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The New Zealand Evangelist

Catholic Principles — Faith.

page 30

Catholic Principles.

(Continued from page 5.)


Many well meaning men frame a sort of creed of their own, or adopt one of their neighbours, and then, if they go to the Bible at all, it is for arguments in support of what they have already decided upon. But this is quite inconsistent with that “meekness,” with which we are to “receive the engrafted word.” a If the Bible is a revelation of the mind and will of God—if the “Holy Scriptures” are indeed, and of themselves, “able to make” men” wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” b then should the inspired word he first studied; and nothing should be admitted into our belief, but what is contained in, or can be proved by it. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.“c

Let us then, examine these, which we have ventured to call, Catholic principles, one by one, with humble; submission, to the Bible, and earnest prayer for the illumination and guidance of the “Holy Ghost,” by whose influences the “holy men of old spake” and wrote; and of whom it was graciously promised, by the Lord Jesus, that “He shall teach us all things,” and “guide us into all truth.“d

There is then faith which worketh by love. This is evidently an essential, a fundamental principle of Christianity, for, according to Scripture, he who hath it is “saved,” he “hath the witness in himself,” he “hath everlasting life;” he is “a member of Christ, a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven,” to which he has a title, for which he is “made meet,” and of which he has an “earnest.” e While, according to the same authority, the Holy Spirit convinces page 31 of “sin,” the individual who is “without faith;” he “cannot please God;” he shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” f This is but a specimen of the general, and ever recurring, testimony of Scripture.

Faith is then a cardinal principle of the Gospel. It respects especially, as its object, the Lord Jesus Christ. See, as instances of inspired teaching on this point, our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus; his reasonings with the Scribes and Pharisees, and other fleshly hearers of his word; the discourse of Philip with the eunuch; and the answer of Paul and Silas to the jailor at Philippi.g He who possesses the faith of Christ, gives entire credence to all the histories, doctrines, and precepts of the Bible; he recognizes the “one living and true God, everlasting,” who is “of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness,” in whose entire and indivisible unity of nature, mysterious, and inexplicably though it be to finite comprehension, there are Three Persons of equal dignity, powder, and eternity—the Father, the Word, and fib Holy Spirit. He is persuaded that every man is by nature a fallen being, verily guilty and totally deprived: that the, plan of redemption originated in the undeserved, and unsolicited, compassion of God, and was executed by the incarnation, and suffering unto death, of Jesus the Saviour: in short, his faith embraces the whole Christian system. But the special object of his thoughts, desires and affections; the point to which all his wishes tend, and in which all his feelings center is Christ Jesus, and particularly his sacrificial death, and prevailing intercession. He will “count all things but loss for the excellency of” this “knowledge;” of this he makes his boast “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.h He says, in effect, if not in language—

“My thoughts may range o'er truth, or roam
“Where doubts and conflicts toss—
“But ever, as the dove flies home,
“Light last upon the cross.”

From the terms in which the topic under discussion page 32 is expressed, it would seem that there are other kinds of faith than this one. And the fact is so St. James speaks of a “faith without works,” and describes it as being destitute of anything vital or saving: yea, as entirely wanting in life and power as is the human corpse, when the spirit has fled. i St. Paul, also, supposes the possibility of a man's being possessed of “all faith,” so that he “could remove mountains,” and yet come short of the Christian character, k This sort of faith is the bare credence or assent which the understanding of a man may give to the truths of the Gospel. He simply credits the testimony, but the testimony takes no hold of his conscience and feeling. He recognizes the Bible as the truth of God: would he surprised and grieved, probably; if he were to be charged with being an unbeliever;—and yet he makes no effort to escape “the wrath of God,” which is there “revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,“—he does not “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” there pronounced to be the only way of admission to the kingdom of heaven,—he evinces no desire after the “exceeding great and precious promises,” which are there treasured up, and by which Christians are “partakers of the divine nature.“l His faith is altogether inoperative, and in consequence “dead, being alone,” Just as consistent would be the conduct of the merchant who, taking his ease and pleasure, received intelligence of a terrible fire raging near his warehouses—of the probability of all his property being sacrificed, and who should, yet, continue at his case, manifest no anxiety, but rather endeavor to banish the thought from his recollection, as interfering with his quiet.

