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daunted the most courageous, there were feelings within, which whispered a present Providence; there were indicatid without, which pointed to an ulterior dominion, to a day of righteous retribution, to the final triumphs of virtue and piety.
What then was the foundation of religion to beings thus situated; of that religion, I mean, which, separated from the pomp of processions and sacrifices, established its dominion in the heart, and became, however imperfectly, a rule of moral conduct? Faith, undoubtedly;-a persuation of the righteous government of God, sufficiently powerful to overcome the solicitations of the senses; to induce a rational regard to his will, in contradiction to present appearances. Faint, indeed, was the light, and feeble the influence of this blessed principle. Yet it .existed even under the darkest dispensation, and waited only a happier hour to break forth in its full lustre.
That hour at length arrived; when the Immanuel descended from heaven to redeem his guilty servants. A new era now opened on the world; the Gospel of pardon and reconciliation was published abroad; and Faith was declared to be the great principle of the new dispensation, by which Jew and Gentile should be justified and brought nigh to God. It was the same faith which had been since the world was; " by which the elders obtained a good report;" “the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen;". but it was enlightened by the revelation of the most important truths, and directed chiefly towards a new object. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The language of the New Testament is quite unambiguous; it
offers salvation to sinners through faith in the Redeemer, - The nature of the Gospel declarations can excite surely no surprize in any mind that is adequately impressed with the value of the discoveries which Christianity imparted. The great truths of natural religion remained, indeed, unaltered: in their nature they are eternal, and incapable of diminution. But to man, helpless and criminal, something, was wanting far different from a more distinct view of the glory of God and of his holiness. That sight which exalts the bliss of the most perfect spirits, would have overwhelmed him with horror and consternation. He could not dare to approach the ark of the living God, lest he should perish. Man needed a Saviour; and when He who was appointed to that glorious character appeared, proclaiming with Divine authority forgiveness to a race of condemned and suffering sinners, was it possible that he should not claim and attract to himself their chief attention? Faith in God and his righteous providence is undoubtedly the foundation of all religion; but faith in the Redeemer must be the leading principle of an economy of redemption,
Let us then endeavour to consider more closely the ex, tent and efficacy of this evangelical principle.
The language of the holy Scriptures is often concise, but never inaccurate. “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," is indeed a short sentence, and has appeared to some a strange and summary manner of imparting salvation. But it requires only a little reflection to perceive its comprehensiveness. For, who is the Lord Jesus Christ? He who has been appointed by the Father to be the Saviour of all the ends of the earth, And why is it that in this character he possesses so powerful a claim upon our atten
tion? Because we are sinners, subject to death, as the just reward of our offences, and incapable of rescuing ourşelves; because holiness is life everlasting, and in our own strength we are unable to attain it. He who comes to Je-, sus, and asks salvation from him, must undoubtedly first be sensible that he needs it. He must feel, that in himself he has no hope; that he is justly exposed to the righteous wrath of God; that he possesses neither the means of satisfying his anger, nor the power of resisting it. He must understand the value of that atonement which the mercy of his Maker has provided; not merely as an abstract truth, to be contemplated with admiration, as a part of his providential economy, but as a truth of the deepest personal interest, unspeakably valuable and consoling to himself as a sinner. Without these previous dispositions, how is it possible that any one should believe in Christ, such as the Gospel has revealed him to us? And so disposed, is it not abundantly manifest, that in accepting him as our Saviour, we shall accept him as our Lord, and Prince, and Pattern; a Deliverer from the power of sin, as well as from its penalty; the Source of our strength; the Object of our affections; the living Image of holiness, to which we must be conformed; the Guardian in whom we are to trust; the Judge by whom we must be approved; whose favour iş security and peace, whose acceptance is everlasting glory and happiness? In that economy of righteousness, which the wisdom of God had prepared before the foundation of the world, Christ is all in all; the source, the centre, and the end. He pervades and he comprehends the whole.
But there is a privilege attached to the faith of a Chris, tian, so important, and so deeply interesting, that it deserves a more particular consideration. Being justified
by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Had a divine revelation informed us, that God, through the merits and intercession of his Son, was willing to pardon our sins on sincere repentance, to supply us with strength sufficient for his service, and finally to advance those who should be found worthy, to a state of the most perfect happiness; this surely would have been justly esteemed to be intelligence of the very highest moment “good tidings of great joy to all people.” But the goodness of our heavenly Father has glorified his Son by the dispensation of a mercy yet more astonishing and complete. To the humble repentant believer in Jesus Christ, he offers something beyond pardon, strength, and hope: he stretches out the arms of his paternal love, and receives him at once to his favour. Like the tender parent in the parable, he sees him while yet afar off, and welcomes him with the smile of gladness to his everlasting home.
There is something so unspeakably generous and elevated in that part of the Gospel promises which has been last mentioned, that it seems to me scarcely possible to consider it, without tracing (if I may so speak) the touches of an Almighty hand, the lineaments of a heavenly origin. In this world, all is cold, timid, and defensive. The sallies of an imprudent passion may be forgiven; but a silent retrospective glance reminds us how greatly we offended. The assurances of renewed affection are perhaps received; but there is still some half-restrained emotion, some wellrecovered and well-explained inadvertency, that speaks a secret apprehension. There are terms and pledges and provisos. Resentment lurks under the form of dignity; and suspicion wears the mask of prudence.
Earthly these passions of the earth,
They perish where they had their birth. In the counsels of our Almighty Benefactor, all is great and noble; worthy of his exalted nature and comprehensive wisdom. Is it possible to conceive any thing more liberal in its character, or better suited to influence a mind capable of being affected by generosity, and sensible to emotions of gratitude, than the free offer of reconciliation and favour which the Gospel proposes? Is there in the whole i circle of creation, a spectacle more delightful, than that of an injured benefactor throwing wide his arins, with all the eagerness of affectionate confidence, to receive his much-offending and much-humbled friend? It is one of the peculiar features of Christianity, that it addresses the most eleyated sentiments of our nature; it calls forth whatever is truly noble; purifies it from its vile alloy, and fixes it on a sure and everlasting basis. In its character there is nothing low or compromising. The commands which it publishes are most strict and holy; the rewards which it promises are most excellent and animating; the motives which it employs are most affecting. Let our sentiments and actions correspond, then, with that high and holy dispensation. Let us yield to its influence without reserve and without fear; offering the sacrifice, not of a few painful restraints and heartless performances, but of every faculty and every feeling; “knowing in whom we have beļieved,” and fully persuaded, that He who demands the consecration of all our powers, will abundantly justify the requisition, by exalting them to their full perfection, and employing them at once to the advancement of his own glory and of our highest'and inconceivable felicity.
The foundation of a Christian faith is laid in humility.