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Faith in God.
Have we a sure faith in God? We use the word faith in its primary and most obvious sense—a persuasion of the truth of any thing on sufficient proof.
DO WE CERTAINLY BELIEVE IN GOD? It may seem to be an unnecessary question. Some may say, “You might take it for granted that we all believe in God.” But in seeking a basis firm and broad enough to build our eternal hopes upon, where every thing that is important and valuable to us as immortal beings, depends on such strict examination as precludes the faintest shadow of doubt, we fear to assume even this. There are indeed few who will confess themselves Atheists, few who are conscious of being such, few who would not repel the thought with horror. Yet we consider the question of the first importance at the threshold of our work. It precedes all attention to the fact or matter of revelation, because the whole system of Christian doctrine rests ultimately upon the existence, the authority, the love, truth, wisdom, and power of God. The lowest deep of the sure foundation of God is laid in the infinite perfections of his own nature. If there is the least looseness in this part of the foundation, the whole building of our faith will totter, mayhap some day will fall, and bury us under its ruins. There must not be the least Atheistic tendency in inınd or heart, or we shall never acquire any stability in the knowledge of divine things. What if such a tendency be found, on stricter examination, lying at the root of all our uncertainties, though hitherto unsuspected by ourselves! There must be a sure, robust, positive faith in God, indicated by a práctical respect to his authority, or it is not worth while to advance a single step in search of any other truth. The existence and infinite nature of God, the Supreme Governor of all creatures, is the first article in all religious belief. Nor, however advanced we may be in divine knowledge, can we overlook or dispense with it. We must never repeat our creed without declaring in its first syllables, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” We may often find it useful to go back to this first necessary truth, to gain strength and steadiness, whenever shaken by
doubts or apprehensions. GOD IS. Then all is not lost, though the earth be moved to its centre, and the heavens fall. If we have God, then we have something; we have at least a starting point that is firm to our tread. But if we have no God, infinite, eternal, immutable; if our God be not the true God, then, woe to us, we have nothing; we are struggling in mid ocean without a plank, our strength fails, blackness gathers before our eyes — we are gone!
Our Saviour could say to his desponding disciples, “Ye believe in God." That point secured, the transition was an easy one to the second article of faith, “Believe also in me." Unless he had found this first faith in God in their hearts, he would have had nothing to work upon, but having this, they would surely be ready to receive any truth on his testimony and confirmation.
We will never give credit to any testimony unless we are satisfied of the reliability of the testifier. Suppose that one receives a letter containing statements of the utmost importance, if true. Two questions arise: Is the person whose name is attached to this document credible? and, Did he write it? Apply this to the Bible. It purports to be a revelation from God. The first question is, May we rely on his testimony? Is this signature, supposing this volume to be indeed in the handwriting of God, sufficient to banish all doubt from my mind, and all hesitation in receiving in the fullest sense, for the purposes therein specified, the book that is so authenticated? Who is God? There must be no faltering here, and every one must decide according to the feelings and convictions of his own heart. Who is God? Is his testimony impeachable, or even doubtful ? The real question is, (it may seem to be a strange one), Is God, God? It is not more strange than the question that was tried by fire of old, whether Jehovah be God, or Baal. Who or what is God to me, the Lord God of heaven, or the Baal of my own reason and the Ashtaroth of my own will, enthroned in the temple of my heart? Am I a God unto myself? If so, then, no matter who wrote the Bible. I may admit it to have been written by Jehovah, or by one bearing for his name any other combination of letters: Jehovah, God, Lord, they are all unmeaning sounds; to my soul they have no corresponding reality; no wonder that I can read the tremendous sentences of this so called revelation from God without trembling.
Is God a God to me? Am I ready to believe what he tells me? Do I reverently and meekly submit my understanding to the decisions of infinite wisdom? Does my reason bow down before him and worship? Does my soul bend her ear to catch every word that he utters, saying, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth ?” Is a single word, if I am convinced that God has spoken it, better and more decisive than ten thousand councils ; better and more decisive than the suggestions of my own ignorant and feeble mind?
Is God a God to me? Am I ready to do what he bids me—to submit my heart, my will to God? Have I thoroughly and forever settled which shall rule within me? Is he enthroned over the work of his own hands, or have I cast him out, and like a base usurper, assumed to myself the reins of government over myself, or invited in and given power over me to another and a worse? No wonder then, if I become infidel to all that comes from God, by whatever evidence sustained. The usurper does not usually entertain with respect, messages from the dethroned and banished king. They are not apt to be such as he likes to hear. He will try to convince himself and others that they are all forgery and lies. A wicked heart is a sad skeptic. The devil, if he could, would make skeptics of us all.
If God has no authority over me, then might this Bible as well be a revelation from Vishnu or Bramah, as from the God of heaven. But if otherwise, if God be God indeed, if his supremacy be a settled, treasured principle in my soul, now or ever before admitted, then bless his holy name, my doubts shall be scattered, and I shall be lead into all truth. To me there is a precious promise: “If any man will do his will, he shall know the doctrine whether it be of