The Catholic principle differs widely from this inoperative faith. It is living, energetic; it “worketh by love.” As Dr. Macknight says, “The account which the Apostle here gives of faith, deserves attention. He does not say that it consists in the mere speculative belief of the truths of the Gospel; nor in a confident persuasion, taken up any how, that we page 33 are actually justified; or that Christ died for us in particular. These thing are no where in Scripture represented as constituting justifying faith; and they who trust to them delude themselves.“m The faith of God's elect has as much to do with the feelings as with the understanding. So when the eunuch requested baptism, the reply of the Evangelist was “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” To the same effect is the language of St. Paul,” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” n In the case of the truly awakened penitent, the Holy Spirit fastens the alarming thought upon his con-science, that the threatenings of the Almighty are as tremendously awful, as they are true; and he believes, it, his faith which is of the operation of the same spirit, moves him to put away his sin, and weep and pray for mercy. The same Divine Agent presents to his understanding and heart the Lord Jesus dying on Calvary's sacred hill, and whispers to his awakened conscience and agonizing fears, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” He believes the joyful news, and his full heart responds, “My Lord, and my God!“o

“On him my sins were laid,
And for me the debt he paid,
When he groaned and expired on the tree.”

As the serpent-bitten Israelite, under the law, looked to the brazen serpent and lived; so the conscience stricken sinner, under the Gospel, looks to the cross, and finds peace and salvation. As the manslayer fled with all haste, and stayed not until safe within the gates of the city of refuge; so the alarmed sinner, fearful lest “the terrors of the Lord” should burst upon his unhappy head, hastens, as for his life to the feet of Jesus, and obtains “strong consolation” with those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” p

We have, in some measure anticipated, the benefits resulting from this living, vigorous principle. As will be seen above, the believer is justified, or forgiven; for the “through his name whosoever believeth page 34 in him, shall receive remission of sins.” And that this blessing of remission of sins, or justification, is received now by the believer is evident, in that most of the passages where it is used are in the present tense. q That the sinner's pardon, or justification by the free grace of God, follows invariably upon his exercise of faith in Jesus Christ, is the doctrine of the entire New Testament, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,” “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which he hath given us.“—Rom. 5, 1, 5.

Another great, catholic, principle of Christianity is Regeneration; or as styled by the Apostle in one of the passages with which we have headed the thoughts we are now penning, a new creature.' To this important subject we will, if God permit, address our-selves in our next paper.

[To be continued]

The time we live ought not to be computed by the number of years, but by the use that has been made of it; thus, it is not the extent of ground, but the yearly rent, which gives the value to the estate.—Budgell.

a James, 1, 21.

b 2 Tim., 3,15.

c Isaiah, 8, 20

d 2 Pet., 1, 21. John, 14, 26. Chap. 16, 13.

e See among many texts, Mark, 16, 16. 1 John, 5, 10. John, 3, 36., Chap, 6, 47. Col., 1,12. Gal., 3, 26. Rom., 8, 15—17, Eph., 1, 13, 14.

f See, In addition to preceding, John, 16, 8—11. Heb., 11, 6.

g John, 3, 14—19. Chap. 6, 29, adfin. Acts, 8, 34—38. Chap. 16, 31.

h Phil., 3, 8. 1 Tim., 1, 15.

i James, 2, 14—26.

k I Cor., 13, 2.

l Rom., 1,18. Luke 13, 24—30. 2 Peter, 1, 4.

m Dr. Macknight in loc.

n Acts, 8, 37. Rom., 10,10.

o 1 Pet., 2, 24. John, 20, 28.

p Numb., 21, 8, 9, comp. Joan, 3, 14, 15. Numb., 35, 11, 12, comp. Heb., 6, 18.

q The references are too numerous to be noted, See especially Acts, 13, 38, 39. Rom 3, 24, Chap., 8, 1—4, v. 15—17. Eph., 2, 5—9. 2 Tim., 1, 9. Titus 3, 5, &c, &c.

c Isaiah, 8, 20

d 2 Pet., 1, 21. John, 14, 26. Chap. 16, 13.

i James, 2, 14—26.

l Rom., 1,18. Luke 13, 24—30. 2 Peter, 1, 4.

m Dr. Macknight in loc.