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THEOLOGICAL LECTURES.

LECTURE XLI.

FAITH.

Whoever reads the Scriptures attentively, must perceive that frequent use is made of the term Faith, and that different degrees of importance are attached to it, as used on different occasions.

That believing, or the entertaining of faith, is, strictly speaking, an act solely of the understanding, can hardly be questioned ; inasmuch as evidence is always thought necessary, either to produce or support it. Such consequences are, however, in many parts of Scripture, connected with faith, and such qualities ascribed to it, as will not suffer us to conclude that the sacred writers always confined themselves, in using the term, to its strict, common, and original import.

It is sometimes used to express simply an assent of the understanding, connected neither with moral goodness, nor with any uncommon powers. It expresses, at another time, some quality connected with the power of miracles; and often, in the New Testament, it denotes that which ensures salvation.

1. Faith is sometimes used in scripture to express simply the assent of the understanding to the truth of Christianity. Persons of bad character are, in several places, said to believe. While Philip wrought miracles at Samaria in the name of Jesus, Simon the sorcerer was convinced of the truth of Christianity; and is named among believers : Simon himself believed also. Yet it was soon made evident by a mercenary and impious proposal, that He was in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. When our Saviour was on earth, some believed on him in whose piety he had no confidence: he would not commit VOL. II.

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himself to them. We read of others, who believed on him, but did not confess him openly, because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Persons of such character, it is evident, were not sanctified. Agreeably to this, St. James speaks of a faith, by no means ensuring salvation to the possessor.

It will be said, perhaps, that the persons, here mentioned, did not in reality believe. I answer, that the contrary is asserted by an evangelist, by the author of the Acts, and by St. James. Nor is there any more reason to doubt, that many irreligious people at present believe the christian religion, than to doubt their belief of their own mortality.

But though unrenewed persons have some belief in the Scriptures, such belief, it may be said, must be very confined and imperfect. It cannot extend to all the doctrines, which are taught in Christianity. I answer, that all these doctrines are supported by evidence, and the evidence may be so examined by an unrenewed person, as to convince him of the truth. If he may believe some of these doctrines on evidence, he may believe the whole.

Besides, the Gospel is instrumental in converting sinners; but it could not be instrumental in producing the change, unless it were believed.

It is sometimes further said, that though wicked men may have a speculative conviction, they can have no realizing sense of the doctrines of religion. What is here asserted is true in general, but not universally. Some persons, under conviction of sin, or in the immediate view of death, evince not only belief of the Gospel, but a fearful, realizing sense of its truth. Why else are they so deeply distressed through the fear of the wrath which is to come? It is the terrors of scripture, and not the terrors of natural religion, which make them afraid. In addition to this, it should be considered that the devils themselves believe ; nor is their faith wholly without effect.

Their conviction of divine truth is so powerful, as to cause them to tremble.

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