false. But it is not so. Faith is no more the ground of my acceptance before God than good conduct. If it were so, Adam's creed would be, Do, and live. Our creed would be, Believe, and live; and the difference would be this, – Rightness of life

was the ground of Adam's acceptance; rightness of creed would be the foundation of our acceptance; but there is no more possibility of justification by believing rightly, than there is in doing rightly. In other words, orthodoxy is not the ground of our salvation. The devils believe all the articles of the creed, and yet they are not saved, but tremble; and a man may still remember all the dogmas of Christianity, and yet not be a Christian at all. The ground of our acceptance is the righteousness of Christ, received by faith; as the ground of Adam's acceptance before he fell was a perfect righteousness achieved by his own doings. The difference between our condition and Adam's is, that Adam had to do righteousness, which, if done, was his right to heaven; we have to receive righteousness, which as received is our right to heaven. What he had to do, we have simply to receive. He worked his way to heaven, and if he had persevered, he would have obtained it; we receive our title to heaven, and holding fast that title, we are sure of the blessed and glorious result. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. But, whilst faith is not the substitute for works, nor right believing the substitute for right doing, yet wherever there is true faith in the human heart, there will be true holiness in the human life. There is no such thing as faith without works—it is an absurdity to suppose it. There may be what James calls a faith, reputed so by man, without works, but there cannot be the divine and elevating principle of the gospel, unless it be followed by all the fruits of righteousness, and move radiant in an atmosphere of light and life, so conspicuous that he that reads may run while he does so. One would not think of speaking of the sun in his meridian without light; nor would one talk of a fire without heat; we do not speak of a living tree without bud,

[ocr errors]

374 THE CHURCH ol. 33.33 * Arno” +. or blossom, or fruit of some sort. So, to speak of living faith without fruits, is to suppose that a man having life can neither hear, nor taste, nor move a limb nor a muscle through his whole frame. The thing is absurd. If there are no fruits, there is no faith; if there be faith at all, there must necessarily be some, or all the fruits of the gospel. Faith in Christ means, to trust in Christ as the only sacrifice, and to receive from Christ, as the Prophet and the King, direction how to live. From Christ as a sacrifice, we receive a new life; from Christ as our King, we receive a new direction. We take pardon from the altar, we take direction from the sceptre, and wherever Christ is relied on truly for the forgiveness of all our sins, he is deferred to really for direction in all our doings. He, then, that thus believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself. It is said, “He that believeth on the Son of God.” It is very beautiful, and very important to recollect, that the gospel of Christ is not trust in a doctrine, but in a person. Our creed is not, I believe in Christianity, but, I believe in Christ. And when the question was asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the answer was not, Believe in justification by faith — but, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The beauty of the gospel is, that it brings us into contact, not with a valley of dry bones, or dead and uninfluential dogmas, but into living, personal connection with Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of all that believe. Hence our faith is not in the testimony, but in the testifier. The living stone, that is, the Christian, is built, not upon a dead doctrine, but upon the living Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ; he that believeth, therefore, not in the fact that Jesus died, but in the person of the Son of God, hath the witness in himself. The epithet under which the Saviour is here presented,

[ocr errors]

you a Christian? Time sweeps past us with the speed of a

hurricane; the great ocean of eternity is rolling onward.

every hour, we stand upon a narrow isthmus that is wasted by time, and washed by the waves of the eternal sea; a few more days, a few more years, and we shall be where there is no more repentance, but where the tremendous results of faith in the Son of God, or of the neglect or the rejection of him will be eternally and universally realized. How is it that men can live a day without some deep persuasion whether they are the sons of God? How is it that years are allowed to roll on, while no introspective or reflective feelings are cherished by us, and no honest investigation of the facts of religion in our conscience and our heart is entered into? I know that when I ask you first to be Christians, I ask you not to look within, but to rest upon the object, Christ, that is without. But when I address those who doubt, when there need be no doubt, who hesitate, where there need be no hesitation, who suppose they are Christians, when all facts and all evidences indicate the reverse, – then I ask you to judge by the feelings you have and the fruits you bear, whether you believe on the Son of God, or not. Decide the question — indecision is present agony; rejection is everlasting ruin; decision for Christ is present and perpetual peace.

'- - * * * * - * of 17:7 ". . . .

* -- i.

* - / * * *

« ZurückWeiter »