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fancies, before and more than the kingdom of heaven ; surely we shew that our profession of faith is a mere pretence, or that, at the best, our faith is miserably weak.
Perhaps this part of the subject may be placed in a stronger point of view, if we are somewhat more particular, and shortly reflect upon some of the peculiar properties or offices of faith. One of its properties is, that it enables us to overcome the world; “ this is the victory that overcom" eth the world, even our faithk.” Now consider seriously, have you, my friends, overcome the world, or does the world overcome you? You renounced the pomps and vanity of the world at your baptism. If, notwithstanding this renunciation, you so far attend to these pomps and vanities as to neglect any of the duties of religion; or if you are so far careful and troubled about the business of the world, or the work of your calling, as to neglect the care of your souls, you are wanting in faith. So again you shew a cowardly want of faith, if the fear of being laughed at by the world, the fear of being called righteous over-much, deters you from what you know to be your duty. Or do you say, that you wish to be religious, but that the temptations which you meet with are too strong for you to resist? Recollect, that if you "take the shield of “ faith,” you will be able with it “to quench " all the fiery darts,” that is, to overcome all the temptations, “ of the devil';" and " that all things are possible to him that “ believeth.”
1 John v. 4.
Again, “ true faith worketh by lovem.".. If you are destitute of love to God, if you are wanting in love and goodwill to man, if you nourish in your bosoms any feelings of envy, hatred, or malice, your faith is imperfect and weak.
In short, as I remarked near the beginning of this discourse, a good life, general holiness of living, is the proper offspring of real faith. St. Peter bids us to add to our “ faith virtue.” St. Paul charges them that “ have believed to be careful to maintain s good works"." St. James exhorts us to
“shew our faith by our works”,” and assures us that “ faith without works is “ deadP.” If we are devoid of virtue, if we are not careful to maintain good works, to lead a good life, we may be sure, either that we have no real faith, or that our faith, if it exist at all, is weak and nigh unto death. ..
Take heed, my brethren, I cannot too earnestly exhort and beseech you, to “take “heed, lest there be in any of you an evil “ heart of unbelief, in departing from the “ living God.” If, upon “examining “ yourselves whether ye be in the faith,” you find reason to fear that you are not, or that, at least, your faith is sadly weak and defective, lose not a moment, I beg you, in seeking to obtain that, which is so essential to your salvation. Endeavour, in reliance upon God's help, to remove or subdue whatever within you is likely to prevent the growth of faith.. Unbelief is generally the fault of the heart, rather than of the head. Men often do not believe, because they will not. “ Ye will not
• James ii. 18.
James i. 20.
Heb. iii. 12.
“ come unto me,” said our Saviour," that “ ye might have life;" " men love darkness “ rather than light, because their deeds “ are evil. He that doeth evil hateth the “ light, neither cometh to the light, lest “ his deeds should be reproved".” Men sometimes refuse to believe, or, at least, to pay attention to the main doctrines of religion, because they know, that those doctrines reprove their present course of life, and would make them uneasy if they continued to give way to their lusts and appetites. In short, they are against religion, because religion is against them. "
Above all, strive to root out from your heart all pride and vanity. Pride is the greatest hindrance possible to faith. One of the characteristics of pride is, that it exalts itself against God, and prevents men from submitting to the humbling doctrine of the Gospel. Vanity, and an excessive love of the praise of men, has a like tendency. “How can ye believe," says our Lord, “who receive honour one of an
6 other, and seek not the honour that com" eth of God only.” • Having, by divine aid, removed these and other obstacles to the growth of faith, you must make constant use of the appointed means for its cultivation and increase. One of the chief of these is attention to the holy Scriptures. “Faith cometh by hearing, and “ hearing by the word of Godt.” The Scriptures .contain all that we are of necessity required to believe. Be diligent therefore in searching the Scriptures, in attending to the word of God, whether read or preached, and make it the guide and rule both of your faith and practice.
Partaking of the Lord's Supper is another efficacious mean of increasing and strengthening faith, to which we ought constantly to have recourse.
Faith is the gift of God, and one of the distinguishing graces of the Holy Spirit. From him we should seek it in fervent and persevering prayer; fervent and persevering, as proceeding from a heart, which knows that it is undone, if it obtains not.