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faith groweth exceedingly." “ But having hope, when your faith is increased.” +
By the nature of things, the light of faith must ever be inferior to that of vision; it can never fully reach, in its power over the heart, the perfection of sight, and, consequently, will never make us equally happy or holy with those who “ see as they are seen, and know as they are known.” There is a limit to which it can never reach, but it may make nearer and nearer approaches to it. These things, on which the faith of a christian is exercised, may be considered as twofold; consisting either of objects revealed, which have a present subsistence, or promises of future good. The character and perfections of the blessed God, the office and work of the Redeemer, the dignity of his person, the efficacy of his blood, and the prevalence of his intercession, belong to the former. The light of faith makes this known to us: and this light is progressive, and by it we may attain to still higher and more transforming views of God and the Redeemer. I
† 2 Co # This and the following sermon were preached in June, 1810.
* 2 Thess. i. 3.
SECOND DISCOURSE, ON PRAYER FOR THE
INCREASE OF FAITH.
LUKE xvii. 5.-Lord, increase our faith.
The advantages resulting from an increase of faith.
I. As they respect ourselves.
II. As they regard the Supreme Being. I. As they respect ourselves. It will have powerful influence in increasing our religious enjoyments. One grand design of christianity is to make mankind happy by diminishing that portion of vexation of spirit which cleaves to all earthly things. “ These things have I spoken unto you,” said our blessed Lord, “ that your joy might be full.” *
But the degree of this joy will be proportioned to the measure of our faith.
1. An increase of faith will effectually deliver us from distressing doubts respecting our state. As light makes all other things manifest, so it makes itself. While faith is “ like to a grain of mustard seed,” + it may be difficult to be discerned; but, when it becomes more matured, it will be easily perceivable.
2. The things of God are so transcendently excellent and glorious, that the more lively our apprehension of them, the more happy we shall necessarily be. The more we see of God in Christ, * John xv. 11.
† Matt. xiii. 31.
the more we shall be conscious of a surpassing beauty in those objects, that will eclipse the whole world in our view. The all-sufficiency and unchangeableness, the goodness, holiness, and truth of the Great Eternal, viewed by faith, will fill the mind with the most exalted satisfaction. The glory of the visible heavens and of the earth is nothing more than the reflection, or rather the shadow, of this glory. If the contemplation of created truth and goodness, developed in the actions of man, affords so high a satisfaction; if it is sufficient, in its brightest display, to excite rapture; how much more (will the mind be] fired in meditating by faith on the original, unchanging, and eternal truth and goodness! If to trace the counsels of princes, (to observe] the masterly strokes of wisdom and address, evinced in the management of the concerns of earthly kingdoms (give pleasure,] how much more ravishing to have laid open to our view the counsels of the King of kings; to be allowed to behold the deep things of God; the contrivance of that covenant, which is ordered in all things and sure; the thoughts of his heart, which endure to all generations! How delightful to see the footsteps of divine grace in ancient times, the gradual preparations for the coming of Christ, the types and shadows of the law preparing the way for preaching the cross, and the preaching of the cross succeeded by the vision of eternal glory! If to contemplate some stupendous work of God fills the mind with admiration and delight,
how much more to dwell by faith on the mediation of Him who is “ the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person; assuming our nature, carrying our sins up with him to the cross, rising from the dead, sitting at the right hand of God, ever living to make intercession, diffusing his Spirit, and scattering his graces, among the children of men. Who that knows any thing of such an object, can be content without wishing to know more of him? Who will not be disposed to look on all things else as dross and dung when compared to such an object ?
To feel the steady illumination of faith, is to dwell in a calm and holy light; and if it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the natural light, how much more to behold this light of God, which sheds an incomparably sweeter ray; which reveals his face, brings near his love, and lays open the prospects of eternity! Guided by this light, you will be conducted to the abode of the celestial city, when a view will be opened into paradise, and you will hear, with John, “ the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of harpers harping with their harps, and crying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.”+
1. An increase of faith will deliver us from the perplexity which springs from a state of mind unsettled in religion. * Heb. i. 3.
† Rev. xiv. 2 ; v. 13.
2. It will have an extensive influence on our sanctification.
(1.) The joys of faith will diminish your sensibility of the pleasures of sin. The pure and certain satisfaction, which springs from spiritual views, will indispose you to relish the polluted gratifications of sense: the satisfaction to be derived from earthly pleasures will appear too light and airy, too transitory and inconstant, to bear a comparison with those richer enjoyments to which the soul has access by faith.
(2.) As the gospel supplies the strongest motives to holiness, so faith brings the heart into contact with those motives.
(3.) So important is an increase of faith to an advancement in the divine life, that all the graces of the christian are represented as so many fruits of faith, neither any farther acceptable to God than as they spring from this principle. In their extent, perfection, and variety, they are nothing more than the genuine practice of a lively faith : “ Abide in me, and let my words abide in you.” Faith is a prolific grace; it produces and maintains every other; it “works by love;” op it purifies the heart.”
II. In its aspect towards God. It is the grand instrument of glorifying him.
In its essential exercises, apart from its external effects, it is eminently adapted to glorify God. It renders to him the glory due unto his * John xv. 7.
† Gal. v. 6. * 1 John iii. 3.